Belief and Discernment

I decided to pay attention to Pope Francis today, an action I have long been avoiding. It was good for me, but also helped me to understand just how deep my distrust of the Church goes.

Photo by graywacke/A Landing a Day

Photo by graywacke/A Landing a Day

I was a part of the Catholic Church until the age of six when my Catholic father died. I loved going to Sunday school, although I found the old people’s services to be boring and always dreaded the day when I’d have to go up in front of people to take the body of Christ.

At some point several years after my dad’s death, my mom decided to take my brother and me to a Methodist church — the denomination she claimed to be a part of even though she wasn’t practicing. Five minutes in, I informed her that we needed to leave because they were doing it wrong, and she decided it might be best for me to stay away from Catholicism.

Through the twists and turns of my own spiritual path, through my staunch atheism in my early twenties, I still tended to maintain a “to each their own” policy when it came to friends and family members and their religious choices. There came a point, however, where controversy surrounding the Catholic Church and child sex abuse became more than I could bear.

I could no longer remain passive. I could no longer hide the fact that I could in no way understand commitment to and worship of institutionalized child rape, especially on top of all of the other atrocities committed in the name of the Church over the past two millennia, not to mention its key role in putting the marks of repression all over the bodies of women.

I have very loosely followed this Pope’s story, seeing headlines that speak of humility, opposition to global warming (hooray!), interfaith dialogue and even an openness to “non-believers.” My initial responses have been that it’s a trick or manipulation of some kind, and that I just can’t bring myself to trust anything the Church does — because even if the dude is a spiritual leader, he’s also a political head. And besides, to this day he still opposes abortion rights, is no ally to the rights of my LGBTQ friends, and has been alarmingly vague in his response to the epidemic of child rape in the clergy.

Sure, there might be something to be said for his approach to changing the formalities of the papacy. But perhaps the only thing that will begin to chip away at my distrust is the full-out embrace of all people and a move towards more up-front, open and honest conversations about sex and sexuality, alongside an honest discussion of the ways in which clinging to power have distorted the teachings of Christ.

This begs the question of what is good enough. We have to compromise, right? In our relationships, in our day-to-day decision making, in our approaches to our own spiritual paths. I mean, I know that sugar is essentially poison and that it makes my tummy slightly bloated, but it’s in everything and sometimes I deserve the enjoyment of a piece of key lime pie, right? Perhaps Pope Francis is inching forward, making headway, all the while trying to bridge the gap between committed believers and those who have defected, or those who might be swayed to the Church.

It just…doesn’t seem good enough for me. I feel the same way about political leaders. I don’t expect them to be perfect, but I do expect them to be open and honest about their flaws and the problems of the systems they are supporting, and to address how to go forward in ways that show me they are working on it. I’m not saying that I’m advocating outright hatred or refusal of the Church, but discernment seems key. We live in a world where a “yes we can” chant becomes a platform in itself. We are so eager to give someone else our power to change the world, when in reality the power to change always lies within.

When it comes to the Catholic Church and the Pope, I just keep wondering the motives are. We are talking here about an imperialist institution. Imperialist entities strive to extend their power either through military force or diplomacy.

Reading the transcript <> of the Pope’s speech to Congress, I felt a few moments of hope that we are witnessing a true spiritual leader — whatever the heck that means — inspiring the masses, bringing the focus back to personal and social responsibility. But then I almost immediately ran across a story condemning the canonization of Junipero Serra, a Spanish missionary who apparently headed up efforts that killed about 90% of indigenous peoples inhabiting California in the 1700s <>. Elevating this man to sainthood was one of the primary reasons for Pope Francis’ visits to the states.

The volleying between diplomacy and military force — or genocide — seems to be a go-to for the Catholic Church, and I’m just so incredibly ready for a radical shift away from that. Perhaps there are beautiful and meaningful parts of the religion that can still serve. I’ll hold a little space in my heart that maybe the world is seeing the progression of a spiritual leader that can bring us back to the heart, and to a focus on love and forgiveness. For me, however, that path will have to be paved with something more than what I’ve seen so far.

This entry was posted in Columnist on by .

