Catholichris’ Commentary on the recent “Ad Limina” Visit with Pope Benedict XVI and United States Bishops
On January 19th, 2012, the Holy Father, Benedict XVI met with Bishops from Washington DC and the surrounding area during their “Ad Limina” visit (text found at http://www.zenit.org/article-34148?l=english). Even though this message to these Bishops spoke about the American culture, I believe he spoke not only about America but of the entire Western Culture. From this standpoint, his message to these Bishops is rather daunting and quite poignant. I will share some points that I found need strong emphasis (which is most of the document) and add my own commentary where I feel necessary in the spirit of Father Z’s blog (in red). Let us begin.
“At the heart of every culture, whether perceived or not, is a consensus about the nature of reality and the moral good, and thus about the conditions for human flourishing. In America, that consensus, as enshrined in your nation’s founding documents, was grounded in a worldview shaped not only by faith but a commitment to certain ethical principles deriving from nature and nature’s God. Today that consensus has eroded significantly in the face of powerful new cultural currents which are not only directly opposed to core moral teachings of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but increasingly hostile to Christianity as such.”
“Increasingly hostile” is quite true. I would say it has become more than increased, it has reached a level of epic proportions. Western Culture in general has been founded on these principles, and all are eroding.
“For her part, the Church in the United States is called, in season and out of season, to proclaim a Gospel which not only proposes unchanging moral truths but proposes them precisely as the key to human happiness and social prospering (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 10). To the extent that some current cultural trends contain elements that would curtail the proclamation of these truths, whether constricting it within the limits of a merely scientific rationality, or suppressing it in the name of political power or majority rule, they represent a threat not just to Christian faith, but also to humanity itself and to the deepest truth about our being and ultimate vocation, our relationship to God. When a culture attempts to suppress the dimension of ultimate mystery, and to close the doors to transcendent truth, it inevitably becomes impoverished and falls prey, as the late Pope John Paul II so clearly saw, to reductionist and totalitarian readings of the human person and the nature of society.”
My question is, when will ALL of the Bishops stand up against this moral erosion? This is truly a threat to “humanity itself” which finds faith at it’s heart. I think the most epic quote from this is:
“When a culture attempts to suppress the dimension of ultimate mystery, and to close the doors to transcendent truth, it inevitably becomes impoverished and falls prey, as the late Pope John Paul II so clearly saw, to reductionist and totalitarian readings of the human person and the nature of society.”
“With her long tradition of respect for the right relationship between faith and reason, the Church has a critical role to play in countering cultural currents which, on the basis of an extreme individualism, seek to promote notions of freedom detached from moral truth.”
Yeah we do!
“Our tradition does not speak from blind faith, but from a rational perspective which links our commitment to building an authentically just, humane and prosperous society to our ultimate assurance that the cosmos is possessed of an inner logic accessible to human reasoning.”
As Western Culture pulls away from this and pretends the Church has nothing valid to say on this point, you will see an erosion of human reason – oh wait- we already do.
“The Church’s defense of a moral reasoning based on the natural law is grounded on her conviction that this law is not a threat to our freedom, but rather a “language” which enables us to understand ourselves and the truth of our being, and so to shape a more just and humane world. She thus proposes her moral teaching as a message not of constraint but of liberation, and as the basis for building a secure future.”
Morality always leads to freedom. One need not look too far to see the effects of a culture turned diometrically inward, and away from God. You want to see real progress, speak to a regular, uncatechized high school student about what their idea is of freedom.
“The Church’s witness, then, is of its nature public: she seeks to convince by proposing rational arguments in the public square. The legitimate separation of Church and State cannot be taken to mean that the Church must be silent on certain issues, nor that the State may choose not to engage, or be engaged by, the voices of committed believers in determining the values which will shape the future of the nation.”
Church is not peripheral to the World, the World is peripheral to the Church. The Government cannot dictate the future of the Church and Christians. This is something that the Church cannot be silent about.
“In the light of these considerations, it is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life. Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion. Many of you have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholicindividuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. Others have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience.”
It is important to note the Holy Father’s emphasis on the ENTIRE CATHOLIC COMMUNITY. It needs to be addressed at every level of “ecclesial life”,that means from the Pulpits to the Bishops Conferences. The American people are losing their sense of freedom of conscience. This was the Dictatorship of Relativism our Holy Father predicted the night before he was elected Pope. The question is: are the Bishops listening? Do they hear the sense of urgency in his voice. We are on the verge of a moral collapse in the United States.
“Here once more we see the need for an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity endowed with a strong critical sense vis-à-vis the dominant culture and with the courage to counter a reductive secularism which would delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society. The preparation of committed lay leaders and the presentation of a convincing articulation of the Christian vision of man and society remain a primary task of the Church in your country; as essential components of the new evangelization, these concerns must shape the vision and goals of catechetical programs at every level.”
Yes, Catechetical programs! Awesome! Where are they? Why are they not easily accessible to the people in the pews? These are not simply supposed to be Catholic conferences, but a rigourous formational program. There are even solid orthodox Catholic people in the world doing what they can to assist in this process and they are being squashed. Where are these programs to supplement these needs? We need Catechesis, not smarmy Catholic feel good spirituality programs! Let’s get this going, Bishops! I’ll be right there with you, supporting any initiative you do on this front.
“In this regard, I would mention with appreciation your efforts to maintain contacts with Catholics involved in political life and to help them understand their personal responsibility to offer public witness to their faith, especially with regard to the great moral issues of our time: respect for God’s gift of life, the protection of human dignity and the promotion of authentic human rights. As the Council noted, and I wished to reiterate during my Pastoral Visit, respect for the just autonomy of the secular sphere must also take into consideration the truth that there is no realm of worldly affairs which can be withdrawn from the Creator and his dominion (cfr. Gaudium et Spes, 36). There can be no doubt that a more consistent witness on the part of America’s Catholics to their deepest convictions would make a major contribution to the renewal of society as a whole.”
I’m sure my good Catholic friend and historian Daniel Acheson from Washington DC could clarify this, but I think that the Bishops in DC do try to influence the political sphere. I will attempt to get an interview with him in the near future and get some clarity on this reality.
“Yet in faith we can take heart from the growing awareness of the need to preserve a civil order clearly rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition, as well as from the promise offered by a new generation of Catholics whose experience and convictions will have a decisive role in renewing the Church’s presence and witness in American society. The hope which these “signs of the times” give us is itself a reason to renew our efforts to mobilize the intellectual and moral resources of the entire Catholic community in the service of the evangelization of American culture and the building of the civilization of love.”
Gear up Catholics! It’s time for rubber to hit the road and to transform the culture.
In short, I think this a clarion call for us to not get comfortable because we’re in for a bumpy ride. If you’re hopping on the bus, you might want to stick to the front, because you’ll see what’s coming at you first and you feel the bumps much more in the back – and trust me- you’ll probably end up smashing your head off of the roof.
In the Immaculata,