Why Catholics are More Enlightened Than You Think

The Church is more scientific, universal, intellectual, and merciful than you may have been led to believe. Here’s how.

We believe in social justice.

The Catholic Church has the utmost respect for human life. That’s all human life, at all stages, with all kinds of needs:

  • We support a living wage because denying people the ability to provide for themselves and their families puts money above the wellbeing of our neighbors.
  • We support immigration and the responsible, generous, and charitable protection of people who are asking for help to improve their lives and escape danger.
  • We serve the poor and vulnerable because socioeconomic status does not devalue the inherent worth of our brothers and sisters. It is our duty and our privilege to affirm this worth.
  • We reject racism and any other attempt to make one person appear less valuable or worthy of life and liberty than the rest, because we are all made in God’s image.
  • We oppose the death penalty because cruel and unusual punishment violates the dignity of the human person.
  • We respect the earth and serve as thoughtful and responsible stewards of the environment and all of its inhabitants, because Creation is among God’s most beautiful and generous gifts.
  • We defend the most vulnerable among us—including the disabled, homeless, sick, dying, and unborn—from abuse or undignified and violent death, because no one’s impulses or preferences outweigh the gravity of life itself.

Examples of these virtues are abundant in the saints, and such generous and beloved souls as Pier Giorgio Frassati, Oscar Romero, and Frances Xavier Cabrini.

We believe in the dignity of every person.

A defining characteristic of the Catholic Church is her universality. The Church welcomes people of all backgrounds, races, and life stages. Each of us has a unique place in the Body of Christ, is made in God’s image, and is gifted with the ability to make this world a better place.

The diversity of saints is an excellent reflection of this truth. Our faith community has been blessed by wonderful people across many ethnic, social, racial, and cultural backgrounds, some of whom are now canonized. Read about some of these examples of Christian unity here and here.

Additionally, the Church upholds the valuable contributions of each of her members in the daily operations and success of our communities around the world. Vowed religious individuals and devoted laypeople, as well as priests, are at work running our churches, schools, hospitals, charitable organizations, and other networks every day. We are all called to serve, because all of us are worthy of being served and all of us are capable of having an impact that cannot be duplicated by anyone else.

We believe in the beauty of the human body.

Despite popular thought, the Church upholds the perfect beauty of both sexes. Men and women have unique roles in our faith, as well as in our domestic families and in roles of public ministry. Though the priesthood is a vocation specialized for men, women play an extraordinarily important role in the life of the Church.

After Jesus—who is, of course, the truly perfect incarnation of God as well as man, and the only human we worship—the human most beloved by Catholics is Mary. As the mother of God, Mary represents an ideal of not just womanhood, but humanity. She was obedient to God, as we all must be. She persevered in the face of adversity, persecution, and danger. And she was strong, intelligent, and devoted enough to raise her child into an educated, worldly, and loving man who would change the history of the world.

And after watching him die a criminal’s death, she went on to support his friends and help grow the community he built like only a woman could.

Additionally, also in defiance of popular accusations, the Church is passionate about the goodness of the human body and the beauty of human sexuality. In fact, Church teaching asserts the divine nature of sexuality and insists everyone who participates in it puts their partner’s joy above their own—demanding a mutual respect that has simply disappeared from popular discourse around sex.

We aren’t influenced by groupthink.

The Catholic Church is a 2,000-year-old institution. Many accuse her of being outdated and slow to adapt to modernity.

And maybe, in some ways, they’re right. But these things are not inherently bad.

The Church has withstood the test of time, despite the atrocities that have afflicted humanity and the shame some members and leaders of the Church earned for themselves along the way. Jesus promises the disciples in Matthew that evil will never prevail against the Church. Ours is a ship that is truly unsinkable—despite the deeply imperfect people at the helm.

So our faith is one of slow evolution and cautious change. We do not allow the latest controversies or fad philosophies to dictate Truth, and we do not give in to current whims at the risk of damaging the faith and salvation of millions. Scripture and tradition guide us, as they should. Theology is a place of healthy discourse and respectful debate. Teachings are not altered lightly. And dogma can never be contradicted.

We resist peer pressure, reject negative influences, and are true to ourselves—always.

We are artists, architects, scientists, scholars, servants, and teachers.

Catholics have served in virtually every role of society. Some of the most beautiful masterpieces originated with our love for God. A majority of the world’s non-governmental healthcare is provided by our love for our neighbors. Many of our greatest intellectual traditions have roots in the Church. A host of extraordinary scientific advancements can be attributed to great Catholics throughout history.

For more, start by Googling any of these Catholics and their contributions to society:

  • Teresa of Calcutta
  • Dolores Hope
  • Flannery O’Connor
  • Clarence Thomas
  • Elizabeth Ann Seton
  • Gregor Mendel
  • Georges Lemaitre
  • Dorothy Day
  • Fredrick McGhee
  • Mary Kenneth Keller
  • Thomas More

You may be surprised by how deeply this faith has influence literature, the arts, mathematics, life sciences, physics, and more. There is no curiosity and intellectual insight quite like that which is inspired by a devotion to the Maker who designed it all.

We know our weakness.

The Church is clear on many things when it comes to right and wrong. Catholics live by a moral code and a formed conscience, and sometimes we are made unpopular by the worldly things we reject (looking at you, HBC).

We also know that we are dust, and to dust we shall return. In many ways, humility is a hallmark of our faith. We know our limits.

Thankfully, our limitations aren’t the end for us. We have an incredible wealth of history, tradition, and theology to help us overcome personal barriers. An abundance of grace has brought forth many bright Catholic minds, who have assembled lasting resources to benefit the faithful around the world.

These minds compiled the Bible. They established sacred Tradition, which passes down the teachings of the apostles from generation to generation. They have helped establish the forms of our liturgy, inspired many devotions and prayers, and taught us about the beauty of the sacraments. I could go on and on.

But, in her wisdom, the Church also leaves a lot of choices to the discernment of individuals and families. A massive theological library, many papal documents (of varying subjects and authority), and insights from saints aid in that discernment. But ultimately, on issues of vocation, hobby, work, family size or routines, and more, we Catholics have the benefit of a clear moral structure that helps us recognize right from wrong—and then pursue the life we were made for, the life we love.

We are guided by love.

Above all, Catholicism is a faith defined by love: love for God and, thereby, love for neighbor. We actively seek to see and resolve our neighbors’ suffering, because we are all brothers and sisters with the same Father—and we are here for each other.

As Pope Francis has said, “Today more than ever, there needs to be a revolution of tenderness. This will save us.”

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