What It Means to Be Catholic Today
This week, once again, the Catholic Church was in the headlines for disappointing, painful, and harmful news. The Church claims that it does not have the power to bless same-sex unions, because it is "impossible" for God to "bless sin." To love is not a sin, and this is the kind of ass backwards shit that infuriates me and often makes me question my Catholic identity. Over the last decade, I've strengthened my faith and even consider myself a proud and devout Catholic. As the Interfaith Representative of my parish, I'm proud of the work we've done and continue to do to build bridges with our neighbors of other faiths in order to do God's work in our community. I'm also proud that we welcome same sex couples in our parish. I have felt like we as the people are the ones actually leading the way in the Church. But when the Church makes these kinds of official statements, it feels like a punch in the gut for all the work many communities are doing to progress the Church away from its antiquated ways. And frankly, I sometimes feel lost because my faith is the foundation of my life and being Catholic is as much a part of my identity as being Chinese American, only I can't walk away from or change my ethnic identity. So, where does all this leave a Catholic woman in today's world? Where does this leave me and my faith?
My first thought when I read the headline, was about the kid in my Children's Liturgy group that I taught on Sundays before the pandemic, who has two dads. How is the Church going to tell this beautiful, smart boy that his parents' love is sin? How? How can they do that? I'm raging like a telenovela at how closed-minded and blind these old farts are.
And then I started wondering what it means to be Catholic today. If I disagree with the Church, but I'm still a part of it, am I basically supporting an institution that goes against my values and one that does not love my friends? I've always said that the Church is like a governing body with old crooked men running it. Pope Francis may be head of our Church, but he still has to play politics within the Church. The thing is though, my faith is not a relationship with the institution, but a relationship with God. For the same reasons I've not once thought about moving to Canada or another country when many of us were upset with the leader of our nation, I've been firm in my faith as a Catholic. If I were to abandon my Catholic identity, I'd feel very conflicted, much like how I felt when I got married and took my husband's name, because my faith is also rooted in my family and family tradition. Now I hyphenate my name and I feel grounded in that identity. But I can't hyphenate my faith. Can I?
When I got out of an abusive relationship, the messages of love I heard in church helped me regain strength and confidence. The #1 lesson we're taught in our faith is to love, which is why I find the Church's statement so backwards and upsetting.
The thing is, I've always believed that the problem with the Catholic Church is the same problem we see across different arenas...old men. All of the Church's problems can be traced back to egotistical male pride, greed, and abuse. But that's not who's really in charge is it? God is our Father and it is in His love we live.
I've had the great pleasure and opportunity to work with and know many Catholics, priests and parishioners alike, who do not think like the old farts at the Vatican. And I know that the Church is changing very slowly, and it's not likely that in my lifetime I will see women allowed to be party of the clergy, and perhaps I won't see this ridiculous decision on blessing same-sex marriages changed. But it will happen. I have faith that it will. Still, the Catholic Church remains a powerful and influential institution, and there are over one billion Catholics around the world. So, maybe I'm in over my head thinking that I can still be a small part of the change to bring this outdated institution up to date. But the power is in the people right?
So, I don't know. I'm saddened by and angry with the Church, because they are wrong. Many people leave the Catholic Church for reasons like this. But I still feel like I can't walk away yet. I feel like there's work to be done and I want to do that work that will eventually see the Church find its way. I want to show people who Catholics really are and what are Catholic faith really is and means. Plus, you know...old people don't live forever so, there's that (I mean that with the utmost respect🙏🏽).
Overall, I feel very conflicted right now, but at the same time I know where I stand. I know my values. For any fellow Catholics out there, what are your thoughts? How are you feeling?
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