Eight Modern Errors Every Catholic Should Know and Avoid

Consider this eightfold list of modern errors that are common even in the Church.

There are many errors in our time that masquerade as wisdom and balance, but they are no such thing. I have written before (HERE and HERE) on many errors of our time of a more philosophical nature. The following list that I compile is more phenomenological than philosophical.

To say that something is phenomenological is indicate that it is more descriptive of the thing as experienced, than of the exact philosophical or scientific manner of categorizing it. For example, to say the sun rises and sets is to describe the phenomenon, or what we see and experience. The sun does not actually rise and set. Rather, the earth turns in relation to the sun which remains fixed. But we use the phenomenon (what we experience) to communicate the reality, rather than the more scientific words like apogee, perigee, nadir and periapsis.

And thus in the list that follows I propose certain fundamental errors of our time that are common, but I use language that speaks less to philosophies and logical fallacies, and more the to the errors as experienced.

Further, though the errors are common in the world, I present them here as especially problematic because we all too often find them in the Church as well. They are sadly and commonly expressed by Catholics and represent a kind of infection that has set in which reflects worldly and secular thinking, not Godly and spiritual thinking.

These are only eight. I am just getting started. I hope you will add to the list and define carefully what you identify. But for now, consider this eightfold list of modern errors that are common even in the Church.


1. Mercy without reference to repentance – For too many today, “mercy” has come to mean, “God is fine with what I am doing.” But true mercy does not overlook sin, it presupposes it, sees it as a serious problem, and offers a way out of sin. God’s mercy is his way of extending a hand to draw us out of the mire of sin.

And this is why repentance is the key that unlocks mercy. For, it is by repentance that reach for and grasp God’s merciful and outstretched hand.

One of the chief errors today is the proclamation of mercy without reference to repentance. Sadly, this is common, even in the Church. It is far too common to hear sermons on mercy with no reference to repentance.

The opening words of Jesus’ ministry were “Repent and believe the Gospel!” The order is important. For how can we experience the good news of God’s mercy if we do not first repent, come to a new mind and know our need for that mercy. If you don’t know the bad news, the good news is no news. Repentance brings us to our senses, makes us accept our need for change, seeks God and unlocks his mercy.

This error of mercy without reference to repentance is widespread in the Church today and leads to the sin of presumption, a sin against hope.


2. Staurophobia – The term staurophobia comes from Greek roots and refers to a fear of the Cross (stauros = cross + phobia = fear). Within the Church this error emerges from reticence by Catholics to frankly discuss the demands of discipleship. It reveals a strong hesitation to insist that even hard things are often the best the proper thing to do.

Many Catholics, including priests and bishops, are downright fearful when pointing to the demands of the cross. When the world protests and says, “Are you saying that those with same-sex attraction cannot get married or be sexually intimate but must live a kind of celibacy?!” The honest answer is, “Yes, that is what we are saying.” But since that answer is hard and rooted in the Cross, many Catholics are dreadfully afraid of a straight-forward, honest answer. The same is true for other difficult moral situations such as Euthanasia (in spite of suffering, we are still not free to take our life or that of another), abortion (despite difficulties and even in cases of rape and incest we are still not free to kill a child in the womb), and divorce and remarriage (in spite of unfortunate developments in a marriage, this does not mean that one is free to leave one marriage to enter another).

Staurophobia also makes many hesitant to issue correction within the Church and in families. There is almost a cringing fear of insisting on any demands or requirements or of even issuing the mildest of punishments or corrective measures. Things like this might upset people and that is one of the worst outcomes for a staurophobic who fears any sort of suffering, for themselves or others. They fail to see a redemptive quality in insisting on the demands of the cross.

St. Paul says, But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Gal 6:14). But for too many Catholics today, the cross and its demands makes them cringe and even feel embarrassment. Instead of boasting in the power of the Cross, the thinking seems more to be “How dare we, or the Church point to it, and actually insist that it is better than the comfort of false compassion.”

