Is Jesus Christ at Odds With the Catholic Church?

Jesus-Synagogue-NazarethHave you ever wondered if Jesus actually believed everything He taught to those around Him? This is an out of the box type of question but it’s one that is gaining momentum amongst people who wish to defend a personal position contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church.  Their method is to use Christ and somehow convince people that what he taught was an openness to embrace a golden rule of loving everyone but leaving the person to their own devices with no attempt at a genuine conversion of heart to Christ Himself.

Our human condition is both a great gift from God and at the same a great curse by our own free will. What was originally created with the fullness of grace in mind is now involved in a drama of right and wrong choices, moral and immoral impulses and everything else in between. It appears when Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Word made flesh becomes too much for us to handle, we in turn fashioned Him into our own version of the Golden Calf to fulfill our own devices.

The letter to the Hebrews tells us that it is impossible to please God without faith, since anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists, and that he rewards those who try to find him (11:6). The funny thing about this Scripture passage is the last few words; “those who try to find him.” And “try” is the operative word. When Moses was delayed from coming down the mountain Israel’s impatience gathered and encouraged Aaron to discard Moses as their leader. In place of Moses’ way, they championed a “new way” of satisfying their moral tastes and likings through the fashioning of a golden calf. Sacred Scripture tells us that Aaron did just that and the end result was the slaughter of over three thousand men and the affliction of another plague thrown upon the people of Israel by God (Ex 32). As we can see with the example of the Golden Calf Israel’s insistence to refashion God led to a series of events that did not end in their favor.

A Catechetical Refashioning  of Jesus Christ

The reality of this story is that it still continues to this day. The latest example of refashioning Christ to fit a new moral norm occurred on the campus of Seton Hall University where a popular Priest and campus minister Fr. Warren Hall was fired from his duties for supporting gay marriage on his Twitter and Facebook page. As one might expect, a group of individuals protested his firing invoking the name of Jesus Christ and Pope Francis to legitimize their position.

The underpinning of this group’s argument is not so much invoking Jesus Christ and Pope Francis to defend their position; instead it’s the attempt to promote a new form of doctrinal conformity, one that would deny any authentic remnant of Christ-centered thought. The Catechism reminds us that; the way of Christ “leads to life”; a contrary way “leads to destruction.” (1696)

We should not assume that the attempt to refashion Christ is a new phenomenon. At first glance we should look at what would drive people to reclassify Church teaching to fit their personal lifestyle. If we really take a closer look at this phenomenon we should look no further than the specific catechetical instruction of the last forty years consisting of the “Jesus loves you” lesson plan with no reasonable explanation as to “why He loves us”, or, the emphasis to embrace the Resurrected Christ (happy) versus the Crucified Christ (gory). A sponsor in an RCIA class I was teaching commented to me that “Jesus was a pacifist.” I asked him to explain how Jesus’ crucifixion was a sign of pacifism. His response, “I hadn’t thought about that.”

Jesus Christ and the Golden Rule

Christ asks us to meditate and imitate him (Jn 8:12). These two requests lay the groundwork to embrace the Gospel and lovingly uniting ourselves with the Father and the Holy Spirit. These two seeds of mediation and imitation forge the Law of the Gospel which requires us to make the decisive choice between “the two ways” and to put into practice the words of the Lord which is summed up in the Golden Rule, Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; this is the law and the prophets (CCC 1907).

The Church of Jesus Christ

To imply that Jesus Christ Himself would somehow be at odds with His own message is simply senseless. It reveals a more ignorant and at the same time sinister approach to undermine the Deposit of Faith and refashion the Golden Rule. Man’s very essence is deistic in that we are created in the image and likeness of God. Our baptism reflects this image upon entering His Kingdom. One of the gifts of Baptism is the opportunity to seek a more intimate union with Christ. Baptism gives us the opportunity to be one with God and be of single heart and mind with Him. We become open to the light of reason if we so choose and disposes us to listen based on right reason. Hence we become members of the body of Christ the Church by which he instituted at Pentecost.

Let us continue to pray for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, especially those who may not fully understand the gift of their faith nor see the light of reason that the Church of Christ actually provides for them. One of the greatest acts we can participate to foster unity of the faithful is to engage in the act of prayer affirming our faith and conformity to God. St. Francis De Sales describes this act in these terms;

Christian doctrine clearly proposes unto us the truths which God wills that we should believe, the goods he will have us hope, for the pains he will have us dread, what he will have us love, the commandments he will have us observe, and the counsels he desires us to follow. And this is called God’s signified will, because he has signified and made manifest unto us that it is his will and intention that all this should be believed, hoped for, feared, loved, and practiced.

Treatise on the Love of God, Book VIII, Ch. III, pp. 329-330

Marlon De La Torre, MA, MEd. is the Director of Catechist Formation and Children's Catechesis for the  Diocese of Fort Worth. Over the last fifteen years Marlon has served in multiple catechetical diocesan positions in Memphis and Kansas City. He is regular guest on the "Sonrise Morning Show" with Brian Patrick and Matt Swaim.  His new book is Screwtape Teaches the Faith: A Guide for Catechists based on The Screwtape Letters and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. His EWTN discussion about the book with Fr. Mitch Pacwa is here