By comparison to the McCarrick scandal and other ecclesiastical deviances of late, what follows here may seem a bit abstracted.
Still, for those seeking a salient demonstration of the current doctrinal disarray in the Church by way of a moral theology circumspective, we find it compelling.
It is a purely fictitious encounter, but offered in deadly earnest.
Enter FutureCatholic (Initiate Discomfort)
Northern Michigan. Early 21st century. The living room of Howie Hodie, a devout Catholic layman, doing some quiet reading. A rushing wind suddenly fills his apartment, and a stranger appears as if from nowhere, seeming as startled to see Howie as Howie is to see him. The newcomer introduces himself as FutureCatholic.
Howie: So… does this mean you’re from the future?
FutureCatholic: You guessed it. I’m not allowed to tell you my real name, or what year I come from. The angel told me not to.
FutureCatholic: Yes, he… she… er, it told me I had something important to learn from the past, gave me some rules, and then whoosh! here I am.
H: Well, I would find your story rather incredible if a stranger hadn’t told me to expect this moment just yesterday after daily Mass. That, and the fact of your present position in my living room.
FC: You say “after daily Mass.” You’re a Catholic, then? A daily Mass-goer?
H: By God’s grace, yes.
FC: Excellent. Then you are just the fellow I must talk to.
H: About what?
FC: Why you think abortion is intrinsically evil.
H: I beg your pardon?
FC: Well, I confess I’m not highly educated in our shared Catholic Faith. Still, I was a little unsettled at a recent marriage prep seminar at my parish. You see, our priest told us that abortion is morally permissible in some situations.
H: I’m no scholar myself, but I’m fairly keen on this topic at least, being heavily involved in pro-life work. I can tell you that your pastor is gravely mistaken.
FC: Say, I remember the “pro-life cause” from my childhood history class; how fascinating to meet one of its proponents in person! I am prepared to listen and learn, as I only want the truth of Christ on this serious issue. Please elaborate.
H: I won’t mince words, and I’ll keep it short: Abortion is murder. It violates natural and divine law. No person or circumstance can make it licit. It is gravely sinful, and also bears the penalty of automatic excommunication.
FC: Yes, I once heard that abortion used to be grounds for excommunication; that’s part of why I felt uncomfortable recently. See, it’s no longer excommunicable where I come from – that was dropped from canon law before I was born. But it got me thinking: if something was excommunicable in the past, how could it be practiced so frequently in my time?
H: I hesitate to ask, but is it common even among so-called “Catholics”?
FC: Oh yes. I don’t personally know a single Catholic who isn’t okay with it. In fact, it’s so common in the culture that the Church has basically accepted it.
H: That can’t be true. The Church could never declare something evil to be good. That would mean that the gates of Hell have prevailed against Christ’s Church!
FC: Well, as you mention it, I haven’t actually found anywhere that the Church officially teaches abortion is licit. The doctrine just kind of… went away.
H: Went away?! But it’s the murder of a child in the womb!
FC: Well, our pastor said canon law no longer condemns it and that the discipline changed, then he cited some paragraphs from the catechism…
H: Wait, the catechism? But it’s plain as day in the catechism, read here-
FC: Yes yes, I’ve seen old catechisms condemning abortion, way back when… but things changed with the New Whatever Catechism. There’s nothing explicit in there on abortion (or much else). But like I said, the fact that catechisms used to forbid abortion did make me squirm a bit.
H: Good thing, too. Just because new canons or a new catechism are silent or ambiguous on the issue, that doesn’t change an intrinsically evil act into something morally good. Doesn’t your diocesan bishop reign in such errors?
FC: *Sigh* Not at all. In fact, my local bishop assists at an abortion about once a year, to commemorate Global Abortion Access Day. He says it’s an expression of solidarity with the poor from overpopulated geo-zones.
H: Murder! Sacrilege! I can’t believe it. Have you reported him to Rome?
FC: I had heard that some schismatic Catholic fringe group of some sort reported him a while back… but it’s unlikely anything will change.
H: What!? Why not?
FC: Because the Pope does the same thing.
H: No, no, my head is spinning. Are you saying that even though the Church hasn’t officially changed her teaching on abortion (which would be impossible), nevertheless many members of her hierarchy are so far removed from that teaching as to make it appear to have changed – from pauper to priest to Pope??
FC: Well, who are you to contradict the hierarchy? How can you be so sure that abortion is intrinsically evil after all?
H: Me? I’m nobody. Jesus is Lord, His word matters, and over two millennia of Scripture and Tradition clearly forbid abortion. Christ commands it.
FC: But the year that I come from is different. Humanity has grown, the situation has evolved. We have new perspective, new paradigms, a deeper understanding…
H: You mean a false understanding.
FC: Well if it is false, what can I to say to the countless clerics that have deviated from true doctrine and moral praxis across the globe? How can I understand my own era? I know there have been rough patches in Church history…
H: Yes, history would seem to be your key, and this visit has hopefully helped. A number of bygone ages also show the same lesson: Even if the majority of the hierarchy embrace grave errors, the faithful must remain just that, faithful. Faithful to the Truth of Christ. Remember the infallible words of Vatican I:
For the doctrine of faith, which God has revealed has not been proposed, like a philosophical invention, to be perfected by human ingenuity. Rather, it has been delivered as a Divine Deposit to the Spouse of Christ, to be faithfully kept and infallibly declared.
Hence also, that meaning of the sacred dogmas is perpetually to be retained which our Holy Mother the Church has once declared. Nor is that meaning ever to be departed from, under the pretense or pretext of a deeper understanding of them.
If anyone shall assert it to be possible that sometimes, according to the progress of knowledge, a sense is to be given to doctrines propounded by the Church differing from that which the Church has understood and understands; anathema sit.
FutureCatholic: I see it now. Doctrine doesn’t change, because truth doesn’t change, because God doesn’t change. I wonder what else I have missed all these years at the hands of erring shepherds? Now to more prayer and study…
Howie: It will make you a better Catholic, brother. Commit to Tradition, and you will find others. There are always others.
FutureCatholic: You know, I wonder if the “others” are those Catholics attending that strange old Mass I’ve heard tell of. They say it’s in Latin…
Draw Parallel (Induce Vertigo)
Could there ever come a time when a sin as grievous as abortion “just went away,” being dropped from canons and catechisms and the general teaching and preaching of pastors the world over – such that that the majority of the faithful would no longer shudder at it, fearing for their salvation simply by proximity to it?
Could such a sin ever become so commonplace as to no longer evoke horror and denunciation from among the clergy? Far worse, could it ever become actively supported or even routinely performed by them – albeit without any “official change” in Church teaching – such that the sin became looked upon as an expedient act, or even as a badge of compassion and pastoral outreach?
Wake up. We are living in such a time.
A certain grievous sin – infinitely more serious than abortion – has indeed “just gone away” during the past half century. That sin is abhorred in Scripture and reviled in Tradition. Church Fathers, Doctors, and Theologians constantly taught against it. Saints and mystics decried it. Martyrs died under torture rather than commit it. Popes and Councils repeatedly condemned it. It stands proscribed in catechisms spanning the centuries and expressly forbidden by canon law. Rome succinctly declared it “universally prohibited by natural and divine law, from which no one has the power to dispense, and which nothing excuses.”
Yet in our own day this same sin is widely condoned, actively supported, and even publicly executed by lay and cleric alike – indeed, by clerics of every rank.
Our forebears would scarcely believe it. We are all FutureCatholics.
Propose Resolution (Regain Bearings)
The takeaway should be clear: If things have gone this whacky on what previous ages held as a central moral issue, then we are now living in a crisis period.
Think communicatio in sacris is “not that serious”? You prove the point.
Think abortion is worse? Twice the proof.
Think other clear points of moral doctrine (say, the intrinsic evil of sodomy) couldn’t “just go away” in our own enlightened age? Thrice proof.
We live in a crisis period. Focused prayer and study are required of all. We must commit to Tradition, and we must begin with the Mass.
This is serious.
Do Your Own Digging
As we explained in another article, one powerful indicator of doctrinal continuity (or the lack thereof) is the uniform testimony of Catholic catechisms over time on a given doctrine. Given that this is an infallible expression of the universal ordinary magisterium, we have also compiled a directory of over twenty approved traditional catechisms in order to grant access to the perennial teaching of Christ and his Church. Check it out.
More to it, our entire main site is designed for folks “investigating” the regnant crisis in the Church. Use it, and help others connect the dots.
Bravo the restoration!
 The relevant canons were dropped in the year 1983 with the issuance of a new Code under Pope John Paul II. The same treatment came with the 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church, which fails to treat the issue directly. To omit the clear proscription of a grave moral evil (particularly when said evil is widespread in the culture) must be considered a serious dereliction of pastoral duty.
 “Promulgation [of a Dogma] by the Church may be made either in an extraordinary manner through a solemn decision of faith made by the Pope or a General Council (Iudicium solemne) or through the ordinary and general teaching power of the Church (Magisteriurn ordinarium et universale). The latter may be found easily in the catechisms issued by the Bishops… [who] exercise their infallible teaching power in an ordinary manner when they, in their dioceses, in moral unity with the Pope, unanimously promulgate the same teachings on faith and morals. The Vatican Council expressly declared that also the truths of Revelation proposed as such by the ordinary and general teaching office of the Church are to be firmly held with ‘divine and catholic faith’ (DZ 1792)… The agreement of the bishops in doctrine may be determined from the catechisms issued by them” (Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, pp. 4, 300).