Wednesday, May 6, 2009

From Bishop Wenski's Mass of Reparation

You can catch the whole text here. This was about as good a homily as you'll see about the Church in America.

The hurt felt by many throughout the United States is real, for Notre-Dame’s actions, despite its protests to the contrary, seem to suggest that it wishes “to justify positions that contradict the faith and teachings of the church; to do so, as Pope Benedict reminded Catholic educators in Washington, DC last year “would obstruct or even betray the university’s identity and mission.” At the very least, Notre-Dame’s actions suggest that, unlike a beauty queen from California, it lacks the courage of its convictions.

Significant, given that so many others have written off the protests against Obama's invitation as politically motivated. I'll admit that I laughed at the beauty queen bit.

Our proper response is prayer – but our prayer should not resemble that of the Pharisee who, in the presence of the remorseful Publican, prayed: “Thank you, God that I am not like the rest of men. In our prayer, we seek to make reparation not just for Notre-Dame’s regrettable decision, but more importantly we seek to make reparations for our own complacency. Yes, we pray for Notre-Dame – for Notre-Dame holds a unique place in the heart of most American Catholics and not just its alumni; but we pray for ourselves as Catholics in America.

We live in a nation where abortion laws are among the most liberal among the Western democracies. We Catholics have become too complacent about the legal killing of unborn children in America and elsewhere. This complacency contributed to the climate that led Notre-Dame’s president to think that it would be no big deal to defy the bishops in granting this honorary degree to President Obama. And, as the world’s lone superpower, with President Obama’s setting aside the Mexico City policy, we as a nation are once again using our wealth and influence to export abortion to nation’s weaker and poorer than ourselves. Before the completion of his first 100 days in office, President Obama has already expanded federal funding for abortion, directed tax payer funded support for embryonic stem cell research which requires the destruction of living human beings, and has challenged conscience protection provisions that allow health care workers and institutions to refuse to participate in abortions and other procedures that violate their ethical or religious views.

This is where the homily gets really good because Bishop Wenski goes from the issue of what is wrong to the critical question of how we got here. There's a lot of Catholics in this country. Way more Catholics than, say, homosexuals. Yet we see a growing amount of legislation and court rulings in favor of homosexual rights, while the rights that should be/are most trumpeted by the Church suffer defeat after defeat. Why are we not stronger?

We have craved “respectability”; we have wanted to be accepted. Ironically, Catholic education – our grammar schools, our high schools and our universities opened the way to upward mobility and social acceptance the children of immigrant Catholics in America. Catholics schools aimed to teach us not only how to do good, but how to do well. Thanks in large measure to Catholic education, our Catholic laity are among the best educated, and the most affluent, in America today. Catholics – 25% of the American population – are now part of the American mainstream. But, at what price?

A few months ago, the State government of Illinois was shaken by “the pay to play” scandal over the senate seat vacated by President Obama. But, today, too often Catholics are being told that in order to play in America one must pay the price of surrendering one’s own convictions and principles. Catholics who want to enter public life more often than not have to pay the price “privatizing” their religious faith and convictions to play roles of significance in the halls of power. You can be sure that President Obama would not consider a Catholic for the position of Supreme Court justice – unless that Catholic “bracketed” his beliefs on the dignity and the rights of the unborn.

That's exactly right. Orthodox Catholics need not apply. Be happy that we've gotten a privileged place on the political plantation at the cost of denying the Faith. We will have our reward. Oh, and forget about moving any higher in the current environment. Short of a complete and public rejection of the Faith, a la Pelosi, nothing else will change.

Jesus in the gospel says: I am the good shepherd: I know mine and mine know me. The challenge is not how to change the gospel message to make it more palatable, more relevant to the world, but to allow the gospel message to change the world. But, it will not change the world unless the gospel changes us first.

As Christian Catholics, we need not flee from the world, nor should we surrender to the world; rather we need to recover that bold conviction of Peter and the early disciples that will make it possible for us to change the world – not by imposing our beliefs but by making our proposal, informed by gospel values, about what constitutes the best conditions for human flourishing in our society.. Peter, in our first reading, spoke truth to power; today we need that the truth be spoken to our complacency.

In other words, confrontation. What is going on now amongst the bishops is going to have to seem like an aggressive game of ping pong by comparison to what is needed. We all must be more bold in proclaiming the Truth and fighting for the cause of God.

Deus Vult!

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