Ebola. The Family Disease.

 

It’s been cooking for months.

The question now is whether it will get out of the box.

“It” is the long-smoldering Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The box, of course, is West Africa itself.

Will a disease vector — meaning, an infected person — manage to infect someone else who is going to, say, Sudan, who infects someone else who is going to Egypt, who manages to get on a plane and end up in Instanbul?

There are many routes this disease could take out of that box. In this age of air travel and high mobility, disease can spread at the speed of a jet engine. But that is the worst one I can imagine. If, through one of the many routes available to it, this thing ends up unnoticed in Istanbul, the potential for it to go on to the airport in Frankfurt, and from there to the whole wide world is enormous. Istanbul is the roadway between Africa and Europe. Always has been.

That’s the nightmare scenario. It’s the one that tantalizes us like a real-life disaster movie as we watch this unfold. I’ve been reading about this killer disease as it has slowly built itself into an out-of-control epidemic for a long time now. The death toll kept rising, the affected area kept spreading. But it was slow. It sludged from one godforsaken arm pit of a country to another and nobody much cared.

The world has become inured to horror stories from Africa. We don’t know what to do about these things, and it beats us up to watch them. So we watch, feel bad for a moment, and then go on. What else can we do?

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But the trouble with these human horror stories is that, if they are allowed to fester, they reach a critical mass and begin to spread. It doesn’t matter much if the illness is terrorist serial killers posing as religios, or an actual virus that we can only see with an electron microscope, the death and sickness will fester and smolder like a fire in the attic until it bursts out and takes somebody’s house down in a conflagration.

Ebola is out of control in West Africa. I read today that Sierra Leone is using troops to quarantine the sick. Medical teams from all over the world, but most especially the United States, are out there fighting the fight in their hazmat soldier suits. At the same time, frightened villagers have been known to turn on the docs and even burn down aid stations.

I’m guessing that these villagers have their reasons for feeling this way. But I don’t know enough to speculate what those reasons might be.

All I know for sure is that there’s a fight going on to stop a virus before it gets out of the box and begins a run down pandemic highway, killing a huge percentage of humanity as it goes.

I honestly think that the boys and girls in the hazmat suits will shut this thing down. It’s almost never the thing we see coming that gets us. It’s the blind-side that takes us down.

But the lessons in this horror story are obvious. You can’t consign any part of humanity to the waste bin and get away with it. Not forever. Like it or not, these people in West Africa are part of the human family. That’s why their long-smoldering virus scares us. Because what kills them will also kill us, and — here’s the big one — what kills them will spread to us just as if we were the same as them. 

Which, of course, is the point. We are the same as them. Same DNA. Same human body. Same human immune system. We are them. They are us. These aren’t a bunch of infected bats or monkeys. These are human beings. Just like us.

And what kills them, can and will kill us.

There’s a moral here, and it’s not hard to find. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the blight of inner city neighborhoods, drug cartels in Central America or a killer virus in Africa, what happens to other people will come around and happen to us if we ignore it.

Take, for instance, the blight in inner city neighborhoods. Much — not all, but much — of that soul-killing blight is linked to the use of addictive and illegal drugs. These drugs come from South of the Border. The drug cartels south of the border, who are financed by our drug use north of the border, kill and terrify whole populations, who in turn head up north to get away from the violence and hopelessness. We, in turn, stand at the border with signs, yelling at them and telling them to go back where they came from.

We’re all connected. What happens to them, will bite us too.

A virus in the poorest and most hopeless countries on the poorest and most hopeless continent in the world is cooking up a storm that will kill a lot of us if we don’t shut it down. The immediacy and the terror of this virus has our attention and we’re doing what has to be done to get it stopped. We are racing against time. Hurrying to get this thing pinned to the ground before that one infected person takes a pickup ride into the Sudan and meets someone else who goes to Egypt, who talks to someone who decides to take a short flight to Istanbul.

Because if that happens, we’re staring down the gun barrel of a conflagration.

We. Are. One. Highly-Dysfunctional. Family.

That is not poetry. It is absolute biological fact.

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Archbishop Coakley Calls for Prayer, Procession and Benediction in Response to Black Mass

 

My religious leader, Archbishop Paul Coakley has called for a season of “prayer, procession and benediction” due to the scheduled black mass here in Oklahoma.

Self-identified satanists have held a black mass in the Oklahoma City Civic Center for the past several years in a row. Last year, no one — zero — turned out for their little show. Hopefully, Okies will continue with this no-response this year.

