Sunday, October 21, 2012

Stop Blaming the Bishops

A Pew survey was recently done which found that for the first time in our history, Protestantism is no longer the majority religion in the United States.  The fastest growing religion in our county is the "unaffiliated", which includes those who identify themselves as atheist, agnostic and "nothing in particular."   This study found that "about 20 percent of Americans say they have no religious affiliation, an increase from 15 percent in the past five years."

For years we have heard people say, "I'm spiritual, but not religious."  I personally think that's a cop out, but at least it showed a belief in some sort of God.  Now even that pretense is being dropped by a growing number of people:  "In 2007, 60 percent of people who said they seldom or never attend religious services still identified themselves as part of a particular religious tradition. In 2012, that statistic fell to 50 percent, according to the Pew report."

Below is a chart showing the breakdown in religious beliefs in the United States, and how it has profoundly changed in the past five years.  As you can can see, Christian belief in general has gone down 5%, equaling the drop in Protestant affiliation.  Catholics have dropped 1%.  The "unaffiliated" have risen steadily over the last five years, from 15.3% to now just under 20%.  That means 1 in 5 Americans have no religious belief, nothing to guide them morally.   It is then only logical that "Pew found Americans with no religion support abortion rights and gay marriage at a much higher-rate than the U.S. public at large."  And we wonder why society's morals are in the toilet?

And according to this study, the future does not look promising:
More growth in “nones” is expected. One-third of adults under age 30 have no religious affiliation, compared with 9 percent of people 65 and older. Pew researchers wrote that “young adults today are much more likely to be unaffiliated than previous generations were at a similar stage in their lives,” and aren’t expected to become more religiously active as they age.

Even more frightening, as seen in the chart below, is the fact that among the "nones", those who have no religious affiliation, 88% are not even looking for something to believe in. 

How did the United States, a nation's whose founding documents say that we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights come to the point where so many not only don't believe in God, they aren't even looking for Him?

The answer can be found in the crisis of faith in the Catholic Church.

Symbol of the Catholic
Church showing the Keys
given to Peter
The Catholic Church is the one and only church founded by Jesus Christ  It is the only one to whom the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven were given.  All other religions were founded by men.  Only one was founded by our Creator and Redeemer.

All truth and light comes into the world through that one Church founded by Jesus Christ.  As Christ told us in John 15:5, "I am the vine: you the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing."  As our Lord also told us in John 8:11, "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me, walketh not in darkness, but shall have the light of life." Since Christ has only one church, if we are to walk in the light and bear fruit, we must be a part of that church in some way.

Walking in darkness
But what happens when those who are a part of that one true Church, which is the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, turn their backs on the Truth and Light?  What happens when large parts of the Mystical Body of Christ fall off the cliff and buy into the pluralism that is plaguing the world, a pluralism that says one belief is as good as another?  Our Lord told us in John 6:22-23:   "The light of thy body is thy eye. If thy eye be single [that is, unified], thy whole body shall be lightsome. But if thy eye be evil thy whole body shall be darksome. If then the light that is in thee, be darkness: the darkness itself how great shall it be!"  Vast numbers of the Catholic Church are no longer single or unified with the Magesterium, and much of the light given by the Church has become darkness, leaving the world in darkness.

The question is, what has caused this lack of unity?

I have done a lot of posts on this blog about the many priests, bishops and religious who have seemingly turned their backs on Church teaching and the Magesterium, from allowing pro-abortion Catholic politicians to receive communion, to accepting and in some cases actually promoting homosexuality, to allowing and even committing abuses in the Mass, to name just a couple of offenses.  As seen in the picture of the "nuns on the bus," far too many of the clergy and religious in the Church seem more concerned about the physical salvation of the world than about the salvation of souls.

