Summary: Murdering the innocent is always gravely immoral. Thus we have been taught since the first Christians accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and celebrated communion together.
Homily Monday of 12th week in ordinary time
If we are to understand what the Lord is saying to us today, and more importantly what He is not saying, we need to find the key word in the Gospel: it’s “hypocrite.” A hypocrite is someone who calls sin a sin in other people, but ignores the sin in himself. Hypocrites play God; and one thing we are decidedly not is God. That’s why Jesus didn’t have much to do with hypocrites.
Unfortunately, this passage in Matthew’s Gospel has been abused by many people, even many clerics, who interpret it as a call to pusillanimity, cowardice. Does a politician call himself a Catholic, and then refuse to take a stand for human life, whether in regards to abortion or euthanasia or providing health care for the poor? The defenders of such folk invoke the line “judge not,” failing to call evil by its right name. Couples living in sin, employers paying unjust wages, neighbors entertaining themselves with habits of gossip–all are harming themselves and the community by their actions or inactions. It is sheer cowardice to avoid the Gospel call to holiness, and, on the other side, purest sacrilege to invoke the Gospel in defense of our contemptible timidity.
There’s a recent example from the U.S. House of Representatives that cries out for publicity, and not good publicity. Late in June (2021) nearly five dozen members of the House who identify themselves as Catholics wrote the U.S. Bishops’ Conference, meeting at that very time, with what they called a “statement of principles.” I won’t go into all the details, but it is unarguably one of the most contumacious documents I’ve ever read. In their own words, “The statement documents how their faith influences them as lawmakers, making clear their commitment to the basic principles at the heart of Catholic social teaching and their bearing on policy.” They tell us that Catholic tradition “unfailingly promotes the common good, expresses a consistent moral framework for life, and highlights the need to provide a collective safety net to those individuals in society who are the most vulnerable.” Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? What moral person would disagree?
They go on to commit to protecting the least among us, and recognizing the dignity of all humans.. They tell the reader that they “agree with the Catholic Church about the value of human life.” Wow! You’d expect then that they would then reverse previous positions and vow to protect human lives developing in their mothers’ wombs. What more vulnerable human is there than a pre-born infant?
But, no. Sadly they abuse the term “primacy of conscience.” They “accept the tension that comes with being in disagreement with the Church in some areas.” You know what comes next, of course. They characterize any attempt to deny access to sacramental communion because of their desire to force all Americans to pay for the murder of the smallest children as “weaponization,” a term they actually picked up from some Church leaders. By their support for abortion, each of these politicians has incurred excommunication automatically, and many of them have been counseled by their pastors that reception of the Eucharist while under manifest public sin is a scandal. Their clergy have done so out of love, out of concern that their reception of communion will imperil their souls and lead to damnation without repentance and confession. They resort to equating the morality of murdering helpless babies with restricting illegal immigration. On the latter issue, Catholics can exercise prudential judgement. On the former, there is no issue of prudential judgement. Murdering the innocent is always gravely immoral. Thus we have been taught since the first Christians accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and celebrated communion together. It is also a logical development from the faith shown ages before in the actions of our father in faith, Abraham, and his wife, Sarah.
So on smaller stages, how do we know when to rebuke, when to shun, and when to call to repentance? Let me suggest that a community problem requires a solution broader than our individual minds. This is where spiritual direction comes in. Rather than rashly committing to some aggressive policy with respect to sin, we should take it to a trusted and prayerful advisor who has the experience in dealing with souls that we do not. For instance, I generally submit actions to the pastor before doing them. Obviously we need first to look to our own holiness of life, first. But when we see someone endangering the eternal salvation of himself or another, we have a duty in charity to help them out of the moral swamp onto the Rock who is Christ.