Taking Issue with the ChurchDOUGLAS MCMANAMAN
Many people today seem to “have issues” with Catholicism.
The same phenomenon is evident in the academic world. Many former students of mine complain that moral relativism has been institutionalized at the university level. In a typical ethics course, one is taught that there are simply no moral absolutes, especially in the area of sexuality and the life issues (i.e., abortion, euthanasia, and embryonic stem cell research). And yet there are all sorts of moral positions that these very relativists unwittingly regard as absolute. War, in particular ones in which the United States is involved, is absolutely unjustifiable. Capitalism seems to be absolutely anathema, not to mention capital punishment, racial bigotry, and indifference to environmental causes.
It is often said that the Church is "hung up" on sex, but the truth of the matter is that only certain individuals are hung up on sex. After preaching on the feast of the Ascension, a friend of mine received a phone message that he'd saved for me to hear. A man with a heavy Slavic accent and who by the sound of his voice was probably in his early 60s called to assert his freedom and his right to have as much sex as he so desires. He ended by saying that he wouldn't be back again to listen to that "bull____". What is noteworthy is that my friend did not mention sex in his homily, only sin in general.
Christ was not big on the "gospel of self-esteem and unqualified affirmation". His solution to our difficulties was altogether different; for he said: "You keep saying, 'I am so rich and secure that I want for nothing.' Little do you realize how wretched you are, how pitiable and poor, how blind and naked! Take my advice. Buy from me gold refined by fire if you would be truly rich. Buy white garments in which to be clothed, if the shame of your nakedness is to be covered. Buy ointment to smear on your eyes, if you would see once more. Whoever is dear to me I reprove and chastise. Be earnest about it, therefore. Repent!" (Rev 3, 17-19).
I recently heard of a married man who is committed to taking care of his sick wife who, as a result of her illness, is unable ever again to engage in marital relations with him. His friends would assure him that God could not possibly expect him to remain celibate for the rest of his life and that he should date others in order to meet what they referred to as his "needs". His only answer to them: "It is a privilege to die to myself for the one who died for me." He saw his circumstances as an opportunity to rise higher and to grow closer to God, not as a restriction — a very different attitude from the man who left a message to indicate that he'd chosen his genitals over the very salvation of his own soul.
The Church does not offer us anything other than what has been given to her by Christ, and his message is very straightforward: "Anyone who loses his life for my sake finds it" (Mt 16, 25). God calls man to a life of love, a love patterned after the mystery of the cross. But inordinate passion is an obstruction to a life characterized by a love of the cross.
McManaman, Douglas. "Taking Issue with the Church". (May 2006).
Reprinted with permission of Douglas McManaman.
Douglas McManaman is a high school religion teacher with the York Catholic District School Board in Ontario. He is currently teaching at Father Michael McGivney Catholic Academy in Markham, Ontario and maintains a web site, A Catholic Philosophy and Theology Resource Page, in support of his students. He studied Philosophy at St. Jerome's College in Waterloo, and Theology at the University of Montreal. Mr. McManaman is the past President of the Canadian Chapter of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars. Douglas McManaman is on the advisory board of the Catholic Educator's Resource Center.
Copyright © 2006 Douglas McManaman
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