The Discipline of Catholicism

Being a Catholic is more than just checking a box on the occasional form. It is more than going to Mass and the occasional trek to the Confessional. Contrary to the attitudes of many self-professed Catholics, it is much more than some sort of ancestral birthright…sorry, ‘Cradle Catholics’. Being Catholic requires contemplation, commitment, constant discernment – and, yes, discipline and submission.

Submission? In many ways, this is the most important element of being Catholic. Submission requires an attitude foreign to many of us – especially considering that narcissism is considered by many Americans to be a constitutionally protected liberty. Ours is a two thousand year old religion with a rich history of great thinkers who have articulated our doctrine. Call it ignorance, call it apathy, call it self-delusion…the fact is apparent that many Catholics do not understand the Catechism. For those unaware of it’s existence, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is a compendium of the teachings of our Church.

Catechism means ‘teaching’ and the CCC contains all the creeds, explanation of the sacraments, and prayers of our Catholic Faith. From the justification of reconciliation to the theology behind the concept of war, the Catechism is  – next to the Bible – the most important book that should be on every Catholic’s bookshelf. Not only is it often not, a great many Catholics have never read it, I fear. That fact is obvious by the actions and statements made by Catholics in America.

Let’s look at abortion. Catholics in America – at least 54% of them – supported a presidential candidate who openly espoused abortion. Despite his rhetoric, Obama’s voting record and campaign speeches clearly indicated his support of this practice. Not only did Catholics vote for him, a number of them campaigned for him. Catholics for Obama is the most infamous of these groups, and the most disingenuous. They had the audacity to weigh abortion against other social issues. They argued that it was somehow consistent with Catholic teachings that the ‘inimical evil’ of abortion is counterbalanced by other issues that Obama supports. If abortion is the monkey on America’s back, for Catholics it is the 900 pound gorilla.  Sadly, from the construction of their arguments, those who argued the pro-Obama positions obviously are familiar with the Catechism. Their sins are compounded. Not only are they in error, they knowingly and intentionally distorted the Magisterium. By these actions, they have brought countless less educated Catholics into error.

Even more frightening are the religious who have forsaken their discipline. Priests who campaigned for him. Those – like Father Jenkins – who ignore the mandates of the Catholic Catechism and Ex corde Eccleisiae by honoring a pro-abortion president. Pope John Paul II couldn’t make the Church’s position on this issue any clearer. But priests like Jenkins have placed their own personal beliefs or agendas before their vows of obedience. And if groups like Catholics for Obama and those that espouse heretical positions are dangerous, the damage that these disloyal priests promulgate on the pulpit are even more dreadful.

Why is this happening? How is it that lay and ordained in America are finding ourselves locked in an escalating civil war? Because there are those of us who understand the teachings of the Church and are obedient. And those who do not and are not. Why is nothing being done? A very, very good question – and one that lies on the lap of our Paschal Shepherds.

The Citizen has written about Catholic politicians before. Pelosi, Biden, Kerry, Kennedy, Dodd…all examples of politicians who call themselves Catholics despite their anti-Catholic practices. Despite their open disobedience to the call for all Catholics to live our faith in words and deeds – they have not been excommunicated. Oh my – he said it. Yes, brothers and sisters, I did. Excommunication is the last, terrible sanction that can be levied against a Catholic. This ultimate censure denies the excommunicated from the Sacraments. And it should have been used against all of those I have named – to start.

Do I say this out of hatred? Of course not. Excommunication is not vindictive, it is medicinal. By casting one out, it hopefully compels them to examine their lives and actions, leading them to forsake their errors and return to obedience of the Magisterium. Many Bishops have met with errant politicians, cajoled them, made ‘strongly worded’ statements…to no avail. For them to fail to live up to their pastoral obligation, they are not only endangering the souls of these politicians, they are leading others into doctrinal error. And this is the gravest sin of them all.

Discipline is hard – that is the definition of the word. If all the choices that Catholics had to make were easy, what significance would this have? If we are to call ourselves Catholic, we have to be true to the teachings of the church. If this makes me unpopular as a Catholic speaker and commentator, I am fine with that. If it means that Bishops and priests stand to lose members of their flocks – well, isn’t it better to cull the flock to spare the spread of infection throughout the whole?

Christ told his disciples that ‘If the world hates you, it hated Me first.” Why did he say this? He wanted us to know that in this – as in so many other things – He broke the trail for us. When walking a hard path, His footprints will ever be there to guide us and remind us that we are following Him. No matter how burdensome the cross our discipline places on our shoulders, He had carried His first – to serve as an example for us.

It is time for Catholics to decide. If the discipline of our Catechism is too weighty, then perhaps this is not the Church for you. The Citizen was a Pre-Cana speaker once, asked to speak about the sacrament of marriage. I looked at the couples sitting before me in the hall, holding hands and excited about their upcoming weddings. I smiled, folded my hands, and said;

Catholic marriage is a sacrament, a covenant, a contract between you, your intended, and God. Once entered into, this contract cannot be lightly tossed aside. If you are not prepared to treat this as a sacred contract, I have the number of a Justice of the Peace for you.

Several people gasped, some looked surprised, some were a little perturbed. I looked at Father in the back of the group. He was nodding in agreement. This illustrates the point I am trying to make now.

It is time – past time – for all Catholics, lay and ordained, to remember that ours is a faith that demands obedience to the Catechism. It is the duty and obligation of our leaders to enforce this discipline. Until they do so, the Church in America will continue to struggle. Until they do so, the souls of many Catholics in error will lie heavy on them when they meet our Judge upon His throne in Heaven.

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