How I'm coping with a church in crisis

Between the Pope’s approval of Fiducia Supplicans and increasing alienation and guilt-tripping in Catholic parishes, I can’t help but feel immense sadness at the state of things in the Lord’s Church. Schismatic rhetoric is rapidly becoming commonplace. Clearly, a change is necessary, yet the people best placed to effect this change are either too rigid to do so or too enthusiastic to protect the truth. The result? A confused, despairing church. 

Dealing with this confusion isn’t easy, especially since it often feels like we - lay people - have to deal with it alone. If you’re in the same position I’m in, perhaps these three strategies may help you as much as they are helping me. My hope is that we can reorient our hearts to seek the Lord earnestly and fervently and relentlessly, regardless of whether the people we ought to look up to are setting good examples or not.

Seeking to really know God

One of the items on my bucket list is to attend Jackie Hill Perry’s Glory Conference. The tagline for this event is “A Conference About God, Not About You”. In one of her talks, she laments the obssession of self adopted by the church today, expressing what a pity it is that most church conferences are afraid of engaging their participants in intellectual dialogue regarding Scripture. I share her frustration, especially being Catholic. 

When I was 19, my faith was challenged so much I decided I would look for all the reasons to leave. This intellectual journey led me to discover a God who respects me, loves me and calls me to wrestle with Him as much as I can, as long as I stay engaged with Him. Instead of finding the faults with the Church, I found a God who listens and loves, who is perfect and just and unrelenting in His pursuit of me. Humbled, I slowly developed this deep desire over the years to know Him all the more. 

Removing the focus from myself and putting it squarely on God helped me heal my relationship with the church. When news of a scandal involving a priest broke out, or when the Pope made a seemingly scandalous statement, I found myself praying rather than planning a dramatic exit. My faith no longer depended on the sanctity of the clergy, or even the ‘blemish-free’, sanctimonious image that a lot of aunties in the African church love to portray. My faith depended on - and continues to depend on - who God says He is, and who He says I am. Nothing else matters.


It is impossible to know God without building a habit of prayer. However, the common perception of prayer is so limited, it deprives Christians (especially Catholic Christians) of a real relationship with God.

St Therese of Liseaux defined prayer as “a surge of the heart”. It isn’t so much an action as it is an experience. The Catechism teaches us that when we pray, it is always in response to God’s call. So no one person can truly pray without having that prayer initiated by God Himself. 

How this has played out in my own life is that I slip in and out of conversation with God throughout the day. I’m constantly aware of His presence, even in the midst of sin. It’s as if God is walking with me wherever I go, and I can just turn to Him and say, “Hey, I don’t like that!” or “I have a crush on this boy” or “What do you think of the Pope’s statement on surrogacy?” Sometimes I have no words at all, so I sit or kneel or walk or lie down in silence. 

Prayer is the foundation of our relationship with God. The more we pray, the more we get to know God and, consequently, ourselves. Ultimately, a habit of prayer teaches us to place our trust in God as the only One who can protect and provide for us. Faced with the grim reality of an imperfect church existing in a cruel world, we can then have hope and joy and peace that surpasses even our own understanding. We can start buidling a holy indifference to the things of this world, yearning only to be perfectly united to the our perfect God.


Remember when Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” Well, he did not wait for an answer, so we never get the definition from Jesus’ own lips. But elsewhere in the gospels, Jesus professes, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” So one could say the definition of truth is Jesus Christ.

We also know that Jesus is God and, according to 1 John 4: 16, God is love. So we can deduce that Jesus is also love. Therefore, 

If Jesus is truth,

and Jesus is love,

then truth is love. 

That’s how it was recently explained to me, and it makes so much sense! 

The greatest source of my frustration with the church is the rigidity of some and over-excitement of others in dealing with the moral issues of our time. Take for instance, the furor surrounding Fiducia Supplicans. One camp applauded the document without reservation, disregarding the very real concerns of scandal. The other camp forcefully brought down the hammer, almost ready to tear the church apart. One side shouted, “kindness, mercy, compassion”, the other chanted “justice, consequences, excommunication”. 

It seems as though we have forgotten - or perhaps we don’t yet fully know - that love cannot be separated from truth. Truth without love is not truth at all; it is harsh fact. And love without truth is not love at all, it is evil manipulation. Truth and love are one and the same thing, and every Christian, by virtue of his or her baptism, has the duty to uphold truth (and therefore love) in all things. This means that, if all else fails, if priests fall and pastors hide and the world falls apart, the true Christian will stand firm in love and truth, that is, in Jesus Christ our Lord. That’s the only hope we have, the only hope worth having.

I hope this is helpful in some way. In the words of Fr Mike Schmitz, I’m praying for you, please pray for me. May God protect His church. Amen.

14 February 2024