A reader struggles with his faith

A reader struggles with his faith November 5, 2015

He writes:

I am sorry but I simply had to reach out to a fellow Catholic.

I may not be too much help, but here goes.

I feel that I am losing my religion.  I had once believed that the Holy Spirit guides the College of Cardinals in the selection of the most wisest holiest candidate for the position.

Why would you think that given the fact that cardinals chose Alexander VI?  Or that Jesus chose Peter?  Recall Chesterton: ” “When Christ at a symbolic moment was establishing His great society, He chose for its cornerstone neither the brilliant Paul nor the mystic John, but a shuffler, a snob, a coward – in a word, a man. And upon this rock He has built His Church, and the gates of Hell have not prevailed against it. All the empires and the kingdoms have failed, because of this inherent and continual weakness, that they were founded by strong men and upon strong men. But this one thing, the historic Christian Church, was founded on a weak man, and for that reason it is indestructible. For no chain is stronger than its weakest link.”

I no longer believe that since Francis has become the Pontiff.  It was evident to me when JPII and Benedict were made popes but something went horribly wrong with the election of Francis.

Nothing has gone horribly wrong.  What has happened is that false expectations you placed on God and the Church are dying and you are experiencing the pain of that loss.  But Francis has not, in fact, said or done anything heterodox with respect to the Faith, merely with respect to your human expectations about things neither Jesus nor the faith ever promised in the first place.  You are losing faith in false human traditions you projected on to the Faith, not in any promise Jesus or the Church ever actually made.

Maybe the Holy Spirt does not guide the Church in these matters?  Maybe it was a lie?  Maybe everything else is a lie too?  I am losing my faith.   I feel like my faith is unravelling.

It would be good to cross-examine your assumption in light of the Church’s actual teaching then and ask, “Which is more likely?  That Jesus Christ and the apostles, martyrs, and saints are a pack of liars, or that I am wrong about something somewhere and need to rethink the unspoken assumptions and demands I placed on God without ever asking?”  Common sense says its the latter.  So ask:  “Where have I elevated mere human traditions and assumptions to the level of divine revelation?  What can I do to give that up and stick with what God has actually said through Holy Church?”  He’s not jerking you around.  He’s shaking loose false ideas you have about him and about his Body the Church in union with the bishops and Peter.

Everytime I hear a pronouncement from Francis I shudder and realize that we have a socialist nutcase in charge.

We don’t.  We have a Catholic with an intensely strong evangelistic and pastoral charism articulating Catholic teaching just like his predecessors.  Everything you need to know about him is summed up in the words, “He has preached good news to the poor.”  Nothing he has said is incompatible with the Church’s teaching.  Most of it is a rehash of things JPII and B16 said.  It’s just that you didn’t notice it.  To wit
In Wilhelmine Germany, too, Catholic groups felt closer to democratic socialism than to the rigidly Prussian and Protestant conservative forces. In many respects, democratic socialism was and is close to Catholic social doctrine and has in any case made a remarkable contribution to the formation of a social consciousness.” – Pope Benedict XVI

I rue the day when not too far off the Synod on the Family will pronounce gay marriages / families as somethign worthwhile and receive the blessing of the church.

You are worried about phantoms.  The Church cannot alter the sacraments.  The most that may happen is that the Church will face the fact that Caesar has decided to pretend that there is such a thing as gay marriage and that people involved in such arrangements require some form of pastoral care. Would you rather the Church simply reject them and their children?  Christ comes to call not the righteous, but sinners.  So that’s not an option.  The desire of some Catholics to cut people off from the very opportunity of grace is as old as Donatism.  The Church as a fortress and an engine of vengeance is not the gospel.  She is bound to seek the lost.

Part of the problem is that people have no idea what this Synod is about.  It is, like all conciliar actions, a time when the Church “holds herself in suspense” as Bp.  Robert Barron puts it, and makes up her mind about things.  It is supposed to hear from all sides so that it can sift wheat from chaff.  The pope did something similar when drafting Humanae Vitae, consulting theologians who urged him to ditch the Church’s ancient tradition about artificial contraception.  He declined to do so.

What this come down to is a test of your trust, not in Francis, but in Jesus Christ’s promise that the Holy Spirit will guide the Church into all truth.  It is He, not Francis, who is the soul of the Church.

Anyway, my faith has been shaken.   Please pray for me to recover the certitude I once did in the teachings of the Church.

May God our Father hear the prayer of Paul for you through Christ our Lord:

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fulness of God.

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, to him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.

Faith means “you stay”.  That’s really it.  When the disciples’ faith was shaken they turned to Christ and said, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.”  It is Christ who remains the source and summit of our faith, not our false ideas, not the pope, and above all, not ourselves. 🙂  Don’t despair.  Stay, and see what Jesus is going to do in you and in our holy Church.

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