Society And Many Catholics Have Ignored The Prophetic Voice Of The Church!
By: Father Stephen Hellman
This past January I had the opportunity to attend the pro-life march in Washington DC with some high school kids from Montgomery. It’s a good trip, and I think it’s a worthwhile practice for students and parents to go to it at least once. But that’s not what I want to say about it. I want to tell you what left the deepest impression upon me.
I remember seeing a sea of people on those streets of our nation’s capital. These wide avenues packed with thousands upon thousands of people, mostly young people, many carrying signs or banners. Many, many Catholic groups there. It had to be, literally, three or four hundred thousand people in all. One report I read estimated five hundred thousand. Think about it: five hundred thousand people peacefully protesting about the most sensitive social-political issue of our age, crowding the national mall and the streets of the US Capitol building and in front of the Supreme Court….
I had gone once before, in 2009, and that year the major networks each mentioned it briefly in their evening newscasts. This year, not one of the major television networks gave it even ten seconds mention on the evening news…
That combined experience of seeing this major event and then seeing nothing about it in the major media astounded me. It continues to astound me. Regardless of what one thinks of the issue, any protest of that magnitude of people in this country regarding any social or political issue is a news event.
After thinking about it, I came to realize: the pro-life protest didn’t fit the narrative. The event did not fit the way those media want to present the world; it didn’t fit their approach to reality. So, it was ignored.
I think that’s what happened with Jesus in our gospel today. Here he is in his hometown of Nazareth, and his preaching about the Kingdom of God amazes the people… and he is performing great works in front of them…
And yet, they looked at him and all they saw was this lowly carpenter’s son. Who is this guy from this nondescript family, who is he to be saying and doing such things?
They were astonished by Jesus’ presence—but they didn’t let it affect their hearts. Jesus didn’t fit their narrative.
And Jesus in turn was astounded by their lack of faith…
The Church Has Been The Prophetic Voice That Society Has Ignored
I think many of us are coming to realize that we Catholics today, we are the prophet who is ignored in his own land. Beginning with Pope Paul VI and his issuance of the encyclical Humanae Vitae over 40 years ago, our Church has been the prophetic voice that our society has ignored.
Paul predicted that if society went down the path of uncritically embracing the new technologies of artificial contraception, it would have a devastating impact on human relationships, because in severing the connection between the unitive and procreative aspects of marriage, dimensions of married life that belong together, it would undermine the dignity of the human person by undermining marriage, the family, and the proper understanding of human sexuality.
Consequences Of Widespread Use And Acceptance Of Artificial Contraception
In Humanae Vitae Pope Paul predicted that widespread use of birth control would have four major effects: there would be a general lowering of moral standards; there would be an increase in marital infidelity and illegitimate births; there would be a tendency to reduce women to objects used to satisfy men; and, finally, government would attempt to force the use of contraceptives on everyone.
Is there any doubt that these four predictions have come true? And not only did our society wholeheartedly embrace this technology, but a significant number of Catholics, most of whom have probably been well-meaning, have as well. And Pope Paul’s predictions have proven, quite tragically, to be prophetic.
If you don’t believe that these predictions have come true, consider the following facts:
* in 1960 illegitimate births were 5.3% of all births in America; by 2010 they were 40.8%
* in 1960 married families made up almost three-quarters of all households; by 2010 they accounted for just 48%
* there are ten times as many people cohabiting in 2010 compared to 1960
And is there any doubt that our society has experienced moral decline? And is there any doubt that there’s been an explosion in pornography, which reduces women to objects…
And Now The HHS Mandate
And now with this HHS mandate the government is trying to force us to pay for contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients—without even providing a reasonable exception for those who object on religious grounds.
Clearly, in this case the facts of history prove in a fairly obvious way the correctness of Church teaching.
So, Pope Paul VI was a prophet whom the modern world has ignored when it comes to the issue of artificial contraception… Just as our society ignores it when prolifers come out in the hundreds of thousands to proclaim the inviolability of unborn human life…
I think this Gospel scene of Jesus at Nazareth presents us Catholics today with a clear challenge: Do we ourselves recognize that the Church teaching has proven prophetic? Are we willing to recommit ourselves to listening to the Church, trusting in the teachings of the Pope and Bishops, those who’ve been given the authority by Jesus to lead, to teach, and to sanctify—
Catholics Must Heed The Prophetic Warnings Of The Church
We Catholics desperately need to listen to – and to heed – the prophetic voice of the Church when it speaks about the most fundamental issues of creation and human life. Politics is not our goal but it is part of our concern: as Catholics we understand, as Catholics have always understood, that not just our actions at Church but all of our behaviors, our private behaviors as well as our participation in civil society—all of our behaviors bear upon our relationship with God and thus upon our salvation.
Our young people in particular need to commit to chaste behavior and to modesty in dress. All of us need to support Archbishop Rodi and the bishops wholeheartedly in the battle against the unjust HHS mandate. We need to adhere to Church teachings on the sanctity of human life, the nature of marriage as between one man and one woman, and the importance of the procreative dimension of the marital union…
Let us recommit ourselves to recognizing Christ as the prophet who comes among us through the Church and her teachings, teachings which exist for our well-being, and for the well-being of our society. Our Lord who died that we might have life is the same God who loves us and wishes that we honor Him by acting in a manner that promotes human flourishing and a civilization of life rather than a culture of death.
May God help us to be faithful members of His body, the Church. And may He have mercy on our wayward society.