Growing up in a moderately conservative, but slightly liberal, Catholic family, has caused my views on the world’s views of Catholicism to often be confusing and in conflict with themselves. Even in Sunday school as a young child and in Confirmation class as a teenager, I never once received the impression that Catholicism was a faith that preached hate.
Once I reached high school, I was even taught at church that Christians should not condemn homosexuals, nor any other person that could be deemed a “sinner,” simply because we were all sinners ourselves. I was taught that women were just as valuable as men, and that science, specifically evolution, was accurate and amazing. The way I was taught was already progressive; never once was it overly old-fashioned in any sense that was not moral.
But as I grew up, attending a public school system where Catholics were the minority, I realized that a lot of hate was directed at my faith, a faith that was passed through generations. I would not compare it to the intensity of racist hate or of sexist hate, but it was uncomfortable nonetheless, feeling like an ignorant outsider in my own peer relationships, even in grade school, simply because someone found out my family attended a Catholic parish on Sundays. It’s very strange when one second grader approaches another and blatantly asks why he or she would worship Mary, since worshiping other gods was a “deadly sin.” I learned that people assumed Catholics were full of hate and wrath and that all priests spoke about in their homilies was “hellfire and brimstone,” as one of my peers mentioned to me once in middle school. So when I was older and able to take in more of a worldly perspective, I saw that most people viewed Catholics as anti-gay, anti-woman, greedy misogynists. That is, until Pope Francis came around; now it seems as if the entire world, specifically the youth of the world, sees that faith is not the enemy.
Just last week, the Pope declared that evolution and the Big Bang theory are valid theories and can be believed alongside any sort of creationist view, since God is no “magician.” He has said countless times before that not one of us can judge anyone for anything we deem as sinful. Specifically, he has said that none of us should judge an atheist or someone else of any other faith for what they believe in, especially if they are good people that spread goodness in the world. He has verified that homosexuality is not a choice, just like everything else that is human. He has acknowledged that God still exists in a modern world, and for that I appreciate him immensely. Finally, the Catholic Church is represented publically by the ideas many of its members already believed. It is becoming more and more acceptable to acknowledge that those who are faithful in any religion are not imbeciles in the intellectual world. Instead of preaching hate, Pope Francis is spreading joy and peace throughout the entire planet.
It is steps in this progressive direction that will encourage all citizens of the world to agree to disagree. We may not all believe in the same God, we may not have the same opinions on abortion or fiscal policies, but at least we can express that it is the differences in our beliefs that make the world a more interesting place to live. We can all coexist, no matter what we believe; we have Pope Francis to thank for kickstarting that realm of thought amongst people of college age across the globe.