Recently, our friends at Crisis Magazine (19 March 2018) published an upsetting account of a Catholic college not defending a student who was promoting Church teachings on love, marriage and family. I immediately forwarded the article to several of my Catholic friends to alert them of this issue. I did not do this for political reasons. No, I did it to remind people that preaching authentic truth is preaching authentic love.
We live in a culture now where we must understand the source of the information we hear. One does not have to look further than news of Pope Francis to see how distorted a message can get. Sadly, we must also remind ourselves that just because a man is wearing a Roman collar doesn’t mean he is always promoting authentic Church teaching.
In our era, Catholic Social Teaching has been hijacked for political agenda. The U.S. Catholic Bishops’ teachings, “Sharing Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and Directions,” has many wonderful insights that most Catholics are not aware of. The Bishops remind us that our faith calls us to serve those in need and work for justice and peace. We must fundamentally safeguard the dignity of the human person – from conception to natural death. Each of us is sacred; being made in the image of God. We have dignity for that reason alone and, such dignity cannot be taken from us. Our faith is a call to not live outside the world but to help reshape it. Many of us have been guilty of “going with the flow” rather than living our responsibility to transform secular culture.
Our train has gotten derailed with the challenges presented by the legalization of same sex unions in the guise of marriage. Marriage is a covenant reflecting God’s teachings and design for his creation. Same-sex unions are a contract. Marriage is the union of two equals, male and female, joining as nature intended to be as one. A “contract” cannot replace this. It is time for St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body to become standard catechism, RCIA and pre-Cana curriculum so that the beauty of these teachings become widespread and incorporated in our faithful. Clergy must rise to the need to preach on authentic love and remind us of the authentic teachings of the Church. Failures to do so has left our youth open to the lies broadcast constantly by social media.
Our culture promotes the “because I can, I have the right to do so” attitude as “freedom.” Yet, that is not freedom. Listening to Gus Lloyd on the Catholic Channel, I was recently reminded that living as if there are no rules and being left simply to my own urges does not make me free but, a slave to sin. We are deluded in a freedom that is actually bondage. Jesus tells us there is another way. Living his Gospel is the path to true freedom and self control. The Church’s call to chastity is a call for self-mastery. Self-mastery of our urges is the freedom we should be seeking. Relying upon God to help us control whatever urges we have is the prayerful faith we are called to live. Face it, we all have natural urges. We are all “born this way” whether it is inclinations toward alcohol, chocolate, wealth or sexuality. That does not grant us the “right” to act outside of God’s design. We are all called to a chastity related to our vocation. Where the Church has drifted in its responsibilities is in reminding the heterosexual along with those with same-sex attractions that we all called to a chastity that seeks only a union in the marriage between a man and a woman. I am chaste to the world except for the mutual giving of self to my wife; a priest is chaste in order to be open to a higher love and self-giving in his priesthood. It is a constant battle for us all.
Sadly, if we – the Church – had properly formed the conscious of the faithful in our homes and at Mass, it wouldn’t matter what people would put on billboards. Our faithful would walk by them like the myriad of billboards we drive past and hardly read along the interstate. Books like the Da Vinci Code could not challenge people’s faith. We, as a society, would be inoculated against this disease plaguing humanity.
So the question remains, why are our Catholic educational institutions failing in their duty to authentically preach and defend the faith? Is it simply bowing to the pressures of society, bowing to the financial pressures of taking government aid with strings attached or simply being weak in terms of theology? The latter, of course, should not be true. They all have Theology departments. Yet, how often do we read of theology professors teaching outside the faith? Why is it these institutions that proclaim to be Catholic are allowed to function outside the bishop of their diocese? Is it “academic freedom” or bondage? Where is the bishop in publically speaking out against the societal agenda at play here? Perhaps, it is because we, the people, allow it. Faithful Catholics should not continue to send their children to these institutions any more than elect politicians who say they are Catholic and vote in opposition to the faith. Perhaps, it is because our clergy fail to preach the truth for fear of losing donations. Perhaps, it is because we preach an inconsistent message of chastity and marital love.
It is long past the time to turn over the tables on those selling this nonsense in the Temple! Love the sinner and preach redemption on the sin. We are not doing anyone a favor in telling the world we respect their dignity without publically correcting their sin. Stop this nonsense of prayer rooms for Muslims and keeping the Bible out of the same school. This is not our faith, it is fear. This is not Catholic Social Teaching. It is political correctness in the guise of faith.
“Be not afraid” to preach the truth. Pray for the strength to live the faith, embrace our faith and shine its light on others. We must open God to our hearts and our tongues. Jesus was pastoral to the woman caught in adultery. (John 8) He showed us authentic love when he told her “Neither do I condemn you.” Jesus showed her authentic truth when he then told her “Go, [and] from now on do not sin any more.” In his Catholicism series, Bishop Robert Barron reminds us if we truly believe that Jesus is God, our lives have to change. If we believe he is God, how can we keep on ignoring him? Let us all reflect and ask ourselves – are we willing to start living as his disciples? Perhaps it is time we all reflect on “who is it” that we are really serving today.
Authentic truth is authentic love. Speak it, share it, live it.