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Why I decided to leave the Catholic Church this election year

Why the Catholic Church has lost another follower by involving itself in politics and pushing its wrongheaded policy against gay marriage.

///Note: I wrote this in letter form to my choir and some friends earlier this year, but wasn’t really ready to share it with the world until now. As the election looms, I think it too important to ignore the fact that the Catholic Church has no business interfering in the political process./// 

After months of soul-searching, I recently decided to leave the Catholic Church, perhaps forever, but at least for a time.  I sat through Mass not long ago, and realized that I have reached my threshold, the point at which I cannot, in good conscience, continue to call myself “Catholic.”

The Church has done, and continues to do, untold good works in the world – it educates, heals, feeds, comforts, befriends and loves. But it has historically also perpetrated great harm, a legacy replayed, unfortunately, by men like Archbishop Nienstedt, who attempt to rule it with absolute power, and corrupt it into something resembling a Soviet oligarchy, forcefully imposing hateful, retrograde policies and practices and sending out spies into parishes to ensure they are not opposed.  Meanwhile, the atmosphere in the “house of God” here in Minnesota is a noxious blend of fear and loathing — priests and church staff fear to speak up for the sake of their livelihood, and parishioners become evermore disaffected and hopeless.

Is this a spiritual home? Is this where God lives?  Our Archdiocese has become to me the antithesis of a “Christian” institution, ignoring abuse, promulgating exclusion, enforcing bigotry and preaching hatred in the guise of love.  I can no longer sit in complicit silence while the local Archdiocese feeds its people a toxic gruel of fear and hypocrisy, inappropriately (and, frankly, illegally) participating in the political push of a wrongheaded, amoral policy – one I believe would be far more damaging to society than a solemn commitment between same-sex partners to love one-another, raise a family, volunteer in schools, make their communities safer for their children, etc., etc., could ever be.

It is true the Catholic Church is an archaic and arcane institution that changes at a glacial pace, if at all. That has always been the “given” for me, an assumption I could live with as long as any movement it made was forward — even sideways was tolerable to a point.  But lumbering backwards toward a darker past is something I cannot abide.  I believe at some point, sooner rather than later, this time will be seen as a dark stain on the Church, a time when human rights hung in the balance, and the Church, especially here in Minnesota, stood on the wrong side of the argument.

Leaving has been hard – and strangely freeing – but it isn’t really courageous. Other than no longer being part of a community I care deeply about, it won’t have a huge impact on my life.  Courage comes when doing something you believe in comes at a potential or inevitable high price. Many I know have the courage to stay on and workhard to change the Church from within, to make it a place Christ would feel welcome. That’s a long, courageous road, and I salute them. 

Moral courage is even more difficult. It places a person at great risk when standing up for a conviction or belief. I am discouraged and saddened that we’re not seeing moral courage from more priests we know disagree with the Archbishop, and watch them instead stand by silently – or speak in esoteric metaphor or outright hypocrisy. Meanwhile, lone voices in the dark — gutsy, solitary priests — are punished and threatened with the loss of their livelihood and their life’s work.

Because the Church is not a democracy, and I am the impatient child of one, I don’t have the admirable endurance it would take to potentially change it from the inside. And so I will expend my energies lending support to those who are fighting its stance on gay marriage in the halls of the Capitol.

As I mentioned, the Church has done and is doing enormous good in the world on an institutional and everyday level.  It is, in fact, the good, everyday people of the Catholic Church who are its best hope, for God is in the details, not in the dictates of the few men – some sorely misguided – in power.  And someday, through these quiet, strong people, I hope to see the power structure re-adopt the idea that God lives in the community we create and share, the welcome and acceptance we provide to all — regardless of their differences or the way they choose to live or love.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Lau Griffen October 31, 2012 at 04:43 PM
Eric, That's inaccurate. If interested, It's public data on how much the Church gives to the poor. It's the largest contributor to national /international causes to help the children, women and the poor. 2/3 of our money comes in and goes out...all accounted for. I've seen many other churches where pastors have become wealthy. Our priests take a vow to poverty; they own nothing but the ring on their finger, received during ordination. This Marriage Amen. is absolutely in line with its stance.....if redefinition becomes the law of the land, forced on us by gov't, then women and children will suffer. Long-term thinkers understand this. Thousands of amendments are introduced in local governments every year and the Church refuses to give their input(like Voter ID), because it has nothing to do with protecting the future, our children. The Church WILL comment when Gov't begins meddling in our freedoms of Religion. If redefinition prevails, the Church will be the hatemongers, the bigots for not marrying same sex couples, eventually losing tax-exempt status for not recognizing state laws. Persecution just rises, intolerance exacerbates. It's not fear mongering. It's happening! Know the constitution and why we have it. History is being stripped from our students; so Americans are not aware of gov't intrusion and where it leads. Loss of Freedom. REMEMBER: Freedom of Religion was to protect churches from government, not the government from the Churches!
Lau Griffen October 31, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Molly, your slant on the church is so incredibly bigoted against men that it seems that any fact raised, you'll dispute. With the liberal talking points raised in your blog, you clearly were never catholic. THe Church is about power and money? Perhaps you'll be thanking the Church someday, God forbid, if you find yourself seeking protection from oppression at the hands of the gov't. Governments have slaughtered millions of their own people and yet the Church is evil? A political party is not a religion...it should never be trusted. You know what you get with the Catholic Church....we don't change. Gov't can change in a heartbeat....why do people trust gov't over the longest surviving istitution, Catholic Church, that has done far more in helping humanity than govt? Molly, nobody anguishes over leaving the Church, then spews so much hatred, You're a wolf in sheep's clothing. I commend your spirit to the Lord and I wash my hands of this conversation. The good thing about "free will" is that you are free to find a church that is more in-line with your ideology. Episcopalian would be a good start. God bless you.
Molly Kelash October 31, 2012 at 08:37 PM
It's a shame that you are unable to discuss the ideas around this issue without spewing hatred at me, Lau. Not once did I attack you as a person, but obviously you come from a deep place of fear if lashing out so nastily with an ad hominem attack is your only recourse. And perhaps you are right - Episcopalians may be more accepting of "bigots" like myself who actually believe that gay people should have the same rights as everyone else. Sadly, I think the discussion has degraded to the point where it no longer makes sense to hold it any longer. Thank you all...and go out and vote!
John M. Shehan December 17, 2012 at 09:58 PM
Thirty-three years ago, I thought about being Catholic, and after some soul-searching decided that I just couldn't do it. Some time went by, and at some point I realized that I really wasn't a good Protestatn. There was too much I beleived that I shared with Catholics, so I gave it a try once again at the turn of the century. This time I followed through. I "buried" the issues I had with Catholicism back in '79 and simply accepted what the Church taught for the most part/ And then the sexual molestation incidents began floating to the surface. The bishop of my diocese had served as a priest in an ealier day at two parishes my great-grandmother had attended many decades ago. He was implicated by three men who attended these parishes as kids, for being sexually molested. All of this within six months of joining the Church. But it goes a lot deeper than that. After reading Garry Wills' "Papal Sin", where much of the intellectual dishonesty of Catholicism is exposed, I once again relized why I had balked at becoming Catholic 33 years ago. I would rather be a catholic (spelled with a little "c") in a liturgical Protestant sect or an Orthodox, than remain with Rome.
Barb April 23, 2013 at 09:04 PM
Molly, I am now where you were in the Fall. I am searching for a direction away from the "C" Catholic church. I am very involved from Eucharistic Minister, Lector / Commentator, Bible study, to former Catechist. I feel as though I am getting a divorce and am very sad to say that I am leaving the church. However, I feel that I can no longer financially nor emotionally support a church that limits and stifles growth and acceptance. If the Catholic church does not allow women to be leaders than how are we to expect the world to follow through with equal treatment, rights and pay for women? God created us all and we are created in his own image.Though we only see 2 sets of physical attributes- male and female and I fail to comprehend the fact that 2 people of the same sex want to live their lives committed to each other for a lifetime- I chalk that up to the fact that I am not God, nor gay and it is not for me to understand- yet it is not my place to judge or deny them the right to have their relationships blessed in the church and invite God into their lives. But, where do I go from here? I truly believe that "where there are two or more gathered in His name..." Where do I go?

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