The Catholic Thing
Nec Laudibus, Nec Timore Print E-mail
By Matthew Hanley   
Friday, 24 February 2012

Soon after their rise to power, the Nazis were determined to stamp out any Catholic influence beyond the immediate confines of a church – whether in schools or in private professional organizations, and so forth. Sound familiar? (Think HHS mandate). Then as now, the totalitarian aims of a socializing state meant ratcheting back the scope of the Catholic Church.

In 1933, Clemens August von Galen was consecrated as bishop of the diocese of Münster, the first such consecration under Hitler’s regime. Feeling it was his duty to speak unambiguously about the emerging political threats, he rebuked the “neopaganism of the national socialist ideology,” and condemned, inter alia, the regime’s euthanasia program and its confiscation of Church property.

By speaking in this open way, he was risking his own life. The Lion of Münster, as he became known, is greatly honored to this day because of his brave defense of the faith in the face of political oppression.  

Nonetheless, some critics tried to depict him as a politically motivated reactionary out of touch with the times rather than as what he really was: a faithful Catholic shepherd. Though history has acquitted him of such charges, the same kinds of accusations are leveled at those who speak clearly in defense of settled Catholic belief today.

Nec laudibus, nec timore” was the episcopal motto von Galen chose; he wanted to be motivated “neither by the praise of men, nor by the fear of men.” (It is often translated: neither praise nor threats will distance me from God).

His motto is timelessly pertinent – a solid “how to” guide for speaking truth in charity. Yet it was also finely attuned to the needs of the particular situation in that time and place, which like our own today, was growing increasingly hostile to Christianity.

His motto also relates to Pope Benedict XVI’s 2012 Lenten message in which he insists:  “We must not remain silent before evil.” He specifies that one reason we fall silent is “out of human regard” – in other words, because we seek that form of laudibus (praise) that the Lion of Münster foreswore. Benedict reminds us that the duty to rebuke and to admonish, as much as we may fear that unpleasant prospect, is actually an important dimension of Christian charity.

Nancy Pelosi – long in dire need of such charity, along with other soi disant Catholics betraying the Church and the Republic – has called the tyrannical HHS mandate a “courageous decision”, and duplicitously declared:  “I am going to stick with my fellow Catholics” in supporting it. After the farcical “compromise,” she went even further, saying she thinks the government should actually require the Catholic Church “to directly pay for contraception and abortifacients.”

After years and years of just such outrageous obstinacy, would it be unfair to interpret the lack of a correspondingly appropriate rebuke by our bishops, including canonically merited sanctions, as a lack of charity? 

           Blessed Clemens August von Galen

Charity is demanding and we all fall short of the mark. Still, there is a certain irony that, as we Catholics fight for the freedom to continue providing charitable programs without being forced by the government to cover immoral “services,” we have yet to adequately exercise this additional form of charity, which is still entirely under our control.

St. James famously cautioned that faith without works of charity is dead. Perhaps part of the explanation for why individual bishops approach this issue differently – and here I refer to those obvious, clear-cut cases of grave and persistent public scandal – is that in some respects they (like all individuals) have differing depths of faith.

We are dealing, of course, with far more than matters of important but internal church discipline, yet it ultimately boils down to a wider crisis of faith:  Obamacare is a deeply and demonstrably unwise flirtation with socialism, which is “irreconcilable with true Christianity.” (Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno. N. 120)

The HHS mandate is a coercive codification of the libertinism of the sexual revolution, which is likewise antithetical to a Christian understanding of human love and sexuality. This method of advancing these destructive ends requires trampling on religious liberty and individual conscience.

The bishops’ unanimous rejection of the HHS mandate, it must be emphasized, is an energizing cause for hope and sign of faith. The times call for charitable men and women with a nec laudibus nec timore spirit to shine the light of faith on the darkness that has invaded our culture.

This implies a real concern to know and abide by the content of the faith – and as Archbishop Chaput recently observed: “naïve imprudence is not an evangelical virtue.” This bears repeating, after Obama predictably broke his brazenly disingenuous promise (while being honored at Notre Dame) to “honor the conscience of those who disagree” with his objectively vile positions.

Ah yes, what of “this conscience thing,” as La Pelosi belittled it? “A clear conscience is more precious than liberty or life.” So said Lithuanian factory worker Nijole Sadunaite to a KGB judge in 1970 when she refused to testify against a priest accused of teaching religion.

She’d been accused herself by the Soviets of mental illness, but even after being offered freedom (a narrow exemption granted by the state) if she would just incriminate him, she remained firm:  “If you gave me eternal youth and all the beautiful things in the world” in return for doing so, “then those years would turn into a hell for me. Even if you kept me in the psychiatric hospital all my life, as long as I knew that no one had suffered on my account, I would go around smiling. . . .I would agree to die a thousand times rather than be free for one second with your conscience.”

This noble woman of faith followed her conscience and ultimately endured years of exile and hard labor. Where will our own growing assault on conscience end?

