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Switch to Forum Live View UU convert w/ a hardcore Catholic mother.
5 years ago  ::  Oct 03, 2013 - 3:14PM #1
Posts: 1
I was raised surrounded by the Catholic faith - Catholic school for 13 years - my parents entire social life revolved around the church, etc.  I don't believe my mother, in particular, had much interaction, if any at all, with anyone but Catholics in the small town where she grew up, got married, and raised her own family.  The first time she talked with my husband (a Methodist) about religion, it was clear she had no idea what it meant to be a Protestant.  She literally asked, "So, do your people believe in Jesus Christ?"  Yeah, she is that ignorant about other religions.  Mom's world is flat.  

Anyway - The older I've become the less I believe in all "the stuff" I was raised to believe.  I don't think Jesus is God - I think he did exist and was someone with some good ideas and alot of charisma...a teacher...but that's about it.  I do believe there's something bigger - of a spiritual nature - out there and that we're all connected to it.  But I don't think it's a entity up in heaven watching me and judging me.  

Our daughter is 4.5 yrs old and a year ago she started asking questions about religion (Why don't we have a menorah?). We did have her baptized in the Catholic church as an infant, but weren't actively raising her in any church.  When the questions started, we decided if she's  old enough to notice these things, we needed to "get to her" before anyone else does (like my hardcore Catholic family) - and we needed a place where we could explore our own personal questions about spirituality.

With that in mind, we joined a federated UU/UCC church in town.  It's a nice mix - the UU part of the congregation is the largest (which we like) but there is the occassional mention of Jesus.  Considering our families are Christian, we like that our daughter will develop a familiarity with Jesus, but be free to come to her own religious beliefs through the guidance of their diverse Sunday School program.  We are really thrilled with our church community!

Anyway - mom lives 3 hours away (dad's deceased) and we've avoided discussing this religious change with her at all.  I find myself going back and forth as to whether we ought to bring it up to her.  My mother's personality is very tenacious, emotional, sensitive, jealous, and dramatic much of the time.  I'm fairly certain she's going to take this news as a personal attack on how she raised me.  I believe she'll  look at this as me rejecting her - just like moving away from my hometown was rejecting her, and living with husband prior to marriage was rejecting her, so on and so forth.  (Yeah, it's been a bumpy ride with my mom)  I also have concerns that she's going to blame my husband (who she's not so subtly been hoping would convert to Catholicism once we were married), 'cause you know, I couldn't possibly have come to this decision on my own - just like I would've never lived in sin with him had my father been alive (*eye roll*).  And I'm pretty sure she'll instantly hone in on the threat that our daugher won't receive first communion in four years and will  make it her personal goal in life to get us to relent to catacheism and first communion by pulling out her aersenal of guilt trips, hysterics, silent treatments, sobbing fits, and screaming matches.  I mean, hubbie and I have been married 10 years and when she's "having a mood" she STILL harps on the fact that we lived in sin before marriage.

Right now mom thinks I'm a lapsed Catholic that doesn't go to church at all.  She comments on how she's glad she at least got me to promise (years ago) that our daughter would make her first communion.  And lately, she reminds me of that promise and brings up catacheism quite regularly.  She's just dying for our daughter to be old enough to start catacheism.  She says that'll start me going to church again (and denial is a river in Egypt, oy!).

Mom's 85 years old and her health is fair, but not great.  So, one theory we've got is that she could likely be gone from this earth 4 years from now when our daughter would be of age for first communion, so why make life miserable for the time we have with her now?  Mom's not local - she doesn't see what we do with our free time.  Keep it on the down low and maybe it'll never be an issue worth addressing.  

And if she's still with us 4 years from now, we tackle the conversation then and at least we'll have saved ourselves 4 years of relentless guilt trips and nagging.

Anyway - I'm just curious.  Have any of you ever had to table the topic of your religious beliefs with family and make the conscience decision to keep this part of your life private from them?  Based on the little you know of my situation from this post, do you think I'm making the right move by omitting my mother from the religious part of my life?
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5 years ago  ::  Oct 08, 2013 - 12:34PM #2
Posts: 6,839

To answer your questions: Emphatically, yes and yes. How you and your husband choose to raise your daughter is NONE of your mother's business.

I can relate somewhat to your situation although minus the Catholic schools and having children (both thankfully, truth be told).

I suggest you find a copy of Dr. Susan Forward's book, Toxic Parents, immediately. I bet you'll find your relationship with your mother on almost every page. That book was extremely helpful to me in deciding what I had to do to be able to relate at all to my parents who both were controlling and manipulative. That book and working with a counselor enabled me to develop a healthier relationship with myself as well.

I urge you to get the book and to consider counseling for yourself both. Ultimately, I forged a better and much healthier relationship with my parents, not wonderful but better. I hope you will be able to do that, also. Good luck!

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5 years ago  ::  Oct 09, 2013 - 11:47AM #3
Posts: 1,815

Being raised Southern Baptist, I had to face a similar situation.  My wife was from a Buddhist background and educated in a Catholic Convent School.  

You can quote the words of the Popes to your mother.  

Pope John said there was more than one acceptable way to worship God.  Basically, everyone does not need to be a Catholic.

Pope Francis has said that he is not a Right Winger and that the church should be more about serving the people than being a bureaucracy with inflexible doctrine.

But in the end it might be best to keep silent after you inform your mother that you walk a different path but still respect her way for herself.  Let her know she can pray for you but you will not let her control how you raise your family.  If she wants to be a part of your life she will have to respect your views and the decisions that you make.

With love,

Rev Dorris
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5 years ago  ::  Oct 13, 2013 - 1:02AM #4
Posts: 8,225

When dealing with hard core believers who are family or close friends I would usually simply say I go to another church and leave it at that.  If asked what church I would say First Church, All Souls, Community Church or whatever, leaving out the denomination.  If pressed further, a rare occurrance, I would say "you know, the one on Church Street."  Usually rather than admit they didn't know what you were talking about a blessing for going to church would end the conversation.

As others have noted neither a confrontation or a lie is a good choice.  Courtesy and respect extends to all, even to hard core believers.  So giving them an excuse not to push is generally effective and kind.    

If the shoe doesn't fit, don't cram your foot in it and complain.
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5 years ago  ::  Oct 13, 2013 - 3:27AM #5
Posts: 6,839
Except that with hardcore Catholic relatives, saying "another church" is tantamount to proclaiming you've determined to go to hell. For that sort, there is NO other church. Baptized Catholic, you're Catholic or hellbound, no in-between.

When an aunt of mine who was a lovely, gentle person decided she wanted to revert back to the Methodism she grew up with, and my uncle converted to it, my dad's ├╝ber-Catholic family didn't speak to him for well over ten years. Gradually, once both my grandparents were gone, my uncle was accepted several years after my aunt's death but with the reserved politeness used for those who don't know any better than to go to one of those wrong churches.

No, I think the OP would do better to change the subject gently when churchgoing is mentioned if her relatives are anywhere near as hardcore as mine were. Eventually, her mother will provoke a confrontation when it becomes clear that the OP's daughter is not going to be doing First Communion. And it'll be the equivalent of WW3, I'm betting.
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