Editor’s Note: This week, we’re sharing an excerpt from Into the Breach: An Apostolic Exhortation to Catholic Men, My Spiritual Sons in the Diocese of Phoenix, by the Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted, Bishop of Phoenix.
As an organization of Evangelicals and Protestants, we would be remiss if we didn’t clarify the origin of this document. The writer is Catholic, but we find there is quite a bit that applies to all Christians.
We have limited the number of Catholic-specific references and changed the word “Catholic” to “Christian” in many cases, but some Catholic information will remain for the sake of clarity. We have also added some editor’s notes in parenthesis.
We hope that our readers may glean some insight from Thomas J. Olmsted’s work and look past the denominational differences.
A Call to Battle
And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land… — Ezekiel 22:30
I begin this letter with a clarion call and clear charge to you, my sons and brothers in Christ: Men, do not hesitate to engage in the battle that is raging around you, the battle that is wounding our children and families, the battle that is distorting the dignity of both women and men. This battle is often hidden, but the battle is real. It is primarily spiritual, but it is progressively killing the remaining Christian ethos in our society and culture, and even in our own homes.
The world is under attack by Satan, as our Lord said it would be (1 Peter 5:8-14). This battle is occurring in the Church herself, and the devastation is all too evident.
Since AD 2000, 14 million Catholics have left the faith, parish religious education of children has dropped by 24 percent, Catholic school attendance has dropped by 19 percent, infant baptism has dropped by 28 percent, adult baptism has dropped by 31 percent and sacramental Catholic marriages have dropped by 41 percent. This is a serious breach, a gaping hole in Christ’s battle lines.
(Editor’s Note: Mainline Protestants and Evangelicals are also seeing a decline in membership)
One of the key reasons that the Church is faltering under the attacks of Satan is that many Christian men have not been willing to “step into the breach” — to fill this gap that lies open and vulnerable to further attack.
A large number have left the faith, and many who remain, practice the faith timidly and are only minimally committed to passing the faith on to their children. Recent research shows that large numbers of young Christian men are leaving the faith to become “nones” — men who have no religious affiliation.
The growing losses of young Christian men will have a devastating impact on the Church in America in the coming decades, as older men pass away and young men fail to remain and marry in the Church, accelerating the losses that have already occurred.
These facts are devastating. As our fathers, brothers, uncles, sons and friends fall away from the Church, they fall deeper and deeper into sin, breaking their bonds with God and leaving them vulnerable to the fires of Hell.
While we know that Christ welcomes back every repentant sinner, the truth is that large numbers of Christian men are failing to keep the promises they made at their children’s baptisms (and dedications) — promises to bring them to Christ and to raise them in the faith of the Church.
This crisis is evident in the discouragement and disengagement of Christian men like you and me. In fact, this is precisely why I believe this Exhortation is needed, and it is also the reason for my hope, for God constantly overcomes evil with good.
The joy of the Gospel is stronger than the sadness wrought by sin! A throw-away culture cannot withstand the new life and light that constantly radiates from Christ. So I call upon you to open your minds and hearts to Him, the Savior who strengthens you to step into the breach!