Sunday, May 13, 2012

CIRCLING THE WAGONS IN HOSTILE TERRITORY, IS IT TIME AGAIN TO DO THAT?

After the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Church had to circle the wagons; do we have to do it again with the Secular Reformation that we are now experiencing throughout the world? I report and opine, you decide your own opinions:


I post this with a disclaimer. I've had about 12,000 page views on Sunday for some very odd reason. My blog is a personal hobby and very opinionated. I try to uphold Catholic teaching as I understand it and I am very open to correction. But I do not have a staff; I have a full time day and night job as a parish priest in a small southern town in Georgia. In fact most of the small towns in the Diocese of Savannah don't have 12,000 inhabitants.

I am not a good editor of my own writing and thank God for spell check, my handy-dandy secretary.


But now to the topic of this blog, circling the wagons, is it time again?

I grew up as a Catholic in Georgia where Catholics are a small mustard seed minority. The predominant Protestant Culture, while somewhat hostile to us, nonetheless upholds our Judeo-Christian values, but the liberal, dying mainline Protestant Churches have given into the dictatorship of relativism. Of course there are these forces in the Catholic Church too. While they are winning converts, they haven't yet won the so-called patriarchal, monarchical leadership of the Church, for which I say thank God!

For example, Macon, Georgia which is a somewhat conservative, religious town, but not really very militant about it, is changing when it comes to social mores which are hot-button political issues today. For example:

1. Mercer University, a wonderful Southern Baptist University earned the ire of the Southern Baptist Convention for allowing gay rights organizations on its campus several years ago and lost significant funding from the SBC. Last year without a blink of an eye from the larger Macon Community or its news media (of course our local press does little to report on negative reactions to such, almost a liberal censorship) Mercer University began offering benefits to same sex couples who work for them, equal to what is given to married couples.

2. A small Episcopal Church in town recently hired a male permanent deacon to its staff. He is in a same sex union with his live in partner who is also a permanent deacon. He has preached about his lifestyle at his church and told me that his bishop in Atlanta is in full agreement with his lifestyle. The vestry at his church is too as is his church. He opined that one person on the vestry, while not opposed to his lifestyle, asked him if he intended showing public affection to his lover. She was concerned about that.

As an aside, I asked him if there would be any prohibition against a heterosexual priest or deacon living with an opposite sex partner without the benefit of marriage. He said it would not be allowed and frowned upon. I guess one could say that this is reverse discrimination.

Of course our culture has long sense abandoned natural law as the basis for moral judgments. Catholic teaching observes that natural law makes God's moral law accessible to everyone, believer or not--but that now is irrelevant for most believers and many Catholics too. In fact, I'm not sure if most Catholics understand what natural law is.

So, are we heading for a smaller but purer and more faithful Catholic Church that will be marginalized by the larger society and dissident Catholics within her midst? Will we have to head back to the Catacombs? Will bishops have to excommunicate Catholics who dissent from the Church and sow dissension in the Church and confuse rank and file Catholics so much so that they become ambivalent and stop attending Mass because of all the bickering?

While progressives in the Church want to dismantle the patriarchal, monarchical aspects of the Church to fulfill their own aspirations for a democratized Catholic Church that will bring about in the Catholic Church what has been brought about in all the main-line liberal Protestant Churches (all of which are in decline and on the brink of fall) I think the only hope for a faithful Catholic Church that will uphold the counter cultural teachings of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Deposit of Faith is a patriarchal, monarchical Church not a democratized one.

Pope Benedict's slow but certain "reform of the reform" within continuity and even his olive branch to the SSPX is part of the reformation of the Catholic Church some 50 years after Vatican II first met to chart the future course of the Church. While there have been successes and failures in the implementation of the Second Vatican Council, only a person with his head buried in the sand would say that everything is coming up roses for the Church. The Church, meaning all of us who are baptized, is always called to repentance and reform but based upon the sure and certain historical faith and morals of the Church. As far as institutional reform, we just may have to go back to the 1950's and look at the Council through the eyes of those bishops then and judge the "jack-rabbit" reforms of the last 50 years and say, is this what the bishops of the 1950's really intended; is this what God really intended? These are legitimate questions and not the opining of those who think the 1950's was the apex of Catholicism in this country.

We live in a culture where abortion is legal, divorce and remarriage very common and more and more people are forgoing marriage and simply shacking up and having multiple sex partners. Pro-creation is a bothersome side show to all the fun.

The government, at least the Democrats in this country, are mandating that the Church provide all the benefits of health care and preventative care to anyone who works for our institutions (except for right now, parishes--so considerate of them, no?)

