July 4, 2014

Editorial

The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is pro-culture

We sometime hear it said that the Gospel is countercultural. That’s not exactly correct.

The Gospel that we proclaim as disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ is pro-culture. It seeks always to build up human society, to transform human laws, customs and values in accordance with God’s plan for us. So, while the Gospel clearly critiques ways of thinking and acting that are destructive of truly human values and the common good of all, it is never simply “against” culture, which should always reflect the beauty and goodness God inscribed in all creation. Gospel values challenge individuals, communities and society as a whole never to settle for less than perfect fulfillment of the authentic humanity that God calls us to achieve.

This perspective is important when we consider recent decisions by federal courts that impact the daily lives of people in our state and our nation. Religious freedom and the meaning of marriage are two important (and timely) examples of the difference between being “against” or “for” practices that are now being embedded in contemporary American culture.

In their statement in response to a ruling by Richard L. Young, chief judge of the United States District Court, Southern District of Indiana, which attempts to redefine the institution of marriage as “an emotional partnership between two consenting adults regardless of gender,” the bishops of Indiana rightly point out that this ruling ignores the fundamental and natural truth of marriage and opens its definition to the whims of public opinion. But the bishops also make it clear that while they oppose any definition of marriage that seeks to change its fundamental meaning, they maintain a deep respect for all our brothers and sisters regardless of their sexual orientation. The Church is not against people with same-sex attraction. It is for the God-given meaning of marriage as a sacred covenant between one man and one woman that is open to the generation of new life.

Similarly, the Church is not against the fundamental purpose of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Catholics have long argued for accessible and affordable health care for everyone—consistent with the healing ministry of Jesus and the tradition of Catholic health care. But we cannot stand by idly when our government requires faith-based organizations like the Little Sisters of the Poor, or family businesses like Hobby Lobby, to provide employees with drugs and services that violate their religious beliefs. The cherished tradition of religious freedom in this country argues forcefully against the imposition of secular values on people of conscience who genuinely oppose practices that truly are countercultural because they denigrate both the human person and the common good. That’s why Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, speaking on behalf of the Church in central and southern Indiana, has expressed his support for the recent ruling by the United States Supreme Court on this very important issue.

The Church’s position on immigration is another important example of this fundamental principle. Deeply conscious of the fact that we are a pilgrim people who are never fully settled in this world but always “on the move” to our heavenly homeland, the bishops of the United States have argued passionately and consistently for the protection and care of immigrants—especially children and families. We are not against the safety and security of our borders or sensible processes and procedures for achieving citizenship. We are for guaranteeing the dignity, well-being and safety of all who come to this land as our ancestors did, seeking a better life for themselves and their families.

As Catholics, we are not “countercultural.” We are profoundly “pro-culture.” That means we are pro-life, pro-marriage and strongly in favor of customs, laws and ways of living that accept Jesus’ invitation to become fully human and to live as free women and men called to love God and our neighbor as ourselves.

Let’s do what Pope Francis and the bishops of the United States have challenged us to do. Let’s be pro-life, pro-marriage, pro-family and pro-culture. That means being for laws, customs and values that build up human community and witness to the peace and joy of the Gospel. Let’s work to build a culture that is for life and for freedom. And let’s do this without being angry, judgmental or negative in our assessment of those whose positions, values and way of living are different from ours.

Love is the key. Let’s love one another and love life. Genuine, selfless love may well be the most “countercultural” (or more accurately, “pro-culture”) thing that any of us can do as we seek to imitate Christ.

—Daniel Conway

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