Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

A type of Catholicism the Washington Post could love

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Feb 28, 2022

An editorial in the Washington Post last week, berating the Catholic Church for its handling of the sex-abuse scandal, began with faint praise:

More than 1 billion Catholics worldwide remain faithful to a church that has delivered comfort, good works and education.

No doubt the Post editorial writers thought that they were offering a compliment, since “comfort, good works and education” are the greatest benefits they expect from any institution. Sadly, many Catholics would accept the compliment cheerfully. Indeed, in the course of the past two decades, many Church spokesmen have lamented that the abuse scandal has overshadowed the good works done by the Church—thus tacitly accepting the Post’s criteria for judging the benefits of Catholicism.

Well, I beg to differ. To borrow a phrase from Flannery O’Connor, if the Church delivers only comfort, good works, and education, to hell with it.

We Catholics cannot afford to accept the prevalent notion that humanitarian efforts are the primary business of the Church. They are secondary matters, the results of the main work of sanctification. The sacramental life of the Church nourishes the spiritual soil in which humanitarian works grow. But the Church is not an NGO.

There’s no reason to be offended by the opening sentence of that editorial, I suppose. The editors meant to be kind (in that sentence, anyway). But given the overall slant of Post editorials, we should be quick to notice that the Post is ready to applaud the Church—whenever the Church does what the Post wants done.

The condescension of the editorial writers comes out clearly when, in listing the benefits of Catholicism, they list “comfort” first. “Comfort” is what non-believers seek, in a materialistic society. It’s not what Catholics expect from our Church—especially not with Lent looming around the corner.

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 CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: rfr46 - Mar. 01, 2022 2:43 AM ET USA

    Great introduction to Lent, Mr. Lawler.

  • Posted by: miketimmer499385 - Feb. 28, 2022 11:50 AM ET USA

    "We Catholics cannot afford to accept the prevalent notion that humanitarian efforts are the primary business of the Church. They are secondary matters, the results of the main work of sanctification. The sacramental life of the Church nourishes the spiritual soil in which humanitarian works grow. But the Church is not an NGO." This needs to be repeated day after day. My non-Catholic friend's response to me, saying this over time, has been a look of dismayed wonder at my sanity.