St. Paul understood that Christ crucified is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. But he goes on to say, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (see 1 Cor 1:23-24). But try to tell this to a staurophobic, and sadly they are legion in the Church.


3. Universalism – Universalism is the belief that most, if not all people are going to be saved in the end. This is directly contrary to our Lord’s own words wherein he sadly attests that “many” are on the road that leads to destruction and “few” are on the narrow and difficult road that leads to salvation (See Matthew 7:14, Luke 13:23-30). Dozens of parables and other warnings also come from our Lord in this regard and the straight-forward teaching of the Lord makes it clear that we must soberly accept that many, and not a few are going to be lost unless we, by God’s grace urgently summon them to Christ and to authentic discipleship.

I have written extensively on this elsewhere (e.g. HERE) and do not intend to rewrite all that now. But universalism is a serious discrepancy that is widely held today.

Countless Catholics seldom if ever hear sermons that warn of judgment or the possibility of hell. Neither do they mention it to others or even consider it as an actual possibility.

Given the pervasiveness of universalism there is very little urgency among Catholics to evangelize or even live the faith themselves. This attitude has to go if there is going to be any serious reform in the Church or evangelical zeal.


4. Deformed Dialogue – The term “dialogue” has come to mean an almost endless conversation. As such it lacks a clear goal to convince the other. It usually just means “talk.” In our culture merely talking is given a lot of credit.

While talking is not bad per se, it can substitute mere action for a true goal. Originally “dialogue” had a more vigorous meaning. It comes from the Greek and is used in Scripture. διαλέγομαι (dialégomai) where we get the word “dialogue” comes from the Greek roots diá, (through, from one side across to the other) + légō, (“speaking to a conclusion”). Diaintensifies lego so it is properly, “getting a conclusion across” by exchanging thoughts, words or reasons.

And thus we see “dialogue” was originally a far more vigorous word than it would seem most people mean by the word today. In the New Testament is it used more often in the context of giving testimony and of trying to convince others the Gospel (e.g. Acts 17:2, 17 and 18:4).

But, as noted, in our times dialogue can actually stall conversion and given the impression that all sides have valid stances and that merely “understanding” the position of the other is praise-worthy. Understanding may have value, but mostly is of value to lay a foundation for conversion to the truth of the Gospel.

It is unclear today that conversion is actually a goal when many Catholics speak of dialogue with the world or with unbelievers. Dialogue is a tool, not a goal, it is a method, not a destination. And as a method, dialogue (in its original meaning) is a vigorous, dynamic and joyful setting forth of the Gospel, not a chatty and (seemingly) endless conversation.

It is true, we seek to win souls, not arguments. But winning the soul is a true goal that many modern references to “dialogue” and “understanding” seem to lack. Hence “deformed dialogue” makes our compendium of modern problems and errors.


5. Equating Love with Kindness – Kindness is an aspect of love. But so is rebuke; so is punishment; as is praise. Yet today many, even in the Church, think of love only as kindness, affirmation, approval, encouragement, and other positive attributes. But true love is, at times, willing to punish, to insist on change, and to rebuke error.

Yet the modern age, equating love with mere kindness says, “If you really love me you will affirm, even celebrate, what I do.” In this sort of climate, when Church teaching does not conform with modern notions of sexuality, for example, the Church is accused of “hate” simply because we do not “affirm” what people demand we affirm. Identity politics (where people hinge their whole identity and dignity on a narrow range of behaviors or attributes) intensifies the perception of a personal affront.

But instead of standing our ground and insisting that setting love and truth in opposition is a false dichotomy, most Catholics cave and many also come to believe that love can be reduced to mere kindness. Many of them take up the view of the world that the Church is unkind and therefore mean or even hateful. Never mind that Jesus said things that were, by this standard, unkind, and that he often spoke quite frankly about sin (beyond mere social justice and pharisaical attitudes to include things such as sexual sin, adultery, divorce, unbelief and so forth). No, forget all that, because God is love, and love is kindness and kindness is always pleasant and affirming. Therefore they conclude that Jesus couldn’t really have said many of the things attributed to him. This error reduces Jesus to a harmless hippie and misconstrues love by equating it with mere kindness and unconditional affirmation.

