Appeared in Vol. XIV, No. 1 Download PDF here
There appears to be a growing awareness that the contemporary world situation has presented to the Church a golden opportunity to offer the truth of Christ, as witnessed by such books as Richard John Neuhaus’ The Catholic Moment One particular area in which this is manifestly true is the Church’s teaching concerning marriage and the family. Msgr. Kelly’s fine essay was initially presented as the keynote address at the Convention of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars in Los Angeles. It clearly sets forth the timeliness and wisdom of the Church’s teaching in this vital area.
The State of the Question
The intended object of this paper is the message of the Catholic Church to U.S. citizens of the 21st century concerning marriage and family life. But there is a problem in so doing. A survey of 50 experienced family life experts brought the almost universal counsel that the Church’s teaching first must be reintroduced to the Catholic community, which, given its present state of opinion, is in no position to preach to others. A recent study by George Gallup and Jim Castelli concluded that the Catholic Church “has lost much of its credibility on everything related to sex.”1 An official of Planned Parenthood, during the push to foist condoms on public school children in the hope of combating AIDS, was no less blunt. Joan Coombs simply declared the Church hierarchy “doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the reality of Catholic lives.”2 These reports should not surprise us since academics as disparate as Richard McCormick, Andrew Greeley, John Tracy Ellis, and Roland Murphy have been hard at work for years liberating the faithful from the Church’s sexual norms, which have been part of the Catholic tradition these two thousand years and whose observance is related to the salvation Christ promised to those who kept his word. The pressing question is: Why is there not more indignation in the right places over repeated statements by prominent figures that Church teaching on marriage is irrelevant?
Twenty years ago Catholic academics hoped to solve all sorts of human problems by legitimizing the use of contraceptives. Contraception, we were told, would enrich and solidify marriages, diffuse tensions within marriage, delimit the growing reliance on abortion and help solve the population problems of the poor. Instead, as we know, our Catholic people are not notably happier, our divorce and abortion rates approximate those of the U.S. at large, and we have acquired in the meantime a surfeit of overcopulation among our young without benefit of marriage. A 1985 Gallup poll indicated that Catholics are now more tolerant of premarital sex than Protestants.3 These developments have occurred with surprising serenity within the Church, considering the fact that we are dealing with sins that few people confess anymore and about which there is a grand silence among the Catholic clergy.
Let us place these issues where they belong, or should belong, for those who profess the Catholic faith. John Paul II (July 18, 1984) says that the roots of the Church’s sexual morality are in the deposit of faith itself. Even the doctrine on contraception, so often scoffed at today by important clerics, is part of the “moral order revealed by God.”4 Three years after that 1984 statement, the Pope continued to insist that the Church’s teaching on contraception was not a matter of free discussion among theologians. He scored their “leading the moral conscience of spouses into error.”5 A fortiori, the divine displeasure with fornication, self-abuse, divorce, adultery and homosexual lust must remain a matter of moral concern for faithful Christians, especially for those who have been appointed to preach and teach in Christ’s name.
Apart from divine displeasure, there are human questions. The justification for the Catholic sexual revolution has been reduced to the much abused word “compassion” in favor of reducing feelings of guilt among those who engage in illicit sexual practices, for wives overburdened with too many children, for husbands denied their marital rights by puritanical or dictatorial spouses, for children reared in combative homes which allegedly are caused by sexual tension, for families groveling in poverty because of too many children, and so forth. Sociologists and psychologists were called upon by theologians after 1965 to “prove” the damaging effect of the Catholic sexual ethos on human lives.6 But twenty years later and liberated though Catholics seem to be, dissenting theologians do not speak much about the growing social concern over the results of liberation: broken homes, children without mothers, children without fathers, children with illegitimate children of their own, mothers without husbands, surrogate mothers, test tube babies, slaughtered fetuses, men who want sex without marriage, women who want sex without motherhood, and a generation of young, including Catholics, taught not to frustrate their sexual impulses but live fully but safely, i.e., with condoms.
We also face what one politician called “the spread of filth campaign”-pornography, pimps, dirty movies, pederasts, peep shows, massage parlors, violence and dope pushers. And, of course, the growing rates of syphilis and now of deadly AIDS, a direct result of unnatural sexual activity, mostly among men. As these problems reach alarming proportions, popular revulsion against the libertinism, the voyeurism, or simply the anti-social excesses has not been translated into public outcry for sexual sanity, or for marital responsibility, or for the normalization of family life. Increasingly, the facts indicate that Catholics are following the practice of family life as it exists in the U.S., not the expectations of Christ in the Church.
From the Beginning
The point to be made here, I suppose, is that whatever the social situation, Mother Church must preach in and out of season God’s word on marriage and family life even if unbelievers or not-so-faithful Catholics turn a deaf ear to its significance. Every culture makes what John Paul II calls “the human compromise” with God’s ordained statutes concerning marriage. Usually the compromise levels off at the lowest common denominator of prevailing mores. Historically, Jewish prophets, then Christ, now the Church time and time again faced the hardness of people’s hearts and their proclivity for lust, even for unnatural pleasures. Periodically, God’s word on the subject did receive respectful hearing simply because sexuality’s proper use was as vital to man’s human development as it was to his eternal salvation. Church cynics and sybarites attribute the Catholic tradition to the worst features of Stoicism, Manicheism, Jansenism, and Puritanism. There is little the Church can do about distortion and misuse of the Christian code of sexual morals except to continue restating its own doctrine. The fundamental Christian world view sees sexuality as God-made and God-designed. Men and women, therefore, are to live their sexual lives in conformity to the nature of marriage as God intended it to be. Deny this proposition and Judaeo-Christian conversation about sex and marriage is almost impossible. In his two conversations with the
Pharisees on the indissolubility of marriage, for example, Christ appealed to the way it was intended to be “from the beginning.”‘ Even his disciples, taken back by his bald statement against divorce, thought that it might not be advisable to marry under those circumstances. Christ was not intimidated in the least by their reservations.
Whatever else is to be said about the Christian teaching on marriage or sex, therefore, must begin with Genesis (Ch. 2) and its reaffirmation by Christ himself. Who more authoritatively than Christ spoke of “two in one flesh” (i.e., monogamy), “what God has joined together let no one put asunder” (i.e., indissolubility), marrying another man’s wife as adultery, lusting as adultery of the heart, the sinfulness of killing but of evil thoughts too (Mt 5). Where did St. Paul obtain the idea but from Christ that sexual immorality is antithetical to the demands of Christ’s kingdom, whether it take the form of fornication, adultery, or homosexuality. Why did the early Church demand public penance lasting a lifetime for adultery and abortion, save that these were understood to be grave offenses against Christ’s own norms for Christian behavior. In those first centuries masturbation, contraception, sterilization, pederasty, and copulation with animals came under a similar censure. We speak, therefore, not of human traditions originating with unenlightened or ignorant people (a description that hardly fits the NT authors), but what God had deigned and joined from the beginning and for no man to deny or sunder.
If these reminders represent the negative side of God’s word, they merely draw dramatic attention to his positive teachings on marriage and family life. Adultery is a grave offense against marriage because it contravenes the “till death do us part” commitment which marriage entails. In today’s anti-family American environment, such long-term or irreversible commitments are counterculture. Yet if young couples on their wedding day do not believe in the bone of their bones that indissolubility is what Catholic marriage involves, they are in peril. Our parents knew this truth with their mothers’ milk, but their grandchildren are not so sure, even after sixteen years of Catholic education. They are uncertain because many priests and religious have lost confidence in the human benefit of eternal promises.
