It seems that there are Catholic organizations, large and small, who have been at each other’s throats. Although it isn’t a recent issue, I’ve taken notice to it lately. Now, there are more than a billion Catholics alive today, that means there are more than a billion opinions about religion, faith and anything else regarding the Church. Personally, I subscribe to the orthodox, or traditional, ways of Catholic formation, catechizing and evangelizing in most, if not all, cases, but I can’t help but wonder… Why aren’t we giving credit where it’s due?
In today’s world, everything is polarized. I hear people say all the time that the Church is an exception to the rule – It’s not. In fact, I would say the Church is becoming so polarized, that the very principal of charity seems to fly out the window when a debate breaks out between two Catholics who see some aspect of the Church differently than the other. I, for one, have been guilty of that very thing; trading charity for a low blow; to simply “win” the argument. At that price, who cares if I win? I’ve given up my sense of charity, and I’ve lost a chance to truly share the splendor of the Catholic faith, all because of my ego.
Likewise, I see this lack of charity all around me, hiding under the guise of an apostolate or Facebook page or some other medium. I read articles and posts about all of the wrongdoings of our fellow Catholics, which I agree should be done – we must keep each other accountable – but what I don’t see is Catholics who differ in positions that can find common ground. It’s almost as if every group of Catholics is schismatic in some way, and it’s got to stop. Not only is it damaging to our sense of community, a core principal of the Church, it’s also sending the wrong message to the faithful, and to non-Catholics, about the way we love.
When I traverse the various Catholic groups that I’m a member of, I see it first-hand. I visit one so-called Catholic group, and they’re all arguing about whether or not homosexuality is really that big of a deal, and when I visit the very orthodox groups, I find myself in discussions about whether or not the pope is even legitimate and that certain people are destined for hell. Neither worldview of these groups is totally true, yet, they seem to have mutual disdain for each other by principal.
For example, If I visit a liberal-swaying Catholic group’s page and mention homosexuality as a sinful way of life, I’m almost always met with aggression, over-sensitivity and a lack of common-sense. That’s without even acknowledging the much direr problem of heresy. Because, after all, believing and teaching that homosexual behavior is okay as a Catholic is a heresy. On the other hand, though, I find myself at odds at times with Catholics who swing off the radar in the name of orthodoxy. Let me tell you, orthodoxy is plenty radical in itself, and rightly so. You can’t be more traditional than the traditions themselves. In that way, I find people falling into heresy on the other end of the spectrum, too! Claiming, for example, that any person is damned to hell before they die is simply not true. Another instance, in which I was engaged in a bit of a disagreement, was about breastfeeding during the Mass. A fellow Catholic had mentioned that it was sinful, indecent, to breastfeed during the Liturgies. This, however, is not something I can find anywhere in Church teaching as a sin, let alone a problem; telling someone that an act is sinful when it’s not is problematic.
Constantly I wonder to myself, “Why are all these Catholics out to get each other?” I simply don’t understand the disdain. More specifically, I don’t understand why there’s never an acknowledgement of mutual understanding. Any time one group says something, regardless of its validity, its brought into question immediately. For instance, I was at the Religious Education Congress just last weekend. Speaker after speaker, I found myself becoming more and more drained because of the problematic and heretical content that was being fed to the faithful. Finally, Bishop Robert Barron’s workshop started and I strapped in. After all, I have some deep concerns about some of the things he says, especially the heresy with regard to a vacant Hell.
I was certain I would hear nothing but garbage; arrogance I should not have fostered. To my surprise, however, he had a long talk about the young people who were falling away, and how we needed to win them back; how Catholics needed to get them back on-board with their Catholic faith. Even more refreshing, he mentioned, “we can’t hug them back into the Church,” and, “we can’t sing them back into the Church.” He said that instead, we ought to “argue them back” into the faith (emphasis added), just as they were argued out of the faith. This, I thought, was particularly fortifying, especially coming from him. I mean, usually, he seems to pander to the left-wing feelings-based Catholic mafia that likely threatens his office whenever he steps out of their line – that’s just my impression, though. This time, he said nothing but the truth as far as I could tell. No agenda to speak of, no political garbage, just the simple, real truth.
After the workshop, in my elation for what I’d just heard, I turned to a friend of mine, who was sitting next to me, and said, “Well, that wasn’t bad at all. I honestly thought it would be awful.” “He didn’t say anything he hasn’t said before,” my friend replied. To add to that, he said the talk was pointless. Now, I just so happen to know for a fact that my buddy is an adamant anti-Barron spokesman, mostly for his position on the teaching on Hell. I certainly understand the frustration, I really do. I oppose that teaching, and, for the most part, I don’t listen to Barron anymore because he refuses to amend his heretical view on Hell. But, I also think it’s important to give credit where credit is due.
Bishop Barron correctly identified a problem that we are seeing all too often in today’s Church. Young people are leaving the faith in droves because of popular atheist debaters and scientists like Richard Dawkins or the late Christopher Hitchens (God have mercy on his soul). The problem is very real, and it is something we must address for the sake of the Church. Equally important to calling out heresy, apostasy and false teachings in general, is acknowledging the truths in our fellow man. One of the important factors of apologetic, at least according some, is the ability to find common ground with your counterpart. If we can see eye to eye on something, we can usually build on that. Fortunately for the different Catholics of the world, we have so much in common that it’s not difficult to build on our founding principles and to come to a reasonable understanding of each other.
To clarify, no Catholic should ever compromise on Church teaching… ever. All too often, I experience “a la carte” Christians, Catholics included, who seem to pick and choose what they wish to believe. It comes as no surprise, though, since Sacred Scripture warns:
“…I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires” (2 Timothy 4:1-3)(emphasis added).
We are beautifully bound to the teachings of Mother Church if we intend to remain in good standing as Catholics. Knowing the difference, however, between compromise and common ground is a valuable skill, and one that I intend to exercise as much and as often as possible. In the end, all we have is our God and His Church, and once we learn to defend our faith in love, and to acknowledge truth wherever, and by whomever, it’s said, we can more intimately partake of the penitential life, and imitate the life of Christ.