When I left Catholicism in my twenties it was largely due to the influence of anti-Catholic, evangelical, fundamentalist sources I encountered. It also didn’t help that my own spiritual formation and knowledge of Catholic teaching was lacking. At the time, I thought I was being liberated from a complex religious system and replacing it with a simple one-on-one relationship with Jesus Christ. In my naiveté, I regarded Catholicism as a man-made obstacle to Christ rather than a God-made organism of Christ designed to lead us to him. For a while, I took a rather anti-Catholic approach to spirituality and sharing of the Gospel.
My return to the Catholic Church was preceded by the realization that I had been taught many misconceptions and untruths about Catholicism, both from an historical and a doctrinal perspective. I had mixed emotions because I felt relieved and deceived at the same time. As I processed my transition back to the Church I realized I had to be careful. It would be very easy for me to adopt an attitude that was decidedly anti-non-Catholic, or anti-Protestant. What I mean is that I could easily have adopted a less-than-charitable attitude towards non-Catholic persons. This became particularly apparent as I delved deeper into Catholic apologetics. Debates on sensitive topics can quickly produce a lack of charity in people.
Obviously, there are non-Catholic teachings and practices I am “against.” But, I never want to be “against” any person. Genuine charity (godly love) desires the ultimate good for every person. I believe that such charity resides within Catholic teachings. What I am really against is division among Christians. I am against a divided Body of Christ. I am against any religious system where Christians function as something other than one flock with one shepherd. Since the sixteenth century the one flock has become increasingly divided and multitudes of shepherds now lead in vastly different directions.
I am not “anti” anyone. I am anti-division and pro-unity. I am for all the scattered Christians finding their way home to the Catholic Church. I am for Christians uniting under one banner instead of constantly finding things to protest and divide over. I am for Christians learning authentic Catholic teachings instead of misconceptions and misunderstandings that keep them away from home. I am for one flock with one shepherd. Jesus already established the office of Peter to “strengthen the brethren” and to “feed the sheep.” The one shepherd has always been successively present on the Chair of Peter. What Christianity needs is for the flock to reunite under that shepherd.
We don’t need a unity that flattens out diversity and creates bland uniformity. We need all the gifts, strengths and diversity of all the Christians that love Jesus Christ living in one accord. Then the world will see the Church as it should be. Rather than seeing many protesting, clustered, individualized churches competing for attention, the world will see one holy, catholic and apostolic Church. They will see the love of Christ. This is what I am for. This is why I talk about and promote the Catholic Church, sometimes juxtaposed with other doctrines. It is not just another denomination. It is where the flock finds home.