Last weekend, I was in South Australia delivering several talks with theme of: “It’s tough being Catholic sometimes.”
Planned months ago, I didn’t realise that these talks would occur in advance of what is probably going to be the toughest week Catholics have faced in a long time.
This Tuesday, Archbishop Philip Wilson, former Archbishop of Adelaide, will be back in court, with the judge to decide whether he is suitable for home detention or whether he must serve a prison sentence of six months for failing to report claims of child sexual abuse.
Whatever happens, the decision is sure to attract another round of media coverage, commenting on the ‘unprecedented’ conviction and sentencing, with additional commentary surrounding his recent resignation as well.
Also on Tuesday, the federal Senate will begin debating a Bill that, if passed, will pave the way for euthanasia and assisted suicide to be legalised in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory.
Senator David Leyonhjelm, who will introduce the bill into the Senate, has intentionally turned this into an anti-faith issue. Writing in last week’s Australian Financial Review, Senator Leyonhjelm framed the debate as a decision on whether or not you wanted religion and religious people telling you what to do with your life (and death.) Three days have been set aside for the debate, so we can expect to see a lot of back and forth from pro-suicide – and anti-Church – commentators, many of whom will use the current scandals in the Church to argue that it no longer has moral authority.
On Thursday, while the euthanasia debate is wrapping up and a vote potentially occurring, the Queensland Palaszczuk government will introduce the Termination of Pregnancy Bill. If passed, the bill would make abortion legal, even up to birth.
It would force doctors and other medical professionals who conscientiously object to abortion to nonetheless participate by referring a woman seeking an abortion to someone who will perform it. And it would prevent anyone trying to persuade a woman out of undergoing an abortion, even through prayer or offers of help, from coming within 150 metres of an abortion clinic.
And those of us following what is happening in the Church in the United States at the moment, it seems that each day there is a new scandal in the news.
Child abuse and failures to report. Euthanasia. Abortion. Sex scandals. And that’s just the stuff we know about!
It’s a tough time to be Catholic, especially this week. But we won’t be doing it alone.
It should not be lost on any of us that, in such a difficult week, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Lady, and the feast of St Maximilian Kolbe, the Apostle of consecration to her and the founder of the Militia Immaculatae – the army of the Immaculate One – to work for the conversion of sinners and enemies of the Catholic Church.
At a time when the Church in Australia needs the intercession of the whole communion of saints, God – in His providence – has arranged it so that this week, we have a couple of heavy-hitters on our side.
At a time when the Church in Australia needs the faithful more united in prayer, God – in His providence – has ensured that one of our two remaining holy days of obligation occurs smack in the middle of the week.
This is going to be a big week, to be sure, but it’s also a time of grace. In the coming days, politicians and media seeking to push an anti-Church, anti-life agenda will try to give us many reasons to be silent about, or at least embarrassed by, our Catholic faith. We have a choice between keeping our heads down and our mouths closed, or to respond to the challenge with increasing boldness, backed by the truth of what the Church teaches about the dignity of human life from conception until natural death.
And we best do that not by our words, but by the witness of our lives.
Ten years ago, on the Solemnity of the Assumption, Pope Benedict XVI said:
“In the face of the sad spectacle of all the false joy and at the same time of all the anguished suffering which is spreading through the world, we must learn from her to become ourselves signs of hope and comfort; we must proclaim with our own lives Christ’s Resurrection.”
He’s right. Let’s recommit ourselves this week to being extra prayerful, extra hopeful, extra joyful. We might just turn a tough week for Catholics into a great one!