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Hornets & Lions

June 20, 2013 by  
Filed under Apologetics, Magisterium, Paul McCusker

One thing I was certain about when I became Catholic: I knew I would not be a Cafeteria Catholic – picking and choosing what suited me. If I thought I’d have that attitude, then I could’ve saved myself a lot of trouble and remained Protestant. (For what else is Sola Scriptura but the ultimate all-you-can-eat Spiritual Smorgasbord? A huge Bible buffet with no one to tell me that I have to eat that bit of spinach or can’t eat that bowl of chocolate. Take as much or as little as you like.)

No. Having found that the Catholic Church was the answer to the question Who has the authority to interpret Scripture and establish doctrine? I was and am determined to yield to its Apostolic Authority. I said “I will embrace all I can, and accept what I cannot embrace.” There was no other choice.

I know that a lot of American Catholics (maybe some in other countries) don’t feel that way. This is a democracy, which we love and cherish, which means that the Catholic Church needs to get with the times and be more democratic, too. American Catholics may not vote at a parish ballot box on Catholic doctrine, but they certainly vote with their feet, or their giving, or their voices. Obedience to the Magisterium is a mere technicality, if that. For many, if Catholicism isn’t a great Cafeteria, then it’s kind of a spiritual Whole Foods grocery store. And it’s not for me, or anyone, to tell them otherwise. And I learned the hard way. Here’s how:

The other day I ventured to read an article about Gays and the Boy Scouts on the National Catholic Reporter website. The article was not a surprise, considering the context. But, unusually for me, I ventured down to the posts following the article. I don’t normally do that because it’s easy to get sucked into this weird vortex that is Posting, a land of people with opinions, lots of them buzzing around like hornets, others prowling more like lions just waiting for the kill.

I saw comments by one or two fairly traditional posters – and lots and lots of posts from those who disagreed with them. I also noticed that the traditional posters had, in their own way, over-reached themselves by going after a particular point and had been dragged off by the lions into the weeds. They were being devoured. I felt bad for them.

I naively thought, “This is the National Catholic Reporter” so I ought to say something Catholic. I posted why I disagreed with the conclusions of the article and reaffirmed Catholic teaching on the subject.

Boy, was that a mistake.

I won’t try to recount everything here, but I’ll say that the first response called me a “blind bigot” – and that was as nice as it ever got. I have never experienced such vitriol or personal attacks. And I had to resist getting dragged in the weeds. But that was only possible because I held my ground as a Catholic who loves and obeys the Magisterium.

Though the experience was exhausting for me, I was also greatly relieved. While the hornets were buzzing and the lions were roaring, I had the Catholic Church to hang onto – as a solid rock, a foundation to keep my feet upon. I wasn’t merely spewing my opinions, which were no more or less valid than anyone else’s, or offering up my lone interpretation of Scripture, or proclaiming a personal philosophy. I attempted to articulate the teachings of something so much greater than my own views. I heard myself saying again and again the answer to my question Who has the authority to interpret Scripture and establish doctrine? It’s the Church founded by Christ Himself, carried on by the Apostles, the One True Catholic Church. This was not a house built on the sand of current whims, the latest trends, pseudo-scientific facts, or even a democratic voting process. It is the Truth of Christ, for specific ages and times, and for all eternity.

So, let the hornets sting and the lions bite. I never felt freer in all of my life.

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About Paul McCusker

Paul McCusker is an author. He converted from Evangelical Protestantism to Catholicism in 2007. He still works for an Evangelical organization. Paul has over 40 published works, including novels, plays, scripts, and lyrics.

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  • RobinJeanne

    Good for you in stepping out of your comfort zone….. the truth needs to be spoken whether we feel like it or not, it’s not about our feelings, but simple proclaiming the Good News.

  • Barbara Joan Bassett

    Bravo, Paul! Viva the Magisterium– with this we cannot go wrong!

