And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
- Luke 22:31,32 [KJV]
Writing such a blog post has been particularly difficult for this revert to Catholicism.
After many years as a nominal Catholic / practicing Evangelical, I gradually began to realize that Truth must be singular. The false dogma of Sola Scriptura is ever subject to individual interpretation and can therefore never lead to anything like verifiable Truth. Real authority, established by God, must trump personal and subjective interpretation of the Bible. Thus I returned to Catholicism and to the divinely established authority of the Church's Magisterium. It is no accident that 'Catholic' simply means 'Universal'.
It must be acknowledged that the 70s and 80s saw a steady deterioration into what can be called soft heresy. You know what I mean: Discounting or soft-pedaling the seriousness of such things as abortion, contraception and homosexuality. Studiously avoiding certain teachings out of fear of disturbing anyone. Denying or downplaying the hard reality of God's righteousness and the fact of eternal judgment. In lieu of teaching, sanctifying and governing their sheep, pastors increasingly limiting their 'ministry' to consoling, nurturing and affirming. Instead of warning people against the imminent dangers of hell, comforting them on their way thither.
The sad fact that many Catholic 'faithful' and clergy were believing and practicing such soft heresies was troubling, but did not detract seriously from my faith in the aformentioned Church authority. Always needful is a clear distinction between Church teaching and the beliefs and practices of individual 'Catholics', including clergy. The solid teachings remain a sure anchor, and the Magisterium - i.e, the bishops collectively in union with the Pope - could be counted upon to faithfully safeguard and transmit those teachings. I took no small comfort in the fact that while other denominations were altering their doctrines to conform with worldly values and norms, the true Church would never follow suit.
Yet here we are in 2015, and I must declare honestly that what I thought could never happen is in fact happening, has been happening for some time. I first began having some misgivings over 5 years ago, and have seen practically nothing since then to relieve my doubts. To the point where, starting about two years ago, some kind of threshold seems to have been crossed. When the reigning pontiff says he cannot judge homosexual clergy, he is in fact publicly confessing that he is not their pastor. When a majority of bishops, led by the bishop of Rome, meet to discuss the possibility of changing Church teaching on marriage, something is seriously, seriously, seriously amiss.
The gut-wrenching question I find myself asking is: Are these realities reversible? May the devout Catholic pray in good faith for the conversion of Francis, per Jesus' words to Simon Peter? Or has it gone way beyond that? Have the vast majority of the episcopacy left their posts? Have they abdicated their authority as pastors? Are they collectively Out To Lunch, leaving shepherdless the dwindling minority of faithful Catholics? Are those faithful few left as orphans in spiritual exile?