Thursday, December 29, 2011

Be an Authentic Catholic

We are coming to a close on the year of the catechism that I have posted about a few times. It has been very enlightening and coming on the heels of the year of the Bible I have learned more about our faith than I even dared to imagine and gained a ton of perspective through these exercises.

One thing that I have found that is evident through reading the entire Bible and the Catechism (what amounts to the catholic guide to the faith) is that there is no foundation for some of the political stereotypes that have evolved in the church. To the contrary, the authentic teachings of the Church transcend the American political landscape.

You know what I am talking about. We have Catholics that are conservative and we have Catholics that are liberal. There are others, I am sure but these are the ones I see the most and it seems that the people who fall into these stereotypes allow their American political views to shape their faith. It seems to me that they  make no attempt to reconcile their views and positions with authentic Church teaching as a whole. Rather, they get hold of a part of a valid teaching like social justice or Humanae Vitae and to them that becomes the whole faith.

For instance, the liberal Catholic might defend legalized abortion under the guise of social justice. After all, a poor woman has the right to abort a child she can't care for that would just worsen her economic condition. Or a rape victim shouldn't have to carry the product of the rape to term. More than that, we certainly can't tell them that it is wrong; after all we haven't experienced life as they have. But there is clearly no room for such a position in the faith.

By the same token, the conservative Catholic may make an argument against welfare. "Teach a man to fish" and all that. Again, while we should "teach a man to fish", there is no room in the faith to demand that the state not help those who cannot or will not help themselves. In fact, just the opposite. What the faith teaches is that the state has an obligation to facilitate that help.

Far worse than just having these opinions, when the Bishops remind us of where we should come down on a particular issue they are often dismissed with whatever rationalizations we can muster. In other words, we lift our own political ideology above the teachings of the successors of the Apostles.

Now, I am not immune to this and don't want to leave the impression that I am. I have a tendency to lean in the conservative direction. However, what reading the Catechism and the Bible has shown me is that being a Catholic is not as easy as being liberal or conservative.

I know the examples that I gave are simplistic and easy. The purpose isn't to render a full account of the problems of each groups reasoning. The purpose is to get you to test your own opinions and philosophies against the true and full teaching of the Church. In other words, I challenge you as I challenge myself, don't be a liberal Catholic. Don't be a conservative Catholic. Be an authentic Catholic.

If you aren't sure how to be an authentic Catholic, a good first step would be to turn off Fox, MSNBC, and NPR. Quit reading whatever left or right leaning blogs, newspapers or other information sources you may frequent. Instead, lift up your heart in prayer and open up the pages of the Catechism and Scripture.

By the way, next year at St. Joan of Arc, Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana,  is the Year of the Eucharist, I am pretty excited.


Jenny R. Sherrill said...

Hello Chris,
I blundered upon your blog a while back and think it's just amazing. I'm not Catholic and so there are a lot of aspects of the Catholic faith I don't "get" but I'm really inspired and uplifted by the things you have written. Just this week in Bible study we were talking about just this issue -- the being authentic in our faith, not just taking political positions based on what other members of the church say -- and truly looking to what our faith says.
You and I vaguely knew each other in junior high school and we graduated from KHS at the same time, and I just wanted to say hello, and keep writing. I am really inspired to keep reading.
Jenny (Vinson) Sherrill (Brian Vinson the runner-soccer player's sister)

Christian J High said...

Thank you for the kind words Jenny :)