Losing the Faith

Estimates vary, but as much as 25 percent of the American populace is Catholic — though that number is falling. Islam is on the rise in Europe and America, if its members simply continue reproducing (which they are not doing in some countries). Europeans and Americans continue their population decline.

We see many conversions to the Faith, but also mass defections. Many Evangelical sects are making vast inroads in Latin America. Christians disappear in Muslim countries. Here at home, the attrition of Catholics from orthodoxy is astonishing. The last two popes have talked of living in a relativistic and positivist culture. Many of the legislative and judicial decisions that have rejected basic Catholic teachings came from Catholics, or with their support. The major facilitators of such decisions claim that they are “Catholic.” The bishops rarely say much in particular about this phenomenon, which cannot but confuse the public that sees the division.

We know people who have “lost the faith.” That is a curious expression. Faith is a grace. We do not simply deduce it from certain premises. It is a gift — but gifts come to us freely. We do not “earn” them. Thus it is easy to undervalue what we have received. Often something that is free is not cherished, which is just the opposite of what a gift is intended to accomplish.

Some people, to be sure, have to study, pray, and work to become Catholics. A gift of faith also needs to be understood. Faith is directed to reason, and reason must rise to receive it. Losing the faith is more like throwing a gift away than it is like losing an argument or a billfold. For the most part, losing the faith, formally or informally, is the result of wanting, choosing to do something that is against the faith.

Once we have decided that we want to do or think whatever it is, we have to concoct reasons why our choice is all right. No one can lose or give up Catholicism without a “reason.” This giving-up means that we have specifically to reject the reasons why it is not all right to do so. We can only reject if we propose an alternate “theory” of reality to the position the Church holds.

Socrates proposed that ignorance was the cause of disorder or sin in the soul. No doubt, we find an element of ignorance in any sin or error. But something more is always to be found. Faith is the result primarily of God seeking us. We sometimes fail to realize that our lives are not one-sided affairs. We think we are the only ones doing the seeking, that God just sits there doing His own thing while we rush about. This fact that we are first sought is what the parable of the Lost Sheep was about, and why we cannot be settled in our aberrations.

Modern notions of freedom are based on the relativist proposition that nothing is true. This position is convenient. It justifies our unwillingness to take anything but ourselves into consideration. If I “feel” like doing this or that, well, it is all right. Of course, no one generalizes this position in such a fashion that what someone else does to us is quite all right. We have to protect ourselves from someone else’s freedom.

The notion that we are the cause of our own good, so that no one else can tell us anything about the important things, has a shadow of a truth, as all error does. We are indeed the architects of what we shall be, of how we present ourselves to God and the world. The primary source of energy in the world is the soul of the individual human person. His life is an arena in which he decides how he, who already exists, will define himself to be. He will define himself in his actions and his thoughts.

The loss of faith is also a choice. It is not just the taking back of a gift; it is a rejection of it. The rejection may not be in explicit words, though often it is in words that seek to “justify” the loss in terms of another good or idea. In the end, the loss of faith does not mean that God ceases to seek us. It means that we cease to seek Him in the manner that He has guided us: the way of our redemption that is the following of Christ.

Rev. James V. Schall, S.J.

By

Rev. James V. Schall, S.J., taught political science at Georgetown University for many years. His recent books include The Mind That Is Catholic from Catholic University of America Press; Remembering Belloc from St. Augustine Press; and Reasonable Pleasures from Ignatius Press. His newest books are A Line Through the Human Heart: On Sinning and Being Forgiven (2016) and the forthcoming On the Principles of Taxing Beer and Other Brief Philosophical Essays (2017). His most recent book is Catholicism and Intelligence (Emmaus Road, 2017).

  • Deacon Ed Peitler

    Would that the gift of faith be the result of some reasoned process. Then there is hope.

    Faith simply cannot exist in an environment of pride. They are mutually exclusive and get us ejected from the Garden.

    Sadly, we live in a culture overrun in pride. Just look at all the cell phoning, texting, etc. Do people honestly think that what they have to say is all that important?

    • Sarto

      What we really need is some kind of exit poll. We can speculate and shout blame at all those departing backs, but it would be good to know the reason why. So, do bishops and pastors have the guts to send letters to departed Catholics, lamenting their departure and asking to know why they left?

