Thursday, July 02, 2020

On Wokeness and Reasons People Leave the Church

The other day I was stunned when an acquaintance of mine announced on social media that she and her husband were leaving the Catholic Church. People leaving the Church is not exactly big news, but I was surprised because this was a family that looked like they were "doing it right" according to the commonly accepted external indicators of what constitutes a "good Catholic family": lots of kids, devout, deeply involved in homeschooling, attended the Traditional Latin Mass,  family were regular participants in parish life and personal devotions, etc. Doing the Catholic family thing for 30 years.

Then, all of the sudden, an announcement via Facebook that the husband and wife were jointly leaving the Church⁠—and not for Protestantism or some other brand of Christianity; they stated that their objections to the Church were pretty much endemic throughout Christianity as a whole. As far as I can tell, they are essentially agnostics now.

At any rate, this post is ultimately not about these folks. People do what they are going to do, and I obviously pray for them and wish the best for them. I am very interested in the comments they made in their public posts about the reasons leading up to their decision, however. These I would like to examine, not in terms of judging or criticizing these peoples' decision, but rather in the abstract. Their reasons are reasons we have heard many times before from many other people who have lost faith; they could have been spoken by any one of the millions of ex-Catholics. Therefore consider them in that light. They are subjects I have grappled with as well. After we look at these issues, I will offer some reflections on "external indicators" of faith as predictive of certain outcomes.

The (public) posts contained a lengthy explanation of their rationale, which could be boiled down to three issues:

(1) The scandal of clerical sex abuse
(2) The scandal of unanswered prayer
(3) The scandal of Catholics not acting with charity

Sex abuse was listed as the top reason why they were choosing to leave the Church. But it was not simply the presence of clerical sex abuse, but rather the radical insufficiency and breakdown of the prevailing conservative narrative about sex abuse that pushed them over the edge. The husband described how for years he had toed the party line on clerical sex abuse, with talking points like "It's just a few bad apples", "There's pedophiles in every profession", "Even Christ had His Judas", "The percent of abusers in the Church isn't any higher than in the general populace", "It's the devil trying to attack the Church and make it look bad," etc.

These sorts of talking-points are what I would loosely refer to as the Neo-Cath answer to clerical sex abuse. I understand this paradigm very well. It is one I used to profess for years. It is comforting because it reassures us that nothing is wrong in our house that is not common to all houses; it casts the Church as the good guys fighting off a demonic attack manifest as biased reporting from a hostile secular press. The demonic attack is fundamentally from outside.

Unfortunately, this narrative is completely false. The husband explained (rightly) that the incidence of abusive priests is much higher within the Church than society at large. That its not confined to dioceses run by a few "bad apple" bishops but that it is ubiquitous throughout the Catholic world. The culture of secrecy around sex abuse is a plague in which the highest members of the hierarchy right up to the pope have been complicit in. The devil was trying to destroy the Church with attacks, but not by means of unfair media bias, but rather from the pedophilic rot within the clergy, which was way more common than previously assumed. The demonic attack was internal. The shock of realizing this was faith-shattering.

I remember back in 2002 when the Cardinal Law sex abuse scandals broke, I was repeating the same talking point. "Other denominations have just as many pedophiles...every profession has its bad apples, etc." Then I read Michael Rose's Goodbye, Good Men and the scales dropped from my eyes. I realized that the abuse culture was being actively cultivated and perpetuated by a homosexual clique within the hierarchy (in the Vatican, but also local dioceses) and that the bishops were complicit in not only covering it up but actually promoting it. Since then, nothing has surprised me. Now when I hear about things like Msgr. Luigi Capozzi's drug-fuled gay orgy at the Vatican, I shrug and think, "Yup. That's how it is." I don't like it by any means, but I guess I am saying is that uncovering a lot of this filth over the years has left me in a place where I am not surprised by anything any more.

This is why I think it's not helpful to get too invested in the "just a few bad apples" narrative. It's way worse than that. The darkness runs so much deeper. And if you've sheltered yourself from that reality, you're going to be pretty jarred when the truth emerges, as it inevitably will. I'm not saying a more realistic assessment of that would have helped these people, but it has definitely helped me. And that's ultimately what this post is about: not about these folks who lost faith, but about how I have found help in dealing with these same issues.

