An Open Letter to Catholics, With Love

Dear Friends in Christ,

                Earlier this week, the Supreme Court passed down two rulings which took yet another chunk out of the sacred institution of marriage, ordained by Christ and the Church, as well as society, which has recognized and protected it as unique throughout the history of our great country. Archbishop Lori issued a statement calling attention to the continuing trend of lawmakers, judges and voters ignoring the fundamental truth about marriage being “the most valued, the most important social unit in our society.”

                There’s a larger and more critical issue in front of us though, my friends. As Catholics, we aren’t speaking with the voice of Jesus on this issue, along with many others on which the Mother Church has proclaimed and taught. A friend of mine who is a marketing professional mentioned to me how many large companies jumped on the same-sex marriage bandwagon immediately after the Supreme Court rulings, using their branded messaging and slick marketing campaigns to cash in on marketing to the gay and lesbian demographic.

                This got me to thinking, my Catholic brothers and sisters – who are we as a Church? What is our brand and how are we getting out the message of truth, from the magisterium to clergy in our parishes and communities to the laity? Why do so many of us, who tell our friends and co-workers that we are Catholic, say things like: ‘I don’t really believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist,” or “I think God is fine with same-sex marriage,” or “I don’t believe there is a hell” or finally “I don’t think the Church has any business telling women what they should do with their bodies when it comes to abortion?”

                We have a branding crisis, my friends. Our messages are missing the mark. People on the outside look at Catholics and they don’t know what they see. When the majority of us don’t go to Mass on Sunday, when we say we believe things contrary to Church teaching, when we don’t understand what our faith teaches and why, when we shake our fists in defiance of the Holy Father, the bishops and our church leaders, we confuse and harm not only ourselves, but those who look to us because they are craving love and truth in the greatest time of fear and uncertainty in the history of our country, if not the world.

                We can blame poor catechesis. For decades, particularly after Vatican II, the Church did a poor job teaching not only our children, but our adult faithful as well. We didn’t know what we didn’t know and we weren’t sure how to explain what we did. Let’s pray for one another that we will be committed to continually learning, reading and studying what our faith teaches. It is rich with knowledge, wisdom and tradition and furthermore, it has been inspired since the beginning by the mercy, wisdom and grace of the Holy Spirit. If you don’t believe that, you may be Catholic in name only.

                You have a decision to make, friends. We all do. We’ve never looked into the eyes of someone God does not love, yet we have been given free will. You have to decide if you want to share the truth, in love, and risk persecution from outside and within our faith, or if you want to be a luke-warm Catholic who sits in the pew turning up your nose while not believing all or most of what the Church teaches. You can get up tomorrow and walk out of your parish forever. You can choose to go down the street to the Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Non-Denominational Christian or any other church if it better suits your belief system. Our wonderful and beautiful Catholic Church welcomes all and does not wish anyone to lose their salvation. I certainly do not. But like anything in life, there comes a time when we have to take stock, take a hard look at who we are and what we believe, and then make decisions how to live accordingly.

                Along those lines, we need our leaders – Pope Francis, the Cardinals and our bishops – as well as all the clergy and the laity to defend what we believe and to speak it in plain language that all can understand. As Catholics, we are being muzzled and shamed by those who oppose all we stand for and believe. They call us bigots, homophobes. They say we are full of hate. Let’s start the conversation simply by saying we are not any of those. We came to believe what we believe because we LOVE, not because we hate, and because our greatest hope is that every man and woman lives the life that God desires for them.

                  When non-Catholics look at us, let’s hope they see loving and welcoming people who desire to share the Gospel message, the gift of Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the hope of salvation. That’s the starting point for all conversation. But let’s not sell them or ourselves short – they want to know who we are and what we believe. So, the final question is: Are you Catholic and if so, what do you believe and why?

With Blessings to You,

Deacon Brent

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.