Why I’m Not Writing About the Synod

A session of the Synod on Evangelisation October 12 2012 Credit David Kerr CNA 2 CNA US Catholic News 10 15 12

I’m haven’t been writing about the Synod on the Family because I don’t have a clue what’s really happening.

The quotes from various bishops are confusing, to say the least. They’re also disturbing.

That’s what happens when the press gets their hands on public statements. It isn’t usually a deliberate thing on their part. It’s more a function of what occurs during a game of gossip.

Did you ever play gossip?

The way we did it when I was a Brownie Scout, is that we’d all sit in a circle and the Scout leader (who was usually my mama) would whisper something to the first girl, who would then whisper it to the next. By the time it got all the way around the circle, a simple statement like “the sky is blue” would have become “Godzilla is attacking at dawn.”

Scout leaders used the game to teach little girls the inaccuracy of gossip. As I often tell people, “If you don’t believe the garbage that’s said about me, I’ll return the favor and not believe the garbage I hear being said about you.”

Many of the quotes coming out of this Synod are not only enough to chill a faithful Catholic to the bone, they are flat-out stupid. I’ve read a couple of them and thought, either this is taken totally out of context and probably misquoted a bit on top of that, or this bishop is an idiot.

I decided, not in the name of charity, but in the name of common sense, to take all these quotes as background noise and wait and see what the Synod actually says and does in an official capacity. Even if all our worst fears are realized and the Church does decide to rescind marriage as a sacrament and allow what it has always taught us is sacrilege and begin performing gay marriages and basically drop kick Jesus Christ off the altar, even if every bit of that turns out to be rock-hard true, there is no percentage in wringing our hands over it now.

Besides, how likely is that?

It looks to me like various factions among the bishops and cardinals are trying to lobby the public through the press to exert public pressure on other bishops and cardinals in other factions to go along with what they want. Ergo, we have been treated to blabbermouth bishops and cardinals, (mostly cardinals, from what I’ve seen) running to the press to spill their stuff.

What does this mean in the bigger picture?

All I can say for sure is that it appears that some of the cardinals and bishops have a problem with their big mouths. It also appears that they have the mistaken notion that they can control a story once it’s out there.

I wish they’d asked me about this first. I could have told them that once you say something in a public forum, it’s like launching a handful of helium balloons. Where it goes, or if it even flies at all, is entirely out of your control. You can’t call it back. You can’t unsay it. And you can’t dictate how it will be presented or how people will react to it.

What these bishops and cardinals have accomplished with their talk is scaring the tom fool out of faithful Catholics who are really trying to follow Church teaching. They’ve also got a whole lot of people who have already demonstrated that they don’t care at all about Church teaching by the way they live their lives, slavering at the post, ready to take the bit between their teeth and run with whatever the final outcome is, claiming that it validates their sinfulness.

Just for the record, let me say the obvious. Even if the bishops rescind the law of gravity, I would not recommend jumping off the side of the Grand Canyon. That goes double for things like sleeping around and engaging in serial marriages with this person and the next person.

Jesus made marriage a sacrement. He also put the kibosh on divorce.

If the bishops try to undo what Jesus said, if they try to limit the sacrament of marriage and make it conditional, they will also pretty well do away with their own authority. The Catholic Church is built on the sacraments. If marriage is conditional, then so is Holy Orders, which means that bishops who step all over marriage as a sacrament are also setting up the end of their own authority.

Things roll down hill from the marriage-is-conditional theory of sacramentality pretty quickly, and the Church itself comes unraveled in the process.

So, are the bishops going to do all the things that their quirky statements which are coming to us through the press filter seem to say?

My thought is don’t hold your breath.

If the Eucharist can be had by cultural force, and the sacraments can be watered down to fit the times; then what is the Church?

How likely is it that the bishops are going to do such a thing?

This Synod is not going to overturn 2,000 years of Christian teaching. I think we can trust that. However, it may very well develop ideas for new ways to reach out to those who falter in following those teachings. After all, the business of the Church is bringing people to Jesus, not casting them into hell.

