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  • Lance Mannion
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Wow... I think I need to reread it to fully digest it but I appreciate your effort here and wanted you to know that.

(I'm a lapsed RC too, although my reasons are somewhat different. Starting to not believe came from seeing contradictions in what they were teaching me and what I was learning from science and literature.)


I was raised Catholic and left the Church when I was eighteen, not from high-minded ideals but because when I was in college I felt I had better things to do on Sunday morning. I didn't hold any particular animosity toward the Church at the time; in fact, I thought it was moving the right way after Vatican II.

I have now reached the stage of active loathing toward the institution. Its absolutism in the face of common sense disturbs me. Its hiding of criminal behavior disgusts me. Its disdain for women and their health offends me. And finally, its insistence on inserting itself into governmental affairs in a country which has as one of its founding principles a separation between church and state appalls me.

Then there's this. In Poland the Church wants to criminalize in-vitro fertilization. Why? Abortion, of course.

Susie from Philly

Bravo. There were a lot of good things about my Catholic education, but as an adult, there are too many things I just can't swallow - and I think you listed them all.

Kathleen Maher

It's gotta be awful when you turn to authorities for guidance and they lie to you. Worse, if those same authorities must oversee your ritual act of devotion, no matter what you believe. Everyone's entitled to his or her belief or disbelief. Free to practice a religion or not practice it.
But if a religious institution has repeatedly hurt, lied, and dismissed you; if it's utterly destroyed countless lives, finding a way to respect someone who chooses not to worry about such matters, can present you with a huge spiritual challenge--just to let someone else belong to a faith that's fomented hatred and violence requires great patience and tolerance.
So if you are patient and tolerant and respectful of others' choices, congratulate yourself. And tell the obedient believers to be grateful for your big heart. Or else try asking nicely. Where's the gratitude?
(It's always backfired terribly when I've asked. But, you know, people don't really like me much.)

Ken Muldrew

A very nice piece of writing, Lance. If I might make a small nitpick, when you write, "But they gave up their vocations, and so who was left? Old men, saints, and those who found a life of celibacy and secrecy congenial.", you are being awfully naive (willfully so?). Bureaucracy just doesn't work that way (and if the Catholic Church is catholic about anything, it is bureaucracy). Plenty of the miscreants were left; they just had the leverage and asskissing ability to skate through.

And it goes without saying that the American problems were neither new nor were they even remotely as corrupt as, for example, the renaissance Popes and their minions. But you know all that. The personal is always more painful, and the Church's betrayal toward your son is about as personal as it can get.

The Church derives its power because people need to have hope when observation and rational analysis provide nothing but despair. When it turns its back on people who are in such a dire situation, it lays waste to the roots that give it life. When reminded that the tree will die if the roots are trampled, the Priests call out, "Who cares, so long as there are acorns for us to feed upon".

But the Fates of human society - bureaucratic inertia - make it nearly impossible to change. Impossible to imitate, too, because the history - the tradition - is what allows people to find comfort in the Church when they should be without hope, by any reasonable measure. So, no Chinese menu, at least not for the rank and file. It's different for those with power, which is why some individuals seek power with such unbridled ambition. And that's really the point of a bureaucracy, to trap people in the squirrel-cage of career advancement. "All in the game", as Omar Little would have said (despite being outside of the game himself).

The least of our Brethren just aren't trying hard enough.


I find myself wanting to go to my local San Francisco cathedral every Sunday, after reading yet one more horrifying example of the perfidy of the Catholic Church, carryig a sign stating, "Keep your noses out of my sex life and your dicks out out of our children, you fucking monsters," but I haven't done so yet. I think it may soon be necessary, however. The institution at this late moment in its history has become seriously evil and watching it in silence has become impossible.


Hi Lance,

Thanks for this post and more generally, this blog. I've been reading it regularly for a while now, and always enjoy it. As for this post, my feelings exactly, and sorry for what you went through with your son.

It occurs to me that maybe the Church harps on abortion so much is because it's one of the only tools they have left with which they can exert leverage (also gay marriage, but who knows how much longer that will last). Other areas that the Church used to weigh in on, people simply don't listen to them anymore.

Ed McGaa, Eagle Man

(Lance - I wrote a personal E-Mail earlier and did not see that we could have replied directly to a commentary).
How revealing, very insightful with Truth. The poor, ignorant, remaining 'Devouts'. I avoid my CC college reunions mainly because of those 'Devouts' who must always -'out-Catholic' one another. "Father said mass at our house"- types. Pro-Life stickers, bigotry & Republican Hate. I am a minority (enrolled tribal Sioux) and our Spiritual stance on Gays is; 'that's how Creator 'made em!'. All Creation you do not ridicule- you respect. Fairly simple, uncomplicated (by Man) philosophy. J. Falwell is now learning that in the Beyond (Gay folks up there are probably not giving him a friendly reception). The Jesuits 'owned' our Sioux reservations but now-nevermore. Our Mother Earth respecting Spirituality (not a man contolled, man-spawned Religion/Spirituality) is sweeping our reservations. We have had it with the white man's dishonest, disrespectful, scheming, manipulating, hypocritical organized, and controlling Religions. So refreshing that a White Man (you) can expose the major culprit so accurately.

