This is the day I will remember as the day I finally broke up with my parish.

This is the day I will remember as the day I finally broke up with my parish.

We’ve been together for decades, but I just can’t pretend anymore that our relationship is healthy. I’ve stuck with my parish through corrupt pastors and absent pastors, through Prop 8 banners and the Latin Mass, through substandard youth programs and uninspired homilies, but today’s Mass was it. I have to be the one to leave.

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The breaking point: today’s admonition from the pulpit to vote for the candidate who will ensure, among other things, marriage between one man and one woman, prayer in public schools and keeping Christ in Christmas. Really? (The deacon compared our fight for these issues to Aaron and Hur holding up the arms of Moses in order to assure God’s help in defeating the Amalekites.) These are the sort of social issues that Pope Francis has advised us not to focus our energy exclusively on, but my parish is not exactly all about Pope Francis. My parish harbors a palpable suspicion of his agenda. It’s another point of incompatibility between us.

My parish and I have been in a classic dysfunctional relationship. We have tried for some time to act as though everything is normal between us. It isn’t. It hasn’t been for ages. Sometimes it’s easier to stay together than to break up, but this painful misalignment has gone on for way too long. I’m ending it. My Catholicism is too important to me to lose it over a mismatched mate.

I admit that other denominations have flirted with me, and to be honest, I have looked them over and found them attractive. But if I am going to be true to myself and my God, I can’t leave my faith for a better-looking one. I am a cradle Catholic, a battle-tested Catholic, a true-blue Catholic, a lifelong Catholic. I know myself well enough to understand that, after a brief mourning period, I am going to have to find another Catholic parish.

I mourn the loss of my partner because of our many memories together, like the baptisms of my children, their first Communions and Confirmations, the weddings and funerals of many friends, the years of prayer and community and, most of all, Eucharist. My parish and I have had some good times, and we used to be as tightly bonded as any couple. Over the years, though, we both have changed. Our priorities have diverged. We have grown apart and lived as strangers. At times we have been hurtful to each other. Now that I’ve made this decision, however, I don’t even feel angry anymore. I’m a little sad, but that’s it. The inner numbness I’ve gotten used to is actually being replaced by a warm flood of peace.

At the end of that fateful homily today, a calm came over my soul. I took my donation envelope that I had prepared at home and ripped it, slowly and deliberately, in half, and in half again. The four pieces, envelope and check, are still in my pocket. I realized that I couldn’t fund what I don’t support.

Now that I’ve made the decision to leave, everything seems so simple. I’m breaking up with you, my parish. It’s a new day, and I’m turning over a new leaf. I’ll always remember what we had, but it’s over.

Valerie Schultz is a freelance writer, a columnist for The Bakersfield Californian and the author of Closer: Musings on Intimacy, Marriage, and God. She and her husband Randy have four daughters.

 
 
