Friday, June 02, 2006

Acceptance of the Church's Teachings

Thanks to a new blog that I've been reading, I'm going to go on a little bit of a rant. I beg your indulgence in this matter.

The blog I read referred to this article entitled The Flaming Heart - Why should gays be denied the pleasures of Catholic guilt?

First let me say that I don’t have a problem with people that choose to be gay. I also agree that in some it could very well be a part of their genetics. My sister straddled the lesbian fence for a while. I have had friends and acquaintances that have been gay. I do not judge others for their sexual orientation. I don’t have to agree with their lifestyle. I can feel personally that it is morally wrong, but it doesn’t mean that I have to bash them or sit in judgment on them.

That being said, the article did not sit well with me. It’s not that I think that gays & lesbians shouldn’t join the Church. All are welcome. But when one chooses to become Catholic, I feel that they really have to examine the teachings of the Church and decide whether or not they can accept them. I didn’t say agree, but accept. I had to do a great deal of soul searching myself. I had issues, though generally small, to deal with.

My friend, Carol, laughs at me when I tell her how the idea of having to go to Mass every week was one of my biggest hurdles. Yeah, now it seems so miniscule, but I had gotten to a point in my life that I enjoyed my lazy weekends. I liked sleeping in. I wasn’t sure if I could make myself go. I discovered that I don’t have to do that. I want to go. I feel off when I don’t go. Even on those mornings when I’m really tired and I drag myself to Mass, I am always happy that I go. I didn’t have to change, a change happened within me.

There were several other things to consider in my conversion process. Papal infallibility and other doctrines like Mary’s virginity, the Eucharist, and purgatory to name a few. I didn’t have a problem with any of these. They were all very logical and made more sense than anything I’d learned before. I did have to pause to think a little about the notion of contraception. Reading the arguments for it made sense, and I agreed with them, but it was a part of something bigger for me.

S.E.X. (Carol, you might want to skip over this paragraph) I had to come to terms with my sexuality and a kind of lifestyle to which I had somewhat grown accustomed. But first, some background. I got pregnant in college. I had my son and raised him on my own. I had a string of different relationships over the years, all of which were sexual. I finally learned my lesson and went on birth control, but I never gave up sex itself. I liked it. Then I met my now ex-husband, Richard. He opened up a much larger world in terms of sex. He was overtly sexual. It was a big deal for him. It caused a lot of stress in our marriage and eventually was part of our breakup, but I did several things in my marriage that I now regret. I went to strip clubs with my husband and other things just to try to spice up our love life in my attempts to save the marriage. It was never enough for him and I realized that we had two different sets of morals that could not be compromised. So our marriage ended. Shortly after that I had some major self-esteem issues and went on a binge of sorts. I thought that I needed to feel sexy and desired. I went out on a lot of dates many of which became sexual. I am not proud of this and it is something that am now very shameful of, but I can’t change the past.

I won’t go into more details, but suffice to say, sex was something I was going to have to have a hard time letting go. It was a bit consuming for me. After I started going to Mass and broke up with my last boyfriend, I decided I was going to try to live a more chaste life because I felt obligated. I briefly dated another guy after that and I lapsed again. But I was more conscious about it. As I got more involved with church and studied more, I realized that I had to let go of this particular side of me. I also concluded that I couldn’t change myself; I had to let God work in me and give me the strength I needed. At one point earlier this year, I finally got it. I realized that much of what I was struggling with was really a kind of selfish attitude. My choices to participate in something that was not a part of a marriage was hurtful to God. So one day I made a commitment to let it go and continued to pray for God’s strength. And He has not let me down, thus far. I even went so far as to burn some pictures that my ex-husband had taken and threw away a lot of other things that I had. It was really quite freeing.

I was making a point with all of this; I promise. My decision to become Catholic means that I have to live an honest a Christian lifestyle. I have to make an effort to be chaste. If I should marry again, I have to adhere to the Church’s teaching on contraception and use Natural Family Planning. I had to get an annulment just so that I would be eligible to get married again. The point is that if a person chooses to become Catholic, they should feel obligated to live up to its standards. Of course it doesn’t mean that we will never sin again, but we should at least try to avoid it. Luckily we have the sacrament of reconciliation when we do fail. But it shouldn’t be used as a kind of get out of jail free card. Someone that sins with the idea that all they need to do is go to confession is guilty of an even greater sin – that of presumption. To be forgiven of sins, one must have a repentant heart.

