Sunday, June 14, 2015

Catholics Leaving The Church and The Need for Vatican II: Part 2

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In the first part of this post [HERE], I wrote about the crisis in the Catholic Church here in the West in which so many have left the Church in the last 50 years.   No one can point to any one reason for this crisis.  Western society in general has become spiritually and morally depraved, and it is inevitable that the Church has been infected to one degree or another.  But as I pointed out in my post, we need to look at the pre-conciliar Church and how and what was taught to the laity.  I showed that on the local level, the pre-concilar Church taught about  the evil of sin, but not enough about the love and mercy of God.

As a result, many of us were taught an unhealthy fear of a God who must be appeased before he struck us down for stepping out of line in even the slightest way. We never came to really know the great loving and merciful God who created us and poured His Life out on the Cross to save us from death. I was one of those who left in that time, and as I wrote, I left because the Church had become a burden to me. I had come to see God as a bogeyman out to get me. At age 14 I rejected a life of fear as I had come to know it and, like millions of others, that meant rejecting the Catholic Church

It is vital that the Church teach about sin and the consequences thereof, both physical and spiritual. But to discuss sin WITHOUT discussing the love and mercy of God is actually dangerous. This can lead to fundamentalist thinking in which obedience to rules and law is an end in itself, and the love of God and of neighbor is forgotten.

It was from this kind of thinking that much abuse originated in the Catholic Church. In the pre-concilar Church era  it was common to hear about abusive nuns and priests who would slap a child for the slightest, often unintentional infraction. This would at times escalate, and then we had the following as described in an article from TIME Magazine [HERE], regarding the abuse in Irish Catholic schools in the 1950's:
James Quinn and his classmates called it the blackjack — five layers and 18 in. (46 cm) of leather, studded with coins and other metal objects. The priests at the school Quinn attended in rural Ireland in the 1950s each carried a blackjack and used it, along with bamboo rods and other objects, to dole out almost daily beatings to hundreds of children. "Whatever class you went to, you got a beating from whoever was in charge," says Quinn, now 70. "But knowing what other people went through, I know I was one of the lucky ones."

Sadly, there are those who have not learned from the abusive mistakes of the past, and still harshly judge and condemn anyone who doesn't measure up to the "correct" standards.   One poster child for this kind of harsh rhetoric is our old friend, Michael Voris.  Voris feels the way to reach out to the world is by hitting them over the heads with their sins and letting the chips fall where they may, as he told us in a recent Vortex episode in which he was once again condemning the hierarchy of the Church for not blasting sinners:
It isn't enough for a bishop, or priest for that matter, to be a privately orthodox prelate — not in the face of the evil threatening his sheep these days. He must say all that needs to be said. He needs to have the fortitude to stand in front of the sheep and say in no uncertain terms everything they don't want to hear.
He needs to tell them that they have become slaves to the demon of sex, having given up self-control to their animal instincts, no matter how well received they are in polite society. He needs to tell them, thunder at them, that their contraceptive minds are leading them to Hell. He needs to pour himself out, even to the point of his life, to save them from themselves, regardless of what happens.
Voris outlines his approach to those caught up in sin:
First, people need to be directly challenged on a personal level. If you don't say you need to stop contracepting, apologizing for your child's cohabitation, your nephew's gay lifestyle, then everything remains in the realm of the theoretical, the other guy's sin — not mine.
Secondly, the presumption is totally unfounded that if they hang around "feeling" welcomed, then things will turn out OK in the end. Not a shred of evidence to follow that line of thought. If anything, there is a mountain of evidence to the contrary. Bishops have pretty much kept their mouths shut for decades — as many have openly admitted — and people are still leaving in high numbers.
Voris makes it very clear here that he doesn't really care whether people are saved or not.  He just wants to get his message of condemnation out to the world.
Many bishops secretly know this. But they are afraid to say the real deal, because when they do, the real state of affairs will become very clear to them. When they say that, they fear — with good reason and good instincts — that huge numbers of the few that are still lingering around the edges will walk out.
And that's true. There's not a reason in the world to suspect that wouldn't happen. And then, of course, what follows from that is yet another mass wave of parish closings and all that — to which the fearless, truly good bishop would say, "So what?" [????!!!!] It's very sad, but we have to deal with reality. The people who would leave have already left. They don't accept the Church's teachings. They believe only what they want to believe. The rest they ignore. 

Voris actually says that a "good" bishop is one who blasts the laity, and if the laity leave the Church, it's basically good riddance because these people would have left any way.  That is most emphatically NOT what Jesus Christ would do, who said:
If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? (Matthew 18:12)
The message of Michel Voris is that sinners are expendable and should be left to die on the vine. This goes directly against the teaching of Jesus Christ.

