Folks - thanks all for the thoughtful replies and encouragement. Lots of good advice....
Rather than respond point by point (I just don't have the time right now), let me just reply to thing you've said as they come to mind while I write. First, in response to a couple of questions, I was born into the church and baptized at 8 years old. I served a mission and married my wife in the SLC temple. Now I'm a Catholic.
I have laid out all of my concerns to my wife. She knows exactly how I feel and why I feel that way. I should clarify that my wife is awesome, but she's deathly afraid for our kids. That's what's motivating her. She's a fantastic mom, always laughing and hanging out with them. I'm the grumpy, resentful one. That's rooted in the fact that I have to live my faith secretly - combined with my ongoing doubts about whether it's even worth it. Maybe God doesn't exist at all anyway and I'm knocking myself out for no good reason. But my wife is great. I don't know how many wives would stand by their husbands when they 'go off the deep end' spiritually, but mine did. We were married in the temple, but she was right there to watch in support when the priesthood holder in her home stood there while a Catholic priest poured the holy water over his head and he became a Catholic. I know it killed her, but she was there for me. She knows what I'm going through. It saddens her, but she gets it. The kids weren't there at her request. They were with her mom, spending the night. Ironically, the next day my nephew baptized my son into the LDS church. I was there for that. The bishop even let me speak. I talked about Jesus's baptism and how Jesus was baptized by his cousin and how my son was just baptized by his cousin. People seemed to like that. Kudos to the bishop for letting me stand in front of my son as his father, even though I had just left the church the night before. Crazy, huh?
Also to my wife's credit, whenever the kids come home with some anti-Catholic thing they picked up at church, she supports me when I correct them. But only so far - anything I say is fine, so long as I don't conclude with "Kids, next time someone says something like that, tell them your dad is a Catholic." I sure would love to tell them that. I fully acknowledge that the church culture has changed since I was young. The people saying the anti-Catholic things are in the minority. The remnants of the old guard. I know. But it does upset me when I hear my kids parroting anti-Catholic rhetoric that some otherwise well-meaning church member issues, but I haven't mentioned any of those instances to the bishop. So far, I've just tried to correct my sons by saying something along the lines of "people believe lots of things about different churches. They don't mean any harm, they just don't know all of the facts." Then I offer the Catholic view. For now, that works out ok. My mom-in-law is a former Catholic herself and convert to Mormonism. She definitely has an anti-Catholic streak, not a surprise, I suppose, given that she is from Mexico and sees Mexican folk catholicism (Catholicism+Aztec syncretism) in a negative light. She equates it with Catholicism generally, not surprising since that's what she knows and she left the church when she was 10. Sometimes she'll say things about Catholicism around my boys, like the day my older boy asked me if the pope is a bad man. "Where'd you hear that?" "From grandma." That irked me, too. I told him the truth - there have been a handful of really bad popes, but the current pope is a good guy. I talked to grandma about it and she said she never said that. Who knows? I know kids can misinterpret things. It's still hard when I hear my own kids talk like that.
About why I'm a Catholic even though I don't feel the spirit there, I'm drawn there because I find the liturgy beautiful and I love the rich symbolism and exclusive focus on Christ at the mass. Like Calmoriah said, the visual aspects of Catholic faith are a big draw. Aquinas was the foundation, but the visuals and liturgy keep me interested. For a Catholic, I'm lucky to live where I live. Even though Europeans are becoming more secular, there are cathedrals and spectacular religious art everywhere. I live 20 minutes from Speyer, where a romanesque cathedral is; 45 minutes from Worms and its gothic cathedral; and 2 hours from Cologne and it's mind-bogglingly wonderful gothic cathedral. We've been to Chartres to see the quintessential gothic building and to Rome. Everytime I walk in one of those buildings I'm reminded all over again why I became Catholic. They're just so stunningly beautiful and really do seem like I've left the world and entered an unearthly domain. That's the point. To draw the mind heavenward. For me, those buildings have that effect in spades. The only problem is I always drag my kids with me when I can go (only when we're traveling) and they're tired of cathedrals. I know...it's just kids being kids. Boring, dad! I just want to sit there for hours but can't. Anytime I'm more than a few hours away from my family my wife gets upset, especially on Sundays. So I have to content myself with a quick 20 minute stroll through the corridors with their vaulted ceilings and flying buttresses, rose windows, stained glass, statues, altars, crypts, and smell of incense. One day I want to attend mass in an ancient cathedral, but have to do so secretly. That makes me sad thinking about it.