      I was in the airport recently and got into a conversation with three former Catholics who said the sex abuse scandal was the last straw. I noted some other reasons in a post further down this thread. But the only ones who really know are the ones who left, and the rest is self-justifying speculation.

      • Michael PS

        St Thomas says in Ia, q. 20, a. 3: “Since the love of God is the cause of the goodness of things, no one would be better than another if God did not will a greater good to one than to another.” Likewise, in article 4 of the same question and also in Ia, q. 23, a. 4: “In God, love precedes election.” Already it is evident that the man who, in fact, observes the commandments is better than the one who is able to do so but actually does not. Therefore, he who keeps the commandments is more beloved and assisted. In short, God loves that man more to whom He grants that he keep the commandments than another in whom He permits sin.

        This principle of predilection presupposes, according to St. Thomas, a decree of the divine will rendering our salutary acts intrinsically efficacious (Ia, q. 19, a. 8). For, if they were efficacious on account of our foreseen consent, of two men equally loved and helped by God, one would be better in some respect. He would be better of himself alone and not on account of divine predilection”

        No exit poll will reveal that.

        • Sarto

          High falootin’ baloney.

          • Michael PS

            On the contrary, this principle of predilection is valid for all created being, even free beings, and for all their acts, natural or supernatural, easy or difficult, initial or final; in other words, no created being would be in any respect better if it were not better loved by God. This truth is clear in the philosophical order, for it flows from the principle of causality and of the eminently universal causality of the will or love of God. In the order of grace, this principle is revealed by several scriptural texts, for instance: “I will have mercy on whom I will, and I will be merciful to whom it shall please Me” (Exod. 33:19); and “For who distinguisheth thee? Or what hast thou that thou hast not received?” (I Cor. 4:7.)

          • Sarto

            Yeah, I can see my nephew, who went to a priest for some council after his wife got a divorce and got rebuffed because the priest didn’t have time for such things, saying:
            “I remain a Catholic because of a decree of the divine will rendering my salutary acts intrinsically efficacious.” Get real. Or put it in language a guy who does carpentry for a trade can possibly understand and apply to his workaday life.

    • Sarto

      I have a friend who is a psychiatrist. He says that the mental illness of our day is narcissism. Is that another word for pride? And when I see the kids walking together or sitting together, each on a cell phone texting or talking to someone else, I guess I just can’t figure it out. But this self-preoccupation can’t be good.

  • Michael PS

    In De Correptione et Gratia, Chapter 17 [VIII.] St Augustine says: “Here, if I am asked why God should not have given them perseverance to whom He gave that love by which they might live Christianly, I answer that I do not know. For I do not speak arrogantly, but with acknowledgment of my small measure, when I hear the apostle saying, “O man, who are you that repliest against God?” Romans 9:20 and, “O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways untraceable!” Romans 11:33”

    And Scripture says: “I will have mercy on whom I will, and I will be merciful to whom it shall please Me” (Exod. 33:19); and “For who distinguisheth thee? Or what hast thou that thou hast not received?” (I Cor. 4:7.)

  • digdigby

    “Faith simply cannot exist in an environment of pride”

    Mine does.

  • Tom

    Father, you assume that people lost their Faith. But leaving the Catholic Church does not necessarily imply a loss of Faith. In fact, it may be the opposite. God and the person leaving only know.
    People are not stupid. Many lay no longer equate Christ with forced religiosity from clergy, that use it to cover up very bad human behavior. This started with Jesuits in the 60’s with their crazy endorsement of Marxism and anything goes attitudes. Remember, that abortion came in large part about after a meeting in the Kennedy compound in Hyannisport, Mass., in 1964, attended by several Jesuits, who argued that abortion is justifiable.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123086375678148323.html

    They basically gave a green light to current horrible situation we are in. As a backlash to this nonsense, this was followed by a general take over of the Church by ultra right wing “movements”, that unfortunately introduced their brainwashing methods, fraud, money laundering and cover up of various various forms of abuse. Now to blame disgusted people for deciding to leave the Catholic Church, because it’s a dysfunctional human organization that lost its bearing and seems unwilling to recover, and call this loss of “Faith”, is a bit disingenuous, to say the least, in my humble opinion.

    • Cord Hamrick

      Tom:

      I think you have a pretty good point…but a point with limits you don’t mention.