Fr. Francis Canavan, S.J., capsulates the reason for the modern crisis in two sentences:
One of the problems facing the American family today is a crisis of confidence, a loss of faith even on the part of parents themselves in the value of what they are doing. Women in particular are subject to an incessant barrage of propaganda telling them that they are sacrificing their very personalities by bearing and raising children.
He adds the advisory that the very idea of family is now suspect as a result of the psychological difficulty of committing oneself to marriage or parenthood.8
So, we may have to begin all over again, as John Paul II once reminded an audience, to reintroduce the world, and Catholics too, to the truth and the value of Christian marriage. This is what Paul VI tried to do with Humanae Vitae (1968) without much success. John Paul II attempted the same with Familiaris Consortio (1981), only to have his classic Catholic remarks scorned and turned aside in Washington DC, by prominent and so-called Catholic family leaders.9
The Christian Family: Nature and Mission
The distinctive note of Christian marriage is that it comes from God. It is not a human invention, but a postulate of God’s created order. God calls his creatures to do many things, but the vocation to the married state is one of the most exalted. Why? Because marriage is a sharing not only in God’s life but in his love, and in his creative power. A man and a woman married are called upon to manifest God’s love by loving each other, the overflow of which results in the gift of God’s life to others which once God gave to them. We tend today to speak of marriage in the language of the social sciences; yet the language of the Bible and of the Church is entirely different, more meaningful and more true to newlyweds’ expectations and especially to those whose faith has taught them to look upon marriage as a sacred vocation, i.e., one with a divine mission. Men and women of true faith understand their relationship as ordained by God to the service of spouse, of children, and of society, not as a cohabitation absorbed in self-satisfaction or the mutual pursuit of riches or power. They see their marriage bed as a consecrated center of true Christian love, not a playground for egotistical pleasure seeking. Their home becomes “a little Church” dedicated to building up the mystical body, rich with little children so dear to Jesus, where God is worshiped daily, where the example of parents is reflected in the piety of their young as much as in their civilized development, whose home is memorable not so much for its artifacts and tools of amusement, not exclusively for eating, drinking, sleeping and merrymaking, as its only useful functions. In the truly Christian home husband and father complements wife and mother in the gifts brought to their common life and in the contributions they make together to the Christian manhood and womanhood of their children. It is not an arena of competition, domination or raw upward mobility where hardly any children are to be found, where husband and wife vie with each other in their distaste of the work of parenthood.
Thirty years ago I opened my Catholic Marriage Manual with the following paragraph:
As a married man or woman, you have one of the greatest gifts-and one of the greatest opportunities to do good-that it is possible for human beings to possess on earth. In your sacrament of marriage you have a vocation from God-a special call by Him to you and your mate-to serve Him together in a holy sacrament until death. He does not expect you to do it alone. On your wedding day He walked away from the altar with you and promises you even now all the help you need from Him to fulfill your role. And as if the satisfactions of heartwarming companionship for life and parenthood were not enough, He assures you, as the Church states in her marriage ritual, “the greatest measure of earthly happiness that may be allotted to man in this vale of tears,” as well as happiness with each other and your children in heaven forever.10
Does the Church really believe this? Of course it does. In Familiaris Consortio (No. 13) John Paul II, drawing on Tertullian, asks: “How can I ever express the happiness of the marriage that is joined together by the Church, strengthened by an offering, sealed by a blessing, announced by angels, and ratified by the Father. How wonderful the bond between two believers, with a single hope, a single desire, a single observance, a single service!”
Most religious people, and not a few good pagans, have seen or been part of families which realized this dream. Most young Catholics leaving the altar hope it will be realized in them. Yet more often than not, particularly in these days of constant therapy or expectations of future affluence, young marrieds may not be particularly inspired by what they see going on in the lives of professed Catholics, or worse, they may look upon the Christian dream as downright silly or simply unworkable. Christ had a similar effect on his contemporaries, and he sounds pretty impracticable to the wise-acres of our day. So before couples ride the marriage train too far, they have to see again and again the Christian vision and be brought to recognize the hard rock reality that marriage is a sacred work. Reconciling opposite sexes takes work, having babies is the hardest labor of all, paying for their birth and their rearing involves a long life of work and of going without. Dealing effectively with pain, suffering, and death, with sin and the effects of sin calls for Christian character, and this entails a lifetime of prayer, penance, and piety. From an early age married couples need to be prepared to deal with these normal contests of life and with the temptations of idols, whether they be contraception, divorce, abortion, lust, consumerism, improvident marriages, especially by those of tender years, invalid marriages, parenthood denied, latchkey households, etc.
John Paul II once cried out “Family, become what you are.”11 But, how can this be if the family’s head and heart, its husband and wife, are divided in their objectives or untrained in the skills required for living together or are earthbound in a marriage that was made in heaven. If the primary mission of the family is to become what God created it to be-an intimate community of love between a man and a woman at the service of life, of the Church, and of society itself-then the family and the Church must be reordered to make this a likely possibility. If the family is the primary society, the cell of both Church and State, then something more is required of these larger societies than lip service to its well-being. More is required, especially of the Church, than moralizations that sex belongs in marriage, that marriage is forever, that abortion is an abominable crime, that homosexuality is a form of idolatry. Everyone in the world, except the most isolated groupings, knows what the Catholic Church has to say about contraception, adultery, and divorce. The Church never stops its preaching on family life. She recognizes how easily lust takes over unless the sexual appetite is channeled toward the purposes God wrote into its structure “from the beginning.” This discipline, however well-internalized by individuals, calls for social supports. Without support by Church and State, the family is easily overwhelmed by destructive forces from the outside. St. Augustine was quite right in his affirmation that “no one can be ready for the next life unless he trains for it now,”12 but few of us remain in virtue long if everyone around us impresses on us a different life style, while our own value system remains unenforced.
Church Support Systems
So, whenever the Church preaches to the world, it is important that her own house be in good order. The Catholic community is never perfect of course, given the sinful nature of mankind. Still the Church has had remarkable success at times and in places bringing its faithful up to standards of belief and behavior first set by Christ himself. In the United States, for example, 75 percent of our married couples thirty years ago and more than 80 percent of our singles attended Mass every Sunday.13 The network of agencies, social and religious, under Catholic auspices engaged in health, education and welfare was one of the largest private enterprises of its kind in the country. Two-thirds of our Catholics considered the use of contraception as mortally sinful,14 and for the vast majority divorce of as sacramental marriage was unthinkable. One is reminded of how early Christians were described in the 2nd century letter to Diognetus:
They marry and have children, but they do not kill them. They share meals but not their wives. They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the law, they live on a level that transcends the law.15
Some moral choices have always been easy, made so by nature itself. It requires little effort to get people to eat or to mate. The instinct to live draws people to work and to take care of their health. But when it comes to sexual intercourse confined to marriage or to fidelity after marriage or to safeguarding the life of an unwanted child, individuals need training and support.
No sane society legitimizes freedom of its citizens to do anything they want. Certain forms of behavior are necessary for the good of society itself, and certain evil deeds must be avoided because they inflict pain or injury on oneself or others. When malefactors disrupt other people’s freedom or everybody’s sense of wellbeing, constituted authority must assume the role of everybody’s protector. From the vantage point of God’s word, when evil is seen as sin and liberation from sin as one of the Church’s responsibilities to preach, then it is the Church’s role to form consciences and to mould a life style that makes virtuous living a little easier for everybody. The first step in that process, of course, is to make sure that Christians know what evils are sins and what sins are punishable by God and/or by the Church. The reason Christ was in disfavor with the establishment of history is easily explained: “I give evidence that its ways are evil” (John 7:7).
