Philippa Martyr: Disillusioned? Think your next step through

Reading Time: 3 minutes
A priest elevates the host during a Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City in 2020. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Every now and then, someone – usually on The Catholic Weekly Facebook page – will tell me that they no longer go to Mass because the Church is full of terrible people.

This is sadly true. But this seems like cutting off your nose to spite your face.

When you stop going to Mass, you don’t harm the clerical sexual abusers, or their enablers. You don’t harm the hypocrites, the liars, and the people who don’t sort their recyclables. Will anyone notice your absence? Possibly. If you were a very regular Mass-goer, someone might.

But this misses the entire point. When you go to Mass, you get to be physically close to Jesus Christ Himself. You might even consume Him as food. That’s the same Jesus who hates sin and is heartbroken by abuse. He notices when you’re not there, and misses you terribly.

So really, the only people you hurt by not attending Mass are Jesus and yourself.

“Most people who abandon Mass-going don’t understand what they’re giving up. People who really know what Mass is don’t give it up lightly, or at all.”

I suspect that most people who no longer go to Mass really stopped going a long time ago, and for other reasons.

That’s a pretty big call, but I’ll explain. Most Mass-going Catholics don’t simply wake up one day and decide, ‘That’s it.’

Usually, it’s a gradual process. They miss Mass one weekend, and then another – often when they’re on holiday.

Or they’ve only been going to Mass because Jack’s coming up for Confirmation and we need to get that done. (Once Jack is confirmed, we don’t see that family again.)

If we all followed just our emotions, this is what every church would look like. Photo: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn
If we all followed just our emotions, this is what every church would look like. Photo: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

There are lots of other reasons as well, mostly to do with what one witty theological writer called ‘pelvic theology’. These are people who have various issues with the Church’s teaching on sexuality.

Most people who abandon Mass-going don’t understand what they’re giving up. People who really know what Mass is don’t give it up lightly, or at all.

Most of us don’t understand what the Church is, and how it works. We also don’t really understand what the sacraments are, and why they’re important.

The Church is made up of sinners – people who do awful things all the time. This includes priests and bishops. When they do awful things, it makes all of us question what we’re doing in the same Church as them.

“When you stop going to Mass, you don’t harm the clerical sexual abusers, or their enablers. You don’t harm the hypocrites, the liars, and the people who don’t sort their recyclables.”

So the early Church worked out that we could still receive valid sacraments from a sinful person. Otherwise, the Church would have come to a grinding halt very shortly after the Ascension.

When the Church’s ministers commit sin, those sins are not transmitted to us via the sacraments we receive from them. Yes, it’s still awful. I agree with you.

But God’s grace and holiness are enough for us, and they reach willing and open hearts even through failing people and structures and bad examples. That’s a guarantee.

Do you really believe the Church is corrupt beyond repair? Then stop giving it money. Most of the corruption is actually around money, so de-finance it.

But don’t cut yourself off from the Source of Life Himself.

Related Articles: