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“Ask a Priest: What If Shaky Ideas Seem to Have Infiltrated the Church?”
Q: I have two questions. 1) There has been a lot of reports and YouTube videos about heresies and apostasies in the Catholic Church. For example, priests or bishops who actively affirm or practice the homosexual lifestyle or even worse, the Pachamama incident at the Vatican, or the strange stuff they’re proposing at the Vatican Synod. This has caused me to distrust or to totally reject some of the so-called Church teachings. Yet I still attend Mass. My wife says that if the Church is now fallen into error, then maybe we should find another church or Christian denomination. How should I respond to her? 2) I have discussed with my Protestant friends regarding how to respond to the woke LGBTQ+ culture that seems to have infiltrated all aspects of society. My response is that Catholics need to be prepared to defend true Church teaching, to correct errors and to stand in the gap (Ezekiel 22:30). However, my friends have referred me to Matthew 7:3-5. They suggest that I focus on my own sins and not focus on the sins of others — in other words, do what Jesus did, to “love.” How should a Catholic respond? Should we do nothing? – G.T.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: You certainly don’t want to do nothing! The Church is in rough waters, and it needs all hands on deck.
Let’s address your first question.
Jesus promised his disciples that the Holy Spirit would “will guide you to all truth” (John 16:13).
Ultimately, we have faith in the Church because we have faith in God, who guides it. This means that the Church will be kept from error in matters of faith and morals.
So, what do we make of people in the Church who are engaging in immoral behavior or promoting bad and faulty ideas?
Immoral behavior has been around the Church since the beginning. For instance, it was an apostle, Judas, who betrayed Jesus. We are here to follow Jesus, not Judas.
As for authentic teachings: For a bishop to teach correctly, he needs to teach in union with the Pope and in a way that is in line with perennial Church doctrine.
It is possible for individual bishops or even conferences of bishops to be wrong on issues. That doesn’t mean the Church is wrong; it simply means this or that group of bishops is wrong. (This kind of thing happened at the time of the Arian heresy, too. The truth eventually won out.)
How do we discern which teachings are valid? Here we need to keep an eye on the deposit of faith. We can find elements of that in the Catechism, papal teachings, Church councils and the writings of Church Fathers and various saints, etc.
What this means in practice is that you and your wife would go well to study the faith on an ongoing basis. Have a steady diet of solid Catholic books in the house. Notable and highly readable authors include Fulton Sheen, Frank Sheed, Peter Kreeft, Bishop Robert Barron, and saints such as Francis de Sales and Therese of Lisieux. You could easily find others.
In any case, Jesus only founded one Church. The Christian denominations, though well-intentioned, weren’t established by Christ. They lack a valid priesthood and the full range of sacraments instituted by Christ.
As for Matthew 7:3-5 — it would be good to read that passage closely. Jesus doesn’t say that we shouldn’t point out the splinter in the eye of another person, but rather that we should be careful to take the wooden beam out of our own eye first.
Fraternal correction can be an act of love. Helping another person to see the error of his ways is an act of charity. To remain silent in the face of habitual serious sin isn’t love. It could be indifference.
This doesn’t mean that we must be perfect — we are all sinners. But being sinners, we need to show charity, patience and humility when calling out someone.
People struggling with LGBTQ+ issues can be encouraged to turn to prayer and the sacraments for the grace they need to live chastely. Groups such as Courage stand ready to help, too. A helpful book might be Jason Evert’s Male, Female, Other?
In sum: Don’t confuse the strange sayings or ideas of individual priests or bishops or synod-goers with official Church teaching. This is the moment to hold on to it. Count on my prayers.
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