Today, members of the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops heard from Pope Benedict XVI who spoke to them, in no uncertain terms, about the duty they have to face moral problems in their dioceses. The Pope welcomed the prelates on the closing day of their “Ad Limina” visit, warning them of the dramatic split between the Gospel and culture, especially in the political realm and specifically on the issues of homosexual “marriage” and abortion.
The Pope, who had met with each of the bishops in small audiences, earlier in the week, receiving written reports from them, laid the foundation for his address by quoting the Gospel of John, "God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him" (1Jn 4:16).
The Pontiff reminded the Canadian bishops of the message John’s Gospel transmits, assuring a, “sure and save dwelling place,” for those who “abide in the love and truth of Christ.”
“God first loves us,” the Pope said, “and we, drawn towards this gift, find a resting place where we can ‘constantly drink anew from the original source, which is Jesus Christ, from whose pierced heart flows the love of God’ (Deus Caritas Est, 7).”
Benedict challenged the bishops to renew their efforts to spread this message of God’s love, through the preaching the Gospel and the celebration of the Eucharist. “Dear Brothers, your own Diocesan communities are challenged to resonate with the living statement of faith: ‘we know and believe the love God has for us (1 Jn 4:16),’” the Pope said.
“In helping individuals to recognize and experience the love of Christ,” he continued, “you will awaken in them the desire to dwell in the house of the Lord, embracing the life of the Church. This is our mission.”
He told the bishops to guard against language and concepts watering-down their mission. “We must acknowledge that any reduction of the core message of Jesus, that is, the ‘Kingdom of God’, to indefinite talk of ‘kingdom values’ weakens Christian identity and debilitates the Church’s contribution to the regeneration of society. When believing is replaced by ‘doing’ and witness by talk of ‘issues’, there is an urgent need to recapture the profound joy and awe of the first disciples whose hearts, in the Lord’s presence, ‘burned within them’ impelling them to ‘tell their story’ (cf. Lk 24:32; 35).”
“Today, the impediments to the spread of Christ’s Kingdom are experienced most dramatically in the split between the Gospel and culture, with the exclusion of God from the public sphere,” the Pope warned.
While Canada has a “well-earned reputation” for its commitment to issues of justice and peace, the Pope noted, “certain values detached from their moral roots and full significance found in Christ have evolved in the most disturbing of ways.”
“In the name of ‘tolerance’ your country has had to endure the folly of the redefinition of spouse, and in the name of ‘freedom of choice’ it is confronted with the daily destruction of unborn children,” the Pope said, lamenting Canada’s recognition of homosexual “marriages” and widespread use of abortion.
“When the Creator’s divine plan is ignored the truth of human nature is lost,” Benedict said.
The Pope then turned to the place of Catholics in the political life.
“False dichotomies are not unknown within the Christian community itself. They are particularly damaging when Christian civic leaders sacrifice the unity of faith and sanction the disintegration of reason and the principles of natural ethics, by yielding to ephemeral social trends and the spurious demands of opinion polls. Democracy succeeds only to the extent that it is based on truth and a correct understanding of the human person,” he continued.
“Catholic involvement in political life cannot compromise on this principle; otherwise Christian witness to the splendour of truth in the public sphere would be silenced and an autonomy from morality proclaimed (cf. Doctrinal Note The Participation of Catholics in Political Life, 2-3; 6).”
“In your discussions with politicians and civic leaders I encourage you to demonstrate that our Christian faith, far from being an impediment to dialogue, is a bridge, precisely because it brings together reason and culture.”
Benedict pointed out that one of the most important means of evangelizing the culture of Ontario is through their network of Catholic schools. The Pope praised the many catechists and religious educators for undertaking their “taxing apostolate.” “I thank and encourage those many lay men and women, together with Religious, who strive to ensure that your young people become daily more appreciative of the gift of faith which they have received. More than ever this demands that witness, nourished by prayer, be the all-encompassing milieu of every Catholic school,” he said.
Turning to difficulties in education, the Pontiff noted, “a particularly insidious obstacle to education today, which your own reports attest, is the marked presence in society of that relativism which, recognizing nothing as definitive, leaves as the ultimate criterion only the self with its desires.”
“Within such a relativistic horizon an eclipse of the sublime goals of life occurs with a lowering of the standards of excellence, a timidity before the category of the good, and a relentless but senseless pursuit of novelty parading as the realization of freedom. Such detrimental trends point to the particular urgency of the apostolate of ‘intellectual charity’ which upholds the essential unity of knowledge, guides the young towards the sublime satisfaction of exercising their freedom in relation to truth, and articulates the relationship between faith and all aspects of family and civic life,” the Pontiff continued.
“Introduced to a love of truth, I am confident that young Canadians will relish exploring the house of the Lord who "enlightens every person who comes into the world (Jn 1:9) and satisfies every desire of humanity,” Benedict concluded.
Finally, the Pope offered words of greeting and encouragement for all Catholics in Ontario. He assured the bishops of his continued prayers and offered his Apostolic Blessing for them and the faithful of their dioceses.