There Has Been An Epic Failure In Catechesis!
By Don Fier. (Editor’s Note: Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura in Rome, who formerly served as bishop of the Diocese of La Crosse, Wis., and archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Mo., recently spent some time in the United States. The Catholic Servant was granted the opportunity to interview His Eminence in mid-July on a variety of topics at Eternal Life’s The Church Teaches Forum in Louisville, Ky. The Catholic Servant — a Minneapolis- based newspaper — gave The Wanderer permission to reprint the interview).
The Decline Of Morality In America
Q. Things seem to be declining at an accelerating rate in our country. For example, it is shocking how quickly things happened in Minnesota. A year ago it seemed almost certain that a November ballot referendum would constitutionally define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Despite a heroic effort by Archbishop John Nienstedt and many other Church leaders, it failed. Just four months later a law was enacted making Minnesota the 12th state to legalize so- called same- sex marriage. How did we get to this point? Aside from prayer and fasting, what can the faithful do?
A. First of all, I would underline the need for much prayer and fasting. The alarming rapidity of the realization of the homosexual agenda ought to awaken all of us and frighten us with regard to the future of our nation. This is a work of deceit, a lie about the most fundamental aspect of our human nature, our human sexuality, which after life itself defines us. There is only one place these types of lies come from, namely Satan. It is a diabolical situation which is aimed at destroying individuals, families, and eventually our nation. How did we get to this point? The fact that these kinds of “ arrangements” are made legal is a manifestation of a culture of death, of an anti- life and anti- family culture which has existed in our nation now for some time. We as Catholics have not properly combatted it because we have not been taught our Catholic Faith, especially in the depth needed to address these grave evils of our time.
This is a failure of catechesis both of children and young people that has been going on for fifty years. It is being addressed, but it needs much more radical attention. I can say this because I was the bishop of two different dioceses. After fifty years of this, we have many adult voters who support politicians with immoral positions because they do not know their Catholic Faith and its teaching with regard to same- sex attraction and the inherent disorder of sexual relations between two persons of the same sex. Therefore, they are not able to defend the Catholic Faith in this matter. What has also contributed greatly to the situation is an exaltation of the virtue of tolerance which is falsely seen as the virtue which governs all other virtues.
In other words, we should tolerate other people in their immoral actions to the extent that we seem also to accept the moral wrong. Tolerance is a virtue, but it is certainly not the principal virtue; the principal virtue is charity. Charity means speaking the truth, especially the truth about human life and human sexuality. While we love the individual, we desire only the best for one who suffers from an inclination to engage in sexual relations with a person of the same sex. We must abhor the actions themselves because they are contrary to nature itself as God has created us. The virtue of charity leads us to be kind and understanding to the individual, but also to be firm and steadfast in opposing the evil itself. This confusion is widespread. I have encountered it many times myself as a priest and bishop. It is something we simply need to address. There is far too much silence — people do not want to talk about it because the topic is not “ politically correct.” But we cannot be silent any longer or we will find ourselvesin a situation that will be very difficult to reverse.
Q. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, when recently questioned at a press briefing about the moral difference between what Dr. Gosnell did in murdering a baby born alive at 23 weeks as compared to the practice of aborting a baby moments before birth, refused to answer. Instead she is reported to have responded: “ As a practicing and respectful Catholic this is sacred ground to me when we talk about this. I don’t think it should have anything to do with politics.” How are we to react to such a seemingly scandalous statement? Is this a case where Canon 915 might properly be applied? [Editor’s Note:Canon 915 of the Church’s Code of Canon Law states that those who are “ obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”]
A. Certainly this is a case when Canon 915 must be applied. This is a person who obstinately, after repeated admonitions, persists in a grave sin — cooperating with the crime of procured abortion — and still professes to be a devout Catholic. This is a prime example of what Blessed John Paul II referred to as the situation of Catholics who have divorced their faith from their public life and therefore are not serving their brothers and sisters in the way that they must — in safeguarding and promoting the life of the innocent and defenseless unborn, in safeguarding and promoting the integrity of marriage and the family.
What Congresswoman Pelosi is speaking of is not particular confessional beliefs or practices of the Catholic Church. It belongs to the natural moral law which is written on every human heart and which the Catholic Church obviously also teaches: that natural moral law which is so wonderfully illumined for us by Our Lord Jesus Christ by His saving teaching, but most of all by His Passion and death. To say that these are simply questions of Catholic Faith which have no part in politics is just false and wrong. I fear for Congresswoman Pelosi if she does not come to understand how gravely in error she is. I invite her to reflect upon the example of St. Thomas More who acted rightly in a similar situation even at the cost of his life.
Q. Many faithful Catholics are troubled when high- profile political figures with unconcealed antilife, anti- family positions are honored in such ways as receiving invitations to speak at Catholic university commencement ceremonies and given honorary degrees or memorialized at public Catholic funeral Masses without having renounced their immoral positions. Faithful Catholics, at the same time, are taught they have committed a serious sin if they vote for these same candidates. How are those who are seriously trying to live out their faith to reconcile this apparent contradiction?
A. You cannot reconcile it — it is a contradiction, it is wrong, it is a scandal, and it must stop! We live in a culture with a false sense of dialogue — which has also crept into the Church — where we pretend to dialogue about open and egregious violations of the moral law. Can we believe it is permissible to recognize publicly people who support open and egregious violations, and then act surprised if someone is scandalized by it? For Catholic institutions or individuals to give recognition to such persons, to honor them in any way, is a source of grave scandal for which they are responsible. In a certain way, they contribute to the sinfulness of the individuals involved. There is no way to reconcile it; it simply is wrong.