Gripes Go Up

 

Here is my (totally pew-sitting laity) opinion of how bishops should deal with their differences of opinion with the Pope.

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Surprise! The Pope is Pro Life.


I’m sure he didn’t mean it this way. I’ve had quotes in newspapers come across differently than I intended many times.

But this does need clarifying.

Bishop Tobin of Rhode Island gave an interview to the Rhode Island Catholic in which he almost sounded as if he was questioning Pope Francis’ commitment to the sanctity of human life. His comment concerning the touching moment when the Holy Father reached out and embraced Dominic Gondreau, (photo above) who is from the Bishop’s own diocese, was:

Obviously it was a very blessed moment for Dominic himself and for the whole Gondreau family, and through them for our whole diocesan church. We were truly blessed that day that the Holy Father reached out and touched and embraced a member of our flock. It was a great moment and a great blessing. The other thing I want to say though, is that I’m a little bit disappointed in Pope Francis that he hasn’t, at least that I’m aware of, said much about unborn children, about abortion, and many people have noticed that. I think it would be very helpful if Pope Francis would address more directly the evil of abortion and to encourage those who are involved in the pro-life movement. It’s one thing for him to reach out and embrace and kiss little children and infants as he has on many occasions. It strikes me that it would also be wonderful if in a spiritual way he would reach out and embrace and kiss unborn children.

I assume that Bishop Tobin did not intend this comment to sound the way it does. That kind of thing happens once in a while to everyone who talks to the press. It has certainly happened to me. Unfortunately, when a bishop of the Church says something like this about the Holy Father, the statement has to power to undercut the authority of the Church, everywhere.

So … just for the record, here’s Pope Francis himself on the subject.

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Albuquerque Puts Vote on Municipal Abortion Ban on November Ballot

Albuquerque became the first city to put a ban on late-term abortions on the ballot Monday. The Albuquerque city council voted to place a referendum outlawing abortion after 20 weeks within the city limits on the ballot.

The ballot initiative is a result of the lobbying of the pro life group Operation Rescue. It will be voted on November 17.

From Reuters:

(Reuters) – A bill banning abortions in Albuquerque after 20 weeks of pregnancy will be put to voters in New Mexico’s most populous city in November and could become the first municipal abortion ban in the nation.

The city council voted 5-4 late on Monday to put on the ballot the “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Ordinance,” which contains few of the standard abortion exceptions seen in many states.

In the latest salvo in the national debate over abortion, the city council was forced to act after abortion foes gathered enough signatures on a petition to require the council to either approve the law outright or put it to voters.

Local polling has shown the measure has enough support to pass. Activists on both sides say it would be the first municipal ban on abortion, and possibly a template for similar actions in other cities around the United States.

“It is a new strategy. There is more than one way to close an abortion clinic,” said Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, a leading U.S. anti-abortion group that helped get the measure on the November 19 ballot in Albuquerque.

“If you can’t get anything done in a state legislature … you look at what is going on in a city. They say all politics is local. This is a great example of that.” (Read more here.)

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The Church is a Widow, Seeking Her Bridegroom


In his homily at morning mass, Pope Francis described the Church this way: The Church is a widow, seeking her bridegroom. He went on to say some beautiful things about our mother and how we should seek her,

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Book Review: Coming Home to Wholeness

To join the discussion about Atchison Blue, or to order a copy, go here

BC AtchisonBlue 1

Life is hard. 

Life for Americans is not only hard, it is usually frantic. 

We are frantic, almost driven, people. I did not realize this until I went to a country where people live by a different internal clock. The contrast was stunning. 

Americans are certainly not the only people who race from deadline to goal to commitment to task. And we have a sense of self about how we do it that is our special grace among the driven places on this earth. But living here is a tough boogie.

Life is hard and it is fractured and in some ways desperate. Our nation is divided between the drop outs who just sit, and the doers who never sit at all. In both cases there is a kind of desperation and overwhelmed thing going on. In the case of the drop outs, overwhelmed is where they live and what they do. But for the doers, overwhelmed is the demon they fight every day. 

Judy Valente, the author of Atchison Blue, is an overwhelmed fighter. She is an astonishingly high achiever who has managed to carve out a flourishing career for herself in two competitive worlds: free lance writing and human interest broadcast reporting. 

Her private demons are a nagging dread of death and the great bugaboo of everyone; family problems. The major betrayal of her life was being laid off from her job at the Wall Street Journal the year after she was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Based on what she writes in this book, losing this job was an earthquake for Ms Valente, a wake-up call about trusting career to be the all-in-all of life. 

Her solution for her human woes is to seek the thing we lack in our American society: Wholeness. 

