The Catholic Thing
For the Sake of the Kingdom: A New Year Print E-mail
By Fr. Phillip W. De Vous   
Sunday, 05 January 2014

“It stands athwart history, yelling STOP, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.”

William F. Buckley, Jr. offered these words in the inaugural editorial of that always-indispensable journal, National Review. I believe they also work as a fine summation of why in this New Year we must grow in our knowledge of the authentic Catholic faith, deepen our devotion to it, and sharpen our practice of it.  There are many things we as Catholics MUST say “no” to if we are going to say “yes” with conviction to Jesus Christ. 

It is commonly accepted today as a matter of “going along to get along” that history – really our present preferences – is somehow revealing some grand design, which is bringing about a new order of morality, life, and even of being itself. This is demonstrably false, dangerous, and dehumanizing idea was held with tenacity by Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Pol Pot, myriad other major and minor butchers of peoples and nations, as well as a whole host of pedantic and squeamish contemporary “leaders” who fancy themselves “progressive” in their outlook. (Progressive meaning that such leaders can discern the true designs of history and of your life, which you will be made to see in a mandatory fashion, of course.) 

This ridiculous idea is accepted for three reasons entirely unrelated to critical thinking about it: 

1.  Complacency: we just don’t feel like engaging or challenging the idea, which allows it to fester, or “progress” as some would style it, lending credence to its inevitability.
2.  Comity: we all just want to get along. “Getting along” is not a “value” one finds atop the Savior’s list when matters of truth and salvation are at stake. 
3.  Ignorance: we sense something is wrong, but don’t feel we have adequate knowledge to refute various pernicious, but popular ideas.
A fourth could be added.  Cowardice: we are often afraid to take a substantive and disagreeable stand. We fear isolation more than error, and because of that our witness to the Truth becomes tepid and our evangelization insipid.

Of course, there are no inevitable forces of history gradually or suddenly unfolding for us some grand design opposite of that of the Savior.  There is no inevitably new order of morality, some “new” (meaning contemporary) way of life, and certainly not some new order of being.  All this really is nothing more than hedonism sanctified and ignorance glorified. 

And of course, faithful Catholics are expected to go along with it all because, if we don’t conform, we’ll be on the “wrong side of history.  In truth, all we’ll really be is on the wrong side of people who are going wrong.  Who cares?

         The Temptation of St. Anthony by Salvador Dali, 1946

To restore sanity to our society and sanctity to our persons, we have to say no to the tenets of the sexual revolution and its pillars – abortion, contraception (which fears family life), adultery, fornication, pervasive pornographification, and the normalization of homosexuality.  And we certainly can’t forget the spiritual, physical, psychological, and moral poverty created by these pillars. All of us are judged by the demonstrable facts of the thoroughgoing awfulness of these things.  None of those things is in keeping with the dignity, design, purpose, and destiny of the human person. Period.

The social pathologies, family dysfunction, and destruction common in our time, along with its accompanying impoverishments, demonstrate the error of the hedonistic revolution whose tenets are casually accepted throughout Western life – and in most friendly conversations – as well as exalted in nearly every form of entertainment we ingest.

For peace to reign in our souls and for Truth to govern our lives, we must say “no” to unbelief in its most casual forms – like absenting oneself from Sunday Eucharist.  Sports and sporting events have become idols sidelining the command to Divine Worship.  Failing to make Confession a regular and, yes, routine part of our Faith comes in a close second.  If He is the Vine and we are the branches, why do we saw the limb off behind us?

A Disciple of Jesus Christ may dispense with neither the Sunday Mass nor Confession nor daily, disciplined prayer. The point isn’t primarily to “judge” – though we are all judged by the facts of life, natural and supernatural – but to steer ourselves back in the right direction.  We have to say “no” to certain things in order to utter with conviction, “AMEN.”

Jesus Christ, through His Church, has given us grace and truth. Nothing is “inevitable” as many assert as balm to our debased comity and spiritual complacency.  Just because something is probable, or prevalent – i.e., human weakness and sin – is no confirmation that it is inevitable, natural, good, or holy. Such things are simply part of the ongoing spiritual battle that is the battle noted by St. Paul: “For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.”

G.K. Chesterton, reacting to the supposed discrediting of the truth of the Gospel following the carnage of World War I exactly a century ago, wrote:  “As for the general view that the Church was discredited by the War – they might as well say that the Ark was discredited by the Flood. When the world goes wrong, it proves rather that the Church is right. The Church is justified, not because her children do not sin, but because they do.”

With a deep knowledge of our Faith and the Tradition given to us by the Church – not a guru of our preference – we can stand athwart the falsified tide of history and yell, “Stop”, so that we may be guided and guide others to that reconciling and clarifying “AMEN”. . . I believe in the fullness of life in Christ.