Matthew Hanley is, with Jokin de Irala, M.D., the author of
Affirming Love, Avoiding AIDS: What Africa Can Teach the West, which recently won a best-book award from the Catholic Press Association. His latest report, The Catholic Church & The Global AIDS Crisis is now available from the Catholic Truth Society, publisher to the Holy See in the U.K.

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Comments (15)Add Comment
written by Manfred, February 24, 2012
We would be naive if we thought of the Church as an innocent lamb now being encircled by wolves (many in lamb's clothing!). There has been a business relationship between Church institutions and federal, state interests for decades. HHS has just made the deal more formal. The Church has stood by while many bishops, priests and teachers supported contraception,(do you recall the text in Catholic high schools LOVING?) sterilization and abortion, all with no action by either the hierarchy or Rome. The fact that no one has been excommunicated (except by Abp. Bruskewitz)tells the very sad tale. In addition to everything noted, the Catholic laity will also have to deal with aberrosexual "marriages". Small wonder marriage and childbearing are on the decline.
written by Mark, February 24, 2012
Amen, sir. The link to this page should be forwarded to every bishop in the U.S.
written by James Danielson, February 24, 2012
The Orthodox churches describe excommunication, the clerical separation of a person from the chalice, as a formal recognition of a separation already effected by the obstinate error of the communicant. The intention in excommunication may include bringing the separated communicant to his senses, but its primary purposes are to preserve the purity of the eucharist from distribution to people who have , in effect, rejected Christ, and to protect others who must wonder why some people can advance the cause of immorality in the forms of abortion-on-demand, or contraception, or whatever, and not suffer the clearly indicated consequences of their errors. In the presence of evils like abortion, leniency is not love.
written by Walter, February 24, 2012
Columns like this may be an inspiring call to arms, but the issues have already been well-defined, and there is little new substance here.

A key difference that Mr. Hanley ignores: Germans had no electoral choice after 1933 and Lithuanians after 1945. There will be a free and open election in the US this fall. Without significant Catholic support, Obama cannot be re-elected. So, like Fr. Schall's column, the story here is more about the Church than the American body politic.

The much harder questions that columnists need to address:
- What can the Church do before the election? Should the church be proactive, publicly endorse the Republican nominee for president, and willingly sacrifice its tax exemption? Or should the church publicly frame the conditions for ex-communication ahead of the election (eg, Abp. Bruskewitz, or the Italian communist ex-communication someone else had referenced this week)?
- If Obamacare is repealed, how does the Church propose providing access to healthcare within the confines of Catholic doctrine and tradition? Ongoing inaccessability to a large number of Americans is sinful and against legitimate Catholic social teaching. (Note I said 'access', not mandate or giveaway or socialize.)
- What does the Church do, what do the bishops say/do on November 7, if a majority of their American flock votes for Obama after an unambiguous public Church assault on his policies? Withdrawing from public life, as Fr. Schall suggested, is a false choice: one would withdraw into a Church whose members gave Obama a second term.
written by Jim O'Connor, February 24, 2012
Performing corporal and spiritual works of mercy are means of grace. Admonishing the sinner is a spiritual work of mercy. A very good reason to "speak truth to power" to conscript a phrase from the left so to speak.
written by Joshua, February 24, 2012
Walter: I am no columnist but I share your worries! The faithful should already be listening to what the Church infallibly teaches about certain issues. If the Candidate supports abortion and homosexual "rights", regardless of what other good things he or she may support, then it should be game over for them. How hard is it to read an encyclical? How hard is it to read a Catechism? Furthermore, the higher ups should be urging priests to reiterate these things. I too agree that the Pope or other bishops should start to excommunicate our Catholic in name only politicians! However, I am sure they would ignore it or use it as a platform for attack. IF the faithful ignorantly flock to Obama...then I fear they were never faithful at all.

Catholic institutions are doing amazing things offering good, moral, healthcare, but should not be forced to offer immoral things. What the Church should do is increase its funding to these hospitals and charities that have no connection with opposing groups like Planned Parenthood (some actually do). Bishops need to put a stop to this NOW. We should all be giving more of our money directly to Catholic charities so they can afford a new MRI machine or new beds. So what if they lose their tax exemption? taxes aint nothing but a thing, sir. Simply increase your charity and almsgiving.

In the end Pope Leo XIII said it was perfectly ok to disobey secular government for the greater cause, which is the Faith! Continue to fight for what is right. Continue to go to Mass and pray the Most Holy Rosary. Urge fellow Catholics to bring the Protestants back home and burn a flame across the face of Modernism, Liberalism, Relativism, and Secularism.
written by TeaPot562, February 24, 2012
@Joshua: As has been frequently shown by the consequences of massive financial settlements paid by various dioceses from the pedophile scandals, for "the Church to increase its funding to hospitals and charities" means for us laypersons to increase OUR contributions for these purposes.
We can direct gifts toward activities of which we approve. It is far more difficult when our incomes have been taxed in order to fund activities -- wars, e.g. -- which we disapprove.
We definitely live in a pagan society - the presence of millions of tax-funded abortions, the increase of child poverty caused by the separation of sexual activity from marriage, the overwhelmingly pagan dominance of movies and TV are evidence. Prayer for our children and grandchildren is needed.
written by Dismas, February 24, 2012
Sound familiar? Indeed it does and this is the first site I've come across with the heroic courage and charity to make the comparison. I grow weary of the word secularism. Thank you for the heroic example in identifying certain ideologies by their rightful names.
written by Dave, February 24, 2012
Walter: the Church should NOT endorse the Republican candidate, or any candidate. The role of the Church is to enunciate the principles according to which the faithful make their own determinations as to for whom to vote.

