Aug 4, 2021Liked by Steve Skojec

The idea that if I just believed harder, if my faith was just stronger, the clouds of doubt would clear and everything would come together and would make sense is one that’s been haunting me for months. And of course it’s accompanied by all the guilt of feeling I’m responsible for my lack of faith and my refusal to see “what’s really going on.” And the more insistent those around me become that I’m missing some huge piece of my life, my faith, my relationship with God, the less sure I feel about everything. Everything sucks right now, that’s all I can say. But please keep writing because it’s resonating on so many levels.

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Aug 5, 2021Liked by Steve Skojec

This post is very powerful - it will surprise you to know that while reading it I felt deep joy "for" you. I know all to well how painful this is to you. Over 20 years ago I watched my amazingly good and holy husband (and father of my our 2 children) suffer and die a painful death from cancer at the age of 46. I not only raged at our Lord for letting this happen but then struggled to accept that he didn't go straight to heaven but was in purgatory....fortunately I have a wonderful spiritual director who simply walked with me during that painful time. My rage and grief was intense and yet in time my choice became clear. Cling to the Lord, my faith and the Catholic church or despair and depression unto death (a spiritual death). Since that time I have seen others suffer greatly with their faith and the Church only to realize it was purifying grace. I have no wise advice to give you but only encouragement. If you didn't love God and his church so deeply you wouldn't be suffering this much. Again as I write these words I feel a deep joy for you similar to the joy I felt before I gave birth to my children. As my spiritual director said while I sat in a fog of pain and grief - God is so close to you - as close as your hand on your cheek - his love will break through and with that will come a deep lasting peace and "belonging". I truly struggle with this Pope, my McCarrick Bishop and the state of our church - but I know who I am and I know who I belong to and that brings such comfort and gives strength for these troubling times.. I hold you in prayer

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I converted but was poorly catechized and so reverted at 18. A lot of things happened providentially that led me to a really good Catholic college and a good community within that college. I was blessed to be taught by serious Catholics who were trying to figure things out and weren't ideologues. They'd let you go left field for a bit and then gently instruct but they'd also hear you out. I got some resistance for straying off of more rigid paths by other students but while discouraging, they could safely be ignored after a while.

I was coming back to Catholicism because I knew Christ from a young age; I knew him as a person in my life; not because I was taught ( I wasn't, according to my parents) but because I experienced Him in a quiet, intimate way. I wonder if rigid, overly rule bound Catholicism stifles this experience either because it instills a kind of pride or more likely perhaps, because you are told to believe all sorts of mystical stories but told to doubt your own experiences because they weren't given an impramatur (SP?). I'm not attacking trads or conservative Catholics here, only that stripe of thinking that demands perfect safety in manualized faith.

Thinking of your hard truths, perfect obedience is not perfect belief in matters of faith because that's impossible; when we're baptized, we don't get Denzinger installed in our brains and hearts. Rather, we owe docility and trust to the truths of the Faith which also requires figuring out what those truths are. Imagine if leniency was never given to St Peter, there'd be no deposit of faith.

While you're stepping back from 1P5, explore the Faith mostly in the presence of the eucharist and good teachers. Be like a good Jew; spend time in the synagogue and in the temple so to speak.

I didn't mean to sound preachy; I'm not coming from a place of great strength. Only, I've experienced Christ and I've been saddened by how few of my friends have had the same experiences because I want them to feel His presence and not just know it. Liberal Catholicism misses the mark but so does rigid Catholicism and it hurts to see people in either because the Faith isn't something dead and rule bound. I hope you find Christ in a different way, a closer way within the Church. When I converted, I accepted the pope and bishops but even then could see the rot, the lack of care for souls in many diocese and parishes. Being formed to the Church changed my life because I knew Christ more and was able to stop acting in many ways that hurt me and started to do more works out charity and I made solid friends in whom I knew Christ even more. You don't have to have it perfect, heck Augustine had to correct his works and it turns out Origen was dead wrong about some things. Seek Christ. Seeing your journey from afar, it looks like Christ is scraping off the barnacles; that happens because you get so mucked up that you can't see or move well; it comes with being a spirit and a body - we require experience to change and to learn. I'm praying for you Steve; please say a prayer for me because life has been beating me up.

