Growing up, I loved being involved in churchy things. I started volunteering with the CCD program when I was in 7th grade and didn’t stop until a couple of years after college when my work schedule prevented me from doing it. I was as active I could be in everything from teaching second graders the Act of Contrition to pancake breakfasts to youth retreats, both attending and leading. It continued through college, where most of my friends were from the Catholic Campus Ministry and where, once again, I was a leader. During my senior year of college, I started considering what I wanted to do after graduation. Eventually, I came to realize I wanted to volunteer, and I found the Mercy Volunteer Corps, a volunteer program sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy (who, in case you don’t know, are AWESOME). I met and lived with three other women who are still among my very closest friends.
I started moving away from church ‘stuff’ after returning to my hometown. The church I grew up in was gargantuan by then, and it just didn’t fit me. There were more kids for the children’s liturgy at the least populated service than there were members of the parish I attended just before moving back. I had also begun to really question the compatibility of my beliefs with that of the RCC. I was already far too liberal for much of the dogma. Life marched on.
Then my trust in the Roman Catholic Institution was shattered. The sexual abuse scandal that had plagued the RCC for years already was suddenly no longer abstract. A person very close to me disclosed that he had been abused by one of our parish priests in high school. For a time, I wanted nothing at all to do with God. As the months passed, so did my anger at God. I realized I could never again be Roman Catholic the evening I read the editorial published in the newspaper, written by the diocesan spokesperson. In that article, he called for the media and the general public to quit talking about the sex abuse, to get over it. After all, he wrote, attendance and offering donations were on the rise. My anger at God had been redirected, to where it rightly belonged: at the leaders within the Roman Catholic institution who protected pedophile and predatory priests in order to maintain the all-powerful, always right reputation of the institution. And it was done at the expense of the thousands of children, of their families, their friends.
I may eventually write more about the scandal and what it has meant for the person I know, for those who love him, and for those related even tangentially. For now, I’ll leave it at this: if there is something good to have come from it all, it is that I may never have found St. Sebastian Independent Catholic Community otherwise.