There were many years of my life that I found myself to be quite jealous of friends who had been raised in their Catholic faith. They had what I had always wanted. I longed to be connected to God in a way that I believed only happened when one is fully immersed in the lifelong practices of his or her faith. As a child of divorce, my parents had long abandoned their Catholic identity and I was left to forge my own relationship with God. Indeed, I even had to decide that this was something I wanted, as it was never put before me as a “life” option. I saw that my grandparents were faith-filled Catholics and had sacrificed dearly to send their children, my parents, to parochial schools and yet I was also privy to the ways in which that same faith seemed to push my parents away as their young marriage ended. There weren’t any mixed messages, though. The messages were quite clear: the Catholic faith wasn’t what we practiced in our home.
As I grew into my teen years, I spent most of my time in Jewish homes where I learned of Jesus as a Jew and loved Him in that regard before I fully understood what it meant that He was my Savior and loved Him as I do now. My family did not attend Church. We weren’t even part of the Christmas/Easter crowd. There was an emptiness deep inside of me that was filled in synagogues and at Passover tables. It was an amazing time in my life.
I can clearly remember sitting in Church, many years later, and gazing at the priest as he held up the Host and then bursting into tears because my many Passover dinners as a youth came flooding back to me. I could not contain my emotions and had to leave Church without receiving communion because I was sobbing uncontrollably at the beautiful connection. I became on-fire for my Catholic faith and could not get enough information. I prayed and researched and wrote and prayed some more. I spent countless hours and many thousands of dollars learning my faith. As God would have it, I became close friends with a Protestant sister who taught me a love for the Word and I began voraciously reading Scripture. I could not get enough of the words which seemed to float off the pages and into my heart.
All the while, though, a little sad voice kept whispering to me, “If only you had known Jesus this much before…” It wasn’t as if I was ungrateful. After all, I was finally indoctrinated. Rather, I had that sort of regret knowing that there was something I could have had, all along, but didn’t. Of course, in retrospect, it is easy to see that God had been preparing my heart in the Jewish homes of my childhood friends for an understanding that still brings tears to my eyes.
Meanwhile, as I spent years trying to “catch up” to my Catholic brothers and sisters and learn the faith, I would hear rumblings about this person missing out on that dogma or that person missing out on this understanding. However, I never really understood what the complaints were about because I assumed the complainer was just being a little harsh on the institution as a whole. I remember, earlier this year, editing Teresa Tomeo’s book Newsflash and understanding, more fully, what the grumbling was based upon. I began to get a sense that the lack of teaching of the Catholic flock wasn’t just a matter of missing a thing here or there, with the inevitable consequence of having many thousands of people, even millions, who did not actually know specific Catholic Church teachings on any number of issues. This lack of correct catechesis has become the foundation upon which we have an America where abortion is an option, despite the fact that polls show abortion is not supported by a majority of American citizens. Indeed, the only way that Roe v. Wade became law was through judicial process that did not put the issue to a vote.
The last few months have been difficult for Catholics everywhere. Long taught of the need for social justice, Catholics have made great strides for the underprivileged, poverty-stricken, and elderly. Catholics have always understood what Christ taught in regards to the obligation of one person to another. But somehow the pro-life movement has been stymied from within. Whether from the rank-and-file or from leaders who echo the sentiment that “abortion is a lost cause,” pro-life measures are now on the line. Gains that have been made over the past two decades would be rolled back under an Obama administration. Sanctity of life, within the womb, would have no place in his White House.
I remember questioning everyone (and getting no answer) as how a Catholic could vote “pro-choice.” Ted Kennedy was a conundrum to me. I tried to tell anyone who would listen that the Church was quite clear that abortion is an intrinsic evil. This wasn’t to say that war could not in some cases also be evil or that the economy wasn’t an issue. It was just that they were matters with a number of different answers and alternatives while abortion had no alternatives. It was killing a child.
I heard many great and mighty arguments on why a Catholic could be a “pro-choice” voter and each was more questionable than the last. There were times that I became emotionally exhausted from fighting the “good fight” and attempting to share Church teaching with people who did not want to hear it. Maybe, I thought, I really didn’t understand the Church correctly and maybe abortion and war and the economy were all one in the same. After all, could that many Catholics be wrong? And such high profile Catholics as Biden, Pelosi, and Kennedy?
However, I still couldn’t let go of what I considered to be God’s providential timing of a couple of things during this historic presidential election. Why, I prayed, did the Lord have the very significant anniversaries of Humanae Vitae and Mulieris Dignitatem come up now? Could it be that God wanted Catholics to study and know these documents before going to the polls? Does God really work like that? I have a dear friend who says there are no such things as coincidences and I tend to agree with her but obviously don’t have any idea if God is calling Catholics especially to unite for life right now, during this critical juncture in American history.
As many people know, my love for the Jewish roots of our faith runs deep. It was in Jewish homes and with Jewish families that I first really knew Christ. Right now, I can’t help but think of the times I learned about God’s wrath; times in which God would allow His people to be overrun by their enemies. It was their punishment for disobedience. In our secularized interest to see God as only love and mercy we’ve forgotten that He is a God who also judges and must be obeyed.
Is that what is in store for us if we continue on the path of moral decay? Our precious nation has changed tremendously in the past 20 years: same-sex marriages, the culture of death, and the total disregard for personal or social responsibility have overtaken our nation. Women, especially, have borne the brunt of the changes in the past three decades. The messages they’ve received have been so contradictory and disheartening.
Many Catholics misunderstand their faith because of the secularized “Catholic pro-choice politicians” such as Biden, Pelosi, and Kennedy. Others simply reject the Magisterium as a whole and want others to do the same. How ironic that the same people who holler “Can’t you think for yourself?” and “Why follow Church teaching?” actually expect the same “can’t think for yourself” mindset but for a different agenda. Consider the implication of this! As a result, thousands of Catholics are willing to usher in as president of the United States a man who supports abortion, fully and unequivocally. If abortion is an intrinsic evil, as the Church teaches, and Catholics vote for a man who supports it, what will the consequence be? Is it not better to err on the side of caution and vote against abortion?
For me there has been one wonderfully bright spot this election year. I have finally been able to let go of the sadness I once had at not being raised in the faith. Having catechized myself over the past 20 year has allowed me to be confident in what the Church teaches on abortion and understand my role as a Catholic voter.