March 4, 2012

There you go again. In last week’s column I addressed the “statistical” lie repeated over and over again by the defenders of the President’s “contraception mandate” to Catholics and other communities of faith: “98 percent of Catholic women use birth control.” I described how the “Fact Checker” of the Washington Post had debunked that claim, and then I went on to try to enhance that debunking. But, you just can’t keep a bad lie down: last week the self- proclaimed “ardent, practicing Catholic” Rep. Nancy Pelosi told a crowd at Texas A&M University: “Ninety-eight percent of women in childbearing age that are Catholic use contraception.”

There’s that lie again. But then she immediately went on to add: “So, in practice the church has not enforced this and now they want the federal government and private insurance to enforce it. It just isn’t consistent to me.” This is a very interesting statement. On the one hand, it’s another lie to say the Church wants the government or private insurance companies to “enforce” our teaching on contraception. The Church simply doesn’t want the government to force her to directly act contrary Catholic morals.

But there is a grain of truth in something she says here: “in practice the Church has not enforced this … It just isn’t consistent to me.” As I pointed out in my homily last week, for over 40 years we Catholics haven’t been at all “consistent” with practicing or preaching the Church’s doctrine on sexuality as a whole and contraception in particular. It is a fact that many Catholics have at one time or another disregarded the Church’s doctrine on these issues. And all too often priests (myself included) and bishops have been much too silent—many never speaking of it, and some even openly voicing dissent. And the same can be said of the laity as well.

And in my opinion, that is the sin the Lord is most calling us to repent this Lent: our silence, especially on the part of priests and bishops, regarding the Church’s beautiful teaching on the meaning of sexuality and how contraception directly contradicts that meaning and degrades the couple and children. So Pelosi is dead on in calling us “inconsistent,” and she is partially correct in saying that “in practice the Church has not enforced this” doctrine. I say she is “partially correct” because of the ambiguity of the term “enforce.” How do we “enforce” any moral teaching? Unlike the federal government the Church doesn’t have almost unlimited ability to enforce our teachings through fine, imprisonment, confiscation of property, etc.. It is true, we could deny certain things to Catholic individuals or institutions who opening flaunted their use, provision or support of contraception; perhaps we could deny the sacraments, including Holy Communion to these individual Catholics, or even excommunicate some of the more egregious promoters of dissent, or we could strip Catholic institutions of their Catholic status. But we can’t arrest them, or confiscate their bank accounts like the feds can. (And to be clear, no one wants them to be arrested etc.).

But to the extent Pelosi was simply trying to say that faithful Catholics have failed to forthrightly teach or aggressively defend the doctrine, or that priests and bishops have failed to adequately correct, admonish or punish even the most outspoken and notorious public dissenters, who have aggressively led their fellow Catholics astray….she is correct. And it’s because of this sin of silence that we are in the mess we are today: if all 77.7 million Catholics in American understood and embraced this teaching, no one would dare try to force us to do what the President is trying to force us to do.

And Pelosi knows of what she speaks, because she is among the most aggressive and notorious supporters of contraception—among other things—of any Catholic in public life, and with rare exception she has seldom been publicly corrected by priests or bishops, and she has never been publicly punished.

Now, I do not presume to tell bishops or priests how or if they should punish her or any other public dissenter. But I do call all Catholics, lay and cleric, to repent the sin of silence, and to boldly, clearly and charitably proclaim the truth about our beautiful and apostolic teaching. As Pope Benedict XVI told us in this year’s “Message for Lent” (see last week’s column): “We must not remain silent before evil. …[A]lways moved by love and mercy, and …genuine concern for the good of the other … it is essential to rediscover the importance of fraternal correction, so that together we may journey towards holiness…”

Even so, it doesn’t matter how many Catholics in America proclaim or embrace this teaching: the President still has no right to try to “enforce” his values by coercing the Catholic Church to compromise our religious beliefs. Remember to go to www.usccb.org/conscience for updates and click “TAKE ACTION: Personalize your message to Congress now!” to tell our senators and representatives to defend our God-given and constitutionally protected right to religious liberty.

March 17th Conference. In an effort to end the silence St. Raymond’s Parish will co-sponsor a conference that will address these issues on Saturday, March 17th. See the announcement in this bulletin for more details. Please join us, and spread the word to your friends!

On a happier “note”—we need more choir members! I’m sure you all agree that our choir makes a magnificent contribution to the liturgical life of the parish. But they are always striving to enhance their efforts, and one way to do that is to add more enthusiastic voices to their numbers. Lent is an excellent time to join the choir, since there is so much beautiful Lenten and Easter music to learn and sing. And if you think this might be the thing for you, but you’re afraid or think it might be too much work, then Lent is a excellent time on that “score” too: do what God is asking, and offer the “cost” to Him as penance! Please contact our Music Director, Elizabeth Turco, at turcoe@aol.com, or call the parish office for more information.

Will I ever live this down? In my column on February 19, I inadvertently made an important typo. As has been announced at Mass the last 2 weekends, that column indicated that we abstain from “meat and milk” on Fridays of Lent. This is a mistake: we abstain only from meat, NOT milk. Now, will you pleeease stop sending me emails to point this out? I’m embarrassed enough as it is.

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles

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