Should I stay or should I go now?

The recent excommunication degree is no new news around this blog.  I’m not so interested in debating the ordination of women and excommunication; we’ve already done that.  But I do want to talk about how it affected me. Not how it affected me as a woman who feels called to the diaconate.  Not as someone who has advocated for women’s ordination and knows some of these amazing female priests. But how it affected me as Lauren. A woman born and raised Catholic who has a great love for the Church and its people, and an intense bond with all that it is (and all that I hope it will be). A Catholic woman whose church leaders, without missing a beat, took care of this little problem when it took years for them to respond to pedophilia, for example.  A Catholic woman whose church leaders just said it’s better to be a pedophile, etc. than to be a woman answering her call from God. (I’m putting words in their mouth, I know, but I’ll get to my point).  


I learned about a beautiful church that I fell in love with.  A church that is yet to be, but will come through the amazing teachings we have but have been kept in the books so far.  I keep asking myself if at some point hope is just naive? Do I just fear change? Or fear my deeply devout grandma? Do I fear not finding any religious or spiritual tradition that comes close to what I have now? Yes, Yes, Hell yes, and Yes. 


The thought of leaving my church family is sad. It is so much a part of my identity that it would be like telling me to stop being an Ivory.  It would be like many Amish youth who decide to leave their faith communities, only to lose their families as well who are not supposed to speak to them after that.  How do you go out into the world as an orphan, especially when you know you’re not? How does a father not speak to his daughter? A daughter he raised, loved, taught, formed, and was (is) proud of?


There are those who would love for me and others to just leave but I don’t understand that. They would handicap their selves, sacrifice an arm of the body of Christ for not complying. Rather than work on our differences and find places to incorporate everyone, we are told if we don’t like it, tough. I don’t understand how one group can claim ownership of something like our Church. 


So I ask, why should I stay? I’m not wanted and I’m not happy. And I don’t want the rest of my spiritual life to be about conflict; I’ve already got that with my biological family and don’t want it in my religious family too.  Furthermore, I have been asking myself for a few years if I am even called to function in my church that way, as someone who challenges from within.



The long and the short of it for me is that I’m Catholic, and probably always will be somehow.  We don’t have the ethnicity tie that those in the Jewish faith often have, but it is still in our bones.  So I ask, can a fish be anything but a fish? (I know, someone wants to say, “but women aren’t fish, only men can be fish!”).


Go tell them I am what I am. They’ll recognize that from somewhere.



28 thoughts on “Should I stay or should I go now?

  1. It’s from Popeye, right? ;)

    This is a wonderful, heartfelt post, Lauren. I think we all have that longing, right at the heart of our souls, for a relationship with God. We don’t want to leave behind the special place where we first made God’s acquaintence.

    I read once in a book on Penobscot (Native American tribes from around eastern Maine and northern New England) spirituality that their spiritual elders, when confronted with non-natives who want to “convert” to their belief system, turn them away. They say we each have to make peace with our own traditions before we can truly find God.

  2. Amen, Lauren!

    Thomas Merton, too, had originally wanted to become Zen Buddhist but the wise Buddhist Monk whom he wanted to follow insisted that he must be who he was and practice his ancestors’ religion in order for him to truly get in touch with God.

    My absolute favorite teaching from the saints is from Francis de Sales: “Be who you are and be that perfectly well!” We can only be what we are whether or not others believe differently.

  3. Lauren, I really appreciated this. Thank you for writing it. The questions are always there, and sometimes it’s helpful to sit on the stoop outside for a few minutes to catch my breath, but I cannot NOT be Catholic any less than I can stop being an American. Having lived abroad, I know that as much as I want to completely inculturate, nothing will change the fact that I am an American. I could leave the Church, but I’d still be Catholic at my core.

  4. Lauren:

    Fabricating a statement by “church leaders”, and then misrepresenting a Church position on pedophiles and closing yourself to debate, I do not believe is a healthy approach to get to the truth. I would suggest prayer and study, if it is to the point that you may go, you ought to inform yourself and know what it truly is you would be leaving, read the documents that the Church makes available, if you decide to leave wouldn’t it be better to know what you are leaving rather then leave some fabricated caricature of the Church?

    GK Chesterton wrote: “The difficulty of explaining ‘why I am a Catholic’ is that there are ten thousand reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true.” If this becomes your conclusion I don’t know how you could leave.


