January 23, 2008
volume 19, no. 23

Conversion through Charity and Kindness, never by Compromise!
Father Gabriel Lavery, CMRI

    For Septuagesima Sunday, Fr. Gabriel highlighted the importance of winning converts with honey, not vinegar. At the same time the truth can never ever be watered down, compromised or changed to suit others or both parties will get stung - badly. Father reasserts that it is impossible for God's truths to change and if anyone would dare to alter what God has set in stone, woe be to them. Father stresses the necessity of charity in all things, but never to mistake kindness for weakness. Rather the weakness is to cave to feelings and opinions to please others. As we know "Faith is not a matter of opinion" as Father states in citing saints and true Pontiffs who, while counseling charity, insist on firmness of faith. That is the truest charity first toward God and then our neighbor.

    Today, Septuagesima Sunday, we begin the season of pre-Lent, which obviously comes extremely early this year and the purple color of the vestments and the fact that there are no “Gloria” or “Alleluias” mentioned in the Mass remind us that we are entering into a penitential season. We haven’t begun the Lenten fast, which will begin in another two and a half weeks on Ash Wednesday. But the Church wants that these couple of weeks before that to prepare us and get us into the proper mood for Lent, reminding us of the need to do penance for our sins. Today in the Epistle and Gospel, we read two very striking things. One in the end of the Epistle of St. Paul remarks how even in spite of all the things that God had done for the Jews in the Old Testament, who escaped from forever wandering in the dessert, St. Paul says that: “with most of them, God was not well pleased.” In the end of the Gospel for today, Our Lord says: “Many are called but few are chosen.” In fact, of those Jews wandering in the dessert, there were 600 thousand, and only two of those actually entered into the promise land. And so this reminds us, of course, of the need to cooperate with God’s graces. It is not enough that he has called us to the Catholic Faith and given us many graces we have to cooperate with them.

    But today in the Sermon, I wanted to address a different topic and that is on the subject of working for the conversion of non-Catholics because we are in the middle of what is commonly called “The Church Unity Octave.” It’s not really an Octave, it is an Octidium, that is like a novena. A novena is nine days of prayer and an Octidium is eight days of prayer for a particular intention. And this Octidium, or what is usually called an Octave for Church Unity, is prayed every year from January 18 to January 25. We will be praying these prayers after Mass. So today, I wanted to speak about two mistakes or errors that are often made in the work of bringing about the conversion of non-Catholics. One of these is that of being harsh, uncharitable and the other is the extreme of false charity where we don’t have the courage to tell someone that they’re wrong, or we start to compromise and belittle Catholic doctrines in order to make them more acceptable to those who object to them.

    Now on the subject of the first one of being harsh, it’s a common thing, I think, amongst those who are seriously trying to live the faith and love the Catholic Faith that we are tempted when we are speaking with non-Catholics to lose patience, sometimes this may come because we can’t understand why they don’t see things after we so clearly explained them. Other times, it may come from a legitimate pride in our faith. But sometimes, and often times, I think it can come from sort of an argumentative attitude that comes not so much from pride in our faith but that sort of pride that wants to lift ourselves up above others. Now we certainly do have a great grace that we have been given the faith but that is a free gift from God, something that ought to humble us that God has been so good to us. I wonder sometimes when you hear harsh and sarcastic remarks and when someone gets into a sort of really argumentative mode, I think to myself sometimes, “what is our purpose? Do we really want that person to change? Do we want them to be converted? Or do we simply want to get enjoyment out of knocking down their error?” Now certainly if we have the love of God, the love of our faith, we would add as our motive the desire to bring about the conversion of others. We should want them to be like us, to have the True Faith, and so that certainly means that sarcastic remarks and bitterness are things that should be out of the question. We never compromise, we never water things down, but we do show kindness as far as we can without compromising.

    I gathered a few quotations just to show the importance of this. Two of them from sacred scripture, one of these is from St. Paul to Timothy, his second Epistle to Timothy in Chapter 2, he says:

    “But the servant of the Lord must not wrangle, but be meek towards all, fit to teach patient with modesty admonishing those who resist the truth. If at any time God gave them repentance to know the truth, then they recover themselves from the snares of the devil, by whom they are held captives at His will.”

