The Surrender of the
American Catholic Church
Fr. Joseph K. Horn
St Barbara’s Parish
Santa Ana, CA
[Warning! The following is very challenging and may disturb you. If you came here to calm frayed nerves and bask in holy thoughts, you came to the wrong place. Press the BACK key on your browser now! -jkh-]
I have bad news, and I have good news. First, the bad news. Open any newspaper; it’s all bad news! People tell me that the news is so horrifying because that’s what sells. Of course that’s right to some extent, but some of the things happening these days would have been unthinkable before.
Parents throwing their children off a bridge or driving them into a lake. Children killing their parents. Teenagers killing each other to get their shoes or a stereo or just for fun. A man is caught trying to cash a stolen check, and while fleeing the scene, kills three innocent people, one of whom is a baby. A terrorist insists that his diatribes be published or else he will kill more people with bombs. A night clerk on his very first night at work is shot by a robber. I could go on and on, like the newspapers do, but it’s too depressing, and although it’s in the papers because it sells, it is happening, and that’s what depresses me. But there’s something else that’s even more depressing. It’s the answer to the following question.
Where did this wholesale contempt for life come from? Why are more and more people losing every shred of respect for the sanctity of human life? Whatever happened to the powerful influence that the Church once had, acting as a leaven, imbuing the entire nation with a profound reverence and appreciation for life? The Church used to be central to the life of the country, even to non-Catholics. Bishop Sheen was watched and admired by millions of viewers, most of whom were non-Catholics. The Church was a real and effective force in society, always the leader in matters of the most fundamental human right of all: the right to life.
What happened? I’ll tell you what happened. You’re not going to like to hear it, but I’ll tell you what happened. What happened is this: We surrendered. We American Catholics surrendered. We surrendered in the war against evil. And here’s why. We were so desperate to be like everybody else that we stopped being us. We stopped believing the core tenets of our Catholic faith, and the world noticed. While we argued among ourselves about whether or not the Pope was right regarding birth control, the world watched. They listened as we fought among ourselves about abortion, about ordaining women, about homosexuality, about all kinds of things, and the world saw us bickering, and said to itself, “We’re supposed to consider these people to be great spiritual leaders? They can’t even lead themselves!”
You want proof? Here’s proof. The Orange County Register ran an article entitled, “Religion Watch: How Catholics Feel About Being Catholic.” They asked a bunch of Catholics whether or not they agreed with various Catholic teachings. The tallied results of this survey are stupefying. They asked whether a Catholic can never go to confession and still be a good Catholic, and 66% said Yes. Is the Church wrong about abortion? 58% said Yes. Is the Church wrong about sex outside of marriage? 48% said Yes. Is the Church wrong not to ordain women as priests? 63% say Yes. Is the Church wrong about artificial birth control? A mind-boggling 84% said Yes! Is the Church wrong about attending Mass? 67% said Yes. Is the Church wrong not to allow priests to marry? 75% said Yes. When asked whether they believe sexual abuse of young people by priests to be isolated incidents or widespread, the majority replied: Widespread.
Think that’s depressing? Here’s the coup de grâce. When asked whether they follow the Pope on difficult moral issues, or if they follow their own feelings instead, 16% said that they follow the Pope, leaving 84% of all American Roman Catholics following their own feelings! We are sheep who have abandoned our shepherd, each going his own way!
Is it any wonder then that the world has lost all respect for us and our values? No wonder they pay no attention to the Church’s call to respect life when we ourselves have no respect for our own Church!
The oldest military strategy in the world is Divide And Conquer. If you can scatter the enemy, you can defeat them. Why are we allowing ourselves to be divided and conquered? A house divided against itself cannot stand, and let me tell you, I look at this survey, and I can’t stand it! I know in faith that the Roman Catholic Church is protected by God’s special grace, and that the gates of Hell shall never prevail against it, but there is no such promise for the American Catholic Church. Look what happened to the Catholic Church in France after the Revolution. Look what happened to the Catholic Church in Europe and Asia when so many countries fell under the atheistic hammer and sickle. Do we naively fancy that it can’t happen here? It most certainly can! It’s happening already!
Now you may say, hey, Father Joe, it’s okay to disagree with the Church as long as you remain faithful to it. If the Church were a club, I’d agree with you. But the Church is a faith community. It is our faith that makes us Catholics. And that faith is not a feeling; it’s a precise set of core beliefs. Over the centuries many saints have held fast to those beliefs, and even been martyred because they refused to waver on even one tenet of our faith, and they now enjoy eternal bliss in heaven. On the other hand, over the centuries there have been those who caved in to the pressures of society, who abandoned their faith, who appeased the enemies of the Church in a misguided attempt to make everybody and everything look good. What was their fate? One can only guess.
Okay; at the beginning I said I had bad news and good news. You’ve heard the bad news; now here’s the good news. A lot of American Catholics today say that they disagree with the Church, when in fact they don’t. There are two reasons for this. Sometimes they are confusing disagreement with discomfort. The Church’s teachings about sexuality or contraception or confession (or whatever) makes them uncomfortable, and without any further thought, they say, “I disagree with the Church.” They never really think it through; they have no intellectual argument at all. They just don’t like it. So they say that they disagree. If this sounds like you, welcome back. You never really disagreed at all. There are a lot of Church teachings that make me very uncomfortable too. So what? Seat belts make me uncomfortable, but I always wear ’em. And so do you.
The other group of people who say that they disagree with the Church but in fact don’t are confusing disagreement with noncomprehension. Many people have no idea why the Church teaches what it teaches, and since they don’t know the reason, they illogically assume that there is no reason, and so they say, “I disagree.” They think that if they don’t fully understand something, then they have to reject it. If this sounds like you, welcome back. You never really disagreed at all. There are a lot of Church teachings that I don’t fully understand either. So what? I don’t understand the doctrine of the Trinity, but I don’t disagree with it. And neither do you.
My dear friends, some day the Roman Catholic Church in America will once again be 100% in union with the Pope, 100% faithful, 100% united, hand in hand, forming an unbreakable life chain from coast to coast, and making a positive impact on society. Let’s pray hard and work hard towards that goal by being good, faithful, orthodox Catholics ourselves.