Please take the time to read this post from Red Neck Woman and this post from Erika and the comments from this post. Take your time. I’ll wait.
Then consider my experience a couple of weeks ago. I was attending a social gathering of ladies. I would consider most of those attending more of acquaintances than close friends. One woman was discussing a recent wedding. She was perturbed that the priest was adamant during the rehearsal that the readers bowed as they came up to read. I merely commented that the priest felt compelled to ensure proper reverence was given especially if the tabernacle was located in the sanctuary. She didn’t think the priest needed to be so picky. Well, this unleashed a diatribe of mean priest stories. Interestingly, most of those offering stories call themselves Catholic. I had no idea so many in this group were Catholic. We heard about the Baptism where only one of the parents was Catholic and the other was Jewish. The Jewish in-laws were present at the Baptism. And can you imagine, in this Catholic Church during a Catholic sacrament this Catholic priest clearly stated the Catholic teaching about the necessity of Baptism for salvation? How insensitive to the presence of the Jewish in-laws. And you know the younger priests are the worst. They are so “rigid”. Of course there was the “former Catholic” who declared she left the Church when a priest proclaimed in his homily that women should not work outside the home. She is a mother with a career so she obviously couldn’t stay in such a church. I didn’t offer much of a defense other than to say priests are human and they each have strengths and weaknesses. Should I have said more? I didn’t want to cloud the evening with an argumentative discourse on religion.
Somewhere in this experience and these recent readings there is a theme. I can’t quite put my finger on it but all of this seems to be pointing in the same direction. I guess the easy analysis is there is a whole lot of ignorance out there and we catechists and evangelists (which we are all called to be) have a big job before us. But I think the issue is bigger than that. It is more than just a lack of education in the faith. There are so many who think they know what the Catholic Church is and what the Catholic Church teaches. They haven’t read the Church documents or studied the writings of the Church fathers or read the analysis of modern faithful Catholic authors or even read the teachings of our modern bishops and popes. Their whole schooling in Catholicism is based on anecdotal rants like I heard at my gathering. This ignorance is rampant among Catholics. And you know what? They don’t want to know anything differently. To acknowledge the true teachings of the Church would be to acknowledge the counter-cultural demands of our faith. To accept these teachings would mean they have to challenge themselves. And that is too hard.
For example, if you really understood and accepted the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, would you separate yourself from it because one priest gave a homily that you didn’t like? I actually know the priests at the parish of this “former Catholic”. I can almost guarantee you that none of them ever preached a woman shouldn’t work outside the home. I can guarantee that they preached about the sacredness of the parenting vocation. Your responsibilities as a parent far outweigh your career advancement and success. Every mother with a career outside the home (myself included for many years) spends a lot of time second guessing herself as to whether or not she is balancing the demands of work and home properly. To have these doubts raised at Church was probably uncomfortable. But rather than use the teachings of the Church as a gauge to judge her career decisions, this "former Catholic" chose to leave a Church where those uncomfortable issues would be raised. She says she is so much happier to be someplace with peppy music and lots of hugs. It is just so comfortable.
But there is the rub. Christ doesn’t call us to be comfortable. Christ calls us to pick up our cross and carry it with Him. Read the Beatitudes. We will be poor and meek and hungry and mournful and persecuted. And this is a good thing! Christ calls us not to seek earthly comfort but rather eternal joy. His Church, the Catholic Church, is tough.