Worth Repeating

When I was coming of age in the Catholic Church—in the 70s’ and 80s’ of the last century—Catholics were utterly preoccupied with law. What I mean is that they focused relentlessly on ethical matters, especially in the area of sexuality. This was true whether one was on the right or on the left. I think of the endless disputes around the morality of birth control, divorce and re-marriage, pre-marital sex, etc. that ripped the church apart in those days. Mind you, I’m not suggesting for a moment that those issues were unimportant or that the people who staked out positions on both sides were unserious. But I am indeed suggesting that a church battling with itself over ethical law presented a deeply disedifying and unattractive face to the wider world. That is precisely why the church of that period proved so evangelically ineffective, it was so preoccupied with defending (or changing) the church’s teaching on sexual matters that it forgot how to invite people into joyful friendship with Christ Jesus. The huge number of people from my generation who have either left the church for other Christian denominations or, more likely, drifted into a bland secularism testifies to this failure.

Father Robert Barron, founder of the global ministry, Word on Fire, and the Francis Cardinal George Professor of Faith and Culture at University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, “Effective Evangelization Commences with Joy.”

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