God is not dead opens this weekend.
Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth, England, evidently felt that the people in the pews (not to mention a few priests) needed to remember that malicious gossip, calumny and slander are mortal sins.
They are mortal sins, even when you commit them anonymously on the internet.
Do we really need a bishop to tell us that?
Stop for a moment and think about the dark pleasure that comes into your heart when you verbally destroy another person out of spite or malice. Consider the hard, sadistic satisfaction you take in thinking about the pain you are inflicting.
Do you really think that comes from heaven above?
No matter how self-righteously you proclaim that you are speaking Truth, you know, if you will just be honest with yourself, that what you are doing is practicing cruelty for the evil pleasure of practicing cruelty.
Just like a little kid, pulling the legs off a bug.
That’s you and your grandiose claims of a higher morality that allows you to inflict damage on other people for no other reason but that you get a dark satisfaction out of doing it.
These are, as the bishop tells us, grave sins. They are go-to-hell-for-eternity sins.
They come from the pit.
Don’t commit them.
From Catholic News Service:
MANCHESTER, England (CNS) — An English bishop asked Catholics to use Lent as a time to repent of sins committed on social media.
Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth described the uncharitable use of blogs, Facebook and Twitter as a “grave matter.”
Using social media for abuse or to attack the reputations of other people was a direct sin against the Eighth Commandment, forbidding people from “bearing false witness” against their neighbors, he said in a pastoral letter released March 19.
Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth, England, asked Catholics to use Lent as a time to repent of sins committed on social media. (CNS/Reuters)
“We must exercise discretion, respect others and their privacy and not engage in slander, gossip and rash judgment,” the bishop wrote in the document that was to be distributed in parishes the weekend of March 22-23.
“We must avoid calumny, that is, slurring and damaging people, and not spread abroad their sins and failings,” he said.
The bishop encouraged the faithful to ask themselves “How do I use Facebook or Twitter? Am I charitable when blogging? Do I revel in other people’s failings?
“All this is grave matter,” he said.
I haven’t written much about the mess with Ukraine/Crimea/Russia. I haven’t written at all about the missing airliner.
The reasons are simple.
I don’t have a lot of wisdom to share about Ukraine/Crimea/Russia, and I don’t know what’s happened to that airliner.
My guess is that Russia wants a sort of alliance with its former satellites states; something akin to the European Union. I doubt that Russia wants to re-occupy those countries. They’ve already done that. And it didn’t work out.
On the other hand, creating an economic alliance that resembles the European Union would greatly enhance Russia’s economic clout. This is especially true if Russia is the absolute, unchallenged first among equals with the member states of that “union.”
Russia, being Russia, doesn’t seem to have gotten the drift of negotiation in developing this economic union. They’re more into gunpoint diplomacy than the give and take of actual negotiating.
Of course, negotiating with people who were, until a couple of decades ago, Russia’s slaves, would be tough going, even for the most delicate of debaters. Russia has what might be called a bad rep among their former satellites. The brutal police states they ran that impoverished people, destroyed their freedoms and ended many of their lives in gulags make people chary of being their pals now. These folks aren’t too eager to go back under the Russian lash.
It appears that Russia is still the child of its evil past. The response to frustrating displays of disregard for what Russia wants in its satellites seems to bring that evil child to the fore. Russia’s means of conversation is to bring in the tanks and troops.
In addition to economic hegemony, Russia also wants and needs something that Crimea — and only Crimea — has. Americans, who live in one of the other great continental nations, take our plethora of deep water ports for granted. We’ve got so many of them, and they are all ice free year round, that the whole question is not a question to us. We don’t think about what it would be like to be a continental nation without a single ice-free, deep-water port.
But Russia, despite its mammoth coastline, hasn’t got anyplace to park a fleet of big boats. It can’t ship goods by sea because there’s no way to get the goods onto the seas. I won’t discuss the issue of a Russian Navy at this point. I think it’s obvious that you’ve got to have ports to have an effective Nary.
Little Crimea is the proud possessor of a deep water port that is ice free.
