Is the Church a Thermometer or a Thermostat? A Biblical reply to those who prefer a trendy and compliant Church

041113-pope-1Is the Church a thermometer or a thermostat? In other words are we called merely to reflect the temperature (thermometer), or are we called to affect the temperature (thermostat)? Many are deeply confused as to the role of the Church in the modern world and think we ought simply to reflect the mores of current times, rather than to prophetically announce the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Yes, there are many who insist that the Church needs to “get with the times……Update her teachings….be more modern in her thinking, teachings and structures.” She needs to “Listen more to young people and speak their language and share their vision.”

Put more in a hostile way, the Church “needs to abandon her medieval ways, cease being hostile, judgmental, intolerant, bigoted, sexist, homophobic, hateful etc” (and the usual list of modern accusations that reflect more the accuser’s personal issues than the Church).

During the recent Papal Conclave the media had a field day interviewing various degrees and types of disaffected Catholics who all presented their wish list (or list of demands) of how the Church should change to be tenable and relevant to modernity and regain their “loyalty.” Most of the demands of course had to do with sex and power: that the Church should approve contraception and promote it, homosexual activity and same sex unions should get the thumbs up, divorce and remarriage should be approved, women and active gays ordained, priest should be bale to get married, abortion approved, euthanasia applauded, etc.

And somehow if the Church does all this, our parishes will be filled again and all will be right with the world.

Never mind that the Liberal (mainline) Protestants have tried all this for decades, approving whatever the people and the polls demanded, and with that approach their numbers have plummeted, far lower that any Catholic Parish. Never mind too that the only Protestant denominations that are growing at all are the more biblically conservative Evangelical Protestants who reject a good bit of the list of demands above.

But at the end of the day, the lists of demands above all show a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature and purpose of the Church. The Church does not exist to be a mere expression or manifestation of current popular or cultural views. The Catholic Church does not and cannot draw her inspiration from these, but rather must draw from the Word of God as it has been faithfully passed on for twenty centuries.

The Church does not exist to merely reflect and parrot the views of her parishioners, gleaned from polls and focus groups. She exists to reflect the views of her founder and head, Jesus Christ. And the Jesus referred to here is not some fake Jesus reinvented by moderns who use dubious and tortured methodologies to radically reinterpret Scripture so that it no longer “means” what it clearly says. Rather, we owe allegiance to the real Jesus, the Biblical Jesus. It is to Him that we look for Him that we speak. (More on that in another post).

But as for the Church, the cry goes up frequently in our culture today that the Church, and her clergy catechist other leaders should refrain From any sort of teaching or preaching that plainly characterizes immoral actions for the sins they are. Many, even among the clergy, insist on a “do no harm” mentality And any utterance which might even in the remotest possible way offend somebody, is strongly eschewed and denounced. Even directly quoting from the Scriptures, or the Catholic catechism, Is shamelessly denounced as hate speech. This is an egregious violation for those who only want the Church to be a thermometer.

And thus, the traditional “thermostatic” practice of the Church is to speak clearly about sin, but also to influence people to seek God’s offer of grace and mercy is largely scorned as “unloving,” even “hateful.”

The claim is made that since “God is love,” and Jesus loves everyone, therefore everything is somehow fine and any critique is somehow “unloving” and “un-Christ-like.”

In the biblical texts below, I hope to show forth that the consistent pastoral advice given in the Scriptures confirms the Church’s traditional approach. What follows is a kind of pastoral manual gleaned from the Scriptures.

I do not claim it to be complete, but have assembled these particular texts to affirm that God the Holy Spirit certainly expects the Church, and her clergy, as well as parents and other leaders to clearly and unambiguously address moral issues of the day. They also affirm that the goal of the Church is not simply to fit in, and, like a thermometer, reflect the values and wishes of the day. Rather, she is to thermostatically announce and seek to influence the world by speaking the ancient and tested wisdom that the Lord God himself has handed down through Biblical Tradition as well as Sacred Tradition. As such, this is an act of love, for it is good pastoral practice recommended by God the Holy Spirit Himself. The comments in Red are mine, and I admit some remarks are dripping with sarcastic irony as I play the role, in some of the remarks of an bemused or “outraged” interlocutor.

