Saturday, September 11, 2010

Using "Liberalism" in Politics and the Church II

Using "Liberalism" in Politics and in the Church continued:

More than any other pope, St. Pius X understood the spiritual, moral and political implications of liberalism. As such, he wrote extensively about it in order that Catholics and people everywhere would see the threat that it posed. His efforts did bear fruit. As late as the 1940's the U.S. Catholic Bishops became increasingly alarmed at the rising tides of Secular-liberalism. In 1948, the Archbishop of Baltimore, Francis P. Keough, wrote: "It has become a matter of grave concern to many Americans that a rising tide of secularism threatens the traditional foundations on which human life in America has always been based."

Nevertheless, as the 1960's drew nearer, secularism was seen less and less as a threat, even within the Church. The Shepherds of the flock, who are also called to be "Watchmen," viewed secularism (which is interchangeable with liberalism) more favorably; something that could be reconciled with Catholicism. But this was a departure from the past. If the drop in Mass attendance, priestly and religious vocations, and the number of closed parochial schools are any indication, it would suggest that liberalism (or secularism) is more of a foe than a friend of Jesus Christ. It does not gather, it scatters!

Pope Paul VI said in 1972 that the "Smoke of Satan" has entered the Church. With smoke, there is spiritual and moral disorientation. This smoke would linger on for at least another thirty five years. Several decades prior to Paul VI's statement, Pope St. Pius X, as a Cardinal, identified that smoke and explained to his clergy how it might be dealt with. He said, "Catholic 'Liberals' are wolves in lambs clothing; hence any priest worthy of the name must unmask for the faithful confided to his care their insidious plotting, their unholy design. You shall be called papists, clericals, retrogressives, intransigents. Be proud of it!"

These words from the saintly pontiff might come across to the modern day Catholic as being alarmist, unloving or lacking compassion. Maybe this is our problem. We have become so soft that it is impolite to even admit that the Church has enemies. Since there is no one to fight, it follows there is no "Good Fight" to be fought. So much for the New Testament. There, the fight between good and evil is graphically illustrated.

Words like sin, hell, and yes, liberalism, have become taboo words for conversation; even among Catholics. We can continue to avoid these words and thus speak partial truths; or we can use the language of Scripture and papal encyclicals. After all, language mediates truth. When language is altered or words fall into disuse, our perception of reality suffers. The term "liberalism" conveys a truth; a truth not only about politics, but about morality and faith. If several popes chose to write about it, maybe we shouldn't discourage its use.

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