Because In the End It Isn’t About Reason

I had dinner last night with a cradle Catholic who holds a long-standing grudge against the Church. Years ago, she said, she heard a priest lecture his flock on dressing properly for Mass. “But the altar servers were wearing sneakers and jeans under their cassocks!” she exclaimed. “What a hypocrite!” While it was hard to follow her logic, I gather that she no longer attends Mass and that this is one of her reasons.

No doubt, every Catholic who has turned away from the Church has a “good reason” for doing so. I’ve heard many. They range from trivial (the dress code?) to tragic (the abuse scandal). But every reason, no matter how convincing its logic, no matter how convinced the reasoner, is only that, a reason. A reason is something we use to justify divisions between us humans. “I have left the church because . . . ” means “I (one human being) have decided not to associate with the Church (more human beings) and I am justified in doing so.” A reason makes us right.

There are a couple of problems with such reasoning. It leaves out God and it leaves out love.

Given the existence of God (which most of the formerly Catholic reasoners will grant) and given the historicity of Jesus Christ, his crucifixion and resurrection (which a large subset will grant, as well), there is only one reasonable set of responses: awe, gratititude, praise, and the effort to model ourselves on the commandments Christ left us. From this point forward, there is only one reasonable thing to do: find the most authentic and viable way to Jesus Christ. This way logically can be traced only to the place and time of origin: His death and resurrection and his delegation of authority to the Apostles who followed him. This in turn leads to the Holy Catholic Church, not as an oligarchy of admittedly fallible human beings but as a mystical body established by Christ himself and the only possible earthly link to Our Savior.

This search, if we are sincere about it, if our love is true, will lead us through the history of the early Church and its Fathers, and the likes of St. Augustine who, after four centuries of martyrdom and clarification, stood at the end of the Roman era and declared the unique and eternal value of this institution. We must then overlook, with humility, with gratitude, and even sometimes with humor, centuries upon centuries of human fallibility and human renewal through the grace of the Holy Spirit and the likes of St. Thomas Aquinas, until we come down to the Church as it exists in our time—headed by one of the most holy, inspiring, and just plain brilliant popes in history.

If our love for God and His Son is still intact after this trial by fire, and if we have the open-mindedness to listen to what our pope, my pope, Benedict XVI, has to say about all this, we can stand on our two feet, look anyone in the eye, and say, Yes, I embrace and wholeheartedly support the Catholic Church because . . . .

As Thomas More had it, in that heart-breaking scene in “A Man for All Seasons,” wherein Paul Scofield explains to Susannah York why he will not take the oath and thereby save himself, “In the end, it is not about reason. In the end, it is about love.”

And so for every reasonable person who has chosen to turn away, there are others who choose to remain, looking the same facts in the face and saying, “It is not about reason, it is about love.”

I am one of those who chooses to remain. This is another “reason” why I am Catholic.

(Again, my thanks to my fellow parishionier Adam Desrosiers, a fine artist, for his photograph of our church. I will be proud to be present at 5 p.m. today, when the first child of Adam and his wife, Jenn, is baptized at St. Mary Star of the Sea Church in Beverly, Massachusetts.)

"Vaya con Dios, Leonard; Rest in Peace."

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  • Very true! For the longest time, I tried to explain away both my conversion to Catholicism as something utterly reasonable, and my later walking away as being just a matter of realizing that I had been wrong.So I couldn't understand why I *missed* it so much. Eventually I realized that my reasons were really just justifications, and that it all came down to relationships, to Love, in the end. Then, the only reasonable thing to do was go home.

  • While I agree that reason will lead us to the Church, and true reason can lead us no place us, I also agree that it is love, love for Christ in His Mystical Body, that tells us there is no place else we can be, no place else we can more fully be who God created us to be.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. It sure is nice to hear from sombody who "gets it."God bless

  • I would add that those who leave, generally leave because they think they know better. Much of it can be traced to intellectual pride or a justification of their own sins that only God knows. I am a convert to the Catholic Church from Anglicanism and along the way I have met many who have left while I was entering. I documented this at my web site the Converts Den in "The Excuse"( for it truly is fasinating. Most return but some do not. We can only pray for them.

  • Webster,"and even sometimes with humor": really says it all. Aquinas associates a sense of humor, the ability to appreciate the "risible", with intelligence, so that a sense of humor is also to be associated with what is not intelligent. But the unreasonable and unintelligent can only come from men, not God. Ergo…St. Thomas More was known far and wide for his "sense of humor", which A Man for All Seasons captures quite well.Your blog is wonderful to read!

  • I was a cradle Catholic too, I even attended Catholic school. Yet shortly after I was confirmed I stopped practicing. I didn't feel like I needed the Church and I definitely didn't feel a connection. Eventually life's difficulties caught up with me and I realized that I couldn't do it on my own. Thankfully the Church was always waiting for me to come back. I now have a parish and a Priest that I love and I feel like I've come home. In my opinion, the problem with being a cradle Catholic is that many of us just go through the motions. We don't know the "why's" of the faith, we just follow along. I'm learning more now than I ever did in Catholic school and CCD classes! I'm determined to teach my children better so they can grow in faith and not just be a Catholic in name only.

  • Anonymous

    I went to a RC church this past weekend and found the people there in great need of an hour of rest. It was a farming community of about 396 and most were dressed in their farming clothes. The singing wasn't robust, nor the praying, yet something was happening there. Jesus was comforting their tired muscles and minds. To someone just venturing there for the first time and not understanding, it may have seemed like these pew sitters were half asleep and boring.Would it be that first impressions would never be, that time would be taken to fully understand. The snapshot moments are never enough to fully know anything at all. Even an hour isn't enough to deeply know. Does it take a lifetime? Nope…it takes an eternity. Jesus gives us that if we ask.

  • cathyf

    Sometimes it's about reason, mostly it's because of Love. But sometimes, I have to say, it's about sheer cussed stubborness and a promise I made long ago that I wouldn't let any ***holes drive me away from my God.

  • I have friend that fell deeply in love with Jesus and His Church while we were in college. A few years latter she was deeply hurt by the actions of a few religious sisters. Now, she knows by way of reason the the Church is the truth, but she is so wounded she cannot return to a regular practice of the faith, although she does go to pray before the Blessed Sacrament on occasion. You are right, it is not about reason, it is about love. However, it seems that it is also about grace. It will not be until she allows grace to heal her that she will be able to return. For me, it was sheer grace that even compelled me to turn from a life of sin and seek reasons. It was not I that found God, but God who found me and then gave me the reasons after I had fallen in love.

  • I am a convert to the Catholic Church. I too know that I was found by God. I feel in love and then went to RCIA and then said – Yes! This is where I need to be. I discovered through the clergy sexual abuse scandal, through a beautiful homily, that I need to remember that I worship Jesus Christ, not the church. I love the church, but I know it is run by humans who make mistakes. I think sometimes people leave the church when they idolize the church and then are disappointed by fallible humans.I too met a priest who has made so much difference in my life. He has truly shown me a Jesus I did not know, a Jesus of love and mercy.I found your blog thru Sarah Reinhard. I enjoy it very much and will be back.