Bishop James Johnston: No Christ without the Church

“Christianity is not a do-it-yourself project.”


“… He who does not gather with me scatters.” —Mt 12:30


A strange phenomenon is taking place in American society. More and more of our institutions are experiencing diminishment because there is a trend to “go it alone.” This can be seen in the drastic drop in the number of Americans getting married. In fact, the number of marriages has plummeted since the early 1970s. It can be seen in the difficulty experienced by both religious and secular organizations in getting and retaining members. Researchers have indicated that one of the traits of younger Americans is that they are not “joiners.” Even in our Catholic Church across America, the statistics related to the youngest adults indicates that many of them are aloof when it comes to Church membership.

All sorts of sociological theories could be put forward as to why this is happening. It could be related to the widespread breakdown of marriage and family life; it could be due to the effects of technology which gives the false illusion of being connected while eliminating the occasions for real human interaction; it could be the result of the deep influence of the radical individualism so pervasive in secular culture. It could be any one of these, and a number of other factors, or it could be a combination of all of the above. Whatever the reason, the trend is sure to have serious negative consequences.

We need other people

Human beings are social by nature. We need others physically, psychologically, and spiritually. Researchers have shown how infants who do not have the regularity of a human embrace, the sound of a human voice, the warmth of a smile and look on a human face, are seriously harmed. Human beings are best brought into the world and raised in a communion of persons called the family. God, in gathering scattered humanity to himself, does so through a “people,” his family, which we call the Church. “It is not good for the man to be alone,” God said at the beginning of creation (Gen 2:18). And yet, many men and women are deliberately choosing to be alone by foregoing not only marriage, but also other forms of community and belonging. Many, for instance, indicate that they have faith but no need for a church. This is often captured by the phrase, “I’m spiritual but not religious.” In effect, there are many people today who make up a church in which they are the only member.

No Christ without the Church

This trend presents new challenges and opportunities for Christianity and evangelization, but these will only be effective if we are more intentional about being the community of faith and love that Christ intends. If the Church does not “walk the walk” so to speak, it creates a kind of scandal. If Christians live and act no differently than the world, then it will be difficult to convince others of the beauty and truth of Christ. We must be intent on giving ourselves for the good of others.

Christianity is not a do-it-yourself project. The sacraments by their nature are ordered toward joining us more intimately with Christ and those who belong to him. I cannot love Christ without also loving his body, the Church. We must be more knowledgeable about explaining the necessity of the Church in the Christian life and one’s salvation. The Church is not an optional part of Christianity. There is no Christianity without the Church. Christ now identifies himself with the Church as he did when he asked Saul on the road to Damascus, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4).

An often-overlooked effect of the Holy Spirit’s action at Pentecost was the undoing of the division and scattered-ness experienced by the human race. This was evidenced by the miracle of everyone hearing the apostles in their own language—an undoing of the events at the Tower of Babel! The work of the Holy Spirit to gather scattered humanity, begun at Pentecost, continues today in the Church.

In my last column, I remarked on Pope Benedict’s observation that hell is absolute, total, and eternal isolation. God in his very nature is not alone. He has revealed a truth about himself, that he is a mystery of communion among three divine persons, and is One. We are mysteriously made in his image. God’s revealed desire for every person is communion, a being with; communion with himself and those who love him and wish to be with him eternally. What could be better? That is a big part of the good news we have to deliver to those who mistakenly think they can be happy going it alone.

Bishop Johnston: Abortion, Sterilization and Contraception Are Wrong

“Have You Fairly Considered, and Are Living, the Church’s Consistent Teaching
on the Moral Issues of Abortion, Contraception, and Sterilization?”


Most Reverend James V. Johnston
Bishop, Springfield-Cape Girardeau (Note: We have combined 2 of the Bishop’s articles; here and here. Edited for length.)

Bishop James V. Johnston, Springfield-Cape Girardeau

Bishop James V. Johnston


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We are facing a grave and unprecedented attack today on the religious freedom we enjoy in the United States. The Obama Administration, through the US Department of Health and Human Services, has recently imposed a nationwide mandate that health insurance plans cover contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilization procedures.

For over 2,000 years the Catholic Church has taught that abortion, sterilization, and contraception are wrong. In fact, less than 90 years ago, all Christian congregations morally objected to these practices. However, sadly today, and despite the fact that the Church’s position has never wavered on these issues, the views of many Catholics on them is no different than those of most non-believers. Perhaps this is why the Obama Administration has chosen this moment in history to try to force the Catholic Church, as well as other communities of faith, to act against basic moral convictions. Given the fact that many of our own people do not subscribe to what the Church teaches, does the Administration assume that most of our faithful will not care? I hope you prove them wrong.

First, I invite you to examine whether you have fairly considered, and are living, the Church’s consistent teaching on the moral issues of abortion, contraception, and sterilization. The Catholic Church will never yield in her defense of both the sacredness of human life and the inseparability of the unitive and procreative aspects of conjugal love. This is a moment where each of us will be called to take a stand either for or against the Church. My prayer is that this will be a moment of recommitment, deeper conversion, and reconfirmation of our faith by the Holy Spirit; a period of grace which always accompanies times of difficulty in the life of the Church.

