Sometime in the 1960s, a news item appeared indicating that in the event of nuclear war in Europe, Pope Paul VI would take refuge in Quebec City, Canada, assured of a welcome and warm reception in that most Catholic of North American cities.
Older visitors to the French-Canadian province of Quebec can well recall when clerical cassocks and religious habits were as common on Quebec's streets as in its churches. Sadly, the faith has fallen on hard times north of the border as the following news release reveals: "The government of the Canadian province of Quebec has begun paying for the abortions of more than 45,000 women with taxpayer funds after a judge forced the province in August to reimburse women who had abortions at private abortion facilities. Quebec Superior Court Justice Nicole Benard ruled in his decision last year that the women should not have been forced to pay for the abortions even though they got them at private abortion businesses rather than public facilities."
That's because the Quebec Health Insurance Act entitles women getting abortions to public funding of them. From pilgrimages to Ste Anne de Beaupre to the public funding of abortions - how the mighty have fallen.
Canada is not alone in its fall from grace. Many in Ireland are not far behind in their repudiation of traditional Catholicism. And much of the Netherlands, which was once contemporary Catholicism's second-largest source of missionaries, has long ago sold its soul to hedonist attractions. Even Portugal totters on the brink of legalized abortion. Sadly, readers do not have to cross the border nor cross the sea to discover startling examples of loss of faith. A letter published recently in the Warwick Beacon in response to a prior letter submitted by me regarding same-sex marriage deserves a reading. The letter's author has unwittingly and blatantly summarized the secular individualism that has seized the heart and mind of so many of our contemporaries. Read it and weep.
"The Rev. John Kiley's letter (Marriage: A mutual effort of man and woman, Feb. 27, 2007) reminds me of a most beautiful autumn morning in 1967. While walking to Mass in New York City, I surprised myself by asking, 'Do I really want to go?' - whereupon I turned around, returned to my apartment, and forgot all about the faith I'd been born into. No anger, no recriminations: It simply no longer served me. In a similarly graceful pivot, my own personal agenda would be better served now by turning my back on Father Kiley's letter, cooking up some hot chocolate, and getting on with my day. It would be so much easier to deny the moral imperative I'm feeling to identify his letter for what it is: Unloving, and potentially very harmful. To the best of my recollection, Holy Mother Church is not in agreement with Father's contention that 'marriage is first and foremost about sexuality.' Although procreation had long been regarded as its chief raison d'etre, after Vatican II, the Catholic view of marriage was elevated to a loving union of souls. However, I recognize that it would be very difficult to make a chink in all the dogmatic assumptions presented in Father Kiley's letter, especially its de fide cornerstone: that only a man and a woman can "complete enhance and bring one another to the fullness of their respective personalities." These are pretty-sounding words - "noble," even. (The Reverend frequently uses this word 'noble' to strengthen his argument.) But the question remains: By what authority are we to believe this is true? The arrogance of this presupposition, and the many other even crueler ones that follow, strikes me as untouchably bottomless, hellishly so. Like so many other mental-syntactical constructs that have been programmed into 'the faithful,' these judgments find no correspondence in reality. In real life, love is love, the one and only undying truth. And irrespective of its anatomical expression, love begets love. The love and commitment of gay married couples is demonstrably every bit as real and true and God-blessed as its heterosexual counterpart. I offer no Scripture, no pontifical pronouncements, to back this up - only my openhearted observation."
Indeed no Scripture, no pontifical pronouncements, no tradition - just private feeling, individual inclination and personal opinion. Every man is his own moral theologian. Sunday's Gospel will celebrate the institution of the sacrament of Penance. Meanwhile, society's sense of sin erodes briskly.
(This column originally appeared in The Providence Visitor)