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!