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Holy Family Cathedral » Rector, Uncategorized » Father Jovita: Responsible Morality

Father Jovita: Responsible Morality

by Very Rev. Chudwuki Jovita Okonkwo, Ph.D.

Father Jovita color official portrait light blue bckgndWe have hit midway in our Lenten penance or perhaps before this newsletter arrives at your home and you have time to read it, it’ll be a couple weeks before Lent is over. The weather is already showing signs that winter will soon be completely over. We have begun noticing signs that the trees and grasses that have appeared dead are not dead, after all. And so, the signs of resurrected life are becoming apparent. Hence, my reflection this season centers on the outcome of transcendent God-centered spirituality, which I’ll suggest is Responsible Morality. Among the behaviors or values that have been suggested for attaining intentionality in the Catholic faith, I have discussed voluntary subordination, authentic self, covenantal relationship and transcendental spirituality. I want to add responsible morality to the list, and, as I’ve already stated, it is the immediate outcome of transcendental or God-centered spirituality. Permit me to assert that not every spirituality is God-centered or celestial. Satanists are definitely very spiritual people; in fact, often more spiritual than many of us, but they practice a form of spirituality that, though awe-inspiring, is at the same time pernicious. We do not have only good spiritual people. As goodness is a spiritual principle, so too, is evil; and both good and evil compete in that domain.

 

RESPONSIBLE MORALITY VERSUS MORAL RESPONSIBILITY

In my attempt then to define responsible morality I thought it beneficial to sift morality centered on transcendent truth from the new decadent morality based on self-fulfillment, which is a fluffed-up version of hedonism (based on the logic of self-centeredness). Because anything can today pass for moral or, to use the downgraded term, ethical, people feel uncomfortable to talk about morality as they are increasingly pulled between two moralities. Responsible morality is not merely a question of being moral or taking moral responsibility for an action or inaction. Responsible morality is rather ensuring that both the ends an individual seeks and the means he or she employs to reach that end are morally legitimized, thoughtfully reasoned, and ethically justified (Sendjaya). The ethical predisposition needed to attain this level of moral reasoning calls for the highest ideals of moral and ethical predilection. Such predilection goes beyond conventional moral reasoning and hinges on internalized principles of justice and right, rather than the expectations of others or what is in vogue. For example, it’ll be frivolous to hang one’s moral balance on the ethical perceptions or values of a fast changing society clearly driven by utility and pleasure. I avow that it’ll be naive to assimilate the very moral postures that have necessarily created the confusions in which present day society finds itself engulfed. In a society where ethical principles are wantonly compromised, intentional Catholics must foster reflective behaviors which will bring about positive change in the ethical climate of any environment in which they live and work. They must continue to swim counter-current to the moral attitudes of modern day man and woman. We must take ourselves away from the present day moral culture and practically live above and beyond it; in such a manner, we’ll reveal how callous, out-rightly unthinking and irresponsible those who engineer it have become.

 

IN THE WORLD, NOT OF THE WORLD

Before he proceeded to his passion, Jesus sounded clearly worried about the impact the world would have on the message that he brought and for which he was moving headlong to deliver his life. The Evangelist John dedicated no less than a chapter of his gospel to the prayer that Jesus said for his disciples and those who through them would come to believe in him, that is, we, who heard and accepted the message and new life he brought. In the 17th chapter, Jesus, being God and foreseeing the menace of the evil one and the world which we face presently could not hide worries. Being man, he probably wondered whether the passion he was going to accomplish for our redemption would be worth that price. Earlier in John 16, he gave them stern warnings about embracing the world so that they would not stumble, for he feared desperately that they might. Then in John 17, he turns to prayer to his Father and our Father. The crux of the prayer was that the Father should save us from the world. Folks, intentional Catholics should have a signpost in the most visible area of their home saying: “Always beware of the world and its ways!”

How is it then that we have chosen to embrace and cuddle that (the world) from which Jesus prayed to save us? We seem to have submitted to a need to be validated by the opinions and ways and attitudes of the world from which Jesus saved us. Some panic when people in the world tell them they’re out of touch with the world of today. Shouldn’t we be, knowing its ways? Are we unaware that what they mean by that is that we’re living a morality above theirs, a responsible morality? Are we blind to the fact that they’ll prefer that we live like them, with a subjective morality hewn from a thorough-going imanentism, whereby truth, freedom, responsibility, and even evil itself become self-constructed, or as the philosophers would say, constructed by consciousness; with the implication that nothing is objectively given?

 

WHO AM I TO JUDGE?

Perhaps you remember those words by Pope Francis as he answered questions from the media on his return trip from the World Youth Day in Brazil. It is quite astonishing how a purposely truncated quoting of the pope has become the credo of the world and those who have chosen to live in moral plain-land, indecision or wasteland. And those off-the-cuff words of the Holy Father are reverberating as authoritative moral teaching in support of such attitude. Those five words sifted from a whole conversation are repeated over and over again to misrepresent and twist so people will not learn the truth and be led to responsible morality. I do not wish to discuss the major issue raised in that Q&A but suffice it to say that Pope Francis was clear about Church teaching on sin, repentance, forgiveness and the mercy of God for all his children regardless the level of moral crisis they face. It was for them that Jesus came and died. In few weeks we’ll be re-enacting that event which brought us salvation, namely, the Easter event. The pope clearly envisions that one caught in moral vice, understanding and judging himself or herself rightly would in an attitude of responsible morality seek the mercy of God. God never deserts us, even though we may be the worst sinners. The door to God’s heart is always open to those who seek him and whom he desperately searches to bring home. The door is not shut to anyone, so, who am I or you to judge anyone.

