If there is one thing that bothers Pope Francis above all it is the endless bickering within the Catholic Church itself: “how many wars take place within the people of God and in our different communities!” Elitists on both the left and the right want to establish a church of the pure, those who hold all of the right positions on the key issues, and they are none too shy about critiquing, attacking, and excommunicating those who don’t agree with them. But the Church is meant to be a counter-sign to the divisiveness and violence of the world, a place where love, compassion, and mutual understanding hold sway. When we become but an echo of the fallen world, then we are like salt that has lost its savor, and our evangelical persuasiveness is fatally compromised. Again, keep in mind the metaphor of the emergency: when a threat or an opportunity of great moment appears, we ought to lay aside our petty (and even not so petty) differences and make common cause. (Source)
Well, Fr. Barron certainly knows how to play the “hip” middle in all of this. If you read this article, you sure don’t want to be on either of those “extreme” sides. The “trick” in trying to convince your audience of your position is to try to show them that you are in the “mainstream”, and that the reader should not fall into the “danger” of being too rigid (on the Right) or too liberal (on the Left). In truth, he is of course essentially correct. Catholicism is by its very nature always in the Center. But the reality is that while Fr. Barron likes to situate himself in the “middle”, some of his positions (on hoping everyone can go to heaven or that Adam & Eve are not our primordial parents, just to name two of his rather novel ideas) are hardly situated in the mainstream of Catholic teaching. In fact, they are far out there and very problematic to say the least. It’s also very troubling that Fr. Barron likes to gain cover for himself by “calming the waters and settling the winds” by embracing us in the great cumbaya position: let us not try to solve our differences or even argue about them, let’s just make common cause and point potential Converts to our Tower of Babel.
I’m all for the evangelization and the salvation of souls. That’s the reason the Church exists. But there are certain prerequisites before you can go and evangelize. One of them is that we have to know what exactly we are evangelizing our hearers to. Sloppy evangelization without doctrinal or moral coherence is just a waste of time. Take, for instance, one of the central doctrines of the Catholic Faith – original sin. What is the logical consequence of the doctrine of original sin, if we believe that Adam and Eve were not our first parents, like Fr. Barron believes? After you get past the “Jesus loves you and died for you” opening pickup line, you’re going to have a problem with the discerning Catechumen. There’s more to Christianity than a “personal relationship with Jesus”. There’s a necessary relationship with Truth and Non-contradiction, too, although it’s less cozy than the former teaching to be sure.
It’s great that we have enthusiasm for the Gospel and we should not bicker over genuinely petty things in sharing the good news of the Gospel, but the issues at stake are hardly petty or minor. They strike, in many cases, at the fundamental truths of our Faith. The sanctity of human life or a dignified liturgy are not minor issues. They are not “small-minded” rules. They are issues that are fundamental to what it means to hold the Holy Catholic Faith, and they are issues that we cannot avoid discussing or fighting over. It is folly to believe we can evangelize people into a Tower of Babel where two mutually exclusive doctrines can be held by the Faithful. There are those in the New Evangelization who believe that we can evangelize while standing beside a naked Emperor. It doesn’t work. Even today in our dumbed-down culture, people can smell a scam a mile away. What’s the rub, they will say? And they would be right. Where is the rub?
Eventually those who hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ will have to be confronted with the central doctrinal or moral questions of our age. We can run, but we can’t hide. Jesus Christ is not merely in our heads or even in our hearts; He is also especially present in the Unborn child. To minimize this or shove it to the back of the bus is to miss the bus on what the Gospel is in 2014.
Remember what happened to those disciples when they couldn’t accept the hard teaching about the Eucharist? They walked away. What did Jesus do? Did He go after them grovelling for their respect? Did He dumb down the Faith? Did He make it more palatable for them? “Now, now, Jesus, let’s not fight over petty things or small-minded rules! We can agree more than we can disagree with our followers. Let’s just agree to disagree!” I don’t think so. The Gospel was a challenge and a confrontation in Jesus’ time, and it is no less today. The Condom and The Eucharist are still stumbling blocks and they will ever be so.
The challenge for faithful Catholics today is a gargantuan one: to present the saving truth of Jesus Christ to an unbelieving world, while concurrently beating back the high level dissenters (papally endorsed I might add) in the Church who want to undercut the fundamentals of what the Gospel is. Is not marriage, for instance, a sign of Christ’s permanent love for the Church? Or perhaps in NewChurch, the sacraments are a dispensable part of this “New Gospel“. Should we be silent about these attacks on God’s truth, for the sake of a false peace and a slimy and wicked unity? If that’s what the New Evangelization is all about, then you can count me out.
Our utopian friends in the Church are like the consummate secular liberals who just can’t seem to understand that although they are not interested in war, war is still interested in them.
Pope Francis is right about one thing in particular, though. We’re so self-absorbed as a Church today. We need to feel “appreciated” and “affirmed” and “empowered”. The reality, however, is that God can and did passover whole generations of the disobedient who denied Him and His Truth. What makes us think we’re so special as not to experience the same fate? He can skip our generation and the next one and the one after that until we finally get our shit together and present the WHOLE Gospel, lock, stock and barrel, and stop the temptation to dumb it down.
And as for the rest of NewChurch, before they deride “the church of the pure”, they should flip open the Book of Revelation and learn that for the Spotless Bride of Christ, “nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful” (Rev.21:27).