17 Son of man, I have appointed you a sentinel for the house of Israel. When you hear a word from my mouth, you shall warn them for me.
18 If I say to the wicked, You shall surely die—and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade the wicked from their evil conduct in order to save their lives—then they shall die for their sin, but I will hold you responsible for their blood. 19 If, however, you warn the wicked and they still do not turn from their wickedness and evil conduct, they shall die for their sin, but you shall save your life.
20 But if the just turn away from their right conduct and do evil when I place a stumbling block before them, then they shall die. Even if you warned them about their sin, they shall still die, and the just deeds that they performed will not be remembered on their behalf. I will, however, hold you responsible for their blood. 21 If, on the other hand, you warn the just to avoid sin, and they do not sin, they will surely live because of the warning, and you in turn shall save your own life. (Ezekiel 3:17-21)
The Catholic Church tends to be viewed by certain influential factions the West today as a group which is hostile to everything which is perceived as desirable. If you look on Facebook, or in the comboxes of news sites and blogs, the odds are that you’ll see somebody lambasting the Church as being motivated by hatred when she takes a stand on issues of morality. When she teaches on the morality of same-sex acts, she is labelled as “homophobic.” When she teaches on the morality of contraception and abortion, the common charge is “war on women.” The rhetoric gets quite venomous, and it doesn’t take long before the accusations are flying with claims that Church leaders are bitter old men, acting out of bad will, and who are out of touch with how the world thinks today, and she needs to get in sync with the modern morality if she is to have any relevance to the modern world.
But I think ultimately this shows that people have forgotten their relationship with God. If they think about Him at all, they think of Him as not holding anybody’s sin against them—except maybe for Nazis. After all, if God is good, He wouldn’t want anybody to suffer, right? Such thinking overlooks how God has made us, and what He has done for us.
But the problem is, we’re not good and innocent people who are just being picked on by the Church. We’re sinners who choose to do bad things, and then refuse to admit that these things are bad. God comes after us, seeking to bring us back, but we hide from him, and deny that any wrong done was our own fault. This happened from the time of Adam to the present.
So God sends His prophets to His people—culminating in sending His Son. They spoke of the right relationship God wanted us to have with Him, and ultimately Jesus Himself died for our sakes. Think of that… the Son of God freely choosing to suffer for us to make our salvation possible. But in making our salvation possible, He did not take away our free will. In order to love God freely (He does not want mindless automatons), the possibility remains for us to reject Him. But if we reject God, we are choosing to be separated from Him.
God does not abandon us however. He sent His messengers, the prophets, to reach out to Israel. Now He sends His Church to speak out and tell people the way they must go and the ways they must avoid. Jesus Christ told His disciples, If you love Me, you will keep My commandments (John 14:15). If we could not know His commandments, this would be unjust of course to doom people for breaking them. But He makes His will known and gives the grace by which we can respond to following His will.
The Church today is the sentinel set to watch by God. He sets the Church to warn the evildoer, “You shall certainly die.” He does not do so to watch us fail, waiting for us to screw up, God does not desire the sinner to die. He does this to say, “GET AWAY FROM THERE! IT’S DANGEROUS!”
So the Church is sent to show them the way back to the path of living rightly with God. But the insanity is we are showing ourselves to be the true descendants of Adam and Eve. Instead of returning to God, showing sorrow and seeking forgiveness, wanting to sin no more, we hide in our excuses and blame others for the pain we suffer. We say that if the Church would only change her teachings, we wouldn’t suffer this pain. But the Church is not making teachings arbitrarily. She is teaching what she believes God commands her to teach. A person may think that the Church must stop saying sexual sins are wrong (to use the biggest objection today), but if the Church were to do this, God’s warning would fall on her: “If I say to the wicked, You shall surely die—and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade the wicked from their evil conduct in order to save their lives—then they shall die for their sin, but I will hold you responsible for their blood.” (Ezekiel 3:18).
Now, if the people want to ignore the Church and pay attention to a false prophet (Jeremiah 6:14) telling them that something is not a sin, they have the free will given them by God to do so. But that is a path to ruin. The message to heed is not the one saying “all is well.” It is the message that says Repent and Believe in the Gospel (Mark 1:15). That is the message the Church is giving, and those who ignore this message are risking their eternal lives. It’s a message of love, not of hate.
That seems to be a good portion of the problem with people misrepresenting Pope Francis. He calls for mercy and compassion (and laudably so) in order to bring the sinner back to God, not driving them away. That is of course part of the Christian teaching (see Matthew 18:21-35). If we do not forgive others, God will not forgive us.
But bringing the sinner back to God does not mean telling them their sin is now permissible. Jesus Himself told the woman caught in adultery, “Go and sin no more,” (John 8:11). Rather it means not making them feel ostracized so they think they cannot (and as a result, will not want to) return to the Church and live rightly. The Pope has not called for denying the teachings of the Church, but that is the false conclusion some people are drawing from his words.
It’s because the Church has a task given by God (Matt 28:18-20) that she speaks out about evil, warning us that certain things are against what God has called us to be—that if we refuse to heed God’s word, we are the ones separating ourselves from Him. It’s not a case where
There should be no nonsense about the Church “changing” her teachings. If we do so, we are like the people Isaiah prophesied about (Isaiah 30:9-11):
9 For this is a rebellious people,
Children who refuse
to listen to the instruction of the Lord;
10 Who say to the seers, “Do not see”;
to the prophets,* “Do not prophesy truth for us;
speak smooth things to us, see visions that deceive!
11 Turn aside from the way! Get out of the path!
Let us hear no more
of the Holy One of Israel!”
Either the Church is what she claims to be or she is an institution to be avoided at all costs (as the Fundamentalists believe). Either we accept her message as calling us to repent and turn back to God or we reject Her message as false. But if she is what she claims to be, then to reject her is to reject Christ. This is why I follow the Catholic Church: because I believe she is the Church established by Christ and she preaches the message that He wants us to hear and follow.