Dreher: “Pope Francis only confirms my decision to leave” the Catholic Church. A HARD look at where we are.

There is an intense piece by Rod Dreher over at TIME.  The whole thing is worth a close look, but here are some longish samples.

NB: While I disagree with Dreher’s decision to leave the Catholic Church, I sure understand how he got to that point and I have to agree with a great deal of what he says about the squishy, formless pabulum Catholics have been fed for decades. Dreher, offering a salutary warning, also makes a connection between the destructive “spirit of Vatican II” and its potential replacement, a “spirit of Francis”.

There has been both lavish (nearly irrational) praise of Pope Francis and there has been harsh (nearly irrational) criticism of Pope Francis. I don’t agree with everything that Dreher wrote here (of course… I usually only agree entirely with myself), but I haven’t seen the points he makes put so eloquently.

While Dreher’s look at The Francis Effect™ may make you squirm a little, will any of you be willing to disagree with his vivisection of the American Church?  When he talks about the effects of the “spirit of Vatican II”, doesn’t he hit the nail square on?

We need this kind of hard-nosed, cool introspection.

I’m Still Not Going Back to the Catholic Church

Pope Francis only confirms my decision to leave

By Rod Dreher

It’s not hard to understand why people are so excited about Pope Francis. Since his sensational interview last week, many have said that with his personal warmth and determination to put doctrine in the background, Francis is just the man to bring a lot of fallen-away Catholics back into the church.

Maybe. But I’m an ex-Catholic whose decision to leave the Catholic Church is not challenged by Francis’s words, but rather confirmed.

Just over two decades ago, when I began the process to enter the Roman Catholic Church as an adult convert, I chose to receive instruction at a university parish, figuring that the quality of teaching would be more rigorous. After three months of guided meditations and endless God is love lectures, I dropped out.  [I thank God that I discovered the Church where and how I did.]


What I was told, in effect, in that university Catholic parish was that God loved me just as I was — true — but that I didn’t need to do anything else. It dawned on me one day that at the end of this process, all of us in the class would end up as Catholics, but have no idea what the Catholic Church taught. I bolted, and a year later, I was received into the Church in another parish. [Sounds about right.]

If you only know about the Catholic Church from reading the papers, you are in for a shock once you come inside. The image of American Catholicism shown by the media is of a church preoccupied with sex and abortion. It’s not remotely true. [Exactly! Where are all these priests and bishops who are “obsessed” with sex and abortion?  Do you know any?] I was a faithful mass-going Catholic for 13 years, attending a number of parishes in five cities in different parts of the country. I could count on one hand the number of homilies I heard that addressed abortion or sexuality in any way. Rather, the homilies were wholly therapeutic, almost always some saccharine variation of God is love.  [All you need is luv.]

Well, yes, He is, but Sunday School simplicities only get you so far. Classical Catholic theology dwells on the paradox of God’s love and God’s justice. As Dante shows in the Divine Comedy, God’s love is God’s justice poured out on those who reject Him. In the Gospels, Jesus offers compassion to sinners rejected by religious rigorists, but he also tells them to reform their lives, to “go forth and sin no more.”

Was I frustrated because the priests wouldn’t preach God’s judgment instead of God’s mercy? By no means. I was frustrated because they wouldn’t preach God’s judgment at all, which is to say, they preached Christ without the Cross. [Ain’t it the truth.] I knew the depths of the sins from which I was being delivered, and it felt wrong to treat His amazing grace like it was a common courtesy. Like the reggae song says, “Everybody wants to get to heaven, but nobody wants to die.”



[Here we go!] The contemporary era of global Catholicism began in 1959, when the newly elected Pope John XXIII sought to “open the windows” of the fusty old Church to the modern world by calling the Second Vatican Council. Three years later, in his opening address to the council, the charismatic and avuncular pope called for “a new enthusiasm, a new joy and serenity of mind in the unreserved acceptance by all of the entire Christian faith,” without compromising on doctrine. A fierce spirit of the age blasted through those newly-opened windows, scouring nearly everything in its path. The coming decades would see a collapse in Catholic catechesis and Catholic discipline. The so-called “spirit of Vatican II” — a perversion of the Council’s actual teaching — justified many subsequent outrages.  [I am tempted to memorize that paragraph.]

[… skipping stuff about the abuse crisis and how it was handled…]

All this put the moral unseriousness of the American church in a certain light. As the scandal raged, one Ash Wednesday, I attended mass at my comfortable suburban parish and heard the priest deliver a sermon describing Lent as a time when we should all come to love ourselves more.  [ARGH!]


It wasn’t safe to raise my children in this church, I thought — not because they would be at risk of predators, but because the entire ethos of the American church, like the ethos of the decadent post-Christian society in which it lives, is not that we should die to ourselves so that we can live in Christ, as the new testament demands, but that we should learn to love ourselves more.

Flannery O’Connor, one of my Catholic heroes, famously said, “Push back against the age as hard as it pushes against you. What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross.” American Catholicism was not pushing back against the hostile age at all. Rather, it had become a pushover. [Pathe-tic.] God is love was not a proclamation that liberated us captives from our sin and despair, but rather a bromide and a platitude that allowed us to believe that, and to behave as if, our lust, greed, malice and so forth – sins that I struggled with every day — weren’t to be despised and cast out, but rather shellacked by a river of treacle.

I finally broke. Losing my Catholic faith was the most painful thing that ever happened to me. Today, as much as I admire Pope Francis and understand the enthusiasm among Catholics for him, his interview makes me realize that the good, if incomplete, work that John Paul II and Benedict XVI did to restore the Church after the violence of the revolution stands to be undone. [Exactly! And you can feel the erosion happening under our feet even now, like a massive sinkhole at work.] Though I agree with nearly everything the pope said last week in his interview, and cheer inwardly when he chastises rigorist knotheads who would deny the healing medicine of the Church to anyone, [On the other hand, how many of those idiots are there?] I fear his merciful words will be received not as love, but license. [HERE is a money quote…] The “spirit of Pope Francis” will replace the “spirit of Vatican II” as the rationalization people will use to ignore the difficult teachings of the faith. If so, this pope will turn out to be like his predecessor John XXIII: a dear man, but a tragic figure.

In his interview, the pope used a metaphor for the Church that is often employed by Eastern Orthodox Christianity: he called it a “field hospital” where the walking wounded can receive treatment. He’s right, but it’s important to discern the nature of the cure on offer. Anesthesia is a kind of medicine that masks the pain, but it’s not the kind of medicine that heals the underlying sickness.

There is, of course, no such thing as the perfect church, but in Orthodoxy, which radically resists the moralistic therapeutic deism that characterizes so much American Christianity, I found a soul-healing balance. In my Russian Orthodox country mission parish this past Sunday, the priest preached about love, joy, repentance, and forgiveness – in all its dimensions. Addressing parents in the congregation, he exhorted us to be merciful, kind, and forgiving toward our children. But he also warned against thinking of love as giving our children what they want, as opposed to what they need.

“Giving them what they want may make it easier for us,” he said, “but we must love our children enough to teach them the hard lessons, and compel them toward the good.” [The Book of Proverbs comments in this way, too.]

True, that. And I cherish this pastor because he loves his people enough to teach us the hard lessons, and to compel us past mediocrity, and toward the good. Catholic priests of the same mind and orientation as my Orthodox pastor – and I know many of them – are telling me that the Holy Father, by signaling to his American flock that God is love, and the rest doesn’t really matter, just made their mission a lot more difficult. [Damn right it is!] But that is no longer my problem. [No, Rod, it is still your problem. Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 14: “They could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it, or to remain in it.”]

While it might be tempting to discuss Dreher’s own “faith journey”, the real meat here is in his view of the state of the Church and the direction he guesses it is going.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Priam1184 says:

    Forgive me Father but I cannot deal with this guy. He basically rehashes all of the garbage that we all know to be true about the Church (and I have heard on a consistent basis far worse things in homilies and preaching than anything he mentioned) in this age and that is good, but HE LEFT. He talks about how wonderful the Catholic Faith and Catholic theology was in decades and centuries gone by but, is it not still the same Faith, the same theology, and the same Truth that it has always been? Even if the expression is terribly mangled and ripped to shreds at the moment? The Truth is still what it has always been. I have great sympathy for anyone trying to raise children in the environment of the contemporary American Church (it must be terrible), but there are those who follow their calling in this regard and do not leave. For better or worse this terrible crisis of the contemporary Church will not last forever, and one day (though none of us will probably be on earth to see it) the tide will turn. If your priest or your parish are not giving you or your family what you require then go and seek it yourselves. There is no excuse in this age of Amazon.com (always follow Father Z’s link) where you are a few dollars and a couple clicks of a mouse away from the writings of Blessed John Paul II, St. Alphonsus Liguori, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, St. John Chrysostom, Origen, Justin Martyr, or the Apostolic Fathers. And there is always the New Testament itself if you are squeamish about the above names. This has never been possible in all of the ages of the world leading up to this time. We have no excuse, and I kind of doubt that Our Lord will look favorably on those who have such ready access to such treasures yet still cast the Faith to the side and run in another direction.

  2. mamajen says:

    I chose to receive instruction at a university parish…

    Poor guy.

    I can’t disagree about the state of the American Church as a whole, but I have been very fortunate to know many good, orthodox priests in my lifetime. And I am talking about regular diocesan Novus Ordo parishes. I have regularly heard sermons about abortion, gay marriage, etc. even, occasionally, in the more “liberal” of the parishes around here. It’s unfortunate that so many people know only clap-happy guitar masses as the norm, and therefore lose hope. I have also, however, experienced the diocese playing politics and removing the most orthodox priests and thrusting squishy priests upon us instead. It’s hard to cope with having the rug pulled out from under you.

    It is certainly a heavy cross to bear trying to maintain ones’ faith and enthusiasm when struggling through goofy masses, horrid music and priests and bishops who make you wonder if they even believe what they are supposed to be teaching us. But people who think that they can justify leaving the One True Church really, really need to rethink things. They’re missing a big piece of the puzzle. I feel for them, though, because I know how hard it is.

    I hope Rod will find his way back again. I’m optimistic since he took the big step of converting in the first place. It’s especially shameful when we lose people who sought us out for what we are supposed to be.

  3. The Egyptian says:

    the rationalization people will use to ignore the difficult teachings of the faith

    oh man he hit the nail on the head

    I’m getting hit daily on a discussion group about this by our resident “I’m glad I just believe in the bible and not some right wing Catholic nut” liberal.

    his latest topic headers, “Pope come out of the closet” and “Pope says I’m not a right winger” One more reference to “who am I to judge” and I’m going postal (prayer postal)

    BTW where can i find that priest that goes overboard preaching about abortion and birth control and the like, haven’t heard him here in my lifetime, more worried about the collection and loveing ourselves


  4. wolfeken says:

    Rod Dreher is one of the best writers around. Yet he has some serious doctrinal problems that go far beyond a liberal pope.

    Just about all of his issues could be resolved by simply joining an FSSP personal parish and not paying attention to every silly pastoral and non-binding word that comes from the Vatican. And this idea has been presented to him, which he counters with a statement that he was never interested in traditional Catholicism while a practicing Catholic.

    So, he is choosing to be schismatic, even when presented sound alternatives. Heck, joining an SSPX parish would be a much more pragmatic option for him than leaving the Church.

    Moreover, I don’t see how joining a schismatic sect that permits one free divorce is any more culturally conservative than even the mess of a Roman Catholic Church that exists right now. So, no pity for you, Rod. Come home to Rome, and then we’ll talk.

  5. Woody says:

    Dear Father, many thanks for posting these excerpts and your inimitable comments thereon, with which I completely agree, but would perhaps ask whether the last one, from LG, is perhaps not quite applicable to Rod, since he seems not to “know.” I gather that is the requirement, rather than, say, “should have known”, for adherence in that formulation. He says in another post at TAC that he does not agree with our ecclesiology, so presumably that means he cannot “know” that the Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ. Perhaps the more precise formulation that applies to Rod, and many others of our good friends especially amongst the Orthodox, is that of “Dominus Jesus”: his state (if memory serves) is “gravely deficient”. Anyway, that is not to distract from my total agreement with your other comments. I am personally trying to figure out how to respond to the current situation (and this even before the rumored appointment of P. Marini to CDW) in a proper and faithful way, and am coming to think that, as some of our Traditonalist friends are now saying, that ultramontanism is not now what it was once cut out to be.

  6. I’d like to hear Dreher explain why he became Catholic in the first place—which might better explain the real reasons he elected to leave.

  7. nanetteclaret says:

    In 1907, Pope St. Pius X declared Modernism a heresy in his encyclical “Pascendi Dominici Gregis.” In 1910, he instituted the requirement that all Catholics in positions of authority, from clergy to seminary professors, should take the “Oath Against Modernism.” The Vatican II Council included participants who were adherents to the Modernist heresy. Then Pope Paul VI did away with the requirenent that everyone take the Oath. The Church has subsequently been almost completely infected, from the top down, with the heresy of Modernism. No one has adequately been able to explain to me how the Church that Christ established is now bordering on heretical. Other than the fact that Our Lady at Fatima predicted that it would happen, I do not understand how this can be.

    The things that Pope Francis says are imbued with Modernism. There will be no way that the Church can get out from under it while the Vicar of Christ (sorry, Bishop of Rome) encourages it by his example.

  8. msc says:

    One can’t blame the Church for misinterpretation of Vatican II. As Dreher puts it, “The so-called “spirit of Vatican II” — a perversion of the Council’s actual teaching — justified many subsequent outrages.” But the reality of Vatican II has made the Church a viable home for some of us. I could not belong to the Church without much of the letter of Vatican II and all the subsequent teachings that arose out of it, without Lumen Gentium (#16 esp.), without Nostra Aetate, etc. The answer is to stay with the Church and make sure that the actual meaning of Vatican II is understood and followed. Remember that many of the outrages that occur in the Church are because of individual human error, not corrupted genuine Church teaching. To be slightly flip, a Catholic Church that could have John Paul II and Benedict XVI as Popes is a Church I am happy to stay with. Francis in turn is not erring in emphasizing the importance of God’s love. Surely that is the single most important thing: that God is Love and that ultimately His mercy is infinite?

  9. Patrick-K says:

    While Dreher’s criticisms are largely valid (although not really anything that has not been said before) I can’t help but think that switching to Eastern Orthodoxy isn’t its own kind of therapeuticism. “If it’s too hard, leave” seems to be an attitude rather similar to what he is criticizing. Your salvation is ultimately your responsibility, not the pope’s, isn’t it?

  10. Phil_NL says:

    Frankly, I think Dreher shows more than his fair share of the attitude of a spoilt child here. It doesn’t mean his analysis is faulty – spoilt children can be perfectly right in claiming that the problem lies elsewhere, or that life in unfair. The issue in those cases is that such a kid wouldn’t see that sometimes, you just have to take it like a man.

    More concrete: the Church is the Church, with all its failings. It may not live up to our whishes – rightful or otherwise – but it is and remains the Church. I even agree that, whatever his intentions, His Holiness is, at least in the short term, paving the way for more damage done to the Church; when the liberals realise that pope Francis may speak their language but does not share their goals, the liberal vengence will be terrible to behold.
    But however difficult life as a conservative/traditional/straight-thinking Catholic is, it’s nowhere near what the martyrs had to endure. However little support a parish may offer, it’s nowhere near the desperation of those imprisoned for their faith.

    At the end of the day, a Catholic must also be prepared to, if need be, ignore all the ‘luv’, make use of the sacraments as best as he can, and endure the rest. Demanding that the Church should be better is natural, but there can be no “or else” appended to such a demand. The Church is the Church, for better or worse. If one cannot change, endure – or ignore. There is no warranty for good preaching, a supportive parish or high-quality thinking. Live with it – and do so in loyalty to God’s Church.

  11. Fr AJ says:

    I wonder where this guy will go? Not a lot of options given his mind set. Orthodox Church? And why didn’t he try an FSSP parish or the SSPX before bailing out?

  12. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Deacon Greg’s seems a sound thing to want, especially with an eye to Woody’s observation about “ecclesiology”.

    If I am not mistaken, there are dodgy folk in the hierarchies of the various autocephalous Churches, seeming to go on with impunity, as so many seem to do who are formally in communion with the Pope. Why might the one ecclesial circumstance be more, or less, problematical than the other, in this respect?

  13. Nancy D. says:

    Regarding “Who am I to judge”, and God’s desire that we overcome our disordered inclinations so that we are not led into temptation, but become transformed through God’s Salvational Gift of His Grace and Mercy, here is what The Prayer really does say:

  14. jhayes says:

    Deacon Greg Kandra wrote “I’d like to hear Dreher explain why he became Catholic in the first place—which might better explain the real reasons he elected to leave.”

    Perhaps this?

    I agreed that God is love, but that didn’t tell me what He would expect of me if I became a Catholic. Besides, I had spent four years dancing around the possibility of returning to the Christianity of my youth. When I made my first steps back to churchgoing as an adult, I found plenty of good people who told me God is love, but who never challenged me to change my life.

    What needed changing? Lots. My own brokenness was plain to me, and I was ready to turn from my destructive sins and become a new person. The one thing I didn’t want to do was surrender my sexual liberty, which was my birthright as a young American male. I knew, though, that without fully giving over my will to God, any conversion would be precarious. By then, I was all too wary of my evasions. To convert provisionally — that is, provided that the Church didn’t hassle me about my sex life — would really be about seeking the psychological comforts of religion without making sacrifices.

    Read more: http://ideas.time.com/2013/09/29/im-still-not-going-back-to-the-catholic-church/

  15. LarryW2LJ says:


    I agree that many of his points are spot on, but I can’t agree with Mr. Dreher’s decision to leave. Jesus promised us that the gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church; but He never promised a bed of roses, either.

    It’s easy to leave and just throw your hands up in the air and say, “I can’t take it anymore.” It’s a lot more difficult (and painful at times) to slog it out everyday, trying to educate and win over the hearts and minds of those you disagree with. But that’s what you have to do.

    I think Mr. Dreher would serve better by writing more articles like this. That interview by Pope Francis was not infallible teaching, so it’s quite alright to have an opposing opinion about methodology and tactics, as it were. It’s far better to continue to try and educate even if it seems hopeless, rather than just “take your ball and go home.”

  16. APX says:

    Just about all of his issues could be resolved by simply joining an FSSP personal parish and not paying attention to every silly pastoral and non-binding word that comes from the Vatican.

    You’d think that, but really it’s no better. Instead you get the negativity, pessimism, cynicism, imbibing schismatic attitude of some people who spend all their time reading the latest news on how the Church is on the brink of disaster, etc. The negativity will just wear you down spiritually. I’m leaving my FSSP community and seeking shelter at the Anglican Use Ordinary for awhile. At least they’re happy and spiritually joyful. And they wonder why our Latin Mass Community that was growing, is now shrinking exponentially.

    The Church is a Bride, people. Not a Widow. Cheer up.

  17. Gaetano says:

    I could not agree more that “therapeutic Catholicism” is often preached from the pulpit, and Mr. Drher is correct in his assessment. His fear that the “Spirit of Pope Francis” will be used to spurn hard Catholic truths and practices is also insightful.

    I am, however, reminded of Chesterton’s words in “On Reading”: The heretic is a man who loves his truth more than truth itself. He prefers the half-truth that he has found to the whole truth which humanity has found. He does not like to see his own precious little paradox merely bound up with twenty truisms into the bundle of the wisdom of the world.”

    Those who emphasize mercy to the detriment of justice and repentance are in error. Those who appeal to “cura personalis” or conscience without acknowledging the obligation to teach the whole of the Catholic faith are in error.

    Mr. Dreher, is also guilty of this. He focuses on the true failures of the Church’s ministers, but fails to acknowledge the truth of the Catholic Faith.

  18. robtbrown says:

    FYI, Rod Dreher is now Eastern Orthodox.

  19. mamajen says:

    Funny how many people will down the liberal Kool-Aid even though they don’t like how it tastes. The left’s wish-casting aside, what has Pope Francis done to earn the label “liberal pope”?

    And we wonder how the Church managed to be overrun by modernists…

  20. Ignatius says:

    I could not be Orthodox. I believe that the position and powers of the Bishop of Rome were willed by Christ Himself. On the other hand, I cannot and will not believe that there is in God something else than his pure act of being, which is Himself (be an “uncreated energy” or whatever may call it) and that, it seems is a test for being Orthodox. No matter how wounded, depressing, annoying or foolish may seem the Church, I could never leave it or denied tha she is what I know her to be.
    On the other hand, the idea that Orthodoxy is beyond the foolishness that he attributes to Catholicism is plainly false. Orthodoxy has a compromised teaching on the sanctity of marriage, and on contraception that is simply beyond the limits of Christian orthodoxy. And this happened on the past century. Orthodoxy is no fortress.
    Excuse me for being crude. English is not my mother tongue.
    Best regards,

  21. Jean Marie says:

    It appears that Rod Dreher should have tried the Byzantine Eastern Rite Catholics before joining the Orthodox. Maybe it would have made a difference.

  22. TomG says:

    Ignatius: your English is pretty darn good and your points were very taken in a language that is not your mother tongue.

  23. rbbadger says:

    The Dreher case makes me sad. I hope and pray for God’s mercy to be upon him. As a journalist, he came face to face with the horrible evil in the sexual abuse of the young by priests. However, if he wanted to escape the filth present among some in the clergy, he won’t escape it in the Orthodox church. He belongs to the Orthodox Church in America, a jurisdiction which has seen three of its metropolitans removed. There are serious allegations of homosexuality relating to two of the former metropolitans along with serious mismanagement of church funds.

