Is 'bad Catholic' the new Catholic?

New Communities writer Nicole Pandolfo on being Catholic and being a sinner. But aren't we all? Photo: Associated Press

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 24, 2013 — By dogma standards, I am a terrible Catholic. I believe in reproductive rights, legal abortion, gay marriage, and look forward to women in the priesthood. I have lived in sin for going on seven years. My mother raised me as a single parent, and in my writing both for the stage and page I’ve exploited my past sexual experiences for artistic purposes.  

I am, no doubt, at the top of the papal naughty list. But what would Jesus say? While I’m no saint, I’m certainly not the worst of the sinners. I try to be kind and generous to others, give to the poor, be accepting of my fellowman, fight for what I believe to be good, and generally do unto others as I would have done unto me, which explains the progressive viewpoints I listed above. If Jesus could speak for himself, he might just say us “Bad Catholics,” are doing something right.

I grew up in a small town in New Jersey made up of mostly Irish and Italian Roman Catholics - Methodists seemed exotic, and I didn’t meet a Jew until I moved to the city for college. Thus, while my experience was limited, I did learn to love Catholicism; it’s a gorgeous religion premised in charity and taking care of one another. Nothing gives me a sense of peace like being in a dimly lit cathedral with burning frankincense.  

Sure, all those years of CCD taught me to obsess over guilty feelings, but it also taught me to love thy neighbor and help those many less fortunate than myself in any way I could. With an understanding of Catholicism’s kind foundation, it’s truly a disgust to see its subjugation by power hungry patriarchs. The powers that be prefer a thousand zealots to a billion reasonable practitioners. I could be wrong, but I don’t think Jesus would be pleased. If Pope Benedict XVI was perfectly fine further isolating modernist Catholics, I pray that whoever is installed as the new pope will feel the exact opposite.  

It’s not easy being religious in a city like New York, where ashes on my forehead at lent elicits the type of gawking one would expect if I had excrement smeared across my face. Being religious is decidedly not cool, and complicate that with philosophical discrepancies between yourself and your religion’s establishment, and that makes for one extra-guilty Catholic.

I happen to live in close vicinity to a church where the priest in charge shares many of my unorthodox views, to the dismay of some in his congregation. Attending mass in this priest’s congregation is the first time that I truly felt I fit in both in regards to my spiritual self and my political self. While you won’t see two men getting married in that church, you certainly won’t hear a lecture about why two men in love is an abomination.

You also won’t hear lengthy homilies about how we should crusade against a woman’s right to choose like you would in my hometown. Maybe if abortion isn’t right for you, or even Catholics in general, that doesn’t mean it’s not right for the rest of the populace that lives within the same national boundaries as you do.

As if it weren’t enough to struggle with faith and doubt within myself, it’s a daily struggle within my environment. Visitors to my apartment see several art pieces relating to Our Lady of Guadalupe and a crucifix nailed firmly above my bed. Telling a hipster you believe in Jesus, Mary, and Joseph is like telling them you don’t believe in evolution … but the thing is, you do. I do. We do. There are many of us out there, perhaps we’re even a majority, and if the Catholic Church wants to keep us around, then it needs to acknowledge we exist. And I do have faith that they will. But for now, when someone asks, “What religion are you?” I’ll continue on with the same explanation as always: “I’m a Catholic, but the ‘Nuns on the bus’ kind.”

 


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Nicole Pandolfo

Nicole Pandolfo is writer and actress who lives and works in New York City. 

This Bad Catholic has had publications of several of her works and has had plays produced throughout New York City and the United States as well as in Sydney, Melbourne, London, Singapore, and Toronto.

 She is from New Jersey and does not understand anti-Jersey sentiments.  She thinks meeting Cher would be the tops.  

 

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