Tag Archives: Conscience

Marriage Defenders: Part 2 of 2

jbap

A friend of mine who is a beautiful wife and mother of seven children was in a supermarket this week.  A 50 year old man stopped her and then sarcastically asked her if she knew what “caused” having seven kids. She texted me about this and then added her and her husband’s thoughts on this:

Some days the world just wears you down and a part of you starts to feel like maybe you are a freak. Not just about having a lot of kids, but about everything. And then you realize you need to spend some time in adoration and start to once again see life through Jesus’ eyes and not the world’s. The world is so blind and hard-hearted that what is beautiful and sacred just can’t be comprehended by it.

Why is the world so hard-hearted to Christians today?

As I said earlier, it’s not because we’re being hateful on issues of sexuality.  So why do Catholics constantly get mocked for following Christ and His Church in the silence of their homes?  Is it because they’re secretly judging their neighbors and everyone feels it?  Maybe…but I think today’s feast of the Beheading of John the Baptist can shed light on the psychology of the conviction of conscience.

Now, there’s a lot of Herods in the Bible but I want to consider Herod Antipas (20 BC-AD 40), the tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea.  He’s the one who mocked Jesus before His execution. He’s also the one who ordered John the Baptist’s death for having spoken out against his adulterous relationship.

Now, most Bible movies do a pretty good job at capturing the love/hate relationship between Herod and the Baptist because of this one very rich line in the Gospel: “Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.”—Mark 6:20

I believe it was Earnest Hemingway, an unbeliever, who liked to travel the Deep South of the USA and listen to fire and brimstone homilies in Baptist Churches. Apparently it made him feel alive, or at least he heard these homilies “gladly.”  This curiosity was also found in Herod.

But of the 2.5 million people populating first century Palestine, why would a somewhat-powerful governor like Herod move beyond curiosity towards the murder of a homeless man who had been calling him out for living with his brother’s wife?   I mean, really—2.5 million people are silent about his adultery, and then one guy who is half-dressed in skins and eating crickets calls this magistrate out for a sexual sin many miles away on the Jordan River and Herod panics? What exactly got under Herod’s skin? Or better, what gets under Herodias‘ skin? The answer is that they secretly recognize John the Baptist as the mouthpiece of the one, true God they are running from.

As I wrote in a post called Mercy Killing of Consciences:
You see, if the final exterior agent of traditional Judeo-Christian belief (the Catholic Church) reflects the interior-but-objective, flickering, dying pilot light of your conscience that you’re trying to kill, then the Catholic Church is the one thing that is keeping your conscience alive…and you hate it. This is because long before rules were found in the catechism, they were found in your heart.

I know John the Baptist wasn’t a baptized Catholic, but killing John the Baptist was Herod trying to kill his own conscience, for Herod’s conscience was not created by Herod-himself in a relativistic way, but by God-Himself in an objective way.

That’s why Obama wants to stop the Little Sisters of the Poor in the HHS mandate .  That’s why a 50 year old man in a supermarket harasses a young mother of seven.  Both bullies know that that’s how they should have lived.  If  you think this is an exaggeration, then what other explanation would there be for them to go out of their way?  It has to be personal conviction of conscience at how others silently live their lives for God:

Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us, and opposes our actions…the very sight of him is a burden to us, because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange.”—Wisdom 2:12a, 15

I don’t know that supermarket stalker’s past, but statistically an American man of his age has already paid for one to two abortions, not to mention one or two dozen dead children from several decades of abortifacient-pills-induced sex.  I don’t know this guy’s conscience, heart or past, but I’m just saying statistically this is the truth for an American male of his age.  (Do the math if you want.)  Of course he’s going to feel convicted by a Catholic woman who lived the way he should have.  His conviction came out as sarcasm.  Herodias’ came out as murder.

There’s only one truth of how humans should live, and it’s entirely found in the Catholic Church, so we should probably stop apologizing so much.  Yes, it’s true that we Catholics lost a lot of credibility in the priest scandals of the past 50 years that destroyed so many lives, and for that we do need to keep apologizing.  But the Truth remains on walking billboards like my friend in the supermarket.  She and many others are heroes and white martyrs of marriage, like John the Baptist was a hero of marriage carrying his red martyrdom in the picture above.  They’re both formidable Marriage Defenders:  one married, and one celibate.

