Giving Catholicism its due

I might never have imagined myself saying this, being somewhat agnostic in my practices, certainly atheist in my personal dialogs.

I had a Catholic upbringing, even some years at Catholic schools. I’ve railed against the dogma of organized religion, the counter-intuitive belief system that seemed always to oppose scientific philosophy.

I’ve felt victimized by the guilty self-restraint which tempers a Catholic’s view of pleasure. Sex for example seemed all the more exciting for what it shouldn’t be, as opposed to what it is. The vague admonition that a person should choose a mate within their faith took on real meaning for me when I discovered myself drawn to similarly prudish partners, Catholic.

Dirty laundry aside, in the civic and philanthropic realm, I am encountering a great number of Catholics, disproportionate to the other more predominant American religions. Why is this?

It’s true that many of these Catholics are no longer practicing, in fact many are rebelling still against their upbringing. In the do-gooder crowd this seems especially true.

From a humanist perspective it is hard not to condemn the Vatican’s stand against prophylactics and its resultant impact upon AIDs ravaged Africa. It’s hard also to regard the church’s patriarchal edicts as anything other than stubborn sexist recalcitrance. In fact when independent-minded people gather to rail against what are felt to be oppressive religious forces, they are most usually recovering Catholics.

Maybe we should give Catholicism its due. The Catholic Church may have launched countless lives into trajectories of self-doubt, but it implanted those lives with a spiritual center. Those brains formed themselves around spiritual ideas which, even if it rejected them, knew that some spiritual idea or other should reside there.

That’s my radical, none to complicated developmental theory.

I hit upon this topic when I read today about Cindy Sheehan having been a Catholic youth minister. Are there quite a few Catholics in the anti-war movement? There certainly are. Would the number seem disproportionate? Frankly, yes. In Colorado Springs, bastion of fundamentalist protestantism, the anti-war community is driven by a majority of Catholic or former Catholic activists.

Why is that? Catholicism can’t lay claim to being more spiritual or more ethical than any other religion. Where are the Protestant voices among the protesters? We need to wake the dormant consciences of that majority of American churchgoers.

Whatever the spiritual practices to which we now cling, ex-Catholics should be thankful for the awakened sense of humanity with which we were imparted.

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