The Catholic Church has been very successful throughout the ages. It has grown and saved many souls. It has many great accomplishments. It is the largest charitable organization on the planet. It has remained true to Our Lord’s teaching while many non-Catholic Christian communities have continuously adapted their beliefs to the wishes of their flocks.
All of this, and more, has been accomplished in spite of imperfections. The definitive judgments of the extraordinary Magisterium (including when the Pope speaks ex cathedra), protected by the Holy Spirit, is infallible. Nothing else is. Throughout the ages there has been scandal and mistakes. As long as we are imperfect, this will continue. The Church instituted by Christ Himself and whose mystical body remains forever headed by Him, will always right itself and march forward.
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
In recent years, the sexual concupiscence of the outside world infected our own clergy. It has been not only scandalous, but deeply shocking to Catholics. There was confusion, missteps and mistakes made in addressing the relatively small number of people involved. It is the type of sin that we can never declare completely defeated, but here in the US Church we now have layers of effective, pro-active policies in place. I wrote about this earlier in my piece on the sexual scandal.
Another modern challenge to the Church is a chipping-away of our orthodoxy. Or at least the attempt thereof. Thank God (quite literally!) that Our Lord and Savior personally setup His Church. Our faith is unchanging and the operation of the Church is not subject to popular vote. This does not stop those who would, often for personal political or sinful reasons, have us be “less Catholic.” For a number of reasons, these attitudes have taken root in some countries and in some regions of the US.
In many cases the problem is clear, but the overt actions are kept “under the radar.” For example, in some areas Catholics will commonly put political allegiance ahead of life itself in voting for pro-abortion politicians. These same areas tend to reject other Church teachings on homosexual “marriage,” the impossibility of women priests, subsidiarity, the need to go to Mass every Sunday, the need for confession and much more.
Another big problem is over-reaching in the fulfillment of Vatican II. There are many examples of this in my opinion (some of which you might disagree with). One that is being addressed is the poor ICEL translation of the Mass. In Advent 2011, Mass in English will finally use a single translation worldwide that is far more faithful to the Latin original. US Catholics will notice a lot of “changes” in the corrected Mass.
Often in the orthodoxical challenged areas (I am trying so hard not to call them liberal, progressive, non-faithful, schismatic or heretical) the viewpoints and actions are justified under “the spirit of Vatican II.” That is to say, not suggested by Vatican II at all but something they feel should have been. That is to say, Vatican II did not change the faith but should have. Tip: every time you hear “the spirit of Vatican II,” be very, very suspicious!
So, how will the Church “right itself” from this challenge? Pope Benedict’s New Evangelization initiatives will have long-term, lasting impact. Steps taken to “reform the reform” such as the corrected translation of Mass also move us in the right direction. A return to orthodoxy underway in our seminaries and religious orders will bear much good fruit in the coming decades. Better catechesis is obviously needed.
In the day-to-day life of dioceses, perhaps the most important agent for change is the episcopate – the bishop or archbishop, direct successors of the Apostles. Our extraordinary Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI has elevated soundly orthodox men to this and other crucial offices. In the short time that I have been Catholic, I have noticed quite a number of outstanding men leading their flocks back to a more solid faith, including:
- Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, Lincoln
- Cardinal-designate Raymond Burke (Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura and Archbishop Emeritus of St. Louis)
- Archbishop Charles Chaput, Denver
- Archbishop Timothy Dolan, New York
- Coadjutor-Archbishop Jose Gomez, Los Angeles
- Bishop Robert Morlino, Madison
- Archbishop John Nienstedt, Minneapolis and St. Paul
- Bishop Thomas Olmsted, Phoenix
- Cardinal Marc Ouellet (Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, Archbishop Emeritus of Quebec)
- Bishop Robert Vasa, Oregon
- Archbishop Thomas Wenski, Miami
These humble and faithful men boldly proclaim the truth. Their service is genuinely inspiring. If you have read about them in the mainstream media, you will find the assessment of the secular press to be far less glowing. To me, that alone proves they must be doing something right!
Coming up with the above list for this piece was not difficult because… I keep a list. There is no particular reason for my list other than I want to remember those who have impressed me so greatly. The newest person added just last week, is The Most Reverend Robert Morlino – Bishop of Madison, Wisconsin.
Last June, Bishop Morlino assigned 3 priests from the Society of Jesus Christ to lead the parish of St. Mary’s. Their order is solidly orthodox. Reports are that many in this parish were not. I would say that Bishop Morlino is much more concerned about saving souls than not “ruffling feathers.” Some in the parish did not take this too well.
Their response almost leaves me speechless. About 40% of them actually signed an unprecedented petition to have the priests removed. They have organized a boycott of financial donations to pressure the parish – endangering their K-8 school. They even wrote letters to, in effect, report Bishop Morlino – their bishop – to the Pope via the Apostolic Nuncio in Washington. Are these people completely nuts?
Bishop Morlino responded fully, but in part said:
It grieves me to acknowledge that the reputation of three happy, holy, and hardworking priests has been seriously tarnished by rumor, gossip, and calumny (lying with the intent to damage another’s good name) by some within the parish community. Such conduct is gravely sinful, since some parishioners have been driven by fear, anger, or both, to distance themselves from their priests and even the Sacraments. This situation must cease, and charity must prevail on the part of all.
Furthermore, activities such as protest-letter-writing seminars, leafleting of motor vehicles, door-to-door canvassing for signatures on a petition, etc (that is, exerting organized political pressure on people, where the end justifies any means) is an appropriate tactic in a political campaign, but not in the communion of faith which is the Catholic Church. Groups such as “Call to Action” and “Voice of the Faithful” regularly employ such tactics against legitimate authority in the Church. Because these groups dissent from basic tenets of Catholic Doctrine and Discipline, they are not recognized as Catholic in the Diocese of Madison, much less are they able to exercise legitimate authority. It is my hope that these clarifications will prove helpful.
God bless Bishop Morlino and all of our shepherds. The gates of the netherworld will not prevail.