America and Its Half Million Homeless Ghosts

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by David Poe https://www.flickr.com/photos/mockstar/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by David Poe https://www.flickr.com/photos/mockstar/

Foxes have dens, birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head. Jesus Christ

Sprinklergate, the story that the Cathedral of St Mary in San Francisco was using its sprinkler system to clear the cathedral steps of homeless people, is a symptom of a big-time problem.

That problem is that American cities are haunted by over a half million ghosts. These ghosts sleep on park benches, sidewalks and in shelters. They panhandle and go through dumpsters, searching for clothing, food, money, drugs.

These are not silent ghosts. They accost us as we walk to work, they wave signs begging for cash as we drive down the road. They take over the public libraries and, as St Mary’s has discovered, can block entrances to buildings with their vacant-eyed vigils.

The ghosts haunting American cities are the homeless. They are not in any way homogenous. Some of them are temporary down and outs. Others are mentally ill. Many are drug addicts and alcoholics. Others are panhandlers posing as homeless while they ply their trade.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by davejdoe https://www.flickr.com/photos/92414546@N04/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by davejdoe https://www.flickr.com/photos/92414546@N04/

Homelessness is the opposite of the American dream. It is the opposite of what, until a few decades ago, was the American self-image. I am old enough to remember a time when America did not have homeless people lying on its park benches, snoring in its libraries and blocking the entrances to its churches.

I was born in that era between the Great Depression with its hobos and today with our ubiquitous and ignored homeless.

America’s basic response to homelessness among so many of its citizens, including many children, has been to ignore them. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development issues a glossy report on the homeless every year. This report differentiates between types of homelessness. There are the homeless who stay with relatives, and are not, to my way of thinking, truly homeless at all.

Then there are those who sleep in shelters or whatnot. Finally, we get to the homeless that inspire us to such conflicting feelings of pity, indifference and annoyance, those who do not have shelter at all.

In the meantime, while we ignore the homeless, and refuse to even take a look at the government policies and social changes that made them homeless, we shift the burden for dealing with them onto whoever the homeless themselves chose to impose themselves upon.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Alex Barth https://www.flickr.com/photos/a-barth/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Alex Barth https://www.flickr.com/photos/a-barth/

Businesses, public buildings of all sorts, churches and other facilities can easily find themselves unable to perform their intended functions because of the homeless sleeping on the sidewalks at their entrance or sitting inside their buildings. Mothers won’t bring the kiddos to the library if the homeless take it over. Guests won’t check into hotels whose entrances are blocked or whose lobbies are filled with homeless people. Churches can’t hold services if the worshippers stay away rather than step over the homeless, sitting on the steps.

We ignore the homeless because we feel helpless to do anything decisive for them. We ignore them because we don’t truly understand what policies and practices of political and social corruption made them homeless in the first place. We ignore the homeless because they overwhelm us and baffle us and scare us.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by David Hood https://www.flickr.com/photos/131405116@N07/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by David Hood https://www.flickr.com/photos/131405116@N07/

Worse, we ignore them because if we acknowledged that many of our political and social ideas on both sides of the political spectrum have created this problem and allowed it to grow, it would require us to re-evaluate many of our simplistic viewpoints. We ignore the homeless because not ignoring the homeless would require us to change.

So, we dump them.

We dump them on the businesses and operators of public buildings. We dump the problem on the administrators of these businesses, public buildings and churches. Then, when they take any action to dislodge the homeless from camping out on their property and blocking access and use by those for whom it was intended, we excoriate these administrators for their heartlessness.

This public venting of moral outrage has nothing to do with compassion. It is just us, being our hypocritical selves about a problem we will not do anything to solve. We will not take a homeless person home and house them in our spare bedroom. We will not let them sleep on our porch. We will not change our politics to fit the realities of real life.

We will ignore them and what brung them.

They are not people to us. They are ghosts of what once was people like us. Somebody birthed them, taught them to write those signs they hoist and how to read the hours of operation on the signs in front of public buildings.

They were once part of the larger society.

But now they are ghosts.

And we ignore them.

And we denounce those on whom we dump them for being overwhelmed by them.

And we will not change.

Church Turns to Congress for Relief from Attacks on Religious Freedom

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Ed Uthman https://www.flickr.com/photos/euthman/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Ed Uthman https://www.flickr.com/photos/euthman/

The city of Washington, DC has passed two laws that directly attack religious freedom.

The first is the ironically titled Human Rights Amendment of 2014. According to Catholic News Agency,

… the Human Rights Amendment of 2014, forces religious schools to recognize persons and groups who might conflict with their stated mission and allow them use of their facilities and benefits. For example, a Catholic school would be forced to officially recognize an openly-gay student group and could not deny them use of its facilities.

The second is the equally mis-titled Reproductive Health Non-Discrmination Act of 2014. Again, according to Catholic News Agency,

… the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act of 2014, prohibits all employers from discriminating against employees over their “reproductive health decision making.” Thus, a Catholic or pro-life group could not make employment decisions based on their employees’ decision to act contrary to the mission – such as procuring an abortion, for example.

Both of these two laws are direct attacks on both religious liberty and First Amendment freedoms. That is why I say that their titles are ironic. They do not guarantee human rights and freedom from discrimination. These laws themselves are attacks on the basic human right of religious liberty and freedom from discrimination of religious believers.

To read a fact sheet on the two laws, go here.

