We celebrated Spirit Day here yesterday for our teens!
Today the Huffington Post ran the headline, “Nuns Blast Catholic Church’s ‘Doctrine of Discovery’ That Justified Indigenous Oppression.” Eyebrows were raised. What the devil were the sisters talking about? These prudential views went out with the ancient notions concerning the divine right of kings. Do the sisters understand it is 2014 and not the 1600’s?
The challenge to the Vatican came from Sister Maureen Fieldler. This, in itself, was an immediate bad sign that something was up. She is a widely known radical feminist and dissenter on a number of issues, such as so-called abortion rights, liberation theology, women’s ordination, religious indifferentism, etc. Given that she is disobedient to the Vatican at every turn, it was the height of arrogance that she demanded renunciation of 15th-century documents. The LCWR would have you think that they speak for the angels, but not all angels come from heaven. The devil can also appear as an angel of light.
The Church has already spoken to abuses in the past and the late Pope John Paul II included the rights of indigenous persons in his famous apologias. This seems sufficient. Of course, the Church would not want to renounce the courageous missionary efforts of saints or the unique value of our saving Catholic faith. These modern sisters would be oddly less celebratory of this saving inheritance. Like secular anthropologists, they would stress the retention of isolated New World pre-Christian cultural and religious associations from the unique value of the Gospel that came with explorers from the Old World. Along these lines, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious has repeatedly compromised itself by engaging in pagan, New Age and various native spiritualties during its conferences and retreats. Indeed, along with their demand to the Pope, they are insisting that he participate in “a sacred ceremony of reconciliation.” You can bet all your donuts that these girls do not mean the Sacrament of Confession. Sorry, while they might pray to the four winds, true Catholics place their confidence in the Holy Spirit and the Church Jesus founded. Christ commanded that we take this faith to the entire world and to baptize in the name of the Trinity. We cannot and must not apologize for the command of Christ at the end of Matthew’s Gospel. It is true that colonization brought with it oppression and disease; but it also gave a new people the saving Gospel and Western civilization. We should not be so quick to idolize a multiculturalism that would utterly discount our rich history and the benefits of colonization. Would Sister Fieldler, her Loretto religious community and the LCWR have preferred that the saving faith were never proclaimed and that the missionaries had stayed at home? While the ancient Church decrees are summarized to sound like one had to convert or die, it was actually much more complex. While Western countries sought new resources, the Church saw in civilization the opportunity to bring the true faith to the New World. While the soldiers and conquerors did not always abide by the Church’s admonitions to respect human dignity; the sword was also used to protect the colonists and those native peoples who were ordinarily endangered by more violent neighbors. In any case, the issues around this partnership of the Church and state have long been mute.
Vaguely analogous notions of intervention today are not the same as that which included the promulgation of the Gospel in days of old. Even American “Manifest Destiny'” had less to do with the Church and more about a non-denominational American sense of providence and the call to greatness. The sisters are experts at the jargon that wins a secular modernity to its side. But when one scratches the surface, it becomes clear that there is a peculiar eccentricity to them. For instance, they would attach the anachronistic appeal to the Pope with the effort to strip the Washington football team from using the name Redskins. I suspect few reasonable people see any connection. The Holy See has no lands of its own and no longer even makes reference to doctrines of discovery. By contrast, there are already plenty of papal declarations which speak to the rights and dignities of indigenous peoples. But the sisters are merely flexing their muscle. If they were serious, they would be reproaching secular governments and struggles in the present, as with the conflict between Russia and the Ukraine. Here at home they conveniently disguise the absurd ramifications of their stance. They want to get even with the Holy See, not a secular nation. Remember, if one must apologize for the past then one must make restitution. Along these lines the proposal was made years ago that all whites should be taxed in the U.S. so that monetary reparations might be paid the descendants of slaves. The argument was rightly made that you cannot fault the living for the crimes of the dead. Would the United States give back all lands and territories that belonged to Native Americans, including Manhattan? Would we surrender Texas to the Mexicans? Would we hand over our territories and Hawaii to the native population as new sovereign countries? We bought Alaska from the Russians but they had essentially claimed it through colonization. Would we give it back to the Eskimos (along with the oil) and go home? And given that most of us are the sons and daughters of immigrants, where would home be? The repercussions would become rather silly. But silliness is not something new for the Loretto religious community or this organization of sisters.
Something is rotten about this business. This overture is not really about renouncing the oppression of indigenous peoples. It is payback for being put into their place by Rome. They want to show that they (the Leadership Conference of Women Religious) have the true moral high ground. This is all about politics and not at all about justice. Once we see the truth about it, the organization and its leadership are exposed as utterly pathetic and without contrition for their disobedience and heresies.
