Whatever Happened to the Catholic Church?; and a response

posted by Mike on July 31st, 2006

Here are a couple of essays from two of my Worcester friends. Michael True’s op-ed “Whatever Happened to the Catholic Church?” first appeared in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. Marc Tumeinski’s response is an “open letter.” Both men are long-time supporters of the Catholic Worker movement in Worcester. These essays are printed here with permission of the authors, and are copyright 2006.

Whatever Happened to the Catholic Church?

Four Decades After Vatican II, Church Remains Authoritarian

by Michael True

An archeological dig several centuries from now may solve the mystery of the decline of the Catholic Church as an institution. Or is this merely one of its periodic authoritarian phases, similar to the one that haunted it during the late-19th century, under Pius IX (“Pio Nono”)?

Anyone concerned about and appreciative of Catholic history, particularly if he or she was intimately involved in it, may regard the past forty years as a tragic era. During the 1960s, the promise of John XXIII, the Second Vatican Council, and liberation theology, reflected the best in the tradition. Some said that we were naïve to think those events signaled a renaissance in the institution’s moral and religious leadership. Many of us thought otherwise, and, in the spirit of Vatican II, tried to incorporate the reforms and recommendations in our lives.

Once Paul VI condemned birth control, against the advice of his lay and clerical advisers in 1968, however, it’s been down hill ever since. Let me count the ways: (a) the appointment of theologically reactionary prelates by John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI; (b) repeated refusals to ordain women to the priesthood; (c) discrimination against gays and lesbians, most recently from the Vatican Congregation on the Family; (d) massive scandals among clerical pedophile costing millions of dollars in reparation; (e) the papacy’s discipline of the church’s major theologians; and (f) the undermining of academic freedom in Catholic colleges and universities. In the meantime, vocations by women and men clerics have plummeted.

The hierarchy, many appointed by two recent popes, wear a happy, if not always confident face as these disastrous developments unfold. Discouraged clerics and laity, meanwhile, find it hard to maintain any confidence in the institution. Others, including scholars and spokespersons, tolerate cover-ups or deny the consequences of an authoritarian structure that values obedience more than truth.

Why have the faithful been so reluctant, generally. to speak out? Otherwise sophisticated laity are reticent or fearful, and by their silence undermine possibilities for resolving conflicts or challenging inhuman policies. These same academics and commentators call public officials, as well as their colleagues, to task when they fail to live up to their responsibilities. What keeps them from holding church officials to a similar standard? Meanwhile, the hierarchy blames others, rather than those within their own ranks, for the decline of morality and the church’s authority.

The achievements of Catholic culture are apparent in many socially responsible institutions and in the lives of men and women—saints by any standards—who feed the hungry, house the homeless, care for the sick and wounded. In that regard, Eamon Duffy, a Catholic historian, speaking of the centuries-old papacy, offered this judgment: “For all its sins, and despite its recurring commitment to the repression of ‘error,’ the papacy does seem to me to have been on balance a force for human freedom, and largeness of spirit.” Recent popes have indeed condemned the Iraq war, but their institutional voices appear to define moral behavior principally as opposing birth control, abortion, and gay marriage, and to regard sexuality, if not the body, as an occasion of sin.

How different in spirit was the Catholic scene in many areas of the world thirty years ago. Administrators and clerics in my own diocese, Worcester, for example, took the Vatican Council to heart and into the wider community. Assumption College’s Ecumenical Institute was a sign of a new day dawning. And in 1969, the Worcester Catholic diocese, Jewish Federation, and Worcester County Ecumenical Council initiated the Interfaith Center for Draft Information, offering free counseling to young men making difficult decisions about the draft and military service.

By contrast, Catholic colleges today are seldom visible or only minimally committed to inter-religious engagement, which the great Catholic theologian, Hans Kung, regards as a central issue in building a just social order. Peter Maurin, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement spoke about the need to “release the dynamite” inherent in Catholic social teaching. He, Dorothy Day, and the Catholic Worker movement show how that might be done by their faithful commitment to the poor and to nonviolence. Dorothy Day said that though the Church is “a harlot,” it is also “our mother.” For millions of people around the world, the church is still a mother offering a personal and global vision.