Archbishop Coakley has called for Oklahoma 250,000 Catholics to join together in prayer, processions and attendance at Eucharistic Adoration in response to this black mass.

I am sure that your local parish will have events. Archbishop Coakley invites all of us to join him for prayer and a holy hour on September 9, at 3pm at St Francis of Assisi Church at 1901 NW 18th. That is the day of the satanic mass.

For my part, I would encourage Okies to participate in all these events. I sincerely hope that St Francis overflows that day.

There are also a few things I would ask you not to do:

1. Don’t obsess over this. Satan is alive and well and walking our world on two feet. If you doubt that, just watch the news. A black mass is just him, taking off the clown face and coming out.

2. Don’t engage with the satanists. Don’t talk to them or go around them. Stay away.

3. Ditto for the black mass. This is not entertainment. It is evil. Stay away from it. Do not go down there.

4. Do not make it the center of your thoughts or your activities. Keep your thoughts Christ-focused.

5. Pray and trust Christ. You cannot fight Satan, so don’t try. Let God do your fighting for you.

One thing we need to remember: The reason everyone from, atheists to satanists, attacks the Catholic Church is simple. The Catholic Church teaches the whole truth of Christ. Trying to make a mockery of the mass is a back-handed acknowledgement that the mass is real, the Eucharist is the presence of Christ. Satan hates Jesus. He also hates us. Mocking the mass is just the venomous spite of the loser in the great cosmic war.

Here is Archbishop Coakley’s letter:

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God Uses Us in the Broken Places. All We Have to Do Is Let Him.

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Catholic Patheosi Sisters in Christ. Lisa Hendey, Kathy Schiffer, Margaret Rose Realy. I’m the one in front, sitting down.

 

Where do I start?

Last week was the best. I’m still a wee bit tired from it, still absorbing and processing it. Where do I begin to tell you about it? I guess I’ll begin with the high point.

The high point wasn’t spending time with my Catholic Patheosi sisters in Christ, although I can tell you that was a blessing all in itself. The high point wasn’t meeting other Catholic writer/publishers/artists from all over the country, although again, that was an immersion in generous and loving like-mindedness that this outlier in the Oklahoma wilderness has never experienced before.

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Margaret Rose Realy, being interviewed by EWTN.

The high point, the Everest, of this entire week was the Thursday mass.

I almost didn’t go.

It had been such a full day. I “pitched” a book to an editor, presented an hour-long presentation and participated in a panel discussion. Between lunch and the panel discussion, I went to my room to take off my blazer and sat down in a chair.

Just for a moment.

I woke up an hour and half later. I had to scoot to get to the panel discussion in time and my neck was in permanent crick from sleeping pretzel-sytle in that chair.

Soooo, after the panel, I thought I’d just go up to my room, put on something comfy, order up room service and relax. No reason, I decided, to go to mass.

I got as far as the elevators, and in that hotel, the distance between our conference rooms and the elevators is a good hoof. I punched the up button. Then, while I was waiting for the door to open, I turned around and hoofed it back to the conference rooms.

I didn’t make a decision to go to mass. I just automatic-piloted my way down the hall, over the connector tunnel and then clomped down the stairs.

Father Frank Pavone, who was the celebrant, was already processing in when I slid into the last vacant seat on the back row between a couple of nuns and an elderly gentleman. I sometimes have mass troubles, and I braced myself, as tired as I was, for major mass troubles that day.

My mass troubles have been hitting me hard the past few months. What happens is that I sit in mass and am overwhelmed by a pounding sense that I am too unworthy to be in that room. It can, and sometimes does, reduce me to tears. It can and sometimes does, drive me away from mass. There are days when I get up and leave, mid-mass.

I’ve learned that if I can hang on and force myself to go forward and accept the Host, Jesus will heal me. When my mass trouble comes on me hard, I am like the woman with the hemorrhage who touched the hem of His garment and was healed, over and over, mass after mass, week after week.

But getting there, making it through mass without running away and then progressing up to the front of that line, many times making a humiliating spectacle of myself because tears keep leaking out of my eyes and dripping down my cheeks, can be an act of endurance, and, since I’ve learned that the Host heals, trust.

I’m like that woman from long ago, thinking If I can just touch the hem of His garment; if I can only touch Him; I will be healed. 

I slipped into that room, sat on that chair at the very back, and, while I didn’t think it in words, the thought was there: I hope I can get through this. There was safety in that door, a few steps away. I could leave if I had to, before anyone was the wiser.

