Has anyone told you?
BY BISHOP HUGH SLATTERY MSC
The book of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, God, Love, Life and Sex, has continued to draw comments. It reminds me of a book that appeared a couple of years ago with the arresting title Nobody Told Me by Pam Stenzel, who has visited this country to speak to youth groups.
The title just jumped out of the candid stories of young people. They were looking for the truth, for guidance and support in the whole area of sex, relationships and unborn life. I suspect some who read God, Love, Life and Sex will expect a similar reaction: Why didn’t somebody tell me? Why haven’t I heard this beautiful and attractive Church teaching before now?
No doubt they have heard some but probably not enough of this liberating message to enable them to cope with the sex-saturated and anti-life culture of today’s world.
I have no doubt that the bishops’ book supplies much-needed knowledge, guidance and encouragement on a number of important issues relating to sex, marriage, family and life itself.
It was written in response to a felt need expressed by a number of lay people. They approached the bishops with their concerns in 2008, the 40th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s great encyclical Humanae Vitae, dealing with the regulations of births in a morally right way.
Afterwards they also helped with the writing of the book, which is very reader-friendly. It draws on the Bible, the Second Vatican Council and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It also makes extensive use of the writings of Popes Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI — all very important figures at Vatican II and all deeply involved in implementing it.
It is always comforting and reassuring for us to know that we have Peter as the rock and foundation on which our Church is built. We remember the words of Jesus: “You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail over it” (Mt 16:18).
Down the centuries, faithful Catholics have gracefully and gladly accepted the authority and teaching of the pope — the rock of Peter — and of the bishops in union with him. In the words of Vatican II, the pope “as the successor of Peter is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and the whole company of the faithful” (Lumen Gentium, 23). This is well expressed by the old Latin saying: Ubi Petrus, ibi Ecclesia, meaning “Where Peter is, there is the Church”.
There are many non-Catholics who envy us because we have the Holy Father who speaks with authority for the whole Church and keeps us all united in professing
the true faith. He has his strengths and weaknesses like the rest of humanity, but by the grace of God and with the prayers of the Church he is our sure guide and leader.
Today our greatly loved Pope Francis is the rock of Peter who continues the great mission given to St Peter:?“Feed my lambs, feed my sheep” (Jn 21:15-1). His vision of a poor Church reaching out to the poor is a very biblical and a very challenging one in today’s world. He is a great teacher and wants a Church whose members really know their faith.
While a cardinal in Argentina in 2005, he gave a pro-life homily in which he certainly didn’t mince his words. Talking about being sent out like sheep among wolves he said: “The Christian cannot allow himself the luxury of being an idiot, that’s clear. We don’t have the luxury of being fools because we have a beautiful message of life and we’re not permitted to be fools. For this reason Jesus says: ‘Be astute, be careful’. What is the astuteness of the Christian? In knowing how to discern who is a wolf and who is a sheep.”
Today there are many wolves waging a relentless cultural war against the very pillars of any civilised society: respect for every human life from conception until death, and the protection of marriage as given to us by God to ensure the future of human life. They misrepresent and ridicule the Church and anyone who opposes them.
There is no need to be afraid of them because we truly have a “beautiful message of life” to share with the world. We should continually thank the Lord for this teaching, study it, become familiar with it, and promote it.
It is important that believers seek first-hand knowledge of what the Church actually teaches and not just rely on the opinions of others concerning her teachings.
They will find these teachings expressed in simple language in God, Love, Life and Sex. They should make good use of this book which can be purchased very cheaply. I believe that no Catholic home, school or parish should be without it.
In view of the pope’s strong language about being fools and idiots, perhaps a good motto would be “Nobody told me but I’ll go and find out for myself!”
Bishop Hugh Slattery is the retired head of the diocese of Tzaneen.