Monday, May 25, 2015

TFTD: The Scandal that Wasn't...

(See: Pope to US Christian Unity Event: Jesus Knows... - Zenit News Agency)

So, opening Facebook this morning, I had one of those What in the Hell??? moments when ZENIT gave us the headline, “Pope to US Christian Unity Event: Jesus Knows All Christians Are One, Doesn't Care What Type.” This was a statement that would scandalize the faithful. Was this one of those incidents where Pope Francis spoke “off the cuff” and created another headache for apologists? I mean, this is the level headed ZENIT, not some uninformed secular news site or radical blog that shoots first and asks questions later.

A portion of the article would lead you to think this was the Pope’s fault:

Francis pointed out that Jesus knows that Christians are disciples of Christ, and that they are one and brothers.

“He doesn’t care if they are Evangelicals, or Orthodox, Lutherans, Catholics or Apostolic…he doesn’t care!” Francis said. “They are Christians. 

Is the Pope offering a heresy of indifferentism?

The short answer is “No.” The longer answer is “HELL NO!"

The complete transcript is found HERE and it is clear that the author of the first article (probably in good faith) completely misunderstood who the article “He” was referring to in the article. What the Pope actually said was:

Together today, I here in Rome and you over there, we will ask our Father to send the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and to give us the grace to be one, “so that the world may believe”. I feel like saying something that may sound controversial, or even heretical, perhaps. But there is someone who “knows” that, despite our differences, we are one. It is he who is persecuting us. It is he who is persecuting Christians today, he who is anointing us with (the blood of) martyrdom. He knows that Christians are disciples of Christ: that they are one, that they are brothers! He doesn’t care if they are Evangelicals, or Orthodox, Lutherans, Catholics or Apostolic…he doesn’t care! They are Christians. And that blood (of martyrdom) unites. Today, dear brothers and sisters, we are living an “ecumenism of blood”. This must encourage us to do what we are doing today: to pray, to dialogue together, to shorten the distance between us, to strengthen our bonds of brotherhood.

In other words, the Pope was saying that the devil didn’t care what denomination he was persecuting—he wants to destroy Christians!

Now this was a completely orthodox site, and they got things drastically wrong. Now keep this in mind when a secular newspaper misinterprets something the Pope says.

Also keep this in mind when a “Super Catholic” gets outraged and bashes the Pope on the basis of what is reported in the news.

The moral is—always use the transcripts and always read carefully if you think something sounds strange. It’s easier to believe the reader is in error than that the Pope is teaching heresy.

"Do Not Be Afraid!" Reflections on God and His Church

5. Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power. Help the Pope and all those who wish to serve Christ and with Christ’s power to serve the human person and the whole of mankind. Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of States, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development. Do not be afraid. Christ knows “what is in man”. He alone knows it.

So often today man does not know what is within him, in the depths of his mind and heart. So often he is uncertain about the meaning of his life on this earth. He is assailed by doubt, a doubt which turns into despair. We ask you therefore, we beg you with humility and trust, let Christ speak to man. He alone has words of life, yes, of eternal life.

[John Paul II, Homilies of Pope John Paul II (English) (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2014). October 22, 1978]

The powers of darkness are doubtlessly smiling over the vote in Ireland recognizing “same-sex marriage.” I have seen Irish news sites crowing about how the power of the Church was “finally broken.” Media sources and politicians are full of advice telling us that we need to change our teachings if we are to “remain relevant” and survive. 

The Flood2(The ultimate result of breaking the bonds with the Church, the Barque of Peter, is being stranded when the floods come)

Meanwhile, many Catholics are stunned, and thinking that if only the Church had done things differently, we would not be seeing the revolt carried out once more in a nation which was once solidly Catholic.

I am inclined to think that both groups are missing the point of what God’s intention is and what the task of His Church is.

God is our Creator. He loves us and designed us for good. However, He did not want mindless slaves who have no choice but to live the way He wants. He wanted our response to be love freely chosen. This means: If we are free to make the right choice, we are also free to make the wrong choice. God gives us the grace to respond to Him in love and obedience. However, we are free to refuse that gift of grace, placing ourselves first and seeking things that are pleasurable in the short term, but ultimately destructive.