There are two resolutions in the United States Senate which would overturn these laws. Congress has 30 days to review the bills, which are slated to become law on April 17. As noted in the Catholic News Agency article,

The Archdiocese of Washington supports these two resolutions, which, they say, “subjugate the Church’s moral teaching to the moral views of the government” and “result in discrimination against religious believers.”

The Knights of Columbus, the United States bishops’ conference, the Catholic University of America, the National Association of Evangelicals, and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention have joined the Archdiocese of Washington in the call to pass the resolutions.

I do not know if Georgetown University has joined the opposition to these laws. If they have not, I would like to know why.

Congress clearly has the power to overturn these laws. The question, as always with Congress, is will they use their power for the purpose it was given to them, or will they set this up as another partisan fight in order to align voters for the ’16 elections?

Congress needs to hear from their constituents as to why they are not doing any of the things that got them elected in the first place.

The Archdiocese of Washington issued the followed press release concerning the resolutions in Congress on March 18:

Religious Freedom at Stake

U.S. Senate Must Stand for Religious Freedom in Nation’s Capital

March 18, 2015

WASHINGTON – Today the Archdiocese of Washington, along with a large and growing coalition of religious institutions, faith-based organizations, and pro-life advocacy organizations within the District of Columbia, welcomes the introduction of two resolutions disapproving the unprecedented attack on religious freedom, freedom of speech and freedom of association in the nation’s capital through the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act (RHNDA) and the Human Rights Amendment Act (HRAA).

HRAA, by removing conscience protections in the law, would prevent religious educational institutions from operating according to the tenets of their own faith with regard to human sexuality, and RHNDA would force religious institutions and other organizations to hire or retain employees who publicly act in defiance of the mission of their employer. Both laws subjugate the Church’s moral teaching to the moral views of the government, violating the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and result in discrimination against religious believers.

The Archdiocese of Washington has long respected home rule for the District of Columbia and, therefore, advocated for our religious rights with the D.C. Council throughout the legislative process. Despite this, the Council passed these acts. The archdiocese’s appeal to Congress to restore these constitutional rights is the only legislative recourse that remains. The Council of the District of Columbia transmitted the new measures to Congress on March 6, initiating a thirty-day congressional review period.

The archdiocese is grateful for the resolutions introduced today in the U.S. Senate and is hopeful for swift action in both chambers of Congress within the remaining days of the congressional review period.

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Purple Prose Aside, Oklahoma Did Not Limit Marriage to People of Faith

Rep Todd Russ, Oklahoma House File Photo

Rep Todd Russ, Oklahoma House File Photo

My former colleague, Representative Todd Russ, recently passed a piece of legislation, HB 1125 that would move issuance of Oklahoma marriage licenses from court clerks to clergy or judges.

Under Oklahoma law as it presently stands, court clerks, who are elected officials, issue marriage licenses.

I think that the bill is a response to lawsuits against court clerks around the country who have not issued marriage licenses for gay marriage due to their religious belief. It appears to be an attempt to remove that pressure from court clerks. According to both the author and representatives who opposed the bill, court clerks have not objected to the legislation.

During floor debate, Democratic Leader Scott Inman raised the question of whether or not the bill would, as an unintended consequence, open the door for “marriage” of any type, including group marriage, polygamy, marriage between humans and animals, etc. Rep Russ answered that HB 1125 does not change regulations as to what constitutes legal marriage.

I think that Representative Russ made an attempt to deal with a problem. I don’t think that this piece of legislation does what he hopes. It has huge holes in it. It also transfers the potential for court challenges and judicial pressure from court clerks to the clergy.

There is no definition of clergy in the bill. This piece of legislation, by creating a whole new legal responsibility for clergy, needs a definition for what constitutes clergy that is specific to the legislation.

As it stands now, the only requirement in the law is that the clergy be “ordained.” That leaves the definition of what constitutes clergy for the purposes of performing this government function entirely in the hands of the religious body of which they are a part.

Since “ordained” is not defined in the bill either, any person could, for the purposes of this law, “ordain” themselves. I am aware that there are definitions in other places in the statutes. But since this creates a new kind of clergy that is part government functionary and part religious leader, a new definition is called for.

Another serious problem with the legislation is that it does not define what relationship the clergy would hold vis a vis the government. Are they now government officials, rather than clergy? That is a legitimate question, since they are now charged with enforcing state law concerning marriage so far as it pertains to the issuance of marriage licenses.

America has kept the issuance of marriage licenses and the definition of marriage as a legal construct entirely under the auspices of the government for over 200 years. The idea of transferring this to clergy is a radical change with many unintended consequences.

One unintended consequence would be the massive impact that this change would have on arguments concerning religious freedom. I believe strongly that clergy should not be government officials by virtue of their ordination. If we make them that, we also make them subject to the same oversight and control as any other government functionary.

Statutes that make all ordained clergy function as government opens clergy and faith to government regulation. It transfer the court challenges and pressure being brought against court clerks to clergy. It pierces the protected legal status that clergy holds now.

This legislation, which I think is a good-faith attempt to deal with a serious problem, will, in a few years, create other problems concerning attempts to limit religious freedom that will be exceedingly grave. It has the potential to create a religious freedom train wreck.

HB 1125 has been the object of quite a bit of purple prose, both in the mainstream press and in the blogosphere. This includes claims that Oklahoma has done away with marriage licenses, or that the bill would limit marriage to people of faith. 

These claims are not accurate. The bill changes how marriage licenses are issued. It does not do away with them. Any one who wants to get legally married in Oklahoma today would be able to get legally married under this bill if it becomes law.

