Last week was the beginning of the Lenten season. Lent, which lasts about forty days, from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday, is the time when Christians remember the death of Jesus Christ. During this time, we are supposed to pray, reflect on the meaning of Jesus’ death, and, if we’re really good Christians, attempt a pathetic imitation of Jesus’ sacrifice by practicing self-denial.
Most people, especially women, “give up” chocolate or caffeine. (Note that you don’t usually hear about men practicing this rite of self-restricting. Dare I say the Catholic Church has an interest in maintaining the Beauty Myth? I spy another post for another day…)
Although I always feel guilty about it, I don’t usually give up anything. I just don’t see how giving up M&Ms or Starbucks even begins to approximate the sacrifice supposedly Jesus made for us. More importantly, how does self-restricting bring us closer to God?
This year is different. This year, I am giving up Catholicism for Lent. I just need a break from being Catholic. I hate writing those words. I really do. But the Catholic Church keeps breaking my heart. I am not sure I belong in the Church any more.
I am not sure I belong in a Catholic Church that doesn’t believe I have the right to control my own body, the right to contraception, or the right to an abortion. The Church values the lives of “unborn souls” over my life: the life that is already here, already fighting every day to survive.
I am not sure I belong in a Catholic Church that persecutes women every single day, from nuns who are too “independent” to the 98% of Catholic women who have used contraception to women (and men) who are in same-sex relationships.
I am not sure I belong in a Catholic Church that allows its priests to sexually abuse children or even rape nuns. The entire Church hierarchy, from the priests and bishops all the way to the Vatican and Pope Benedict XVI need to acknowledge their roles in the rampant sex abuse throughout the Church. They need to repent and ask the victims’ forgiveness. They need to ask God’s forgiveness.
The Catholic Church has so many problems right now but the bishops and the Vatican simply refuse to admit anything is wrong. Instead, they are pretending the only evil in the world lies with people like me who can think for themselves, who know that ultimately, God is about love, not chocolate or contraception.
I am not sure where I belong spiritually or if I’ll remain Catholic but I need a break from the Church. I hope giving up Catholicism for Lent brings me spiritual renewal. I need it desperately. So does the Catholic Church.