Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Real Cause of the Crisis In the Church

Why are there so many fallen away Catholics? Why have people stopped attending Mass? When I was a kid back in the 60's, we would have Sunday Mass starting at 6:00 a.m. and every hour to hour and a half until 12:00. And the Masses were packed. The later Masses were standing room only. There was five to six priests on average for each parish. There was Catholic schools packed with teaching nuns and up to 50 kids in every class.

The faith sure seemed more vibrant 50 to 60 years ago. But was it really? What was really driving these Catholics?

From one who lived during those times, I can tell you that the main motivation was fear. Many priests and nuns were nothing more than tyrants. We either saw or were actually beaten by some of these nuns and priests. We remember being afraid to go to confession because we knew Father would just yell at us and tell us how terrible we are.

The poster child for mean religious is Ireland, once the most *Catholic* of all countries. For far too many Irish Catholics, the Church did not mean the love, mercy and forgiveness of God. It meant only fear and oppression. It is estimated 100,000 girls were kept as virtual slaves in laundries run by nuns, and of course there is the terrible legacy of physical and sexual abuse of both boys and girls by priests. Many Irish Catholics practiced their faith not out of love of God but out of fear.

Magdalene Laundry in Ireland
Yet, despite the sad, abusive legacy of the Church in many parts of the world, a common explanation as to why so many Catholics have stopped practicing their religion is that they have not been taught their faith.  The whole problem with fallen-away Catholics has to do with proper Catechesis.

This was espoused by one of the heroes of Catholic Conservatives/Traditionalists, Cardinal Raymond Burke, in this interview quoted by
We as Catholics have not properly combatted [evils of the world] because we have not been taught our Catholic Faith, especially in the depth needed to address these grave evils of our time.  This is a failure of catechesis both of children and young people that has been going on for fifty years. 
In an interview from The Wanderer,  Cardinal Burke also faults badly celebrated Liturgy as a cause of the crisis in the Church:
The Sacred Liturgy is absolutely the first act of the New Evangelization. Unless we worship God in spirit and in truth, unless we celebrate the Sacred Liturgy with the greatest possible faith in God and faith in the divine action which takes place in Holy Mass, we are not going to have the inspiration and the grace to carry out the New Evangelization.
Many also say that we need really hard hitting sermons at Sunday Mass about sin and hell. If priests would just let the people have it and tell them their sins, then people would come flocking back to the Church on their knees, devoting their lives to God.

Or we need to get rid of the "wimpy music" and "feminization" of the liturgy.  Then, too, there is reception of communion in the hand rather than on the tongue that is destroying people's faith.  And everyone knows the world started on the road to hell when the nuns stopped wearing habits and went to street clothes.  The Traditionalists. of course, sum it all up by saying we need to get rid of the "Novus Ordo" and have only Tridentine Masses. "Save the Liturgy, Save the World." Father Z has made lots of money on that one.

But are all of the above-stated reasons causes for fallen-away Catholics, or are they symptoms of a deeper cause?  

I think it is important to understand what motivates people in the first place to repent and turn to God, surrendering all to Him and allowing Him to work in us.  What is the common denominator among saints?  We have saints ranging from the brilliant St. Thomas Aquinas to St. Bernadette who flunked out of Catechism class.  We have saints like St. Therese of Lisieux who never committed a single mortal sin to St. Augustine, who lived a debauched, immoral life.  The very first conversion - the good thief on the cross next to Jesus - died within a couple of hours of his conversion.  He did not know the first thing about dogma, never attended Mass, didn't hear one sermon, never did any of the things that so many say are necessary to keep the faith.  All he did was say to Jesus, "Remember me when you come into your kingdom."  Presto!  He was saved.  

So what do all of these vastly different people have in common?  What is the one thing that you can say is true for all of them?  It was the heartfelt and unwavering recognition of their sinfulness and the further recognition of the great mercy and love of God.  They all acknowledged their utter inability to overcome sin on their own.  They knew that, apart from God, there was nothing in them that was worth saving.  

