“I fear that for many, arguments in favor of the claims of Catholicism have not been tried and found wanting; they have been found inconvenient and left ignored.
And yet, this is a curious thing since every human being intrinsically desires the truth; that is to say, they wish to conform their minds to reality in order to live in the real world. No one wakes up in the morning hoping to be on the receiving end of lies and deceptions. No one loves to be lied to. Nobody craves delusion. We naturally desire to live in “the real world” preferring the real and the true to the fake and the false. No woman seeks a lying husband, and no employer is looking for dishonest employees. If there are objectively-binding traffic laws then naturally we want to know what they are (imagine a world where “your traffic laws are your traffic laws, and mine are mine”).
By knowing how things really are, we can act and react to them as they really are. We desire truth because we desire to live in the real world. We are, after all, what Aristotle called “rational animals.”
Our desire for truth stems from our desire to act rationally. Therefore the desire for truth is a deeply human thing. In the words of philosopher Robert Sokolowski, the desire for truth (or what he calls veracity) “is very deep in us, more basic than any particular desire or emotion…We are made human by it, and it is there in us to be developed well or badly.”
As humans we cannot choose whether or not to desire truth; that is inherent in our nature as humans. We can, on the other hand, choose whether we are going to act on—and cultivate—that desire.
St. Augustine understood the human person’s innate desire to know the truth of things. In his Confessions he reflected that he had “met many who wanted to deceive, but none who wanted to be deceived.” And can’t we confirm this truth about human nature by looking inside of ourselves?
Our interior experience confirms that, in the long run, we want the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Because truth leads to order; and as Augustine observed in The City of God, peace is the tranquility of order. So truth leads to order, order to peace, and ultimately, peace to happiness. In other words: truth fosters happiness. So if happiness matters then truth matters; and we have no good reason to doubt that happiness matters to all people. Aristotle, reflecting on “the highest of all goods achievable by action” observed that “the general run of men….say that it is happiness, and identify living well and faring well with being happy.”
But you cannot live well and fare well if you are not planning and living out your life in accordance with reality.
Insanity is not the way to real, lasting happiness.
What then if Catholicism is true?
What if being a devout believer really can lead to greater sanity and greater happiness—or even the greatest sanity and happiness?
The Catholic faith does not just offer a more complete vision of reality. The central promise of the Catholic faith is the everlasting fulfillment of all of our desires through union with God.
God promises—on the Catholic view—to prepare us in this life for the fulfillment of all our desires in the next. In other words, Catholicism offers a way—the Way—to everlasting happiness. For God promises to fill and complete us, to make us like him or what the New Testament calls “partakers of the divine nature.”
In other words, God wants to bring to fulfillment what it means to be made “in the image and likeness of God,” and He wants to do it in the fullest and most complete sense. And that is why we can agree with Pascal that to be saved by God and enter into eternal life in Christ is to “win everything.”
Some may reel at such incredible claims, thinking it rather arrogant for the Catholic Church to position itself as the “pillar and foundation of truth” and the one religion through which people can best realize happiness in this life and total fulfillment in the next.
What a claim!”
Love & truth,
Can we find the happiness we seek in this life?
Man’s sin-damaged nature has something to do with religious indifference.
One person who understood this profoundly was the physicist and mathematician Blaise Pascal, who has often been referred to as the father of probability theory. He could also be justly called the father of modern Christian apologetics.
Few Christian thinkers have thought more deeply and written more astutely about the problem of religious indifference than he. He begins his reflections in the Pensées by beginning with human nature and the fact of our wretchedness without God. We are, to put it bluntly, never satisfied—even to extent of being miserable.
We are broken; and that is why we are always chasing happiness.
And yet we never quite find it in this life, do we?
We can never rest with anything. Although we are never satisfied completely, the closer we become to God the more satisfied we become.
The only antidote to our misery, Pascal concludes, is religion; that is, a relationship—an intimate friendship—with God. We accomplish that most readily by seeking to know and love Jesus Christ since “there is salvation in no one else.”
Only by knowing Jesus can we make sense of life and death, God and humanity. The problem is however that our individualistic modern era wants to resist the antidote. “Men despise religion,” writes Pascal, “[T]hey hate it, and fear it is true.”
And it is because of this fear and loathing of religion that men turn to two distinct strategies of avoidance: diversion and indifference.
Our current concern is with indifference—the end result of diversion and a distinct problem in and of itself.
Whereas diversion involves an effort to distract oneself, indifference involves a lack of effort to sincerely seek a relationship with God.
Pascal is rattled by man’s indifference toward the search for God because, as he rightly sees, how we should best live hinges above all on whether or not eternal happiness is truly possible. “All our actions and thoughts,” he writes, “must follow such different paths, according to whether there is hope of eternal blessings or not….” And yet, man is indifferent. Sin has taken hold, and he could not care less to remedy the effects.
Sin is both the cause and the effect of religious indifference.”
Love & truth,
-by David R. Carlin, is a professor of sociology and philosophy at the Community College of Rhode Island at Newport, is the author of The Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America and Can a Catholic Be a Democrat?
Every semester I teach a course in ethics (moral philosophy) at my community college. I tell the students that they don’t have to agree with me; they are entitled to their own opinions, even if their opinions are deeply erroneous. But I attempt to persuade them that there are certain popular theories of morality that are wrong.
In particular, I argue against three popular but (in my opinion) pernicious theories:
* The theory that the rules of right and wrong are purely social creations.
* The theory that we are free to create our own individual moral codes.
* The theory that everything is morally permissible provided it does no obvious and tangible harm to non-consenting others.
On the other hand, I argue that there is a true theory of morality, namely the theory that all normal human beings have an innate knowledge of certain fundamental rules of morality, e.g., don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t commit adultery, don’t abandon your children, etc. This might be called a “natural law” theory of morality, but I don’t insist on that name.
Needless to say, I don’t persuade all, or even almost all, of my students to agree with me. I console myself by saying this is okay. Why? Because maybe I’m mistaken, and if so I hope they don’t agree with me. Or because maybe I’m right and they’ll agree with me thirty or forty years from now. Or maybe I’m right but they’ll never agree with me – but if Jesus himself persuaded only eleven of his twelve, why should I be discouraged that I can’t persuade all my students?
The other day, however, a young man in my class shocked me (actually he amused me) by clearly and frankly defending a theory of morality that I regard as absolutely horrible. He is a good student, sincere and amiable; and he’s not at all the kind of student teachers sometimes run into, I mean the kind who disagrees with the professor just to be a pain in the neck. Not at all; far from it; he’s a nice kid.
