By JAMES LIKOUDIS
Anyone who is knowledgeable about political affairs is aware of the dysfunctional state of California’s politics. The state’s entrenched liberalism has resulted in anti-Christian legislation and judicial decisions injuring marriage and family life. If contraception, abortion, homosexuality, and same-sex marriage have become part of the American Way of Life with the deplorable support of politicians who claim to be Catholic, it is not too much to say that California has led the way.
Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed legislation allowing non-physicians to do abortions. This is the same Brown who in his youth attended Catholic schools, intended to be a priest, and entered a Jesuit seminary. He became, however, a leading Democratic Party politician who won the governorship twice. There was never any question that he was a “champion of a woman’s right to choose” and an advocate of “gay rights” who appointed a number of homosexual and lesbian judges.
It is not too much to say that Gov. Brown is a poster child for those Catholic politicians who betray Catholic moral teachings to cause injury to both Church and state. So much for Vatican II’s resounding call to the laity to be a leaven in society with Christian principles and legislation to protect marriage and the family and to counter a statism that attacks fundamental human rights.
Sad experience has shown that upholding the moral teaching of the Church is hardly to be expected where catechesis on essential doctrines of the faith remains muddled, questioned, or outright denied, thereby causing confusion and loss of Catholic identity.
As is well known, various California archdioceses and dioceses have suffered terribly from the doctrinal and liturgical excesses entrenched in parishes and chanceries. One particular parish (Christ the King Church, Pleasant Hill, Calif.) in the Diocese of Oakland comes to mind since its pastor’s “Four-Minute Specials” explaining Catholic doctrine are prominently displayed on the parish web site.
Fr. Brian Joyce assures his readers about “The Real Presence of Jesus in [sic] the Bread and Wine” and of “the real presence of Jesus in the entire Mass.” He further states that the Church “excludes belief in a material physical or molecular change in bread and wine….The fundamental purpose of Christ’s presence is not for Him to be adored and not for our isolated private devotion and piety.”
Fr. Joyce’s eucharistic teaching appears confused and ill-formulated and clearly betrays the influence of the trendy liturgical writers of the 1970s and 1980s who muddled the real, substantial Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist and downplayed adoration of Christ in the Eucharist. But there is yet more elitist and condescending dismissal of traditional Catholic doctrine. He writes:
“Whatever happened to Original Sin? When I was in the fourth grade, I knew all about ‘Original Sin.’ Adam and Eve had disobeyed and that really irritated God. (Whom, I was told, gets very easily upset.) God immediately threw them out of the Garden of Eden and made the rest of us pay the price by locking the gates of heaven and leaving the stain of ‘Original Sin’ on each of us. The gates could only be unlocked by Christ and the stain could only be removed by Baptism.
“Original Sin is quite real, but it is also something quite different from that fourth-grade version….The Bible which talks about Original Sin, not in Genesis with Adam and Eve, but in the New Testament with Christ, tells us that, just as sin has entered the human race and is universal, so the reconciling victory of Jesus is even more powerful and universal. The significance of Baptism is that if we are plunged (baptized) into a community of brothers and sisters who work at proclaiming God’s love and living by Christ’s gospel and Spirit, then the world becomes a safer place for us, and we ourselves can be transformed. Now the upside-down, backwards way of saying that is ‘Baptism takes away Original Sin’.”
The presentation of original sin geared to the understanding of a fourth grader is more faithful to Catholic doctrine than the California pastor’s updated revision of it, which eliminates the significance of Adam’s fall from divine grace narrated in Genesis that led to the human race being separated from God’s divine life, thereby suffering the punishment of being deprived of access to Heaven.
Fr. Joyce admits that “every one of us has a dark side” and is “quite prone to sin” and says that “some would attribute that to the whole evolutionary process where it was survival of the fittest, me-first, natural selection, and self-survival that got us this far in the first place.”
With this perspective the doctrine of original sin is emptied of its substance. Ignored is the teaching of the Church that in the person of Adam all his descendants were included and all (except our Lord and His Immaculate Mother) inherited the sin of Adam and the results of that sin. Those results are guilt, a damaged human nature, and both spiritual and physical death. Fr. Joyce’s fourth grader would have a more lively sense of Adam’s sin resulting in mankind’s being deprived of the holiness of God and being placed in a condition or state of sin (thus “stained” with original sin). He knew what Fr. Joyce clearly downplayed: Baptism is necessary to remove that stain.
It is distressing to note that too many poorly instructed catechists appear to believe with our California pastor that the good and loving God does not punish. He does not punish Adam for his sin of disobedience nor does He punish with the suffering and pains of Purgatory. In his “Four-Minute Special” on Purgatory, Fr. Joyce informs that the Church rejects the fantasies of Dante and medieval artists reveling in the image of Purgatory as “a fiery prison, and the impression of our God acting like a punitive warden rather than the loving God revealed by Jesus.”
This is a caricature of Church teaching and ignores the reality of the “cleansing fire” and the “purifying fire” that ready imperfect souls for attaining the Beatific Vision. Though the precise nature of the “fire of Purgatory” and its sufferings has never been defined by the Church, the pains are real. Fr. Joyce says: “I don’t think that the Church’s praying for the dead…is really to get our loved ones an early pardon from purgatory or to help them escape from a divine ‘lock up’.”
St. Padre Pio was known for his great devotion to the holy souls in Purgatory. His was not a cavalier attitude, but one of heroic and generous intercession for suffering souls and of motivating others to offer prayers, alms, and sacrifices for their needy brethren in Purgatory.
Surely, it has become glaringly evident that Catholics malformed by bad catechesis will not be in a position to vigorously act in our increasingly Godless society on behalf of the social doctrine of the Church.
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(James Likoudis is president emeritus of Catholics United for the Faith.)