Just this morning as I was reading an article entitled, “The Future of American Catholicism,” by Russell Shaw on Catholic Exchange, I was compelled to help answer the question of what can be done to “turn things around.” The answer from the author was “probably not much”, except that he makes mention of the Pope’s recent comments about the laity being “co-responsible” for the church’s being and acting and not merely as collaborators of the clergy. I thought that this begged for clarification and outlining of how we can do that during this upcoming “Year of Faith.”
In the article there are two authors of books that Mr. Shaw writes about as worthy of noting. Each has a different view, one of the church as having heresy within, in the book penned by Ross Douthat entitled “Bad Religion; How We Became a Nation of Heretics,” and the other written by Bill Donahue, “Why Catholicism Matters; How Catholic Virtues Can Reshape Society in the 21st Century.” I will certainly be reading these two books as recommended by Mr. Shaw, but I am responding here to the question of what can be done as Catholics to be “co-responsible for the church’s being and acting.” I answered in the Comments Section after the article in the following way and with additional input, so I just decided to make my own answer to the article as my blog article, because it bears repeating in this venue.
What is the answer to the question of why heresy has crept in? First of all let’s define heresy. Dictionary.com ( a source I use regularly) defines it in the first definition as “Opinion or doctrine at variance with orthodox or accepted doctrine, especially of a church or religious system.” That’s the basic definition. However, the second definition is stronger and more to the point of what we are speaking about here and that is ”The willful and persistent rejection of any article of faith by a baptized member of the church.” This is a serious matter! What could cause a person, specifically a baptized Catholic, to REJECT an article of faith by their church? If I may point to an example of a heretic, that would be a politician who claims to be Catholic and yet has a consistent, contrary voting record against what the church teaches based upon their own opinions. The thought of it jars me and makes me want to do one of two things. The first thing is to get as far away from them as possible. The second is to stay and battle with them. (Fight or flight). By writing this article, I am staying to fight and counteract.
The origin of the word “heresy” is a word that means “choose”. In other words, the heretic picks and chooses what he/she WANTS to believe and then abandons the rest of divinely revealed truth because they think it does not apply to them and they want to live as they want to, often times because these truths confront their lifestyles. Some heretics leave the church, others choose to remain in the church to confuse and scandalize, and stir up dissent. I would have to say, I respect the choice of the person who leaves rather than the one who stays. Jesus respected the choice of those who left him after he revealed to them that he was “the Living Bread which came down from Heaven that a man may eat and never die.” They could not accept that saying from him and he let them walk. They were the first heretics, choosing to reject divinely-revealed truth. Who did Jesus have left with him? The Apostles, the TRUE believers and the ones who would carry His truth to the all of the corners of the world!
Back to the question of why one would even consider rejecting articles of Faith of the Church. When one rejects truth, one’s intellect becomes darkened, because the act of rejecting divinely-revealed truth is the act of SINNING. Why is it a sin to reject something one doesn’t believe? Because the source of the truth is GOD HIMSELF. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the TRUTH and the Life.” (John 14:16) Truth and God are inseparable, so by rejecting the truth, God is rejected. You cannot reject God and call that OK. Adam and Eve rejected God and His truth and they were banned from the Garden of Eden! I would have to say that our arms are too short to box with God! Fear of God is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, who is present within us if we are in a state of sanctifying grace. So, staying in a state of sanctifying grace protects us from ever rejecting divinely revealed truths. Sin, on the other hand does not protect us. So let’s address that.
No doubt there is sin within us, but even more hurtful to the mystical Body of Christ is that there is this loss of the sense of sin. If one thinks they have not sinned, one does not ask for forgiveness. (“If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us. 1John 1:10). Confession lines are way down, but communion lines are full. Receiving the Body and Blood of the Lord without examining oneself for possible serious sin-and seeking forgiveness for that serious sin-is in itself a serious sin, (ie..sacrilegious communion, also see 1 Corinthians 11:18-29) How many Catholics are in serious sin and refuse to address it because they think that confession to a priest is not necessary? One sin leads to another. What usually follows is unbelief in the truth of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. The refusal to believe what God has revealed is sinful. Each sin, especially SERIOUS SIN is a hole in our soul’s “wall of defense” and if there are enough holes, the enemy of our souls, (ie..the devil) can invade your soul without a fight. Get to Confession with good preparation and prayer beforehand and receive the Body of Christ with a clear conscience and clean soul! In other words FREQUENT the Sacraments of Reconcilation and Holy Communion. Don’t let the sediment of sin settle in your soul, or you could open yourself up widely to the evils pervading our culture. The devil is defenseless against a reconciled soul that is in a state of sanctifying grace! There are not enough Catholics in sanctifying grace, or heresy would not even gain a foothold.
