The old adage tells us that silence is golden. But that is far from the truth when this silence results in the promulgation of sin.
Phoenix, Arizona’s Bishop Thomas Olmsted recently wrote a column on the subject of how scandal negatively affects others. He writes, “The divorce between faith and life is one of the ‘scandals’ specifically mentioned by the Second Vatican Council. In the Constitution on the Church in the Contemporary World (Gaudium et spes, #43), we read, ‘One of the gravest errors of our time is the dichotomy between the faith which many profess and the practice of their daily lives.’”
Bishop Olmsted elucidates that such tragedies occur when human beings can no longer perceive the differences, for example, between human rights and animal rights, or when they no longer recognize the dignity of the human person and his right to live. A Catholic living a life that goes against the tenets of the Catholic faith, yet still claiming to be a Catholic, results in scandal. And there is no excuse for silence in this matter.
According to Olmsted, “There is also true scandal, that is, the leading of others, by our words, actions and failures to act, into confusion and error, and, therefore, into sin.” It seems that more and more people have permitted their consciences to die due to an inability to discern the poisonous effects of moral relativism. How could this happen?
We know that the temptation to do what one instinctively knows is wrong is always before us, regardless of our faith, our convictions or even our strong-willed desire to do good. Good intentions take a wrong turn when a decision is made to go ahead and do the wrong thing anyway, or when a decision is made to remain silent. That’s the first step toward the decay of conscience. When we see this happen, it is our responsibility to sound the alarm. As Bishop Olmsted teaches, “A failure to call evil by its name inevitably leads to more evil acts in the future. Evil acts, in themselves, are the greatest source of scandal. When the perpetrators are not called to account, then they are emboldened to do even worse deeds.”
Archbishop Raymond Burke made the same point to an audience recently: “In our time, there is a great hesitation to speak about scandal, as if, in some way, it is only a phenomenon among persons of small or unenlightened mind, and, therefore, a tool of such persons to condemn others rashly and wrongly.”
What a perfect description of today’s politically correct society. Even among some self-described pro-life Americans there is a hesitancy to define abortion as murder or to speak boldly and factually about how the child dies during an act of abortion. Even use of graphic photos of aborted babies is not universally accepted within the pro-life movement. Why not? Doesn’t the truth deserve to be shared?
Some use the false argument that seeing a picture of an aborted child might upset someone in front of an abortion mill or on a college campus. But beliefs and misconceptions such as these provide solace to the enemy, for the enemy wins when we stay silent. Timidity is not an exhibition of prudence but rather of cowardice. The truth cannot be silenced, for when it is, evil abounds.
Abortion is one of these evils; it is a crime against human persons, against God and against human rights. There is no denying these basic facts. The same can be said about desecrating the Holy Eucharist. A desecration of the Eucharist is a desecration of Christ himself. And this is what happens when publicly identifiable pro-abortion Catholics approach a priest, deacon or extraordinary Eucharistic minister to receive the sacrament. What’s even worse is the evil that is perpetrated by those who look the other way, provide the sacrament to the pro-abort and say they do not want to bring politics to the Communion rail! According to Bishop Olmsted, “Within the Church, clergy and religious exercise a major influence on the laity. Those who are holy inspire others in the pursuit of holiness. But the moral failings of religious and clergy cause great harm within the Church and society, and are a cause of much scandal.”
By remaining silent, and not speaking up for the sanctity of the Holy Eucharist, the person giving it causes scandal among those witnessing such behavior by sending the message that it’s OK to publicly support abortion and still receive Christ in the Eucharist. By the same token, this aberrant Catholic who supports abortion is left in a state of sin far worse than he was prior to receiving the sacrament.
Whether it’s murdering a preborn baby, sacrilegiously abusing the real presence of Christ in Holy Communion or the allowance of another evil by our perceived acceptance because of our silence, evil spreads and it becomes more difficult to discern the truth.
Silence is consent, and silent consent results in the deaths of preborn children and the loss of souls. The only antidote is to speak out whenever and wherever it is needed.