Renunciation and Rebirth
I was raised Catholic. As I stare at those four words, I am compelled to uncover what that really means for me now as a forty-something women, wife, mother, grandmother. I left the faith ‘officially’ over a decade ago and if I were to really trace the timeline backwards—probably long before that. I tell people I gave up Catholicism for Lent a while back and it almost always gets a laugh—sometimes real and spontaneous and other times an uncomfortable chuckle. I suspect my motives for using this line have a deeper psychological meaning but I don’t spend time analyzing it.
At least not until this morning.
I was reading Inga Muscio’s latest offering: Rose: Love in Violent Times and in the chapter titled ‘The Violence of Rape,’ she mentions a documentary film by a woman named Amy Berg. The film is called: Deliver Us From Evil. I had never seen it or heard of it yet it came out in 2006. It was a quiet Saturday morning, my husband was out of town on business and I had just decided that the morning was all mine and that I would let it take me in whatever direction I chose. I Googled the movie and found it offered free on the Internet so I got my 2nd cup of coffee and pushed play.
I was unaware that this would be the day that I came to terms with my Catholic upbringing and that I would grieve the loss of something that was such a large part of my childhood—thankfully, mercifully and with every fiber of my being I am grateful that it was not for me, that which it has been for so many others. In the words of John Bradford (supposedly), ‘There but for the grace of God go I.’
Don’t know why that is.
I cry a lot. I cry anytime I see, hear, or read something sad or even really happy. I was born with a hyperactive empathy gene. Sometimes it feels flat out embarrassing but mostly I have just gotten used to it, don’t really try to hide it, and I make no apologies for it. So watching ‘Deliver Us From Evil’ is one of the most difficult experiences of my lifetime. This is not an exaggeration. Seems arrogant of me to say that as I read the words as they spill out on my computer screen. Let me clarify. There is no comparison whatsoever to what I am feeling through empathy to what the child victims of rape and torture at the hands of the Church and its so-called officials must feel. Theirs is a pain I do not know and thankfully have not experienced—yet I wept through the whole movie and I continue to shed more tears as I try and put onto paper what is in my head and my heart at this very moment. Perhaps some of it will make sense—perhaps none of it will. Doesn’t really matter as long as it finds release.
There is an inherent evil in absolute power. The Church has always espoused that they are the absolute power on earth—the only ‘real’ conduit to God. This idea, this foundation upon which the Church operates is built on sand. They have corrupted themselves and invited evil into their house. My mother always told me that evil comes to dwell if you invite it in. I now understand my mother’s words to be extremely wise. Evil enters anywhere and everywhere it is invited. The Catholic Church long, long ago and perhaps from the beginning, presented evil with a gold-embossed invitation to enter their house and evil resides there to this day. It resides there still in the rapists who dwell within it’s boundaries, within those in power who excuse, hide, cover-up and provide fresh victims to the rapists, and those who continue their rote ritual and complacency as parishioners who continue to financially support this institution.
I am sure this opinion will not win me any popularity contest. I am ok with that—more than ok.
Please do not tell me that the whole church is not like that when corruption remains in command—you may not separate yourself from it when you buy in, pay for, make excuses for and financially support ‘it.’ In the film Father Tom Doyle says something that is absolutely brilliant. He says, ‘a good Catholic is a revolutionary.’ Those are the wisest words I have ever heard come from the mouth of a Catholic priest and I am 45 years old. Doyle is a revolutionary.
So if you are still a practicing Catholic, are you a revolutionary? Can the Catholic Church reform or must there be an abolition of the faith and a reconstruction of a new vision? I have no answers. I assign no belief to any faith, doctrine or dogma and if labels must be applied I am an agnostic. What I do believe in is the power of the beautiful and amazing women and men in my life—many of whom have been victims of rape and violence and abuse of all kinds. I wonder sometimes why my life has been so golden—aside from my 7-year sentence to a violent and abusive marriage; I have never been raped and suffered absolutely no abuse as a child. Not sure there is a need to find any significance in that but I do feel like I have a responsibility to those who have. To leave my hyperactive empathy gene exposed like an open wound so that I can try and feel their pain in order to understand it’s depth as much as I can without experiencing it.
Even if I no longer call myself a Catholic, I am a revolutionary and I hope that all of you reading this, all of you who decide to watch the film, all of you who are desperately trying to come to terms with your pain and turn it into a positive force, and those of you who remain in the Church, can embrace your inner revolutionary and rebuke the evil institution that the Church has become. Tear down the walls and turn your back on the purveyors of evil. Find the divine within you—it’s there—I promise, no conduit from the church needed. The church is not the cable company that supplies your connection to God.
It will take nothing short of revolutionary hearts to have the courage to deconstruct what is and to envision a house that worships the divinity that lies in each of us.
I remain ever hopeful.