Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee
For a long time now, I have felt that we have entered a post-Christian era in the history of western civilization. There is almost an embarrassment about being a Christian and a denial of the roots that Christianity has provided in the development of our society. In the European society, the Euro community refused to acknowledge the historical significance of Christianity in the development of European society. The pope made an impassioned plea for that recognition, but it fell on deaf ears. Now we have a European community that is clinging to its roots, as it is slowly being destroyed by its own hubris.
Here in the United States, we are apparently a European “wannabe.” We have been slowly disavowing ourselves of any connection to religion and separating ourselves from any symbols which may be offensive, though they have been in existence for decades.
Part of it can be attributed to the tyranny of the minority -- one person is offended by a statue or a picture reflecting some religious symbolism and off we go to an activist court for social reconstruction -- the sensitivity of the one is imposed on the many.
Oh! But we have separation of Church and state, they say (actually only by judicial edict). There was no separation of Church and state when the parochial schools were educating the masses because government lacked the capacity to do so. There was no separation when the religious hospitals were providing care in areas the government could not or would not. Nor when religious charities were providing for the homeless long before state welfare organizations were instituted.
Separation seems to be a concept of when we need you it’s “okay, please participate” and when we don’t “get out of our political way because we don’t need to be tainted by your religious zeal.” Religion is treated like the intellectually challenged adult that, in less enlightened times, would be kept separate from the family for fear of embarrassment and from the social elite who might think less of them.
As Catholics, we have weathered the governmental and societal bashing that has taken place for 2,000 years. We survived the Roman Empire, the monarchies, the “isms,” of Nazism, communism and self-proclaimed “rationalists.” And we will survive the rejection of our own society and its continued attempt to muffle our voice and isolate us from the decision-making table. We will pay a price. But, we will not do so without preaching and teaching the truth.
The recent decision of the Supreme Court legalizing same sex marriage is sad, because it once again takes upon itself the redefinition of the word. This time it’s “marriage.” The definitions of words seem to not matter to the court. The simple truth is that marriage is between a man and a woman. Why? Because from the dawn of civilization men and women were joined together to perpetuate our species. Marriage constitutes a family where individuals are raised, given an identity and form the basic building block of our society.
In our brave new world, we can generate human beings in a test tube -- no one need know who the father is. A surrogate can be used, as would an incubator, in order to fulfill the desire for a child by two males. The terms mother and father are now subject to redefinition. Perhaps it will take a village to raise the children, especially if they will not have identifiable role models. But, we have permitted same sex individuals to claim marriage as a right at the cost of family deconstruction and role model redefinition.
I haven’t even broached the subject that God ordained marriage. From the beginning he created them, males and females were told to go forth and multiply. The Church has established marriage as a sacrament and it is evident in its teachings how essential the understanding of marriage between a man and a woman is to the faith.
I know that you have often heard the term “cafeteria” Catholic. This is a Catholic that picks and chooses what is convenient in the teachings and ignores the rest. The Supreme Court decision was made by a court composed of six Catholics, with the majority opinion rendered by Catholic judge, Justice Anthony Kennedy (supported by another Catholic, Justice Sonia Sotomayor). Perhaps, he remembered another Kennedy claiming that he would not be guided by the pope or the teachings of the Church once he is elected president. The four dissenters were Catholic with an excellent dissenting opinion rendered by Justice Antonin Scalia (concurring Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Thomas and Justice Alito).
This was not the first time that a terrible decision was influenced or rendered by a Catholic on the Supreme Court. Chief Justice Tawney in the Dred Scott decision actually inferred that a slave, a man, a human being, was just a piece of chattel and must be returned to the owner. This decision was the seed of Civil War and the decision of the court to define a man as property. And Justice Brennan, the only Catholic on the high court, influenced the Court in the Roe v Wade decision, voting with the majority. This decision denied any rights to the child in the womb which has led to the destruction of more than 50 million lives since 1973 (read “The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court” by Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong).
We will not be assuaged from what the Church teaches and I believe it calls for even greater courage in the face of this rejection of truth. Ever the social critic, Cardinal Francis George may be right when he said that he will die in his bed, his successor will die in jail and the one who follows his successor will die a martyr in the public square. He envisioned the social upheaval in our society as a mounting persecution of the Church. I will willingly wear the orange jumpsuit, if it means standing up for the truth and the Catholic faith.
I guess one doesn’t have to worry whether or not any Catholic judge or Catholic elected official would be compelled to follow the teachings of his or her faith. Unfortunately for some, it’s just a window dressing that can change with the seasons (political pressure, popular opinions and the polls). That’s a sad commentary on the effect of faith because so much truth and goodness (dignity of the human being) is found in the richness of a faith that mandates us to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Note: This blog originally appeared as the June 30, 2015 "Love One Another" email sent to Catholics throughout the Archdiocese of Milwaukee by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki. If you are interested in signing up for these email messages, please click here.