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American Catholic No More

American Catholic No More

Yesterday, a federal court ruled the Diocese of Ft. Wayne-South Bend will have to pay $1,750,000 in civil damages to a Catholic school teacher, Emily Herx, who was dismissed for violating her employment contract by using In vitro fertilization to get pregnant. The Diocese will file an appeal within the next 28 days and, hopefully, the injustice will be reversed.

But reading the news report sent my thoughts to a scene from Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh.

Specifically, my thoughts turned to the episode when Charles Ryder describes his loss of faith in his military service in terms of a collapsed marriage:

“As I lay in that dark hour, I was aghast to realize that something within me, long sickening, had quietly died, and felt as a husband might feel, who, in the fourth year of his marriage, suddenly knew that he had no longer any desire, or tenderness, or esteem, for a once-beloved wife; no pleasure in her company, no wish to please, no curiosity about anything she might ever do or say or think; no hope of setting things right, no self-reproach for the disaster. I knew it all….”

Ryder’s marital disillusion serves as an apt illustration of the ever-fraying relationship between the Catholic Church in the United States and contemporary, secularized democracy. For over two centuries the Catholic Church has labored like an abused spouse to be accepted by American style democracy. It hasn’t been a sound marriage even it was episodically good. The Catholic Church has never been anything but tolerated only when it couldn’t be ignored.

Things have changed a great deal from the halcyon days, the 1930s-50s, of the Church’s institutional heft and cultural weight. The Church’s members have been in a state of confused division for decades, very often over fundamentals of the Faith, putting the Church in a position to be ignored.

Democracy too has changed, from what was once a largely recognizable representative system that kept everybody’s interests in play, to a massive regulatory state managed by coalitions of materialist interests, governed by a materialist and “emotivist” epistemology that specifically excludes the insights and wisdom of Catholicism from the public square.

With great irony, what could be called the “Church-Confused” slavered by democratic and secularized democracy took up anathemas and excommunications!

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

As the poet W.B. Yeats famously said in “The Second Coming,” “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.” The evidence of his prophetic words continue to mount as seen in  this severing of the relationship between Catholic Church and secularized democracy, e.g., the depredations of Obamacare, expanding contraceptive and abortifacient mandates in national health policy, the metastasizing gay marriage legal juggernaut, and, now, the court’s judgment against the Diocese of Ft. Wayne-South Bend.

Three things have become obvious. One is that things will not and cannot be as they were. Therefore, that aspect of their identity that American Catholics drew from America will compel a deep reexamination. In many instances, Catholic identity will require significant alteration if one is to stay authentically, evangelically Catholic.

Second, it should be apparent by now that the advocates of secularized democracy have as their goal the disenfranchisement and de-legitimation of the Catholic Church in the public square.  They also expect to be granted avenues of influence into the Church’s internal affairs as the price for continuing to operate in a postmodern, secularized democracy.

Finally, all members of the Church, especially the leaders, have to wake up and recognize the full import of this new state of affairs. The Church is being subjected to divorce proceedings by secularized democracy. All affection has waned (if it was ever real in the first place!). The Church’s leadership must put aside the embarrassing charade of its importunate courtship. Secularized democracy does not delight in our company and has no interest in the heart of the matter.

As we confront the reality of a denuded public square, it’s essential the Church prepare for the continuing assault of a hostile secularity invading the private sphere. In preparing for that, we might just go from being the “Church-Confused” to the “Church-Militant” – eschewing the growling nonsense of those who presently operate under that banner.

Those who think of themselves as “American Catholic” will need to reconsider advertising the assimilation and become, simply, evangelical Catholics.

“Surely some revelation is at hand.”

W.B. Yeats, “The Second Coming.”

About The Author

Father Phillip De Vous is the pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Crescent Springs, KY. He is a weekly commentator on matters of church affairs, public policy on the Sonrise in the Morning Radio show, carried globally on the EWTN Radio Network.

50 Comments

  1. I wish my church would stop worrying about this kind of nonsense and put more effort into helping those in need and building a stronger community. Adapt or die.

    Reply
    • How do you propose we do that? We are not simply a do gooder organization. We are the largest welfare agency in the world but we also believe in God. How do we set aside our trust in God to satisfy the secular world and still remain God’s body on earth?

      Reply
    • Hello–remember what Pope Francis said: “The Church is not just another NGO.” Our mission is to spread the teachings of Jesus Christ. If we don’t do that, all the charitable works are for nothing.

      Reply
      • What did Jesus teach about in vitro fertilization? I missed that part – must have been busy reading the parts about healing the sick, clothing the naked, loving your neighbor, etc.

