It doesn’t have to be this way

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

I grew up Roman Catholic. I attended Roman Catholic schools from kindergarten through the end of high school. During this time, I became aware of Roman Catholic teachings didn’t make sense or seem consistent with the teachings of Christ. Teachings that delineated who could and could not be priests and even who members of the church could love. But at that point in my life, I wasn’t going to leave over that.

Later, I wondered why Pope John Paul II was so popular when he didn’t seem to care about changing these policies. When Pope Francis came along, I thought surely things would change. But they did not.

On Sundays, I would sit in church, listen to the priest talk about these topics and I would feel guilty. We’re supposed to be talking about loving one another, but he seemed more interested in who my neighbors loved. I knew in my heart that we weren’t supporting what God wanted. Despite that, I went most Sundays, dropped money in the collection basket and generally supported the church.

Then I started reading articles on Medium that made me see things differently. In particular, James Finn’s articles about the Roman Catholic Church’s stance towards the LGBTQ community. He talked about the violence against people throughout the world because of who they loved. Violence that is fueled by the Roman Catholic Church’s horrible stance toward the LGBTQ community. A stance that Pope Francis, for all his accolades, has been unwilling or unable to change.

Violence that is fueled by the church that I have been supporting.

After reading some of those articles, I started thinking about it. I went looking in the Roman Catholic Catechism and the Bible to try to make sense of it for myself. I started with the Catechism.

This is well known, but to find the actual words you have to look at the Roman Catholic Catechism itself. I reprinted one of the relevant sections below. I am aware that this part of the Catechism is considered offensive by many— I chose to reprint it here because I think Roman Catholics really need to read the words themselves and we need to shine the light on things to show their true nature.

Ask yourself what kind of person would ever say these hateful words to another human being who never hurt anyone. Then know the answer is the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church.

“Part Three: Life In Christ, Section Two The Ten Commandments, Chapter Two You Shall Love Your Neighbor As Yourself, Article 6 The Sixth Commandment, II. The Vocation to Chastity.

Chastity and homosexuality, 2357 …Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,140 tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”141 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.” [1]

This part of Roman Catholic Catechism is not about loving your neighbor, it’s about hating them.

I think there are at least two possible explanations (1) God intended for the Catechism to be written this way (2) God did not intend for it to be written this way, but words were misinterpreted (for whatever reason) and now the Vatican is unwilling to change (for whatever reason). I believe that the Bible represents the word of God, as communicated through human beings. As an educated person, I know that these texts were not originally written in English and have therefore been translated at least once, and probably more than once. Despite these shortcomings, the Bible is extensive and contains consistent themes which can offer excellent insights into God’s intentions. Using two well known and accepted sections within the Bible can help in this regard. These are the “Ten Commandments” and Jesus’s “Greatest Commandments”.

Let’s start with the Old Testament. Here are the Ten Commandments, which are fairly well known [3].

“I Am the Lord Your God, You Shall Not Have Other Gods Before Me
You Shall Not Take the Name of the Lord Your God in Vain
Remember to Keep Holy the Lord’s Day
Honour Your Father and Your Mother
You Shall Not Kill
You Shall Not Commit Adultery
You Shall Not Steal
You Shall Not Bear False Witness Against Your Neighbour
You Shall Not Covet Your Neighbour’s Wife
You Shall Not Covet Your Neighbour’s Possessions”

Now the New Testament. Here are Jesus’s words, as recorded in Matthew, 22:37–40 [4]. These are also fairly well known.

“[37] Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
[38] This is the first and great commandment.
[39] And the second is like unto it,
Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
[40] On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

What did I conclude from examining the words in the Catechism, the Old Testament and the New Testament side by side?

One of the these things is not like the other.

The two commandments in Matthew (which came much later in time) are very consistent with the more specific lines in the Ten Commandments. To me, Jesus was not putting forth a whole new set of Commandments, only restating the essence of the original Ten Commandments in a form that was more basic (and perhaps easier to remember).

When you interleave the two (as they are within the Catechism), the consistency is very apparent.

New Testament: “You Shall Love the Lord Your God With All Your Heart, With All Your Soul, and With All Your Mind”

Old Testament: “I Am the Lord Your God, You Shall Not Have Other Gods Before Me, You Shall Not Take the Name of the Lord Your God in Vain,
Remember to Keep Holy the Lord’s Day”

Notice how the first three commandments in the Old Testament are more specific versions of the first commandment in the New Testament.

Here the remaining seven commandments from the Old Testament are placed under the second commandment in the New Testament.