Father Phillip W. De Vous
is the pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Crescent Springs, KY and an adjunct scholar of public policy at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.
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Comments (10)Add Comment
written by Bruno, January 05, 2014
Thanks for your words father. Those are very confusing times.

As if it weren't hard enough to uphold the faith against the world, now I also find myself constantly questioning myself whether I'm not being pharisaic, or harsh, or if Christ hasn't indeed moved on along with the times. That those kinds of doubts are often ventilated by priests and bishops just makes it all more confusing.

But thank God there is Tradition, and we have the Gospel, and we have history to show us that while heaven and earth will pass, His Word will not. Where are you now, Arians? Nestorians? And you, Gnostics? And you, Positivists and your Church of Humanity?

written by Adeodatus, January 05, 2014
Well said! The pressures to conform to "the new normal" grow everyday in our world, and all too often the faithful capitulate to these pressures. Those who promote evil philosophies and falsehoods speak with so much freedom while Christians hold their tongues--and even will go so far as to praise themselves for their tolerance and reserve. As a result, our most eloquent advocates are a reality television yokel and a fast food chain that sells chicken sandwiches. Catholics need to find their bearings, practice their faith, and draw strength from the sacraments. They must combat a very real threat to the salvation of so many people; they must shoulder the burden of persecution and marginalization--for this is what the world does with truly faithful Christians. Furthermore, the success of this endeavor depends on each individual, not just the popularity of a pope or bishop. Enthusiasm and goodwill must translate into a permanent conversion that will truly bring light in a dark fallen world.
written by Rich in MN, January 05, 2014
Thank you. This is an outstanding article. There is a scene from an old Woody Allen movie in which he is an infantryman in the midst of a pitched battle. He runs around pathetically looking for a place to hide so he does not get hurt. He is both incompetent and cowardly, and he believes in nothing more than the desire to survive. Sadly, in the midst of the various moral battles of our day, sometimes I see a bit of myself in Allen's character -- or should I say Allen's lack-of-character....

And I love the Chesterton quote!
written by James Swetnam, S.J., January 05, 2014
A brilliant column. Profoundly Catholic. Completely and totally relevant to the U.S. today.
written by Avery T, January 05, 2014

These are good sentiments, but the truth is that many of the old heresies are still with us today under different names: Arians = Jehovah's Witnesses, Nestorian teaching became one of the bases for Islam, Positivist political movements became the ideological technocracy inside the welfare state, and Gnostics are well everywhere in the New Age Movement. They have left behind those ancient labels, but have carried forward most of the old beliefs and more tragically, the rebellious attitude toward the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
written by Rob, January 05, 2014

I would only add a sincere thank-you for speaking the truth.
I can hope and pray that your brother priests and the bishops believe as you do.
Please proceed with all due vigor to proclaim far and wide
what you have proclaimed herein.

Carpe Diem..
written by Matt, January 05, 2014
A very good article. Is comity, complacency, cowardice or even ignorance the issue with a churchman who said this week that teaching a specific Catholic doctrine - at a catholic school - risks the children's faith - equating it to "vaccinating against faith."

May as well not teach the nature of mortal sin because it might also pose a risk of alienation.
written by Ryan, January 05, 2014
Father, thank you for the column. I would ask you to write in a future column(s) exactly how to best prepare to avoid and battle the three "progressive" reasons you cite. What steps might we all take to begin to become less complacent, more courageous, intellectually smarter at apologetics, and prudentially judgmental (in the sense of Jesus' judging the merchants in the temple)? Thanks!
written by Rich in MN, January 06, 2014
I was curious as to which "churchman" Matt was referring. Then I read something on another website that made me realize Matt was talking about that churchman who lives on Via del Pellagrino in that far away, teensy weensy country across the pond! Hey, Matt, how dare you make fun of our Holy Father, Pope Rorschach!

Okay, in our Holy Father's defense (or rather in defense of what our Holy Father might have said last November if the second-hand account is accurate), I agree that children of parents living in ways contrary to God's Will really do need a certain pastoral nuance in how the Church's moral teaching is communicated to them so as not to burden them with more stress and conflict than they can handle. Yet it must always be done in a way that does not compromise the truth. And this is a particularly difficult balancing act because we live in a society that has lost the very concept of mercy and, thereby, has distorted the meaning of "sin." Those actions which we forgive must not be that bad because, after all, we forgave them, didn't we? So sin then moves away from such "forgivable" actions as killing one's own children or turning one's back on the destitute to the really disgusting, "unforgivable" actions like smoking, wearing fur, and not recycling. How does one communicate moral truth with compassion to a world where the very concept of mercy is non-existent or, at best, very immature?
written by Deacon Ed Peitler, January 06, 2014
The parishioners St. Joseph Parish in Crescent Springs, KY are most fortunate to have you as their pastor. My only hope is that your bishop assign the newly-ordained to your parish to form them in what the ministry of priests is meant to be.

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