Sunday, March 04, 2012

On Mockery

With contraception being in the news lately, naturally there is a great deal of mockery of Catholic teaching on artificial contraception and abortion and of those of us who take this teaching very seriously. Yeah, it feels pretty crappy to be the butt of everybody's jokes. There is also a profound ignorance about what the Church actually teaches and why, which is why we must speak up. If we comprise the Body of Christ, we must unite ourselves to Christ as our model, who was senselessly mocked as he was beaten and killed. Let this be our Lenten meditation.

Just a side note here: In my opinion, it is incredibly arrogant and stupid for the Obama Administration to provoke such an unnecessary fight. So incredibly stupid. To say nothing of other religious groups, it is a well known fact that the Catholic Church has been at the fore of the fight for quality and affordable health care since well before the United States was formed as a nation. Religious orders of nuns have been supporting hospitals, schools, and charities in America for generations. To see the Church portrayed as an enemy to health care is pretty ignorant and silly, and to risk some dioceses, religious orders, and individuals closing their hospitals, schools, and charities rather than be forced to participate in something unconscionable is disgusting. Furthermore, this being an election year, and in an effort to pick up anything to oppose the president, the Republican party has taken this up as one of their causes célèbres, which needlessly over-politicizes the whole thing, redrawing the issue along political lines. As Cardinal Dolan stated many times, the Church didn't go looking for this fight. It was the Administration that acted first. Stupid.

Back to mockery. Pope Paul VI prophetically pointed out in Humanae Vitae that the Catholic Church would always be a sign of contradiction with the dominant culture. In fact, when it ISN'T the subject of ridicule, you can be sure that something is wrong, as when some churches compromise themselves to the fads of culture. With regard to artificial contraception (for purposes of actual birth control), Pope Paul VI wrote:
It is to be anticipated that perhaps not everyone will easily accept this particular teaching. There is too much clamorous outcry against the voice of the Church, and this is intensified by modern means of communication. But it comes as no surprise to the Church that she, no less than her divine Founder, is destined to be a "sign of contradiction." She does not, because of this, evade the duty imposed on her of proclaiming humbly but firmly the entire moral law, both natural and evangelical.

Since the Church did not make either of these laws, she cannot be their arbiter—only their guardian and interpreter. It could never be right for her to declare lawful what is in fact unlawful, since that, by its very nature, is always opposed to the true good of man.

In preserving intact the whole moral law of marriage, the Church is convinced that she is contributing to the creation of a truly human civilization. She urges man not to betray his personal responsibilities by putting all his faith in technical expedients. In this way she defends the dignity of husband and wife. This course of action shows that the Church, loyal to the example and teaching of the divine Savior, is sincere and unselfish in her regard for men whom she strives to help even now during this earthly pilgrimage "to share God's life as sons of the living God, the Father of all men."
I actually think that it is paradoxically good for the Church and the culture to be at odds. Firstly, it helps the Church hone its teaching and articulate it in a clearer way. This is necessary in order to engage the culture in any meaningful way at all. We need to be challenged to do this. Secondly, since humanity is fallen (which obviously affects the Church because the Church would not exist without humans), it is only natural that one would expect difficult teachings to be difficult to embrace and live out, especially in a hedonistic, individualistic culture as we have today. As I have gotten older, I have seen more young adults, seeing something definitely wrong in the passing fads of the dominant culture, challenge themselves to embrace the Church's teaching precisely because it is a sign of contradiction and because it is difficult. Certainly, I have seen others go the other route and accommodate themselves to the ever-changing culture. Again, I am not so surprised. It was so from the beginning.


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