He contended (even though I had attempted to refute this obnoxious theory earlier in the semester) that individuals create their own morality, and therefore what’s right or wrong for you will not necessarily be right or wrong for me. As long as you do what you personally believe is right, then it’s right. Likewise, if I personally do what I believe is right, it’s right.
Now, whenever a student makes this point, I bring up Hitler: “If Hitler believed that the Holocaust was the right thing to do, then you say it was right for him to murder six million Jews, not to mention millions of others – is that what you’re saying?”
When I bring Hitler into the discussion, the student usually backs away from his or her assertion. (I sometimes suspect that God may have allowed Hitler to commit his mass murders so that professors will be able to use him as a horrible example in classroom discussions.) But this young man didn’t back away the other day. He stuck with the logic of his position. He said that what Hitler did was right because he believed it was right; and that therefore he (my student) would not condemn Hitler for doing the wrong thing.
At the same time, he assured me that he himself has a quite different personal morality. He personally would never commit genocide; it would be wrong to do so because it doesn’t accord with his personal moral code. I’m sure this is true. As I said, he’s a nice kid. I have no fear of mass murder when I walk into the classroom.
But this reminds me that we can change our minds more easily than we can change our hearts; we can change our opinions more readily than we can change our feelings. Among the most deeply embedded of all our feelings are the moral attitudes we acquire in the days of our childhood and adolescence.
Our moral attitudes, though, whether good or bad, are different from our moral opinions. That’s why it’s so difficult to talk a person out of bad habits. The advice you give this person may be 100 percent sound, but, still, it’s almost impossible to budge him. The same is true, mutatis mutandis, with people who grow up with good moral attitudes.
Does this mean that bad moral theories are harmless or that good theories are useless? Not at all. If you’re a person with good moral attitudes, your bad theories will probably have little impact on your actual moral conduct. But it may well have an impact on your children.
As you bring them up, you will be giving them a good example by your conduct (let’s say, habits of honesty); but your bad theory will be telling them, “I personally believe in honesty, and I personally hope you do the same when you’re an adult; but always remember this, that honesty is nothing more than my personal preference. Remember to be tolerant of crooks and liars and thieves who happen not to believe in honesty.”
Bad moral theories, then, will have bad moral consequences, and good moral theories will have good consequences. But it doesn’t happen overnight. It will take a generation or two, or maybe a hundred years, or maybe two or three hundred. Jefferson wrote, “all men are created equal” in 1776. This implied that slavery must be abolished. But it took 87 years and a great civil war before this happened.
“Ideas govern the world,” a French philosopher once said. And that’s true; they do. But in most cases, only gradually. We have a lot of bad moral theories floating around the USA today, not just my student’s bad theory. If we don’t check them, they will destroy us – if not in the short run, then gradually.”
Love & truth,
“I was raised in a loving Catholic family. My dad, raised a Lutheran, joined the Church when he married my mother, a cradle Catholic. As we grew up, both of them made a genuine effort to pass on the Faith to me and my four younger siblings. But as I grew older I became negative and critical toward the Catholic Church. It basically came down to this: I wanted to live one way and the Catholic Church wanted me to live another way. Both ways were not compatible.
So I chose to go my own way, focusing most of my thought and action on realizing my worldly ambitions. Inevitably Catholicism, which began to appear like a mere take-it-or-leave-it “extra,” drifted off my radar. By the time I had completed university I no longer accepted with conviction the orthodox Christian morality and fundamental Christian beliefs I had been raised to believe, and I began to harbor a growing skepticism, most fundamentally in regards to the divinity of Christ and the personal nature of God.
These doubts rendered all organized forms of religion, Catholicism included, increasingly irrelevant. Eventually tempted by agnosticism I found myself absorbed into a pagan way of life and my criticisms of Catholicism continued to grow. I was not a vocal opponent of the Catholic Church. Nor can I say that I was intellectually engaged in discovering whether God existed or not. I was, for a lack of a better word, following my feelings; and my feelings had a curious tendency to gravitate toward a sort of Epicurean way of life, that is, a godless way marked by pleasure and convenience.
But feelings are also transient and unfaithful when left running wild, which meant that on some days I enjoyed brief periods of renewed interest in Christianity, but on other days such notions as deism, pantheism, and New Age spirituality were most attractive. But all in all, these “interests” never ran deep enough to effect any significant change to my “spiritual but not religious” worldview.
My detachment from so-called organized religion did not come with any sort of intellectual angst. I had not battled with arguments against Catholicism nor any other religions, and lost. I just sort of haphazardly drifted out of commitment to Christ and his Church, and grew complacent about religious facts and arguments. Life was busy and much too stimulating for serious spiritual contemplation. I became a religious indifferentist in the most basic and ordinary sense, content not to think too seriously about the claims of the Faith of my childhood—nor any other religion for that matter.
Religious indifference in the most absolute and unrestricted sense is the failure to think seriously about religious beliefs, and the consequences that follow from the truth or error of those beliefs, simply out of intellectual laziness.
The three main parts of this book, however, will focus on three more specific types of religious indifference, all of which you have likely encountered to some degree.
The first type is closed indifference and involves a closed-mindedness toward religion. Closed indifferentists reject all religions. But although they believe all religions are bankrupt, closed indifferentists are not necessarily unfriendly toward religion. They may relate with a believer’s religious experience; perhaps even appreciate it. As atheist philosopher Julian Baggini writes, “Atheists can be indifferent rather than hostile to religious belief. They can be more sensitive to aesthetic experience, more moral, and more attuned to natural beauty than most theists.”
Maybe you’ve encountered the atheist who couldn’t care less about religion because of his skepticism; or the deist whose god “pushed the first domino” to set time and matter into motion but otherwise, like a deadbeat father, has turned his back on his created “offspring” ever since. Perhaps you have met people who think of God more as an impersonal force than a loving Father. It should be no surprise that these non-theists see religion as insignificant.
The second type is open indifference. Whereas closed indifference involves a radical closed-mindedness to religion, open indifference is characterized by an extreme open-mindedness toward all religions. Open indifferentists generally hold that all religions—and religious founders—are equal. Maybe you’ve interacted with, say, a “spiritual but not religious” college student who praises the teachings of Jesus while simultaneously hoisting other spiritual teachers like Gautama Buddha or the Dalai Lama up on the same pedestal as if all spiritualities ultimately and equally lead to the same God. Underneath such notions commonly lie an aversion to “organized religion.” To open indifferentists, there is no one religion that is truer than another: all religions are equal.
