Schismatic Stratagems

The present attempt by liberal clerics and laity to compel the Catholic Church to get rid of what they deem unacceptable doctrines on sexual morality necessarily includes efforts to change the language used by the Church in setting out those doctrines in official teaching documents such as the Catechism of the Catholic Church. One strategy employed uses a self-contradictory form of attack: a teaching is dismissed as being unintelligible to modern people because of the use of obscure philosophical language. At the same time the teaching is condemned as cruel and hurtful because those same modern people, it turns out, are perfectly capable of understanding the language and meaning of the teaching. They just don’t like it.

Another strategy simply ridicules the teaching as being nonsensical, absurd, and embarrassing in the world we live in. If the reigning consensus of informed, intelligent people about what is right and wrong finds a Catholic doctrine to be incompatible with their outlook, then the Church must jettison that doctrine. Why? Because the “evolving” moral and ethical consensus of so-called advanced Western societies must now be considered the only acceptable rule as to how any behavior should be judged. Church leaders who embrace this worldview have plainly abandoned Catholic teaching and are the architects and builders of “the church of what’s happening now.”

The serious threat these pressure tactics pose to the Church’s teaching about homosexuality is well documented in a recent article by journalist Edward Pentin. Certain bishops and priests are the prime movers in a relentless campaign to have the Church abandon the doctrine that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. In line with both the Old and New Testaments and the long history of Catholic moral reasoning, the Church instructs us that such acts are intrinsically evil and can never be morally good, under any circumstance.

Why, then, is this happening? As a pastor of souls, I am very familiar with the many ways in which people try to defend and justify their sins. One tactic is to convince yourself that since you are not a bad person but rather a good and loving person, your desires and choices in life must be good, they must come from God.

Furthermore, if the Church says my choice to engage in homosexual activity is wrong, it is the Church that is in fact wrong. Such a person, who wants to commit sin with a peaceful conscience, may already have had this line of reasoning endorsed by a “sympathetic and caring priest” – of whom there are a number these days, some even media celebrities – who is himself a “hero.” Our culture tends to cast such priests as bravely speaking truth to power and risking the wrath of superiors to give comfort to those hurt by unkind words from clueless, backward Catholic bullies who take the Bible literally.

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Another justification is to claim that since so many other people are ignoring the Church’s teaching, and are even being told by enabling bishops and priests that God wants to bless them in their homosexual relationships, then everything must be fine. “Progress in morality” means that homosexual activity, which was forbidden in more “primitive” times, and then was tacitly tolerated, will soon be finally approved of by the people in charge of the Church, all because trail-blazing prophets prevailed through steadfast insistence. Out with the old, in with the new!

The reality is, of course, completely different. The Church teaches that homosexual activity is always gravely immoral behavior because God has revealed this to be the truth. God is love and his truth is an expression of that love. Living in opposition to the truth means living in opposition to God. All sin, especially mortal sin, offends God and does spiritual harm to oneself and to others.

The present chaotic situation in the Church is the result of forgetting or rejecting this simple truth: that what God commands is good and what he forbids is evil. The current efforts by German bishops and laypeople to deny this threatens schism in the Church, as we saw in their outrage (and to a lesser extent among some Catholics here in America) when the Vatican recently banned the blessing of “same-sex unions.” But even more gravely, it encourages a separation from God’s very revelation of his way for us.

We have a duty, and thus a very strong motive, to live and act in complete obedience to God’s law. We have a similarly serious duty to encourage others to live in accord with what God, in his goodness, commands.

When shepherds of the Church tell people that they are doing a good thing in committing acts of sodomy, and that they will bless their mutual promises to sodomize each other, we are experiencing a complete betrayal by those shepherds of their mission. Instead of leading people away from sin and back into virtuous lives that are pleasing to God, these false shepherds are leading them into sin and away from Christ.

Their baseless belief that a same-sex union founded upon the immoral use of the sexual faculty, which is given to man by God for the propagation of the species and the expression of marital love in the divinely ordained physical union of man and wife, is worthy of God’s blessing creates horrible scandal and promotes utter confusion about marriage, sex, and our duty to obey God’s law.

It’s lamentable that a number of bishops and priests today are misleading people into either engaging in or approving of homosexual activity by teaching that God approves of and blesses what the Church has always taught, and always will teach, to be gravely immoral behavior. These false teachers need to be fraternally corrected and called to repent and recant.

And we must call their acts by their right name: simply stratagems to eliminate or redefine God’s truth for the sake of human preferences. This cannot be allowed to happen, and must be resisted for the good of souls and the upholding of the truth handed down to us by Christ and His Church.

 

*Image: Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1630 [Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam]

Fr. Gerald E. Murray

The Rev. Gerald E. Murray, J.C.D. is a canon lawyer and the pastor of Holy Family Church in New York City.