I. Some Old Testament admonitions to priests and prophets:

  • Malachi 2: 7For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth. 8But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble. In other words, the priest has as a primary task to preserve and pass on ancient wisdom rather than to merely rehash modern jargon and views. They are to be a messenger for the Lord, not for the latest cause or rage. I failing to do this he causes the downfall of many.
  • Isaiah 56: 10Israel’s watchmen are blind, they all lack knowledge; they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; they lie around and dream, they love to sleep….They are shepherds who lack understanding; they all turn to their own way. In other words, the priest, prophet, parent and leaders of the Church are not supposed to be dumb dogs. Dogs are supposed to bark to warn of trouble and also to scare off interlopers. Too many priests and Church leaders are silent, they are dumb dogs, they cannot bark. But they should! Those of the “do no harm” mentality fail follow the instruction to be a guard dog. Further they turn a blind eye to error and evil
  • Ezekiel 3: 17Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. 18When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. 19But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin; but you will have saved yourself. Here too the pastor, the shepherd, the leader is expect to warn sinners, not merely and gleefully affirm, tell jokes and avoid all offense.

II. That Jesus insisted that the Church take stands against sin and evil and not tolerate the presence of evil and error within her. Further that the Church must be willing to suffer on account of proclaiming the truth.

  • Matt 18:17 If they (the sinner) still refuse to listen (to fraternal correction), tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. Hence the Church ought to discipline some, in more serious matters with punitive measures, and even with excommunication. And this is not un-Christ-like for he himself said it.
  • Matt 5: 13You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 14“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. But salt and light affect the word around them, not merely reflect the world around them.
  • John 15:18 If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. Well if our job is to fit in, offend no one, do no harm and say nothing controversial, if our job is to merely reflect the culture and thoughts of the world, to be modern and up to date, then who is going to hate us? The text indicates that hatred from the world is NOT a sign we have necessarily done something wrong, but that we are in good company with Jesus and the martyrs. The thermometer Church cannot possibly fulfill this text.
  • Rev 2:4 (to Ephesus) 6But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. Oops, did Jesus say “hate” here? Didn’t he get the memo that we’re not suppose to hate anyone’s practices, but that we are supposed to affirm everyone, and not just every one, but every thing they do, since they identify themselves by what they do? Didn’t Jesus get the memo not to “judge”?
  • Rev 2:14 (to Pergamum) Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. 15Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. Wait a minute, is Jesus telling the Church that it is wrong to affirm sin? I thought we were not only to accept sinners, but also to affirm their practices. Here too, it seems that Jesus didn’t get the modernist memo. He even, kinda seems mad that the Church is tolerating evil!
  • Rev 2:20 (to Thyatira) 20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 21I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. 23I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. Uh oh! did Jesus just rebuke the Church for “tolerating” something? Doesn’t he know that the we’re supposed to tolerate everything and that we are just being hateful if we don’t. Man, Jesus is certainly unreformed.

