The Pope has Spoken and I Accept It.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Aleteia Image Department https://www.flickr.com/photos/113018453@N05/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Aleteia Image Department https://www.flickr.com/photos/113018453@N05/  Aleteia

 

I’ve been standing on the sidelines, watching the hate-Pope-Francis movement tear into the fabric of the Church with destructive glee for a long time now.

I have absorbed the meaning of the venomous comments, malicious misinterpretations of what he says and deliberate destructiveness without remarking on it. I’ve been silent, hoping it would run its course and wear itself out, that the obsessed people who are focusing their internal rage on Pope Francis would find another target.

But that is not happening. In fact, the disrespect and hatred directed toward the Holy Father appear to be growing. It is even overtaking Catholics who normally are more rational.

This began as the usual projections of angry people who are trying to deal with their mental health issues by turning a hapless public figure into the object of what they hate about themselves. It has morphed into a growing push to convince people to ignore and vilify the pope in favor of whatever bishop, priest or lay blogger lights the internal fires of self-deification that burn inside them.

Given that, I’ve decided that I need to take a public position of my own. I want, as I usually do, to make it clear where I stand. I don’t want anyone to be confused about me and my loyalties.

I am standing with the pope.

Schismatic individualism has overtaken and is destroying simple faithfulness in many quarters of our Church. Catholics of every sort are taking it on themselves to proclaim that they will not accept the authority of the pope to govern this Church.

They are justifying this outrageous behavior by vilifying Pope Francis, using what appear to be deliberate misquotes of what he has said. They juxtapose this with other misquoted teachings from earlier popes to “prove” their point. They weave tangled skeins of canon law, misquoted papal statements, footnotes and endnotes, like a spider, spinning a web to catch its prey.

The leaders of the rageful faithful movement range from cardinals who should know better, to priests who also should know better, to bloggers looking for something inflammatory to say that will spin their view meters. The wayward cardinals and priests enjoy a kind of tribal adoration from the pope-haters.

In this upside down world, criticizing one of them results in a wave of insults and claims that the person who did the criticizing is a every kind of lowlife imaginable. This is usually followed with attempts to silence the person by attempting to get their publisher to fire them or stop publishing their work. All this is done in the name of “protecting” the Church.

The core problem here, is, as the core problem with human failings always is, a matter of sin. In our society today, slander, lying and amorality are as acceptable to most professional Christians as they are to nihilists, atheists and satanists. It just depends on who is doing it.

Atheists, nihilists, satanists and professional Christians alike loudly proclaim that what they are doing is righteousness. They are equally committed to the idea that anyone who disagrees with them is subhuman trash that they can treat any way they want.

The sole difference seems to be that when professional Christians paste a bandaid of pious self-righteousness over the oozing slime of sin and proclaim that it is, in fact righteousness, they choose a bandaid that quotes canon law or Scripture. That way, they “prove” that what they are doing is of Christ.

I have been convinced for a very long time that satan is active in our society in a way that he never dared to be in years past. Time was, satan triumphed by convincing people that he didn’t exist. Now, he’s taking off his mask and coming right out front in satanic masses and satan worshipping.

At the same time, he has, it seems to me, taken over our public discourse. There is no sin which is unacceptable to professional Christians if it is committed by someone they want to support. The election just past proved that rather decisively.

We kicked God to the curb in the name of God.

It doesn’t surprise me in the least that the newest object of hatred and vilification is Pope Francis. After all, who else has the authority, the moral and prophetic voice, to speak against an utterly amoral, the-biggest-and-the-meanest-make-all-the-rules zeitgeist? Who else besides the pope can correct this plunge into the pit by a whole society?

There is no one except the pope who can do this.

The pope is, as he has always been, satan’s great nemesis. He is the Vicar of Christ. He is Peter.

A good deal of the anger I’ve seen directed at Pope Francis is the anger of people who have been called on their sins which they have no intention of giving up. When Pope Francis speaks of the poor, the disenfranchised the littlest of these, he gets hit and hit hard by those whose real god is their politics.

These people have conflated Jesus Christ with their politics for so long, they have fallen so deeply into the sin of this idolatry, that when they hear the Gospels spoken by the Pope, they don’t change. They condemn the pope.

The latest hook to hang pope hatred on appears to be Amoris Laetitia. I was too sick to read when this was published, and, to be honest, I haven’t bothered to read it since. I think the reason I haven’t read it is because of all the crazy carrying on about it.

I opposed the notion of opening the Eucharist to people who had not been allowed to take it up until now. I wrote about it quite a bit during the synods on the family.

But I was wrong.

Here’s how I know I was wrong.

The Holy Spirit told the first Peter in a dream that the free gift of eternal life was open to all of humanity and not just the Jews. This was a revolutionary thought at the time. A lot of people, including Peter himself, had, based on their own reasoning, held the opposite opinion. But the Holy Spirit instructed Peter, and Peter instructed the faithful and that was that.

Pope Francis is Peter. He is not saying that Christ should be shut away and shared only with a special few who come to him trailing incense and wearing lace. Pope Francis is saying, like the first Peter, that Jesus in the Eucharist will be available to more of the people that He made, the people that He came to save.

That, my friends, is just as consistent with the Gospels as the prior way of doing things was. I believe that it is a new revelation for our times, an extension of the Covenant of grace.

I don’t believe this because I have had a vision or dream like Peter did. I believe it because Peter has said it.

Pope Francis is Peter. He is the fisherman.

I am a pew-sitting sinner who does not decide who may or may not partake of the Eucharist. I am simply blessed and grateful that I can go forward and encounter the Risen Lord in the Eucharist myself.

I do not have to make these decisions. I don’t even have to worry about them.

All I have to do is follow Christ and Him crucified. It is not my job to determine who gets to take the Eucharist. It is my job to make sure that I don’t walk past Lazarus.

