Sunday, September 14, 2008

People who claim to hate the Church don't hate it because it's bad, they hate it because it's easier than seeking the truth.

My mom called me this weekend to ask if I'd heard about the campus chaplain at Illinois's Newman Center being arrested for drug possession, since I had known some people there. I hadn't heard about it, but in reading the news articles online Saturday, I learned two things.

1. Don't go to a public news agency's web site expecting a high level of discourse, no matter how well written the article itself is.

2. To paraphrase Archbishop Sheen, most people who hate the Church, hate it mostly for what they imagine it is.

I'd like to share with you a few of the gems I found while looking through articles about this priest's arrest. Hopefully there's someone out there who might have read those comments and thought "Hey, you know, those are good points" who will now have one more place to go where a lucid rebuttal can be found.

What happens to the baptisms, the weddings blessed, the sins forgiven and the eucharists transubstantiated by this man?

Nothing. A sinful man was ordained a priest because all we have to ordain is men who sin. Even if he's laicized, he would still be able to confect the sacraments; it's just that he wouldn't be permitted to. Sure, we'd all like holy men to be our spiritual leaders, but the Church never taught that sacerdotal efficacy depended on the man being in a state of grace, nor on the magnitude of the sins he commits.

I can't tell if this question is supposed to accuse the Church of some kind of works-righteousness, or if it presumes an uncatholic superstitiousness and a distinction between mortal and venial sins to have its point made.

You have to think outside this box put around you...obedience to men will not get you into heaven.

Who told you that? A man? People outside the Church seem to have a frighteningly higher view of the clergy than Catholics do, and they don't see it when it happens in their own midst. Priests and bishops are not just running a company in the church business, but they're not superhuman, either; they are given a few charisms to aid in the life of the Church, but that's about it.

I won't bother with the related accusations about allegedly extrabiblical practices being unbiblical, which is obviously tautological but hardly ever explained as a truly bad thing. Perhaps another time I will address the atheist's related argument, the accusation that we let the Church think for us; it's been handled quite well by other people, but when I'm in a mood I might just toss in my two cents.

I can't be too uncharitable; I've known many Protestants whose prayer lives are fruitful and every bit as personal as they'd like yours to be when they ask what role Jesus plays in your life. Still, there's so much emphasis on the event of getting saved that it makes me wonder what kind of relationship with Christ they're effectively advocating. Can you imagine how it would look if you talked about a friend you had who was really great, and how other people should be his friend too, and all they needed to do was invite him to their house and he would carry the relationship? Doesn't that sound like it would be lame if you didn't already have a good idea of what Jesus was to us?

And, no, obedience to men is not a sufficient condition for entering the Beatific Vision...but I ask in reply: does being disobedient get you into heaven?

People put too much trust in men in everyday things as well as spiritual (even non-Catholics, as evinced by the plethora of ministers in the world) for this to be a meaningful accusation. Come back when you can tell me why I should listen to you telling me not to listen to anybody. I don't care if it's the Bible, history, or science.

The Catholic Church claims to be the one true church, yet its history says otherwise. What a shame they have not learned from the sex scandals that rocked them now it's drugs and again it's the children that are victims.

What does history say? That there is more than one true church? That there might be one true church, but it's not headquartered in Rome? That it really has no objective judgment on the veracity of Rome's claims?

I've read many comments about the sex abuse scandal, most of them of the "at least he was only selling drugs to college kids" variety. A close second, though, was of the "Drugs and sex? Being an altar boy is the most dangerous job today!" variety. Never mind that St. John's Catholic Chapel is not a community parish, and so is unlikely to have many people at all of that age in attendance. It's much more convenient to associate the whole of hierarchical Christianity, or even the whole of theists depending on your perspective, with whatever timely or unspoken historical corruption you prefer.

Reminds me of Protestants whose sole efforts in apologetics consist of, as far as I can tell, paraphrasing the table of contents of Boettner's Roman Catholicism. As if everyone knows what the real story is behind Rome's failings (just like what everybody knows about Galileo's trial), and we only need the reminder to endorse the accusations.

How very typical! First pedophilia, now drug-dealing! Bunch of perverts, hiding behind clerical robes!

Oh, so we can see now that homosexuals and pedophiles are latent drug users and pushers? Why don't we accuse the Church of working with the CIA to create AIDS, and with NASA to fake the moon landings, too?

Any stick will do to beat a dog, eh?

It is precisely because the Roman Catholic Church has been casting so many stones over the centuries that there is so much understandable and deserving backlash.

Understandable? Sure. Deserving? For the sex scandal, okay, there was too much emphasis on protecting the institution and its appearance in America (where, remember, the problem has been generally isolated), and not enough on protecting the innocent and powerless, but if you're going around misattributing vices to people, that's called calumny, and it prevents you from playing the "At least I'm not a hypocrite" card.

