A Fuller Life

To my friends and colleagues at the college where I teach, I’m the Wrong-Way Corrigan of the twenty-first century. Seven years ago, at the age of fifty-three, I left my lifelong atheism behind and joined the Catholic Church. At a time when those who declare themselves atheists were vigorously insisting that religion is a delusion that educated people must no longer tolerate, my conversion seemed at best an instance of academic apostasy. Now, seven years later, the Catholic Church remains scandal-ridden by its long cover-up of priestly pedophilia, American bishops are strengthening the hand of those who oppose health-care reform, and the Vatican is calling American religious women to account for spending too much time caring for the poor and not enough speaking out in support of the church’s positions on gender and sexuality. My friends like to ask if I’m having second thoughts. Well, I’m not. The Catholic Church has enlarged my life too much for me to leave it. But I am distressed by these recent actions by the Vatican and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and especially by the false impression they create of the church. Catholicism is not just about bishops imposing restrictions on others.

I did not become a Catholic in order to become a better or more moral person. I don’t believe Catholics or Christians or religious believers in general are more moral than anyone else. Nor did I become a Catholic in...

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About the Author

Paul K. Johnston teaches American literature at SUNY Plattsburgh.