Book Review: Face to Face with Jesus

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To join the discussion about Face to Face with Jesus, A Former Muslim’s Extraordinary Journey to Heaven and Encounter with the God of Love, or to buy a copy, go here

Face to Face with Jesus is a book for our time. Not because it deals with a Muslim girl’s conversion to Christ, but because it teaches every Christian about our own call to faithfulness.

Samaa Habib met Jesus in a powerful conversion experience. I know from my own conversion experience that, once you meet the living Christ in this way, you will never be the same again.

Every convert who has walked a path outside Christ will be forced to choose Jesus again and again as the tentacles that link them to their other life are amputated one by one. My advice to all Christians is to read this book and do it like Samaa did it. Don’t do it in the step-by-step, trying-to-cling-to-the-people-of-your-other-life way that I did it.

Samaa never stopped loving her Muslim family, even when they beat her for her faith in Christ and tried to force her to renounce Him. Instead, she prayed and fasted for them. It took much tragedy and suffering, but in the end, her entire family came to know Jesus.

Instead of hiding her light under a bushel as most of us do, she spoke of her faith to everyone she met. This resulted in threats to her life, shunning and persecution. But she never stopped speaking of Jesus.

As I said, this is a book for our time. We are under attack here in America. This attack is relentless and it is gathering steam. Samaa’s witness is for us, as well as all the rest of the world.

I don’t have the native courage that Samaa has. From what I’ve seen, most other American Christians do not have it, either. But in Christ, we can do all things.

The keys to Samaa’s walk with faith are worship, prayer, study and fasting. She went to worship services, even when it meant risking her life. She prayed deeply and often. She studied Scripture. And she employed fasting as a means of intercession for the conversion of others.

Her route to God was through a charismatic congregation. She was introduced to Jesus by charismatic missionaries who had left the safety and comfort of America to go to her country and evangelize for Him.

Even when jihadists bombed their church and many people were wounded and killed, they did not stop. Samaa was terribly injured in this bomb attack. She experienced a near-death experience in which she made a choice to give up her martyr’s crown and come back to bring more people, her family in particular, to Christ.

Reading this book inspired me to pray more. The ever-growing evil in our society saddens me deeply. I need to talk about this sadness with Jesus.

I recommend Face to Face to Jesus to all Christians. It is an inspirational story that teaches courage in Christ for our times.

Confession, the Courts and Going to Hell

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If a priest reveals what he’s heard in confession, will he go to hell?

I’ve read that a priest who violates the seal of confession suffers automatic excommunication which only the Holy See can remove. So, I would guess that a priest who reveals what he hears in confession is, at the least, in danger of hell.

That’s a serious question, for the simple reason that, in this anti-Catholic climate, we’re going to see more and more attempts to coerce priests to break the seal of confession. That would be a great triumph for Satan, since it would destroy the confidence of Catholics and break what has always been a powerful bond between them and their Church.

Catholics know that whatever they do, they can be forgiven by God. All Christians know this. But Catholics have the benefit of being able to actually confess their sins out loud and hear the words of absolution, applied directly to them. It does not matter what the sin is, they can do this in the confessional.

They also receive incredibly healing graces in this sacrament.

There is something about the cleansing power of the Sacrament of Confession that can make people who would not otherwise be able to approach communion feel worthy to do so. Confession heals, in and of itself. The sinner does not have to wonder if they’ve had the right attitude or if they’ve really been saved. All they have to do is confess and mean it. They can then draw a line under those bad things and walk out of that confessional, safe and secure in God’s grace.

All this is based on two things: The fact that Christ uses the priest for a conduit of His grace in this sacrament, and the fact that Catholics can trust that whatever they say in that confessional ends there.

I don’t know how priests deal with this burden, but I can say from my years of listening to non-sacramental confessions from thousands of constituents that God probably gives them the grace of forgetfulness. I know that I never remember the things my constituents have told me unless I need to in order to do something for them. I don’t mean I forget, exactly. I just mean that those things are not, ever, in my thoughts.

When I see the person the next time, I don’t think about or even remember what they’ve told me. It doesn’t stay in my thoughts at all. But if I need to remember for a legitimate reason, I do. I believe that is a grace that God bestows on office holders, an anointing, if you will, that allows them to keep the secrets their constituents share with them. From what I’ve seen, elected officials, no matter what rubes they may be in other ways, are very, very good at not talking about their constituents’ private matters.

I am guessing that priests experience something similar. If God gave me this grace, as an elected official, I can’t imagine why He wouldn’t give something like it to His priests who hear confessions.

That’s a good thing, because priests are more and more going to be the objects of assaults of various types in the courts. The underlying reason is that the devil is pretty much running the show in a large segment of Western society, and the devil hates priests.

If Satan can break a priest, if he can use a priest to his ends, the damage he can do to those of us in the pews is enormous. The single best way to wound the Body of Christ is to turn His ministers into weapons against the Church and the people of God.

If Satan can break the seal of the confessional, then he will, in one swoop, destroy the sacrament that bestows God’s cleansing healing on scarred and hurting souls. Of course, he can’t destroy the forgiveness and mercy of Christ. Jesus is perfectly capable of reaching into people directly. I have experienced this myself. But he can destroy the safe, reliable source of healing and forgiveness that is the sacrament of confession.

