Trying to understand Catholicism is difficult for many in the United States. It has been worsened by two of generations of weakened catechesis producing many “Catholics” who are unable to explain basic concepts or who mistakenly believe that the expression of their faith must be confined to the church structures a la Biden, Pelosi and Sebelius.
As there are only so many hours in a day, one must be judicious in allotting time to clear up the widespread misconceptions. Consequently, I will only be addressing a couple of points in an article I read in a recent newspaper.
Bloomberg View columnist Margaret Carlson was commenting on the U.S. Catholics bishops’ response to the recently announced “religious accommodation” regarding the much-debated HHS mandate, also known as Obamacare.1 My purpose here is not to delve into the doctrinal justifications for the bishops’ position of which she seems unaware.
Issue “A” : Pro-Life vs. “Choice”
I will, however, address the two statements which stood out the most. After she suggested that the bishops were probably looking to pick a fight with the President (make that three statements needing rebuttal, but the third will have to wait for another time) Ms. Carlson wrote: “In 2004, the bishops warned Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry that he would be denied Communion for his pro-choice views. By ostracizing political candidates, they like to enforce beliefs that their parishioners have rejected.”
This implication that the bishops are defending something archaic comes from the mistaken notion that moral truths can be voted out. (This is one of several erroneous concepts in the Christian community having roots nearly 500 years old. And you thought you were having trouble with weeds in your yard.)
“Thou shall not kill” was declared by God long before Christ established His Church early in the first century. To the apostles and their successors, Jesus delegated the responsibility and authority to guide His Church until His return. He did not confer upon them the authority to change His father’s Commandments. Just because the “Catholic vote” went 50-48 for a presidential ticket which ignores this basic law of right-to-life does not make the 5th Commandment irrelevant, but it does make the “50%” voters essentially non-Catholic.2,3,4
Issue #2: Purpose and Responsibilty of Sex
The other point of contention to be dealt with here arose from: “Of course, Catholics will use contraception. They have been for decades.” Several polls have attempted to calculate how many people claiming to be “Catholic” have ever used or routinely use contraception. There is often confusion as to what the data really mean or which percentage is truly representative. But in reality, it is immaterial whether a few or nearly all “Catholics” use contraceptives frequently. Popularity has no authority to change a moral truth.
Moral relativism may be in fashion, but it has no justification. If it did, we could dispense with that annoying 6th Commandment (you know, the one about sexual relations outside of a valid marriage are forbidden). I’ll even add the conveniently forgotten statement of Jesus in Matthew 5:27-28 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (More proof that “Catholic guilt” is Scriptually sound.) Incidentally, some contraceptives cause early term abortions. Consequently, the 5th Commandment is involved here, too
The Catholic Church is not a social committee presided over by the pope and bishops who take periodic surveys to see what Commandments the faithful feel like following. Its teachings have Scripture and Tradition backing them up.5 While society and technology change, moral truths do not… they cannot, or they wouldn’t be truths. Whenever a pope, often in consultation with the bishops, makes a statement regarding a current issue, he is not revealing a “new” truth. Rather, he is applying one with at least a 2000-year old track record to address an issue which didn’t exist at the time of Christ or of the apostles after the Ascension.
Murder has always been wrong, regardless of the euphemisms used to disguise the true nature of a particular mode of killing (“reproductive rights,” “choice,” etc.) What constitutes a valid marriage and the inherent responsibilities of this vocation (including openness to children) have been the same since God revealed it in ancient times. Sex is solely tied to marriage regardless of what our spiritual adolescence wishes were true.
Speaking of adolescence, the attainment of age 21, 40 or even 70 does not give us license to dismiss any of the Commandments. Rationalizations become comfortable when Pride takes hold. It is good to remember who is the chief promoter of Pride and how it led to his fall.
1 – as published in the Cincinnati Enquirer, 2/9/2013
2 – voter breakdown from www.freerepublic.com
3 – The stance which pseudo-Catholics take regarding what constitutes a “Catholic” defies rational thinking. If one does not believe in the foundational beliefs of any group, then one is not a member of that group. This is logic, plain and simple, not being “judgmental.” Rationalizing that a true “Catholic” can be in favor of allowing abortion and same-sex “marriage” is as contradictory as a person claiming to be “Christian,” who does not accept that Jesus is the Messiah and that He is both God and human.
4 – Technically, a Catholic could vote for someone who does not defend the unborn if he is not supporting the candidate because of that particular issue and the candidate is not using that belief to promote the evil and if there are no alternative candidates who are pro-life or if there are pro-lifers but they support other intrinsic evils. Such was not the case last November.
5 – It is helpful to remember that Church Tradition existed before the New Testament came into being. Re: “Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you, rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” (Luke 10:16)
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 19-20)