In recent decades the institution seems committed to authoritarian rule and to a public stance that minimizes the best in its tradition. As the largest religious denomination in the world, that stance endangers not only the integrity of the institution, but also the wider world community.

Although these observations may be dismissed as those of a “renegade” Catholic, my sixty years of active membership give me some authority to speak to these issues. Respectful of and grateful for what I learned under its tutelage, I found it difficult to live out my life or to sustain a spiritual life, for want of a better term, in the Church’s embrace. As my fellow communicants kept silent or remained apologetic, I felt alienated from my earlier affection for the institution. In spite of its virtues, it continues to preach doctrines and to legislate policies that betray its responsibility as a custodian of the Gospels. It ignores or dampens the “dynamite” inherent in the teachings of Jesus and the faithful witnesses of his followers.

Having survived two thousand years, including Inquisitions and warring faction among its constituents, Catholicism stumbles along, willy-nilly. One can only hope that it might fare better, by recovering social teachings, lively arts, and theological insights that emerged in
the 1960s.

Michael True is emeritus professor, Assumption College.

An open letter to Mr. Michael True concerning his recent essay in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette (7/6/06)

by Marc Tumeinski

As I had written to you in previous letters, I was once again saddened, although not surprised this time, to read your recent piece in the Telegram & Gazette about the Catholic Church. In that essay, you claim that the Church ignores or dampens the teachings of Jesus and the faithful witness of His followers. I say that the very opposite is true: it is the Church, through the grace and promises of God, which keeps the Christian faith and teaching alive.

The Church has a public witness, and therefore you as well as others are free to praise or condemn that witness as you see fit. With all due respect, I believe that this is not what you have done in your last two newspaper essays.1 You seem to have set yourself up as an arbiter of how the Church should define her beliefs. You may certainly disagree with and even critique what the Church believes, but not that or how she believes.

What you are doing is not new of course, and sadly you are not alone. Since her start, some have misunderstood, ridiculed, condemned or even attacked the Church, the body of disciples. The same happened to Jesus during His life, so we should not be surprised when it continues to happen to His body the Church.

Your opinions, and others’ opinions as well, about the Church could be held up to the light so to speak in many different ways. One obvious way to check at least some of your claims is to look at what the Church itself says and claims. A good place to start is to look at the Nicene creed. Creeds are a profession and synthesis of the Christian faith.2 “To say the Credo with faith is to enter into communion with God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and also with the whole Church which transmits the faith to us and in whose midst we believe”.3 The Nicene creed is common to all the great churches, east and west4, and so is a valid rule for comparison with any claims about Christianity.

One of the statements contained in the Nicene creed is a belief in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.5 “(I)t is Christ who, through the Holy Spirit, makes his Church one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, and it is he who calls her to realize each of these qualities”.6 In this letter, I will do my best to discuss how the Church explains this belief, primarily but not exclusively by quoting from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. “The Catechism of the Catholic Church … is a statement of the Church¹s faith and of catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition, and the Church’s Magisterium. I declare it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion”.7 I will do my best to let the words of the Church speak for themselves.

The nature of the Church

What is the Church? “In Christian usage, the word ‘church’ designates the liturgical assembly, but also the local community or the whole universal community of believers”.8 The Church was built and is sustained by Jesus. “The Church has no other light than Christ’s; according to a favorite image of the Church Fathers, the Church is like the moon, all its light reflected from the sun”.9 The Church is more than what we can see or point to. “It is only ‘with the eyes of faith’ that one can see her in her visible reality and at the same time in her spiritual reality as bearer of divine life”.10 One of the most beautiful truths about the Church is that she is the Body of Christ. “Three aspects of the Church as the Body of Christ are to be more specifically noted: the unity of all her members with each other as a result of their union with Christ; Christ as head of the Body; and the Church as bride of Christ”.11

In referring to the Church in your recent essay, you seem to use the word “institution” as an insult or slight, or as if she could exist without a structure. The Church does have a form and structure, given to her by Jesus. “The Lord Jesus endowed his community with a structure that will remain until the Kingdom is fully achieved”.12 Her structure is divinely ordained, therefore it is not up for grabs, or able to be “reformed away;” nor would it be desirable to do so.

