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The Catholic Moment: For the humanity

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

By Michael Daley

Even to the most casual observer, it’s been easy to see that the church has been taking it pretty hard on the chin lately. Most of the blows, sadly, have been self-inflicted.
It’s like I keep hearing the deafening echo in my ears of St. Paul’s words to the Romans: “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate….I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do” (7:15-19).

Theologically the Catholic Church is said to possess the fullness of salvation. In actuality, as a faith community, we often are far from it. I’m not going to question the divine origin of the church in the person of Jesus, but it’s beyond a doubt that He entrusted it to humans — ones who at times are very weak, flawed, fearful, fragile and broken. A quick look at Jesus’ 12 apostles confirms this. Judas betrayed Him. Peter denied Him. The rest fled and hid. Not the best of starts for an up-and-coming religious movement.
I remember speaking with the parent of a student of mine. In the course of our conversation, she told me that she and her husband had made a conscious decision to no longer practice Catholicism. Too much sin and hypocrisy, she said. With both humor and truth, all I could say in return was that the church will always provide plenty of examples for us to stop being Catholic. Yet, I remain. But why?
If there’s one thing I fear the most as a parent, it’s being found out — when the façade of knowing what I’m doing unravels and is witnessed by numerous persons, especially my wife and three kids. But alas, parenthood has a way of making me like an amateur.
I’m a little better at admitting my shortcomings as a teacher and a Christian. I always smile when, during class discussions, a student will give one of the reasons for not going to church. Who wants to hang out with a bunch of hypocrites? They put on a show for one hour on Sunday, then the rest of the week do whatever they want.

Though I don’t tell them then and there, I am one of those Christian hypocrites. In response to the phrase, “You might be the only Bible some people read today,” I’m embarrassed knowing that on some days my actions wouldn’t even get someone to crack open the cover.

In fact, every year on class night, when parents come to school to meet their son’s teachers, one of the first things I tell them is that I’ll teach their child the substance of Christianity far better than I’ll live it. At the very least, it’s truth in advertising. We never, personally or institutionally, reach the ideal.
Herein lies one of the reasons I remain Catholic. It lets me own the shadow, weak, dark and sinful side of myself. I keep the church in its hypocrisy and sin. The church keeps me in mine. I call it good company. As I frequently need to remind myself, the church is a hospital for sinners, not a country club for saints.

Daley is a teacher at St. Xavier High School and freelance writer.

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