Sunday, December 20, 2009

Of fake Catholic organizations

 Back in March, I asked if it was possible for someone to be both pro-choice and Catholic, and answered “yes and no”. Technically, a person doesn’t stop being a Catholic unless and until s/he formally apostatizes, either by joining another church or by abandoning worship altogether. (Even then, a person may remain very much a Catholic in the way his/her imagination interprets symbol and story.) In such a functionally crippled sense, a person can be a “pro-choice Catholic”, although the two concepts linked together create an oxymoron.

However, as someone once cracked, the “cafeteria Catholic” line forms right behind Martin Luther. You can’t reject any part of Catholic dogma without implicitly denying the Church’s teaching authority. When you reach that point, your heart and mind are no longer in synch with the rest of the faith: you’re “out of communion” … ex communio. You may call yourself a Catholic, but you’re being dishonest with yourself—you’re a Protestant with a penchant for plaster statues and bad folk music. You like the Catholic “look and feel”, but you reject something vitally necessary to insuring the integrity of the Gospel message.

Which brings us to Young Catholics For Choice:

Young Catholics are having sex. We are using contraception and condoms. We are having abortions. We are bisexual, gay, lesbian, straight and transgender. And none of this makes us any less Catholic than conservative Catholics who speak out against us [emphasis mine].
“The truth is, they don’t represent what the majority of Catholics—especially those of us in our 20s and 30s—think about sex. It comes down to Catholic teaching on conscience. Basically, every individual has the right and responsibility to follow his or her own conscience—and respect others’ right to do the same. With conscience and respect, good Catholic sex is not only possible, it’s already happening.”
Young Catholics For Choice is what Tom Peters at American Papist calls a “fake Catholic” organization. Like Kate Childs Graham, the writer I spoke of back in March, the YCFC takes a single point of Catholic teaching out of context and tries to turn it against the Church’s teaching authority on matters of morality: “[Conscience] is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths” [Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1776].

To repeat myself, “Let’s look a little further, in paragraphs 1790-1792:

A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. … Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed.
This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case where a man “takes little trouble to find out what is good and true, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin” (Gaudium et Spes, 16). In such cases, the person is culpable for the sins he commits.
Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel, bad example given by others, enslavement to one’s passions, assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church’s authority and her teaching [emphasis mine], lack of conversion and of charity: these can be at the source of errors of judgment in moral conduct.

“One rule that applies in every case (see paragraph 1789) is that a Catholic may never do evil for the sake of a good result (cf. Rom 3:8). ‘A good intention … does not make behavior that is intrinsically disordered … good or just. The end does not justify the means’ (1753). And, ‘[i]t is therefore an error to judge the morality of human acts by considering only the intention that inspires them or the circumstances (environmental, social pressure, duress or emergency, etc.) which supply their context. There are acts which, in and of themselves, independently of circumstances and intentions, are always gravely illicit by reason of their object …’ (1756, emphasis mine).”

Abortion is just such an act. It is a violation of the Fifth Commandment, “You shall not kill” (Ex 20:13; Dt 5:17). Paragraph 2271 of the Catechism explains further:

Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion … is gravely contrary to the moral law: “You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and cause the newborn to perish” [Didache 2:2]. “God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes” [Tertullian, Apology 9].

As I’ve said before, primacy of conscience isn’t a magic wand which will turn an evil act into a blessing, or a sin into a sacrament. Because abortion is objectively evil, Christians are bound in conscience not only to eschew it for themselves but to try to prevent it so far as is possible without committing equal sin (such as murdering abortionists); this includes educating the misinformed conscience.

But the screed isn’t only directed at supporting abortion. By invoking contraception and various sexual orientations, as well as its implied support of fornication, the final sentence—“good Catholic sex is not only possible, it’s already happening”—seems to imply that good Catholic sex isn’t possible without all these licenses (he said as he raised his eyebrows in polite incredulity).[1] Indeed, the 1960s tone of this last clause reminds us that the YCFC, like its parent (*ahem!*) organization Catholics for a Free Choice, is a prisoner of the combined psychobabble and half-digested Marxism that helped give us the social nightmare called the “Sexual Revolution”.

The stated aim of the YCFC is “to counter the bishops’ impact both in the United States and around the world,” which is a de facto declaration of opposition to the Church’s teaching authority. Whether or not they represent the majority of Catholics in the 21-39 age bracket, the statement that “they [supposedly the conservative Catholics but really meaning the bishops] don’t represent what we think” carries along the curious assumption that democracy somehow enters into it.

The Church isn’t to be compared to the local Optimists or Elks Clubs. If you want to join an organization dedicated to doing good without requiring a specific set of beliefs, you don’t need to join a church. However, to be a Christian in something more than name is not just to have some generalized benevolence towards humanity. Rather, to be a Christian is to be a member of the Body of Christ (cf. Rom 12:4-5; 1 Cor 6:15, 12:20-27; Eph 5:30; Col 1:18), which neither implies nor allows for separation.

Saint Paul advises at the end of his pivotal letter to the Romans, “I appeal to you, brethren, to take note of those who create dissentions and difficulties, in opposition to the doctrine which you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by fair and flattering words they deceive the hearts of the simple-minded” (Rom 16:17). Nor is he the only one. The author of Hebrews, near the end, reminds his audience, “Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings” (Heb 13:9). And the author of Jude exhorts his readers, “But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; they said to you, ‘In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.’ It is these who set up divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit” (Jude 17-19; cf. 2 Pt 2:1-3).

The whole point of having an authoritative Church is to guarantee continuity of the Gospel message from the first century to today; we don’t get to tailor salvation to suit our desires. The Church speaks with the voice of Christ (Lk 10:16), under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (Jn 14:26, 16:13), and the Lord will be with the Church “always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20); St. Paul calls the Church “the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15). While we retain responsibility for our actions and our beliefs, we reject the principles and dogmas the Church teaches at our own peril, for the individual is not given the protection from error that the Church is given as a whole by the promises of Christ.

And thus, as incoming Bishop of Milwaukee Jerome Listecki stated in a press release on Dec. 15th: “While people can call themselves whatever they want, it is my duty as a bishop to state clearly and unequivocally that by professing and disseminating views in grave contradiction to Catholic teaching, members of organizations like ‘Young Catholics for Choice’ in fact disown their Catholic heritage, tragically distancing themselves from that communion with the Church to which they are called.”

And that’s why the Young Catholics For Choice is a “fake Catholic” organization.

[1] .What I think the copywriter meant was that it’s possible to be a good Catholic while being sexually liberated, and not that married Catholics who are faithful to the magisterium can’t have good sex. But if the latter was meant—well, that would be beyond mere arrogance