Friday, 29 August 2014
Voices In The Wilderness of Dissent & Disorder
I was in a conversation with a couple recently and we observed what a different crowd we in the West are to those Christians in Iraq, Nigeria, et al, who are willing to imitate St John the Baptist literally and lose their head rather than The Faith. If The Faith is saved in the West, it may well be by the graces won by these modern-day martyrs. How much we owe them.
Indeed it is very discouraging to hear some of the rubbish spoken in the West today, and so hard to get the Truths of the faith heard today. I have become aware that speaking to lapsed Catholics can be particularly difficult. Many in second, cohabiting or homosexual relationships have developed such an antagonism to the Church because of her moral beliefs that they are, in my experience, not simply lapsed from the Church but hostile towards her. Even some among our Mass attendees show obstinate rejection of the Church’s moral teachings when family members are in relationships the Church cannot countenance or are married to non-Catholics whose communities the Church considers lacking (those she refers to as ecclesial communities rather than Churches). Some of the clergy appear to have similar ideas, justifying sinful situations for ‘pastoral reasons’. I was told by one fellow cleric that it is probably fine for folk to receive Holy Communion after missing a Holy Day or Sunday Mass because “it harms no one and after all, it’s actually hard to commit a mortal sin”, and by another that he believed those in long-term cohabitation should be able to receive Holy Communion too. These are dangerous ideas, likely to lead to sacrilegious communions. Truly, would today’s Church be recognised by the Church of the Apostolic Fathers; the Medieval Fathers or the Church of the 1950’s?
Recently I was challenged by a layman for saying that since we have fullness of truth and the full means of sanctification we should want everyone to become Catholic. The rejoinder was “You know Father, we’re all the same now; we all worship the same God. You need to read Vatican II”. Then there was a young lady who told me that “same-sex [pairings] are legal now, so they’re OK. Cardinal Nichols said civil unions can be good and even the Pope said ‘who am I to judge?’ So it’s you who has to change your ideas Father”. Add to this Bishops who say there are ‘unconventional couples’ that we should welcome and it is clear that even the great and the good are hoodwinked by the ‘non-judgmental’ rallying cry of the world -or simply seeking acceptance from the world rather than Christ by following the world’s ‘morals’ rather than His. Leadership is woefully lacking for souls these days, unless it is leadership into doctrinal error and sacrilegious communions, but not entirely absent. Almost all clergy however, seem afraid to challenge today’s ‘morality’ and say “we judge that to be wrong and dangerous to souls and to human society”. It is, after all, possible to correct sin with gentleness and compassion while exhorting the sinner to respond God who loves us. We simply must move beyond the optimism of the 1960’s which sought only to “exhort souls to the good and the true without resorting to the condemnation of error”. That is no longer is not helpful today –if it ever was. Proclamation of the Truth without correction of errors like telling a patient what will contribute to her health without also reminding her to cease what is damaging her health.
We need to be clear here: on-judgmentalism is not a Christian attitude. Our Lord told us “When you judge, judge with right judgement” (Jn.7:24). Thus St James tells us to call the sinner back (Jas.5:19); while St Paul reminds us to rebuke the sinner (Gal.6:1; 1.Thess.5:14; 1.Tim.5:20; Titus 1:13). Our Lord’s injunction “Do not Judge that you shall not be judged” (Matt.7:1) is but a warning not to judge the state of a soul; it does not allow us to refrain from judging the acts in which that soul engages. To do so would be to turn away from the work of mercy by which we admonish the sinner.
As a parishioner who understands the difficulty recently noted, “we desperately need a syllabus of errors as proposed by Bishop Schneider. A brief synopsis of right and wrong which we could get with our Bulletin one weekend would go a long way in setting the record straight. Until then our faithful priests and laity will remain labelled hard-hearted, insensitive or bigots for upholding the Faith”. Her point is sound: until there is a reaffirmation of moral and doctrinal beliefs, priests and laity who hold to the Church’s teaching will be voices crying in the wilderness –a very isolating place to be. It is a place of additional struggle for us when we have the important war against our faults and failings to overcome that we may gain holiness of heart. Which of us is without such failings? I certainly know myself to be a soul much in need of the healing that comes with the Divine Mercy. Indeed, I strive daily to be more prayerful, industrious and self-effacing; to be less lazy, impatient, selfish etc. Can any of us claim to be without such faults or to have gained the holiness of heart necessary to enter the Lord’s abode?
At the end of the day one is left asking what is to be done when some Cardinals, Bishops and Priests give the impression that the Church’s teaching is changeable or relative to the person’s intention; that mortal sin is ‘hard to commit’, and a Pope allows himself to be quoted as saying “Who am I to judge?” (granted this was statement was somewhat 'explained' by Fr Lombardi). Still, when you consider the state of the Church today in the sheer numbers of lapsed youth and elders; the commonplace disregard for the faith among clergy, in Catholic periodicals and everyday 'Catholics', can we not help but recall those disturbing words of the Lord: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find any Faith on earth?” (Lk.18:8).