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Aug 5, 2021Liked by Steve Skojec

There were real problems in Catholicism that needed addressing in the 20th Century. Among them were the seeming eclipse of love by fear in the common spiritual life of many, something completely unbiblical and unacceptable. That had to change. But love doesn’t seem to motivate like fear, you know that and have pointed that out in your fundraising efforts. Collective fear seems to build strong if dysfunctional communities. Dysfunctional because that fear is generally leveraged for control.

The thing that disappoints me the most about trad life at this moment is watching people try to resurrect all of the worst aspects of life in the 1950s, while ignoring the legitimate progress and contributions of the second half of the 20th Century. There is stuff that should have died with the “greatest generation”, and basically did (effective authoritarian caprice of clergy, dystopian mind-numbing un-think by laity, the view that women are inherently inferior to men in most ways, etc.). But now you have people trying to bring those things back, at least in practice. I really cannot stand it.

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Aug 4, 2021Liked by Steve Skojec

Once again, Steve, you have given form to a lot of my thoughts. If I were younger I would feel a need to find answers to these questions, to find a spiritual home for my family, but they are adults and I’m getting too old for grand gestures. 27 years ago, with four children 10 and under we found that we couldn’t deal with the reality that Mass at most parishes was lisped by a priest who was either incompetent or heretical. The fact that in an emergency we would definitely prefer to leave our children with a complete stranger than a Catholic priest was stultifying. As pioneer homeschoolers we were exposed to the publications of Rod and Staff, the conservative Mennonite Church. Our parish priest actually advised us to leave and join them, “they certainly live what they believe” was his comment, “don’t let the door hit you in the *** “ was his meaning.

We stuck it out for six years. Black stockings, long sleeves, head coverings, black cars, canning, gardening, baking, sewing quilting, competing to prove we could “make it” as converts, something almost no one does. When I needed back surgery from the hard work, when my husband was removed from teaching Sunday school because he was too good at it, when I realized I couldn't sentence my 16 year old daughter to such a hard life, we left. We had prayed more devoutly than at any time since about what to do, both when we joined and when we left, and both decisions seemed like God’s will. We always knew if it failed we would just return to the Church. We knew too many families who went through a dozen or more anabaptist fellowships in search of the perfect church, which we knew didn’t exist.

Our problem was never with Catholic theology, it was with trying to find an atmosphere of holiness for our children. The ways in which you have to cripple them to stay in a plain church proved unacceptable, particularly the tenth grade education. But it was profitable for us. We would never look for perfection in anything run by human beings again. And we all learned a great deal about the Bible, which was priceless.

I thought that I was pretty toughened up to not expecting much from the Church hierarchy. We ended up at the TLM 20 years ago just looking for a decent Mass which wouldn’t turn into a near occasion of sin, with my husband rolling his eyes and making faces at the priest. Ours was a weird one of a kind thing that dated back to the 70’s, ostensibly to promote Latin, originally with a Latin Novus Ordo alternating with the Tridentine Mass each week. With the lifting of restrictions by Benedict it changed to the TLM each week. We were the youngest people there and one of only two families with children. Now most of the founders have passed on and the church is full of young families, filling pews as we used to do. Over the years we have been blessed with amazing priests.

The latest action of Pope Francis, effectively banning the Latin Mass, has deeply unsettled me. I do not think I can continue to consider myself even a tangential and insignificant part of an organization that acts as the Catholic Church has. My son lived in China for years and married a Chinese woman. He considers what Francis has done in his deals with China to have created thousands of martyrs. He took money, which the Vatican seemingly always needs to fund abhorrent hedonistic activities, in exchange for the names of committed Christians, who had already given up a lot in order to be Catholic. Now not only their prospects but their lives and those of their relatives are in the hands of an evil government. This is not acceptable. I choke over the words “holy Catholic and apostolic church” in the creed. I don’t know what that makes me, where that leaves me. I have a “good” Mass to go to but it is clear this is fragile and temporary in a way that true religion can’t really be. Our Pope has denounced us as bad Christians, while defending the indefensible.

We have always been very open and honest with our children, about our doubts, our spiritual homelessness. We have never pretended to a strength of faith we do not possess. They all consider themselves Catholics but only our eldest and youngest attend regularly. Whether this is because of our ambivalence, the interlude of actually leaving the church for six formative years of their lives, or the negative experiences they each have had with the church, and there are many, I do not know. I’m sure it’s a combination. They all get along and hold similar views on morality, which is a blessing. I hope that each of us find a way to eternal salvation but I don’t have any real conviction as to what that entails. I think we all, especially traditionalists, need to practice humility on this one. Fear for our children’s temporal and eternal welfare is a powerful motivator of bad decisions. In joining a “plain” community we went farther than most to try and secure this and learned it is an ephemeral target and one not entirely given into our control.