I think that’s the real reason behind the attacks on the confessional through the courts that crop up from time to time. I would guess that every priest knows that he can be drug through protracted court battles aimed at trying to get him to divulge something someone said to him in confession.

It happened a few years ago in Oregon when a prosecutor secretly taped a jailhouse confession and tried to use it in court. It’s happening in Louisiana right now as part of a civil lawsuit.

Father Jeff Bayhi is stuck between the Louisiana Supreme Court, a girl and her family who are suing for money, and going to hell.

The Supreme Court of Louisiana recently ruled that Father Bayhi must testify in court about the particulars of a confession that he may have heard in 2008. A girl, who was 14 at the time, says she confessed to him that she was being abused by a relative who is now dead. The girl’s parents are now suing Father Bayhi and the Diocese of Baton Rouge for failure to report the abuse.

This particular case has all the lightning rods in place: Priest. Sexual abuse of a minor. Failure to report.

The trouble, of course, is that the failure to report — assuming that the allegations that the girl made this confession are true — is that the lightning rods aren’t aligned the way they usually are. This isn’t about a bishop who failed to report an abusing priest. It is about a priest who — I repeat: if the confession took place as the girl claims — did not break the seal of confession.

The priest sex abuse scandal has given these particular lightning rods such drawing power that just putting the words out there in a row elicits all sorts of rage, disgust and dismissal. Priest. Sexual abuse of a minor. Failure to report. That’s a litany (if you will excuse the word) of betrayal that has been seared into the minds of everyone who hears it.

However, the Confessional is inviolate. Father Bayhi can not testify.

I can tell you that every time God has given me a chance to suffer for Him, I didn’t want it. I am not the stuff martyrs are made of. I’ve been kicked around quite a bit for my faith, and I’ve wailed and moaned and been angry about every single bit of it.

So, my heart goes out to Father Bayhi. He’s been given the awful gift of suffering for Christ. I can only imagine how terrifying and miserable all this is for him.

My grandmother used to talk about being “stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea.” Father Bayhi is literally stuck between the devil and Jesus. The two things he’s got going for him are that he knows absolutely what he must do, and he’s not alone. Every faithful Catholic, everywhere, will stand behind him.

Will Father Bayhi have to go to jail? I doubt it. At some point, saner courts will probably prevail. But that’s not a sure thing. Not in today’s world.

When the New York Times can keep running ads openly attacking the Church in a manner that I can only describe as religious bigotry, and when large portions of the media are willing to publish vitriolic and categorically bigoted attacks on prominent Catholics for being Catholics, then anything is possible.

Father Bayhi and all our priests need our prayers. We need to stick together and stand up for one another.

Rush Limbaugh is a Cigar-Chomping Idiot

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I know. I tell everyone not to call people names.

But there comes a time when “idiot” isn’t a pejorative; it’s an excuse.

Mr Limbaugh is doing his the-pope-is-a-marxist-communist-not-a-corporatist-like-me thing again. After reading this latest rather bizarre attack against the Holy Father, I am faced with three possibilities.

1. Mr Limbaugh has relapsed into his drug problem.

2. He’s an idiot.

or

3. He is deliberately baiting the Vicar of Christ for ratings, despite the fact that a grade-school child could read the interview he’s referencing and know that he’s misquoting and miscasting what the Holy Father said.

Given the choices, I’ve decided that, in charity, I will give Mr Limbaugh the benefit of the doubt and assume that he’s an idiot. I don’t, for instance, think that the fact that he makes at least $70 million per year in salary, or that his net worth is approximately $400 million, has in any way messed with his mind.

What set Mr Limbaugh off on another of his attack-the-Holy-Father spiels is an interview Pope Francis gave to Il Messaggero on Sunday. Rather than try to untangle the web of misquotes and confabulation that Mr Limbaugh has spun, I’m going to quote a couple of highlights, then put Pope Francis’ entire interview below and let you read it for yourself.

Here are what I think of as the lowlights from Mr Limbaugh’s latest attack piece on my spiritual leader, Pope Francis. 

“The 77-year-old pontiff gave an interview to Il Messaggero, Rome’s local newspaper, to mark the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, a Roman holiday. He was asked about a blog post in the Economist magazine that said he sounded like a Leninist when he criticized capitalism and called for radical economic reform.”

Oh, yeah, some obscure blog post in the Economist said he sounded like a Leninist, that got everybody riled up.  We remember that.  Don’t you?  I don’t remember.  Anyway, he said, “I can only say that the communists have stolen our flag. The flag of the poor is Christian. Poverty is at the center of the Gospel.  Communists say that all this is communism. Sure, twenty centuries later. So when they speak, one can say to them: ‘but then you are Christian’,” he said, laughing.

I don’t know if the pope is saying that Jesus was a communist.  I mean some people could read it that way.  He says the communists stole our flag, and if our flag is rooted in solving poverty, and the communists want to claim that’s what they did, I mean, you connect the dots if you wish.

What Mr Limbaugh is doing here is quoting a misquote from an article headlined “Pope Says Communists are Closet Christians,” and then responding to it with the assessment,  I don’t now if the pope is saying that Jesus was a Communist. I mean some people could read it that way.”

Ok, so he doesn’t know if Pope Francis is saying that Christ the Lord is a Communist? Are we supposed to believe that he’s serious?

Maybe he’s an idiot.

Or maybe this was an attempt to be sly and clever by  attacking with innuendo.