Even in Diognetus’ time the Christian community did not distinguish itself simply by self-determination alone. Tossed afloat in a pagan empire its faithful were sheltered in and by the Church. As Pope St. Leo the Great explained it: “Our faith is nobler and stronger because sight has been replaced by a doctrine whose authority is accepted by believing hearts, enlightened from on high.”” Catholic Christians then, and later in many places, did not hide from their culture, but they maintained their own life style dictated by the demands of their religious faith. And they were able to do this because those demands were reinforced by the Church. Single-minded preaching, the penitential discipline, liturgical rituals, pious customs, parish missions, and canonical sanctions-all administered by a clergy that believed in the truth of the Church’s message-helped shape and maintain what became known as “the Catholic way of life.” The best Catholics attributed their modus vivendi to the Church’s inspiration and to her convincing teachers who, oftentimes it must be admitted, prodded or penalized defective performance. Since the Church was dealing with the hand-me-down of God’s revelation, she was not about to preach ambiguous doctrine about sin and salvation or have her faithful face contradictory choices in what pertained to their salvation. The faithful had to be taught to think with Christ and with the Church and to be socialized into going the way of Christ and the Church. Repetition became the educational tool not only of Jesuits but of Mother Church herself. Catholics liked what they were taught and the Catholic Church became the envy of the secular world. This secular world often did not like what the Church preached but, like Christ earlier, she did command respect for the strong family life she helped create. Whether they agreed or not, the outsiders recognized the force of Catholic teaching.
It does not require a compilation of statistics or bookish footnotes to suggest that Catholic teaching on sex, marriage, and family life has lost its force. Not only is John Paul II a lonely voice crying in the wilderness, but there are important clerics who wish he would stop talking about sex completely. Technology, they say, has separated sex from procreation, from marriage itself, even from heterosexuality. There are clerics too embarrassed to speak about it, who speak against Paul VI and John Paul II, and while the Popes are in their wilderness crying, the Charles Currans, Richard McCormick’s, Daniel Maguire’s and Timothy O’Connell’s are propounded in Catholic classrooms celebrating sexual liberation, much as the priest Aaron had Jews celebrating idols about the time brother Moses was coming down Sinai with God’s commandments. In similar fashion we hear today-let us get on with the worship of Eros as long as we keep it responsible and disease free.
It would only waste time to explore the smugness of those Catholic opinion-moulders who seem gratified that Catholic family life is now no different from that of other Americans. The decline of their religion as a cultural force in their lives, the election of self-interest and self-fulfillment over duty and commitment, the flight from generous parenthood, the alienation of the young from the Church, these effects are not simply the result of Americanization, but in large part of the abandonment by priests of their role to preach the gospel in season and out, popular or no, and to defend fidelity, fertility, and indissolubility as proper and God-given norms for all Catholic couples, newlywed or not.
The First Catholic Response
Obviously, the Church must once more address her own people with renewed seriousness. The general public, which has longer experience than Catholics with liberated sex, still listens when the Pope speaks. Witness the attention John Paul II’s office received when the Holy See spoke out on surrogate motherhood and homosexuality. While the Secular City was acknowledging that the questions the Pope raised called for public examination and discussion, Catholic spokesmen could be heard telling fellow religionists that these statements were not infallible, were historically conditioned, possibly erroneous, that Catholics would make up their own minds anyway.” We have, therefore, a major catechetical task ahead of us, one that goes beyond questions of sex and marriage. John Paul II at one point expressed the view that a contraceptive mentality involved a break in a person’s relationship with God. And it really does. In the contraceptive world there is no place for God. Worshipping oneself, one’s needs or fulfillment to the exclusion of God’s dominion and providence is an old form of idolatry revisited. If contraceptive-minded spouses fail at preventing God’s intervention in their married life, they frequently defy God in another way, either by aborting the baby he gave them or by resenting the baby God clearly wants them to take unto themselves. The contraceptive mentality finds justification for fornication, adultery, and homosexuality-all mortal sins. Those who use contraceptives also have low rates of Sunday Mass, rarely go to confession, do not confess contraception, and feel free to receive the Eucharist, a sacrilege by any normal Catholic determination.18 These actions are superficial indications of how little the sacred in life, i.e., those things which appertain to God, touches the innermost core of their being. So the answer is not so much to persuade contraceptive or sex-liberated Catholics to give up their sinful practices, but to get them to make a true and sincere act of Catholic faith in God himself.
The entire daily prayer of the Church is directed to God the Father through his Son, Jesus Christ, asking for holiness here and happiness hereafter, grace to convert from sin, confessions of fear that by sinning we may suffer the loss of heaven and endure the pains of hell. The prayer of the First Sunday of Advent is oft repeated by the Church in different ways throughout the year:
All powerful God increase our strength of will for doing good that Christmas find an eager welcome at His coming and call us to His side in the Kingdom of Heaven where He lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit.
In almost every Mass and daily office these are the Church’s constant prayers. But they are hypocritical words if priests do not take them seriously. We fall, then, under the condemnation Christ reserved for the hypocritical teachers of Jewry-whose words were right but whose conduct and lifestyle belied their preaching (Mt. 23:1-3). When we the clergy are silent on or tolerant of sin (something which cannot be said characterized Christ or the Prophets or the great saints of the Church), we become cooperators in the very kinds of evil the Church says brings eternal damnation. Unless, of course, belief in sin or eternal damnation is no longer important. If not, grave questions of credibility not only about the Church but about Christ come to the fore. Those who make their act of Catholic faith sincerely must also fashion, even if belatedly, a Christian character and develop defenses against our natural proneness to evil, sexual evil being a major source of sinfulness for most of us. Habits of virtue must be inculcated by repeated acts of virtue, occasions of sin must be avoided, the sacrament of penance (not just unreconstructed reconciliation) must be reintroduced into our lives as a regular discipline, prayer to God must become meaningful, and struggling sinners must receive the support of their bishops and priests. If the pulpits are silent on sin, if lecherous clergy and rebellious religious continue to give bad example or bad counsel, if the word at the parish level is that easy annulments of sacramental marriages, even after twenty years and six children, are becoming as commonplace as no fault divorce, we cannot expect anyone to take Church teaching seriously-on any subject.
One of the words in the Catholic lexicon rarely used today is chastity. Often confused with continence or the absence of all sexual activity, chastity channels the sexual drive towards its proper use, as temperance directs people to use money, liquor, drugs, power in a human, i.e., a virtuous way. Chastity is the opposite of lust, that unbridled attachment to sexual pleasure, pursued in or out of marriage, not out of love or as a good of marriage but with the wrong person or with the right person without regard to his or her wishes or through sadistic and indecent acts in pursuit of venereal pleasure.19 Chastity does not come with the cutting of the umbilical cord and it surely does not come with puberty. Learning to use well our powers of body or of mind is a life-long process. It involves more than tales of birds and bees, more than charts of the ovaries and the testicles, more than repetition of old saws, such as “sex is good,” the favorite phrase of modern text books. Chastity involves training of the will, as well as the mind, from an early age in anticipation of puberty, learning the do’s and don’ts of behavior before these are really needed. Such training was not as difficult when there were four, five or six siblings in the one house-of different sexes-but it is still possible and today more than ever absolutely necessary. The Church must play its part for everyone’s sake, including Christ’s.
