Most of us find that in our daily lives, either as a professional, a parent, or simply as a person, our beliefs are constantly challenged in different ways. Growing up as a Catholic, I have found myself struggling with particular teachings, both through my own difficulties and uncertainties, but also in reflecting on those I know well whose lives and practices contradict the traditions I have been taught. I have come to know these people, and to love these people. So I find myself challenged to see the relevance of my faith beliefs in their lives (as in mine), especially today as our society speaks of embracing many different values. Often times, especially in this postmodern world, the Church’s values seem particularly harsh, even unfair. It has led many today to feel that the Church is out of step with our current times. But is this truly so?
The Church teaches that pride is the root of all vices. Psychological research indicates that narcissism and irrational thinking are on the rise, especially in our younger generation, and are creating a community that is disjointed, disenchanted, and confused.
The Church teaches that gluttony and sloth undermine the value of food and rest and create an excess that threatens our mind, body, and soul. The Journal of the American Medical Association cites that almost 70 percent of Americans are overweight or obese, and that obesity is a significant threat to mental health and will soon overtake smoking as the leading cause of death.
The Church teaches that lust treats the human body as a commodity rather than one beautiful expression of God’s masterpiece. Current statistics indicate that profits earned from pornography in the United States are greater than the revenue of CBS, ABC, and NBC combined (Kimmel, 2008).
The Church teaches that artificial birth control violates the natural law. The World Health Organization indicates that oral contraceptives are a class one carcinogen, similar to asbestos, radon, and plutonium.
The Church teaches that fear prevents love, and that above all, we should not be afraid. Studies indicate that anxiety is the number one psychological complaint in youth and adults (e.g., Cartwright-Hatton, McNicol, & Doubleday, 2006; Muris, & Steerneman, 2001), and at unhealthy levels, is associated with a myriad of negative health outcomes.
The Church teaches that a valid marriage is forever and indissoluble. Science tells us that growing up in an intact family with one’s biological parents who are married to each other confers the greatest benefit to children and other arrangements result in varying degrees of social, psychological, emotional and academic harm.
The Church teaches that homosexual acts are not a healthy expression of human sexuality. An International Journal of Epidemiology review of studies finds that the risk of HIV transmission is 18 times greater during anal intercourse than vaginal intercourse.
The church teaches that all human life is precious, from conception to natural death, and that each person is deserving of our love and utmost care. The American Psychological and Psychiatric Associations speak out vehemently against discrimination of those with disabilities whose medical care, happiness and livelihood may be threatened by others (but curiously supports the right to abort them, effectively ending these opportunities altogether).
The church teaches that sex before marriage does not preserve the loving union and well-being of each individual and the couple as a whole. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that adolescents having sex are more likely to be depressed and suicidal, use illicit substances, and are at significant risk for the rising threat of sexually transmitted diseases, especially chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis.
The church teaches that greed creates a state of existence where certain people are exploited for others’ gains and struggle to meet basic needs. The U.S. Census Bureau states that the gap continues to widen between rich and poor in this country (and worldwide, the disparity between the gross domestic product of the 20 richest and 20 poorest nations more than doubled between 1960 and 1995).
As a professional and a person of faith, it is often difficult to reconcile Catholic teachings and modern trends, especially as the latter seems constantly in flux. Often it seems that conversations which are important to have from a theological and scientific standpoint are overshadowed by political and emotional upheaval. In some ways, it is understandable. These are deeply personal topics, and both scientific findings and theological teachings may contradict the way I or others are living.
For this and other reasons, many would prefer that topics such as these not be broached. In some ways, they are seen as off-limits, and should simply be embraced as an individual choice. But as someone called to be a healer, both in a professional and religious sense, it seems that straying from honest conversations and truth-seeking in favor of cultural shifts might be the ultimate transgression. It also seems that our society is on a path of ruin if we continue to defy these beliefs.
I wonder. What would be left if I don’t meet the people I love, and I serve, at the intersection of reason and faith? What kind of love would I show if I resigned myself to become collaborator of the current times, and not a pursuer of true understanding and wisdom? How could I face my family at night, and the families I see each day, if I didn’t believe that what I said truly had our best interests in mind? Ultimately, people will make choices that they feel are best for them and their kids. But don’t we all need voices of love and transparency and authenticity in our lives so we can find this in our own? I do.
Some may say that the Church is not relevant in our current culture. But it seems the world cries out that we are needed now, maybe more than ever. Please consider joining us in the pursuit of greater faith and health and contentment as One.
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Cartwright-Hatton, S, McNicol, K., & Doubleday, E. (2006). Anxiety in a neglected population: prevalence of anxiety disorders in pre-adolescent children. Clinical Psychology Review, 26, 817-833
Kimmel, Michael (2008). Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men: Harper, New York.
Muris, P. & Steerneman, P. (2001). The Revised version of the Screen for Child Anxiety Related Emotional Disorders (SCARED-R): First evidence for its reliability and validity in a clinical sample. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 40, 35-44.