I have decided a while ago not to talk about religion or politics on this blog, although I would talk about morality if that’s what the subject needed. This time, I need to make an exception and tackle the taboo, inspired by many great friends of mine who expressed their (usually contradictory to mine) opinion.
The new Catholic Pope, Francis, is already in office, and I thought: Okay. This is bound to cause another wave of criticism and denigration of the Church. This is something I accept with humility, as it is not unjustified. The acts of some members of the Church are sometimes so revolting, that I cannot contain the anger within me.
Below is a set of slightly disconnected thoughts; on Church; on faith; on future. I know it’s very unpopular to be defending the Church nowadays. It’s better to say a few words about how you despise it, and you’re bound to get an agreeing crowd. Throw in Dawkins or Hitchens and no one dares to disagree with you.
This is not a pamphlet for or against religion; it’s just a statement by someone at the crossroads.
You think that was guilt when I talked about the Introverts? Believe me, the Extrovert’s Remorse has nothing on the guilt I feel being a Catholic. I am ashamed of the state of the Church in so many areas. I am ashamed of the terrible, terrible cases of child abuse, money mismanagement, gross intolerance and simple everyday sleaze of so many Catholics and Catholic so-called leaders (I say so-called, as I do not see them as my leaders). I am ashamed of the despicable treatment of homosexuals, who, for goodness’ sake, are people just like everyone else (I fear Francis and I will continue to disagree here).
On other dogmas: even though I understand (I’m careful not to say – agree with) the reasoning behind the right to life and when life starts in Catholic terms, I do not understand the reasons behind the ban on contraception, neither in everyday scenarios nor especially when it can help save lives (by protecting against the spreading of diseases, for example). Obviously, I’m an evolutionist (that goes without saying!). I will also not accept that women are in any way inferior to men, even if I will accept we are different, of course. Crucially, I am also doubtful of human ability to interpret the word of God correctly, even if we are given it. If the most perfect and indescribably wise being asked me to write anything down, would I dare bearing this responsibility? Would I put my name to the Bible, to Koran, to any other sacred text? How can we, in our human fallibleness, ever attempt to interpret the will of the creator?
I disagree with many fundamental dogmatic statements, which probably means I should leave. Yet, *in my own life* and those close to me, the Church has done a lot of good, and I know so many fantastically committed and virtuous priests. It’s a really difficult time for any religion, but Catholics in particular, and I see how badly all Catholics are punished because of the behaviour of some.
In truth though, this in itself is not a reason to leave the Church.
No one promised it would be easy.
The fact that people transgress does not mean the faith itself is disproved. I do hope that policies and behaviours of individuals will change and be punished appropriately, where necessary, but I choose to believe it does not mean every Catholic is a disrespectful, cruel, stupid and ignorant person.
Fundamental question: does leaving the Church mean losing the faith?
How liberating it would be to take off this heavy armour of never-ending guilt. How convenient to assume that morality is completely independent of faith, and we would be just as good human beings if there was no God.
And yet I cannot bring myself to do it; maybe because I cannot prove either way. What I can prove, or testify, are the few (rare) times in my life when I felt the hand of… something. Someone. An entity helping me through very dark times. Was it just the power of my mind? I can’t dismiss that; prayer could very well stimulate parts of our brain responsible for self-belief, optimism, resilience. Could my heart be fooling me when I feel the presence of something so much greater than me, of mercy so powerful and humbling, of love so unconditional and forgiving, that I cannot in my conscience say to myself that there is no God?
I can’t dismiss those times. I cannot say confidently that I never felt God’s presence. Even though so often I wish there simply was no God, after all.
Does the Church need to reform itself? Absolutely. Without question.
Would I convert to Catholicism if I wasn’t born into it? I think it’s unlikely.
Will I remain a Catholic if Pope Francis (or future popes) endeavours to tackle the crimes of the modern Church and return it to the roots of true, virtuous and driven by unconditional love Christianity? Maybe. It’s undecided as yet.
Does any of this prove or disprove the existence of God? No. My quest continues.
Finally, I mentioned Hitchens before as one of atheists’ favourites. And for good reason; I think he was one of the most intelligent men of this century (and last) and I eat his words up like fresh hot buns from a Polish bakery. I absolutely adore the man and he did so much to make me question my life. But even he, when recalling his conversation with Richard Dawkins at the end of Collision, said this:
And then at one point, I think this is not on camera, I said: ‘If I could convert everyone in the world; not convert, if I could convince them to be a non-believer, and I’ve really done brilliantly and there was only one left – one more, and then it’d be done, there would be no more religion in this world, no more deism, theism – I wouldn’t do it.’
And Dawkins said: ‘What do you mean you wouldn’t do it?’
I said: ‘I don’t quite know why I wouldn’t do it. And it’s not just that there would be nothing left to argue with and no one left to argue with. It’s not just that, though it would be that… Somehow, if I could drive it out of the world, I wouldn’t.’
And the incredulity with which he looked at me, stays with me still, I’ve got to say.
..and who am I to disagree with Hitchens.