Bishop Finn surveys pro-life battlefield, addresses Catholic dissent

ppfinn200409 Bishop Robert Finn

Saying Catholics are “at war” with “the glamour of evil,” Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph Robert W. Finn delivered a keynote address at a pro-life convention on Saturday lamenting “dissension in the ranks” and calling on Catholics to never become used to the “crime against humanity” that is abortion.

He also commented on the Notre Dame controversy, saying its head should disinvite President Barack Obama.

Greeting the audience at the Gospel of Life Convention in Overland Park, Kansas, Bishop Finn said that alongside encouragements he also wished to tell them, “We are at war!”

“Harsh as this may sound it is true – but it is not new,” he said, adding that “new battles” bring “an intensity and urgency to our efforts.”

According to the Catholic Key, the bishop invoked the tripartite division of the Catholic Church as the Church Militant, the Church Suffering, and the Church Triumphant. The Church on Earth, Bishop Finn explained, is “the Church Militant.”

“We are engaged in a constant warfare with Satan, with the glamour of evil, and the lure of false truths and empty promises. If we fail to realize how constantly these forces work against us, we are more likely to fall, and even chance forfeiting God’s gift of eternal life.”

The bishop said it is an “important truth” to know that Jesus Christ “has already won the war definitively and once for all.”

“He has conquered sin and death and has won the prize of life on high in heaven forever. We know the final outcome, but the battle for eternal life is now played out in each human heart.”

Emphasizing that the Church Militant’s battle is “ultimately a spiritual battle,” he said that those who stand up for what is right will be opposed.

“The temptation will be to avoid these attacks. But through our responses we must see what kind of soldiers we are,” Bishop Finn said.

Noting that the true enemy is Satan, he referred to St. Paul’s exhortation to “put on the armor of God, in order that you can stand firm against the tactics of the devil.”

“Human beings are not Satan, but certainly they can come under his power, even without their fully realizing it,” he added. “When we, in our sinfulness, put something in the place of God: pleasure and convenience; material success; political power and prestige, we open a door for the principalities and contrary spirits who war against God.”

Bishop Finn referred to those who want to establish a way of life in contravention of God’s law: those who promote abortion, “unnatural substitutes for marriage,” and “all such distortions of true freedom.”

He reminded his audience of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5: “love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”

“We cannot hate these human enemies,” Bishop Finn stated, telling his audience that “we must find a way to love them. But we need not show them any sign of agreement. We pray for them,” Bishop Finn commented. “To ignore their destructive errors, particularly those that cost the lives of others, is to shirk our responsibility to attend to their eternal salvation.”

Those who openly attack belief in Christ or the Church’s right to exist are in some ways not the most dangerous opponents, Bishop Finn said, because “they show themselves and their intentions more forthrightly.”

More dangerous are people from all backgrounds, including Catholics, who “in this age of pluralism and political propriety seek ways to convince us of their sincerity and good will.

“With malice or with ignorance, or perhaps with an intention of advancing some other personal goal, they are willing to undermine and push aside the values and the institutions that stand in their way. They may propose ‘tolerance’ and seem to have a ‘live and let live’ approach to all human choices – even if the choice is not to ‘let live,’ but actually to ‘let die,’ or ‘let life be destroyed.’”

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“This dissension in our own ranks should not surprise us because we all experience some dissension against God’s law of love within our own heart,” the bishop told the convention, saying those believers who attack the “most fundamental tenets” of the Church are some of the most “discouraging, confusing and dangerous” opponents.

Turning to the issue of the University of Notre Dame’s invitation of President Barack Obama, he said “It doesn’t take another Bishop’s Conference statement to know this is wrong: scandalous, discouraging and confusing to many Catholics.”

Predicting that Notre Dame President Fr. John I. Jenkins will “probably lose his job” as “a scapegoat for this debacle,” Bishop Finn suggested: “at this point perhaps he ought to determine to lose it for doing something right instead of something wrong.” He said Fr. Jenkins should disinvite the president and give the honorary degree to Bishop John D’Arcy of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

He then spoke about the “battle for human life,” especially on abortion.

“The constant magnitude of this crime against humanity is staggering. We must never get used to it,” Bishop Finn said. “In the United States there are 4,000 abortions every day.”

“If we keep saying this – first of all – some people will get very upset with us. They will want us to stop. They may quote other statistics about the tragedies of poverty and war. We must truly share their horror at these things too. However, in the end the measure of our society is in how we treat the most vulnerable in our midst.”

The bishop said that Catholics are “absolutely” in a war over abortion and said people should not consider this “someone else’s war.”

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Turning to human embryo research, he said Missouri had lost “a valiant battle” to outlaw human cloning and human embryonic stem cell research.

“We haven’t given up, but it requires a constant effort. We won many people over through good instruction in the truth.”

Noting the legalization of assisted suicide in Oregon and Washington State, Bishop Finn lamented the “steady decline” in the number of people opposed to assisted suicide.

“Unfortunately, there is reason to believe that people are losing their sense of the moral evil of assisted suicide. But we cannot give up,” he told the convention audience.

Warning that Catholics public officials who support the legal right to abortion “have abandoned their place in the citizenship of the Church,” the bishop said they have become “warriors for death rather than life.”

They endanger their eternal salvation, he warned.

Exhorting Catholics to build an “active culture of life” that is “capable of turning back hell itself,” he said those who are not living in God’s life should avoid the “ultimately supernatural battle.”

“The devil… will turn you inside out,” he cautioned, encouraging people to become “prayer warriors.”

“Prayer defeats the devil. Prayer aligns us with Christ. Pray for the abortionist. Pray for the legislator. Pray for the mother (and father and other family members). Pray for the child in the womb. Pray for yourself and allow God to guide you,” he added.

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