Healing the Body of Christ

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You may have heard about the controversial Cincinnati Catholic school contracts, which require teachers not to publicly support things contrary to Church teaching. If you haven’t heard about it, here”s CNN”s story highlighting all the teachers that are terrified of being fired; for whatever reason, the reporter didn”t bother to find anyone who thought it might be a good idea.

If you’re a faithful Catholic, you’re probably annoyed that the media at large portray this new policy as bigotry and intimidation when it’s obviously not. You might be irritated at Pope Francis for saying “who am I to judge?” And you’re probably impatient with the teachers who so stupidly want to live a life contrary to Catholic teaching, then go and teach at a Catholic school. I mean, come on.

Hold it. Let’s consider that maybe these teachers aren’t stupid. Probably the ones most frustrated by this new policy are the ones who have been teaching there for a long time, which puts them at maybe late 40s to early 60s. The vast majority of Catholics that age had horrible catechesis when they were coming of age. (Does anyone else mentally brace themselves when they walk into a new parish and see that the priest is about that old?)

I don’t mean that many in this generation haven’t heard the natural law arguments illustrating why two people of the same sex can’t marry or why IVF doesn’t jive with the Catholic understanding of marriage, sexuality, and life. I mean many in this generation lived through Vatican II and its immediate aftermath, which included major scandal by some prominent and respected Catholic bishops and theologians, the Dolans and Chaputs of that generation. Major scandal like taking out a full-page ad in The New York Times publicly dissenting from Humane Vitae.

This generation pretty much missed something crucial: the idea that the Church has authority, speaks authoritatively on doctrinal matters, and can’t online casino change doctrine. (For more on this, read Ralph McInerny’s What Went Wrong with Vatican II?)

We can blame them for not knowing and assenting to what they’ve never been taught, but I don’t think we should. Instead of whining, complaining, finger-pointing, and exasperated sighing, we should evangelize. Like, with love and understanding and patience and all that stuff.

We ought to recognize that it’s not necessarily their fault they didn’t get a good education, and we should see that as unfortunate, not threatening. We should see what we can learn from them.

It’s not about us versus them, not about our egos or our feeling of superiority because we’re “better Catholics.” Your faith, your education and understanding of the faith, your relationship with God is hardly your doing. Did you choose your awesome faithful-Catholic parents? Did you found the great Catholic school you attended? Did you arrange the event or conversation that made you wonder about the faith or give yourself the drive that brought you to seek the truth?

Don’t blow off the role of other people, and the role of grace. Be grateful, be humble, and quit patting yourself on the back. This is about healing the body of Christ, not about being better than those “so-called Catholics.”

Mary C. Tillotson

Mary C. Tillotson

Mary C. Tillotson is reporter for Watchdog.org, covering education reform issues across the country. She is co-founder and blogger at The Mirror Magazine and founder of Vocation Story. She tries to blog at The Earth and the Ether. A Michigan native, she lives in Virginia with her husband, Luke.

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28 thoughts on “Healing the Body of Christ”

  1. Avatar

    Excellent article. I am of the age group that you speak of. I was not old enough to really understand what was going on but all of a sudden all of my teachers that I liked were gone. All the sisters and brothers (and some priests) were leaving the Church. Liberals did great damage to the Church after Vatican II. I recently heard a talk by Sister Ann Shields of Renewal Ministries where she talked about the devastating effect the so called ‘spirit’ of Vatican II had on her. It almost destroyed her faith and she ended up being treated for depression. Vatican II itself was not the cause of these things but as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI called it the council of the media. Sounds familiar huh….same thing is going on today.But the Church survived as it always will because Jesus told us it would. And there were enough faithful Catholics that kept on keeping on practicing the Faith. Remember that the next time you see an old man or woman saying the Rosary in an Adoration chapel and say a little prayer of thanks. You are right to still be a little wary…. while the ‘spirit’ of Vatican II crowd is fading they seem stronger than they really are because they are a tool of the liberal media which is very much anti Catholic. So when some 70 something year old ex nun wanna be priestess says that abortion is ok it will be headline news. Meanwhile faithfull Catholics all over will be praying in front of abortion facilities.

