"You aim at a devout life, dear Philothea, because as a Christian you know that such devotion is most acceptable to God's Divine Majesty," says St. Francis de Sales in his book "Introduction to the Devout Life".
And we can all be Philotheas, as St. Francis notes: "I have made use of a name suitable to all who seek the devout life, Philothea meaning one who loves God."
We are hearing lots of talk about conscience rights and religious freedom now that Kathleen
Sebelius and Obama have teamed up in an attempt to force the Catholic Church to
act against its own teachings by providing insurance for contraceptive (and
worse) services to its employees.
Still, as I have listened to and read the arguments about
the violation of religious freedom and the abandonment of “conscience clauses”,
I have had some nagging doubts and a little confusion rattling around in my
brain. Certainly I believe that we, as Catholics, are protected by the 1st
Amendment, and that we must not be required to violate our consciences regarding
the teachings of the Church.
However, those same terms are also used by non-Christians to justify their position on various issues, which
is often incongruous with the teachings of the Church.
Indeed, the argument for the right to “follow one’s
conscience” is also used by dissident groups within our Church to justify their disagreement with Church
teachings, and to justify actions they take that are opposed to the Church. “I’m
following my conscience,” people in these groups say, “therefore, I am doing
the right thing, and it’s not a sin.”
The problem, of course, is that when the Church talks about
conscience, She means a properly formed conscience.
That means a conscience that is formed according to truth. And that means truth
taught by the Jesus and the Church instituted by him, which is the “pillar and
bulwark of the faith”.
The sentence in Dr. Brugger’s article that probably struck
the strongest chord in my mind was this one:
I think the problem to a
certain degree is that none of us any longer believe in truth.
Yes. We are unwilling to say that the Church is right. We are only willing to say that
the Church has a right to its own
That fact seems to be borne out by a recent
poll highlighted by Michael Voris on The Vortex. The poll appears to
indicate that, as Voris puts it, “85 percent of Catholics simply reject the
idea of the superiority of Christianity [as a means to a better world]. This is
an impossible situation to square with Our Blessed Lord’s command to go out and
baptize all nations.” (The Vortex episode is at the end of this post.)
Dr. Brugger explains further that, since we no longer
believe in the truth (all emphases mine):
…we talk rather about opinion,
consensus and party platforms. We reduce
moral judgment and religious belief to sectarian "rights," with the full implication that no moral
judgment or religious doctrine is timelessly true. In order to avoid
sectarian conflict, we agree to tolerate the ideas of the other side. But we
believe they (i.e., the other side and their ideas) are stupid and our side is
right. And rightness -- and this is the
clincher -- is an essentially subjective concept, no connection to truth.
Of course, to sever rightness and truthfulness is philosophically untenable.
But dammit we're Americans, not philosophers.
So when we talk about Obama “waging war on religious liberty”
or “trampling conscience rights”, we run into a problem: those on the other
side think they’re waging a war on our oppressive religious dogma. Says Dr.
Ten out of 10 conservative
blogs and sites after the HHS decision announced: "Conscience is under
attack!" "Religion is under attack!" Rubbish. Truth, reality, human welfare is under
attack. "Conscience" to the other side means subjective moral opinion; and when it's our consciences they're
referring to, it means dangerous moral opinion; and "religion" means bigotry. Of course they're going to oppose it.
But we -- all of us -- have supported
the public rhetorical instruments by which those terms have become morally
inert…yes. I think Dr. Brugger has hit the nail on the head. Our
arguments for religious freedom and conscience rights lack the force of moral
certitude. We say, “This is what WE believe, and we have a right to believe
that way and follow our conscience.” And the other side says the same thing right
back at us: “Well, that may be true for you, but it’s not true for us.” By
insisting simply on a right to believe,
we have embraced the terminology of moral relativism.
But when you enter Truth into the equation, things change. When
you say, “This is immoral”, you bring the discussion to a new level.
Unfortunately, we have forfeited that possibility over the
years because of our unwillingness to defend the truth, as opposed to our individual right to believe what we believe as Catholics. In other words, we
no longer believe that what we believe is the Truth; we only believe that we
have a right to believe it.
And that puts us on the same level as any other moral
Dr. Brugger concludes:
Yes, there is a lot of anger
over Obama's radically illiberal policy. But that anger is only rightly felt if
it concerns the violation, not of legal
or even constitutional rights, but the violation of truth. We need to stand
up and say confidently and resolutely to Kathleen Sebelius, her thugs at HHS
and her puppet-master in the White House: Your
view is false and untrue; it radically violates human good and is
destructive of communal integrity.
Words are important. When we use the right words, we put the
discussion back on the plane it should have been on all along. And if we don’t do this, Dr. Brugger suggests:
…we'll all end up like Dr.
Seuss' North-going Zax and South-going Zax, puffing out our chests, standing
nose to nose with our enemy, barking out disagreements devoid of understanding
of the deeper problem.
I think Michael Voris has some good insights as to those
problems. Watch these Vortex episodes:
Here's the link to the one mentioned above - can't get the Youtube to load.