We are now getting hints of government mandates when it comes to same sex marriage and benefits and the Church's hiring and firing practices being controlled by civil law. All of this is being couched within "civil rights" and the Church is more and more outside the parameters of what our secular government understands as "sacred" and "mandated by law." I foresee in the next 20 years that the Church will have her freedom of speech curtailed under laws protecting society from hate crimes. Time will tell, but of course much of this is already occurring in secular Canada which has always been more liberal than the USA politically speaking, at least, since the 1960's.

Do faithful Catholics need to exclude, make anathemas and circle the wagons? Maybe so, maybe we need the armor of protection of not only the gifts of the Holy Spirit but common sense for us to hold onto the truths that worldly temptations and powers and principalities both of this world and the occult would have us abandon.

The Second Vatican Councils desire that the Church dance with relevance, Protestantism, non-believers and religions of all sorts has created false expectations and aspirations amongst the elitist academics in university settings in our Church and confusion amongst rank and file Catholics as to what actual Catholic identity is.

I think it is time to circle the wagons, put on the amour of Christ and being militant Christian soldiers in the most peaceful, non violent ways, using reason and rhetoric as our sharpest sword. How about you?



16 comments:

Joseph Johnson said...

It is past time.

It will be much more divisive and difficult for us at this late hour but we have no other choice. As for the difficulty and divisiveness, just remember Platteville, WI as a preview of what may play out in many more places in the coming years (even if the change is more paced and gradual). We have tried the other way for more than 40 years (most of my life) and you can judge that period of experimentation by its fruits (and I mean a lot more than just that Episcopal deacon and his "special friend!").

Many of us who have seen all this develop have been waiting for a change for years and are ready to commit what we are able to do (from our state in life as laypeople) in the effort to turn things around in the Church. This is why I have continued as a PRE teacher for the last sixteen years--it's my part in trying to make the future better in my little ol' corner of the world (as I've mentioned before, the Baltimore Catechism is used as a teacher supplement in my classes!).

ytc said...

Father, I'm very proud. Only a few days ago you were saying nananabooboo about altar girls, now you're contemplating anathematizations of heretics! What progress!

But seriously, I believe we do have to start over again. Things have been a wreck for too long. Perhaps if this was reigned in maybe ten or fifteen years after the Council, we could have saved ourselves and our numbers. But we are historically too after the fact to do that anymore, methinks.

rcg said...

Being defensive is not good. Doesn't it seem odd that people who claim to want to just live their own lives want to tell everyone else what to think? This civil rights meme is BS. If it was true they would form their own churches, start their own insurance companies, etc. They hate our Church and want to destroy it. They can't even be honest about that. Why does Pelosi say the clap trap she does? It makes her sound stupid to anyone who knows what she is talking about. For those who don't, like the president, it only misinforms them. The bishops have to publicly inform her of the BS. It needs to be her bishop(s). Not sure who they are, but it needs to be them.

Carol H. said...

Excellent, Father, I fully agree! A renewed focus on the Christ the King would also help in this, I think.

Susan said...

We think it would be ideal for
liberals and progressives to leave the Church which would then be smaller and more faithful. It would then be "us against the world" instead of how it is now..."us against the Modernist liberal progressive Catholics within the Church AND us against the world."

However, that will not happen, that is, that progressives will leave the Church. (Christ said that the weeds and wheat will grow together and at the end of time He would sift out the bad and keep the good.)

Progressives want to change the Church, not leave it. So they will stay and we will continue to have much to suffer because of them. It is, as someone said, God's way of giving us a chance also to become martyrs.

But there always will be, as there always has been, that beautiful strain...that thread...which runs through the Church and which is known as orthodoxy.

Orthodoxy is where Truth is...and as much as we don't want to keep fighting, as much as we want to have the perfect Mass celebrated by the most orthodox priest, we are not called to that these days. We know that orthodoxy is there and so have to defend it, so that others will hopefully change or convert.

We are called to practice the Spiritual Works of Mercy - charitably correct the priest after Mass when he says that women should be priests (I personally emailed our former bishop about our pastor saying that during homilies on 3 different occasions before the bishop finally corrected him), or correcting the DRE when he says that the Pope is just a figurehead (I took our child out of Confirmation Classes and had that child confirmed at our former parish 4 states away...and had to hound the pastor before he finally wrote the letter of release).

It means calmly explaining to others, when they ask or when a comment is made, why homosexual "marriage" is wrong. It also means never to buy certain products such as Cover Girl cosmetics since Ellen DeGeneres, a committed lesbian, is a spokeswoman for Cover Girl.

It means knowing (do research!)which companies support homosexualiy, or give money to Planned Parenthood for abortions and never buying their produts or investing money in those companies.

