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.