On Being Catholic – Your Way
The problem with the Catholic Bishops endorsing President Biden while Biden supports and endorses abortion is caused by the cafeteria Catholicism now generations old. A refusal to teach the faith to the past generations has led to a reluctance to choose the faith today, let alone follow it. The blind lead the blind in search of feelings and declare their truth as if it were the Catholic Faith.
I have often considered Pontius Pilate’s famous line in the Passion narrative: “What is truth?” (John 18:38).
Most lectors during the Solemn Liturgy of Good Friday, and those perusing Scripture at home, have taken those words to be a legitimate question, reflecting a desire for understanding. But what if it was really Pilate the Procurator blowing off Jesus the Christ, with a “who cares about truth” attitude?
This alternate scenario to truth has come to mind in the several weeks since the November election, particularly in the response of many Catholics to the U.S. Bishops’ Conference establishing a working group to study the possibility of conflicts between President Biden’s policies and Catholic teaching. I personally have no problem with Archbishop Allen Vigneron, et al., doing this; I applaud it. If you are going to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk.
The campaign ads showing Candidate Biden sitting in a church or talking about his faith encounters at the funerals of family or quoting “On Eagles’ Wings” do not a Catholic make. It is a reasonable move on the part of the U.S. Bishops, as part of their teaching authority, to let the faithful know if some political actions of a very visible person who calls himself Catholic – a role model, if you will – are moral. To be sure, some items and past actions cited in the campaign literature were not, especially in regard to abortion. In fact, on January 28, 2021, Joseph Biden signed an order to restore taxpayer funding, via the Agency for International Development, to non-governmental organizations which promote or perform abortions, which he characterized as “comprehensive reproductive health care.” The President said, “the memorandum reflects the policy of the Biden-Harris Administration to support women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights in the United States, as well as globally.” It is the duty of our bishops to alert us to such inconsistencies that involve the practice of the Faith, that shrug off truth.
Oh, what a controversy erupted about the committee and it continues to this day! There were many Letters to the Editor in Catholic newspapers, commentary on internet sites slamming the bishops for their decision. All denigrated former President Trump, one calling him anti-Christ, another said without Trump we can now go on to perform the works of mercy (I hadn’t known performance of such works had ever been forbidden to individuals, no matter who was in the White House); yet another, “remember ‘pro-life’ has never meant a concern for only one issue” (i.e. that is a reference to the seamless garment approach to life issues, already in play by the U.S. Conference of Bishops in 1974, in which abortion headed a list of human concerns only because it began with “A.” I know this because I interviewed the head of the bishops’ news department when the list was released and asked him point-blank about it.)
Ignorance “Lights” the Way Today
One letter, which appeared on Yahoo News (Nov. 28, 2020) was by an author who claimed to represent a majority of lay Catholics who support the rights of individual conscience as well as safe, legal access to abortion. Calling the head of the USCCB’s comments condescending and out of touch, the writer said,
“The Bishops would do well to remember what the polling shows: Catholics overwhelmingly disagree with denying the sacraments for political reasons, and they don’t rely on their bishops’ recommendations when voting, using birth control or making other moral decisions. Instead we listen to our consciences, just like the president-elect.”Letters to the Editor: Most Catholics don’t care what bishops say about Joe Biden (L.A. Times Nov 28, 2020)
The letter writer identified herself as the president of Catholics for Choice, so the comments hold bias in favor of her own version of truth.
Then came a column by Michael Sean Winters, (National Catholic Reporter, Feb. 8, 2021) beginning with an address of Pope Francis to a meeting of the national catechetical office of the Italian Bishops Conference in which the Holy Father said,
“Thanks to the narration of catechesis, Sacred Scripture becomes the ‘environment’ in which we feel part of the same salvation history…Catechesis is taking others by the hand and accompanying them in this history. It inspires up a journey, in which each person finds his or her own rhythm, because Christian life does not even out or standardize, but rather enhances the uniqueness of each child of God.”Opposition to Francis rooted in opposition to Vatican II, Nat. Cath. Reporter (Feb 8, 2021)
From that point, Winters comes up with an essay by Raymond Cardinal Burke on Canon 915 and denying the Eucharist to pro-choice individuals (he cited the EWTN library). Winters complained there is “no ambiguity, no sense of the mysterious workings of grace that, sometimes, take a lifetime to come to fruition.” And, “Burke is not a Protestant preaching ‘Scripture alone,’ but a Catholic preaching ‘Catechism alone’.”
The Spirit of Vatican II Haunts the Darkness
The insertion of this interlude on pro-choice politicians and Catholic teaching is pointless in the middle of an article on Francis’ view of catechesis and (surprise!) the Second Vatican Council. There must be other relevant “catechism” examples he could have used, adultery, for example. But no, here we are again, slamming a churchman’s words regarding the pro-abortion mindset. What is truth, after all?
