Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Most Catholics aren't

As some of you know, in my youth I was a very orthodox Catholic.  If the Church taught it, I believed it, I studied it, I understood it about as well as any lay person could, and I taught it to others.  One thing that baffled me then and continues to baffle me now is how many people have a complete disconnect between their self-identification as Catholics, and what they actually believe.  My own family did not and still does not quite understand this rather basic idea that if you're Catholic and you don't agree with what the Church teaches, you're what they call a "heretic."  You know, the kind of people that used to get burned at the stake by the inquisitions if they wouldn't repent of their heresy.  The kind of people that are in serious danger of going to hell (according to the Church, anyway.)

A case in point is the recent high profile "conversion" of atheist blogger Leah Libresco to Catholicism  (story here ).  I highly suspect her conversion was primarily for emotional reasons (coincidentally, her boyfriend is Catholic).  She claims she converted to Catholicism because she felt there must be a moral compass and authority external to us.  Yet, like most Catholics in the developed world, she rejects the church's teachings on homosexuality, contraception, etc.  How can she not see the obvious contradiction there?

The Catholic Church has a unique place among religions, and especially within Christianity.  It not only claims to be the one true faith, but also claims to have absolute and infallible authority on matters of faith and morals by tracing a direct unbroken line of apostolic succession from Peter, the "first pope" all the way to the present.  While there are matters of specific theology that have evolved over the centuries, and new understandings of things, by and large Catholic doctrine has remained remarkably consistent and unchangeable.  It has to, because it claims to be teaching eternal truth.  Those so-called Catholics who think the Church will eventually get with the times and update its teachings to reflect the opinions of the majority of Catholics just don't get it.  Even if a pope wanted to, which is highly unlikely, he couldn't officially and unilaterally change long-standing church teaching on a subject.  That would be a bit like expecting a president to unilaterally rewrite the US constitution.

So, not only do most self-identified Catholics disagree with their Church on important questions of faith and morals, they don't even understand the basic concept of what their Church is and how it differs from other Christian churches, and they don't realize that, according to the teachings of their own Church, they are all at risk of burning in hell.  Catholicism is take it or leave it.  Picking and choosing what you feel like believing - what I call Cafeteria Christianity - is not allowed (and anyone who seriously thinks they can determine what absolute truth is in such a way needs to get their head checked.)

Now, the Church says it "hopes" for the salvation of all.  In other words, they hope that god is a lot more merciful than the way he's portrayed in the bible, and they hope he wasn't really serious when Jesus said even calling someone a fool is a hell-worthy offense (Matthew 5:22).  So, despite a long history of being very judgmental, they let god have the last word on any individual's final destination and as such have a policy to never unequivocally say any individual is in hell - not even Judas.
Despite that, the basic teaching is that the salvation gained through baptism can be lost by knowingly committing a mortal sin and not repenting - ideally by going to confession - before death.
Oh well, no big deal, right, most Catholics are basically good people, right?
Sorry, being a "good person" doesn't cut it.
Among the commonly committed "mortal" sins staining the souls of the vast majority of Catholics are:
-Missing mass on a day of obligation (Sundays and holy days like Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Christmas, Easter, etc.) without a good reason.
-Receiving communion without having sincerely repented of all sins.  Now, for an act of contrition (that prayer said every mass where you say you're a worthless sinner and please make me worthy) to be valid, it must include the intention to go to confession as soon as possible, and sincerely resolve to try to never, ever sin again.  Most Catholics I know have never even done that once, let alone before every communion. 
-Thinking lustful thoughts
-Using contraception
-Pre-marital sex
-Extra-marital sex
-Any sex that doesn't satisfy the criteria of being both unitive (strengthening the loving bond of marriage) and open to procreation.  So this means, even within marriage: oral sex, anal sex, mutual masturbation, any form of coitus interuptus, or any sex where the money shot happens outside the vagina.   Having sex as a duty, or anytime it's not loving and not "unitive."  Marriages of convenience, for political reasons, arranged marriages, etc.
-Publicly supporting mortal sins: i.e. being in favor of same-sex marriage,  pro-choice etc.
-Having an abortion or assisting someone in having one carries the additional penalty of automatic excommunication
-Belonging to a Freemason organization, like the Shriners (there go most of the older men in my home town's parish)
-Any Catholic store owners or workers that sell condoms, contraceptives, pornography, etc.
-Working any job that aids or promotes sinfulness
-Rejecting the Church's teachings on a subject of faith or morals. Like, for example, believing that communion is only symbolic and not actually a magical transformation into the real body and blood of Jesus. 
-Sins of omission: not helping others when you have the chance.
-Getting divorced and re-married (with this one there's no hiding that you're "living in sin", so you're not allowed to receive communion.  But if you're lucky, you can probably get an annulment that says your marriage was never really valid in the first place for whatever reason.)

-And many, many more. 

So, if you call yourself Catholic, but what the Church teaches means you are probably going to hell anyway, why be Catholic?

If you call yourself Catholic, but disagree with ANY of it's teachings, you have already basically rejected one of the cornerstones of Catholic faith: the authority of the Church.  So why be Catholic?

If you go to church just because you were raised to, to be part of a community, or for any other reason than truly believing ALL of it, then you are being dishonest with yourself and helping to support an organization yo don't really agree with.  So why not stop pretending and stop lying and be honest.  If you're not really Catholic, why be Catholic?

If every so-called Catholic was truly honest about what they believed and left, the Church would see it's membership vanish overnight.  We can only hope!

1 comment:

  1. Hooray!!! I stumbled upon your site by accident and felt as though I had been set free from the lifelong angst of no being able to fit in or conform to the doctrines and teachings of any mainstream religion. Talk about a heavy weight being lifted off my shoulders!!!