      To make sense of whether a person’s “leaving” constitutes a loss of “faith,” you’d have to ask the question “where do they go, and what do they do, after they leave?” And related to this is the question, “what do they really know about the faith once for all delivered to the apostles, prior to leaving?”

      Let’s say, for example, that you have a person who was raised Catholic, got disgusted by Marxist Jesuits and relocated pedophiles and all the rest, and decided to leave.

      Okay, where might they go?

      (a.) Nowhere; they might never darken the door of a church again, or they might embrace a non-Christian religion;

      (b.) They might begin attending an Evangelical church somewhere; or,

      (c.) They might seek out something as close to the Catholic faith as possible: A very traditional Anglican parish which rejected the U.S. Anglican Episcopal hierarchy’s heresies, or one of the rare remaining Lutheran groups who call themselves “Evangelical Catholic,” see their ecumenical destiny as one of eventual reunion with the See of Rome, and have a very similar liturgy.

      (d.) They might seek out communion and reconciliation at an Eastern Orthodox church.

      First, in all of these examples, (a.), (b.), (c.), and (d.), there remains a question: Why not attend a better Catholic parish? Bad priest at parish A? Go to parish B.

      This answer, it must be admitted, is too glib. Sometimes A and B are both bad. Sometimes A is bad and the nearest B is a hundred miles away. Sometimes A and B are both subject to the same bishop, and the bishop is the problem…although in that case one wonders what kind of problem it could possibly be, that is able to make daily and weekly Mass at the parishes so gosh-awful. But I suppose it could happen, especially in regions where there are few Catholic Masses to choose from. Where I live there are four or five parishes within a thirty-minute drive.

      So what about the specifics of (a.) through (d.)?

      In the case of item (a.), it’s hard to argue that there isn’t a loss of faith. One hopes there’s a trickle in there somewhere, and of course God is merciful; but there remains an objective separation from the body of Christ. Since Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned,” I think we’re safe in saying that there is some legitimate concern for folks in that situation.

      In the case of (b.) things are much brighter; this person can be “fed” decent sermons and his walk with Christ may grow in certain ways. The music may be superior to anything he’s ever heard, depending on his original parish, and if that weren’t important to the walk of faith, there’d be no Psalter and no singing in worship.

      But some major issues remain, whether or not the former Catholic knows of them: Has he committed any mortal sin? How will he receive the sacrament of reconciliation if not through the ministry of a priest? And, how will he receive the Body and Blood of Christ through the ministry of a Church which openly insists (correctly) that its ministers have no intent or authority from God of making the sacrifice of the Mass? Jesus said, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has life in him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” This is not inconsequential.

      Now many former Catholics, due to childhood failures of catechesis (bad teacher? bad student?), don’t even know this. To the extent that their ignorance of such major “missing components” is willful, I suppose the Lord will hold them accountable; to the extent it is not, I expect he will be merciful. So it’s a mixed bag, but at least folks in this situation are arguably not disobeying that part of Scripture which strictly admonishes us, “Do not forsake gathering together [for Christian worship].”

      What about option (c.)? Objectively, it’s not really better than (b.) inasmuch as these groups generally have no real priests with authority from bishops in the Apostolic Succession. But a badly catechized former Catholic might not know that; it might be his firm intent to seek out the Blessed Sacrament and valid Reconciliation from someone with valid Holy Orders, but he may be confused about where that can be found. In this case, it’s hard to say that he has “lost” his faith; he never had the full details of it to begin with and is doing his best, according to the bits he knows, to live in a way pleasing to Christ. So at that point we’re relying on God’s mercy, in much the same way that we are with unbaptized babies: They’re in a situation without valid sacraments, but it isn’t their fault.

      What about option (d.)? Well, in some ways that’s similar to option (c.), but with an Eastern Orthodox communion, things are better because the Eastern Orthodox have valid sacraments. People in that situation may possibly absorb errors of one kind or another; but perhaps no more than they would if their Catholic priest had been filled full of nonsense at a liberal seminary. And while they are separated from the See of Peter, they nevertheless are in communion with a bishop in the Apostolic Succession, can receive the Blessed Sacrament, and can receive the other sacraments as well. A person who studies enough to take such issues into consideration, and goes to such an effort, cannot be justly said to have had much loss of faith.

