Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

On a threat to leave the Catholic Church

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Mar 05, 2020

Ireland’s former president, Mary McAleese, has written to Pope Francis, warning that she will leave the Catholic Church if she finds that the Vatican failed to warn the world about abuses at the L’Arche community. Her threat prompts several thoughts:

  • Since McAleese has spent the past several years challenging the teachings of the Church—not only on the usual topics of complaint, such as contraception and the male priesthood, but even on the baptism of children… Since her departure from Catholic orthodoxy has been so marked that she was barred from speaking at a Vatican-sponsored conference in 2018… How would we know that she had finally left the fold? What would be different?
  • In explaining her stand, McAleese told the Roman Pontiff that her concern about L’Arche “will be my final line of least resistance.” A curious phrase, that; is it a Freudian slip? Her final line of least resistance? How many previous lines has she crossed, and how stiff was the resistance at any one of them?
  • Today, McAleese tells the Pope, “I could not in conscience continue to support an institution capable of such gross negligence.” It would be uncharitable, I suppose, to question how much “support” she has given the universal Church through her constant criticism. So leaving that question aside, let’s focus on the reason why one should support the Catholic Church. There is only one good reason: because the Church is founded by Jesus Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit. If that is true—and all believing Catholic profess it to be true—then the failings of some Church leaders, however miserable, are not reason enough to leave the Church.
    Many of us have, at times during the past 20 years or so, felt the same disgust with Church leadership that McAleese is now feeling. But if we ever thought about leaving the Church, we recalled the words of St. Peter: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
    Or maybe, when we asked ourselves how an institution established by God could suffer such corrupt leadership, we reflected on the more combative approach to the same question, taken by Hillaire Belloc:
    The Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine—but for unbelievers a proof of its divinity might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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Show 3 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: DanS - Mar. 06, 2020 10:28 PM ET USA

    Thank God for Hillaire Belloc!

  • Posted by: DrJazz - Mar. 06, 2020 8:42 AM ET USA

    The Belloc quotation is great, a classic. Would it be uncharitable to tell her not to let the door hit her in the ar-- on the way out? Unfortunately, I think I know the answer.

  • Posted by: fwhermann3492 - Mar. 05, 2020 12:10 PM ET USA

    "Adios! Au Revoir! Sayonara! Farewell! Best wishes!" --(Hopefully signed) +Pope Francis