Monday, September 22, 2014

Seventh Anniversary: Thoughts on Church and State after Blogging for Seven Years

Thoughts on the State

As a nation, we began by declaring that "all men are created equal." We now practically read it, "All men are created equal, except Negroes." When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read, "All men are created equal except Negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics." When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some other country where they make no pretense of loving liberty - to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, without the base alloy of hypocrisy. (Abraham Lincoln)

I posted this in my first blog entry seven years ago as a warning sign of what America would have to face in the future. I must admit that at the time I expected we would not see such things until America became a totalitarian state. As it turns out, I did not anticipate that we would so swiftly lose our freedoms without seeing the Constitution overthrown.

But, looking at the state of affairs seven years later, it was no mere hyperbole to say we were in danger of losing our freedoms . . . it was just a matter of looking in the wrong direction as to how freedoms would be attacked.

I learned that a nation does not have to be totalitarian to persecute religion. All it takes is:

  1. a group successfully portraying religion as the enemy of what appears good.
  2. the willingness of people to accept unjust means of suppressing unpopular views.

If the people of a nation will accept these things, we will continue to see a government pretend that our Constitution means something and still violate it.

Thoughts on the Church

While I have seen my country get worse over the past seven years, I have seen my Church get better. In 2007, I believed the rhetoric popular among some conservative Catholics that the US Bishops were a group of incompetents allowing heresy to run rampant. Now, I no longer believe this to be true. At first I thought the change came in 2008 when then Pope Benedict XVI visited America. After that visit, the bishops seemed to be stronger, more confident.

But just as I believe that we couldn't have had the problems after Vatican II without existing (and hidden) problems before Vatican II, I don't think Benedict XVI could have strengthened the bishops without there being bishops of good will to begin with.

Yes, there are bishops who did better or worse at their job. But I think part of the problem was that Catholics seeking to be faithful needed someone to blame for the fact that America was increasingly losing its moral values and that Catholics were among those perpetrating these changes.

I think we lost track of the fact that there have always been faithless Catholics and that even the greatest saints were not able to reach everyone of them. We assumed that the errors of the time would not have happened if the bishops had "done more." That's basically setting a goal that even the Apostles could not have met.

That's why I look back at the first year and a half of this blog with sorrow. The open disrespect for the successors of the Apostles is something I wish had never been there.

I think this is what I have ultimately learned during my years blogging . . . the Church is stronger than her detractors give her credit for because she is sustained by God. Whenever I have been confronted by news that looks bad for the Church, whenever I have been asked "How can you say the Church is not failing?" I find that when I take the time to look, things are never as bad as the detractors think.

The first year of Pope Francis is an example of that. Things were reported that sounded startling. But in every case, I found that those who were scandalized had never read things in context and were relying on selective quotes. After a few scares I learned that reading what he had to say, his teachings were solidly Catholic, dealing with holes in my learning that I never knew were there.

Nowadays, I think I would say that the Church doesn't have so much a leadership problem as it does a "followership" problem. In 1968, we had a general rejection of authority in the West--civil and religious. Between 1968 and 2008, we had 40 years of Popes and bishops struggling to defend the teaching of the Church from this widespread rebellion. It's only after 2008 that we began to see the fruits of this 40 year struggle emerging.

Some Catholics condemn St. John XXIII and Paul VI for the mess that appeared to in the 1960s. I think they're wrong. I believe it would have happened whether we had a Vatican II or not. Like I said, to have a blow up like we did indicates problems that had to be in place before Vatican II ever began.

Some Catholics blamed St. John Paul II for not behaving like how they imagine St. Pius X would have behaved. And, prior to the 2007motuproprioof Benedict XVI, I saw some Catholics even accusing him of being a modernist. They're bashing Pope Francis now, and I have no doubt they'll bash his successor.

It's a self destructive mindset . . . it deceives people into thinking that the problem with the Church is other people, never considering whether their own behavior is spiritually harmful or whether they're rashly judging another.

Perhaps that's why I tend to take a stronger stance against it. It's not that I think other errors are harmless. It's that I think this error is more likely to snare the Catholic trying to be faithful.


What it boils down to is that in the seven years since I began this blog, I have learned to trust that God loves His Church and protects her from leading the faithful astray.So even when I see those /facepalm moments where someone within the Church says or does something that shocks, I have learned to trust God to lead the Church under the headship of the Successor of Peter and the bishops in communion with him.

That doesn't mean we'll have smooth sailing. God permits afflictions to come and strengthen us. We'll have the misbehaving laity, religious, priests and bishops on occasion. But the behavior of some does not mean the corruption of the whole.

We'll still have problems interacting with the secular world. We had problems before Obama was elected and we'll have problems after he leaves. But even so:

God is in control and watching over His Church.

Now it's time to face year number eight and beyond, remembering the lessons I have learned.


This blog probably would never have existed except for the suggestion of my friend Brian. He's the one who put me onto blogging in the first place. I was on disability for a work injury and getting a raw deal from the company involved. He was concerned I was sinking into depression and suggested this as something to keep me busy.

He's also asked me challenging questions over the years—questions which forced me to look deeper into the Catholic faith to answer things I had never given much thought to before.

Thanks, Brian.I can't believe we've known each other for ten years. It hardly seems that long. :)

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