Letter to a Catholic Priest

Okay so it took a while, but as last I have penned my reply to the Priest. I think I struck a nice balance between all those things that one is supposed to balance. You know, those things.

Here it is then. I will let you have a stab at it, and then I will send it off to the padre in question in a few days. Read the original if you forget what the padre said. And then I will start preparing for my debaptism party.

Anybody have a Pope’s outfit, size 46..?

Dear Father X

I thank you for your letter and appreciate the time you took to write it. But I am afraid that it will not change my mind.

My decision to leave the Church has nothing to do with the recent scandals. However I think it is now timely to remove my name from the register as otherwise I am giving this organisation my tacit support by not doing so. The Catholic Church has moved so far from the teachings of its founders that it cannot be taken seriously at all, and I do not want to be counted among its members.

I understand that many individual Catholics are as disturbed by the recent events in the Church as the rest of us, but I see it as a duty to disassociate myself from organisations that perform illegal acts. Remaining on the register is pointless as there is no way for a member of the Church to push for change, since the Catholic Church is not a democracy and its leader is, by definition, never wrong.

I just want to make a few remarks on your letter (and it was a rare pleasure to receive a hand-written letter, may I add). Regarding first confession – as a child I did not do it because I particularly wanted to, I did it because that’s what one did. I also did not take confession seriously, and I know that the majority of my classmates didn’t either. We made up sins that didn’t sound so bad and we rattled them off in that confessional box while a priest pretended to listen to us. In was, for all involved, a waste of time. I know that the Irish children of today, by and large, are of the same opinion as we were back then, and I know this because I have talked to them.

Raising children with the assumption that they are inherently bad and sinful is, I think, the most questionable part of Catholic teachings. And I am very glad that my children will never get to experience the constant fear and guilt brought on by simply being a normal person and having normal thoughts and emotions.

I was told many things while in religion class that were patently not true, and yet I was encouraged to accept them anyway, and ordered not to ask too many questions. This I find particularly disturbing – adults should not be actively deceiving their children with things that cannot be proven and “should not be questioned” just because they happen to believe them themselves. At the same time, we were being taught the basic tools of science and reason and being told to ask questions and find things out for ourselves.

I have no problem with a grown adult who looks at the available options and decides to become a Catholic. But forcing children into any belief system without their approval is simply wrong. Your ceremonies may be “beautiful” in your eyes, but to me and many others it is simply a group of children who don’t know any better, who are being told not to question, being pushed to perform acts they don’t really understand.

You mention my parents passing on the “gift” of baptism. It is hardly a gift if it is done by default and the receiver of that gift is never consulted if they want it or not. You and I both know that baptising babies is an easy way for the Church to guarantee more Catholics, for whatever reason – saving their souls, boosting the members, increasing parish income, whatever. And I must say I am confused by your mentioning my parents’ names in what appears to be an attempt to add guilt to my decision. I am an adult, and my parents have nothing to do with this. In fact I question why you brought them up at all.

I also resent your claim that the Catholic Church is calling us to do good. I see little “good” in actively opposing the rights of women and gay people, forcing the horrible state of celibacy on people for reasons of property and mobility, and in removing children from their studies to work for free in a church. Morals are not dictated by an organisation, or by an external deity – morals come from being human. I have in fact known many good priests, but I have also known many good atheists, and good people are as widespread within the priesthood as outside. People are moral beings, and no amount of belief or lack of belief can change that.

I accept that you are a well-meaning person and I thank you again for taking the time out to contact me. But I can no longer in good conscience be any part of your organisation. I could pretend (as you seem to suggest) to remain a Catholic for the dubious comfort it might give people at death, but wouldn’t that be lying to myself? And isn’t lying wrong, by any measure of morality?

So please remove my name from the register. And I wish you all the best.

/ paddy