Friday, February 22, 2013

Reflections on the "Helpful" Advice to a "Dying" Church

Following newsfeeds online, I see many editorials talking about how the Church is "dying" and needs to change if it is survive  (By allowing women priests, permitting abortion, contraception and so-called homosexual "marriage.")  Personally, I wonder why these people express such concern.  After all, given that they seem to think we are a misogynistic homophobic institution, you'd think they couldn't wait for us to die.

I suspect that, far from being altruistic, this advice is being made in the same spirit as the pack of wolves suggesting to a flock of sheep that they need to get rid of those burdensome sheepdogs so there can be a dialogue on what to have for dinner.

The imminent demise of the Catholic Church has been announced by many so-called prophets who believe their movement will cause the Church to die.  When the Protestant Revolt began, some of the founders predicted our demise before their challenges in the name of Scripture.  The Enlightenment predicted our demise in the before their challenges in the name of Reason.  Atheists today predict our demise before their challenges in the name of Science.

These challenges however failed to kill us in the past and will not kill us now because the Catholic Church is not an enemy of reason, scripture or science.  Truth does not need to fear truth.  While some may apply erroneous philosophies based on their worldviews and confuse them with the teachings of Reason, Scripture or Science, the fact is their philosophies of interpretation do not accurately attack the Church – basically these attacks are aimed at the wrong target.

Other challenges come from political movements and social revolts.  Communism and Fascism both predicted that Christianity in general and the Church in particular was an archaic relic holding people back, while their movements would provide what the people really needed.  The modern hedonism argues that nobody cares about sexual morality and the Church is stupid/old-fashioned for clinging to teachings they disagree with.

But these movements have fallen or will fall.  Where Fascism was once seen as the wave of the future, it is now recognized as a wrong turn.  Despite the media message which sells sex, the media cannot hide the fact that free sex is a terribly empty thing and that there must be more to life than one night stands.  These movements mislead people.  They do not rest on truth, but rather on desires and fears.

Now these challenges can lead individuals and groups astray of course.  Regions have fallen away from the Church.  Many individuals do indeed reject the Church teachings on subjects based on the slogans of the age.  "Reproductive Freedom" for example.  It is true that the Church in America and Western Europe  are facing these trials.  It is also true that scandals in the media make it appear the Church is crumbling.

But difficulties and attacks and sinful members do not prove the demise of the whole Church.  While these challenges may cause the faithful to suffer and the weak to be led astray, and property to be lost, the Church does not exist for the comfort of her members, the body count in the pews, dollars in the collection basket or popularity with the elites.

Whether or not one accepts her claims or not, the Church exists as the means Christ chose to bring His salvation to the world.  It is true that a bad shepherd in the Church may obscure that message of salvation.  But whether or not this message is popular has no bearing on whether it is true.

If the Church believes what she teaches about her own mission, she cannot change the message of salvation to something more popular.  Why?  Because it is not her message – it is Christ's message.

The Church teaches about herself:

"Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication, and expounds it faithfully. All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith.” [Catechism of the Catholic Church #86]

Because the Church believes herself obligated to be faithful to Christ, she cannot change her message without being unfaithful to Christ.

Once one realizes that the Church believes this – whether or not they agree with the Church over the truth of her belief – it becomes clear that to say "change or die" is a foolish ultimatum.  We remember Christ's words in Mark 8:36-38

What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? What could one give in exchange for his life? Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this faithless and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.

The Pagan Romans, for example, told the early Christians "Change or Die."  Christians knew it was better to die for the truth than to compromise what they believed.  The Church is still here.  Pagan Rome is a pile of ruins.  We will still be here when this current attack is ruins as well.

As Cardinal Francis George said,

"I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history."

That will happen here as well.

We as Catholics believe Christ promised to be with the Church always (Matt 28:20), and that the gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church (Matt 16:18).

People of good will may or not accept what Catholics believe about the relationship of Christ and the Church.  But they should consider this.  If we're wrong we should have collapsed long ago under the weight of sinners inside and persecution outside.  But if we're right, perhaps people should consider the ramifications of that.

But as the teacher of the Law, Gamaliel, pointed out when faced with the Christians:

So now I tell you, have nothing to do with these men, and let them go. For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God.” (Acts 5:38-39)

If we're right, it means those who oppose her teachings are not fighting a human institution…

…they're fighting God.

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