It is sick and twisted that the LCWR resolution targets the Pope. No organization has done more to make a positive difference in the lives of indigenous peoples than the Church. This effort is to take our attention away from their own shortcomings and sins. Indeed, by speaking of these ancient policies as doctrines, these dissenters can then point to the modern doctrinal debates and argue that the Church has the authority to evolve or change other teachings of faith… particularly in those doctrinal conflicts where the LCWR is on the other side. This is a measure to undermine the continuity and permanence of Catholic teachings.
The Vatican in 2012 was critical of the LCWR on a host of issues: particularly their silence on the right to life and their dissent on the nature of the family and human sexuality. These are not the sisters we fondly remember in nostalgia. They largely refuse to wear their habits and veils, even though the late Pope John Paul II told them to do so. They have watered down their traditionally prescribed prayer life and often do not live in community. The feminist agenda has poisoned their hearts and minds. Many demand that women be ordained priests and condemn what they call a patriarchal Church. This past April, Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller chastised them for failing to comply with Rome’s correctives. They even purposely honored Sister Elizabeth Johnson who was faulted by the U.S. bishops for her Christology and other teachings. [She heavily employs weak metaphors over analogies, compromising or revising the objective truth value of certain Catholic doctrines. She was my professor at CUA and I recall that she got upset about our usage of JESUS and CHRIST. She taught that the JESUS of history (minus miracles and messianic claims) was different from the CHRIST of faith (which is what the Church had fashioned him). It seemed to me that this fell back into the old "two Sons" heresy. Also, the impression was given that the human JESUS was real and that CHRIST was more symbolic of the Church's kerygma. We see many biblical exegetes who use similar language in their analysis of the Scriptures.] Pope Francis backed the rebuke of the rebellious LCWR. Instead of obedience to Rome’s demands, they now seek to make demands of Rome.
The sisters of this sort are quickly dying out. The Church will probably be better off when they are gone. They will be replaced by a small but growing number of women who practice the traditional disciplines and know that humility and orthodoxy is how we approach the Magisterium and abide with the Church. Pray for vocations… of the right kind.
This is a reprint of the September 7, 2014 article by Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.
Once upon a time there was a church founded on God’s entering into human history in order to give humanity a path to eternal life and happiness with him. The Savior that God sent, his only-begotten Son, did not write a book but founded a community, a church, upon the witness and ministry of twelve apostles. He sent this church the gift of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of love between Father and Son, the Spirit of the truth that God had revealed about himself and humanity by breaking into the history of human sinfulness.
This church, a hierarchical communion, continued through history, living among different peoples and cultures, filled with sinners, but always guided in the essentials of her life and teaching by the Holy Spirit. She called herself “Catholic” because her purpose was to preach a universal faith and a universal morality, encompassing all peoples and cultures. This claim often invited conflict with the ruling classes of many countries. About 1,800 years into her often stormy history, this church found herself as a very small group in a new country in Eastern North America that promised to respect all religions because the State would not be confessional; it would not try to play the role of a religion.
This church knew that it was far from socially acceptable in this new country. One of the reasons the country was established was to protest the king of England’s permitting the public celebration of the Catholic Mass on the soil of the British Empire in the newly conquered Catholic territories of Canada. He had betrayed his coronation oath to combat Catholicism, defined as “America’s greatest enemy,” and protect Protestantism, bringing the pure religion of the colonists into danger and giving them the moral right to revolt and reject his rule.
Nonetheless, many Catholics in the American colonies thought their life might be better in the new country than under a regime whose ruling class had penalized and persecuted them since the mid-16th century. They made this new country their own and served her loyally. The social history was often contentious, but the State basically kept its promise to protect all religions and not become a rival to them, a fake church. Until recent years.
There was always a quasi-religious element in the public creed of the country. It lived off the myth of human progress, which had little place for dependence on divine providence. It tended to exploit the religiosity of the ordinary people by using religious language to co-opt them into the purposes of the ruling class. Forms of anti-Catholicism were part of its social DNA. It had encouraged its citizens to think of themselves as the creators of world history and the managers of nature, so that no source of truth outside of themselves needed to be consulted to check their collective purposes and desires. But it had never explicitly taken upon itself the mantle of a religion and officially told its citizens what they must personally think or what “values” they must personalize in order to deserve to be part of the country. Until recent years.
