Last week, a friend asked why I put up with the Catholic Church.
On my seventieth birthday, I did a lot of re-thinking about my life and public posture and positions. I would like to be around for a few more years. My health is rather good for a corpulent old man; and longevity is characteristic in my paternal and maternal families. Nevertheless I know the clock is ticking for Jack and now I more carefully state my positions and beliefs.
I am indeed a follower of Jesus Christ. I am far from perfect; but my life is anchored in his life and teachings and spirit. I am also a member of the Roman Catholic Church. That church educated me, opened me to contemporary life, and sill sustains me. It is not a perfect institution; but then no institution is perfect. Indeed I can write horror stories about the Roman Catholic bastards — bishops, priests — who over the years cheated and screwed me. Pious bastards! No other words can better describe them. Despicable human beings.
On the other hand, I have known and have been nourished and supported by some remarkable Roman Catholic lay people, women religious, ordained ministers, bishops, and cardinals. One cardinal saved my skin when another cardinal tried to screw me and get me thrown out of the church and fired. Another cardinal and an archbishop became my spiritual fathers and gave me human support and encouragement in particularly dark moments of my life. No small things. Great men! Great Catholics!
I went to Roman Catholic grade school, high school, college, and university. My education was excellent and my formation left me an informed and critical thinking believer. Not afraid to ask questions.
As a contemporary Catholic I remain particularly critical. The papal administrations of JPII and Benedict XVI were not healthy moments in the history of our church. What will happen under the most recently elected Bishop of Rome remains to be seen. Time will tell. Nevertheless I am not much of a papal person. (And I am an American anchored in the values expressed in the Declaration of Independence.) The age of absolute monarchs is over and gone. I am more a follower of Jesus of Nazareth than the Jesus of Rome.
I must also say I am very disappointed in and about the current group of US Roman Catholic Bishops. If some of them were in my theology classes, I think I would have to flunk them. Their knowledge of church history and their understanding of biblical exegesis is pathetic. Far too many of these men proclaim their ignorance with an offensive and demeaning arrogance that has no place in the community of faith.
But the Catholic Church remains my home. It is where I live and work. There are bastards in the church but they don’t guide my life. There are also giants and wonderful women and men. Truly saints! I respect, appreciate, and admire them. And in the Catholic Church I have experienced more saints than bastards.
A number of my friends have left the Church of Rome. I understand what they have done and why. They have taken steps I chose not to take. They remain my good friends and sisters and brothers in the faith. One Lord, one Faith, One Baptism, one God who is Father (Mother) of all! Together we pursue the Truth. Together in respectful dialogue and fellowship.
And so we move on…in our pilgrimage.