The Pentecost Testimony of a Mad, Fed-Up Catholic

Photo by Paul Bulai on Unsplash. 

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, for by your Cross and Resurrection, you have set us free.

Well, Lord, here we are again. This crap just never  stops coming, and God, I’m getting so disgusted with it all, and if I could not find you in the Holy Eucharist, I wonder if I would find you anywhere else within this church, at least if I look among our “leaders.”

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So many of my friends are fed up and leaving, or getting close to leaving, and I get it, I do! I understand how they feel, even as I pray they won’t leave, because...because well, hell, how does leaving an imperfect something to wade into even less perfect nothing end up serving anything but the creature of the voids and the lowness? I worry about my friends who are leaving, distancing themselves from the food you give us. I’m half surprised that our bishops, as they watch the pews empty out, aren’t putting out statements reminding us that to miss attendance at Mass is to risk eternal damnation.

Pheh. Is that even a real thing anymore, that teaching? Do I even believe it? You know, Lord, there’s a part of me that still goes to confession when I miss Mass, because when it happens it’s always my own failing, but I don’t really get how the church can teach that missing Mass is a mortal sin and expect anyone to take it seriously when we’re in the middle of these depressing, never-ending revelations?

So many of my friends are fed up and leaving, or getting close to leaving, and I get it, I do! I understand how they feel, even as I pray they won’t leave.

Yeah, I know it’s a minority of our clergy indulging themselves in every worldly way, and with seeming impunity, but it’s a powerful minority, isn’t it? It’s a minority that seems to be a pretty well-established and impenetrable boys club, with too many spoiled princes and too few true servants, and how do they even have the cheek to face us and give us these well-lawyered statements—as though if they put their words together in a savvy, politically minded order, we’re all just going to say, “Oh, alrighty, then, here’s my envelope, here’s my help with a fundraiser, here’s my obedience.”

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I mean, really, Lord, I know I’m a sinner—God, you know I know it, and you know I’m failing every day—and I know that all sin is sin, all of it contributes to the breakdown of your Body but Jesus Christ! No, I’m not taking your name in vain, Lord, you know it’s a prayer, a cry from the heart.

How does leaving an imperfect something to wade into even less perfect nothing end up serving anything but the creature of the voids and the lowness?

Jesus Christ…my heart feels broken. Sometimes, Lord it is awful being a Christian, you know that? I want to hate these men. I want to hate them and punish them for all the damage they have done to the church, and therefore to you and your body. And to the whole world, because a world without the church—a world where the church becomes irrelevant, in-credible and unequal to the task of balancing the secular world and all of its influences for good and bad—that’s a world where the lights are getting ready to go out, and all the candles snuffed.

And I want to hate, I do. And there you are, Lord, with your cross, and you’re telling me I must be like you, suffering but willing to be a balance between justice and mercy. I hate that right now all I want is justice and yet you still prompt me to mercy. To have enough mercy to at least wait to hear it all out, so that an eventual justice—and please, God, let there be one—is sound and in fact...just.

And there you are, Lord, with your cross, and you’re telling me I must be like you, suffering but willing to be a balance between justice and mercy.

But I really am so angry, Lord—with the sexual abuse by clergy and the spending $100 a day on fresh cut flowers for the rectory and the couple hundred thousand in “gifts” to other priests and princes.

All I know, Lord, is that I’m grateful that Pentecost is here. I’ll miss the Easter alleluias at Mass, but I’m good and damn ready for a mighty wind to blow through your church. Maybe, as with the Apostles, it will terrify some too-proud bishops and humble them a bit, and maybe change a few hearts for the good. Lord, that’s what all of this feels like—a chaos and tumult, a roaring strain of noise and destruction bearing down upon us, wrecking everything in sight because the job of the Holy Spirit isn’t to make us comfortable but to shake us up, to send us out of our safe, comfortable places.

Is that what’s happening here? Is all of this revealed horror a kind of Pentecost for us? If so, God, please help us live through it. I mean, it’s better that these stories are out, that these crimes and sins are revealed than for things to continue hidden and entrenched as they have been...but Jesus, that just means we’re in for more of this, for a while yet, until all the revelations are through.

Is all of this revealed horror a kind of Pentecost for us? If so, God, please help us live through it.

What was that phrase, “all that is secret will be brought to light,” but damn, Lord, it’s a painful thing to watch this roiling wreckage within our church play out month by dreary month.