 
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Beth Cioffoletti
1 year ago
I totally understand.
ed gleason
1 year ago
My archdiocese has 92 parishes/ Here is one we connected with that would please all the posters, You can pray and stay and make one near you like this/ Times are about to change.... get ready http://thegubbioproject.org turn on Days and Hours. .
Mark Mitchell
1 year ago
certainly a spiritual challenge.I am always there for the gospel and Eucharist and the rest is human. Challenging such folks is difficult and necessary.
Norma Rossi
1 year ago
This is so where I am. Now, I have to find a compatible community.
Jim McCrea
1 year ago
Getting out is hard. Staying out is very, very, very easy. Been there. Doing that.
Bill Mazzella
1 year ago
As Valerie points out she will return. Which is my choice also to stay. There are so many choices for Catholics among parishes. Even Timothy Dolan quotes Dorothy Day when she states: "The Church is whore. But she is my whore." The corruption of Catholic leaders is almost systemic. Nothing new. Erasmus, the priest of the Renaissance/Reformation, described this regrettable example of Cardinals and bishops. Here is a few paragraphs of his oration. The Lights of Christ.. ORATION: LIGHTS OF THE WORLD The Lights of the World Reduced to a mere Wallet Nor are princes by themselves in their manner of life, since popes, cardinals, and bishops have so diligently followed their steps that they've almost got the start of them. For if any of them would consider what their alb should put them in mind of, to wit, a blameless life; what is meant by their forked miters, whose each point is held in by the same knot, we'll suppose it a perfect knowledge of the Old and New Testaments; what those gloves on their hands, but a sincere administration of the Sacraments, and free from all touch of worldly business; what their crosier, but a careful looking after the flock committed to their charge; what the cross born before them, but victory over all earthly affections- these, I say, and many of the like kind should anyone truly consider, would he not live a sad and troublesome life? Whereas now they do well enough while they feed themselves only, and for the care of their flock either put it over to Christ or lay it all on their suffragans, as they call them, or some poor vicars. Nor do they so much as remember their name, or what the word bishop signifies, to wit, labor, care, and trouble. But in racking to gather money they truly act the part of bishops, and herein acquit themselves to be no blind seers. In like manner cardinals, if they thought themselves the successors of the apostles, they would likewise imagine that the same things the other did are required of them, and that they are not lords but dispensers of spiritual things of which they must shortly give an exact account. But if they also would a little philosophize on their habit and think with themselves what's the meaning of their linen rochet, is it not a remarkable and singular integrity of life? What that inner purple; is it not an earnest and fervent love of God? Or what that outward, whose loose plaits and long train fall round his Reverence's mule and are large enough to cover a camel; is it not charity that spreads itself so wide to the succor of all men? that is, to instruct, exhort, comfort, reprehend, admonish, compose wars, resist wicked princes, and willingly expend not only their wealth but their very lives for the flock of Christ: though yet what need at all of wealth to them that supply the room of the poor apostles? These things, I say, did they but duly consider, they would not be so ambitious of that dignity; or, if they were, they would willingly leave it and live a laborious, careful life, such as was that of the ancient apostles. "
WILLIAM TAYLOR
1 year ago
You deserve sainthood for staying as long as you did. There is a Catholic Church for you. You just have to look for it. We belong to an intentional Eucharist community (IEC) in Northern Virginia. We hire priests each week and plan our liturgies with the priest. They are Vatican II priests and followers of Pope Francis. I'm sure you will find a community where you will be happy and walk together with your sisters and brothers.
Stan Blackburn
1 year ago
I agree, Valerie, and had an almost identical situation at my parish and in my struggle with remaining Roman Catholic. But, as your piece reminds me, my Catholic core pushes me to persevere; the Holy Spirit calls me to remain, so I do. It is the "loving admonitions" from the legalist-minded that have pushed me to rethink many times why I remain in a faith for which I struggle. The answer, however, keeps coming up in prayer: I am an imperfect sinner in need of Christ's mercy. And it is my imperfection and sin, that weakness Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 12:9, that continually draws me to the foot of the cross. Sometimes it is time to move to another parish. For us, there are so many people we love in our current parish and our Pastor is a kind, loving man who tries, so we will stay put. I admire this piece, Valerie. Thanks and God bless.
Adele Berthelot
1 year ago
Your article resonates with me. After a similar experience the Sunday before election day where the celebrant joked about telling us who to vote for, he proceded to speak of the "intrinsic evil" of killing an unborn baby. He said nothing about lying, excluding immigrants or sexual assault. I remember praying, "Lord, I don't want to leave. I ask for the grace to stay and persevere and work for justice and inclusion of everyone."
Jay Kay
10 months 3 weeks ago
The same thing happened at the parish where I usually go, but I frequent several different parishes so this kind of nonsense is not so hard on me. I'm attached to Christ and the gospel, not a place. When this kind of thing happens, I simply shift to another parish for a while. Keeping my faith is more important than the parish I go to. It's too bad that this kind of thing happens, but that's Catholicism, isn't it? This isn't the last time I've had to adjust what I do as a Catholic, although this time is more disturbing than most. On the other hand, it's not like we have all that much in the way of community in the Catholic church anyway, so moving around is very easy.
