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One Convert’s Call for Catholics to Unify Instead of Divide in This Time of Trial

Calling all Catholics: Now is the time to be a saint, be JOYFUL, examine your own sinfulness and live your faith to the fullest.

Let us unify amidst this great trial and use it as a time to growth stronger and closer to God than ever! As a colleague of mine said, “prayer and fasting must be our mainstays.” And I fully agree.

I humbly beg you to avoid judging others, using inflammatory language and setting up divisions in our faith. We must stop creating sides and dividing among ourselves as “conservative” or “liberal” Catholics and as to whether we are with Pope Francis or not. This only makes a bad situation worse, in my opinion, and feeds the enemy whose goal is division.

Instead, let us keep our eyes on Jesus Christ.

9 Reasons Catholics Should Unify Instead of Divide in This Trial

Catholic Unity

Here are 9 reasons why this one unimportant Catholic convert from a small town in Indiana humbly believes we should stop the division and unify our Church:

1. Division is not of Christ.

As my parish pastor Father Dennis O’Keeffe said last week, “Division is NOT of Christ.” SO many of the Bible verses the first week of September from 1st Corinthians were about human knowledge and division — by chance? I think not.

Of course, be sure to read all these in their full context…

1 Corinthians 2:5 “… so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.”

1 Corinthians 3:3-6 “While there is jealousy and rivaly among you, are you not of the flesh and walking according to the manner of man? Whenever someone says, ‘I belong to Paul,’ and another ‘I belong to Apollos,’ are you not merely men? 

“What is Apollos, after all, and what is Paul? Ministers through whom you became believers, just as the Lord assigned each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth.” (Is this not what we are doing now: dividing ourselves as “I am with Pope Francis” or “I am not” or “Bring back Pope Benedict”? Are we not all together part of the ONE HOLY and CATHOLIC Church?)

1 Corinthians 3:18-19 “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you considers himself wise in this age, let him become a fool, so as to become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God…” (Are we wise? Are we wiser than the Holy Spirit? I know I’m not!)

1 Corinthians 4:3-5 “It does not concern me in the least that I be judged by you or any human tribunal; I do not even pass judgement on myself; I am not conscious of anything against me, but I do not thereby stand acquitted; the one who judges me is the Lord. Therefore, do not make any judgement before the appointed time, until the Lord comes, for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts, and then everyone will receive praise from God.” — Enough said!!

2. Like the Pope or not, he’s our Pope!

Catholic Church sex abuse crisis

I beg for the end of criticism and judgement of Pope Francis. Jesus Christ founded our Church on Peter, like him or not :).

As Catholics, we believe the Church rightly interprets, as guided by the Holy Spirit, when and how the Church should be organized, what it teaches and how it moves forward. This includes how the Pope is elected.

Pope Francis is VALIDLY elected according to Church teaching. He is here in this time and place for a reason.

Can we trust God on that? Or do we think we know better?

3.  It is not our place to judge the Pope.

It is not our job to judge the Pope. Is it our place to judge anyone lest we be judged? I think we should work on our own flaws first. Remember Matthew 7:5?

“You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your own eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.”

Are anyone’s eyes “clear” enough to judge except God? But really this is about judging the Pope. In fact, the Catholic Code of Canon Law 1404 (Thank you to Tim Staples of Catholic Answers for this) says:

“The First See [Pope] is judged by no one.”

I am very bothered by everyone judging what Pope Francis should do in this situation with comments like:

  • He should say this
  • He should remove such and such
  • He should resign

I think it’s quite presumptuous to think we know better than he does.

I’m trusting Peter as led by the Holy Spirit.

If something criminal has taken place, it will be rooted out by Church officials. If a lapse in judgement has taken place, the Pope will ask forgiveness and we WILL forgive him. We are Christians, remember?

Here is a great discussion of the topic by Tim Staples on Catholic Answers LIVE on EWTN. Go to 23:38 and 51:40 to hear the relevant discussions. Please give it a listen! He says it way better than I ever could!

Staples comments, “It is not the place of Catholic lay people to call for the resignation of the Holy Father. It is our place to pray.”