The third type of indifference is called denominational indifference. Denominational indifferentists claim that all Christian denominations are equal. Perhaps you’ve met a believer in Christ who rejects the importance of doctrine and accordingly does not take disagreements among denominations seriously. Instead they perhaps assert that so long as Christians of different stripes worship the same Jesus Christ then all is well and good. So whether a person happens to be Roman Catholic or Southern Baptist, Greek Orthodox or Quaker, it doesn’t ultimately matter—even when their doctrines clearly contradict each other and the doctrines of the earliest Christians.
So you can see that religious indifference is not easy to define. It involves a failure to think seriously about religion to some extent, and exists across a broad spectrum where religious attitudes range from “nothing goes” and “anything goes.” It is important to note that from the standpoint of a believer in God, religious indifferentism also includes the failure to carry out one’s duty to worship the one true God by believing and practicing the one true religion.
Specifically our purpose moving forward in the pages to come is to explore indifference toward the Catholic Church, and the costs to be paid for rejecting its beliefs.
The point is to show that Catholicism is worth thinking seriously about. For if Catholicism is true then it follows that the great spiritual problem of today is not what many people think about Catholicism; it is that many people don’t think about Catholicism. Indeed all too often, armed to the teeth with logical, historical, and biblical errors, they only react to it without a second thought. The problem I am here concerned with is not that people think wrongly about Catholicism—it is that people don’t think about it all.”
Love & deep thinking that leads intrinsically to Him, the source of ALL that is,
“Before retiring to bed on a Tuesday night in the Vatican, Saint John Paul II prayed the Liturgy of the Hours, meditating upon the following words from Saint Peter: “Stay sober and alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1
Long after others in the papal apartment were asleep, a noise awoke his secretary, Monsignor Stanisław Dziwisz, who left his room to investigate. His room was adjacent to the Holy Father’s, but he noticed that the sounds were not coming from the Pope’s room, but from his chapel. Although late-night prayer was not uncommon for John Paul, Dziwisz peered in to be certain that everything was all right.
The sight was typical: John Paul immersed in contemplation alone before the tabernacle. The Pope usually spoke to God with very simple words, and often prayed during adoration like Jesus did in Gethsemane, talking with his Father. 2 This night, Dziwisz noticed that John Paul indeed seemed troubled. The disturbance he overheard was the Pope speaking aloud to God, asking repeatedly, “Dlaczego? Dlaczego?” (“ Why? Why?”). Out of reverence, the monsignor backed away from the chapel and returned to his room for the night.
John Paul celebrated Mass the next morning, but was unusually reserved during breakfast afterward. The Pope’s typical jovial and engaging demeanor toward the sisters and guests was subdued. Instead of asking questions and conversing about an endless variety of topics, he was recollected and withdrawn. He ate no breakfast, and drank a cup of tea. 3
That afternoon would be an important one: During his Wednesday audience, John Paul was preparing to announce the establishment of two ministries in the Church that would address the problems facing families in the modern world. 4 One of these, the Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family, would become the main teaching arm of the Theology of the Body. 5
On his way to deliver his message, the Holy Father rode in the Popemobile across Saint Peter’s Square. As he was blessing children and greeting the crowds, gunshots from a Turkish assassin rang out. An ambulance rushed the Pope in his bloodstained cassock to the hospital, where he narrowly escaped death.
Had God given him a premonition of his suffering the night before? The answer to that question will likely remain a mystery known only to John Paul.
Was there a link between his suffering and his efforts to build up marriage and the family? This he affirmed, saying, “Perhaps there was a need for that blood to be spilled in Saint Peter’s Square.” 6 He added, “Precisely because the family is threatened, the family is being attacked. So the Pope must be attacked. The Pope must suffer, so that the world may see that there is a higher gospel, as it were, the gospel of suffering, by which the future is prepared, the third millennium of families. . . .” 7
…While camping at the World Youth Day vigil in Kraków, I spoke with a young woman who was preparing to enter her first year of college at a prestigious university in California. She pulled her phone out of her backpack and showed me where her online college application required her to check the appropriate box to indicate her gender.
There were eighteen boxes to choose from.
I read through the litany of genders, and noticed that two were missing: male and female. (Facebook— which invites its users to identify as one of more than fifty genders— at least offers them the possibility of choosing to be male or female.) The university application, however, did allow the incoming students to choose “cis-male” or “cis-female,” which means that the biological sex one was “assigned” at birth aligns with the gender one chooses for one’s identity.
While some seek to expand upon the number of genders and create a spectrum of options, the ultimate goal of gender theory is not diversity. After all, diversity requires objective differences. The goal is to erase the sexual difference, and thus to eliminate the meaning of the body.
Where is this coming from? The Second Vatican Council prophesied our culture’s sexual identity crisis by stating, “When God is forgotten . . . the creature itself grows unintelligible.” 8 Although the Theology of the Body was written before many of the modern ideas of gender theory became popular, it was ahead of its time in offering a clear answer for them— and for many other key issues about sexuality and the body.
What is the Theology of the Body?
The Theology of the Body is the popular title given to 135 reflections written by Saint John Paul II. As a cardinal in Poland, he (Karol Wojtyła) planned to publish them as a book titled Man and Woman He Created Them. 9 Before this could happen, he was elected pope, and instead delivered the content in 129 Wednesday Audiences during the first five years of his pontificate.
The thousands of vacationers and pilgrims who gathered to see the Holy Father at these audiences had no idea that the Pope’s biographer would later describe the Theology of the Body as a “theological time bomb set to go off, with dramatic consequences, sometime in the third millennium of the Church.” 10
What could be so explosive about a Polish bishop’s theological reflections on the body? To answer this, consider how the human body has been viewed throughout history. Thousands of years ago, Gnostics and Platonists believed that a person’s true self was different from his or her body. One Gnostic sect, the Manicheans, believed that man’s destiny was to set his spiritual essence free from the pollution of matter. Because the body was material, it was not only inferior, but evil. In fact, it was considered a sin for a woman to give birth because she was bringing more matter into existence! Centuries later, puritanism considered the body to be a threat to one’s soul. Meanwhile, the philosopher René Descartes proposed that the soul is like a ghost trapped in a machine.
All these views about the body have one element of truth in common: Our bodies and souls aren’t in harmony. However, the body is not unimportant compared to the soul. Nor is the body something we “have,” or something that encumbers our soul. We are our bodies, and our bodies reveal us. However, our current state is not the way God created us in the beginning. The discord that exists within man is the result of original sin. 11
While some individuals devalued the body and cared only for the soul, others fell into the opposite mistake. Atheists and materialist philosophers argued that the human person is nothing more than his or her body: There is no soul, and the body has no meaning.