But, after months of this on-going battle with the devil every time I go to mass, this time was different. There were no hants rising from the swamps of memory, no feeling of unworthiness. It was just me; solid and whole, standing in a roomful of other Jesus lovers, participating in the sweet miracle of heaven touching earth in bread and wine.

I have memories of such a solid sense of self as I felt then, but I have to go far back to find them.

Father Pavone brought a gift to us at that mass. He had what I think he called a “First class relic” of St John Paul II. I’m not up on my relic rules, but I think that’s what he said. It was a small spot of blood on a postage-stamp sized bit of cloth. The blood came from St John Paul’s body the day he died.

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Kathy Schiffer and Gary Zimak.

Father Pavone took the time — and it was quite a bit of time — to stand at the front of the room and give each of us an opportunity to venerate this relic. It worked out that I was the last person in the last line, the last one to do so.

I brought home a lot of work to do. I now have two books to write instead of just one, and I have a real hope that they both will be published. I’m not excited. I am … sure.

I am sure that this is what I’m supposed to be doing, and that Our Lord has both me and this work in the palm of His hand. This morning, while I was praying my Rosary, I felt St John Paul, sort of coaching me about what I should do. It neither surprises nor awes me that he came home with me from that mass.

That is the order of things. The spiritual world is as real and reliable as our physical world we inhabit in this life. An ice cube will melt in a glass of warm water. Always. And God comes to those who love Him. Always.

Sometimes, in fact, quite often, He sends His helpers by. My fellow Catholic Patheosi Kathy Schiffer, Margaret Rose Realy and Lisa Hendey are just such helpers. So, is St John Paul II.

I’m telling you this intensely personal story for one reason. I want the people who are reading this post — and I trust that the Lord will send the right ones by — to know that, to paraphrase St Paul, nothing, not the things we do, not the things done to us, can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.

God uses us in the broken places. All we have to do is let Him.

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The panel I almost slept through. Gary Zimak, Kathy Schiffer, me, Margaret Rose Realy.

 

Catholic Writer’s Conference

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You won’t be seeing me around these parts this week.

I’ll be at the Catholic Writer’s Conference at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center and Hotel in Schaumburg, IL.

The Catholic Writer’s Conference is sponsored by The Catholic Writer’s Guild.

If you’re a Catholic writer, consider joining this fine group. If you’ll be in the Chicago area this week, stop by and say hello.

Your favorite Catholic Patheosi just might be there.

Lisa Hendey, will be the keynote speaker. Kathy Schiffer, Margaret Rose Realy, and I will be on a blogging panel. I am also going to give a presentation on social media.

Seasoned Catholic writers will lead sessions on writing fiction, action-adventure, Christian art and composition, dealing with rejection, writing mechanics, blogging and self-publishing. Lisa Hendey’s keynote will be on the most important trait any writer can have:  Perseverance.

There will be daily Rosary and Mass and a Blessed Sacrament Chapel.

Stop be and be blessed by an event that sharpens Catholic writers professionally while it also feeds us spiritually.

As I said, I’m taking off from regular blogging this week.

I want to drink down the whole Catholic Writer’s Conference experience. I will stop by to monitor your comments. I may post a few photos or observations as the week goes by. I don’t know yet.

But I’ll be back next Monday, rarin’ to go.

Porn and Our Regularly-Scheduled Bi-Election Immigration Crisis

 

There are two kinds of people who obsessively watch porn.

Those who enjoy it.

and …

Those who believe it.

Either way, porn is addicting and degrading. Porn is based on degrading a group of people for the titillation of those who get off on the degradation.

Both those who watch porn because they enjoy it, and those who believe it, will become addicted to it if they don’t pull back from it. That alter world where degradation of other people reigns will take them over and the day will come when they find they can’t just turn it off.

The difference between those who watch it for the titillation alone, and those who get so wound into it that they believe it, is the difference between doing harm to oneself and doing harm to others.

The porn believers can become dangerous as they seek to act out the things they have watched. Every prostitute I’ve ever known has told me about painful and rather hideous things johns did to them in attempts to live out things they’d seen in porn. Rape victims report the same stories.

I would guess that the international sex tourism industry finds its customers among porn believers. Acting out fantasies of degrading other people can take porn believers over. That leads to every kind of horror for their victims.

These same assessments also apply to intellectual porn. All the demagogues of all the eras and epochs of history instinctively knew this. They could, by producing the mind porn of hate politics, gain power. It was — and is — as seductive to the demagogue as to the demagogues’ followers.

The practice of moral and intellectual demagoguery gets votes. It ups ratings, sells books and pleases advertisers. It also confers a kind of heady, ego-driven power over other people.