The sinful Church on earth

You describe in your essay the sinful actions of Church members, including bishops, priests and lay people. The Church is aware of this sad reality. “All members of the Church, including her ministers, must acknowledge that they are sinners”.13 All men are sinners. All men; not just some, a few, only priests, or only Catholics, but all men. “Adam and Eve transmitted to their descendants human nature wounded by their own first sin and hence deprived of original holiness and justice; this deprivation is called ‘original sin'”.14 The Church is made up of sinful men. Indeed, how could it be otherwise? All men are sinners. “‘The Church … will receive its perfection only in the glory of heaven,’ at the time of Christ’s glorious return. Until that day, ‘the Church progresses on her pilgrimage amidst this world¹s persecutions and God¹s consolations'”.15

Teaching authority of the Church

According to her own best understanding of her mission and structure, the teaching authority of the Church has no other choice but to teach as clearly as possible what the Christian truth is. For any teacher to do otherwise about their own subject would be ludicrous. Human beings have always had and needed teachers. Christ explicitly commanded His Church to teach all men. “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations … teaching them to observe all that I commanded you”.16 This teaching mandate is made concrete in the magisterium, the teaching authority of the Church. “(T)he pastoral duty of the Magisterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates”.17 “Bishops, with priests as co-workers, have as their first task ‘to preach the Gospel of God to all men,¹ in keeping with the Lord’s command. They are Å’heralds of faith, who draw new disciples to Christ; they are authentic teachers’ of the apostolic faith Å’endowed with the authority of Christ'”.18

What the Church teaches is consistent and understandable, even if you or others disagree with some or all of it. (As I said above, because of sin, her practice is not always consistent.) The Church does not teach her own human wisdom, but shares the divine wisdom and truth of God. Inasmuch as she does this, she is sharing perfect truth — perfect truth revealed by Jesus who is the Truth. “In order to preserve the Church in the purity of the faith handed on by the apostles, Christ who is the Truth willed to confer on her a share in his own infallibility”.19 “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful — who confirms his brethren in the faith — he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals … The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium”.20 This perfection is only possible because Christ is the Truth, and because the ministry of His priests is a share in His own perfect ministry. This is a great mystery! “Entirely dependent on Christ who gives mission and authority, ministers are truly ‘slaves of Christ,’ in the image of him who freely took ‘the form of a slave’ for us”.21 When Catholics receive the Eucharist, they accept either tacitly or explicitly the teaching authority of the Church. We should note also how the whole Church on earth shares in this desire and ability to know truth. “By a ‘supernatural sense of faith’ the People of God, under the guidance of the Church’s living Magisterium, ‘unfailingly adheres to this faith'”.22

The source of strength for Catholic Christians

All the saints of the Church found their lives and strength in the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ. “(T)he celebration of the Eucharist … remains the center of the Church’s life”.23 “The Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life'”.24 You refer in your most recent essay to Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day, co-founders in the early 20th century of the Catholic Worker movement. Both Maurin and Day remained faithful, obedient Catholics until the day they died.25 They were daily communicants. They read Scripture, studied Church dogma, prayed daily, went on regular retreats, respected the priestly office, listened to Bishops, and learned from the Church. Their membership in the Church — a Church filled with sinful people in their time, just as today — inspired them; it did not lead them astray or stumbling along willy-nilly (in your words). They passionately called members of the Church to live up to her teaching, as all the great saints do, but they did not tell the Church what or how to believe.

Catholic academics

You claim that the Church has undermined academic freedom in Catholic colleges and universities. If by this you mean that the Church exercises her teaching authority by attempting to make sure that any educational institution which calls itself Catholic teaches what the Catholic faith holds — well, certainly! It is the Bishops, as successors of the apostles, who were explicitly handed the teaching mandate in the Church — not the professors or theologians. Academic investigations and theological speculations are good and needed; but for Catholics, when it comes to salvation, faith and morals, the clear voice of the Church is required and has been since Jesus founded His Church. There is nothing freeing about teaching falsehood.