John Walton
1 year ago
You're young, when you get old you need the parish (and its parishioners) more than it needs you. Change is good. We were in a Brooklyn parish for 4 years, Long Island parish for 7, 2 parishes in NJ and another in Ohio. One of the NJ parishes still has the best homilists I have ever encountered in 60+ years of pew-sitting. By the way, did you ever invite the pastor over for dinner?
JoAnn Baca
1 year ago
Thank you, Valerie. So very well expressed.
Ray Shanahan
1 year ago
You are blessed to have a choice of parishes. In a northern corner of Arizona, where Trumpism rules both inside and outside of church walls, we do not have much of a choice. I find solace in the words of our pope, and in the pages of this magazine, but I cannot receive the sacraments over the internet, and distancing myself from the life of the Church and from the two thousand years of tradition it represents is difficult.
Charles Tinnell
1 year ago
I have had a similar experience. I am thankful for a Jesuit parish and a Franciscan parish for showing me what the universal in Catholicism really means. I drive for about an hour each way to get to these parishes, but the extra time spent is well-spent. God bless you..Pax!
Kate Colnar
1 year ago
Guess I'm a minority of one here because I applaud any deacon or priest who speaks out before an election. I've wondered for years how any Catholic could, in good conscience, support a Democratic Party which has become so morally bankrupt that it nominated someone for President who believes a million abortions a year is not enough... that abortion on demand with no restrictions whatsoever should be embraced by all. She actually had the arrogance to say that religions need to change their stance on abortion. This shocked many in religious communities (not just Catholics.) The author should find a different parish, but know there are many of us who think the Catholic Church should provide more, not less guidance when it comes to certain issues.
Lisa Weber
1 year ago
The tax-exempt status of the Church depends on it not supporting particular political candidates, so there is a legal issue to be considered here. Your argument supporting an endorsement of Trump is essentially an "anyone but Hillary" argument. Those of us who looked at Trump and saw a man who bragged about committing sexual assault endorsed as a pro-life candidate solely on the basis of his say-so are wondering how priests and bishops can endorse a sexual assailant and known liar. The Catholic Church needs women leaders simply to keep bishops from shooting themselves in the foot.
Jay Kay
10 months 3 weeks ago
Absolutely and someone needs to take some parishes to task for this. It used to be the Democrat line that was pushed relentlessly. This time, probably because of the rightward shift of the Church in the US, it was Trump that was rammed down our throats. This, and all the pointless crap that goes with it, is the ideology that Pope Francis has been talking about. That's not evangelization, but something else.
Lisa Weber
1 year ago
I was not as deeply committed to the parish I broke up with, and I still miss many of the parishioners there. I can recommend finding a new parish because switching parishes helped me keep my faith and enjoy being Catholic.
Vincent Gaglione
1 year ago
I'd be fascinated to learn how many Bishops and priests read articles such as this one. It is both informative and eye-opening, something to ponder and learn from, as our pews become more empty.
Ray Shanahan
1 year ago
I have asked myself the same question. I would like to think that the Bishops, those responsible for teaching, governing, and sanctifying the faithful of their dioceses, have simply lost control of their parish priests and deacons, allowing them to be politicized and swept up in whichever wave of populism presents itself. But then I also hear American bishops endorsing the rhetoric du jour, often in opposition to the teachings of Rome. As the pews empty, so will the collection baskets. If the clergy are not paying attention to articles such as these, the Church will continue to lose its relevance in the lives of many Catholics, as well as its economic viability.
Dawn Tedrow
1 year ago
Yes. This has been my experience also. It is reassuring to realize that there are so many of us that are struggling with the election, both pre and post results. We can not allow this administration to crush our souls. Seek out the light. Find a new parish with a community that you feel support. But allow yourself time to grieve. The light that we seek appears to have dimmed, but we can not be afraid. God is good.
Robert Little
1 year ago
St. Francis in Bakersfield is a fabulous, energetic parish. Noon Mass every weekday, after which the regulars pray a Rosary.
MICHAEL GRIFFIN
10 months 3 weeks ago
Valerie, you are not alone. Thank you for sharing.
Chester Johnson
10 months 3 weeks ago
I can't wait for the day the Pope is chosen by the people and not by the collection of those Cardinals.
Chester Johnson
10 months 3 weeks ago
Wow Mrs. Shultz certainly is making a statement. How awful of the Church or specifically this parish in taking a stance like supporting the concept of marriage as being something between one man and one woman. She is right, how dare that admonition from the pulpit be directed at focusing on things such as she noted. I think we should all withhold our funding for the Church until it caves completely to what we demand. 1) Multiple wives for anyone who wants them. 2) Heck, be equal opportunity - Multiple husbands for you ladies. 3) Oh, crap, forgot those fluidly compliant people - Multiple same sex spouses with interspersed opposite gender folks mixed in. What a way to party. Imagine, being able to have your cake and eat it too. No, I am not surprised at her tone. I applaud her for her stance. After all, isn't it the people who should be dictating what is taught by the Church?

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