Who Will Teach Them?

The Time Has Come to Start an Aggressive Catholic Education Campaign

There are many examples today of Catholics who openly depart from the Church with regard to Her Teaching and the principles upon which this Teaching is built. The one that has garnered the most attention of late has been the issue of gay marriage. There have been a number of recent polls in which a significant percentage of Catholics admit they support gay marriage. As is the case with other surveys, there are differences between Catholics who attend church weekly and those who do not.

For the most part, the results given can be highly deceiving because it does not measure depth of knowledge, just personal opinion. When surveying an opinion, we must recognize that it is often tainted by the verbal engineering of the secular world. Of course, there have been similar polls conducted on abortion, euthanasia, contraception, and the like, all of which report similar results, particularly that there are those sitting in the pews each week who dissent from Church Teaching. What these polls do not show is the level of Catholic knowledge among the respondents on either side of the debate.

From such surveys, can one assume that those who attend Mass weekly have a better basis for making an informed decision? I would answer cautiously with a qualified yes. The caveat is that 36% of weekly Mass attendees disagree with the Church's Teaching on gay marriage and 30% say abortion should be remain legal. These percentages are not insignificant and seem to indicate that many regular churchgoers do not know the depth of the Teaching. This high percentage could be due to poor preaching in some parishes and certainly a result of the catechetical failure of recent decades. Fortunately, many who attend Mass weekly are favorable to the Church's position, which indicates that there is some level of understanding but what that level is remains unknown.

It would be interesting to question those surveyed with regard to the Church's Teaching to determine if they know the basis for the Teaching. Because we live in an era of catechetical illiteracy, it may well be they do not have sufficient knowledge. In all cases, I would venture to believe that few in either camp can clearly explain the basis. In short, how many realize that the gay marriage Teaching is not about homosexuality but about the nature of Marriage? How many realize the ontological structure of Marriage that requires masculinity and femininity, male and female, for this reality to come into existence? How many appreciate the good of procreation that is intrinsic to Marriage? Or with regard to abortion, how many realize that we are talking about the existence of a human being that will be murdered? How many understand that there are no situations that justify killing an innocent human being? How many realize that supporting abortion laws is a form of cooperation in the evil committed agains innocent human life?

In times past, everyone was taught how to formulate a proper argument by establishing an informed basis for the argument. It typically involved every person researching the positions generated by both sides and even being able to argue both sides. Today, in the whim-of-the-moment culture, many people make decisions on important issues on the basis of personal feelings, which is often tainted to favor a position without understanding the foundation of the position. Indeed, there are many emotional arguments made in favor of a particular issue but it is necessary for clearer heads to prevail in the long run. Generally speaking, the clarity is rarely expressed and the arguments dwindle into ad hominem attacks.

In of the hot button issues we face today, we see the effect of the dictatorship of relativism. When soon to be Pope Benedict XVI coined this phrase, most of the world had already been living under this dictatorship for quite some time. It is in this light that the world can no longer identify the depth of so many issues and would prefer facile discussions to in depth arguments. The dictatorship exercised by the secularists has taken its toll. It is good to recall Cardinal Ratzinger's words:

Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be "tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine", seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires.

If we are to move forward today, all those who teach the Catholic Faith must first accept the devastation that has been brought about through by trend. Every religious, bishop, priest, deacon, catechist, and teacher should make this trend part of his or her daily renunciation and seek to take hold of the pearl of great price. As part of this process, we need all Catholic educators to develop a strong relationship with Christ so as to come to an adult faith. Having a large number of Catholics who have achieved an adult faith is essential for the present and future of the Church. We are not an institution built on whims-of-the-day but one founded by and on Christ, Who is THE Teacher, Who is THE measure of all existence.

Sadly, to achieve this goal may mean a contraction for a time. At some point, standing up for what we believe will have to take precedence over the numbers, which means we have to challenge those sitting in the pews to get off the fence. To be Catholic means that one believes all that the Catholic Church Teaches, which implies that one knows what She Teaches. To move forward at this point will require more priests to take up such themes in their regular preaching. Yes, many of the themes are quite controversial. But just because they are controversial does not lessen the need to catechize those before us and to proclaim the Truth. The key in preaching the Truth is to avoid opinion and love the doctrine, love the Church. To Love the Church is to Love Christ!

Salus Animarum

Are We Not about Salvation?

Today we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday. It is also the Second Sunday of Easter where every year we read the resurrection story and St. Thomas' encounter with the resurrected Christ. An essential passage in today's Gospel needs to be highlighted:

Jesus said to them, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained."

It is with this passage in mind that I remind myself we are currently living in a culture that no longer values Christianity and certainly has little respect for religious freedom. Even worse is we live in a culture in which Sin has no place in any conversation. From Her earliest days, this passage serves as the mandate given to bishops, and by extension, to priests. Bringing God's Mercy to His people is at the heart of the ministerial priesthood, which means also that there must be a recognition of Sin. Two examples have risen in which a priest abided by Church Teaching, was trying to help by giving Catholic advice, and has subsequently been chastised publicly for it.

