December 31, 2009

This year I decided to give my mom a very special Christmas present: I went to midnight mass with her. She asks me every year and usually I decline, but this year my bf wanted to go. He grew up Mormon (for my feelings on Mormons, click here) and had never been to a Catholic mass before.

So, we got all dressed up and headed off to church. As we walked through the familiar double wood doors a flood of memories from my childhood came rushing back. There was the first time I assisted the mass as an altar boy and peed my pants. Then there were the times my younger brother and I would dig our fingernails into each other’s hands during the priest’s homily to see how much pain we could withstand. And there was the time that I played Judas in my school’s re-enactment of the Stations of the Cross. My only line was “The man I kiss is the one you want.” Then I walked down the aisle and kissed the boy playing Jesus.

We sat down and I surveyed the surroundings. There were all the usual suspects that I remembered from my youth. The doctor and his family who paid the church to reserve the first pew for them every Sunday. The crotchety old woman who insisted on sitting on the very end of the pew, refusing to stand up and let anyone pass in front of her easily. And there were even some of the old school Catholic women who walked in wearing lace doilies on their heads.

For those of you who have never attended a Catholic mass, you’re not missing much. The whole thing is very formulaic. You recite the same prayers and incantations that Catholics have been invoking for over a thousand years. You stand, sit and kneel at all the appropriate times. There is even a proper way to fold your hands while you pray. You never fold your fingers over your knuckles. You’re to press your palms together with all five fingers pointing straight up to heaven. You say Amen with the same submission and responsiveness of a dog awaiting a treat, hoping that your treat will not be floating down a river of fire in a boat with Hitler, Jeffrey Dahmer and Sadam Hussein. The only things that really ever really¬†change in a Catholic Mass are the location, the presiding priest (though they’re all pretty much the same), his homily (which is usual less exciting to listen to than someone having oral surgery) and the songs. They must think that repetition breeds familiarity which leads to acceptance and eventually reverence.

As soon as the choir started the opening hymn and the priest walked down the aisle, flanked on either side by an altar boy, it was as if my Catholic switch was turned on inside my brain. I was transformed back into that scared little boy in his school uniform, praying to God that I properly went through all the motions so that, on top of securing my place in heaven, I would appease my teacher and not have to spend my recess hour polishing the floor of the rectory. It was as if I hadn’t missed out on the last ten years of Sunday masses. I knew when to sit, when to stand, when to say the appropriate “Amen” and I even remembered all the words to all the prayers.

It was when we were all announcing the Apostle’s Creed that I looked around at the other parishioners. Everyone was staring ahead towards the altar with the same solemn look on their faces and defeated posture in the shoulders. I noticed a young girl, maybe ten years old, whose eyes were wondering and whose lips stop moving in concert with everyone else. Feeling his daughter’s wondering spirit, her father nudged her gently. Immediately, she fell in line with her dad, their entire row and the whole church in professing their enduring commitment to a being whose existence has never been proven. It was at that moment when I realized that the institution of Catholicism is not a religion…it’s a cult.

According to the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA, there are several characteristics that define a group as a cult.

Number one, “The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether his is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law”. Case in point: Catholic zealots who picket abortion clinics and try to overturn Rowe v. Wade. Those people are crazy. They bomb buildings, killing people, all because they think God has sent them on some holy crusade to cleanse the world. I’d call that unquestioning commitment.

Number two, “Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.” For this I return to a memory of my Catholic school second grade class. We were learning about Jesus’ ascension into heaving after his resurrection when I raised my hand and asked “Where’s heaven?” Instead of admitting that she did not know, my teacher told me that I should not ask such questions and I was forced to write “The word of the Lord is true” on the blackboard one hundred times.

Number three, “Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).” Anyone who have ever been to a Catholic mass and tell you that it involves chanting with all the repetitive prayers and is most definitely a debilitating work routine. All that standing, sitting and kneeling on hard wooden furniture is enough to give anyone arthritis.

Number four, “The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.” To this I have to look to the paragon of Catholicism, Mel Gibson. A few years ago he made a public statement that, even though he loved his wife very much, he was sad that she was going to spend an eternity in hell because she was not Catholic.” That’s about as “us-versus-them” as you can get when you turn your back on the one person you’re supposed to love more than anyone.

Finally, number five, “The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.” Even though any organized religions uses guilt to subdue members into submission, Catholic guilt is, by far, the most prolific. What other religion or organization do you know that can make one billion people feel guilty about eating meat on Friday or shouting “God damn it!” when they stub their toe on a piece of furniture.

Now that it’s established that Catholicism is a cult, how do we destroy it? By dismantling it’s perceived truths and cutting off its funding.

First off, Jesus was not an Immaculate conception. He was probably the outcome of a great party and too much wine. I’m not saying Mary was a slut, but even good girls make bad choices some times.

Next, when Catholic receive the sacrament of Communion, they are not digesting the body and blood of Christ. It’s just some cheap wheat wafers and table wine that have been blessed by some generic priest at the Vatican who most likely ended up there because of a scandal involving some altar boys.

Also, people are not born with original sin. Just because some dumb blonde in the Garden of Eden, which didn’t exist either, ate an apple does mean that I need to be baptized to save my soul from eternal damnation.

And finally, my dear Catholic brethren, the Catholic church does not need your money. They own their own country, for Christ’s sake. On top of that, they own every piece of land that houses a Catholic church, a Catholic school or university and every residence that any religious person inhabits. But, if you insist on donating money to them, I’d suggest purchasing a “Priests of the Vatican” calendar. It’s super hot, mildly erotic and make a great gift for any Catholic, nun, single woman or gay man.

My advice to Catholics:

Don’t take religion too seriously. There are so many other things in the world that you can make a priority. Don’t waste your time wondering if some white-haired old guy is going to let you join his party in heaven when you die. When you think about it, the party in hell is probably more fun.

My advice to everyone else:

The next time you meet a Catholic, tell them this joke. “So, I heard the Catholic church is coming out with a new low-fat communion wafer. It’s called I Can’t Believe It’s Not Jesus.”


7 Responses to “Catholicism”

  1. MOM Says:

    Does this mean you will not be joining me next year for midnight mass?

    • mnkey75 Says:

      I’ll always go with you, but next year let’s make sure dad doesn’t fall asleep. I’m pretty sure that’s when the pod people take over.

  2. Jack3d Says:

    Hi, I recently found your blog – thanks for writing. I wanted to inform you that it’s not showing up correctly on the BlackBerry Browser (I have a Tour). Anyway, I’m now subscribed to the RSS feed on my home PC, so thank you!

  3. Jarred Says:

    The priest calendar is great. We bought a few when we were in Rome and gave them as gifts.

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