It was only 84 years ago that Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio took a walk around the town toward the cemetery. At 15 years old, one wouldn’t expect him to be going toward such a dreary place, but rather enjoying time with his friends, perhaps playing a ball game.
But Jose was far from such enjoyments; his walk to the cemetery was made very difficult because government soldiers had sliced his feet. Along the way, he was cut with machetes, and, at the cemetery, after being pierced multiple times with bayonets, he was shot and killed.
What was the purpose of this brutal killing? Jose was told by his captors to “renounce his faith in Christ, under the threat of death.”
Along his walk he was given numerous opportunities to say “Death to Christ the King,” he didn’t. As he was being stabbed with bayonets, he drew a cross in the dirt and kissed it.
I raise the point because I think Jose would totally agree with the first line of Erik Burgess’ recent article in the Forum: “If you want to be Catholic, you have to be 100 percent Catholic.”
Of course, the article in question wishes that weren’t the case. It tells the story of Lennon Cihak, a Barnesville teen who was recently denied Confirmation, the sacrament by which a person becomes an adult in the Catholic Church.
According to the article, his confirmation was denied because he posted a photo of a defaced “Vote Yes” sign on his page. He is holding the sign and smiling. His parents and Lennon are considerably upset at the denial of the sacrament. His father, Doug, argued that God’s creation of Lennon is reason enough to allow Lennon to be confirmed.
I raise the issue, because the relationship of beliefs and membership in the Church has been a hot topic of late. Further, I have found Concordia to be a place where interfaith dialogue is valued as a great asset. It is my intention here, as a Catholic, to share a few easily missed aspects of Catholicism that should put the confirmation incident in a different light.
It has been a common occurrence of late for some Catholics to note a disparity between their ideas and beliefs and those of the Catholic Church. In my home paper, The Advocate, in an op-ed concerning the marriage amendment, Mr. Conor Holt noted a disparity between his conception of Catholicism and the teachings of the Church.
He writes, “I will vote no on the marriage amendment because of the values I learned as…member of the Catholic Church…I can only hope that in time they will take to heart their own lessons of love and understanding.”
Lennon expresses a similar idea when he trivializes his situation to a clerical problem.
“I don’t want the church to be put down. I don’t want the Catholic religion to be put down,” he said. “It’s just the way the priest has things running. He’s so strict. He won’t loosen up about things.”
There are two points to be made, the first concerns the internal coherency of the Church, and the second concerns the internal coherency of those who belong to her. In the case of Mr. Holt especially, the assertion is made that there is an apparent and obvious disagreement between the principles of the Church and how she expresses those principles in public. If the Church wants us to be loving, as Christ was loving, then how can she be against homosexual marriage?
Rather than argue that the Church is coherent in principles and teachings, I will simply point out how absurd it would be to be a Catholic and suppose otherwise.
Suppose it is true that there is a disparity between Catholic principles and Catholic teaching, why then would anyone want to be Catholic? If I am convinced that there is a severe (shall we say) hypocrisy within the Church, then it is only reasonable to leave. Why trust your soul to a Church you are convinced can’t get their act together? Too often I see young Catholics living this sort of double life, convinced the Church has massive flaws of dogma and doctrine, yet still pledging with their bodies and souls to believe in her. They ought to make up their minds.
But before everyone who has any kind of problem with their Catholicism runs for the door, might I suggest the possibility that their understanding is wrong, while the Church’s understanding is right? After all the Church has had 2,000 years to sort out problems of inconsistency. We college kids have only had a decade or so of productive thinking. Is it so hard to admit our understanding might be lacking in some way?
It is this humility that is asked of those who become Catholic. The Church doesn’t demand perfection at the time of confirmation, but she does ask for the loss of resistance. You are asked to confirm your faith in the Church and the God who created her. Faith comes before understanding. It is faith in the Church that is asked of those who wished to be part of her.
It was Saint Paul who first noted the similarity between Catholic spirituality and athleticism. “Athletes will take tremendous pains for a fading crown of leaves, our contest is for a crown that will never fade.”
No one calls it unjust when lesser athletes aren’t allowed in the Olympics because they couldn’t pass qualifiers. Even of those who make it all don’t win medals.
The Catholic Church has their qualifier, which is confirmation. We have our medalists, they’re called the saints. Who can be confirmed? Those who accept the truth (and the whole truth) of the Church’s teachings. Who is sainted? The top paragraph should give you some idea.
This column was submitted by John Goerke, MSUM Advocate Staff Writer.