Attacking the Real Problems
Writing in the November 30, 2003 issue of "Our Sunday Visitor" (page three), that periodical's Washington correspondent, Russell Shaw, reflects on the November 10-12 bi-annual meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
A former director of communications and a longtime observer of the Conference, Mr. Shaw is cautious whether the Bishops will be able to address adequately the crippling dilemmas relative to a host of issues that hound the Church in the United States.
Two grave issues among several that have been around for decades and show no sign of receding from the horizon any time soon are that of contraception and the reception of Holy Communion by elected officials who profess to be Catholic but who are publicly at odds with the authoritative teaching of the Church.
Contraception. Mr. Shaw refers to "a report from the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, chaired by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., of Denver, (which) cited surveys showing only 4 percent of Catholic couples of childbearing age practice natural family-planning methods approved by the Church."
This year during the thirty-fifth anniversary of the publication of the July 25, 1968 Encyclical of Pope Paul VI (1963-1978) entitled, "Humanae Vitae," attention has been paid again to the subject of the Church's doctrine that each and every act of marital intercourse must be open to the possible transmission of human life.
Sadly, some shepherds in the Church in the United States have been reluctant to preach the Church's teaching in this area presumably because of a fear of offending their listeners.
Given that, objectively, the use of artificial birth control is a serious sin and in light of the proven fact that some of the so-called "contraceptives" masquerading as such are in effect "abortifacient" (abortion-inducing), the time has come for each Bishop in his own Diocese to proclaim clearly what the Church teaches and how it may be fulfilled in the lives of Catholics.
God willing, the USCCB, in the words of Mr. Shaw, will "prepare a document setting out the Church's teaching and the reasons for it, including the 'abortifacient potential' of some forms of contraceptives. The document is to be voted on next November."
Holy Communion received by openly dissident Catholic elected officials. There have been high-profile cases in which particular Bishops have chastised Catholic politicians for their support of legalized abortion and then counseled them against or positively prohibited them from receiving the Most Holy Eucharist; however, the vast majority of Bishops in the United States have not enacted any "canonical censures" in this regard.
Mr. Shaw declares: "USCCB itself infuriated pro-lifers last year by naming former congressman Leon Panetta, chief of staff in the Clinton White House and a defender of Clinton's pro-abortion policies, to the national board overseeing the bishops' response to sex abuse."
Indeed, famous Catholic office-holders who foster abortion and then continue to partake of the Bread of Life have scornfully thumbed their noses at the binding teaching of the Church, not to mention at Jesus Christ--the Bread of Life Himself--Who has given His Body and Blood as well as this truth of the sanctity of human life to His Beloved Bride the Church.
We who strive to be faithful Catholics, notwithstanding our numerous sins, should remember these two "dark spots" when we pray and offer our penances to Almighty God.
May the Risen Lord Jesus grant to the Bishops of the United States the remarkable holiness and courage that marked the life of Saint John Fisher (1469-1535), Bishop and Martyr.
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