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Culture & Religion

JOHN ZUCCHI / Why I am a Catholic

To say the least, this is not a particularly felicitous moment to declare oneself a Catholic, not in my circles, in any case. But I remain Catholic because of reason and humanity. And of a real Presence.  


To say the least, this is not a particularly felicitous moment to declare oneself a Catholic, not in my circles, in any case. I'm a Professor and a Department Chair at McGill University. People sometimes wonder how a reasonable person like me can possibly still believe today. It is even more puzzling that I should be a Catholic. After all isn't that the backward, authoritarian religion of hocus pocus, veneration of the Virgin Mary, and all that? How can anyone follow the Catholic Church after the many scandals and all the - real and alleged - shortcomings in overseeing those abuse cases? A few years ago, my esteemed colleague and friend, Gil Troy, wrote an article spelling out “Why I am a Zionist”. I would like to explain why I am a Catholic.

In our multicultural society we are often inclined to look at religion as something merely cultural, an appendage to ethnic identity. If someone goes to Church it's because that's the way he or she was brought up, it's part of one's baggage. I find that some of my acquaintances are almost shocked that I truly do believe, that I have a certainty regarding my faith.

And so why am I a Catholic? Why do I believe in Real Presence, uphold the primacy of the See of Peter, look to the Church for salvation (which is not about living happily ever after but about seeing the ultimate meaning of things), especially now when Peter's successor, Benedict XVI is under attack, indeed when the entire Church is under fire? Why do I admire and follow Pope Benedict while others call for his arrest? Why am I commemorating the fifth anniversary of his election as the Bishop of Rome this week? Why confess my sins to a priest when there have been so many clergy out there - and perhaps still are - who have committed unspeakable crimes against the most innocent in the Church and society?

As a premise, I should note that the very origins of the Church involved betrayal and sin. Judas delivered the innocent Christ to his crucifixion and death, and even Peter, the Rock, denied knowing Christ at the moment when his companion and master needed him most. No scandal, no matter how bad - and admittedly, they are pretty bad these days - is enough to sway me.

So what keeps me in the Church? I have no pietistic reasons for staying, and in a certain sense, no other-wordly reasons either. I am not the spiritualistic type. I am a Catholic for two main reasons: firstly, I believe in reason itself, and secondly, I desire a place where my humanity is enhanced.