By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK
Somebody help me: I just want to know when we decide that public and prolonged rejection of the basic tenets of the Catholic faith merits an equally public acknowledgment of heresy.
When the prominent self- described Catholic wife of the governor of California, Maria Shriver, on television excoriates Christians who oppose same- sex unions, and the attempted marriage by such same- sex couples, as well as those who oppose ordination for women, as part of a TV news series on public and professional roles for women, she, in effect, denies the faith of the Church to which she purportedly belongs. Thus the idea that Catholic faith and morals are an “ accessory” that one adapts and fashions for personal use rather than a conviction and covenant that guides all of one’s words and actions in everyday life, professional and private, is perpetuated.
An aggressively pro- abortion Catholic senator, Ted Kennedy, was lionized and glorified in a public and televised Catholic funeral at which the most pro- abortion president in history eulogized him from the pulpit, which, by Catholic liturgical norms, must be approached only by a minister of the Word. Untold numbers of the faithful are further weakened and confused by such a public canonization of a politician who was ferocious and unapologetic in his many years of promoting the legal and funded murder of unborn children.
How far does a self- described Catholic have to go down the road of scandal and outrageous public repudiation of the faith and morals of the universal Church before we decide public correction becomes necessary? How much confusion must the universal flock suffer before pastors decide that consistent and public intervention has become necessary?
Apostasy, and the heresies that give rise to them, afflict the Church in this as in every age.
“In fact, ‘ in this one and only Church of God from its very beginnings there arose certain rifts, which the Apostle strongly censures as damnable. But in subsequent centuries much more serious dissensions appeared and large communities became separated from full communion with the Catholic Church — for which, often enough, men of both sides were to blame.’ The ruptures that wound the unity of Christ’s Body — here we must distinguish heresy, apostasy, and schism — do not occur without human sin: ‘ Where there are sins, there are also divisions, schisms, heresies, and disputes. Where there is virtue, however, there also are harmony and unity, from which arise the one heart and one soul of all believers’” ( Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 817).
We are saved by grace through faith. There are four ways in which faith might be jeopardized: “Incredulity is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it. ‘ Heresy is the obstinate post- baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him’” ( CCC, n. 2089).
The engines of the media machine are laboring day and night to create and perpetuate the illusion that those who refuse to subscribe to the fashionable perversions of the day have been pushed to the irrelevant margins of Church and society. Public Catholic heretics and apostates are aiding and abetting these enemies of the Church. In any public society which seeks to protect itself, under ordinary circumstances, anyone who gives aid and comfort to the enemy is summarily and effectively dealt with in order to protect the common good of the greater number.
The idea that those Christians are marginalized who cannot “ adapt” to the fashionable pretense that marriage can be contracted by any combination of persons other than one man- husband and one woman- wife grows apace. The Christian confessions that repudiate the obligation to chastity considered normative for a celibate clergy are praised for their “ compassion.” Many Catholics have joined this chorus of rebellion against natural and divine law.
The New York Times this week simply could not resist condescending commentary about the new Anglican ordinariate announced by Rome to serve the needs of groups of Anglicans seeking union with the universal Church. In a lead article, published the day after the Anglican pastoral provision was announced, the Times insulted Anglicans, and the difficult choice many have prayerfully and with difficulty made, to enter into communion with the universal Church, by saying that they would do so only because they “ have nowhere else to go.”
Frankly, readers of the Times have many other places to go to find serious journalistic reportage about religion today. Could it be that many Anglicans are sincere Christians seeking to follow Christ, as the name implies, and find Him more fully present in the Church we commonly call Catholic? This possibility is cynically dismissed by journalists who seem more intent on publishing their own opinions than objectively reporting on the issue by talking to the Anglicans and Catholics actually involved in the story.
The Times and other media have, in truth, marginalized themselves by such superficial commentary which encourages readers to increasingly turn instead to other sources to find the serious engagement which faith merits. All of these and other indicators provide the background against which Catholics must attempt to live out their faith today.
Martyrdom will never go out of style for true believers.
(Fr. Cusick writes a weekly column for The Wanderer Catholic Newspaper. Photo of Pope Benedict at his Wednesday General Audience on 28 October 2009 by Fr. Cusick for The Wanderer.)
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