I’m not sure how to handle the problems we are now facing as a result of the nihilism that is being applied to family law in this country. If I was still a legislator, I would have voted against this particular bill for the reasons I give above.

My greatest concern about the bill is that it would change the legal status of clergy and that would create the means for successfully attacking religious freedom in the future. It does not matter if the bill labels clergy government functionaries or not. If this bill becomes law, that is the function they will be performing.

I have no doubt that future civil challenges would use this law to seek to define clergy as government functionaries through the courts. This law creates a means by which clergy can be subjected to government regulation as civil authorities.

In today’s political climate, that would be a disaster for religious freedom in this country. Groups have been attempting to control what clergy preaches for decades. This law hands them the means to do that. It would also open the doorway for legitimate court challenges requiring clergy to perform gay marriages (and other inventive forms of “marriage”) even if it violates the teachings of their faith.

You can read the version of the bill that passed the House here.

 

Pope Francis is Writing an Encyclical on the Environment, and Both Sides of the Political Spectrum are Sharpening their Knives

Pope francis

Copyright Thierry Ehrmann, Flickr Commons, used with permission.

So, Pope Francis is going to write an encyclical on the environment, and the right wing heretics, the left wing heretics, the corporatists and the nihilists are sharpening their knives.

It would be a hopeful sign, that so many of our culture warriors and mega money-men are seemingly besotted with the pope to the point of losing all common sense.

It would be.

Except …

They are not besotted with the Pope as the Vicar of Christ. They are interested in him and his every little word because he has power, and power is what they are all about.

Pope Francis does not have the power to push a button and melt down mountains. He cannot sign an agreement and send the industrial base of a great capitalist nation to a communist nation. He can’t raid a national treasury and put the coin in his own pocket. He can not write a statue or issue an order and with his terrible swift pen KO the family, human life at its beginning or the tenuous hold on respect held by our frail elderly and disabled.

Nope.

Pope Francis can not do any of those things. What he can do is speak directly to the conscience of billions of Christians by telling them the plain facts of what Christ meant. He has the power to take the phrase “the least of these” and tell us who the least of these is and what we must do for them. He can remind us that Jesus said it more than once and He said it without equivocation that if we ignore “the least of these” we will not see heaven.

Pope Francis can define for us what, specifically, following Christ means in our world today. He can elucidate for us what the Scriptures mean when they tell us that we are our brothers’ keeper and that we have dominion over the earth.

We live in a time when corporatists are raping the American economy for their gain, while they also rape the planet on which we all live. At the same time, nihilists are selling us a cant of destruction of the family, the devaluation of human life and bloated social programs that not only do not heal the wounds our indifference to human beings have inflicted but are increasingly becoming a means to attack the rights and freedoms Americans enjoy.

Does anybody besides me see that these two things are not opposites? They are different verses of the same song, and that same song is the satan-inspired ballad of the pit, the cultural refutation of the value, dignity, worth and meaning of human life. The fact that one side does it for corporate interests and the other side does it for nihilistic interests makes no real difference. Dead is dead and we are killing ourselves in the service of these false gods of our politics.

Patheos writers from every quarter comment about this, each in their own way.

Frank Schaeffer recently published a passionate article in the Huffington Post in which he repented of and disavowed his religious right past. I think he got his politics a bit wrong when he said, … the American right is not about politics as most people understand politics but about religious absolutes. 

That may be the zeitgeist viewpoint, but from my vantage of having just completed 18 years in public office, it seems simplistic to the point of silliness. The right side of the political coin is not in any way about religious absolutes. Religious absolutes are what they use to sell their corporatism. Religious absolutes are their vote-getting machine.

Now, I know well that there are many sincere Christians who are part of the right side (let’s call them Republicans and stop the cuteness) of the political spectrum, precisely because they were chased out of the left side (Democrats) as punishment for their belief in God, in particular for their belief in His demand that we honor the sanctity of human life.

I’ve lived this nonsense, up close and personal, for quite some time. I can’t tell you how many times my fellow Democrats have uninvited me to be a member of their party because I am pro life.

I understand the flight of so many Christians to the Republican party. I also know that a good number of Republican office holders are devout and sincere Christians.

But, religious absolutes are not what the puppet masters who beam candidates into office on a beam of corporate money — in short the puppet masters who own and run the Republican Party for their own interests — are about. In fact, at least here in Oklahoma, a good many of the top tier Rs that I’ve known have been atheists, big donors to Planned Parenthood, etc.

Politics is not, ever, about religious certitude. It’s about getting power and keeping power and using power for corporatist purposes. It’s about raiding the treasury of public monies and public power which was built by the people and should be used for the people and putting it into the pockets of a few.

Buying a legislature or a Congress by putting them in office with a few million dollars is a cheap investment for controlling the American government and bending it to your own greedy and ruthless will.

On the other side, the side where Mr Schaeffer has found his new hallelujah, the vote-getting machine is aimed at the don’t-wanna-folllow-no-rules crowd. The Democratic Party, which was once the party of working people and the great builder of economic diversity and hope for this country, has become the purveyor of nihilism and the destruction of human life.

If it’s a bad moral idea, you can be pretty sure that the Ds will latch onto it and claim it as a human right before too long. Abortion, embryonic stem cell research, gay marriage, egg harvesting and the intellectual tyranny of political correctness are their vote getting machine.

Again, I know many people who still cling to the working-class roots of the Democratic Party. They truly are about a living wage and building an economy with American manufacturing, American labor and American know-how. I know a good number of elected Democratic officials, including, not so long ago, myself, who feel this way.

