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By Diogenes (articles ) | Mar 18, 2006

The Tablet notes that "during the past three years over 100,000 people have stopped going to Mass in England and Wales alone," and is running a series called "Once a Catholic," profiling some of the new apostates and examining their reasons for apostasy. Sad reading.

What Maggie perceived as the rigidity of Church teaching was something that in some ways appealed to Gabriel, although his faith never survived his departure from a small, overwhelmingly Catholic town in Northern Ireland. He had been bookish and devout as a child and enjoyed being an altar server but began to have doubts at the age of 14 when he started to be exposed to other ideas.

More likely, Gabe had always been exposed to these "other ideas," but began to pay attention to them when they promised escape from newly-irksome teachings. It's called puberty. It's happened before.

"I had been locked up in a very inward-looking society and discovered a wider world through reading. I began to scrutinise the religion I was brought up in and see some contradictions and things that did not ring true," says Gabriel, an actor and writer in his early thirties. He kept going to Mass while he remained at home; he says it seemed aggressive to do otherwise, but his faith was slipping away. After he left home he attended only when visiting his parents in Northern Ireland. He recalls how on one visit he forgot to go to Mass and his father was so troubled that he arranged for his son to meet a Jesuit priest.

Note that this was not a kid who simply lost track of the time one afternoon. He was already living on his own and had ceased to practice his faith. So how does the wise old Jesuit deal with it?

"We had a very nice chat about sceptical enquiry and continuing spiritual quest. The priest told my father that I didn't have a problem but that he [Gabriel's father] did."

Great work, Rev. I hope you're proud of yourself. Gabe's father, the poor fool, thought Mass-going had some connection with the destiny of his son's immortal soul. Poor fool, he imagined he was doing his duty as a father by trying to address his son's spiritual difficulties instead of just banning him from his house. Poor fool, he implicitly believed a Jesuit would want his son to return to Mass and could satisfactorily deal with questions beyond his own capacity to answer. Well, we all know better now.

Gabriel retains a deep respect for the Catholic Church and, while he has no intention of returning, he would be troubled if it diluted its teaching to accommodate critics.

Brilliant. If your solute is also your solvent, wherewith shall it be diluted?

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Show 5 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Mar. 19, 2006 12:38 AM ET USA

    Some years back I was inducted into Sigma Xi. At the induction banquet I was seated across from a Jesuit. He waxed proud of the sixty Jesuits whose names are forever inscribed on the moon in the form of craters named after them. Then he volunteered a few words of personal cv to explain how he joined the Society. Suddenly, his gaze shifted to nowhere an his voice fell and he said softly "and then somewhere along the line I got ordained". His sadness haunts me every time I see the word "Jesuit".

  • Posted by: - Mar. 19, 2006 12:04 AM ET USA

    It says Gabriel would be troubled if the Church diluted its teachings to accommodate critics. That's probably because, at bottom, he believes the Church holds the truth.

  • Posted by: Ignacio177 - Mar. 18, 2006 2:29 PM ET USA

    There is a nice spanish term that I find difficult to translate: "vergüenza ajena". That is when one feels the shame that the other should feel for his bonehead play. I have vergüenza ajena for that poor excuse of a jesuit.

  • Posted by: frjimc - Mar. 18, 2006 12:32 PM ET USA

    "The Tablet notes . . ." What could you possibly expect to follow these three words than something unfavorable to Holy Mother Church? The Tablet is the British equivalent of the National Catholic Reporter, for crying out loud -- with a haughtier attitude, if that is possible.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 18, 2006 8:08 AM ET USA

    The Lord will bring Gabe back despite the Jesuit's kind ministrations.

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