We will stand
The Lord declared, ‘Woe if the world thinks well of you’. (Lk 6:26) It is natural for us to desire to be accepted in the society in which we live. We want to be good citizens. We want to be seen as respectable and responsible members of society. There is a desire in us to be on good terms with those around us. Yet, the Catholic faith is clearly under attack in our society. It is becoming increasingly apparent that our ability to publicly express our Catholic beliefs on matters like marriage, sexuality and gender is being challenged.
Laws are currently being proposed which seek to force priests to break the seal of the confessional. Here a line has been crossed as the state seeks to impose itself into the religious sphere. Our religious freedom is being put in question.
Recently a demand has been made to remove protections which would allow religious schools to terminate employment or turn away students because they are same-sex attracted. This issue has been expressed in a way to place the Church on the back foot. The Catholic Church does not condone any unjust discrimination against anyone. The Catholic Church would not seek to terminate employment or expel a student simply because they experience same-sex attraction. What the Church is concerned about, like any organisation (community, corporate or political) is the preservation of its identity and mission.
Catholic agencies, like Catholic schools, exist ultimately for the purpose of promoting the beliefs and mission of the Catholic Church. We propose this, we do not impose it. Our agencies are voluntary organisations. A person can chose to accept or reject the services they provide. Like any community, corporate or political body we exist to promote and embody a particular set of beliefs.
The Church is not looking for any special treatment only the ability to operate its agencies in accordance with its beliefs and mission.
Of course one of the most important moral teachings of the Church is that any sexual intimacy expressed outside a properly constituted marriage is opposed to the human good or flourishing of the human person, and is therefore incompatible with Catholic belief. It would therefore be inappropriate for anyone, whether teacher or student, to actively embody or promote a way of expressing sexual intimacy that is incompatible with Catholic teaching within the context of a Catholic school. This would include same-sex sexual intimacy, plural sexual relationships or any sexual relationship with a person who is not what the Church would recognise as one’s legitimate spouse. The Church of course seeks to minister, accompany, and support those who struggle with a range of sexual difficulties to overcome and resist these inclinations, but it views the expression of these difficulties as contrary to the human good.
Another important teaching concerns God’s creation of human beings as either male or female. Our sex identity is fundamental to who we are as a human person and is not something that can be changed. This understanding is of course incompatible with those who believe they can change their sex through medical intervention or self-identification. So again the Church seeks to minister, accompany and support those with sex identity dysphoria to live according to their particular genetic or birth sex identity, but it would be contrary to Catholic teaching and opposed to the human good to in any way support or promote an attempt to change their bodily appearance to mimic that of the opposite sex.
When someone agrees to work for a Catholic agency they are agreeing to uphold and support the Catholic teaching on these moral questions with regard to their professional responsibilities. When parents send their children to Catholic schools they are agreeing for their children to be taught in accordance with Catholic teaching.
There are those however who are attempting to prevent Church agencies operating according to Catholic teaching, to force them to change their teaching or remain silent, and to be compliant with the dominant permissive mind set in society which is opposed to the human good.
We must resist this. Now is the time to take our stand. Now is the time to stand with Christ who came to proclaim the truth about the human person, even while knowing that many would be unable to accept it.
The Christian faith is not about following what is popular, rather it is about following He who is the Truth. Many of the older generations have been fortunate to live in a society which largely respected Christian morality and truth, albeit imperfectly. What we are witnessing now is simply unprecedented in human history. The testing of our faith is not ahead of us, it has already arrived.
The Lord never doubted that those who follow him would experience persecution. He said that we must be prepared to take up our cross and follow him. These are not comforting words, but it is becoming apparent that this is what we will be required to do. Indeed, a recent study by the Pew Research Centre found that Christians are the most persecuted or harassed group in the world today. Overt persecution of Christians in our own society is now emerging.
In these changed circumstances our faith will be tested. We will be exposed to what seems to be reasonable arguments to comply with the new worldview. We will be described as being rigid and uncompromising if we do not go along with the tide of popular opinion. We will be viewed as bigots and ‘haters’, as we witnessed in the marriage debate. We will be told that we are out of step with society; that we are on the wrong side of history. We will be encouraged to move with the times and accept the inevitable. There will be many arguments like these to convince us to conform to the new order.
But we cannot. Our allegiance is firstly with Christ and his teaching. We believe that the teaching of the Church expressed in places like the Catholic Catechism is the truth, enduring and eternal truth. Here we find the truth about human life and the path to genuine human flourishing. Here we have the way to eternal life. Therefore, we choose Christ and the teaching of the Church. And we are prepared to pay whatever the price in our effort to remain faithful. While some might urge us to ‘lighten up’ or ‘get with it’, we know that only Christ has the answer.
The martyrs are our example and inspiration. We will be faithful. We will not compromise the truth. We will stand firm.
Archbishop Julian Porteous
November 18, 2019