What a question! My question to you is whether you can answer honestly to yourself?
It’s probably not really your fault right? You think that, in truth – it’s the fault of people soft pedaling the truth to keep “butts in the seats”, watered down CCD classes, deficient PSR programs, and poor catechization in general. Have you ever been in a Catholic Church where the priest preached these uncomfortable truths and watched people walk out? Be honest… I have witnessed this myself. Imagine how parents react to children coming home with concerns that their CCD teacher or PSR teacher is contradicting what “Mommy and Daddy” say and do, or their example in the home? Ask yourself honestly, are you part of the solution or part of the problem. There is no debate, no rationalization, and no convincing to be done – these are the beliefs of the Catholic Church and they are immutable. None of this is open to argument or disagreement. These teachings will never change to meet the times, and their permanence is a reminder that God does not change his mind. It grants us a sense of security and surety in this life that right and wrong are in fact moral truths, and not subject to social whims or determined by a majority vote.
That seems to be the first and hardest step in making any lasting change. If that that query is too difficult then try the following easier questions and then judge your own answers, use them to determine if you are in keeping with the Catechism. Remember that Catholicism is not a cafeteria you can pick and choose from. Either you accept the teachings of the church in toto, or not. While you may think you are fooling others, the way you speak and conduct yourself will give you away. Catholicism is about teaching Truth – it is not based on majority opinions or votes, nor is it based on feel good psycho-babble spouted on television and popular media. Catholicism is unchanging, no Pope can or will refute dogma – thereby the stance on artificial contraception will stand until the end of days, whereas the issues of married priests is open to papal authority. If you seek to change the Catholic Church to meet what you want to believe then you are not really Catholic (yet). My advice there is to read the Catechism then pray before the Blessed Eucharist until you understand the teaching or teachings, in situ, and embrace them.
WARNING: This reflection of conscience is intended only for Catholics to better understand which areas of the faith they may have trouble with. Some or all of these teaching may make you uncomfortable, as may your own examination of conscious. None of these areas are optional, to be Catholic you must believe Church teaching on ALL of them.
Do you believe, and follow, ALL of the churches teachings in your daily life. This means the ones on capital punishment, birth control, abortion, social justice, heaven, hell, purgatory, the real presence in the Eucharist, Marriage and Divorce, etc…?
Everybody can get one or two, but be honest since you’re not even talking to me – I’m more a figment of your imagination created by your reading of this blog, think of me as an active conscious…
Do you think it’s alright to execute a criminal when an alternative exists? During the Gosnell trial did you want blood, or mercy? Did you remain silent or even agree with those around you who discussed the trial and supported death for Gosnell? Did you ever stop to consider that life is sacred, no mater how abhorrent the actions of the person? One cannot be Catholic and support the death penalty in our society (which has an alternative). Because this one is NOT OPTIONAL, so derisive to many, and evokes strong feelings by people with deep seated convictions, I am going to put the text from the Catechism inline here:
2267 Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor. If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person. Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm – without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically non-existent.” 68
Abortion is wrong because it is cold blooded pre-meditated murder. The only choices involved are a choice to commit murder to cover up a mistake on our part, or to murder someone because they are inconvenient. Where does it end? When we start killing the old and sick because they are inconvenient? What about the poor, the mentally ill, or the uneducated? Who will stand up for you when you become inconvenient? Where again did Jesus kill anyone? How then, is murder in any form, following Christ’s example? Here is an excerpt fromt the Catechism to get you started in your reflection, then read the whole thing here (Euthanasia follows Abortion – so no need to search or skip around).
2270 Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.72
- Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.73My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.74
2271 Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law:
- You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.75God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.76
2272 Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. “A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,”77 “by the very commission of the offense,”78 and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law.79 The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.
