Well, I’m not quite sure how to put this ‘question’, and hopefully no one will get seriously offended, but I know of no other way to put it.
I recently returned from a mission (I’m LDS) in Guadalajara, Mexico. I was there for about two years and Guadalajara is known for being the most Catholic city of Mexico. Before I had left on my mission Catholics were among my favorites to discuss religion with because they were usually much more open-minded and intelligent than many protestants I dealt with. But since I have gone to Mexico my view has drastically changed. I recognize that there are many good Catholics who try their best to live their religion here in the States, but apparently in other parts of the world it’s not like that.
On my mission, the most closed-minded, ignorant, and sinful people were the Catholics. If I had to put arbitrary statistics to it, I would guess that 95% of people in Guadalajara were declared, baptised, and confirmed Catholics. Very few of these would attend mass except maybe once or twice a year, if that. The churches there were really rather more center for gossip than religious learning. Very, very few ever read any part of a Bible, or even knew anything about it. Perhaps 1 or 2% of Catholics I found knocking on doors were zealous or fanatical. These were ALMOST always closed-minded, always interrupting, unwilling to logically consider anything, many times totally ignorant of the scriptures, etc. I did meet some (3-5) more or less respectable Catholics, but even they often had strange doctrinal beliefs that I know the Catholic Church does not preach (if anyone is interested I could give a very amusing example). All in all, the Catholics of Guadalajara (with few exceptions) as a whole misrepresent the Catholicism of the States (as it appears to me).
This is not based solely on individual ignorance, laziness, or stupidity of the people. The leaders there are probably most responsable. I have heard many, many stories of corrupt priests, probably from each area I was in. The last pueblo I worked and lived at had a father famous for his rude behavior, swindling of funds, etc. And nothing was ever done about him. Again, I could give some very interesting examples here. As missionaries, our view was that a good Catholic was really a future Mormon, which almost consistently turned out to be the case. To the people, the degree of their closed-mindedness is an indication of their religious piety. If they are unwilling to hear us, to them, they are good, strong Catholics. If they made fun of us, all the moreso.
A few weeks ago we had a visitor in Church who was writing a book on the effects of Catholicism in Vietnam. Apparently, as he told me, the problems there are just as bad, if not worse, than in Mexico. This is not inconsistent with other stories I have heard about other parts of the world as well. Of course, that is hearsay, and what I will stick to is what I saw and heard.
Now, I am taking a few college classes, two of which are ‘Aztecs and Spaniards’, which deals with the conquest of Mexico by Hernan Cortes, and a survey course of Spanish literature. In the first, we are charging through a book by Bernal Diaz which recounts the history of the conquest essentially through the eyes of the Spaniards. On reading this book my views of Catholicism are not much changed, and I think I’m beginning to understand why Mexico is the way it is now. I’m also reading medieval Spanish poetry and such from my other course, which also places a sometimes disturbing emphasis on the religion of the time.
Then, of course, you all know about the big happenings here in Boston, as is the case elsewhere as well…
Now, Jesus said that we should know them by their fruits, and that can be broadened to any people. If people do good things then they are good people, if they do bad things then they are bad people, to generalize. Of course, there is individual choice, and there are many people (yes, in the Mormon church too) that do not really practice what they are taught to. However, I feel that this should be limited to a point. When a whole nation goes awry can that be attributed to individual choice or does something negatively influence them?
I’m not looking for intellectual apologetic answers, because I think I already know them. These aren’t very specific issues, but here is my question: How can I improve my views of Catholicism? I like to see the positive, but I have found too much negative. I know there are good things about Catholics, as I’m sure many of you are good people. But from personal experience I have a sort of yucky feeling in my mouth when I think about Catholics now. There is probably more to the picture, and that is what I want to know. I think that simple exposure to a positive influence can help, which is why I’m here. So let’s talk about it a bit. Any personal experiences or views are fine. Oh, and sorry this post is so long.