They/we are to the Democratic Party what the pro traditional marriage people have become to the Republican Party; someone to be tolerated and used, but also, when policy is made, ignored.

The American people are a bit like Mr Schaeffer in that they flip from one of these extremes to the other, in search of someone who will listen to them. Every few years they toss out whoever is in office and elect a new batch of wing nuts from the opposite political spectrum. Then, after the people they elect ignore the people who elected them and follow the the corporatist pipers who paid for their campaigns, we the people wearily, and with a deepening sense of hopelessness, toss them out and try again.

How does anyone keep putting their faith in princes in the face of this? More to the point, how does anyone keep chasing after what Elizabeth Scalia calls “Strange Gods”, in this case the false idol of political salvation, year after year, election after election?

What does all this have to do with Pope Francis and his as-yet unwritten encyclical on the environment? In truth, it doesn’t have much at all to do with the encyclical itself, and that is the primary cause of all the carrying on about it in the two wing-nut camps that seek to define Western society in their own image.

They are not dealing with the actual encyclical, and they never will. What they are doing now is rehearsing and readying. They are softening us up for the tsunami of propaganda that will be unleashed when the encyclical is published.

Right wing nuts are afraid that Pope Francis might write something that says that they (gasp, shock, rage) might be in need of conversion. Left wing nuts are hopeful that this is so. Both of them intend to ignore the actual encyclical and write their own version of it when it comes out.

What they both want out of the deal is political advantage in order to solidify their control of the American government to be used for their own destructive and America-destroying purposes.

Pope Francis has the power of speaking as the Vicar of Christ and these politicos and their mouthpieces want to harness that power to their own anti-Christ uses. That makes him the object of their hatred and delight, another person thingy to massage and lie about until they drain him of his relevance and can’t use him anymore.

Mark Shea wrote a post yesterday in which he noodled with what this might mean to Catholics like us who are living our walk with Christ in these times. He rightly notes that certain members of the clergy are infected with this disease of defining Jesus by their politics along with the rest of the populace. They veer to the left, or to the right, whittling Jesus down into a caricature of the R or the D, and teaching their hapless parishioners to do the same.

Mark is the writer Catholic righties love to hate. He’s fought the good fight of speaking against both both torture and abortion, of being against corporatism and socialism, of saying that the right to life goes seamlessly from conception to natural death and that hunger, poverty, corporate wars and nihilistic debauchery that kills are co-promotors of the culture of death.

That is a most Catholic position, and it is also the one position most likely to make everybody, everywhere in the political firmament mad at you.

Because the little g gods of political fealty require a serious jettisoning of Christian baggage as the price for that comfortable feeling of finding cheap grace and easy salvation in your voter registration card. It does not matter which party you chose. If you follow its teachings instead of Jesus, you are on the broad path that leads to destruction.

That is Frank Schaeffer’s mistake. It was his first mistake when he blindly took off after the Rs in the name of Jesus, and now it’s his second mistake when he blindly attacks them and takes off after the Ds. I do not know this man, but based on this article, it seems that he is making the same mistake, over and again.

What I call The Political Heresy, which is the practice of looking for God in your politics, is, in my opinion, the primary heresy of contemporary America.

I would put it above nonsensical claptrap such as claiming that killing people with abortion and euthanasia is a human right, or that harvesting women’s bodies for eggs is women’s rights. I would also put it above the other claptrap of claiming that Jesus was a corporatist, and that what He really meant all along was blessed are the rich.

I do that because The Political Heresy is a first cause of both these things. What makes it a first cause is that it shifts our loyalty and our followership away from Christ Jesus and places it on the propagandized musings of well-paid think tanks and media outlets who are designed and employed to confuse, delude, misinform and otherwise lead us away from Him.

Pope Francis is writing an encyclical on the environment, and both sides of the political spectrum are sharpening their knives. Because they don’t care about Jesus. And they don’t care about the future of this planet. And they don’t care about people.

They care about getting and keeping power.

And everything else they say is a lie.

Haters Gonna Hate: Christian Ministers Forced to Perform Gay Marriage or Face Jail Time

 

Photo Source: Catholic News Agency

Remember the lies?

Gay marriage would not lead to polygamy, they said. But before gay marriage is even fully out of the gate, the court movement to legalize polygamy is afoot. 

Gay marriage will never lead to ministers being forced to perform gay marriage wedding services, they told us. Well, so much for that one, too.

David and Evelyn Knapp, ordained ministers of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, have been told by Coeur d’Alene’s city officials that, due to their refusal to perform a gay wedding, they may face up to 180 days in jail and $1,000 in fines for each day they do not perform gay wedding services.

A lawsuit filed on the minister’s behalf by the Alliance Defending Freedom, says in part:

If the Knapps refuse to perform one same-sex ceremony for one week, they risk going to jail for over three years and being fined $7,000. If the Knapps refuse to perform one same-sex ceremony for 30 days, they risk going to jail for over 14 years and being fined $30,000. If the Knapps refuse to perform one same-sex ceremony for a year, they risk going to jail for 180 years and being fined $365,000.

The city is taking the legal position that the couple’s wedding chapel, which is called the Hitching Post Lakeside Chapel, is a “place of accommodation” that would is subject to the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance.

That’s kind of rich since the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel is a denomination going with over 8,000,000 members worldwide. There are 1,875 Foursquare Gospel churches here in the United States alone.

The legal basis for this contention seems to hang on the thread that the Hitching Post Chapel is incorporated as a “religious corporation limited to performing one-man-one-woman marriages as defined by the Holy Bible.” According to Fox News Radio, the Hitching Post Chapel is a for-profit corporation.