That’s why I’m not writing about the Synod. Because all I know about it is coming from one-sentence quotes coming from bishops and cardinals who are obviously using the press to hit at one another. That, and the garbled commentary that the Synod itself releases.

There appear to be factions within the bishops and cardinals, and they appear to be playing to the press.

Things said to the press never come back around sounding even vaguely like what the speaker thought they said in the first place. It’s like playing that children’s game of gossip in real time and to a wide audience.

My advice, brothers and sisters, is go to mass this weekend. Pray a Rosary for the Synod. And live your lives.

As to what the bishops are really intending, we’ll find out soon enough.

Ebola: The 2014 Outbreak Explained

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This video is a couple of weeks behind the curve, but it still contains information that we need to know.

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The Crazy People File

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Note: I published this post a few years’ back. It seemed apt to republish it today. 

 

“Crazy People”

The folder with this name sits on my hard drive.

Whenever I get an email that merits the title, I drag it into the “Crazy People” file. After 16 years in public office, the file has swollen to gigs of nutty emails that most likely would embarrass their senders if they read them today.

I have a theory that people don’t know how they sound in the emails they send to elected officials. They forget that other people are on the opposite end of these nasty diatribes; that they read them, react to them and file them away.

Several years ago, members of the Oklahoma House were spending what seemed like an endless day on the House floor. We were hearing one bill after another. Since it was close to the end of session, we’d voted on all these bills many times before; in committee, in the full House the first time, then again in the full House when they came back from the Senate, and now, in the full House again after they came out of conference committee.

We spend a lot of time together in the House of Representatives, kind of like people locked on a ship that’s adrift at sea. We’d heard each other’s speeches on these bills until we could all recite them together.

On that day, we were tired, over-stimulated and stressed; all combined with an almost numbing boredom. It gets like that late in every legislative session.

Mainly due to the boredom, we started talking about the emails we get. Now there are certain people who evidently get up every morning and fire off a nasty email to all the members of the legislature before breakfast, kind of like some people go to daily mass and others run on their treadmill. Their names and the names they call us become familiar to all of us. We started trying to figure out whose district these emailers were from.

Finally, I emailed the one who we all felt was the most flamboyant and asked what part of the state he lived in. Nobody answers these kinds of emails, and I think it was the first time any of us had clicked “reply” on one of his. The person responded and asked why I wanted to know. I said that we’d been talking about him and were wondering whose district he lived in.

If it’s possible to sound abashed in an email, this person did. I really don’t think he realized that people read the stuff he was sending. In all the years since, he has never sent another blanket email to the Oklahoma House.

Of course, this person, hateful and goofy-sounding as his emails were, did not rise to the level that gets someone into the “Crazy People” file. It takes a special kind of venom, and usually a couple of threats, to land there.

The point I’m making is if you’re writing your legislator in support of Christian values, remember that someone will read what you send. Do your best to sound like a follower of Christ and not an escapee from a wingnut radio talk show. You can make your point just as well without calling people names or attacking their intelligence, beliefs, children, parentage or appearance.

Remember: When you say your are a Christian, other people judge Christ by you. Don’t be a negative witness for Christ just because you think it’s clever and witty to degrade other people with your speech. Civility will not only make you a better witness for Christ, it will make you more persuasive about the positions you are advocating.

It can also keep you out of the “Crazy People” file.

Stop Inflicting Your Inner Crazy on Other People

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Photo Source: Friendly Atheist

Over at Friendly Atheist, Hemant Mehta published a post concerning a couple of ominous notes received by an atheist leader at an “atheist church.” Public Catholic reader Lark brought this to my attention and asked me to comment on it.

I have zero problems saying that the nutso practice of putting threatening letters in people’s mailboxes is not only a federal crime, it is wrong.

There’s a lot I don’t know about this note-in-the-mailbox scenario. According to Mr Mehta’s post, the recipients of these missives are leaders in a local Louisiana “atheist church.” Leaving aside the whole question of “atheist church,” which, to be honest, sounds more like a community gathering than a church, let’s take up the two notes.

