Thursday, August 26, 2010

Why I’m giving up Catholicism

Why I’m giving up Catholicism
Jackie Annesley
London Evening Standard
I was baptised a Catholic, educated at a convent and spent my childhood inventing sins for the confessional box, so the road to renouncing my Catholicism has been a long one.

But even as a recent disbeliever, the news this week that a Catholic priest was a terrorist behind an IRA car bomb in Northern Ireland that killed nine still shocked. It follows the cover-up of clergy sex crimes and the Vatican's misogynist pronouncement last month that ordaining a woman a priest is as sinful as abusing a child. So much for all God's children (John 1:12-13).

The seemingly trivial turning point for me came during my father's funeral several years ago, when the Catholic priest began eulogising about Eric. Dad's name was Alexander. As our muted sobs almost gave way to incredulous giggles, the undertaker was forced to go up to the altar to remind the priest, fond of the drink, of the name of the deceased.

How we squirmed with embarrassment as our Protestant, Ulster-born cousin looked on. Still, I shouldn't have been surprised. Ten days earlier, at my mother's funeral, he'd called me Eileen. Which was her name. To catch, match and dispatch were his fundamental duties and this woefully inadequate man — of which the church seems to attract many — couldn't even get that right.

But it was when our youngest son became ill 18 months ago that I really began to question my faith. For more than 40 years I'd blithely accepted that prayer and belief in God made a difference. But nothing can save Joe from the reality of genetics. Life Everlasting? The lesson I learned was that our time here is short and final. Better to gather your family and friends around you and to love life now than to mistakenly believe in the promises of heaven or that God has a monopoly on goodness.

I remember a few weeks before my mother's death, as I watched her struggle to live, saying: “Why don't you let go, mum?” Because after death, she said, comes only “oblivion”. She too, a lifelong Catholic, no longer believed that the body would be reunited with the soul “when Jesus comes again at the Last Judgement”.

I started recalling the nuns — mostly oddballs and misfits — overly fond of the moneyed parents at the convent I attended, and the obscene wealth of the Catholic missionary churches — silver altars and gilded statues — amid the poverty of South America during a trip 20 years ago. The many absurd mythologies of the Bible simply don't withstand scrutiny. The trinity — God, the father and the holy ghost? Now it was like asking me to believe in the fairy stories I was reading to my children each night.

I have no doubt the Catholic Church offers great comfort to many. But next month when its leader Pope Benedict visits — a man who condemns homosexuality and contraception — he is unlikely to address the scandals that have torn apart the Catholic community with the openness they demand.
This lost soul won't be among his flock. But spare me your prayers and save them instead for someone who still believes in their power.

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