I read an article this morning and was struck pretty emotionally.
is a once over about how traditions continue and why. Of particular note to me was the last section on "the unbelieving clergy
Many years ago (1998 to be precise) I was about to graduate high school. I knew I didn't want to go to college and was looking for a future. I wanted to "help people" somehow, but I didn't know who and I didn't know how. I was devoutly Catholic, fasting twice a week and reading the lives of the Saints. I was aware, but not accepting, of my sexuality and aware of Catholic teaching that a life of celibacy was the only way to salvation for someone who was gay. Unable to accept that I was gay, but more than willing to accept that if I was I needed to be celibate, I took the celibacy demand and coupled it with my lack of direction but desire to help people and determined I had a "calling" to the Priesthood.
Most Catholic boys feel a "calling" at one point or another, but it's generally when we're younger, alter server age, and don't know what "celibacy" REALLY demands--at that age it just means not getting married (which most young boys don't yet want anyways because women would detract from their desire to avoid cooties and play with toys). I was older, however, and knew what it means. I'd even been to the Seminary in San Diego, invited by the Bishop in an effort to recruit younger men to the priesthood and hand chosen with two others by our Priest, Father Bud.
I told no one--a calling was something ordained by God and I wanted to be sure of my "calling" before letting anyone in on it. I wrote to the Pontifical College Josephenium
--if I was going to be a Priest, I was going to do so in the "best" way possible--no half-assed priestly studies for me, I wanted the rigorous, Vatican approved, conservative full-on Catholicism.
I was an assistant Youth Pastor, of sorts, and the Church was paying for me and one other guy I went to High School with to get certified by the Diocese of San Diego to serve in that capacity. Our Youth Pastor, Gilbert (who, I should add, was an amazing person who to this day inspires me), was looking to retire and pass along his job to one of us, or at least move on to something new.
At that point I started reading very heavily into theology. I read the entire Catechism of the Catholic Church as though it were a novel amongst other things, and as many encyclicals as I could--the internet was just beginning to become a resource in this matter and the Vatican's website was slowly uploading translations of them. I quickly went to Humanae Vitae, which I knew to be important in modern times, and read that.
Around this time, our family had a "family meeting". Funds were tight, my older sister was in college and I was (it was assumed), about to go to college as well. We needed to have a hard talk about what we could and could not afford. At that point, I decided to share--I told my family they needn't worry about my college, because I was going to be a Priest. I shared the pamphlet that PCJ had sent me and told them I was "called".
Almost from the very moment I told someone else what I was considering, I began to second guess myself. Was this REALLY what I wanted? Did I REALLY believe this? How could I lead people spiritually if I didn't really believe it? I didn't know what I believed! But...I had told my parents already, so how could I tell them otherwise, especially if I had no other plan AND they were short on money?
The very dilemma that the author hits on in the article linked above began to plague me--how could I back out of the commitment I had now made publicly to my family, and implicitly to my church?
I kept reading and kept finding more things I disagreed with--but because none of them were, it seemed to me, "infallible" doctrines of the church, I could disagree but still believe in the Church, and still continue on to the Priesthood. And then, one day, I read something I couldn't believe. It wasn't anything big, like the trinity, it was in fact a rather small infallible doctrine. I honestly can't even remember what it was--but, there it was. I was caught. I could no longer believe in the Church because the Church had claimed that it was A. infallible and B. that something I knew to be untrue was true.
And yet...I was supposed to be a Priest. I'd told my family.
I feel for people who have not had that moment until it is too late--who have gone further than I had and whose entire lives are dedicated to something they can't believe any longer. I am lucky that I had a friend who pushed me to join the military instead--I had an out. I can only imagine what it must be like for the non-believing Pastor. Like a closeted homosexual in a heterosexual marriage, it must be a life of constant lies and half-truths.
I'm not sure why I even decided to post this now after not posting for months. I think a lot of the emotions that I had chosen to ignore or forget came back--the emotions of being gay in a faith that believes it a sin. The emotion of losing your God and faith when you once believed. The fear of losing your support, the love of friends and family, because they feel you have lied to them. Those are things that are not fun--and yet I went through them all when I was 18 and 19 years old. I didn't feel young then, but I look back now and can't imagine having to go through that again at 31.
I'm glad I don't have to, and I'm comforted by the fact that I have the certainty that my fears were unfounded. I'm lucky enough to have the love and support of family and friends--and now a husband--who will support me no matter who I am or what I believe. I only wish I could say the same for everyone who's gone through similar--
As a side note, having had this conversation before, the loss of faith for someone who comes from a strong faith community is not as different as you might think from coming out is for LGBT people. Both involve a period of recognition and acceptance of who one is, coupled with the fear and realization that the very acceptance that brings you peace of mind may cost you the love of those who had until then given you peace of mind through their support.