It is a simple fact that the abundant life that Christ offers us is based on a spiritual and emotional wholeness that the larger society (any larger society) can never provide. Anyone who wants to be whole must find a way to retreat at intervals from the squabbling bitterness of our workaday lives. Without these retreats, we slide into a kind of fractured insanity without being aware of it. I see this insanity quite often in the exceedingly fractured world of politics. In fact, there was a time, back before Jesus rescued me, when I was pretty sick with it myself. 

There is no permanent cure for this fractured-ness. It’s causes are so thoroughly woven into this fallen world and the way it treats people that no one anywhere can completely escape its pull. However, for overworked, over-stimulated Americans, it is particularly ubiquitous. We are a driven people. The fact that we in large part drive ourselves does not change this. 

Without retreats, stopping places, we become so fractured that the insanity of life becomes our own insanity. 

My retreat is simply going home. When I walk into my house and shut the door behind me, I leave the frantic outside world. Nobody inside those walls is going to attack me or betray me or go on the internet posting lies and accusations about me. Inside these walls, I am free of that. 

Ms Valente sought something akin to this when she went to the Benedictine monastery, Mount Scholastica, in Atchison Kansas.

I’m beginning to think that monasticism is a particularly good fit for writers. After all, writers are already contemplatives by nature and avocation long before the monastery bug bites them. 

For someone like Ms Valente, who is a poet and human observer writer, walking into the monastery must have been something akin to what I feel when I walk into my house. She must have known at some level that this was home. 

Atchison Blue is a lovely book written by a journalist-poet whose writerly skills enable her to tell the story without letting the poetry overwhelm it and still keep the romance of the contemplative life in the midst of the story. It’s a delicate balance; the kind of writing that probably comes naturally to a journalist-poet. 

Reading this book makes me want to pack my bags and head off to Atchison myself. I imagine it will do the same thing for many of its readers. 

Love stories are like that. They make you want a love of our own. 

In the final analysis, that’s what Atchison Blue is; the love story between one woman and monasticism. It is the tale of her homecoming to wholeness in the contemplative life at a Benedictine monastery. 

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The oblates of Mount Scholastica, Benedictine Monastery. Ms Valente is the one on the bottom right. 

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European Petition to Protect Life Garners 1 Million Signatures


Defending the sanctity of human life is a worldwide struggle, with as many venues as there are attacks on the inherent right to life of every human being.

European pro life people have successfully gathered the 1 million signatures needed for a petition to protect life. This is only the second time in history that any group has achieved this.

The video below gives details.

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“If You Don’t Like Gay Marriage, Then Don’t Get Gay Married”

 

If you don’t like gay marriage, then don’t get gay married.

That’s how the slogan goes.

But … who really believed they meant it?

Not, evidently, the Church of Scotland. The Kirk, as it’s called, is considering a move to discontinue performing marriage services “rather than face a slew of lawsuits from homosexual couples demanding to be wed.”

Read about it here.

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Did Pope Francis REALLY Say That?

 

An Italian atheist I’ve never heard of published an open letter to Pope Francis with a string of questions (challenges, is probably more like it) to the Pope.

The Holy Father astonished everyone, including, I am sure, said Italian atheist, by answering him.

The letter Pope Francis wrote is, like so much else he does, deeply pastoral. It’s clear when you read it that he was responding as a pastor of souls.

However, there was one paragraph that has gotten the whole internet in one of its kerfluffles. The atheist had evidently asked one of the usual atheist questions about can they, with their unbelief, go to heaven. For all I know, this question with its unadmitted longing for grace, was what caught the Holy Father’s attention in the first place.

I know, based on the large number of similar comments I get both here and in my public life, that this particular question is almost ubiquitous among atheists. They ask it — or rather, they use it as a means of denunciation — almost constantly. I’ve often thought that there was an underlying hunger for all the things that Christ offers — forgiveness, grace, peace that passes understanding and eternal life — in the way they fling this particular challenge down so reptitively.

Maybe the Pope saw the same thing I do and his Pastor’s heart reached out to this man in response.

I don’t know if that’s true. I only know that I often have an impulse to comfort them when they do this, but I do not have the pastoral tools to do it.

The Pope obviously was trying to tell this man one of the great truths of the universe with his answer: Christ’s grace and love are for everyone. He loves us all. He loves us every one. And yes, that includes atheists, unbelievers and people who spit on Jesus’ name.

The beautiful parable we call the Prodigal Son is Jesus’ way of telling us this. God loves us, even when we don’t love Him. He yearns for us, even when we turn our backs on Him.

So of course atheists can go to heaven. Heaven was made for them, just the same as it was every other human being.

The question is not can they, but will they?

Pope Francis comments in his letter that “God’s mercy has no limits if he who asks for mercy does so with contrition and a sincere heart.” This is something every Christian knows and has experienced. I can attest from my own life that God’s mercy is indeed limitless.

