Friday, April 23, 2010

The Morality of Becoming Catholic

Last night, The German & I discussed our daughter's decision to become Catholic. I have known such great priests that I greatly admire, but wondered if it was immoral to join a religion where so many higher-ups are corrupt.

The fact that pedophilic priests have been shuffled around to different parishes, instead of reported to police, is nothing new. Reports in the media wax and wane, but the problem has never gone away. As a survivor of sexual assault, this concerns me. No, it's worse than that. It angers me. I have absolutely no love for the Pope, not this one or the last one. I feel like the CEO of any organization should be held accountable before the law, if he knowingly allowed those in his company to systemically engage in criminal and predatory behavior. Why should the Pope be treated any differently?

The German and I talked about whether it is immoral to give money to the Catholic church given the possibility that those funds could end up in the hands of those who engage in criminal behavior. He didn't feel that it was. I asked him if he thought it was immoral to join the church, given how much criminal behavior some of the clergy members have engaged in. He reckoned that any organization that large is bound to have some criminals in it, but this shouldn't be held against the vast majority of priests who are not doing these things.

I thought about this and a thought ran through my head. Maybe being Catholic is like being a citizen of the United States. I pay my taxes even though I know that they may be used to prop up systems of oppression that I do not agree with. I pay my taxes, because I know that they are also used to provide needed services to millions of people. I don't feel like I need to renounce my citizenship and move to another country, just because I have no love for many of the actions taken by our government.

Right now, I know several people who are working to become US citizens. I know that each of them have reasons that they want to be here, but that doesn't mean one should assume that they agree with everything that the US government (or its citizens) do. I think that may be how I should look at those who decide to become, or already are, Catholic.

I know for a fact that my daughter doesn't give two figs about Pope Benedict XVI. Her love for the Catholic church seems to be tied to several things. First of all, Catholicism is a part of her heritage. Her bio-dad's family is Creole. They have Sicilian roots, too. In New Orleans, the culture of the Sicilian-American community is wrapped up in its traditionally Catholic background.

The German's ancestors were Catholic, too. He has many fond memories of the Bibles and religious icons that his grandmother gave him and his sisters. His mother was baptized and confirmed in the Catholic church. A few years ago, when VanGoghGirl started expressing an interest in her roots, my mother-in-law brought over a box of mementos that her mother had put away for her. VanGoghGirl was mesmerized by the contents of that box. Inside of it, there were little prayer books, pictures from the holidays, baptismal gowns, and even a family Bible. After that, I don't think anyone could have stood between her and her fascination with the Catholic church--not that I would try.

I have always told my daughter that she was free to pursue whatever religious or spiritual path that she felt drawn to. I have no intentions of reneging on that policy. This has mostly been on my mind because we are getting closer and closer to the time when she will start taking classes to begin the process of becoming a Catholic. I want to understand her decision, so that I can figure out the best way to support her, even though I am not a Catholic. I wrote this because I would love to hear from others who have views about this topic. I want to get as much input as I can and consider this from as many angles as possible.


Rootietoot said...

There is something precious about a religious heritage. I left the church of my family (for centuries) when I married, and recently we started going back to it. There is something unnamed but really comfortable there.

I would say allow her to explore. The thing about joining a church is that it's not a permanent kind of thing. If she decides it's not for her, at least she will be making an informed decision about it.

You may want to investigate your local parish a bit, talk to some parents, make sure it's a safe place.

Anonymous said...

Maybe, emphasizing the commonality between faiths is a start. I've never been to a Roman Catholic service; nor, do I know much about Catholic dogma. That said, the idea of sacrifice, the golden rule, and giving alms to the poor is one that is shared in many different religions, though with different emphasis.

Appreciating differences of similar concepts is also important in that it improves understanding. As someone who was raised muslim, I found a lot to contemplate through the story of Jesus's sacrifice for humanity. It's one instance of a parable. while I may not share with others, I find extremely moving. Maybe, instead of examining the limitations of the clergy, sharing common tradition and ideas across faiths is a better mechanism for sharing humanity.

PS sometimes, I think Catholic clergy get a really bad rap, which probably isn't commensurate with reality.