There has been a meme around the Catholic blogosphere lately on stating why one remains a Roman Catholic. It comes in response to what I think is an exaggerated Pew Poll showing a declining Christianity in the United States, an especially a shift of Catholics away from their cradle or chosen faith. I’m not going to get into why I think the results of the poll has been exaggerated (too controversial for this blog and no one wants to filter through a statistical analysis), but I do want to contribute to the meme and state why I remain a Catholic.
First, if you want, the Anchoress on two posts from her blog states her reasons, and more importantly, provides links to a slew of Catholic blogs who take on the meme. You can find those posts here and here. It makes for great reading.
Second, as some have pointed out, G. K. Chesterton—one of the most important converts to Roman Catholicism—actually took this meme up in an essay back in 1926. You can read that essay from the American Chesterton Society (ACS) site here. But it is worthy to quote that well known first sentence:
The difficulty of explaining “why I am a Catholic” is that there are ten thousand reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true. I could fill all my space with separate sentences each beginning with the words, “It is the only thing that…” As, for instance, (1) It is the only thing that really prevents a sin from being a secret. (2) It is the only thing in which the superior cannot be superior; in the sense of supercilious. (3) It is the only thing that frees a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age. (4) It is the only thing that talks as if it were the truth; as if it were a real messenger refusing to tamper with a real message. (5) It is the only type of Christianity that really contains every type of man; even the respectable man. (6) It is the only large attempt to change the world from the inside; working through wills and not laws; and so on.
I have to say, I’ve grown to love Chesterton since I’ve read a few of his works. A couple of years ago I read his novel, The Man Who Was Thursday, which I posted on my blog here, and after reading Orthodoxy earlier this year, and which I excerpted a passage here. I hope to do a fuller post on Orthodoxy in the future; it’s truly the great dissent to the modern age and I need to explain that. But though coming late in life to the man, I can now see why he’s regarded so highly by so many.
So why do I remain a Catholic? As Chesterton says, there are ten thousand reasons which add up to the one, truth. But I’ll elaborate with two short answers. First through a list of Catholic attributes which you cannot find elsewhere.
1. The true presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist.
2. Real confession that is not a superficial mumbling to one’s self.
3. The saints as guides and brothers and sisters on our journey.
4. The mythic as part of our everyday life.
5. The use of reason to understand the natural world as a scientific phenomenon without stripping it of faith.
6. The Blessed Virgin as a go to advocate as the mother of Christ and the Queen of Heaven.
7. It has a deep history having integrated the Classical world with the Judaic world, while developing the Christian world. The superficial platitude that the Church caused the Dark Ages is all wrong; the Church saved civilization.
8. The sheer beauty of it: the literature, the philosophy, the art, the music, the liturgy, all summing up to reflect the beauty of God.
9. It is Apostolic and started by Christ handing the keys of His church to Peter.
10. It doesn’t change with the times; there is a guiding Magisterium.
The way I like it said is that Catholicism is the fullness of Christianity. Only the Eastern Orthodox churches would have similar attributes, but then they wouldn’t have been started by Peter.
The second answer will be a paraphrase of a quote by St. Catherine of Siena my patroness: my Catholic faith is in me as a fish is in the sea and the sea is in the fish. Of course it's true. I breath and swim in the truth that is Catholicism, and that truth is infused in me. You can't leave that.