Portland prides itself on being a sort of last vestige of the sixties counter culture. The irony is that the Catholic Church, and especially the dynamically orthodox expression of her faith and life as represented by Bishops like Alexander K. Sample, is becoming the real counterculture of this age.
PORTLAND, OR. (Catholic Online) - On Tuesday, January 29, 2013, it was announced that Bishop Alexander K. Sample will succeed Archbishop John Vlazny in the Archdiocese of Portland,Oregon. Bishop Sample currently presides over the Diocese of Marquette. At 52 years old, he will become the youngest Archbishop in the Church in the United States and the 11th Archbishop of Portland.
Though I do not know him personally, I know his reputation and love his writing. Having served as a Deacon of the Church for seventeen years, I search for writing which captures the diaconate as a unique vocation. Last year I read his excellent pastoral letter entitled "The Deacon: Icon of Jesus Christ the Servant".It was released on June 9, the Memorial of Ephrem, Deacon and Doctor. This letter is one of the best. It provides a tremendous treatment of the history, mystery and meaning of the Diaconate
I speak of my diaconal vocation as being placed at the intersection of faith and culture. I sense a vocation to live at the heart of the church for the sake of the world. I see myself going from the Ambo to the altar and into the world- in order to bring the world into the new world of the Church.
So, when I read these words in the Bishops letter on the diaconate I smiled, "Because he stands with a foot in two worlds, the permanent deacon's ministry and witness is distinctively in the world of work and society. Therefore, the theological principles of social doctrine developed over time by the Church must be formative for an effective diaconate." This is a bishop who gets it!
Benedict the Builder is placing Foundation stones in place for the true recovery and authentic renewal of the Catholic Church in the United States. When this papacy is recounted in history, he will be credited with having re-secured the Catholic Church in a time of trial so that she could inaugurate the new missionary age of the Third Millennium. His appointment of Bishops is a key component of that entire undertaking. He is strategically placing Bishops in strategic places. Portland is now added to the number.
I believe this Pope will be credited with stemming the slide of western civilization into a new paganism. The Church is the only hope to preventing this slide. She is not some irritant, preventing progress, she is the path to authentic progress and human flourishing. In continuity with the 2,000 year teaching of the Catholic Church and helping to ensure that the proper understanding of the Second Vatican Council within a hermeneutic of continuity, Pope Benedict XVI is a man on mission.
His selection of Bishops proceeds from his unwavering conviction that the Catholic Church - and the message of authentic and true human progress which she offers the world - is what is most needed in this critical hour in human history. So, Pope Benedict is picking Bishops who are dynamically orthodox. Yes, they are orthodox in doctrine and practice, but they also have the joy so essential for the work ahead.
From what I have heard and read, Bishop Sample is an example of a Bishop who understands that Catholic identity is a treasure. It brings joy and liberates men and women from despair. Sources tell me this young Archbishop elect of Portland is known for his orthodoxy and orthopraxy - as well as his love for the Liturgy, pastoral heart and loving manner. He is unafraid of defending the Right of the Church to be a full participant in society, and does so with straightforward eloquence.
He is also known to be comfortable taking his place in the public square to defend religious freedom and the fundamental dignity of every human life. He is a strong defender of true marriage and a canon lawyer with a strong grasp of the Natural Law arguments so essential to our work in the culture.
He is being sent to Portland, Oregon, a place steeped in the secularism of the age and desperately in need of a vibrant witness of faithful Catholic and life. Ironically, Portland prides itself on being a sort of last vestige of the sixties counter culture.
The irony is that the Catholic Church, and especially the dynamically orthodox expression of her faith and life as represented by Bishops like Alexander K. Sample, is becoming the real counterculture of this age.
We live in a declining western culture, increasingly hostile to the Church. Our struggle involves a clash of worldviews, personal and corporate, and competing definitions of human freedom, human dignity, and human flourishing.
We face a dictatorship of relativism which claims there are no truths. We insist that there is Truth, it can be known - and it must govern our lives. This means we face persecution. Our path is paved with the insults, accusations and calumny of our fellow citizens.
We are accused of being against progress and science for defending the dignity of every human life - including the lives of our first neighbors in the womb. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are Pro-life because it is right. Science exists to serve the person, the family and the common good.
We stand up to the architects of a culture of death and refuse to compromise on the truth concerning the dignity of every human life from conception through natural death. Science confirms what our conscience long ago confirmed, those little girls and boys in the womb are our neighbors. It is always wrong to intentionally kill our innocent neighbors. To say and do otherwise is barbaric.
We insist, in the face of the rise of a counterfeit notion of marriage, that true marriage and family have been inscribed by the Divine Architect into the order of the universe. Truth does not change, people and cultures do; sometimes for good and sometimes for evil.
Marriage between one man and one woman, is the first society into which children are to be born, learn to be fully human, grow in virtue, flourish and take their role in families and communities. Heterosexual marriage, procreation, and the nurturing of children form the foundation for the family, and the family forms the foundation of civil society.
True marriage is the preeminent and the most fundamental of all human social institutions. It is a relationship defined by nature itself and protected by the natural law that binds all men and women. It finds its foundation in the order of creation.
Civil institutions do not create marriage nor can they create a "right" to marry for those who are incapable of marriage. The institutions of government should, when acting properly, defend marriage against those who would redefine it.
Government has long regulated marriage for the common good. For example, the ban on polygamy and age requirements were enforced in order to ensure that there was a mature decision at the basis of the Marriage contract.
To limit marriage to heterosexual couples is not discriminatory. Homosexual couples cannot bring into existence what marriage intends by its very definition. To confer the benefits that have been conferred in the past only to stable married couples and families to homosexual paramours is bad public policy.
We are not afraid to make the claim that children have a right to a mother and a father. They do. Of course we care about the single parent family and the many broken homes. However, their existence does not change the norm necessary to build a stable and healthy society. In tact marriages and families are the glue of a healthy and happy social order.
To live in a faithful, heterosexual marriage, open to children, is now countercultural. To live as a faithful Catholic Christian in Portland is countercultural. The claims of the Catholic Church concerning life and marriage are not outdated notions of a past era but provide the only path to a future of freedom.
We insist upon the existence of a Natural Moral Law which can be known by all men and women through the exercise of reason because it is the only stable foundation for the law. This is not only a Christian position. It is the ground upon which every great civilization has been built.
The Natural Law is the source of every authentic human and civil rights movement. The Natural Law gives us the moral norms we need to build societies and govern ourselves. It must inform our positive law or we will become lawless and devolve into anarchy.
These claims are increasingly ridiculed and those who hold to them will face growing disparagement and ostracism. However, they are the only antidote to the malady which is rotting western civilization. We are a counter culture. However, this is not the first time in our two thousand year history we have faced such a status.
That is where understanding Christian history can help. The early Church was sent into cultures filled with people who thought they were advanced in light of the arts and sciences of their day. Yet, those cultures practiced primitive forms of abortion and even exposure, a practice of leaving unwanted children on rocks to be eaten by birds of prey or picked up by slave traders.
Early Christian manuscripts like the Didache (the Teaching of the Twelve) and the Letter to Diognetus show us that the early Christians lived in and transformed cultures very much like our own. Cultures of use where people were treated as property, cultures of excess where freedom was perceived as a power over others and license masqueraded as liberty. They eventually changed them from within.
Faithful Catholics are a new Counter Culture offering a way forward to a Western Culture which has lost its soul. Archbishop Alexander K. Sample is being sent to Portland to plant the true counterculture in that City. Our prayers and support go with him.
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