Time to End the Catholic Wars

Division within the Church is not new. From the earliest days, good people have disputed what it means to be part of Christ’s Church. Saints Peter and Paul argued over whether circumcision and following the Jewish laws was necessary for salvation. In recent years, however, the chasm between Catholics of different persuasions seems to be becoming ever wider. There is derision and judgment on all sides. It is painful to watch and to be a part of. There seems to be a litmus test (or perhaps, more accurately, a whole list of litmus tests) for what it means to be a “true” Catholic. Others are termed to be “Catholics in Name Only.” Of course, what it means to be a “true” Catholic depends on where one falls on the spectrum. The questions can be some or all of the following:

1)      Are social justice and environmental issues the most important to you? Do you eat only organic foods? Grow your own food? Buy only free-trade goods? Use cloth diapers? Breastfeed exclusively? Live a preferential option for the poor?

2)      Do you believe that the fullness of Vatican II has not yet been reached? Do you feel that Vatican II was an abomination? Do you feel that only those who attend a Tridentine Mass are authentically Catholic?

3)      Are you open to life? Do you use Natural Family Planning? Do you feel that those who use Natural Family Planning are wrong, that they should simply trust in God’s providence and accept however many children God gives them?

4)      Where do you stand on the matter of conscience? Is there ever a time when questioning and disobeying Church law is appropriate? Or is obedience to the Magisterium the most important thing?

5)      Do you send your children to CCD? Catholic School? Do you homeschool because you feel neither of the other options are Catholic enough?

The simple truth is that there is no litmus test for being Catholic. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “All men are called to this catholic unity of the People of God . . . And to it, in different ways, belong or are ordered: the Catholic faithful, others who believe in Christ, and finally all mankind, called by God’s grace to salvation.”  (CCC 836) There is room for everyone under that umbrella. There are many ways of living out the Catholic faith. When we disagree with how someone is living out their faith, our best recourse is to pray for them and for ourselves. We are called to love one another. That is the mark of a true Christian. We are all sinners in need of God’s mercy. None of us fully live up to the Christian ideal. Our place is not to judge our Catholic brethren.

This week is Holy Week, when we remember Jesus’ death and resurrection. It is important to remember that he died and rose for all of us. May we remember that in our dealings with our fellow Catholics.

Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur


Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur writes from western Massachusetts where she lives with her husband and two sons. A Senior Editor with Catholic Lane.com, she blogs at http://spiritualwomanthoughts.blogspot.com

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  • LarryW2LJ

    Patrice is right on the mark, of course, but this is a tough one. Where does one draw the line?

    When you see certain “Catholic” political figures so blatantly living in opposition to the tenets of our Faith; but yet insist they are faithful Catholics, it seems more than just praying is needed. Lest non-Catholics think we are a “wishy-washy” bunch with no credibility.

    A tough nut, indeed.


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  • kford

    Indeed–“they will know we are Christians by our love!” To all of the questions above, we must consider our motivation. Our motivation to follow our particular Catholic path should be love of God and neighbor. Only then can we be genuinely Catholic in our UNIVERSAL love.

  • lisar

    We must have Bishops in obedience with Rome. That means no communion for pro abortion politicians as they have blood on their hands in their help to kill the innocent. Otherwise, excommunication is necessary. We can not have the faithful seeing them call themselves “faithful Catholics”. I wouldn’t mind the Catholic Church getting smaller and more consistent in the faithful.

    Were slavery and the holocaust right or wrong? Of course wrong; how is that different from abortion? They were all crimes against humanity and will fall through prayer and fasting.

  • I don’t think this is all that complicated. Where we get lost in the weeds is when we debate whether this or that Catholic teaching must be believed in order to be considered a faithful Catholic.

    We have The Catechism of the Catholic Church.

    The most fundamental issue is this: do you or do you not accept the authority of the Catholic Church to bind and loose the Catholic conscience? If you do, then you accept what the Church teaches as binding on your conscience. If you do not, then you reject the authority of the Church. If you reject the authority of the Church, in what sense are you Catholic except as a kind of ethnic or cultural perfume?

