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Life & Love Revisited

 

Rev. David J. Erickson


 

Homily delivered February 19, 2012

Holy Rosary Catholic Church, Lander, Wyoming.

With all the news on the HHS mandate, I've read and heard not only mischaracterization of the Church's teachings on contraception, but then the trashing of the Catholic Church based on these mischaracterizations. One article included a picture of the US Bishop Conference with the headline "Who are these 271 celibate men trying to control the sex lives of American woman?" It is simply an absurd assertion. Then there was the oft cited and misleading '98% of all Catholic woman use contraception' statistic circulating the news. Can we just stipulate that virtually all men and women from the dawn of history have been tempted to avoid pregnancy at certain points of their fertile lives? Given the topic and all the misleading information, I will present the Church's teaching on human sexuality and life issues - especially marriage. If people disagree on anything, fine; it's your life and your business. But is it not reasonable to actually know what you disagree with? Is it not reasonable to inform your conscience in order render an honest judgment on the matter? So, for the sake of argument, let's take the issue of religious liberty and freedom of conscience out of the equation and look at the Church's teaching on contraception on its own merit. We start with some basic propositions.

Jesus
offers a simple proposal, "Come, follow me." Jesus and His Church are mysteriously one, meaning she is the "spotless Bride of Christ" and, at the same time, a house full of sinners. Like Jesus, the Church proposes and does not impose. We have no police. We have no army. People are free to come and go. We are not experts in biology, astrophysics, or politics. We are experts on human nature, the nature of God, and his revelation of salvation. Like Jesus, the Church "seeks and saves the lost." Like Jesus, the Church 'hates the sin, but loves the sinner.'

We move from proposition to the premise on human sexuality. The premise is this: God is Life and Love. In God, life and love is never separated. From God's love, life flows out into the goodness of creation. Endowed with rational souls by being made in His image and likeness,
"male and female," we participate in God's Life and Love like no other creature. This is the origin of the dignity of the human person and the sacredness of human life. As result, when we are talking about human life and human love, it is in a category unto itself. In other words, go ahead and tinker with cattle, horses, sheep, and chickens, but do not mess with human life and love. Human life and human love is sacrosanct; held sacred in the wisdom, power, and goodness of our Creator and made accessible to us through reason informed by faith.

From this basic premise, the Church teaches that human sexuality is made for life and love like no other creature on the face of the earth. Whenever human sexuality is misused, whenever human life and love 'miss the mark' on God's purpose, sin is committed and evil spreads. If we are intellectually honest, we can take the rejection of this premise and understand why a whole host of social ills have skyrocketed in our country over these past fifty years.

Historically, in the 1960's contraception became more and more socially acceptable in the United States. It was a time of so called 'free sex" and fear of overpopulation among geo-politic. In 1968, Pope Paul VI responded with the encyclical entitled
Humane Vitae. He acknowledged that the Church, like Jesus, is a "sign of contradiction." The Pope presented the beautiful teaching on the meaning and purpose of marriage and human sexuality. The unitive purpose of marriage, meaning the love between spouses. The procreative purpose of marriage, meaning life and the education of children. The unitive. The procreative. Human life and human love. The total gift of self, one to another; "the two become one" is the God-given purpose of marriage and human sexuality. Even in an otherwise healthy, fertile, and monogamous marriage, when contraception is introduced, the couple cannot fulfill the meaning and purpose of marriage. Why? Because there is no total gift of self from one to other. It is as if the couple were saying, 'I give you my all - except my fertility - you cannot have that part of me.' Further, 'I want all of you - except your fertility - you keep that for yourself.' Contraception, even in marriage, will lead to interior frustration that will manifest itself in many harmful ways. The husband will say, 'Why does she do that?' The wife will say 'Why does he do that?' They will say to themselves, 'Why do I think such things about him or her.' There will be a lack of trust which ought to be present in marital friendship; there will be no 'oneness.' Contraception in marriage will destroy one's internal balance and cause great harm to the marriage. Why? Because contraception vitiates both the unitive and procreative purpose of marriage as instituted by God; one will 'miss the mark' on the dignity and sacredness of the person closest to you. This is one reason why the Pope called for "responsible parenthood" by being open to the possibility of life using morally acceptable natural family planning when good reason arises. And this is why the Church teaches that even the marriage of infertile couples, young and old, can be most fruitful as their openness to life and love can be fertile in many other ways. "I have come to bring life in abundance," says the celibate Jesus, "Love one another as I have loved you." Incidentally, the Pope warned "Who will stop rulers from favoring, from even imposing upon their peoples….the method of contraception which they judge to be most efficacious?" That was 1968 folks, did the Pope get it right?

