Sending the Words of St. John Paul II Down the Memory Hole
“The final battle between the Lord and the reign of Satan will be about marriage and the family.” Sister Lucia of Fatima
Cardinal Carlo Caffarra (Archbishop emeritus of Bologne) revealed the above quote from the visionary of Fatima during a radio interview nearly ten years ago. More recently the Cardinal made news as one of four authors of the dubia submitted to the Holy Father seeking clarification over portions of the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. For his defense of marriage and the family Cardinal Caffarro has been attacked by the media and even some of his brother bishops.
Even more disconcerting, however, is the ongoing assault we are seeing against the very words of Pope Saint John Paul II regarding marriage and life. Indeed, many of the teachings of the late pontiff are simply being sent down the memory hole.
We have seen this manifested with the continued effort to justify giving Holy Communion to those in adulterous relationships. On this very topic Pope St. John Paul was unambiguous in proclaiming the immutable teaching of the Church:
“However, the Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church’s teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.” (Familiaris Consortio 84)
For those bishops conferences and prelates who wish to change what cannot change, the words of St. John Paul II are best ignored. Send them down the memory hole.
Another recent example of this is the Holy Father’s urgent prayer intention for February, delivered during his Angelus address of February 5, 2017. Given to an audience gathered on the Italian Pro-Life Day, Pope Francis said:
“We carry forward the culture of life as the answer to the logic of rejection and demographic decline; we are close and together we pray for the children who are in danger of the interruption of pregnancy, as well as for persons who are at the end of life — every life is sacred! — so that no one is left alone and that love may defend the meaning of life.”
If the term “interruption of pregnancy” sounds familiar, it should. Those in the pro-life movement have heard these words before. It’s been the long-time dehumanizing language of the left. And the Church has condemned it for decades.
Just ten years ago the secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Angelo Amato told a gathering of chaplains:
“…abortion is called (by the media) ‘voluntary interruption of pregnancy‘ and not the killing of a defenceless human being, an abortion clinic is given a harmless, even attractive, name: ‘centre for reproductive health’ and euthanasia is blandly called ‘death with dignity’…”
However, it was Saint John Paul II’s condemnation of this language in his landmark encyclical Evangelium Vitae (1995) that is most noteworthy. Speaking boldly against the Culture of Death, he notes (emphasis mine):
“But today, in many people’s consciences, the perception of its gravity has become progressively obscured. The acceptance of abortion in the popular mind, in behaviour and even in law itself, is a telling sign of an extremely dangerous crisis of the moral sense, which is becoming more and more incapable of distinguishing between good and evil, even when the fundamental right to life is at stake. Given such a grave situation, we need now more than ever to have the courage to look the truth in the eye and to call things by their proper name, without yielding to convenient compromises or to the temptation of self-deception…Especially in the case of abortion there is a widespread use of ambiguous terminology, such as “interruption of pregnancy”, which tends to hide abortion’s true nature and to attenuate its seriousness in public opinion. Perhaps this linguistic phenomenon is itself a symptom of an uneasiness of conscience…” (EV 59)
Words matter. The manner in which we communicate matters. What we have heard from Rome for decades is a resounding rejection of abortion that boldly condemned sanitized and dehumanizing phrases such as the interruption of pregnancy when speaking of the taking of an innocent life. We heard the word abortion.
To be clear, no one is questioning the Holy Father’s pro-life beliefs. However, I would also hope that the bar hasn’t been lowered such that we get excited when a pope simply states his support for life.
What’s more important is the manner in which it is condemned. When the word (abortion) is left unspoken, or intentionally replaced with ambiguous language rejected previously by Rome itself, then we should all pause with concern. It doesn’t matter whether it’s 2017, 2007, or 1995.
As the Church continues to fight this rapidly escalating, supernatural, battle against Satan in defense of marriage and the family, she would do well to listen to the prophetic words of Pope St. John Paul, rather than sending them down the memory hole.