I do not know if Idaho law has a discreet entity called a “religious corporation” in its statutes, or, if it does, what that means. I do know that the City of Coeur d’Alene called these two ministers. Again, according to Fox News Radio, the city attorney claims that even ordained ministers whose church teachings do not allow gay marriage will be required to perform gay marriages.

I think it’s telling that two days after the Ninth Circuit issued an order allowing same-sex marriages, in Idaho, Pastors David and Evelyn Knapp received a phone call from the city advising them they had to perform gay marriages.

David and Evelyn Knapp are ministers who were ordained by a legitimate denomination.

According to the Gay Christian Movement Watch, here is the International Church of the Four Square Gospel’s teaching on the matter:

The Biblical record shows that sexual union was established exclusively within the context of male-female relationship and formalized in the ordinance of marriage. In the New Testament, the oneness of male and female in marriage pictures the relationship between Christ and His Church. . . . The Scriptures identify the practice of homosexuality as a sin that, if persisted in, brings grave consequences in this life and excludes one from the Kingdom of God.

The facade of lies in support of gay marriage is falling down, and it’s doing it quickly.

From The Daily Signal:

For years, those in favor of same-sex marriage have argued that all Americans should be free to live as they choose. And yet in countless cases, the government has coerced those who simply wish to be free to live in accordance with their belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman.

Ministers face a 180-day jail term and $1,000 fine for each day they decline to celebrate the same-sex wedding.

Just this weekend, a case has arisen in Idaho, where city officials have told ordained ministers they have to celebrate same-sex weddings or face fines and jail time.

The Idaho case involves Donald and Evelyn Knapp, both ordained ministers, who run Hitching Post Wedding Chapel. Officials from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, told the couple that because the city has a non-discrimination statute that includes sexual orientation and gender identity, and because the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Idaho’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman, the couple would have to officiate at same-sex weddings in their own chapel.

The non-discrimination statute applies to all “public accommodations,” and the city views the chapel as a public accommodation.

On Friday, a same-sex couple asked to be married by the Knapps, and the Knapps politely declined. The Knapps now face a 180-day jail term and $1,000 fine for each day they decline to celebrate the same-sex wedding.

A week of honoring their faith and declining to perform the ceremony could cost the couple three and a half years in jail and $7,000 in fines.

Government Coercion

The Knapps have been married to each other for 47 years and are both ordained ministers of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. They are “evangelical Christians who hold to historic Christian beliefs” that “God created two distinct genders in His image” and “that God ordained marriage to be between one man and one woman.”

But as a result of the courts redefining marriage and a city ordinance that creates special privileges based on sexual orientation and gender identity, the Knapps are facing government coercion.

Dueling Bishops: The Synod in Their Own Words

I’ve put together a set of comments from the various cardinals about the on-going Synod of the Family. I think it’s best right now to let them speak in their own words, rather than try to interpret what they mean.

One thing that seems apparent is that there is a wide gap between the Cardinals of the developing world and those from the wealthier nations.

 

Cardinal Burke

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German Bishops

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Cardinal Napier on Polygamy

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Cardinal Tagle Poor Families Need Synod’s Help

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Cardinal Wuerl on Who May Receive Communion?

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Cardinal Nichols on Marriage and Fidelity

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Pope Francis: The Devil Hates Human Beings and Wants to Destroy Us

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Three Cardinals — and I Don’t Mean Baseball Players — and Their Grand Slam of Confusion

I’m late to the party.

But then, I often am.

It takes me a while to think through certain events. There are also times when it takes me a while to care about certain events.

The three cardinals — Dolan, Kasper and McCarrick — and their grand slam of confusion is a case in point. I’m going to take their statements/actions one at a time.

Lesseeeee ….

 

Cardinal Dolan and his parade.

It seems that the New York St Patrick’s Day Parade is going to allow a group of gay people to join in the march. It has been noted in some circles that the writers here at the Catholic Portal at Patheos have been — up to now — silent on this subject. I guess they overlooked — or perhaps didn’t like — the commentary by the Anchoress on this subject. For my part, I’ll attempt to add a bit of perspective from fly-over America.

I’ve been writing a lot about beheadings, mass murder and possible war. So, when I read that homosexuals were going to march in a parade in New York (which I hasten to remind you is almost 2,000 miles and a whole culture away from me) I thought, ummm … it’s a parade. Big whooping deal.

Then I heard that Cardinal Dolan was going to be the grand master at this hoe down, and I thought ummm … it’s a parade. Big whooping deal.

Then, I heard the plunk, plunk, plunk of the sky falling in the New York outpost of the faithful Catholic blogosphere and I thought ummm … it’s a New York thing. Big whooping deal.

To be honest, I’m sorta stuck at it’s a parade and a New York deal.

We’ll see how it comes off. If Cardinal Dolan ends up two-stepping down the road leading the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence or some such, I may decide that, in addition to being a parade, it is an embarrassment.

But basically, I’m still kind of caught up in the fact that we’ve got a blood-red Christian genocide going on and that, well, it’s not a parade. Or a New York deal.

 

Cardinal McCarrick and his newfound universalism.

Cardinal McCarrick attended a press conference arranged by the Muslim Affairs Council and managed to do such a good job of  Muslim apologetics that one headline brayed that “Catholic Cardinal McCarrick Embraces Islam.” All in all, it sounds like the Cardinal put on a pretty good show. It might help if he gave another press conference with Eastern Church leaders to show solidarity with our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. You know; just to even things out.