If believing Christians understood Francis’ words to mean an invitation to God’s mercy, the world took them to mean license to sin and a tacit approval of a lifestyle of sin. No mention is made about the Holy Father’s strong condemnation in the same interview of all forms of lobby: gay lobby, lobby of greedy people, lobby of politicians, lobby of Masons, so many lobbies. Nor have we heard any mention of the pope’s reference to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which he said, explains well the issues the reporter asked about. Beware of the world!

 

COMBATTING THE WORLD AND THE ONSLAUGHT OF THE DEMONIC

About a week ago, someone who called himself a Satanist blocked his number and called the office here to threaten that they (the Satanists) will be picketing the Mass. Many who came to Mass at the Cathedral the Sunday after the call noticed that we had blessed salt sprinkled on the pews, around the altar, the entrance of the Cathedral, and the perimeter of the Church. What interested me greatly was that several of our children, especially school kids asked about the significance of the salt. I explained to them how salt is blessed and sprinkled to deter the enemy from hurting us. Many had not heard about blessed salt all their life. I must confess that I didn’t mean to embarrass a parent when I asked an inquiring child in front of the parent if the parent had not told them about blessed salt or water or chalk or candle. I quickly realized right then that while the child noticed and inquired about the salt, the parent didn’t notice and had no clue about what blessed salt meant or is used for. If that is the case with many Catholics, how would we be able to deter the enemy if we do not know basic Catholic rituals and that the devil with the world is our enemy? How would we be able to guide our children to the faith if several parents do not know their faith and have the least interest in learning or being informed? Is it enough to decorate our homes with beautiful flowers and paintings of great artists but no religious objects, no sacramental, no prayers, no moral element to living?

Months ago, following the advice of well-meaning parishioners, we kicked off a faith formation class for parents and children of all ages, which we called Wednesdays at the Cathedral. A huge part of the resources of the parish goes into this program, yet several parents ignore the opportunity provided them and get angry when they are requested to sit for an hour and learn something to transmit to their children. Less than 15 percent of our parishioners take advantage of the opportunity. As we have learned from the children in RE, several of their parents do not even attend Mass. What I hear is that they are busy, very busy providing for their family. Parenting for some means providing food, clothes, toys, cellphones, while their pantry of spiritual food remain exceedingly bare. The result is that the devil is having a field day. The devil loves that many parents have completely outsourced the task of raising their children to people in the world they do not know. Msgr. Gier told about a child who a few years ago grew exasperated about not having been baptized and yelled at its cradle Catholic mom: “It’s your fault that I’m not yet baptized.” I add that that was the voice of God admonishing the parent for her negligence.

 

DROP-OFF CULTURE AND MENTALITY

About 15 years ago, the diocese of Tulsa held a synod. The overwhelming outcome of the synod proceedings was that the greatest need of the Catholic Church in Eastern Oklahoma was the passing on of the faith to our children. About how to pass on the faith, parents agreed to do nothing. The majority of parents opted to include the faith formation of their children among the exercises whereby the drop-off culture and mentality would hold sway. Just as they would drop-off kids for school, games, band practice, piano lessons, and so on, they added their kid’s faith formation to the list. For them, in so far as they pay money, other people should raise their kids for them, including in the area of faith formation. Would you drop-off your children in the restaurant for the attendants to feed them? A child can learn to play the piano without the urging of her mom or dad. Basketball stars do not need their dad in order to learn how to throw powerful shots. The cardinal or theological virtues may serve well but they are not required to excel in an orchestra or a basketball team. Durant and Westbrook could be great basketball players without being good or virtuous people; hence, their mom could drop them off and go shopping. When, however, it is question of religion and passing on the faith, a child can hardly attain the life of virtue and sustain a good life without the urging and example of parents and guardians in the faith. You cannot pass on a faith you do not have. We say in Latin “Nemo dat quod non habet” (You cannot give what you don’t have).

We have done this RE drop-off for nearly half a century and have only had more and more loss of faith. Why we keep revising the same error, I have no clue. We are evidently preferring irresponsible moral upbringing to responsible morality, pouring buttercream icing over cow manure. The Fathers of Vatican II in the Declaration on Religious Education, Gravissimum Educationis, no. 3, were adamant that the gravest obligation of parents is to educate their family in the faith. “The role of parents in education,” Vatican II insists, “is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute.” Not even the parish can take it over, even if we want to. Responsible morality calls parents to abandon this drop-off culture with regard to children’s faith formation, roll up their sleeves and be part of the formation program we provide in the parish to help us grow in our faith so we can pass it on to our children.

 

May our Blessed Mother Mary who schooled her child and God, Jesus in virtue help all parents through her intercession to appreciate their duty to raise their children in responsible morality, that they may know and worship God, reject the enemy and the world, and be fortified to love and serve their neighbor!

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2 Responses to "Father Jovita: Responsible Morality"

  1. Jennifer Cross says:

    Thank you Fr Joveta:) You are very observant, wise, and right on point.

  2. Rene Sykes says:

    Just passing thru Tulsa and saw steeples in distance, and googled the cathedral. God bless you, Fr Jovita, for wise words here. May our Lord Jesus our Redeemer find us faithful when He comes!

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