Friday, January 20, 2012

How To Respond To Catholics Who Don't Act Catholic?

There are many approaches and opinions on how to handle Catholics who don't act Catholic. But I, for one, and very happy this is up to the Bishops not me. I understand how the Church works and couldn't imagine having to make such difficult decisions. With that being said, an important part of how the Church understands herself is the teaching of John Paul II (echoed in the Catechism) that "the Marian dimension of the Church precedes the Petrine". This means the Church is contemplative and receptive to God's grace and guidance before she exercises her authority and apostleship.

Now, there are some Catholics who clearly reject what the Church teaches. Politicians, pundits, lay and clergy alike - there are many examples of Catholics who reject the Church's teachings and do as they like in every walk of life. One article I read a few years ago, by a national Catholic columnist, rejected the hierarchy, the teachings of the Church, the authority of the Pope, and wanted to "impeach" the Pope because he is upholding centuries of apostolic teaching.

Amazingly bad. So many of the people who reject the Church's teachings don't understand them in the first place. When we form a dogmatic understanding of our own opinion, which is based on ignorance of the "opposition", we do ourselves a disservice.

Again, I ask, what should the Church do about Catholics who don't act Catholic?

Some say kick them out. I think this is the worst response. It serves no good. While the Church must try and make sure that doctrine is taught properly, we can't kick out all the Catholics that have a teaching incorrect. What we need to do is pray and catechize. We need to love them into understanding what the truth really is about the issues they rejecut. They have never truly heard the "good news" if they believe the Catholic Church is hateful to women, just wants power, is repressive, etc. What a shame! What a call to be merciful! Do we really see those in the Church that we disagree with as our true brothers and sisters? Truly? Because we can't just kick someone out of a family.

I am not suggesting we merely overlook every fault, error, or problem. But, coming out first with the hammer over the head is probably not the best option. The Church's law always "tends toward mercy". This means we act in a just manner when necessary, but always seeking mercy first.

I repent of ever wanting to kick out a brother or sister who just doesn't understand or believe in what the Church teaches - or better yet, what they believe her to teach.

Some others want to excommunicate Catholics who disagree with the Church in public. One of my former profs argues that it is a possibility the Bishops should look into. Maybe. Maybe not. I think it should be a last resort in the instance he is writing about. There are other ways of addressing it before getting into canonical penalties. If those don't work, then excommunication could be a possibility.
(NOTE: excommunication is a medicinal penalty that bars one from active participation in the sacramental life of the Church. It is meant to serve as a way to call back into the fold, the wandering sheep. It is NOT getting kicked out of the Church or being damned to hell.)

Pray for our bishops and those Catholics that do not understand the Church and reject what they believe she teaches.  Evangelize them, if possible. Lastly, thank God that you and I are not bishops who have to make these decisions.

God bless our dysfunctional Catholic family!


tour86rocker said...

Catholics who don't act Catholic have the unfortunate distinction of being some of the best-known Catholics. We can all name a half dozen famous ones off the top of our heads. I understand the annoyance.

My favorite analogy to this is vegetarianism. How would vegetarians feel if all kinds of people called themselves vegetarians, but ate meat? And then the trend continued for generations until most vegetarians were eating meat.

Having the counterfeit more readily visible dilutes the perceptions of outsiders as to what Catholicism "is". I can understand the draw of tertiary orders, personal prelatures, and various apostolates. I mean, if the average person asks you to tell them what religion you are, telling them you are Catholic means NOTHING.

I don't even know whose fault that is. I don't think it's the fault of anyone living today, honestly. The average American probably knows a dozen Catholics whose faith doesn't inform the way they live and the closest thing to a saint they ever hear is a newscast about Mother Theresa.

The only solution is to become saints ourselves. Which is hard for those like me who maybe just like to complain a lot at first.

InformedAndFree said...

The trouble with Catholic leaders who do not act Catholic is they are in a position of influence and deliberately lead people astray from the true teaching of the church. That is dangerous! They don't WANT to know the truth or even try to understand Christ's Church. They grasp at any contrary arguement no matter how asinine or counterintuitive in order to justify their world view. Yes, we must pray for them. Yes , we must continually catechize them. But we must get them out of leadership positions as well.

There so many marginal Catholics because there is virtually no catechesis after Confirmation. Does the Church honestly think teenagers have a degree in Catholic theology after confirmation? Let's make sure we have programs within our parishes that provide ongoing catechesis and substantive youth groups. Coming to church one hour a week is not enough to learn the faith and call yourself a practicing Catholic.

George @ Convert Journal said...

Great points.

This is not something that needs to be noodled from scratch. We have from the current 1983 Code of Canon Law:

915. Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.

This was further explained in 2004 by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in his Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion memo which included, in part:

5. Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.

6. When "these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible," and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, "the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it" (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts Declaration "Holy Communion and Divorced, Civilly Remarried Catholics" [2002], nos. 3-4). This decision, properly speaking, is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy Communion passing judgment on the person’s subjective guilt, but rather is reacting to the person’s public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin.

...just saying...