Although these ideas might seem like debates reserved for philosophers and theologians, consider what happens when entire cultures accept these misguided notions of what it means to be human. If man has a body but no spiritual dimension, what distinguishes him from other animals? Why should he act differently or be treated differently? On the other hand, if a person’s true identity is found in his spirit alone, then man’s view of himself becomes uprooted from any objective reality. Truth would then be defined by a person’s feelings. As a result, masculinity and femininity would be viewed as social constructs, not realities created by God. But if masculinity and femininity don’t exist, then what becomes of marriage and the family?
Because there has been so much confusion about the meaning of the human body, John Paul set out to present a total vision of man that would include man’s origin, history, and destiny. Instead of arguing from the outside in, offering people a litany of rules, he invited them to seek the truth about reality by reflecting on their own human experience. The writings of Saint John of the Cross played a key role in shaping John Paul’s style of thinking. His philosophical studies on of Max Scheler and other phenomenologists further sharpened his ability to observe human experience. John Paul doesn’t begin by explaining what man ought to do, but by explaining who man is. In the Pope’s mind, people will know how to live if they know who they are.
It has been said that rules without a relationship creates rebellion. This is true with parents and children, and it’s especially true with the relationship between God and humanity. John Paul knew that laws don’t change hearts. When people view morality as a rigid list of imposed regulations, they might temporarily behave themselves out of guilt or fear, but they often abandon the faith. The Pope understood the futility of this approach, and knew that a fresh re-presentation of the Church’s teachings on sexual ethics was overdue.
What the modern world needed was not just a defense of the Church’s teachings, but rather an unveiling of God’s original plan for the beauty of human love. Culture needed something that wasn’t simply intellectually convincing or morally upright, but rather something that corresponded to the deepest yearnings of the human heart.
Unfortunately, many have grown deaf to these yearnings and hear only the urges of the body. But no matter how numb one might be to the deepest aspirations of the soul, everyone can relate to the ache of solitude, the experience of shame, and the desire for communion. In the Theology of the Body, John Paul explored these experiences and more, to reveal how God’s plan for humanity is stamped not only into our hearts, but also into our bodies.
When people discover the Theology of the Body, they often exclaim that they’ve never heard anything like it before. This is because many people learned about sexuality in a religious framework that focused only on what is forbidden and permitted. Others learned about it through the lens of modern sex education, which reduces one’s sexuality to biology and sensuality. This might count as “sex ed,” but it’s not a true education in human sexuality. 12
Properly speaking, “sex” is not something people do. Sex is who we are as male and female persons. The Theology of the Body reminds us of this broader meaning and offers compelling answers to questions such as: Who am I? What does it mean to be human? How should I live? It delves into delicate questions regarding marriage and sexual ethics, but does so while inviting people to rediscover the meaning of life. Through it, one realizes that modern man’s sexual confusion is not caused because the world glorifies sexuality, but because the world fails to see its glory.
For those who have disregarded the Church’s teaching on human sexuality because it seems out of touch with the modern world, the Theology of the Body offers a fresh perspective. Its insights are not pious reflections offered by a theologian who was isolated from the daily struggles of married life. On the contrary, they are the result of decades of personal interactions between a remarkable saint and the countless young adults and married couples that he accompanied through their vocations. These couples attest that although John Paul had a great ability to preach, he had an even greater ability to listen.
The Theology of the Body comes from the heart of a saint who listened intently not only to others but also to the God Who could provide meaning to their lives. He was no stranger to suffering, living under Nazi and Communist regimes and having lost his family by the age of twenty. While such trials might lead some to abandon their faith, John Paul’s was forged by them, as he sought answers to the deepest questions about life’s meaning.
John Paul also possessed a staggering intellect, and according to his secretary, spent three hours each day reading. 13 Although he was dedicated to the intellectual life, John Paul’s prayer life took priority. His colleagues attest that he seemed to be continually absorbed in prayer, as can be seen from the fact that he considered the busy Paris Metro to be “a superb place for contemplation.” 14
His greatest devotion, however, was to the Blessed Sacrament. He never omitted his Holy Hour on Thursdays, even while traveling internationally. If the organizers of his trips didn’t make room for it in his schedule, he would make time and simply arrive an hour late to their program. When his assistants attempted to convince him to decrease the amount of time spent in this devotion, he refused, saying, “No, it keeps me.” 15 He knew that apostolic mission derives its strength from life in God. 16 It is from this man’s heart, mind, and soul that the Church has been given a tremendous gift: the Theology of the Body.
The Theology of the Body is comprised of two parts. The first focuses on three passages from Scripture, or “words” of Christ. In it, John Paul examined the dialogue between Jesus and the Pharisees regarding marriage and divorce. 17 Then he reflects upon the words of Christ from the Sermon on the Mount, in particular those concerning committing adultery in one’s heart. 18 Finally, he turns to Christ’s words regarding the resurrection of the body. 19 By means of these reflections, he explains the redemption of the body. If fact, in his final catechesis, he describes the content of the whole work as “the redemption of the body and the sacramentality of marriage.” 20
The Theology of the Body is thoroughly biblical— as can be seen by the fact that the Pope draws from forty-six books and more than a thousand Scripture citations. However, among all of the passages he quotes, the three mentioned above are his focus. He compares them to the panels of a triptych, which is a work of sacred art consisting of three panels, or parts. When the three images are displayed together, they present a fuller understanding of a topic of theology (in this case, the human person).
The three parts of John Paul’s triptych are original, historical, and eschatological man. Original man is who God created man to be in the beginning, before the dawn of sin. Historical man refers to the current state of humanity, burdened by original sin but redeemed by Christ. “Eschatological” has its roots in the Greek word for “end,” eschaton, and refers to the glorified state of man in heaven. Together, these three epochs of human history form what John Paul called an “adequate anthropology”— an understanding of what it means to be a human person.
In the first part of the Theology of the Body, John Paul used the above three “words” of Christ to explain man’s call to live out “the spousal meaning of the body.” This phrase is the heart of the Theology of the Body. It means that the human body has “the power to express love: precisely that love in which the human person becomes a gift and— through this gift— fulfills the very meaning of his being and existence.” 21 (This gift of self can be expressed not only through marriage, but also through celibacy for the kingdom of God.)
In the second part of the Theology of the Body, the Pope analyzed “The Sacrament” which is the “great sign” of Christ’s love for the Church and the love between a husband and wife. He explained what the gift of self means in terms of the “language of the body,” and how men and women are called to live it out, especially as it relates to building their families.”
