July 13, 2012


The Church is powerless

It seems that every time we turn around these days, the Catholic Church is being bashed for one reason or another—and often by its own members. And we’re not talking here only about the threats to religious freedom that we have editorialized about previously.

In this secular age that we are living in, the Church is seen as an obstacle to those whose principal rule for what is right or wrong seems to be tolerance for the beliefs and actions of others. We’re living in an age of relativism, the belief that there is no such thing as absolute truth and that truth is relative. What is true for you might not be true for me.

With this as their guide, people are easily persuaded that the Church’s insistence that marriage must be between one man and one woman is intolerant toward homosexuals. They are also easily persuaded that there is nothing wrong with homosexual acts between consenting adults if they seem right to them.

The change in the attitude of Americans toward homosexual unions has been remarkable. It is clearly an example, especially among young people, that tolerance toward others is the most important principle, and anyone who thinks otherwise is a bigot.

Similarly, the Church’s prohibition of sexual intercourse outside of marriage, including cohabitation before marriage, seems old-fashioned. If those people believe it’s OK, why should anyone object? What’s wrong with sexual intercourse outside of marriage anyway? All those movie stars seem to be doing it.

Then there’s that “war against women,” as some people are calling it. The Catholic Church has all those rules that women don’t like, such as prohibitions against abortion, contraception and the ordination of women.

Surely, the Church would get many more members if it didn’t try to dictate how people live their lives, critics insist. It seems to consider itself so powerful that it can demand that people follow its teachings. No wonder so many people are leaving the Catholic Church, critics state.

The reality, of course, is that the Catholic Church is really powerless to change the teachings that came from God himself through natural law and revelation in order to curry favor among people who don’t like those teachings.

For example, the Catholic Church can’t suddenly decide that homosexual acts are good despite the fact that nature itself and Scripture show the opposite to be true. It is powerless to accept marriage as including the union of two persons of the same sex.

The same is true with regard to sexual intercourse and cohabitation before marriage. Of course, the Church realizes that many people ignore its teachings, but the Church is powerless to change those teachings.

As for that so-called “war against women” that opponents of Catholic teachings call the Church’s teachings about abortion, contraception and women’s ordination, there is no such war. Why don’t more women stand up for the Church’s teachings regarding the role of women?

It seems that the Church is criticized whenever it finds it necessary to take action against a theologian or organization. Recently, it did that with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), and you would think that the Vatican was criticizing all women religious in the United States, which, of course, it was not.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said that an assessment of the LCWR revealed that a major reform was needed to ensure the conference’s fidelity to Catholic teaching in areas including abortion, euthanasia, women’s ordination and homosexuality.

The Vatican apparently believes that, over time, the LCWR concentrated its efforts on the Church’s social justice teachings and ignored, or compromised, those other issues. That is not at all a criticism of the life and work of most women religious, but you wouldn’t know that from the reaction of some commentators.

It is not always easy to be a faithful Catholic these days, especially when many of our secular media are hostile toward the Church. Our bishops are sometimes accused of engaging in partisan politics by the left when they defend pro-life issues or by the right when they advocate social justice issues.

The Church can either compromise with society or continue to teach Christ’s truths.

Needless to say, it will continue to do the latter.

—John F. Fink

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