I tried creating a shrine at home to pray near, a spiritual space somewhere in the house, but it really weirded my wife out. Too Catholic. No cross ("evil implement of torture") and no statue of Mary, Mother of God. A painting is ok, though. Two-dimensional depictions are ok; three dimensions are pagan! Go figure. Talk about cultural baggage. I took the whole thing down. Maybe I can find some icons instead. She might be ok with that.
When I became Catholic, some ward members found out and made some comments like "doesn't your husband love you anymore? Doesn't he want to married to you eternally? Is he going to leave you now?" Yes, that kind of freaked her out. Sigh. Thanks, ward members. That's just great. I told her that no one takes marriage as seriously as the Catholics and that I would never be permitted to take communion ever again for the rest of my life if I decided to leave her, or even if she decided to dump me and I divorced her. If she divorces me against my will, that's a different story. Divorce is absolutely forbidden in Catholicism (which is not to say that an annulment isn't possible, but that's only a legal decision by committee possible only in situations where the initial vows are deemed invalid after the fact). I told her "if I was planning on leaving you, going Catholic is the worst possible thing I could have done." I guess that reassured her that i wasn't going anywhere. Then I asked her "do you think after we die if I'm a good dad and husband that God is going to take me from you?" That made her stop and think. She said no. Firmly. So at least she doesn't agree with all the implications of the doctrine of exaltation. If she did, I might be in a lot of trouble. That's a blessing, for sure.
I have Catholic books lying around everywhere. Reading them has never been a problem. Just so long as I don't come out of the closet and announce my conversion to the kids. The first time my older son saw a Catholic book he said, "but dad, we're mormons." He even got a little teary. Boy, that was a stab in the heart. I told him what he needed to hear to reassure him, even though it was mostly a lie. He still doesn't know, though I think he suspects. We were recently in Rome and we went to the Vatican. Standing right there next to the medieval city wall he asked me "dad, are you a Catholic?" His mom and ex-catholic grandma were standing right there. I internally hung my head and all I said was "no. I'm nothing. The important thing is to just be a good person." Lame response, I know. I don't know if he was able to read behind the lines and interpret the 'nothing' to signify 'not even a Mormon'. I don't know.
Sorry for the long post. One more thing in reponse to things some of you said. We have spoken to the bishop about these issues. It did not go well, only because my wife left the meeting mad at the bishop. He told her point blank that she needs to accept the situation, that I'm not coming back and let me practice my faith openly. I told him with her right next to me that she wants me to pretend to be an active Mormon. My wife nodded and said "Yes, that's what I want." The bishop kind of got on her. Now she's mad at the bishop. Like I said, she's afraid for the kids wellbeing. Kids first, in all things. So I'm kind of stuck. Not even the bishop can tone down my wife's fear.
About the pints knocked back, I love German beer! I know the charitable thing is to just stop. But dang it, that's like asking me to give up chocolate and steak because it upsets my wife. It's a funny thing, but although it bothers my wife somewhat that I love a stein filled with lager, she doesn't freak out at that 'appearance of evil' when the kids are around. She does freak at the appearance of me acting or talking like a Catholic. Beer yes, Catholic, no. She'd rather my kids saw me drinking than see me practicing my Christian faith. How's that for LDS cultural baggage? Or is it something else?
Long post. Sorry again. Thanks, folks for listening/reading. I really appreciate it. It's helpful to get a LDS point of view on all of this.
Edited by Spammer, 11 July 2012 - 06:44 AM.