Seeing this, many of us are quick to get on our high horse and point the finger at these priests and bishops, and some even dare to condemn our Holy Father, for this crisis of faith in the Church.  We say they just don't teach the faith anymore, never bringing up the important issues of the day such as abortion and homosexuality. They are poor examples of what it means to be Catholic.  We say the priests are not being properly taught in the seminaries, and it is their fault that the laity are not being properly catechized.  And, of course, the horrific sex abuse scandal in the church is always thrown out to undermine the authority of the bishops  But is it right to lay all the blame for the crisis of faith in the Church at the feet of the bishops and the Holy Father?

I recently came across the following quote:
Oh, what terrible harm, what terrible harm is wrought in religious (I am referring now as much to men as to women) when the religious life is not properly observed; when of the two paths that can be followed in a religious house -- one leading to virtue and the observance of the Rule and the other leading away from the Rule --  both are frequented almost equally! No, I am wrong: they are not frequented equally, for our sins cause the more imperfect road to be more commonly taken; being the broader, it is the more generally favoured. The way of true religion is frequented so little that, if the friar and the nun are to begin to follow their vocation truly, they need to be more afraid of the religious in their own house than of all the devils. They must observe greater caution and dissimulation when speaking of the friendship which they would have with God than in speaking of other friendships and affections promoted in religious houses by the devil. I cannot think why we should be astonished at all the evils which exist in the Church, when those who ought to be models on which all may pattern their virtues are annulling the work wrought in the religious Orders by the spirit of the saints of old. May His Divine Majesty be pleased to find a remedy for this, as He sees needful. Amen
Pretty scathing words, don't you think?  This pretty well describes the root of the crisis in the Church, right?  I think most of us would nod our heads in agreement that this is an apt description of the present crisis in the church. 

St. Teresa of Avila
It might surprise you to learn that these words are from the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila written in the 16th Century. The truth is that there has always been a crisis of faith among the clergy and religious in the Church to one degree or another.  Almost all heresies have started among the clergy.  One of the very greatest of the heresies in church history - Protestantism - was started by a priest, Martin Luther.  When King Henry VIII declared himself supreme head of the Church of England, all of the Catholic bishops with one exception - St. John Fisher - assented.  When Pope Pius X spoke out and wrote against the heresy of modernism, this spiritual disease was found mainly among the clergy, not among the laity.

There has always been a greater or lesser crisis of faith among the clergy and religious. just recently gave us these quotes from St. John Chrysostom, who lived in the Fourth Century:
“The road to Hell is paved with the bones of priests and monks, and the skulls of bishops are the lamp posts that light the path.”

“The road to hell is paved with the skulls of erring priests, with bishops as their signposts.”

“I do not think there are many among Bishops that will be saved, but many more that perish.”
So what is the difference today?  If it is true that the clergy and religious have always been somewhat off the rails in the church, why does the crisis in the Church seem so much worse at our time?

The Church has never at any time seen such a major crisis of faith among the laity as seen today.  Bad priests, bad bishops, even bad popes have come and gone, but the laity have always remained strong in the church.  The laity with their faith and devotion have always been the ones to hold up the clergy.  But now that base is crumbling before our eyes in a way never seen before.

The Holy Father recently announced the Year of Faith, which began on October 11, as an attempt to get Catholics to learn their faith, of which so many Catholics are blatantly ignorant.  To quote Pope Benedict XVI from a public audience given on October 17, “Christians today often do not even know the central core of their Catholic faith.”  Among those who identify themselves as Catholics in the US, only about 20% attend weekly Mass.  They rarely go to Confession, they pick and choose which teachings of the Church they will accept, e.g. contraception and abortion.  54% of Catholics voted for pro-abortion Barack Obama in 2008, and while the number is somewhat lower in 2012, there are still over 40% of Catholics supporting Obama.

