How Can You Still Be Catholic?

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How Can You Still Be Catholic?

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Christopher Sparks, senior books editor of Marian Press, explains the impetus for his newly published book, How Can You Still Be Catholic?: 50 Answers to a Good Question.

When I was an undergraduate student, a number of friends and I would gather on a regular basis to eat and talk. Anything and everything was fair game, including politics and religion. One of the recurring subjects was Catholicism, and one question arose repeatedly: "How can you still be Catholic when the Church/Catholics have done such awful things?" Among the subjects mentioned: the Crusades, the Inquisition, sexual abuse of children by priests, and many other sins and transgressions.

How can you still be Catholic in the face of Church history? How can you still be Catholic when the Church is so full of sinners?

I started off with long answers and wound my way down to a short answer. The long answers would usually start by trying to correct the record:

• The Crusades were wars of defense in response to Islamic invasions that had begun in the seventh century, several hundred years before the First Crusade;

• the Inquisition could not possibly have caused the deaths of millions, since there weren't millions of people in Europe to be executed without causing society to collapse (it was more like 4,000 over several centuries);

• less than 8 percent of priests abused young people during the worst phases of the crisis;

• and so on.

Though there are certainly great sins in the Church's history, the version of history most people accept without question is often legend, not history at all.

I'd also try to point out that for some reason, these conversations usually would circle back again and again to the sins (real or alleged) of the Church and her members, but wouldn't often take into account the saints or the good works of the Church.

These long answers were sometimes helpful, sometimes not. And gradually I came to realize that my first priority didn't need to be correcting the record or talking about saints. I needed to focus on the short answer.

The short answer to the question "How can you still be Catholic?" is this: The faith is better than we are. That's it. The faith is better than we are — better than every pope who ever lived, better than every bishop or priest, woman or man, every member of the Church except for Jesus and Mary. The faith is (way!) better than I am, better than every person who teaches or seeks to live the faith.

The only two people in the history of the Church to have fully lived the Catholic religion are Jesus and Mary. Everyone else, no matter how holy, falls below their stature.

The Catholic faith is better than we are, and Catholicism is true. That is more than enough of a reason to still be Catholic — indeed, to always be Catholic, to cling to the Church and her faith through thick and thin.

And should the sinfulness of your fellow Catholics give you scandal, ask yourself the question posed by C.S. Lewis: "If I, being what I am, can consider that I am in some sense a Christian, why should the different vices of those people in the next pew prove that their religion is mere hypocrisy and convention?"

The Church is full of sinners? Then it's doing its job, and we are to bring as many more in as we can persuade to enter. That work of evangelization is especially an obligation for those who love the Divine Mercy message and devotion. That's why I wrote How Can You Still Be Catholic?: 50 Answers to a Good Question. I wanted to give the simple answers to the question — the Catholic faith is true, and it is far better than we are. But I also wanted to give friends and foes alike a sense of the facts and reasoned arguments that answer the stumbling blocks preventing people from finding Jesus, who is waiting to make them sons and daughters of God.

I wanted to share the fruits of years of reading and research, of discovering how infinitely rich are the answers and the reasons for belief, and how completely so many seemingly insuperable obstacles can be overcome.

And more — I wanted to point people beyond my own answers to some of the many great resources available today, put out by saints and scholars, by the Magisterium and ordinary Catholics faithful to the Magisterium. I wanted to bring out treasures old and new from the storehouse of the Church and help a world that is starving for the Sacraments, for grace, for love of God and neighbor. I hope I've managed to do all that with this book, and that you'll share it with those who ask hard questions and have the patience to hear the answers, even hard answers.

After all, we owe them answers. It's a reasonable question after 2,000 years of sinners and saints, of tragedy and triumph. "How can you still be Catholic?" In fact, Jesus was the first one to ask it when He said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?"

And 2,000 years later, the answer has yet to change:

"Master," Simon Peter answered him, "to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (Jn 6:67-68).

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LAF - Jul 1, 2017

Too often in recent years, I've found myself commenting that Catholics (including priests) can be the worst example of uncaring, unkind people. But you've put that sentiment into perspective beautifully with your comment: "The Church is full of sinners? Then it's doing its job, and we are to bring as many more in as we can persuade to enter." After all, who needs the guidance of the Catholic Church more than sinners? I never thought of it that way. Good for you! Congrats on your new book. May it be a huge success. PS -- Enjoy reading your articles in the Marian publication.

My Mother's Daughter - Jun 25, 2017

The million dollar question: "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." And there is truly no where else TO go.

friend - Jun 20, 2017

it's like asking, How can you still love Christ? Christ and His Church both are saddened by the scandals and sins... we have a longer history (being the original Church initiated by Christ Himself) and we have the highest ideals so it's more evident if we've fallen short... but haven't we all fallen short? ... Christ & His Church are also the source of forgiveness & interior reformation for each of us --through the experience of Divine Mercy in our everyday life... in the Catholic Church we have full access to the Sacraments to give us the graces we need to turn from sin... we have our Mother Mary to help us as Christians. Exactly: "to whom shall we go?"