Thursday, May 25

My first heaping helping of Catholic Guilt - but not in the way that you'd think

Ma Back over at the Ward Wide Web posted something interesting recently:

Every single time you stand in the line to receive Holy Communion, you're making a statement to the world.
This statement includes the following:
  • I believe in every single item of the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds.
  • I believe 100% in what the Catholic Church teaches about homosexuality.
  • I believe 100% in what the Catholic Church teaches about contraception.
  • I believe 100% in what the Catholic Church teaches about capital punishment.
  • I believe 100% in what the Catholic Church teaches about Euthanasia.
  • I believe 100% in what the Catholic Church teaches about abortion.
  • I believe in the Papacy, and I believe in the succession from St. Peter to Benedict XVI.
  • I believe 100% in the mystery of transubstantiation, and I believe in the Church's teaching that in order to receive our Lord in Holy Communion, my soul should be in a state of grace. For all but the most heroic of Catholics, this probably means Confession at least once a month.

I take receiving the Communion Host EXTREMELY seriously. I don't take it lightly, and I've been known to refrain from taking a host when I know that I'm not worthy. I've already been to confession a couple of times and I was just baptized at Easter, and I'm planning on going to confession tomorrow after work. My soul feels gunky.

It's easy for me to say, "I'm not going to commit X sin." For example, I'm not going to use a condom or have an abortion or help someone with assisted suicide or live an actively homosexual lifestyle. But my most difficult struggles have been how to be supportive of people in my life who are openly sinning according to the precepts of the Catholic church. According to their (often Christian) church, they are not sinning.

For so much of my life, I felt judged by the fact that I had no God, no church, no religious affiliation. I hate ... for lack of a better way to put it, imposing my beliefs on other people. Who am I to say that my God is right? I barely have a belief system of my own, how can I expect others to believe the same way? They don't attend church, or do but don't attend Catholic church, or are lapsed Catholics. It's hard. I'm not ready for that yet, and I feel like a failure before God for feeling this way.

I know that taking the communion means accepting these beliefs 100%, which I am willing to do. I can take care of myself, but I am not ready to be burdened with the sins of my friends, of my relatives, of my spouse. How can I find that spot between faithfulness to my fledgeling religious life and support of my friends out of love?

This relates, to some extent, to a post that Julie D. wrote on her blog Happy Catholic. She talks about having a "healthy serving of guilt":

Would bringing back guilt help keep these things in check? It is an interesting question, even if one could accomplish such a thing, which is an interesting question in itself.

Please note that I am not advocating shame here. I am talking about guilt. It seems to me to be similar to making the jump that we all managed from years ago when a drunk at a party was an amusing spectacle who was often left to weave his way home ... to the attitudes of today where alcoholism is treated seriously as dangerous to everyone but the alcoholic person is viewed with compassion as someone who needs to be helped. Part of that jump is accomplished for the alcoholic by knowing society's views and how he or she is expected to make a serious effort to control those dangerous impulses. As The Anchoress says, we are sometimes dealt a stinking card in life but we still must live with it the best we can. How much easier is this when society lends a helping hand without empowering the destructive impulses?

I understand that sometimes a bit of guilt, a bit of collective conscience, can be healthy for many different situations, the afforementiones alcoholism referenced above being one of the situations. But making that leap from some sins to others is hard. I could jump someone up one side and down the other for smoking pot and the illegality of it and how it is a gateway drug without any kind of guilt or hesitance whatsoever. But what about my married friends who use condoms and the Pill for contraception? What about my friends in a committed heterosexual relationship, who are not only having sex out of wedlock but also living together? What about my best friend, living with another man in the state of "holy union" and commitment? Why am I so hesitant to share my moral thoughts with these people? Can I identify with them more? Am I afraid to hurt feelings, or lose friends? Or is it that in my mind, some sins are more easy for me to pass judgement on than others? Or is my mindset of "Who am I to judge these people" so strong as to reign back my religion in their presence? I also constantly think of the scripture that states "He who is without sin cast the first stone." I do not feel comfortable telling people about sin that they know good and well that I participated in, nor do I feel that I am in any way perfect. I am still trying to pull out the mote in my own eye, so who am I to tell a person about the splinter in their eye?

The guilt is hard to carry. If I had a priest I could talk to, and could confide in for guidance, I would definitely take advantage of that. But I barely know the priests at either the Cathedral or the Chapel, and it's hard to go up to a stranger and start dumping personal problems in their laps.


At 1:20 AM, Blogger Ma Beck said...

Well, as my priest and confessor often says, "Sometimes it's better to shut your mouth and
lead by example, not by words."
Using words to try to convert or change someone can often lead to them pulling further away.
He also says, "If preaching to them is going to lead to a fight, don't preach. This can alienate them
from you and after that happens, they're almost impossible to reach."
I struggled with this for a long time, and I now know he's right. I'm not supposed to be out there all
hell-fire and brimstone every time one of my friends brings up contraception. But should they ask, I should know
enough to provide them the truth, and I should be smart enough to whisper, "If you want to talk to me in private,
that's fine. Just let me know."
Not screeching on a street corner is not compromising your principles.
We've all been there!
God bless.

At 1:24 AM, Blogger Sister Mary Hasta said...

Hey dere,
I kinda stole part of this post and went nuts on my own tangent at my blog. *is embarrassed as only an ex-United Methodist admitting to the need for the Eucharist can be* Just wanted to let you know, in case you got some wierd hits and comments on the trackback.

Thanks for the post that made me think.

At 7:00 AM, Blogger Petra said...

Cynthia, I'm with Ma Beck with this. I often think of the same problem, because many people I hold dear live a sinful lifestyle (contracepting, cohabitating, masturbating, smoking pot, you name it). And I think, as Ma Beck's confessor does, that the best teaching is teaching by example, by saying what you think when the topic arises, but not trying to put pressure on people. In this case, I sometimes think of St Francis of Assisi who said something to the effect of 'I preach the Gospel wherever I am - and if necessary, with words.' And I also sometimes think of my ex-boyfriend whose presence in my life converted me to God and the Church, simply because he was Catholic, living as a Catholic - not because he was trying to persuade me or anything.

So, relax and pray for them (that's probably more important than anything!).

At 7:45 AM, Blogger The Phoenix said...

I agree with Ma Beck and Petra, too. I try not to give unsolicited advice, and I mind my own business. If a friend asks me about a specific teaching, and whether I believe it or not, then I give an opinion. The challenge here is to really learn and know your faith, so that you are not rattled when challenged. And if you don't know, look it up and get back to them.

At 9:32 AM, Anonymous celticcherokee said...

You wrote a passionate blog; and I believe everything was well said.
The other comments were right on--your example is the best you can give. There will be opportunities to teach. For example, you'll be asked to participate in the sins of others. (and we all know you have recently!) With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, in time, you'll know how to use these opportunities to tell your friends what YOU believe and why YOU can't participate without jeopardizing your friendships or holding them accountable. Always with LOVE. Anytime we admonish, it must be in the spirit of LOVE and compassion. We do it because we love the soul of the friend more than we love the friendship.

At 12:17 PM, Blogger Vajra said...

Preach the gospel every day. If absolutely necessary use words.

At 1:54 PM, Blogger Vajra said...

On another note, Ma Back is incorrect about what receiving communtion means about one's beliefs. While she is partially true about belief in the statements made in the Creeds, the other statements are not a requirement to receive the Eucharist. After all, Eastern Orthodox, Old Catholics, members of the Polish National Church, and others may receive the Eucharist in Roman Catholic churches and it is certain that they do not have the same views on these teachings as does the RC.


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