Fr. Joseph K. Horn
26 May 1996
St Barbara’s Parish
Santa Ana, CA
Where is your soul? If I asked you to point to your soul, where would you point? Remember, your soul is what makes you alive, and when your soul leaves your body, that’s when you die. So point to your soul. Where is it? If you point to your heart, that would imply that your soul is not in your head, so I could chop off your head and you wouldn’t die, right? Hmm, that’s problematic. So maybe your soul is inside your head... but that would imply that the soul is not in the heart, and therefore heart attacks could never be fatal. Okay, so you point to your head and your heart; now your soul is in both places. But that would imply that you have two souls, one in your head and another one in your heart, with a non-soulled neck in between them. Okay, so we include the neck.
By extending this line of reasoning, it’s easy to see that your soul is in all of you: every living part of your body. Your whole body is alive because of your soul; it is precisely the presence of your soul that makes every part of your body alive.
Now, how many souls do you have? Here’s an easy test. When you are at the mall, do you find your feet heading towards the shoe store while your legs try to go in the other direction for clothes? Of course not. One spirit, your spirit, your soul, directs your whole body, and tells it what to do. You command your legs to walk, your eyes to see, your ears to hear, your tongue to speak, your hands to work, and they all work together and they all obey you immediately. Your body is made up of many parts, many members, but you are animated by only one spirit.
It is the same with the Church, which is the body of Christ. We are the members of that body, but it has only one spirit, the Holy Spirit. Those who rebel against the Church’s teachings and yet still call themselves Catholic are in effect saying that there are other spirits too, and they chose to follow one of those. That’s religious indifferentism. It’s very dangerous. And here’s why.
Imagine this. A workman, operating a band saw, accidentally gets too close to the blade and chops off one of his own fingers. Now take a good look at that finger lying there, and tell me: is his soul in the severed finger? Well, the finger appears just like it did before. It’s shaped like a finger, it looks like a finger, it feels like a finger, it’s made out of the same stuff that fingers are made of. It certainly was alive before the accident, but now the finger has been separated from the rest of his body. If we reattach it quickly enough it can come back to life, but for now it’s dead; it has no soul in it.
Or consider the ear of Malchus. Remember the New Testament story: Judas betrays Jesus in the garden; Simon Peter draws his sword and strikes the servant of the High Priest, and cuts off his ear. The servant’s name was Malchus. Now consider this: was the soul of Malchus in that ear before Peter chopped it off? Of course it was; it was no doubt a perfectly healthy ear. Then whack, suddenly the ear is on the ground. Is the soul of Malchus still in the ear? Well, it looks just like it did before; it’s shaped like an ear, it looks like an ear, it feels like an ear, it’s made out of the same stuff that ears are made out of. It’s a perfectly fine specimen of a human ear except for one thing: it’s dead. It has no soul in it.
Now, here’s the shocker. Put these two concepts together. On the one hand we know that the Church is the body of Christ of which we are the members and which is animated by the Holy Spirit. And on the other hand we know that when you cut off a part of your body, that part dies, and loses the spirit that was in it. Put those two concepts together, and a horrifying thought comes to mind.
What would happen if a member of the body of Christ were to be cut off? What would happen if a Catholic were to be severed from membership in the Church, and become an ex-Catholic?
At first glance, just like with the finger or the ear, it would seem that nothing substantial occurred. Most ex-Catholics appear in almost every way just like they did before. They still have the indelible mark of baptism; they still pray, and so on. But these are only outward forms, tangible things. They might say to themselves, “No problem; my spiritual life is in perfect shape,” but remember that the severed finger was perfectly shaped like a finger, but was dead nonetheless. They might say to themselves, “No problem; I feel the Holy Spirit in me just like I did before,” but remember that a severed ear feels like it did before, but is dead nonetheless.
The awful truth is, the people who call themselves “ex-Catholics” have severed themselves from the body of Christ, and logically must therefore have cut themselves off from the Holy Spirit which gives life to the body of Christ. Although they fancy themselves to be Christians, their spiritual lives have become purely outward show, or jumbles of human emotions, neither of which has any saving power.
It is our obvious duty to help the ex-Catholics in our lives. If we don’t invite them back into the Church, where they can once again come to life in the Holy Spirit, then who will invite them? If we remain silent, are we not partially to blame if their eternal salvation is jeopardized? See what evil can result from religious indifferentism?
Almost 2000 years ago today, the Holy Spirit descended upon Mary and the Apostles, and the one, holy, Catholic, apostolic Church was born. We know in faith that the gates of hell will never prevail against the Church as a whole, but Jesus said that some members are destined to be lost. Let’s pray as fervently as we can today that Almighty God grant us the strength and courage to invite back into the Church all of our ex-Catholic friends, so that when the final trumpet sounds, it will be written in the book of life that they were destined not to be lost, but to be among our friends in heaven.