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  3. Avatar

    Soooo hits the nail on the head. Spot on!

    I agree so much that these people are somewhat ‘victims’ (not all, as some are deliberately trying to stir things up or prey on the vulnerable) as you describe. Pointing to McInerney’s book on understanding Vatican II is so important, too. It’s a shame people have gone quiet about him since his death.

    Sadly, one thing I have noticed, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, is what seems to be a growing trend of using the criteria in Sherry Weddell’s, Forming Intentional Disciples, to judge ‘the commitment’ of their fellow parishioners, as if there is really a ‘5% club’ of which they are part, and their fellow parishioners aren’t. They also see it as their job to lift ‘them’ up (the pew-fodder hoi polloi or ‘little people’ 95%) to where they’re at, which ends up with incredibly patronising programmes because they haven’t listened at all, but merely assert that ‘It’ll be good for you!’, because they’re the experts.

    Now, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with, the book, Forming Intentional Disciples, or even the notion of Intentional Disciples as an ideal. In fact, my copy has pencil highlights and scribbles all over it, as it has lots of great insights, but it’s not ‘canonical’, a rule by which we can judge.

    The similar thing is being done, but not as much, with George Weigel’s, Evangelical Catholicism. Again, great book, but it is not a ‘hermeneutical lens’ through which to assess, judge, or measure, one’s parish or ‘who’s in’ and ‘who’s out’.

    In my experience, these psychological splits don’t stay that way for long, but become externalised in manifold tiny ways, and ‘leach’ into the parish, through little bits of negative body language, insincere smiles, how/who one talks to, and who one ignores, which can end up really splitting congregations. To adapt Matthew 15.18, ‘Out of the heart the body speaks.’

    I call it the Catholic Procrustean Bed mentality.

    I would highly recommend Scott Hahn’s latest book, Evangelizing Catholics: A Mission Manual for the New Evangelization, as it deals with the things you’re focussing on, and in the same sensitive manner, I feel.

    1. Avatar
      Mary C. Tillotson

      Hi OTTF, thanks for your comment. I read Forming Intentional Disciples, which I thought was fantastic, but I haven’t read the other ones you mentioned (they sound awesome). I agree, using these criteria to judge and categorize people is a problem.

      I think anytime you look down your nose at those people — whether it’s those Catholics or those politicians or those celebrities — you’re not acknowledging their human dignity like you ought. (I don’t mean you specifically, I mean “you” in general, anyone.)

      So if you’re going to read the book and say “this is great! Let’s put on a retreat to get everyone fired up about Jesus!” that’s fantastic. Do it. We need more of this.

      But if you’re going to read it and say “God, I thank you that I am not like those people: contacepters, adulterers, homosexuals, or even singers of ‘Ashes.’ I use NFP and vote pro-life” then, well, I think that is called “pride” and it is a sin.

      cf: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+18%3A9-14

      1. Avatar
        Mary C. Tillotson

        “those” people — for some reason the italics didn’t work; I tried to italicize every word “those.” In any case, “those” should be said with an eye roll or something. Raised eyebrows, maybe.

  4. Avatar

    The Trads denigration of Vatican 2 is truly a mystery to me. Their reclusion into havens where mass is recited in an unknown language, in segregated communities that are secluded from the overwhelming majority, seems egocentric.
    When I attend mass everyone but the celebrant and attendants are screened
    out of my periphery and it is just God and I. Worshiping with crass Catholics
    – as some view them – is not such a bad thing when you consider that these
    sheep are most likely “fighting harder battles.” One last note on the 2nd council is the opening statement: On non Christian religions,: ‘ We reject nothing that is true.” they affirmed. It is so interesting, that it took 40 plus years – for the Holy Ghost – to inspire Saint John Paul to put the statue of Buddha on the altar at Assisi. And now we have Francis banging on the upper rooms where the ultra consrvatives bemoan the apparent loss of ritual and tradition, telling them that preaching only ‘ rules and the church” is not necessarily the same as preaching Jesus Christ.