    Then, there was the astonishing case of the former Metropolitan Paisios. Metropolitan Paisios was a Greek Old Calendarist bishop who reconcilied with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. He and the parishes attached to his monastery, the Stavropeghial Monastery of St. Irene Chrysovalantou in Queens, were granted the right to continue using the Old Calendar. Metropolitan Paisios was a serial predator. He sexually abused a number of young men and women, including a nun whose abortion he was rumoured to have paid for and the younger brother of his auxiliary, Bishop Vikentios. She emerged with a pile of gold coins which she promptly turned over to the police. A couple of years ago, the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate deposed both Metropolitan Paisios and Bishop Vikentios from the episcopate. They were reduced in rank to that of simple monks. While Bishop Vikentios did not abuse children, he did not report on what Metropolitan Paisios was doing. There were also issues of serious financial mismanagement with both men.

    I’m afraid you’ll find heresy and filth just about anywhere, even in the Orthodox churches.

  24. wolfeken says:

    APX — if in-the-weeds discussions and debates on Catholic issues turn you off, you may wish to not log onto in-the-weeds Catholic blogs and comment threads all day.

  25. Then Jesus said to the twelve: Will you also go away?
    And Simon Peter answered him: Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.

  26. inexcels says:

    Phil_NL: it’s nowhere near what the martyrs had to endure. However little support a parish may offer, it’s nowhere near the desperation of those imprisoned for their faith.

    I sometimes wonder about that. A year-by-year slog can actually be far more difficult to bear than a dramatic crisis, at least for a certain personality type. Personally, I’ve found it a lot easier to deal with emergency, crisis situations than the daily slog of demoralizing tedium that comprises much of ordinary life. I venture to guess that same response to adversity would extrapolate to the faith as well. I doubt I’m the only one. Of course, by the same token, I’m sure there are many people who react differently as well.

    Or, to put it another way: emergencies bring out the best in some people and the worst in others. Some people would probably have their faith strengthened by hard (as opposed to the current soft) persecution. Which, in no way, should be construed as a desire for that to come about (though it might, if recent developments continue in their current direction). It’s merely speculation.

  27. Bea says:

    But that is no longer my problem. [No, Rod, it is still your problem. Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 14: “They could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it, or to remain in it.”]

    Thank you, Fr. Z for those parting words to your article.

    It is such a time for discernment. We must dig underneath these statements and latch unto the Truth.
    The Truth will set us free.
    Free from distractions, Free from exaggerations, Free from half truths.
    It seems we are left to our own devices if we cannot find a truly orthodox, traditional and believing priest and/or spiritual guide.
    We have Mary, God’s Words and Promises in The Bible. Though we may be tempted to be afraid all we can do is pray and thank God for priests like you who will keep us in equilibrium.
    Thank you, Fr. Z and Thank you, all you Faithful Priests who suffer and are a buffer zone between us and wishy-washy attempted “teachings” of God’s Truths.

  28. BLB Oregon says:

    Anyone who thinks Pope Francis is going to lead the Church into an era of being a pushover has never talked to Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. They did not hear what the Cardinal from Buenos Aires had to say about a proposed law to allow people of the same gender access to civil marriage and the adoption to children, even though there was a 70% approval rating for the idea in Argentina at the time. He described the effort as a move by “the father of lies, who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”

    Pope Francis is no stranger to the machinations of the modern age, and he is no pushover. Rather, he is a shepherd who can guide his flock whether they are straying too far to one side or the other, whether they are trying to lead themselves and charging ahead to places they ought not go or whether they are hanging back and refusing to go where they ought.

  29. Johnno says:

    I believe Rod’s rationale to leave the Roman Catholic Church and join the Orthodox is due to difficulty seeing how the so called ‘primary apostle’ can behave and speak in such opposition to the real meat of Catholicism. The Orthodox do to a large extent maintain much of the Catholic Truth, but do not recognize the Pope as the primary head of the Church. Pope Francis and the bad examples of previous pontiffs really does place a stone in the path of those trying to find truth. They won’t find it in vagueness and ‘pastoralism.’

    God is love. But he loves us enough to chastize and punish us. He loves us enough that if destroying the world would prevent us from suffering too terribly in hell for worse sins we’ve yet to commit, He would do just that. He loves us enough to allow us the free will to choose hell rather than be with Him if we do not want to. He loves us enough to make us face the horrible truths about ourselves in order that the shock would convince us to change and be saved.

    Once upon a time I too was a baptized Catholic gone astray. It was my father who took me to Lourdes, and there I prayed asking Mary to help me believe and know the faith. My path back to Catholicism first began from reading books by Protestants & Evangelicals who defended the inerrancy of Scripture, and also helped by Anglicans like C.S. Lewis. Only much later did I delve into Catholic apologetics thanks to the internet. Looking back I always wondered why Mother Mary would lead me to the fullness of the faith by first taking me to the Protestants and non-Catholics to learn about God… Frankly, were it not for the fact that they did not honor the Mother of Christ i might’ve become one of them, but I refused to give her up and she’s why I’m who I am today.

    Pray that Pope Francis will see the solution right in front of him, and command the sleeping Catholic Bishops of the world to join him in consecrating Russia instead of the world this October to Mary’s Immaculate Heart. The Church would greatly benefit from the return of the Orthodox who’ve preserved their sacred liturgies and who would infuse the Church with what it needs – more members who take the faith seriously. This reunification will happen once the mother of our Lord is honored as He has expressedly told us to. She is the one who will crush the serpent’s head, as prophecised. Not ‘dialogue’ and ‘luv.’

  30. Bruce Wayne says:

    I know Fr. Z. wants to bring up Dreher’s piece to look at his criticisms of the AmChurch but as the commenters are proving we all know the criticisms. The issue here is what do you do about it and Dreher is admitting himself to be a lifelong coward and egotist. He ran from the RCIA at a university parish, he ran from parish to parish and now he runs to Eastern Orthodox. How about shouldering the Cross and defending the Catholic orthodoxy instead of fleeing to the schismatic Orthodox (who capitalize that adjective and arrogantly claim it as a name)?

    This article gets printed in Time and makes him money for one reason only, it is written to attack and undermine Catholicism, to weaken it by promoting schism on the grounds that those hippy-dippy “God is luv” liberals have driven you away. Well . . . stand up to them! Study the lives of the saints, the great reforming saints who even stood up to popes. They didn’t flee to orthodoxy or to an SSPX parish in order to navel gaze and pat themselves on the back by claiming to be the “remnant” predestined to be at God’s right hand. The arrogance of conservatives is just as irritating as that of liberals or rad-trads.

    In short, Dreher needed to grow a pair and be a man.

  31. anilwang says:

    I can sympathize. Admittedly, the “Spirit of Francis” and some suspicions that some of that spirit is true, has made some devotions more difficult (especially with some bishops publicly stating they are abandoning all pro-life work to get “back to basics” with the poor to comply with Francis).

    But the bottom line is John 6:68, “Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? you have the words of eternal life”. I know the alternatives to Catholicism first hand, and there are none except human wisdom based on deism (best embodied in Classical Greek Philosophy and Confucianism) and outright materialistic nihilism (which isn’t a real alternative due to a variation of Pascal’s Wager). Yes, I have looked at Eastern Orthodoxy, but it is fundamentally inconsistent on various points (e.g. there is no workable Orthodoxy definition of an ecumenical council that would make the Council of Florence false but the Council of Chalcedon true — Blessed Cardinal Newman explains it best) and it too denies some Traditions that were considered essential in the early Church.

    I am willing to die for the Catholic faith and no other (although I could accept death like Socrates if there were no alternatives). As a Catholic one is able to believe we are in a low point in the Church (it seems to happen every 500 years, and we were about due). One might believe we’re at the lowest point. One can believe that, like the Arian crisis, most of the bishops have bought into the heresy of accommodation (Christ is a similar substance to God) to appease the outright Arian heretics, because most bishops are weak and worldly. One can even admit the Pope is the worst man for the position and will inflict severe damage on the Church (e.g. the Pornacracy).

    But even if all were true, none of that denies the Catholic faith, nor does it deny the witness of 2000 years of Peter. By every human measure, a Church as conflicted and repeatedly mortally wounded (both from inside and out) as the Catholic Church should have long ago perished. But the Church remains and all its most bitter and determined enemies are but a memory.

    What the Church needs now, is what it has always needed, saints, and God always provides in His Providence.

    When the Church is working well and its second nature to go with the flow and be Catholic, saints are in short supply since they are less needed. But restoration takes time (sometimes hundreds of years), and it often comes from surprising sources (e.g. St Dominic and St Francis). Given the time frame and obscurity of many saints in their lives, as a typical Catholic one might never see the end or recognize the start of the counter-reformation when it happens. So it can be trying one’s faith. But one has no alternative but to ask for the grace of faith to see. And it certainly doesn’t hurt to read the lives of saints and the rocky history of the Church, to gain perspective and understand the nature of the faith we belong to. It also doesn’t hurt to learn to be a saint, even if the obscurity of our own lives. Very often, the obscure saints have the greatest impact.

  32. sw85 says:

    Dreher is a detestable schismatic, yes, and will have to answer for his sins at Judgment. But he makes a good point here, which is simply that pastors of souls who speak not a word about the reality of sin will also have some ‘splaining to do.

    Personally I do not get Francis’ emphasis on mercy, mercy, mercy. Such a focus might make sense in a world filled with roaming penitents flogging their backs bloody or where thundering Jansenists proclaimed imminent damnation to the despair of the flock. But we don’t live in such a world and you don’t need a master’s degree in theology to see that. How do you proclaim mercy to people who don’t even believe in sin?

  33. Bosco says:

    Fatima Fatima Fatima! Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us.

  34. Ioannes Andreades says:

    Yes, the Spirit of Francis/Bergoglio does bear similarity to the Spirit of Vatican II. Here’s a piece in the similar vein: http://www.thecatholicthing.org/columns/2013/the-spirit-of-bergoglio.html.

  35. Ioannes Andreades says:

    In defense of Mr. Dreher, it probably was never pointed out to him in his RCIA classes that one needs to believe, “[T]he Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ,” in order to get baptized. Let’s not presume too much about the quality of those classes.

  36. McCall1981 says:

    I wasn’t alive for Vat II, so someone correct me if I’m wrong here, but it seems to me that Vat II coincided with an enormous social upheaval, inside and outside the Church, that exacerbated so many of the problems. I keep reading from people who lived through both times that the Church is in better shape now, than it was during the 60’s/70’s. If that’s the case, and the “spirit of Francis” doesn’t have all that upheaval going along with it, then it seems that the affects couldn’t be as severe as those in the decades after Vat II.