I wasn’t so clear on this at first.  Yesterday, I texted my friend back that I would have punched that a** in the face if I had been there in King Soopers.

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Later, I realized that creeping behind that broken old creeper’s sarcasm was probably a hunger and even sadness for the family he had contracepted away.  In the face of such brokenness and/or hostility (only God knows) it can still make us wonder how to act.  Here’s my suggestion: Catholics are not called to act like weird-o-cult people who act strange in order to appear holy.  But we are called to live normal, fun lives in a way that seeks Christ fully, especially in the Eucharist and in the daily Rosary.  Doing simply that may make others say of us:  “The very sight of him is a burden to us, because his manner of life is unlike that of others.”

Once we boldly but humbly accept the fact that our manner of life is unlike that of others, then it’s easy “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”—Titus 3:2-5

Mercy Killing of Consciences

sam woman

Today, many Catholics believe that “mercy” consists in remaining silent before someone’s sinful lifestyle, so as to let that individual’s gasping conscience, well, die in peace. I think this is the “mercy” that the media is begging the bishops to invoke over those who have fallen into gravely sinful lifestyles: Leave them alone, so they can go on living in peace.

And both parties’ consciences are alive.  barely.

Here’s my proof that America still has a conscience: The media does not attack Mormons or Muslims for jaw-dropping beliefs like the reception of a pile of women for every man in the afterlife (a strange overlap of Islam and Mormonism.) Why doesn’t the media attack such preposterous tenets of religion? Because it’s short-lived fun to mock ideas that are clearly irrational. I’ve never heard of Anderson Cooper mocking the idea of a planet in the afterlife for every Mormon man who gets his favorite sister-wives to keep him company in outer-space. It’s like disproving a child who is dreaming.

But no one is laughing at Catholics who speak out against gay “marriage.” Is this because we have been hateful?  No.  It’s because everyone’s conscience is made in God’s objective image and likeness. Intellectually there is a relativism invading the country, but in the hearts of everyone on earth, I believe this to be true: Relativism can not be incorporated into the human heart, especially the human heart seeking God. Relativism has not gained full ground of the conscience yet. The proof is the anger (which is unfortunately rebellion against their own conscience.) If opposition to same-sex marriage was ridiculous like Mormon planets or Muslim virgin-heavens, then no one would care about us backwater, slack-jawed Catholics or our so-called bigoted beliefs.

You see, if the final exterior agent of traditional Judeo-Christian belief (the Catholic Church) reflects the interior-but-objective, flickering, dying pilot light of your conscience that you’re trying to kill, then the Catholic Church is the one thing that is keeping your conscience alive…and you hate it. This is because long before rules were found in the catechism, they were found in your heart.

Fighting against Catholicism may appear to be fun on the blogs, but there’s always a sadness and anger that accompanies the wit. Why? Because fighting God is exhausting, and it brings out the venom. Ironically, the venom is a good sign that such a conscience is still alive.  If a sting of conscience is an embrace from God, and if conscience is objectively created, then we’re talking about a divine embrace that brings rebellion and fury (probably because of the clash of true conviction and false religious advice.)

We hide our fury behind words like “mercy.” Notice how many Catholics today offer suggestions for the Pope and bishops to make the teachings of the Church more “merciful.” Notice how these arguments (in regards to the inner-life of a man or woman’s conscience) are similar to the arguments for euthanasia: Let them die in peace. Essentially, we’re talking about the mercy-killing of the soul.