-Evert, Jason (2017-12-06). Theology of the Body In One Hour (Kindle Locations 63-102, 109-239). Totus Tuus Press. Kindle Edition.
Love, His will is perfect,
1 Peter 5: 8.
2 Mieczysław Mokrzycki, World Youth Day Press Conference, Krakow, Poland, July 27, 2016.
3 Interview with Father Andrew Swietochowski, July 31, 2017.
4 The Pontifical Council for the Family and the International Institute of Studies on Marriage and Family.
5 Diane Montagna, “Online Exclusive: What John Paul II Intended to Say the Day He Was Shot,” Aleteia, May 7, 2016.
6 Pope John Paul II, Memory and Identity (New York: Rizzoli, 2005), 164.
7 Pope John Paul II, Angelus message, May 29, 1994.
8 Gaudium et Spes, 36.
9 Other proposed titles included “Human Love in the Divine Plan” or “The Redemption of the Body and the Sacramentality of Marriage.”
10 George Weigel, Witness to Hope (New York: Harper, 2001), 343.
11 Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 2516 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1994).
12 Pope John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio 11 (Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 1981).
13 Mokrzycki, World Youth Day Press Conference.
14 George Weigel, City of Saints (New York: Image, 2015), 232.
15 Mokrzycki, World Youth Day Press Conference.
16 Pope John Paul II, Master in the Faith 2, Rome: December 14, 1990.
17 Matt. 19: 8; Mark 10: 6– 9.
18 Matt. 5: 28.
19 Matt. 22: 30; Mark 12: 25; Luke
20: 35– 36. 20 TOB 133: 2.
21 Theology of the Body 15: 1; 32: 1, 3.
“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” ~ Voltaire
School administrators and board members terrified of expensive lawsuits are capitulating to the demands of “gender”-confused adolescents. Parents are capitulating to the disordered thinking of their children, terrified that if they don’t, their children will commit suicide. Their fears are stoked by a deeply flawed study that is grossly misunderstood.
1.) No one knows what causes gender dysphoria. While some subscribe to “brain sex” theories of causation (for which there is no proof) or believe that intrauterine hormone exposure causes the development of gender dysphoria, there are other possibilities, including pubertal changes (e.g., early breast development in girls can lead to unwanted male attention that results in girls feeling uncomfortable with their female bodies); autism; sexual abuse; childhood trauma ; family dysfunction; and excessively rigid gender roles. Moreover, even a discovery that biochemical factors influence the development of feelings about gender would not mean that chemical and surgical treatments are appropriate responses to gender dysphoria.
2.) Gender dysphoria can diminish, resolve, or be treated in less drastic ways than the “trans”-affirming protocol that involves chemical and surgical interventions for a non-medical problem (i.e., puberty is not a medical problem). The best research to date suggests that upwards of 80% of gender-dysphoric children will “desist,” that is, their gender dysphoria will resolve and they will accept their bodies, unless their rejection of their natal sex is affirmed by their environment.
3.) There’s been an explosion in the numbers of children and teens identifying as “transgender,” including teens who never before exhibited signs of gender dysphoria. This latter phenomenon, which affects primarily teen girls, has been called “rapid onset gender dysphoria.” Some parents are reporting that their children have several friends who identify as “trans,” and some are reporting that their children self-diagnosed after spending time on the Internet where they encountered videos or chat rooms in which young people describe their gender dysphoria or “trans” identity. Many believe the dramatic increase in this profoundly unnatural phenomenon results from “social contagion,” which tends to affect adolescents much more than adults.
4.) The medical community admits it has no idea whether pathologizing healthy sexual development and setting children and teens on a path of lifetime risky medical treatments will help them, and they have no idea if these children will grow up to regret their “transitions.”
5.) Gatekeeping is lax. Gatekeeping is the process that determines who accesses “trans”-affirming medical treatment like prescriptions for cross-sex hormones. Parents and former “trans”-identified men and women criticize the mental health community for failing to take adequate medical and mental health histories of new patients that might reveal “co-morbidities” (i.e., the simultaneous presence of more than one chronic disease or condition in a patient) prior to prescribing cross-sex hormones or making surgery referrals. Some young gender-dysphoria sufferers are able to get prescriptions for opposite-sex hormones after just a couple of visits with a doctor. Worse, the pressure is mounting from the “trans” cult to eliminate gatekeeping entirely, even for minors.
6.) Puberty-blockers carry serious known health risks, and long-term effects are unknown. Kaiser Health News recently wrote about one of the primary puberty blockers administered to gender-dysphoric children: Lupron. Lupron is thought to cause osteopenia (bone-thinning), osteoporosis (bone loss), degenerative disc disease, fibromyalgia, and depression. Due to the number and nature of complaints received, the FDA is now reviewing the safety of Lupron.
7.) “Progressives” argue that the effects of puberty blockers are reversible and merely buy gender-dysphoric children time to figure out their “gender identity.” What they don’t share is that the vast majority of children who take puberty blockers move on to cross-sex hormones. In contrast, as mentioned earlier, upwards of 80% of gender-dysphoric children who do not take puberty blockers or socially transition eventually accept their sex. Preventing the process of puberty to proceed naturally not only interferes with the biological and anatomical development of children but also changes he social experiences that attend puberty.
8.) Cross-sex hormones are risky and lifetime effects unknown. Voice changes, sterility, and hair growth patterns (including male pattern baldness in women who take testosterone) are irreversible. Side effects and long-term health risks for women who take testosterone include a decrease in good cholesterol (HDL), an increase in bad cholesterol (LDL), an increase in blood pressure, a decrease in the body’s sensitivity to insulin, weight gain, possible increase in risk of heart disease (including heart attack), stroke, and diabetes. The side effects and long-term health risks for men who take estrogen include liver damage and disease, blood clots, stroke, diabetes, gall stones, heart disease, prolactinoma (a cancer of the pituitary gland that can, in turn, damage vision), nausea, and migraines.
9.) Many gender-dysphoric girls bind their breasts much like Chinese women used to bind their feet. “Chest-binding” carries serious health risks including compressed ribs, which can cause blood flow problems and increase the risk of developing blood clots. Over time, this can lead to inflamed ribs (costochondritis) and even heart attacks due to decreased blood flow to the heart, fractured ribs that can lead to punctured and collapsed lungs, and back problems.
