Fire
Tripod

Rostra
Rostra

BACK TO ESSAY POTPOURRI



My Disenchantment With Roman Catholicism





“I don't go to Church for the
priests, but for God."

My Mother





"Dai nemici mi guardo io,
dagli amici mi guardi Iddio!"

Translation:
"I can protect myself from my enemies;
but only God can protect me from my friends!"

Old Italian Saying





“Go, Francis, and repair my house
because it is falling into ruin."

God's call to St. Francis of Assisi



[Thus did the Lord call the young Francis to restore God's House from the greed and avarice which had overtaken it. Today the same thing is overtaking the world's societies, and, again, that same Church that was supposed to be the example of Christ to the world. That Church has now lost itself in a bureaucracy that has replaced love with guilt and judgment, and religion with government. As my mom reiterates above, Churches today are forgetting God, in their zeal over personalities, and their pomp and circumstance; now, Churches are advertised showplaces, with God a forgotten statue in the corner.

In this essay I examine my own personal experiences with an organized Religion: the Catholic Church. Unfortunately, this was not a favorable experience. But my gripe with the religious organization is not one with the underlying faith. God did not produce the organization, man did! It is now up to us to fix it, as St. Francis thought to do in his time. And what I detail here for Catholicism, also applies to all the other Christian Religions today. They all need fixing, lest their organizations outstrip their purpose, the unity and harmony of the human family!]









Being of Italian descent, I was raised in the Roman Catholic tradition. After my father’s service in World War II, as an American soldier, he came home, and married the woman he loved, my mother. Both my parents were of Italian ancestry, although my mother was born in Italy, and my father was born here, in the United States. Being an only child, I was somewhat pampered, later, I was sent to a Catholic Elementary School and a Catholic High School. I was a typical child of the post-war baby boom.

My mother was very devout in her faith, but my father did only what was required to keep him a member, performing his annual Easter duties to satisfy my mom. But both supported the Church with their annual contributions till their deaths.

I, myself, was also very devout in my faith, that is, until my experiences in High School. I remember that when I was about twelve or so, I became obsessed with the idea that God hated me. I guess that sense of guilt that all Catholics are made to feel, got me to think that I had sinned so often that God resented me, and was out to get me. Although I was very quiet, and even bullied for a time because of that quietness, I felt I had committed many sins, especially as I had a real temper, and cussed a lot, like my dad did. My dad, although more formally educated than my mother, was a typical Southern Italian street person, having grown up in the inner city during the depression. In his teens, he used to steal stale cakes out of the back of the truck of a local Italian bakery shop in his neighborhood. Later, he started to buy them, when he met the pretty Italian girl who worked behind the counter there. He boldly asked her out on dates, and finally would marry her.

Anyway, that obsession that God hated me lasted about a year; I guess I finally had realized that God had better things to do then go around hating people. It was a combination of that persistent guilt, and that belief that although God was a God of love, he was also a God who disliked those that sinned; these were particularly the things that the Catholic Church pushed at that time, and even today, on their school children. And it was reinforced by the institution of the confessional, and the severe beatings and beratings the priests and nuns administered in those days, if you were bad, or disobeyed any of the rules at school – in other words, if you sinned. I think that it had got me to think that love was a vehicle for judging others. It’s hard for kids to find out what love is, when they always see it expressed in scoldings and beatings, and especially, by people who supposedly represented God.

Then, again, that was the tempo of that time: rule by the rod. It was a different time; and it vividly shows how people change with time; not only outwardly, but also inwardly. Today we call this style of discipline, abuse; but then, it was the accepted way to rear the young. But for many it went too far; and today, we are seeing the scars in people who went through these hard times.

But still it was better then the generation before mine, my father’s generation, and his was better than his father’s was.

But religion had a hand in shaping those ideas 1 , along with the closed off communities that the poor formed back then. It was a way for religion to rule over these people, since the religions were so important in forming the culture and biases of the people in the inner cities back then. Like the Jewish ghettos in Europe, in America there were the Irish, Italian, Spanish, Slovak, Ukrainian and Russian, to boot – and even the Asian, Negro and American Indian ghettos – all separated and alienated into following beliefs at odds with the mainstream of the American culture of freedom and independence.

