Kenneth D. Whitehead

It’s time to get “obsessed” about opposing today’s moral evils

Kenneth D. Whitehead
By Kenneth Whitehead
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November 13, 2013 (crisismagazine.com) –A recent Quinnipiac poll found that some 53 percent of Catholics who attend Mass weekly, and some 65 percent of those who attend Mass less frequently, would favor a law legalizing so-called same-sex “marriage” in spite of the Church’s clear teaching that any true marriage must always and necessarily be between a man and a woman. The same poll cited almost identical percentages, 52 and 66 percent respectively, favoring the ordination of women, even though Blessed Pope John Paul II foreclosed that option in his 1994 Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, which confirmed that the Church’s teaching forbidding female ordination was “definitive,” and was “to be held by all the faithful.”

The Catholic League’s Bill Donohue questioned the honesty of this poll, primarily because among those who attend Mass less frequently than weekly, it did not distinguish those who no longer attend Mass at all, and hence could no more represent “Catholic” opinion than, in Donohue’s comparison, a teetotaler could be considered a drinker. Bill Donohue has a PhD in sociology and understands polling; he pointed out that “every poll ever taken” verifies that Catholics are more likely to agree with the Church’s teaching in the degree that they actually practice their religion and attend Mass faithfully.

So we can perhaps question whether these startlingly elevated figures in favor of gay marriage reflect valid Catholic opinion. Nevertheless, there does seem to be a considerable gap today between what the Church teaches and what some Catholics apparently believe and follow. We know from other sources, anecdotal as well as statistical, that there is a divergence, sometimes wide, between what the Church teaches, and what many self-identifying Catholics are prepared to accept and affirm today. The really disturbing number of Catholics whom other polls show rejecting the Church’s teaching against contraception, for example—many of whom evidently resort to the use of it as well—represents a notable case in point. Open dissent from the Church’s teaching on birth control has been a regrettable feature of the Church’s life for nearly a half century now; and since this dissent has rarely been corrected by Church authority, but rather has been typically passed over as if it didn’t really exist, the same attitude of dissent has sometimes extended to the denial of other doctrines—which Church authority has again usually not gotten around to correcting.

There is, for example, the now quite notorious phenomenon of the pro-abortion politicians or public figures who readily and cheerfully identify themselves as Catholic while blandly declining to admit that their public support for such contemporary moral evils as legalized abortion, government-subsidized family planning, or gay marriage could in any way be in conflict with the Catholicism they claim to profess. Today we have before us practically an entire generation of “Catholics” who apparently think that no moral teaching in particular any longer attaches to the profession of the Catholic faith. They feel able to espouse and promote virtually any or all contemporary moral aberrations and evils as if this had no bearing whatsoever on the authenticity of their profession of Catholicism.

In recent years, for example, the two Catholic lay people in immediate succession of the U.S. presidency, Vice President Joseph Biden and former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, could regularly be counted on to go along with practically every new manifestation of the culture of death being adopted by the government—as if such an attitude somehow came right out of the old Baltimore Catechism. Vice President Biden once even threatened mayhem with his Rosary towards anybody questioning his Catholicism.

Similarly, Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy, who with his majority opinion recently opened the door to the recognition of same-sex unions legalized as marriages by various states, betrayed not the slightest hint of concern that his position might represent any kind of contradiction with his baptismal faith. Then there are the cases of New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo, and Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley, both of whom are frequently mentioned as possible 2016 candidates for national office, even while both of them pointedly and proudly promote grave moral evils as public policy. The same supposedly amoral attitude can unhappily be predicated of scores of contemporary Catholics, who evidently sincerely do believe that being a Catholic no longer entails the acceptance of Catholic moral teaching; somehow that teaching is no longer supposed to apply today.