They also mentioned the scandal of unanswered prayer. And they gave a few examples, things like despite praying for their children and offering Masses for them (Latin masses!), a few of them grew up to become atheists. It seems that prayer didn't affect anything—that despite years of pious prayer, sacrifices, Masses, and devotion, all the words and lamentations poured out to our Lord were so many words just dumped into the void. I think every Christian has had this experience at some time or another; I've had my share of prayers gone unanswered, but I've also had my share of answered prayer as well. I've even experienced (what I consider) miraculous interventions in my life. One of the reasons why I embraced Christianity to begin with when I was 19 was that I witnessed a handful of what I can only describe as miracles. But I've also realized that sort of thing is not normative; miracles, or even prayers answered in exactly the way we hope they will be answered are little treats that happen occasionally, like spiritual candy, but can't be assumed. I have always personally taken the approach that God doesn't owe me anything, not even my own continued existence. He doesn't owe me the lives of children, he doesn't owe me happiness in this world or anything whatsoever. If I live another year without getting bone marrow cancer or go another day without getting hit in the crotch with a golf club, it's sheer grace. God can do whatever He wants to me or anyone else for whatever reasons He chooses and I have peace with that.

I guess I am saying that I have divested myself of the idea that my faith in God will guarantee any specific temporal outcome whatsoever.

The third reason was Catholics not behaving with charity. They elaborated several facets to this scandal. One was just a "Too many hypocritical Catholics makes for a toxic environment" sort of objection—but another was more along the lines of "If grace was efficacious and all of these people spend their lives praying and going to Mass, one would assume they would get better with time?" Yes, obviously as educated Catholics they knew that one has to be disposed to receive grace, but still...what they perceived to be the total lack of transformative power of grace in the lives of people they knew over a long period seemed to be a strong argument that what the faith says about grace is bunk.

I can't speak for anybody else's index of grace; I personally have never been bothered by the idea that we must be disposed to receive grace. It makes sense to me, and if it so happens that 90% of Catholics I know aren't disposed to receive grace, that's just the way that it is. But I don't think that's the reality. I definitely see grace working in the lives of people I know who take their faith seriously. And as I get older I am learning to see it more operative than ever, especially in the small things and little victories. Last winter I had a profound insight into God's grace in me after making a general confession. The victories of grace are often imperceptible, unless you have "eyes to see." It is seldom in the wind, or the earthquake, or the fire, but in the "still small voice" (1 Ki. 19:12). This is where I have learned to expect it.

The interesting thing, however, was when these folks went into the details of why they though so many of their fellow Catholics were uncharitable. We've all experienced unkind Catholics, especially if you blog or publish anything online (believe me, I know); occasionally, I have probably been one of them myself. That's sort of par for the course. But these people mentioned something interesting
—basically, that Catholics had by and large failed to adopt the appropriate responses to racism and LGBT issues, which demonstrated that they ultimately lacked love. For (they said) if Catholics were more "loving", they would have been more eager to embrace these causes. It follows that the reticence of Catholics to do so—indeed, their outright hostility to such causes—is a damning condemnation of Catholics' lack of love. Indeed, it is a mark against the Church's very concept of love, where "loving the sinner" is bound up with the idea of "correcting the sinner." As many others who have left the Church have said, this couple ultimately stated that "Love the sinner, hate the sin" was an unworkable proposition. Love needed to be reevaluated in a manner that was not so corrective—meaning, more woke. Basically, they were arguing that Christians aren't woke enough.

Here we come to what I see is grave danger to faith, and one that will only be more dangerous as time goes by: the redefinition of moral values to align them with secular mores. This merits some fleshing out.

It has been long known that liberalism takes sins and redefines them as rights or even as virtues; e.g., the sin of abortion is a "right", contraception is "responsibility", separation of Church and state is a strength, and so on. We are used to liberalism taking BAD things and calling them GOOD. And imperceptibly people adjust their values accordingly over time, if they are not vigilant. This is why so many Catholics think separation of Church and state is great, or that contraception is no big deal, or that homosexual so-called marriage is just fine, etc.

But, liberalism also takes GOOD things and redefines them as BAD, or at least as deficient. St. Teresa of Calcutta's work among the poor wasn't that great because she focused on individuals, not on addressing the systemic causes of poverty. The traditional family structure is not ideal because it reinforces patriarchy. Missionary work is actually deplorable because it can result in the eroding of native cultures. The Christian view of "love the sinner hate the sin" is dangerous because it facilitates judgmentalism. These concepts flow logically from the basic principles of liberalism and serve to undermine the Church's moral position by pulling the rug out from under it—suggesting that the historical Church's humanitarian, educational, or social victories were really not victories at all.

Now, if the good is redefined as bad, then a new good must lifted up to take the place of that which was displaced. In today's incarnation of liberalism, this is where the politics of Woke fit in. One is perceived as "good" to the degree that one can get behind the Woke social agenda; to the degree one won't, one is racist, homophobic, sexist, or whatever the capital sins of liberalism are. This is a creeping problem among the curious demographic of "progressive" Catholics—you know who I mean; the ones whose social media walls consist of 80%+ SJW posts and whose religious posts even have a social justice bent to them. The ones who post preachy, moralizing Twitter screenshots with no commentary other than "THIS" and who clog your feed with graphics whining that "We need to stop doing THIS and start doing THIS instead", and "If you're not doing THIS, you're part of the problem."

