There are times when we need to separate church and faith. I realize that this sounds heretical to many Catholics, and would probably have sent me trotting to the bonfires in days of yore. But that`s part of the problem.
Many of us were raised to believe that faith is measured by our obedience to church leaders, our strict observance of rules and teachings, or in the details of our worship and prayer. Therefore, when we become disillusioned with the Church, disillusionment with our faith often follows.
As Catholics, we publicly profess belief in the `one, holy, catholic and apostolic church`. But it is not our only – or even primary – belief. Yes, I believe in our church when she stands strong in solidarity with the poor, speaks out against injustice and promotes peace and the integrity of all creation. The Church is at her best when she stands as a moral beacon of hope in our world. This is when the church inspires me, and shows me by example how to live my faith in compassionate action.
My faith is tested when the church is more concerned about protecting her priests than protecting her children. My faith is tested when church leaders choose fighting for the integrity of doctrine over pastoral compassion for her people. My faith is tested when these same leaders spend their energy on silly liturgical wrangling over translations and wordings of missals rather than helping to form genuine people of prayer. But, I need to remind myself that these have nothing to do with my faith in God.
Sometimes I just need to sit back and make an honest assessment of what is of God, and what is the result of human weakness. One deserves my faith, the other doesn`t. And I need to know how and when to separate the two. To some, this might make me less of a faithful Catholic. But it doesn`t mean I am any less faith-filled.