Mistaking Faithfulness for Stubborness
People who do not know me or my faith have called me stubborn numerous times because I’m convinced that the Catholic Church is the one, true faith and I am not open to other’s ideas on how the faith should be changed. Friends and even family try to convince me that I need to be more “open-minded.” They tell me over and over, “You can be a Catholic but not agree with all of the teachings of the Catholic Church.”
Statements like this genuinely hurt my heart. I have no desire to make anyone feel bad. I have no desire to “shame” anyone, make anyone feel “excluded,” and especially to make people feel judged. I love all my friends and family and believe them all to be great people. I’m a happy woman who wills absolutely no bitterness or intention of causing ill will. And yet, I have to witness to what I am convinced to be True. The Catholic Church and the Magistereum (fancy word for the body of the Church’s teachings on everything from the dignity of human life to the “redefinition” of marriage) is a tradition that’s thrived for thousands of years. After Jesus’s death and resurrection, it was the only philosophy of its time, save for Judaism, to not be open to other interpretations because to believe in everything is to believe in nothing. How can a belief even call itself a philosophy if it’s so wishy-washy that it can’t decide on a specific teaching to embrace? To be a faithful Catholic, one must submit one’s will to the Magistereum. Yes, this takes a surrender of our will. No, it does not require surrendering one’s intellect or one’s feelings.
The most important distinction one must acknowledge is that a religion is not the same thing as a hobby. A religion is a set of beliefs that stands alone, proclaiming to be the Truth. This word, truth, is singular, and must be for it to mean anything. If I formed a cooking club and decided that my recipes were the only ones we’d cook and no one else could contribute different ideas, then yes, I’d be a stubborn jerk. The same doesn’t hold true for a religion.
Plenty of people will try to convince you that people like me are “conservative” Catholics. They’ll portray us as rigid jerks who aren’t open-minded. The opposite is actually true. We know the joy of opening our hearts to teachings that are not easy to embrace. I daily struggle with some of the Church’s teachings! There are some I do not understand, but I proclaim because I am so confident that God is good. Like a child, I obey out of love and faith that I will one day understand. That’s what allowing myself to be a part of something ancient and beautiful must involve sometimes. I know that to accept the teachings of the world (open-mindedness and diversity being absolute goods), is to stoop to something less than an eternal, pure, out-of-this-world experience. The world’s teachings will always be inferior to God’s.
When did stubborn become synonymous with principled? Objectively, being principled is hard. It means standing up for teachings that many people do not fully understand but will throw rocks at anyway. I sincerely pray that the people who don’t understand, will ask with humility, charity, and patience instead of yelling with guile and hatred.