Wednesday, November 27, 2019

The Silence of the Church

From Monsignor Charles Pope:
What is scandal in its Catholic sense? When someone “gives scandal,” he acts in such a way as to lead others into sin. This is closely related to its secular meaning in that the most devastating effect of scandals over time is that we cease to be shocked or unsettled by sinful behavior. When we see others engaging in sin, especially those in authority, we begin to think that perhaps it’s not so bad after all. People were once shocked by things like divorce, cohabitation, abortion, homosexual acts and suicide. But once cultural leaders indulged in these sins, sometimes even bragging of them, many were led to minimize, accept and even celebrate such sinfulness. This is the ultimate effect of scandal: bad example leads us to justify and even celebrate sin.
Jesus has no time for those who give scandal. He simply announces woe to them:
But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea (Matthew 18:6).
Yes, it is better to die than to lead the faithful into error and sin. Anyone who would consider “saving” his life in this way had better reconsider, lest he inherit the deepest fires of Hell. Eleazar rightly concludes that it is better to obey God than man, that the fear of the Lord must be greater than the fear of any man no matter how powerful, and that no punishment is worse than eternal damnation. Our relationship with mere mortals can only affect our temporary standing in this world, but our relationship with God affects our eternal destiny. It is never a good thing to compromise our faith or to give scandal — never.
Eleazar further reasons that his life is not simply about what is best for him alone in the here and now. He does not live merely for himself but for the sake of others. We must sometimes suffer so that others may live, thrive and be edified. If we refuse this suffering, we harm not only our eternal destiny but that of others. We are our brother’s keeper, and we have an obligation to live in such a way that others can be saved rather than hindered from salvation and ignorant of the truth that sets them free. Jesus, who is Truth, would not come down from the cross to save himself. He stayed on the cross to save us. Eleazar preferred death to misleading others. How about you?
In the Church today there is a form of giving scandal that has become far too common: silence in the face of sin and error. Too many clergy and parents, as well, are silent in the midst of today’s moral meltdown. Fearing for their well-being, desiring future promotions, or just wanting to avoid the unpleasantry of conflict, many refuse to teach against — or even talk about — moral error and sin.
We will all have to answer for our silence to the degree that we had an obligation to speak. Qui tacet consentire videtur (He who remains silent is seen to consent). “He who winks at a fault causes trouble” (Proverbs 10:10). In a 1933 letter to Pope Pius XI, Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross wrote, “Those who remain silent are responsible.”
As Catholics, we cannot avoid responsibility for the current moral morass. Too many of us have been silent, some even collaborating with evil and error. The primarily responsibility lies with the clergy, but none of us is entirely exempt from the duty to repudiate error and speak the truth. (Read more.)

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