January 31, 2000
volume 11, no. 21

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    Pat Ludwa, a committed lay Catholic from Cleveland, has been asked to contribute, on a regular basis, a lay person's point of view on the Church today. We have been impressed with his insight and the clear logic he brings to the table from his "view from the pew." In all humility, by his own admission, he feels he has very little to offer, but we're sure you'll agree with us that his viewpoint is exactly what millions of the silent majority of Catholics believe and have been trying to say as well. Pat puts it in words that help all of us better understand and convey to others what the Church teaches and we must believe.

    Today Pat, in recognizing Catholic Schools Week, wants to make sure all Catholic teachers - religious and lay, professional and volunteer - are in concert with Holy Mother Church for if they are not, a symphony becomes a cacaphony. This is what Our Lord warned of and which Pat reminds us that in looking back at the demise of solid catechetical teaching in the Church over the past thirty some years a cancer has been spreading that can only be eliminated by removing the deadly disease or it will corrupt the entire body. Whether mixing metaphors between musical and medical, one thing is for sure: harmony and teamwork must be ensured. That is the gist of Pat's column today in his commentary, "Spiritual Surgery."

    For past columns by Pat Ludwa, click on VIEW FROM THE PEW Archives   If you want to send him ideas or feedback, you can reach him at

Spiritual Surgery

        I recall a comedy skit done by Bill Cosby about getting his tonsils removed. He told how the doctor explained that his tonsils were like two guards in the back of his throat guarding his body from bad things trying to get in. But in his case, his tonsils weren't doing their jobs..."In fact, they've gone to over to the other side and we have to take them out to keep you healthy." A rather simplistic way of explaining the removal of a body part. In fact, cancer can be seen as simply part of our body going their own way and growing out of control. If it isn't removed, the body could die.


      "For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,' that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, 'Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,' that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them, as He chose. If all were a single organ, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you,' nor again the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you.' On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those parts of the body which we think less honorable we invest with the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior part, that there may be no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together" (1 Corinthians 12-26).

        What would happen to the body if the above occurred? It would cease to function, it would be 'at war' with itself. It would have a 'cancer'.

      "If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell" (Matthew 5:29-30).

        Kind of harsh words, but it illustrates that we have to remove whatever isn't of God. Sure, we could, and should, try to 'cure' the malady, but when all efforts of a cure fail, sadly, what is often left is surgery to remove the illness. Throughout our history, the Church has tried to bring the truth to those who, for whatever reason, have strayed from the truth. Cutting them out of the body of the Church has never been easy. It's never been pleasant for the Church. It's among the hardest things the Church has to do. Consider the sadness Christ felt when His disciples left Him over His teaching of the Eucharist in John 6. But note also, that He didn't change His teaching to suit them. He didn't change it in the name of unity. Nor did He accept it in a false sense of diversity.

        If one had a world-renowned conductor directing their orchestra but one or more of the musicians, under the call of musical and academic freedom, decided not to play the music he was conducting, how would it sound? Would one go to listen to them? Would they remain musicians in that orchestra any longer? Or would they force the removal of the conductor for insisting that the music be played as written?

        The Church, like an orchestra, can't make up the music as it goes, but must rely, firstly, on the score written by the composer and secondly, the conductor's ability to coordinate the orchestra to make the music. If each musician feels they can go their own way, play their own music, they don't have music then, just noise. That orchestra would soon cease to exist. Likewise, a 'church' bent on doing whatever it pleased, without direction is not a church of direction, but confusion.

        If we were to have our children take music lessons, or if we wanted to learn how to play an instrument, wouldn't we seek out a teacher who knew how to play the instrument? How can one teach what they don't know? I may love music, but since I can't play an instrument or even read music, I would never even think of teaching music.

        If a 'Catholic teacher' doesn't believe or even follow what the Church teaches, how can we expect them to teach what it does teach? When Scott Hahn was a Presbyterian minister, he held 'non-denominational' Bible studies. The thing was, as he admits, they were anything but non-denominational. Through just human nature, he taught as he believed, which in this case, was as a Presbyterian minister. Likewise, a 'Catholic' who really doesn't believe or practice what the Church teaches can't really teach since they will actually end up teaching their beliefs instead of the Church's.

        It's human nature. On the one hand, we seek truth and direction in our lives, but if that we find that direction is a way we don't want to go, we rebel.

      "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you" (John 15: 13-15).

        To lay down our life is more than just simply actually dying, but dying to what we want for the greater good. Not to do what we want, but what God wants. With all the sufferings and setbacks that come with it.

        G.K. Chesterton wrote that it isn't that Christianity has been tried and found wanting, but tried and found difficult. It may be easier to play your own music, or let the cancer spread, it may even seem better. But the reality is that both are dead ends, leading nowhere.

      "Then Jesus told his disciples, 'If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?" (Matthew 16: 24-26).

        The time may be sooner than many think, but the day is coming that the Church will have no choice but to remove the cancer infesting the Church today, it will have no choice but to remove the musicians who refuse to play the song.

        As one Vatican official said, schism is bad and should be avoided, but teaching heresy or apostasy is worse.

    Pax Christi, Pat


January 24, 2000
volume 11, no. 16

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