Roman Catholic Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco gave a talk at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., on March 24, in which he said that the “worst thing” Catholics can do in trying to spread their faith is to “soften or downplay the hard parts” of it.
“That is why the worst thing we can do, if we truly want to fulfill our reason for being as Catholics, is to soften or downplay the hard parts of our faith, those teachings where we encounter the most resistance and even hostility in the culture,” said Cordileone.
“The very reason for the Church exists is to evangelize,” said Cordileone. “It is not to antagonize nor to appease, not to pressure nor to placate, but to be Christ’s presence for others, so that they might find and encounter the one Savior of the world and come to be saved. In other words, winning souls for Christ.”
Here is the excerpt from Cordileone’s talk where he explains his belief that softening or downplaying the hard parts of the Catholic faith is the “worst thing” Catholic can do:
So there you have it: The very reason for the Church exists is to evangelize. It is not to antagonize nor to appease, not to pressure nor to placate, but to be Christ’s presence for others, so that they might find and encounter the one Savior of the world and come to be saved. In other words, winning souls for Christ.
In his letter inviting me to offer a keynote speech at this symposium, [Benedictine College] President [Stephen] Minnis mentioned that the symposium takes “an interdisciplinary approach with a concern for practical application to evangelization and pastoral care.” I do not think that there could be a more timely strategy for us to adopt than, as President Minnis also said in that same letter, to “celebrate the fullness of Humanae Vitae’s teaching on marriage and family.” This is a true “practical application to evangelization and pastoral care”! For those of good faith, who are willing to be challenged and think things through and search sincerely and objectively for the truth, a light goes on right when they understand this teaching.
We all have known people--and perhaps for some of you it has been your own personal experience--who have been won over by the surprising wisdom of the Church’s timeless teaching. Many grew up indoctrinated in the typical secular orthodoxy that is forced on us today--all of those myths of the sexual revolution I mentioned at the beginning of this talk--and were convinced of the rightness of it, only to learn that they were duped after discovering what the Church really teaches and why.
Often this happens after they have done damage to themselves and others in living by the secularized code of conduct. Indeed, one of the most common responses of young people who are granted this grace of understanding is: “Why didn’t anyone tell me this sooner? It would have saved me untold suffering.” Such people make the most ardent disciples, and provide a much-needed witness for many “cradle Catholics.”
That is why the worst thing we can do, if we truly want to fulfill our reason for being as Catholics, is to soften or downplay the hard parts of our faith, those teachings where we encounter the most resistance and even hostility in the culture. How could we do such a thing, if we are convinced that this is true, and for the true good of all people?
Of course, we need to find a winsome way to present these truths. We must lead with that encounter to which Pope Francis is continually urging us. It must begin with a human encounter, where we value and affirm the other for their unique identity, their humanity, rather than seeing the other as another potential “sale” with the business attitude against which Archbishop Pierre cautioned us against. But we must encounter them with the hope of being able to share this treasure with them in a way that will help them to become truly happy, living aware of God’s presence and in a way that pleases Him. ...
We leaders in the Church would do a grave disservice to our people to give them excuses for taking the easy way out, such as misleading them with a false idea of what conscience means, or failing to assist them in forming their consciences correctly. Much to some people’s surprise, it’s actually the hard way out that is the most effective evangelizing strategy. ...