I am a full-time mother, full-time wife and part-time secretary in our local parish office. For obvious reasons the church plays a large role in my life but at home it is a different story.
My husband no longer goes to Mass. He was raised a Catholic, he still believes in God and says his prayers but the abuse scandals and the handling of them by the hierarchy has left him with a bitter taste in his mouth. I don’t disagree. Rome lost the plot on that one. It did not recognise the hurt and bewilderment of the Irish people. It took Rome six months to write a letter to the people of Ireland after the first abuse report. Six months? What was wrong with six hours and an email? In any other large organisation the PR department would have moved in immediately, a damage limitation exercise carried out and an immediate apology issued. Not Rome and many people, my husband included, just fell off the cliff.
My three teenage sons don’t go to Mass anymore. I will ask them to come along but I always get the same answer. No! One thinks “Mass is too boring and full of waffle. What is the priest really trying to say?”. He knows God did not make the world or Eve was not created from the hand-me-down spare rib of Adam. The Discovery Channel has a lot to answer for. Another does not believe in God anymore. He thinks that humans are responsible for everything. They are responsible for all that is good and bad so we don’t need a God. The third lad was particularly disturbed by the abuse scandals. When I would argue that you cannot tar everyone based on the actions of a small number of priests his answer was “Mum, they were supposed to be whiter than white, you cannot trust them anymore”.
I can’t argue with any of them anymore. Sometimes I wonder why I am hanging in there. Why do I remain a catholic? It is just so hard with wave after wave after wave of bad stuff hitting us continuously. It takes me a lot of effort to keep hanging in there with my fingernails gripping the cliff!
I believe things do need to change. I know it will be slow but it should not be so slow that we lose a generation or two along the way.
I believe that the role of women in the church needs to be recognised more. In my parish the majority of Eucharistic ministers and readers are women. The men are great for things like ‘the finance committee’ or the ‘buildings committee’ but it the women who take on the more intangible roles like the catechetics for children from the non-Catholic school who are preparing for the Sacraments of Holy Communion and Confirmation. The Baptism team who work with parents bringing their children to be baptised is made up mainly of women. I believe women need a much more important role in the church. I am not an advocate of women priests but I do believe that women should be involved in decision making. Where are the women on the ‘Council of Bishops’, on the ‘Council of Cardinals’ and in the Vatican? Why are we letting men make the decisions for 50% of the Catholic population worldwide? It does not make sense.
Many people in Ireland are in second relationships. Everyone deserves a second chance. I am my husband’s second wife. He had been married in the Church of England and divorced but due to a technicality we were allowed to get married in the Catholic Church but not many other people have that chance. Parents might understand why they cannot get married in the church but their children won’t. Little Mary will ask her mum, ‘why did you not get married in the church like Johnny’s parents?’ and mum will answer ‘because the church would not let us’ to which Mary will reply ‘that’s not a very nice church is it?’ If parents don’t feel welcome then their children won’t either.
What about gay people? In my children’s school recently they had an ‘It’s OK to be Gay week’. The children were chatting about the children who have come out. These children have been baptised, received First Communion and have been confirmed. But now that they are out the church does not want to know. You are gay…go away!
I would love to see a church of inclusion. A church that welcomes everyone regardless of your colour, race, age, gender, marital status or sexual orientation. After all there are ‘many rooms in my Father’s house’.
Despite the best efforts of the media, despite the best efforts of Rome and the hierarchy people still want to be Catholics. Judging by the number of people at the Assembly people are still interested in their church. There are still bums on the pews at Mass each Sunday. I know numbers have dropped but many are still hanging in there and that has got to give us hope. Without hope we are done for. As Martin Luther King said ‘We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.’