As to what the Church ought to propose about offering healthcare to the uninsured, once again, the Church's role is to enunciate the principles. The lay faithful, active in the temporal sphere, the sphere that is proper to them, in conjunction with their fellow citizens, make those determinations. And note that access to healthcare does not ipso facto require health insurance: people used to get treated without it, you know, before there was any.

As to what the Church does if Catholics once again vote Obama into office: interesting question. What the hierarchy ought to do now is enunciate the perennial principles that set forth why artificial contraception, abortion, abortifacients, and sterilization -- the "full spectrum" -- are gravely evil. So far, we laity wait in vain. Yes, we have written and will write the letters and support the bishops and etc. etc. The bishops need to bring order to the Church and thus far they are taking the softest path possible. They rarely decertify nonconforming Catholic institutions and they will not enforce Canon 915. So rather than appearing as men who shepherd the flock to the point of laying down their lives, they appear to be men of tender sensibilities whose feelings were hurt. They need to present the Church's teachings, and we need to pray for them and encourage them to do so.

Neither is Fr. Schall's suggestion a false choice: if one must withdraw from public life rather than gravely sinning through participation in it, the choice is clear: withdraw one must. It is the recognition of the injustice of the action that may force this choice that has the bishops up in arms. Offering incense to Caesar was gravely sinful -- even the pretense of conformity to injustice was gravely sinful. And old Eleazar in 4 Maccabees refused the sham compromise put to him, and went to his death.

Joshua: "the Church" should increase funding to Catholic hospitals? That's you and me, friend, because we are the ones who write the checks. And having just learned that 48% of Catholic hospitals perform sterilizations so as to prevent future pregnancies, I'm unwilling to write bigger checks for hospitals that are not in conformity with Catholic teaching. Bishops can't put a stop to it now because they don't have the deciding vote: the power is exercised by the boards of directors. What power the bishops have is the power to declare that a hospital is or is not Catholic: and bless Bishop Olmstead for his courage in declaring St. Joseph's Phoenix was no longer Catholic because it performed an abortion. St. Joseph's didn't close the doors, and be sure they say they are "in the Catholic tradition."

God grant us all to have the courage of the Lithuanian woman who refused to bend the knee.
written by A Mitchell, February 25, 2012
"If Obamacare is repealed, how does the Church propose providing access to healthcare within the confines of Catholic doctrine and tradition? Ongoing inaccessability to a large number of Americans is sinful and against legitimate Catholic social teaching. (Note I said 'access', not mandate or giveaway or socialize.) "
The Church and Her bishops, should encourage their congregations to works of charity. Jesus might have said, Give unto Caesar what is Caesar's" but He never said, " Give lots of money to Caesar so he can help the poor". We are supposed to make health care available to the poor and sick, not the government.
I know it is not the course our Democratic Catholic majority take, but we are seeing the end of that path.
written by Pete McNesbitt, February 25, 2012
You know the Papal States seemed like a good idea to Catholics in Italy at one time. Until the abuses of the Church and it leaders caused people to revolt. Be careful about what charges you throw about. And for a writer to use the word charitable and charity like you do, maybe you should remember that our lord and savior is the judge not you.
written by David Kettering, February 25, 2012
So Nancy Pelosi natters on, promoting grave error and scandal as legitimate Catholic positions, and where is His Excellency, Archbishop George H. Niederauer, Archbishop of San Franscisco?

Silent as the grave, which is apparently where Catholic dogma is consigned in Pelosi's home town.
written by red, February 25, 2012
I agree with A Mitchell. I cannot consider "inaccessability" to health care to be a sin. That is just the camoflaged language of dehumanizing socialism. Health care is a service for which the talented and dedicated people who provide it should be paid. Government's heavy hand will do nothing but end the phenomenal advance of science and treatment and debase a near miraculous system to resemble the post office, the department of motor vehicles, child protective services. Under socialized medicine we will not be patients but work units. Rationing will follow with the most helpless cut out with the politically connected getting the best.

written by Paul Rimmer, February 25, 2012
Godwin's Law
written by Achilles, February 26, 2012
We used to use reason, experience and authority to work out our epistemology. Today, thanks in no small part to Rousseau, we resort to our feelings. In lieu of calling things what they are because they might possibly offend our sensibilities or hurt our feelings we resort to catch phrases and slogans to replace authority and reason. Godwin’s law is just one example and an embarrassing substitute for argument or reasoned debate.

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