4. Many of the accusations are from long ago.

St. John the Evangelist Church Indianapolis

As I understand it, most of the accusations being made of sexual abuse are from prior to changes that were made by the Church in and around 2002. According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report spans 70 years.

Now, I know some corruption and cover up may have occured later where officials should have been removed, and I fully agree with the USCCB, which is calling for an impartial investigation by the laity to root out the problems here.

In fact, my bishop, Bishop Timothy Doherty of Lafayette, Indiana, who is the chair of the USCCB Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, says that American Catholic bishops are working on reform of policy and practice and is asking for a visitation from Rome and lay investigative experts from the United States.

But, in terms of the actual sexual abuse, let’s not forget that the Church has made great strides forward in reducing this terrible atrocity since 2002.

I know in my parish I could never imagine any child alone with a priest for ANY REASON whatsoever.

As a religious education teacher, I go through a rigorous training and background check, and it is very clear to me that I am NEVER to be alone with a child without another adult present.

Father Mike Schmitz gives his raw reaction in the video below to the Pennysylvania Grand Jury Report and says he’s never seen any such activity or hints of any activity as he went through seminary and now as a priest. He explains how if there was any hint of disordered tendencies in a seminarian the head of his seminary would NOT allow them to continue:

A newly-ordained (2018) priest at my parish, Father James De Oreo, reiterated in a homily the incredibly in-depth scrutiny he had to go through with multiple 800-question psychological questionnaires, in-person interviews and repeated background checks he took again and again as a seminarian.

This is not to say this scrutiny and prudence is definitely the case everywhere, but my point is that is that the corruption IS NOT everywhere as the media would make it seem.

A 2012 Washington Post article declared “The Catholic Church may be the safest place for children.”

It went on to say:

  • “Whatever its past record, the Catholic Church in the U.S. has made unparalleled strides in educating their flock about child sexual abuse and ensuring that children are safe in Catholic environments.”
  • “Allegations of new abuse cases continue to decline, as they have since 1980, and appear to reflect the effectiveness of some of the charter’s policies as well as ongoing efforts to increase screening of seminarians and to deal with suspected abusers before they claim multiple victims.”

5. This is not just a problem in the Catholic Church.

child in prayer

Don’t get caught up in all the media coverage leading you to believe this is a Catholic Church problem. It’s not. It’s a societal problem. But, of course, the media is focused on the Catholic Church, which gives the impression that it’s only Catholics who have this problem.

The same Washington Post article from above points out that other denominations from Baptist to Judaism are facing the same issues, as is the society at large with the scandals regarding the Penn State football team, USA gymnastics and even the Boy Scouts of America.

It’s a sad fact that when adults are allowed to be alone with children, some with disordered sexual tendencies are going to commit this horrific act. The world is sinful: teachers, parents, coaches, and yes, priests and bishops, too.

And this MUST BE one of the gravest of sins, as Jesus said in Matthew 18:10:

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”

Lastly, please remember that just because some priests, bishops, etc. commited this crime, that doesn’t mean they all do. As Bishop Doherty said in a recent newspaper column:

“The bishops and priests who had no part in the evildoing are now suffering a humiliating aftermath. The men and women in religious orders who had no part in the evildoing are suffering.”

Please don’t blame them for the evil acts of others!

6. Catholics are called to obedience to Church teaching — and that means the Pope.

As Catholics we are to be obedient to Church teaching, which also calls us to obedience to the Pope. Vatican One documents declare “He [the Roman Pontiff] is the supreme judge of the faithful.

That does not mean we can’t have opinions that differ from Pope Francis (like the environment, etc.), but it DOES mean that on certain teachings we must adhere to what the Church tells us, which includes Pope Francis as our leader.

Pope Francis has said NOTHING infallibly and nothing heretical, as some try to assert. And none of his writings go against Church teaching.

I have also had people tell me recently that the Pope is not above other bishops. Church teaching says otherwise below.