Twenty years ago the charge leveled against the Church was that she sent her people on “guilt trips.” Removing guilt, even of the normally non-neurotic variety, became a crusade within the Church. Well, why not a sense of guilt for doing evil? The gangster who slits a throat with great aplomb and with a posture of internal calm is not sick. He is a social monster. More than ten years ago Karl Menninger wrote a book entitled Whatever Became of Sin? He knew sin was not in hiding and thought that the Church’s doctrine of original sin was the only dogma of faith for which there was empirical evidence. Menninger really was asking not about sin, but “Whatever Became of Guilt?” that remorse following wrongdoing which always had been the necessary internal control of errant behavior.20 The Church never ceased sending her faithful on guilt trips. She is doing it all the time-today making them feel guilty about their racism, their anti-Semitism, their warlike attitudes, their sexism, and so forth. Since Vatican II we have rightfully created a Catholic climate which makes the faithful conscious of their failings as members of society. Catholics today often are embarrassed because they make a great deal of money or have voted against the Teamsters Union or joined the New York Athletic Club. Why are they embarrassed? Because they have acquired a sense of guilt about the violations of proper social norms, developed and preached by their bishops.21
But where anymore is there embarrassment when a Catholic politician leaves his wife and marries another or, though married, is known to have a girl friend? A young sixteen year old today has few qualms about discussing her active sex life on a street corner, nor about carrying condoms, nor about having a baby out of wedlock. Indeed we Catholics have almost begun to boast about our relaxed annulment procedures.22 How often anymore do we speak of motherhood? Or of the larger family, so praised by Vatican II and the last six Popes?23 We have developed an easy tolerance of our sexual aberrations, but a shame too about those aspects of family life which once were the proud boast of the Catholic community. Since the fundamental mission of the Church is eternal salvation, the least we expect of clerics is that they begin once more to preach what the Church always considered essential to it. Sermons, lectures, seminars and conferences all over the Church with a coherent message built around the doctrines contained inHumanae Vitae and Familiaris Consortio are matters of urgent necessity if the Church believes what she preaches. The faithful may not, likely will not, be converted overnight, but vigorous preaching of solid Catholic doctrine will help establish the Catholic norms against which all Catholics are called upon to make the conscientious decisions for which they are responsible before God. Such preaching, if systematically enforced, will put an end to the poisonous view that Church teaching counts for nothing or is about to change. Determination of this kind, too, will restore Catholic pulpits and classrooms to those who fully believe what the Church teaches and Pre-Cana Conferences to couples who love children and live by the ideals of natural family planning which is Christian to the core.
The Second Catholic Step
Preaching and teaching by themselves will not renew the Church’s family system in ways consistent with Christ’s teaching or with revelation. We must restore pride in the Church as the Body of Christ-the one Sacrament of Salvation, true and Catholic. A great deal is made these days about community, usually from those who look upon the Church as People more than Christ’s Body, who denigrate the so-called institutional Church and who seek to form small elite or disparate groups within the Church for the purpose of sifting out of its cultural accretions the meaning of the pure gospel of Christ. Elites, by themselves, whether composed of academic activists or poor liberationists or just plain zealots for a cause, however much they serve personal needs, are not mass movements, unless they succeed as revolutionaries in dominating the institution. Frequently they are separatists who, far from creating it, fracture community. Examine what “break-through Catholics” did to the Church of Holland. See what academic elites have done to the religious communities in the United States. One hardly uses the phrase “religious community” any more, given the internal divisions among men and women originally vowed to a community that depends on the Church for its right to exist.
In the normal course of events community follows institution, does not precede it. Wherever two or three are gathered to do a work together, there you have institution, whether they are Christ and the Apostles in the upper room, Mother Teresa in a Calcutta boarding house, or the devil in his workshop. The family is such an institution and its Christian work is enhanced best by that other institution called the Church, the home where the family should find its best inspiration, its best encouragement, support, and protection. For all practical purposes this normally means the Catholic parish. Mr. and Mrs. Average Catholic admire the Pope on television and are still in awe at their bishop when he comes to confirm. But the parish is the House of God with which families regularly have direct contact. Most couples show little interest in activism, even for their pastor. But sleepers, too, need to sense the Church’s presence in their lives, and this usually means contact with the local parish. One of the tragedies which ensued, once the success of the U.S. parish system was established, has been the demise of what came to be called “census-taking,” but originally was known only as home visits by the priest.
Thirty-one years ago as New York’s new Family Life Director, I proposed to a Family Life Convention in Boston, a Family Life Action Committee in every parish.24 The time was ripe then but no one paid attention. Later we developed Cana Committees and CFM groups, which were eminently successful wherever they took root. They served as a leaven for the local parish making holiness in marriage respectable and babies a joy to possess. But bishops generally ignored them and when the Cana-CFM leadership decided they were a more modern Church than that represented by the Pope, these “cells,” and the priests who shepherded them, became menaces to the institutional Church; dividing its membership and destroying its community.
Now we must begin all over again. Once upon a time we took poor immigrants, invented a Baltimore Catechism for them and a school system headed by single-minded and dedicated religious and moulded them into the finest body of practicing Catholics the free and modern world may have seen.25 We still have immigrants, perhaps more in a ten-year period than ever, but millions also of half committed Catholics in need of recatechesis. This time we shall have to depend on the contributed services of lay Catholics who have been trained by priests who are themselves the graduates of proper seminaries. We now need elite laity and doctrinally sound priests who can translate in the 21st century the Catholic faith as effectively as their religious counterparts in the 19th. But most of all we need a Cardinal to write a new Faith of Our Fathers and a series of modern Baltimore Councils, or whatever, which will just as effectively as their predecessors, make the Catholic faith live once more in the overwhelming majority of homes which claim the name Catholic.
The Church’s Third Mission
But though the Church works better to shore up the family life of the baptized, it may not shirk its responsibility to deal with the family ethos of contemporary society, that which is wreaking havoc on the family life of more than Catholics. Couple-to-Couple Leagues, Base Communities, Charismatic Groups, Rightto-Life Associations, like the old Cana Groups and CFM, serve many Christian purposes, not the least of which is support and defense of involved Catholic families in an anti-family world. We need to encourage more of whatever associations deepen the faith of family members. But protective and defense mechanisms are not enough. For at least three hundred years Popes have been speaking about the Church’s apostolate to the world and the world seems to get further and further away from its Judaeo-Christian roots.26 The Second Vatican Council was supposed to place the Church in the middle of the world, with a view to its evangelization, at the least to make that world less hostile to religion. The most notable effect of these efforts seems instead to have been the secularization of the religious life of Catholics. The culture of the Western World is on a downward slide now that priests have removed their Roman collars, nuns their veils, and so many Catholic spouses are taking off their wedding rings. The only things people are advised these days to keep are their condoms.
What are we Catholics going to do about this situation? How do we reach over the heads of secular opinion-moulders and reach our fellow citizens? Fr. Anthony Zimmerman of Japan asks the startling question: When are we going to master the art of electronic communication? Save for Mother Angelica, we have had hardly any influence either in mass media production or distribution. Still, the problem goes beyond manufacturing a hundred Fulton Sheens, even beyond our giant universities, those great framers of the secularist mentalities, which shape the thinking of opinion moulders in the Washington Post, CBS, the New York Art World, and the Rockefeller Foundation.
