Nearly $1 billion was pledged to repair damages the Notre Dame Cathedral sustained from its April fire. Rich, French individuals pledged the bulk of the money. By a quirk in French law, the Cathedral, identified as owned by the Catholic Church, is in law owned by the government of France. It was also pointed out that French tax law provided substantial tax breaks to those who pledged large sums of money toward the cathedral’s rebuilding. These factors prompted some to suggest that all people of France have a stake in the re-building of Notre Dame. As such, some have further suggested that the rebuilding ought to reflect the cultural values of today, not the Catholic values of the era of its original construction.
Just what is a Cathedral or a church? What values of today’s western culture merit inclusion in the design of a Catholic Church?
Point of Challenge
The damage sustained by the Notre Dame Cathedral is sad. On the other hand, as a society we tolerate and encourage the desecration and destruction of cathedrals with funding of our tax dollars and affording it the protection of our legal system. There are even elements of our society that will celebrate the targeting of these cathedrals and churches. These celebrations have even included special lighting of the Freedom Tower in New York City, the same tower that is the memorial replacement of the Twin Towers taken down in the attacks of 9/11. One major political party in the United States has advanced and defended platforms that promote these attacks on cathedrals and churches. That which is in the United States is mirrored in most countries around the world, including France.
How can we, as a culture, celebrate freedom of religion while also funding and sponsoring attacks on houses of worship? How can we be so indifferent to the literal destruction daily of over 3,500 cathedrals in our own country, the Untied States?
Desecration give way to Self-Destruction
Baptism has many effects with one being that the Baptized becomes a temple of the Holy Spirit. Do we recognize the Baptized, a Temple of the Holy Spirit, as a consecrated cathedral, a church, or even as a chapel? Is a temple a lesser?
Should we rightly limit among the Baptized-only the recognition of the person – body, mind, and spirit – being a temple of the spirit? Or is the intent of God to be considered?
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. Matthew 28:19-20
God does indeed intend for all people to be consecrated as Temples of the Holy Spirit through Baptism. The un-baptized, or more appropriately, the pre-baptized are therefore unconsecrated temples of the Holy Spirit, but temples just the same.
In our culture, there are many attacks on the cathedral of the person, but none more devastating than elective abortion. The completeness of the attack in abortion – the denial of every right of a person – goes beyond the person’s body that is rendered lifeless. The mother suffers, herself being a temple desecrated. The family and society are deprived of all benefits of the life and presence of this member. Much attention of society is appropriately diverted from further pursuits to responding the many manifestations of shame and guilt associated with the post-abortive parents and post-abortive society.
Aside from the death of an innocent human being associated with elective abortion, there is also the death of the innocence of the abortive parents, of friends who may have escorted the abortive parents, along with the innocence of the abortion providers. Society itself is coarsened. At current rates of abortion at greater than 826,199, Guttmacher Institute estimates that 25% of all women will have had at least one abortion by age 45.* Note that years previous to the mid-1970s had abortion rates consistently over 1 million and often closer to or exceeding 1.25 million annually. Also, there is no significant distinction among religions in the rates of abortion procured.
One of abortion’s greatest impact on the mother and the father is the questioning of a religion that had so little influence it could allow such an act of supposed horror to take place with impunity. Out from this horror combined with shame, guilt, and fear is one now to be held to a standard of judgment – Thou shalt not kill – when so little concern and so much silence was given along the road to this perdition? Are the post-abortive to bear this burden of guilt alone? What kind of religion is this? What kind of loving God would now seek justice? Is not such a God equally guilty as the post-abortive for having permitted this to happen?
Is it a wonder our parishes are emptying? Is it a wonder why so many have followed suit appropriating Nietzsche statement that God is dead? If there still is a God, does not God deserve our rage?
Change the religion one practices and you have impacted one’s moral code. Alter one’s moral code and you have changed everything. More precisely, elective abortion, an unnatural act in itself, wounds the person in a manner that results in the person questioning God and one’s learned faith. Much more is lost in an abortion than an ‘unwanted pregnancy’ or ‘a blob of tissue.’
Parents and society are each burdened with carrying the often hidden mark of abortion, but our private actions have their public manifestations. Like a pregnant mother who will eventually reveal a baby bump, sin has its effect on the behavior of and values expressed by the sinner. Sin is always personal, but never truly private.
The expectation that the re-building of Notre Dame will reflect our culture of today instead of the needs and aspirations of God’s Catholic Church is but another sign of resentment that many harbor against God for whatever reason.
The blindness so many have to the truth that abortion is destroying the Cathedrals of God not built by human hands at an incomprehensible rate is indicative of the darkness that pervades. Maybe it is that these Cathedrals are not made by human hands that leads us to value them so much less than the Cathedral building damaged by fire?
May the peace of Jesus in the womb of Mary be with you.
© 2019 Patrick A. O’Donnell All Rights Reserved