 

Cardinal Kasper and his protestantized view of the sacrament of marriage.

My colleague, Dr Greg Popcak already wrote a post about this, so I’ll pick up the salient quote from him. Here it is:

If a Catholic who is divorced and civilly remarried, without a decree of nullity, “repents of his failure to fulfill what he promised before God, his partner and the church in the first marriage, and carries out as well as possible his new duties and does what he can for the Christian education of his children and has a serious desire for the sacraments, which he needs for strength in his difficult situation, can we after a time of new orientation and stabilization deny absolution and forgiveness?”

I’m not any kind of theologian. In fact, I’m only a Christian and a Catholic due to enormous unmerited forgiveness. So, I “get” the desire to let people in, no matter what they’ve done. I also “get” that in this post-Christian world the Church is flat-out counter-cultural. I’m sure that these cardinals deal with the fallout of that counter-culturalism every day when they interact with civic and social leaders in the upper strata.

I’ve had a few doses of that poison myself.

I also “get” that, due to pew-sitting Catholics drinking great draughts of that cultural poison, divorce and remarriage are increasingly a source of alienation for many of the “faithful.”

However, I don’t “get” slam-dunking 2,000 years of Christian teaching in order to make the Church fit in with this fallen world.

I’m not big fan of the annulment process as it is used today, anyway. I know there are times when a sacrament may not have taken place at a wedding, and I also know that the Church always errs on the side of forgiveness and compassion.

I have benefitted from that forgiveness and compassion. When I accepted Christ and changed, no one else would forgive me. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, not only took me in, but treated what I had done as a thing of the past that did not pertain to me as I am now.

I will be grateful for this loving compassion and forgiveness to the end of my days.

I understand that this deep compassion and desire to forgive animates all that the Church does. But compassion can not overwrite the plain teachings of the Gospels. In fact, it is misguided compassion to try. The compassion that I received was a firm and abiding belief in the power of Christ to redeem sinners, including me.

If the Church had told me — as a number of denominations would have — that it was ok for me to be pro abortion (that was my public sin that others would not forgive) that would have been a terrible injustice to me, a false compassion that would have led me into deeper sign, and ultimately hell.

The Church has the same responsibility to the truth in the area of marriage, divorce and remarriage that it has about abortion.

The Church is bending over backwards to allow people who’ve divorced and remarried to come back into the fold. It does this via a somewhat complicated and terribly faulty annulment process.

As I said, I know that there are times when, for various reasons, a marriage is not sacramental and an annulment is justified. But I honestly believe that those times are much more rare than the number of annulments reflect.

I realize that this is one of the more contentious issues facing the Church today. But the fact remains that the facts remain. I know what I’ve seen. And what I’ve seen is people getting annulments for marriages that

they willingly contracted when they were free adults

they undertook after lengthy premarital counseling by the Church that took place in Catholic Churches

whose vows were given in front of many witnesses and before a priest

were not abusive but were cases where the people simply decided — for various reasons — to get out and go and get annulments so they could try again with someone else.

I know the annulment system is a mess because I’ve also seen people who entered into marriage

when both were drunk during the ceremony and they were both sleeping with other people at the time they married and they both knew it not getting an annulment  because they couldn’t get the paperwork filled out.

Add to that, I’ve also seen someone refused entry into the Church because they couldn’t get the paperwork filed out concerning a common law marriage from decades in their past.

The annulment process isn’t working for people who deserve annulments. And it’s chunking out annulments for people who should not get them.

But what the Cardinal seems to be suggesting is to toss the whole thing overboard and shake hands and call it even. In essence, what he’s leading up to is a revocation of the sacramental nature of marriage. I say that because, if marriage is a sacrament, you can’t undo it. Can’t. Not possible.

And if marriage, after 2,000 years, isn’t a sacrament, then what is? I mean, if marriage isn’t a sacrament, then why would Holy Orders, which is akin to it, be a sacrament?

The real problem with all of these actions taken by these various Cardinals is that they are deeply disturbing to the people who actually hold the Church together. I do not mean the hierarchy. I mean the pew-sitting Catholics who believe and try to follow what the Church teaches. It’s a mistake of Homeric proportions to abandon those people and go off chasing after the ones who have left the Church.

Remember when Jesus said, If you do not eat of my flesh and drink of my blood, you will have no eternal life within you? His frank discussion of the sacrament of the Eucharist, of which this statement is a part, caused a number of people to abandon Him. They went off muttering about cannibalism or some such.

But Our Lord didn’t go chasing after them and say, Wait a minute, I didn’t mean it that way.

No.

He let what He’d said stand and He allowed them to leave.

If the princes of the Church start teaching that 2,000 years of Christian teaching on the sacraments is up for grabs because it’s an embarrassment to them, we are in big trouble. In truth, sex outside of marriage, including homosexual sex, is a sin. In truth, marriage is between one man and one woman and it is for life. In truth, there are radical differences between Christianity and every other belief system. Christianity alone has the empty tomb and the words that lead to eternal life.

Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Light. There is no other.

On the other hand, it is just a parade and a New York deal, and it was just a speech, and then  another speech.

Confusing leadership is … well … confusing. In times such as these, it can be frightening. It seems to be almost impossible for the American bishops to give clear teaching on what is in fact the 2,000 year old teachings of the Church for which they claim to speak. They’re trying so hard to be loved by everybody that they trip over their own eagerness.

That scares people who’ve paid a great price to follow the Church, and it angers them. I think the best way to deal with that is to remember that it has always been so, and it will always be so until the Lord comes again. Your task is to stay faithful, in spite of it.

