May 20, 2018 by lucieromarin
An agnostic friend prompted me with some of the questions below. Thinking them over, I asked myself more questions from her viewpoint. This is her/my interview of me/myself:
Q: How much of you belongs to the Church?
A: Hmmmm. I don’t know. I guess I would say all of me legally, but not much of me culturally.
Q: What does that mean?
A: I still see the case for the Church intellectually, but the lived reality of membership tells me a different story. I can see why people leave.
Q: Then why don’t you leave?
A: Well, I just said that I see the intellectual case. I can’t deliberately dull my own mind by pretending I don’t see it. The disconnect between the theory and the practice is pretty terrible, but who’s to say that dispensing with the theory is more important than resisting bad practice? Besides, while it’s true that discovering your Diocese doesn’t believe its own teachings is pretty soul-searing, I have no evidence that things would have gone the same way everywhere else, or even anywhere else. Another Diocese might have handled my director very differently.
A: Well, they might have rehabilitated him with counselling and different employment, so that he still got to build a new life without adding to the hurt of the casualties behind him or potentially bringing the same malpractice to a new environment. Or cleaning up his messes might have been a prerequisite for further chaplaincy work. Something like that.
Q. Okay. And you say your Diocese proves that Catholic teaching is wrong?
A: No, I said they don’t believe their own teaching.
Q: That’s a pretty fine distinction.
A: Yes, but it’s important.
Q: Okay – so, examples?
A: Well, the bishops will teach that the fatherhood of the priest is a real fatherhood, even more perfect than biological fatherhood. In actual fact, when my director sired some biological children, he was allowed to walk away from his spiritual children without so much as a backwards glance; the Diocese knows this and is not troubled by it. Likewise, the bishops would preach in defence of clerical celibacy, and yet, when confronted with an actual case of a priest who had lied to his parish for two years to keep both his power and a girl, they responded by giving him both the girl and another chaplaincy job, and thus making him as close to a married priest as they could and validating the desires that drove him to betray his people in the first place. It’s an action consistent with private support for a married clergy. It’s not consistent with the official teaching of the Church, or with respect for the laity hurt by his actions.
Q: If they’re lying about their own teachings then that’s a strong argument for the teachings being false.
A: Maybe. But as I said, it’s just one Diocese. And I can’t see the future.
Q: Oh, so you’re all about the Christian hope then?
A: Well, not when you say it with that tone of voice. But in some ways, yes.
Q: What ways? Is there any way that isn’t a cop-out?
A: Not the sermon kind of way. When people tell me to have Christian hope, what I hear is “Please stop asking me to think about this.” It’s like a fairytale being given to a child by an adult with no answers and no desire to find them. I mean it more like…well, I love autumn. I love all the lights and shades and colours of it. It’s beautiful. And when I stand before a scene and drink in that beauty, I can’t believe it was an accident, and I can’t believe that it’s Maker only works in three dimensions and with only material things. I see Him working in time as well as space, and with narrative as well as biology, and with futures as well as with pasts – things like that. I mean, if He can invent an atom and turn it into a tree He can certainly do something with my history and turn into the spiritual equivalent of a beautiful autumn tree.
Q: Did you just say that you see God working in time and space?
A: I didn’t mean it literally! For crying out loud. I just mean that for me, hope means looking at created-ness, and seeing that it is still being created – I mean He didn’t make all the trees a thousand years ago and then go to sleep. Things are being made now, they’re changing now, and hope means seeing that that living story is…well, it’s still living. It’s not finished.
Q: Okay, then why does the story need God’s magic power to be changed? I mean, I know about the Fall and all that, but an omnipotent God could easily have made it so that the consequences of the Fall would point to the truth. Like, He could have made it so that a priest wouldn’t do bad stuff and get protected by the church, only people in false religions. That kind of thing. Or you wrote about how He built you an escape plan with the Maronites. Why attribute that to Him without asking why He established a Church from which His own people would need protection?
A: I don’t know.
Q: That’s a terrible answer!
A: Sorry, but it’s not like I’m God’s mistress. He doesn’t come to me for my sympathetic listening after a tough day running the universe. It’s better than patronising you by telling you that you have to have faith. Anyway, it’s one thing to ask for things from God, but if you think I can demand them then possibly you’re not so clear on what a God is.
Q: I’d rather have an answer that was, like, an answer.
A: Yeah, join the queue, lady.