It could well be said of our Lord Jesus Christ that the Beatitudes represent the heart of His message. The Beatitudes are at the heart of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount which is, in turn, at the heart of His entire life.
If the birth of Christ represents the dawn of a new age of grace and truth for mankind, and if the cross and resurrection represent the climax of Christ’s mission, then we may say truly that Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (St Matthew, chapters 5-7) is at the centre of His life—yes, at the very heart of His message.
Who can fathom the depth and beauty and glory of the Beatitudes? We speak in human words and we understand things in human concepts, but the Beatitudes embody the wisdom, love, and power of God.
For just as God came down from heaven when He spoke with Moses, heard His peoples’ cry of oppression, and freely chose to deliver them out of Egypt and into “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3: 7,8), so too did the Son of God descend from heaven, take on human nature, and freely chose to deliver His people from the darkness of sin and death and into an eternal heaven of peace, joy, and life.
Nowhere do we find this free gift of God so beautifully and so eloquently embodied as in the Beatitudes of Christ.
For Jesus said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3) Christ mentions no condition, cost, or qualification. He simply says that “the poor in spirit” will be given “the kingdom of heaven.”
The Lord seems to be saying that He wants to give these souls everything for nothing which, according to a human way of thinking, defies all logic.
So we might ask, what does it mean to be “poor in spirit”?
It has often been said that poverty of the spirit equates to detachment, but I would like to take a different approach.
Consider, on the face of it, that the “riches” of the spirit are peace, joy, love, patience, kindness, humility, purity, knowledge, wisdom, understanding, and others of the like. Now let’s read that verse again with this same thought in mind:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)
Christ seems to be saying: “Blessed are those who have no peace, for they will be given the peace of heaven. Blessed are those who have no joy, for they will be given the joy of the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who are not loved, for they will find the love of their eternal Father in heaven.”
The Lord’s face emerges ever more clearly and distinctly in His words.
If we fail to recognise how extreme and radical is this promise of Christ, I think we will miss the actual meaning of His words. Think about this: no one in the world of human affairs expects to be given everything for nothing.
Yet here the Lord seems to be saying that those who are the most impoverished, the most abject, the most abandoned—it is precisely these who will be given the riches of the spiritual world, the joys and blessings and graces of the kingdom of heaven.
Though these words of Christ seem to defy human reason and common sense, we have to ask, why would God choose to give us everything for nothing? Is it really true?
After all, Jesus said: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever would save his life shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what shall a man be profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and forfeit his life? or what shall a man give in exchange for his life?” (Matthew 16:24-26)
This looks like a contradiction—it looks like the Lord is saying that the price for eternal life is the imitation of Christ: “…let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”
But it is not a true contradiction.
If we reflect that nothing a man or woman can do can actually merit the reward of an eternal life of love and glory with God, this begins to make sense. The gift of eternal life is not a reward for our deeds–for nothing we can achieve, humanly speaking, is worthy of the free gift of God.
Christ asks us to imitate Him, not in order to earn our reward in heaven, but so that, through cooperation with His will, we may find His friendship and find ourselves transformed into His likeness, ready and well disposed to enter heaven.
The Lord can only dispose us for heaven with our cooperation (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:18); He cannot do so without our cooperation. As Saint Augustine said, “The God who created you without your consent will not save you without your consent.”
The gift of eternal life and the eternal glory and happiness of heaven remains a free gift. God gives us everything for nothing. We can say in truth that we do not deserve and can never earn such infinite kindness on the part of our Lord and God. And this still defies all human logic.
But if we consider that we were created out of nothing by the hand of God, that He freely brought us into existence and called us into His friendship, that He loves us with a divine Love because we are the work of His hands, that He owes us nothing but wants to give us everything, then we might begin to understand the divine “Logic” of the Beatitudes.
All that Jesus asks is that we open our hearts to Him, that we believe in Him, that we allow Him to love, save, and sanctify the creatures whom the Father has given to His only begotten Son.
And now, if we read them again with this kind of “Logic” in mind, we might enter a little more deeply in the beauty and glory and majesty that shines from the Beatitudes:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are they that have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when men shall reproach you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so they persecuted the prophets that were before you.”
The Lord’s personality is so multifaceted, so much deeper than the most profound depths, and rich with unexpected graces, virtues, and incomprehensible love.
The Lord is so much greater than our ordinary experience, so much greater as the Creator is above His creatures, that any present experience we have of Him seems only to be another stage disposing us for even greater knowledge.
