A first column for a new year for a Roman Catholic magazine. Let’s ask a few basic questions about what it means to be Catholic, because as much as it pains me to admit it, a lot of alleged members of the Church seem to be absolutely bewildered. My opinion, by the way, is irrelevant here. It’s Church teaching that matters, not how any of us feel or think on one day or another.
There, of course, is the main problem. Huge numbers of casual Catholics, and even many active believers, are under the impression that the Church is a slightly theological version of a rotary club or a political party, and that adherents can virtually make it up as they go along. It’s not, never was, never can be. In fact, it is fundamentally anti-Catholic to assume the Church is a bottom-up institution. If it’s not founded on and led by Papal authority, it’s nothing at all.
This was one of the absurd errors of the We Are Church movement. For all I know they might still exist, but we certainly haven’t heard of or from them in a while, thank God. We are all, indeed, Roman Catholic (if we really are, that is), but we are not the Church. We are part of it, led by a Pope, then a magisterium, then episcopal authority, and finally the priesthood. We are all essential, but reverence for the collective is a grotesque misunderstanding of Catholic doctrine.
Look, it comes down to this. If you wish to live as a Christian but reject the authority of the Catholic Church, have the courage and integrity to leave the Church and become a Protestant—where, I assure, you will find something else to complain about and reject, so you can go to another Protestant church, and then another.
Take the issue of female ordination, for example. The Church doesn’t have the authority to ordain women, because that would be a contradiction of Scripture. The most important role of the priest is to represent Christ at the Mass, and the influence of egalitarian fashion or the desires of a few ageing activist women are not as significant as the life and teachings of the Son of God. Sorry to be so Catholic and all that, but truth is truth.
If we can reject this invincible fact, we can also perhaps jettison the Eucharist, the virgin birth, the bodily resurrection, and anything else that causes you a difficulty. Hey, don’t smirk—various Protestant churches have been doing this for 500 years, and it’s getting worse and more extreme by the week!
Nobody has to be a Catholic, unless you are a Catholic. Then, sorry, you have no choice. There is no such thing as a Kennedy Catholic, a Dalton McGuinty Catholic, a cafeteria Catholic. It’s Catholic, or not. And, anyway, plastic believers don’t want change because they care about the Church, but because they care about themselves. That’s why so many of them obsess about contraception rather than, say, the Trinity. To be blunt, they base their desire for religious reform on the fact that they want to use condoms. Latex over love, self over Sacraments.
Nobody ever said that being Catholic is easy, and if you want a comfortable life I recommend liberalism, secular humanism, or the United Church. The call to Catholicism is a call to the revolution of the self, and a sacrifice that could lead to dark and difficult times. Our friends might abandon us, even some priests and bishops might abandon us, but the Church founded by Christ will never do so because it can never do so.
This year may be one of the most challenging and pivotal for Canadian Roman Catholics. We are likely to lose more of those who like to select which parts of the Church please them. We’ll lose those not committed to human life, those not glued to the cross, those not convinced that a Papacy that has never taught heresy in 2000 years can be trusted.
We will also witness more attacks from federal and provincial politicians, the increasing triumphalism of sexual minorities, and more aggression from organized atheism. But we will also gather more converts from failing Protestantism, and more committed young people: briefly, more and better and real Catholics. It is never easy, but more exciting and rewarding than ever.