Like the closed off Latino ghettos today, language, economics and religion keep, and have kept the people in those ghettos apart from the mainstream culture, and kept them at the mercy of the religious groups that tried to even further wall them off in a set of inflexible rules that hampered them from bringing about needed change. Looking back today, I see much of the bigotry and prejudice of those times growing out of those very same things, the cultural alienation and separation, fostered and achieved by religious influence.

My mother wanted me to go to a Prep School to prepare me for college. Because of the added costs involved, my parents had to sacrifice to send me there. The school I attended was a school run by a particularly prominant order of priests. I had to pass an admissions test, but was finally accepted to this school.

The school believed in a traditional Prep School curriculum, emphasizing studies in the classics of literature. Four years of Latin were required in order for us to read the classics directly in the language of their origins. The more advanced, or the more academically motivated students could also take Greek along with this. I did not go this route, since I was never very good in assimilating languages.

All the sciences were taught, and mathematics was also taught up to the calculus. So we received a very well rounded preparation for college courses.

But the atmosphere was what bothered me most. Although corporal punishment still existed, (slappings and beatings administered by our Prefect of Discipline) the emphasis was put on humiliation and bullying, in order to get the student’s full participation in their studies. Activities, outside of the academic were frowned upon, except, of course, for sports, and even deemed frivolous. But, since I wore a full length back brace, with crutches under the armpits throughout High School, and even later through college, I stayed away from sports activities 2 .

My ambition, at that time, was to be an architect. In spending a lot of time in the library I met and befriended the school librarian who when he heard of my interests wanted me to make a model of the Globe Theatre (Shakespeare’s Theatre) for the school library 3 . This I did, spending the entire summer after my first year there doing this. He also got me to enter the GBCA (General Building And Contractors Association) model building competition, during which I won honorable mention three years running.

But instead of helping me, these activities only brought down more humiliation and bullying on my head; and they actually caused me to be held up to ridicule. My Latin Teacher started calling me “The Globe Master”, and chided me about spending as much time on my Latin, as I did on such frivolous and wasteful adventures as model building. Of course, sporting activities (football etc.) were not frivolous or wasteful, because they held up the renown of the school!

But other activities at that school hit me even more pointedly as to just where this institution stood, as far as morals and ideals went; in fact, as to where my religion, Catholicism, stood in relation to the Christ, whose teachings it professed to emulate.

For instance, I had taken German as my foreign language. One teacher (a lay teacher 4 ) mimeographed copies of the old NAZI version of the German National Anthem, and had us sing it in class. And once, my Civics teacher (another lay teacher), conveniently, on a day the one black student in our class was out sick, told us that he thought the American NAZI Party was the best party in American politics! 5

Needless to say, I was convinced to not be under the tutelage of such an educational institution for my four college years. So, I applied to a public state school for college. At the time, I got a lot of flack from my teachers and advisors about this, and was worried they would take out their vengeance on me for this. But my mother assured me that at the parent’s meeting, the principal had reassured her that he would give me a good recommendation to the local public state school I had applied to, because I had a solid 'B' average.

Well, I did end up getting into that college; but none of it was due to anything my High School had to say about me, except maybe that 'B' average I maintained.

Much later, after I had gotten a Doctorate, I found out in applying for a Master’s degree in another subject, that that "Prep School" Principal had tried to exact his revenge on me, for whatever reason his bigoted mind had determined. While being given my transcripts by the Dean of one school to transfer them to another Dean, I was able to look at these transcripts of my undergraduate record and see that 'fine' recommendation that that Principal had given that pupil of his: he had told them that I was NOT College material, and they shouldn’t accept me! That old Italian saying I quoted above, immediately comes to mind in this case! 6

It was this High School that had finally made me see the light; the brutality and humiliations I was made to undergo there brought out the awareness that the Catholic religion had become not the religion of love it was supposed to be according to the teachings of Jesus Christ, but an organization of religious tyrants who tried to make it into a government that tyrannized its followers, and made them believe and think according to the way this organization wanted them to believe and think. And today, this same idea of "religious government" is starting to pervade all the different religions all over this world, and even the secular politics of the world. The God of Love that Christ proclaimed, has been transformed into a God of power, influence and judgment!

