Wednesday, July 20, 2011

On Sinners, Scandals, and Why I Haven't Left the Catholic Church

Hello, Coffee Talkers!

In last night's brief post on How to Spot a Fake Catholic Church, I made reference to churches that claim to be Catholic without actually having communion with Rome, and to a bishop who was illegitimately ordained in China. In the comment box, this was the first comment:
"The Bishop here in Antigonish Nova Scotia was real ...really perverted and is in jail ...too much porn on the laptop ....don't be so quick to judge those 'protestant churches' maybe they're protesting some really bad stuff"
I wouldn't normally draw attention to a comment like this by devoting an entire blog post in response, but I suspect that this kind of view is held by enough people that it's worth addressing.

There are so many points that could be touched on here, but I'll limit myself to a few for now. First, let's talk about the issue of the former Bishop in Nova Scotia. I know very little about this particular situation, so that's not what I intend to address. What I do want to say is this: I am no longer personally scandalized when I hear of the indiscretions of priests and even bishops. Deeply disappointed? Yes. Temporarily demoralized? Most certainly. But scandalized enough to leave the Catholic Church? Never. Because I realize that the Church (including her leaders!) are made of of human people, sinners in need of a savior. Every person is capable of great good, and of great evil. Every person possesses free will, and every person can get drawn into the traps of addiction, sin, and the culture of death. It happens. And the battle, I'm sure, is most violently waged against those leading the Church, those who are called to stand in persona Christi, to administer the sacraments, and to guide the Church in catechesis. So I commit these men to prayer, especially those who have sinned most grievously.

But to suggest that the appropriate response to hearing about a sinful priest or bishop would be to start your own church (pretending that it is, in fact, a Catholic Church) or to have yourself illicitly ordained a bishop because you deem yourself better or more holy or more worthy of the office is patently absurd. Without Rome, there is no Catholicism. And why on earth would people start their own church that they presented to others as Catholic? The only reason I can see is that these people still believe that the Catholic Church is, in fact, the Church founded by Jesus Christ Himself -- otherwise, they would just leave for one of the innumerable Protestant or non-denominational churches already established. Or they would begin their own church with no claim to Catholicism at all. But to pretend that you are a legitimate Catholic priest or Bishop with authority in the line of Apostolic Succession, and to present yourself to others in this way so that they will attend your church, this is deceptive at best. And at worst, if a person or group is participating in this deception deliberately, with full knowledge of leading others astray, see Matthew 18:6.

Now, you may see this as another example of my being "so quick to judge those 'protestant churches' [because] maybe they're protesting some really bad stuff."  I'm not judging anyone's soul here. That type of judgment is left to God alone, and He is both a merciful and just judge, for which I am most grateful. The weeds, the wheat -- God's gonna sort it all out in the end, not us, so that's certainly a load off of everyone's minds. I am saying this: I don't care what "bad stuff" anyone is protesting; it is never right to present yourself as something you are not, especially in the case of a so-called Catholic Church, and especially if you believe that the Catholic Church is the true Church founded by Christ. As I said above, if you don't believe that, become Protestant. But if you do believe in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, then not even the most heinous indiscretions of any member or leader of that Church should lead you to start your own impostor church. That is in no possible way a real or moral solution to the problem at hand.

Lastly, I'd like to talk briefly about why I choose to remain Catholic. I know that it is shocking to many people (even those who know me well) to see an educated modern woman who seeks to abide fully by the teachings of the Catholic Church. I've honestly had friends tell me that I am the only smart person they know who is religious. If I have any wisdom at all, I believe it fundamentally comes from my understanding that I don't know everything, that I am not the supreme ruler of my own life, and that I too am a woman subject to authority, namely God's. And I believe in an integration of faith and reason. And the more I have learned and traveled and studied, the more convinced I have become that the world and our lives can be most fully lived and understood in light of the melodious symphony of truth that is presented in and through the Catholic Church.

Even if Bishop Bad-Guy commits a terrible crime, or Fr. Malarky tells a serious lie, or Sr. Mary LouLou of the Sisters of Divine Deviation tells me that she serves as an abortion clinic escort because she erroneously believes that the Blessed Mother was the first pro-choice woman, I will still (by the grace of God) remain Catholic, trusting that the Church will always remain the pillar and bulwark of truth and that no personal indiscretions or scandals or trouble, not even the gates of hell, will prevail against it.

I hope this has been helpful. As always, thanks for stopping by, and be assured of my prayers.

Peace and all good,


  1. Luke 12:48 came to my mind: When someone is given a great deal, a great deal will be demanded of that person; when someone is entrusted with a great deal, of that person even more will be expected. That is from the New Jerusalem translation. Bishops have been given much in terms of who they shepherd. The Evil One has his eyes set on them. And, on top of that, this particular bishop also brings woe onto himself for causing others to stray.

    As for the false Catholic church, what keeps coming to my mind is: Bewareof flase prophets who come to you disguised as sheep but underneath are ravenous wolves." Mt 7:15. What purpose does that church have except to look like the Catholic church with the express purpose to lead others astray?

    I agree Leslie, my faith doesn't depend on the holiness of others. I would like all priests, professed religious and laity to be holy. But, we aren't we are all fallen in need of a Savior? Christ left us His church and He promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against it.

    Lastly a song comes to mind...
    No storm can shake my inmost calm
    While to that rock I'm clinging.
    Since love is lord of Heaven and earth
    How can I keep from singing?

  2. Great post Leslie. The Church on earth is not a clubhouse for Saints but a hospital for sinners, so we shouldn't be surprised that there are some pretty sick people in it. :)