Do I need to connect the dots here?
At the same time that we’ve seen exhaustive and utterly confusing news reports about Russia/Ukraine/Crimea, we have also been partakers of the mystery surrounding a missing airliner. It seems that this airliner abruptly made a hard turn off its course, dropped to below radar level and flew on for several hours. Then, it vanished.
Nobody knows what happened. Nobody knows where it is now. Nobody knows anything except that the airliner, its crew and passengers are missing.
Speculation about hijackings and terrorists raises a hundred nightmare scenarios in all our minds.
We faced with other people’s tragedies as their countries are invaded and annexed for the use of more powerful nations. We imagine what it must have been like on that airliner. We feel for the families of these people. We speculate about whether or not the crew and passengers are still alive, and if they are still alive, what might be happening to them.
All this is laced with fear. Not lie-awake-at-night-and-churn-fear, but the cold frisson of fear that is part of living in an uncertain and dangerous world. There are so many good people. But the relatively few bad ones have the capacity to make a hell of this earth for all of us.
Both these situations seem to have a simple root cause, and that root cause is the assumption by some individuals and countries that other human beings are simple expedients to them getting what they want.
We deal with powers and principalities every day of our lives. We see the results of their control over human beings on the news every evening, and we live out the personal miseries they cause us in the dysfunctions of our relations with those around us.
I haven’t written about missing airliners and Russian tanks parked on the ground of other people’s countries because I’m not sure enough of the facts to say anything definitive. I decided to write about these things today because of the one thing I am sure of.
We will never get to the end of the evil that people do to other people in this life. That is why it is so important for us to remember that our primary citizenship is not in any country of this world. We are citizens of heaven, even now, as we live here.
I am not urging an otherworldly abandonment of our responsibilities in the here and now. We are charged with bringing the Kingdom. We are called directly and explicitly by Our Lord to be the light that shines in this darkness.
As Americans we have unique freedoms with which to do this. We need to use every opportunity we have to fulfill our call, and when we feel that frisson of fear that comes from living in a fallen world, we need to remember that we serve a risen Lord. This world is just the smallest part of our existence.
Pope Francis has taught us a lot of Evangelization in his first year as our Holy Father.
The press has wasted a good bit of their reportage of Pope Francis in misreporting. They mine his every statement for anything they can use to say that the Catholic Church is going to get with it and support gay sex and gay marriage. They’ve taken simple comments about forgiveness and mercy and spun them into off-the-cuff ex cathedra statements which they claim overturn 2,000 years of Christian teaching.
One of the many things we’ve got to learn about living in this post-Christian world is that vast swaths of the media, including some of the most powerful media conglomerates, have been actively supporting the disassembly of our culture for decades. We can and should chide them for their anti-Christian bias and Christian-bashing propaganda. But the most important thing we can do is to stop believing them.
Do let yourself be misled by these attacks on Catholic faith. They can come in the form of deliberate misinterpretations of sentences in the Pope’s statements that are pulled out of context and twisted to say things they never said. They also come by means of the use of enormous talent to produce “entertainment” that glamorizes and normalizes aberrant lifestyles. There is also the subtle factor of media refusal to report stories that matter, but which don’t agree with the worldview of the news outlets.
In all these cases and many more, we are going to have to learn to exercise our prudential judgement and simply recognize these things for what they are. They are lies. Know it, and stop believing them.
Here is a brief list by Rome Reports of the most important things Pope Francis has said in his first year as Pope.
According to a poll by NBC/WSJ, 21% of Americans say that religion is “not that important in their lives.”
This isn’t a big surprise. It’s consistent with other polls. The details are pretty much the same as those in previous polls, as well. An NBC news article says that “Less religious Americans are more likely to be men, have an income over $75,000, to live in the northeast” and be under 35.
The only comment I have to make about this is that it’s something to consider as we contemplate how to approach re-converting this culture. Do we start with these “not that importants,” or do we begin elsewhere?
