Crisis in the Catholic Church

Cal Thomas

3/28/2002 12:00:00 AM - Cal Thomas
"Crisis" was a Catholic magazine before the crisis of priests as sexual predators made headlines. In the April issue of the magazine, co-founder Ralph McInerny offers an explanation for the scandal that has captured the attention of the media, for the most part no friend to religion unless it's wrapped in earthly agendas approved by mostly pagan "bishops" at The New York Times and the networks. McInerny believes that the Catholic Church in America has a problem with some priests molesting children because "our bishops have permitted a culture of dissent, largely defined by bizarre conceptions of sexuality, to flourish in the Church." Too many American Catholics, along with Protestant and Jewish liberals, have cared more about democracy than about orthodoxy; more about what they think and feel than about theological absolutes. The objective for such people has been not to please God but to please earthly powers - from media commentators to one's friends to one's self. The problem of predatory priests arose, writes McInerny, "because bishops acted like CEOs rather than shepherds." Theological dissent over basic doctrines became equated with political dissent guaranteed by a constitution, which may have been "inspired" but not divinely so. What's good for the country - dissent - also became viewed by some as good for the Catholic Church. McInerny dates the modern decline from Catholic orthodoxy to 1968 when liberal theologians rejected the Pope's "Humanae Vitae," which re-stated certain boundaries for sexual expression. The "moral theologians" who rejected the document displayed an attitude, says McInerny, which was "antithetical to Christian morality." His point, and it is a good one, is that the leaders of the Catholic Church in America (and one might also argue the same applies to many Protestant leaders) were compromised because they feared the criticism of the world more than they feared disapproval from God. The same attitude prevails in many churches today. Some no longer affirm the validity of the Resurrection, the central doctrine of the Christian faith to be celebrated this Easter Sunday. Nor do they accept the many miracles performed by Jesus, or proclaim that one should live in any way other than to please one's self. Too many churches abandon doctrine at the first sign of secular disapproval for fear of being called names and being rejected by the unchurched masses. Do they not know? Have they not heard? Jesus said: "You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God." (James 4:4) Instead of orthodoxy and discipline, some in the Catholic Church and other churches have sought the world's approval. They falsely believe that large congregations are necessarily evidence of God's approval. Except, as they compromise, their congregations dwindle in size as people seek meat elsewhere to replace the mush they're getting in the "church of what's happening now." Instead of faithfulness to God, they have in too many instances lusted after the things of which the world approves: tolerance, pluralism, wealth, bigness, political influence and visibility. What they've received in return is corruption in their souls and in their leadership. Too many Catholics, as well as others who call themselves Christians, think they should be able to create God in their image. Catholics want to remain Catholic while at the same time rejecting some of the basic teachings of their church. Can one be a member in good standing of the NAACP if he's a racist? Whether the issue is divorce, or sexual expression of any and every kind, these theological lone rangers think they are God and get to decide right from wrong. Did God die and leave them in charge? In their minds, apparently He has (or is it she?). The best approach to solving the problem of a few priests who prey on minors, and theological liberalism in general, is for the Catholic Church to return to the original rulebook, Scripture, which was written and delivered for the protection and redemption of humanity, and stop listening to the siren call of the world, which is headed in another direction.