III. Pastoral advice to Bishops, pastors, teachers, parents and other leaders in the Church:

  • 1 Thess 2:2We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition. 3For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. 4On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. 5You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. 6We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. 7Instead, we were like young children among you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, 8so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. Now wait a minute, what was St. Paul doing in Jail? Did he offend someone? Did he say something controversial or “hateful?” Note too his central point, that our aim is to please God, not man. Would that every preacher entered a pulpit with this motive and this courage. The thermometer Church will be up in arms, but the Lord will be pleased.
  • 2 Tim 4: 1In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
    But what if people are offended? Don’t you care, St. Paul? Didn’t you get the memo that you’re supposed to only preach the gospel when it is popular? What is this “out of season” stuff? Who talks about football in summer? Get with the times! And how dare you suggest that people might not “tolerate” the truth! It is only true Christians that intolerant. It is not possible for the modern open-minded person to be intolerant, only Bible-believing Catholics and certain Christians are intolerant. Get your terms right. Aren’t the people (except for traditional Christians) and the current times always right, and should not the message be adapted?
  • Titus 1:10 For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group. 11They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain…..Therefore rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith…16They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good. Wow talk about judgmental! Someone send St. Paul (and the Holy Spirit who wrote this) a memo and tell him that he might offend some one! This sort of talk certainly doesn’t fit the “kinder-gentler” vision of the Church either. Now, granted, in our current times, such plain characterization is less common, and should only be used judiciously.
  • 2 Tim 2:24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
  • 2 Cor 4:2-6By setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. Wow, you mean to say that if the modern world doesn’t “get” the message, doesn’t understand it, that the problem is them and not the message?! Once again St. Paul didn’t get the memo that the problem is ALWAYS the Church and NEVER the world. Note too that St. Paul claims to speak for Christ. Here too the world shudders and claims that privilege for itself over and against St. Paul. Note too that St. Paul sets the Word of God forth “Plainly” Whereas too many clergy over the years have preferred to speak in abstractions and generalities, and to be any thing but plain in speaking clearly to moral issues of the day.
  • 2 Cor 5:12 ff Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others.…13If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you…And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. If only St. Paul would parrot the world, and the evening news agenda, he would not be considered “out of his mind.” But since he insists on all the “repentance stuff” and “judges” us to need reconciliation, he is, ipso facto, out of his mind.
  • 1 Cor 4:9ff 9For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. 10We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! Well if only Paul and the Church would toe the line, everything would be just fine. Hmm…. If he’d just become a thermometer instead of a troubling and meddlesome thermostat, he would be honored. Once again, it looks like the early Church and the advice of Scripture does not square with modernist insistence on being populist.
  • Acts 20: 26Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. 27For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole counsel of God. 28Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.Note here that the Church has the task to proclaim the whole counsel, not just what is popular or safe.

IV. On the challenge to stay in the conversation and patiently exhort:

  • 2 Tim 2:24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. Hence we do not look for arguments, nor do we seek hate. We soberly admit it may well come our way, but we seek to stay in the conversation hoping at least to plant seeds.
  • Gal 6:1Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.So the operative word is gentle, and the disposition is humility. Clarity with Charity.

Allow these to suffice for now. But note clearly that the “do-no harm” and never offend, “any rebuke = hate” school of thought is pretty well set aside in the pastoral manual of Scripture. It looks like the Church actually IS supposed to speak to the sin of our times, summon to repentance and and offer God’s grace and mercy to actual sinners, who acknowledge themselves to be such. And, as the last scriptures also note, this work is to be done with patience and charity. But it IS to be done.

It’s old time religion, but more than that it is true.

27 Replies to “Is the Church a Thermometer or a Thermostat? A Biblical reply to those who prefer a trendy and compliant Church”

  1. We’ll be called extremists if we keep fighting gay marriage, so I say we go the whole nine yards: evangelize the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. Not by going against Church teaching on mixed Christian and inter-religious marriages, but by promoting her teachings on those matters and every matter concerning the Sacrament. Let’s not be afraid anymore to tell the world that Jesus taught the nature of marriage as it was naturally intended by the Creator of all natures, that Jesus wed the Church to Himself and Holy Matrimony is a sacred sign of Totus Christus, and that man seeks good, life is good, love is about seeking and doing good to others, man reproduces as a mammal, people who love (or even lust) have sex, sex is good and pleasurable and procreative (hence some use contraceptives), and so any evil that takes away the good of sex (lust, pride), the pleasure of sex (rape, abuse), or the procreativity of sex (contraceptives, gay sex) offends goodness, life, love, man, sex, pleasure, procreation, God and Christ, the Church and Holy Matrimony. Even the argument that contraceptives can be used to prevent HIV is turned on its head, since compassion implies love, science is coming close to a cure for HIV (for no evil can overcome God), and virgins (thanks to the grace of chastity) don’t need to fear giving or receiving HIV to one another: ergo, the real problem that causes HIV isn’t a lack of contraception but lust, and so, a lack of chastity, and so, a lack of love, which in turn means Holy Matrimony.

