I have been watching the Charlotte Catholic High School controversy with a mix of concern, interest, and finally frustration. I know the priest in charge there and he is a wonderful priest. They are blessed to have him, even though, they cannot see it. I am also a Lay Dominican, so a Dominican in the news is of importance to me. Both Fr. Kauth and Sister Jane Dominic have studied in Rome. The latter has a doctorate in Sacred Theology. I cannot remember Fr. Kauth’s full studious background, but I have attended multiple Masses of his when he would stand in for the priest who married my husband and me. I no longer reside in that Diocese, but I watch it in the news because I know there are very holy and orthodox priests coming out of that Diocese. It may be hard to believe it in light of what has happened here, but the young priests in that Diocese are great lovers of Christ and His Church.
More brilliant minds than I have written extensively about this incident. You can read about it here and here. I merely want to write about a couple of things that have come to mind as I watch this situation on unfold. First, I want to talk about humility and obedience. This is a core problem with situations like these. Many Catholics have fallen into the trap of relativism and follow the secular age while sitting in the pews. They profess the Faith from one side of their mouths while undermining it from the other side of their mouths. Second, I want to talk about the weight of our personal Cross. In our culture it appears that more emphasis is put on the crosses of individuals that have to do with sex. This is a byproduct of our culture’s obsession wtih sex.
So let’s begin with humility and obedience. As Catholics we are called to be obedient to Christ’s Church. When we profess the Nicene or Apostles’s Creed at Mass on Sundays, we are saying that we fully accept everything the Church teaches from the divinity of Christ, to papal infallibity, to social teaching. The end of the Creed states our belief in “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church”. Since this profession of faith is a part of the Mass, it can become robotic. But, do we really think about what we are professing. Credo, “I believe”. Do we really believe? or are we perjuring ourselves in the Real Presence of Our Lord? This is something every one of us should think about.
I spent some years living in disobedience to the Church. I thought that I knew better. I listened to heterodoxical people, rather than my own conscience and catechesis. I knew better. When I finally underwent a major conversion five years ago I realized that my pride and sin had gotten in the way. I realized that I could not possibly know better than 2000 years of sacred tradition, as well as Holy Scripture. Who am I to say that I know better than Christ and His Church? When we are disobedient, we are playing God. The teaching of the Catholic Church is Christ’s teaching. It is not of men, it is of God. Do you know better than Christ? This is a part of what is going on right now. Eden is playing out within the walls of the Church, as it has since the beginning. Some of us choose to follow God, some of us choose to follow ourselves. Whenever we sin, we choose ourselves. This is hard to swallow, but it is the beginning of true conversion.
We live in a country where individual liberty is prized above all else. We are the masters of our own destiny. No one can tell us how to live, not even the Church. That’s fine and good, but it is not a Catholic understanding of freedom. Freedom is the ability to what is right. There are billions of people on this planet who do not have that freedom. Look at China’s forced abortion policy. As Catholics it is God who is the Master of our destiny and that destiny is supposed to be Heaven.
The simple truth is that if we want to follow Christ then we must be like HIm and submit in love and obedience to the Father. That means following Church teaching even when it is hard, even when it is brazenly counter-cultural. We need to stop letting other people tell us what to believe. The Church’s position on issues of our day is not “hateful, bigoted, or homophobic”. It is based on authentic love and understanding. It is based on God’s desire for all people to be saved from eternal damnation. The Church is in the business of saving souls not racking up popularity points. To truly love is to desire the salvation of our neighbor and ourselves.
Second, we need to begin to understand that suffering is a part of the Christian life. Suffering is an integral part of the Catholic understanding of this earthly life. Christ told us to pick up our cross and follow Him. That means all the way to Calvary. Something that people need to think about is that being Christian is to die to self. It is to be crucified in our daily lives. Avoiding suffering is a secular (and some professed Christian groups) goal. Ours is to learn to accept and embrace our crosses so that Christ may sanctiy us and bring us further along on the path of holiness. The meaning of life is to become a Saint, it is not comfort.
This is not some type of sado-masochism. It is understanding reality. Every one of us will suffer. Every one of us will have crosses to carry. We cannot avoid suffering because we cannot avoid the inevitability of death. We do not choose sickness, natural disasters, or even terrorist attacks. Suffering is a part of the human experience. It is universal.
In our culture the sexual sins are seen as too big of a burdern to overcome. The idea that someone who struggles with same sex attraction should be chaste is unimaginable to them. This cross is somehow worse than others. This is false. The crosses we are given are used by Christ to help us grow in holiness. I have no doubt that same sex attraction is deeply difficult to bare. That it comes with periods of loneliness, despair, and pain. Contrary to what many contemporaries think, most of us who support traditional marriage have had friends who profess to be gay. Some of my friends have embraced the gay lifestyle and others have chosen the Catholic path. I am going to say something that is very unpopular, this cross is no heavier than other crosses. Some people are chronically ill whether it be physically or mentally. Some people cannot have children, or like myself have lost babies. Some people live in abject poverty. Some people live in countries ravaged by war and violence. Some people have been abused in some way. The fact of the matter is that ALL crosses are hard. All crosses will cause us to stumble. Christ fell 3 times under the weight of the Cross and our sin. In the final analysis we must choose to allow Christ to help us with our Cross and use it for His purposes, or we can cast it off and choose the ways of this world. We either choose God or we don’t, but if we don’t, then we are to blame for the consequences.
Being Catholic, being a follower of Christ is not easy. It is deeply difficult. That is why we are called to be faithful and not perfect. The goal is perfection, but we are not there, yet. If you are sitting in the pews and think that being Catholic is easy, I would suggest some serious time in Scripture and discussion with a holy and orthodox priest. Our Lord was crucified for preaching the Truth. What makes us think that we can escape the same fate? What makes us think that Christ did not mean what he said about following Him? Love is the Cross. Total self-emptying. That means working to abandon those sins we hold on so tightly. I have some that I cling to. It means saying “no” to a culture that would lead us on the path of evil. It means professing the Truth no matter what and at times doing as Sister Jane Dominic has chosen to do in the Charlotte incident: dusting off our sandals and moving on to the next souls in need of salvation. If hearts are hardened, they will not hear the Truth, so we must seek those who will hear Him. We desire all be saved, but they must make the choice. That choice comes with humility, obedience, and an acceptance that crosses are a part of the journey. God bless you on your journey.