But the Pope adds something else after that and this has set the internet on its ear all day long.

“… the issue for those who do not believe in God is in following their own conscience,” he wrote.

This one sentence has set the bells ringing since it sounds for all the world like a direct admonishment to practice self-referencing moral relativism by the Pope himself.

After all, if all that’s necessary is to never violate your own personal code of conduct, then a universalist understanding of heaven and the Almighty become (excuse the pun) absolute. We go to heaven in just the way that the punsters and social experimenters have been telling us we do: By “self-actualization” and following a self-referencing, self-promoting, self-idolizing version of morality that is a-ok because it checks with our “own conscience.”

The question is, did Pope Francis really mean that?

Is he telling us that heaven is a slam-dunk for everybody, so long as they don’t cross their own conscience? Considering the messy and highly personal things that consciences are, I certainly hope not. If the unrepentant self-worshipping are going to heaven, then heaven would be pretty much like the world we have now: Mean, selfish, ego-driven, bloody and cruel.

More to the point, it would be a place where God Himself would be most uncomfortable.

Let’s go back to the question I asked a moment ago. Atheists most assuredly can go to heaven. The question I asked, and I think it’s the salient one, is, Will they?

If someone has never heard the name of Christ, then they have to function by the light they are given, and the Church teaches that they are judged according to that light. However, even for them, their only hope is through this Jesus they do not know. There is one Way, and that is Jesus Christ and the atonement he bought for us with his shed blood on Calvary.

But if someone who knows of Christ and has heard of Him all their lives, openly and dramatically chooses the darkness over the light, is God going to throw a net around them and drag them to heaven?

Did the father chase down the prodigal son, hog-tie him and drag him home?

No.

Pope Francis began his papacy by admonishing us not to be self-referencing. The scriptures plainly say things like “The fool says in his heart, there is no God. They have done abominable works.”

In my opinion that pretty much describes folks who defame Christ while they abort, euthanize and plunder their way through life.

So what did the Pope mean?

I don’t have a full answer for that, although I’m sure one is coming. I am also not a theologian. But I think what he meant is that someone who does not believe in God still has a responsibility to follow the inherent dictates of right and wrong that are planted in every heart. We call this natural law. It’s what tells everyone, everywhere, that murder is wrong. It’s how we know, without complex moral reasoning, that killing innocents, rape, and cruelty in all its forms are wrong.

This runs deeper than any commandment. It is written by the hand of God on each individual heart.

Even an atheist knows these things, and when they use their verbal skills to frame arguments denying these basic truths of moral existence, they are denying, in fact and in truth, their own God-given consciences. When they replace the truth of God that is encoded into their souls, with their own self-referencing anti-God, anti-life morality, there is no second chance for them without repentance and contrition.

At the least and at the beginning, every person must heed this internal voice, which is, whether they will admit it or not, the voice of the Divine. That is the beginning of our lives as moral beings.

Which of course we are. Human beings are made in the image and likeness of God, which means that we are also moral agents — free moral agents — acting in the universe.

We know what is right and wrong. We know it because it is part of our very being to know it. But we also have the verbal skills to weave mental sophistry that we claim exempts us from accepting these dictates of our true nature.

That is the beginning of sin, the first and primary rebellion against the God Who made us. It’s only remedy is to go back where Pope Francis began his discussion on this topic; to the point where we approach God through the open doorway of Christ’s sacrifice with true contrition and ask forgiveness, which, as the Pope says, He is always ready to give us.

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Book Review: Trusting God on the Rocky Bottom of Life

To join the discussion about Rock Bottom Blessings, or to order a copy, go here RockBottomBlessings 1

Rock Bottom Blessings is Karen Beattie’s autobiographical description of finding the hidden blessings in the losses that everyone faces in life.

The rock bottom for Mrs Beattie was losing her job and her dream of adopting an Ethiopian baby.

Mrs Beattie married at the age of 40. She and her husband were both in the grip of delayed dreams they wanted to fulfill while life still gave them enough time to do it. They heard their life-clocks, ticking away the time they had to do these things.

For her husband, the delayed dream was a career change from journalism to counseling. Since his new wife had a well-paying job, they couple decided he should pursue this dream. He was accepted into a good school and received a scholarship to pursue his studies.

At the same time, the couple began trying to fulfill Mrs Beattie’s delayed dream of having a baby. After infertility treatment and two miscarriages, she accepted that she would not be able to have a baby herself, and immediately turned to international adoption.

The couple ran head-on into the spider’s web of government regulations and expense which has grown up around these adoptions, but moved ahead with the process, anyway. Then Mrs Beattie lost her job, and the financial wherewithal to adopt along with it.

Ultimately, they were faced with a decision as a couple as to whose dream they would go for: The husband’s dream of changing careers, or Mrs Beattie’s dream of international adoption. They chose to go for the career change.

