I have been reflecting on our increasing loss of freedom of speech in society and contrasting this with the phenomena of widespread dissent within the Church. It seems to me they are closely linked.
It seems to me our freedom of speech as catholic Christians is being slowly but surely eroded. Dressed up as though we are being asked for nothing more than ‘politically correct’ speech, the truth is that the world detests our Catholic views and does not want them in the public square. People have the right to label our views narrow or stupid, but they are virtually labelling them ‘hate speech’ which can, theoretically, lead to us being prosecuted for abusive behaviour (remember the Anglican Bishop of Chester being questioned by Police in 2003 for saying some homosexuals can be reoriented and that he encouraged them to look at that option?
For the sake of Free Speech I allow for the secular-minded to label us ‘stupid’, but they cannot be allowed to make that so-called ‘stupidity’ criminal: stupidity is not a criminal offence. Yet we Christians do seem to be on the receiving end of active persecution which uses the law to hammer us into submission (remember the prosecution of the Peter and Hazelmary Bull who would not rent a room to a homosexual pair? Today’s ‘tolerant society’ thus shows itself to be intolerant of Christians. From where does such intolerance of Christians arise? I do not think it arose within the secular State alone; I think it also took root in the Church after Vatican II when the Council failed to ‘canonise’ its teaching with the tried and tested, “Therefore, if anyone says...let him be anathema”. I believe any unorthodox canons would have alerted the orthodox majority to ambiguities and prevented them signing the documents. As it is, the Council simply left us with pages and pages of texts that clarify little and allow for the distortion of everything.
That the Council did not canonise anything is most unfortunate since the 1960’s were a time of moral collapse (the so-called sexual revolution only destabilised family life and society). Weak –though sincere- Catholics, from Bishops through to laity, thus made the mistake of reading Vatican II’s call to discern the signs of the times as a call to disciple the times. Though sincere of soul, such Catholics morphed into dissenters. They re-labelled themselves ‘pastoral’ catholics, but the reality is that their ‘pastoral sensitivity’ was and is simply a rejection of Catholic teaching and Canon Law while advocating the acceptance of such moral aberrations as artificial contraception, abortion, homosexual activity, etc.
Is it possible to say that such ‘pastoral catholics’ have lost the Faith? Yes, it is possible, because they stand in clear contradiction to the teaching of the Church through the ages. Perhaps from a fear of appearing narrow or a desire not to offend, they have sided with “the world, the flesh and the devil” rather than with the Church, the Truth and the Lord, thereby weakening the Church and allowing her to be dismissed as a house divided. And indeed, they have divided post-Vatican II Catholics one from another, and divided today’s Catholics from those of the past. Unwittingly, they are doing the work of Satan who divides in order to conquer -something he has done ever since the fall when he divided man from God, man from man, and man within himself.
Erroneous ‘pastoral sensitivity’ is regrettable among the laity, but reprehensible when it is found among those in Holy Orders who are called to be shepherds engaged in uniting the flock, not hirelings who allow the wolves to divide and devour the flock. We must pray daily for our Priests of both Episcopal and Presbyteral ranks, that being sincere in seeking God’s glory and the good of souls, they will raise their voices against the killing of unborn babies; against artificial contraception which refuses to co-operate with God, and against homosexual sex which, like contraception, robs the procreative act of its natural, procreative end.
I suggest a renewal in that kind of pastorally sensitivity which avoids dissent: ‘doing the truth in charity’ (Eph.4v15): listening to the pain of those who feel they have to live contrary to the Church’s teaching; informing them as to why what they are doing is wrong; assuring them that God loves them; affirming that He is offering them the grace to live by Truth; praying with them for that grace and the strength to move on, and encouraging them to continue attending Mass and live out the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. Simply accepting moral aberrations so as to avoid emotional pain is not pastoral care; it simply robs those cared for of their Faith while endangering the pastor’s own soul. It is anything but pastoral. It is certainly not wise.
As I have said before, we need an urgent return to sound catechesis in schools so as to form the youth; a return to solid doctrinal formation in seminaries to form shepherds, and a return to reverent liturgy celebrated ad orientem to refocus us on God. Sadly, ‘pastoral’ catholics recoil at such suggestions. Why? What is so objectionable in clear teaching and reverent liturgy? I suspect revulsion to sound teaching arises from a desire to have difficult pastoral situations eradicated by having The Way (which is narrow –Matt.7v13-15) made wide and painless, with revulsion toward reverent liturgy arising from the desire to celebrate the inner self (our ‘giftedness’) and delight the ‘assembly’ so that they come back next week. Dissenting catholics and weak shepherds may seem ‘pastoral’ to the morally aberrant and ‘enlightened’ to the world, but to the Lord they are souls in danger: “Woe unto you when the world speaks well of you, for this is how their ancestors treated the false Prophets.” (Luke 6v26).