St. Peter's Basilica is seen at the Vatican in this Oct. 9, 2017, file photo. On Feb. 14, 2022, Pope Francis split the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith into two main sections: doctrine and discipline. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Editorial: Charity, mercy, love

  • February 24, 2022

Seven years ago this spring a high-profile and very public Catholic commentator noisily left the Church after having already abandoned and returned to it previously.

As if deploying a scorched earth tactic through self-immolation of his Roman persona, the individual began attacking Catholic groups and individuals who were previously his enthusiastic supporters. It’s reported he is now happy as an Anglican. It is good to be happy, and also wise for us as Catholics to remember that while we are separated from the Anglican Church, we share with its faithful the living joy that is Christ.

For an extended period after this man’s departure, however, certain Catholic circles resonated with concern over his wounding attacks, yes, but also for the state of his soul. The intentions were good but tended to miss the counterbalancing point that he was better finding a place of peace than sitting at Mass mentally and spiritually raging against the teachings of the Church he once so ardently defended in the secular media and in the pages of The Catholic Register. The argument here is not in favour of abandoning the Church on a whim. Rather, it’s that, of all imaginable human activities, Mass is no place to dwell in perpetual distraction.

It’s opportune to call ourselves back to that truth both as an exercise of discipline but also as a conscientious gesture of charity. Through our baptism, through the sacraments, through the Mass and the life of the Church, we are committed to giving God our full, and fully attentive, love. The most crucial requirement of that commitment is following Christ’s commandment to love our neighbours as ourselves.

What could be more important to bear with all our hearts and all our minds and all our souls than the discipline of that charity as we enter this Lenten season when we are, after two years of disruption and dryness, becoming able to worship in our physical churches, in full physical and spiritual community, once again?

At a practical level, it can protect us from the naivete that the return to “normal” worship will be seamless and, far more importantly, that divisions within the Church caused by secular political pandemic policies will heal with the first Alleluia.

As The Register has reported, in many parishes those divisions are real and searing. They will require attention — Christian attention — to processes of healing that make paramount the charity, mercy and above all, love of Christ. They might also take time for some Catholics to feel comfortable returning. Some will certainly need overt gestures of welcome. Fortunately, we have Christ’s parable of prodigality in Luke’s Gospel as a primer for how to proceed.

We also have the example of our very public-Catholic prodigal who left, returned and then scorched the earth under his own feet in noisily leaving once again. We should keep him in mind as we who are Catholic remain in the joyful hope of Christ.

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