Priestly ordination

You also describe what you call the Church’s refusal to ordain women as one of the ways that the Church is, in your estimation, going downhill. Would you rather the Church do something that it believes is wrong? For any institution to do something it believes is wrong would be a much clearer sign of that institution going downhill. “No one has a right to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders. Indeed no one claims this office for himself; he is called to it by God. Anyone who thinks he recognizes the signs of God’s call to the ordained ministry must humbly submit his desire to the authority of the Church, who has the responsibility and the right to call someone to receive orders”.26 “‘Only a baptized man validly receives sacred ordination.’ The Lord Jesus chose men to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry … The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible”.27

“Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful”.28

You can certainly hold your own opinion about ordination, but it is your opinion, not the Church’s. I understand when the magisterium makes clear the teaching of the Church; I understand when faithful Catholics call the Church to live ever more faithfully to her teaching; I even understand when doubting Catholics are searching and questioning. But what I am at a loss to understand is what obligation or right you believe you have to teach the Church what and how she should believe.

Sexuality

The Church does not, as you claim, see sexuality as an occasion of sin. “Sexuality, by means of which man and woman give themselves to one another through the acts which are proper and exclusive to spouses, is not something simply biological, but concerns the innermost being of the human person as such. It is realized in a truly human way only if it is an integral part of the love by which a man and woman commit themselves totally to one another until death”.29 “The acts in marriage by which the intimate and chaste union of the spouses takes place are noble and honorable; the truly human performance of these acts fosters the self-giving they signify and enriches the spouses in joy and gratitude”.30 “In creating men ‘male and female,’ God gives man and woman an equal personal dignity”.31

Pope Paul VI’s condemnation of birth control was not the start of what you describe as a downhill slide, but was a necessary affirmation of what Christ handed on to the Church. The Church’s defense of life in this way was and remains to this day an intrinsic element of its witness for life. All life is sacred. All life is in God¹s hands. Children are a gift of God, not something a man and woman can choose or not choose. “In contrast, ‘every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal acts, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible’ is intrinsically evil”.32 For the Church or any institution to proclaim what it believes to be evil as good would be disastrous and dishonest.

You claim that the Church discriminates against homosexuals. Actually, the teaching of the Church decries such discrimination. “The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible … They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition”.33 “Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered'”.34 Homosexual acts, not homosexual persons. The Church always calls for love and mercy.

Conclusion

I am afraid that your public opinions about the Church, as stated in your last two newspaper essays, still seem to me overall to be coming more from a place of personal disappointment, frustration and anger, rather than for example from a sincere search for truth, unity and goodness. I am truly sorry for any anguish or disappointment you have experienced. However, your reactions seem to me to have led you to use quite pointed but false rhetoric in public against the Church. Sadly, I do not see your words as helping build up the Body of Christ, but rather as trying to tear it down. This helps nobody.

As I wrote in the beginning of this open letter, there are probably many good ways to respond to your newspaper essays; I may not have chosen the best way. If I am in error about any of this or have hurt you in any way by my words, I ask for your forgiveness.

peace of Christ,

Marc Tumeinski
21 July 2006

Footnotes

1 Worcester Telegram & Gazette, May 2005 and July 2006.
2 Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) # 187.
3 CCC # 197.
4 CCC # 195.
5 CCC # 750.
6 CCC # 811.
7 John Paul II, Apostolic Constitution Fidei depositum # 3.
8 CCC # 752.
9 CCC # 748.
10 CCC # 770.
11 CCC # 789.
12 CCC # 765.
13 CCC # 827.
14 CCC # 418.
15 CCC # 769.
16 cf. Mt 28:19-20.
17 CCC # 890.
18 CCC # 888.
19 CCC # 889.
20 Lumen gentium # 25.
21 CCC # 876.
22 CCC # 889.
23 CCC # 1343.
24 CCC # 1324.
25 See for example Tom Cornell’s wonderful reflection entitled My Dorothy Day in the Houston
Catholic Worker newspaper, July – August 2006.
26 CCC # 1578.
27 CCC # 1577.
28 Pope John Paul II, Ordinatio sacerdotalis # 4.
29 Familiaris consortio # 11.
30 Gaudium et spes # 49.
31 Familiaris consortio # 22.
32 CCC # 2370.
33 CCC # 2358.
34 CCC # 2357.