2273 The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation:
“The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being’s right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death.”80
“The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined. . . . As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child’s rights.”81
2274 Since it must be treated from conception as a person, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being.
Prenatal diagnosis is morally licit, “if it respects the life and integrity of the embryo and the human fetus and is directed toward its safe guarding or healing as an individual. . . . It is gravely opposed to the moral law when this is done with the thought of possibly inducing an abortion, depending upon the results: a diagnosis must not be the equivalent of a death sentence.”82
2275 “One must hold as licit procedures carried out on the human embryo which respect the life and integrity of the embryo and do not involve disproportionate risks for it, but are directed toward its healing the improvement of its condition of health, or its individual survival.”83
“It is immoral to produce human embryos intended for exploitation as disposable biological material.”84
“Certain attempts to influence chromosomic or genetic inheritance are not therapeutic but are aimed at producing human beings selected according to sex or other predetermined qualities. Such manipulations are contrary to the personal dignity of the human being and his integrity and identity”85 which are unique and unrepeatable.
Do you think artificial birth control is acceptable? Here is a spoiler, I once did. I was wrong, but it was not until I understood the teaching more fully that i could not just accept it – but embrace it. Read about my struggle with this issue here. Do you think it doesn’t debase a woman to use her for your pleasure? Did you once think about the increased cancer or stroke risk she undertook for taking birth control hormones to provide her the ability to be used by you without fear of pregnancy? Did you ever resent your spouse for asking you to be open to life? Since the pill was introduced widely in the early 60′s did you see society moving forwards or backwards? Are marriages more stable? Do you consider a child a gift or a hinderance? Have you even read Humane Vitae? Do you deny that no matter how thin the condom, the barrier turns a deeply loving and spiritual exchange (including messy bodily fluids) into nothing more than assisted masterbation? Thanks to birth control, do you feel free to compartmentalize sex and pursue partners you would never consider for marriage or motherhood? Do you believe that sex outside the marriage covenant is always a sin? I could go on for hours – but by this time you know where you stand regardless of your rationale for that stance. Before you start contemplating, whet you appetite with this quote from Humane Vitae (Pope Paul VI) and then read the whole thing here and ask yourself if Pope Paul the 6th did not predict with perfection the results of the widespread use of artificial conception over 40 years ago:
17. Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.
Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.
How do you view the catholic teachings on social justice? Have you even read the catechism and reviewed the teachings on the subject? Are those teachings compatible with your current political stance? Do you give of you time and resources to help the less fortunate or do you expect others to do it? To be honest, many right wing Catholics seem to have the hardest time with these teachings. They have bought into unfettered capitalism and exploitation of workers to increase profits to the point that they feel somehow entitled to continue doing it. Do you think that an employers have a responsibility to those they employ? If you employ people, do you conduct your relations with your employees according to the maximization of profit or catholic teaching? Do you feel entitled to live better than others, even at their expense and the expense of their children? Now are you beginning to see why Americans especially find these teachings difficult? Ask yourself truly if you are serving God in your life, Jesus set us an example of serving others – not being served by others. Take these thoughts and sit in an adoration chapel for one hour in silence, listen to what he says to you – then answer this question honestly. Do so after reading this directly from the Catechism, there’s enough stuff in here to have most Americans running for the hills, but these beliefs and their practice in your daily life are NOT OPTIONAL:
IV. ECONOMIC ACTIVITY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
2426 The development of economic activity and growth in production are meant to provide for the needs of human beings. Economic life is not meant solely to multiply goods produced and increase profit or power; it is ordered first of all to the service of persons, of the whole man, and of the entire human community. Economic activity, conducted according to its own proper methods, is to be exercised within the limits of the moral order, in keeping with social justice so as to correspond to God’s plan for man. 209
2427 Human work proceeds directly from persons created in the image of God and called to prolong the work of creation by subduing the earth, both with and for one another. 210Hence work is a duty: “If any one will not work, let him not eat.” 211 Work honors the Creator’s gifts and the talents received from him. It can also be redemptive. By enduring the hardship of work 212 in union with Jesus, the carpenter of Nazareth and the one crucified on Calvary, man collaborates in a certain fashion with the Son of God in his redemptive work. He shows himself to be a disciple of Christ by carrying the cross, daily, in the work he is called to accomplish. 213 Work can be a means of sanctification and a way of animating earthly realities with the Spirit of Christ.
