God Bless Father Terra

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Father Joseph Terra at the funeral mass of Father Kenneth Walker. PHOTO SOURCE: ABC15

My heart goes out to Father Joseph Terra.

He has to heal from grievous injuries, but that’s the least of it, really.

He also has to heal in his wounded heart. He will live with the trauma he has suffered personally, and also from the additional trauma of seeing his brother priest die in front of him, for a long time to come.

Survivors of violent crime are often saddled with guilt of all types.

Why didn’t I fight harder? Why didn’t I call the police? Why didn’t I do this or that or the other? They ask themselves these questions over and over until the questions themselves become a wound, a source of shame and grief.

There are other questions, as well. Why me? Why did this happen to me? Why would anyone do this? And the companion questions: Why did I survive? Why am I alive when others are dead?

Father Terra did all he could. In fact, he was heroic. But, good man that he is, he is also bound to be attacked by the questions that keep coming in the middle of the night, the first moments after waking, when he sees a television show that reminds him.

He will wake up at the hour it happened for a long time to come. He will be struck with panic and sudden memories that feel like he’s reliving it. He will face, over and over and over again the endless repeating memory of Father Walker, coming to help him, the sound of the gunfire, the death of his friend.

It doesn’t stop because the victim wants it to stop. It doesn’t stop because people tell them they were heroes and to let it go and get over it. It simply doesn’t stop.

These thoughts punch holes in a person. They drain away self-worth, peace of mind and trust. Everything depends on how people treat the victim of a violent crime in the first days, weeks and months after the event. In that, I think Father Terra is blessed. He is surrounded by loving people who want to help and honor him.

Father Walker is in heaven. I don’t doubt that. He is probably praying for the man who killed him. I have little doubt that he is also praying for Father Terra as he makes his way through the pain and grief of what has happened.

Father Terra will never be able to rewind this tragedy. He will always be the man that this happened to. But he can, with time and God’s grace, make it into something good. He is a priest, which means he is a conduit of God’s grace. He is now also the victim of a senseless violent crime. The Holy Spirit can combine those two things in wonderful ways.

I pray for Father Terra. My heart goes out to him. I hope that God uses him and this tragedy to give new hope and healing to many lost souls who need it.

 From ABC15:

PHOENIX – On Monday morning, Father Joseph Terra, a victim from last week’s attack at a Phoenix church, made his first public appearance.
Terra didn’t speak at Monday’s Requiem Mass service.
Father was in a wheelchair and hands were bandaged up. Severe lacerations were evident on his head.Father Terra was beaten so severely, he was brought to the hospital in critical condition.
Around a thousand people packed into Saint Catherine of Siena Monday for a requiem mass service in honor of murder victim Father Kenneth Walker.

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

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2013 was a record high for the Knights of Columbus.

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

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

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

From Catholic News Agency:

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

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

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

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

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

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

I understand and share the emotions it raises.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They can be cowards. Just like us.

They can be craven. Just like us.

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

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

They are not Christ.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pope Francis on Child Labor, Fear of God, Love of Money, and Arms Dealing

Pope Francis is first of all a priest. The world is his parish and every single one of us is in the crosshairs of his admonitions to follow Jesus without reservations.

Following Jesus all the way, without holding anything back, is a revolutionary act. People who do it, even the most placid and low-key of them, become revolutionaries themselves. They are God’s change agents in a fallen world.

Those who try to follow Jesus part way, who stop when it gets difficult or conflicts with other things they hold dear, are pretty much useless to God. He cannot change the world with partially converted Christians. We are called to follow Him. There are no qualifiers to that command. It is absolute and all-encompassing.

When Pope Francis exhorts us to do just exactly that, he invariably becomes the target of half-converted Christians who have been using a selective view of the Gospels to condemn others and deify themselves. Everybody gets a kick out of it when the Holy Father calls out somebody else about sins we find appalling. But when he does it to us, well, that’s, as we say in these parts, meddling.