  5. Thank you for this honest post. I understand exactly where you’re coming from. I remember one year when being Catholic was especially hard for me; it was when, in addition to the bar against women in the priesthood, the Pope had also decreed that those with “homosexual tendencies” should not be allowed ordination. It seemed that every decree that came from Rome was soul-crushing, and I’d drag my feet up the steps to Church every week, asking myself, “Why do I keep doing this?”

    I went to a priest and confessed my anger, and told him it was getting in the way of my love for God, the Church, and God’s people. He quoted St. Augustine saying that hope had two children: hope and courage. And he instructed me to use my anger to give me courage to fight for the Church I hoped for. It was exactly what I needed to hear.

  6. Thanks for your thoughts everyone! I love hearing others stories as well. I appreciate you taking my at the moment thoughts.

    Pax, I think you are taking some of my comments way too seriously, especially when I put in disclaimers! I am not sure why your only interest seems (to me) to be catechesis. I’d like to hear more from you if you are interested in talking real. And I earned my Masters of Divinity from a Catholic seminary so I’m good on the studying, I know the documents, and I still disagree with you. And this may be a shocker to you but I don’t think I am at odds with our Church’s teachings either! -and no, I don’t want to debate that.

    Geez, I sure am sick of having to say that. Now that, I believe, is HEALTHY!!! I didn’t come here to have to defend myself, my training, my faith, my love of Church, my intellect, etc!. It is perfectly healthy not to be interested in debate, especially when there isn’t an interest in mutual sharing. Debate has its place, especially if I werent already informed on the subject. However, it has no place in regards to one’s experiences and emotions. That’s hands off! This may have to be my next wednesday installment.

  7. I’m sorry that you feel that way Lauren. I find it curious that you would place your desires above a church you say you love. And to place yourself above a church who has Jesus Christ as the head is even more puzzling.
    I would think that when you love something you do as 1 Corinthians 13 says about what love truly is. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…”
    If you could just begin to conform yourself to Christ, you would begin to be one with the Father as Jesus is One with the Father.
    As long as you try to conform the body of Christ to yourself instead of conforming yourself to the body, you will remain as you are. Do you wish to remain as you are? Then continue as you are. But if you truly wish to be one with the Father, you must be as Jesus was. This is how obedient Jesus was: He died on a cross. Are you prepared to be obedient even in the smallest of ways?
    1 Peter 4:13 instructs us well: “But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” When we compare our sufferings with His, we must see ours as insignificant.
    May the blessings of Christ’s obedience and sufferings be with us all.

  8. Lauren,

    I went to Catholic school for 12 years, abandoned the Church, and religion altogether for 10+ years (I was not faithful in high school), largely because I had issues with the politics and hierarchy of the Church. I choose to go, and have recently come back home. I’ve heard it say that the Lord will replace tenfold the years that the locusts have taken away, and how true!

    It has been like coming in from the bitter wilderness, and I feel like all the other denominations that I briefly considered joining are like mud huts. Our Church is ancient, strong and true. She provides real comfort, even when not meeting our every need. I’ve been to other church services, I’ve studied the bible with evangelicals, and I’ve never experienced the grace that God gives me when I attend Holy Mass, and Confession or when I read the Word of God at Perpetual Adoration (though I may not always understand what I am reading Acts 8 : 30 & 31).

    I can never imagine again severing my relationship with the Church in the future, no matter what. I would never recommend anyone abandon the Catholic Faith, no matter how much I may disagree with their opinions. The debate gives our Church a life that many other Christians do not share (they hop from church to church until they find one that fits their personal philosophy – I can’t even imagine!).

    Jesus said a house divided cannot stand, but I don’t think our differences of opinions cause us to fall, because we are not, at our core, divided. We have the one faith, the one baptism, and the Eucharistic communion in all of us. No other christian expression comes close!

  9. Lauren,

    Beautiful post! Here’s the phrase that struck me the most, and I hope you don’t mind if I reuse it in the future:
    “A church that is yet to be”
    Is it that eschatological hope that keeps me Catholic? Maybe. Like you, I wrestle with a call to ministry and leadership, frustration with the injustice of certain teachings and practices, but am still firmly rooted in a religious tradition that I have been immersed in my entire life. I really, truly believe that a renewed church is inevitable. When I attend a liturgy with a woman priest or attended my faithsharing group (DC Faithsharers rule!), I know that the kin-dom of God is at hand. That’s the church that is yet to be, and it is slowly growing. Right here, it’s growing.