  37. Jim R says:

    Ron Dreher was, and substantially remains, a Protestant. His understanding of the Church is that of a Protestant. Ron has no real conception of the Church as the transcendent spotless Bride of Christ. He has an implicit understanding of the Church as fundamentally an organization run by the perfect for the perfect, or it can’t be the Church. The fact is the perfection of the Church is unrelated to those who run it on the ground in this life. It is perfect because Christ is perfect, not Her members, priests or bishops.

    For him, the musings of his RCIA director, an I’m OK/You’re OK sermon by a parish priest at lent, predatory priests and covering-up bishops told him the Church wasn’t THE CHURCH? In all honestly, if our faith were dependent on the lifestyles and preaching of the ordained there wouldn’t be a Church today.

    Does not Ron know any history? The venality of the hierarchy throughout time is not a mere Reformation story…it is depressingly true in far too many ways. Yet, the Church was – and IS – greater than than the peccadillos, profanities and sordidness of Her pastors. Precisely because the Church is the Spotless Bride of Christ, the sins of her members fail to deter Her from the Truth. Ron has the essential Protestant problem of confusing the Church of Jesus Christ with Her members, leaders and fellow travelers. The Church has suffered scandals in every age. She will continue to do so because bishops, priests, vowed religious and the laity are imperfect sinners who will sin again, and again, and again, and again saecula saeculorum.

    Ron didn’t like the way RCIA presented the Church…He didn’t like a sermon…He didn’t like priestly child abuse…He didn’t like episcopal cover-ups…I can’t say I like them either. But, those things are not the Church. Pope Francis is not the Church. Bishop XYZ is not the Church. The ephebophile priest is not the Church. The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, the Spotless Bride of Christ, comprised of sinners yet perfect and unsullied in its union with Christ, though its human members reek of the stench of sin.

    Protestants just do not understand that. Although raised Methodist, Ron carries with him a streak of Calvinism…of a belief in the utter depravity of men which when that depravity emerges shows that the person is not among the elect. The truth is we are not utterly depraved. We all sin, yes…all including the members and leaders on Earth of this Church…but that sin is capable of being forgiven. Christ, His Love and His Truth trump that sin. That the Catholic Church, for all its members’ depravity through the ages, survives and teaches that Truth to this day is one of the surest signs that She is the Spotless Bride of Christ. He wants rigor, judgment and a pure theology – don’t we all if it is tempered with mercy. He doesn’t want mercy preached because it can be misconstrued as license? No doubt the Pharisees felt the same about Jesus.

    I hope he found what he needs for now in Orthodoxy which has preserved so much of the Faith. But, he will find abuse, venality, and host of issues there – including a limiting emphasis in the national-ness of its many diverse branches.

    I don’t envy Pope Francis. He has said nothing contrary to the faith that I am aware of. He has emphasized mercy so he is simultaneously loved and villified. If he has made tactical mistakes, if he is misconstrued, if he has used poor judgment…SO WHAT! Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow and His Church – His Perfect, Spotless Transcendent Church – will not falter.

  38. Fr AJ says:

    When Rod takes issue with someone or something in the Orthodox Church not being perfect, I wonder where he’ll stomp off to then?

  39. iPadre says:

    I can understand his dismay. However, his conclusion is so wrong. The answer is to be faithful despite those who contort the Council and the Pope, despite who make excuses for our sins, to be the hero who lives as Christ has called us to live and make a difference in the Church and in the world. We are all tempted to despair at times. The saints were, yet they went through the darkness and into the light. In it all, there is only ONE Faith worth dying for and it is the Catholic Church founded by Jesus Christ. Where He has gone, we must follow!

  40. Sissy says:

    This essay reminded me of a conversation I once had with a friend whose marriage broke up. She explained: “There just wasn’t enough money, and we didn’t spend enough time together.” Puzzled, I asked her, “How is a divorce a solution for either of those two problems?”

    I sympathize with the writer, but all he is teaching his children is that it’s ok to leave Mother Church. The Blessed Sacrament is worth enduring everything he mentioned….and more.

  41. robtbrown says:

    Perhaps there should be highway sign displayed whenever anyone becomes a Catholic:


  42. Palladio says:

    Poor man. Not a story to inspire in me much of anything but pity for him. Not really the writing of a saint–not yet; more a customer complaint lodged, not with the manager or owner, but with those to whom it might do the most damage: past present and future ‘customers.’ The spirit strikes me, for one, as anti-Catholic–as if we did not have a long and brutal history of that in the U. S. A cradle Catholic, I have been blessed to know only amazing priests and nuns. I appreciate this as a gift and blessing from God. That does not mean I have not witnessed some disappointments. In our new neighborhood, we had to look high and low for a parish, but we found one. Had we not, in an adjacent town, we would have gone another ten or twenty miles in this benighted state. But we did find a parish, after months of looking and discerning. The music, well, it leaves much to be desired, but the interior is a spare, fine baroque, the priest is every inch a priest, celebrating Mass with true reverence and expecting much from his altar boys (and, ooph, girls). His homilies are fabulous. He is in the business of saving souls. To be honest, I feel as though the author, while knowing the Truth is in the Catholic Church, somehow needed it to be made even further realized or manifest, the Sacraments not being enough for him, the teaching (though, already, he knew the Truth was in the Church) was wanting. I would prefer, inter alia, the TLM to the NO we have, but there it is. The cities he moved in and out of would have given him a larger chance to find some place, but very oddly he did not find it. As I think mature Catholics know, heaven is not on earth, not while the Church is militant, and dwelling on what is and cannot be changed is neither Catholic nor sensible.

  43. jfk03 says:

    Orthodoxy has its own bag of problems. It is far from united, witness the situation in the Ukraine where the UOC and Moscow Patriarchate are in direct competition. That said, the Orthodox churches are better at keeping the integrity of the faith and liturgy than the Roman Catholic Church, where there seems to be a problem with “quality control” (for lack of a better term). I have found refuge in the Ukranian Greek Catholic Church. Its faith and liturgy are almost identical to that of the Orthodox churches, but it has been in communion with Rome for almost 500 years.

    With all my misgivings about the state of the (Roman) Catholic Church, I have to say that I have known a number of holy people in my lifetime, including several wonderful priests. All is not doom and gloom. I sincerely hope that Mr. Dreher finds peace in the Orthodox fold, but that fold is not a perfect place. The Church is, after all, a field hospital for sinners.

  44. Kathleen10 says:

    Robtbrown, a silly book I have read has something similar that often sticks in my mind.
    “Keep your expectations tiny, you’ll go through life not being so whiny.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said that to people, and myself. I laugh when I say it.
    Today I agree with Mr. Dreher’s thoughts on the church. I say today because although I never leave, can’t, won’t, my mind does toy with it a bit now and then. More now than then. But as we all know, go where? The Catholic church is IT, now and forever.
    I just wanted to mention that our experiences of Catholicism depend greatly on where we live. I can remember one, exactly one, homily I have heard that mentions abortion or homosexuality. That does not mean no priest mentioned those topics ever in our area, but let’s put it this way, rarely. We live in the uber-liberal northeast. Bishops, priests, are apparently as affected by political attitudes as anyone else, so there you go. So while some of you may be blessed with daily or weekly doses of Catholic truth, there are many of us who only know touchy feely love homilies, and if I had a dime for every “tolerance” homily I have heard, I could retire. So Mr. Dreher may be experiencing the battle fatigue of a pretty bad world situation, a stinky national situation, and a changing Catholic situation. He may badly need the invigorating shot of brandy, and someone just handed him a glass of water for the umpteenth time. I know the feeling.

  45. lana says:

    If the homilies do not challenge you, why not pick up a few books from some saints or Doctors? Pick up the Imitation of Christ and the Bible.

  46. lana says:

    The responsibility of religious education of the chlidren belongs to the parents. One must supplement CCD.

  47. Palladio says:

    Agreed, lana. A protestant approach to homilies would be fatal, but that seems to have been his attitude. I feel for him, I really do, and I do not want what he witnessed repeated–biological solution is perhaps impending for the agents of the “Spirit of V II”–for that matter, to see what I’ve witnessed repeated, but Pope Francis is nothing of that sort of agent. Is nobody watching his reverent celebration of the Mass and Eucharistic Adoration, listening to the Vatican choir chanting Latin and singing Latin polyphony? The author’s headline, in that light, seems rather disgusting, besides self-congratulatory. What a surprise that secular media have their own virtual Francis.

  48. Bruce says:

    Yes Father he does sometimes hit the nail on the head, however Dreher wrote in 2011:

    “I came to Orthodoxy in 2006, a broken man. I had been a devoutly observant and convinced Roman Catholic for years, but had my faith shattered in large part by what I had learned as a reporter covering the sex abuse scandal. It had been my assumption that my theological convictions would protect the core of my faith through any trial, but the knowledge I struggled with wore down my ability to believe in the ecclesial truth claims of the Roman church.”

    I came into the Catholic Church in 2005 after 27 years of Atheism. I was searching for TRUTH not infallible human beings. In 8 years I have seen many people leave the Church because of the people in the Church.

    Christ is the reason to be Catholic!
    Christ protects the core of my faith through any trial.

    Thank you Jesus, that your precious blood cleanses me of all my impurity, wrong thinking,
    bad acts, undo attachments, and my refusal to accept sacrifice and suffering.

  49. vandalia says:

    Non omnis, qui dicit mihi: “Domine, Domine”, intrabit in regnum caelorum, sed qui facit voluntatem Patris mei, qui in caelis est.
    My very non-literal, contemporary, translation:

    “I told you exactly how We want you to Proclaim the Gospel. Now, if you think you are wiser than your Heavenly Father, and think your plan is better than My Will, then you had better lay in a big stock of SPF 1,000,000,000 sunscreen.”

    I consider it one of the most sublime acts of Divine Providence that the patron saint of parish priests wasn’t the greatest intellect of his age. It isn’t that tough, guys. Do what you promised to do at your ordination. Nothing more, nothing less. Unfortunately, I have talked with a number of priests who have very slowly been distracted by “false gods”: the plans for the new Church, the new organ, the parish school, the poor, immigration issues, pro-life activities, political concerns. All things that are not necessarily objectively evil, but can become improperly ordered and lead to sin.

    So for fellow members of the clergy (as well as laity), I would very strongly urge that Pope Francis’ words be an occasion for a careful examination of conscience. AM I DOING THE WILL OF GOD? Or has the deceiver tricked me into substituting my own desires and great plans?