    1. Avatar
      Mary C. Tillotson

      Hi James, thanks for your comment. A professor I know was really bothered when he heard about the Buddha on the altar, and he looked into it — according to what he found, John Paul didn’t want it there, but someone else was taking care of the details and put it there anyway, and John Paul didn’t find out about it until Mass had started. Then it was a pastoral decision to put up with it (which he did) or publicly remove it at the beginning of Mass. Whether he made a good or bad decision I do not know. But I do agree that “rules” are good but not sufficient. Jesus is a person, and we can incorporate the human dimension without throwing out the “rules.”

      1. Avatar

        Thank you for the clarification. I heard it was put there as a gesture
        and he did remove it for the Mass. His purpose at Asissi was to show a respect for all faiths. I am a great believer in Jesus’ wish
        that all may be one and I’m sure it will be a millenium long hard process that will someday bear fruit quite unique in form.

      2. Avatar
        Catholic Fast Food Worker

        I’m all for Ecumenism (which is concerned with Christians only, especially to our Eastern Orthodox brothers & sisters, who are so close to us already) & Inter-Religious Outreach (which concerns Non-Christians, especially to the bloody Muslims who explicitly deny the Crucifixion of Christ Jesus- the greatest act of love- on their Quran but need God’s love the most). I’m all for that, but it must be true Ecumenism & true Inter-Religious Outreach (that seeks their full embrace of Christ & His Church) not just simply endless politically correct “dialogue” that usually might end in our Catholic Faith being compromised out of fear of not “offending” & being “mean” by spreading the true Gospel. We need to challenge Non-Catholics & Non-Christians. Challenge them with the claims of the Gospel (salvation, Resurrection, Son of God, Trinity, Mary, St. Peter as the Rock).

      3. Avatar
        Mary C. Tillotson

        Maybe he did remove it. I haven’t looked into it too much myself since it hasn’t really been a stumbling block for me. I figure, either he meant something that I don’t understand fully or he made a mistake, and neither scenario shakes my faith any. The main thing is that someone else was taking care of all the little details, so we should hesitate before putting all the blame on John Paul.

        @james and @CatholicFastFoodWorker:
        As far as ecumenism in general and whether John Paul made a good or bad pastoral decision, I’m going to let you two hash it out. I’m sure you both have lots of helpful things to say but it’s not really my area of expertise, so I’ll leave you with my two cents on ecumenism and call it good.

        First: We should always recognize that whoever we talk to, whether Buddhist, atheist, lapsed Catholic, kindhearted Democrat, or angry jerk-face, is made in the image and likeness of God and ought to be treated as such. So for example we probably shouldn’t call anyone an angry jerk-face.

        Second: We should find common ground. There is always something, whether it’s a desire to live a good life, a sense of morality (though we may differ in what that looks like exactly), a quandary about suffering, etc. Of course, this is a starting point and not the finish line.

        Third: We shouldn’t pretend something is true when it’s not, so for example we shouldn’t pretend to “agree” with, say, Buddhists on the nature of God. We don’t agree with them. Once we’ve established goodwill and common ground, then we can start talking through our disagreements.

      4. Avatar

        ” Buddhists on the nature of God. We don’t agree with them.” And they don’t agree with us.
        The fullness of Truth, as it has become to be known, is what others have that we don’t. Take Purgatory. A half hatched idea that is undefined and completely opaque, while eastern deism, older by a millenium, has a perfect notion of our Purgatory – even as theirs has a need to be refined too. The gospels are ripe for an unbiased blending of this concept and it is only Agustinian era pride that prevents this from happening. Other than that, there creed and disciplines are very much like our own. It is necessary to note that Buddhists agree with our notion of the soul, believe that every life gets a new one (rebirth) while Hinduism, a much higher and more developed form, believes that every soul continues a journey (reincarnation) by the process of transmigration. And the most important reminder is that these religions are never going to blink on that doctrine. Good luck on ” talking through our disagreements”, Mary.