While the root causes of our neo-pagan environment may well be traced to those universities which spawn cynicism, skepticism and amoralism and to the media which market these vices,27 the U.S. family must come to see that its most immediate enemy today is government. Breaking the ties that bind has become almost a national pastime, with government the ultimate and chief umpire. Whether the rubric be “freedom” or “privacy,” whether the actors be the courts, the bureaucracies or the legislatures, the scales of justice are being tipped toward abstract persons and away from citizens’ necessary and natural associations, of which the family is primary and most vital.28 We have moved from divorce for cause to “no fault” divorce. The number of Americans living in non-marital “families” is increasing and the attempts to demaritalize the family are no longer camouflaged. In 1981 the name of the White House Conference on the Family was changed to a conference “on families” as a result of pressure from the homosexual lobby. Jimmy Carter lent Presidential respectability to the rejection of the nation’s historic understanding of family as heterosexual and marital.29 Catholics abet this process when they insist that a loveless marriage is a dead marriage and when Church tribunals discover belatedly that a sacramental marriage never existed after twenty-five years of common life and six grown children. One allegedly Catholic theologian goes a step further by defining marriage as “the ultimate form of friendship achievable by sexually attracted persons.”30
The hitherto privileged position of the family to the meaning of a free society, recognized through the Christian era as untouchable by the State, as the primary educator of the young and their most important school, the ground and center of public virtue itself, is being challenged by those who ask: “Is marriage necessary?” The single most important buffer against State domination of personal lives is under fire by a government which wants more control of family failure, ignoring its own role in the denigration of the family. It is not surprising that the withering away of the family would be the objective of every socialist state, yet a similar end result is not impossible in an omni-competent democratic state whose norms of governing are utilitarian and anti-religious. Affirming the importance of government to social well-being is not equivalent to endorsing a democratic government’s domination of the family. Only sixty years ago (1924) U.S. bishops expressed outrage at the thought of Federally sponsored child labor laws, i.e., giving Washington authority to intervene in parents’ decisions. Today contemplated laws to create children’s rights against their parents hardly create a stir.
Nor are we embarrassed any longer when public law pretends men and women are the same. Common sense should dictate otherwise, but we remain strangely passive as government flattens roles and occupations, redefining the feminine in completely masculine terms-of office, rank, contest, achievement, success and failure. The stereotype of the oppressed housewife and mother appears everywhere as part of the orchestrated effort to persuade the American public that women are to be honored for the salaried work they do, not for their motherhood.” One feminist theologian recently re-exegeted the NT to claim that it is Mary’s role as Christ’s first disciple that gives her special status in the Church, not the fact that she is Mother of God.32
The family unit, especially its intended permanence and procreative significance, is now looked upon by many as an oppressive structure for the simple reason that it involves a relationship with a lordly male “for better or for worse,” and potential pregnancies over many years besides. These allegedly being their best years for individual fulfillment and social recognition. The family is oppressive, especially because it enshrines man-woman differences. By politicizing the complaints of frustrated feminists, organizations such as the National Organization for Women seek to use government power to gain for them what they are not likely to gain through the ballot box.
Indeed, many of the modern limitations on heterosexual marital life have come not by a vote of the people but by the fiat of a judge, an agency or a politician. No one in his right mind would deny a woman access to any public role or status available to all U.S. citizens on an equal opportunity basis. But the obliteration of all differences as between male and female, parents and children, able and unable, even at the expense of a family’s pre-eminent rights? No physician may pierce a child’s ear without a parent’s permission but that same physician may pierce a child’s vagina to abort a fetus without a by-your-leave to a parent. If it is a legal requirement of modern justice that varieties of species, sexes, abilities and freedoms be abolished, why is government so selective? Why are the voters rarely asked to sanction radical departures from traditional American wisdom? Roe v. Wade as written would never have made its way in 1973 through the legislatures of the 50 states. ERA did not make it into the Constitution. And the last thing homosexual activists want is a vote on their status by the citizenry. Instead they have institutionalized homosexuality by terrorizing politicians.
Since the Church by Vatican II’s decree is engaged more than ever in political affairs of nations, it would seem that its major effort should entail confronting the anti-family policies of what more and more takes on the coloration of Hilaire Belloc’s Servile State.
Catechesis: The Truth, The Whole Truth
John Paul II has a favorite catechetical thrust: Catholics have the right to be taught the Church’s authentic message whole and entire.33 He repeats this demand because he knows that today Catholic teachers are frequently silent on those aspects of the gospel which many moderns are reluctant to accept. If culture tends to make cowards of us all, it makes us especially cowardly in our time about proclaiming vigorously the full Catholic doctrine and policy decisions on sex and marriage.
The following are a few areas which call for bolder teaching:
Some years ago after a sojourn in India on behalf of family planning, Germaine Greer, the early birth control advocate, gave a lecture in Dallas which shocked some of her friends. “I have gone to India,” she said, “thinking there were too many of the and returned home deciding there were too many of me.” The one-time author of the 1970 best seller The Female Eunuch, now 45 years of age and the author of a new book entitled Sex and Destiny (1983), complained that Western Society is anti-child. Without abandoning her advocacy of planned parenthood, Miss Greer nonetheless regretted her own barrenness: “I chose not to have a child when I could have. Then when I thought I could fit one into my life, I found I couldn’t conceive.”34
It is a strange anomaly of the present Church situation that so many Catholics today live by the norms of Germaine Greer the younger rather than by the norms which have characterized Catholic family life in any country where the Church was effective. It is only a generation ago that Catholic moralists instructed fertile Catholic couples who were capable that they fulfilled God’s command to “increase and multiply” if they brought three or four children into the world.35 Indeed, the better educated Catholics of that era were convinced of that demand and frequently had larger families; these couples described later in Gaudium et Spes (No. 50) as having “a generous heart.” Today the expected 1.8 children from American marriages falls far short of what Christians usually meant when they used the word “family.” Less than 10 percent of young American women expect ever to have four children. Most will settle for two.36 Consequently, if the American woman is likely to have the first of her two children in her early twenties and the last before she is thirty, there are serious marital and familial, to say nothing of moral problems, ahead for practically all Catholic marriageables. If the Christian woman’s role is, as John Paul II says, an “irreplaceable value,” what are we Churchmen doing to change a cultural mentality which dishonors motherhood as a vocation and makes it instead an exercise in self-satisfaction. What we have involved here, if we are speaking of people who claim the Faith, is a Catholic couple’s relationship with God and attention to Divine providence.37
By way of conclusion to this section, something should be said about woman-power. Germaine Greer went to India and discovered the kind of power Indian mothers exercised in their local villages and in city neighborhoods, even as their husbands patrolled the civic community as if they were budding Rajahs. Most of us who grew up in Christian families could have enlightened her on this subject. Rare was the mother of a family who was not the heart and center of her home and of her parish. Catholic mothers were a power to be reckoned with because they knew who they were and so did their husbands, who generally were not the macho-male types feminists like to decry. As a pastor I could well have gotten along without the curates but would not have survived without the women-the single and the married-women who contributed most to the priestly ministry and to a large amount of neighborhood social action. The Eternal Feminine rocked the cradle and ruled the world, not the Female Eunuch. A generation ago the psychological affliction which imperilled our nation, according to writers such as Philip Wylie and psychiatrists like Edward Strecker, was not Ramboism but Momism-women in the home, women in the schools, women in the welfare institutions, and the rising influence then of women at work.38 By 1960 the National Catholic Welfare Conference (predecessor of the USCC) was concerned enough to publish a booklet called Father, the Head of the Home, as if Catholics needed that reassurance from Washington, DC.
