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Hearing and Living the Truth | Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers
| September 10, 2005
A Catholic universitys approach to student development takes into
account the whole student whose education includes the heart as well as
the mind. As the Director of Public Safety, I understand that much of this
education happens outside of an academic setting, in the classroom of real
life, where students learn the tough lessons that come with being an adult,
such as being held accountable when we make mistakes and accepting responsibility
for our actions.
It is my job to ensure that the public safety officers exercise their authority
through dedicated and committed service to the universitys mission,
so that their interactions with students become teachable moments and valuable
opportunities through which our students will become more mature adults
and responsible citizens.
Many problem situations with students arise over varying interpretations
of the truth. For example, when we ask a visibly intoxicated student who
is not twenty-one years old, "Did you have any alcohol this evening?"
the response is usually, "No." We see the truth: that the students
eyes are bloodshot; they are slurring their speech; they are wobbling when
they walk; they have a strong smell of alcohol on their breath, yet, in
their version of truth, "everything is fine."
Herein lies the problem: we both cant be right. So, in keeping with
truth that is unbiased, detached, and fairand in keeping with a Catholic
universitys holistic approach to student life and our moral obligation
to the students we servewe issue the student a citation for underage
drinking. In the students mind, where he is trapped in a world of
self-centered, biased, and imaginary truth, we have just exercised our authority
in a way that has impeded their "right" and "freedom"
to do as they please. But in his conscience and in his heart, he knows we
did the right thing.
The Church is our mother and teacher. With Christ as her head, she "desires
that all be saved and come to the knowledge of truth" (CCC 74). Jesus
the Lord commanded the apostles to preach the Gospel which he fulfilled
in his own person and declared with his own lips. In preaching the Gospelin
preaching Jesus Christthe apostles were to communicate the gifts of
God to all, for the Gospel was to be the source of all saving truth and
the moral life (CCC 75). The Truth of Jesus Christ was to be the proclaimed
so that people may be drawn into the heart of love and life; into intimate
and personal communion with the Living God.
"In keeping with the Lords command, and under the inspiration
of the Holy Spirit, the Gospel was handed on in two ways: orally and in
writing, by which the apostles passed on--either by spoken word or their
preaching, or by the example they gave, or by the institutions they established--what
they themselves had received from the lips of Jesus, from the way he lived
and the works he performed," (CCC 76) and this comes to us today in
the from of the sacred deposit of faith: Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition.
In todays Gospel, we see Jesus preparing the Church to carry on his
mission and work after his Ascension into heaven. By handing on the keys
of the kingdom, the Lord gives Peter full and supreme authority to safeguard
and protect the deposit of faith, and to exercise this authority in His
name. This authority is not based on Peters faith but the action of
Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. "In order that the full and
living Gospel might always be preserved in the Church, the apostles left
bishops as their successors. They passed on to the bishops their own teaching
authority, and this unbroken and continuous line of apostolic succession
will be preserved until the end of time" (CCC 77).
We have all become acutely aware of the fact that some shepherds have failed
to serve the flock entrusted to them by Christ. The prophet Jeremiah lets
us know loud and clear that the malfeasance of bishops will not go unpunished:
"Woe to the shepherds," the prophet says, "who destroy and
scatter the sheep of my pasture! You have scattered my sheep and driven
them away. You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your
evil deeds" (Jer. 23:1-3).
However, despite the fact that some bishops have sinned and have chosen
not to live in accord with the faith they are bound to protect and serve,
the doctrines and teaching contained in Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition
still holds true. Personal sin is not greater or more powerful than the
strength of Gods law, for Christ has promised that, in his Church,
the gates of Hell will not prevail against it! The Most Reverend Samuel
J. Aquila, Bishop of Fargo, writes:
"We must never forget that certain Church teachings can never
change, regardless of whether or not people accept them or are faithful
to them. These teachings, in the areas of faith and morals, are fixed
in the very revelation of Jesus Christ and are transmitted through Sacred
Scripture and the Apostolic Tradition, and in faithfulness to Jesus
Christ are upheld by the teaching authority (the Magisterium) of the
"We live in a complex secular culture and are inevitably exposed to
a variety of ideas that are incompatible with the truths of faith. Values
arise from whatever people happen to think and want . . . and moral norms
are regarded as mere rules that can be dismissed when they become too demanding."
 "Christians are by no means immune to these influences and sometimes
adopt elements of secular thought without recognizing their incompatibility
with Christian faith." 
Like the drunken student, we become intoxicated by the ways of the culture,
to the point where the meaning of truth and freedom become confused and
disoriented. In our stupor, we suppress or ignore the truth and beauty of
the Churchs teaching in such areas as sexuality and marriage, and
in our version of the truth, "everything is fine." Yet, Christ
said to his apostles, "whoever hears you hears me," so when we
choose to ignore the authority of the Pope and the bishops in communion
with him when they speak clearly and definitively on issues of faith and
morals, we are choosing to ignore Christ himself.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, "Catholics are called to transform
the world by the way they live their daily lives, bearing constant witness
to the Gospel of Jesus Christ."  It is the job of the Holy Father,
the Pope, to ensure that bishops exercise their authority through dedicated
and committed service to the Gospel so that all the faithful may be in communion
and intimacy with Jesus Christ. The Successor of Peter faithfully teaches
what Jesus commanded and encourages the faithful to live upright lives precisely
because he wishes to lead us to Christ through growth in holiness. 
It is when we respond to this call with our whole beingwhen we open
our minds and hearts to the Churchs teaching, which is inspired by
the Holy Spiritthen we will experience the peace and freedom that
only the Way, the Truth, and the Life can give. Amen.
[This article was originally a homily given on Sunday, August 21, 2005.]
 Most Reverend Samuel J. Aquila,
"You Will Know the Truth and the Truth Will Set You Free: A Pastoral Letter on Deepening
our Understanding of the Truths of the Catholic Faith," (par. 7).
 Ibid., 9, 11.
 Ibid., 14.
 Ibid., 31.
 Ibid., 8.
Related IgnatiusInsight.com articles:
The Meaning and
Necessity of Spiritual Fatherhood | Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, MTS
& The Lie | Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers
Excerpts from Truth
and Tolerance | Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
the Delight of Truth | James V. Schall, S.J.
Commencements: A Time for Truth to Be Honored | By James V. Schall,
101: A Brief, Objective Guide | by Carl E. Olson
and the Petrine Element | by Hans Urs von Balthasar
Harold Burke-Sivers, MTS, is a permanent deacon in the Archdiocese
of Portland, Oregon and is the Director of Public Safety for the University
of Portland. He is the founder of Aurem
Cordis, a Christian evangelization and apologetics organization dedicated
to disseminating and promoting Catholic values, principles, and teaching
in complete faithfulness and total submission to Holy Scripture, Sacred
Tradition, and the Magisterium. He has been
a guest on "EWTN Live" and "Catholic Answers Live"
and hosts a weekly radio program on KBVM,
the Catholic radio station in Portland. Deacon Harold is currently writing
a book on Catholic spirituality for men. He, his wife Colleen, and their
four children reside in Portland.
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