|My wife's employee diversity training was more religious than this|
When we entered the Church in 2006, the torch had already passed to a new generation of Catholics. As I've said many times, this was not that fundamentalist Scott Hahn's Catholic Church. These were the Boomers. The post-Vatican II gang. Oh, they may have been born before Vatican II, but already the Church was being led by those who would take it through the Vatican II reforms.
But more than Vatican II Catholics, they're post WWII liberal culture Christians. That is, Christianity is a right fine belief, but no better than all the other beliefs. After all, all religious beliefs were just made up by ancient humans. As my son's Mythology 222 class demonstrated, the Bible, the Iliad and the Aeneid are about the same in terms of myth and fantasy.
These Catholics looked at our testimony and more or less scratched their heads. Sometimes you could almost see the puzzlement in their eyes. Lost your friends and colleagues, investment accounts and retirement funds, and came into the Church with no professional prospects ... just to become Catholic? Why that was a strange thing to do! The welcome mat that awaited the Hahn generation of clergy converts had long gone the way of the dodo bird.
Shortly after becoming pope, Pope Francis met with Protestant leaders and echoed the same attitude. Stay where you are and get to God in your own lovely traditions. That's when my boys concluded ol'Dad had screwed up royally. There we were, me a pastor, wife a teacher in a private school, kids with one of us at any given time, yearly vacations and time together and a nice close life centered around church and family. Then BAM! Out the windows, after school care, scraping by, ramen noodles and rice for dinner, vacations confined to the local park, picking which bills to pay in a month, and all to enter the Catholic Church. The same Catholic Church whose members and leaders made it clear that it was the strangest thing we ever could have done. Clearly dad isn't the one to trust in such things.
That's when we went to the Orthodox Church. At least there the Orthodox still subscribe to the idea that Orthodoxy is the true Church, and those who make the journey, if they do for the right reasons, are absolutely right to do so. Actual sermons on heaven and hell, on sin and holiness, and on the necessity of remaining in God's proper church showed my boys that the "Catholicism is our meat, but any meat is fine" shtick was not a universal attitude in modern Christianity, even if it was the majority opinion they encountered in our parish.
Because of many reasons, I couldn't reconcile with Orthodoxy as a Christian home, though I appreciate the life preserver they were for us. Therefore when our old Catholic parish brought a firebrand priest from Africa who was more than prepared to call sin sin, and the Catholic Church the True Church, we returned.
Sadly, we came back just as Covid hit. A year later, he was gone. No clue why. He showed up one Sunday, said Monday he was no longer our priest, and perhaps he might see some of us in heaven someday. That was that. To this day nobody has told us what happened. I do know his fire and brimstone insistence on the truths of the Catholic Faith rubbed some the wrong way, and he was in for some heavy criticisms in the time we were there.
Be that as it may, we remained because I'm still convinced that the Catholic Church, more than any other tradition, is the right tradition. Obviously that is minority opinion today, and not one that appears to be held by our bishops, many of our leaders, or even our pope. It certainly isn't the attitude of many, if not most, modern Catholics. Some even seem offended at the idea that Catholicism has any unique value that can't be found in a thousand different beliefs.
Nonetheless, at my age, it's time to settle in for the final curtain. Our financial fate was sealed when the economy collapsed in 2008 and we found ourselves under a bishop who would rather see the Church sink into the 7th level of Hell than see a former Protestant minister so much as scrub toilets in the diocese. Since then, it's been Indiana Jones one step ahead of the boulder. As I joke with people we know, my retirement plan is to grab my chest at 65 and do a Fred Sanford.
But we did all that to become Catholic because, again, I believe it is true. And not just true, but also non-optional. No, I don't think every non-Catholic in the world will burn. But I don't think the belief that not every non-Catholic will burn means anyone can be anything and not burn.
Just because I know not everyone who smokes will die of cancer or heart disease doesn't mean I hand out cigarettes and tell everyone to light up. Something I don't feel our bishops, leaders or pope think. I think for them, it's far more important that everyone at the best parties think they're cool for handing out the cigarettes, rather than take a firm stand on the need to stop smoking. Whatever that might mean in terms of people's health.