10.) Boys under 18 can have vaginoplasty in which they are castrated and the skin from their penises and scrotums used to fashion the likeness of a vagina and labia. A surgeon, in effect, turns a boy’s penis inside out, with the outside skin of the penis becoming the lining of the “neovagina.” Alternatively, boys can have “intestinal” or “sigmoid colon” vaginoplasty, which uses part of their intestines to construct “neovaginas.” A 2015 study showed that between 12-43% of patients who had vaginoplasty experienced “neovaginal” narrowing, and 33% experienced “changes in urine stream and heightened risk of urethral infection.”
Bottom surgery for girls who pretend to be boys is more complicated and has less satisfactory results. It first requires a hysterectomy followed several months later by phalloplasty which requires skin grafts taken from the forearm or thigh to create a penis that has no capacity for producing an erection. Therefore, patients who want to have intercourse will need penile implants, the most common of which requires the most skill to use, has the highest complication rate (50% must be removed due to complications), and must be replaced every 3-15 years.
WARNING!!!!!! CAUTION: GRAPHIC VIDEOS & CONTENT
Minor girls can also get double mastectomies as young as 15 years old.
All surgeries carry risk, but teens and young adults are having these life-altering, risky procedures—not to treat a disease—but to alter normal, healthy processes and mutilate healthy anatomy.
11.) Several studies reveal that the majority of “trans” identifying adults desire to have their own biological children, and yet minors are being given cross-sex hormones that leave them permanently sterile. Further, “it is not currently possible to freeze immature gametes.”
12.) There is a growing “detransitioning” movement. Detransitioners are men and women of diverse ages who regret having taken cross-sex hormones and amputated healthy body parts. Many have come to understand the cause or causes of their gender dysphoria and feel sorrow over the irreversible damage they have done to their bodies. Their stories, easily available online, are painful to hear.
13.) Research into gender reversal transitions is stymied by political pressure from “trans” activists.
What is now commonly understood is that brain development is not complete until about age 25.
“The rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until age 25 or so…. Adults think with the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s rational part. This is the part of the brain that responds to situations with good judgment and an awareness of long-term consequences. Teens process information with the amygdala. This is the emotional part.
In teen’s brains, the connections between the emotional part of the brain and the decision-making center are still developing—and not necessarily at the same rate. That’s why when teens experience overwhelming emotional input, they can’t explain later what they were thinking. They weren’t thinking as much as they were feeling.”
Culture is providing a lens through which young people with still developing brains interpret their experiences of discomfort with their bodies. This lens is distorting common, usually transient experiences.
As months and years pass, more men and women will tell their stories of anger and sorrow at being deluded and betrayed as children by ignorant and cowardly adults—some of whom cared more about lawsuits than about children.
So, when your school administration and board decide to allow objectively male students into girls’ private spaces or vice versa, ask them if they will accept some measure of responsibility for facilitating confusion and error when ten or twenty years from now, the “trans” ideology is exposed as one of the great pseudo-scientific errors in American history along with Freud’s theories of psychosexual development, false memory syndrome, and lobotomies.
For more information about detransitioning, watch these Youtube video clips:
Love & truth,
“St. Francis Xavier, SJ died on a small island six miles off the coast of China, his ultimate destination in sight. Not having reached his goal, Xavier felt himself something of a failure. Here is Walter Burghardt, in his book Saints and Sanctity, reflecting on times of failure even after we have worked hard:
“This is dreadfully difficult for a human being to accept— even for a Xavier. Just because I am trying to do God’s work with every ounce of my being is no guarantee that my plans will prosper. There is no guarantee that an effective Christian apostle will not be cut down in his prime. . . . There is no guarantee that because you have given yourself to a Christian marriage, your oneness will be lasting . . . that because you love God deeply, you will not lose your job, your home, your family, your health. . . . There is no guarantee that because you believe, you will not doubt; because you hope, you will not despond; because you love, your love will not grow cold. There is no guarantee that a Xavier will reach China. In this sense there is a Christian frustration, a Christian failure. . . . You do your Christian task as God gives you to see it; the rest, the increase, is in His hands. God still uses what the world calls foolish to shame the wise, still uses what the world calls weak to shame its strength, still uses what the world calls low and insignificant and unreal to nullify its realities. . . . In this sense, there is no Christian frustration and no Christian failure.
-Martin, James, SJ. The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life (Kindle Locations 6236-6247). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
I heard Marie Collins speak and met her August 2 2014 at the SNAP Conference in Chicago, after her address. While I can never possibly claim to understand Marie’s level of frustration, if you want to be as happy and carefree, unscarred and unscathed a Catholic as possible, next best thing to totally disengaged, although I DO NOT believe that is a feasible, reasonable, or actual goal of being a Christian, look how the boss wound up, AND HE IS GOD!!!, NOT SO YOU & I, go to Mass, pay your tithes, shut up!, say your prayers, and NEVER DO ANYTHING ELSE!!!!!!!! You have been warned.
Love, Lord have mercy!!!!,
-by Mark Shea, former Baptist and now Catholic apologist
“The good news about the Catholic Church,” said a friend of mine “is that it’s like a big family.”
“The bad news about the Catholic Church,” he continued, “is that it’s like a big family.”
A basic fact of life is that the same Body of Christ that is the sacrament of salvation, the fountain of so many graces, the home of so many amazing and wonderful people, so much healing, so much beauty, and the glorious treasury of saints to whom we owe so much…that same Church is the scene of incredibly devastating hurts dealt out by traitors, perverts, scoundrels, monsters, selfish jerks, liars, grasping careerists, Pharisees, libertines, and fools.
Just about everyone has a story to tell: the scheming chancery functionary bent on inflicting economic harm on some struggling Catholic self-employed businessman; the priest who was an insulting, despair-inducing buffoon in the confessional; the sexually abusive cleric and the bishop who protected him; the Church Lady with her petty hurtful gossip; the jackass who poses as the uber-pious Catholic while he cheats on his wife; the nun who shamed and scarred the little girl in third grade; the crazy mom who destroyed her kids lives while yakking about God, dragging them from one quack visionary to the next and then running off with the priest; the liturgist who decided the mandate was not “Feed my sheep” but “Try experiments on my rats”; the Catholic schoolteacher who destroyed your shot at college because she was a vindictive psycho who hated males.
It is, in fact, a story as old as the New Testament. Jesus’ story is, after all, a story of betrayal. It’s easy to forget that Judas was, at one time, a friend of Jesus’. And so one of the great psalms of the Passion records the messianic sufferer lamenting, “Even my bosom friend in whom I trusted, who ate of my bread, has lifted his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9).
