Catholic's take on Notre Dame
Updated: May 11, 2022
As someone who grew up Catholic, the Notre Dame fire hit especially hard. I had never visited myself, but it was (and still is) on the top of my "places to visit" bucket list. Although it's comforting to know that much of the church was kept intact and nobody was hurt, the burning of the church highlighted how much the Catholic Church appears to conflate a place of worship with the faith itself.
Of course, it's tragic that such a historic place of worship was damaged. However, I wish that the Catholic Church, collectively, could take this zeal and energy that we have for a church building and enact change. It's clear that we have the means to if we cared enough, since we managed to amass so much financial support for a church in such little time. So why aren't we taking that energy to practice the teachings from our faith?
There's also the vocal concern of how more people were willing to donate to help an inanimate building than they were to help actual sentient beings. Obviously, donating to a church and donating to humanitarian causes aren't mutually exclusive, and I don't think anyone's really debating that. However, it really is telling how people seem to care more about feeling like a good person than actually trying to be a good person. It's not like we have a dearth of opportunities to help rebuild our world. Millions around the world are living in poverty and many more face food insecurity. Within our own country, we have religious persecution against various faiths (no, getting sued for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple isn't persecution, especially when there are churches being burned down and people whose lives are at stake for their faith). As one of the most prominent faiths and the largest denomination of Christianity in the world, we have the means to congregate and enact change.
Where was this energy when scandals regarding the members of the Church emerged and led to a #MeToo movement? When the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, blamed homosexuality for the predatory behavior within the church? When people like Bishop Robert Morlino explicitly called for "more hatred" to ward off the "homosexual subculture" that "runs" the sex scandal?
Part of the reason I temporarily left the Catholic Church was that I needed to learn to separate my faith from individuals and figure out what faith means to me. Strangely, I found that my time in Pittsburgh strengthened my faith far more than growing up in suburban Alabama, the latter where Christianity is much more prominent. Seeing how people held onto their respective faiths taught me more about my own faith than joining an exclusively Catholic youth group and being torn between feeling excluded and trying to integrate.
During these past few years in college, I learned that worship shouldn't be just a one-hour-a-week commitment. I learned to appreciate the teachings I gained every Sunday and to implement them in my life, to hold myself accountable all hours of the week. In light of the Notre Dame fire, I challenge others of all faiths — especially other fellow Catholics — to ask themselves if they are tethering their beliefs to an object.