A sense of fatalism has crept into the Catholic clergy until it is now widespread. "What can we do? Society itself is collapsing. We are doing our best. We are teaching Christ correctly. We teach only in a positive way, about the joys of union with Christ. We never mention the negative, never mention God's just judgment, never mention Hell. But we are right in doing so. There is a massive apostasy, few vocations, few converts, but this comes from the effects of the corruption of society. It is the world that has gone mad. We are teaching correctly."
Not so. In order to present only the positive side of Christ, they have quietly, and often unwittingly, dropped as much as two-thirds of the Gospel message. Huge sections of the words of Christ are glossed over or omitted altogether. In fact, relatively few of Christ's words in the Gospels are exclusively positive. The false teachers of Christianity solve this by speaking about the positive passages all the time to the exclusion of all the rest. The Good Shepherd, the Good Samaritan, the Beatitudes, those words about love that do not include a note of warning-these are only a small portion of the words of Christ, yet they are spoken of Sunday after Sunday, to the exclusion of the rest.
The full teaching of Christ has a much greater effect than does a small part of it, even when it comes to correcting the world at large. We followers of Christ are the leaven of the world (Matt.13:33). But that leaven, the teaching of Christ, must be accepted totally and passed on totally before it can have any sub- stantial effect on the world. In fact, Christ's words that most directly concern turning from sin are the very words most ignored. Right now, a criminal who is going around shooting people is all too likely, should he run into a priest ex- plaining his religion, to find the priest talking about joyfulness in prayer and nothing else. This would have no effect.
The only way to correct anyone is not by presenting the joys of prayer, but by presenting the Cross of Christ. And this applies not just to hardened criminals, but to everyone. Every renewal, great or small, turning from major sin or minor, must begin with ideas of death and judgment, not of joy. The founder of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius, had the correct Christian idea. His spiritual exercises, the classic retreat manual of the Jesuits, begin not with dances of hand- clasping joyfulness but with meditations on death and judgment, Heaven and Hell.
And the greatest saints knew this, going right back to St. Peter and St. Paul. And it comes in its strongest form in the very words of Christ Himself. Even when Christ is correctly preached, He will still be rejected by many. But a true apostolate, one that preaches Christ crucified (1 Cor.1:23), will never be barren in the sense that the ministry of a good many Catholic priests is now barren.