(I was taught to call you Mother.)
In my country there is a saying, no hay peor cuña que la del mismo palo, almost literally it means there is no better way to cut down a tree than using the same wood as leverage. What it really means is that there is no worse criticism than one’s own.
I went to Mass this morning. It is after all Palm Sunday. The church is full to capacity.
It makes me wonder why are we all here. Is it love that moves us? Faith? Or is it fear? Perhaps all? For there is always the fear that one must go to Mass for to not do so is a mortal sin.
In my case those Sundays have added up.
I do not remember when was the last time I confessed. If I ever do again, I kid with myself that I might just tell the priest, let’s settle for I have failed on the Ten Commandments and leave it at that? Not that I have murdered, but Jesus said if you slander against someone it is just as if you’ve taken a knife at them. I am pretty sure I must have gladly gossiped about someone one or two dozen times. And no, come to think about it, I haven’t taken part of the Eucharist in a long time. I feel I do not deserve to do so.
It sounds as if I have excommunicated myself.
But I went today for the sake of my children. My daughters have asked me to bring them to Mass. My son had to tag along, though I know he’d rather stay home and play video games. They need something to believe in. It is my duty to provide them with spiritual nourishment. After all, I am a mother, too.
It is terrible to confess that it seems like too much work to go to church. Slothfulness. Another mortal sin.
Yet, I am a prodigal daughter. I love you from afar. I miss the feeling of the sacred. The smell of lit candles, the offerings of the righteous. The carved statues that adorn the walls. The beauty of the ritual. The bowing of the heads.
I have been plagued forever by my critical mind. My mother, as my grandparents before her, believes without questioning. A faith that has not turned brittle and damaged in the crucible of life.
My mother perhaps thinks that I do not believe. She fears for my soul. Fears that my education has made me wary of faith. I do not answer the silent charges. If I did, she would know that I believe even in spite of my deeply ingrained questionings. A philosophy professor once said to me one cannot explain faith. It cannot be substantiated, for faith and science are not synonyms. One chooses to believe whether or not there is proof.
I have chosen to believe, Mother. I will always return and hope my children are better believers than me, for believing in a critical manner is living with an open knife wound through one’s chest. I cannot breathe without remembering the pain. Yet, I must breathe.
But today my heart is full, and I cannot ignore the anguished whispers and cries. The righteous anger that hits from all sides.
I have explained this away, telling myself and others that evil lurks everywhere, not just within my doorstep.
I will not justify this anymore. Because if I keep silent I am also guilty.
How can one pretend nothing is happening?
How can one ask for forgiveness but seek not to make amends, to redress, to make right?
Confession requires penance and the purpose to not stray from the path.
But the way I see it, our path is taking us straight to hell.
For you see, misguided Catholic that I am, perhaps a heretic for I do not believe half the dogma that I was spoon-fed while young, I am part of the Church. Being Catholic, like I have agreed when an OS friend and I talk about this, is as much a part of me as the color of my skin, the shape of my eyes, the blood that flows through my veins. I cannot stop being Catholic. I will not.
And you, Mother, have no right to make me feel ashamed.
There is no right to ignore the evidence that points from all sides. The thousands of children abused by criminals hiding in the folds of a Mother’s dress.
There is no right in protecting the Church from scandal by swallowing this rotten, putrid meal whole, pretending it has never happened. This is not nourishment, but the eating of poison.
For the victims are part of the Church. And Jesus said the stray sheep is as important as the rest of the herd.
And you’ve brutalized these children into strays. For how will they believe in a God that allows this to happen?
There is no right in taking away the pure joy of those who believe as children believe. For they are the true followers, the true disciples. They teach by example. These are the salt of the earth. These are your mustard seeds, Mother. I might be polluted by my questioning, I will not bear but bitter fruit. Yet, the others deserve the fertile, fallow ground. Plow the Church, Mother. Weed it of evil. Make it give three-hundred fold.
There is no right in sullying the cloth by allowing those who do not deserve it to wear it. It is disrespectful, it is soul murder, to the thousands of priests and nuns who choose to lead an exemplary life. Why should they feel that they have to apologize when they don on those clothes meant to herald light and faith?
Do you know the shame I feel when people think the cloth the uniform of pedophilia?
There is a place and a time for righteous anger. This is not the moment to be meek. For this meekness is cowardice, Mother.
Jesus entered the Temple and upturned the tables. He said money had no business in the House of the Father.
I beg you, Mother, show your righteous anger. Take those that do not deserve your protection and cast them away from you. Loving the sinner, abhorring the sin makes for no accountability. These things they have done are not only sins, they are crimes that have to be punished by law.
Render unto Caesar, Mother.
Do not show more misguided mercy on the victimizer and leave none for the victims. If you do not do so, we all burn in the flames.
Let them not call us legion.