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What's Good About Organized Religion

"I'm very spiritual. But I'm not comfortable with 'organized' religion."

Ever heard this gem? I've been listening to it for decades. It's pretty incoherent, but—inexplicably—it sends religious people into a hasty, blushing retreat. That should never be the case.

Here's my smiling response: "Yes, well, I like organized religion. I'm a Catholic. And the Catholic church is so organized that we advocate for, educate, clothe, house, rescue, and heal more people worldwide than any other single organization on earth. You have to be organized to do that."

I rarely get an argument and the listener is often silenced by the simple logic of my answer.

Here are a few of many possible examples. Catholic Relief Services is a global leader in disaster relief, hitting the ground at a moment's notice wherever they are needed. Think New Orleans, Haiti, Chile, and Japan. And our many missionary organizations serve the poor and sick all around the world, 24/7, 365 days a year. You've gotta be organized to do that. But that's not all.

About 80 percent of all immigrant and indigent people in the U.S. are cared for—free—in Catholic hospitals. We are second only to the United Way as a charitable institution in the U.S., with our hospitals, AIDS hospices, schools, affordable housing, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, homes for the aged and handicapped, and more. Our inner-city parochial schools educate huge numbers of non-Catholic minority students on scholarship, with no strings attached.... And the nearly 20,000 Catholic parishes in this country provide a host of free services, almost entirely staffed by volunteers, to cover many of the needs of their individual communities.

"Now, that's organized."

- Lisa Mladinich, a Roman Catholic catechist, "Go Team! Love Your Catholic Identity," on Patheos.com, May 10, 2011