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The Catholic churches are leaving us

Marc Munroe Dion on

I watched Notre Dame de Paris burn from my couch, located in my house, located one block from a 100-year-old Catholic church that is 80 percent empty on Sundays. In the back of the church is a redbrick Catholic school, abandoned for decades.

And I was baptized in Notre Dame de Lourdes in Fall River, Massachusetts, a huge granite church built with the pennies of $1-a-day French-Canadian cotton mill workers.

My Notre Dame burned down a few decades ago. It was replaced by a very ugly redbrick church, which merged with another Catholic church two blocks away, and then closed a few years later.

Although I'm not a very good Catholic, I'm a Catholic. You cannot leave the Catholic Church. If you do, the Church says you haven't, and the more loudly you say you have left, the more it sounds like you know you haven't.

"An atheist walks into a bar," the joke runs. "How does the bartender know the guy's an atheist?"

"Because the atheist tells the bartender that he's an atheist. Then, he tells the bartender again. Then, he tells the bartender one more time."

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The wafer of Communion still ghosts on the tongue.

The Catholic churches of Europe are mostly museums now; packed with doe-eyed Virgin Mother statues, hoarding relics no one venerates and still attended by a few old people. In America, we just tear them down or sell them to some newer faith that will hoist a slab of white wood over the old church door, white wood daubed with a church name in red paint, often containing the words "tabernacle" or "Zion," or maybe both, if the neighborhood is bad enough.

Our generation of humans believes that poured concrete is architecture, that siding is as good as paint, that gargoyles are, if not vulgar, then at least too expensive to make.

And so we re-find peasantry, or at least we learn to stop the peasants from any slow, multigenerational, highly ornamented thrust to heaven.

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