Even otherwise-orthodox theologians will say half-joking but fully- erroneous statements like: “Ignorance is the eighth sacrament that saves more than the other seven.” Ignorance never saved anybody.  Only Jesus Christ did.  But what they mean is that for a sin to be mortal, it must be done with full knowledge. While this is true, the hyper-emphasis on this single tenet of Catholic moral theology misses the enormous counter-weight: Moral knowledge does not have to be book knowledge.  The truth is that God stamps natural law on the soul at the moment of conception:

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.—Rom 1:19-20

Thus, many mortal sins are committed by people who don’t know Catholic theology.  I’ll stick to that shocking statement because in the above chapter, the Apostle Paul continues to explain that pagan tribes are still guilty before God for homosexual sins.  Why?  Because even before they hear of Christ, they know such sins are wrong by looking into their heart and outwards to creation.  Yes, God can surely forgive such sins in the confessional within a His heartbeat of His Divine Mercy, but let’s be clear:  You don’t have to be a Bible-reading-Catholic to know that you should not put a scissors into a baby’s head, or that you can not physically put a male-part into a male-part.

Thus, “ignorant” pagans still need a Savior. And He is mighty to save me and anyone else of grievous sins. You see, if ignorance of the Gospel were enough to save a person, then St. Francis Xavier never should have gone on hundreds of perilous journeys around the South Pacific and Indian Oceans to baptize hundreds of thousands.

I can already hear the objections: Does this mean that all non-Catholics go to hell?  Pope Pius IX gave the clearest answer in the 19th century:  “By Faith it is to be firmly held that outside the Apostolic Roman Church none can achieve salvation. This is the only ark of salvation. He who does not enter into it, will perish in the flood. Nevertheless equally certainly it is to be held that those who suffer from invincible ignorance of the true religion, are not, for this reason, guilty in the eyes of the Lord.”—Pope Pius IX (Ott 312, Denzinger 1647.)

Jansenists and liberals both make the exact same theological mistake: What is the least that I need to do to escape the wrath of God?

The above is a worthless question when we hear why Jesus Himself says He came to earth:  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.—John 3:17

Jesus came to save us, and He can be trusted more than the neo-con theologians who over-play the card about “full-knowlege and consent of the will.”  Legalistic exoneration is not mercy.  What is the definition of mercy?  Mercy is a heart given to the miserable. Even better, it is to bring the Sacred Heart of Jesus to the miserable, like me, and like every sinner. Literally, the etymology in all Romance languages of that word misericordia is this: giving (dia) the Heart of Christ (cor) to the miserable (miseri).

Perhaps our model of mercy for a time of sexual sin should be Jesus when He encounters the woman at the well who is herself in sexual sin:

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink,” for His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and Who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”—John 4:7-10

Although He knows her past, Jesus does not make her feel her shame. In fact, they begin a remarkably casual conversation on mudane things like buckets and wells and tribal chatter long before He gets to the difficult topic of her being divorced and re-married five times. By the time He gets there, she is so moved by His love that she changes her life.

So also, we need to be bold but tender with those whom we are evangelizing. Notice that Our Lord does not encounter her in a way that is self-righteous or even more nauseating: passive-aggressive-self-righteous. So also, we need to speak as gently as Jesus to any woman at the well. Christ speaks first as a friend—in things earthly, like thirst—before speaking of sin or worship. Our tenderness and sincerity may turn a great sinner into a great proponent of Christ and His Church:

Many Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman’s testimony.—John 4:39a

She knew that her ignorance did not save her anymore than darkness brings light. Only Jesus Christ is the light that every human heart desires (openly or secretly!) Ignorance is not “the eighth sacrament that saves more than all the rest.” Let’s stop this Catholic “mercy-killing” of consciences (as if any Westerner with the internet could claim invincible ignorance!) Since indifference is worse than hatred, then I propose that pretending like everyone is headed to heaven is the worst act of hatred we could enact in the lives of our family and friends.

This realization of the truth of the Gospel is not a carte blanche to be self-righteous.  We simply trust that every heart was made for Jesus Christ and His Church, not just those who are currently Catholic. But if you really can’t get the right words to share with a sinner, remember: Our Lady of Fatima was clear that God will do the heavy lifting if we but pray and sacrifice for souls. You gotta be doing at least one (evangelizing or sacrificing) if you as a Catholic have any love for anyone but yourself.  Complaining will not get you to heaven.  May we show them the Rescuer, the Deliverer, the One Who is mighty to save!