Over the last year there has been a major issue on my heart that I haven’t known quite how to share until now. Most of my friends know that I grew up in the Catholic Church, attended Catholic grade school, and even a Catholic college. Then, I fell away from the Church because even after all that Catholic schooling I didn’t know what I didn’t know. (*mainly because I have a very hard time paying attention for a time span longer than few minutes – thank God I found Spark)
I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
Over several years I took the time to challenge my faith – every bit of it. I challenged why the Church taught what it taught and asked as many “why” questions as I could. Throughout that process I heavily educated myself on not just the Catholic Church’s teachings, but also on the teachings and beliefs of other faiths including many Protestant ones. Through that process I’ve become much more in-tune with the teachings of the Catholic Church and am stronger in my faith than I’ve ever been. I thank my beautiful wife for constantly challenging me to be even stronger in it.
During my questioning phase I spoke with many Protestant friends and I heard on many occasions that they knew “Catholics” that weren’t living very holy lives and apparently had a poor reputation, which led my Protestant friends away from the Catholic Church. Needless to say, that was not a very comforting thing to hear. It especially wasn’t comforting because I knew exactly what they were talking about because I was at one time part of that problem.
I think everyone experiences the questions of “What church do you go to?” or “Are you a Christian?” at some point in their lives. I know I had been asked those questions numerous times. Now, I was not the model Catholic by any means and I wouldn’t even say a model man, but because I grew up Catholic and went to Catholic school I would always tell people I was Catholic. I claimed my Catholic faith like a badge of honor even when I wasn’t attending mass regularly, didn’t know what the Church taught, and when I was living a very unholy life. Ergo… my contribution to part of the problem I mentioned earlier.
This was the big issue with me and the big issue that I see a lot of today: I was turning people away from the Church because of the way I lived. I was a terrible witness and wish I had never told people I was Catholic on the many occasions that I had because I was a poor example of one. Well, just like when smokers quit smoking they begin to notice how terrible cigarettes smell and how unpleasant they are, when I re-dedicated myself to the Church I began to notice so many other people living the same way I was living. Now I see other “Catholics” claiming their Catholic upbringing like a badge of honor all the time and especially lately even with regard to the 5 non-negotiables (1. Abortion and subsets in that category including contraception, and in vitro fertilization/fertility treatments; 2. Euthanasia; 3. Same-sex “marriage,”; 4. Human cloning; and 5. Embryonic stem cell research). While there are MANY things you can disagree with in the Catholic Church, as a Catholic, those 5 things you cannot.
Here are a couple recent examples: First, I think everyone heard of the highly publicized Brittany Maynard physician-assisted suicide (euthanasia) case. If you didn’t then you most likely don’t have internet, a phone, television, etc. because it was everywhere. I posted a blog post about how euthanasia is intrinsically evil then posted it to Facebook and I had a ton of Catholic friends that argued with me saying that she should be happy and not have to suffer any pain.
The most recent example are all of my Catholic friends that have supported same-sex “marriage” by shouting victories in Facebook statuses claiming their support of it and even changing their Facebook profile pictures to depict a rainbow (which somehow now is a symbol for gay pride as opposed to a sign of a covenant from God). I believe this support was driven by compassion rather than a knowledge of and disregard of the Church’s teachings.
Some people believe that because Catholics don’t approve of same-sex “marriage” that they hate homosexuals. That is incorrect. This may surprise many people, but the Catholic Church actually teaches about same sex attraction. There is no hate in its teachings:
CCC 2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
That’s the kind of stuff I’m talking about. (Quick side note… God did not teach us to not judge. In fact, He taught us HOW to judge). Catholics can disagree with MANY of the Church’s teachings, but NOT one of the 5 non-negotiables. Those are not open to your opinion, argument, etc. Not only can you not participate in OR even support them, as Catholics you have an obligation to vote against them and the political candidates that approve of them.
It was very heartbreaking to see so many of my Catholic friends supporting same-sex “marriage” just because they want their homosexual friends to be “happy.” It’s heartbreaking mainly because that shows that many of my Catholic friends are not in-tune with their faith anymore or even worse never were – much like where I was. We as a society must realize that God did not tell us that we are here for our pleasure and to do whatever makes us happy. Nor did He put us here to show support for sin. We are created for much more.
So here is my request, if you are openly supporting any of the 5 non-negotiables, PLEASE do not be the type of Catholic I once was and send mixed messages about the Church. The bride of Christ, the Catholic Church, is unexplainably beautiful. When my wife and I discovered its true beauty we fell in a deeper love with Christ than ever before. I feel terrible for once associating my poor actions with the Church in the past and for turning people away from it. I only share this and make this request because I don’t want someone else to feel the shame I felt by doing so. I encourage everyone to grow deeper in their faith and be open to challenging it and to receive the challenging responses with an open mind.