Thursday, July 30, 2015


As you and I both know, there are people who are Catholic/Christian for the "wrong reason."  I am thoroughly convinced that there are many people who call themselves atheists for the wrong reason.  The same goes for some who call themselves agnostic or "spiritual but not religious."  Way, way, way too often in conversations with persons who give themselves this title, the reason they give for their belief is not a deep insight or well thought out philosophy.  They do not have much of an anthropology or a system of determining that which is good or bad that holds any water (and when you take what they say to its logical conclusion they say, "well, not that of course," but offer no way to avoid it.)  It has more to do with what they are avoiding than where they are heading.

It's like swerving a car to avoid hitting a deer.  You have some idea of where you are steering but your immediate task is to avoid hitting a deer.  Dealing with where you end up after that will come with the next thought.

Imagine coming to Mass week in and week out.  You have a priest, minister, congregation, family, or group of friends who repeatedly let you know how bad you are.  Maybe you are divorced.  Maybe you have an addiction.  Maybe you have same sex attraction.  Maybe you had an abortion.  Maybe you are part of a long list of categories and this message comes down on you like a hammer on a sore thumb week after week after week.  What do you do if you are so bad at hammering that you constantly hit yourself and always feel miserable?  You give up hammering.

What do you do if your faith does not give you hope?  What do you do if you are not encouraged?  What do you do if you feel miserable all of the time because of you faith?  You stop being a church goer.  And it is often easier to tell people you are atheist, agnostic, spiritual, and even decide that you are instead of saying, "Look, I'm (insert category here) and my Church hates me."

I do the same thing with fish.  I hate fish.  I want to like it but I don't.  All the time people say, "But you haven't tried MY fish."  Yes I have.  I don't like it.  So I just tell people I am allergic.  I am an anti-fishite.  If God had intended us to eat fish he would have made them taste like steak.

I am in no way saying we need to shy away from these topics or water them down.  But there must always also be an opportunity for hope.  There must be a way for those who wish to be faithful.  There must a chance for healing and incorporating.  

Do you know who does the best pro-life work?  Women who have had an abortion and have some creds with which to speak.  Who can give the most hope to someone dealing with same-sex attraction?  The faithful Catholic who also lives with same-sex attraction.  Who are some of the best volunteers at the parish - often the back bone of the parish - doing tasks that nobody else can or wants to?  Your divorced person.  How do you get them to come to the parish?  Not beating them with a stick, but with hope that there is a place for you.  There is encouragement and support for you.  There is a community for you.  

That does not mean you get to do whatever you want as long as you are some flavor of faithful.  If you want to belong to the country club, you may not play football on the fairway.  But if you are a football player and you want to be a part of the country club, we will help you learn to play golf in a (hopefully) nourishing and safe environment.  

Somehow I don't feel like I am saying what I really want to say but I can't put my finger on it.  If something seems off, please comment and let me see if I can clarify.


Anonymous said...

I studied logic and epistemology in college. I dare say that a majority of persons hearing or reading that statement would say . . "what's epistemology?" . . . well, it's the study of the nature of knowledge. I benefited greatly from those courses. I consider myself a clear thinker. It would be nice if there were a lot of clear thinkers around.


Anonymous said...

So how am I suppose to feel and behave toward a good friend who is in a same sex relationship but also in a fully catholic relationship. I of course have no knowledge of his personal behavior nor do I care to but I have respect for him as a person. I sometimes feel that I am a traitor to my faith because I do not condemn his lifestyle. I don't seem to be doing a good job of explaining myself either Fr.

Pat said...

Anonymous' comment reflects my concern too.

When I am in sin, I know it. Being welcome at my parish church doesn't make me think that God is OK with my sin and doesn't care if I persist in it. I am fortunate, however, to have learned right vs. wrong, so that, for the most part, I know when I am in sin.

I don't want people to feel judged and condemned. Neither do I want to convey the impression that anything someone does is OK (because God love us) and therefore, no change is needed.

Chris P. said...

For whatever it's worth, anonymous #2, I fight with that as well (am I failing my church by not condemning?). The reality is especially given the current state of society, there's nothing I can really say that will "work."

I mean they're not living under a rock, they don't think that the Church is okay with it. There's no real way to softly say "You're in sin," because there are only two real things that bounce around in their mind and their response, whether they say it or not, floats somewhere between "so what?" and "no crap." Planting those seeds in someone's head isn't going to help anything.

Which, to be fair, are the exact thoughts that go through my mind when I've sinned, no matter how relatively bad the sin is. I would imagine a murderer, even a churchgoing murderer, knows where the Church stands on murder. Someone who lies about taking a binder clip off someone else's desk knows the church doesn't condone binder clip theft.

My "solution," and I use that word loosely - as it's whatever I've been able to discern through research, prayer, and contemplation is to remind myself and try to convey to others the following two things

1) The Church doesn't act and teach from any posture that is not grounded in love and joy.
2) The Church has the legitimate authority to teach what it does and that authority is clear through scripture, tradition, and study.

And then hope the Holy Spirit waters those seeds and that they run into the Church teaching the right things and it hitting them at the right time.

I would do well myself to remember those two things more often.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoy your blog.
I understand your point and intentions.
I have a concern about saying you're allergic to fish.
My children have real and severe food allergies.
My son was HOSPITALIZED FOUR (4) times before he was TWO (2) because of them. (I stopped counting after that.)
At eateries I have to explain graphically (before I eat-- even when I am pregnant) the symptoms my kids have from their allergies.

Why, because so many people claim to have food allergies to avoid unpleasant situations.

Kyrie Eleison


Kathryn O. said...

I avoided church for many years because I knew I wouldn't be told what I wanted to hear. But I returned when I was ready to hear the message--even if I didn't necessarily agree with it. The message and the truth should not change simply because it isn't welcomed by everyone. It's great that an alternative to the current culture exists. People really can get lost in secularism--and the church provides an antidote and a breath of fresh air for those who need it. So speak the truth and present the message. You needn't return to the same topics over and over again--but it's important to at least touch upon them in order to provide clarity with regards to church teaching.