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January 30, 2007



I highly recommend George Wiegel's "The Truth of Catholicism."

It's a fairly easy read and looks at Catholic teaching through the prism of all of the "hot button" cultural issues that are a stumbling block to so many these days. I found it very persuasive and have passed it on to wavering family members myself).

As for Chicago area parishes, St. Mary of the Angels is wonderful:


It is an inner city church rescued and restored by Opus Dei. You can be sure the formation there is solid, orthodox and persuasive (I particularly recommend Father Joseph Landauer).

Fr. D

A guy I knew in the seminary was a convert from Lutheranism. He had a simple yet profound question: Where can I go to get as close to Jesus as possible?

He found the answer in the Eucharist which he now confects as a priest in the Southwest.


Lots of prayer. We need to understand we can't fix him. Only God can do that. Still something along the lines of Mark Shea's "By What Authority" might help. He makes a good case for why we should want to think with the mind of the church. He is right to be concerned when he sees his thinking as out of step with the church. This is a call to deeper conversion. Yes, it is a call to choose between the body of Christ and political leaders. That does not mean he has to change his opinion on the war and/or immigration. He just needs to surrender that thinking to God and allow the tradition of the church to mold his mind. He will come out changed even if he ends up checking the same box on election day.


You folks are going to jump all over me, but I would have him read "Why I am a Catholic" by Gary Wills. (See, I can hear you jumping already!) BUT someone who wants to leave the Church ISN'T going to be convinced by the kind of orthodox writers you are recommending, who write as if they never questioned the Church. Your cousin only going to be convinced by someone like Gary who has questioned the Church but has come to the conclusion that we have the full, true faith. The first part of his book is a very powerful witness to his personal journey and how a person can love the Church and still question it.

One of the things that Gary conveys in the middle part of the book, which is a brief history of the Church, is that we are a Church of sinners, and that we constantly need to challenge ourselves as a Church to return to the gospel message. That's the message that St. Francis brought to us, and Vatican II, and our whole history of reformers.

I'm not saying this is the greatest book in the world or that I would use it in an adult education class or anything (the books you are recommending are much better, I'm sure), but for someone who is leaving the Churhc, I think this is a good suggestion.

M.Z. Forrest

I'm afraid some of the book recommendations so far may convict the young man. I'm afraid I don't have any solid book recommendations. I don't think trivializing the knowledge he does have, that the bishops opposed the war in Iraq and that the bishops are opposed to throw-them-out immigration policy, is the best way to convince him of the teaching authority of the Church.

If he is sympathetic with Joel Osteen, then I would assume he is also quite sympathetic with the health and wellness gospel. You might be able to find some papers critical of the excesses of laizze faire from Michael Novak that shouldn't offend his senses. I wouldn't generally recommend Novak except that it appears the young man hasn't recognized any boundaries at all.


Sounds like this guy is leaving because he is putting his right-wing politics (pro-Iraq War/anti-immigrant) before his Catholic faith, which he construes to love immigrants and hate war more than he wants to. Plenty of people do that from the left too. Shouldn't people be recommending something that will help him get his theological/political ducks in proper order? Weigel and Wills won't do that because both have the similar problem, one from the Right, the other from the Left.


I'm a little confused. If he's disagreeing with the Bishops on immigration and Iraq, he must be leaning more strongly "conservative" politically, right?

Would it be advantageous to tell him that you can disagree with the positions on those two issues in good conscience, while trying to explain systematically why the Church teaches what it does currently on those issues?

And, to point out that the Church throughout history and throughout the world has not always been as connected to some of the liberal-leaning policies as currently?

In other words, you can be a Catholic in good faith without necessarily agreeing with those political issues. That the faith / doctrine / salvation / sacraments issues by far trump any currrent political issues. You can disagree on immigration and still be saved, but you really can't disagree on transsubstantiation in the same way.

Sounds like this young man is in agreement on theology, but not on political views.

Telling on myself, I guess, but I come from a more right-leaning political ideology, and if I felt I had to agree with the current left-leaning political policies with equal fervor as with the theological ones, I'd be in choppier waters than I am. By reading the history of the church, I can only come to the perspective that there have been lots of people with lots of varying politics throughout 20 centuries who were nonetheless Good Catholics.

And, in the meantime, I'm trying to conform my mind to the Church's official viewpoints, and try to understand in myself why my views sometimes *aren't* the same. It's been instructive and helpful to me, especially on the Immigration issue.

So I'd advise: emphasize that the politics and the theology are not even close to equal in this matter, I guess.


Would it help to explain to him that there is no binding Church teaching on the Iraq war or immigration policy? The principles are not disputable, of course, but there's a lot of disagreement about whether the Iraq war meets the criteria for a just war, or what policies are the best way to love our neighbors and welcome strangers.


I've seen this problem time and time again among young politically conservative cradle Catholics, though I've not known any personally to leave the faith entirely (they usually just stop going to Mass). The problem is, of course, as Celine has noted that these kids put politics above the Faith; but the fault here is chiefly with the priests and Bishops who have taught them so to do by making the USCCB a lobbying wing of the Democratic party (in many cases). If I had to guess, I'd bet he grew up in some parish with an old Cdl. Bernardin protegee and has finally just had it.

Since he still seems to want to be close to God, though, there is hope! I've seen two paths that save young men from devotion to Repulicanism or Conservatism over the Faith to the proper ordering of the Faith over politics: Opus Dei, as the commenter above mentioned; and also traditional Catholicism. And in Chicago, of course, he has the good fortune of easy access to both (If he has a soul open to grace and beauty at all and could be convinced to hear Mass at St. John Cantius http://www.cantius.org/ for a few weeks, he could never leave the Church!)

In short, I'd recommend that you try to convince him to go to various of the high liturgies at St. John Cantius and try attending some Opus Dei spiritual event -- an evening of recollection, probably, would be easiest to find & attend.

And by all means, make sure he sees books by Novak, Weigel, Neuhaus, etc, that show that you can be a good Catholic and still be a political conservative. And FLEE Gary Wills, that heretic, like the plague!

By the way, if you would like / think it would help, email me at AmbroseOfMilan@gmail.com and I'd be glad to try corresponding with this young man. Anything to keep an earnest young soul in the Church of Christ!

M.Z. Forrest

The problem is that the bishops positions are known. He is not making a false staement regarding the bishops positions. To say they are not binding is to trivialize them. In essence, one would be arguing that the bishops do not have authority to properly teach what is right in war and immigration, but what they teach in salvation is essential, so he should remain Catholic. This is a contradiction. He most likely doesn't even respect the bishops' positions on these issues. It is one thing for a person to prudentially disagree on these matters. It is another thing for a person to be so ignorant that they cannot recognize the foundation for these positions. Blessing his ignorance is not the solution.


I think Bishop Olmstead's pamphlet, Catholics in the Public Square, would be very helpful to this young man. It lays out very clearly and concisely which issues it's OK to disagree on, and which it's not. It's brief, available online in its entirety for free, and completely on point

Rich Leonardi

It lays out very clearly and concisely which issues it's OK to disagree on, and which it's not.

I think a better way of phrasing it is to show how Catholics ought to form their consciences on a range of issues. It isn't so much "disagreeing" with this or that bishop on a particular issue as it is recognizing how formation ought to take place. And I second your recommendation of the essay/pamphlet.

Fr. Bryan

This type of situation is not new, as the Gospel reading at Mass last Sunday shows us. Too often we want Jesus, or the Bible, or the teaching authority of the Church to confirm our views, not to challenge them.

And the challenge is this: do we allow our faith, grounded in Scripture and Tradition, to form our attitudes, behavior, politics, etc., or is it the other way around?

In the political realm everyone wants the Church to speak out as long it agrees with them. When it does not, then the Church is usually dismissed as being "out of step", or simply wrong. Sometimes this will lead people go shopping for a church that is more in line with their politics.

As for suggested readings, Weigel would be a good start, as would "Salt of the Earth" by B16. Your cousin is in my prayers.


I'm going through something similar myself - and I wouldn't recommend Wills' book. It's completely incoherent. Did he have an editor?

