My wife lost a friend recently.
An internet friend, with whom she’s corresponded on a listserv for several years now. They saw each other as kindred spirits.
This woman was a very devout, conservative, pro-life convert, former Baptist. She and her husband were certified Couple to Couple League instructors. Her husband, also a convert, was a Gulf War (1991) veteran. He suffers from some serious mental illnesses.
I forget how many children they have total, but, when their fifth or sixth child was born, the wife suffered a serious cardiovascular childbirth complication and nearly died. Their families, hostile to the Church, offered little help. The doctors said she should never get pregnant again or she’d die.
Her husband had almost a total mental breakdown at one point. He went in the hospital for a while. She found out horrible things about him she hadn’t known. His counselors convinced him that his wife and kids were the problem. When he got out of the hospital, he left her for a while.
He committed emotional, if not physical, adultery.
It was a mess, but, eventually, he came back. They reconciled.
They were trained CCLI instructors, but she struggled with her own charts. Trying to “do it all,” she hit the usual barriers: Mass, the kids, the finances, education, etc. She considered giving up homeschoolnig and sending her kids to Catholic school, but it was too expensive, and the school wouldn’t offer assistance.
The response to their struggles was “abstain completely,” but that wasnt’ an option. They conceived a baby on what they thought was a “safe day.”
That was in early 2008. For forgiving her wayward husband and being radically open to life (living very profoundly the teaching of Casti Connubii), she was shunned by her real world Catholic “friends” and by her parish. Rather than helping her, people condemned her.
This horrible election happened. 54% of Catholics voted for Barack Obama. She lives in the Atlanta area. Her bishop, Wilton Gregory, not only failed to *oppose* Obama but actively spoke and wrote in favor of him.
Her husband, in the meantime, had a vasectomy. A few months later, he decided to make one last attempt at reconciliation with the Church. In his extremely frail psychology and spirituality, he came for one last plea before he succumbed, relative to the Church, to despair.
He came to Confession. There was a long line. The priest came promptly out when the scheduled time for Confessions was over, and said that Confessions were over; disperse.
So he did. Her husband turned his back on the Church that daily, feeling the Church had turned Her back on him.
They began talking with some Mormon missionaries. They left the Church.
This woman who was trying to live the Gospel so radically was driven away from the Church by the spiritual neglect of her pastors and the pharissaism of the laity.
One of the claims being levied against Bishops like Raymond Burke, Charles Chaput and Thomas Tobin is that they’re just ‘rallying the troops’ or ‘preaching to the choir,’ and that they’re not ‘winning converts’ or ‘convincing anyone in the middle.’
But the “faithful” do need to be preached to. The Church takes “orthodox Catholics” for granted . Those of us who believe the Church’s teachings can be kept in line, they figure, by our fear of going to Hell if we leave. They don’t stop to think that maybe the older brother on the porch needs some love and attention, especially when the older brother has only recently come back from his own sojourn of prodigality.
But there are always the Rod Drehers, and sometimes I wonder if Rod Dreher has a point.
I don’t at all condone Mary’s friend’s apostasy to the Mormon cult. Mormonism is so obviously a false religion, I can’t see how anyone believes it other than by brainwashing or demonic possession. But I have a hard time faulting anyone who joins the Orthodox Church or the Society of St. Pius X.
Her friend received many replies online–including from Mary–to her apostasy that she refused to dialogue any further. Mary wrote to Wilton Gregory, telling him he was responsible for these lost sheep, that his scandalous leadership drove them from the Church, and he should seek them out, personally, and bring them back to the fold. She never heard back.
The Choir does need to be preached to. Our faith does need to be nourished. It gets very discouraging. The job of priests and bishops is to teach and preach and inspire the laity. *Our* job is to engage the world, in whatever appropriate style we feel called.
But we need support.
When we see our pastors and our ordinaries kowtowing to rich elites and to politicians who deny the Natural Law, we get discouraged. We need an example.
We need encouragement and strength. As Bishop Tobin wrote ten years ago regarding Mother Angelica, conservative Catholics get criticized for being “angry,” yet we’ve been marginalized since the 1960s for merely trying to teach and practice what Catholicism always taught and practiced before the 1960s. We’ve been told our opinions don’t matter, that we’re obsolete, that we’re unChristian.
We try to fight the evil in the world. We see all the anti-Catholic positions out there, and then we see our fellow Catholics agreeing with those positions.
Then we look to religions like Mormonism, and Islam and Orthodoxy, and fundamentalist Christianity. Depending upon whcih aspects of the faith are most important to us, we see in those religions a similar zeal, or a similar devotion, or a similar respect for Natural Law.
We see in those religions a sense of community, that they have a functioning “ghetto system,” and it works quite well. Go look up Mormonism in the phone book. Mormons have “services” for every aspect of life, listed in the phone book, based out of their local “temple.”
That’s why people leave the Church for these other religions: they *want* the “Catholic ghetto,” and Catholics don’t have it. They want bishops who actually act like shepherds, and they figure ,”If he’s not going to try and keep me in the fold, then obviously Catholicism isn’t that important to him. If it’s so unimportant to a bishop, why should it be important to me?”