Thursday, October 02, 2014

Catholic Guilt

My youngest siblings didn't grow up in the same way that I did. They didn't experience, or at least they don't remember, Mass, Holy Communion, Confession, Priests, Incense...well, you get the picture. My parents were pretty well done with the Catholic Church by the time my brother and sister came along in '78 and '79. So they didn't grow up with the idea of "original sin" being burnt into their subconscious by habit-wearing, prune-faced old ladies and men adorned in meekly-ornamented vestments.

I was thinking about this the other morning while listening to a classical music station on the radio. No need to delve into how my crazy mind works, but suffice to say my thoughts drifted to the Dark Ages and the control the Catholic Church held over the Western World.

At any rate, I was remembering how Catholic guilt was placed upon me at an early age. I didn't have a grasp of the Scriptures, I only knew the basic tenets of the Christian faith, as expressed to me in Sunday School and at Mass. I knew that because of my inherent badness, thanks to Adam and "original sin," I deserved to be punished. But my mere punishment wouldn't appease God at all. No, he had to send his Son to die. So, in effect, I KILLED GOD!

I was reminded of this constantly, through lectures, sermons, Scripture readings and icons. The constant icon in every Catholic Church I'd ever been in was the crucifix. In fact, every Catholic home in which I ate, played or visited had a crucifix proudly displayed somewhere. You couldn't get away from the constant reminder that YOU...YOU KILLED CHRIST!!!

Now, some believe that all Catholics are anti-Semites who firmly hold to the notion that Jews killed Jesus. This is not true. I, for one, knew that I ALONE was the reason for his death. I had the blood of the Savior on my hands.

Talk about guilt.

No wonder I had such a struggle with my conscience on a daily basis. That notion about Catholic guilt is more than just a nun's tale. It's real. I carried the haunting vision of that near naked man, cast in bronze, impaled on a wooden cross always. I couldn't escape it. Whether I was in the classroom at Immaculate Heart of Mary, in my friend's living room or at a Doyle family dinner, I was always sitting in view of the hallowed eyes cast down under the shadow of a thorny crown. And it was ALL MY FAULT!

I'm convinced nowadays that the church has effectively used that ploy to keep the masses under control for ages. It certainly worked on an adolescent boy in Indiana. And history has shown that it worked in the Dark Ages and still today. How many youth around the world carry that same albatross around their neck in the form of a rosary? How many of them walk under the shroud of Catholic guilt everyday, knowing that they aren't good enough, worthy enough or saintly enough?

And is that a good thing?

You be the judge.

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