Confronting Dissent Within the Church

There is major division brewing within the Church. It has been there from quite some time, as religious and laity alike chose to dissent from Humanae Vitae putting them directly at odds with Christ and His Church. We have been reeling ever since. I do believe in time, as medicine and science catch up with what we already morally know, more and more people will see the error of their ways. As our culture implodes, I believe people will begin to see what the deconstruction of the family is doing to our country. I think that we will have to undergo some serious and difficult times first. I think that we will undergo some pretty serious persecution.  This is not alarmist.  I have spoken at length with priests, as well as other members of the laity, and we all can see it in the times we are living.

One of the hardest things for orthodox Catholics to confront is dissent, also known as cafeteria Catholicism. Dissent implies knowledge of Church teaching and the choice to ignore it. There are some who are ignorant of the Church’s moral teaching, but these days it would be hard to not have an inkling that the Church does not agree with the prevailing culture. We have an obligation to continue to study the Faith and to learn what we believe as a Church.  So how do we engage these people? I am still trying to figure this one out, as are many of my friends. A lot of priests and sisters are trying to figure it out as well. There are some stumbling blocks that we have to figure our way around.

First, no one likes to be reminded that they are a sinner. As a friend of mine reminded me today, “we are all broken”. We do not like other people to tell us that what we are doing is morally wrong, or evil. The hardest sin to overcome is pride. Ask my husband about me on this one.  The fact of the matter is that we all sin, we all commit evil. The problem arises when we refuse to accept something is evil and work to overcome it. Sin damages and it can cause widespread evil and pain. The beginning of conversion means recognizing our sinfulness and falling on Christ. The real issue of our day is that the majority of people think that they set truth. A real and full conversion to Christ means submitting to Him in all matters. This is deeply difficult, but the road to real freedom. This is a message that we are struggling to share as we confront relativism.

Moral relativism is widespread. It is in the Church and it is outside of the Church. Thanks to Descartes we all think that we know what truth is and is not. That means that we no longer trust the Church to teach us the Truth. Instead we accept a hodge-podge of sources including the media and secular culture. The Church cannot possibly know what is true in our day. She is antiquated and out of touch. This is one of the biggest hurdles we have to overcome. Many will not change their position and will continue to dissent. All we can do is try to proclaim the Gospel and live it in our daily lives. Many people turned their backs on Christ in His day, our day will be no different, as heart-breaking as it is.

Another major issue is emotionalism. I have tried, and failed, to engage with people who ignore Church teaching on various issues. What ensues is not pretty. I have been called every name imaginable. The discussion quickly turns irrational and launches into personal attacks. In the social media world it usually results in “unfriending” which has happened to me on a few occasions. I am okay with that, but it is distressing that people are so wrapped up in their belief that their only response is rage. There is no reasoning with these people. Instead I commend them to prayer and God’s mercy. I pray that I planted seeds, no matter how poorly I did it. My own sinful nature is carried into debates and I am sure that I don’t always explain things the best, even if I meant well.

We are at a point in our country where tempers are at dangerous levels. People seek to silence one another. This is also true inside of the Church. Heterodoxical people will seek to silence the orthodox. We are already seeing this play out in churches and schools in this country and across the West. We have to remember that Christ can soften hardened hearts. We must pray and do penance. We also cannot put our heads in the sand. We must stand up for the truth. We just have to find the patience, love, and charity that is born out of prayer and contemplation. We must receive the Sacraments often and spend time before the Blessed Sacrament.  We will all fall short and say the wrong thing at times. The Lord knows that I have, but we must keep trying. These people do not understand that our concern is out of love. None of us want to see a person put their soul at risk. It is even more difficult to watch people put themselves at risk as they approach the Blessed Sacrament each week with no thought. I know one thing that I will be doing is beginning more study on Theology of the Body. It changed my life and I know that it can change other hearts.

There is a great story about St. Dominic that another friend reminded me of this morning. St. Dominic was “a great lover of heretics”. His primary mission was fighting the Albigensian heresy, which is not too much different from the heresies of our own day. One day, St. Dominic met an innkeeper who was an Albigensian. It is said that St Dominic stayed up all night and did not retire until the innkeeper acknowledged the truth of the Catholic Faith. So that is what we must do. To take time with each person we meet. We cannot shy away from the truth, but we must share it out of love for souls. It is hard to engage in social media because it turns into a fight where other people get involved. This is a mistake that I have made. It quickly becomes a fight and people gang up on the one espousing the Truth. We have to find a way when in the heat of disagreement, to remember that these people are broken, that they are victims of the Evil One’s lies. So let’s keep about the task of saving souls, regardless of the personal cost to ourselves. If you have suggestions for engaging heterodoxy, please leave a comment. God bless.

 

One comment

  1. Harry K. · · Reply

    Where we have the undisputed Magisterium firmly in our corner (or, rather, when we are certain we are in ITS corner) we must, I think, learn how to execute a tactical retreat.

    I mean that wherever we can, we run toward shared principles. With some cafeteria Catholics that can be a long run, to be sure. But Catholicism may be unique in its respect for reason, reason as a faculty which, when well trained, can perceive some sorts of truth. And, with the Jesuits and others, Dominicans are especially oriented not only to study and prayer but to THINKING and to sharing our thoughts.

    So, when a particular teaching is not only disputed but reviled, maybe we need to engage our — I don’t want to say opponents — interlocutors in an examination of what the teaching office of the Church really is. We can consider those passages in I Corinthians and Ephesians which discuss the charism of teaching. (I like to say that if God appointed, as St. Paul says, some as teachers, then He must have appointed some as disciples, pupils, students who will be taught not by themselves but by those teachers.)

    We can first learn, then think, then share about the meaning of the concept of Apostolocity. An apostle, by definition, does not act or speak on his own authority. He is a delegate, maybe a deputy. Paul asks, “How can they preach if they be not sent?” In this he is clear that preachers and teachers exercise a ministry and proclaim a message which is not THEIRS but which belongs to the one who sent them, that is, the Lord.

    Maybe that’s the conversation we need to be having. Where do our interlocutors think they should look for what they believe? To whom do they turn for instruction? Why do they make those choices?

    The consequent obligation for us, or some of us, is to clarify for ourselves our understanding of the Magisterial authority of the Church and patiently to help those whom we outrage to remember how to think.

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