Imagine a mother whose toddlers crawl past her legs under the kitchen sink, open various bottles marked with the skull-and-crossbones, pour the contents into sippy-cups, and then trot off drinking the contents while she shakes her head in bemused resignation. Either the woman is criminally negligent, or she doesn't believe the marked bottles really contain poison. There is no third possibility.
The eerie but incontestable fact is that most Catholic pastors behave like this unnaturally nonchalant mother. The Church still labels certain bottles with the skull-and-crossbones -- i.e., she still professes a belief in mortal (soul-destroying) sins, but even those of her clergy who give verbal assent to Church doctrine seldom conduct their office in a way that is intelligible if the doctrine were true.
I think what Uncle Di says is not surprising—but admittedly rare to see it put so succinctly in print—but I suspect his observations would be lost on the majority of Catholics.
I think this is why Evangelical Christians have such a difficult time believing that the Catholic faith emphasizes conversion of the soul. The “born again” experience of Evangelicals is tied strongly to a solid belief in the spiritual realities of salvation, heaven and hell and for the most part helps the Evangelical to stay focused on a concern for his/her own soul as well as the souls of others.
This is why I believe they’ve been labeled “Bible thumpers.” It’s not that they “thump” with the Bible per se but they do believe the Bible warns a man of the dangers facing his soul and urges a right relationship with God through faith. This is pretty basic stuff and it’s why, generally, they engage in evangelism and why they are called “Evangelicals.”
What Uncle Di observes explains precisely why the rank and file Catholic is not likewise seen to be very cognizant of their spiritual need. Their spiritual leaders—with shockingly few exceptions—are insensitive or oblivious to spiritual dangers. There might be many angles to this phenomenon and therefore many explanations but I think a significant factor relates to the nature of Catholic teaching on the formation of conscience.
Put simply and briefly, I think the Catholic has little leeway with picking and choosing what he/she believes. That kind of attitude in itself is fatal to the faith and when it becomes an entrenched attitude in Bishops the result is what we see in our own Canadian society.
Stefan’s website is full of this kind of subject. Here’s a basic article with which to start. He’s a great fan of Uncle Di, by the way.
P.S. What I said about Evangelicals doesn’t place them on a level above Catholics. It may make some of them better practicing Christians and it likely means that shocking numbers of Catholics are unwittingly living in peril of their souls. But ALL Christians must return to the fold if they are to fulfill the will of Christ and impact the world as the visible Body of Christ, which is what Christ prayed in the Garden. (John 17:20-23)
The problem, in short, is not with the Catholic faith, which remains a true witness of Christ and His Truth. The problem is with unfaithful pastors.
P.P.S. One Evangelical blogger's current discussions on her journey into the Catholic Church.