You decide.

Me, I’m going with idiot, because, as I said, it’s the kindest interpretation I can come up with.

Here, for those of you who would like to see it, is what the Holy Father actually said. It’s the whole interview, without cuts or edits.

I highlighted the part about Communism so you can want go straight to it if you want. If you can find the place where the Pope Francis said or implied that Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is a Communist, let me know. Frankly, I think that all you have to do to understand what Pope Francis is talking about is to remember that he’s from a country where children live in garbage dumps and scavenge for survival; a country where Communists have tried to take over by appealing to these poorest of the poor and offering them help.

That, and read the interview yourself instead of miscasting misquotes in order to make a coarse point.

From Vatican Radio:

(Vatican Radio) The Rome daily “Il Messaggero” on Sunday published an interview with Pope Francis made by journalist Franca Giansoldati. In his responses to questions on a wide range of issues, the Holy Father focused, among other things, on the challenges of change in the current “era” and “culture,” which has consequences for political, financial, and social life. The Church, along with various civil and social institutions,  must respond to these challenges by protecting the common good and defending human life and dignity.

“Always protecting the common good, which includes “defending human life and dignity” is “the vocation of every politician,” the Holy Father said. Today, the problem of politics – which Pope Francis called a “worldwide problem” – is that it “has been devalued, ruined by corruption, by the phenomenon of bribery.” This “moral decay, not only in politics but also in the financial or social” sector, is driven by “change of epoch” that we are experiencing today, which is also “a change of culture.” In this context, our anxieties about poverty are not concerned solely with material poverty.

“I can help someone who is hungry, so that they are no longer hungry,” the Pope said. “But if someone has lost his job,” he is involved in another kind poverty. He no longer has his dignity.” Helping families in need, then, requires a “joint effort.” Pope Francis recognized that this is an “uphill” journey, but insisted it must be undertaken, working above all for the good of children. “Starting a family is an effort,” he said, because of economic difficulties that “social policy does not help.” Commenting on the very low birth rates in Europe – which makes it seem “as if she were tired of being a mother, preferring to be grandmother,” the Holy Father noted that the causes of this phenomenon lie not only in a “cultural drift marked by selfishness and hedonism,” but also in the current economic crisis.

Pope Francis was asked how he would respond to being called “a communist.” “I would only say that the Communists have stolen the banner… The banner of the poor is Christian; poverty is at the heart of the Gospel.” The cause of the poor is pre-eminently a Christian cause.  The Gospel cannot be understood “without understanding real poverty.” At the same time, the Pope said there is also a “very beautiful ‘poverty of the spirit’,” being poor in the sight of God because God fills you up. The Gospel, in fact, is addressed indiscriminately to the poor and to the rich and “does not at all condemn those who are rich,” but rather condemns their riches when they become the objects of idolatry.

To the question “Where is the Church of Bergoglio headed?” Pope Francis replied, “Thanks be to God, I don’t have any church – I follow Christ. I didn’t found anything.” He went on to say “my decisions are the fruit of the meetings before the conclave. I have done nothing on my own.”

The Church in Asia “is a promise,” he said, turning to his upcoming trips to Korea, in August, and to Sri Lanka and the Philippines, in January. He also spoke about China, saying it represents “a great, a very great pastoral challenge.”

During the interview, Pope Francis also took up a number of other themes already addressed during his pontificate, such as the place of women in the Church. Without an understanding of femininity, the Pope said, one “cannot understand the Church herself.” Women “are the most beautiful thing God has made. The Church is a woman.” He said that in doing theology, one must take account of this “femininity,” and that the Church must continue to work on and develop a “theology of the woman.”

Pope Francis spoke also about the corruption and the economic and sexual exploitation of children. The Pope speaks of incidents of child prostitution that were reported to him when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, involving even elderly men. “For me,” the Pope said, “people who do this to young girls are paedophiles.”

Finally, on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the patron saints of Rome, Pope Francis spoke about the everyday life and traditions of the City of which the Pope is the bishop. This role, the Holy Father said, is “the first service of Francis.” Pope Francis said Rome shares many of the problems of other cities “such as Buenos Aires.” He said a conference dedicated to the theme of “the pastoral care of the great cities” will take place in Barcelona in November. Pope Francis expressed his hope that the citizens of Rome, the inhabitants of a city “that should be a beacon in the world,” would not lose “joy, hope, confidence, despite difficulties.”

(From archive of Vatican Radio)

The Pope is Catholic. Catholic Haters Hate That About Him.

Following Jesus without deviating will get you smeared every time.

I think it’s a rule of some sort, written by Satan a couple of thousand years ago.

It even happened to Jesus Himself when He walked this earth.

So … if somebody calls you names for following Him, say thank you. It’s always nice when someone notices your fidelity to Christ and pays it the ultimate compliment.

Pope Francis, who has been following right down the line on this Jesus thing, has drawn the usual verbal lightning down his own head by doing it. Just this morning, I read an article calling him, once again, a Communist for speaking out on behalf of the poor.

I believe this particular article accused him of “following Lenin” in response to the Holy Father’s linkage of economics and war. Because, you know, war has nothing to do with economics. By this logic President Dwight Eisenhower followed Lenin, too.

Puleez.

“Following Lenin????”

I wonder if the author of that post is following Lenin’s advice. I’m referring here to the Lenin who wrote “A lie, told often enough, becomes the truth.” I also wonder if the author is acquainted with the bloodthirsty things that Mr Lenin did.

