Catholic faith can’t therefore be about me and my feelings. It’s about capital-T Truth

10-02-2022Weekly Reflection

A Jesus who agrees with everything and everyone, a Jesus without his holy wrath, without the harshness of truth and true love is not the real Jesus as the Scripture shows but a miserable caricature. A conception of “gospel” in which the seriousness of God’s wrath is absent has nothing to do with the biblical Gospel.
— Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Look Upon Christ

Only a blind man can deny that there's now in the Church great confusion.
— Cardinal Carlo Caffarra

The title of the essay here is from an article by Dr. Samuel Gregg called “A Church Drowning in Sentimentalism” which appeared in Catholic World Report: He makes vital points about the Catholic Faith and the situation of the Church in crisis today. Here are bullet points from the essay along with some commentary.

Whenever I teach graduate seminars, I lay down one rule for the participants. While they’re free to say what they think, they cannot start any sentence with the words “I feel . . .” or ask a question which begins “Don’t you feel . . .?” Quizzical expressions immediately appear on some students’ faces. Then I inform them I couldn’t care less what they feel about the subject-matter. At that point, there’s at least one gasp of astonishment. But before anyone can even think “trigger,” I say, “Perhaps you’re wondering why I’m not interested in your feelings about our topic. Well, I want to know what you think about the subject. We’re not here to emote to each other. We’re here to reason critically together.”

“By Feelings Alone” captures much of the present atmosphere within the Church throughout the West. It impacts how some Catholics view not only the world but the faith itself. At the core of this widespread sentimentalism is an exaltation of strongly-felt feelings, a deprecation of reason, and the subsequent infantilization of Christian faith. So what are symptoms…? One is the widespread use of language in everyday preaching and teaching that’s more characteristic of therapy than words used by Christ and his Apostles. Words like “sin” thus fade and are replaced by “pains,” “regrets” or “sad mistakes.” Sentimentalism likewise rears its head whenever those who offer reasoned defenses of Catholic sexual or medical ethics are told that their positions are “hurtful” or “judgmental.” Truth, it seems, shouldn’t be articulated, even gently, if it might hurt someone’s feelings. If that was true, Jesus should have refrained from telling the Samaritan woman the facts about her marital history.

Sentimentalism also blinds us to the truth that there is—as affirmed by Christ Himself—a place called Hell for those who die unrepentant. Sentimentalism simply avoids the subject. Hell isn’t a topic to be taken lightly, but ask yourself this question: When was the last time you heard the possibility that any of us could end up eternally separated from God mentioned at Mass? Above all, sentimentalism reveals itself in certain presentations of Jesus Christ. The Christ whose hard teachings shocked his own followers and who refused any concession to sin whenever he spoke of love somehow collapses into a pleasant liberal rabbi. This harmless Jesus never dares us to transform our lives by embracing the completeness of truth. Instead he recycles bromides like “everyone has their own truth,” “do whatever feels best,” “be true to yourself,” “embrace your story,” “who am I to judge,” etc. And never fear: this Jesus guarantees heaven, or whatever, for everyone.

Note: You almost will never hear quoted these remarks of Jesus from the Gospel 51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” Luke 15:51-53

The Western world is drowning in sentimentalism. Like everyone else, Catholics are susceptible to the culture in which we live. You’ll soon notice the sheer emotivism pervading popular culture, media, politics, and universities. In this world, morality is about your commitment to particular causes. What matters is how “passionate” (note the language) you are about your commitment and the cause’s degree of political correctness—not whether the cause itself is reasonable to support. Me, myself, and I aren’t the focus of Catholic faith either. Catholicism is, after all, a historical faith. It involves us deciding that we trust those who witnessed to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who transmitted what they saw via written texts and unwritten traditions, and who, we’ve concluded, told the truth about what they saw. That includes the miracles and Resurrection attesting to Christ’s Divinity. Catholicism doesn’t view these as “stories.” To be a Catholic is to affirm that they really happened and that Christ instituted a Church whose responsibility is to preach this to the ends of the earth.

Catholic faith can’t therefore be about me and my feelings. It’s about capital-T Truth. Human fulfillment and salvation consequently involve freely and constantly choosing to conform myself to that Truth. It’s not about subordinating the Truth to my emotions. In fact, if Catholicism isn’t about the Truth, what’s the point? (emphasis added) While natural law reasoning recovered in parts of the Church from the 1980s onwards, we’re paid a price for natural law’s marginalization. And the price is this: once you relegate reason to the periphery of religious faith, you start imagining that faith is somehow independent of reason; or that faith is somehow inherently hostile to reason; or that your religious convictions don’t require explanation to others. The end-result is decreasing concern for the reasonableness of faith. That’s a sure way to end up in the swamp of sentimentalism.

Note: St. Paul reasons from the natural order/law in the Epistle to the Romans chapter 1: 18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. … 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. (emphasis added)

Note: “Welcoming” is not a doctrinal category. When parishes advertise “All Are Welcome,” mischief is afoot, because that almost always is code for the “religion” of political correctness. Hence the teachings of the Church, especially on sexuality, will be altered, silenced or ignored in order to be in accord with the political religion. Neither Pope nor the bishops can alter what comes to us from Apostolic Tradition and Scripture. All are bound to that. The Bishops of Flanders made news recently, because they have manufactured a so-called “blessing” for same-sex couples. Most of the bishops of Germany want the Church to change the teaching on same-sex unions and same-sex sexual activity. These bishops have become heretics or even worse apostates from the Catholic Faith. They give the excuse of “welcoming.” What are they welcoming? They are welcoming mortal sin and separation from God, while invoking God in rejecting His teachings and thus mocking Him. These bishops are endangering their salvation by leading Catholics astray and confirming them in serious sin. They become wolves not shepherds and to the extent that they are organized into groups and synods they are thus an anti-church not the Catholic Church. The only welcome to be advanced is the welcome to the reform of one’s life and accepting the love and teachings of the Christ.

Such bishops ought to heed the words of St. Augustine in his Sermon 340. In that sermon he says being a bishop is a “name for danger!” He says that because of the office entrusted to him, he will be more severely judged. Do the Flemish bishops not realize this? The majority of the German bishops? Do clergy who serve political correctness rather than the Catholic Faith understand this? This anti-church must be defeated and, please God, converted back to the Catholic Faith, repentant of their heresy and/or apostasy and leading others into serious sin. Consider these remarks from Pope John Paul II before he was elected Pope, that The Wall Street Journal reported in 1976:

“We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through. I do not think that wide circles of the American society or wide circles of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel versus the anti-Gospel. This confrontation lies within the plans of divine Providence; it is trial which the whole Church, and the Polish Church in particular, must take up. It is a trial of not only our nation and the Church, but, in a sense, a test of 2,000 years of culture and Christian civilization with all of its consequences for human dignity, individual rights, human rights and the rights of nations.” (emphasis added) In the traditional liturgy there is this prayer: Rejoice, O Virgin Mary, for thou alone have destroyed all heresies. Thou believed the word of the Archangel Gabriel. A virgin still, thou brought forth the God-man; thou bore a Child, O Virgin, and remained a Virgin still. Mother of God, intercede for us. The Rosary was given to St. Dominic and the Dominican Order for the welfare of the Church and to bring the Albigensian heretics back to the Catholic Faith. This is the most powerful means to cleanse the Church and defeat the anti-church and to bring back straying Catholic bishops, clergy, and laity, along with an unbelieving world to the Catholic Faith.