And yet these same Catholics, ignorant of their faith and more times than not unaccepting of the little they do know of what the Church teaches, are some of the most vocal opponents to the bishops.  We are not hearing one unified voice in the Church but a cacophony of voices, each trying to yell louder and drown out all the others. Far too many of us are not seeking God's will but our own.  When we see something we disagree with, we don't deal with it in prayer and ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Instead, we yell and protest to show our dissatisfaction.  We look for the approval and guidance of the world, and the light of the Church grows ever dimmer while the darkness engulfs us.

It is interesting to look back on Church history and see how the church reacted when challenged with a crisis of some kind.  An absolutely wonderful movie came out this last summer about the horrendous oppression of the Catholic Church in Mexico in the 1920's called, "For Greater Glory."  This movie told the story of the Catholic Church's fight against the Masonic Mexican government's attempt to destroy the Church.   The bishops in Mexico alone could not have withstood this assault on the Church.  The laity, who called themselves Cristeros, took it upon themselves to literally fight for their church.  The cry of the Cristeros was "Viva Cristo Rey". which means "Long Live Christ the King."  They fought long and hard, willing to spill their blood and die for their Church and their beliefs.  They put down their weapons only when they were told to do so by the Vatican, and the government then betrayed them by continuing the persecution.  They paid a heavy price.  According to Wikipedia:
On 27 June 1929, the church bells rang in Mexico for the first time in almost three years. The war had claimed the lives of some 90,000 people: 56,882 on the federal side, 30,000 Cristeros, and numerous civilians and Cristeros who were killed in anticlerical raids after the war ended. As promised by Portes Gil, the Calles Law remained on the books, but no organized federal attempts to enforce it took place. Nonetheless, in several localities, officials continued persecution of Catholic priests based on their interpretation of the law. In 1992, the Mexican government amended the constitution by granting all religious groups legal status, conceding them limited property rights and lifting restrictions on the number of priests in the country.
There are many, many amazing stories of devotion and heroism among the Cristeros.  One of those stories is  is that of 14-year Blessed Jose Luis Sanchez Del Rio, who was captured and tortured by the Mexican government in an attempt to force him to renounce Catholicism.  Again, from Wikipedia:
José's killing was witnessed by two childhood friends. One of those friends, Father Marcial Maciel, reported in a book he later authored that José was "captured by government forces," who ordered him to "renounce his faith in Christ, under threat of death. He refused to accept apostasy".

Father Maciel recalled the gruesome events that transpired after the government's failure to break José's resolve on the evening of February 10, 1928: "Consequently they cut the bottom of his feet and obliged him to walk around the town toward the cemetery. They also at times cut him with a machete until he was bleeding from several wounds. He cried and moaned with pain, but he did not give in. At times they stopped him and said, 'If you shout, "Death to Christ the King" we will spare your life.' José would only shout, 'I will never give in. Viva Cristo Rey!'" When they reached the place of execution, his captors stabbed him numerous times with bayonets. The commander was so furious that he pulled out his pistol and shot José. Moments before his death, the boy drew a cross in the dirt and kissed it.
Blessed Jose Luis Sanchez Del Rio and all the thousands of other Cristeros who died while protecting their church were a great inspiration then and continue so to this day, especially now when we face religious persecution right here in the United States.  I have previously quoted the Venerable Fulton Sheen:
Who is going to save our Church? Not our bishops and religious. It is to you, the people (LAITY). You have the minds, the eyes, the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that your priests act as priests, your bishops like bishops, and your religious act like religious.
Venerable Fulton Sheen
Archbishop Fulton Sheen, that great and holy voice of the Catholic Church in the 20th Century, has told us in one sentence both the root of the crisis of faith and the solution.  A 14-year old Mexican martyr holds the key to our problems.

Many in the church, especially among so-called "traditional" Catholics (of which I would include myself), tend to point our fingers at the bishops and priests and say it's all their fault. They're all a bunch of liberals who are trying to undermine the church.  But as I have shown, this is nothing new in the Church.  The priests and bishops are on the spiritual front line, directly in the line of fire of our enemies, and sometimes they become casualties.  But that is all the more reason why we need to stand behind and support them.  Just as the bishops alone could could not withstand the onslaught of the Mexican government in the 1920's, so the bishops and priests cannot stand up alone against the evil infecting our world today.  Our Lord made us one Body, dependent upon each other.  "A house divided cannot stand."