How can we come to know the Lord when He is ineffable, mysterious, all powerful?
How can a mere mortal come to understand the God of creation?
When Job sought to understand the reason why God had allowed him to suffer so many losses, wounds, and tragedies, the Lord did not give him a direct response, but instead put a series of questions to Job:
“Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements-surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
“Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?
“Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place, that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it?
“Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep? Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness? Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this.
“Where is the way to the dwelling of light, and where is the place of darkness, that you may take it to its territory and that you may discern the paths to its home?” (Job 38: 1-13; 16-18; 19-20)
With these words the Lord indicates to Job, among other things, the infinite distance between the creature and the Creator–a distance that human strength alone cannot traverse.
But we need not fear, for Jesus taught us that He is able to overcome such an enormous distance:
“All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Matthew 11:27)
The Father sent His Son into the world in order that the Son may reveal the Father to whomever He chooses: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9)
But on the way to the perfect knowledge of the Lord we can already begin to know the Lord by degrees, already begin to discern certain attributes of His personality from the Scriptures.
Here we observe, for example, that the Lord’s personality is marked by profound spontaneity, depth, and originality. His character embodies so many contraries, such as justice and mercy, power and humility, gentleness and wisdom. His love is unconditional yet uncompromising.
Our Lord Jesus Christ was infinitely gentle, patient, and merciful with sinners, the weak and abandoned, the lowly and impoverished; yet He was very severe, exacting, and just with those considered great and knowledgeable, the leaders of the people, and the proud and arrogant.
Consider His words to the Pharisees who, after Christ had healed a blind and mute man, accused Him of being in league with the devil:
“You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34)
When Jesus declared Himself “the light of the world” (John 8:12) the Pharisees, not believing in Him nor accepting His authority, argued with the Lord and justified themselves by claiming to be the children of God. To which Jesus responded:
“If God were your Father, you would love me: for I came forth and am come from God; for neither have I come of myself, but he sent me. Why do you not understand my speech? Even because you cannot hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father it is your will to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and stands not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father thereof.” (John 8:42-44)
While teaching in Jerusalem on the eve of His Sacred Passion, knowing what was about to befall Him, Jesus warned the chief priests and elders of the people:
“The kingdom of God shall be taken away from you, and given to a nation producing the fruits of it.” (Matthew 21:43)
A brief reading of the Gospels will show that there are many other instances in which Jesus was very exacting and very severe with His interlocutors.
On the other hand, we find that Jesus was infinitely compassionate, gentle and merciful with those who were weak, forsaken, oppressed, and bound by sin. Christ did not hesitate to dine with sinners, to rescue the woman caught in adultery, and to forgive the thief on the cross who had been a sinner all his life.
For Jesus did not come to “break a bruised reed or quench a smouldering wick.” (Matthew 12:20)
Regarding the whole world, the Scripture says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
And for those who had lost their way, Jesus said: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.” (Luke 15:3-5)
Jesus is the Good Shepherd and He is tireless in seeking out His lost sheep.
Regarding those who work very hard and are weary, Jesus called: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
So we see that Jesus did not apply the same ‘measure’ to all persons, nor extend Himself to everyone in the same way, for He “knew all men”, and “he needed not that any one should bear witness concerning man.” (John 2:24,25)
He was infinitely gentle with some, and extremely strict with others. Why so?
The Lord explains: “Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more.” (Luke 12:48)
Jesus wants to save everyone: the strong and the weak, the humble and the proud, the honest and the dishonest, the righteous and the unrighteous, the good and the evil, but He cannot apply the same “medicine” to all.
Each one needs only to open his or her heart to the Lord Jesus who must, as the all wise, all loving, and all powerful Son of God, administer the right medicine to each one, working tirelessly so that everyone might come to believe in Him, for faith in Christ is the door to eternal life. (John 20:31)
And so the words of the Scripture ring more and more true, the more we realise the ways of the Lord, and the heights and depths of His wisdom:
“With the loyal thou dost show thyself loyal; with the blameless man thou dost show thyself blameless; with the pure thou dost show thyself pure; and with the crooked thou dost show thyself perverse. For thou dost deliver a humble people; but the haughty eyes thou dost bring down.
“Yea, thou dost light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness. Yea, by thee I can crush a troop; and by my God I can leap over a wall. This God—his way is perfect; the promise of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 18:25-30)
Today we are witnessing a silent spiritual holocaust
LG Sleiman, 31st October 2020
Lastest revision: 2:00 pm, 7th November 2020. Sydney, Australia.
