Built With Guilt

Philomena Lee is a woman who lived with many challenges. She had a child in 1951, she was single and she ended up living in a Catholic home for unmarried women ( Sean Ross Abbey ). Philomena worked in the laundry room -- for the church's profit. The mothers did get to see their children every day, but they didn't always fully realize that those children were offered for adoption, as orphans, to American couples. Thus it was that Anthony Lee, age 3, was whisked off to America, where he became Michael Hess and grew up in St. Louis. Philomena never saw him again. The real Philomena Lee finds Hollywood ending to adoption story...https://www.washingtonpost.com/...philomena-lee.../a907b510-8..

Philomena would learn later that her son died years later in the United States of HIV/AIDS. This story is sad and tragic, given the separation between mother and son that was forced by a religious institution. The separation was somehow deemed appropriate by a belief system that relied heavily on guilt and for the need of atonement.

The story could have ended there, but Philomena found the inner strength to work for the greater good. She believed in the process of forgiveness. Philomena and her daughter,Jane, have worked to petition the Irish government to release adopted records regarding the children and families who were affected by this adoption procedure. Philomena has even received support from the Vatican. The real Philomena Lee finds Hollywood ending to adoption story ...https://www.washingtonpost.com/...philomena-lee.../a907b510-8...

Bishop John Shelby Spong in his book " Biblical Literalism: A Gentile Heresy " has considered the following question:

" Why has Christianity become primarily a religion of guilt , rather than of grace; of divine punishment, more than divine love ? " ( P. 189 )

Surely, in the case of Philomena Lee, had there been the concern by the religious officials for divine love, then there would have been no move whatsoever to separate a mother from her child, especially if it involved financial profit for the said religious institution.

I am still reminded that there are religious organizations out there that are more preoccupied by living by the rules versus living in an open and reciprocal fashion in the presence of God, however known. Once I met with a ministerial examining committee. One older male minister on this committee asked me the following question:

" Suppose you had a fourteen- year old girl, who is pregnant, come to you and ask you for advice, what would you tell her ? "

I paused and reflected and then I replied:?

" I would want to know what this young girl would want for herself. What would be important for her ? What would it mean for her ? I would not want to make a decision for her that would not be honest for her. That would not be appropriate. "

The older male minister, I remember, reacted with anger and frustration. This was not the answer that he wanted to hear. I knew that this was not the answer that this ministerial committee wanted either.

But that was ok for me. I didn't want to subscribe to a belief system that was heavily indebted to guilt.

Faith is really transforming and liberating when it releases us from the prisons of judgment that we can find ourselves imposing on ourselves and upon others. Some people may find that they don't feel good about themselves, that their self-esteem is low, and here a belief system based upon guilt can become very damaging.

John Shelby Spong writes:

" Emmanuel, the God who is with us is beyond every sectarian boundary that religious people have tried to impose. God is beyond finitude and morality. God is the revealer of that eternity for which all finite and mortal people yearn " (P. 367)

This is good news. Instead of guilt, faith can be built on joy, and hope and peace for Philomena, for all of us.

May it be so.