There is an old saying that when you point a finger at someone, you have three fingers pointing back at you.  It is our responsibility as the laity to hold the bishops and priests accountable for their actions and words, but the only way we can do that is to be sure that we ourselves are in line with the teaching of the Church.  We need to listen and take to heart the message of our Holy Father in this year of faith and learn the basic dogmas of the church.  We need to turn off the world and open our hearts and minds to the Holy Spirit, our Blessed Mother, the saints and angels - all of the many helps and guidance given to us by Holy Mother Church.

You will see this blog continue to hold the clergy and religious accountable for their actions.  As Bishop Sheen told us, that is our responsibility as the laity of the Church. But I hope that I will always do this in a prayerful and respectful attitude, one that is intending to build up, not tear down, shed light not darkness, and one that will always be in line with Catholic dogma.

The world is drowning today in misery and evil.  We see it everywhere we look.  I honestly don't know how the world can hold all of its misery.  And now we are seeing the death of Christianity right here in the United States.  Our Lord has told us that we are the light of the world, and a city set on a hill.  We who have received the great gift of the Holy Spirit in baptism have a responsibility to bring that faith to the rest of the world.  Our Lord gave His Life to save the world.  We must be willing to do the same, and we must stay unified with the Body of Christ to do this.  We must be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Below is a video of interviews with surviving Cristeros who tell of the war against the Mexican government.  Their strong faith and devotion is evident all these many years later.  There is much we can learn from them.

Pray for us, Blessed Jose Luis Sanchez Del Rio.  Viva Cristo Rey!


  1. I agree with everything in this article, save one small item: It is not only the sexual teachings of the Church that cafeteria catholics reject, though that is common on the left. The right also have many cafeteria catholics that reject the fiscal and penal teachings of the Church.

    And while I've heard the word marriage from the pulpit several times, abortion a couple of times, and contraception not at all; likewise I've heard the unemployed and underemployed mentioned a lot, alms very little, and usury not at all.

    Orthodoxy is a sword that cuts both ways.

  2. "Priests and bishops are on the spiritual front line, directly in the line of fire of our enemies, and sometimes they become casualties."

    Well, a lot of them aren't on the "spiritual front line." A lot of them are so infatuated with power, prestige and wealth that they have forgotten Christ's mandate to serve. That's not a recent problem, btw; that's been a part of Church history for centuries.

    "It is our responsibility as the laity to hold the bishops and priests accountable for their actions and words..."

    And what happened when good Catholics tried to do that when the clerical sex-abuse crisis broke? They got denials, threats and obfuscation from the chanceries.

    Read anything written by Malachi Martin about the state of the Church. It's far, far worse than you suppose.

    BTW, Theodore, when you talk about the Church's "penal teachings," are you referring to capital punishment? If you are, then you should know that the effectively abolitionist stance instigated by Pope John Paul II and continued by Pope Benedict has no basis either in Scripture or Tradition. It's nothing but arbitrary theological revisionism.

    Don't believe me? Read the following:

    1. I understand your frustration with many of the bishops. If you look through this blog, you will see many posts expressing my disappointment with bishops and priests. But then I have to ask myself, what I am doing about it? Am I just sitting around and criticizing? The bishops, by the very nature of their office, are on the spiritual front line whether they choose to be or not. They are the "generals" in the spiritual war in which we are all engaged. They take a lot of hits for us. We need to hold them accountable for their sake and for the sake of the Church when they fall down on the job, but we also need to be praying for them and supporting them in any positive way we can.

      BTW, I love the late Fr. Malachi Martin.

  3. Time to celebrate the death of superstition, fear, and absurd imaginary bondage to a figment!


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