The pope has spoken, and I accept it.

If you want to find me, it will be easy. I’ll be standing with the pope.

 

 

 

Above Photo, courtesy of Aleteia

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Guess Who’s Coming to Our Election!!

Photo Source: Fllckr Creative Commons by Jedimentat44 https://www.flickr.com/photos/jedimentat/

Photo Source: Fllckr Creative Commons by Jedimentat44 https://www.flickr.com/photos/jedimentat/

The American electorate has, in its concentration on the bread and circuses behavior of the two presidential the candidates and the press, pretty much ignored the single most important happening of this election campaign.

That happening is unprecedented in American history. It is also a clear and present danger to our democracy. It raises the specter of treason on the level of Benedict Arnold and a serious threat to the sovereignty of our nation and our freedoms.

The happening I am referring to is the on-going Russian interference in our election process.

I know that the behavior of the candidates, the press and most of our religious leaders would lead anyone to believe that what we are engaged in is an episode of Jerry Springer, but that is a reflection on them, not the business of a free people, choosing their government. Elections are sacred. They are the hallmark of what we are as a people and as a nation.

Elections, when viewed through the prism of direct Russian interference in the process, are as important as the soil on which we stand. This interference is an invasion of sorts, an attempt to seize control of our government and thus of our country. It is as hostile as a military invasion and has the potential to be just as destructive.

Yet We the People ignore it in favor of whatever endless dribble comes from the talking heads on whichever 24-hour news station happens to most closely reflect what we think. We are more focused on a sexting pervert’s latest outrage than we are on a direct and obvious threat to our nation that is as real as a military invasion.

There appears to be little doubt that Russia is behind the hacking of one of the political parties’ headquarters. There also appears to be little doubt that they have “probed” state election boards around the country.

Do you understand that?

A foreign power has interfered in our election in order to attempt to determine who wins. The same foreign power has been “probing” election boards in the various states in a run-up to the election. What are they going do with this ability to hack inside state election boards?

I understand that We the People have been battered into a kind of emotional and mental breakdown by the constant driving and flogging we have been subjected to by the various power brokers in this country. I also understand that supporters of these candidates have been attacked and belittled for doing what is their clear right: Choosing a candidate they believe best reflects their views and supporting that candidate.

I am absolutely appalled by the press characterizations of the people who support Mr Trump as crazy and stupid. They are neither. They are people who have just grievances which have been ignored for far too long.

They are people who have repeatedly overturned Congress from one party to the other, and who have seen that, no matter how they vote, nothing changes. They are the Americans who have paid the price for trendy social and economic tinkering. Many of them are supporting Mr Trump because they see him as the only hope they have of defending their deeply held beliefs in the sanctity of human life and our First Amendment Freedoms.

On the other hand, I am equally appalled by other characterizations of people who support Secretary Clinton as immoral monsters. They are not.

They are people, many of whom have been rejected and battered by our religious establishments to the point that they feel that God hates them. Almost all of them could be converted if we tried to do that instead of confining our interactions with them to fervently damning them to hell. Many of them are supporting Secretary Clinton, despite profound disagreements with her, for the sole reason that they see Mr Trump as a dangerous, possibly unhinged, demagogue whose election would represent a profound threat to the future of this nation.

I am equally appalled by the vacuous excuse for religious leadership we have been given in this campaign. These two candidates provide teachable moments on every single one of the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount. Instead of exercising their responsibility to teach and lead us in moral matters, most of our religious leaders have ham-handedly tried to use their severely tattered moral voice to drive the vote toward whatever candidate they favor. Instead of leading us through the deep waters, they have put their hands on the back of our heads and held us under.

All of this has contributed to the inability of We the People to sort the wheat from the chaff among the unending dirty, dirtier, dirtier-still revelations of this campaign. This campaign has not been a race to the bottom. It has been the bottom, and, due to the outrageous lack of religious leadership, Christians are wallowing there along with everyone else.

This situation is why we have been battered and bamboozled to the point that we overlook and ignore a threat as serious to our nation as the blatant and on-going actions of Russia to take control of our country by affecting the election. But ignoring it only makes it more likely to happen.

People don’t get bit by the snake they see. It is the snake that lies in the weeds unnoticed that injects its poison and kills.

We are ignoring a real and present danger to our nation. It is time we stopped flipping and flapping on the stuff and nonsense fed to us by talking heads and took the reigns of our own consciousness into our own hands. We need to stop this free-fall into blithering idiocy ourselves.

No one is going to help us. No one is going to lead us through to calm and centered thinking.

We must, each one of us on our own, do it ourselves.

I have said before and I will continue to say that following Christ is choosing sanity. The minute you take your eyes off the idols of this world and focus on Him, the fog begins to clear. We are not pawns of an outrageous fate that we cannot control. We are not little nothings that make up percentage points in polling. We are not bound to serve the whim of power brokers who own just about every word we hear and read.

We are eternal souls, made in the Likeness and Image of the living God. We are Americans who have the power to actually chose our own government. We are, of all the people on this planet, the most privileged and the most free.

Choosing Christ over the cacophony of cackling and crowing charlatans who want to influence and control us for their purposes and their gain is the single most freeing thing that anyone can do. It is sanity-making in an absolute way.

Perhaps the most difficult lesson of this campaign is that we must chose Christ on our own, without the leadership of our religious leaders. They have gone off after other gods, in search of political gain. Even though they couch their words in time-worn religiosity, their leadership is political, not moral.

They have ignored the great moral chasms of this campaign. They have not addressed the massive degradation of public morality and private understanding of moral behavior that these candidates have pushed on the people of this nation.

Our religious leaders have stood by while the amorality of this campaign has drug many Christians right down into the slimy pit along with it. In fact, many of these religious leaders have joined in and become part of the offal-slinging crowd themselves.

