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  #1  
Old Oct 27, '11, 8:56 am
ScareBear ScareBear is offline
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Default Church Cliques--What To Do?

I'm really struggling with this and my kids and I left a church activity early last night over this.

(By the way, I don't belong to a Catholic church, just to be clear.)

The church we have been going to seems to, among the most active women, be rather cliquish. I've talked to two other women (moms my age) who feel the same way. One said, "I've been a member for 7 years and haven't been able to get into [either women's group]. They told me to be involved I needed a mentor but, oh well, no one was available for mentoring." Everytime they post on Facebook they "desperately" need volunteers for something, they turn this lady and me down via email. Then they persist in soliciting volunteers.

Last night I again ask to sit with some ladies at the informal supper. "Oh, I think this seat's taken."

I was thinking maybe I'm being paranoid/moody/defensive/etc. Over the past few weeks I've been "warned" by several people that these ladies "close ranks" and you have to be "a certain income" to be accepted.

One of the "popular" ladies was talking about my kids and, not too far from us. She was talking about my choice of pumpkins I brought for the pumpkin decorating and complaining about my son's jacket and "weird" behavior (he's on the autism spectrum) and said, just loud enough for everyone to hear, "I don't think they should let atheists in the youth group." I took that as directed about my son. The first night of youth group he confessed, in his matter-of-fact autistic way, that he believe he is "currently an atheist because science can't prove otherwise and I'm a man of science." He was very gracious and let them know he was open to being there and learning about Christianity.

Another mom made a point of sending her daughter over to my 7 year-old to tell her that she's having a big birthday party but that my daughter is not invited. "My mom wanted me to pass along to you that I can't invite you. I wanted to but she said no."

There's more. Just some passive-aggressive behavior and general sense of unacceptance by this same little group of women. It's a small congregation as well. These things tend to happen in smaller congregations. EVERY TIME I volunteer for something I get turned down, unless it's the older ladies or the guys.

One of these women snapped at my teenager last night and upset her (my older daughter is a very polite, quiet girl). She was walking down a hallway and our other priest had left a light on in, I think, the library. The woman snapped at her to "go back in" and turn it off. My daughter tried to tell her she hadn't been in there and didn't know if others were in there. The woman snapped at her again and started to mumble loudly about the "heathens" running around. My daughter is a very respectful girl and came and got me for advice. She actually wanted to go home at that point.

I also got told not to hang out with a new friend, S., I made at the church. She is a "troublemaker" and our dealings with her will "reflect poorly" on me and my teenager (who hangs out with one of the new friend's two teenagers). S. is very polite. She is a smoker and a free spirit, for sure, but I was unaware she was such a "bad influence."

I just need to vent. A lot of this is not tangible stuff I can write. You know what I mean? It's that weird vibe and little comments that keep adding up. I'm trying to step outside myself and not feel unwelcome by this little group. I have a hard time feeling like I fit in anyway.

I'm trying also not to be so picky about things. Part of me feels like I'm looking for excuses to leave this church. I feel like I'm growing spiritually. I've been doing informal RCIA, reading, and doing a correspondence course. I'm also joining a "Why Catholic?" group. Maybe part of this is my growing disenchantment with my denomination and deep-seated desire for something more conservative and wholesome. Part of this is my own neuroses. On the way home last night I caught myself having an old, unhealthy thought, "Well, why did I think a Christian group was going to accept me, anyway?" (Many, many of my experiences with Christianity have been negative.)

Thanks for letting me vent!

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  #2  
Old Oct 27, '11, 9:03 am
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SummerSmiles SummerSmiles is offline
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Default Re: Church Cliques--What To Do?

I understand this difficulty. Unfortunately I don't really have any advice for you. This problem isn't just limited to small parishes. My parents came to a new parish 10 years ago (when I was still living at home) and have still not been accepting into the clique there. This parish is HUGE. The cliques are very focused on social status and income. It's unfortunate, too, because aren't we all supposed to be one big Catholic family? I'd never known that a church group could be so unwelcoming.

Anyways, this happens to Catholics, too. It's unfortunate, but it does happen. I'm hoping that someone else has some good advice to offer here. I just always try to pray for patience and for the strength to keep going. I keep volunteering for things, I keep trying to offer my help. If I'm turned away, I just try to say something nice like, "ok, if something comes up and you need more help after all, you can still call me."
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  #3  
Old Oct 27, '11, 10:06 am
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jazzy0710 jazzy0710 is offline
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Default Re: Church Cliques--What To Do?

Wow. I guess I'm not alone.

Just out of curiosity is your current church born again christian?

I belonged to one of those churches for a little over 10 years. There were similar problems there as well. My very biggest pet peeve was when my friend got pregnant outside of wedlock. People shunned her and wouldn't talk to her anymore. When her baby came along. Nobody would acknowledge the baby. It made me sick. Then if I would pick up him and talk to him and sing, etc etc people would give me dirty looks but I didn't care.

