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The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 6
A reflection by Fr Luis Garza, LC, on how Catholics can take an effective stand in the culture war today.

"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 21st century.

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.


5. Religion

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.

Some people 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.
• Some 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, procedures, etc.
• We confused compassion with the lack of direction.
• There was a deathly fear of being labeled a conservative.

So, 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 Sunday.

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 Scientology.

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.

Be the 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 Christianity?

Questions for Personal Reflection or Group Discussion
1. How can a crisis be a golden opportunity? How else could this idea be applied?
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?
4. Why must Catholics today be 100% committed to their faith and authentic in the way they live it out?


The Battle for the World’s Soul, Part I - Artículo
The Battle for the World’s Soul, Part 2 - Artículo
The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 3 - Artículo
The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 4 - Artículo
The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 5 - Artículo
The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 6 - Artículo
The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 7 - Artículo
The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 8 - Artículo
The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 9 - Artículo
The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 10 - Artículo

Related articles
- The Battle for the World’s Soul, Part I
- The Battle for the World’s Soul, Part 2
- The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 3
- The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 4
- The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 5
- The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 6
- The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 7
- The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 8
- The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 9
- The Battle for the World´s Soul, Part 10

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