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Who Will Defend the Truth?

October 10, AD2016 10 Comments

defend the truth

Defending the Truth

Blessed John Henry Newman said, “…it is our plain duty to preach and defend the truth in a straightforward way…” This quote applies as much today as it did when he preached it in the 19th century. Just whose duty is it to defend the truth in our culture? Whose job is it to make our Catholic voice heard in the spiritual war we face? Is it the job of the laity? Is it the responsibility of the priests and deacons? Or is it the responsibility of the bishops? Actually, we all have a role to play in defending the truth.

Why Someone Needs to Defend the Truth

It should be painfully obvious that the truth is taking a beating in our society. Consider for instance that, in one Colorado school district, marijuana will be available for high school students. A Tennessee all-boys Catholic high school is facing a million dollar lawsuit for not allowing a student to bring his same-sex date to homecoming. In Massachusetts now, if you want to conduct a fish fry at your parish, you apparently need to provide a transgender restroom. Public urination in New York City is no longer a criminal offense. Satanists are conducting sacrilegious acts in public venues. Recently the Chairman of the U. S. Civil Rights Commission fired a shot across our bow with absurd comments calling religious liberty a code word for intolerance. And don’t forget about one political party’s stand for pretty much unlimited, taxpayer-supported abortions. We truly are at a crossroads in this nation. Can we make a difference? Or is it too late?

The Current State of Affairs

Right now, the Catholic vote is a key factor. Georgetown’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) summarized presidential voting patterns of people who identify themselves as Catholics. With a few exceptions, from the summary CARA provides, slightly more Catholics have voted Democrat than Republican in presidential races. In this year’s race, according to Mark Gray’s article in Our Sunday Visitor, if half of Catholic voters cast a vote for the Democratic nominee, she would likely win over 50% of the national popular vote. Gray cites statistics that show a higher percentage of non-Catholic voters (70% or more in some cases) lean towards the Democratic view. Given these statistics, one cannot underestimate the significance of the Catholic vote.

Implications for the Future of the Country

Many others already have noted that neither presidential candidate may be a particularly attractive choice for Catholics. However, the next president will appoint the next Supreme Court justice or justices. In a speech printed in Imprimis, Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma’s Attorney General, clearly outlines the issue for us. The next new justice will cast a deciding vote on a variety of pending cases covering issues such as freedom of speech, religious liberty, regulation of the abortion industry and executive branch over-reach. If another liberal justice is appointed, it is easy to predict what will happen in cases related to this list of issues.

Furthermore, the party platforms clearly state what each party stands for. One is strongly pro-abortion. Any nation that disregards life and is willing to take the life of innocents is on the road to perdition. Killing innocent people does not equate with immigration reform, gun laws, welfare reform, or concerns about what has been rebranded as “climate change.” The Commandments say murder is wrong. Yet our culture says murder in the womb is okay: “If that’s how you feel, far be it from me to suggest otherwise.”

How Did We Get Here?

How did we get here? Bad catechesis is partly to blame. People have not been educated in the faith. Thus it is easier for them to believe, “We may not personally agree with it, but we don’t want to step on others’ rights.” Or they may feel that if their “conscience” says it’s okay to vote for something or someone contrary to Church teaching, then that’s what they should do. The problem is that they don’t understand what “conscience” means in this context.  Conscience is not just about one’s personal feelings and opinions.

Today, with so much at stake, we seldom hear from our pastors about the need to prioritize issues, with pro-life and religious liberty issues being placed in the highest priority. Most of us don’t hear often, or at all, in Mass about the Catholic position on voting as it relates to pro-life issues or other key concerns. Nor are we exhorted to take our positive, pro-life, pro-religious freedom perspective into the public square. We rarely hear any homilies on the sanctity of life from conception to natural death.

Have you ever heard a catechetical discussion about a properly formed conscience at Mass? When was the last time you heard a rousing pitch from the ambo to go forth and evangelize on these topics? When did you hear a homily suggesting that you contact elected officials to register your opinion on pending anti-life legislation? Have you ever been encouraged to not shop at companies that support Planned Parenthood or provide genderless bathrooms?

On the other hand, the powers and forces of this world push their agenda aggressively. Planned Parenthood and other groups use aggressive public relations campaigns. They use consistent messaging that leverages support from politicians to hold their place on the cultural chessboard. These secular, anti-life, anti-religion, anti-truth groups use everything at their disposal to gain ground in the war for souls. What do we Catholics do?

