Continuing our analysis of Fr. Rosica’s bizarre outburst against the Pro-Life Community, this blogpost is Part 2 of a 2 part series. Please click above for Part 1, if you have not yet read it….
Though we did not even carry the Kennedy Funeral on the Salt + Light Catholic Television Network in Canada, nor did we have any intention to do so, I was shocked at the messages and calls we received over the past few days from thoseclaiming to be “pro-life.” They expressed regret that we did not join in the public condemnation of the Kennedys, the Obamas, the O’Malleys, and the McCarricks of this world. That is not what Salt + Light Catholic Television Network is about. Nor will we ever be about such things. We will not contribute to the misery and division within the world and the Church. We believe in the Gospel of Life and strive to humbly bring the Gospel message to the world. We defend life from the earliest moments to the final moments of natural death. But we refuse to destroy and kill others along the way.
It’s heartening to know that Fr. Rosica “refuses to destroy and kill others along the way”. Why is it, then, as his support for the Kennedy funeral attests, does he seek to publicly honour those who do “destroy and kill others” – “the others” being unborn children?
This is not about mercy and compassion to Ted Kennedy or his family, as our opponents fraudulently claim. A straw man is always erected when they choose to ignore the real issue. The issue is the public witness of the Church. Ted Kennedy is merely incidental to that. It could have been John Kerry. It could have been Mario Cuomo. It could have been Nancy Pelosi. It doesn’t matter who the particular individual was. It only matters that they were a Catholic and a public figure who espoused a grave sin and sought to impose it on society. A public sin requires a public act of sorrow and repentance. To obtain the Church’s indulgence for an official act, a public official must apologize and recant publicly for a public sin.
Ask yourself why this is not done. It’s not done because the politician wants to save his reputation and his legacy. He has to repudiate much of his work and incur the silent derision from his past supporters after he passes on. What politician who has spent most of his entire political life working for a cause and being largely defined by it, can relinquish the good opinion of his constituency? Only the wayward politician who has finally seen the light, who truly loves God and hates the evil that he has committed. This is the significance of Jesus saying, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matt.10:39). It is about dying to self. In the case of Kennedy, it is about repudiating the pro-abortion, pro-gay public image he spent his whole life building.
A priest once told me that there are, in fact, few death-bed conversions. I was surprised at this, and asked him why this was so. He said to me that most people are unwilling to relinquish what they spent their whole life building up. No one wants to admit they spent much of their lives working against God. No one wants to reject all or most of their labours in building their own tower of Babel, admitting they squandered their life on trifles and vicious pursuits. And so, people do not generally repent. They do not relinquish the evil in their lives. And that’s why Jesus says, “For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matt. 7:13-14). In the end, it is pride that condemns us, not what we have done in our lives (or what we didn’t do for that matter) which has already been forgiven on the Cross. Our Lord, in His fathomless mercy, makes our sins as white as snow PROVIDED we humble ourselves and admit the truth of who we have been and who we are. And so, because this forgiveness and healing is open to us while we are still alive, none of our sins have the ultimate capacity to condemn us. They can only condemn us because WE WON’T LET THEM GO. We cling to them. We hold on to them because they are attached to the false legacy and reputation that they helped build for us. And sadly, Jesus cannot break through that wall because He will not overpower our will which He has given to us freely. He respects our free will – even if it means a choice of an eternity apart from Him.
Whether Ted Kennedy privately repented of his heinous actions is not the subject of the controversy. No one who is critical of the Church’s treatment is denying Ted Kennedy a Catholic funeral. We hope that he did turn. We hope he summoned the courage to renounce his legacy on abortion and the promotion of sodomy, and cling to the Mercy of Christ alone. We hope that the good that was in him (and there was genuine good in him as there is in all human beings) was able to overcome the pride that carried him during his political career. But as far as his PUBLIC witness goes, that is another matter entirely. As far as his public witness goes, he was unapologetic even when he wrote his 10 page letter to the Pope, seeking to justify himself and his legacy. He even tossed pro-lifers a bone by proudly claiming that he was on the Church’s side by supporting conscience legislation which would protect pro-life health care workers from participating in abortion. Gee, thanks Ted.
A private funeral is one thing. But as for a public recognition of his life and his legacy? No! Firmly but with charity and clarity, we respectfully decline to honour that legacy. Cardinal O’Malley made a big mistake. Now he needs to repent. And so does Fr. Rosica.
