Free-Floating Hostility

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Habemus Problem

I feel some responsibility to mark the passing of Karol Wojtyla and the promotion of his homeboy Josef Ratzinger. The problem is that, like so many Western Catholics my connection to the Pope feels no stronger than to any other Catholic. My religious education did not include papal infallibility, and notwithstanding the rote prayers in his name offered at mass I can't say he was a regular feature in my religious life, even when I was more religious than I am now.

I haven't been to mass since last summer, at the Abbey of Regina Laudis, the time I visited with the Cheese Nun. At the abbey they do mass pretty old school; not actually in Latin but just about everything else pre-Vatican II, including the fact that the host is placed directly on communicants tongues instead of in their hands (normally you can do it either way as you prefer). My mom was ahead of me in line for communion, and she made something of a point of putting out her hands for the host, so by the time I got up to the front of the line, I was completely nervous and sure I was doing something wrong. When the priest (whom I didn't know) and the lay brother looked at me expectantly I was just positive I had a line coming up. So out of my mouth flew the words...wait for it..."Body of Christ." I had stolen the priest's line. The priest burst out laughing. The lay brother burst out laughing. I burst out crying, and laughing, and put my head in my hands saying "Oh my gosh" (I am fairly sure I remembered not to say Oh my God in time). I couldn't stop laugh/crying for the rest of mass. I haven't been back since.

So that's my problem in a nutshell. For me, going to mass was always on the one hand a meaningful and sometimes beautiful way of learning about my own morality, but on the other hand it was an hour a week spent trying not to say the wrong thing, or to somehow give away that I was a masturbating agnostic who never had Confirmation. And it bothers me in a way I cannot ignore that even when I was a four-year-old composing short stories about Mary, Queen of Heaven, I already knew I would never be a priest. I still say Hail Marys every time I get behind the wheel of a car, but sometime recently the balance shifted, and I no longer feel like a full participant in Catholicism.

My understanding of God is so different from the doctrine espoused by John Paul II and, it would seem, Benedict XVI. The new Pope has expressed that he would prefer to see the Church diminished in number if it is purer in faith. It's all well and good for him; he gets to pick who stays and goes. But I know I am not the only person in this world who feels the failure of a community in Christ, who is tired of practicing defensive prayer. It doesn't seem fair to me that the highest cleric in the land can't open his arms wide enough to welcome the impure into God's house. If I were the father of millions of the faithful, I think that would break my heart.

0 Comment(s):

Post a Comment