So far as I can tell from Mr Mehta’s post, these notes were placed anonymously in the family’s mailbox. The photos of the notes show them to be typewritten. I can see how someone who hasn’t experienced this before might find them threatening. Evidently, the family in question is taking them very seriously indeed. Most of the family has been moved “somewhere safe.”

Speaking as someone who has been a public figure for a long, long time, I can tell you that morons say a lot of moronic things, and that a good number of those moronic things are threatening.

Looking at the photos of these notes, I can make all sorts of conjectures about where they came from, ranging from teens playing a joke to a seriously disturbed nut, to — and this is reaching, but it could be true — a small group of militia types. That’s how vague my understanding of this is.

Frankly, I think our society gives people far too much leeway for inflicting their inner crazy on the people around them. I have a file on my hard drive, called the Crazy People file, where I put the threats and insults I got from the public (never from the district I represented) during my tenure as a legislator.

I’ve had people follow me around the state, showing up at every speaking engagement to heckle me. I’ve had my house broken into and my political records riffled through. Some idiot even stole my garbage right out of the can. I’ve had my tires slashed — repeatedly — and my brake lines cut. They even killed my dog.

My delete file here at Patheos gets steady incoming from the moron side of every issue we discuss. Most of these are just snipes and barbs and nutty diatribes. I get batches of the same insult that come in waves, which are obviously the result of a post by another blogger out there somewhere, flogging me for my opinions. After public office, this is pretty tame stuff. Blogging doesn’t seem to raise the same level of hate as political office.

I mention all this because I think we need a bit of perspective in the matter of these two notes. I don’t know if the notes were the only thing that happened, or if there have been other things, as well. Assuming that the notes are the whole deal, I repeat: They were wrong. Placing them in a mailbox is a federal crime.

If someone who claims to be following Christ put them there, they’ve got their heads on backwards. Hatred and attacking other people is sinful. It can keep you from going to heaven.

I think the solution to this situation is for both sides to try a dose of live and let live. Atheists have every right to think as they think and believe (or disbelieve) as they believe. However, that does not include the practice of continuously attacking, insulting and badgering other people. It’s wrong for everybody, including atheists, to behave this way.

Hopefully, these notes were a prank of some sort. If they were not, I hope that the perpetrators are found and punished.

Public life has good things about it, not the least of which being the many wonderful people you meet.

But the morons are out there.

And they say and do moronic things.

My advice to everyone, whether they are atheist or people of faith or just done care, is to stop inflicting your inner crazy on other people.

Don’t give yourself permission to be a jerk.

Synod on the Family: What Do They Mean by Gradualism?

Karen Schmidt Prodigal Son

We’re getting snippets of this, and snippets of that out of the Synod on the Family.

One word that has appeared and is floating around like one of those word bubbles above characters heads in a cartoon is gradualism. Even John Allen over at Crux, has made note of the sudden uptick in gradualism talk. “Gradualism … seemed on the verge of being stricken fem the official lexicon, is back with a vengeance,” he tell us. 

Unfortunately, ordinary pew-sitting Catholics like me have been pummeled and pounded with moral relativism these past few years. We’ve had the cant of what’s-happening-now talking-head theology thrown in our faces as we’ve been called everything from bigots to birdbrains for attempting to stay true to the Church’s teachings. In times like this, the sudden employment of the word “gradualism” by our bishops as they talk about those teachings fills us with anxiety.

Are our religious leaders going to pull the rug out from under us and announce that the teachings we’ve given real emotional blood to support are now as relative as the larger society has told us they are? The anxiety, which runs deep in a lot of hearts, is that our bishops are going to end up playing us for chumps for having believed them in the first place.

I’m no theologian, but I think — emphasis think — that gradualism, as it applies to Catholic teaching is that you don’t have to be all the way home to perfection or order to be on your way there. It sounds like shorthand way of saying that we are all on a journey in this life, and, in terms of our walk with Christ, we fall down a lot and have to get back up.