  • Curtis Bryant Loftis

    Great Paul! I like to refer to myself as
    a Sola Scriptura Catholic. The bible is very clear. I have often wondered how protestants (Latin meaning protest) can ignore the book of John…” if you do not eat My body and drink My blood…you have no life in you”

  • jrbarrytx

    Thank you for your article! I continue to be blessed by your writings. Having returned to the church I can relate to your comment about “cafeteria Catholics”. I too decided not to engage in picking and choosing what suits me. It is easy to fall into that way of thinking. I embrace it all and hard as it is at times in a Protestant family, I am assured that God is with me all the way on this journey!.

  • Jeanette

    Paul, all Catholics need to be as brave as you are and stand up for the Truth. Thank you for doing that! God bless you.

  • LizEst

    It reminds me of Scripture. Big surprise! Ha!

    “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in men… They compassed me, compassed me about; in the Lord’s name I crushed them. They compassed me about like bees; they blazed like a fire among thorns; in the Lord’s name I crushed them” (Psalm 9a, 11-12).

    God bless you, Paul. Thanks for this descriptive write-up and for your faith.

  • Carolyn

    Please remember that the first line of defense for those promoting agendas that are at odds with the teachings of Christ is to resort to name calling which is aimed at shutting you down before you can offer a defense for you position. Take courage from the words of St. Augustine, “Truth is like a lion. No one has to defend it. Just set it free and it will defend itself.” This is the time for all of us to become “Agents of the Truth.”

    • LizEst

      Carolyn – Thanks for that. Would you please tell me in what writing did St. Augustine say that? Thanks. I looked for it and couldn’t find it, and would like to use it…but need the citation for the reference.

      God bless you!

      • Carolyn

        LizEst, I cannot find the exact source of St. Augustine’s quote, but all internet searches attribute the quote to him. Perhaps an Augustinian scholar can help us locate the source. I, too, would be delighted to find the fountain of this wisdom. God Bless!

        • LizEst

          Thank you so much for looking, Carolyn. That’s all I could find, too: that it was attributed to him. It’s always good to track these things down because there is a lot of stuff like that out on the internet that has not been thoroughly researched.

          What I did find, after some more searching, is that someone who has read a lot of Augustine doesn’t believe it came from him: Thought you would like to know.

          • Carolyn

            I just call the Augustinian Order in the Midwest and a dear brother there spent a lot of time looking for it, too. He said that many quotes are attributed to Augustine that he may not have said. No matter the source of the “Truth is like a lion” quote, I’m using it as a mantra for the veracity of the Gospels and the teachings of the Church. Peace to you!

          • LizEst

            Thank you, Carolyn, for going through the trouble to contact this Augustinian order and for the research done by this dear brother. At least we know now. God bless you.

  • Jeanette

    Can anyone suggest a fairly recent, excellent Catholic Apologetics book?

    • MaryofSharon

      Thanks be to God, Jeannette, unlike in decades past, there are so many books to choose from, it’s hard to narrow it down. It depends on what you are looking for. You could take a look at the Catholic Answers book store, in the apologetics section at . You may want to peruse the Ignatius Press “Apologetics” section at their “Conversion” section at . Any books you find on both the Catholic Answers list and the Ignatius Press list are sure to be good.

      • Jeanette

        Thank you so much for your help. I’ve been thinking that I should get one for awhile. I don’t want to be caught without a good answer to those who question the Catholic faith. God bless you!

    • claudiavolkman

      Servant Books has some good ones – check out anything by Patrick Madrid!

      • Jeanette

        Thank you. God bless you!

  • Beth

    Love your writing and since I came to the Truth from the Protestant tradition, I also share your sentiment that if you’re going to be Catholic, be Catholic or go back to the tradition that walks the politically correct side of the street. The RCC is not for wimps…it’s challenging and I stumble from time to time. That’s what’s so great about it! Blessings!

  • MaryofSharon

    Paul, we are so grateful to have you on board with the rest of us Catholics who love the fullness of the truth offered in our Church. Your proactive choice to join us is a boost to our faith and a sorely needed infusion of both rational thought and passion among our ranks. It continues to bless me and amaze me when folks like you join the Catholic Church when it is so hard to find authentic Catholicism in the typical Catholic parish.