  50. EXCHIEF says:

    Though I disagree with his decision I do understand how discouraging it can be (and is for many of us) in the American Church today. I won’t leave, I disregard a lot of what clerics say unless it is the Pope speaking infallibly as I know it is feel good stuff rather than matters of substance. As for those who suggest finding a TLM parish, the FSSP, etc some of us do not have that luxury based upon where we live

  51. Bruce says:

    One other thing, you want to protect your faith through trials, go to confession(thank you Fr.Z )and the eucharist. Christ is waiting for you there! If the Priest’s homily is not up to your expectations, or he might be having a bad day, do what I do, pray for him and look at Christ on the cross.

  52. Ad Orientem says:

    If you have serious problems with your church, that may or may not be a good reason for leaving (circumstances depending). I am somewhat confused by Rod’s decision to leave the Roman Church. Was he leaving because it has become a nest of modernist liberals? Or was he leaving because he became convinced the Roman Catholic Church is heretical in its teachings? The latter is a good reason for leaving, the former is much more doubtful.

    And then there is the question of why Orthodoxy? Whatever your reason for leaving your previous confession, you need to be “all in” when you join a Church (as opposed to ‘church’), that like Rome, claims to be The One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church spoken of in the Creed. I am not getting this from his piece. One needs to be careful when judging or impugning the motives of others. But if he joined the Orthodox Church because he wanted the Catholic Church without all of the liberal crap, then he did so for the wrong reasons.

    For the record, I am Orthodox and a former Catholic. And while the over the top liberal craziness did not make my decision to leave any harder, in the end I left the Roman Church because I became convinced over time that it was wrong on a number of important doctrinal points. Orthodoxy’s initial attraction was its magnificent liturgical rites and sound moral teachings. But I did not enter until I became convinced of the truths of Holy Orthodoxy, to the degree that most people on this forum presumably embrace the doctrines of the Roman Church.

    I would have felt a little better if I had gotten that message from Rod. In the end though all we can do is to try and do right as God gives the light to discern right from wrong. Beyond that, we are all under that Great Mercy that none of us deserves, and without which we are all doomed.

    Lord Jesus Christ Son of God have mercy upon me a sinner!

    [Amen. However, let no rabbit hole open up here. The point of the top entry is NOT Rod Dreher’s faith journey – as I clearly wrote. It is mainly about his observations about the Church since Vatican II and since the election of Pope Francis.]

  53. Ad Orientem says:

    Fr. AJ
    When Rod takes issue with someone or something in the Orthodox Church not being perfect, I wonder where he’ll stomp off to then?

    I think that might be an unfair shot. Rod was deeply distressed by the recent controversy in the Orthodox Church in America. He has not left the Church.

  54. Juergensen says:

    There is no such thing as “the Orthodox Church”.

    There are multiple orthodox churches, many of them nationalistic, not all of them in communion, many of them disagreeing with each other on important matters, and even disliking each other.

    Sounds like Dreher has gone full circle, from the fractured Christianity of Protestantism to the Church founded by Christ on Peter to the fractured Christianity of Orthodoxy.


  55. muckemdanno says:

    “They could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it, or to remain in it.”

    A lot of people here apparently love this quote and want to remind Mr. Dreher of it, but, unfortunately, given the new theology of “partial” degrees of communion, it is devoid of meaning. [No, it really isn’t.] After all, Dreher, as an Orthodox Christian, is still in “partial” communion with the Roman Catholic Church. Doesn’t that mean he can be partially saved?

    (Aside from the fact the no Catholic shepherd – especially the recent popes – will actually say it publicly…triumphalism is a HUGE no-no after all!)

    [When I said the rabbit hole is closed, I meant it. I’ll start deleting comments or flag people for the moderation queue.]

  56. pannw says:

    @ Bruce,

    Amen. Very beautifully said. Thank you, and thanks be to God.

  57. Suburbanbanshee says:

    It’s true that lukewarm priests and bad priests and people are a problem. But the real problem is that so few of us are really acting and praying like saints in the making, so that the lukewarm and cold are blocking our view of the saints among us.

    And by “so few of us,” I mean, “me.”

    So don’t be blaming Francis. It’s my fault, sad to say. I’m the one who’s been coasting on the Church’s merits and not doing anything to add to the deposit.

  58. benedetta says:

    He certainly makes some valid points. The “luv” approach just does not seem to be giving people enough meat to get through the difficulties of life, to stay faithful and take courage in tough times, and to connect a frequent reception of sacraments to growth in holiness in one’s state in life.

    However, as to this statement of Dreher’s:

    The “spirit of Pope Francis” will replace the “spirit of Vatican II” as the rationalization people will use to ignore the difficult teachings of the faith.

    I think that people will use whatever rationalization suits and is convenient and has a certain popularity in order to ignore or avoid the difficult teachings of the Faith. I don’t think we should live in fear that deceivers will twist the meaning out of truth. We should not be afraid.

  59. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    Nannetteclaret referred to Pascendi Dominici Gregis, and opined, “The things that Pope Francis says are imbued with Modernism.”

    I wonder if the commenter would be so good as to provide specific examples of Pope Francis saying things that are so imbued. Two of the Holy Father’s quotes would suffice, preferably with the dates. And if the commenter would correlate the quotes in questions with the relevant paragraph number from Pascendi, and provide a line or two explaining each example, I am certain we should all be very much obliged indeed.

  60. RC2 says:

    Forgive me if this is a repeat. Can’t tell if I just lost my comment or if it’s in moderation.
    There is an obligation if one is going to comment on a person’s thought and direction, to base that on more than one interview. I concur completely with Dreher’s take in 1980s catechesis — 4 years in a Catholic high school were enough to make me an atheist rather than an evangelical Christian– but there milquetoast, substance-less, “love yourself, ” Jesus-seminar crud has nothing in common with what Francis is giving us and the comparison offends me.

    A cross-less Christ? This is from the Pope’s first homily as Pope:
    We can walk as much as we want, we can build many things, but if we do not profess Jesus Christ, things go wrong. We may become a charitable NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of the Lord. When we are not walking, we stop moving. When we are not building on the stones, what happens? The same thing that happens to children on the beach when they build sandcastles: everything is swept away, there is no solidity. When we do not profess Jesus Christ, the saying of Léon Bloy comes to mind: “Anyone who does not pray to the Lord prays to the devil.” When we do not profess Jesus Christ, we profess the worldliness of the devil, a demonic worldliness.

    Journeying, building, professing. But things are not so straightforward, because in journeying, building, professing, there can sometimes be jolts, movements that are not properly part of the journey: movements that pull us back.

    This Gospel continues with a situation of a particular kind. The same Peter who professed Jesus Christ, now says to him: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let us not speak of the Cross. That has nothing to do with it. I will follow you on other terms, but without the Cross. When we journey without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly: we may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.

    My wish is that all of us, after these days of grace, will have the courage, yes, the courage, to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Lord’s Cross; to build the Church on the Lord’s blood which was poured out on the Cross; and to profess the one glory: Christ crucified. And in this way, the Church will go forward.

    A little scrolling around the Vatican website for his gorgeous Chrism mass, his Q&A with the lay movements on the Vigil of Pentecost (where he talked a LOT about the contemporary martyrs) — or any of his little daily fervorinos — or read the newly released collection of his homilies as Archbishop, Encountering Christ. These are words from a profoundly Christian man with a living relationship with Christ whose words when he’s preaching make your heart burn as at Emmaus. It has nothing in common with those people in the 70s who weren’t sure God existed.

    We don’t have to like his style and we may wish he’d have expressed himself differently — that’s fair, and the discernment/listening style of leadership he wants to practice presupposes and invites feedback and even pushback. But it’s just a calumny to suggest he doesn’t preach the cross or that he’s emptying the faith of its meaning.

    At every moment Francis proclaims the Gospel — the actual Gospel– he tells people to live by Jesus’ teaching

  61. jfk03 says:

    I would like to add (vis a vis Mr. Dreher’s departure) that I empathize with his situation. I was received into the Catholic Church in 1961, before the Council. By the late 60’s, I found the sudden changes in the liturgy so unpleasant that I just dropped out for 20 years. I came back in the 80’s after my first son was born. It has been a struggle since then.

    As stated in my earlier post, I have found a home in one of the Eastern Catholic Churches. I have come to love the Byzantine liturgy and the ancient teachings of the fathers. It is an antidote for the banality that one sometimes experiences in the western tradition.

    Through the teachings of the Lord and the Holy Fathers, I have learned is to not judge others, but to focus on my own sinfulness. The only way to repair damage to the Church caused by the Evil One is for each of us to single-mindedly concentrate on becoming true disciples of Christ, to ferret out our own sinfulness with the help of the Lord, whose grace is sufficient.

    We should avoid jumping to negative conclusions about our new Pope. It is possible, after all, that the Lord sent him to shake things up and change our focus onto ourselves. We are the Church of the poor. Not just the economically poor, but also the spiritually poor. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.

  62. JenniferGM says:

    I enjoyed Rod Dreher’s Crunchy Cons but I cannot support his views on the Faith. He is looking for a idealist perfect Church on earth, which can never be because it is composed of flawed humans subject to original sin. He forgets he himself is flawed. Rod is using this as an excuse to be his own church. Just because the media loves Pope Francis doesn’t mean it’s correct reporting. To me, he will never be happy until he can learn a bit of humility and loosen the need for control and perfection.

  63. The Cobbler says:

    “…of course… I usually only agree entirely with myself…”
    I can do one better than that, Father: half the time I’m not sure I even agree with myself anymore! “Hey, I know, let’s dip the main character in black paint and make you fight him!”

    “…just made their mission a lot more difficult.”
    O that we now had here / But one ten thousand of those priests of past centuries, / That do no work today?

    Considering that the combox discussion has been as much about Mr. Dreher’s views on the Church as on his views of, shall we say, the situation, I want to point something out. Frankly, I think reporters — even, perhaps especially, the ones who make the profession seem worthwhile — have it tough. They’ve got this whole public stance thing going and have to be able to explain if they change their mind, for one thing. For another, the lines between commenting on the news, explaining one’s opinion and getting another day’s paycheck for just making excuses for oneself have got to get rather blurry sometimes. We might keep in mind that writing articles about his thoughts on the matter is, in some sense, Mr. Dreher’s job (I’m assuming he’s not donating these articles as some kind of volunteer or charity work); not to say that he can’t be wrong, but whereas you or I can be wrong and nobody notices most of the time, maybe we shouldn’t be too quick to jump on him if he’s willing to stake his livelihood on being right or wrong for all the world to see.

  64. Athelstan says:

    What I was told, in effect, in that university Catholic parish was that God loved me just as I was — true — but that I didn’t need to do anything else. It dawned on me one day that at the end of this process, all of us in the class would end up as Catholics, but have no idea what the Catholic Church taught. I bolted, and a year later, I was received into the Church in another parish.

    Some others have said it, and I will reaffirm it: Precisely because I grew tired of running into the kind of problems that Rod speaks of, I made up my mind that I would build my spiritual life in a traditional community, wherever one could be found.

