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Why I'm still a Catholic

  • 03 August 2012

Why am I still a Catholic? How should I answer this important question? In truth, sometimes I'm not sure why.

Yet I know the Church frames my identity, as basic as that. It's the source of consolation without peer. I can't slough it off: it's too embedded in the way I see the world and myself. I take it for granted in some respects, one of the products of being formed in post-WW2 Australian Catholicism, with its strong Irish inheritance.

It has been one of the most rewarding venues of growth and stimulation of any in my life. I believe that if you do hang in there, Christ's great offering from St Matthew's gospel comes true, in ways impossible to imagine: 'I have come to give you life and give it in abundance.' Abundant life: such a precious booty, not available at will.

So no, I'm not about to step aside from this easily.

But the unfolding headlines of late, together with what I've forced myself to look at square in the face, have tested these verities.

Maybe I've been through something of an epiphany, that wonderful biblical word from catechism classes which I once barely grasped. I think that deep down, I've come to believe that the world beyond the institutional church is kinder, gentler, full of more conscientious ethics, values and care for others, than the institutional Church.

That is, the much-criticised secular world in which lay people explicitly live is probably more functional and more ready to conscience-examine than the institutional Church. What an extraordinary thing! This was something of an epic realisation for me which again prompted further reflection: why then am I still a Catholic?

I suspect Vatican II's central idea of a Pilgrim Church definitely influenced my thinking as a young 20-something believer. It raised my expectations. It stretched my idea of faith. But it was a slow-burn, nothing hasty. Only gradually did my Catholic identity shift.

Despite remaining a pretty faithful adherent overall, I've sought out broader Church experiences via groups like Catalyst For Renewal, by the occasional retreat, by good reading including The London Tablet and by participating in Ignatian reading groups, up to the present day.

So, without the sense that the ordained officials