Thursday, March 8, 2018

No To The Gospel of No

Father John Zuhlsdorf did a post a couple of months ago in which he stated, "Looked at from one point of view, the main job of the priest is to say, 'No.'"  This statement sums up the entire problem with the traditionalists / opponents of the post Vatican II Church, and most especially, of the critics and opponents of Pope Francis.

Zealots are always negative at heart.  They never view anything or anyone who disagrees with them in a positive light.  They can never find anything good to say about anyone who disagrees with them.  They are so convinced of their own rightness that they feel they have the right to stand in judgment of the rest of the world.  And their approach is always negative.  It is never to support people in what they are doing, helping them to see anything positive.  It is always to correct, judge and condemn.

The zealots who yell out "No!" to the rest of the world never view others with compassion or mercy.  They see everything in black and white, good and evil.  If you are with them, you are good.  If you don't go along with them, you are evil.  To the zealots, life is all about rules.  They believe in the Nancy Reagan philosophy of "Just say no" to what is wrong.  If you can't do that, it's your own fault for being too lazy, too undisciplined, too selfish, etc. 

We have seen this played out in spades in regard to those who oppose Amoris Laetitia.  The zealots, in their singular capacity to view everything in black and white, see anyone who is in an irregular situation as living in sin, opposed to Jesus Christ and headed to hell.  It doesn't matter how the couples got to where they are or how difficult it might be to change their situation.  The zealots have little to no concern about the children in these situations.  All they see is sin, and their only response is condemnation.  As Father Z says, their job is to say no.

Pope Francis looks at those in irregular marriages as those who have gone astray and need help getting back to the right path.  His Holiness does not believe in blanket condemnation.  He wants us to look at each and every situation individually, discern how people got into the situation they are in, and what it will take to lead them back to Jesus Christ.  Pope Francis believes not in condemnation, but in bringing people to salvation, and to do so in the manner of Jesus Christ - with love, compassion and mercy.  Pope Francis approaches people with the same positive philosophy as Jesus Christ did:
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  (John 3:17).  
Pope Francis realizes we live in a world in which very few have ever even been witness to a truly good marriage.  He realizes that our world puts no importance on life-long commitments.  We are told that the most important thing is to be fulfilled, and if you are not fulfilled, then move on.  Most in our world don't even know how to truly make a commitment to another person.  We have come to believe in a Hollywood world in which we instinctively know who our "soul mate" is and that when we find that person, we will automatically, with little effort, be completely committed to one another.  If it becomes difficult and there is too much hard work, then we aren't meant to be with that person and it is time to leave.

To approach such people in a negative, condemning manner will only result in turning them away from the salvation they so urgently need.  People will not listen unless they first know that you truly care about them.  People want to know that you are at least attempting to understand where they are coming from and the hardships in their lives.  Think of the story of the Samaritan woman at the well who was approached by Jesus.  When she first saw Him, she immediately rejected Him because she believed that as a Jewish man, he would reject and condemn her.  But as Our Lord talked to her without condemnation and in fact showed understanding and compassion for her situation, she was ready to listen to Him.  Not only did He not condemn her, Jesus actually offered her eternal life.  She was so touched by this that she ran and told everyone she could about this wonderful man.

The Pharisees were pros at saying no to people.  That is all they knew, and that is all the people knew of religious authorities.  When Jesus came along and gave the people a positive message of salvation, they clung to Him.  When Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest", they marveled because they had never heard anything like this before.  Here was a man who truly understood them and sincerely cared.  He didn't want to condemn them, he wanted to save them.

Look at the blogs and websites of the conservatives / traditionalists.  They are filled with judgment and condemnation of the world.  There is no compassion, no attempt at understanding.  There is certainly no mercy.  Do they truly believe that this is fulfilling our commission to preach the gospel to the world?  The "Gospel of No" does not serve Jesus Christ.  The "Gospel of No" does not save but only pushes people away from salvation. The "Gospel of No" does not emanate from Jesus Christ, but from the adversary.

