How can Catholics navigate the crises in the Church and society?

“Sometimes we feel let down by God when problems arise in the Church,” says Fr. Gerald Murray, co-author of Calming the Storm: Navigating the Crises Facing the Catholic Church and Society, “That is the devil’s suggestion and leads us away from God.”

(Image: Simon Hurry/Unsplash.com)

Readers may recognize Fr. Gerald Murray as a member of the “Papal Posse”, along with Robert Royal, on EWTN’s The Word Over with Raymond Arroyo. On that program, as well as through his writing for The Catholic Thing and other outlets, Fr. Murray has earned a reputation as an astute and insightful observer of matters in the Church and the world.

Fr. Murray and Diane Montagna recently completed a book-length interview titled Calming the Storm: Navigating the Crises Facing the Catholic Church and Society (Emmaus Road Publishing, 2022). In this book, interviewer and interviewee tackle some of the most pressing issues facing the Church. Fr. Murray examines and diagnoses those issues, and then presents a game plan of sorts for what Catholics can or should do.

Fr. Murray recently spoke with Catholic World Report about his book, and the ways Catholics can fight the storm of confusion in the Church today.

Catholic World Report: How did this book come about?

Fr. Gerald Murray: Dr. Scott Hahn is someone I have admired since I first heard the cassette recording of his conversion story. He asked Diane Montagna and I if we would be willing to do an interview book about the situation in the Church and the world for Emmaus Road Publishing. Diane had done an excellent interview book with Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Christus Vincit, which we had both endorsed. Scott was familiar with my columns at TheCatholicThing.org and with my commentary as part of Raymond Arroyo’s Papal Posse on EWTN. The book would give me a chance to expand on my analysis of the current situation.

CWR: Chapter 2 is entitled “Age of Confusion”. Certainly this is not the only age marked by confusion, but would you say that is a particular feature of our time?

Fr. Murray: Our time is marked by a rejection of reason, of rationality, of man’s ability to know the truth about the world. The natural order of creation is also denied. Man is told he can be whatever he wants to be, he can overturn and reshape reality. There is no moral order making binding claims upon our behavior. Good and evil depend upon what each person decides for himself, and for others. God’s revelation is subject to reworking. Nothing is fixed or permanent. It is a recipe for chaos and violence.

CWR: Why is there such division even within the Church? I’m thinking of the German “Synodal Way”, and the fact that one can’t simply walk into a Catholic parish and trust that the pastor will be faithful and orthodox.

Fr. Murray: The Catholic Church in Germany is being led by bishops, working together with certain lay people, who publicly and unapologetically reject various teachings of the Catholic Church. They have made a conscious decision, for instance, that Catholic teaching on the inherent immorality of homosexual acts is wrong and must be changed. They do the same for the teaching that only males can be validly ordained as priests. Their ideas are embraced by some in other countries.

The public boldness of these dissenters from Church teachings is a major cause of the divisions we see in the Church. When a bishop decides that he can no longer teach what he promised to teach when he was ordained a bishop he has to make a decision: will he resist embracing what he knows the Church rejects and thus remain faithful to his oath as a bishop; or will he resign from the episcopate and seek to promote his erroneous teachings elsewhere; or will he try to use his position of authority and influence to attempt to subvert the Church’s teaching by claiming that the Church is wrong and he is right.

Cardinal Marx of Munich and his colleagues who have embraced the errors of the Synodal Way have chosen the path of subversion in plain sight.

CWR: Whenever someone talks about the current problems in the Church, they are often accused of implying that the Church used to be perfect, and of wanting to turn back the clock. (This is often put in the context of some sort of pre-Vatican II idealism.) How would you respond to that?

Fr. Murray: The Church is called by God to be the faithful guardian and propagator of the Deposit of Faith that she received from Christ through the apostles. Her role is thus to preserve that Deposit from errors and to deepen our understanding and appreciation of the truths taught by Christ. This task is essentially a conservative one, meaning that the Church must not allow what she has believed from the beginning to be lost through negligence in teaching or worse, through intentional efforts to change that teaching.

