The World is Confused About the Nature of Love and Suffering

One might argue that the zeitgeist is confusion, especially confusion about what it means to love and how to handle suffering — both one’s own and that of others.  No one seems to understand what is true or even that there is such a thing as truth.  To illustrate this confusion, people embrace relativism and “personal truth,” but then turn around and decry what they perceive as politicians telling untruths (with great shock and outrage it might be added, as though they’ve missed all the jokes about lying politicians).  In How TIME murdered truth, and framed Trump, Jonathon Van Maren, points out the irony (which no one seems to notice) that TIME Magazine’s recent cover, “Is Truth Dead?” (apparently referencing Trump’s “lying,” so-called “fake-news,” etc.), follows on the heels of this cover: “Beyond He or She: How a new generation is redefining the meaning of gender.”

Of course truth is dead. Our culture killed it, long before Donald Trump showed up…

We now reject every constraint on our own so-called right to radical self-determination, even if those constraints are biology and reality. That is why a full-grown man can decide to leave his family and live as a six-year-old girl, and the media coverage of this is largely subdued and respectful. That is why there is a new group of human beings who identify as non-human beings—rather, they are “Otherkin,” people who identify as certain animals. This is treated with long-faced solemnity by our cultural elites, because truth is dead and people can be whatever they want, even if they are obviously not what or who they say they are.

For those who are baffled by each new absurdity, there is an extensive arsenal of labels awaiting them. Homophobe. Transphobe…Otherkinphobe? And so it goes.

Our culture is no longer self-aware enough to recognize humans who claim they are not human as fundamentally disturbed, and men who claim to be women and women who claim to be men as suffering from some delusion deserving of treatment rather than celebratory front page stories in iconic news magazines. TIME Magazine can mourn the loss of truth merely a week after they have championed its departure, and almost nobody will notice.

In these times of confusion about even the nature of biological sex/gender, people are understandably confused about the nature of marriage as well, even among Catholics who should know better. According to John-Henry Westen, Pope Francis is playing with fire and adding to the confusion:

But as we’ve laid out above, there is massive confusion in the Church about where exactly the Pope stands on the matter. Even though a thorough assessment clearly shows the Pope backing communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, there are cardinals and bishops who suggest the Pope means the opposite.

For those who knew Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio prior to his election to the pontificate, this is nothing new. I spoke to a few priests from Buenos Aires who worked with Cardinal Bergoglio in different capacities and from them learned that confusion is emblematic of his ministry…

Shortly after the publication of Amoris Laetitia, a forward-thinking critic warned that it would become unworkable for the Church if the bishops in Germany would wink at divorce and remarriage while across the border in Poland it would be mortally sinful. Yet who could have envisioned that we’d see bishops and cardinals voicing opposing opinions on what the Pope himself believes and teaches?

The dichotomy is clear evidence that the Pope himself, in refusing to clarify despite the formal and public request of the four Cardinals and associated pleas by countless other Catholic clergy and laity, is guilty of betraying the entire Church. By letting this charade continue he has sown confusion into the hearts of the faithful. This confusion could lead to mortal sin and thus eternal damnation.

Pope Francis is indeed playing with fire. Hell fire.

It is sad that Pope Francis, whether deliberately or not, seems not to understand or be able to clearly articulate consistent Church teaching as well as some laity can.  Leila Miller, author of the soon-to-be released book Primal Loss: The Now-Adult Children of Divorce Speak, has an article on Catholic Answers summarizing: Eight Things You Have To Know About The Church’s Teaching On Divorce.

As Catholics, we are called to a higher standard than the secular culture, and we must rejoice in and embrace Jesus’ insistence on the indissolubility of Christian marriage. The Church’s unbroken teaching reveres and protects the spouses, the children, extended families, society, and the order of creation itself. Our response to marriages, and families, crumbling around us should be a commitment to live, teach, and defend these little known and often rejected truths about the immorality and effects of divorce. As St. John Paul II said in a homily, “The person who does not decide to love forever will find it very difficult to really love for even one day” (The Love Within Families).

The Church teachings that she summarizes are not as well known as they should be.  One response commended her article for being “straight out of the Catechism… founded in Scripture” and had this to say:

The fact is, life is about the cross. Take everything TV and movies say about marriage and throw it out the window. Marriage is a great source of joy. But real joy and peace comes from the cross… Some marriages will be exceptionally difficult. So what? There’s a million things that can befall a person that would make life difficult. We are still bound by moral rules… The points in this article need to be preached over and over and over. They used to be well understood. They need to be made that way again.

A Catholic friend of mine recently announced that she is getting divorced.  This has been a long time coming and was no surprise.  Hers is one of the hard cases.  Her suffering and that of her children has been great (and probably will continue to be so). Changing Church rules would not alleviate their suffering.  Unfortunately, only a miracle and the much needed change of heart and healing of her husband would do that.  She’s hoped and prayed and worked for that for years without any results.  A hard and sad case indeed.

Likewise another example of hard cases are those of infertility and reproductive technologies.  This mother deeply regrets not having fully understood or been told firmly the truth about Catholic teaching.  Because she ignored teaching about IVF, she is now in a difficult moral situation involving frozen embryos.  Her response to the blogger who wrote about the truth of Catholic teaching: “I truly wish I had read your posts about IVF four years ago… that one stung, but it was so necessary. You’re right, of course, but the truth hurts.”

It has been said that hard cases make poor law.  So too do hard cases make poor Church policy. It is a mistake to attempt to turn the Church into yet another in institution solely bent on eliminating human suffering on Earth, at the expense of speaking the Truth, and would make the Church just another failed institution of “social justice.”  Trying to alleviate suffering by telling people to go and do whatever they want and patting them on the back for all their dysfunctional and self-destructive choices as though that were showing love — because we wouldn’t want to make anyone feel bad about the way they are living their lives — will only lead those suffering people to greater suffering and ruin in the long run.  Sometimes a mother must tell her children hard things for their own long-term good, though it may seem unkind in the moment.  Good mothers tell their children “No” as often as necessary.

Jesus said we must pick up our crosses to follow Him.  Following Jesus sounds nice, but no one really wants to pick up his cross because crosses equal suffering and who would want to embrace suffering?  Sometimes living the way we should can be extremely painful.  The world is uncomfortable with suffering: people try to escape suffering for themselves and think the best way to help others is to try to remove their suffering in any way they can.  Yes, some human suffering can and should be eased if at all possible, but sometimes the way to help isn’t to try to snatch away your neighbor’s cross and fling it as far as possible or pretend it isn’t there; sometimes the best way is to come alongside and offer to help carry his cross, like Simon of Cyrene did for our Lord.

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