Life Issues Forum: Finding Truth and Peace This Lent

Finding Truth and Peace this Lent

By Susan E. Wills

March 4, 2011

When it comes to sins against human  life or chastity, there is today a profound darkening of conscience. American  culture also promotes a moral relativism that prevents us from seeing sins for  what they are. Just last week, I encountered written material from three  Catholics illustrating this trend:  
  • In a paper on the ethics of  contraception, a Catholic college student wrote that she believes the Church  does not take very seriously its objection to contraceptive use, so she doesn’t  either. She has never heard it mentioned in a homily, nor been told of the  teaching (except dismissively) in years of Catholic schooling.
  • A co-chair of a parish-based program gave  the impression she is considering being sterilized. On a popular blog for  “urban moms,” she asked if other women could share their positive experiences with  a particular method of permanent sterilization.
  • Another Catholic woman wrote of her  experiences going through multiple harrowing cycles of egg extraction and in  vitro fertilization (IVF), in her effort to create children genetically related  to herself and her husband.

Many  Catholics experiencing fertility problems have resorted to IVF to create a  child, and many consider IVF to be “pro-life” simply because it may bring a new  baby into the world. Few are aware that, in addition to the moral problems  related to IVF, the vast majority of the embryonic children created through  reproductive technologies are discarded or otherwise die in the process.

As  adults we cannot claim that the Church’s moral truths are unavailable to us.  The Catechism teaches that the moral  law is inscribed in our hearts by God, and that we have a duty to educate and  form our conscience so that we can make good judgments and act morally (See  CCC, 1776-1794). It has never been easier to access the wisdom of the Church on  issues of life and chastity—the writings of popes, bishops, and good moral  theologians are only a Google search away.

But  recognizing that an act is sinful is just the first step toward reconciliation.  We must also repent of our action, and that usually entails dropping our  excuses or rationalizations for the wrong we commit. How many parents, faced  with a diagnosis of genetic problems in their unborn child, have succumbed to  the advice of doctors and loved ones to end the child’s life to “prevent the  child’s suffering”?

How many parents of pregnant teens thought they were doing  the right thing by insisting their daughter have an abortion so she wouldn’t be  “burdened” while finishing her education? God wants to restore our peace and  pour out his healing grace on us in confession, but the rationalizations and  excuses have to go.

Parish  priests should be uniquely qualified to inspire deep conversion and  reconciliation among their parishioners. They can foster an understanding of  Church teachings on life and chastity—the basis for an authentic and  comprehensive examination of conscience—through homilies, and through bulletin inserts  and announcements citing good articles on these teachings. By preaching on  God’s desire to forgive our sins and renew us in his grace, and offering extra  hours of sacramental reconciliation each week, priests can overcome the  obstacles of fear and “inconvenience” that keep people away from confession.

With  these few steps, all of us in the parish can be encouraged to make peace with our  past and more worthily observe Holy Week and Easter this year.    

Susan E. Wills, Esq. is assistant director for education  and outreach, USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities. For more information on  the bishops’ pro-life activities, visit