I read an article last night and pondered it for a while. I was going to post last night, but I was interrupted by a baby who woke up and made her presence, and demand for attention, known.
The article’s title is, The Gentle Lion of Wisconsin — An Appreciation of Cardinal Burke, and can be found here: http://staustinreview.org/2017/01/19/gentle-lion-wisconsin-appreciation-cardinal-burke/
First, let me say that I find his devotion to St. John Fisher to be a very interesting and, in our modern word, fitting one. Especially thinking back to yesterday’s post and Cardinal George’s exhortation. Would that more of us had a devotion to this particular saint, especially in the political climate of the United States since about the year 2000.
Those aren’t what I really want to talk about. I want to talk about the Church and the World, especially in light of this article and the thoughts I had last night.
First, this quote spurred thoughts:
“He is pitted, in the mind of the press, if that doesn’t sound oxymoronic, as the Pharisee, opposing all the openness and generosity of the “new Church.” That this caricature bears little resemblance to reality does not matter to an almost completely secular and liberal media. For them, there can be only conflict – using political terms which are meaningless in the Church – between “conservative” versus “liberal” – “intolerant” versus “open”.”
The beginning of the next paragraph states, “In the life of the Church, there are only two labels which matter: orthodox or heterodox.” I think that quote, along with the above quote go very well together in describing my ruminations last night. While we as lay Catholics tend to see various factions in the Church that we label ‘conservative’, ‘liberal’, or other choice words, the church truly does have only two factions: orthodox or heterodox. We have the Ratzingers and the Burkes who stand for orthodoxy within the Church, stand for revealed truth and an unwavering desire to see to it that we maintain the truth revealed to us by God and Jesus Christ. Then we have a heterodox branch who would see some less than savory protestant ideals brought into the church, ideals that run contrary to objective truth. The problem with these protestant ideals is that they lean more towards relativism in truth. It’s morally okay because I believe it to be morally right. What makes these thoughts even more repugnant is how quickly minds change, and thus how quickly truth changes. It creates “a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.” (Note 1) We can already see the tendrils of this dictatorship reaching out into society and beginning to unravel the fabric of societies. As we begin to believe that truths are relative, then we begin to believe that the laws are relative, too, and the institutions that support those laws are relative. That leads us to picking and choosing which laws we want to obey, which, ultimately, leads to anarchy and chaos. I look around and see it everyday. As the loss of truth goes in the Church, so goes the loss of truth in society. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI:
How many winds of doctrine have we known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking. The small boat of the thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves – flung from one extreme to another: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism and so forth. Every day new sects spring up, and what St Paul says about human deception and the trickery that strives to entice people into error (cf. Eph 4: 14) comes true. (Note 2)
That wasn’t originally what I wanted to talk about, but it crept into my thoughts as I ruminated more. Sadly, what I wanted to talk about runs somewhat counter-intuitive to what I just posted.
We do live in a secular society, there is nothing we can do to change that. However, there are some issues that this article on Cardinal Burke brought to my mind. The Church fights everyday to change the laws to protect the unborn, protect the Church’s view of marriage, and many other things. However, these ideas of the Church run counter the the secular nature of our society. I will confess that I am a Libertarian and I believe the state has no business regulating these. The Church does have a place to regulate them—on the members of the Church, not the members of society writ large. This is where I’m probably going to take some flak from the Church and other Catholics.
The Church has a responsibility to uphold objective truth as revealed through Jesus, natural law, sacred scripture, tradition, etc. Part of revealed truth is that man has free will (CCC 1730). We have the ability to make our own choices and one of those choices is whether or not we are going to accept objective truth and live our lives in accordance with it (i.e. in accordance with the commands of God), or if we are going to ignore them and live for ourselves and suffer the consequences of our sin. The Church has a responsibility to teach the truth and lead people to the truth, but it doesn’t have a responsibility to force people to live one way or another, doing so violates free will — and would be a sin on our part (CCC 1738). Does that mean that the Church shouldn’t try to change laws? No, just like any other citizen in a country, they have the right to express their opinions and appeal to their elected officials. But I don’t think the Church should think it right to force Catholic beliefs on everyone else who doesn’t share Catholic beliefs (and neither does the Church, see CCC 1738).
I’ve been writing this throughout the day, so it may seem fractured (much as my state of mind dealing with a one year old throughout the day), please forgive that.
1. Cardinal Ratzinger, Joseph, Homily at Mass for Electing Supreme Pontiff, 18 April 2005. Accessed at https://www.ewtn.com/pope/words/conclave_homily.asp