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Why I decided to leave the Catholic Church this election year

Why the Catholic Church has lost another follower by involving itself in politics and pushing its wrongheaded policy against gay marriage.

///Note: I wrote this in letter form to my choir and some friends earlier this year, but wasn’t really ready to share it with the world until now. As the election looms, I think it too important to ignore the fact that the Catholic Church has no business interfering in the political process./// 

After months of soul-searching, I recently decided to leave the Catholic Church, perhaps forever, but at least for a time.  I sat through Mass not long ago, and realized that I have reached my threshold, the point at which I cannot, in good conscience, continue to call myself “Catholic.”

The Church has done, and continues to do, untold good works in the world – it educates, heals, feeds, comforts, befriends and loves. But it has historically also perpetrated great harm, a legacy replayed, unfortunately, by men like Archbishop Nienstedt, who attempt to rule it with absolute power, and corrupt it into something resembling a Soviet oligarchy, forcefully imposing hateful, retrograde policies and practices and sending out spies into parishes to ensure they are not opposed.  Meanwhile, the atmosphere in the “house of God” here in Minnesota is a noxious blend of fear and loathing — priests and church staff fear to speak up for the sake of their livelihood, and parishioners become evermore disaffected and hopeless.

Is this a spiritual home? Is this where God lives?  Our Archdiocese has become to me the antithesis of a “Christian” institution, ignoring abuse, promulgating exclusion, enforcing bigotry and preaching hatred in the guise of love.  I can no longer sit in complicit silence while the local Archdiocese feeds its people a toxic gruel of fear and hypocrisy, inappropriately (and, frankly, illegally) participating in the political push of a wrongheaded, amoral policy – one I believe would be far more damaging to society than a solemn commitment between same-sex partners to love one-another, raise a family, volunteer in schools, make their communities safer for their children, etc., etc., could ever be.

It is true the Catholic Church is an archaic and arcane institution that changes at a glacial pace, if at all. That has always been the “given” for me, an assumption I could live with as long as any movement it made was forward — even sideways was tolerable to a point.  But lumbering backwards toward a darker past is something I cannot abide.  I believe at some point, sooner rather than later, this time will be seen as a dark stain on the Church, a time when human rights hung in the balance, and the Church, especially here in Minnesota, stood on the wrong side of the argument.

Leaving has been hard – and strangely freeing – but it isn’t really courageous. Other than no longer being part of a community I care deeply about, it won’t have a huge impact on my life.  Courage comes when doing something you believe in comes at a potential or inevitable high price. Many I know have the courage to stay on and workhard to change the Church from within, to make it a place Christ would feel welcome. That’s a long, courageous road, and I salute them. 

Moral courage is even more difficult. It places a person at great risk when standing up for a conviction or belief. I am discouraged and saddened that we’re not seeing moral courage from more priests we know disagree with the Archbishop, and watch them instead stand by silently – or speak in esoteric metaphor or outright hypocrisy. Meanwhile, lone voices in the dark — gutsy, solitary priests — are punished and threatened with the loss of their livelihood and their life’s work.

Because the Church is not a democracy, and I am the impatient child of one, I don’t have the admirable endurance it would take to potentially change it from the inside. And so I will expend my energies lending support to those who are fighting its stance on gay marriage in the halls of the Capitol.