There has grown up here in America a false theology based on the idea that only a couple of sins — abortion and homosexuality — are truly sinful and anything and everything that has to do with money is outside the concerns of morality. In other words, if you oppose abortion, then you can rob all the banks you want.

This has grown to the point that there is a whole movement of fallen Christians out there who will lecture and hector anyone who has concern about the poor and helpless. They justify themselves and attack others with what are blatantly selective and anti-Christ interpretations of Scripture.

They use this obviously false and self-serving bogus theology to justify helping the rich get richer by transferring the wealth of our nation to them. They take prosperity that belongs to everyone and give it to a few and then proclaim that what they are doing is righteousness before God.

I’ve lived with this blasphemy for years on my job as a legislator. I’ve listened as the distorted, self-serving, anti-Christ interpretations of Scripture are flung in people’s faces. It is evil right down to the ground.

The idea that opposing abortion and gay marriage politically is the sum total of the Gospels is a sick, sad, anti-Christ interpretation of Scripture invented by political activists for their own purposes. It is, in itself, deeply sinful.

When Pope Francis tells us that we are bound to follow the whole Gospel of Christ, he is telling us the same thing that Dietrich Bonhoeffer said with his famous comments about cheap grace.

Of course Pope Francis is being attacked for speaking out for the poor. Of course he is being reviled for teaching the whole Gospel.

That’s what happens to people who stand for Christ and Him crucified. It. Happens. Every. Time.

I’ve chosen this particular video because it contains excerpts from three of Pope Francis’ recent audiences in which he addressed what is the moral plague that is destroying the witness of a good many Christians today. He talks about child labor, the love of money, arms dealing and fear of God.

In my opinion, these things are just a few of the manifestations of one thing: A false Gospel that says that economics cannot be judged by moral beliefs. If that isn’t a lack of fear of God in action, I don’t know what is.

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Sensitivity Training for Supporters of Traditional Marriage vs Chairman Mao’s Re-education Camps. How Do They Differ?

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Americans have long deplored “thought police” and “re-education camps” in Communist regimes.

We have thumped our chests and demanded human rights for those in other climes. We have been appalled by the violations of the basic civil rights of their citizens by totalitarian states; rights that we took for granted. These governments seemed and actually were hell bent on enforcing emotional/moral/social conformity at the price of individual liberty, religious freedom and the rights of free speech and thought.

Americans have practically written the book on condemnation of such actions by other governments against their hapless citizens.

So, why are we doing the same thing to our citizens?

I’ll be first to admit that sensitivity training is less violent and draconian than marching people through the streets in front of jeering crowds and then consigning them to re-education camps for years. But the difference is a matter of degree. The underlying principle of government-enforced mind control is the same.

In fact, the re-education meetings in which people denounce one another and confess to their lack of revolutionary fervor that are conducted by these same regimes seem eerily close to sensitivity training as it’s currently being used by our courts and various “civil rights commissions.”

I started thinking about this because of the court-ordered abuse of the civil rights of Jack Phillips. Mr Phillips is the owner of what must be the only bakery in Colorado. He is also a new social and economic Christian martyr.

As so often happens with the people who turn out to be the real heroes, Mr Phillips seems an unlikely candidate for the title. He’s a small businessman, a baker by trade, just trying to make an honest living. He didn’t go out looking for trouble. He’s no grenade-throwing political activist with a vast talk-show following. He doesn’t wear $1,000 suits and he probably hasn’t had a single voice lesson to prepare him for his new life in the public sphere.

He’s a baker. He owns a bakery. He makes donuts and apple fritters and stuff.

So how did Jack Phillips the baker become a Christian martyr?

It’s simple. He refused to violate his faith.

He didn’t, mind you, bother or even try to engage anyone else. He simply followed his own beliefs by living them in his own life with his own actions. These beliefs led him to refuse to bake a cake for a gay wedding. And that made him the target of the culture cops.

