There’s no need to get all worked up over this “gay marriage” thing. Fr. Robert Barron has it all figured out: “We’ve been here before.”
According to Fr. Barron, writing in an article recently published on the Word on Fire blog, Roman Pontiffs like Pius VI, Pius VII, and Gregory VII all had their run-ins with rogue States and assorted godless rulers.
Indeed, he reminds us, the Catholic Church has been opposed in some form or fashion in every age, and hey, we’re still kicking!
Fr. Barron does concede, however, that this historical perspective may be lost on those of us living in the United States for good reason:
One reason that this [recent Supreme Court ruling] has been rather shocking to American Catholics is that we have had, at least for the last century or so, a fairly benign relationship with the environing culture. Until around 1970, there was, throughout the society and across religious boundaries, a broad moral consensus in our country, especially in regard to sexual and family matters. This is one reason why, in the 1950’s, Archbishop Fulton Sheen could find such a wide and appreciative audience among Protestants and Jews, even as he laid out fundamentally Catholic perspectives on morality. But now that consensus has largely been shattered, and the Church finds itself opposed…
Please allow me to shift the focus back to where it belongs in this matter; namely, away from the culture at large and back on Christ the King and His Holy Catholic Church.
It is true, as Fr. Barron suggests, that the moral fiber of America’s citizens prior to the 196o’s was much stronger than it is today.
So what changed?
As Fr. Barron sees it, the “environing culture” changed, and it did so in such way as to render what was once the “broad moral consensus in regard to sexual and family matters,” little more than a minority opinion.
All of this is true enough, but the question that Fr. Barron and other neo-conservative Catholic commentators don’t dare to ask is this; what exactly facilitated that change?
The answer, of course, is Vatican Council II, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Though they may not have the self-awareness to articulate it in such terms, the view that is held by the Fr. Barrons of the world is such that the culture is considered the protagonist that autonomously determines the Church’s lot in any given age.
Fr. Barron makes this rather clear when he says, “We [Catholics] have had, at least for the last century or so, a fairly benign relationship with the environing culture … but now that consensus has largely been shattered, and the Church finds itself opposed.”
It appears obvious that Fr. Barron is resigned to the notion that the culture will do what the culture will do, and as the ebb and flow of history would have it, the culture in which we currently live (i.e., the preponderance of “We the People”) has chosen to abandon previously accepted moral principles.
This is a fundamentally American mindset wherein it is simply a given that the majority rules.
In this scenario, the Church is then left with no other choice than to carry on in the face of the culture’s whims; presumably in the hope that it will one day, for God only knows what reason, choose to re-embrace, just as inexplicably, the moral precepts that it currently holds in contempt.
This is what leads Fr. Barron to conclude his article saying:
So what do we do? We continue to put forth our point of view winsomely, invitingly, and non-violently, loving our opponents and reaching out to those with whom we disagree. As St. John Paul II said, the Church always proposes, never imposes. And we take a deep breath, preparing for what could be some aggression from the secular society, but we take courage from a great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us. The Church has faced this sort of thing before—and we’re still standing.
While countless well-meaning victims of the post-conciliar crisis are busily applauding Fr. Barron’s article as a moment of much needed perspective; for those of us who, by the grace of God alone, still possess sensus Catholicus, the deficiencies contained in Fr. Barron’s conclusions are rather obvious.
First of all, the Church was not established to put forth “points of view,” winsomely or otherwise; rather, she was commissioned by Our Lord, He to whom “all authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given,” to baptize the nations, teaching them everything whatsoever that He commanded.
In other words, the Church was given the Divine Commission to go forth, on the authority of the King, to Christianize every culture in every nation of the world.
Secondly, the saying attributed to Pope John Paul II above is not even worthy of being called a half-truth; it is more appropriately considered an outright falsehood.
While it is true that the Church does not impose in the sense of forcing individuals to believe that which must be freely accepted in faith, she most certainly does insist on the truths that have been entrusted to her.
As such, it simply isn’t the case that the Church “always proposes,” any more than a responsible parent would simply “propose” to their teen aged child that heroine is dangerous.
It is precisely because our churchmen of the last fifty-plus years have abandoned their mission to baptize and to teach the nations with authority; choosing instead to present Catholic doctrine as if it is little more than an “invitation” worthy of consideration, that the “environing culture” has managed to change so drastically in so short a time.
Prior to the Council, the popes, and the bishops in union with him, did not shy away from making it known that the immutable truths that come to mankind through the Holy Catholic Church are truly nothing less than the Royal Commandments of Christ the King; He who reigns over individuals, societies and States, Catholic or otherwise.
It was in this environment, even in a nation the affairs of which are ordered on a Constitution that extends no more rights to Jesus Christ than to the Dalai Lama, that “Archbishop Fulton Sheen could find such a wide and appreciative audience” even among non-Christians.
Back then, it was widely known by Catholics and non-Catholics alike that the pluralistic U.S. Constitutional model of religious freedom just described is irreconcilable with the Church’s understanding of her mission and the rights of her Divine Founder; her steady confidence in her singular identity, even in the face of every threat, made it plain.
The current environment, by contrast, is one in which our very own churchmen, under the influence of Dignitatis Humanae, the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Religious Freedom, wouldn’t dare to assert any special rights or privileges as belonging exclusively to Jesus Christ, much less His Holy Catholic Church.
For example, Bishop William E. Lori, Chairman of the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, when questioned by a reporter said:
When we speak about religious freedom as the first of the freedoms, it’s not to aggrandize the Church, but to uphold the first line of defense for the dignity of the human person.
Oh yes, God forbid our churchmen should behave as if Jesus Christ really is the King of kings, His teachings non-negotiable, and His Church “eminently independent and above all others” (cf Pope Leo XIII, Officio Sanctissimo).
At this, the lesson should be coming into sharper focus: The old maxim is entirely true; as goes the Church, so goes the world.
In other words, the Church is the ultimate protagonist in the relationship between herself and the broader culture; not the other way around as the Fr. Barrons of the world would have it.
With this in mind, one understands that it is not so much the case that previously accepted moral principles have been rejected by a culture that, for no apparent reason, just so happened to go astray. Rather, it is most certainly the case that the leaders of the Church over the last half-century have failed in their obligation to form the culture in the ways of Christ according to the mission that He gave to them.
They did this, in part, by leaving the fundamentally important truth that the Holy Catholic Church teaches with the authority of Almighty God, in the Person of Christ the King, practically unspoken.
In the process, those ordained to speak in His name set the stage for what we are experiencing at this very moment.
You see, the culture at large, comprised as it is of individuals wounded by original sin, saddled with concupiscence, and ever in desperate need of the guidance of a Holy Mother who is not afraid to insist, was left all but orphaned, and so it easily fell prey to wiles of the Evil One who led many to mistake license for liberty and to embrace sin in the name of mercy.
This is how the United States, and the world, so quickly descended into the moral depravity that was enshrined into law in the United States by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v Hodges.
The solution to this terrible state of affairs is simple:
Our churchmen need to recover, and in short order, the wherewithal to proclaim the Social Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ once more and return to the mission of Christianizing the entire world.