Fr. Tom Bartolomeo
The greater peril: the loss of religious freedom or the loss of religion? (Part 4)
A house divided against itself can not stand
By Fr. Tom Bartolomeo
March 1, 2013

The Catholic Church has stood more than two millennia. Were it to 'fall' it would have happened long ago suffering as it did numerous schisms and scandals especially those in the ecclesial offices of the Church. Ordinary logic could make the case that the Church should have disbanded except for Christ's promise that the "gates of hell would not prevail against it" ( Matthew 16, 18 ) and that Christ "would remain" in the Church " to the end of time."

( Matthew 28, 20 ). The first Pope denied Christ yet Jesus assured Peter, "Simon, Simon . . . Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."

( Luke 22, 30-32 ).

The Catholic Church as in other times chastened by its many scandals will in the end come through today's ordeals a stronger church. Where some in the Church have unlawfully concealed sexual abuses among the clergy these are now coming more into the light by a wounded and penitent Church but not expired and alive in the body of Christ who "died . . . once for all" for our sins. (Romans 6:10 ). Healing will come not in press releases but in a spirit of contrition and reform, a "sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. ( Psalm 51:17 ).

In his Letter to the Galatians Paul in his own words publically bore witness to a cancer in the early church,
    "When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him in public, because he was clearly wrong; before some men who were sent by James arrived, Peter had been eating with the Gentile believers. But after these men arrived, he drew back and would not eat with the Gentiles." ( Galatians 2, 11-12 )
Had Paul not reprimanded Peter the Church may have remained a cult of Judaism.

Today, traditional Catholic values have been so much compromised that many Americans including Catholics view same sex marriage and homosexuality as morally acceptable. Many may quietly acknowledge the immorality of homosexuality while disproportionately sympathizing with the 'rights' of the homosexual, a matter which is not lost on the public. Unfortunately, many erroneously accept the argument that the homosexual's 'orientation' is 'from birth,' an acceptable variable of genetics except there is no verifiable scientific or social science to prove the claim. Men and women are afflicted with many disorders, and homosexuality is one of them as is alcoholism, drug addiction and a number of other compulsive behaviors which can be controlled and cured. We are all afflicted with temptations of one sort or the other and many accept their ultimate responsibility for their behavior despite their inclinations. Rather than fatally acceding to any disorder – and there are many – no one needs to resign himself to his trials realizing that he does have the freedom to find the courage and grace to conquer his personal weaknesses. God's grace is 'enough' for each of us as it was for the Apostle Paul:
    a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me . . . . Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness."

    ( 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 ).
Consider, too, how we honor those who surmount great difficulties which in turn encourage us in our difficulties, and the demons we may face in our lives.

Let us acknowledge that the teachings of the Church maintain that the virtue of chastity is applicable in every station of life, married, single and professed. First, sexual attraction (or lack of sexual attraction ) is not in itself sinful, heterosexual, homosexual or non-existent. I do not pretend to be a medical scientist, but I can draw some reasonable conclusions from ordinary experience, one, that sexual desire usually precedes a decision and, two, that sexual desire is often enhanced by habit and fantasy. To what degree does a fertile imagination affect sexual desire or one's particular emotional state? How does one explain the confused emotional state of a rapist, for instance?

Many people claim that their overweight state is genetic although in highly controlled environments as in a weight loss camp – this seems not to be true. Today, the popular term for homosexuality is SSA, Same Sex Attraction, an attempt to deal with the phenomenon without prejudice. The assertion that homosexuality is genetic, that homosexuals are "born that way" has, however, been disavowed by leading physicians in the field who under political pressure had previously claimed that homosexuality was a genetic condition and unsubstantiated by any scientific evidence. A past president of the American Psychological Association, Dr. Nicholas Cummings, chronicled the history of the events leading to the now disputed claims of the APA in his book, Destructive Trends in Mental Health: The Well Intentioned Harm, as did Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, in his study, Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth.

Consider, too, the divided opinions of Catholics about divorce, the indissolubility of marriage and the all-too-ready availability of annulments which the Holy See has called into question, the American Church's 'disproportionate' response with annulments after divorce. Two thirds of all Catholic annulments world-wide occur in our country although we are only five percent of the world's Catholic population. Add to this the staggering acceptance of contraception and abortion among Catholics and the Church's silence for so long which compounds divisions within the Church. Much of this is complicated by the bureaucracy of the Church in America and its questionable entanglements in secular causes in the name of "social justice" and assistance to the poor, Catholic Relief Services and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. It is no coincidence that Pope Benedict 16th's recent Motu Proprio, December 1, 2012, "The Church's Deepest Nature" stated:

I intend to provide an organic legislative framework for the better overall ordering of the various organized ecclesial forms of the service of charity, which are closely related to the diaconal nature of the Church and the episcopal ministry.

More specifically, the Holy Father's addressed this need for reform stating in item 9, § 3:
    It is the duty of the diocesan Bishop and the respective parish priests to see that in this area the faithful are not led into error or misunderstanding; hence they are to prevent publicity being given through parish or diocesan structures to initiatives which, while presenting themselves as charitable, propose choices or methods at odds with the Church's teaching.
Finally, many in our society may have little or no interest in the teachings of the Catholic Church – except to criticize her failings, often rightly. The Church recalls, however, Christ's reassurance, "And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. ( Matthew 16:18 ).

Neither are we forgetful of Jesus' sobering admonition:
    "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. [And] Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. ( Matthew 7, 21-25 ).
© Fr. Tom Bartolomeo


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Fr. Tom Bartolomeo

I am the founder and director of the Families For Families Retreat House, a refuge for anyone who wants to rethink his or her life in a quiet non-demanding environment in an historic house c.1709 when life was less complicated. I am also and primarily a Catholic priest having been a college and university teacher, business-owner and executive among other things. I received my Bachelor's and Master's degrees in English literature from Saint John's University, Jamaica, New York and completed post-graduate studies at Kansas State University. Contact me at (Fr. Bartolomeo passed away on September 18, 2018. His obituary can be found here.)


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