I was raised in the Catholic Church. It’s an experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
There’s nothing like being told as a ten-year-old that you’re going to hell because your parents don’t take you to Mass every Sunday. It’s a blast going to college and realizing your socialized worldview is inherently toxic. It’s a riot hearing friends deemed as sinners tearfully detail the abuse they suffered at the hands of their church and its community.
I’ve been a lapsed Catholic for a long time, but for years, I clung to this idea that not all Catholics were bad. Most I knew qualified as what’s referred to as “cafeteria Catholics” — clinging to traditions that brought them peace while choosing not to believe some of the Church’s more offensive tenets. I’m sure those justifications make them feel better about claiming their Catholicism. It made me feel better not having to stand at odds with family and friends. I called it tolerance.
But the more time passes, the more I realize it’s not tolerance of other’s beliefs. It’s tolerance of support for an institution that does a lot of damage to the world.
Journalist Donal O’Keeffe hits the nail on the head as he writes:
As a Catholic lapsed these past three decades, I am sometimes irritated by a-la-carte Catholics.
I feel that whether you obey its every rule — as the church demands — or pick and choose the bits you like — as most Irish Catholics do — you remain a member of an organisation which has caused generations of untold harm.
By staying Catholic I feel liberals hypocritically give tacit approval to behaviour and attitudes they find offensive.
He could not be more correct. When these progressive Catholics give money on Sundays, they financially support an organization that uses only a fraction of its considerable wealth to help the needy while building gilded and exorbitant testaments to themselves and opposing the distribution of contraception that empirically slows the spread of HIV. When these progressive Catholics continue to call themselves Catholic, they willingly align with an organization that covered up widespread abuse of young boys and continues to deny women the opportunity to become priests. When these progressive Catholics celebrate Catholic wedding ceremonies, they celebrate with an organization that denies that same celebration to same-sex couples and views divorce (as well as marrying after a divorce) as a sin.
None of that is progressive. If any other so-called progressive were to provide financial or public support to a political organization that lobbies against same-sex marriage or reproductive choice or women’s equality, they’d be condemned in a heartbeat by their peers. But because that same sort of behavior is done in the name of faith, we’re supposed to turn a blind eye? I don’t think so.
It’s hard to call someone a good person when your inaction and apathy allow oppressive and abusive institutions to flourish. To paraphrase something John Stuart Mill once said, all that is needed for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.
(Image via Shutterstock)