“In accord with the knowledge, competence, and preeminence which they possess, [lay people] have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church, and they have a right to make their opinion known to the other Christian faithful, with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward their pastors, and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons.”Catechism of the Catholic Church, 907
It all comes down to this. I love Jesus Christ. Therefore, I love the Church he founded, which is the Catholic Church. There it is. Case closed. That is my motivation for writing this blog. There really is nothing more to it.
My criticism of the Church’s pastors (from pope to bishops to priests) is born of my love for Christ’s Church and nothing more. I’m not an angry person. I don’t hate people. I have nothing personal against any Church leader. Nobody in the Church has personally hurt me. I wasn’t molested. I’ve never been the victim of sexual abuse. The very few negative experiences I’ve had in the Church have come from individuals who suffered from mental illness. One of them was a priest. But that’s no big deal, and I certainly don’t hold the Church (or even the bishops) responsible for that. It was just an isolated experience. No, I’ve got nothing against the Catholic Church. On the contrary. I love Christ’s Catholic Church. I’ve got nothing personal against the Church’s leadership. I’m just trying to warn them about a catastrophic failure that is coming their way. Some are already beginning to experience it. Some will very soon. But it’s going to affect all Catholics in a very negative way, because we are one Church, for now.
While I do consider myself a Traditional Catholic, I DO NOT consider myself a Traditionalist. I hope that makes sense. I’m a Catholic who loves traditional liturgy and traditional teaching, but I am open to some new things, and I don’t necessarily consider something “bad” just because it’s new and different. I also don’t revere tradition solely for tradition’s sake. I look at a tradition in light of how well it works to call our attention to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and I’m of the mindset that if something isn’t broken, you shouldn’t try to fix it. That’s generally a rule-of-thumb I follow in almost all areas of my life, so when it comes to religion, I try to be consistent.
I am also a convert to the Catholic Church. I’m an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism. That means I started out as an Evangelical in my early 20s and switched to Anglicanism just before becoming Catholic at age 29. It was Anglicanism that taught me the value of liturgy and tradition. It was Anglicanism that made my journey to Rome possible. I’m 51 now. I think I’ve proved my loyalty to the Catholic Church.
I am deeply concerned about the prospect of a Catholic schism in the very near future. I see the source of the schism primarily coming from the German bishops, and the pope’s hesitancy to put it down quickly, before it goes too far. This schism will primarily manifest in the ordination of women and the blessing of same-sex unions. Intercommunion with Protestants may also play a role. These things are not just some random musings that popped up in one country. They are the product of a long failure in Church catechesis and discipline, spanning about two generations now. The Germans didn’t get to where they are overnight. It took a long period of conditioning to make it happen, and now, here we are.
The problems in the German Catholic Church are by no means isolated to Germany. Switzerland and Austria are also in danger of some kind of breakdown. The German breakdown is not limited to the German-speaking world either. We’ve seen elements of it surface in the English-speaking world, and the French and Spanish-speaking worlds too. The German contagion went systemic long ago in the Catholic Church, and while still not as strong as it is in Germany, its presence among non-German people should be deeply troubling to our Church leaders.
To any bishop who will listen, as a convert who loves the Catholic Church, I am begging you to do the following…
- Restore tradition to the liturgical celebrations of your entire diocese. I’m not talking about the Traditional Latin Mass (Missal of 1962), though if you are willing to allow this, please do. Rather, I’m talking about the Regular Mass (Missal of 1970). Please put your diocesan liturgies in continuity with the Church’s liturgical history. This kind of reverence and solemnity worked well in the Catholic Church for centuries, and it still works well in the few parishes that still observe it. Such parishes are thriving! If you would like to better understand what I’m talking about, you can view a video of such a Mass here…
- Please go back to using the Baltimore Catechism #4, for the use of catechesis of adults, while making sure your official diocesan catechists are familiar not only with the Baltimore Catechism, but also with the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the Catechism of Trent. Catechists should have comprehensive training in both the old and new methods of teaching the faith. Furthermore, Catechists should be tested for orthodoxy, to make sure they actually believe (and will teach) what the Church professes to be true. You may be shocked to discover how many catechists do not really believe (or teach) the entirety of the Catholic Faith. I have personally encountered diocesan catechists who deny the Church’s teachings on Purgatory, Indulgences, Homosexuality, Cohabitation, Artificial Contraception, and yes, even the Eucharist! Do a survey of your catechists dear bishops, and find out what sort of mischief is going on right underneath your noses.
- Get your priests in line. Make sure they are also teaching the faith properly. You may discover they also deny the Faith on key issues. If that is the case, correct them.
- DO NOT ordain homosexual men to the priesthood. It’s a violation of Church discipline and Vatican instruction, so please, just stop. Let’s be honest here, dear bishops, and if you’re gay you know (more than anyone else) that what I’m saying is true. Gay men in the priesthood are troublemakers. You all know it. If you want a diocese rife with problems and scandal, then gay clergy are a great way to get there. Don’t give me this baloney about them all being celibate. If a man is plagued by persistent and nagging homosexual temptations, then you know, just as well as I do, that keeping his celibacy vow is going to be unlikely. It’s hard enough for a straight man to do it. Show a little mercy, or at least a little pity, and don’t put this kind of temptation on seminarians struggling with homosexuality. If you ordain such a man, you condemn him to a life of excessive temptation with higher consequences for failure. Why would you ever do that to anyone? Spare these men. Spare your diocese. Please, just stop.
- Put more emphasis on basic doctrine, which includes Christian morality, and less emphasis on social justice. When I was an Evangelical, I asked my Evangelical pastor why he did not give more sermons about voting and political issues. His answer was as wise as it was short. He said: “I find if I just teach them about Jesus Christ, and how to be good Christians, the whole political and social things just takes care of themselves.” This man was the pastor of one of the largest Evangelical megachurches in Southern California, containing members across the entire political spectrum. The pro-life voting record of his congregation was almost unanimous. His congregation also tended to be more open to helping the poor and disadvantaged.
- Last but not least, if there is credible evidence of sexual or financial abuse among your clergy or church staff, come down on it like a bag of hammers, quickly, and then be as transparent as possible with the civil authorities and your diocese. Do not delay. Act quickly and transparently.
Beyond these things, I don’t think there is much more any bishop can do to help the state of affairs in his own diocese and the Church universal. Priests should also be pro-active in these areas, as much as possible in accordance to what they can do. Laity should be active in notifying their clergy where problems exist. As I said above, I only make these criticisms because I love the Church, and I’m trying to keep them constructive with suggestions to help. I’m trying to approach this positively. I really do believe that if our bishops would just implement the above suggestions, they would see dramatic improvements in their dioceses within a few years, in everything from increased membership, to increased donations and vocations.
Shane Schaetzel is an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism and was trained as a catechist through the University of Dayton – a Catholic Marianist Institution. Shane’s articles have been featured on LifeSiteNews, ChurchMilitant, The Remnant Newspaper, Forward in Christ, and Catholic Online. Shane is an author of Catholic books, which can be read here.