Pope Francis, “following Lenin????”

That one goes beyond pigs flying in tight formation and heads on out past hens apeckin’ on a hot griddle to jump the hate-blog shark. It doesn’t even rise to the level of defamation and slander. It’s just … hateful wing nutism that turns out to be accidental comedy.

At the other end of the wing nut comedian scale, we have a writer over at Salon who wastes a lot of band-width on her angst at learning that Pope Francis is Catholic. You know: pro life, pro traditional marriage and family; that kind of Catholic.

This author goes, alongside her right-wing-nut buddies, right past common sense and lands splat in a big barrel of mud. Instead of saying that the Vicar of Christ is in cahoots with Lenin, she informs us — with rageful venom that almost leaps through the screen and scorches the reader — that the pope is … ummmm … you know … a bigot, sexist, oppressor who supports pedophilia.

Nice shot, that last. And one that’s beginning to weary. I’ve been and will continue to be as outspoken as anybody about the failure of bishops to protect children from predatory priests. But there are pedophile protectors in just about every nook and cranny of this world of ours. We actually help victimize kids more by using this issue as a club to beat the Church with and ignoring everyone else.

In fact, I’m beginning to come to the conclusion that at least some of this outrage is just Catholic hating. The reason? I’ll give you two: Woody Allen and Roman Polanski. You need another reason? Go read Coreyography. Try the defense in trendy circles of egg harvesters who prey on young girls barely out of their teens. Or, consider the easy way the media pushed the baby-bodies-in-the-septic tank hoax. I could go on, but the examples rapidly get so ugly that I don’t want to talk about them.

Following Jesus will get you smeared. That’s a fact and it always has been a fact.

Pope Francis is getting his share of politically-motivated, wing-nut smear jobs. In fact, he’s been on the receiving end of a regular dose of it ever since we first heard “Habemus Papam.”

What these folks want, of course, is for the pope to re-write the Gospels to fit their politics. They want the Holy Father to affirm them in their sins and stop making trouble with this Gospel of Christ stuff. They’ve managed to buy and bully a lot of other religious leaders into doing exactly that.

One side gives us a Caspar Milquetoast Jesus who high-fives porn, prostitution, abortion, euthanasia and the destruction of the family. The other side gives us a sociopath Django Jesus who just loves torture, corporatism and endless war. They’re both liars, you know. Just like the one who sent them. Their way is the wide way that leads to death.

When the Holy Father goes off their political reservation and flat-out says that sin is sin, even when it contradicts the “moral” teachings of right-and-left-wing-nut politicos, he’s in for it. His punishment is to be labeled a Communist-Lenin-following-bigot-sexist-oppressor-who-supports-pedophilia.

My advice to Public Catholic readers is don’t give it a thought. If you know someone stupid enough to buy this load of guano, you might mention to them that believing this stuff is kind of like a reverse intelligence test. If you believe it, you flunk the test. Other than that, just stay the course, stand for Christ and trust Him to get you and all the rest of us through these days in which we live.

We have eternal life and the joy of walking with Jesus. We can partake of the Real Presence any time we go to mass. We are free of the yokes of anguish, despair and bitterness. All we have to do is take them off, lay them down and live life abundantly.

Trust God, do your part, say a prayer for the nuts who are being nutty in such ugly and, yes, laughable ways. Then, go live your life for Jesus.

And, oh yes, when someone calls you a name for following Christ, do what Jesus told you to do: Rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven.

If you Want to Read What Archbishop Cordileone Said at the March for Marriage Today, Here it Is.

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I am proud to be part of a Church that is not intimidated by politically-motivated bullying.

From what I’ve read, the pro-gay-marriage folks did manage to drive down attendance at the March for Marriage today. I am familiar with this sort of thing, on a much smaller level.

The photo at the top of Public Catholic’s page was taken of a demonstration against me, calling for my censorship by the Oklahoma Democratic Party. The reason was that I had passed a pro life bill over the veto of our Democratic Governor. That made me a big-time traitor in the eyes of many party members. In fact, it put a wedge between me and many of them that has never gone away, not to this day.

I learned about the demonstration in the photo only a few hours before it happened. The demonstrators showed up at a fundraiser I held to try to get funds for my re-election campaign. The minute I heard about the demonstration, I knew that donors were going to stay away from the fundraiser and the whole thing would be a big, embarrassing, bust.

I sent one email to a couple of close pro life friends who were not at all political, asking them to come just so I wouldn’t be left alone. When I got to the fundraiser, I was booed and to enter the building through a gauntlet of people chanting “Traitor!” at me in loud voices. I also had a few of them run at me, waving signs and yelling various things.

When I got inside the building, I discovered that my friends had forwarded that email to their friends, who in turn forwarded it to their friends. I specifically told my friends not to make a donation. All I wanted was for them to be there to give me emotional support. What I got was a group — not a huge crowd, but several dozen — pro life people who dropped everything and came to the fundraiser to support me.

These people were not political activists. They were just pro life citizens who felt called to keep me from being left alone. What totally surprised me is the amount of money they donated to my campaign. One of them told me that when he walked past the yelling demonstrators, he waved his check book and said, “I’m going in, and I’m giving money!”

