Ministry: December 2008 Archives

Not looking forward to January 18


Some of my friends are getting geared up already for the sad anniversary of the Roe decision, hoping that their pastors will give the new administration's pro-abortion policies the sound thrashing they deserve on January 18.

Oddly enough, I can't be very upbeat about the prospect.

I'm glad that the bishops are encouraging the Catholic people to send a strong message against FOCA, the proposed pro-abortion law that would fund abortions with tax dollars and abolish the few existing legal limitations on procuring abortion, all of them democratically enacted by state legislatures, and all of them having already passed court challenges to their constitutionality.

And I hope that the Catholic people will send a strong message against FOCA. What I don't look forward to is homilies against it.

In part, it's because of my personal temperament: I find redundant talk rather annoying. And at least for me, preaching about the wrongness of FOCA is redundant. I'm not confused about the immorality of abortion, and most Catholics who attend Mass regularly are not confused about it either. At least according to surveys, churchgoing Catholics hold pro-life views, much more than do Catholics who don't attend church, or non-churchgoers in general. So is this going to benefit the congregation?

Also, I'm not looking forward to the sort of sermon that my friends seem to like: I think it's unfitting for the holiness of the Mass. They want to hear priests denouncing the sins so widely justified in elite secular society: immorality in marriage, unchastity, and the killing of the unborn; they want to hear their outrage expressed, and hear about the fire and brimstone; and some of the priests I know are happy to provide that. But in order to denounce these evils, they think they have to be rather blunt and rather angry; and the result is that the ugliness of these sins ends up invading the sacred liturgy, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. There's something bad about that.

Some of my friends complain that their priests don't preach enough against sin, and they feel cheered when they hear a real barn-burner -- at least when Father is denouncing sins that other people commit. But I think that our priests don't preach enough about God.

In a sense, preaching about the moral law and thinking about the moral law come relatively easy to us; after all, people speak and reason and argue about right conduct all the time in private life and public life and even in secular society. But thinking about God and communicating to people about God are not so easy, and we don't get a lot of that in our interactions with people in the secular world. So when we go to Mass and find in it the same sort of discourse that we get from secular voices, we're missing something. The priest is missing an opportunity to feed souls with a word about God and the things of God.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is more important than the evils of the world, and the holiness of the Mass, offered to God and made visible before man, does more good for the world than the finest words of moral instruction or correction.

Of course, the homily is a fitting place for moral instruction, but when the Mass is largely centered on the evils of society or of the state, a sort of profanation has happened. The Mass must never be instrumentalized, becoming primarily a means to accomplish a secular good, even a high good such as respect for life or some other grave matter of justice.

So I welcome announcements in church about the campaign against FOCA, and bulletin messages, and invitations to sign postcards; yet do not let the liturgy itself be profaned by excess.

What? Who?

On life and living in communion with the Catholic Church.

Richard Chonak

John Schultz

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This page is an archive of entries in the Ministry category from December 2008.

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