Does Doctrine Matter?

Man is a rational animal. That doesn’t mean he’s always reasonable, but it does mean that his actions are guided by what he believes about the world and how it hangs together. Reality comes first for him, or at least it should and often does. That is one reason love of God—of the Most Real Being—is the first of the two great commandments.

To love God is to be oriented toward the world as it really is. The good and the true go together, so an orientation toward truth is never at odds with the right orientation toward our neighbor. To act badly toward others is to ignore the reality of the situation in which we find ourselves, and to ignore reality is to follow impulse and embrace injustice.

So the Church as merciful mother can’t be separated from the Church as teacher and guardian of true belief. She needs always to be both, since separation from truth is separation from God and therefore from mercy and salvation. Still, the unity of mercy and truth isn’t always obvious to us. The Church sometimes tells us things that we don’t want to hear, just as Mom tells us to do our homework, eat our Brussels sprouts, be civil to our sister, and go to the dentist. The reason, of course, is that she recognizes reality, and wants us to live in accord with it even when we don’t want to. At times she may find it advisable to ease up here or there, but she’ll catch up later if she’s doing her job.

Of course, she may not always do so. The world’s not perfect, and Mom is not only Mom, she’s also the fallible woman who happened to give birth to us. Similarly, the Church is the Body of Christ and the Sacrament of Salvation, but she’s also the flawed human beings who compose and govern her and sometimes do what they shouldn’t.

We need to be governed, we’re not perfect ourselves, and our governors often see things we don’t, so we should honor and obey them in spite of their weaknesses. Obeying does not mean blind obedience, however, and it certainly does not mean silence in the face of real problems. It is legitimate for children to raise issues with their mother if the issues seem serious. Intelligent cooperation is impossible otherwise, and she sometimes needs second opinions like everyone else.

That is true for the sons and daughters of the Church no less than those of a human mother. And the current condition of the Church does seem to call for second opinions. To all appearances, the pastoral tendencies of recent decades have led to a broken-down sheepfold, a scattered flock, and packs of well-fed wolves. For a while an inclination to moderate some of those tendencies had been apparent, but quite recently there seems to have arisen a strong movement toward their radicalization.

With that in mind, it seems that those who believe that very recent tendencies are likely to make existing problems worse should say what they think. A layman without special authority must speak for himself, but it seems to me, and I believe many others, that one huge problem in recent decades has been a tendency to downplay doctrine, and therefore reality, in favor of subjective experience and interpersonal relations.

Truth can be upsetting, and sometimes it’s useful to smooth things over with people, but making nice can’t be our basic approach to anything serious. The tendency to make it so seems nonetheless to be growing stronger in the Church. Very recently, for example, high Vatican officials thought it important to warn bishops’ conferences  against formulations of pastoral care based on fundamental truths about the situation being dealt with (literally, “meramente applicativa della dottrina,” “based simply on an application of doctrine”). Why is dealing a situation in accordance with reality supposed to be bad? If there’s a specific problem the officials are worried about, it seems they could have raised the issue without warning against an emphasis on truth. Paul told Timothy to “preach the word: be instant in season, out of season:  reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine.” That advice has usually been considered pastoral. Is it now considered antipastoral? If so, why?

To all appearances, downplaying truth leads to bigger and bigger pastoral problems as the sheep go farther and farther into the wilds. Telling them the Church will meet them where they are and accompany them in their journey wherever it takes them doesn’t seem sufficient. Very high Church officials appear to believe, for example, that half of Catholic marriages are invalid, because brides and grooms misunderstand or implicitly reject what marriage is. If so, the Church’s failure to teach has resulted in tens of millions of Catholic couples, mostly unintentionally, living together without being married. If the sacrament of marriage—and understanding by couples of the meaning of their relationship—actually matters to high Church leaders, it’s hard to understand why their leading proposal for dealing with the situation has been changes in discipline and procedure so validity of marriage has as few consequences as possible and it’s easier to ignore marriages that may be invalid. Why are those things the key to improving Catholic family life?