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5 Comments Leave a comment.

  1. On July 31, 2006 at 16:37 xradiographer said:

    Well, that’s certainly a confusing “response.” One thing certainly stood out to me, though:

    You claim that the Church discriminates against homosexuals. Actually, the teaching of the Church decries such discrimination.

    The teachings of the Church and the actions of the Church have not always been unified.

    Mr. Tumeinski appears to focus on details and minutae, and to miss a larger picture.

  2. On July 31, 2006 at 16:42 Adam (Southern California) said:

    Nevertheless, it is in fact persons with homosexual tendencies, not merely those who engage in homosexual acts, who are today barred from entering the seminary to study for the priesthood. Not only is this harmful from a practical sense for a church in desperate need of new priests, but it reflects a very disturbing break from previous church tradition decrying homosexual acts, but not persons. In essence, a man with homosexual attraction — and thus unable to fulfill his life in Christ through marriage — is now told that his disorder is a sin of the unforgiveable kind.

    As for other matters, let me emphasize that whether or not the flock follows or agrees with a particular teaching of the Church is by no means proof of the validity of that teaching. It can, however, be instructive. Many Catholics, for example, recognize the truth that abortion is the destruction of a human life. At the same time, however, they recognize the distinction between abortion and contraception and, by extension the value of non-procreative sex as an expression of the beautiful love between two people.

    The pedophilia scandals, which have not been resolved or remedied to any reasonable person’s satisfaction, have revealed that those charged with revealing the truth of God’s love — the priests and the bishops — can be seriously crippled when distinguishing for themselves the difference between sexual acts as expressions of eros and commitment and sexual acts as expressions of selfish, lustful exploitation.

    Mr. Tumeinski blurs the distinction between the truth and the teachings of the bishops. As he says, the Church is like the moon, whose only light is that reflected from the sun (or the Son, as it were). While this reflection is a valuable guide for leading men to the way of Christ, such a reflection can at times be found to be less than perfect. I would not think to suggest that the Church change its teachings in any way but one that leads us closer to Christ, but the Church should be careful in examining whether its decisions truly do lead us in that direction. The truth exists independent of what the bishops proclaim that truth to be.

  3. On July 31, 2006 at 20:09 larry said:

    You know, when people speak of the Catholic church, its actions, practices, beliefs etc. they think as if they are all the same – same degree of seriousness; staying the same or change is of equal gravity; if you make a mistake in one it means you’ve probably made a mistake in other areas. It’s nuts! Ok, the church is run by humans – fallible, limited and sinful. I’ve heard this forever and of course it’s true. That does not mean at its core, what the church done is wrong or not what Jesus said – it means that while humans attempt to put into practice what Jesus, Paul and the apostles taught (and other followers of Jesus) we will go so far at times, and not so far other times. It means we will not understand the full meaning of our decisions or Jesus’ teachings every time. It means the church at times will make great mistakes – but so did the chosen people, the Jews, throughout their history – leaders committing grevious sins, the people not listening to the prophets, leaving God, coming back, idolatry, etc. But amid all of this, they remained God’s ‘chosen people’.

    The church remains ‘the church’ with linage from Jesus, through the apostles, Paul, followers of Jesus, the Fathers of the Church, the popes and the Church community over the centuries. Actions of any one pope or leader, good or bad, does not completely make or break the church. Catholic spirit, energy and effect on the world is strong or weaker at different times in history. Catholics follow well teachings of the church and sometimes are lax in great numbers. That does not mean the church is not effective – it may mean people are not plugged into what is the church’s essential nature and message.

