The dictionary defines “crisis” as “an unstable or crucial time or state of affairs in which a decisive change is impending, especially one with the distinct possibility of a highly undesirable outcome.”
Prior to his death, the great theologian and Jesuit priest Fr. John A. Hardon (1914-2000) said that there was a crisis of faith in the Catholic Church. In summarizing the crisis, he described the three states of mind that exist among different segments of the Catholic population:
1. Catholics who are in open rebellion against the faith. They believe that as children they were brainwashed by their parents and teachers to believe in an ancient faith that is no longer supported by modern thought, science, and psychology. They resent what the church stands for and believe that they are more enlightened than the simpleminded individuals who “bought into” the beliefs of “old world” Catholics.
2. Catholics who have an emotional attachment to the articles of the faith that suit their own personal needs and desires, while expressing serious doubts about other articles of the faith. They are the “Cafeteria Catholics” who defiantly refuse to follow the teachings of the church that don’t fit within their own world view. Two examples of church teachings often rejected are contraception and divorce.
3. Catholics who do not doubt or seriously reject the faith, but are bewildered, confused, distraught, and worried by what’s going on in the church today.
After asking, “Why did such a crisis come about in the first place?” Fr. Hardon answered his own question by stating, “There is a crisis of faith in the Catholic Church because there has been an intrusion of alien ideas.”
An idea is alien when it openly contradicts a tenet of the Catholic faith.
Some examples of alien ideas that have gained widespread acceptance among Catholics are (1) that Jesus was not divine — that He was only human, which contradicts the belief that God became man in the Person of Jesus Christ; (2) that marriages can and should be dissolved with the freedom to remarry a second or third time after obtaining a divorce, which contradicts the belief that Christian marriage is an indissoluble union between a man and a woman until death; and (3) that couples are benefiting themselves and their families by practicing contraception, which contradicts the belief that contraception obscures and violates the procreative element of a profound and sacred union, and places what is divine, yet very human, completely in the hands of the couple alone.
Over the past 100 years, the intrusion of alien ideas among Catholics has been accelerated because of the influence of the media and the academic, professional, educational, and governmental institutions, all of which have exercised control over the mind-shaping structures and social communications networks of our society.
The Catholic Church that was established by Christ more than 2,000 years ago will cease to exist if it fails to remain faithful to the fundamental articles of faith upon which it was established.
We will triumph over this crisis, but only after the devout and committed Catholics among us multiply their efforts to consistently (1) storm heaven with prayers, and (2) perform heroic works of mercy.*
*As a reminder, the corporal works of mercy are: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. The spiritual works of mercy are: instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, admonish the sinner, bear wrongs patiently, forgive offenses willingly, comfort the sorrowful, and pray for the living and the dead.