Not long ago, one of my adult children spent hours pummeling me and the Church. The waves of her anger struck repeatedly, tossing me like a small boat in a storm.
With the bitterness of a woman betrayed, she recited the sins of bad priests we knew, and catalogued the failings of Catholic laymen and bishops we trusted.
"I believed," she cried.
"I believed, while those bastards lied and sneaked about, doing the very things they preached against!"
* * *
What could I say?
I won't defend the indefensible.
So, like Peter in that boat tossed by an earlier storm, I kept myself focused on Jesus.
"They betrayed us," I agreed."But they betrayed Jesus more.
"He condemned these sins centuries ago. If you thought He was wrong to do so, you wouldn't be upset today. Your anger shows that even when priests violate them, you think Christ's teachings --- the Church's teachings --- are right."
That just made her angrier, and since then I've had simply to avoid the topic.
* * *
You know, when I entered the Church as an adult, I had a profound admiration for priests, and naively believed that Catholics --- and particularly priests --- would always be found more virtuous than others.
My faith was so great that I founded Sophia Institute Press to bring back into print the fine Catholic books that had won me to the Faith, and that --- I was sure --- would convert others, too.
Now, at last count, six of the priests I've admired for their orthodoxy have been implicated in the sex scandals, and one is deep in a midwest jail.
That fact didn't make it easy for me to answer my daughter's charges.
Like Peter, I was left only with Jesus.
Jesus gave sinful Peter the power to walk on water. Jesus keeps us from drowning when the world attacks us and assails our wounded Church.
And Jesus guarantees that, despite the sins of Her members, the Church Herself is perfect.
But not at all in the way that I imagined when I converted to Catholicism.
Fr. Ronald Knox explains it well in a remarkable little book, The Church on Earth, which I published a couple of years ago.
There he notes that, unlike the Protestant churches, the Catholic Church is not a system that men, after prayer and deliberation, devised as the best scheme they could think of for perpetuating the work of their Master, Jesus.
On the contrary, the Catholic Church is directly God's handiwork: in the New Testament Jesus Himself instituted the Sacraments and established the Church, placing Peter at its head.
Since God Himself established our Church, we must believe that it is perfectly designed to lead souls to perfection; and that it does so when they abide by Her teachings and partake of the graces She affords them.
Had I remembered just this one point from Msgr. Knox's slim book, the conversation with my daughter --- and with others who assail the Church for the sins of her members --- would have gone much better.
* * *
You know, this past quarter-century I've published hundreds of books like The Church on Earth, which, in just a paragraph, can make the difference between faith lost and faith regained.
Indeed, I've brought forth into the world almost three million copies of books by the very best Catholic authors, living and dead -- authors whose holiness and wisdom continually draw souls to the Church (the perfect Church) that Christ founded 2,000 years ago.
Now, however, all this is threatened. Although we cut our staff down to just six persons last year, and tripled the number of books we published, contributions to our work declined by over $100,000 --- a deficit that we have since then been unable to to make up with sales alone.
Now our checkbook is empty.
We don't have enough to keep
in print the books we've published.
Catholics will soon no longer have access to the scores of books we've published by St. Francis de Sales, St. Thomas Aquinas, Bishop Fulton Sheen, St. Robert Bellarmine, Fr. Lawrence Lovasik, and many other good Catholics.
(See sidebars on this page
and our website.)
* * *
Can you help?
For your Lenten reading, could you buy a copy of The Church on Earth or perhaps one of our other books? And could you buy a few more books as gifts for others?
If you can't afford that,
could you buy one of our
or even just
contribute one dollar?
Or more than a dollar,
If you buy a book or two, or give a dollar or two, and everyone else who receives this email does the same, our doors will stay open; these books will stay in print; and we'll have enough to publish many more Catholic books -- books that will draw souls everywhere to the perfect Church that God so lovingly established for us men and for our salvation.
Thank you, and as the new year rushes upon us, please pray for us . . . and for my daughter.
John L. Barger, Publisher
Sophia Institute Press
Box 5284, Manchester, NH
03108 USA 1-603-641-9344