“Judas…Would Have Left if He Were Honest”

As Catholics, we’re called to a love of souls. We support our brothers and sisters in faith through prayer and fellowship, and every one of us has a vocation to evangelize, to whatever degree we are able. We are meant to bring the light of Christ into the darkness of the world.

There’s a flip side to this equation, however. When I was a younger man, I did missionary work. I’d go door to door, talking to people about the faith, trying to get them to go back to their local parish and give it another shot. One of my friends at the time told me the story of seeing another missionary, after a long, contentious, and fruitless discussion with someone, walk away sadly, and literally shake the dust from his sandals. Suddenly, the man he was speaking to recognized the gesture, yelled, “Wait!” and called him back.

The story may be apocryphal. But the message resonates. And it’s not simply a theme directed at obstinate non-believers. It applies to obstinate dissenters within the Church as well. For a very long time, I’ve wondered why, if people are so opposed to Catholic teaching, they bother staying and causing trouble. It’s a pretty immutable organization, and I’d think they’d be better off starting their own religion than trying to remake Catholicism in their own image.

He didn’t say it in quite so many words, but there is reason to believe that perhaps the Holy Father agrees:

In his Angelus address Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of Judas’ betrayal of Christ, saying that Judas’ problem was failing to leave Christ when he no longer believed – a “falsehood,” said the Pope, “which is a mark of the devil.”

“Judas,” said Pope Benedict, “could have left, as many of the disciples did; indeed, he would have left if he were honest. Instead he remained with Jesus. He did not remain because of faith, or because of love, but with the secret intention of taking vengeance on the Master.”

According to Human Life International Rome Director, Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro, the comments are very relevant to the current situation in the Catholic Church.  Msgr. Barreiro, who holds a doctorate in Dogmatic theology, told LifeSiteNews that “for those Catholics who cannot bring themselves to believe the formal teachings of the Church on life and family matters it would be more honest to leave the Church rather than betraying Her.”

But, he added, “We regret very much that the person is so inclined and we wish they would have a conversion to truly believe.”

Pope Benedict, in his remarks, drew a distinction between believing and understanding, noting that some disciples walked away from Christ because they did not believe. However, he said, even those who remained believed before they fully understood.

The HLI Rome Director commented, “Intellectual difficulty is not disobedience.”  He explained, “You might have teachings you find difficult to accept. However, (in those circumstances) it is virtuous to believe since you make a sacrifice of your own will, taking as your own the mind of the Church.”

I remember distinctly an experience I had when I worked as the floor manager for Franciscan University: Presents. The show that day was about the “Fifth Marian Dogma” and the guests were Dr. Mark Miravale — the greatest advocate for the cause — and Dr. Alice von Hildebrand, who was somewhat less enthusiastic. Dr. von Hildebrand, despite appreciating Dr. Miravale’s passion for Mary, believed fervently that in a Church riddled with troubles, not least among which was a failing belief in the Eucharist, introducing a theologically controversial Marian dogma would do more to undermine the faith than to bolster it. And then she said something that surprised me, something that has stuck with me ever since. After arguing persuasively and with conviction that it was absolutely the wrong time for such a pronouncement, she proclaimed, “But if tomorrow, the Holy Father declared this dogma, I would fall to my knees and say ‘credo!’ “

That’s it. End of story. Docility to the magisterial authority of Holy Mother Church is a hallmark of the faithful Catholic. Even brilliant and opinionated ones like Dr. von Hildebrand. Her example has been a consolation to me at times when I have struggled with my own issues with the Faith. As John Henry Cardinal Newman famously said of our life of faith: “A thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.” The desire to be faithful to Christ and His Church should, in moments of intellectual revolt, lead us to give our assent to even the “hardest of sayings”, as it were. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t question. It only means that if we want to stay within the Church, our questioning should be submitted to Her authority. If that’s too tall of an order, there are plenty of other of places to worship. Or not. Our choice.

