Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"Doubting Thomas" = Defensor Fidelis?

I am a Catholic. If you know me, this is usually the first thing you come to know. If you don't, you usually figure it out pretty quickly. I'm proud to be Catholic. My weekend plans include a Sunday Mass, my bag contains a rosary, and I'm involved in my Catholic community in many different ways. I also have the habit of connecting everything to a saints' day (example: "I'm seeing a U2 concert on the Feast of St. Michael!" Yeah, I'm that person). I live by Church teaching, even the hard ones, but at the same time, through all of it, there are many disagreements I hold with the Church. I believe contraception should be a couple's choice, that women should be welcomed into the priesthood, that maybe premarital sex, when done out of love, isn't as horrible a sin, even if it's not my personal cup of tea. I believe that religion shouldn't influence public policy with regards to same sex marriage and I don't understand why priests should be discouraged and forbidden from marriage (this for the Roman Rite-Eastern Rite is different).

Yet many things in my life have made me defend the Church, even despite my own disagreements.

I attend a very liberal university. This in and of itself would not be a problem, except that the words "liberal" and "tolerant" only apply if you agree completely with what others say (making the words meaningless). Though I myself am very politically liberal, my Catholic faith and pro-life beliefs have gotten me into hot water with many of my classmates. I have had experiences where I was the only person in my bio class who actively stood against turning human embryos into commodities. I've been the only person in my class defending the Church, not even when I absolutely agreed with the Pope but because my professor or classmates turned the discussion from honest inquiry to an excuse to bash Catholics, conservatives and other groups. I've been told my views are ridiculous and that my religion is horrible because of past events that no one in the Church has any control over. I've had friends come out of class frustrated for believing the same thing. I'm even afraid to get the groups I help run involved in certain events, because I'm afraid of situations devolving into a fiery pit of arrogance, insults, and an utter lack of respect or decency.

To me, the Church is my family. Even when I question my faith in God, I cannot deny the spiritual and cultural home I've found in Catholicism, nor can I deny the friendships and communities I've found because of it. Even as I question my priest on views of birth control or homosexuality, I cannot deny the good man of God that he is or underestimate the power of his faith, love and intellect combined. I cannot deny the peace I find in attending Mass or saying a rosary, even if I wish I could see a woman on that altar with the Church's blessing. Moreover, I cannot deny the honest inquiry, both intellectual and spiritual, of many theologians, the hope and faith that they are getting something right, that they really are following the will of God. I also cannot deny the heroes of Catholicism, the heroes that inspire me in my own faith, my own activism, the people whose faith was their momentum and reason for all that they did, even if it lead to their deaths. Even if I myself cringe at the wealth of the Church, I cannot deny the selflessness of the many Catholics, lay, religious and clergy, who give their hearts, minds and souls for the cause of Christ and the cause of justice.

Yes, I have my own struggles with certain teachings. At the same time, for this reason, I defend them and those who believe in, simply because I understand. I hate bigotry and disrespect more than I disagree with the men of Rome. Also, while I disagree with my family on certain things, I would never let someone speak ill of my own mother and father. Neither will I allow someone to speak evil of the main source that inspires me to do good: my faith in God through the Church.

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