    It’s too easy to say – if you have a lot of numbers, you must be doing something right – that’s secular thinking. Of course concern when numbers of people stop attending or change churches is a concern but that does not mean the church is not true to iteslf. It may mean today leaders are not effective as examples, are bad examples, people are interested in other things and they are flaky these days.

    Hans Kung is to be admired but he is not an example of solid catholic teaching, even if he is still on friendly terms with the pope, Benedict XVI. As much as I admire Dorthy Day and Peter Maurin and they have many things to say about faith, the church in the world, prayer and the poor, they are but one small part of the church’s voice – since the church is the people of the faithful. I’ve read the Catholic Worker for years and studied Hans Kung’s writings.

    I don’t like all thing our leaders in this country have done in handling scandles, problems, and issues. I can disagree with how they do things but what is part of our faith, that is where I fall into line – Style and approach can always be criticized – Scandal can always be condemned but that does not take away the power of the person in the office – it’s the office and this happens to be the person there now –

    I have to believe the Holy Spirit guides us in all, and our mistakes, errors, scandals and problems are a combination of our own ego, limits, shortsightedness, dealing with other problems of the world, personalities, politics, sin, evil, etc. We make our way through this and eventually come out with what we need. Vatican II happened about 40 – 50 years ago and some changes have been made, but in the history of the church or any great institution, that is not a lot of time. Leaders and the faithful need to get back on board to what Vatican II taught and what else we have learned since then about us, the church, the world and our relationship with God the Father, Son, Holy Spirit. A great spirituality energy is now present that I have not seen before – we were more religious before, more in lock step, and faithful – we are still religious but for the purpose of being more spiritual – a symbol of God’s presence in the world. Organizations as Opus Dei and groups affiliated with relgious organizations help the laity plug into what is possible to do with our Catholic practices and belief systems.

    Having looked at cultures, other religions – eastern, western, latin american, etc. – I have found the catholic church has a lot to offer including the insightes found in other faiths. We often don’t use our system beyond the religious practices as an end. They are a means to an end – contact with the presence, energy, grace of God. It’s a great system – sacraments, sacramentals, religious practices, Mary, saints, magisterium, the bible, the laity, tradition, religious orders, lay organizations & involvement, clergy, churches, prayers (what’s in your heart and read prayers), charities, missionary work, etc.

    There are many flaws in the church, and we need to correct them – but the church has so much to offer and has a grand history of doing just this in the world. What would Jesus Do? Look to the life of the church in its entirity, not just one slice of history.

  4. On August 1, 2006 at 06:54 Dr Kaihsu Tai (Oxford, England) said:

    This following statement is an uncomfortable starting-point for an ecumenical discussion: ‘Her [the (Catholic?) Church’s] structure is divinely ordained, therefore it is not up for grabs, or able to be “reformed away;” nor would it be desirable to do so.’ This is a better starting-point: ‘The Nicene creed is common to all the great churches, east and west, and so is a valid rule for comparison with any claims about Christianity.’

  5. On August 2, 2006 at 02:47 Adam (Southern California) said:

    Larry — I’m not sure if you were writing in response to me, but if you were, let me reassure you that while I may criticize the Church harshly, I am still proud to be a Catholic and feel that the Church is and has been a tremendous force for good in this world. The Church has its problems, but by and large these are small compared to the essential truth that the Church teaches every day.

    I fear sometimes that non-Catholics’ impressions of the Church are formed too much by the hot-button issues they hear discussed in the media, as if they’d walk into Mass and hear nothing but railing against feminism and gays or something like that. Then there’s the old slander against the Church that we never read the Bible. Obviously this isn’t true at all. If these people were to actually attend a Mass, they’d hear quite a lot of the Word of God, and a homily about any of a variety of ways in which we can strengthen our lives in Christ.

    So when I criticize the Church, understand that I do so as a faithful member of that church, in the context of reforms I would like to see in the Church to make it stronger, not as condemnations of an institution I would like to see brought down.

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