The Role of the Clergy

What are we doing in the Church to gain souls? Bishops and priests may feel hampered by the infamous “Johnson Amendment.” This law restricts tax-exempt organizations (like churches) from supporting candidates. If an organization violates the law, it could lose its tax-exempt status. However, according to an article in the National Catholic Register, no one (yet) has been taken to court by the IRS over this. That article goes on to state that, “…clergy who are silent on hot-button issues sometimes defend their stance by pointing to U.S. tax law, which restricts political speech from the pulpit. That’s a familiar argument, but it also happens to be wrong. The U.S. tax code doesn’t prohibit pastors from addressing sensitive political issues in their homilies. On the other hand, it does make clear that they can’t endorse or oppose a candidate.”

Cardinal Donald Wuerl has made it clear that priests need to avoid partisanship but that they must teach the laity the principles of the faith. Recently the bishops of Colorado have had letters read at Masses discussing the immorality of Prop 106, which is an attempt to legalize physician-assisted suicide in that state. In his diocesan newspaper, Bishop Sheridan of Colorado Springs has begun a series on conscience and voting to educate the laity and explain what a properly formed conscience involves.  Archbishop Naumann of Kansas City has reminded Catholics that we must not abstain from voting because the next president picks the next judges. In Phoenix, Fr. John Lankeit recently gave a wonderful homily about the Catholic perspective in this election. And Archbishop Aquila in Denver has made it clear to his flock that opposition to abortion is the highest priority in this election. These are encouraging signs. I know a few priests who talk about the tough issues at Mass; we can only hope that more clergy step up and educate their flocks prior to the election.

Barriers to Education of the Laity

That raises the issue of why we don’t hear more from the ambo about the Catholic perspective on faith and politics? There are two key reasons for this, and any honest priest will confirm this. The first is fear of decreasing the offertory as a result of people being unhappy with the message. Yet I would guess that for anyone who left a parish in disagreement, others who want to hear the truth would be added to the parish roster. This probably would more than offset the financial costs of those departing. Besides, Luke 16:13 tells us we cannot serve “both God and mammon.” Courageous clergy know this and don’t make any bones about it.

The other reason is an aversion to the negative feedback from parishioners who don’t like the message. To be fair, no matter what priests do or say, each will have his detractors and fans. None of us relishes controversy and confrontation, and Jesus did say, “…If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.” Teaching the truth seems to be part of the job description. Wishy-washy messages from our clergy only serve to worsen our current crisis.

The Role of Prayer

We all can engage in spiritual warfare through a combination of activities, which must include prayer.  As St. Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:10-17, we are fighting demonic forces, not merely human forces. On our own, we are outgunned. We can only win with the Lord’s assistance. Praying as we have never prayed before is an absolute necessity now. Are we spending time with morning and evening prayer? Do we take some quiet time with Jesus in relational prayer, and is some of that in Eucharistic Adoration? What about the Rosary, are we praying it daily? St. Pio of Pietrelcina said, “Love the Madonna and pray the Rosary, for Her Rosary is the weapon against the evils of the world today. All graces given by God pass through the Blessed Mother.” Boy, do we ever need a weapon against evil today, together with the graces to stay in the fight until the end. This is true for both the laity and the clergy.

Take Action

It is easy to complain that nothing is being done and blame everyone else for the problem. We all need to take a look in the mirror. We are the problem—clergy and laity alike. We each need to take action now, and not later.

Church leaders need to speak up and educate the laity about the truth in a straightforward way. They must fearlessly address the hot-button issues with their flocks, while avoiding supporting particular candidates. Reinforcing Church teaching about the sanctity of life is an imperative. The laity need encouragement and empowerment from clergy to spread the Gospel in the street, the marketplace and the legislature.

We laity need to develop a rudimentary understanding of our faith, and we need to evangelize others at every opportunity. We must support our orthodox clergy who are willing to speak the truth. Similarly, we need to get more involved in politics. We can’t sit on the sidelines. We should provide support to candidates and causes that best align with Catholic social and moral teaching, where life is the key issue. In the marketplace, we need to let our money do the talking.

Time’s running out in this election cycle. Catholics can make a difference—if we have the courage to do so. If we do not, we’ll have only ourselves to blame as conditions continue to worsen. It’s time for a gut check. It’s time to “take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” and head into the fray.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Dom is a Benedictine-educated cradle Catholic, a revert to the faith, and is an Oblate of St. Benedict. In addition to consulting to management in the CPA profession and elsewhere, he and his wife of 40+ years attempt to live according to the three pillars of Church authority--Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium. They are both active at their parish where he is an Instituted Acolyte and a 4th Degree Knight of Columbus.

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