I don’t claim to have a decisive answer. But my personal opinion, based mainly on years of political campaigning, is that we should begin with our own people. I think the first great need for active conversion is to be found in the pews of our own churches.
There are over 1 billion Catholics on this planet, and almost all of us are laity. We are the Church. The need to educate, inspire and lead this laity to an active evangelistic fervor is so obvious that I’m not going to waste the words to substantiate it in this brief post.
I think the place to begin the great work of conversion that is in front of us is our own laity. The question I have is, does the laity have to do the work of converting itself?
We need leadership.
In the circular cobweb of bizarro accusations, obfuscations, dissimulations and dead flat lies that pass for commentary coming from Christian bashers, there is a surprising bottom line.
That bottom line has nothing to do with reason, rationality, right or moral/intellectual integrity. In fact, this particular bottom line is the opposite of those things. It is a claim by these people that they can do whatever they want, say whatever they want, and when they do, it is the fault of those they do it to and and say it about.
You may have encountered this line of reasoning in other parts of life. My most frequent encounter with it is among the perpetrators of violence against women. She asked for it, and Look what you made me do, are the commonplaces of excuse-giving among rapists and batterers.
It is, you see, the fault of those we are raping, battering, bashing that we do these things. We have no responsibility for our own tawdry behavior. The fault, dear horatio, lies in in the victim.
I see a lot of this bullying reasoning in the comments that show up here on Public Catholic. Every time I write something about (1) Christian persecution, (2) Christian bashing, (3) attempts to silence Christians and drive them from the public square, or (4) attempts to use government to coerce Christians to violate their beliefs, I know — know — that all I have to do is sit back and wait a few minutes before the abusive rebuts start pouring in.
Most of these abusive rebuts end up sleeping in the delete file. That leads to more abusive rebuts accusing me of all sorts of unsavory character and moral defects, which in turn, sleep in the delete file. This is followed by a good old fashioned thrashing of my intelligence (or lack thereof) morality, womanhood, professional standing and heritage on various Christian-bashing blogs.
Does any of this idiotic aggression prove that Christians are not subjected to bashing/hazing/attempts to silence them/persecution/and a newfound totalitarianism directed at their freedoms?
On the contrary, this name-calling, attempted character assassination, bombast and bullying are all manifestations of precisely and exactly those things.
Aside from the predictability and profanity involved, the paucity of thinking that goes into the attacks from these people who claim that their thinking is “rational” is rather stark.
The lines of argument they use are usually a circular apologetic for two things: Use of government force to coerce Christians to violate their beliefs, and the attempts to drive Christians from the public square. The excuses for this are flat-liner simple.
Here’s how it works.
First, they say they don’t do it.
Gay marriage (as a for instance) will not affect anyone except people who are getting gay married.
If you don’t want an abortion, don’t have an abortion.
When they are confronted with the uncomfortable facts that
People are being taken to court all over this country as well as other countries to force them to participate in gay marriages,
Christians have lost their jobs because of it,
Catholic adoption services and Catholic Charities’ ministries have been forced to close because they won’t refer for abortions or provide children for adoptions to same-sex couples,
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has been sued by the ACLU for teaching 2,000-year-old Catholic teachings,
They don’t back down.
Instead, they go on the attack. “You make us do it,” they claim in an eery echo of the batterer’s look what you made me do! Christians try to force their beliefs on others, the set-piece story goes, and thus they deserve to be pushed from the public square, called ugly names and hazed, both personally and by a deluge of anti-Christian rhetoric, television programming and other media attacks. As for me and my behavior, everything I do and say is justified because Christians are trying to force people to live by their morality.
This confabulated excuse for tawdry behavior ignores the plain fact that this Christian “force” they claim justifies any and all attacks on Christians and Christianity is the exercise of the same Constitutional rights that are available to all Americans.
They are trying to claim with a straight face that demonizing, hazing and constantly attacking a whole group of people is justified because those people (1) vote according to their own beliefs, (2) speak to their elected officials on behalf of their own beliefs, and (3) seek redress in the courts.
