Monday, 6 January 2014
Pastsoral Sensitivity is Endangering Souls
There are many difficulties facing families and individuals today, with many impacts upon children. Many rank and file clergy and laity, including our schools via the National Curriculum, have become politically correct and ‘pastorally sensitive’ But what does it mean to be pastorally sensitive? Certainly we don’t want to tell children of single-parent, cohabiting, re-married divorcees and homosexual households are condemned, but we need to find a pastorally sensitive way of helping children to value and promote family life as given by the Gospel and which we have a duty to proclaim.
‘Pastoral sensitivity’ is rightly a primary consideration in all areas of Church life and from all levels of the Church’s structure; without it there is only hardness of heart, which does not reflect the charity of God. However, what we have today seems to be a wicked distortion of true pastoral sensitivity, for even to say the Gospel prohibits acts such as contraception, cohabitation, IVF, homosexual activity etc, makes one liable to being labelled unpastoral. But such a label is based on an erroneous understanding of the Lord’s exhortation, “Do not judge” (Lk.6:37).
It seems to me that on the basis of “Do not judge” some Catholics refuse to censure the immoral acts the Church has always censured; refusing to censure contraception, cohabitation, homosexual activity etc. But they thereby betray souls by leaving them in the grip of evil practices (evil being absence of a good that ought to be present).
Our Lord’s exhortation that we not judge certainly refuses us permission to judge persons, "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned...” (Lk 6:37) and St Paul underlines this: “who are you to give a verdict on your neighbour?' (Rom 14:4). But refusal of permission to judge persons does not remove from us the responsibility of judging actions and situations: “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (Jn. 7:24) or as St Paul puts it, “Test all things... Abstain from every form of evil” (1.Thess. 5:21-22)
It is disturbing to see Catholics -from the highest ranking prelates to the most humble of the laity- misreading “Do not judge” to the point where they give support to immoral acts which endanger souls. The support they give (either actively by promoting them or passively by refusing to condemn them) is to side with the father of lies who has used the philosophies of this world to blind them to the Truth (Christ). It seems that with many folk the Gospel is lost under the theories of such men as Freud, Jung, Rogers, Kinsey etc. Those clergy who adhere to such theories are not hard to equate with “rivals of Christ who came out of our own number but had never really belonged” (1.Jn. 2; 19); “who will not listen to sound doctrine but will follow their own desires and collect for themselves more and more teachers who will tell them what they are itching to hear.” (1.Tim.4:2). The world may justify immoral activities under the guise of “equality and justice for all”, but deluded Catholics are following the world by refusing to condemn under the title of “Do not judge”. Now the Church is by her nature at odds with the world: “If the world hates you, remember it hated me before you...My choice withdrew you from the world, therefore the world hates you” (Jn.15:18,19), so to be in agreement with the world is to disagree with Christ, and Catholics who refuse to fight against the world are being deceived into working for the devil, the prince of this world: “Now is the judgement of the world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out” (Jn.12v31). The devil’s (unwitting?) disciples are well-accepted by the world since “what they say is from the world, the world listens to them” (1 Jn.4:5).
Let us be clear: there is everything wrong with denouncing persons, but there is nothing wrong and everything right in the denunciation of acts. How then, do we make a pastorally sensitive response to those who are using contraception, who have had an abortion, co-habit or are actively homosexual? It is necessary to distinguish pastoral sensitivity from pastoral sentimentality: pastoral sentimentality is a feelings-centred approach which refuses to apply the Church’s teaching if it is going to bring emotional or social pain to the person or persons involved; pastoral sensitivity applies the Church’s teaching in a caring, understanding yet formative way so that the person or persons come to understand why the Church cannot approve of their actions but know they are valued as persons, for which reason we should be encouraging them to continue in the life of prayer, charity, and reception of the sacraments so as to be sustained in the struggle -and even the pain- of living the moral life. With children in schools it is a case of teaching what is true but letting them know that the Church realises it isn't always easy to live by the Gospel; that some people feel unable to live by it, and that the Church always tells such people to continue praying, living charitably and to coming to Mass so as to obtain God’s grace for change, since we know that God is merciful, never gives up on any of us, and can always heal our hearts.