Wednesday, January 4

Catholic(ish) Carrie

I hope I don't offend anyone by talking about potentially contentious stuff on this blog, but once in awhile I like to share my less frivolous opinions and beliefs. This is one of those times.

And all of this discussion comes with the full admission that I am not a theologian by any stretch. I just have a conscience, and before my confirmation a priest urged me to follow it anytime I felt conflicted about things in the Church.

Well, I'm feeling awfully conflicted right now.


I'm a cradle Catholic.

I like to go to Mass on Sundays (when I manage to actually get there...) and I generally feel much better walking out than I do walking in. I am a big believer in Jesus' message of peace and love and tolerance. I appreciate the stories in the Bible, and I treasure many of the ancient traditions that are so important in Catholicism. It was really important for me to marry in the Church, and an added bonus that I married a fellow Catholic so our future children could be baptized and go to CCD and get confirmed (should they choose) without much fuss.

But once in awhile we hit a snag, the Mother Church and I, and the sad reality is this -- the vast majority of the time, it isn't because of dogma. It's really not ever over the original message. I lapse (often) as a Catholic based on those in the pews and up at the pulpit, and the way they interpret the message.

I am what you might call a bleeding-heart liberal, and I don't only mean that in a political sense. Honestly, I think Jesus was the world's first hippie, and I kind of love it. Peace and tolerance? Yes, please. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Preach, Jesus (no, literally... preach). The man Lord befriended a prostitute and went among the lepers and was generally looking out for the down and out folks.

And that is what I believe Catholicism, along with any other organized religion -- or, you know, just being a human being -- should be about. Be kind and help others. And if that means you occasionally end up feeding french fries to a creepy homeless man, hand to mouth, well then... that's character-building, right? (Yes, that actually happened to me -- another time, another time).

So I take issue with what I consider modern misinterpretations of our collective Catholic mission. I don't think the Church has any business sticking its Roman nose into public policy.

I don't like that the Church is up in arms about health care reform laws mandating coverage of birth control as necessary medication, or that they consistently advocate overturning Roe v. Wade. Guess what -- people are still going to find ways to prevent and end pregnancy, and they will do it in less safe ways. Perhaps a more compassionate, understanding (dare I say Christ-like?) approach to the Church's advocacy for all life is the better means to an end. Remember Prohibition? You can't legislate morality, and trying to do so only makes things worse.

Speaking of respect for all life, I think the death penalty deserves at least as much attention as abortion and birth control. Let's make sure we're devoting some time to making the world a better place for those already in it. There have been mistakes made on death row, and innocent people have been put to death. Is it rare? Absolutely. Does that make it okay? Absolutely not. Even when those sentenced to death are horrific criminals, think of the person who administers the injection or flips the switch. If you believe in an afterlife, then it doesn't matter if these people languish in prison or die by injection (in fact, the languishing is cheaper, if you're concerned about the taxpayers). Everyone answers for their sins eventually.

Although I could go on and on, I'll only add one last thing. I read this story today, and found myself really bothered by it. Marriage among the clergy is not even on the same level as sexual abuse (though the article lumps them both together at the end as incidents casting a shadow in the LA diocese). In fact, I suspect marriage might be the cure for the sex-abuse scandal. I think the vast majority of priests are wonderful men, but you no doubt get some less than upstanding people when you mandate celibacy. If married men could enter the priesthood, do you think we'd have the serious clergy shortage that we're seeing today? Heavens, no!

It is well established that St. Peter was married, and may have even fathered children. You know, "On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it" -- that Peter. The Church only started mandating celibacy among clergy when it became apparent that they would lose land (and therefore, wealth) after priests died, because their wives or children would inherit their possessions. It's a different time, and celibacy among priests is not dogma. It's a tradition, and I'm a traditionalist at heart, but sometimes you cut your losses and admit that it's a bad one.


I'm quite hesitant to share this post, but I hope I've made it clear that these are my own personal feelings, not an attack on anyone who disagrees with me. It also feels very traitorous to publish, because I'm Catholic at heart, and am big on keeping things in the family, don't air your dirty laundry in public, that sort of thing.

Also, Catholic guilt.


  1. I liked reading your opinions on these things. I'm the daughter of a protestant pastor, so I have a different perspective. I feel there aren't enough "normal" people still talking about where the church should be focused.

  2. carrie, what a great post. I think its wonderful when people talk about heated issues with thoughtfulness and respect and candor... can you imagine us lowering our defenses and approaching divisive topics this way - maybe we'd come out unscathed (or is that too naive of me?). anyway, thanks for being so honest

  3. Thanks to both of you! I tend to shy away from publicly discussing stuff like this, period, but I love to hear respectful, thoughtful opinions on divisive issues, so maybe I'll be a little braver about putting my own out in the future :)