The Church's claims are too consequential to get wrong
Dear Steve, I think you are closer than ever to being Catholic in these honest questions and transparency. What I knew in my bones before I became Catholic is that God is a Good Father, and that even in the midst of the worst suffering of my life He is faithful. That He does give the peace that surpasses understanding, though sometimes it requires you have to sit in that Silence you spoke about where all you experience is your own lack, your need. Persist in it, do not run away from it, or try to comfort yourself, just press in and wait in that Silence. Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you-- go directly to the Father in naked longing, and He will reply. In order to become Catholic, I had to learn about and accept all the papal infallibility stuff, which was hard enough under Benedict XVI because as a journalist covering the Catholic Church I was not impressed with most of the Successors to the Apostles I was meeting. But I did become Catholic in good faith. I have no regrets . I am glad to be Catholic, but it was not easy. And then in 2013, a giant wrecking ball started swinging at all the pillars of the Church, at all the sacraments, at those doctrines I was taught I had to believe. I agonized. Agonized for quite some time. Starting with the kissing of feet of non-Christian women on Maundy Thursday. How can this be? Then in prayer, the Lord gave me Psalm 131. It was His permission to set aside trying to figure out intellectually the ins and outs of papal infallibility etc. and the authority issues----and I remembered that I had experienced the peace of Christ as an evangelical so why was this missing now that I had accepted all this mediation between me and Jesus? So while I haven't ditched the mediation---I am thankful to have good, holy priests and a healthy parish family and good spiritual director---I glance at Rome from time to time, but none of it makes sense and I think you have pinpointed all the reasons why. So, I look to the Catholic Church of the saints like St. Jean Vianney and I revel in the Communion of the Saints back to the beginning with Jesus. And Mother Mary! May Our Lady reveal Her Son to you beyond any shadow of a doubt. He loves you. He wants you to be in heaven with Him forever. He is not looking to punish you, but to redeem you. Press in.
Steve - thank you for this. You are gifting your readers with visibility into your struggles with these issues. It resonates deeply. There’s a degree of peace and reassurance that you provide, indirectly, by being willing to tackle this head-on and in such a public way.
There’s an additional dimension to what you call out, and it’s isolation: “Why do you have a problem with this? Why do you see all these contradictions? Look around. See? Everyone else is fine. Everyone else is willing to put their head down and be a good sheep. Why can’t you be like them? Stop overthinking it. These contradictions would all make sense if you prayed enough, if you were good enough.”
By sharing your raw struggles so openly, it reassures those of us without the talent or confidence to do so. It lets us know that there are other people who have the same concerns. And, while there are no good answers, it lets us know that we’re not crazy for asking the question. Thank you.
Steve, I almost feel like I know you, I’ve been reading you so long, we’re both ex regnum Christi, both washed up in TLM communities, the reason I still practice in spite of the contradictions that you spell out very well, is because I’ve always thought that the structures of Christendom exist even if no one practices the faith, so to me, it’s really about the problems presented by free will, which run both ways, by the hierarchy and by the faithful, I’ve noticed you saying on Twitter, “why doesn’t God fix this, it’s too important” but I’ve come at it another way, that it’s part of Gods design within free will, which thankfully we can’t live without, nor would I want to, so it doesn’t surprise me that long periods of exile always exist for a Christian, I think a lot about the Japanese converts of St Xavier, who continued to practice for 500 years under extreme exile, ours at least is only a spiritual exile, theirs was a physical and spiritual one . I have come to love the Faith even more in this exile, and the community it has brought me, with guys like you, of course I remain bothered by the hierarchy’s mistakes, but I’m not surprised, that’s one lesson my time in Regnum Christi taught me, there’s a lot of wolves in sheeps clothing out there, I had hopes that wasn’t true of Francis, but it appears more and more likely I was wrong
A beautiful piece of writing. Thank you for sharing. It’s not been easy since 2013, to say the least - and I really appreciate your ability to put into words what it’s felt like for so many of us. I have finally got off my butt and become a paying subscriber on the back of it. Delighted to be able to support such wonderful, honest, thoughtful writing - on a heart breaking and difficult topic.
I think you are hitting on some very real things here Steve. I talk to my wife and others about the obvious implications around doctrine, grace, and the nature of God after a heretic/immoral pope sits on the throne of St. Peter.
Not sure I'm as far down the road as you are, but you are absolutely doing the right thing by looking at the truth no matter how utterly black pilled it might be.
A declaration of infallibility by an infallible authority is an infallible statement.
A declaration of infallibility by a fallible authority is a fallible statement.