Another girl who was a bit younger than my friend got pregnant outside of wedlock as well. This girl didn't get shunned though and she was allowed to have her baby shower at the church. My friend was not allowed to have hers there. Heck her pregnancy wasn't even allowed to be announced. Yet this other girl's was. My friend and her mother(especially mother) are overweight and have various different health problems. Some of the elders used to give them a hard time about parking in handicapped parking. Didn't think they needed to. My friend was run over by a car and has several pins in her hips that hold them together yet the elders just felt she was lazy.

I also found people in this particular church to be extremely nosy. Always wanting to know every detail about everything and they were very critical as well. The Criticism botthered be more than the nosy-ness. Elders were always cornering me and nagging me about my fiance not attending the services with me.(the reason he didn't was because he felt they were too nosy and didn't feel comofrtable). Yet there were women in the church who were married and their husbands didn't attend because they were laying on the couches watching football. At least my fiance had a valid excuse. Plus he worked on Sundays sometimes as well.

The last straw for me was the day that a decon flipped out on me and my friend for standing on the sidewalk during the BBQ. I haven't been back since. That was August 2008.

I now attend a Catholic Church. It's great. People are extremely friendly and polite. I joined the RCIA and have been having the time of my life there. I feel much more comfortable there.
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  #4  
Old Oct 27, '11, 10:16 am
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Contra Mundum Contra Mundum is offline
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Default Re: Church Cliques--What To Do?

Wow, this sounds really bad. Gossiping about children would be enough to make me leave and look for another parish.
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  #5  
Old Oct 27, '11, 10:32 am
puzzleannie puzzleannie is offline
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Default Re: Church Cliques--What To Do?

I have no difficulty believing there is a real clique of people in your parish that act this way, nor that it is by and large mothers teaching this behavior to their children, especially to their daughters. We also have been caught this way in some parishes--especially those who have a school. What I do think is, there is also a group of like-minded parishioners who empathize with you, who are on the sidelines and have been keeping quiet because they too are frustrated. If you can find each other out, and not form a competing clique, but do an end run around the groupies to start you own, much more inclusive, apostolates and social activities you will have really achieved a Christian victory.

Suggestions? ask your kids. who in their CCD or Sunday school class is also being excluded, picked on, left out etc. Make cautions overtures to these families for something informal and see if you can find these other families who really are out there.

You may find it necessary to leave a school or parish because of the unchristian behavior of members, but it you do, make sure the pastor knows precisely why. And never, never never let people come between you and Jesus Christ, nor allow them to separate you from His grace in the sacraments.
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  #6  
Old Oct 27, '11, 10:33 am
catharina catharina is offline
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Default Re: Church Cliques--What To Do?

Where are your pastors?
Talk to them ASAP.
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  #7  
Old Oct 27, '11, 10:43 am
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SMHW SMHW is offline
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Default Re: Church Cliques--What To Do?

Quote:
Originally Posted by catharina View Post
Where are your pastors?
Talk to them ASAP.
In theory this is a good idea. And it most likely should be done.

But in some parishes the cliques have more practical power than the pastors. And in some places that could get the pastor kicked out. (Or in the case of Catholic parishes, transferred.)
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  #8  
Old Oct 27, '11, 10:55 am
Matrix Refugee Matrix Refugee is offline
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Default Re: Church Cliques--What To Do?

Got this very problem at our rather traditional parish: I've had to avoid going downstairs for the social hour after Mass. There's a *LOT* of large families and since ours is small (I'm the only child), we've kind of gotten the cool shoulder from a lot of people. I've also taken some dings for the way I dress: I've been known to wear pants if it's especially freezing cold, plus I have a slightly mannish mode of dressing (I'm often seen wearing a men's trenchcoat and fedora or men's shirts: I've started exclusively buying the latter since women's styles these days disgust me).

And then there's this one group of guys who seem to make it their prerogative to Stand In the Middle of the Common Area Downstairs and Debate Somewhat Loudly about Hot-Button Issue of the Day. Their bickering can range from the hairsplitty (ie. the correct translation of the Consecration) to the uncharitable (one guy going on about how GLBT people should all be "cured" or excommunicated if they refuse, or how "bisexuals prey on everyone". I was coming to terms with my own sexual identity at that time, it was really the last thing I needed to hear someone in the Church say. I almost turned on the guy and said "Don't do me any favors, pal; nice job making me feel less welcome than I already did." But I managed to walk away quietly, though I ended up crying when I got home.)
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  #9  
Old Oct 27, '11, 11:14 am
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SummerSmiles SummerSmiles is offline
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Default Re: Church Cliques--What To Do?

Quote:
Originally Posted by catharina View Post
Where are your pastors?
Talk to them ASAP.
This sounds like a good idea in theory. Practically, the pastor probably has little to do with and may have even less power in changing the behavior of these cliques.

In the parish my parents are a part of, it's common knowledge that lots of people transfer to neighboring parishes because of this problem. It was common knowledge 10 years ago, as well, but nothing has changed. Some of it probably has to do with the fact that it's a large parish--what's a handful of people leaving compared to the thousand who still attends and the hundreds who still want their kids in the school?
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  #10  
Old Oct 27, '11, 11:29 am
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purplesunshine purplesunshine is offline
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Default Re: Church Cliques--What To Do?

Watch Mean Girls.