Because, you see, wedding cakes are a human right. Religious freedom, not so much.

That is the question here, not wedding cakes, but religious freedom. I am not advocating for a particular position by Christians on the great cake-baking question. I am advocating for the right of free Americans to follow their faith without being forced into re-education (brain-washing) as punishment for doing so.

The cake-baking issue is distinct by virtue of the pettiness of the demands of those who want to coerce others on the one hand and the enormity of the principle involved in the actions of those who resist on the other. The extra issue of forcing people into re-education for practicing their faith is also enormous. And chilling.

I can only surmise that the offended parties couldn’t find any other baker in the whole state of Colorado to bake their cake. Why else would they drop all the lovey-dovey premarital stuff and spend their time dragging Mr Phillips into court? It’s not like he refused them service. They could have bought all the donuts and cupcakes they wanted. He refused to bake a cake for this one specific purpose, which was against his religious beliefs.

But in the brave new world of government-enforced political correctness, acting on religious beliefs by living them is not allowed. No one is allowed to believe and adhere to a morality except the group morality of the almighty politically-correct zeitgeist. It appears that violation of this bit of absolute totalitarianism is a new kind of crime, and by that I mean a literal, criminal act.

After going through all the good times that everyone who has ever been in a courtroom knows all too well, Mr Phillips found himself guilty as charged of being publicly Christian. I believe the specific legal verbiage was a tad different from that, but that’s what it amounted to.

He has been court-ordered to bake the blasted cake and — get ready for this — go to “sensitivity training,” and send his entire staff to the same training, where, presumably, they will get their brains washed out and cleaned of any remaining individual thinking. He’s also supposed to re-write his company policies to reflect the values he’s been ordered to learn to believe.

On top of that, he has to submit quarterly reports to Colorado’s “Civil Rights Commission” (which seems an odd name for this group) to prove that he’s baking up a storm for gay weddings everywhere.

How does this differ from Chairman Mao’s re-education camps? By degree. How does it differ from governments forcing people to attend re-education groups? You got me.

And, since this sort of government bullying of private citizens was unthinkable not so very long ago, I tend to regard that matter of degree as a moving dot on the line toward totalitarianism.

Mr Phillips, for his part, says he’s not going to change his company policies. “My God is bigger than any bullies they’ve got,” he said.

As for the sensitivity training designed to rehabilitate Mr Phillips into believing what the government demands he believe, that may not work out, either. “My 87-year-old mom works here, and she says she’s not going to be rehabilitated,” he said.

When quizzed about how he would respond if the Supreme Court of the United States orders him to bake the cake and get his brain washed out, he said, “There’s civil disobedience. We’ll see what happens. I’m not giving up my faith. Too many people have died for this faith to give it up that easily.”

This is left-wing-nut totalitarianism. But we can’t get away from it by a blind flight to the right. There’s plenty of right-wing-nut totalitarianism, too. Blindly empowering either one of them is going to do us in.

The real answer is up to his elbows in flour in a bakery in Colorado. Ordinary people who will not compromise their faith and are willing to take the hits involved in standing for Jesus are the answer. We have to say “no.” And by “we” I mean all of us pew-sitting Christians who’ve been going along to get along.

Because extraordinary ordinary people like Jack Phillips are the only real heroes there are.

 

The video below discusses the way that Christians are being blocked from certain professions for holding traditional Christian beliefs. It also gives us the example of another brave person who is standing for her beliefs in the face of enormous government pressure; in this case from a government-funded university.

 

New Jersey Moves Toward Legalizing Medical Murder. Quebec Does the Deal.

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New Jersey General Assembly Chamber

New Jersey’s assembly advanced a bill Thursday that would allow doctors to prescribe killer drugs to their patients.

Arguments surrounding the bill seem to be focused on the language of the bill and what kind of “safeguards” it has in it.

Safeguards?

The bill allows doctors to prescribe death-dealing drugs to their patients for the express purpose of killing the patient.

