Over the past several years, a fair chunk of people have been asked to resign or been fired from Catholic workplaces for conduct which, in one way or another, violated Church teaching. Nearly all of the incidents involved either unwed pregnancy or sexual orientation (or both), and nearly all have also included a massive public outcry and outrage against the institution and the Church as a whole.
Fueling that outcry are incessant accusations that the Church is “perpetuating hate”, is lacking in compassion, and is meddling in “others’ opinions and beliefs when they should just worry about themselves”. The Church is the bad guy, and the people who are wronged ought not to have been treated so poorly and hypocritically by such a vile institution, they say. I’m paraphrasing.
Feelings are hurt, and people’s livelihoods are upended, no doubt. However, it doesn’t give anyone license to throw verbal haymakers or forget the definitions of words.
What people always seem to miss is this:
– A church firing isn’t a condemnation to hell;
– It isn’t a statement that the person is permanently banned from the Church, excommunicated, or hated; and
– It’s not a condemnation of a person’s free will.
In fact, it’s precisely the opposite. The Church forces no one both to stay and act a certain way, but while a person is working, worshiping, singing, playing or anything else within Her confines and especially while under Her employ, a person is obligated (yes, obligated) to follow those rules or be asked to leave. In the eyes of the Church, that former employee’s humanity is still intact, they’re still created in the image and likeness of God, and they’re still loved, including, more than likely, by the very people who terminated their employment.
No matter the surprise, shock, or hurt feelings one has, no one should blame the Church for following Her own rules and refusing to compromise on them. Antiquated or not, how old a rule is has no bearing on its truth or correctness. In following Her own rules, especially in the face of great opposition, the Church is showing tremendous integrity.
This could be news to a lot of people, but the Catholic Church has been around for 2000 years by doing precisely this: holding true to the principles stemming directly from the mouth of Christ himself, whether it’s convenient and comfortable or not.
And yet, so many decisions these days are made based on what’s convenient, what makes sense, or, worst of all, what the majority says it wants. It does make sense, after all. When relying on the finite instead of the infinite–our humanity instead of the wisdom and transcendence of the Word of God–we’re bound to make mistakes. When relying on our humanity, we tend to react better to the obvious, comfortable choice.
G.K. Chesterton wrote in his book Orthodoxy the marvel he has for the Church and her continued existence over two millennia:
“It is always simple to fall; there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands. To have fallen into any one of the fads from Gnosticism to Christian Science would indeed have been obvious and tame. But to have avoided them all has been one whirling adventure; and in my vision the heavenly chariot flies thundering through the ages, the dull heresies sprawling and prostrate, the wild truth reeling but erect.”
It is nothing but social pressure mixed with a misguided belief that a person should never be uncomfortable or made to do something undesirable that sparks outrage after a person is fired for a denial of Church teaching.
One of the wisest things I heard in elementary school came from my 6th grade teacher. Over and over again throughout that year she said, “History repeats itself.” I didn’t grasp how true this was until recently, and I realized why it happens: People are idiots. No, really, we humans, by our very fallen nature and when left to our own devices, have a horrifying propensity for arrogance, narrow-mindedness, selfishness, and pride, in some form or another. This has and always will be true for every human on earth (except two). It is only through an external force that this broken humanity is able to be remedied, and it is only through a Divine force that it is able to be perfectly remedied in time.
Without an external force, and especially without a Divine force, we inevitably will spiral downward, trying to solve complicated problems with half the instructions and limited knowledge of how to read them.
In the end we’re faced with a choice of whose side to be on. The Church will always remain true to her morals and values, but we, until the day we come before the good Lord, must choose what we believe, or have the decision made for us.
The recently-retired archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Francis George, wrote recently, “Going along with the powers that be…reduces a great tension in [our] lives, although it also brings with it the worship of a false god. It takes no moral courage to conform to government and social pressure. It takes a deep faith to swim against the tide.” [emphasis added]
Anything worth doing in this life requires discomfort and hardship to do well. You can become a Christian, call yourself a Christian, even act like a Christian very easily. However, living Christianity well, swimming against the tide of society, is impossible without discomfort and hardship, but our Lord promises us eternity in return.