In the last twenty years I have encountered more gallant and brave Catholic laity than I ever did in the first twenty-eight years of my life in the priesthood. Before founding the Fatima Family Apostolate with its own magazine, being its own publisher, I had time to write for many national Catholic publications. I was a regular columnist for the National Catholic Register, wrote frequently for Our Sunday Visitor, and occasionally had articles in Homiletic & Pastoral Review; The Priest magazine, the Wanderer among others.
I would receive thousands of letters. Parents across the United States and beyond would write me concerned letters about the watering down of the faith from pulpits, funny catechisms, youth being misled often within catechetical courses that were not truly Catholic. With thousands of such letters flooding my mail box from militant Catholics who had had it with betrayals of their beloved Catholic faith, I knew what Archbishop Sheen meant when he said: “The Laity will save the Church.”
When people, knowing that I was among those priests who would in no way compromise, would ask me if I did not get discouraged with the many forms of crisis and the fires of dissension licking away at the Church, I’d answer, “No. I remain optimistic.” “How can you Father?” would come the reply. “Because I keep hearing from thousands of militant Catholic laity like you who are well instructed and formed in the truth and are unbending to compromise but willing to fight for what is right. I know I am not alone. ”
Admittedly there are many laity who have bought into “Cafeteria Catholicism.” Admittedly there are priests and bishops whose teachings are “politically correct” rather than preaching the truths of the Gospel “in season and out of season” whether the truth is welcomed or hated. Jesus said to the first bishops and priests, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you.” Thank you Lord, I’ve never had that problem.
Father John A. Hardon, S.J. until he died a few years ago, was theological advisor to the Fatima Family Apostolate. He was unbending in the truth; a tiny built man, reminding me of St. Francis of Assisi in some respects, he packed powerful punches in gentleness without raising his voice, only his eyebrows. I considered him among one of the few best theologians in the United States. And when he would encourage me to continue I knew I was on the right course. There was John Cardinal Wright of the Pontifical Council for the Clergy who frequently encouraged me from the Vatican, also Edouard Cardinal Gagnon, whom you can read in this issue. Cardinal Carberry of St. Louis also was Marian and encouraging until he died, etc. All of these men spoke unambiguously and fearlessly.
I’ve admired the many Catholic pro-lifers and other Christians who fearlessly have stood up for the sanctity of life at every stage. About the contraception mentality which led to the abortion mentality and practice and the culture of death, Father John Hardon would say, “The very survival of civilization as we have known it depends upon the Catholic response.” Among his other sayings made famous by this Fatima Family Apostolate (FFA) were: “Only Heroic Catholic Families will survive..... Only those willing to suffer martyrdom will survive.” I believe it, and thus FFA published the book: HEROIC CATHOLIC FAMILIES.
Many who call themselves “Catholic” are not in fact Catholic. To reject any dogma of Catholicism or essential doctrines that are emphasized again and again, especially by our Holy Father, who repeats the serious moral failures of those guilty of artificial birth control and the murder of unborn human life is really to place oneself outside of the fullness of true faith. To think one has a right to pick and choose what one believes is not Catholicism.
Human life begins at the moment of conception. At that moment God creates the immortal human soul. Scientists overwhelmingly agree that at the moment of conception there is life. That life is human. The life in the womb, nine months before birth, the life of the newly born infant, or that of one six or sixty or eighty years old is one and the same life. It is a continuum.
A Catholic who willingly aborts, assists in abortion, advises abortion which takes place, is automatically excommunicated from the Church. That is how serious is the sin of abortion which is murder of human life. To be reinstated, such an excommunicated person must be truly repentant and absolved by a priest authorized by his bishop to so absolve such a serious sin. Please read the various articles of this issue to be informed on the Culture of Life as opposed to the Culture of Death. Please read the articles on the nature of the Fatima Family Apostolate which is recognized by the Vatican. Then decide whether you will do something to save the family and the future of civilization while retaining and promoting a true Catholic identity. RJF