  2. thanks for all the biblical references.

    I don’t point out most of the typos, but the ones that really glare: ” turn a blond eye” – thought you might want to fix….

  3. Another good one is Matthew 5:13: You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt lose its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is good for nothing any more but to be cast out, and to be trodden on by men.

    What we see today is the reluctance to speak or defend God’s word, due to fear, apathy, and lack of conviction; as a result, we are also seeing a society that is in decay because not enough has been done by those who have been entrusted with the truth.

    Thank you for your words of exhortation!

    1. Catholics in the pews today do not have a good understanding of the faith and why we believe what we believe. No wonder there is such a reluctance to evangelize!

  4. You make a great point about dissent Catholics calling for reforms that have been tried (and have failed miserably) in the mainline Protestant denominations, Anglicanism jumps to mind as a great example. Even on a merely natural /human level why would Mother Church take the same road, a road which leads not to the promised increase in numbers, but in a catastrophic decline? No business would be expected to follow such obviously bad advice. Could we imagine McDonalds switching to all Vegan burgers, losing 90% of their customers and Burger King deciding it would a great way to increase their customer base by going vegan? It’s so dumb that one must conclude that those calling for such reforms don’t believe that allowing gay marriage or women priests would actually help the Church, but really just want the Church to be destroyed and are working on achieving that end from”the inside” as it were.

  5. I used to post comment as RichardC, but I noticed someone posting comments on a different blog as Richard C, so now I am posting as RichardGTC.

    To me ‘out of season’ means when confessing Jesus requires us to act against our own interests.

  6. The Church can never simply reflect the ambient culture because, from a practical point of view, the greatest threat always comes from “respectable” sins that can be coddled and protected by members of the local chamber of commerce. Two generations ago, it was possible to simultaneously be a member of the Ku Klux Klan and the chamber of commerce; today it is possible to be one or the other, but not both. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t real atrocities that can be supported while still being a “pillar of the community”; they certainly exist. They are celebrated by the “smart crowd”, and are the sort of thing that can be used to impress peers at fashionable cocktail parties.

  7. I recently posted this comment at another, shall we say more “progressive” Catholic website, with no response:

    “The modern tendency regarding the relationship between the Church and the world is problematic. We should be less inclined toward adapting the Church to the world, and its “culture,” and more inclined toward adapting the world to the Church, and to Christ. I realize that “adapting the world to the Church” will raise eyebrows, and that the Church/world, either-or dualism is a simplistic way of conveying what is, in reality, a complex relationship.

    However, we should not be principally focused on adapting the Church to the world; we should be focused on adapting the world to the Body of Christ. Liturgy is an essential way of accomplishing this, as is a more faithful grounding in Sacred Scripture. We must not be afraid to inspire people to transcend their present-day, cultural comfort zone.

    While it is easier to fill the pews when people are more “comfortable” – as the mega-Church phenomenon in Evangelicalism has clearly demonstrated – Christ calls us, individually and as a Church, in all that we think and do, to transcend our world and our reality, not to conform or to adapt to them. In our efforts to be effective in reaching out to people, we must not overly focus on adapting the Church to the world, lest, in connecting with people, we disconnect from God.

    This will strike some as an archaic way of thinking. But has the modern approach concerning the relationship of the Church and the world, seeking to make the Church more “relevant,” strengthened or weakened the effectiveness of the Gospel? Was Jesus attempting to adapt to the existing culture?”

