Latest News – From the Self-Inflicted Wounds Department

I almost think I need to establish a new series on this blog: the “Self-inflicted Wounds Department.” This latest issue of Gloria TV news once again demonstrates how we as Catholics frequently do not see eye to eye on matters of great significance and thereby become an ineffective witness to the world. The lack of a united front, the lack of consensus on how to interact with a world increasingly at odds with us  has become a crucial issue that impacts our ability to be coherent to the world. It amounts to a self-inflicted wound.

For example on the issue of Abortion, the Catholic teaching is clear. But we seem to have little consensus on how to speak to  the world that prefers euphemisms such as “choice” and “reproductive freedom” and “privacy” to the simple and clear truth that abortion is the killing of children in the womb. Now take this item from the news today:

According to the editor-in-chief of the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, US-President Barack Obama in his pre-presidential voting record may have “made decisions that certainly cannot be defined as pro-life,” but this does not make him “pro-abortion.” “He was, rather, pro-choice,” Gian Maria Vian claimed in an interview for the National Review Online. The interview came after a series of articles in L’Osservatore praising Obama and soft-pedalling the opposition of the US bishops. The articles have been heavily criticized by pro-life leaders.

Now mind you, this is not merely an average Catholic speaking, this is the Editor in Chief of the Vatican’s own newspaper, a paper that, theoretically speaks for the Vatican and represents its views. Now I don’t actually think this is the view of the Vatican but Mr. Vian cannot simply be ignored. Further he was commenting on a series of articles in L’Osservatore Romano which all raised problems for pro-life Catholics. If the Editor in Chief of the Vatican’s own newspaper seems ambiguous about our President’s stand on Abortion, and if it’s editor uses the euphemistic language of the pro-abortion movement, where do we stand? I cannot begin to understand his motivation since I do not understand European politics. But as a casual observer of European thinking (filtered through our own media) it seems that Europe is quite fond of President Obama. He has taken positions they strongly support on a whole range of other issues (war in Iraq etc.) and thus they are disposed to find ways of overlooking the fact that he is perhaps the most pro-abortion president we have ever had. He even refused to support the “born alive infant act” and limits on partial birth abortion. There are many reasons for Catholics, both Americans and Europeans,  to like and support President Obama, but Abortion is not one of them. And speaking in the language of our pro-abortion opponents and using their own euphemisms is a self-inflicted wound. We need to work more carefully to develop coherent and consistent ways of speaking and acting so that we communicate our teaching clearly.

A second issue on this same video involves a Madonna Concert in Poland on August 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption. While this issue is far less serious than the one above, it also illustrates how Catholics are seen as quite divided by the world. Many Catholics there have protested the concert of Madonna, who has quite a record of anti-Catholic antics. But a Jesuit priest is quoted in the media as flippantly remarking that August 15 seems to be a fine day for a concert. Enter this too into the “Self-inflicted wounds Department of this blog.” (Sigh)

Here then is the latest news:

3 Replies to “Latest News – From the Self-Inflicted Wounds Department”

  1. I am at a loss for words. If I pondered on all these self-inflicted wounds, I would be in prayer all day. Thank God we have cloistered communities.

  2. I agree wholeheartedly, but am not surprised – as long as the likes of Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden and others are still allowed to approach the communion rail at mass if they so choose. This is far worse than what you’ve described above, and is the primary reason why there is no consensus on the Life issue in America; this and the lack of coherent election leadership from our Bishops to ensure all Catholics (at least those attending mass on Sunday), understand that abortion is a pre-eminent issue and stands alone among other desirable things. As long as the Bishops as a group are unable to teach with a single voice they abdicate their leadership to the media.

    1. Yes, I understand your comment. However I don’t know if we should always assume that no Bishop has advised them (pro-abortion Catholic politicians) to refrain from communion. I as a pastor have sometimes had to advise a parishioner that they should refrain from communion only to discover that they still receive elsewhere. Perhaps they are in an invalid marriage or are cohabiting or some such thing. But I have done my duty and cannot keep them away if they simply refuse to listen and go elsewhere. Thus it is possible that many of these Pols have been advised and simply refuse to listen. Many of the Bishops DO think that politicians who vote to fund abortions should not approach the altar but prefer to advise them privately of their status as excluded. (I often wonder what the Pope said to Mrs. Pelosi). But in the end you are right that the Bishops are perceived as divided on this matter by the general populace. I know that many of them struggle over singling out the issue of abortion in relation to communion and are concerned that their actions, though right, would be perceived as merely political.

      What to do? My own thought is that a general teaching on receiving Communion worthily is the way to go. Rather than only focus on one issue, abortion, we should give a systematic teaching on the worthy reception of communion. We are surely taught beginning with the scriptures that we must examine ourselves before receiving (e.g. 1 Cor 11:27 ff) and that if we receive unworthily we sin against the body of the Lord and bring condemnation upon ourselves (Ibid). Now there are many things that can exclude us from communion. Any number of mortal sins. I suppose that first we have to reintroduce people to what is meant by mortal sin and that it is far more a frequent thing than most moderns usually assume. If one has fornicated, or is living together outside of marriage they commit mortal sin. If one misses mass without a serious reason they commit mortal sin. It is also possible to sin gravely by a refusal to forgive (cf Matt 6:14), or by refusing the legitimate care of the poor (cf Matt 25:40-41; Luke 16:19ff). While not every lie is mortal it is possible to tell lies that gravely harm another’s reputation or lies that deprive others of essential knowledge, thus such lies can be mortal. Tempting or leading others to commit sin can become mortal in matters of serious sin where we intend to cause them to fall. Driving recklessly or endangering the lives of others can be mortal…..and so forth. And obviously funding, promoting, or in any way procuring abortion is also gravely sinful, mortal sin, and one can easily argue that pro-abortion politicians participate in funding them and promoting the legal protection of same. Bit NOW you see we are discussing this topic not in a singular sense but as integrated into the whole of Catholic teaching. It would be less easy to argue that we are simply singling out abortion. The fact is this is part of the whole teaching that goes back to scripture itself. Further we need to teach that we are not being unkind in what we do. In 1 Cor 11 Paul makes it clear that the unworthy reception of communion, far from bringing blessing, is bringing condemnation. It is an act of charity to teach the true and warn the sinner. MOST Catholics need to get to confession A LOT more than they currently do. Many should refrain from communion for lots of reasons until they get to confession and can receive absolution. Hence, while I agree with your basic concern, I guess I am saying that we need to go a lot deeper and broader in addressing the issue. I suspect you agree with what I just said but just thought ‘d add in this reflection. I have heard some Bishops express concern that simply denying communion to some public sinners without any catechesis or a broader understanding of how the denial fits into a wider vision might be imprudent. So then the next step becomes doing the catechesis and summoning every one to worthy reception.

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