    Thanks again for all you do!

  10. Thank you Nate and Johanna!

    Nate, I really appreciate you sharing that you would never want someone to leave the church just because you disagree with their beliefs. I really appreciate that because, as I alluded to in my post, I often feel a lot of hostility from others, and this is so, well, hurtful. A house divided, certainly feels that way. I pray.

    And Johanna, of course you can use my phrase! If its even mine to claim! I’ll hang on your hope that a renewed church is inevitable.

    Love and prayers to all. Lauren

  11. Lauren,

    I find it ironic then how JP2s infallible instruction that female ordination is not up for debate is regularly ignored.

    I think catechesis is important; there is much misinformation amongst our generation. It is amazing to me that God, would rather become man and die, then live without us. I am grateful for the Church and the sacraments that are from him.

    A Masters of Divinity can be a great accomplishment; it can also be a near occasion of sin if it lends itself to pride. I would hope that you will fall in love with the Church founded by God, not one that is yet to be built by man.


  12. Hi, Lauren,

    Thank you for this post. I feel that no matter where I turn and what I believe, I will always have this Catholic foundation. And I will always be Catholic, despite some of my beliefs not being “Kosher Catholic.” I feel that any belief system I look at and ways I relate to God will come back to my Catholic foundation — and will inform my Catholic foundation! And I think no one can take that from you, in whatever way you interpret catholic.

  13. Hey Lauren,

    Great post (sorry I’m a little behind to respond. . .I’m not on the internet as much anymore)! When I went to the Mass for the pastoral installment in our pairsh of our administrative priest (the one who I wrote about in my first blog) this past Sunday, I left disheartened and wondering why I put myself through this. I guess I just have the hope that maybe someday it will get better, and maybe someday our church will openly accept women.

    Am I correct to think that the pope made no infallible statement about women’s ordination–just a statement? I thought that infallible statements have only happened twice in history, but maybe Í’ve got this confused.

  14. Thanks again folks! Kristy, I’m not sure about the wording of infallible and such because you’re right, there have only been two infallible doctrines, but is Pax trying to say there are multiple infallible statements? I’m not sure on that.

    Mrissman, my questioning of my church does not mean I have a lack of faith or relationship with God. I am not placing my desires above the church, I am placing God’s desires for me, as well as I can understand them today, above the church. I have “conformed myself to Christ” and its terribly presumptious for you to assume I haven’t/don’t.

    Pax, what can I tell you? I found your comments condescending, about our generation having much ‘misinformation’ and that you hope my MDiv isn’t a near occasion of sin and pride. What’s up with all of these presumptious responses? from you and others? That’s a rhetorical question of course. Unless you’ve done some self reflection about this topic and want to talk about YOU.

  15. Kristy: Look at the code of canon law and Ordinatio Sacerdotalis: Can. 749 §1 In virtue of his office the Supreme Pontiff is infallible in his teaching when, as chief Shepherd and Teacher of all Christ’s faithful, with the duty of strengthening his brethren in the faith, he proclaims by definitive act a doctrine to be held concerning faith or morals.

    Ordinatio Sacerdotalis: Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.

    Lauren: Yes there are multiple infallible statements; I’m guessing you’ve confused infallibility with Ex Cathedra statements. Something does not need to be issued Ex Cathedra in order to be held infallibly, for example, the canon of the Bible has not been issued Ex Cathedra, yet those books and those books alone constitute the Bible based on Sacred Tradition and the teachings of Councils.

    I believe what I said about poor catechesis and misinformation among our generation is true. It’s only an opinion, but for example, I’ve seen several surveys in which a majority do not believe in the real presence, or in some cases even know that that is what the Church teaches.


  16. Nope, not confused, just haven’t cared enough to get the details straight. For me, these are small issues in comparison to those that the Church has brought to my attention, i.e. the suffering of people in the world. I’m not saying the real presence isn’t important though, don’t get me wrong.

    Don’t you ever want to talk about more than this? Talk about your experience as a Catholic? Anything like that?

