Sunday, September 30, 2012

Organic Catholicism

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time B
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center at the University of Kansas
Daily Readings

When it comes to sexuality, there can be little question that the Catholic Church has the most natural, organic view of sexuality that is out there.  Even those who would say that same-sex marriage is natural, based in genetics and biology, must admit that there is no natural, organic way for a same-sex couple to have children.  Not every marriage entails children, to be sure, but neither can children be eliminated as an important component of the definition of marriage.  We see same-sex couples all the time in the news getting married in order to try to have children.  Yet in a same-sex marriage, children can only be manufactured artificially.  Such children, without saying anything negative about their beauty or dignity, which of course is not decreased whatsoever by how they were conceived, cannot be conceived in a completely natural way.

Somehow we've gotten to the point in our moral thinking where chastity has become the most unnatural thing imaginable, even though the virtue of chastity, which is having sex only in the most self-sacrificial and most fruitful way possible, entails no artificial processes whatsoever.  Somehow we have convinced ourselves that popping hormones and wrapping ourselves in prophylactics is more natural and organic than saving sex for marriage.   There are too many who feel comfortable in a world where it is taboo to eat artificial foods but increasingly necessary for all people to use artificial contraception.

Trust me, it's not the most fun thing for a preacher to revisit the same issues of abortion, artificial contraception, and same-sex marriage, over and over and over.  Yet it does more damage, I'm afraid, to pretend that these issues will go away, or to pretend that our Church will eventually cave-in to the moral norms of the culture.  It perhaps cannot be said enough that the Church cannot and will not change her moral teaching on abortion, artificial contraception or same-sex marriage, as grounded as her moral tradition is in the law of nature and in the law of Christ.  It should be easy to see that these three issues are organically and naturally tied together, and if we can count on anything in the future, we can count on the Church being consistent and strong in her moral teachings.   There is no way for the Church to be anything else.  The Church will never stop demanding that children have a right to be conceived and nurtured in the most organic way possible, within the loving and natural embrace of a man and woman who have pledged sacrificial fidelity to each other and to their children for life, and withinin a society where such a family is encouraged and supported.  The Church refuses to cave in to a worldview that insists that its food is more organically conceived and nurtured than children.

This should not be a news flash to anyone who is trying to live the Church's teaching - being Catholic is not going to get any easier in the near term.  I'm not predicting great persecutions or anything like that, but it doesn't take a genius to see that the Church and the culture are on a collision course.  It is a battle that the Church didn't pick, but one that she can't shy away from either.  By the Church of course I mean not only the magisterium, but also all of us, who must decide if we dare remain Catholic whether we are ready to weather the storm inside the Church or to actively know and promote the culture of life as part of the new evangelization of our Church.  As Moses said and Jesus repeated - would that we would all be prophets - the more the better - and whoever is not against us, is for us.  Jesus' hard sayings at the end of the Gospel show that in teaching hard things, and standing up for the truth about sex and marriage, requires pruning of ourselves and our Church.  We must cut off those parts of ourselves that are afraid of being unpopular, for there seems to be no other choice.  As we stand for these truths however, we do so as sinners ourselves, never passing judgment on another person.  Being a Catholic means now, as much as ever, to stand with the truth in love, never compromising in the least, on either one.  Amen.  

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Parents at war with children

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time B
22 September 2012
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center at the University of Kansas
Daily Readings

I just returned from Ireland this week so I wasn't on campus, but I heard the Justice For All exhibit visited KU, an exhibit that almost annually tries to re-sensitive the university to the reality of abortion, the greatest civil rights issue of this generation.  Of course we all know that the Catholic Church is and will always be unequivocally and unconditionally pro-life and anti-abortion.  How can we be anything else, given that the author of all life humbled himself to be conceived in the womb of our Blessed Mother Mary?  The Catholic Church will never rest until the sacredness of all human life, especially in its most vulnerable phases, is protected to the utmost by laws that reflect the truth of natural and divine law that found what it means be to Catholic.

Since St. Lawrence does not sponsor the Justice for All display on campus, I am not going to comment on the effectiveness of their method to win hearts and minds for the pro-life cause.  In reading a draft of a proposed letter to the UDK editor from one of our St. Lawrence students, however, Ialso read an opinion piece already published that gives insight into what the pro-choice movement really cares about.

The editorial championed the right of every person to decide their own life.  Choices, choices, choices are what make life worth living, and the more choices you have, the better life you have.  Choices ground human dignity and give meaning to life, was the gist of the editorial.  Leaving to the side the hypocrisy that those children who are wanted are called babies in the womb and their future right to decide for themselves is protected, and those who are not wanted are called tissue and their future right to decide is completely ignored, and notwithstanding the maxim that everyone who is pro-choice has already been born.  Leaving that to the side, the basis of the pro-choice movement is good, if still incomplete.  There is no freedom without choices.  Choices are good.  To be without choices is to lack the ability to shape one's life according to conscience.

Yet the right of every person to decide their own life is incomplete.  It is incomplete first of all because my right to decide cannot impinge on another person's right to decide, or more fundamentally, on another person's right to life.  It is incomplete as well because the right to decide means something different for each person.  The right to life means the same for everyone.  The right to decide means something different for everyone.  The right to decide means something different for someone who scored a 36 on her ACT, and for someone with a learning disability.  The right to decide means something different for a kid training to be an Olympic athlete, and another kid battling cancer.  The right to decide means something different for the mother and the father of an unplanned pregnancy.  The right to decide, and to make choices, is an essential component of real freedom, but it is not the real basis of equality.

This is why we used to talk about rights and responsibilities together, never separating the two.  In the editorial there was the championing of the right to decide, but no talk of the responsibility to serve or to choose the good.   Today we hear thousands of discussions about new rights like rights to same-sex marriage and rights to birth control, but rarely do we hear talk of new responsibilities.  It used to be a cardinal sin to talk about rights without simultaneously talking about responsibilities, for it was assumed there could never be a new right without a new responsibility.  Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.  When was the last time that you heard a discussion about a new responsibility?

And yet this is what we need from our leadership today - more talk about responsibility.  For what inspires human persons, and what makes a country great, is not merely the ability to control my own life, to decide for myself, to do what's best for me, to have what I want when I want it.  This does not inspire, but only kills the human spirit.  What inspires human persons is the opportunity to be obedient to something greater than themselves, something they believe in.  What inspires is to not only do one's own thing ,but to gather together with those who use their freedom not for selfish ambition, but to choose the good, the true, and the beautiful that transcends our own choices.  What inspires is the opportunity to give up my right to control my own life, and to sacrifice my choices, so that others may have life and have it in more abundance.  True leaders, then, talk not merely about new rights, but even more importantly about new responsibilities.

Jesus chastises his disciples in today's Gospel for being so focused on what makes me, me, that they fail to see gift of love he is about to make to them, and the mission of self-sacrificial love to which he is inviting them.  As a test of whether his disciples were more focused on their own ambition or upon their true mission, he places a child in their midst, to see if receiving this child messes up their ambitious plans.  In the same way, a test of whether a nation is more interested in rights or responsibilities, in mere choice or in real freedom, is how it receives children.  For the mark of real freedom is not merely more rights, but more responsibilities.  The mark of real freedom is not independence from others or the right to control one's life, but is vulnerability and dependence, the ability to give our lives to a mission bigger than us.  True freedom can never exist, then, when parents are at war with their own children.