Which leads me back to the article. The author first goes into why he even chose the Catholic Church despite its “gay bashing tendencies.” I’m sure there are those in the Church that are like that, but I have found that people in the Catholic Church are far more likely to be accepting of gays and lesbians than in many other Churches. We are taught to love others regardless.

He goes on to speak about his grandmother, horror movies, and his “crush” on Christ as part of his calling into the Church. As he goes into the eroticism of the Church, however, I am quite dismayed. The Church is not without its faults and has a not so shiny history, but I wouldn’t take quite as far as the author does. The notion of a sensual Church is not something that is appealing.

One appealing aspect for him is the fact that the Catholic Church has more numbers of gays in its ranks than other denominations. For me, that is a kind of “duh” in the sense that it’s the largest group of Christians in the United States and naturally there would be more in terms of numbers. Then he goes on to comment that he is called “to forgive the church as they have been forgiven by Jesus for the same propensity toward persecution.” I think he has a lot of gall to say that it is up to him to forgive the Church for its stance on homosexuality. Being able to forgive is certainly a worthwhile quality, but to go as far to say that the Church is wrong in stating that homosexuality is morally wrong when it has been condemned by God since the days of the Old Testament is outrageous. The Church is not perfect, but unlike many other denominations, it has not waned in its teachings for the past 2000 years. He goes on to comment that other sins like abortion, birth control, masturbation and the like are just as heinous in the eyes of the Church as homosexuality. He is right and there are those that call themselves Catholic and still commit sins on regular basis like using birth control. But just like anyone else, they are culpable for their sin and their forgiveness is dependent upon their repentance. Although Jesus is certainly forgiving and has abundant love for all of us, when we consistently choose to hurt Him with our sins and only ask for forgiveness for fear of damnation, we are really being hypocritical. Being a Christian, and most especially a Catholic, means striving to do the best we can, with God’s help and sincerely asking for forgiveness when we fail. I certainly agree with what my fellow Catholic blogger posted about this article stating “Very disturbing article that shows a total contempt for AND lack of understanding of the teaching of the Church.”

I recently posted my profile on again just for grins because I want my next relationship to be grounded in the faith and all that the Church teaches. (And there doesn’t seem to be any available men here locally.) I am still appalled by the fact that even those people that consider themselves Catholic put in their profile that they don’t agree with some of the Church’s major teachings. When a profile is filled out you answer seven faith questions. I find that several people put down that they don’t agree with the concepts of premarital sex, contraception and papal infallibility. I can perhaps see where a person is born into the faith and hasn’t had a proper upbringing might have issues with some teachings. But for someone that actually chooses to become Catholic by converting to have such problems like the fellow in the article it is quite disturbing. I don’t profess to know and understand everything about Catholicism. I am learning and growing, but because I have chosen this as my faith, I feel obligated to adhere to it.


Greg Long said...

I am reminded of an old comment which went something like this. If the Church dogma could be reduced to 10 principles and Arthur said he agreed with all of them except the 10th; Betty could adhere to them save for the 9th; Chris liked them all except for the 8th; David couldn't tolerate the 7th but all others were okay etcetera then the question is do you have a Church at all? Catholicism is all or nothing.Remember that God sent the Ten Commandments- not the Ten Requests.

Catholic in Franklin, TN said...

Well said!

I cannot say what I'm thinking any better than Dr. Peter Kreeft, so I'll just quote him:

"If you want to invent your own religion, do not be a Catholic. If you want to teach the Church rather than let the Church teach you, there are plenty of other churches for you, churches that welcome theologies without miracles, moralities without absolutes, and liturgies without adoration. Please do not be a Catholic unless you believe the Church's claim to speak in these areas in the name of Jesus Christ."

"There is no such thing as a 'cafeteria Catholic'. Catholics do not pick and choose among the Church's doctrines and laws; we receive them gratefully from God, we 'eat all the food Mother puts on our plate'".

"A 'cafeteria Catholic' or a half Catholic or a 95 percent Catholic is a contradiction in terms. If the Catholic Church does not have the divine authority and infallibility she claims, then she is not half right or 95 percent right, but the most arrogant and blasphemous of all churches...It must be either/or, as with Christ Himself...The only honest reason to be a Christian is because you believe Christ's claim to be God incarnate. The only honest reason to be a Catholic is because you believe the Church's claim to be the divinely authorized Body of this Christ."

- Dr. Peter Kreeft, in his book "Catholic Christianity" (pp. 104-105)