One of the major causes of people succumbing to heresy and ultimately leaving the church is the loss of faith due to repeatedly receiving Our Lord in Holy Communion without confession of mortal sin. The Gift of Faith is precious and needs to be guarded or you risk LOSING it. If you receive the Eucharist unworthily in a state of mortal sin, the Gift of Faith may be taken away from you. If you want to come to the table of the Lord to partake of His Precious Body and Blood, it means being free of the dirt of mortal sin! Mortal sin makes you the ENEMY of God because you choose to love the sin more than you love HIM! Though Our Lord loves you regardless of what you do, you still need to remove the wall of separation between you and Him that your mortal sin has created! Get out a good Examination of Conscience and prepare yourself here: http://www.keepingitcatholic.org/exam.html Beat feet to the confessional! I know I am repeating myself in this paragraph, but it bears repeating! REPENT and BELIEVE in the Gospel, (notice that “repent” comes before belief, so if you don’t repent, you will NOT believe). The obstinate serious sins in one’s life are an obstacle to belief. We must first address the sin, because it is the obstacle to believing.
The second reason heresy seems to have made its way in is that Catholics in America DON’T KNOW THEIR FAITH! Pope Benedict knows this and fittingly challenges us to participate in the “Year of Faith.” If you don’t study the authentic Teachings of the Church, those not muddled by “opinion,” you will not know it when someone tries to put forth counterfeit teachings and you will fall prey to any wind of doctrine that comes along, which St. Paul warns us about! (Ephesians 4:14) Familiarize yourself with the Catechism of the Catholic Church and reading the scriptures prayerfully and you will soon see how much you really don’t know. There is SO MUCH, that it would take more than a lifetime to take it all in, but take it in we MUST so as to live out the faith powerfully in our lives and in the life of the Church. Trouble yourselves to become knowledgeable and be able to DEFEND the Church’s Teachings! We NEED defenders of the Faith!
I would like to point you to some resources I found out about while I was battling with Jehovah’s Witnesses about the reason why I would remain a Catholic for the rest of my life. Out of love for the Faith and out of the desire to help my fellow Catholics and searching non-Catholics, I want to share them. This is so important because these people are going door to door trying to get and keep people OUT of the church and into their false doctrine dreamed up by an uneducated mere man! Getting Catholics AWAY from the sacraments is the devil’s work, for without the forgiveness of sins and partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ Our Savior, Jesus tells us we will have no life in us. (John 6:53). Where are we without life? DEAD! Just read John Chapter 6, and you will see! This is the scripture I pointed out to the Jehovah’s Witnesses as the basis of the reason why I will always remain a Catholic. I will not walk away from this truth and I will spread it to the ends of the earth via my blog and through personal contact with everyone Our Lord puts me in contact with!
The three CD’s that I listened to in my kitchen while I was cooking and cleaning were from the Catholic Society of Evangelists: http://www.catholic-soe.org/
The first one was “Before You Leave,” by Gary Atencio, though, as I go to the website, I do not see this CD, but you can get it here:
This CD talks about reasons why people leave the church, then goes into the REAL reasons why you should stay. It tells us why people need to be taught from a young age why we are Catholic (because Jesus Christ founded our Church, as opposed to some man or some woman). I found this to be very compelling in just the one hour that it took to hear the entire CD. I still listen to it to sharpen my apologetics skills.
The second was “Whose Bible Is It?” by Clayton Bower. This CD goes into the origins of the bible and why the Catholic Church is not a “BIBLE-BASED” church and why Catholics should not use the King James version of the Bible. I was fascinated by the information in this CD and it needs to be known by EVERY Catholic. No church would even have a Bible if it weren’t for the Catholic Church preserving it throughout the centuries.
The third one is “How the Catholic Church is the Same and How It Is Different from Other Christian Churches” by Franklin Dailey, M. D. This great Catholic who happens to be a physican breaks it down in understandable terms for the layman about how Jesus left us his church for our salvation after He ascended into Heaven.
There are other CD’s you can get from Lighthouse Catholic Media and one is called “Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist”, by Brant Pitre. Which goes into just what it says and it is fascinating to delve into.
Folks, fortify yourselves with the truth of the Eucharist and all of the beautiful teachings of your church. Practice the Sacraments and you will then be able to live the Faith vibrantly and authentically and others will be drawn to the Faith through that. Unfortunately non-Catholics see how politicians and other prominent so-called Catholics live their own way, apart from the Teachings of the Church and yet still call themselves Catholic. People are NOT attracted to THAT because it scandalizes them. Those are the “fake” Catholics, the rebellious ones who still, as in the fall of Adam and Eve, view their own thinking as their own authority and take the forbidden fruit of distrust of God and obstinate disobedience of His commands. Pray for them, they NEED conversion and salvation.
Be empowered and consecrated in the TRUTH! There is hope for the future if people will just get this message! The message of repentance and conversion-the message of the Gospel that repentance comes BEFORE belief. The message of salvation that the Catholic Church has been made steward of by Our Lord Jesus Christ!
In my next blog entry, I will be featuring the “Five First Saturdays” Devotion as outlined by Our Lady of Fatima in 1917. The message of repentance, reparation, prayer and devotion to her Immaculate Heart. This is the month of the Rosary and Our Lady and I will also write about the Miracle of the Sun, so stay tuned!
Blessings to all,