As such, there are times when I have to throw down the gauntlet, versus those who (consciously or unconsciously) stand athwart the Truth of Christ, and most especially versus those who claim the title of "Catholic" while minimizing, ignoring, dismissing, or even openly rejecting the Church's teachings (and on matters of severe importance, at that). The gauntlet does not mean that I hate my opponents; nor does it mean that I hold them to be evil, irredeemable, or anything other than fellow sons and daughters of God who happen to have been deceived (or otherwise "captured") by the Father of Lies. But the gauntlet does mean--regrettably--a battle. I can only offer such opponents, above and beyond my promise (insofar as my fallen nature, supported by the grace of God, allows me) to conduct the battle with honour, an idea from C.S. Lewis, in his excellent book, "Mere Christianity":
"When soldiers came to St. John the Baptist asking what to do, he never remotely suggested that they ought to leave the army: nor did Christ when He met a Roman sergeant-major--what they called a Centurion. The idea of the knight--the Christian in arms for the defence of a good cause--is one of the great Christian ideas. War is a dreadful thing, and I can respect an honest pacifist, though I think he is entirely mistaken. What I cannot understand is this sort of semipacifism you get nowadays which gives people the idea that though you have to fight, you ought to do it with a long face and as if you were ashamed of it. It is that feeling that robs lots of magnificent young Christians in the [armed] Services of something they have a right to, something which is the natural accompaniment of courage--a kind of gaiety and wholeheartedness.
I have often thought to myself how it would have been if, when I served in the first world war, I and some young German had killed each other simultaneously and found ourselves together a moment after death. I cannot imagine that either of us would have felt any resentment or even any embarrassment. I think we might have laughed over it."
(C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Ch.7, pars.8-9)
To fight without rancor, to spar without hate; that, I offer to my opponents. Do not confuse that for any lack of resolve to strike directly and keenly, at need; I will not ravage anyone's emotions out of mere spite; but nor will I soften a necessary blow, simply out of some deference to feelings or (far worse) the "ritualized cowardice" of political correctness.
That being said: I now call upon those Catholics, in particular, who have embraced heterodoxy... who have taken it upon themselves to "follow their own consciences" to places which flatly contradict the spirit and law of the Church in Whom they were baptized... who have become content to invert venial sin with mortal sin, the negotiable with the non-negotiable. I most especially call upon those who trumpet their unyielding defense of any opposition to the death penalty, their hopes for the elimination of involuntary poverty, their unequivocal condemnation of the War on Terror, and all (otherwise good) goals which share an almost uncanny resemblance to the goals of the present-day U.S. Democratic Party. Most of all, I call those of the above whose ferocity in furthering the above goals is matched only by their lack of ferocity in fighting the evils of abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, the cultural "normalization" of homosexuality, and the like.
To these, I ask the following simple question:
TO GIVE UP
YOUR OTHER GOOD CAUSES???
For the love of all that's holy: do you seriously think that, if you were completely loyal to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, you'd have to abandon ANY of your other good efforts? Why on earth would giving true and clear priority to the fight against the non-negotiable "articles of the Culture of Death" (e.g. abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, homosexual "marriage" [sic], human cloning, etc.) interfere with your other efforts to end poverty, to find practical ways to bring the War in Iraq to a speedy conclusion, to work against the death penalty, and such? Why, in the name of all that's good, would placing your efforts on the rock foundation of Truth endanger those efforts in the slightest, if those efforts are truly good?
Moreover, I warn you against a terrible danger, so subtle as almost to be imperceptible when you're immersed in it (as I well know--having been there for years of my life): when you give yourself permission to "detach" from obedience to the Church, you necessarily set something/someone else (almost always "yourself"!) as the final arbiter of truth... and that "something else" cannot possibly serve in that role successfully. The beginning of this "detachment" is subtle: it often starts with an appeal to the "supremacy of your own conscience" (which a cursory and context-free reading of Church documents will seem to confirm), and it seems so very innocent! After all: if you change from "I assent to the Church's Teaching in all matters of Faith and Morals" to the variant, "I currently happen to agree with all the Church's teachings regarding Faith and Morals", how would anyone else know the difference? If you're of a utilitarian and/or pragmatic mindset, there would seem to be no difference at all! In fact, it might even "feel" better, since--as you could easily tell yourself, using words almost identical to those of the Church: "The Church doesn't want blind obedience [which is true, so far as it goes]--She wants us to use our reason to meet and grapple with these truths, for ourselves!"
