What a blessed time we have had in Hawaii, traveling to several of the beautiful islands and sharing the Gospel of Life with priests, seminarians and lay people who are hungry for the truth. Our friends with the Diocese of Honolulu’s Pro-Life Office and Bishop Larry Silva’s team have kept an ambitious schedule, which is normal for mission trips.
Also normal for such trips is the blessed lack of connectivity to the internet. Of course, this doesn’t always feel like a blessing when you have many things going on, but the Lord always does provide what you need. Thank you all for your prayers for the “Catholics Reaffirming Life” campaign through the Hawaiian archipelago — we are already seeing great fruit from our conversations and we pray that it continues to grow as we prepare for the trip home.
As you know, we at HLI have strongly expressed our concerns about the contraception statements coming from the Vatican. Most of the feedback we’re received has been positive, but I wanted to address a complaint that has been expressed; namely, that with our statements we have expressed “dissent” and have thus caused scandal. Since specific quotes are not offered with these charges, my guess is that some have a general sense that our efforts at clarifying teaching are disrespectful, or worse.
I have great respect for those whose heartfelt impulse is to defend the Church and the Holy Father. I feel the same way, which is why like so many of my brothers in faith, I have made it my life’s vocation to be a priest and serve the Bride of Christ, His Church. And I have made it a key aspect of my vocation to take a leadership role in a pro-life missionary organization and defend some of the most essential but least popular teachings of the Church. In my experience of a pastor, I’ve seen too many times that to neglect these truths for any reason is to create division in families, communities, and nations.
Human Life International has defended these teachings for decades, often with the support of the pope and bishops. We have suffered criticisms from bishops as well. That is the nature of the fight for life and family — it’s not about being popular, but about engaging on these vital questions in season and out of season.
If you look at the purveyors of abortion and contraception — they are always closely linked — you see that they see this as a battle. They are well organized and coordinated, and are extremely well funded. They hold the heights of political and cultural power, and hold up the most vulnerable — women and children — as human shields for their assaults. As more and more women fall and babies are killed, their allies in the media somehow twist these catastrophes are reasons to increase the assault. This is demonic, yet it is actually sold as an imperative of “justice.”
They have always recognized that it is the Catholic Church and her teaching that represented their ultimate obstacle. They’ve confused many millions of Catholics — even, as Pope Francis and his predecessors have noted, many bishops — into indifference, but they’ve never laid a glove on the truth, the Revealed Word of God as proclaimed by the Church’s Magisterium. Because they can’t. All they can do is remove support and cause confusion and destruction. Sadly, they’ve been deadly effective at this.
As a priest, my only authority is that which comes to me through the Church established by Our Lord Jesus Himself through the Holy Father, my bishop, in harmony with the truths of the faith. None of us in the Church can change these truths, we can only conform our minds and wills to them, to the Will of God, and go forward in love and truth, hopefully with courage. I have absolutely no desire to oppose the Holy Father, his faithful shepherds, or the truths that I have sworn to uphold.
This is why we praise good statements that come out and respectfully do our best to clarify statements that are used to undermine (not change) Church doctrine in the minds of the faithful. That is how we serve the Church in love and truth. To characterize this as “dissent” is to demonstrate a fundamental confusion about the nature of authority and Church teaching. And as was said previously, some others who have no intention or history of dissent have also sought to clarify the same teachings over the last weeks.
In times of confusion, this is often what love in truth looks like. It will be unpopular, it will be cast as disrespect by some, even if offered in a spirit of obedience. It is HLI’s mission to engage on these issues and educate all of good faith who will listen. If we do this with pride and haughtiness, we fail; if we do so with a servant’s heart, we may not win every battle, but we more closely conform to the will of God. This is what we are trying to do, no doubt imperfectly.
May God bless the Holy Father, our bishops and priests, our religious and lay people. May He bless them as only He can, in absolute love and truth. Let His will be done, not ours.