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.