When we speak, therefore, of woman-power we must make sure that it is not manpower that is sought as the special quality of woman and the emasculation of men which Strecker says began under “Momism.” Nor does it help the cause of women as women to have “Femachos” speak for them. Women surely have the right to rival men in the public arena if they wish and if they can fulfill their marital and maternal responsibilities. But mothering is power enough for most women, especially if their men are accomplished in their own right and are satisfied with their role as fathers of the family. When elites speak of women hurting because their wants are unfulfilled, one should ask which wants and what women. Mary Joyce said it well: “Women need not hunger for authority when their special gift is for influencing everything. That’s their best power.”39
St. Augustine, in addressing fathers, was wont to call them “my fellow bishops.’ He conveyed the idea that they were heads of their families much as the bishop is the head of the Church, with primary obligations in the family to teach, to rule, to sanctify. We speak glibly of marriage today as a 50-50 proposition when in truth it is the union of a 100 percent man with a 100 percent woman. Augustine was only building on St. Paul’s famous dictum, “Man is the head of the woman as Christ is the head of the Church.” (Eph. 23:5). Less than ten years ago Stephen Clark’s monumental study Man and Woman in Christ reinforced what has been a Judaeo-Christian tradition “from the beginning,” viz. that within the domestic community (we are not speaking of society generally) there are complementary roles to be played, with the husband responsible for the overall government of the family without the wife being his subordinate, and the mother responsible for all those areas which pertain to the internal life of the family, without the husband being voiceless. This division of labor is looked upon as God’s creative plan for the family.40
If boys growing up suffered under “Momism,” tending them to accept domination by women, they are taught by feminism to look upon women more as sex partners to be played with than as mothers who need their protection, support and leadership. Christian marriage with its propensity to child-bearing quickly roots the man in the father’s role from the earliest days of his boyhood training. That very concept of manhood and fatherhood has been under attack in recent years-first from the business and professional community which demand commitment to the job, more than to his family; from the economic system itself which has made the two income family almost a necessity to reach or maintain middle class respectability;41 and from the ideology of feminism which legitimizes manly traits in women, while sanctioning a certain feminization of men.42
The Church does not need George Gilder (Sexual Suicide, 1973, Men and Marriage, 1987) to know that women by virtue of their mother’s role are more important to society than men and a civilizing force of children and of husbands. Even a woman’s more pervasive and more erotic sexuality is a superiority used to good advantage within the historic family. But deny the manly and fatherly role, or make it a matter of indifference, and it is the males who are liberated-to eschew what they think is the drudgery of home life, to distance themselves from commitment to one woman, to see sex as a toy, to turn homosexuality into another outlet for pleasure, to prove their virility not by domestic and social achievement but by sexual prowess.
If men to be men need fatherhood to fulfill their God-given manly nature, and as more than an incidental experience, women are most contented in the arms of a man whose love goes beyond sex to the care and protection of her children, on whom she can rely, making it possible for her to develop her own womanhood.43
It is important for the Church to defend and promote the child-centered family and the importance of men and fatherhood to that family. In their many economic proposals the Church should call for the revision of tax laws to allow families with dependent children to keep more of their income. Some way must be found to distinguish in our tax laws family oriented workers from child free careerists, with economic incentives favoring a family’s single wage earner.44
- Natural Family Planning
Never before in American history have Catholics had it so easy with regard to the necessities of life, even when one allows for the plight of the unemployed and the farm community. Never has there been more known about the natural spacing of births. Never has there been more practical help available for natural family planning. Never has the teaching of the Church been more clear, never better defended. Never has the moral bankruptcy of the contraceptive movement been so obvious nor the social ill-effects of its widespread use. Never before in the history of any country has there been less reason for those who profess faith in Christ and his Church to turn away from Catholic teaching on marital love and birth control.45
Yet, twenty years after Humanae Vitae, more than a half century away from Casti Connubii, the vast majority of married Catholics use contraceptives and natural family planning remains a step-child of the Church in practically every diocese.46
One other thing: The serious sins that most Christians are likely to commit from their earliest days involve marriage or sex and actions related to either. The sixth is not God’s first commandment, but sins against marriage or sins involving lust are more commonplace than blasphemy, heresy, murder or treason. Furthermore, as St. Thomas Aquinas long ago demonstrated, untrammeled lust often leads to loss of faith:
Blindness of mind, lack of balanced consideration, inconstancy, precipitation, love of self, hatred of God, excessive clinging to the present world, and horror or despair of the world to come.47
For this reason the Church has always preached moderation in the use of sexual powers, insisting that Catholics be trained from their earliest years in the virtue of chastity.
The tragedy of our times is that sexual sins have been reduced to pre-moral evils or peccadillos, of little account in the formation of Christian character. Yet since sexual sins are of their nature seriously sinful, they have an important bearing on eternal salvation.48
- Eternal Life, Salvation, Sin
The night prayer of the Church on Sunday reads as follows:
Lord Jesus Christ, when tempted by the devil, you remained loyal to your Father, whose angels watched over you at his command. Guard your Church and keep us safe from the plague of sin so that we remain loyal to the day we enjoy your salvation and your glory.
Open the liturgical books of the Church at any point and you are likely to come across sentiments similar to these-a Christian prayer for eternal salvation and a plea for Christ’s help in rising above our sinful nature to reach this beatitude. “God made us to know Him, to love Him, to serve Him in this life and to be happy with Him forever in the next.” The penny Baltimore Catechism said it right. As we read in Hebrews 13:14, 11, “There is no eternal city for us in this life but we look for one in the life to come.” The spiritual life of Catholics calls for a way of life that more and more is free of serious sin. Once the Catholic is in sin he is expected to reconcile with God through the sacrament still called Penance.
Are we turning away from our doctrine on sin to calm the guilt feelings of sinners without regard to Christ’s express command?
Summary and Recommendations
In a few concluding words I would like to offer what seems to me to be the most important elements of the Church’s agenda for the 21st century. Most important because they deal with the Church’s family; the family life of middle class American Catholics, those great-great grandchildren of once poor and relatively unlettered immigrants, but the family life also of the new poor whose Catholicity is traditional but undeveloped and often marginal. Jesuit Joseph Fitzpatrick once phrased the Church’s dilemma as follows:
How can we do away with the poverty of thousands of families without destroying the deep and significant values which these families so often represent? This is an old and classic theme: the struggle to escape from poverty, disadvantage, destitution, only to realize that the very process which the poor man thought would enrich and ennoble his life has destroyed it.49
Is this not what has already happened to those Catholic great-great grandchildren?
When we address such a dilemma I presume that we speak only from our Christian givens, i.e., out of the truths about the family revealed by God through Jesus Christ, Our Lord, and communicated to us by His Church under the infallible guidance of the Holy Spirit through the voices of Peter’s successors and the Bishops in communion with them.
Accepting these truths and the present U.S. realities, a number of things seem to propose themselves as worthy of consideration:
1) First, there must be a recatechesis of the faithful concerning the nature of Eternal Life and Christian commitment to the Church’s way of achieving it. Eternal Life is the motivation and sanction of all Christian striving in this life and Catholics once more must come to value both the goal and the striving.