Many Catholics have succumbed to this error and sacrificed the truth. It has a high place in our compendium of modern errors.


6. Misconstruing the nature of tolerance – Most people today equate tolerance with approval. Therefore, when many demand or ask for “tolerance” what they really demand is approval.

But tolerance is from the Latin tolerare: to put up with, countenance, or suffer. As such it refers to the conditional endurance of, or at least non-interference with beliefs, actions, or practices that one considers to be wrong. One might tolerate them to some degree to prevent, for example, severe enforcements or draconian penalties, unnecessary intrusion into privacy, etc. But if the objection component is missing, we are not speaking of “toleration” but of “indifference” or “affirmation.”

And here, precisely, lies the heart of the error for Catholics who embrace the toleration- as-approval error. Simply put, what they are calling tolerance and even congratulating themselves for, is actually a form indifferentism and subjectivism. It does not properly reverence God’s moral vision. Instead of joyfully and zealously announcing the truth as revealed by God, many adopt a false tolerance that is indifferent to truth or even affirms error. And then, to top it off they congratulate themselves for the “moral superiority” of their tolerance. In fact, it is more likely sloth that is at work. Sloth in this case is an aversion to undertake the arduous task of speaking the truth to a doubting scoffing world.

Tolerance is an important virtue in complex and pluralistic cultures, but it ought not be so expanded that it loses its actual meaning or be so absolutized that tolerance is expected at all times, simply because it is demanded.

Catholics also need to sober up a bit and realize that when many today demand tolerance from us, they have no intention of extending it to us. Many of the same interest groups that demand tolerance are working to erode religious liberty and are increasingly unwilling to tolerate religious views in the public square. Our consistent caving to demands for false tolerance have only help to usher in a great darkness and pressure to conform to or approve of serious sin


7. Anthropocentrism – This term refers to the modern tendency to have man at the center and not God. It has been a long tendency in the world ever since the Renaissance. Sadly, though it has deeply infected the Church in recent decades.

This is especially evident in the Liturgy, not intrinsically, but as practically and widely celebrated. Our architecture, songs and gestures, incessant announcements, and congratulatory rituals are self-referential and inwardly focused. The liturgy, as commonly celebrated seems more about us than God. Even the Eucharistic prayer which is directed entirely to God is usually celebrated facing the people.

It is never good, especially in the Church, to consign God to the margins. This marginalization of God is evident not only in the liturgy, but in parish life which is often top-heavy with activism rooted in the corporal works of mercy, but little attention to the spiritual works of mercy. Social organizations predominate, but it hard to find interest in Bible Study, traditional novenas and other spiritual works devoted to God.

Announcing God through vigorous evangelization work is also rare and the parish seems more a clubhouse than a lighthouse.

Human beings are important, Christian humanism is a virtue, but anthropocentrism is a common modern error rooted in excess. The worship of God and the spread of his kingdom is too little in evidence in many parishes. Parents too seem more focused on the temporal wellbeing of children, on their academic standing and so forth, but less concerned overall with the spiritual knowledge or wellbeing of them.

God must be central if man is to be truly elevated.


8. Role reversal – Jesus said that the Holy Spirit whom he would send to us would convict the world (see John 16:8). And thus, the proper relationship of a Catholic to the world is to have the world on trial. St. Paul says, Test all things. Hold fast to what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thess 5:21-22). So, again, the world is to be on trial based on the light of the Gospel.

But too often Catholics have things reversed and put the Word of God and the teachings of the Church on trial, judging them by the perspective of the world. We should judge all things by the light of God. And yet it is common to hear Catholics scoff at teachings that challenge worldly thinking or offend against worldly priorities. Many Catholics have tucked their faith under their political views, worldviews, preferences and thoughts. If the faith conflicts with any of these worldly categories, guess which usually gives way.

