Wednesday, March 2, 2011


There is a tendency within humans to want to worship with like-minded people. There is a higher comfort level when similar beliefs unite to be a worshiping community. So naturally flowing from that is a penchant to share our thoughts and beliefs in order to win people over to our way of thinking. In the Catholic world we sometimes see this as a good. We believe that the fullness of truth resides in the Catholic Church (naturally enough) and so we share the faith with others hoping to bring them into the fold.

There is also a way in which this is not good. It follows two extremes and is equally unhealthy at either end. The first is the tendency to be stricter in teaching than the Church. It is one thing to have a stricter sense of personal piety and belief than the Church in general, it is another to force it on others placing “heavy burdens” on people’s backs. It leads to a “you must do it this way or you are not a real Catholic” mentality that can destroy the life of faith in others. It is hard to fight. The other person looks like they are doing something so much holier than others how can they be wrong? But it can lead to a disheartening of a believer who cannot live up to what the narrower-than-the-Church person demands, it deprives legitimate expression of the faith in some, and make still others who are well on the Catholic playing field feel like outsiders. It can appear severe enough that a seeker may see the Church expressed in this person and think, “I don’t see fullness truth here. I don’t want to be a part of that.”

At the other extreme are those who are less strict than the Church. Rather than carving out something on the Catholic playing field and declaring that small portion “true belief,” these take something off of the playing field and present it as true faith. “I know the Church teaches this, but would Jesus really want this? Forget feeling poorly about this! Do it! God will understand!” The danger, of course, is leading someone astray – taking them away from truth and living something that could harm them or others spiritually, mentally, or physically. It can appear so wishy-washy that a seeker may see the Church expressed in this person and think, “I don’t see truth there – there’s nothing to believe in. I don’t want to be a part of that.”

Honesty demands that we present the entire playing field and only that so that those with particular callings and charisms can know that they can have a legitimate home in the Catholic Church and others can know what is legitimately taught as truth and that which is not. Only then can they make proper decisions about their faith life. Everything else is in some way a delusion.

1 comment:

Margaret C. said...

Ah yes, the old "holier than the pope syndrome". And on the other hand, the namby pamby "Jesus is too nice to expect that" point of view. I like the way you put it....