Here’s an interesting one–tonight my girlfriend found scandal in the Church.
Short context: My girlfriend grew up in a staunchly Evangelical, though unaffiliated, church. They were slightly atypical in that her dad believed each and every family constituted it’s own church with the father as the, well, “Father.”
We’ve been dating for about a year and a half, and now she’s in RCIA–mostly at the “inquiry” level, but wanting to want to join.
One of her hold-ups, though is something that I haven’t seen until just tonight. She’s been trying to get it through my head for a long time, but I didn’t get it until just now. It’s such a blind spot for us cradle Catholics that even the priest at RCIA had to pause and say, “You’ve found scandal in the Church.”
Intellectually, she has a hard time finding any holes in Catholic doctrine. Emotionally/spritually, however, she has a huge stumbling block when it comes to Confession.
She fully believes in mortal sin and even the Sacrament of Confession, however, she’s mad and frustrated that the Church is holding it out in front of her without giving her the opportunity to take part. It’s no mere impatience issue, though. She’s most certainly NOT acting like a spoiled child here. She sees many instances in the Bible where people decide for Christ, repent, and get about the business of being a Christian with the fullness of the truth. Now, she knows she’s committed mortal sins–even since coming to understand and believe the Catholic definition of mortal sin. She believes that Confession is the remedy for it. So why does the Church withold this Sacrament from ready, willing and able converts?
She has a dangerous job. Every day she’s putting her life on the line as a D.C. reporter in the 'hood. And she’s frustrated that the Church seems to be “less than enthusastic” about getting people what it’s there to do. If the Church really believes what it teaches, why the wait?
As any convert here knows, RCIA is often not even Catholicism 101. It’s mostly remedial theology for this Bible-based, scripture-saturated Evangelical. She’s willing to go through the process, though, because she wants to make sure she knows what she’s getting into. But, if the Church believes the Sacraments are such important means of grace, then what’s the real, solid, non-negotiable reason for holding them out of reach? She’s ready to convert! she says. Do you want me or not?
I know the Catholic response because I’ve been giving it to her–“Oh, if you don’t know it’s a mortal sin, you’re less culpable.” Or, “Until you’re confirmed and all that, the best means of Confession is whatever you’ve been taught.”
But is it? Maybe, but what if you now know that the Church has the means of reconciliation and salvation? If the Church really believes it does, it should be getting it to the knowledgable converts ASAP.
That’s the thing–there really is no good reason it should take so long. I know the realities of the Church in America today–priests are spread thin and those still interested in properly catechizing the converts want to do a good job of it. That’s why it takes roughly six months. But this one-size-fits-all approach no more works for Catholicism than it does for the Federal Government.
And this is where the scandal comes in. She’s starting to lose faith because the Church doesn’t seem to be putting its money where it’s Sacraments are.
Surprisingly, this priest is going to talk to the “head priest” at St. Mary’s and see about getting her to Confession. He’s extremely knowledgable and orthodox, so I’m not worried that we’re dealing with some kind of amateur here. I was surprised to learn that this was even possible. I’ve long thought that it might be efficacious if she went into a non-sacramental Confession just for the experience, and to satisfy whatever requirements a God of perfect justice would have for those in her situation to be forgiven.
So, anyone have any thoughts? Ever run into this before? Like I said, I pretty much know the “typical” Catholic’s response, but it appears that there is little solid reason to deny full conversion to someone knowledgable and ready to go. If the Church is indeed drawing out the process merely for pragmatic reasons, then this is indeed scandal. The Church’s mission is to spread the Gospel and save souls. Nothing should prevent her from doing that.