Mark Shea has a great post on Catholic Exchange which discusses the issue of sinners in the Catholic Church, which are so often paraded through the media, and their effect on converts, like himself.
What we need to remember is that the Catholic Church is and always has been the vessel of salvation for the world. That means that most of the people you meet are going to be ordinary — like you and me. They are going to have the ordinary tastes, prejudices, mediocrities, failures, and virtues of their time and place. There are, to be sure, great heroes and extraordinary people in the Catholic communion. But to expect that as the norm and then be outraged and disappointed when it is not is, I think, great folly and, in the end, great pride. Remember the hellish "wisdom" of C.S. Lewis' Uncle Screwtape, who would keep far from our minds the thought, "If I, being what I am, can consider myself in some sense a Christian, then why can't these people next to me in the pew"?
So though I have been appalled by some of the sins that have been revealed in the ranks of the Church in the past few years, I've never been shocked. What did I expect? They're just sinners like I am, and I know what I'm capable of. In the same way, dreadful liturgical music, suburban "Church of Aren't We Fabulous" smugness, Our Lady of Pizza Hut architecture, and "True Meaning of the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes is Caring and Sharing" homilies, and the other stuff that sometimes ails the Church has never turned me away. For averageness is just a reminder that the Church, thank God, has room for mediocre folk like myself.
"Well then," it may be asked, "if the average Catholic is so average, why bother joining the Church?" To quote Walker Percy, "What else is there?" After all, it is not the Church that is mediocre, but only we, her members. The Church is, curiously, something that exists before she has any members, because She is founded not by us, but by Christ. The Church is the spotless Bride of Christ, made so by the Holy Spirit in the washing with water and the Word. We, Her members, are generally nebbishes and schleps. But She is glorious and beautiful, terrible as an army with banners. And in Her all the fullness of the Faith subsists.
(This piece was first published in the National Catholic Register.)
Mark Shea is Senior Content Editor for Catholic Exchange and a weekly columnist for the National Catholic Register. You may visit his website at http://www.mark-shea.com/ check out his blog, Catholic and Enjoying It!, or purchase his books and tapes here.