I let work keep me away for too long, now I really need to step it up. I am hopelessly fascinated by the drama; being a Catholic is much similar to being a non-practicing Jewish person; having been raised in it, I may agree with much of the outside criticism, but at some point the non-Catholics take it too far and I have to say "wait a minute..." Many people with my level of adherence to the church (which is to say none) still identify themselves as Catholics on surveys; I might if I weren't in the business of conducting surveys, and thus overthinking it. In surveys last year where I looked at religion of the respondent, about half of the self-identified Catholics in some states don't attend church regularly.
I went to parochial school, 1st through 12th grade. My mother had gone to Catholic school as well, and wanted us to have that experience (insert joke here). We crowned Mary every May in a procession somewhat like a May Day parade, except we sang "O Mary we crown thee with blossoms today, Queen of the angels, Queen of the May..." Plaid uniforms. No air-conditioning -- in South Florida, where it is summer 11 months of the year. Attended mass every Sunday, and every day of obligation, until I went to college -- the handful of times we missed church were stressful, out of the ordinary occasions. I still remember an effort to go to church on vacation, when we had to drive 30 minutes to find a Catholic church, and then my father got the time wrong and we arrived after Mass, prompting a furious parental row.
Mascots were the Saints, and in HS the Crusaders -- those happy-go-lucky knights chopping the heads off of infidels (we call them muslims now)! Two years of Latin. Nuns who broke rulers over heads for discipline, priests who told weird stories -- the old guy who taught us about limbo also liked telling us, with great relish, about how if a woman miscarries, you should grab up "the bloody mess" and rush and dump it in a bathtub to baptize it. He also asked all the girls who rode horses to raise their hands (me! i was a horsie girl) and then told the class we were doing it to stimulate ourselves (so this is where sidesaddles came from!). And I remember several other, younger priests, who were loving and inspirational and compassionate, and it pains me to think they are going around tarnished by this "all priests are pedophiles/perverts" sloppiness that Americans like to lapse into. I have no personal stories, from my family or school associates, about sexual abuse. I don't doubt for a second the stories of the thousands of victims; I do think the priesthood can attract people looking for a place to hide, and the hierarchy has criminally aided and abetted these acts. But there are lots of priests who have chosen the sacrifice of a religious life for honorable reasons, and I am saddened by how all have been tarnished.
I was married in a "Free Catholic" ceremony, not in a church, by a former Jesuit who was a spiritual, intellectual man, and left the church to get married.
So. I've got history, and it'll let you know where i'm coming from in future posts.
The Pope thing? I'm still betting on an Italian guy.