CHESTNUT HILL -- Many view the Catholic Church as the church of “no,” Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley told a group of 50 Boston College students Jan. 30.
The cardinal’s talk was sponsored by BC’s Church in the 21st Century Center, which began as a program responding to the sexual abuse crisis and became a permanent center in 2005.
Increasing secularization around the world and a culture addicted to entertainment have caused people to perceive the Church as prohibitive. They see the Church as an institution with too many rules, including the weekly Mass requirement, the cardinal said.
“Many people are shocked, disturbed, when the Catholic Church doesn’t hesitate to proclaim that the Ten Commandments are the path that God has given us to lead a fulfilling human life,” he said. “Indeed the Church’s positions are often challenging, but they are like the restrictions of parents who love their children and want what is best for them.”
The small group of students, selected from various campus organizations, gathered in BC’s Gasson Hall to hear the cardinal. Following the cardinal’s remarks he fielded questions from the students on topics ranging from relations with the Orthodox Church to AIDS in Africa.
Cardinal O’Malley answered every question in light of God’s will, reminding students that they should do the same. About the latter question, he said that the fight against the AIDS epidemic in Africa has been most effective by encouraging Christian values. The wide distribution of condoms is not a solution, he added.
“It’s a difficult situation,” he said. “If someone is infected and going to have relations and affect someone else, that is wrong, and the Church would certainly discourage them from doing that.”
Forgetting those Christian values is causing many societies to drift away from God, and forgetting about God is perilous. While governments need not promote religious practice, they must protect religious freedom, he added.
“Religious freedom has never been as threatened as it is now,” he said.
The Church needs a new apologetics to respond to society’s increased secularization. Young people need to be catechized and to learn how to pray and how to worship, he said.
“In an increasingly materialistic culture, if we don’t have a prayer life and we don’t have a sacramental life, then we’re not going to survive in a life of discipleship,” he said.
The sacraments, especially the Eucharist, are central to a life of discipleship. The Mass is a time for all Catholics to gather and be connected to the Lord and to one another. It is about worshipping God, not what is gained from the experience, he said.