Saturday, 18 January 2014

Call Yourself a Catholic?

Do you call yourself a Catholic? If you do then there are certain beliefs, teachings and doctrines of the Catholic Church to which you must subscribe. Beliefs such as:

Belief in a Deity: Trinity of the Father (God), the Son (Christ), and the Holy Spirit that comprises one God Almighty.

Catholics must not only believe in a God but they must believe that that God is actually three separate gods combined in one God.

 Incarnations: Jesus Christ is God’s only incarnation, Son of God and God.

You must believe that God sent his son to live on the earth as a man, but that that son is, in fact God as well.

Origin of Universe and Life: A literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis is held by some, but the Church maintains that God gave humankind both supernatural revelation in the Bible and natural revelation through the rational human mind. One may harmonize science with the book of Genesis, in that a "day" in the Bible is not defined as a 24-hour day. God created the universe from nothing, so if the "Big Bang" theory is true, then God created this event. If evolution occurred, it is under the choice and control of God.

You get a bit of wiggle-room on this one. Some Christians take a literal interpretation of the book of Genesis and argue for an ‘Intelligent Designer’ however, the Catholic Church has, since 2009, accepted the theory of Evolution (only 150 years after it was first proposed) but with the caveat that it was God that got the whole ball rolling and that he is still pulling the strings behind the scene. 

After Death: God immediately judges who will go directly to heaven or hell; most will go to purgatory for punishment and purification. Reward and punishment are relative to one’s deeds. Hell was traditionally considered a literal place of eternal tortures, but Pope John Paul II has described hall as the condition of pain that results from alienation for God, a thing of one’s own doing, not an actual place. When Christ returns at the end of the world, he will judge all humans. All the dead will be bodily resurrected, the righteous to glorified bodies, evildoers to judgement.

You must believe that a loving and benevolent God will, after your death, judge you on the myriad of decision (some made in a split-second) and ethical conundrums that you encountered throughout your life. To guide you through this maze the Catholic Church tells you that God has made his mind known through a book, which is full of contradictions and which he chose to pass down to tribes of illiterate desert-dwellers. Having judged you, this loving God will most likely find you wanting (which he already knew he would having made us just as we are) and so will cast you away from him to suffer a pain-filled existence for all eternity – an infinite punishment for a finite ‘crime’.

Original sin: all are sinners and prone to the influence of Satan unless they find salvation in God and the Church

As a Catholic you believe that we are born with sin. You believe that before you first opened your eyes you were a sinner. Before every innocent new-born baby opens his or her eyes that baby is a sinner. This sin originates from Adam in the Garden of Eden (who you also believe was the first man God created, in direct contradiction to the more recent belief in a type of ‘deity directed’ evolutionary theory). Adam disobeyed God and this sin has been passed down from Father to child ever since. Incidentally, as a Catholic you also believe that only three people were ever born without original sin; Mary, Jesus and John the Baptist. As a Catholic you also do believe in the existence of Satan and that he tries to influence our everyday actions in order to lead us away from God.

Salvation: all are already saved (through Christ’s death and resurrection are still being saved (through the Church), and will be saved in the future (second coming of Christ). Demands faith in prayer to God and Jesus Christ, good works, and sacrament, including only one (infant) baptism. One’s salvation must be restored after commission of a mortal sin through the sacraments of repentance/confession and Communion.

Got to be honest, this one boggles me. You believe that, through offering his son as a blood sacrifice, God has saved you. In order to stay in God’s good book, if you do give in to the temptations of sin, you have to confess and repent that sin to one of God’s chosen representatives on earth and then the slate will be wiped clean again ready for the next inevitable sin. If you are unfortunate enough to get hit by a bus on your way to confess a sin then that unforgiven sin may just have lost you your eternal salvation.

Undeserved suffering: some suffering is caused by the inheritance of mortality originating from Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God, which includes vulnerability to illness and disease. Also, Satan rules the earth, causing pain and suffering. Suffering is God’s design to test, teach, or strengthen belief in Him; the greater the suffering of innocent believers, the greater will be their reward after life.

Just reading those words causes me pain. As a Catholic you believe that this fascinating, beautiful and mind-blowingly wonderful earth is in the control of Satan. That the pain and suffering we witness every day is not because we need to learn how to be nicer to one another but it is because God wants it that way. He has decided that we need to suffer in order to become closer to him. The greater our suffering is the more privileged we should feel as it is God calling us closer to him. Why bother trying to make this world a better place? Why spend our time trying to find ways to feed the hungry, researching cures to illness or doing any damn thing for others at all. Why be a kind, loving, protective parent, if you really loved your innocent child you would ensure their maximum suffering to ensure their place in the afterlife, it would be the only kind thing to do, right? Surely, if you truly believe that suffering brings you closer to God you are going against God’s plan by alleviating suffering?

