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Witnessing to the truth of the Gospel inspires others to do so as well

Joseph F. Naumann is Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann

Recently at the Kansans for Life (KFL) annual banquet, I received an award for my efforts to protect women and children from the tragedy of abortion by surrounding them with a community of love. The featured speaker for the event was Seth Dillon, the CEO of the Babylon Bee — a pro-life, pro-family and pro-faith news satire site.

Dillon spoke about how large tech companies seek to censor free speech. However, he made the point that much more devastating than overt censorship is the effort to create an environment of fear intimidating individuals and organizations to self-censor.

To illustrate this point, Dillon cited the conformity experiments conducted more than 70 years ago by the American psychologist, Solomon Asch. Professor Asch was born in Poland in 1907 and emigrated in 1920 at age 13 to the United States. His conformity experiments attempted to measure peer pressure. The experiment consisted of an individual being part of a group of 8 to 10 persons. Everyone else in the group had been instructed to give an obviously incorrect answer to the same question posed to each member.

A significant number of individuals, who were the subject of the experiment, often echoed the objectively false answer rather than be a lone dissenter from the group. Professor Asch modified the experiment by selecting one other individual to give the correct answer. With the support of just one other individual giving the objectively true answer, a much higher percentage of the experiment’s subjects were empowered to answer correctly.

In an increasingly secularized dominant culture, there is ramped up pressure on Catholics to be intimidated into silence about our own convictions regarding issues pertaining to faith and morals. I am not suggesting that it is wise for Catholics to be belligerent or argumentative about our beliefs. However, we should not be afraid to share, always with love, the truth and beauty of our Catholic faith. We should always be prepared to give a reason for our hope and joy.

Since the vast majority of news and entertainment sources are victims of secular group think, the dominant culture may not be as dominant as it appears. If we self-censor our true convictions because we fear that others do not share our beliefs, then our silence contributes to the problem.

At World Youth Day (WYD) in Lisbon, Portugal, Bishop Robert Barron delivered a powerful homily to the pilgrims from the United States. Bishop Barron proposed to the 25,000 WYD American young adults that they lived in a hyper safety- conscious culture that is very risk averse. Bishop Barron proposed to the young adults, when the principal symbol of our faith is a man nailed to a cross, safety cannot be the Christian’s highest priority.

Bishop Barron was not encouraging the young people to do foolish things by taking unnecessary physical risks. However, he did challenge them to be bold in giving to witness to their faith. Bishop Barron encouraged the pilgrims to not be afraid to share their belief in Jesus Christ and the truth of his Gospel with their peers.

Our public health officials have cited a pandemic among our young people. They are not speaking about COVID. The more serious epidemics among youth are loneliness, anxiety, depression and even despair. The world becomes very dark and foreboding, when you diminish the importance of God or even deny the existence of a loving God.

The love of God revealed in Jesus is the antidote to loneliness, anxiety and fear. We are created to be in communion with God. We live, arguably, in the most economically prosperous culture in human history. If material things or comforts could make us happy, we should be off the happiness charts.

Remember one of the findings of Asch’s conformity experiments: Just one other person standing for truth empowers others to acknowledge what is true, even if it is not popular.

During the concluding days of the Easter season, our eyes begin to focus on the great solemnity of Pentecost, the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the church. Once the Holy Spirit came into the hearts of the apostles, who had been paralyzed by fear, they are transformed. The apostles run into the streets of Jerusalem and with boldness proclaim the truth of Jesus as Lord and Savior.

As the Easter season is drawing to a close, let us ask the Holy Spirit to pry open our hearts to welcome him and his gifts. May the Holy Spirit enkindle in our hearts the fire of his love, so that we can be witnesses of the truth of the Gospel! Our society desperately needs the peace, hope and joy that only friendship with Jesus can provide. This is not a time to allow fear to cause us to self-censor — to fail to proclaim the joy of the Gospel of Jesus!

About the author

Archbishop Joseph Naumann

Joseph F. Naumann is the archbishop for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

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