      All of this is to say:

      Tom, I think you’re correct that sometimes a person who leaves the Catholic church has not entirely lost faith in Jesus Christ. And I think it can even be that God finds ways to graciously convey benefit to them.

      On the other hand, I think that it would be wrong to suggest, as some people do, that “any old church, or no church at all, is equally fine.” That’s the reason I made such (in some folks’ minds) nitpicking distinctions in my four examples, above. I myself wouldn’t consider that nitpicking; it’s hard to be sufficiently attentive to these matters, when we’re dealing with issues of one’s eternal destiny.

      • Sarto

        Read this through, carefully this time, and I have to say I am impressed by your analysis. One characteristic of modern youth is to leave their old church behind. Our kids go to Protestant churches, their kids somehow show up at our churches. And marriage seems to be a big deal. Through marriage, some leave, through marriage some come. But there is a lot more mobility than ever in the past.

    • Cord Hamrick

      Tom, one last thing:

      Since when has the mainstream Catholic church been taken over by “ultra-right-wing” anything? I mean, who would you call “ultra right wing” among the American bishops today? Or are you thinking of Benedict XVI that way?

      Are you thinking politically or theologically? And if politically, are you using the term “right” in the American (Jefferson/Reagan) sense or the Continental (monarchist)? And if the American, are you using the term in the Social-Conservative or Economic-Conservative sense? If theologically, well…what do you mean by “right” in that context? Traditionalist liturgy? Groups like SSPX?

      I certainly grant what you said about the unorthodox Jesuit problem in the years following Vatican II, although even there I am going on hearsay; I wasn’t a Catholic at the time. But the hearsay seems pretty consistent on that point, so I suppose it is correct.

      But I never heard anything about the American Church in any kind of consistent popular way going all SSPX for awhile as a backlash against that. And politically Catholics have been pretty evenly divided, left and right, despite the issue of abortion which one would have normally expected to reduce the Catholic Democrat vote to single digits. That it didn’t makes me think you can’t have been thinking politically.

    • Deacon Ed Peitler

      Tom,
      I’d be interested in learning how the Church is a “human organization” when Christ is its head.

  • Tom

    On judgment day, all I know is that I will be in front of God, naked, with all my sins on full display, with nowhere to hide. How God judges me, you or the person that left the Church is up to God, not me. When Christ said that Salvation is only through him, it means, to me, that He is the one that decides, not me. It is on His terms, not mine. If he decides to that a Baptist, of even (gaps) a Muslim gets in, and I have to wait a little, He will decide that, not me. To just say, “but, but, God, I was a Catholic” I don’t think will work.
    This being said, I am not leaving the Church. I have to deal with rot in my life. Sacraments are essential to my Faith, as God’s Living Grace (although I think Confession needs tweaking, not sure if giving absolution without real accountably, the way many priests do it these days, is the right thing). It just breaks my heart to see our Church, so abased. But we all have to do our part to make things better. About movements, read previous comments. Wish you all the best, Cord.

    • Cord Hamrick

      Tom:

      There was nothing in your last comment to which I could possibly object; while I hold that the Catholic church was and remains the visible church founded by Christ and which (though I suspect He foreknew otherwise) He intended to remain the center of Christian unity and the reliable source for apostolic teaching free from doctrinal drift…while I hold all that to be true, judgment and mercy are in His hands.

      It may very well be that those who sift the historical and doctrinal and Scriptural evidence and thereby succeed in finding the Church and the reasons why they should be faithful in her are, for reason of that knowledge, held to a higher standard: They had every reason to know better. (In which case, may God have mercy on me, I need it badly.)

      I’ll look at your earlier comments to try to understand what you mean by the “right wing” thing better.

      All the best to you, too, Tom.

    • Sarto

      Tom, you sum up my feelings perfectly. I have allowed my anger at the bishops over the sex abuse scandal to get in the way. I guess I have to push it aside and appreciate the effort of ordinary Catholics like myself to be faithful in the midst of so much pain.

      • Sarto

        Oops! Ordinary Catholics like Tom. Sorry for this egoistic miscue.

  • Tom

    Deacon Ed
    Of course, the Church has Christ as the Head. The Head is great. The Head is not the problem. But we are the body, right? And our bodies are very human bodies, right? That human part of the Church, I am sorry Deacon, is not in great shape. That is why people are leaving. Lets stop deluding ourselves.

    • Deacon Ed Peitler

      Tom, we profess a belief every Sunday in a Church that is holy and that is one. Individuals in the Church may sin but the Church remains holy and possessing the fullness of truth who is Christ. When Catholics leave the Church, they separate themselves from Christ.

      • Tom

        Deacon
        You say: “Catholics leave the Church, they separate themselves from Christ”
        I would not use the word “separate”, since this is not what our Church teaches, it seems to me, especially if they remain followers of Christ in an other denomination. I would use the word “distance themselves” from Christ’s Grace, since they do not longer profess Sacraments, or do the Rosary. But even that would not apply if they become, say, Orthodox, since the Catholic church recognizes their Sacraments. But in the end, it up to God to judge them, not us, especially if they follow God’s commandments; and, although we may “profess” outwardly our Faith, we disregard them. In other words, as Catholics, we are suppose to behave like responsible older siblings, both in words and example. Is this the case? Lets be careful how we cast stones. That is not the way to attract anyone back, it seems to me. Does that make sense? Pax.

        • Sarto

          Good stuff

  • MMC

    Joining the discourse here, boys:+)

    1- agree that our church is in pretty bad shape. Bad catechesis, bad leadership, scandal,no evangelization etc. Not a surprise that people are leaving in droves…they are starving. The sacraments (esp. the Eucharist) and the Blessed Mother are the only things keeping it together.

    2- answer to spiritual murder though is not spiritual suicide. We have to take personal responsibility to not only educate ourselves but fight to take back what was stolen.

    3- looking forward to continuing the fight. every single soul is worth it…even the Jesuits *chuckle*

    4- there is a saying in AA—principles above personalities. the body of Christ has taken a beating…big time…but we need a healer not an undertaker.

    So who’s in fellow soldiers? As Chesty Puller would say “we’re surrounded? good! they can’t get away from us now!”

    God bless you all!

  • Sarto

    I am an old guy so I can observe that now it is those John Paul Priests who are doing the bad catechesis.

    But seriously, I sat down with members of my family who have been Catholic all of their lives to discuss the members of our own family who have gone to other religions. A few left because of the reasons often cited by conservatives–birth control and the Church’s attitude toward homosexuals. But most of them left because of marriages to non-Catholics. The non-Catholic partners had stronger personalities and so they made the religion decision. Two of them left because priests were abrupt and indifferent and maybe too busy to listen to them as they tried to recover from a divorce. The current crisis that is forcing the most faithful of them to the wall is an indirect result of the priesthood shortage. Almost half of the priests in this diocese now come from Mexico, Colombia, India, and Africa. All of them have heavy accents. When they preach, the listeners understand one word out of three. This makes Mass into a bitter experience for my older relatives who have suddenly begun to sneer at the hierarchy and the Pope for holding their ground on celibacy while failing to understand that for many Americans, the “Liturgy of the Word” is an incomprehensible eternity.
    Others left because our “family oriented” Church often has so little to really offer a family. Or because the parish they attended was so cold and unfriendly. Or because, as young singles, there was nothing going on. Or because the youth programs were so pitiful in comparison to what is offered by the Protestants and Mormons.

    I think these are the real reasons, which the author and the others in this thread barely consider. I have to smile when I think that Pope Benedict is confident that a latinized liturgy pronounced in by some foreing priest in a heavy accent is going to bring the folks tumbling in.

    But these are the opinions of lay folk. And who is listening to them?

  • “One has to wonder, how many people, self-proclaimed Christians, many of whom we see in church with us every week, never really even made a conscious choice to accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior. How many people inherited their faith, have maintained it, and adhere to it publicly, but have never actually asked Jesus to be lord of their lives? How many of us are unwittingly destined to hear Christ tell us, “I never knew you; depart from Me.”
    My new book, The Four Pillars of the Kingdom, is set to be released soon. It is, not only a response to some of the metaphysical arguments of the so-called New Atheists, but also a call to believers to take their faith serious in a very real way. You can find a few excerpts from the work at my website, The Immaculate Conservative, here:

    http://bit.ly/TheFourPillars

    Please read and let me know what you think!