As I mentioned, the Church has done and is doing enormous good in the world on an institutional and everyday level.  It is, in fact, the good, everyday people of the Catholic Church who are its best hope, for God is in the details, not in the dictates of the few men – some sorely misguided – in power.  And someday, through these quiet, strong people, I hope to see the power structure re-adopt the idea that God lives in the community we create and share, the welcome and acceptance we provide to all — regardless of their differences or the way they choose to live or love.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Janie October 16, 2012 at 07:41 PM
Molly, it takes courage to stand up and voice your opinion so beautifully. I know your heart aches but it sounds like the change is good for your soul! Some Lutheran congregations are also campaigning (illegally) on this topic, but the next generation will not be so divided. Trust Him and Bless you!
Molly Kelash October 16, 2012 at 07:50 PM
Thank you Janie. I only wish Christians were more Christlike sometimes!
Molly Kelash October 16, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Sadly, what God really means is often forgotten by many organized religions and fervent religious leaders....I'd bet that when the spirit moves you, whether you believe in God or not, you'll stand up and work for what you believe in in small or large ways, James!.
Hazel Vargas October 17, 2012 at 02:04 PM
I was born into a family steeped in the Catholic tradition, until I was born again with the realization that Good is my God, not the gods of any organized religion. I have neither guilt feelings about that nor fear that I will be ostracized.
Molly Kelash October 17, 2012 at 03:20 PM
A guilt-free God...something good Catholics have never, ever experienced. So nice you are free of that awful feeling.
AmberG October 18, 2012 at 03:33 PM
Loved your post Molly. Thank you so much for sharing your story. You are courageous and giving hope to people who may feel like they have no other options. And thank you Hazel. So perfectly put, "Good is my God". I love that. I feel that way too.
Molly Kelash October 18, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Thanks, Amber. I really appreciate you reading.
Eric Olson October 19, 2012 at 12:31 AM
My parish recently instituted a "marriage prayer" at the end of Mass. I don't participate. I don't like it at all. It is a blatant attempt to inject politics into the Mass. Terrible. The only way I am able to deal with (rationalize) my catholic church these days is to remind myself that the church is a human institution managing a divine experience.
Molly Kelash October 19, 2012 at 02:53 AM
I'm sorry, Eric. It's awful to choke that back. Obviously i know how you feel. As Catholics, we're pretty good at "cherry-picking" -- choosing what we like and ignoring the rest so we can get to the divine part of the equation. Good luck with everything.
Eric Olson October 19, 2012 at 03:04 AM
Thanks, Molly. Like everything, I'm a work in progress.
Arthur Christopher Schaper October 22, 2012 at 06:14 PM
The Gospel in its fullness: In Christ -- all of your sins are forgiven -- past and present and future. Any church building which insists on keeping Christ on the Cross is no longer preaching the True Gospel, as Jesus now sits at the right hand of the Father forever justifying those who believe on Him (John 6: 29) It is not the "little "C" church that does good, but God who is good in sending His Son to die for us and to live through Us! Good for you Molly -- Keep seeing Jesus and His Finished Work in your life, and all will be well with you!
Lau Griffen October 30, 2012 at 05:49 AM
"vote yes' for the Marriage Amend. is truly misunderstood. The Marriage Amend. and Freedom of Religion are connected and are a really big deal! It's not about the Church getting involved in politics, its about: * government intrusion on religious freedom, it’s a violation of our rights. It's real and its happening and I have court cases in the U.S. to prove it. *Redefining marriage has MANY unintended consequences that are disturbing. See video below on what's happening in Canada. Google Massachusetts for the fruits of Gay marriage passing there. It's a parent's nightmare! People doing whatever they want in the privacy of their own bedroom is one thing, but by legalizing it as same sex marriage, it normalizes it and school curriculum are altered, forcing all students, starting at a young age to be taught this viewpoint, while the parents have no say in the matter. This is what has happened in Canada and Massachusetts, and it's not right. Parents are first and foremost the teachers of their children. Parents have had to go to court in Canada and Massachusetts to try to fight for their primary right, which should be theirs to begin with. They were not allowed to opt their children out of the lesson or even to be told when the lessons were coming up on the calendar. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5RiJIwfkMb0&feature=share&list=PLQBZEEIpjPoNqlKOvGgPFVY5Gv_IrDFo7 http://www.minnesotaformarriage.com/2012/10/consequences-if-marriage-is-redefined-a-canada-perspective/
Lau Griffen October 30, 2012 at 06:12 AM
