Tuesday, December 09, 2008

God, Parents

Posted by Anonymous.

So, I really can't keep quiet about this any longer. I'm about to open my big fucking mouth about something I should really reserve for face-to-face, offline conversations, but Internet, I'm so angry right now.

Let's start at the beginning (in mercifully abridged fashion): I was raised Catholic. I never felt like I belonged, I never felt like I truly believed, I always found myself at odds with their practices and beliefs, I couldn't wait for the day when I could ditch the place. Cut to today: I've ditched the place. And I carry a lot - A LOT - of anger with me about it. Because my parents do not understand, respect or even tolerate my viewpoint, and it's a huge, HUGE obstacle in my relationship with them. There have been many massive arguments - real barn-burners - in which my parents let me know in no uncertain terms how ashamed/embarrassed they are of me and my decision. We basically don't talk about it anymore - in fact, I take great pains to steer our conversations entirely clear of religion and even politics, because we're such polar opposites when it comes to those two areas. I know they think I will eventually "come to my senses" and "grow out of" whatever phase they think this is; I know in my heart I will never, ever return to the Catholic church.

So anyway. My older sister is having a baby. Like, soon. December. And, since she's still active in the church, she has broached the subject of godparents with me. Basically, she wants me to be a godmother, but in order to do so at her church, I have to prove that I am a registered member of a Catholic parish, which...I'm not. She says she wants me to know that she wants me to be the godmother, but hey, rules are rules. And she also said she wants me to know that if something would happen to her, she would want her kid to be raised Catholic. I mean, of course. This is not a surprise to me.

Let me just make this clear: If something happened to my sister and I was left to raise my niece, YOU'D BETTER FUCKING BELIEVE I would raise her exactly how my sister wanted. I would raise her Catholic, I would raise her Jewish, I would raise her to be an elder in the fucking Church of Cottage Cheese if such a thing existed. HOLY FUCK, I WOULD EVEN RAISE HER TO BE A SCIENTOLOGIST IF THAT'S WHAT MY SISTER WANTED. Why? Because I love my sister, and I love my future niece.

But does the Catholic church care how much I love my sister? How dedicated I'd be to raising her daughter precisely how she wanted me to? Do they even bother to ask me about that shit?



They care about whether or not I can produce a piece of embossed paper on the morning of the baptism. End of story. Full stop.

And because I having the fucking balls to stand up for what I believe in? Because I refuse to stand up and be a big fat fake in front of our entire family? Because I am not too keen on LYING in a CHURCH and making a mockery out of a religion I am no longer a part of? I am obviously a terrible person who would leave her niece in a boiling hot car in the middle of July while she went and gave handjobs for shots of Jagermeister (I mean, obviously, this would be how I spent my free time).

And that doesn't even begin to cover the repercussions of my downgrade from godmother to Godless Whore. Once my parents hear about this? Shit, meet fan.

So, Catholic church, why am I not good enough for you? I can understand their being guidelines for, say, taking communion in your establishment (which I cannot do, and that's totally cool with me), but why is your judgment better than my sister's when it comes to who should raise her child if something would happen to her?

I don't know why I bother to try to make sense of this shit. None of it has ever made sense to me, and I've never been able to get a clear fucking answer out of anyone. But the message here is pretty obvious. Your loving, caring sister wants to be the godmother, but isn't Catholic? No way. You dragged some random woman off the street who has a criminal record and sold her own children into prostitution BUT she is a registered member of a Catholic parish? NO PROBLEM.

And now my sister isn’t speaking to me because she’s offended I won’t “just join a parish” already, just so I can stand up on the altar with her for five minutes on a random Sunday. I’ve asked her to please understand that it isn’t about her, it’s about me – more importantly, it’s about me wanting to take a stand for my own beliefs. I’m pregnant, too, and I want to do this – no, I NEED to do this – not just for me, but for my own kid. I’m not raising a daughter or son to bend or hide his or her own beliefs just to make other people’s lives easier.

I don’t expect my parents to come around, but I expect more of my sister. She’s gone through a divorce and an unmarried pregnancy in the past couple of years – two very non-Catholic life events – and I’ve been there for her, never judging her once, when even our own parents couldn’t do the same. And now when I need some of that same understanding? She’s ignoring me. I’m pretty sure that’s not what Jesus would do, but anyway.

I’m just so angry I can’t see straight. Is it any wonder I left the church when all it has caused is division and bitterness between me and my family?

At any rate, thank goodness for The Basement. I really needed to get this out there. You all can be my godparents anytime.




Amy said...