In recent years, society has brought social and legislative approval to all types of sexual relationships that used to be considered “sinful.” Since the biblical vision of what it means to be human tells us that not every friendship or love can be expressed in sexual relations, the church’s teaching on these issues is now evidence of intolerance for what the civil law upholds and even imposes. What was once a request to live and let live has now become a demand for approval. The “ruling class,” those who shape public opinion in politics, in education, in communications, in entertainment, is using the civil law to impose its own form of morality on everyone. We are told that, even in marriage itself, there is no difference between men and women, although nature and our very bodies clearly evidence that men and women are not interchangeable at will in forming a family. Nevertheless, those who do not conform to the official religion, we are warned, place their citizenship in danger.
When the recent case about religious objection to one provision of the Health Care Act was decided against the State religion, the Huffington Post (June 30, 2014) raised “concerns about the compatibility between being a Catholic and being a good citizen.” This is not the voice of the nativists who first fought against Catholic immigration in the 1830s. Nor is it the voice of those who burned convents and churches in Boston and Philadelphia a decade later. Neither is it the voice of the Know-Nothing Party of the 1840s and 1850s, nor of the Ku Klux Klan, which burned crosses before Catholic churches in the Midwest after the civil war. It is a voice more sophisticated than that of the American Protective Association, whose members promised never to vote for a Catholic for public office. This is, rather, the selfrighteous voice of some members of the American establishment today who regard themselves as “progressive” and “enlightened.”
The inevitable result is a crisis of belief for many Catholics. Throughout history, when Catholics and other believers in revealed religion have been forced to choose between being taught by God or instructed by politicians, professors, editors of major newspapers and entertainers, many have opted to go along with the powers that be. This reduces a great tension in their lives, although it also brings with it the worship of a false god. It takes no moral courage to conform to government and social pressure. It takes a deep faith to “swim against the tide,” as Pope Francis recently encouraged young people to do at last summer’s World Youth Day.
Swimming against the tide means limiting one’s access to positions of prestige and power in society. It means that those who choose to live by the Catholic faith will not be welcomed as political candidates to national office, will not sit on editorial boards of major newspapers, will not be at home on most university faculties, will not have successful careers as actors and entertainers. Nor will their children, who will also be suspect. Since all public institutions, no matter who owns or operates them, will be agents of the government and conform their activities to the demands of the official religion, the practice of medicine and law will become more difficult for faithful Catholics. It already means in some States that those who run businesses must conform their activities to the official religion or be fined, as Christians and Jews are fined for their religion in countries governed by Sharia law.
A reader of the tale of two churches, an outside observer, might note that American civil law has done much to weaken and destroy what is the basic unit of every human society, the family. With the weakening of the internal restraints that healthy family life teaches, the State will need to impose more and more external restraints on everyone’s activities. An outside observer might also note that the official religion’s imposing whatever its proponents currently desire on all citizens and even on the world at large inevitably generates resentment. An outside observer might point out that class plays a large role in determining the tenets of the official State religion. “Same-sex marriage,” as a case in point, is not an issue for the poor or those on the margins of society.
How does the tale end? We don’t know. The actual situation is, of course, far more complex than a story plot, and there are many actors and characters, even among the ruling class, who do not want their beloved country to transform itself into a fake church. It would be wrong to lose hope, since there are so many good and faithful people.
Catholics do know, with the certainty of faith, that, when Christ returns in glory to judge the living and the dead, the church, in some recognizable shape or form that is both Catholic and Apostolic, will be there to meet him. There is no such divine guarantee for any country, culture or society of this or any age.
A decade ago when I challenged giving Holy Communion to pro-abortion politicians, I was told that we needed these men and women for other important issues and should not burn our bridges. Of course, when push came to shove, these politicians largely abandoned the Church anyway: forcing us to shut-down adoption services because of homosexual inclusion, redefining marriage as something other than one man and one woman, requiring contraceptive and abortifacient coverage to healthcare plans, and tightening the screws on our tax exemption.
Democrats have frequently been demonized for promoting every type of liberality that spurns traditional morality. Republicans have been castigated as uncaring or insensitive to the poor. In truth, both parties are often opportunistic. Republicans liked Pope Benedict. Democrats liked Pope Francis. But both parties play with slogans and listen to lobbyists more than operating from incontrovertible convictions. Real Catholics should know that we belong to Christ more than to any political party. Real Catholics should place the teachings of the faith above the fickle fads and fashions of men. Today the attitude is if it is civilly recognized or law then it is morally okay. This is ridiculous. Catholics must be a sign of contradiction to the world, not an enabler for evil and not a deaf ear.
