Saturday, March 23, 2019
The politics of catechesis. . .
Not everything is political. Sometimes not even political things are simply political. Sometimes catechesis is political -- not by intent but by consequence. Those who would warn politicians when their public positions are in conflict with the positions of their churches are not practicing politics as much as they are being catechetical. They are teaching the faith to the faithful and, in particular, to those who seem not to know the difference. There is nothing political when pastoral care requires warning a member that they are living at odds with the witness of Scripture. This happens all the time when members cohabit or commit adultery or violate the moral code and express commands of God in a public way and without penitence. When those members are in political positions, the pastoral care may be public but it is still pastoral care.
We have too long lived in the expectation that it is enough to speak privately to such public individuals and to be patient in awaiting the fruits of such pastoral conversation in repentance and reconciliation. In the end, when the church appears silent before such public sins the presumption is not that private counsel has taken place but that the church has accepted such wrongs. When we no longer speak publicly about cohabitation, the presumption is that it is no longer considered wrong. When we no longer challenge abortion and those who work to protect and promote it, the presumption is that it is no longer considered wrong to do so. When we no longer challenge a morality in which pleasure is the primary consideration, the presumption is that pleasure is what determines right from wrong. When we no longer advocate or provide for the orphan, the widowed, the aged, the refugee, and those in need, the presumption is that the church has ceded such to the state and no longer has an interest in it. While such witnesses may be political, they are primarily catechetical. Sometimes catechesis has a political edge to it. An example of this is what took place a few months ago in the march for life. It is not primarily political but catechetical and yet even this catechesis is not without its political impact.
Unless we speak pastorally but bluntly in witness to what we believe, teach, and confess, we have surrendered our voice to others who will gladly presume that either the church is without a stand or without the courage to admit this stance before the world. No one is suggesting that we must be rude or arrogant or mean but to deny our voice to the public square because there are political consequences to our catechetical purpose is a most foolish path and dead end. Whether Rome or Wittenberg, the faith must be first taught before it can be defended and in defending the faith we must catechize and teach it. It is high time for us all to remember this truth and heed it.