The problem of course goes deeper than current hot-button issues. The Church claims to have the fullness of the Faith. That seems important, because God is important, and true belief about God, together with valid sacraments, helps us orient ourselves toward Him. Indeed, the Catechism and the Second Vatican Council tell us that “they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.”  Very high ranking churchmen have nonetheless downplayed the importance of entering the Church and at times even discouraged conversions. How can that attitude be justified or even understood?

One sometimes gets a sense that many of our leaders don’t believe that truth is central to the life of the Church and the responsibilities of their office. If I were a high-ranking Churchman, by my office a prominent teacher of the Faith, and someone asked me about a hot-button issue, women priests or homosexuality perhaps, it seems to me I wouldn’t suggest that I’m personally sympathetic to secular liberal views but my hands are tied because I’m a son of the Church. Before I reached that office I hope I would have thought long and hard about the ways in which Catholic doctrine is at odds with secular belief, and if I couldn’t argue in good faith the correctness and essential humanity of Catholic belief I’d doubt my suitability for the position.

Of course, justifications can be offered for downplaying doctrine. Many people don’t understand it, like it, or see its point, so it’s imaginable that presenting it clearly would repel some who might otherwise be interested in what the Church has to offer. It should be obvious by now though that such arguments don’t make sense of reality. People come to the Church because purely secular ways of thought don’t meet their needs. If you want to attract such people, rejecting a system of belief they have found wanting is not a bug but a feature. The Protestant groups that insistently downplay doctrine in the interest of inclusion and outreach are collapsing. Something similar can be observed among Catholics: the Church in Latin America, which in recent decades has emphasized social themes acceptable to secularists, has notoriously been losing people to Protestantism, and a recent poll reveals that the biggest reasons are that people want God, they want holiness of life, and they don’t like what Catholic worship has become. That is the actual cry of the people. Why not listen to it?

James Kalb


James Kalb is a lawyer, independent scholar, and Catholic convert who lives in Brooklyn, New York. He is the author of The Tyranny of Liberalism: Understanding and Overcoming Administered Freedom, Inquisitorial Tolerance, and Equality by Command (ISI Books, 2008), and, most recently, Against Inclusiveness: How the Diversity Regime is Flattening America and the West and What to Do About It (Angelico Press, 2013).

  • JERD2

    The Church has a fundamental choice: It can accommodate this world and downplay its doctrines that are most in conflict with secularism; for example teachings concerning sexual morality. Or, the Church can proclaim orthodoxy and challenge the secular world.

    We might take instruction from our Lord. When He insisted repeatedly that He was the bread of life, many followers left him. The few that remained were confident that Jesus spoke the words of everlasting life.

    Jesus could have accommodated the crowds who doubted Him. He chose otherwise, and although it must have seemed hopeless to the small band of followers that remained loyal, His steadfastness changed the world forever.

    • Don

      I couldn’t agree more. I believe Pope Benedict was correct in noting that if we truly live as Catholics, we should expect the Church to get smaller but become stronger (to paraphrase him). It is troubling to see Pope Francis muddy up the doctrinal waters for reasons that remain disturbingly hidden. Doctrine does indeed matter and the Bishop of Rome should be its clearest and best advocate.

    • “The Church has a fundamental choice: It can accommodate this world and downplay its doctrines that are most in conflict with secularism; for example teachings concerning sexual morality. Or, the Church can proclaim orthodoxy and challenge the secular world.”

      It is that simple isn’t it? You can stand with Christ, adhere to what he said about marriage and suffer the consequences he promised would follow. “If the world hate you, know ye, that it hath hated me before you.” (John 15:18)

      Or we can all just become Luther or Tudor, making marriage a temporal contract to be regulated by the state, a matter that we regard as something like a car, something we obtain with great fanfare and pride, but with the idea that it will be disposed of when it is too old, too needy or just boring. Henry just needed one divorce, until he needed another, and another and…and had to go on a Herodic rampage of mass murder to quit his critics.

      We can allow our house to be demolished in the great gales of temporal novelty-wait a minute, it’s not our house-we’re just invited guests-and we have no right to sit by and allow it to be destroyed, when other guests have not arrived and the owner has said that we enjoy the comforts of his house While he is busy building a new and vastly grander house for the guests that perservere.

      • reddog44

        Careful, I’m watching you!

  • Dan

    For a Christian, pastoral care is always and in every case an application of doctrine, namely “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind,” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mt 22: 37, 39)

    What is evidenced by this instruction in the Lineamenta, is that the debate of the Synods
    is not only about the meaning of indissolubility and the meaning of mercy. The debate also concerns whether Christian doctrine and pastoral care are on some level in opposition to one another. In other words, is Truth in some sense opposed to Love?

    We must all admit that if the Truth of Christ (doctrine) is not loving, then the time has indeed come for us to “avoid a formulation of pastoral care based simply on an application of doctrine.” It is now time for us to move “beyond Jesus” who may be “The Way, the Truth, and the Life” but is no longer “Love Incarnate.” Or perhaps it is the Church
    herself who has been the ultimate Pharisee for the past 2,000 years, “teaching as doctrines human precepts?” (Mt 15:9)

    The debate of the Synods is not “merely” about whether or not indissoluble really means forever and whether or not mercy means acceptance or tolerance of sinful acts. The debate also calls into question the very nature of Christ as well as the nature of the Church. Is the Truth of Christ always and in every instance also true Love? Are some of the doctrines of the Church unloving?

    If doctrine is opposed to love then the Church has failed to uphold the two greatest commandments for 2,000 years. The greatest fools of all are the martyrs who gave up everything including their lives as a witness to the Truth of Christ and the teaching of the Church. Rather than venerating the head of John the Baptist, the Church would point to this relic as a warning and an example of what happens when one formulates pastoral care based simply on the application of doctrine. Yikes!

    • JimD.

      ” Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword. ….. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” Mt.10:34,36. So much of our debates about this versus that, love or doctrine, is a manifestation of a house divided. At least Pilate’s retort to Jesus, And What Is The Truth?, was honest .He spoke as a rationalist & skeptic who was just trying to render a judgment based on evidence, and was unaware that he was playing a small part in the divine plan of salvation.

    • Jacqueleen

      If God was only a God of mercy…then, there would be no hell and no purgatory. But, Our God is a God of Mercy and Justice which is revealed in the fact that there is a hell and a purgatory. The same applies to chastisement. What is the purpose of Chastisement if we are the “Church of Nice?”

    • ForChristAlone

      well said, indeed

  • Susan

    “If we love one another, God remains in us.”
    John 4:11

    “Kindness is the summit of fortitude.”
    -Gertrude von le Fort
    The message of Christ to the world is found in humility. His teachings are simple and clear, calling to mind the first two Commandments as the prerequisite to following the rest so as to live fruitfully and promote a societ of order. Doctrine matters but Love supersedes it. Pope Francis seems to be trying to remind us all, specifically CATHOLICS to live this humility through The Eucharist which is the source and summit of God’s live for us. Christ Himself. God’s beauty is given to us in such simplicity and clarity, humility keeps the soul at attention to our faithfulness to Christ.
    Pope Francis is our shepherd, we must dismantle our pride and listen to his words of love.

    • GG

      How is this related to the article?

      • JP

        Susan is trolling. It’s more a passive-aggressive kind of trolling, as she doesn’t offer up an argument. But, she does in her own way acknowledge a dichotomy between between those who follow Christ and those who would smother us in their “pastoral love”.

        • GG

          Well, it is hard to refute ambiguity.

          • MIssion accomplished.

    • Anglicanæ

      What about the article?

    • Dan

      Susan, I agree that we all must dismantle our pride and listen to the Pope who is the Vicar of Christ on earth when he makes pronouncements on faith or morals.
      Unfortunately, I have heard many Catholics hanging on to ambiguous words said by Pope Francis during in-flight press conferences after a very busy international trip or his supposed words during an unrecorded interview. These Catholics claim to be in line with “the Pope” but continue to dissent from Humanae Vitae, believe that women should be ordained priests, believe in so-called “gay marriage”, do not believe that abortion is an intrinsic evil, etc.
      If Catholics choose to follow the interviews of Pope Francis, but refuse to follow the official pronouncements on faith or morals of previous Popes, this is a terrible form of pride which must be rooted out.

      • Susan

        Then again, CATHOLICS who choose to remain ignorant of Christ’s teachings (by not recognizing truth when it’s spoken because of lack of study of the Catechism) are not faithful Catholics. As faithful Catholics, it is a daily ‘re-awakening’ and ongoing conversion fueled by the Gospel and the sacraments. Pride blinds and deforms. The secular media as well as unfaithful ‘catholic’ media will always be out there with distortion a. If a catholic sincerely wants to grow closer to Christ, he will find a way and know that criticizing the Pope or any priest, is a sin.
        Doctrine has its essential place, but if love is not its guide (and bickering over this and that out of ignorance), then these Catholics are not on the right path.

        • GG

          Criticizing a pope or priest is a sin? Where is that in the CCC?

          • Susan

            Yes GG, a venal sin to begin with. A priest acts in persona Christi (in the person of Christ). Criticism can easily turn into slander.

            • GG

              Where is that in the CCC? You are being too broad and offering your personal opinion only.

            • The request was for a citation, not an assertion.
              Perhaps you should acquaint yourself with St. Catherine of Siena.

              • GG

                Our even Cardinal George, who is no Traditionalist.

            • fides249


              A priest is NOT ‘In persona Christi’ 24/7.

              He is ONLY ‘In persona Christi’ when he celebrates or does the sacraments.

              We have to respect and obey them appropriately. Let us not give them complete trust and faith because they will get the wrong impression. They might even be tempted to do evil things like the abuse of children.

              They make mistakes, some unintended and some intended.

              I encounter a lot of priests saying the Mass illicitly by doing their own thing which is not allowed per GIRM #24 and Vatican II liturgical document ‘Sacrosanctum Concilium’ #22.
              I inform them about it respectfully but sometimes their pride and ‘clericalism’ overtakes them

            • C.Caruana

              Susan, faith and fideism are miles apart.

          • Depends. Do you mean the Cathechism of the Catholic Church or the Complete Compendium of Clericalism?

            • GG

              You mean she seems to have started her own church.

            • ForChristAlone

              And dismantle your frontal cortex while you’re at it.

        • Dan

          If a priest does something intrinsically immoral (abuse a young person) his actions must be criticized. There were several immoral and corrupt Popes in the history of the Church, their actions must be criticized. The Pope is infallible when he pronounces on matters of faith and morals in his office as Pope. He is the Vicar of Christ on earth and deserves our utmost respect. But, every action and word of his is not above criticism. Can one love, honor, and respect the Pope and disagree with some of his approaches to evangelization? Absolutely! In fact, I would say that true love, honor, and respect calls faithful Catholics to offer our criticisms of the Pope in love. Pope Francis, I believe, is a humble man. He will be the first to admit that he is a sinner, he is not perfect, and as a result is, as far as I know, open to constructive criticism.

          • Susan

            By all means, but the criticism we read of these days borders on slander.

            • In your estimation, guided by the exacting criteria of your viscera.

          • GG


          • Pope Francis, I believe, is a humble man.

            Based on what?

        • fides249


          I disgree with your opinion that criticizing a Pope is a sin.

          If that is true then Cardinal Jorge Bregoglio (now Pope Francis) committed a sin when he vocally criticized Pope Benedict XVI after his Regensburg address about the Muslim faith.

          The Pope is the Vicar of Christ on earth but is NOT Christ nor the Pope is a God. We should criticize a Pope, respectfully and charitably, when he make mistakes. Please read Canon 212 about the Christian faithful rights and responsibilities.

          Only God gets my complete trust and faith in a being.

          Thus says the LORD:
          “Cursed is the man who trusts in man…” (Jeremiah 17:5)

          • fredx2

            In fact, Francis did not criticize Benedict after the Regensburg speech. Bergoglio’s press spokesman at the time apparently made some comments on the subject, which were then attributed by the press to Bergoglio, who in fact had said nothing. A short time later, that press spokesman was moved to a different job. So it looks more like Bergoglio fired his spokesman for having criticized Benedict more than anything else.

            • fides249


              Cardinal Bregoglio did criticized Pope Benedict XVI and it was a Vatican spokesman, not Bregoglio’s spokesman who was removed for encouraging criticism of the Pope.
              Please check your sources.

              Here’s an account by the UK Guardian

              • Link is missing. I’d like to read that article, thanks.

            • fides249

              Here’s The Telegraph newspaper account on March 15, 2013 about the criticism:

              In 2005, then Pope Benedict quoted from an obscure medieval text which declared that the Prophet Mohammed, founder of the Islamic faith, was “evil and inhuman”, enraging the Muslim population and causing attacks on churches throughout the world before an apology was issued.
              Reacting within days to the statements, speaking through a spokesman to Newsweek Argentina, then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio declared his “unhappiness” with the statements, made at the University of Regensburg in Germany, and encouraged many of his subordinates with the Church to do the same.
              “Pope Benedict’s statement don’t reflect my own opinions”, the then Archbishop of Buenos Aires declared. “These statements will serve to destroy in 20 seconds the careful construction of a relationship with Islam that Pope John Paul II built over the last twenty years”.
              The Vatican reacted quickly, removing one subordinate, Joaquín Piña the Archbishop of Puerto Iguazú from his post within four days of his making similar statements to the Argentine national media, sending a clear statement to Cardinal Bergoglio that he would be next should he choose to persist.
              Reacting to the threats from Rome, Cardinal Bergoglio cancelled his plans to fly to Rome, choosing to boycott the second synod that Pope Benedict had called during his tenure as pontiff.

              • ForChristAlone

                I hadn’t heard this before. It explains a great deal about the “man who would be Pope.” I have a sense that Bergoglio has many axes to grind and he is grinding away using henchmen like Kasper. It seems like he has done to Burke what he felt Benedict did to him.

                • But Benedict did nothing to him!

              • Wow, if that is true, wow. A certain irony in being published on the Ides of March.

                • fides249


                  I do not know if that Daily Telegraph article is true.

                  Even if it is true, I will still respect Pope Francis and I understand that he is human after all. He probably made a mistake by being public about his reaction. As a clergy, he should have done it quietly to prevent a scandal and let Pope Benedict XVI know, discreetly, his opinion and/or feeling.

                  That is how I see our clergy. They are human like us and they make mistakes, too. But I will always give them the respect and obedience proper to them.

                  Even if they are wrong in some issues including faith and morals, charity should always prevail.

                  So let us always pray for our clergy: priests and bishops, especially the Bishop of Rome.

                  • I only qualified my remarks with “if true” to indicate my understanding of the potential for error in the article, not to place any requirement on you for its veracity.

                    • fides249

                      I agree.

                      I think everyone should verify the news or statements in the Internet.

                      We cannot just accept all the things in the Internet. We need to verify because anybody’s statement could be incorrect or is some cases, meant to mislead or put someone in bad lgiht.

                      Cases in point are the statements by Pope Francis and how the secular media spin or twist his words to fit their agenda about the Church:

                      PF: “The Church cannot be obssessed with abortion, gay marriage, artificial contraception….”

                      Secular Media (NY Tiems, Huff Post, et al) replaced the two words “cannot be” with “IS”!

                      PF: “Who am I to judge them if they’re seeking the Lord in good faith?”

                      Secular media plus some liberal Catholics: “Who am I to judge?” is used when you try to point out morality!

            • ForChristAlone

              Even before assuming his role as Vicar of Christ his spokesmen were having to explain and deny. Why all the confusion surrounding this man’s thinking? It’s too confusing for an already confused Church.

        • GG

          Who are you to judge?

        • C.Caruana

          A classic case of reducing Christian love to mere sentiment. You cannot love what you don’t know, and real love has to know who, what, why and how to love. Christ is bot Incarnate Love and Divine Eternal Logos. That is what makes charity inseparable from truth, otherwise it degenerates into mere populist emotivism. As Edith Stein used to say ‘ Do not accept anything as love which lacks truth’ … and vice versa.

  • FrankW

    It is a shame that so many Catholics lack the understand of a simple concept about their Church: It is not the duty of the Catholic Church to conform to the whim of society.

    Yet so many Catholics and Christians of other denominations seem to believe that Christian doctrine has morphed into a belief that the only requirement for being a devout Christian is to be nice to other people, especially those who think differently than you do.

    The Church exists for one purpose: the salvation of souls. It is the duty of the Church, using the word of God passed on to it from the apostles and Jesus himself, to decipher what is true, and preach that truth to the Church flock, even when that truth is unpopular in a given age. One of the hot-button social issues today is the issue of so-called same-sex relationships. No one being intellectually honest can read the Bible in its entirety and come to any other conclusion than God categorically condemns homosexual behavior as a grave offense. Yet, how few Christian leaders of any denomination have the courage to speak this truth?

    Doctrine defines what we believe. Without it, the Church has no basis for teaching, and no purpose for its existence.

    • Jacqueleen

      Bravo! Pope Francis is wrong for not standing firm on the Word of God and stating so…..The dissenters can be quiet and sit down. Then, the clergy must speak out on these hot button issues right from the pulpit. They will just have to trust Our Lord that being truthful will fill the baskets and the pews. I can name priests, but I won’t, who have been berated by the Bishops for speaking the truth from the pulpit….all because a parishioner complained. Those Bishops did not stand firm on the Word/Teachings of Christ….How will they explain this on Judgement day?

  • s;vbkr0boc,klos;

    I see either the choice is between doctrine and so-called ‘free thought’. And the fatal flaw in free thought is infidelity.

  • M.J.

    ‘It will be like in days of Noah ‘ – words as deep and mysterious , as those waters that covered the earth well as the ocean of His mercy , in the face of the hatreds in the heart of men .. .. hatred primarily towards God and His goodness that finds its expression , in attitudes and acts towards others !
    The Catechism section on marriage starts with the foundational truth of man’s relationship with God , that has been strained , since The Fall …may be major refocus on that foundation is needed in our times , the recognition that every marriage is to sort of diagnose and treat the extent of that strain , brought on by myriads of other factors , including familial issues and expressed in many choices that reflect that hatred or contempt towards God , in its expressions towards fellow being , ardent means to remedy same , such that , every glance at The Cross reminds one , how to die to the hatreds , in the power and oneness of that Love …listening to His words, to ‘ bring Me , all sinners ‘ .. in order to keep the hope , about faces that get transformed , into the Image of The Holy Face , delivered from all ugliness of hatred of good and the related God given dignity of the human !
    Mary , Queen of Untainted Purity , take over ,nations and peoples , bringing into hearts, the warmth of being loved, that the cold and hardened may know what it is , to love God and the other !

  • Anglicanæ

    “Love rejoices in the truth,” St Paul said and is no less a mark of true faith.

    I’ve said it 1000 times: give me a debauched pope any day who at least formally upholds authentic catholic doctrine over against the pious heretic whom the world loves. Hypocrisy is easy to point out; heresy is insidious.

  • Harry

    St. Paul preached Christ crucified. The last thing anybody wanted to do was to live according to the teachings of someone who ended up getting himself crucified. According to human wisdom preaching Christ crucified was the worst marketing strategy ever. Why did that strategy work?

    While the Jews demand miracles and the Greeks look for wisdom, we are preaching a crucified Christ: to the Jews an obstacle they cannot get over, to the gentiles foolishness, but to those who have been called, whether they are Jews or Greeks, a Christ who is both the power of God and the wisdom of God. God’s folly is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. … Now when I came to you, brothers, I did not come with any brilliance of oratory or wise argument to announce to you the mystery of God. I was resolved that the only knowledge I would have while I was with you was knowledge of Jesus, and of him as the crucified Christ. I came among you in weakness, in fear and great trembling and what I spoke and proclaimed was not meant to convince by philosophical argument, but to demonstrate the convincing power of the Spirit, so that your faith should depend not on human wisdom but on the power of God.
    — 1 Cor 1:22-25;2:1-5

    The Church needs to once again boldly proclaim truths that make no sense according to the wisdom of the world, and trust in the “convincing power of the Spirit” as St. Paul did.

    • clintoncps

      Signs and wonders will make a difference, too: When St. Peter healed the lame man at the Beautiful Gate (described in the Book of Acts), it was that sign, that wonder, that arrested the crowd’s attention and gave St. Peter the opportunity to preach to them boldly, convicting them of their responsibility for the Lord’s death on the Cross. Note that it was in being convicted of their responsibility for Jesus’ death that they were “cut to the heart”, and they asked St. Peter, “What must we do?” What was St. Peter’s reply? “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38). Wow! Can you see the wisdom of preaching Christ crucified? I think also of St. Paul of the Cross, founder of the Passionist order of priests in the 18th Century, who had a particular emphasis and love for the Passion of Christ; he was an enormously effective evangelist in his day, and many signs and wonders, as well as countless conversions of hardened sinners, are attributed to him.

      So what do we have here? 1. Signs and wonders. 2. Conviction of our responsibility for Christ’s horrible suffering and death. 3. Repentance and baptism in the Name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. 4. The Gift of the Holy Spirit.

      God did it before, and He can do it again, if we will only allow Jesus to truly make us into new creations, going beyond our own doubts and limitations and receiving more than we can ask or imagine: “Do not fear; only believe.” (Marks 5:36)

  • St JD George

    I’ve been mulling how to reply to your article today Jim and struggling because I think you’ve said things so well. In my opinion what the world is crying out for is the return of Christ, someone who is truly not afraid to lead the flock to salvation, to confront evil boldly, is not political correct, and is not afraid to lay one’s life down for us sinners. Maybe the world isn’t and it’s just me. I am so tired of listening to people afraid to speak God’s name and his word in fear of how others might respond, trying to find a softer or more tolerant way that might offend others less. I struggle every day as I ponder my own shortcomings in living up to Christ’s 2nd greatest commandment and I pray for strength to overcome my biases and wisdom for how best to be his light in this world. Without doctrine what are we other than another feel good movement that bends like straw in the wind.

    • Jacqueleen

      Bravo…..Makes me think about St. Padre Pio who was not afraid to speak the truth and chase people out of the Confessional. God bless St. Pio!

      • St JD George

        Yeah, when I lived in Italy he was quite the rage there with pictures of him seemingly everywhere.

  • Susan

    By the way, a good source of news on the Pope is:

    • Why does my security software warn me about that site?

      • St JD George

        Funny, my firewall blocks access to legitimate engineering and supplier websites but not this one, go figure. Curiously, it looks strikingly similar to the format and layout of Drudge.

        • ‘Irrational exuberance’ of the firewall?

      • St JD George

        Finally stumbled on your train reply over in Rachel’s column. M replied with a snarky comment last night that I couldn’t let go so I gave it a go with a blast. Not that I expect the dead to come back to life, but one can hope.

  • Guest

    The main point is this…”Either the Truth is The Truth or it is not!!” I think some in the church (all the way to Rome) have forgotten this. If you only want seats filled and full coffers continue ignoring the truth. If we want to reinvigorate our Church…then preach the truth. That is where we want to be met!!

  • steve5656546346

    Excellent article!

  • fredx2

    James Kalb is correct in defending the necessity of doctrine. However, how doctrine is applied to very specific things is the real question. It is not a question of doctrine versus mercy, etc as the media pretends. The question is the correct application of multiple doctrines that sometimes contradict each other or come at a problem from different angles.

    For example, a wise priest who is entirely on board with all Catholic doctrine might approach a particular parishioner’s complex problem by deciding to get the person to come around to the truth in stages, rather than hit them with full doctrine all at once. This is not a rejection of doctrine, but an application of it designed to best lead recalcitrant people to the fullness of the truth.

    • St JD George

      I agree with you Fred (hmm, that has a familiar ring to it) that there is a temporal dimension of patience that is often lost in converting the gentiles. Even the most eager to hear probably would lose interest if overwhelmed and so compassion and patience are virtues we could all stand to probably have more of in leading others to Christ, starting with me.
      The reality for me starts at home with my youngest son who I love and so (usually) have tremendous patience with in explaining what faith in Christ is all about, and my love for the Catholic Church (usually) – unlike my oldest he is struggling to develop his faith and questions everything. Knowing how much patience it takes with someone you love dearly it’s overwhelming to imagine how to have that in approaching a sea of unbelievers in drawing them to Christ too. I know beating them over the head with it doesn’t work, though it does leave lasting, unpleasant feelings.

    • GG

      The media is not implying that. No, that we get from Rome including Kasper. What you describe about pastoral situations has been going on for centuries. Any normal priest knows that. But, that is not in question at all. It is the liberals who place doctrine in contradiction to being pastoral.

    • Bishops, Cardinals and Popes are generally not involved in the direct pastoral counseling of individuals, and that’s not what the Kasperites want.

    • C.Caruana

      St Paul said this long ago by distinguishing between milk and meat. However, it would be the ultimate in naivety not to see that it is the quality and even the existence of doctrinal meat that is being questioned. This is what is staring us in the face, despite the bogus claim of the Pharisaical innovators in high places that they are changing pastoral discipline without touching doctrine. We are not fooled.

  • clintoncps

    Christ is born! Glorify Him!

    Dear James,

    A very insightful and necessary article; I am in full agreement with it. Thank you, my brother.

    I hope all Catholics will keep Pope Francis and those close to him in their prayers, as the immediate future could be very painful for all of us.

    “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.” Rev. 3:19

  • What has modern parenting, in which the parent is supposed to not impose rules, admonish or spank, done to children in the last few decades? What has Liberation Theology done to the faithful in Latin America in the last few decades? What could Francis do to the Catholic faith in the next few years?

    Who am I to judge? A Latin American Catholic who’s suffered the results of it all first hand.

    • Confession lines have become my favorite indicator of authentic orthopraxis.
      Are they lengthening or shorting in your corner of the world?

      • My mother wanted to go to confession, so I brought the weekly bulletin home after going to Mass at her parish on a weekday when visiting her. I couldn’t find any time for confession. So, on the next weekday Mass, I stopped at the office to inquire. The secretary had no idea, as nobody asked that before, so she went to ask the pastor. Before she came back, an old lady told me that nobody sins after all. I sheepishly replied that St. John warned us that “if we claim to be without sin, we are deceiving ourselves.” (1Jn 1:8) At this moment, the secretary returned with the information about confession times: any time on Friday afternoons in the pastor’s office. The old lady promptly replied that she’d better come for confession after all.

  • AcceptingReality

    James, your article and so many of the comments posted to it, are music to my ears. Community, hospitality and inclusiveness are all too often emphasized at the expense of truth. Homilies driven by the support of this pastoral approach distort the faith. The Mother of God is portrayed as “full of doubt” like us but somehow miraculously overcoming it. Jesus is often portrayed as having been all about warmth and welcome. Drives me nuts. Congregations eat it up. But at what cost. Few kneel and pray before Mass. Many sit and chat loudly, seemingly oblivious to the Presence of Our Lord in the tabernacle. Few realize that the Church was founded by Christ, that Peter was the first pope. Few understand that She has no authority to change Divine Law. Many think that the Immaculate Conception was about Jesus birth. Still more think Mary had relations with Joseph after Jesus’ birth. Many more think that eventually Pope Francis will ordain women priests. We’re lead to believe that religion should never be divisive but always inclusive. It’s modernism at it’s peak. I pray for priests and bishops to acknowledge in their actions and homilies that truth and convictions are more important than being “pastoral”.

  • christine


  • I_M_Forman

    Quite right! People need God in a meaningful way – With guidance and direction. People are hungry for God.