    God, indeed, will judge us by our personal conscience. Anyone who rejects the authority of the Church as a matter of conscience is free to do so and to trust in the mercy of God, as do we all. But the right to call oneself a Catholic is much simpler than that: you are or are not a Catholic based on shared belief and faith, such as whether you accept the teaching authority of the Church as more than advisory.

    There is no “mostly Catholic” in the definition of Catholic. You either are or you are not on the basis of a rather easy definition. We are all sinners and fall short of almost every spiritual ideal, but sin is not incompatible with the act of faith. The Church has authority or it doesn’t. End of story. Let’s have more intellectual honesty and integrity and less of this cheap grace.

  • drea916

    There are things that Catholics can vary on. Then there are things that we can’t. The bigger issue today is Catholics who don’t hold the very basic beliefs, yet call themselves Catholic.

    To use NFP or not, either CAN BE correct. (The Church teaches that there can be reasons to postone preganancy using NFP) HOWEVER, what is more typical is “Catholics” who are contracepting and get all pissed that you tell them they can’t contracept (or advocate for abortion, or get a divorce or whatever. Ususally regarding sex) They use all those same lines above. (Pelsosi, anyone?)

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  • consecrata

    I’m not sure I understand…there are many ways of living out the Catholic faith – that’s what Nancy Pelosi said and continues to say which confuses many Catholics. Sure,there are individual ways of living one’s faith but there are certain things that are definitely NOT according to the Catholic faith – one among many is performing abortions, legislating on behalf of abortion; there are Catholics who publicly proclaim that sex before marriage is okay, a personal choice, and who also say that having an affair with someone other than one’s spouse is okay as long as no one gets hurt. There are those who say and teach that cheating on an exam is okay because you really need to get into a particular College so that you may serve the good of mankind once you get your degree. There are those who claim that selling drugs is okay because they enhance the mind’s creative ability and being creative can benefit many; there are those who publicly claim that men having sex with boys is good and healthy and who urge legislation that would permit this, saying it would free up children to enjoy the natural pleasures of sex; there are those who claim that it is good to teach the way of homosexual sex to young children in schools because that will keep them from being biased and will open to them a new and healthy understanding of different types of sexual activity. There are Catholic Nuns who stand against Catholic teaching on many issues and teach others to do likewise claiming that this will help others to think for themselves and not be limited by the oppressiveness of Catholic teaching…and so on…sure there are different individual ways of living our faith – and there are ways and situations in which the faith is not being lived…we need to be clear about this.

  • Claire

    I think Drea916 hit the nail on the head. Church teaching can’t be compromised. Other things, such as exclusive/extended breastfeeding, cosleeping, baby-wearing and homeschooling, which some Catholics pretend are essential to being faithful Catholics, are actually optional.

  • GaryT

    “The simple truth is that there is no litmus test for being Catholic.”
    How about The Nicene Creed? The 10 commandments (or the two greatest)? Believing the church was founded by Jesus Christ? Believing the church contains the fullness of the truth?

  • Joe DeVet

    Like many commenters already, I respectfully decline to “end the Catholic wars” when the war is between orthodox belief and practice on the one hand and error or outright rejection of dogma or doctrine on the other.

    We did not declare this war, but we must battle–an appropriate word–with those who would diminish the fullness of Catholic teaching.

    I agree there should not be “war” between those who follow all the teachings, but place emphases in different areas. But that’s not the real point of the “wars,” which must continue to be waged over substantive issues.

    On the evening of the day after tomorrow, thousands of new converts across this country will stand before their congregations and make this bold proclamation: “I believe and profess everything the Catholic Church believes, teaches, and professes to be revealed by God.”

    Realistically, this declaration reflects affirmation of teachings as well as obedience to the authority of the Church, and agreement with who the Church says she is. We can all profit by examining ourselves to see if we are in solidarity with the declaration of faith by these wonderful people who have labored, studied, and sacrificed to join our ranks. Praise be to God who has called them to us!

  • LarryW2LJ

    Makes you wonder that when the baptismal promises are renewed this coming Easter Sunday, how many will really, from their hearts, mean it.

    I, for one, never take for granted the meaning behind this ceremony. I never merely mumble the “I do” but answer in a loud and strong voice and encourage my children to do the same.