But perhaps the biggest fallacy liberalism and Woke politics foist on us is to habitually conflate the end with the means. For example, everyone agrees that we want to address the problem of poverty (end). Liberals will insist on their own specific methodology for addressing poverty in the form of various government programs (means). Then they will insist that if you do not support their specific means, you are not "really" in favor of the end. If you don't support the BLM agenda in particular, you are not against racism in general. If you aren't in favor of vote by mail, you favor discrimination. If you do not agree with every specific premise of the #MeToo crusade, then you are not against sex abuse. If you don't want universal government sponsored health insurance, you don't "really" care for the sick. If you aren't for generous, easy immigration laws in particular then you are a racist in general. If you are skeptical of particular policy proscriptions based on a specific climate-science study, you are "anti-science." If you "really" cared about the poor, you would favor increased funding for various programs. If you were really as loving as your religion claims, you would support various LGBT causes. If you were really Pro-Life, you would support increased funding for public schools, teachers' unions, cancellation of student debt and all variety of things loosely relating to education because somehow education—like a ton of other stuff—is now "also a life issue" (this is going to be a future post—extending "Pro-Life" to mean just about anything).

See how all of this confuses the end with the means? Societal problems are identified, and then one and only one means to address them put forward as the anointed solution. The "national conversation" progressives are always yammering about never happens. Instead we simply get a national lecture, we are told authoritatively that there is only one path forward, and any dissent whatsoever means you don't "really" care about said issue. Weak minded people (desperate to prove they have not committed a racism and fearful of public-shaming) trip over themselves lining up behind whatever the social media Ministry of Truth has decided is the hot button topic in [CURRENT YEAR]. It's a means of relentlessly shoving through social change while bullying dissenting people into silence.

I predict that such "Woke" Christians will eventually lose their faith altogether. We could certainly already say that a liberal Catholic has already suffered an overthrow of faith to the degree that they are affirming principles contrary to Catholic truth. But what I mean is that, ultimately, we will see a lot more of what I described at the top of this post: Christians formally repudiating their Faith because Christianity is not Woke enough, because they have allowed their judgment of what is "good" and what is "moral" to be defined by the culture at large. And when Christianity is judged against these standards and inevitably found wanting (because Christianity historically does not share these novel value judgments), these people will choose Wokeness over Christ in order to feel accepted, to feel that they are "making a difference" or are on the "right side of history."

There's more I could say, of course, but all of this merely reemphasizes the need to take your moral bearings from Catholic Tradition, not one's Twitter feed. And to remember that there is always more than one way to address a problem. If you find yourself believing there is one and only one way to approach a societal problem, such that you have lost the ability to presume the goodwill of those who disagree with your particular pet program, you'd best stop and prayerfully reevaluate how and why you form the opinions that you hold.

Finally—and this is an important message for traditional Catholics—although God gives us a rough set of blueprints for what an ideal Catholic life looks like from the outside, we ought not to assume that any of these external indicators guarantee us any specific outcome. Your marriage won't necessarily be happier if your wife stays home instead of working. Your kids won't necessarily keep the faith because you went to the Latin Mass. You won't necessarily have less struggles with various sins because prayed the "right" prayers. There is no set of boxes you can check that guarantees any particular outcome. To be sure, certain external things can make certain outcomes more likely, but how we manage our lives and our faith is ultimately always a matter of internal transformation, not box checking. It's not about just following the script. You have to take responsibility. You have to cultivate the virtue of prudence. You are not going to be divested of the terrible responsibility for your own soul and your own failings by going through a list of external indicators of "what good Catholics do." Doing such things will always be good, but their goodness does not guarantee you any temporal outcome. They do guarantee you a more beautiful soul, if you do them rightly disposed. But it is best to give up the idea that your life is going to unfold according to a certain design just because you "followed the rules."


Maureen said...

I am picking my jaw up off the floor. This might be the best, most astute, and inspired assessment of why so many Catholics leave. You did not sugar coat reality or make excuses. And your point at the end that actions matter, but inner conversion is key is spot on.

AMalek said...

This article frightened me. If that kind of a trad family can’t keep the faith, God help us! I would like to see the author’s data on clergy sex abuse. My reading has shown 4% in Catholic schools compared to double digits in public schools, for example. I do believe there is more systemic, organized Satanism and sex abuse in the Church than in other denominations, however, there seems to be a massive covert swamp draining going on at the highest levels now. We must keep our faith in God and not in men.