  8. I think when Church leaders in the USA and Pastors do not consistently and publicly challenge those Catholics like Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden who very publicly and aggressively stand against the Church on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage, smiling all the while and saying that the Bishops and the Church are out of touch then there will continue to be division and confusion in the pews and outside the pews. Joe Biden goes around like old boy Joe talking sentimentally about his Catholic upbringing and his faith while standing behind, promoting and enforcing the mass murder of millions of human babies … and he is considered to be a Catholic in good standing with the Church and receive the Eucharist; Nancy Pelosi does the same and then says no Bishops has ever spoken to her about because the Bishops disagree, are not united…and so babies continue to be slaughtered…how can our faith attract people when it has been so watered down by our Cardinals and Bishops as to allow Catholics like Pelosi, Biden, Cuomo, Kerry et al to stand behind and support such mass killings of human babies and yet continue to be considered Catholics in good standing? And it’s simply not enough to say: “Well I’m against the slaughter but I don’t want to impose my beliefs on others.” If you are against mass murder, then don’t promote it so aggressively; just stand back and stay out of it. These people are accomplices in mass murder…no less than Hitler and his henchmen…(many of them were Catholic too, by the way.) I hope and pray that Pope Francis will speak clearly and strongly to our American hierarchy – and not through a letter as Pope Benedict did, sending the letter informing American Bishops that Catholics in Public Office who oppose the Church on grave issues like abortion and same sex marriage should not receive Communion to Cardinal McCarrick who hid the letter from the Bishops. Pope Francis has a lot of work ahead of him…so let’s pray for him and do our part as best we can…peace

    1. I like the expression Pope Francis has used: “eucharistic coherence” to describe why dissenters should not approach communion and be instructed to refrain.

    2. I was in St. Patrick’s Cathedral this past Palm Sunday with Cardinal Dolan as the celebrant. Joe Biden was there. It would have seemed churlish in the extreme for His Eminence to criticize Biden then and there, so, at the beginning of his homily, His Eminence simply publicly acknowledged Biden’s presence and welcomed him. His Eminence then carried on with the rest of his homily.

      Perhaps the best pastoral way to deal with this is for prelates to write to dissenting public office holders and ask them to voluntarily refrain from Communion. If that doesn’t work, perhaps they should arrange for private face to face meetings to explain the necessity of refraining from Communion. Any thoughts?

      1. Yes, there are so many layers to the problem. I really think the first thing is to approach the Pols and other highly public dissenters privately and teach them why they should not come to communion. Even more, especially as regards abortion, I think that if they have promoted abortion, and even more, voted to have them funded, that such individuals should not only stay away from communion but also be personally, privately, and clearly warned that they are probably going to go to hell unless they repent. Thus private approach MUST take place. I am not always sure it has, but don’t simply presume it has not. I also think that public showdowns at the communion station are to be avoided, and could be, for the most part if the conversations take place.

        But another layer of the problem is the problem of subsidiarity. Cardinal Dolan should not really have to face these sorts of moments at the Cathedral at a large feast (Palm Sunday). Who is Joe Biden’s Pastor? Who is his local bishop, if he doesn’t have a steady parish? Frankly, this is the first level wherein such correction and admonishment should happen. Why does Joseph Biden think he can freely and almost glibly walk on up for communion in a large celebration. So there are a lot of issues with subsidiarity.

        That said, I DO understand the confusion and heartache of many with the public demeanor of the good Cardinal. He tends to be quite jovial and was apparently in this mode with Mr. Biden, I am also told Mr Biden was at breakfast in the rectory later. I think to some extent we have to accept that Cardinal Dolan is that way with EVERYONE. He is a connector and some over interpret that to mean he is approving of everything. Since he is a very public figure, I think he has become a lightening rod for some. One may wish for a very public denunciation of Mr Biden et al. but this is a prudential judgement and I often try to remember that I am not the Cardinal Archbishop of New York and that there is probably a very good reason that I am not. Perhaps too, other critics ma also want to factor a similar reflection along those lines of humility.

        But again I ask, Why is the Cardinal Archbishop of New York City having to deal with this mess on a Palm Sunday. Mr. Biden lives in Delaware, and theoretically has a pastor, and surely a more local Bishop. I wonder too as to their responsibility in this mess. Here in DC Kathleen Sibelius knows not to come to communion, not because Cardinal Wuerl said that, but because her own bishop (and I suppose her pastor) has instructed her. I think this appropriate. In DC, given our situation, Cardinal Wuerl would have to have a whole division of Canon Lawyers and priests to examine each case and make rulings. I think he rightly resists being reduced to a police officer and properly expects these things to be handled more locally.

