Forgive me Father for I am about to sin

There are a slew of unfinished entries in the queue, but this one is begging for the front of the line. This weekend found the Kauffman family spending some holiday cheer in our nation’s (vacation) capital. My in laws are good Catholics, and I try to be a good son-in-law, so we all went to mass. It started out as a nice piece of ecumenical pie.

When I step in a church I don’t typically see a particular religion’s house, I see God’s house. Believe it or not, I try really hard not to look down my nose on other religions… not when religion is used as a mechanism for celebrating our gifts from God and sharing them in kind. So it was on Sunday. I saw a bunch of other people there, and although I didn’t recognize a single person (save those I came with), I felt a sense of community with them. All were there for the same reason. That warm fuzzy feeling of belonging and community came to an abrupt halt when mass started.

First the priest welcomed the congregants. So far, so good. Then the priest told the congregants a little of the history of the church: it did not have a regular group of members, it was there solely for tourists such as ourselves. O.K. that’s interesting, no harm no foul. Then the priest advises us that without a regular group of members, his church relies solely on the generosity of vagrant, tourist congregants such as ourselves. Alright, now I’m a little uncomfortable, but every church has the money talk every now and again. Then the priest launches into an audio tour of the sanctuary: the marble statue imported from Italy, the bronze doors imported from Europe, the fine works of art displayed on the walls… all made possible with generous donations from people like us. He’s painting a picture himself – but it’s not a particularly cash-strapped picture. Finally, he gives us the full spiel on how we can make our donations: for $25 we can have our names engraved on a roof tile, or for $50 we can have them engraved on the European bronze doors. Either of which will “leave a legacy for our children and our children’s children, who can come back and say with pride: ‘my parents gave to (censored).'” Ah, but that’s not all. Smaller donations will be accepted with our petitions. What is a “petition” you ask? Well, well my poor naive friend. A petition is the PC, post-Protestant Reformation incarnation of the indulgence. You don’t know what you should petition the church for? For your convenience, there are petition suggestions on the back of the offering envelope. All you need to do is check one off, enclose your cash, check or money order payable to (censored) – and you may consider your petition received.

In case you hadn’t guessed by now, I was feeling a little cynical. I was reading through the sample petitions when one stood out: advancement. Advancement? “Dear Lord, I know you’re busy feeding the poor and curing incurable ills, but while you’re up could you throw a promotion my way?” Yeah, remember that chapter of John where Jesus travels to the temple and is rewarded for his troubles with a promotion to Carpentry Specialist 4?

“Come on people, God needs a marble crucifix for the altar. There will be two special collections for your giving convenience.”

Alright, enough with the priest bashing. It wasn’t like his little speech took fifteen minutes. Oops, wait a minute, or fifteen… hypothetically speaking, of course.

Then there was the sermon. Don’t get me started on the sermon. He starts with a little Roman Catholic chest thumping, reassuring the Catholic masses that they’re getting what the poor – wretched little protestants will never get: real communion, from a real priest, from the one and only true Church. Next he threw in a few inaccuracies (in my view) concerning “what protestants believe,” portrayed in a decidedly unflatering light. I didn’t hear the rest of the sermon because I took my daughter’s hand, stood up, and told my wife in the loudest whisper I could manage, “I’m leaving.”

“Are you coming back?”


It’s a day later and I’m still fuming. But I wonder to myself, does someone who has missed more church in the last five months than the last five years have the moral high ground? Does someone who would write some of the judgmental, mean spirited stuff that appears on this web site have the right to look down his nose on a priest? Maybe not, but that doesn’t mean I have to sit still and be judged by that guy. So I left. I feel bad for my in-laws, I didn’t mean to insult them with my actions.

Could the guy have turned it around? Is it possible that I walked out before the punch line? Yes, it’s all possible. Judge not, lest ye be judged (and all that). What can I say, I’m human – pissed like an binge drinker on the can – but human.

(Don’t ask, I’m not sure what I meant by the drinking metaphor either… it just kind of happened. Why waste a perfectly good turn of phrase for something as trivial as making sense?)

– Astute readers will note that the drinking reference was a simile, not a metaphor. -JK, 6/1 @ 10:01 pm

Give the gift of words.