    Thanks,
    Joe Brooks

    • Sarto

      Good observations. The challenge to make a personal commitment to Jesus is paramount. But so says every Protestant. I remain a Catholic because of the ancient wisdom in its long tradition, because of its sacramental vision of reality, and (no matter how I despise him at the moment) because of the pope.

      But most people do not leave the Church because of the metaphysical arguments of some atheist. And where in this high sounding thread, are these reasons addressed?

  • Michael PS

    St Augustine says “that God, in order to show us that without grace we can do nothing, left St. Peter without grace,” and St John Chrysostom says “”that the fall of St. Peter happened, not through any coldness towards Jesus Christ, but because grace failed him; and that he fell, not so much through his own negligence as through the withdrawment of God, as a lesson to the whole Church, that without God we can do nothing.”

    St Augustine also says that while grace governs the will, it never falls; but when grace abandons it, it falls forthwith. Further, that by the free mercy of God, the will is turned to good, and when turned, perseveres. Finally, that the direction of the will to good, and its constancy after being so directed, depend entirely on the will of God, and not on any human merit.

  • digdigby

    “… never really even made a conscious choice to accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior”

    This is a non-Catholic and not even a scriptural formulation and full of dangerous errors.

  • Chris in Maryland

    To MMC:

    Right on brother…that is the soldier’s answer to Christ’s Great Command concluding Matthew’s Gospel! Among the possibilities listed by commenters above, Christ Himself might also add that many of those leaving the Church are deserting the Body of Christ, right at the call to battle.

    To Sarto:

    Re: “I have to smile when I think that Pope Benedict is confident that a latinized liturgy pronounced in by some foreign priest in a heavy accent is going to bring the folks tumbling in.”

    Your statement above is unworthy of The Body of Christ…to me, it shows not a Pope who is out of touch with reality, but a sentiment utterly disconnected from reality.

    It has been Jos. Ratzinger/Pope Benedict that has fought through all of what you point out as the “left” and “right” sinfulness/dysfunction in The Church, from penning Dominus Jesus to fighting the good fight almost alone against Cardinal Sodano and The Legion executariat, and breaking open the Macial case and bringing him to ecclesial judgment. Would that all Catholics could model in some small measure the courage, charity, intellect and willingness to suffer for The Church, that is incarnated in good Pope Benedict. But for him, we would indeed be without a shepherd.

    • Sarto

      Have to agree with your summary of Pope Benedict, but it is still a little naive for a German speaking pope to wax poetic about the eloquence of a translation into English, unless he speaks and writes the language as well as I do.

      Being pope doesn’t make us immune to our stupid moments. Read Church history. As often as not, (dark ages, the black popes, the Avignon captivity, the presence of two and then three popes at once, the sinful worldly rascal popes of the Renaissance, the popes who spoke in favor of slavery, against democracy, against freedom of religion, and against the modern world) people remained Catholic inspite of the pope, not because of him.

      • Chris in Maryland

        Sarto:

        Please, I believe I am well-schooled on Church history, I commend to you the opus of Christopher Hawkins, etc.

        I dare say that Benedict may not speak english with the accent you prefer, but it does not appear from your posts that you wield itthe english language with any skill approaching his.

        Mercy! A man must be born somewhere. And Pope Benedict is also multi-lingual. I’m not…are you Sarto? How many languages do you speak?

        I don’t believe you have familiarized with the man…to get to know him is part of our duty.

        • Sarto

          I don’t take time to polish my posts, but I am a five time winner of the Catholic Press Association award, if that is good enough. I am also quite fluent in Spanish, but I would hesitate to call one particular Spanish Mass text I follow when I attend Mass in that language to be better than another.

          What concerns me is the cult of the papacy, encouraged by the papacy and observed slavishly by the Catholic Right. When I teach and read Church history, I am aware of the times when a pope was the salvation of the Church. I am also aware of the times when a pope was the cause of its tragedy…such as the permanent split between East and West. As a Slav, PJ2J wanted more than anything to bring the two back together. He was aware that the papacy was the huge obstacle and said it would have to be sorted through by someone else. And then he went ahead and made the papacy more powerful than ever–the very thing that keeps the Orthodox from even considering a reunion with Rome.

  • Tom

    “But for him, we would indeed be without a shepherd.”
    I totally agree, the Pope needs all our prayers and support, and we have to do our part.

