Voice from the Past for the Ears of the Present

In 14 Book Corner on 2011/08/03 at 9:22 PM

In 1891 Pope Leo XIII wrote his encyclical:  Rerum Novarum, regarding industrialization, capitalism and class differences. He staunchly defended the right to private property and the right to work, warning about the dangers of Marxism and irresponsible capitalism.  In encyclicals or other documents all subsequent popes have continued his teachings which are as applicable and essential today as much as they were then.

This man, whose wisdom and insights are still admired had also long been championed social issues.

But Rerum Novarum was not Leo’s first or only social encyclical. In fact, from the first In 1877 he had written another encyclical:  Sapientiae Christianae in which Pope Leo defined the duties of Catholics in civil society: that Catholics need to obey God, even if that brings them into conflict with civil authority particularly if the civil law clearly contradicts divine law saying clearly that “then, truly, to resist becomes a positive duty, to obey, a crime.”

This is a lesson our modern Catholic legislators are ignoring to the peril of their souls.    For today in particular, every where, laws are being instituted and supported that directly contradict divine law. Pope Leo made it very clear that  Catholics “should make a deep study of Catholic doctrine” and then fulfill their duty to defend the truth publicly. Had Pope Leo been listened to and followed, the disasters of the years since could have been avoided or at least mitigated; but now unthought of behavior is being not only condoned but encouraged and supported.

This might not have been the tragedy if the past fifty years had been an age of faith and tradition, but clearly it was the very opposite, an era of change and deep challenges to the most basic Catholic moral teaching. In the face of the sexual revolution and the rise of no-fault divorce, abortion, contraception, and overt homosexuality, indifference and retreat have been the default responses of most Catholics who cite “prudence” and a desire not to lose credibility with the world around them.

Like Leo, we should have no patience with silence. “To recoil before an enemy, or to keep silence when from all sides such clamors are raised against truth,” he warns, “is the part of a man either devoid of character or who entertains doubt as to the truth of what he professes to believe.” When those who know the truth are silent, the enemies of truth win, and a war is loss because of cowardice that could easily have been worn with the truth and courage of convictions.

Now that the battle is raging on all levels of society and in all means of communication, we have an opportunity to go into combat.  We must follow Christ and defend the truth regardless of cost.  We must exemplify our beliefs in words and actions and convey them to others clearly and with conviction.  It is the only charitable thing we can do for our neighbors who are being seduced by numerous sirens.

It would have been better if Leo’s injunctions had been heeded earlier, but it is never too late to do our part.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: