Telling Truth by the Clock?

Telling Truth by the Clock?

By John Mallon

Remember back in the twentieth century when people said “Hey, the Church has got to get into the twentieth century!” Hmm. The bloodiest century in history. Two world wars, numerous attempts at genocide, (including the current one involving the unborn—in the “civilized” world), children shooting each other in the streets of the most “advanced” nation in history, divorce, abuse, addiction, estrangement and distrust between the sexes, starvation, exploitation, greed — whew. (Meanwhile while critics were saying these things John Paul II was ahead of them all leapfrogging the Church into the twenty-first century.) But no, as the Pope knows better than anyone, the Church didn't need to get into the twentieth century, the twentieth century needed, as does the twenty-first, to get into the Church. 

You can’t tell truth by the clock. C. S. Lewis called the attitude that one’s own era is self-evidently “more advanced” than all preceding ages Chronological Snobbery. Some people accuse those trying to recover the sanity of authentic Church teaching of trying to “turn back the clock.” 

Philosopher Peter Kreeft says if the clock is keeping bad time you have to turn it back. But actually it is not a question of turning back the clock now, but rather waiting for the world to catch up with the Church. As Pope John Paul II said on Boston Common in 1979, “The Church is the vanguard.”

Can you imagine what would happen if people would only try to live as Christ calls us to through the Church? 

Imagine if all people attempted to live the Beatitudes. Imagine if the Church’s teachings on sexual morality were even taken seriously, much less obeyed, instead of mocked as they are — there would be no AIDS crisis, no abortion wars in our streets; and divorce and abuse would not be of the epidemic proportions they are now. 

Yes, we humans, being what we are, would still sin, but imagine if we didn’t attempt to delude ourselves that there was nothing wrong with it. Imagine if we all had love and humility enough to repent from the heart, ask and grant forgiveness, and go to confession at least monthly. The world would be unrecognizable. 

Remember the classic film It’s a Wonderful Life? How Jimmy Stewart as George made a mistake and wished he had never been born? And his guardian angel showed up and showed him what his town would look like if he had never been born? Sometimes when I survey the scene in our great country I can’t help but think it looks like someone like George got his wish and was never born. Perhaps he was aborted. Perhaps he was contracepted. I don’t want my country, to look like Pottersville anymore. Whoever thought downtown America would be like this? The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, and the abortion mill? One butcher is enough, and he shouldn’t be for butchering babies.

Jesus left us everything we need to get through this jungle. He gave us His Word, His Holy Spirit, and He gave us a flesh and blood Church, nourished by His own Flesh and Blood in the Eucharist, and he left us a flesh and blood shepherd called the Pope, and a teaching body called the Magisteriam with the promise that the Holy Spirit would guide them in leading us in the way of all truth. 

Do we “sophisticated” turn-of-the-millennium types really think we “know better” or have “outgrown” this guidance? Or that we have the wisdom to fashionably “disagree” with the system Jesus Himself left us? If so, it’s no wonder we’re in the shape we’re in. Those who have given sin a good honest try, and, by grace, remained honest with themselves, have discovered that it doesn’t work. 

Millions of people who have shipwrecked their lives by rejecting the Church’s teachings have learned this lesson the hard way, and are finding their way back home to the bosom of the Church. They not only accept, but feast on the Church’s authentic, life giving doctrine. 

(This, by the way, is the real tragedy of the so-called “cafeteria Catholic.” They’re picking over the cheap ideological grub in the cafeteria, and don’t even know there’s a banquet going on at the King’s house and they’re invited.)

Pope John Paul II speaks continually and almost mystically about the new millennium. That is where the Church is heading on Her way to Heaven. No, the Church does not need to “get with the times,” the times need to get with the Church. The Church which transcends time. One soul at a time.

© 2001 by John Mallon