Dear Rev. Know-it-all,
Can you knock some sense into my brother? He is one of these “traditional” Catholics who look down their noses at the rest of us real Catholics who know that catholic really means open minded and welcoming. He is refusing to go to our nephew’s wedding. Our nephew Nigel is a splendid young man, we are all so proud of him. He is a great outdoorsman and has a wonderful destination wedding planned in Minnesota in the early autumn, in a grove of sacred oak trees. The ceremony will be performed by a local druid, or shaman and it is just a perfect fit for the young couple. In addition we five siblings are getting up in years, and this will quite possibly be the last time we are together. We are heartbroken that our youngest brother will not be there. To top it all off he is Nigel’s godfather! What would Jesus say to my Neanderthal brother? Can you say something that will change his mind?
No, I cannot say something to knock sense, as you describe it, into your brother’s head. Neither can I say anything that will knock sense into your head, because “…the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will pile up for themselves teachers according to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” (2Tim 4:3) Why would you want to rub his face in the fact that, as the lad’s godfather, your brother has failed to share his faith with his godson something he solemnly swore to do, by having a wedding in the woods in a made up pseudo-religious ritual. The family is repudiating him and the faith he believes in. I assume young Nigel was raised in the faith to some degree and by this action rejects it.
I imagine that for your brother this is a decision of conscience. I will give Nigel and his intended the benefit of the doubt, that their decision to have the wedding in some mosquito-infested wilderness is likewise a decision of conscience and not some fantasy from bridal magazines about the garden wedding in a meaningful place instead of a stuffy, old, boring Catholic church in some boring outdated ritual. I remember something attributed to St. Thomas More, martyred by Henry VIII, a very popular saint when we were all still young and still part of a universal faith. When questioned, Thomas More explained that he could not assent to the wedding of Henry and his mistress Ann Boleyn because of his conscience. His friends asked if he thought his conscience was superior to those of the king, the courtiers and all but one of the bishops of England. The brave Bishops of England had all signed the Act of Supremacy that made Henry the head of the Church in England, thus allowing him to give himself an annulment and marry his current girlfriend.
St. Thomas responded, “No, I assumed the king and bishops and court have done the right thing and are all obeying their consciences, but my conscience forbids me to sign the Act.”
“Then,” they asked. “Will you not come along for fellowship’s sake?”
Thomas replied, “When you and the king and the court and the bishops all enter heaven having obeyed your consciences and I am dammed for having disobeyed mine, will you accompany me to hell for fellowship’s sake?”
Let us assume that Nigel has a well formed conscience which he is obeying, just as you are obeying your conscience. Does your brother not have a conscience? Why do want him to obey your conscience and not his own? I doubt that he would ever ask that sacrifice of you. Think about what your brother is giving up. He is risking rejection by the people that mean the most to him – his own family. I imagine that he wishes he could go and be at this important moment with the people whom he has known and loved all his life. Do you think that this does not hurt him? Do you think that the loss of favor that is bound to result from his glaring absence at a family event makes him happy? I imagine that he wishes he could celebrate the event, but cannot celebrate their rejection of the faith he holds most dear by the people he holds most dear. Perhaps he is taking the Gospel a little too seriously. He cannot seem to forget the words of Jesus,”Anyone who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matt 10:37)
You are going to a wedding. He would be going to a funeral, a funeral of the faith of your parents and grandparents for a thousand years. It is, in effect, the celebration of the death his world. You want him to violate his conscience for this?
“But it is the last time the family will be together!”
Do you think your mother and father, who are long dead, would be happy about this? Would they rejoice to see you reject that faith and those customs they tried so hard to share with you? If what we believe as Catholics, that all the saints in heaven attend every Mass, is true, it is sad to think that Nigel has failed to invite his grandparents and their ancestors for a thousand years to attend their marriage. You may think that it is narrow-minded of your brother and his outdated Church to have such legalistic demands in this modern era, but it is the Church that has created your family and your culture.
A pseudo-pagan forest wedding may seem harmless to you, but it is a return to paganism. If they want to be free of the shackles of Catholicism and tradition, so be it! If they want paganism, paganism they will get, with its slavery, human sacrifice and cannibalism. I can see you rolling your eyes! Cannibalism!?! Impossible in this enlightened age.
Didn’t you see the video of a Planned Parenthood executive in L.A. lunching and munching in a chichi restaurant while discussing the sale of fetal body parts for human medical purposes? I think at one point she humorously coos that she someday hoped to buy a Lamborghini. (For the drivers of used cars a Lamborghini is a wildly expensive luxury car, the price of which starts at $200,000)
“She was just joking, and they were just talking about the medical use of fetal tissue? What’s wrong with that?”
It’s human tissue they are selling, taken from a live human being, for God’s sake!!! Have you allowed your conscience to become that dull? What are the rules for? The rules keep us from returning to paganism and devouring ourselves. It’s just a wedding? No, for your brother it’s a violation of conscience and each violation of conscience make the next violation of conscience just a little bit easier, until we have killed our own individual consciences and then the conscience of society as a whole. We become Nazis.
I knew Nazis in Germany. They had very easy consciences. They were happy to go along to get along.
“Why fight it? Everybody is doing it. Everybody agrees with the current political wisdom.”
Do not forget that Planned Parenthood was founded by Margaret Sanger, a collaborator with Hitler and his program of eugenics. The Nazi Mengele was happy to do experiments with the tissue of children – aborted or not. Hitler returned Germany to its pagan roots and encouraged the worship of Germanic nature spirits. Germany is now a dying pagan country, and the Catholic Church in America is not far behind. Let your brother keep his conscience, it is a rare and precious thing these days.
One more good reason for your brother not to attend the Druid wedding in the woods: it is lousy symbolism. I imagine that Nigel and his true love are doing this because it has so much meaning for them. A Catholic ceremony, with all its silly requirements and paperwork and its ridiculous refusal to allow an outdoor weddings would just have no meaning for them.
You want to know why we Catholics generally don’t allow outdoor weddings? There is an altar in a church. Altars are where one makes sacrifice and marriage is a sacrifice. Marriage is a gift given not just by bride and groom to each other, but to their children, to the third and fourth generation and beyond. It is a sacrifice made for humanity and for history, but we have reduced it to a narcissistic fantasy from bridal magazines the size of telephone books. The basic building block of Christendom has become a plaything for wedding planners and for aging children, to the third and fourth marriage.
Cardinal Francis George quoted someone; I don’t remember whom, saying that when one invents one’s own religion, he generally ends up worshipping himself. I prefer to worship at the living temple built by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and by their descendant, Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God and Son of Mary. I will not bow down with you at the shrine of Nigel’s invented religion.
Has it occurred to you that perhaps you are the one looking down your nose at him? Why do you want to force your brother to worship at your Temple of the Easy Conscience? At least leave him his religion. He doesn’t seem to have much else.
The Reverend Know-it-all