But the Holy Spirit comes on the wind, and brings fire, and action. And we’re told that all things work, ultimately, toward your purposes, even though we can’t see it in real time. And I do believe that, Lord, I have to or what sense does anything make? I’ve seen the truth of it in my own life, and I’ve seen the truth of it through your Cross—the most unjust and torturous murder in history, permitted to happen because it was necessary to God’s great purpose of saving us, and loving us. How do I say it? How do I pray it? I thank you, God, in good times and in bad, for by your cross and resurrection, we...well, we’re not free yet, are we? Your church on earth has a ways to go and we’ll be picking through the debris of this storm for a very long time, and it’s feeling to me like we may yet be left with little more than your grace upon which to rebuild, going forward.

And maybe I won’t live to see what new paths will be revealed after the winds have settled. But you’ve told us that your grace is enough. All we have to do is figure out how to cooperate with it to your purposes, right? I wonder. I hope. I pray, Lord, that we’ll be able to do that.

Christ Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, the sinner. Amen.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
J Jones
3 months 1 week ago

I am appalled that the Catholic Church and its clerics have so corrupted and eroded and debased understandings of right and wrong by the RCC and clerics that lay Catholics repeat this self-serving nonsense about the crimes of the RCC and RC clerics being examples of human sin. The men of the RCC insist they are "ontologically changed by the Sacrament of Holy Orders"; they insist the people of God are "given" to them by God (see article this week by an SJ giving advice to new priest). The crimes of the RCC and RC clerics are committed in God's name, often explicitly, ALWAYS implicitly.

I am a cradle Catholic who devoted a decade discerning vowed religious and living and serving in Catholic Worker communities. My deepest identity is as a person who desperately wants to organize my life around of a Catholic faith community. Over the last four years, that had begun to seem possible if I live close enough to a Jesuit parishes to be a daily communicant and deeply active parishioner.

The betrayal is profound. These sins of theft, of abuse of children and people under the power as subordinates or parishioners, outright lies, of graft, on and on and on the RCC and RC priests are the gravest of sins, I believe.

Jay Zamberlin
3 months 1 week ago

Keep the proper context in mind, proper perspective. The Church is still a jewel, still Chris'ts bride, but great segments of that church have been infiltrated and appropriated by bad actors, often homosexual, who compell others, sometimes with not so veiled threats of exposure. to 'go along." That is called the Lavender Mafia, it is a real thing, it extends to the top. but it is NOT THE CHURCH herself.

People, do read the John Jay report. http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/child-and-youth-protection/upload/The-Nature-and-Scope-of-Sexual-Abuse-of-Minors-by-Catholic-Priests-and-Deacons-in-the-United-States-1950-2002.pdf

A Fielder
3 months 1 week ago

Elizabeth, there was a time when I felt truly sorry for all of those people who “used to be catholic.” But today I admire their integrity and courage, and am grateful that I am no longer addicted to the Eucharist.

Jay Zamberlin
3 months 1 week ago

To use language like "addicted to the Eucharist" is so devoid of respect and perspective, of reality -- that I can only doubt the seriousness of any such attachment to Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. Please add "never was Catholic" to your list of "feel bad abouts."

William Barlak
3 months 1 week ago

Twenty years ago, my wife and I had a conversation with a Domincan priest who was at our parish to lead a parish mission for a few days. One thing led to another in our conversation until he said the following which I will never forget. "In the early church, the cross the faithful had to bear was persecution. Today the cross the faithful will have to bear is curruption and scandal in the hierarchy." He obviously knew something back then that few lay people knew. Since that conversation, whenever I hear a new report of possble scandal or corruption involving bishops or cardinals, I am never surprised. I stopped listening to those guys a long time ago. Like those in the early Church, my faith is being tested not by persecution but by "all the crap that never stops coming." Those who put their faith in humans will always be disappointed.

Alan Johnstone
3 months 1 week ago

I am reminded of the wisdom of Paul Hinnebush OP in Praise: A way of life.
He had a chapter on Praising God by complaining.
For those who have mirrored the rage but do not have the appropriate humility before Almighty God it is recommended reading.

Where on earth did anyone get the idea that Yahweh had delegated the implementation of Divine Justice to the baptised?

Vengeance is MINE, says the Lord: I will repay!. The Old Testament is clear; Deuteronomy 32:35 which is ratified in the New; Romans 12:17-19

Jay Zamberlin
3 months 1 week ago

Oh just puleeze, try being a Christian in China or Iraq. First world lamentations are so empty and pathetic.

Lyn Heffernan
3 months 1 week ago

Of great concern to me is the lack of moral teaching in our church today. I see Facebook posts from people in my parish spouting anti-immigrant, anti-poor , mysogynistic rhetoric daily. Is the lack of social justice teaching thatvused to be part of our church missing because the scandals have eroded that authority?

