What if Jesus had said yes to Satan?

 Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. I will give it all to you if you will worship me.”

What would the world look like today if Jesus had said yes to Satan?

What if, when Satan offered Our Lord all the kingdoms of the earth, Jesus had said yes?

What if, like the Saturday Night Live skit, dJesus, Our Savior had used his powers to force people to bend their knee to Him?

These questions strike to the heart of other questions. Why does God allow people to rape, torture and murder innocent children? Why would He allow cancer? Why doesn’t He stop us from harming one another so viciously?

Why, in short, does He tolerate a creation that rejects Him and what He has taught us to do and so often goes in the opposite and entirely cruel and destructive direction?

If He is God, why does He allow so much suffering?

I have heard people say things like this when they were in the extremities of pain and loss. Their question was not so much an accusation as it was a kind of prayer, a cry from the depths.

On the other hand, it has become fashionable in certain circles for privileged people to ask questions like these as a method of self-justification or simply as a way to attack faith. This  nonsense of blaming God for our sins is becoming an increasingly accepted way to brush aside personal responsibility for our actions. Instead of acknowledging what we have done wrong, we point out that someone else is doing just as bad or worse.

Who better to blame for all the sins of humanity than a God who has the power to stop us from harming one another and will not do it? So, the fashion of the day is misplaced blame. We hold God accountable for human depravity.

But what would happen if God stopped us from sinning? What would have happened if Jesus had been the kind of conquering messiah the Jewish people wanted? What, in short, would happen if God was more like us?

I am the first to admit that if I was God every rapist and child batterer on this planet would be a pile of ash. Poof! And they would be on their slimy way to hell.

But God doesn’t operate that way, even when we wish He would.

He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry. 

Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.”

Jesus said “No” to Satan’s offer of worldly power. He turned His back on the temptation to use His power for Himself, even for something as simple as turning stone to bread to eat when He was hungry. He said no to all of it, and by doing that took the first steps to the cross.

Our eternal salvation began with that series of “nos” to the prince of darkness and his tempting offers to make right with might.

The truth is that even when God directs us, he always leaves us the choice of saying no to Him. He sets before us life and death, and then He lets us chose. He gives us a radical type of freedom that allows us to literally do our worst, including mocking, criticizing and attacking Him.

When Jesus said no to the control of earthly kingdoms, He was also saying no to the use of force to convert us.

God’s Kingdom is made of free people who freely chose to follow Him. The narrow way is narrow precisely because so many people would rather go the way of power and license, of selfishness and greed rather than give themselves to a Lord Who chose suffering and death over all earthly power.

Why the cross? Why did Jesus have to suffer and die on the cross; beaten, tortured, mocked, naked and humiliated? Why was this necessary to save us? Why didn’t He just reach out and save us with a magical touch?

From the beginnings of Christianity to now the cross has been a scandal. It is the subject of mockery from today’s evangelical atheists just as it was the subject of mockery by the Romans. The Romans saw the cross as ignoble. It was shameful, a disgrace, to die in such a manner; proof that the person who suffered it was from the scum classes of society and essentially worthless. The idea that Christians claimed such a victim as their god was, to them, ludicrous.

Today’s atheists are not so class conscious. They hang their critiques on a distaste for the whole affair. They sneer at the bloodshed and suffering and rebuke Christians for what they claim is a morbid worship of death.

But in truth the cross was the greatest gift of love ever given to humankind. The cross was not the only way God could have saved us. But it was the only way He could have done it and left us free.

Frank Weathers, who blogs at Why I Am Catholic, published an interesting post a few days ago. He commented on the Saturday Night Live skit, DJesus, that mocked our Lord by casting him as a violent, vengeful killer who wreaked havoc on everyone who ever crossed Him. Frank raised the question, “What would things be like if Jesus had been this vengeful god the skit portrayed?”

I think another way to ask that question is, What would things be like if Jesus had said yes to Satan in the wilderness?

The answer is probably along the lines of Jesus as He is portrayed in the SNL skit, only much worse than anything we can imagine. People of the first century were accustomed to gods who hungered for power — over each other, and over human beings. Humanity had long worshiped various deities who craved death and demanded that their followers slaughter their children, captives and other helpless ones as sacrifices to them.

How is that so different from our current culture of abortion, euthanasia and meaningless wars? St Augustine said these early gods were in fact demons. If he was right, then it appears these same demons are working through people today. They have not changed their tactics. They have only changed their names and their arguments.

God doesn’t allow suffering. He allows us our freedom and we cause the suffering. God doesn’t rape and torture. He doesn’t send drones, tell lies and ignore the elderly, sick, poor and helpless in our midst. We do that.

What God does is allow us to choose who we will serve. Jesus was born in a stable and died on a cross to open a path to salvation and eternal life for us. He suffered all this because by suffering it  He could both redeem us and leave us free to reject the redemption He offered.

God lets us chose. He sets before us life and death and then He lets us chose. That is the way things are because on that day so long ago, Jesus made His own choice. He said “no” to satan and turned His face to the path that led Him to the cross.

Atheists Give Up Sleeping In On Sunday, Klingons and Tribbles

 

Atheists in London have started their own church, called The Sunday Assembly.

The first services were conducted by  a stand-up comedian, whose homily seemed to amount to jibes at Christianity. The whole affair appears to have been topped off with a singalong.

Trendy.

Cute.

