Thursday, June 07, 2007

What Makes Someone Catholic?

Okay, time for some deep philosophical thinking here.

What with Mr. Giuliani having lightening strike when he tried to defend his pro-choice position and a book I've been reading where the author wonders why everyone can't just go get Communion when they want, I've been pondering the question above.

Technically I suppose a person is considered Catholic if they've received their various Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Communion, Confirmation. But there are those who receive those sacraments and never darken the door of a church again.

Is it believing in a certain set of things? Specifically the things in the Creed?

If you don't believe in God at all, or in the trinitarian God then I'd say you'd have a hard time calling yourself Catholic.

If you don't believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist you are denying one of the fundamental beliefs of the church. Can you deny that and still call yourself Catholic? People do.

But should they? Let's change the argument around a little. Let's say that you love New York City and have always wanted to be a New Yorker. But - you live in Des Moines.
You can call yourself a New Yorker if you want to. But, well - you're not one. Even if you live a lot closer - say Fort Lee, New Jersey and you can see New York from your bedroom window - you're still not a New Yorker. If you lived your whole life in New York and now live in Fort Lee and can see it from your window, you might still consider yourself a New Yorker, but one who's a little removed right now. But if they did a census, you wouldn't be counted as a New Yorker, because you're not there.

So - to be a Catholic you have to actually - well, be Catholic. And that means agreeing to the things that the Catholic church believes. And the Church believes and teaches that abortion is wrong.

I understand the dilemma that politicians face in this. They will be elected by people who are Catholic and non-Catholic. There are plenty of people who don't believe abortion is wrong, and these politicians don't want to alienate them. I understand that.

I also understand a knee-jerk reaction that "it's got to be the woman's choice" - on the surface that sounds good. But we certainly wouldn't say that if a woman kills her month old child, because it was basically a nuisance, that it was just her choice. So - why is it okay before the baby is born? The child is still the same at one month after birth as it is many months before birth - the same unique individual, just at a different stage of development.

And I also understand teens or any woman who finds herself faced with an unwanted pregnancy wishing to simply make it all go away. Just hit the rewind button. Hit delete. Life will go on as it did before. But it won't.

But, the Catholic church teaches that abortion is wrong always - and when you look at the reasoning, they, of course are right.

If you can't agree with that, perhaps you're just in your apartment across the river looking in.

And what about the other issue that came to my attention: That of any well-meaning person being allowed to receive Communion in a Catholic church.

On the surface it sounds good, doesn't it. It's all inclusive and friendly and open to all comers. That's good - right?

The Church is all-inclusive, friendly and open to all comers. Anyone who believes what the church teaches and wishes to receive the Sacraments can be a member of the church. But, it's kind of like saying in order to be a New Yorker you actually have to live in New York. Anyone is welcome to move to New York. They're not keeping anyone out. But, you can't be a New Yorker and live in Des Moines. (okay, now some transplanted New Yorker who lives in Des Moines is going to complain and say I'm still a New Yorker. - work with me here.)

The thing with Communion is that as Catholics we believe it is Christ. It is Him. Therefore we (or we at least should) treat the sacrament with the utmost reverence and respect. If a person only thinks its a nice little wafer that they're getting and simply participating in the ritual because they don't want to be left out - then that person is not showing the proper respect - it would be impossible without the underlying belief in the Real Presence.

But there are plenty of Catholics who go up to Communion every week and don't show any respect and don't really believe it's Him there. (I hear you say.)

That may be true. And they should probably not be doing that.

If someone truly believes, the Church would be more than willing to welcome that person into the fold. If you want to be a New Yorker, you have to move to New York.

And if a person doesn't really believe? If they have problems with the things they think the church teaches (first they should probably study what those things are because I think there's a lot of misunderstanding out there) maybe they're not really Catholic anymore. If you've moved across the river to New Jersey eventually you're going to have to declare yourself a New Jerseyan (Jerseyite? you know, I'm from New Jersey and neither of those sound right: we just say we're from New Jersey)

So, there are my rambling thoughts for today. I promise something much less deep in a future post.


Alexandra said...

Great post! I need to get around and visit our blogroll more often...I'm missing out on gems like this.

Christine M said...

Thanks for your kind words!

Laura The Crazy Mama said...

OH, this is so good. I've been thinking about this for a while and you've said it so well! Good job!