Saturday, February 25, 2012

There Is No Moral Confusion When One Is A Faithful Catholic

Probably one of the best things I have in my possession as a faithful Catholic is the knowledge of being assured that what I believe and what is taught by the Catholic Church through the Pope and the Magisterium is the Truth. I take to heart the words our Lord spoke to the apostles when he said "He who listens to you listens to me: he who rejects you rejects me: but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me." Luke 10:16. There are very few verses that tell us as directly as this, that the Church Christ founded on Peter, and that is protected from the gates of hell by the Holy Spirit, is to speak and teach the faithful as the words coming from Christ himself for the Church IS Christ. Christ does not, nor can he change, for God cannot change and it is for this reason that the Church has spoken the same Truth, consistently for the last two thousand years.

Contraceptives and their use is not a confusing issue for faithful Catholics. Since the Lambeth Conference of 1930, the Catholic Church has practically been the only major faith that still bans the use of contraceptives as sinful while the rest have allowed its use. She recognized that Truth cannot be changed, nor compromised, for then it could not be the Truth.

The use of contraceptives has been clouded by emotional arguments and a false compassion for couples who struggle with having children, and as a result, the faithful, including many Catholics, have fallen by the wayside and despite the Church's teaching against its use, have justified their using contraceptives in their own lives. Some have argued that the Catholic Church doesn't understand the plight of couples and having children yet it is precisely because the Church does understand that she issued Humanea Vitae. It was not just the plight of couples that she understood, but also the plight of all mankind. For faithful Catholics, there is no question its use is sinful, for that is what the Church taught. We may not have understood all the nuances in this teaching, but that was not the point. The point was that contraceptives were and are wrong and their use to prevent the conception of a child was sinful as taught by the Church. No moral confusion.

There is also no moral confusion to what the Church teaches about abortions. Abortion is sinful, period. There are no circumstances where it may be permissible, nor any justifiable reasoning where its use may be wrong but is needed to bring about a greater good. It is never lawful to commit a sin in order to bring about greater good. No confusion. Abortion is a grave mortal sin. Again, we may not completely understand all there is to know about why abortion is a grave sin, or even how to defend the Church's teaching against its use, but, the point is however, that what we understand or don't understand is not what matters, but to believe, trust and have faith in our Church's teachings, which are Christ's teachings.

People seem to have this desire to understand what they are taught rather than just accept a teaching without question. I too have this desire, but as in the case of John 6:60-63, 65-68, understanding is not always what it's cracked up to be. In John, Christ just finished telling his disciples that his body and blood is real food and unles they eat his body and blood they have no life in them. This was their reaction:

 60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
 61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63  65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” -
 66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
   67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” 

The disciples of course, did not understand how Jesus could say such a thing or even ask them to accept this teaching. Some of them left Jesus, never to come back. He didn't explain anything to them. He didn't expect anything from them except this: For them to believe His words, have faith in them and to Trust Him. Understanding would come later. Many failed to believe and have faith in Christ's words, just as they fail to do today when He speaks to us through His Church.

As far as the Real Presence of the Eucharist, again there is no moral confusion. The Church has always taught us that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist. Transubstantiation? I can give you a good idea of what it means, but never in its entirety, but that doesn't matter. The faith and trust I have in the Catholic Church to teach the Truth is what is required of me. That does not mean I have blind faith. On the contrary, I am at liberty and have the responsibility to pray for understanding. Understanding is not my first requirement, but rather, it is belief and faith in the Church's teaching. Once I accept this, then understanding comes later.

Catholics have been led to believe over the years that the morality of  abortion and contraceptives are subjective, and that we have to work things out on our own as to whether or not they are sinful in our lives. This is NOT what the Church teaches and until Catholics realize this, then yes, moral confusion will reign in their minds. As faithful Catholics, we have it pretty easy when it comes to discerning whether abortion and contraceptives are sinful or not or the many other moral issues facing the world. The Church has taught consistently for two thousand years without change, and there is nothing confusing about them. The Church is here to teach and to guide us in faith and morals, if only we would believe, have faith and trust in her words.