And reflective of the deep human longings which atheism denies. People want faith. They need it. There is, in each of us, a God-shaped hole. We can try to fill it with all sorts of things, but nothing will suffice except God Himself.

I think that is why atheists are the most God-obsessed people you will ever hope to meet.They read the Bible more than Billy Graham, talk about Church teachings more than the Pope and generally talk/think and obsess over God more than a while monastery of praying monks put together.

Witness their bizarre obsession with commenting on this blog. It would appear that they want nothing more out of life than to come in here, dump off a load of mindlessly repetitive atheist rhetoric and start a few fights. Part of this is due to their equally bizarre evangelistic fervor, but most of it seems to be just a plain old obsessive/compulsive demand that I allow them to smear their insults and nastiness all over this blog.

They act like Public Catholic was the last lifeboat off the Titanic and they were standing on the tilting deck, fighting for their lives.

Now I read that they’ve put together a faux church in England, which has been so successful that they’re planning to open a branch office in Scotland. There are remarks about how they can now have the community of church without all that tiresome dogma.

Excuse me, but are they seriously contending that atheism doesn’t have a dogma? If that’s what they think, I challenge them to go to one of these gatherings and say something even slightly traditionally moral such as … ummm … abortion kills a living child. Say it and back off and watch the fireworks.

Atheists most certainly do have a dogma; and an ugly, death-dealing dogma it is.

There should be nothing odd about this, since atheism itself is based on the ultimate death-dealing dogma of turning your back on God. After you’ve done that, there’s not much death dealing left that can top it.

I don’t know if these atheist faux church services will continue to thrive after the novelty has worn off. I do know that during my anti-God period, I never once thought it would be a good idea to get up on Sunday morning and go to a singalong. Sleeping in on Sundays was one of the perks of my anti-God state, and I enjoyed it to the max.

However, if they do continue to draw crowds to these things, it won’t be long before they develop an official dogma of some sort. Atheism is not all that supportive of free thought. It’s also not all that supportive of freedom of action. My experience of associating with mostly atheists back in the 17 years of my anti-God period is that they are fiercely clannish and fiercely intolerant of anyone who disagrees with the core tenants of their disbelief.

This business of aggressively and openly attacking people of faith is new. Back in the day when I was walking with them, they shunned people of faith, made fun of them and lied to them, then laughed about it when they were together. The open attacks are a new flavor of atheism spawned mainly by the insult polemics written by a few of their tribe.

I don’t know of any sin that could have gotten me drummed out of that merry band of atheists. I mean it. Nothing offended them. Save one thing, which is what I did. I found Christ.

I didn’t have to tell them I’d found Christ for them to know it. That was my first intimation that there was more going on under the surface than any of us knew. My atheist buddies reacted to me after my conversion in much the same way that Tribbles react to Klingons. They were appalled by my presence.

That came as a big surprise to me, since I hadn’t said anything to them. I was a secret Christian at that stage, still trying to figure out what this new thing that had happened in my life meant for me. But they knew on a visceral and unthinking level that I had changed, and they reacted by getting as far away from me as they could. All they needed to add was to hold up an atheist A and shout “I cast you out, clean spirit!”

I know now that we were both dealing with powers and principalities, that atheism is not a simple intellectual choice, anymore than following Christ is a simple intellectual choice. Both of them involve a spiritual dimension that shapes our actions and reactions without our being aware of it.

I remarked once that God didn’t change what I did. He changed what I wanted to do.

The other side of this coin does the same.

In all my years of anti-Godism, I never experienced this, at least not fully. I think this was because I was never a true atheist. I didn’t actually pretend to be one. I made fun of believers, of Scripture, of traditional morality, but I always told people that I still believed there was a God. I even refused to do certain things and told people I still had too much belief in God to do them.

So I wasn’t even a pretend atheist. I was anti-God. I was also anti-religion. In fact, I would say that I was specifically anti-religion, with a side dish of God-can’t-or-won’t-help me.

God never deserted me in those years, never stopped calling me.

I don’t doubt that He’s calling many of the atheist cranks who are so frantic to climb aboard the good ship Public Catholic and lay waste to the place.

These atheist faux churches are a reflection of what St Augustine observed when he said, “Our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

I pray that these lost souls will find their way Home to that resting place before they die. How tragic for them if they don’t.

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Bishops: Make HHS Mandate a Bargaining Point in Fiscal Cliff Debates

The suggestion is late to the party, but it is about time it finally came.

The Roman Catholic Bishops here in America have finally asked Congressional supporters of religious freedom to do what they should have done in the first place: Make the HHS Mandate a bargaining chip in political “cliff” negotiations.

I’ve maintained all along that if the House Republicans had made the HHS Mandate the bargaining chip in the 2012 cliff fight over extending the debt limit, the HHS Mandate would never have gone into effect. It was one of those rare opportunities when political brinksmanship might have been about something besides the egos of the players and the wishes of the moneyed interests who control them.

What they did instead was engage in their usual fight to get more tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.

The bishops have finally decided to call for such action directly. They sent a letter to members of Congress, asking them to make the HHS Mandate a bargaining point in the next found of fiscal cliff stand-offs.

All I can say is, it’s about time.

In fact, it’s past time.

It’s not easy for political outsiders to see through the smoke and mirrors of political maneuvering. But it appears that the bishops are beginning to figure it out.