I was taught that the former was the case, but all evidence points to the latter.
The Church isn’t a dogma jenga tower where we can remove pieces and expect it to stand.
I don’t know what to do about all of this. I’m in sort of a place of waiting, looking for more data to make sense of everything. I’m not so sure it will come.
Thank you for your candor in expressing your struggle. I’m not as far along as you, but I’m not far behind.
There is a great deal of food for thought in this statement: "Why is something so limited (and arguably irrelevant) so vital to salvation? Nobody knows." If infallibility is as strictly limited as many assert then it does seem historically irrelevant and dubious. On the other hand if infallibility is understood more broadly then contradictions begin to appear and the boundaries of infallibility become less and less clear. And isn't human judgment involved in those assessments of which Papal pronouncements are infallible and which are not?
I attended the Traditional Latin Mass for many years and am grateful for the sense of awe, high ritual, doctrinal precision and awareness of the Eucharistic presence that I got from it. About 10 years ago I began going to a Byzantine Catholic parish and have become more and more oriented eastward and increasingly intrigued by Orthodoxy. What especially strikes me in reference to the 1969 Missal and the recent restrictions by Pope Francis is how unthinkable this would be in the Orthodox Church. We often argue that the Papacy is a source of stability and constancy but for the last forty plus years the Papacy has been just the opposite in regards to the liturgy. Many are now afraid of what the Pope will do next.
So much packed into this. I hold you in prayer deeply confident in the Father's love for you. I'm sorry you are in pain but I am so grateful for your unflinching look at our church. I have no answers just encouragement. Your anger is purifying and righteous. God will use it for good. Thank you for bravely sharing your heart with us.
Well written. I eventually realized that this argument is useless: the Pope is infallible under certain conditions, and if he says something fallible under those conditions, then he’s not really the Pope. I also came to realize that it’s ridiculous when a church that claims teaching authority can’t even agree on which statements are infallible and which aren’t.
Steve, this was an unbelievable read right here. So much of what I’ve gone through over the last 3 or 4 years. I’ve went for Protestant to Catholic and, as of now, going back to Protestantism. Why? 1st. The Catholic Church, through their systemic bullshit going on, I cannot defend it any longer. 2nd. I know Christ is in the Protestant Church. I have re read Luther’s writing lately. His Galatians commentary especially. I have come to remember the fatherhood and love of God. I’m sure I’ll be roasted by many on here, but I don’t care. I stayed as long as I did for the Eucharist. Can anyone honestly tell me that the hierarchy (as a whole)actually believe what is supposed to be taught about the Eucharist? Anyway, these are my feelings in a few minutes. Keep writing. God Bless.
Wow there's a lot here. Personally, I take the long view on Popes and infallibility and all that. There have been some real stinkers over the millennia. Francis is not the end of the world nor will he be the end of the church, unless that happens to be the will of the One who is the point of it all. Promises have been made of course, but how things will ultimately play out is not something we can know. The Lord is endlessly surprising.
Of course you are not alone in your angst over the suffering that God allows; the problem of evil is likely the thorniest of all when it comes to faith. It sounds to me like stepping back was a good idea mostly because it will offer you a broader perspective. What I mean is that the Catholic church, as massive and ancient as it is, is just one part of meaningful reality. It might be a helpful exercise to broaden you perspective as much as humanly possible to better understand where the church actually fits into existence, as best you can understand it.
Clearly, these are issues so vast and fundamentally important they could never begin to be addressed in a newsletter post or a comment thereon. Speaking as a barely formed cradle Catholic who was a professed agnostic (out of politeness - I was really an atheist) for 30 years and who eventually returned to the church, I can honestly say that despite a committed and open minded search I could not manage to find much, if any, real meaning in life without God. Once I had figured that out, I realized I needed to have a relationship with God, and the Catholic church, flawed as it is, I determined to be the best of a rather bad lot. I have good reasons for all the conclusions that I have come to over the years. I don't mean to sound condescending and I know that I could still be wrong about many things. Good luck on your search and God bless.
God have mercy on the man who doubts what he's sure of. That line was from a Springsteen song "Brilliant Disguise." Kind of popped in my head while reading this piece. I will read it again to absorb it better, I have to look at things several times to grasp it. Anyway, this article was both frightening and liberating in ways I cannot explain here. It's good that you can articulate these things in such an accessible way. Top Notch.
The Trinity and the Church are very much alive and present outside of Rome. You’ve lived in the Catholic bubble all of your life. There’s a great new world for you to discover. It takes time.
