Why Roman Catholicism is Special

Why Roman Catholicism is Special September 6, 2018

In response to the current crisis in the Roman Catholic Church, a priest in Santa Barbara preached this sermon (or is it a homily):

Speak out! Do you want the Gospel? Do you want Christ? Do you want heaven? Do you want the truth? Or do you just want what we find everywhere in the world, which is what we really want to hear, what is pleasing to our ears. Demand change in the Church. It’s not going to be enough, just adding a couple of policies to this taking care of the children. It’s not going to be enough just to see three, four, or five cardinals resigning, and ten bishops resigning — it’s not going to be enough. We need to see real change. We need to go back to be faithful to Christ, to Our Lord Christ, not the world. We are here to change the world, not the world to change us. We are the light of the world; we are not equal with the world. We have Christ. We have the truth. The world is helpless. The prince of the world is the Evil One, and we are hear to fight against him.

That sounds like Martin Luther, but many Roman Catholics won’t leave the church or do something that forces authorities to send them into excommunication. Why is that? Because the church is both corrupt and true. The priest explained this in the next paragraph:

Now, what I’m saying might sound very hard for you, and I have to say I’m sorry, but I had to say it. Because I’m sick and tired of seeing my mother the Church being insulted and portrayed as an institution of criminals. Because it’s not. It’s my mother, it’s your mother! The one who gave you eternal life through baptism, who gave you the courage through confirmation, who gives you the Eucharist every Sunday you come. She’s our mother, and we need to help her in these dreadful times.

That’s a real tension. The mother who sustains you is also the mother who abuses others. After all, what makes the sacraments efficacious is the ministry of bishops who are in fellowship with the pope and who are successors to the apostles. Without those connections, the Mass is just an ordinary Baptist congregation’s ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. Yet, those same connections involve the bishops who have covered up the scandal (and contributed to it). Church life does not get much darker than that.

And then it does.

It looks like the priest who said these words was promptly removed from the parish where he delivered this homily. In other words, it seems that the head priest told the protesting priest to leave. According to Rod Dreher, the priest had to find a room in a hotel and does not know what will happen to him next.

So instead of exerting discipline on those priests and bishops who strayed sexually, this priest lost his position for saying tough things about the church. The irony was not lost on Mark Henrie:

For my entire adult life, heated complaints about the poor treatment of orthodox priests were routinely heard from the traditionalist fringes of the Church, from those who espied a vast clerical conspiracy against the traditional doctrines of the Faith. From those same fringes came wild tales of clerical sexual misconduct reaching even to bishops and cardinals. Those tales beggared belief. Unsettled mainstream Catholics were urged to keep away from those crazies. Well, now we know that the crazies’ wildest tales of sexual misconduct were often correct. Were they also right about the fate of the orthodox priests?

How are faithful Catholics to relate to a Church when those once deemed crazy are shown to be more right than wrong and those in charge more duplicitous than courageous? Trust those in charge, we’re told, yet again. But that’s exactly what we were told for the decades during which McCarrick pursued seminarians and then paraded around the world as a celebrated clerical eminence. Now, in 2018, when that betrayal of the trust of faithful Catholics is known to all the world, are we really supposed to trust the ecclesiastical system to discern the unfitness of a seemingly orthodox Peruvian priest for his pastoral position? To be frank, I cannot. Indeed, for a layman to trust the present clerical culture and those who sit atop it seems irrational, even irresponsible.

Of course, you must not make a case for Protestantism by arguing that at least Protestants aren’t this bad. It’s like finishing fourth place in the National League East ahead of the fifth place Marlins and thinking you had a successful season.

At the same time, is Protestantism really chopped liver? Do we have nothing to offer in the way of Christian ministry that a Roman Catholic would not even deign to consider worshiping God and hearing about the work of Christ at a Protestant congregation? Are Protestants really so far from Christian truth that our churches have no appeal at all for Roman Catholics at odds with their bishops?

It’s hard to believe that Protestantism can really be that bad.

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