I spoke to an old friend recently about what I do for a living, that is, working for the Catholic Church.87 I am always ready to talk about what that means, even about the cognitive dissonance involved in working for this organization. But when I mentioned a well-known bone of theological contention, my friend rolled her eyes, hard, and said something about pedophile priests. Now, I understand that this is a natural reaction for people who only know the Church by what they hear in the news, or by people who have left in disgust over this very issue. I so understand that this is the baseline that we, as a Church, have created for ourselves. But I can't help wincing when I hear it from people, especially people I care about. It's all at once freshly raw and something I wish we could pretend never to have happened.
It's an issue close to my heart- not because I was abused (I wasn't), but because it has been such an earth-shattering experience to live through, in a religion that holds not only my belief system but my family, my marriage, my career, my identity. It has been a struggle of how to stay in an organization such as this, how to justify teaching Her ways to others while feeling deep hurt. and if you've been reading here for very long, you know how hard that struggle is for me, as well as how genuinely risky it is to admit that I struggle at all. We live in a time of fidelity oaths for catechists... it's not okay to struggle with with the faith and it's not okay to struggle with the leadership.
On the other side of the reactive spectrum, I know parish workers and diocesan workers who have clung to their faith in this church. Maybe it's their way of surviving through the state of things, to turn harder around and work harder at seeing only the good. I totally get the appeal of that response- I'd do that, too, if any fiber of my being would allow me to. But I watch my "company man" friends and fear for the day when they are bitten by the very snake they are trying to bandage. Maybe it never will happen, and I'll envy their lifetime un-scathed. But because I've been there (because I am there) I know that if it happens, in whatever form it happens, when people who are devoted and trusting of their Mother Church find themselves receiving the wrong side of Her hand, it's going to hurt and it's going to hurt BAD. I watch these people with a combination of envy and worry.
I love this Church, this Church that has made me question everything about my faith, my beliefs, my place in the world. On the whole I think it's healthier to be the kind of (suspicious, pained, grounded in recent history) Catholic that I am, than to be the Company Man kind of Catholic. I'm on the backside of the (inevitable?) fall from grace, for sure, but I'm not curled in a ball. I'm up, I'm walking, I'm shaking it off and healing my wounds. I'm still here and still in the game. I know stuff I never dreamed and would never hope to know. I'm part of the recovery.