There are, as usual, two kinds of people who obsessively watch this intellectual porn or listen to it on the radio.

Those who get off on the titillation it provides.

and …

Those who believe it.

The trouble with demagogic porn is that it never, ever, claims to be a fantasy. Point a finger at sexual pornographers and one of their first defenses is that “it’s not real.”

But the purveyors of intellectual porn always, always, always claim that what they are saying is factual and true. They can get away with this because it usually is based on facts. What they leave out is that the facts are carefully selected to promote one viewpoint and that the facts are mixed with a lot lying implications.

Here is a case in point:

The sudden incessant discussion of the supposedly all-new “border crisis” is moral and intellectual porn. It is obvious demagoguery.

This story gets ramped up every bi-election season. Then, after the votes are counted, it goes away. It is being put out there right now because we are in a bi-election season.

It is political demagoguery, designed to gain power. It is also intellectual and moral porn of the worst sort.

The problem of people coming over America’s southern border illegally is real. The trajectory of children crossing the border alone has taken on a 70 degree angle. It has gone up, and is going up.

However, the wild stories about gangs meeting them at the border to recruit them and how one in four of them are “criminals” are untrue. They are being told to ratchet up the emotions and build the outrage past rational thought. The constant 24/7 drumbeat of hysteria about this issue is manufactured for political reasons.

One of the simplest and most effective things we could do to stem this tide of people crossing into our country illegally would be to severely punish the business interests who hire them. If they couldn’t find jobs, a lot of this would go away.

If you try to pass a law like this, the business interests will work against it with all they’ve got. And they will win, especially if the people who are running the show at the time are Rs. I’m not just saying this. I’ve seen it. I can also verify with court actions taken by business interests to attack such laws.

We also need to look past the Rio Grande and consider why they’re coming. We spend billions “building” countries in other hemispheres. Perhaps we should take a more serious look at our own.

However, this is all talk. Nobody is going to fix the border problem. Nobody wants to fix it. Just try to act on either of these two suggestions and watch who will object. It will be the same people who own the media that runs this bi-election immigration frenzy.

This reportage is demagoguery for political purposes.

It is moral and intellectual porn designed to whip people around. It uses fear and hatred of other people to get viewers worked up past the thinking point and keep them there until November. It turns good people into the face of ugly. At that point, it is impossible to reason with the viewers and believers of this porn. They are irrational.

The easiest and simplest way to avoid falling into the porn trap (whatever the type of porn) is to follow the teachings of the Catholic Church.

No other church will take the stands on issues where the public is all whipped up against them. Other denominations follow the zeitgeist. It pains me to say this, but all I have to do is consider the sounding silence I’m hearing from everyone but the Catholic Church right now, and the ugliness I’ve seen on this one issue from various clergy in the past.

If you want to go to heaven, do what the Church teaches. If you want to follow Christ, then turn off the porn.

What these media people are doing by deliberately whipping people up into mass hatred in order to change how they vote is deeply immoral. It is anti-Christ.

If you blindly follow them, you become immoral and anti-Christ, right along with them.

My delete file is bulging with ugly, bitter and downright crazy diatribes against both me and the Catholic bishops because I dare to say this.

So be it.

I am a Christian. I am a Catholic. I choose Christ.

It is my responsibility as a Christian, Catholic blogger who chooses Christ to say this. If nobody listens, that’s on them.

Nurse Who Won’t Prescribe the Pill Sues Clinic for Not Hiring Her.

 

This  is the story that irony built.

It seems that Sara Hellwege is a nurse-midwife in Tampa, FL. She applied for a job at Tampa Family Health Centers. In an email exchange Tampa Family Health Center’s HR director, Chad Lindsey, quizzed her about her affiliation with the American Association of Pro Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Ms Hellwege said that she would not prescribe chemical birth control. She was told that this was part of the job. They didn’t hire her.

Case closed.

Or, case not closed, as it turns out. Ms Hellwege has filed suit.

And I can’t stop laughing.

We’ve been peppered with one idiot lawsuit after another by people demanding that the courts force Catholic organizations, particularly schools, to employee them while they get gay married in defiance of Catholic teaching.

Anyone who objects to one of these lawsuits is treated to an arm-waving smack-down with words like ,  “tolerance” and “rights” flying through the air like bullets.

Now, it seems, the shoe is on the other foot.

Google gave me a whole page of links on this lawsuit. The most apoplectic commentary I saw was coming from the same folks who are soooo supportive of every lawsuit filed to force the Catholic Church to violate its beliefs.

Several posts I read tried to claim that the lawsuit is based on the Hobby Lobby decision. Unless Ms Hellwege is a privately-held corporation who is being forced by the HHS Mandate to buy insurance that pays for four kinds of abortifacient, the Hobby Lobby decision has nothing to do with her.

Having said all that, I don’t really have any quarrel with these opinion pieces. They are, after all, opinions. 

I just can’t stop laughing.

Will Obama’s One Man ENDA End Up in Court?

Obama signing

One of my Facebook friends called him “the great divider.” 

Even though I am both aware and horrified by the endless hatred directed at whoever sits behind the desk in the Oval Office, I think that’s a fair thing to say about President Obama. His penchant for one man sledgehammer legislating against the First Amendment is a particular case in point. 

So far as I am concerned, the HHS Mandate is a permanent blot on his presidency.

I’ve spent the morning, sifting through the product of our President’s mighty pen from yesterday. I’ve been sitting in front of my computer with the screens littered with copies of the executive orders he amended, wondering, where, exactly, is this one man show pointing us? 

My best guess, based on what I see, is that it’s pointing us toward court. The reason is the lack of a specific religious exemption in President Obama’s verbiage. 

What he has done with this executive order is to amend two previous executive orders from the 1960s. These 1960s executive orders provided direction to the Department of Labor on the question of discrimination in employment. The orders dealt with employment discrimination because of “race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicap or age.” President Obama’s executive order adds “sexual orientation, gender identity” to that list.

Executive Order 11478 deals with direct federal employment by direct government agencies. I think it will stand and basically have no big problem with the order as I understand it now. I may change my opinion when I see the rules promulgated by the Department of Labor. 

However, Executive Order 11246 deals with federal contractors. This could be construed to include grantees and, if you want to stretch it, any entity that receives federal money for anything. 

President Obama did not address a third executive order by President Bush, Executive Order 13279. President Bush’s order was designed to protect the religious freedom of entities that receive grants, contract with the government or otherwise receive government monies. It contains a laundry list of sorts of the types of services which it covers. It also specifically addresses the entities covered by Executive Order 11246, which applies to federal contractors. Executive Order 11246 is one of the orders President Obama amended yesterday. 

The assumption being made in various press outlets that I have read is that President Bush’s executive order provides the religious exemptions needed to keep President Obama’s ENDA order from turning into another HHS Mandate.

Is that true?

Only somewhat, and, depending on the regs the Department of Labor comes up with, maybe not at all. 

The reason I say that is two-fold. First, and scariest, President Obama’s order calls on the Department of Labor to promulgate rules. This is normal and necessary. What makes it scary is the big time precedent of this administration using rules and regs to attack religious freedom.

The disastrous HHS Mandate is a rule, not a law. Of course, if the president sincerely wants to avoid another HHS Mandate, he can use his powers to encourage sensible regulations that ensure religious liberty. He also has the power to deep-six any reg or rule by not signing it. 

I’m taking a wait and see position on how those rules are going to look and what this president signs. He lied about religious freedom to get the votes to pass the Affordable Health Care Act and he’s consistently lied about the impact of the HHS Mandate. So, I don’t trust him. 

The second reason I think this may end up in court is that court cases and various agency rulings have already attacked Catholic institutions and successfully stripped them of federal grants because of the Church’s adherence to 2,000 year-old consistent teachings. There is also a lawsuit in the courts attacking the Catholic bishops for teaching Catholic teaching concerning abortion in regards to Catholic hospitals. 

Both Robert George, Vice President at United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, and the Catholic Bishops have issued statements opposing President Obama’s ENDA order precisely because it lacks a religious exemption. I think they are on solid ground. 

Based on that litigious impulse to attack Catholic teaching through the courts, I think the chances of ENDA ending up in court are quite good. What we will probably have at that point is adjudication based on dueling executive orders. President Obama could have stopped this before it got out of the gate by simply adding a religious exemption to his orders yesterday. 

I going to let you read both Robert George’s complete statement and the complete statement from the USCCB without edits. 

From the USCCB:

USCCB Chairmen Respond To ‘Unprecedented And Extreme’ Executive Order

 
July 21, 2014

WASHINGTON–The bishop-Chairmen of two USCCB Committees responded with great concern to President Obama’s July 21 executive order to prohibit federal government contractors from what the Administration deems “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” discrimination and to forbid “gender identity” discrimination in the employment of federal employees. The problems the bishops identify in the order relate both to the flaws in its core prohibitions, and to its lack of religious freedom protection.

