The Catholic life is a unity of reason, truth, faith, and morals. It’s a beautiful, challenging, transcendent life. It’s a life of which people are in desperate need of today.
By Deacon Frederick Bartels
17 July 2019
It’s often said that Christianity is not primarily about following a set of moral propositions, codes, and rules; it’s about a saving, transforming relationship with the Person of Christ. Living as a Catholic is about living a restored, recreated life in Christ and through his Spirit. It’s a life lived consciously in the presence of God, in communion with the almighty Creator and Sustainer of the physical universe, of all things visible and invisible. It’s a life with meaning and purpose that is intentionally directed toward attainment of the human person’s predestined end: perfect happiness in union with the Tripersonal God.
The Catholic life in Christ is a life immersed in the Church. It’s a life of richness—glory even—with all its philosophical, theological, and spiritual trappings tracing back twenty-plus centuries. It’s a life of public worship and saving sacraments; it’s participation in the Holy Mass through which Christ offers his sacrifice and our redemption is completed; it’s a life directed by and in harmony with the gospel; it’s a life attentive to the truth and in conformity with it; it’s an intellectual life of reason—intelligible, rational, guided and elevated by the virtue of faith.
It’s a truly sane way to live. It’s the fullness of human living. It’s completeness.
It’s remarkable. It’s astonishing. Think about it: living in communion with God? Becoming one with Christ? Being filled with God as a temple of the Holy Spirit? Receiving in the Eucharist the flesh and blood of the glorified Lord himself into one’s own body? Sharing in the divine nature of God? Reason elevated by the gift of faith? Divinization? All these are to be Catholic.
And There’s More
Catholicism is a wild life on an indescribably wild journey. There is both supernaturally infused joy, which the world can never know nor understand, and sadness, which the world knows all too well. There is death followed by life; loss leading into restoration. It’s the experience of a thunderstorm followed by the unforgettable smell of a wetted-pine forest, sunlight scattered off jeweled orbs suspended from darkened trees. It’s hurricanes, wind, floods, and pounding avalanches under force of persecution. Disciples find themselves in a fierce war of light and dark, resounding with the clash of swords and battle cries, a bloody field upon which good and evil thunder. At its completion, the victors raise the banner of God’s glory while the defeated go off to eternal damnation.
It’s a serious life that must be taken seriously. The stakes are very, very high.
Few people are interested in the Catholic life, in really living it to the full. Why? Some fear it, for it requires that change called “repentance” and “conversion.” It’s demanding. It’s the life of a warrior: “The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is his name” (Ex 15:3). The Catholic does not thrust his own ideas upon a self-fabricated throne; he prostrates his entire being before the almighty seat of Christ. The Catholic man knows that the highest honor is found in dying to self that he may be incorporated fully into Christ who died for all. The authentic Catholic doesn’t mind words like “obligation” or “authority” or “sacrifice” or phrases such as “The Church teaches ….” Consequently, those words are his words, frequently passed from his lips. There is found in the Catholic life a determined love for what is true as opposed to living in a subjective fantasy-land where confusion and chaos reigns through self-determination. This love for truth includes love for right living, Christian morality, integrity, self-mastery, justice and the other virtues. The Catholic man is a man of Christian principles and holy conviction. For him, the gospel is not just words, it’s a saving reality. It’s the power of God. All of it.
Reason and Truth, Faith and Morality Are Inseparable
The Catholic is a lover of truth because Truth is the Person of Christ, who said of himself, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me” (Jn 14:6). Christ is Absolute Truth incarnate. That is why it is an abject failure to insist on an intimate relationship of communion with Christ while holding silent on matters of dogma, doctrine, and morals. That is why there can be no divorce between reason, truth, faith, and morals; for these four, along with grace, compose a treasury of the Church.
