Division, Diversity and Dissent

The things we put before it may be very good. They may be part of the legitimate results of the church’s primary mission, but when they are put first division is the result–not unity. Here is an example: ministry to the poor and needy is a secondary part of the church’s mission. It is the result of the first priority being done properly. That is to say, once we have saved souls those redeemed individuals want to minister to the world in the compassionate mercy of Christ–whose Spirit fills them. Educating children, celebrating and preserving distinct cultures, preserving the environment, encouraging art and music, architecture and literature–all these worthy things are the secondary mission of the church. They are the fruit and result of the primary mission of the church.

When we put them first however, division results because these secondary missions become pet causes. They divert the energies and expenditure and enthusiasm away from the primary mission of the church which brings unity. Furthermore, a focus on the secondary missions of the church eventually destroy the church itself. Why? Because people are not stupid. They soon figure out that you can do those secondary aspects of mission without the bother of going to church at all.

If the most important thing is building schools for poor children, fostering wonderful art or architecture, feeding the hungry and helping the down and out, then why bother with  all that liturgy, worship, prayer and salvation of souls stuff? People draw the conclusion that you can be good and foster fine art, community building and helping the needy without all that religion. So they stop practicing their religion.

I am convinced from conversations with lapsed Catholics that this is exactly what they think. I know this because they say, “You can be good without going to church.” or “I am spiritual but not religious” or “I’m just as good as the people who go to church.”

This is the result of the implicit Pelagianism of our times. When priests focus all their ministry on serving the poor rather than saving the poor the Catholic faith is ultimately undermined. When church people focus completely on the good works of their religion rather than religion itself, their religion will eventually crumble into nothing.

The unity we enjoy in the Catholic faith, and the unity which the bishop represents is the unity we share in the cross of Christ. It is within that mystery that we glory. It is that mystery we proclaim as we preach Christ crucified. It is that mystery we celebrate at the holy sacrifice of the altar.

The rest is secondary.


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