by Fr Richard Heilman | February 4, 2022 3:57 PM
By Fr. Bill Peckman:
Pastor’s Pen: An Urgent Wake-Up Call
One of the founders of Western Philosophy, Aristotle, who lived 300-400 years before the birth of Jesus, said, “Tolerance and apathy are the virtues of a dying society.” It is a strong sign of a society that has lost its moral code. It has lost its moral code through indulgence of the senses (particularly sexual), its wealth, and its focus on leisure. The people have largely grown soft, dependent, and thus ripe for plunder. Human history is replete with examples: whether it was the Roman Republic becoming the Roman Empire, the collapse of the Roman Empire, the Weimar Republic becoming Nazi Germany, or the Kingdom of France sliding into the madness of the French Revolution, a society tagged by apathy or who sees tolerance as virtuous is ripe for collapse and totalitarianism.
What is true within the political realm is doubly true in the spiritual realm. When one takes serious reading into the Old Testament, one sees the people of Israel ebb and flow like an ocean tide in their relationship with God. When Israel holds onto the teachings of God presented to them through the Torah (First five books of the Bible) all goes well for them and they thrive. When tolerance of foreign gods, idols, and the vile things these religions promote (child sacrifice, prostitution, use of the occult) Israel collapses. This happens soon after the death of Joshua, after the death of Solomon, during the time of the prophets who beg Israel to run from evil, through the Greek invasion, and even under Roman rule.
In Church history, we see the same. We see it in early church with the toleration and acceptance of many heresies among lead the clergy almost lead to many believing Jesus was not the Son of God. We see it in the medieval church where sexual scandal among the clergy had grown so bad that ST Peter Damian, in his book, “The Book of Gomorrah” pleaded with the pope to clean up the mess that existed in the clergy. It wasn’t just sex, it was greed for wealth, it was abuse of power, and other things that crept into and was tolerated by both clergy and laity. The toleration of evil in the Renaissance Church made the Protestant Reformation inevitable. Thankfully, the Church learned this time and engaged in a Counter-Reformation which apexed with the Council of Trent.
In the 500 years since the Council of Trent, we have now come to another crossroads. The normal Catholic in western societies has become a champion of tolerance and apathy. Most people do not know their faith (not through their own fault initially) nor really show any desire to know their faith. We have many who call themselves Catholics who do not practice the faith. We have those who call themselves Catholics, and who in the name of being tolerant or relevant to society, have bought and now espouse teachings which contradict Catholic teaching. This is true even in the clergy, even among bishops. The serious and deadly scandal of such tolerance of what God has declared to be evil poisons the flocks of which the clergy have been bidden by Our Lord to shepherd.
Rushing to the Extremes
I personally believe we have such a case because the extremes are running the show. On one side we have the group I call the persecutors/executors. Their answer to all sin is to hate the sinner as well as the sin. They see the sinner as beyond redemption and thus in need of severe penalties and even execution. These will shun sinners as beyond redemption or not deserving of redemption. This attitude is not in union with the Gospel Christ preached. He reached out to sinners and saw them as deserving of redemption and needing of His love. He offered redemption to anyone who sought it. However, he did not stop people from rejecting that redemption.
On the other extreme we have the enablers. These believe if one loves the sinner then one must tolerate the sin the name of loving the person or love the sin themselves even if they don’t adapt the sin in their own life. These people, though, will shun those who don’t follow their compromise and see the sinner as not needing redemption. This is just as bad as the other side as both could not care less about the state of the sinner’s soul.
The place of truth is between the extremes by acting in the person of Christ who offered love and redemption. He hated the sin but loved the sinner so much as to call them away from the sin. Some accepted and some rejected. We are to love the sinner but hate the sin. This takes us to a place again where we speak the truth in charity. We should love them enough to care about the fate of their eternal soul. Tolerance of sin or apathy towards sin condemns the sinner and proves the tolerant and apathetic to be cowards. In the wake of such cowardice and enabling we have seen the wholesale rejection of most every Church teaching about human sexuality, abortion, and family life. When those are no longer held, it makes sense that such teachings as the Real Presence would also be rejected or unknown. Hence, religious practice continues to plummet and those who do practice are routinely mocked by this society. Like the aforementioned historical examples, we are ripe for destruction.
A Light to the Nations
What has made Christianity the force for good that it has been at its best over two thousand years is when it held fast to the truth and applied it with great love. The Gospel bids us to love those hate us and to do good to those who hate us. Think about it: we can do good for those who disagree with us. St Theresa of Calcutta opened AIDS hospices in New York City and San Francisco. She didn’t become a champion of gay rights; she ministered to those were dying because she had great love. She was following hundreds of years of examples of Christian action that led to the Christian inventions of hospices, hospitals, colleges and universities, orphanages, and so one. It led men like St Francis de Sales to reach out to homeless and discarded street kids and provide for their needs without accommodating their thievery. I could go into a very long list of examples, but the truth remains, we grow when we adhere to truth even under persecution and we choose to love both ourselves and those around us as in need of Christ’s saving redemption.
We are failing in this western world because we are slipping away from the truth through tolerance of evil and apathy to the sinner. We have compromised out of a desire to dodge persecution and to be allowed to exist quietly in our little worlds as if that is what Christ commanded. No where does it say, “Don’t offend a sinner.” In the early Church, so much of why there were persecuted is that they both defied the corrupt society they lived in, but also because they showed great love and compassion to all, especially to those the elites dismissed as unworthy of charity or kindness. This means our first allegiance must be to Christ and the entirety of the truth he has revealed to us. When our first allegiance is to our comfort, to an ideology, or worst of all, a political party, then we compromise away the Gospel in the name apathy and tolerance.
My first challenge is to educate yourself in the truth of the faith! Ignorance of the truth will not be a suitable excuse before God. In our parishes, we are going to greatly expand what we do in education from cradle to grave. No more soft, mushy, water downed catechesis. No more spewing facts without challenging toward integration; our faith isn’t a game of Trivial Pursuit chock full in arcane factoids. No, what we believe and how we apply those beliefs matter. We are called to be a light to the world, and we cannot do that if we look, speak, and act as the world does.
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