As I reflected on Senator Kennedy’s life over the past few days, and read the reactions and responses to the funeral rites of this public figure last weekend, I could not help but think of John’s Gospel story of the woman caught in adultery [John 8]. There is probably no other event in Jesus’ life that more clearly illustrates the triumph of mercy over justice than this story. We are not to judge others, not because we shouldn’t but because we can’t. It is impossible to know the heart, the motives, the pain, the weaknesses, the struggles, the suffering of another human being, as wrong as they have been with some of their decisions and allegiances in life. To recognize and bring out the sin in others means also recognizing one’s self as a sinner and in need of God’s boundless mercy. To preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Gospel of Life without acknowledging the necessity of profound personal conversion and the free gift of God’s mercy is to deny the central Christian message of conversion. Jesus’ stance before this woman remains a permanent call and challenge to his disciples and to the Church throughout the ages.
Our opponents typically like to bring up the woman caught in adultery or the phrase, “judge not lest ye not be judged”. It seems to be the only passage they know from the bible. (The fact that Fr. Rosica would utilize it to buttress his position is equally astounding, considering his scriptural background). It’s an “oldie but a goodie” way of attempting to silence people who insist that the Church must stand for the truth and conform Her pastoral practice to this truth. The fact of the matter is, however, that Jesus did indeed pass judgment on her actions by gently telling her to “go and sin no more”, but I don’t recall Him glorifying the woman’s past life, do you?
It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.” (2 Pet. 2:21-22)
No one is pronouncing on Ted Kennedy’s soul, or seeking to stone him, or wishing his eternal soul anything but eternal repose in heaven. But Father Rosica likes to keep beating the same old “nasty Pharisee” drum. Yet far from refusing to “judge others’, he has done quite a bit of it himself in his posting, a fact that he seems completely oblivious to. Moreover, “judgement” is not only necessary, it is essential to a coherent human being.
Many critics of Christian moral positions quote against believers Christ’s own words: ‘Do not judge or you too will be judged’ (Mt 7:1). They interpret these words to mean Christians who morally evaluate other people’s behaviour are being disobedient to Christ! It never crosses their minds, nor, I suspect, would it unsettle their righteous indignation to know that no early Christian writer, no noteworthy theologian, no major church body has ever given these words that interpretation. They seem to be implying (if they are at all serious in what they say) that they know what Christ meant and most Christians obviously don’t. Yet, their interpretation easily falls apart on examination. For Jesus Himself directs his disciples to make judgments: “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment” (Jn 7:24). Theologians have long interpreted Christ’s criticism of judgmentalness as applying to those who make rash judgments of others or claim to know their state before God (which only God Himself can truly know). Wrong judgment, then, would be to morally evaluate someone according to subjective standards or claim to know his inner spiritual state. Right judgment is to morally evaluate a person’s actions or expressed attitudes according to an objective standard — the divine and natural moral law. The former approach makes of oneself the moral measure or claims a kind of omniscience into other’s inner heart; the latter makes objective moral laws the standard and seeks to judge only the outer words and deeds. God sees the interior and judges it, we see the exterior and can judge it. Those who criticize Christian “judgmentalism” act just as arrogantly and judgmentally in making this accusation. If a Christian is denounced for being judgmental he can respond that his accuser is judging him! There is no automatic contradiction between holding firmly to one’s convictions, of judging actions and ideas according to them, and treating with basic human respect those with whom you disagree. As vagueness is vogue in a mind seeking to be pluralistic, so clarity is sought in a mind seeking to be objective. So let’s clarify the difference between judgment and prejudice (with which “being judgmental” is confused).
JUDGMENT is discrimination between ideas and actions. It distinguishes good ideas and actions from bad ones. It recognizes that some things can be true and others false, some things can be good and others evil. All people judge in areas of personal concern. The important thing is to evaluate things by a criteria that goes beyond one’s personal self-interest. One needs to judge with reason and objectivity.
PREJUDICE is discrimination between people. It arbitrarily discriminates among people, ignoring the task of careful judgment. It uses irrelevant criteria to judge, such as gender, race, wealth, social status, culture, religion, etc. It is based on a subjective like or dislike of the person or group. Ideas or actions associated with the person or group are judged guilty by association. This is clearly unfair to those judged and also to the one judging since he acts unwisely and unfairly. When understood in this light ask yourself a question: Are the secular critics who call Christians “judgmental” or “narrow-minded bigots” basing their assessment (i.e. judgment) on rational and objective criteria or basing it on personal dislike and other irrelevant (i.e. prejudicial) criteria?
