The Christian Response to the Obergefell Decision, July 8, 2015

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Cardinal Cooke Catholic Center of the Archdiocese of New York
July 8, 2015

 

For an audio recording of today’s talk, given to Members of the Family Life and Respect Life Offices, as well as those who work in education, public policy and youth and young adult ministry, please click below: 

 

The outline for the talk is below: 

  • The Need for Christian Hope
    • I’ve been asked to address the situation after the Obergefell v. Hodges decision for all of those involved in promoting the vision of the family revealed by Jesus. Many were obviously tempted toward sadness, some even to despair, for the present and the future. Others to anger. Others to fear. And so what I’ve been asked to do is to sketch a Christian response to this.
    • The most important part of that response is the Christian theological virtue of hope. We need it always but sometimes, when things are going well, we don’t focus on it enough. But we need it now.
    • What is hope? We could give the classic scholastic definition, but the one I like the most is what Pope Benedict basically said it was in Spe Salvi, his encyclical on Christian hope in 2007. Hope is living with God in the world. He didn’t outright define it in that way but he defined hopeless, with St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians, as “living without Christ, … without God, without hope in the world” (Eph 2:12). To live with Christ in the world is to live with hope. He’s overcome sin. He’s overcome death. He’s overcome the devil. He’s overcome all the evil that can possibly happen.
    • And so it’s key for us to begin there. To remember that Christ is with us in the midst of beautiful sunny days but also in the midst of storms. He’s with us in the boat. And that changes everything. Challenges may seem insurmountable to us alone, but his presence, and the power of the Holy Spirit he sends, really is the game-changer. Jesus tells us “Do not be afraid!” He promised us — so that we wouldn’t be caught off guard when it happened — that we would suffer on account of the faith, we would be called names, we would be hated, we would be persecuted, we would be dragged into courts, we would jailed, we would have to carry our Crosses, we would even be killed, but he told us not to be afraid, that he would be with us always until the end of time, that he would send his Holy Spirit to teach us how to bear witness.
    • When we have this Christian hope based on Christ’s presence, our notion of reality is different because we’re alert to the real, real world and what matters most. Pope Benedict in Spe Salvi pondered this with regard to the first Christians. He focused on Heb 10:32-36,9: “Remember the days past when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a great contest of suffering. At times you were publicly exposed to abuse and affliction; at other times you associated yourselves with those so treated. You even joined in the sufferings of those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property (hyparchonton, goods), knowing that you had a better and lasting possession (hyparxin). Therefore, do not throw away your confidence; it will have great recompense. You need endurance (hypomone) to do the will of God and receive what he has promised. … We are not among those who draw back (hypostole, through lack of courage) and perish, but among those who have faith and will possess life.” We have that hyparxin and as the Church inevitably undergoes some suffering, we need to remember that we have the pearl of great price. Our stamina will be tested, but the Holy Spirit will give us that hypomone. In this culture of ephemeral, consumerist, hedonism, it’s easy for many to draw back, but this really is a time for virtue and God will help. We have nothing to fear.
  • It’s a time in which we’re called to be both realistic about the situation and optimistic
    • Realistic
      • In order for us to know what we need to do, we need to be brutally sincere, totally honest, about where we are and how we got here. The writing’s been on the wall for quite some time. We really shouldn’t be surprised. This is the reaping of what’s been sown now for almost 50 years. But many of us choose to live psychologically in previous decades rather than in the present.
        • In terms of love, marriage, sexuality and family, those preaching the values of the sexual revolution have soundly beaten those who were preaching the Gospel of Life and Love. They had the media on their side. They had most of the educational establishment. And the vast majority of Christians not only didn’t resist the sowing of darnel by the enemy, but the majority, certainly in practice if not in theory, lived by the values of the sexual revolution. Pornography. Premarital Sex. Cohabitation. Divorce-and-Remarriage. Almost universal use of contraception. Acceptance of homosexual activity. And many of the shepherds who were supposed to defend — not just bishops and priests, but catechists, Catholic school teachers, parents and grandparents — rather than being prophetic joined the “luv song.” We can’t be surprised that after several decades in which even the majority of Catholics were living according to a lustful definition of love, without adequate reverence for the covenant of marriage, for the gift of sexuality, for the importance of the family, that we are where we are. We failed to be salty in helping preserve the corruption of our culture. We failed to oppose the father of lies as he sought to destroy families today just like he did to the first family.
        • We also failed to do enough about the courts. Superlegislature. We have been too caught up in the here-and-now that we’ve failed to hold accountable those who are supposed to represent us. And so we shouldn’t be surprised when the SC grounds a decision on autonomy.
        • In terms of religious freedom, people won’t be there for us. We need to grasp that most people share the majority of the Court’s opinion that the Constitution is only a suggestion. They don’t respond to violations the way we do and hope they would.
      • Optimistic
        • The power and continued attractiveness of the Gospel.
        • But it can’t remain words. It must be lived.
        • Living by the sexual revolution can provide evanescent pleasures, but never lasting joy.
        • People have been made for the truth. But we need to unleash its power.