The Bishops of the Church today face the most difficult crisis in the entire history of the Church–a crisis greatly magnified by a series of crises layered one upon another, a crisis that manifests on every level of the Church’s existence: spiritual, ecclesiological, theological, liturgical, and pastoral. But the Bishops, successors of the twelve Apostles of Christ, also have great potential to transform the Church and the world.
In this letter I propose to give a brief outline of the origin of the Bishop’s Office, the range of challenges which confront the Bishops, the heart of the present crisis, the spiritual danger that souls are facing, and, last but not least, the power and efficacy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Origin of the Bishop’s Office
In the year 33 AD our Lord Jesus Christ, having risen from the dead, ascended into heaven in the sight of His holy Mother Mary and His Apostles and was seated at the right hand of the Father. Ten days later the Holy Spirit came upon them amid the sound of a rushing wind and tongues of fire which sat upon their heads.
The twelve Apostles were empowered to teach the Gospel, govern the Church, sanctify souls for heaven, and to pass on their mission in an unbroken succession of shepherds until the end of the world.
The Apostles launched their evangelical mission with little more than the rigorous training, the spiritual gifts, and the Divine authority which Christ had bestowed upon them. The Church which they helped to establish (Ephesians 2:20) had, within three centuries, transformed virtually the entire world.
The Present Crisis
Fast forward 2,000 years and it appears that today there are powerful forces both in the world and in the Church hierarchy which would seek to reverse everything that the Apostles worked so hard to establish.
From the Second Vatican Council to the effects of the sexual revolution to the threat of totalitarian regimes to the ever widening influence of relativistic ideologies to the advent of Pope Francis to the widespread contestation of the definition of marriage to the present day Covid Crisis, the Church has suffered so many assaults within the space of just a few, short decades.
The Church is being tossed to and fro in a severe storm that threatens her very life, the teaching of the faith, the objectivity of moral values, authentic pastoral practice and, it seems, the very foundation of her Divine authority.
Will she survive? Will she emerge unscathed? “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8)
A Real Pandemic?
Today we are witnessing a world thoroughly shaken by an alleged health crisis.
Given the near global response to the virus, as the life and activities of the Church have undergone significant reconfiguration, the nature of the Church and her relationship to her children are implicitly called into question.
But who is pulling the strings of history? Is it the global elites who seek to build an earthly utopia on their own terms and conditions? Or is the Covid Response Team simply reacting to a worldwide health crisis? Or is it fair to say that, in the greater scheme of things, any and all such manoeuvres and machinations, regardless of their origin and purpose, are subordinate to the omniscience and omnipotence of a benevolent God, who determines the real course of history in mysterious ways?
Whatever you think about these matters, what is undeniable today is that we are witnessing the most universal and pervasive forms of intervention in the state of human affairs that the world has ever seen.
So what is really happening? Is the pandemic really real?
The Two Narratives
There are basically two competing narratives playing out on the world stage.
On the one hand, there is a narrative that says the new coronavirus is highly dangerous, that we ought to practice widespread lockdown measures in order to save lives and to completely eradicate the virus from society, and that we ought to suffer whatever the cost to our social, economic, and political freedoms in the meantime.
This idea was based upon theoretical contagion models—not on real data—which predicted millions and then tens of millions of deaths, was widely promoted by the mainstream media, and was acted upon by (most) governments.
On the other hand, there is another narrative, supported by many scientists and medical experts, which claims that the coronavirus is only about as dangerous as the common flu, that you cannot possibly eradicate it completely from society (no matter how many lockdowns you enforce), and that widespread lockdown measures have caused far more damage than the virus could ever have done.
A large number of governments together with the mainstream media are opposed to this narrative—so much so that many of us have long stared with wide-eyed fascination at how insular the Covid Response Team has been to the well researched and highly reputable opinions of renowned scientists and top medical experts from around the world.
The list is enormously long but it is worth mentioning a few of them:
Also in May the CDC (Center for Disease Control) released a statement saying that coronavirus is “nowhere near as lethal as earlier [theoretical] models claimed.”
In August the head immunologist at Tel Aviv University revealed that 99.99 percent of the world’s population has survived covid-19.
And from a medical report in September 2020: “According to the latest immunological studies, the overall lethality of Covid-19 (IFR) in the general population ranges between 0.1% and 0.5% in most countries, which is comparable to the medium influenza pandemics of 1957 and 1968.”
Early in October, 9,000 (nine thousand) medical professionals signed a joint document strongly criticising the lockdowns. One could multiply such corroborating reports almost endlessly.
Which of these two narratives will prevail, in the final analysis? That remains to be seen.
Assume For A Moment
But let’s assume for a moment—just for argument’s sake—that there is a real pandemic. What would that mean for the Church?
Even if there were a real pandemic, could the Bishops actually relinquish their responsibility for the care of souls—a responsibility they have assumed in the eyes of God? Could the Bishops’ God-given mandate to save souls be justifiably subordinated to the strictures and demands of a health crisis? Would souls have less need of God in the event of a health crisis?
Let us acknowledge, the choice to close or to restrict Church services in the event of a health crisis is to subordinate the care of the soul to the care of the body, and effectively to reverse the order of priorities mandated by our Lord Jesus Himself:
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)
Such a reversal of priorities has consequences for the understanding of the nature of the Church. It reaches deep into the life and consciousness of the Church, undermining traditional doctrines regarding the Divine foundation of the Church, her God-given authority, and her God-given mission.
If the subordination of the soul to the body continues it will lead, sooner or later, to the complete subordination of the Church to the State, forsaking obedience to her Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.
The Message of Complicity
When the doors of the Church are closed in the face of believers this fosters an insinuation that the holy Mass and other Church services are no longer “essential”.
When masks are mandated in Church this is counterproductive because, according to Scripture, we come together as the Body of Christ so that “with unveiled faces we may behold the glory of the living God.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
When believers are denied Holy Communion on the tongue it robs them of a precious opportunity to express due reverence, devotion, and love for the Lord Jesus in the Eucharist.
When Church services are cancelled this deprives the faithful of coming into the sacramental Presence of God and worshipping God.
When the Bishops are all too ready to capitulate to widespread Church restrictions and closures—never before witnessed on such a scale in 2,000 years of Church history—this cannot but give a subtle impression that the Church has been transformed into a social institution, an instrument of the State, and has implicitly denied her Divine constitution.
Such a reconfiguration of the life and activity of the Church cannot help but insinuate that the Church is, in essence, subject to change; that she is no longer the custodian of the Revelation of Jesus Christ; that her role in the economy of salvation is non-essential.
Assault On The Faith
How many souls will be able to withstand the Covid Persecution? How many will emerge with a living faith? In the face of such wholesale surrender to the State, will the Church ever recover her rightful place in society?
This assault on the Faith is rendered all the more dangerous because it follows upon the heels of decades of spiritual devastation: for at least two or three generations vast numbers of Catholics have been deprived of authentic catechesis, secular ideologies have been quietly invading the life of the Church, moral values are ridiculed or altogether abandoned, and the Gospel often suffers dilution and compromise.
The Church and the World
The Church cannot serve both God and the world. She must choose one or the other.
The Lord Jesus said that we are “in the world” but not “of the world.” (John 17: 11-19) And the Apostle John wrote: “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15)
But we might ask: Ought not the Church to love the world, as “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”? (John 3:16)
Here we come face to face with a profound paradox—a paradox that we ought to embrace rather than surrender to an unholy compromise with the world.
As G.K. Chesterton famously wrote, can a man “hate [the world] enough to change it, and yet love it enough to think it worth changing?” (Orthodoxy)
Ever since Vatican II, when Pope John XXIII’s fundamental impulse was to bring the Church up to date with the times (aggiornamento), the Church adopted what can rightly be called an ambivalent attitude towards the world—an attitude which has rarely been clarified or set right.
Can the Church both love and not love the world at the same time? Yes, but each in a different sense. The Church ought to conform herself, not to the world, but to Christ for the sanctification of the world.
Any suggestion or hint that the Church could possibly learn from the world in matters pertaining to the salvation of souls is not only unwise but thoroughly and grievously mistaken.
It was the Council’s compromise on this point, explicit or implicit, that introduced a basic disorientation into the heart of the Church, a festering wound that has spawned a multitude of errors and heterodox tendencies.
Saint Paul reminds us: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
The basic orientation of the Church to the world will feed into everything: the Church’s faith, doctrines, moral teaching, pastoral practice—everything!
Vatican II’s ambivalent embrace of the world is complicated even further by the advent of Pope Francis, who demonstrates, intentionally or unintentionally, a strong and consistent tendency to engage with heterodoxy.