In this atmosphere, what Pope Francis said in his recent interview published in various Jesuit publication thus really does not apply to the real situation which confronts the Church in today’s decadent society and culture. The pope’s remarks inspired worldwide sensational media reports claiming that he thought that Catholics and the Church were currently “obsessed” with combating the contemporary evils of abortion, contraception, and gay marriage; and the idea was that Catholics should soft-pedal these “obsessions.” What the pope actually said—in the context of discussing how the faith should be proclaimed to the world today—is that “we cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage, and the use of contraceptive methods” (emphasis added). That is certainly true enough in the context of evangelization.

But what quickly got lost in the controversy stirred up by the pope’s statement was the truth about the extent to which Catholics and the Church were in fact insisting “only” on these issues in today’s typical public discourse. Certainly the Church does oppose abortion, gay marriage, and contraception—they are objectively evil. But they are most distinctly not “only” what the Church mainly “insists” on today. The “obsession” concerning them, in fact, seems to be rather one belonging not to the Church but rather to today’s secular media people themselves, who almost never fail to raise these same issues whenever they are reporting on practically anything concerning the Church. Apparently they can neither understand nor abide that the Church should actually continue to condemn what the world has instead decided to condone and even to celebrate; and so the media reports were almost bound to treat any mention of these issues at all by Pope Francis in the way that they did treat them. Clearly, for them the retrograde Church has simply got to reconcile herself and come to terms with the modern world!

In his interview the pope himself, however, went on immediately to confirm that the teaching of the Church on the contemporary moral evils he made reference to “is clear, and I am a son of the Church.” He accepts and affirms these teachings. How this added up to the conclusion that he somehow thought that the Church should no longer be so “obsessed” with them was never very clear in the various media reports.

The fact of the matter, of course, is that neither Catholics nor the Church are “obsessed” with these issues in the way that the typical media reports asserted. The grave evil of abortion, certainly, has rightly been opposed by the Church from the time that it got legalized. The American Catholic bishops have regularly issued statements opposing it and have also, admirably, sponsored and promoted events and activities opposed to it; but none of this has ever been a first priority for them; nor has it in any way been an “obsession” of theirs; they have mainly just lent their support to a pro-life movement that grew up and got organized quite independently of them.

And as for contraception, it represents a different case entirely. Far from being “obsessed” with fighting it, Catholics and the Church have rather been largely passive and accepting of it in American society, even if at least some Catholics never resorted to using it. Beginning back in the 1960s, the U.S. government has supported Planned Parenthood and similar organizations with literally millions of taxpayer dollars with no discernible public opposition from Catholics, certainly none from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). During those same years you had to be a Catholic of a certain age ever to have heard a sermon directed against contraception. Virtually any mention of it at all similarly disappeared from confessionals, classrooms, marriage counseling, textbooks, and most Catholic newspapers and periodicals. It was not until 2009 that the USCCB finally got around to issuing a pastoral letter morally condemning contraception by name, thereby reminding everybody that this had been the official teaching of the Church all along.

Only now, with the current U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate requiring virtually everybody and most institutions to purchase and carry health insurance providing gratis contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs have Catholics and the Church been obliged to stand up and fight against contraception. Fortunately, the Catholic bishops and a strong segment of the Catholic people apparently do understand that we do have to fight this government requirement, which obliges us to violate Catholic teaching with a positive act (of payment). It is no longer abstract or theoretical: we have to fight. But in no way is it any “obsession.”

Similarly with same-sex unions legally declared to be marriages, Catholics are strictly obliged to oppose these aberrations, if only because of the penalties progressively being attached to any unwillingness to accept the gross falsehood that these homosexual unions are marriages. At least one Catholic adoption agency has already had to close down rather than accept that children must obligatorily be placed in same-sex households. Caterers, photographers, florists, and such are similarly and more and more being required by law to service these same-sex “weddings,” and this type of abuse will no doubt continue unless today’s increasing recognition of same-sex unions as marriages is effectively stopped.

Thus, as the Quinnipiac poll suggests—even if we do not have to agree uncritically with its very high figure of 53 percent of Mass-going Catholics accepting of gay marriage—not only are most Catholics not “obsessed” with fighting gay marriage; a significant number of them apparently approve of these ersatz liaisons. At the very least it seems plain that many Catholics are prepared to go along with today’s decadent culture in this and in a number of other ways.

