Sherry Weddell’s Follow-up Remarks on the Pew Study Results

Sherry Weddell’s Follow-up Remarks on the Pew Study Results May 14, 2015

All I can say is “Amen and Amen”:

I have spent years listening to Catholics talk hopefully (or gleefully!) of certain groups of Catholics – whose theological or liturgical leanings they fear and despise – leaving the Church. Now, in light of the release yesterday of the grim Pew statistics, I am being asked by puzzled Catholics of great faith and good will, “were those who have left (and are leaving as I write these words) ever *really* part of us? Won’t it just be better if we are a smaller and more fervent Church? Didn’t Pope Benedict say so?”

Belonging, as you know, is very complex and mysterious thing. All those validly baptized “belong” to Christ and to us through the baptismal character that they have received and can never lose (we believe by faith). And of course, none of us knows what other strands of belief and connection exist in the hearts of people, hearts that are, like ours, calling us in different and often contradictory directions.

Whenever I hear these sorts of questions, I know that we cannot have grasped what is at stake. We cannot have grasped the nature of the immortal beings whose disappearance we are willing to accept or even, God forbid, are hoping will leave the fullness of the means of grace. We must recognize that it is a form of profound disobedience, a kind of blasphemy, for us to wish for, in the name of purity or inevitability, what Christ himself prayed with great intensity would never happen: that he would lose one of those that his Father had given him.

When Pope Benedict recognized the likely possibility of a smaller Catholic church, he was merely reading the signs of the times – recognizing that western Christendom, as it has existed for the past 1200 years, (as opposed to western Christianity) is well and truly dead.

That the Church must look again, as she has in the past, not to institutions or societal favor but to the power of the Holy Spirit, the redeeming work of Christ, the truth of the apostolic faith, to the deep personal faith of her people, to the fruit of profound prayer and worship, to the intercession of the communion of saints. And to the charisms, vocations, saints, cultural creativity, and mighty deeds that arise out of such faith. The faith that gave birth to the structures and cultures of western Christianity in the first place.

But never, never that we should cease to pray for, long for, labor for, and call every man and women to encounter Christ in the midst of his Church. That we should accept, cooperate with – or most appallingly, rejoice in – events and changes that endanger the eternal glory of millions and millions of those redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice and baptized in Christ’s name is an abomination.

“It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbor. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken.” – C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

There Ain’t No Pure Church.  This is why I make it a habit never to wish somebody out of the Church.

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  • Joseph

    It’s very Protestantesque to ask the question, ‘Were they really ever one of us?’. It’s also a complete denial of the efficacy of the Sacraments, specifically of baptism… which is also Protestantesque. If Catholics are asking questions like that, then they have more of a Protestant mentality than a Catholic one and perhaps should take a look in the mirror.
    I prefer reminding self-proclaimed ex-Catholics that they cannot be no matter how hard they try. They can’t wash it off.

    • kenofken

      What’s this? At the start of business today, you rebuked my characterization of baptism as an involuntary eternal claim on someone’s soul. Of course that’s what it is, and you take the time and effort to remind people of that. An eternal binding of someone’s soul in this manner is as absurd as Scientology’s billion-year contract. More absurd, in that Scientologists aren’t locked into that deal by circumstance of birth. You have to volunteer for the Sea Org to do that, and officially they consider the contract more symbolic than literal. Of course physically leaving Scientology is dodgier than leaving the RCC….Even the Mormon baptism of the dead gives the recipient free will to accept it or not.

      On some level, infant baptism is very much about locking in demographics and claiming them forever. When “joining” consists of nothing more than being born in Western Europe or the Western Hemisphere, and there’s no way out, naturally your official membership counts are gonna swell…

      If there is no such thing as an ex-Catholic and membership is independent of free will, small-o orthodox Catholics have no grounds to gripe when dissenters and heretics hang around and try to hijack the brand.

      • LFM

        You seem to have misunderstood the point of Mark’s post, and the previous commenter’s as well. Your last statement, that “small-o orthodox Catholics have no grounds to gripe when dissenters and heretics hang around and try to hijack the brand” is precisely what they are affirming themselves. Rather than griping or wishing them gone, small-o orthodox Catholics are supposed to rejoice that dissenters’ baptism and continuing participation in the Church – however exasperated it may sometimes make us – increases their chances of salvation.

        The real problem with dissenters and heretics who continue to proclaim their allegiance to the Church, especially if they are in positions of leadership (politicians like Nancy Pelosi) or have access to the media (writers like Garry Wills), is that they can and do sow confusion about what the Church teaches and why in those who are not well-informed or well-catechized. In short, they cause “scandal” to the faithful, as the Church puts it.

  • Four line stanzas:


    Some have said all will be saved

    And others that not many fall,

    The hard of heart proclaim that

    Will ever live in grace at all

    But what do people know of Christ

    Who walked the hardest street
    there is

    With bloody lashes to his back

    And found the mercy to forgive?

    Jesus said look out and see

    That I have made the garden trade

    A dead dogwood for young plum tree,

    A consecration I have made

    Wait till spring when I rise up

    And then I blossom red and white,

    Remember Me in flesh and cup

    Through every bitter winter night


    May 11, 2015

    • kenofken

      I would pay good money to hear much of your stuff read to an upright bass riff in an old-style Beatnick cafe! 🙂

      No snark. For real….

      • That’s really fine of you to say, and I’d like to try that too.

        As for the money, I took a vow to the Blessed Virgin many years ago that if she would help me write poetry I would never take any money for it.

        There’s an audio collection of my readings at Ave Maria University – you can click on the details at:

        These days I’m a reader at Mass once or twice a week.

  • Mike

    I’d never hope for anyone to leave but i always hope that the dissidents see the error of the ways and stop trying to remake the church in their image.

  • Mark R

    Isn’t it a bit cheeky to take a lot of stock in research polls. I mean King David got into some trouble with the Lord for taking a census.