The Church’s influence even in Catholic countries continues to shrink

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Respect for human life experienced two serious setbacks as 2020 came to an end, and each occurred in a very unexpected place.

Spain’s Cortes, or parliament, moved toward legalizing euthanasia, the practice by which a third party decides the end a person’s life. (Euthanasia is gaining ground in Europe. God forbid, but it may gain acceptance in this country, perhaps before long.)

The Church’s position on the matter is abundantly clear. Yet, members of the Cortes voted for it. At present, about nine Spaniards out of every 10, identify as Catholic. Using this figure as a standard, it may be assumed that 90% of the members of the Cortes claim to be Catholics. If not 90%, the number still is overwhelming.

How could Catholics support such a move? Why did thy ignore, or defy, the widely publicized Catholic judgment about euthanasia, while saying that they belong to the Church?

Quite likely, Spanish law soon will permit euthanasia. Enactment will require approval of the action in the Cortes by Spain’s head of state, King Felipe VI, a practicing Catholic. His consent is anticipated.

Then, in Argentina, the Congress legalized abortion on demand. Roughly speaking, nine out of 10 Argentinians declare themselves to be Catholics. By the law of averages, it must be assumed that the same equation applies in the Argentinian Congress; however, the act to allow abortion passed.

(Opponents of legalized abortion, including and led by the country’s hierarchy, are to be complimented. Because of their strong opposition, they kept this day from coming for years. Before he was pope, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, led the charge against legal abortion. The devotion of the opponents of abortion is to be commended.)

Still, abortion will now be legal in Catholic Argentina. It is hard to believe. The country’s president supports legal abortion, as did his predecessor, who identifies herself as a Catholic.

The realities of euthanasia and abortion are horrible enough in themselves, but they reach another level when it is considered that they are symptoms of a broader, and very insidious, problem.

Membership in, or identification with, the Church no longer means, for more and more people, acceptance of Church teaching. Religion in general is becoming so intensely personal and individual that formal Church doctrine is just another opinion. Membership in the Church is about feeling good, like sipping a cup of hot chocolate on a cold day.

If the plight of Protestant Christianity suggests the future — and, please, God, it does not — this attitude will spread among Catholics. It will have bad results not just for individuals but for society.

Catholics, apparently across the world, need to think hard about what the Church is, and what they are, as Catholics and as humans.

Membership in the Church reflects the earnest belief that the Church alone possesses the message preached by Jesus, and human beings need that message for their own good and for the communities that they inhabit. Church teaching has been a treasure. Humans by themselves have made so many mistakes.

A reporter asked a prominent American, of Italian descent, coincidentally, why he was a Catholic. The man replied: “I first connected with the Church by birth. My parents brought me into the Church. As I matured, I became a member of the Church by choice. Its teachings made sense. Now, I know fully my need for it. It is mine. God has given it to me. My connection now with the Church is my love for it.”

This article comes to you from OSV Newsweekly (Our Sunday Visitor) courtesy of your parish or diocese.

 

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