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Am I Catholic enough?

  • 10 June 2010

One of the pleasures of writing for online journals is to read the quick responses to what you have written. They provoke you to further thought.

Some who have commented on my articles in Eureka Street have asked why I do not address such central Catholic questions as abortion and gay marriage, why I do not defend Catholic teaching, and why I so often endorse minority left-wing causes. The implication is that I value my like-minded friends over my faith.

These are fair questions about which I have often thought. My response to them is necessarily personal, not given on behalf of Eureka Street. I hope it may spark further conversation.

In the first place, I am comfortable with the broad lines of Catholic teaching on areas such as sexuality, respect for life at its beginnings and its end, and the importance for society of the traditional form of marriage. Although I am critical of the detailed conclusions that some draw from this teaching and of the alienating language in which it is often presented, its consistent focus on respect for human dignity in all aspects of human life informs my own understanding.

That is where I stand. If people reject me because I have these views, I don't much care. Nor do I preen myself if people applaud me for them. Both rejection and applause are shallow responses. There is more to life than being a groupie. My publishing hero is Dorothy Day who lost half the circulation of the Catholic Worker with an editorial in which she argued that Catholics should not support Franco's armed uprising against the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War, and lost another third when she condemned the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

My critics are right to say that in Eureka Street I write often on some issues but neglect others. There are many reasons for this selectivity. In the first place I know more about some things than others, more about refugees and church history, for example, than about moral theology and science. I am happy to leave many subjects to the better informed.

More important, though, I stay away from some topics because I cannot reasonably hope to evoke from my readers the response that I wish. When writing for Eureka Street, which is written in a public language for a public audience, I want to find a