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  Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

June 28, 2015

Between a Man and a Woman

On Thursday of this past week we celebrated the feastday of two martyrs of the fourth century, Saints John and Paul. You’ve probably heard of them as they are mentioned in the canon of the Mass. They were servants of Constantia, the daughter of Emperor Constantine the Great. It had been Constantine who had proclaimed an end to the persecutions of the Christians, and his daughter had been happy to continue her father’s generosity towards the new religion, and left much of her property when she died to these two brothers, John and Paul.

The new emperor was known as Julian the Apostate, a name which gives you an idea of what he was all about. He was truly an apostate, and so when he asked our two saints John and Paul to enter into his service, they refused, saying that they could not serve someone who had renounced his faith in Christ. This didn’t please the emperor of course, and he gave them ten days to change their mind and offer incense to Jupiter. John and Paul spent those ten days distributing their goods to the poor, and when the Prefect of the Pretorian Guard, Terentianus, went to their house with a statue of Jupiter for them to worship, they again refused. To avoid a big scene, Terentianus had them put to death secretly, right there in their home.

The liturgy of their feastday quotes from Psalm 132: “Behold, how good and joyful a thing it is, for brethren to dwell together in unity.” “This is indeed the love of brethren that hath conquered the assaults of the world: that following after Christ, hath attained in glory unto the heavenly kingdom.“

That was June 26 in the year 362 AD. By June 26 of this year, our western civilization evolved somewhat. On June 26, just three days ago, we saw the highest court in this land give a completely different take on what is meant by saying how good and joyful a thing it is for brethren to dwell together. While our two martyrs led holy lives “following after Christ, and attained in glory unto the heavenly kingdom”, the Supreme Court, by a majority of one, have now decided that it is perfectly within the rights granted us by the US Constitution, that two persons of the same sex may now live together for the purpose of satisfying their basest and most unnatural instincts, and with the blessing of this nation upon them. A group of lawyers have decided that they know better than the combined wisdom of the past few thousand years, indeed that they know better than God himself, the Creator of Nature, what is meant by the word “marriage.”

As Christians we are rightfully appalled by this decision, and we deplore this blasphemy against our divine Creator. For make no mistake about it, he who created nature, he who created the first man, and the first woman to be his companion, is offended by this latest atrocity to come from the governing body of this nation. We might ask, what is God going to do about it? Is this finally going to be God’s “last straw”? Or is there more to come? We remember the tale told of the twin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and we wonder with the psalmist “usquequo, Domine?”—“how long, O Lord?”

Personally, I do believe that each atrocity perpetrated against the Sacred Heart, every blasphemous act of iniquity committed in the name of marriage and enabled by the state, whether it be divorce, contraception, abortion, or now this—every one of these acts takes us a step nearer God’s inevitable judgment of this world. And why has God held back his hand of vengeance this long? Because of your rosaries, your struggles against temptation, your attendance at Mass and frequent reception of Holy Communion, because of your daily willingness to accept your crosses and do penance for the sins of this world that decays into more filth and squalor with every passing day.

And what is in store for us? Let’s not expect the so-called gay lobby to sit back on their laurels and be happy and “gay” as their name implies. A less “gay” group of men and women I have never known. They are fanatical in their intolerance of those who refuse to tolerate them. I remember reading the book of Genesis as a teenager, and being completely puzzled by the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, and how complete cities could be taken over by such fanatical perverts. I am no longer puzzled. Today we see true fanaticism at work, and what puzzles me now is how we could let it happen again, knowing God‘s wrath against the wicked, and the inevitability of his punishment. God is not mocked. If we examine our government though, we can get an idea of the general population of this once great nation. That they could ever even think of electing as their president a man of the ilk of Barack Obama answers any question we might have as to how easily they are swayed by the media. Just look at the never-ending barrage of pro-homosexual programming from TV and Hollywood, the deluge of propaganda spiraling in intensity in these last few years, constantly reminding us how bigoted we all were in the past for denying “gays” their rights. Propaganda worthy of Josef Goebbels himself, and far more insidious. Those who truly follow Christ have not been taken in by all this, but unfortunately, the vast majority of the population who have no faith worth speaking of, have swallowed it all up, and are bamboozled by their own liberal values, and false ideas of what is charity and love.

What we need to leave here with today, however, is not anger, or fear, or bewilderment. What we need to remember is that basically, for us, for the world, nothing has truly changed. Nature has not been changed by the Supreme Court. Nature is still what it is, and there is still no such thing as “same-sex marriage”. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We should not feel de-stabilized for everything is still as it was and as the good Lord made it. Right is still right, and wrong is wrong. Why should we be surprised that men of no faith, and men who are not of good will, should pretend to see things differently. They are simply looking for confirmation for their own perversities, but in a few years when they die, they will immediately, in the blink of an eye, see things exactly as God made them, and as we see them today. They may have won this battle, they may be the victors now, but really, whose shoes would you rather be in? So be at peace in the midst of this adversity.