As usual, I support the bishops in this 100%.

A Reuters article describing the bishops’ letter says in part:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Roman Catholic bishops stepped up their battle against President Obama’s contraceptives policy on Friday by urging Congress to use its fiscal debate to free religious employers from a mandate requiring insurance coverage for birth control.

In a letter to all 535 members of Congress, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore suggested two provisions to extend existing federal conscience protections to the contraceptives mandate and strengthen the ability of opponents to seek vindication in federal court.

“The federal government’s respect for believers and people of conscience no longer measures up to the treatment Americans have a right to expect from their elected representatives,” wrote Lori, who chairs the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“I urge you in the strongest terms possible to incorporate the provisions … in the upcoming legislative proposals to fund the federal government,” Lori added.

The conference also plans to send out an action alert via email and text message calling on supporters across the country to visit local congressional offices next week when lawmakers are home on break.

Obama’s 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide health insurance coverage through group coverage plans for all contraceptives approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, including the so-called “morning after” pill.

The archbishop’s letter underscored a growing sense of urgency among church leaders over the birth control coverage rules that are due to take effect on August 1 for religiously affiliated employers including universities, hospitals and charities.

The bishops have tried several times to get Congress to act over the past year, amid numerous protests and more than 40 lawsuits by religious groups and employers. But Lori’s letter marks their first attempt to use the debates over deficit reduction, the debt limit and government funding.

“To many people, this looks like the main must-pass vehicle going through Congress this year,” said Richard Doerflinger, associate director of the conference’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities. (Read more here.)

Pope Benedict’s Last Mass: “The Church Belongs to Christ”

What sustains and illuminates me is the certainty that the Church belongs to Christ, whose care and guidance will never be lacking.

He “appeared wan and spoke very softly.”

His homily was interrupted repeatedly by applause and he received a standing ovation.

A banner was strung at the back of the room reading “Grazie Santita” (Thank you Your Holiness.)

Today, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated his last public mass as pope. 

“As you know, I have decided to renounce the ministry that the Lord gave to me on April 19, 2005,” he said. “I did this in full liberty for the good of the Church, after having prayed at length and examined my conscience before God, well aware of the gravity of this act … I was also well aware that I was no longer able to fulfill the Petrine ministry with that strength that it demands …”

“… the path of power is not the road of God.” he added.

“ … I have felt, almost physically, your prayers in these days which are not easy for me, the strength which the love of the Church and your prayers brings to me …

“… What sustains and illuminates me is the certainty that the Church belongs to Christ, whose care and guidance will never be lacking …

“… Continue to pray for me and for the future Pope; the Lord will guide us!”

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/pope-i-can-almost-physically-feel-prayers-and-love#ixzz2Ko3f8rL8

Here are some photos of our papa’s last mass as pope, courtesy of Tom McDonald.

Remember: Thou Art Dust

And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the earth … 

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust …

I am going to die.

You are going to die.

Public Catholic has enough regular readers that it is a statistical certainty that at least one of us, perhaps more, will die this year.

Our souls, as the Scriptures say, will be required of us.

We have unbelievers who post on this board who tell us that nothing awaits us when we close our eyes on this world, that we will simply drift into the nothingness of non-existence, go back to the dust from which we came, and cease.

Our ending, according to them, will be our end.

But this, quite simply, is not true. I doubt very much that the nonbelievers who say it actually believe it. They use it as a ruse to hide behind when dealing with the existential miseries that their bankrupt philosophy imposes on them. It is an odd and sad outlook on life that finds its comfort in a studied hope for annihilation.

The truth is, there is no death for us. We are immortal beings who will live on past our bodies. Most of us sense this in a deep and incontrovertible way that can either comfort or torment us, depending on what we do with this innate knowledge of our own natures.

God is real. I have felt and known Him. I experienced His Presence in my life as an inpouring of love that I neither expected or sought.

But — and this is something that so frightens unbelievers that they invariably become angry when you say it — the devil and his evil are also real. It is not fashionable to say that. I’ve had members of the clergy chide me and tease me for believing it. But I do not doubt the reality of a malicious personality that hates the light and craves annihilation. I have felt his presence, too.

“If you eat of the fruit, you will not die” he told the woman, and like all really effective lies, this one was partial truth. You will not die … today. That was the truth of it. Turn your back on God. Defy Him. Do your own thing. And you will not die … today.

God lies, Satan told the woman, just as he tells us today. God lies to you when He says “Thou shalt not kill, lie, steal, commit adultery or covet.” He doesn’t mean it when He says “Put no other gods before Me.”

He lies. Because he doesn’t want you to have the pretty things of this world, to be able to enjoy the sexual pleasures He created for you, to live as you choose with your own free and preeminent will. He lies, and you are a fool for listening to Him.

Because you are not dust. You are the Lord of creation, the master of your fate, the god of your own life. There is nothing to fear because there is nothing that matters. At the end of our days, there is nothing but nothing. We stop. And we rot. We are carrion meat that walks for a time. So we should, again as the Scriptures say, eat, drink and be merry.

Like all effective lies, this one contains a bit of truth mixed in with the untruth. “Eat and you will not die … today.”

“Ignore God now and there will be no reckoning … today.”

Because you are dust, and you will die, regardless of how you live. You can run ten miles a day and your heart will still stop at some unknown time in your future. You can eat spinach and beans and forego fast food and steak, but your arteries will still cease to pump blood on some day you don’t know yet.