As for the New York parade deal; I just hope that the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence stay away.

HPIM1680

Christianity: The Religion of Life

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 

 

In a world beset with narcissistic -isms, Christianity is the one light.

Every other philosophy, sooner or later, gets around to death. But the Gospel message of Jesus Christ is a message of life. And that light of life and love not only illumines our deepest darkness, it plants hedges around our most pitiless impulses.

In a world where the power to kill helpless human beings is labeled “compassion” or a “human right,” both compassion and human rights become matters of definition, and the defining is done by those who want to kill at will. What is in fact, monstrous, we call good. And what is in fact good, we call monstrous.

Christianity, with its unyielding call to life and love, is the light that shines in this darkness. And the darkness hates it.

This attraction — I cannot call it love, for love is not in it — to ever deeper darkness grows from our most selfish impulses. It creates an upside down world based on language mis-used that demands that everyone — everyone — accede to the lies of manufactured definitions of our finest words. Killing, we are told, is a “right” of the killer, as in abortion is a “right.” Murder is compassion, as in euthanasia is compassionate. Genocide is godly, as in the bestial behavior of Boko Haram and ISIS.

In this upside down world of lying definitions, we can pretend that homosexual couples are the same as a man and a woman, is the same as groups of people consorting sexually, is the same as … whatever. We can label the deliberate killing of people who are slightly different from the norm — such as those with down’s syndrome — a moral necessity. We can reduce women and children to commerce with surrogacy and egg harvesting, sex trafficking, prostitution and porn and call it variously, freedom of expression, creation of families and, once again, the “right” of the purchasers.

Whatever our dark desire to degrade, exploit or kill other people, we can use our facile gift of language to construct a lie to convince ourselves that it is good.

This darkness slides over all life like sludge from a tar pit. It seeks, always, to take us back to the time before; before Christ, even before Abraham. It wants to take us back to the time when we used our big brains in the service of our reptile brains without the hedgerow of Christian teaching to fence them in.

Without God, without Christ, we are capable of anything. There is no bottom to our depravity, no end to our malignant craving for self-gratification. Because we are not animals. Or rather, we are not animals entirely. We are made of the same dust of this earth as any other living thing on this planet. But we alone of all the life on this planet teeming with life have the breath of God within us. We know that we are creatures. We know that we are finite and temporary.

And, if we will admit it, we also know that there is an Other, a being outside ourselves, greater than us, Who is both infinite and eternal. Our inchoate longing for this Other can haunt us. It can drive us to brittle anger and rageful hate that sends us screaming through our years, leaving a past of toppled lives behind us.

The terrors we weave of our unsatisfied longings for God and our refusal to live in the light of His life are the terrors that only a living soul, a creature made in His image who rejects that image in an irrational self-deification, could devise. We are not just animals. We are cathedral builders and bomb builders, poets and beheaders, we are slavers and freedom fighters, abortionists and mothers who lay down their lives for their child. We are the men who protect their families, and the men who kill their families. We are destroyers and builders, killers and nurturers.

No animal possesses this grandeur of good and bottomless capacity for evil. We do.

That is our darkness. It is the darkness of freedom that runs so frantic that it becomes a prison. We are, and we have always been, free. We are not spiders who spin the same web from one generation of spiders to the next. We are free. We can create. We can destroy. We can reject this Other, this God Who calls us but will not force us to love Him. We can even create alter-gods of our own devising, bastardized versions of the real God in whom we attempt to deify our deepest darkness.

The Light of Life that is Christ is the only beacon in the darkness of the hidden places in our own souls. The Gospel message is the message of life. Christianity is the religion of life.

The darkness fights to overcome it with weapons that appeal to our vaunting need to be our own gods. It uses our great facility for language, our enormous creativity, to shape the lies, excuses and bogus philosophies of false belief and disbelief that become tools for tearing down our common humanity and the walls of our civilization.

But the darkness, however many it pulls into its quagmire of lies, never overcomes the Light of Life. This Light shines through us, through ordinary weak and willful Christians who are as afflicted by the fallenness of this world as any other human. We are different in that, though we stumble on the path, we know the Way.

Christianity in general, and the Catholic Church in particular, is the bulwark against the forces of death. It shines the light of Life into the darkness of abortion, euthanasia, eugenics, egg harvesting, surrogacy, human trafficking, the destruction of the family and the whole range of degradations, humiliations, and destructions of the human person who is made in the image and likeness of God.

The howling hatred which is directed at Christians and Christianity is the rage of those who wallow half alive in the sludge and do not want to be awakened from their nightmare. Christianity is the religion of life. It defends life in this world, and, to those who are willing to accept Christ, it gives eternal life in the next.

We are not made for the sludge pits of evil that so many of us call home. We are eternal beings who are made for the Light.

Our great dignity is that of all the creatures and living things on this planet, we alone are free. God sets before us each and every day life and death. We can chose the life of His Light. Or we can chose the death of our many false gods and self gods.

It is no accident that the powerful ideas of the value of the individual, the splendid notion of inalienable human rights and the essential equality of all human beings came into existence within Christendom. Such ideas could not have come to fruition anywhere else. Only the Light of Christ, the enlightening mustard seed of Christianity which teaches that there is neither Greek nor Jew, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for all are one in Christ Jesus, could have grown and blossomed into the progenitor of the idea of universal human rights.

This is not a Western notion. It is a Christian teaching.

Even the hairs of your head are numbered.

If you have done it for the least of these you have done it for me. 