Socrates: “Four things belong to a judge: To hear courteously, to answer wisely, to consider soberly, and to decide impartially.”
Fulton Sheen: “In England the judges wear wigs in court, to show that it is the law which is passing judgment, and not their own personal views. This is done in recognition of the truth all men suspect — that there is something impudent in allowing even the wisest among us to engage in pigeonholing our friends or cataloging our enemies.” (Source)
This controversy is ultimately about the Church’s witness to Her teaching on the sacredness of human life, a belief that Ted Kennedy fought and opposed virtually his entire political life. But this is not about Ted Kennedy’s pro-abortion record, really. It is about the Church and her fidelity to the Gospel itself. Father Rosica does not want to admit this because it would mean he would have to address the issue.
And while we are talking about the woman caught in adultery and her accusers, the Pharisees – since they seem to be the proverbial whipping boys of the Left and their ad nasueam attribution to “judgemental” pro-lifers – it’s a good time to review just what precisely Our Lord condemned in them. Our Lord did not rebuke the Pharisees because they were strict moralists or zealous. Indeed, there are many places in the Gospels where Our Lord praises such an attitude. Our Lord’s own zealotry was in clear display when He overturned the money changers’ tables in the Temple. That wasn’t very polite, was it? In fact, it was downright violent.
Instead, He rebuked the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and the traditions of men they had piled on the Word of God. (This is not to be confused, of course, with divine oral Tradition which St. Paul exhorted the Thessalonians to hold fast to [Cf. 2 Thes. 2:15]). They co-mingled disordered human traditions with the Word of God, smothered it, and made it void. In fact, what our Lord was really addressing was their pretense of religion when inside they were a “brood of vipers”. Our Lord did not deny them their position of influence or their lawful hierarchical authority. On the contrary, he affirmed it by appealing to Moses’ seat (Cf. Matt. 23:2). He only lamented that they were more concerned about performing their religious functions while refusing to address the substance of the issue. He lambasted them because they knew the commandments of God and yet chose to focus on adhering to the external things by neglecting “the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness” (Matt. 23:23). Far from the faux mercy pleaded by Fr. Rosica in his article, however, the REAL injustice, the REAL mercilessness, and the REAL unfaithfulness in this controversy is to the unborn and the ignorant who will believe, at the instruction of the Church’s pastors no less, that you can be a good Catholic and promote abortion.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are. (Matthew 23:15)
Indeed, instead of facing the truth squarely with Christian courage, our opponents seem to blithely ignore the simple fact that millions of unborn children suffered (and who will continue to suffer) these cruel outrages at the end of Ted Kennedy’s very sharp pen.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. (Matt.23:27-28)
And yet, Fr. Rosica is not finished with forgetting the mercy owed to the memory of the unborn….
At the end of that powerful Gospel story, everyone had gone, and Jesus and the woman were left standing alone. It is a magnificent scene, described by St. Augustine with the words: “Relicti sunt duo, misera et misericordia.” “And two were left… one filled with misery, and one filled with mercy.” Which person are we at this moment in our own personal journey? There is lot of misery in our world and in our Church, and both the world and the Church desperately need merciful communities, and merciful, joyful, hopeful people. Let us pray that we will become more and more a people, a church and a community overflowing with mercy. That was the image of the Church revealed last Saturday morning in a Boston Basilica, and last Saturday in the fading light of day at Arlington National Cemetery. Let us pray for the repose of the soul of Senator Kennedy. Now that he is reunited with his brothers John and Bobby, Rose, the Catholic matriarch of the Kennedy clan and her husband, and other members of the Kennedy family, let us learn from what they tried to do in their lives, albeit imperfectly, and work for the building of a culture of life and hope, justice and peace, with God at the center. Let us also pray that some of the Kennedy children and grandchildren, so visibly present throughout last weekend’s ceremonies, and often identifying themselves as Catholic, learn from the gestures of mercy of their Church, and be more courageous in living and expressing their Catholic faith in a society that longs for the Gospel message and their living witness of that message.
It is easy to mouth pro-life platitudes, to preach and teach the converted. It is not so easy to stand publicly for an unpopular belief in an uncomfortable setting, and incur the wrath and false indignation of those who you are trying to convert. But conversion comes through the almighty Cross, not through the Almighty Compromise. The Canadian Church has had its share of compromising with the world. This capitulation has wrecked the Canadian family and our culture in the most complete and fundamental way. The juggernaut has now near completed its assault on the family and is now bearing down hard on even basic religious liberty. This is the price to be paid because the Church refuses to confront the culture and convert it. Too afraid of the sacrifices that will be required of her, Fr. Rosica and the rest of the marshmallow crowd in the Church eschew the Cross and what it demands of them, instead preferring a false “openness”, a phony cordiality, and an eager willingness to look past the abortion elephant in (Teddy’s) room to enjoy a nice cianty and cigar, and to listen to Yo-Yo’s tunes.
Jesus could have avoided crucifixion if He just danced a bit for King Herod too. Herod was the liberal, political establishment figure of His time. But Our Lord wouldn’t dance for him. Why not? Herod wasn’t asking Jesus to deny His own divinity, after all…just to use it to entertain him with a miracle or two. Our Lord didn’t perform for Herod because doing so would have cheapened the truth for the sake of mere human respect and political protocol – which is precisely what happened at the Kennedy funeral. Just as Jesus would not betray the dignity that His Divinity demanded of Him before a violent and liberal political class, so too should have Cardinal O’Malley not betrayed the dignity of the unborn by forgetting who he was and who he represented, and by celebrating a public legacy whose scandalous and murderous focus was the dismemberment of the helpless unborn child.
For many years, I engaged in Catholic Apologetics to try and show Protestants the glorious truths of the Catholic faith. Those truths, of course, are still there to see, but they have become clouded and have become barely visible because of the scandalous witness that the Catholic Church in North America has given to the world with this controversy and others like the abortion scandal with Development & Peace. I can’t do much debating anymore because I’m just too embarassed to tell people that ultimately they should be following men who have no problem in publicly celebrating the legacy of a notorious abortion-pusher. When theological differences come up in polite conversation these days, I just keep my mouth shut and weep silently with the unborn for the Church.
We are on a course of schism in the Church. Many holy men and women I know, people who are thoroughly grounded in Our Lord and faithful to the Magisterium of the Church, have sensed the same thing for a long time. There is a sifting happening among the Church’s faithful, a test of allegiance to the Gospel of Life and therefore the Gospel of Jesus himself. It doesn’t come in the form open dissent from the teaching on human life, of course. Our adversary is much too refined, much too deft for such a brutal and obvious display of his power and influence. In this controversy everyone is on the same page as to what the Church believes about the unborn – at least ostensibly. No, the “conservative” division in the Church is not yet widely known, but it has become very, very subtle yet profound and deep. It has silently approached Her like a thief in the night and now stands ready to pounce on Her and strike Her unity and bond of charity. It has come about because of the failed witness to the unborn for the past 40 years, and a refusal of the episcopacy and the laity to accept Humanae Vitae. If we are disinclined to believe it, how then can we explain a society that, within a mere 40 years, had once banned contraception but now accepts sodomy as a legitimate sexual expression of proper marriage? It is, quite simply, a massive pastoral betrayal of the unborn through our refusal to publicly witness for them, in deference to a false mercy, a false compassion, and a false openness with a world which is trying to drag the Church to hell. Those who are seeking to unhitch the Church from the world will be marginalized and cast down as “hard line reactionaries”, “self righteous zealots”, and “hateful people”. Indeed, Fr. Rosica’s blogposting has more than confirmed that marginalization and the sifting has begun in earnest.
This is not just about Fr. Rosica. On the contrary, it is about Fr. Rosica and the constituency he represents in the Church. It is a very powerful wing which eschews and shuns the reality of the culture war we are in. It is a wing which has firmly placed its feet in both the World and the Church, even though both of these spheres are quickly moving away from one another at a break-neck speed. It has an Obamanian view that differences – however fundamental and irreconcilable they happen to be – can be smoothed over by smooth lies and slick smiles. Differences, you see, need not cost us any thing at all. In the end, our conflicts are just really academic disputes which should not disturb our Communion…or our public funerals for that matter. There is no need to sacrifice. There is no need for martyrdom. There is no need for the Cross. It’s just one big misunderstanding. Let’s not be fanatics after all, with quaint martyr complexes.
Let everyone understand this clearly: the False light mouths the same teaching as the Light of Christ, but when it is pressed to publicly witness to the truth, its true colours are revealed, seeking to find some pretense of a false charity or mercy to excuse its followers from accepting the cross of Christ and the sacrifice that it brings when Christ is preached crucified.
Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God…But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are (1 Cor.1:22-24,27-28)