Tómas de Torquemada
My last posting—the letter to a friend whose Catholicism was being challenged by self-appointed authorities on our faith drew a spike in readership. One person sent me a link to a video of Michael Voris and a lecture on his “ChurchMilitant TV” (formerly “Real Catholic TV”) where Mr. Voris makes his claims about who is in and who is out. Mr. Voris, of course, has no canonical authority to make such claims but that is not my point. Listening to him, I was appalled to see the out-of-context quotes, the misquotes and misattributions, the selectively edited references, and the historical distortions he uses to make his point. But then, a video clip or a Facebook page, or even a blog like this one is no place to find the Church teaching in its authenticity—not necessarily because people are actively trying to deceive others, but simply because our Catholic faith is not something that can be condensed in a ten minute video or a 200 word posting. (I must admit that Father Barron’s Word on Fire Catholic Ministries does come awfully close to doing a great job at it though.) Some of us have spent our lives studying the faith: reading book after book, going to lecture after lecture, taking course after course, subscribing to journal after journal, and most of all seriously praying and reflecting every day on the Word of God and how our faith—living faith, our relationship with Christ found in his word and sacrament and the communion of his disciples—brings together the life-giving Word of God in Sacred Scripture with the body of teaching passed down through the ages and forges from them a path of discipleship we can live in the world today.
I think if there is anything that truly troubles me about people like Michael Voris and the host of bloggers and Facebook junkies that subscribe to his sort of Catholicism is that it comprehends “faith” only as doctrine and submission to their own authority. Note—I say their own authority not magisterial authority, because while they claim to be obedient and faithful to the magisterium it is only the magisterium as they choose to present it. They ignore certain precepts of the Church’s teaching and distort others—I think of Michael Voris’ misuse of papal documents to speak of the “common good” as no more than the aggregate of individuals’ goods—to advance their own agendas. Many priests and some bishops are no better. Convinced that they, and they alone, know the entire body of Christian doctrine they make decrees that are seriously troubling to the consciences of good Christians. They presume the worst motives of those with whom they disagree and are so presumptuous as make judgments about the spiritual welfare of others. Have they ever read the Gospel of Matthew?
We have a great need for dialogue in the Church today. The late Cardinal Martini said that the Church is 200 years behind the times. Yes—the ancien regime has fallen, absolute monarchy has no credibility in the world today. There is a need for those on top to listen to those in the ranks. I am not calling for democracy here, just reminding you and me that the Church is a body and that the various parts of the body need listen to one another (1 Cor 12: 21) to hold the body in unity. The mouth may have the function of doing the talking, but it had better be acting in harmony with the brain, with the heart, the eyes, the ears, and other body parts if it does not want to make a fool of itself. Moreover, while the hierarchy does have the role of teaching the faith nobody has appointed Michael Voris or me or any Facebook flash mob to speak for them or to pass sentence in their name. I have had enough of the good MaryBeth’s who always were raising their hand in sixth grade to say “Sister, Sister, Donald is chewing gum and we aren’t supposed to chew gum in school, are we Sister?” Grow up people, take responsibility for your own lives and faith, respectfully dialogue about your faith with all who will listen, but don’t name yourself the Grand Inquisitor. Ain’t your job.