Because of the choice of our first parents (see HERE for a reflection on the Fall and the need for Baptism), we have an inclination to sin and we need salvation—something we are unable to give ourselves or earn. The acts of Jesus, suffering and dying for us opened Heaven to all who would accept His gift. But that acceptance is a free choice. We need His grace to accept it, but we can refuse it by choosing to live in a way against what God calls us to be. If we do refuse that gift, we do have nobody to blame but ourselves if we die in opposition to His commandments.

As Catholics, we believe that the Catholic Church was established by Our Lord as the means of bringing His salvation to the world. The Church does not act as a self-appointed association of do-gooders or meddlers who are putting their noses in the affairs of others, or are a charitable NGO. As the Catechism begins:

1 God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.

2 So that this call should resound throughout the world, Christ sent forth the apostles he had chosen, commissioning them to proclaim the gospel: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” Strengthened by this mission, the apostles “went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it.”5

The Church exists to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them, and teaching them to live as Our Lord has commanded. It follows from this, that the Church is not free to change her teaching from saying “X is evil” to saying “X is good.” If the Church sanctions behavior which goes against the commandments of God, she is failing in her mission.

But at the same time, she does not have the ability counteract free-will. No matter how firmly or clearly she teaches the truth about God and how we must behave if we truly love Him, people can misuse free will in defiance of that teaching (cf. Revelation 22:11). History is full of instances where faithful nations turned to error and rejected the Church—not because the Church failed to teach, but because those who ruled found the Church to be an obstacle. Consider England’s shift to Protestantism at the whim of the King, the French Revolution and others.

Unfortunately, some people fail to make that connection. Instead, they assume that the existence of rebellion against the Church must be the fault of the Church. The logic runs like this:

  • If the Church (Bishop/Priest) fails to teach, people will embrace error. (If A happens, B will happen)
  • People embrace error (B happens)
  • Therefore the Church failed to teach (Therefore A must have happened)

In logic, we call that affirming the consequent. The flaw is this—just because A can cause B is not proof that A did cause B. There may be other causes and these causes must be eliminated before we can affirm that A did cause B. In this case, the assumption is that the rejection of Church teaching must be ignorance because somebody failed to teach properly. Sometimes that is true. But it is not always true. Hostility and a willful decision to reject the Church teaching is also possible. So can the corruption of society into embracing something the Church speaks out against. So can the corruption of a government to take an antagonistic view of the Church. These are all possibilities where the assumption can be false.

So it important to remember what the Church is for—to proclaim the Gospel, baptizing and teaching what God has commanded. This task does not permit the Church to change God’s teaching. It only permits her to discern what is the best way to do this. This task does not mean that a person listen to the Church or will persevere in the faith either. A person might make a shipwreck of their faith. 

Also, we need to remember that God is in charge. We trust Him to look after the Church under the headship of the Pope and the bishops in communion with him, trusting when the Church does require us to give assent, God will not allow the Church to teach something that obligates us to commit sin. Even if some are unfaithful, The headship of the Pope is still where we must look for the true practice of the faith, because we trust God’s promise to protect His Church.

Finally, we need to remember that the behaviors of a nation which repudiate the teaching of the Church is not the death knell of the Church. The Church had survived the breaking away of whole nations through heresy and schism, and she will continue to do so with the Irish apostasy. It will be hard on those nations and the Church in those nations. We certainly need to pray for the Church and the shepherds in this countries. We need to re-evangelize those nations. But panicking is not acceptable.

We must not be afraid to bring Christ to the world, even when we are hated and ridiculed for speaking out. We must not allow ourselves to give into panic and assume the battle is lost whenever the politician promotes evil. Certainly, let us pray for the clergy, religious and laity that all may carry out their task in serving the Church faithfully. But let us always remember the role God intends the Church to play and not blame her for not being something she never was to begin with.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Dark Times: Reflections on Anti-Religious Propaganda

12 The wicked plot against the righteous 

and gnash their teeth at them; 

13 But my Lord laughs at them, 

because he sees that their day is coming. 

