It is better that scandals arise than the truth be suppressed.
-Pope Saint Gregory the Great (pope from 590-604)
No matter where we turn today, people have strident opinions on the direction of the Church. With every passing month the divide of ideologies is increasing among family, friends, acquaintances, and colleagues. There isn’t anyone that doesn’t seem to have an opinion on what the Church should do to solve the present situation. Many are making decisions with their wallets, and voting with their feet on where they attend church.
Many people will say you have to fight for your faith. Pope Francis told a gathering of youth several years ago to “go make a mess.” One person will say we need more homosexual acceptance, and another will say we need to go back to the Latin or Traditional Mass. Another person dislikes this approach, but then another says another approach will be better. It goes on and on. I don’t see this division stopping in the near or long term future. That leaves the faithful with a really significant issue, how are they to conduct their lives in relative tranquility and peace in tumultuous times? What exactly does it mean to fight for your faith?
Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as Speaker of the House believes she is fighting for her beliefs as a Catholic and has said that on many occasions. While in the House, Pelosi was a good friend and advocate with the liberal Jesuit Father Drinan (D-MA), a representative from Massachusetts. Pope John Paul II demanded he leave that political office. For his time in Congress, as a doctorate in theology from the Gregorian University, priest, law professor at Georgetown University and Boston College, and ten year member of Congress, Father Drinan S.J., was a strong advocate of abortion rights and other ungodly causes. It is the same for former Vice President Joseph Biden who erroneously equates his political ideology as consistent with his catholic faith. All have been verbal in saying each is an extension of the other. People have very diverse views where many use a scripture verse as rationale to defend their ideology. There are millions of Catholics who call themselves believers that fall into this category, however, they are poorly catechized. The fifth commandment is very clear, “Thou shalt not kill.” And for that matter, the other nine are just as clear.
There are also millions who do not believe accepting homosexuality, abortion, and other issues are consistent with being a disciple. How can a person say the gospel allows a mother to kill her child in the womb? This is incomprehensible, yet millions of Catholics say so. This division is increasing rapidly and more virulently among family, friends, and colleagues. The only group in the last two U.S. presidential elections to vote more liberal than a liberal Catholic were atheists.
We are at the point where opposing parties can barely be in the same room any longer, so people are retreating to peaceful and harmonious relationships along ideological lines. Dissent will always be with us, but with the divide increasing so dramatically, what is a person to do who desires to adhere to an authentic orthodox view of Roman Catholic theology, when the general tide of the culture war is surging so fiercely into their belief system?
People have always had different ethnicities, education, personal preferences, work environments, neighborhoods, employment, gifts, views, sport likings, family dynamics and such. Yet, for centuries the Church operated with relative tranquility (this word was chosen carefully) at the state and ecclesial level. There wasn’t as much to disagree about as the Church hierarchy and laity were more in unison on the moral teachings of the faith. When Nixon debated Kennedy many views of both men were similar to identical with minor nuances. The extremes on both sides were fringe elements. This leaves the believer wondering how they are to conduct their affairs in a hostile environment in a Church where many know clergy and the Church in general have veered terribly off course from long accepted magisterial truth.
Jesus said, “My people hear my voice and obey.” Here too is a conundrum as the opposing sides believe they are on God’s side for the pursuit of truth. Someone must be wrong as Jesus said, “Straight and narrow is the path and few find it.”
I remember once hearing the 1970’s political activists Angela Davis and Eldridge Cleaver on the same night saying, “If you don’t like it, throw a bomb at it.” Conversely, Jesus said, “My ways are not your ways,” and “My kingdom is not of this world.” Amidst the confusion, believers and their families are making decisions consciously or subconsciously on how to proceed with a moral belief system that is conducive to practical and viable solutions on what they believe to be true.
BE THE SOLUTION
Those critical of what they see happening need to provide an alternative to the moral slide. Rather than throw rocks at the problem, be the solution and fill the void. Many Roman Catholics will do nothing, others will blithely sit in cafés and coffee shops discussing current events and what is wrong, while others will just leave the Church rather than take a strong stand and fight for The Truth. Some are leaving the Church in disgust and moral outrage over the lack of attention and action on the part of the Bishops who are hoping the problems just go away.
Saint Catherine of Siena was given a solution to this old age problem regarding unworthy clergy by Christ Himself in the famous Dialogue. The Lord told her on the priests’ responsibility, “O dearest daughter! Those miserable persons about whom I speak to you have no consideration for themselves. If they had, they wouldn’t fall into so many vices, but would live like virtuous persons, who prefer death rather than offend Me, staining their soul or belittling the dignity to which I have raised them, but on the contrary, they increase their souls dignity and beauty… But these spoiled persons, completely deprived of light, calmly pass from vice to vice, until they fall in the pit. They have turned the temple of their soul and holy Church, which is a garden, into a stable of animals….O wretched man, to what a level you have dropped! What you are to hunt are souls for the glory and praise of My Name and be in the garden of the Holy Church, and not to go hunting through the woods. But you have become a beast; within you have the sins of many mortal sins…Your soul is full of weeds, and thorns, since you have acquired a liking for barren land seeking wild beasts…”
The Lord continues in the Dialogue scorching unworthy priests who have been derelict in their duties as consecrated souls who more culpable than others because of their vows and Who they represent. But, the Lord never recommends anyone leave the Church, but fight within it for truth. The Lord tells Catherine (a doctor of the church) that the priest who has abdicated his responsibilities before God and man is in grave error, but due to his role, he can do things no one else can. Our Lord said it was the treasure the priest brings is most important —The Eucharist. This does not mean laity accept the conduct of bad priests, but understand that leaving the Church will leave a bigger void as the Church is the glue that holds culture together.
