Friday, June 06, 2003

Culture Wars, II

John Da Fiesole over at Disputations has done a post in response to my Culture Wars comments. In his post he asks, what practical influence the bishops have in our lives. Good question. I believe that as Catholic laity we bear a huge responsibility for the state of the culture we live in and we can't blame our failure on our bishops and priests. As is clear from the Cathechism, it is our vocation to affect the temporal affairs and bring them under God's influence. Bishops and priests cannot do this for us.

However, the fact that very often our bishops have little practical impact on our daily lives is a glaring example of a pervasive problem that exists today. There are a couple of recent incidents that highlight the problem we have with our bishops. These problems to not exist with all bishops, my any means, but they do exist.

The most important event was Cardinal Arinze's Commencement address on May 17 at Georgetown University. I will quote from the Washington Post's coverage of the story:

"The cardinal was several minutes into his speech when he said the family 'is under siege' and 'opposed by an antilife mentality as is seen in contraception, abortion, infanticide and euthanasia. It is scorned and banalized by pornography, desecrated by fornication and adultery, mocked by homosexuality, sabotaged by irregular unions and cut in two by divorce.'
After the cardinal said the words 'mocked by homosexuality,' associate theology professor Theresa Sanders, who was seated on stage, walked out. A few students also left, says Mohsin Siddiqui, a 2002 graduate who was at the ceremony.
'I thought what he said was incredibly offensive,' he said. 'With all due respect for the cardinal's opinions, I don't think he should have been voicing them. This came from out of the middle of nowhere.' "

I hope it is obvious to all that the Cardinal's remarks did not "come from out of the middle of nowhere" but straight out of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I think it is also interesting that this graduate from a "Catholic" university would think that Cardinal Arinze was simply delivering his "opinion", as if this was some merely personal point of view of his which might, under different circumstances, change in the next day, or week or month. And, I must ask, what kind of a "Catholic" university would tolerate a theology professor who would be so rude as to stand up and walk out on a Cardinal of the Church expounding the official teaching of the Church?

But this is exactly the problem; this kind of thing is common, almost unexceptional, in our modern secularist society. It results from two things, one is that those in a position to teach the truth have chosen to teach untruth, lies. Second, the bishops where this kind of thing is rampant have chosen to ignore it.

In order for the laity to resist and reform the culture, they must know the truth; many of them do indeed know the truth. The next question is, what do we do with the truth we know? We can either disregard it or we can shape our lives by it. As individuals we have this freedom to make this choice. If we make the wrong choice we are not free to influence others to make the same mistake. As Jesus said:

“But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea”

All too often, today, we all, bishops included, ignore false teaching and just hope it will go away. It won't. Unless, that is, we take active steps against it. The lead for these kinds of active steps should be coming from our bishops. If the bishops were doing this, they would be playing a very prominent role in our daily lives by being our leaders and teachers in the faith. To the extent that this is not happening, we, the laity, are hindered in our struggle in against the culture in which we live.

The second of the two events I mentioned shows that having the courage of our convictions is truly possible.

In April of this year, the editors of Touchstone magazine published an article which said, in effect, that it was impossible to, at the same time, vote Democratic and be a Christian. They characterized the Democrat party as the party of abortion and sodomy. This article apparently generated a firestorm of criticism and a great many cancelled subscriptions. What did the editors of Touchstone do? I'll quote just one paragraph from their response:

“There has been much response to Touchstone’s April issue, in which the Democratic part) was characterized as godless, and portrayed a,, If having developed in recent years into some thing no Christian can in good conscience support. Subscriptions have been angrily canceled and declaration that we will be prayed for received. More attention has been given to this issue than any other we have published. The most common criticisms are that Touchstone, a religious magazine, is now dabbling in politics, where it has no business, and that the April issue was in fact a Republican party tract in which the editors displayed their political preferences more than their Christianity. What, one suspects, some of our off put correspondents wished to see in subsequent issues is some kind of muted apology that we were in some places a bit rough and high handed, along with a good natured admission that good Christians can have varying opinions on these matters. But we don't think they can. Things have gradually but surely come to the point where we must say that to the degree Christians have been co-opted by the Democrats, they are no longer good."

Would that more of us had this kind of courage.

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