The Second Book of Maccabees presents us with the incredible story of Eleazar, “one of the scribes in high position, a man now advanced in age and of noble presence.” The Greek conquerors told the Israelites: eat swine or go to the rack. Given the choice between violating the commandments of God or death, Eleazar chose faithfulness. Not just the appearance of faithfulness, but genuine, costly faithfulness. Eleazar understood that his actions would have repercussions far beyond his own life, and he understood that there is no such thing as obeying God halfway.
He chose to die rather than cause scandal to those watching him, especially the young. His “friends” urged him, “Just pretend to eat the pork. You bring whatever meat you like, let everyone else think it’s pork, then you won’t really be violating the law of God and you won’t be killed!”
Eleazar spat on their cowardice:
Such pretense is not worthy of our time of life, lest many of the young should suppose that Eleazar in his ninetieth year has gone over to an alien religion, and through my pretense, for the sake of living a brief moment longer, they should be led astray because of me…whether I live or die I shall not escape the hands of the Almighty. (2 Maccabees 6:24-26)
With Eleazar’s potent witness still crisp in my mind, I read David Mills’ piece about Loyola Marymount University and their scandalous decision to allow a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood on campus.
I could not join Mills in sympathizing with the university. They don’t need sympathy. They need a good dose of Eleazar.
The university’s explanation is boilerplate pseudo-sincerity: We’re a university trying to engage with the world. This is how we witness to what we say we believe in, while still listening to other voices, being open to dialogue. We don’t actually endorse this event supporting this sinful thing, but we’re committed to “the complexities of free and honest discourse.”
In other words, we wish to give a semblance of fidelity, whilst we eat our pulled pork sandwich, in order to achieve the greater goal of “dialogue.”
Mills asks, “Why would a Catholic university do this? It either accepts legal abortion as a tolerable practice, if not a good, or it finds itself in a tricky situation in which someone will object to whatever it does. I’m guessing the second.”
And, so…? Here’s a third option—be faithful to Christ and His Church, objections be damned. Be faithful to what is morally right, objections be damned. Just be faithful, no matter who objects. People who think with the mind of the world are going to object.
Mills explains, “I suspect that, as often happens in large institutions, one group decided to do something those in charge may or may not agree with, and the intermediate authorities approved it. When someone notices and protests to the people at the top, they see that the internal costs of stopping it will be high. The safest thing is just to let it go and not respond to the protesters. The controversy will die out and it won’t hurt the institution’s finances or reputation.… The harm it will do to the institution’s identity will be invisible.”
What exactly is the identity of a school claiming to be Catholic that permits a fundraiser on its campus for the nation’s largest abortion-committers? (Not “abortion providers.” Abortion is not a service provided but a crime committed.) It is certainly not a faithful identity. If Mills is correct in his assessment, and I think he is, then their chief concerns are not truth or fidelity to Christ. Their “Catholic identity” is a façade.
Mills rightly points out how hollow the university’s statement is by noting that it would be a cold day in Hades before they would agree to host a fundraiser for a group promoting some heinously racist agenda. But scandalously, support for child slaughter is an intellectually-acceptable position these days.
Mills writes, “Catholic universities are human institutions, challenged by and sometimes formed by the world. They serve conflicting constituencies.… It’s a very difficult thing to do, to run a university engaging the world in the way Francis describes without becoming worldly or retreating into a kind of Catholic fortress.”
It is not possible to serve two masters. A faithful Catholic school has but one constituency to serve, and that is Christ and His Church. The mission should be to foster holiness, discipleship, and service to the kingdom of God. Those things are not at odds with intellectual and academic rigor. I do not think that a robust fidelity amounts to a “Catholic fortress.”
What would Eleazar say of the example LMU is giving to the young by their cowardly, scandalous decision to help raise money for those who spill innocent blood for profit?
Holy martyr Eleazar, pray for us.
[Photo Credit: Loyola Marymount University LinkedIn page]