Does that mean that we never tell people not to sin?  Of course not.  But first we must we must teach them to love God just as we do.  We must help people to want to obey God not out of fear and necessity, but out of love.  We must show people the positive aspects of the Gospel by introducing them to the love and mercy of God.  We must let them know where true happiness is.  If you identify as a Christian, ask yourself why you obey God.  Do you do it out of fear?  Or do you do it because of your great love of God?  I always thinks of the words of the Act of Contrition:
"Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell.  But most of all I am sorry for having offended thee because thou are all good and truly deserving of all my love."  
That is the key to obedience - it is love of God.  If you love God, you will want to do everything you can to please him.  Obedience will not be a burden but a joy.  Look at the lives of the saints, and especially the martyrs.  Their main motivation was not fear of hell but love of God.  That is what drove them.  They looked at Christ on the Cross and they saw love personified.  They were committed to Jesus Christ because they knew of His great commitment to them.  They saw a God who gave up heaven to come to earth and die a horrible, painful, shameful death so that they could have life.  This is the Gospel they believed in.  None of them subscribed to the "Gospel of No."  That is why we are still reading the writings of the saints from hundreds of years ago.  Their messages are always positive and uplifting, lifting us to the heavens.

Here is the writing of one of our contemporary saints - Pope St. John Paul II.  He talks about the difference between those who live in the flesh and those who walk in the Spirit in his encyclical, VERITATIS SPLENDOR:
Those who live "by the flesh" experience God's law as a burden, and indeed as a denial or at least a restriction of their own freedom. On the other hand, those who are impelled by love and "walk by the Spirit" (Gal 5:16), and who desire to serve others, find in God's Law the fundamental and necessary way in which to practise love as something freely chosen and freely lived out. Indeed, they feel an interior urge — a genuine "necessity" and no longer a form of coercion — not to stop at the minimum demands of the Law, but to live them in their "fullness". This is a still uncertain and fragile journey as long as we are on earth, but it is one made possible by grace, which enables us to possess the full freedom of the children of God (cf. Rom 8:21) and thus to live our moral life in a way worthy of our sublime vocation as "sons in the Son".
Pope Francis does not see nor present God's Way of Life as a burden.  Pope Francis is so obviously in love with his Savior, and that is what he wants to share with the world.   I most certainly do not get that message from those who criticize him.  They come across as hard and cruel and uncaring.  As St. John Paul II wrote, they present God's way as "a burden, and indeed as a denial or at least a restriction of their own freedom."

I disagree, as usual, with Father Zuhlsdorf.  The main job of a priest it not to say no.  It is to teach us to say yes to Jesus Christ, to say yes to salvation, to say yes to a life filled with mercy and compassion.  The main job of a priest is to teach us to love Jesus Christ.  Yes, we need priests to help us walk in the right direction, and to turn us around if we start going the wrong way.  But the best way to do that is not by saying no, but by pointing us to Jesus Christ and His great love for us.  When we start to comprehend how much God loves us, we will, as St. John Paul II wrote, "find in God's Law the fundamental and necessary way in which to practise love as something freely chosen and freely lived out."

One of the most beloved saints who ever lived - St. Francis of Assisi, from whom Pope Francis took his name - preached one of the most positive messages in all of history.  Even who reject God and religion love St. Francis.  Why are people so attracted to this great saint?  What was his message?  What Gospel did he preach?
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.
We need to preach the positive message of the Gospel.  We need to preach the Love of God.  We need to show our Savior to the world.  That is what will motivate them to change.  Condemnation will never bring anyone to salvation.  Obeying God out of fear and necessity will not lead us to salvation.  Only love fulfills the law.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. No, Mary Ann. I would love for everyone to see your comment. Mary Ann wrote a post today condemning me without naming me. For anyone who would like to read it, it is entitled, "Some People Can't Read" and can be found here:

      As you will see from the post, Mary Ann does not quote anything I wrote. She just condemns me. So I left a comment which of course she did not post, basically thanking her for reading my blog and for praying for me and telling her I would pray for her. I also said that it would be nice if she had actually quoted me, but that might have destroyed her arguments. Then I wished her a nice day. Her comment, which she deleted, is as follows:

      "Mary Ann Kreitzer has left a new comment on your post "No To The Gospel of No":

      I wondered how long it would take you to comment. This is not for publication, just responding to your comment. I actually hadn't been here for about six months. I noticed on my statcounter that I had a visit from Brooklyn and figured it was you which is why I went. And surprise! One more post attacking an orthodox priest. You can pat yourself on the back once again for never judging a priest (except for the priests you judge). I'm not likely to be back any time soon. But, by all means, let us continue to pray for each other. I offered my Mass this morning for you....and for Msgr. Pope."