As I find myself at times engaged in debate with people who identify themselves as Catholics but devote enormous quantities of energy to bashing Church teachings or acting in direct disobedience of them, I can’t help but wonder why they stay. If they were honest, maybe they would leave. And if they won’t, perhaps it’s not a stretch to suspect that they, too, may have the “secret intention of taking vengeance on the Master.”



  • Mark

    Wow – something all of the Catholic groups I am part of struggle with is should the path be narrow, or should we “welcome all”. I don’t know that this will make those conversations go away, but it sure is something to think about. Thank you Mr. Skojec!

  • Tomas Fuerte

    Well said, Steve.

    • teej

      Better said, BPeters1.

      • bpeters1

        Thanks, teej. It looks like the CV.org web-censor (Tom Crowe? Random unaffiliated vigilante? I dunno) finally got around to reading the comments on this piece and “dislike”-bombed them into hidden status (It is rather amusing how comments suddenly accumulate 30+, sometimes 100+ dislikes in the course of less than 10 min.!) I’m actually somewhat relieved — it was quite disconcerting to see one of my comments in full view, with more “likes” than dislikes, for more than 24 hours on this blog. I was afraid I might be losing my edge.

        • Mara

          bpeters 1, isn’t it funny that a blog site actually attempts to hide comments? It seems like something a bunch of little children would do. Oh, I keep forgetting, this is a Catholic site. That explains it. Personally, I always open any comments that have been “disliked-bombed.”

  • bpeters1

    Efforts to prune away discordant members of the Church in accord with a “smaller, purer, better” mentality make me kind of nervous, especially when the tipping point is articulated purely in terms of “[d]ocility to the magisterial authority of Holy Mother Church.” I can’t help but think that pushing this line of thinking too hard would have “pruned” away great Catholic minds like Yves Congar, Karl Rahner, and Henri de Lubac — two of whom were eventually named Cardinals! — at the points in time when their thinking was censored and condemned to various degrees by “the magisterial authority of Holy Mother Church.” To be clear, we are no longer in the 1940s-50s, there do seem to be some cases in which “troublemakers” hang around solely to antagonize the Church, and assent is certainly due to authentically and unquestionably defined dogmas (indeed, some “pruning” is necessary, otherwise we’d still have Arians around). But just because someone or some group clashes with the magisterium doesn’t mean that they would, ipso facto, be better off leaving the Church. The preconciliar struggles of the theologians mentioned above testify to the fact that some disagree out of genuine regard for the Church’s best interests, a regard which can have (and in their cases, has had) significant impact on that Church (regardless of how “pretty immutable” you might take it to be).

  • John

    That is a very interesting interpretation of the story of Judas that you refer to. One wonders why, if he didn’t love Christ, he would hang himself in shame over what he had done (if that is the version of his death in the Gospels you are following).

    Didn’t Jesus explicitly absolve Judas of his sin both through his death and resurrection as well as as a matter of fulfillment of the scriptures? There’s a lot of good evidence out there that Judas was considered one of the 12 after Jesus’ death. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judas_Iscariot

    Further, is not clear that Judas’ revelation of Jesus to the authorities was neither suprise nor secret to Christ himself? He knew well what was coming and when. So there was no “secret” at all here. Judas’ actions and beliefs were well known not only to the teacher, but in all likelihood the 11 others who lived and worked with him.

    In the first century, Judas and many other Jews disagreed with Jesus’ policy of non-violent revolution; they were looking for a conquering Messiah who would lead a war against Rome. Jesus did not tell thim to stop following him – he just kept teaching. His teachings and presence was so powerful, that even after his death, believers stayed and tried to carry his message forward (even if they didn’t all quite understand that message the same way).

    I guess, based on my reading of the material, I would not be so quick to ascribe evil “secret” intent to people who chose to continue listening. Those who speak out and challenge teachings are no more or less imperfect than any of us who do not know God’s plan or our place in it. The fact that they continue to listen speaks more to thier desire to be a part of a change in this world for the better.

    • Mara

      Wonderfully, compassionately and accurately stated John. Thank-you for sharing!



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