    That’s not a judgment on the Novus Ordo, or those who attend it, and it’s not a blanket condemnation of diocesan parish life – really, it’s not. There are, indeed, some good semi-traditional parishes out there, if you look hard enough – like St. Mary’s in Greenville, SC, St. Agnes in St. Paul, Minnesota, or Our Lady of Good Counsel in Kansas City, MO. But I’m just tired of the fights, the compromises, and I am not going to subject my children to it. Others will choose, do choose, to fight those fights, and they have my support and prayers. But I do not feel obligated to do so. I choose to go where I feel spiritually fed – indeed, where I feel spiritually safe.

    I asked Rod once why he didn’t choose (say) an FSSP parish or somesuch, and I was not the first or only Catholic to do so. But the problem is that the scandals, and what Rod saw of them close up, really made it difficult for him to believe in the Petrine claims: that an institution with so many deeply disordered men in positions in authority, put in place by Rome and allowed to remain there, could not be the true Church. Wrongly, I believe, since it’s clear that he’s now discovered many of the same problems in the OCA. I think he’s decided he’s tired of church-hopping in any event. I pray for him, and hope that he finds his way back across the Tiber.

  65. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    Robtbrown proposed a warning sign for people entering the Catholic Church. The sign would read, “You are now entering the Catholic Church. Reduce expectations.”

    It seems to me folks could use a warning sign similar to that one on when they embark upon just about any undertaking, initiative, commitment, or quest. My version would read slightly differently: “You are now entering (blank). Right-sized expectations advised.”

  66. RJHighland says:

    He is so spot on in his description of the AmChurch. It is ironic and understandable how he was drawn to the solid doctrine of the Russian Orthodox Church. Russian is changing before our very eyes, the patriarch prays before the Russian legislator convines. What other country on the planet has a patriarch lead it’s legistators in prayer? What other country is requiring the Church to be involved in the education of it’s youth? The Russian Orthodox Church has been re-established as the Church of Russia. Father I wish you would have left his comments in on the sex abuse scandals and cover up in, it surely strengthens his argument. The post Vatican II Catholic Church has become more the Church of Nice than the Church of Jesus Christ. Don’t get me wrong I firmly believe it is the Church established by Jesus Christ but it sure doesn’t look like it. It is facinating that several posters proposed the SSPX as an alterantive to him joining the Russian Orthodox Church. As one who assists at mass in a SSPX chapel because of everything he stated about the Church I often have felt like I am an Eastern Othodox in the Church. I like any Russian Orthodox would feel just as uncomfortable attending a modernist Novus Ordo Mass as I imagine 99% of the canonized saints in the Church would. I wonder what Jerome’s thoughts would be if he were taken to a progressive Novus Ordo mass, a TLM at an SSPX Chapel and a Russian Orthodox Mass. If no one told which one was in full communion with the Church which one do you think he would select? What would his reaction be when told that the priest in the rainbow vestments and sandals was the one in full communion with the Bishop of Rome? You could do the comparision between a reverent Latin Novus Ordo mass with altar rails, bells, incense, and Gregorian Chant and a Progressive Novus Ordo with guitars, modern hymns, girl altar servers and immodestly dressed laity both in communion with Rome but two totally different spiritual experiences. How confusing would that be to Jerome or any Saint, that these completely different masses are from the same vine? He would look to Rome for direction and would find the same confussion. That would be an interesting letter to read. We are to be one, but we are not even close. I think the Orthodox Churches, the SSPX and FSSP are closer in their forms of worship than they are to over 90% of the Bishops in the Catholic Church. In other words the Catholic Church prior to Vatican II was more in line with Orthodox worship than they are now. Once again who changed Orthodoxy or Catholisism? You know its bad when most Anglicans that come into the Church do not want to use the Novus Ordo.

  67. Katylamb says:

    He makes some good points, points that I’ve heard a lot of times from others who have been faithful to the Church despite it’s problems. However, his “spirit of Francis” stuff is only guesswork. None of us know the future. It could be totally different from what he predicts. I don’t understand leaving. Can’t we still pray, receive holy communion, go to Mass and confession? Can’t we still honor the saints and all our wonderful Catholic traditions? Can’t we teach our children to do likewise? Why jump ship? Sad.

  68. Christophe says:

    I can see why someone would reject Catholicism to become a none. But I can’t fathom someone leaving Catholicism for Eastern Orthodoxy. It reminds me of what James Joyce has his character Stephen Dedalus say when asked whether he intended to become Protestant:

    “I said that I had lost the faith, Stephen answered, but not that I had lost self-respect. What kind of liberation would that be to forsake an absurdity which is logical and coherent and to embrace one which is illogical and incoherent?”

  69. Southern Catholic says:

    I agree with Ignatius and FrAJ, how will Rod coupe when he comes to find out the Orthodox view on contraception, marriage, and bioethics is problematic(considering he didn’t like the priests not preaching on sex and abortion issues)? I agree that the Catholic Church has problems, but is the church not made up of sinners for the sake of sinners? Does the Orthodox church not have it’s own issues as well? Tell me where this perfect church is at, the one that Jesus apparently established after establishing one with St. Peter.

    @RJHighland, do you not know that the Orthodox church also had a sex abuse crisis as well?

  70. KingofCharity says:

    I can’t buy Dreher’s argument. The apocalyptic, end of days, all is gloom-and-doom scenario has haunted the Church from day one, but now we have the conspiratorial paranoia of our current day adding fuel to the flames. This sense of paranoia has caused so many to doubt our Holy Father. To question his prudence, and, ultimately, his love of Tradition and the Catholic Faith itself. Ironically, so many Catholics who cry the loudest that the RCC is becoming, or has become, warm, fuzzy Protestantism since VII, are the ones, who in fact, are flirting with Protestantism. Our Holy Father’s call for simplicity, humility, reform, and a return to the basic, radical core of the Gospel, have been viewed as an attack on the Church, a de-mystifying of her splendor and a “humanizing” process that will inevitably discredit her and dismantle her awe-inspiring aura in the world. Sadly, some of the holiest and saintliest Catholics have bought this lie. Mother Theresa’s radical love and mercy exuded an aura of supernatural splendor just as beautiful and awe-inspiring as a cathedral in all its liturgical grandeur.
    Yet, throughout her history, the Church has had other humbling moments; those times when she admitted to weaknesses, errors in practices, abuses, inefficiencies, and simply put– looked for better ways of doing things. These times of renewal and transformation of the humanly aspect of the Church, were humbling and purging, but never apocalyptic. These times of humble renewal and transformation were never vindication to her enemies that the Church was consumed by the fires of hell, and was, after all, just another all-too-human institution. Otherwise, they would have stopped fighting her. The diabolical forces would have ignored her if they felt she was no longer a road block or a serious threat to their mission to build the City of Man. The princes of this world, the Luciferian empires and institutions of the secular world, have continued to mock her and scorn her. Fighting tirelessly to spin her and reinvent her in their image. They never stop hating her. Never stop resisting her. Never stop ridiculing her. Because they know she is still the living voice of God on Earth, and she has always been anything but dead. If they thought she was beaten. Dead. A cowardly sell out who bowed to the changing winds of modernity. A Church created in the Image of Man. Anything other than what she claims to be, they would have stopped harassing her years ago. They would have declared victory and pulled out their troops. But their vitriol goes on. Their war goes on. They know she is not dead. Her voice has not been silenced. No Trojan Horse can infiltrate her, subvert her, and destroy her. No propaganda machine can change her doctrines. But, their efforts to re-invent her in the Image of Man have remained ceaseless.
    So, these historical times of renewal and transformation have always been turbulent and uneasy, humbling and maybe even a little embarrassing. But these times were never an excuse for leaving the Church, or to live in constant fear of apostasy. In fact, historically, these were times when the holiest and greatest saints were born. We have so many good, holy Catholics whose spiritual lives have been sterilized by their fear of apostasy; they have become immobilized by their anxiety from their lack of trust in Pope Francis. In other words, they have bought the lie of the MSM. To buy the lie of the MSM is more than being brainwashed by a leftist propaganda machine. It is to buy the lie from the father of lies himself, the devil. How many corporal and spiritual works of mercy is the world being deprived of because good, holy Catholics are too worried about the “spirit of Francis” and the future stability of the Church to actually continue their public life of saintly joy and holiness? How many have withdrawn from the public life of the Church, only to become isolationists, self-preservationists, who pray the Rosary in secret? How many holy Catholics’ spiritual lives have been reduced to clandestine prayer gatherings in the basements of churches instead of setting parishes on fire with the holy spirit. The spirit of orthodoxy and Tradition is being locked away instead of permeating the public life of the parish? The devil does not want us to have an unwavering belief in the indefectibility of the Church. He loves it when good, holy Catholics are eaten alive by paranoia and fear and can even entertain the mere possibility of apostasy.
    Yet, how many times has the Church survived the “sky is falling” hysteria? After Nicea? Old Catholics after Vatican I? Catholics who didn’t like Trent and the Counter-Reformation? Scholasticism? The Great Western Schism? The Great Schism of East and West? The debates between St. Paul and Pope Peter? Yet, the Militant Church, marched on. She has assimilated the good and discarded the bad. She has been a patience Mother, she has gotten herself entangled many times, but, in the end, she rises through the noise of the times, and speaks with clarity and precision. The Barque of St. Peter, the unsinkable ship, rode out the cultural, political, social, theological, doctrinal, and moral storms of the ages, refusing to stray off course. The “spirit of the times” have always beat hard at the doors of Holy Mother Church in one form or another.

    The “spirit of Francis” is a myth created by the liberal media to advance their agenda. Period. Nothing new. Satan’s same old strategy. The liberal media never grows tired of trying to create a Church in their image. But Pope Francis’s words taken verbatim and at their face value, in context, are orthodox and consistent with JPII, B16, the Catechism, and Tradition. The “Spirit of Francis” is just a liberal repackaging of the same old “spirit of Vatican II” heretics who refuse to die and accept the cold, hard truth that Vatican II was not what they thought is was or wished it was.

  71. robtbrown says:

    Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    Robtbrown proposed a warning sign for people entering the Catholic Church. The sign would read, “You are now entering the Catholic Church. Reduce expectations.”

    It seems to me folks could use a warning sign similar to that one on when they embark upon just about any undertaking, initiative, commitment, or quest. My version would read slightly differently: “You are now entering (blank). Right-sized expectations advised.”

    A friend and I converted at college in 1970. In the months before we had been listening to the Solesmes recording of the Passion acc to St John, the 1951 Gethsemane Chant recording, and the multiple set The Treasury of Gregorian Chant. Of course, we were aware that the parish liturgy had already been vernacularized, so we called a nearby Benedictine Abbey to ask when they chanted (we knew nothing of Matins, Lauds, etc). We were stunned when they replied that they didn’t do it anymore.

