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Friday, November 07, 2003

The Infallibly Dirty Dozen

Councils in the early days of the Church were not quite so easy as today. Not only was travel arduous, disputing bishops were not above threatening physical violence to each other. At the Council of Ephesus, for instance, Cyril of Jerusalem had a bodyguard of sailors, while his opponent, Nestorious, brought gladiators from the circus. Back then, bishops played for keeps.

Ephesus met in order to decide if Mary could be called Mother of God, or if should she just be referred to as Mother of Christ. The faithful already knew the answer. The earliest known prayer to the Virgin Mary is the Sub Tuum Praesidium, “We fly to thy patronage, O Holy Mother of God: despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin.” It had been in constant use by the faithful for more than two centuries before the council. In fact, large crowds of Catholic faithful gathered around the building where the bishops met, and chanted, “Mary is the Mother of God!” That kind of attention from the faithful seemed to help focus the minds of the bishops.

Catholics are getting out their bullhorns again.

Have you heard about the Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas that isn't being built? It seems one contractor, a good Catholic, has organized every concrete supplier within 60 miles: no one will sell the abortionists the construction materials they need to finish the job. The main contractor just threw in the towel, saying the project could not be finished. Some babies in Texas will owe their lives to a Catholic who got angry and did something about it.

Have you heard of the Dirty Dozen? The shame of being on the list goes to Senators Ted Kennedy (MA), Tom Harkin (IA), John Kerry (MA), Tom Daschle (SD), Christopher Todd (CT), Jack Reed (RI), Patty Murray (WA), Mary Landrieu (LA), Patrick Leahy (VT), Barbara Mikulski (MD), Joseph Biden (DE), and Susan Collins (ME).

These are the Congressmen who simultaneously claim to be Catholic and pro-abortion. A pro-abortion Catholic politician is like a cop on the take - they keep their jobs, but nobody they serve is very happy about it. Their superiors, for whatever reason, can’t or won’t do anything, the cops have “friends” who make sure the community stays quiet, and we in the community are too scared to speak.

Well, the times, they are a’changin’.

For the last several months, the American Life League (ALL) has run full-page ads in major newspapers denouncing pro-abortion Catholic Congressmen as heretics. This may seem harsh. It isn’t.

Pro-life Catholics have tried to be nice to these particular heretics for thirty years. All we got in return was partial-birth abortion and RU-486. If this is winning, how many body bags does it take to lose?

You may wonder where ALL gets the idea that they have the authority to declare someone a heretic. That’s simple. ALL is simply repeating the constant teaching of the Church - anyone who claims to be Catholic has to publicly live their Catholic faith. Insisting that abortion or contraception is compatible with being Catholic is heresy. That’s as nice as one can put it without lying.

The saints would agree. In A Man For All Seasons, Thomas More points out that a certain young man, being a heretic, could not marry his daughter. The young man replies heatedly, “Sir Thomas, now that’s a word I don’t like!” The saint replies with perfect courtesy, “It’s not a likeable word, it’s not a likeable thing,” and sends him home. Sir Thomas lost his head at the block rather than tell a simple untruth. And he wasn’t even a consecrated man.

While the silence from the pulpit has become deafening, the lay faithful are beginning to chant. Check out your nearest major newspaper. ALL is now asking the Catholic bishops of America why they have been silent on the attempt to starve Terry Schiavo to death, why they allowed her to be denied the last rites and viaticum without raising a word of protest to the secular authorities.

These are darned good questions. These are questions the Catholic faithful have a right to ask. And we all have a right to a darned good answer. Heterodox groups are very fond of pointing out, the Second Vatican Council wrote: “The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One, cannot err in matters of belief.”

Catholic heretics use this as a basis for demanding women priests, a married clergy, changes in the teaching on contraception, and immediate co-equal participation in the procession of the Divine Persons within the Trinity. Well, they haven’t demanded the last yet, but it’s sure to come.

In any case, these same heretics always forget what follows the phrase they lift so carefully out of Lumen Gentium, #12, “They manifest this special [infallible] property by means of the whole peoples' supernatural discernment in matters of faith when ‘from the Bishops down to the last of the lay faithful’ they show universal agreement in matters of faith and morals. That discernment in matters of faith is aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth. It is exercised under the guidance of the sacred teaching authority, in faithful and respectful obedience to which the people of God accepts that which is not just the word of men but truly the word of God. Through it, the people of God adheres unwaveringly to the faith given once and for all to the saints, penetrates it more deeply with right thinking, and applies it more fully in its life.”

What Lumen Gentium describes is known as the sensus fidelium, the sense of the faithful. It is one of the three infallible expressions of the Magisterium. When Catholic faithful who (1) have a properly formed conscience (2) express the faith as given to the saints, then these same Catholic lay faithful speak infallibly. Bet'cha didn't know you could do that, did ya'?

That’s what makes ALL’s work different from Voice of the Faithful. ALL is simply shouting from the rooftops what the universal Church has always taught, though some particular local bishops have not. The problem with “orthodox” Catholics is that we’re too shy. This is not good. As long as we are shy about speaking the truth, we aren’t really orthodox. There is no opposition between right belief (orthodoxy) and right action (orthopraxy). They inform one another, they need one another. We cannot say we are orthodox if we do not proclaim the Gospel. Silent orthodoxy is not orthodoxy, it is the sin of apathy at best, the condemned heresy of Quietism at the worst.

Some might point out that there is a season for everything under the sun, and it is certainly true that one should not speak out of season. However, thirty years is rather a long winter, and this winter’s plagues have been particularly harsh. We’ve dug a lot of graves because we haven’t stood up to the heretics, because we haven’t given them the names they’ve worked so hard to earn. It is a mark of respect for the man and for the truth to honor every man with the name his work deserves. If we want what the Pope wants - a springtime of evangelization - then we had better join our voices and shout the Gospel from the rooftops.

But remember, shout loud.

Some of our fellow citizens are kind of deaf.

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