One Bishop's Efforts To Instruct His Flock
by Monsignor Charles M. Mangan
©Catholic Online 2004
"The Bishop's Bulletin" is the monthly newspaper published in the Diocese of Sioux Falls. The Most Reverend Robert J. Carlson, D.D., the Bishop of Sioux Falls, pens a regular column, "Our Bishop Writes," that appears therein.
In his August 2004 installment entitled "The Responsibility to Have a Well-Informed Faith Life" (pages 2 and 3), Bishop Carlson returned to a vital theme that he and several Catholic Bishops in the United States have taken up during the past several weeks: the grave obligations which Catholics possess to ensure that they believe and adhere to the teachings of the Church concerning the sanctity of human life, and to promote the Gospel of Life in opposition to the Culture of Death.
Bishop Carlson's remarks were noted from coast to coast. This is not surprising given that the presidential election and hundreds of state and local contests are only two months away.
But even if 2004 were not the backdrop for the presidential campaign, Bishop Carlson would still tackle this pressing issue because it is his duty to do so as a shepherd in the Church. And he has, one year after another.
Bishops are to present the truth and unmask error for what it is. The Bishop of Sioux Falls did precisely that in his recent essay.
Painfully aware that some Catholics desire the continued legalization of abortion, or at least dismiss the "status quo" of the law of the land as being not that critical, Bishop Carlson unhesitatingly asserts what he has previously: "You cannot on the one hand support abortion rights and on the other be a Catholic in good standing. Likewise, you cannot offer personal opposition to abortion and then act differently in your professional life."
The Magisterium of the Church has been crystal clear for centuries regarding the heinous nature of abortion; there are serious consequences for those who participate in this dastardly deed. "Those who perform an abortion and those who cooperate willingly in the action, if fully aware of the grave evil, cut themselves off from the Church and separate themselves from God's grace. This is and has been the constant teaching of the Catholic Church."
Sadly, what the Bishop scores as "the erosion in Catholic formation for the last two generations" has been considerable--and striking. What was held even a few decades ago as an unchanging tenet of the Catholic Faith, for example, the splendor and inviolability of innocent human life, is so poorly misunderstood and too often rejected that it is now routinely dismissed as a mere imposition and an unhealthy "throwback" to a bygone era. "Today nominal Catholics are often soft on abortion and badly misinformed about this and other aspects of the faith including the Eucharist and the proper formation of one's conscience. They fail to grasp the difference between the common good and excessive individual rights."
Bishop Carlson quotes Pope John Paul II, who wrote in his Encyclical Evangelium Vitae ("The Gospel of Life"): "We are facing an enormous and dramatic clash between good and evil, death and life, the 'culture of death' and the 'culture of life.' We all have a responsibility which we cannot escape of choosing to be unconditionally pro-life." (article 28)
A lack of reasonable thinking about abortion has confused and paralyzed the minds of countless persons. "There is a faulty thinking today that all life issues are equal or the same. Even some priests and religious and a few politicians try to promote this. This philosophical fallacy that underpins this argument is called relativism. It teaches that all things and issues are relative and up to the individual to decide which is of greater importance. Some elements in the media favor it as it 'squares' in their minds with the sense of strong individualism fostered by the culture. It goes hand-in-hand with the attitude, 'whatever I think or believe, whatever I value or want, whatever I feel or desire must be correct.'"
In order that his message be comprehended by all, Bishop Carlson declares that life itself "is so basic and foundational that if is not upheld, all other issues and rights are meaningless. Opposition to abortion binds every Catholic under pain of mortal sin and admits of no exceptions." Both Bishop Carlson and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, the Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, express traditional moral theology when they maintain that if a Catholic votes for a candidate for public office because that candidate intends through commission or omission to foster abortion or euthanasia, the Catholic is guilty of formal cooperation in evil and, therefore, may not present himself for Holy Communion.
Bishop Carlson reminds his readers that one must examine himself in this regard before approaching the Altar of Jesus in order to receive the Most Holy Eucharist. "While we commit ourselves to maintain communication with public officials who make decisions every day that touch human life and dignity, we also remember that the Eucharist is the source and summit of Catholic life. As we read in the Scriptures, 'Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the Body and Blood of the Lord.' (1 Cor. 11:27) This means that all must examine their consciences as to their worthiness to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord. This examination includes fidelity to the moral teaching of the Church and how we live our personal and public lives."
The Bishop of Sioux Falls concludes his comments thus: "I think we all have some work to do."
Bishop Carlson has nourished his spiritual sons and daughters by explaining the doctrines of the Church. He has not failed to exhort the Faithful in his Diocese to embrace the Church's teachings regardless of the personal cost.
Human life is sacred. The Most Reverend Robert J. Carlson knows that. And he has, on yet another occasion, presented this truth to the Faithful and encouraged them to accept it.
May Jesus the Lord of Life and His Ever-Virgin Mother--and ours--reward this shepherd for confronting the unholy darkness that envelops our age.
http://www.catholic.org , VA
Monsignor Charles M. Mangan - Official, 390 66616-1125
Abortion; Responsibility; Most Holy Eucharist
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