Every time we recite the creed, we proclaim our belief “in the Holy Catholic Church.” Every time we receive Holy Communion, we count ourselves faithful members of Christ’s unified body. Every time we renew our baptismal vows, as we will this coming Easter Sunday, we re-commit ourselves to Christ and his Church.
So why is it that so many well-intentioned, faithful Catholics, openly reject the Church and dissent from her teachings; whether over a hot-button issue like gay marriage, abortion, or women in the priesthood or something less “political”, like whether lay people should be permitted to serve in this or that ministry, or if certain “ministries” should even exist!
We all know at least one mass-going Catholic…
…who is just hanging on for the day that the “homophobic” bishops will finally give up their condemnation of gay marriage.
…who deeply desires that abortion remain an option for victims of rape and women who suffer through difficult and dangerous pregnancies.
…who wishes the Church would be less exclusive and recognize the subjective truth of all world religions!
…who voted for Obama, believes in Karma, is vegetarian for the sake of animals’ feelings and loves liturgical dance… and the list could go on.
Such unabashed dissent is arguably one of the greatest problems the Church faces today.
And it’s awful! Not only does it cause serious scandal, remaining Catholic by name while desecrating the truth of the faith with submission to worldly thinking and practice; it also seriously compromises one’s relationship with Christ, the bridegroom of the Holy Church.
Imagine you were friends with a married couple, but over time you came to dislike, perhaps even hate the wife. Surely, your relationship with the husband – who still faithfully adored and treasured his spouse – would suffer. Your friendship would undoubtedly change if you rejected the person with whom he was one flesh through marriage. So the same goes for Christ and His bride, the Church. You cannot love Jesus completely, without loving His Church completely.
A deep-seeded root of this problem is a misunderstanding of “primacy of conscience.” Lots of dissenting Catholics point to the Catechism’s instruction that “A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience” (CCC 1800). And so they say, “My conscience tells me that gays should have the right to marry…that women should have the right to choose,” etc. However, many fail to acknowledge the Church’s complementary teaching that one’s conscience is not the final arbiter of morality; Christ’s Divine Law is. But they defend their rejections of the doctrines of the faith with an obvious misunderstanding that the Church has somehow endorsed their freedom to act against her.
The true nature of our conscience is that it serves as a situational alarm system. In any particular situation, you are obligated to acknowledge and act upon “red flags” to avoid sin and evildoing. For example, if you are in a burning building, an alarm system should tell you to quickly evacuate to stay safe. Logical, right? However, let’s say the building you’re in catches on fire and the alarms don’t go off. Does it mean that there’s no danger? That it’s safe to stay inside? Of course not.
You must maintain your alarm system! You must inform your conscience by seeking to truly understand Divine Law. The Catechism says, “A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful” (1798). As Catholics, we acknowledge one truth in the faith. Just as the sky cannot be both blue and green, we cannot label something both sinful and non-sinful. This misunderstood “primacy of conscience” says nay, it can be both. Someone may hear the alarm bells ringing, while another hears nothing, but the danger of sin definitively exists there, or it does not – not both. It’s impossible!
If you trust that the Holy Catholic Church was able to carry on the succession of the priesthood, so that on Sunday, you have a Holy Mass to attend, which is not just a worship service at some fellowship community church of the mountain valley forest of living water, but a miraculous sacrifice in which Christ actually becomes present before you in the Blessed Sacrament, you must trust that the Church – without which you would have no living Christ to sustain you – is sacred, holy and TRUE.
And she will help you get to Heaven, if you trust her.