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.

 

Abandoning Disobedience

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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.