Friends, it is always heartbreaking to see someone leave the Catholic Church. We should take such occasions as opportunities to examine ourselves and our own evangelical failings in the service of the Lord. That is why I want you to read the following snippet from one couple’s journey out of Catholicism and into the LDS Church, and then listen to what I have to say about reversing the tide of the millions of faithful flowing away from the Catholic Church.
“One evening we met with a friend of ours who was a deacon in the Catholic Church we attended. He and his wife freely drank wine during the evening, while their children ran around the house and made a considerable amount of noise and commotion. Later that evening Marilyn and I both found ourselves comparing their home to the home of our [Mormon] neighbors, where we always felt such an environment of peace and family unity. The Torgesens’ children would play around the house and do what children do, but we never saw them in a chaotic state as we did in the home of our dear deacon friend. We asked ourselves what type of home we wanted and came to the quick conclusion that the Torgesens’ home was what we desired for our family. Our dear friend the deacon was a wonderful person, but we simply wanted more.
“During this same evening, our deacon friend tried passionately to dissuade us from embracing the doctrines and principles we had learned from our investigation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He explained to us that there was no such thing as Satan, but rather an evil presence that was in opposition to that which was good. He said that there was no such thing as angels and that the Red Sea was not really parted by Moses in a literal sense, but rather it was an act of nature that allowed the Hebrews to cross. Upon hearing the deacon’s logical explanations, I was immediately reminded of the words Heavenly Father spoke to Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove: ‘They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof’ (Joseph Smith–History 1:19).”
(Eric Shuster, Catholic Roots, Mormon Harvest).
Marilyn in the above story was a former Franciscan nun and a certified Catholic youth director for the Diocese of Galveston-Houston. Thus, it is not only the uninstructed and the spiritually inexperienced who are falling away from Christ and his Church. But how, then, can we account for the loss of such seemingly well-equipped souls? What is the explanation for the significant inroads being made by the LDS Church into Catholicism?
Sin is the simplest and most correct answer. And all sin traces back to a fundamental lack of trust in God, as evidenced by Adam and Eve’s decision to disobey their Lord in the Garden of Eden. Whether you take the story of Adam and Eve as historical or allegorical or perhaps some combination of the two is irrelevant—the main point is that we human beings have trust issues. And regrettably, most Catholic religious education programs, especially in regards to Scripture, approach God’s word from a perspective of distrust, suspicion, and deconstruction. Scholars pick apart the Bible and reduce it to a chaotic web of various sources and interpretive hypotheses. It’s confusing, plain and simple. People shut down. Religious educators often teach them plenty of critical thinking skills, sure, but they never teach them any solid knowledge about which to think critically. And religious educators never teach them apologetics either—only myriads of questions without definite answers. I don’t know if this tragic state has come about because of a desire for political correctness or being sensitive to other faiths or what, but it’s got to stop, because respecting others shouldn’t involve belittling one’s own self and one’s one religion.
Because of the sad condition of Catholic religious education, many people have gotten the wrong idea that at bottom, there is nothing rational to support Christianity. And thus, they have become relativists—the truth, as they have been habitually taught to think, is always debatable and ultimately unknowable. And so, in the midst of the confusion, many have departed from classical understandings like those expounded by Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas and have turned instead to a concept of faith as mere inner conviction or belief for the sake of belief. This “fideism” (a heresy condemned by the Catholic Church at Vatican I for very good reasons) is seen on clear display in Catholic Roots, Mormon Harvest, wherein Marilyn and her husband write, “We must remember that spirituality is about faith; therefore, the component of intellectuality takes a back seat to faith. If that were not the case, then the vast majority of Christians in the world today would be unable to participate in religion.”
The key assumption underlying Marilyn’s and her husband’s above declaration is that reason and faith are in conflict, and faith must take the victory. And when one is stranded in a wasteland of baseless opinions and endless conflict and change, where does one go? To the place with the strongest witness, which for Marilyn and her husband was Mormonism. Modern people are disillusioned with words; they listen mainly to actions. Arguments against Mormonism that are centered on Joseph Smith’s polygamy and problematic teachings sound exactly like more of the same bickering one might encounter while reading a commentary about the historicity of certain passages in the Pentateuch—it’s all just meaningless noise to most people.
So, what is the solution? First, prayer, that the world might again recognize the existence of objective truth. Second, profound, heroic Christian action to reach a world that has closed its ears to preaching. Third, apologetics. We Catholics must know, and teach, the reasonable arguments and the compelling evidence that undergird our faith. And what is faith? It is the decision to follow teachings and persons that have proven reliable, despite our present doubts. Faith is nothing but the free assent of the will to the clear, yet personally challenging, revelation of God. Faith must rest on the solid rock of hard fact; if it does not, it is, quite simply, not faith, but delusion.
Catholics can no longer afford to simply be knowledgable about what they believe—they must be trained and convinced experts. If you want to save souls from drifting helplessly along in the uncertain winds of this world, then you have got to start preparing yourself immediately. The soul you save may be your own. If you’re looking for a good place to start, try Catholic Answers. When the Mormons, or whoever else, come knocking at your door, you’ll be ready to explain the truth in charity. And who knows? You may even win a few converts to the Catholic Church.