Can we be proud to be an American? A woman, even a Catholic? Aren't these just accidents of birth? (For most) Did we earn being an American? Do women work and study to become women? Even saying that being proud to a Catholic can lead to sin. We didn't earn it. Even if we studied and came to the truth of the Church, we cannot take pride in finding it.
In his book, "The Way of the Lord Jesus," Germain Grisez writes: "Pride: One's life is a quest for status. Given this sinful aim in life, one tries to get through school in order to gain a respected position--to be a doctor, a priest, or a businessman. In one's work, one tries always to move up the ladder. One's identity depends upon the relationships one has with other people. One wants to be respected and liked, not be looked down on, considered odd, or regarded as a nuisance."
Many study the same things we do, and some even more, and don't come to the realization of the truth. Many famous and learned men and women, Einstein, Freud, Darwin, among others, have great intelligence, but no, or little faith. Why? In this regard our Protestant brothers have hit the nail on the head, it is by the grace of God alone that we gain our faith. (This is not to say that works don't play a part in the life of faith)
Pride however, can cloud ones vision, or search, for the truth. G. K. Chesterton wrote: "Pride consists in a man making his personality the only test, instead of making truth the test. It is not pride to wish to do well, or even to look well, according to a real test. It is pride to think that a thing looks ill. because it does not look like something characteristic of oneself." (The Common Man, NY: Sheed & Ward, 1950, p. 254)
If, for example, you believe that homosexual acts are right and good, one can, and will, find volumes of learned men to support what they want to hear. The truth is not the test, the test is whether it fits what they want to hear.
Chesterton also wrote: "You can only find truth with logic if you have already found truth without it." There is something about faith that defies logic, study, and research. No doubt, these are great things, but they cannot, alone, bring us to faith. Even our ability to learn is a gift from God. Everything we have is a gift from God.
I love music of almost all sorts. But I can't play an instrument (and I've tried) nor write a single line of music. I have a gift for the love of music, but not the gift to play it.
Whatever we are, black, white, male, female, American, European, intelligent, slow, healthy or handicapped. They are all gifts from God. "Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit, Who apportions to each one individually as He wills... Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the Church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts" (1 Corinthians 12: 5-11;27-31).
Even where we're born, and to whom, is a gift from God. How many times have we been inspired by someone overcoming a handicap to do well? It translates to the simple saying, "Who we are is God's gift to us, what we do with it is our gift to God."
Christ's parable of the servants give us good example of this. "For it will be as when a man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them; and he made five talents more. So also, he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, 'Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.' His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.' And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, 'Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.' His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.' He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, 'Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.' But his master answered him, 'You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed, and gather where I have not winnowed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth'" (Matthew 25:14-30).
But pride leads one to think their 'talents' are their own. Again Germain Grisez writes: "In every deliberate sin, freedom of self-determination is exercised contrary to what is known to be truly right and good. In sinning, sinners tend to regard moral truths legalistically, as if they were mere rules blocking them from doing as they please. Thus, deliberate sin seems to be self-affirming. Affirming the self and rejecting the limits which deny some forbidden fruit, sinners try to be autonomous, as only God really can be.
"Faith demands renunciation of this sinful self: pride must give way to humility. Humility is not self-depreciation, but readiness to accept everything good as God's gift and to thank Him for it. It is not self-negation, but escape from isolated and sterile autonomy into authentic self-fulfillment, to be realized and enjoyed in the only way possible: by sharing, as a member of God's family, both in his blessedness and in every human good. From the viewpoint of pride, however, humility seems to threaten the self. Thus, sinners who lack faith, as well as believers whose faith has been weakened by a habit of sinning, will be tempted to reject faith in order to avoid self-renunciation, that is, renunciation of their sinful selves (see John 3.16-21)." (The Way of the Lord Jesus; Faith Requires Renunciation of the Sinful Self)
So, it would be an error for us to say we are proud to be anything, especially Catholics (or Christians). Rather, we must humbly give thanks to God for ALL that we have, ALL that He has given us.
But the prideful person sees themselves as the center of things, that people must bend to their wants. In doing so, they show their pride, and establish oppression greater than those they pretend to combat. "Underlying all social injustice is personal sin. When people deny God and objective moral limits, they tend to become selfish and to regard others as mere means to their own ends. The contemporary magisterium clearly explains the dynamics: Having become his own center, sinful man tends to assert himself and to satisfy his desire for the infinite by the use of things: wealth, power and pleasure, despising other people and robbing them unjustly and treating them as objects or instruments. Thus he makes his own contribution to the creation of those very structures of exploitation and slavery which he claims to condemn [CDF; Instruction for Christian Freedom and Liberation, 1987]...
"Pride takes the form of self-assertion and individualism. By clarifying the dignity of human persons and the crucial importance of each one's free choices, the Gospel itself fosters regard for human individuals and provides a solid basis for their self-respect. Of course, the Gospel also calls individuals to mortify their sinful selves and serve others out of love. Removed from its evangelical context, the Christian insight into each individual's worth is perverted to rationalize sin. Thus, post-Christian humankind is susceptible to a distinctive moral pathology: egoistic individualism, which exalts the well-being and satisfaction of individuals above every community, even the family. [ref. Christopher Lasch, "The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations" NT, W.W. Norton; 1978]" (Ibid: The Roots of Sin Take Special Forms in the World Today)
If we have pride, we have no reason to be thankful. If we are thankful, we have no need of pride.
Pax Christi, Pat