Mainly, I am starting to wonder if perhaps various Protestant churches are actually getting to the core of what Jesus taught better than the Catholic Church has, despite the 2000+ years of history. I'm really starting to see where my family is coming from.
Christ teaches us, through his own words and through apostolic teaching after he returned to his Father, that God is love at his essence, and that God is a loving Father who became flesh in Jesus Christ and sacrificed himself so that all could be saved. In turn, we are to love our neighbors as Christ has taught us, and as Christ loves us.
However, more and more I am seeing and hearing from some here that apparently that love and that salvation extend only to those who believe, understand and follow Canon Law to a tee. Apparently, as I am reading, children who aren't baptized lose any chance to go to Heaven, along with anyone else who isn't baptized. And they can't just be baptized by anyone, they have to be a baptized Catholic. Too bad, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, C. S. Lewis, and all those other people who didn't happen to have a Catholic baptize you, you're out of luck when it comes to Heaven despite your great lives. And now, according to the Institute, it's apparently not even OK to attend a friend or family member's wedding if it's not a Catholic wedding! I'm sorry, but that's just plain awful! Isn't this the kind of legalism Christ was teaching against when he criticized the scribes and Pharisees of his time?
If God is love, and God forgives all, where is the love in this? Why do we have to treat the Church like some exclusive club where only we, the Righteous, receive salvation while everyone else is doomed? Why do so many people seem to forget that nobody is perfect, and that God welcomes back people who have sinned instead of seething in some righteous indignation as they wander further away from the Church because we treat them like outcasts, as some seem to think we should?
In a theology class in college, my professor asked the class as our first assignment to offer our thoughts on our beliefs in God. I think one friend of mine had the best answer. He brought in The Beginner's Bible, a children's book detailing the basics of some commonly known Bible stories and teachings, of course emphasizing the love of God throughout. He held up the book and said, to paraphrase, "My view of God is all in here. It's as simple as God loving us and us loving each other. Too often we get caught up in all of the complicated stuff and we lose sight of what's important. We need to get back to this." That friend is a fellow Catholic, and I am starting to agree with him more and more.
Love doesn't mean agreeing with everyone on everything. We can vehemently disagree with many things, such as abortion, homosexual actions, capital punishment and injustice done to the poor, all of which the Church teaches against, and I agree with the Church on all those views. I still believe in Christ's true presence in the Blessed Sacrament, and the importance of the other Sacraments as well. I still believe in the Holy Father's teachings on most (but admittedly not all) subjects. I'm a 6/7 on my profile questions (I believe women who are still unmarried should not be denied the priesthood). But I'm really starting to wonder, with some of these teachings, especially when it comes to excluding salvation on some issues, where those teachings were coming from. Many of these seem to date back to the Council of Trent, when the Church was in the middle of fighting the Reformation, and I have the feeling that many of these teachings are possibly products of more trying to protect itself from Protestantism than actually about God in his love and mercy. The Church is human, humanity is not perfect, and even today Church teaching can change. Is it too much to believe that perhaps in some things, especially in those things we cannot prove, we may have interpreted some things wrongly or written contradictions into our own teaching?
Just some food for thought.