Malcolm Byrnes
3 months 1 week ago

One thing that concerns me about so much of this priestly misconduct is that it involves the confessional. When confession is used as an opportunity to prey on the innocent, this seriously undermines the legitimacy of the sacrament of penance and, indeed, the entire church in the eyes of the faithful. It makes confession out to be, at minimum, a joke, and at maximum, a dangerous activity. The Catholic leadership has GOT to make confession safe for all. This situation in which people are being preyed upon when they humbly and in good faith step into the confessional has got to be addressed. These priests are actively and directly destroying the church. Doesn't the leadership, from the pope on down, realize this? How can this be allowed to take place?

Malcolm Byrnes
3 months 1 week ago

A priest preying on an innocent person during confession is analogous to a priest putting poison in the communion wine. In both cases, the sacrament itself is being used as a vehicle for inflicting harm. This kind of thing strikes at the very heart of the church, because it serves to deny the sacraments to the faithful. Why do we Catholics even have sacraments, if we don't (can't) believe that they are holy, sacred, inviolable? Conversely, if we believe that sacraments are legitimate, then this kind of behavior cannot be tolerated. This situation MUST be dealt with.

Jay Zamberlin
3 months 1 week ago

Is this a personal anacdotal observence? To the extent that breech of the confessional would be a factor in known cases, it would seem to represent a miniscule percent of the total profile, almost to a point of just being a "non factor."

If you can show me differently, I'd gladly receive any such correction.

Are you familiar with the John Jay (criminology/law enforcement University) report?
This is the "gold standard" regarding the actual facts and profiles of perpetrators and victims. http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/child-and-youth-protection/upload/The-Nature-and-Scope-of-Sexual-Abuse-of-Minors-by-Catholic-Priests-and-Deacons-in-the-United-States-1950-2002.pdf

Malcolm Byrnes
3 months 1 week ago

I am referring, in part, to the article linked at the top of Elizabeth Scalia's piece. Here it is: https://www.apnews.com/8a80c0c1276f4cc485e0599e922759c2. I am also thinking of the excellent and very disturbing Netflix documentary titled The Keepers (https://www.netflix.com/title/80122179). And there are more examples of how some priests have used the confessional to prey on the vulnerable.

Jay Zamberlin
3 months 1 week ago

At the risk of being accused of "blaming the victime" the article you've linked to, to me, shows how the laity itself has been corrupted. Do we really have to tell our young girls "if Father is suggesting you take your clothes off, you might not be in the right confessional" ??
Have we really sunk that low, is common sense just not available anymore? She betrays her husband, to boot, and now they both, let's assume, want to??? I'm pretty sure somewhere this leads to a lawsuit of some sorts. Why? because people, including perhaps this bishop, BUT NOT ONLY HE, lack common sense and common decency. Nobody is an adult, nobody takes responsibilty. If this person would have a mental problem, that would mitigate this idea (of her total responsibility) somewhat, but the whole story just sounds fishy, especially as this is a married couple of means we're discussing, not a single mom struggling to get by. But who knows??

Pancho Mulongeni
3 months 1 week ago

Thanks, I missed Pentacost mass, after the whole Bishop Tobin and Pride month thing, but I am glad your piece resonated with me.

J Jones
3 months 1 week ago

We can also talk about this disgusting Cardinal. The spectre of this bozo spending the widow's mite to fight Sheen's family for his bones is repellant.
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.lifesitenews.com/mobile/news/new-york-archdiocese-refuses-again-to-release-ven.-fulton-sheens-remains

ttpss://www.google.com/amp/s/www.lifesitenews.com/mobile/news/new-york-archdiocese-refuses-again-to-release-ven.-fulton-sheens-remains.

Eva Arnott
3 months 1 week ago

The general sleaziness of some staff members in a very large organization is something that the Catholic Church has in common with every other institution of government, education, health care etc etc. A bishop who was assigned to an area where only a tiny proportion of residents were Catholic may have been sent there precisely because he was not respected by his peers, like a professor with tenure who has to take an early-morning class

John Chuchman
3 months 1 week ago

So many people are wasting time and talents
trying to fix a broken-down institution,
diagnosing the Church to death.

If we want to be truly Christian,
then it’s time
to truly Love
and Let Go.

We must focus on the power of God
who is Within and Ahead
by being attentive to what the Spirit is calling us to,
being ready to change,
ready and willing
to enter into new structures of relationship.

There is no story out there;
We are the story as it unfolds through our lives.