    The other is from St. James’ Epistle, Chapter 3, he says:

    “If you have bitter zeal and there be contentions in your heart, glory not, then be not liars against the truth. For this is not wisdom descending from above but earthly, sensual, diabolical.”

    St Frances De Sales says: “A zeal that is not charitable comes from a charity that is not genuine.”

    Fr. Faber says: “Kindness has converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence, or learning. These three things have never converted anybody without kindness having something to do with it. It is the manifestation of this feeling in apostolic men which draws sinners to them and brings them thus to their conversion. Without doubt, the fear of the Lord is frequently the beginning of that wisdom, which we call conversion. But we must frighten men kindly for otherwise fear would only make infidels.”

    The great Cardinal Vaughan in the late 1800’s said: “Gentleness is no sign of weakness, but of strength held in reserve. It is a proof of discipline and self-control.” And he quotes St. Vincent de Paul saying: “I beg of you to help me to give God thanks for this, and to beseech Him to teach all Missioners to treat their poor neighbour with sweetness, humility and charity both in public and in private---and to behave in this way even towards the most hardened sinners. Never use invective, reproaches, or biting or sarcastic expressions to anyone. They repel instead of attracting, and embitter and send people to a distance.”

    We know the story of St. Augustine who was converted by St. Ambrose. He listened to St. Ambrose preaching but St. Augustine said that it wasn’t St. Ambrose’s preaching that converted him. St. Augustine himself said that it was St. Ambrose’s charity that converted him. I’ll read one last quote here from Dom Chautard, the author of the book: “The Soul of The Apostolate”, which, I think, very nicely sums up the sort of attitude I’m saying that we should not have. He says:

    “Non-Catholics are too often prejudiced against Catholicism by… the bitter style of our controversy, or by a manner of insisting on our rights, which seems to come from wounded pride rather than by a desire to maintain the interests of Jesus.”

    Now on the other hand, a very common error of our times, especially with Vatican II and modernism, is to compromise. Pope St. Pius X said at the beatification ceremony of St. Joan of Arc: “Though Jesus was kind to those who had gone astray, and to sinners, He did not respect their erroneous convictions, however sincere they appeared to be.” And this is something that you very often hear, I’ve heard it many times, for some will say, “Well, I disagree with so and so but I respect their convictions.” And usually, they are speaking about matters of faith. Now when there is a matter of opinion, certainly, we are entitled to our opinion and others are entitled to their opinions and we can respect their opinion but faith is not a matter of opinion! What God revealed is true. It’s not doubtful, it’s not opinion, it’s not optional or up to us to determine what we will believe or not. For someone to say that they respect someone’s false beliefs is basically to say that they also reject the idea that Christ revealed anything!

    I’ll read to you also what Pope Pius XI said in his Encyclical on the condition of the Church in Germany. He said:

    “Comprehending and merciful charity towards the erring and even towards the contemptuous, does not mean and cannot mean that you renounce in any way the proclaiming of, the insisting on, and the courageous defense of the truth and its free and unhindered application to the realities about you. The first and obvious duty the priest owes to the world about him is service to the truth, the whole truth, the unmasking and refutation of error in whatever form or disguise it conceals itself.”

    That certainly sounds like the opposite of Vatican II and the opposite of what the Vatican II so-called “popes” have done. When you have John Paul II going around worshipping with all these other religions, compromising all over the place, kissing the blasphemous Koran, and when you have Vatican II praising the Hindu’s and Buddhists. That certainly is no sort of zeal at all, that is compromise and disgusting false charity. People who are either ill-willed or ignorant promote that as something good because they believe that they are working for the conversion of others or generally nowadays, they don’t care to work for conversion but only supposedly to strengthen others in their religious beliefs, which is of course ridiculous because why would you want to strengthen someone in the possession of false beliefs?

    I’ll read you a few things for this subject. Here is Benedict XVI in his book, “Many Religions, One Covenant” He says: “What we need is respect for the beliefs of others and readiness to look for the truth in what strikes us as strange or foreign.”

