Philip F. Lawler
Phil is the editor of, which brings you daily news headlines from a Catholic perspective. He is the author of The Faithful Departed, a history of the Church in Boston and the scandal of the abuse of children by priests.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Belief: The Sine Qua Non

The main point I took from Phil’s book was the idea that Catholicism without faith, i.e. belief, can be a very dangerous thing. It is very easy to be distracted from what is essential, that is, maintaining your faith. For years Evangelicals spoke to Catholics about a personal relationship with Jesus, and many Catholics did not know what they were talking about. Now, thankfully, Pope Benedict XVI, long recognized as one of the Church’s leading thinkers and theologians, is now stressing that very same thing. He is constantly speaking about friendship with Jesus. This simple message is what it’s all about. This is not a private affair as Anonymous inferred in my previous posting, but a personal friendship lived out in a Church, i.e. in community, with other friends of Jesus. This community must be formed in the truth under the Magisterium.

Again, it is very easy to take your eyes off the ball of this core fact, and be distracted, even if you are a bishop and distracted from Christ by running the Church. “Church business” can be a huge distraction from maintaining one’s personal, central relationship with Christ. It goes back to C.S. Lewis’s essay “On First and Second Things.” Finally, it goes back to idolotry.

Through much of the 20th Century so much of the agenda of the Church in America was caught up in seeking acceptance and assimilation into American Society. That drive for acceptance has finally brought us to the scandal of Catholic politicians promoting abortion and surprised when they are called on it—and bishops reluctant to call them on it. Humanae Vitae was thought “unrealistic.” Dissent flourished under the rubric of “being open to other viewpoints” among people who really didn’t even know the Catholic viewpoint in a coherent way.

After 1968 and the Humanae Vitae protests, bishops were explicitly chosen who were men who “didn’t make waves” when what was needed were men who would recognize and stand against the dangerous currents in the culture. Imagine if the bishops took a united stand for Humanae Vitae in 1968. Or a stand against Roe v. Wade. Well they didn’t. And now we have to disassimilate from the cultural attitudes that embrace these things, and it comes as a shock to “cultural Catholics” who think showing up at Mass on Sunday is doing God a favor, and it’s no big deal to miss Mass.

By “disassimilate” I don’t mean leave the culture, but recover true Catholicism i.e. Friendship with Jesus. Only then can Catholics be a leven in society.

The attitude that the Church was a social and political phenomenon, instead of a spiritual reality, and an accessory to one’s life rather than the center of one’s life led to a widespread loss of the True Faith even while going through all the motions. Thus, the need not for remedial catechesis, but evangelization—perhaps for the first time—for many Catholics. A recovery of true friendship, true spousal love with Christ through prayer and personal conversion. When Benedict spoke to the US bishops he stressed fundamental basics. It’s sad that he had to do so.

Otherwise you have pro-abort Catholic pols and priests abusing children and bishops who are impotent, hamstrung and confused and don’t know what to do about it—if they even recognize there is a problem. I think this is the larger problem Phil’s book points out.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent. Thank you.