I wish I could still make myself believe in something but I can’t anymore. I really do appreciate your writing on this, it needs to be said. A lot of people are not honest with themselves or they would acknowledge the truth of the things you are saying.

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The longer I avoid reading Church news, the more at peace I become with the Church. We're in the middle of a hypocrisy crisis from the top all the way down. I don't need to reiterate all the ways the hierarchy is failing to anybody here.

Your old girlfriend/babysitter's family is everything I try to avoid being with my kids. I refuse to demand more of them than the Church does. We have some absolute expectations: Mass on Sundays and Holy Days, confession at least every month, and learning about the faith. The last includes daily readings and prayer in the morning.

Everything else they do has been their choice. I didn't make my oldest daughter veil. I veil at our Novus Ordo parish. She asked if she had to and I told her it was not required. She asked why I did it and I told her. A year or so later, she asked me to buy her a veil. Same with the scapular. They knew I wear one. Two of the older kids asked about it. I explained it. Years later, they asked to get them.

A lot of our discussions about the faith concern how difficult it is to be Catholic. I don't try to dress it up. We talk a lot about the bad times in Church history, about the corruption and scandal. I feel like it's better for them to see it, warts and all. No surprises down the road, right? And we completely avoid private revelations that frankly don't make any sense. Such as Three Days of Darkness. That whole thing seems contra to Revelation.

I hope and pray that all my children remain faithful. I hope and pray that I remain faithful. I do feel like I've turned a corner in the past couple of months. My Imitate Medieval Peasantry strategy seems to work. The less chatter I hear concerning Church politics, the more I'm able to focus on God.

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Aug 4, 2021Liked by Steve Skojec

Wow, Steve, I was where you are now about three years ago. Letting go of my Catholic faith (I prefer that term to “losing my faith” ) was excruciating. But when I look back on the things I believed, and the way I ordered my life and that of my family, I almost can’t believe it. Those things are so strange to me now that my mind is free. I hope you will find that freedom.

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Aug 6, 2021Liked by Steve Skojec

“It stopped feeling like this larger-than-life divine institution ordained and led by God, and more like the sniping and sordid activity of men who wanted to be in control,”

This right here is the problem. Tell me how this doesn't compeltly describe Roman Catholicism today? They craft dogmas of Faith that you have to belief, and if you doubt any of them, then you go to hell. And if you dare to leave the club of Rome, you go to hell. And if you dare question any of them or their 'revealed dogma' then you are a heretic questioning the very will of God, the Holy Spirit, who guides the Church to keep her from error...... and you're going to hell.

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Steve, you articulate the same cri de coeur as countless others of us out here. My tentative advice is to not throw out the baby with the bathwater and leave the Church too quickly. Instead of citing docs from the middle ages as you do in your piece, start a mature study of the documents of Vatican 2. Also read Benedict XVI's "Introduction to Christianity". Saved my bacon. The Irish Church that colonised the US and my home Australia had a strong streak of Jansenism that had to go. Take a breather, relax with your family, eat, drink, have fun together. See how your younger children love, and open your heart to learn that way of loving. Focus on love and on the Person of Jesus. Delve into the Gospels imaginatively to see how he acted, what he said(and didn't say), who he chose to hang out with, why he came as a man and not a woman, why he chose a celibate wandering life. So much to ponder. Dont be in a hurry to make a decision. He'll wait for you, he knows everything about being a man. God bless you and yours.

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It might be instructive to back away from the Church, any church, for a while. After all, our faith is in Jesus, not primarily in the Church. (Good thing too, given how churchmen usually behave.) I've been a Catholic for all of my long life, and sometimes I've tried very hard to keep all those rules, but when I realized that most of the people who run the institution are not even TRYING, I sought to learn to focus my attention on the Trinity, not on any churchy thing.

It can be done, though it seems difficult at first. It's so easy that it's hard. Really all it involves is listening, really listening, with the ears of the heart, as St. Benedict puts it. To listen one must first, stop talking (!), and then silence all the other voices, many of them churchy voices, demanding that one think or do or not do something or other about all this. Just sit there and wait.

