Catholic Church – why I stay involved

The Catholic Church reels, battered and broken. Many Catholics must ask themselves why they stay.
Catholic Church

Last week, a jury found George Pell guilty of the sexual abuse of two children. That came as no surprise to many Catholics. Our poor church staggers under the weight of many heinous crimes and coverups by clergy, religious and the hierarchy.

Palpable sadness washes over ordinary Catholics who still take our places in the pews. We choose to stay. However, as a ‘cradle-Catholic’ (baptised as a baby and brought up as a Catholic) I’m shocked, bewildered and angry.

Abuse of power

The abuse of power by a male-dominated institution over victims and their families appals me. I denounce the weak attempts to buy victims off with paltry sums of money. Balance this with perpetrators in Courts of Law. Ostentatious and expensive lawyers argue their cases. Where does that money come from?

No one talks openly about the scandals. Perhaps the clergy think they can push away atrocities by keeping silent. A herd of elephants in our places of worship. As well, when people do talk, opinion is divided. I have written more in another blog.

Cognitive dissonance

Cognitive dissonance abounds because people’s beliefs and ideas about the church have been deeply challenged. We experience difficulty when we try to make sense of the evidence in front of us because it conflicts with what we ‘know’.

In the field of psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort experienced by a person who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values. A situation triggers discomfort when a person’s belief clashes with new evidence perceived by the person. Wikipedia

Why do I stay in the Catholic Church?

  • Years ago, I lost confidence in the top-heavy management and authority exercised by patriarchal bishops and priests. But I still experience solidarity with the kind, generous and loving people who make up the bulk of the Church.
  • We are a pilgrim people walking a spiritual path, nurturing each other as a community of believers as we seek ‘truth, wisdom and beauty’.
  • The Church is a human institution with all the fragility and sinfulness of such institutions. But, as my dear friend, the late Father Jim O’Brien, often said, ‘This is the Church Jesus left us.’
  • In times of personal sorrow and pain, my faith comforts and sustains me. It leads to personal and spiritual growth. With the Church in turmoil, I sense a parallel process in the heart of the Church and in my own soul, leading to further growth.
  • I concur with Francis Sullivan. He says: ‘I have benefited by being raised as a Catholic and being involved in social and spiritual apostolates of the Church. I have found the wisdom of the teaching and spiritual tradition a rich source of inspiration, information and discernment.’
  • The catechism, learned by rote, consolidated my childhood faith. In addition, the heavy threat of sin and punishment hung over me. However, my mature faith and the Gospel teachings learned in the Catholic Church lead me to find love and abundance in my day-to-day life. I am nurtured by the Sacraments.
  • Scandals battered the Church in the past. Then, reconciliation came about through the actions and faith of the laity. We should stay, because the laity will one day offset the power of the clergy as the Church renews itself.

Too often I take my faith and values for granted but I felt compelled to think and write about my deep need to stay connected to the Catholic Church. A soul-searching experience! With St Peter, challenged by Jesus, I would ask, ‘Lord, to whom should I go?’

I welcome comments, as always.

15 replies on “Catholic Church – why I stay involved”

  1. I admire your ccourage to speak out, Maureen.
    I know many beautiful people, including yourself who regularly attend church and uphold a Christian fsaith.
    Years ago my faith in any church was broken. I have never returned.
    Systemic issues, lack of upholding the truths it subscribes to and negatives personal experiences do not hinder me from holding a deeply spiritual outlook on life.

    1. Susan, thank you for recognising that writing and posting that blog took courage. It feels as if being a Catholic is a pretty silly thing to admit to, given the scandal, the hurt and the pain caused by many wicked people. I had a time maybe thirty-five years or more ago when I stepped back from Catholicism because of deep hurt. I found myself back in the church after a time when I experimented with other forms of spiritual practice but found myself back with my roots.

  2. Thankyou Maureen…I agree with your reasoning. I am not a Catholic but have experienced big disappointments in some churches leadership over the years. However we are still very involved in our chosen place of worship with the traditional values, music, bible readings caring pastoral work. We are imperfect but do our best & I regularly ask in a tricky situation..”what would Jesus do?”

    1. Thanks, Maureen. I suppose I must just go back to the fact that all churches are human institutions, with often with weaknesses and weak people leading them. My dear friend Rosemary Keenan used to regularly ask, ‘What would Jesus do?’ I am very touched by that question, so a special thank you again for responding.

  3. Thank you for your courage to write this, it is inspirational. I am a committed catholic. I have tried other religions on to see if they fit me but they missed something. To me coming together in the Eucharist is the most important part of our religion. I believe in the body and blood of Jesus present and that is what keeps me coming back. I feel angry that the institution called the catholic church. However my love of the mass cannot be flawed as it was instituted by Christ

    1. Thank you for your comment, Miriam. I didn’t know you were a Catholic. I don’t think we’ve ever really discussed it. But I’m not at all surprised, given that you’ve allowed me to read some of your writing. I guess our anger with the institutional church is pretty understandable. Anger seems to be a really energising emotion which makes us act to change what we can change.

    1. Thanks, Elizabeth. It took some soul-searching over the years to come to this place.

  4. When you think about it, in the early days of Christianity there was no Catholic Church or any other, only faithful followers worshipping wherever they could. And just like any other religion the Catholic Church was carved out by man.

    I am a Christian but I’m not a Catholic. I was baptised and confirmed into the Church of England, and having attended services in both of our churches, I can report there is little difference between us.

    Depending on who is preaching the sermon on any particular day, the services in C of E are thankfully a little shorter!

    There is good and evil the world over, but the sheer volume of scandals affecting your church is shocking. So sad that it has been allowed to continue over the centuries.

    I read an article with the headline The Devil is alive and well in the Catholic Church!

    One cannot help asking the question. if these men had been allowed to marry and live relatively normal lives, would evil have taken such a hold in the first place?

    1. You are absolutely right on all counts, Sue. It is sad that there were divisions in the Christian churches through the ages. I too recognise there is little difference between the Anglican and Catholic services. And our parish priest is a master of brevity with his homilies!

      I think that abuse of any sort is more the result of power than of whether priests are celibate or not. It is patriarchy at its very worst. Not that there’s any reason why they shouldn’t marry except perhaps that they think it would make it less of a men’s club.

      I would really like to see women ordained as priests, and for women to become part of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church as they are in the Anglican and other Christian Churches. Women have very minor positions in our church, and even when they are highly qualified their voices are lost in the male chorus.

      1. Our lady vicar took early retirement a few months ago. I was sorry to see her go she was the best priest our church had ever had.

        1. I can well believe that, Sue. I hope you soon get a suitable replacement

  5. Well written and from the heart Maureen Helen. You inspire us, well you inspire me and I am sure that you inspire many. It’s a positive stance. A strong position you take in adversity and it’s lovely to see the rigorous but gentle thought that you have given to this. Thank you for sharing your voice to this topic.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Tricia. I have given the issue of why I stay in the Church a lot of thought, not just recently but for many years. It’s the right decision for me, although I’m sure not for everyone. It took some courage to actually ‘go public’ and write a blog, rather than simply warming a seat in the church in Subiaco every Sunday!

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