Thursday, October 15, 2015

Why Be Catholic? Because It's True!

The following comes from Mark Shea at the NCR:

Not infrequently, Catholics are asked to give reasons for why they are Catholic. This, in itself, is not a bad thing. After all, St. Peter himself says "Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you" (1 Peter 3:15). What is often troubling, however, is the account we give. I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard Catholics "make defenses" in this way:

"I'm Catholic because it suits my personal life style. Being a Catholic just feels right to me. Plus, the Catholic Faith can help us weather the many changes of a hectic and uncertain world. Its family values are solid, it has a good school system, and it strikes a good balance between being too conservative and too liberal. I just like the special feeling I get at Christmas and Easter. Ritual and a touch of mysticism is important to psychological health."

And so on and so on. In his wonderful book, The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis offers us commentary on the human condition via His Abysmal Under Secretary Screwtape, a senior devil in the lowerarchy of Hell. Screwtape waxes enthusiastic about these sorts of "defenses of the Faith" because they are, in the end, useful to his nefarious purposes. Why is he so fond of them? Because they encourage the "hairless bipeds" (that'd be us) to embrace Christ and his church for shaky (and therefore easy to destroy) reasons. In the words of Screwtape, the goal of the demonic tempter, if his human "patient" shows an interest in "religion", is to derail that patient into believing the Faith "not because it's true, but for some other reason. That's the game."

If we embrace such a temptation, we will be Catholic for as long as we have "special feelings" at Christmas and Easter, or as long as the school system remains good, or as long as the Faith "suits my personal life style" or political leanings, or whatever. The moment these things--or we--change and our tastes come into conflict with the Church's teaching we will cease to be Catholic. Or rather, we will begin to show that we never really were.

To turn Screwtape's wisdom on its head, the remedy to this problem is to find out whether the Faith is true and, if so, believe it for that reason. Why do I think this? Because, as a convert, this was precisely what I was, in honesty, compelled to do when confronted with the prospect of becoming a Catholic.

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