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Father Richard Kunst: Tolerance is not a virtue

As readers of The Northern Cross, you might be in a better place to see this than I am, since I do not get many opportunities to see what parishes other than my own are doing. But I am picking up on a vibe that there is a new (old) trend getting popular again, and at a very fast rate. A little over a year ago I re-introduced the St. Michael Prayer to be said at the end of all Masses in my two parishes. I have to say that addition was very well received by parishioners, but more and more I am hearing of priests all over the place doing the same thing. 

Father Richard Kunst

It is obviously a great thing, but it speaks to something else which is not so great. You see, there is no concerted effort to start up this old practice again, but priests and laity alike are starting to see the stark need to combat evil that seems to be more pervasive in recent years. Pope Leo XIII initiated the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel at the beginning of the 20th century because he had a premonition that the century would be so plagued by the demonic, and of course he was right. Our time seems no different. 

There always has to be a balance between acknowledging sin while at the same time acknowledging God’s mercy; God is always merciful to those who want his mercy, but just because God is all merciful does not mean we should tolerate sin, especially with how “societal sin” has been developing in recent years. The more we tolerate certain societal sins, the more they will become broadly accepted. 

Here is a case in point that we have all lived through in recent years. Pretty much 20 years ago I vividly recall the topic of homosexual marriages being brought up at my parish’s youth group. The response from the teenagers was one of dismay that we would even talk about it. In fact I remember one of the kids saying, “Why are we even talking about this? This will never happen!” 

That was 2002. Now fast forward 10 years to 2012, when the state of Minnesota was having a vote on legalizing homosexual marriages or keeping it illegal. Another vivid memory I have was Bishop Paul Sirba repeatedly telling us priests that this issue was the fight of our lifetimes, that this was going to define our time as priests. I hate to say this, but Bishop Sirba was wrong. In the span of 20 years, homosexual marriage went from unthinkable to now, when you are considered a bigot by many for supporting marriage as only between one man and one woman. 

In Catholic weddings, the nuptial blessing, which occurs after the Lord’s Prayer, says, “O God, by whom woman is joined to man and the companionship they had in the beginning is endowed with the one blessing not forfeited by original sin nor washed away by the flood.” In other words, as an institution, marriage went unchanged through human history, up until now. It was a societal sin that became so accepted that is now seems “blasphemous” to question it. 

In a similar fashion, there have recently become new threats to traditional values, this time targeting children. It wasn’t that long ago that if a man dressed in women’s clothes and gave undue attention to children, he would be arrested or sent for psychological help. But now there is growing acceptance for drag queen shows in which children are encouraged to dance in suggestive ways with the grown men. Similarly, what has been called “drag queen story time,” in which these troubled men will read story books to toddlers, is becoming more common. In fact, this was just recently a daily occurrence at a local zoo during their fall festivities. The more we tolerate such activity, the more normalized it will become. 

Another, more egregious example is the transgender movement’s targeting of children. People are rightly scandalized by the fact that more and more minors are having surgery to permanently alter their bodies attempting to change their sex. But this is a fast growing industry in which millions of dollars are made by the hospitals for such “services.” It hardly seems like a week goes by where there is not a news story of a hospital or doctor performing these surgeries. 

Another area of this is in abortion. One side of the political spectrum is calling the other side extremist for supporting the reversal of Roe v. Wade, all the while pushing for abortion to be legal for any reason all the way up to the point of natural birth. It was not long ago when the mantra of the “pro-choice” movement was “safe, legal and rare.” Not anymore. But the more we tolerate this mindset the more it will become the norm. 

God’s mercy is always available, but that does not mean that God ignores societal sins. At the start of the golden calf story in the book of Exodus, it says, “The Lord said to Moses, go down at once to your people whom you brought out from the land of Egypt, for they have become depraved” (Exodus 32:7). 

There is clearly a rapid cultural decline in the world. Things once considered unthinkable are now just part of the landscape. As Catholics and people of the Gospel, we have to have the courage to muster our voice so as to speak up against such decline — with courage, but always with love and charity. St. Michael the Archangel pray for us! 

Father Richard Kunst is pastor of St. James and St. Elizabeth in Duluth. Reach him at [email protected].