“Except you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, you have no life in you.”
Hearing Jesus’ words in the synagogue at Capharnum, many of his disciples said, “‘This is a hard saying, who can hear it?’ … From that time many … walked no more with him.”
This episode from the Gospel of St. John is instructive. For today, scores of millions do not believe that John Paul II taught infallibly when he condemned abortion, contraception, homosexuality and the idea of women-priests. They cannot accept church teaching as settled and final, and want it changed to reflect their own beliefs. Yet, all the modern popes, and now Benedict XVI, refuse to change doctrine to accommodate them.
Thus, the rage, resentment and frustration that the conclave chose Cardinal Ratzinger as pope. They are like children who have been told by a stern but loving father that their tantrums are to no avail and they are not going to get their way, though they have been used to getting their way for most of their pampered lives.
And so the new pope is denounced as “God’s rottweiler,” “der PanzerKardinal,” John Paul II’s enforcer and the chief inquisitor who cruelly silenced the voices of dissent after Vatican II. What the hostility of the liberal media to the selection of Cardinal Ratzinger tells us is that the conclave got it right.
The secular world, too, hoped the church would alter its doctrines to conform to a moral relativism that teaches there is no law above manmade law, and that what is right and wrong is decided by each generation. The notion that there is a higher law – God’s law, permanent law – to which all manmade law and human conduct must conform is anathema.
But, still, why do they fulminate so? Why are so many journalists and cafeteria Catholics making fools of themselves denouncing Benedict XVI? The pope has no authority to force anyone to abide by church teachings. The church cannot interfere with the lifestyles of the rich and famous who wish to live together outside of matrimony, or enter into homosexual relationships, or have abortions, or throw over their wives. The church cannot punish anyone in this world. If they are punished in the next, it will not be Benedict XVI who sends them to Hell.
But if they do not believe in Hell, what are they worried about? What are they whining about? Why do they not simply say: “The church is wrong, the church is out of touch, the church is yesterday. I’m gone.”
Answer: Deep in their hearts, they fear the church is right. They are unsettled because they fear that when the church says it has been given by Christ custody of the truths about how men must live to reach eternal life, it is right. When liberal Catholics say people have been “hurt” by Catholic teachings, what they are saying is that their consciences are hurting.
To modern man, freedom means the inalienable right to live one’s life in conformity with one’s desires. Many Americans buy into that idea of freedom. In Catholicism, true freedom is the freedom to live one’s life in conformity with the Gospels and church teachings, as this is the only certain way to eternal life.
What the world wants the church to do is to stop claiming it is the custodian of moral truth. Because the church refuses, it is hated. As an earlier pope would not bless the new marriage of Henry VIII, this pope will not accede to the world’s demands. And so Benedict XVI must and will be relentlessly attacked.
In a sense, there are only two kinds of people in the world: those who create their own moral code to conform to how they wish to live – such as Hugh Hefner, who created his own Playboy philosophy – and those who try to conform their lives to a moral code that exists outside and above themselves, like Benedict XVI.
Completing the episode in the Gospel of St. John, when the other disciples rejected his words and departed, “Jesus said unto twelve: Will you also go away?
“Then Simon Peter answered him: Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.”
What Benedict XVI is telling the world and dissident Catholics is: It is not Christ’s church that must change its teaching, it is you who must change your hearts. Like Christ himself, Benedict XVI will be reviled because he has said no to the world, the flesh and the Devil.