It is important to realize that the Church has been consistent in its opposition to contraception and abortion for two thousand years. The earliest reference is in the
Didache, a document written circa 98 AD. These first Christians speak to us today: "You shall not practice birth control, you shall not murder a child by abortion, nor kill what is begotten." In the second century, St. Clement of Alexandria wrote: "Women who resort to some sort of deadly abortion drug kill not only the embryo, but along with it, all human kindness." Similar statements are repeated throughout the centuries.

The point is this: the Church has consistently rejected contraception, in part, because it separates human life and love. So the Church proposes, "Don't do that. It's not of God. You're going to hurt yourself and others. It is a threat to your marriage. It is a threat to the common good. It is a sin that will lead to other evils.' The Church's premise is consistent and also seamless as it applies to other life issues. We reject: in-vitro fertilization because it separates life from love and leaves tens of thousands of embryos left over for experimentation, exploitation, and termination. Sterilization since its aim is to prevent the possibility of life. Abortafacients because it prevents a life already conceived to be received with love, namely its ability to live and grow. Direct abortion because it destroys innocent life and is the logical end of the contraceptive mentality; for if contraception does not work, abortion surely will. Euthanasia since if it is acceptable not to receive with love the least among us, then it is acceptable to terminate the least useful among us. Promiscuity as it promotes sex without responsibility nor commitment to monogamy and family. Pornography as it treats people as objects to be used rather than as people to be loved. Homosexuality as it is incapable of life and is focused on the base desire of lust exercised in the most inordinate of ways. Masturbation since it is inherently self-centered and incapable of life and love. The Church's teaching is consistent with its premise and seamless with its applications.

Does this sound to you as being personally judgmental of people's lifestyles or is it simply the Church proposing the truth, beauty, and goodness of human sexuality to every generation? It should be the latter because it is a proposal; a proposal of high standards precisely because of the inestimable dignity and sacredness of the human person. Obviously, many reject it; the world's proposals are so much easier. If one does reject it, however, then please understand what you are rejecting. Namely, the unity of human life and love, the dignity and sacredness of the human person, discovered by reason and enlightened by faith. Recognize as well, that Jesus is continuing his ministry through his Church to seek and save the lost. He offers the meaning and purpose of human sexuality so as to liberate us from being dominated by lust, exploitation, manipulation, selfishness, and all sorts of harm and evil. Recognize as well, that there are powerful entities, under the guise of 'freedom' and 'health,' seeking to impose their secular view of human sexuality upon all people, especially those faithful and true to Jesus and his Church. It is the culture of death versus the culture of life; the master minds of the former now using the force of law to win the battle in our country -- and attempting to silence all opposition who stand in their way. This is why the HHS mandate targeted the Catholic Church and the media mischaracterize and disparage her teachings at every opportunity.

In 1995, in Evangelium Vitae, Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote: "we are in fact faced by an objective "conspiracy against life", involving even international Institutions, engaged in encouraging and carrying out actual campaigns to make contraception, sterilization and abortion widely available. Nor can it be denied that the mass media are often implicated in this conspiracy, by lending credit to that culture which presents recourse to contraception, sterilization, abortion and even euthanasia as a mark of progress and a victory of freedom, while depicting as enemies of freedom and progress those positions which are unreservedly pro-life." That was 1995 folks, did the Pope get it right?

He concludes with a prayer:  "O Mary, bright dawn of the new world, Mother of the living, to you do we entrust the cause of life: Look down, O Mother, upon the vast numbers of babies not allowed to be born, of the poor whose lives are made difficult, of men and women who are victims of brutal violence, of the elderly and the sick killed by indifference or out of misguided mercy. Grant that all who believe in your Son may proclaim the Gospel of life with honesty and love to the people of our time. Obtain for them the grace to accept that Gospel as a gift ever new, the joy of celebrating it with gratitude throughout their lives and the courage to bear witness to it resolutely, in order to build, together with all people of good will, the civilization of truth and love, to the praise and glory of God, the Creator and lover of life."

 

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