His Holiness Who Talks About Other People’s Sins vs That Gasbag in Rome Who Talks about My Sins

Evangelii Gaudium is a convicting document.

If you read it with an honest heart, you will be moved by it to ask God’s forgiveness and to deepen your prayer life.

That’s exactly the effect it had on me. I dropped into prayer numerous times as I was reading Evangelii Gaudium. It brought me face to face with my own spiritual drift and self-absorption. It is a convicting document, if you let it be a convicting document.

It can also be a damning document if you read it with a self-righteous heart. You can deprive yourself of the Gospels if you chose to cling to your pet sins and condemn the Pope for pointing them out to you.

A good number of very devout Catholics are settling for a faux faith whose repository is in various web sites run by pundits with collars and pundits without collars, all of whom preach a narrow, self-satisfying Gospel focused on other people’s sins.

If we confine the Gospels to thou shalt nots about abortion and same-sex marriage, it’s easy for people who are not tempted to those sins to feel like their only sin is uttering a curse word when they accidentally hit their heads on the cabinet door while cooking dinner. By the same token, if we confine our fidelity to the Church to an exaggerated obsession with our disagreements with priests, bishops, and lately the Pope himself, we will miss our blessing entirely.

Some Catholics seem to have become the mirror image of those who judge God by whether or not He agrees with them. We live in a culture that refuses to repent of its sins and that demands that the Church validate its sins or be labeled a heartless bigot.

Sadly, more than a bit of this attitude has crept into the pews and behind the altars of the Church itself. There is a large segment of the Catholic faithful who refuse to accept the teaching authority of the Pope when he teaches something that disagrees with their politics, (either of the left or of the right, it doesn’t matter) or their private view of things.

The abortion issue in particular has led a lot of Catholics to assume that if the politics are right-wing, they are also righteous. Pope Francis, by pointing out that all politics, either of the left or the right, must be judged by the true compass of the Gospels, has shook these people to the core.

As I said in an earlier post, this business of slicing one or two sins out of the Gospels and using them to condemn political opponents while twisting and perverting all the rest of the Gospels to suit secular political goals, is heresy. It is not the Word of God that leads to eternal life.

Pope Francis is preaching and teaching the whole Gospel of Christ in all its radical, game-changing power.

Some Catholics judge the Pope by whether or not he teaches a Gospel that affirms them in their condemnation of others. They want him to do this without disturbing them by calling foul about their own pet sins. These unhappy folks are throwing away the blessings of faith with both hands. They are outraged and enraged by that gasbag in Rome who is telling them that they are in need of conversion just like everyone else.

The Pope goes from His Holiness, the Vicar of Christ who they follow because they are “loyal to the magisterium” to that illiterate and uneducated-in-the-ways-of-the-real-world meddler in the Vatican who should be ignored and even condemned. How dare he tell them what they don’t want to hear about things that they don’t want to change?

I think that a number of the pundits who are calling the Pope names like “Marxist” never read Evangelii Gaudium. I would guess that they either thumbed through it until they sighted the buzz words they wanted, or they had someone else do it for them. I know for a fact that the criticisms I’ve read of Evangelii Gaudium are untrue, self-serving and predictable.

I am flummoxed by devout people who want the Church to affirm them in their sins. Their hearts are so hard, their self-assertion so grim. Is that all Christ means to them? Does their “faith” in the teaching authority of the Church end where their politics or self-interest begins?

The teaching of the Church is a doctor that helps us diagnose our spiritual ills so that we can get well. Pope Francis is calling each and every one of us to the incredible joy of laying down the lead weight of darkness that comprises our false allegiances to the things of this world. He is calling us to follow Jesus without reservation. He is showing us how to be saints.

I, for one, want that. I want the joy of Christ. I want the true freedom of the Gospels. I want to follow Him.

Because I know the pit of sin and death He saved me from. Because I know the price He paid to do it. Because I know that the freedom of following Him is absolute and the joy of living and walking in His Heart is beyond words.

Finally, and most importantly, I want to follow Jesus because I love Him.

Pope Francis wrote a convicting document when he penned Evangelii Gaudium. It is a road map to evangelizing the world. In the Christian way, it asks each of us to begin this journey of evangelization by cleaning out our own souls first. It asks us to give up our pet sins for Jesus.

My advice to those who are willing to hear it is to stop following false popes who teach a self-satisfied self-righteousness and the bitterness that comes with it, and follow the real Pope.

You know who I mean: His Holiness, Pope Francis.

 

 

Counting Coup, Atheist Style

The Cheyennes and other plains tribes had a practice called counting coup.

Counting coup, Cheyenne style, meant taking a life-threatening risk to dash up to a bear or a rival tribe member and touch them, then dash back to your fellows to get well-earned kudos for your bravery. The essential component to counting coup, Cheyenne style, was that it took actual guts to do it.

