It apparently caused quite a stir in my parents’ high school when Catholic Mary began dating Protestant Tommy. Not only was he a Protestant, but he was a member of DeMolay, the Masonic organization for young men.
Yet Mary wore his DeMolay pin proudly.
Although my mother was a devout Catholic all her life, she never evidenced any prejudice against people of other religions. Many of her best friends were Protestants. She became good friends with our next door neighbors, who were Jewish.
I think her ecumenicalism was based on her own family history. Her father was not Catholic and didn’t attend any church as an adult, but she always talked about him as being a very ethical man. He received extra gasoline rations during World War II, because he worked in the lumber industry in Oregon, which was considered to be part of the war effort. She told me on several occasions how he refused to use any of the extra coupons for family outings, keeping the gasoline solely for business use.
Her maternal grandfather also was not Catholic. My mother remembered him as a jolly old Scot who danced a jig with a pillow on his head and made her an upholstered mattress for her doll bed. (The doll bed was still around when I was a child, so I also put my dolls to sleep on the mattress my great-grandfather made.)
And yet, as family lore tells it, that Scottish grandfather’s mother refused to enter her son’s home after he married an Irish Catholic. So perhaps the prejudice of past generations still festered when my mother was young, and that influenced her lack of parochialism.
I can remember as a young child of two Catholic parents (my father converted before my parents were married) thinking that Catholicism was the best religion. I was in primary grades during the Kennedy years, and it seemed to me that to be American and Catholic was the best thing I could be.
But as I grew, heard my mother tell her family stories, and I met many non-Catholic friends of my own. So I came to believe that we are all imperfect in our understanding of truth.
As Pope Francis said recently, “Who am I to judge?” His comment came in response to a question about a “gay lobby” in the Catholic Church. But the Pope’s question is a good one for everyone to ask in a variety of contexts. We are none of us perfect, and we are none of us all-knowing.
And so we must avoid the temptation to judge others of a different race, nationality, religion, or political persuasion than ourselves.
What could the world be if we all refused to demonize those with different beliefs than our own?