      5. Avatar
        Catholic Fast Food Worker

        I had never heard of St. John Paul & the Buddha-altar thing. I know of the Assisi Interreligious meeting years ago but not about the Buddha thing. I hope it’s not true. To place a statue of a false idol (that many around the world still worship) on an Altar that belongs to the Holy Sacrifice of the Lamb of God ALONE would be a sacrilege (whatever the intentions). Christ is our Lord present in the Eucharist & the Holy Catholic Church is His Bride & (like all unions between a man & a woman) His Mystical Body. In the Old Testament, God commanded His People Israel to keep clean His Temple & to keep ALL prostitutes (false idols) OUT… especially out off the Holy of Holies. A Catholic Altar is close to the Tabernacle & is where His Eternal Sacrifice is made present, NO prostitute belongs there. God forgive us if the story is true (which I haven’t found any sources to confirm it).

  5. Avatar
    Elizabeth Jarzombek

    Okay…sure…let’s evangelize. But if my child is struggling with same sex attraction and is attending Catholic school I wouldn’t want someone who REFUSES to accept Church teaching on the matter telling my child he was “born that way” and that he should “embrace” his true sexuality.

    1. Avatar
      Mary C. Tillotson

      Hi Elizabeth, thanks for your comment. I totally understand where you’re coming from. I don’t mean to say “doctrinal orthodoxy doesn’t matter” — of course it does, especially when people are in positions where they’re teaching (teachers, pastors, etc.). If I were in the situation you describe, I would have someone else teach my child, maybe move him to a different school or homeschool or something like that. What I tried to say in my article is that, when we do that, we shouldn’t take the attitude of “that teacher is a horrible monster” or “that teacher is really stupid for not getting it” but rather “that teacher is also a child of God, and it’s so unfortunate that (s)he doesn’t understand the Church’s teaching on this.” We should pray for him/her and, if our situation allows, try to understand where (s)he’s coming from, etc. That teacher may have a beautiful insight into some other part of the faith that we hadn’t thought of before, and may help us understand the struggles and difficulties (s)he has had with the Church’s teaching on marriage, which (in addition to being a key teaching moment, time to explain marriage) can bring us to a deeper understanding of that person, of human nature, etc. Does that make sense? Yes, take your child out of the classroom because you have a responsibility as a parent to make sure your child learns the faith — including the Church’s teaching on marriage, and the Church’s teaching that everyone (even our enemies) ought to be treated with human dignity. I don’t think it has to be either/or.

      1. Avatar
        Elizabeth Jarzombek

        So are you saying that a teacher who ABSOLUTELY REFUSES to stop teaching contrary to Catholic doctrine should be allowed to keep his or her job? Of course every effort should be made to correct with love. But (s)he should only get so many opportunities to let the idea sink in before (s)he is removed from the position of being able to influence impressionable minds. Most organizations will not keep someone on staff who continually speaks contrary to that groups ideas and goals.

      2. Avatar
        Mary C. Tillotson

        Hi Elizabeth, sorry, I was looking at that from the perspective of a parent, not the principal. I do think a teacher who insists on teaching what’s contrary to the Catholic faith should be removed from a position of teaching at a Catholic school; I didn’t mention it in my previous comment because typically it’s the principal (or other administrator), not the parent, who manages staff at the school. I think it makes sense for parents to bring their concerns to the principal (and I think they have every right to be upset about it). But staffing is ultimately the principal’s call, and if nothing is going to change, it seems like the parent would have a responsibility to find a different way of providing for their child’s education, either at a different school or homeschooling or a lot of substantial conversations over dinner, or whatever will work in their situation.

        But I do think, when a principal is dismissing a teacher, the same principle of respect for human dignity would apply. The principal shouldn’t roll his or her eyes and say “what a dumb teacher” or sent snarky, holier-than-thou letters home to all the parents explaining why Mrs. So-and-so will not be teaching here next year. I think there are ways of dismissing that teacher that still respect his or her dignity as a human being *and* respect the integrity of the Catholic school.

        Perhaps the principal can have a private conversation with the teacher and let him or her know that this is a Catholic school and teachers are expected to uphold Catholic doctrine. If the teacher refuses, the principal can (depending on the situation) help the teacher find materials to better understand the Church’s position, or (if the teacher is not open to that) tell the teacher the school will no longer be able to employ him or her as long as (s)he is holding that non-Catholic position.

        Exactly how to have that conversation would require prudence and a good understanding of the situation, but this is one way it could be done. I think the principal of a Catholic school should refuse to employ someone who openly contradicts Catholic teaching (for all the reasons you describe), but that principal should also refuse to treat the person as anything less than beloved by God.

