This seems to be the question on the minds of many faithful Catholics who feel they are at a cross-roads right now with the shameful state of the church. I can only speak for myself, but when I finally started reading up on what all the talk was about, I started to make several observations about my faith.
1. I feel torn between wanting to stay and quite frankly go on with life as planned before I realized what had been going on for decades, and wanting to disassociate myself with a church that no longer sounds like it's living up to its promises.
2. I have realized that I have idolized my denominational affiliation over my relationship with Christ. My current parish family has been amazing in slowly but surely helping me work on what's important - namely my relationship with Jesus, but this has not been my Catholic experience prior to this parish.
3. I am going back to the Scriptures, weighing the interpretations of different denominations, and really questioning some of the unique aspects of Catholicism. Jesus's Real Presence in the Eucharist is chief among these. It seems that faithful Catholics who are not considering leaving the church simply refer to Jesus' Real Presence and say with resignation, "where else could we go?" But as I've found out, this is a misleading question, because several other denominations believe in some version of a literal interpretation of John 6's Discourse of the Bread of Life.
4. Which brings me to my next thought - is it Jesus's Real Presence in the Eucharist that I want to continue to have access to in my church community? Do I really believe that I cannot follow Christ, cannot have a relationship with Him, cannot do His will, unless I receiving Him in Holy Communion? (The answer is a resounding no, underlined actually by a statistic I learned from today's homily. Apparently only 6% of Catholics believe that sharing the gospel is a priority. Um, what are we doing in church then people? Are we not listening at all at the end of Mass when we are sent out to do just that?) Are we looking at weighing the reality of our Eucharistic Lord against having a vivid and real relationship with our Savior? Is it an either-or situation? Certainly, there is room for both, but in my experience, having Jesus physically yet mysteriously present in the Eucharist has set up boundaries around Him. It has limited where I turn to find Him. It has encouraged a private devotion with zero interest in sharing Him with others.
5. Is my desire to remain Catholic a holdover from simply what is familiar? And if so, is that in itself so bad? Well, I don't think so, with one big caveat: If I stay, I nonetheless have to do something. What, I don't know yet, but something. If I stay and do nothing, then yes, I am condoning the scandal and the cover-up. And I am not OK with that.
6. And if access to our Eucharistic Lord is a hindrance to a living relationship with Christ, am I then obligated to distance myself from this one manifestation of Jesus in order to better find Him elsewhere? Because regardless, ultimately I am to share Christ. Which brings me to a good resting point. This week I start the Sharing Christ series, the third and final installment of an intentional discipleship series I've been participating in. Perhaps there I can get some clarity.
Practical reasons why I need to commit - and soon - to stay or go, in no particular order:
1. Choice of homeschooling history curriculum spine. Do I want the Catholic-friendly Story of Civilization, or the Protestant (and hence at times anti-Catholic) Story of the World?
2. Do we prepare our children for their first Reconciliation and Communion in a few years as planned?
3. Do we change how we talk about God to our children?
4. Do we change how we pray? What we pray?
5. Do we embark on a dual denominational period during which we start exposing our kids to a church community that isn't centered on the Eucharist?
I think the best thing for me to do right now is to pretend there is no other church to which we can belong (as often is the case in various places in the world), and therefore maintain our ties there for at the very least the fellowship aspect of our faith. And then we would need to step up our private devotion, Scripture study, and the like. I think it's a good method no matter what, because ultimately, our personal relationship with Jesus is up to us as individuals, not the church we belong to.