Good afternoon, Fr. John. I’m here for confession. No, I’d like the curtain back, please. I want you to see my face. I really need to talk to you, get my bearings. But this confession will not be solely about my sins, for, unfortunately, I am not sure I will ever change my ways.
Does that exclude me? Is Catholicism a club? Should my twin daughters, five years old, be subjected to scorn and pity that their mother is a sinner? That they were born in sin? They don’t look like sin, to me. They are light, and love, and happiness. They have shaped me, taught me, brought me into the woman I was meant to be. Is it wrong of me to want to do the same for them? Is it better to turn me out and lose two potentially pure beings who will make their own choices in their religion and could be devout Catholics, or put up with me in the hopes that my children will be more worthy?
I’m here because I like you, you know. I like Catholicism. It’s in my blood, my heritage, my family. And where I’m from, everyone belongs.
I was baptized, received communion, was confirmed, attended youth group. I went to an all-girls Catholic college my freshman year. Full-ride because I’m fairly smart, and I work hard. That’s where I lost Him, you see. I don’t know how, or why, but one early fall day when the leaves were crisp and bright but not yet falling, I looked up at the chapel on campus, and He was gone. Or He seemed gone.
Can you imagine the anger? The assumed betrayal? The fear? To live your entire life one way, sure that someone was there, looking after you, helping you, hearing you…then to have that suddenly vanish?
I transferred to a state school after that year was up. I majored in evolutionary biology. What I disappointingly found there was that we know nothing, scientifically speaking, about how we actually came to be. Sure, we’ve got puzzle pieces here and there. A few even connect. But the pockets of missing pieces span the dusty living room floor on which the puzzle is being laid.
Nearly everything I learned for my bachelors of science degree, ten years ago, has been disproven. There were no answers there, so I became a journalist instead.
Then the bad times hit.
Horrid job after horrid job led me back to the east coast, where I was what you would call blessed with a twin pregnancy. We got married in a quick ceremony six days after the girls were born. (We’re still married and very much in love, by the way. Someday, I’d like to do it in a Church, but I’m not sure that’s even allowed.) A lost job, a house with no value, two premature babies who struggled to thrive every day, and I was without hope.
I was travelling an hour and a half to work each day, then an hour and a half back. I was producing a show watched by millions of people. At 26, I was kind of a big deal, Father.
But I was so lost. My girls growing up without me, from infants to babies, their big brown eyes ever on me when I was home. Always loving. They’d crawl to the door when I’d leave, each morning, in tears.
Suddenly, the minutia of life was no longer enough. The war in Lebanon, the train crash, the car chase, they didn’t sustain me. I looked for work closer to home. I found a job listing for the Catholic Church.
In my cover letter, I wrote nothing but truth. I said I was searching for something each day that I couldn’t quite find. I thought maybe the Church would be the right place to start, to go back and unwind the tightened mysteries of my downtrodden life, to bring back joy and hope. Maybe God was there, after all. Maybe He hadn’t disappeared altogether. Maybe I’d just lost sight of him because I’d had my eyes on the ground.
I wish I could tell you that was the end of the tale, Father, but unfortunately, no. I got the position. I worked there a year, while my husband toiled at home, looking for a job. And within the inner-circles of the Catholic Church, I saw many, many things. I saw the good men of the Church, fighting for human rights, loving all people, cherishing life and bravely forging into the darkness to help those in need. I also saw abuses. Abuses of power, of people, of money, of fame. By the time I left that job, I was discouraged, disheartened, and more atheist than ever.
We’ve long moved, since then, and down here in the southern United States, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t back half because I don’t want the Baptists to get my kids. I realize that sounds awful, so let me explain. One of my twins is inherently religious. And being a child, she will be supremely susceptible to any form of organized religion, should one happen along her path, which it invariably will, here in the south.
My friends have asked me why I don’t switch to Protestantism, be a Lutheran or a Methodist. Catholic-lite, they call it. But I don’t want another religion. And I don’t want no religion anymore either. I want you, Father, and your faith. But I only want some of it, and that’s why I’m here. Because I’m not willing to compromise on my personal beliefs about human rights. I assume you won’t be willing to compromise either. So where does that leave us?
I am pro-choice, pro-birth control, pro-women, pro-gay rights, basically pro-equality for all. I’m also a Catholic. I want to raise my kids Catholic. I just need to know if there are enough Hail Marys in the world to make that okay. And if there aren’t, what next?
Darlena Cunha is a former television producer turned stay-at-home mom to twin girls. She blogs daily at http://parentwin.com, and writes for The Huffington Post and Thought Catalog. She’s been published in McSweeney’s, The Feminist Wire, Fem2pt0, and OffBeat Families, amid dozens of others.