The Catholic Church Is A Loser Because It Is Out of Step?

In its "Winners and Losers" section, Time Magazine last spring listed the director of a film about pornographer Larry Flint as a winner because he received an award in Europe despite France’s ban against advertising the movie. An item in the "Losers" column across from that listing: "THE VATICAN: The church condemns ads that shock, titillate and tempt—but will Calvin Klein listen?" The message couldn’t have been clearer. The Catholic Church is a loser because it is out of step with a culture that promotes and glorifies pornography.

The church has to be a sign of contradiction, a prophetic voice, warning if not admonishing when necessary. Twenty-five years ago, the U.S. bishops made just such a prophetic statement when they called for an end of the threat and stockpiling of nuclear weapons. This was an unpopular position, and they were considered out of step with the mainstream of political feelings even among many fellow Catholics. Today, few would disagree that for the world to have continued that course would have been sheer lunacy.

The Catholic Church has long been out step with the rest of the nation in claiming that the debate over abortion is not about fetuses but about killing human beings. Now even abortion proponents admit that crushing babies skulls in the process of being born is far from the fiction the abortion industry uses to mask the terrible tragedy of its trade.

Our critics have been asking when the Catholic Church will catch up with the rest of the world and become open to the notion of physician-assisted suicide. Where I live in the city of Boston, the media have been reporting a rash of suicides among young teenagers. During one period, a month or so ago, teen suicides in one neighborhood seemed to be happening at the rate of one or two a week. Schools canceled classes to offer counseling to depressed classmates of students who had hanged themselves at home with their belts or jumped to their deaths.

Everyone began asking why? Well, why not? The adult world is sending our kids a signal. Suicide is just another means of escaping from problems. "It’s OK," adults are saying, in effect, to a whole generation of youngsters. "We’ll even make it legal and provide professionals to show you how to die by your own hand when the time comes." Was the Church out of step, or right on the mark in warning never to open that door? It’s becoming obvious that the Church was right.

We are also thought to be lagging, holding out against the progress of science, because of our strong warnings about the dangers of cloning and genetic engineering. Suddenly, as science comes closer to a workable technique for cloning a human being, the Church’s warnings no longer sound hollow to many who’ve begun to consider the consequences.

Now in the face of the unanimous decision of a jury and overwhelming public support for sentencing to death the Oklahoma City bombers, the Catholic Church has taken this latest public moral position, one that could be the most unpopular of all. Some will call us losers because of our stand against capital punishment. However, once again, society is out of step, not the Church.

Fr. Shmaruk is the Pastor of Saint Columbkille Parish in Brighton, Ma. His article first appeared in THE PRIEST, September 1997. Used with Permission.