Can't you be the child's named guardian, in the event that something unthinkable happens to your sister, but not be the "godmother"?

I'm sorry you're going through this.


Nancy said...

Just to start, I'm not Catholic but my husband is and I gave in and let our kids be baptized Catholic. So I know what things mean and how stupid and irritating the whole "Godparent rules" are. Even my husband agreed, which to another Catholic is almost like him saying that the Pope is gay. Regardless, the whole Godparent thing is not who determines who will raise the kid, but who will "sponser" them into the church - their spiritual guide so to speak. Your sister really doesn't want you to be this, she really doesn't. You are not fit for this role, BECAUSE of the rules. What she wants is for you to take her place if she should no longer be around. That's where the will/guardianship comes in. The Godparent thing has nothing to do with that.
I wish you the best of luck. Honestly, you are doing the right thing and are further confirming my decision to not become a member of the Catholic church. So, thanks for that. :-)

Mrs. Natasha Sawatzky said...

I don't see why you need to even go in there to be someones god parent...my friend had a baby and im her sons godmother... we didnt need a church for that... she asked me i said yes...the only people who need to know are her and i. The only thing is i take custody if his father cant. i dunno, i dont understand the catholic way either, and ive never planned on it. and yeah i'd have to say, youve helped keep myself happy i made this decision.

Anonymous said...

And for the record, Godparents are completely different than potential guardians in the event something should happen to the parents... Guardians are people you name in your will to take care of your children; Godparents are there to 'help' parents with instilling whatever values the church values. (And in the wealthier classes, to give expensive gifts at holiday time and to provide good contacts for potential careers.)

This kind of summed up your crappy position for me: "I don’t expect my parents to come around, but I expect more of my sister. She’s gone through a divorce and an unmarried pregnancy in the past couple of years – two very non-Catholic life events – and I’ve been there for her, never judging her once, when even our own parents couldn’t do the same.

Sadly for you, your sister (and obviously your parents since they'll support her current pettiness), hypocrisy is alive and well. They appear to be treating Catholicism a la carte, picking and choosing what's important to them, and think it's ok for you to 'pretend' so they get what they want. It's not. You're doing the right thing because it's based on your own beliefs and how you feel, and your family's asking you to go against these things to make your hypocritical sister 'feel better' would be wrong.

Hang in there. It's not going to be easy.

Anonymous said...

OMG my husband and his whole family are Catholic and we have had some knock down drag out fights about it. His parents are way over the top Catholic and all four of their kids are screwed up becasuse of it. My oldest sister in law is an unhappy mirror image of my mother in law, the middle one is an athiest, my husband knows nothing about being Catholic but says he is and the youngest one has a baby by a self-proclaimed reincarnated demon and oh yeah, she is agnostic. So, since I refused to be married in the Catholic Church, refused to let our daughter be raised Catholic and basically look upon the whole establishment as an elitest, corrupt, pit of complicated irritatingness, I say, you go girl. Raise your daughter as whatever you like. Mine will be a southern, holy-roller protestant, whether or not that creeps my in-laws out!

Vanessa said...

Speaking as another Catholic, I'll echo everyone else who's said that godparent doesn't equal future guardian in the eyes of the Church. What you've been told is right: its a position of spiritual parenting, and helping the child grow in God and Church, which is the reason parishes often ask for membership; t prove that the person who's agreeing to be the godparent is an active church member, and a "godly" example, so to speak. Saying "I'll help raise the child in the traditions and teachings of the Church" doesn't work so well if you don't believe them or follow them.

As far as guardianship goes, after explaining this to your sister, have her look into making legal documents to make you guardian in case something should happen. I have a similar set up for my godparents. Its expired now, since I'm an adult, but my godparents are friends of my parents that are very active in the church, but my guardians were to be my aunt and uncle (Protestants! *gasp* Kidding).

Hopefully your sister comes around to accept that. And good luck with your baby, however you choose to raise him or her!

red pen mama said...

I am proudly Catholic, but I am so sorry you are going through this. I do think you have to stand up for your beliefs, but I don't think you should "blame" the Catholic church for being the institution it is.

You have enough here about Guardian v. Godparent. I hope your sister comes around and names you Guardian. You sound like a good sister in that regard.

My true belief -- a belief that I think gets lost in the very human institution that is the Church -- is that Jesus was about love. I'm sorry your experience has been about judgement and anger and argument. That's on the Catholics around you, not necessarily the Church. I have had many a civil conversation with many people who don't share my beliefs. As a matter of fact, I can't actually think of an argument I've ever had about being Catholic. I know it is a bone of contention for many people, and many religious people get very righteous and uppity about it being "their way or the highway". And i think it closes people off. As it has in your case.

