Hello Father. First I'd like to say thank you for having this web site, since I presently do not feel I know a priest well enough to ask serious questions (such as the ones that follow) in person. Your response would be greatly appreciated.
The reason I'm writing is because I recently became somewhat of a lapsed Catholic. I was really faithful when I was younger, but recently began to take a brutally honest look at what I was taught to believe as a Catholic. I don't know what caused this, but I suspect that it was triggered by recent depression.
Specifically, I've wondered why we owe it to God to worship Him. I don't see why it's fair that we must worship God or face hell..yes, I know He "gave" us life, but that is a gift, not a "purchase" since people don't choose to receive life. Besides, why would a loving God send those who don't beileve in Him-His enemies, among others-to hell to suffer forever, especially since Jesus has told His followers to love their enemies? And it seems that eternal fire is a rather severe punishment for acts such as failiure to attend church, masturbation, and certain other things people are legally free to do. I know the church says people can be forgiven, but sometimes people people may not confess-for whatever reason. It also seems revolting to me that God would condemn all who've committed suicide to Hell, as I understand. Most people feel sorry for those who were in that much pain, but I guess God despises them. And would God really dispatch the souls of people who never had a chance to receive Baptism to Hell, since Jesus says that one must be baptised to enter Heaven? If he does, then that's plain evil.
You see, I realize I don't have any choice but to worship and serve God if I want to avoid eternal perdition after my death, but I find it hard to genuinely like a God who rules like I've described above. I'm hoping you can offer me some advice that would help me assuage my disillusionment with my faith. Feel free to publish my query on your site (though not my name, please).
-An Anguished Catholic in New England
Those are good questions. I do not have any pat answers. I think about those things a lot myself.
It is important for you (and me) to keep in mind what our situation is before God. In a real sense, the only thing that matters is your relation to him. Before him each of us is radically alone. Every waking moment you and I are either turning away from him or repenting and asking his help to return. We are either the prodigal son trudging home or the elder brother, prefering to stay outside.
It is in that context we make those moral decisions that you mention (should I masturbate or not, attend church or not, take my own life or not). None of us can know in what way anyone else is saved or lost - except that each person must be saved by the grace of Christ, not their own works.
Knowing that, we have a responsibility to bring that message to others, invite them to the life of the sacraments. It really is good news, altho we have to be careful not to come across smug or superior just by the fact we know about it. The conversion of any person is itself a work of God's mercy so the most important thing we can do is pray for others.
Those are my thoughts. Besides writing this email I did pray for you when I offered Mass this evening.
Homily on Membership
We Are Church Slogan
Need for Dogma
Dissent and the Catechism
C.S. Lewis: To Dissenting Priests
Catholic Teaching on Birth Control
The Crisis of the Catholic University
The Abortion Issue.
Homily on Abortion and Homosexuality
The Challenge of Secular Humanism
The Religion of our Culture: Naturalism
The Catholic Church: Founded by Jesus
Hitler's Pope: Comic Book Approach to Church History
Pictures from Ordination of Deacon Armando Perez (Holy Family Parish, July 15, 2001)