You can break every moral precept in the Scriptures, and you will not die … today. You will live for a time and you may even appear to triumph over those who do not indulge their darker natures as you do. There will be no reckoning … today.

But God is real. He gives us every opportunity to turn to Him and live life His way. He lets us choose. He sets before us every day life and death, and He lets us freely choose which of these we want.

That is what Lent is about. It isn’t a matter of giving up candy or foregoing wine for forty days. It is not about wearing ashes on our foreheads like religious jewelry or meatless Fridays.

Lent is about conversion. It is about renewal by means of awareness that we need to be renewed. The penances of Lent are signposts to guide us to a knowledge that we are but dust and we have sinned, but that we are also immortal beings who will one day stand before the God Who made us.

Lent is a time of turning again to the roots of our being. It is going back to the garden and acknowledging that we too “are naked and ashamed” before God. We, too are, to paraphrase St Peter, “sinful men and women.” But instead of crying out as Peter did, “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.” We can say, “come close to me Lord, for I am your broken child.”

The difference is the cross. The difference between despair and trust is the certain knowledge that we are bought at a terrible price and we do not have to be masters of our own fate. We do not have to feel our way blindly through life with no idea of what is right and wrong. We do not have to die an eternal death. We can have life, and have it abundantly. Because of the cross.

Lent is a time of penance and reflection in which we take an honest look at ourselves and our tawdry righteousness. Lent is for turning back to the One who can save us from ourselves. We are preparing to go to the cross where we will stand in solidarity with the rest of humanity, united in our sinfulness and our great need of Him and His redemption.

Lent is not about giving up candy and meatless Fridays. It is rather our gentle foretaste of Gethsemane.

Christian Persecution: 6 Quick Takes from Around the World

Agape Girgis, 13, abducted by radical Islamists.

Violent persecutors of Christians appear to be cowards as well as bigots. How else to interpret their propensity for preying on Christian clergy, women and children?

They especially seem to like abducting little girls.

There is a method to this evil. After all, if you destroy the young girls, you in effect doom your opponent to die out and die off. Mothers everywhere are the heart of any home and family.  Homes and families are the primary means of transmitting values and culture from one generation to the next. Given those two facts, these cowardly, totally unmanly attacks on women and little girls take on the shape and form of what they really are: A means of slow and deliberate genocide.

Christians are being attacked with what appears to be genocidal intent in a good part of the world today. They are being oppressed and imprisoned by legal discrimination in other areas. In much of the rest of the world, Christians are increasingly subjected to a barrage of mockery, hate speech and unceasing attempts to limit their sphere of influence.

I write these articles in an attempt to increase Christian awareness of what’s happening. We’ve been like the frog in the pan of water on the burner, unaware that the water is heating up and will eventually boil us to death.

Christians need to wake up.

Here are 6 quick takes on Christian persecution from around the world.

1

Egypt, 15 years in prison for mother and seven children, converts to Christianity
The case concerns Nadia Mohamed Ali, a mother of eight children, born Christian, but converted to Islam to marry her husband. After his death, she decides to return to her original religion with her children. The authorities accuse her of having changed names on documents to skip procedure.

Cairo (AsiaNews / Agencies) – The criminal court of Beni Suef (115 km south of Cairo) has sentenced an entire family to prison for converting to Christianity. Nadia Mohamed Ali and her children Mohab, Maged, Sherif, Amira, Amir, and Nancy Ahmed Mohamed abdel-Wahab will spend 15 years in prison. Seven other people involved in the case were sentenced to five years in prison. (Read the Asia News article here.)

 

2

Lao Police Arrest Christian Pastors for Spreading Christian Religion

The Phin district police of Savannakhet province of Laos arrested and detained three Christian pastors for disseminating Christian religion. The incident took place approximately 5:00 p.m. on February 5, 2013, when three Christian pastors took a copy of a movie CD about the End Times to a local shop for making copies.

Police Lieutenant Khamvee accompanied by his two deputies stormed the shop and arrested the three pastors. The shop owner was also taken to the police station for further questioning but he was later released. However, the three pastors are being detained arbitrarily in the Phin district prison. (Read the rest of the Human Rights Watch article here.)
OVER 500 CHRISTIAN GIRLS KIDNAPPED BY MUSLIMS IN EGYPT SINCE REVOLUTION

Over 500 Christian girls have been abducted in Egypt since the revolution of January 2011; they are taken by Salafists who forcibly convert them to Islam and marry them to Muslim men against their will.

forced-conversion-egypt-4x3.jpg

The number of cases has been documented by the non-governmental Christian organisation Association of Victims of Abduction and Enforced Disappearance (AVAED), which says that Salafist sheiks are behind nearly all of the abductions and the interior ministry colludes with them. (Read the rest of the Barnabas Fund article here.)

 

3

Christians are ‘Butchered Like Animals’ in Northern Nigeria

Christians are targeted and “butchered like animals” nearly every day in northern Nigerian cities, with little alarm sounded by the international community, according to a Voice Of the Martyrs worker. Christians are targeted in their homes, at their businesses, on farms, while traveling on highways and even in their churches.

“These Christians are imprisoned—though there may not be physical walls barricading them—but they are confined to one fate which is death by bombing, bullet, fire, cutlasses, machetes and economic hardship,” the VOM worker said. “Christians are not allowed to go to markets or farms, all for the sake of their faith in Christ Jesus.

