Tell Me Why I Don't Like Sunday
WORDS BY NOAH VAZ
This Easter Sunday, I, along with the 5.4 million other Australian Catholics, might likely be guilted into the bi-annual attendance of morning mass. Be it from ethnic mothers staying faithful to family traditions, to your nonna shaking her fist, or even just your ‘conscience’, for what could be the last generation of cultural (rather than practising) Christians, there is always a little extra push to go to Easter Sunday mass. In fact, religious holidays are the only time (bar a wedding or a funeral) that a Church's pews are filled.
When people are young, mass could be tolerated with the promise of a McDonald’s breakfast. In primary school, attendance, First Holy Communion and one's Confirmation were for some the golden ticket to better schools. And for those in Catholic high school it was merely compulsory.
But why do Australian adults bother going?
There are few captivating sermons, even fewer portions of free alcohol and no rousing gospel choirs. Perhaps, it’s the same phenomenon that happens with gym memberships. Everybody goes a lot when they’re first introduced, but such commitment steadily declines into sporadic attendance. Eventually, the few occasions you do attend are merely to maintain the façade that you’re a health-conscious, fit and sexy individual. So, do people go to mass to let other people know how *ethical* they are? Probably not, especially because religion is so taboo on campus these days that it’s almost more edgy than ethical to attend.
Plus, going to Easter Mass is tedious and awkward at best. It’s easy to get caught looking like a flailing marionette, forgetting when to kneel, nod and move your hands. One gets torn between getting communion wine or not, confused at the notion of why Priests are exempt from having their RSA. There’s also the struggle of suppressing burgeoning chuckles when the octogenarian priest conjures up accidental salacious phrases like “throbbing with excitement”.
However, I don’t think I’m going to feel all that guilty this Sunday when I don’t attend Mass. The past year has seen the greatest exposure of the Catholic Church’s ritual institutional failures in regards to child sex abuse, with the release of the 21-volume report detailing institutional failures within the Catholic Church’s antiquated walls.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse has exposed hundreds of cases of abuse from members of the Catholic church; over 40 suicides related to such allegations in Victoria; and extraordinary cover-ups for individuals who had molested dozens of children. Whilst the Church exudes a level of co-operation, their responses to the recommendations of this report leave much to be desired in terms of Catholic leadership. With charges against Cardinal George Pell to be dropped in coming weeks, the slimy veneer of Australian Catholic leadership maintains little solace for those reconciling the sins of their institution with their faith.
Further, the University of Sydney’s Women’s Collective recently led a scathing protest against the intervention of the Church in Australian politics, fighting hard for a women’s right to choose. For the Church to operate in the modern era, the acceptance of basic human rights needs to come before their pro-life advocacy.
Its crimes and underhanded persuasion are consistently shrouded, and the solution seems rather obvious. In 1959, the then Pope John XXIII heralded a process of “Aggiornamento”, an essential “bringing up to date” of the Church’s practices and teachings. Now, in the 21st century, surely leadership ought to call for the same update to their archaic operations.
However, for the Church to fling open their heavy, draconian doors they’ve got to stop receiving support in attendance, especially from the added numbers of cultural Christians that attend Easter Sunday. I imagine, for the few regular churchgoers it’s a matter of not throwing the baby out with the holy water. Undoubtedly, Catholicism is still responsible for some of the world’s largest charitable endeavours, and there are also those who simply see faith as a deeply personal experience. But for those cultural Catholics, by going to mass this Sunday, you will be inadvertently supporting the Church’s reluctance to change. By receiving support on religious holidays Churches believe that adherence to their teachings is unconditional — that people will always come back to their lofty ceilings and stale communion bread.
So I’m not sure if it’s just to quash the guilt, or I’m actually a principled individual, but in my mind the difference is minute. After all, McDonalds does all-day breakfast these days, so all the cards are in our hands.