(ANTE – SCRIPTUM : This is the 300th post since the beginning of this Blog. My book, “From Illusions to Illumination”, contained 227 Random Reflections. The Blog is virtually Volume 2. There have so far been 884 comments on the posts. The Blog has 48 registered Followers and no doubt zillions of silent readers.)
Neither expression in the title can now be used without implying reference to the TV series “Star War Rebels” or that of the criminal saga of a former professor of Chemistry with terminal cancer. TV series can confiscate language to the point that some young people may think that such expressions originated on the TV screen.
My question therefore needs to be rephrased : does leaving the ministry and/or abandoning religious faith and practice necessarily result in reprehensible, unacceptable behavior ? The answer is so obvious you must wonder why I bother to ask it. As a former Catholic priest become a militant atheist, however, I know that in the eyes of many of the Faithful I am a scandalous renegade, an unpardonable apostate. In short, I am a bad guy.
I guess some clergy who broke ranks have in fact broken bad. The former seminarian, Joseph Stalin, will come to the mind of some gung-ho pillars of the Church. Others might point to less famous examples of formerly committed believers and even ordained ministers of the Church, who subsequent to their apostacy led notorious if not criminal lives.
Such examples would surely be rare. In fact, all the ex-priests and ex-believers I know are decent people whose lives may not be exemplary but are on a par with the rest of the population. Few of us turn into monsters.
But we do bear a certain stigma. A businessman becomes a lawyer, a teacher becomes an actor, a secretary becomes an opera-singer, a doctor becomes a farmer. Most of them, at least if they succeed in their professional metamorphosis not to say life-change, are applauded for their courage and initiative. A priest decides to get married and the Parish goes beserk ! A theologian throws in the towel and publishes an atheist manifesto : Bring in the Inquisition !
Some of us have been fortunate enough to have family and friends who have accepted our reorientations, and though maintaining their own commitment to the faith, tolerate our rejection of it. They may even waste their time praying for our conversion. But though they regret our breaking ranks they do not accuse us of breaking bad. To the others who have ostracized the black sheep, I can only beg that they give them a break.