It can be more than just the sometimes left-leaning politics of the church - the behavior of the bishops is often infuriating (see that whole Buffalo congressman story), and the money/sex scandals don't help either (but even this again goes back to the bishops ultimately, doesn't it?).

But there is one book that I go to when I wonder why I'm a catholic, and it helps every time - the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I have yet to find any statement in it that I don't agree with. So, my disagreement is with men, not with God, or his church.

So, this guy should spend the time, try to read it, and then decide. It's in paperback, and it's cheap!



We need to understand we can't fix him.

One of the hardest things in the world for mere humans is to allow other humans to make their own choices in life, whether they be wise choices or foolish ones. It is very hard to simply allow others to make mistakes, even very grave mistakes, but allowing them to do so is the only way that they will gain the wisdom to make the right choices in life. We don't want to see the child stumble and fall and scrape his knee, but that is the only way he will ever learn to walk.

When the prodigal son left home, his father did not run after him begging him to stay; the father did not give his son a couple of good orthodox books to read. The father let him go. And the father did not go out looking for the son afterward or otherwise ask him to come home. He left it up entirely to the son to do that.

This is a lesson that the cousin is going to have to learn on his own. Maybe he will learn it, maybe he won't. But "we can't fix him," nor is it desirable to do so.

Neither is the answer to say that being a cafeteria Catholic is preferable to leaving altogether. That he should be told that it is OK to simply be a dissenter, private or public, yet remain in the Church. That only compounds the problem and confuses (scandalizes) others.

The answer is to let him go. Many of the people who comment here left or strayed when they were 23. Can any of them honestly say that a couple of good books or a couple of heart-felt sit-down discussions would have made a difference and kept them in the Church? No, it wouldn't have. This is a lesson that they needed to learn on their own. And it is something that he too is going to have to discover and learn on his own.


First of all, thanks to all of you for your thoughtful and charitable comments. I am the one who asked Amy for the help for my cousin.

MarkAA - you've crystallized the situation exactly. My cousin has very conservative political views. He's done his homework and know what both the US bishops and the Vatican have said regarding certain US policies.

Unfortunately, I think he has homework yet to do, and I pray that God will continue to put that desire in his heart. I've encouraged him to keep learning why the Church teaches what it does.

I will definitely pass along the suggested Chicago parishes. I think a big part of the original problem is that he had been attending Old St. Pat's downtown, which I'm learning has a liberal bent, both politically and liturgically.

Thank you ALL for your wonderful suggestions and most of all for your prayers.


I think all you can tell him is to put Christ first in his life and see where that takes him. If politics means more than the Eucharist I don't think an argument is going to carry the day.
When I went through a very dry period a priest gave me a little book that saved my faith. It was "A Shorter Christian Prayer" (title may vary), which was simply the daily office boiled down to a basic and simple format and designed for travelors or lay people who might find the regular thick office too daunting.
The advantage of this thin book is that it is mostly psalms and prayers that will lead him to God without hitting him over the head with the Church, although there is a lot of Church he will soak up along with the rest if he tries it.
At this point I think you want to make the Church's rich prayer life inviting. I would stay away from arguments over whether you can or can't accept teachings on immigration or the like. Good luck!

Mike Petrik

It is true that Catholics with conservative political leanings are often too dismissive of the prudential views of their bishops. These views are typically grounded in a deep understanding of the the teachings of our faith and should be taken very seriously, especially since most Catholics, regardless of political bias, are frankly not especially well-grounded in the teachings of the faith. That said, bishops shoud be measured and cautious about any application of teachings that require a prudential calculus or understanding of things that are outside the scope of moral theology. And in my view, they usually are. Indeed, the pastoral letters and other pronouncements of our bishops are usually pretty carefully crafted to take into account appropriate uncertainties, even though headlines and news articles about those pronouncements often fail to communicate such nuance. Of course, occasionally the bishops do go too far and look a bit foolish, like they did when they issued the pastoral letter on the economy in the 1980s, which was an embarrassingly poorly prepared document replete with sloppy assertions that simply could not be squared with any educated understanding of the operations of a market economy.
I agree with the commentators who recommend the Catechism, Salt of the Earth, and Weigel. I don't think recommending some good books will interfere with the fact, as emphasized by Bender, that the young man will need to make his own decision in his own way.

Sr Lorraine

Perhaps his friend could explain to him that while the moral principles underlying war, etc., form part of the Church's social teachings, Catholics can and do disagree about how to apply those teachings to particular issues. Then go on to explain how some statements that come out of the USCCB are definitely skewed in a certain direction.
It'a also worth recalling that ultimately no bishops conference can take the place of papal teaching. It's happened more than once in history that the majority of bishops in a certain region taught heresy (for example, Arianism -- "Athanasius contra mundum").


One thing a person should ask themselves is if their church is truly preaching the gospel or has it joined with the world system?

With the Catholic church, and now with TOO many apostate Prot churches joining WITH THE WORLD: Fornication with kings has become the dominant theme. Dominionism, blind obedience to corrupt politicians, bad politics and total support of the globalist world system warned of in Revelation. [The Tower of Babel is being rebuilt--and the Pope and his Vatican minions with their endless praises for the United Nations, and Rick Warren with his P.E.A.C.E. plan are all on the same page]

Rome's horrible politics, with the exception of abortion was one thing that got me to wake up in addition to my BIble studies. When one reads of the Vatican supporting OPEN BORDERS {actually a NWO plan for world government and one reason they all support unfettered immigration in America}, United Nations programs for totalitarianism--total gun control, every rotten interfaith group out there, including World Parliment of World's Religions and WCRP, hatred for Israel--aligned with Palestine, world socialism--with demands for rich nations to redistribute the wealth among poorer ones, and much more, it does bring a person to ask themselves is this really Christ's church?

You can't claim that the Roman Catholic church or even the Dominionist apostates {mega churches et al} stand apart from the politics focused on preaching the gospel, if anything they have JOINED with the corrupt politicians on both the RIGHT {well neo-con really isnt conservative} AND LEFT.

Here's some latest proof...


Rich Leonardi

I think a big part of the original problem is that he had been attending Old St. Pat's downtown, which I'm learning has a liberal bent, both politically and liturgically.

St. John Cantius is walking distance from there. And yes, Old St. Pat's has a "bent," to put it mildly.


Personally, I wouldn't recommend any book. It's too easy to intellectualize about the faith and I don't think that is going to help your cousin.

What he needs is to connect with Catholics in the area it would seem. People have already mentioned the classic two parishes that "orthodox" Catholics always throw out there. I've attended Mass at both and they are good parishes filled with many good people. But they may not be everyone's cup of tea. Cantius is clearly shaped by the Tridentine Mass and St. Mary's by Opus Dei. (No flames -- that isn't a bad thing, but just a fact.) So, it may not appeal to him. (You would know better than us.) In any event, there are a number of good parishes and groups within the Arhdiocese of Chicago. If you want, email me, and I can try and help get you more specific recommendations.

mary martha

As a political conservative in the Chicago Archdiocese I can completely relate. It's easy as a political conservative in many parishes in this Archdiocese to be isolated and made to feel like a pariah... not exactly a good way to feel in Church - it's not surprising that he would want to leave.

Many parishes in this archdiocese give the impression (or say outright) that in order to be Catholic one must march in lockstep with the liberal Democratic party line... but that is not true!

There are issues on which men of good conscience can disagree (The war, immigration, death penalty) and there is a place in the Church for those on either side.

I would HIGHLY recommend that he check out St. John Cantius. It is not a question of it being a place that won't challenge his views - because it will. However, they will not present it in the 'namby pamby everyone must agree with the liberal hippy wacko pastoral administrator or they are going to hell' fashion that is all to common in parishes of the Chicago Archdiocese.

In so many other Parishes the focus seems to be on 'social justice' and the like that it is easy to imagine that disagreement of those issues puts you outside the Church - but it doesn't! Cantius instead focuses on what is the important center of our faith - the sacraments (what a crazy idea). I would venture to guess a few high quality Fr. Kolinski homilies and he would be right back in the fold.

