Friday, November 7, 2014

TFTD: The "Followership" Problem in the Church

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

—William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming

Many Catholic writers have decried the leadership problem in the Church. It is true that sometimes the Church has people in positions of authority who do not guide as well as they should, some even shirking their position. That is a serious matter. As St. Paul points out in 1 Cor 14:8, "And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?” 

But I think there is another problem as well, and that is that some Catholics simply do not like the sound of the bugle they hear, and grumble against it.

It’s easy to point fingers at political factions in the Church. For years, conservative Catholics pointed fingers at the liberal dissent in the Church, blaming bishops for it. Now, we have some conservative dissent, and liberal Catholics are pointing their own fingers and trying to implicate bishops for it. Each side tries to cast themselves as the “good” Catholics and the other side as the dissenters.

The problem is, Catholicism is neither conservative nor liberal. There are some positions in Catholic teaching that may sound conservative or liberal, but the reasons the Church teaches is different from the political motivations for a position. So the American bishops are called “The Republican Party at Prayer,” and the Pope is called a “Marxist.” But the fact is, these are condemnations from people who assume that similarity means sympathy. These people either try to misrepresent the Church message as a political ideology to bolster their own credibility or to justify their own disobedience from that teaching.

As a result we are seeing Catholic media and blogs, which had defended the Church from being misrepresented, now suddenly believing the misrepresentation. They show signs of lacking conviction that the Church remains what she has always been, and are attracted to the passionate intensity of those who attack the Church from within.

We on Earth are the Church Militant. That means we have to be prepared for battle. Regardless of whoever may be shirking their duty, that doesn’t reduce our own need to be ready. Some of the officers (clergy and religious) may be shirking—but not all of them are. We need to be ready to defend the Church teaching in it’s fullness, and not accuse the faithful officers (including the Pope) of being shirkers because the orders given are not the ones we would prefer to have.

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