By JAMES LIKOUDIS
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Leading members of the hierarchy gave a remarkable witness to the Church’s teaching on marriage and family with outstanding addresses at the annual Church Teaches Forum, held here on July 18-19.Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chair of the Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, spoke at the opening banquet on “Marriage: Unique for a Reason” and explained the efforts of the U.S. bishops to deal with the devilish attacks on marriage and family life, now affecting all three branches of government and at all levels.
The “Evil One” has undermined in the social consciousness of people conviction about the three goods of marriage, he explained: permanence of the marriage bond; fidelity; and openness to offspring. Healthy human relationships — that between husband and wife and between parents and children — have become seriously distorted, he said. The very meaning of fatherhood and motherhood has been lost as powerful cultural forces have sought to redefine marriage as no longer oriented to the needs and rights of children. The archbishop outlined the sorry results of contraception’s separating
of the procreative and unitive aspects of the conjugal act: widespread promiscuity, adultery, millions of abortions, and spread of homosexuality; the scourge of children without fathers who are denied any connection with their offspring; the increased phenomenon of cohabitation rather than marriage.
His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the Church’s highest court, gave a concise and trenchant address, “ The Evangelizing Power of Marriage, the Cradle of the Culture of Life,” wherein he noted the need for a new evangelization of society and culture and of those “ who have forgotten God in once Christian countries.”
Deploring the amount of destruction of Christian values that has occurred in such a short time, he stressed that the Catholic faith must be imparted anew and in a manner that excludes no one and no sector of society. In view of the numerous forces intent on destroying traditional marriage as understood for two millennia as the plan of God for human happiness, the Church amidst the present confusion must defend the truth about marriage and family life.
“ If we don’t get this straight, the new evangelization will not take place,” Cardinal Burke stated.
With so many families no longer living the faith they received as children, a prime need is to engage in the formation of consciences on the basis of Catholic social doctrine, as stressed in the writings of Pope Paul VI and Pope St. John Paul II and in The Catechism of the Catholic Church.
“ Christ is always alive for us in the Church,” he said, as can be seen in the young believing families who have taken upon themselves to witness to the beauty and splendor of sacramental marriage. The Catholic family’s mission is to become an evangelizing community and as the “ domestic Church” to help transform society with the Gospel.
He noted the prophetic nature and Gospel truth of Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae, which reaffirmed the true meaning of human sexuality. It is in families with a sound catechetical and devotional formation that members will grasp the connection between life ethics and social ethics, and how “ moral permissiveness results from misconceiving human freedom.”
Observing “ the grievous situation in public schools,” said His Eminence, it is evident that “ nothing can replace a sound catechesis on every level.” Homeschooling families have become a “ sign of contradiction” amidst the confusion in modern education. It is in believing families that education respecting the sanctity of human life takes place and healthy relationships are nourished.
Such families witness openly to their love for the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, and express their devotion to the Mass and the Blessed Sacrament, he said. Love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and obedience to the Holy Father should be at the heart of family life. It is simply false to preach Christ in abstraction from the visible Church and its actual spiritual and devotional life.
His Eminence Francis Cardinal Arinze, cardinal- bishop of Velletri, addressed the subject: “ The Sacrament of Marriage: Building a Culture of Love.” Commenting on theBook of Genesis with its exhortation to “ be fruitful and multiply . . . and subdue the earth,” he drew out the biblical teaching on the unicity and indissolubility of marriage.
God Himself had declared that marriage involved one man and one woman in a spousal relationship defiled by adultery, the cardinal said.
The Old Testament books of
Tobit and the Song of Songs exalt the human love of marriage which mysteriously reflects divine love, he said. Christ the Lord recalled marriage to its original state after Moses allowed divorce because of the “ hardness of hearts,” with the apostles teaching that marriage involved a “ sacrificial love” as emphasized by St. Paul who taught his converts from paganism to “ love your wife as Christ loved the Church.”
Vatican II in Gaudium et Spes, n. 128, stressed marriage as the way to holiness with spouses as ministers of God’s grace to one another, he said.
Cardinal Arinze’s address was marked by his well- known wry and sparkling humor: “ You cannot be holy and be against your husband; you cannot be holy and be against your wife.” Acknowledging the difficulties encountered in marriage, he observed that “ the effects of original sin do not disappear after Baptism,” and that when a spouse is made the object of domination and lust rather than the subject of tender affection, the marriage is threatened.
Some marriages are indeed not happy and are tragic, and the separation of spouses may occur, but divorce is prohibited by Christ Himself, he said. The Church cannot contradict Christ’s teaching. “ Jesus is clear: ‘ Let no man put asunder’; that is the Son of God speaking.” A loyal spouse is “ not amused by cheating and adultery”; he or she will choose to suffer but remain faithful.