The easiest way I can explain what I’m trying to say is to describe my own self at the time of my conversion experience. I had committed the whole library of serious sins. I could go down the Ten Commandments and tick them off. Took the Lord’s name in vain? Check. Bore false witness? Check. Killed innocent people? Done and done.

I was rotten with sin, but the only sin I believed was a sin happened to be something that neither the press nor most of my friends know about. I confessed it to my priest and I’ve certainly taken it to God. I think I’ll let that ride and not confess it here.

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Suffice it to say, that I believed I had done something cruel to another person and I was grieved to my core over it. So grieved that, after 17 years of telling God to buzz off, I reached out to Him. “Forgive me,” was all I said, but it was enough.

I experienced a homecoming that puts the welcome given the prodigal son to shame. I was, as Protestants say, washed clean in the Blood of the Lamb.

Buutttttt … I stil didn’t know my other sins were sins.

I know that sounds daffy.

But I had lived by my own lights, been my own little g god for so long, drunk so many gallons of my own Kool-Aid that I honestly believed that, say, abortion, was a positive good that saved women’s lives. I believed that right down to the ground. No questions. No doubts.

I could go on for a long time, cataloguing what I didn’t know about my own sinful state. But the point I’m making needs no further explication, and here it is:

God accepted me just exactly as I was.

Let me say that again: God accepted me just exactly as I was. 

I didn’t have to go to the spiritual dry cleaners and get all spiffed up to be acceptable to Him and loved by Him.

I didn’t need to have my nose rubbed in my sins and be humiliated for them.

I didn’t even need to know what my sins were.

All I had to do was say “yes” and God loved me from death to life in an instant of overwhelming grace.

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The interesting part is that He didn’t start educating me right away. At first, it was like a honeymoon of sorts. I fell blindly and absolutely in love with Jesus and He loved me back. I felt so free, clean and loved.

And I was.

Gradually, this Being (Who I did not understand at the time was the Holy Spirit) Who had been walking with me since I said “Forgive me,” began to show me my sins. It was gently done. He would show me something I had done, and I would realize that it was wrong.

It was — get ready for this now — almost a year and a half before He raise the question of abortion, and then it was as gently done as all the rest. Just, this is wrong.

A lot came later, but once again, this suffices for the point I’m trying to make.

Gradualism is not just a theological construct. It is a lived reality. What I experienced when the Holy Spirit began the process of re-shaping me into what He wanted me to become, what He had always intended me to be, was God’s own gradualism.

He can knock you flat just as He did me. But when He picks you up, it’s like a mother holding her own precious child. He does not expect you to “get” it all at once, even more than I expected my newborn babies to hop down off the delivery table and start tap dancing.

I knew, and God knows, that we learn slowly or not at all.

And, perhaps more to the point, we learn when the time is right for us to do it.

This gradualism I describe does not say that God’s Word, His Gospels and His Righteousness are relative. They are not. In fact, they are so absolute that none of us can live up to them. That is the reason for the Cross. It is why God had to become human and suffer what we suffer and die as we die to open a way out of our lostness for us.

We can never live up to God’s absolute righteousness. Thanks be to God, we don’t have to.

We are, all of us pilgrim people on the road through this life and into the next one.

Gradualism is simply the acknowledgement of two things:

1. None of us is righteous is His sight, and,

2. He accepts us just as we are.

What we must do — what we must do — is trust Him and give Him our lives and our wills. We must let Him shape us into what we were meant to be, one gradual step at a time. If we presume on His mercy to declare that we do not need to change, that our sins are not sins, then we refuse Him and we will die the ultimate death.

God accepted me just as I was, and then He began to slowly change what I wanted to be. He showed me my sins and I reacted by believing Him and letting Him change me, from the inside out.

That is the key to salvation.

It is also why gradualism is not relativism. Gradualism does not say that sins are not sins. It simply says that we are, all of us, at whatever stage in our Walk with Christ, in need of improvement.