For those that would question why someone would feel as this young man does - I will give you a personal example. At my father's funeral Mass the priest took the opportunity to rail against the war and the administration. An administration my father voted for, and a war that he believed was right. I was so upset I would have walked out - except of course for the fact that my father's casket was in the middle of the aisle.

I haven't set foot back in that parish (my geographic parish and the one I grew up in) since then and if I can help it I never will again. If I hadn't been reading and learning on my own about the Church for the last few years and known that there were other places I could go - I would have never set foot in another Catholic Church.

mary martha

"I will definitely pass along the suggested Chicago parishes. I think a big part of the original problem is that he had been attending Old St. Pat's downtown, which I'm learning has a liberal bent, both politically and liturgically."

Danger! Danger! Will Robinson Danger!

That explains a great deal actually. OSP sells itself as the 'Young Adult' Parish and I am certain that they mean well. However if one is not a young adult in a certain (liberal) mold than that is *not* the place for you.

I go to Cantius and love it however he might also like St. Mary of the Angels - they do a ton of great Young Adult stuff... with a more conservative bent. Perhaps suggest that he go to a couple of events there and see if it suits him.

Mike Petrik

I just think it is cool that biblebeliever has a yahoo address.


Ambrosius gets it in one:

"The problem is, of course, as Celine has noted that these kids put politics above the Faith; but the fault here is chiefly with the priests and Bishops who have taught them so to do by making the USCCB a lobbying wing of the Democratic party (in many cases)."

Anytime bishops speak outside their competence and authority, they diminish their own credibility on spiritual matters. He who cannot be trusted with small things cannot be trusted with large things. The Church is still paying for "E pur si muove" in Western skepticism toward Christianity; it doesn't need Christians to further submit their consciences to the teachings that God is a Sandinista, or that pacifism is mandatory, that the UN has a divine right to rule, that murderers must not be executed, and all the other things that have been variously advanced as The Teaching Of The Church.

I will not say that theology must be divorced from practical application and that bishops may not speak on war, immigration, Nazism, abortion, etc.; what I would say is that they often underestimate the gravity of their words with respect to the salvation of souls, and overestimate it with respect to secular politics. Another form of tithing mint and cumin, if you ask me.

Christopher Fotos

Sounds like this guy is leaving because he is putting his right-wing politics (pro-Iraq War/anti-immigrant) before his Catholic faith, which he construes to love immigrants and hate war more than he wants to.

If his priest or bishop is saying something like this, as some are, no wonder he's having problems.

Church teaching does not require Catholics to support the lawbreaking and social destruction signified by illegal immigration or specific positions on the Iraq War, period. Granted, it can be difficult to remember that in the current environment. Cdl Ratzinger's noted letter comes to mind, of course:

Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.

There are upright Catholics like the aforementioned George Wiegel, and Michael Novak and Fr Richard Neuhaus, who have staked out a variety of honorable positions that I suspect Blegger's cousin would embrace. The important thing to remember is that it's possible to do so and still remain a faithful Catholic.

American bishops need to be much more careful about confusing specific policy recommendations with the integrity of faith. There are relatively few areas where the two are truly in existential conflict. The problem arises when careless clerics imply otherwise.

M.Z. Forrest

I don't really want to get in debate about Catholic Social Teaching and prudential judgement. I will simply say that many people are grossly mistaken about the freedom they have. And I will simply add that stating that bishops can ignored when speaking 'outside their competence' will do nothing for this young man.


I have to agree with M.Z. Forrest.

I tend to be "conservative" too, but I really am reticent to propose the path for this young man of essentially "the bishops-are-speaking-out-of-turn-here's-some-right-thinking-Catholics-you'd-like". Whatever miscues our bishops make from time to time in prudential areas, reinforcing the notion that (in some sense) this is politics, I fear, is going to only hurt the young man. Because, frankly, that's not a reason to stay within the Church. That's a better-clique-to-hang-out-with argument. Because it doesn't change that bishops will continue to say things that political conservatives are bothered by. So he's going to continue to face this challenge and I worry that just as unhealthy of an attitude can develop if this emphasis is taken. Maybe knowing other conservatives who are Catholics will be of help, but only if they help him see the Church for what it is, not if they just reinforce a view that the bishops are fundamentally wrong on these issues.


You all do realize the Vatican itself supports OPEN BORDERS...


"With this in mind, the Synod Fathers recalled that [b]“the Church in America must be a vigilant advocate, defending against any unjust restriction the natural right of individual persons to move freely within their own nation and from one nation to another.[/b] Attention must be called to the rights of migrants and their families and to respect for their human dignity, even in cases of non-legal immigration”. (236)"

Think Mahony came up with this on his own?

Some of this stuff you see as localized error is COMING DOWN FROM THE TOP...

Its POLICY from the top!

I wont be part of any church with bad politics. That includes those that teach Dominionism lies.

Rome's politics are adverse to the gospel. These politics are coming from the top. That cant be ignored.

Dont think for one minute that this support for illegal immigration is just some localized bishops gone off their rockers, its policy from the top.

Sherry Weddell

At the risk of sounding radical, I would like to suggest that the bishop's stands on immigration may turn out to be the "presenting problem" as counselors call it but not the real issue. The chances are high that the real issue is existential, not theological.

I say this based upon having done at a thousand one-on-one interviews with lay Catholics of all ages about their lived experiences of God. (which I wrote a piece about on Intentional Disciples (blog.siena.org) yesterday, scroll down to "Do Ask, Do Tell").

My suggestion: If you have a fairly good relationship with your cousin, get together one-on-one for a meal or coffee in some quiet place and ask him this question: "Can you describe your relationship with God to this point in your life?" And really listen. Ask a few clarifying questions but resist the temptation to leap in and correct his faulty theology or opinions.

Listen for the experiences and feelings behind the opinions and that may reveal what the real issue is.


Shouldn't the philosophy of these bishops be to teach the faith fully, and in accordance with Christ - thus arming the people to go out into the world and make political decisions that are consistent with the theology?

It's like parenting. You don't tell your kid, "ok, and when you get into situation x, you do this". You raise them right, and then they will (hopefully) make the right calls.

I feel like my parish (St Augustine, Brooklyn NY) does this correctly - they preach on the faith, and its daily application, not about specific policies or social movements - and we are even in the belly of the beast (NYC), so to speak, from a conservative point-of-view.

Tom K.

This calls to mind the old saw about there not being a hundred people who hate the Church as she actually is.

I'd give him a copy of the Compendium Of The Social Doctrine Of The Church and ask him to use it to explain to me exactly what (and as far as possible, why) the Church teaches about war and immigration.

If he can do that, and he still wants to leave the Church, there's always prayer and fasting.


Go, Sherry!! Exactly!

The real issue will eventually present itself, perhaps not for open consumption. When you try to influence the process on the "superficial" level, you risk painting yourself as someone who really doesn't care if your cousin's issue matters, so long as he remains among the "saved", to put it in Osteen's terms.

In order to really live the faith, you need that deep, abiding, mystical connection with Jesus. Some people have to leave the Church in order to discover how much they need Jesus in the sacraments in order to love Him as He wishes to be loved. It's a shockingly tall order, and 15 years after my conversion, I am still appalled at His demands. And AMAZED by the help he sends so I can do it.

Be clear you are sad that he is leaving, and follow Sherry's advice. Assuming he is not on his death bed, I bet he'll be back.

Father Elijah

I have enjoyed and appreciated the various responses to the issue the young man has with the Church. I hear a great deal of concern and charity for this brother of ours.

But step back for a minute, if you would. How many times on this blog and in St Blog have we heard similar issues coming from 'our own lips'-perhaps not to the point of 'leaving' the Church as this young man did-or taking the approach of biblebeliever BUT.....

So many discussions leading to arguments in here have their basis in our 'political/ideological' perspectives [which of course we have the freedom to have as Americans] spilling over and influencing our approach to the issues in the Catholic world.

One blogger above commented that the young man left because of what he heard from priests and bishops. So many times I hear from others that the priests and bishops are not saying enough--
While admitting certainly some of the problem lies in the clergy's lap--how much of it is really 'our' [and trust me clergy can be 'guilty' of this too lol] ideology influencing our faith rather than faith influencing our ideology.