I won’t spoil the book by telling you what happens next. What I will do is say that the needs of children are being lost in these adoption regulations.

While we debate what are essentially red herring issues such as whether or not homosexual couples should be allowed to adopt, we ignore the overwhelming adoption issue, which is the red tape and expense we have hung on this process. This spider’s web of regulations often make it impossible to place children in loving homes.

The truth is, children languish in situations which are destructive to them as human beings while their potential parents grieve because they can’t adopt.

Private adoptions have become fraught with the peril of emotional devastation for adoptive parents. So much so, that many people simply won’t try it anymore. I personally know a couple who arranged a private adoption, only to have the birth mother change her mind later and take the baby away from them.

This is hell for the adoptive parents, and hell for the baby.

I do not want to see young women coerced into giving their babies up for adoption. But neither the birth mother nor the birth father should be able to change their mind after the baby goes to the adoptive home. I also think that we need firm limits on how long parents who have had their children taken from them for drug addiction or mistreatment of the children will have to demonstrate changes in their lives. If the parents do not care to change, these children should be placed for permanent adoption so they can have a chance at life. 

This is a difficult issue for the simple reason that social workers are sometimes ham-handed in removing children from homes. I know of instances where this was done for trivial or even bogus reasons. Other times, they leave children in abusive situations so long that the children end up getting killed.

There is one thread running through all of this: The needs of the children come last in our system.

We have developed a “rights based” system of government in which children are not given the power of “rights” of their own to defend themselves.

Mrs Beattie’s book is a small window on this world of adoption. That is not the book’s primary focus. The main storyline of the book is Karen Beattie’s attempt to grapple with the disappointments of her life through her Christian faith.

Don’t be bitter. She admonishes herself at one point, which is good advice for all of us. She struggles to understand how God can love her and still deny her the gift of children.

All in all, the book is an interesting read. The narrative moves well and keeps you interested as you wait to see if this good woman will be able to realize her dream of adopting a child.

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Don’t Stop Praying, But We May Be Out of the War-Making Woods

I don’t think there are any lambs in this particular gathering, but it appears as if the lions may decide to, if not lie down together, at least make war another day.

Presidents Putin of Russia, Rouhani of Iran and Assad of Syria have been talking about a proposal to remove chemical weapons from Syria to Russia for several days now. I first read about this before the weekend, but didn’t write about it because the sources were publications inside Russia that I didn’t know anything about.

Haaretz, an Israeli news outlet, has also been running stories about it. The proposal became quasi official yesterday and today the New York Times wrote that President Obama has “tentatively embraced” the idea.

I expect that the war-promoting members of the press (which is a substantial portion of the press) will react to this with an analysis that President Obama has been “weak” and went to Congress “looking for a way out,” etc. I want to say, in anticipation of that, that if this compromise works, a good portion of the reason why is that this president made the decision to involve the American people, through their representatives, in this debate.

I’ve been critical of this attempt to take this country into another unnecessary war from the outset. I expect that I am going to be equally critical of the inevitable future attempts to do the same thing. Our press has become a powerful lobby for armed intervention all over the globe. There is one cable news network in particular that never stops agitating for war. The place where they want this country to use armed force changes, but the demand that we do it is almost constant.

I am not a pacifist. I believe in self-defense.

I am most definitely a patriot. From the soles of my feet to the hair of my head, I am an American.

I believe without equivocation that if we do not take an honest and critical look at this situation, we are dooming ourselves. I’ll write more about this, but we are spending ourselves into bankruptcy to finance a war machine that is out of touch with reality. Then, we are being sold on wars and “military actions” one right after the other to use it and justify it.

War has become our major industry.

This cannot go on if we are to survive. We need an economy that is based on manufacturing the goods and services of the people of this country, not an economy that is based on manufacturing weapons.

As I said in the title of this post, Don’t stop Praying.

We are not out of the woods on this yet.

And the peacemakers in this situation are hardly peaceable people.

But it looks as if there is a real possibility that we will be able to avoid firing Tomahawk missiles at the people of Syria. There may even be a possibility that we can let them work out their own civil war without shedding American blood.

We need to continue praying for peace, and for our Christian brothers and sisters who are so very vulnerable in this war. I’ve read that President Assad has treated the Christian minority in Syria with tolerance and that the rebels have targeted Christian villages for attacks and attempts at forced conversions to Islam. Again, this information has come largely from the Russian press and the Russians have a stake in this war, so I’ve been slow to write about it.

But, the Christians in Syria who have contacted me have said much the same thing.

I am grateful to the Holy Father for his powerful leadership in this matter. I am also grateful to President Obama for making the decision to allow Congress to vote on it.

I hope that is a precedent-setting move that future presidents will take seriously.

Don’t stop praying. It appears to be working.

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