I’m a Catholic. A pro-gay, pro-choice, feminist Catholic, believe it or not. Catholicism and some modern concepts related to freedom, gender, equality and ecology seem impossible to reconcile, but if society, laws and meanings evolve, then I must argue that so does religion. And this is what I’m standing for today: we can define ourselves however we like and religion is one of the most personal of constructs, which means I get to choose what it means to be a Catholic. On a personal level, of course.
According to statistics offered by the Vatican, there are approximately 1.2 billion Roman Catholics in the world. Most of them (40%) live in Latin America, but there are Roman Catholics all over Europe, Africa, Asia, North America and Oceania. What I am trying to say is that identifying oneself as a Catholic doesn’t really say much about the person you are because, guess what? Every Catholic (and every person) is different!
In a group of 1.2 billion people from all over the world, nobody can seriously expect uniformity: There are all kinds of Catholics who believe, approve of and reject all kinds of different ideas.
In certain liberal circles, Catholicism is almost a bad word. I understand where they are coming from, as the Church has rejected all kinds of people throughout history and it has done very horrible things that will forever haunt the reputation of millions of Catholics all over the world. When I personally have to face any kind of opposition towards the Catholic Church, I like to remind people that institutions do change, but they do so ever so slowly.
I am living proof that Catholicism is not what it used to be. I believe there are a lot of “rules” that need to be updated within the Catholic Church, but who can blame the Pope (as the head of the Catholic Church) for not being able to introduce drastic reforms in an institution that involves 1.2 billion people of all ages, who live in hundreds of different countries, speak hundreds of languages and come from extremely different contexts?
In any case, the importance and true revolutionary spirit lies within the individuals who, together, make up the institution. Individuals take intangible terms such as “religion” or “belief” and turn them into reality. A lot has been said about Pope Francis and his wave of change. Many see this as a rebranding marketing technique aimed at tricking people into believing that a more progressive Church is possible. I say seize that opportunity to inspire yourself. Question everything you know. Talk to somebody who thinks differently.
I’m stubborn. I believe in making women a bigger part of Catholicism (and a bigger part of every other major institution in the world). I believe in broadening the dialogue with other religions, and in embracing new definitions of terms such as “family” and “gender”. I believe in fighting from within. I believe in my religion and my god, and I believe that individual actions arising from individual people can eventually alter the way things are done. You only need to meet one cool, tolerant, loving Catholic. Be the change you wish to see. Be a Catholic you can feel proud of, whatever that means to you.▼