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Pastoral Guidance from Fr. John

Over the last several weeks there has arisen several topics which have caused concern or raised questions in the minds of the faithful. Our pastor, Fr. John, has been diligent in providing sound pastoral guidance. In this post we offer three recent articles from Fr. John:

  • Covid-19 Vaccinations
  • Blessing of Gay Couple Civil Marriage
  • The Moral Dimensions of Cancel Culture

On the Moral Act of Receiving a Covid-19 Vaccination

Recently the news reported that certain Bishops of the Catholic Church discouraged Catholics from getting the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. They suggested that there were moral issues. Unfortunately, their opinion was not based on sound moral teaching. On Friday Bishop Rhodes, the Chair of the Committee on Doctrine of the US Bishops Conference made clear, that if a Catholic has the possibility of getting the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, she or he should receive the vaccine. Receiving the vaccine is not against church teaching. There is no sin involved.

Our own Bishop Burbidge as well as the Pontifical Academy for Life, credible moral theologians, and even Pope Francis himself, have also said it is permissible to receive any of the first three vaccines: Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson and Johnson. Needless to say, refusing the vaccine available to you could result in serious illness, even the loss of life, yours, a member of your family, your co-workers, colleagues, fellow citizens.

Blessing of a Gay Couple’s Civil Marriage

Responding to efforts in some parts of the Catholic world to devise “blessings” of same-sex unions by the Church, the Vatican’s Congregation for Doctrine and Faith released a statement Monday, approved by the Pope, saying that such blessings are not licit. By blessing the document means, a priest cannot witness the marriage as a sacrament. The Statement reiterates the long-standing Church teaching that the Sacrament of Marriage is between a man and a woman.

By way of clarification, the Pope did not say that being Gay was in itself a sin. The press report of the Vatican’s statement was inaccurate. In fact, the Pope has said that Gay individuals should be welcomed in Church and treated with love. The Pope has also said that he is in favor of some form of a civilly recognized union of a gay couple.

The Moral Dimensions of Cancel Culture

Much has been written in the news and elsewhere lately about “Cancel Culture”. A definition of Cancel Culture is that it is a variant on the term “call out culture “and constitutes a form of boycotting an individual who is deemed to have acted or spoken in a questionable or controversial manner. The term has been around for some time but is heard more frequently this past year. Those who express criticism of a Cancel Culture will often see it as an attack on free speech.

The problem is that for some individuals their definition of free speech is that an individual can say whatever they want, whenever they want, without having to act in a responsible manner or be held accountable for their words.

I am reminded in all of this of a book that came out in the years following Vatican II. It was titled, “Whatever Became of Sin”, by Karl Menninger. The point of the book was that Society seemed to have forgotten what sin is.  It is similar to a phenomena that took place after Vatican II in the Catholic Church.

Before Vatican II sin was often described in black and white terms; there were no grey areas. Mortal sin was something that one could commit on an almost daily basis. It could be as simple as eating meat on Friday.

During Vatican II, the Pope, Cardinals, Bishops, laity, experts and theologians, reviewed moral theology as well as the many other aspects of Church teaching and tradition. It was a moment of renewal in the Church. In regards to sin, specifically mortal sin, they spoke of mortal sin as indeed serious, and certainly present in society and in faith communities. However, they defined it as so serious in nature that it was not something that most people committed on a regular basis.

The problem was that the faithful misinterpreted what the second Vatican Council was teaching. A lack of effective adult education after the second Vatican Council did not help. The faithful began to think, “Well if it’s not so easy to commit mortal sin, I guess it’s not so easy to sin at all.” They were of course wrong. It was the proverbial “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”.

And so today we hear folks reacting to the so called “Cancel Culture”. “I have a right to free speech, I can say whatever I want, even if it is not true, or is based on my own set of facts, destroys another’s reputation, incites violent actions.” We seem to have lost our moral compass. Some seem to suggest that there is no longer a difference as to right vs. wrong, truth vs. falsehood, reality vs. imagination.

To quote a recent author, “There are unfortunately in society now, some who would suggest that civility is for losers, that compassion is for suckers, that misogyny can be fun, that strength requires brutality, and that racism makes for good politics”.

What is described above is sin. So “whatever became of sin”? Sin is still very real and unfortunately very present in society today. As Catholics and Christians, our task is to speak by our words and actions for moral goodness; for Gospel values have never been more critical. This season of Lent reminds us of our continuing need for conversion.

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