Catholic Church

Crushed by Religious Intolerance

I recently wrote a letter to my long time friend, and now Monk and Priest in a Monastery in Cullman, Alabama. At his invitation, I took the time to fly there for his ordination. Instead of being a celebration of a joyous occasion it turned into a weekend of misery and sadness due to his reaction after the mass to the fact that I – a non-Catholic – went up and took communion during his service. This is my letter to him, sent today, some two weeks after the event.

Dear Paul. I was happy to be able to attend your ordination but you know that it took a significant effort of both time and money to do so. And although I was aware that I was going to be a bit of a third wheel while there (being on my own) I had no expectation that I would be as devastated by the weekend as I was. The reason for my devastation was your comment, made to me directly after your ordination as I came up to congratulate you. It wasn’t a big comment as comments go, but it hurt me profoundly. What you said was: “You know you really shouldn’t have taken communion.” The feeling I had was that of being kicked HARD in the stomach. Yes, I covered it up. No, I did not tell you in that moment how much what you said hurt but … oh boy did it hurt.

Do you remember saying this? Do you know that I cried for hours as a result of your comment, including crying in the pew during the Sunday service when it came time for communion? What should I do? Go up again, giving you and your community the figurative finger? Go up and be “blessed” by you who had just hurt me so profoundly? Or stay in my pew and shut up? I chose the latter in the interests of leaving this fight for another time.

Do you know that what you said epitomizes everything that I find hateful and evil – yes EVIL – about the Catholic Church (and other churches)? For what is communion if not a chance to break bread together. To celebrate the sacrifice Jesus made for us? What is it if not a chance to bring people together? If your intention was that only Catholics take communion (which is not my experience in the churches I attend here – both Catholic and Anglican) then that intention should have been made explicit so that I would know the rules ahead of time and not get hit over the head with them after the fact.

If you are really interested in taking on the leadership of your community once your current Abbot retires it might be a good idea to work on developing a more Christian attitude towards those of us who are not Catholics. For we all share the same planet. We all bleed if scratched. Many of us are doing our best to make our way in the world and leave it a better place than we found it. I would have expected that attitude to be even more explicit at a community dedicated to serving God, but instead, I encountered exactly the opposite.

If taking communion in the church during your ordination service was enough of a sin that you felt it was important to say to me AT THAT MOMENT then it is not a church and yours is not a friendship I want anything more to do with. I hope you bring this email to your Abbot and discuss it with him. Maybe some good can come out of a very unhappy and harmful experience.

 *Cartoon by Daryl Cagle: http://www.cagle.com/

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5 thoughts on “Crushed by Religious Intolerance

  1. Dear Abigail – I’m so sorry you had to experience this. I made my break with the Catholic church many years ago – for many and varied reasons (intolerance, misogyny, anti-intellectualism, child abuse, the list goes on). Unfortunately, people in the thrall of the church tend to not realize how ossified their thinking becomes and how hurtful their comments can be. Peace and love Abigail.

    1. Thank you, RoseAnne. It was beyond awful. And it helped me understand some things about what it is I really really really don’t like about the church. Again. 😦

  2. An event like this is one of the reasons I now consider myself an agnostic with a bit of Easter/Christmas Catholic thrown in. I was raised Catholic and have long thought of it as the ‘church of don’ts’. I can remember being 8 years old and wondering why I was going to hell for eating a hot dog at a Friday birthday party. My friend at the party who was also catholic had eaten one so I did. Turned out there were different rules depending on who you were. His family was airforce and they didn’t have the ‘no meat on Friday’ rule??!! That was the beginning of the end for me. I read once religion is for people who can’t think for themselves. I am not a sheep so I guess it is not for me! Take care Abigail and to quote one of my university profs…”don’t let the bastards get you down!” …Eileen

  3. It saddens me that in this day and age religion appears mostly to be about intolerance that acceptance. I was raised in a French Roman Catholic environment and was astounded that all the teachings were from a negative perspecitve and appeared to be aimed at controlling the flock instead of supporting it. I made my break with organized religion some thirty years ago and have not felt a lack in my life in any way whatsoever. We have had our son exposed to Catholicism through out his primary education. However when the time came for him to go through confirmation the father of our church made it clear that if one does not go to church every Sunday one is not a good Catholic. We chose not to push confirmation on our son at such a young age, and instead will allow him to make that choice of his accord later in life.

  4. Catholics have extremely strict rules on who can receive communion in their church and it has been this way for hundreds of years. It is a ritual that involves far more than breaking bread with one another. That being said,k your friend could have mentioned this to you in a far more understanding and tactful manner. Also, he should have respected the fact that you took the time, money and effort to join the ceremony on his special day.
    I do feel that we should not paint all churches with the same brush Abigail. For instance, you are invited to partake in Communion at my church as long as you believe that Jesus Christ died for your sins. As He said with His Disciples at the Last Supper the night before He went to His death on the cross, “do this in remembrance of me.” This is key and in my opinion, the very basis of Christianity.
    In the end, we need to remember that the church is made up of people. And people will always make mistakes and disappoint us to some degree, but Jesus loves us anyway despite this and our many other failings. 🙂

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