Being an orthodox Catholic means getting up everyday, going to work, and defending the Faith when comments are said, and trying to be kind and a good example to others (which my protestant co-workers seem to be able to do much better than I).

I am tired, but as long as God gives me breath I will defend the Faith even to death...that is if God gives me the grace to face such an end. After all, isn't that why we are here?

Anonymous said...

Father, I have a comment and several questions. My comment is that your image of the circled wagons seems quite appropriate insofar as the Church is under attack – insofar, then, as others outside the Church might seek to restrict her right to regulate the lives of Catholics, to trammel upon her constitutional liberties, or to de-legitimize her voice when engaging with the world in the public square.

My general question is: How far does the image of circled wagons extend beyond this? As individual Catholics, we have to live and work in the world. Whether we like it or not, the world is changing. I teach at Mercer, which you mention in your post (thank you for your gracious adjectival characterization by the way). I am married and have a child. I am not gay or bisexual. However, I do have gay colleagues, friends, and relatives. Some are male, others are female. Several have been in a long-term committed relationship for many years. None of them is Catholic. The friends include the Episcopal priest and deacon you also mention in your post. I suspect also that some of the Catholic priests I have known over the years have been gay (but celibate). I respect and care about all of these people in my life. So these sorts of discussions are not academic moral abstractions for me. They are very concrete, practical, and personal.

I understand the Church’s teaching in opposition to same-sex marriage, and I understand the reasons for it. I have also read sections 2357-59 of the CCC on Chastity and Homosexuality. However, I am still unclear about several matters, and have a number of specific questions to help focus my more general question above:

(1) Section 2358 of the CCC states that homosexuals “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” Although I do not know all the details of Mercer’s benefits in this respect, is it inappropriate for a private, non-Catholic university such as Mercer to grant the same kind of “family-type” benefits to its same-sex employees as it grants to its heterosexual employees? Would the denial of such benefits amount to “unjust discrimination” within the meaning of section 2358? Or is the denial of such benefits not unjust because granting such benefits amounts to approval of homosexual acts contrary to section 2357 and because, as stated in section 2359, “Homosexual persons are called to chastity,” and these are norms that the Church applies to all homosexuals, Catholic and non-Catholic, and their employers?

(2) In light of the same CCC sections, in addition to marriage does the Church also oppose the recognition by state law of “civil unions” or “domestic partnerships” between same-sex partners? If it does, does the Church consider that there are any “family-type” rights and benefits that the state can appropriately grant to same-sex partners?

(3) More personally, how do we best relate as individual Catholics to our non-Catholic gay friends, colleagues, and relatives in a way that bears witness to our Catholic faith and the love of Christ? I generally try to avoid discussing controversial topics, such as same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage, with them, choosing instead simply to accept them for who they are. What, if anything, should I be doing differently?

I do not want to put you on the spot with all this, but it seems to me that there is a risk of over-simplifying a rather complex set of issues (and my questions have only scratched the surface). So, if you prefer, is there a source to which you can refer us that gives the official Catholic position on any or all of these questions?

Thanks for your help.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I think that one can circle the wagons of the Catholic Church and still be Catholic in the world treating sinner and saint alike, with dignity and respect. In fact within the confines of the Church, we have faithful homosexuals who strive mightily hard to be faithful Catholics in a culture that would undermine their resolve to do so. Does that mean they are perfectly chaste? Is anyone? But within the Church, acknowledging one's miserable sinful state, one relies upon God to assist them. We have many divorced and remarried Catholics in our Church. They are more than welcome to attend Mass but cannot receive any sacraments because their marriage is not recognized by the Church. It is as though they are living in sin--however, they do have civil recognition of their "union" which the Church technically cannot call a marriage. While the Church can lobby politically for our positions on marriage, ultimately we won't be able to control what the state does either through a democratic process or the judicial system, or Presidential fiat. So I believe the Church would not complain about "civil unions" of homosexuals or any sort of combination of persons for marriage although we would say that the sexual relationship, not the living together, is sinful. I don't think anyone has to pro-actively lobby their gay friends and deride them for any benefits their employers choose to give them. Now I suspect some of your gay friends might probe your position on these things as a Catholic and I would hope you would uphold Catholic teaching by simply stating that the Catholic Church teaches what Christ has handed onto us--that everyone is called to chastity, homosexual, bi-sexual, heterosexual or whatever, pedophiles, those who like sex with the dead and animals, etc. Marriage is based upon natural law that reveals divine law as does the Bible. It is for one man and one woman for the begetting of children and forming a family. Chasity of them means fidelity to each other. No legal benefits for their paramours even if the married partner agrees. Single people, whether heterosexual or homosexual or any combination of orientations are called to chastity, One's orientation is not the sin, the illicit sexual acts are (even masturbation is considered sinful, btw as is stilling a paper clip from work). I'm posting something from Fox news that deals with some of this and the Church's response.
We have a diocesan policy that we cannot hire a divorced and remarried Catholic in any position, if their second marriage is not recognized by the Church even though the state recognizes it. I would have to let a staff member go if they remarried or married outside of the Catholic Church. Should the state step in to prevent this? They are trying!

rcg said...

