I’ve decided that from now on I am going to self-identify as a Catholic.
A couple of days ago I went for a casual visit to Westminster Abbey, the shittest church I have been in all year. Now, to put this in context, I have visited a LOT of churches in 2013. I went to Venice in January; Florence, Siena, Pisa, Rome in the Spring; Seville, Granada, Tunis and Palermo during my wild wine, fluoxetine and coffee-fuelled Summer of celibacy. I also went to Exeter Cathedral at some point, which was built as a Catholic Cathedral so is OK to like.
Look at what I’m saying here. The Catholic churches in Granada – the most boring city I’ve ever visited* – and the Catholic church in Tunis – a fucking MUSLIM CITY – are better than the main Protestant church in London: the most significant church in England. Now, yes, I liked all of the graves – Elizabeth I, Mary I, Mary Queen of Scots, Charles Darwin, Isaaci Newtoni, David Lloyd George; I LOVED Poet’s Corner – Henry James, DH Lawrence, Lord Byron, TS Eliot; I ADORED the stained glass window above Poet’s Corner featuring Christopher Marlowe, Oscar Wilde, AE Housman (and some women) as a wonderful gay memorial, but what I was really bothered by was the lack of decoration.
No gold. No incense. No chanting. No people praying and shaking with rosary beads and devotional seizure. No gaud. No money. No beautiful works of art. A few sculptures, sure, but nothing earth-shattering. None of the balls, the bombast, the FUN of Catholicism. So having spent much, much time in Catholic churches and Catholic countries, I’ve decided to honour my juvenile dipping in a font and admit that I am one. I am a Catholic. I am Catholic.
There are, though, a few things to point out: Yes, I like the finery, the buildings, the smells, the sexual repression, the guilt, the Graham Greene novels, the luxury of the church… But I do have a few reservations: I don’t believe in transubstantiation. I don’t believe in banning safe sex. I don’t believe in giving money to the poor. I’m pro-euthanasia. I’m kind of pro-abortion (and by that I don’t mean pro-choice, which obviously I am as well). I don’t believe in Jesus being the son of a superior spiritual being. I don’t believe in rising from the dead. I don’t believe in a god. I don’t believe in the institutionalised covering-in up of long-standing child abuse. But other than those few problems, teething problems, I am Catholic through and through.
I don’t believe in all of their opinions, I don’t agree with all of their ideas. But I believe in enough. I believe in enough to be Catholic.
Illegitimi non carborundum.
*And I lived in WALES for three years.