Archbishop Timothy Dolan's latest online column takes up the subject of "former Catholics" :
[There's] a remark I hear a lot today.
And it goes something like this: "I was raised a Catholic"; or, "I used to be a Catholic"; or, "I come from a Catholic family, and my mom is still a good one."
His Excellency goes on to acknowledge that some of the people making these remarks are sincere individuals who for one reason or another may have drifted away from the Church but still have no animosity towards it.
More frequently, though, these words are the preface to a put down of the Church which the speaker finishes with something like
"But, I'm beyond that now. Thank God I'm now enlightened and liberated from those silly, irrational, superstitious shackles, and now I'm a 'free-thinker', a mature, adult individual." They might then smirk and remark that they are "recovering Catholics" who are trying to "get over" such a dark, oppressive part of their childhood.
The Archbishop added that Pope Benedict XVI recently closed out the Year of St. Paul by
recalling St. Paul's insistence upon an "adult faith," the Holy Father realistically cautioned against using that phrase to justify dissent or "liberation" from Church teaching. He observed:
"The phrase 'an adult faith' in recent decades has become a diffuse slogan...It's often used to mean someone who no longer listens to the Church and her pastors, but who chooses autonomously what to believe and not to believe—a 'do-it-yourself' faith. This is then presented as the 'courage' to express oneself against the magisterium of the Church."
The Holy Father shrewdly concluded that, "courage is hardly needed for that, because one can always be sure of public applause. What takes real courage is adhering to the faith of the Church, even when it contradicts the 'scheme' of the contemporary world."
Yep, it hardly takes courage to brag that you "used to be a Catholic, but have now 'grown up' and are enlightened." Big deal. Join the crowd. The audience will applaud. The critics will rave about your book. The talk shows will invite you on as a star. You can snicker about the Church and get laughs and cheers.
I wonder, though, if the really enlightened, mature, liberated, brave, prophetic folks are those who are humbly, joyfully and gratefully confident in their Catholic faith, who are well aware of the Church's struggles and imperfections, but still eager to live it sincerely, and pass it on to their kids and those they love.
Our faith in Jesus Christ and His Church is part of our very birthright, our identity, our spiritual DNA. It's not some childish baggage that is discarded when we become "mature," or "grown-up." There's nothing more "adult," "enlightened" or "freeing" than our Catholic faith, no matter what the "in-crowd" preens about.
As one woman recently remarked to me, "I guess you could call me a 'practicing Catholic,' because I've been at it a long time, but have yet to perfect it. But I'm not giving it up!"
Now, that's an "adult faith."
The full column is here.