Recently, The Huffington Post published an opinion piece by one Kathleen Ferraro, a student at Northwestern University. Entitled “Catholic Church: It’s Not Me, It’s You,” the essay attempts to explain why Kathleen has left the Catholic Church.
After a rather snarky opening paragraph that mocks her early Catholic school education, she declares, “I’ve developed values and beliefs that significantly diverge from this [Catholic] foundation.” And then we get the list. She has problems with the Church’s “old-fashioned values and traditions,” its unwillingness to accept the LGBT community, and some shadowy “political undertones of Church leadership.” We also learn that she is pro-choice, has no qualms about pre-marital sex, does not go to church (would rather participate in a climate march), sees no value in doctrine or even the Scriptures, ranks independent thinking over faith, has her own views about spirituality, and would rather focus on being a “kind and humble person” than worshiping God. Proudly, she reveals that she has resolved her issues with the Church by “customizing” her faith so that it fits her beliefs and feelings.
Okay, this is nothing new. To quote The Four Tops, “It’s the same old song,” and we’ve heard it a thousand times. And, yet, Kathleen is not totally happy in her customized faith. You see, she’s upset because she finds it difficult to discuss her views with those who are still faithful to the Church. They tend to be judgmental and somewhat dismissive: “I differ, and am thus discounted. Though it’s subtle, I do not feel part of the community that proudly boasts, ‘All are welcome’.” As a consequence, she feels “unfulfilled.”
If this sounds a bit strange, wait. There’s more:
. . . because my beliefs disqualify me from active participation, I am consequently excluded from a community that I want to engage with, though not necessarily be a part of. I would say “it’s not you, it’s me,” but I think “it’s not me, it’s you” is equally appropriate.
Let’s try to unpack this. Kathleen, in matters of faith and morals, rejects every major doctrine of the Church. But despite that, she wants the Church to embrace her and her ideas, to take her views seriously, as if she has more wisdom than any pope, theologian, or saint in the history of Catholicism. All this from one who sees herself as a “humble” person. If we look up the word chutzpah in a dictionary, we might find Kathleen’s photo next to it.
Perhaps I am being uncharitable, for she is young and has been raised in an environment where there is no absolute truth. What one person perceives as truth is just as valid as someone else’s perception of truth, unless, of course, one’s “truth” is politically incorrect. Then all bets are off. Obviously, Kathleen has not figured out that the statement “There are no absolute truths” cannot, therefore, be absolutely true. But, again, she is young.
Another delusion she is living under is the notion that dialogue can solve all life’s problems. If we can just talk and talk and talk, we will eventually come to a consensus, and we will be happy. By doing so, we will see the end of war, crime, disease, discrimination, poverty, and bullying. So, if that darn old-fashioned Church would just listen to, and talk with, Kathleen, perhaps it would finally realize that it’s been wrong since the Ascension.
Well, what if this would actually happen? What then? Kathleen has that figured out:
Though I probably wouldn’t rejoin the Church if it became more inclusive, I would absolutely feel included in faith dialogue and legitimized as a spiritual being . . . Sure, the Church doesn’t necessarily stand to gain more memberships if they open up the dialogue, but they do stand to better incorporate themselves into an ever more inclusive and dynamic world.
One can hardly wait.
Over the years, I have wondered why fallen-away Catholics continue to attack the Church and insist that it change. Most likely, there is deep-seated guilt at work here. And if the Church would actually change, then they would be off the hook and could proudly proclaim, “See, I was right all the time!”
Ms. Ferraro might be in this group. But I sense something else here. She still wants to belong, still cares what the Church thinks of her. She isn’t shrill or vindictive like so many other dissidents. Sure, she is lost, but not hopelessly lost. The door is not yet completely closed. I, for one, will keep her in my prayers. I ask that you do the same.