14 The wicked unsheath their swords; 

they string their bows 

To fell the poor and oppressed, 

to slaughter those whose way is upright. 

15 Their swords will pierce their own hearts; 

their bows will be broken. [Psalm 37:12-15]

Reading the news, it seems that the foes of the Church have largely abandoned the pretense of trying to separate Pope Francis from the teaching of the Church. Because they believe that victory is imminent, they now write as if the Church is defeated and needs to change and get with the program if she would survive. However, we refuse to roll over and submit, and this angers those who hate us. The thing is, people who oppose the teaching of the Church are not satisfied with having usurped the legal power to implement what they desire. Rather, they want everyone to accept their desires as morally good. But as long as we’re here to remind them that God exists and their behavior separates them from Him, we are a stumbling block to their plans. So, they hope that they can drive us into irrelevancy by silencing us and persuading people to come over to their side. 

They do this through both overt attacks to drive us out of the public square and through persuading individuals that it is better to follow them than to follow the Church. But they can’t do this by giving their position and letting each person decide what is true. They have to misrepresent our beliefs to make them seem dangerous and malicious. They have to make it appear as if it is the Church who is trying to force changes, when the Church is simply insisting that the truth remains true, regardless of culture or era.

Dr. Peter Kreeft shows the problem in one of his Socratic Dialogue books:

Libby: It sounds like sour grapes to me. You’re complaining because we’re winning.

‘Isa: No, I’m complaining because you’re lying. For a whole generation now you small minority of relativistic elitists who somehow gained control of the media have been relentlessly imposing your elitist relativism on popular opinion by accusing popular opinion—I mean traditional morality—of elitism, and of imposing their morality! It’s like the Nazi propaganda saying Germany was victimized by Poland.

[Peter Kreeft, A Refutation of Moral Relativism: Interviews with an Absolutist (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999), 141.]

The political and cultural elites of our nation have portrayed the situation as if a group of antisocial misfits suddenly appeared in society with the intention to persecute people who think differently than they do. They portray it as if “enlightened” people are finally throwing off the shackles of these misfits and benefitting society in doing so. So they tell the world that Christians “condemn” because we hate—that we hate and fear anyone who will not submit to what we say. They dredge up the behavior of the worst history has to offer and portray it as if this was the norm for what we would do if they let us get away from it. Basically, the lie they use is to say that the world was as enlightened as the 21st century until religion—especially Judaeo-Christian religion—came into being, and sought to control human thought through fear and superstition.

This is, of course, false. But it is quite effective. Look at modern programs on TV. Look at how they portray religion. Practitioners of religion fall into two groups. Either they are cold, hostile people who are bigoted and hostile to anyone who thinks differently, or they are willing to compromise their beliefs to get along with the world. The former are villains and the latter are heroes.

They tried to fit Pope Francis into this mindset. They took his words out of context and tried to make it seem as if he was “heroically struggling” to bring the Church into an “enlightened” view. But he had too much to say in defense of the family and Catholic teaching to spin. Now they either ignore him or lump him in with those who they once contrasted him against. Now the media has to look to individual Catholics who rebel against the authority which Christ gave His Church and portray them as the enlightened ones. The ultimate result of this distortion of the Pope was not the changing of Church teaching, but deceiving many hitherto faithful Catholics into questioning or rejecting his authority as the successor to St. Peter, wrongly thinking that the Pope is in the camp of the compromisers.

At this time, the elites of our nation seem to think they have won. The Church is on the defensive while the courts seem willing to give them everything they ask for, ignoring the fact that these rulings violate the beliefs that our nation was founded on—that the government does not have the right to compel a person to do what their religious belief forbids them to do.

So, it is indeed a dark time. But we need to remember we cannot give up in despair or simply hunkering down in a bunker, deciding to survive while the whole world goes to hell. There have been dark times before, where the state wrongfully sought to usurp authority by making laws it had no authority to make. Yes, things can indeed get worse. We can indeed be personally targeted by unjust laws or even physical persecution. But we have to remember that this is not the first time such dark times have happened. In every other time, the Church continued to stand up and perform the mission Christ gave us.

