Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Ministry Secrets

When I was a retreat planner in college, I found myself very frustrated by some of the things I saw within the school's Catholic ministry. I wrote a brief but impactful essay to a friend who was out of town, and today I discovered it again. This was penned on November 9, 2007.

Seriously [friend], I wish you were here. I really miss you. Being a good little Catholic boy is really starting to get to me. I’m feeling something distinctly non-Catholic coming on, and you are one of my primary sources for such behavior. I miss having you to keep me leveled-out and prevent me from falling too far into a system of rules and doctrines that I don’t really buy into. There’s been a lot going on in my head lately. I realized that while I may be wrong in what I believe, at least I’m not a hypocrite. At least I stick by my guns! Not like some of these guys I live with… all piety and humility out in the world of the Ministry, but get them alone and things stop adding up.

Everything is such a fucking performance with the Ministry! We all pretend that we don’t have these subversive, “heretical” thoughts, and we all keep quiet about the parts of our lives that don’t line up with the Church, but I know that everyone has skeletons in their closets. I’ve seen and heard it. We whisper to each other in confidence, behind closed doors. We keep each other’s secrets. Like the talented actors we are, we put on our modest costumes and play the parts of the innocent church mice. But just as with any theater production, the clothes and costume come off backstage, after the show. It’s all smoke and mirrors with these people! We spout lies scripted by the religion we all claim to follow without exception, and everyone plays his or her part wit the benefit of years of practice. I’m sick of it. I refuse to take part in this fa├žade. Why can’t we all just stop bullshitting and act like the people we know we truly are? You’d be so proud if you could see all the quiet rebellions I’ve incited within the Ministry. I’m tired of pretending to be someone I’m not. And even if I’m wrong, at least I’m REAL! At least I know where I stand! At least I can run the race and say, “This is what I really believe!”

I envision a future for this Ministry where everyone is accepted as they are. Discourse is encouraged rather than silenced. The Church, our immortal, immaculate judge and jury, has been wrong before. There is room for a difference of opinion and understanding. Despite what the clergy profess, I feel that we can go about faith in more than one way. My views are not canon, but they’re grounded in an honest attempt to live in a way that’s true to who I am. I can’t change what I am and what my feelings tell me. Does anyone else feel the same? In the shadows of the Ministry hide others like me, other who understand this concept. Will we ever see the light? Or will the light see us?

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that people who profess such patience, empathy, and faithfulness can be so intolerant. They judge with their eyes and their superegos, knowing full well that their hearts cry out at the sight of a kindred spirit. Again, the theatrics get in the way of how the actors really feel. I think there must be more people in the Ministry who feel this way than I’m aware of. But we must all keep secrets.

The Ministry—and by extension, the Church herself—exerts control through guilt and isolation. We all have our crosses to bear, yes, but at some point the crosses stop adding up. Guilt is a self-imposed behavioral control, and therein lies its brilliance. We are forced to act the way we do because to do otherwise would be to admit that we did not—and furthermore, I think, cannot—live up to the lofty ideals of the Catholic faith. Thus, we feel guilt for our inevitable failings and isolation in our suffering, because to share the alleged wrongs we’ve done would be to invite the possibility of judgment, and furthermore, would be humiliating in the face of the others who are silent about their wrongs.

We all know that we all sin, but if no one says it, then no one is sure where anyone else stands. Each of us feels the lonely burden of being the rock upon which the Church is built; for although we all know in our hearts that we are not alone in our failings, we cannot rest without the verbal validation that other Catholics can provide. This validation is stunted and discouraged as form is social control, perpetuated by the Church herself. But I have started to break free! By identifying the system, I have already begun to exert control over it and claim exemption from it. I know there are others out there who feel as I feel. All I need is the time and courage to find them.

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