Perfection has not existed in the past in the life of the Church and never will, yet it can be shown that various times have been marked by a greater flourishing of Church life, manifested in the holiness of her saints and in the remarkable fidelity of ordinary believers to the Church’s teachings in the face of heresies and persecutions.

CWR: What role can the liturgy play in “calming the storm” and cutting through the confusion and division in the Church and the world?

Fr. Murray: The reverent and prayerful celebration of the Sacred Liturgy of the Church always produces interior peace and confirms the worshippers in the truths of the faith. Christ the High Priest acts in the liturgy in ways that cannot be observed except with the eyes of faith. When priests celebrate Mass carefully following the instructions in the missal they allow the ritual to speak to souls directly, without their having to wade through the distractions produced when the celebrant changes the words or modifies the ceremonies.

CWR: The problem of Catholics who don’t know the faith is not merely an internal ecclesiastical issue. Baptized Catholics are all over society, including in our nation’s (and others’) highest political offices. And with issues such as abortion, marriage, and more, many of them are actively supporting policies in direct contradiction to the Church’s teaching. How can we address this problem?

Fr. Murray: The first step is to recognize that we in fact have a problem which is based in part on ignorance of Catholic teaching, and in part on the willful rejection by some of certain teachings that are well known, such as the immorality of abortion or the impossibility of so-called same sex marriage.

The next step is for the shepherds of the Church to teach Catholic truth with renewed vigor, and to call Catholics in public life who give scandal by their rejection of Church teaching to repent of their error. If they refuse to heed the bishops’ admonitions, then they must be subjected to canonical penalties designed to call them back from error into the truth.

CWR: What hope do you see for the Church’s future? Put another way, what would you say to someone who feels hopeless amid the “storm”?

Fr. Murray: God is good and remains with his Church at all times. Hopelessness is not a Christian way to look at our situation. Rather we must trust in God, pray to him for help, and do what we can to promote the mission of the Church in complete fidelity to Christ and his teachings. When things are tough due to infidelity and immorality inside and outside of the Church the faithful witness we give is both pleasing to God and edifying to our neighbor.

When I think of the spread of immorality and unbelief in the world during my lifetime, I remind myself of God’s goodness in giving us such witnesses of holiness as Saint Teresa of Calcutta, Saint John Paul II, Saint Maximillian Kolbe, etc.

CWR: What are you hoping readers will take away from the book?

Fr. Murray: I hope the readers will gain a deeper understanding of what is going on in the life of the Church and in the world, where there are many serious problems that tend to destroy faith and lead people away from God. Knowing where things stand helps us to respond properly to these challenges which God is asking us to deal with. Despair, bitter anger, and pointless complaining are useless distractions when faced with disaster. Our Faith teaches us that we should, like the apostles in the boat when the storm came up, turn to God in confidence and ask him to calm the storm around us.

CWR: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Fr. Murray: Sometimes we feel let down by God when problems arise in the Church. That is the devil’s suggestion and leads us away from God. No, we must have absolute trust in God’s goodness and his loving care for us. Good is always produced when we remain firm in faith and ardent in charity no matter what else is going on.

One of the Jesuits at my high school always signed off his letters with this phrase: Courage and Confidence! That is what God calls us to and what he freely gives us when we turn to him.


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About Paul Senz 102 Articles
Paul Senz has an undergraduate degree from the University of Portland in music and theology and earned a Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry from the same university. He has contributed to Catholic World Report, Our Sunday Visitor Newsweekly, The Priest Magazine, National Catholic Register, Catholic Herald, and other outlets. Paul lives in Elk City, OK, with his wife and their four children.

14 Comments

  1. We read that: “[t]he Church is called by God to be the faithful guardian and propagator of the Deposit of Faith that she received from Christ through the apostles.”

