My Faith/Teen Faith Five Half Truths About Catholics… and Their Better Halves by Dom Quaglia Being Catholic in a public setting is always fun because whenever a hot-button issue comes up, you’re immediately promoted to Chief Explainer and Defender (CED) of all things the Church teaches on the subject. If you’re like me, being CED is especially interesting when you don’t really understand the issue at hand. Throughout my time balancing friendships, keeping the peace on social media, and figuring out how I want to portray myself and my faith to the world, I’ve learned that I don’t have to share my thoughts about everything. However, some things are worth talking about. When I hear what we’ll call “half-truths” about something the Church teaches, I decide that’s a good time to share my thoughts — and more importantly, to share the whole truth. Half-truths are often spread by people who, perhaps in a sincere desire to be faithful, have misinterpreted the Church’s teachings, which leads to an incomplete version of the abundant life God calls us to live. The ironic thing about half-truths is that, most of the time, they aren’t really true at all. They represent something that, if left alone, might appear to be true. Usually though, if you dig in a bit, you find that there’s a lot more assuming happening than truth telling. Let me give you a few examples… Half Truth #1: Catholics Don’t Want Women to be Leaders Let’s assume that you know nothing about the Church. You attend mass on Sunday and notice that most of the “important looking” jobs seem to be done by men. As you exit, you notice all of the pictures lining the hallway. Every pastor from the parish, plus the bishop and the ope are there, lights shining down on their smiling faces — all men. When you get home, you do some research on what the Church says about current events. All you find are quotes from cardinals, male anchors on Catholic media outlets, and popular Catholic evangelists — mostly men. Given this scenario, it would be easy to convince you that the Church doesn’t value women as leaders. However, if you were to ask anyone who is regularly involved in the life of the Church, they’d probably tell you differently. Whole Truth: the Church Considers Women Equal to, but Different From Men The truth is that most parishes in America would fall apart without the dedicated female staff, volunteers, and parishioners. Growing up, the director of my religious education program was a woman. Both of my high school youth ministers were women. Who do you think made me go to all of the church events — my mom, a woman! Even the people who coordinated my marriage preparation and helped my wife and I arrange my dad’s funeral were women. In fact, I don’t have many meaningful or memorable encounters with the Church that don’t hinge on the generosity and leadership of dedicated women. This doesn’t mean, however, that women should play every role in the Church, specifically the priesthood. If you’d like to read more about why women are not ordained as priests, check out these blogs: Is the Catholic Church Sexist? and I Never Want to be a Priest. The most important point I can make is that women are not disqualified from becoming priests because of their abilities (or lack of abilities). Women can give counsel, speak eloquently and powerfully, and do many of the things priests are asked to do. Women are not disqualified from leadership simply because they can’t be priests. The Church (and all of mankind) needs women. Priesthood, however, has long been bound with fatherhood. While we need mothers in the Church, only men can be fathers. So, while some of the clergy positions in the Church are reserved for men, women are vital to its everyday life, both in leadership and supporting roles. The communion of saints is evidence of this, as male saints are not revered any higher than female saints. Getting every Catholic to acknowledge that women are capable, invaluable leaders in our Church is a challenge, but the Church’s teaching certainly promotes this idea. Half Truth #2: Catholics are Pro-Life Until that Life is Born You may have noticed what appears to be hypocrisy among some Catholics who call for the protecting of of human life, unless that life is of a different race or gender, from another country, or grows up to be poor. Then, they feel the need is to be protected from them, instead of protecting them. If this bothers you, it should! This is not the stance of the Church. Pope Francis recently said that the lives of the poor and the unborn are “equally sacred” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 101). Of course they are, but the Holy Father reiterated that point because it’s something we often forget — like when we support a politician simply because of their stance on abortion, or when we ignore the homeless man on the street while walking in a March for Life rally. Whole Truth: the Church Considers Life Sacred at Every Stage The good news is that the Church doesn’t the poor. If you’ve been to a church, you’ve probably seen the soup kitchen or outreach center for the poor in the area. Tens of millions of poor and impoverished people throughout the world are served by the Church in some way, shape, or form, especially through the efforts of Catholic Charities USA and Catholic Relief Services. PolitiFact.com, a Pulitzer Prize winning news website, estimated that between 17% and 34% of all non-governmental social service aid in the U.S. is provided by the Catholic Church. Getting every Catholic to accept that all life, from conception to natural death, is sacred —regardless of one’s race, religion, or social status — is a challenge. However, the