The Bishops have a grave responsibility to remind Pope Francis what the First Vatican Council taught clearly and unequivocally:
“For the Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the Apostles.” (Session 4, Chapter 4, paragraph 6)
A Silent Spiritual Holocaust
For all the above reasons, what we are now witnessing is a silent, spiritual holocaust: the holocaust of multitudes of vulnerable and unsuspecting souls on the altar of the Bishops’ silent complicity with the world.
How many will survive?
The Lord declared: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you as My priests. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children.” (Hosea 4:6)
Jesus said, “the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)
Christ came “neither to condemn us in our sins nor to condone our sins, but to save us from them”, as a faithful priest once said. Hell is real. Salvation is real. The Lord takes no pleasure in “the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.” (Ezekiel 33:11)
These truths do not change with the passage of time.
A Call to the Bishops
Today in the midst of this crisis, as one crisis has been added to another and again to another, the Church has need of Bishops and priests who will be like the Apostles, their predecessors, who transformed the world by the witness of their word, and most often by the witness of their blood, the Holy Spirit working through them with great signs and wonders.
There is no challenge, obstacle, or difficulty that could prevent our shepherds from achieving what the twelve Apostles achieved.
Saint Paul testified, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16)
The Gospel is “ever ancient and ever new”, the fruit of God’s Self-revelation in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, the fount of eternal salvation.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) His message does not change with the changing times.
When proclaimed in its purity and entirety, the Gospel exerts a powerful attraction on the soul—because the soul hungers, consciously or unconsciously, for the word of the Lord, for the truth that will set it free, for the fruits of the Redemption which Christ paid for with His own Blood.
This is not to say that the Bishops are entirely missing in action. A few Cardinals and Bishops have been strongly vocal about the rights, duties, and needs of the Church. But the majority are still silent—so much so that recently Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò noted that such silence is ”deafening”.
When Peter and John were hauled before the council of priests and high priests they were commanded “not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.” (Acts 4:18)
But Peter and John responded: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19)
What will the Bishops now say?
We need you, the successors of the Apostles, to rise to the occasion. The Lord is waiting for you. The Church is waiting for you. The world needs your unfailing witness to our Lord Jesus Christ.
The discussion on how to define marriage in Australia has stirred our hearts, forced many of us to take sides, refined our debating skills, raised awareness about the stakes, and spurred us on to unprecedented levels of activism and advocacy.
Most importantly, the marriage debate has brought to light the fact that, underlying the discussion and the debates, there is a serious degree of misinformation—misinformation about the notion of “equality”, about how to ask the right questions, about human rights and where they come from, about how to define marriage, about how to understand human nature. And, finally, who is to decide?
Is it a matter of faith? Or is it a matter of reason? Can we afford to throw out both one and the other?
Some Christians are quick to point out that homosexual acts are offensive to God, that God made man for woman, and woman for man, and that this is the essence of marriage. Other Christians are equally quick to point out that God is merciful and desires the salvation of every soul. Perhaps these two approaches are not mutually exclusive. After all, a true parent is both loving and firm, merciful and just.
But again, what if society decides to do away with the “faith” dimension? And, moreover, to ignore the obvious truth that traditional marriage is founded on the natural complementarity of male and female which, in turn, is ordered to procreation, the preservation of the human race? Then we shall have to bear the consequences, all of us without exception, knowing that past civilisations have risen and fallen with the ebb and flow of their moral integrity.
It’s not merely that we’re debating who can marry whom. It’s that we are questioning the very foundations of thought and liberty. In such an atmosphere, where the debate ranges from civil discussion to open hostility, the realisation that we are no longer certain about the basics of human nature has slowly, eerily dawned upon us.
Whether or not you agree with the traditional definition of marriage, whether or not you think we can ignore this question, whether or not we arrive at a resolution, one thing is certain: there is a sense that something has gone wrong, that the foundations of human existence have been shaken and disturbed.
Like the Hobbits in “Lord of the Rings” who were persuasively removed from their beloved Shire, we feel as though we have been robbed of our true culture. Nothing will be right for the Hobbits until they can return safely home, even if in the meantime they must confront the darkest forces in the world. Nothing will be right for us until we can return to the truth about human nature, even if in the meantime we must confront competing ideologies and various humanisms and half-truths.
If a nation throws out both “faith” and “reason” then it is already in grave danger.