    With St. Augustine, this means that “we can say things differently, but we can’t say different things.” This is what the real (not virtual) Second Vatican Council was about when it proposed the continuity of “todaying” of the Church, not the discontinuity of so-called “updating” the Church.

    In the coming months, we can expect the bubble-world to propose that the Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.) which gave us the Nicene Creed was the product of synodal consensus, rather than–more accurately–an act of faithful and intellectual fidelity to what the Church had always taught from the beginning. Arianism was rejected, was not included, just as today the German “synodal path” and its viral variants are also a poison pill to be vomited out.

    The seductive consensus in the few years prior to Nicaea, embraced by some eighty percent of bishops, was that the Son of God was something less than co-equal with the Father. The Triune Oneness was too inconvenient and being flayed alive, and with it the genuinely radical truth of the Incarnation and divine Redemption.

    Likewise, today. The difference is that rather than trashing the nature of the divinity, instead it is the nature of the human person that is being reduced and denied. Also, the nature of marriage. Also, the nature of the ordained priesthood.

    As we approach its 1700th anniversary in 2025, let us be undeceived and attentive to the historical, steadfast, and real guardianship (not fluid consensus) of Nicaea. Reread the moral clarity of Veritatis Splendor, and pay no attention to the barking of the quadruped Arius/Marx/Batzing/Hollerich and their tribal camp followers.

  2. “Our Faith teaches us that we should, like the apostles in the boat when the storm came up, turn to God in confidence and ask him to calm the storm around us.”

    For a boat or a “flag to be a powerful, sacred symbol of unity and purpose, it has to symbolize a real common sense of unity—a unified moral vision around which individuals can rally as part of a larger imagined community”.

    Our Lord Himself in our present-day has given the Church a sacred image an Image of Broken Man a reflection of all of us before God, that is one of been flawed. For Christians, it is a symbol of humility and it reflects the true basis to create unity and purpose a unified moral vision around which individuals can rally as part of a larger community.

    Our first relationship is with our Father in heaven although it could be described as a vertical relationship for me a better description is a Father-Son relationship as revealed by Jesus Christ. Yes, it is still vertical in that His Will be done on earth as it is done in heaven, nevertheless, we are all His prodigal Sons this understanding when confronted in sincerity drawers the ‘presence’ of the Holy Spirit into our hearts, eventually leading to a given state of humility/blessedness, this individual relationship with Him should lead us into a deeper horizontal connection with our fellow man.

    Sadly some/many dwell in a bubble ..V.. but others don’t while the journey that we all should embark upon is one in an open boat (so to say) taking us home to our Father’s house, we are all susceptible to the elements and the storms of life, there is no guarantee that we all will arrive safely unless we are obedient to the Captains commands, we do not travel together in a bubble rather individually we should encourage each other to follow His example as we evaluate events and relationships from the point of view of religious ethics the rules that ensure a safe journey while also understanding that

    Gods Mercy cannot be codified

    And this understanding is reflected within the true Divine Mercy Image one of Broken Man which is a rallying cry to all baptised Catholics to board the barque of Peter, including those from the fringes of society many of whom are cultural Catholics, seen by some as the spiritual undeserving poor. Many of whom never truly committed themselves to the faith while becoming entangled in sinful situations, to embrace publicly in humility their brokenness, in the present moment, before God and the faithful. If this act of humility is sincere (I believe for many it would be so) spiritual growth (Virtue/Grace) will accrue.

    It is said that many especially the young in the West have lost faith in the Catholic Church because as a community we haven’t been able to level the playing field in terms of social justice, and gender equality and they might see it as “a haven of sorts for an upper-middle-class think tank.

    This is a fair reflection of the situation of many within the Christianity Community as it has become a social Harbour/bubble/ Cul-de-sac. This bubble needs to be bust in order to start the actual demanding journey, in that they need to purchase the ‘inclusive’ boarding pass that is one of the shared responsibilities of each individual to climb the perilous mast of Truth the true basis of social justice.

    So, where can the young look and see integrity at play and the truths within the Gospels seen to be actually working, as in creating Unity of Purpose, if it cannot be seen in Rome where?

