By Fr. George Welzbacher
May 4, 2008
Thoughts on Pope Benedict's "Journey of Hope"
Many years ago, if memory holds true, there was a television game show in which contestants were asked to identify which of the two or more candidates claiming, each of them, to be a certain particular person was "the real McCoy". At the end of the contest, after each candidate had made his pitch, the program's impresario announced in stentorian terms: "Now will the real ["Mr. Smith", or whoever] stand up?" I was reminded of this during Pope Benedict's recent visit to the United States. While watching his appearances and listening to his words, and comparing what he was saying with what the exponents of a revisionist, "progressive" Catholicism have been saying for lo! these many years, I kept hearing a voice in the background saying "Now will the real Catholic Church stand up!", as Pope Benedict's face, humbly and serenely smiling, filled the screen.
Pope Benedict's basic message, a message of "the real Catholic Church," is a message of hope, a hope based on Christ's promise that 'The truth will make you free" (John 8:32), the truth, that is to say, taught by Christ and transmitted by His Church under the everlasting guidance of the Holy Spirit, an eternal and unchanging truth that reflects the unchanging nature of God and the unchanging nature of man. This is the truth that "progressive" Catholics have sought to "revise," particularly as it governs sexual behavior. When Humanae Vitae (the encyclical letter Pope Paul the Sixth signed on July 25, 1968 ) reasserted the age-old teaching of the Catholic Church that the use of the sexual power is restricted to the union of husband and wife in the life- long commitment of marriage and that the procreative potential of the sexual power can never be actively obstructed, a gang of rebel priests publicly rejected this papal teaching, led by such intellectual mediocrities (though widely applauded demagogues) as Father Charles Curran, a professor of moral theology at Catholic University whose shabby thinking , a perfect match for his sloppy prose, is on display forever in his book entitled Absolutes in Moral Theology? Joining Father Curran Father Richard McBrien, whose two-volume work entitled Catholicism was quite properly censured by America's Catholic bishops for its multitude of errors. The errors referenced by America's bishops for correction have survived, uncorrected, in the work's subsequent editions.
Such priests as could claim for their false teaching the prestige of an academic chair were soon seconded by a bold chorus of parish and religious order priests, who moved perhaps by a desire to be compassionate, though in this case such compassion would be a compassion falsely defined, swiftly set up a counter- magisterium to their own liking -one is reminded of Aaron's revolt against Moses-according to which the practice of contraception was enthusiastically praised as the "responsible" choice. Once this initial repudiation of a single teaching of Christ's Church had gained widespread acceptance, abetted by legions of priests who with a spectacular lack of courage in defending the truth began to counsel their parishioners privately to judge the matter for themselves, rather than to rely on the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking within Christ's Church, very predictably the rest of the precepts governing sexual morality were successively allowed to fall one-by-one into oblivion. Soon what used to be called (and is still rightly considered to be) "living in sin", that is to say cohabitation without life-long commitment, came to be regarded by many as an acceptable practice. And once the separation of the sexual power from its procreative purpose was taken for granted, approval of sterilization and homosexual lifestyles soon inevitably followed. Finally-again in the name of compassion-approval of abortion began, timidly at first and then with gathering speed, to find support among Catholics, Catholics, that is to say, who are disposed still to identify themselves as Catholic but for whom the voice of St. Peter's successors, charged with obeying Christ's mandate to "establish the brethren", has come to count for very little. The coup de grace for a united Catholic front against abortion came with the assurances given to Catholic politicians by Jesuit Father Robert Drinan, for ten years, though without the required ecclesiastical permission, a representative in Congress from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, who taught that one may cast a vote to promote abortion with a clear conscience, as long as one is "personally opposed" to abortion; one cannot you see, impose his own religious scruples on the public domain. In the interests of accepting so sophistical an excuse for mass murder a blind eye has to be turned to the basic truth that a directly intended attack on innocent human life violates the natural law, the law that governs all of mankind, whatever one's religious convictions, the law that is "written on the hearts of men" (Romans 2:15), the law that expresses itself in the spontaneous judgment that certain acts are so disordered as to be always and everywhere evil. Therefore to act in response to that spontaneous, moral judgment is not to impose the peculiar precepts of a particular religion or a culture; particular culture; it is to bow to the dictates of a universal law rooted in the very nature of man. Whether one is Roman Catholic or Buddhist or a card-carrying atheist, the directly willed murder of the innocent is something human beings instinctively recoil from, since it fundamentally violates the dignity of man and, by depriving him of life, deprives him of all other rights.