These weren’t lobbyists — who, with two exceptions, ran away from me as fast as their little legs could carry them — but ordinary people, writing checks on their personal accounts.

It was a surreal experience for me all around. But I went home that evening feeling affirmed.

It was also interesting that a number of close friends of mine apologized to me later for not coming. They were really embarrassed, but they told me they were just too scared to come and be there during that demonstration.

I think this is what happened on a much larger scale at the March for Marriage today. People didn’t show up because they were scared to take a stand in a hostile world. They didn’t want to be called names.

I actually understand that, and I am not condemning anyone for it. But please folks. look into your hearts and see if you can find the courage to stand up in the future. We’ve got to start doing that.

It makes me proud that my Church was not among those who ran away. Archbishop Cordileone has been targeted for a bit of bullying over his plans to speak at this march. But he was there, and he gave a fine speech. At no time did he allow his comments to drop into the negativity and defamation that characterize what has been aimed at him and the organizers of this march.

Here is a link to a video of the Archbishop’s speech.

The sound quality on this video is less that stellar, so I’m putting the full text, which I found on the Archdiocese of San Francisco’s website, below.

Read it and be proud.

Building a Civilization of Truth and Love

  • June 19, 2014

“BUILDING A CIVILIZATION OF TRUTH AND LOVE”

Archbishop Cordileone’s Talk at the March for Marriage

June 19, 2014; Washington, D.C.

In our Catholic faith tradition, young people around the age of junior high school or high school receive the sacrament of Confirmation, normally administered by the bishop.  At a Confirmation ceremony I celebrated recently in a large, Hispanic parish, two of the young people shared some reflections on what their Confirmation meant to them.  They said that their Confirmation gave them the grace to go forth and “build a civilization of truth and love.”  I could not have said it better myself!  And that, my friends, is why we are here.  Both are necessary, both, together, if we wish to have a flourishing society: truth and love.

This is the legacy we have received from our ancestors in faith.  To my fellow believers in Jesus Christ I would call our attention to those first generations of Christians in the city of Rome, who were so often scapegoated by the powerful pagan Roman government.  But when a plague would strike the city and the well-to-do fled to the hills for safety until the plague subsided, it was the Christians who stayed behind to care for the sick, at great risk to their own health and very lives.  And not just the Christian sick: all the sick, regardless of religion, of how they lived their lives, or even what they thought of the Christians themselves.  The historian Eusebius noted about the Christians of his time, “All day long some of them tended to the dying and to their burial, countless numbers with no one to care for them.  Others gathered together from all parts of the city a multitude of those withered from famine and distributed bread to them all.”  Likewise, the Emperor Julian complained to one of his pagan priests, “[They] support not only their poor, but ours as well.”

It is this kind of love and compassion in the service of truth, especially the truth of the human person, that has marked the lives of the holy ones of our own faith tradition and others as well: hospitals, orphanages, schools, outreach to the poor and destitute – giving without concern for getting anything in return, seeing in each human being, especially in the poor and destitute, a priceless child beloved by God, whom God calls to turn away from sin and toward Him, so that they might be saved.  In1839 Jeanne Jugan met one such priceless child of God, a blind old crippled woman whom nobody cared for.  That night, Jeanne carried the woman home to her apartment, and put her to sleep in her own bed.  From this profound encounter was born the Little Sisters of the Poor, who even today are loving, caring for and providing homes for thousands of elderly who deserve dignity as well as care.  These are the very nuns who now face the possibility of being shut out of spreading the love of Jesus to the needy because of their refusal to comply with a healthcare mandate that violates their moral convictions, convictions which stand on the truth of basic human dignity.

Let us, then, take our cue from the best our predecessors in faith have inspired, and not humanity’s frequent failings and sins.  Like them, we now in our own time need to proclaim and live the truth with charity and compassion as it applies to us today: the truth of a united family based on the union of the children’s father and mother in marriage as the foundational good of society.  Every child comes from a man and a woman, and has a right, a natural human right, to know and be known by, to love and be loved by, their own mother and father.  This is the great public good that marriage is oriented towards and protects.  The question is then: does society need an institution that unites children to the mothers and fathers who bring them into the world, or doesn’t it?  If it does, that institution is marriage – nothing else provides this basic good to children.

Yes, this is a foundational truth, and one to which we must witness by lives lived in conformity to it, and which we must proclaim with love.  Love for those millions of loving single mothers and fathers who struggle to pick up the pieces of their lives and succeed in creating loving homes for their children – they need and deserve our love, affirmation and support.  Love for the husband struggling with fidelity, for the woman who feels abandoned and pressured into abortion, for the teenager struggling to believe in the heroic vision of love that makes sense of chastity, for the single person who cannot find a mate, for the childless couple trying to cope with infertility, for the wife who finds herself nursing a sick husband in her marriage bed, for the young person trying to navigate through sexual identity issues and may feel alienated from the Church because of it, maybe even because of the sort of treatment received from those who profess to be believers.  To all of you, I say: know that you are a child of God, that you are called to heroic love and that with God’s help you can do it, that we love you and want to support you in living your God-given call.