    If the leaders of our Church cannot do this what HOPE is there for mankind?

    Can the present old crew *“Moulded in immaturity”* lead the Way and climb the perilous mast (Fear) the serving of the Truth and then hoist the sail with the image of Broken Man imprinted upon it, a sail of humility, as they/we acknowledge our dependence on His Divine Mercy, a Holy People serving the Truth, the inviolate living Word of God, seen to be living in compassionate hearts by acknowledging their/our own limitations before Him and mankind as this is the true (only) sail that the Holy Spirit blows upon as He steers us away from the rocks (Obstacles) out into fresh rejuvenating water, the water that wells up into eternal life.

    And in doing so prepare the gangplanks for the next (Generation) port of call, by clearing the decks for “The Lost” and abandoned while leaving a ship fit for purpose.

    * Please consider continuing via the link*

    https://www.catholicworldreport.com/2019/10/17/seminaries-and-formation-one-priests-perspective-and-suggestion/#comment-157546

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

    • Greetings my brother:

      Should we consider our suffering a blessing and kinship to Christ our saviour? If we can empathize with another, it is a boon. Perhaps one might say it is an honour to suffer in Christ’s name!

      The words of Christ and His walk of perfection give us what we need as we journey to heaven.

      Ephesians 1:11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,

      Romans 8:30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

      James 1:3 For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

      2 Timothy 1:9 Who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,

      1 Corinthians 1:9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

      Romans 8:28-29 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

      Galatians 1:15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace,

      God bless you in your walk,

      Brian

      • Thank you, Br Brian, for your comment “The words of Christ and His walk of perfection give us what we need as we journey to heaven”

        His ‘Way (Walk) “Take my yoke (One Iota) upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls”

        I suppose Brian we all take a different route home to our Father’s house in heaven, but in essence, it is the same, as we all walk in our fallen nature. Sincerity, of heart before His inviolate Word (Will) should induce humility and in doing so ensure that we arrive home safely.
        May our given gifts and efforts, whatever they are be fruitful.

        Sincerely
        kevin your brother
        In Christ

        • Dear Kevin:

          When I was a little guy, I liked to listen to Fulton Sheen give his sermons. I recently watched him present “His Last Words”, Episode 79. For those who suffer it is a blessing!

          Another man of God whom I appreciated is the late Fr Bob Bedard. He loved his flock and had a TV program that I greatly appreciated.

          Blessings,

          Brian

          Brian

  3. Many thanks to FR. Murray for his courageous and stalwart defense of the Faith. Since VatIi, whatever the cause, the Barque of Peter has gone adrift. When the Catholic Church, once and future Tock of Christianity, has drifted astray it seems the entire world has devolved into madness. Romans 1: 16… describes the madness perfectly. Did JXXIII insult the Blessed Mother by ignoring her request to dedicate Russia to her Immaculate Heart… so that he could invite a KGB Russian Metropolitan to Vat II? Is this why the errors of atheism and abortion have spread throughout the world?
    May the Almighty have Mercy on us and calm the storms that seem ready to destroy us.

  4. As Dawn Brohawn and I note in our new book. “The Greater Reset”, over the past 200 years there has been an upswing in what G.K. Chesterton claimed are the internal and external attacks on the Church, all of which (according to Msgr. Ronald Knox) share a depressingly similar, often identical grab bag of principles and programs, e.g., a shift away from reason (“man’s miserable intellect”) illuminated and guided by faith, to faith alone, which inevitably ends up being personal opinion once it’s cut loose from reason, the desire to establish “the Kingdom of God on Earth” (even if the notion of God is radically different from traditional views or the existence of God is dismissed altogether), and — particularly in light of Fr. Murray’s analysis — the idea that those whom you regard as “ungodly” (i.e., anyone with whom you disagree) has no rights.

    If the ungodly have no rights, then ordinary laws and rules don’t apply to you, and you can do anything you like to punish the ungodly. Thus, it should come as no surprise that, under the influence of what was originally called “the New Christianity” (the New Things — rerum novarum — of modernism, socialism, and the New Age) in which the traditional transcendent God is replaced with a divinized society, might makes right and anything goes.

    Is there a remedy? Yes, Catholic social teaching — but not Catholic social teaching as it has been captured and reinterpreted by modernists, socialists, and New Agers. Rather, it is the authentic program of the popes, especially beginning with Gregory XVI, through Leo XIII, Pius XI, and John Paul II.

    This is outlined in “The Greater Reset,” which will probably shock, even anger those who consciously or unconsciously have imbibed the principles of what Chesterton called the invention of a new religion under the name of Christianity:

    https://tanbooks.com/contemporary-issues/social-issues/the-greater-reset-reclaiming-human-sovereignty-under-natural-law/

  5. Having watched EWTN the faithful Fr Gerald Murray discuss his book co authored by the astute Diane Montagna the interview here is consistent with a correct evaluation of the German Synodal Way. Here there’s no mention of that Synod and its seeming assimilation by the Synod on Synodality [appointment by Pope Francis of Cardinal Hollerich who holds similar views as Bishop Bätzing as relator].
    If there is a crisis in the Church this is where most Catholics are dismayed, and what in context Fr Murray’s “Good is always produced when we remain firm in faith and ardent in charity no matter what else is going on” may mean.
    Fr Murray has spoken elsewhere although reservedly on the Pontiff’s responsibility and understandably doesn’t address the subject in his book. Perhaps what I refer to is best described by Larry Chapp,
    “It is my claim that Pope Francis seems favorably disposed to a form of moral theology that has been commonly referred to as “proportionalism” or “consequentialism.” At the very least, I think Pope Francis sees in proportionalism a kind of “corrective” counterweight to what he considers to be an overemphasis in the Church on natural-law moral reasoning with its central focus on certain moral objects as intrinsically evil. Proportionalism denies that there are intrinsically evil acts and that the morality of an act can only be judged in the light of its outcomes or consequences” (Chapp in Understanding Pope Francis: It’s the Moral Theology, Stupid).
    It appears to this writer clergy are required to be more open on this issue, diplomatically and respectfully for the benefit of the ordinary Catholic requiring discernment and counsel.

  6. For more than half a century depraved priests, theologians, and prelates (and many nuns) have gotten away with murder, literally. The German synod has also proposed abortion, not just redefining the family and other stupidities at odds with doctrine. A figure like the late Cardinal Martini, a passionate pro-abort, was a man who was effectively far more morally depraved than McCarrick, yet today’s Vatican is naming buildings after him. Countering their poisonous voices to the world, endless essays are written in journals of limited distribution reaffirming Catholic witness that the rest of the world never sees. We are told to be charitable to the ordained idiots among us. The childish refrain is repeated, we can disagree, but we mustn’t be disagreeable. Well, why not?
    The only valid criticism of priestly celibacy is the distorting effects had on a life when there is not a single voice to remind a man, from time to time, that he is a fool. Ordained men, isolated from the everyday damages of sin but who want the prestige of eradicating guilt among the laity, by creating clever moral sophistry, need in your face frequent reminders of their propensities for being fools. A prelate who downplays abortion needs to be called out publicly as evil by other prelates, not just be the subject of a “corrective essay” he will never read. A persistently evil theologian corrupting the young at the local “Catholic” university might very well reach the point where another young, aspiring to be holy priest, after all else has failed, needs to get the corrective point home with the proverbial punch to the nose.

  7. Called as a priest and trained as a canon lawyer, Fr. Murray has gifted the confused and fearful Catholic laity a guide to trust in the Lord in spite of the passion our Church undergoes today. The son of lawyers in both father and mother (grandmother too?), devout Catholics, Fr. Murray writes as though taught by prudence and reason, dispassion and charity. Yet, he assuredly identifies and expresses indignation at injustice. And he sees much in this papacy.

