A Reflection on Why the NEWS is being posted on Cleansing Fire … you deserve an answer.
There was a time, not that many months ago, when CF was heavily focused on what was hurting souls in the Rochester Diocese, on documenting the need for action, and on mutual commiseration. Time moves on. We have been blessed with a new Bishop who is easily seen as an answer to prior prayers, and deserving of our continuing prayers of support. Such change inevitably begs the question: ”Is there still a need for Cleansing Fire?” Fair and faithful people may choose to disagree. Those who say ‘no’ will inevitably leave the site, moving on to where their interests lie now. Others will see an opportunity to transcend the past, and leverage the skills, information and contacts established during our previous activity. Some will step up to more involvement and participation. (There are other alternatives, of course, but let’s focus on these for now.)
Were the Body of Christ simply an organization of mutual geographic interest, or were it simply a social club which meets on Sundays, the answer would be less complex. When our preoccupation was intense on our local problems, it was easier to overlook what was happening elsewhere. But the Body of Christ exceeds a billion people today, and what happens to a brother or sister in Syria, Ukraine or Toronto does matter. Moreover, what happens there today may well be an early warning system to us of an impending threat to the practice of our own faith. If we had truly noticed, it would have been obvious that Canada has been, for the last five years at least, a proving ground for egregious undermining of the Catholic Faith, and those practices have easily flowed south across the border. So, perhaps it is time to notice. Do we really think involuntary euthanasia in Belgium (and being lobbied in Montreal) isn’t an impending threat? Or obligatory abortion of less than fully healthy unborn children isn’t the interest of a government controlling or rationing medical expenses? Or that suppression of Religious Truth won’t be implemented by arrests of priests for teaching Romans Chapter 1 or the Catechism from the pulpit, or that their counseling a repentant same-sex activist in the confessional won’t be seen as illegal reparative therapy? The threats are obvious, and much more far-reaching than in any particular diocese. Self-induced blindness is not morally defensible.
The next logical question is whether or not such threats have more of a political than faith-based nature? While not denying the political implications, the ultimate threat is to souls, hence the argument for continuing and enhancing the work of Cleansing Fire. There are three very real areas in which faithful Catholics should strive to make a difference in their own areas of responsibility, even when it seems to be a losing battle (but we do know Who wins the war!):
1. Witness (=definition of martyr) by the hierarchy — elsewhere in these NEWS posts we have occasionally mentioned “heroic hierarchy” deserving of accolades for their faithfulness in difficult times. Many more than we know or can mention have lost their lives in war-torn countries, or endured prison and torture by religious persecutors. One can ask how some clergy can surrender their lives for Christ, while in our own country there are shepherds who will not even speak from the pulpit against abortion, who allow political figures who propagate evils against the souls of the flock to participate unworthily in the Eucharist (against Canon Law and Church teaching), and who cause confusion and scandal as they bask in media sunshine with obtuse and unclear language, rather than provide clarity of teaching.
2. Protection of Catholic Services and Teaching Institutions — Catholic hospitals have sometimes merged with secular hospitals, insidiously referring for contraception and abortion while keeping the name “Catholic” inked on the door. Some Catholic colleges have populated their public stage with anti-Christ figures and reprehensible practices at graduations and other events, allowing alleged Catholics to rip the fabric of Catholicism asunder and denigrate Church teachings. Even Catholic High Schools are entering the fray, with parents and children openly rejecting the Church’s teaching on same-sex relationships, utterly rejecting the Truth of Catholic Education. Meanwhile, at a time faithful teaching is most needed, Catholic schools close, or sell out to the Core Curriculum, or staff with people whose lifestyles are a blatant rejection of Catholicism. Funding is given to charities which promulgate abortion, contraception and/or homosexual lifestyle, even weakening the moral ethic of other countries. Most threatened is the family, with home schoolers persecuted, and children snatched from parents who are trying to teach Christian principles.
3. Sanctification of the Laity – the failure of some members of the hierarchy to rule as Catholics (yes, the red of the Cardinal’s attire does connote being willing to bleed for the Church, to death) and their failure to protect the sustaining institutions that teach either directly or by example, inevitably lead to a loss of sanctification of the laity. When the laity sees a notorious public figure honored by Church hierarchy or its institutions, for example, members easily excuse themselves from righteous demands for obedience and virtue. Parents who support and even encourage their children in same-sex attraction, or procure contraceptives and abortions for themselves, family or friends, pass on that teaching to the next generation. Parishioners who easily skip Mass to go to sports events, and question even the Real Presence, can more easily “shop” around for a “feel-good” church with great musical performances and undemanding scripture reading. Then, as more churches close, or become unrecognizable as Catholic, those in the pew find an anonymity or malaise, facilitating the cafeteria culture.
The NEWS articles on CF tend to be in those three areas, as either good examples or bad examples. Such articles tend not to focus on the individual sins of those seeking to draw attention to themselves, like protesters, or people making public displays for the news media, who destroy pro-life displays, pour urine on a bishop or use public nudity to garner headlines. Those are not our subjects (though we have been asked a few times why such stories aren’t being covered.) Rather the interest is more on major trends, threats and tests of our faith, heralding the path of persecution, but without any particular concern for a diocesan boundary. We, the Body of Christ, have good enough reason to be concerned, and good enough reason to share the preaching of one Catholic-pressured-into-being-an-Anglican-priest figure, John Donne, from Elizabethan England (his brother died a Catholic martyr), who seemed to have his own regrets. His particular sermon on our inter-dependence became the famous poem we know as “No Man is an Island.” It fully applies to the Body of Christ:
No Man Is An Island
No man is an island, Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
And, for Easter Week, here are three encouraging and even uplifting stories from LifeSiteNews:
Toronto Cardinal criticizes Catholic teachers’ union decision to march in Pride parade
Hundreds of pro-life Catholics give public witness in San Diego on Good Friday
Unborn child has ‘inalienable’ right to life ‘at all stages of development’: Alabama Supreme Court
And these headlines show an additional reason it is important to keep Catholic Teaching in the public square — because it leads as well to sanctification of the nation, making it a better place for souls to be saved. Thus, the Alabama Supreme Court decision, and others like it, need hierarchical witness, persistent teaching, and support of those seeking holiness. Let us just do our part. It is a privilege, not a burden. Amen?