Why Be Catholic?
Sometimes, when people learn that you are Catholic (or in my case, that I work for the Church on top of it), they might be tempted to write you off as foolish and naive at best or even narrow-minded at worst. Issues and hypocrisies like those noted in the New York Times op-ed below might come to their minds.
How could any intelligent individual participate in an organization like that? Not an entirely unreasonable question, to be fair. My response? In the words of Peter when Jesus asks if he too will leave Him, "To whom else shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." And I don’t mean eternal life as in whatever happens after death. I mean now. To where else would I go? Imperfect though it may be (it's made up of humans, after all!), the Church has given me the very tools with which I now challenge the Church to manifest its best self. And it is the wisdom, tradition, and community of the Church that time and time again has manifested the best in me throughout my life (almost in spite of me).
I'm not much of a St. Augustine fan, but I can really get on board with him when he says "Let us honour (the Church), because she is the bride of so great a Lord. And what am I to say? Great and unheard of is the bridgroom's gracious generosity; he found her a whore, he made her a virgin. She mustn't deny that she was once a whore, or she may forget the kindness and mercy of her liberator."
The Church has made an egregious number of mistakes throughout its history. And there are many things about the Church today that I lament. I dream of the fount of wisdom and guidance and healing that the Church can be for the world and I am committed to helping manifest that possibility.
Because these days, in a world of infinite options and instant gratification, the temptation is always there to jump ship. To run off to the next thing. To think that there is something/one better out there. To think there is something/one perfect out there that will never disappoint me and will always make me happy. Well that stinkin' thinkin' will just hasten the disappointment.
Jesus came and challenged the heck out of what people took for granted as Judaism. He was his own religion's harshest critic. But He was still a Jew. A good Jew. A practicing Jew. And He spent his adult life trying to help his faith tradition manifest its best self and re-discover the immense wisdom that is there and access to the divine that it could offer. Until it finally got Him killed.
So...when we have issues with the Church (as in this New York Times op-ed, which does raise some fair points), I'd say we’re in pretty good company when we are willing to go down with the ship or give our lives to help steer that ship as best as we can help steer it, trusting that, at it its best, it's a darn good vehicle to navigate the stormy seas.
Mark Zaegel's Blog
Frank's Opinion in the N.Y. Times