Thus is the door opened to the sin of pride... and a good-tasting and addictive poison it is, too. Not many 12-step groups to help you recover from it, either.
The "drift" then continues. Eventually, when you hit the first teaching of the Church which runs against your own feelings (and possibly thoughts)--it's almost always something related to sexual ethics, it seems (e.g. homosexuality, contraception, in-vitro fertilization, etc.)--you'll first experience the effects of being "cut off" from your base. (A tree that's cut completely through won't necessarily fall at first; it might need a breeze to start it tipping.) You'll think, "Hm... that doesn't make sense to me. In fact, I don't think that makes very much sense at all! Especially since my dear friend [x] is [homosexual, contracepting, using IVF, considering an abortion, etc.], and I love them, and they're not a bad person, and since only bad people would violate the Church's teachings, they can't possibly be violating the Church's teachings--or else, the Church's teaching is just plain wrong!"
Then come one of at least four main paths toward heterodoxy (i.e. "wrong belief"):
(1) [the more explicit] "The Church is just wrong about this one!"
(2) [the more implicit] "These teachings must not be real "Church teaching" at all! They're probably just the opinions of some old, celibate men in Rome, and Jesus probably wouldn't have agreed with it, either!"
(3) [even more implicit] "They may be Church teaching, but they're not *infallible* Church teaching! They're just one of those changeable ones, like limbo!"
(4) [one of the most implicit] "The teachings may be true, but other teachings are of far greater importance; love (see here for the real definition of that!), for example, is of a far higher priority than are picky, heady, theological 'rules' about details regarding sexuality."
And then, if you're brutally honest with yourself, you'll have only two authentic options before you: embrace your pet ideas, and formally leave the Church (whereupon even your pet ideas will eventually wither, fragment, and degenerate into putrefied parodies of what your once embraced with a clean heart); or surrender your pet ideas and reconcile yourself to the Church (whereupon all of your pet ideas that were truly good will eventually be given back to you, purified of the dross of error and sin).
I fully admit: when I was of that mind, I wasn't the least bit interested in such honesty; I was into feelings, feelings, and more feelings (which I thought were the basis of all "real" life). I suspect that many of the "heterodox Catholic" camp have that same insidious virus. I wish the prognosis of that disease were better... but it took literally *years* for me even to start facing the "fracture" at the core of my life (living "in" and "out" of the Church, at the same time), and it took many more years--and several life-shattering and painful events--for me to start making the hard choices necessary for moving away from it. I can only tell you that it's possible, and that it's by God's Grace alone, and that having lots of people "never stop praying for you" has a lot to do with chances of recovery (and with the chances of recognizing that it's something from which you need to recover!).
So... here's my challenge to you, if you're a heterodox Catholic (i.e. a Catholic who gives him/herself permission to go against the explicit teachings of the Magisterium of Christ's Church) reading this: I stand ready--with my all-too-human swordsmanship, my fallible shield-work, and my borrowed armour--to try my best to battle the errors that hold you, and I stand ready to pray for you, daily, no matter what. (I already do, in fact.)
The gauntlet is thrown. In the next weeks, months, and years, Catholics (and all Christians, for that matter!) need to unite in Truth, as well as in Spirit; no other kind of "unity" can hope to endure... especially if the near future is even half as dark as it promises to be, for those of Faith. In this present gathering darkness, Christ needs us all on the same side, and not fragmented into hundreds of politically-motivated mini-camps! The stakes are far too high to do anything else. And if taking and giving some hard knocks is what will bring people to shake off their errors and embrace the fullness of truth, then so be it; I can do no less, in the service of my Lord and Master.