What a strong bishop can do
June 27, 2016 (HLI) -- This week saw a rare victory in the international battle for truth and religious freedom. You may have heard that Antonio Cardinal Cañizares Llovera, archbishop of Valencia in Spain, had been threatened with legal action following a controversial homily he gave some months ago. In the homily, he criticized the extremely aggressive and overreaching “gay empire” that is attacking the family. He called Catholics to vigilance and prayer, calling for a defense of the family.
Attacking the bishop
As if only to prove him right, homosexual activists brought charges against Cardinal Cañizares for giving the homily. He was in a Catholic Church speaking to Catholics, yet he cannot (to listen to these activists) be allowed to defend Church teaching on marriage and challenge those who, well, threaten anyone who dare raise a voice in opposition.
We’re well past the point of “You can’t make this stuff up.” You don’t have to. The sense of entitlement the “gay empire” (to use the cardinal’s term) has to silence all opposition is limitless and is becoming totalitarian. They’ve had too many successes in just such cases, so it is heartening to see a victory for sanity.
Threatened with three years in prison, Cardinal Cañizares prevailed when a Spanish judge threw out the charges, finding truthfully enough that in the controversial homily in question, he was exercising his right to free speech and had no criminal intent or appeal to hatred or violence.
We have discussed many times in Spirit & Life how radical gender ideology has infected many institutions here and around the world, bringing its corrosive anti-reality and anti-God worldview to corners once thought immune to politics. Since the LGBT movement cannot defend its views with reason, it must appeal with raw emotion and project its own hatred onto its opponents and remove their rights to free speech, and increasingly, to any public endeavor whatsoever.
Bishops Standing Together
So to do what Cardinal Cañizares did takes courage and leadership, traits he shares with Bishop Juan Antonio Reig Pla, who also hails from Valencia but is now bishop of Alcala de Henares, Spain. HLI awarded Bishop Reig Pla the Cardinal von Galen award in 2013 for his courage in defending Christ and His Church. Spain has seen many hardships over the years, but with leaders like this they have greater hope.
Bishops should dedicate themselves to their apostolic office as witness of Christ before all men. They should not only look after those who already follow the Prince of Pastors but should also wholeheartedly devote themselves to those who have strayed in any way from the path of truth or are ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and His saving mercy until finally all men walk “in all goodness and justice and truth (Eph. 5:9)” (Christus Dominus n. 11).
There are many good bishops out there, and we need to acknowledge their courage when we see it. All of our beloved shepherds deserve our love and prayers, and frankly deserve encouragement when they step into the breach and really lead in a difficult time.
Sometimes the attack comes from inside
This is especially true since there is so much to confuse the faithful coming from bishops. Last week we heard a bishop insist that the Church is somehow responsible for attacks on persons who identify as LGBT, repeating a key talking point of those who attack the Church unjustly and are trying to change her teaching on sexuality. This is truly disgraceful and deserves clear condemnation-when the Church is already under attack from powerful sexual radicals it is devastating to have a shepherd of the Church give aid and comfort to the enemy.
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Yet, just when some are tempted to despair by such betrayals, we hear from Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez an eloquent defense of the Church’s teaching that life is the most important among many issues that concern Catholics in the public square. He has been a leader on many social justice issues for the Church, particularly on immigration, yet he knows that while some issues admit of a variety of solutions for faithful Catholics, life deserves a complete and unqualified defense in law, which is sorely lacking in the US and around the world today. And it is so for the exact same reason that a poor migrant family deserves our help: because every human person is made in the image of God, and deserves to live the life he already has been given as a gift.
In exercising their duty of teaching — which is conspicuous among the principal duties of bishops — they should announce the Gospel of Christ to men, calling them to a faith in the power of the Spirit or confirming them in a living faith. They should expound the whole mystery of Christ to them, namely, those truths the ignorance of which is ignorance of Christ. At the same time they should point out the divinely revealed way to give glory to God and thereby to attain to eternal happiness. (Christus Dominus n. 12)
Giving glory to God
Cardinal Cañizares and Archbishop Gomez are two of many within the Church doing the right thing by opposing the threat of gender ideology, and by pointing to the truth in Our Lord. So many in the Church are indifferent, which is almost an understandable tragedy given the many years of poor catechesis and compromise with a culture that is falling apart. We pray for the conversion of these brothers and sisters also, as the choices are made clearer by the hostility of the surrounding culture and a core group of faithful Catholics who remain strong and joyful. We pray every day that they will choose Christ and His Church and leave the untruths behind. We pray this for ourselves as well, since we don’t presume to have every answer. We just strive in love and truth to be faithful in small and large things.
Our shepherds and priests desperately need the prayers of the faithful. We need the strength to give ourselves anew to Christ through His Church every day. We can’t do it without your prayers.
Thank you for praying for me and for all priests and bishops, and for standing strong in the fight for life and family with us.
Reprinted with permission from Human Life International.