I have recently been reading a book entitled, The Empty Church written by Thomas C. Reeves. It describes in great detail the decline of the mainline Protestant churches in America. It is full of statistics and insightful quotes as to the cause of this decline. As a recent convert to Catholicism from a mainstream Protestant denomination, Southern Baptist, I was very interested to read his analysis.
As I read the book, I found myself quite often pausing to give thanks for the teaching authority of the Magisterium. It truly is a great blessing from God. It is also the reason the Catholic Church is able to withstand all the vicious attacks that come against it on a daily basis. Many of the same attacks that are destroying the mainline Protestant churches are actually making the Catholic Church stronger and more vibrant. There is no overarching authority in most mainline Protestant denominations. This results in repeated schism, adoption of doctrinal errors and loss of distinction between the churches and the secular world. In other words, the salt loses its flavor.
As each attack is rebuffed, the clergy and the Magisterium speak louder and with greater clarity. The laity become more aware of the teachings of the church and are better able to assimilate these teachings into their lives. A recent example of this process is the continuous attack upon the Church over her stand to defend the right to life of the unborn. This public debate has been raging between the Church and those that call themselves Catholic but refuse to follow the teachings of the Church. The recent announcement by Fr. Jenkins that Notre Dame University would be honoring the most vicious Pro-Death public official ever, President Obama, has given this disagreement a national audience and put it center stage.
The overwhelming response of the public-- over 350,000 signatures on a petition of protest against this decision-- has stunned many. The number of Bishops who have spoken out against this scandalous behavior has grown to over sixty-five. This has even encouraged a former US ambassador and Presidential candidate, Dr. Alan Keyes, to participate in a peaceful protest at Notre Dame, during which he was arrested for trespassing.
The point is that the Magisterium gives the church strength and authority especially in moments of crisis and scandal. Down through the ages, the church has been attacked, both from without and from within. The teaching authority of the Magisterium is the fulfillment of the promise of Christ that the gates of hell will not prevail against it. It is the authority of the Magisterium that allows the Catholic Church to remain true to the faith as taught by Jesus and His Disciples.
This current scandal has given our Bishops a chance to teach us and the world what it means to be Catholic in today's world. (Too bad Fr. Jenkins doesn't seem to be able to get the idea.) I challenge my fellow Catholics and my separated brothers and sisters to look more closely at this most wonderful and precious gift from heaven. There is much grace in embracing the Magisterium of the Church.