An addition to my earlier comment would be to say how I think this (opening up the Church) can be achieved would be to include in a secular priests training and subsequent commitment an understanding of the need to develop personal spiritual practice besides that of Reciting the Office daily. One might expect that being able to say Mass would be enough in that direction but I feel that many priests do not experience the Mass as a spiritual practice but rather experience it as a ritual. Of course, Mass is ritual but the purpose of it is to lead the people deeper through their witnessing presence to that which supports, pervades and underpins the Mass. I find that many, including priests, do not appriciate and therefore do not allow this crucial feature of spiritual growth. I do think that giving the development of a personal spiritual path a place of prime importance rather than remaining predominantly preoccupied with the development of morality and intellect, all neccessary but not indicative of spiritual maturity, would be most useful. I think many are most grateful as well as astounded by the example of Pope Francis in this regard.
It has been years since I have been a practicing Catholic. The sexual abuse scandal rocked me off my feet. I belatedly realize that my youngest brother, who is now dead, was probably sexually abused as he served as an altar boy. Then when the bishops were verbally abusive to the nuns, that really upset me. I feel they are the only ones actually living out Christ’s message. Years ago, I reconciled my use of contraception as an act of conscience granted to me through Vatican II. I was upset at the church’s promotion of the Republican party and all it stood for, instead of minding its own business and working to help the poor and the needy. I have felt that the male church power system is obsessed with sex (abuse, contraception, abortion, homosexuality) and they should concentrate more of their energy in helping their parish families. The Catholic church would benefit from women being allowed to take their rightful place in position of power. I think celibacy has been a scourge on the Catholic Church, and married priests would be a benefit to married couples who need models. Guess I’ve hit all the hot-button issues, haven’t I?
I have not left the Church entirely, but don’t go to Mass every Sunday anymore. I do not like being discriminated against because I am a woman, especially in my place of worship. My decision stems from the decision of my parish priest a few years ago that only men and boys could have their feet washed on Holy Thursday – a retrograde step as it had happened before that. I dislike the way women are treated – expected to provide the clean linens, sparkle the vessels, prepare the altar, but stay away from the deaconate and other duties. I also dislike the changed language of the Mass – having lived through the Latin, the first change into the vernacular, the second and now the third again. I have friends who are priests in the Anglican and Methodist Churches – wonderful women, and I grieve that a good friend of mine who is a Catholic theologian and felt called to the priesthood, could never become one. After our battle when I lived in another town more than 20 years ago, to have women and men have their feet washed, the priest accepted the change and she was one of the women chosen. As he washed her feet, a feather drifted down from the rafters into my hands – a symbol I felt of acceptance and love. So, where to now?
As a cradle Catholic I truly loved my church. I said my First Communion would be the happiest day of my life, and it was. I participated in daily Mass for most of my years up to my mid 40’s. Went thru a divorce after a 20 year marriage to a man that was mentally ill and abusive. My church was very supportive thru those times. I then went to work for the church, my first Pastor (for 6 years) was an incredible man of God and the pastoral team fantastic. When he left there was a “reign of terror” from the next pastor, I stayed another 6 years, then moved on to another Catholic church and another Pastor that was identical to the former. I believed deeply in the work I was doing and stayed 12 years. But working for 18 years under two men whose main interest was money, power and control to mention just a FEW things witnessed, I began re-accessing what I actually believed in. I believe Jesus taught one thing and that is to Love, which means, do not judge or discriminate, be kind & caring. I don’t have the answers just my personal beliefs; that Priest should have a right to marry, Women have a right to be ordained, that birth control should be a choice, that Communion should be for everyone not just the “worthy”. I believe we should be more welcoming to/with people of other religions, we are ALL children of God, not just Catholics or Christians. I believe we should be more supportive of those going thru divorce, and those struggling with financial problems and addictions. I believe we should be still thru meditation and listen to God instead of doing all the talking. Less ritual and more contemplation. I don’t love God as much as I did as a child, I love my Creator God much much more. Being told what was right and wrong when I was a child was comforting because it taught me boundaries, I also like hot chocolate on a cold day because it is comforting but I know it is not what feeds my body the way it should, any more than rules and regulations feed my soul. Pope John XXIII was always my favorite Pope but Francis is now running a close second. I believe he truly is a man of God preaching Love, Kindness and Open doors to all. So sad to say the Church is so far behind him.
Would I go back to the Church that I left? No, of course not. I became a Catholic aged 18 before VAT II, when the world then was conservative and I who had no background of a committed faith needed the certainty that the Catholic Church gave. I was committed to all the Church’s teachings, including NFP although I find it restrictive and mechanical – but I did have two children which is how many I wanted.