Today we have one of the most enduring, and endearing images of Jesus; the image of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. This role of Shepherd has been identified with the Bishops since the time of the Apostles, the first bishops of the Church. Scriptures teach us that they saw their role as that of teaching and sanctifying; what we know today as the magisterium, or teaching authority of the Church, and the chief guardians of the sacraments. Everything we believe and everything we do as Catholics we do in and with the authority of the Bishops.
This is a very important thing to note in our world today, especially on the issue of moral teachings. In a nation where Freedom of Speech is central to our identity there are many false teachers. Pornography and anti-religious rhetoric are examples of two false voices that are protected under our Bill of Rights.
Furthermore, with free speech, comes not just the opportunity for free-thinking. With it comes also a variety of opinions which have become an obsession in our culture. Commentators spout their opinions on news items, as if it would change the facts of the news. Celebrities are often quoted for their opinions on issues, sometimes influencing major groups of people, even though the premise of their opinion may be fundamentally wrong.
In this cacophony of opinions, and contradictory statements, it often times is difficult to discern the truth. Because of this we need something, or someone who can guide us in the way of truth. To this I would suggest that the truth is to be found in the teaching authority of our Church. When we develop or define a particular Church teaching we do not do so in a vacuum apart from the world. This is especially so in our moral teachings. Ethics and morality are never defined by popular opinion. Ethical and moral teachings are the product of revealed truth and lived experience over a lengthy period of time. Opinions change from one generation to the next, but revealed truth does not change. This means that as we discern the truth underneath any moral issue, we bring the standard of truth to that issue. This is the basic process by which every single moral teaching of our Church has been formulated.
In this world of differing and opposing opinions where do we find the truth? We find it in the teachings of the Good Shepherd, who has entrusted this to the teaching authority of the Church. In other words, we need to listen to the Bishops whom God has chosen to be the shepherds who guide us away from the danger of sin and into the safety of faith.
Let’s take, for instance, the current political hot button in our nation, the Federal Health-Care Mandate. The Bishops of the Church, for the past century, have been teaching that every single person, because of their inherent dignity and worth, has the right to basic health-care. It took a century before the leaders of our nation finally were able to embrace this concept and enact it into legislation.
The bishops of our nation were 100% behind them in their efforts. When it comes to the specific moral teaching of contraceptives and abortion, the bishops were very clear about their opposition to these being a mandatory part of the healthcare legislation. In the final analysis, not only were these things included in the health-care bill, it was written into law that every employer in the nation must provide this as a basic part of their health-care plan.
This is where the mandate moved away from the issue of contraception and abortion and has now become an issue of constitutional rights. Here again the Bishops are being very clear on this in their leading the nation in challenging this law based on constitutionality. We, a religious organization, are having our rights to free exercise of our religion hindered. It does not matter whether or not you agree with the Church’s teaching on abortion and contraception. This is still the teaching of the Church, and to force us to violate this teaching is a violation of our constitutional rights.
President Obama and his Cabinet are playing hardball with us on this issue. His cabinet and committees have met many times with our Bishops. Our bishops have as much as been told to,“stop listening to the extremists and listen instead to us for we are the enlightened ones.” These leaders, who have been in this position for perhaps a few decades, and we as a nation less than 300 years old are enlightened, in comparison to a Church that has been in existence for 2000 years?!
It is quite clear that the Obama Administration is not going to back down on this issue and so we can expect that we have a constitutional battle ahead of us. To further emphasize this it came to my attention that Hilary Clinton, and the State Department, in their most recent report Money Laundering and Financial Crimes, has listed the Holy See as a jurisdiction of concern for money laundering.[i]
As a global Church we do engage in many international transactions. For instance, the money from our Good Friday Collection all goes to the Franciscans in the Holy Lands. Also the Holy See collects a substantial amount of money globally for the Peter’s Pence Collection. Then there are the thousands of dollars a year Nativity gives to Fr. Jack Davis and Fr. McDermott in Monterey Mexico. To insinuate that these things are possible money laundering venues is nothing more than a slap in our face.
As a result of being put on this list the State department is telling the Vatican “we are very much concerned” and we are going to force you to adhere by our regulations. In other words, the U.S. government is going to demand that they look at our financial books.
My brothers and sisters we are in a battle. It is not a battle between the U.S. Government and the Church. It is a battle between good and evil. The battle is using the weapons of “words and ideologies” concerning “morality and freedom.” Although it is a battle between good and evil, the stakes are high, especially for those who live in a society that prides itself on its freedoms. These freedoms will be systematically eroded and as a result our nation will fall the way of every other great nation in human history. Most of us here will probably not experience this, but our children and our children’s children will. If you are not willing to enter the battle for yourself, then do so for the sake of the children. Their future depends on us.
Listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd as spoken through the voice of the Pope and the Bishops of our Church. Listen to them and you will be led away from the snares of evil, into the safety of a life lived in obedience to Christ.
Government Report on Money Laundering/Financial Crimes can be found at www.state.gov
“Holy See” listed on March 7, 2012 Report Major Money Laundering Countries
Nations and jurisdictions on this list are under investigation for one or more of these reasons:
– The nature and extent of the money laundering situation
– The ways in the which the U.S. Government regards the situation as having international ramifications
– The situation’s impact on U.S. Interests (what does that mean)
– Engaging in transactions involving significant amount of proceeds from serious crimes (i.e. drug money)