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Opinion: Our Mission is Culture Conversion not Culture War

By Deacon Keith Fournier
November 15th, 2008
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

I hope that the National Pro-life March this year will break every record in the history of American Protests. This is the year to show the whole world that the people of life are never going to give up!

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (Catholic Online) - The news is filled with reactions to the homily and letter of Fr. Jay Scott Newman, a priest of the Diocese of Charleston and pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Greenville, South Carolina.This parish and this priest are highly respected among many who believe there is a movement underfoot within the Catholic Church which can be characterized as a “dynamic orthodoxy”. St. Mary’s Parish is alive in the Holy Spirit, profoundly evangelistic, refreshingly faithful to the teaching of the Magisterium (teaching office) and dedicated to fidelity to both the Rubrics and the spirit of good Liturgy. They understand the connected truths of the old Latin maxim “Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi!” Popularly expressed …as we worship and we believe, so will we will live. I sincerely hope that Fr. Newman’s national prominence will lead many to discover what a truly great Parish St. Mary’s is. It is a sign of the “New Springtime” which our late Holy Father John Paul II proclaimed.

However, my purpose is NOT to weigh in on this controversy. I will make only this brief comment. Fr. Newman did not refuse to give the Blessed Sacrament to anyone. He asked his parishioners, well after the voting in the US presidential election was over, to examine their conscience and consider whether their exercise of that right conformed to the teachings of the Catholic Church on the sanctity of every human life. If not, he encouraged them to do penance and seek sacramental absolution prior to receiving the Holy Eucharist. The propriety of his letter is not for me to determine. It is also not up to the secular news media to access its propriety. I do want to use some of the words from this letter written by Fr. Newman to place in context the real challenge which faithful Catholics now face in the aftermath of this historic election.

Fr. Newman wrote: “This election ends a political process that started two years ago and which has revealed deep and bitter divisions within the United States and also within the Catholic Church in the United States. This division is sometimes called a “Culture War,” by which is meant a heated clash between two radically different and incompatible conceptions of how we should order our common life together, the public life that constitutes civil society. And the chief battleground in this culture war for the past 30 years has been abortion, which one side regards as a murderous abomination that cries out to Heaven for vengeance and the other side regards as a fundamental human right that must be protected in laws enforced by the authority of the state. Between these two visions of the use of lethal violence against the unborn there can be no negotiation or conciliation, and now our nation has chosen for its chief executive the most radical pro-abortion politician ever to serve in the United States Senate or to run for president.”

Prayer, Persistence, Resistance

These words are an accurate assessment of the past and of the outcome of this election. However, the election is over and President - Elect Barack Obama will soon take the oath of office. I respect his office. I have begun to pray for him daily. I pray for the Lord to give him the grace that he needs to govern our Nation wisely and move us toward equal justice for all. I pray that President Elect Obama will not fulfill the Pre-election pledge he made to Planned Parenthood to sign the lethal “Freedom of Choice Act”. If he plans to do so, I will join with the people of life to raise a massive resistance.

I am concerned about indications from his transition team that he will immediately lift the few restrictions on abortion which currently exist by Executive Order! If he does I will join with all the people of life to raise a massive resistance. I pray that he undergoes a genuine conversion of heart and mind while in office, coming to recognize the truth that the child in the first home of the whole human race is a person and our first neighbor. If he sees this truth he must then see that it is always wrong to kill our neighbors. I pray that his reminders during the campaign that “we are our brothers (and sisters) keepers” sink deeply into his own soul and that he will be given eyes to see that call to solidarity.

I pray that he will recognize those whom Blessed Mother Teresa rightly called the “poorest of the poor”, our youngest neighbors who have no voice but our own. I pray that when he does, he will stop those who are now reaching into the first home to kill them by dismemberment, suction, surgical strikes and chemical weapons in what is an all out war on the womb. Can it happen? I believe in the power of prayer! One has only to study Presidencies like the other Illinois resident, Abraham Lincoln's, to see how people can change in office.

I also believe in persistence and resistance.I hope that the National Pro-life March this year will break every record in the history of American Protests. This is the year to show the whole world that the people of life are never going to give up!While I pray, I will never stop raising concern for all of the life issues. None of us can. Being Pro-life is not simply about taking political positions on issues. It is a way of being fully human and fully responsible for one another. The current so called “abortion right” is not a true right at all. There is no “right” to kill innocent children in the womb found in the Natural Law.The TRUE RIGHT is the Right to Life.

In fact this current counterfeit “abortion right” in the U.S.A. belies our claim as a Nation to being a civilized and just society. Without building into the positive law a respect for the dignity of every human life and legal protections against the killing of the innocent, we are lying when we claim to care about all of the poor. Placing the police protection of the State at the service of unjust aggressors who reach into the womb and kill children is absolutely wrong. Calling this unjust aggression against a whole class of persons a “constitutional right” is evil. This unjust aggression against innocent little people can never advance authentic freedom, promote solidarity or in any way serve the common good.

I also suggest it is time to stop using the expression “Culture War”. First, I am not sure it has ever been helpful and I was never a fan of the expression. Second, it has not produced results. Next, it confuses who the real enemy is. Finally, I see divisiveness growing within the ranks of the people of life which will harm our vital work. We seem to be at war within when we need to join together as one strong voice for life. The real source of the hatred of life is the Devil Himself. The challenge which those whom the late Servant of God John Paul II called “the people of life” face at this crucial time in the history of the West is nothing new. We have been here before in our 2000 year history. The Christian Church goes into Cultures of death and transforms them from within. We can – and we must – do it again in the Third Millennium. Ours is not really a call to a “Culture War” but rather a call to the Conversion of Culture through the conversion of minds, hearts, and lifestyles which will then lead to a transformation of the social structures of governance and way we live our lives together.

We who bear the name Christian are missionaries in the U.S. We are called to raise a prophetic voice speaking truth to power and insisting upon the primacy of human persons over everything. We must oppose the unjust aggression against children in the womb by becoming true peacemakers who proclaim that the path to any true peace proceeds through an end to lethal aggression against our youngest neighbors. We must become the conscience of a Nation which has lost its moral compass and is close to losing its soul. We must build a massive resistance movement against the war on the womb and launch a fervent and unrelenting campaign of intercessory prayer to the Lord of all Life.

We must pray like it all depends on the intervention of God, because it does. We must work as though He relies on us to do it, because He does. We must engage this age with the language of life, authentic freedom and true solidarity, developing a new apologetic which unmasks the insidious lies of the current culture of death and the libertine excess now masquerading as liberty. However, let’s be clear, there can be no compromise on the truth concerning the primacy of the human person and the inalienable right to life of every person at every age and stage. This is the foundation of any just society and this is our Mission. Our position on this foundational truth is not simply a “religious” position it is The Truth and it is written large in the Natural Law which binds all men and women and is knowable by reason. It is also confirmed by medical science, every procured abortion is the killing of a child. If the smallest and weakest among us do not have inalienable rights, none of us do. In fact, the entire hierarchy of civil rights and the infrastructure that has been built to defend those rights and protect against their violation teeters on the brink of collapse.

The Presidential election is over. In taking up our post - election position in this mission of cultural conversion we need to recover the insight that early Christians understood so well, our struggle is not against people but against wrong ideas, ideologies and spiritual forces of wickedness. Our struggle is not against one another. As the Apostle Paul told the Christians in Ephesus “…our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God”. This is time to fight, however, we must remember who and what the enemy truly is.

More importantly, it is time to pray, pray and pray some more… and then pick ourselves up, put on that full armor of God and courageously join together in new coalitions and alliances. Our Mission is Culture Conversion not Culture War.

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