I'm sorry, again, that you are going through this. I am glad you have the strength of your convictions. I hope everyone comes around to being openminded enough to not estrange each other. You are right that you should not lie to please other people. Especially for a serious sacrament like baptism. I agree with a lot of what commenter #4 had to say. The only thing I would like to add is to not vilify the whole institution because of this.

Good luck.


Anonymous said...

My best friend (really more like my sister) wants me to be the godmother of her third child. I'm non-Cathoic and she is. She's not an adament one, doesn't really even go to church, but the first two were baptised in the catholic church, so she thought the third should be. Anyway, in her will I am the guardian for her three children. She asked the priest about godparents and said I wasn't Catholic and he said I couldn't be the godmother. She's so wild at this that she still hasn't had the baby baptised and may not. I do not really understand the catholic church. When I got my two kids baptised in the United church, the minister didn't ask me about the faith of my kids godparents. Maybe he thought I knew who to choose.. There's my rant!

Avalon said...

No advice because I don't know the answers myself. I have struggled with the same issue twice.

I agree with everything you have said except for this

" I’ve asked her to please understand that it isn’t about her, it’s about me ".

In fact, it is about her. And her baby. And her beliefs.

I am a Godparent to 2 family members. I do not consider myself to have any religious beliefs at all. I have not personally attended church since childhood, but the people who asked me to be a Godparent were important enough to me that I did something I was uncomfortable with----for them.

As I see it, you have 2 choices. Decline and stick by your own beliefs( although I'm at a bit of a loss as to what you are truly upset with....to me the issues sound less like a problem with the religion than they do with your parents) or say yes and do something that makes you uncomfortable.

I guess what is confusing me is that you refuse to stand in the Church and be designated as a Godmother, but then you say "If something happened to my sister and I was left to raise my niece, YOU'D BETTER FUCKING BELIEVE I would raise her exactly how my sister wanted"

Even if it was in the Catholic Church?

How do you reconcile that? No criticism here. I really am puzzled.

Honeybell said...

Again, being a godparent within the Catholic church has to do with ensuring a child will be raised within the religion, not who will take physical custody.


How interesting that you as a non-Catholic seem to be showing more respect to the church by refusing to lie, than your sister is.

I'm so sorry you're having to deal with it, from one ex-Catholic to another.

Amanda said...

I too am Catholic and currently at a point in my life where I am questioning my faith and the way that it affects my life. When I was confirmed my aunt who is like my second mother was not allowed to be my sponsor because she had gotten divorced, although she was an active member in her church it was not allowed.

I hate the way that the church just screws everything up sometimes. Since I am now in a serious relationship and considering marriage I don't think I even want to be married in a catholic church.

Stac Cole said...

I read some of the comments above, and maybe this was mentioned, but I didn't see it.

I am Catholic. Not very active and participating, but I am. When I had my daughter, I wanted my younger sister to be the Godmother and my uncle to be the Godfather. In our church, and I suspect most others, you DO NOT need 2 "godparents", only one. Only one person must be a confirmed and active member of a Catholic parish. The other godparent? Can be whoever or whatever you choose.

My son is the godfather of his godmother's baby. But he's only 12...not confirmed. The godmother is confirmed. So my son is not listed on the baptism certificate, but he is the godfather in every other sense of the word.

So, there is a way around it. I don't know if your sister knows this, or if the church is telling her, or if she's just wanting everything to be so perfect that she just doesn't "get it".

Talk to your sister. Write her a letter. Do whatever you have to get across your point that you love her child, and her, but you cannot start a relationship with your niece based on a lie. No matter who it pleases.

Anonymous said...

If I were you I'd say no. If I was your sister I wouldn't have asked you. I'm Catholic and the whole point of a Godparent is to be a religious and spiritual lead in the child's life. You cannot fulfil this role can you? It isn't right for you, and you shouldn't put yourself in that kind of situation.

I'm a practising Catholic in England and the whole 'registered at a parish' thing is alien. Here you need a baptismal certificate (which, if you were raised Catholic, I'm assuming you have) and they don't check it, they just ask. You have to remember that some of these rules aren't Catholic rules (we don't even HAVE a parish register) they are diocesan or parish rules.

Talk to your sister about legal guardianship, about wills and legalities. Don't be your nieces Godmother, it wouldn't be fair to either of you.

Gina said...