  17. Lauren- I don’t wish to discourage you or anyone from entering into dialogue, but I have honestly found it futile to discuss certain topics of theology with fundamentalists, whether thay be Biblical fundamentalists or Catholic fundamentalists who proof text Scripture, canon law, the Catechism, encyclicals, pastoral statements, etc…to “prove” their argument. From my perspective, many of these people are purely interested in engaging in apologetics rather than theology. As you are surely familiar, St. Anselm gave the wonderful definition of theology as “faith seeking understanding.” Once a discussion or debate loses the ability to “seek understanding” for oneself simply by being told that (insert text here) proves something and finalizes it, we limit both the ability that God gave us, and what is much worse, we limit God. To say that a Church teaching can never change or adapt, pridefully says that we have learned all there is to know about God, which we will NEVER do as humans. We have only the ability to keep seeking God’s will, and if that means pushing for change within our church, then that is what it means.

    You are so right in saying that you are tired (I’m intering from your statement here). I am tired, too. We are ALL tired of these arguments! In my American Catholicism course this past fall, we ended with a few weeks on current topics in Catholicism. This course was taught online, so discussion occurred via message boards, much like this blog, and as the course began to discuss abortion, contraceptives, stem cell research, gay marriage, etc… the boards fell silent. Someone left a somewhat snide post to the effect that the lack of discussion must mean that no one cares about these topics. Well of course we care, but we are battle fatigued! I left a post saying that I was exhausted debating these topics. After 6 years of theology classes, there was no argument I hadn’t heard or used myself. I was done, and in some instances, I disagreed with my Church’s hierarchy, as so many have throughout the ages. I had no intention of entering yet another argument, especially online where compassion seems to go out the window because there is no person to get emotional responses from (I honestly doubt Jesus would have ever used the internet!). I got 8 replies to that post that simply agreed: “We are so tired. You’re right. I am done too!” They didn’t want to argue anymore. I think it is totally and completely fair for you to let them keep wasting their breath while we go on to deal with modern issues truly needing our attention like “the suffering of people in the world” or basic faith sharing and questioning. When I decided to study theology, I agreed to take one course in ecclesiology and many in pastoral care. It is our pastoral conversations that really matter.

  18. Thank you so much Becky, so very true. I think I have just not given myself permission to stop! Why do I think I have to answer questions asked of me or defend myself? What I often ask others, why does their opinion of you matter to you?, I have such a hard time living out myself. ugh. It’s so hard not to take the bait. Thanks for your wisdom!! I will continue to mull over that, thank you.

  19. Becky: I would remind you that name-calling is against the commenting policy. I try to look as critically at church documents as I do anything else, I’ve never before heard open mindedness toward church teachings described as fundamentalist. This is a new blog and from what I have seen this dialogue has really not taken place HERE. Any attempt to seem short lived. I have tried to engage in debate, if I am only talking past those with whom I disagree, if I’m failing to debate in a way that can be heard be others and if I find myself posting only to prove something to myself, then I will stop posting.

    There are teachings that can never change, because truth does not change, but we can come to fuller understandings. Other teachings, like the Eucharistic fast, are able to change. In no way does this imply that we have learned all there is to know about God, I believe that claim(and violation of the commenting policy) was made in an attempt to discredit me.

    Lauren: I’ve not talked about myself for a number of reasons, though true, I doubt my story will be well received. It’s been a long road to where I am today, I came from a very dissident background, I heard the homily’s dismissive of “backward” church teachings on matters like birth-control, women priests, and even abortion for years. I essentially thought that the hierarchy was a relic, and existed to be the punch line to jokes. While looking into some reported side-effects of “the pill” I accidentally stumbled across something(I don’t know what) on the Catholic teaching, my thoughts were that this ought to be good for a laugh, but after reading it I thought it made some points that warranted further study. I looked at several things, including JP2s The Theology of the Body and found it beautiful, the love that God has for us and that ought to exist between husband and wife was expressed in ways more beautiful then I’d ever heard. There were other readings as well that expressed the same beauty through truth and words that I fell in love with, the more I read, the more I wanted to read. I found myself defending Humanae Vitae, something that I once saw as so indefensible I wouldn’t waste time bothering with it. I found the church teaching on any number of issues incredibly well thought out and expressing of the love that God has for us. As critically as I looked at church documents I usually found them air-tight, the dissident positions I once held crumbled under far less scrutiny.


  20. Pax, thank you for sharing!!! This is the stuff of dialogue that I came to this blog for and I want to tell you that your story is very well received, at least by me. Just as I may have felt unsettled in the way Church was presented to me, you as well sought out a different way than what you had been taught. We are on similar searches, and just find that different answers have met our longing, yes?