“These Christians live as if every day were their last. Someone told me in one of the cities, ‘We are just but walking corpses on the street, waiting for our burial days.’ And although seen as second-class citizens, these Christians [in northern Nigeria] remain strong in their faith, and only wish to advance the gospel.” (Read the rest of the Charisma News article here. )

 

4

India: Kashmir Mob Tries to Lynch 12 Christian Tourists

Srinagar (AsiaNews) – On the basis of false allegations of forced conversions, more and more Christians in Kashmir are victims of persecution. This according to Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), after the attempted assault on a group of 12 foreign tourists, accused via Facebook of practicing forced conversions in Tangmarg area north of Jammu and Kashmir. The incident occurred late in the evening of 2 February.

Around 10 pm a crowd of people gathered in front of a hotel in Srinagar, the capital, throwing stones against the walls and asking for the immediate trial of foreigners, eight Americans and four Koreans. Intervening on the spot, the police searched luggage and documents of the tourists. On finding nothing, the officers dispersed the protesters. When checking their passports, the police reported that the group has also visited other Muslim countries, including Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan.

The violent reaction was triggered by a photo published on the Facebook page Gulmarg News. The image shows three oriental girls, while the caption warns, “Caution Kashmir! Islam in Kashmir is under attack, Christians trying to convert Muslims,” recounting the testimony of a boy, who in exchange for chocolate would have been forced to recant Islam and convert to Christianity. (Read the rest of the AsiaNews story here.)

 

5

19 Christian Children Rescued from Radical Islamist Trafficker

International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that 19 children, who were to be sold to fundamentalist Islamic boarding schools (madrassas), have been rescued.

Traffickers lied to the children’s parents, saying they would take the children to Christian boarding schools in Dhaka, Bangladesh, when in fact they were intending to sell the children to various madrassas. Students from Dhaka University discovered the children and rescued them. This is not the first instance of Christian children being trafficked to madrassas, as upwards of 150 children have been rescued from similar situations since July. (Read the rest of the Charisma News story here.)

 

6

Egypt: Christian Girl, 13, Abducted by Muslims

(AINA) — On December 23, 2012, 13-year-old Agape Essam Girgis from the village of Nahda, el-Ameriya, near Alexandria, went to school as usual. Failing to return home, the family knew that she went out of school accompanied by the Muslim social worker Heba and two teachers, one of the them a Salafist. She stayed missing for 9 days.

On December 31 state security contacted Bishop Pachomios and told him that they have the kidnapped girl. She was handed over to her family and the church priest where she stayed with his family for some time due to the terrible ordeal she experienced during her abduction.

Activist Ramy Attia Zakaria, of the April 6 Liberal Movement in Alexandria, interviewed Agape upon her return and said it is now confirmed that her Muslim social worker Heba was behind the abduction. “Agape left school with her and two teachers. The girl was drugged in the car to wake up in a secluded house with two sheikhs and an elderly woman,” Ramy said.

Agape said that during her stay with the Salafis sheikhs they tried to make her convert to Islam by saying the “Islamic Two Faith Confessions” but she refused. They forced her to wear the full veil and took photos of her in this dress. Agape said that she was beaten two or three times when she refused to convert to Islam.

After her release she was taken to el-Ameriya police station where she was told to say that “she has left home and went to el-Ameriya, where she found a sheikh and she told him that she wants to convert to Islam,” continued Ramy. When her family received her from the police station, her father, who works as a tailor, said they do not wish to accuse anyone in this case as he was pleased to get his daughter back. “Besides I have a younger daughter and I fear for her safety” said her father. Agape’s father and their church priest decided that she will not go back to school. Activist Ramy said that most of the Coptic inhabitants of Alexandria are refusing to send daughters older than 9 to school. He accused the Salafist Sheikh Sherif el-Hawary in el-Ameriya of being behind all abductions of Coptic girls in Alexandria and surrounding areas.

“From the beginning of the Egyptian Revolution on January 25, 2011 until January 26, 2013, over 500 girls have been abducted,” says Ebram Louis, founder of the Coptic non-governmental organization Association of Victims of Abduction and Enforced Disappearance (AVAED), which handles cases of abducted Coptic minors. Louis blamed the interior ministry for all the disappearances of Coptic minors, saying the ministry colludes with the Muslims. “There is hardly a day which passes by without a Coptic girl disappearing.” (Read the rest of this Assyrian International News Agency story here.)

 

HHS Mandate: Bishops Say Obama’s Proposed Compromise “Falls Short.”

I held back on extensive comments on President Obama’s recent “compromise” to the HHS Mandate.

My personal feeling when it was announced was that the compromise would, in the words of today’s announcement from Cardinal Dolan, “fall short.”

My reasons were political, based primarily on my understanding of how politicians behave when they are forced to give the appearance of doing something that they really don’t want to do. I expected smoke and mirrors, and in at least one very serious way, that is exactly what the President gave us.

He left private employers out of his “compromise,” and by doing so essentially stopped the First Amendment at the church door. There is, if you’ve been thinking about the militant secularism in our world, nothing new in this position.

Evangelical atheists and militant secularists (who often but not always overlap) have said repeatedly that their goal is for Christians in particular and religious people in general to “keep their faith at home.” They allow (for now) that we can worship inside the confines of our churches without government interference, and that we can believe within the privacy of our homes (again, for now) as we choose.

