Lately, I've been wondering: what does it mean to be a Catholic? Am I a Catholic?
Yes. If the definition means being baptized, receiving most of the sacraments, going to church regularly and receiving communion. Yes, if it means believing that the host is Christ present - not just a symbol. Yes, I believe.
But I must ask myself if I still belong -- based on what I'm hearing these days at Sunday mass, and from the church leadership in America and in Rome.
There are too many statements that seem, well, almost facist.
- "Muslims, Jews, Buddhists may have admirable beliefs and practices...but Christianity, and specifically, Catholicism, is the way to salvation...because Christ himself said that 'the only way to the Father is through me.' "
- "If you do not baptize your baby, Christ will not recognize him/her in heaven."
And there are other bad things happening. For example, we're reading in newspapers now that an edict from Rome is coming that will bar homosexual priests from taking vows to serve God.
No more men who hear the voice of Christ in their hearts and souls -- just because they are attracted, sexually and emotionally, to other men.
No more homosexual men, even those, who like their heterosexual brothers, vow celibacy.
And because there's to be no more homosexual men as priests, seminary entrants will now be asked about their feelings for other men. And, if they are honest (because we're told it's a sin to lie to a priest), they will be told they are not worthy.
I think the church is doing this to try to stop child molestation. But homosexuality is a separate issue from pedophilia. If you prefer men to women, that does not mean you prefer children to adults.
This is the latest in a long list of 'NOs' from my church.
No women as priests, too.
No birth control.
No eating meat on Friday. Actually, you can eat meat now; somebody high-up said so.
I know what I'm not. I am not a Catholic who believes in these things, and who thinks that Christ, through divine inspiration and the Holy Spirit, is directing all this.
But I know what I am. I am a Christian, who believes that Jesus lived among us to teach us a new way. The way of love. The way of kindess and compassion...charity til it hurts...that God loves us all...no matter what.
Oh, and don't judge; leave that to God. And just accept...the moment...the situation...the person...and know that there's enough for all. All the time.
And He said we should be happy knowing that God loves us, and not to worry.
Maybe Jesus was God's son for the Jews. And maybe Mohammed was God's son for Arabs. And maybe Buddha was God's son for Asians. And on and on -- for every culture and every group, I suspect there was someone divinely enlightened...and with a very special relationship to God.
So, maybe God has all these sons (and I bet there's some women in there too that we never heard about). And He sent them all to live among us -- during different eras and among different cultures -- to spread the word that there is more to us than just eating, and copulating and dying.
Throughout history, His sons and daughters are constantly making introductions: People, this is God. He loves you. He wants you to get to know Him.
Just a theory.
So maybe we, no matter what religion we profess, shouldn't be so all fired up about the supremacy of our own particular brand of faith. Because, in the end, we don't know what's on God's mind...or how He operates. Do we?
Another theory: maybe Jesus was a homosexual.
Do we know? No. Would it matter? Not to me.
So maybe we shouldn't be so quick to deny the gifts of others -- based on whether they're attracted to a square jaw and big shoulders...or soft lips and a full bust.
You know, Jesus had a special message for religious leaders of His day, the Pharisees, who conditioned God's love, and made the people suffer under the weight of obligations and restrictions. Something like this:
And woe to any one of you who leads these innocent ones astray. It would be better for you to tie a millstone around your neck, and cast yourself into the sea.
Everything the man said two-thousand odd years ago packs the same punch today.
And, just like then, we're still not listening.