Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.
So the Presbyterian Church (USA) has voted to pretend that there is not only such a thing as gay "marriage" but that PCUSA members can undertake that pretense in PCUSA sanctuaries with PCUSA ministers facilitating the pretense. It has also voted down a measure that would have endorsed protections for infants born alive after a failed abortion, thereby effectively endorsing the worship of Moloch.
In fact, of course, there is no such thing as gay "marriage" and there is such a thing as the sanctity of human life. But because we live in a culture where consent is the sole criterion of the good, consequences are somebody else's problem. So as long as two (or more) consenting organisms (or one consenting organism and a roller coaster, warehouse or Eiffel Tower) declare that their relationship is a "marriage" then the rest of us are supposed to politely pretend along with them--despite the fact that this opens wide the door to any possible consenting social arrangement by any number, or combination, or age groups, or blood relations, being defined as "marriage" as well. Likewise, as long as the powerful consent to the death of the powerless, those in the thrall of the spirit of the age and not submissive to the Holy Spirit will go along.
It is piquant to watch a species of Christianity that, more than any other Protestant tradition, once emphasized the primacy of Scripture over human tradition and the sovereignty of God over the will of fallen man now capitulate so utterly and completely to ephemeral pop trendiness and the embrace of crimes directly counter to both. Calvin's corpse has been clocked at over 3000 RPM in its grave. It's a classic illustration of how truth cancer proceeds as a sect that latched on to some pieces of the Church's teaching five centuries ago and used that truth (of, for instance, God's sovereignty and the authority of Scripture) as a weapon to attack the rest of the Church's teaching now mutates into the opposite of itself. The story, of course, began this way:
Looking back on older religious crises, I seem to see a certain coincidence, or rather, a set of things too coincident to be called a coincidence After all, when I come to think of it, all the other revolts against the Church, before the Revolution and especially since the Reformation, had told the same strange story. Every great heretic had always exhibit three remarkable characteristics in combination. First, he picked out some mystical idea from the Church's bundle or balance of mystical ideas. Second, he used that one mystical idea against all the other mystical ideas. Third (and most singular), he seems generally to have had no notion that his own favourite mystical idea was a mystical idea, at least in the sense of a mysterious or dubious or dogmatic idea. With a queer uncanny innocence, he seems always to have taken this one thing for granted. He assumed it to be unassailable, even when he was using it to assail all sorts of similar things. The most popular and obvious example is the Bible. To an impartial pagan or sceptical observer, it must always seem the strangest story in the world; that men rushing in to wreck a temple, overturning the altar and driving out the priest, found there certain sacred volumes inscribed "Psalms" or "Gospels"; and (instead of throwing them on the fire with the rest) began to use them as infallible oracles rebuking all the other arrangements. If the sacred high altar was all wrong, why were the secondary sacred documents necessarily all right? If the priest had faked his Sacraments, why could he not have faked his Scriptures? Yet it was long before it even occurred to those who brandished this one piece of Church furniture to break up all the other Church furniture that anybody could be so profane as to examine this one fragment of furniture itself. People were quite surprised, and in some parts of the world are still surprised, that anybody should dare to do so.
Yet this is exactly what Calvin and his followers did--and the result in the course of time has been--as it has been for Mainline Protestantism generally--utter prostration to the culture while the fusty old Catholic Church, which Calvin decided five centuries ago had abandoned the gospel for the traditions of men, keeps plugging along proclaiming the Sacred Tradition of the apostles.
What's fascinating is how the PCUSA and similar bodies of that ilk can flatly contradict what they once affirmed, yet will adopt a new approach for rejecting the Church's teaching that will, as ever, make use of the Semi-Permeable Membrane of Protestantism. It works this way:
- If a thing is allowed by the Church but condemned by the Protestant, the demand is for an explicit text commanding it. So, for instance, Calvinism used to demand things like, “Where in the Bible do you find anyone asking us to pray to dead people? That’s just the Church imposing its purely human ideas on what Jesus came to say.”
- Conversely, if a thing is condemned by the Church, but permitted by the Protestant (say, gay "marriage" or infanticide) the demand is for an explicit text forbidding it ("Show me where Jesus said one word about not allowing gay marriage or abortion! That’s just the Church imposing its purely human ideas on what Jesus came to say.").
Heads they win, tails the Church loses.
Meanwhile, as Chesterton once remarked in wonder, "What again could this astonishing thing be like which people were so anxious to contradict, that in doing so they did not mind contradicting themselves?
Of course, not all Protestants buy this, and as the mainlines continue to bleed out due to outrageous betrayals of the gospel like this, the refugees stream in many directions as they flee such rubbish, and not a few of them head for Rome for the very simple reason that the Church goes on teaching what she always taught. We must make it our business to welcome them.