As you may have noticed, I'm frustrated by all the sniping and accusations going on between Catholic factions. I find it demoralizing to orthodox Catholics and likely to lead others to think we don’t have anything better to offer them. I’ve written several articles on that theme. Of course, my blog has a small reach, and even if I had a larger one, words alone cannot persuade people to change. It’s a matter of grace. I have no say over who receives grace, nor who responds or rejects Him. This is the point when you see people going in the wrong way, beyond your control: one can either become bitter or one can turn to God and trust Him.
Blessed John Henry Newman described it well in his Grammar of Assent. In talking about the difference between the Catholic who remains faithful and the Catholic who breaks away from the faith:
The reason, if we may conjecture, may sometimes be this: he has never believed in the Church’s infallibility; in her doctrinal truth he has believed, but in her infallibility, no. He was asked, before he was received, whether he held all that the Church taught, he replied he did; but he understood the question to mean, whether he held those particular doctrines “which at that time the Church in matter of fact formally taught,” whereas it really meant “whatever the Church then or at any future time should teach.”
John Henry Newman, An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent (London: Burns, Oates, & Co., 1870), 240.
Each person, whether a convert or someone baptized as an infant, must choose to trust the Church is infallible because of God, or else he will lose faith in the Church because they don’t believe God protects the Church. To believe God protects the Church means we must not only believe that God protected the Church from error up to this point, but we must also believe God will continue to protect His Church from teaching error, regardless of who the Pope may be, or what condition the world is in.
Yes, we’ll continue to see problems. Church history tells us of crises far worse than the current one. But we either trust Him to protect His Church built on the rock of Peter and his successors, or we will be building on sand, and our faith will collapse. I think, in the end, we need to follow the example of St. John XXIII as told by Monsignor Loris Capovilla, his private secretary. and related by Cardinal Dolan: Every day, about midnight, there St. John XXIII…
“…would kneel before the Blessed Sacrament. There he would rehearse his problems he had encountered that day: the bishop who came in to tell of his priests massacred and his nuns raped in the Congo; the world leader who came to tell him of his country’s plight in war and asking his help; the sick who came to be blessed; the refugees writing for help; the newest round of oppression behind the Iron Curtain. As Pope John would go over each problem, examining his conscience to see if he had responded to each with effective decisions and appropriate help, he would finally take a deep breath and say, “Well I did the best I could….It’s your Church, Lord. I’m going to bed. Good night.” (Dolan, Cardinal Timothy M. Priests for the Third Millennium.)
This isn’t indifference to problems in the Church. Nor is it abdication of responsibility. It is a recognition that we are limited and need to turn to God, entrusting the Church to Him instead of building up an ulcer worrying about what is beyond our control. Ultimately God is in charge. We can either be faithful and give assent to the teachings of the Church while trusting God when we’re troubled, or we can obsess about what we don’t like, gradually losing faith—first in the Church, and then in God who promised to protect her.