People may hate us for telling them the truth, showing them that their chosen actions are not compatible with the love of God. But they are not our enemies, but our patients. God doesn’t want them damned, but wants them to turn back to Him. Our task is to cooperate with that great commission, regardless of whether the world wants to hear it or not.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Dissenter's Deception

And since, by the divine right of apostolic primacy, one Roman Pontiff is placed over the universal Church, We further teach and declare that he is the supreme judge of the faithful,* and that in all causes the decision of which belongs to the Church recourse may be had to his tribunal,† but that none may reopen the judgement of the Apostolic See, than whose authority there is no greater, nor can any lawfully review its judgement.‡ Wherefore they err from the right path of truth who assert that it is lawful to appeal from the judgements of the Roman Pontiffs to an Œcumenical Council, as to an authority higher than that of the Roman Pontiff.

 

If then any shall say that the Roman Pontiff has the office merely of inspection or direction, and not full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the universal Church, not only in things which belong to faith and morals, but also in those things which relate to the discipline and government of the Church spread throughout the world; or assert that he possesses merely the principal part, and not all the fullness of this supreme power; or that this power which he enjoys is not ordinary and immediate, both over each and all the Churches and over each and all the pastors of the faithful; let him be anathema.

 

[Pastor Æternus Chapter III. First Vatican Council]

I’ve been reading a book, What Went Wrong With Vatican II by Ralph McInerny that leaves me with a strange sense of déjà vu. The main premise is the rejection of authority in the 1960s did not come about because of Vatican II, but because of Humanae Vitae. A good portion of this book deals with the fact that the Pope made a binding teaching of the ordinary magisterium which people did not like, and to justify their dislike, they invented a theology  which never had been taught before which claimed the right to judge the teachings of the Church and reject those which they did not wish to follow.

The déjà vu portion comes when I see what liberal dissenters did in 1968 in rejecting magisterial authority—and see just how similar their arguments are to the arguments used by radical traditionalists today in rejecting the magisterial authority of the Church when it makes decisions they dislike.

The basic premise of both groups of dissent is in the argument that when the Pope makes a teaching which is not ex cathedra, it is fallible and therefore not binding. Liberal dissent used this argument from the 1960s on in trying to undermine the teaching authority of the Church when it came to sexual matters. It was argued that because the Church teaching on contraception was not made in an infallible pronunciation like the pronunciation of dogmas in 1854 (The Immaculate Conception) and 1950 (The Assumption of Mary), there could be error in it. Playing on the fear of uncertainty, a string of spurious reasoning was created:

  1. This document was not infallible, therefore it is fallible. 
  2. Because it is fallible, it contains error.
  3. We cannot be bound to follow error.
  4. Therefore we cannot be bound to follow this document.

The whole string is laden with error. It starts out with the development of the “Either-Or” fallacy by way of giving an equivocal meaning to the word fallible. The meaning is, generally speaking, “capable of error.” All of humanity is fallible by nature. But dissenters like to manipulate the meaning to make it sound like it means “containing error.” Thus the argument is made that, “if it’s not infallible, I don’t have to obey it.” But the problem is, dissenters are giving infallibility a meaning that is too narrow, while giving fallibility a meaning which is too broad. The fact is, the Church does not teach that one may ignore a teaching which is not made ex cathedra. The truth is quite the opposite.

What the faithful are bound to accept is not limited to the ex cathedra pronunciation—those are intentionally rare and the Popes govern by other methods. Indeed, the Church has taught that there are two means of teaching—both of which are binding. The Catechism says:

891 “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful—who confirms his brethren in the faith—he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals.… The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium,” above all in an Ecumenical Council. When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine “for belief as being divinely revealed,” and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions “must be adhered to with the obedience of faith.”420 This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.

892 Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a “definitive manner,” they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful “are to adhere to it with religious assent” which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it.

Regardless of whether the Pope is speaking on contraception, abortion, economics or ecology (or other topics involving faith and morals), if he teaches in a way that is not ex cathedra, he is still teaching in a way which binds us to obey. As the 1983 Code of Canon Law says:

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.

