Before you think about leaving the Catholic Church, think about something
…But before you think about leaving, since they’re all the same anyway, and the whole institution is hopelessly out of touch with the world, please think of this.
From a layman’s perspective
A lot of people, when thinking about being Catholic, think about a conservative institution of priests, white traditionalist bishops who are hopelessly out of the times, and the Pope. The Pope is actually a celebrity; he’s like the Dalai Lama, and not very much unlike a museum piece that people pass by and watch.
There’s a lot more to being Catholic than this. It’s not just the rituals, the worship through the Holy Mass, the performance and act of the sacraments. Other religions, denominations, sects and heresies have similar ceremonies. It’s hard not to compare ceremonies and functions of the Catholics and another religion and think how they’re all the same.
But before you think about leaving, since they’re all the same anyway, and the whole institution is hopelessly out of touch with the world, please think of this.
First of all, the Catholic Church is not just the institution of priests, bishops and pope. We all know the difference between small “c” church and big “c” Church. And when we think about Catholicism, it involves the institution of priests and bishops. But the shepherds can’t serve without the flock, and the Church is not complete without the believing Catholics. The big “c” Church is us—priests, bishops, pope, and people. It’s just the priests, bishops, and pope shepherding us to the right path. If you think about it, it also implies something: as a moving, breathing, living Church, it’s our responsibility to be active members. You like to think of being a member of a religion, a passive unit in the organization, outside the institution. We were made to think that the Catholic Church is made up of priests and bishops, and it’s their responsibility to spoon-feed us salvation. But we are part of the Catholic Church—no, we are the Catholic Church—and that Church moves with us. So we have a responsibility to move the Church—to move ourselves, and us as a family—towards the glory of God. You envy the other religions, other communities of being a tight-knit, active group—well we’re supposed to be a tight-knit, active group. God didn’t call us to be passive members. We’re expected to be just as active, just as vibrant, just as filled with life.
There is something special about the Catholic Church. Christ instituted the Church to be His living, breathing Body on earth. It’s both symbolic and real. A profound, but true definition. We were also called not to just be a community, the way Abraham, Moses and all other leaders call their followers. We were called to be brothers in Christ. We were called to be kin with the Father. There’s a difference between being part of a community, and being part of what the Catholic Church is… a family. The Lord Jesus Christ called us to be a family. In Him.
And when you leave that Church, you are abandoning your family. Think about it. We were all taught to hate an institution that resists our values, insists on outdated teaching, is wracked with abuses, and it’s easy to leave it because we were trained not to feel a part of it. But we are that Church, we’re supposed to be actively doing something. We are that Church, we are brothers—and it is our duty to stand by our brothers when they’re in need.
If you have a father or a brother that is going the wrong way, do you abandon him, and abandon your family? And you might say if the father or brother is abusive enough, you can leave—that in fact it’s right to leave. That doesn’t make him any less family. No matter how wrong or how out-of-touch you think the bishops or priests are (you might be surprised; it’s probably you who moved on), they’re family. If you think of the Catholic Church the way it should be thought of—as a family of Christ—then you might think twice about leaving. Of course there are times when you don’t feel it… there are times when you wonder about your brothers or sisters, your mother and father, and your crazy family in general. And sometimes you don’t feel like they are your family. But they still are. You are bound by blood to be with them thick and thin. Blood is thicker than water and all that.
The Catholic Church is not bound in blood. It’s a family bound in Christ. You are bound in Christ.
To those who are not Catholics, this will probably be offensive to you. It’s like the Catholic Church feels it has a special place in God, and Christ. But that is what we Catholics are called to believe, just as you probably are also called to believe in your place in God. Christ did establish the Catholic family, and we are called to not just worship but to love God and then each other. Please respect that there are different ways each of us receives the grace of God, and there are some Truths that cannot be changed.
Of course some of you will say that the Catholic Church has become corrupted—that they stopped being the Church of God since they did this or they did that. This is no less different from the thinking that “my father stopped being my father when he hurt us or committed an act that is unforgivable” or something similar about your family. (If you suffer this from the family, it’s easy to understand why you’d want to leave—in fact it’s healthy to leave) But the Church has never stopped ceasing to be the family of Christ—a loving, embracing family that is fallible and human. Whatever it may have committed throughout history—whatever we may have done—it is still Christ’s Church. It has never stopped becoming that. And Christ has never abandoned it. And if you still hurt from whatever act you feel the Church has committed, we commit this act on each other (we are, after all, that Church of Christ). And God commands us to forgive. If you can’t yet, it’s understandable. And you want to hurt the Church. But leaving hurts Christ, too.
Some of you will say that the Church has become evil, that worships the Devil and seeks to corrupt us all to Hell. Catholics, no matter what you hear, the Catholic Church is you and me and the priests and the bishops. If they call the Church evil, then they call you and me evil. They call your family evil. (How painful is it to join the clamor and call your family evil?) It is a family bound in Christ, and Christ is incorruptible. Christ can never be evil. Whatever abuse, torture, unspeakable horrors, the sheer humanity the Catholic family has suffered and suffer on others, it has not corrupted Christ which binds us. Through our actions He has been bruised, tortured, beaten, abused—but He remains pure and uncorrupted. And He remains loving. Remember that the Church is one in Christ; to say that it has turned evil is to say that darkness has crept in Christ. But darkness will always wilt at the sight of Him. Whatever sufferings we have suffered, it makes our ties painful. They are nonetheless strong, and binds us to be one in Christ. It is only our choice to cut it.
I will not go into detail about how the Catholic Church is right in this doctrine about morality, spirituality, the nature of Christ or God or something else. I don’t know enough (sorry!) to tell you right from wrong. You can study your Faith (you know other religions study their faith zealously and religiously? Why don’t you?) on that. You can compare notes. All I can tell you is whatever you do in that direction, don’t take any belief in blind faith if you’re not sure.
Just before you leave the Catholic Church, think: you’re leaving family. Christ’s family. Are you really sure about that?