Two USCCB Chairmen – Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty and Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, Chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth – together issued the following statement.  

Today’s executive order is unprecedented and extreme and should be opposed.  

In the name of forbidding discrimination, this order implements discrimination. With the stroke of a pen, it lends the economic power of the federal government to a deeply flawed understanding of human sexuality, to which faithful Catholics and many other people of faith will not assent. As a result, the order will exclude federal contractors precisely on the basis of their religious beliefs.  

More specifically, the Church strongly opposes both unjust discrimination against those who experience a homosexual inclination and sexual conduct outside of marriage, which is the union of one man and one woman. But the executive order, as it regards federal government contractors, ignores the inclination/conduct distinction in the undefined term “sexual orientation.” As a result, even contractors that disregard sexual inclination in employment face the possibility of exclusion from federal contracting if their employment policies or practices reflect religious or moral objections to extramarital sexual conduct.

The executive order prohibits “gender identity” discrimination, a prohibition that is previously unknown at the federal level, and that is predicated on the false idea that “gender” is nothing more than a social construct or psychological reality that can be chosen at variance from one’s biological sex. This is a problem not only of principle but of practice, as it will jeopardize the privacy and associational rights of both federal contractor employees and federal employees. For example, a biological male employee may be allowed to use the women’s restroom or locker room provided by the employer because the male employee identifies as a female.  

In an attempt to avoid these needless conflicts, states that have passed “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” prohibitions have overwhelmingly included protections for religious employers. When the U.S. Senate, which is controlled by the President’s own party, passed the similar Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) last year, it included religious liberty protections as well. Indeed, all prior versions of ENDA had at least some religious liberty protections. But the executive order is an anomaly in this regard, containing no religious liberty protections. In this way, the order, which is fundamentally flawed in itself, also needlessly prefers conflict and exclusion over coexistence and cooperation. 

Regarding federal contractors, the Executive Order will take effect after rules to be promulgated by the Department of Labor implementing the Executive Order become final. Regarding federal employment, the Executive Order is effective immediately.

Keywords: Employment Non-Discrimination Act, ENDA, Archbishop William E. Lori, Bishop Richard Malone, gender identity, sexual identity
# # # # #

MEDIA CONTACT ONLY
Sister Mary Ann Walsh
O: 202-541-321
Email

From Robert George’s Facebook page:

I have, up till now, avoided the “war on this,” “war on that,” rhetoric. But now there is no avoiding it. Today Barack Obama declared war on the Catholic Church and people of other faiths who hold to traditional beliefs about marriage and sexual morality. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops explains the situation in a statement responding to the executive order the President issued today. There is no way for religious people to defend themselves against being reduced to the status of second-class citizens except by electing to office, first in 2014 and then in 2016, men and women who will repeal this executive order and other governmental acts that undermine their religious freedom and rights of conscience. But that is only part of the picture. The reason that Catholics and other people of faith seek government contracts is to carry our their mission of serving people in need, orphans, the poor, refugees and the dispossessed, persons suffering from afflictions and addictions. It is the people who are served who are secondary victims of this war on conscience when faith-based providers are forced out—as Catholic Charities was forced out of providing adoption services in Massachusetts, Illinois, and the District of Columbia. We must defeat the enemies of conscience—at the ballot box—not only to protect our own freedom and that of our fellow citizens, but also to protect the interests of those served so well by faith-based institutions. This is a war we must win for their sake as well as our own. 

http://www.usccb.org/news/2014/14-126.cfm

 

 

Book Review: Saints and Social Justice, a Guide to Changing the World.

To join the discussion about Saints and Social Justice, A Guide to Changing the World, or to order a copy, go here

Saints and Social Justice is an inspiring book.

Brandon Vogt, who is donating — tithing sounds more like it — 100% of his royalties from this book to Catholic Charities, has put the faces and stories of several saints on the universal call to social justice that comes to us from Our Lord. By doing this, he shows us how the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes and the parable of the Good Samaritan have been acted out in the 2,000 year history of our faith.

Reading this book made me want to be a better person and a better Christian.

This is going to be a short review, because I don’t need to say a lot.

Saints and Social Justice, A Guide to Changing the World is well-researched, well-written, inspiring and enjoyable to read.

I recommend it.

The Catholic Bishops Aren’t ‘In Bed’ with President Obama. They’re In Court with Him.

 

 

I hate it when I have to spend my good time sweeping up the refuse from idiotic, politically-motivated attacks on our Catholic religious leaders.

