Questions about the Catholic Church today

As a new convert, but I’m so confused and my heart just hurts so much for what I see within my own parish and read here about others. Please understand I don’t mean any of this disrespectful, rather I cherish my new faith so much that I’m hurting for it.

One of the things that brought me to the Catholic faith was because there are a set of standards, rules, and universal way of practicing our faith. I know politics will exist in every faith, but one thing that I feel defines the Catholic faith is that there are standards that are not to be deviated from; to do so is considered disrespectful, disobedient, un-Catholic and often sinful. It is done to protect the Catholic faith and keep that faith in unity.

Yet there is so much departure from these standards by our priests and bishops; as well as the Catholic community in general – without any attempts at correction of the departures or errors.

My question is, why not? Why would a man become a priest or be appointed a bishop if his intentions are not to protect the Catholic faith from departures (especially ‘serious’ departures) of the written standards/rules of the faith?

Do we not then depart from the Catholic faith if everyone is just going to do their own thing, eliminate parts of it, or twist a Mass to turn into something that fits his own agenda or comfort?

Why are there no voices of some VERY SERIOUS demanding outcrys, all the way to the Vatican, demanding that our priests and bishops follow the standards/rules set forth by the Holy See and our Holy Father?

Why are parishioners not so up in arms in allowing our priests and bishops to get away with these serious departures that the priest/bishop doesn’t either change or leave because he can’t stand all the protests of the people?

If the parishioners allow these men to such departures and don’t hold them accountable, what will happen to the Catholic Church?

Isn’t it the priests job and obligation to teach and/or correct his parishioners if they are not following these standards/rules? Isn’t it then the bishops job and obligation to teach and/or correct the priests if they are not following these standards/rules?

I fully agree and understand being respectful and obedient to our priests and bishops. But if they aren’t doing their jobs and are departing from very specific standards/rules, doesn’t the responsibility then fall upon the parishioners to do whatever they have to do (as respectfully as possible) go as far as they need to go to resolve and correct the situations? Instead it seems like we just following the program and not making waves. So what would it take and when is it right to take a stand?

I think it helps by understanding the Catholic Church is not the US Army and the Pope is not some sort of supreme field marshall. He’s much more – he’s our Holy Father and he does not (nor does his supporting staff and dicasteries) operate like a supreme field marshall and his army during the execution of their vocations from God. Much of the authority is held and executed not by the Pope or his immediate staff but by local bishops.

The actual issue outside of the structure of the Church is three-sided and has many reasons for its existence.

First, things in the Church are not as simplistic and black/white as some suggest they are here. Not understanding that is a source of great confusion for many here.

On the celebrants’ side you have the reasons of: ignorance, pride, outside pressures (ex. bishop or wealthy benefactors) and probably in some cases out and out evil.

On the other side you have pretty much the very same reasons. I would also add the chicken/sky-falling syndrome. Some people complain so much about so many things that no one listens to them after awhile so a potentially important voice is muted.

So in the end, it’s not as easy at it sounds. It never is when human beings are part of the equation…

I think for many laypeople, whose encounter with the Church happens once or a few times a week at Mass, there’s a tendency to think that “The Catholic Faith = The Mass.” Therefore, if you’re a Catholic priest, you must be primarily focused on the Mass.

In reality, Catholicism embraces things like evangelization, ministry to the poor and sick and those in prison, pro-life work, meditation on the mysteries of God, and on and on. There are some priests who are fanatical about the rules of the Mass, but do hardly anything to promote peace and social justice. There are others who are out there every day lifting up the poor and downtrodden, but run lax, halfhearted Masses. (Then, of course, there are some priests who do both, and some who do neither.) I, for one, won’t judge which of these is the better Catholic priest. I’d probably rather go to Mass said by the first, but I’m in no position to say to the second, “Your Masses are lame! Why are you a priest at all, huh?”

The Church is Holy, but She is made up of sinners. This is the great paradox of the Catholic (Universal) Church. She contains every gradation of human goodness and evil, from Our Blessed Mother to the Borgia Popes. Our Hope lies in Christ, and in the Saints in whom we see the promise of His Ascension being fulfilled through the working of the Holy Spirit. Get close to which ever saints you feel closest to and to Our Lord. At the centre is the Lord in all His fullness. What a precious gift we have in Christ in the Blessed Sacrament!

Welcome home!

As a new convert, you should be luxuriating in your new faith. May I suggest that you turn your attention completely to what actually happens in the Mass instead of how it’s being done. By that I mean concentrating on the fact that each Mass really and truly transports you to the foot of the Cross, where Jesus offers His perfect sacrifice to the Father. Give over your mind and heart completely to this reality and immerse yourself in it. Your heart will be on fire with love, and, should there be deviations in the way Mass is being celebrated, Jesus will find, at least in you, a heart full of love in which to rest. This is a real consolation to Him and the most effective thing you can do about the situation.

Practically speaking, no matter what some will tell you, there’s little you can do about any one priest’s way of doing things. You can ask innocent sounding questions after Mass, or make an appointment and go in with a stack of documents asserting your right to a properly celebrated liturgy (which we all have, according to Redemptionis Sacramentum, before anyone feels the need to say so), but very little will change other than your reputation.

I strongly suggest that you stop reading about the liturgical deviations and abuses that people post about here. It will do nothing but upset you and give you more things to notice when you return to your own parish. This should be your honeymoon time. Let it be that. This is your one and only “first year as a Catholic.” Keep it special. Keep your eyes on Jesus and fall more in love with Him every day. This is your job right now, not to be crusading for correctness. I don’t say this in a condescending way, as, “There, there, little new convert, don’t worry your pretty little head about it.” I say it because your love is now pure and strong and effective in and of itself, and you should use it to its full advantage without distractions.

Come visit the Spirituality Forum and be at peace.

Betsy

Unity is not the same as uniformity. The Church has always been diverse, yet unified as one Body.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.