That's offensive, Molly, when you speak for so called "good Catholics". Were you really Catholic at one time? I've never met a Catholic who left the Catholic Church because of what she teaches, they've left because what they THOUGHT she teaches. I'm truly sorry if you had a dissenting priest who didn't teach the truth. And frankly, you should take your own advice "wishing more Christians were more Christlike". Spitting on us who love and cherish God's church, is hardly christ-like. Anyway, we "good Catholics" are not about guilt, it's about a love-affair we have with God and wanting to do something because of that love. Furthermore, there's one God in the Catholic Church; although people across all organized religions have a tendency to worship false gods,...right? Look no further...it's called relativism. Many worship themselves, materials, money, and so on. God gives me my freedom- many folks who are commenting on the site look for Gov't for their freedoms and happiness. Try living in a socialist country.....it's not all glory. I did at one point. I love the American Freedom but what puzzles me is why one would vote for a party that limits freedom--DFL. Read their platform....it's all about big gov't...more regulatons, more taxes, less religion.....it's a recipe to implode our country. And look at their attack on Christianity. They are going after the largest institution because it stands in the way of their agenda to control the sheep. That's socialism!
Keith Best October 30, 2012 at 02:21 PM
Marriage is between a man and a woman.
Molly Kelash October 30, 2012 at 03:17 PM
Hi Lau: I am glad to have some dissenters on my post -- a real discussion! It is definitely a polarizing subject and not really worth arguing if someone is vehemently wedded to one side or another. I appreciate you giving me a reasoned out argument as to why you are for the amendment (rather than attacking me as a person, as you did earlier), but sadly, we are so fundamentally opposed in our beliefs about gay marriage and its "rightness" or "wrongness," that the fear tactics you have been fed by the pro-amendment side have absolutely no effect on me. I simply believe gay marriage is a good thing as much as you believe it is not. I will not get into personal attacks as you have done -- God is love and cannot be "false" if that is true. Guess I never really was Catholic after all if believing that is wrong. But one thing I will take issue with, if only for clarification is that allowing gays to be married in the eyes of the government will in NO way infringe on the rights of religious institutions to deny them a ceremony in their houses of worship. Legal marriage will only give them the same legal rights as any other married couple, strengthening our communities and society as a whole. It has nothing to do with religion. I guess I don't really understand the fear about this. Is it that people think being gay is a choice and that by legalizing gay marriage it will mean more people will choose it? Why? Because it's so great to be gay in this country? In the world in general?
Molly Kelash October 30, 2012 at 03:33 PM
It wasn't always -- that is a relatively new construct if you look at history. Until two centuries ago, according to Harvard historian Nancy Cott, "monogomous households were a tiny, tiny portion" of the world population, found in "just Western Europe and little settlements in North America." Polygamy was the rule until then. As for it being "God's will, the church didn't elevate marriage to a holy sacrament until 1215 as its power and influence grew, and it was only in the 16th century that it decreed that weddings be performed in public, by a priest and in front of witnesses.
Erin H October 30, 2012 at 03:53 PM
You say this amendment is about "goverment intrusion on religious freedom, it’s a violation of our rights" yet you seem to have no concern about the rights of others. This amendment pushes your religious beliefs onto me, which is a violation of MY rights. This amendment violates the rights of others. Marriage is NOT about religion. Plenty of people get married without any church involvement. Marriage is a legal contract between 2 people - a LEGAL process that some churches facilitate. Your information is misleading and bigoted. It's unfortunate that you took this article about a woman's personal experience and how she handled it, and turned it into something it's not.
James Sanna (Editor) October 30, 2012 at 04:08 PM
@Jody Siefert. Patch's terms of service ban comments that are defamatory (http://southwestminneapolis.patch.com/terms). If you want to re-state your comment with the personal attack removed, please do so.
jody siefert October 30, 2012 at 04:26 PM