Are our Catholic people on the same page with the teaching Church? Here is where we find our crisis. Many are not. Many of the political enemies of the Church are self-professed Catholics. Back in 2004, 48 Catholic Democratic members of Congress signed a letter to Cardinal McCarrick in Washington, complaining that the bishops’ statements were counterproductive and “miring the Church in partisan politics.” In other words, the Church was told to shut its mouth! The religious liberty battle stems from this attitude. The Catholic card is played at election time, but once elected they are more likely to follow the money than scruples about fundamental human rights. This often leads to a re-prioritizing of what these rights actually are. As for the rest of us, we can be as Catholic as we want inside the church doors; but once outside the church building, we are expected to surrender to Caesar.
How can we play with any of them when they do not play fair? But what would happen to us if we collect our chips and cards and go home? Would we forfeit any say? Could matters be made worse?
Filed under: Anti-Catholicism, Catholic, Church, Conscience, Faith, Homosexuality, Magisterium, Marriage, Morality, Politics, Pro-Life, Religion, Religious Liberty, Sexuality, Sin, Social Justice | 1 Comment »
It is argued that the Catholic Church has lost the contraception fight and now must move on. Similarly, I am today hearing the same said about other issues. Pope Francis is asked about homosexuals and he says, “Who am I to judge?” Critics rashly interpret this as a change in the Church’s stance and a leading gay magazine names the Pope as “Man of the Year.” A special synod is called on the family and revisionists suggest a coming change regarding the reception of Holy Communion by divorced and remarried Catholics. But the Pope is still Catholic and I think the dissenters are in for a big surprise. It may be that we cannot judge the souls of individuals, but we can make moral distinctions between right and wrong. Those who commit serious sin are not in a proper disposition for the sacraments. The Pope is the servant of the Word, not its master. He cannot invalidate either divine positive law or natural law. Of course, what might happen is that many Catholics will become accustomed to an ever permeating silence— about birth control, about gay relationships, about invalid marriages, and God-forbid, even about the murder of unborn children. Here again with this last point, too many make too much of papal remarks about there being other moral concerns beyond abortion. The fact is the Church is facing conflict from every angle, including the martyrdom of Christians by ISIS swords.
An essential thrust to Vatican II was a dialogue with the world, not so that the Church might be converted to the world but that the world might be more receptive of Christ’s kingdom. Many of us feel that this remains an important mission for the Church. However, critics can rightly point at instances of impotency and weakness toward a hostile world that seems to be more successful than we are at winning hearts and minds. The Church faces a mocking atheistic secular modernity on one hand and a radical militant Islamic extremism on the other. The Church is not only caught in the middle but old friends have changed alliances.
Can the Church engage cultures that feign courtesy when we are on the same side of its agenda but otherwise find ourselves targeted for extinction? Fight against the death penalty for the guilty and we are applauded; but then we are commanded to lay down our arms in the battle against aborting children and euthanizing the sick and elderly. The bishops are praised for supporting healthcare but condemned for not wanting to provide free contraception and abortifacients. The Church was once rendered accolades for her orphanages and adoption services; but today is shut down for refusing adoptions to homosexuals and lesbians. The Islamic world once protected Christian minorities, and utilized them in government and in schools of higher learning; after all, they were the one minority that was so small it would never be a threat to the ruling powers. But today, fanatics will not rest until every drop of Christian blood is spilt or the men are converted. From the Islamic East to the Secular West, there is nowhere to run and no place to hide. It is for this reason that I fear silence. Peace today will only lead to worse wars tomorrow. Silence will be interpreted as assent, or worse still, retreat.
Filed under: Anti-Catholicism, Apologetics, Bishops, Catholic, Charity, Commandments, Conscience, Contraception, Faith, Family, Homosexuality, Islam, Magisterium, Marriage, Modesty, Morality, Pope, Pope Francis, Pro-Life, Religion, Religious Liberty, Sexuality, Sin, Social Justice | 8 Comments »
Herb wanted to share his calumny with us:
What would Jesus’ or Peter’s reaction be today to bishops, cardinals and the popes parading around in excessive jewel-bedecked outfits?
Father Joe has this response to make:
What jewels are these? Do you know anything about the simplicity of Pope Francis? The take home pay for most priests and bishops is around 12 to 15 thousand dollars a year. Those in religious orders do not even own the clothes on their back. The marks of faith are passed on from one shepherd to the next. The cross a bishop wears signifies Christ and his redemptive work. The ring a bishop puts on is a sign of his apostolic authority. He wears it just as married couples wear a ring. At a time when certain millionaire Protestant clergy proclaim a prosperity gospel, you attack poor men who do more for charity and human dignity than you ever will.
Look to your plank before trying to reach for the splinters in the eyes of your brothers!