I ask again, safeguards?

Laws like this remove the “safeguards” on medical killing for all of us. There are no “safeguards” for legalized medical murder. The fact that the discussion is all about what “safeguards” there are in this law, rather than the fact that the idea itself is dastardly, reflects how far the New Jersey assembly — and the rest of us along with it — has fallen.

Five states allow doctors to kill their patients. You can call it “death with dignity” or “euthanasia” or a “final solution.” It is legalized medical murder. They are: Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico. New Mexico’s courts allowed euthanasia with a stroke of judicial law-making.

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PQ MNA Veronique Hivon

At the same time that New Jersey was voting to allow docs to put its citizens down, Quebec’s National Assembly voted to legalize euthanasia. The noise coming out of that vote was all back-slapping self-congratulation.

“I want to congratulate ourselves as parliamentarians,” PQ MNA Carole Poirier said, “… Quebec has just shown that we are a really, really different story.”

“I think we have before us today, with the adoption of this law, an example of all Quebec society is capable of,” said PQ MNA Veronique Hivon.

Considering that these two elected officials had just voted to allow the legal murder of their own citizens, all I can add is that they are absolutely correct. This vote certainly did show what the government of Quebec — and every other evil government — is capable of.

 

Why Does True Love Have to Wait?

Why does the Church teach that sex belongs in marriage?

This video is a bit long, but well worth watching.

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Choose. This. Day.

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Evidently, there was an internet hate-off while I was off unpacking my office and getting acquainted with The Precious.

I won’t go into the details because I don’t know the details, and also because I can see from a distance that the details are rife with petty malice, self-righteous viciousness and lies.

It seems that Pope Francis kissed somebody’s hand and one of my colleagues said something about heresy and, of course, the money changer christians are all in a big kerfluffle because the Pope, once again, spoke out in favor of the poor. What’s more, he did this in direct violation of their true theology.

That theology is the self-serving, greed-driven Ayn-Rand-derived neo-con economic theory/theology that is being put on the altars of a lot of Christians’ hearts these days. It is being blessed and promoted in direct contradiction to the teachings of the law and the prophets and Christ the Lord by sin-sick clergy who are twisting the Scriptures to suit the politics of the destructive wing-nuts on the right of the political spectrum.

I’ve written extensively about the wing-nuts on the left of the political spectrum and their Gospel-twisting clergy. But from what little I know, this particular hate-off was fueled and carried forth by the right-wing-nuts of today’s culture/politics-worshipping fallen (little c) christianity.

I’m quite certain that a lot of Public Catholic’s readers are going to come at me with pitchforks and torches for saying this, but my friends, you have got to choose. Follow Christ, or follow the apologists of your political party. You can not serve them both and you cannot follow them both.

On the one hand, we have the arguments of those who buttress claims that Jesus really supports abortion, gay marriage, euthanasia, etc. They use distorted lying interpretations of Scripture to support what is in fact, anti-Christ. On the other hand, we have those who claim that Jesus really supports transferring the wealth of the people into the hands of a few greedy campaign donors and impoverishing the people of this great nation in the process. They use their own distorted, lying interpretations of Scripture to support what is also and in fact, anti-Christ.

What is the difference between them?

Nothing.

They are two sides of the same coin. And they both are leading people down the wide path that goes straight to a hell that exists on this earth and in the next life simultaneously. We are making a hell of this heaven with our politicized christianities.

You cannot — can not — follow either of these heretical (there’s that word) — self-serving, false and evil wing nut christianities and follow Jesus. It is not possible. It cannot be done.

Choose this day, people. Choose who you will serve. Will you walk down the wide road of political expedience and ez-pz morality crafted by the lying liars of politicized little c christianity? Or will you and your house serve the Lord?

