I’ve been struggling with this one for a while, although it really started to gnaw at me over the last few days. My wife’s cousin is as devout a Catholic as you’re likely to find–just ask him. However, he seldom goes to Mass, more often going to his wife’s Church of the week. He also speaks very highly of the things [insert church of your choice here] gets right and does better than the Catholic Church. He’s taken several comparative religion classes at his local community college and can tell you all about the wonderful practices of the Mormons, Branch Davidians, Scientologists, Rastafarians, Ojibwe Post-Humanists and all sorts of other religions and cults you’ve never heard of, and how they far exceed anything Rome has to offer. He hasn’t gotten his kids baptized, doesn’t raise them Catholic (outside of several family traditions they practice around Christmas and Easter), and has turned all of his family’s faith matters over to his wife. His wife is some sort of Baptist at this point, I think, although that’s changed numerous times since they’ve been married. She’s on a constant search for herself and has tried all sorts of Christian flavors since we’ve known her, although she refuses to give Catholicism a chance. She’s not as blatantly anti-Catholic as she was 10-15 years ago, but she still knows that, while none of the other churches she’s strolled through have been the one, the Catholic Church definitely isn’t the place for her.
They’re one of the few members of either family we’re still close to and I’m not looking to antagonize them or distance ourselves from them, but talking to and dealing with him has driven me nuts lately. He’s fond of telling me how so much of what I’m doing is wrong and makes me a bad Catholic, then sets himself up as a shining example of the faith. He’s read a bookshelf full of books from all the biggest Catholic authors and Church Fathers, but he seems to have decided that he and his professors know better. They’re not only wrong or partially wrong about the big, hot-button issues (mostly birth control, gay marriage and having to go to Mass each week), but they’re also wrong about all sorts of little things as well (too numerous to list). He can quickly tell you about how other churches/cults get it right, then just as quickly point out how his studies make him more knowledgeable and faithful than you and I combined (if if “you and I” are JPII, Benedict XVI and Pope Francis). Despite her opposition to the Church, even his wife can’t stand hearing him cheerleading for these other religions and shooting down so much of Christianity in the process.
I’ve been trying to come up with a good way to approach him on this. It would be nice if he’d get a better understanding of what he professes to be his faith, but I’m more concerned about some of his more “out there” claims. Our kids aren’t to the point that they pay much attention to when we’re talking about religion, but once my daughters are old enough I certainly don’t want them to hear him preaching the virtues of Nuwaubianism over the Catholic Church.