What is important is what God says. He has quite a bit to say, but He won't shout down the mob. His language is all about love, and like a human lover, if you refuse to drag your attention away from the phone, from the computer, from the "world," He's not going to grab you by the throat and force you to listen.

What our children do with all this is beyond our control. Of my 4, all long grown, I have an autistic techno-genius, a crazy man (literally) and a gifted lawyer lighting DC on fire....and a mystic. This last one has found her way, and I struggle to follow. And she's a Catholic, not because of us, but because of her own discovery. God loves all of them, and me, and you too Steve.

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Aug 5, 2021Liked by Steve Skojec

Good writing and insightful. As an aside, are you aware of Frank Schaeffer’s story and journey?

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Not dogma, a Person

As Catholics, we do not subscribe to a system of dogmas. We begin with a Person, the Person of our Lord continued in his mystical body the Church. What is faith? Faith is the meeting of two personalities. You and the Lord. There is no adhesion to an abstract dogma, but rather a communion with a Person who can neither deceive nor be deceived. The authoritarians start with a party line. We start with our Lord, the Son of the living God, who said, “I am the truth.” In other words, truth was identified with his personality. Remember when you were a child. What did you consider your home? Just a sum of commands given by either your mother or your father? It was more than that, was it not? It was the love of their personalities. Our faith, then, is first and foremost in Christ, who lives in his mystical body the Church. It is only secondarily in the explicit beliefs. If our Lord did not reveal them, we would not believe them. If we lost him, we would lose our beliefs. He comes first.

—Bp. Fulton Sheen

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You’ve touched on epistemic humility in the past, and I think it’s a big piece of the puzzle you’re working on right now. Without it, we paint ourselves into corners where our reason and basic humanity are pitted against each other. I think this is why many “devout” religious people are so weird: they have suppressed their reason and/or their basic humanity to salvage their ideology, when they should have suppressed (or rethought) their ideology to salvage their reason and basic humanity.

The biggest area I see Christians painting themselves into corners in this way is the “will many be saved?” debate. I think the nastiness and misanthropic behavior the Phelps-Ropers of the world exhibit is a defense mechanism: if you are convinced that pretty much everyone is destined to end up in hell, then the only way to not go insane with grief and despair is to assume that pretty much everyone has it coming. Have fun trying to hold that belief without it negatively impacting the way you treat other people.

Does this mean we are forced to choose between becoming universalists, or becoming pricks? This is the origin story of many a universalist. While I can sympathize with their plight, they too have paid a price too high. Whereas the Phelps-Ropers of the world have sacrificed their basic humanity to maintain their intellectual consistency, the Rob Bells of the world have sacrificed their intellectual consistency to maintain their basic humanity. Anyone familiar with the gospels knows that it’s better to err on the side of being a Rob Bell, but it would be better still to not to err at all.

I think the saints (even ones who were more pessimistic in their views on the number of the saved) are the ones who succeeded in walking this tightrope. They had healthy spiritual and intellectual boundaries: rigid enough to not succumb to the intellectual gymnastics necessary to believe that all are saved, but flexible enough admit that we aren’t in a good epistemic position to know the state of any particular person’s soul, or their culpability for not meeting the ideal standards of Christian behavior, or the extent of God's intervention in their life. This epistemic humility afforded them the crucial flexibility to live and thrive in the tension of this paradox: not falling into life negating pessimism, and not settling for empty optimism. The result was genuine supernatural hope, hope which flowered into a joy and serenity that irresistibly rang true.

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The questions about how to raise your children in the faith do largely, in my experience, come down to what kinds of people you wish them to become. If you try to raise them to never question anything, they might just become that, but so inflexible as to also be brittle and unable to relate meaningfully to those who don't share their beliefs, which sort of obviates our call to be salt and light. The other response is often, as Steve says, they will run so hard in the other direction once they have a chance that they don't give a fair hearing to the truth of what they were raised in, thus throwing out the baby with the bath water. I saw both in spades while attending what is often called the Christian Harvard.

A different option, which my own parents seem to have taken, was to live out their faith without much fanfare but making it clear to us kids that's what it was, inculcate in us the core, key, beliefs of Christianity while holding the rest loosely -- "don't major in the minors" as my dad used to say -- and provide us with both the tools and resources, and a safe environment, within which to explore Christianity -- and everything else -- to our hearts' content. I should also say that we were given the advantage of meeting genuine saints, inside and outside our family, and shown how to actually get to know Jesus as a living person. That we were even allowed, and encouraged, to do the latter I now find to be a minor miracle in and of itself.

