Nice try, Freedom From Religion folks. Nice try, but no dice. Yesterday, you ran a full-page open letter in the New York Times that was directed at me, a “liberal” Catholic. In this horrible ad, you said it was my “moment of truth”, that it was time I stopped “propping up the pillars of a tyrannical and autocratic, woman-hating, sex-perverting, antediluvian Old Boys Club”. Pretty strong stuff. But, sorry guys, I’m not budging. I’m Catholic, and I intend to stay Catholic until the day I die. Your open letter was a poorly-reasoned screed against the faith I love, and it is clear from the text of that letter that you completely misunderstand the nature and depth of my faith. In response to your letter, there are a few things I want to say. In no particular order:
1) I did not join the Catholic Church because I expected it to agree with every thought that ran through my head and every opinion I had on every subject. That would be a ridiculous state of affairs. I joined the Catholic Church knowing full well that there were points of disagreement for me. I did not expect that the Catholic Church would change its doctrine to accommodate me, and I would have respected it less if it had. I joined the Catholic Church because I was in love with the mass, because I felt comforted by Mary and the saints, because I was moved by its care for the sick and the destitute. I joined the Catholic Church for these reasons and a hundred more. My disagreement with the Church on the finer points of a highly limited number of teachings is far outweighed by all these other things. And I pray that in time I will come to understand these points of disagreement better, so that my heart may be changed.
2) I am not “better” than my church. You have that backwards. My church (the worldwide collection of believers that stretches back twenty centuries) is better than I am. My church feeds, clothes, and houses the poor. My church cares for the sick and the dying, from cradle to grave. My church opposes state-sanctioned murder and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. My church speaks out for the downtrodden and forgotten. How often do I neglect these duties? Quite often. The Church never does. Do Catholics sometimes do bad things? Yes. Has the Catholic Church as an institution sometimes done bad things? Yes. So do I, frankly. All the time. But I firmly believe that the Catholic Church is the church that Christ founded. We are humans, trying to sustain the Kingdom here on Earth. We will make mistakes from time to time. The important part is that we recognize these mistakes, ask for mercy and forgiveness, and continue to preserve the true faith as a community of believers.
3) I am not “beaten down every Sunday”. I am lifted up. Sunday mass is the highlight of my week. Of course, you think the mass is just “incense-fogged ritual”, so there’s no way you will understand this. You can’t understand how ritual can be freeing and life-giving. You promise me a “more welcoming home”. But mass is home. And the home you offer is actually no home at all. Let’s not pretend. You’re the “Freedom From Religion” folks. You’re not going to be happy if I just roll over and become an Episcopalian. You want me to give up the whole religious endeavor. But I love the Church and her rituals. If you want me to give them up, you’re going to have to offer me something other than some vaguely-defined intellectual understanding of community. And you don’t have anything but that to offer.
I have other points I could make. But I’m sure others will make them for me on other blogs. I thank Fr. Christian for giving me space on his blog to speak.
Thanks to Margaret Grace for weighing in on this most recent attack upon Catholics. Let us continue to pray that the Gospel will enlighten all people, even those who find faults with the Church.