After my last post titled "A Call to Civil Disobedience: Why Catholics' Panties are in a Bind, and Why Yours Should Be, Too!" (on the HHS Contraceptive mandate and the so-called compromise), I had a friend post an article (regarding the GOP trying to introduce legislation that would allow employers to deny any preventive health service) and voice this concern:
"This is why I have a hard time getting behind the Catholics on this issue. I'm afraid of it becoming a slippery slope where any employer can deny any employee healthcare coverage based on their beliefs. I also worry that it will go beyond healthcare into lifestyle choices (like sexual orientation). I want religious rights to be protected, but as an agnostic who is borderline atheist, I don't want someone else's religious rights trumping my civil rights. I bring this up because I genuinely want your thoughts on my concerns. Why shouldn't I be afraid?"
Do people, especially American people, really view the Catholic Church as a frightening warmonger?
Well, apparently, many do, so I'm here to help clear up some misconceptions, and ease your fears, my friends.
Here's the main reasons I think that no person should be genuinely afraid of the Catholic Church:
1. The Catholic Church has been pretty much teaching the same things for about 2000 years;
2. The Catholic Church has nothing to hide;
3. The Church is not going to come after you;
4. For better or for worse, the Catholic Church is painfully slow to change.
Allow me to elaborate a bit on each point. First, the teachings of the Catholic Church have not changed substantially since the Apostolic times. Sure, doctrine has been developed and disciplines (such as how long you fast before communion) have been adapted, but the fundamental teachings of the Church have remained pretty much the same. And these teachings are easily accessible. So if you want to find out what the Church really teaches and where she stands on any particular matter (not what the media says or what some misinformed self-professed-but-hardly-practicing Catholic moron spouts off on national television), you can find out. And you can be assured that the Church (as an institution) isn't going to do anything that will deviate from those teachings. Lots of people have misunderstandings or misinformation about what the Church teaches. This is why, in my own teeny corner of cyberspace, I write Coffee Talk to explain these teachings to anyone who cares. You can agree, you can disagree, but you can do nothing until you know what the teachings actually are. And once you know, you'll find the Church and her actions pretty predictable.
Number 2, I know people love stuff like the DaVinci Code and wondering about the Vatican's secret archives. But from all of my experience with the Catholic Church (which has been pretty wide and varied, I'd say) I have not once had the experience of being deliberately deceived or misled by the Church. By individual people, of course (in and outside of the Church -- people are people). But I have never felt the Catholic Church to have some sort of hidden agenda by which they were trying to brainwash or oppress me, or anyone else. Really.
Number 3, I don't quite get it, but a lot of people seem to think that the Catholic Church is some sort of monster, trying to enforce their 'rules' and teachings on everyone in the known world. In fact, there could be nothing further from the truth. Just tonight, I asked the teens in my parish's confirmation program if they had ever received a call from a Church official asking why they missed Mass on any particular week. They laughed, of course, and said no. I asked them if they had ever been asked to punch or swipe a card to prove their attendance at Mass or other church function. Again, of course, the answer was no. (To be honest, I have witnessed these practices in other Christian settings, but never at any Catholic Church or institution of any sort.)
People in the Catholic Church violate the Church's teachings all the time. I say this not with any pride, but to point out that no one in the institutional Church is forcing anyone to follow her teachings, even among her own members! People leave the Church all the time, out the back door, so to speak, and no one hunts them down. To be frank, I think it would actually be nice if the Catholic Church were a little bit better with relational ministry and would follow up with or reach out more to these fallen away members (mostly so everyone felt that they had their chance to say what they wanted to say to someone in the Church, even if they still chose to leave). But the point is the Catholic Church ain't in the business of hunting anyone down. I personally have come to the Catholic faith quite openly and willingly, knowing that I am free to remain or to leave at any time I wish without fear of anyone or anything in the Church itself.
Number 4, the Church is slow. Super slow. Painfully slow. Those 'new' Mass translations that are getting implemented in English were many years in the making. And do y'all remember the whole Galileo controversy? Took a few hundred years to get that all straightened out. I'm not bragging about the slowness, by any means, but I am saying that we can all rest assured that the Catholic Church isn't gonna pull a fast one on us. The Catholic Church in the modern world (especially in the USA) does not have any special wealth, power, or political allies and they are very slow to change anything.
Back to the fear-inducing article, let me discuss a quote from it briefly before I wrap this up; my comments are in red:
"But Republicans and some conservative Catholic groups [Who are they? And why does this article not mention very liberal to very conservative Catholics are united in their opposition to the mandate, not to mention many other non-Catholic faith based groups and public entities?] are not satisfied with the accommodation [What accommodation? The so-called compromise is a rhetorical joke] and hope to use their false claim [fair and balanced reporting?] of “religious persecution” to deny women access to preventive health services [does anyone here really believe that all Catholics, along with all Republicans, are in cahoots to deny preventive health services to women?]. Despite Obama’s decision to shield nonprofit religious institutions from offering birth control benefits [this is an outright lie...I can't even bring myself to continue]...When someone suggests that the Catholic Church is waging war on anyone in the planet who disagrees with their beliefs, I find this patently absurd. The Catholic Church is doing the same things she's always done, proclaiming those same teachings she always proclaims, but the Church is not forcibly requiring anyone to do anything, nor forcibly preventing them from receiving any service or care of any sort. Sure, the Catholic Church has a moral problem with abortifacients, for example, so Catholic institutions aren't going to pay for them. But they're also not gonna keep people from buying them. People have the right to do whatever they choose, and the Church has the right to proclaim her teachings. Since when did not paying for something amount to denying someone's right to that thing? That's like saying that, because my college charged me tuition rather than fully subsidizing the cost of my education, they were denying my right to access that education. Doesn't fly.
Should anyone be a little afraid of the GOP? Probably. Should people be mistrustful of the Democrats? Quite possibly. Politicians do not abide by any definitive set of social or moral beliefs, and so they can change what they're up to at any given moment. But to be afraid of the Catholic Church? To me, it seems silly at best.
As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers!
Peace and all good,