I was reading William Daley’s ironically-titled editorial in the Chicago Tribune, regarding Notre Dame’s invitation to Pres. Obama to speak at commencement–what Daley seems to miss, of course, is that it is not just a speaking engagement, the university also wants to honor Obama with a degree. It’s a real piece of work, wherein there is so much on which to comment that it’s nearly maddening–Father Z has covered all of that quite nicely, as usual.
The part that has been going around in my head, however, is this (with my emphasis):
Those of us who were raised in the Catholic tradition believe our actions—in our personal, professional and public lives—should meet a certain moral standard. We also know that we are human and not always able to achieve that goal.
Now, Daley is far from unique in saying this. I’ve heard so many Catholics say similar things. I have a real problem with that.
The words seem true enough on the surface: we are human, and we don’t always act according to the moral standards we strive for as Catholics. If we did, we wouldn’t need Confession, right? Thank God for Confession! Thank God for His mercy and grace!
But therein is the lie behind the truth. Most people who make statements like that don’t go on to talk about how the Sacrament of Confession healed them and renewed them and how they emerged from the confessional as new people. They don’t go on to talk about the rich blessings and opportunities that our Catholic faith provides us. They don’t praise the wisdom and mercy of our Lord Christ, who established the Church, or of the Lord Holy Spirit who oversees her to this very day. They don’t go on to speak of the hope our faith gives us that no matter how many times we mess up, we can still become Saints.
What people tend to really mean is this: It’s impossible to live the teachings of our faith, and it is impossible for us to become Saints. Catholic morality is impossible. Our Church and our leaders are unreasonable. And Confession? Who goes to Confession any more? I’m not going to Confession. I’m not listening to the magisterium. I’m not going to even try to live according to Catholic moral teaching. I’m not going to even try to live out the Catholic faith. I’m going to keep doing what I want, and if the Church says it’s wrong, then that’s merely the Church’s opinion. Oh, I’ll still call myself Catholic… but I’m Catholic on my own terms. Because I’m just human, after all.
It’s never said in so many words, but the message is always crystal clear. People who say Catholicism is impossible to really live out are just trying to rationalize their lack of desire to even try.
Daley goes on to say:
But no matter how strongly we cherish our faith and values, we have to remember that we are not alone in this world.
And that basically, Catholics need to stop foisting our beliefs on all the other people in society. Or, in other words, we need to stop being Catholic in public. Otherwise, we’re no different than, say, radical Islamic terrorists. Yeah, he actually goes there.
But here is my point:
There is a reason for being Catholic. And the reason is simple: we are Catholic because being Catholic makes it possible for us to become Saints. Being Catholic makes it possible for us to live up to a lofty and exacting moral standard. Being Catholic makes it possible for sinners to be free from sin and to be utterly transformed. Being Catholic makes it possible for us to be absorbed into God’s divine life for all eternity.
These are the reasons that the Son of God, the second Person of the Holy Trinity, became human. These are the reasons He undertook His Passion and Death. These are the reasons that He established the Church, and these are the reasons according to which the Holy Spirit continues to govern the Church. So that we humans could be restored to union with Him and receive the inheritance He planned all along for us–nothing less than His own heavenly kingdom!
That’s the reason Catholics are Catholics. That’s the reason we go to Mass. That’s the reason we go to Confession and receive Communion and all the other Sacraments. That’s the reason we obey the magisterium. That’s the reason we boldly hold ourselves to the Catholic moral standard.
We believe we can become Saints. We believe that our Lord Jesus, true God and true man, ennobled our humanity so that we could become like Him. We believe we can reach Heaven. And we believe that in the Catholic Church, God has given us everything we need to make that journey in the best, safest, most reliable way possible–with Christ Himself as the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
There is a reason for being Catholic. And without that reason, we might as well be anything other than Catholic. If anybody considers Catholicism and its moral standards impossible, unrealistic, undesirable, flawed, inconvenient, outmoded, or in any way not worth trying, then they clearly lack that reason. Maybe they consider Catholicism to be just an accident of birth or culture. Maybe they consider it a politically-expedient label. In these cases, why on earth would they go to the trouble of actually being Catholic? But if they call themselves Catholic without reason… they’re lying. They’re not just lying with their mouths, they’re lying with their entire lives and persons. That’s a serious wrong to God, themselves, and everybody they meet.
There are only two right choices:
Maybe they need to go and find out where they do belong and where they do have reason and purpose. It is better to be an honest non-Catholic who is just doing what they think is right than to be a unrepentantly dishonest Catholic.
Or, much better yet, they can make honest Catholics of themselves! Embrace the reason for being Catholic–be determined that they are going to become Saints, hope and trust that they are able to do so, and then avail themselves of Confession and all the other treasures of the Church that are there for their assistance.
Let us pray that many will choose the latter.