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A Leaven In The World . . . Apologia

December 9, 2018 Frontpage No Comments


Everyone makes mistakes. Not everyone, however, can admit it. It’s a matter of theological truth that “to err is human,” because, in fact, sin is a mistake and we are all sinners.
One who has put opinion to paper in black and white for nearly 20 years and in nearly 900 columns for this newspaper, as have I, has had ample opportunity to commit uncured ideas to print, to choose words that appear to impute motives or to overstate a case of praise or blame. Mea culpas must be ever at hand for expression of the necessary attempt at reconciliation with those who feel unjustly treated. Explanations must be offered in those cases where misunderstandings have been unnecessarily sparked based on mistaken perceptions.
In other words, the dialogue and accompaniment that Pope Francis calls for so often must ever have a privileged place in the life of our Church as we journey together. If we are to be in Christ together through faith then we must treat others as we would Christ. Some may always oppose us or misunderstand us and for these we always pray. But for the many who sincerely seek Christ we seek ever to grow together in truth, justice, and love.
When one is a priest and pastor, as well as a writer, one must always seek what will best help souls. Everything must always be submitted to the Church for the sake of truth and one must be ever ready to correct oneself, if in error, in obedience to Christ who speaks through the Magisterium of the Church.
The priest, as one who preaches to God’s people the necessity of penance and repentance for sin, must be a practitioner of this first of all himself and an example for the flock. The purpose of this column is to apologize for and to retract a sentence in a previous column entitled, “Bishops: Ban Jesuit Fr. James Martin Now” (see The Wanderer, November 29, 2018, p. 2B).
I retract the following line from that column:
“Any bishop who does not ban him [Fr. James Martin, SJ] now is guilty of undermining the faith of the Church by cooperation in the sin of heresy and immorality.”
Why? The statement is not truly reasonable and therefore not reflective of the faith or of reality.
To “cooperate” means “to work with.” Any bishops, and there are many of them, who have not invited Father Martin to speak, have never recommended his books or writings and teach consistently and perseveringly according to the Catechism on matters of human sexuality, is working against Martin’s sinful agenda, not with it.
They are not cooperating with him in any sense of that word. My request was simply that these individuals, and all bishops, speak out against Martin’s errors so as to exclude the possibility of imperiling the souls of their flocks from the rampant moral confusion and pervasive sin in which we all live, and to which he contributes as a priest in good standing.
Bishops who remain silent in this and other similar cases may be guilty, at most, of omission. I do not know why they choose not to speak out. I do not seek to become their, or anyone else’s, judge. I too will stand before the Lord begging for His mercy at the end of my earthly sojourn. As I often share with others, when I meet Him the Lord is going to ask me about those occasions on which I remained silent, refusing to share the truth with those in the darkness of error or faithlessness. He will ask me why I chose my comfort in this world, by avoiding conflict or disagreement, rather than to save a soul for His sake and for which purpose He has sent me, and thus seek the only comfort which lasts, in Heaven. I seek only to prepare myself for my personal judgment — that I may stand before the Lord with a reasonable hope of salvation.
Bishops who have invited Martin to speak or recommended his work are another matter entirely, becoming cooperators with him to a degree. Because error is mixed in with truth throughout Martin’s work it is not possible to approve of him in any way without potentially causing confusion to the flock. How much culpability attaches to any cooperation with Martin I leave to the Lord’s judgment.
I declare before the Lord and before the world that I have a right and a duty “to work in fear and trembling” for my salvation, both as a priest and as a Christian, that I too have a conscience and I too must follow it, as all must do. Before God I have only my last best judgment upon which to act and about which to speak out.
And speak out I must, as a priest, for fear of losing my eternal soul as a Christian. The Lord has not given the refuge of silence in matters of faith and morals to his priests. On the contrary, He has commanded the opposite. Priests must all, in season and out of season, speak and teach the truth. The truth is very much “out of season” in our day.
I am speaking out for the sake of my own salvation. No bishop has a right before God to demand that I forsake the good of my eternal soul by choosing to be silent when my conscience demands I speak out. In prayer and humility I must also submit to the decisions of those placed over me by Christ in His Church as He has constituted it. Every priest at his Ordination makes a promise of obedience to the ordaining prelate and to his successors. Once I have spoken out I must submit all to the conscience of the bishop who also seeks his own salvation. He does not have a duty to explain his decisions to me, whether or not I agree with him. I must do my duty in obedience as it is given to me, work and pray for the salvation of all and trust in the Lord for all things, submitting them to His divine will and Providence.
But also, for the sake of that same salvation, I must repent and apologize when I have made an error, however unintentionally or perhaps lacking in culpability, for the sake of justice and truth. I must continue to make every effort to know and to understand the truth, to speak it and to follow it as must all Catholic Christians. Others have a right to demand that justice be done and I seek in charity to uphold their rights as well. One cannot defend the truth except with the truth. All of us in the Church must commit ourselves to be one in truth so as to be one in Christ.
My desire in writing was only to implore the bishops to speak out so as to protect their flocks. Any truth that Fr. Martin speaks is sullied by the untruths admixed thereto. It is for this reading that he cannot be trusted as a teacher of the faith until he publicly repents of his errors and thereafter perseveres in the way of the Lord Jesus.
I requested that this note be placed at the head of the column when it was published online and repeat it here: “I do not posit a formal moral cooperation on the part of the bishops but say, rather, that by their silence bishops may leave their flocks confused and possibly construing agreement/support of Martin who reaches into every diocese and interferes in each bishop’s proper jurisdiction through media/publishing. This is why I believe a ban is necessary.”
We must fight for the truth with the truth. That which does not reflect reality cannot advance the truth or the faith.
Without prayer we cannot hope to have the words to speak. Let us continue to beg the Lord Jesus that, by placing the will of the Father first in our lives as He has commanded, we will together as His Church be more and more united in faith and hope for the sake of the love that will eternally be ours one day in His presence.
Thank you for reading and praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.

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