From a reader of Father Z’s blog:
I feel [unsafe] going to Church, which I unfortunately cannot bring myself to do. I firmly believe in the Catholic Faith and all of its traditional teachings. However, going to Mass anywhere has proved to be such a discomfort to me, that I fear I may never go again. I feel gravely uncomfortable attending Mass in the company of those priests who are themselves racked with limitless perversion and heresy, and I feel completely hypocritical for listening to them. Half of them appear to be homosexual, and I can’t bear the thought of touching their hand, much less by that same hand, receiving Holy Communion. Also, due to recent scandals regarding the Seal of Confession, I do not entirely trust the Clergy to absolute secrecy.
Least to say Father, I feel quite lost as a Catholic, and experience only feelings of disgust and affliction in the company of other Catholics, especially priests. You will tell me to go to Confession, which I have tried, many times over. What I am telling you is that I am disillusioned, and I am afraid that such disillusionment is irreparable. I do not feel compassion or understanding in this Church which has become a circus for pseudointellectuals and neofeminists. I wish I could feel right at home, but I don’t I’ve entertained thoughts of becoming Orthodox or even Anglican, but I can’t bring myself to do so; I believe, from a chiefly historical point of view, that the Roman Catholic Church is the True Church, Established by Christ. I also cannot escape a deep sense of faith to that end. But when I think of the Catholic Church I believe in and love, I do not see it in the one which currently claims the title. There appears to be a complete dichotomy between the two; it is as if the Catholic Faith were divorced from Visual Representation (i.e. church buildings and everything institutional that we can visibly see). I would greatly appreciate your wisdom and guidance. I have long read your blog, and have for you nothing but the deepest respect.
I get it. I really do.
I am not sure that a long, systematic answer will help as much as a few bullet points with thoughts as they occur to me.
You might take these – one at a time over as many days – and reflect on them.
- The Church was established by Christ, God, as our ordinary means of salvation. As Lumen genitum reminds us, anyone knowing and believing this who refuses to enter the Church or stay within, cannot be saved.
- The Devil is really good at being an Enemy. The Enemy is relentless and knows how to hit us where we are weak. Use the sacraments and sacramentals and ask your Guardian Angel for help.
- Some pundits would have you believe that nearly every other priest is some sort of deviant. That’s simply not true. Are there deviant and weird priests? Of course there are. The Church has been systematically infiltrated. Again, the Enemy is really good at being an Enemy. That said, even the wickedest, weirdest, or most wearisome priest confects the Eucharist and absolves your sins. Father gives you the creeps? Even disgusting leeches and maggots have their salutary use in medicine. Sometimes they are all you’ve got. And then they are a blessing.
- Yes, I will tell you – and everyone else – to go to confession, but not because of what you have written here. Go to confession when you are aware of mortal sins you haven’t confessed. However, I’ll remind everybody that an effect of the Sacrament of Penance is also to strengthen us against temptations. And you, sir, are being tempted. The Enemy has gotten a crowbar into your head and he’s prying away, trying to get you to distance yourself from the means of our salvation, Holy Church. Fight temptations to avoid the Church. There’s merit and grace in that fight.
- If the situation of the Church where you are is truly that corrupt, if it’s really the case that you can’t find a good parish or chapel, maybe it’s time for you to move. “But… but… but… that would be hard!” Of course it would be hard. On the other hand, “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” Sometimes you have to make the hard call for the sake of your immortal soul. Life is short and eternity is… well… not. Is it worth it to stay where you are when you might relocate? To put it another way. You’ve been spotted by the Enemy, pinned down and are under heavy, well-directed fire. If you stay where you are, you’re toast. Pick up your weapon and get out of your foxhole. A hail of small arms fire might get you, but your present position is mortal. But… if it truly isn’t as bad as all that… then, again, pick up your weapon and get out of your foxhole. We need you.
- I am convinced that even wicked and stupid priests take the Seal of Confession seriously. When it comes to the Seal, at least, they are like different men and God is strong in them when it comes to keeping their mouths shut. Another phenomenon I’ve noticed – and many priests can have the same observation to me – we amazingly seem not to remember the content of 99% of the confessions we hear. It’s a mystery.
- What do you suppose priests to be? All priests are unworthy of their calling. He doesn’t choose men who are worthy. He chooses those whom it pleaseth Him to choose. God chooses and uses us anyway. It has ever been so. While He was still alive, 1/12th of the bishops sold the Lord and 10/12ths ran away from the Cross. What hubris infects us now to think that today’s priests are better than they? We only know and have more stuff, now. We aren’t any more worthy than they were. And they had Christ face to face every day! We, unworthy, see Christ as if through the dark glass. This is one reason why the traditional Mass is so helpful. It constantly reminds the priest, and the people, about who he is and who he isn’t. From the very beginning of Mass he declares himself a sinner and begs for your forgiveness. To you, friend, and to all, please forgive me, unworthy, in the place of all and every priest who has ever been stupid, wicked and low. Don’t punish yourself by staying away from the Church due to my sins and those of my unworthy brethren. Try to see, instead, the love and might of God at work even in us unworthy sinners. That’s His way of doing things, and we must submit to this unfathomable plan. Help us to be better. We are for you, in the manner of priest and also the victim offered. If I tell you to “man up”, then please help us to “man up”.
- Mother Teresa of Calcutta wrote in her spiritual diary that she endured decade upon decade tormented and anxious, with no consolations, persevering in a ceaseless dark night of the soul. Thérèse de Lisieux also suffered from a sense of abandonment at the end of her life. At the Lord’s tomb Mary Magdalen in anguish cried, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Such suffering is permitted by God, who at times withdraws consolations and hides, to purify and test and strengthen our love. No pain, no gain, pal. Maybe it’s your turn to suffer for the sake of your soul and even for the unseen good of others if you can offer it back to God.
- You were probably confirmed. Call upon that indelible mark! Ask God, explicitly as a confirmed man, to strengthen you in your trial. Use that sacrament. That’s what it’s for! Never forget that the Holy Ghost’s mark is now forever in your soul. If you haven’t yet been confirmed… what the heck are you waiting for?!?
- If I can say it in such a publicly private space as this, I often avoid certain kinds of gatherings of priests. I have in common with most of them that we are both carbon-based life forms and that we have been ordained. And, for decades they have both demonstrated to me that we have little in common and they have let me know precisely that they see me that way too. I think many of them don’t belong to the same religion that I embraced when I converted. Again, the Enemy is really good at being an Enemy. Division is both a powerful weapon and sign of enemy activity. The impulse to withdraw must be resisted. The Enemy must not be allowed that terrain.
- Our Savior suffered during His Passion from beatings so bad that he was hardly to be recognized, fulfilling what Isiah wrote: “his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the sons of men”. If our Lord suffered that way, then His Church too will suffer that way in her own Passion. I think that is what has begun. The Church again enters her Passion. Think of the holy women, Mary, and Christ’s newly ordained priest John who did not flee, who ran from the garden but who remained at the horrifying, saving Cross.
- A cardiologist friend has a good response to those who grumble about their prescribed treatment. “Do I have to take these pills forever?”, they mew. “No,” she says, “Just until you die.” We weren’t promised a bed of roses when we were baptized. We who are Christ’s disciples will all drink at least some drops of the chalice He drank on Calvary. It is our task to be faithful, brave and persevere.
- Connected to the previous points, of all the possible universes God could have created, He created this one and not some other. He knew every one of us before the creation of the cosmos, and He called us from nothingness into existence in this particular universe at this particular time according to His unfathomable plan. We have a role to play in God’s economy of salvation. We have to trust that we are exactly when and where God wants us to be. We have been born into troubling times. This is our battlefield, not some other theoretically ideal battlefield. It’s ideal for us because it’s ours and this is the one God gave us. If you want to stop feeling “unsafe”, then review the exigencies of your Christian, Catholic vocation, trust in God’s divine providence (He knows what he is doing) and, get into the fight.
- I wrote elsewhere that maybe you should move. Maybe. But maybe you are the one needed to help others where you live to deal with what you are dealing with, faithfully. Faithfully. Even though and precisely because it hurts. Faithfully.
- I will pray for you and I will fast for you and I will do penance for you. I will put you into my chalice at Mass to be transformed by God into the upright, confirmed, convicted man, filled with the Holy Ghost, you can be.