"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."
couple of recent articles have caught my attention. They both concern a
situation in the Diocese of Arlington, where Bishop Paul Loverde has asked
catechists to sign (gasp!) a Profession
The author of the first
article offers commentary on the second
article from the Washington Post,
which describes the reactions of one woman who strongly objects to signing a
Profession of Faith. Both articles are worth reading – the first because it offers
some intelligent commentary; the second, because it will make you laugh with
Reading the second article was a déjà vu experience for me,
since the Diocese of Baker went through the same thing when Bishop Vasa
introduced the Affirmation of Faith here in 2004 (I wrote more about that here).
The Post article
opens with this:
Riley knows her beliefs on the male-only priesthood and contraception put her
at odds with leaders of her church. But as a fifth-generation Catholic who went
to a Catholic school and grew up to teach in one, Riley feels the faith deeply
woven through her. So when her Arlington parish asked for volunteers last
summer to teach Sunday school, she felt called by the Holy Spirit to say yes.
Well, for starters, her beliefs are not properly
characterized as being “at odds with
leaders of her church”. They are, in fact, at odds with the magisterial teachings of the Church. There’s
And give me a break: why is it that dissenters always have
to tell us how their faith is “deeply woven through” them? It may be deeply
woven, but there are some off-color threads there, I’m sorry to say.
just shocked, I can’t believe they’re asking me to sign this,” said Riley, who
said she may keep her own children out of the parish education program in the
Ms. Riley is on the left
Well, guess what, Ms. Riley: some folks are probably already keeping their children out of the parish
education program because they know dissenting members of the parish are
teaching it! My husband and I removed our daughter from our parish’s Religious
Education program because we knew that the director of the program did not
adhere to all of the teachings of the Church on contraception, and we also knew
that the high school RE teachers had erroneous views on both contraception and
homosexuality. No one ever asked us why we took our daughter out of the
program; I suspect they knew and didn’t want to hear it from us directly.
Ms. Riley goes on to opine:
bishops are human, and sometimes their judgment is not God’s judgment. We
always have to be vigilant about that. The Holy Spirit gives us the
responsibility to look into our own consciences.”
Well, she’s right about the bishops; sure, they can make
errors. But it’s not “the bishops” who created Church teaching – it’s the Church. It’s our Lord Jesus Christ,
handing his teachings down through the hands of the apostles. The bishops
follow in that line, and when they speak up in support of Church teaching, they
are doing their job and saving our souls. When they remain silent and allow the
faithful to continue in error, they sin.
Ms. Riley is also right about our responsibility to look
into our own consciences. Unfortunately, I think she missed the memo that said
she also needs to make sure her conscience is properly formed in accord with
Church teaching. In fact, most “liberal Catholics” seem to have missed that
point. They get the “gotta follow my conscience” part, but they do not want to
allow anyone to tell them what’s right and what’s wrong.
The Post article
and others said St. Ann’s is considered a community that deliberately doesn’t
focus on such hot-button issues as abortion and same-sex relationships on which
Catholics, like Americans generally, are divided.
Well, there ya go. If no one is talking about the reality
and the truth of Church teaching on “hot-button issues”, then someone’s not
doing their job! If the faithful are not educated on the hot-button issues, “…the
time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following
their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will
stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). The
more the issues are NOT discussed or explained, and the more the doctrinal
approach is NOT taught, the more division there is – because those who are in
error are not corrected. They are allowed to think they have a valid opinion,
when in fact they do not.
Attached to the Post
article, there is also a letter to Bishop Loverde from Dr. Rosemarie Zagarri,
another parish member who is both a college history professor and a 5th-grade
catechist in her parish; here comments are telling.
First, Dr. Zagarri tells the bishop that she “fully supports”
his efforts to help the faithful rediscover “the power and beauty of our
Catholic Faith”; and she says she understands “why you expect those who are teaching
young people to be able to assent to the basic doctrines of our Lord Jesus
Christ and to the importance of the Roman Catholic Church in preserving and
passing down the faith”. But…and you
knew there would be a big “but”…Dr. Zagarri finds it “troubling” that
… the new requirement that
catechists swear an oath to “accept and hold each and every thing definitively
proposed by the Church regarding reaching on faith and morals”…
Ummm…just what does Dr. Zagarri think she is saying every
Sunday when she recites the Creed?! What does she think new converts being
received into the Church each Easter are saying when they promise to “believe
and profess all that the holy Catholic Church teaches, believes and proclaims
to be revealed by God”?
Here’s where the author of the first article mentioned above
makes a very good point. That author, a Lutheran, notes that in the Lutheran
confirmation rite, the catechumens are asked:
Do you intend to live according
to the Word of God, and in faith, word, and deed to remain true to God, Father,
Son, and Holy Spirit, even to death?
Do you intend to continue
steadfast in this confession and church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?
death. This Lutheran author notes, quite rightly, that these rites
“are so much more intense than what the Arlington Diocese is taking heat for in
the story” about the fidelity oath.
One wonders if those objecting so vehemently to signing a
statement of fidelity are aware that Pope John Paul II’s Ex Corde Ecclesiae put forth
a requirement that Catholic college professors of theology are required to take
an oath of fidelity to Catholic teaching. The words of the mandatum are:
I hereby declare my role and
responsibility as a teacher of a theological discipline within the full
communion of the Church. As a teacher of a theological discipline, therefore, I
am committed to teach authentic Catholic doctrine and to refrain from putting
forth as Catholic teaching anything contrary to the Church’s magisterium.
It’s true that a 5th-grade catechist isn’t
teaching college-level theology to her students, but it’s also true that anyone
teaching the faith should really be…well…teaching
the faith, and not just their own interpretation of it, or their own
favorite parts. Why shouldn’t those teaching the faith to young students also
be required to pledge their fidelity to the Church?
“This is not in the spirit of
what people go to a Catholic church for, which is community and a loving,
welcoming environment. It’s exclusionary, a suppression of dissent, let’s all
line up and be the army of God,” Zagarri said in an interview for this article.
to me, is the epitome of the liberal modernist feel-good mentality that seems
to permeate the parishes with which I’m familiar. It’s all about “community”
and a “loving, welcoming environment”. Well, certainly it’s about communion, and a certain type of community. But first and foremost, aren’t
we about the worship of God? Spreading the Gospel? (I mean the real Gospel, not the Gospel of
Tolerance). A truly loving and welcoming community doesn’t simply avoid addressing
the sinful behaviors of its members! Besides, many times those who want “unity”
and “tolerance” want it for their
views…but not for the truth the Church teaches.
I’m with this parishioner
quoted by the Post:
bishops have been appointed by the pope to let us know: This is the path you
should be following,” said Kerri Polce, 31, who teaches at the Cathedral of St.
Thomas More in Arlington and says she has no problems signing the oath. “If
you’re struggling with something, fine, don’t teach.”
And really, isn’t that the
point of having an oath of fidelity? If you feel, for whatever reason, that you
can’t sign it, then don’t teach. That’s
the honest approach. Teaching in a parish religious education program is not a right; it is a privilege, and it is one
that comes with the responsibility to be faithful to the teachings of the