In Light of the World, the new interview-book with Pope Benedict, Peter Seewald asks the pope whether he is the most powerful man in the world. Benedict disagrees and reveals the reality:
Communion with the Pope is something of a different sort, as is membership in the Church, of course. Among those 1.2 billion Catholics are many who are inwardly not there.
Saint Augustine said even in his day: There are many outside who seem to be inside, and there are many inside who seem to be outside.
Some Protestant apologists seek to discredit the unity that Catholics claim the Church has by pointing out that these “inwardly absent” Catholics exist. But we concede that. The unity of Christ’s mystical body is not, cannot be, destroyed by dissenters or nominal Catholics. These Catholics have a moral dilemma, because by staying in the Church and calling themselves Catholic, they are saying they believe that the Church is proclaiming what God has revealed. But with their words and in their hearts, they are denying that.
Benedict’s response also reminds me of something Christopher West said while teaching the Theology of the Body (paraphrasing), “If people really understood what the Church taught, many in the pews would be running for the exits, and many outside would be pushing and shoving to get in!”
Indeed, after answering some questions at Rachel Held Evans’ blog, I was struck by this comment from a young woman named Sarah:
This was highly interesting! What you said about the Catholic Church’s view of contraception and about women honestly changed my mind about the Catholic Church completely. Thank you.
I did a double-take when I read this and actually asked her if she was being sarcastic. No, she said, she was being honest.
It’s not that I am some wordsmith that can make someone believe something false. Rather, the message of Christ as safeguarded and proclaimed by the Catholic Church shines with luminosity, in spite of the paltriness of my exposition.
These inwardly absent Catholics are, I am sure, what made Pope Benedict in the previous interview-book state that the Church very likely needs to get smaller. Needs to be purified. People need to be either hot or cold. Christ will spew from His mouth those who are lukewarm.