We are told that St. Bernadette's last words were, 
"Blessed Mary, Mother of God, pray for me. A poor sinner, a poor sinner."  
Part of St. Thomas Aquinas' prayer after communion:
I thank You, Lord, Almighty Father, Everlasting God, for having been pleased, through no merit of mine, but of Your great mercy alone, to feed me, a sinner, and Your unworthy servant, with the precious Body and Blood of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. 
St. Augustine:
“Who am I? What kind of man am I? What evil have I not done? Or if there is evil that I have not done, what evil is there that I have not spoken? If there is any that I have not spoken, what evil is there that I have not willed to do?”
St. Therese of Lisieux was told by her confessor:
Before God, the Blessed Virgin, and Angels, and all the Saints, I declare that you have never committed a mortal sin. Thank God for the favours He has so freely bestowed on you without any merit on your part
St. Therese later reflects on this:
It is not because I have been preserved from mortal sin that I lift up my heart to God in trust and love. I feel that even had I on my conscience every crime one could commit, I should lose nothing of my confidence: my heart broken with sorrow, I would throw myself into the Arms of my Saviour. I know that He loves the Prodigal Son, I have heard His words to St. Mary Magdalen, to the woman taken in adultery, and to the woman of Samaria. No one could frighten me, for I know what to believe concerning His Mercy and His Love. And I know that all that multitude of sins would disappear in an instant, even as a drop of water cast into a flaming furnace 
These sentiments by St. Therese contain the answer to the crisis of non-practicing Catholics.  We can become saints only when we recognize our sinfulness and our utter inability to overcome our sin apart from God.  To look honestly at yourself and recognize your sin is to sink into desolation and hopelessness.  It is being told that you have an inoperable, untreatable disease, and you are going to die, and even worse, you deserve to die because you did it to yourself.  But then we look at Christ on the Cross, our Creator who poured out His Precious Blood for us to wipe away our sin and bring us into an loving and eternal relationship with Him.  It is this motivation that drives people to completely give their lives to God, even to the point of martyrdom.

The stereotypical answers given above - bad catechesis, bad liturgy, weak sermons, communion in the hand - none of these make any difference in the life of who who truly loves God.  Are these things important?  Absolutely they are.  But obedience, learning the faith, devout participation at Mass are not the cause of conversion but the result of it.  We are saved only through the Cross of Jesus Christ, which brings us to acknowledgement and repentance of our sin.  Physical actions - no matter how outwardly reverent - and intellectual understanding of the faith - even if we can recite the Catechism and the Bible by memory - will not convert a single soul.

Acknowledgement and repentance of our sins and the loving, merciful and forgiving response of Our Lord is the only path to conversion.

Why do we have bad liturgy?  Because the people do not recognize they are in the presence of their Creator and Savior.  Why are they unaware of the reality of the Mass?  Because they don't know they are sinners in need of a Savior.  Why do people leave the Church?  Because they don't know they NEED the Church.

Why do we have bad priests?  Because they do not recognize their sinfulness and have no fear of God.  They know their religion.  They spent years in seminary learning their religion.  But they don't know who they are!

How was the good thief on the cross next to Jesus able to recognize his sin and repent?  Because he first saw the great love and mercy of Jesus Christ.  He saw our Lord being abused and tortured, punished for crimes he didn't commit, and not only did Jesus not condemn the people, he prayed for them and spoke words of compassion and forgiveness!   When the good thief realized he was in the presence of perfect Love, he was then able to see himself for what he was and how desperately he needed a Savior.  It was this perfect act of contrition that saved his soul.

This is the message of Our Holy Father, Pope Francis.  Here are just a few quotes from His Holiness:
It is not easy to entrust oneself to God's mercy, because it is an abyss beyond our comprehension. But we must! ... "Oh, I am a great sinner!" "All the better! Go to Jesus: He likes you to tell him these things!" He forgets, He has a very special capacity for forgetting. He forgets, He kisses you, He embraces you and He simply says to you: "Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more" (Jn 8:11).
— Homily on March 17, 2013
Jesus' attitude is striking: we do not hear the words of scorn, we do not hear words of condemnation, but only words of love, of mercy, which are an invitation to conversation. "Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again." Ah! Brothers and Sisters, God's face is the face of a merciful father who is always patient. Have you thought about God's patience, the patience He has with each one of us? That is His mercy. He always has patience, patience with us, He understands us, He waits for us, He does not tire of forgiving us if we are able to return to Him with a contrite heart. "Great is God's mercy," says the Psalm.
— Angelus on March 17, 2013
God's mercy can make even the driest land become a garden, can restore life to dry bones (cf. Ez 37:1-14). ... Let us be renewed by God's mercy, let us be loved by Jesus, let us enable the power of his love to transform our lives too; and let us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish.
— Easter Urbi et Orbi message on March 31, 2013
In today's Gospel, the Apostle Thomas personally experiences this mercy of God. ... Thomas does not believe it when the other Apostles tell him: "We have seen the Lord." ... And how does Jesus react? With patience: Jesus does not abandon Thomas in his stubborn unbelief ... He does not close the door, He waits. And Thomas acknowledges his own poverty, his little faith. "My Lord and my God!": with this simple yet faith-filled invocation, he responds to Jesus' patience. He lets himself be enveloped by Divine Mercy; he sees it before his eyes, in the wounds of Christ's hands and feet and in His open side, and he discovers trust.
— Homily on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 7, 2013