Read these passages from Vatican One, Chapter 4, Paragraphs 8 and 9 (emphasis added):

8. Since the Roman Pontiff, by the divine right of the apostolic primacy, governs the whole Church, we likewise teach and declare that he is the supreme judge of the faithful [52], and that in all cases which fall under ecclesiastical jurisdiction recourse may be had to his judgment [53]. The sentence of the Apostolic See (than which there is no higher authority) is not subject to revision by anyone, nor may anyone lawfully pass judgment thereupon [54]. And so they stray from the genuine path of truth who maintain that it is lawful to appeal from the judgments of the Roman pontiffs to an ecumenical council as if this were an authority superior to the Roman Pontiff.

9. So, then, if anyone says that the Roman Pontiff has merely an office of supervision and guidance, and not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the whole Church, and this not only in matters of faith and morals, but also in those which concern the discipline and government of the Church dispersed throughout the whole world; or that he has only the principal part, but not the absolute fullness, of this supreme power; or that this power of his is not ordinary and immediate both over all and each of the Churches and over all and each of the pastors and faithful: let him be anathema.

The Vatican from Rome

Furthermore, I encourage all to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church on this subject. Read 880-887 to see what it is has to say about the office of the Roman Pontiff, or Pope, including these passages:

For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered. (882)

The college or body of bishops has no authority unless united with the Roman Pontiff, Peter’s successor, as its head.” As such, this college has “supreme and full authority over the universal Church; but this power cannot be exercised without the agreement of the Roman Pontiff. (883)

Why do we believe Church teaching? Because we believe Jesus left Peter in charge of his Church until His return and sent the Holy Spirit to guide the Church in all things and “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Church teaching is the essence of our faith: trusting the Magisterium and Pope to interpret what Jesus taught and what the Holy Spirit would have us do.

Otherwise, we’re in the camp of each person figuring it out for themselves and we know how much error that causes.

7.  Jesus will not let Peter fall!

Again, credit to Tim Staples on this one, but remember when Peter tried to walk on water to Jesus and began to fall when he took his eyes off Jesus. What did Jesus do? He lifted him back up.

He won’t let Peter fall! Trust in the Holy Spirit that He will lead Pope Francis and defer to Pope Francis’ judgement that the Holy Spirit knows best.

8. Remember the parable of the wheat and the weeds.

Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds Wikimedia commons

Credit to Father De Oreo for this well-spoken point. The parable of the wheat and the weeds speaks of the fact that the weeds (sin) must grow alongside the wheat (holiness) lest the wheat be cut when also trying to remove the weeds.

Sin, horrible sin if the devil has anything to say about it, is going to always be with us: always has been, always will be.

Bishop Robert Barron had this to say about the parable of the wheat and the weeds:

“When we discover evil, it is always very tempting to go after it with both fists, to take it out. But the warning of the Master here is extremely important. Sometimes, our zeal can lead to far greater problems, precisely because of the way evil is related to the good.

“So what should we do? Let them grow side-by-side for the time being. At the end, at harvest time, the Master will separate them out.”

That’s not of course to say we shouldn’t stop criminals from harming children! But that perhaps once we do that, we leave it to Church leaders, of which there are MANY capable, intelligent, validly-elected bishops and cardinals, not just those involved in any cover-up and corruption, to sort it out.

9. Lead with joy, not judgement!

Mother Teresa Joy

By Manfredo Ferrari via Wikimedia Commons

Who wants to join a church that judges everyone? Not me!

Who wants to join a church that is arguing amongst itself? Not me!

Now more than ever, let us display our Christian joy! Think of Mother Teresa’s wonderfully joyful face in the midst of suffering.

We draw people to the faith by the witness of our lives, which should focus on joy and peace and not judgement and criticism and hatred and vitriol. There is never a time and place for any of this.

Don’t be the Internet troll who is nasty and mean, using vitriol and curse words to make your point. If you disagree, do so with respect, humility, prayer and kindness.

If we lose our joy, what do we have? Choose Joy!

Father Schmitz says now more than ever we must be the saints God has called us to be. Go forth and be a saint and let that be the difference maker in the world and its sinfulness!