Jesus says, If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels. (Mk 8:38). But many are ashamed of the Lord’s teachings that do not conform to worldly and popular notions.

All of this amounts to a tragic role reversal wherein the world and its notions overrule the gospel. It should be the world that is convicted by the Holy Spirit. Instead we put very God himself in the role of defendant. It should not be so. Do not be deceived: God will not be mocked. Whatever a man sows, he will reap in return. The one who sows to please his flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; but the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Gal 6:7-8)

So here are just eight entries onto our compendium of modern errors. More need to be added and you can help.

In this video Jesus is not kind but he is loving, warning them “If you do not come to believe that “I AM” you will die in your sins.”

One of my very first blog posts was about today’s gospel, the Parable of the Good Samaritan


The homilist on EWTN said today that the man beset by thieves represents us, the men who passed him by represents many people, primarily those who follow their religion pharisaic-ally, and that the Samaritan represents, of course Christ, and His mercy.

I find it telling that, when Jesus asked the man he was talking to “Which of these acted as a good neighbor?” the man couldn’t even call him a Pharisee.


Relevant to the readings for today

The First Reading today is the story of Jonah.  I listened to it twice, and wish someone had called this person:

Today is St. Faustina’s Feast Day, even though it’s not on the calendar, and everyone remembers her on Divine Mercy Sunday.  Her diary is a long, but good read.

Is Pope Francis Anti-Business?

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio


Not everyone has been thrilled with Pope Francis.  Some say his letter on the Joy of the Gospel, Evangelii Gaudium, (EG) condemns capitalism.  Others believe “Laudato Sii,” (LS), on the environment, goes even further down this dangerous road.  And how about the time in Latin American where he apparently equates money and business with the “dung of the devil?”

Thus, Rush Limbaugh has labeled him a Marxist.  Others have called him the “Red Pope,” even “the most dangerous man on the planet.”


Nonsense.  If these critics actually read the full text of the Pope’s writings instead of media-manipulated sound bites, they would realize the groundlessness of such allegations.  The “outrageous” comments made by the Pope, nearly always misquoted and taken out of context, merely echo the teaching of Scripture and Tradition.  Many are borrowed from John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who are hardly friends of socialism.  Oh, and the line about “dung of the devil” happens to be a direct quote from St. John Chrysostom, a 4th century Church Father.


Money, by which we purchase things necessary to sustain life, is not the problem.  It is good.  It is when it is melted down to form the Golden Calf that it becomes bad.  The more valuable a thing is, the more dangerous it is when it is wrongly used.  And when the accumulation of personal wealth becomes the ultimate end, and everything else, including God, people and the earth, become merely expendable means, then things have gone horribly wrong.  It is this compulsive love of money to the neglect, even the scorn, of every other consideration that Pope Francis calls “the dung of the devil.”


The Pope does not want us all to stop earning money.  “We were created with a vocation to work,” he writes.   “Work is a necessity, part of the meaning of life on this earth, a path to growth, human development and personal fulfilment” (LS 128).


Neither does the Pope criticize business owners who happen to earn money, even lots of money, by turning a profit.  “Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving our world.  It can be a fruitful source of prosperity” (LS 129).  In fact, Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio launched the cause for canonization of an Argentinian businessman.  In a TV interview, he said, “Enrique Shaw was rich, yet saintly. A person can have money. God gives it to him so he can administer it well. And this man administered it well.”


Nowhere in his writings can you find a proposal to replace the free market with state socialism. Neither can you find praise for big government which thinks it can solve all problems though the multiplication of burdensome regulations.  But, he maintains, neither can the free market, with its drive to maximize short-term profits, ever be either a law or an end unto itself.  Both the state and the market must be ordered to the common good, namely, the dignity, development, and equality of all.


