My Catholic Line-in-the-Sand

November 17, 2020 at 3:54 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 13 Comments
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As many of you know, I am a lifelong Catholic. A number of my great-grandparents were Irish immigrants. I did fourteen and a half years in Catholic schools and colleges. I have been a registered member of a Catholic parish for virtually all my life, with a few possible exceptions, as when I was living on communal farms in the 1970s.

But I recently cancelled my membership at the ostensibly liberal Jesuit Church of St. Francis Xavier in Manhattan. I never plan to join another parish or, God help me, give another penny to the institutional church, except to the nuns, who are barely part of the “institution.”

Here’s a timeline of the events that led up to my decision:

In truth, I was already pretty freaked by Cardinal Dolan inviting Trump, even if he also included Hilary Clinton, to speak at the Al Smith Dinner in 2016. Then there was his phone call last April with 600 Catholics, many of them bishops and the heads of Catholic institutions, adulating Trump . I was so scandalized by that that his inviting Trump but not Joe Biden to speak at the 2020 Al Smith dinner a few weeks before the election didn’t surprise me at all. (And just so you know, Dolan is the head of the archdiocese in which Xavier is located, though I used to commute in from the diocese of Brooklyn.)

I had already been deeply disturbed by the number of Catholics, particularly white Catholics, who voted for Donald Trump in 2016. Though the total percentages are disputed, white Catholics seem to have voted for him by more than half in 2016, as did a great many of them in 2020. My father, the shift worker, must be spinning in his grave, having told us as kids that if we ever voted Republican (or crossed a picket line) we would go to hell.

Another thing that’s been driving me nuts is the “spiritual communion” prayer offered at Xavier and, I assume, at a lot of other Catholic churches since the onset of the pandemic and the closing of churches. Just what everyone needs, isn’t it, is to hear that their communion at Zoom Masses isn’t real? As if Vatican II didn’t teach us that the Word of God is also the Body of Christ? One of the comforts of this period of Zoom liturgies was when the celebrant at a lay-led Eucharist inviting us all to bring our own cup of wine and piece of bread to the celebration with us. How’s that for ordaining everybody?

But the two things that really pushed me over the line—this may surprise you—happened at the Xavier Zoom Mass on August 9. That day was the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki. Now the Jesuit Pope, Francis, has stated unambiguously that nuclear weapons are immoral. And thanks to Trump’s recklessness, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has positioned the Doomsday Clock, the indicator of the imminence of nuclear war, at 100 seconds to midnight, the closest it’s every been since they began counting in 1947,. But the Jesuit priest who celebrated the 11:30 Mass that day, including a carefully prepared reflection on the scripture readings, never mentioned the Nagasaki bombing. This though the founder of the Catholic community in Nagasaki was Francis Xavier, the saint after whom the parish is named. And the bomb was dropped several thousand feet from the Catholic cathedral in Nagasaki, just as the community was gathered for the Sunday morning Mass.

I emailed the priest a few days later to express my distress over this omission. He is by no means young; perhaps he was unaware of the anniversary? He never responded to my email.

I thought about all of this for quite a while before terminating my membership, but finally decided I had no choice. I by no means intend to stop being a Catholic. There are several small Catholic Eucharistic communities, led by womanpriests or laypeople, that I join on Sunday mornings. And as my husband, the Baptist minister, is given to saying, I will be a Catholic till the day I die, no matter what institutional failure I am currently enraged by: after all, when I fall down and skin my knee, I say “Jesus, Mary and Joseph.”

But I have decided that I am finished with the institutional church, especially here in the US, where most of the bishops ignore what even the Pope is saying. I feel a bit sad, but enough is enough.



November 15, 2020 at 6:33 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Well, I wrote to you a while ago about the health problems I had been dealing with. I am now excited to report that I can see light at the end of the tunnel, figuratively and almost literally.

I am still tired from the pneumonia I contracted in September, but I have recovered from the pneumonia itself. So I was able to have my second cataract surgery last week, on November 9. The check-up the next day showed that the surgery had gone very well. I am about to end my week of pasting a plastic eye patch over my right eye before bed every night. And I am a week into the multiple eye drops that my long-suffering husband has been putting into that eye four times a day, a process that ends in three more weeks.

I am also going in in three weeks to get a prescription for new eyeglasses, which will move my distance and reading vision to 20/20. But my current distance vision is already vastly better than it had been for several cataract-impeded years. And I got a pair of reading glasses for the shirt-term at the local Duane Reade on Wednesday for twelve dollars.

I must admit, walking around without glasses has been a strange experience for me. I have been wearing glasses since I was eleven years old, that is to say, for sixty-two years. I keep pushing my glasses up my nose even though I am not wearing any. And I have discovered that at my age, wearing glasses makes me look less old than not wearing them, because they cover up the black circles under my eyes. So I really can’t wait for that new prescription.

I am also wildly excited to report that I am going out to Woodside to get my hair cut on Wednesday–and I am going by myself! Now that I can see again, my esteemed companion has agreed to my going out on my own. He was going everywhere with me, or driving me there, between my first cataract surgery and the second, because I really couldn’t see straight, and he didn’t want me falling down and breaking something!

Also, the day before Thanksgiving, I am getting a crown put in to replace one of the two eye teeth that broke during my recent ride through hell. The other one I will get done, but not until well into the new year. I have had enough medical procedures to last me quite a while.

Thanks to all of you who responded to the earlier post about my health, “Humbled.” It meant a lot. And I promise that soon, I am going to write about something besides my health troubles, God willing.

Meantime, stay well!

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