Reading the signs of the times

Reading Time: 4 minutes
The only mention of defending life from conception to natural death comes in Part 8 in the Framework for Motions. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
The only mention of defending life from conception to natural death comes in Part 8 in the Framework for Motions. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

By Patrick O’Shea

Understanding what’s happening at a deeper level is important. It points us to the solutions

A common soundbite I hear in relation to the Plenary Council is that we need to read the signs of the times.

This commission from Gaudium et Spes often generates nods and murmurs of agreement among those familiar with post-Conciliar theology.

With the release of the Framework for Motions, can we determine what these signs are and how successful the Australian Church will be at challenging them?

Let’s take the last five years as a roadmap; after all, the Plenary Council was announced in 2018.

“It is clear that there is an attack on life, marriage, and the family and those are the signs we should be addressing.”

Immediately before the announcement, the Church was dragged through the mud in the Royal Commission; also that year same-sex ‘marriage’ passed the Federal Parliament; to cap it off, Victoria became the first State to legalise euthanasia.

Now in 2022, every Australian State has legalised euthanasia and abortion. It is clear that there is an attack on life, marriage, and the family and those are the signs we should be addressing.

Unfortunately, the only mention of defending life from conception to natural death comes in Part 8 in the Framework for Motions, under “Integral Ecology and Conversion for the Sake of our Common Home”.

If we want to renovate the Church for the needs of a new age, we need to start by rebuilding the family - the Domestic Church. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
If we want to renovate the Church for the needs of a new age, we need to start by rebuilding the family – the Domestic Church. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

Nowhere does the Framework for Motions address marriage, abortion, or euthanasia despite every State having fresh wounds from these battles.

Same-sex ‘marriage’ shows a lack of understanding of what true love is (not all loves are equal), abortion is the logical consequence of premarital intimacy, and euthanasia is what happens when we forgo Christian charity when presented with troubling circumstances.

These signs of the times are symptoms of underlying conditions that plague our culture.

Are we formed in what (who) Love is? Are we taught about the beauty of chaste relationships and freedom from pornography? Are we taught how to suffer well and practice ongoing fasting, or only during the Lenten season? These are questions to consider.

“As Pope Leo XIII wrote in Immortale Dei, we must be willing to have morals and ambitions widely different from that of our culture, to live our Christian vocation undefiled.”

So what is there to do? To drop everything and run to the hills in fear abandons our vocation to be in the world but not of it. We must remain hopeful; after all, Our Lord has told us to remain steadfast as He has already overcome it (John 16:33).

As Pope Leo XIII wrote in Immortale Dei, we must be willing to have morals and ambitions widely different from that of our culture, to live our Christian vocation undefiled.

In his letter to the Romans, St Paul tells us to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 13:14), to become ipse Christus: another Christ. In reading the signs of the times, what does it mean to be “another Christ”?

Now in 2022, every Australian State has legalised euthanasia and abortion. It is clear that there is an attack on life, marriage, and the family and those are the signs we should be addressing. Photo: CNS, Tyler Orsburn
Now in 2022, every Australian State has legalised euthanasia and abortion. It is clear that there is an attack on life, marriage, and the family and those are the signs we should be addressing. Photo: CNS, Tyler Orsburn

St Luke provides an answer: “Behold, this child is set [to be] a sign which shall be contradicted” (Luke 2:34). To be another Christ is to be a sign of contradiction. St Paul precedes his charge to “put on Christ” by commissioning us to contradict the ways of the world; to remain honest, sober, pure, modest, and remain magnanimous with a well-formed conscience (Rom 13:12-13).

When the world and its culture of death offers an array of comforts and temptations, Christ Himself offers the abode of the Domestic Church, a “sanctuary of life”, whose role is “decisive and irreplaceable” in building the culture of life (St John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae).

We need to rebuild the family as a sign of contradiction for Australia, to show that both Christ’s Bride, the Church, and the Domestic Church are reflections of His Goodness, Truth, and Beauty.

By repairing the Domestic Church, we as the Church in Australia can heal those wounds that we have all suffered of late.

“Only through fixing the family, which is a reflection of the Trinity and stands contrary to our modern times, can we confidently say we have successfully listened to the Spirit, examined the signs of the times, and interpreted them in the light of the Gospel.”

We can be, as the Second Vatican Council identifies us, the “light to the peoples” (Lumen Gentium).

Only through fixing the family, which is a reflection of the Trinity and stands contrary to our modern times, can we confidently say we have successfully listened to the Spirit, examined the signs of the times, and interpreted them in the light of the Gospel.

As the Australian Church, we must “put on the Lord Jesus Christ”, become a sign of contradiction against the signs of the times that seek to extinguish the fire of the Holy Spirit, and become ipse Christus, another Christ: a light to the world.

Patrick O’Shea is a pro-life activist and a staff member of the Archdiocese of Sydney