These activities are guaranteed rights of every American. You can find them in the First Amendment. They are, ironically, the same freedoms being used to advance the viewpoints these Christian bashers espouse. What these Christian bashers are objecting to is that all Americans, including Christians, have the same rights as they do. They are trying to use personal attacks, hazing and propaganda to batter Christians into acceding their rights as free Americans.
Raise this point, and the resulting cacophony of personal attacks would drown out a full orchestra playing the 1812 Overture.
The reason for these personal attacks are obvious. There is no just reason why Christians should be deprived of their freedom as American citizens to vote according to their beliefs, participate in the political process on behalf of those beliefs or seek redress through the courts. These are among the basic freedoms of American citizens, guaranteed by the First Amendment. The abusive yelling and screaming is a bullying attempt to avoid admitting that forcing Christians to forfeit their rights is, in fact, tyranny.
The interesting thing is that at the same time that Christian bashers are giving loud and verbally abusive explanations as to why the First Amendment does not apply to Christians, they are denying vociferously that they attack Christians unfairly.
When, as always happens on this blog, their abusive behavior nets them a zero, they move to cloying manipulation. The comments shift to feigned civility and syrupy compliments, based on the totally wrong assumption that nobody has ever tried to flatter or manipulate their way past me before.
There is an element of echo-chamber thinking in these attacks. Going back to the virtual clubhouse and counting coup, then trying to outdo one another in how they insult Christians seems to convince Christian bashers that people of faith really are as stupid as they tell each other. I don’t have any other explanation for the sudden turn to obviously manipulative niceness by the same people who’ve been calling me everything but a nice person otherwise.
We don’t do it, they tell us at the outset.
You make us do it, they reply to direct citations of their behavior.
It’s our right to do it, they say when you shut them down and refuse to give them a platform to attack Christians at will.
But we don’t do it, they circle back and proclaim, after their personal attacks don’t bully you into doing what they are demanding.
This is standard stuff in the Christian-bashing blogosphere. I’m writing about it here so that Public Catholic readers will understand it and not be overawed by it.
The first time a jerk throws a pie in your face, it will leave you stunned and speechless. But when the jerks just keep throwing those pies, you’ve got to learn how to stand up for yourself.
Gilbert Chesterton famously said, “The problem with Christianity is not that it’s been tried and found wanting, it’s been found difficult and not tried.”
If you change the word Christianity for Catechesis, you have a description of the problem with the “unfaithful laity” in many parts of this country, if not the world.
As exhibit A, let me point you toward the mess at Eastside High School in Seattle. This school, which is nominally Catholic, appears to cater to rich little kids and provide them with a full blast of self-actualizing claptrap with a layer of do-gooderism and little c catholicism on top to make them feel good.
When their openly-gay vice principal “married” his partner, the school, in what was probably a stunning display of unexpected fidelity to Church teaching, decided to enforce its school contract and employee guidelines and dismiss him. The student body, which had clearly been catechized more by the vice principal and his supporters than anyone imparting Catholic teaching, reacted by staging a walk out.
Instead of expelling the students for walking out of class, the school pretty much caved on a later problem with another teacher.
Now, for all their what’s-happening-now weak-as-water Catholicism, the school is being sued by said vice principal.
Exhibit B would be the Seattle priest who wrote a column for a national magazine, taking a public stand against the teachings of the Church whose collar he wears.
Exhibit C would be the many Catholic politicians I know whose knowledge of what the Church teaches on issues such as the sanctity of human life and the sacrament of marriage is limited to slogans, and most of them come from the media which is openly hostile to their Church. You can place the parish priests who’ve told them it’s ok to vote against pro life legislation and for gay marriage, even while their bishops are begging them to do the opposite, alongside the politicians on the exhibit table.
What’s wrong with catechesis?
1. It stops at the little-kid-in-Sunday-school level.
2. Despite the fact that most priests are faithful to the Church, nobody with authority in the Church says a word to disagree with those who aren’t. Don’t any of these guys answer to superiors in this hierarchical Church of ours? How, exactly, can the bishops expect the laity to respond to their leadership when their own priests are either ignoring the bishop or flat-out telling their parishioners that their personal ideas trump Church teaching in matters of mortal sin?