One blogger above mentioned last week's Gospel (Luke 4). Two questions arise in my mind-from the last two Sundays' gospels (Jesus at Nazareth-Luke 4) which I think can help us and this young man:

1) Bottom line-is Jesus Christ in the fullness of His Person-Revelation the norm or is something else-perhaps even my opinion?

[Long story-but I will never forget being contacted by a parishioner protesting the Gospel of Matthew with Jesus stating divorce was out-parishioner said "MY-meaning his-Jesus would never say that!'----Yikes!!!!!]

2)Can I allow the Risen Christ, and His Gospel to enter my life and life-style, even if it makes 'me' uncomfortable? [obviously the people of Nazareth were into comfort/discomfort and wanted not part of being 'stretched' beyond their comfort zone]

Dennis Martin

Uh, what about the possibility that on these issues the bishops put left-wing politics above church teaching?

Trying to explain this young man's actions by saying that that's what he does, since in both cases we are talking about the application of Catholic teaching to specific circumstances, is only valid if it can be reversed and applied to the bishops.

And it applies above all to those who happen to agree with the bishops'application or principles to these concrete situations. Why aren't those posters who tell the young man to shut up and accept the bishops' teaching on Iraq and immigration not also guilty of putting their politics above the church's teaching?

John Paul II was very clear that priests and bishops have the office of teaching principles, not taking concrete decisions regarding the implementation of principles. Yes, they rightly advise laymen and laywomen about concrete application of the principles and their advise regarding these specific governmental actions (war, immigration) should be listened to. But I'm just a tad tired of being told that I may not disagree on these issues. I may not disagree on abortion, period. It is easy to define when an abortion takes place and when it does not. It is more difficult with end of life issues. It is not dififcult with embryonic stem cells. It is difficult with just war applications and with the principle that one must be hospitable to the stranger.

"Conservatives" may rightly affirm the Catholic obligation to welcome the stranger while taking widely divergent views on how to do that. The bishops have overstepped their competence on this issue when they advocate particular legislation unless they make it clear to Catholic voters and legislators and executive implementers and judges that Catholics in those situations have an obligation to listen and consider the bishops' advice but are not bound to agree with the bishops' advice on specific policies.

Bishops who fudge this, who imply that their advice binds Catholic consciences regarding specific policies

and posters who try to use the bishops' advisories on these issues to hammer fellow Catholics are abusing the authority of the bishops' office, in my view.

For God's sake, tell the young man that he is free, indeed obligated, to listen carefully to all sides, including the bishops, on specific policy applications about how best to welcome the stranger and defend the innocent. He is not free to be callous toward the stranger or fail to defend the innocent.

I'm tired of the Catholic left's guilt tripping abuse of the consciences of fellow Catholics. And I would say exactly the same about the Catholic Right if and where it is guilty of the same. But because the bishops have tended to be knee-jerk in one direction on these two specific applications of principles and failed to distinguish between just where their teaching authority begins and ends on this, the abuse of fellow Catholics' consciences on these two issues is coming from largely from one side.


Christ, Isaiah prophesied, would not break the bruised reed or extinguish the smouldering wick. But Isaiah never prophesied anything like that of the Catholic episcopacy. The decision of this confused young man--and he definitely is confused, if he is willing to leave the Church over this--just goes to show the harm that imprudent words of bishops can do. They may have only meant to express their own opinions on these matters, but they must surely know that the perception of many people is that their words are more than their own opinions.

I think Anne-Marie in her post above said it just right. I would counsel the young man that there is no "Church teaching" on the particular issues of the Iraq war and immigration to the U.S. There are teachings concerning moral and political justice which are unchanging, but as to whether the war we are currently engaged in is just or not, or in what way the United States must deal with immigration law and enforcement, are matters the Magisterium has no special competence to pronounce upon. The fact that some thoughtless bishops have said stupid things on these and other political topics is nothing new in the history of the Church.


to "a reader"

I understand your cousin's predicament intimately, as I strongly disagree with many US bishop's immigration policies, which in many cases are pandering, multi-culturally mushy, morally ambiguous and short-sighted in the extreme.

Many bishops seem willfully ignorant that they are cooperating with evil by working with organizations that blatantly wish to continue a situation where illegal immigrants are paid "sub-citizen" wages, under the table, in the name of "open immigration," when they should instead be calling for equal pay for equal work, and vastly easier LEGAL immigration, that does not deny the equal humanity of illegal immigrants, and also does not subvert the laws of the country that provides them protection.

As for Iraq, I haven't heard any negative imperatives from the Magisterium on what we as individuals should be doing about Iraq at this point. To the contrary, the Vatican has said that "now that the child is born, it must be cared for," seeming to indicate that the only moral action at this point would be to work to succeed with a democratic state in Iraq that protects its citizens rights. That sounds like a little bit of posturing by your cousin.

Finally, tell him to get a grip and realize that there are far bigger issues than himself and his own political leanings. Tell him to join a service organization and start trying to help others.

Old Zhou

Since when did you have to agree with the Church to be a Catholic? I would estimate that close to 80% of monks and nuns in the US disagree with the Church on a lot of things. Maybe he should consider religious life and work to change the Church from within?


When I almost left the Church the only thing that kept me in, was that the Gospels that week were John:6; by the time I could bring myself back to Mass, it was Saturday, and St. Peter was telling Christ that no, he wouldn't leave, because there really isn't anywhere else to go. So, John:6 might be a helpful read.
You might also point out that Judas was most likely very disappointed that Jesus, as the Messiah, was not going to effect Israel's political rescue from the Roman empire. You might also point out that canon law allows the bishop to disagree with your cousin on immigration and the Iraqi war (if he has a sense of humor).

Jeff Culbreath

Interesting. In seven years of attending the TLM (indult/FSSP), I've never once heard immigration or the Iraq War mentioned from the pulpit, nor have I seen them referenced in parish literature of any kind. And there are good people in the parish on both sides of these issues.

Is it different in the Novus Ordo world? Does politics invade parish life to the degree that having the wrong view on immigration or foreign policy makes one feel like an outcast?

Jeff Culbreath

Furthermore, if Catholics really had to agree on this stuff, what would we argue about after Mass?


Irene way up yonder suggests Garry Wills as a cure for Joel Osteen. They should put this on the Holy Whapping.

mary martha

"Is it different in the Novus Ordo world? Does politics invade parish life to the degree that having the wrong view on immigration or foreign policy makes one feel like an outcast?"

In my personal experience in the Archdiocese of Chicago - yes.

I will say this... I don't know if it is even intentional. So much of the leadership of parishes and other groups here have become an echo chamber that they can't imagine that everyone doesn't agree with them.

I imagine that they don't even realize how they make people feel like outcasts. I am sure that some would be horrified to hear this.

TM Lutas

The Church consists of over 20 different rites, each of which might have a bishop covering the territory. Chicago, for example, has two ordinaries in residence, Francis Cardinal George for the Roman rite and Michael Wiwchar for the Ukrainian rite. Other rites, such as my own Romanian, include Chicago in their territories while the bishop resides elsewhere (my own John Michael Botean oversees 4 Chicago area parishes from Canton, OH).

Does the young man even know the opinion of all the territorial bishops in his own city? If he agrees with one and not another, which of the three opinions (his and the two bishops) is "Catholic"? What about the military services bishops? Is their opinion, if it differs, to be listened to more or less? A great feature of Catholicism is its flexibility in matters that are prudential. It doesn't actually require you to toe the line on matters that are not essential to salvation.



I admire the thoroughness of the posts you do over at Jesus Creed explaining the Catholic faith, but I have to ask here: who are you talking to? I read nothing on this thread that is even close to the "shut up and take it" characterization you have posted.

Not even in the vicinity.


Of course the 'political' views of the Church are a red herring. This young man is going through a period of doubt, and he is, on the basis of the original post, looking for solid conviction. I imagine he will find the doctrines of hard-right fringe Protestantism more than a little vacuous, and return to the Church when he matures.

James H

If a person is going to leave the Real presence over immigration politcs then I think something deeper is at root.

