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May 9, 2014 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Q. Writing in the Boston Herald, columnist Margery Eagan enthused over the canonization of Pope John XXIII because he had “breathed new life into the Church,” unlike Popes Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI, who were “bent on undoing Vatican II and reemphasizing sin, rules, and condemnations over mercy, forgiveness, and comforting the poor and the ostracized.” She also made a number of statements about life in the Church before and after the papacy of John XXIII (1958-1963) that do not sound right. Would you please comment on some of her statements? — F.A., Massachusetts.
A. Mrs. Eagan is well known to readers of the Herald for her frequent dissent from Catholic teachings. She is able to rave about John XXIII only after distorting the historical record. Here are just a few of the columnist’s whoppers:
No more lace mantillas on women in the pews — The requirement that women wear head coverings in church, which was included in the 1917 Code of Canon Law, remained in effect until Pope John Paul promulgated a new Code of Canon Law in 1983, 20 years after the death of John XXIII.
Nuns were out of voluminous, black and white, burqa-style habits and into street clothes — Actually, Vatican II did not abolish religious habits, but said that they should continue to be worn as “signs of a consecrated life.” The council said that the habits could be modified to meet certain conditions of health, time, place, and occupation; it did not say that nuns should switch to street clothes (cf. Vatican II’s Decree on the Appropriate Renewal of Religious Life, n. 17).
Priests no longer said Mass with their backs to the congregation, as if nobody in it mattered — If Mrs. Eagan had omitted the last six words, no correction would be necessary. The priest was not turning his back on the people, as if they didn’t matter; he was leading them toward God, just as a drum major leads his marching unit toward their destination.
Before Pope John’s Vatican II, the Church insisted that no one but Catholics could be saved — Actually, a century earlier (1863) Blessed Pope Pius IX had said that “those who labor in invincible ignorance concerning our most holy religion and who, assiduously observing the natural law and its precepts which God has inscribed in the hearts of all, and being ready to obey God, live an honest and upright life can, through the working of the divine light and grace, attain eternal life” (Quanto Conficiamur Moerore).
Furthermore, John XXIII believed that the Catholic Church was the one, true Church and strongly rejected as “absurd” the proposition that one religion is as good as another. In his 1959 encyclical Ad Petri Cathedram, the Pope expressed his agreement with Pope Leo XIII that such an attitude “is directed to the destruction of all religions, but particularly the Catholic Faith, which cannot be placed on a level with other religions without serious injustice, since it alone is true” (n. 17).
Before Vatican II, Jews were stigmatized in nasty language for crucifying Christ. After, the Church praised Jews for their covenant with God and blamed Christ’s death on the Romans — No, Vatican II did not blame Christ’s death only on the Romans. It said that “authorities of the Jews and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ (cf. John 19:6); still, what happened in His passion cannot be blamed upon all the Jews then living, without distinction, nor upon the Jews of today.”
But ultimately, Vatican II said, “Christ in His boundless love freely underwent His passion and death because of the sins of all men” (Nostra Aetate, n. 4).
John XXIII made it a heady time to be a Catholic — Yes, many people were taken with the cheerful personality of the Holy Father, but to call him a “liberal,” as Mrs. Eagan does, is false. Like his Successors since 1963, John XXIII was a faithful defender of Church teaching. For example, in his 1961 encyclical Mater et Magistra, the Holy Father condemned contraceptive practices. He said that “because the life of man is passed on to other men deliberately and knowingly, it therefore follows that this should be done in accord with the most sacred, permanent, inviolate prescriptions of God. Everyone without exception is bound to recognize and observe these laws. Wherefore, in this matter, no one is permitted to use methods and procedures which may indeed be permissible to check the life of plants and animals” (n. 193).
He went on to say that while “the provident God has bestowed upon humanity     sufficient goods wherewith to bear with dignity the burdens associated with     procreation of children, this task will be difficult or even impossible if men, straying     from the right road and with a perverse outlook, use the means mentioned above in a     manner contrary to human reason or to their social nature and, hence, contrary to the directives of God Himself” (n. 199).

Q. Can you tell me something about the doings and writings of Fr. Charles Curran? I recall that he was fired from Catholic University for teaching error. Is he still at it, or has he dropped off the radar these days? — B.P., New York.
A. No, Charles E. Curran is still at it today as professor of moral values at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Born in 1934, Curran was ordained a Catholic priest in 1958 and joined the faculty at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., in 1965. The university trustees tried to let his appointment lapse in 1967 because of his dissenting views on contraception, but they capitulated to a faculty/student strike and promoted him to associate professor with tenure.
When Pope Paul VI in 1968 reaffirmed the Church’s condemnation of contraception in the encyclical Humanae Vitae, Curran led the charge to discredit the encyclical, rallying 86 others within 24 hours to sign a statement protesting the document. However, it wasn’t until 1986 that he was removed from his position at Catholic University for his persistent rejection of the Church’s teaching against contraception, not to mention his heterodox views on abortion, euthanasia, divorce, fornication, and homosexual acts. He was told at that time by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that he was no longer qualified to be a professor of Catholic theology.
In her valuable book Humanae Vitae: A Generation Later, Janet E. Smith chronicled Curran’s continuing dissent from Church teaching. For example, in an article in Commonweal in 1978, Curran said that “the teaching condemning artificial contraception is wrong; the Pope is in error; Catholics in good conscience can dissent in theory and in practice from such a teaching.”
He wrote an autobiography in 2006 with the oxymoronic title of Loyal Dissent: Memoir of a Catholic Theologian. His publisher called the book “the candid and inspiring story of a Catholic priest and theologian who, despite being stripped of his right to teach as a Catholic theologian by the Vatican, remains committed to the Catholic Church.”
Can one be a good Catholic while dissenting from the Church’s moral teachings? No, said Pope John Paul II during a visit to Los Angeles in 1987. He said that “this is a grave error that challenges the teaching office of the bishops of the United States and elsewhere….Dissent from Church doctrine remains what it is: Dissent; as such it may not be proposed or received on an equal footing with the Church’s authentic teaching.” The Holy Father repeated this admonition in his 1993 encyclical Veritatis Splendor (The Splendor of Truth):
“Dissent, in the form of carefully orchestrated protests and polemics carried on in the media, is opposed to ecclesial communion and to a correct understanding of the hierarchical constitution of the People of God. Opposition to the teaching of the Church’s pastors cannot be seen as a legitimate expression either of Christian freedom or of the diversity of the Spirit’s gifts. When this happens, the Church’s pastors have the duty to act in conformity with their apostolic mission, insisting that the right of the faithful to receive Catholic doctrine in its purity and integrity must always be respected” (n. 113).
That’s why the Church’s pastors acted to bar Charles Curran from teaching Catholic theology.

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