The first story is a campus minister in Washington DC who apparently advised gay persons who approached him to do their best to live celibately. Without having any further details, it appears the priest was following Church Teaching in the advice he gave and, for doing so, is being persecuted. Ironically, I am sure that this priest has given similar advice to the heterosexuals who approach him and express a desire to engage in unchaste activities. The difference is the latter does not make headlines in the secular news media.

The other is in New York where the pastor of a local parish had to ask an openly gay person to step down from various public ministries, which included being a catechist, after the individual "married" his partner. I would find it hard to believe that this individual did not know the Church's position in this regard and so far the local media has played it as a case of personal persecution. I must admit, this particular case is more difficult to deal with because it opens pandora's box on many other questions, such as the status of those divorced and remarried outside the Church or those in civil unions all of whom are involved in similar ministries in their parishes. As noted below, there needs to be consistency in such matters.

These stories bring about the need for several observations. The first observation is that the Church and Her magisterium exist for the salvation of souls. There is a task given to the hierarchy in which they are to proclaim the Truth revealed by God, particularly with regard to sins and that which impedes the salvation of the soul. The Teaching and proclamation, especially during the Easter Season, is that heaven is real and open to those who live a life of Grace. Christ died for our sins and that death is ordered to Resurrection. So too for us, we must order our lives for resurrection, which is why it is an essential statement in our Creed. The same Creed also makes clear that Christ will judge the living and the dead. This means that the resurrection hoped for does come with some conditions attached. Among those conditions is doing the Good and avoiding evil.

The second observation has to do with the notion of repentance. Those in the Church who are sinners, basically everyone, are called to repent, to turn away from their sins. This call was the message of Jesus throughout His time on earth. "Reform, repent, and change your life. The Kingdom of God is at hand." Yes, there are sinners sitting in the pews every weekend and even sinners sitting in the sanctuary. No one will ever tell a sinner to not come to church. But the presumption is that each sinner is aware of his or her sin and is working to overcome it. Every sinner must measure his or her life against the Gospel and not against worldly desires. A sin cannot be absolved in confession if the person shows no contrition or desire to repent. It does not mean a person will never sin again but just that he or she, at the point of confessing the sin, recognizes the sin for what it is and is making a firm purpose of amendment. Hopefully by his or her repentance in that moment he or she will not commit the sin again. This aspect of the sacrament is a forgotten fact by so many today.

The third observation is the lack of consistency by many today. For the record, the Church is not on some crusade to condemn any particular group of sinners. Her mission remains the same to them all. "Repent and reform your lives." No bishop or priest should preach any other message or ever give the impression that it is OK to continue sinning. Those who enter the Church today must do so with contrition in their hearts for the sins that offend God. God did not establish a Church of subjectivism and relativism. We do not get to pick and choose which sins we will repent of and which ones we can continue to do. Avoiding all acts of grave matter must be part of every catholic individual's repentance. The acts of grave matter are found in the objective order and it is from this treasury that the Teaching Authority in the Church draws Her specific Teachings. This is where the consistency is needed -- we must consider all sins with the same characteristic and need of repentance.

The fourth observation has to do with public and obstinate sins as opposed to the private sins that are best dealt with in confession or with a spiritual director. Those whose sin is known by all in the community should not minister publicly in the church until it is clear that a true repentance has occurred. Yes, there are individuals who minister in parishes on a regular basis and are not in a state of grace. But in many of those cases the sin has remained a private matter and it is presumed there is contrition in the heart. The priest in Washington DC was giving private advice to someone who approached him. He did not make a public spectacle of the sin. He merely offered salvific advice. The individual must take that under consideration as he or she works out his or her spiritual game plan. Under the Seal, this entire process is a private and closed matter for the priest. It was the individuals who made the sin public and are obstinate in their sin. There seems to be no desire to repent and reform. In the case in New York, the sin was made public and, thus taken as obstinate, through the celebration of public nuptials.

The fifth observation follows from the two previous ones. There has been an inconsistency by the hierarchy when it comes to dealing with Catholics whose sin is public and obstinate. Take for instance, all the Catholic politicians whose policies or life situations express grave public and obstinate attachment to sin. How many of them are divorced and remarried outside the Church? How many are living with someone to whom they are not married? How many of them openly support a redefinition of Marriage? How many of them have voted favorably for abortion on demand laws? The list goes on and yet there has not been any voice of authority who has made a public statement about their ability to participate in any public way in the Church or participate in the sacraments.

