On the night before Jesus' death, Judas was handed thirty pieces of silver--in return, he handed over Jesus to his death. Judas was a "traitor"--one who hands over.
The word "traitor" is closely related to another word: tradition. "Traditio": to hand over, or hand down.
I've found myself holding these terms in my own hands, wondering what exactly it is I'm doing. I'm a Roman Catholic by tradition, but I'm attending an Episcopalian Church.
I've spent thirty-one years as a Roman Catholic female. As my eyes have been opened to the reality of Roman Catholic sin, I've become committed to addressing that sin from within the tradition, rather than running away from it. Before I met my husband, I was seriously considering life as a Roman Catholic nun. One way or the other, I was going to stay and foster positive, life-giving, Christ-centered change. I never seriously considered leaving behind my Roman Catholic identity.
After I got married and began working at a Jewish Renewal synagogue several years ago, I realized that my religious identity couldn't be contained within Roman Catholicism. My religious identity grew bigger. Letting go of my roots was still not an option. Adding to that tradition, yes, but not letting it go. I have many friends in many other traditions, and I respect and admire them, but Roman Catholicism has always belonged to me. I may not watch EWTN anymore, I may not collect prayer cards and rosaries anymore, but everything I grew up with has shaped me. I don't take that lightly.
But then, becoming a mother was never really factored into the picture of what I would be willing to do or not do in my future. I didn't count on having two daughters. I didn't count on having a toddler who could read when she was two-and-a-half. I didn't count on the tremendous perceptivity my daughter now exhibits at barely three years of age. I didn't think I'd have to shape my choices for her sake, rather than mine, and certainly not so soon.
It's clear to me that my daughters deserve a religious upbringing in which women are fully valued and recognized for their God-given gifts, which has automatically precluded our attending any Roman Catholic Church in the Phoenix diocese (where my family now resides). Even so, when I was speaking with the pastor of St. Augustine's Episcopal Church in Tempe last week, I referred to myself as a Roman Catholic.
Tonight, something shifted.
I was talking to one of my former roommates this evening (she and I attended a Jesuit university in Ohio) and when she asked me what I thought about Pope Francis, I paused for a moment. Then I said, "He's really good for the Roman Catholic Church. He seems to be taking things in an authentically Christ-ian direction."
But it won't ever be enough, my heart said silently, heavily. The realization finally hit me, deep down in my gut:
I can't do it anymore.
I can't claim it anymore.
I'm handing over my Roman Catholic identity to those who want to claim it, despite the systematic sin so prevalent in the hierarchy and in the stances of the church. Let others take and keep it under the auspices of an inspired, inspiring pope.
My former roommate said to me this evening, "But you're supposed to be the next pope!" That was our joke through college as I was studying religion and taking several foreign language classes in preparation for theology school. I said to her, "But, you see, as soon as I become pope, my first act will be to disband the papacy." Disband. Tear apart. Hand over.
I'm Judas. I have loved this tradition with my whole heart, but I cannot keep it any longer. It is better without me, and I without it.
After all, many theologians argue that Jesus would not have risen if he had not been put to death.
I am a traitor to my Roman Catholic identity. But without sending these Roman Catholic roots of mine to their death, how will they ever rise up in me, glorified with brilliant, breath-taking life?