  • Chris in Maryland

    Sarto:

    I must say that it is naive for any man to call Pope Benedict naive.

    As a summation of this point, when Cardinal Dulles was asked why JP2 couldn’t see throught the veneer of the Church Sex abuse crisis, while Cardinal Ratizinger did, and began sounding the alarm, Dulles noted that, though they were close and faithful friends, JP2, in comparison saw the Church through an optimistic/Thomist “glass-half-full” lens, but Benedict, of an Augustinian bent, more mindful of the wages of sin, was able to note the serious deficit of “the glass-half-empty.”

    • Sarto

      Or J2P2 was a stubborn old man who refused to even consider that Maciel was doing what he was doing. Somewhere, I wrote about the lack of self reflection that seems to characterize Catholicism, especially at its highest levels. The sex abuse scandal began to surface in 1985. The people who brought it to the attention of the American bishops were punished. (Well, two of them were. One was a layman and out of reach). Now if Rome had its antennae out, alarms should have been going off and whatever it would take to make things better should have begun. Most of the reporting took place in the National Catholic Reporter, which made it off limits to your average hierarch.

      The thing blew up the mid nineties. And then again in the early 200’s. Where was Rome? Not imagining that somehow fingers were eventually going to point at the pope himself. Not stepping out in front of the thing, but being exposed by a not too friendly press.

      Those guys are so busy straining for gnats that they get trampled by the camel. Thanks to them, the Church has suffered a self-inflicted blow that rivals the tragedy of the Reformation. (Another self-inflicted blow). So, for what is left to the rest of my lifetime, I have no particular regard for the pope. I do admire Pope Benedict’s writing skill and I have read his stuff. Miles ahead of his crusty old predecessor, who was almost incomprehensible. But for many a Catholic, the hierarchy and the pope are no longer given the automatic respect they still take for granted.

      • Chris in Maryland

        Sarto:

        Since you are a Catholic jounalist, perhaps you can relay an account of the failinigs, cover-ups and indeed crimes of the American Bishops? No?

  • Sarto

    Don’t need to, Chris. In 1985, the National Catholic Reporter was the first Catholic newspaper to report the unfolding scandal and has reported on it to this day. You could go through their files. Then along came the Boston Globe, and after that all kinds of whistles blowing in different dioceses…most recently in Kansas City.

    My own bishop was involved in the coverup in another diocese. His picture graces a website recounting the hierarchy’s role in the tragedy. I love the Church. But the bishops have really let us down. Nobody resigned, and nobody is in jail. As for the pope? He is a hero because he finally noticed, in 2000? Fifteen years after the nightmare began? Around 1990, Rome chided a bishop for ordering his priests to let girls serve at the altar. Enough time for that, and no thought about the scandal that was about to explode in their faces?

  • Chris in Maryland

    Sarto:

    Since you are aginst having A Pope and magisterium with authority to decide moral and theological disputes, you are advocating for a different religious organization, but not the Catholic Church assigned to the authority of Peter. Since you do love the Church, it might be well for you to write down or otherwise publish your vision for this changed Church that you allude to, and then ask yourself what religious group it currently resembles, and, then ask yourself if it is really what you think you want. With thousands of protestant denominations and numerous separated Orthodox Churches, you have no need to do the work of re-inventing the wheel though.

    And while I read the Reporter, I find it a thoroughly un-Catholic and hostile web-site, written in reams of contempt and prideful disdain, and explicitly supportive of fcontraception, abortion, same-sex marriage, and other sinful offenses against the holy human body that our Lord created in His image.

    • Sarto

      Chris, I agree with you about the National Catholic Reporter. Sometime, it is just plain nasty. But I read it because diocesan newspapers seem dedicated only to giving the safest, least controversial company line.

      And it’s not that I am against the Pope and the Magisterium. I agree completely with the Constitution of the Church, which says that the true church subsists in the Catholic Church…that all the elements of salvation are to be found in the Catholic Church: Word, Sacrament, and authority. But “subsist” is an interesting word. In many contexts, “subsist” means to barely exist, as in subsistent agriculture.