Today, after what I had suffered at their hands, I am not surprised at the allegations of worldwide abuse of youngsters at the hands of Catholic priests 7 . What had happened at that Prep School had wised me up that religions are the most vulnerable to the very same corruptions that Christ warned about when He said that government and the organizations that it breeds, are not a part of religion, a religion founded on a love, which does not, in any way, condone guilt or judgment. 8

The love of the Christ was based on the innocence and purity shown in the way we enter this world, as babies; not a love that contains conditions that divide humans, and allows them to judge people as to their sins. We are all sinners, and as such we have no right to judge at all in the name of religion. Religion does not foster judgment but acceptance. Only through this kind of love can the world progress to a world where people can live together in unity and harmony, and stop the division and slaughter that the wrong kind of love that religion has fostered for some three thousand years, has perpetrated on the human race.

It is time for all Catholics to take cognizance of what the organization of Catholicism is doing to the religion of true love that Christ taught. It is time to drop the pomp and ceremonies, and the hierarchical trappings that have created religion into a government based on preference and power. It is time for Catholics to redefine their religion as one of acceptance and unity, not guilt and chastisement. The time of the religious club is over; it is time that religion stops dividing the world, and starts to unite it in the real love that all God’s children feel and know. There are no longer chosen people, only people, all worthy of love, regardless of their propensities. The way to root out the evil in this world is to stop making it the focus it seeks, by showing it that in its attainment it destroys itself. God loves all, and singles out none. That is the meaning of the great commandments of God, as Christ pointed out in the Bible; and life is the path we all traverse to find the meaning of this statement in our own lives.

This time – our time – is a time of upheaval, the upheaval of truth over the hypocrisy that has blinded all to the true meaning of life on this earth. Both the secular and the religious hypocrisies that have divided us are being made known everywhere. The people of this earth are finally realizing that we are one family, and we must finally breakdown all the barriers that have kept our family apart. Not through biblical floods, or holocausts, but through unity, are we finally making ourselves realize our binding humanity. Through truth we will find the love that unites us, and through that unity we will finally become one human race, free of all distinctions.




FOOTNOTES

To return to note's origin click the footnote number at left



1 Many Religions, especially the Catholic Church, use supra-normal phenomena, like miracles, and rituals, like the sacraments of marriage, confession, communion, and etc. to exert authority over their congregations, especially those among them, with little education. True, the Bible is filled with the miracles that Jesus supposedly performed, and that were passed down to His disciples. But we must remember that in those times, even the most mundane things, we take for granted today, would be deemed miracles back then. The power of suggestion (hypnosis), and mental diseases (visions, hallucinations and possessions) were considered possessions by a God or demons back then; but today, we approach them differently. The Church has, in many ways lessened this emphasis, but certainly many, still believe that they do exist as real phenomena, and this is their choice.

But we must also realize that what we believe is not a binding obligation for others to also believe. If we use these ‘abnormal’ phenomena to try to force others to obey us, or follow our commands, as the Catholic Church did for over a millenium, and still does through its continuing attempt to intrude in secular governmental control, then we are letting authority overwhelm the love that is Religion. This is the very thing Christ told us not to do.

Christ didn’t want people to believe because of miracles or the reward of Heaven, or the punishment of Hell, but because they understood what love is, and that all men and women are equal and the same. As Christ admired that Roman Centurion at Capernaum, a man of authority and power, who lowered himself to a mere Jew, because he believed Christ could help his suffering servant, so Christ showed His fellow Jews that it was the heart that mattered, not authority or power.

I believe that God acts through the human heart – the true vehicle of Religion – not through the display of miracles or abnormal phenomena. The world acts on all the same way; it is mere chance that determines our overall prosperity in this world. As experience teaches all of us, the good often suffer as much, and sometimes even more than the supposedly wicked; nothing can offset this seemingly unfair process of life that lies in fate, not even prayer. But within our hearts lie our true prosperity, and that is where we find the true Heaven or Hell we all will make for ourselves. And that is where faith acts on ourselves, and our effects on others. Religion is the power within us that can force us into the unity that will allow us to better all our lives through being the best we can be towards each other; in that way Religion acts through the power of love to make this the best of all possible worlds, we all can know together.

To put it still another way, I don’t believe in miracles or even the power of prayer to help us, because there is no royal road to God; within ourselves lies the true power of faith, as Christ told the doubting Thomas: “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29). God has given us reason to give us the power to find what we need to find the love within us, and see that same love as the true basis of our salvation. God is love; and we can be brought to God by realizing that He resides in ALL of us.