About Amanda Moreno

Amanda is an astrologer, soul worker and paradigm buster based in Seattle. Her adventures in these forms of ‘practical woo’ are geared towards helping people to heal themselves and the world. She can be found in the virtual world at

8 thoughts on “Belief and Discernment

  1. Len Wallick

    Amanda: Thank you for reminding us that there is another side, and “keeping it real” in an exemplary (ie: compassionate) way. We are so lucky to have your evolved being expressing itself here at Planet Waves. You are an inspiring example for me.

  2. Geoff Marsh

    A beautiful piece, Amanda. I can’t help but feel that at the base of its current operations, the Catholic Church is preparing for the possibility of a, perhaps defensive, war against Islam.

    I think it’s worth remembering that the Church and its monasteries were convenient refuges for the second or subsequent sons of families who wished to keep their estates intact by bequeathing everything to the eldest. It was also a shelter for those who – perhaps like us – didn’t quite fit in or relate to the mainstream of society with its greed, desire for territorial conquests and domination. It was a compassionate response to a social problem of the time.

    Strange decisions and events can manifest in institutions where only men are admitted. In my view, it would be of great benefit to this church if it seriously considered the origins of Christianity when women were the prime movers and shakers of this religion.

    1. Amanda Moreno Post author

      It’d probably be of great benefit of all churches to consider those origins 😉

      But really, I think of the time about a decade ago when I was introduced to the gnostic gospels and began to realize how much of the church’s history is unknown by it’s followers, to great detriment. Shocking and somewhat maddening.

      Thanks for the comment!

  3. Cowboyiam

    It feels strange to me how upfront and vocal our personal religious lives seem to play in our social cultural dialog these days. When I was a teen in the seventies I guess most people went to some church but we never discussed it. My thinking at the time was that I was an oddball for being a church goer then. I felt like I was living two lives one as a good Baptist boy on Sunday, the other as a world wise secular child of my society. Everyone seemed to connect on a secular lever with disregard of religious differences – so I suppose religious or spiritual conversations were considered taboo.

    As the decades have unfolded religious conversation has become increasingly the central focus of the broader secular dialog and today almost no subject is discussed without the back drop of the religious, or religions role, on any subject.

    Eric’s interview with Jacob and Jared in the current Ashville sex blog controversy is no exception as both men articulated openly, and without any sense of discomfort, how their religious upbringing played a role in what has unfolded in their lives. I find it reassuring when open minded people can discern what forces have played a role in our lives and how we feel about those influence now, without have to villainize the system completely.

    And the truth always is both positive and negative. Jared and Jacob did not dump on their religious upbringing as they both affirmed the best of it – while at the same time they both related some sense of having to break free of it in order to express the truth of who they are, even as they are a work in progress.

    What was most uplifting though was that neither one played the role of grieving backslidden Christian needing to recommit their lives to Christ. In the past that has been the easy road to take and many a wasted lesson has gone unlearned as the accused blames his/her behavior on the devil and runs for the cover of Christian forgiveness – turning their life around and eventually earning respect by going on a crusade for Christ circuit.

    The fact that now it is more natural to discuss our failures and look at all of our influences without making any judgment about a single influence being only bad or good – but seeing the whole thing from a slightly higher vantage point – and exploring the deeper energies at play. That really seems a beautiful possibility unfolding. Maybe someday soon it will be considered shallow to look at only one side of any subject – as if there is some Absolut right and wrong of things. Maybe we are witnessing the awakening right now. I believe we are.

    As for the Pope, I believe he has something spiritual beyond the scope of most Popes, so my thought is lets wait and see what happens. It is for sure that no Pope can simply rewrite church doctrine in a mater of months. Even slow progress should be commended. Love you Amanda.

  4. Sara Victoria

    I hadn’t connected the religious background of the boys from North Carolina with Pope Week, but how right on the money … As for the Mass Appeal of the Jesuit Pope – I think it is not widely understood how much opposition he faces from within the Vatican, itself. He’s got a pretty tight rope to walk between doing his thing and appeasing long standing forces that have an eye on the institution post-Francis…

Leave a Reply