I am a follower of Christ. I am also a Catholic. Catholics are Christians, and have the same basic beliefs as all other Christian denominations: Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came to save all people from sin through his death on the cross and resurrection on Easter. Period. We are CHRISTIANS. The problem is, depending on who you ask, Catholics are evil incarnate, support greed, child molestation and all kinds of mortal sins. I’m so tired of it I could spit the very nails that kept Christ on the cross!
All of this has come up, of course, because of the goings on in the Vatican. For the second time in the 2000+ year history of the Catholic Church, a Pope, head of the Church, resigned. Whether his reasons were health related or not, he chose to step aside to make room for another to lead. So, as when a Pope dies, we have a conclave and election going on. As we wait for the white smoke to rise from the Sistine Chapel, the posts on social media hating on the Church have revved up. People who are normally easy going make snarky, nasty and unfair comments about Catholics and our Church. Why?
The Roman Catholic Church was the first church. Over the centuries it grew from the original Apostles and followers of Christ into the vast network of churches, monasteries, charitable organizations and missions that it is today. Is it rich? Sure. It has a library of priceless works of literature and documents, vast art collections, and the trappings of the pomp and circumstance of centuries of tradition, as do other churches and faiths.
Has the Catholic Church done things in the past that were not so very Christian? Yes. With humans comes corruption. The selling of relics and indulgences in the Middle Ages. The Church waging war on those they considered heretics: Muslims, Jews, Protestants and Cathars in the Dark and Middle Ages, especially. Over the last several decades the revelations of a small percentage of priests who abused children. Is it a record to be proud of? Absolutely not. As a Catholic, I make no excuses for any of it and reject any who would say that it should be hidden or excused. As a practicing Catholic I am far from responsible for actions of people centuries dead, or who break their vows to hurt others.
What I do say is that the good should, and far and away does, outweigh the bad. The charitable works of the Catholic Church and its charitable organizations feed, house, clothe and take care of the medical needs of millions worldwide. Priests, Brothers and Nuns work tirelessly to do Christ’s work with the poor. Catholic Charities, feed, clothe, house, educate, provide adoption services and provide health care for millions just here in the US (http://www.catholiccharitiesusa.org/who-we-are/).
On a local level, The Society of St. Vincent de Paul (http://www.svdpusa.org/) provides emergency funding for families, through collecting clothing, home goods and the like to directly help through donation or resale. This group helps those who fall between the poor and homeless and the well off. The middle class and lower middle class who have been hit hard by recession. They help pay mortgage payments to keep them in their home, utility bills to keep the lights and heat on, provide food, and car payments to keep the much needed vehicle. It’s temporary help to keep families on their feet. These are just two examples from the US. Expand that to every corner of the world … it well tips the scale.
For those who would say that the priesthood should include women, or allow marriage, I would say that those who would like to do that have other options. Women can serve as Nuns, or through the laity. I am a good example. I felt called to minster to children. So I started volunteering with our Parish’s Children’s Liturgy of the Word program. Now I run it. Don’t like that option, then there are other churches who allow women to minister or clergy to marry. If you feel that called to preach, it shouldn’t matter where you do it. Those who choose to say “I’m a Catholic and I want to stay one” then decide to accept the rules.
For those who say that the Church’s stance on homosexuality, gay marriage or abortion is wrong, the Church is entitled to its viewpoint. If it’s how we practice our faith through sacraments and practices, then get over it! I have attended other churches and wasn’t comfortable there, so I didn’t go back. I certainly didn’t tell those who stayed they were awful people.
The Catholic Church welcomes all, reaches out to minister and help all, but we are human and fallible. If you don’t like what we stand for or can’t get past the past, then there are many other options you can choose. Demonizing those who choose this church, choose to see the good, and those who choose to work to change the bad from within is just wrong, and quite honestly we are tired of it.
Lastly, to all Christians, I would tell you that the devil is happy when we are fighting each other, because then we are ignoring the evil he is doing in the world. We need to stop the in-fighting and start acting like followers of Christ.
Image: The dome of St. Peter’s Basilica dome; author: Enrique Cornejo; Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License