All of us have an emptiness we carry around inside. As St. Augustine said, "Our hearts are restless till they find rest in You." Our job is to lead people to the only thing that will fill that emptiness and restlessness, and that is Jesus Christ. Will we do it by giving them rules to obey? Will we do it by entertaining them with beautiful liturgy if they don't understand the meaning of that liturgy, that it is all about Christ's sacrifice that erases our sins? Does receiving on the tongue somehow help us to understand the mercy of God? Does a nun wearing a habit instead of street clothes explain my sinfulness and the mercy of God?

I go to Mass every day. Why? Because I think I should, or because it makes me somehow better than everyone else? No, I go because I want to go. I realize what a worthless sinner I am, but I know that my salvation is at the Mass. The One who loves me better than I can love myself is at the Mass, and I want to be with Him. And for me, the more simple the Mass, the better, because I am not distracted by everything going on around me. I can truly pray and be that much closer to my Savior.

A person who has come to a true awareness of his sin and the mercy of God wants to learn as much about his faith as he can because that will bring him closer to his Savior. A person who has received forgiveness will strive to obey God in any way possible, and greatly mourn each sin no matter how "little" it may be because he knows that all sin separates us from God.

When we are aware of our sinfulness and the mercy of God which forgives that sin, we will not judge other people because we know that we are as great of a sinner and probably more than they are. When we realize that we have received unmerited forgiveness from God, we are compelled to pass on that love and forgiveness to others. When we are accused and reviled in any way, even and most especially falsely, we actually rejoice because we are sharing in the suffering of Our Lord who brought salvation to the world through that suffering.

Cardinal Raymond Burke and others are wrong when they say if we just *do* the right things, we will somehow become the *right* people. Our actions mean nothing if the right motivation, namely love of God and love of neighbor, is not there:
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. [I Cor. 13:1-4]
Our Lord also warned of this
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’  [Mt. 7:21-23]
Jesus makes it very plain that we must "do the will of the Father."  What is that will?  Jesus summed up the will of the Father in Matthew 22:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
So although our specific actions are important, the most important factor is our motivation.  And the only motivation that really counts is love - love towards God and love towards neighbor.


  1. CIB<<<Why do we have bad liturgy? Because the people do not recognize they are in the presence of their Creator and Savior. Why are they unaware of the reality of the Mass? Because they don't know they are sinners in need of a Savior. Why do people leave the Church? Because they don't know they NEED the Church. <<<<

    Dear CIB,

    I agree with *most* of what you posted. But...You paint a very dark picture of the pre-consular Church. Unless you want to paint all of the Church's history in the same dark color, don't you need to at least point to some point where the Good Church went bad? I've been listening lately to some of Michael Davies' (RIP) and Charles Coulombe's lectures on youtube lately. Both of them are of the mindset that the problems we now see were already present in the 50's Church, i.e. there were many scoundrels hiding out, biding their time. By scoundrels, I am referring to clerics who loved the good life the Church provided them but who did't really accept Catholic Faith and/or morality.

    Do you think the Church ever had it right before Francis? or are you saying that the scary, hypocritical Church of your childhood (which you described) was pretty much the rule before him? I ask in sincerity.

    1. The Church has always had it right. The writing of the saints tell us that. The fact that the Church has survived down through the centuries, The teachings of the Church. The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ - how could she ever be wrong? I am talking about individuals in the Church who had it wrong. These are individuals who obviously never came to a true awareness of their sins and the great mercy of God.

