The Citizen takes heat on a regular basis from those who call me ‘narrow-minded’, ‘ignorant’, ‘hateful’, ‘mean’… my favorite is ‘unChristian’. Why? If you have read some of my posts or heard me speak, you know that I am critical of people – especially Catholics – who are not acting in a manner that is consistent with the teaching of the Church. This teaching is called the Magisterium – I have included a link to an article by Father Most explaining what it is. Essentially, the Magisterium is the body of what the Church holds to be right thinking. Those who profess that they are in Communion with the Holy See yet do not act according to these teachings are remiss. Not only is it acceptable for me as a Catholic to speak out against those in error, it is my duty as a Catholic.
Membership in any organization – religious or secular – comes with reciprocal obligations. The organization fulfills certain needs of the individual and the members agree to abide by the tenets of that organization. Those who do not are not living up to their end of the agreement. It is somewhat unseemly to refer to the Catholic Church as a ‘club’, but I am trying to use a common analogy.
Catholics – especially adult Catholics – are assumed to have received the most commonly received sacraments. Baptism is one that many Catholics have received not of their own cognizance. Communion is one entered in – again most of the time – as a child. Confirmation is different from the first two sacraments. Confirmation is a considered acceptance of membership in the Church. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Confirmation is a sacrament given in order to ‘make…strong and perfect Christians and soldiers of Jesus Christ.’ The Catechism explains it as being necessary for ‘…the completion of baptismal grace.’ Those Catholics who have received the sacrament of confirmation have done so as adults – educated in the obligations of being one of the Faithful and willing to abide by those obligations. Unfortunately, this sacrament for many Americans has become a simple ‘rite of passage’ – something that young men and women do as a matter of course. Far too many parishes have been remiss in instilling the seriousness of this obligation and the price that comes with this grace. Having participated in several confirmation retreats, I am happy to say that some parishes are addressing this problem. The nut of the issue is that almost every active American Catholic has received this sacrament – but are they practicing the Faith as they should? Are they living in communion with the Holy See? Are they following the Magisterium? Sadly, the answer is ‘no.’
Christ provides an example for dealing with inappropriate behavior in Matthew 21:12-17 (Note – the Citizen prefers the Douay-Rheims bible). He was offended at those who offended God and took immediate and decisive action. Did he gather the offenders and plead with them? No. Did he accept them with open arms? No. He ‘cast them out’ and violently overturned their tables and dovecotes. Christ was angry and did not hesitate to show his displeasure. So – did Christ succumb to his ‘human’ frailties and ‘lose it’? Absolutely not. He knew exactly what he was doing that day. More than merely cleansing His Father’s house, he was providing an example for those who would seek to follow him – us.
The Citizen does not advocate violence to correct those in error. But I cannot understand why those who are harshly critical of those who have consistently demonstrated their failings under the Magisterium should be castigated. As a society, we are harsh with repeat offenders in secular courts – as is only right. But when we see public and private citizens who consistently flout the Catechism, we should be lenient? Christ was not lenient that day in the Temple. Nor should we today. Indeed, it is the duty and obligation of every Catholic to hold our brothers and sisters who are in error to account. Politicians such as Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Kathleen Sabelius are examples of publics Catholics who have consistently defied the Magisterium in the execution of their public office. If you have questions about this, consult The Catholic Politician, an essay I wrote in 2008 on Catholics in public office.
The Citizen is a teacher – I am well-versed in gently correcting my pupils. I love my students and want them to succeed. Countless times, I have spoken – gently and with love and respect – to students who were misbehaving or acting in an inappropriate manner. But there comes a time when one must be stern. There comes a time – after repeated exhortations – when the one in error must be held accountable for ignorance is no longer an excuse. And this is the case when the Citizen is critical of Catholics – ignorance is not an issue. These Catholics are willfully acting in defiance to church teachings and must be held accountable. Not out of hatred or contempt, but out of a desire to correct their behavior.
I will not apologize for speaking the uncomfortable truth. I would rather receive harsh treatment in this life than to have to answer for my apathy in the next.