Monday, April 13, 2015

the church is the solution

Many Catholics - and many more non-Catholics - today seem to believe the Catholic Church is a problem that needs to be solved by the world - that the Church needs to be liberalized, and that it is okay to only abide by the teachings of the Church that are convenient. 

After the events of Triduum and Easter Sunday, I returned to work last week, feeling like I’d been gone for a year. It’s funny how taking even just a few days to dedicate to the things of God can make you feel like even more of a foreigner in the world than you’d felt you were before (even if you spent part of those days corralling high school Confirmation students). 

I felt as if I needed some kind of reintegration plan, though all I wanted to do was leave. 

Warning: "passionate Catholic" rant ahead. 

While making small talk with coworkers before a meeting last Tuesday morning, religion came up in conversation – someone had mentioned something about Easter. Despite the fact that religion is one of those infamous topics everyone is told to avoid discussing at work, the ball started rolling. 

Somehow, Catholicism entered the conversation, and a (non-Catholic) colleague exclaimed, 

“I really like Pope Francis! I didn’t like that guy before him, though.” 

… … Well, thanks for your valuable contribution to the conversation, I thought. I wanted to stay out of this one, but now I have no choice. 

“I really liked Pope Benedict, actually.” I was met with shocked stares of silence. 

“But he didn’t DO anything!” the same colleague asserted. 

Um, seriously? Here we go with the people who know little-to-nothing about the Church telling the Church what the Pope has or hasn’t been doing…

“Besides, the Catholic Church needs to be liberalized,” another non-Catholic coworker piped in, “I mean, really, can we get over the abortion thing already?” (Believe it or not, a man - a husband and father - said this!)

Okay. If this goes much further, it will be all out WAR. Before I could respond, the only other Catholic in the immediate group offered, 

“I agree, the Church needs to be liberalized! You know, I’m Catholic, but I don't agree with all of the Church’s teachings. I just ignore the ones I don’t like.”

Oh. Dear. Lord. Have mercy.

As I was about to respond, the meeting was called to order. The conversation ended as quickly as it had happened, and was probably forgotten by everyone except me. 

I’m used to being the weird one who actually agrees with Church teaching on, well, EVERYTHING. I’ve grown accustomed to the fact that most people – even perhaps most Catholics – don’t understand this. If a colleague asks me what I believe, I will absolutely tell them. But other than wearing a crucifix and keeping some holy cards out in my office, I don’t “advertise,” and I don’t slap people around with my copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I keep that at home, lest I be tempted. ;-)

But this conversation, though certainly not the first of its kind I've been involved in - deeply bothered me. A lack of understanding of the Church is, of course, common among non-Catholics, and although I don’t like it – particularly when non-Catholics think it is appropriate to armchair quarterback the Chair of St. Peter, or criticize an institution that they know so little about, and are often predisposed to dislike – this lack of understanding, I can deal with.

Blatant disregard of Church teaching by Catholics who clearly know Church teaching and are willing to publicly state their dissent, though… That’s hard for me, and it struck a particular nerve given the few days preceding.  

I know it's not easy to follow the teachings of the Church; some are harder than others to embrace. There are some with which I struggled for many years - but God is good, and I eventually learned the goodness, truth, beauty found in the teachings of the Church - and the importance of (much-underrated) obedience. I am certainly not perfect, but I have learned that life is hard enough without challenging God's truths. 

The Catholic Church has been an unchanging barque in the turbulent waters of the world for 2,000 years. She hasn’t sunk, while maintaining a consistent, if unpopular, course – particularly in the realm of teachings on human sexuality, which, at minimum, always seems to underpin the issue at hand. (I could write for WEEKS on this alone.)  

Want to see what happens when churches lack consistency and commitment to their teachings? A shining example (and there are plenty beyond this!) is today's “high church” Protestantism – whether Episcopalian, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, etc… – all have waged internal wars and have splintered over ordaining women or recognizing homosexual unions, or some other such thing to which the Catholic Church has said, and continues to say, “no”.

Consistency.  My God, it is a beautiful thing (and yes, I am addressing that remark to the Lord, not taking his name in vain). I find the Church’s consistency and fidelity to what she deems unchanging truths, beautiful. 
Basically, the principle is that the Church didn’t just make these things up – they are actually God’s ideas – it is the sacred duty of the Church to pass them on to the faithful, and the world.

Without apology to those who know Church teaching and knowingly dissent from it, I offer the following: 

The Church is the solution, not the problem. 
When we dissent from Church teaching on faith and morals, we become the problem, not the solution. 

The Church doesn’t need to liberalize. The Church doesn’t need to change her teachings. They are not hers to change. 

Catholics need to pray. Catholics need to study. Catholics, we need to let God shape us, and learn to do his will, instead of trying to change his Church to fit our will. 

In other words, we need to learn to be Catholic. I know it’s hard for us post-moderns, living in our liberal democratic society to consider anything other than fierce individualism as good – but the Church? It’s not a democracy. It’s not even a Pope-ocracy. It’s a THEOCRACY. 

The Church is not a problem to be solved by the world. The Church is the solution to the problems of the world. 

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