New Testament: “You Shall Love Your Neighbour as Yourself”

Old Testament: “Honour Your Father and Your Mother, You Shall Not Kill, You Shall Not Commit Adultery, You Shall Not Steal, You Shall Not Bear False Witness Against Your Neighbour, You Shall Not Covet Your Neighbour’s Wife,
You Shall Not Covet Your Neighbour’s Possessions”

The last seven commandments in the Old Testament seem to be more specific versions of the second commandment in the New Testament. The New Testament says love thy neighbor. The Old Testament commandments describe unkind things towards others that should be avoided. These are consistent with one another.

So what if we dig deeper into the Roman Catholic Catechism? Does this consistency go all the way down from top to bottom?

No, it does not.

Buried in the text of the Roman Catholic Catechism are items that seem out of place (as if they don’t belong). Text under the commandment prohibiting adultery suggests if two adults are faithful to one another, commit to each other and love each other for their whole lives, than specific expressions of love between them are “acts of grave depravity” and that “tradition has always declared that” specific expressions of love between two people “are intrinsically disordered”.

But Merriam Webster says that adultery is “voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and someone other than that person’s current spouse or partner” [2]. How can it be adultery if the two people have only been with their current spouse or partner?

That seems like the opposite of adultery to me.

Based on this comparison between the Roman Catholic Catechism, and fundamental parts of the Old Testament and the New Testament, and using the critical thinking skills taught to me by the Vatican’s representatives during 12 years of Roman Catholic school, I came to the following conclusions (1) God did not intend for it to be that way (2) Words were misinterpreted (for whatever reason) and now the Vatican is unwilling to change (for whatever reason).

Then I used the other method taught to me as a child by representatives of the Vatican in Roman Catholic school — I looked within my heart. The heart that I used to talk to God while I kneeled for hours in Roman Catholic church as a child when I asked for forgiveness or gave thanks for my blessings.

Using both methods yielded the same result. They were consistent, unlike the rogue text within the Catechism. I don’t know why the Vatican can’t use those same methods they taught me to discern the truth, but I do know this.

The themes of love God and love thy neighbor are so prevalent in the New Testament (and in the Ten Commandments from the Old Testament) that it would be hard to argue that Jesus meant it any other way, unlike a single verse or individual verses that may have been mistranslated or taken out of context. Since the Vatican and the words of Jesus are in direct opposition to one another, it seems that only one can be correct. Given the choice between fallible human beings and Jesus in the Bible, I think the answer is clear.

The Vatican’s language and stance toward the LGBTQ community as written in the Roman Catholic Catechism is in clear opposition to one of the most fundamental and consistent themes in the Bible.

I’ve been attending Roman Catholic Church for over forty tears, but this idea — that the Catechism was written (and maintained) in direct conflict with the Bible — caught me off guard. It got me thinking.

As a parent, I often go to soccer games and Cub Scout events and holiday sing-a-longs and such with my son, where I see many different kids. Kids with real feelings and real hearts. Statistically, at least some of them are members of the LGBTQ community, whether they know it now or not. That reminded me that some of the kids I’ve seen in the Roman Catholic Mass on Sunday are listening to the priest talk about the way they express love (even a simple kiss between two boys or two girls) as depraved and disordered. Does that make sense to anyone?

I could no longer be on the side of someone who treats any kids (or adults) that way. I could not just ignore it. So I went looking for something else.

I voted with my feet.

And I found something really wonderful. I found a Church nearby where the priest (and the church organization itself) talks about loving one another (like it says in the Bible). They talk about everyone being welcome, as churchgoers and as part of the clergy. They don’t talk trash about the people standing next to me, or the kid in the next aisle. They don’t just talk, they seem to mean it.

I’ve only been there a few times and so these are just my quick observations, but I didn’t want to wait any longer to write and remind other Roman Catholics that we don’t have to put up with the status quo. The church I found is part of the American National Catholic Church, which appears to be as inclusive you could be. Everything I have seen so far supports that. You can read how they are similar to and different from the Roman Catholic Church here:

http://americannationalcatholicchurch.org/faq/

So if you are a Roman Catholic who can no longer turn a blind eye to the hate being directed as our neighbors and friends, this is a reminder that there are alternatives. Certainly the one I found is not the only one, and God willing, it will not be the last. If enough of us leave, maybe we’ll take some of the Vatican’s power to hurt people away.

At least we won’t have to feel guilty for going to church.

That’s something I guess.

[1] “CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH.” Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 4 Nov. 2003, http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P85.HTM

[2] “Dictionary by Merriam-Webster.” Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2019, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/adultery

[3] “Compendium Of The Catechism Of The Catholic Church.” Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2005, http://www.vatican.va/archive/compendium_ccc/documents/archive_2005_compendium-ccc_en.html

[4] “King James Bible Online.” King James Bible Online, 2019, https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Matthew-Chapter-22/

[5] “American National Catholic Church.” 2019, http://americannationalcatholicchurch.org/faq/

Husband. Dad to two kids and four dogs. Trying to become more authentic and less afraid.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store