A reader writes:
I’m a daily reader of your blog and I appreciate your perspective and all you do to awaken the orthodox or would-be orthodox Christians of this nation from their complacent slumber. For the record, I’m a cradle Catholic in my early forties who, like most Catholics of my generation wandered far from the truth along a winding, rocky path during my younger adult years. After many dead ends though, and after becoming a husband and a father, I have come to embrace fully the teachings of my church as has my wife. With regard to the Benedict Option, if you’re the preacher, we are among the choir. We are fully awake to the reality around us and ahead of us. While some readers may think you alarmist, as many of my friends and even my own parents and siblings surely think me, I believe the situation facing Christians in this country is every bit as dire as you argue. As such, I cannot wait to read your book on the subject.
The dire need for such a book was brought home again for my wife and me just last night when we read a post on a local moms group Facebook page castigating the Religious Education Program (REP), a voluntary program for kids who attend public schools, at our parish for having the unmitigated gall to actually teach the high school aged students in the program the truth about God’s design for marriage and human sexuality as understood in Catholic doctrine. The screed, posted by the mother of a student enrolled in the program, was about what you’d expect; highly emotive but lacking in anything resembling a rational argument or any understanding of Catholic teaching. The post accused the parish and the program of spreading hate, teaching young people that gay individuals should be treated with scorn and rejection and even threatening the well being of any REP student who might be questioning his or her sexuality. In short, the post, without ever acknowledging that the parish was simply teaching what the church believes, grossly mischaracterized the church’s understanding of marriage and sexuality and dismissed it as pure hate. This from a Catholic woman whose children are enrolled in religious education and who presumably belongs to the parish. She concluded her post by encouraging everyone who read the post to send their complaints to the Director of Religious Education, whose name and contact information she provided.
A lengthy discussion ensued in the comments which ran about 60% against the parish and the program and 40% supportive of it, which frankly was a more favorable spread than I would have expected. The most galling, though sadly unsurprising aspect of much of the discussion, was the apparent shock of so many self-professed Catholic mothers that the religious education program at a Catholic parish would actually teach Catholic doctrine. The most humorous of the comments sarcastically pointed out the ridiculousness of the expressed shock and the voluntary nature of the program and indeed the very faith.
You’ve written a lot about how we, as orthodox Christians in this country, are living in occupied territory, but it strikes me that even our own institutions are occupied territory in many cases. As we move forward with our own Benedict Options and try to build durable communities of faith and learning and shared values, we will need to face the reality that many of our co-religionists don’t even share those values, to say nothing of the legions of cultural secularists who stand against us and what we hold most dear. Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is a virus that has infected my church for certain and most if not all the other Christian churches I would suspect.
I pray that our REP Director, our instructors and our pastor will stand strong in the face of this current complaint, but I know this is only the beginning. Next time, it will be louder and angrier, and the time after that, who knows. At what point, does the angry mob go to the bishop? And when they do, will the bishop stand up for the truth of the faith? Sadly, I have my doubts as to the doctrinal fidelity and mettle of my current bishop, though I never cease to pray for him. And when does the mob go to the civil authorities? When do the figurative torches and pitch forks become literal? And of all this, just from within the church, the fifth column as it were.
Another Benedict, Benedict XVI, envisioned a smaller church, but one that was more committed and more devout. What he spoke about, just as Christ did, was the separating of the wheat and the chaff, and Benedict was widely ridiculed for saying so, even by many Catholics. This perspective has become passé in the field hospital of the Francis era (why can’t I help but think of Hawkeye Pierce every time I hear that metaphor used), but I believe that Pope Benedict was on to something, something his namesake surely knew as well. Please pray for my church and my parish and I will pray for yours.
I bet you readers from all churches have some stories.