Second, I ask you to take action to prevent the government from punishing us for living what we believe. Many brothers and sisters of varying faiths join us in this important effort, as well as other persons of good will. Our parents and grandparents did not come to these shores to help build America’s cities and towns, its infrastructure and institutions, its enterprise and culture, only to have their posterity stripped of their God-given rights. In generations past, the Church has always been able to protect her sacred rights and duties. I hope and trust she can count on this generation of Catholics to do the same. Our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.

By this rule, the Obama Administration intends to force the Catholic Church to act against its basic moral convictions. This rule will force Christian employers to offer abortion-inducing drugs in their health plans. By this rule, the Obama Administration casts aside the long-standing respect our government has shown in not forcing churches to act against their religious beliefs.

We cannot—and we will not—comply with this unjust law. I call on all Catholics in our diocese to act now to seek the immediate reversal of this rule.

Contact President Barack Obama and express your profound disappointment in the new contraceptive and abortion mandate.

The Obama Compromise

The so-called compromise appears to be a concession by the administration of nothing, other than an administrative shifting of labels so as to give the Church the appearance of not providing the immoral services. In effect, the insurance companies will be required to provide the mandated services, but the Church will still be complicit in their provision. Furthermore, the president’s compromise does nothing to address those Catholic entities that self-insure, or those individuals who provide health insurance to employees, and who also object on moral grounds. In the end, this is still a grave attack on religious freedom—the state mandating what religious institutions and individuals must do, even if it is directly opposed to their beliefs.

Typically, when a compromise is reached, the parties with a dispute come together, at their own initiative or through an arbiter, and reach an agreement they both can accept. In this case, the administration did not consult with the Catholic bishops, the official teachers and representatives of the Catholic Church, but rather appears to have met with a few select people involved with Catholic charitable and health-care organizations. It is notable that the administration released these persons’ statements of approval before announcing the “compromise,” and before the bishops had been given a chance to see it.

Only the beginning

I get the sense that the administration is attempting to marginalize the bishops’ voice, and to divide the Catholic faithful along partisan lines. This dispute was not brought on by the US bishops, but by the unnecessary and unprecedented action of the government. The problem remains. Catholics of all political preferences, and all Americans of good will, should insist that the mandate be fully rescinded. Otherwise, freedom of religion will be further eroded, and we can expect more government mandates which violate our consciences in the future.

For more information on what the Church in Missouri is doing on the HHS mandate or how to respond, log on to, or contact the Missouri Catholic Conference at (573) 635-7239.

Courageous Missouri Bishop…

To Consecrate Diocese To The

Immaculate Heart of Mary

bishopjohnstonThanks to Catholic Knight Website for posting this news on the new Courageous Bishop in the Springfield, MO – Cape Girardeau, MO diocese in Missouri.  After years of dissent Bishop James Vann Johnston is going to try and bring the diocese back to orthodoxy.  Let us pray for this courageous bishop.

THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: Three interesting developments are underway in the Diocese of Springfield – Cape Girardeau. Bishop James Vann Johnston has already given preeminent position to the Usus Antiquior (Extraordinary Form Latin Mass) at St. Agnes Cathedral in Springfield where it is celebrated no less than five times a week. Days and times for liturgical celebrations can be viewed on the Latin Mass Community website.

In addition to this, The Catholic Knight has learned that Bishop Johnston has also given his support to the creation of an Anglican Use Community within the City of Springfield. This community lists dates, times and locations for their liturgical services on their website as well. With this latest action we see that Bishop Johnston is opening up avenues for liturgical renewal both on the Latin and English front.

The Catholic Knight therefore calls upon all his readers, to contact friends and family in the Springfield Missouri area, and encourage them to attend either the Traditional Latin Mass, or the Anglican Use liturgy, or both, in support of Bishop Johnston’s effort to clean up the liturgical mess in the Diocese of Springfield – Cape Girardeau.

heartMaryMaurielloLastly, The Catholic Knight has just learned that Bishop James Vann Johnston now plans to Consecrate the Diocese of Springfield – Cape Girardeau to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on March 25, 2010. When we consider the meaning of such an act, in light of the revelations by the three seers at Fatima some 93 years ago, it would appear the good bishop is seeking the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima. This comes as the liturgical reform gets underway in earnest, with the implementation of the new English translation for the Roman Missal, sometime next year.

A lot of news has been coming out of the Diocese of Springfield – Cape Girardeau lately, much of it pertaining to the liturgy, and not all of it good. The diocese has also been plagued by public heresy from some of it’s priests. One extreme example of this was exposed here on The Catholic Knight a little over a year ago. This new bishop of Springfield – Cape Girardeau certainly has his work cut out for him. He can be assured of the prayers of The Catholic Knight, and I would personally like to ask all my readers to join me in praying for him as well. He is a brave man taking on a Novus Ordo establishment that has been entrenched in Southern Missouri for a very long time.