What this points to is a deficiency in the Catholic body which has long been evident. Nor is it with regard only to gay marriage (or ordination) that many Catholics today no longer accept and follow what the Church teaches. So-called “cafeteria Catholicism” appears rather to be an established way of life for many Catholics. Pace Pope Francis, the moral teachings of the Church are evidently not “well known”—or at any rate, that Catholics are supposed to believe and follow them does not seem to be universally operative today. Ironically, these Church teachings do seem to be very well known—and bitterly resented—by the media people rushing to exploit the words of Pope Francis. But it is only within the Catholic body itself that they seem to be unknown, or at any rate too often unheeded.

Thus, the task of the Church today in the era of the New Evangelization entails considerably more than just proclaiming to the world the positive truths of the love of Jesus, as Pope Francis has so eloquently proposed. The task of the Church today must also include a revitalized catechesis of her own faithful in her authentic teachings; and this catechesis must not only include treatment of what and why the Church teaches what she teaches in the moral area; it must include and insist on the truth that profession of the Catholic faith requires that those who profess it must accept and follow what the Church teaches.

Far from being “obsessed” with a few moral teachings to the detriment of the whole faith, then, as the sensational media reports on the interview of Pope Francis had it, the Church must imperatively fight those very same evils of “abortion, gay marriage, and contraceptive methods” while not insisting “only” on them!

Kenneth D. Whitehead is a former career diplomat who served in Rome and the Middle East and as the chief of the Arabic Service of the Voice of America. For eight years he served as executive vice president of Catholics United for the Faith. He also served as a United States Assistant Secretary of Education during the Reagan Administration. He is the author of The Renewed Church: The Second Vatican Council’s Enduring Teaching about the Church (Sapientia Press, 2009) and, most recently, Affirming Religious Freedom: How Vatican Council II Developed the Church’s Teaching to Meet Today’s Needs (St. Paul’s, 2010).

Re-published with permission from Crisis Magazine in which this article was first published.

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Louisiana judge orders state to recognize gay ‘marriage’

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By Kirsten Anderson

A Louisiana judge on Monday ordered state officials to recognize the out-of-state “marriage” of a lesbian couple and allow one of the women to legally adopt her partner’s child.

Angie Costanza and Christy Brewer were “married” in 2008 in California, but Louisiana’s marriage protection amendment, passed by 78 percent of voters in 2004, prevented the state from recognizing the couple’s union.  The pair sued in 2013 to overturn the law, in part because Costanza wanted to be listed as a parent on Brewer’s son’s birth certificate. 

Initially, Judge Edward Broussard dismissed the case without a hearing, but the couple appealed.  On Monday, Judge Edward Rubin took their side, ruling that Louisiana’s marriage protection law is unconstitutional in three ways:  According to Rubin, the ban on same-sex “marriage” violates the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution, as well as the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th amendment.

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Rubin’s decision comes just weeks after U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldman declared Louisiana’s marriage protection law constitutional – the first federal judge to decide in favor of a same-sex “marriage” ban since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down key portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) last year. “There is simply no fundamental right, historically or traditionally, to same-sex marriage,” Feldman wrote in his decision. 

However, because this case is being tried in the state courts, Rubin’s decision will take precedence over Feldman’s, pending appeal.

The state plans to appeal Rubin’s ruling to the state Supreme Court.  Meanwhile, the federal case is also moving forward.  Ultimately, it is expected that the question of whether statewide bans on same-sex “marriage” are constitutional will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court sometime in 2015. 

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New archbishops in Chicago and Madrid: Ratzingerians out, ‘inclusiveness’ in

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By Hilary White
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Chicago's Archbishop-elect, Blase Cupich

Pope Francis announced Saturday that he is appointing as archbishop of Chicago a prelate best known in pro-life circles as the man who ordered his priests in 2011 not to participate in local 40 Days for Life prayer vigils. The media and Church watchers describe him as “progressive,” “inclusive,” and “left-of-center.”