        Reply
        • Mathew 16:19

          19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[c] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[d] loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

          Matthew 23:2-3

          2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, 3 so do and observe whatever they tell you,

          1 Timothy 3:15

          15 if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.

          Reply
          • Amen. Good response, John.

          • I carefully read the verses you quoted and still do not see a reference to in vitro fertilization. Is there some hidden metaphor for it which I’m not picking up on?

          • Taylor, Christ gave authority to the Church to carry out His mission in the world. He did not give this authority to anyone else.

          • I hate to sound like a broken record, but the question was, “Where in the teaching of Jesus does he address in vitro fertilization?” No one has addressed my question.

          • The teaching on Invitro fertilization is probably in a Papal Encyclical or other such document. We can look it up. I will try now. Brenda Raudenbush

          • Taylor go online and write in, “Catholic Teaching on Reproduction 1989”. That should bring up the US Bishops Letter on Reproduction which discusses various methods of reproduction. Good hunting

          • Taylor, I gather you are not either Catholic or Orthodox. Other groups who are “christian” discount much of the teachings of Jesus. Jesus established His Church as His continuing mouth piece. The Church says what Jesus wants taught. Without His continuing authority through the Church we would be lost sheep. Come home Taylor.

          • I am a member of, and perfectly at home in, the English Rite of the Catholic Church, which presently is not in communion with the Bishop of Rome and does not recognize his authority to declare dogma for the entire church. You have answered my question indirectly. There is nowhere in the teaching of Jesus in the Gospels about in Vitro fertilization, and therefore it is up to reasonable men and women to deduce what the will of Jesus would be in this matter. So let me rephrase the question: what is it in the gospel teachings of Jesus that would lead us to believe that in vitro fertilization is wrong?

          • Taylor: You keep saying “A person is not a person until he/she is born” This may come as a surprise to you, therefore.

            Read the Prologue of John’s Gospel carefully. It starts out, “In the beginning was the Word; and the Word was with God; and the Word was God … and the Word was made flesh and dwelled among us….

            The last line indicates the Incarnation of Christ. He came because all “Persons” existed already in the mind of God. Taylor existed in the mind of God from the beginning. “In the Beginning” is a time out of time –meaning before the Big Bang and is a mystery.

            Therefore, all persons are persons in God’s mind from all eternity. Babies that die, and even babies that die by abortion are still persons with souls. The souls once created does not die.

            Happy Reading,

            Brenda Raudenbush Griffin

        • “Thou shalt not kill” for starters. That was reaffirmed by Christ a few times. Then you could move on to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” which I think precludes assembling a person in a lab from an act of masturbation and then freezing and implanting or killing, or keeping frozen another human being. I think there are a lot of hints that Jesus does not approve of people using other people in this way. It is a little infantile to think that Christ must address your objections with direct scripture passages one by one rather than that you go out and get to know Him and the authority He established to represent Him on earth until He returns. Then, too, there is simply the intelligent person’s ability to look at nature, see how it best operates, and act accordingly. Then again, maybe you really honestly think that Christ has to say something in particular in the Bible about everything…the internet, smoking pot, rules for driving, etc etc in order for the Church to have a legitimate claim to say anything authoritative about these things. Go and learn the meaning of “love your neighbor” and tell me where freezing your neighbor fits in.

          Reply
          • You’ve finally incovered the root issue. It’s not a person till it’s born.

          • Where does Jesus say that it is not a person til it’s born? The only thing I can find in scripture about this is pretty striking. “Does a mother forget the child within her womb?” (Just to be clear, the child is referred to as a child, and as in the womb simultaneously!) and again, “before I was formed in the womb, You knew me.” (Meaning, there is a person in the womb there to be known.) If you are going to play the proof text game, I think you must admit scripture is not on your side, or else subscribe to some other, higher authority than scripture. The 20th century Supreme Court of the USA, perhaps? Yourself? Huffington Post? Gallup?

          • It sounds like you think you have ckted all Holy Scripture has to say about the status of the unborn because you could only find teo places. Perhaps it is because you only found what you were looking for and missed other passages contrary to your position. One example: children in Scripture are named only after they are born, suggesting that full personhood comes after birth. In addition, it can be argued that the two passages you cited should be interpreted poetically, as with the ones which speak of the four corners of the earth. The three sources of revelation available to us are Scripture, tradition and reason, with Scripture holding a place of primacy. And the prponderence of these suggests that full personhood comes with birth. Otherwise we have numerous problematic points such as, should the unborn be counted on censuses? Can parents claim an exemption on their income taxes for the unborn? Is the termination of a pregnancy the moral equivolent of murder? If so, why aren’t those who do so imprisoned for life? One can have great respect for life, oppose abortion as birth control, etc., without adopting extreme positions which result in such bizarre comments as the one above which regards freezing of fetilized eggs as freezing one’s neighbor.