Nor did the other apostles always present a sterling example of loyal friendship. They fought amongst themselves about who was the greatest, even as Jesus was celebrating the Last Supper and warning of his betrayal (Luke 22:24). James and John elbowed each other for a coveted spot at Jesus’ left and right hands, and even sent their mom to run interference for them as they jockeyed for position (Matthew 20:20-24). Peter, who had massive failings of his own when it came to denying Jesus and chickening out in a pinch, was also frustrated by Simon Magus, a baptized Christian who saw Jesus as a potential source of super powers and who tried to buy Peter off (Acts 8:9-14).
Similarly, Paul has to write on a number of occasions to express his exasperation, not with persecuting pagans outside the Church, but with his own fellow Christians within it. “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel” he tells the Galatians, adding later (of those Judaizing Christians who were tempting the Galatians to abandon the gospel and return to salvation by circumcision): “I wish those who unsettle you would mutilate themselves!” (Galatians 5:12). (It’s been a while since a bishop blurted out in frustration that he wished members of his flock would castrate themselves.)
In various letters, Paul complains about Christians getting drunk at their agape meals, embarrassing the poor, having relations with their stepmother, rejecting the resurrection, getting puffed up with pride, refusing to work since Jesus was coming soon, and rejecting himself as an apostle since was not one of the original Twelve. Indeed, for all the abuse and beatings Paul got at the hands of both Jews and pagans, the greatest pain and frustration he felt was at the sheer ingratitude and hostility he received from fellow Christians, a fact easily verified from 2 Corinthians 10-13, in which the apostle “vents” (as they say these days) about the exasperation he feels at having to establish his bona fides as a “real” apostle to the spouting popinjays at the Church in Corinth who were simultaneously undermining all his hard work—work done at the cost of beatings, shipwreck, stoning and abuse—while leading the thankless Corinthians away from apostolic tradition. Paul practically pioneered the discovery of many a Catholic saint since that no good deed goes unpunished.
And all this sets the stage for a rich and colorful pageant of Catholic history in which Catholics drive each other crazy, hurt each other, lie to each other, cheat each other, make war on each other, rape each other, and kill each other. And by this, I mean Catholics from every walk of life. You can find everybody from Pope to dog catcher in the rogue’s gallery: clerical, lay, male, female, young, old, black, white, unlettered ruffian, cultured scholar, foreign, and domestic. No wonder Paul has to exhort us to bear with one another (Colossians 3:13) and Jesus tells us to forgive one another. It’s easy to forget that these instructions are not some platform for general social reform in which saintly Christians march out and show a barbarous world of buffoons the True Path.
Rather, the instructions to bear with and forgive one another are given to Christians first, because we need to hear them first. The New Testament documents are meant to be read in Christian assemblies of worship and are calculated to help Christians get along with each other. They were not written for classes on Civilizational Uplift to be taught by Holy Christians to a rabble of unwashed pagan thugs. Nor were they written for Christians to study in a class on “how to endure persecution from non-Christians” (though a few remarks here and there do, indeed, instruct Christians on how to cope with persecution from non-Christians).
On the contrary, the command to forgive—a command so crucial that it is the only part of the Our Father on which Jesus comments (warning “if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15))—frankly presupposes that the Church is the rabble of sinners who hurt each other before it is the communion of saints that reaches heaven.
Because of all this it’s worth looking at some of the biblical principles by which the Church orders its life for when its member don’t act like saints. In a world of pain infliction like ours, it’s easy to leap to a variety of conclusions that can hurt rather than help our faith and our obedience to Jesus Christ. We can assume that the person who hurt us meant to hurt us. We can assume that the hurt is proof the person is not really a Christian and is bound for Hell. We can assume the sinner is acting with the power and the authority of the Church (a particularly easy assumption when the sinner is a cleric). We can assume the hurt is proof that we “had it coming”. We can assume the hurt is proof the entire Catholic faith is a fraud. We can assume the hurt is proof Jesus Christ is a fraud. We can assume the hurt is proof the existence of God is a fraud.
Because of our tendency to draw unwarranted conclusions from the pain Catholics cause each other as they bonk into each other in the hurly burly of life, it’s wise to think about such matters and plan ahead for the moment when (not if) somebody in the Church hurts you.
The Mark Twain Principle
The first and most sensible thing that Catholics can do is not borrow trouble by presuming the worst right off the bat. Mark Twain said we should never attribute to malice what can be sufficiently explained by stupidity. His humorous point, of course, is that while there certainly are deliberately hurtful acts, an awful lot of what we do to one another is caused by ignorance and can even have a good-hearted intention behind the misfire if we can get past our pain to see it. The child who tries his best to be nice to the neighbor lady and ends up saying, “Gee, for a fat lady you sure don’t sweat much!” may deeply hurt with his words, but he does, after all, mean well. So our tradition counsels us to always assume the best first. With each pain we encounter, we have to develop the habit of asking “Was this grave? Did the person who did it have freedom? Did they understand what they were doing?” This spells the difference between excusing and forgiving. A lot of evil done us doesn’t even rise to the level of a sin. So we excuse the person who steps on our toes, or the verbal klutz who means to compliment us but winds up saying “You’re a lot smarter than I thought you were.”
Cultivate a 70 X 7 Habit
Of course, not all evils are excusable. Sometimes people commit actual sins against us. They fail to render the love or justice we were properly owed. They cut in line. They steal our stuff. They cheat us. They cheat on us. They abuse us. Whether by action or by failure to act, they knowingly and willingly hurt us. What then?
The command of Jesus is famous—and scary: “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against any one; so that your Father also Who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25) Peter, standing at the head of a long line of Christians who couldn’t even begin to imagine what Jesus really meant by that, summoned his magnanimity to its height and suggested that instead of the rabbinic custom of forgiving people three times, perhaps we should go all out and forgive them seven times. Jesus countered, “Not seven, but seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22). How many times must we forgive? Infinity. As many times as we are sinned against. And that forgiveness is to be extended “if you have anything against any one”. No qualifications on whether or not they reciprocate or say they are sorry or show contrition.
The reason for this, of course, is for our good. Unforgiveness is, as has been famously observed, like drinking poison and expecting the other guy to die. To refuse to forgive is not to maintain power over our victimizer. It is to hand all power over to them and leave them in control of us for the rest of our lives and (if we let it destroy our souls with bitterness) possibly for the rest of eternity. In forgiveness, we hand the person who has sinned against us back to God, release them from our judgment and entrust them to the mercy of God. In doing so, we are set free from their power and can stand in the place of Christ the Beloved Son who likewise forgave and enjoyed—even on the cross—the love of God.
