Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli
For our young people, living in the days of no television, no cell phones, no Internet, coal furnaces and peddlers going through the streets places their grandparents and great grandparents in the Dark Ages. Within the last two generations, the rapid advances in technology have left their mark on every aspect of modern life from engineering to entertainment, from communication to commerce. We purchase one cell phone and, within less than a year, there is a more advanced model on the market. Technology has created a mindset of in-with-the new and out-with-the old. Such an attitude presents a challenge to those who would pass on the lasting truths and values that the Church has preached from her birth.
Since the Age of the Enlightenment, science has been extolled not simply as a way to understand our world, but as the only way. Our modern culture is thoroughly saturated with this scientific mentality. The unilateral emphasis on what can be seen and touched, what can be verified by our senses, crowds out the spiritual, non-tangible dimension of our world. In such an environment that rules out the transcendent, those who teach about God and life eternal do not find a ready audience.
Because truth is one, science and faith are compatible. However, the de facto situation is different. Science and technology have led many to believe that we are self-sufficient. This practical atheism masquerades itself as secularism. Thus, “many…of our contemporaries ...either do not at all perceive, or else explicitly reject, [the] intimate and vital bond of man to God” (Gaudium et Spes, 19). As a result, those who proclaim that life is meaningless without faith in God come up against a virulent indifference.
Once God is removed from people’s consciousness, there vanishes a sure reference for moral behavior. There are no longer any objective standards in the personal, social, economic and political spheres of life; and, relativism reigns supreme. To those who foster a virtuous life as a response to God’s love in Christ, secularists and relativists turn a deaf ear.
Embedded within the American spirit is an abiding allegiance to individualism. Our culture is strongly focused on the freedom of the individual to pursue his or her own fulfillment. Hence, the relentless campaign to tolerate any form of behavior that does not do immediate harm to an individual. To state, in a public way, any view that contradicts the politically correct agenda of a society promoting total license is now labelled hate speech and bigotry. Thus, for those who would teach the unadulterated moral tradition of the Catholic faith, there is instant opposition and persecution.
Nonetheless, within this present environment, the Church must be faithful to Jesus’ mandate to preach the gospel to all nations and to teach all that he has taught (cf. Mt 28:18-20). It is no surprise that the Church would face obstacles and even persecution in living out her mission. The history of the early Church gives witness enough.
The apostles and the first generations of followers of Christ brought the gospel to a hostile world, all too ready to give them the crown of martyrdom. But, those first disciples were faithful. They became the leaven to transform the lives of thousands, too numerous to count. And, it is to this same fidelity that we are being called today. In our time of trial and testing, our fidelity to the entire truth of the gospel, even the hard sayings of Jesus, is the response needed to pass on our Catholic faith.