Cardinal Ratzinger once said in an interview that the Church may have to shrink, but it would be a purer more faithful Church if this were to happen (1). I’ve been reflecting on these words since Election Day, especially in reference to the many Catholics that voted for the most unabashedly pro-choice (pro-abortion) candidate in memory. A vote for Obama by a Catholic says something about the Catholic, meaning they were poorly catechized. Why then are these Catholics still in the Church if they don’t believe even the basic tenets of faith?
Well it’s a complicated issue to tackle and one that I have been muddling through recently. But first I want to make it clear to my readers that I don’t want a smaller Church. Though I do want the majority, if not all, Catholics to love their faith and practice it. Yet we don’t have that in the American Church. Whose responsibility, and/or blame, should this be assigned to? How do we respond to this predicament?
I wish I had the answers and unfortunately I have more questions. Is it our parents that failed to pass along the faith along with the parish priest and school? Or does it reside with the bishop? What I do have is some analysis and commentary, and it isn’t pretty.
The current state of the American Church needs to be not afraid of the Truth. In an ever increasing secular society I can understand the trepidation and uneasiness of what I wish the Church would do. The Church needs to stand for the Truth when the Truth is challenged or misinterpreted. Don’t worry about the ramifications, remember what Jesus said, “…I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (2) Besides, if we are attacked and blood is shed, we are only fertilizing the soil for a much stronger and better Church.
Of course there’s going to be a backlash. I’m not talking about news organizations and politicians attacking the Church. I’m referencing Catholics within the Church that will attack those of us that practice our faith for standing up for the Truth. This is a short term repercussion. It offers opportunities for proper catechesis. And if proper catechesis fails, then a departure from the Church may be in order for those that don’t want to practice their faith (or at least try).
We run the risk in the long run of having a deeply entrenched Culture of Death to the predicament of our children as well as ourselves. The more we shrink from conflict, the more we fail in our duties as Christians, the more the devil gets bolder. Jesus said “But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (3) This passage not only applies to those that mislead His sheep, but to those in positions of influence such as parents, friends, and coworkers that shrink from their Christian duty of being a witness for Truth.
Being a Christian is never easy, but the eternal rewards more than outweigh the material hardships of this life. Imagine the American nation with 60 million Catholics voting with a properly formed conscious; we would be able to transform American society to a Culture of Life within a generation! Yet why am I the only one to imagine this, but many, many bishops and those in authority fail in attaining this vision?
Are they afraid of losing worldly respect? Are they afraid of losing their sheep? Are they afraid of losing their tax-exempt status? Tough questions emanate from tough truths. We lose a few souls for standing up for the Truth. The inverse being we mislead many more souls away from the Truth in an effort to not offend and push away those few that may leave.
Whatever happened in trusting the Will of God? The early Christians stood up for the Truth from their catacombs. They had to practice their faith in secret because their faith was so strong. The risk of coming out as a Christian meant death. Yet we have the Kmiec’s and the Egan’s of this world that would rather cozy up to the Culture of Death (4) so as not to offend anyone and for Wales (5)!
Yes, standing up for Truth will push some, or many, away from the Church. Do we want a lukewarm Church? Or do want a faithful Church? We continue to push away the faithful in order to accommodate the lukewarm. Do we really want that? “No man lighteth a candle, and putteth it in a hidden place, nor under a bushel; but upon a candlestick, that they that come in, may see the light.” (6) And if we put that lamp away we will reap what we sow. “And the light of the lamp shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the great men of the earth, for all nations have been deceived by thy enchantments.” (7)
I’m not saying to push away the lukewarm, but to evangelize them, catechize them. And if they don’t listen all we have left to do is pray for them. But we shouldn’t accommodate them at the expense of the faithful. Does that mean we’ll have an exodus of the lukewarm? We won’t know if this will occur or not if we don’t stand up for the Truth now will we?
(1) “Salt of the Earth” by Peter Seewald
(2) Matthew 16:18
(3) Matthew 18:6
(4) To sit next to Obama during the 2008 Al Smith Catholic Charities Gala
(5) U.S. ambassadorship to the Vatican
(6) Luke 11:33
(7) Revelation 18:23