Opinion: Cardinal Stafford at Catholic University: “Blistering Rant” or Prophetic Warning?
Francis Cardinal Stafford gave a well received, theologically insightful and pastorally concerned address.
The real problem is that this is an increasingly intolerant age we live in. Believing itself to be liberated, it is increasingly becoming enslaved to its disordered appetites. In its dance with its own excesses it seems to be welcoming the encroaching darkness. It also seems prepared to stop its ears to the truth, becoming increasingly annoyed with anyone who has the courage to question.
“It is to be anticipated that perhaps not everyone will easily accept this particular teaching. There is too much clamorous outcry against the voice of the Church, and this is intensified by modern means of communication. But it comes as no surprise to the Church that she, no less than her divine Founder, is destined to be a "sign of contradiction." She does not, because of this, evade the duty imposed on her of proclaiming humbly but firmly the entire moral law, both natural and evangelical. Since the Church did not make either of these laws, she cannot be their arbiter—only their guardian and interpreter. It could never be right for her to declare lawful what is in fact unlawful, since that, by its very nature, is always opposed to the true good of man.”
Wow! He sure called that one! In fact, when one considers the reaction of the news media – and some in the pro-abortion on demand activist community- to the address of Francis Cardinal Stafford, the meaning of being a “sign of contradiction” is made very clear. The address given by the good Cardinal was entitled, “Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II: Being True in Body and Soul”. If I did not know it was sponsored by the JPII Institute, I could have told you by simply reading the titles of the talks. The JPII Institute is a global outreach of the Lateran University dedicated to making the profound work of the late Servant of God, John Paul II available to a world desperately in need of what is found within it. Among the many themes of the late Pope studied and passed on by the scholars and students of the Institute are the message of a new and true humanism, the theology of the body, the theology of the gift, the nuptial mystery of and inner truth revealed by spousal love, the primacy of marriage and the family founded upon it as the first society and the path to building a new Culture of life and love. They offer waters of life to a parched desert of an age given over to self idolatry, avarice, the misguided use of power and the treatment persons as property to be used rather than gifts to be received,respected and protected. These themes, found within the body of teaching of the late John Paul II, are also at the heart the modern Magisterium of the Catholic Church. The message they bring to the culture is not “left” or “right”, “liberal” or “conservative”, to use the current tired parlance of political rhetoric. In fact to attribute any of those limiting terms to this message is to cheapen its exquisite beauty and culturally transformative potential.
I had the privilege of studying for a graduate degree at the John Paul II Institute in the 1990’s. I know from experience that it is one of the jewels in the treasure house of the Catholic Church in America. Certainly dedicated to the fullness of the Catholic teaching on the dignity of every human life at every age and stage, it could never be accused of being beholden to any political party or partisan agenda. How fondly I remember the coursework I did under its esteemed Dean, Dr. David Schindler, who presented the fullness of the Church’s Social teaching without compromise. His fidelity to the truth and courageous disregard of those who contended against him earned him back then the animosity of some in the then emerging “neo-conservative” movement. “JP II”, as its students affectionately refer to it, is no Republican stronghold. Nor is it a Democrat stronghold. It is a prophetic stronghold, a place of real power, the power of the truth and transforming grace. It presents the teaching of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, without compromise, and offers its wisdom as a gift to our age in the mission of the new Evangelization proclaimed by the late beloved Servant of God John Paul II. That wisdom is precisely what is needed most if we who bear the name Christian are going to help our fellow countrymen and women to face the challenges of the decline of culture. The Institute offers, as a part of its contribution to the common good, its graduates and scholars as living stones in the hopes of helping to build a new and true culture of life and civilization of love.
I also recently completed my coursework at the Catholic University of America toward the Ph.D. in Moral Theology. The program was theologically solid, faithful to the Magisterium, academically rigorous and personally life changing. I can attest that this fine Pontifical University is another jewel in what I hope and pray will become the resurgence of Higher Education in the Catholic Church in America, right when we need it the most in our beloved Nation. Under the stellar leadership of the Very Reverend David M. O’Connell, C.M., it’s President, Catholic University is growing and contributing the leaders needed for the vital work ahead in both Church and Society. Having spent so much time in study there, I can attest as well that Catholic University is also not a politically partisan University. What it is dedicated to, like the John Paul II Institute which is now housed on its campus, is fidelity to the Truth and the presentation of the fullness of teaching of the Catholic Church, sending its graduates into the world of the Third Millennium with well formed minds and missionary hearts.
So, last Tuesday, when I happened to be watching CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer on his daily “Situation Room” while writing an article, and heard him refer to the Cardinal’s address as a “scathing rant“ and a “diatribe”, I was taken aback. Blitzer’s claims only got worse. The newsman used a “tease” promo to bring viewers to his 5:00 hour containing a graphic announcing the cardinal’s address was a “scathing rant”. Blitzer used these words: “Also, a scathing rant against Barack Obama from a rather surprising source, a Roman Catholic Cardinal — the story behind his diatribe against the president-elect.” I knew it was wrong. How? Because I knew that “scathing rants” against Public Officials would not have occurred at this kind of event. It also did not fit what I have heard for years about this good Cardinal. He is known to be soft spoken, gentle and quite diplomatic. In fact he is often called one of the “great gentlemen” of the church. I found myself thinking back once again, considering the words of Pope Paul VI and the Church as “a sign of contradiction”. I knew what must have really happened; the good Cardinal was prophetic and, as is often the case, the message was not well received.
