Stay true to Christ

Wednesday, September 26, 2018 - Updated: 2:30 pm

By Stephen Mancini

I recently had a discussion with a friend that I suspect many Catholics have been having lately. In this instance, the friend didn’t want to buy a charity lottery ticket to support the Catholic Church. So, how can I address this? How do I get a disillusioned person back to the true church of Christ?

While the Catholic Church has been struggling for some time with closing churches, fewer clergy, etc., the recent revelations about sexual abuse aren’t inspiring many to return. Despite 30 years of diocesan policies and procedures to ensure the safety of children (among them removal of credibly accused clergy, an independent review board, safe environment and Protecting God’s Children programs), trust among the faithful has been fractured by the grand jury report.

It is truly a shame because so many have and continue to give their lives to help others stay on the true path as taught by Christ. The opinion of non-Catholics toward the church has always been one filled with challenges ranging from simple misunderstandings of our beliefs to our seemingly antiquated positions on marriage and abortion.

I personally make no apologies for the positions of the church. Consistency and faithfulness to the sanctity of human life and the teachings of Christ have been the key to ours being the one true and unwavering church, established by Jesus Christ himself.

However, while the norms of society have been fluid, going back to ancient Roman times filled with wars, false gods and sexual immorality ... (Wait, maybe society hasn’t changed that much over the past 2,000 years.) In fact, I’d say that these things have always been there because man is flawed. The only real change is how widely this immorality has been accepted by society.

Throughout all of this, the church has had difficult times, both internally and externally. On many occasions emperors and kings attempted to eradicate the church, and to suggest that the church has never had flawed leadership from within is ludicrous. After all, did not Christ build his church on Peter, a man who denied him three times in his hour of need? And as Paul stated, “we all are sinners and all fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

The church is led by humans, and the devil, through some, has always been active from within, trying to destroy it. But the faithful remain steadfast through the grace of God, and thus the church endures.

So, how does this help me respond to those who have left or are thinking of leaving the church? Simple: The church’s positions are consistent. To deny the church of Christ because of the actions of men, even some of the clergy, is to deny truth. Moral authority rests with God alone, as only he is perfect. The bad actions of some clergy were in no way aligned with church teaching.

To leave the church in its hour of need is no better than denying Christ in his hour of need. But while abandoned by men, Christ does not abandon us!

So I say now, more than ever, the church needs all to return to help it get through these difficult times. What a great blow to strike the devil and his never-ending attempts to destroy the church. When you speak to any disillusioned Catholics, remind them very simply that the church is not buildings or individuals. Do not trust in man. We are all sinners.

Clergy are no exception. Some have indeed failed us, but we pray that, through Christ, church leadership will take the necessary steps to address this problem once and for all. Having said that, imperfect people will never keep me away from a perfect God who blesses us every day, and through his grace has saved us, despite ourselves.

Finally, never forget that Jesus came for the sinners. That’s you and me! So don’t use this as an excuse to sleep in on Sundays, or search for a church more in tune with current moral beliefs. Stay true to God’s church and God will stay true to you.

Mancini is chief technology officer and director of strategic operations for a nonprofit company in Pittsburgh, and an adjunct professor at Carlow University and Seton Hill University.

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