Time for the Laity to Become Mary’s Heel

We’re all troubled by the moral confusion and heterodox beliefs of self-identified American Catholics that have been chronicled in many polls:

  • 65 percent believe that employers who have a religious objection to the use of birth control should be required to provide it in health insurance plans for employees; 32 percent disagree.
  • 54 percent believe that businesses that provide wedding services should be required to provide those services to same-sex couples; 43 percent disagree.
  • 47 percent believe that transgender people should be allowed to use public restrooms of the gender with which they currently identify; 50 percent disagree.

The Cultural Left that controls the diabolical trinity of the mainstream media, the universities, and the entertainment industry has definitely played a major role in the Church becoming the culture. However, we can’t overlook the influence of prelates and priests in creating the Church of the Morally Obtuse.

The Church of the Morally Obtuse
This is such a target-rich environment that a good moral theologian could write an entire book or series of books on the subject. With his usual keen wit, the inimitable Fr. Rutler recently wrote about Pope Francis’s reluctance to talk about (“I will not say a word”) serious allegations of depravity in the Church, and, at the same time, being more than willing to talk about the issue of floating plastics in our oceans:

“We cannot allow our seas and oceans to be littered by endless fields of floating plastic. Here, too, our active commitment is needed to confront this emergency.” The battle against plastic litter must be fought “as if everything depended on us.”

 

The Church of the Morally Obtuse won’t talk about things that are intrinsically evil but it’s more than willing to bloviate about peripheral matters. It strains at a gnat and swallows a camel and gives endless homilies on how to major in minors and minor in majors.

This same spirit animated Cardinal Cupich when asked about allegations that the Holy See covered up the McCarrick depravity. We don’t “want to go down that rabbit hole” because Francis has bigger fish to fry in addressing climate change and immigration. His claims that NBC 5 edited his interview in a deceptive way have been debunked.

The Church of the Morally Obtuse has also been hapless in identifying the root moral cause of the present scandal in the Church. Both Cardinal Cupich and the Holy See have pointed to “clericalism,” when studies from both the U.S. Bishops and the Pennsylvania grand jury establish a link between the crisis and homosexual clergy.

Life Site News reports: “Statistics from the Pennsylvania grand jury report… [that] nearly three-quarters of the offending priests were homosexual; over three-quarters of the abusive priests were pederasts and of those, one fifth (21%) chose adolescent girls as their victims while four-fifths (79%) chose adolescent boys.”

Cupich, in following his predecessor-before-last, Cardinal Joseph Bernadin, also reveals one of the major sacraments of the Church of the Morally Obtuse in an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune: the moral equivalence of the intrinsic evil of abortion with various social justice issues: insufficient medical care, an unjust immigration system, racism, poverty, joblessness, lack of gun control, and the death penalty.

Joblessness? So the situation of a factory worker in Sandusky, Ohio, who loses his job because he is replaced by advancements in technology, is of the same moral gravity as the extermination of unborn human life?

Should I tell a friend who can’t make ends meet because he has a minimum wage job, or an elderly person who saw her Medicaid cut, or a black man who got a dirty look from a neo-Nazi on the subway, that what they’re going through is morally equivalent to an abortion where the innocent baby’s brains are sucked out and the skull collapses before the dead baby is completely removed from the mother’s womb?

The Church of the Morally Obtuse also talks out of both sides of its mouth. Fr. James Martin says, “I’ve been accused of heresy, ridiculously, by some critics,” and adds that in his recent book, Building a Bridge, he “was careful to stay within the bounds of Church teaching.”

However, coming out of the other side of his mouth, just to cite a few of his heretical comments, is (1) the affirmation to LGBT people that “God made them [wonderfully] that way”; (2) that “The Church needs to rethink its teachings about homosexuality—Its dogmatic teaching. Instead of saying it’s objectively disordered, it should say it’s just differently ordered”; (3) that same-sex couples should be able to kiss during Mass: “What’s the terrible thing?”; (4) that the Church should reverence homosexual unions; and (5) that being against same-sex “marriage” is like being racist.

Becoming Mary’s Heel: General Obedience to the Word of God
Against this backdrop of moral stupidity and outright lies stands the Mother of God in the splendor of moral clarity, obedience, faithfulness and fidelity. She is like the Hope Diamond placed on the dark fabric of clerical and episcopal deception and disobedience.

When the laity imitates her obedience, especially in this time of crisis and scandal, we become Mary’s Heel that crushes the serpent’s head. During her time on earth, her sanctity undergirded and infused at least five different forms of obedience: (1) to the words of Christ; (2) to Scripture; (3) to Tradition; (4) to the spoken word of God; and (5) to the Eucharist (the Word of God).

As the late, great Fr. Richard John Neuhaus used to say when making a prescription for the Church’s ills: “Fidelity, fidelity, fidelity.” Our Lady is like David gathering five smooth stones from the wadi to slay Goliath, who is a type of Satan who curses the armies of God.

She obeyed the very words of Christ and told the servants at the wedding at Cana to “Do whatever he tells you.” She also followed his command to be present at Pentecost (Acts 1:14) to fulfill all righteousness even though she was filled with the Holy Spirit from conception.

Pope Francis would have gotten it right in Amoris Laetitia if he just would have followed her advice to “Do whatever he tells you” on the issue of divorce and remarriage and receiving Communion. But that’s the problem with many prelates these days: they know better than Scripture, two thousand years of Tradition and the prudential judgments of the Magisterium.

Mary’s moral clarity and obedience, in contrast, are rooted in a profound humility. She always defers to a higher authority.

