What Does It Mean to Be Catholic Anymore?

by Church Militant  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  June 21, 2015   

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By Dr. Philip Blosser

A friend recently sent me a link to a pretty depressing article about the state of the Church in today's world.

He wrote:

The one thing people do not mention is that the bishops seem determined to try to make Catholicism a religion broadly acceptable to its base. There seems to be little concern for real conversion, just compliance; and if we need to dumb things down to make that happen, that's what we'll do. So we have millions of Western nominal Catholics that the clerics spend all their time bending over backwards to appease or help come back to the fold in the most minimalist way possible. It all seems very hollow to me, very superficial, and very solicitous of sitting under clerical authority loosened to be acceptable. What a waste.

Pretty grim.

But surely being Catholic means more than following the latest media spin on the statements of celebrity bishops, or the latest betrayal of faith by once­-Catholic countries in exchange for the opportunity to posture politically in self­congratulation.

Being Catholic means what it has always meant: making your morning offering, bearing witness to the Faith in your own quiet way, going to Mass, loving God and His angels and saints, examining your conscience, confessing your sins, instructing your children, praying for the souls of your departed loved ones, preparing your soul to make a happy death and give an acceptable accounting of your sojourn on earth.

Don't get me wrong. I agree with my friend that there is considerable reason to be grim in the Catholic world today.

Ask 50 Catholics today what it means to be a Catholic, and you're likely to get 50 different answers, with minimal overlap. Catholics may be "charismatic," "liberal," "gay-­friendly," "Lefebvrist," "feminist," "Eastern­ rite," "Neocatechumenal," "peace & justice," etc.

Some may say there's richness in all that diversity, and there would be some truth in that. But there's also a great deal of confusion in it. The clarion call of the Church's Gospel has become muddied a bit in its contemporary recension.

But we dare not forget what it has always really meant to be Catholic. "To go deep into history is to cease to be Protestant," wrote Bd. John Henry Newman. To go deep into Catholic tradition is also to cease being quite so confused by the contemporary Catholic milieu. The Church's Sacred Tradition is a mighty anchor, one to which St. Paul bids us "hold fast" (2 Thess. 2:15).

The same is echoed by St. Vincent of Lerins, who wrote:

What then shall the Catholic do if some portion of the Church detaches itself from communion of the universal Faith? What other choice can he make — and if some new contagion attempts to poison, no longer a small part of the Church, but the whole Church at once, then his great concern will be to attach himself to antiquity (Tradition) which can no longer be led astray by any lying novelty.

Pray, and pray again.

Philip Blosser is a convert, born in China, raised in Japan, and is currently professor of philosophy at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. You can read more of his writings at Musings of a Pertinacious Papist.


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