Thursday, June 16, 2011

Sloth, Drugs, and Protestants

I do a bible study at a local prison once a week. I was showing them some of Fr Barron's material. He talked about sloth and it's relation to relativism. That is if you don't know the content of your faith with certainty you are not going to have zeal for that faith. As Pope Benedict once said, you cannot have a question mark in the center of your life. I became Catholic looking to change that question mark into a period. What happened is it changed to an exclamation mark! Way more grace and truth than I expected. But this is not common in Christianity today.

These prisoners have been around many ministries.There are protestants working in the same prison. They encounter Christians at street ministries and at drug rehab places. They have been around. What they hear consistently is that God is love and as long as you focus on love don't worry about doctrine. Love Jesus. Read your bible. Follow your heart. They hear this regardless of what denomination the person comes from. Even Catholics come out with it. It has kind of become ecumenical dogma. If you want to work with other denominations and not step on any toes you need to avoid doctrine that is specific to your tradition.

The trouble is Fr Barron is right. This kind of wishy-washy teaching does not inspire the zeal necessary to change lives. These guys are dealing with serious addictions. Many have been abused as children. People tell them to simply say the sinners prayer and turn their lives over the Jesus. They do that but it does not work. They end up back on drugs and back in jail. Not just one or two times but again and again for years. They need something more solid. They need to know what mortal sins are and how they can destroy your walk with God. They need to know about sacraments and about penance. These are the most powerful spiritual weapons we have and we cannot simply ignore them because Christians can't agree about them.

Thinking about it, much of what protestants do is centered around overcoming sloth. Pastors preach to try and motivate people. Worship songs are designed to fire people up. They use every trick in the book to get people off their chairs and doing something. Often it works. At least some percentage of the people respond. But these methods are natural. They are used in the service of secular causes as well. That does not make them wrong. As Catholics I wish we were better at doing those things. But they are not enough. We need grace building on nature.

Ironically enough it is the protestants with their Sola Gratia slogan that end up working to much with natural means. Having shut the door to the graces mediated by the church they find even graces available through personal faith can be less effective because of doctrinal uncertainty. So they say let go and let God. But they won't let God work through sacraments or through saints or through the pope. They don't let go of those prejudices. So it boils down to the power of positive thinking. Believe strong enough and God will free you from drugs. It just does not work. Some demons only come out with fasting.

There is something called Cenacelo. It was started by a nun who decided to apply the prayer life of her convent to a community for addicts. That means daily mass, rosaries, adoration, confession, etc. Not just for a few weeks but for a few years. It is a radical choice to make. The very opposite of sloth. The good news is it works. People do get free from even the most powerful addictions. But you need to have faith. Not just faith in Jesus but faith that these Catholic devotions actually work. That they are worth focusing on for a long period of time because through them God will not only break your addiction but they will bless you in countless other ways.


  1. Wow, I think this is my new favorite article from you, Randy! I love this line:

    "So they say let go and let God. But they won't let God work through sacraments or through saints or through the pope. They don't let go of those prejudices."

    And I loved your last paragraph. Have you read anything by Dorothy Day or Peter Maurin. They both had a similarly wild idea regarding criminal rehabilitation. Instead of jamming people into tight prisons that are essentially criminal training grounds, they advocated small, rehabilitation farming communities out in the countries. The small groups of inmates would be forced to live, work, and rehab in the context of a community, a community where the relationships themselves would help transform the inmates.

    If I remember correctly, they tried this and had great success.

  2. Thanks for the kind words Brandon.

    Actually Cenacolo is not instead of prison. It is typically after your sentence is done. Often drug addicts get one short sentence after another. So it is not a matter of changing the system. It is a matter of convincing the addict to make a 3 year commitment to one solution. He needs to be at the end of his rope and he needs to be convinced this very Catholic answer is right. One problem we have here is there isn't a location in Canada right now. We can't get anyone with drug convictions into the US so we are forced to send then to Europe. We are trying to change that but it is going very slow.