        I think here we can take a cue from St. Joseph, who, when he found out Mary was pregnant, initially thought he shouldn’t marry her. He didn’t hold her up in the public square and mock her for becoming pregnant (apparently) out of wedlock, but he also didn’t passively go along with the wedding; he planned to divorce her quietly. (This is of course before he was told it was okay and he should marry her.) That is a way of (a) dealing with the situation (b) respectfully.

      3. Avatar
        Mary C. Tillotson

        I knew it! I knew we agreed on this. It was just a matter of getting it all articulated. Thanks for your questions, you really helped me flesh this out!

  6. Avatar

    Those of us who fall into that age range are in a unique position to make a difference. Not all of us fell for the “spirit” of Vatican II.
    I am someone who grew up in the times you are talking about, and who saw her 9 siblings leave the church. My oldest sister left the convent in 1969 and has been a new age pagan ever since. She is now in her later 60s. I see glimmers of hope in the near future for her.
    THE GOOD NEWS: I was blessed with an incredibly strong love for the Catholic Church and all she believes and teaches. I have been praying non-stop for 40 years for all of my siblings. Two have returned to the church. I have stood up to the Catholic grade school teachers to be sure my children were taught the Catholic truths – successfully. I worked as an obstetrical RN for many years, standing firm against being forced to do terminations – encouraging others to also stand with their consciences. For the past 14 years I have taught science at a Catholic high school . I have never backed down when the need to challenge the secular thinking (abortion, contraception, heretical practices) arose. Result? We are much truer to the magisterium than in the previous 20 years.
    It is the witness of our daily lives, bolstered by much prayer and patience that allows God to use us for his purposes.

    1. Avatar

      “… that allows God to use us for his purposes.”
      And all of the above is good and true – but don’t think for one minute that
      9 out of 10 (in your case) weren’t used for God’s purposes either.

      1. Avatar

        Allright, James, You may have a point – but you are missing the more obvious one. MANY were not allowing God to use them for his purposes – they were bearing “negative” fruit, so to speak. They seem to be serving a different master….

      2. Avatar

        Therese, my take on birth and life and living is that each of us are here to teach others a lesson. WE are all here to learn, that includes our church and its magisterium. The question is, what lesson was the former being taught ?
        Granted, ‘negative fruit’ was eaten, license was abused.
        However, our church examined its conscience and fessed
        up and apologised for glaring abuses throughout history
        and then begun the very long process of reconciliation with
        the world’s other Christians. I hope those family members
        you are so rightly praying for come full circle – but if they
        don’t I hope you know that God loves them as much as you
        and they are still in His hands.

      3. Avatar
        Catholic Fast Food Worker

        james, you having a “take” on life & birth is all nice & all, but what matters most is the Salvation that Jesus Christ brings to us. God loves us but He demands true repentance before granting forgiveness. His Son didn’t die for Nothing. He died on the Cross for our dirty, prideful ugly SINS. So we must first humbly admit we’re sinners in order to receive God’s grace. This Grace is fully found within the Holy Sacraments of the Catholic Church. There is no Salvation outside the Catholic Church, this has been the orthodox teaching of the Church since her beginning. Peace.

    2. Avatar
      Mary C. Tillotson

      Therese — yes! I know someone of your generation who, despite all the craziness, came through everything with his faith intact, and his faith has inspired me probably more than anyone else’s. It’s so wonderful to hear about your siblings returning to the Church, etc. I agree that you and others in your generation are in a GREAT position to evangelize and catechize the rest of your generation. I’m a 20-something millennial, and I often don’t know the best way to balance respect for elders (who, for what they may lack in orthodoxy, have more life experience and often more wisdom than I have) with catechesis. You know? I do have a lot to learn still, not just doctrinal things but life things, and I don’t think it helps anyone if I am the obnoxious young know-it-all. Not that I shouldn’t evangelize and catechize, but that we have different skills, experiences, backgrounds, etc., and sometimes words coming from someone of your generation will resonate better than the same words coming from someone of my generation. (And in different circumstances, vice versa. That’s why God made all of us.)

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