      I was just reading recently that our sins affect not just us but the entire world. Ireland is a prime example. The sins of the nuns and priests there destroyed not just their faith but that of so many others so that Ireland, once so Catholic, has actually become apostate in so many ways.

      But I take hope in that most beautiful verse in the Bible that says where sin abounds, grace does much more abound. And I believe that is the message of Pope Francis. The Mercy of God can never be defeated. We see that on the Cross.

    2. CIB>>>>What was really driving these Catholics?
      From one who lived during those times, I can tell you that the main motivation was fear....For far too many Irish Catholics, the Church did not mean the love, mercy and forgiveness of God. It meant only fear and oppression...despite the sad, abusive legacy of the Church in many parts of the world,....<<<

      Dear CIB,

      I don't see your statements above jiving with you telling me "the Church has always had it right". Seems like you think the Church had it way wrong back in the 60s. (and you seem to imply that with Pope Francis, the Church finally has it right).

      It is kind of ironic that His Holiness --hailed for not judging any sexual sins-- is very judgmental towards "creed-reciting parrot Christians", "rosary counters", "Catholics that breed like rabbits". Sadly, it looks to me like his judgmental attitude rubs off on those who are fans of his. They look down their noses and feel free to pass their own judgments on whole classes and generations of believing Catholics.

    3. You are determined to find fault with my statements, and with Pope Francis, so there really isn't much I can say. Your comments here reflect the same attitude that you have shown in previous comments - you have very specific ideas about the way things should be, and if something or someone doesn't conform to your ideas, you do not stop to reflect on whether you might be wrong but instead make immediate judgments on the other person.

      There is little doubt in my mind that you would have rejected Jesus Christ for hanging out with sinners and showing them mercy and compassion. Your idea is to point out people's sins in a judgmental manner and iif they don't immediately conform to your ideas, they should be judged and condemned. Yet the only ones Our Lord ever publicly condemned were religious people. Why do you think that is?

      Unless and until you can answer that question, you will never understand Divine Mercy, and you may be cutting yourself off from that same Divine Mercy which is so vital to salvation.

      It must be so hard to be Catholic and hate the Holy Father.

    4. << Have you nothing to say about that?<<<

      Dear Lady,

      I think that the first sentence of my first comment was a virtual pat on the back for most of your post. I apologize if it wasn't sufficiently big.

      You are correct in intuiting that I don't see Francis as the greatest Pope ever. Great popes do their homework. Our current one doesn't seem to have read, let alone absorbed, much of what his predecessors have written. Otherwise he wouldn't be thinking that he has the authority change Catholic teaching on things like divorce or homosexuality or the heresy of indifferentism.

      We have had our share of lackluster and even evil popes. I don't believe there's anything uncatholic in believing that.

      As to me not understandingGod's mercy, you are 'spot on'. 'no angel of the sky can fully bear that sight!'. I doubt I will never comprehend it!

      I think we both should pray for one another.

    5. I deleted my comment because I realized that you had written you agreed with most of what I wrote. I apologize.

      Many, many *traditional* Catholics despised Pope St John Paul II as much as you and many others despise Pope Francis. Now, of course, John Paul II is a saint, and these same people who adamantly opposed his papacy and canonization now laud him as a great defender of the truth.

      I state unequivocally and without apology that Pope Francis is one of the holiest men to sit in the Chair of Peter, and that is without denigrating any of his predecessors. You mention his statement about *rosary counters*. Are you aware that Pope Francis, despite his busy schedule, says three rosaries every day? How many do you say? Do you know he spends an hour in adoration every day? How much time do you spend in adoration? He constantly pushes the Sacrament of Confession, giving us the public example of going to confession, and speaks often of hell. I have given just a couple of the many, many, statements he has made about the love and mercy of God, doing all he can to draw people to the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

      One day, Kneeling Catholic, you will eat your words of condemnation of Pope Francis.

  2. Dear CIB,

    First of all I wish you a happy and blessed Easter!

    2nd and lastly, I wish you would reconsider some of your statements about me despising or hating or condemning the Holy Father. I do pray for him often. Perhaps I have actually written something that leads you to jump to the conclusion that I hate him? Anything in particular?