  • It appears that our modernist friend above neglected those paragraphs in the Catechism that put the lie to her assertion; you know, the ones that directly follow the paragraph she quoted:

    837 “Fully incorporated into the society of the Church are those who, possessing the Spirit of Christ, accept all the means of salvation given to the Church together with her entire organization, and who – by the bonds constituted by the profession of faith, the sacraments, ecclesiastical government, and communion – are joined in the visible structure of the Church of Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops. Even though incorporated into the Church, one who does not however persevere in charity is not saved. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but ‘in body’ not ‘in heart.'”

    838 “The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter.” Those “who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church.” With the Orthodox Churches, this communion is so profound “that it lacks little to attain the fullness that would permit a common celebration of the Lord’s Eucharist.”

    So how many exclusions to the modernist’s washed out, gray and meaningless version of catholicism can we find in these two paragraphs?

    1. To be a Catholic you must be baptized in the proper form and matter.
    2. You must accept all means of salvation given to the Church. No doubts about the real presence on the altar or the efficacy of confession will be allowed.
    3. You must accept the authority of the Pope and the Bishops, acting through the Magisterium.
    4. Catholics are bound by the profession of faith; the Nicene Creed. You must believe that every word spoken in the Creed is true. No wiggle room is allowed.
    5. Even if you have been baptized in the proper form and matter by another church you are not considered Catholic. Your Christian faith is imperfect and will need to be reconciled to the Catholic faith before you can receive the benefits of Christ’s salvific action.

    While number 5 may seem, I don’t know, so unnecessarily divisive to the modernist mind it is after all taught in the Catechism. Unfortunately, our author above overlooked that, too.

    “Outside the Church there is no salvation”

    846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:

    Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.

    So what is modernism? According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:

    “The general idea of modernism may be best expressed in the words of Abbate Cavallanti, though even here there is a little vagueness: “Modernism is modern in a false sense of the word; it is a morbid state of conscience among Catholics, and especially young Catholics, that professes manifold ideals, opinions, and tendencies. From time to time these tendencies work out into systems, that are to renew the basis and superstructure of society, politics, philosophy, theology, of the Church herself and of the Christian religion”.

    In other words, to the modernist there are no absolutes. One idea is as good as the next and to judge a belief system against the wisdom of the past is archaic and irrelevant. God is not what he is, the eternal “I am who am”, but instead is held hostage to the personal beliefs and values of the individual. Modernism is the root of modern liberalism, a system of beliefs that holds the individual has primacy over everything, that he is a free agent with no restraint against his actions our understandings of the world around him.

    To the modernist there is only emotion and personal desire. Right and wrong can only be defined in how they work to either restrain or advance the needs of the individual, regardless of the cost to society. Modernism and narcissism share the same basic flaws in their self centered destructive blindness to the truth.

    Modernism is a lie and as a lie it is evil. It has infected the Church to such an extent that we now have the homosexual abuse crisis and the USCCB supporting Marxist government initiatives against the clear and consistent teachings of Holy Mother Church. The pews have become empty and why shouldn’t they be. So many of the priests of the Church are Modernists at heart and don’t believe that what they are teaching is any more true that what the Baptist preacher or Buddhist monk down the street believe. And if the priests don’t believe it, them why should the parishioner?

    America and the world need to divorce themselves from this fallacy. Truth exists and it IS knowable. We must honestly search to find it and accept it, following it wherever it leads us. Until mankind realizes that there is one greater than themselves and accepts the fact He has created rules that we must follow we will continue to wallow in a cesspool of moral ambiguity and vain-glorious self destruction. Modernism plays to the goals of Satan and those that follow him in designing our “New World Order”. Because we no longer believe in objective truth we cannot recognize destructive evil.

    We are beginning to reap the crops sown by Modernism. Pray for all of us.

  • Amazing. This wondeful, gentle soul of a Catholic mom points out that Catholics ought not to fight over peripheral matters but rather demonstrate Christian charity and bear with one another and her words are taken out of context and she is made out to be a heretic. Did any of you wicked judges bother to read the mass of her other articles on this site — there are over 250 of them!!! — to see if you can scrape up real evidence of her modernist errors? I challenge you to read all her articles and conclude that she is anything else but our darling faithful sister in the Lord. And she, like our Lord, has kept silence before her accusers. Patrice, I am so proud of you.