The Sole Reason They Leave the Church

“Why are they leaving?” That’s what you’re wondering?! You’re perplexed about why the men, the women, the gen-Xers, the millenials, and whatever other irrelevantly categorized group you can name is walking out of the Church? No! No, you can’t be wondering that. Not today. Not less than a week after we just listened to the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel for the fifth consecutive week.

Unless… Unless, maybe you missed Mass for some legitimate reason. Or maybe you just couldn’t hear the proclamation of the Gospel over the sound of the child you were consoling — I’ve had that experience often enough.

I know why they leave. I’ll tell you why they leave. Everyone who has left the Catholic Church for a non-apostolic faith did so because they were one of the deserters in John 6. They left because they did not believe Christ’s words about the Eucharist, about his Real Presence.

Was the pastor at such-and-such parish a jerk? Were the parishioners rude? Did somebody get convicted of child molestation? Was the abuse scandal upsetting? Were the homilies uninspiring? Were you upset that women cannot be ordained?

Jesus. Doesn’t. Care.

Oh, sure, he cares about sin, because he cares about us, his creatures. But what Jesus doesn’t care about is whatever reason one clings to for not following him. Can’t sell all your possessions? Your loss (Mt 19:21-22). Want to bury your father? Oh well (Lk 9:59-62).

Objectively, we can’t prevent priests from behaving badly, erase the history of abuse, or change infallible Church teaching. The teaching is constant, and abuses come-and-go. So, there will always be reasons why someone or another wants to distance themselves from the Catholic Church. But what each of those people need is a reason to stay despite what they abhor (even when what they abhor is objectively good doctrine). Fortunately, the Church has that in spades.

The Church has Christ. “Oh, but the [insert Protestant denomination here] believe in Jesus.” No, the Church has Christ in a way that the short-in-the-tooth schismatics don’t have him. The Church has him in the truest and fullest sense of the word, ministering to her members in every single sacrament as the Great High Priest, especially and abundantly in the Eucharist. The Catholic Church feeds his sheep with the flesh and blood of God himself!

And nobody, absolutely nobody, abandons the Eucharist who believes it be what it is, *who it is*! “Oh, but I know somebody…” Just stop. Listen to the parables of the pearl of great price and the treasure hidden in the field. When we know what lies before us, we give up everything to have it. Nothing detracts from the value of the object before them. “Well, that treasure is great, but I’d have to listen to crap homilies.” No. No!

If you want to know why people are leaving the Church, here’s the reason: They don’t recognize the treasure before them. They don’t recognize Christ. Remedy this one thing, and not only will the other faults not matter, but they’ll all improve. When people see who it is they consume, they will echo the words of Peter: “To whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life…”

No Catholic Teachers, No Catholic School

I’m tired of hearing about how “we need faithful Catholic schools.” One, the term Catholic needs neither qualifiers nor modifiers. But more than that, I cannot stand half-baked ideas. If you want more butterflies, you cannot have them without first having more caterpillars. There are precursors without which certain things cannot be accomplished. You want more priests, you need more Catholic parents raising Catholic boys, who actually understand and value the priesthood. [Side note: we currently have one of the best ever priest : parishioner ratios in the U.S.]

Similarly, you don’t have Catholic schools without Catholic faculty. So, if we “need faithful Catholic schools,” then what we are really saying is that we need Catholic teachers, because they are the constitutive elements that make for a school which is Catholic. You know what’s not helping anyone, neglecting to correct the idea that one can be Catholic while disbelieving and not professing “all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.”

And this situation is remarkably bad because countless children and parents are exposed to a caricature of Catholicism in these schools, but they are under the impression that, since they’re parochial schools, “this is Catholicism.” The result is anti-evangelization. Few things are presently so damaging to the Church and her evangelical mission as the misrepresentation of Catholicism by faculty at nominally Catholic schools, under the implicit approval of Catholic dioceses.