        • Either you are willfully ignorant or just lazy. You demand to play the proof text game, and then you dismiss the proof as mere poesy Can’t have it both ways. Abortion is murder, we just live in a very legally challenged time. It will pass away. Your legal quibbles are matters of practical governance, not issues of personhood. Hard to count people you can’t see (is it twins? triplets?) If you do not have access to a Bible or to a search engine, I’ll give you some more examples just to get you started. John the Baptist was not only named before his birth, (as were many others in scripture but you can look that up) but his mother Elizabeth called out to Mary (whom she called “the mother of my Lord” even though Mary had only been pregnant a few days at the most by then) that the moment her greeting sounded, “the infant in my womb leapt for joy.” John was person enough to recognize the person of Christ in utero. Also, you may not be aware that people in bible times did not have access to ultra sound technology either, so they had to wait until the child was born to see the sex of the child. Wow. Signing off til you do your homework. BTW, You still haven’t addressed the other morally evil bits of IVF. Unless masturbation and purposeful eugenic selection (destroying) of human embryos is considered morally justified by your enlightened reason. Then there are the children, some of whom are born to parents who have had them manufactured from their own egg and sperm, but many of whom are denied their right to know who their biological parents are. And even if all these things are not morally repugnant, can we not all agree that IVF is just very icky and sad?

          Reply
          • That is right. You cannot have it both ways. The best thing is, you already know that, which is why you keep searching for alternatives. I have done that kind of bargaining in the past. What happens to me is, that in the end of my bargaining uselessly, I receive very strong messages fro God’s Will (It is the only way I can describe these thoughts that rise up strongly in me). These thoughts tell me what to stop and where to turn in my observances of what is morally right for you. No doubt, you will turn toward the traditionally taught morality and away from your own desires if you want to stay Catholic. Do you want to stay Catholic, or return to the Catholic Church? I hope so and when you have converted from your own confusion, you will be able to get ready. Brenda Raudenbush

    • The Church exists to save souls – not to save the world.

      Reply
      • That depends on what you mean by what you write. Jesus was clear when He taught us the Our Father, in which He said, “Thy Kingdom come, They will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” He also meant it when He said “For God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” I think He meant it when He established the Church here and not just in someone’s mind and that we are to be the salt of the world.

        Clarification of your absolute distinctions between soul and world surely needs to be made.

        Reply
        • Cross talk is ok as long as it isn’t all “cross” (argument for argument’s sake).

          As for the Church: it isn’t a democracy, it is an Order.

          Reply
      • Just practice contemplation and take action. There you have Church. When we do it together or according to the same Order, there you have community. I agree: Stop worrying about the politics! My faith and action needs a container. The container is the Church, where lives the Real Presence and offers Seven Sacraments of sanctification. Brenda Raudenbush Griffin

        Reply
        • Brenda, You may be right but that in and of itself is political action. The struggle to be in the world but not of it continues as it always has.

          Reply
          • Thank you for seeing how subtly and easily one can sneak politics into an opinion! I appreciate the comment! Brenda Raudenbush

      • Either you are willfully ignorant or just lazy. You demand to play the proof text game, and then you dismiss the proof as mere poesy Can’t have it both ways. Abortion is murder, we just live in a very legally challenged time. It will pass away. Your legal quibbles are matters of practical governance, not issues of personhood. Hard to count people you can’t see (is it twins? triplets?) If you do not have access to a Bible or to a search engine, I’ll give you some more examples just to get you started. John the Baptist was not only named before his birth, (as were many others in scripture but you can look that up) but his mother Elizabeth called out to Mary (whom she called “the mother of my Lord” even though Mary had only been pregnant a few days at the most by then) that the moment her greeting sounded, “the infant in my womb leapt for joy.” John was person enough to recognize the person of Christ in utero. Also, you may not be aware that people in bible times did not have access to ultra sound technology either, so they had to wait until the child was born to see the sex of the child. Wow. Signing off til you do your homework. BTW, You still haven’t addressed the other morally evil bits of IVF. Unless masturbation and purposeful eugenic selection (destroying) of human embryos is considered morally justified by your enlightened reason. Then there are the children, many of whom are denied their right to know who their biological parents are.

