In my world, there’s a Bible on the coffee table, a crucifix hanging above three doors, and bed from which I pray the Act of Contrition every night. But in my view, bread is bread, wine is wine, and a lot of sins should never be forgiven.
Raping children is one of those sins.
Homosexuality isn’t one of those sins.
And while it’s probably tough to find many Catholics that can get right with priests raping children, it’s probably tougher to find too many Catholics that can get right with homosexuality. So, denouncing Catholicism should be easy for me — especially in the wake of a sickening grand jury report alleging decades of sins by priests and their protectors, but also because of my blood-and-water ties to the LGTBQ community.
It’s not. It never will be. Like it or not, I am Catholic.
Last week, I didn’t like it one bit.
Then again, last week wasn’t the first time. There’s every time I’m at Mass and glimpsing people around me simply going through the motions. There’s each time I hear somebody justify murder as God’s will. There’s the time a priest belittled me in front of fellow altar boys for kneeling the way my grandmothers had (butt-to-pew). There’s the next time a warped sense of guilt gets the best of me.
I am Catholic. Sometimes I wonder why, but those times never last long.
Catholicism is my faith because answers are my religion. I need an answer for every question — and for those many questions that cannot be answered, Catholic teachings provide me peace. The same "prove-it" part of me that can’t rule out the existence of a higher power also can’t dismiss it being God. If I can’t prove there isn’t a God, how could I possibly argue against the many, many, many inexplicable things about life as we know it?
Love. Hate. Life. The sun, moon, and stars …
Sure, there are scientific explanations for each of those things. But what is the explanation for everything science hasn’t explained?
I don’t know. I also don’t know that the explanation isn’t God.
I do know that I still ask God for help a lot, perhaps too often, and maybe not often enough. Is it praying when asking for courage, conviction, comfort, control, or creativity? Is it praying when asking on my own behalf? If it is praying, is it the wrong kind of praying? Is there a wrong kind of praying?
I don’t think so.
I am Catholic. Praying is what I do.
I don’t pray for everybody, and there is something un-Catholic about that.
Neither rapist priests nor their abettors get my prayers. People who have done my family and friends wrong don’t get my prayers. Enemies? Nope. Jerks? Nah. Hypocrites? Never, and the same goes for strangers. If you think of me as an enemy or a jerk, I won’t expect you to pray for me, either — though, I’m not above cracking wise about “praying you get that line.”
Two nights before this issue of City Paper went to print, I asked God to “send me some really good words.” It was a stupid ask, no different than when I had asked God for any of the following: a Steelers’ win (Super Bowl XXX); my friend’s sister to notice me “that way” (senior year); my sister to make it home before grandma died (2011); or the Best Of Pittsburgh party to go well (a couple of weeks back). The Steelers lost. High-school me went to prom by myself. Grandma Jean went too soon. The party was great. And I truly, truly, truly don’t think God had anything to do with any of it.
There was never going to be “some really good words” for this essay. The morning after more allegations of child rape (and the covering up of child rape) within the Catholic Church was unveiled by the grand jury report, I struggled to make sense of my standing as a Catholic while discussing ways to cover this story with my staff. And I gave myself what felt like enough time to write what I said I would — an essay about struggling to stay Catholic given, well, everything.
But am I struggling? I don’t think so. After all, I am Catholic. Still.
From St. Philip School in Crafton, this lesson above all else remains from the sisters who tried their best: it’s OK to lose faith, so long as you never stop trying to find it again.
For me, faith has never been about believing everything, but rather trying to find something.
I’m a journalist. Looking is what I do. And there is so, so, so much about Catholicism that sends me looking at other religions, sometimes at no religion too. But I’ve never found anything that makes as much sense, and that has to mean something. I pray that it does.