It is true that this Pope believes that something is wrong with the present political-economic world system.   Crony capitalism rears its head not only in the Pope’s native Latin America, but closer to home as well.  A thriving trade in fetal body parts supplied by a government-funded “non-profit” is just the latest and most lurid example of this.


But the Pope does not lay the blame for what’s wrong exclusively at the feet of business people.  There is a great temptation for everyone–government officials, business owners, and private citizens–to succumb to a consumerist vision of human beings” (LS 144) and a “self-centered culture of instant gratification.” (LS 162)  The media, driven as it is by advertising, tends to continually push everyone in this direction.


The Holy Father asks every single one of us to examine our consciences.  In our business, our public policy, and in our personal lives, have we become calloused?  Have we allowed the culture of prosperity to deaden us, so that we feel excitement about the release of the latest smartphone, but are not moved by the loneliness of the elderly, the pain of the homeless, or the degradation of God’s creation?


An exclusive focus on short-term gain is bad business.  Bringing products to the marketplace that harm the public and the environment—this too is bad business.  Failure to invest in the development of one’s employees is bad business.   This is the kind of business that Pope Francis condemns.

But Pope Francis praises creativity in the marketplace that serves the public, develops the work-force, and expands the pie for all.  This is why he may soon beatify Enrique Shaw.  He sees this kind of entrepreneurship not as part of the problem, but an essential part of the solution.  Let’s take the time to prayerfully ponder his teaching and show the world that socially responsible business is indeed, in the long run, the best business.


Marcellino D’Ambrosio earned a doctorate in theology under the renowned Jesuit Avery Cardinal Dulles. Connect with him at dritaly.com or on social media @DrItaly.  For full texts of Pope Francis’ writings and speeches, see w2.vatican.va and zenit.org.

From Pope Francis: Five Zingers for Left and Right Wingers

Source: From Pope Francis: Five Zingers for Left and Right Wingers\

haloWith Pope Francis coming to America I can’t believe how polarized Conservatives and Liberals are.

Why can’t people be smart enough to realize that both sides want the best and affirm some things that are good and true, and both sides have blind spots where they think they’re right, but they’re actually off beam.

The value of a papal visit is that a pope speaks for the Catholic Church and therefore brings an international, historical and spiritual viewpoint to the discussion. I’ve written here about why a pope is necessary for political discussion.

Here are five papal takeaways for right wingers and five for left wingers.

For Conservatives:

1. The Pope is Criticizing Greed – When the pope attacks unfettered capitalism he is simply stating part of historic Catholic social teaching. It’s okay to disagree with him about the details, but his underlying critique is on a system that encourages un limited greed. You don’t think greed is a good thing do you? Do you think the American system should be above criticism? Instead of muttering your disagreements with the Pope’s critique of capitalism why not see where you can agree?

2. The Pope is an Advocate for the Poor – That’s being like Jesus isn’t it? When is the last time you read the gospel? You’re also in favor of helping the poor aren’t you? Before you slam the Pope as a Socialist take time to inform yourself. Have you actually read his comments or just the headlines? If he challenges us to help immigrants and refugees we should listen. What country did your grandparents or great grandparents come from? Again, you may disagree about the detail, but do you not agree that the rich have a responsibility to the poor and that we are called to be our brother’s keeper? If not, which religion do you follow, because it ain’t Christianity.

3. The Pope is Against Pollution, Wanton  Consumerism and Waste  – Maybe you disagree with him about the alleged human causes of climate change. That’s okay. Those views are not church doctrine. But you’re not actually in favor of pollution and the destruction of the natural environment are you? Are you in favor of a total slash and burn, rape and pillage policy regarding the world’s resources? Probably not. Pope Francis is calling on humanity to use the world’s precious resources wisely and carefully. That’s a good thing isn’t it? Furthermore, his call for us not to waste and use wantonly connects with his pro life message. He constantly calls on us not to waste and wantonly consume one another too. You do think that’s a good thing don’t you?

