|"Against the spirit of the world, the Church takes up anew each day a struggle that is none other than the struggle for the world’s soul" (John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope).|
September 26, 2011. The Catholic Church has been a builder
of culture for over two millennia, and has faced different
forms of “culture war” throughout its long and battle-scarred history.
But perhaps never has the Church faced a challenge like
the “battle for the soul of the world” in the
For those with an interest in understanding the roots
and consequences of the cultural battle underway in today’s world,
we present The Battle for the Soul of the World,
by Fr Luis Garza, LC. Originally presented as a series
of lectures for university students attending a leadership conference, it
is offered here as a formation resource for teams and
individuals who will find the lecture notes to be thought-provoking
material for reflection and discussion.
The complete text with study guide
questions can be downloaded in PDF format here. Part 6
of the 10-part series is presented below, and the following
parts will be published on the web site on Mondays.
Everyone talks about the crisis in the Catholic
Church, but few people know the meaning of crisis. Etymologically,
it comes from the verb krinein, meaning “to judge.” I
think it is fair to recall that a crisis is
a time to analyze and evaluate what is happening. If
we go to the root causes of this situation and
promote a change for the good, the crisis will produce
a renewal. If we deceive ourselves and hide the real
causes, then it will be a missed opportunity.
have given invalid reasons to justify the crisis caused by
the scandals of priests:
• Thinking that celibacy is to blame
for the crisis would be like saying that locked gates
make men thieves.
• Others point the finger at authoritarianism,
but in reality the crisis probably took place because there
was no real authority taking charge of things.
say that we have forgotten the Second Vatican Council. When
I hear such remarks, it seems to me the Council
is invoked like a mantra. If the “application of Vatican
II” means that we are to make the Catholic Church
like a Protestant denomination (no ordained ministry, no hierarchy, no
Magisterium, no sacraments), there would be no crisis of the
Catholic Church because there would be no Catholic Church.
• It is said that there is a pedophilia crisis. Actually,
it is more a crisis of homosexuals (predators, not of
children, but of adolescent males).
• Some people talk about
a kind of media frenzy. I believe that, although media
attention has been especially fierce—Catholic priests being involved—there have been
and still are many people at fault. And so, this
situation is not just a product of the media.
• Others want to blame Catholic sexual ethics. I would like
to underline that abusers do not live the principles of
Catholic sexual ethics. What probably happened is that we did
not teach these principles and ensure that they were being
applied and lived.
These alleged reasons are not a valid
explanation of the crisis. The real reasons are the following:
• Vatican II opened the doors of the Church to the
world at a very complicated moment in the history of
society: the West was beginning to enter a deep identity
crisis. And the Church had to speak the truth to
relativists and skeptics (meanwhile, the conclusion, “I am an atheist
but open to the truth,” was as yet unheard of;
rather, the basic premise was that “there is no truth”).
The Church had to speak of transcendence to Gnostics and
of norms to liberals. Understandably, what began as a dialogue
turned into a clash.
• Moreover, a culture of dissent took
control of seminaries, clergy and bishops. According to this culture
of dissent, everything could be questioned, not with candid and
mature argumentation, but in order to be discarded a priori.
If you wanted to be considered “somebody” in intellectual circles,
you had to be skeptical or critical of the Magisterium.
Critics, instead of leaving the Church, remained in it to
revolt from within. (We might recall Teilhard de Chardin who
tried to graft himself onto the two-thousand-year-old trunk of the
Church to break it down from within.) Concepts were reduced
to the categories of infallible and fallible, so that only
those which were declared infallible were admitted (and yet not
always). At root, this is a reduction of the faith.
The Magisterium has the role and mission to teach the
truth, and even ordinary pronouncements require our adherence and compliance.
• The sense of sin has been lost: “The sin of
the century is the loss of the sense of sin,”
declared Pius XII.
• We Catholics forget that we have an
obligation to bear witness to the truth.
• Priests have forgotten
that they have to be living icons of Jesus Christ.
• The Church became very self-indulgent and bureaucratic; instead of proclaiming
the Gospel, we gave more importance to papers, files, systems,
• We confused compassion with the lack of direction.
• There was a deathly fear of being labeled a conservative.
what are we to do?
The present crisis is clearly one
of fidelity: we must be faithful to who we are
as Catholics. Freedom is not doing whatever we want, but
rather having the right to do what we must. We
must understand, therefore, that embracing the cross of Christ today
means being 100% Catholic. Still, we should avoid languid and
sad faces, for in Christianity, after Good Friday comes Easter
We must renew Catholic practices and Catholic life, giving witness
of our faith. We must renew Catholic communities and a
sense of belonging. We must live and help others live
true charity. At this juncture, mediocrity is inadmissible.
The world undoubtedly
thirsts for transcendence. The “New Age” movement is a patent
sign of this thirst. But it is also a sign
that established religions are not providing solutions to satisfy people’s
desires today. The New Age shows us what people today
are searching for. They are looking to self-development (“Inside yourself
you can find everything you need”) for solutions to the
problems of humanity. There are also related groups, such as
Also, an undue importance is given to therapy. The therapist
has become a “master” for all our ailments. Even in
convents, seminaries, novitiates, etc., the spiritual teacher has ceded his
post to the therapist. We put more faith in the
psychiatrist’s examination than in the Magisterium. And so the old
“gnosis” reappears through which man’s salvation remains ever within reach.
Yet, we have to remember that Christ alone saves.
best and prepare for the worst. Catholics must embrace the
cross. We cannot conform to or accommodate the dominant subculture.
Commit decisively to a Catholic life. Become Catholic leaders. Take
the bull by the horns. If you are going to
get married and raise a family, well then, be the
best wife or husband and mother or father. If you
are going pursue a career, give your best and live
up to your Catholic principles. But don’t stop there—you are
all gifted individuals. Will you use selfishly the qualities God
gave you? Are you going to do something good for
others? Will you create institutions that renew the fabric of
Questions for Personal Reflection or Group Discussion
1. How can a
crisis be a golden opportunity? How else could this idea
2. Which of the false rationales for the priest
crisis have you heard most frequently?
3. Why is a
clear adherence to Church teachings (even if not officially declared
infallible) so important in today’s world? Why is it so
important to have a clear-cut identity in today’s world?
must Catholics today be 100% committed to their faith and
authentic in the way they live it out?