And let us not forget: we must also proclaim this truth especially with love for those who disagree with us on this issue, and most of all, for those who are hostile toward us.  We must be careful, though, not to paint our opponents on this issue with broad strokes.  There is a tendency in our culture to do this to groups of people the powerful don’t know and think they don’t like.  We must not do that.  We must recognize that there are people on the other side of this debate who are of good will and are sincerely trying to promote what they think is right and fair.  It is misdirected good will.  But even those from whom we suffer retribution – and I know some of you have suffered in very serious ways because of your stand for marriage – still, we must love them.  That is what our ancestors in faith did, and we must, too.  Yes, it is easy to become resentful when you are relentlessly and unfairly painted as a bigot and are punished for publicly standing by the basic truth of marriage as a foundational societal good; it is tempting to respond in kind.  Don’t.  For those of us who are Catholic, we just heard our Master command us in the gospel proclaimed at Mass the day before yesterday: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt 5:44).  We must not allow the angry rhetoric to co-opt us into a culture of hate.

Yes, we must show love toward all of these and more.  Love is the answer.  But love in the truth.  The truth is that every child comes from a mother and a father, and to deliberately deprive a child of knowing and being loved by his or her mother and father is an outright injustice.  That is our very nature, and no law can change it.  Those with temporal power over us might choose to change the definition of marriage in the law even against all that we have accomplished through very generous participation in the democratic process, but our nature does not change.  If the law does not correspond to our nature, such that there is a conflict between the law and nature, guess which will prevail?  And people will figure it out.

We can take heart from what we see happening now in the pro-life movement.  Back in the early 1970’s, just before the Court issued its infamous Roe vs. Wade ruling, public support for abortion was growing rapidly.  And as with marriage redefinition today, a generation gap opened up in the polls, leading many to predict that opposition to abortion would literally die off.  That was the future; before long, it would not even be an issue.  Instead, something unexpected happened.  A relatively small band of faithful believers held the line on the sanctity of human life in the womb, and today, two generations later, the pro-life movement is flourishing like never before.  We now have the most pro-life generation of young adults since the infamous Roe decision.  People have figured out that it is a human life that is within the mother’s womb, and that abortion, yes, really does harm women; they’ve figured out that it’s good to cherish that human life and surround the mother with love and support so a truly happy choice can be made, the choice for life.

People, too, will figure out that a child comes from a father and a mother, and it’s good for the child to be connected to his or her father and mother.  These truths may seem obvious to us, but they aren’t to everyone while in the heat of controversy.  They will figure out this truth about marriage, though, because it, too, is in our nature, and it is a key to individual and societal flourishing.  All we have to do is look around and see that our society is broken and hurting in so many ways; there is so much work to do to fix it and bring healing.  Yes, it is very complex, and many different things need to be done: we need to fix our economy; we especially need to pay a living wage to working class families; we need to fix our broken immigration system; we need to improve our schools, especially those that are failing children from poorer families.  Yes, we need to do all this and more.  But none of these solutions will have a lasting effect if we do not rebuild a marriage culture, a culture which recognizes and supports the good of intact families, built on the marriage between a man and a woman committed to loving faithfulness to each other and to their children.  No justice, no peace, no end to poverty, without a strong culture of marriage and the family.  This noble cause is a call to love we cannot abandon, that we will not give up on, and that in the end we know will triumph.

So take heart: the truth spoken in love has a power over the human heart.  We are here today to March for Marriage, to pick up the torch, and pass on to a new generation the truth about marriage, not just the abstract truth, but the lived reality that makes a difference in children’s lives.  So, my friends, we must not give up: the truth will not go away, and we will not go away.  Let us take heart from the legacy we have received, let us place our trust in God, and let us go forth to build a civilization of truth and love.

March for Marriage 2014: What I Believe

This video promoting the March for Marriage 2014 deals with the issue of religious freedom as it pertains to the overall issue of supporting traditional marriage.

I have written about these same things many times, including here, here, here and here.

Because of the issues raised in Public Catholic’s com boxes, I want to clarify where I stand.

I support civil and human rights for gay people, including legal provision for gay couples in areas such as inheritance, property and next of kin issues, among others. Gay people are human beings and American citizens. They have every right to engage in electoral politics, petition the courts or use any other legitimate means to achieve their ends, even when I do not agree with those ends.

One area where I disagree  is that I do not support the redefinition of marriage. I also unilaterally oppose the enormous designer-baby, baby-selling, egg harvesting/surrogacy industry. I am not talking about private arrangements between two people that do not involve money.  I have no interest in making that illegal. I would leave it under the same regulations as other medical procedures such as the voluntary donation of organs for transplant.

Egg harvesting and surrogacy for money, on the other hand, is predatory medical malpractice on its face. It should be illegal and doctors who do it should have their licenses to practice medicine permanently revoked. There should also be strong provisions for civil actions — with no limit on judgements — against these doctors. Egg harvesting should — and if it wasn’t for misogyny it would — fall under the same legal definitions and protections as the donation of bodily organs.

In my opinion, Medical Associations that support egg harvesting and surrogacy render any claims they make about protecting the public a sham by that action. Corporatists who support it — and they all seem to — are just being their evil money-is-everything/people-are-nothing selves.

I also am opposed to “tolerance education” the leads to confusion in young children and the infringement of the civil liberties and human rights of those who oppose gay marriage.

I am appalled by the use of bullying, job termination and labeling of those who oppose gay marriage. This is being used as a political tactic and it is destructive to everyone involved, as well as our nation as a whole.