4. The Pope is Against War and Killing – Popes are always against war. Aren’t you? If the pope criticizes nations that spend more money on weapons than on health care isn’t that a good thing? We should face it. America is a warrior country. We’re always fighting a war somewhere, and very few of those wars are just according to church teaching. It’s right to defend our country, but it’s also right to be against war and only use violence as a last resort.

5. The Pope Sets an Example of Simplicity – Pope Francis is strong on significant gestures. In everything he does he is setting an example of apostolic simplicity. This echoes into the reverent but simple way he celebrates Mass, his choice of cars, his choice of dwellings and his choice of friends. Do you disagree with his example of simplicity? Don’t you think it reflects well on the church? Isn’t it Christ-like? It goes with his whole anti-materialistic message. That’s something you as a Catholic would agree with isn’t it?

For Liberals

1. The Pope is Against Abortion – You love life don’t you? Why be opposed to Catholic teaching which condemns abortion? Do you really want to make it possible to kill yet more unborn babies? I know, I know, you think it is the woman’s right to choose. Don’t you think she ought to exercise that choice before she has sexual intercourse? Shouldn’t she–and the man she’s with–be more responsible? Instead of being pro-abortion, why don’t you listen to the Catholics and help us support the adoption option and all the work we do to help women in crisis pregnancies?

2. The Pope is Against Same Sex Marriage – Be honest. You think gay people have the right to be married, but do you really think gay marriage helps build up the family and strengthens human society? If so, in what way exactly? It is possible to be against same sex marriage without being bigots and haters. Do you really need to impose this redefinition of marriage on everyone? Even against their religious convictions? Is that how you envision freedom? Have you ever thought that the kind of marriage the pope supports (between one man and one woman for life) is what actually what defines marriage? Pope Francis is merely pointing out that gay “marriage” is a contradiction in terms. It’s like saying “car without wheels”.

3. The Pope is Against Sexual Immorality – Yes, freedom is a good thing, but do you honestly think pornography, prostitution, adultery, human trafficking, sado masochism and a total sexual free for all builds up the common good? Do you think quick no fault divorce, sexual promiscuity, teen and pre teen sex are all good? You don’t have to be a puritanical prude to see that these things are harmful to society, breed diseases of all sorts and damage vulnerable people. If the Pope is against all these things its because he’s for the cultivation of true love, true life and true human flourishing, and every civilization has always maintained that self discipline in the area of sexuality is necessary for the common good.

4. The Pope is Against Selfish Individualism Maybe the American national anthem ought to be Frank Sinatra’s My Way. Pope Francis calls for solidarity within communities, within nations and within the whole human family. Just doing what you want when you want where you want with whoever you want is a sign of selfish immaturity. Pope Francis calls all of us to be more grown up than that and to live for higher goals and a greater good. Your individual freedom has limits. Grown ups know that and accept it. Adolescents don’t.

5. Pope Francis is Against Atheistic Secularism Stop for a moment and think. The Pope is not just a “spiritual leader”. He’s not just an inspiring figure on the world stage who happens to stand for sweet ideas like being nice to poor people and getting rid of pollution. He’s not just a moral teacher who scolds nasty rich people and hugs poor little children. He is Catholic. He believes and teaches religious truths revealed by God to humanity through the God-Man Jesus Christ. This is his main mission: to save souls from hell and lead them to heaven. He is therefore the enemy of sentimental, shallow and selfish secularism. If you are a humanistic atheist and you feel all warm and cozy about the pope, don’t.

If you area a non believer –either conservative or liberal– you should not be misled by the pope’s media image.

Yes, he smiles and waves. He is polite and respectful. He is courteous and kind.

But if you think that is all he is and this leads you to either like or dislike him, don’t be deceived.

He is not what he seems.

He is not just a kindly old guy who believes out of date religious stuff.

He is the Vicar of Christ

And therefore he is to you the greatest stranger–and the greatest danger.

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