Readers may recognize Fr. Gerald Murray as a member of the “Papal Posse”, with Robert Royal, on EWTN The Word Over with Raymond Arroyo. In this program, as well as through his writings for The catholic thing and other outlets, Fr. Murray has earned a reputation as a shrewd and perceptive observer of Church and world affairs.
Pr. 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 Editions, 2022). In this book, interviewer and interviewee address some of the most pressing issues facing the Church. Prof. Murray examines and diagnoses these issues, then lays out a sort of game plan for what Catholics can or should do.
Pr. Murray recently spoke with Catholic World Report about his book, and about ways Catholics can fight the storm of confusion in the Church today.
Catholic World Report: How was this book born?
Prof. Gerald Murray: Dr. Scott Hahn is someone I have looked up to since I first heard the tape recording of his conversion story. He asked Diane Montagna and me if we would be prepared to do an interview book on the situation in the Church and in the world for Emmaüs Road Publishing. Diane had produced an excellent book of interviews with Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Christus Vincit, which we both approved. Scott was familiar with my columns on TheCatholicThing.org and my comments as part of Raymond Arroyo’s Papal Posse on EWTN. The book would give me the opportunity to deepen my analysis of the current situation.
CWR: Chapter 2 is titled “The Age of Confusion”. Certainly it is not the only era marked by confusion, but would you say that it is a peculiarity of our time?
Prof. Murray: Our era 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 that he can be whatever he wants to be, that he can overthrow and reshape reality. There is no moral order making binding claims on our behavior. Good and bad depend on what everyone decides for themselves and for others. The revelation of God is subject to revision. Nothing is fixed or permanent. It’s a recipe for chaos and violence.
CWR: Why is there such a division even within the Church? I am thinking of the German “synodal way” and the fact that one cannot simply walk into a Catholic parish and believe that the parish priest will be faithful and Orthodox.
Prof. Murray: The Catholic Church in Germany is run by bishops, working with some lay people, who publicly and shamelessly reject various teachings of the Catholic Church. They have made a conscious decision, for example, that Catholic teaching on the inherent immorality of homosexual acts is false and must be changed. They do the same for the teaching that only men can be validly ordained priests. Their ideas are adopted 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 he can no longer teach what he promised to teach when he was ordained a bishop, he must make a decision: will he resist embracing what he knows ‘Church rejects and thus remains faithful to his oath as 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 Church teaching by claiming that the Church is wrong and he is right.
Cardinal Marx of Munich and his colleagues who embraced the errors of the synodal path chose the path of subversion in full view of all.
CWR: Whenever someone speaks about the current problems of the Church, they are often accused of implying that the Church was perfect and of wanting to go back. (This is often put in the context of a kind of pre-Vatican II idealism.) How would you react to that?
Prof. Murray: The Church is called by God to be the faithful guardian and propagator of the Deposit of Faith which she received from Christ through the apostles. Its role, then, is to preserve this repository of error and to deepen our understanding and appreciation of the truths taught by Christ. This task is essentially conservative, which means that the Church must not allow what it 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, but it can be shown that various times have been marked by a greater flowering of the life of the Church, manifested in holiness of his saints and in the remarkable fidelity of the ordinary faithful. believers in the teachings of the Church in the face of heresy and persecution.
CWR: What role can the liturgy play in “calming the storm” and breaking down confusion and division in the Church and in the world?
Prof. Murray: The respectful and prayerful celebration of the Sacred Liturgy of the Church always produces interior peace and confirms the faithful in the truths of the faith. Christ the High Priest acts in the liturgy in a way that can only be observed with the eyes of faith. When priests celebrate Mass by carefully following the missal’s instructions, they allow the ritual to speak directly to souls, without them having to wade through the distractions produced when the celebrant changes words or alters ceremonies.
CWR: The problem of Catholics who do not know the faith is not simply an internal ecclesiastical matter. Baptized Catholics are everywhere in society, including in the highest political offices of our country (and others). And with issues such as abortion, marriage, and more, many of them actively support policies in direct contradiction to Church teaching. How can we solve this problem?
Prof. Murray: The first step is to recognize that we do in fact have a problem which is based partly on ignorance of Catholic teaching, and partly on the willful rejection by some of certain well-known teachings, such as the immorality of abortion or the impossibility of so-called same-sex marriage.
The next step is for Church shepherds to teach Catholic truth with renewed vigor and to call Catholics in public life who scandalize by their rejection of Church teaching to repent of their error. If they refuse to heed the bishops’ warnings, then they must be subject to canonical sanctions designed to remind them from error to truth.
CWR: What hope do you see for the future of the Church? In other words, what would you say to someone who feels hopeless in the middle of the “storm”?
Prof. Murray: God is good and dwells with his Church at all times. Desperation is not a Christian way of looking at our situation. Rather, we must trust God, pray to him for help, and do what we can to promote the mission of the Church in total fidelity to Christ and his teachings. When things are difficult because of infidelity and immorality inside and outside the Church, the faithful witness we give is both pleasing to God and uplifting to our fellow man.
When I think of the spread of immorality and unbelief in the world during my life, I remember the goodness of God in giving us witnesses of holiness such as Saint Teresa of Calcutta, Saint John Paul II , Saint Maximilian Kolbe, etc.
CWR: What do you hope readers will take away from the book?
Prof. Murray: I hope readers will gain a deeper understanding of what is happening in the life of the Church and in the world, where there are many serious issues that tend to destroy faith and alienate people from God. Knowing where things stand helps us respond well to those challenges that God asks us to meet. Despair, bitter anger, and unnecessary complaints are unnecessary distractions in the face of disaster. Our faith teaches us that we must, like the apostles in the boat when the storm arose, turn to God with confidence and ask him to calm the storm around us.
CWR: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Prof. Murray: Sometimes we feel abandoned by God when problems arise in the Church. It is the devil’s suggestion and it takes us away from God. No, we must have absolute trust in God’s goodness and love for us. Good is always produced when we remain firm in faith and ardent in charity no matter what.
One of the Jesuits in my high school always signed his letters with this phrase: Courage and confidence! This is what God calls us to and gives us freely when we turn to him.
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