About 5 years ago I sat down and talked at length to a Muslim friend. This man is very devout in his faith and is also a great man of peace. The goal of my having this theological discussion with him was to try to find a loophole. He is so sure of his faith, and I am so sure of my Catholic faith. I was hoping to find a way that we could both be right. There must be some way our very different beliefs could mesh without one of us having to be sadly misled.
Long-story short, my memory isn't good enough to remember the details of the discussion. It was long and thorough. I want to say it was several hours long. I came away disappointed and stunned. There was no apparent loophole. One of us WAS wrong. Maybe both of us were wrong, but we couldn't both be right.
Now, this proves, I think, that a lot of very good people in this world who firmly belive they are right, are not right. God cannot be two mutually exclusive things at the same time.
This past week my daughter was riding the bus home from middle school. She overheard a neighbor boy saying he had a crush on a girl from our church but he had to forget about that because she was a Catholic and he couldn't marry a Catholic. He is a Protestant.
Walking home from the bus stop he asked my daughter, knowing that she is Catholic, if she heard the conversation and asked if she understood. Everyone on the bus gave him a hard time about his statement. My daughter agreed with him and he was happy somebody "understood".
This is a wild and amazing story for me! When I first heard it my mind raced back in history to the early years of this country when Catholics often faced persecution. It was a big deal for Kennedy to be elected president since he was a Catholic. Even the KKK had it in for Catholics.
Then I stopped and realized that there is no way I would want my children to marry anyone who was not Catholic. Actually I have threatened them all with haunting if they leave the church and my future generations of grandchildren don't know when to stand and sit at my Catholic funeral.
I told them I will show up as a ghost and wave my finger accusingly at them and if I am allowed to speak I will say "uh-HUH!" (My kids are going to have large therapy bills when they grow up.)
OK, so I know these neighbors relatively well. They are very good, devout people. We exchange cookies at Christmas. We help each other. I know they know a lot of Catholics and have good relationships with them.
Do I think Protestants are going to go to hell? No. So why can't my kids marry one? The Catholic church to me is a great jewel. It is the family treasure. While I hope and trust that there are lots of other ways for people to go to heaven than the Catholic church, I am sure of this one. I am sure this way works. I hope that one does too.
But as I learned from my Muslim friend, devoted, faith-filled people sometimes are sadly misled. Maybe I am, maybe my neighbor's family is. One of us is.