I further believe that the letters from prominent elected officials demanding that Archbishop Cordileone not attend the 2014 March for Marriage were part of a coordinated effort to drive down the numbers of those who attend the march. The use of defamation of those sponsoring the March, as well as the plethora of name-calling that I have seen on this blog has led me to the conclusion that this is an attempt to keep people from attending the March by using intimidation.

If I had the money to go, I would be there. I am determined that I will be there next year, precisely because of this intimidation. I will not be intimidated and bullied in this manner. No one else should allow themselves to be bullied and intimidated like this, either.

I urge everyone who lives within driving distance to go to Washington today — there’s still time to participate in some of the events — and make yourself heard.

You can also donate to the National Organization for Marriage here.  I began monthly donations after Brendan Eich was fired for making a donation to Proposition 8. You can see the receipt for my donation here.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but this bullying and name-calling are not intimidating me. They are leading me to a stronger commitment.

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March for Marriage 2014: Be There, or Be Square

I wanted to go, but I didn’t have the money.

You see, I bought a piano and I sine die-d for the last time. That left me without $ and energy, both at once.

But now, I’m wishing I had gone, even if it meant — which it did — breaking the piggy bank.

They need a Democrat there to balance things out. They really do.

What am I talking about?

The 2014 March for Marriage.

You can still go. If you have the coin, or you live on the East Coast, you can take the day off work and go. If it was within driving distance, or even one-shot airline travel distance, I would go ahead and do it.

But I have to change planes and spend a small fortune in travel/hotels to do this. It’s such a safari that next year I’m going to build a whole vacation around it.

But you who live within driving distance, you can go with no sweat. Just throw some baloney sandwiches in the cooler, gas up the car and go.

Because we need you there.

Because marriage matters.

Because we’re at the beginning of this fight, not the end.

Tomorrow.

Washington, DC.

At the headwaters of the fight to re-convert our culture.

Be there.

Knights of Columbus 2013 Donations to Charity and Hours of Service Hit Record High

Chapeau

2013 was a record high for the Knights of Columbus.

The Catholic men’s organization gave record amounts of money and performed record amounts of service. They gave more than $170 million in donations. At the same time, the Knights themselves worked more than 70.5 million volunteer hours.

This money and work went to aid the shattered people of the Philippines after one-two punches of the Bohol earthquake in October 2013 and Typhoon Haiyan in November. The Knights were also here in Oklahoma, helping after the May 20 tornado, at the factory explosion in Texas and providing aid after the Boston Marathon bombing.

In the last 10 years, the Knights of Columbus has donated almost $1.5 billion to the needy while the Knights themselves worked 683 million volunteer hours.

From Catholic News Agency:

.- Catholic fraternal organization the Knights of Columbus set new records in donations and volunteer hours in 2013, continuing its long-standing service programs and responding to several natural disasters.

“Whether with funds or service, and whether quietly helping someone overcome a personal tragedy or assisting in the aftermath of a widely known humanitarian disaster, the outpouring of charity by our members produces meaningful results, especially by helping to bring peace of mind to those who find themselves in incredibly difficult situations,” Knights of Columbus head Carl Anderson said June 12.

The order gave more than $170 million in donations and its members worked more than 70.5 million volunteer hours last year, the Knights of Columbus said, citing its annual survey.

“Charity has been at the heart of the Knights’ mission for the past 132 years,” Anderson said.

Archbishop Carlson’s Deposition Reveals a Painful Truth: He’s Just Like Us

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It’s a bitter pill for Catholics, watching the videos of Archbishop Carlson’s testimony.

I understand and share the emotions it raises.

But we do not serve ourselves or our Church by pretending that it ain’t so. We’ve got to face this because it is reality. It doesn’t change in any way the simple fact that Jesus said “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

What it changes is the blind notion that many Catholics have — that we all want to have — that our religious leaders are sinless Christ figures themselves.

They’re just people, just like us. They are conduits of the graces of the sacraments. God can and does reach through them and into us when we go to them for support and help in our troubles.

But the miracle in that is all on God, not on them. They don’t create the miracle, they don’t control the grace. I know from personal experience that God can reach out and touch anyone, anytime. I believe that all that’s needed on our parts is a willing heart. All we have to do to receive God’s healing grace is say yes to it.

Why, then, a priesthood? If God can reach directly into us Himself then why do we need priests who are conduits of grace?

Because the priesthood is God’s instrument for bestowing this grace in an understandable, predictable and accessible way. I think that the emotionalism that is sometimes exhibited in some churches is an attempt to re-create that first transforming moment of grace when they originally said yes. It is an attempt to touch God and feel it again by using our own emotions to elevate ourselves to that level.

Priest distributes Holy Communion large

The Eucharist gives us that healing moment of grace, that experience of touching God, of feeling Christ, without any effort on our part. All we have to do is say yes and partake. It is the same with confession. Confession bestows healing grace. So much so that there have been times, including long periods when I was feeling especially challenged, that I went to confession every week, even though my sins were not so grave, because I needed that encounter with Christ, that healing grace that confession gives.

Sacramental confession strengthens us in an almost unfelt way. The more often we go to confession, the stronger we are in resisting evil. In fact, my experience has been that if I confess something on a regular basis, I stop wanting to do it. It takes a bit of time, but that’s what happens.

These graces, as well as the graces of the other sacraments, flow through the priest in a way that is simple for those of us who receive it. We don’t have to understand theology. We don’t have to work ourselves into an emotional high. All we have to do is say yes and accept the grace that is freely given to us.