2 I wore this brace for eight years, from 14 years of age to 22. I had been diagnosed with a softening of the vertebrae of my lower back, due to a maturational defect of the vasculature in that area. Later exercise allowed me to even enter the army. But later, in middle age, these problems again showed up in making me switch professions, away from anything that required frequent or lengthy bending.



3 It was a large model, on a three foot by three foot base, and about a foot and three-quarters high.

Ironically, my Globe theatre ended up being destroyed the same way as the original – by fire. On a weekend, in my third year there, the part of the school that contained the school library was destroyed by fire. My model Globe theatre was housed there, and ended up being destroyed like the original Shakespearean theatre it duplicated. Luckily some pictures were taken of it before its demise.

Here's two:
My Globe Theatre Model Front
My Globe Theatre Model Top

Not bad for a 15 year old kid working on his own; little did I know, it almost kept me out of College!



4 For those not acquainted with religious schools: a "lay teacher" is a non-religious teacher, not a priest, in this case. Catholic schools hire many non-religious teachers to work for them. In this school there were about a quarter of the staff who were lay teachers; the rest were priests and priests "in training", whom they referred to as 'scholastics'.



5 Don’t get me wrong, many of the priests and lay teachers were good people, like that librarian priest who helped me with my model building activities. The problem lies in the organizations themselves, and the privileges and hierarchical favoritisms that lay them open to corruption, as Christ warned of in his famous statement to the High Priest's agents: “Render to Caesar, the things which are Caesar's, and to God, those that are God's.” Matt 22: 21.



6 I still wonder today, how many other deserving kids were kept out of College, because of this mean spirited Headmaster priest, who used his own hateful power to punish kids he didn’t like, while their parents sacrificed to pay the tuition demands of this ‘Prep’ school, they thought would get their kids into College.

Today, the corruptions, and hypocrisies that are being made known in the Catholic aristocracy only confirm for me what I found out many years ago – that old line of Moses', from the movie “The Ten Commandments”, immediately comes to mind – “Let my people go!” Yes, let the Catholic people go from the slavery of this vicious organization that pretends to represent God.



7 I am also not surprised by the humiliation the nuns are now being made to feel, under the scolding the Pope recently administered to one of their organizations. These nuns have been long made to feel the inequality and stupidity of the bigoted way the Curia at Rome treats women. It is a disgrace that when so many so-called 'heretical' Christian Churches today, have begun to allow women into their ministries, as full participants, the first Christian Church, The Roman Catholic Church, still treats its women as hired hands and servants!



8 See the end of footnote 5 above, for the origin of this quote.

To me the Bible is a book of questions and situations against which to test and retest our innermost being. It does not provide answers, but the material necessary to find the answers within ourselves, to the most profound questions of life.

One of the biggest problems with the Bible is its authorship; not by the Christ, but by his supposed followers, and many unknown others (a book put together by a committee). Christ did not start the Christian religion, his followers did. In their zeal to spread His words, many added in their own biases, just as many of His disciples misinterpreted many of His words during His lifetime. That is why the New Covenant in the Old Testament of the Bible was formed, to subdue the biases and misinterpretations that every human organization has a tendency to spread. God wrote His word in every human heart; and to find the Christ, you should look no further then within yourself. Religion starts and ends within us, and our ability to overcome the bigotry and biases that the toil of life confers on all of us. Religion is the way to unity, and the open minds that see all viewpoints as the results of the hardships we all undergo through living, and the mistakes we make in confronting them. But Religions, as they now exist, are the exact opposite of the love Christ heralded to the world, because they no longer see all as equal, but only as members of a closed off society, whose sole purpose is to spread its own importance. St. John was the only one who seemed to catch the true feeling of what Christ said, in his statement: “God is Love”. Yet even he did not grasp the full ramifications of his own statement. Those ramifications are what people are starting to see and feel today; as people start to understand the real meaning of life is not only the material, but the harmony and unity that love brings about. Religions, and I mean ALL of them, are about Love; a love founded on innocence, and maintained in acceptance, not judgment, because Religion's purpose is to bring people together, not divide them as the love conceived in judgment does.







BACK TO ESSAY POTPOURRI

Rostra
Rostra

Originally Published:

June 2, 2012

Revised:

July 25, 2014