The Internet is full of people gloating over what they see as the defeat of the Catholic Church. Ireland, being long seen as a bastion of Catholicism, has voted for “same sex marriage” (62% voting yes) and the critics of the Church think this is a win-win situation. In their mind, either the Church changes her teaching and becomes what they want her to be or she refuses and goes extinct. In other words, they get what they want either way. At the same time, there are a lot of Catholics are looking for someone to blame. There are accusations being leveled that if the Church had done things differently, this would not have happened. In other words, both sides seem to look at this as a permanent loss for the Church.
There is no doubt that the implications of this vote are serious. Catholics have become so uninformed about that their faith that they think they can reject Church teaching as if it was an opinion, or even that it is compatible with the “greater truths” of the faith—as if Catholicism could be compartmentalized or one part set against another. But despite this apostasy in Ireland, this is not the “end of the Church.” Not universally, and not in Ireland (which Catholic bloggers love to ask as headlines).
I’ve been reading a book, What Went Wrong With Vatican II by Ralph McInerny that leaves me with a strange sense of déjà vu. The main premise is the rejection of authority in the 1960s did not come about because of Vatican II, but because of Humanae Vitae. A good portion of this book deals with the fact that the Pope made a binding teaching of the ordinary magisterium which people did not like, and to justify their dislike, they invented a theology which never had been taught before which claimed the right to judge the teachings of the Church and reject those which they did not wish to follow.
The déjà vu portion comes when I see what liberal dissenters did in 1968 in rejecting magisterial authority—and see just how similar their arguments are to the arguments used by radical traditionalists today in rejecting the magisterial authority of the Church when it makes decisions they dislike.
Very few people set out with the intention of “Hey! I’m going to be an evil #######!” But many people who start out with the intention of being good do wind up with the end result of having done evil.
Consider that statement. I bet a lot of us immediately thought of other people as falling under this category. I also bet that very few thought of ourselves. That means we’re either a bunch of saints (in which case, consider 1 Corinthians 10:12), or we’re blind to our failings. Personally I think the second option best describes our lives.
The fact is, the devil is out to ruin every one of us individually, and every one of us has our own strengths and weaknesses. The intention of the devil is to play on our weaknesses—our passions, our opinions, and so on. Unfortunately, we tend to be blind to this. We expect the devil to come with a direct attack against what we find important. A lot of our apocalyptic religious fiction tends to work that way. If you look at the Left Behind series or the Michael O’Brien novel Father Elijah, we see an antichrist who is a political liberal. He gives people what they want in terms of libertine debauchery and undermines the Church by turning people away from it. And this is happening today. We see this, and we make our decision to be faithful—praying to God that we be given the grace to stand in the face of persecution or seduction.
But what we don’t consider is that the devil wants our damnation as well. It doesn’t please him to destroy our body if our soul is brought to God. Some have apostatized in the past in the face of persecution, but others have stood firm with the grace of God supporting them. Some have been seduced into accepting libertine behavior, but others have not—through the grace of God. Are we to think that the devil will only succeed in trapping the political left and the weak minded, and as long as we’re politically “conservative” we’ll be safe?
This increased hostility is simply because the Church will not go along with calling evil “good.” The world wants approval for its sins. But the Church will not give this approval. The Church speaks out against many things that the world wants to do. Not because she is reactionary, or ornery. She speaks out because she is tasked with going out to the world in order to spread the Word of Salvation and to speak out against the behaviors which separate humanity from God.
The world does not mind a belief in God. What it does is resent a belief in God which requires change in behavior. People who want to think of themselves as “good,” resent being told that they do evil—especially when the evil condemned is something they do not want to give up. People have no problems speaking against evil which offends them, but tell them that the behavior they like is wrong and people become hostile.
The message of the Church is simple:
- God Exists and loves us.
- But, we are alienated from Him.
- He sent His Son to free us from our sins and restore our relationship with Him—which is impossible to do apart from Him
- We must respond by ceasing to live in a way which separates us from Him
The situation of the religious freedom in America is certainly as bleak as it has ever been in our history. The three branches of government take it as a given that they have the authority to rule on matters that involve religious obligation and to dictate to believers which of their beliefs are valid and which are not. The general trend here is to force religion out of the public square under the assumption that anything with a religious motivation cannot be used to set policy. (That’s the Genetic fallacy by the way). Between the government and the influential shapers of public opinion, people are being led to the view that unpopular religious teaching is based on intolerance (poisoning the well fallacy) and any religious opposition to an issue is portrayed as the equivalent of the racist opposition to civil rights in the 1960s (false analogy fallacy).
The result is, we are now in a situation where religion can be restricted outside of the most narrow redefinitions. The rights of people who profess belief in the Christian moral teachings and the institutions or businesses they establish is denied on the grounds that their belief is merely a repugnant intolerance (Begging the Question fallacy). We could soon see an even more overt attack where Christian individuals and institutions affiliated with churches have no right to refuse to do something their religious beliefs condemn, and thus suffer lawsuits, fines and prosecutions. It’s the kind of behavior we hitherto associated with Communist governments and long said “It can’t happen here—our Constitution prevents it.”
