This is a response to PZ Myers’ question on why ordinary American Catholics ignore the doctrine, like the ban on birth control, and yet continue to support the Catholic Church.
I can give an answer because, for a time (i.e. the entirety of my teenage years and my early twenties), I was such a liberal Catholic.
For as long as I can remember, I supported homosexual relationships, gay marriage, contraception, euthanasia, divorce, and females in the priesthood. Nobody taught me this; in fact, I come from a family that was conservatively Catholic and opposed all those mentioned. I didn’t have a desire to rebel for rebellion’s sake, either.
I supported these anti-Catholic things because I saw no good reason for opposition, and because their ban only brought unnecessary misery to some people.
I thought the priests (and my family) simply got it wrong. I thought that, since I understood and empathized with these people, God, being the Fount and Epitome of All Understanding, all the more understood and empathized with the gays, the terminally ill and suffering, the couples who don’t desire to have children, the people stuck in unhappy marriages, and the women who want to become priests.
The priests simply got it wrong. But they had power, and they continued to use this power to make everyone comply with what they want, and make people miserable.
Yet, I still remained a Catholic. At this point, it was mostly because my parents were Catholic, practically everyone else was a Catholic (note: this is the Philippines) and I believed that they were right. I also believed that whatever doubts I had were brought about by youthful ignorance and temptation and evil, and had to be discarded. Still, I could not ignore the voice of reason within me…
Fast forward to college. With its obsession with controlling the government and the glaringly obvious corruption in its ranks, I became increasingly disillusioned with the Catholic Church. And then, one day, a friend asked me if I would consider becoming a Protestant.
Well, no. For one, I didn’t believe in the Protestant dogma. (Sure, it is just the Catholic dogma with some revisions, but I didn’t see it that way at the time.) Furthermore, I didn’t like the idea of compulsorily donating part of my income to the church and trusting a pastor on personal matters. The little I saw of Protestant pastors and their blatant chiming for money only served to worsen my image of them.
To me, converting from Catholicism to Protestantism was like jumping from the frying pan into the fire. It wasn’t worth the effort, and it was probably bound to get worse, so… I remained a Catholic.
A Catholic who didn’t support the church, that is. That is pretty strange, considering that the Virgin Mary, according to Catholic doctrine, demands believers to respect and love their priests. It was a doctrine that I did not agree with, like all the rest.
Despite my doubts and disagreements, I remained a Catholic, because I thought it was the only option.
It didn’t occur to me that it was possible to leave Catholicism and not join another church.
To cut the long story short, I eventually, after a number of years, allowed myself to admit that I believed only because I was brought up to believe. I also realized that not believing was an option. It is an option that makes a lot of sense. I am now an ex-Catholic, and an atheist.
I know I cannot speak for others. Liberal Catholics have their own reasons for staying in the church. I can only guess.
Perhaps it is family.
Perhaps it is community and society.
Or, perhaps, like the younger me, they think that Catholicism is the only choice they have.
Learning from my experience, we somehow have to show that, incredible as it sounds, there is life outside of Catholicism. We have to show them that there are a multitude of options for the ex-Catholic, and that joining a different church need not be one of them.
Lastly, we, as a community, have to continue to be vocal and welcoming. You never know when a curious Catholic (or a person of another faith) questioning his/her faith will stumble upon your blog for information. Be the source of encouragement for that person. ;)