Tag Archives: conscience

Homily Nativity of St. John the Baptist (June 24, 2012): Church v. State, Religious Liberty & Conscience

Fr. Dwight P. Campbell, S.T.D.

This Sunday we celebrate the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. We do so because this feast is a solemnity, and when it falls on Sunday it replaces the normal Sunday Mass.

 Why does the Church celebrate the Nativity of St. John the Baptist in such a grand way? Well, he was the bridge between the Old and New Testaments, and the great prophet who prepared the way for Jesus Christ by preaching a baptism of repentance.  As St. Luke’s Gospel relates, John the Baptist’s conception and birth were foretold by the Archangel Gabriel to Zechariah, his father.  Also, as St. Augustinenotes, the birth of St. John the Baptist falls around the summer equinox, when the days begin to grow shorter. This leads up to the glorious Birth of Our Lord Christ, around the winter equinox, when the days begin to grow longer because Christ, the True Light, has entered the world.

 We could say thatSt.John the Baptist is a timely figure for today. He was beheaded because he spoke out against the local ruler, King Herod Antipas, telling him that it was wrong for him to have married his brother’s wife, Herodias.

The persecution of those who speak the truth and follow their conscience has been a reality both before and after the coming of Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament, kings persecuted and put to death the prophets who told them what they did not want to hear.

In New Testament times government authorities have persecuted members of the Church throughout the centuries. For the first 300 years after Christ most of the pagan rulers put to death Christians who refused to abandon their belief in Jesus. It was not until Emperor Constantine in the early fourth century that Christianity was allowed to flourish without persecution. 

But in the Middle Ages the Church still encountered problems with Catholic kings over issues such as who had the authority to appoint bishops or discipline clergy: the Pope or the King? St. Thomas Becket was put to death by King Henry II for asserting the rights of the Church against the King.  By the way, one of my favorite movies is Becket, with Richard Burton playing Beckett and Peter O’Toole playing Henry II, who I think steals the show.

This past Friday we celebrated the feast of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More, both of whom were put to death under King Henry VIII. The Pope had refused to grant Henry VIII an annulment with his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, which Henry wanted in order to marry Catherine Boleyn, so Henry declared himself head of the Church in England rather than the Pope in order to have his way, and he required everyone to swear an oath recognizing him as head of the Church.

St. John Fisher was the only Bishop who refused to take the oath and he was beheaded. Likewise, St. Thomas More refused to take the oath. More had been the King’s close friend, and Lord Chancellor of England. As a good lawyer he was careful to tell no one why he would not take the oath. He would only say that taking the oath would violate his conscience.

The movie A Man for All Seasons – another one of my favorite movies – portrays a powerful scene in which St. Thomas More, played by Paul Schofield, appears before Cardinal Wolsey and others who are pressuring him to take the oath, “for fellowship,” because all the other government officials have taken the oath. St. Thomas responds: “For fellowship? When we die and stand before God, and you are sent to paradise for following your conscience, and I am damned for not following mine, will you join me, for ‘fellowship’?”

By the way, A Man for All Seasons won the Academy award for best picture in 1966. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth renting.

Now we fast forward to the 20th century. In that century there were more martyrs who were put to death and shed their blood for Christ than in all previous centuries combined. This was due to governments that opposed the Catholic Faith like the formerSoviet UnionandChinawhich promoted atheistic communism.

I’m going to read now an oath required of public school teachers:

“I, before the Federal Board of Education, solemnly declare without any reservation whatever, to accept the program of the Socialist School and to be its propagandist and defender; I declare myself an atheist, an irreconcilable enemy of the Roman, Apostolic, Catholic religion, and that I will exert my efforts to destroy it, . . . I likewise declare myself ready to . . . attack the Roman, Apostolic, Catholic religion wherever it manifests itself;  also I will not permit in my home any religious practices of any kind whatever, nor will I permit any images; lastly, I will not permit any of my household to take part in any religious act whatever.” (Published in La rensa 2/23/1935).

In what country do you think this oath was required? CommunistRussia, orChina? No – this oath was required for teachers in theMexicanStateof Yukatan, in 1935.

There is a movie recently released called For Greater Glory which portrays the Cristero War in the 1920’s. During most of the twentieth century the Mexican government was controlled by Freemasons who hated the Catholic Church. In the mid-1920’s the president, Plutarco Calles, a Freemason and a socialist, tried to eradicate the Catholic Faith. OnAug. 1, 1926 all Catholic churches were ordered to be closed. Priests were put to death for offering Mass publicly, and in some areas in Mexico there was not one Catholic priest to be found – all were either killed or forced to flee.