Lorero Xavier said...

Great article. Couldn't agree more. Thank you!

Boniface said...

A commenter named Joy left a comment but I accidentally deleted it (sorry Joy!). Here's what she said:

"I appreciate the post and your comments, but your final reflection is easier said than done, as regards the defection of chidren. I can only imagine the deep, spiritual pain that the apostasy of their children must have caused and I think it could precipitate a crisis of faith for almost anyone. We can speak in a detached way about their free will and how God owes us nothing, etc. But that is one's own flesh and blood flirting with the gates of hell! And this despite every effort one has made to the contrary. I am a trad, homeschooling mom of many, and the thought of this is literally my worse nightmare. Truthfully, I would have thought that prayers and Masses and good upbringing would have made the difference."

My comment: Not saying prayers and a good upbringing don't make any difference, but they don't guarantee anything.

Unknown said...

I agree with Maureen, this is the clearest, best explanation of so many things: of children of excellent, traditional families leaving their faith long before Wokeness was in fashion, and of the current clergy sex abuse situation, of expectations, and well, of everything you touched on from the beginning to the end. Thank you so very much for this!
My prayers for that poor family, that some of their children may find their way back to the real Catholic Church later in life, and that the real Catholic Church may still be alive when they go looking for it!

Michael Dowd said...

Vatican II bears significant responsibility for ills in the Church among which are fallen and falling away Catholics. Who can blame them for leaving the Church when Vatican II implicitly suggests there is no good reason to be a Catholic in the first place as all religions will get you to heaven where nearly everyone goes.

My wife and I had 11 kids who now with families and grand kids of their own. Most of them exhibit a Catholic way of living even though not all go to Mass every Sunday. And one daughter and her "wife" do attend Mass religiously.

What is one to say about all this? Pray for them every day. Place them in God's hands. Our job is to make the effort and do what we can to help them. And let us rest in peace letting God do His part.

thomaejacobi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Florentius said...

Very, very well said. This is a thought-provoking article that really hits home.

I think there are a couple strong subtexts to this story that many are not appreciating. I saw the declaration made by the couple in question and read through the comments below it with interest. Two things jumped out at me:

1.) The numerous failings of men within the Church seemed to be the primary motivation for why this couple decided to disbelieve that the tenets of the Church are true. To me, this smacked of Donatism, and an inability to separate the dysfunctional Catholic Church of the past 60 years, with the grand scope of Church history. Ironically, this also reminded me of Hillaire Belloc's famous quote in which he turns the problem on its head: "The Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine — but for unbelievers a proof of its divinity might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight." A decision to focus obsessively on the negative while leaving aside the good, the beautiful, and the miraculous seems to be common to every apostate throughout history.

2.) In the comments, it became clear that the children of said couple were eager to celebrate their parents disbelief. This was truly hard reading, but something I've seen in other families in similar situations where fallen-away children have successfully used emotional blackmail to destroy their parents' core beliefs. Basically, it comes down to this: the parents are willing to sacrifice their Catholic faith for the sake of family concord. We should not be surprised at this because Our Lord himself said explicitly that it would happen: "He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me." [Matthew 10:37]

In any event, just two additional thoughts. Thanks again for this post. I will be sharing it.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Joy about children abandoning their faith precipitating a crisis of faith. I believe this is at the heart of what happened with this family, not the "wokeness" issue (although the points made were valid and more than relevant in these times). I have experienced this with my two oldest children and it really makes me question why I am living the way I do. I have emptied myself and poured my heart out to my family and my children. It is meeting my family in heaven one day that matters most to me. Because what is the meaning of all this sacrifice and heartache on earth if we don't have the hope of eternal salvation for our family?

Boniface said...

I don't know the answer. But my own hope is in my own personal salvation primarily. If I am saved but my children aren't, I will still be able to rejoice in the beatific vision because I will be incapable of any sadness there. If my children make it to heaven with me, we all will be happy together. If I am lost with my children, nobody will be happy at all. The best way I can facilitate my children getting to heaven is to work on getting myself there, and if they don't join me there I'll still be happy. Hard to grasp now, but true.

Osusanna said...

Generations of Americans now have bought media's teaching that this world is not a valley of tears. The devil always at work, is happy they un-necessarily made it so public, on a site like antiCatholic FB. Sad.

I left the Church as a young person. I came crawling back. I thank God for the good Faith foundation I had as a child.

Marissa said...

I'm a trad homeschooling mom married to a vaguely Christian husband (post-marriage convert). In a way, since I'm both a convert and married to a non-Catholic, non-practicing Christian, I am more mentally and emotionally prepared for the possible future: the defection of my children from the faith. They might not even have much to defect from if, without a practicing father, they never really feel much for it.

