Friday, July 5, 2019

Traveling in a Dangerous Direction

He is not saved, however, who, though part of the body of the Church, does not persevere in charity. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but, as it were, only in a “bodily” manner and not “in his heart.” All the Church’s children should remember that their exalted status is to be attributed not to their own merits but to the special grace of Christ. If they fail moreover to respond to that grace in thought, word and deed, not only shall they not be saved but they will be the more severely judged. (Lumen Gentium #14)

In fidelity to conscience, Christians are joined with the rest of men in the search for truth, and for the genuine solution to the numerous problems which arise in the life of individuals from social relationships. Hence the more right conscience holds sway, the more persons and groups turn aside from blind choice and strive to be guided by the objective norms of morality. Conscience frequently errs from invincible ignorance without losing its dignity. The same cannot be said for a man who cares but little for truth and goodness, or for a conscience which by degrees grows practically sightless as a result of habitual sin. (Gaudium et Spes #16)

Continuing a theme from last time  the Pope and bishops have consistently and forcefully spoken out, warning Catholics against losing sight of our moral obligations towards the least of our brethren… warnings that are often received with hostility from Catholics who support the political policy or the party promoting it. 

This hostility is shown by accusing the bishops of being the ones with a political bias (“the Church should stay out of politics!”), by employing the tu quoque fallacy (“why doesn’t the Church clean up X first?”), the either-or fallacy (“the Church should be focusing on Y instead”) or by shifting the responsibility (“It’s the fault of Z for being in this situation”).

All of these accusations do demonstrate something: that these critics are aware that the Pope and bishops are speaking against the position they defend for whatever motive. If these critics are Catholics, they cannot claim ignorance that when they teach, the Pope and bishops are to be heeded, not finding excuses to reject that teaching.

can. 751† Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.

can. 752† Although not an assent of faith, a religious submission of the intellect and will must be given to a doctrine which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops declares concerning faith or morals when they exercise the authentic magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim it by definitive act; therefore, the Christian faithful are to take care to avoid those things which do not agree with it.

can. 753† Although the bishops who are in communion with the head and members of the college, whether individually or joined together in conferences of bishops or in particular councils, do not possess infallibility in teaching, they are authentic teachers and instructors of the faith for the Christian faithful entrusted to their care; the Christian faithful are bound to adhere with religious submission of mind to the authentic magisterium of their bishops.

Code of Canon Law

Liberal Catholics tend to attack the Church for teaching against things like abortion and sexual morality while conservative Catholics tend to attack the Church over social teachings. Both offer excuses as to why they can ignore the Church teaching, calling those areas of dissent “unimportant” and holding the things they already agree with as vital truths that the Church should focus on. But both forget that the deadliest sin for an individual is not some horrible crime if the person has no inclination to commit it. It is the unrepented sin which one refuses to heed the Church over (cf. Matthew 18:17, Luke 10:16). Remember, a Cafeteria Catholic is a Cafeteria Catholic whether they reject Church teaching on contraception and abortion on one hand, or reject Social Justice teachings on the other.

Ezekiel 33:7-9 reminds us of the obligation of the Church here:

You, son of man—I have appointed you as a sentinel for the house of Israel; when you hear a word from my mouth, you must warn them for me. When I say to the wicked, “You wicked, you must die,” and you do not speak up to warn the wicked about their ways, they shall die in their sins, but I will hold you responsible for their blood. If, however, you warn the wicked to turn from their ways, but they do not, then they shall die in their sins, but you shall save your life. 

When the Pope and the bishops warn us about the sins we excuse in ourselves, it isn’t because they’re blind to their own political bias. It’s because we are. They are warning both of the evils in their political factions, but we have a habit of forgetting when they speak out against those we disagree with and bitterly remember when we ourselves are rebuked.

If the Pope or a bishop teaches something that seems wrong to us, we have an obligation to investigate the Church teaching and whether we either misunderstood what they said or misunderstood the actual teaching itself. Yes, individual bishops lack authority and fall into error if they teach or act in opposition to the Pope (cf. CCC #883). Yes, a Pope can make a mistake speaking as a private person. Yes, both are just as much sinners as we are. But Christ established the Catholic Church and gave the Apostles and their successors under the headship of Peter and his successors the authority to bind and loose (Matthew 16:19, 18:18). Without knowing where the final authority lies, we could never know who to trust and who to avoid. 

If we want to be faithful to God, we must be faithful to His Church and not looking for excuses to evade obedience. Otherwise, we’re on a short road to disaster.

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