||This column is the bishop’s communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.
In the Gospel of this past Sunday we heard about Bartimaeus (Mk 10:46-52). Bartimaeus was not blind from birth, unlike the man in the fourth chapter of the Gospel according to John. Bartimaeus had his sight for many years and then lost it; so he knew what he didn’t have. And on top of his losing his sight, he was reduced by his blindness and disability to begging, so that he was treated as one lacking in human dignity.
In the Gospel story, Bartimaeus was sitting there, in his misery, and along comes Jesus. Bartimaeus can’t control himself because, all of a sudden, hope invades his misery, and he cries out to Jesus. Despite some who want Bartimaeus to be silent, Jesus calls for Bartimaeus and asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus, who was a plain spoken man, replied, “Lord, I want to see.” Bartimaeus receives his sight, and what does he do? He doesn’t go back to his former life. With his new sight, he immediately follows Jesus.
That’s what our New Evangelization during the Year of Faith is all about. So many people once had their sight, but have become blind. The problem is that they don’t know enough to say, “I want to see.” But, we are to be the instruments of the hope of Jesus Christ that moves them to say that. And we have a major problem in our country and in our society with people, including many Catholics, who simply don’t want to see.
Forming a conscience properly
There was an article in Sunday’s Wisconsin State Journal which is based upon an interview by a sociologist, about Vatican II. This sociologist begins by opining that Vatican II brought life to the role of lay people and took them seriously -- and all of that is right. However, the way by which this sociologist claims that Vatican II took lay people seriously was that the council pointed out that lay people don’t simply obey the Church anymore, but this sociologist holds that Vatican II told people to find out what the Church teaches and then to make up their own minds about it. In other words, this sociologist believes that what Vatican II did for the Church is promote “Cafeteria Catholicism” in which everyone can simply build their own made-to-order Church in which you find out what the Church teaches, but then you decide what parts you want to follow or not.
If one is called to be Catholic, one follows what the Church teaches; that is the correct understanding of conscience (as upheld also by Vatican II). And if one really cannot follow what the Church teaches, then one’s conscience requires that one leave the Church. That is the adult decision. One’s conscience does not require that one makes up one’s own personal religion and then pretend that it is Catholic.
Cafeteria Catholics were not always blind, but now they are. And unfortunately so many of them don’t want to see, and so many don’t even admit that they’re blind, because there are people who continue to tell them that they’re fine, because “the spirit of Vatican II” was to create Cafeteria Catholicism. Unfortunately, it’s difficult for the Church to get through to such people, because in that form of “Catholicism,” bishops and the Pope only get a hearing if they’re saying what people want to hear. This type of attitude has a very real impact on the way people live their lives and upon the way people try to build a society.
Do we want to see?
And at this time in our country, especially when we have been inundated with political talk, it is already difficult for many to see straight -- and that’s understandable, given the confusion of all the talk. But, as a pastor charged with the care of souls, I fear for the many Catholics who happen to be Democrats or who happen to be Republicans and who don’t want to see, or who would prefer to see with the eyes of their party, rather than the eyes of faith and reason.
What do those who want to see, actually see? We must look immediately to the issues which are glaring, because they involve intrinsic evil. We must consider that there are rights, including a right to life, which come even before our own economic well-being.
And if one’s policies are intent on downsizing and even killing more, and more, and more of the future generation by promoting and making free-of-charge, on-demand abortion and contraception, why should we be surprised if there is no concern for those generations in terms of handing down massive debt?
Without counting those killed by chemical abortions and abortifacient artificial contraception, we have allowed for the murder of over 55 million children since 1973 in our country, and currently average about 1.2 million per year, in the United States. A candidate who promotes abortion without restraint, and with no cost, and promotes artificial contraception, paid for by those who find it immoral, clearly becomes an enemy of moral reason.
This is all very serious business, and yet there are many who call themselves Catholics who still don’t want to see. Written in our very human nature, in the language of our bodies, by the Creator, is the truth that marriage means one husband, one wife, one lifetime, with openness to children. Every human being has a right to marry the person of the opposite sex he or she chooses, but we must remember what marriage is. No one’s right to marry a person of the opposite sex is threatened, but there is no right to redefine marriage as “same-sex marriage.” To redefine marriage is to attack the essence of being human. God made humankind male and female, and he made them for marriage, he gave their bodies a nuptial meaning. That’s who we are as human -- we are male and female.
If that doesn’t matter, then humanity as it was created is diminished to the point where we now have people who want to play some kind of game, deadly to humanity, that says, “let the child be born and after some years decide whether they want to be ‘he or she’.” Instead of being what God created me to be, I become what I feel I am. God is no longer in charge -- what I think or feel is in charge. That is saying, clearly “I don’t want to see.”
We must open our eyes
Many Catholics, unfortunately, are caught up in that. If someone does not want to see, there is no hope for healing, because they don’t know they need to be healed. And as we look at the media, we are getting a dose of that every day. Much of what is happening in the world, in terms of these matters, in terms of Libya and otherwise, is being obscured because people don’t want to see -- at least not until after the election.
Bartimaeus’s salvation turned out to be won in those four words, “I want to see.” Our country and our culture (including many Catholics) proclaim, “I don’t want to see.” That is the challenge of the New Evangelization, and that’s the challenge that awaits our country, that we have to face, ready or not, on November 6. I’m terribly afraid that we’re not ready to face it, because an electorate that doesn’t want to see, including Catholics, cannot elect wisely.
You and I have to be instruments of waking people up out of their blindness. People are blind and they think they are fine -- at least for right now. That blindness could lead our country more and more into decline. As a result of this election, our country could become increasingly less human in our soul. And the consequences of that -- foreseen and unseen -- would be catastrophic.
This is the most important election in my lifetime; the essence of what it means to be human is what’s at stake. That’s far more important than the economy, because, if humanity is under attack, nothing can go right with the economy. We have to pray hard and we have to speak up in the coming days, to our friends, our neighbors, our family members, those who don’t want to see. If they can discover that in not wanting to see, there is no hope, there is no joy, maybe they would repent and beg Jesus, “I want to see.”
So, above all we have to pray for them, for our country, pray for those who do not want to see, that they will decide in favor of hope, and that for the long-term future of our country, they will chose life rather than death for humanity.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. Let us stay united in prayer! Praised be Jesus Christ!