Tax Collectors and Other Sinners: Family Life & the Place of Wayward Catholics in the Parish

Tax Collectors and Other Sinners: Family Life & the Place of Wayward Catholics in the Parish July 8, 2014

File:Marinus van Reymerswale - The Tax Collector - WGA19329.jpg

Rebecca Hamilton has written a beautiful and moving testimony on the nature of family life, and I think it gives us exactly the answer to the problem of Catholics who struggle with the Catholic faith.  What’s the right thing to do with our fellow Catholics who don’t quite have it all together?  People who are egregiously mistaken in their understanding of serious matters?

Our Lord answers the question quite plainly: Treat them as you would the pagans and tax collectors.

Before you sharpen the knives, let’s recall how our Lord treated such friends:

  • Giving them the time of day.
  • Answering their questions.
  • Healing their wounds.
  • Inviting them to follow Him.

Your parish is full of rank sinners.  In functioning as brothers and sisters of Christ, the question isn’t, “Who are the holy people I can trust with the work of the Church?” The question is, “Who’s the right kind sinner for this particular work?”

This doesn’t mean we invite convicted child molesters to work in youth ministry as a display of our love and forgiveness.  We don’t entrust the collection-counting to the lady with the fraud convictions.  If Father drinks too much, for goodness sake quit giving him the gift of beer.  Your catechists need to believe and practice the Catholic faith, your musicians should have musical talent, and your lectors should be literate.  The funeral-meal committee should be staffed by people who not only know how to cook, but who also keep their hands washed and the food stored and served safely.

But no matter the baggage, the problems, the sins of the rag-tag group of scoundrels who make up your parish family, the question is never, “Does this person have a place in my parish?” The question is always and only, “How can this person love and serve God best within my parish?”

What can I do to help this one grow closer to Christ? What can this one do to help me grow closer to Christ?


This is my last contribution to the Patheos Symposium on the Synod for the Family.  Of all the contributions I’ve read so far, this article by Greg Popcak is the 101, the pure foundation of it all. Read it, absorb it, live it.  And then check out the other good stuff.


Artwork by  Marinus van Reymerswale (circa 1490/1495–1546?) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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