Having spent more of my time than I should have done recently debating stuff with you guys on DailyKos, I've just got home from mass. While there (ignoring the homily) I set to wondering why the heck I am still a catholic.
Here are my questions, and my credo (for today at least):
I believe that gender or sexuality or marital status has nothing to do with your value as a person -
So why do I belong to a church in which only celibate men are considered valid representives of Christ at the altar?
I believe that sex is good, and only wrong when it is disrespectful -
So why do I belong to a church that teaches that only heterosexual, penetrative sex, without any form of contraception, within a marriage, is morally acceptable? A church that confers sainthood on a married celibate couple?
I believe that marriage is a promise between two people to love each other until death, despite all that life may throw at them. I do not believe that this promise is only possible between two people of opposite sexes.
So why do I belong to a church that teaches that homosexual orientation is "disordered", that homosexual acts are sinful, and that homosexual marriage is impossible?
I believe that while the essence of marriage is a promise to love another person unconditionally and for life, that sometimes the only possible, and ethical, option may be to rescind that promise.
So why do I belong to a church that literally "excommunicates" divorced people, unless they have gone through the arcane, demeaning and uncertain process of securing an "annulment", refusing them communion, while hypocritically "welcoming" them at mass?
I believe that "abortion" of a blastula or embryo is not the same as abortion of a foetus, and that abortion of a foetus is not the same as infanticide, and that while each falls in a different place on a scale of moral weightiness, none of them - even infanticide, as in withholding nutrition from a catastrophically damaged baby - are morally wrong in all circumstances - so I am both pro-choice, and in some cases, pro-euthanasia.
So why do I belong to a church that condemns all "abortion", including contraceptive measures that prevent implantation, as equivalent to murder, and the sum total of terminated pregnancies as morally equivalent to the holocaust?
I believe that contraception is morally required in an over-crowded world and where a woman or couple does not feel able to support a possible child, and that barrier contraception is morally required in the case of couples where one partner is HIV positive.
So why do I belong to a church that proscribes all forms of contraception, and which obstructs the advocacy of condom use in Africa as a means of limiting the spread of HIV?
I believe that honesty and openness are the best ways of ridding an institution of corruption, and that true leadership involves humility.
So why do I belong to a church that attempts to cover-up its own massive failings, including widespread abuse by priests of women and children, because it believes that "Scandal" - bringing the church into disrepute - is a greater evil?
I believe the church's teaching on all these things is simply wrong, and if I thought that belonging to the catholic church meant aligning myself with those teachings I would leave now, just as I would leave a political party that had ceased to represent my political principles.
But the catholic church is not a political party, neither is it a club, a tribe, or a nation, although it has the trappings of all those things. The church is a source, a resource, it is the sum of its people, including me. It is a repository of spiritual wisdom (and earthly folly) acquired over 2000 years, and its brightest stars include great and wise women like Julian of Norwich, Teresa of Avila, Hildegard of Bingen.
I am a catholic because it is my spiritual home, because it is where I can access the source of wisdom that enables me evaluate not only my own ethical choices but those of the church itself. And that source of wisdom teaches me that church needs us, people who, like me, believe that all members of the human race are the children of God, regardless of our professed beliefs, that we are all God's hands in the world, regardless of our professed beliefs, that our capacity to choose to do right, regardless of our own best self-interest, or even the best interests of those close to us, arises from tapping into that source of knowledge of good and evil that makes us human, again, regardless of our professed beliefs. In short that God is good - and Good is God.
So I'm still hanging in there.