No. Seriously. Watch the move "Mean Girls"

Then look around the room at the other women who also are being mocked and put under pressure to conform. Learn to love them. A queen bee will come swarming in trying to gain control, but this is where the important step comes in. Stand together.

Alot of times there really isn't a clique. Its almost always 3-5 women who THINK they can control everyone else. It really dosn't take much at all to equil or over-power the clique and make them seem more like old biddies.
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  #11  
Old Oct 27, '11, 11:50 am
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aloe aloe is offline
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Default Re: Church Cliques--What To Do?

I am sorry this is happening to you and your kids. That is so rude and hurtful, especially when it involves your kids. There is no excuse for that. When you find an answer, let me know. This happens at work, in volunteer organizations, churches, in some families etc. Cliques can be found just about everywhere.
An organization where I volunteer has something that sounds similar. I choose to volunteer time assisting the organization sometimes at a considerable personal cost. Two older people who are decades older than me choose to do the same but take it above and beyond and play mean games, talk behind others back, throw around nasty e-mails and snide cutting remarks, engage in ignore or gossip campaign games, take any information in which they know about a person and twist it to somehow injure other volunteers in personal matters. I enjoy the mission of the volunteer work and wish to continue. I do not wish to be a target of the drama or engage in any discussion of people's personal lives in a negative manner, or even be in the presence of such toxic people. I do my best to never ever engage. I do a lot of politely switching subjects, let them talk about the weather or whatever. I learned a little too late but now have learned to put up a lot of boundaries to protect myself as I can't be friends with these people, who wants friends like that? I go about my business, am polite and do my best for the organization, but I also do my best to not interact with the worst offenders.
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  #12  
Old Oct 27, '11, 12:15 pm
ScareBear ScareBear is offline
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Default Re: Church Cliques--What To Do?

Gosh, I don't know where to start!

Thank you all so much for the feedback. I'm sorry/relieved (at the same time) that this isn't just me!

I know this would happen anywhere. I don't want to simply go to another church. It's an Anglican church, not a "born again" congregation. It's a progressive, higher tax bracket place. My family, and many others there, are not "higher tax bracket." In fact, I've seen many of the more obviously indigent folks there marginalized.

It is just a handful of ladies. They "click" and get along really well. I looked at the Daughters of the King website and was really interested in this. www.doknational.com
I'm surprised; this is a big move for someone who a year ago was convinced she was an atheist! It is amazing to me how just a few months could have brought about such a 180-degree change in the company I keep, the tv shows I watch, the language I use, my attitude... I give complete credit to the Lord for this. So I really felt that I should investigate, at least, this Daughters group. Well, I was told it "is not a group for [me]." I get the feeling it's not about being a Christian; it is viewed by the one I was talking to as a sorority. As someone who has always felt kind of on the fringes, that stings.

On the bright side, I am going to start next week attending a prayer group for moms at the Catholic church down the block. I am hoping to find more "spiritual food" there. Hoping to at least make connections with more conservative ladies. Also, I'm pregnant with our fifth child (first one together) and I'm tired of our parishioners (and many Anglicans are former Catholics, for Pete's sake!!!) saying things like, "This is your last one, right?!?!?!" Maybe I'll meet some ladies Monday who have a "brood" the size of ours!

Again, I'm learning from your posts and appreciate them. I'm going to read back over the posts and think about what you've all said. Sounds like many of us needed to vent about this and get some feedback! I know humans are humans, but (at least at church!) I was hoping for a warmer reception to me and my family becoming Christians! You can't win! Many Evangelicals will hound you to find Christ and then you do and it's still not good enough!!!!

Well, I swung by our Catholic parish today and picked up the "Why Catholic?" workbook that the mommies group uses. I'm going to delve into that and then go to RCIA this evening.

Again, keep the posts coming and thank you again, my dear online friends!!!



Cara
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  #13  
Old Oct 27, '11, 12:53 pm
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Contra Mundum Contra Mundum is offline
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Default Re: Church Cliques--What To Do?

I'm glad you are taking steps to improve your situation and your last post definitely sounds much better.

I agree that cliques exist everywhere and you might easily come across another one in a Catholic church. However, what you are less likely to find is a division across class/income lines.

I hope this prayer group will be a positive experience. Keep us posted!
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  #14  
Old Oct 27, '11, 1:24 pm
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Carolus Martell Carolus Martell is offline
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Default Re: Church Cliques--What To Do?

ScareBear seems to me cliques or close personal associations exist everywhere, it's part of life. Ordinarily I'd might suggest you might be be overly sensitive but the cruelty displayed to your daughter is pretty hard to take.

I know children can be unkind on their own but I suspect otherwise.

If I were you I'd immediately retreat from the social clubs and limit my activities to worship only. With some select prayers over the next 3 months or so appeal to the holy spirit for further guidance then take stock and ...see what develops.
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  #15  
Old Oct 27, '11, 1:28 pm
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aloe aloe is offline
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Default Re: Church Cliques--What To Do?

Great update.
Quote:
Originally Posted by ScareBear View Post
Also, I'm pregnant with our fifth child
How wonderful
God bless.
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