I am a loyal customer of Dunkin Donuts! What I love most about their coffee is that no matter which location (and there are many in the Northeast) I order a medium hot French vanilla coffee with no sugar, it is always the same! I love consistency! I wouldn’t be a loyal customer if every time I stopped in a different location the coffee tasted different or wasn’t prepared properly. No, this isn’t a post about my love of Dunkin Donuts coffee – but it is a post about consistency – consistency of the Catholic faith.
TOO often I hear from people, “Father, you say one thing but another priest hold me this or that.” I think it is a real problem when people are getting conflicting answers to questions with clear answers. Now let me be clear, I am talking about clear black and white issues in which the Church has definitively spoken on, not prudential judgments or how to handle one issue or another where advice would clearly (and legitimately) differ.
I am speaking of doctrinal issues of faith and morals! I am speaking of the scandal that is caused when a member of the lay faithful would hear from a priest or deacon something like, “Purgatory does NOT exist,” or “There is NO issue with a married couple using artificial contraception” or a variety of other issues.
I think this lack of consistency has caused scandal. I think it has caused people to lose some trust in the Church to guide them in living holy and faithful lives. I think people’s faith is damaged when they are giving inaccurate information. I think has also led some to “shop around” for a priest or parish that is in line with their way of thinking as opposed to striving to conform their lives to the Catholic Faith.
As a priest, I am fully aware that it isn’t always easy to talk about the more difficult issues that sometimes are met with confrontation. For example, it is rare that I am not confronted after a funeral or wedding Mass for explaining before the reception of Holy Communion that only practicing Catholics should come forward to receive the Eucharist and that non-Catholics or Catholics who are not practicing their faith (i.e., not coming to Mass each Sunday) should remain seated. I am often told how unwelcoming or how unkind that is and that all should be able to receive, regardless of the fact that the Church has a clear teaching on the reception of Holy Communion (which can be found in the back of most missalettes).
I have always tried (though sometimes failed) not to engage in the conversation about what a certain priest or deacon (or bishop) might have said in a private conversation, because the person could have misunderstood what the priest was saying. I have always taken the approach of saying, “I understand that you might get different views from different priests, BUT what does the Church say?” Don’t listen to Fr. Jay or Fr. So and So; what does the Church say? The Church does give us a clear teaching on issues like Purgatory, on contraception, on the reception of Holy Communion, just as an example.
Where do we find these answers? We are so blessed to have something called, the Catechism of the Catholic Church! This is a great point of reference on issues of faith, morals, sacraments and prayer. I think every family should own one, but it is also available on-line, so there is no excuse to not have access to the truth and the consistency of the Catholic Faith.
One of my favorite passages from the Catechism is found in paragraph 173, which states, “The Church, though scattered throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, having received the faith from the apostles and their disciples guards this preaching and faith with care, as dwelling in but a single house, and similarly believes as if having but one soul and a single heart preaches, teaches and hands on this faith with a unanimous voice, as if possessing only one mouth.”
If we can expect consistency from Dunkin Donuts (or Starbucks for those who like that sort of thing), shouldn’t we be able to expect more consistency from the Church?