In an interview with Mr. Alvin Brooks, namesake of the Alvin Brooks Center for Faith-Justice at Rockhurst University, I praised him for his leadership role and servanthood within the Catholic Church. He clarified that he is “mostly Catholic.” Over the years, he has shared his views about racism in the church, clericalism and mismanagement by corrupt members of the hierarchy, pedophilia and other sex-related scandals, and indoctrination that feeds prejudice and bias. Though the church does many things very well, like education, social justice, and spiritual guidance for those that give it attention, we fail in other areas—and have throughout history. Reflecting on the good, of which I want to be part, and the bad, which is embarrassing, I concede that I am mostly Catholic, too.
Each year at Easter vigil services in parishes, those who complete their initiation process profess their faith in the church by saying: “I believe and profess all that the hioly Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.” At one church the presiding priest asked an aspiring member that question: “Do you believe and profess all…?” to which the person responded, “Most of it.” In 1996, author Paul Wilkes published a book entitled Good Enough Catholic in which he chronicled stories of Catholics who struggle to do the best they can in sometimes gut-wrenching and pain-staking situations. Some church leaders raised hell over the book because he didn’t impose church laws in strict ways but suggested education over indoctrination in matters of faith. He boldly challenged Catholics to remain faithful to tradition while also discovering an evolving morality that promotes a consistent ethic of life, condemns slavery in any form, condemns death penalties and atomic bombs, recognizes that gay people, rather than being intrinsically disordered, are simply wired differently, and realizes that good Catholics sometimes must make tough choices that go against the institutional teaching or corporate mindset.
Pope Franics recently challenged some American bishops because they don’t appreciate how tradition and progress can work together. Americans tend to be reactionary people. We deal with this reality daily in our political landscape. The woke mob and far-left squad are not much different from the Maga proud boys when it comes to tribalism, reactionism, polarity, and its miserable trail of paranoia, self-righteousness, condemnation of others who think differently, and a disconnect from the roots that bind us together. Francis was responding to commentary by an official who made a similar observation about the American hierarchy as the pope reminded Catholics that we should not be indietrismo (backward-looking) but ought to allow doctrine to progress and develop upward. Those that look backward tend to become rigid and contorted; those that look upward tend to move closer to the open arms of God.
Many people who, in their 20s, see the faults, failures, and foibles of their parents, reach their 50s realizing that their parents did the best that they could during challenging circumstances. Alvin and I and the person professing faith are mostly Catholic, trying to be good enough Catholics, wanting to do the best we can in difficult situations believing and professing most of what the church proclaims. We are aware of ecclesial faults, failures, and foibles, as well as our church’s challenge to balance progress with tradition and value perspectives from left and right viewpoints. Though unsettled by its institutional racism, arrogant clericalism, treatment of women, stance on divorced people who remarry, and bias upon those it labels as disordered or otherwise implying that they are children of a lesser God, I know that the church, overall, is doing the best it can. Keeping the herd headed generally west is no easy task for a cowboy, nor for a good shepherd, but it is our task, nonetheless. Let us pray for one another that we will do it (and live it) to the best of our ability.