Church’s teachings certainly promote this cause and as members of the Church, it’s our duty to respond accordingly. Half Truth #3: Catholics Don’t Want Parents to Reproduce Responsibly If you’re a conspiracy theorist, you may have wondered if the Church actually owns the companies who sell those massive 15 passenger vans. It may seem like we want every married couple to produce more kids than they can count on two hands. After all, we’re against birth control, but say that sex is good… so the only outcome possible is kids for days, right?! But what if a couple can’t lovingly and responsibly raise that many kids? Whole Truth: the Church Teachings are for the Ultimate Good of Families The Church teaches that all life is a gift, a sacred gift. Saint Teresa of Calcutta said, “How can you say there are too many children? That is like saying there are too many flowers.” Still, the Church realizes that in order to be responsible parents, you may need a plan. There are couples who are desperately trying to have kids and need to know when are the best times to try, while there are others who, for a number of reasons, are trying to avoid getting pregnant. Thank God for natural family planning (NFP). NFP is a method by which couples track a woman’s cycle, identify the times when they are more likely to get pregnant, and create a plan — whether they’re hoping to avoid or achieve pregnancy. NFP helps couples understand the way God designed their bodies and make the best decisions possible, while keeping an openness to life and respecting the natural law. NFP respects women and their fertility. It doesn’t manipulate a woman’s body, nor does it block or prevent pregnancy like birth control. The Catechism says this method, and others like it, “respect[s] the bodies of the spouses, encourage[s] tenderness between them, and favor[s] the education of an authentic freedom” (CCC 2370). Getting every Catholic couple to reproduce responsibly while honoring their sexuality and is a challenge. However, the Church’s teachings certainly promote this cause and as members of the Church, it’s our duty to respond accordingly. Half-Truth #4: Catholics Care More About Christ’s Death Than His Resurrection It’s 7 a.m. I try to ignore my growling stomach while I fast and pray the Sorrowful Mysteries of the rosary. I just attended a regular daily Mass on a Friday in Lent that, to an outside observer, may seem more like a funeral. I spend the day hanging out near the church fountain surrounded by my friends, the statues. Someone walks by who is clearly having a great day. They begin to express their gratitude for the nice weather by exclaiming “Hallelu–” before I cut them off, scold them, and tell them their joy is inappropriate. That night, after a small meal of bread and water, I pray night prayer alone. When I close the book, I reflect on the last line, “My one companion is darkness.” Indeed, it is. I think that describes what some of my friends envision when I say I’m a practicing Catholic… and it may even remind you of someone at your parish! But let’s be real, this does not depict a “typical day” for a Catholic! The full celebration of Catholic life involves seasons — ups and downs, times we look ahead with joy and also times of remembrance, reflection, and even mourning. However, if we’re not careful, we may find that we’re living more in Good Friday than Easter Sunday. Whole Truth: the Church Wants You to Live Your Faith With Joy The Church desires you to have joy and freedom. In John’s Gospel, Jesus said “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Pope Francis put his own spin on this during a homily in 2017, saying, “a Christian who continually lives in sadness is not a Christian.” Sure, life will have moments of sadness. For some, these will be longer periods of sadness, and I don’t think the pope is mad at you for that. I believe that Pope Francis, much like Jesus Himself, wants to see you radiant with the joy of the Gospel. The pope is challenging us to not have a negative mindset about everything, but this is only possible when we remember who we are and who our Father is. “That pessimism of life is not Christian,” the pope continued. “It is rooted in not knowing that you are forgiven, it is rooted in not feeling the caress of God. And the Gospel shows us this joy.” With these words in mind, we should recommit to a spirit of joyful optimism — a trait that most people lack in today’s culture of 24 hour bad news coverage and drama-filled headlines on websites, in magazines, and on our social media feeds. We can’t forget about the cross, just as we cant forget about the imperfections that exist in our world. However, we must remember that Jesus rose from the grave on Easter Sunday, just a few days after Good Friday. Death was defeated, once and for all. Jesus had the last word. We must be people of hope. This is something we all know and have heard many times, but has it changed our behavior? Our attitude? Our general take on life? Remember that with Christ, there is forgiveness and redemption — forgiveness for our sins and the sins of the world and redemption from all of the brokenness we have caused and experienced. This should make us immensely joyful. We won’t do it perfectly every time, but as Pope Francis urges, we should “make every effort to show that we believe we are redeemed, that the Lord has forgiven us and that if we slip, he will still forgive us because he is the God of forgiveness.” Getting every Catholic to live their faith with joy is a challenge, but the Church’s teachings certainly support this cause. We, as members of the Church, should do our best to live the joy of the Gospel.