Common practice

Over the holiday weekend, @darraghdoyle’s feed brought me the musings of the Notorious Vic. Vickie has been finding it harder to justify remaining a member of the Catholic Church lately, the church into which she was initiated by her parents as an infant. It is revealing to read a frank and considered account of a journey away from an institution that has let her down. It is hard to disagree with much of her assessment in the first two paragraphs. She made her Communion along with the rest of her school’s class but this is “no biggie” – she acknowledges the commitment made by her parents. She does not call herself an atheist because she does not “not believe in a God. I just don’t have any faith in a particular one.” Like many people right now, she cannot ascribe to the beliefs that go along with being a member of the Catholic church, likely no church at all. And this is the central problem for Vickie.

Lots of other aspects of our lives right now are about choice. Holiday abroad or at home this year. Apply for that new job or stick this one out. Do I quit Facebook or not? Is the choice to remain a member of an institution more or less important than these other choices? Vickie’s post would do well to be read by anyone in a ‘leadership’ position in the Catholic Church in Ireland because this is not new. I’ll personally attest to similar doubts since 24. And this is not about patronising Vickie about her age: “ah sher, you’ll rely on your faith when life becomes more complex” or even the all-encompassing “won’t anyone think of the children!?!” I’m 37 and I’m still waiting for that Damascene experience. I struggle almost everyday with questions of commitment to an organisation that proclaims love for all but is afraid of 60% of it. For what it is worth Vickie, I think that it is in this struggle that we find something good and just.

UPDATE: And the Guardian’s Cif Belief is now also up to speed on this.

I was at Mass last Saturday evening; in Sligo, with my partner and her family. Quite apart from the infrequency with which I find myself in this place, the vacation of the first three rows persisted in this parish church. Why are Irish people afraid of the first three rows? The historical memory of being eye-balled by a hellfire-preaching priest? No, I don’t think so. It is because the front of the church pews tended to be reserved for the wealthy, the privileged and the landed. Take the wealthy out of a parish church and the common people remain. Who doesn’t want to be one of those?

One final tale: my brother-in-law’s six year old wanted to know if God was everywhere. She asked her father again and again: “is God really everywhere? Really, Dad, really? He’s everywhere?” She farted audibly. “Then I just farted God out.” Clearly an atheist in the making.


5 thoughts on “Common practice

  1. Thanks for reading the post Eoin, and for linking to it. It’s heartening to know that I’m not alone in feeling this sense of ambivalence.

    Love the story about the six-year-old too – gas!

    V x

  2. I thought people declined to sit in the front row in order to avoid shaking hands with the priest! Brings back memories of my granny bringing me right up to the front at mass “to shake hands with the cardinal”. At the time I remember thinking, embarrassed as fuck, why does this woman think it a privilege to shake hands with the cardinal? It only sank in years later that the point of the exercise was to show that it should be not be a privilege at all and that the cardinal should be seen as just the same as anyone else… Incidentally, what we had was the penny aisle and the poor aisle: the wealthy, the privileged and the landed sat in the penny (i.e. for the collection) aisle where the basket was passed round. My granny steadfastly refused to ever sit in the penny aisle, even when that distinction had been long forgotten by most, lest people think she was recognising the penny aisle’s legitimacy by doing so. I am sure she was aware of the contradiction, but knowing her I assume she saw it as a contradiction worth hanging onto.

  3. @Vickie: not at all. Glad to have read it. You’re definitely not alone in this. If the institutional Church ran courses for those with doubts who could openly question the teachings of the Church, we’d be in a much better place. But then that may not be a church at all.

    @Hugh: a few people I know recall individual family’s weekly contributions being read from the altar. As a means of surveillance and social control, it’s something that Brian Lenihan might adopt as his own. As for contradictions: isn’t it only in the contradictions that things get challenged?

  4. An aside on an aside: As someone who wasn’t raised in it, one of the weirdest phenomenon I have encountered since getting involved with the Presbies is how incapable they are of sitting in the front of a room. They always fill from the back, with a regimented order that is repeated in every freaking setting.

    1. Thanks for the ecumenical verification. Good to know that the classism extends to our Presbie brothers and sisters as well then.

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