The Sacrament of Confirmation “gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1303)What does it mean to be a true witness? How do we know we are being true?
Recently a prominent Catholic politician made a statement on national television that misrepresented the Church’s teaching about abortion. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and many individual bishops issued statements correcting her misstatements and explaining the true theology.
It is easy to see the trouble that could result from a Catholic public figure who improperly characterizes the teachings of the Church. By virtue of a politician’s notoriety, that person may lead other Catholics astray in their thinking about Church teaching or confuse non-Catholics about the Church’s understanding of the truth. But, what about the rest of us?
Most of us will never have the opportunity to discuss controversial moral issues on television, but we might be asked our opinion at a dinner party or in the company break room. Can you respond with courage and confidence, knowing what the Church teaches about that issue and why? Will you seize the opportunity to teach people something they didn’t know about the Catholic faith? Or will you shrug your shoulders and say “I’m personally opposed, BUT…,” or, “It’s just one issue…”?
In their November 2007 statement on Faithful Citizenship, the United States Catholic Bishops remind us that it is the “moral responsibility of each Catholic to hear, receive, and act upon the Church’s teaching in the lifelong task of forming his or her own conscience.”
Learning about our Faith doesn’t end when Confirmation class is over. We must continually and prayerfully ask God for enlightenment about His will in our own lives and for the world.
Dust off your Catechism or buy yourself a new one. Pull the Bible off the shelf. Log on to the wealth of Internet resources to seek answers to your questions from reputable Catholic websites. You can visit the Vatican website itself at www.vatican.va and read many Church documents in English (including the Catechism). The website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is also informative (www.usccb.org). Seek knowledge from official resources of the Church. They are easy to locate.
So, what does the Church teach about abortion? Do you have a 10-second water cooler response to that question?
The Catechism says, “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person-among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life. Since the first century, the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law.” (CCC No. 2270-2271)
The 10-second sound bite: “The Church opposes abortion because the life of a new and unique person begins at conception. Every individual, no matter who he or she may be, deserves to live. Why? Because God loves us…all of us.”
There you have it. Now let’s all work together to be true, well-informed witnesses of our Faith.
PCC Column September 2008 by A.B. Hill, Communications Director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference – the public affairs arm of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania.