Fr. Denis Lemieux writes…

This recent blog post has been interesting to quite a few of my readers, and may be of interest to some of yours, too. It is on the deep anger against the Church many have, and the odd and garbled faith that lies beneath it – namely the expectation that the Church should be divine in goodness and scope Here ’tis.

Yup. My number 1 reason for anger with the Church is disappointment. So is most people’s from what I’ve seen. We (rightly) demand that the Church’s members be better than they are, because of what they are members of. That’s why people get angry at me when I point out the sociological reality that public school teachers have abuse rates that dwarf the abuse rate in the Church. People shoot back “Public schools don’t claim to be the Bride of Christ”. True. And some people claim to be the Czar of all the Russias. We are not disappointed and angry when such people act like lunatics. But we *are* disappointed when the members of the Body of Christ fail to live out their dignity–because the Church really *is* the Bride of Christ and *should* be a communion of saints.

In short, we feel the very real tension of the now vs. the not yet. That tension is a feature, not a bug and is part of what God uses to urge the Church on toward holiness. Don’t expect him to let up. Just as the hatred of the Assyrians was used to chastise rebellious Israel for her good, so the hatred of the world for our sins is part of what keeps up the pressure on the Church’s members to become what the Holy Spirit–the source of the Church’s holiness–demands we become.

I don’t enjoy that anymore than you do. My preferred method for living would be to blame everybody else for the Church’s problems while demanding that everybody else bear with me because of my good intentions. Instead, Paul typical pastoral counsel is that we should “become what we are”, that we should devote relentless energy to becoming more loving ourselves and relentless energy to “bearing with” the failings of other Christians. You don’t “bear with” Spotless Saints Living in the Golden Age of the Church. So that means New Testament Christians were made of the slobby stuff we are and we, conversely, have the same shot at sanctity they did. A good place to start that course with the Holy Spirit as our Personal Trainer in holiness is with forgiveness for every member of the Church who has let you down. Don’t forget to include yourself. And say a prayer for me, the biggest disappointment of them all.

  • julian

    terrific, terrific post.

  • Kathleen

    Amen.

    I’m sure I have you beat Mark in the lack of holiness department.

  • John

    “My preferred method for living would be to blame everybody else for the Church’s problems while demanding that everybody else bear with me because of my good intentions.”

    Yet ANOTHER one-liner for the history books…I’m so stealing this line (with atribution of course) for my own taglines etc.

    Thanks again for the keen insights Mark!

  • EBS

    Just gotta say, you’re one very cool person. I love how you keep it honest.

  • math_geek

    I love Catholic Humility Olympics!

    “No I’m the least holy!!!”
    “No I’m totally the least holy!!!”

  • http://lamentablysane.blogspot.com Beefy Levinson

    No one is more of a bush league slob than I!

    Mark is right on; whenever I’m angry with Holy Mother Church, it usually grows from disappointment with her. And the most frequent reason why I’m disappointed with her is not because of the existence of sin and vice in her members; it has ever been so. But I confess I do get discouraged when I meet those who are indifferent to sin and vice.

  • Qualis Rex

    [rubbing ashes into my sack-cloth] I can certainly vouche first-hand that the church is comprised of sinners, and will be as long as I am a part of it. But I’d like to expand on the concept of disappointment; I was born and raised long after Vatican II, but had many religious in my extended family (priest and nuns) so I grew up with an almost unquestioning loyalty to clergy and religious (I had nothing but good childhood experiences with them…and actually credit my very protective aunt who is a nun from keeping me “safe” in all situations….hint-hint). But as I grew older, more and more priests at school (yup), church and in general were saying, “listen to me: reject authority!” Their message was less and less about the faith of the church and more and more about their cult of personality they had built in their parishes, where loyalty was to them…not the church. And since the seminaries had been emptied, these were the ones we the church had left…and as scarce as they were, they were highly valued and to be protected at all cost; although everyone loves to blame “the heirarchy”, the layity absolutely did their part in the cover-up as well (Fr Bruce Ritter anyone?).

    I seriously got the impression that there were people at work within the church who secretly wanted it dismantled. I really do believe there was/is a generation of priests that is perfectly fine if they are the last ones, as long as they can live out their remaining days in the comfort supplied by the generosity of previous generations. So, along with disappointment, please add “betrayal” to your list.

    Thank God for good priests everywhere, and the new/young generation that is replacing what should have been replaced long ago.

    • Rosemary

      “And since the seminaries had been emptied, these were the ones we the church had left…and as scarce as they were, they were highly valued and to be protected at all cost; although everyone loves to blame “the heirarchy”, the layity absolutely did their part in the cover-up as well (Fr Bruce Ritter anyone?).”

      Wow. You nailed it. Stunning insight.

      And the laity further contributes to the cover-up by the Catholic Humility Olympics. “What’s a child rapist compared to someone as evil as I?” It’s a silly conceit that no one takes seriously, but helps one brush the problem aside. Anyone who seriously felt that way about themselves, should banish themselves posthaste for the protection of society.

  • Gabriel Austin

    Chesterton said quite simply “There is no such thing as a good Catholic”.

    We are all of us works in ptogress, falling back as often as going ahead.

  • kevin

    I am the least holy of all least holy people here, indeed. I came in first in the last lack of holiness Olympiad, after trashing various others for various things.

  • Ron Van Wegen

    “And say a prayer for me, the biggest disappointment of them all.”
    Hah, hah, that’s a sin of pride!
    Loser :-)

  • kevin

    Comparisons, as a great priest I once knew said, tend to be odious. That extends to sinfulness, or perceived sinfulness.

  • Sal

    Excellent, excellent post.
    It is very hard to explain “how can you belong to such a publicly sinful Church?” to anyone who doesn’t understand sin and forgiveness. Or accept that it is struggle to the death and any given living member can be anywhere on the path at any time. So, we’re not really very much use as just good examples, but mixed bags.


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