‘You Have a Right’; Thank You, Your Excellencies

How often to we hear “human rights” invoked to justify immorality? “I got my rights, ya know!” is a frequent refrain in modern discourse — emanating more often from man’s concupiscible appetite than from his intellect.

But we do have rights. Among those we have as Catholics, there is this infrequently invoked right enshrined in Canon Law:

The Christian faithful have the right to receive assistance from the sacred pastors out of the spiritual goods of the Church, especially the word of God and the sacraments. (Canon 213)

This canon is referenced and amplified in the new Catechism:

The law of God entrusted to the Church is taught to the faithful as the way of life and truth. The faithful therefore have the right to be instructed in the divine saving precepts that purify judgment and, with grace, heal wounded human reason. (CCC 2037)

The thought came to me recently — after seeing some sobering statistics on contraception use among Catholics — that many of these people have been denied their right to a salutary rebuke from their pastors. (If “rebuke” sounds like a strong word to you, I suggest take it up with Saint Augustine, who thought that a righteous correptiō was a good thing.) As two American Cardinals publicly stated, it is unlikely that the faithful in their pastoral care will hear preaching about this issue or other moral hot-button issues from the clergy under their charge.

Well, the Bishops of Nigeria have weighed in on homosexual pseudo-marriage. And, closer to home, Lincoln’s Most Reverend James D. Conley, STL, has weighed in on contraception, inviting the faithful who commit this vice (including prescribing physicians and pharmacists) to go to confession, and encouraging his clergy to preach on the subject:

Dear brother priests, I encourage you to preach about the dangers of contraception, and to visit with families in your parish about this issue.

Dear brothers and sisters, if you have used or prescribed contraception, the merciful love of God awaits.  Healing is possible—in the sacrament of penance.  If you have used or supported contraception, I pray that you will stop, and that you will avail yourself of God’s tender mercy by making a good heartfelt confession.

He even used the word “sin” when he quoted one of his predecessors, Bishop Glennon P. Flavin: “To expect to find happiness in sin is to look for good in evil….”