Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Faith, yes, but faith in what?

Over at her blog, the lovely and gracious Karen posted something based on an article which appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

Basically, the piece to which she alludes details the loss of faith, borne of the scandals which are rocking that Archdiocese and the behavior of officials thereof in relation thereto. According to Karen, who has -- sacrificially -- lived no small time in Los Angeles, much of the responsibility for this is attributable to H.E. Roger Cardinal Mahony. In the interest of full disclosure, I am no fan at all of His Eminence, nor in his way of proceeding and, frankly, I deeply fear for his soul as things now stand.

I also deeply fear for the souls under his care. In fact, I'm terrified for their well-being.

On the one hand, I can understand and sort of swallow the pastoral care of someone who is heavily invested in the bongos-and-kumbaya liturgy, or of someone who trafficks in Jesus as a sort of relatively nonviolent Che' *. But when a scandal of such manifold and manifest wickedness (as Fr. Federico Lombardi SJ aptly put it) as has been witnessed in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the faithful expect and should get an unambiguous and forceful response.

When they don't -- and by my lights, they haven't -- people become disheartened. When they see those in charge of their pastoral care seemingly more concerned about their position and their wellbeing than the souls of millions of the flock, they lose faith. Which is inevitable, given the appalling-to-nonexistent state of catechesis these days.

Sadly, people lose faith because they have no idea what it is and how integral to the soul it is. Faith, has been defined as a gift, a grace, something God has given you or He hasn't. Et cetera. Faith, as the Catechism clearly tells us is the fruit of the Holy Spirit living within you. The result of your using the gifts (as intended) of the Holy Spirit received at Confirmation. The better you use them, the more fruit you have available to survive the siege.

The problem is in mispacing your faith. Much like misplacing your keys, it's a lot easier to lose stuff when you put it in the wrong place. When we put our faith on the individual personnel of an institution, you run the risk of losing your faith if they disappoint you )and they will) in a sufficiently impressive (which they might) way. Your house isn't built on a proper foundation. It's built on sand, and you're hoping against hope you picked really, really good sand.

You're supposed to do, as Christ taught in St. Matthew's Gospel (23:2-4), honor the positions held by these men.

"[Jesus said]: The scribes and the Pharisees have sitten on the Chair of Moses. All things therefore whatsoever they shall say to you, observe and do: but according to their works do ye not; for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy and unsupportable burdens, and lay them on men's shoulders; but with a finger of their own they will not move them."

(Incidentally, the message Christ had for the Pharisees and scribes seems eerily appropriate for many of today's bishops and their support staffs, dunnit?) But don't let their poor example lead you to spiritual suicide. Therefore, adultery is a sin, even if Pope XYZ in the middle ages kept a harem of 876 concubines. Murder is a sin even if Cardinal ___ personally whacked everyone he'd ever met. To have faith that endures, it has to be placed in Christ and in His Church; in those whom He delegated His authority. Not in the people who are manning those posts, because they are all invariably sinful and weak to one degree or another, but in the Sacraments which He has given us, and which don't vary because the priest or bishop is an embezzler, a drug addict or has $3million in unpaid parking tickets and some overdue library books.

If you lose your faith because of what Cardinal Mahony has or hasn't done, then your faith was on a guy named Roger Mahony...not on Christ, Whose Church he represented in a specific place at a specific time in a specific position.

Keep your eyes on the ball. Not where Satan wants them, but on God.


* Incidentally, "Che' " is Argentine slang for "Dude."


  • At 12:36 PM, July 23, 2007 , Blogger Mr. Know it All said...

    Interesting post.

    I sometimes wonder whether the Catholic Church isn't particularly vulnerable to this kind of post-scandal fall-out. It seems to me that Her strengths are Her weaknesses. Evangelical clergymen come through scandal comparatively unscathed, and their churches don't appear to take as hard a hit.


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