My Irish-Catholic identity has loomed large over my life since the day my parents christened me “Erin Jane Sheedy”, which lends itself quite well to my pseudo-brogue, entertaining - and slightly annoying- my friends at parties. After eight years at a parochial grade school and four at an all-girls Catholic high school in Pittsburgh, a majority Catholic city, I will begin at a Jesuit Catholic college in the fall. I pretty much know Catholicism like the back of my hand at this point.
I have always found my religion beautiful in a grandiose, but archaic way. The incense, the flowers, the chanting in Latin has inspired some of the greatest art in the world. The Met Gala’s celebration of the beauty of the Church filled me with a sense of pride as others had the opportunity to experience the extravagant elegance of the Vatican.
I found in the Virgin Mary a sense of solace, protection, and peace. However, the sense of protection came crashing down for many at the beginning of August when the grand jury released a report that detailed abuse of children by over 300 priests in six dioceses in Pennsylvania. Ninety-nine of those priests resided in the diocese of Pittsburgh.
I sat on the hard, wooden pew at my church, the Sunday after the report’s release, listening to the deacon’s homily. I looked in disbelief at my sister as the deacon blamed the actions of the priests on the declining morality of the world, and ultimately, he cited the invention birth control as the reason these priests and the world lacked respect for human sexuality.
My jaw dropped, and blood rushed to my face. Everything that has angered me about my religion flooded into my mind: the exclusion of women from the priesthood, the view of homosexuality as a sin, and the use of God as an excuse for the mistreatment of other religions.
Today, I mourn for all those abused by men who were instated to protect and lead their communities, and I am still angry at those who covered up these crimes. However, I will succumb to disbelief.
I believe in God who holds Mary, a woman, as the most perfect human being. I believe in a God who loves all people, regardless of their race, creed, sexuality, or sins. And most importantly, I believe in a God of forgiveness.