But they declaim loudly and vociferously that we should not, must not, may not carry our faith further than that. They do not want us to pray in public, speak about faith in debate or follow our faith when we go to work or interact with other people. They carry this so far in other countries that they have attempted to cost people their employment for wearing a cross around their neck. This happened in Britain and was recently overturned by a court order.

It is entirely consistent for President Obama to attempt to divide Christians and other religious objectors to his HHS Mandate by “giving in” to allow Church related institutions out of the trap, but to turn around and leave private enterprises such as Hobby Lobby in a position of either compromising on core beliefs or facing massive government penalties.

The question then is, does the First Amendment stop at the church door, or does it apply to all Americans as we go about our daily lives, including those of us who do not wear clerical collars?

This is a massively important debate, striking to the heart of what it means to be a free people. Does the Bill of Rights apply to people, or is it only for institutions?

I don’t know of course, but I believe that President Obama expected the Catholic Church to accept his compromise and abandon the Hobby Lobbies out there. I am happy to report that, if that’s what he expected, he was wrong.

Today, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops came down on the side of individual liberty and freedom of conscience. They reiterated their opposition to the HHS Mandate and proclaimed their support for all people of faith in their right to practice their faith without government bullying.

I am, once again, proud of the bishops. I am determined to stand with them and with my brothers and sisters in Christ of every denomination in this fight.

Cardinal Dolan addresses the Democratic National Convention, 2012

Cardinal Dolan’s entire statement is below. You can find more information at the USCCB website.

Statement of Cardinal Timothy Dolan Responding to Feb. 1 Proposal from HHS

For almost a century, the Catholic bishops of the United States have worked hard to support the right of every person to affordable, accessible, comprehensive, life-affirming healthcare.As we continue to do so, our changeless values remain the same.We promote the protection of the dignity of all human life and the innate rights that flow from it, including the right to life from conception to natural death; care for the poorest among us and the undocumented; the right of the Church to define itself, its ministries, and its ministers; and freedom of conscience.

Last Friday, the Administration issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding the HHS mandate that requires coverage for sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortions.The Administration indicates that it has heard some previously expressed concerns and that it is open to dialogue.With release of the NPRM, the Administration seeks to offer a response to serious matters which have been raised throughout the past year.We look forward to engaging with the Administration, and all branches and levels of government, to continue to address serious issues that remain. Our efforts will require additional, careful study.Only in this way can we best assure that healthcare for every woman, man and child is achieved without harm to our first, most cherished freedom.

In evaluating Friday’s action regarding the HHS mandate, our reference remains the statement of our Administrative Committee made last March, United for Religious Freedom, and affirmed by the entire body of bishops in June 2012.

In that statement, we first expressed concern over the mandate’s “exceedingly narrow” four-part definition of “religious employer,” one that exempted our houses of worship, but left “our great ministries of service to our neighbors, namely, the poor, the homeless, the sick, the students in our schools and universities, and others in need” subject to the mandate.This created “a ‘second class’ of citizenship within our religious community,” “weakening [federal law's] healthy tradition of generous respect for religious freedom and diversity.”And the exemption effectuated this distinction by requiring “among other things, [that employers] must hire and serve primarily those of their own faith.”

On Friday, the Administration proposed to drop the first three parts of the four-part test.This might address the last of the concerns above, but it seems not to address the rest.The Administration’s proposal maintains its inaccurate distinction among religious ministries. It appears to offer second-class status to our first-class institutions in Catholic health care, Catholic education, and Catholic charities. HHS offers what it calls an “accommodation,” rather than accepting the fact that these ministries are integral to our Church and worthy of the same exemption as our Catholic churches. And finally, it seems to take away something that we had previously—the ability of an exempt employer (such as a diocese) to extend its coverage to the employees of a ministry outside the exemption.

Second, United for Religious Freedom explained that the religious ministries not deemed “religious employers” would suffer the severe consequence of “be[ing] forced by government to violate their own teachings within their very own institutions.”After Friday, it appears that the government would require all employees in our “accommodated” ministries to have the illicit coverage—they may not opt out, nor even opt out for their children—under a separate policy.In part because of gaps in the proposed regulations, it is still unclear how directly these separate policies would be funded by objecting ministries, and what precise role those ministries would have in arranging for these separate policies.Thus, there remains the possibility that ministries may yet be forced to fund and facilitate such morally illicit activities. Here, too, we will continue to analyze the proposal and to advocate for changes to the final rule that reflect these concerns.

Third, the bishops explained that the “HHS mandate creates still a third class, those with no conscience protection at all:individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to act in accordance with their faith and moral values.”This includes employers sponsoring and subsidizing the coverage, insurers writing it, and beneficiaries paying individual premiums for it.Friday’s action confirms that HHS has no intention to provide any exemption or accommodation at all to this “third class.”In obedience to our Judeo-Christian heritage, we have consistently taught our people to live their lives during the week to reflect the same beliefs that they proclaim on the Sabbath.We cannot now abandon them to be forced to violate their morally well-informed consciences.