Don’t Blame Yourself
The Christian tradition has a healthy habit of self-criticism enshrined in the Confiteor. We are sinners, it is true. At the same time, there can be a certain pathology in which we can blame ourselves for sins committed against us. The child blames himself because his uncle beat him. The abused woman says it’s her fault that her husband gave her a black eye. The victim of priest abuse believes (and in some cases was shamefully told by ecclesial authority) that the abuse was their fault because they “asked for it”. The Church’s actual moral tradition, however, stands against this: the sinner is responsible for his sin, not somebody else. The victim of abuse needs to lay hold of Christ, the innocent sufferer, who did not say, “Maybe I had it coming”. He knew he was innocent. But neither did he allow the injustice done him to conquer him with bitterness. He showed the way between self-blame and hatred of his victimizers: the way of love rooted in the knowledge that he was the beloved Son of God. You are likewise a beloved child of God and the sin committed against you is not a sign that you had it coming or that God is angry at you. It is a sign only of the fact that we live in a fallen world. United with Christ crucified, your suffering can even help in the redemption of the evil done you, and can be a way that God will defeat Satan’s attack on you with a good that conquers and overwhelmingly triumphs.
Forgiveness Does not Mean Inaction
One great fear that can seize people is the mistaken notion that the command to forgive is a command to be passive—as though forgiveness means sitting on your hands while somebody gets away with fleecing you blind or beating you up because to oppose them would be “judgmental”. In fact, however, the New Testament knew as well as we do that sometimes sins require action:
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (Matthew 18:15-17)
Clearly, what Jesus has in view here is the twofold reality that sins and conflicts are going to arise within the Church and that his disciples need to find a way to deal with them effectively. For much of our day-to-day life, these problems are the equivalent of pin pricks and paper cuts in the body of Christ. Somebody sins. You show them their fault with mercy and charity. They repent. All’s forgiven. You don’t call your pastor because your husband left the toilet seat up. The bishop is not on speed dial to adjudicate how the monies from the parish bake sale will be distributed. Subsidiarity means that the people closest to the problem will, nine times out of ten, be competent to deal with the problem.
However, sometimes a bit more is required. So you call in a second opinion when your son is blowing off his schoolwork, making you and your spouse the united front who forbid the hike or the video games till the sin is remedied. Other times, the two or three witnesses may point out that there is blame to go around on all sides. On occasion, it may be necessary to bring a conflict to a pastor, such as with marriage issues, parenting issues, or some sort of struggle with how the school, or the finance committee are doing. A huge amount of our daily life never goes further than these levels of conflict and arbitration because most of us do not live epic lives of conflict that rocks the Church.
That said, of course, there are moments when some sin is so grave that ecclesial and even civil authority must be called in. A good rule of thumb is that ecclesial authority is necessary for ecclesial issues and civil authority should be contacted for issues in which the common good is threatened. So if your parish or Catholic educational institution is, for instance, fomenting rank heresy or open contempt for the faith, it may be time to contact the bishop. The trick, of course, is that very often the people most eager to make such calls are the people least qualified to do so. Every diocese has its wannabe Inquisitors who contact the chancery on a weekly or daily basis to complain that their parish sings hymns they don’t like, or the priest does not elevate the Host as high as the Inquisitor thinks proper, or women are not wearing veils as they should or what have you. Bishops have a lot on their minds, so a good rule of thumb is to ask whether the thing I think of such burning importance seems to be of burning importance to other good and holy folk I know in the diocese. If they do not think it worth going to the mat for, say, having to sing the umpteenth chorus of “Anthem” at the family Mass, probably this is not the battle that needs to be fought right now. On the other hand, if there are really serious theological and liturgical abuses, the bishop needs to know.
With matters of civil law such as theft, sexual abuse and such like, the proper place to go is to the cops. As Paul says,
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of him who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer.” (Romans 13:1-4)
So, for instance, to draw from the very stark and disastrous example of the priest abuse scandal, if a layperson has evidence that a priest has been harming a child, this is not a matter for internal discipline in the diocese. This is a criminal matter and the police should be contacted. It is not “unforgiving” to do so. It is an act of justice to the victim, an act of charity and protection for potential victims, and a work of mercy to the Body of Christ.
One temptation that faces us when a member of the Church sins against us is to conclude that the sinner is “not really a Christian” or that the whole thing—Church, Jesus, God—is a sham. As to the question of whether somebody who sins is “really a Christian”, C.S. Lewis gives us a good perspective via his demonic correspondent Uncle Screwtape, who advises his nephew, the junior tempter Wormwood, on how to help sow the seeds of bitterness and pride in his human “patient” when he discovers his fellow Christians are all quite capable of sin:
All you then have to do is to keep out of his mind the question ‘If I, being what I am, can consider that I am in some sense a Christian, why should the different vices of those people in the next pew prove that their religion is mere hypocrisy and convention?’ You may ask whether it is possible to keep such an obvious thought from occurring even to a human mind. It is, Wormwood, it is! Handle him properly and it simply won’t come into his head. He has not been anything like long enough with the Enemy(God) to have any real humility yet. What he says, even on his knees, about his own sinfulness is all parrot talk. At bottom, he still believes he has run up a very favourable credit-balance in the Enemy’s ledger by allowing himself to be converted, and thinks that he is showing great humility and condescension in going to church with these ‘smug,’ commonplace neighbours at all. Keep him in that state of mind as long as you can.
Remember Why the Church is Called “Holy”
It will be noticed that throughout this article I have not confined the discussion to what the press typically means by “the Church”: namely, the hierarchy and the ordained office. That’s because, of course, the Church is all the baptized. When we speak of “the Church” hurting us and think only of the clergy we are taking a radically impoverished view of the Church. And this is of a piece with a general tendency to think of “the Church” merely as a sort of institutional structure. It’s not. The Church is the Body of Christ. But what makes it the Body of Christ is not the Pope, bishops or priests. It’s not the saints. It’s not radical empowered laity full of progressive fervor bringing an antiquated institution into The Future. It’s not properly observed liturgical rubrics. What makes the Church the Body of Christ is the Holy Spirit, Who is the soul of the Church. We say the Church is holy not because we are stone blind Kool-Aid drinkers who imagine Catholics never sin despite two thousand years of evidence to the contrary, but because, through thick and thin, the Holy Spirit continues to make it possible to forgive, heal, and be reconciled despite the worst wounds—the wounds we receive in the house of our friends (Zechariah 13:6).”
Lord, strengthen me against my own hypocrisy, which is daily.