Tuesday, October 2, 2012

How Are We To Respond to Challenges to the Faith?

Yesterday, I posted a response, in a sense, to an article by Tom Moran in the Star Ledger written in criticism of a Pastoral Letter from the Archbishop of Newark NJ, Archbishop Myers, entitled "When Two Become One: A Pastoral Teaching on the Definition, Purpose and Sanctity of Marriage".  It is a thoughtful, and beautiful defence of what has always been Church teaching about sacramental marriage, and is worthy of being read, prayed about, and then brought into our daily lives.

Archbishop Myers states in the letter:
Marriage is a natural and pre-political institution.  As such, it is not created by law or the state, though governments rightly recognize it in law and protect and support it for the sake of the common good.  Marriage is a human institution, to be sure, and spouses can enter into the bond of marriage only by freely choosing to do so.  Still, marriage is an institution whose defining features and structuring norms are not pure products of human choice.  We cannot define and redefine marriage to suit our personal tastes or goals.  We cannot make forms of relationship or types of conduct marital simply by attaching to them the word "marriage."  The defining features and structuring norms of marriage are written in the design of creation and revealed to us by a loving God who made marriage a powerful symbol of the mystery of his love for us.

But, the next page is where he hits hard, fair but hard, when he says:
Canon law and the Catechism of the Catholic Church both provide a straightforward definition of marriage: "The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring . . ."  Thus, the essential elements of marriage include a communion of life (unity), permanence, fidelity, and an ordering toward fecundity (fruitfulness).  It should be clear from this definition that the Church recognizes as valid and binding all true marriages, not simply those between Catholic or Christians or believers in God.  It is true that Christ has elevated the marital covenant between baptized persons to the dignity of a sacrament. . .

It is my duty as your Archbishop to to remind you that Catholics who do not accept the teaching of the Church on marriage and family (especially those who act in public or private life contrary to the Church's received tradition on marriage and family)  by their own choice seriously harm their communion with Christ and His Church.  I urge those not in communion with the Church regarding her teaching on marriage and family (or any other grave matter of faith) sincerely to re-examine their consciences, asking God for the grace of the Holy Spirit which "guide [us] to all truth" (John 16:13).  If they continue to be unable to assent to or live the Church's teachings in these matters, they must in all honesty and humility refrain from receiving Holy Communion until they can do so with integrity; to continue to receive Holy Communion while so dissenting would be objectively dishonest.

I contend that not only Archbishop Myers, but all bishops in North America owe this kind of honesty to the faithful in their dioceses.

Men and women in authority, who claim the mantle of their alleged Catholic faith, have been giving the Church a rap of being inconsistent as they proclaim abortion rights, gay marriage rights, and other things under a false banner of social justice, all under the watchful eye of the public and of their bishops and pastors, who have sat quietly by.  They have been fostered by the silence to breed dissent in the Church.  This dissent is a cancer that, but by the grace of God, would destroy the Church given enough time.

When Jesus taught the essence of the Eucharist to people of his time, many walked away because this teachings was too hard for them.   Well, gay marriage and abortion rights are hard teachings as well, and our Catholic Church leaders are called to be like Jesus and give us all the teachings, including and especially the hard ones.

The Tom Moran's of this world, and we are all like Tom Moran more or less, need to be told the truth in love and kindness, but also firmly, as Archbishop Myers has done.  How we respond to truth is not the Archbishop's problem.  As he himself noted When I look back at my own life, beginning in the 1950's, I see that I was weakly catechized, and that when the trials of the teenage years came upon me, I was not prepared to stand firm in the faith I was raised in.  I was too weak and too ill prepared for the battles that waged at that time for my soul.  The world was too enticing for me to courageously stand against it.

If it were not for the Catholics in the Church, the Church would be perfect.  However, there will always be Catholics in the Church, and so we, those Catholics, must be made into the City of God, by right teaching, by the sacraments, and by personal sacrifice for the good of Holy Mother Church.  It is by the Grace of God that we are all called, but having been called, we must be helped to answer that call.

Tom Moran will return to the Church; count on it.  He has a mother praying in heaven for his soul, two actually, his human mother, and His Holy Mother Mary, and he has a third mother here on earth praying for his reversion to the faith of his youth, Holy Mother Church.  So, Jesus will not let him go ever.

My mother never gave up on me.  She prayed me back to the faith, while she was still alive, and I am sure she prays for me now from heaven.  But, even if she had not prayed for me, God would not have given me up, not without a very serious fight.

We must pray, and trust that God hears our prayers, and answers our prayers, for the reversion of all those in our families who have left the faith, and for conversion for all those outside faith in Christ Jesus.  Not only must we pray, but we must live the faith which we pray, loving those who we encounter daily

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