Meanwhile, our nation itself is facing a cyber invasion that threatens the integrity of the core activity that defines us as a democracy and that ensures our freedoms: The electoral process.

If a foreign power can use computer hacking to jack-hammer itself and its interests into our elections, then we cannot remain free. This country cannot be a sovereign nation if it is taken over by foreign interference in our elections. Any candidate or person who cooperates with this is committing treason. They are throwing our Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the blood of our fallen soldiers in the dirt.

I know that I am, once again, treading on ground that will immediately get me labeled as an advocate for one or the other of these candidates. My advice to you is to get over that. The fact that the mention of treasonous alliances with foreign powers brings this election and its candidates to mind is a symptom of just how sick this campaign has become and how horrible these two candidates are.

We are bereft of leadership, sheep without shepherds, standing on the abyss of who knows what. But we can choose to back up from the abyss and use our powerful reasoning capacities to think clearly. We can chose to follow Christ and ignore the crowd. We can chose to take a fearless look at the threat we face with this Russian invasion into our electoral process. We can demand an end to the crazy talking-headism that is not news by the simple expediency of switching them off.

We can think for ourselves. We can be sane.

It begins with one simple act.

Chose Christ.

Ignore the rest.

Chose Christ.

Your mind will clear when you do that.

If enough of us do it, we just might save both ourselves and our country.

To read the joint statement of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence on Election Security about Russian hacking to interfere in our election, go here.

To read about Russian “probing” of state election boards, go here and here. Notice that this is old news. I don’t know how many more state election boards have been hacked since these stories were published.

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Trump is Unfit to Lead America

Is Vladimir Putin helping Donald Trump win the race for President of the United States? This caricature of Donald Trump was adapted from Creative Commons licensed images from Michael Vadon's flickr photostream. This caricature of Vladimir Putin was adapted from a Creative Commons licensed photo from the Russian Presidential Press and Information Office available via Wikimedia. This background was adapted from a Creative Commons licensed photo from Jeff Ruane's Flickr photostream. The Russian symbol was adapted from a photo in the public domain available via Wikimedia. This bodies were adapted from a Creative Commons licensed photo from The U.S. Army's Flickr photo stream. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/28512617446/

Is Vladimir Putin helping Donald Trump win the race for President of the United States?
Photo Source:  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/28512617446/

 

The New York times broke a story yesterday that fits the pieces of Donald Trump’s bizarre foreign policy together. It also makes this election about a lot more than issues. It raises an ugly and unthinkable question: Is Mr Trump a Manchurian candidate of sorts?

Let’s talk background. What “pieces” am I referring to?

1. Mr Trump fired the campaign manager who had brought him successfully through the primaries and replaced him with a “professional” campaign manager of the right. This new campaign manager has a well-known background of working for campaigns in the Ukraine.

2. Mr Trump has said that he will truncate our NATO allegiances in favor of allying this country with President Putin and the Russians. Think about that: He’s talking about changing our historic alliances with Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy, and switching — willy-nilly — to allying this country with Russia, presumably at least somewhat against our former allies.

3. He’s blathered so much about his favorable feelings for President Putin that the press has talked about a “bromance” between the two men.

4. Now, according to yesterday’s New York Times article, he fired the campaign manager who successfully brought him to the nomination and replaced him with one of the most dubious of political hacks, who, it turns out, may have been given millions of dollars in cash from — you guessed it — the Russians.

I’ve been appalled ever since I first read about it about his his constant hinting at an incestuous relationship with his daughter, the fact that he put his wife in porn photo shoots, and the way he talks about women.

Christians need to be very careful about endorsing Mr Trump. Other people judge Jesus by the things we do and say, and they will inevitably conclude that our faith is worthless if we excuse behavior like this for political expediency.

There are certain levels of misogyny that Christians can not align themselves with, even indirectly and for what seem to be noble reasons such as the right to life. If they do so, they destroy the integrity of their witness for Christ and besmirch the causes they hold dear.

A man who hints at incest with his daughter and who puts his wife in porn photo shoots and who talks about women the way Mr Trump does has to be an example of one of them. His behavior is anti-Christ and we may not condone it, even indirectly.

Having said that, I want to go back to the points I made about Mr Trump’s foreign policy ideas and his campaign manager’s possible money ties to Putin. The question which comes to mind is simple and straightforward: Did Mr Trump sell this country out to Putin? Is he a Manchurian candidate?

If this story turns out to be true, it raises questions that are even uglier than the questions about Mr Trump’s hatred of women and use of them as sexual things. It raises questions that are worse (if such a thing is possible) than the degradation this nation will suffer if we elect a president who jokes about incest with his daughter and has put his wife in porn photo shoots. The question is, quite simply, is he a traitor to this country?

Is he talking about changing our foreign policy in draconian ways to the harm of this nation because of some nefarious money connection between him and the Russian leadership?

I want to emphasize that I don’t know that this is true. But the story in the New York Times, if it turns out to be true, points toward that being a possible explanation of Mr Trump’s outlandish foreign policy ideas, as well as his “bromance” with President Putin.

I do know that Mr Trump is not only unfit for the presidency, he is unfit for the endorsement or support of any Christian organization. I include in that organizations that are not specifically Christian but which hold Christian ideals.

I understand what I am saying. I know full well the debacle many of our causes face if Secretary Clinton wins this election.

But I am an American. From the top of my fuzzy hair, to the soles of my Okie feet, I love this country.

Mr Trump is unfit at any level to lead America.

 

Note: This post originally contained references to lawsuits filed against Mr Trump alleging that he held sex parties with teen-aged girls. A Public Catholic reader brought this story to my attention, calling that into question. For that reason, I removed references to the articles I had read from this post.

