Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Church: A Reverse Representative Monarchy

(Christ the King (A): This homily was given on November 23, 2008 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani. Read Matthew 25: 31-46.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Christ the King 2008]

  • Catholics For A Free Choice
  • Call to Action
  • Dignity USA
  • Women’s Ordination Conference
  • New Ways Ministry

Those are the names of 5 different organizations, all of which claim to be Catholic. You can look them all up online if you wish, as I did the other day in preparation for this homily.

The problem is, they all advocate and promote ideas which are contrary to the official teaching of the Church. That means they’re not really Catholic at all!

Catholics For a Free Choice, for example, is a pro-abortion lobbying group that has no formal connection with Catholicism, except for its name.

And the name obviously contains a lie! If you’re truly Catholic, you cannot be for free choice when it comes to killing babies!

Women’s Ordination Conference is a group pushing for the ordination of women to the priesthood—something that the Church says will not happen and CANNOT happen because it is not the will of Jesus Christ.

Dignity and New Ways Ministry are, in point of fact, gay-rights groups that want the Church to say yes to the gay lifestyle—something that the Church will never do.

Thankfully, there’s another great organization out there called Courage. Some of you have probably heard of it. It was started many years ago by Fr. John Harvey. The purpose of Courage is to support and assist homosexual Catholics who are sincerely trying to be faithful to Jesus and his gospel.

If you know any Catholics who struggle with same-sex attraction, please tell them to join Courage and to avoid groups like Dignity and New Ways Ministry.

These are just a few of the many organizations out there that try to pass themselves off as Catholic, when in fact they are anti-Catholic in much of what they teach and stand for.

I wonder how the men and women who are involved in these groups feel about the feast we’re celebrating in the Church this weekend: the Feast of Christ the King.

My guess is that they absolutely, positively hate it, and would dearly love to see it taken off the Liturgical calendar completely—or at least given a new name.

How about, “the Feast of Jesus Christ, the President” or “the Feast of Jesus Christ, the Governor”?

Those titles, I think, would be much more appealing to them, because they imply that the Church is a kind of democracy.

However the Church, as Jesus Christ established and designed it, is not democratic at all!

This, I think, is why so many Catholics here in the United States have trouble accepting the authoritative teachings of the Catechism, and why they have difficulty with the idea that the pope or a council can teach infallibly in the name of Jesus Christ: they expect the Church to function like the American government!

But that’s a false expectation! As today’s feast makes crystal clear, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior is a king, not a president or a governor! And because he’s a king, his word is law! Notice in today’s gospel passage from Matthew 25—in this famous scene of the Last Judgment—Jesus does not call each person forward individually and then say to everyone else, “Okay, let’s have a vote on whether or not this person should go to heaven”; he simply separates people into two groups and makes his final decree.

Basta! Finito! End of story.

There’s no court of appeals. He’s the king; his word is law, and his judgment is final.

And, of course, because he’s God, his judgment is also perfect and without error!

That’s one of the things that makes him different from all earthly kings—and presidents and governors, for that matter.

Here in the United States we have a democratic form of government; although, strictly speaking we do not live in a democracy. We live in a representative republic: we don’t vote on everything ourselves; we elect other people to represent us and to make laws on our behalf.

The Church, we need to understand, is completely different. The Church is what I would call a “reverse representative monarchy.”

In the representative republic we call the United States, our senators and congressmen represent us to the president. (At least that’s one way to look at it.)

There’s an “upward motion”.

In the Church, the pope and the bishops “represent” Jesus Christ to us through their ministry and teaching: Jesus Christ, who is the King, not the president. There’s a “downward motion.”

It’s a reverse representative monarchy.

Jesus said to Peter, “Whatever you bind on earth, will be bound in heaven;” and he said to all the apostles, “He who hears you hears me.”

The role of the Holy Father and the bishops in union with him is to pass on to us the decrees of the King! They don’t make the truths concerning faith and morals—they have no power to do that; they only teach and defend them. They represent the King to us and to the world.

This is why polls in the Church and about the Church are often meaningless—absolutely meaningless. Tell that to the people at ABC, NBC, CBS, and the cable news networks!

Now please don’t misunderstand. If it’s a poll, for example, concerning how a parish should celebrate its anniversary, then it’s a valid poll. (We had a one like that here in 2004—remember? I had everyone vote on what activities they thought we should have to celebrate our 50th year of existence.)

But if a poll is taken on whether or not the Church should approve of abortion, or artificial birth control, or euthanasia, or pre-marital sex, or some other sin, it’s absolutely meaningless and irrelevant! Even if 99.999% of baptized Catholics said that they thought the Church should say Amen to those things, it would not happen.

Nothing would change. The teachings would remain exactly the same.

And ultimately it would not be because the bishops and the pope said so.

It would be because Jesus Christ, the King, said so!