Tim McGovern

Thanks Lance, much love for the post.

I was raised Lutheran, and have nothing but love for them, atheist though I may be, so I don't have quite the same personal loathing for organized religion. But I have read Susan Jacoby's Freethinkers, on the advice of one Kurt Vonnegut Jr., so I totally agree with all of your post. My father, who was raised Catholic, and had me baptised that way, still shuts out at least part of what you say, but I will show him this and hope something clicks.

On a more personal level when it comes to actual dealings with the Catholic Church, I come from a very Catholic Irish-Italian neighborhood in a suburb of Philadelphia, and I know exactly what you said about the priest being one of the power hungry types. I'm part of the election board in my ward (6-2), and, until 2008, our polling place was at the local Catholic church/school.

That is, until the new priest came in, and yelled so much about us having the gall to put a few more signs for Obama up in front than McCain that we had to move the spot (after the elections, for the 09 primaries) to a BAPTIST church.

Yes. And their pastor has been nothing but wonderful to us. With much better lighting and cleaner bathrooms, as well. Our candidate for council was also a baptist minister, and, though he lost, is still a kind, caring guy.

Did I mention that this same new priest has a few dozen crosses up on the church's front lawn, signifying, as the sign says, "each cross represents 1 million dead babies - err, abortions since Roe v Wade"? Well, there ya go.

I dunno if you're a fan of standup comedy Lance, but this post reminded me of Eddie Izzard's (the transvestite British dude, he was on that show with Minnie Driver on FX) bit about the Church of England, and how he couldn't get any good material out of it on account that there was no real oppression. I know it's somewhere in this 30 min special, so here's the youtube link for the 1st bit:


Substitute "Iran" for "Catholic Church" and people would be calling for Obama's head. Why is this acceptable to so many people?

Susie from Philly

Tim, sounds like you live in Havertown. :>

I do have some compassion for the older nuns and priests because so many of them were "given" to the Church by their parents. It was very common in those days that the oldest boy and girl were expected to enter religious orders, and I expect the repressed rage had something to do with some of the really crazy behavior.


Sinead O'Connor was vilified for ripping up a photo of the Pope on Saturday Night Live, and the priests' abuse continued. When the shit finally hit the fan in Boston, Cardinal Law was ousted, only to be promoted to Rome. Heckuva job, Bernie!


I'll totally get flamed for this, but if you substitute the word "Catholic" with "Muslim" or "Jewish" this article would be considered politically incorrect. Somehow it's ok to assume all Catholics' motives and judge them for it, but other religions are hands off.

Don't get me wrong, I completely disagree with the hierarchy of the Catholic Church on their recent attempts at blurring the line between Church and State. I think the leaders of the Church and politicians that wait for their permission are in the wrong. But spreading this kind of hatred for people of a particular religion isn't very liberal or progressive.

Religious intolerance is just as detrimental to our society as religious interference in government. You're not doing any favors to the world by telling Catholics what they believe.

I had a similar experience as yours of intense childhood piety. It reminds me of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man as well, telling the story about taking your faith more seriously than your parents even realize, before growing aware of the hypocrisy. Your anger is truly just, and if you no longer believe, you don't believe.

However, I keep practicing, despite doubt, anger, and frequent disgust, because I don't want those who

    " of a smaller, purer church. A church full of the unquestioningly obedient."
to win. The Church founded by Jesus is better than the men who currently misrule it.


katie, I'm late to the party, but I don't see anything here against rank-and-file Catholics, only the hierarchy, which has been proven in various courts of law to be corrupt.

Your argument is specious.

Carrying on, I, too, grew up Lutheran, because my maternal granfather ran screaming from the Catholic church as soon as he left home at 16, when he lied about his age to fight in WWI.

My dad's childhood tenure in Catholic schools made him such a virulent atheist that I wasn't baptized till I was 7.

As far as I know, his aversion was formed more by ruler-wielding nuns than pervy priests.

Whatever, I'm grateful that I was able to go back to my church after 30 years, and we're still family.

The conservatives in my church are pissed off, but the decision to accept partnered gay clergy wasn't handed down from on high, it was voted on by clergy and trusted laymen.

The main Krazy Kristian steeplejacking organization mostly leaves us alone, for some reason.

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