LEt me just hit the immigration issue. First direst him to the catechism and have him read that. Then to prayfully read the document on the isue available online at the Vatican. In the ned the solution is found not on the extremes but in Christ centered thought.


To BibleBeliever1:

The concern of "open borders" is the fact that people weren't allowed to LEAVE. At the time it was written, the Soviet Union, China, Korea, Cuba, etc. routinely imprisoned and/or killed those who tried to defect. Hence the emphasis is on "unjust restriction" and includes moving within one's own country. As for the idea of treating even illegal immmigrants with respect: That's God's law even in the Old Testament.


Amy,, doncha kno

Thanks for posting the most unintentionally hilarious quote in a long time:

Lately, I believe he has been reading the Bible on his own and watching Joel Osteen on TV.

It sounds like something an anti-Catholic Protestant would write:

"Those Catholics are against you reading the Bible!"

Your reader might be reminded that the Catholic Church exhorts believers to read the Bible "on their own".


Chicago Catholic Churches Where Good Things are Happening:

St. John Cantius - excellent, orthodox confession liberally available, celebrates Norvus Ordo in English & Latin and offers the Classical Rite. Young order. http://www.cantius.org/

Shrine of Christ the King Sovereign Priest (formerly St. Gelasius) - home to the new order of Classical Rite priests - the Institute of Christ the King. Very orthodox, vital young priests who are a bright spot in Hyde Park and a welcome addition to the city of Chicago. http://www.institute-christ-king.org/chicagohome.htm

Our Lady of Angels Rectory - this is the Chicago beachhead for the Franciscian Friars of the Renewal. Fr. Bob Lombardo is the missionary hard at work there.

St. Stansislaus Kostka - Fr. Anthony Bus is a mystic and a priest with a vision. Check it out at: http://www.thedivinemercysanctuary.com/

St. Mary of the Angels was already mentioned above. Very good and orthodox. Great young adult group.

St. Alphonsus - Hip parish, with good orthodoxy on the rise due to the great pastor and associate pastor. Good young adult group. http://www.stalphonsuschgo.org/

St. Lamberts - Great parish. The Pastor (Fr. Simon) is orthodox, and a scripture scholar. Be prepared for regular insights into the Greek meaning of the Gospel texts, and powerful homalies. 1st Sunday of the month has a Day of the Lord gathering with prayer, talks, hospitality etc.

Sacred Heart in Lombard - very orthodox, hear good things.

St. Paul of the Cross in Park Ridge - Fr. Gamber is a leading light over there. They now have perpetual adoration and good programming.

I'm sure there are others which merit mention. I know there are a number that I could list to caution against (but won't out of charity).

God bless.


It sounds to me as if this young man's catechetical formation is lacking, not a surprising development considering where he's at.
He quite likely believes that it's an all or nothing situation and does not realize that there are Truths and opinions and how to tell the difference.
While many of the books recommended are very good they are probably not the first step necessary to rescue this person. What's needed is a good friend or pastor who can explain about the difference between dogmatic teaching (on subjects like abortion and stem cell research) and opinion (on the war and immigration). Once he realizes there is a difference then will be the time for him to do a little serious reading.
He should definately be consuled in my opinion to switch parishes. Either of the ones recommended above would probably do him good, but you better warm him that they are a great change from what he is use to, or the cultural shock might drive him away itself.

M.Z. Forrest

The teachings on war and immigration are not theological opinion. Just War Doctrine, hint, is not a theological opinion. They are judgements and definitive ones at that. They may not be wrong intrinically, but that does not make them opinions. The applicability of a specific situation to a teaching is an opinion.

An obviously hungry man asks you if he can have one of your two loaves of bread.

Church teaching: A man may not reasonably will that another starve.
Opinion: The man approaching is not starving.
Opinion: The man approaching just wants your bread so he can sell it for alcohol.
Opinion: Offering the man the other loaf would disproportionately harm your family, so you cannot.
Opinion: God's devine retribution is being presented before you. God has willed this man to starve because of his sins, and you would be denying the will of God by offering this man food.

3 of the 4 opinions I listed would be licit applications of the Church's teaching on the destination of goods. 1 of the 4 opinions would directly contradict Church teaching and would be sinful matter. Lest there be confusion, the second opinion needs to be grounded more than just in idle speculation.

The existence of options does not preclude the existence of teaching, even teaching that can damn one to hell.

Dennis Martin

JACK: a number of postings stated that the young man (and by extension "conservative" Catholics) choose politics on these issues over church teaching. One poster labeled such Catholics "cafeteria Catholics." Given how the term "cafeteria Catholics" is normally used (with regard to those who say they can be pro-legal-abortion yet be good Catholics), this in effect means "shut on your political policy choices" and follow the bishops' political policy choices.

Perhaps you did not feel the sting of "cafeteria Catholic" applied to the 23-year-old who is ready to leave the Church over the bishops' inability to distinguish between (1) no-cafeteria-possible principles on the one hand and (2) plenty of freedom to choose specific applications but the choice of that term in this setting is just as sharp as "shut up." But I felt the sting. If it were true that disagreeing on concrete policy matters with bishops is a sinful "cafeteria Catholic" act, then the sting would be appropriate and I would repent. But in this case the term "cafeteria Catholic" was totally out of place and muddied the waters even further.

How can I state it more clearly? One is not a "cafeteria Catholic" if one, after due consideration, disagrees with bishops on policy implementation. Indeed, just the opposite: the bishops are at fault here, not the young man, for either going beyond their competence in making specific policy recommendations without adequately explaining that they have moved outside their teaching authority.

I do grant one or two posters their perfectly valid point that some bishops have made such distinctions and that not they but their lay acolytes in the blogsphere are the ones who blur the distinction between principles and policy applications and use the blurred combination to hammer politically conservative faithful Catholics over the head.

A number of other postings simply said, swallow your disagreement and look at the goodness of the heart of the Catholic faith, don't leave over these issues. While not a direct slap in the way "cafeteria catholic" is to those who disagree with the majority of bishops' policy advice on these matters, it nonetheless is muddleheaded. If it were a matter of the young man disagreeing about some principles of Catholic teaching and ready to leave over that, it would be appropriate to ask him to count to ten and reconsider the principles and doctrinal teachings with which he disagrees.

But since his disagreement is entirely over prudential application of principles, to tell him, "look at the Eucharist, look at this or that central and wholly good thing about the Church" is misguided and sows confusion for him and for the rest of us.

The problem he faces is one caused by a falsification of central Catholic teaching: the confusion of the competence of clergy on the one hand and laity on the other with regard to moral action in the culture.

The proper answer to the young man is to clarify (as a number of posters on this thread did very well) the distinction between (1) teaching principles (including the principle of the distinction between principles and application), (2) applying principles to concrete policy situations, and (3) appropriately qualified guidance from clergy about how to apply principles to concrete policy decisions, advice qualified by making clear that Catholic lay people are free and obligated to use their brains and hearts, informed by Catholic teaching and principles, to the hard work of deciding just how one best welcomes the stranger, and protects the innocent.

The line between clergy and laity is an article of Catholic faith, one of the few points that all the Protestant Reformers agreed on and which Trent reaffirmed unreservedly. It is being blurred by liberals who wish to demote clergy to mere professional lay ministers (a Protestantizing move) and elevate lay people (e.g., Eucharistic ministers) to sacerdotes-manque, but also by anyone, liberal or conservative who extends the teaching office into specific policy applications.

Clergy are, of course, also baptismal priests like the rest of us. They rightly exercise their prudential judgment about how best to apply principles to policy decisions when they vote and when they, like the rest of us, talk with fellow Catholics, lay and clerical, about politics and give fraternal counsel, admonition (spiritual works of mercy). But in their office they both teach principles and give advice about specific applications on different levels and part of their teaching obligation to to be clear about when they are doing which of these two very important responsibilities of their office.

Lay people, by virtue of their baptismal priesthood also teach the principles--as parents to their children, as lay teachers in schools to their pupils and students, as friends in fraternal admonition. But they should not set themselves up as an alternative Magisterium and usurp the hierarchical teaching office of clergy with regard to principles.