The Catholic understands that what he believes shapes his attitudes, behavior, the choices he makes and the way he lives. Belief, especially regarding faith and morals, has consequences and equates to a specific outcome, not only for the individual but for society and the entire world. Beliefs shape one’s character; they play a paramount role in determining the type of person one becomes and the influences, both positive and negative, he has on others. As the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church states, by man’s choices he “fathers his own being.” Morality, then, is about much more than mere rules. It’s about a holistic, transcendent life in harmony with Eternal Law and God’s divine plan of love. It’s about harmonizing interior desires with exterior actions. It’s about interior peace and outward calm. It’s about self-discipline and self-mastery; excellence in living and living in true freedom.
Attaining that perfect happiness in God termed Beatitude is the ultimate goal of the moral life in Christ. Yes, one is saved by grace through faith (Eph 2:8). However, salvation is placed in peril when the moral life is rejected with indifference, virtue squandered, and the formation of conscience neglected. In other words, salvation is tied to morality and intentionally living in harmony with what is really true. An abuse of freedom characterized by rejection of God and his Truth can end in the terrifying and permanent reality of hell.
Life is serious. It’s no game. Morality matters perhaps more than we can ever know here below. Nevertheless, it’s obvious that morality has become a problem for many Americans. In many ways, it’s been cast to the wind. Our post-modern culture has fallen into an extensive moral fragmentation in which relativism has become the norm. Religion and faith, objective moral norms and truths—all these are declared matters of opinion, unless, of course, your opinion is saturated with Christian moral principles, in which case you are deemed an intolerant bigot whose opinion is invalid, harmful, and thus must be trodden upon, stamped out, and plowed under.
The Sexual Revolution Rages On
People tend to think that the sexual revolution was a thing of the 60’s, as if it’s now in the past. However, the sexual revolution is not dead. It’s alive today in new and frightening ways. There’s a war on morality raging before us, composed of relativistic, anti-truth adherents who desire little more than to put truth to death. Their main front is the arena of human sexuality. What is really true about the human person, the male/female complementarity, the definition of marriage, the intrinsic disorder of homosexual acts, the radical anti-truth found in transgenderism with its obstinate denial of even basic biological facts, the scourge of abortion, the harm wrought by contraceptives, even the reality of family based on the foundation of marriage—all these and more are tossed into the fires of dogmatic relativism.
It’s unsurprising that most of the moral arguments today revolve around, to some greater or lesser degree, the topic of human sexuality. In fact, the notion that “anything goes” is the logical extension of a relativistic, secular culture whose values are hyper-sexualized and pornographized. When a culture comes to value sex more than truth, all kinds of bad things rear their heads. Pope Paul VI prophetically predicted this outcome in Humanae Vitae by noting that the use of contraceptives will unleash even greater evils over time. People don’t often argue about whether it’s wrong to steal or murder someone in the streets. But they do argue about whether a pre-born child can be aborted, whether contraceptives are morally licit, whether two or more men or women having sex is evil, whether cohabitation is mortally sinful, and whether a he is a she or a she is a Zie, Sie, Ey, Ve, Tey, or E.
Why The Push For Sexual Immorality?
The sexual revolution of the twenty-first century is pure insanity. As I’ve said, the attack on moral truth is sharply pointed. It’s focused on sex, which means it’s also focused on marriage, children, and family. Why is that the case? I can think of a few reasons:
Sex is highly pleasurable, which has, in a morally bankrupt culture, led to its worship over and above even the lives of innocent children. When the god of sex is adored, fertility, pregnancy, and unwanted children are sacrificed in its name. The altar of abortion must be protected at all costs in order to perpetuate this idolatry. Accordingly, marriage, children, and family are each subject to redesign and/or destruction.
Given that sex is bestowed with divine status, it is viewed as an unrestricted human “right.” Therefore, it is deemed proper that people can engage in it in any manner they so choose. Whatever is sexually desired is to be not only allowed but lauded and protected. From this it follows (according to demonic logic) that to oppose some types of sex-acts is itself an attack on human rights. In this environment, those who condemn what is sexually false, destructive, and disordered are demonized as enemies of humankind.
