One might say that the seemingly inevitable, descending fate of the Catholic Church is writ small in the progression from my Dad, to me, to my kids.
First generation: My dad was and is an extremely pious man, devoted to the church. Indeed, the wife of his lab partner in medical school told me years ago that had Dad not met Mom, she thinks he would have become a priest. In his 60s, Dad trained to become a Deacon, and served in that way up until a few years ago. He is now 96.
Dad seems to watch only FOX news now. So I doubt he watched a recent 60 Minutes segment about an Irish Archbishop who decries, in powerful terms, rampant, longstanding pedophilia in the Irish church.
I did ask Dad, in the mid-1980s, how he could continue with the Catholic Church, given the pedophilia being uncovered in the Boston diocese. Dad told me that even if he had to give up on the hierarchy, he wouldn’t give up the community. That the church was the community. Good answer! — I thought at the time. But one which, of course, opens the door to further questions. Did he ask them? I doubt it. Too hard, too scary.
Second generation: I was a an extremely pious child, devoted to being obedient to my father and his religion. Until that is, I was 26, and a near-death experience severed me from all that did not move me from deep within. From that time on, no outside force could cow me into obedience. Thus began an intensely difficult and dramatic 30-year standoff with my dear father. And, in one of the miracles which shower us from we know not where, our battle miraculously neutralized during a fifteen year period in which we both, consciously, decided together to each individually learn how to move from our minds (where we disagreed) into our hearts (where we are one). In 2001, our dream came true. We had not seen each other for years. As he walked towards me from across the room, I saw the light of the soul dancing through his eyes.
Third generation: My children grew up atheist, darkly cynical about any religion or church. Not that I called myself atheist, nor do I think, did their father, but religion itself for both our boys, was anathema. When asked about his relationship to the Catholic church a few years ago, one of my sons snapped, “the biggest pedophile ring in the world.” Only recently has he recognized the difference between spirituality and religion, and this recognition has opened him to his own inner guidance.
So now, in the past week, I see where the Vatican is being fingered in the widening financial scandals. I wonder, is that on FOX news?
Were my father not so very old, and his hearing about gone, I might engage him in this subject, or would I? I’m not sure it’s worth it. Why would I want to try to disabuse him of the rigid scaffolding he’s held his mind within for nearly a century? Like most people, he finds — equates? fuses? — emotional security with mental certainty. It may be that only the feeling that he is “right” keeps him going.
What keeps me going? How did my life change when I blasted free of the church, of obedience, of living from the outside in? Well, as all who are similarly free, know: life is good, life is abundant, life offers blessing after blessing after blessing.
I wouldn’t trade in my divine, infinite universe for any number of tiny, finite, father gods.