Further, if you really don't know the story behind Galileo, or the motivations and statistics pertaining to the Crusades or the Inquisitions, then maybe you can go the "I'm intellectually lazy, but at least I live up to my own standards" route, although that's not much of an improvement, and it's less than impressive if your standards are so low that you never fall short of them.

Perhaps these things are happening to bring to the public's awareness that ORGANIZED Church religiosity is NOT the answer...How impractical to expect young men and women to live celibate lifestyles. In Europe in the old monasteries, they've found corpses of infants sealed up in the walls...This article doesn't say he's accused of sodomizing and raping.

No, the article doesn't say that, but you're going to bring it up anyway, aren't you?

That first "perhaps" is interesting. It's almost as if a higher power were moving to immunize humanity from God doesn't want us worshipping together? If it's not God, I wouldn't want to be be learning whatever it has to teach us.

And again with the canard that celibacy is virtually impossible. Dawn Eden can tell you more about that than I feel like doing right now. Does anyone have any idea how widespread or isolated the instances of babies hidden in tunnels between monasteries and convents are? I think someone does, but I doubt it's the person who declined to tell us concretely how extensive the problem was.

I suppose it's more civilized for people who can't resist sex to kill their children in the womb and throw them in a dumpster or incinerator like so much suctioned fat or a malignant tumor.

Another prime example of the danger of putting all of your hope & faith in man, in a human being.

Wait, who did that? Those of us who are disappointed? I'm disappointed, but I'm not surprised to learn that the priest has sinned. "People sin" is pretty much axiomatic in Christianity. Expecting better from a priest, even from this priest, isn't what got him into the situation. He got himself into the situation.

Just goes to show you that organized religion is pretty much useless.

If it had been a politician, would we be hearing about how the government is useless? I mean, as if it were proven by the arrest of a politician on drug charges. Do they say school is useless when a teacher is caught fraternizing with students?

Priests if anyone should be held to higher standard of living and exemplary life.

Fair enough--priests more than other people in positions of authority and trust are expected to be on good behavior, even if they are more attractive targets to the Enemy. Still, while it is interesting how many professed unbelievers express disappointment that a man of the cloth has sinned, it strikes me as a peculiar flavor of disrespectful to presume, almost gleefully, a guilty verdict was already all but pronounced (and, yes, most of the "He should have known better" comments I've read were coupled with a foregone conviction of guilt). I'm surprised I haven't already heard jokes about how he's going to enjoy the penal social life.


Paul said...

Thanks, was trying to find who said what about most people hating what they think the church is.

I posted your post on (the Catholic Digg) so feel free to vote for it there (And any of you readers who like this post as well!)

Ed Pie said...

Why, thank you! I didn't even know PickAFig existed, but I'm glad it does, and I'm glad I do. It's going on my regular reading list.

Seems like most of the time when I run into anti-Catholic sentiment, the first thing I have to say is "That's not what we believe," followed by "That's not true" and then by "Sure, that seems strange to you, but what makes it bad?"

Paul said...

That's why I was looking for the source of the quote; I've heard it attributed to Scott Hahn and others that most of apologetics is setting the record straight, since X% (95%?) of people only hate what they think is the Catholic Church.

Anonymous said...

In my case you have it exactly backwards. I converted to Catholicism because I loved the Church and its truth. Since doing so last year, though, I have encountered nothing except the very worst petty, hateful, controlling, passive-aggressive behavior in women and their cliques. They are extremely unfriendly, unwelcoming, and un-Christ-like in their behavior. I don't want to leave the Church, but I can't find any actual Christians who are Catholic. I know there are some, I've just yet to find even one. If you have the time and the inclination, please pray for me that I find even just one friendly person.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, I just prayed for you (I could use your prayers also). I became a Catholic 40 years ago (in my early twenties), having first come to faith in Christ in an Evangelical setting. I have known the loneliness you're talking about. This is a trial and a time of testing. Please don't give up. Keep in mind that the enemy wants you to be discouraged, and delights in separating people from the Church.

Venerable John Henry Newman, pray for us!

-- Jacqueline Y.

Ed Pie said...

Anonymous from November 18, you're in my prayers, too (you too, Jacqueline). Unfortunately, Catholics are as prone to sin and temptation as everyone else. It is a great scandal that we, who have the full complement of sacraments to avail ourselves of, are not better signs of holiness in the world.

I haven't noticed much of a pattern, myself; while I see Catholics who are complacent in the sacraments, I also see Fundamentalists who are complacent in the doctrine of eternal security, for instance. But I'm also a cradle Catholic, and perhaps more desensitized to the failings that are idiosyncratically Catholic.

I want to echo what Jacqueline said, though. Even I occasionally feel out of place.

Mark Shea had a post recently at his blog that I think is apropos to your situation.