Many people I know have horrible impressions of the Catholic Church. It is a patriarchal system that represses dissent, women, gay people, and logical reasoning.
But the Catholic faith I was raised with was loving, inclusive, and focussed on good deeds. My parents took us to mass every Sunday, and sent us to CCD. At home, they taught us to focus on the Gospels—which contain, if you read them, revolutionary messages on how to live—and to ignore all of the messages of hatred that we might have learned from priests (which, by the way, we mostly didn’t). I was raised in a liberal community led by New York-based clergy, most of them fantastically well-educated (on the doctoral level), many of them Franciscans. Those priests took vows of poverty, and dedicated their lives to helping other people.
This article, “A Doctor’s Ministry,” in this past weekend’s New York Times, speaks to my Catholic Church. It’s about Dr. Dutkowsky, an orthopedic surgeon based out of New York, whose mission it has been to help disabled people.
“This is my ministry,” said Dr. Dutkowsky, 56. “Some people stand next to the ocean to feel the presence of God. I get to see the likeness of God every day. I see children with some amazing deformities. But God doesn’t make mistakes. So they are the image.”
Even with best intentions, we judge people with disabilities, thinking that because they are imperfect, physically flawed, they are incapable of being happy. That they are not our equals. But we so often forget that a disability isn’t a curse from God. It isn’t a punishment. It doesn’t make for a lesser life. It’s just another state of being.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how many negative things I write and say, which are no longer balanced—if such a thing is possible—but the good deeds I did when I was still an active member of the Catholic Church.
I’m not saying I would return to it. But if I made enough money that every month wasn’t a struggle, the first thing I would do is take the time to help other people.