Friday, June 23, 2006

The King's Good Servant, But God's First...

Homily for the Feast of St. John Fisher, Bishop and Martyr,
and St. Thomas More, Martyr

Last week, an official of the Metropolitan Transit Authority in Washington, D.C. was fired by the governor of Maryland. The Metro Transit Authority runs the subway and bus mass-transit system in Washington, D.C. and its suburbs. This official wasn't fired because he was incompetent. He wasn't fired because he was doing a bad job. He wasn't fired because of corruption, or any other misconduct. He wasn't even fired because of budget cuts or other financial problems. No, he was fired because, on a local cable tv talk show, he expressed an opinion. He described homosexual activity as "sexual deviancy", and stated that he held this opinion as part of his Roman Catholic faith. For this, homosexual activists denounced his statement as "beyond the pale", demanded his firing, and the governor complied. For expressing the view held and taught by the Catholic Church for two millenia, and reiterated by our present Holy Father, this man was viewed as "beyond the pale" and unfit for public office.

In the early 16th century, John Fisher, the Bishop of Rochester, England, and Thomas More, the former Chancellor of England, also were deemed to be "beyond the pale" by those in power. And they were seen as threats because they held to the teaching of the Church, and refused to give in to pressure to compromise or accomodate King Henry VIII's efforts to remake the Church in his own image.

Now, I am not equating this official in Maryland with Saints John Fisher or Thomas More. The stakes were far higher for them. Thse men not only lost privilege, preferment, and position, but they paid for their fidelity with their lives. They did not merely express an opinion, but stood nearly alone against all the men that they knew, had worked with, and had formerly respected.

But the parallel exists, nonetheless. For today, just as in the 1500's, there are those who would remake the Church in some new, more convenient, image. There are many, some even within the Church, who urge her to be more "moderate", to "soften" her voice, to "update" her teaching to something more acceptable to the opinions of our elites. There are those who would tell her, and us, to simply shut up and keep our beliefs to ourselves. They declare our views "beyond the pale", and threaten - sometimes subtly, sometimes openly - that if we persist in holding them, "bad things" will happen to us.

And "bad things", indeed, can happen for being faithful to the Church and her teaching. Such has always been the case. In different places and times, men have had their property confiscated, were imprisoned, and gave their lives for their faith in Christ and His Church. They understood, as St. Paul tells us, that our true citizenship is not in any earthly nation, but in heaven.

There is, of course, no essential conflict between being a good citizen and being a faithful Catholic. But when the State declares itself, either in word or by action, to be at enmity with Christ and His Church, we must remember where our true citizenship belongs.

St. Thomas More, before he was led off to be executed, said "I am the King's good servant, but God's first." We are all Americans, and we would all serve our nation gladly and gratefully. But when our governments champion the death of innocents under the banner of "choice", when our elected officials advance immorality and perversion and call it "diversity", and when the organs of our public life attempt to silence us and punish us for the Faith we hold, we must be prepared to part ways.

Make no mistake, there is little room left for half-measures or compromise. It is much later in the day than we suppose. We must be prepared, like St. Thomas More, to say, "I am a loyal American, but a disciple of Jesus first", or "I am a good citizen, but a citizen of Heaven first". We may, like many before us, pay for our fidelity with the loss of position or worldly regard. We may even, someday, be called to offer our lives. But we know, as did John Fisher and Thomas More, the truth of our Lord's words that "he who loses his life for my sake will find it."