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The Age of Entitlement

I have been thinking about the concept of entitlement quite a bit lately.  What exactly does entitlement mean?  According to Merriam Webster Dictionary, entitlement is the “belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges.” Why do so many Catholics feel entitled to the title CATHOLIC, but cannot bring themselves to actually BE Catholic?  Being Catholic is hard—very hard.

We hear people so often say, “Yeah, I’m Catholic, but I don’t really believe (insert dogma here.)”   Or “I know I’m divorced and remarried, without an annulment, but why shouldn’t I receive the Eucharist?”  “Yeah, as long as two people love each other and are consenting adults, no matter what their gender, why shouldn’t they be allowed to be married?”  “I would never get an abortion, but if someone else makes that decision for herself, that is okay.”  “I am living with my partner, but I should be able to be married in the Church if I want, no questions asked.”  “Contraception isn’t a bad thing.  The Church is so outdated and out of touch.”

The Church is very clear and steadfast in her teachings, and these teachings are not negotiable. There are too many Catholics today who feel entitled to the identity CATHOLIC.  It baffles me that if someone does not like what the Church teaches, they continue to call themselves Catholic.  Do not get me wrong, but I really feel that if you do not like the rules, then don’t join the club.  This sounds harsh, but this is not a call to judgment, but simply a plea to those Catholics who find themselves in the position of picking and choosing according to one’s moral relativism to understand exactly why the Church teaches what she does.  We have been so programmed to believe that whatever we personally deem to be okay or true must be accepted by everyone else—including the Church. It is as if the Church needs to accept that her followers will not actually follow and that is supposed to be okay.  In a sense, acceptance of the individual beliefs of others is desirable, but by definition a Catholic follows the teachings of the Church.  If your beliefs do not enable you to accept Church teaching and strive to put them into practice, then you have two choices: 1) walk away or 2) trust Mother Church, educate yourself and resign yourself to the guidance of that which has been instituted by Christ.  I prefer the latter.  I pray for my brothers and sisters in Christ to choose the latter as well.  This does not mean that faithful Catholics are not flawed, but what it should mean is that faithful Catholics continually work at being Catholic; they make mistakes, own up to them, ask forgiveness of the Lord in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and start all over every single time.

This brings us back to entitlement.  By definition, entitlement insinuates the acquisition of privileges.  Being Catholic is a privilege, a privilege whose invitation is extended to us all, provided we make an effort.  We cannot demand the benefits of membership if we are not willing to put in the work.  We are not entitled to receive the privilege of Christ’s Body and Blood, if we have committed sin that disconnects us from Him.  We have to follow a code of moral behavior that is delineated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  It is a good code and as long as we follow it, we can call ourselves Catholic.  Christ invites all those who make the choice to be Catholic to do the same.

By Charla

Charla is a life-long Catholic, married since 1995. She has three children who attend Catholic school and university. Charla has been teaching high school English literature at the same Catholic high school she attended for over 15 years. She has Bachelor of Arts degrees in English, Latin American Studies, and Secondary Education, as well as a Masters degree in Education. Charla has served as a lector and Eucharistic minister at her parish and school. She enjoys reading, cooking, running, and all activities involving her children. Her special devotions are to the Blessed Mother, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Catherine of Alexandria, and the Holy Rosary.

7 replies on “The Age of Entitlement”

Full disclosure: my mother-in-law sends me links to your blog. However, I read this with interest as you have finally given me the answers to her many questions about why her son and I have left the Catholic church. We fully, deeply and truly do not believe in the fundamental tenants, so rather than be hypocrites, we no longer give the church our attendance, money, or faith. So thank you for the answer to give her. If we do not believe in the rules, then we shouldn’t be members. Not even to please my mother-in-law (still love you, Marian!)

We gave up so much to become Catholic (friends, pleasant place in the little church, husband’s position…)~ I cannot understand why people stay without *being* Catholic, either.

This is an excellent article. Tough. True.

I wonder if they stay because there’s a knowing in that deep place that it is really and truly The Church?

As a convert, that is one of the things that drew me to the Church – her steadfastness, not like a lot of the religions that will jump on every current trend in society just so they don’t lose members. No one said it was suppose to be easy to follow Jesus!

May I offer a different perspective? I am a recent convert, and a precocious one. I started from a position of arrogance, I suppose, reasoning; “I can become Catholic if I so choose; the Church will have to accept me.” Shortly after beginning RCIA, I began to “feel” drawn to the sacraments, and I again reasoned; “if I feel drawn, I must be admitted.” Was I entitled? No. Was I drawn through the working on the Holy Spirit or did I just “feel” worthy? A matter for discernment.
If I knowingly participate in a sacrament while in a state of disobedience, can we not trust that the sacrament will through its own indwelling work to convict and to heal?

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