Nor should they set themselves up as a parallel magisterium invoking Vatican curia pronouncements about a specific war or a specific approach to immigration to silence or guilt-trippingly hammer magisterially their fellow lay Catholics.

And one does the latter whenever one fails to distinguish between (1) a bishop's teaching authority on principles (including teaching about the ramifications of principles short of specific application to concrete situation) and (2) his prudential advice about specific policies. (2) is legitimate, very important, should be listened to by lay Catholics, but is different from (1). To teach that distinction is part of the bishops teaching office and we lay people also need to teach it to each other as part of our baptismal priesthood obligation, without fancying ourselves to be clerics.

The confessional or spiritual direction is a different matter. There the confessor by his office of binding and loosing--and the penitent by his freely chosen decision to enter upon a relationship of obedience to a spiritual director or upon the formal relationship of sacramental penitent--give and receive specific advice on the application of principles to specific circumstances. But even then the confessor, for the spiritual health of the penitent, needs to distinguish between binding obligation (assigned penance and any binding obligation related to it) and and prudential advice.

And it's all done privately. And even in a situation of spiritual direction where the directee is under obedience to the director, the director rightly gives some counsel bindingly and in other areas, again, for the sake of the growth in spiritual maturity of the directee, leaves other things to the conscience and prudence of the directee. The discretio, discernment to know the difference part human acquisition and part divine gift.

Is it really that difficult to make these distinctions? It's so much easier to dress up our prudential assessments of policy matters in the High Holy Teaching of the Church. But it's a cheap move, an abuse of the Church's wonderful teaching office, and, in the case at hand, can wreak havoc with a young man's conscience.

Who was I writing to? To those who, unwittingly, in their zeal to help the young man, further confused things by asking him to look past the bishops' policy statements and love the Church.

I'm all for begging this young man to love the Church, not leave her, not give up. But unless the fundamental distinction between binding teaching and concrete policy application is respected, the well-meant advice actually makes it harder for him to love the Church and not abandon her.

"Shut up" was hyperbole (except for the "cafeteria Catholic" tag--them's fight'n words). I thought this use of hyperbole was justified to make a strong point, a point crucial to this young man's soul and the souls of a lot of other people.

But if my choice of hyperbolic rhetorical strategy caused scandal to some, I apologize and will include it in my examination of conscience for my next confession. I do not wish to cause further scandal in an attempt to undo what I thought was causing yet more scandal for this young man.

M.Z. Forrest

If you think the cafetaria can only be found on the left side of the Church, I have some ocean front property to offer you in Arizona.

The idea that this young man's objections to Catholic teaching are grounded in prudence is completely speculative. Given that he is openly contemplating defection, I believe a prima facie case can be made that his objections are grounded elsewhere. Calling him a cafeteria catholic doesn't seem to be all that productive, but that is the actual situation.

Dennis Martin

M. Z. Forrest. I did not say that cafeteria catholicism is only found on the left side of the Church. Nothing I wrote says that. I simply stated that this case was not a case of cafeteria catholicism. There are plenty of cases of cafeteria catholicism on the right.

Your earlier postings, M.Z., are among those refusing to make the distinctions I described in great detail.

And now your response is simply Tu quoque. You imply that I am on the Right and can only see cafeteria Catholicism on the left. How do you know I am on the right? Nothing in what I posted reveals my own policy positions on immigration or the Iraq war. For all you know from this thread I agree with the policy advice of the bishops on immigration but because I am bound by Catholic teaching to distinguish that prudential advice on concrete applicatiohns from binding teaching on principles, stood up for the young man's freedom of conscience against those who would hammer him with false and confused Catholic teaching.

I sought to clarify the theological principle involved here so that people both on the right and left can hear both the teaching of principles and the advice about specific applications from their bishops and pastors, put each in its proper context and then go out and live the Gospel in the world.

And you respond with a slam against "cafeteria Catholics" on the right, personally attacking me, falsely claiming that I think cafeteria Catholicism is found only on the left and in effect calling me a fool (with your offer of a bridge to buy).

This is not helpful, M.Z. Nor is it Christian nor is it charitable.

Mike Petrik

I don't see how your 4:21 post advances the discussion. The real question presented is what force does a bishop's assessment carry when he tells you that it is his conclusion (i) that the man you are encountering is starving, or (ii) that the man will not sell the loaf to obtain alcohol, or (iii) that your offering the man your loaf would not disproportionately harm your family. And how prudent is it for bishops to make these assessments?
And as for your last post, I don't see how a person who has already decided to leave the Church can meaningfully be called a cafeteria Catholic.

M.Z. Forrest

You were the one who introduced a dichotomy between authentic and cafeteria catholicism. You were the one who stated he was "just a tad tired of being told that I may not disagree on these issues." As to the rest of your plea to "Our Lady of Perpetual Offense," I'm not sympathetic.

If you want to make the argument that this young man's objections are well founded, be my guest. My prima facie judgement of the young man stands.

In the end, I thought our hope was to bring this man back to the Church. This is why I have avoided the argument, because the young man's judgement is that this is indeed what the Church teaches. Now you can try to reform the young man's judgement to bring it in line with the Church, but this isn't the issue I would do it on. You could try to convince the young man that his objection is prudential - and his objection probably isn't prudential! - and hope that he will play along. I find both approaches to be completely unproductive.

M.Z. Forrest


I would say religious assent. (iii) could reasonably be interpreted as a violation of conscience. Given the non-universal knowledge of the facts in the area, a bishop offering his opinion would not be prudent. In governmental affairs, we have more universal knowledge. There other factors involved with war that wouldn't be involved in my little example. The adverse impact of failing to act could certainly be grounds for consciencious objection.

My understanding is that the man is still catholic.



Thanks for the (albeit long) response. I see some of what you speak of, but try as I might, I have to say I'm hard pressed to see enough of it to think the tenor of your posts justified. Frankly, there are a lot more people noting precisely the distinctions you mentioned in their comments. Which is why I was thrown by your posts.

I am right there with you on prudential judgments, to a degree. I wish we would all behave like they are what they are: prudential. Meaning, that they are made about specific circumstances at a specific point in time. And that the primary thing we should take from a prudential judgment is that we need to consider them seriously and examine how they reached the conclusions that they did, to help inform our own prudential judgment about new circumstances in a new time. I see way too much of the conversion of prudential judgment into dogma (on a variety of accounts) and it troubles me because it is changing the very character of the original thing to (frankly) avoid the hard work of making prudential judgments. So I find it very frustrating when I find individual bishops who misrepresent the nature of their statements and in how some Catholics refuse to acknowledge those misrepresentations or, conversely, use the label of "prudential judgment" as an excuse to dismiss those statements.

And I see nothing wrong with going over all that with this young man if, in good judgment (I avoided saying prudential judgment as I thought that might be overkill ;-)), one thought that would be of help to him. But I have my doubts that merely that would reverse him in his tracks. Maybe it would. But it seems to be tackling the question, "Why the Church?" at a very surface level that I wonder would be all that penetrating for the individual in his own life.


You're not going to get this young man back to the faith by discrediting the bishops' (AND the Vatican's AND the Popes') teaching, which I may add, is completely aligned with Church Social doctrine. By doing this, you're discrediting the hierarchy within the Church and will just push him away further from the Church towards our dear Joel Osteen.

Let's not water-down Church doctrine and compromise it when we want dialogue with fallen-away Catholics, please.

This young man needs a Christian witness and a solid explanation of WHY the Church believes what it does instead of lay Catholics giving different opinions of why the magisterium is wrong.


The real question presented is what force does a bishop's assessment carry

Respectfully, that is not the real question. The question is not about bishops and their "competence" or lack thereof. The question is about US, not the bishops. And in this context, the question is about some 23-year-old kid and what he believes or does not believe. It is not about the bishops.

The question is about whether it is appropriate for us to have an attitude of picking and choosing, yet still insisting that we are one with the Church; an attitude of looking for justifications and excuses for why we disagree with what the Church and its shepherds teach; an attitude of looking for loop holes so that we can think whatever we want to think; an attitude of placing our individuality first and foremost, thinking that we are ourselves competent to determine the competency of the bishops' authority.

