In 1969, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross published her insightful book, On Death and Dying. Among the insights she presented was a list of the five psychological stages of the dying process. She pointed out that, in confronting the reality of one's impending death, a person tends to move through five stages - rejection, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
It is interesting to note that there is a spiritual parallel to this dynamic, when a person is confronted with the reality of his need to come to authentic repentance.
First there is a rejection of the fact that fidelity to Christ requires such a radical shift in perspective, attitude and behavior.
Next, there is anger toward the one who has pointed out the serious nature of one's need to repent.
Thirdly, the person seeks to make some bargain, whereby he does not need to make a complete break from sin, but merely make a few changes in lifestyle to accommodate the absolute demand to conversion of heart and of life. A person then goes through a period of depression, when he realizes that the requirement for complete conversion is absolute and inviolable.
And, finally, the soul comes to accept the call to die to self so as to share in the life offered by full communion with the risen Christ.
This dynamic is also manifested in the process of de-conversion, whereby a person is urged to die to Christ so as to rise to the new "life" offered by capitulation to the secularist Culture of Desecration and Death. In recent years, this dynamic has become tragically evident in the interaction of the bureaucrats at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Obama Administration. In light of the Affordable Care Act and its consequent HHS contraception-abortion mandate, the USCCB began by rejecting this mandate, which proclaims that no pre-born child should have the right to live, as being absolutely immoral for all people. The USCCB then became angry that this mandate was going to be given legal priority over the religious freedom and consciences of devout Catholics. After this, Church leaders entered into a bargaining mode. They believed that they could promote a favorable accommodation to the Church's teaching by compromising Church teaching and only seeking a religious exemption from this mandate, rather than the complete elimination of the mandate.
They also sought to increase their bargaining power by acting nicely toward the political purveyors of perversion. They gave such political ideologues academic accolades. They gave them places of honor on the dais of major Church gatherings. They gave social justice awards to those promoting the butchery of pre-born babies. And they even gave invocations and benedictions at political conventions, which had just ratified resolutions to promote aborticide, sexual promiscuity and "gay marriage".
All this was done in the hope that such actions would promote enough good will that these politicians would condescend to allow Catholics the privilege to respect the sacredness of human life in the workplace. The dynamic continues, as the Church in the United States has entered into a state of depression. Sadly, we are so desperate that some theologians are even working to develop new rationalizations that would allow the Church to conform her policies to the HHS mandate - and thus avoid more vicious political and economic persecution.
Finally, if activist judges abort our efforts to secure our religious rights through the judiciary, we may witness the USCCB, following the "prudential wisdom" that guided most of the bishops in England under Henry VIII, enter into a full capitulation to and acceptance of the demands of the HHS mandate.
Being caught up in the seductions of this diabolic dynamic, Church leaders need our prayers and sacrifices to hold fast to the splendor of truth. The threat of political and economic retaliation is so strong that the temptation to die to Christ so as to rise with Obama into the New World Order seems increasingly more "reasonable" as the lesser of two evils.
But this is only the beginning. By and large, Church leaders in America have, by their silence, already allowed Planned Parenthood and other proponents of perversion to be the guiding lights for "family life education" programs in our public schools. Aside from the fact that the promotion of perverse perspectives on sexuality is a primary way of grooming children to be receptive to sexual experimentation and exploitation, the fact that over 75% of Catholic youth participate in such programs shows that we may soon be hemorrhaging souls out of our churches and into hell faster than we could ever imagine.
As a final note, all of us Church leaders need to remember that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a decisive and salvific proclamation, not merely a negotiable proposition. Though the intellects of all of us are blinded to varying degree by sin and our wills are crippled by concupiscence, the transformative power of divine grace and fidelity can and will redeem all those who are willing to take God's Word, and His Word made flesh, seriously. Martyrdom, not capitulation to nicely nuanced evils, is the norm for authentic communion with Christ. May we all become more docile to God's guidance, deliverance and strength in the continuing struggle to proclaim the splendor of His Truth to all the world!
Spero columnist Rev. Thomas Collins is a Catholic priest who serves parishes in Virginia.