The Immaculate Conception as Further Proof of Catholic Orthodoxy

A few days ago, I was struck with a realization about the Blessed Virgin Mary.  As is often the case, she stands in a unique position that clarifies ideas; she is as the moon reflecting the light of the sun.  In this case, she is proof positive–as if we needed it–that Catholics do not, contrary to much misinformation, believe that persons are saved by meriting salvation through good works.

Essentially, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception states that the Blessed Virgin Mary received from God the graces of Jesus’s salvific work from the very moment of her conception.  She did not exist for even one infinitesimally small fraction of a second before being redeemed–that’s right, “redeemed.”  She was literally conceived without the stain of original sin by a unique grace of God.  It is simply not possible–it is a formal impossibility–that Mary could have performed any meritorious action prior to her conception, for she did not yet exist.  Once again, a Marian doctrine serves to safeguard and bolster other doctrine, in this case, the teaching that nobody merits any grace from God, especially salvific grace, apart from God’s grace.  (I can merit grace from God, but that only happens by cooperating with grace which he first offered, thereby making God the first cause of my meritorious action.)

That is enough to make me glory in God’s wisdom manifested in Catholic teaching, but we have time to go one step further.

I begin with a question: Why was Jesus’s human nature free from original sin?

Jesus was conceived by Mary.  Original sin is transmitted by generation–that is all we know about its transmission.  Jesus was/is truly the offspring of Mary, having received his human nature and half of his genetic material from her, as well as gestating in her womb.  Accordingly, if Mary bore the stain of original sin, then Jesus would have needed not only to be conceived of the Holy Spirit but would further have needed a unique grace of God to be kept free from the stain of sin present in Mary.  So, if Mary was not the recipient of the unique grace of God to be kept free from the stain of original sin, then Jesus was.

There is no escape from an immaculate conception; either Jesus or Mary was uniquely graced as being preserved from inheriting the stain of original sin.  That is merely the product of reason.  As to which one was so graced, I trust the folks who have incessantly preserved the teaching of the Immaculate Conception.

The Sacrament of Penance in the Catholic Church

Here’s an analogy I use to help explain the concept of Penance in the Catholic Church.

Billy is a 14 year old who likes to ride his bike a lot. So much, in fact, that he even rides in the rain. However, Billy is often absent-minded when he’s riding and forgets the rules set forth by his mother. One of those rules is that Billy must only ride on the side walk and street.

One day, Billy was riding his Bike after a good rain, and he rode his bike off the side walk, onto the grass, and wiped out in his neighbor’s flower bed. Billy was unscathed, but half the flower bed was destroyed, and his tires had made numerous, deep treads in the wet lawn. Billy knew immediately that he had failed to obey, and he could see why his mother had set forth her rules. Continue reading

There is No Such Thing as Compulsory Priestly Celibacy

I read an article recently that declared “compulsory celibacy” to be the common denominator to the Church’s problems of reputation loss, due to abuse by priests, and the shortage or priests.  First, calling priestly celibacy “compulsory” is like calling marital monogamy “compulsory.”  Nobody forces a man to become a priest and adopt celibacy, just as no man is coerced into marriage and adopting monogamy.

Secondly, saying that attempted celibacy is in any way responsible for any instances of abuse by priests is to declare that nobody can or should attempt to abstain from sexual relations for extended periods of time.  Therefore, blaming attempted celibacy is akin to saying that single persons, having yet to find a spouse, should not be expected to refrain from sex.  Consequently, fornication is eliminated by decree.  And I thought the sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s was bad!

If you can’t accept a permanent commitment to have sex with only one person for the rest of your life, don’t get married, but don’t expect the Church to bless your fornication either.  And if you can’t make a lifelong commitment to celibacy, don’t become a priest, but do find a wife and be faithful to her.  If you can’t accept those propositions, then you are rejecting the moral teaching of the Church and are yourself actively refusing communion with her.