Sunday, May 25, 2014

I'll Be Damned if I Do That!

It is to be anticipated that perhaps not everyone will easily accept this particular teaching. There is too much clamorous outcry against the voice of the Church, and this is intensified by modern means of communication. But it comes as no surprise to the Church that she, no less than her divine Founder, is destined to be a "sign of contradiction." She does not, because of this, evade the duty imposed on her of proclaiming humbly but firmly the entire moral law, both natural and evangelical.

Since the Church did not make either of these laws, she cannot be their arbiter—only their guardian and interpreter. It could never be right for her to declare lawful what is in fact unlawful, since that, by its very nature, is always opposed to the true good of man.

In preserving intact the whole moral law of marriage, the Church is convinced that she is contributing to the creation of a truly human civilization. She urges man not to betray his personal responsibilities by putting all his faith in technical expedients. In this way she defends the dignity of husband and wife. This course of action shows that the Church, loyal to the example and teaching of the divine Savior, is sincere and unselfish in her regard for men whom she strives to help even now during this earthly pilgrimage "to share God's life as sons of the living God, the Father of all men."
Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae 18

Reflection – The first sentence of this paragraph is a master of understatement. Uh, yeah… we can anticipate that not everyone will easily accept this teaching. Yep. That happened. I don’t suspect that Pope Paul VI anticipated the firestorm of dissent and outright rebellion that followed upon the publication of HV, which was fairly unprecedented, at least in the modern age, but he certainly realized that there was an urgent desire for the Church to change its teachings, and that there would be some resistance to it.

More than one commenter, in the course of this weekend series I’m doing on HV on the blog has asked me ‘what are you trying to achieve?’ Well, this paragraph answers that question. Namely, that as a member of the Church I have a duty to proclaim humbly but firmly the entire moral law, both natural and evangelical. I must not declare lawful that which is unlawful, since it is opposed to the true good of man. And in doing this, I am convinced that I am contributing to the creation of a truly human civilization. And, I am trying to help people.

It cannot be stressed too much that the Church’s self-understanding is that it is not the author of these laws, but the servant of God who is the author of these laws. Those who honestly want, expect, and even demand with considerable emotion that the Church change its teachings are really asking the Church to betray God, as we understand God.

I fully realize that many people (not all, but many) have a different understanding of God than that of orthodox Catholic teaching, and a different understanding of what God asks of us in the area of human sexual morality in particular. But we who are Catholics of orthodox faith believe the doctrine that is encapsulated, in a sense, in HV, of the divine and human meaning of human sexuality and its implications for what is or is not moral sexual behavior, is from God, and we deny or alter it at the price of rejecting God, rejecting Christ.

For us, in other words, to change these teachings would be to consign ourselves to Hell. For others who sincerely and in good conscience do not believe that this doctrine is from God, it may not be so – I firmly and totally leave the judgment of hearts to the One whose job it is. But for those of us who have received the ancient Catholic faith of the ages, believe it to be of divine origin, and affirm its truth (which is what I mean by the phrase ‘orthodox Catholic’), to deny this faith because lots of people do not like it would be precisely and simply, to be damned.

Well, I’m damned if I’ll do that! I like having people like me as much as the next guy, and I’m not really a quarrelsome fellow, particularly. But so be it. It helps that I do, in fact, personally know lots and lots of people—hundreds, really, since as a priest with twenty-plus years of ministry to families, I have met quite a few faithful, orthodox Catholic believers—who are striving to live the Church’s sexual teachings, either by living chastely as single people, abstaining from sex until marriage, or by living their married sexuality according to the law of God taught by the Church.

And they are not miserable people, in general. Life is hard, for everyone really, and so we can never paint a rosy idyllic picture of human life in this world no matter what moral path a person takes. But the fruits of obedience to God’s laws as taught by the Church that I have seen in my years of ministry have given me nothing but confirmation that the Church is indeed right, that it is the servant of human happiness, and that it is contributing to building a genuine human civilization.

And the fruits of disobedience to the laws of God as taught by the Church that I have observed in my life have, to put it politely and simply, given me no reason to doubt the Church’s wisdom in this matter. And so I will continue to teach the orthodox Catholic faith. Why? Because I believe it to be true, and truth is a good thing.

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