      I have been preparing to teach some classes on ecumenism, and it is interesting to read Protestants. So many of them realize how threadbare they have become. They cling to some kind of “invisible” Church to which all belong, but it is a stretch. And by dumping the bishops, they got rid of teaching authority, and so they are left with all those differing and often contradictory “it’s biblical” things they teach and do. One book was especially compelling, which talked about “mother church.” And I stopped to think how much I need “mother church.” Actually, my family became Catholic when I was six and, looking back, I can see how much the Church has been a mother to me.

      I think my problems began when Pope John Paul deliberately tilted toward the Catholic Right Wing. What does it mean, to be “right wing?” To me, it means to be closed and afraid. Pope John XXIII talked about “opening a window” when he convened the Council.

      I am doing the research right now to answer this question: Is it even possible for the Catholic Hierarchy to lead the Church into the vision raised by the Council? I am looking at something called “phases of consciousness,” which means we move through steps in our march through life. But most people stop. Only a few go on. And so my preliminary conclusion is, “No, it is not possible for the hierarchy to lead the Church past its existence as an institution into a world where Spirit-filled people can begin to act out of their own inner authority.” In my mind, that is the conflict now. The hierarchy is terrified of people who begin to act out of a prayer-filled, Spirit-led inner authority.

      And so, your question: Do I look for another church? No. The Church is my mother. But I am beginning to think of it as my home town. By that I mean the place where I was born and learned my most important values. I can go back to my home town in love and gratitude, and I will grieve if it changes. But life is more than life in my home town.

      So, I ask myself, what lies beyond? Leave the Church? Never! But submit myself totally to a hierarchy that seems more interested in guarding the instituion than in leading the way into the future? Nope.

      And there are many, many Catholics who think the way do. We are trying to cling to the Church while understanding that it seems capable of seeing the world only as a problem to be solved, not as a project where we create a ever more loving and god-like community.

  • Chris in Maryland

    And the NCReporter is also supportive of “women religious” who have, as they pronounce, “moved beyond Christ.”

  • Fritz

    Outside the church there is no molestation.

  • Chris in Maryland

    Sarto:

    Inner-authority is not Catholic…the only authority is that handed down from The Everlasting Man…to the man called Peter, and his successors. You are part of the Body of Christ…you have a duty to remain in The Body of Christ and fight, as MMC has encouraged us all. That is the only future worthy of us…this side of the 2nd Coming.

    • Sarto

      So you say, as a good Catholic fundamentalist. But where in Scripture or, for that matter, in basic Catholic teaching, does it say “Thou shalt obey only the pope and his successors?”

      St. Thomas had some interesting things to say about the role of conscience…where freedom resides…where the truly basic act of love and trust are found.

      Stay a boy as long as you want. The rest of us are moving on.

      • JRigs

        For what it’s worth, I find myself agreeing wholeheartedly with what you have posted so far in this topic. I find myself in the same wrestling match.

      • Chris in Maryland

        Sarto:

        A Catholic, as you may know, means something utterly different from a fundamentalist. But you are using that word in the same way a secular journalist does, in reaction to what I say, which is not a Catholic analysis at all.

        You may fling your insults at me all you want, but I have not insulted you. You are not behaving like a Catholic when you say you are “moving on,” you are just quitting, which is not a mark of the maturity that you seem to be asserting by your insult

      • LayCatholic

        Sarto, you certainly recall the statement in Scripture of Christ Himself, “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church….” The Pope does not ask us to obey him but to obey Him. We have the fullness of truth, trust, and love within the Church and that is what the Pope continually presents to us in virtually every communication he makes. I met many Catholics, including Religious, in the past twenty years or so who, like you, want to move beyond the Church or “beyond Christ” because they feel that they have some unique or special insight which is “truer” than the Church. I cannot but be amazed at their courage. I ask myself how, at the end of my life, when I stand before Christ could I tell him that I determined His Church was not adequate. That I had followed my own insights and conclusions to arrive at a greater degree of truth and spiritual discernment. I wonder what he will answer. Strangely, the first Commandment keeps popping into my mind. Could it be that I myself am one of these false gods?

  • Chris in Maryland

    Sarto:

    A Catholic, as you may know, means something utterly different from a fundamentalist. But you are using that word in a secular journalistic sense in reaction to what I say, which is not a Catholic analysis at all.

    You may fling your insults at me all you want, but I have not insulted you. You are not behaving like a Catholic when you say you are “moving on,” you are just quitting, which is not a mark of the maturity that you seem to be asserting by your insult.

MENU