In a previous essay I relayed the personal difficulty the 2002 homosexual-abuse and paedophilia scandal brought upon my wife and I just a few years after our conversion to the Catholic Church. We nearly lost our Catholic faith over it, but we managed to survive. Others weren’t so lucky. Here in the Bible Belt, I hear stories all the time about faithful Catholics, both converts and those born into the faith, who walked away in 2002-2003 over the sexual abuse scandal. I call it the “silent protest,” because these people usually don’t say much. They just stop going to mass. That’s it. There is no fanfare, nor dramatic farewell, they just leave. They might eventually join another Christian community, perhaps Eastern Orthodox or some Protestant sect, but again that is not advertised. All I can say is if you did a survey of how many of today’s Evangelicals were “once Catholic” at one time, you might get a feel for it, but that doesn’t count those who just stopped going to Church all together and gave up on Christianity entirely. I think this number is higher actually.
I think what saved my Catholic faith was two things, both of which I attribute to the intervention of God and answer to prayer.
The first was a conversation I had with a Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) member around 2003. She was a temporary nurse I worked with at a local hospital. She informed me that there were other ways of being Catholic, and that the scandal in the Church is not the result of authentic Catholicism, but rather a counterfeit faith attached to the mainstream Catholic Church like a parasite. She encouraged me to look into the SSPX. I took her advice and I did. I attended a total of two local SSPX masses in Springfield, Missouri. I did not go up to receive communion, as I was just there to observe. After these two experiences, I decided this was not for me, and moved on with a greater understanding of what Catholicism used to look like prior to 1970 and that there are other ways of being Catholic besides what is seen in the typical diocese.
The second was the election of Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, who gave me tremendous hope of positive change in the future. This actually did materialise in very real and tangible ways in my life. The first was when Pope Benedict XVI appointed a new bishop over my home diocese in the Ozarks in 2008. This would be absolutely essential to the ongoing reconstruction of my Catholic faith. Bishop James V. Johnston Jr. restored the Traditional Latin Mass to the cathedral in Springfield, where it was celebrated no less than fives days a week! This went on for years. Now, as I’ve said in another essay, I’m not really a Latin guy. I appreciate the beauty of the language, as well as its historic and traditional significance, but 500 years of Protestantism in my family has had a strong formation on my mind. I want to worship in a language that I understand, and I want that language to have deep roots in my English heritage. Nevertheless, the Traditional Latin Mass at St. Agnes Cathedral for years provided a place for me to worship God in a way that was traditional and reverent. Inwardly, I longed to return to English worship, but in a traditional way. That prayer was answered in 2009 when Pope Benedict XVI gave us Anglicanorum Coetibus, which allowed for the creation of traditional Anglican Patrimony parishes and jurisdictions within the Catholic Church. I approached Bishop Johnston with the possibility of creating such a community within his diocese, and he graciously supported it. By 2016, we had successfully put together an Ordinariate community in the Ozarks, complete with regular mass times and a priest in residence.
You’re probably wondering what worship has to do with any of this. Why was my Catholic faith, nearly decimated by the 2002 sexual-abuse scandal, strangely healed and put back together by going to a Latin mass and then later building a traditional English Catholic community?
The answer can only be found in the connection between faith and worship: lex orandi lex credendi, which is Latin for “the law of prayer is the law of faith.” You see, how we worship has a direct affect on what we believe and how deeply we believe it. The damage done to my newly-converted Catholic faith in 2002 was devastating. Like so many others, I was a causality. So many converts walked away from the faith that year. Even more cradle Catholics walked away with them. I might have gone too, but what held me back was the fear of all my Protestant family and friends saying “See, I told you so.” I think perhaps the possibility of hearing this from my own father was enough to stop me from bolting. It caused me instead to desperately pray that God would provide another way. I did seriously consider Eastern Orthodoxy for a while, and attended a few divine liturgies at a nearby parish, at about the same time I attended the SSPX masses. While I ultimately steered away from Orthodoxy and the SSPX, the message I took away from both was crystal clear. If my Catholic faith is to survive, I must turn to a more solemn, reverent and traditional mode of worship. In the end, I can honestly say, the only reason why I remain Catholic today is because of this, and the good priests and bishop who helped to make that possible for me here in the Ozarks of Southern Missouri. My Catholic faith was saved by God, who sent the right people into my life at the right time, little by little, to keep me going.
Others were not so fortunate. Some prominent Catholic converts, who came into the Church around the same time I did, are now Eastern Orthodox. One of them was Rod Dreher, a man whom I respect, and who left the Catholic Church in the face of the hopelessness surrounding the 2002 crisis, realising that true reform was far from becoming reality. I don’t blame Dreher for leaving the Church. I can’t. I nearly did at about the same time. Dreher is now an Eastern Orthodox Christian who wrote a book I highly recommend called The Benedict Option, wherein he clearly lays out a path for any Christian (Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant) to survive the hard times soon coming upon Christianity and the West. In his book, Dreher recommends building intentional communities, using your local parish as the hub. However, this only works if the parish is “traditional” in worship and “orthodox” in teaching. If the parish has a revolutionary spirit of trying to “push the envelope” in worship or doctrine, it won’t work. You need to either move on to another parish, or find a way to start a new one. While Dreher was not as fortunate as I, he did manage to preserve his sacramental faith within Eastern Orthodoxy, and he gives solid advice to those willing to hear it. His book makes for an excellent guide in these troubling times we are now going through yet again.
The Catholic Homosexual Abuse Scandal of 2018 threatens to become something much larger than the original 2002 scandal. I fully endorse (a slightly revised version) of the #CatholicMeToo movement, and I call upon all my readers to redirect their donations away from the bishops, by giving them to your parishes instead, and earmarking them so that they cannot be easily taken by the local bishop. I believe this is the only way to fight this evil in a material way that does not lead to sin. However, I do have a caveat, which you can read about here. Most of all, I encourage prayer. There will be more on that below.
