Friday, January 7, 2011

Who Do You Think You Are?

That question may well be aimed at me following my last post - indeed it already has, by a minister in our present government when I publicly taught the Church's teaching on same sex marriage.  This attitude from our elected representatives is not unheard of: just a couple of years ago a few prominent politicians sought to have a Catholic newspaper shut down because it took the opposite view to the political establishment on a European Treaty.  It seems press freedom, freedom of speech and democracy is only allowed operate within certain parameters which are established by the political elite in Ireland today.  And if you're Catholic, well then, the parameters are even tighter - they range from silence to "keep your mouth shut":  the Catholic position is to have no place in Irish political life today.

I have written on this before, but I see Cardinal George Pell has reminded our secular lords that the Church does indeed have the right to free speech even when it contradicts the established view, and that priests have the right to preach the Gospel.  Responding to the attacks against him by gay lobby groups denouncing his attempts to remind his flock of the Church's teaching on marriage, he tells them that priests have the right to preach against the legalisation of same-sex "marriage" from the pulpit.  Great to hear this: we could do with him here in Ireland to support our bishops in reminding our public representatives that the Church has the right to express her view and her teaching in public and should not fear attempts by secularists to silence or persecute her.  We are either a pluralist democracy or not.

Related to this, I just bought a copy of John Frain's The Cross and the Third Reich, a historical study of the Catholic Church's response to Nazism.  The popular myth is that the Church was silent in the face of Nazi atrocities and actually facilitated the rise of Hitler and his minions.  Of course that is a myth - the Church was Hitler's enemy and countless Catholics opposed him and protected the Jewish people, foremost among them Pope Pius XII.   Ironically those who accuse the Church of being silent during the Nazi period, are those who want to silence the Church now and prevent her speaking on various moral issues in modern society (many of these same accusers also support a number of practices implemented by the Nazis - abortion, euthanasia and elimination of the handicapped). 

Now, as then, the Church refuses to be silent, and now as then, she is attacked for what she says.  Now, as then, the Church recognises that she must speak and preach the Gospel and the dignity of the human person, of all human persons.  Future generations will look back at this period of history and see if the Church, with her centuries of experience, warned the current generation of the outcome of some of its decisions and actions - if she fails to do that she will be rightly condemned, and the greatest condemnation will come from the mouth of Christ.  But, as under the Nazis, she continues to speak up and bears the brunt of those who do not like what she has to say - that cost is nothing in comparison with the souls she seeks to save, nor the love she has for her Lord who urges her to proclaim the Gospel.  So as a priest I am encouraged to preach the Gospel as given by Christ, to encourage, exhort, inspire and warn, as is my duty, as is the duty of every priest in these difficult times.   We do indeed have the right and the duty to engage in the policies and decisions of our time and weigh them according to the Gospel and the dignity of the human person, and if they are found to be wanting, or even destructive, then we have the duty to acclaim them as such and to seek moral solutions.

So when asked: who do you think you are?  I suppose the answer is: a minister of the Gospel according to the bountiful gift of God.

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