It would appear that our 23-year-old has at least the intellectual honesty to not eat at the cafeteria. That means that there is a great deal of hope for him.

Fr. Mike

I just had a conversation with a former Evangelical Protestant who has been Catholic for about eight years, and who has started a ministry for Catholics that focuses on one-on-one evangelization.

He spoke of reading the Church's teaching about evangelization, community, the sacraments, and of how he realized that it was all based on Scripture. The Church's teaching became the doorway through which he entered the Church - not the example of individual Catholics, the encounter with the living Christ through the members of his Body, the Church.

In regard to the young man thinking of leaving the Church, we can't simply point to a book, or even a particular parish. Some people who know him and have contact with him have to embrace the responsbility that is given to us in our baptism - that “The laity derive the right and duty to the apostolate from their union with Christ the head.” Christifideles Laici, 3

That apostolate is to bring Christ to the world, one person at a time.

When we have a lived relationship with Christ that is born from a conversion of heart in response to God's grace that includes genuine contrition for our sins, we will seek him out and encounter him in the sacraments, in the Scriptures, in the magisterial teachings of the Church, in the community of believers (including individuals who become our spiritual companions on the journey home to heaven). Without that relationship, I'm afraid anyone of us can find any number of reasons to "go away sad" from the Church; whether it's because the Bishops are too liberal, or too conservative, or because of issues of artificial contraception, abortion, war, economics, homosexuality, clergy pedophilia, immigration, ANYTHING.

In a relationship with Christ expressed by a faith informed by love, we'll discover that we can "bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things." 1Cor 13:7

Mike Petrik

Catholic he may be in some sense, but the original post says that the man in question had "recently decided to leave the Church." It seems to me that such a decision is precisely what disqualifies him from being fairly dismissed as a "cafeteria Catholic."
And while I agree that the a bishop likely knows less about your hypothetical hungry man and and the hypothetical family than the encountering family man would, and that this would not be the case regarding matters of public policy such as war, there is no reason to believe that a bishop knows any more than I do regarding the factual assessments necessary when making such policy. Bishops should and must teach the rules, of course, but they should be cautious about applying those rules to facts that are less than certain or capable of reasonably different assessments. In fact, I think they usually are. I think that it is usually priests or lay ministers with axes to grind that are more guilty here, on the right and the left.


For a good good book, try Karl Adam's 'The Spirit of Catholicism', Available for download at: http://www.ewtn.com/library/THEOLOGY/SPIRCATH.HTM

Mike Petrik

On the contrary it is both. Yes indeed, all too many American Catholics are far more American than Catholic. The cult of individualism is real. That said, there are ample instances of clergy, and occasionally even bishops, who allow their own prudential political judgments to affect teaching. It is fair and appropriate to decry both. In the case of this young man the examples cited lead me to believe that his discomfort with the Church has at least as much to do with the latter as the former, but of course we really cannot know, can we.

Morning's Minion

The Church's teachings on immigration are NOT all prudential judgment. Much of the teaching consists of underlying principles that affect particular cicumsatances, including: the Catholic principal, the right to migrate if workers cannot achieve a life of dignity in their own land, the notion that the right to regulate borders is not absolute, and the need to the respect the human dignity and human rights of all migrants.

Eduardo Penalver over at Commoneal linked to a really interesting article documenting the view of the religious right on this matter. In a poll of the Family Reseach Council's membersm 90 percent favor deportation. According to a Pew poll, 63% of white evangelicals view immigrants as a "threat to U.S. customs and values," compared to 48% of the population as a whole. It's all about culture, not economics, not security. Phyllis Schlafly talked about the need to "erect a fence and double our border agents in order to stop the drugs, the smuggling racket, the diseases, and the crimes." Tony Perkins wants to protect the "cultural fabric". Gary Bauer acknowledged that culture is the "unmentioned undercurrent" in the debate. Thomas Fleming, president of the Rockford Institute, said that "Whatever we may say in public, most of us do not much like Mexicans, whom we regard as too irrational, too violent, too passionate."

To hold these kinds of views is to be clearly in opposition to some of the core principals underlying Catholic social teaching, not just applications of these principles to particular circumstances. Pope John Paul exhorted Catholics to "reject all nationalistic thinking and to avoid narrow ideological categories" when it comes to the immigration topic and not to set limits and conditions on the definition of neighbor. So people who support these cultural positions are indeed dissenting from Catholic teaching, albeit of the non-infallible kind (akin to Justice Scalia dissenting on the principles underlying the application of the death penalty, or Charlie Curran dissenting on the principle that the unitive cannot be licitly seperated from the procreative in sexual intercourse). They are still Catholic, but probably shouldn't do it.

It could be even worse. Think of the 90 percent supporing deportation. Deportation is one of the examples that John Paul gives in Veritatis Splendour when addressing offenses against human dignity that are intrinsically evil. Deportation, just like torture and slavery, can become intrinsically evil if it violates the God given dignity and integrity (the intrinsic worth) of human beings. In other words, if it treats the person as a mere means to end (in this case, the protection of the "American culture"). This is always and everywhere wrong. And, no, this is not a prudential judgment.

M.Z. Forrest


I agree that the bishop's statments, particularly out of the USCCB, are full of nuance and generally written with great care. I don't get overly concerned with the overzealous. A pacifist may be misguided, but he certainly isn't a heretic.

Where these limits should be, I'm not really sure. With some folks, a bishop declaring the sky is blue would be condemnable since the bishop isn't a scientist. Intelligent people should be able to reach a consensus on which part of a bishop's statement is a matter of prudence. The bigger problem I see once a person has reached that point is not seeing the limits applicable to their opinion if they disagree on an issue of prudence.

Mike Petrik

I think we agree.

I agree with most of your post. Of course, it is easy for me since I have always been very pro-immigration. That said, I do think you unfairly trivialize the importance of culture. I submit it is reasonable, and not in the least bit contrary to Catholic teaching, to make relaxed immigration laws contingent upon the willingness of the immigrant to seek assimilation as opposed to amalgamation. It is one thing for the immigrant to be attracted to the American way of life and want to be part of it; it is another to be attracted solely to economic opportunity and want to remain culturally separate. Don't misunderstand me -- I don't assume for a minute that the latter description applies to most Mexican immigrants. But self-proclaimed leaders and spokesmen for these immigrants often give this impression, which sadly just tragically and unnecessarily harms their cause.


Morning's Minion:

Your statement is full of exaggeration and, quite frankly, errors.

There is no question here of prohibiting all immigration; no one is suggesting anything like that. The question is, whether a nation has the right to make laws concerning the admission of immigrants. I.e., to regulate the influx of immigrants, to judge how many it may reasonably take on, and in general protect its borders. It certainly does have that right. It's very important business, and prelates only look stupid when they challenge this right (luckily, not many have, certainly not the Pope).

Likewise, there is absolutely nothing immoral, according to Church teaching, about deporting those who have entered a nation illegally. Why should those who enter a country illegally receive the same benefit of law that those who enter illegally do? (Those in search of politcal asylum are another matter, and the USA has historically been quite generous toward them.) When PP. John Paul II cites Vatican II's statement that "deportation" is something against human dignity, he certainly didn't have in mind, e.g., sending illegal aliens back to their homeland. Quite to the contrary, that word has a broader meaning, and can mean "dispossessing" people of their land and property, as a sort of racial cleansing (like we have seen in Yugoslavia several African nations in recent years). To claim that anyone whosever has the right to enter a foreign country and take up residence there is simply wrong and practically impossible anyway. And the Church simply doesn't teach what you're saying it teaches. No wonder this poor 23-year old is confused.

As for Scalia's take on the death penalty, he is clearly within the pale of orthodoxy, and Avery Cardinal Dulles had an article in FIRST THINGS back in 2001 that you might find quite eye-opening.

