by Christian Ohnimus Wednesday, September 25
Hadley Arkes over at The Catholic Thing has volunteered a harsh rebuttal to the recent interview with Pope Francis. The Pope’s statement upon which Arkes centers his attack goes as follows: “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods.” The Pope goes on to explain that these issues must not be pushed as a “disjointed multitude of doctrines” but as part of the wholeness of truth and within the context of the Church’s central teaching which Pope Francis explains: “The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you.” That is the source spring and everything else the Church teaches is downstream of this fundamental truth. Thus, in being docile to the truth, and thereby to God, we must always lead with that central truth. Jesus died for us, unworthy sinners, so that we may be raised up in new life. He loves us and His love grants us inviolable dignity as human persons. All else, including issues such as abortion, must follow this and never preempt or eclipse it.
Arkes takes umbrage with this notion. After lamenting the tremendous loss of human life to abortion he asks, “if that issue were to be placed, as the Holy Father says, in the proper “balance” of things, what other issues would be given an offsetting, higher weight?” While the question may be meant to be rhetorical: of course no issue is of higher weight than abortion! Pope Francis provides the answer as we have already seen: The proclamation of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection and our subsequent salvation.
Arkes says he is “afraid” that, despite the Pope’s affirmation of Church teaching regarding abortion, contraception, and gay “marriage”, that those who approve of such sins will know what he “really means.” He is afraid that if the Church is seen as basing its stance on abortion on religious doctrine instead of embryology then the issue will become mere “personal belief” that we cannot impose on others. In short, Arkes is afraid of what others will think but that is not a valid critique. Isaiah 41:10 tells us not to be afraid: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Pope Francis stated that, “the proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives.” Should we try to hide the saving love of God lest our words be distorted by others or we are seen as unscientific? Or should we let the truth speak for itself? Docility to the truth demands boldness. We must cast our fear aside and proclaim the Gospel.
While we must be vigilant in the battle against abortion we cannot oppose even the darkest evil at the expense of our greatest truth. So often so-called “pro-lifers” fail to extend the concept of inviolable human dignity to those outside the womb for the simple reason that the proclamation of Christ’s salvation for all persons becomes subordinate to opposition to abortion. The world sees and they do not forget.
Opposing the basest evil of mankind (abortion) does not make you a good person, a good Catholic or pro-life. That is the lowest rung in the ladder to something far greater. To stand on the first rung and to declare the supremacy of your position over the stinking cesspool of inhumanity inches below is to subject yourself to the judgment of the infinite span above. Pope Francis’ declaration to first seek the wholeness of truth, to live a life in accordance with Christ and to recognize and express that all human beings are loved calls us to take the next step. To transcend above the first rung, to do more than simply call a bad thing bad but to first call a good thing good. To denounce evil means nothing without a greater and more expansive embrace of the good. Unless we recognize something as good then we can call nothing bad because our opposition of evil can only be in service to the good or our efforts are in vain. We must oppose abortion, contraception and gay “marriage” but only in the service of the far greater message: Christ died for our sins out of love and each and every one of us are of infinite worth to Him.
Pope Francis seeks to introduce the God of Love to a world whose experience has been comprised mostly of pain and sorrow. Merely telling the wounded that they are sick and it’s their fault will not heal them but exposing them to the truth of God’s love can. Only then can we expect the world to change.
Christian Ohnimus is a registered nurse in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He holds a Bachelors of Science in Nursing from Franciscan University. He is a contributor to The Porch and The Catholic Renaissance.