Friday, March 16, 2012

Synopsis of "Why I am Catholic: An Open Letter in Response to the Freedom from Religion Foundation"

I’ve been told that my post about Why I’m a Catholic (written in response to the Freedom from Religion Foundation) is perhaps too long and complicated, and that I should provide a summary of the salient points.  So…here’s a synopsis (for the full post, see here):

  • I am Catholic because of what the church understands itself to be ideally.
  • What does it understand itself to be ideally?
    • God is love
    • God exists as a community of selfless love (this is what the Trinity means)
    • God manifests this selfless love in the Incarnation (i.e., God becoming human as Jesus Christ), and in Christ’s death and resurrection
    • God continues to manifest this selfless love to us through baptism and the Eucharist, by mean of which God gives himself totally to us.
    • In receiving the gift of God’s very self, and in experiencing divine selfless love, we are united one to another in the bonds of this love, and ideally become communities of selfless love that imitate the Triune love that is God’s very being.
    • Therefore, the church is, ideally, to exist as the imitator of God’s selfless love, living out this love concretely and in a totally uninhibited manner.
I then conclude by asking the following questions:

“Yes, the Church has always and continues to fall short of this ideal.  But does this fact mean that I must abandon this ideal?  Does the Church’s continued imperfection mean that I should just give up?  No, it most certainly does not.  For I cannot help but be absolutely attracted to the beauty of what the Church is called to be by Christ himself each time Christ gives of himself in the Eucharist. 

Those who have not experienced this beauty and the beauty of the selfless love that is God cannot be expected to understand.  And, frankly, the Church frequently does a very good job of masking this beauty.  But once it has become known, it cannot be abandoned.  It can only compel.”

If you really want to know what I'm talking about, read Wendell Berry's Jayber Crow.  Sometime I'll write about this novel.  It really is a 'must read'.


  1. I've been struggling with my Catholic identity due to a lot of political literature in the bulletin as of late (NC is going through a marriage amendments so we are getting beat up a lot.) This helps some. I will read the full version later, too. Thank you. -Jessica R.

    PS: I miss the program, so very much.

    1. Jessica: I totally understand. But do remember that the Catholic church is so much more than what it is in the United States, where the church manifests itself in a particular way politically that I don't always entirely appreciate. Moreover, the church is not only the hierarchy, but the entire people of God, as Vatican II made clear. I've been fascinated lately with the writings of Fr. James Alison, a priest and theologian who, as a gay male, writes and speaks about moral issues, including - of course - homosexuality. He's fascinating because he calls into question the church's official teaching, but does so in a manner that so clearly displays his love of the church, and indeed his love of the current pope. He gave a talk in San Francisco that is really worth reading. Check out Start with the interview he recently did with Commonweal, and then read "Is it Ethical to be Catholic? - Queer Perspectives". Very interesting and, frankly, compelling stuff.

    2. Thanks--I will check it out!