I am like so many lay Catholics, regular parishioners in pews and parishes throughout the United States, who respectfully yearn to hear the voice of our bishops amid today’s various shades of increasing social upheaval and confusion—a voice anchored profoundly in the truths of Christ, His Teachings, and His Church that has safeguarded those teachings for more than 2,000 years.
As a lifelong Catholic reared by parents who by their example created a recognition of the importance of God in my life. I was taught that putting God first was best accomplished by attendance frequently at Holy Mass, including every Sunday and Holy Day, regular confession, and the receipt of the Eucharist.
I can still remember serving 6:00 am Mass in the first grade in 1949.
It was always clear to me that there was a special reverence needed for the Eucharist and not too many years later I began to understand the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
Yet recent surveys of Catholics show a range from a low of 31% to a high of 49% who believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. How sad, especially when modern technology and communication methods allow anyone to read and learn about Eucharistic miracles that have taken place over the centuries, including the Eucharistic Miracle of Buenos Aires which took place on August 18, 1996. Clear proof for anyone who has—or seeks—faith.
I attended Catholic school through the 8th grade. I relied on the Newman Center at the University of Texas to help keep me grounded in my faith while in college, reared my children as Catholics, have read and continue reading the Bible and great Catholic authors, have participated in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) and Christ Renews His Parish (CRHP), and am a member of numerous Catholic lay organizations.
I am not alone.
A Devoted Catholic Layman’s Respect for our Bishops
I am simply a devoted Catholic lay person—one individual among many—striving in my imperfect way to find and do the will of God.
I am not a theologian. I am not as educated in the Catholic faith as are our priests and particularly, our Bishops.
I respect our Bishops, particularly the Bishop in the Diocese where I live and those with whom I have been blessed to develop a friendship.
I accept the authority of the Bishop in his Diocese.
Where Does Catholic Laity in the United States find itself today?
With this background, I now shift to the situation we find ourselves in as Catholics in a country that is adopting government policies through executive and agency actions that clearly are in conflict with the teachings of the Catholic Church.
I know that the Church has found itself in difficult circumstances throughout the centuries, but in my 77 years I have never before seen the dire circumstances facing the Church in 2021.
I know the worldwide Church has traditionally moved slowly, sometimes very slowly on issues it is facing.
The advent of the internet and the platform this technology allows to anyone who avails oneself of its use creates a dynamic difference from times past.
When the issue is whether or not you follow the clear unequivocal teachings and Truths of the Catholic Church or, because of actions and comments on the part of certain Church hierarchy, you allow uncertainty and confusion amongst the faithful to continue and heighten, the right decision is always to Follow the Truth, prevent further loss of practicing Catholics, and seek to stop the scandal causing their loss.
In reading a number of relevant articles, particularly in the National Catholic Register, Catholic Business Journal, First Things and more, there is great interest and concern about what the USCCB will do in its late June meeting.
However, it is clear that whatever discussions take place, the most that will happen is a vote to determine if a paper will be written between the date of the vote in June and the next meeting in November.
Questions Worthy of Consideration by the Bishops
The following questions seem to require serioius consideration by the Bishops’ conference:
- In the words of a wise priest friend, we should each ask ourselves the question ‘Why are we here on earth – to be for the world, or to be for God?” How does each Bishop answer?
- In John 17:13-17, Jesus said, “But now I am coming to you. I speak this in the world so that they may share my joy completely. I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world, I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the Evil One. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.” If you believe God’s word is Truth, must you not follow that Truth established for centuries without variance?
- In the Acts of the Apostles 20:29-30, “Paul spoke to the presbyters of the Church of Ephesus: Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, in which you tend the Church of God that he acquired with his own Blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you, and they will not spare the flock. And from your own group, men will come forward perverting the truth to draw the disciples away after them.” As current day “overseers” tending the Church of God have “savage wolves come among you?” They are not sparing the flock.
- The teaching document of Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone released in May 2021, is worthy of reading and study.
- Canon 916 requires that a person not present themselves for Communion if that person is in obstinate pervasive serious sin, so the responsibility is on the individual. Whereas Canon 915 speaks about what the Bishop is to do if an individual’s actions are public and can be a cause of scandal, then the individual is not be admitted to Communion after the Bishop’s direct conversation(s) with the individual. Do you not believe, as per Canon 915, when the individuals’ actions are public and are a cause of scandal, the individual is not to be admitted to Communion?
- Does a Bishop have a limitation on his own conscience when the action he supports and recommends is in direct contravention of the Truth causing scandal resulting in persons leaving the Church because of the Bishop’s failure to follow Church teaching?
- Does the instruction on morality still apply that there are moral absolutes to which prudential judgment does not apply? Has “relativism” made its way into the actions of certain Church leaders?
What are Many of the Church Laity Concerned About?
The lay persons I talk to and hear from do not understand how some Church hierarchy say they seek unity and oppose division, but these are the same ones we read about in the media espousing open-mindedness for LGBTQ, receptivity to transgenderism, avoidance of addressing homosexuality, and a lack of promotion of traditional marriage between one man and one woman.
A statement asking not to create division fails to recognize that division already openly exists among the Bishops.
What Truth is Not
Truth is not: Left vs. Right, liberal vs. conservative, Democrat vs. Republican, Socialist vs. Traditionalist, progressive vs. orthodox, communist vs fundamentalist.
The purpose of our life is to get to heaven and thereby save our souls. Let us be vigilant to rebuke the “wolves” of the world who would lead us astray.
What is the Way?
Jesus Christ is “the way, the truth, and the light” (John 14:6) for the salvation of souls.
With that foremost in mind, may He guide the deliberation of the Bishops in their June and November 2021 meetings.
Catholic Laity must have Perseverance and Stand Firm
It is time for Catholic laity to have perseverance and to stand firm following the Truths of our faith.
I offer these reflections and questions with the greatest charity, love, and hope for the decisions that the Bishops make will be strong and clear following the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Tim Von Dohlen holds both pharmaceutical and legal degrees, having practiced in both fields, serves as a former Texas state representative, and is a business owner and co-founder of the St. John Paul II Life Center, Tim Von Dohlen and his wife Pat put their faith into words in in their book, In Life The Journey Is Everything: From the Dump to the Gym and Beyond. Together they recount their adventures, their journey of healing from grief, their discovery of hope after tragedy and ultimately finding love again… Tim may be reached at email@example.com
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