The latest scandal has not fully surfaced at the time of this writing, and I suspect we won’t know the full scope of it until 2019. It centres around not only on the ongoing cover-up of homosexual predation on teenage boys going back decades, but also the homosexual harassment of seminarians and Church employees by clergy, who are part of a vast homosexual network (comically dubbed “The Lavender Mafia”) which has actively worked to cover-up this constant abuse, while at the same time assuring faithful Catholics that “everything is okay, nothing to see here, move along, move along.” As the truth comes out about this…
- Many Catholics will lose their faith.
- Many Catholics will walk away from the Church never to be seen again.
- Those who lose their faith will be both converts and life-long Catholics.
- The bishops have no idea what’s coming.
I am writing this today as a message of hope. While my own faith continues to be rocked by these scandals, every time they erupt, I have discovered there is a way to save your faith, and based on my own experience, I’m going to tell you how…
First, you must embrace the Latin saying lex orandi lex credendi, which means “the law of prayer is the law of faith.” You should memorise that statement and learn to live by it. Prayer is what leads to faith, not the other way around. When your faith is rocked, you pray. But it’s more than just prayer, it’s the law of prayer, meaning “how you pray.” Tradition saved my Catholic faith, and it will save yours as well. Yes, it will. I guarantee it will. Tradition is the key. Tradition is the answer. Authentic Catholic tradition is older than any scandal, and it has weathered many scandals throughout the centuries. It is wisdom that comes to us from our forefathers, from ages past, that anchors us in the truths we need to know at the most difficult times of our lives. Without tradition, we are tossed about like a small boat in the waves of a storming sea. Tradition, true and authentic Catholic tradition, will always bring you safely back to shore.
This means you very well may have to walk away from something, but it may not be what you originally thought. Instead of walking away from the Catholic Church, maybe what you really need to walk away from is the mainstream Catholic Church. Maybe instead what you need to do is walk right out of your mainstream liberal parish, and walk into a traditional Catholic parish. Then learn how they pray.
You’re so much more fortunate than I was back in 2002-2003, because unlike me back then, you today actually have options. There are three main traditional options for Catholics today. They are as follows…
- Traditional Latin Mass
- Traditional English Mass (Anglican Patrimony)
- Eastern Rite Catholicism
The Traditional Latin Mass is probably the most abundant type of traditional Catholic worship out there. If you call your local diocesan chancery office, they might be able to direct you to one nearby. Sometimes the diocese will provide these for the faithful, as my bishop did back in 2008. These may not always be clearly advertised in the diocesan directory. So calling the local chancery office can pay off from time to time. If there is no diocesan option, you might be able to find a Priestly Fraternity of the Saint Peter (FSSP) parish nearby. Unlike the SSPX, the FSSP is in full regular communion with Rome, and is backed by the pope. The FSSP provides a map to their parishes and communities here. If an FSSP parish is not near you, try the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest (ICKSP) which has a few parishes in North America that can be found on their website here. Finally, if no Traditional Latin Mass exists near you at all, it is possible to start one nearby. Una Voce (one voice) is an organisation which helps Catholics work with their local bishop and Rome to start a Traditional Latin Mass in their diocese. They can be contacted on their website here.
The Traditional English Mass (also called ‘Divine Worship’) is a more traditional celebration of the mass that comes to us by way of the Anglican Patrimony, which was adopted back into the Catholic Church between 1980 and 2012. The Traditional English Mass (Divine Worship) has features similar to both the Traditional Latin Mass and the regular ordinary mass, peppered with prayers and traditions that come from the Anglican Patrimony. Most notably, the language used (throughout the whole mass) is Sacred English, which consists of “thy” and “thou” like we find in the traditional Our Father prayer and traditional Hail Mary prayer. In North America, this type of liturgy can only be found in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter (POCSP), but any Catholic may join an Ordinariate parish. The POSCP provides a map to their parishes and communities here. If you are unable to locate one near you, it is actually possible to start such a community in your immediate area. The method for doing this is outlined by the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society (ACS), and can be found on their website here.
Finally, when all else fails, there is always Eastern Rite Catholicism. Many people confuse this with Eastern Orthodoxy. It’s not the same thing. Eastern Rite Catholicism consists of those formerly Eastern Orthodox churches that have returned to full communion with Rome under the pope, and those that never left. Eastern Rite Catholicism is as its name states — Eastern — which means that it’s very liturgically different from anything we usually see here in the West, but it is very solemn and reverent. Any western Catholic can easily follow along, because even though the look and sound of the liturgy is very different, it does follow the same basic format as the western mass. Any Catholic may attend an Eastern Rite parish and receive communion there. Any Catholic may likewise become a member of said parish without necessarily changing rites. However, if one desires to, changing rites is also an option. Eastern Catholic parishes can be found on their directory here.
In a personal note, I can testify that the only thing keeping me Catholic right now is lex orandi lex credendi. The “law of prayer” is what forms my faith, and has become the only thing that allows me to weather this storm. Had God not provided this for me, and had I not waited upon him to do so, I would have most likely gone the way of Rod Dreher. I respect Dreher, and I don’t blame him for the decision he made, but at the same time I know there is a better way. The way I took is better, but I’m not taking credit for that. God made it happen, because he put the right people in my life at the tight time. Perhaps you too are having your faith shaken, and God is allowing you to read this essay right now. Perhaps he led you here, and perhaps these are the right words at the right time for you. If they are, I pray you will act on them quickly.