I am driving home from my quarry swim, chased out by a summer thunderstorm, and so I get to hear some bits of radio conversation. It is Terry Gross on Fresh Air interviewing Christopher Beha who has just written a novel," What Happened to Sophie Wilder." The snipit that I catch on my short drive is about this author's experience growing up Catholic. I drift into my own experiences of that and think that even though I am no longer embedded in the structure of the Church any longer, there is much of my Catholicism that remains within me.
However, I am so disenchanted with the institution of the Church that I hardly ever participate in its liturgies that I have loved for so long. I used to say, "well, sure, my Church is my dysfunctional family, isn't every family dysfunctional to some degree?" And so I stayed, singing away as cantor by the altar every Sunday.
But then my Church family became abusive. This abuse may be even far more pervasive than the horrible sexual abuse of children by specific clergy, because this was an insidious and institutionalized abuse of power against the faithful. This had become patriarchal control of everyone's conscience (congregations told how to vote "pro-life" at every election) to the subjugation of women at every level.
While listening to the Fresh Air interview, another image came to me. It was of my daughter as a teen, walking into our little parish church one evening after it had been newly redecorated in warm womb colors of deep dark pinks and with soothing green carpets. Gregorian chant was playing, candles glowed in dusky darkness. She knelt down and sighed "ah,it is like being home".
Those feminine colors of earth and body, and the calming sounds of the chanting felt comforting to her.How unfortunate that the patriarchal institutions such as the Catholic Church miss their opportunity to embrace the young when they disregard their need to embrace the feminine principle. That welcoming sanctuary that had become a symbol of the feminine was not enough to rebalance the hierarchical urge to put down the feminine everywhere else.
My daughter, no longer a teenager, is getting married, but now she has no desire to set foot in the Church where she received First Communion or was confirmed. She has not betrayed her faith: the patriarchal institution that supposedly upholds the faith (of love and inclusiveness without hierarchy) has betrayed her.