Priests, preaching, and the “politics of controversy”

From the most recent Homiletic & Pastoral Review editorial by Fr. Kenneth Baker, S.J.:

“I don’t preach on doctrine and morals anymore because they are too controversial.” Those are the exact words of the pastor of a New Jersey Catholic church, which were quoted to me recently by a priest-friend who heard them with his own ears. If the good pastor no longer “dares” to preach about doctrine and morals, we may wonder what he does preach about. Apparently, he prefers to preach about subjects that are not so controversial. “Such as…?” you might respond. Well, I suppose he could urge his parishioners to pray, to read the Bible, to practice Christian charity by helping the needy. But even these subjects today are not without their controversial aspects.

In the secular realm, the so-called “politics of controversy” has helped to introduce a flood of social legislation which, in one way or another, runs counter to God’s law as expressed in the natural law, the Ten Commandments, and the moral teaching of the Church. Thus, long-standing laws against artificial contraception (originally introduced by Protestant-dominated state legislatures) were challenged; then, they became controversial; and, eventually, they were reversed.  The same procedure was followed in the matter of abortion. It is now proceeding rapidly with regard to homosexuality, and same-sex marriage.  In a few years, the same (so far successful) tactic will be followed in the attempt to legalize infanticide, and euthanasia for the elderly, the deformed, the severely handicapped, and any other “unwanted” types of human beings.  We are repeating what happened in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s.

Fr. Baker goes on to ask, “But what happens to a parish, and to its parishioners, when the pastor refuses to preach Catholic doctrine and morals on the grounds that they are now ‘too controversial’? Should the people organize a pressure group to force him to preach the whole faith?” No, he says, that would “unseemly.” Read the entire editorial on the HPR site.

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About Carl E. Olson 1232 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.