Blessed are the poor.

If you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. 

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that you may have life and that you may have it abundantly. 

Christianity is growing rapidly throughout the world, even as we are moving into a new age of martyrdom. It is growing the way it always has: By voluntary conversion. People who are attracted to the Light, who hunger for Life, are drawn to Jesus because He is the Light and the Life.

Christianity is the religion of life because Christ is the Light of Life.

And the darkness will never overcome Him.

Christians Attacking Christians is the Devil’s Handiwork.

 

I read a book this weekend, Even Silence has an End, by Ingrid Betancourt.

Doctor Betancourt is a former senator and candidate for the presidency of Columbia. She was kidnapped by FARC Communist rebels while she was en route to a campaign appearance in her race for the presidency and held prisoner for six years.

Even Silence has an End describes her long years in captivity. A number of her fellow captives have also written a book, Out of Captivity

If I read the other book, it will be after I give the subject a rest. There’s only so much of the brutality and injustice that FARC visited on these people that I can take.

What interests me today is the extremely toxic personality conflicts that developed among this small group of abductees and the hatred that it engendered in them toward one another. Small group toxicity and the resulting nastiness affects all of us as we go about our jobs and workaday lives. It poisons our relationships and wounds people deeply. It also makes us less effective in what we are trying to accomplish. Instead of getting good things done, we end up wasting our energies scratching and clawing at one another.

It sounds very much like this is what happened among these captives during their long years of helpless insecurity at the hands of brutal guards who might beat, starve, put them on forced marches or even kill them at any time.

One of the comments the American authors made about Doctor Betancourt is absurd and abusive on its face. “It was her own arrogance that got her kidnapped,” one of her fellow captives said.

Let’s be clear. The abduction of Ingrid Betancourt, as well as the other captives, was caused by the criminals who abducted them. FARC did this.

According to Even Silence Has an End,  what happened is that presidential candidate Betancourt was scheduled to make an appearance in an area that officials had recently declared guerrilla free. She was supposed to have armored vehicles and military escort. When she arrived at the jump-off point, her armored vehicles and military escort were withdrawn. The orders probably came from her political opponent, the president.

Doctor Betancourt does not say that the president wanted her to be abducted. She says that he was trying to keep her from making the campaign appearance.

Whatever the motives behind all this, she had gone into dangerous areas before and decided to go ahead with the campaign trip. She was abducted while she was en route to the engagement.

Does that make her abduction her “fault?” No. She was abducted by FARC. It is their fault.

What is astonishing is that this intelligent person is so messed up by his captivity that he doesn’t “get” that.

It is a mark of the damage that prolonged and intense association within toxic little groups does to people’s thinking. Leadership plays a huge part in this. if the leader — and by that, I mean the one who has the power — wants people to settle down and get along, they usually do. But FARC had everything to gain by pitting these prisoners against one another. If they had worked together, it would have made escape much more likely.

By dividing them emotionally and keeping them focused on hating one another, FARC had a much more manageable group to deal with.

One of the oddball claims that the other prisoners have made is that Doctor Betancourt retained authority, even as an abductee. She certainly was the most high profile prisoner, which would have made her more valuable to FARC. She also had dual citizenship with France, and the French went to bats for her and kept on fighting for her throughout her captivity. This, too, would have made her more important to FARC.

At the same time, the other prisoners, including the Americans who wrote Out of Captivity, were pretty much forgotten and ignored by everyone but their own families and sometimes not even them. They had less value to FARC because of this. They also had to live with the emotional damage this abandonment did to them throughout their captivity and for the rest of their lives.

It is important to note that Doctor Betancourt was chained with a chain around her neck. She was also starved and put in solitary confinement. When she attempted escape, the FARC soldiers gang-raped her as punishment.

If that’s what it means to be the queen bee of a FARC prison camp, I think I’ll pass.

The interesting point in all this is that these captives might very well have managed an escape, and they certainly would have been much less damaged emotionally by their captivity, if they had not yielded to the manipulations of their captors and fallen into obsessive small-group hatred and internecine rivalry.

They needed leadership and discipline within their ranks. They also needed to work out goals for themselves that would have allowed them to function as a unit without attacking one another. I can think of no better goal for a group of abductees who are being unjustly held prisoner than escape.

They got confused — and apparently are still confused to this day — as to who their enemy was. And that made a hell of their hell, which continues to run their emotions, even after they are physically free.

This sad tale forms teachable parallels with Christians today all over the world. I’ve heard from more than one person that part of the trouble in forming a Christian resistance to the genocide taking place in the Middle East is internecine rivalries between different Christian faith traditions. I see it all the time in the internet rivalries and name-calling that goes on among Catholics on internet websites.

We are feuding with one another over whether or not to say the mass in English or Latin, whether or not to hold hands during the Our Father, and whether or not or even how much to bend our faith to politically correct cultural dictates such as gay marriage, abortion and euthanasia. Even our own priests are all over the map about these things.

At the same time, we are carrying on these absolutely moronic feuds among ourselves, we are seeing a genocide of Christians in Muslim countries that just keeps intensifying and growing. We stand silent while Christians are imprisoned in North Korea, while their churches are razed in China and while they are mocked and unjustly reviled here in the United States and in Europe.

Much of the reason why is that we are wasting our energies and our time fighting with one another. We need to remember that we are not, ever, truly in the power of those in power in this world. We answer only to Jesus Christ and we are citizens of His Kingdom before any other.

We need to stop fighting with one another. That is the devil’s handiwork in our lives.

 


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