Why are so many Catholics afraid to uphold the Church’s moral doctrine? Based in the Word of God and codified by the Magisterium, the truths therein are essential to living in true freedom, and are offered to all.
The Church isn’t, as even many Catholics seem to assume, just some social agency with rituals. “The Church in this world is the sacrament of salvation, the sign and the instrument of the communion of God and men.” (CCC, n. 780) “The one mediator, Christ, established and ever sustains here on earth His holy Church, the community of faith, hope, and charity, as a visible organization through which He communicates truth and grace for all men.” (Lumen Gentium, ¶8, §1)
The Church exists in time, but at the same time she transcends it. Though we know the Church as a real institution, it is through Faith that we also recognize she is the bearer of divine life –– transcending time and history, leading her children in every age to eternal life, until the Lord returns.
This bears remembering especially when Church doctrine conflicts with the spirit of the age—at that moment when too many Catholics either don’t know what to think or say due to poor formation, or so badly water down the teaching in order not to offend, that it becomes incoherent.
“In the formation of their consciences, the Christian faithful ought carefully to attend to the sacred and certain doctrine of the Church. For the Church is, by the will of Christ, the teacher of the truth. It is her duty to give utterance to, and authoritatively to teach, that truth which is Christ Himself, and also to declare and confirm by her authority those principles of the moral order which have their origins in human nature itself.” (Dignitatis Humanae, ¶14)
As disciples of Jesus, we oppose the perverse and toxic agenda of the Culture of Death, we understand that the answer to life’s questions about truth and reality are solely found in Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God, who says, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice”, (John 18:37) and “My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow Me.” (John 10:27)
The Church has always emphasized our obligation to seek truth and give assent to it when found. “All are bound to seek the truth in the matters which concern God and His Church; when they have found it, then by divine law they are bound, and they have the right, to embrace and keep it.” (Code of Canon Law, n. 748)
We believe things because they are true, not merely because somebody told us we have to believe them. We have to use our own gift of reason as well, and every day the person with eyes to see will find evidence of individuals and societies that turn from God and His teaching.
Here is why I bring all of this up. Did you see this story last week?
Study: Teen birth rates fall after cuts to birth control budgets
Government cuts to the funding of sex education and contraceptive services have contributed to a drop in the rates of teenage pregnancies to their lowest level since 1969, a new study has found. (Catholic Herald, June 1, 2017)
Now, if you’ve accepted the world’s wisdom, you probably find this to be counterintuitive. You probably think that the way to prevent teen pregnancy is through sex “education”: basically, telling teens to ignore parents and pastors and have sex, and to “protect” themselves with drugs and barrier methods. You probably also don’t bat an eye as a veritable industry rises up to both create the problem by telling kids to do the thing that makes babies and spreads disease, and then sell them the “solution” of contraceptives, STI treatments, and abortion. Finally, you have been conditioned to roll your eyes and mock anyone who asks if this is really the best way to prevent teen pregnancy, sexually-transmitted infections, abortion, and the heartache that follows using others and being used as an object.
But if you’re a Catholic who actually knows the relevant moral doctrine, you’re not surprised in the least. Even if you haven’t read Casti Connubii, Humanae Vitae, Evangelium Vitae, or the many other documents and pronouncements on the matter, you were told the truth in love by a faithful priest, parent, or teacher. You had heard that sex is a great gift reserved for man and wife in the marital bond, the natural and God-made basis for the family, which is obviously, historically, the absolute best setting for raising children. You don’t even have to be Catholic to know this, but if you are Catholic, you have a special responsibility for communicating these truths.
And are we still lacking evidence for the natural and logical consequences when sex outside of marriage becomes the norm?
Every bishop, every priest, and even every parent needs to think very carefully about this. It is not enough to throw up one’s hands and complain that nobody wants to hear it. This is fear being rationalized, and it is destructive both for those whose vocation requires that these truths are passed on clearly without fear, and for those who are doomed to destructive choices because they have not heard or not accepted the truth.
Pope Saint John XXIII in his encyclical, Ad Petri Cathedram, highlighted the root cause of this struggle for clerical and lay members of the Body of Christ –– ignorance and contempt of truth.
All the evils which poison men and nations and trouble so many hearts have a single cause and a single source: ignorance of the truth –– and at times even more than ignorance, a contempt for truth and a reckless rejection of it. Thus arise all manner of errors, which enter the recesses of men’s hearts and the bloodstream of human society as would a plague. These errors turn everything upside down: they menace individuals and society itself. (n. 6)
And according the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “It is from God’s love for all men that the Church in every age receives both the obligation and the vigor of her missionary dynamism… God wills the salvation of everyone through the knowledge of the truth. Salvation is found in the truth.” (CCC, n. 851)
The Church must teach with authority what she has received. Unless the Church exercises this God-given authority, it is inevitable that confusion will arise. Through her authoritative voice, the Church, must silence dissent and bring clarity and correction instead of ambiguity and indifference.
Suppose that, today, some controversy should arise about a point of doctrine accurately defined by the Church – such as the intrinsic evil of contraception. Suppose that the ridiculous, destructive, and persistent dissent from this teaching were to again gain serious consideration even at the heights of the Church. Who reaffirms what is doctrinally sound, distinguishing what is true from what is false? In such a case, the competent authority is the Church through the Roman Pontiff and the Magisterium in union with him. (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 25)
Then why are we afraid of our own teaching? Why are we hearing from Church leaders confusing statements on marriage, contraception, Holy Communion, homosexuality, gender theory, conscience, and euthanasia? According to St. John XXIII, the pope that many still use against the notion of unchangeable truth in Catholic teaching: “These errors turn everything upside down: they menace individuals and society itself.”
The report about teen pregnancy out of Britain is but the latest evidence that the Church is right about to purpose and nature of sex, marriage, and about the evil of contraception. The Church knows these truths because she knows the human person, and she knows the human person because she knows Jesus. We cannot be afraid to proclaim the truth—the temporal and, especially, the eternal consequences of not doing so are too great should we fail to do so.
“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” says the Lord. (John 8:32)