ironphoenix (ironphoenix) wrote,

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Why I Am (Still) a Catholic

So many people I know, like and respect have left the Catholic Church that the question of why I remain begs to be answered. It's not generally asked aloud, of course, but on this occasion of the election of an ultra-orthodox pope, I want to make a few comments on why I continue to put up with this all-too-human institution which is meant to be the body and the bride of Christ. I'm not writing this in the hopes of drawing anyone to the Church; if someone is drawn there, it should not be my words, or at least not my words alone, which do the drawing.

The Church is for me a rock. It is an Earthly symbol of the eternal truth of our growth in relationship with God and with each other. As are all Earthly symbols, it is flawed: it is not pure, unified, permanent, or anything else, the way that relationship which it symbolizes is meant to be. It is less subject to the vagaries of the moment than I am, though, and so it provides a steady hand which I can hold when I choose to do so as a guide and reference point in my rather fluid life.

I willingly hold its hand, it does not clutch at mine. This is perhaps the greatest difference between the Church that is now and that which was some centuries ago. My choices are my own; the Church and its shepherds offer guidance, but do not compel me, however much some of them may claim to have that right. I value the guidance of devoted people who express God's will and who reflect the accumulated wisdom of thousands of years of Tradition. Not all of that Tradition is wise, but I would be a greater fool than I am now if I were to ignore it wholly.

It is unlike nearly every other organization I have found in that there is, somewhere in it, a place for nearly every spiritual path. Hinduism (and perhaps Buddhism if its subsects and hybrids are counted) is the only other such space I have found. Of course, one can follow a spiritual path as a Hermit, but too many such go astray into their own self-centered worlds or never share what they do find for me to believe that I can dodge the pitfalls along that road. Also, there is a spirit which is present in a gathering which is not found by one person alone. It is a spirit which transcends the different paths of those who approach it, and draws them together.

Because of these things, I tolerate the many imperfections of the institution and its members. The election of Pope Benedict XVI is not a happy event for me, but it does not shake my faith or drive me from the Church. Popes have always been human; one need only look at the Apostle Peter's many missteps to see that papal infalliability is a myth. Every Christian prays for the coming of God's Kingdom, and the Church is in my view a seed of that Kingdom, not the full flowering of it. It becomes more like the Kingdom when its members live up to the next line in the Lord's Prayer: that God's will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. By whom will God's will be done if it be not each of us? So, rather than attack or abandon the institution, I try to hold up my own small end of the bargain, and I trust that in the long run, when each person does so, the institution will be made worthy of its true Lord.
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