Today, I’m going to address attacks from the right side of unreason, and to be honest, I’d rather not. Have to, that is. I’d much rather I didn’t have to keep doing this.

I’m not so pleased when I have to do the same thing for with the left side of unreason, either.

But … duty calls.

There have been a smattering of articles and combox vitriol floating around the internet accusing the Catholic bishops of all sorts of nasty things because they don’t/won’t/aren’t-going-to hate on Mexicans. After all, we’re deep into our bi-election brown-skin hate-off right now and every red blooded American is called to abandon all reason and blindly join in.

The cable news networks are discussing (they never report, they only discuss) the issue of large numbers of children coming over the Rio Grande. I watched a brief thingy on one of them Saturday night. They were proclaiming that one in four of these kids are “criminals” and that “gangs” are meeting them at the border to recruit them.

I know lots of people who’ve come over that border. Some of them are bad dudes. True. But most of them fall into the salt of the earth category of family-loving, deeply-religious goodness. You can hate me for saying it, but it’s just a fact.

To get back to the talking heads and their endless talk-talk on this border situation, I have one main point, and that point is …

They do this every single bi-election year.

I’m not saying that the problem with people flooding our Southern borders isn’t real. I am also not saying that this country should not control its borders. Far from it. A country that can’t control its borders is in big trouble.

What I am saying is that the this wall to wall reporting that has you so whipped up and miserable right now is politically-motivated. The cable news does this every bi-election The constant drumbeat of hysterical talk-talk-talking about “illegals” will stop like turning off a tap as soon as the votes are counted in November.

In the meantime, the good people of this country will have been ripped around and worked up into an emotional pitch for nothing. Again.

Because, you see, nothing is going to happen that will stop the flood of illegal immigrants coming over the border. Think about it. This big outrage has been whipped up every bi-election since the turn of the century. What good has come of it? Republican President/Democratic President/Republican Congress/Democratic Congress it doesn’t matter. Nothing changes.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishops are doing their Jesus thing and insisting that these children are people and must be treated as people. If you will read the Bishops’ statements on this issue, they plainly support efforts to control the country’s borders. But they can’t very well drop kick the Gospels just to make the right wing side of unreason like them.

So … they get hit with the usual claptrap from the vicious pharisees to the right. I won’t go through the whole tired litany of hate talk. I’m going to focus on one bizarro statement that I’ve seen repeated enough to know it has traction in certain internet nut bins. That statement is the ludicrous claim that the Catholic bishops are “in bed” with President Obama.

That is so stupid that it deserves a trophy of some sort or other.

Have any of the little hive minds that are passing that around totally forgotten the dozens upon dozens of lawsuits filed against the HHS Mandate? How about the bishops’ requests for religious exemptions to ENDA and the fight brewing there? Who do you think was working against the Hobby Lobby vote last week?

The bishops are in bed with President Obama? Puleez.

What the bishops are doing with their support of the human rights of immigrants and their refusal to join in with the great bi-election immigration hate-off, is following Jesus.

You know, the Jesus Simeon said would be a “sign of contradiction.”

What Simeon didn’t prophesy, but which Christ the Lord promised when he said If they persecute me, they will persecute you, is that people who follow the Gospels, especially in a a post-Christian society such as ours, are also going to be signs of contradiction. In fact, I’ll go a step further and say that our vocation as Christians in this post-Christian culture is to be signs of contradictions.

The bishops are succeeding in that vocation in a grand fashion. They are, for instance, being sued directly for their teaching that abortion is wrong. That’s from the left side of unreason.

Now, they’re being accused of pandering to our anti-Catholic president by insisting that people are people, no matter their legal status. That’s from the right side of of unreason.

What we are dealing with here is two sides of the same God-is-Made-in-My-Image coin. When people cut the Gospels down to fit their politics, they stop being a sign of contradiction to the sins of the world and become the sin’s enablers. They are salt that has lost its savor.

The followers of the politically-trimmed Gospel that does not allow for the sanctity of human life or marriage on the one side, and that tries to enforce economics as a morality-free zone on the other, are both examples of fallen and useless Christians. When I say “useless” I mean they are useless to God in His great work of Kingdom building.

Is there anything worse I can say about a Christian than that they are useless to God?

Jesus told us cannot follow two masters, and I think He meant it. When we trim our faith to suit our politics, we are running away from the cross, just like Peter, Andrew, James, James, Matthew, Philip, Thomas, Nathaniel, Simon the Zealot and Thaddaeus.

