In "The Inconvenient Conscience" (May) Cardinal Pell forthrightly exposes the incompatibility between the individualistic ideology of modern culture and the Christian gospel. And yet, Cardinal Pell's thinking is part of the problem. He begins with various moral issues that call for piecemeal moral conversions. But more important, though unmentioned by Cardinal Pell, is the lack of wholehearted religious conversion to Christ as Lord among many Catholics. Anyone who has accepted Christ as Lord or Master of his life will not seek personal autonomy through individualistic ideologies.
Paul VI noted in Evangelii Nuntiandi that many Catholics are sacramentalized before they are evangelized. And, we could add, before they make any commitment to Christ. In the early Church, it was not so. Baptism followed a decision to accept Christ as risen Lord. His power over sin and death was experienced in the Holy Spirit. This is what is lacking in the Church today. I love to baptize babies, and yet I wonder sometimes how parents can promise to bring up their children in the practice of the faith when they don't practice it themselves. The same can be said for all the little children who come to First Holy Communion and Confirmation. Not being morally able to reject the faith is not the same thing as voluntarily and freely accepting it.
Christ said: "No one puts a new patch on an old garment." In a sense, that is what Cardinal Pell is recommending: a patch here, a patch there. Actually, the whole fabric needs replacing. The bishops need to look at the way we initiate members into the body of Christ. Initiation must involve both a decision and an experience--in either order. If people do not experience the saving power of the living resurrected Christ, they will not be able to follow the narrow, winding road to life.
Paul A. Hottinger
Downers Grove, Illinois
Although there are many disturbing assertions in Cardinal Pell's essay, the greatest flaw is the implication that the Church has never been wrong about "central moral teach-rags." What about slavery? Usury? Religious freedom? The Church teaching concerning usury, for instance, has not, to the best of my knowledge, been abrogated and yet, today, the Vatican Bank has no qualms about charging interest to those who obtain loans through its auspices. Perhaps Cardinal Pell could explain what is going on here.
And, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "the seventh commandment forbids acts or...