Wednesday 13 November 2013

That Survey, Pastoral Sensitivity & Fear of Hell

Andrew’s last posting on the Mass, which was taken from our forthcoming Christmas Bulletin, received a comment basically saying we were trying to get youngsters to Mass by using the fear of hell. Well, no. We were hoping to inspire pre-teen children to value Holy Mass by expounding its wonders. That said...

When I was a child our home was heated by coal fires. I was warned about the dangers of fire by my parents and given a smack on the bum if I did not heed the warnings. This was not mum and dad being cruel; rather, it was mum and dad being very caring and very loving: they sought to prevent me being burned. In the Church of today many clergy -Bishops included- fail to be caring and loving because they are afraid to warn people about the danger of hell fire.

Instead, many seek out ways of accommodating or excusing those who contracept; who cohabit, who have contracted civil marriages or are in same-sex pairings etc. Dressed up as pastoral sensitivity, this accommodation is to fail in charity, and to fail badly, since if we truly care for our neighbour we should want to warn them that their actions are harmful to their relationship with Jesus Christ. Clergy in particular should note and perhaps tremble when we read the scripture, If I say to a wicked man, ‘You are to die’, and you do not speak to him and warn him to renounce his evil ways and live, then he shall die for his sin, but I will hold you responsible for his death” (Ez. 3:18). “Teach them to observe all the commands I gave you” is a duty placed upon us all. Yes the world has moved on and found ways of justifying its ‘new morality’ which is antithetical to the Judeo-Christian Revelation, but the Church must be faithful to her perennial doctrine, for “Jesus Christ is the same today as He was yesterday, and will be forever. Do not let yourselves be led astray by all kinds of strange doctrine(Hebrews 13v8,9).

That so many reject the Church’s teaching on marriage and family life makes the survey we have been asked to complete on Pastoral Challenges and the Family very dangerous; such a survey gives the impression that we can change teaching to fit with today’s society, and may lead to the hostility of those who use it to solicit such change when they realise they cannot get it. It also gives the impression that Church teaching relies upon acceptance by the majority of those surveyed to be deemed authentic teaching, since too many restrict the sensus fidelium to reception by Catholics living now and fail to see it is the belief of the whole Church, including Catholics of the last 2000 years who would not hold to today’s social constructions and modern innovations in morality and pastoral care.

Genuine Pastoral Care has for a long time been inhibited by pastoral sentimentality; by not saying anything that might offend or hurt. Those who practice it forget that God loves us too much to let us get burned by the fire of hell without warning us of the danger. Good (genuine) Pastoral Care is about listening to where a person is in life; it is about understanding their pain while helping them to see the error and danger of their ways; the beauty of the truth, and giving them the support they need to live the truth. Anything other than that is just not Christian.

Yes hell is a fearful thing, and I wish we were able to inspire people to live the Gospel from love of the all-loving God, but we are damaged by original sin and prone to concupiscence, which means encouraging souls to fear hell must remain part of our teaching. I can tell you, I would rather have my family, friends and parishioners saved from hell by the fear of hell, than see them go to hell because they were consoled by the Church in following the ‘life-style choices’ the secular, so-called inclusive world promotes (though it excludes that life-style choice of being pro-life, pro-family and Catholic...)

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