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A Leaven In The World… A Pope Francis Primer

May 20, 2020 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK

We are immersed in cultural and political wars, with opposing parties engaged in perpetual bickering and posing for effect. On the political front we are faced daily with the spectacle of elected officials who don’t want to work. Instead, they go on the attack and attempt to impeach the reputations of others.
False criminal accusations might provide riveting political drama, and may serve somewhat as distractions from the achievements of political rivals, but they also waste precious time for doing genuine good and waste millions of taxpayer dollars.
One of the weapons in these wars is fake news. Picking through all the information available on the Internet is difficult. Big legacy networks and news organizations that used to stake their reputation on unbiased reporting of the facts have abandoned that cause.
Advocacy opinion journalism and fake news now instead litter the Internet landscape like so many landmines for the unsuspecting. News is for the most part now free. Financial survival for those who used to do news is achieved now by pandering to wealthy advertisers with an underlying agenda that cannot be brooked without adverse consequences.
Remembering always that “power corrupts and that absolute power corrupts absolutely,” as Catholic convert Lord Acton said, can keep us from falling victim to those in high places who do not wish us well. Or are pursuing elected office for personal financial gain.
Power struggles have always existed and our own time is no exception. Anything can be politicized when a struggle for influence or control or other personal benefits manipulate the discussion. Defeat may no longer come in the form of 23 daggers inflicted by rivals in a public forum, as in the case of ancient Rome. Now it’s more likely to be the death of a thousand cuts. Paper cuts, that is.
The work of Christ is not about accruing power or influence for its own sake. He brings power to the powerless by “emptying Himself and taking the form of a slave.” God shares His power, or grace, to empower the powerless, to raise up fallen nature by means of divine mercy and love.
The Church is deeply affected by personalities in places of influence who misuse their privilege to advocate for changes in truths of faith, which include moral teachings.
One thing that certainly hasn’t changed in the life of the Church is the reaction to sexual morality. Those who don’t want to live it seek to change it.
It’s not new either that priests in prominent positions, such as authors or magazine editors, have for years gone uncorrected or undisciplined while leading many of the faithful astray.
Those who are scandalized as a result of misplaced trust in a priest or bishop can certainly hope for divine mercy in God’s tribunal. It is the souls of the false shepherds for whom we should certainly pray, that they may not be forever lost for the grave sin of leading the blind into a pit.
Beware of those who profess to speak “for” Pope Francis. Assassinations can come in spiritual form as well as physical.
Each of us has a responsibility to do our homework, to study the teachings of the Church. They are always readily available in the Catechism. We also look to our Popes to reiterate and reinforce teachings in our own day. Thanks to a recent commentary column by National Catholic Register we have collected in one place some of Pope Francis’ comments reaffirming Church moral teachings.
Calumny and detraction are serious sins that are often omitted from the list of mortal sins in the examination of conscience. Perhaps they don’t seem as permanent in their effects as murder, lying, stealing or sexual sins so perhaps are not thought to be equally as serious.
A sin does not need to be materially tangible or result in damning physical evidence to be mortal in nature. All sins are spiritual in their result: the loss of grace and salvation. “Mortal” sins result in the eternal death of the soul through the loss of sanctifying grace restored only in normal circumstances by means of an integral, full, Confession of all mortal sins by species and number.
Pope Francis has spoken out dramatically about calumny, the repetition of lies about another. Detraction, the sin of sharing the faults of another, is closely related to it. “Calumny comes from a very evil thing. It is born of hatred. And hate is the work of Satan. Calumny destroys the work of God in people, in their souls.”
On abortion in June 2018 he said: “The entire world was scandalized over what the Nazis were doing to maintain the purity of the race. Today we do the same thing, but with white gloves.”
He also used a mafia metaphor for abortion: “Is it right to hire a hit man to solve a problem? You cannot…it is not right to kill a human being, regardless of how small it is, to solve a problem. It is like hiring a hit man.”
When it comes to homosexuality Pope Francis certainly wants those who experience same-sex attraction to feel welcome everywhere — except in seminaries: “If there’s a doubt about homosexuality, it’s better not to have them enter the seminary. If you think that the guy is homosexual, don’t put him in the seminary.”
On same-sex “marriage”: “It is not marriage! What they are proposing is not marriage. It is an association, but it is not marriage! It is necessary to say things very clearly and we must say this!”
On redefining marriage and family: “The family is hit! The family is knocked and the family is debased. . . . Can everything be called a family? How . . . much relativism there is in the concept of the Sacrament of Marriage!” He decried the “new forms, totally destructive.”
Our age, he said, “needs the special assistance of the Holy Spirit to bring the light of truth on to the darkness of error, it needs this advocate to defend us from being enchanted by many fallacies that are tried at all costs . . . and to confuse and deceive the people of good will.”
The attention of the world will continue to be diverted by political circuses and other entertainments. These are merely repetitions of ancient themes and proof that human nature does not change.
What can change is the “supernatural,” a share in the eternal life of God offered to us in Christ our Savior. Salvation is a drama at once both real and personal. The stakes could not be higher or more dramatic: eternal salvation or damnation.
No one has more power over our own personal eternal destiny than we do. This is a gift of God in Christ through the Church. The headlines may never shout this truth and occupiers of the halls of worldly power may misuse it but we certainly cannot afford to if we truly love ourselves or desire our own good.
Our faith requires focus and effort to eliminate the worldly and ephemeral distractions that threaten to consume too much of our time and attention. Deliberate use of the proper tools to examine our conscience and dedicating time to regular study of our faith are necessary.
Thank you for reading and praised be Jesus Christ now and forever.

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