        Reply
        • I gather you are responding to Richard M. This system can get very confusing.

          Reply
  2. This is the sense I’ve had for many years. I ran for political office this past year in the hope of having a positive influence. As I consider running again I’m not sure if I can based upon this serious reflection.

    Reply
  3. If you’re speaking of “your” church, meaning Holy Mother Church, the Roman Catholic Church and call birth control, in Vitro, etc “non sense”, it’s ere apparent you need some faith formation and education in your own faith. The CHURCH, nor the word of God “adapt.” You sound like a secular progressive. We don’t adapt, WE (Christ) made the rules!

    Reply
    • No, the author was not referring to birth control or in Vitro as “nonsense” at all. The article was defending those teachings of the Catholic faith.

      Reply
      • This is an odd system. We are to respond to posts before reading them.

        Reply
        • Agreed.

          Reply
          • I’ve figured it out. This system is new to me. I should have figured it out before.

        • What may be confusing is that the comments are listed chronologically, they are not separated out into threads under each article. I will see if such an arrangement is possible. Thanks for pointing it out. Deal

          Reply
      • He was referring to Lee Lee’s comment.

        Reply
      • I was responding to the charge from Lee Lee.

        Reply
        • Then you should have replied to his comment and not to the article.

          Reply
    • Claire I believe you are misreading the article. Or perhaps you would like to quote the parts that show a a defense of secular progressivism.

      Reply
      • How so? I was referring to Lee Lees initial comment.

        Reply
  4. Great article, Father! I understand these sentiments and thoughts. Two things come to mind – First I wonder if Abp Chaput will update his book – Render Unto Caesar and its commentary on “We hold these truths”.

    Secondly and more importantly – we are quickly approaching the situation that our South American brothers and sisters have lived under for years. Namely, that labor law does not afford conscience protections for the Church per se. Speaking ot our Fathers from various countries there, they told me that they did not have the right to hire and fire based on moral teachings of the Church. Obviously through recommendations etc one can be astute when hiring, but once hired it does become problematic to fire someone for moral issues. That said the institutes still manage to maintain a Catholic identity. As you say it is a time of change – things will not be the same and will demand the reexamination you mentioned.
    Certainly one of the biggest challenges is that some of those “confused” ones you mentioned are nto at all appalled by this situation but see the advance of secularization as a good thing that the Church does not have to “handle”. but rather should embrace as freeing. It wail be those voices that will try to keep us in the courtship blindly impeding the awakening that is necessary to properly encounter these growing challenges.

    Reply
  5. Good thing we have a system of democracy where bad decisions like this can be appealed. Catholics need to unite and get involved in our democratic process.

    “All intelligent men are agreed… America seems destined for greater things. Now… We ardently desire that this truth should sink day by day more deeply into the minds of Catholics; namely, that they can in no better way safeguard their own individual interests and the common good than by yielding a hearty submission and obedience to the Church.”

    ENCYCLICAL OF POPE LEO XIII ON
    CATHOLICISM IN THE UNITED STATES (1895)

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/leo_xiii/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_06011895_longinqua_en.html

    Reply
    • The Church is NOT a democracy, Mr. Weinberg.

      Reply
      • Mr. Weinberg did not say that. He said that we should fall back to the teachings of the Church.

        Reply
  6. The preservation of the Catholic Church depends upon “going back to the basics.” Going back to the basics, for example, would be to take a topic like “Incarnation”, and then establishing a non-judgmental dialogue which allows sharing but no cross-talk. Differing viewpoints, though, could be allowed, as long as they belong to the speaker.

    Begin this way: “Incarnation” – what does it mean to you? Is it real to you, or only a metaphor for how God interacts with humans? If it is about interaction, does that make it not real? What is reality?…and so forth. Brenda Raudenbush

    Reply
    • No Cross-talk????

      Reply
      • Sure, we can cross talk….

        Reply
        • “Cross-talk” is the only viable way to get to the basics. I think she means that no one can disagree with anyone else. I’ve been in meetings like that. It forces everyone to dumb down or rather to pretend to be stupid. It’s not very productive.

          Reply
          • “Cross-talk” when it is not productive means only that we can have another opinion about a reply without taking the inventory of the person making the comment. I see nothing but listening and kindness coming from Christian Review participants to my use of the term. Therefore I like your basis for dialogue; it sets up an open invitation for commentary and deep understanding. I previously meant “cross-talk” that puts down the other person’s ideas by putting down the whole person. It can happen in some verbal exchanges; but I don’t see it is not happening here. I welcome the clarification! Brenda Raudenbush

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