Saturday, February 09, 2013

To My Friends and Family who are not Catholics

To those of my many friends and family who are not Catholics, but who “look on” (through me, through other friends, through the media’s accounts) and perhaps try to understand the Catholic Church or to understand why I am - or someone else you know is – a Catholic, I have a little something I would like to say. 

The Catholic Church has both a religious element and a human element…as do all truly religious organizations on this earth. 

To explain what I mean by saying a "religious element", we who are Catholics believe that Jesus Christ founded the Catholic Church (even if it didn’t initially have the name “Catholic”) and we believe that the Holy Spirit guides the Catholic Church throughout the centuries in its doctrinal religious teachings. Don’t worry. I’m not asking you to agree with me on either of these two premises. I’m just letting you know that this is what we believe and this is what I’m referring to as the religious element. 

The human element consists of her members (and leadership), who are essentially subject to both sin and error. This element has been with us in this world from the beginning of time. It has been with Christianity from the time Jesus Christ walked this earth.  Judas betrayed Christ and Peter denied Him. Paul and Peter argued about how new members should be accepted into the Church. 

The Catholic Church has some authority over its members and its observances, but the Church can change, over time, in its matters of discipline (for example, how we practice penance or what languages to use in our religious services). 

The Church can change - and also lets different members have different ideas - regarding many aspects of how we live in this world. Certain principles remain, but how we deal with some of them, or apply them, might change over time or might differ among people. 

So, when you hear that a particular bishop said something that you don’t understand, or some priests did something terrible, or if you feel that this Facebook friend is always angry about something, try not to make assumptions about your Catholic neighbor based on someone else. We who are Catholic all believe - hopefully- in the same basic religious doctrines; but we are not responsible for what someone else thinks about politics. We are not responsible for how someone else applies our religious principles to the real world or how someone chooses to live.  Nor do we always agree on some of those matters. 

I, for one, did not decide I wanted to become a Catholic for any political or social reasons. I wanted to become a Catholic for what I came to believe were religious truths, and also for the beauty, for the grace, and for the peace and presence of God that I felt in Catholic churches.  And those are all still reasons why I am Catholic today. 

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