    I think our expectations, that Benedictine monks would have preserved Gregorian Chant, were Right-Sized, don’t you?

  72. lana says:


    Thank you, RC2, for reminding us of some of those homilies and bringing some perspective here. Here is another recent one from Pope Francis: following Christ means accepting suffering

  73. anilwang says:

    Fr. AJ
    “When Rod takes issue with someone or something in the Orthodox Church not being perfect, I wonder where he’ll stomp off to then?”

    From people I’ve known, there seems to be five possibilities:
    (1) Maturity: Accept the “least bad” alternative he knows, warts and all and learn to love it.
    (2) Cynicism: Believe all religions are man made and either fall into general mysticism or atheism.
    (3) Immaturity: Continue searching his entire life for “the right religion”.
    (4) Egoism: Pick the religion that suits you best and convince everyone in that religion that you’re take on that religion is *the one true understanding* and everyone else in that religion is wrong.
    (5) Indifference: Stop taking religion seriously and become immersed in the world while still holding on to the trappings of a specific religion.

  74. paxchristi says:

    I expect that more than a few of us out here have had to endure years – or even decades – of some level of heterodoxy in our parishes (I know we have). Some of us have felt forced to move to more solid parishes mostly for the sake of our children – or for peace of mind (sometimes there is only so much nonsense one can take). Mr Dreher, who wrote a a fascinating article with much food for thought, concluded by praising at length his parish priest who offered solid, basic homily meat. Well, if Mr. Dreher could find a solid Orthodox priest offering this fare, one could hope he might have expended the same energy in finding a solid Catholic parish before he left. May he find his way home. One cannot truly know peace (despite the nonsense) until one is back in the fold

    In the meantime, these current events, as well as ongoing invasive liberalism, can actually benefit us by pushing us more deeply to the fundamentals of faith: we have the Holy Eucharist, and the sacrament of Reconciliation (Penance). Yes, the Sunday liturgy may be a zoo, and the homily an endless loop of warmed over “God luvs ya!” social justice (with the treacly backdrop of the ubiquitous We are Children of the Light), but we need only put our heads down and enter the great mystery of the Mass which no one can take from us. And to further heal the soul, a diet of quiet weekday Masses will help restore some peace.

  75. dominic1955 says:

    It might sound like it, but really I’m not going down the rabbit hole.

    I do, however, think that something about the “faith journey” is a canary in the coal mine quality to it. How does one go from being a hung-ho Catholic to not being (in whatever flavor) is probably because you never really were. You might have went through the right ceremonies and objectively became Catholic, but if you never “thought” right it doesn’t surprise me that you left. If he ever quit thinking like a Protestant, Eastern Orthodoxy wouldn’t have appealed to. If this challenge to self-sacrifice and the Cross ans such were such a kicker, yes, the books of the Fathers and Doctors are easily available for free and its not that hard to find a more orthodox parish, even a solid Eastern Catholic parish if the Eastern outlook on things appeals more than the “traditionalism” that reigns in some TLM parishes. Problem is, if you never leave the Protestant style of thinking behind, you are going to be a “seeker” looking for that damn near perfect self-selected parish of the “Elect” (however you have it in your mind) and that is how your relationship to the “Church” is going to play out.

    Let me flesh this out a bit. I think this is the wisdom found in the NT and even in some seminary policies that treat zealous converts a little askance. I’ve ran into gung-ho converts that are all ecstatic about the BVM and 110% about being priests or doing this and that and whatnot. Convert zeal doesn’t count for much in my book. You might have the Faith intellectually or culturally but without both, standing alone they are terribly fragile. Add to that the often misplaced zeal of the convert and without proper guidance it just might not end well. It doesn’t have to be in the space of a few months-it can take 13 years. They need to be tested by time and fire and there really is much to be said about having grown up in Catholicism…which comes to my real point.

    We do a crap job of both. Half the time we cannot even teach the Faith well enough to inspire quirky “intellectuals” (real or not) to join us on such gossamer pretexts as doctrine and self-denial and we hardly have a “Catholic” culture to marinate in either for the more lazy types. On a human level, we are doubly screwed. We suck at teaching the Faith, and we suck at passing it on culturally.

    Save for the grace of God, there go I-to boot.

  76. jmhem5 says:

    Here’s a twist: I returned to the Catholic Church this past Holy Week, after eighteen years away … most if it in Orthodoxy (the OCA, actually). While Rod Dreher’s general critique of AmChurch is on the money, the Evangelicals, mainline Protestants and the Orthodox STILL carefully fly under the radar of serious media scrutiny regarding clerical sexual abuse. Six years ago my wife and I lost our young adult son to suicide following clergy sexual abuse at a prominent Orthodox seminary. Though the faculty member/married priest perpetrator was deposed – I still left the Orthodox Church raging at the widespread callousness and credulous denial. It was only Jesus Christ’s mercy that eventually saved us from unrelenting despair and bitterness. That same faith led me back to the Catholic Church I joined as a young man & my wife to resume active practice of her life-long faith. (After all, where else were we going to pray for our boy’s soul?)
    If WE can return to the Church anybody can!
    in Our Lady’s Son,
    John Iliff

  77. Stumbler but trying says:

    @ jmhem5
    I am so sorry for your loss. My condolences and prayers to you and your wife and family. May your son rest in eternal peace. Welcome back home. May your sorrow be turned into joy!
    Viva Cristo Rey!

    “Can’t we still pray, receive holy communion, go to Mass and confession? Can’t we still honor the saints and all our wonderful Catholic traditions? Can’t we teach our children to do likewise? Why jump ship?”
    Totally agree! More time in prayer and less time on the internet will bring our beloved Catholic Church many blessings, a hundred-fold. The Holy Father will benefit from our prayers as well if only we stop talking and start praying. I have already decided to go in that direction.

    Mr. Dreher sounds bitter in this article…very sad indeed. I hope he will find what he is truly searching for and if so, he may return as the fullness of truth nowhere else but in the Catholic Church.

    Here is another article from the same Time Magazine that I found affirming.

  78. rbbadger says:

    @John Iliff: I do know of your son’s story. I learned of it while following the accounts of the deep corruption which continues to exist in the OCA. While I am delighted that you are back in communion with the Catholic Church, I am saddened all he has been through. Welcome back! May your son rest in the peace of Christ.

  79. VexillaRegis says:

    Dear jmhem5, how utterly devastating! I will pray for your son and for your family. RIP.

  80. jm says:

    Deacon Greg’s comment reflects how thick Catholic blinders are. “The real reasons” Rod D left. He has written about them at length, and explains them again here. But no, it can’t be legit problems in the Church, it must be Rod! What a sad reaction. Anyone who has gone through a similar experience knows the last thing Rod wanted was to leave… He simply couldn’t find the church that was supposed to be operating where The Church was located. Does Catholicism like the pre-Vatican II popes espoused still exist anywhere but on paper, and should it take stacks of commentary to “explain” why Francis is in step with Tradition. He might be the nicest, noblest, most humble guy ever, but he hardly sounds like someone who understands Catholicism versus Protestantism. But one Protestant comment sounds spot on: “An infallible Church simply cannot reform.” And an infallible Pope simply cannot be successfully criticized. Rome has become Salt Lake City in that regard. Cue the next breathless praise of a new pontiff who has done next to nothing to date.

  81. jm says:

    “Dreher is admitting himself to be a lifelong coward and egotist.”

    Sheesh! Who needs caricatures of shrill or mean Christians when we have com boxes. ANYONE who has been thru RCIA at some University parishes knows running is not cowardice but what Frank Sheed would call sanity.

  82. Supertradmum says:

    God bless this man. I shall pray for him. Faith is a gift, as well as hard-earned struggle. It seems to me that he could benefit from a long view of Church history, but so many of the young converts do not have this. The long view saves many from sadness and confusion.

    Again, it is the duty of each lay person to save themselves through the merits of the Catholic Church. We cannot blame others, either persons or institutions.

  83. Supertradmum says:

    jm you said, “And an infallible Pope simply cannot be successfully criticized”. We have a doctrine of infallibility for a reason. If the Pope eats Cheerios for breakfast and I criticize him for supporting a company which supports dubious moral groups, I am not criticizing an infallible pope. Nor are we criticizing his limited infallibility when he speaks to a Jesuit magazine and we criticize the interview. Please get this doctrine right.

  84. jbosco88 says:

    Best homily I’ve heard from a Pope on “God is Love” in accessible language was Benedict XVI to the Catholic Youth groups outside Westminster Cathedral during his visit to the UK.

  85. Katylamb says:

    @Jm: You say “Anyone who has gone through a similar experience knows the last thing Rod wanted was to leave…”
    Nonsense! If that’s the last thing he wanted to do then why did he do it? He made a choice, just like other Protestants in the making have done when the Church doesn’t suit them. The Church didn’t suit him so he left it.
    You say: “He simply couldn’t find the church that was supposed to be operating where The Church was located. Does Catholicism like the pre-Vatican II popes espoused still exist anywhere but on paper…”
    Maybe he joined the Church for the wrong reason if that’s what he was looking for. He should have been trying to find the Church that Jesus founded 2000 years ago, not the Church under some specific pope or popes.
    If the house gets messy stay and help clean it up, don’t go poking around looking for a better house. Some of what he says is valid criticism, some is just guesswork, but all of it is hard for me to take seriously from him, since he uses it to justify leaving God’s holy Church. Who is he trying to convince, some poor struggling Catholic who is upset with the way things are going, or himself? Frankly, I think his attitude and opinions will be more harmful to the faith of doubting people than any spirit of Vatican 2 (or Pope Francis) ever could be. His message is that the Church is hopeless- a lost cause. God help him!

  86. kimberley jean says:

    Should we really pay attention to what an oft hysterical ex-Catholic has to say? Let him write about the beauty of Orthodoxy. He’s a one note Catholic bashing Johnny and his act has gotten really stale.

  87. Juergensen says:

    Rod Dreher left the Catholic Church on October 12, 2006, well into the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI. To intimate rejection of the Church because of Pope Francis is pure folly.

  88. Eagle65 says:

    I am a lifelong Catholic and I am afraid I am losing my faith for many of the reasons mentioned in the article many of which Father Z agrees with. I have not heard one sermon or pronouncement by the clergy in years that focuses on the “uniqueness” of Catholicism. All I have to do is love one another, be generous to the poor and I am ready for heaven. I am over simplifying but that is what I hear in Church, and what I am hearing from Francis I.

  89. gheg says:

    If Mr. Dreher really believed that Catholicism is not true, he would stop talking about about it and move on. Instead, he seems to be obsessed with the Church. He will be back.

