A Reminder   Leave a comment


Content Note: Fat Shaming, Bullying, Ageism, Racism

I’ve been getting a frustrating reminder of why I left the Catholic Church.

I’ve been following several Catholic blogs so that I can maintain a Catholic vocabulary. I’ve been leaving comments (mostly negative, unfortunately) and trying to engage the bloggers and other commenters. I want to try to bridge the gap between where I am and where I was out of loyalty to the positive values I was raised with.

I have not been especially successful so far. Mostly people haven’t been engaging with me. But yesterday saw the beginning of an exchange that has reminded me why I left the Catholic Church in the first place. The exchange has been taking place on this post. The post is racist, fat shaming, and ageist. Basically, a white Catholic priest, writing in the “voice” of a female Spaniard (it’s worse than it sounds), tries to discredit his liturgical opponents by contrasting their Mass, where “only the old fat people who are singing” against his well attended Mass.

Pointing out the racism of the post, unfortunately, would have been pointless. White people like this priest are so used to reflexively denying their own racism, I wouldn’t have stood a chance of getting my point across, and the attempt probably would have compromised efforts in other areas. Maybe if I keep commenting on the blog, earn some level of respect, and get to the point where I can’t be dismissed out of hand, I’ll try to tackle that kind of racism. But I’m not there yet.

 But I did think I’d be able to take on the ageism and the fat shaming. I thought, “These insults would have been childish in middle school. Surely he won’t be that attached to them.” I really didn’t expect to meet much resistance.

As you’ve probably guessed, I was wrong. I was told that I had no sense of humor. I was told to lighten up. I was told that I was the one who was really fat shaming and ageist. I was not responded to, however. And that frustrates me. It annoys me. It saddens me. This priest is popular. He is respected in the English speaking Catholic community. And he is defending infantile and degrading insults he made.

But that isn’t the reminder I was talking about that I was correct to leave the Catholic Church. This priest is popular, but that doesn’t make him really representative. And for all I know, the failure of communication happened on my end. Maybe I could have pitched my message in a different form, less agressively, more forcefully, or more intelligently. The breakdown in communication wasn’t the real problem.

When I was a Catholic, I thought Catholicism was the best explanation for what happened in the world. I expected Catholics to be on the leading edge of the most important issues. Given the Catholic Church’s preferential option for the poor, I thought the Catholic Church knew best what those issues were.

But I realized anew in this exchange how untrue that is. It isn’t just that I can’t make myself clear to this one priest. It’s that I would be pleasantly surprised if any Catholic knew what a micro-aggression was. I do not expect individual Catholics, much less the Catholic hierarchy, to know how privilege functions. I don’t expect Catholics to know about rape culture. I don’t even expect Catholics to have proper understanding of victim blaming. The Catholic Church as a whole has not embraced these ideas. It isn’t using its impressive resources for spreading this information around. If anything, I would expect the hierarchy to actively resist these ideas. I would expect them to be dismissed as feminist or liberal whining.

The Catholic Church will not be able to serve the poor until it at least engages with these ideas. And it hasn’t engaged them. Intelligent Catholics, who are actually intelligent, don’t explore these ideas in any great numbers. And that’s why I’m not a Catholic. Not only does the Catholic Church as a whole not embrace these ideas, which I think it should. It doesn’t even engage with them.

How am I supposed to think the Catholic Church accurately grasps reality when it doesn’t even try to understand these ideas?

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