As to those who do not find children a blessing, he observed, “ Christians do not use language that cats and dogs are nicer than a child.” No human person is unwanted, he stated in opposition to today’s relativism. That dismal view was repudiated by the United Nations in 1948. Each human person, the cardinal insisted, is unique and unrepeatable: “ You have no photocopy!”
His Excellency Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, president of the U. S. Conference of Bishops and chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on Marriage, has always given his gracious support to the Church Teaches Forum. He gave a beautiful homily on the Blessed Virgin Mary as “ Handmaid of the Lord” and “ Servant of God’s Love.”
She served the mystery of redemption by her own silent imitation of Christ, the “ Suffering Servant” described by the Prophet Isaiah, he said. Those who defend marriage and the family in our society and seek to be faithful to Christ follow our Lord and the “ Handmaid of the Lord” when they suffer abuse and humiliation and are confronted by carping criticism.
Like the Little Sisters of the Poor, said the archbishop, they hate to sue anybody but hate more compromising their faith. America ( and Catholics) are at their best when people are religiously free to serve others. The teaching of the Church on marriage and family is a God- given gift and essential to the good of the Church and our society.
His Excellency David Choby, DD, JCL, bishop of Nashville, who serves on the board of the Pontifical College Josephinum Seminary in Columbus, spoke on “ The Necessity of Marriage Preparation and Enrichment in Our Culture.” He announced that, for the first time, all the dioceses in Kentucky and Tennessee will get all the seminarians in the two states together for the strengthening of the life of faith.
He acknowledged the current situation in our society is a cause of discouragement and that like the title of the book by famed historian Gertrude Himmelfarb, On Looking Into the Abyss, we too are faced with the “ tyranny of relativism” that holds there is no objective reality but only subjective preference. Ignored by its advocates is the fact that a society with no objective reality undermines itself! Is there no greater good outside of ourselves? Actually, God does exist and is the Absolute Good to which all humans are oriented, the archbishop stressed. “ It is God’s world; He is in charge. No other individual can be humanity’s Savior; that job has already been filled by Him who said, ‘ Go and teach all nations!’” Bishop Choby observed how in 1981 Pope John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio noted both bright spots and dark spots in de- Christianized Western societies. Among positive developments were an increasing awareness of the dignity of women and interfamily relationships, and the ecclesial mission of families. Disturbing was the obvious degradation of fundamental values aided by a corrupt media.
Fidelity To Church Teaching
Fr. Roger Arnsparger, president of Eternal Life and director of the Diocese of Charlotte’s Eucharistic Congress, gave an inspiring presentation called: “ Priests: Celibate Fathers of Marriage and the Culture of Life.”
Developing the theme that the priest is minister of the word of God and administrator of gracegiving sacraments, he reminded his hearers that the priest as teacher, sanctifier, and governor of his people is a “ father of a family.”
He called attention to the words so often spoken by the servant of God, Fr. John Hardon, who helped found the Church Teaches Forum: “ The essence of holiness is the possession of grace, not the practice of virtue.”
Priests must teach that the practice of virtue flows from grace which is redemptive and that the purpose of life is the Beatific Vision, said Fr. Arnsparger. Drawing upon the magnificent Byzantine mosaics of the Church of St. Apollinaris in Ravenna, Italy, he explained how the Church emphasized that it is the acts and deeds of Jesus that save. The rows of saints, prophets, evangelists, virgins, and confessors ( depicted in procession to approach the Risen Christ or the Blessed Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus) manifest the acceptance and living of the faith.
They delighted in knowing the truth and living the truth that leads to a crown of righteousness.
As an “ alter Christus,” Fr. Arnsparger emphasized, every priest acts in the person of Christ and it is a joy of their priesthood to teach marriage as God has ordained it, and to prepare others for it. It is these troubled times which are particularly significant for manifesting fidelity to Catholic teaching.
He quoted Jesuit Fr. John Hardon’s memorable statement, “ Unless we recover the spirit of the early Christians, the days of America are numbered.” The martyrs of England and Ireland, he concluded, have much to teach us regarding what is worth dying for.
Prayers For Paul
During the conference proceedings, prayers were requested for the beatification of Fr. Hardon, who with the saintly William J. Smith of Bardstown, Ky., inspired holding these annual Louisville Forums.
Prayers were also asked for Paul Likoudis, now undergoing treatment for cancer, and who for some 20 years attended the Forum to write reports for The Wanderer. The liturgies for the Forum were beautifully celebrated with devotional hymns and with chants sung by cantor Sarah Nettleton-Cleary. The music was directed by Julianna Horton.
A well-deserved tribute was paid to the organizers of the Forum, Phil and Martha Spaulding and their associates, who have continued in remarkable fashion the work of Fr. Hardon and Bill Smith.
Next year’s Church Teaches Forum in Louisville will be held July 17-18, 2015.