    We both search for depth, meaning, beauty, understanding of and relationship with God, conviction, connection to our community, roots, etc. I can definately relate to that, and think its interesting to dialogue about. Debate however, isnt dialogue to me. I know that this isnt everyone’s definition, but its mine.

    I don’t know how to dialogue about some of the theological issues you’ve brought up because you talk about things being “truth that cannot change” for instance. I really don’t know what else I can say and I would consider that a topic of debate, not dialogue. So, I’m sure there are those who would like to debate with you if that’s what you’re interested in. I, for one, have appreciated your sharing very much in this last reply of yours and am very glad you stumbled upon the jewels of our Church that have given you so much meaning, clarity and growth. I have had similar experiences where I read or heard words to explain realities I had not known had words and that has been deeply important to me.

  21. Josh, I was actually thinking of the Clash song, “Should I stay or should I go now?” “….It’s always tease, tease, tease. When you got me on my knees. One day its white and then its black….”


  22. I would be interested in hearing everyone’s beliefs about Proverb 3:5:
    “Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.”

    Is this a suggestion?
    Is this culturally conditioned?
    Is this truth?

  23. Lauren, I was refering to the last line of your post; you know … “I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam, I’m Popeye the Sailor Man…”?


    Get it?


  24. ha ha! I do get it! As for the last line I was thinking of “go tell them I AM sent you. if I could be so bold to borrow the words of God. L

  25. Mrissman, I believe that passage — like the other proverbs and for that matter like much of Scripture — is a bit of sage advice, a guidepost toward living a holy God-centered life.

    It tells me I should strive in all things to live according to God’s wisdom — things like “do unto others, etc. etc…” (this, I have on good authority, is the complete summary of all the Law and the Prophets). Or “Love God; love your neighbor as yourself”. Or, “If you would avoid judgement, do not pass judgement”; “the measure by which you measure shall be measured against you”; or “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”.

    I do my best to trust in these Truths, to acknowledge them in all my ways, and (believe it or not!) I try not to complicate them too much with my own meanderings of mind.

  26. I apologise for not “thoroughly” reading all of the posts here. I find this blog “interesting” I was once considered a “liberal” type of Catholic. Many of you are too young to remember the mishmash of the 70s and early 80s as far as the direction the American church was heading. I do . Our nuns dumped their habits….the monstrance was tossed into the trash can. and the confessionals were turned into an elevator for the handicapped. In my neck of the woods all 7 of the members of the “liturgy” committe were women who would could be classified as Card carrying members of NOW. All 7 of them at the time were in their late 30s AND all 7 of them were in Detroit in 1976. When they returned our parish was flipped on its head and members of CTA would have LOVED to attend this parish. Subsequently as the years passed on the numbers in the parish dwindled, men vanished from the pews and the parish itself nearly died (not becuase men left..but it certainly didn’t help.) The women grew older and “retired” from their posts. (they were VERY clerical in their attitudes and had complete control over the priest) The women are now all gone (up at the cemetary now) and the church is full again. Mostly because the agenda was changed. Interestingly the last two priests came from the dioceses Lincoln, NE (CTA members quick grab you galic and holy water). Things swing very rapidly towards orthodoxy and lo and behold the church is FULL again much to the chagrin of “progressives” there have been 3 priestly vocations in the last 10 years and 4 young women enter the religious life. I observied this parish over the last 20 years and can honestly say that its transformation towards orthodoxy happened at the same time as my transformation. The resentment I harbor towards “Progressives” and their tradition killing ideology has been quelled by prayer and open mindedness. I am a deacon now for a similar church. I find it very interesting to see Catholicism is sooo different here. I welcome any dialogue but I am conerned about some historical revisionism going on here at this site. I am sorry I cannot debate Ordinatio Sacerdotalis due to do the clerical censure placed by my beloved and excellent Ordinary. I accept the church as the pillar and foundation of truth. BY the way Ordianatio Sacerdotalis IS AND I MEAN IS an infallible statment. JP II placed a censure request on this topic for those in Holy Orders which is what happens when the magisterium proclaims an infallible teaching.. Oh also by the Way Ordiantio Sacerdotalis is applied to HOLY orders meaning ALL holy orders INCLUDING the Diaconate. I look forward to dialgue with my seperated brethren (sisteren/)

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