Steve, I hate sounding like Bill Clinton but I do feel your pain. May I suggest you go back to basics and work from there. I am assuming you still believe the ten commandments since from my perspective they seem inherently correct. Then live by them even if you lost your faith in the Catholic hierarchy. Keep asking God for illumination on how the Catholic Faith can be true with all the contradictions that you are perceiving. Don't let God's silence make you think he does not exist. Be patient, focus on your relationship with your wife and children, pray and just try to be a good person to all. If you do these things, I think God will eventually illuminate your mind with the answers you need even if this may take years.
On a brighter note, the fastest growing church in the world is in Iran. It’s at least 10% Christian now and multiplying rapidly. I know this first hand because we work extensively there. No ordained, paid clergy, no church buildings.
Hi Steve, thanks for being honest & forthcoming . . .
Steve, you dedicated your life to the Church of Christ, and staked your very identity upon its integrity and credibility, as a public institution. I can see why you feel so betrayed, let down, disappointed, abandoned, rejected, despised, hurt, and reviled – especially after so much personal effort. Many faithful sons of the Church down the ages have felt the same way, with so much unworthiness and despicableness from the Church’s representatives.
Let me tell you Steve – as ridiculous as it sounds – I’ve been praying to God to give me this one woman as a wife and partner, for years now. It’s been tormenting me. I’ve been deeply frustrated with God over it. It's been the greatest challenge to my faith. But what would you make of me if I cursed God and abandoned the Church over it? “What, over a woman? That’s pathetic.” Well, maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But I, personally, don't think it's any more pathetic than the pompous cause of so many Traditionalists, who are convinced they have a righteous case before God (well, l happen to think I have a righteous case with regards to this woman – so what?). “But your romantic obsession is your own petty concern; we are fighting for the cause of the whole Catholic Church, for Holy Tradition!” Oh, how high-minded and courageous of you!
Be not over just: and be not more wise than is necessary, lest thou become stupid. (Ecclesiastes 7:17)
Stop for a moment and ask yourself — based on your own private experience and your experience with fellow Traditionalists — has your self-motivated crusade in the name of Catholic Tradition really been so noble, so selfless, so pious? Really all that much more virtuous than one man's desperate love for a particular woman? I know that this comparison is somewhat ridiculous and bizarre, but that’s precisely my point. I know from my own experience as a Traditionalist, that Traditionalism is, in the main, a bunch of proud men persecuting their own agenda – just like any other sect in the Church, in politics, in business. True, there certainly is, among its members, a lot of genuine soul-searching, heartfelt piety, deep questioning, conscientious concern, spiritual struggle, honest perplexity, love of Christ and the Church . . . But you and I both know that, despite all that, these are not the chief or defining characteristic of Traditionalism — no, pride is, the pride that is typical of any school or sect seeking its own glory. Pride that, sometimes, even goes so far as to put the glory of the school or sect itself higher than the glory of God. Pride that is willing to abandon Christ in bitter disappointment, if it does not see its own thoughts and its principles triumph over those of its enemies.
From what I can see, you — and not just you, but all Traditionalists who are struggling like you, among whom you just happen to be a more honest and public representative (for which I’m grateful) — are being humbled by God. Perhaps in the same way God is humbling me in not giving me this woman, lol. But if it’s obvious to everyone that a man not getting the woman he wants is a cause for patience and humility, and not anger and despair; then it ought also to be obvious in the case of a Christian who doesn’t have the Church, the Bride of Christ, set up in the way he wants.
What would you think of a young Christian man who prayed for a woman to become his Christian wife, and instead she went off and became a prostitute; and so, scandalised, he cursed God and abandoned faith — I really so no difference here, as when a Christian sees the Church handed over to sinners, and does the same thing . . .
It turns out, I can’t have my ideal wife. Not yet, at least. It also turns out, you can’t have your ideal Church that worships according to the ancient Roman rite. At least, not yet. I’m belabouring my point now, but I think I’m justified in doing so. God (whose Fatherliness you’re now daring to question) has given you a wife, given Peter Kwasniewski (as far as I know) a wife, Taylor Marshall, Timothy Gordon all wives. God has given you wives and children. But not me. I’m lying here lonely and humiliated; and I often feel like an embarrassment to my family. So, boo hoo for me? Shall I blaspheme God and give up the Church I’ve invested so much of my own heart and energy in? After all, I do happen to think I deserve better than this. I don’t think you, or the other men I’ve mentioned, are that much worthier than I am of a wife and children. I also feel let down and slighted by God, like a somewhat neglected child. “Well then, get over it and grow up!” Well indeed. Enjoy your own wife and kids, and don’t forget to thank God the Father for them!