How did Jesus Christ approach sinners?
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.  (Matthew 11:28-29)
Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them. (John 7:37-38)
For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.  (John 3:17)
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The motto of the US Marines is "No man left behind."  The motto of Jesus Christ could easily be summed up as "No sinner left behind."

This is where Vatican II comes in.

St. John XXIII outlined the reasons for calling the Council in his opening speech on October 11, 1962.  As he said, this Council was not to clarify doctrine as other councils had done.  He called the bishops together to work toward the best way of presenting God's love and mercy to the world:
At the outset of the Second Vatican Council, it is evident, as always, that the truth of the Lord will remain forever. We see, in fact, as one age succeeds another, that the opinions of men follow one another and exclude each other. And often errors vanish as quickly as they arise, like fog before the sun. The Church has always opposed these errors. Frequently she has condemned them with the greatest severity. Nowadays however, the Spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severityShe consider that she meets the needs of the present day by demonstrating the validity of her teaching rather than by condemnations.
Certainly we must learn what sin is and to avoid it. But we will never find true salvation if we are obeying only out of a sense of duty without an understanding of God's great love for His creation. This was the message of Jesus to the Pharisees. The Pharisees were highly educated in their faith and did all the right things. Their outward actions could not be faulted. And yet Christ condemned them:
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.  (Matthew 23:27-28)
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St. John XXIII saw this in the Catholic Church, and moved by the Holy Spirit, he said that the Church must concentrate on transmitting the love and mercy of God. That is what will change the world.

From St. John XXIII's opening speech to the Council:
That being so, the Catholic Church, raising the torch of religious truth by means of this Ecumenical Council, desires to show herself to be the loving mother of all, benign, patient, full of mercy and goodness toward the brethren who are separated from her. To mankind, oppressed by so many difficulties, the Church says, as Peter said to the poor who begged alms from him: "I have neither gold nor silver, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise and walk" (Acts 3:6).
In other words, the Church does not offer to the men of today riches that pass, nor does she promise them merely earthly happiness. But she distributes to them the goods of divine grace which, raising men to the dignity of sons of God, are the most efficacious safeguards and aids toward a more human life. She opens the fountain of her life-giving doctrine which allows men, enlightened by the light of Christ, to understand well what they really are, what their lofty dignity and their purpose are, and, finally, through her children, she spreads everywhere the fullness of Christian charity, than which nothing is more effective in eradicating the seeds of discord, nothing more efficacious in promoting concord, just peace, and the brotherly unity of all.
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Fifty years later, this is also the message of the current Holy Father, Pope Francis. The following is an excerpt from his announcement of the Year of Mercy [HERE] which begins on December 8, 2015.  It is a short address, but I highly recommend that you read it:
The Sacrament of Reconciliation, in fact, allows us with confidence to draw near to the Father, in order to be certain of His pardon. He really is “rich in mercy” and extends His mercy with abundance over those who turn to Him with a sincere heart. 
To be here in order to experience His love, however, is first of all the fruit of His grace. As the Apostle Paul reminds us, God never ceases to show the richness of His mercy throughout the ages. The transformation of the heart that leads us to confess our sins is “God's gift”, it is “His work” (cf. Eph 2:8-10). To be touched with tenderness by His hand and shaped by His grace allows us, therefore, to approach the priest without fear for our sins, but with the certainty of being welcomed by him in the name of God, and understood notwithstanding our miseries. Coming out of the confessional, we will feel God’s strength, which restores life and returns the enthusiasm of faith.
How different this is from the clinical teaching of the Baltimore Catechism which I discussed in my first post. How different this is from the harsh and condemning rhetoric of those like Michael Voris. As Pope Francis tells us here, it is the "transformation of the heart that leads us to confess our sins". Further, this transformation is not something that we can do our own: it is "God's gift", it is "His Work." Just learning the rules will never change anyone. It may keep us in line and keep us sitting in the pews. But our hearts have not been changed. That is the message of Vatican II. That is the message of Divine Mercy from Jesus Christ through St. Faustina to the world. Just "following the rules" will not produce the fruits of the Holy Spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. True change of heart comes only from the love and mercy of God.