I knew that Monsignor Livio Melina, the President of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, was to give the opening address. I read later that he spoke, as he so often does, on the depth and beauty of spousal love and the relationship between love and the acquisition of true knowledge. One of the quotes I read was vintage Melina: “Love itself is a form of knowledge, and this knowledge cannot be objectified…It is a unique relationship between the believer and God. The experience of love introduces us in a specific way to moral knowledge.” Deep stuff, as is his manner. Melina. Having studied his work and heard him speak; I knew that my own speculation about the entire symposium was accurate. This was a scholarly symposium. So, I asked myself, what got the Press so angry? I offer some of the highlights of Francis Cardinal Stafford’s for my readers. They make it clear. Cardinal Stafford simply spoke the truth.
Just before making the reference which led so many of the news reports, wherein he used the word “apocalyptic”, the Cardinal quoted from a speech which President - Elect Barack Obama gave to Planned Parenthood on July 17, 2007, in which he pledged “the first thing I will do as president is to sign the Freedom of Choice Act.” The Cardinal then accurately noted that the candidate Barack Obama ran on an “extremist anti-life platform”. Well, supporting the “Freedom of Choice Act” speaks for itself and confirms the accuracy of his observation. As has been reported by this commentator and hundreds of others, this Lethal Act, if passed, would entrench the horrid results of the Roe and Doe opinions of the US Supreme Court and remove most, if not all restrictions on abortion in the U.S. The Cardinal noted that this promise, as well as other statements which Obama made in that speech, were “post-modernist” rhetoric. He accurately said that such comments reveal “an agenda and vision that are aggressive, disruptive, and apocalyptic.” This is no “blistering rant”, it is simply an honest assessment. In fact, the lecture is now available online. By listening to it you discover that Cardinal Stafford made these comments in a measured, calm tone of voice. Hardly the “blistering rant” that Wolf Blitzer claimed on his report. Contrary to the news reports, the Cardinal did not say that President-elect was "aggressive, disruptive and apocalyptic." The Cardinal said that his "rhetoric is postmodernist and marks an agenda and ambition that are aggressive, disruptive and apocalyptic.”
I now offer a few of the other statements made in the Cardinals remarks, compiled from various news reports and articles: “Because man is a sacred element of secular life,” the Cardinal noted, “man should not be held to a supreme power of state, and a person’s life cannot ultimately be controlled by government.” … “For the next few years, Gethsemane will not be marginal. We will know that garden,” (implying that if the President elect fulfills his campaign promises, those who know the truth that every procured abortion is the killing of an innocent child, will suffer deeply, like Jesus did in His agony in the Garden because the blood of our own children will flow even more). “On November 4, 2008, America suffered a cultural earthquake” he said and warned that Catholics may soon face the “hot, angry tears of betrayal”. Again, in the context of a message in which he addressed the loss of respect for the dignity of every human life at every age and stage he was absolutely accurate. He noted that “If 1968 was the year of America’s ‘suicide attempt,’ (the year of “Humanae Vitae”) 2008 is the year of America’s exhaustion…In the intervening 40 years since Humanae Vitae, the United States has been thrown upon ruins.”
The Cardinal simply expressed within his comments, which were themselves made within the context of a lengthy theological presentation, what many others have acknowledged for years. America has suffered greatly in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decisions in Roe and Doe. They had the effect of giving positive legal protection to the taking of innocent human life in the first home of the whole human race and then enforcing this violation of the Right to Life enshrined within the Natural Law through the Police Power of the State. This is what he was referring to when he noted that such “… scrupulous meanness has had catastrophic effects upon the unity and integrity of the American republic”.
Francis Cardinal Stafford is a kind, soft spoken, prayerful and dignified successor of the Apostles. He gave a well received, theologically insightful, and pastorally concerned academic address at a forum sponsored by two great Catholic educational institutions. Some of his comments were taken out of context by some within the news media who seem to be looking for ways to attack the Catholic Church these days. The real problem is that this is an increasingly intolerant age we live in. Believing itself to be liberated, it is increasingly becoming enslaved to its own disordered appetites. In its dance with its own excesses it seems to be welcoming the encroaching darkness which they have brought. It also seems eager to stop its ears to the prophetic truth, becoming increasingly annoyed with anyone who has the courage to question the lie. Wolf Blitzer’s inaccurate characterization of the Cardinal seems, sadly, to reflect a growing intolerance with the Catholic Church and her message. Let those of us who bear the name of Christian heed the words of our beloved late Pope Paul VI “… It comes as no surprise to the Church that she, no less than her divine Founder, is destined to be a "sign of contradiction."
This was no “blistering rant”, it was a prophetic warning by a brave Bishop.
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2013
General Intention: Victimized Children. That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need.
Missionary Intention: Prepare the Savior's Coming. That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.
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