Winters then went back to discussing Francis’ words on catechesis and Vatican II. Francis was ambiguous, as always, while Winters wrote with enough of his own opinion to prove the disruptive “spirit” of Vatican II is alive and well (I urge readers to please, please, read our book Slaying the “Spirit” of Vatican II With the Light of Truth, now available on kindle, for an account of what the Council really said!). He particularly mentioned that the reforms of the Council were built upon the ressourcement, the return to the sources of Christian doctrine.
(START READING THE KINDLE VERSION HERE>> Using this link may give a commission to the Bellarmine Forum)
To those holding to ressourcement, who revere the beginnings of the Faith, try this, from the Didache, The Teachings of the Apostles, from the first century AD:
The Lord’s Teaching to the Heathen by the Twelve Apostles:
1 There are two ways, one of life and one of death; and between the two ways there is a great difference.
2 Now, this is the way of life:…
The second commandment of the Teaching: “Do not murder; do not commit adultery”; do not corrupt boys; do not fornicate; “do not steal”; do not practice magic; do not go in for sorcery; do not murder a child by abortion or kill a newborn infant. “Do not covet your neighbor’s property; do not commit perjury; do not bear false witness”; do not slander; do not bear grudges. Do not be double-minded or double-tongued, for a double tongue is “a deadly snare.” Your words shall not be dishonest or hollow, but substantiated by action. Do not be greedy or extortionate or hypocritical or malicious or arrogant. Do not plot against your neighbor. Do not hate anybody; but reprove some, pray for others, and still others love more than your own life.Didache
Is this early enough to qualify for the beginnings of the Faith? This teaching is frequently referred to as the earliest reference to abortion (Priests for Life website). Or is it another “what is truth” moment?
What is going on here? The Catholicism of these many writers is blowing in the wind, this way and that, and never in disagreement with their own idea of conscience. Over 100 years ago, Pope St. Pius X accurately diagnosed this problem of today. While he said, “You will have just the kind of priest that you have educated,” you can substitute the word Catholic for priest, or even substitute the word Bishop if you like. It all fits. And if the Faith has not been taught, it cannot be lived. Knowing God is the linchpin of loving Him and from loving Him, serving Him by serving His creatures in their needs.
Group Discussions are the Black Hole that Killed Catechism
But first, knowledge. Catechisms were scrapped after Vatican II as part of what I call the “Go Modern” Pedagogy Movement (otherwise known as out with the old and in with the new). Memorizing facts was out, group discussions were in, as well as new methods of teaching over content, although I often wondered what good a method of teaching was without content. Thus, education in the Faith entered a black hole. Coupled with a follow-your-own-conscience mentality, real practice of the Faith dropped off. Soon those who had learned nothing were parents and some became religion teachers and you cannot teach what you don’t know. While things are improving somewhat catechetically, since instructional materials must conform to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, problems still exist. [ed. note, see Sub-par Catechesis post for more on these problems]
I recently asked my grandson what he was learning in his Confirmation class. You will recall last year, I accompanied his sister to a Confirmation retreat.
“I don’t know,” he replied.
His sister had confessed to me at her retreat last year that she hardly knew anything about Pope John Paul II, not even that he was a saint. Sadly, there is no uniform Confirmation program, no body of knowledge required by our diocese, a parish can do its own program. Makes a person wonder what goes on in the religion classroom nowadays. And my grandkids have attended classes for years. (The grandson did tell me after class that when they were in the small group discussion, his classmates were lamenting the pandemic and one said he wished Jesus would come and stop it to save future generations. “If Jesus comes, there won’t be any future generations,” the grandson replied, in reference to the Second Coming. He didn’t indicate if his words were understood, but at least he had been listening at TV Mass.)
His Truth, Her Truth, Whatever Truth Because They Don’t Know
So these young people are supposed to receive a Sacrament of Initiation…to what? The Spirit confirms the Faith given at Baptism and helps them BE a Catholic. You cannot BE a Catholic if you don’t know anything about it, not only the facts of it, but the why of it, the TRUTH of it.
But what is truth, after all? You apparently can pick and choose what you want to believe, judging by comments made in the newspapers and internet cited above. And no one cares how far away from Catholic thought the comments are. You can support killing unborn and elderly and still call yourself Catholic as do certain leaders in our country, but not wearing a face covering! You need to confess it. If, in fact, sin is chosen to be part of any belief. Confession is one sacrament many people opt out of. Again, truth is what you think it is.
In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul wrote about the Eucharist:
“For as often as you shall eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord, until He comes. Therefore, whoever eats this bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily, will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord…for he who eats and drinks unworthily, without distinguishing the body, eats and drinks judgment to himself.”1 Cor. 26,-27,28
Scary thought. Or maybe no one cares about that either. After all, what is truth?
This article, On Being Catholic – Your Way is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
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