What I would say, not in a bossy way, is what these people needed to do was pray to St. Monica. She is a blessing for the mother of a fallen away child or wife of an unconverted husband. We have these role models here for a reason, a saint for every doubtful case. While I believe you and the commenter Florentius stated most of the "why" for this couple leaving, I think some pride also comes into play with these families who believe they are "doing everything right". No one is doing that, not even an ideal family like the Martins. Even they suffered terribly (though not from any apostasy).

I also think the whole "professional Catholic" phenomenon can lead people away from seeing their faith as faith and more like a business. They are not giving up their Catholic homeschool business. The Catholics are not good enough to be a part of their church but their money is still good enough. I know that sounds bitter, but I find that part of this whole situation very hypocritical.

Joy313 said...

"But my own hope is in my own personal salvation primarily. If I am saved but my children aren't, I will still be able to rejoice in the beatific vision . . . "

Obviously, this is theologically true. But only a father could make this statement. A mother never could. (no offense intended)

John said...

"No soul ever fell away from God without giving up prayer. Prayer is that which establishes contact with Divine Power and opens the invisible resources of heaven. However dark the way, when we pray, temptation can never master us."
- Bishop Fulton J. Sheen

Mrs.C. said...

I would also like to point out that children leaving the faith when they first leave home is very common. For the first time, they feel free to make their own decisions and sometimes that results in some rebellion. However, even if this happens there is still hope that they will return to the faith of their childhood at some point. I think many return when they get married and have children of their own. Having children is often a time where those who have left the faith reassess their decision and reasons for leaving in the first place. I speak from my own experience with this. I've seen it in my siblings. Just watch the Journey Home. A good percentage of those who left the Church and returned left in their young adulthood. There's still hope!

Boniface said...


I don't know if the point you are trying to make with that quote is that these people wren't praying. They absolutely were. Regular liturgical life. Eucharistic adoration. Rosary. Devotions. Private prayer. The whole nine yards. I think it's true that all people who lose faith stop praying, but continuing to pray is not necessarily a guarantee of retaining faith.

William said...

What a sad story. I'm inclined to think that this couple didn't know their faith well. It sounds as if their wills may have been in the cockpit rather than their intellects. What is faith? Faith is a supernatural gift instilled in our souls upon baptism, and it doesnt leave us unless we sin against it. It requires assent of the intellect to all divinely revealed truths. I believe saint Augustin says something like "anyone who rejects a single teaching of the Church has no faith." What a curious thing. How does one un-know firm foundational philosophical principles, such as the law of non contradiction or that the sum of the parts cannot be greater than the whole. Or that particular things have proper ends toward which they are ordered. It is more likely that concepts such as these would never have been known, rather than that they would be abandoned because of some relatively flimsy pretenses. I wonder if they may have been looking for an out.
The "love the sinner, hate the sin" part really stands out. An act is not a person, nor is a person an act. If persons were acts and vice versa then we could categorically condemn people for committing a single offensive act. How exactly does one not think through this before deciding to reject what it appears was the most important thing in one's life? I cant help but believe there is more to it. Just my two cents.

William said...

And thank you Boniface for pointing out that there may very well be chinks in our armour that lie hidden to others and even possibly to ourselves. To see what appear to be stalwart examples of a well lived Catholic faith fall, should motivate us to redouble our efforts to strengthen our own faith, and be perpetually vigilant against the attacks of the devil who "prowls about this world seeking devour us". May God bless you and confirm you in your faith!!

St. Benedict's Thistle said...

Not knowing anyone involved, but reading the post, I will hazard a guess that perhaps this couple do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

I do not say that with a Protestant bent, but as someone who has found through observation and experience that the Catholic faith can become more about ritual and rules than the Person of Christ. The Letter versus the Spirit, if you will.

As a convert of over 12 years, I have often been very grateful that I became acquainted with Christ through His acting upon my heart and mind through Scripture.

If I had not encountered Him there, I would be hard pressed to stay a Catholic or any other Christian. The fact that this couple is agnostic or nearly so, leads me to think they never really knew Christ. To know Him is to love Him.

If the couple had left for a Christian sect, they would soon find out that other Christians are just as flawed as anyone else.

The sexual abuse crisis is an existential matter that tries the best of us. I know several good people who have left the Church because of it. It is offensive to be associated with such an abomination and many are weak in faith.

The fact that it continues with no justice in sight is an epic scandal.

eccentriclyfluid said...

Much to ponder and contemplate. Thank you for writing this.

Jack said...

