Monday, August 06, 2007

Fulton Sheen: "It's always a moral problem."

 Archbishop Fulton Sheen once told a story of a man he met on one of his many plane trips. As the archbishop settled down in his seat in the hopes of taking a nap, a man sat down next to him. The man saw the archbishop in his priestly attire and introduced himself as an ex-Catholic who used to be an usher at a local parish. The man immediately began tearing into the Church, attacking her doctrines, disciplines and culture with every attack that modernists typically throw at the Catholic faith. Bishop Sheen sat there quietly, listening to the man's many complaints and occasionally interjecting a question. Silently, he was praying the entire time for a way to get through to this man.

After several minutes of the long tirade, by a supernatural intuition, Fulton Sheen asked the man, "So tell me, how much did you steal?" The man was silent and began trembling; finally he broke down and admitted that when he was an usher he had stolen thousands of dollars from the collection plate at his parish. Archbishop Sheen said that he knew that there must have been something more substantial behind all of the petty gripes this man had been putting forward.

I do not know whether or not this man was reconciled to the Church, but Bishop Sheen's story brings out an excellent point: those who oppose the Church, or Christianity in general, seldom do so for intellectual reasons. Now, I know there are those who say it is because of intellectual reasons, but this is not usually the real case. Perhaps I am being biased because I am in fact a Catholic and an amateur theologian, but to me, it is not a difficult task upon study of the history and tenets of our faith to see their obvious truth. It is easy to say that from the inside, but the fact remains that anyone can come to a sincere faith in Christ and His Church by an honest appraisal of the evidence. But it is obvious that not everybody does. Why is this?

Behind every supposed "intellectual" or "scientific" objection of the atheist or anti-Catholic lies a moral objection. If one were to admit the theological truths of the faith, then one would have to bind themselves to the moral precepts of the faith that they profess intellectually. It is simple; the man's conscience condemned him for stealing and, rather than confess to sin, it was easier to come up with intellectual reasons to place himself outside of the Church. The agnostic ( in the Latin: ignoramus) does not disbelieve God because he really cannot make up his mind; he disbelieves because belief would imply an abjuration of sin and a bending of the knees and heart to submit to Christ and His Church, which the agnostic has already pre-decided that he is not willing to do. Therefore, he creates an intellectual front to justify his moral behavior, which is based on his feelings that stem from pride and attachment to pleasure.

As a former salesman, I was taught as a sales tool that "People make decisions emotionally and then justify them rationally." This is ever so true in the most important decision a person can make, that of what to do with Christ and His Church. After all, the original problem of the Reformation was not that Luther intellectually disbelieved the Church's doctrines, but that he would not submit to the moral authority of the Pope to correct a theologian. Only after he was excommunicated (1521) did he start to develop his doctrines of sola fide, sola scriptura and all the rest. So, next time somebody is attacking the Church, like Bishop Sheen listen and take objections seriously, but be congnizant that the real problem is probably much deeper than they are letting on.


Anselm said...

So true! John Paul II's Veritatis Splendor discusses the same thing.

Anonymous said...