 Abortion: is considered to be a form of murder, an act worthy of excommunication.

As a Catholic you believe that abortion is never, ever justified. Not when the woman will die if the pregnancy continues, not if the woman was raped, not if the woman is actually still only a girl, not if the pregnancy occurred through incest, not if her health will suffer irreparable damage if the pregnancy continues, not if the foetus she carries has abnormalities which are incompatible with life and certainly not if an abortion is the best choice a woman can make her herself given her circumstances at the time of the pregnancy. You believe that any woman who has had an abortion, along with the medical staff who have carried out that abortion should be excommunicated from the Church. As a Catholic you believe abortion is murder, you view those woman who have had an abortion as murderers and so presumably would seek custodial punishment for these women equivalent to any others who commit the crime murder?

Women are afforded the highest regard as mothers and wives. Marriage is considered a sacrament and permanent; divorce and remarriage are not acceptable unless the first marriage is annulled.

As a Catholic you believe that society should aim to support women not to work outside of the family home. You believe that a marriage is for life, regardless of any abuse or violence that may take place within it, or indeed if the couple have simply fallen out of love and are no longer functioning as a unit. Regardless of how dysfunctional a marriage may be, or of how miserably those trapped in it may live their lives, regardless of how negatively a marriage may impact the children born into it, you believe that the couple have made a lasting, life-long, holy vow in front of God commitment.

Homosexual acts are sinful.

There is currently a lot of debate about this one. Some have suggested that Pope Francis seems to have taken a less hard-line on this. I've included a number of links to articles and blogs on this topic. However, it is safe to say that as a Catholic you believe that marriage is a blessed union between a man and a woman formalised for the sole purpose of producing children. As such, you will be voting against marriage equality in the upcoming Irish referendum in 2015, right? (If you are struggling with this particular teaching know that you are not alone, research suggests that 3 in 5 Catholics disagree with the Church’s teachings on homosexuality).

Transubstantiation: the teaching that during the Mass, at the consecration in the Lord’s Supper (Communion), the elements of the Eucharist, bread and wine, are transformed into the actual body and blood of Jesus and that they are no longer bread and wine, but only retain their appearance of bread and wine.

Unlike the Protestant churches, the Catholic Church teaches that during the mass the bread and wine are changed literally into the body and blood of Jesus. Not metaphorically, literally.

Artificial Contraception: According to official Catholic Church teaching, artificial forms of contraception are morally wrong because they involve a positive attempt to remove the procreative aspect of sexual intercourse from its unitive aspect.

As a Catholic you are practice only natural methods of birth control such as Natural Family Planning  or the Rhythm Method. You also believe that condoms do not stop the spread of HIV/AIDS and discourage there use in Third World countries

Fornication (sex outside of marriage): those who are engaged to marry are called to live chastity in continence. They should see in this time of testing a discovery of mutual respect, an apprenticeship in fidelity, and the hope of receiving one another from God. They should reserve for marriage the expression of affection that belongs to married love. They will help each other grow in chastity.

As a Catholic you were a virgin on your wedding night and have never had sex with any other person other than your married partner.

There are many, many more teachings and beliefs (the virgin birth, Jesus rising from the dead, Mary’s assumption into Heaven, priesthood celibacy, papal infallibility, miracles, demons and devils, angels, stigmata, exorcisms, saints, holy relics, non-ordination of women, intercession through prayer…). I could go on, but I won’t.

I was raised as a Catholic. I was baptised as an infant, I attended a Catholic school where I was indoctrinated into their rites and beliefs. I made my communion and I was confirmed into the Catholic Church (in fact, technically I am still a member of that church as there is no formal way of officially defecting). My move away from Catholicism began when I realised I disagreed with more of their teachings than I actually agreed with. How many of the teachings outlined above do you disagree with or simply not believe? A few? Most? All? What is the cut-off point? At what stage do you disagree with so many of the Church’s teachings that it is simply incongruent to still call yourself a Catholic?  

I would argue that you can only call yourself a Catholic if you believe the teachings of that religion. We are all been born into different traditions and there is a ‘niceness’ around identifying with others who share your tradition. But what if that tradition no longer reflects your understanding and interactions with the world around you? Does that mean you can’t believe in a God? Not at all. Any belief, or disbelief in a deity should be a personal experience for each individual and one which is arrived at through questioning, reflecting and exploring your own understanding of the meaning of the divine and not through group consensus.

Are you still a Catholic? Which box will you be ticking on the next census form?

1 comment:

  1. Interesting findings on what Catholics really believe