Why I Lost Faith

I left the church completely when they turned their back on a child in need. This is happened years ago, but Charlie Pierce has an essay up that made me rethink about my own relationship with the Church. My thoughts are far too complicated for twitter, and I’m not sure they will make any sense with the blog, but all the hoopla on the Church lately has made me think about why I walked away from Catholicism and the Christian faith. I left because of the sheer hypocrisy of the Church.

I had a client, years ago, who was a devout Catholic. As with all of my clients, this young man was sexually aggressive. While in the world of treatment, his case was not necessarily the worst I had ever seen, he had done great harm to his victim, her family as well as his own family. His family came to me for treatment, and I worked with him to address his thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Given his level of activity in a peer group he was considered lower-risk. The family, who was accustomed to getting strength from the church ,assured me that this young man would continue to be embraced by the church community and receive the requisite spiritual and social support necessary to live a positive life.

They turned to the church, and the church kicked my client not just out of the youth group, but his school as well, citing his non-adjudicated offense as the reason why he could not be around children his own age.

Let me be perfectly clear: The kid offended someone much younger. He had no contact with kids of that age any more. He wasn’t on probation, he was diverted. This means he wasn’t even in the Juvenile Justice System because the authorities in the State’s Attorneys Office deemed him to be low risk.

So the Catholic Church, which goes on and on about forgiveness, redemption and social service turns its back on a parishioner who needed help. Meanwhile, the Bishops are shifting pedophiles and hebephiles around like collectible collecting cards. Here was a kid who was ready, willing and able to work through his shit.  They walked away from him.

The kicker:  I knew the pastor of that church.  He was, when I knew him, a good man who cared about children of all kinds.

The Church did nothing for this kid, while they have gone to the MAT for adults who have offended dozens of children.

This was a kid who could have–and  I should point out, was–helped without the guidance of the Church. As far as anyone knows, he’s relapse free for at least five years.  During those five years, the Church has continued to shelter pedophiles and turn its back on people in need based on sexual orientation or gender.

I beat up on the Church because the Church chose to protect and shelter pedophiles, and because it abandoned families in need.  Their hypocrisy drove me away.  And now, despite my desire to believe in the hereafter, they can’t get me back.

Wrong Battle: An Open Letter to Cardinal Francis George

Your Holiness, Cardinal Francis George (and certain other Catholics),

The uproar you have started regarding President Obama’s upcoming visit to Notre Dame is disgraceful, unwarranted and a slap in the face to the moderate and liberal branches of the faith. This is yet another example of how you taken the faith away from the core principles that once guided the church.

Cardinal, you have been quoted saying:

Whatever else is clear, it’s clear Notre Dame didn’t understand what it means to be Catholic when they issued this invitation,” George said, “and didn’t anticipate the kind of uproar that would be consequent to the decision, at least not to the extent that it has happened.”

George said he continues to talk to the university about the invitation, which he said “brought extreme embarrassment to many, many people who are Catholic, including their own bishop.”

The embarrassment, sir, belongs to you and any other person of Religious faith who refuses to dialogue with others. This entire argument stems not from the “culture of life” that I was raised in, but in a right wing, dogmatic response to the question of abortion.

The President is pushing for Abortion Reduction, a series of interventions both pre and post natal designed to ensure the safety of the fetus, mother and the eventual child. The Church I remember, an organization that I once turned to for comfort and guidance, would relish the opportunity to work with someone to achieve that goal.

Instead, you and others of your ilk, cling to practices and beliefs that would force a nine year old victim of repeated sexual assault to carry a fetus to term. An action that is both life threatening and psychologically destroying. And while you scream from your self-righteous pulpit, you refuse to address the skeletons in your own closet:

A Catholic priest, the Rev. Kenneth J. Martin pleaded guilty to molesting a teenage boy in 2001, yet was found working for the Archdiocese of Chicago last month, despite promises from the cardinal that the convicted priest would not be coming back to Chicago.

Both of these behaviors are an insult to the memory of Cardinal Bernadin, your predecessor, who worked to clear the churches name. You foster a false division within the Church, and ignore the damage the shepherds have done to the flock.