    An Evangelical friend of mine is seriously contemplating becoming Catholic, primarily as a result of study, because he is convinced that Beauty, Goodness, and Beauty are to be found here, yet I find myself unsuccessfully looking for a local parish to recommend to him that will come close to being what I have to think he’s hoping to find. Do you have any words of wisdom for him as he is likely be gravely disappointed once he starts interacting with rank and file Catholics participating in a parish?

    • Paul McCusker

      Dear Mary,
      I have to go with a variation on the advice Dan Burke
      gave me during my journey into the Catholic Church. Though we yearn for the Church to embody such things as Truth, Goodness and Beauty, it may not be immediately manifest in what we see in our local parishes. Our motivation, until our Churches reclaim those things visibly, is to find
      the Truth, Goodness and Beauty in the Sacraments. In other words, coming to the Catholic Church for purely aesthetic reasons and not spiritual ones will be a disappointment, so our motives must be deeper than that. I came to the Catholic Church because it embodied the Truth, now I hope the external Beauty and Goodness will follow… eventually 🙂

      • MaryofSharon

        Thanks, Paul. I’m going to copy this and save it for this friend. (I meant “Beauty, Goodness, and TRUTH” in my original comment. Funny that I would have accidentally omitted “Truth” when that is the essence of the whole discussion here.)

        I just happened upon your lengthy discussion, if you can call it that, in the comment boxes to which you refer in your post above. I experienced with you your bewilderment and frustration, yet also also saw your persevering steadfast calm through it all. Again, I reiterate my deep gratitude for one as articulate as yourself, knowing the Faith better than most of us, joining our ranks and standing with us in defense of our Faith.

        The person who commented before your last comment pretty much summed up the essence of the irreconcilability of viewpoints when he suggested that authority of the “Church” does not rest in the Magisterium but rather in the majority opinion of the faithful which they mistakenly refer to as the “sensum fidelium” (the sense of the faithful). These folks sincerely believe that when there is a large enough popular sentiment among Catholics against Church teaching that is an indicator that it is time for Church teaching to change. Pope Benedict corrected this misunderstanding in his Address to the International Theological Commission in December. (See

        I recently listened to a series by the highly respected Fr. Thomas Dubay on saints. As he offered a short list of key characteristics of the saints, he said that the saints, without exception, fully embraced and yielded to the magisterial teaching of the Church, that there are no cafeteria Catholics among the saints. You, my friend, are in very good company!

  • Paul, your post moved me greatly. When I finished reading it, I wanted to jump up and down: clap, cheer, whistle and hoot! I copied and pasted it into a document, so I could read it over and over. I want your thoughts to become my own, so I can be able to hold my ground as a Catholic who loves and obeys the magisterium. My love for the One, Holy, Apostolic Catholic Church grows day by day. I’m so glad God called me to return to Rome after my years of wandering.

    I’m so happy to meet you.

  • Ken Hess

    Paul, good job! This past week in the Baltimore Sun, Archbishop Lori and the Catholic Church have been getting hammered by the “hornets” because of a column he did on Religious Freedom. It’s amazing how much the “truth” stirs people up! Some people didn’t like what Jesus Christ himself had to say and they crucified him.

  • Though late as usual, this Post is wonderful. Yes, This, our One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church has arch enemies. And why not? Her Head, the Divine God-Man said all those 2000+ years ago: “…..If they hated Me, they will hate you, too. If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you, too”. Our traditional Act of Faith Prayer sums it so well. “I believe these and all the Truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches because You have revealed them, Who can neither deceive nor be deceived. Amen”.

  • majorpat

    Keep the faith,keep, stay strong – saying prayers for you. I learned we can only plant seeds. God does the work after that. So keep planting the seeds of wisdom and knowledge, and trust God to open the hearts of those willing to listen.


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