Saturday, June 29, 2019

We Don’t Get to Wash Our Hands of These Things

27. Coming down to practical and particularly urgent consequences, this council lays stress on reverence for man; everyone must consider his every neighbor without exception as another self, taking into account first of all His life and the means necessary to living it with dignity, so as not to imitate the rich man who had no concern for the poor man Lazarus.

In our times a special obligation binds us to make ourselves the neighbor of every person without exception and of actively helping him when he comes across our path, whether he be an old person abandoned by all, a foreign laborer unjustly looked down upon, a refugee, a child born of an unlawful union and wrongly suffering for a sin he did not commit, or a hungry person who disturbs our conscience by recalling the voice of the Lord, “As long as you did it for one of these the least of my brethren, you did it for me” (Matt. 25:40).

Furthermore, whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or wilful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are supreme dishonor to the Creator. (Gaudium et Spes)

Individual Catholics have the same tendencies as everyone else. We tend to think about ourselves as basically good and our failings minor, tolerant of those who share our secular outlooks. We also tend to be extremely harsh with others’ failings, especially if they hold secular views we dislike. One consequence of this is the temptation of classifying Church teaching according to our secular views. When the Pope or a bishop teaches in a way that we see as matching our outlooks, he’s considered “good.” When he teaches in a way that challenges our outlook, he’s seen as “political” or “heretical,” and we say he should be focusing on “important” issues.

However, Gaudium et Spes #27 (quoted above) shows us that the obligation of Catholics to our neighbor encompasses topics that we tend to classify as both “conservative” and “liberal,” warning that these evils are gravely sinful in the eyes of God. Unfortunately, many Catholics seem to be nonchalant about carving out which issues they’ll obey and which ones they’ll ignore, which means that many Catholics are—without justification—classifying grave sins as unimportant compared to other issues or even morally acceptable. They will side with their parties despite the fact that the Church warns that these things are infamies.

In America, this is clearly shown where roughly half the Catholic population seems willing to ignore the infamy of abortion and the other half is willing to ignore the subhuman living conditions of the poor. When challenged on this hypocrisy, these Catholics make excuses, declaring that the teaching they dislike is merely an “opinion” or a “prudential judgment” while condemning the other side for supporting evils… never considering that the other side is making the same arguments and the same excuses. Meanwhile, non-Catholics look at both sides of this and recognize it for the hypocrisy it is. Unfortunately, they will think that this is the nature of the Church and not the nature of dissenting from the Church (cf. Romans 2:24).

If we want to be saved from damnation, we need to stop making excuses or accusations. If we profess that the Catholic Church is the Church established and protected by Christ, we need to be diligent about praying for the grace to accept and obey those parts of Church teaching which run counter to our politics. Otherwise, our obedience to the teachings we were in no danger of rejecting will not save us from judgment over the teachings we ignored or knowingly rejected.

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