In his First Letter to Timothy St. Paul refers to a certain Hymenacus and Alexander. two Christians about whom we otherwise know nothing, who "by rejecting conscience ... have made shipwreck of their faith." (1 Timothy 1:19). In that same first chapter of 1 Timothy St. Paul gives examples of the kinds of sinners whose sins will cause them to suffer shipwreck in the faith: "manslayers, immoral persons, sodomites, kidnappers, liars, perjurers, and whatsoever else is contrary to sound doctrine." (1 Timothy 1:10). In effect St. Paul is telling us that if we fail to shape our behavior in accord with our faith, we will very soon shape our faith to accord with our behavior. That formula fits the so-called "progressive" Catholic quite well. As St. John tells us in his Second Letter: "Anyone who goes ahead and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God; he who abides in the doctrine has both the Father and the Son" (2 John :9). There is a kind of "progress" that means turning our backs on God.
Pope Benedict has come to our shores to rescue those who have suffered shipwreck in the faith, or at least to rescue those who are willing to accept the terms that will permit such rescue. Such terms of rescue call fundamentally for a return to the "sound doctrines of which St. Paul speaks, the doctrine protected and proclaimed in Christ's Church ("the pillar and bulwark of the truth"-1 Timothy 3:15) by the Holy Spirit against the devil's ceaseless attempts to subvert that doctrine. As Pope Benedict announced, "A people of hope is a people willing to make a change," a people willing to make whatever changes in their lives may be needed to bring them into harmony with Christ's truth. Whatever may have been the previous course of their lives, if they are willing now, under the grace of God, to change course and and to take Christ's teachings as the only true compass, they can find their way home to safe haven through "all of life's tempestuous seas." That is his message to us.
Pope Benedict invites each one of us to examine his conscience and to make whatever changes in our lives need to be made. Let us pray that we will do so, and let us pray for those in whose confused and sin-darkened minds the voice of Peter, speaking through Benedict, has perhaps stirred some awareness that through an obedient return to sound doctrine a new way of life can open up, a new way of life that offers hope.
* * * * *
Condemnation of contraception has also been voiced by some extraordinary celebrities who have little or no connection with the Catholic Church. Here is a sampling.
* * * * *Opposing Contraception Is Not Just Catholic
By Fr. Matthew Habiger
Printed in The Catholic Times the official paper of the Diocese
of LaCrosse, Wisconsin, April 17, 2008.
Contraception is not just a Catholic issue. Any thinking person would have problems with it for what it does to the individual, to the couple, to their relationship, to marriage and the family and, in a broader sense, to what it does to society.
Consider tltefollowing statements:
"Contraception is the one sin for which the penalty is national death, race death: a sin for which there is no atonement."-Theodore Roosevelt [President Roosevelt's warning was prophetic for Europe's situation today].
The abandonment of the reproductive function is the common feature of all sexual perversions. We actually describe a sexual activity as perverse if it has given up the aim of reproduction and pursues the attainment of pleasure as an aim independent of it. "-Sigmund Freud in "Introductory Lectures in Psychoanalysis".
"Contraceptive methods are like putting a premium on vice. They make men and women reckless. Nature is relentless and will have full revenge for any such violation of her laws.... If contraceptive methods become the order of the day, nothing but moral degradation can be the result. As it is, man has sufficiently degraded woman for his lust, and contraception, no matter how well meaning the advocates may be, will still further degrade her." -Mahatma Gandhi
"By accepting contraception, the world is trying to form a civilized but non-Christian mentality. The experiment will fail, but we must be very patient in waiting its collapse, meanwhile redeeming the time so that the Faith may be preserved alive through the dark ages before us, to renew and rebuild civilization and save the world from suicide."-T.S. Eliot in "Thoughts after Lambeth" (1931). [The Lambeth Conference of 1931 put the Church of England on record as approving contraception].
"I know that couples have to plan their family and for that there is natural family planning. The way to plan the family is natural family planning, not contraception. In destroying the power of giving life, through contraception, a husband or wife is doing something to self. This turns the attention to self and so it destroys the gift of love in him or her. In loving, the husband and wife must turn the attention to each other as happens in natural family planning, and not to self, as happens in contraception. Once that living love is destroyed by contraception, abortion follows very easily."-- Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta at the National Prayer Breakfast, Feb. 3, 1994.