One of the things I haven't blogged about, and don't often tell people (any more) is the fact that I studied to be a Catholic priest.
It was eight years ago at this stage, and a lot of things have happened in the meantime. It seems like a different me. And it was.
I'd wanted to be a priest all my life. Like B over at Positive Boredom, I'd had the masses with the teddy bears, I'd use the ice cream wafers as the host and I'd practise homilies, readings and the hymns.
At one stage I was going to all four masses in the local Abbey (a very inspiring building) at the weekend, I'd read at mass, I'd joined the choir and I was an altar server. We had amazing priests in our parish - genuinely good men who cared about their parishioners and who made a definite improvement and contribution to parish life.
I'd always known that my ambition would mark me as "different" and even going to a Catholic Secondary School didn't give me the courage to be open about what I wanted to do. I was singularly focussed on my goal - being a priest, serving God, helping people at the most important parts of their lives - birth, weddings, illnesses, deaths and all the bits in between. I wasn't obsessed with girls (knowing I'd be celibate), I didn't have plans to marry or settle down or have a great life plan except study, be ordained, do what I thought I was meant to.
I went to UCD after a tumultuous Leaving Cert in 1997 and the following year I'd decided that I'd had all the confirmation I'd need that it was the life for me. I joined a missionary order seminary as a postulant, meaning I wasn't a "proper student" but had two years to see if community life was for me. This is slightly different to diocesan priesthood - studying at places like Maynooth or Clonliffe - but I felt it was my calling.
I was 20.
What followed was one of the most eventful and enjoyable times of my life. I woke in the morning and joined the others for prayer. There was a community of about 30 men all at varying stages of their process. We ate together, prayed together, worked together, went to Lés Miserables in the Point together(!) and lived as brothers, as colleagues.
I got very involved in the local Dublin community as well, joining the folk group, reading at mass, arranging liturgies, serving and being "a source of enthusiasm and joy" as I was called.
It was 1999. The abuses of men serving as Catholic priests on the young, the poor, the vulnerable and the too-trusting was just coming to light.
It was a time of concern, of reflection and of hiding for the men who weren't the paedophiles, who weren't the perverts or those taking advantage. The actions of their peers and their superiors forced them to retreat. The heads of the Church were not commenting, not responding, not being open (to their detriment) and those below them, bound by their vow of obedience, had to stay silent. It was no excuse, but it was all they had.
Image taken from here.
Priests left in their droves. In fairness this had been happening anyway - only one other student entered the seminary in my year - but we started to hear more and more about it. For someone like me - outgoing, eager and wanting to show how great it was - the idea of hiding seemed abhorrent, alien and not what it was about. Jesus never hid did he?
At the same time I was studying hard and started reading the alternative texts and views of the Catholic Church. The Da Vinci Code was no shock to me, I'd read most of the books that it was based on (as well as many of the books that those books were based on) years before. Things didn't add up. It wasn't right. This wasn't real.
Eventually I made the decision to leave. It was the happiest day of my mother's life - she had never wanted me there at all. I'd been there almost two years. I'd had amazing opportunities, met some lovely people and made friends, but it wasn't for me.
It was the most difficult decision I've had. Here I was, after hiding my ambition for so many years and then getting to live it only to have to leave it now. The director of students was remarkably open and understanding "Go out, get a job, get a girl, live in the real world. If you want to come back you know where we are." and so I was gone, without a clue what next to do.
Image taken from here.
Over the years more and more has come out about the Catholic Church in Ireland, the abuse cases, the restrictions, the neglect, the taking advantage. The doctrines of the Church were examined and exposed, the historical facts raised. I learned a lot. I drifted away from describing myself as "Roman Catholic" to "Christian" in that I believe that the message of Jesus "Do unto others as you would have them do to you" is as valid as ever.
It's been difficult to leave something I was so passionately involved with behind and I still stay in touch with it from time to time. I am not a regular mass goer, but appreciate an interesting way of communicating a message of tolerance, understanding and love to an audience. I try to do the Christian thing of living a good life, trying to do good things.
That's why this article written by the ever on-the-ball Maman Poulet has me fuming today.
Seriously, who the hell do the "Irish Society for Christian Civilisation" think they are to promote such hatred, such vile inaccuracies and such lies as this absolute pile of festering homophobic propoganda?
I'm not gay but have many gay friends. I have absolutely no problem with anyone's sexual orientation and do not see it as any factor in how they should be dealt with, what rights they have or their place in society. A homosexual couple should be allowed marry, adopt, have the same tax, insurance and couple benefits same as everyone else. They're lucky to be in a couple at all.
And yet here we have this "Christian" society promoting such pearls of wisdom as
As conscientious Irish Catholics, we cannot but say “No” to a Treaty that imposes on our country and on the whole of Europe, for the first instance in an international legally binding document, the prohibition of any discrimination based on sexual orientation, which will in its turn impose on us the placement of children for adoption or foster care in the hands of homosexual partners, the employment of teachers or athletic coaches with homosexual lifestyles, the obligation to grant accommodation to homosexual partners in B&B facilities, etc. and will restrict the freedom of the Church to preach the Gospel.Let's take that again:
As conscientious Irish Catholics, we cannot but say “No” to ... the prohibition of any discrimination based on sexual orientation
I lament the fact that people in this country - mostly decent people - have views like this thrust on them - views that they will believe because the labels "catholic" and "christian" are attached.
I abhor the fact that freedom of speech means freedom to distribute such hateful "literature" and I feel sorry that the Catholic Church is used to back this up. For an organisation that has such potential to do such good - and for the men and women committed to doing good for same, I feel nothing but pity that this sort of thing is associated.
Following the logic of this "Christian" group, they're supporting an organisation that has subjugated human rights, learnings and sciences and committed some of the worst crimes in humanity all in the name of a simple man who said:
"He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone"I'm sending this article to this "Christian society" - firstname.lastname@example.org - asking them to explain how they can promote "Christianity" and "Jesus" and still justify their actions in this, a definition of Christian being:
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, a monotheistic religion centered on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ as presented in the New TestamentI have yet to see anywhere in The New Testament where Jesus condemns homosexuality.
They do not represent my views as a Christian. Or anyone's that I personally know.
What's your feeling on it?