10 October 2018

Cultural Catholicism is Dead. Good.

The current crisis in the Church proves that Cultural Catholicism is dead. Good. About time.

What sustained the Church – at least in the U.S. – was the cultural habit of “being a Catholic.” Whatever that means in the end, “being Catholic” was simply a matter of dropping into the scripted practices and attitudes of what one's community required in order to be considered a member. No sacrifice required. No surrender. No commitment. And we were told over and over again that we could be good Catholics while dissenting from the fundamentals of the faith. Contraception. Abortion. Same-sex “marriage,” the fatherhood of God Himself.

The rot that set in and metastasized post-VC2 is the result of our Church leaders (clergy and lay theologians) abandoning the apostolic faith in favor of a modernist view of the human person and God that leaves us bereft of any transcendental hope. The human person is a near-infinitely malleable creature defined wholly by the will of individual (Nietzsche), and God is a Cosmic Therapist who affirms us in our choices and rewards us for being “true to ourselves” (Moralistic Therapeutic Deism).

According to this view, we are merely “thinking animals,” looking for acceptance and community. To be accepting and communal is what it means to be pastoral. We are forbidden – by the Modernist Orthodoxy – to question personal choices, evaluate behavior according to objective standards, or in any way note that rational creatures have a designed end in God that requires repentance. What matters is an “open mind” and an “accepting heart” for whatever choices we make.

This is nothing more than an ego-stroking ideology that makes us feel good about our own sin, and inoculates us against the necessity of repentance and the reality of Divine Mercy.

This is NOT the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Nor is it the apostolic faith handed on to the Church.

Cultural Catholicism has made us complacent and weak. It has led us to compromise, accommodate, and otherwise adopt the standards of the Age, and we are no longer able to evangelize the world from a position of true humility or love. Without an objective, transcendental referent the Church is nothing more than a charitable relief organization in ecclesiastical drag.

The Son became Man and died on the Cross so that he might reveal in word and deed how God the Father loves us. Not to affirm us in our choices but to point us to the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Our true home is the Beatific Vision. And for this reason, God loves us to change us.

The death of Cultural Catholicism is a gift straight from the Holy Spirit!

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07 October 2018

Uncomfortable Truths about Marriage

NB. This is a revision of a 2015 homily. . .

27th Sunday OT
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Uncomfortable truths do not go away simply b/c we harden our hearts against them. Reality does not yield to argument or whining. Truth is truth; the Real is real, and we are thrown into both and forced to deal with each as best we can. However, better than most, we Catholics are equipped to confront and thrive in the truth of the real b/c we know and believe that God our Father is Love. He created us in love; redeemed us in love; and He brings us back to Him in love. Our daily reality – given and unavoidable – is soaked through with the abiding presence of Love Himself. Also given and unavoidable. God's presence does not guarantee us that we will never come to harm, or that all of our works will prosper, or that we will always be happy. What His presence does guarantee is everything we do and say is given the weight of eternity when we work and speak in His name for His glory. With our hearts and minds firmly focused on our lives in Christ, we are free to do the holy work we have been given to do. Reality does not yield to argument or whining. Nor does it change b/c we call it something else or b/c secular laws demand that it change. “God made [man] male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” A union of one flesh can never be divided.
This is not how the Pharisees understand marriage. To test Jesus, they ask him, “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” The answer to this question is, “Yes, it's lawful.” But Jesus wants to know if divorce is right. At his request, the Pharisees repeat Moses' law on divorce – a simple matter of the husband writing a bill of divorce for his wife. Jesus says to this, “Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment.” He then quotes Genesis – “two become one flesh” – and concludes, “Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” Here we have an uncomfortable truth that does not go away simply b/c we harden our hearts against it. Here we have a reality that does not yield to argument or whining, a reality that does not bend b/c we choose to give it a different name. Moses allowed divorce b/c the hearts of men were hardened against the gifts of marriage, hardened to the possibilities to be found in the “mutual gift of self.” Because they would not understand the indissoluble reality of marriage taught in Scripture, Moses gave them a way out. Our Lord knows that though we often fail, we are able – with his grace – to enter the covenant of marriage and thrive.

With the grace of the sacrament and the support of the Church, any marriage can thrive. Notice I did not say “any marriage can be perfect” or “no marriage will ever have problems.” Any marriage can thrive b/c the foundation of marriage is the divine love of Christ for his Church. What obscures or blocks God's love from helping a marriage thrive? In Moses' day it was probably the fact that the wife was more or less the property of the husband. Or the “wife's failure” to produce a male heir. Or some economic difficulty. In our own day, the obstructions are more subtle but no less destructive. Is the marriage kept barren through the use of artificial contraception? Or worse still, abortion? Does the easy availability of no-fault divorce make every disagreement potentially fatal to the marriage? Somehow, we've convinced ourselves that we can alter the reality of marriage by judicial fiat. When marriage can mean whatever we want it to mean, when does it come to mean nothing at all? With technology and gadgets, how much harder is it to avoid the temptations of adultery and fornication? All of these and others can obscure God's love in a marriage, they can. . .but only if the husband and wife forget that God forms the foundation of their union. Only if they forget that marriage is for the stability of the family and the salvation of their souls.

In rejecting Moses' “get out of marriage free” rule, Jesus isn't setting up an impossible rule or trapping couples in hopelessly unhappy marriages. He is pointing us to the hard, unchangeable reality that sacramental marriage is a sign of his love for his bride the Church, a love that cannot change b/c the Church is his flesh – his flesh and blood joined permanently with ours. The baptized cannot be unbaptized. The confirmed cannot be unconfirmed. The ordained cannot be unordained. And the married cannot be unmarried. This is Good News b/c it means that no matter what comes, Christ is with us. He is always with us.

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