Before I clear up some misunderstandings about the Catholic Church and add more fuel to the liberal fire in Oak Park, let me address just one misunderstanding about my V-Day piece.
Found in the gaggle of derogatory comments is the charge that I had not covered the event fairly. Actually, I had not covered it at all. Wednesday Journal asks me to write a monthly column, clearly labeled a “Viewpoint,” to articulate a conservative whisper amidst the liberal cacophony that howls about Oak Park. I am not underpaid to be fair and objective, rather to express an opinion. Judging by the reaction, I got my point across. V-Day supporters just did not like reading it.
Another misunderstanding surrounds the recent visit of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to the United States. Despite their stated approval of the man himself, most especially his words and actions which sought to atone for the clergy sex scandal, a virtual flock of journalists, including the editor who hired me to write this column, have expressed the opinion that the Pope and the Holy See are out of touch with the majority of American Catholics. These Catholics, whom some may term “free-range,” [A free-range welcome for the Pope, Ken Trainor, Viewpoints, April 16] often support so-called reproductive freedom, including artificial contraception and abortion, as well as gay rights. They disagree with Church teaching regarding divorce and remarriage, and are in favor of married priests and the ordination of women.
During his recent visit, journalists were quick to characterize the Holy Father as woefully out of step with a large percentage of his U.S. flock, who hold some or all “free-range Catholic” opinions. Suggestions were proffered that the Church might become more popular if she tailors her teaching to popular American sentiments-suggestions which conveniently overlook many mainline Protestant churches who have done just that, and whose pastors preach to empty pews on Sunday morning. They accuse the Church hierarchy of being heavy-handed in dealing with those who disagree with her, a sin itself in a country that celebrates individual freedom.
The preferences of cafeteria Catholics reflect a woeful ignorance of the nature of religion itself, or at least the type of religion the Catholic Church represents. Catholic teaching is based on Holy Scripture, sacred traditions passed on since the time of the apostles, and the magesterium, or teaching authority, that Catholics believe was given to the Church by Christ. Having studied what they believe to be the truth revealed by God, faithful Catholics attempt, however imperfectly, to live their lives in accordance with those teachings.
The Catholic Church cannot change its teachings to accommodate the latest result of some opinions polls, or even the practices of a large number of its members. Let’s take the example of the Church’s constant teaching concerning artificial contraception, which was explained by Pope Paul VI in his encyclical Humanae Vitae. Somewhere between 85 to 90 percent of adult U.S. Catholics ignore this teaching. If you ask them-and I have-to specify exactly what it is in Humanae Vitae they disagree with, the vast majority admit they have never even read it. For practical reasons, they wish to use artificial contraception, and it would make them more comfortable if the pope would just affirm them in this choice.
Telling a lie is a violation of the 8th Commandment and is considered a sin by the Church. I suspect that 100 percent of those American Catholics who are capable of speech have lied, most of them more than once or twice. Should the Church lift this prohibition as well, to bring it into conformity with American practice? As Americans, we are all free to accept or reject the teachings of any religion, but is it right to redefine those beliefs and claim to still be members in good standing?
In a show of what could be characterized as hierarchal heavy-handedness, Oak Park native Edward Cardinal Egan, the Archbishop of New York, has publicly rebuked former mayor Rudolph Giuliani for receiving Communion at the papal Mass in New York. Apparently, His Eminence had privately cautioned Hizzoner years ago not to receive Communion because of his public support of legal abortion, as well, one may presume, because of his irregular marital situation. Giuliani predictably responded by claiming his religion is a private matter. The problem is that his Communion, at a papal Mass, was a public action. Cardinal Egan was not being overbearing; rather he was correcting a public error to minimize confusion among the faithful.
The Catholic Church receives the type of press usually reserved for Fundamentalist Mormon polygamists. Taking the time to actually understand what the Church teaches, and why she must continue to teach it despite public opinion, might go a long way to clearing up misconceptions of modern day “Know-nothings.”