Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Catholicism, and My Embarrassing Connection to It

I grew up Catholic.  My father was born into a Catholic family, and my mother converted to Catholicism so that she and my father could get married in a Catholic church.  My three oldest siblings attended Catholic schools for years (they graduated from public schools), and each of us (there are 8) spent some time in some sort of religious class, either after school or during the summer.  I even remember making macaroni art on paper plates (so take that, Kyle... Jews aren't the only ones who emote artistically with pasta!).

As a Catholic child, I went to church most Sundays.  I faintly remember and have heard stories of the whole family piling into the station wagon and going to church Sundays, but that kind of fell apart.  By the time I was 6 or 7 we were Good Catholics, helping create the overflow crowds in church on Easter and Christmas as a family.   Other than those two Sundays, Dad would declare "you kids need to go to church today", although he would only go infrequently.  I also remember going to the church on Sunday morning with a couple of older siblings and not going in - just hanging out in the parking lot until the masses were let go, then we would head home.  Mom and Dad must not have been fooled, because they became less insistent on our going over time.

All 8 kids went through First Communion, and the religious instruction that preceded. it.  I recall coming up with some bogus "sins" ("I fibbed to my mother", etc) when in Confession, and the yucky wafer that we had to eat for communion.  It was disgusting (and that was even without considering that I was being a cannibal by accepting it), and would paste itself onto the roof of my mouth, guaranteeing that I would be tasting it for the next half hour.  I believe my 6 oldest siblings made it through Confirmation, but my closest brother (2 years older than me - I am the youngest) and I never took that step.

Because I never was Confirmed, I guess I was never truly a member of the Catholic church.  As I understand the ritual, Confirmation is where a young adult swears fealty to Jesus and the Church.  Until Confirmed, young folks are simply attending with their family - they need to take that final step as an adult (or at least not as an infant - Confirmation seems to be around the ages of 13-14).  It seems to me that 13-14 is a bit young for somebody to be committing to something for life.  Shoot - the Wikipedia article in the above link notes that some consider the age for Confirmation to be as low as 7.  (I guess the priests wanted to ensure they only raped true Catholic alter boys...)

I really had nothing to say about any of the above.  Kids very rarely have any say about their religious upbringing.  Even so, as shown above I identify myself as having been raised a Catholic.  I have never taken the steps some folks have taken to distance themselves from the religion they grew up in, such as unbaptisms or decertification of their baptism.  I am torn about those actions.  Since I have done nothing as an adult to imply that I belong to the Catholic church, taking such an action would essentially give credence to the idea that my baptism and first communion actually mean something to me now - which they don't.  On the other hand, the symbolism of actively breaking away can't be discounted.

I will not bother with the decertification/unbaptism.  I may still write the diocese where my parents had me baptized to request they remove all records of my belonging to the church.  Since I had no decision in that membership, it is not unreasonable to correct the error my parents made.  But I am not sure.

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