“The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.” – Dante Alighieri
In the last few years, I have become increasingly aware of an interesting reality in Catholic parishes in the US (well, this could also be true in Catholic churches around the world, but I am most familiar with the US). The homilies delivered speak of hope, peace, love, and God’s Mercy. While these are important to remember since they are at the core of the nature of God and our Faith, there seems to be a well-intentioned omission of specific sins that are plaguing our society today. Our fallen nature is referenced to by only the generic term ‘sin’. If specific sins are referred to, they are only the lesser venial ones which would not raise any hackles.
While the clergy (and may I include a hesitancy on the part of parents as well) may have good intentions in avoiding the discussion of tough sins (to avoid offending people), the lack of reiterating the correct Church teaching on these subjects generates more confusion and ill feelings than goodwill. A great example in the US today is homosexuality and gay marriage. Frequently, the impression even among good Catholics is that the Church is against homosexuals, where in fact this is not an issue of the Church versus homosexuals. Rather it is of the Church educating her people about God’s ordination of the union of man and woman and about the sin of acting on homosexual impulses. In fact, any sexual engagement outside of marriage would be sinful. Without such clarifications, the only voices hailed are those speaking on behalf of making the Church more welcoming towards homosexuals, such as Fr. James Martin SJ, which perpetuates the cycle of uncertainty and division.
I enjoy the homilies in general and find them insightful and meaningful for my life, and I would not have had any issue with the omission of specific sins; however, I recently was introduced to the diary of Sister Josefa Menendez of the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a Spanish mystic of the 20th century, and I am now concerned for the souls around me and for my own.
In Sr. Josefa’s ‘Way of Divine Love‘, she describes her visions of Hell, and in one instance relates the tragedy of a 15 year old girl damned to Hell, who curses her parents for not instilling the fear of God in her or teaching her that Hell truly exists (March 22, 1923). Reading this reminded me of what the Venerable Fulton Sheen once said:
“Moral principles do not depend on a majority vote. Wrong is wrong, even if everybody is wrong. Right is right, even if nobody is right.”
In addition to the grievous sins present in the world – from vanity, greed, and lust to extramarital relations, homosexual activity, euthanasia, and abortion – I realized and do believe that it does not matter whether we or our society recognizes our behavior as sinful. What constitutes sin or not is an objective reality. And consequently, it is important that we are instructed and reminded about the nature of our sins and the reasons they offend God. God is Mercy and Love; but we must first have knowledge of our sins and their gravity in order to have true contrition for them and humbly ask for His pardon. Without instruction and admonishment from others, we are deprived of the opportunity to repent and receive His forgiveness.
This brings me to my main point. The priests and religious, in the U.S. at least, must not fear offending people by telling their flock the Truth, the hard Truth. It may be a bitter pill to swallow but medicine is always bitter. The Church should not avoid sensitive topics to keep people from being offended and leaving. For in not doing so, souls are being lost. The Gospels tell us that when Jesus taught hard truths about the nature of God and the Eucharist, many of his followers left Him. But that did not deter Him.
The existence of ‘Catholics for Choice’ – a group which promotes the destruction of life in blatant disregard for the Church’s stance on the most basic and fundamental right, that of life – is a disturbing example of the mortal danger that many souls are in. The Church must point out and condemn these organizations because silence is often misinterpreted as approval and so that good people are not misled through ignorance. As the ‘YouCat’ states, “whoever participates in an abortion, forces a woman to undergo an abortion, or merely advises her to do so is automatically excommunicated…” (pg. 208). Consequently, it is imperative that our Mother Church instructs the Body of Christ of the evil present in the world and the peril in which it places our souls.
I look to the Catholic Church and her representatives, who are charged with the salvation of souls, to align my free will with God’s teachings because there is no other person or entity qualified to do so. In 21 years, 8 parishes, 3 states, and 2 countries, I can only recall two homilies in which a priest openly condemned abortion or any other specific and grievous sin. Of course, priests must be sensitive when they broach such topics, since they must be handled with compassion and love. Yet, please recall: Hate the sin but love the sinner. Talk about sins we must if we are to love the sinner. The Sunday homily is quite often the last remaining stronghold for most Catholic families to receive instruction about the faith.
Therefore, I urge the beautiful men and women, religious and lay, who devote themselves to God to take heart and be encouraged. There is a need and a desire to be instructed in the Truth and in the Faith. It is time to remember, to hold on to, and to teach our core values so that neither our identity as Catholic Christians, nor our salvation, is lost. If our Church does not insist on the unique Revelation that has been entrusted to her, then there is nothing significant to distinguish her from other denominations and there is no attraction to the Church established by Christ Himself. I and many others ask you, the leaders of our beloved Church, to show us how to stand for and persevere in what we believe, just as Jesus did, His Apostles, the early Christians, Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis, little Charlie Gard’s parents, and our persecuted Christian brethren throughout the world have.
Idilla Speraggio is an American student entering her final year of undergraduate studies. Besides her devotion to God, the Roman Catholic Church, and her family and friends, she is passionate about learning, traveling, and experiencing new things.