This is just one convert’s humble opinion :).

And, go ahead and post your respectful comments below 🙂 I know they’re coming!

A Wonderful Prayer in This Distressing Election Season

I know I have been very distressed at certain points during this political season, but with much prayer, I have made peace with it, deciding to act for myself and let God’s will be done.

PrayMoreNovenas has a most wonderful prayer that reminds us that no government can replace our God and that in fact prayer and belief in Jesus Christ is what will save us, not the next president of the United States. So join this wonderful apostolate with whom tens of thousands pray novenas together and let us pray for God’s will to be done. That’s something we can all agree on :).

You can sign up to receive the daily email with the novena prayer here.

Here is the lovely prayer:

Heavenly Father,

Nothing can overcome your greatness. But we are weak and need a deeper gift of hope as we face worldly governments.

Help us remember that political power can never replace the mission of the Church to preach the Gospel to all nations.

Lord, we give you permission to form our consciences according to the Gospel so that we may both vote and act for the Kingdom of God.

As we wrestle with the complexity of political life, never let us forget the poor, the weak, the unborn, the refugee, the migrant, all those affected by war, those struggling financially and all those suffering from the failings of the political systems of this world.

Give us the courage to always be detached from our political loyalties and be first a faithful follower of Jesus, the true King.  And when it comes time for us to contribute to the political realm help us to cast our vote in a way that is pleasing to You.

For these elections in our nations, O God, please bless us with the best rulers possible, in this fallen world, at all levels of government.

Finally, just as You brought our salvation from the horrible death of Your Son, we pray that from the political campaigns of this world, You will bring about great good for Your people.

Amen.

Don’t Want to Vote Clinton OR Trump? Let’s Vote our Consience as Catholics & Write in a Candidate

Alternates to Clinton and Trump

Note: In further researching this piece, I discovered you CANNOT write in a candidate unless they have registered with your state and some states don’t allow write-ins at all. So the better procedure here is to research who is a write-in candidate in your state and if you find one who fits your values, write them in. This piece was also written before the latest Trump controversy regarding recordings of statements he made about women, but I think it holds even more relevance now.

In my opinion as a Catholic, we do not have a good choice for president this year. I wholeheartedly agree that as Catholics we cannot vote for Hillary Clinton and advance the abortion agenda. Life is the first and foremost issue. But I also believe it is a moral evil to vote for Donald Trump, who goes against almost every value I hold as a Christian and as a human person with dignity.

He does not respect the dignity of the person (which Pope Francis talks about so much), regularly tearing people down by their appearance, making fun of the disabled, proclaiming in news conferences how he would love to “hit” people (that’s condoning violence for no reason in my book), making bigoted statements (Miss Piggy??), not accepting refugees and exploiting people wherever he can to advance himself and his profits (not paying vendors after he went bankrupt). I know people who work for him say he is great, but that does not make up for his other morally-corrupt actions toward others.

I don’t expect anyone to be perfect, as we are all sinners, but I do expect the person I vote for to be an upstanding person and at least up front and apologetic of their faults. He is not only unapologetic; he is proud of these immoral character traits.

I know as Catholics we don’t want to see abortion advanced, and that is the reason cited by many to vote for Trump. (Though I am glad to see CatholicVote.com finally calling for Trump to step down; I hope more Catholic organizations will follow.) But the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that the “ends do not justify the means” (#1759) and I don’t think we can justify voting for Trump, a moral evil in my opinion, as our means to the end of not advancing abortion. What if we had two pro-abortion candidates? Would we have to vote one over the other then? I don’t think so. I choose to not vote for either Clinton or Trump, abiding by my Christian-formed conscience.

I propose we instead all write in a candidate, someone who is a much better representative of Christian values, and which still allows us to cast a vote and fulfill our duty as American citizens. We DON’T HAVE TO VOTE for these two immoral candidates – that is not a given; it is NOT our only choice. We can think outside the box and write someone in! Here are the write-in candidates who have registered to run for president. Note: They MUST HAVE REGISTERED or your write-in vote will NOT COUNT. Here is a list of registered write-in candidates.

