The Catholic Position
April 4, 2002
weeks ago I tried, in my feeble way, to express why I fell in love
with the Catholic Church. I received many gracious and grateful responses
from others who felt the same way, some of them converts like me.
Inevitably, there were also a few
jeers, directed not so much against me as against the Church. Some
dredged up old scandals of wicked popes, or supposedly shocking
utterances of Catholic saints, or mere clichés of traditional
anti-Catholic polemics. Most of these were meant to embarrass, not to
persuade; the usual ahistorical nuggets.
What is startling is the perpetual
passion of anti-Catholicism. Youd think that by now people who
reject Catholicism would calmly ignore its teachings as old and irrelevant
superstitions. After all, the Church has none of her old political power,
adherence is now totally voluntary, and she has enough trouble getting her
own children to listen to her.
But Catholicism still has a strange
moral authority, and many people are unable to achieve a calm and assured
disbelief. They are still driven to discredit the Church perhaps for
the same reason so many of us believe in her.
Catholicism offers a complete and
comprehensive morality, one which most of us still recognize as the faith
of our fathers. Bit by bit, the world, including other churches, has
abandoned much of this morality; the Church continues to teach it, even
when some of her own priests scandalously violate it.
A few generations ago, nearly all
Christians shared the same sexual morality. They abhorred artificial birth
control, for example. Many state laws banning the sale of contraceptive
devices in this country were passed by Protestant majorities while
Catholics were politically weak.
Gradually, however, Protestants ceased to oppose
contraception, and Catholicism almost alone continued to condemn it.
What had long been a consensus became censured as a Catholic
position. We now see the same process well under way with
abortion and homosexuality.
If cannibalism ever becomes popular,
and the rest of the world, led by its progressive-minded intellectuals,
decides that anthropophagy is a basic constitutional right, opposing
cannibalism will become a Catholic position too. Catholics
will once more be accused of wanting to impose their
views on everyone else (even when they are far too weak to
do so), and the reformers will cry, Lets keep government
out of the kitchen!
I dont defend the
Churchs morality because I am a Catholic. I became and remain a
Catholic because the Church maintains a consistent morality
while the rest of the world keeps veering off into moral fads. My
conviction that she is right is only strengthened by the worlds
strident demand that she change along with it, as if it were a sort of
moral duty to change ones principles, like underwear, with
The world includes
many nominal Catholics who side with the secular world against their own
Church. These are the Catholics you are most likely to see in the major
media. They deny the Churchs authority to keep teaching what she
has always taught, yet they cant rest until she approves their pet
vices contraception, sodomy, same-sex marriage, and all the rest.
Notice that the proposed reforms
usually have to do with sex. When the Church refuses to change, she is
accused of being obsessed with sex, when its really
her critics who are obsessed with it. Catholic morality recognizes seven
deadly sins, of which lust is only one; but this happens to be the one the
modern world cant stop thinking about. Nobody demands that the
Church change its outdated teachings against sloth.
At any rate, the Church cant
change. She can no more change her teaching about lust than her equally
emphatic teachings about pride, gluttony, and sloth, because God has made
the world as it is and no human will can repeal its moral order. These
arent the Popes personal opinions; they are objective
Powerless, hardly able to keep her
own flock in line, and betrayed by many of her shepherds, the Church is
still treated as a threat. All she really threatens is the false comfort of
the dormant conscience; but this is enough to make bitter enemies.
After all, her Founder warned her not
to expect gratitude from men for trying to save their souls. She is the
mother of Western civilization, and to this day, all too often, she is
blamed for everything and thanked for nothing.