Why I’m still Catholic

Warning: this post will undoubtedly piss people off. If you’re not in the mood, then please move along.

The other night, a group of my friends gathered to plan our annual outing to Picnic with the Pops. As I looked around the room, I realized that every single person there is a practicing Catholic.  So naturally I brought up the recent Catholic campaign for natural family planning (NFP), just to get a rousing conversation going.

See, I knew that in that room full of intelligent, successful, kind and loving women, that probably 100% of them use or have used a form of birth control. And they are still good Catholics. I also know that most of my friends, if not all, believe strongly that loving another person has nothing to do with sexual orientation. Still, many of my friends attend mass every week, despite the Church’s position.

We joked a bit about the ridiculous speeches given after mass last week, where couples who use NFP got up and exulted its glories. Total bullshit in my opinion, and also completely unnecessary conversation with kids in the audience. Many of my friends were put off by the explaining they had to do to their ten-year olds in the car on the way home.

I told them how I had to “unfriend” my own church on Facebook because they make post after post that is completely opposed to my personal beliefs. I only “liked” the page in the first place because I thought it might keep me up to date on what’s happening at my church–you know, clothing drives, church picnics, that sort of useful stuff. I even like the weekly prayers they send to my email inbox. So why all this crap on Facebook about how I shouldn’t have sex when I’m in the mood? I find it completely insulting.

And yes, I know “it’s what the Church teaches.” But I was taught (in a Catholic school) to think for myself.

What to make of this? How can I support a religion that is so obviously opposed to my core beliefs? I feel stupid sometimes, staying silent while I secretly wish I was Episcopalian. The problem is, it’s not that simple.

Catholicism has been woven through my life in both obvious and surprising ways. I attended Catholic schools, so of course most of my oldest and dearest friends are or were Catholic. There’s a comfort to that, a strange way–of knowing that they understand where you’re coming from. We joke about the Catholic guilt, but it is so real, I swear.

At it’s core, the Catholic faith is about reaching out to help others, even when it’s inconvenient or doesn’t fit your plan. It’s about joining together, to bring love to the world. It’s the same no matter what–a tradition of loving God. Even when we go on vacation, we can attend mass at another church and it feels the same. It may seem rote to others, but we find comfort in the sameness–of finding our fellow parishioners no matter where we may roam.

Nevermind that I walked out on mass in Hilton Head this year after the priest pissed me off during his homily on “religious freedom.” Nevermind that I had to explain to my kids that OUR family believes that anyone who loves another person should be allowed to carry out that love and have a family together.

It’s time to sign the kids up for CCD (Catholic catechism, not sure the exact acronym) again. So I’m telling all this to Angie, because I’m really struggling with how to raise my kids as both Catholics AND what I perceive to be morally just and truly kind and accepting of ALL people. Angie understands. We both embrace liberal, all inclusive, beliefs. And we are Catholic. So I ask her, “What is stopping me from just leaving the church and joining one that mirrors my beliefs more accurately?”

And then Angie said the most perfect thing and it all made sense. She said, “If we leave the Catholic church, then they win.” (they being the crazies). She went on, “It’s our church, too.”

And that is why I’m still Catholic. Because deep down, I still believe that the tide will turn. My God loves everyone and he doesn’t judge me because I want to have a good time, or I don’t follow all the rules. He only requires that I love others and treat them kindly. Which is what I’m teaching my children. And they can take or leave the other stuff.

So somebody start a “Liberal Catholics” Facebook page already. I have room in my feed now….


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6 responses to “Why I’m still Catholic

  1. Erin

    Christina, have you and I not had this discussion? I had struggled with this for some time…I am black and white and if I say I am something, I want to subscribe to it’s complete whole. So I struggled with the pieces of Catholicism that didn’t mesh with my being. After much bible study and collaboration with other Christians of other denominations, I too realized that this faith is who I am. It is in fact woven into my life. The bottom line for me came to…there is no one church I am going to completely fit 100% in line with their belief system…so I began to focus on the purpose of church–a place where I am fed spiritually and can take that out into the world. And then I was settled, because the bottom line is Christ died for us on the cross and believeing in that, in and of itself, is really the main artery of which the rest flows. If my church has that as their focus while supporting me through the Gospel and how to weave that into my life, then I have found my home.

    • Oh my gosh, Erin, no we haven’t ever talked about this…but I can’t imagine why not. You make such a good point that there is no one church that will fit 100%. I am not a black and white person at all, so I really struggle with organizations that ask me to ascribe to an all or nothing. But as I said in my post–I can’t just give up; I can only stay and hope to be part of a change for the better. 🙂

  2. Tami

    So I read this last night and it has been on my mind since. Honestly, it made me pretty sad. I immediately thought of James 1:14 ‘Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like the shifting shadows’. Why this verse? Because of Catholic guilt. Religion produces guilt. Faith produces joy and freedom. My family was one of the first in many, many generations of my husband’s Irish Catholic heritage to exit the Catholic faith. I’m certain they are all still praying the rosary for us and my unbaptized children daily. Our 1st few years we spent in a Christian church we refer to as our Catholic detox. It was akward to say the least. We would leave service feeling good about our selves, challenged in the way we viewed God’s world and people and our kids were asking challenging questions. I haven’t walked out of a service in the past 11 years in disconent. I haven’t even left early so I don’t have to sit in church traffic. I stay til the last song. And I haven’t left a service in 11 years with dry eyes. Whether I’m challenged by the message, moved by the songs or in awe of God’s presence in the building, I always leave w/ mascara smeared across my eyes. I think everyone should feel this way in their faith and it breaks my heart when people don’t. Just like everything else in this world, we have taken a simple commandment ‘love one another’ and we have turned it into rules, guidelines, judgement and guilt. The church was established to grow us and bring us closer to God, not push us out the door with judgement. I truly believe any kind of struggle we face in our lives is usually a result of our will vs. God’s will. He’s telling us something but we are trying to stay in our comfort zone. There’s unrest in your post. Seems to me God has given you the gift to see His people through His eyes. It’s a daunting and challenging gift. Let God lead you on how to use the gift. It won’t be comfortable but the reward is going to be so sweet!! You may not be called to leave your church, or your Catholic community, but it’s evident by your post, you are being called for something. Just be still and listen. 🙂

  3. Mrs. Happy Pants

    This. You’ve captured my feelings so well. I disagree with the same things about which you disagree with them. But no other religion or lack of religion else feels “right” to me. There’s no better way to put it. It just feels…right for me. I, too felt angry and conflicted at mass a few weeks ago. Weird (in a good way) to see others like me, but glad I’m not the only one.

  4. Mrs. Happy Pants

    Ugh. Grammar fail. You know what I meant. 🙂

  5. I just read this post about another religion that reminded me of your post: http://www.peacebang.com/2012/07/28/why-i-am-a-unitarian-universalist/