The appointment of Bishop Blase Cupich, current head of the Spokane diocese in Washington, to America’s third most prominent see – an appointment which Vatican watchers predicted would signal the pope’s priorities for the direction of the U.S. Church – has been widely praised by liberal Catholics and opponents of Church teaching but met with concern by many Catholic activists.

The archbishop-elect gave a sense of his approach to the U.S. “culture war” in an interview Sunday with Chicago’s CBS affiliate, in which he suggested he would be open to giving Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians and a person wearing a button in favour of same-sex “marriage.”

“As long as they’re in church, are willing to hear the word of God, be open to Christ’s call of conversion for each one of us, then I think that that’s sufficient for me,” he said. “We cannot politicize the Communion rail and I just don’t think that that works in the long run.”

Cupich will replace the ailing Cardinal Francis George, known in the US as a “Ratzingerian” for his strong defense of Catholic orthodoxy, particularly on issues of sexual morality, but who is suffering from cancer and is overdue for retirement at age 77. The archbishop of Chicago is also normally granted the “red hat” and made a cardinal, which would make Cupich eligible to vote in upcoming papal conclaves. Cupich is scheduled to be installed in Chicago November 18.

The Chicago appointment mirrors that of another outside the US in recent weeks. Rome announced August 28 that Carlos Osoro Sierra, 69, will be installed as the new archbishop of Madrid, Spain’s capital city and largest archdiocese. But the story in Madrid has less to do with the new appointee and more to do with the would-be appointee who was demoted.

Until just before the appointment, most Vatican watchers expected the prominent post to be given to 68-year-old Vatican Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera, dubbed the “little Ratzinger” for his orthodoxy in line with Pope Benedict XVI.  When LifeSiteNews interviewed Cardinal Cañizares in 2009 at the time of his appointment as prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, he noted that denying communion to pro-abortion politicians was a charitable act.

Leaving his Vatican post, he was considered a natural for the Madrid spot. But instead it went to the archbishop of Valencia, and Cañizares is to fill that vacancy instead.

The former archbishop of Valencia is known for his strong “liberal” leanings and he will be replacing Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, 78, who, like Cañizares, is also known for following the lead of the retired Pope Benedict XVI.

El Pais wrote of the new appointee that Catholics of the Madrid archdiocese, accustomed to the “hieratic” Varela, will be seeing “an entirely different model.”

“Shortly after the announcement of his appointment, the most repeated words to define his figure were ‘dialogue’ and ‘moderation.’”

“During the 12 years he has been the head of the Catholic Church [in Madrid], Rouco Varela has too often mixed faith and politics, with an overdose of intransigence. Defending the (exclusively traditional) family and attacking laws that recognize the right of women to abortion are the main workhorses.”

Catholic News Agency’s Vatican-watcher, Andrea Gagliarducci, wrote that the appointment marks a “new course for Spain’s bishops.” He is described in the Spanish press as “affable,” “friendly,” and “extremely gregarious.” 

As for Cupich, David Gibson of Religion News Service described him as “a prelate closely identified with the Catholic Church’s progressive wing.”

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Vatican watcher Rocco Palmo, author of the “Whispers in the Loggia” blog, wrote that the appointment is “the most shocking major move the American hierarchy has seen in the last decade and a half.” Another Vatican veteran, John Allen Jr., wrote for the US Catholic online magazine Crux that Cupich so closely mirrors Pope Francis’ theology and style that he could be called the “American Pope Francis in Chicago.”

On his blog, Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Florida, known for his icy relations with the pro-life movement, shared his excitement over the “new breeze” brought by Cupich’s appointment. The bishop noted that Cupich “admires deeply the ecclesiology and vision” of leftist prelates such as former San Francisco Archbishop John Quinn and former Galveston-Houston Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza.

The news of Cupich’s appointment was met with praise in the mainstream press. According to The New York Times Francis has “set the tone” for US appointments by “replacing a combative conservative with a prelate whose pastoral approach to upholding church doctrine is more in keeping with the pope’s inclusive tone.”