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Do not take the concept of gradualism and mis-use it as a get out of jail free card that allows you to willfully continue in your sins and thumb your nose at the Gospels. That is a fearful and, if it’s not given up, fatal sin. “God is not mocked,” St Paul told us, and those who claim God’s forgiveness as a fiat to sin are mocking God.

Gradualism is not relativism, although I suspect it will be bandied about as if it was. Gradualism is simply a word expressing what the old hymn, Just As I Am, expresses. It does not teach that sin is not sin. What it teaches is that the hopelessness of our sins need not be our story.

We can be washed clean of our sins by the Blood and water that flowed from Jesus’ side. We can become true pilgrims who are walking faithfully with Him on the Narrow Way that will lead us to Glory.

Gradualism tells us that we don’t have to get perfect to go to God. That, no matter what we’ve done, we can change and become new creatures in Him.

Because the same Jesus Who told us He was the Way, also promised that He would make all things new.

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Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith takes his own view of gradualism here

The Supremes KO Marriage as a State’s Right Issue

Supreme court us 2009

They didn’t do it directly.

It was an indirect, “if you say so” kind of move.

The United States Supreme Court allowed rulings from lower courts in favor of legalizing gay marriage stand. This decision, which affected rulings in five states, simply said that the Court would not address these lower court rulings. The rulings had overturned state laws in five states that limited marriage to one man and one woman.

This decision not to decide on the part of the Supreme Court was a backdoor way of overturning their own ruling of a few months ago that marriage was a matter for the states to regulate. It is also the natural outcome of their concomitant ruling overturning DOMA.

The Supreme Court’s tut-tut verbiage of the time aside, overturning DOMA had the effect of federalizing marriage. Lower courts have followed by legislating from the bench and overturning state laws limiting marriage to one man and one woman in a willy-nilly fashion.

Personally, I’m not surprised. I basically said this would happen when the DOMA decision came down. I ran into a bit of criticism for saying this at the time. But far too often, people try to parse their way out of the obvious by hinging arguments on the particulars and ignoring the major effects of a piece of legislation or public statement by government authorities.

This kind of “it depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is“ commentary cripples people’s understanding and leaves them wide open to what anyone with half a brain can see is coming.

The Supreme Court overturned DOMA, and that federalized marriage. They also, at the same time, made statements about marriage being a state’s rights issue. As the Court so often does, it set up a collision that it would have to rule on in the future.

In the instance of gay marriage, I think they did this for political reasons. It was their attempt to avoid the kind of cataclysmic ruling and the resulting public battle that happened with Roe v Wade. They know the harm Roe did to this country, and they didn’t want their fingerprints on another ruing that would damage it even further. At the same time, they intended to allow gay marriage.

What they did to avoid this was try the frog-in-the-pan-of-water method of making a cataclysmic ruling. You know how it goes. If you put a frog in a pan of boiling water, it will jump out. But if you put it in a pan of tepid water and slowly heat it up, the frog will sit there until it’s cooked. In this case, the frog is us.

The Supreme Court overturned DOMA, and thereby federalized marriage, which set up a series of court battles that collided directly with their statements concerning marriage in another ruling they made on the same day. It was inevitable and necessary that they were going to have to rule again as to which of their conflicting rulings they actually meant.

They did just that on Monday. But they didn’t do it by making a ruling. They did it by letting other courts’ rulings stand.

This is an interesting ploy.

In politics, we call it heat transference.

The Court used this three-step don’t-really-rule-but-get-the-effect-of-a-ruling method to transfer the heat away from themselves and diffuse it out onto the wider American public. The practical effect in terms of American jurisprudence is both similar to a cataclysmic ruling, and somewhat different.

The major difference is that future Supreme Courts won’t have to overturn this one if they decide to rewind things a bit. The Court hasn’t ruled. It just let lower court rulings stand.

That may sound like a minor difference, but in practical terms of what we’re going to have to do to put the toothpaste back into the tube, it’s major.