The christianity being taught by the wing nuts on both sides of the political spectrum is not the Christianity that leads to eternal life. This bastardized christianity is from the pit, and it leads straight back to the pit. There is no life in these teachings; no Gospel, no Jesus. They come from people who have sold their souls to the political store. Their words are justifications of evil. They are teachings for and about themselves, their greed, and their fallenness. They are not in any way about Him.

Which is why their fruit is lynch mob carrying-on on the internet and in other places. Their fruit is death, dissolution, impoverishment of the many for the few and destruction. They lead people into self-righteousness and crazy viciousness. They fuel slander, malice, envy and an endless cycle of cruel, hate-filled attacks that resemble a debauch more than a discussion.

The internet is full of what amounts to verbal orgies of hatred, directed in the name of Christ — in the name of Christ — at anyone who disagrees with the gospel of wing-nut political christianity.

I looked over the rim of my week off and saw the destructive hate-off. I saw it and I thought, there they go again. I can tell you that from that safe distance it was clear to me that satan was running the show. We are living in times when our world is falling away from Christ. The exhortations and temptations to fall with it are varied and many. But the most sinister come from fallen christians who try to induce us to live by the world’s lights while proclaiming that we are following Him.

Is that heresy? I don’t know. I’m not theologian enough to say. But it is blasphemy. It is taking the Lord’s name in vain. Of that I am entirely certain.

Here, for your delectation, are a few random quotes, pulled from my rather spotty memory. Read them and think. And stop supporting fallen religious leaders and political demagogues who have the temerity to lecture God on morality.

Cboose. This. Day.

Who said that?

Money is the root of all of evil.

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

Do not store up treasures on earth … store up treasures in heaven … for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

If you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to me.

You cannot serve both God and money.

My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.

But the deceitfulness of riches and desire for other things enter in and choke the word and it becomes unprofitable.

What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his own soul?

Who said that?

Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied.

The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.

Do not be hard hearted or tight fisted toward your poor brothers and sisters.

You have hoarded wealth in the last days. The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you.

If a man shuts his ear to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.

He who mocks the poor shows contempt for his maker.

The righteous care about justice to the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.

He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord.

A fortune made by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare.

Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court, for the Lord will take up their case and will plunder those who plunder them.

Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath.

Atonement and the Undoable

Note: This is a re-post of an earlier post. I hope you enjoy reading it again.

Forgive

Eve Tushnet and a friend went to see a presentation at the Jewish Community Center in Washington, DC. The presentation was designed to prepare people for the High Holy Days.

Since the High Holy Days are about repentance, it tracks that the presentation was on atonement. However, Eve finished the evening more bemused that enlightened. As she put it,

All of the stories were interesting and for the most part well-told–but literally none of them followed the form I was most hoping for: “I sinned, I realized I was wrong, and I made amends, here’s how.” Several of the stories explored related questions of conscience: Ritija Gupta turned the story of how a bad-girl friend persuaded her to steal sixty cents’ worth of beads, at age seven, into a sharp little parable on how we misunderstand the gravity of our actions, condemning ourselves for peccadilloes while assimilating huge ongoing sins into our sense of what’s normal and acceptable. The host, Amy Saidman, did a funny shtik about the war between “Citizen Amy,” whose conscience would never allow her to damage a car and not even leave a note, and “Spray-Tan Amy,” who can’t stop because she is receiving an award that night, who is special and above the rules.

… The most powerful story came from the most intensely compelling storyteller, Colin Murchie. He’s someone I’ll be looking out for at future Speakeasy events. I don’t want to tell his story for him, but it was about a night when he was forced to completely reassess the motives which had led him to become a volunteer firefighter in a very tough Maryland suburb.

Based on Eve’s description, I would say that one reason the stories didn’t lead to atonement is that they weren’t about serious sin. I understand why, or at least I think I do.

The evening wouldn’t have been entertaining if the story tellers had talked about their adulteries, abortions, shoplifting and the night the guys all got drunk at the fraternity house and passed the girl around. If the wife-beater among them had confessed to beating his wife, and the woman who was sleeping with her husband’s best friend had told all, the evening might have ended early.