I think Catholics often can be (or appear to be) uncharitable (especially online) on such political topics. But I don't think it's due to uncharity towards persons. Catholics have a vague sense of themselves as a political group in society, and a vague sense that such liberal movements are anti-Catholic; and their grumpiness towards them (which is perceived as uncharity) is really just a natural self-defence reflex; which you could say Christians are called to transcend, but there you go. Yet if confronted with real people belonging to these groups (e.g. an 'openly gay' person), in a peaceful environment where they are not being politically challenged, I think it's much more likely that a Catholic will be charitable.

That feeds into what this couple said about the formula 'hate the sin, love the sinner,' being inadequate. The problem is in our current political climate people 'identify' themselves often according to their sins. So their children now 'identify' as atheists. So how can they succeed in loving their 'atheist children' while hating their atheism? Sure they can be easily separated according to logic, but not according to psychology. Again, in our political environment, people have such labels (gay, atheist, liberal) stuck to them, and we're asked to hate the thing they 'identify' and 'label' themselves as, while simultaneously loving them. How does this work humanly speaking? In point of fact, a lot of Catholics have been trained to understand their religion in such a political fashion, that when they see someone living under these labels they find it very difficult not to loathe them.

Jack said...

I think the liberal / woke movement should be taken more seriously. It shouldn't be dismissed or demonised. We should try better to understand its motivations. In my opinion, it looks like an antinomian offshoot of Christianity. It's a reaction to the failures of Christendom / traditional Christianity, which often has confused aristocratic or middle-class prejudices with the gospel. Liberals dismiss Christianity with such confidence because they're convinced they are more loving than Christians, and that Christianity has proven itself historically to be unloving. I think that's broadly false, but in particular cases true. We should look more into those cases. This couple seems to have had a rather political understanding of their Catholic identity, made very difficult under the pressures of public scandal and the tragedy of their children's falling away. But having such a political faith would make it hard not to hate their children once they had switched 'sides', so they must have felt it was either a choice between hating the church or hating their children; and they resented the church for forcing them to make such a choice. Obviously it's a false choice, but again, that's obvious logically speaking, not necessarily so psychologically speaking.

I think ever since the Reformation a great internal debate has been going on within Christendom about Law vs. Grace. These new liberals / woke people are like modern secular Lutherans who are tired of hearing about the Law and want only (a secularised) Grace. Coincidentally I've been reading Luther recently and I think he's a lot more nuanced that Catholics often make him out to be, and makes some striking points on the whole Law vs. Grace debate. He found that the way traditional Catholic spirituality stressed the fulfilment of the laws/precepts/morals/virtues tended to disturb consciences and take away the peace and love of God a Christian ought to have. This is still a relevant issue. These liberals seem to think they've found a way of loving and 'not judging' even more universal than the way of Christians, and of soothing men's guilty consciences. Of course they are ultimately wrong; but we can't establish that by merely dismissing them, which would itself be an uncharitable act. When you get Christian parents like these who think that the 'woke' movement would make it easier for them to love their children than the church would, that indicates some defect in the church (or in their understanding of it).

Richard Malcolm said...

"If that kind of a trad family can’t keep the faith, God help us!"

My caution here is: We really don't know what kind of trad family they were. We have only the details Boniface has given us - or even knows - about them.

It could be that their psychological life was healthy. That they really had a deep and well ordered devotional life and successfully shared it as a family. That they checked off every single box. Or then again, that there was something lacking in their personalities or formation. We just don't know.

Boniface said...

A lot of good comments on here.

A lot of you are making the same initial mistake I called out in the post though--trying to figure out which "box" hadn't been checked. The implication for some of you seems to be people who lose the Catholic Faith never had it to begin with, a kind of Catholic "once saved always saved." Needless to say, we need not affirm such an idea. A person can truly and legitimately posses the virtue of faith and be "doing everything right" and then gradually lose it over time for a whole variety of reasons.

I am not privy to the workings of grace, but in the human realm, on the most basic level, the ultimate reason someone keeps the faith is simply because they want to continue to be Catholic. So I would not waste time speculating on why these people "really" lost faith. They left the Church because they were no longer happy being Catholic. I didn't know them well, but I was familiar enough with them to know that, at some point, they definitely had a very real and sincere knowledge of the faith as well as a "personal relationship" with Jesus, inasmuch as I could tell.

Michael Dowd said...


"I think the liberal / woke movement should be taken more seriously. It shouldn't be dismissed or demonised"

I agree Jack. I am in agreement with the anarchists about their concern that most Americans have been participated in the wealth created the last 20 years which largely came about by favorable treatment of the rich elites by the Federal Reserve and by globalization, i.e, shopping countries for the lowest labor costs. It is thus no surprise rebellion is in the air. Right now incipient feudalism is our condition. This is not America as it was founded.

Anonymous said...

