I am what some people call a Cradle Catholic, which is someone who is literally born into the faith and is, more or less, given the faith rather than having chosen it for themselves, and I am so thankful for it.
I like structure, and so I feel very blessed to have been introduced and integrated into a faith since before I could talk. I was baptized at about 2-months-old, and since then, I've grown into my faith and have truly personalized it and made it my own. It is something that I cannot see myself giving up.
Until relatively recently, it seems Catholics have been able to remain as quiet and reserved as ever, staying under the radar and maintaining their religious lives without outside criticisms, as it's something that we're very well able to do. For me, I never bring up the topic of religion unless the topic is brought up by someone else since I tend to feel like I might be shoving it down other peoples' throats.
I think there are a lot of Catholics who feel this way. But this tendency to be quiet and reluctant to talk about religion all changed about a couple months ago, when claims of priests sexually harassing and molesting other clergy and altar boys, basically straight-up pedophilia, were being plastered all over everyone's News Feeds like Martin Luther's 95 Theses.
People starting calling it the Church's own 9/11. Believe me when I tell you, I was absolutely shaken to the core, as were all of my friends.
You should know that I am not proud at all of anything that has happened regarding it.
I don't condone it, I don't support it, and it makes me sick to my stomach to think that there are Vatican and U.S. officials who've engaged in this type of behavior. I see people on Facebook from all different denominations of Christianity — Orthodox, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, you name it— and it made me incredibly sad to see so many Catholics asking for help and advice on which denomination to convert to, because they couldn't stand to be part of a church that would allow such things to happen.
I understand exactly where they're coming from, too, but I just don't feel the same way.
I don't feel the same way for a multitude of reasons, the first being that the Catholic Church is the largest denomination of Christianity in the U.S., with about 50 million more followers than the second largest denomination, the Baptist Church. To me, it almost just feels like common sense to think that when you have a denomination with that many laity and clergy in it, you're obviously going to hear of more cases. Not saying that makes it right, but it's just a fact.
Secondly, I just don't believe that the Catholic Church is the only church who has clergy that engage in this behavior. There are plenty of stories and articles about cases of sexual misconduct in almost any other denomination of Christianity; just look it up.
No one ever talks about the pastor in Dallas who confessed to having an inappropriate relationship with a teenager, or the affair a Greek Orthodox bishop had. I am so tired of hearing "Well, at least my church doesn't abuse its parishioners." Maybe not your home church, and maybe you have been lucky enough to not know of any cases, but it's probably happening somewhere.
I am not bashing any other denomination, but if we're going to face the facts, then let's be real about it.
Third, I truly believe that for every bad person in the world, there are ten good ones. Now, I know that might still be a whole lot of bad people in the Catholic Church, but that means then that there are way more good people in the Church who think such actions are an abomination— every week at Mass, we continue to pray for their actions and that they might realize the seriousness of their actions and change them.
Finally, if I left the Catholic Church, I'd have to uproot and fundamentally change my entire belief system.
The Catholic Church believes in the concept of transubstantiation, in which there's a substantial and holistic change in the bread and wine to the body and blood of Christ. That belief isn't in every other denomination of Christianity, and that's fine, but to switch from one belief to another would be incredibly difficult.
There are so many new things that I would need to get used to. I'm not saying I wouldn't want to change my belief system because I'm lazy, but because I'm a very analytical person who has definitely questioned their faith more than once and wondered why things are the way that they are, and I have been satisfied with the answers I've gotten.
I've also definitely questioned why in the world God would allow such demeaning things to happen not only within the Catholic Church, as well as other denominations.
Catholicism is something that has been a part of my life and is part of my identity. I believe what the Church has taught me and I'll continue to do so, and I'll continue to pray that those who've done such demoralizing things will change their ways. In the meantime, I'm still a Catholic, just as much as I was before and just as much as I ever will be.