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Pope Francis also tells us in his announcement of the Year of Mercy how we should deal with those entrapped by sin. We will never reach sinners by calling them out and condemning them as Michael Voris exhorts the bishops to do:
The call of Jesus pushes each of us never to stop at the surface of things, especially when we are dealing with a person. We are called to look beyond, to focus on the heart to see how much generosity everyone is capable. No one can be excluded from the mercy of God; everyone knows the way to access it and the Church is the house that welcomes all and refuses no one. Its doors remain wide open, so that those who are touched by grace can find the certainty of forgiveness. The greater the sin, so much the greater must be the love that the Church expresses toward those who convert.
Many have wondered why Pope Francis has not personally said anything about Ireland's rejection of the Catholic Church as seen in their recent vote to legalize same sex marriage.  I believe Pope Francis is very aware of the abuse - both spiritual and physical - suffered by the Irish people at the hands of the Catholic Church.  The Church inflicted terrible wounds upon the Irish.  We are aware of the abuse which happened in the 20th Century.  We can only wonder about the role of the Catholic Church in the lives of the Irish in all of the previous centuries.  The Irish need to heal, and as Pope Francis says here, the Church's role is now to extend love to them, not condemnation.

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Many will say that Voris is right. The Church has gone through a great crisis since Vatican II and people are leaving in great numbers. Yes, it is true that in the West, the Church is getting smaller. But that is because Western culture as a whole has rejected God. ALL religions are suffering in the West.

However, this is not the case for the rest of the world.  An article from CNA [HERE] entitled "Priests needed: As Church growth explodes worldwide, parishes can't keep up" says that the Church is exploding in growth around the world:
The overall finding of the [Vatican] report is that the Church is in the midst of a “dramatic realignment.” It is waning in its historical center of Europe, its growth is slowing in the Americas and Oceania, and it is booming in Asia and Africa.
This forecasts a Catholic shift away from the traditional centers of Europe and the Americas and toward the “Global South,” the mostly-developing parts of the world that include Central and South America, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, Oceania, and much of the Far East.
We are seeing great fruit being borne as the result of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. And expect to see tremendous events in the Year of Mercy as declared by Pope Francis.

Many in the pre-conciliar Church taught that we must first clean up our acts and get rid of all sin and then we will discover the Love of God.  The post-conciliar Church has told us that we must first bring the love and mercy of God to a sinful and broken world.  When people realize that Jesus did not come to condemn them but to bring them peace and salvation, they can open their hearts to Him and He will convert them and bring them out of their sin.

This is not a new message.  This message has actually always been the message of Jesus Christ and His Church.  We see this in all of the great saints of the Church.  They were willing to sacrifice and suffer tremendous hardship in their lives, even martyrdom.  Why?  Because they had come to know a merciful and loving God who would never leave or forsake them.  They did not see God as a taskmaster ready to strike them down but as a loving Father who was constantly pouring His Love out on mankind.

Here is a beautiful article written by Rev. John F. Russell, O.Carm.Seton Hall University [HERE] about one of our greatest saints and a doctor of the Church. St. Therese of Lisieux, who taught the "little way" of love.  This perfectly sums up the message of the post conciliar Church and of our Holy Father, Pope Francis.  Harsh rhetoric and condemnation will not bring God's love to the world.  We must proclaim and live the message of God's mercy and forgiveness.  Only this message will bring true conversion:
St. Therese believed that the people of her time lived in too great fear of Gods judgment. The fear was stifling and did not allow people to experience the freedom of the children of God. St. Therese knew from her life that God is merciful love; many scripture passages in the Old and New Testaments bore out that truth. She loved the maternal images for God in the Old Testament and the love of God for us in Jesus Christ. In fact, St. Therese once wrote that she could not understand how anyone could be afraid of a God who became a child. She also knew that she would never be perfect. Therefore, she went to God as a child approaches a parent with open arms and a profound trust.
St. Therese translated "the little way" in terms of a commitment to the tasks and to the people we meet in our everyday lives. She took her assignments in the convent of Lisieux as ways of manifesting her love for God and for others. She worked as a sacristan by taking care of the altar and the chapel; she served in the refectory and in the laundry room; she wrote plays for the entertainment of the community. Above all, she tried to show a love for all the nuns in the community. She played no favorites; she gave of herself even to the difficult members. Her life sounds so routine and ordinary, but it was steeped in a loving commitment that knew no breakdown. It is called a little way precisely by being simple, direct, yet calling for amazing fortitude and commitment.
In living out her life of faith she sensed that everything that she was able to accomplish came from a generous love of God in her life. She was convinced that at the end of her life she would go to God with empty hands. Why? Because all was accomplished in union with God.
Catholics and other Christians have been attracted to St. Thereses style. Her little way seems to put holiness of life within the reach of ordinary people. Live out your days with confidence in Gods love for you. Recognize that each day is a gift in which your life can make a difference by the way you choose to live it. Put hope in a future in which God will be all and love will consume your spirit. Choose life, not the darkness of pettiness and greed. St. Therese knew the difference love makes by allowing love to be the statement she made each day of her life.

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1 comment:

  1. An absolutely beautiful post. Thank you so very much :)

    ReplyDelete

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