The important thing, which I intend to repeat as often as necessary, is that we’ve got a battle ahead of us.

We have to convert this culture, and we have to do it in the face of increasingly ugly anti-Christian bias.

This is not, to paraphrase Thomas Paine, the time for sunshine soldiers of the Cross.

The first place to begin is by clearing away the debris in our own lives and marriages. The second and equally important thing is to protect our children from the propaganda and brainwashing that is directed at them.

We need to live our values and raise our children to do the same.

Only then, when we have removed the beams from our own eyes, will we be fit to remove the splinter from the eyes of those around us.

This is a wonderful time to be a Christian. We have the opportunity to stand for Christ in meaningful ways that can change the world.

Don’t miss your chance to stand with Him in this day.

President Obama Sends Message to Killer’s Mosque. Did He Ignore Victim’s Family?

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My mother was an amazing woman, loving wife to my father and adoring grandmother.
She made me feel loved everyday.

 

President Obama has set off a bit of a firestorm by sending a congratulatory message to the mosque where Alton Nolen, the man who committed the Oklahoma beheading, worshipped. 

The message itself is a routine congratulatory message to Muslims during the celebration of Eid al-Adha. I don’t know if the White House extends similar congratulatory messages to Oklahoma Jewish worshippers during the High Holy Days, or if the head of the Oklahoma Southern Baptist Convention or the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City receive White House congratulations during Easter and Christmas. We’ve got a lot of faiths here in Oklahoma. Do they all get this white-glove treatment?

If they do, I haven’t heard of it. 

I feel reasonably certain that no other house of worship in Oklahoma City has had such a message hand-carried and then read aloud to them by David Myers, the director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Faith-based Neighborhood Partnerships; especially not after one of their members went out and murdered a grandmother shouting the religious slogans of their faith.  

While the message itself is a pro forma political attaboy, (or in this case, attaimam) I don’t think it’s customary to issue such messages to all faiths. I’d bet the ranch that this extreme case of a White House aide hand-carrying it over 1500 miles to read it aloud to worshippers is more than a little bit unusual.  If this was common practice with all faiths, we’d need a lot more directors. 

What really galls me is the one-sidedness of the behavior. So far as I know, President Obama chose not to send a message of condolence to, or in any other way acknowledge, the family of Colleen Hufford. Colleen Hufford is the 54-year-old grandmother who lost her life to a knife-wielding man shouting Islamic slogans.

Based on her daughter’s statements to the press, Mrs Hufford’s family has been supported by their Oklahoma community and, lately, by the larger American community. But there was no mention of any word from the Mourner in Chief. 

Colleen Hufford was not a political inconvenience. She was not and is not a challenge to the politically correct script our government and most of our media is reading to us.

Colleen Hufford was, according to her daughter Kelli Hufford, “a caring and compassionate woman.” She was Meemaw to her granddaughter. She loved to garden, and was a devoted hockey fan. One thing you realize watching her daughter’s statement is that this was a good woman, with a loving family. To see her daughter’s full statement, go here

Here is the formal statement from Colleen Hufford’s family:

For her life to have been taken in such a tragic act of violence adds a depth of grief we are trying to comprehend. We want to thank the wonderful family and friends who have come to our aid during this very difficult time with messages of hope and prayer. 

Here’s the message the president sent: 

Michelle and I would like to extend our best wishes to Muslims in the United States and around the world who are celebrating Eid al-Adha, and to congratulate those performing the Hajj this year.

“As our Muslim neighbors and friends gather for Eid celebrations, Muslim Americans are among the millions of pilgrims joining one of the world’s largest and most diverse gatherings. Hajj brings together Muslims from around the world — Sunni and Shiite — to share in reverent prayer, side by side. It serves as a reminder that no matter one’s tribe or sect, race or religion, gender or age, we are equals in humanity.

Pope Francis: Inequality Between Rich and Poor Threatens Democracy

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Who We Are

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Confession

imagesThis is a First Friday. Let’s take time to go to confession.

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