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Veritatis Splendor

"Keep your eyes fixed upon Jesus, who inspires and perfects our faith" --Hebrews 12:2

Pope Benedict XVI before our Lord

And only where God is seen does life truly begin. Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is. We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution.
Each of us is the result of a thought of God.
Each of us is willed,
each of us is loved,
each of us is necessary.
There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know Him and to speak to others of our friendship with Him.
~Pope Benedict XVI, Homily April 24th, 2005

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Pity the author pleading for catechesis

There's a lot wrong, and yet, a lot to take to heart in this column from the Ireland Sunday Times...

Comment: Brenda Power: Church must rule on more than missing Mass

The author, Brenda Power, seems to be a self-proclaimed "Cafeteria Catholic" who has had, like many of us, both poor catechesis and a poor understanding of what did and did not "change" with Vatican II... I cringed during certain references, particularly to the notion that, according to her (wrongly, I might add)

These days a christening is far more of a social occasion than a theological imperative and the idea of limbo has been entirely decommissioned.

I also cringed when I hear the words a "friendly nun" at the hospital spoke to her:

...she asked: “Do you intend to baptise her?” When I said I did, she continued: “In that case, you have baptismal intent, and that is what matters.”

I'm not so sure about that, dear sister. I mean, I am not saying that an unbaptized baby is damned according to the Church. It's not. At the same time, the Church (not some individual priest or nun) will not say that an unbaptized baby is surely in heaven either. Instead, the Church wisely leaves the little one's soul to the mercy of God and prays for it's salvation.

What bothers me here more is the sense that the whole meaning and point of Baptism as being a SACRAMENT seems to be gone completely... Not to mention the fact that it is indeed correct for parents to have a sense of urgency about baptizing their children -- pity the poor parent who waits (as this woman seems to have done) out of convenience and a desire for a big social event, more the pity for the parent who willfully denies the normal necessity for baptism and sinfully denies the sacrament to the child. But I digress.

Getting to hell, it seems reasonable to assume, ought to involve something more wilful and serious than just neglecting to be baptised when you are two weeks old. If limbo has been decommissioned, hell certainly has not, though you’d be hard pressed to find any senior church figure willing to discuss its present or potential population.

This sounds right... doesn't it? Not quite. Did you catch it? The merit of Jesus' death on the Cross, our very salvation by His passion, is being... logically rejected. (Huh?)

"Getting to hell, it seems reasonable to assume, ought to involve something more wilful and serious than just neglecting to be baptised when you are two weeks old."

With one sentence, a hidden (and probably unconscious on her part) reminder of how the devil works -- deny the seriousness and consequences of Original Sin, and you deny the need for a universal Redeemer of fallen humanity. Deny the dependence on the Redeemer and you open to door to deny the authority of the Church formed by the Redeemer to be His Body on earth. Deny the authority of the Church, and you can believe whatever seems "reasonable," including the "reasonableness" of the nature of hell (or even whether there is such a thing.)

All sin follows from Original Sin. All are stained by it, and Christ came to free us from not only "culpable" sin (that we willfully commit), but ALSO to give us the means necessary to free us from Original Sin - baptism (whether by true sacramental Baptism, or by Baptism by blood or chosen desire, as defined by the Church). To deny both the sacramental nature of Baptism, and the nature of Original Sin, is to deny our need for a Savior in a crucial way.

But, she is right that hell just isn't preached anymore... I think it has something to do with such preaching not being condusive to helping fill up diocesean and parish coffers. Just a guess.

Hell rarely gets a look in during Sunday sermons, for fear of outraged protests from parents whose little darlings are evidently more easily shocked by a priest’s words at Mass than by a violent computer game or an 18-certificate film Mortal sin that remained unabsolved used to be a fairly reliable guarantee of admission to Hades and may still be — it just seems that the definition of mortal sin is confusingly flexible these days.

She's definitely got a point here... The definition of mortal sin does seem to be a moving target among many of our more political Church officials and theologians. I wonder if that means salvation is also going to be a moving target for them?

Keeping holy the sabbath, unless you had a very good reason for missing Mass, has always been viewed by the church as a profound obligation. And though that attitude hasn’t changed, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said in a recent interview that the consequences of neglecting this duty are now a bit more vague. It is not a mortal sin to miss Mass deliberately and the church has to take cognisance of the many people who may well have a deep faith yet be occasional or even sporadic Mass-goers.

“A mortal sin is always a conscious decision on the part of somebody to do something which is seriously wrong,” he said, and suggested this is rarely the case “with many of the people who don’t go to Mass”.

Ok -- what the Archbishop said is correct. In order for a sin to be mortal is has to be done with knowledge of three things -- 1) objectively grave (this does include missing Mass on a Sunday), 2) knowledge that it is grave, and 3) full consent of the will to commit the sin anyway. However, her interpretation of what he said, prior to quoting him, is a bit off -- it is indeed a sin to miss Mass deliberately if you know that the Church says it is sinful to do so. And "take cognisance" certainly does not mean "condone" or "allow." The Church, realizing that many people truly have been cheated out of proper moral formation, does "consider" those who seem to be the black sheep of the Church. The Church does not condemn anyone. However, she does warn the faithful away from doing things that may condemn themselves. To this end, the Church will not say anyone other than Satan and his demons are in hell. That doesn't mean that if people choose to do what they want, what they think is "reasonable" (seems to be her pet phrase), the Church will welcome them into heaven (since, of course, hell is where all the "bad people" go, and no one is really "bad" anymore...). The Church has no authority to welcome ANYONE into heaven, only God is the Judge. The Church's role, which this woman seems not to understand, is not to get you into heaven, the Church's role is to help you get to heaven. If you choose to defy the Church, then you are seperating yourself from the benefits of being in full communion with the Church Christ left you for your assistance.

You’ll never get people tiptoeing back to a church that is timidly tiptoeing in the opposite direction. If the solution to youth angst, rampant materialism, binge drinking and suicide really is the moral certainty and firm boundaries that the church once supplied, nobody is going to find that reassurance in an institution that is nice, bland and desperately careful not to give offence.

Bingo. I pray for this woman, she is insightful and it appears, I believe, that she is honestly seeking God. I consider this entire column to be basically one big plea for help... She wants to believe the blandness she has been given, but at the same time, she wants a "parent" (the Church) to come along and tell her where she's got it wrong. She is an icon for the modern generations, post-Vatican II, who have been left by their shepherds to wander aimlessly in circles, never quite finding peace in the truth.


Blogger Jeff Miller said...

It is true that limbo was a theological construct that is not officially taught, though it is not true that it has been totally discounted. Last year the Vatican started a commision on the subject of those who are unbaptized to try to come out with a more authorative teaching on the subject.

That none certainly did misrepresent the Church's teaching on Baptism. The Baptism of desire would be in relation to the person wanting Baptism and not their parents generally wanting them to be baptized. While it is true that God is not bound by the sacraments, we certainly are and should make every effort to avail ourselves of the channels of grace that have been given us.

February 27, 2005 1:00 PM  

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