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Defend Life against the World

By Judie Brown

Saint Athanasius of Alexandria was known for his strong defense of the teaching of the Catholic Church, which led him at one point to say, “If the world is against the truth, then I am against the world.”

Today we could benefit from that same conviction, especially when it comes to defending the innocent and the vulnerable from the war being waged on them everywhere. The spate of false statements being paraded as fact reminds me of the simple truth Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once spoke: “Wrong is wrong, even if everybody is wrong. Right is right, even if nobody is right.”

Like Athanasius, Sheen was well aware that there are times in the history of the Church when truth is the only armament that we have with which to struggle against the demons of deception and violence. It is indeed a challenging time to live in. This is why it is so inspiring to encounter leaders within the Church who are not afraid to be right when everyone else is wrong.

We know that we can rely on Bishop Joseph Strickland to teach without twisting the meaning of Church teaching, but he is not alone. Australian archbishop Anthony Fisher is of the same moral character. He has overcome suffering to become a voice of truth in the Catholic Church. While he may not be familiar to you, I remember him from my days of service on Pope John Paul II’s Pontifical Academy for Life.

Fisher was a brilliant defender of truth whose commitment never wavered. He spoke truth in 2004 when we first encountered him and he has stood in the gap, never backing away from what is right. This is why I felt compelled to share a few of his words of wisdom.

On our position as pro-life people, he wrote:

“Concern for human life and for pregnant women has put Catholics at the forefront not only of lobbying for the legal protection of human life, but of efforts to create a more just and compassionate society in which couples and single women distressed by pregnancy are supported in every way possible through their pregnancy and the years of child-rearing ahead; a community in which pregnancy is not a source of disadvantage and distress to women, and in which resources are directed toward helping the distressed rather than killing their children.”

On the question of contraception, he wrote a clear definition of the contraceptive mentality, explaining:

I said I thought soon-to-be Saint Paul VI prophetically foresaw that contraception would not only be a threat to individual souls and individual families, but a mentality that would corrupt whole communities. I suggest that this mentality – at its heart, a fear of children and their demands – has infected some dioceses, parishes, religious congregations and Church bureaucracies too. Some in these places are not open to a new generation, not willing generously to nurture them. They fear them as too young, energetic, demanding, conservative, different – whatever. So faith is not transmitted and vocations not nurtured.

Words like these define the man, the teacher, and the zealous defender of truth. Even when he was shouted at by a transgender activist, he was not flustered but carried on in his comments to lawmakers. This is so because what he was saying was based on truth, not politically correct disinformation.

So when he took note of the synod, we paid close attention. You see, according to the Catholic News Agency, Archbishop Fisher “explained that if some synod proposal is ‘radically at odds’ with the Gospel and the apostolic tradition, ‘that’s not of the Holy Spirit because we cannot have Christ and the Holy Spirit at war with each other.'”

The reason statements like these are so important is that the Church today is at a crossroads. The world demands compliance with secular attitudes, and the Church needs to be strong and merciful while never backing away from the truth.

It is my humble opinion that Saint Athanasius would be proud of men like Bishop Strickland and Archbishop Fisher as they stand in the gap and declare truth, not because it is popular, but because souls are at stake. May each of us have the inward strength to defend truth against the world.

image: Thomas Hawk via Flickr | CC-2.0