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No Matter What the Synod Does, I Will Keep on Doing What I’ve Been Doing

Photo Source Flickr Creative Commons by Aleteia Image Department https://www.flickr.com/photos/113018453@N05/

Photo Source Flickr Creative Commons by Aleteia Image Department https://www.flickr.com/photos/113018453@N05/

Conscience is a weak reed on which to lay the foundation of your eternal destiny.

I know from personal experience that I can convince myself of anything. I also know that I am not the only person with this problem. In fact, I would guess that this ability to justify oneself to oneself is part of the universal human condition.

The truth is, people cannot do that which they cannot justify to themselves. I have no doubt that Hitler had justifications that worked for him for everything he did. Ditto for Pol Pot, John Wayne Gacy, abortionists and corporatists alike.

They all manage to justify what they do, at least to themselves. The rapist’s “she asked for it,” works perfectly fine to allow him to sadistically degrade, brutalize and harm another person, just as the corporatists’ blather lets their greed fuel wars, create poverty and destroy hope.

I learned a long time ago that nothing makes a person meaner than being challenged on their self-justifications. The worse the thing they are justifying, the meaner they get when the justification is challenged. Thus we have men who beat their wives yelling “You made me do it!” and following that with another blow to silence any challenge to their justification. We have nations going to war rather than treat their own citizens as full human beings.

Nothing makes a person meaner than telling them they cannot kill somebody they’ve decided it is their right to kill. If you try to confront them with the reality of what they are doing, they become dangerous to you, as well.

The one thing you cannot rely on to make them change their behavior is the whispering of their own conscience. Conscience is an unworkable guide precisely because conscience is so easily shaped by the forces of self interest and human weakness. Perhaps the number one human weakness that damages conscience is the desire to be accepted and liked by the people around us.

That weakness works against good judgement and right conscience in an insidious and steady sort of way. It is buttressed by sophisticated arguments that excuse virtually anything. Today’s advocates for dissolute living are skilled in making good sound bad and bad sound good.

They can and do convince people that everything from killing grandma with euthanasia to dismembering our children with abortion is a positive good. Our conscience is no defense against them unless we have a reliable touchstone by which to judge and evaluate what we are hearing.

For two thousand years, the Catholic Church has provided that reliable touchstone. For two thousand years, the Church has held fast in its teachings and dogma. Individual priests and bishops have been all over the map in their moral teaching. They are all over the map right now on the core challenges facing modern Christians. But the Church itself has never taught that which is not true. It has not deviated from following Christ and Him crucified.

That is why so many Christians found the discussions at last year’s Synod disturbing. That disturbance is why they are distrustful of this year’s Synod. They become restive when Synod fathers talk about allowing individual conscience to be used as a guide for when it’s ok to ignore grave sin because they know — we all know — that our own consciences can lead us straight down the road to perdition.

We need a Church that we can trust to present us with Jesus Christ, Who is the same yesterday, today and forever. We do not need and will not benefit from theological experimentation that runs perpendicular to the explicit teachings of Our Lord and of Scripture.

Jesus said, For this cause a man shall leave his mother and father and join with his wife and they two shall become one flesh, so that they are no longer two, but one. What therefore God has joined together let no man put asunder … anyone who divorces … and marries another … commits adultery. 

He was speaking directly and explicitly about the question of divorce, which he said Moses had allowed due to the Israelite’s hardness of heart. Marriage is between one man and one woman and it is for life. Period.

St Paul said, … whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup unworthily shall be guilty of sin against the body and blood of the Lord … and brings judgement upon himself. 

These teachings put a crimp in things for a lot of people these days. If they are true, then a great many men and women are living in adultery. If they are not true, then the Scriptures themselves are false.

People don’t like hearing things like that. They want Jesus. They know they need Him, and they want Him. They crave communion with the Lord, and Christ in the Eucharist is the best and easiest way to achieve that.

They are good people. Many of them repent of their mistakes and are trying to do better. Divorce is a scalding experience that wounds people to the core. That’s because marriage is exactly what Jesus said it was; the binding of two people together as one for life. Tearing that apart is painful beyond pain.

There are often serious reasons for divorce. Violence, infidelity, drug and alcohol abuse are not fixable unless the offender is committed to changing. The only thing the victim spouse can do is end the marriage and try to rebuild.

That is why the Church has developed the process of annulment; to determine if the marriage was invalid. It lets people move forward.

This is a thorny subject for the Church right now precisely because certain bishops are pushing to place Christ’s teaching on a shelf and ignore it in actual practice. They want to say that Jesus said what He said, and the Church is not changing doctrine, but it will ignore the doctrine in its pastoral life.

To my way of thinking, this is inherently dishonest. It also sets the Church on the path of unraveling the cords that bind it together. The Catholic Church is the Eucharist and the Eucharist is a sacrament.

The Eucharist is a sacrament, established by Our Lord. Marriage is a sacrament, established by Our Lord. No one — including bishops — has to power to undo or nullify a sacrament.

If the sacrament of Holy Matrimony can be dismembered into a meaningless nothing that has no actual power in how people live their lives, and the core meaning of the Church, which is the Eucharist, can be taken by force and popular demand, then the Church itself has come unwound.

Holy Orders are meaningless if the Eucharist and Holy Matrimony are meaningless. If the Church puts doctrine on the shelf and ignores it in its actual, pastoral practices as they pertain to the Eucharist and Holy Matrimony, then the sacraments become pro forma to the people in the pews.

I do not understand anyone who would take the Eucharist by force. I do not.

I don’t “get” people who know that they are living in violation of Church teaching and then demand that the Church change what it teaches to suit them. Their job is to change how they live in order to follow Christ. And Church teaching has, up until now, been a reliable guide on how to follow Christ.

