All too often when Catholics get together and discuss the Church, their conversations consist of talking about the problems in the Church, rather than about Jesus and all that is good in the Church. We are all aware of these problems: Catholics who consider themselves “good Catholics” while denying some of the Church’s teachings (even publicly) and/or living in a sinful way; bishops, priests, theologians, professors, and teachers who either don’t teach all of the truths of the Church or teach things contrary to what the Church teaches; the scandal of sexual abuse and harassment by some priests and bishops and the way Church leaders handled it; and Catholics who no longer attend Mass or go to confession. Readers can probably think of more problems that we are facing.
We are human and it is normal to become upset at times by the problems caused by the Church’s members. However, discussing these problems endlessly will not solve them. Complaining about them is not a way to become holy. In addition to possibly committing the sins of judgment and detraction when speaking of the sins of individual Catholics, such conversations remove our focus from Jesus — Who is the only reason we are Catholic.
While we need to acknowledge what is wrong, and the problems in the Church do not have to remain secret, as it may be necessary to reveal them so they can be addressed, our response should be to pray, not to worry and not to gossip. We must never forget that we are disciples of Jesus, not of any particular Church leader or member. If we stay close to Jesus and remain faithful to Him, we have no reason to worry or complain. Jesus is the head of the Church and He is always protecting and guiding her.
I am concerned that when Catholics without strong faith, or non-Catholics, hear negative things about the Church from Catholics or read articles about scandals in the Church, they may decide to leave the Faith, or if not already Catholic, not become members. Unfortunately, this has already happened with some Catholics who were so shocked by the abuse by a small number of priests and bishops that they left the Church, not realizing that the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ and not understanding what it means to be a member. It is therefore possible that the negativity of Catholics can be harmful to others. How many Catholics who left the Church heard more about the sins of some of her members from their Catholic friends and the media than about Jesus? How many Catholics who left to join another church because they claimed they didn’t find Jesus in the Catholic Church were aware that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist or understood what happens during the sacrifice of the Mass or knew that the Catholic Church is the true Church founded by Jesus? We need to share the good news, not the bad news. We need to tell people the good news that Jesus became Man, suffered on the cross, and died to save us from our sins, that He rose from the dead, and that we, too, will have eternal life with Him in Heaven if we cooperate with His grace. Before He ascended into Heaven, Jesus asked His Apostles (and us as well) to “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). We need to share the good news about Jesus with everyone.
We need to help others to know about what is good: the importance and beauty of the Mass, the gift of having one’s sins forgiven in confession, the truth of Sacred Scripture, having a relationship with God through prayer, the saints and blesseds, the holy people today who are living as saints, our guardian angels, the feast days of the liturgical year, and the beauty of creation which is a reflection of God.
If people continually hear only about what is wrong, they may cease to notice all that is good. There are couples with happy, truly Catholic marriages, and parents who welcome children and make their homes domestic churches. There are bishops teaching the truth of the Faith. There are dedicated priests who celebrate Mass reverently and spend their time in prayer and in the service of others. There are monks and nuns continually praying for the Church and the world. There are lay people and religious doing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. There are Catholic missionaries (priests, religious, and laity) throughout the world evangelizing and helping the poor. There are college students and young adults who are following the Church’s teachings and attending Mass every Sunday (and often on weekdays too). There are Catholics praying in Adoration to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. There are Catholic lay people offering up their work each day to God and trying to be positive examples to others. There are Bible study groups and book discussion groups on Catholic authors such as Chesterton and Tolkien. There are Catholic writers, artists, architects, and musicians working to show the beauty of the Church. There are Catholic doctors, nurses, and volunteers caring for the sick. These are the stories that need to be told. Jesus said that we are “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14).… “Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:16). Knowing about good, holy Catholics will inspire others in the Church. As St. Paul advised, we need to think about what is good. In his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul wrote, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Phil. 4:8)
Sharing the good news about Jesus and His Church in our conversations and in the media can give encouragement to other faithful Catholics, strengthen the faith of non-practicing Catholics, and be a way to evangelize people outside the Church. No matter what difficulties occur in the Church or in the world, we always have hope because our hope is in Jesus.