The devil hates humankind. Nothing incenses Satan more than mere creatures being elevated to a status and glory far exceeding anything he could attain in the slightest. In a recent Catholic Answers podcast, Fr. Hugh Barbour noted that because the devil hates humankind, he seeks to limit procreation, which would mean fewer people. As procreation suffers loss, so too will there be fewer saints, which means a reduction in the population of heaven. Although Satan loves the idea of an empty heaven, he knows that’s not possible. Therefore, he’s quite pleased with the idea of limiting its populace. The logic of his diabolical plan is played out in his support of contraceptives, abortion, homosexual acts, transgenderism, divorce, and cohabitation—all of which translate into attacks on marriage, children, and family.
Promoting sexual immorality leads to the destruction of souls. Here is found another indicator of demonic activity. The flip-side of reducing the population of heaven is increasing the population of hell, something for which the devil tirelessly labors. If enough confusion, discord, and distortion can be sewn into the moral code of American’s in terms of sexual ethics, more and more people will tend to freely choose to behave in sexually impure ways. That translates into a greater number of souls placed at risk of hell. One tactic the devil prefers to use is temptation. By tempting people to engage in sexual immorality, he does not force them into such behavior, but merely presents them with an evil choice which, if they freely choose it, makes them culpable before God for that choice.
When we consider the force and power of today’s attacks on marriage, children, and family, it’s not difficult to see that Satan is behind it, giving diabolical encouragement and working—in any possible way and with malicious cleverness—to accelerate the effects of the sexual revolution, promote relativism, and foster a distaste for objective moral norms. It’s his way of attacking the Truth, which is to attack the Person of Christ.
Can’t Blame It All On The Devil
Let us not think, however, that Satan is the only person behind this moral wreckage. Scripture and the Church teach that temptation has three sources: the devil, the flesh, and the world. The bottom line is that people often freely choose the way of darkness, regardless of whether the temptation comes from within or without. God’s commandments, moral norms, absolute truth—these are often deliberately deemed as burdensome, unpalatable rules that are restrictive of human freedom. People today often prefer the rule of man for man, found in their own version of what’s true, as opposed to the rule of man for God.
Yes, the answer is an intimate, personal relationship of communion with Christ, lived out in the heart of the Church. But let us not for a moment think that moral truth can be left out of the equation. Obviously, when evangelizing it’s often unproductive to begin with the moral approach. However, the mistake Catholics often make is found in the notion, “Who am I to judge?”
Who Am I To Judge?
If a person is seen walking blindfolded toward a cliff, nobody says, “Who am I to judge?”, shrugs their shoulders, and insists on not “imposing” their “version” of truth on someone else.
While much more can be said, it’s essential that we continue—regardless of the persecution inflicted by the clamorous voice of sexual immorality wielded by secularists and relativists—to warn people of the danger they face in freely choosing against the true good. Informing people of the negative consequences of disordered, sinful choices is an act of charity. In doing so, we seek their true benefit. That is what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mk 12:31). Morality really does matter. Ignoring it, rejecting it, brings serious, long-term consequences.
This warning must be accompanied by the solution: Jesus Christ and life in full communion with his Church, wherein Catholics receive the words of truth and the sacraments of life. It is in the womb of the Church that every man not only discovers the purpose and meaning of his life but lives it out to its fullest. By availing ourselves of the truth and grace Christ offers, we don’t simply become better versions of ourselves. It’s much bigger than that. We become new, recreated persons immersed in the transcendent life of God.
Deacon Frederick Bartels is a member of the Catholic clergy who serves the Church in the diocese of Pueblo. He holds an MA in Theology and Educational Ministry and is a Catholic educator, public speaker, and evangelist who strives to infuse culture with the saving principles of the gospel.