    I don't think I am required to listen to his name-calling and conclude that he is non-judgmental. You are right that our Lord condemned many religious people. But weren't most of those people religious leaders? The examples I gave were where Francis has focused his scorn on the laity, as in where he ridiculed the Argentinians who greeted his election with a bouquet of rosaries.

    >>>but it concerns me; when I was elected, I received a letter from one of these groups, and they said: “Your Holiness, we offer you this spiritual treasure: 3,525 rosaries.” Why don’t they say, “we pray for you, we ask…”, but this thing of counting… And these groups return to practices and to disciplines that I lived through – not you, because you are not old – to disciplines, to things that in that moment took place, but not now, they do not exist today<<<

    How does the above not contradict Francis self-avowed devotion to the Rosary? Where is he telling us how he really feels? That's a good question.

    1. You really don't understand what *Pope* Francis was saying (you don't like to address him as Pope, do you)? As I wrote, Pope Francis has a great devotion to the rosary. He says he was inspired to say three rosaries every day by Pope John Paul II. And certainly he loves our Blessed Mother, having dedicated his papacy to her, and even bringing the statue of Fatima to Rome to consecrate the world.

      If you honestly don't know what Pope Francis was talking about when he says "counting rosaries", then it will do no good for me to explain it to you. But I will give it a try, anyway. Although I know you won't accept it.

      Counting rosaries is very legalistic. For anyone to say the exact number of rosaries they prayed (3,525?? Really????) is the same as the Pharisee who said see how good I am, I fast twice a week, I tithe, I do all these great things. The publican didn't even feel worthy enough to lift his head, but could only say, I am a sinner. As Jesus said, who do you think came away justified?

      This really is the point of my post - being holy is not about what you DO. It is about who you ARE. Far too many people think that if they DO the right things, they will BE the right people It's just the opposite. Change is from inside out.

      Think about it.

      Again, I will state, Pope Francis (and it would be nice for you to address him with respect) is one of the holiest men to ever sit on the Chair of Peter.

  3. Dear Lady!

    What in the world? You now have a rule that I must refer to Francis as Pope Francis every single time I refer to him? I don't not do that for Benedict XVI, nor Leo XIII nor the sainted Pius X. In this string, I have referred to Francis as: Pope Francis, His Holiness, Holy Father... You are only seeing what you want to see, ignoring what doesn't fit into your narrative.

    regarding counting rosaries:
    I can't understand you to be saying anything other than when the Pope counts the rosaries he prays every day and tells us about them....that's not legalism. When the laity do it it is. That is a contradiction. Counting is counting. If the Holy Father is against counting Hail Marys, I'm curious as to what method he uses to know when to say his Glory Bes!!!

    1. I am not answering any more of your questions because you are not looking for answers, but only an argument. Please see my quote above from St. Therese.

      God bless.

  4. Catholic in Brooklyn, what do you think would happen if Cardinal Raymond Burke were to be elected pope?

    1. He would try to take the Church back to 1955. Would probably get rid of the *Novus Ordo* Mass.

      It is not something I want to even contemplate. It would be a Church of rules, and you either conform or burn in hell. Mercy would be thrown out the window.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Catholic in Brooklyn, do you have any suggestions on how to criticize members of the Church hierarchy WITHOUT violating Canon 1373? Check out the following URL:

  6. Catholic in Brooklyn, are you by any means familiar with a "Days of our Lives" character from the late '90s known as Sister Mary Moira Banks? Check out the following URL:

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. I don't believe that the Good Thief on the cross was the first convert. What about St. Matthew? Or Zachaeus? Or the Samaritan woman?

    Just because tax collecting thievery was legal did not make it a less sin than what the Good Thief (traditionally called St. Dismas)stole.

    So St. Dismas never attended a Mass? Of course, he did! Our Lord's Sacrifice at Calvary was the very first Mass - are you kidding? And Dismas was there!

    And let's not forget Christ's words, "If you love Me, obey my commandments." The Third Commandment, "Remember thou keep holy the Lord's Day" is still valid. We still must attend Mass on Sundays and Holydays of obligation, because we love Him.

  9. Catholic in Brooklyn, what do you have to say about the Legion of Decency?

    1. I don’t know anything about it.

    2. Well, Catholic in Brooklyn, check out the following URL:

  10. Catholic in Brooklyn, check out the following URL:


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