Why would anyone take communion when they know they are in mortal sin? Do they think that Jesus can be fooled? Do they think they can lie to Him and He won’t notice? Why would a bishop deliberately lead people into doing this? Doesn’t the bishop fear God?

I understand full well that much of the arguing in the two Synods has been a manifestation of the culture wars raging in the Western world. I believe that a number of politico-socio movements, including the gay rights movement and the new atheism, have a vested interest in tearing down the Church’s teaching.

Trashing the sacrament of Holy Matrimony would weaken the Church’s witness in the world today far more than even the priest sex abuse scandal has done. If the Church walks away from the sacraments, then it walks away from itself.

The fact that so many secular interests perceive the Synod as something they can influence to act in ways that are contrary to 2,000 years of Church teaching says a lot about at least some of the bishops who are meeting there. The other fact, that so many faithful Catholics who have stood by the Church through all the wounds she has inflicted on herself in the past 15 years, are deeply mistrustful of the Synod, says a lot about the danger that lies within the Church if such a change is made.

If the Synod Fathers accede to pressures from the German bishops to radically change Church practice on marriage in these fraught times, they will make the Church the pawn of special interests.  At the same time, they will alienate many of their most faithful followers.

They don’t seem to understand the synergy at work here. To put it simply, a decision to change Church practice would comfort the Church’s enemies, including those who seek to destroy faith altogether. It would, at the same time, alienate and create confusion and mistrust among those who ardently try to follow the Church. It would weaken the loyalty of the people the Church must turn to for help when it is attacked.

I pray about the Synod, but one thing is absolute: No matter what happens with these bishops, I will not leave the Church. To paraphrase St Peter, where would I go?

What I will do is read whatever the Synod produces carefully and prayerfully. Then, I will think about it. I imagine I may go through this read-pray-think process more than once. If the Church wounds itself with unsound practices, I will pray for wiser minds to undo this mistake in the future.

Whatever the Synod does, I plan to keep on doing what I’ve been doing for quite a while now. I will do my best to follow Jesus within the confines of the Catholic Church.

 

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Swiss Catholic LGBT Money Targets African Bishops Ahead of Synod

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Marcel Grieder https://www.flickr.com/photos/thegrid-ch/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Marcel Grieder https://www.flickr.com/photos/thegrid-ch/

Ka-Ching!

Politics of any sort runs on money, and the Church has its own politics. That’s a given.

The scandal — and it is scandalous — is that Catholic bishops are reported to be using monies raised from the faithful as part of Lenten almsgiving to put pressure on other bishops to accede to gay rights. I have said repeatedly — and I meant it — that I have no problem with homosexual priests. However, I have a major problem with insincere priests who do not hold an authentic faith in and followership of Christ.

It makes no difference to me if the priest is homosexual or straight. But they must be priests first.

I hope more details about this emerge quickly. If the Swiss bishops are mis-using alms in this manner, they need to be brought to heel. If they are truly engaging with outside groups to pressure other bishops to accede to external, secular, political agendas that run counter to Church teaching, that needs to stop, as well.

We need leadership in these times. This has the earmarks of self-serving misuse of power and mis-appropriation of funds that violates the trust of those who have given money to the Church. It also raises real questions as to whether the Swiss bishops are following Christ and teaching the Gospels, or attempting to lead the Church away from Him and His Word.

From The Catholic News Agency:

.- The Swiss Catholic Lenten Fund and a major U.S. foundation have helped fund an LGBT activist project intended to counter West African bishops at the Catholic Church’s Synod on the Family.

The Netherlands-based European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups originally planned to make a documentary film of self-identified LGBT Catholics in Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria and Cameroon.

“Reacting to the extremely negative influence from bishops from Western Africa on the final document of the Family Synod 14, we found it important to bring the voices of LGBT Catholics from this region to broader attention,” the European Forum said in its 2014-2015 activity report.

The forum’s activities report said the project was funded by the Swiss Catholic Lenten Fund Fastenopfer and the Arcus Foundation. The wealthy U.S.-based foundation has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to LGBT activist groups to target the synod.

But Fastenopfer is a Catholic development organization. It traditionally raises its funds during Lenten almsgiving. Its Italian-language name is Sacrificio Quaresimale, which means “Lenten Sacrifice.”

Bishop Felix Gmur of Basel, Switzerland is president of the Lenten fund’s foundation council, which oversees the NGO’s directors group. Two of the nine members of the foundation council are named by the Conference of Swiss Bishops, with the rest being named by a separate body.

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The Gay Marriage Ultimatum: “Choose Me or Christ”

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Tambako The Jaguar https://www.flickr.com/photos/tambako/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Tambako The Jaguar https://www.flickr.com/photos/tambako/

People still come to me for help, solace and advice.

It’s a natural adjunct to 18 years in public office in this community. People know me, and they’ve learned over the years to trust me. Not only that, they’ve formed the habit of turning to me when they want to talk about something they can’t discuss with the people around them because they know that I won’t, ever, talk about what they tell me.

I left office a year ago, but I didn’t stop being the mother confessor for a lot of South Oklahoma City folks. I don’t know if I ever will.

The Supreme Court sent a number of people my way since last Friday, all of them looking for solace in the face of personal attacks they had suffered because of the decision on gay marriage. They called me on the phone, approached me after mass, in checkout lines and while I was running errands. I also had internet encounters of the same type that went far beyond the boundaries of my community and my personal friends.

Here’s the summarized version of what they told me:

There was a lot of yelling and screaming in certain circles this weekend. It was directed at Christians in their personal, and, heretofore, safe personal relationships. It was also directed at priests who spoke about the decision from the pulpit. One friend, who gave me permission to discuss this, witnessed an ugly blow-up at a longstanding poker game she and her husband go to. The people there hold diverse opinions about matters of faith and morality, but they’ve been meeting for this friendly get-together on a regular basis for years.

