The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Bishops Doing Their Job

Obviously I'm not a bishop, so I don't have to make the hard decisions facing our bishops today. And I realize too that many bishops struggle to fulfill their responsibilities to articulate Church teaching, to remind their flock of their obligation to follow these same teachings, and to lead those who stray -- particularly those who stray publicly -- to acceptance and repentance. It's not an easy task, which is why it is always refreshing when bishops carry out this responsibility well. Here are a few examples:

In New York, Thomas Suozzi, the Nassau County Executive (and a Catholic), wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times on June 12 in which he declared his support for same-sex marriage. Mr. Suozzi had earlier come out publicly in support of abortion, so it's apparent he pays little or no attention to the teachings of his Church. He even made a point of mentioning his religious affiliation "as a practicing Catholic" which only increased the scandal associated with a public figure who openly defies Church teaching.

To address Mr. Suozzi's public declaration, Bishop William Murphy of the Diocese of Rockville Centre issued a statement in which he enunciates Church teaching, counters all of Mr. Suossi's weak arguments, and reminds us all of our obligation as Catholics to accept all the truths taught by the Church through its bishops. I found the final paragraph of the bishop's statement to be especially effective:

"There is a further consideration that, as his bishop, I have to raise to Mr. Suozzi because he publicly identifies himself as a practicing Catholic. By so doing he certainly admits that he knows he is contradicting some basic moral teachings of his own faith. This is not the first time he has done this. He has already placed himself publicly in the category of “pro choice” on abortion. While homosexual orientation is a neutral reality on a moral level, homosexual acts are not morally neutral. They are wrong and they are sinful. Abortion is wrong and it is sinful. We bishops, the authentic teachers with the Pope of the Catholic faithful, have made this abundantly clear. Our teaching is unambiguous, faithful to the Lord and binding on all Catholics. No Catholic is free to ignore or disregard this teaching. It is normative in the formation of the conscience of every Catholic who seeks to be faithful to the Lord and qualify as a “practicing Catholic”. In saying this, I am not singling out Mr. Suozzi. I am speaking to all Catholics in our Diocese and beyond, reminding them that what we bishops teach is not “another opinion” among many that Catholics may choose or not choose. Instead, such truths are “non-negotiable”, binding on all of us who claim to be “practicing Catholics”. Otherwise we are not faithful to our Lord, to His Church and to the ultimate truths about the human person which alone can bring us freedom, justice, joy and peace. "

Click here to read Bishop Murphy's statement in its entirety.

Why does it seem that, for many of these Catholic public figures, to be chastised by their bishop is viewed as a badge of honor?

Another example comes from Spain where in recent years the current Socialist government has been waging a war of words and ideas with the Catholic Church. The most recent issue relates to legislation that would allow abortion on demand through week 14. It would also allow abortion through the 22nd week in the case of birth defects, and unrestricted abortion if the mother's life is threatened. As we know from our experience in this country, that phrase about the mother's life being threatened effectively permits unrestricted abortion throughout pregnancy. But regardless of when in a pregnancy it occurs, abortion is always inherently evil.

And so the Spanish Bishops Conference has risen to the occasion and instructed Catholic legislators that they must vote against this legislation. To do otherwise is to conspire with evil. Here's a fairly even-handed report on the bishops' declaration on the abortion bill. And be sure to check out the report on the blog, Deacon for Life. Finally, you can read more about this ongoing moral battle in the Times (UK).

Another example comes from Colorado Springs where Bishop Michael Sheridan issued a pastoral letter On the Duties of Catholic Politicians and Voters in which he instructed Catholics that they put their salvation at risk when they vote for candidates who favor abortion rights, embryonic stem cell research, homosexual “marriage” or euthanasia. He also instructed those who voted for such politicians not to receive communion. The letter, issued five years ago in May 2004, has caused Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, along with several other anti-Catholic groups, to ask the IRS to investigate whether the Diocese of Colorado Springs somehow violated the law by “endorsing political candidates.”

All of us -- bishops, clergy and faithful -- can expect only more of this in the future. As the moral decline of our nation accelerates, so too will the attacks on the Catholic Church. I believe that, eventually, these attacks will evolve into full-blown persecution, under which we will see bishops and others jailed for failing to worship at the altar of political correctness.

Send a letter of thanks to Bishop Murphy, Bishop Sheridan and the bishops of Spain for their courageous response to those who would remove the Church's voice from the public square. And pray for all the bishops of the world.

God's peace.

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