Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Breaking Bad -- Activist Nuns and Health Care Legislation

In an article at LifeSiteNews.com, Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood is quoted as saying:
"This brave and important move, demonstrating that they cared as much about the health care of families in America as they did about church hierarchy, was a critical demonstration of support," she continued. "Bart Stupak may not ask the nuns for advice, as he recently announced to the press, but maybe next time he should." (read full article here)

Well, I honestly have to say, I agree with her! These particular nuns did care as much about health care for American families as they did about Church hierarchy -- they turned their back on both!

The evangelical counsels have a purpose, dear sisters. Poverty, chastity and obedience trump social justice agendas. First, one must be true to her vows before one can advocate for anything with any amount of credibility. If one is unable to publicly live up to serious personal promises made to God, why should an opinion on any issue offered by that same person be trusted?

Let's explore briefly what the Church says with regard to the consecrated life and the evangelical counsels (poverty, chastity and obedience) in light of charity.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:
Christ proposes the evangelical counsels, in their great variety, to every disciple. The perfection of charity, to which all the faithful are called, entails for those who freely follow the call to consecrated life the obligation of practicing chastity in celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom, poverty and obedience. It is the profession of these counsels, within a permanent state of life recognized by the Church, that characterizes the life consecrated to God.

The state of consecrated life is thus one way of experiencing a "more intimate" consecration, rooted in Baptism and dedicated totally to God. In the consecrated life, Christ's faithful, moved by the Holy Spirit, propose to follow Christ more nearly, to give themselves to God who is loved above all and, pursuing the perfection of charity in the service of the Kingdom, to signify and proclaim in the Church the glory of the world to come. (CCC, 915-6) emphasis added

Note in the first paragraph it says, the obligation -- this is to make clear that these counsels are not just shallow suggestions that one can slough off when and as he/she pleases. This decision to consecrate one's life to God through religious vows is serious. Those who choose this way enter into a state of life that demands obedience. Any objections or differences of opinions with regard to personal interpretation of Church teaching must be taken up through the proper channels of the hierarchy, not in the court of public opinion. But, these are the same nuns who wish to undo doctrine and topple the male priesthood, as well. Theirs is a misguided interpretation of charity and the consecrated life to be sure.

It also calls to mind before even mentioning obedience, the perfection of charity. The formation of charity is critical to living the evangelical counsels well. If improperly formed in charity, one cannot help but live a type of charity that is flawed by personal pride; an "I know best" attitude molded by personal experience rather than growth in virtue and holiness.

What this league of nuns has created is division. They have turned from the teaching of the Church, the authority of the bishops to whom they promise obedience, and to the good of all people in failing to fight for the life of each and every human person within this current legislation. Theirs is not an act of bravery, nor is it charity. It is arrogance and pride.

Perhaps they could use to ponder this quote from Pope St. Clement I:
Charity unites us to God... There is nothing mean in charity, nothing arrogant. Charity knows no schism, does not rebel, does all things in concord. In charity all the elect of God have been made perfect.
Or, maybe this from St. Paul, (1 Corinthians 13:1-8, nab):
If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.

And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.

If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated,

it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,

it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.

It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.

St. Paul reminds us that without love -- and, we need to be formed rightly in love -- we are just making noise. We make a lot of noise when we have a false perception of love and try to apply it to justice. We are not giving to others what they deserve when we support legislation that validates wider availability of abortion or subtle trends toward euthanasia. We are not living up to our Catholic beliefs when we decide that the ends justify the means, and any health care legislation is better than none at all. These are acts of serious disobedience that require repentance and reform.

Of course, fraternal correction is necessary, but I pray that we can all find forgiveness for these wayward nuns. We must pray to this end -- a) that they come to know true charity through the grace of their vows, and b) that each of us receives the courage to forgive them their trespasses. We each will be forgiven according to our ability to forgive. (Cf. Mt 6:14) It's a humble act of charity in obedience to the teachings established by Christ in His Church.

Ultimately, Cecile Richards, in an attempt to laud the nuns for their breaking bad behavior, actually unveiled -- pun absolutely intended -- their act of disobedience to the hierarchy and their lack of charity toward the American people as a result of their public dissent of Church authority. And, I bet it didn't even register on her radar.

But, as we all know, God uses every opportunity for the good. So, He let someone else notice. He is wise, isn't He?

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