Sunday, March 28, 2010

Calling a Spade a Spade

There is a serious schism growing in our Church. It is like a malignant cancer that has been steadily growing for decades now, and anyone who denies it must have had their eyes closed for the duration. Although many might be hesitant to use words like schism and cancer because of the divisive sentiment they carry, I am not. I'm going to call a spade a spade.

The division has been building steam for the latter part of the 20th Century. It is taking place in the pews of our own parishes, in our homes, and in our schools. It is a wedge being driven to the very center of God's design, human life and powerful cooperative role we have been given in the creation of it. It's being driven between those who faithfully adhere to God's plan for our procreation, life, and death that he laid out for us in the very creation of our bodies, and those who have fallen victim to the lies about human sexuality and contraception that our progressive culture sells us at every turn.

Pope Paul VI prophesied in his encyclical, Humane Vitae, that four devastating effects would come about as a result of the spread of contraception: (1) complacency about, and even rewarding of, irresponsible and sinful sexual behavior; (2) a loss of respect for the beauty and genius of God's design of the woman; (3) an abuse of power by government officials who, under the guise of "family planning" or "population control" resort to ever more extreme and amoral methods of stifling and snuffing out the dignity of human life, from conception until natural death; and (4) man's assertion of his own, newfound control over life and death leading to misuse of the human body as an object or commodity rather than a creation of God and temple of the Holy Spirit.

How much do we see the damaging, cancerous pervasiveness of this heresy in our culture today? It reached its previous milestone in the 1973 Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade, and now has reached a new one in the passage of legislation that does not prohibit the use of taxpayer money to fund the murderous holocaust of abortion that has cost over 50 million pre-born children their lives in their most vulnerable--and what should be their most protected--stage of life.

Yes, the President did sign an executive order purported to expand the restrictions of the Medicare Hyde Amendment to the new health care legislation, but its effectiveness is dubious for two reasons: (1) An executive order can be rescinded or changed at any time, as quickly as it is written; and (2) It sets the dangerous precedent that the President, with a stroke of his pen, can override or amend legislation. The latter is one giant step on the road that can only end in a de facto dictatorship.

Getting back to the point, the bottom line is that a significant number in our Church are being led astray into this "culture of death" as John Paul II put it. Whether by the failure of clergy and teachers to educate the faithful, or worse, by the obstinate--and often arrogant--failure of individual Catholics to inform their own consciences in accordance with the ancient teachings of mother Church, a condition has erupted that cannot be described by any other name than a heresy. Again, I'm just calling it like I see it. As renowned Catholic author and professor Peter Kreeft described in his Handbook of Catholic Apologetics, "The Spanish Inquisition wrongly destroyed heretics in order rightly to destroy heresies; modern "liberals" wrongly love heresies in order to rightly love heretics" (p. 28).

It is time that we as Catholics get to the business at hand of remaking our culture, and that starts with acknowledging where we have failed to address this issue--this heresy--in the past and dealing with it now, post haste. Several bishops have spoken out on this issue, most notably and vocally Archbishop Chaput of Denver. While we certainly look to them for leadership and inspiration, we ought not wait for them to act in our own individual lives and circumstances. We must encourage, teach, and admonish each other, within our own homes, schools, and churches, as Christ commanded us:

If another member of the church sins against you, go out and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven (Matthew 18:15-18).

There's a reason that one of the spiritual works of mercy is to "admonish the sinner." To correct someone who has strayed across the double yellow line into the lane of traffic opposed to God and to the holy mission of his Church is arguably the most important aspect of our mission of evangelization, and--not surprisingly--also one of the most difficult. None of us wants to hear that our actions or opinions are opposed to the work of the Church, especially if we don't feel that our stance is wrong. As children of Adam and Eve, we are predisposed to fall into the same lie that the serpent duped them with in the garden, that God, in setting boundaries for us, is really just a tyrant who is holding out. We think we should be able take the rules that we like, and throw out or ignore the ones that don't match our selfish desires. The bottom line is that we want to define the rules of our own reality, including the decisions about who lives and who dies, and once anyone buys into the lie that they have that power it is hard to give it up. The only way to counter this heresy of heresies is to lovingly encourage and remind each other that our ultimate duty is to submit to the saving power of Christ and the authority that he has delegated in the temporal realm to his Church militant here on earth. Obedience is God's demand, but it is also our joy and claim to the inheritance that he promised if we should only follow the example of radical obedience of his Son. It is our duty always to remind each other of this objective truth, especially when it comes to matters of life and death that are the central debates in our societies today.

On the same token, so need to encourage our bishops and priests to have the courage to preach about it in their homilies, regardless of how divisive a topic it might be. In the end, the divisiveness is like the necessary blade of a surgeon. Better to perform the surgery now, while there is time for repentance and a change of heart, and ultimately healing, than to abandon those whose hearts have not been hardened against the truth to continue to stumble toward the Day of Judgment. Anyone who is authentic in their faith will hunger for and only satisfied by the truth, regardless of the difficult demands it places upon us. Those who do not and have closed their ears and hardened their hearts against it, if they refuse to submit even to the authority of the Church, must be turned away as Christ demanded.  They must be treated "as a Gentile and a tax collector" in hopes that such tough love will drive them to seek repentance and reunification with the Church.

There is no time to waste. While we fail to act, lives--and more importantly souls--are being lost.

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