1. Self Righteousness - There are few things more off putting than a self righteous know it all. When the self righteousness is religious it’s even worse. You can spot this self righteousness in both the radical conservatives and the radical progressives. They’ve turned their version of Catholicism into the only one and they’re not only right, but everybody else is wrong. Not only is everyone else wrong, but they have to be condemned, vilified, blamed and scapegoated. This is not true religion. It’s a false and twisted form of religion and no wonder people who sniff it out take off.
2. Legalism - I’m glad the Catholic Church has canon law and liturgy. I’m glad it is all written down somewhere. I’m glad we go by the book, but the “Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” When religion is only about rules and regulations and we forget people and the messiness of real life, then religion has defeated its own purpose. The rules of the game are there to allow us to have fun playing the game. Of course we need someone to pay attention to the rules, but they need to remember what its all about in the first place. They need to remember that you need a map, but the map is not the journey.
3. Unfriendliness - What is it like to visit a Catholic Church for the first time? Unfortunately many people report that nobody talks to them, there is no process for welcoming new members, they are ignored and have to practically plead with people to join the Catholic Church. “Oh yeah. I think we have something called RCIA, but it doesn’t begin until September and I don’t know who is running it this year.” If we love the church we might take the time and effort to welcome others into it.
4. Poor Preaching - I hear from readers around the country that the quality of preaching in many Catholic parishes is abysmal. Priests and deacons are unprepared, their content is shallow and their convictions weak. I hear that they drone on and on stringing together cliches and anodyne religious sentiment combined with a feel good self help agenda. This is not the case of the blind leading the blind, but the bland leading the bland. What’s the result? “Because you were lukewarm I spat you out.”
5. Modernism - People don’t want to the Catholic religion turned into a mixture of the Rotary Club and the Democratic Party. If they wanted a way to feel warm and cozy and make the world a better place they’d join the Girl Scouts. Modernism robs religion of the supernatural element. At that point it is no longer a religion. It’s a set of table manners.People are longing for an authentic connection with their Lord, their God, their Creator and their Father. Modernism gives them a mealy mouthed moral code.
5. Immorality - Yes the priest child abuse scandal did hurt the Catholic Church. So do clergy who run drugs rackets, sleep with women parishioners, siphon off parish funds, live an opulent life, watch porn, go on expensive vacations and keep a mistress. Cardinals who use rent boys, bishops who spend millions on their palace and priests who are corrupt, lazy and rude all hurt the church. Furthermore, it’s not just the clergy. Laypeople who are guilty of the above are also like a slow acting poison to the church.
is vital, spiritually alive and trying hard to follow Jesus Christ or not. Spiritual torpor, laziness, immorality and hypocrisy send people running for the doors. They don’t expect Christians to be perfect, but the do expect them to be consistent. They expect us to be doing our best to practice what we preach even if we fail sometimes. It’s not the failure that puts them off–its the not trying. The worst hypocrisy is the sluggish pew holders who turn up every week but whose lives are a lie.
7. Lax Liturgy - Why oh why do we keep trying to imitate the Protestants? They do Protestant well enough. Let them do so. We should be Catholic and not ashamed of it. We should build beautiful churches, train our altar servers, invest in good musicians, work hard to beautify the liturgy and make the sacrifices necessary to do so. Along with the externals we must all work to make the Mass as reverent, prayerful and worshipful as possible. Modern man is dying for the one thing that feeds his soul: worship. He cries out for the good red wine of worship and we give him watered down grape juice.
8. Works Without Faith - The book of James says “Faith without works is dead.” Well, it goes the other way too. Works without faith is also dead. When religion becomes a weekend club of do gooders people run a mile. Why would anyone want to get up out of bed on a Sunday morning just to have a politically correct pep talk about how to make the world a better place? If religion is no more than being good you can keep it. Any atheist can tell you, “I can be good without religion.” and he’d be right.
9. Faith Without Works - See No. 6 above. People can spot a religious phony a mile off. All that religion. All that dressing up. All that reading of holy books and parading about. Then the religious folks tootle off home and forget about the poor, the homeless, the hungry, the mentally ill and all the people with problems. May the Lord Have Mercy.
10. Being Miserable - You know what C.S.Lewis said about religious people? “You can always tell the pillars of the church because their faces look like stone.” If we’re redeemed why don’t we look more redeemed? Honestly, if you tune in to some of the religious folks all they do is grumble, grouse, grip and gossip about all the terrible sinners and all the horrible things in the world. All they do is blame others and defend themselves and huddle down into their little religious enclaves to be miserable together. Fuhgeddaboudit. If your religion doesn’t make you happy there’s something wrong. Happy? I should say joyful. There’s a difference. Christians are people who are joyful–even in adversity especially in adversity. They sing in prison. They joke on the scaffold. They have a supernatural confidence and joy that is attractive and winning. If that is not present there’s a problem.