    Now that is exactly the opposite of what a true Pope, Pope St. Pius X said, what I just read to you a little bit ago, St. Pius X said: “Though Jesus was kind to those who had gone astray, and to sinners, He did not respect their erroneous convictions, however sincere they appeared to be.”

    Benedict XVI says we have an obligation to respect the beliefs of others. This is, as we said, absolutely wrong, you cannot respect error! Error has no rights, all rights come from God and God doesn’t give rights to what is wrong. Neither do we accept anything that sets itself up against God’s Church, the religion that God has revealed. Some of the things that Benedict XVI said in his book say: “I shall learn my own truth better if I understand the other person and allow myself to be moved along the road to God, who is even greater. Certain that I never own the whole truth about God in my own hands.”

    Now he seems very clearly to be implying that we Catholics need to learn something about God from non-Catholics. As if the Catholic Church did not possess the whole truth. That is also very insulting to Our Lord, who promised His Church that He would be with it all days until the end of the world. It would never fall into error and the gates of Hell would not prevail against it. Benedict XVI also said: “Religion contains the precious prow of truth, so to speak, but it is always hiding it and it is continually in danger of losing sight of its essence.”

    The Catholic Church doesn’t hide anything! That light set on the hill, that is what the Catholic Church has always been, the Church has not hidden anything. As someone told me once, they said that: “Benedict XVI was speaking in this paragraph about non-Catholic religions, false religions.” And I said: “Well, that doesn’t make sense.” Because right there, in the first sentence, he says that: “Religion contains the precious prow of truth.” Now there is only one religion that has truth and that is the Catholic religion. So he is certainly speaking about the true religion and what is interesting is that he is saying that religion can fall sick! That’s the very next sentence. I don’t know how he can believe that the Church can fall sick. Certainly, false religions cannot fall sick because they were never healthy in the beginning. They were sick from the beginning. Then he says: “We may find it relatively easy to criticize the religion of others, but we must be ready to accept criticism of ourselves and of our own religion.” How can we be glad and ready for Christ’s religion to be criticized as if there were anything wrong with it? Certainly that is very insulting to Our Lord.

    Quite obviously, Benedict XVI does not believe that the Catholic Church is the True Religion and doesn’t concern himself with converting anyone because he simply wants to compromise and respect the false beliefs of others. And we see this all through Vatican II, we see it in inter-religious worship that puts a recognition on false religions, we see it in giving communion to non-Catholics, which was allowed in the 1983 New Code of Canon Law, and which was also specifically allowed by John Paul II on the issue of mixed marriages where the non-Catholic spouse was allowed to receive “holy communion”. We also see it in the fact that they don’t work for the conversion of others and they water things down to make them more pleasing to others and they’ve made a new mass, specifically designed to be more pleasing to Protestants.

    So we should remember that to be true to the Catholic faith in the words of St. Pius X, “Though Jesus was kind to those who had gone astray, and to sinners, He did not respect their erroneous convictions, however sincere they appeared to be.” I’d like to just conclude by reminding us that to keep these two things in mind, to always have a great charity towards those who are outside the Church but never a false charity that compromises. Never a false charity that is afraid to tell them the truth. I think you can pretty much say whatever you want to someone, as long as it’s true and you’re saying it nicely. The problem is when we have a bitter attitude and it basically turns it into an argument or a confrontation rather than a sincere desire to bring about someone’s conversion. Sometimes you will meet with someone who gets offended, even though you have done nothing to offend, their not offended because of your attitude, but they are offended of the truth and if someone is offended because of the truth, then that is not our problem, that is their problem. I’d like to conclude with a quote from Pope Pius XII in “Menti Nostrć” where he was giving advice to priests, he says: “Let your apostolic zeal shine with benign charity. If it be necessary ---- and it is everyone’s duty---- to fight error and repel vice, the soul of the priest must be ever open to compassion. Error must be fought with all our might, but the brother who errs must be loved intensely and brought to salvation.”

    In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

      Editor's Note: The above sermon was transcribed by Michael Grant and given at the Sunday Masses for both Our Lady of Fatima in San Diego and Our Lady of Lourdes in Fontana on January 20, 2008.

    January 23, 2008
    vol 19, no. 23
    Treasures of Tradition