Chapters five and six of Mathete’s letter are called, ‘The manners of the Christians’ and ‘the relation of the Christian to the World,’ respectively and they give a very clear statement that Catholics should obey the law, play their part in society but that their first duty is to the law of God. Basically, Christians live in the world but should not live by the world’s standards.
In Chapter 5 the author says the following about Christians: “Like other people they marry and beget children, though they do not expose their infants.”
The last bit is important: the Romans were known for leaving their infants, particularly girls, on the hillside for the animals to eat or to die of exposure. Marie Stopes had no clinic in Rome!
Fast forward about 1840 years and I am driving to Coalisland last Tuesday morning to attend the funeral of an old friend. On the way down I listened to the Nolan show on Radio Ulster where a modern day apologist, Father Tim Bartlett, was defending a pastoral letter issued by one of the North’s bishops about what Catholics should take into consideration when deciding who to vote for.
The issues are well rehearsed and we all know what it came down to; the issue of abortion. The world has become obsessed with trying to justify the killing of the unborn.
Fr Bartlett was brilliant. All he said was that the Church promoted the basic human right of the ‘right to life.’
You see, when stated simply and plainly in that manner, there is no argument against the right to life. People may try in vain to justify the taking of life but they can never, nor shall they ever, produce a reasoned argument why a perfectly healthy 23 week old foetus should be killed on the whim of a mother.
Fr Bartlett stood his ground but he had a big advantage over his adversaries, he was proclaiming the truth: a Catholic has a moral duty to take into consideration the policies of a candidate and foremost among these policies is the basic human right to life.
Who can argue with that?
In the middle of his talk Fr Bartlett brought out a marvellous point which he did not expand upon because it was not really connected with the argument. But is a point worth dwelling on a little.
Let me explain. The question came up about the Church putting forward her opinion at all in the political sphere and Fr Bartlett said ‘the secularists have succeeded in portraying themselves as neutral in all these things.’
That was all Fr Bartlett said, but the quote set me thinking and I have my own take on the matter. As I say, I cannot speculate on what Fr Bartlett meant but here are my thoughts.
Secularism says that God, if there is a God, should have no place in the public domain and that his laws should not be considered when making public law.
While the term secularist is relatively new this thinking is as old as man himself and the best example of ignoring God’s law for political expediency is the Nazis decision to eliminate the Jews.
But more importantly how does this secular thinking that God has no place in the public domain reflect the Christian idea of God?
The God of the Bible is a ‘nation building’ God and he is a ‘community builder.’
God first revealed himself to Abraham and promised Abraham that ‘I will make of you a great nation.’ The first five books of the Old Testament are basically a history of how God took Abraham and his descendents and made them into the people of Israel.
For the Israelites, God was intimately involved in the life of the nation. This involvement of God in the lives of the people has carried over into Catholic teaching: we are a community of believers; we have the parish structure where the priest is the spiritual ‘Father’ in the midst of the community.
In fact, when you stop to think about it, the Catholic Church is based on the family; we call our priests Father, our nuns Sister and men religious we call Brother. We come to God as a family of believers, a community in need of help and guidance.
We are also taught that our behaviour has an effect on the social order. Catholics are encouraged to take part in society, to consider how their behaviour affects others and to be respectful of the rights of fellow citizens and we are taught the necessity of justice in our dealings for society to function.
When we throw these values to the side and follow our own desires the whole system falls apart. At this point we all know that we share the guilt and no one complains too much; we are all feeling guilty.
Have we a recent example of this? Yes, we most certainly have and I shall never forget something I heard on the Kenny show on RTE way back in 2008 that summed all this up.
From the late 90s til about 2007 the people of the Free State lost the run of themselves completely. Now before you start thinking that it could never happen here just think back to the insane rise in house prices between 2005 and 2008 in the North.
Had the lads and lasses in Stormont been able to borrow wildly like the banks in the south, we would have done the same.
Anyway, shortly after the crash, Pat Kenny was interviewing an economist about the situation and the long and short of it was that the economist said that we were all to blame, that the country had lost all sense of morality and justice and people had behaved in such as way as to ignore all moral principles.
Kenny protested that he had done nothing wrong but the economist came back with a brilliant statement that summed the whole thing up:
“We voted for politicians who were going around distributing brown envelopes and we laughed about it. What did we think was going to happen to the country?”
