After Abuse Reports, 4 Ways to Harness Your Holy Anger
Train yourself in the art of spiritual fight. Learn how you can make a difference.
I hate authority.
I am not using the word “hate” flippantly here like a child who does not want to eat his broccoli. The thought of having to follow orders fills my being with dread and rebellion. Because of that hatred, after so many years of resistance and search, I found myself in the Catholic Church. I am Catholic becauseI hate authority —not despite.
If you find that sentence contradictory, or if you have been questioning whether the Catholic Church deserve your obedience, please, read on.
As a child, absolute obedience was the key to the well-oiled machine of my daily life. It started in the mosque. As mere slaves of Allah, no Muslim possessed the right or the intellect to question Allah, Muhammad or the Quran. A constant reminder was in place with every prayer, every ablution and every prostration. If you passed gas while in the mosque, you would have to leave, repeat the ablution and then come back in. This might sound ridiculous until we remember that Jewish priests walked into the Holy of Holies in the Temple with a length of rope tied around their ankles. If a priest died while in the most holy space, then other priests would be able to pull him out using the rope. Absolute holiness demands absolute reverence and absolute obedience.
The problem with Allah is that even though reverence was there, holiness was not. After all, holiness and truth are not fragile glass ornaments that would break at the touch of skepticism and questions. But Islam crumbles under questions. Obedience stemming from servile fear is blind.
Then, I resisted authority with atheism, thinking that since there was no God, then everyone was his own authority. As a communist, any authority I expected from myself or anyone else in the imaginary communist state came first from coercion by giving absolute power to the state. After a while, everyone magically would start coexisting peacefully and there would be no need for use of force. But until that wonderful day, we would all have to get in line under the all-knowing and just thumb of the state.
Alas, my understanding of human nature was so deeply flawed that I actually thought heaven on earth was possible. A sober reading of history and an honest examination of one’s heart and life reveal that the problem of humanity runs much deeper than economy or class struggle. Poking and prodding about justice, fairness, dignity, crime or sin brings many shortcomings of an atheistic worldview to day light. Atheism crumbles under questions. Obedience stemming from coercion is blind.
With a background like mine, the Lord had to get it through my thick head that Jesus had actually lived, died and rose from the dead, a feat that has yet to be duplicated. When, I finally accepted where all the evidence led, I was relieved to know that I did not have to bow to anyone. During the first few months of my conversion, I even refused to bow my head when I prayed. But, something always bugged me about the Ascension: How could Christ leave us without any shepherds? Did He not know how easily we strayed from the straight and the narrow? What about His talk about unity? Did He not ask St. Peter over and over to feed His sheep? How could I trust my own judgement on any given matter, even with the help of the Bible? Haven’t I shown how fallen and feeble I am?
Sola Scriptura crumbled under questions. Self-declared authority is blind.
But Christ does not let the blind guide the blind. That divine sanction is what makes the mission of the Catholic Church different from all others. Christ would not —did not— leave His sheep without shepherds. The Holy Spirit would not —does not— leave Mother Church without guidance. Regardless of how we found our way, one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church is our home. We believe, and in her history we clearly see, that she will endure. Yet, the Church is run by men — and sin, sometimes awful, unbelievable sin, creeps in the place where countless saints tread. As the faithful strive to fulfill the Great Commission and to turn the tide of the culture, Satan works to thwart any attempt to get more souls into Heaven.
Because of free will and concupiscence, when a person is bestowed authority over us, we are bound by filial obedience, not servile or self-declared obedience. The Church is a family, not the military or a plantation. Our superiors are given authority over us as fathers or mothers who are striving to do the will of God. As far as they continue to do the will of God, we owe them our obedience, because we know that the Lord only wills our good and desires to spend eternity with Him. This familial order is perfect when everyone involved is genuinely is a man or a woman after God’s own heart. When sin enters into this relationship, however, as son and daughters of God who are equal before the Throne, we are allowed to question authority.
The Catholic Church and her divine sanction are not made of sugar where some rain or even a hurricane will make her melt and disappear. Instead she was built upon the rock where gates of Hell will not prevail. Through the apostolic succession, the Second Person of the Trinity literally comes under the roof of every faithful Catholic through the Eucharist. This is a Church of daily miracles, and she will not crumble under questions. Obedience stemming from filial love follows the will of God, eyes open wide.
Since we are not bound to servile obedience, then when we should obey and when we should respectfully raise questions become important. Here is what my authority-hating self finds helpful.
First, pray hard. Ask for Our Lady’s intercession so that you will have the courage and humility to say: “Thy will be done.” Fast. Do penance. Raise heaven for the conversion of the sinners.
Second, examine your conscience. If you disagree with a Church teaching or what a priest or a bishop or even a pope says, step back and examine your conscience. Are you disagreeing because you are offended as a result of sin in your life? Pride, perhaps? Maybe, you don’t want to stop contracepting because it is hard to surrender? Maybe, you are unwilling to forgive? Maybe, you do not want to offend anyone by following Christ?
One of the biggest stumbling blocks leading to my confirmation was the teachings of Humanae Vitae. I found it absolutely ridiculous that the Church forbade surrogate pregnancy and IVF. However, in that encyclical the perennial teaching of the faith was laid out and the magisterium was clear on the subject. I had already made a decision of filial obedience in matters of faith and doctrine, even when I did not agree. Therefore, I accepted the possibility that I did not understand. I set aside my pride and bowed my head. Years later, I am now awed at the beauty, complexity and holiness of the teachings of Humanae Vitae.
Humbly accept that you may be inclined to disagree because of sin; repent and show due obedience to Holy Mother Church.
What if, however, your disagreement is justified?
Third, be courageous. If anything, recent events made us question the authority of our shepherds. If a priest says something that doesn’t line up with the faith; if a bishop asks you to do something sinful, to behave against chastity, or to keep your silence when there is injustice or corruption; if a pope seems to contradict previous teachings in matters of doctrine and faith or leaves you wondering where the line is, as a part of the Church you are obligated to speak up.
Fourth, stay and fight. When our country or home is under attack, do we pick up and leave? No, we stay and fight. The Church is our home and there is nowhere else to go. Believe me — I looked for it.
Priests and bishops are not the Church. They are an essential and indispensable part of the Church, but they are only a part. Where there are scandals, we should be outraged and offended that someone defiled what is most sacred. With that holy anger, every single one of us is responsible to fight the good fight against evil, perversion and confusion. We do not have the luxury to be cowardly when the destiny of eternal souls are at stake.
Prayer, fasting, penance, using our gifts of healing, counseling, writing and redirecting funds are some of the ways to make sure that the wrong has been righted. Train yourself in the art of spiritual fight. Learn how you can make a difference. Teach your children to discern between servile and filial obedience.
Finally, my dear brothers and sisters, please, do not despair. Do not abandon Holy Mother Church which is the only surest way to Heaven. Do not believe the lie that we owe servile obedience to mere men. No, we are bound with filial obedience to lawful authority only as long as they do God’s will. In these stormy times, remember Christ’s promise that the Church He built will endure, even if only a small remnant stands fast during the turbulence.
Be one of the remnant.