This week, the atheists in the group refused to practice civility. They cursed the Lord, called Christians bigots and homophobes and were otherwise verbally insulting. According to my friend, this began with a celebration on the part of the atheists over Obergefell. She said she felt like, “OK, you won your deal, have your celebration.” She said the Christians at the table kept silent.

But when the celebration turned to repeatedly cursing the Lord and calling Christians ugly names, she said one of the Christian men told them to shut up. It devolved from there into two men squaring off to fight one another. At that point, my friend stood up and told them to stop it.

She said, “I’ve never forced my faith on you. I don’t come here with a Bible telling you what to do. But you are disrespecting me and my Jesus and I will not stand for it. You stop this now or my husband and I are leaving and we won’t be back.”

My friend is the most soft-spoken Hispanic woman you’d ever meet. I’ve never heard her raise her voice. Not once. Not ever.

She said the room fell silent and everyone sat back down. But she doesn’t think she and her husband will be back for more fun next week. They are through with the group.

I’ve heard stories of spouses calling one another names and people walking out of mass on their priests. I also had Public Catholic readers directly ask me what they should do in the face of this hate that is being directed at Christians.

I think that my friend gave a template for how to handle friends who are not family. We really need to stand our ground. If the people we call friends do not respect us enough to allow us the space and personal dignity to hold our own beliefs and act on them, then the friendship is on sick and sad grounds. I know from personal experience how painful this is. But there is nothing we can do but let them go.

That also goes for priests who have parishioners walk out on them when they teach what the Church teaches about marriage from the pulpit. Many of these walkers away will walk back later. But whether they do or not, priests must still teach the truth. They have a responsibility before God to protect their flocks from the error of grave sin. Silence in a situation where their parishioners are facing this kind of abuse is cowardice. It is a shepherd, running away to protect himself when his flock is in danger.

Family members are a bit more difficult. There are several gay people in my family and we’ve never had a problem. The reason is simple: We love one another. I may not support gay marriage, but when my gay family member has to go to the hospital or is in trouble with the law or just lonely and feeling bereft, they know that I’m there for them. I will sit in the hospital waiting room, go to the trial and hang out with them when no one else will.

They do the same for me.

What is politics, compared to that?

However, this sort of familial sanity does not prevail in all families. Children, in particular, are too willing to use their parents’ love for them, a love they do not doubt or they wouldn’t do this, as a form of blackmail. “If you love me, you’ll desert your faith and back gay marriage.”

Chose me, or chose Christ. That is the thing in the balance.

All I can say is that you must never stop loving people because they are jerks and bullies. But no one — no one — can be put between you and Jesus. Jesus has to be your first loyalty.

That doesn’t mean you lecture them or even try to get them to change. Even if you do this with the intention of saving their souls, it is still the wrong thing in this circumstance. They are too set on their downward path to listen. Their ears are stopped and their hearts are hardened.

All you can do is love them and continue to love them and reach out to them in love. That, and keep the faith with your faith in your own life.

Aside from the fact that Jesus Christ must be your Lord or He is nothing to you, what they are demanding is far beyond the right of any person to demand of another. It is a crude and vicious violation of your integrity as a human being, of your natural human rights as a person.

At bottom, it, as my friend said, “disrespects” you. I heard a discussion this weekend in which someone more knowledgeable in these matters than me said that these kinds of attacks on the integrity of another person’s soul are always an indicator of disrespect. They do not respect you and your right to believe as you believe.

Disrespect at this level is disrespect of you as a person. You have a responsibility to yourself, to God and to the person attacking you not to accede to this. Mutual respect is the beginning of genuine trust. It is the foundation on which all good human relationships are built.

If I cannot trust you to respect me as a person enough to allow me the dignity of making my own choices in matters as profoundly personal as faith and morality, then I can not trust you at all. There can be no friendship, no true relationship, without this basic level of respect and the trust that comes from it.

I don’t know if my friend should go back to her poker game or not. It’s possible that the people there heard her and that they will respect her in the future. But if they do not, she really does have to leave.

I know my friend well enough to know that she would take a lot of disrespect directed at her, personally. But she will not abide disrespect to Jesus Christ.

That has to be the bottom line for all of us. Even the most co-dependent among us must stand for Christ in these times.

Do it in love. If you love someone, give yourself the freedom to keep on loving them. Never send someone who is really close to you away. If they leave, that is their choice. But when and if they decide to come back, welcome them home with the same love you felt before they left, and then let the past go.

Love hurts in times like this. The people we love are the ones who can and will nail us to the cross. But if our first love is Jesus, He will help us through this. Stay the course, my friends. On the other side of this Gethsemane, you will find that your faith in Him is stronger, your walk with Him closer, your love of Him, deeper.

You may lose trust in the people around you, but your trust in Him is a rock on which you can build your life.

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United States Catholic Bishops’ Statement on Gay Marriage Decision.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Jim Linwood https://www.flickr.com/photos/brighton/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Jim Linwood https://www.flickr.com/photos/brighton/

This statement was issued by Archbishop Joseph E Kurtz of Louisville, KY. Archbishop Kurtz is president of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops.

I am printing it in full, without editing. To read more, go here.

June 26, 2015

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Supreme Court decision, June 26, interpreting the U.S. Constitution to require all states to license and recognize same-sex “marriage” “is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

The full statement follows:

Regardless of what a narrow majority of the Supreme Court may declare at this moment in history, the nature of the human person and marriage remains unchanged and unchangeable. Just as Roe v. Wade did not settle the question of abortion over forty years ago, Obergefell v. Hodges does not settle the question of marriage today. Neither decision is rooted in the truth, and as a result, both will eventually fail. Today the Court is wrong again. It is profoundly immoral and unjust for the government to declare that two people of the same sex can constitute a marriage.