        1. Thank you for your detailed comments, Monsignor.

          I’m certainly not one of those who is alarmed by Cardinal Dolan’s demeanor and I also do not fault him for his handling of Biden’s presence at Palm Sunday Mass. I think Dolan’s a breath of fresh air, but I can also see why he rubs some conservatives the wrong way. He’s the polar opposite of the conservatives’ hero, Cardinal Burke. [It’s hard to believe that two American Cardinals from the Midwest, both in their early sixties, could be so different!]

          You raise an important issue as to how Biden’s Wilmington diocese is handling this. I don’t know who Biden’s pastor is. The Bishop of Wilmington is Francis Malooly. Here is an interesting article from Lifesitenews over four years ago. It quotes Malooly as having said “I won’t politicize the Eucharist”:

          Instead, Bishop Malooly wrote an op-ed piece in the local paper directly criticizing Biden’s position on abortion:

        2. “Why does Joseph Biden think he can freely and almost glibly walk on up for communion in a large celebration.” Because it will put the celebrant into a bind, not wanting to publicly call out the Veep.

          It forces the celebrant to either: A) very publicly violate Catholic law by giving communion to the scandalous sinner, or, B) Become headline fodder for the Ministry of Propaganda as a “big, mean, bigot” if he withholds the sacrament. Kobayashi Maru situation.

          You don’t get to the position of Vice-President of the USA by being nice.

  9. It suddenly occurred to me the other day that I could get in trouble for reading this blog. I truly appreciate your strong teaching, and I try to read daily, sometimes that is on my lunch hour at work. However, my work computer is carefully monitored, and if some of the liberal folks in my company found out that I was reading it, the site could be banned and I could be reprimanded. I was shocked at the thought, but as the climate becomes more and more opposed to church teachings, it is a certainty that companies will start blocking blogs like this one. Now they have no control of what I read at home, but how long before the big providers start to censor these sites. I think of Sts. Perpetua and Felicity, and I wonder how long before Catholics are persecuted because of their beliefs. Could we be denied certain jobs because of our faith, what about being allowed to adopt children or being elected to public office? It is insipid. I wonder if some day soon, I’ll be hiding a priest in my closet so we can have Mass. I have no doubt that the church will survive, but I think we may be facing some very difficult times.

    1. R,

      You are lucky you can read this blog at work. Where I work, any website that promotes religion is blocked. The American atheists, the humanists, freedom from religion are allowed and promoted.
      Today, if you admit you are a practicing Catholic, most multinational mega-companies will not hire you. Defense contractors will not hire anybody who has a history of pro-life or anti-homosexuality. Abortion on demand and gay power are “diversity points” in today’s DoD. Toe the line or go to the (Catholic) soup kitchen line.

      So, to answer your question, yes. Persecution has started, and that metaphorically snowball is only going to gain momentum.

      To my boss, we petition:

      Sancte Michael Archangele,
      defende nos in proelio;
      contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli esto praesidium.
      Imperet illi Deus, supplices deprecamur:
      tuque, Princeps militiae Caelestis,
      satanam aliosque spiritus malignos,
      qui ad perditionem animarum pervagantur in mundo,
      divina virtute in infernum detrude.

  10. I really like this metaphor of thermometer and thermostat. It is a simple and understandable image that can help to quickly get to the point when talking with others ( not to mention keeping it in my own mind ).

    When I came across the biblical references for Matt 5:15-16 in this article an additional metaphor came to my mind, which I think I like as well. We can either be a Mirror (to reflect the darkness) or we can be a Lamp. Similar truths could be expressed and shared using this metaphor pair as well.

    Thanks for your article.

