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Why are Catholics so disobedient?

None of us is immune from the temptation to dissent

By on Monday, 18 November 2013

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux is renowned for her fidelity and obedience (CNS)

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux is renowned for her fidelity and obedience (CNS)

Catholic Cravings, a delightful blog by an Australian, Laura McAlister, which I sometimes read so as not to feel quite so old and jaded, lists “Five Short Ways to get to Heaven, according to the Saints”. As I am always attracted to short cuts, bargain offers and so on, I checked it out: obedience, with a quote from St John Bosco; Holy Communion, with a quote from St Pius X; littleness, with a quote from St Therese of Lisieux; faithfulness to the Holy Spirit, with a quote from St Faustina; and Our Lady, with a quote from St Louis de Montfort who wrote, “The Blessed Mother…is the safest, easiest, shortest and most perfect way of approaching Jesus.”

It all seems so simple – so why do we often get it so wrong? I don’t mean that we can become perfect overnight; that’s the hard part – we are all sinners (as Pope Francis reminded us recently with his definition of himself as “a sinner”) so perfection is a long and daily slog. What I mean is: why are Catholics so often so disobedient to the Church’s teachings? Only yesterday I read in the Sunday Telegraph that a high-profile, very rich and influential Catholic, Melinda Gates no less, is quoted as saying, “I use contraceptives. I believe in contraceptives, my friends use contraceptives. And so, if I believe in this for myself – and for my daughters and other women – I said to myself, “How could I not speak out about this?” How indeed.

Kenneth D Whitehead, in a LifeSiteNews article, expands on this disobedience. He says that a recent poll in the US found that 53% of Catholics who attend Mass weekly and 65% of those who attend less frequently would favour a law legalising same-sex marriage. The same poll found that 52% and 66% of the same groups were in favour of the ordination of women. He comments: “There does seem to be a considerable gap today between what the Church teaches and what some Catholics apparently believe and follow.” He adds that “Open dissent from the Church’s teaching on birth control has been a regrettable feature of the Church’s life for nearly half a century” and that it has “rarely been corrected by Church authority.” He concludes that “Contemporary Catholics…evidently sincerely believe that being a Catholic no longer entails the acceptance of Catholic moral teaching.”

What would St John Bosco, St Therese, St Louis de Montfort and St Faustina think of this? That such dissent won’t get you to Heaven, at least by the quick route. The five ways listed above actually combine together in one person: Our Lady. She was obedient, humble, faithful to the Holy Spirit and lived in daily Communion with her divine Son. In almost all her authenticated apparitions she is shown with a Rosary (I think Guadalupe is the exception) and asks that Catholics pray this devotion daily. If we were more obedient to her request there might be fewer dissenters in the Church. A good way to start, which I highly recommend since a friend told me about it, would be to read St Louis de Montfort’s “The Secret of the Rosary”.

All this week, to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of CS Lewis, the Book of the Week will be The Screwtape Letters, read at 9.45 on Radio 4 by Simon Russell Beale. Lewis wrote that readers should remember that “the devil is a liar.” His biggest lie is to get dissenting and disobedient Catholics to believe that neither he nor Hell exist and that they can make up their own minds about Catholic moral teaching and still think they are in good standing with the Church. None of us is immune from the temptation to dissent.