The Catholic Church, as the media portrays her, is a true disappointment. Scandal after scandal has stripped her of her credibility and beauty– it is not surprising then to hear of and to know of many people who have left the faith. However, the more surprising thing is that I have neither left the faith nor would I propose the idea to anyone. To many secular people, I am just another example of someone who would hold to an unreasonable amount of blind faith and an unquestionable obedience to a Church that is supposedly turning away from her troubles. This kind of criticism is a difficult challenge for any Catholic to reply to. After some discussions with friends who still hold firm to the faith, the common reply would be to point out that these sort of criticisms are based on an illogical argument by generalisation (some members in the Church are bad and corrupt; therefore, the whole entire Church is bad and corrupt). In addition, my friends would often point out that every religion has its “bad apples.” Although, these responses are intelligent to some degree, I am not satisfied by them since they do not actually consider the problem itself and the cause for scandal, and every chance for a true and honest reflection with our critics is lost in the heat of argument; consequently, listeners often leave angry and more opposed to the Catholic Church.
In the hope of deepening our faith and encouraging others, let us for a moment take time to consider how we could respond to these criticisms; so, let us begin with our initial defences. Firstly, pointing out that one shouldn’t generalise the entire Church is a great way to begin a defence for the Church, but often times, a defence in this manner leads to an aggressive debate and the problem becomes an intellectual one. This intellectual debate labels us as cold intellectuals, having no sense of remorse, and insensitive to the victims. Pointing out a logical fallacy is not always the first thing we ought to say. Secondly, how does criticising other religions help our case? Why must we need to criticise other religions and individuals in order to defend ourselves? Would you be happy with a family member who did something wrong and instead of admitting to their fault and changing, points out to you the sins of their friends? Clearly, this is a sign of desperation. Sadly, this sort of defence is commonly heard. Surely, we must reflect on a deeper level regarding these challenges to our faith in order to base our faith on more reasonable grounds and to convince doubters that the life of the Gospel is worth dying for.
Perhaps, we can look to the saints since they are true signs for us that the Catholic Church is holy. There are many to choose from. They lived their life according to the faith, and the stories of their life include countless miracles and acts of heroism. The saints are holy people who did a lot for their community selflessly and lovingly. Whenever I am approached about certain hardships, I often speak about the lives of the saints in order to help encourage someone to continue living a good Christian life. Mentioning the saints to people not of the Christian faith is also a great way to give credibility to our belief. However, this is still insufficient.
Unfortunately, the saints are long dead and gone; most of them lived centuries ago. Their miracles sound absurd and questionable to a secular and scientific world. To an atheist, the saints are from fairytales and from a tradition of legends handed down to us from uneducated people. Belief in the miracles of the saints already requires a certain acceptance of the authority of the Catholic Church to be able to declare that such miracles are indeed true miracles from God. Furthermore, abuse, scandal, and corruption in our present time are hardly erased from the memories of victims by some miracle performed by a saint centuries ago. It is silly then to point to the saints of long ago with some hope of lightening the present burden of scandal. Nevertheless, we do find hope in the saints because by looking to the saints, we come to a realisation that all of them lived in a time and place wherein the faith was as challenging to hold as it is now. Corruption and scandal were as common in their time as it is in our own time, but they faced it head on, and each answered the challenges of their time in various ways; yet fundamentally, they answered in the same manner: accepting the criticism, repenting and living their life in virtue and holiness according to the Gospel.
Read part 2 here.