But the truth is that the first requirement for atonement has to be an action that wounds someone else.

Let me give you an example. Back in my misspent youth, I was the NARAL Director for Oklahoma. I referred women for abortions. I helped organize the first abortion clinic in Oklahoma and got it up and running.

In short, I helped kill people.

Lots of people.

Helpless little people that I denied were people while I was advocating for their deaths.

Now there’s something that needs a little atonement.

But how? How does anyone atone for so heinous a crime?

For those of you who are reading this with baited breath, waiting for me to give you an answer, I’ll cut to the bottom line: You can’t. You can not atone for sins as black as the ones I’ve committed.

Can’t do it.

Nothing you can do, nothing you can say, nothing, but nothing, but nothing will ever make right again what you have done wrong.

But if, for reasons that confound all comprehending, God still loves you, even after what you’ve done; if He welcomes you home to Him with joy that defies your ability to find words to describe it, and if He then puts you back into the same place where you committed some of your worst sins in the past –

– If He does all that, then, just maybe, you get the chance to … not do it over, because nobody ever gets the chance to do anything over … but to do it again, and this time to do it better.

How does an adulterer atone for his or her adultery? By being faithful to their spouse.

How does a wife-beater atone for beating his wife? By loving her the way God intended.

But even this kind of living atonement cannot undo the harm you have done. One of the hardest penalties of committing grave sin is that you can’t un-sin it. 

You can’t unadulter, unbeat, unrape, unkill anyone.

Without Jesus Christ you are stuck there in the pit of your sin and remorse forever. You will be a murderer/adulterer/liar/beater all your days. This is why I sometimes get so impatient with people who come on this blog and demand that the Catholic Church change the rules to tell them that their sins aren’t sins. They never do this about eating too many cookies or being a volunteer firefighter for the “wrong” motives.

Nope. They’re ok with those things and the Church’s teachings about them.

It’s the biggies that get them on here demanding a hall pass to heaven. They want the Church to tell them that their adulteries, abortions, disordered sex and lying, cheating ways are not a sin. They claim that anyone, anywhere, who says otherwise is “judging” them.

There are days when I want to put my arms around these lost souls and hug them. There are other days I want to ask, Are you kidding? Where do you get the arrogance to do these things and then demand that the Church — the Church — say that they are not sins?

Do you know what saved me?

The knowledge that I had sinned.

Without that, I would still be lost.

As for atonement, that came long afterwards, when I was mature enough in Christ to survive it. Atonement for me was being given an extra measure of forgiveness I most assuredly did not deserve. God put me in the place and almost coerced events so that I would be given the opportunity to pass pro life legislation. Atonement for me was being pilloried by pro abortion people. I was forced (against my will, I have to admit) to suffer public hazing for the babies.

It was that suffering, that character assassination and constant emotional battering, that finally set me free.

God forgave me, and, after a period of intense grief, I realized that I could not refuse His forgiveness by hanging onto my grief any longer. To do otherwise would be to say that my sins were greater than His mercy.

But it was the atonement — which in my case amounted to a kind of social death — that finally set me completely free of my sins.

I could not undo what I had done. I could not unkill those I had helped kill. I was powerless to rewind the havoc I had wreaked with my sinfulness.

But God could heal me of this grief, and He did. He gave me the chance to suffer just a bit, and the suffering cleansed me in my heart and mind.

I read somewhere — I think it was In This House of Brede, but I’m not sure — that atonement is really at-one-ment. That is a beautiful thought, and I think a true one. Atonement heals the person who atones and allows them to fully rejoin the human race, including those they have harmed, with a renewed self and a new purpose.

Now I, the former advocate of abortion, champion the unborn. I moved from who I was to who I am, from my then to God’s now. In the process, I found a wholeness and forgiveness that only someone who has gone to Jesus in the hopelessness and desperation of knowing that nothing they do can ever undo what they have already done can understand.