And let’s translate this peace into practical terms, guiding our future behaviour. Just remember, nothing has changed. We must continue to act by the principles we have always held to be right. And to finish up today, I’d just like to go over with you one or two of those principles which we can keep in mind and apply to our own actions and reactions. First and foremost, and this goes without saying really, we must of course reject the notion of marriage being anything other than between a man and a woman. No man can change that. But secondly, and I think you might find this useful, is the principle that we must never cooperate in another’s sin.

It’s a good time to examine how this cooperation might happen in terms of the current marriage decision from our government. For example, there has been a lot of talk lately about florists and bakers of wedding cakes refusing their services to this couples based on their orientation. They believe that to do so goes against their religious convictions. But according to the law of the land they must, under grave and burdensome penalties, provide their services without discriminating against anyone for their “orientation”. So much for the law of the land. But what about the law of God? Where do our obligations lie? What must we not do? What may we do?

To answer this question, we must not look to the protestants for our example. Instead our source of guidance on this, like anything else, is Catholic moral theology. This teaches us that cooperation with the sin of another may be sinful or not according to various distinctions. One of these distinctions is whether the cooperation is formal or material. This is a very important distinction, and one we should be aware of. In cases like this, it might keep us out of jail if we act correctly. So what is the difference between formal cooperation and material cooperation?

Formal cooperation is where we intend the sin whose external commission we are aiding. For example if you give the combination to the bank vault to a bank robber with the intention of sharing in his loot. Obviously such an act would be always sinful on two counts: both because of the theft itself, and because of the intention of the pharmacist, to participate in that theft.

Material cooperation on the other hand would be where the bank robber puts a gun to your head during the robbery and threatens to shoot you if you don’t reveal the combination of the vault. In this case you don’t intend the theft, but you cooperate nevertheless by not resisting. You assist with the robbery, but only materially, not formally, as you don’t intend what the criminal intends.

Let’s apply this distinction to the case of a Catholic baking a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage ceremony. Obviously this would not be formal cooperation as the good Catholic doesn’t intend the sin of the two persons attempting marriage. So it is material cooperation.

So the question is now, whether material cooperation is sinful or not. Obviously in the case I just outlined, there is no sin. However, we should remember that the law of charity commands us to strive to prevent the sin of another. Here’s where we need to add on another distinction, because in case of great necessity, material cooperation is not sinful; for charity does not oblige under serious inconvenience to ourself. The threat of being shot in the head excuses us from striving too hard to prevent the bank robbery. And applying this to our wedding cake bakers, we can say that the threat of heavy fines by the government for refusing to supply the wedding cake is sufficient reason for baking the cake. It’s the same principle that allows a Catholic worker in the pharmacy at Walgreen’s to sell contraceptives to a customer who asks for them. If he doesn’t he will lose his job. The reason it’s okay is because the act of selling a cake or any item, is in itself a neutral act, and can only be made evil by the party purchasing the item. It’s the bad will of the other party purchasing the wedding cake, who abuses it, and makes it an occasion of sin.

Furthermore, we should remember that our providing the wedding cake would not prevent the sacrilegious marriage from taking place anyway. They could proceed to “marry” and commit their sins just as easily without the cake, or they could simply buy their cake somewhere else. So your refusal to cooperate materially would not prevent their sin anyway.

In short, yes, you may provide the cake. Or the flowers. There would be no sin.

Let me reiterate, that neither the act of baking a cake nor the act of selling it to someone is sinful in itself. It would be a different story for me, as a priest, to conduct the marriage ceremony for these people. Such a ceremony would be sacrilegious. It would be sinful for you to attend such a ceremony. You should not send cards of congratulations on such occasions. Or participate actively in any way that could be construed by a normal person as endorsing or encouraging the sin. For example, it is certainly a sin, objectively speaking, for a politician like the supposedly Catholic Governor Cuomo of New York to order the new World Trade Center tower to be lit up in rainbow colours in order to celebrate the Supreme Court decision. Such an act implies the wilfull taking of delight in something gravely sinful, and makes Governor Cuomo a public sinner, one who must be refused Holy Communion.

Finally, I must say it was somewhat encouraging that there are still some men of good will out there who expressed their outrage this week. One such example, and perhaps the most surprising, was a strong condemnation by the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky. I don’t usually take my quotes from the leaders of the Conciliar Church, but truth is truth, no matter who says it. Even the High Priest Caiphas, if you remember, had one or two good things to say.

“Regardless of what a narrow majority of the Supreme Court may declare at this moment in history,” said Archbishop Kurtz, “the nature of the human person and marriage remains unchanged and unchangeable. Just as Roe v. Wade did not settle the question of abortion over forty years ago, Obergefell v. Hodges does not settle the question of marriage today. Neither decision is rooted in the truth, and as a result, both will eventually fail. Today the Court is wrong again. It is profoundly immoral and unjust for the government to declare that two people of the same sex can constitute a marriage.”

Let us hope that influential people like Archbishop Kurtz and Franklin Graham will prevent any future persecution of Christians who continue to hold fast to the commandments. And if not, let us remember the example of our two saints John and Paul, and prepare to become what we truly are—the Church Militant.

 Sermons from the Chaplain