I have an uneasy relationship with Catholicism. I have been Catholic all my life, and I always will be. I’ll never agree with everything the Church says, but they got me very, very early, and I don’t suppose I’ll ever be anything else.
Mind you, I have always had some serious issues with the Church. I can’t stand with them on birth control or abortion, even on womens’ rights (The late Pope was notoriously ‘Polish’ when it came to womens’ issues), but my essential being is Catholic. I believe in one God, the father, the giver of life.
I don’t believe it is the only way to God. I don’t believe I’m 100% right, but I do believe there’s one God looking after me. And for all my complaints, he’s doing a bang-up job of it. I believe in God completely. I don’t even seem to question it, although I once did. I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, Our Lord, after all.
I even believe that God is forgiveness, so I believe that Jim Morrison, John Lennon and Philip Lynott are living it up in Heaven, not Hell.
So some of you religion experts would probably say I’m not really very Catholic at all, given that I’m not entirely opposed to abortion (I believe utterly that it should be at best a last resort, but I’ll never ever condemn a woman for making that choice) and that I’m a rock and roll hellion.
I’m also irreverent a lot of the time. I make jokes, I like Saved! and Dogma. As with everything in my life, I take the mickey out of affection, not hatred. I’m of the opinion that God DOES have a sense of humour, and that He knows that I love him.
Because you see, I do. Every single day of the year I’m thankful for what He’s given me. I try to be a good person, whether that always runs in line with what the Church believes or not. I try to be a good person, whether I succeed or not. I may not ‘talk’ to God all the time. I may not always seem to be in line with the Church- rock and roll was never a very religious profession after all- but I am thankful every single moment of every day.
Some days I think I’m so lucky that someone must be watching out for me. I don’t know if it’s God, or if I’ve got someone else up there looking out for me. I don’t know what my destiny is, but I also know that I believe in God and that I love him. I’m not openly religious in the way ‘Jesus Freaks’ or ‘Bible Bashers’ might be, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s the one truly non-negotiable thing in my life. I’ll be talked out of my love for Jim Morrison before I renounce God.
See, I don’t talk about it all the time. I don’t proclaim my faith from the rooftops at every given opportunity, but I don’t think that makes it any less real. You don’t have to tell me that God gave me everything I have, everything that I am- I already know.
And see, my issues with the Church herself are more complicated. I literally would not have anything I have today without Holy Mother Church. My birth mother went to a Catholic adoption agency and thusly asked that her daughter be put in the care of a Catholic family. And merciful Jesus, hasn’t my mother reminded me of that incessantly for the last 23 years.
My parents were asked to bring their children up in the Catholic faith, and they have. See, I really won’t ever be anything else. And when I was about fifteen, my mother suddenly turned to me one day and reminded me that of course, I will be married in Catholic church. I don’t think we were even particularly conversing about marriage. Funny thing is, while I made a joke of it (What? I can’t get married at Tottenham Hotspur’s stadium? Noo!) I didn’t think it was an issue, because that’s one of those things that wasn’t ever a question. I mean, where else does one get married?
So, what does all this mean now that the Pope is dead? Not much. I believe today what I believed yesterday. Yes, it’s sad that the Pope is dead, but let’s not be fooled: he’s not the first Pope to die and he won’t be the last. If anything, the Catholic Church is about continuity. It always has been. Of all the things you can say about the Church (and I can say plenty), the one thing you can say is that it’s a survivor. In a way, the Church is like the British Royal Family- just one of those things that survives the slings and arrows that come its way. If the Church can survive Henry VIII and the Reformation, do you think the death of a Pope will make a difference?
Let’s be honest: this was an essentially good man. He travelled far and wide for his faith. He was an instrumental figure in the end of the Cold War (after all, he was a bishop behind the Iron Curtain when he was named Pope) and he’s inspired an almost worrying sort of devotion across the world. He knew his faith and proclaimed it to all. He was also very conservative in many ways that I’ll never be comfortable. But he was a man. A man of great resilience, but a man. He was God’s mouthpiece on Earth, but he was not God.
He will be missed, but he will also be replaced. He was not the first and he will not be the last. That said, it’s sad and a loss. I cannot find the same upset that I felt for Cardinal George Basil Hume when he died, but I’d actually met the Cardinal- he was very nice to me and complimented the slide I had in my hair. I’ve watched people I love fade slowly away and that was sad. I’m afraid that even the Pope does not get the same outpouring of emotion that my sainted grandmother gets. Sorry, Father, but you don’t.
Still, if anyone wants to join in: Our Father, who art in Heaven….
May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God rest in peace.