Thursday, March 26, 2009

Commentary on Catholic Dissidence and Bishop Morlino on Obedience

On the heels of the firing of a lay pastoral associate by Bishop Morlino in Madison, the Wisconsin bishop talks about the lay apostolate in this week's Catholic Herald. At the end, he speaks on the topic of obedience, often misunderstood. It is posted with yesterday's feast day - the Annunciation - in mind.

Before I give you that text and related link, I want to offer this thought...

God does not force His will on anyone. Mary was not forced to conceive Jesus. The Angel Gabriel waited for her "fiat", her "yes" to God's will. The Annunciation is not just about the Word become flesh, but it is a lesson in obedience to God's will - to go along with God's plan as it comes through others. Specifically for us, this means the Church, headed by the Successor to Peter. The plan never included a set of keys for every individual to "bind and lose" on their own, or through opinion polls, or with the flow of a given age. Remember, it was by popular opinion that Our Lord was nailed to a Cross!

Because we have a free will, obedience is a choice - one that can only be made by those who are free to choose it. But some are held captive by the world - a world which is always there to feed our human fallen nature, or the effects of Original Sin. It is why the story of Adam and Eve is distorted by dissenting theologians and their followers. If they were merely ficticious figures, then Original Sin could not exist. Without Original Sin, we would have no cause to gravitate to that which is disordered, sinful, and displeasing to God. And, it is why the Sacrament of Confession has fallen out of fashion because if there is no human fallen nature, then there is no sin and no need for reconciliation. These things are foreign to our Catholic faith!

Dissidents are trying to create a "designer religion" out of Catholicism in wanting to make it conform to their individual desires. It is a world from which Our Lord wants to set us free. It's a world whose ways are in conflict with God's ways. At it's core is often sexual promiscuity under the guise of sexual "freedom". Think about the teachings that dissidents would like changed and it will often lead right back to this so-called right which is nothing more than a right to sin and offend God, by choice.

They often want the Church to accept homosexual behavior. The Church embraces those with SSA, but cannot condone homosexual acts any more than it can condone heterosexual acts outside of Sacramental marriage. Others want to change the Church's teaching on abortion, or euthanasia, contraception and other "life" issues. Dissidents know where the Church stands on all of these issues, but they don't agree and feel that Holy Mother Church ought to bend with every wind of doctrine that comes with each new generation. As scripture tells us, Jesus is Truth. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever - do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. (Hebrews 13:8-9). Hence, there cannot be several versions truth any more than there can be several versions of Jesus.

The Cross exemplifies sacrifice and when we accept Church teachings - willfully, sacrificing our own desires, it becomes a white martyrdom. Next to death, there is nothing greater we can give to God than our own will. Mary said, "Your will Lord, not mine". The words and actions of Catholic dissidents is "Your will Lord, as long as it conforms to mine".

There is no such thing as right or left in the Church. There is loyal or disloyal; orthodox or dissenting. Or, there are those struggling quietly to understand Church teaching. These latter are not dissidents until they cross the line into challenging that which has been taught clearly and consistently. Such people are further distinguished from dissidents in that they actually read the catechism, read Church documents and when they don't understand something, they seek answers with humility. One doesn't need to understand to accept teachings. Faith seeks understanding and it does so with prayer, reflection, reading and inquiry of sources loyal to the Church.

On to something in Bishop Morlino's column this week, which appears at the end of Responding, like Mary, to God's will for us. In part, he says:

Calling to the lay apostolate
For the most part, you who are reading this have a particular calling to the lay apostolate.What a great group of men and women we have, who are coming forward to “assist and complement”my ministry and that of our great priests.

Clearly, there are a great many direct ways that lay people can serve the Church and their individual parishes, but your key role is simply and authentically living the Gospels in the midst of your day-to-day lives. The laity are called “by their very vocation, to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God (Lumen Gentium, 31).”

As the Council points out, you live in the world, in your various professions and occupations, and you encounter, in the various ordinary circumstances of family and social life, the work and presence of the Creator.And in the midst of all of that, you, yourselves, are called to be a anctifying presence, a “leaven” from within.You are called to reach out to evangelize and sanctify your fellow men and women, through the spirit of the Gospel, in accordance with the mind of the Church (Apostolicam Actuositatem, 2,6).And you are called to build a just society and a just state through politics, as Pope Benedict XVI has said.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it should be clear that it all comes back to obedience: obedience to the will of God the Father — for Mary, for Jesus Himself, for the Saints (because it is only in their obedience to the Father that they are Saints), and for us as well. It is not blind obedience to anyone’s will. Rather, it is obedience in faith, just like the Blessed Virgin Mary. Our obedience is not blind whatsoever, for we are walking in the light of God — by faith! Mary’s obedience to the will of God, her free consent to give life to the Redeemer, to share His life, to suffer with Him under the cross, and to sacrifice Him for the sake of the redemption of humankind, is the model we should follow as the Church, and individually.
I come back to the statement at the bottom of my posts - something I had to ponder when I was accused of "blind obedience" to the Church, and was told I should use my own brain.

The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church; it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!

Well, I have used my own brain and have made a free choice to accept all of the Church's teachings. At first I struggled with some of them. But, I chose a path of serious, quiet study and prayerful reflection. I dug into the Catechism, and then into church documents on those topics to understand why the Church has the position that she does. I went to competent, loyal and orthodox sources to see what they could offer, not to people who would enable me in my confusion, and ultimately lead to dissidence. It's a path I encourage for any Catholic who struggles with a teaching of the Church.

When Pope Paul VI made his prophetic encyclical, Humanae Vitae, he could not have known what science later revealed....that "the Pill" is sometimes an abortifacient. How would the Church have looked if she had went along with what the world desired, rather than follow truth? If the Church had said it was ok to use the pill back in 1968, she would have had to reverse herself or be in conflict with her own teachings when science learned that some eggs get fertilized, then flushed because the drug won't allow them to implant. That embryo had a soul - a soul that would never be baptized because it's life was snuffed out not by God, but by man. Natural Family Planning has come a long way today, from where it was years ago.

I believe this explains why we see priests and bishops becoming more vocal on contraception and faithful Catholics are starting to look closer themselves at the issue. We understand now that an ensouled human being in development is aborted through the actions of certain contraceptives.

I've had my say, now what say you? I'll allow any comments that are made in a charitable tone. Please allow some time for comment moderation since I try to do these in the evenings when I am home, or very early before heading out to work.

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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church; it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!