Peter Cosgrove

I haven't studied all the responses, but has anyone suggested conversion stories like the Road to Damacus but more relevant is Surprised by Truth by Patrick Madrid. There are good short conversion stories in This Rock from Catholic Answers. These are available at www.catholic.com and there was one very recently about a Catholic whose family left the faith for some form of Evangelicalism but returned 20 years later.
I had a great RE teacher at school who based a lot of his lessons on The Road to Damascus. He talked about those who left and how and why so many came back.

Fr Alvin Kimel

Last year I wrote an open letter to an inquirer that may be of service to our 23 year old Catholic.

Lee Darnell

I love how absolution is given to the murder of war but holy hell breaks loose if someone is to suggest that the choice of abortion does not rise to the level of murder. One perspective is allowed and inculcated while the other is dismissed it's kinda funny and sad in its level of two-faced denial.

Christopher Fotos

It could be even worse. Think of the 90 percent supporing deportation. Deportation is one of the examples that John Paul gives in Veritatis Splendour when addressing offenses against human dignity that are intrinsically evil.

Which, of course, is nonsense on stilts. I won't get into it here but it's a doorway into how Catholics are not only permitted but required to use the power of reason granted by God.

People need to be much more cautious about these things. To take one example, when Phyllis Schlafly is talking about "the smuggling racket and drugs crime and diseases" she is coincidentally talking about justifications for more effective immigration control that are among the easiest to defend under Catholic principles as a quite unremarkable defense of the community.

I completely understand statements about the potentially destructive effect of quickly dismissing, say, the teaching of bishops on immigration as undermining their authority and what ought to be the proper relationship between shepherds and flock. But bishops imprudently and falsely implying that the Church requires assent to a specific policy prescription undermine their own authority. It is possible that Blegger's cousin was in an environment where (on whatever topic) that message was either sent or received, though I have no way of knowing.

The importance of separating specific legislation on the one hand from Catholic faithfulness on the other is one of the reasons Fr. Drinan, truly may he rest in peace, was required to depart from Congress.

Donald R.McClarey

"I love how absolution is given to the murder of war but holy hell breaks loose if someone is to suggest that the choice of abortion does not rise to the level of murder. One perspective is allowed and inculcated while the other is dismissed it's kinda funny and sad in its level of two-faced denial."

Yeah, too bad about that 2000 year tradition of the Church approving wars in some cases and always condemning abortion. Tough for left wing pro-abort pacifists.

Morning's Minion


When Schlafly talks about stamping out "the drugs, the smuggling racket, the diseases, and the crimes" she is displaying her own prejudices, nothing more. She most certainly does not see Mexican immigrants as her brothers and sisters in Christ.

As to Veritatis Splendour, the fact remains, John Paul listed "deportation" as an example of something which can be intrinsically evil. Of course that does not mean that every single act of "deportation" constitudes so grave an offense, but it does show that it can be-- by denying a person's God-given human dignity, by treating them as a mere object, or a means to an end. As ContraMundum points out, the most obvious example is ethnic cleansing. But somebody who wants to immediately deport 12 million immigrants in the United States simply to protect the "culture"-- well, I think that might qualify too.


John Paul listed 'deportation' as an example of something which can be intrinsically evil."

I don't see how that sentence makes any sense. A type of action is either intrinsically evil or it is not. It isn't "sometimes" intrinsically evil and then sometimes not; the meaning of "intrinsic" is "always and everywhere," "essentially," "by its nature," etc. Therefore it makes no sense to say that deportation "can be" intrinsically evil.

PP John Paul II's statement about deportation (which is taken from Gaudium et Spes, I think, which is some cause for skepticism) only makes sense if you take it as meaning something univocal. And since the Church has never before spoken about the inherent evil of deportation in the sense we normally use it, I submit that it has to be understood in the sense of driving people off their land. Note: the kind of deportation being condemned by Gaudium et spes is sending people back to their own land (which is what the US government is doing); it is just the opposite, i.e., driving them off their own land.

Anyway, this is beginning to get way off topic, but I think flat-footed statements like "deportation is against human dignity" are exactly the kind of prima facie foolishness that drives people like our 23-year old away from the Catholic Church. They shouldn't go, of course, because people who say that kind of thing are just plain wrong. But for people whose faith is weak and haven't been formed--who can blame them?

Christopher Fotos

When Schlafly talks about stamping out "the drugs, the smuggling racket, the diseases, and the crimes" she is displaying her own prejudices, nothing more.

That is an interesting theory, though an unfortunately slanderous one. In any case:

Some of the most violent criminals at large today are illegal aliens. Yet in cities where the crime these aliens commit is highest, the police cannot use the most obvious tool to apprehend them: their immigration status. In Los Angeles, for example, dozens of members of a ruthless Salvadoran prison gang have sneaked back into town after having been deported for such crimes as murder, assault with a deadly weapon, and drug trafficking. Police officers know who they are and know that their mere presence in the country is a felony. Yet should a cop arrest an illegal gangbanger for felonious reentry, it is he who will be treated as a criminal, for violating the LAPD’s rule against enforcing immigration law....

Police commanders may not want to discuss, much less respond to, the illegal-alien crisis, but its magnitude for law enforcement is startling. Some examples:

• In Los Angeles, 95 percent of all outstanding warrants for homicide (which total 1,200 to 1,500) target illegal aliens. Up to two-thirds of all fugitive felony warrants (17,000) are for illegal aliens.

• A confidential California Department of Justice study reported in 1995 that 60 percent of the 20,000-strong 18th Street Gang in southern California is illegal; police officers say the proportion is actually much greater. The bloody gang collaborates with the Mexican Mafia, the dominant force in California prisons, on complex drug-distribution schemes, extortion, and drive-by assassinations, and commits an assault or robbery every day in L.A. County. The gang has grown dramatically over the last two decades by recruiting recently arrived youngsters, most of them illegal, from Central America and Mexico.

• The leadership of the Columbia Lil’ Cycos gang, which uses murder and racketeering to control the drug market around L.A.’s MacArthur Park, was about 60 percent illegal in 2002, says former assistant U.S. attorney Luis Li. Francisco Martinez, a Mexican Mafia member and an illegal alien, controlled the gang from prison, while serving time for felonious reentry following deportation....

Many good reasons, this is hardly exhaustive. Also many good reasons to promote legal immigration. Many bad reasons to confuse Catholic fidelity with specific bills--in either direction. Those cases are, I believe, rare, which is what Blegger's cousin would do well to see.

Clare Krishan

Dito Sherry and Kristen - perhaps a hidden philosophical issue rather than a theological one. I have found this article "Our American Babylon" by Fr. Neuhaus (on the preeminence of an adequate ecclesiology in making sense of politics of any stripe) very insightful.

Perhaps not yet for your cousin, rather for yourself. Fr. John Courtney Murray influenced B16 (it is said, can't remember where) at Vatican II to see the American experience as a model for building peace and prosperity globally. Based on the Natural Law, which has sadly fallen out of fashion in the intervening half century, with the Catholic Church being the last Christian group to stoutly defend it.

"We see again and again that, without a Church—not notional but real—that transcends the American experience, the American experience becomes one's church."

"In We Hold These Truths, he [Murray] anticipated a day when Catholics would have to catch the fallen flag of this novus ordo seclorum."

"The church of the novus ordo seclorum had a thin public theology. As political philosopher Leo Strauss observed, its founding principles were "low but solid." Perhaps too low and not solid enough. To change the metaphor, the new order was not wired for first-principle questions such as the humanity and rights of slaves of African descent. As it is not wired for today's questions about the humanity and rights of the unborn child and others who cannot assert their rights."

As the opportunity presents itself, sow pertinent ideas in terms he himself perhaps holds dear? Disclaimer, I'm British, so my preference is the Mary Poppins "a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down" method.


"I love how absolution is given to the murder of war but holy hell breaks loose if someone is to suggest that the choice of abortion does not rise to the level of murder. One perspective is allowed and inculcated while the other is dismissed it's kinda funny and sad in its level of two-faced denial."

When fetuses carry swords, crossbows, and AK-47s with malice aforethought, then there might be such a thing as just abortion.

Mike Petrik

"When fetuses carry swords, crossbows, and AK-47s with malice aforethought, then there might be such a thing as just abortion."

Excellent, Maureen.

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