So, the teaching of the Church is something we must give the obedience and assent of faith to, making a religious submission of intellect and will, and avoiding those things that are contrary to this teaching. Unfortunately, many confuse a teaching which is not done in a “definitive manner” with a mere opinion. But there is a massive difference. A Pope can offer his opinion on the best way to carry out the Church teaching on social justice, but that is different than the Pope teaching that social justice requires economics to be carried out with ethics.

So the dissent from the radicals in the 1960s to the present against the Church is no different than the dissent of the modern anti-Francis mindset of today. Both reject the authority of the Church to interfere with behavior they do not want to change. Both want to give the impression of being faithful in a larger sense by being disobedient in a “smaller” sense. Both feel that it’s both the other side and the magisterium who are the problem.

The fact is, being a faithful Catholic requires that we are obedient to those who have the authority to determine what is in keeping with the Deposit of Faith and what is not. If we refuse to be obedient, then regardless of our work on the defense of marriage, social justice, life issues or any other area, we are being faithless and usurping the authority of the successors of the Apostles. Such people can claim to be faithful, but they are deceiving both themselves and others.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Corruptio Optimi Pessima (Corruption of the Best is the Worst)

Temptation(The Temptation of Jesus—James Tissot)

Very few people set out with the intention of “Hey! I’m going to be an evil bastard!” But many people who start out with the intention of being good do wind up with the end result of having done evil.

Consider that statement. I bet a lot of us immediately thought of other people as falling under this category. I also bet that very few thought of ourselves. That means we’re either a bunch of saints (in which case, consider 1 Corinthians 10:12), or we’re blind to our failings. Personally I think the second option best describes our lives.

The fact is, the devil is out to ruin every one of us individually, and every one of us has our own strengths and weaknesses. The intention of the devil is to play on our weaknesses—our passions, our opinions, and so on. Unfortunately, we tend to be blind to this. We expect the devil to come with a direct attack against what we find important. A lot of our apocalyptic religious fiction tends to work that way. If you look at the Left Behind series or the Michael O’Brien novel Father Elijah, we see an antichrist who is a political liberal. He gives people what they want in terms of libertine debauchery and undermines the Church by turning people away from it. And this is happening today. We see this, and we make our decision to be faithful—praying to God that we be given the grace to stand in the face of persecution or seduction.

But what we don’t consider is that the devil wants our damnation as well. It doesn’t please him to destroy our body if our soul is brought to God. Some have apostatized in the past in the face of persecution, but others have stood firm with the grace of God supporting them. Some have been seduced into accepting libertine behavior, but others have not—through the grace of God. Are we to think that the devil will only succeed in trapping the political left and the weak minded, and as long as we’re politically “conservative” we’ll be safe?

I think we would be foolish to think so. The devil has other tactics besides the use of brute force. One of them is to deceive people into thinking that they are in the right while others who disagree are wrong—even if that disagreement comes from the magisterium of the Church. When one refuses to consider the possibility of being wrong, how can they repent and turn back to God? If one refuses to consider that the Church teaching is right when it goes against the individual’s own preferences,are no longer giving the religious assent that even the ordinary magisterium requires (See CCC #892).

But the whole point of metanoia is turning away from sin and towards God again. It requires being sorry for the wrong we have done. In metanoia we have the change of perspective in our lives. We realize that what we have been doing is not compatible with what God calls us to be and we want to change to be what God calls us to be. We can’t do it without His grace, but if we refuse to consider the possibility of our doing wrong, we won’t be open to seeking that grace. 

This is how people are corrupted. They deceive themselves into thinking they are good Catholics even when they are refusing to obey the successors to the Apostles—whom they deceive themselves into thinking are bad Catholics. This is not something limited to one theological outlook. The rebellion of the liberals in the 1960s forward is being taken up by conservative dissent today…the arguments used to defy the Church over Humanae Vitae in 1968 is being used to defy Pope Francis here and now. 

This is the corruption of the best intentions—to be faithful to God and the Church, and in corrupting such people, they become the worst. We need to pray that God open our eyes so we might see where we fall, so we might turn back to Him. Let us not be so sure that we are right that we ignore the flaws that might lead to our fall...