When I got married I read an article about how faithful Catholics had a surprising and disappointingly high divorce rate. As a bride-to-be the idea of divorce was frightening to me, but the point of article was that if someone wants a way out of their marriage they'll usually find it. The same is true for the Church. I think this couple just wanted a way out. Sadly they found it. I hope they know they're always welcome to come home.

c matt said...

To me, this smacked of Donatism, and an inability to separate the dysfunctional Catholic Church of the past 60 years, with the grand scope of Church history.

It's a shame more people are not steeped in Thomistic essence v. accidents. Which, ironically, is in large part the fault of the Church hierarchy.

As for losing the Faith, there but for the grace of God go I.

Biblelady said...

First, just a note to AMallek and Michael Dowd. AMalek: The Catholic Church is not another "denomination". Protestant churches are denominations. The Catholic Church is the TRUE church Jesus founded. Michael Dowd: There was nothing wrong with Vatican II - it was the misinterpretations of Vatican II that has caused so many problems. Just like the left trying to rewrite history and destroy truth and rebuild their own "truths" (as if there are various truths), there are "leftists" in the Church who for their own personal agenda, twisted things from Vatican II and purposely misinterpreted and misrepresented the facts.

This article was spot on! Thank you for writing it!

Michael Dowd said...


"It is not that there is anything wrong with Vatican II--it was a misinterpretation." Vatican II was written in such a way that allowed misinterpretation. It was orchestrated by Liberal/Masonic elements in the Church for the very purpose of misinterpretation, i.e., heresy. The only way to fix this devilish and catastrophic document is to abrogate it in its entirety. See Archbishop Vigano who says the same thing.

Mona Lisa said...

I'm not sure whether my comment is going to be relevant but I think families/people can get burned out. Traditional parishes have a lot going on with the different liturgical celebrations and keeping up with them requires a certain level of commitment and graces to do so. Sounds like this family has been faithfully doing this for many years. Then if one becomes unwell or there are other problems, it doesn't take much to "fall out" or to be forgotten by those you thought were friends. True friendship is underrated and very hard to come by in some Catholic parish circles, where everyone is attending a lot of formal gatherings. People are very busy as well and sometimes the "expectation" to be involved in parish life can seem like another burden and with a lack of friendship one can feel disconnected very quickly. There is also a funny kind of competitiveness around: I can't really explain it but it can divide people within a parish.
A person's stage in life can precipitate unexpected issues as well. Young people are constantly being talked about and paid attention to and rightly so, but older people also need "spiritual direction" and guidance too, can teach the younger ones and are not to be ignored or made to feel like they can't learn anything new, nor have nothing significant to contribute, once they reach 50 and over!
I'm sure God would have consolations for this family but leaving the Church adds another complexity to their problem/s. There are some problems we can't resolve, no matter how hard we have tried, prayed and sacrificed for. At a certain stage in life there is the temptation to think too much about what's past and how we could have done things differently and then blame the Church for the bad catechism over the last 60 years. Then there has been the absence of a true Catholic culture being handed down to us by our parents etc. These are terrible losses and disappointments. “Everyone would expect to have to help a man to save his life in a shipwreck; why not a man who has suffered a shipwreck of his life?” Chesterton
There is no where else to turn to but the Catholic Church.
"One thing in this world is different from all other. It has a personality and a force. It is recognised, and (when recognised) most violently loved or hated. It is the Catholic Church. Within that household the human spirit has roof and hearth. Outside it, is the Night." Hilaire Belloc

Dash said...

This is a great piece and very insightful. I do wonder how many families just can't sustain it anymore without family and community support. Everyone needs support and maybe their community wasn't providing it and then things start to spiral. In my experience trad Catholics (I consider myself one) really fall short on that end whereas the more emotionally-based streams of Catholicism are better with supporting their own.

Dash said...

This is a great piece and very insightful. I do wonder how many families just can't sustain it anymore without family and community support. Everyone needs support and maybe their community wasn't providing it and then things start to spiral. In my experience trad Catholics (I consider myself one) really fall short on that end whereas the more emotionally-based streams of Catholicism are better with supporting their own.

Michael Dowd said...

Mona Lisa--

"One thing in this world is different from all other. It has a personality and a force. It is recognized, and (when recognized) most violently loved or hated. It is the Catholic Church. Within that household the human spirit has roof and hearth. Outside it, is the Night." Hilaire Belloc

The Catholic Church of Hilaire Belloc has long since disappeared and gone in hiding in the Catacombs. We must find those places in it recesses where true Catholicism thrives. Most recently I am thrilled with the declarations of Archbishop Vigano on the Church. We need to follow good Catholic blogs like Unam Sanctam Catholicam, From Rome, and others. Mainly we must seek orthodox pre-Vatican Catholic sources and always have faith and hope that God will always help us.