There must be greater consistency here. No one can ever be told not to attend Mass. No one can ever be told not to enter a church and say prayers. But it must be said that there are those who should not make a pubic spectacle of the Holy Eucharist, especially with regard to manifest sin. Unless an official decree of excommunication is made, which does not apply to many of these cases, one must ask where is the statement that says these individuals should be actively self-abstaining from reception of Holy Communion until they publicly repent of the sin made public by themselves? To say one is personally opposed but not take the opportunity to change the laws when in a position to do so does not change the sin committed through formal and material cooperation in grave sins such as abortion.

The sixth observation is that as Church, we must always be able to proclaim the salvation of souls. This proclamation is ordered to the Truth and is never relative to individual whim. This is why free speech in our country was assured by the founders. This is why freedom of religion was assured as well. And this is why the attack on religious liberty has become so important. How long will it be before the state begins to tell the Church what She can preach or not preach? For the record, the Church is not against homosexual persons but proclaims the truth about homosexual acts. If a priest publicly speaks against the Teaching or betrays the Seal of Confession, then he should be taken to task for not being faithful to his vocation and the Church he claims to love. But if he is operating within the Church and stays within the bounds of Church Teaching, then does the state have the authority to silence him? And where are the articles that laud him for remaining faithful to the person he professes to be?

The last observation is that catechetical illiteracy continues to plague the members of our Faith and has made the task of proclaiming the Truth much harder. So many Catholics do not know the origin of our Teachings and will attach to the voices they hear. Thus far, the only voices speaking have been the secular voices of the media. Because of the rupture from the foundation of the Truth in the minds of many of our own, it seems that we will be facing a much smaller congregation in the future. Until bishops, priests, religious, catechists, teachers, and others responsible for handing on the Faith begin to consistently impart the rich Teaching and Tradition of our Faith, the salvation of souls will remain endangered for many in the world today.

OK, I Get It

And It Is Still Not Right

I get it. Gay Marriage is a foregone conclusion and is legal in the state of New York. Beyond a shadow of doubt, the national laws of our country will eventually recognize these unions as well. I get it.

However, the civil laws are just that, civil. They are laws devised by human beings that only have one real goal in mind -- to "balance" the scales. At the heart of modern day justice, the apparent goal has become a process in trying to make all things equal, to try to find a balance between the concerned parties. Unlike years gone by when there was a True Wisdom that undergird justice, today there is no consideration of anything that seemingly disturbs the balance. There is no talk of the Nature of things and promoting justice as our rendering to God and neighbor based on the nature of each. And so in our mistaken approach to justice, we now have laws that give recognition to moral evils such as abortion, divorce and remarriage, mandated contraception, and gay marriage.

But a legal position devised by civil authorities does not make it right. Of course, in the minds of many, especially the secularists, the civil law is all that matters. If consensus can be reached, then the scale is balanced. In their minds, there is no such thing as the Natural Law. There is no such thing as the Divine Law. There is no such thing as moral absolutes. Only a teetering scale. The irony is that all the weight in our public moral debates has been placed on one side of the scale and, although it has tipped, it is like The Emperor's New Clothes. Those who want to court the favor of the powerful merely join along and say that there is nothing wrong -- the scale looks fine.

We must keep in mind that the Church remains the haven and guardian of the Truth. In fact, Truth is not part of a balancing act. Truth is not found as the midpoint of differing opinions. Truth is not had by agreeing to disagree. Truth does not come about through a call to tolerance. The Truth IS. And if something IS, then we must conform to it. Truth rises above the dialogue.

When it comes to realities like Marriage, Life, Human Sexuality, etc., we are responsible to the Truth. The reason for religious freedom is because the Truth IS. While Man labors under the weight of His rebel passion and errant desire, the Truth is what sets Him free. The yoke of Sin is a great yoke indeed. Normalizing that yoke does not remove it and only succeeds at increasing its weight around our necks. Always remember that the Church is where Man encounters the Truth with freedom coming through discipline and conformity of the self to the Truth encountered. In the Truth taught by Church is where the yoke is lifted.

For too long the dictator of the world has been trying to get the Church to conform to itself, by eliminating all talk of eternal realities. No heaven! No hell! Just now! Most people are deluded into believing that the Church is a mere human institution that is only responsible to Herself. Because of the Truth and Her responsibility to Almighty God, the Church can never be conformed to the world and worldly ways. It would be better to have a millstone about Her neck and cast into the sea than to deceive anyone by distorting the Truth to the views of the world. Jesus died and rose so that we can cast off the yoke of Sin. But that means we must yoke ourselves to Him, to the Truth.

So, I get it. The laws of the world are changing rapidly. The scales are completely tipped to the secular. Justice is no longer about rendering to God and Man based on what is due according to Their natures. While I get the point, I also realize that a warped view of justice exists. So just because the laws are changing does not mean they are changing for the better. Just because the laws are changing does not mean God is offended any less. To continue to believe the scales are balanced is to believe the emperor really has new clothes. The Church, for Her part, would say it is better to be like the little child and blurt out that the emperor is not wearing anything at all.