This is not a question about same sex marriages. It is about the Government of the United States asserting its primacy.

What if they required gluten free hosts, or required all churches to schedule ceremonies for anyone who asks, regardless of their religion?

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Circle the wagons, Hell! We need to take the fight to the enemy. We can start by ceasing to negotiate in either policy or dialogue. Stop hanging out with your mod/lib friends and neighbors...I have. If you have friends who are merely unsure or struggling with the issues, then try to guide them in the right direction. But, if they are hard core leftists and enemies of the Church, spurn them.
Oh, and all you who get upset about ad hominem, we should ridicule the enemy. Attacking their positions is a waste of time unless it is for the benefit of others who may be reading or listening. Otherwise, ridicule, impertinence, satire, sarcasm, and scorn are weapons to be used. Many people just do not get it...these people are enemies of the Church and us as iindividual Catholics, just like they were marching up Poplar Street firing weapons. Fight back. Quit being nice. Don't feel guilty. You serve the Church...sometimes that means being a mean, tough Catholic.

Anonymous 5 said...

Very good post, but I do take issue with one statement, at least to a degree: "While [the forces of relativism] are winning converts, they haven't yet won the so-called patriarchal, monarchical leadership of the Church . . ."

I think the main source of the acrimony that is so often to be found in the comments to your blog is the fact that a) these forces _have_ won control of large swaths of Church leadership, and b) some readers here either dispute th fact, or don't see it as a problem, or see it as a good thing.

The gates of hell won't prevail against the Church, but that doesn't mean that individual bishops, priests, and laity can't be lost through heresy, sometimes in huge numbers.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your informative and detailed response, Father. It is very helpful.

Gene, your recommended ostracism would not seem to be very practical in the case of colleagues and relatives. Depending on the circumstances, it may not be very practical as far as friends are concerned either. Moreover, perhaps there was a mutual loss when you stopped hanging out with your mod/lib friends and neighbors. If nothing else, didn't you lose the opportunity to win them over when they see how warm and fuzzy you are?

BTW, Father, your earlier post regarding the survey of practicing Catholics in south New Jersey is quite disturbing. It suggests that the Church should avoid another circular image – the circular firing squad – and that a renewed catechesis may be very much in order. If 60% of those practicing Catholics surveyed think, incredibly, that Jesus sinned, what chance is there that they would understand much about natural law reasoning?

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Well, Anon, you can keep relations with colleagues strictly business and refuse to discuss religion and politics. And, well, family is family. As for the rest, they are hopelessly and aggressively entrenched in the progressive ideology. I can no longer abide them and consider them a real threat to my children and grand children's future. If this were the 1880's, I'd have already shot 'em and no one would have cared...

rcg said...

Anon, 3:29 - how can our friends follow if we don't lead? Pin is right. We have to press forward, confidently, and be willing to bring along late comers and go back and get some stragglers.

Anonymous said...

I understand your concern, Gene, but in addition to the practicalities perhaps our experiences are different. I “hang out” with all kinds of people – men and women, gays and straights, Americans and people from other countries, Catholics, Episcopalians, Baptists, Methodists, Unitarians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, liberals, conservatives, libertarians, Democrats,and Republicans, to name a few. Perhaps that is largely because teaching at a university (sorry) exposes me to the occupational hazard of interacting with a very diverse group of people, students and faculty (and other) colleagues alike.

And one of the main things I have learned as a result of my experience is that invariably people are quite different from, and certainly a whole lot more than, the stereotypes and labels that are pinned on them. For example, despite the efforts of some liberals to vilify them as “cruel and heartless,” among the conservative Republicans with whom I “hang out” are some of the nicest people I know.

Don’t so many of these stereotypes and labels reflect and represent easy slogans? Don't they illustrate yet again the mesmerizing effect of the shadows flitting across the wall of our Cave in which we are all imprisoned by the language manipulators? And aren't we called to try to break free of those linguistic chains, to escape from the Cave into the light of Truth, and to see all of us as God's precious children, wayward, stubborn, and stupid though we all are? I hope that Father McDonald will correct me if I have said anything doctrinally unsound.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Anonymous, Wow...golly gee...Holy Diversity, Batman!!!

Anonymous said...

I love it. You're a real Joker, Gene.