What would Christ say if we told him we didn't know what to believe when the time comes for us to face him? I would imagine him saying, "Yes, you did know. I told you myself."


15 comments:

  1. Great post - I had a few thoughts! :)

    I'm the type of person that rests in the Truth of the Church - I love that while it is still ok to grapple with and pray to God for understanding, there is something that resonates deep within when just thinking about contraception and abortion - I know they are vastly disordered actions and don't need to question them. That's what Truth does...resonates deeply. It's when we try and ignore the Truth for our own shallow reasons (as you said - from clouded emotions and false compassion) - when we stray from that path of contentment...and become an angry, disheartened, unsatisfied people.

    What makes me sad though, is that many a priest advised couples that contraception and sterilization were well and good to use according to the couples' conscience. Unfortunately, I know of at least three couples who went to spiritual direction and were told this, went ahead and irreversibly damaged themselves - and hold fast to that direction 20 years later. I know their culpability is decreased, it is the soul of those priests that worry me greatly.

    Which brings me to my next thought...one of the goods coming out of Obama's new mandate is that the truth of the Catholic Church's teaching on contraception and abortion is being preached from just about every other pulpit these days. He has single-handedly brought about a polarization within the Church in America. If there was a priest or layperson out there that DIDN'T know the Church's teaching, they know it now and they can now choose to follow....or not.

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  2. "Which brings me to my next thought...one of the goods coming out of Obama's new mandate is that the truth of the Catholic Church's teaching on contraception and abortion is being preached from just about every other pulpit these days. He has single-handedly brought about a polarization within the Church in America. If there was a priest or layperson out there that DIDN'T know the Church's teaching, they know it now and they can now choose to follow....or not."

    Sarah, I precisely wrote this thought in my essay but in the end edited it out for I feared I was beginning to ramble on and on lol! But! Leave it to the readers to inject what is important in the HHS mandate of course! Thank you Sarah.

    The Ordinary Catholic

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  3. Great post. Thanks!

    In light of this; do you have any suggested resources that a seminarian might avail himself of concerning this topic? Unfortunately not all seminary professors share this view of the clarity of The Church's teaching.

    In Christ,

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  4. Witholding contraception puts an overwhelming burden on the poor. Here are the options for an impoverished married woman; either stay open to life, becoming increasingly impoverished and fearful with each consecutive pregnancy, or stop having relations at that time of the month that it feels best to you, for the rest of your life. Sounds like a recipe for a disastrous marriage.

    And what about the married woman in Africa, to whom the idea of abstinence is culturally ridiculous to her husband? Is she to bear the brunt of her husbands sin, while trying to scrape together food and education for her burgeoning family?

    The church needs to be careful not to alienate the millions who desperately need to receive the loving mercy of Christ. The debate over contraceptives is not falsely compassionate, we need to have a real and active compassion for those woman are oppressed by this teaching. Even if one fully supports the teaching, it helps no one to not acknowledge that.

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  5. Anonymous,

    Ask yourself these questions and see what your answers may be. When Jesus and his disciples sat at the Temple and watched the people come up to pay their Temple tax they observed an old and poor woman putting in the last of your few cents into the till. This is all she had. She, Jesus observed, gave her all. Now instead of railing against the regulation of having to pay the Temple tax by the rich and poor alike, and instead of criticizing the Temple Authorities for this seeming injustice, Jesus instead praised the poor woman for giving every thing that she had to God even if in her poverty, she desperately needed this money. This must have impoverished her even more. Did Jesus add to her poverty by praising her and not criticizing the Authorities about paying this tax? Was Jesus being unloving and unmerciful in this instance?

    It is well known that Jesus was not to fond of the Pharisees and Scribes. He went so far as to call them hypocrites, white-washed sepulcres, that were clean on the outside, but dead inside. And further, he criticized them for burdening the people with man-made traditions and laws that kept them out of the Kingdom of Heaven, while they themselves did not enter.