        • Teaching of chastity. Many don’t even know how to define it.
      • We’ve been here before
        • Conversion of the Roman empire through charity and martyrdom (with the power of the Holy Spirit!).
        • Prayer of the early Church at the little Pentecost: “After their release they went back to their own people and reported what the chief priests and elders had told them. And when they heard it, they raised their voices to God with one accord and said, “Sovereign Lord, maker of heaven and earth and the sea and all that is in them, you said by the holy Spirit through the mouth of our father David, your servant: “Why did the Gentiles rage and the peoples entertain folly? The kings of the earth took their stand and the princes gathered together against the Lord and against his anointed.’ Indeed they gathered in this city against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed, Herod and Pontius Pilate, together with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do what your hand and [your] will had long ago planned to take place. And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and enable your servants to speak your word with all boldness [parrhesia], as you stretch forth [your] hand to heal, and signs and wonders are done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” As they prayed, the place where they were gathered shook, and they were all filled with the holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness [parrhesia]. (Acts 4:23-31)
        • Now is a time for that Holy Parrhesia.
        • Corinth was debauched, but Paul addressed it straight on. He didn’t merely condemn the sins of incest and prostitution — and in his other letters sodomy, fornication, adultery and all forms of porneia — but he presented the positive, that we are temples of God called to glorify him in the body. He showed that the life according to the Holy Spirit was possible. That life according to the flesh wasn’t a given. And the Christian message eventually triumphed.
        • We need to have the same confidence and the same holy hypomone, in an evangelization effort that will last longer than we will be alive on earth.
      • Three munera of the Church
        • One way to look at our response is to focus on the three munera of the Church drawn from Christ’s three essential works:
          • Munus docendi, prophetic, kerygma/martyria
          • Munus sanctificandi, sanctifying, prayer and the sacraments, leitourgia
          • Munus regendi, shepherding, leading, diakonia
        • Munus Docendi
          • First, we need to admit the failure and some of the systemic reasons. We haven’t succeeded in passing on the faith with regard to these issues. And we have to renew these institutions
            • Catholic Universities
            • Catholic schools.
            • CCD programs.
          • The kerygma.
            • Need to ground things in the fundamental yes of the Christian faith. Pope Francis and Pope Benedict. People need to know the essence of the Gospel. Many times they’re unaware, because of moralism.
            • The kerygma precisely with regard to chastity, to issues of love, sexuality and marriage.
          • Teaching not just to the head but to the heart.
          • Showing why the false ideas won’t fulfill, knowing that the Father of Lies always tries to use half-truths.
          • This is a time for the why behind the what.
        • Munus Sanctificandi
          • Focus on prayer
            • Certain demons are expunged only by prayer and fasting.
            • Often we don’t pray enough for those who are tempted.
          • The call to holiness in baptism.
          • The strength we receive in the Eucharist but how this is supposed to be consequential:
            • This is my body given for you. Our lives are supposed to be Eucharistic.
            • Three-fold communion
          • The Sacrament of Confession
            • Without this, people are unaware of sin.
            • Without this, people aren’t able to be free.
            • We also need it to overcome the sin of judging that has really made this situation harder, because many feel they’re judged instead of loved, and this has been what’s led to a massive collapse of the moral authority of the Church, like we saw in Holland, Quebec and other places.
          • The Sacrament of Marriage
            • This is an opportunity for us really to stress it.
            • We don’t take marriage preparation seriously. When culture, when families, took it seriously, we could afford to be bad at it. We took a lot of it for granted. Know that they’re not getting it elsewhere, we’ve got to step up our offerings. Real formation, analogous to what we give to future priests and religious, remote, proximate and immediate.
            • We also need to offer far more resources, far more preaching, on the spousal aspect of the entirety of our faith, so that our love can be more and more modeled on God.
            • Help families become truly loving, generous, missionary.
          • Munus regendi
            • Discipline in the Church: really forming disciples who follow Jesus
            • Self-mastery, a gift of the Holy Spirit
            • Virtue training.
            • Helping parents to parent in positive ways about the truths of faith.
            • Needing to prune Church structures and place mission over maintenance.
            • Need to identify false prophets, call them to conversion, and if not, don’t let them take other innocent people down with the millstones.
          • None of these are quick fixes. But we’re not looking for quick fixes. We’re looking for the Gospel. Now’s a time it will stand out. It’s a time for building.
        • Conclusion
          • The new evangelization is looking more and more like the first. And when we look at the first, we are filled with hope. St. Paul would tell us not to be afraid, but to be filled with that inner “woe” and confidence that we can do all things in him who strengthens, that nothing can separate us from the love of God, not even persecution and the sword, and he’d urge us to keep fighting the good fight — it’s worth it — to finish the race — it’s urgent — and to keep the faith by faithfully and courageously living it and passing it on with confidence as the answer to the deepest questions and needs of all those we’ll meet.
        • Questions

 

RJL New Evangelization Talk in Boston II