Saturday, 6 April 2013
"Well, its not against the law Father"
“It’s not against the law” is one of the responses frequently given when challenging people to recognise that sex before marriage, contraception, abortion, self-abuse and homosexual acts, are contrary to the Gospel and endanger a person’s salvation when he or she knowingly, deliberately and freely engages in such acts. While folk readily accept that political oppression, unfair distribution of wealth, violence etc., are sins, they are not so ready to accept that the above are sins “because they’re part of a loving, committed relationship” and “not against the law”. These responses are common among not only among the younger generation (whose Catholic formation is thereby shown to be woefully -even dangerously- inadequate) but also among some older Catholics who are unable to accept that their adult children are living spiritually dangerous lives.
The underlying reality is that people have moved from allegiance to God to allegiance to the world by exchanging God’s Law for man’s law, though man’s law is simply legislating to make the deadly sin of lust acceptable. Indeed, it appears to legislates against those who hold to God’s law, for example, those who refuse to register same-sex marriages or to supervise junior midwives taking part in abortion. A major cause of this change of allegiance is adherence to the person-centred approach of “whatever is right for you”, even though this is a dressing up of the essence of original sin: “I will not serve”. Sadly, the person-centred approach has influenced many preachers too, who thereby turn the people from the worship of God to the idolisation of the self. Such preachers, whether of diaconal, presbyteral or episcopal rank may see themselves as enlightened, but in reality they are walking in the dark, hoodwinked by the father of lies, and they are leading others into the dark with them. They may well believe they are making the Church ‘welcoming’ so that a person does not feel judged in their lifestyle choice, but they are a danger to souls; unwitting wolves rather than good shepherds. God forbid that a Doctor should fail to judge smoking and alcohol abuse as dangerous so that the patient does not feel judged in their lifestyle choice...
We who preach and teach must correct the work of the deceiver; we must speak what is true and pastorally hold out hope in the mercy of God to folk when they fail, without making that failure into an acceptable option. We should, as Saint Alphonsus said, be like lions in the pulpit and lambs in the confessional. Unfortunately we have become lambs in the pulpit; the proverbial dumb sheep who does not open its mouth (Isaiah 53v7). What can we do to fight back against the deceiver?
Clear preaching and teaching is, I think, essential. It is the light of Truth that sets us free, not the subjectivism of “whatever is right for you”. Also essential is God-centred worship. Too often our liturgy also falls prey to person-centred ideologies by seeking to make it entertaining, emotionally moving or ‘relevant’. I suspect that the preachers and teachers who are person-centred in their pastoral care are also those who provide emotive, affective liturgy. After all, we pray as we believe.
I know preaching against contraception, homosexual acts etc, can be offensive to those who have chosen such lifestyles and to their families, but are we not to bring the light of Christ into the darkness of such lives? I know too that celebrating the liturgy without ‘originality’ is regarded as rule-bound and ‘dead’ by some, but I am acutely aware that the purpose of the liturgy is to adore, propitiate and thank God, not to ‘move’ the people. If we aim for the latter we place self and the people front and centre, not God.
As society continues to follow the person-centred ideology and legislate for the deadly sin of lust, only the people of God can bring the light of the Risen Lord into society and save His beloved children from the hands of the enemy. This is true whether we are preachers and teachers, or at work in factory, field, hospital or media.