    Now, later he told the people that the Pharisees and Scribes were their religious leaders. They sat on the Seat of Moses, this Seat of Judgement. Was Jesus being unloving and unmerciful when he told the people that the Pharisees and Scribes were the teachers of the law, and to do what they taught them, and to obey them even AFTER Jesus criticized the Authorities for being unjust?

    We are told by Jesus, that if we deny him, he will deny us to his father. When Jesus uttered this truth, was he being loving and merciful even though many would go to their deaths as martyrs because they dared not deny Jesus? Would it have been better for them to deny Jesus and save themselves from a martyrs death and live another day and make it easier on themselves in this world? Continued in next comment line......

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  6. continued from previous comment..

    Do not think for one moment that when I say the Church's teachings are clear on certain issues, that I mean these Truths are easy to accept. It is not easy to be a Catholic, and no one ever said it would be easy, but what the Church teaches is the Truth nonetheless. Scripture tells us that it is the Truth that will set us free, not in its denial. If the Church denies the Truth about contraception, then she denies Christ himself. The Church cannot change the Truth(Christ) even if she wanted to. It cannot be done. Your comment gives light exactly to what I called false compassion.

    In your example, the African wife is taking the full brunt of her husbands sin, so your solution is for this woman to deny her faith and use contraceptives to save herself from a life of misery. Let's go one step further. What if she had no means of procuring contraceptives, would she justified in getting an abortion to protect herself from her husbands sin, so she would not have another mouth to feed? One more step...would she be justified, if she could not get an abortion, in shooting her husband dead in order to protect herself from his sin of unbridled passion? Is this part of the loving mercy that you believe the woman deserves and is denied by the Church? Is it loving an merciful for Jesus to expect people to be killed and martyred instead of denying their faith?

    There is no love or mercy in teaching a lie and helping people live that lie, a lie that enslaves a person. As I asked in another post I wrote, is it love and mercy to perpetuate the lie that homosexuals can live a life of marriage with another of the same gender, when scripture tells us plainly that homosexual acts are gravely sinful?

    The Catholic Church knows full well the injustices caused by sin and is indeed compassionate toward the victims of sin. But what you are asking the Church to do is to withhold the Truth that lives, Christ. She cannot lie anymore than she can change her nature and her mission, which is to proclaim the Truth: Jesus is Lord. The last question you need to ask yourself is this: Do you believe that the Catholic Church is the one, true church that Christ established, of which he is the head and Peter set as his spokesman to guide the faithful in faith and morals? If yes, then you see why the Church has to speak the Truth, for Christ, the head of his church is Truth. If your answer is no, then you need to seriously pray about this.

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    1. I would also like to add that there are many physical and mental dangers of using contraception and of homosexual acts. I have talked with many women who have had many different adverse reactions to contraceptives. They can cause permanent sterility and cancer. Many of them are designed to kill any embryos that form despite the hormones that are supposed to prevent conception. They have also damaged many relationships by opening the door to selfishness. God makes His laws knowing what is best for us physically, mentally and spiritually. He did make us, after all.

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  7. Anonymous brought up the issue of abstaining from sex as being 'culturally ridiculous' in Africa. Yes, there are differences in cultures, to be sure. I think God likes the differences! However, it is almost insulting to insinuate that men from Africa are 'culturally incapable' of controlling their urges. Most men in Africa deserve more credit than that.

    The Church is not the product of a culture, nor is She at the mercy of cultures. Her Truths and Teachings transcend all cultures.

    Great post, Ordinary Catholic. This is a hard, hard teaching of the Church-- but you are right. Christ called all to obedience.

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  8. This is a disturbing post because it diminishes the entire field of theology into black and white issues, previously decided upon by the "Church" in whatever sense that is meant here, and doesn't properly promote conscience.

    Any reading of the history of Christianity, and Catholicism in particular, will reveal that the issues are never black and white, never clear and simple, and never anything but the product of vigorous internal reflection and debate amongst the hierarchy, theologians and generally the People of God. We now have rich, time-tested understandings of the belief in Real Presence or an understanding of the Trinity, for instance, but these firm beliefs are the product of many centuries of development and testing of their validity.

