I don’t know about you, but I find myself getting agitated pretty easily these days, often in ways that are not fitting for a believing Christian. I have been thinking a lot about the perils of living in a society which is becoming more and more overtly hostile to many of the norms that were simply taken for granted by the vast majority of our fellow citizens a mere 20 years ago. I’ll come back to that in a minute.
First, in order to avoid inciting unchristian agitation in you, I want to share a blessing I received from my husband a few days ago, just as I was launching into a bitter rant about how hostile so many have become to basic Catholic ideas. As part of his Lenten discipline, he has been reading through all four Gospels, and that morning he interrupted and extinguished my rant by reading aloud the words of Jesus that he had just read:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5: 43-48).
That caught me up short. The words “your heavenly Father … causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust,” especially reverberated in my mind. Maybe it’s just that I am anxious to get out in my dry Colorado garden, but for the rest of the day I kept coming back to those words and to the fact that the Father is the one in charge and that while it’s okay and maybe even necessary for me to do my little bit and do it energetically, it’s not okay for me to hate or fear or malign those who respond to my Catholic witness by calling me a “hater.” The Father causes the rain to fall on all of us, and I must do my part in his vineyard without undermining his work in me by succumbing to bitterness or reveling in outrage, temptations that my personality is all too prone to.
The flipside of my temptation is felt by those who are so overwhelmed by the rapid change in “acceptable ideas” that they lose their confidence in what the Church teaches or even try to alter Church teaching in order to make it compatible with the culture’s new ideas. We are called to witness to the truths of our faith in season and out of season, but Catholics in America have become so accustomed to being accepted in the mainstream that it can be very hard for us to appreciate just how “out of season” core teachings of our Church are right now.
The fact is that there are a number of non-negotiable teachings of our Church which we once could have confidently and respectfully proposed for consideration, but which many are now afraid to speak out loud. For example:
- That marriage is the union of one man and one woman and that it is not only meant for the “actualization” of the spouses but also to provide the best setting for raising physically, emotionally, and socially healthy children;
- That children are not commodities and should not be conceived in petri dishes and sorted for life or death according to pre-ordered specifications;
- That human beings are, from conception, immutably male or female;
- That hard-won civil rights protecting people from unjust discrimination based on immutable race or sex should not be co-opted to undermine the protections extended to women to protect them from male violence and from men having unfair advantages over them in the workplace, the marketplace, in education or in the sports arena;
- And, finally, that people should not be forced, either legally or economically, to violate their own consciences by participating in others’ violation of these norms.
These ideas, all of which conform with the Church’s continuous teaching, are now regularly denounced in public as naked bigotry comparable to that of an unrepentant leader of the KKK.
The last three on the list will be undermined by the law itself if the U.S. Senate passes the misnamed Equality Act, which has already passed the U.S. House of Representatives and which President Biden has promised to sign into law. The consequences, especially for women and children, will be severe. Here are just a few examples of the foreseeable consequences:
- Girls and women who compete in sports won’t be protected from having to compete with athletes-who-identify-as-female who have gone through male puberty, whose muscles have been bathed in amounts of muscle strengthening testosterone far in excess of any female’s, and whose metabolisms release energy at a rate with which no female’s can match;
- Parents will not be able to protect even young children from exposure to or encouragement of confusion about sexual identity;
- Physicians and mental health professionals who question whether “gender transition” is really in the best interest of a particular minor will not be able to give those in their care their best counsel;
- In addition, the Equality Act would force physicians and nurses to participate in abortions, undoing longstanding legal protections for conscientious objection, because the Act redefines objection to abortion as “pregnancy discrimination” and explicitly forbids accommodation for religious or conscience objections by “providers.”
Any one of those foreseeable consequences should agitate all of us. We should all be stirred at least to refuse to lie when we are asked what we think. And any of us who claim to profess and teach the faith must muster both the courage and the love to face being denounced as a hater, knowing that if we do not stand against the force of these lies, those who denounce us will have no one else to witness to the truth for them.
Our Father in heaven makes it rain on all of us. Let us stand firm in the truth that we are all his beloved children, that we are all made in his image, that he made us male and female, and that it is not good for any of us to attempt to re-make ourselves in an image of our own choosing. We hate no one. It is because we love our fellow citizens that we insist on witnessing publicly to the truth.
Dr. Selner-Wright holds the Archbishop Chaput Chair of Philosophy at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary and is a member of the leadership team at the EPPC’s Person and Identity Project, which offers a Catholic response to gender confusion: personandidentity.com