It is not easy to be a Christian. To be perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect, is a directive that should instill both awe and humility into its hearers. Likewise, commandments to love our neighbors and pray for our enemies are also tall orders, which, without the grace of God, would be almost impossible to obey.
As difficult as Christian living is, it’s harder still to be a Catholic. Though the Holy Church is a gift and a blessing from God and ultimately, a gateway to eternal life, its ways are never easy, nor were they promised to be. Besides the ridicule heaped on Catholics for obedience to the Chair of Peter in Rome, the Church also faces daily charges of homophobia, misogyny and any number of modern moral maladies in regards to its teaching.
Every Sunday, the faithful profess a belief in “one holy, Catholic and apostolic Church,” which means that “she continues to be taught, sanctified, and guided by the apostles until Christ’s return, through their successors in pastoral office: the college of bishops, ‘assisted by priests, in union with the successor of Peter, the Church’s supreme pastor.'” (Catechism of the Catholic Church: 857)
Yet as hard as it is to follow the teachings, or Magisterium, of the Church, it is also a voluntary act; although one who is baptized in the Faith and abandons it does so at great peril to his immortal soul. This is not to say that one’s faith should be of a blind, unquestioning type — it is hard to conceive that a God who gave us free will and reason would desire that — but if a Catholic does have legitimate questions of conscience he should be “guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church.” (CCC: 1785)
Lent is a special time of repentance for all Catholics and so it was with curiosity that I happened to tune in to Hannity & Colmes last Friday night to see graphics that read, “Resent or Repent” and “Priest questions whether Sean is a good Catholic.” What followed was an exchange between Sean Hannity and Father Thomas Euteneuer of Human Life International.
The dispute centered on Mr. Hannity’s public endorsement of artificial birth control and Fr. Euteneuer’s charge that he is a “heretic” because he claims to be a Catholic in good standing while rejecting the significant moral teaching of the Catholic Church on the subject. What followed really wasn’t pleasant.
From the start, Hannity was clearly perturbed and this was evident in his refusal to address Euteneuer by the title of “Father,” as would any good Catholic under ordinary circumstances. He then delivered a rapid series of questions intimating that Fr. Euteneuer should not “judge” him without knowing his religious background, as if that had anything to do with the controversy.
Indeed it did not, as Fr. Euteneuer tried to explain, but Hannity, avoiding the actual subject, then launched into a superfluous tirade on the Church’s “corruption” and “sex scandal.” He delivered a lecture ending with a cryptic comment along the lines that the priest should feel lucky that the Church still had worshippers; which was for this Catholic, clearly the most offensive part of the segment. As if there should be a quid pro quo between them and Mother Church or that the Bride of Christ must bargain with them for their faith.
As badly as Fr. Euteneuer’s charge of heresy may have stung, Hannity’s response was no less scathing. One is not accustomed to hearing a self-professed “devout Catholic” address a member of the clergy — albeit one who was attempting to correct a grievous moral error — in such an angry manner. Yet, at no time did Fr. Euteneuer raise his voice or lose his temper.
But not only would Hannity not admit that his stance was tantamount to scandal, he then sought to correct the good father by suggesting: “Actually if you want to get technical here the Catholic Church does support a form of birth control, a natural method of birth control, is that not correct, sir?”
Things then got ugly as Fr. Euteneuer questioned the depth of Hannity’s understanding of the issues as he tried to explain the difference between the Church’s teaching on Natural Family Planning, which is open to life, and artificial birth control, which is most decidedly not.
Had he had the opportunity, he might have quoted official doctrine: “The Church also has affirmed the illicitness of contraception…because every marital act (is) intentionally rendered unfruitful.” One cannot, no matter how they twist it, say the same of what the Church calls “periodic continence.”
Once again, this introduction of the actual subject of Euteneuer’s accusation was met with a harangue on the woes of the Church, this time suggesting that those who disdain both abortion and artificial birth control are not facing “reality.” As Sean Hannity must surely know, the sad realities of this life and the way in which we must overcome them are the reasons our Savior established His Church on Earth.
The narrow gate spoken of by our Lord grows harder to enter as years go by, yet practicing Catholics believe that walking in total faith with Mother Church is their best chance. Why? Because regardless of the sins of the mortal men who have represented her throughout the centuries, the gates of Hell shall not prevail against her.
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