|Sinead O' Connor on Saturday Night Live in October 1992|
Really, Sinead? REALLY?
I realize that Sinead O'Connor was relevant, musically, only for a short snippet of time, long before many of our readers were even born. At the height of her fame, back in 1992, she performed on Saturday Night Live and, during her performance, tore up a photo of then-pope John Paul II in front of the camera.
So Sinead's problems with the papacy are nothing new. But, here's the clincher: she claims to be Catholic. (To take it one step further, she also claims to be a priest, but that's a topic for another post.)
In all seriousness, Ms. O'Connor's comments scream of mental illness which needs desperately to be treated. But what gets me is this angle: she hates and rejects the teachings of Catholicism, but still insists that she is Catholic. What gives?
This is pertinent because I've met many Catholics over the past few years who are in the same boat. Granted, I've never heard any of them threaten the life of the Holy Father, but, like O'Connor, they hate the teachings of the Church but stubbornly subsist as Catholics.
As a person who embraced the fullness of the Catholic faith as an adult, I have to say that I really do not understand and cannot appreciate such a stance. Blame it on my age, for I am a product of my generation, but I have no respect for what St. James calls "doublemindedness" (James 1:8): the act of paying lip service to your beliefs, or claiming allegiance to a group without agreeing with its tenets.
At the base of it all is a severe case of intellectual and spiritual dishonesty. If you seriously disagree with the teachings of a group, why on earth would you insist on remaining a member of that group? To do so is to be disengenuous.
Don't get me wrong: I wish no one ill and I'm no proponent of "purifying" the ranks of Catholics. When a person is of age, faith is a personal decision and we are not able to read one another's hearts. This is why our Lord tells us not to judge one another.
But assent to a system of beliefs is the hallmark of membership in any organization. If one were to join the local chapter of Ducks Unlimited but had a moral problem with hunting ducks and publicly criticized the sport, I'd think they were being (at best) dishonest with themselves and (at worst) dishonest with everyone else. Why waste your time and energy?
Why is religious affiliation any different?
So, if and when a person disagrees with the teachings of our Church, no one in their right mind would mistreat them or think ill of them. But if they have sincere disagreements with the teachings of the Church, yet still claim to be members in good standing, all in their right mind who are honest with themselves, would most certainly wonder (politely and privately) why in the world they would cling to an organization with whom they so vehemently disagree.
I am no different.
I pray for the Sineads of the world. I also pray for those much closer to home who display an inexplicable religious self-loathing. You should pray for them, too. Just pray, love... and be patient. Do not judge.
We are not to judge who is and who is not worthy to call themselves "Catholic." We may wonder why they do so, but it is not our place to judge them... only to love and welcome them. Christ said that there would always be both wheat and tares in the Church. It is up to the harvester to separate them. (Matthew 13:24-30, et al)