Wow, talk about a statement hitting ‘personal morality’ on the head. Personal morality says that I can do whatever I want as long as I am hurting no one else.
So I can take a backhander as long as no one finds out, I can buy a house with false income declared, I can vote for liars as long as they give me money, sure what harm am I doing?
No wonder there has been no serious questions asked of the bankers; we were all to blame, we all bought into it!
I am reading the autobiography of a priest called Thomas Merton at the moment. He was an American and died in 1968. In the book he describes the atmosphere in New York just before the outbreak of the War in September 1939. Merton wrote:
“The world faced not only destruction, but destruction with the greatest possible defilement; defilement of that which is most perfect in man, his reason and his will, his immortal soul.
All this was obscure to most people, and made itself felt only in a mixture of disgust and hopelessness and dread. They did not realize that the world had now become what the majority of its individuals had made of their own souls. We had given our minds and wills to be defiled by hell itself.”
A few sentences later Merton continues:
“There was something else in my own mind—the recognition that ‘I myself am responsible for this. My sins have done this. Hitler is not the only one who started this war; I had my share in it too.’”
The next day the war started. Merton tells how he was on his way to daily Mass when he heard the news. The words of the Mass had a new meaning for him:
“It is truly meet and just always and in all things to give you thanks, Holy Lord, all knowing Father, eternal God.”
What really hit Merton, who at this time was only thinking of being a priest, was that the Church was thanking God in the midst of all this turmoil, as war settled over Europe.
It is easy to see that secularism is not neutral; it is aggressive atheism in another guise.
As Fr Bartlett spoke, an old saying about the Catholic Church came back to me: ‘the Church is the conscience of the world.’
The truth of this statement was amply displayed when Nolan let the callers on the show; they came out with all the usual vindictive and hate filled nonsense about the sins of priests.
Fr Bartlett quietly asked if the sins of any priest made the killing of an unborn child in the womb legitimate.
And that is why the secularists hate the Church so much, because the Church exposes the hypocrisy of their way of life: they know they are living a life that is against God’s law and they hate the Church for making them aware of this.
That is also the reason they hide behind statements such as ‘God should not be brought into the public arena,’ or ‘every person has a right to make up their own mind what is right for them.’
It sounds great but God is a God of the community, he is Lord of the nation, and he is the creator of the world and he expects us to obey at least his ‘natural law.’
What is that?
The natural law is the law written in every person’s heart. We don’t need religion to tell us that two men can’t make a baby or that the killing of an innocent child is wrong. We don’t need religion to tell us that perjury or treating our parents with contempt is reprehensible.
These truths are written into the DNA of our souls. But when we decide that we want to do these actions anyway, woe betides any person who says we are wrong.
That is why the world hates God and her representatives and that is why they were lining up to spit their venom at Fr Bartlett: how dare the Church tell us not to vote for abortion. We want the right to kill our children, even when they are perfectly healthy in the womb!
And so we come to the voting day, Thursday last. I went out to do my duty early in the morning before I began my day’s work; I am of that generation who voted early because we were afraid we might have no vote by the time we got there!
I took my card and I went into the wee booth and looked at all the names. There were only two of us in the booth, me and God.
He didn’t speak, he is that sort of God, he leaves things up to us. I stood for a few minutes and wanted to vote for the party I voted for for years.
It’s tough when you are brought up an old country republican for whom voting against the unionists is a way of life.
Looking down the sheet the only party that had anything like Christian principles were the DUP but that was a step too far even for me.
However, voting is a serious issue and I thought to myself that for once in my life I would try and make where I put my X reflect something of what I really believe in my heart.
It was nice in a way. The party I have voted for these past thirty odd years gave me the opportunity to say, “No, Lord. This time I shall put you first, and not vote in a way that is against your law. In my vote I shall say publicly that I am for God and not for killing the unborn.”
I would like to thank our Catholic pro-abortion parties for this opportunity to publicly declare that I chose God’s law over their lies. In the end it was not a hard choice.
And as I sit here writing this, I realized something that I never fully understood before; that as long as we have men such as Mathetes and Fr Bartlett, and a long line of men in between, who are willing to state the truth simply and with integrity, the Church shall continue to be the conscience of the world.
Thank God for them!
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