Nicely said, Lau. Molly, please listen to Relevant Radio 1330 AM. It'll help you better understand the Church's teachings. The comment made about a few men having power in the Church, blah, blah , is old and is divisive once again. The Church liberated women because Jesus liberated women. It's the Church that views women as equals with men, just differing roles. Frankly, they couldn't do their job without us or Christ. Most women don't want priestly roles and Jesus never instituted women as priests. Should He be more Christ-like? History has proven over and over again that the Church protects/respects women because we are highly intelligent, unique individuals; we compliment men as they compliment us. Why the gender war? We bring gifts to the table that men don't bring. Most denominations don't have female pastors? Why then are you so against the Church on this issue? If you want oppression of women, stay on the DFL path. I'm so offended by the recent ad where women have been minimized to a reproductive organ. Lose your virginity and vote for Obama and now you're a woman? Creepy and frightening. Pres.Obama/DFL is NOT for women! I've worked too hard to see my real feminist efforts be minimized to my reproductive organs. Wake-up women- don't be sheep. Don't follow a party that puts us all in one camp; we are unique and intelligent individuals. http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/catholic-analyst-reacts-to-obama-campaigns-new-anti-woman-ad/
Lau Griffen October 30, 2012 at 04:46 PM
Molly, The pro-amendment stance is not fear mongering but fact. Why can you not see the truth before you? It's amazing when something you can't defend with facts, is brushed off with "fear mongering". The pot calling the kettle black, indeed. You've been bashing Catholics from day one on this blog...can you not see this? This is the problem with trying to have a discussion when it's only a personal attack when an opinion doesn't agree with yours. Right? Your polygamy comments are so scewd and misunderstood. Look at some teachings of Judiasm as that's where Christianity is deeply rooted. Polygamy is practiced in other countries and look at the oppression women have. If redefining marriage takes place in MN, the polygamists will be seeking the same equality, in time. Woman's worth will be belittled to nothing but a sexual being. WOMEN...wake-up...don't fall into supporting something that will slip into so much more than you bargained for...... AND this is not fear mongering....do your research and look at facts, not someone's writings who cherry pick history for their own ideology.
Erin H October 30, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Marriage is NOT about religion. Plenty of people get married without any church involvement. Marriage is a legal contract between 2 people - a LEGAL process that is sometimes facilitated by someone in a church.
Molly Kelash October 30, 2012 at 05:25 PM
Lau and Jody: I believe we are mixing up two different things here...which was the point of my blog post in the beginning. Religion and politics -- two separate things. Church and state -- two separate things. As for Judaism and the Old Testament, to which I am sure are referring, did it escape notice that multiple wives was the rule of the day? My bad for bringing that specter into this "discussion," I suppose, since gay marriage and polygamy have absolutely NOTHING to do with one another. I only brought it up to show that marriage as defined as between "one man and one woman" is a very new thing, and definitely NOT a part of the Judeo-Christian tradition until only a few centuries ago. That being said, government made the right choice to ban polygamy in the interest of advancing society, just as it will be advancing society by allowing gay people who love and are committed to one-another to marry. Doesn't that kind of love --real, supportive, positive love -- go beyond the physical and become part of the Universal, or Spiritual? Yes, carnal lust is one thing, but why would people want to get married if it was purely about lust? Isn't that kind of commitment bringing us closer to the God of love?
Molly Kelash October 30, 2012 at 05:26 PM
Also, not sure where you learned that a) that women don't want priestly roles, or b) Jesus never instituted women as priests (he didn't institute priests..again, man-made construct, relatively historically new, etc.), or c) that women in the church have "equal" but separate roles and that's a good thing...hmm, where have I heard that "equal but separate" argument before...?
Molly Kelash October 30, 2012 at 05:34 PM
Are women really a part of the power structure of the church? Really? The Catholic Church's policies and structure have NOTHING whatsoever to do with Jesus teachings. Nothing. It was built to preserve the political and financial power of the church, not "empower" anyone but those who run it. Sorry, but history does not lie.
Eric Olson October 30, 2012 at 09:16 PM
Isn't it a form of relativism when my Minnesota church leaders devote so much energy and money on one issue that affects relatively few people, and chooses instead to sit on its hands for an issue like, uh, well, feeding the hungry? Seems like the church is picking and choosing which issues it will emphasize.
Lau Griffen October 31, 2012 at 04:43 PM
