Let me tell you a story: When I entered High School, I was a cafeteria Catholic, and didn’t really care. I guess I was anti-abortion, but was very iffy in cases of rape and incest, and while my parents were against gay marriage I was starting to wonder if this really made sense. My freshman year of Catholic High School changed one thing for me: a pro-life speaker completely “converted” me on abortion. I now believe it’s the most important secular issue in the country, and it was because of that speaker.
Otherwise, my Theology class Freshman year was interesting, and I learned a decent amount, but it also didn’t do a lot to convince me that Catholicism was the way to go. Listening to my Aunt, a Protestant (and an amazing person, by the way, one of my role models), I was starting to wonder. And as I looked into the arguments for the existence of God I found the gnu atheist objections – which seemed pretty convincing against their strawman arguments! I started really questioning my faith.
I’m not like most people, though. When I question my faith, I don’t just question; I look for answers. And there was one thing that bothered me with the gnu atheist objections: Could Aquinas have really been that stupid? Seriously, “Who caused God” is such a glaringly obvious objection to what I thought were his arguments that I had to come to one of two conclusions: Either Aquinas was a moron, or something is very wrong with the common objections.
So I went looking, and found Dr. Feser. He is one of the biggest reasons I’m not an atheist. His defenses of Aquinas’s arguments are brilliant, and I realized that it wasn’t Aquinas who was the idiot; it was the gnus. And so I went into my sophomore year pretty firmly convinced that God existed, and after reading Dr. Feser I had a lot more solid footing on the gay marriage debate too. But despite my new-found orthodoxy, I was still a pretty liberal Catholic. I just did not get why women could not be Priests, and my concept of the Sacraments was vague at best. Papal infallibility was also difficult for me to grasp. The difference was that I was starting to take the Church a little more seriously. Hey, it seems as if they were right about gay marriage; perhaps they had more right than I first thought. And so, enter my Theology teacher.
More than anybody, he totally changed the way I looked at Catholicism and Christianity in general. Sophomore year was really about the Sacraments, and we had a pretty rigorous regimen to follow, with a lot of note-taking and detailed tests. Despite this, I found the class absolutely fascinating. All of a sudden, Catholicism was no longer “just” a religion. It was almost a science that could be studied extensively, analyzed logically, and understood, not JUST on a “spiritual” level, something I still have yet to experience, but on an intellectual level as well.
I do not believe in the Real Presence because I’ve had any sort of powerful experience with the Eucharist, I’m sorry to say. I believe in the Real Presence because I think the substance/accidents distinction explains it in a totally logical way, and thus there’s no good reason to see Jesus’s words as symbolic. They’re very clear, and now I understand how it makes sense. I believe in Purgatory because I think there’s actually some Scriptural basis and because I believe in the Deposit of Faith. I am Catholic because I believe it to be the most historically valid religion. And almost all of this was due to that Theology teacher. I took him again Senior year in a college-level Apologetics class. I became his best student because the class absolutely fascinated me. I’ve reached a point where I’m not only a theist, I’ve gone from the idea of atheism as the “default” to theism as the “default”, because I see the existence of a Creator God as something obvious by using simple logic. My personal burden of proof has shifted. Without this teacher, I don’t know if I’d even have remained Catholic. I wasn’t yet convinced on contraception, masturbation, or even the idea of absolutely no divorce, even in cases of adultery. But he really, in a huge way, changed everything. You can thank/blame him for this blog.
So what am I getting at? We need better theology teachers. If my CCD (Catechism class, basically) teachers were anything like him, I’d never have had a faith crisis. In retrospect, while they were good people and made a real effort, they were terrible teachers. None of us had any business taking Communion. We had no understanding of what we were doing. That’s the whole point of waiting until the “age of reason”.
You want to understand why Catholics in America are really liberal? Ask the theology teachers.