The Apostles repented of their shameful running away. They gave their lives for the same Jesus they had abandoned.

We can too.

I am not saying that we should not be concerned about the flood of illegal immigrants that have been coming over our borders for the past decades. This country needs to secure its borders. Period.

I am saying that we should stop letting ourselves be jerked around by the bi-election carrying on that happens so predictably that you could set your calendar by it.

This isn’t about shutting down our borders. In fact, the same corporatists who own the news outlets that are pushing this hysteria are themselves ardently opposed to shutting down the borders. They like and employ the cheap, off-the-books labor. I’ll write more on that in a day or so.

What this reporting and whipping Americans into a xenophobic hysteria are about is the universal goal of power politics: Getting power and keeping power.

Nobody is going to fix this problem, come November. The day after the elections, the talking heads will start talking about something else. Just like they do every bi-election.

In the meantime, the right-wing-of-unreason crowd will have scarred and defamed the name of Christ with their claims to be Christian while they say things that come straight from the pit.

The bishops are right about this, just as they are right about marriage and abortion and human trafficking and a whole host of other things.

They are being attacked because they are the sign of contradiction in American public discourse.

They get attacked from the left and right because they are not acolytes to either the right or left. Their job isn’t to give moral support to the immorality of power politics. Their job is to proclaim the Gospels and teach us what living for Christ means in this world.

When they tell us to treat immigrants as people, they are teaching us how the Gospels apply directly to us, in our current world. They are setting the cross before us and asking us to take up the unpopular position and lift the cross onto our shoulders and follow Him.

The Catholic bishops are in bed with President Obama? The plain facts of recent history make that charge ridiculous.

The fact that otherwise intelligent folks are bandying it about simply points to how nutty following the gods of this world can make people.

I am writing this with one goal, and it’s not to call in the lightning on my own head, although I will probably get a bit of that. I am writing it to urge you to regain your reason.

Think straight. Look at the simple fact that this happens every bi-election. Consider what that means in real life.

Look also at the fact that the bishops are hated on by both the right and left of the political spectrum. Consider for a moment that perhaps this is because they are actually being the “sign of contradiction” that we all should be.

If you follow Jesus, you’ll be treated the same way He was. That’s what’s happening to the bishops. It’s also what should be happening to you and me.

Use your minds and think people. Do not be whipped around by talking heads with a political agenda. Think. Connect the dots.

And support our bishops.

Mr President: When Did the Democratic Party Declare War on the Catholic Church?

 

“Mr President, when did the Democratic Party declare war on the Catholic Church?”

I want to thank Senator Ted Cruz of Texas for asking that question. As a Democratic elected official, and a life-long Democrat, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

The Senator also said, “If you’re litigating with nuns, you have probably done something wrong.”

Amen, brother Ted.

I’m going to put an article about this speech below. But I want to clarify something first.

The article says the S 2578 “failed” yesterday.

Wrong.

It did not “fail.” The vote was on cloture, not the bill. A vote on cloture is a vote on whether or not to stop a filibuster, or, as in this case, to allow debate on a bill. In pragmatic terms, the failure of this vote allows opponents of the legislation to mount a filibuster if they so choose (everyone assumes they will so choose) which could and probably would keep the bill from coming to a vote. It closes down debate, which stops the bill. It does not kill it.

Cloture requires 60 votes. Even though supporters of the bill fell short by 4 votes, they got a clear majority of the Senate to vote for cloture, which was, in essence a vote for the bill. Also, Majority Leader Reid set it up so that he could call another vote on cloture later.

The story is all over the internet that the bill “failed.” Not true.

From CNSnews.com:

(CNSNews.com) – Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) criticized Senate Democrats and their legislation to circumvent the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision by explaining that their bill would impose “faith fines” on groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor, who refuse to subsidize abortion-inducing drugs, and asked, “Mr. President, when did the Democratic Party declare war on the Catholic Church?”

“The bill that is being voted on this floor, if it were adopted, would fine the Little Sisters of the Poor millions of dollars unless these Catholic nuns are willing to pay for abortion-producing drugs for others,” said Sen. Cruz in remarks on the Senate floor on Wednesday.

“Mr. President, when did the Democratic Party declare war on the Catholic Church?” said Cruz.

“Let me make a basic suggestion,” he continued.  “If you’re litigating against nuns, you have probably done something wrong, and the Obama Administration is doing so right now. Mr. President, drop your faith fines. Mr. Majority leader, drop your faith fines. To all of my Democratic colleagues, drop your faith fines. Get back to the shared values that stitch all of us together as Americans.”


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