It is too tiring to count the number of times I heard (and parroted) a disgruntled former Catholic or an axe-grinding opinion piece writer catalog their objections to Catholicism with articulate and attractive talking points only to realize that they had absolutely no idea what they were talking about. And the number of objections leveled at the Church and their curiously contradictory nature was something G.K. Chesterton, a nominal non-Catholic Christian at the time, marveled at. How, Chesterton wondered, could Christianity in general (and perhaps, Catholicism in particular) be branded as simultaneously too decadent and too ascetic, bigoted against women and a haven for them, docile enough to be a trampled sheep and violent enough to be a wicked Crusader, relentlessly pursuing of justice and selflessly doling out mercy? Perhaps this odd mass of contradictions was a bit too odd, in fact so odd as to be extraordinary. Perhaps, Chesterton wondered,
“Perhaps, after all, it is Christianity that is sane and all its critics that are mad.”
The other way to misunderstand and dismiss the Church is to object simply because there are fallible people within and leading it. G.K. Chesterton brilliantly answers this objection,
“The great strength of Christian sanctity has always been simply this – that the worst enemies of the saints could not say of the saints anything worse than [the saints] said of themselves…Suppose the village atheist had a sudden and splendid impulse to rush into the village church and denounce everybody there as miserable offenders. He might break in at the exact moment when they were saying the same thing themselves.”
Flannery O’Connor, not to be outdone, would call to task the sniffing condescension of a friend dismayed with the sin among Catholics.
“All your dissatisfaction with the Church seems to me to come from an incomplete understanding of sin. This will perhaps surprise you because you are very conscious of the sins of Catholics; however what you seem actually to demand is that the Church put the kingdom of heaven on earth right here now, that the Holy Ghost be translated at once into all flesh…The Church is founded on Peter who denied Christ three times and couldn’t walk on the water by himself. You are expecting his successors to walk on the water. All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.”
After years of believing the Church was something that it was not and resenting elements of fallibility present within it, I began to see it differently.
Please read the entire piece. And consider bookmarking Mr. Worner.
He is a treasure the Holy Spirit is using in timely ways.