  11. Monsignor,

    If I might also observe, it appears to me that many people fall into the trap of thinking that the Church must be a thermometer and bow to the fashions of the times is a fallacy that runs very roughly as follows:

    God is love
    The behavior that I espouse is either an expression of love, or it is loving
    Because the behavior is an expression of love or it is loving, it is from God
    Therefore, God approves of this behavior

  12. St. Paul said:

    It is widely reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of a kind not found even among pagans—a man living with his father’s wife. And you are inflated with pride. Should you not rather have been sorrowful? The one who did this deed should be expelled from your midst. I, for my part, although absent in body but present in spirit, have already, as if present, pronounced judgment on the one who has committed this deed, in the name of [our] Lord Jesus: when you have gathered together and I am with you in spirit with the power of the Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan* for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

    Your boasting is not appropriate. Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough? Clear out the old yeast, so that you may become a fresh batch of dough, inasmuch as you are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

    I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people, not at all referring to the immoral of this world or the greedy and robbers or idolaters; for you would then have to leave the world. But I now write to you not to associate with anyone named a brother, if he is immoral, greedy, an idolater, a slanderer, a drunkard, or a robber, not even to eat with such a person. For why should I be judging outsiders? Is it not your business to judge those within? God will judge those outside. “Purge the evil person from your midst.”

    1 Cor, Chp.5.

    We just don’t seem to do that. We look the other way because there is far too much “judge not” mentality.

  13. Msgr. Pope –

    It is easy to say that the bishop or pastor should “do something” about the person who brings scandal upon the Church. But what have I done about it? Absolutely nothing other than to whine and gripe. And why is it not my responsibility, as a member of the Church, as well? Perhaps it is because the clergy actually have the authority to act for the Church by withholding communion? Or perhaps there is a sense that this as a “pastoral” responsibility? But, Paul’s letter is addressed to the entire Church at Corinth, including the laity. Nevertheless, it is very clear in my parish that the “all are welcome” mentality prevails. Openly suggesting that a notorious sinner – should be “driven from our midst” would not go over very well.

  14. Amen I say to you brothers and sisters, go into the street and speak in his name, speak of the wonders of our SAVIOR and LORD JESUS CHRIST. He has risen and is seated at the right hand of GOD, our Almighty Father from thence he shall come to JUDGE the LIVING and the DEAD.

    Jesus called his disciples to go in among the people and bring his words of redemption and salvation through Forgiving sin as well as being FORGIVEN for our sins. He calls all of us to EVANGELIZE in the street. Why oh Why God has this truth been so hard for we Catholics to grasp, we are hear to give you thanks and praise for the LOVE you bestow upon us,

    I ask oh MIGHTY GOD that you give your people the COURAGE to fill the streets spreading your GOOD NAME and the wonders you do.

    Why God do we not proclaim your name on HIGH, for you gave us your ONLY son, the LAMB of GOD, for your LOVE for us, so we would be free of SIN. Why God do we not rejoice in the street and bring the message of SALVATION to our brothers and sisters, from the lowest too the highest, from the richest too the poorest, from the strongest too the weakest, from the boldest to the meekest.

    I ask this in your name JESUS CHRIST. AMEN

    So why do not you join MSGR. POPE and myself on the “Spreading the Good Word Salvation Train” and feel the Bright light of the East fill your HEART and his warmth on your cheek.
    It is a great time to be ALIVE.

  15. All good stuff, Mons. Pope. What I find interesting (dare I say amusing) is that the only Catholics who are reproved, rebuked, or armtwisted by far too many of our American bishops and priests are the faithful ones who not going anywhere. What do we hear these bishops speak about interminably? Legislative matters. The kind that are the province of the prudential judgment of the laity. We’re given to believe that an essential aspect of our Catholic faith is to to call or write our legislators about “comprehensive immigration reform,” gun control (apparently the newly discovered pro-life issue of our time), and the not-to-be-questioned growth of the welfare state. And if, while bearing in mind all the admonitions of magisterium, anyone were to maintain that capital punishment is not among the non-negotiable life issues, there would be shrieking and accusations of heterodoxy and infidelity to Church teaching. I’m not saying that the politically conservative approaches to above issues are unquestionably correct. What I am saying is that not toeing the line on these prudential matters is viewed as worse than having some reservations about non-negotiable moral doctrine. This is something that really needs sorting out and correcting for the sake of the Church’s credibility and authority.

  16. Dear Monsignor,
    This unveiled sober truth is what d church needs @ dis hour of ‘confusion’ of world leaders, legislating sin into laws.
    Maria! Mater Ecclesia, ora pro nobis.

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