If anyone watched The View today, Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg made an excellent statement about what makes a Catholic. Both of these women consider themselves Catholic, so keep that in mind when you hear what it takes to make someone Catholic.
1. Raised Catholic
2. Went to Catholic school
3. Baptized Catholic
4. Married in a Catholic church
5. Gave prize winnings to the Church
6. Questioning and doubting dogmas of the Catholic Church
Now, my intent here is not to attack Behar or Goldberg because it was a religious attack on them that prompted these statements about what being a Catholic is all about. The reason that this situation came to be was that yesterday they apparently were discussing how the Church excommunicated a particular nun for helping a mother of four (though we all know she is really a mother of five) get an abortion in order to save her life. They were upset that this woman get excommunicated but the “pedophile” priests were just shuffled around and not excommunicated. I use “pedophile” in quotes because not all the cases of abuse were pedophilia, some were homosexual priests taking advantage of teenagers, which is not pedophilia.
In any case, both of the crimes, priest abuse and abortion, are very serious. However, they are not the same, and thus might have differing punishments. Abortion always ends a life, an innocent life. There is no excuse for an abortion. To kill an innocent to save your own life is not justifiable in any means. I’m sorry if this sounds harsh, but it is the truth. When the intent of a surgical procedure is to ends someone’s life, it is an intrinsic evil, that is, always and inherently a wrong, immoral, grave choice that snuffs out the spiritual life. The priest sex abuse scandal is also a grave wrong. But, it doesn’t always end a life, and seldom have I seen a report in which that turned out to be the case. Does abuse destroy innocence? Yes. Does it severely injure the abused’s spiritual life? It can. Even so, the person escapes with his or her life intact, no matter how tarnished. This automatically puts the sin in a different sphere than abortion. There is no murder. There is no ending of life. There is a chance for healing on the part of the wronged. There is a chance for the wronged to still be a citizen of good influence in his community. I do believe the priest should be punished, but perhaps excommunication is not the right answer. Maybe it is. Either way, the penalty for abortion has always been, and correct me if I’m wrong, excommunication, especially when it is aided by a woman who has made a great vow to God to live a deeper spiritual life. We can never commit an evil to accomplish good. It is good that those four children still have a mother, but it is not okay to kill their brother or sister to achieve that good.
So that’s how the situation originated. Now, as to what makes a Catholic. It is not simply having been raised Catholic, married Catholic, or given Who Wants to Be a Millionaire winnings to the Church. Yes, Baptism is the first step. Receiving the Sacraments aids in it, but these are not what makes a Catholic. A Catholic is someone who lives Catholicism. They take the spiritual life seriously. They obey the commands of God, Jesus Christ. They take up their Cross daily. They obey the precepts of the Church they claim membership to. That means they make a good Confession every year. That means they take Communion during the Easter season. It means they attend Mass every single Sunday and Holy Day. It means that they strive to live a virtuous life. It means that they do not promote, aid, and become accessories to the sins of others. It means getting when falling. It means abandoning ourselves to Divine love. It means being an advocate for life, love, and peace. It means speaking out against grave injustices. It means following Jesus Christ above else, even if it means being counter-cultural, which it does in our nation today.
So don’t fool yourself into thinking that we’re all good if we’ve been baptized, were married in the Church, went to twelve years of Catholic school, or gave some money to the Church. Christ demands much more of his Church, and that is to be transformed by the renewal of our minds to not be conformed to this world (Romans 12:2).
May our God continually transform us into a people of good will, of sacrifice, of peace, and of truth. Amen.