Windstorm

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Fundamentally Missing the Point: The Danger of Assuming Everyone Thinks Like You

(See: Israel hawks to Pope Francis: Stay out of politics - Rachael Bade - POLITICO)

One of the more foolish things a person can do, especially in terms of politics, is to assume that everybody sees things the same way and if a person sees things differently that us, it means they are doing so for the same motivations and with bad will. For years, liberals accused Catholics of violating the separation of Church and State, getting involved with politics when she spoke out on moral issues like contraception, abortion, “same sex marriage” and the like. This assumption overlooked the fact that the Church had been teaching on these issues long before the modern concept of “liberal vs. conservative” even existed.

But this is not an error limited to liberalism. Conservatism has its own “sacred cows” as well, and can get just as irrational when the Church says something that strikes too close to home for them as well. For example, the outrage that happens when the Pope says that capitalism sometimes falls short of the mark and needs to be corrected. The conservatives then act just as irrationally as liberals and accuse them of getting involved in “political” affairs.

This time, the issue is over the fact that the Church intends to establish diplomatic relations with Palestine. Some conservatives are upset, believing this is an endorsement of the behavior of Palestinian terrorists and opposition to the right of Israel to exist. That kind of thinking is the “either-or” fallacy—the assumption that there are only two choices and to choose one means the rejection of the other. It overlooks the possibility of rejecting both choices, or there being a third choice, or holding to both views because they are not contradictory.

The fact is, the Church does sometimes need to establish diplomatic relations in a country in order to carry out her mission in that country. This is why the Church had established diplomatic relations with repugnant nations like Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. We forget, being Americans, that the free practice of religion is not always present in other nations—even in democracies (let alone autocratic nations)—like it is in America. The whole idea of the concordant (an agreement between the Church and a nation) is intended to get the freedom for the Church to carry out her mission in that nation, and gives the Church standing to approach another nation as a diplomatic entity and not as a subject.

The fact is, there is a Catholic population in the Palestinian territories, and the Church does need to look after them. Also, in her commitment to peace, she does need to be able to speak to the leaders of both Israel (with whom the Church does have diplomatic relations already) and Palestine both without the emissaries being seen as subjects of one of the nations.

The point is, when the Church acts in establishing relations with a nation, that does not mean that the Church endorses the policies of that nation. It is foolish to assume that the Church looks at matters in the same way as an American politician and, when the politician disagrees with the Church teaching, that means the Church is deliberately taking a position in opposition to the political slant which the politician supports.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

"The Temple of the Lord! The Temple of the Lord! The Temple of the Lord!" Thoughts on Ignoring God's Warning

Exile

Reading the Old Testament—the history and the prophets—we see a fascinating picture of God’s love and man’s failure to respond. God cares for his people enough to tell them of the need of repentance, and warns them of the consequences of living in rejection of this call. God sent prophets to Israel and Judea to plead with them to turn back, using strong language when needed, equating His people with playing the role of the prostitute because of their sins. Because they refused to listen and repent, the ultimate fate was one of exile. They were handed over to their enemies and forced from their homes. Because the land they were driven from was the land their ancestors were promised, it was a sign of just how far the people of Israel and Judea had alienated themselves from God.

But during that time when God sent His prophets to warn them of their sins, the response was always hostile. Prophets were mocked, jailed and killed. The prophecies against Israel and Judah were seen as treasonous—people viewed them as the individual wishing evil upon their own nation. They also presumed they would be safe from any promised punishments. After all, didn’t God establish His temple here? He was not going to permit it to be destroyed.