St. Paul spoke of it as follows: “There is no eternal life for us in this life but we look for one in the life to come” (Hebrews 13:14). Or, as he told the Philippians (3:14-15): “I strain ahead for what is still to come. I am racing for the finish, for the prize to which God calls us upwards to receive in Christ Jesus.”
And to modern teachers who tell our young that the important Christian value is how they live this present life, Paul has this to say: “If our hope in Christ has been for this life only, we are the most unfortunate of all people” (1 Cor. 15:19).
“Do you really believe this?”-an important question not unlike the one asked by Paul VI in his 1975 exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi (No. 76) and by Christ in the Upper Room (John 16:31). Secularization has given our people an earthbound view of life. If this remains the case, there is little reason that they will believe anything else Christ and the Church have to say, unless it is to their convenience.
2) Secondly, we must recatechize our faithful on the Divine vocation of marriage, the central place of children and parenthood in that calling, and the vital importance (for Christians at least) of the sacred norms to fulfillment in this life and reward or punishment in the next.
To do this well the U.S. Bishops, perhaps in collaboration with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, must assess the present status of authentic teaching within Church institutions and initiate whatever remedial steps are necessary to see that correct teaching is the rule in the Church. Church membership is not a mere matter of affiliation, i.e., of personal choice. It involves commitment to the specific requirements of the Church.
There is after all a content to Catholic commitment and for this to prevail authentic teachers are required. Furthermore, Catholic teaching must be reinforced down the line by Church committees, commissions, and curias. Uncertain voices existed in the Church of St. Paul (I Cor. 14:8), but after two millenia there is little reason for confused teaching under Catholic auspices, especially on family life, to continue. If the Church appears clearly as counter-culture on matters socio-political, why is John Paul II almost a voice crying in the wilderness on the morals of Catholic family life? We hear much these days of the seamless garment, but what is more intrinsically connected than the breakdown of the family structure and the contraceptive movement? Why do we permit teachings in our school systems which soft-pedal or deny the doctrines taught by Humanae Vitae and Familiaris Consortio?
Indeed those of us in the teaching situation are no longer surprised how unmoved we have become over dissent in our midst and blase, too, when we hear again and again that the vast majority of Catholics reject the Church’s sexual ethic. Is this their fault?
We need no reminders from our canon lawyers. We only need follow our liturgy to know whose fault it is. The 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, which restates our obligations under the Ten Commandments, calls upon Ezekiel in the Old Testament (33:7-9) and Matthew in the New (18:15-20) as reminders of what should be expected of the Church, especially of its pastors. They are to dissuade the flock from their evil ways. If pastors do not do this they are held responsible for the spiritual death of the wicked. And if the wicked will not take fraternal correction, even from the Church, then “treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.” These are Jesus’ words, not those of a Curial bureaucrat.
Pastors of the Church are to preach and teach, to sanctify through the liturgy and the proper administration of the sacraments, and to govern the Catholic community. But their preaching is in vain if this community is ungoverned, i.e., if false teachers prevail without restraint and sacraments are administered sacrilegiously with no complaint from the pastors. In recent days political scientist George Weigel reminded bishops of St. Augustine’s concept tranquillitas ordinis, a negative concept to be sure, but one without which sinful men cannot live in peace. As Weigel phrases it: “Order keeps things from getting worse than they would be under conditions of chaos and anarchy.”50
What is so difficult about insisting that only fully committed believers teach and supervise the Church’s pastoral mission, especially among the poor whose family life is at the moment reasonably intact? What is so heinous about quarantining the carriers of heresy, which is what “pick and choose Catholicism” really means, in a Church professing to proclaim Christ’s truth? We are not dealing anymore with a sick situation calling for therapy. We are dealing with an evil situation which demands the corrective action of which Christ himself was the prime mover.
If we do not move in this direction with some semblance of deliberate speed, then the universal catechism, the one significant by-product of the 1985 Extraordinary Synod, will turn out to be another Church document filed and forgotten.
3) Thirdly, the Church should initiate a national crusade on behalf of Natural Family Planning-not only to teach our people how to be married and Catholic, when child spacing is indicated, but to educate the vast body of religious Americans what authentic married love is and why marriages based on this kind of love are more meaningful to them, more perduring, and more fruitful for both Church and Society. For the Catholic people alone NFP promises this much at least-a married life in conformity with God’s law.
4) Finally, and this surely will be the Church’s most arduous task, the Catholic community must bring its corporate influence to bear on the public institutions of our society, especially on the government, on the media, and on those who fashion the secular mind-sets of the country’s public leaders. We are not speaking here simply of anti-pornography, anti-condom, anti-abortion activities, although we must not underestimate their importance as rallying points in a democracy of pro-family activists. There is the critical matter of freedom of religion. In the last forty years religionists have allowed themselves to be anti-established out of public life, with religion reduced to the status of public oddity. The approved, acceptable public role of an otherwise avowed religionist is capsulated in one affirmation: “I believe in Jesus Christ but. …” Here the adversary is government and its various subdivisions or bureaucracies. Nor any longer must we permit the media to trivialize or treat contemptuously the teachings and sacred authority of the Church. The recent pilgrimage of John Paul II to his American faithful appeared at times to be an antiPapal crusade by the frequency with which dissident Catholics were called upon by media to explain away the Church and its Pope. The media would not have dared treat the Jewish, Black or Labor community with such cynicism. We surely need a wellsupported Catholic League to defend Catholic interests, as B’nai B’rith, the NAACP, and the AFL-CIO protect the rights of their followers. We tend to shy at charges of censorship, of accusations aimed mostly at denying influence on the media to religionists. Why we have not by now an active role in the world of electronic communications is something of a mystery, especially in view of the success of Evangelical Protestants shoring up the faith of their flocks.
As a last point, we must draw on that segment of the Catholic university world which still is or wishes to be institutionally committed to the Catholic Church and its faith. One of the tragedies of our times is that the aspiring Catholic Harvards have become more Harvard than Catholic and of little use to the Church in confronting the neo-pagan and statist ideas that presently prevail in the higher regions of American society. What we must never forget is that there are a large number of Catholic scholars who believe in the truths of their faith and are quite willing to defend them. These are not the scholars quoted frequently on CBS or by the New York Times, oftentimes not even in Origins, the documentary service of the USCC.
If we can speak of the Catholic lay apostolate any longer, and we can if we mean “Catholic” as well as “lay,” then pastors must give their support to these kinds of faithful and permit them to take the Catholic cause into the market place, where they, not clergy, will demand respect and get it, after they first fight for recognition.”
With a fully developed alternative to the present secularized organs of opinion-moulding, our Catholic parents can hopefully once more take pride in their Church and the quality of
their family life, even if it is not mainstream secularized America.
1The American Catholic People (Doubleday, 1987), p. 183.
2The New York Daily News, June 4, 1987.
31985 Gallup Poll.
4John Paul II, Reflections on Humanae Vitae (St. Paul Editions, 1984), pp. 9-10.
5English L’Osservatore Romano, July 6, 1987, p. 12.
6Eugene Kennedy once argued that the moral distortions in Catholic Life were due to “people’s acceptance of the Church’s moral authority on the way they live their moral lives.” (America, August 22, 1970, p. 87.) Jesuit Francis Buckley attributed them to “moral conformism and the acceptance of authority.” (I Confess, 1972, p. 53.) Sister Marie Augusta Neal thought it improper to impose any “doctrine or values or commitment.” Discovery Pattems Book, 1969, p. 92.) Time Magazine, Sept. 3, 1971, p. 41, in a review of what was wrong with Catholic confession, stressed its disastrous effects.
