It’s only too easy to become discouraged as a Catholic these days.
When I came into the Church, as an adult convert, some of those around me questioned my sanity. There were, admittedly, lots of reasons to think that I was crazy but a few of those voices in particular expressed concerns about the Church itself.
What about the scandals—the sexual abuses? The apparent systematic cover-ups?
And this was years ago, before many of today’s issues even came to light.
But I converted anyway, leaving behind an evangelical faith tradition that I loved because I believed that the claims of the Catholic Church were true. I believed that this two thousand year old church was founded by Christ himself; that when the disciples died they appointed successors, who appointed successors, who succeeded the people who govern the church today. I believed, in concert with all Christians for 1,500 years, that the Eucharist was really the blood and body of Christ; that a system where the Bible interpreted itself just simply couldn’t work; that God gave humanity the sacraments because He knew best how to reach our physical selves. That the Catholic Church was, ultimately, right about everything.
Recently, my wife and I ran into someone we knew from our past, evangelical life. “So, you guys still doing that Catholic thing?” She asked. We laughed. “Yes,” I said. “Yes, we are!”
I’ve heard other converts describe a similar experience and liken it to breathing. A proper response, maybe, would be, “Yes, we’re still doing that Catholic thing. We’re still breathing too.”
Once you start to inhale that rarified air you don’t just stop.
But that sounds too rude to say out loud—too pretentious—and I really don’t mean it that way.
But we are, at any rate, still Catholic in light of all the scandal—and the slow pace of change.
And in spite of so many Catholics.
One of the most disappointing things about becoming Catholic has been discovering just how human some of your heroes are.
As a wide-eyed Catholic convert I devoured literature, lectures, and hours upon hours of YouTube videos from some of the faith’s most prominent apologists and theologians. Discovering the Catholic Church, as a Protestant believer, was like the goldfish in the bowl waking up to discover what water is. I was pecking around stupidly at the stones on the bottom; floating in this stuff all along. I was enamoured.
But lately, my heroes sound more like heretics, and if Satan—who is manifestly real—has a plan to ruin the souls of the faithful his tool of choice is certainly social media.
Here, so many of those otherwise orthodox Catholics seem to be spending most of their energy yelling back and forth, at each other.
Faithful Catholics whose passionate writing and speaking, whose radio shows and television programs, whose evangelical and poignant defense of the Catholic faith encouraged me to keep going in my journey towards the Church—now expending their energy mocking one another. Decrying “fake Christian!” and “false prophet!” and often foaming at the mouth.
Fighting amongst themselves.
And while Catholics are busy unfurling their measuring tapes to determine just how orthodox their fellow believers are the very Body of Christ—His Church—is slowly being torn asunder. We are only hurting ourselves. We are only reducing our own power to witness, and it needs to stop.
The sexual abuse crisis in the church is bad enough, and it is bad. The lack of moral and spiritual clarity from within the church ranges, at times, from frustrating to down right unforgivable but our response, our treatment of each other, has become a crisis of its very own.
And make no mistake, this is a crisis. We are turning on ourselves; we are eating each other. And it must end.
I know that many have their motives. Globally, the fabric of secular society is coming apart at the seams. Whatever flimsy seams they may be. We are, socially and politically, at odds as much as we ever have been. There are genuine issues to debate and it’s stressful and it’s difficult, but it needn’t define us. We must rise above.
We must, as Catholics, do better.
The blowback will be real. The loudest voices will call me a mere blogger; others, that I am doing no better than slinging mud myself but that’s precisely the thing I’m trying to say. I am not. I am calling for calm. But, that may well be lost in the noise, for those that even read this. And I don’t mean to be a martyr, I am merely a blogger, but as I look around at the condition of the Church that I have loved—that I love—I feel compelled to call a crisis a crisis.
And, dear God, this is a crisis.
So let’s call it a day. Let’s beat our swords into ploughshares and share in the ploughing: getting back to teaching and preaching and practising our faith in humble charity. Let’s genuinely work for renewal, for unity, for love. I know the temptation exists to be sarcastic, to mock others, to call out Catholics that we see as unusual or unorthodox but it is not a spiritual work of mercy to yell provocations at each other over Facebook. We can do better than that.
Because if ever there were an aim of the devil, if ever we could guess at what Satan may be up to as he roams the earth in search of the ruin of souls, it would be exactly this.
We are ripping ourselves to shreds. And that is exactly what the enemy of the Church intends.