Martin Luther realized the church was corrupt, but created more problems by leaving the Church while Ignatius of Loyola, Saint Francis of Assisi, Catherine of Siena, and countless others have proclaimed the truth unabashedly to unworthy clergy, yet sought reform keeping the integrity of the Petrine Keys and magisterial truth in tact. The Lord told Isaiah, “it is your sin that has separated you from God” (Isaiah 59:2). We are thus witnessing chaos today precisely because we more readily accept evil and have abandoned God not speaking as the beggar to the king.
Liberals are better at fighting for their views because they have historically had more passion for change no matter how illogical or immoral. When you reject God, anything is possible. It is for this reason liberals have made more progress in reshaping the Church over the last several generations than the faithful attempting to have Scripture and magisterial teachings as the dominant truth. How can we start to turn this around?
Several practical solutions must be implemented:
We are in our present situation because we have had a lack of formation in the faith. If it hasn’t been watered down, a liberal approach focused on social justice was probably taught. First and foremost, the most necessary thing to do is to teach scripture as the foundation of the faith. The Lord gave us scripture. A bible-based program is most critical of where to begin. Start a bible study. It is that simple, and profound at the same time. We know what we know (outside of private revelation) about Jesus Christ through scripture. Scripture is the Eternal Word of God.
Gather in small groups to encourage one another. They can be in the form of prayer groups or like-minded people gathering so that each family can see they are not alone. Long-term isolation and inactivity can easily lead into depression or despair. It is easy to get into a state of “Woe is me,” I am alone, as if they are the only righteous person around. Elijah thought the same and the Lord reminded him there were seven thousand people around him who had not bowed their knee to Baal (I Kings 19:18). As the Church moves incrementally towards insolvency with false doctrine being taught, problems will increase for the faithful — and especially young families needing fellowship and community. Begin to see your home and community of believers as a domestic church. Teaching of the faith is paramount to sustain a healthy and productive life. The Church is not done going off the rails, so more of a community approach is necessary still maintaining a Catholic Magisterial identity.
Where two or three gather the Lord is in the midst of those in prayer. The Lord does not work with large numbers. People are looking for leadership, so be the person who provides an alternative. Leaders change the focus and the dialogue.
The remnant is tiny and will shrink again as many are just walking away from the Church rather than thinking through the ramifications of the corruption they see in the clergy scandals. Since we are sinful people, the entire history of the Church shows that scandals are the norm rather than the exception — in all denominations. The Roman Catholic Church doesn’t have a monopoly on sinful clergy and its members. It is centralized and large, so it is easier to observe her faults. Heresies have always been taught by the hierarchy, and they will continue to be taught by them.
If you talk to someone in prison ministry or working with the homeless, they will often think everyone should be doing as they do. Saint Paul dealt with this issue when one person thought their version of ministry was more important than the other. He said, “The eye cannot say to the hand I don’t need you. And the head to the feet I have no need of you” (I Cor. 12:21). The parts of the body need one another to be complete to fulfill the needs of the mystical body of Christ. If anyone doubts this, they have never broken their thumb to see how many things you can’t do with one little thumb in a cast. One can often determine the level of immaturity of an individual by observing what they choose to argue about. Support one another rather than taking digs at someone because they do something differently than you do. The gospel means “Good News.” People have different gifts and the person not having your vision and gift as long as it is not heresy must be respected.
Have gatherings in your home serving food, pray together and other activities that will meet people where they are emotionally and spiritually. People will always show up for a free meal. Put in a DVD of some sort as an educational tool with a wide appeal that sparks dialog. There is no shortage of good movies that can provoke discussion. It can be a form of a tithe to put out some food before or after an event in your home. Putting food out last is a good way to go.
Start to contribute rather than criticize what someone else is saying or doing. It is easy to be critical of the status quo without being a leader providing alternatives. The truth if spoken by one is still the truth. Saints are made in hardship and crisis. The history of Christianity is about overcoming injustice and sin, and that is always a battle in the heavens against the cohort of God and the cohort of Satan. It is a daily battle. The believer is fighting against sin. People are attracted to holiness even if they don’t understand it. The battle will be won by prayer and holiness of action. Prayer must precede action. Be a healer in gatherings, bring in a soothing balm, not division.
The only limit to change is your lack of imagination. God plus one is a majority in every situation on earth. There is a way to everyone’s heart and soul. Ask the Holy Spirit what that is when in the presence of others away from God. The acorn does not grow to be an oak overnight, and nor do people change quickly. The longer anyone is away from the gospel and teachings of Scripture and the Sacraments, the longer it will take to orient a mind to a life in Christ.
It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.
JESUS, I TRUST IN YOU