Friday, April 11, 2008

HLI Humanae Vitae Priests: Converting the Baptized

    Humanae Vitae Priests
  Human Life International e-Newsletter
for Priests, Deacons, and Seminarians

Volume 01, Number 05 | Thursday, April 10, 2008
Today's Action Items

  Converting the Baptized
By John Mallon

I once read that Pope John XXIII made a comment that there were many "baptized pagans" in the Church. If that was true in his time it is certainly a greater problem in our time. I concluded the last installment in this series citing the need for conversion among our own congregations stating, "The key to understanding Catholic beauty and truth is ultimately conversion, and goes back to the First Commandment: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind."

The question is not so much how do we convince Catholics of the truth and beauty of Humanae Vitae and other vital teachings but how do we lead them into a real and vivid personal relationship with Jesus Christ as the joyful center of their lives. Otherwise Church teachings risk remaining mere "subject matter." A man truly in love with his wife does not need to be told adultery is wrong, the very thought of it horrifies him. His love is filial not servile. He knows adultery could kill the love he cherishes.

So too, Jesus Christ says, "If you love me you will keep my Commandments." (John 14:15) Not "If you love me you'd better keep my commandments." We are motivated by love, a love that shows Him trustworthy. Even when we lack understanding we trust Him in what Vatican II (from Romans 16:26) calls the Obedience of Faith.

Embracing this love affair with Christ the Bridegroom, and growing in it, is conversion.

Fifty or so years ago when someone referred to conversion almost all Catholics immediately thought of it as leaving another faith and becoming a Catholic, and this remains a legitimate use of the term.

What we saw last time, in Mrs. Deveny's Newsweek article, was someone barely catechized, and, evidently, not at all evangelized. She speaks of her dissent as if it were the only reasonable position. Still she says, "OK, so I'm divorced (twice!) and I haven't always been, um, a paragon of virtue. Still, I consider myself a practicing Roman Catholic. I take my kid to church most Sundays. (In the winter, at least.)"

She just doesn't get it. One almost senses she wants to, but for a modern secularist (apparently her de facto religion), the thought of passing through the needle's eye is daunting. One wonders if she were living by faith, rather than secularist "conventional wisdom" she would have married the same men or if her marriages would have failed. We don't know. However, it would be a safe bet that she had no problem using contraception in those marriages, and as we shall see later in the series, contraception is notorious for destroying marriages. "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy." (John 10:10a)

Dissent is a form of contraception. Spiritual contraception. It prevents us from receiving the fullness of God's Love. It is the "barrier method" of the spiritual life. It prevents us from receiving the new life Christ our Bridegroom wants us to have to the fullest. (See John 10:10b)

We have seen the damage done to both spiritual life and human life in the forty years resulting from the dissent from, ignorance of, and plain disobedience to Humanae Vitae. Mrs. Deveny is a prime example of an unwitting victim of that damage. This series will unpack some of that damage that Pope Paul predicted in this great encyclical.

When people tell me they like the Catholic Church but "disagree" with many of her teachings, I tell them they have the cart before the horse. It's hard to be faithful to a spouse you've never met. Just focus on getting to know Jesus, seeking Him, and the rest will fall into place as that relationship develops. Human marriage is an icon of our mystical marriage with Christ. If we cut off the flow of love and life in one we will do so in the other. Love doesn't hold back. Love doesn't want to hold back, it wishes to give all. Loving with "all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind" also includes the body.



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