Saturday, October 25, 2014

Catechism of the Catholic Church #29: "The Scandal of Bad Example"

Reading through the Catechism of the Catholic Church this year, I plan to share my thoughts on certain passages, hoping that they both inspire others to read and study the teachings of the Church and provide meaning and clarity to those who already do.

     "To reconvert society is often more difficult than original evangelization," states Fr. John Hardon. When we bank on the scandal of bad example, for instance, we become part of the anesthetized and spiritually bereft.
      Presenting a poor example of Christian love sends a negative shock wave through the world of the faithful.  Many examples exist of "faithful" Catholics who use the Church and her teachings to scare people into submission.  For instance, there are professed Catholics who walk around with pious attitudes, but in their hearts they harbor hatred, and if given the opportunity, they readily talk about people behind their backs. In any church parking lot after Mass, in the pew as the faithful filter in to worship, and in many ministries run within the church, "the scandal of bad example" rears its poisonous head. The perpetrators are not just the laity, however. Many religious and ordained are guilty, too.  

      I have, unfortunately, seen the effects of "the scandal of bad example" on people at work who at least seriously question Catholics and their beliefs, many of them professed Christians. Their stories are all the same: They witnessed abusive "Catholics" using a false interpretation of doctrine to belittle others, win arguments, and impose ideologies.
     Catholicism is a faith of love, and if it becomes anything outside of love, it is not of God and certainly not what Christ taught in the first century.  As Catholic Christians, we are not only required to study and know our faith but to put it into proper practice, a practice that radiates the love of Christ.  We are, moreover, to follow St. Paul's advice in his letter to the Philippians: