Quandary of Teaching Truth
A lie is ‘saying the false in order to deceive,’ according to St. Thomas Aquinas. It’s become a modern-day life-art. Catholics are being cajoled into accepting the notion that ‘niceness’ and tolerance mandate silence or mitigating what they know as simple Catholic Truth. It’s a great acid test, and many of us get cut off at the pass in the guillotine of guile. It’s infected our workplaces, political banter, even many Catholic schools and parish programs. A few priests in our area who still preach unblemished truth are shunned, reported, and denied certain priestly assignments. What a cross they carry, but for love of Christ and His flock. But when these ‘unpopular’ padres say Mass, the Church is packed. That says something indeed.
When we know the truth about Catholic teaching, we have a duty to proclaim it. But often when we do – as parents, teachers, writers, speakers, neighbors, even to families – we get a walk down a thorn-thicketed garden path. The ‘feelings police,’ and many running school and parish programs, will demand we retract ‘harshness’ and serve it afresh with ‘support’ of others and nice-guy compromise. Revisionist Catholicism has become the new golden calf.
About 10 years ago, I thought my mid-life calling might be to detox from communications deadlines and corporate crisis strategy and teach high school. My own kids were teenagers, and I applied to teach religion and English at an all-boys Catholic prep school. So when they hired me for the term as a substitute teacher, I was jazzed. It had to be right.
In a junior morality class, I was to teach formation of conscience. But as I studied the instructor materials, it was really the ol’ ‘I’m okay-you’re-okay’ values-clarification game. Nah. I decided to skip the facade, and tell them the truth on the moral situations we were to discuss. It was a critical time in their lives to be aware of – and hopefully embrace – Catholic truth. The stakes were already high.
The pivotal subject on a balmy Monday? Dating and marriage. Nice appetizer before lunch.
Suddenly, I had their rapt attention. These rammy 17-year-old guys, a week before their junior prom, all stared at me in shock as I explained church teaching on courtship and purpose of marriage, and what healthy dating should resemble. And the ringer – serious sin. I rained on their spring parade, but they didn’t move – they were engrossed. Arms shot up, with question after question. The discussion got loud and boisterous. They couldn’t get enough of what they’d somehow missed, when the Church had decided all these things, what Christ had to say … all of it.
“I never heard any of this stuff,” one bulky baseball player admitted. “Wow.” He had some thinking to do. When the bell rang, they still didn’t move.
On his way out into the hallway, another guy said, “This was amazing. I hope you get to teach here for good.”
But I didn’t. It was too much for the department head to take, such veritable Catholic talk. But it made a great difference, in just a short time.
CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK is Legatus magazine’s editor.