The Oxford dictionary defines brainwashing as “pressurizing (someone) into adopting radically different beliefs by using systematic and often forcible means.” I looked it up, because recently someone who had been admitted to—and later decided to pass on—our Tepeyac Leadership Initiative program, provided the following explanation to me over email:

“The more complicated part of the reason is that my wife was surprisingly unsupportive of my participation. Ultimately, she relented when I pressed the issue and said that I wanted to participate. I am sharing her concern because I think it speaks to the issue(s) this organization is trying to address. Her concern is that I would be “brainwashed” to be ultra-conservative. To her this means being anti-gay, anti-women, and most of all anti-compassion. She said that while we are practicing Catholics – these are not the “types of Catholics” that we are. While I was willing to continue in spite of her concerns, I have to admit that this did weigh into my decision.”

I wish I was given a chance to address each of the concerns above. I wasn’t. But I won’t pass on the opportunity to use this as a teaching moment for anyone who might be afraid of the Catholic Church itself, or its teachings, as these above are issues often raised with regards to faithful Catholic organizations, particularly those in charge of formation.

I would first like to address the term “ultra-conservative.” The fact that anyone would place this label on a Catholic or a Catholic organization goes to show how little understanding the world (and even Catholics) have of the Faith. The Catholic Church has been around for 2000 years. It is a lot older than the two political parties in our country. It is much older than the original Civil Rights movement, and older than any of the new issues that today are labeled as civil rights issues. The Catholic Church is also much older than Karl Max and Adam Smith. It was around before we knew or understood the current, left-right political spectrum that contemporary society seems split on.

The Catholic Church is more than an organization, it is a living organism, who carries within itself the cumulative human wisdom of its members—saints and sinners—through the centuries, in addition (and most importantly) it carries within the divine wisdom of the Holy Spirit, which has guided the Church until this day. The Church is a master teacher in humanity!

While I understand that some today try to pit the Church in a corner, have Her choose a “side,” the Church will always be above this, because the Church will always be about the Truth. And the most compassionate thing a human being can do for another one will always be to speak with truth, about anything. Furthermore, the Catholic Church is only anti-sin. I often tell my children when they use the word hate to refer to something trivial, “you don’t hate that, you dislike it or disagree with it.” Indeed, a Catholic who understands and lives his or her faith can only hate two things, the devil and sin. That is the true Church, which always approaches the topic of sin with compassion because we are all sinners.

That leads me to the second term used in the email response, “types of Catholics.” Let’s start with the basics. All the baptized are children of God, and we are all one Church. Unless we are referring to the three states of the Church (The Church militant are all Catholics on Earth, the Church Penitent are those in Purgatory, and the Church Triumphant are the saints in Heaven), in my experience, there are really only two “types” of Catholics: those who understand and practice their faith in adherence with ALL of the teachings of the Church, and those who do not.

God is Love… but God is also the way, the truth and the light. Truth is compassion, in its most honest form. Indeed, what Catholics do when trying to become a different “type,” other than faithful, is reject God and the truths of His Church. Every time we make room for or accommodate public opinion, today’s lifestyles or the most prevalent political stances in any given issue, at the expense of God’s truth, we are making less room for His truth in our lives.

So, in my final analysis, the Catholic Church is not out to brainwash anyone. We at TLI are certainly not “pressurizing” anyone or using “forcible means.” And we aren’t teaching anything that to a faithful/practicing Catholic should come across as “radically different beliefs.” We are teaching the Catholic faith, and how it is lived out fully—practically and passionately—in the professional world. Please pray for the Church and pray for TLI!

“Whether I am looked up one way or another, none of that matters. If I am given praise or whether I am given ridicule, it doesn’t matter. What I am called to be is faithful to Jesus Christ and His Church.” ~Most Rev. Thomas Olmsted, Bishop of Phoenix