Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The truth....but only in small doses

The history of the Church testifies to the truth that men have a natural inclination to divide Christ's Deposit of Faith and to choose only what they want to believe. For those who are Catholic in more than name (a much smaller group than most realize), all questions of faith or morals are answered in a Deposit of Faith (Depositum Fidei) which has been revealed by God and entrusted to a Custodian (the Church's Magisterium) established by God Himself which has been endowed with infallible protection against any change or error.

But for the Catholic in name only, the reason for belief is private judgment rather than the infallible teaching authority established by God. The issue, ultimately, is who speaks for the Church? Who has the authority to speak in the name of Christ and to settle disputes which may arise within the Mystical Body of Christ? Vatican II, in its Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, No. 10, teaches authoritatively that: "...the task of authentically interpreting the Word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This teaching office is not above the Word of God but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit; it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed."

If one is to be faithful to Christ and His Church, one cannot assert that what the Magisterium teaches is false and that the faithful are free to reject this teaching and substitute it with their own opinions or those of theologians. But this is precisely what dissent entails. The dissident looks upon the moral teachings of the Magisterium as mere legalistic rules instead of seeing them for what they really are: beautiful truths intended to enable the People of God to live the Christ Life.

Dissent represents an act of violence directed against Christ's faithful. Pope John Paul II drove this point home in his Encyclical Letter Veritatis Splendor (No. 113) when he said, "Dissent, in the form of carefully orchestrated protests and polemics carried on in the media, is opposed to ecclesial communion and to a correct understanding of the hierarchical constitution of the People of God." Dissent represents an act of violence because it violates "the right of the faithful to receive Catholic doctrine in its purity and integrity.." (VS, 113).
If one is to remain faithful to Christ and His Church, one can expect to encounter opposition even within the Church. There are many who can only tolerate the truth in small doses. We may find ourselves very unpopular because we insist upon accepting everything in the Deposit of Faith and because we defend the same. We may find ourselves in a minority. Even alone. But the majority is not always right. A lynch mob is a majority. As Father Joseph Esper reminds us:
"We can also suffer unpopularity because of our honest efforts to serve God and oppose wickedness. This was the experience of the great fourth-century defender of the Faith St. Athanasius. He almost singlehandedly preserved the Church from the heresy of Arianism, which denied the divinity of Christ. Because many bishops and important laypeople (including some emperors) favored Arianism, Athanasius frequently found himself under attack and was exiled for many of his forty-six years as a bishop." (Saintly Solutions to Life's Common Problems," p. 333).
Athanasius found himself pretty much alone. He wa greatly outnumbered. He was opposed by the "important" people. But they were wrong. And he was right. Nothing will ever change that.
Are we prepared to be saints? If so, we must be prepared to stand "alone." Of course, we are not really alone. When God is with us, who can be against us? Being popular is over-rated. The crowd chose Barabbas. Did they choose wisely?


Stewart said...

Too many of our local priests and lay people have embraced ideas and ideologies which contradict the Church's teaching because they want to "fit in" or are afraid of being seen as "not with it." Others are afraid they will come across as "religious fanatics." And so we have rampant abortion, the push to legalize sodomite marriage, and other evils which a true Catholic just cannot support in good conscience. Fr. Bruso is just one example of this.

Alencon said...

Thanks for this post, just what I needed to begin the Lenten journey as I often feel alone in being true to God's word. As of February 28 the world will call me divorced, but after almost 9 years of separation I know that I am called to be true to my marriage vows till death do us part. I scare the heck out of people, especially most priests I've talked to, for not getting on with my life. So I agree that the Church is small, not many wanting to carry their crosses. I'm the victim of the mess I made, but nothing is impossible for God.
God Bless.

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

Thank you for the kind note Alencon. Lovely French name. A civil divorce is not an annulment. An annulment is a decree issued by an appropriate Church authority or tribunal that an ecclesiastical act or sacrament is invalid and therefore lacking in all legal or canonical consequences (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1629).

Certain canonical requirements must be met before an annulment may be considered valid. Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have both warned that the annulment process has been abused. Particularly in the United States.

Your comment seems to suggest that more than one priest has advised you to "move on." What exactly did they mean by this? Are they suggesting that you are free to marry again in the Church without an annulment?

I certainly hope not.

At any rate, I will keep you in my prayers. As St. Padre Pio used to say, "Pray and trust." When you feel lonely (and don't we all at times) think on Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.

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