Ellen Blurton-Jones said...

In the prayer to St. Michael we acknowledge that satan and his evil spirits are wandering the world seeking the ruination of souls. This is what is behind all the evil we are seeing in the Church, the world and families. Catholic teaching has always told us that the devil attacks "good" people more than the ones who are already far from God - I love the way C. S. Lewis demonstrates the devil's tactics in "The Screwtape Letters". So this poor couple and their family have succumbed. "There, but for the grace of God, go I." We must pray for one another. And when one's children lapse from the Faith we must pray for them without ceasing. St. Monica is a good advocate, "been there, done that". And we need good spiritual direction, sadly lacking from the Church's pastors for the most part, but available from good older books. I love St. Alphonsus Ligouri, and I have been reading "Divine Intimacy" by Father Gabriel for years and benefiting more every year. Our children will definitely suffer if we abandon our faith but if we persevere (and pray for the gift of final perseverance), they will certainly receive the grace to repent. We must pray for trust in God. The devil will try to convince us God does not love us, but look at the Cross. That is the answer.

Leila Miller said...

Brilliant analysis! They embraced, knowingly or not, "contemporary, woke spirituality." Their children ended up atheist and LGBTQ, and that means it's the Church's fault. They chose their kids' love and respect over God's. And when I pointed out (on a long thread of "Oh, you are so brave and we support you even though we don't agree with you!"), that apostasy was as old as dirt (parable of the sower), I was scolded for being mean... even though I had wished them the best and offered prayers. Anyway, a lot of woke Catholic "influencers" are on the same trajectory, and many have already fallen. It's like a conveyer belt at this point. Stand strong, folks. Jesus predicted all of this. "And when the Son of Man comes, will He find any faith on earth?"

c matt said...

"It is not that there is anything wrong with Vatican II--it was a misinterpretation." Vatican II was written in such a way that allowed misinterpretation.

I hope our esteemed host will forgive me if this is a hijack, but it does get to a significant part of the problem. V II was not written in a way that allowed misinterpretation, it was written in a way that encourages heretical interpretation and requires herculean efforts to interpret in an orthodox manner, if that is even possible. Bless his heart, but Benedict had to strain at not just gnats, but microbes, to squeeze a hermeneutic of continuity out of the thing. I am not sure he was successful.

This can cause an incredible cognitive dissonance, especially for traditional minded folks who want to hold Catholic teaching in the high esteem it deserves. Add to that the disastrous current pontificate, the onslaught from all quarters of society, and then the personal pain of fallen away children and it is a miracle that more people do not turn out like your unfortunate acquaintances. I know people sometimes ridicule blind faith, but I am slowly beginning to see the wisdom of it - not walking by sight, but by faith.

Boniface said...

C Matt you have been around long enough that you can hijack whatever you wish.

Michael Dowd said...

C. Matt-
You are correct in all you say about Vatican II. It is a catastrophe--a charter for the devil to control the Church. It must be abrogated in its entirety.

c matt said...

Thanks Boniface - I will do my best not to abuse the privilege :)

Kurt said...

When I was young, it was thought young people strayed from the Church but would return when they had children. I now know young couple who CEASE attending Mass when they have their first child. I inaudibly gasped when I was told this the first time. But I also could not bring myself to suggest a parent do something they believed endangered their child. I said nothing to the young man.

Queen Treasure said...

I come from different nations that have different problems but this Wokeness get it as far as other continent, even the majority of my country is muslim, a large conservative one. I agree with all the reasons of people leaving the church, but what we find mostly here is indifferentism that runs deeply in previously-pagan culture. What is more confusing for young Catholics are their interaction with other Faiths, like Protestant and Islam, that blur their view of God, causing it is easier to slip to indifferentism because they wish their friends/loved ones from different religions are all saved. I guess the addition of possible moralities and truths out there sway people, as morality seems as something can be chosen and improved

Anonymous said...

A confessor once told me that parents sew but don't harvest. Myparents certainly sew something in my heart but at least my dad, God rest his soul, did not see the outcome, or just a part of it. Childrenleave faith and Church not only when leaving home but also much earlier, like high school. St Monica prayed 20 years for the conversion of herson, St Augustine...

Anonymous said...

"I'm inclined to think that this couple didn't know their faith well" - this my fear day in day out: that I don't really know my faith. What does this mean? Even if I study day in, day out, I might not come to know my faith anyway. Are less educated people unable to believe? I am struggling with this thought for many years...

Boniface said...


Less educated people are definitely able to believe, and sometimes better than the educated. In this case, this couple knew their faith extremely well. That was never the issue.