Thoughts on Tolerance and being raised a Roman Catholic

This is a subject that has bothered me most of my life.  I can remember thinking about this even when I was young and surrounded by people with many prejudices and bigoted views.

I grew up surrounded by a certain amount of bigotry.  I remember even as a youngster having discussions with my family and close friends.  I remember very clearly being told, “You will change your mind about these issues when you are older and earning a living.”  I guess that something went wrong with that!  That never happened!  I remember as well thinking about what exactly it was that made them think the way they did.  I could usually make sense of that, seeing perhaps that my grandparents’ bigotry was so much a result of their ignorance and of the difficulties they had making a new life for themselves in a land that was not overly helpful to those from other cultures and who did not speak English.

It annoyed me because at Catholic elementary school, I learned all about God and about how we as human beings and descendants of Adam and Eve are supposed to treat each other.  Early on I learned much about ignorance and about how people can twist just about everything to a totally different way, that serves their particular needs all the better.

I consider myself to be a cafeteria Roman Catholic.  I was raised Roman Catholic but I have to admit that early on I realized there were some things I just couldn’t agree with.  I was smart enough, or so I thought, to realize that a large institution like a world church would have to make some rulings that might just not seem appropriate for everyone, but there was, in fact, probably a reason for them.  I therefore acted like I was in a cafeteria, I picked and chose what to believe in and what to ignore.  That worked for a long time, or so I thought.

I lucked upon a parish for my early to mid adult years where the thinking was relatively objective.  There was great involvement by the parishioners in the happenings within the local Church.  I remember long and thoughtful discussions with numerous clergy members about a variety of topics.  I remember being overjoyed that they were more in agreement with me on many different issues than I ever would have believed.  They often talked about sometimes, even though a decision I was making might not seem to fit within the parameters of the Church’s teachings, that if I made my decision thoughtfully and in a loving manner, that I wasn’t in fact committing major sins.

Things tightened up as the administration of the local Parish changed and at the same time the overall Church began to have more and more difficulty with its own shortcomings in dealing with all sorts of issues, both local and worldwide.

Being very spiritual people, my wife and I pondered our situation and little by little we saw that our needs as Catholics were not being met.  We tried and tried to adjust but finally it was to no avail. 

There are so many issues that need attention.  There are rulings that make no sense.  I understand, historically, for example, why priests were not allowed to marry.  I realize as well that the Church has not appropriately evolved with the times.  Celibacy, to me, is no longer a valid option for the Church and I feel that it has even caused harm.  Without going into it, it is easy to see how it might affect the mindset of those entering the priesthood and attract some people for the wrong reasons.

Be that as it may, the Catholic Church has had a profound effect on me and my life and I still feel as if I am a Roman Catholic.  I just don’t attend Church regularly.  I am not saying that I will not change in the future, but for now, this fits my current needs.

I am bringing this background up because this is what formed me and my thoughts.  This brings me to the idea of tolerance.  The Catholic Church may have its faults, but I truly feel I received a good intellectual formation from it.  Because of my education and experiences, I  cannot, for example, understand how there are so many so-called religious individuals of many different faiths who talk about Jesus and how to lead a good life and at the same time are so intolerant of so many things and people.  I keep thinking of my formation and how we were told that Jesus and God are forgiving.  It doesn’t matter what you do, but we, as prodigal children, if we are penitent,  shall be forgiven. 

I know someone who acts and behaves like a very religious person.  She spouts “Jesus” and our “almighty Lord” and attributes all good things that are happening to the grace of God.  This is very nice and all.  She is one of those people who has to sport her “fish” icon on her e-mail and make everyone aware of her take on religion and life.  She wears her so called religion like a tattoo, it is very obvious to all.  It is also a major sham.  She will force you to hold hands with her at a dinner table and “thank the Lord.”  She will also, if you are not in line with her, bad mouth you, give you wrong information, make every effort to make you look like bad to others.  She will literally stab you in the back.  Her efforts are self-serving yet she appears to be serving God or at least she thinks so.  She is, in my estimate, typical of so many ignorant people who pretend to be religious, but who are actually users of religion to portray themselves as better than everyone else.  The sad part is that often a person like this is actually convinced of his or her superiority and the fact that salvation is to be had because of this.  “Heathen people” who are perhaps not of the same faith will have to suffer till the end of time in damnation and hell according to them.

Under the polite guise of religion, these people have taken it upon themselves to abuse others.  How is it that a very forgiving God will deny salvation to so many people just because of choosing the wrong religion?  How is it that we stereotype and typify certain religions as being evil when in fact we are basing our viewpoints on the actions of a few people?  How is it that some people use their beliefs to deny rights to others because of their skin color or sexual orientation?

In my religious world, the God that I believe in IS all forgiving.  The God in my ideal world isn’t going to be judging people based on certain rules and regulations but will view each situation individually and take many things into consideration.  This God loves everyone equally.

I am not pro life nor am I pro abortion.  Abortion to me is a last ditch choice that I don’t feel I can legislate.  For me, for the most part, it is not an option. When I was younger, I thought I had no problem with it.  While in grad school, Mary Kay and I babysat for someone having an abortion.  She had one child already out of wedlock in a time period when this was a very negative thing.  By the time our friend returned from her abortion, Mary Kay and I were sickened by the whole thing.  Not because of the abortion per se, but because she just hadn’t used her brains and gotten pregnant again and used abortion as a form of birth control, wiping out a life for no reason.  What she did is a sin to me because there are so many deserving childless parents who were denied a child and she threw hers out.

I think I am digressing.  There are many people in this country who have morals based on religion and that is a good thing.  I think organized religion does a lot of good overall.  I think as well that organized religion could do a better job.  It should evolve appropriately and carefully with the times.  It should teach and guide its followers.  It should lead in all situations no matter how hard it is.  It should never ever espouse intolerance of any sort.  It seems to me, Jesus would be in agreement there.  Don’t you wonder what he would have to say?