Massachusetts is the most Catholic state in the nation. According to the 2010 census, 44.9 percent of us are Roman Catholic. I'm one of them.
A recent poll by Georgetown University reports that 76 percent of American Catholics do not attend weekly Mass. I'm one of them too. There, I said it, and there was no lightning bolt from above so read on.
However, I still consider myself a Roman Catholic. I have not given up the belief in God, and I have not joined another church. If I were to drop dead right now, I'd want to be buried by a priest, with Roman Catholic rites and tradition. Like so many Catholics, I have a complex relationship with my faith and the Church. Some of it is generational; I'm on the young end of the baby boomers. They rejected many of the intuitions and morals of their parents. It was all about feeling good, the "me" generation. Things like obedience and sacrifice were considered the practices of those who were unenlightened.
Then there was the sex abuse scandal. I was an altar boy and attended Catholic school, but I never suffered any abuse, never even heard of it. Unfortunately, as a reporter, I came almost as close to the horror and sense of betrayal as any victim. I looked into the eyes of people who were victims. I looked into the eyes of priests who abused. I looked into the eyes of people who covered it up. It was sickening.
So, maybe you're like me, a Catholic in name, tradition, but not in practice. That brings me to today. It was exciting to watch the election of the new pope. We just witnessed the elevation of a man who can trace his lineage back to Saint Peter the Apostle. That's incredible, just think of the history, whether you're Christian or not. Also, the man now known as the pope is very interesting. I don't expect him to change any church doctrine, whether it's doctrine I agree with or not. The church is not a democracy; I don't view it the same way I do our government. It's actually a monarchy that demands obedience, but you don't have to participate, it's voluntary. Maybe it is age, maybe it's a connection to my past, but after today, I feel like there's a renewed sense of hope for the Catholic Church. The pope took the name Francis. Saint Francis was a reformer. After the excitement is gone and the church enters this new chapter, will many of us turn the page? Will we feel a need to return whole heartedly to the fold?
I don't know, only God knows.