      Mary Ann, once you comment, it is mine to do with as I please. I want everyone to see your comment.

    2. Mary Ann unfriended me. Just like you. Go figure. ;)

    3. Aw, Terry, you make me feel like the jerk that I am. Who am I to get on my high horse the way I did. Please forgive me. As far as Mary Ann is concerned, she has some deep issues. She feels she has the right to stand in judgment of the Church. Pray for her.

  2. Didn't want my comment published since it was a private message so I removed it. Let us continue to pray for each other.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. No offense, Catholic in Brooklyn, but why have you been PARTICULARLY critical of Michael Voris? Is it safe to say that Voris's organizations are surviving on fumes?

    Catholic in Brooklyn, is it OK to GENTLY criticize a sitting pope?

    Keep in mind that Michael Hichborn has been a contributor to Steve Skojec's OnePeterFive website.

    1. I supported Voris for several years, quite literally in that in I sent in my $10 every month. Then I realized just how wrong he was in his constant condemnation of the Catholic Church while at the same time representing himself as he most devout and loyal of Catholics. My postings about him were written mainly to help myself discover the truth about him, as is everything else I write here, I write to help myself with the hope it will help others. As the subtitle of my blog is, “The journey of one Catholic searching for truth in a world gone mad.”

    2. As far as criticizing the pope is concerned, the people who engage in this practice, at least on modern day Internet, have no use for Pope Francis. They want him gone in any way possible. There is nothing gentle about their criticisms, I really don’t know what “gentle” criticism is because I never see that. I only see outright condemnation. If you want to know my opinion of that, just read my blog.

    3. From your point of view, Catholic in Brooklyn, what is AUTHENTIC masculinity? What is LEGITIMATE ecumenism?

  5. Catholic in Brooklyn, do you know who Michelle Malkin is? If so, how does she compare to Christine Niles?

  6. I am not CiB, but authentic masculinity has not much to do with being tough or not having “weak” emotions or other Nietschian criteria. Jesus is not the manliest man because he whipped merchants at the temple or had a muscular figure. He’s the manliest man because he put aside what He felt like doing or what His fleshed desired in pursuit of the higher good. He’s a manly man because he went to the cross despite His flesh protesting. “Not my will but yours be done.” God’s will is the highest good. Most men are scared to pursue the good if it will lead to a thorn in the flesh.

    As far authentic ecumenism, I admit I don’t understand dialogue, but I know that the all wise, all powerful God put Pope Francis as the captain of the voyage. And neither is God foolish nor has He abandoned His Church. The people in the Church think that he’s a bad captain and believe the Ark will capsize without them raising a mutiny. But to me that is calling God Himself a fool. I think that they do not understand the indefectibilitt of the Church or the nature of the hierarchy. Never shall the See of Rome lose the faith.

  7. Catholic in Brooklyn: I wasn't interested in reading the full post of yours. I read part of it. Acronym Definition: TLDR Too Long; Didn't Read

    Anyway, PF1 and Cupich and the rest of that ilk have it TOTALLY WRONG in Amoris Laetitia. They are promoting the acceptance of divorce and they will make it spread. This is the most horrible example we could give to the youth.

    The key concept here is the Pope and his minions like Cupich are going to spread Contagion:

    CCC 2385 Divorce is immoral also because it introduces disorder into the family and into society. This disorder brings grave harm to the deserted spouse, to children traumatized by the separation of their parents and often torn between them, and because of its contagious effect which makes it truly a plague on society.

    People will come to accept divorce as normal: "The Pope accepts it", and it will make family break ups that much more common. Kids will grow up with no negative thoughts about it. Divorce acceptance will spread like a contagion. PF1 is totally wrong and I will not let him teach my kids that divorce is normal or acceptable.


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