But the prophet Jeremiah warned them about that false mindset:

The word came to Jeremiah from the Lord: Stand at the gate of the house of the Lord and proclaim this message there: Hear the word of the Lord, all you of Judah who enter these gates to worship the Lord! Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Reform your ways and your deeds so that I may dwell with you in this place. Do not put your trust in these deceptive words: “The temple of the Lord! The temple of the Lord! The temple of the Lord!” Only if you thoroughly reform your ways and your deeds; if each of you deals justly with your neighbor; if you no longer oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow; if you no longer shed innocent blood in this place or follow after other gods to your own harm, only then will I let you continue to dwell in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors long ago and forever. (Jeremiah 7:1-7)

I think that America today behaves like ancient Israel and Judea. We consider ourselves to be fine as we are, and refuse to consider that we need to change our ways. We invoke our own version of “The temple of the Lord! The temple of the Lord! The Temple of the Lord!” by announcing that “God doesn’t care about those actions!” or “If God is Love, He won’t send me to hell.” The prophet warning of the need to change our sinful ways (the Church) is scorned and attacked—told to be silent. Peter Kreeft once described the American situation in a Socratic dialogue as follows:

Libby: I see. Professor, don’t you think your doomsday scenario runs afoul of facts? Look at America. This “Dracula”[*], as you call it, is one of the most religious countries in the world. Half the people go to church, and 95% believe in God. America’s got more religion than almost any other country.

‘Isa: Yes, and it’s also got more guns, more suicides, more abortions, more divorces, more drugs, more pornography, more fatherless children than almost any other country.

Libby: How can that be? Doesn’t that refute religion’s claims? Isn’t religion supposed to be the cure for all these social diseases?

‘Isa: Not if the religion is as relativistic as the society. Not if the doctor is as sick as the patient. A God made in the world’s image can’t save the world. You see, American religion wants to make you feel good and be comfortable, not to shock you or scandalize you.

[Peter Kreeft, A Refutation of Moral Relativism: Interviews with an Absolutist (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999), 21–22.

The religion America prefers, aimed at making us feel good and comfortable, prevents us from thinking about whether we do things which are evil in the sight of God. We reduce the concept of “God is Love” (1 John 4:16) to sentimentality, and think warnings are contrary to love as opposed to being motivated by love. Because we do not think of where we stand before God, we do not repent. Because we do not repent, we remain in our sins. Because we remain in our sins, we risk damnation.

The Catholic Church is sent to the world to tell all people in all nations and times of the message of salvation and our need to turn back to God, repenting of the evil that we do. She tells us that God is the greatest possible good, and nothing that separates us from Him is worth the ultimate cost. She reminds us that we have the free will to accept God’s grace that we need to be saved and we have the free will to reject it. But if we use the free will to reject God, there are consequences. We cannot reasonably expect that we can reject God while believing we are owed the benefits that come from following Him. As St. Epiphanius wrote, “God gives not the kingdom of heaven but on condition that we labor; and all we can do bears no proportion to such a crown.”

But that is exactly what our society is demanding. They want the reward without the labor. They want salvation without repentance. In short, they want God to repent and change His ways—a blasphemous impossibility. The Church cannot promise such a false message, and the person who demands it is on a fool’s errand. But the political and cultural elites are indeed on this fool’s errand, demanding that the Church change her teaching as if she had invented the moral obligations she feels bound to teach.

America will continue to utter the modern equivalent of “The Temple of the Lord! The Temple of the Lord! The Temple of the Lord!” America will continue to lull herself with a false sense of security, and if she does so, she will face destruction. I do not know if this will be a physical destruction like past nations have suffered as a warning, or whether it will be the ultimate damnation of hell. But turning back to God is the only thing that can save us.

Meanwhile, the Church will continue to teach and to administer the sacraments, even at the cost of the hatred of the world. We will be hated and persecuted as Our Lord has warned. But we will remain in carrying out our mission, even as we pick up the pieces of a society which destroys itself by refusing to hear the truth.

Die in bed

The nations cannot destroy the Church, but they can destroy themselves. God’s ultimate victory will happen whether we are cooperating or opposing Him. However, the Scriptures and history warn us that we would be far wiser to listen to God and obey Him, rather than oppose Him. The question is—will we listen? Or will we find ourselves paying the penalty for ignoring our plight while saying "The Temple of the Lord! The Temple of the Lord! The Temple of the Lord!"

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[*] Previously in the dialogue, ‘Isa refers to America as Dracula because America’s cultural imperialism is imposing moral relativism on the rest of the world.