Help us expand our reach! Please share this article
Many of our older readers will remember a time when the question “where do you live” was answered not with a street name or even a neighborhood but with the name of a parish. Every Catholic had his own church, determined by home address. Social life for many was synonymous with parish life. Masses, parties, balls, fundraising galas, rosaries and confessions, activities for the youth, sodalities, all centered around the church buildings, which usually included a school, a convent and a parish center.
Since life in many ways centered on the parish, a Catholic culture permeated the lives of the many regular churchgoers. A solid morality was very much a part of that culture. There was always a clear distinction between right and wrong even if one didn’t always make the right choice. In case of moral doubt, the Catholic environment provided guidance on which steps to take or to avoid.
The Pilot was also a part of that culture reporting news of interest to Catholics from around the archdiocese, the nation and the world. For most Catholic families, reading the Catholic newspaper each week was considered almost a duty.
But then came the 1960s, the 70s and the 80s. Each decade brought progressively greater societal change. Today, our society and our Church face an entirely different reality than it did at the midpoint of the last century.
A new secular culture, with values that are, at times, completely at odds with Christianity, has pervaded our society. That culture exalts individualism and self-gratification. It has obscured the fact that life is a gift from God and that a moral life requires the acceptance of certain values as inherently truthful and, therefore, unchangeable.
The secular culture preaches, instead, that truth is whatever suits a particular individual, so long as direct harm is not inflicted on others. (Of course, “others” can become a very select group that excludes, for example, the unborn, the elderly or the terminally ill.)
Objective truth and traditional moral values are perceived by this culture as impediments to true freedom and self-fulfillment. But when human freedom is separated from truth, the end result is not happiness but disappointment.
For Catholics, there is no way to return to the past. As a second-century Church writer put it, Catholics are called to be “in the world” but not “of the world.”
In our times, that balancing act is proving to be very trying for many Catholics. Our popular culture, with the immense power that the mass media exerts on old and young alike, has overwhelmed the intentions of many to remain faithful Catholics. Rather than Catholics “salting” our culture with Gospel values, the secular culture has transformed the minds of many Catholics.
As society has evolved and family and pro-life values have been progressively eroded, many Catholics have consented to those changes since they have almost always been advanced in the name of promoting personal freedom and tolerance.
It is not enough to rely on our Catholic roots if we are not able to understand our faith and the challenges our society currently poses to us. What shall we answer when our children confront us about current societal issues like same-sex marriage, euthanasia, embryonic stem-cell research or cloning? They want to know, they need to know — they have the right to know — why those practices, even though widely accepted by society, are wrong.
But, how can we pass faith and morals to the next generation if we ourselves do not have the answers?
This year’s theme for Catholic Press Month is “Where do you turn for guidance?”
War, terrorism, capital punishment, pro-life issues, poverty, all have a Catholic perspective. Regular Pilot readers will know that we strive to provide information on these and other ever-evolving issues that shape our society week by week. Our goal is to help our readers form their conscience in accordance with Christian principles.
In honor of Catholic Schools Week, which begins Jan. 30, and Catholic Press Month, which runs through February, complimentary copies of The Pilot are being distributed to the staff and students of the 151 Catholic schools in the archdiocese.
If you are new to The Pilot, we invite you to become a regular reader. If you do, you and your family will benefit from a unique local Catholic perspective you won’t find in any other source.