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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!

10 Things I Wish Non-Catholic Christians Knew About Catholicism

10 Things I Wish all Non-Catholic Christians Knew About Catholicism via @ACatholicNewbie

Photo credit Nheyob, Wikimedia Commons

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I’ve had several interactions  with non-Catholic Christians since my conversion where I’ve realized they are not aware of some basic tenets of our faith that I think would go a long way in bridging any divides between us and provide them, at least, with some perspective of where we are coming from and a more accurate understanding of our beliefs.

We shouldn’t expect non-Catholics to know about the Catholic religion unless they’ve taken the time to explore it for themselves. I certainly did not know any of these things before seeking out the Church, but I definitely wish I had!



So, non-Catholics, here are 10 things I, a former non-Catholic :), want you to know about Catholicism:

  1. We believe that Jesus is physically present in the bread and wine we consume at every Mass. I think this one fact explains so much about the Catholic faith that is misunderstood by non-Catholics. This is why we have to go to mass every week, this is why our churches are ornate and our vessels are made of precious metals, this is why non-Catholics cannot receive communion unless they have professed their belief, this is why if a wafer falls on the floor it is treated with the utmost reverence. This is why we cannot be satisfied in any other church — we cannot leave Jesus behind. This belief in the physical presence of Jesus dates back to the first Christians. Read the words of St. Ignatius of Antioch (who knew the Apostle John and was born in 35 AD) in his Letter to the Romans about the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. A great, easy-to-read book on this topic is the “7 Secrets of the Eucharist” by Vinny Flynn. 
  2. We believe you can go to heaven, too! I think many non-Catholics may wrongly assume that Catholics think they are the only ones getting into heaven. We are not God; only God knows such things. We do believe that we have found the path that gives us the most assistance in entering heaven through the sacraments Jesus left behind (communion, marriage, reconciliation/confession, confirmation, etc.) but we certainly don’t think the doors are only open to us.
  3. We believe in the authority of the Pope and the Church of Rome, because that is what early Christians practiced. Again, see the Letters of St. Ignatius in his deference to the Church of Rome along with the example of many other early Christian leaders (email me for more). We are following the example of what the apostles taught the early Christians. Great article on this topic. I highly recommend doing this research and reading early Christian documents for yourself. Don’t take my word for it! Catholic Answers has a great book called “The Fathers Know Best: Your Essential Guide to the Teachings of the Early Church” by Jimmy Akin that is a good overview of this topic.
  4. We follow what the early Christians practiced in our “Tradition,” because there was 300 years before the New Testament was compiled. The Catholic Church’s teachings are based on both Scripture and what the Church refers to as “Tradition.” Tradition is factored in, because there was a period of 300 years after Jesus’ death and before an official compilation of New Testament documents was compiled. We follow the tradition that was practiced during that time, because it was comprised of the beliefs, teachings and rituals handed down from Jesus himself to the apostles and on to their successors. This includes teachings like Mary’s Immaculate Conception (she was conceived without sin in order to give birth to God as man), her Perpetual Virginity (she never had any other children and remained a virgin) and her Assumption body and soul into heaven, beliefs that were held by early Christians and only made “official” by the Church after they were challenged over time. Many wrongly hold that these doctrines were created at the councils where they were affirmed, but rather the councils simply made official these doctrines long held and practiced by early Christians. Great books to read more about the Church’s teachings on Mary include “Behold Your Mother: A Biblical and Historical Defense of the Marian Doctrines” by Tim Staples and Meet Your Mother by Mark Miravalle.
  5. We hold many of the same beliefs! We are not so different. We belief in the sanctity of all life from conception to natural death. We believe in Jesus, the son of God who came to reconcile us with the Father. We believe that everyone needs to hear the Good News and that it’s our job to go out and tell the world! We believe in the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman. That’s just the beginning…
  6. Confession is not a place to get rid of all your wrongdoings without contrition only to go back and do them again. I remember watching a movie of a young man returning to the priest every week to report how often he masturbated, only to go back and do it all again. That’s not the goal and your sins are not forgiven that way. The idea is to go confess your sins with true repentance (not with plans to go right back and do them again), receive forgiveness and graces (heavenly assistance) to keep from doing those sins again from Jesus (Did you know that we believe that Jesus is present in the priest in the confessional?), and to try earnestly not to commit those sins in the future. An easy-to-read book on Confession is “7 Secrets of Confession” by Vinny Flynn.
  7. There is an unbroken line of succession from Jesus to Peter to all Popes and Bishops. This fact initially blew me away during my education on the Church. The Catholic Church can trace a laying on of hands (as was done in the Acts of the Apostles when they added deacons) all the way back from Jesus to Peter to all Popes and Bishops. That is powerful stuff!
  8. We read the Bible, too! Over a period of three years, if you attended daily mass, you would hear readings from nearly every book in the Bible. And, of course, we do plenty of Bible reading on our own, as well, though you may find us less likely to be able to tell you the chapter and verse, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t educated on God’s inspired word. In fact, Catholicism taught me a key fact about the Bible that makes it so much more interesting: it’s called typology and it means that the Old Testament foreshadows the events of the New Testament and the New Testament fulfills the Old. It’s fascinating to see the parallels, such as between Abraham and Jesus, Adam and Jesus, Mary and the Ark of the Covenant, Eve and Mary, and on and on and on. Here’s a fascinating read on that topic: New Testament Basics for Catholics by John Bergsma (hands down one of the best books I’ve ever read!).
  9. The Catholic Church is made up of sinners. Yes, we are a Church of sinners. That is why Jesus came to reconcile us, but despite his help and graces we still remain in the fallen state of sin inherited by Adam and Eve. Yes, we have child molesters. Yes, Catholics have done bad things in the name of religion. Yes, we have murdered, stolen, been greedy, disobeyed God and more. But so has the rest of the world; it’s part and parcel with being a part of fallen humanity. Such wrongdoers should justly be punished and will certainly be judged by their actions on the last day. Jesus, however, promised that nothing would prevail against the Church (not even sinners) and left us with the Holy Spirit (not humans) to guide it. That’s why we hold true to the teachings of the Church, no matter its sinners, and why even if a priest is a sinner, his sacramental actions are still valid. They are not his works, but those of the Holy Spirit and Jesus within him.
  10. Don’t let hypocritical Catholics mislead you. I’ve often been pointed to examples of Catholics who don’t follow the truth of the Church in the way they live their lives as reasons why the Catholic church is wrong or bad. As above, we are made up of sinners just like the rest of the world, and there will be these people. But don’t let them cloud your image of the Church left by Jesus. The priest who asked for a bribe for an annulment was wrong; the Catholics shouting obscenities at the Notre Dame football game are wrong; the politician promoting abortion rights receiving communion is wrong. But like all sinners, Jesus welcomes them to repent, stop their wrong actions and come back to the fold. Rather, I challenge you to seek devout Catholics who live their faith fully. You will find models of holiness and witnesses of Christian joy beyond your wildest imaginings.

Thanks for taking the time to read. What questions do you have about Catholicism?

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Advice on Repentance from St. Jane Frances de Chantal

On the feast of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, a saint whose story speaks to me, here is a wonderful quote from her courtesy of Catholic Online:

“Should you fall even fifty times a day, never on any account should that surprise or worry you. Instead, ever so gently set your heart back in the right direction and practice the opposite virtue, all the time speaking words of love and trust to our Lord after you have committed a thousand faults, as much as if you had committed only one. Once we have humbled ourselves for the faults God allows us to become aware of in ourselves, we must forget them and go forward.”

St. Jane Frances de Chantal, please pray for all wives and mothers. Amen.

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