Because the stakes are so high, we will not cease from our effort to assure that healthcare for all does not mean freedom for few.Throughout the past year, we have been assured by the Administration that we will not have to refer, pay for, or negotiate for the mandated coverage.We remain eager for the Administration to fulfill that pledge and to find acceptable solutions—we will affirm any genuine progress that is made, and we will redouble our efforts to overcome obstacles or setbacks.Thus, we welcome and will take seriously the Administration’s invitation to submit our concerns through formal comments, and we will do so in the hope that an acceptable solution can be found that respects the consciences of all.At the same time, we will continue to stand united with brother bishops, religious institutions, and individual citizens who seek redress in the courts for as long as this is necessary.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York
February 7, 2013

Rose Day: Pro Life Rally at the Oklahoma State Capitol

Yesterday was Rose Day at the Oklahoma State Capitol. 

This annual event goes back decades — all the way back to the years when I was a pro choice legislator. I remember how shy the pro life people were when they tip-toed into offices back then. They would hand the legislator a rose and then tip-toe back out.

No one brought me a rose back in those days. I imagine they were afraid of me, even though I was never the sort of pro choice person who argued with pro life people. I was in reality quite gentle about my beliefs, at least outwardly.

But underneath, I was tempered steel.

By the time I got to the legislature, I was a veteran of the abortion wars. I had been the Oklahoma Director for NARAL. I had helped open the first abortion clinic in Oklahoma. I had referred women for abortions. I had made speeches, lobbied United States Senators and Congressmen. All for legal abortion.

However, I can’t ever remember raising my voice to a pro life person. Not once. I can’t remember one time that I ever accosted them or even argued with them that they didn’t force the argument on me.

So, the pro life people who came to Rose Day back in the beginning days of Rose Day would have been quite safe if they had ventured into my office. I would have accepted their rose and been very gentle with them.

I say all this so you’ll know what it means to me today when I stand up with the pro life legislators. I tell you this because I really don’t have words to describe what it means, so I tell you stories from my past in hopes you’ll somehow or other surmise how the words “born again” apply to me and my life.

Yesterday I had the honor of speaking for a brief moment to the assembled crowd in the House chamber. Before that, several pro life women — all of whom have worked for life for decades — asked to have their photo taken with me. Pro life people who have been stalwarts in the fight for life kept coming up to me all morning and thanking me for “what you’ve done.”

Them.

Thanking me.

In truth, I can never thank them enough for accepting me among their ranks, for overlooking all I did in the past and choosing to look only at what I’m trying to do now.

I love Rose Day.

It feels like home.

I took this photo of the Rose Day participants from the podium with my cell phone. I asked them to say “pro life” instead of “cheese.” Every single one of these people is a hero to me.

Princes, Human Beings and Doing the Things We Hate

 

John Corapi shook people’s faith.

The bishops who repeatedly transferred child-abusing priests shook people’s faith.

I tremble to think of it, but I imagine that if I fell into some deep disgrace, that would shake a few people’s faith.

I can’t speak for other people, but I want everyone who knows me to understand that I fall flat on my spiritual face on a pretty regular basis. Don’t look to me for salvation, or even a good example. If you look to me for anything, it should be proof that God’s love is greater than all our sins and weaknesses, that the only thing we have to fear is living by our own understanding rather than His.

Despite the love and forgiveness God has showered on me, I still sin. I will always sin until I go home to Him.

St Paul said it best: “I do not understand the things I do. I do not do what I want to do, and I do the things I hate.”  

That’s one of the greatest saints talking. If he couldn’t manage to live sinlessly, why should I expect that of myself? How can I expect it of anyone else?

I am not asking anyone to “forgive” these failed priests and bishops. I am offering an admonition, a plea, for people to stop confusing them with Christ the Lord.

“Do not put your faith in princes and human beings, who cannot save.” the Psalmist tells us.

Do not worship your spiritual leaders or expect them to be more than the fallen human beings they are. Priests and bishops are our spiritual leaders. They are our teachers. They are men who have consented to be conduits of God’s grace by way of the sacraments. They bring us Jesus in the Eucharist, which makes them precious to us. God can and does reach through them and into us to deliver healing and help.

But they are also made of dust, just like the rest of us. They can and will betray you and hurt you and, yes, betray and dishonor the vows they’ve taken and the trust people place in them. They can do this. And they will. They will, because that is our common human fate as co-inheritors of original sin. Yes, we are also co-inheritors of eternal life in Christ. Yes, we are forgiven this blight on our souls, washed clean of its eternal smear by the blood of Calvary. But so long as we live in this fallen world and eat of its fruits we will be subject to our own fallen natures.

“I do not understand the things I do. I do not do what I want to do, and I do the things I hate.”  

That’s all of us, including these fallen priests and bishops who have betrayed themselves and their own souls along with the great trust that was placed in them. That is why we should never confuse these men with the God they serve.

I try to follow the teachings of the Catholic Church because I know they are inspired by the Holy Spirit. I respect the work that priests do because I know that they, however weak they may be as men, are conduits of grace in the sacraments, and that this grace is freely available to all of us through them. But I do not worship them or expect them to be anything other than the ordinary people they are.

When they fail, I do not doubt Christ because of it for the simple reason that they are not Christ. I know whom I have believed, and He is not them.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me,” Jesus told us.

Trust in me,” He said.

Not John Corapi. Not any bishop or priest.

Do not forfeit your eternal salvation over the weaknesses of other fallen human beings, no matter how exalted they have become in your eyes. Trust in Jesus and Him alone and no matter how you fail, or how others fail you, you will never lose your way.

