Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke continues to shine as a beacon of hope for the faithful during these days of trepidation. As the Extraordinary Synod on the Family continues, Catholics are hearing a steady drumbeat of self-styled reformers calling for “pastoral solutions”, “less offensive language” and the revisiting of “alleged interpretations of dogma” in an effort to respond to the difficulties facing families today. Despite the media hype focusing on the divorced and civilly remarried, or ministerial outreach to the LGBT “community”, most faithful are aware that the real challenges facing the family are of a much more fundamental nature.
Interviewed on Monday by Vatican Radio, Cardinal Burke was asked what he believed the three biggest challenges to the family were today. As we have come to expect from him, the good Cardinal responded with his usual (and we might add refreshing) candor and clarity.
“One of the biggest challenges is the defective catechesis in the Roman Catholic Church—I can speak from my experience in the United States—for the past 40 to 50 years. Children and young people are not well catechized with regard to marriage. Coupled with that is the recent entrance of a so-called “gender theory” that alienates human sexuality from its essentially conjugal meaning. This is now being brought into schools along with the advancement of the homosexual agenda. This is a big challenge for families. It is only in the family that the true sense of who we are as man and woman is taught effectively both by the example of the father and mother, but also in catechesis to amplify that and assist the parents in the fuller teaching of the faith. So this is one major difficulty.”
In other words, the post conciliar Church has failed to teach that most foundational of concepts-the Christian family. Two generations catechized with coloring books and word searches has taken its toll upon the Faith. This “defective catechesis” was further reinforced by the subversive and destructive acceptance of contraception by both clergy and laity alike. With the procreative aspect of the conjugal act separated from the unitive, christian marriages have become only shadows of their true meaning and purpose.
“Obviously too, we are dealing with a culture, at least in the West, which is totally secularized and therefore denatured. When God is no longer taken into account, and His plan for creation is no longer considered… Instead, we have the pretense to decide for ourselves the meaning of our own lives and the meaning and destiny of our world, the family suffers first and foremost. The family today has to be especially alert to the subtle influences of the secularized culture, what St. John Paul II once called the Godless culture, especially its insinuation into the lives of the members of the family and the family itself, through the mass media and above all through the Internet and the horrible reality of pornography on the Internet, which is causing so much damage to families. The second big challenge to families is secular society itself and the challenge to Christian families today to be countercultural.“
This is an assessment that seems so obvious that one wouldn’t think it necessary to qualify or defend. An authentically Catholic family today is counter-cultural by its very nature and values. The family in post-christian America does well to remember Our Lord’s admonition, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (Jn 15:18). Cardinal Burke and other orthodox prelates like him understand this.
“A third challenge is the whole question of marriage itself and the effective presentation of the Church’s teaching about marriage, which in fact is also known by reason. Marriage is part of our human nature and therefore it is taught by natural law. Faith illumines reason and helps to see the truth in all its richness. So, we need to help especially young people when they are at the age where one is preparing for marriage to see marriage itself as a beautiful call, a way to eternal salvation—not only to their happiness now on earth—and to assist them in every way we can. I think if we have a good catechesis for children and for young people it will be easier to reach them with the message of the Church, the message of reason and faith with regard to marriage as they come into their young adult years.”
Amen and thank you Cardinal Burke.
Brian Williams is a convert who entered the Catholic Church in 2006. He is a graduate of Long Beach State University with a BA in History. Brian blogs on life, liturgy and the pursuit of holiness at liturgyguy.com. He lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with his wife and five children.