Have you ever heard of the "Catholic - but" syndrome? It has afflicted individual members of the Catholic Church since time began, and it still afflicts mankind. Last year during Lent, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix, Arizona reminded his sheep that it was high time to "expunge rationalization from our minds and to root out compromise from our hearts."
For those who might be confused by such an admonition, the "rationalism" of which the bishop spoke against is the belief in the sufficiency of reason without faith.
Rationalism, it could be said, was what caused the fall of Adam and Eve. Our first parents "reasoned" that God could not have meant what He said when He told them that they would surely die if they ate the fruit of one particular tree. They "reasoned" that He had not forbidden them other fruits. Surely, He would understand if they disobeyed. That kind of "rationalism" is a heresy and, therefore, a sin.
Need examples of the "Catholic But" Syndrome? To quote from the bishop's article dated March 24, 2004:
"I am a Catholic businessman but I don?t let the Church influence what I do at the office or in the boardroom;? but Jesus says (Mt 7:21), ?Not everyone who says to me, ?Lord, Lord,? will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.?
?I am a Catholic politician but I don?t let my Catholicism impact on how I vote or what legislation I promote;? but Jesus says (Mt 7:26-27), ?Everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined.?
?I am a Catholic physician but I don?t let my faith mold my decisions regarding abortion, contraception, or other medical practices;? but Jesus says (Mt 5:37), ?Let your ?Yes? mean ?Yes,? and your ?No? mean ?No.? Anything more is from the evil one.?
?I am a Catholic talk show host but I don?t let the Church inhibit my right to say whatever I want on the air;? but in the Letter of James, God says (2:17) ?Faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.?
?I am a Catholic priest but I don?t let Magisterial teaching keep me from dissenting from moral or doctrinal points nor let it limit my own ?pastoral solutions?;? but at ordination each priest professes a solemn oath, ?I believe everything contained in God?s Word, written or handed down in tradition and proposed by the Church? I also firmly accept and hold each and every thing that is proposed by the Church definitively regarding teaching on faith and morals.?
The bishop wrote that Lent (and, if I might add, every day of the year) is the time "to kick the 'Catholic but...' out of our own daily lives. It is the time to expunge rationalization from our minds and to root out compromise from our hearts. Lent is the time to say a determined 'No' to the temptation to water down our faith for personal gain. It is the time to say a much larger 'Yes' to Jesus and His Gospel of Life. Lent is the time for Totus Tuus, the the time to renew our commitment to love God with all our mind and heart and strength."
"The 'Catholic but?' syndrome," the bishop wrote, "stands in direct contradiction to Jesus? clear and unequivocal demand (Mk 8:34-36), 'Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the Gospel will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?'"
The bishop continued, "The 'Catholic but?' syndrome is not without precedent in history. The fact that Jesus Himself directly and frequently opposed such rationalization shows its prevalence 2000 years ago. How often we are tempted to separate what we do in Church from what we do at home, to isolate what we believe from how we vote or what we do at work or at leisure. How easily we can compartmentalize our lives, thus keeping our adherence to Christ from shaping all that we say and do. This is why the formation of conscience holds such a pivotal role in our effort to grow to full maturity in Christ."
May the bishop's words of truth be a reminder to Catholic Governor Jeb Bush of Florida, the Catholics who sit on the Supreme Court, and any Catholic lawyers, doctors, nurses or other medical personnel who are either key or behind-the-scene players regarding Terri Schindler Schiavo.