The Catholic spring: Old wine in new wine skin
The leaked email between Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta, and Voices for Progress’ Sandy Newman showed their intention to foment a revolution of the faithful from within the Catholic Church against the Church herself and her teachings. The suggested springboard for this “Catholic Spring” was the Catholic Church’s opposition to mandatory coverage of contraceptives and abortifacients in employers’ insurance plans on ethical grounds.
Newman had written in the leaked emails, “There needs to be a Catholic Spring, in which Catholics themselves demand the end of a Middle Ages dictatorship and the beginning of a little democracy and respect for gender equality in the Catholic Church.”
What I found interesting was not the obvious disdain or hatred for the Church and her teaching or the evil plan to sow revolution from within the Church. What I found interesting and somewhat disappointing was the reaction of many Catholics to this attack on the Church. Some have approached it as a mere danger to American ideals. Some have begun a campaign asking for an apology from the Clinton camp. Some have called for the sacking of those involved in such anti-Catholicism. These responses are rather inadequate to say the least.
If only we reflect more on the word of God and let this word shed light on the experiences of the Catholic Church throughout her history, we will realize that that there is nothing new about this plan to foment a revolution from within the Church herself.
In the first place, Jesus spoke about such seeds of revolution from within the Church itself in the parable of the weeds among the wheat in Mt 13:24-30 and explained it in Mt 13:36-43. Jesus, the Son of Man, had “sowed good seed in His field (the Church).” The enemy came “while everyone was asleep.” In his malice, he sowed weeds “all through the wheat” because he did not know any way to stop the good seed from growing. The evil one did not stay long enough to claim responsibility for the damage, “He then went off.” When the servants wanted to uproot the weeds immediately, Jesus replied, “Let them grow together until harvest.” Yes, the ever-threatening weeds and the life-giving wheat will be together and grow together until harvest time.
Secondly, Jesus repeatedly reminds us of this truth about divisive and destructive forces from within in several passages: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves.”(Mt 7:15) The Church will surely have wolves in her fold and she will surely encounter wolves in her mission of evangelization, “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves, so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.”(Mt 10:16) The Wikileaks emails only indicate that today the wolves outside are in league with those within the fold.
Thirdly, the early Church had its own share of opposition from within her own midst. St. John speaks of several “antichrists,” opponents or adversaries of Christ from within the flock itself whose teachings differ from that which Christ bequeathed to the Church. They neither belonged to the flock nor do they remain within the fold forever, “They went out from us, but they were not really of our number; if they had been, they would have remained with us. Their desertion shows that none of them was of our number.”(1Jn 2:19)
Now to some personal experience of the “Catholic Spring” in the Church. It was at the height of the priest sexual abuse scandal in 2002 when I and a group of other seminarians met a retired auxiliary bishop in the New England area. In response to the scandal, he had spoken to us shocking and disappointing words: “Don’t worry, boys. Hang in there. This celibacy stuff will end soon. Times have changed and the Church must change with the time.” Talk about “seeds of revolution” from a prelate that we seminarians then did not need to hear.
No, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, there is nothing new about the call for a “Catholic Spring.” It is the same old wine in a new wineskin. The seeds of revolution have always been planted in the hearts of men within and outside the Church. Whether they are aware of it or not, the agents of revolution in the Church, either for political or financial gains, are instruments of the enemy to frustrate the desire for unity of faith and morals that burned in the heart of Jesus, “Father, may they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be one in us.”(Jn 17:21)
What then are we to do in the face of the threats of a “Catholic Spring?” Simply strive to become the Church that Christ willed that we be and not a Church that is so focused on public acceptance that it forgets its divine heritage, attributes, and mission. We can be such in the following ways:
First, know well, appreciate, and value the deposit of the faith and the frequent the means of salvation that Christ brings to the Church. It is so easy for the devil to dispossess us of our heritage when we do not appreciate or understand our faith or experience the power of the sacraments to change our lives, “Those on the path are the ones who have heard, but the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts that they may not believe and be saved.”(Lk 8:12)
Second, guard this faith and share it with other courageously out of love. There is so much talk about accompanying others in the Church today without much clarity about the direction that we are heading in this accompaniment. Are we the blind who try to lead another blind? Are we ready to remove the log in our eyes first before we remove the splinter from the eyes of others? We cannot convince others to walk along the path of conversion and faith if we have not become experts in ongoing repentance and discipleship ourselves. Our teaching is not our own but Christ’s (Cf Jn 7:16) and there is no need to apologize to anybody for speaking the challenging and transforming truth in love. The days of slumbering, like the servants in the parable of the weeds and wheat, are over if we are going to faithful in the face of threats of a “Catholic Spring.”
Third, seek to be deeply grounded in the Good Shepherd. We are utterly helpless on our own against the wolves within and outside the Church. We need to be able to realize the voice of the Good Shepherd in the midst of all the noise and voices of false compassion that is ready to compromise and sacrifice the truth of our faith for earthly gains. The Church is more than the field hospital as many describe her today where the Good Shepherd meets us with His healing grace and mercy; the Church is also a training camp for saints where the Good Shepherd shares with us His own selfless suffering for the sake of revealing His Father’s love for us.
Lastly, we learn from Mother Mary to make sacrifices and pray for the conversion of the Church’s hidden and known enemies. Mary stood at the foot of the cross and heard the blasphemous words of both Jews and Gentiles as she watched her son Jesus die on the cross. In receiving the beloved disciple as her son in response to Jesus’ words, “Behold your son,” she received all of us, friends and enemies of her son alike. Her faith did not dwindle at all and her love for us all did not become less unconditional. In Mary we find that priceless combination of a mother’s passionate love for our suffering brethren combined with a courageous faith in the words and person of Jesus that we need today.
There is no novelty in the call for a “Catholic Spring” – it is just presented in a new wine skin. In this new wine skin, the weeds have become more strongly rooted and committed than the wheat. The wolves have shed their sheep’s disguise and defiantly bared their teeth. The sheep have been found confused and unprepared. The wolves have become bold enough to vehemently plot and declare their intention to destroy the Church from within her own fold. They have conceived their plan and they are seeking for ways to bring it to fruition. What about the sheep? The sheep have been sleeping, forgetting their nature and mission, and, wishing to accommodate themselves to the changing times, are mouthing such things as “I am personally opposed to abortion, “same-sex” marriage, etc but who am I to impose my views on others?” This is the form of Catholicism that has no chance whatsoever against the orchestrated anti-catholic climate of our times.
By divine guarantee, the wheat will never lack nourishment and strength even as the weeds grow in number and determination. The struggle continues until the end of time. This is the time to be uncompromisingly the wheat we are meant to be i.e. to be the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church that Christ willed His bride to be and for which He shed His last drop of blood and sent to us His own Spirit of truth and courage. This is the only appropriate and fruitful response to the age old call for a “Catholic Spring.”
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!