The crowning moment of grace is always the Eucharist, which is direct contact with Christ. So far as I’m concerned — and I’m not a theologian, so this applies only to me and my understanding — the Church is the Eucharist. And we are the eucharist. Because the Eucharist is Christ. The priesthood exists to bestow grace. Priests are conduits of grace, and it does not matter what kind of hooligan they are personally, the graces of the sacraments flow through them to us, regardless.

Which brings me back to Archbishop Carlson. I wouldn’t call him a hooligan. In fact, I’m not sure how to label him. I don’t want to label him and his faults. It is enough for me that this is the situation in which we find ourselves, him and us. Because at this point, that’s what it’s about: Him and us.

Not, Jesus and us, or even the Church and us. But poor, messed up Archbishop Carlson and us. We don’t have to decide what to do about Archbishop Carlson. What we are tasked with is determining how we are going to relate to our dear Church in the light of the obvious fact that our leaders are ordinary people.

They can be cowards. Just like us.

They can be craven. Just like us.

They can lie, cheat, steal and run away when they get in trouble. Just like us.

They can gossip and betray confidences, hold grudges and be spiteful. Just like us.

They are not Christ.

What they are is men who have consented to be the conduits of grace to Christ’s Church, which is us. There is a moment when heaven comes to earth and the Eucharist becomes His Body, His blood, in which the divine flows through them.

The fact that a few of them become callous about this and begin to devalue it and even start thinking that it is all about them and not Jesus, does not change the impact it has on us. The Eucharist is still real, even if the priest is a messed-up welter of confusion and sin.

Archbishop Carlson reveals himself to be a lawyered-up citizen who ducks and covers under oath in an act of self defense. I have no idea why he didn’t do the obvious thing and exercise his right to take the Fifth Amendment. It would have been far less damaging to his credibility than this performance.

You can find the full text of his deposition here. Many of the salient comments are highlighted to make them easy to find.

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There really isn’t any point in trying to find an “out” for Archbishop Carlson in this. The deposition speaks for itself. Besides, it’s not our job to judge Archbishop Carlson. Our job is the much tougher one of working out how to be a faithful Catholic in a world of fallen leaders, including our leaders in the Church.

How do we follow these men when they are so nothing special as this deposition reveals them to be? Not, mind you, worse than us. Most of us would duck and cover in a deposition like this one, just like the Archbishop. Any of us who have brains would get the best legal counsel we could and do exactly what that attorney told us to do.

Archbishop Carlson doesn’t reveal himself to be a fiend in this deposition. He reveals himself to be no better than the rest of us.

Which brings us back to the task that faces us. We are fallen people, served by a priesthood that is composed entirely of fallen people, living in a fallen world.

Yet we serve a risen Savior, Who is God Incarnate. We are called to be “perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect.”

But we can’t do it. We. Can. Not. Do. It. We don’t get through a single day without at least one and usually many sins of one sort or another.

We want heroes who will give us the illusion of the possibility of human perfection. But human perfection is always just that; an illusion.

To put it bluntly, we are all — priest and parishioner alike — down here in the pits together. As Jesus said, “There is none good except God.”

So how do we solve this conundrum of answering a call to be “perfect” while we are certain that there is “none good” among humankind?

We solve it by getting up every morning and giving our day to Jesus and His Mother. We solve it by availing ourselves of the certain graces of the sacraments. We solve it by forgiving each other and sustaining one another in our weakness.

How does this apply to the Archbishop Carlsons in our clerical leadership? More to the point, how does it apply to us and our response to the Archbishop Carlsons in our leadership?

My answer — and this is just me, talking about me — is that we need to cherish these men and help them as we can. At the same time, we need to stop pretending that they are anything other than fallen human beings. When they stand behind that altar and lift up the host, they are conduits of God’s grace. When they come down from behind the altar and scald us with a fit of rage or lie in a deposition, they are just people, wallowing around in the pit of failed good intentions along with the rest of us.

This is difficult for Catholics. It’s difficult for me. I am still working out how to deal with wounds inflicted by clergy. Some days I don’t do so well with it. Protestants can just dismiss their clergy as fallen people and be done with it. But Catholics are part of a hierarchical Church whose entire governance is built on the administration of these fallen men.

How do we, as Catholics, remain faithful when we see by their actions that we must be judicious about how and when we follow our clergy?

This is a tough one. It’s not always or even mostly about big public dilemmas like Archbishop Carlson’s dipping and dodging deposition. It is usually more personal, and because of that, far more damaging to us as Christians and Catholics.

How do we, say, disregard things a priest or spiritual director says to us in a fit of rage? How do we decide what to believe and what not to believe about the things they say to us? How do we overcome the sense of betrayal when a priest gossips about our deepest hurts? These are more the kinds of things that most Catholics must overcome in their walk of faith. The big public falls from grace seem easy to me compared to those much deeper personal dilemmas. How do we live together as Catholics in this fallen world?

These are hard questions with no easy answers. I’m going to leave it open for discussion and see what the rest of you think. In the meantime, take a look at Archbishop Carlson’s deposition. It’s clearly not a case of dementia or anything like it. He’s dipping and dodging and doing it quite well. Just like us.

Saint John Paul II and the Korean Church

Saint John Paul II’s effect on the Church in Korea. There are now 5,000,000 Catholics in Korea.

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