In the end I've worked to do the same with my own children, and to raise genuinely good adults who work to make the world a better place. They have very serious issues with the Church, as they experienced it growing up, and particularly now, but have not in general terms left their faith or a strong sense that God exists. They just struggle to know how to let Him be real in their lives, absent a church community that also does that. But I always knew that if they could not find their own faith and make it their own, there was also no hope at all that I could make it happen for them. It had to be theirs.

Final thought: at one point I had some teenage kids of friends, who had grown up Evangelical, then moved into the Anglican/Episcopal/Catholic world, say that how they remained believers was due to the fact of their first being formally trained in the faith, THEN moving into a part of Christendom which allowed it to essentially blossom more fully and round itself out -- but where the teaching was almost nonexistent or at best ineffectual. They said that without that, they would have left the Church long before. That path happens also to have been my own.

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Fr Hilderbrand is making a fair point in a deliberately obtuse way. I know no family - and I really do mean that - for whom lapsation isn’t a constant concern and even threat. The claim that “TLM devotees” might somehow be shocked by that is just stupid.

As for Br Martin: just obtuse too. Of course TLM-going Catholics lapse. I personally know a good number.

But then that’s Catholic Twitter for ya. It’s dumb, it’s instant and it’s all got to be contained in 140 characters or you will lose your opportunity to gain tradlarp points.

For the rest of this post: I think you’re absolutely on the money. The best odds of success lie in the middle way. There are so many ways of doing this that I don’t think there’s any way to cover them here but if I had to pick one thing from my own experience (and my parents have 5 adult children who are all still very actively practicing, so they must have done something right):

Be open to discussions about the faith - and the state of the Church. As we grew up, dad openly discussed his qualms about the contents of the sermons and readings, about politics, the news, the state of the Church. We were encouraged to have an opinion - a judgement - on what we had heard and our understanding of it. When I first met my father in law, I proudly told him that my dad had taught us to “question everything” when he asked me about various topics where I had unorthodox opinions. “Rubbish, you’re a Catholic,” he snorted in derision. He was a lapsed Catholic at the time. He’s now back in the Church.

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Since I deleted my Twitter account, I am at peace and also can attend to my family.

Twitter is toxic with leftist ideology, and it’s a place where even Catholic friends of good will can come to petty disagreement. You did a good job holding the line against the “Bennyvacantist” error against rabid personal attack.

Don’t be in-between. Cut ties with the Novus Ordo before it becomes a pacamama sect. I didn’t learn the Catholic faith in a serious way until I started to attend an SSPX chapel. If you care about your soul, and the souls of your children, forget the voices on Twitter and make a soul-searching commitment to Jesus Christ in His Church. The Sacraments need to be real, and not a modernist substitute (although if necessary take Confession with any priest).

You are having a crisis of faith and possibly of identity. To be honest, no one needs you or any layman to be a thought leader. We have priests to be our leaders. It would be a burden, especially in this time, to feel the responsibility of leading others. The pastor is struck, the sheep are scattered.

1P5 is a publication and you did a very competent job of editing it with insightful and timely articles. You’re a journalist. Not a leader. I hope it’s a weight off your shoulders: it isn’t an insult. You’re a father and husband and that is the leadership that’s your duty to carry out, within the bosom of Holy Mother Church. Our Lady will lead you to peace.

Don’t distance yourself from the Church, instead embrace it. I can’t urge enough to drop or limit Twitter which is a very argumentative forum. No one wants to take heat like that, and everyone there has an opinion. Look at me, I’m opinionated.

Lastly, it’s a horrible thing your friend Kale said, and wrong. No one lies for Tradition. Tradition is the truth of Heaven given to us as a free gift by the Church. It’s perfectly true, it’s Heavenly. How could one lie to promote the truth?

Honestly, let’s just keep our heads down in this terrible time of apostasy and Communist revolution. Let’s just enjoy our families, fortify them, and wait for the restoration of the Church, which will come. I’ll say an Ave for you, I ask you please to say one.

Please tell me if any specific issues I could help come to terms with. It’s a very trying time for us all. God bless.

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