“I think Catholicism is about as sane as people can get,” says psychologist/author Jordan Peterson. “We need a narrative metaphysic to hold us together. It has to be predicated on something transcendent and absolute. And if you lose that, you’ll fall for something else” (PragerU, July 2019.)
Peterson, himself a practitioner of no particular religion but a frequent outside observer of the Roman Catholic Church, is more right than he realizes. Catholicism is the one and only true faith, and through this Christ-ordained institution God offers us transcendence and absolute truth.
But how many Catholics believe that? How many of the world’s 1.2 billion members of Holy Mother Church actually believe they’re taking part in the only true religion? Every recent poll conducted by Pew shows that Catholics support contrary-to-Catholic-doctrine social movements such as same-sex marriage in greater numbers than any religious group other than Jews and “nones.” Many “Catholic” politicians such as Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez make sure they are photographed on Ash Wednesday sporting their ashes, but when it comes to abortion they seem to forget what their religion says.
It’s easy to see how Protestants and evangelicals have lost their way; their churches and movements were born of various catalysts ranging from legitimate frustration with Catholic corruption to outright rebellion and self worship. That’s why today many Protestant churches have transgressed much further than allowing divorce and remarriage; some denominations, such as Episcopalians and Presbyterians, celebrate lgbt Pride and perform gay weddings, and they often preach sermons praising Planned Parenthood and gun control (“Largest Presbyterian Denomination Gives Final Approval for Same-Sex Marriage,” The New York Times, Laurie Goodstein, March 2015.) Protestant denominations cannot be expected to preach the truth, when they never had access to what Peterson called “transcendence,” (although some come closer than others.) They never knew the truth.
But maybe even Protestant errors and reluctance to join into communion with Christ’s Church are the fault of the Catholic Church, for two reasons. For starters, the Church no longer has the moral credibility it once enjoyed, due to endless scandals. (Yes, according to insurance companies, Protestants have the exact same scandals in their churches, but should more not be expected of the one true faith?)
The second reason there’s hardly any compelling reason to join the Catholic faith is what that faith has become since the Second Vatican Council of the 1960’s. Vatican 2–with its aging, sort-of-liberal baby boomer priests; modern, plain, Protestant-esque church buildings; and sugary Novus Ordo mass–is a historical tragedy in terms of religion.
Throughout the years all the way through the 50’s, stepping into a Catholic Church was to truly stand on holy ground. The incense, the Latin, the beautiful cathedrals that honored God with architecture, the women wearing veils…it was transporting. It offered a vision of what the early Christians were up to with which no smiling Presbyterian pastor or hip evangelical youth minister could ever hope to compete.
Compare that with today’s easygoing Church which tries so hard to convince Protestants that our religion is no different from there’s. We have similar church buildings now, the new Catholic Church exclaims; our new mass is in English (and Spanish and German) now just like your church services! Our new Catholic Church de-emphasizes sin, sacrifice, and devotion to Our Lady.
When Notre Dame–that crown jewel of western civilization where medieval knights attended mass–was burning in broad daylight on that terrible day last spring, it might as well have been a symbol of what is happening to the only Church instituted by Christ Himself. We are dying in plain sight, and–just like with Notre Dame–Apple and Disney, not the Pope or the Vatican, are offering us salvation (“Apple and Disney Offer to Help Rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral,” Mashable, Danica D’Souza, April 2019.)
Thankfully, young people are embracing the Latin Mass and Traditional Catholicism in record numbers (“Young Catholics Tell Bishops: We’re Here for Tradition,” Church Militant.) Young Catholics are practicing the ancient traditions of their rich spiritual inheritance in spite of the scoldings by Pope Francis, who praises Islam and celebrates the Protestant Reformation, who warmly invites Lutherans to pray with him as fellow believers but who blasts Traditionalist Catholics as “rigid” and backwards. In cities across the world there is a youthful awakening of interest in the Catholicism that existed for almost two thousand years. These young Catholics are proudly telling their Protestant friends how much they revere the Blessed Virgin.
A few weeks after the outsider Jordan Peterson semi-praised the Catholic faith for its transcendence and absolution, he told Bishop Barren that the Church needs to ask more of its members and to balance its mercy with more justice. Little did Peterson know he was asking the Church to go back to how it used to be. It’s time to draw a line in the sand–to fish or cut bait. It’s time to make Catholicism Catholic again.