Early this summer I had to attend a meeting related in part to my work at a parish. This meeting encompassed both Catholics and Protestants, and we met over lunch, which of course, involved saying grace.
As a firmly practicing Catholic, I am accustomed to saying grace in public, including making the Sign of the Cross, and even given the "mixed company", although it was led by a Lutheran, I of course did as usual. At the completion of the prayer, as is our custom, I again made the Sign of the Cross. A woman sitting across from me hastily did the same, seeming embarrassed to be doing so. As she finished, she apologized to the Protestants at the table, "I guess I'm still a little Catholic..." and a couple other words of apology.
I was quite taken aback. After all, this woman was there representing a Catholic parish, and her position is one in religious education! Was she not actually Catholic? To my knowledge, her position requires that her religious faith be Catholic, consistent with her teaching role. So...why was she apologizing!
Really, I had no idea how to respond so I just burst out, "I LOVE being Catholic!" *insert big smile here*. She stared at me balefully, and as I later learned, badmouthed me to the co-worker I was actually covering for that day.
This isn't the first time I've come across someone apologizing for being Catholic, and it won't be the last. The Protestants at our table didn't bat an eye at my making the Sign of the Cross; they obviously would expect me to do so.
So....what is there to be embarrassed about?
I can't figure it out.
Some, of course, don't know much about their beliefs due to the lacking catechesis over the last 50 years or more (even prior to Vatican II religious education was lacking), and so when in the presence of Protestants, may be afraid they'll be questioned. Clearly, this should not have been the case at this particular event I detailed above.
Some Catholics may fear debate, for they are not debaters by nature (I am not a debater myself so I understand) and may think that in "mixed company" they may be forced into a debate or perhaps made to look foolish.
Some Catholics avidly disagree with Catholic teaching and yet are held in by the "cultural Catholic" connection, much like that of the infamous Kennedy's or the, sadly, average Catholic in the pew who attends Sunday Mass on occasion "because it's what my parents did".
I suspect some of the fear and the "self-hating" comes from a misunderstanding of ecumenism. Having often sat through deanery and other archdiocesan meetings, I constantly have heard of parish "leaders" demanding we become more like the Protestants, doing what they are doing to be "relevant", not realizing in the least that the Church is not called to be "relevant" but TRANSCENDENT.
"Relevance" is according to whim. "Transcendence" absorbs relevance, elevates it, and in the end, creates holiness without ever having to become profane.
I don't really have an explanation for self-hating Catholics. I can only offer the fact that I am saddened by such an attitude and hope that those who find the need to apologize for something as simple as making the Sign of the Cross in public and in the presence of Protestants do some real soul-searching and find their way to a good Catholic education class, maybe even seeking out a good RCIA program that truly passes on the eternal Truths of our Faith.
Jesus isn't made present among us every day in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass so that we may tuck our tails and apologize in embarrassment.
We are called to be Saints and Martyrs....not mangy curs. If you're going to act like a mangy cur and pledge shame for your "faith", then you aren't Catholic. Period.