It has also been praised by dissident Catholic groups such as the homosexual activist group New Ways Ministries. Last year, the group issued a roundup of evaluations of the various leading members of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops who were set to elect a new president. New Ways praised Cupich for his intervention in the 2012 debate leading up to a referendum on “gay marriage” in Washington State. Cupich’s only intervention was a pastoral letter in which he asked voters to uphold traditional marriage, but also called for a “more civil and honest conversation about Catholic positions on equality.”

“I also want to be very clear that in stating our position, the Catholic Church has no tolerance for the misuse of this moment to incite hostility toward homosexual persons or promote an agenda that is hateful and disrespectful of their human dignity,” Cupich wrote.

Cupich stood out from his fellow US bishops in his response to the abortion-funding Obamacare. Though he joined his other bishops in condemning the Obama administration’s mandate that Catholic employers cover abortifacients and contraceptives, he encouraged Catholic Charities in his diocese to act as an Obamacare navigator and help people sign up for coverage that could fund the destruction of unborn life.

He also condemned the line of other US bishops when they threatened to shut down Catholic social services. “These kind of scare tactics and worse-case scenario predictions are uncalled for,” Cupich wrote in a letter to diocesan employees. “I am confident we can find a way to move forward.”

Today the anti-Catholic organization Call to Action issued a press release saying they are “relieved” at the appointment. “At a time when numerous U.S. Bishops are choosing to fight ideological battles, Pope Francis’ selection of Cupich demonstrates a desire for a humbler, more pastoral church.”  

Call to Action, like New Ways Ministries, works to overturn Catholic doctrine, particularly on sexual matters, from within the Church, and has received the censure of the US bishops for their activities. They wrote, “The choice of Cupich shows promise for a church which can be closer to the people. Catholics in Chicago and beyond yearn for a faith rooted in the Gospel call of love and justice over rigid orthodoxy.”

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Rick Perry: Joan Rivers’ death shows Texas is right to require abortionists to have admitting privileges

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By Kirsten Anderson

In the wake of the high-profile death of comedienne Joan Rivers due to complications from throat surgery at an outpatient clinic in New York City, Texas Gov. Rick Perry pointed to the tragedy as an example showing the necessity for his state’s one-year-old law requiring abortion clinics to meet the same standards as other ambulatory surgical centers.

"It was interesting that when Joan Rivers -- and the procedure that she had done, where she died -- that was a clinic,” Perry said at a Texas Tribune event on Sunday. “It's a curious thought that if they had had that type of regulations in place, whether or not that individual would be still alive.”

Many observers have criticized the governor’s remarks, noting that Rivers’ surgery was performed in a fully licensed ambulatory surgical center by a doctor with admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, as is the current standard for abortion facilities in Texas, but died anyway.  However, the painstaking investigation into what may have gone wrong at the New York City clinic reveals that while all surgery carries risks, ambulatory surgical centers are required to take every precaution to ensure the safety of their patients, in contrast to more loosely regulated abortion clinics, where injuries and deaths are rampant, and often covered up.

While 32 separate medical associations have signed a joint agreement stating that anyone “performing office-based surgery must have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, a transfer agreement with another physician who has admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, or maintain an emergency transfer agreement with a nearby hospital,” abortion businesses have fought such regulations tooth and nail, arguing that requiring abortionists to maintain admitting privileges is too burdensome and will cause clinics to close their doors.  

Abortionists have also opposed tougher safety restrictions forcing them to adhere to the same standards as other ambulatory surgical centers, arguing that upgrading their substandard facilities to meet hospital-grade requirements is costly and unnecessary.  But proponents of such regulations point out that the tiny parking lots, narrow hallways, and lack of elevators common to most abortion facilities are serious impediments to getting lifesaving help to women in case of emergencies, delaying paramedics who can’t park their ambulances or maneuver gurneys through such buildings.  In addition, licensed ambulatory surgical centers must have and properly maintain state-of-the-art resuscitation equipment, and train employees in their use – something abortion clinics have repeatedly been cited for failing to do.

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