My Catholic Credentials
I blogged on this issue a long time ago and want to re-emphasize it: Getting to know what Catholicism is, as opposed to getting to know what many others have said about it. I am embarrassed to summarize the extent of my Catholic learning up until 3 years ago: These are my credentials for what I knew of Catholicism. When I read them, I weep!
- 1 year of Catholic school as a first-grader. I had a crush on Sister Michael. Don't remember much else. Helped carry her books to the convent on Fridays. She was kind.
- 14 years of weekly Mass. I didn't have warm memories, but I can't remember much else. I did like the incense and to this day I get kind of choked up :)
- 8 years of confession a few times a year. I always felt good when I left the confessional.
- 10 years of CCD classes. I remember a devout Dominican brother, Jude, who "may have known the Lord". I remember a married couple came in and taught NFP and explained why they don't use artifical contraception. Very embarrassing at the time for a 16 yr old.
- 100's of Jack T. Chick tracks read cover to cover as a 14 year old. God never had a face and Catholics were always balding, pot-bellied and poorly-shaven!(with smell lines too!) Who could forget "This Was Your Life" or "Why No Revival?" (Wino Revival as we called it) or most forgettably "The Death Cookie"
- 1 Western Civilization course as an undergraduate taught at a liberal protestant college . I got an A and the popes were jerks.
- Hours and hours of long discussions with anti-Catholic fundamentalists teaching me the "essentials" of false Catholic doctrines (from 14-20 years old.) The entire time my "teacher" was quaffing Budweiser and smoking Marlboro. (Oops! I forgot my own lesson, can't judge a religion by those who don't practice it)
- Hours of listening to Open Forum on the radio and the Teachings of Brother Harold Camping. He has since gone further into heresy and believes we shouldn't go to church anymore. Go figure. Pray for him. My brother and I loved him.
- Sitting under the teachings of a "Pastor" who was extremely anti-Catholic for many years, who himself never had more than the equivalent of a high school diploma. He told me my banjo playing didn't glorify the Lord. He had never studied theology or church history. Not surprising, this little church he pastored eventually split and slowly disappeared. My banjo playing got better.
- Arguing With My Mom for 100's of hours as a teenager. She said "Once a Catholic always a Catholic and "It's not up to you to interpret the Bible." Well, turns out she was correct!
Based on the above, one can safely conclude I didn't really have a proper understanding of Catholicism before I chose to reject it. One could argue that the years in Mass and CCD should have given me a strong background but let's face it: Those aren't always the best places to get solid Catholic teaching, sadly enough. But the other fact is that many folks go through years of Bible camp, VBS, and Sunday school in Protestant churches and don't end up knowing the fundamentals of their faith either. The old saw still applies "Going to a Chicken Coop doesn't make you a good chicken" so going to a Catholic Church once a week for many years didn't make me a devout Catholic.
In retrospect, I realize my rejection of Catholicism was based on my assessment of my dysfunctional upbringing. How could Catholicism be true if my parents were so messed up? This uses the incorrect paradigm of judging the veracity of a religion by those who don't practice it, which seems to be the way most of us, if we are honest, decide which church we will belong to.(Or won't belong to as in my case)
If I had to do it over again, (but there are no "undo" buttons in this life) I would have put much more time and effort into learning about what I was rejecting and starting to rail against. I spent 11 years after high school learning about the field of internal medicine before I actually was able to go out and practice it. Hours and hours, days and days, year after year memorizing, studying taking certifying and re-certifying and licensing exams to become a doctor. I wish that I had spent more than 5 minutes reading about Catholicism from a Catholic perspective instead of spending years being taught Catholic doctrine from anti-Catholics! The enormity of this incongruity still haunts me and my penance (making restitution for my actions, I am already forgiven) will be lifelong.
I should have gone to the source materials from the Catholic Church and not what others misrepresented about her. The word "Catechism" brings to mind boring Saturday mornings listening to a teacher who may not have known the faith herself. Was this reason enough for me to not open a Catholic Catechism myself or study the history of Christianity from a Catholic perspective? After all, I learned medicine from board-certified medical doctors in nationally-accredited universities and hospitals. Imagine how my ability to practice medicine would have been affected had I obtained my degree from The Official University of Voodoo Medicine ? Should a person learn math from an English teacher? English from a person who speaks only German? American history from a textbook produced in the Soviet Union? Capitalism from a Communist?*
*Thanks to Rick L. from CHN for these thoughts.