7Mt. 19:3 ff; also Mk. 10:2 ff.
8Human Life Review, Spring 1981, p. 103.
9Cf. Fr. Henry Sattler’s report, Newsletter of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, Dec. 1982, p. 6 ff.
10Random House, 1958, p. 3-4. Even George Gilder senses there is more to marriage than sex: “Marriage is a sacrament, it’s a sacred institution. Without this sanctity, it tends to become a kind of `consumer contract’ that can be revoked if both parties aren’t satisfied or some better product happens to come along on the market.” (National Catholic Register, Nov. 23, 1981, p. 15.)
11Familiaris Consortio, No. 19.
12PS 148 1-2; CCL 40, 2165-2166.
13George A. Kelly, Catholics and the Practice of the Faith. (Paulist Press, 1946.)
l4Cf. Andrew Greeley, Chicago Studies, Spring 1963.
15Letter to Diognetus (usually attributed to Justin Martyr in the 2nd century), F.X. Funk, TheApostolic Fathers, 397-401. This citation is used in the Church’s Divine Office of Holy Men and Women.
16Second Sermon on the Ascension, PL 54, P. 398.
17Cf. Origins, May 28, 1987, pp. 21 ff.
18Cf. Notre Dame Magazine, Summer 1987.
19Cf. Henry V. Sattler, CSSR, Sex is Alive and Well and Flourishing Among Christians, 1980, pp. 124-125. See his treatment of Sacramental Sexuality in chapter 6.
20Karl Menninger in his book Whatever Became of Sin? uses a rhyme to make a point:
“At three I had a feeling of ambivalence towards my brothers and so it followed naturally I poisoned all my lovers. But now I’m happy: I have learned the lesson this has taught that everything I do that’s wrong is someone else’s fault.”
21For a full treatment of how every formation process works-and the role of the penitential discipline for Catholics, see George A. Kelly, Who Should Run the Catholic Church?, 1976, chapters 4 and 5.
22Report on a June 7-10, 1987 meeting of the NCCB at St. Mary’s College, Notre Dame, IN, at which an important prelate admitted the Church is granting divorces but had not yet admitted the fact. See also Bishop Edward Egan, former Judge of the Roman Rota, on the Nullity of Marriage in the Newsletter of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, Dec. 1986 and March 1987.
23For a secular view see James H. S. Bossard with Eleanor Stoker Boll, The Large Family System, 1956.
24Irving A. DeBlanc and Norma Scavilla, Sanctity and Success in Marriage, NCWC Family Life Bureau, 1956.
25George A. Kelly, Catholics and the Practice of the Faith, and Thomas Coogan, Catholic Fertility in Florida, Paulist Publications, 1946.
26Cf. The Lay Apostolate: Papal Teachings, 1961, St. Paul Editions.
27The latest book trumpeting these concerns is Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind (Simon and Schuster, 1987). The Rothman-Lichter studies of media bias can be found in The Media Elite: America’s New Power Brokers (Adler and Adler, 1987).
28This subject is brilliantly covered in an unpublished paper of Donald Keefe, S.J., entitled “The Law and the Covenant,” first presented on April 10-12, 1987, at a conference on Biotechnology and Law sponsored by the Institute for Theological Encounter with Science and Technology, Adamstown, MD. A number of other scholars have addressed the cultural tendency to downgrade the family. Brigham Young’s Bruce Hafen has a first rate treatment in This World (Summer 1987), entitled “Custom, Law, and the American Family.” Calling the family “the most valuable thing in people’s lives” and a “mediating structure” between the state and individuals, Hafen argues that family life is “the source of public virtue-a willingness to obey the unenforceable,” ” a sense of obligation to interests larger than one’s own.” He traces the shift under governmental and legal pressures to the significance of marriage to individuals. Thomas Molnar’s “The Target is the Family” (Human Life Review, Summer 1987) covers the same ground-with special stress on the “sexual politicization” of the family in recent decades.
29A good review of the new literature redefining the family to avoid “perpetuating constrictive gender identities” is contained in the September 1987 issue of The Family in America, a Rockford Institute publication.
30See Dennis Doherty, ed., Dimensions of Human Sexuality, 1979, p. 130.
31In article 19 of Laborem Exercens “Having to abandon these (domestic) tasks in order to take up paid work outside the home is wrong from the point of view of the good of society and of the family when it contradicts or hinders these primary goals of the mission of a mother.” See also Familiaris Consortio No. 23. One Canadian study concluded that wealth tends to make men more conservative, women more liberal. Feminism was described as a “rich woman’s hobby.” The Family in America, May 1987, p. 2.)
32Cf. footnote 22.
33John Paul II to U.S. bishops, Oct. 5, 1979, in Pilgrim of Peace, USCC publication, p. 119.
34See Newsletter of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, June 1984, p. 8. In her 1971 The Female Eunuch, she looked upon the family as “the prison of domesticity” and “patriarchy’s chief institution.”
35John Ford, Contemporary Moral Theology: Volume 2 -Marriage Questions. (Newman 1963, pp. 420-421).
36Statistical Abstract, 1987, p. 65.
37Familiaris Consortio, No. 23.
38Philip Wylie’s Generation of Vipers and Edward Strecker’s Their Mother’s Daughter, 1956.
39National Catholic Register, March 22, 1987. The initial ethnic family was “father headed and mother centered” in which the father generally exercised executive command while mother managed the household and oversaw the division of labor among the children. (Charles H. Mindel and Robert W. Habenstein, eds., Ethnic Families in America: Patterns and Variations, 1976, p. 415.)
40Servant Publications, 1980.
41See George A. Kelly, The Catholic Church and the American Poor, (Alba House, 1975, especially chapter 2).
42See Paul Vitz’s April 1987 article in Fidelity and Stephen B. Clark, op. cit., passim.
44Charles E. Rice, Fifty Questions on Abortion, Euthanasia and Related Issues, 1986, pp. 76 ff. It is of some interest that the Social Feminists who helped draft the New Deal-Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, Women’s Bureau Head Mary Anderson, and Mary Dawson of the Democratic National Committee-saw the achievement of a family wage as a solution to the country’s most serious social problems. While working women were to be treated as equals to men in the marketplace, they were clearly an undesirable social development. The family wage would put an end to women’s and child labor. (The Family in America, June 1987, pp. 3-4.)
45This is the essence of a view propounded forcefully by John Kipplay in a letter to this writer.
46Cardinal Bernardin in his 1986 report to the U.S. bishops said as much: “In many dioceses it is not seen as an inherent part of marriage preparation or marriage enrichment, although the dimension seems to be improving.” (Origins, Dec. 4, 1986, p. 470.)
47Summa Theologica, 11 11, g. 153, a. 5.
48See Ronald Lawler, Joseph Boyle, and William May, “Catholic Sexual Ethics” (OSV Press, 1985, pp. 64 and 214-215).
49Cited in George A. Kelly, The Catholic Church and the American Poor, 1975, p. 79.
50Tranquillitas Ordinis, 1987, p. 31.
51Richard John Neuhaus’ The Naked Public Square, 1984, called “The book from which further debate about church-state relations should begin,” calls for the development of a public philosophy which must be grounded in values that are based in Judaeo-Christian religion.