It is time to stop relying on institution church
and instead ourselves
become the vanguard of the new world.

I learned
that I could be controlled,
not only by my acquiescence,
but also by my anger;
I have moved on,
beyond both.

John Chuchman
3 months 1 week ago

So many people are wasting time and talents
trying to fix a broken-down institution,
diagnosing the Church to death.

If we want to be truly Christian,
then it’s time
to truly Love
and Let Go.

We must focus on the power of God
who is Within and Ahead
by being attentive to what the Spirit is calling us to,
being ready to change,
ready and willing
to enter into new structures of relationship.

There is no story out there;
We are the story as it unfolds through our lives.

It is time to stop relying on institution church
and instead ourselves
become the vanguard of the new world.

I learned
that I could be controlled,
not only by my acquiescence,
but also by my anger;
I have moved on,
beyond both.

Tondalaya Gillespie
3 months 1 week ago

Really the church should forego the title Catholic, which means universal. The Church is really exclusive, it shuns so many, hardly Christ-like at all. And these bishops really are a mess, sitting around mouthing their "thou shalt nots" . My favorite Jefferson quote is "there would be no sin if first there were no priest". What a bunch of silly killjoys they are. Fortunately, faith is a wonderful gift which I will not let them take away from me.

Oz Jewel
3 months 1 week ago

One day in history, a promised Messiah was born and He fulfilled perfectly His role as God become man to reconcile God with man and man with God by willingly undergoing the passion culminating in death in disgrace by crucifixion.

He had disciples and he commissioned them to announce the good news of what he had accomplished and invite all who wished to accept that gift of salvation to do so.
That event was a new birth, so called as it accurately depicts the plight of the new baptised believer - they need to be grown, nurtured, matured and purified for as long as they live.

They were me before anyone gave them a name or they gave a name to themselves.
Believers, fishers of men, followers of the way, Christ's people ... the name was invented but the reality did not change.
When I pray the official creeds, I say ... one, holy, universal, apostolic ...

people choose, they are not excluded and as far as the successors of the apostles saying 'thou shalt nots' are concerned, Jesus ratified the 10 commandments and pointed out that even the expanded scope of them in the 163 Mosaic laws was inadequate. His followers were shocked; they knew the impossibility of perfect compliance and protested along those lines and Jesus told them, it is not impossible for God.

Julie A Miller
3 months 1 week ago

Amen, indeed. Each new scandal (and the predictable milquetoast responses thereto) set another match to what's left of the RC Church. The arsonists are not in the pews, but at the altar. The priesthood is becoming an embarrassment, thanks to a Church hierarchy more concerned with protection of itself, than with justice for abuse victims. Vows of poverty and chastity are apparently being interpreted as mere suggestions, once a priest rises through the ranks. And all the while, women are excluded from any meaningful participation in Church leadership, based on stale, self-serving, distortions of scripture which (conveniently, and almost now comically) maintain that only men are fit to be priests.

J Jones
3 months 1 week ago

Ron, if there was a genuine recognition of and commitment to the necessity of an immediate and appropriately handled report to law enforcement, the hotline contract would include the following contract requirements:

1) staff on that RCC-contracted hotline would be qualified, trained and obligated to refer DIRECTLY to the police any reported allegation of child abuse, sexual assault, physical abuse or financial crimes by the RCC and then provide that referral report # and contact information to the person making that report;

2) the law enforcement agency in receipt of that report - but not the RCC-contracted hotline - would be responsible for communicating with the RCC about that allegation so that the identity and the safety of reporters and alleged victims would be appropriately managed and protected and so that the RCC would have no opportunity to destroy or altar records or alert reported suspects or superiors;

3) the hotline would report to the RCC at the end of each quarter, say, only that it had referred _ number of allegations of criminal conduct to the appropriate law enforcement agency. The RCC-contracted hotline would be prohibited from disclosing directly to the RCC any information about criminal complaints.

This would be an easily created and managed process. Every state in the country has a child abuse and neglect hotline and there are best practices that are separate from the well-known difficulties and failures of agencies to deploy effective solutions to the reports received. The hotlines themselves - best practices in structure, process, staffing, training, documentation - are available and I cannot imagine any expert in the field not JUMPING at the opportunity to design an effective reporting hotline for the RCC, one of the most notorious repeat institutional offenders against children and others, thereby protecting persons against the crimes and cover-ups these men are known to have committed again and again. You don't give raw reports of allegations of crimes to persons who work directly in any capacity with the person accused. And you sure as heck don't do it in institutions that have been proven to be corrupt over and over and over again in an endless number of ways.

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