3. Nobody seems interested or able to answer the onslaught of attacks from the world at large that the laity is facing. We need leadership, and we’re not getting it. At the very least we need an acknowledgement of what the laity must endure in this post Christian America.
4. Too much catechesis in more liberal parishes preaches a little g social gospel that is almost totally silent on Church teaching about justice. On the other hand, too much catechesis in conservative parishes focuses on sanctity of life and marriage to the exclusion of social issues. Worse, they do this in a political, rather than a moral manner.
The American Church has grown soft. It is no longer the Church Militant. It seems more like the church self-indulgent.
I keep wanting to shake people and paraphrase the line from the movie Aliens, “Maybe you haven’t been keeping up with current events, but we’ve been getting our rear ends kicked.”
There is no reason to panic or sink into depression because of the recent losses in the courts and at the polls on social issues. We can turn that around. All it takes is the will and determination to do it on the part of the laity.
That is the key, you know: The laity.
We’ve got the task of changing the world. The clergy has the task of catechizing/inspiring/leading us so that we are equipped to do that. Unfortunately, before the laity can convert the world, the laity itself needs to be converted. Too many Catholics treat Jesus as their cop-out instead of their Lord.
I know that’s a tall order for our priests. I also know that it most decidedly is not what a good many of our men in collars thought they were signing up for when they took their vows. Most of the priests we have today entered a priesthood rolling in automatic respect and trust for their calling which spilled over onto them personally. They saw themselves giving homilies, administering parishes, providing comfort, healing hurts, taking on an occasional pilgrimage and basically doing predictable and rewarding work throughout the long slide to safe and predictable retirement.
What has changed is that they now have to do all those things, with a call to battle heaped on top of it. They must somehow find a way to deal with demoralized and angry parishioners while they play catch up in preparing their people to be strong in their faith in the face of hostility, and learn how to convert a self-dissembling culture.
They’re not up to it. I know that.
But this is the our time. These are our challenges. And the job in front of us is the one the Holy Spirit has chosen for us.
We’ve got to support our priests who are trying to be faithful while learning how to do a whole new job and add it on top the job they already have. As for Catechesis, the parish and diocese which needs it the most are probably also the ones which will mount aggressive resistance to it. When priests try to teach what the Church teaches, parishioners who are also faithful to the Church need to stand by them absolutely, especially in the face of hostility from parishioners who have grown accustomed to the Church teaching what the world teaches.
Catechesis as we’ve been doing it is failing our children, our families, our Church and Our Lord. The evidence is all around us.
That’s the first fact we have to face. The second, which is that we must change our way of doing Catechesis, follows on its heels. Everything after that is detail.
Of course he is.
Mark Zamuda, former vice principal at Eastside Catholic School in Seattle, is now suing the school. The school dismissed the openly gay vice principal when he “married” his same sex partner.
Students at the Catholic school staged a walk out and at least one Catholic priest stood tall against the collar he’s wearing by coming out in support of the students.
Now, said principal is adding the cherry on top by filing a lawsuit against the school and the archdiocese. According to a Christian News article, Mr Zamuda’s attorneys are arguing that his position as a coach, teacher and vice principal was “administrative” and not “affiliated with the Church’s teaching.”
“I didn’t ask to be gay,” Mr Zamuda advises. However, he did, presumably, apply for employment at a Catholic School. Since he says he’s a “lifelong Catholic,” he also probably knew that the Catholic Church teaches that sex outside marriage between one man and one woman is a mortal sin. He may even have read the employment contract that he signed agreeing that his public behaviors would at all times be consistent with the values and teachings of the Catholic Church. He may also have read the same requirement in the employee handbook.
How will this nasty little dirt fight end?
Let’s just sit back and see if the renegade Catholics in Seattle can top themselves in thumbing their noses at the Church this Lent, or if they’ve reached their true bottom.