gBoston Common.jpgI feel I’m in a unique position to address the whole “Catholic Guilt” phenomenon, which burdens a lot of people.  It’s really less about guilt (having actually done something wrong) and more about shame (feeling defective for being ourselves).  The largest group of Christians in America is the 70 million member Catholic Church.  The second largest group of Christians in America are…former Catholics.  So there’s a lot of hurt feelings to go around, especially in the Baby Boomer generation, which often inherited the unrealized dreams and unresolved psyches of their parents.

Former Catholics come in many flavors:

  1. The active agents of change.  Some have rejected official Catholic teachings regarding divorce, birth control, abortion, homosexuality, masturbation, celibacy, women’s ordination, premarital sex, and cohabitating (notice how much in the Catholic Church has to do with sex).  Yet they stay as active members, often “under the radar”, in order to effect change from within.  Good for them!
  1. The spiritual but frustrated.  Some have felt pushed out of the church because they got divorced or remarried outside the church, identify as GLBT, are former priests or nuns, or simply got sick of sermon styles, liturgical styles, church music genre, the use or lack thereof of Latin, boorish clergy, pushy lay leaders, confining right wing Catholic organizations or groups, etc., etc.  There are those in this group who want to get back into a church and those who are wondering what to do next with their spiritual lives.  They are all cautious, “once burned, twice shy”.  Some have joined more welcoming churches such as Episcopal, Unitarian Universalist, or Quaker congregations.  Some have joined alternative Catholic faiths such as the American Catholic Church.  Some have changed religions altogether.
  1. The used and abused.  Catholics who have been mistreated by ill-informed, pious, or well-meaning parents, religion teachers, or clergy:

* Children…enough said;
Women told to “offer it up” concerning domestic violence, or who were castigated for using contraception;
* The shamed, for being “imperfect,” especially concerning sexuality (“impure thoughts”, “touching oneself”);
* Those “holy doormats for God“, who never learned to say “No” because it’s “selfish”.

  1. The pseudo-indifferent. They may say they don’t care anymore, but they really do. They love Jesus and some aspects of the church, and they are looking for a new way forward.  They want a vital spiritual life.  They may even be curious about witchcraft, animism, or paganism.  They have spiritual lives they wish to nourish and need support and guidance to grow.
  1. The former Catholic priest. There are thousands of us who have left the priesthood for personal or professional reasons, some under a cloud, others rejoicing in new found liberation. Some priests, like me, just got overwhelmed, fed up, and tired of a church frozen in time and lacking in compassion and leadership. We also realized the cruelty of celibacy for many of us and the injustice of the closet for gay priests.  Most of us, even after decades of service, left with no pension, no thank you, no charitable follow up, and no good-bye.

I am here to help you, so if you feel as if someone has slammed the spiritual or religious door in your face and want to deal with those feelings and move on with your life, contact me. I know I can help get you beyond the feeling of overwhelm into a more balanced and joyful life!  I really do understand and empathize!

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Text and artwork copyrighted by Michael Parise