Tuesday, 2 November 2010

It's right to be scandalised by bishops' disobedience to the Magisterium, says Archbishop Burke

My address to Campaign Life Coalition's international pro-life conference, last week, drew much inspiration from Archbishop Raymond Burke's speech in Rome last month to the World Prayer Congress for Life. You can read what I said in full on the SPUC website. (I am pictured with fellow speakers, right, at the Ottawa conference.)

Archbishop Burke explained that a fundamental supposition of his presentation was "the essential relationship of the respect for the integrity of marriage and the family". He said:
“The attack on the innocent and defenceless life of the unborn has its origin in an erroneous view of human sexuality, which attempts to eliminate, by mechanical or chemical means, the essentially procreative nature of the conjugal act ... The so-called ‘contraceptive mentality’ is essentially anti-life. Many forms of so-called contraception are, in fact, abortifacient, that is, they destroy, at its beginning, a life which has already been conceived.”
In my Ottawa address, I echoed the archbishop's view on contraception and also his observation that the pro-life struggle is "full of hope". However, I made the point that we are full of hope in a world dominated, or even persecuted by the culture of death - and that the situation was made even worse by church leaders who appear to have imbibed the spirit of the age. I said:
"Tragically, in Britain, induced abortion and birth control drugs and devices are provided to children at school, including Catholic schools, under the age of 16 without parental knowledge or consent. This is happening with the co-operation of the Catholic authorities.
"Britain is witnessing the fulfilment of the prophetic message of Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI's historic encyclical which celebrated its 40th anniversary two years ago. Speaking about the inseparable connection between the unitive and procreative aspects of sexual intercourse he wrote: 'Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone.' When Pope Paul VI wrote these words, he was referring to governments imposing birth control practices on whole societies. His words apply, tragically, with terrifying consequences for our families, to Catholic bishops in England and Wales, who co-operate with the British government policy of imposing birth control practices on families like mine."
I went on to cite Archbishop Burke's speech in Rome again, especially his reflections on lack of episcopal obedience to the magisterium of the Catholic church, particularly on morals relating to the sanctity of human life. The archbishop said:
“A most tragic example of the lack of obedience of faith, also on the part of certain Bishops, was the response of many to the Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae of Pope Paul VI, published on July 25, 1968. The confusion which resulted has led many Catholics into habits of sin in what pertains to the procreation and education of human life.”
I quoted the good Archbishop because, I observed, the pro-life movement in Canada and around the world receives much of its support from Catholics. I said that the failure of Catholic bishops to teach their flocks on matters relating to the fundamental right to life was directly responsible for great confusion and, consequently, for the failure of the overwhelming majority of Catholics, both clerical and lay, to provide truly effective resistance to the greatest legalized slaughter of human beings in the history of the world. Countless millions of unborn children were being killed each year and the policy of very many Catholic bishops was contributing hugely to this deplorable situation.

Archbishop Burke went on to say in his historic Rome speech:
“Catechesis is a most fundamental responsibility which the Bishop exercises on behalf of the good of the faithful entrusted to his care, ultimately, of their eternal salvation ... Pope John Paul II declared ‘It is therefore the duty of every Bishop to give real priority in his particular Church to active and effective catechesis. He must demonstrate his personal concern through direct interventions aimed at promoting and preserving an authentic passion for catechesis’”.
Archbishop Burke continued:
“Obedience to the Magisterium is a virtue and is attained through obedience. When the shepherds of the flock are obedient to the Magisterium, entrusted to their exercise, then the members of the flock grow in obedience and proceed, with Christ, along the way of salvation. If the shepherd is not obedient, the flock easily gives way to confusion and error. The shepherd must be especially attentive to the assaults of Satan who knows that, if he can strike the shepherd, the work of scattering the flock will be made easy. (cf. Zec 13.7)”
Relating Archbishop Burke's observations to the situation in Britain and elsewhere, I said in Ottawa:
"I affirm that my own archbishop, the archbishop of Westminster, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, was not being obedient to the magisterium when he said on BBC television that he did not know if the Catholic Church would eventually sanction gay unions*. I affirm that Archbishop Nichols and the Catholic bishops of England and Wales are not being obedient to the magisterium in their co-operation with the British government policy of providing children at Catholic schools with access to abortion. I affirm that Archbishop Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation is not being obedient to the magisterium when he stands by the original wording of his article in L’Osservatore Romano last year which implied that there are difficult situations in which doctors enjoy scope for the autonomous exercise of conscience in deciding whether to carry out a direct abortion. These are far from isolated examples. I hear in country after country throughout Europe about the disobedience of bishops to the magisterium and everyone knows that the flocks are well and truly scattered, not least on abortion, IVF, human embryo research, euthanasia and issues relating to homosexuality."
I told our Canadian pro-life friends that Archbishop Burke went on to empower Catholics and all people of good will to speak out publicly about the scandal of Catholics “who claim to be practising their faith but who refuse to apply the truth of the faith in the exercise of politics, medicine, business and other human endeavours...” He said:
“One of the ironies of the present situation is that the person who experiences scandal at the gravely sinful public actions of a fellow Catholic is accused of a lack of charity and of causing division within the unity of the Church ... What causes wonderment in such a society is the fact that someone fails to observe political correctness and, thereby, seems to be disruptive of the so-called peace of society.
“Lying or failing to tell the truth, however, is never a sign of charity. A unity which is not founded on the truth of the moral law is not the unity of the Church. The Church’s unity is founded on speaking the truth with love. The person who experiences scandal at public actions of Catholics, which are gravely contrary to the moral law, not only does not destroy unity but invites the Church to repair what is clearly a serious breach in Her life. Were he not to experience scandal at the public support of attacks on human life and the family, his conscience would be uninformed or dulled about the most sacred realities.” 
So, encouraged by Archbishop Burke, I urged the pro-life movement in Canada, as well as pro-lifersthroughout the world, in the words of Archbishop Burke, “to experience scandal at public action of Catholics which are gravely contrary to the moral law” and “speaking the truth with love” to build unity within the church on the moral law.

I commended, in particular the great charity demonstrated by the team which runs and supports LifeSiteNews.com, the Canadian pro-life news agency and one of the pro-life movement’s greatest gifts to the modern world - not least in their important exposure of the international development work undertaken by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) through their Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP). LifeSiteNews.com's investigations found CCODP funding nuimerous groups advocating for abortion and contraception throughout Latin America, Asia and Africa, each group receiving tens of thousands of dollars from CCODP.

* The late Pope John Paul II, the great pro-life champion, taught in paragraph 97 of his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae that it is an illusion to think that we can build a true culture of human life if we do not offer adolescents and young adults an authentic education in sexuality, and in love, and the whole of life according to their true meaning and in their close interconnection. 

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