2428 In work, the person exercises and fulfills in part the potential inscribed in his nature. The primordial value of labor stems from man himself, its author and its beneficiary. Work is for man, not man for work. 214
Everyone should be able to draw from work the means of providing for his life and that of his family, and of serving the human community.
2429 Everyone has the right of economic initiative; everyone should make legitimate use of his talents to contribute to the abundance that will benefit all and to harvest the just fruits of his labor. He should seek to observe regulations issued by legitimate authority for the sake of the common good. 215
2430 Economic life brings into play different interests, often opposed to one another. This explains why the conflicts that characterize it arise. 216 Efforts should be made to reduce these conflicts by negotiation that respects the rights and duties of each social partner: those responsible for business enterprises, representatives of wage- earners (for example, trade unions), and public authorities when appropriate.
2431 The responsibility of the state. “Economic activity, especially the activity of a market economy, cannot be conducted in an institutional, juridical, or political vacuum. On the contrary, it presupposes sure guarantees of individual freedom and private property, as well as a stable currency and efficient public services. Hence the principal task of the state is to guarantee this security, so that those who work and produce can enjoy the fruits of their labors and thus feel encouraged to work efficiently and honestly…. Another task of the state is that of overseeing and directing the exercise of human rights in the economic sector. However, primary responsibility in this area belongs not to the state but to individuals and to the various groups and associations which make up society.” 217
2432 Those responsible for business enterprises are responsible to society for the economic and ecological effects of their operations. 218 They have an obligation to consider the good of persons and not only the increase of profits. Profits are necessary, however. They make possible the investments that ensure the future of a business and they guarantee employment.
2433 Access to employment and to professions must be open to all without unjust discrimination: men and women, healthy and disabled, natives and immigrants. 219 For its part society should, according to circumstances, help citizens find work and employment. 220
2434 A just wage is the legitimate fruit of work. To refuse or withhold it can be a grave injustice. 221 In determining fair pay both the needs and the contributions of each person must be taken into account. “Remuneration for work should guarantee man the opportunity to provide a dignified livelihood for himself and his family on the material, social, cultural and spiritual level, taking into account the role and the productivity of each, the state of the business, and the common good.” 222 Agreement between the parties is not sufficient to justify morally the amount to be received in wages.
2435 Recourse to a strike is morally legitimate when it cannot be avoided, or at least when it is necessary to obtain a proportionate benefit. It becomes morally unacceptable when accompanied by violence, or when objectives are included that are not directly linked to working conditions or are contrary to the common good.
2436 It is unjust not to pay the social security contributions required by legitimate authority.
Unemployment almost always wounds its victim’s dignity and threatens the equilibrium of his life. Besides the harm done to him personally, it entails many risks for his family. 223
Most of us believe in Heaven, but Purgatory and to a lesser extent Hell have a sparser following. Do you believe you will be judged at the moment of your death? Do you believe in purgatory? Do you believe in Hell? Do you believe in a final judgement where the good will be saved and the wicked will be punished? Do you believe that purgatory exists for the purification if souls, that they might enter into Gods presence? Do you think everyone gets into heaven or do you believe that mortal sin can bar your entry? Do you believe that only Catholics, Christians, or all good persons judged worthy achieve Heaven? Are you arrogant or prideful enough to think you would go to Heaven if you died right now? These questions are like my lower intestine, odious and loaded with danger. There is too much good stuff here to quote, so read it ALL for yourself here directly from the Catechism before you silently re-contemplate your understanding of eternity. I suspect most people will learn something new during this process.