    Even today, Aquinas' formulation of transubstantiation, mentioned in the post, for how Real Presence becomes present is not an article of faith. One can deny transubstantiation and be in good standing (not to be confused with belief about Real Presence however). Many issues, contraception perhaps being one of them, are far from being as settled as some would teach. It is important to remember that theology develops gradually, with caveats and nuances abounding, in an every purifying way of making each teaching truly closer to Truth.

    However, it must be remembered too that time and again, the Church says always follow one's conscience after forming it well and spending serious reflection on the issue causing dissent. So even on more settled issues, the individual believer needs to affirm with faith AND reason to these teachings in a very real way...

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    1. The widow who gave her last coin gave all that she had to give, and it was her own to give in the first place. If she had stolen the coin, it would not have been hers to give. If it was the last money she had to buy bread for her hungry children, it would not have been hers to give away either.

      All this to say, morality has to include a practical judgement. If one is choosing between the evil of not being able to feed more children, and the evil of using a contraceptive (NFP is not always possible or known), then I would choose the latter.

      Children are to be 'raised' not just 'produced'. Justice requires that parents do everything they can to provide children with food, shelter, clothing, moral education etc.

      The church is the bearer of Truth - but this does not mean that every single teaching by every single magisterium throughout history was truthful. Pope Innocent IV issued a decree that explicity authorized the use of torture for eliciting confessions from heretics. This has been changed, thankfully.

      And yes, Homosexuality is condemned in the Bible. The New Testament also condemns women from speaking while in church. Why do you choose one teaching, and not the other, to impose?

      I do thank you for taking the time to reply to my original post (I was the first anonymous poster), and I appreciate your explanations. I am struggling with these issues and am trying to come to terms with them, and mean no offense by anything that I say.

      A.G.

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  9. Anonymous- "Many issues, contraception perhaps being one of them, are far from being as settled as some would teach"


    Contraceptives - Catechism of the Catholic Church

    2399 The regulation of births represents one of the aspects of responsible fatherhood and motherhood. Legitimate intentions on the part of the spouses do not justify recourse to morally unacceptable means (for example, direct sterilization or contraception).

    2370 Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self-observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality. These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom. In contrast, "every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible" is intrinsically evil: Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality. . . . The difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle . . . involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality.

    Sounds rather settled to me...

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  10. @Stella Gump
    I'm sorry if I implied anything about African men. Of course they are as capable of abstaining as anyone else. I should not have mentioned a county. But the example I made of the woman was taken from a real case study that I read about, and it just happened to be an example from Africa. She learned the basics of NFP from her priest, but when she suggested it to her husband he accused her of having an affair, and threatened to leave her. She went on to have nine children with him.
    A.G.

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  11. Very good point, Ordinary! Where the Catholic Faith is concerned, everyone is black and white! And for good reason, because we are talking about good and evil!

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  12. Strongly disagree. The role of a Catholic is never blind obedience and faith, but educated and learned obedience and faith. Those in the crowd calling Pontius Pilate to execute Jesus did so at the behest of their appointed spiritual leaders.

    The elders of our Church will always have the presumption of speaking on behalf of God. But we cannot cede the obligations of thinking and learning and praying for ourselves, lest we find ourselves shouting "Release Barabbas" in our own time.

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  13. God is unfathomable, isn't He? I don't understand Him, or His plan - either for my life, or His beautiful plan for our salvation.

    There are times when I'm tempted to think that going along with (for want of a better word in the moment) secularists would be so much easier. Events in Scripture seem unlikely, and the rules of Christianity seem out of date and, darn it, really difficult to follow.

    Again and again, it's the fact that there is A Church, a body of authority, a teaching Magisterium, a long and rich history of tradition and customs that keeps me going. I find a great deal of consolation in their existence. Modern scholarship supports those stories in Scripture, and proves the good of Christian morality.

    Truth is Truth. It's not up to me to understand it, or prove it, and I am thankful that's the way it is.

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