  90. St. Corbinian's Bear says:

    Bailed once for Orthodoxy, realized I was a man of the West and came back to the one true Church broken hearted for the good in Orthodox (and no illusions about the bad). My experience since has been as bad as any of yours. But we participate. We fight We do everything we can for our parish and shrug off the blows and back-stabs. We study on our own, and continue to work instruction and example into our relation with our grown kids. We expect enmity from the world, and judge a leader by what he says. We’re just Novus Ordo Catholics, but that’s where God put us and it’s the thickest part of the fight.

  91. pannw says:

    Eagle65, have you read the Screwtape Letters? There is a part in it where Screwtape tells his nephew demon to make his client look at the other basically loser people that are in the Church so that the client will lose his faith because of the hypocrites and embarrassing people, etc…and will focus on them rather than on the TRUTH. Christ is still present, truly, in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. You know this. Hold on to it. Nothing else matters.

    I’ve bookmarked information on the Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano and look at it from time to time. I don’t need it, but it does make me smile and calm down when I get anxious. Spend time with the Blessed Sacrament. Luckily, First Friday is coming up. Deo Gratias!

    Jesus, I trust in You.

  92. People are totally missing the point if the take-away from this article is to pile on Dreher.

    He is spot-on in his critique of the current state of the Church–which has become Church Milquetoast instead of Church Militant. Since my return to the Church 10 years ago, I have been overwhelmed by the number of homilies that essentially tell me to “be nice” and little more. (I now attend a TLM parish where, fortunately, there is more substance than that.)

    But who can argue with him when he says most homilies preach Christ without the Cross? Who can argue with him that the way certain clergy denied or mishandled the sex abuse crisis was atrocious?

    Too many bishops and priests think homilies that always affirm and never challenge are what people want–when in fact, it causes people to WALK AWAY from the Church.

    I can understand all too well Dreher’s frustration, and I do not judge him for it. Let us pray for him, that he will return to Holy Mother Church one day.

  93. Pingback: Dreher: “Pope Francis only confirms my decision to leave” the Catholic Church. A HARD look at where we are. « Servus Fidelis: the faithful servant

  94. Pingback: La Repubblica Pope Francis Interview - BigPulpit.com

  95. Sam Schmitt says:

    Mr. Dreher’s argument makes about as much sense as disowning your parents because you can’t stand your siblings.

  96. nanetteclaret says:

    To Marion Ancilla Marial 30 Sept. @ 7:48 p.m.

    You asked that I provide quotes from Pope Francis with the relevant paragraphs from “Pascendi Domninici Gregis.” I think if you read the following excerpts you will be able to answer the question for yourself. I don’t have time to do your research for you, but perhaps this will help you start:

    “38. It remains for Us now to say a few words about the Modernist as reformer. From all that has preceded, it is abundantly clear how great and how eager is the passion of such men for innovation. In all Catholicism there is absolutely nothing on which it does not fasten. They wish philosophy to be reformed, especially in the ecclesiastical seminaries. They wish the scholastic philosophy to be relegated to the history of philosophy and to be classed among absolute systems, and the young men to be taught modern philosophy which alone is true and suited to the times in which we live. … In the Catechism no dogmas are to be inserted except those that have been reformed and are within the capacity of the people. Regarding worship, they say, the number of external devotions is to he reduced, and steps must be taken to prevent their further increase, though, indeed, some of the admirers of symbolism are disposed to be more indulgent on this head. They cry out that ecclesiastical government requires to be reformed in all its branches, but especially in its disciplinary and dogmatic departments. They insist that both outwardly and inwardly it must be brought into harmony with the modern conscience which now wholly tends towards democracy; a share in ecclesiastical government should therefore be given to the lower ranks of the clergy and even to the laity, and authority which is too much concentrated should be decentralized. The Roman Congregations and especially the index and the Holy Office, must be likewise modified . The ecclesiastical authority must alter its line of conduct in the social and political world; while keeping outside political organizations it must adapt itself to them in order to penetrate them with its spirit. With regard to morals, they adopt the principle of the Americanists, that the active virtues are more important than the passive, and are to be more encouraged in practice. They ask that the clergy should return to their primitive humility and poverty, and that in their ideas and action they should admit the principles of Modernism; and there are some who, gladly listening to the teaching of their Protestant masters, would desire the suppression of the celibacy of the clergy. What is there left in the Church which is not to be reformed by them and according to their principles? “

  97. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Fr AJ’s comment, ““When Rod takes issue with someone or something in the Orthodox Church not being perfect, I wonder where he’ll stomp off to then?”, got me thinking about St. Maximus the Confessor. He did not “take issue with someone or something […] not being perfect”, but with them not being right, for which he got ‘stomped off’ in banishment, back again when he wouldn’t hold his tongue there to have it cut off, together with his right hand with which he had refused to sign a compromise statement, then off again to death in exile, by those pretending to exercise the authority of State and Church.

    He was emphatically not in communion with the see of Constantinople, saying, “what kind of liturgy can they celebrate, or what kind of Spirit can settle on those which are celebrated by such people?” He denied, however, the accusation that he was “the cause why many are separated from the communion of the Church” there: “Is there anyone who claims that I said, ‘Do not be in communion with the Byzantine church’?”

    Happily, he does not seem to fall under any of anilwang’s suggested “five possibilities”. What scope is there now to act as he did, should one be convinced, with “supporting” conscience as he had, that it is write to do so? To be openly, but not recrutingly, out of communion with one or another (arch)diocese or see?

  98. Venerator Sti Lot says:


  99. Imrahil says:

    I subscribe to what the dear @dominic1955 said, and, with as much exclamation marks as you may wish for, the comment of the dear @Supertradmum about infallibility. Please get this doctrine right. Exactly!

    As for the dear @anilwangs categories, I with little shame confess, for my self, for part of the thing described here as “egoist”. I did not pick the religion that suited me best, for It picked me and it is the true one; but yes, if I do open my mouth about something (which I may choose not to), I try to convince others that my understanding, weak as of course it is, is acceptable (where I judge it acceptable), and the only true one (where I came to it by logical deductions and the sort, and hold it to be the only true one). I can, of course, err; but as Chesterton very accurately reminded us, he who takes part in a discussion should set this fact aside.

    May I never become “mature” in the sense of calling good what by my, even though limited, understanding I consider an evil, only for reason of the additional evil that I can’t help it

    May I never become “egoist” in the true sense, viz. that I forget to be open to a real insight that may come that something God willed to exist is good after all.

    As for Mr Dreher’s points, it should be observed in honesty that there is something in principal outlook which I do not share. I am an orthodox Catholic and consider myself even traditional and conservative (believe it or not). Give me a dogma and I’ll believe it at first sight, but nevertheless I am not of the opinion that the Faith is primarily a gloomy thing and the priest and even the ordinary faithful man’s job is to scare people into Heaven (which, of course, won’t work).

    I do not like the “therapeutic” (good word!) sermons about that God is love and that is about it, for a couple of reasons. One may enjoy some kitsch at a time but given too much the effect is reversed. Then, things which to the uninstructed mind (of which I do not exclude myself) seem to (not to say contradict) set a different note, are aptly to be read in the Bible, the books on dogmatics, and the examinations of conscience; this feeling of difference (for difference it is not) has to be explained away by reasoning and not drowned by emotion. And then, the intellectual quality and the addressing of concrete problems which the people do have* simply is not given. (*”Go and preach to all the words with your whole life that God is Love”. Mhm, but 1. how do you do that? 2. even if a concrete program of actioning is given, what precisely of it is obligatory and what do I have to confess if I fail to do? 3. if it means no specific things to actually do, then please say so and do not leave me in the despairing feeling of failure for not doing I never knew what.)

    Nevertheless Mr Dreher seems to think the principal problem, or at any rate one of the problems, is that the sermons are not gloomy enough and have too little Cross in it. As he cites Flannery O’Connor, What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross. Faith is occasionally a cross. It is not the cross, and being sometimes a cross is not its particular nature. Securus iudex orbis communis, ’tis said. Men of all times have gone to Religion to get consolation, not to be disturbed even more as if they weren’t already. There is a reason why the particularly holy day is the holiday. Around here, one hears about the Cross about as often as one should (I think; though less so about judgment); but one hears way too much about the “challenges of the Everyday”, or so. I don’t say that that would be incorrect in a technical sense; but there is some truth in the proverb “the tone makes the music”. Again: what does it precisely mean to take up your Cross “in the Everyday”? And if it is to simply live, to honestly follow God’s commandments, to endure such sorrows as come, to do the fasting as prescribed by the Church and, if you want to do more than your duty, some more, some might say: “But that’s what we strive to do! Not saying that we don’t fail sometimes, God and our confessor know that well, but still why do you talk as if we didn’t?” “I respect that some people have it hard on them, pity them, maybe support them in possible ways, and when I come myself into the situation, I’ll remember that it’s something worthful. But if I can’t help to enjoy my life at this moment, thanking God for the moment He created, should that be treated as a sin?”

    Let’s once again quote a Catholic hero, in this case mine, Chesterton. The voice of the special rebels and prophets, recommending discontent, should, as I have said, sound now and then suddenly, like a trumpet. But the voices of the saints and sages, recommending contentment, should sound unceasingly, like the sea.

    A lot of Christians seem to have, in the understandable and justified wish to make up for other’s omissions, concentrated on the “hard truths” as much as that they sometimes link the idea of hardness and the idea of truth in their minds; or so at least it seems. Yet truth is hard only occasionally, and even then not really (in the sense that we will see, after we have made it through Purgatory, that in some sense as yet unconceivable it wasn’t after all). There is a reason that “sooth” is a synonym in English.

    However, certainly upon being questioned, the question must be understood in the sense it was meant and truth must be told as it is. Of course the World will only question in a way that makes us look disagreeable. That’s a pity, but in my view we are still bound to answer it concretely. That’s the problem with e. g. our Holy Father’s comment on homosexuality, which I must say was objectively confusing. “A homosexual” to anyone who is not a Catholic theologian means one who acts upon the inclination, whom at least if the question is presented the Pope must judge to be a(n objective) sinner. And even if he does interpret it in the sense of chaste homosexual, then he should not say “who am I to judge”, but judge again and say “it is not a sin (only a disorder to bear)”.

    Now if Mr Dreher thinks that Faith should principally be gloomy, he is from that point right to say what he says (though he precisely then should bear that other cross of enduring insufficient preaching.)

    If Mr Dreher, and in which I agree with him, complains about shallowness of teaching, the lack of teaching on Judgment (one of the first effects of which is that it makes the whole matter even more gloomy as it already is, being presented as a matter too horrific to be told us laymen children – but still open to be read in all the books), and all that, he is right to say what he says.

    But: I don’t think the sermon should be a Cross to bear, but if it nevertheless is, let’s remember that one of the Rewards comes immediately afterwards. The second part of the Mass is the more important one. And he is still free to express his opinion at coffee&donuts.

    And certainly the observation that the spirit of Pope Francis will replace the spirit of the last Council in certain argumentations is a good one.

    Excuse the excessive length.

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