All Catholics should justifiably be concerned – especially after actions by the U.S. government during the final two weeks of June. How can anyone doubt that Catholics are in the midst of a real struggle to maintain our religious freedom…even more so than many other faiths.
The reality is that the past four weeks is simply the most recent stage in the degradation of faith in the United States. The undermining of religious faiths has been occurring for decades, in bi-partisan fashion, through the gradual erosion of moral standards. Many will say that secularism impacts all religions, and this is a safe assumption. However, my contention is that the Catholic faith, as well as a few others, especially the older orthodox religions such as Judaism and Islam, are particularly affected.
So why is the impact of the secular political and social transformation been especially challenging for Catholic faithful?
There are a couple dominant reasons, but all are related to the fact that the Catholic Church is stands behind specific doctrines and refuses to compromise its core beliefs.
The subject matter that has most recently been the coalescing force of discussion is sex and marriage, which of course, also encompasses abortion, same-sex unions, and contraception. (For another great article on Catholicism, contraception, and same sex marriage, see Mary Rice Hasson’s article from July 8, 2013.)
Results of Standing Firm
The non-Catholic perspective increasingly portrays Catholics and the Catholic Church as intolerant, bigots, anti-woman, unfeeling, etc. Unfortunately, due to an inability or unwillingness to defend the faith and/or themselves, many Catholics hold this perspective as well.
In some ways, discussing these perspectives with “practicing Catholics” is more difficult, yet it is also the key for overcoming portrayals from those outside the Catholic faith. If we, members of the Catholic faith, cannot understand and explain why our faith is what it is, then how do we expect to explain it to non-Catholics, which is what our life’s mission, as apostles of Christ, is to be in the first place?
Wisdom is the Word
Education and experience leads to wisdom. The U.S. used to include the Bible as part of its public education as a reading resource and a tool for learning. Over the years, the “freedom of religion” terminology in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution has evolved into practice as the freedom “from” religion.
The motives for this can be discussed elsewhere. However, the U.S. governments’ continual practice of replacing a religious-based culture, which this country was founded, with a more secular culture through policies and actions is showing no signs of slowing. In fact, on June 17 of this year, President Barack Obama singled out the Catholic Church as a root cause of divisiveness in the world.
This is on top of the excessive dialogue and current legal fight to exclude Catholic institutions from being mandated to offer abortion and contraceptive “health care” as a part of the bi-partisan Affordable Care Act.
First, and preeminently important, is that nothing is forcing any individual to be a member of the Catholic faith and/or be employed, treated, or educated by a Catholic institution. It is a choice. This is as valid for current “cafeteria” Catholics as it is for non-Catholics. While it is the true belief and mission of Catholics to help others gain eternal life through our faith, it is not accomplished through force.
Without delving completely into the “why” the political angst against Catholics exists, let’s get back to the reality that there is often little understanding as to why we believe what we profess to believe.
In an effort to summarize as briefly and succinctly as possible the Catholic dogma on sex and marriage, I will attempt to do so in as few generic words as possible.
The Catholic teaching is that: Marriage is a Sacrament whereby two consenting individuals become one for the purpose of creating children as granted through the love of the Holy Spirit.
The simple but more explicit translation is as follows:
Sex is intended for procreation, not for individual pleasure. Sex is reserved for those that have been blessed by the Holy Spirit through the Sacrament of Marriage. Marriage is the self-sacrifice of individuals to become one. Since sex and marriage is for the purpose of procreation, it must biologically be between a man and a woman.
As a result of this simple teaching, the following implications confuse and sometimes anger Catholics and non-Catholics alike:
1) Sex is for the procreation of children – if this activity is conducted outside of the Sacrament of Marriage, it is a sin (regardless of what genders are involved). This sin does not discriminate.
2) The use of contraception between married Catholics is also a sin because it denies the Holy Spirit’s creation of a child – the purpose of the Sacred Marriage.
3) Abortion should be clearly understood by now as the killing of God’s child.
All of these points can be discussed in much more depth, using expanded explanations and teachings found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and in scholarly and theological discussions. My goal is to allow others – common Catholics – to explain our Catholic faith to others.
Another common complaint is often asked, “Why doesn’t the Catholic Church change along with societal beliefs? The world is changing and the Church needs to catch up.” This plea is uttered by Catholics and non-Catholics.
While I do not intend to be brash, but we express the answer to this at virtually every Mass within a single line of the Nicene Creed: I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
The Catholic Church is based upon the teachings of the apostles, starting with the original 12 and continuing over the years with the pope, who is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the first Apostle. Therefore, for the Catholic Church to change its teachings, it would require it to abandon original teachings of the faith. This is exactly how many other religions got their start – they chose to not follow certain beliefs of the Catholic Church.
Therefore, regardless of the non-partisan U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on June 25, 2013 to redefine marriage for the country, it is virtually impossible to expect the Catholic Church to ever redefine marriage because doing so would redefine the faith.
The simple realization is that yes, the Catholic Church does have archaic beliefs – because these beliefs were delivered directly from God to Jesus and through the Holy Spirit to the Apostles.
Undoubtedly, we have heard the argument that the Catholic Church has no right to “regulate” the sexual and marriage rights of society because of the numerous and disgusting sexual abuses perpetrated and protected by many Church officials.
Casting the failings of individuals, including those in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, as a reason to dismiss the apostolic teachings of God is ridiculous and almost not worthy of further discussion. However, it is a reality that needs to be addressed in our culture today. Albeit way too late in most instances, the sins have been adjudicated legally and within the Church. There is nothing that we can do to erase what has happened. It does not, however, warrant the dismissal of more than 2,013 years of apostolic teachings.
© 2013. Greg Yoko. All Rights Reserved.