 

Pedophilia, Comments from the Pit, Cardinal Mahony and Following Jesus

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

 

I wrote Is Legalizing Pedophilia the Next Amoral Social Movement?  a couple of weeks ago.

The response to this post (along with another post about a transsexual teacher in a Catholic school) was one of the more sobering experiences I’ve had in a while.

Comments supporting pedophilia and basically saying that concerns for children in our schools was unimportant compared to the “rights” of transsexuals rolled in like a wave of sludge. They had a crazy-queezy quality that stayed with me, even after I deleted them.

I felt like needed to take a long shower, vacuum out my brain, and have my computer de-slimed.

I always intended to write another post about this, but I didn’t know at the beginning that I was going to include the self-serving excuses of a prince of the Church in my analysis.

Those pedophilia-supporting, child-trashing comments came from the pit. They are what people devolve down to when they lean on their own understanding. There is no bottom to human behavior once we stop feeling we have to answer to God.

If you doubt this, think back. Sixty years ago, even Planned Parenthood said that abortion was wrong because it took the life of a child.

Copy of an old Planned Parenthood brochure.

Now, anyone who says this in public can be sure that the pro abortionists will settle on them like blow flies, declaiming that a “fetus” is not a human being, and those who say otherwise are not only religious fanatics but woman-hating moral ingrates, as well.

Thirty years ago euthanasia was considered anathema; the stuff of scare tactics by those who wanted to push women back to the back alleys. I was among those who sneered when pro life people warned that the disrespect for life that legal abortion created would lead inevitably to a push for mercy killing. I thought they were nuts when they said this. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

We are now at the pass where it is not possible to make a statement in opposition to legalized medical murder without being jumped out by the pro deathers.

Likewise with gay marriage. Fifteen years ago, the idea was bizarre to most people. It was laughable. Now, people who try to defend traditional marriage will find their conversations hijacked by those who tell them they are “haters” and “homophobes” for thinking this way.

 

There. Is. No. Bottom.

As soon as we accept one depravity, sometimes even before we accept it, the push is on to deepen the moral pit under our feet and push us down to the next new low. Whatever we accept, there is another step down where the purveyors of moral destruction want to take us.

This is where we go when we try to create a moral code out of our own thinking and debate. We simply can’t do it. What we construct is not a fixed mark. It moves as we move it like a ball in a soccer match. Inevitably, our morality becomes a matter of what we can wrest from political action and media public relations. It changes according to what the richest and most well-connected say it is.

When we try to create our morality according to the fashions of the times, we will find that it changes according to those fashions and is dictated to us by other people who have an agenda that does not often jibe with what is best of us, our children, our country or our world.

That is why I’ve become simple-minded about my morality. I tried mightily to follow the dictates of what I thought was right and wrong in my past and I reaped a whirlwind of remorse as a result. I no longer believe in my own moral superiority. I am not and never want to be a moral leader. I am a follower.

The One I follow is Jesus Christ. But I don’t rely on my own understanding, even in this.

Do you want to know how to discern God’s will?

I will tell you.

Read the Catechism and do what it tells you. Follow the 2,000 year old teachings of the Catholic Church.

When you fail in this, go to confession. Then begin again.

That is the only way I know to reliably discern God’s will. It is a reliable, simple and absolutely correct way to know if what you are doing is right or wrong. The trouble is, it often tells you to do things that will get you in bad with your buddies, cost you inconvenience or worse still, get you shunned and mocked for being a religious nut.

Which leads me to the Prince of the Church.

I wasn’t going to write about Cardinal Mahony. I don’t want to now.

But I think this needs to be said. The Cardinal has made excuses for himself. He claims that back when he was transferring priests who had molested children, he didn’t know how damaging this was to the children in question. He even published a letter yesterday in which he said that he’d never taken a course on this topic, as if that somehow or other excused his behavior.

The problem wasn’t a lack of proper coursework. It also wasn’t bad advice from “experts.” The problem was that the Cardinal was not following Jesus.

Even now that he’s been caught, humiliated and excoriated, he clings to secular excuses for what is, among other things, a grave moral wrong. Instead of relying on his education and failure-ridden secular “specialists” and “experts,” he should have paid attention to the Gospels he proclaimed and the teachings of the Church he represented. 

The Cardinal, no less than the rest of us, appears to have been beguiled by the world. I repeat: When he did these things, he was not following Jesus. If he had been following Jesus, he would not have been able to continue on and on treating little children this way. He could not have done it. Even if he had ignored the Gospels and the Catechism, the Holy Spirit would have stopped him.

He was following the world, not Christ.

We need holy priests. We don’t necessarily need priests who are stars, or who are brilliant or who can raise a lot of money. We need priests who follow Christ, who preach Christ, who teach Christ and who believe in Jesus with their whole hearts. We need servant leaders who are not so much stellar leaders as faithful followers of the One they should be pointing to every day of their priesthood.

We — you, me, all of us — can not create or enforce a moral standard for ourselves. That’s like a book writing itself, a statue carving itself. We are too finite, too fallen, too selfish and caught in the narrowness of our own selves to even attempt such a thing. When we do, we always end in a moral train wreck, whether we have the humility to admit it or not.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding,” the Bible tells us.

Whether your are homeless and living under a bridge or a Prince of the Church, it’s good advice.

 


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