by Fr Richard Heilman | June 26, 2020 3:14 pm
“The Church is dying because her pastors are afraid to speak in all truth and clarity. We are afraid of the media, afraid of public opinion, afraid of our own brethren! The good shepherd gives his life for his sheep.” -Robert Cardinal Sarah
Fr. Bill Peckman writes:
Two names have been on the forefront of my mind in the past few days: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Clemens Von Galen. Both were churchmen during the rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany. Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran minister and Von Galen was the Catholic Bishop of Munster in Germany. Both saw a bad moon rising which would both destroy their homeland and would turn their homeland into a geographical serial killer which would be awash in blood. Both were despondent at the silence or complicity of their brother clerics in the face of National Socialism. Both took very public and dangerous stands against Hitler, knowing it could very well cost them everything. Von Galen knew that Hitler very much intended to do to the Catholic Church what he had done to the Jewish population. Bonhoeffer knew that were Lutheranism allowed to exists at all, it would a puppet of the state. Both figured it was better to die a free man than live a long life in cowardice or complicity. Bonhoeffer was one of the last executions ordered by Hitler as the Soviet Army neared the bunker. Von Galen died soon after WWII was over, having seen his worst fears about his country realized.
I can’t help but feel that with recent uprising that one day the clergy of this country will be at the same crossroads. It could be argued that we are already there and have been for some time. Since the sexual revolution and all that came with it, from abortion to birth control to most every conceivable abuse of human sexuality, our clergy has fallen into three camps: silence, complicity, and courage. When we look at the devastation that happened within the Church with the sexual scandals and cover ups, we can see how silence and complicity are little more than tools of the devil. When we see public Catholic voice more and more indistinguishable from the secular voice, we again see the devastation rendered by the silent and complicit. Such silence and complicity are a major contributory factor in the terminal illness we see the Church undergoing in this country.
For more than a few years, I have written with all due charity to try to insert how the love of God is the true answer to what ails us. I know many columns could very well be used against me were an authoritarian state to rise. I have had the same attitude as Bonhoeffer and Van Galen (though I dare not put my writings as remotely equal to such giants) in that we speak the truth with charity and let the consequences come.
The prophet Jeremiah lays heavy on me as well. He was given the task of calling back the people of Judah from the brink of disaster and the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem. The people would not listen: not the king, not the priests, not the Levites, nor the people. No one, save Jeremiah, challenged the infidelity of Judah as they worshipped idols. The complicit and cowardly priests and Levites persecuted him. As did the royal court. Jeremiah persists because God wanted the people to be saved. As we hear in 1st Reading from today’s Scriptures, the consequence inevitably comes and Jerusalem and the Temple are destroyed.
Those who carry on the prophetic message must do so because they know that the current course leads to destruction. To be a Jeremiah, a Bonhoeffer, or a Von Galen requires a deep love for God and for one’s flock and a desperate desire to not see that flock destroyed even as they skip happily and unwittingly to their own destruction.
Parents, you have such a call within your homes. Will you call your children to silence, complicity, or courage? Pastors of souls, we have the same question placed before us. Assuredly we run the risk of persecution and suffering for adhering to the truth, but is not better to live shortly as a free person than live long as a slave to the passions and to authoritarianism? How will history judge us? How will God judge us?
In this homily, today, I was tracking along the same lines as Fr. Bill Peckman:
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