I had to comment. I was raised Catholic (father's choice). I have learned it is ALL about PRETENDING. My father had his marriage to my mother (his first wife) annulled so that he could marry his THRID wife (a former stripper) in the church. This made me sad, but now when he wants to know why I won't go there I tell him it is because they declared me a bastard. He's not even married to the stripper anymore. They think they can "declare" things and make them true, even if everyone knows they aren't. Hence, they think you can get a piece of paper to declare your loyalty to the Pope and you are. That's all. Good for you not to be the liar.

J from Ireland said...

I had to comment. I am a Catholic over here in Ireland, which a mostly Catholic country and I have never heard of registering with a church. I totally see where you are coming from, you are being really honest, fair play to you. As I read others saying, if your sister wants you to take care of her daughter in her death, you can do it legally. There are many people over here that is disillusioned with the Catholic church but just suck it up because the church is heavily involved in schools over here. Best wishes, hope it all gets sorted.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry. I understand your frustration and I am frustrated for you. There is nothing I can say that would make you feel better but please know that there are others out there who totally understand your point of view.

pammie said...

We just had my son baptized and we wanted my sister-in-law to be his Godmother, but she's not Catholic either. The priest we worked with said that was actually fairly common, and that she could still stand up with the baby but she would be called a Christian Witness. It's worth looking into--it may be a loophole that could work for both you and your sister. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

When our children were baptized in the Catholic church, only one of the godparents had to be Catholic. Would it be possible (even if it does feel like pretending) for your sister to find someone else in the family who was Catholic to be the godfather? Have you talked with the priest in your sister's parish? Perhaps he would have more answers for you and a way to help you deal with your anger.

Dedra said...

HOLY CRAP my husband and I went through this same thing...we had to get married again produce all kinds of paperwork a shitload of unnecessary unspiritual brewhaha in the name of the "rules"...even with my husband and I being married ten years having three kids and him being all over hells half acre fighting whatever war the "commander in chief" saw fit to pick...Sickening...disgusting paper pushing pinheads that have NOTHING to do with God and everything to do with power and control...(thanks for letting me vent)...Sorry you had to go through it too....
oh yea when I confronted the diocesan lawyer on his cell phone about the regional "guidelines" for this sort of thing...his reply.."Talk to God."...WTF??? He isn't making the rules you dork...you are...sigh...

Anonymous said...

I understood that the godparent was a spiritual mentor, which, like Vanessa said, would be difficult (not impossible, but not easy either) if you don't believe or follow. But it doesn't sound like that's your sister's or the church's problem with you being the godmother.

That said, I've found that the Catholic church is filled to the brim with hyprocrisy and condescension. They have all these archaic rules that you must follow or go to Hell, but there is substantially less emphasis on actually BEING A GOOD PERSON - you know, exercising tolerance, kindness, understanding, love. They are happy to preach, but practice it only when it doesn't interfere with proving they are holier than thou.

I'm not having my daughter baptized. I'm sure certain people think I'm damning her soul, but I am doing my best to teach her to be a kind, moral person. I think that's more important than kissing the church's ass, so they can snipe all they want. Their opinions aren't my concern.

I'm sorry your family let you down, but good for you in standing up for your beliefs while respecting that theire are different. I hope they figure out how to accept you.

Anonymous said...

I'm Jewish and I'm the godmother to my Catholic cousin's daughter...the other godparent was Catholic so perhaps that's why it was allowed.


Arizaphale said...

Both of the people I would have asked to be God Parents to my daughter...don't believe in God. They were happy to be ruled out. They are still the people who would raise her if anything happened.
Faith, ceremony, real life, practicality....not always on the same page...

Anonymous said...

Technically a Godmother is just supposed to look out for the spiritual well-being on the child...throughout the child's life, not in case of the parent's death. You are not equipped to do that...you do not BELIEVE the spiritual things, even if you know them...which is fine. Your sister should get paperwork written up that you will be the LEGAL GUARDIAN of your niece in case anything happens to her parents. Different things. I am not my nephew's Godmother, but I am his legal guardian if anything happens to his parents.

Katie in MA said...

My sister has also left the church. She, too, is to "inherit" my two girls if anything happens. I let her know that I wanted her to be their godmother, but because I respect her religious views, we call her their Fairy Godmother, and had a fill-in at the baptism. :) Please borrow our moniker if you'd like!

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry, it sounds like you're really having a hard time with this.

I can commiserate, I'm dealing with the whole religion issue with my parents too. Every singel conversation it's brought up. I asked my dad once if he was able to have a conversation without talking about it with just talking to me about normal stuff so he could..you know maybe actually get to know ME but no...religion is more important than who his daughter is.

Be proud of who you are, what you belief in and what you stand for.

I think it's something to be proud of.