Later, I read a good response over on The Passionate Paradox, calling all anti-Catholics to take a look at responsible sexuality.
The whole time, I couldn't help but think that there was something funny about this call for people who don't agree with the Church to leave Her. Personally, I find it silly that people who don't agree with the Catholic Church call themselves "Catholic" in the first place. Yes, there is a place for those who have a difficulty accepting certain teachings, and struggle with them while recognizing that the Church has the authority to teach what it teaches--that's totally fine. On the other hand, to claim to be a Catholic while outright rejecting what the Church teaches (and worse, to tell others that the Church "no longer teaches" whatever doctrine one rejects) has never made sense to me. Why would someone who rejects Catholic Church teaching want to be a Catholic? Someone suggested to me the other day that maybe these people think they can ride the coattails of the Church into heaven or something.
The silliness of people who reject the Church making a big deal about leaving the Church made me think of an analogy for which I drew this cartoon:
The Church has often been called the "Barque of Peter" (see NAVIS PETRI above). She is sailing off toward Heaven, but some of Her members have decided they love Earth too much to let go, so they're trying to head back. They're too attached to money, sexual immorality, and/or power, and they're not willing to part with them, so they try to get the Church to change course by constructing a tug boat and attempting to drag the Church back to earth (see the SS ERGORP above). They try with all their might to get the Church to be "progressive" ("SS ERGORP" backwards is PROGRESS)--to be "with the times." The Church, however, is timeless, and recognizes that these things aren't truly good for people. She has one mission: get souls to Heaven. She is set on Her course, and will not be deterred by fleeting temporal pleasures. With the wind of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2) in Her sails, She will not be stopped--not even the gates of Hades will prevail against Her (Mt 16:18). Consequently, the SS ERGORP will eventually realize that they cannot change the Church, so they must decide: detach or join. They must either leave because they don't agree, or fully join themselves to the Church by recognizing that the Church is wiser than each of us, because She is the safeguard of the God's Revelation. They must also realize that they will never change the Church because Her official teachings will never change. That's how She safeguards what God has handed on--She doesn't let it get changed.
So now we are at a junction in history where many may leave the Church. That's okay. In fact it will be like the pruning of a plant--removing the branches and leaves that are deterring the flourishing of the whole. Pope Benedict XVI has been talking about a "smaller Church" for a while now (that link will lead you to an excerpt of a book that was originally published in 1969). 33 years ago he could already predict this exodus of the lukewarm (and we know what happens to the lukewarm--Rev 3:15-16). He foresaw a smaller, but "crystalized and clarified" Church.
Think about this: what if every 'Liberal' and 'Nominal' Catholic actually did go to a religion that agreed with his/her beliefs? How much better would Catholic education be once it was rid of all of the false teachers? How much better would people know what the Church really teaches, and not what the "Catholic experts" that the media digs up say? Sure, we may get ridiculed by that same media. Sure, we may no longer be 25% of the US population--or 1/7 of the world population. That's not necessarily bad--the Church will be purified and people receive the truths of the Church without all the voices of dissenting "Catholics" trying to confuse them. In the long run, perhaps it would actually allow more people to come to know the truths of Catholicism and draw more souls to Heaven. That, after all, is the goal: as many souls to Heaven as possible, not as many people calling themselves "Catholic" as possible.
And what for those who leave? Are they eternally doomed? Of course not! Was Peter eternally domed when he denied Jesus? The same is the case for anyone who has betrayed God. He must not take the path of Judas and think God will not forgive him. He must take the path of Peter and, when he realizes his mistake, receive the Lord's forgiveness.
The Church will always have open doors, anyone may come in and become a Catholic, but that involves a change on the part of the person, not the Church. If one is to become a Catholic (or return to Catholicism), one must be willing to conform himself to the Church. One should never seek to conform the Church to himself. That, after all, is how this whole topic began.