by Pete Balinski
Cardinal Raymond Burke has put forward the thesis that the rapid decline of western Christian culture will not begin to be reversed until Catholics boldly live out and then proclaim to the rest of society the “truth regarding human sexuality and human life.”
Speaking at a conference organized by the National Association of Catholic Families at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in Britain on May 29, the cardinal said, “Fundamental to the transformation of western culture is the proclamation of the truth about the conjugal union, in its fullness, and the correction of the contraceptive thinking which fears life, which fears procreation.”
Cardinal Burke explained that Christians living in a “totally secularized world” are called to the “new evangelization,” which he explained means “teaching the faith, celebrating the faith in the Sacraments and through prayer and devotion, and living the faith through the practice of the virtues, as if for the first time, that is, with the engagement and energy of the first disciples, of the first apostles to our native places.”
But unless Christians practice the “virtues of purity, chastity and modesty, that is, the living of the truth regarding human sexuality and human life” they will not grow in genuine “holiness of life.” He continued:
The respect for human life is related essentially to the respect for the integrity of marriage and the family as they come to us from God. The attack on the innocent and defenseless life of the unborn, for example, has its origin in an erroneous view of human sexuality, which attempts to eliminate, by mechanical or chemical means, the essentially procreative nature of the conjugal act. The error maintains that the artificially altered act retains its integrity. The claim is that the act remains unitive or loving, even though the procreative nature of the act has been radically violated. In fact, it is not unitive, for one or both of the partners withholds an essential part of the gift of self, which is the essence of the conjugal union. The so-called “contraceptive mentality” is essentially anti-life. Many forms of what is called contraception are, in fact, abortifacient, that is, they destroy a life which has already been conceived, has already begun…Once sexual union is no longer seen to be, by its very nature, procreative, human sexuality is abused in ways that are profoundly harmful and indeed destructive of individuals and of society itself. One has only to think of the devastation which is daily wrought in our world by the multi-billion dollar industry of pornography.
The cardinal stated that the “restoration of the respect for the integrity of the conjugal act is essential to the future of western culture, the advancement of a culture of life.”
He warned Catholics to be “attentive to a false notion of conscience, which would actually use the conscience to justify sinful acts, to betray our call to holiness.”
The cardinal offered no critique of Pope Francis, but many of his arguments offered a clear corrective to much-criticized points from the Holy Father’s recent Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia.
The pope’s treatment of conscience, in particular, has come under criticism for the apparent indication that it could allow one to licitly commit a sinful act, while fully cognizant that the act is sinful. The pope wrote in paragraph 303 of his Exhortation: “[Conscience] can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal.”
But Cardinal Burke suggested that Catholics who seek “holiness of life, to live more totally and faithfully for Christ, namely, to give our lives to Christ, without any reserve,” must “train” and “form” their consciences to “listen to God’s voice alone and to reject what would weaken or compromise, in any way, our witness to the truth in which He alone instructs us in the Church.”
“The conscience, the voice of God, speaking to our souls, is, in the words of the Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, ‘the aboriginal Vicar of Christ.’ As such, the conscience is ever attuned to Christ Himself Who instructs and informs it through His Vicar, the Roman Pontiff, and the Bishops in communion with the Roman Pontiff,” he said.
He went on to quote Pope Benedict XVI, who called conscience “man’s capacity to recognize truth,” stating that it “imposes on him the obligation to set out along the path towards truth, to seek it and to submit to it wherever he finds it. Conscience is both capacity for truth and obedience to the truth which manifests itself to anyone who seeks it with an open heart.”
Commented Burke: “Conscience, therefore, does not set each of us apart as an arbiter of what is right and good, but unites us in the pursuit of the one truth, ultimately Our Lord Jesus Christ Who is the only arbiter of the right and good, so that our thoughts, words and actions put that truth into practice.”
Burke went on to discuss the family as a “primary agent of the transformation of the culture,” focusing on the responsibility of parents as the first educators of their children. He warned parents to guard their children from ideologies that have crept into schools, even Catholic ones, that are at odds with the Gospel.
“Today, parents must be especially vigilant, for sadly, in some places, schools have become the tools of a secular agenda inimical to the Christian life. One thinks, for example, of the compulsory so-called ‘gender education’ in some schools, which is a direct attack on marriage at its foundation and, therefore, on the family,” he said.
Good parents and good citizens must be attentive to the curriculum which schools are following and to the life in the schools, in order to assure that our children are being formed in the human and Christian virtues and are not being deformed by indoctrination in the confusion and error concerning the most fundamental truths of human life and of the family, which will lead to their slavery to sin and, therefore, profound unhappiness, and to the destruction of culture. Today, for example, we sadly find the need to speak about “traditional marriage,” as if there were another kind of marriage. There is only one kind of marriage as God has given it to us at the Creation and as Christ has redeemed it by His saving Passion and Death.