None of this belongs in a play, of course. At least not an entertaining one.

But it is the truth.

Saying Goodbye.

 

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Photo Source: C-SPAN

I am leaving the Oklahoma legislature. Last week was a week of formal goodbyes.

I gave a farewell speech to the House, which you can watch, if you’d like. Go here to see the video. The House Democrats held their annual Sine Die Party, and roasted me and other departing legislators. The Democratic Legislative Assistants prepared a delicious luncheon (Covered dish. All their best cooking. It was to die for.) with a cake with all our names and said another round of good-byes. I even got a small — and lovely — good-bye editorial in the Oklahoman.

We are still in the busiest time of the legislative process. We haven’t shut down. Not at all. That means I’m going to be tres busy until we actually do sine die. (Sine die is the motion we make to adjourn the legislative session.) But I am grateful beyond words to my colleagues for giving me these many avenues of good-bye.

Each of these things is a rite of passage for what has to be a huge transition in my life. Leaving the legislature is a little bit like a soldier, coming home from a war. You are leaving a combative, total environment which engages you on every level and returning to a world that now seems out of kilter by comparison.

Wherever people are for a period of time, that becomes their normal. Normal for me has long ago become the totally unreal world of elected politics.

At the same time, I am way past glad to be leaving. God gave me something like marching orders for the rest of my life a few years ago when I was sitting in the cathedral at Fatima. I’ve dithered since then, occupied and preoccupied by the legislative wars and the many needs of my constituents. If you don’t think that these things are a 24/7 occupation that devours of all your thoughts and passions, then, you my friend, have never been a legislator.

Those of us who legislate or who have legislated know that there are very few jobs that swallow you whole like legislating does. It is difficult to disengage enough to maintain your friendships and family and retain something of your personality.

As for fulfilling the call that God gave me, I found it well nigh impossible. I need more than corners of time in my days to write the things He wants me to write. I’m not going to discuss in detail what I think this is all about. I have a lot of praying to do first.

I do know that I am not going to abandon the political process. I am also not going to stop writing about the intersection of public life and Christianity on this blog. I will, if anything, be a lot more free to talk about these issues now that I’m not bound to protect the privacy of so many people.

That is not to say that I will be talking about closed door conversations with my colleagues or divulging the almost endless private things that my constituents have shared with me through 18 years of elected office.

I have represented, cared for and cared about thousands of people for a very long time. In the course of that, many of them have opened their souls to me. I have never and I will never talk about the people who trusted me to be their voice in government and who honored me by opening their lives and hearts to me in conversations that were in fact and in truth non-sacramental confessions.

All these things I take with me to my grave.

What I will talk about is the intersection of public policy and publicly stated comments, actions, etc. I’ve operated for a long time using the standard that if something is published and circulated publicly, I can talk about it. That won’t change. It will, rather, be enhanced by the fact that I know what’s behind these things. I will be a lot less guarded in my opinions in the future when I do not have the responsibility for many thousands of people on my shoulders.

Christians in America have a mountain in front of us. After more than two hundred years of having things our way, we are faced with a society in which we are beleaguered. We live in post Christian America. Our task is to re-convert our nation to Christ.  Right now, we are not up to that task. We are, in fact, confused, divided and overawed by our opposition.

That’s what I’m going to write about. Because somebody needs to do it. And because I am uniquely qualified for the job.

 

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My favorite Representative Hamilton photo. From Rose Day 2014. 

I tried to remember to thank everyone in this speech, but I somehow forgot to mention — even though I wrote their names down and they were right in front of me — two of the most important people. Louise Scoles, who fought for my election and was my sponsor when I entered the Catholic Church. And George Violette, my brother by another mother, who is family in every way except blood. I love both of you.

The “Tony” I introduce in the video is Tony Lauinger, president of Oklahomans for Life and Vice President of National Right to Life. He is my friend. I know that he will remain my friend after I leave office.

If you want to watch the speech, go here.

 


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