Eric, That's inaccurate. If interested, It's public data on how much the Church gives to the poor. It's the largest contributor to national /international causes to help the children, women and the poor. 2/3 of our money comes in and goes out...all accounted for. I've seen many other churches where pastors have become wealthy. Our priests take a vow to poverty; they own nothing but the ring on their finger, received during ordination. This Marriage Amen. is absolutely in line with its stance.....if redefinition becomes the law of the land, forced on us by gov't, then women and children will suffer. Long-term thinkers understand this. Thousands of amendments are introduced in local governments every year and the Church refuses to give their input(like Voter ID), because it has nothing to do with protecting the future, our children. The Church WILL comment when Gov't begins meddling in our freedoms of Religion. If redefinition prevails, the Church will be the hatemongers, the bigots for not marrying same sex couples, eventually losing tax-exempt status for not recognizing state laws. Persecution just rises, intolerance exacerbates. It's not fear mongering. It's happening! Know the constitution and why we have it. History is being stripped from our students; so Americans are not aware of gov't intrusion and where it leads. Loss of Freedom. REMEMBER: Freedom of Religion was to protect churches from government, not the government from the Churches!
Lau Griffen October 31, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Molly, your slant on the church is so incredibly bigoted against men that it seems that any fact raised, you'll dispute. With the liberal talking points raised in your blog, you clearly were never catholic. THe Church is about power and money? Perhaps you'll be thanking the Church someday, God forbid, if you find yourself seeking protection from oppression at the hands of the gov't. Governments have slaughtered millions of their own people and yet the Church is evil? A political party is not a religion...it should never be trusted. You know what you get with the Catholic Church....we don't change. Gov't can change in a heartbeat....why do people trust gov't over the longest surviving istitution, Catholic Church, that has done far more in helping humanity than govt? Molly, nobody anguishes over leaving the Church, then spews so much hatred, You're a wolf in sheep's clothing. I commend your spirit to the Lord and I wash my hands of this conversation. The good thing about "free will" is that you are free to find a church that is more in-line with your ideology. Episcopalian would be a good start. God bless you.
Molly Kelash October 31, 2012 at 08:37 PM
It's a shame that you are unable to discuss the ideas around this issue without spewing hatred at me, Lau. Not once did I attack you as a person, but obviously you come from a deep place of fear if lashing out so nastily with an ad hominem attack is your only recourse. And perhaps you are right - Episcopalians may be more accepting of "bigots" like myself who actually believe that gay people should have the same rights as everyone else. Sadly, I think the discussion has degraded to the point where it no longer makes sense to hold it any longer. Thank you all...and go out and vote!
John M. Shehan December 17, 2012 at 09:58 PM
Thirty-three years ago, I thought about being Catholic, and after some soul-searching decided that I just couldn't do it. Some time went by, and at some point I realized that I really wasn't a good Protestatn. There was too much I beleived that I shared with Catholics, so I gave it a try once again at the turn of the century. This time I followed through. I "buried" the issues I had with Catholicism back in '79 and simply accepted what the Church taught for the most part/ And then the sexual molestation incidents began floating to the surface. The bishop of my diocese had served as a priest in an ealier day at two parishes my great-grandmother had attended many decades ago. He was implicated by three men who attended these parishes as kids, for being sexually molested. All of this within six months of joining the Church. But it goes a lot deeper than that. After reading Garry Wills' "Papal Sin", where much of the intellectual dishonesty of Catholicism is exposed, I once again relized why I had balked at becoming Catholic 33 years ago. I would rather be a catholic (spelled with a little "c") in a liturgical Protestant sect or an Orthodox, than remain with Rome.
Barb April 23, 2013 at 09:04 PM
Molly, I am now where you were in the Fall. I am searching for a direction away from the "C" Catholic church. I am very involved from Eucharistic Minister, Lector / Commentator, Bible study, to former Catechist. I feel as though I am getting a divorce and am very sad to say that I am leaving the church. However, I feel that I can no longer financially nor emotionally support a church that limits and stifles growth and acceptance. If the Catholic church does not allow women to be leaders than how are we to expect the world to follow through with equal treatment, rights and pay for women? God created us all and we are created in his own image.Though we only see 2 sets of physical attributes- male and female and I fail to comprehend the fact that 2 people of the same sex want to live their lives committed to each other for a lifetime- I chalk that up to the fact that I am not God, nor gay and it is not for me to understand- yet it is not my place to judge or deny them the right to have their relationships blessed in the church and invite God into their lives. But, where do I go from here? I truly believe that "where there are two or more gathered in His name..." Where do I go?

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