Very few people become heretics or schismatics by thinking, “I know I am in error, but I don’t care.” They are convinced that their views are correct, but they have encountered opposition from the teaching authority of the Church which tells them that their belief or behavior is not in keeping with the Catholic faith. When a person runs into this situation, they have two choices:
- Accept the authority of the Church and reject the behavior/belief which goes against it.
- Reject the authority of the Church and accept the behavior/belief which goes against it.
If the person chooses the first possibility, they remain with their relationship with God and the Church intact. But if the person chooses the second possibility, their relationship with God and the Church is damaged.
Many times a person who goes ahead with this damaged relationship does not want to admit that their choice is the cause of it. So they claim that the fault of the break is somewhere else, and their position is on the right side of the break. Someone else must be found then to be in the wrong. Of course, most people don’t want to say that God is to blame for this break (those that do seem to be suffering from some great hurt and despair). So they try to redefine things so God is portrayed as being on their side. Therefore if the Church goes against what they want, then they conclude that the Church teaching must be against God—otherwise the Church would be siding with them.
Jesus has some interesting things to say about His relationship with the world and what it means to follow Him… [Clipped from Sample for space requirements]
These passages are interesting because they testify to the fact that Jesus came to save people from their sins, calling them to turn away from the evil they did. Jesus, out of love for us died so that we might be saved. But the fact that Jesus came to save us from our sins demonstrates that we have sins we need to be saved from, and love of Him requires us to act in a way that is in keeping with how God has called us to live. The Greek word μετανοια (metanoia) means having a change of mind and heart, and metanoia is what Jesus is calling every one of us to have—to turn away from sin and to turn back to God. He also chose His Church built on Peter and the Apostles to go forth with the mission of preaching the Gospel and forgiving sins, saying that rejection of the Church was rejection of Him (Luke 10:16).
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Modern Christianity seems to have many problems that boil down to one fact—that we have convinced ourselves we don’t personally need to change. Others may need to change—if their behaviors go against what we dislike—but not us and not those who think like we do. All we have to do is convince ourselves that we’re not as bad as those people who we deem worse than us and convince ourselves that because God loves us He won’t send us to Hell, and we can just rest comfortably with no need to change ourselves. Anybody who says we must change, or that there are things that are always wrong, are obviously judgmental bigots who can be safely ignored. Any Scriptures that tell us that God condemns the things we do as evil are labeled the products of an “unenlightened time” and can also be safely ignored.
The problem with this view is it has nothing to do with what God the Father has taught, and nothing to do what His Son has taught. What has been taught is the call to repent and turn back to God. We are called to take up our cross and follow Him. We are told to obey His commandments. We are not told that we can go back to behaving like we did before we were called.
17 Son of man, I have appointed you a sentinel for the house of Israel. When you hear a word from my mouth, you shall warn them for me.
18 If I say to the wicked, You shall surely die—and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade the wicked from their evil conduct in order to save their lives—then they shall die for their sin, but I will hold you responsible for their blood. 19 If, however, you warn the wicked and they still do not turn from their wickedness and evil conduct, they shall die for their sin, but you shall save your life.
20 But if the just turn away from their right conduct and do evil when I place a stumbling block before them, then they shall die. Even if you warned them about their sin, they shall still die, and the just deeds that they performed will not be remembered on their behalf. I will, however, hold you responsible for their blood. 21 If, on the other hand, you warn the just to avoid sin, and they do not sin, they will surely live because of the warning, and you in turn shall save your own life. (Ezekiel 3:17-21)
The Catholic Church tends to be viewed by certain influential factions the West today as a group which is hostile to everything which is perceived as desirable. If you look on Facebook, or in the comboxes of news sites and blogs, the odds are that you’ll see somebody lambasting the Church as being motivated by hatred when she takes a stand on issues of morality.
Today I ran across a claim on the internet that the Church could change Church teachings on moral issues, because she had made changes in the past. When pressed on the question, one individual pointed to the Church changing the rules on eating meat on Friday and the “extermination” of those who refused to convert to Catholicism as proof of changed teachings. The person went so far as to claim Papal bulls sanctioned this extermination—though when pressed was unwilling or unable to name any.
That wasn’t unexpected of course. When one does not understand how the teaching of the Church works or does not know of the doctrines and history of the Church, it’s easy to believe all sorts of claims about the Church without actually looking for evidence for the claim. Thus, there’s a lot of cases going around where there is common knowledge—where the response is “everybody knows THAT,” but when one tries to find evidence for what “everybody knows,” it turns out that nobody actually knows of any…
I find that people tend to make one or more of four errors when it comes to the Catholic Church and what she teaches. These are…
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