    For instance, Fr. Murray firmly, without ambiguity declares that Francis’ in-flight press conferences are “not solemn teachings,” while indicating “the mind of the Pope.” Then: “Most people assume that if the pope says something, then Catholics have to believe in what he says. BUT THAT IS NOT WHAT THE CHURCH TEACHES. THE POPE IS A SERVANT OF THE WORD OF GOD, NOT ITS MASTER (CCC,86). HE CAN HAVE PERSONAL OPINIONS….BUT HIS TEACHING ROLE AS POPE DOES NOT INCLUDE COMPELLING US TO AGREE WITH HIM ON SUCH MATTERS. THAT IS WHY POPES HAVE TRADITIONALLY AVOIDED UNSCRIPTED OR OFF-THE-CUFF PRONOUNCEMENTS ON MATTERS OF DOCTRINE.” [Emphasis added.] (p.)

    Fr. Murray notes that had Amoris Laetitia been written by Bergoglio as ABSHP of Buenos Aires, the CDF “would have criticized it–because they did criticize theologians who published those types of ideas. Once you become pope, does this mean you get to change things? The answer is, ‘No, you don’t.’ And why is that? Because the pope, unlike an elected politician, doesn’t represent the will of the electorate, i.e., “The people who got me elected want me to do this and therefore, I’m going to do it.” Nor can it be done as an exercise of personal power, i.e., “I’m pope, so I get to make all the decisions and to change what I like.” (p. 69)

    The final chapter of “Calming the Storm” rouses the laity to love in Christ, to hope in his salvific action, and to faith in Him despite the woefully sinking Church in which HE AND HIS promise abide.

    Fr. Murray’s message is often and predominantly some version of: “This is a mistake” or “I disagree.” We are encouraged to take our concerns to our bishop. Then trust, hope, love, and faithfully rely on Christ.

  8. “Why is there such division even within the Church?”

    Who says that there is? Material heresy and schism (both THE MAJOR issues) certainly are causes of division while formal heresy and schism put one outside of the Church. The worst are secret formal heretics. But one first needs to be 100% sure that he has correctly identified the Church. We are to judge people and institutions by their fruits.

    “The next step is for the shepherds of the Church to teach Catholic truth with renewed vigor”

    This is true, but one must first identify the true shepherds not the wolves in shepherd’s clothing.

    “Rather we must trust in God, pray to him for help, and do what we can to promote the mission of the Church in complete fidelity to Christ and his teachings. When things are tough due to infidelity and immorality inside and outside of the Church the faithful witness we give is both pleasing to God and edifying to our neighbor.”

    What must be done to make a significant amount of headway is to influence politics and the media. Indirectly, improvement in these two areas will pay dividends. This is because an absence of coercion, and benefits such as a “media megaphone” will help spread the truth. It is known that “divorce” (the Catholic Church only recognizes separation as legitimate) is contraindicated in all but the most extreme of cases, but one doesn’t hear about this in the media.

    It was the Catholic government which was attacked during the French Revolution. Now look at how immoral the country is.

    I see nothing wrong with abandoning the bribe that is the tax-exempt status. If anything else, it might be possible to obtain it again if that becomes a major political issue to be worked on. What would be better would be to have non-Catholic “Christians” – and infidels – taxed. There wouldn’t be a much better way of signifying to the world their errors.

  9. Why should there be there multiple strange images/motif on this page like

    – “tock”
    – “..V..”
    – “read, study and obey scripture”
    – “mast”
    – “walk”
    – “vatli”.

    Was it illiterate or was it vital?

    I will bear you in mind as in a sharp relief from here and when I speak of you to God it will be like total impasto.

    Make your peace with God.

    https://www.wordunscrambler.net/?word=vatli

  10. Grammar marm here: Fr. Murray’s first response – “He [Scott Hahn] asked Diane Montagna and me . . .”
    “Me” – object of the verb “asked”.
    Otherwise solid reportage from Fr. Murray, as usual.

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