Do you believe in the real presence in the Eucharist? Have you ever sat for an hour of Eucharistic adoration? Do you treat the Eucharist with reverence always, especially when receiving communion? Does the consecration portion of the mass touch your heart? Have you ever felt the need to drop to your knees when receiving communion? Do you attend confession regularly before communion? Have you ever accepted communion in a state of mortal sin? More importantly, have you ever not accepted communion because you knew yourself to be in a sate of mortal sin? For those not familiar with Eucharistic miracles – you should read this book by Joan Carrol Cruz (http://www.amazon.com/Eucharistic-Miracles-Phenomena-Lives-Saints/dp/0895553031) and educate yourself. It might even help you by providing the evidence you need to believe (Including some which survives to this day). I have found contemplation quietly in Eucharistic Adoration to be most beneficial in developing a personal surety in the real presence. One you have this surety the mass will NEVER be the same again for you. You can Read the Catechism about this subject here, where it will also cover Eucharistic Adoration.
Marriage and Divorce – One is a sacrament and one is an abomination. How many Catholics justify a civil marriage to a divorcee without an annulment – without truly believing they are committing adultery and mortal sin? How many long to come home, but unable to get an annulment are barred from the sacraments – basically outcast (usually becoming Lutherans, rather than accepting God’s plan and separating). This is one of the harshest teachings, you can put a spouse aside, but you cannot remarry unless the marriage itself was invalid. You cannot then take up without another without committing adultery yourself and lead taking another into sin with you. Further, the Catholic Church under the last few popes has been limiting the grounds of invalidation greatly. What makes marriage so special is that it is a covenant which cannot be dissolved by man. You cannot marry another persons spouse regardless of circumstance, including a civil divorce. Anyone married in the Catholic Church remains so in God and the Church’s eyes unless an annulment is granted. Are you faced with this predicament? Are you willing to take the painful steps to rectify it, or would you rather turn your back on God so that you don’t have to face the pain of undoing your sinful action? Is reading this making you uncomfortable? The permanence behind the sacrament is part of what gives it it’s power. Going to another Church does not make that woman your wife, any more than stealing a car transfers the title. Woe to those who father children in such a union. Do you consider the gravity of marriage when you interact with your spouse? Have you ever reflected on the permanence of the sacrament of matrimony with fear and trepidation rather than comfort and joy? Has the indissoluble nature of your marriage really sunk in? If so, how has it changed your interaction and attitudes with relation to your spouse? Is it a comfort and joy that there is surety in this sacrament? Do you really think that society knows better than the magisterium the natural laws of man handed down from God through the Church? Do you presume to think that our short history of social experimentation (which has failed in the past) holds the answers you seek? Are you willing to submit to your obligation to God and your spouse and fulfill it to the best of your ability through His grace? Since this is very important sacrament and the teachings cover so much ground – I recommend you read the Catechism on the subject entirety HERE before beginning your contemplation.
By now, chances are you’re pretty angry. Probably at me, but don’t shoot the messenger. The Church? Well, it never changed it’s stance on these issues – realize you changed to meet others expectations and in doing so began to worship the mob of humanity instead of being obedient to God. The fact is, you cannot truly be a Catholic unless you accept all of the teachings of the Church. Some of them are hard, very hard even. However, they are even, eternal, and balanced and they apply to all the faithful equally. The answer is not rage or upset, the answers you seek are found in prayer, study, and Eucharistic Adoration. I wish you well in your endeavors, and will pray for the success of all who are trying to reconcile with God and come home to the Church. Remember God is omnipotent and does not change his mind, he has a plan in which your salvation is an integral part. Confession and repentance are highly recommended, your local Catholic priest can handle the details.
PS: If you’re not angry, upset, or surprised by your answers and how they compare to the Catechism then congratulations you are a properly catechized Catholic. Unfortunately you are likely not the majority. Fortunately, after other people read this our numbers may grow as they begin down the road towards being catechized properly.
Yours in Christ,
**Please feel free to write or comment on this post, I’d really like to hear from those that are able to have this experience and how it is changing their marriage, their wives, their lives, and their perspective on the Catholic faith.