Monday, 7 April 2014
Choose Life: Life Issues & Holy Communion
In debates about how far we can go in accommodating the world, I was struck by some words of Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia (see here ). The Archbishop said,
“Thinking about the relationship of Caesar and God, religious faith and secular authority, is important. It helps us sort through our different duties as Christians and citizens. But on a deeper level, Caesar is a creature of this world, and Christ's message is uncompromising: We should give Caesar nothing of ourselves. Obviously we're in the world. That means we have obligations of charity and justice to the people with whom we share it. Patriotism is a virtue. Love of country is an honourable thing..But God made us for more than the world. Our real home isn't here. The point of today's Gospel passage is not how we might calculate a fair division of goods between Caesar and God. In reality, it all belongs to God and nothing - at least nothing permanent and important - belongs to Caesar. Why? Because just as the coin bears the stamp of Caesar's image, we bear the stamp of God's image in baptism. We belong to God, and only to God.
I think we are selling out the image of God within us by accommodating the world. For example, the Lord gives no place to same-sex ‘marriages’, so we say we have no place for them either –yet go on to say “but we accept civil ‘unions’”. That is sophistry. We say we don’t accept civil ‘marriage’ after divorce, but describe some such ‘marriages’ as good ‘marriages’. That is double-speak. We say we want our children protected from impurity; that we uphold the parent’s right to form them in sexuality according to the capacity of the child, but we then go on to support mandatory education in schools on homosexuality, contraception and abortion. That is a contradiction. What are we playing at compromising the Gospel in this way? Why engage in such sophistry, double-speak and contradictory antics? I think it all arises from one of five causes (you can probably add more). Is it
One, that we (and our shepherds) are not convinced of the Church’s wisdom; that we think the world might have got it right and should be followed by the Church.
Two, that we (and our shepherds) do not believe the Church’s teaching is unchanging Truth from the unchanging God (both of the above demonstrate a loss of faith in the Church).
Three, that we (and our shepherds) have become so lost in attending to social needs that we have forgotten spiritual realities.
Four, that we (and our shepherds) have become so eager to have the Church accepted by the world that we are willing to compromise the Gospel in order to achieve that acceptance.
or Five, that we (and our shepherds) have lost our faith, period.
None of us can claim to be a fount of all wisdom, but we can all offer some solution to the contemporary problem of accommodating the Gospel to the world –indeed we may be obliged to offer one if we have made a criticism or are guilty of moaning about troubles: we cannot criticise or bemoan a problem while making no attempt to be part of a solution. My solution would be for Catholic Shepherds to make a clear statement that
The Catholic Faith applies reason to Divine Revelation so that the end goal –salvation- can be attained. This applies to issues of human life and sexuality. While we cannot and will not judge people we can and must judge, and refuse to cooperate with, acts contrary to the teaching of Christ; acts which do not protect and promote human life in all its stages and its natural transmission. These include not only oppression of the poor, the sick and the marginalised, but sex outside of marriage, contraception, homosexual acts, abortion, euthanasia, IVF, serial “marriages” and school-based sex education of our children. All of these make shipwreck of a person’s Faith and objectively militate against salvation. To identify as a Catholic in union with the Church and receive Holy Communion, one must be in a state of grace and free from the above sins.
Having made such a statement, benefits will follow: our shepherds will be obliged to act on their words in order to avoid charges of hypocrisy; governments will know they face confrontation on moral issues; priests at the coal face will know they can rely on the support of the Bishops; the people will know where we stand in claiming to follow conscience rather than the Church.
I cannot help but wonder if our shepherds are too faithless, too cowardly, too darkened by Satan, or just too dazzled by the false lights of the world (Opening Collect, Sunday 15) to live-out what we have received from previous generations. Or do we need to add pride to the list of causes of our failure; pride that the generations from the 60’s onwards are the first to have understood the Gospel and its endorsement of contraception, abortion, homosexual acts and serial marriage? I can hear a chorus of voices saying, “No we have just become more compassionate and person-centred”. Well, I wonder how compassionate it is to give potassium-rich foods to the renal patient or cigarettes to the COPD patient, I wonder how compassionate it is to support people in living by their subjective opinions rather than The Truth (Christ). Genuine compassion would not give patients harmful foods, nor does a sound shepherd favour subjective opinion over the Gospel and our Tradition, which are God’s vehicles of objective Truth.