The unique meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is inscribed in our bodies as male and female. The protection of this meaning is a critical dimension of the “integral ecology” that Pope Francis has called us to promote. Mandating marriage redefinition across the country is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us, especially children. The law has a duty to support every child’s basic right to be raised, where possible, by his or her married mother and father in a stable home.

Jesus Christ, with great love, taught unambiguously that from the beginning marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman. As Catholic bishops, we follow our Lord and will continue to teach and to act according to this truth.

I encourage Catholics to move forward with faith, hope, and love: faith in the unchanging truth about marriage, rooted in the immutable nature of the human person and confirmed by divine revelation; hope that these truths will once again prevail in our society, not only by their logic, but by their great beauty and manifest service to the common good; and love for all our neighbors, even those who hate us or would punish us for our faith and moral convictions.

Lastly, I call upon all people of good will to join us in proclaiming the goodness, truth, and beauty of marriage as rightly understood for millennia, and I ask all in positions of power and authority to respect the God-given freedom to seek, live by, and bear witness to the truth.

Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, Supreme Court, religious freedom, marriage, same-sex, Obergefell v. Hodges, Roe v. Wade, Pope Francis, integral ecology, encyclical
# # #
MEDIA CONTACT:
Norma Montenegro Flynn 
O: 202-541-3202

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Christians in the Muslim World: Egypt

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Gigi Ibrahim https://www.flickr.com/photos/gigiibrahim/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Gigi Ibrahim https://www.flickr.com/photos/gigiibrahim/

This is a bit long, but I think it’s well worth watching.

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The Church Without Nuns is Like a Human Heart that’s Cut in Half

Photo Source Flickr Creative Commons by Ben Eekhof

Photo Source Flickr Creative Commons by Ben Eekhof

Legislators can be dismissive of clergy.

In fact, elected officials are, whether they will admit it in public or not, downright cynical about collared folk. Anyone who’s been through a political campaign and had the experience of a member of the clergy lying about them from the pulpit is bound to be changed by the experience.

In my young life, I’ve had clergy of many denominations stand behind the pulpit and call me everything but a nice person. Much of this was back in my anti-religion period when I was pro choice.

They did not confine themselves to the fact that I was pro choice. They claimed variously that I owned whole chains of abortion clinics, was a communist/prostitute/lesbian/whore/slut etc, etc, etc.

Then, when I experienced the love of Christ and converted, when I began to do my best of make up for the harm I’d done by being pro choice, I got attacked by clergy from the other side of the spectrum. They accused me of criminality (which made them lawsuit bait, btw), hating women/hating men/being in favor of rape, and, of course, sexual promiscuity and having had many abortions.

Notice that the lies always included sexual slurs. I think there’s a reason for this, given that I am female and the clergy who attacked me were all male. But I won’t go into it here. Just use your imagination.

Most elected officials end up being attacked by clergy at some point in their careers, and most of the time these attacks are among the most vicious and dishonest they experience. So, when a member of the clergy shows up to lobby for something or other, politicians tend to regard them more as other politicians than men and women of God.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by JohnPickenPhoto https://www.flickr.com/photos/picken/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by JohnPickenPhoto https://www.flickr.com/photos/picken/

Not so with nuns. The reaction a group of hardened and cynical legislators has to a nun, particularly a nun wearing a habit, is absolutely startling. The reason why is simple. They believe that the nuns are for real. They don’t see them as another political power player. They see nuns as genuinely holy people.

This leads me to the post that my colleague, Sr Theresa Aletheia Noble, published today. It’s an account of an encounter she had with a young man who had recently been released from prison. She writes,

Filled with the chutzpah that only an Italian background and the Holy Spirit can give you I rap on his window. He turns toward me with an unfriendly glare.

“Hi!” I say brightly, fully employing my “naive nun” routine, “Your mom wanted me to meet you.”

After a few moments, the man hesitantly opens the car door without looking at me.

He stays in his seat.

I wait, knowing I cannot really talk to him if his eyes stay glued to the steering wheel.

I realize that he is just as afraid of me as I am of him.

After an awkward moment he gets out of the car. I notice a tattoo on his neck in bold script: “La vida es sufrir” (life is suffering).

He moves uncomfortably from side to side.

I touch his arm and say, “I’ve been praying for you and I will keep praying for you. Feel free to come by to talk anytime. We have a chapel that you can visit.”

He takes his sunglasses off and squints in the sun, grinning slightly.

I just look at him intently as if to say, “I’m know this invitation seems absurd, but it still holds.”

We look at each other in silence for a few more seconds.

I wave and walk back to the bookstore, his mother close behind me. As I walk, I realize that, despite appearances, there is really not much that separates me from this mother’s son. Whatever he does, whatever he is involved in, it seems like it is only a few steps away. I can almost touch it. In some mysterious way I almost feel that I am him. In that moment something about my vocation clicks.

I am a sister: a sister to Jesus, a sister to gangbangers, a sister to grace, a sister to sin.

Nuns, sisters, especially when they wear clothing that makes it clear who they are, have a vocation that even they may not be aware of. They are a visible sign and a presence of God’s grace in this world.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Official US Navy Page https://www.flickr.com/photos/usnavy/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Official US Navy Page https://www.flickr.com/photos/usnavy/

Would this young man have opened his car door for a priest? Probably. But the encounter would not have been the same. There is a unique and irreplaceable personal power in the feminine that no priest can possess. There is also the public perception of nuns and sisters as people who are authentic in their commitment to Christ, who are, in fact, holy.

I dealt with people like this young man on a daily basis all the 18 years I was in office. I also dealt with frightened people, people outside the law in many ways, and victims of those outside the law.

I can’t remember one time when a frightened or lawbreaking person turned me away when I approached them. There was never a time when they offered me harm. There were many, many times when they came to me in trust and desperation; unafraid to confide in me, trusting absolutely that I would not betray their confidences, that I would help them in whatever way I could.