Nevertheless, the Lord revealed to Saint Faustina that “Mercy is God’s greatest attribute.” (Diary 301). This means, of course, that sometimes mercy triumphs over justice, which is what happened on the Cross when Christ freely poured out His Blood for us. God’s real desire is to save our souls, no matter how much we deceive ourselves, no matter how much we resist His calls and inspirations, no matter how much we despise His words and commandments.
While some accept some religious authority on the question of marriage, others do not.
Be that as it may, the homosexual question has been so politicised that it has created problems and misconceptions on many levels. The only way forward is a dispassionate presentation of the truths which to a great extent have remained unknown, truths such as: (1) preserving traditional marriage and maintaining respect for homosexual persons are not mutually exclusive; (2) affirming the dignity and worth of a human being does not entail agreeing with their opinions; (3) homosexual persons in Australia are no longer discriminated against (see the Same Sex Relationships Act of 2008); (4) changing the Marriage Act could potentially rob all Australians of the freedoms of speech, association, conscience, and education; (5) human rights do not come out of nowhere—they have a foundation in reality, in human nature, in our capacities, in our real purpose.
But while you might proclaim such truths and meet with varying degrees of success, there is another, more subtle, more dangerous consequence to the idea of a “vote” on marriage. Think about this for a moment. If the majority voted in favour of telling lies or stealing goods or killing an innocent human being, would that suddenly make it “lawful” to commit such acts? Which, of course, begs the question: What is the “good”? Surely, the good has to be good for everyone.
But let’s put such philosophical considerations aside, shall we? The realists in our society, those who courageously confront this grave moment in Australia’s march through history, are quick to remind us that our fundamental freedoms are now up for grabs. Right now in the hallowed halls of the Australian parliament. The freedoms and rights which we have long enjoyed in Australia are no longer guaranteed for us. The Australian people are on the threshold of a profound cultural and political turning point. This will make or break our long standing traditions and rights and freedoms.
So what good is it to bring to people’s attention the religious or philosophical foundations of the marriage debate? The point is that, win or lose, ideas have consequences in real life. The point is that our senators are currently positioning themselves in a vote for or against the rights and freedoms of Australians.
What are the possible outcomes? At best, changes to the Marriage Act could be reconciled with the fundamental rights and freedoms of all Australians. At worst, we could lose the foundations of a liberal democracy as we know it.
But who cares, you might ask? That’s the real the question.
And even if the Australian government were to pass an unjust or inappropriate or inconvenient law tomorrow—that would not stop us from being genuine activists, would it? It would not stop us from fighting for human dignity, on one level or another. You can’t legislate against the creative power of the human spirit; you can’t legislate against love; you can’t stop the human spirit from rising above the limitations of the prevailing culture. There will always be room for the creative freedom of men and women of good will to recreate culture, and to recreate the world.
Is this marriage debate really about equality or about pointing the finger at homosexual persons? And if not, then what really is the nature of this present moment that we face as Australians?
Janet Albrechtsen gave a succinct answer in The Australian (15 November 2017, ‘Forget Hurt Feelings, Free Speech is a Birthright’): “The outcome of this contest is not just a matter for gay people and religious people. It’s a matter for all of us in a liberal democracy. It will settle, one way or another, whether the country can finally confront and reconcile a 30-year project aimed at the sustained corruption of classical liberal ideas of universal human rights.”
Such universal human rights are what we are now having to fight for in Australia when these rights ought to be unconditionally protected and preserved by our politicians.
What good is it to remind the world that God punishes a nation for its sins when Christians themselves fail in their Christian duty? What good is it for a minority group to cry for equality when obvious features of our human nature are wilfully denied? Can we really solve this problem by fuelling a minor social conflict into a nationwide debate without careful consideration of all the relevant questions?
I don’t think so.
There are philosophical presuppositions in the debate which need to be corrected. There are false dichotomies which need to be resolved. There are social ills and misconceptions which need to be healed with love and truth, not merely legislated. The greater responsibility lies with us who believe in Jesus Christ, not with those who do not yet know the Lord.
“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
As Pope Saint Pius V said: “All the evils in the world are due to lukewarm Catholics.” And in the words of Khalil Gibran: “The true wealth of a nation lies not in its gold or silver but in its learning, wisdom and in the uprightness of its sons.”
Perhaps it’s time that Christians took the Lord’s words seriously: “You are my friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14). Those who are friends of the Lord are in a position to call down blessings on an entire nation, to intercede to God for the outpouring of His mercy, and to raise up a new generation of sanctified souls in the service of the well-being of the whole nation.