God has placed these two unacceptable candidates in front of us at this time for a reason. Perhaps, it is what we deserve as Americans for letting our country stray so far from what it was founded upon. But I know I personally have to vote my conscience, as Pope Francis guided us to do so earlier this week. He said: “study the proposals well, pray and choose with your conscience.” God’s will be done – whatever it is. I know he will make good from evil, just as he did with Jesus’ death on the cross. But I cannot play a part in letting an immoral individual lead our country; I will not cast that vote as a means to an end.

I know I will catch much backlash for this, and not that I am in way in their company, but so have many saints spoken against the populace for what is right and taken a verbal whiplashing.

Let’s do things differently, American Catholics, and let’s make a stand for Christian values. Even if our voices do not ultimately win out, we will have followed our consciences and what Jesus teaches — that’s all He asks of us. As St. Teresa of Calcutta says, God does not call us to be successful, only faithful. Amen brothers and sisters!

Everything You Wanted to Know about RCIA & How to Join the Catholic Church

RCIA & How to Join the Catholic Church via @ACatholicNewbie

If you are curious about the Catholic church, want to learn more about it or are even ready to convert, what can you do? Join your local Catholic church’s RCIA program. What in the heck is RCIA, you ask?!

What is RCIA?

RCIA stands for Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and it is the formal program that allows individuals to become members of the Catholic church. RCIA programs tend to start in the fall, so NOW is the time to make your move if you’ve been considering it :).

Joining RCIA, however, does NOT mean you HAVE to join the church. You are always welcome to just come and learn, and if you decide it’s not for you — or maybe you just aren’t ready yet because you have more questions — you can opt out or continue on again next year.

RCIA programs generally go from September through Easter, at which time individuals are officially brought in as members of the Church at the Easter Vigil Mass, which is the mass held the evening before Easter. It is a beautiful mass and ceremony where you are baptized (only if you have not been baptized by a Christian church in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit), confirmed and receive the Eucharist (which Catholics maintain is the actual Body and Blood of Jesus Christ).

How do I sign up for RCIA?

First, visit a few local Catholic churches and find one that feels “right” to you. Then visit their website and look for Faith Formation, Adult Formation or RCIA. If you can’t find it, simply call the main office at the church and tell them you are interested in RCIA or in learning more about the church as a non-Catholic and as an adult and they will direct you to the correct person for more information.

RCIA programs usually meet once a week, some on weeknights, others on weekends. So you will want to consider a program that works for your schedule as well, as you’ll want to be there as often as possible.

What is RCIA like?

While each church is different, throughout the process you will learn about key tenets of the Catholic faith and its history, and have an opportunity to ask questions, inquire about your doubts and concerns and discuss different aspects of the faith.

There are also various welcoming ceremonies held during mass to provide “grace” (help from God) and prayer as you go through this process so that God might guide you as grow in your learning and practice of the faith. These ceremonies are no big deal — simply standing up at mass with the priest saying a prayer over you along with others in your group. The Catholic church wants to welcome you and educate you, never pressure you, and that is what the process is about.

If you find an RCIA group that does not feel like a fit, don’t be afraid to opt out and look for a different parish. Pray that God will guide you to where you need to be.

Why do people come to RCIA?

I have been involved with RCIA at my parish both going through it and assisting for several years. We hear all kinds of stories of why people have joined RCIA. Here are a few: someone who was inspired by Pope Francis, other who are marrying Catholics and wanting to raise kids in the same faith, spouses who are converting after as many as 20 years, those feeling a direct calling from God, and those who are simply just interested in exploring Catholicism more in depth and learning the truth about the faith.

We’ve had people who are already Catholic who don’t feel like they know as much as they’d like about their faith and others who simply just come to welcome newcomers to the church. They are single, married, in high school, grandparents, pregnant, going through an annulment, former atheists, Baptists and Methodists. You name it, they’ve been there! So never feel like you’re alone or have too unusual a story to join the group.

What questions do you have about RCIA? What’s stopping you from signing up? How can I help?

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