That is the power of the feminine, even without a habit. It is the power of mother love, even in a government situation.

Nuns are an irreplaceable component in the Church’s structure. Without them, the ministry of the  Church becomes too male to be truly functional. That is because men are not the human race. They are half of what we are as humans. Women and men together are the human race. Anything less is shorn and weak; a quasi-functional subpart of the damaged whole.

Without nuns, the Church is like a human heart, struggling to beat, even though it’s cut in half.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Stijn De Clercq https://www.flickr.com/photos/stijndc/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Stijn De Clercq https://www.flickr.com/photos/stijndc/

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Hypocritical Clergy Shut the Door of the Kingdom of Heaven in People’s Faces

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Kristian Bjornard https://www.flickr.com/photos/bjornmeansbear/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Kristian Bjornard https://www.flickr.com/photos/bjornmeansbear/

My colleague, Linda LaScola writes a blog over on the Atheist Channel. The focus of her blog is fallen clergy, specifically, Christian clergy who have become atheist.

Quite a number of the posts she writes are about clergy who have become atheist, but continue to keep their jobs as Christian clergy. Ms LaScola and her fellow atheists like this sort of thing, because these guys and gals are worms, eating into the wood of Christianity from the inside.

They are also liars, phonies and charlatans.

This is how Ms LaScola summarized the situation in a promo line she put on one of her recent blog posts:

“…there are clergy who are purposely or inadvertently discouraging their parishioners from holding some of the foundational beliefs of their religion. They no longer believe themselves, so are not very convincing when conveying religious beliefs. In some cases they are not even trying.” 

Odd as this may sound, my response to Ms LaScola’s comment, as well as her headline “Clergy Fuel Flight From Religion,” is Amen sister. You are telling the truth.

Of course, Ms LaScola supports these phoney baloney lying preachers, as, so far as I can see, do the rest of her fellow Atheist bloggers. A good bit of atheist carrying on is based on flat-out lying. The rash of atheists going in to Catholic Churches and pretending to be worshippers in order to gain access to a consecrated Host that they then filmed themselves desecrating is a case in point.

Clergy who lie to their parishioners and misrepresent themselves in order to gain a trust and followership they do not deserve take this lying to a whole new level. They use their position to lead trusting people away from where the people themselves expect to be led. The only place where these folks and their pathological behavior are heroes is among those who hate Christianity.

However, the fact remains that a good number of our clergy do a number on the faith. They are one of the reasons that so many people are leaving the Church.

First, they don’t preach Christ. They don’t share Christ. They don’t even believe in Christ. The Christ-less-Cross-less Christianity they offer is not Christianity at all.

Second, they actively attack the consistent, and up until about a decade ago, universal teachings of Christianity. They work against the faith and try — with success — to scatter the flock. They align themselves publicly with people who have repeatedly stated in public and in writing that their goal is the destruction of Christianity. They support limitations on the First Amendment as a means of attacking their fellow Christians. They join in with the mockery, ridicule, hazing and bashing of their fellow Christians.

Some of these people are just weak-minded thought-bots who suffer from an overdose of narcissism and hubris. They are often highly educated in that they possess many earned degrees. But they are people who do not have a center. They behave like baby ducks imprinting on whatever is the new intellectual trendy. They are spiteful and sarcastic, but there’s no spine. They are weak all through.

A good number of the others are in fact the venal liars that they appear to be. They “come out” to atheists blog sites such as Ms LaScola’s and receive praise, support and sympathy for their “plight” of being an atheist who is supposedly trapped inside the clergy.

This claim is, of course, another of their lies. They are not “trapped” in the clergy.

Nothing and nobody is making these folks stay in their cushy jobs. They could stop lying, leave the clergy and live lives consistent with their true beliefs any time they wanted. They hang on because they like the unearned respect that people give clergy and, if they are part of one of the major denominations, they also like the easy pay, free housing, health insurance and retirement.

It’s a good life, being a lying, two-faced phoney preacher. You can be treated like a cult hero by Christian bashers; their very own boy. At the same time, you get to be a pretend man or woman of God with all the kudos that go with that.

Sweet.

The Catholic Church is not immune to this problem of phoney clergy. We’ve got quite a few of them. Here are a few cases in point:

Priests are bucking the Catholic Church leadership to support gay marriage in Ireland. 

Archbishop Orders Minnesota Priests to Support or Stay Silent on Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment

Father Bob Pierson, Gay Priest, on Why Catholics Should Support Gay Marriage

Md Catholic Priest Defends Gay Marriage Before Congregation Despite Opposition

Georgetown University Caves to HHS Mandate

I could go on, but it gets repetitive. The point I’m making is the same one I made in an earlier post. There are reasons for the decline of affiliation with Christian denominations and the rise of nones that we’ve seen in recent polls.

Christian bashing is one of those reasons. I’ve written quite a few posts talking about that. Now, I think it’s time we talk about fallen clergy. I absolutely do not mean the stalwart souls who preach the Gospel, care for their parishioners and do all they can to follow Christ. I do not want to pick these good men apart or criticize them. I’m grateful to them.

I have been blessed with true pastors with a genuine heart for God ever since I converted to the Catholic Church. The one phoney pastor I had in my entire life was years ago when I was an Episcopalian. This guy actually bragged about destroying people’s faith.

I also do not want to talk about the honest doubters who are struggling with their faith, or the equally honest men and women who leave the clergy because they no longer believe what the Church teaches.

This discussion is about those who wear the collar under false pretenses and actively work to undermine the body of Christ by leading God’s people away from the Way. I have nothing good to say about these people.

They are today’s version of the people Jesus was talking about when He said,

What sorrow awaits you, teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! You shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter, either. 

 

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