You have chosen to fight a battle that you should not engage in. Defending the sanctity of human life goes beyond abortion. The Culture of Life also reflects questions about war, human rights and quality of life issues. You did not cry foul when the previous president, who waged a war completely against church teachings, spoke at commencement. This is yet another shameful act you have undertaken.

As a Bishop, you cannot pick and chose which battles to fight for. The Culture of Life, every aspect of it, must be defended by individuals of your rank. Your continued failure is just another reason why many Catholics of my generation leave the church. Your leadership continues to push away the rationed, reasonable and educated faithful away, and prevents reconciliation with those who struggle with the spiritual. Your zealotry has made you blind to the larger picture.


What do you believe?


Prayers Today

Originally uploaded by marrngtn (Manuel)

The posts regarding Christian Nationalism has led me to ask, what do you believe and why?

I was raised Roman Catholic and I want to believe in the tenets of the church. I really do. At the same time, I am drawn to Secular Humanism as well. The question I consistently deal with is “Do I still believe in God?”

So, dear reader, what do you believe. If you want to quote something, please expand on the quote. I am extremely interested in reading about other’s beliefs. I’ll write up more about mine after work tonight.

update 1:
Anonymous sent this to me in an email. Here is a snippet of this person’s insightful thoughts.

I’m also incredibly sensitive to (and rather put off by) very public displays of faith, but I think that’s a personal overreaction to where I went to college (a private, southern baptist university) than anything else. It was blatantly obvious when I was there that often the loudest proponents of anything (public displays of faith in particular) were often the people I most disagreed with about what it means to “walk the walk”. I think being told by well-meaning but … not well-thinking people that they would pray for my mortal soul to not be tempted into Hell by the doings of Those Damn Catholics had a lot to do with it too, really.

I’m a huge fan of Chesterton (and Lewis, but less so, and not particularly Narnia), and his way of explaining how faith makes sense in this world. He argues that rather than the world being sane, and Faith being madness, that instead it’s the world that is mad, and faith that brings us a breath of sanity in the midst of the madness. He’s oft called the “Apostle of Common Sense” – which endears me to him all the more.

“There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth.” -GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Christian Nationalism

In this election cycle, both major party tickets are talking about their Christian faith. Obama has been discussing his since 04. McCain has been not been comfortable discussing his–and he has had some controversy with his own party over the religious right. Even Biden and Palin discuss their faith, and it is only a matter of time before both Vice Presidential candidates receive additional scrutiny for their faith. In fact, I believe before the election cycle has finished, a conservative catholic bishop will inform his diocese that voting for Obama is a sin, and they will not be eligible for Communion . In fact, its already started.

The discussion of the candidates faith led me to this article, a discussion of Christian Nationalism. Two years ago, the author, Michelle Goldberg, appeared on Fresh Air. I plan on listening to that when I get home tonight, because the teaser she has on the Talk 2 Action site is unbelievable. Michelle talks about Dominionism, which she summarized on the website as:

The goal of Christian nationalist politics is the restoration of the imagined Christian nation. As George Grant, former executive director of D. James Kennedy’s influential Coral Ridge Ministries, wrote in his book “The Changing of the Guard:”

“Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ — to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness.
But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice.
It is dominion we are after. Not just influence.
It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time.
It is dominion we are after.
World conquest. That’s what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish.”

This is terrifying. The core idea–that the US is fundamentally a Christian Nation–is wholly incorrect and inappropriate.

If we swap Jesus Christ for Allah, we’d have language fit for radical fundamentalist Islam. Why is the language okay for JHC, but not for Allah?

I am not anti-religion. I firmly believe that everyone has the right to worship, or not worship, as they see fit. When I don’t want to hear it, I’ll walk away. When they want to make it state law, I’ll put up a fight. This language of the Dominionists make it clear that they want religious law in place of secular law. This view is incompatible with the constitution–and individuals who hold on to this view of Church and State have no business in any government office where they swear to uphold the Constitution.