Faithful Catholics – who called themselves Cristeros – took up arms against the government to fight for and defend their Catholic Faith and their families. The movie For Greater Glory shows that the Cristeros were successful in many battles, and basically forced the government to ease the persecution against the Church.  The movie is still be playing at some local theaters. It’s very well done, although many of the critics did not like it, I think, because it is too Catholic. The movie has a number of stars: e.g., Andy Garcia plays the Cristero general, Eva Longoria plays his wife, and Peter O’Toole plays a Catholic priest who was put to death for the faith.

You can look up on the Internet to see how many martyrs have been either beatified or canonized from this era of Mexican persecution of the Faith.

Finally, we come to the present-dayUnited States. The Obama administration has initiated a Department of Health and Human Services mandate which requires Catholic institutions to pay for health insurance which includes abortion-causing drugs, contraception and sterilization – services which the Church, and we as Catholics, in conscience cannot support as these involve intrinsic evils.

In a statement issued in late May, the U.S. bishops say that Catholics should be prepared to engage in civil disobedience if the HHS mandate is not rescinded. “Some unjust laws impose such injustices on individuals and organizations that disobeying the laws may be justified,” say the bishops. “Every effort must be made to repeal them. When fundamental human goods, such as the right of conscience, are at stake, we may need to witness to the truth by resisting the law and incurring its penalties.”

The bishops go on to say: “For the first time in our history, the federal government will force religious institutions to fund and facilitate coverage of a drug or procedure contrary to their moral teaching, and purport to define which religious institutions are ‘religious enough’ to merit an exemption.”

In a recent letter, Archbishop Jerome Listecki says: “We will not permit any government entity or group to restrict the practice of our faith to worship services. Additionally, we will reject any attempts to remove religion from the marketplace of society or attempts to define who we are as faith communities. This is our God-given right, protected by the Constitution.”

The bishops in theUnited Stateshave urged us to participate in a spiritual response to this injustice, what they are calling a “Fortnight of Freedom.” For fourteen days, from June 21 to July 4, Independence Day, we are asked to pray and fast that this government mandate may be rescinded. I have a suggestion for a way to participate in this “Fortnight of Freedom” – to pray a Rosary each of these 14 days that remain; and to fast between meals, eating nothing between our three main meals of the day.

Finally, let us call upon the Blessed Virgin Mary, Patroness of our nation under her glorious title, the Immaculate Conception. O Mary, you who from your conception were preserved free from all stain of Original Sin and filled with grace, intercede for our country that the rights of religious liberty and freedom of conscience may be respected!

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Homily, Second Sunday of Advent 2010

 Fr. Dwight Campbell, S.T.D., St. Thomas More Church, Chicago, IL

In the season of Advent, Holy Church asks that we contemplate the two comings of Christ:  His First Coming, in the humility, when the Eternal Word became flesh and was born of the Virgin Mary, in order one day to offer his life on the Cross and to redeem us from our sins; and His Second Coming, when at the end of the world He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, as we profess in the Symbol of our Faith, the Creed. 

We know neither the day nor the hour when the Son of Man will return, but Jesus warns us to be always watchful and vigilant; and Jesus, like Saints Peter and Paul in their epistles, give us warning signs to know when the end of the world is coming and when the son of perdition, the Antichrist, will make his appearance. For example, we are told that as the world’s end approaches, men’s hearts will grow cold, that there will occur a great apostasy or falling away from the faith, and that people, with itching ears, will run after and embrace all types of false teachings.

Recent events throughout the world, in our nation, and particularly in our own State of Illinois, make me wonder whether we are, indeed, coming closer to the end.

Back in the 1950s a movie was produced, “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” It was a science fiction story about aliens who invade our planet. The aliens take over people’s bodies – or make replicas of people’s bodies (I can’t recall exactly) – so that one’s friends, neighbors and fellow workers appear to be the people one knows, but in fact they are aliens who are using people’s bodies, in disguise. By speaking with them you would know something was not right, not normal; they spoke and acted in a creepy manner, as if they were being programmed.

Well, this is how I feel, and I’m sure many of you as well, in our encounters with friends and acquaintances in our present time. Can anyone imagine, even fathom, 20 or 30 years ago, that a majority of people would advocate and see nothing wrong with homosexual unions, and be in favor of laws in which the state gives legal recognition to such unions, placing them on equal footing with marriage? If someone 20 or 30 years ago said this would happen, you’d think they were crazy, that they were uttering nonsense. And yet, this has happened in many countries throughout the world, in many states in our own country, and, just this past week, it happened here in Illinois. 

The local newspapers this week reported that polls show that 57% of people favor or see nothing wrong with so-called same-sex unions. And haven’t we all encountered relatives and friends whom we thought we knew well, who think likewise? It’s as if their minds have been taken over by alien spirits – I would submit, not alien spirits, but spirits from below!

Francis Cardinal George penned an article a couple of weeks ago explaining why such laws should never be enacted:  “Everyone has a right to marry, but no one has the right to change the nature of marriage,” he said, and, “the public understanding of marriage will be negatively affected by passage of a bill that ignores the natural fact that sexual complementarity is at the core of marriage” (Chicago Sun-Times, 11/23/10, p. 16).

We may wonder why people fail to see the inherent evil in such legislation. I’ll tell you why.  First of all, people’s minds have been numbed by watching television shows such as “Will and Grace” for the past 15 years; their consciences have been deadened by the popular culture. The second reason is contraception and sterilization:  if sexual activity is purely for pleasure rather than being ordered toward the procreation of new human life, then homosexual sodomy becomes just another option for sexual satisfaction.

Last week, Cardinal George personally telephoned a number of Catholic legislators in our state – some of them, I understand, he telephoned numerous times – before the vote was taken on Senate Bill 516; but, to no avail. The bill passed both houses.

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of the Springfield Diocese, the former auxiliary bishop here in Chicago, warned Gov. Quinn, who has yet to sign the bill into law, that “the Catholic Church does not support civil unions or other measures that are contrary to the natural moral law.”  Gov. Quinn responded, “I follow my conscience, . . . and my conscience is not kicking me in the shins today. . . . My religious faith animates me to support this bill” (Chicago Sun-Times, 12/12/10, p. 20).  I’d be willing to give the Governor a good kick in the shins if it would help to enlighten his conscience.

Gov. Quinn’s statements, and the other Catholic legislators who no doubt agree with him in supporting this legislation, reveal to us that they have no regard for the clear teachings of the Bible and the Church. To put it very simply, sodomy is a sin. This bill in the effect legalizes sodomy, gives it a stamp of approval, by legitimizing unions between two people of the same sex, and thus is a step toward redefining the God-given institution of marriage, which the State has no authority or power to do.

By voting in favor of this proposed law, these Catholics have committed a grave sin and have taken themselves out of communion with the Church; additionally, they have committed grave scandal, and as a result, they are out of a State of Grace and can no longer licitly receive Holy Communion – unless and until they publicly repent of their wrongdoing and renounce their actions in order to make reparation for the public scandal they have caused (per Raymond Cardinal Burke, Prefect, Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura).

Moreover, Gov. Quinn’s statement about “following his conscience” reveals that he lacks a true understanding of what conscience is. Conscience is not “doing what ever I think is right.” Gov. Quinn has fallen into what Fr. John Hardon calls “the greatest demonic deception ever proposed to the human race,” a deception that many, if not most of the people in our modern age have embraced:  that “I” am the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong, that “I” will decide for myself what is good and what is evil. This is really the original deception offered to our first parents, and the deception offered to people today:  “Here, eat this fruit, and you will become like gods! You, not God, not the Church, will decide what is right and wrong!”

The truth is that conscience is not “doing whatever I want to do, whatever I think is right.” Conscience is not an act of the will; rather, conscience is a judgment of the intellect, whereby we applied the moral law, as revealed in the Bible and as taught by Jesus Christ and His Church, to the circumstances at hand. For example, I know that the Bible and the Church teach that homosexual sodomy is a gravely sinful, and that marriage is designed by God to be a union between a man and a woman for life that is ordered toward both uniting the husband and wife in love and the procreation of new human life; therefore, I cannot vote for any law which would legalize and give approval to homosexual sodomy and attempt to put same-sex unions on par with marriage.

Gov. Quinn’s statement reveals that either:  1) his conscience is malformed on this issue and that he is ignorant of the Catholic Church’s teaching – which is highly doubtful considering that he attended Catholic schools and a Catholic university, at a time when they still taught the authentic Catholic Faith; or 2) he is being dishonest, and using the line “following my conscience” as an excuse for doing something that he thinks is politically expedient.

About 500 years ago, there was a high-ranking public official who was encouraged by friends and family members to do what was “politically expedient.” He refused to do so, and he died the king’s good servant, but God’s first. His name was Thomas More.

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