Walking Together... but Not to Hell
In a previous article C.S. Lewis, I introduced some of the ideas of Lewis’s famous book, The Great Divorce, where Lewis attempted to help us picture, not only heaven, but more importantly, the choices we make that will place us on the road to either heaven or hell.
Hearing some recent news regarding synodality in the Catholic world, I could not help but think of a particular scene in The Great Divorce. In a particularly insightful conversation, a woman in heaven has the opportunity to speak to her husband who seems destined for hell, but has one chance to avoid it, if only he will choose it. He will not. He will not repent. If he cannot have happiness on his own terms, he will have nothing. What is more, he demands that his wife, if she really loves him, accompany him to hell.
This seems to be the goal of certain people who are taking advantage of the synod to push for certain changes in Church teaching, to make it “modern.” It sometimes seems to have become an almost a daily ritual for some new public figure to call for a change to Church teaching, typically on matters of sexual morality or the priesthood. This is deeply unfortunate, and it risks only leading to confusion among ordinary Catholics who may suddenly believe that Church teaching on some of the most basic moral matters is up for debate. And if something as basic and clearly taught in scripture as marriage and sexual morality can change, what cannot?
Of course, Church teaching on these matters cannot change, even if some would have it otherwise. Catholic doctrine is guaranteed by both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Marriage is what Our Lord said it is: the union of one man and one woman until death do them part. This union is further written into the natural law, the very nature of human beings, and is the foundational relationship of human society, ordered to the bearing and raising of the next generation.
Yet we cannot escape that many people do want to exploit the current synod meetings and surveys as a way to deviate from the permanent truths of the faith. “Synod,” we are told, means “walking together.” We must “walk together” with everyone. We must “accompany everyone.” We must listen to everyone. And to many “accompanying people” and “walking with them” means approving their particular sin.
But this is precisely what we cannot do. We may have to walk together with everyone, but there are some places we will not walk with them. To put it plainly, we cannot walk with anyone into hell.
We may recognize that temptation. “If you really loved me, you would…” It doesn’t matter what follows from there. If you really loved me, you would accept me as I am, you would approve me the way I want, you would change Church teaching to suit my particular sin or desire. This is where much of the pressure from the loud synod voices seems to be coming from. We are told that to accompany people we must change Church teaching and above all else, we must accompany them.
In The Great Divorce, Sarah (the heroine), tells her husband that she will not accompany him to hell.
“You don’t love me,” he protests, to which she replies,
“I cannot love a lie," said the Lady. "I cannot love the thing which is not. I am in Love, and out of it I will not go.”
Accompaniment cannot be a justification to be unfaithful to Church teaching, which is really just the law of God. We cannot accompany others on the road to hell. We should accompany everyone to heaven; we should, like Our Lord, bear whatever cross or suffering may be needed to get them there. But as Christ is the unchangeable and only path to heaven, the Church’s teachings are unchangeable and cannot change its teaching to suit modern desires. The Church is in Love, and out of Love, it will not go.
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