We follow in her footsteps when, before the Gospel is read at Mass, we make the sign of the cross, with our thumb, on our forehead, mouth, and heart. This signifies that we must understand the text, proclaim it, and put it into practice in the shoe-leather of daily life.

When we read the Holy Writ, we should always be focused; when we read the Gospels, we should be focused like a laser.

Luke sums up Joseph’s and Mary’s sanctity in the presentation of Christ in the temple: “And when they had performed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth” (Luke 2:39; emphasis mine). This obedience leads one to believe that the holy family would also have obeyed any divinely inspired oral traditions (Matt. 23:3) that were part of the ancient Hebrew religion and would emerge later in the early Church (II Thess. 2:15).

Holy Mary was also obedient to the spoken word of God or what some scholars would call the rhema word of God. Gabriel’s announcement to her that she would bear the Savior is the spoken word of God that is rooted in the written (Is. 7:14).

Sometimes a friend will give us a piece of advice where his or her voice becomes one with the voice of God. Their advice may not be found specifically in Scripture but its content agrees with biblical principles.

The author is the Holy Spirit, and, in receiving a rhema word of God, we receive Christ. It may come as unsolicited advice you don’t want to hear: “A career change may be a good idea since your present job is wreaking havoc on your family and spiritual life and hurting your physical health,” or it may come in a more encouraging manner: “Remember, as a stay-at-home Mom, you have the most important job on the planet in training children who will be salt and light in the world.”

Mary’s appearance on the day of Pentecost is the last biblical reference we have of her. We also know she had a mother-son relationship with Saint John and probably lived out her days until her Assumption in Ephesus in Turkey.

We can infer from her character and past behavior that she fully participated in the life of the New Testament Church and that would, of course, mean regularly and worthily (how could her Immaculate Heart do anything unworthily?) partaking of the Eucharist. When we eat three meals a day, we assimilate the food into our bodies and it becomes us. When we consume the Eucharist, we become him: we are what we eat.

Becoming Mary’s Heel in a Day of Scandal
When I was a boy growing up in a suburb 18 miles east of Los Angeles, my grandfather would take me fishing down south in San Diego County to lakes that had good fishing and weren’t as congested with people as L.A. County. In the off-season, his boat got turned upside-down, and, when we turned the boat right-side up to make our first trip of the next season, it would be infested with black widow spiders (Welcome to southern California!).

With ten states now investigating clergy sexual abuse after the horrific Pennsylvania report, there’s liable to be a lot of boats turned right-side up in the next decade along with stories of incomprehensible depravity. When the nation of Israel rejected the warnings of the prophets, Yahweh sent foreign powers (e.g., Babylon) to discipline them for the purpose of restoration.

The question for the Catholic laity is not whether you will be involved; it’s how you will be involved. The three most effective things we can do to become Mary’s Heel in this day of great travail is pray the Rosary, pray the Rosary, and pray the Rosary.

Activism will look different for different people: some may be involved in the actual investigation of local churches and dioceses; others will write letters demanding that certain bishops and cardinals resign; some will lead a movement to withhold financial support for corrupt dioceses; others may be involved in the Catholic media, offering opinion and keeping the faithful abreast of breaking news; some will lead, or take part in, protests and demonstrations; and some will offer testimony that will expose wickedness in high places.

As far as withholding money from your diocese, my advice is the same as St. Paul’s on a different issue: “Let every man be fully persuaded in their own mind” (Rom. 14:5). Think about it; pray about it; and then make your decision.

Rod Dreher of the American Conservative received a long e-mail from an anonymous parish priest concerning how the laity could affect change now in these dark days. His thoughts are grist for the mill:

4. Can the laity effect change now?

Yes, they can. Here’s how they do it. It’s very simple. Stop giving money to any bishop’s campaign or national collection until Rome starts an investigation into the McCarrick situation.

1.  When you tithe to your parish designate on your check or envelope that the money is reserved and to go to your building or maintenance fund.

What the bishops did to protect the diocesan and parish assets is they made each of the parishes their own corporations (not sure if all dioceses did this). In doing so it makes it much easier to donate directly to the individual corporation. If you simply donate in the collection plate and do not designate then the diocese will tax that money, but if you designate your gift and restrict it only to be used by the parish the diocese cannot legally touch it. But (to my knowledge) you must designate it to a particular function of the parish like a maintenance fund or even a particular ministry. Ask your pastor how to do this.

2.  Stop giving to the bishop’s annual appeal. Send the request envelope back and state why you are not giving.

3.  Stop giving to the second collections unless they go to your parish specifically (those are designated gifts). All of those second collections are national or diocesan. You may want to give to some that you really believe in, but if they go to diocesan offices (many do) then don’t give.

Consider how many ways bishops get your money:

They tax the parish between 6 percent and 13 percent from the collection plate. There is the annual bishop’s appeal. There are numerous Sunday second collections that go to diocesan offices.

Bishops will also start large-scale capital campaigns. If you look at where the money goes a large portion will often go to sustaining chancery services.

If you starve the bishops of cash they will change or you will render their influence far less effectual on the individual parishes. I think what we need to see is parishes with “good” priests and congregations having more power. Essentially the way to do that is to render the bishop as irrelevant as possible upon your parish.

Editor’s note: Pictured above is a detail from “The Virgin of the Apocalypse” painted by Miguel Cabrera in 1760.

Jonathan B. Coe

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Jonathan B. Coe is a graduate of Bethel Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. Before being received into the Catholic Church in 2004, he served in pastoral ministry in rural Alaska, and in campus ministry at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. He has written for Catholic Exchange and The Imaginative Conservative. He is the author of Letters from Fawn Creek, a volume of spiritual direction, and lives in the Pacific Northwest.

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