...if I stay in the Catholic Church - and particularly in a *conservative* church - to take out w***ers like Mitch Bond (quote below) one at a time.
God knows, there isn't much else, other than a few good friends, keeping me in it at the moment. Far too often, I look up at the pulpit or the sanctuary, feeling utterly detached from the proceedings, and think what a friend once thought about the 39 Articles, "I don't believe a word of this."
But for now, those friends are worth staying for, and I'm not going to beat myself up about it.
Every so often, though, I wonder if there's more to it.
This morning, I noticed that a friend had joined the Cardinal Pell Appreciation Society. I know I shouldn't have gone there - Jack Butler will kindly point this out to me in his oh-so-tactful (appropriately) Antipodean manner - but it was car crash material. I HAD to see just how fulsome and lacy the picture was (very) and I had to see just how offensive the members were (even more so, judging from the wall).
Now we come to how I came to label someone I have never met (and never plan to) a wanker. Unfortunately, his comment was the most recent on the wall:
"HIV is the result of sin, since all corruptability on the part of nature is a result of mankind's fall from grace, Q.E.D. sin. It is neither backward. medieval, primitive, immoral, unscientific, unchristian, nor completely reprehensible to believe that the corruption of matter is the result of original sin."
I read no further.
Unfuckingbelievable. If that utter filth came out of someone's mouth in a sermon, I'd get out of my seat, walk UP to the pulpit and strangle the SOB from behind. Or shove him down the steps headfirst. I trust I don't need to go into why and the countless number of people who have caught HIV through NO FAULT OF THEIR OWN. It's an odd feeling to hate a Catholic as much as I hate a Bible-Belter or the Taliban.
Well, Mitch, I'm sure Cardinal Pell is PROUD to have a fan such as you. Darn proud of your orthodox faith.
I'm far less sure about Jesus. I think you and your ilk might make him consider taking up his cross to beat you over the head with it. When you say horrific, damaging stuff like that, 70x7 doesn't apply.
The irony, of course, is that the vast majority of men in that group are probably practising unsafe gay sex because they're incapable of admitting their homosexuality and are 'just falling into bed with men, oops, didn't mean for that to happen' and are at a much higher risk for HIV infection and passing it on than most of the rest of the population.
I wonder if I stay so someone is in those places - and shamefully, I can hear that line coming out of the mouth of almost anyone who sits in the Social Club on Sunday at 12.30, in their braying attempt at RP - to say to people like Mitch, "How dare you." To say, "What a load of crap." To walk out of sermons. To make people uncomfortable.
And to pray that every single person like Mitch has to face what he so casually, so easily condemns: for him, that he finds himself face to face with someone he cares for who has HIV; perhaps through volunteering, comes across an HIV positive baby or child. For the 'abortion is martyrdom' crowd, that someone they love has to face that decision. For the 'euthanasia is always wrong crowd' - yeah, you guessed it. That they have to face the decision to remove life support or be really close to someone who does, and suffer with them.
Because for those who have hearts that closed, only catastrophic, life-changing suffering is going to crack them wide open.
WHAT am I doing here, amongst people who can believe...THAT? I feel sick just re-reading what he has written and replaying in my head what I've heard in church and from the institution over the years.
More than one of my friends has noted my penchant for balance: I've chosen a church whose unspoken values are diametrically opposed to my own. Whilst orthodoxy is the overlay for most of those who attend the higher masses, it's really about people seeking approval, both from the institution and the secular world, thus lying about who they are and being what's expected of them. There's a sense of people *grasping* for something, an acquisitiveness, indicative of desperation to fill a void no one wants to face.
So why stay? I'm picturing Jack B. across the table from me, ready with the hard questions - so I'll answer him.
Mate, I can't give you a straight answer - I can't say it's this or that. I can tell you that there are people in the Church (and in the church, or I'd have left it years ago) that I love fiercely - people who are my pack, my karass - and I have always been a relationship person. I'll stay in hard places for my peops. I know, I know, it's not doing them any good if it's driving me crazy, but maybe it's about knocking my corners off too.
But having written this - and I think you'll appreciate this, J - I wonder if it's about being a thorn in the side, about being the one who can say, "What a load of crap," who can be angry, who can act out and say what no one else will in that place. No, I won't always do it well, it won't change the institution, and it won't change most of the people -they're still going to be avoiding who they are, thinking that being sweet to the priests and vicious to the laity is the way forward - but maybe I'm still there for a reason I can't yet fathom.
What I - and you - need to trust is that I'll know when to go. I woke up one morning knowing when it was time to leave home and I woke up one morning knowing my last relationship (which you nursed me through, with the occasional smack across the head, for which I am forever grateful) was over.
One day, I'll wake up knowing it's time to leave the church and the Church, because the vast majority aren't my people and I'm beginning to realise more and more, that's not my God. It's coming, I know. It's just not now.
Until then, I'll walk the labyrinth and trust that when I reach the centre, it'll all make sense.