I never understood this before I began blogging, but evidently counting coup has moved forward into the tribal rites of various on-line social clubs. At least on this blog, atheist trolls are the ones who seem to practice it.

For reasons I don’t fully get, the atheist bloggers on Patheos have zeroed Public Catholic in general and little ole me in particular, for their disdain. According to them, we’re all crazy over here on the Catholic portal and need a good dressing down from time to time.

I come in for more than my share of this rhubarb. It’s the usual stuff about how I’m a politician who’s writing all this religious stuff for political gain and I’m a religious fanatic with an IQ about three points above asphalt. That sort of thing.

What interests me are the coup-counters. They come dashing in here and drop off a random insult in what is usually a totally non sequitur fashion and then dash back to the Spanky and Our Gang Christian-Haters Clubhouse to tell the tale of their courage.

The Cheyennes risked their lives when they counted coup. It took both intelligence and actual courage for them to do it. Since almost all these insult-dropping dive-bombers from the atheist zone arrive under cover of pseudonym, they aren’t even risking their reputations. It also doesn’t take a whole boatload of intelligence to type some version of “sez you, you piece of dirt” and then go running off.

It’s kind of fun to watch this spectacle. And when its not kind of fun, I just delete.

It is interesting though, how people who say they don’t believe in God also can’t say it enough times to feel good about themselves. They really do protest too much. When tasked on this point, they usually come up with an explanation about how they aren’t obsessed with God. It’s just us Christians who force them to behave as if they were obsessed with God because they can’t, well, live in a world where people believe things that they don’t believe.

Oh well.

I pray for them. And I want them to know that God loves them as much as He loves any of His children. Anytime they decide to stop running around waving their arms and pulling their pants down, they are always welcome at His table. They are my lost and somewhat ditzy brothers.

In the meantime, I get a kind of there-they-go-again amusement from their coup-counting. As for the insults, I’m still waiting for them to come up with one I haven’t already heard a few thousand times before.

ACLU Sues Bishops Over Abortion in Catholic Hospitals

I remember the days when pro abortion people were pro choice.

I mean, actually pro choice in that they didn’t push to force everyone else on the planet to participate in their “choice.” That has devolved, along with most of the rest of the culture, into a caricature of itself.

I also remember the days when the American Civil Liberties Union concerned itself with civil liberties. Sadly, it has, along with so much of the rest of our society, become a caricature of itself. The ACLU has increasingly become all about using  the Constitution as an instrument of coercion and the power of government as a means of forcing people to do things against their conscience.

A case in point is the recent lawsuit filed by the ACLU against the nation’s Roman Catholic Bishops. The lawsuit seeks to force Catholic hospitals to perform abortions under the guise of good medical practice.

The lawsuit appears to be based on a single case concerning a woman in her 18th week of pregnancy. According to the vague descriptions I read on the ACLU web site, the woman’s membranes evidently ruptured during the 18th week of her pregnancy and the ACLU has decided the hospital erred by not referring her for an abortion. Ipso fatso, as Archie Bunker used to say, it’s time to make some new Constitutional law.

I have experience with a situation like this from one of my own pregnancies. The statement on the ACLU web site doesn’t give enough detail about the medical situation for me to have an opinion about this woman’s medical care. But I am here to tell you — as is my 23-year-old, 6’3″ hulk of a son — that if the ACLU is claiming that ruptured membranes in the second trimester of pregnancy are an automatic reason for an abortion, or that it means the baby has no chance of survival, they’ve got their heads stuck up something or the other.

That’s just not true.

I don’t think this is a legitimate lawsuit. I certainly don’t think it’s a case of violation of civil liberties.

I think it’s the ACLU, trying to coerce the whole wide world to live by what has become their actual credo (which has nothing to do with civil liberties) that a certain slim slice of American thinking should be not only pre-eminent, but enforced and coerced by the government on everyone, everywhere.

All these attacks on the Church and religious freedom are obviously coming from a playbook of sorts. From forcing people to bake cake and take photos against their will, to suing the bishops for refusing to sanction abortions, the message is the same: Government force should be used to coerce people to violate their faith.

It’s an old idea. The Romans pioneered it against Christians when they demanded that Christians bow down to idols or die. Nebuchadnezzar got some of the same action with his golden idol and Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego.

There is, as Ecclesiastes tells us, nothing new under the sun. Christians today, like Christians in the past, are being threatened with government reprisal if they won’t kiss Ceasar’s ring.

Nebuchadezzar, Ceasar, the American courts and the ACLU: It’s all the same lie told by the same dark lord.

From The New York Times:

The American Civil Liberties Union announced on Monday that it had filed a lawsuit against the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops, arguing that their anti-abortion directives to Catholic hospitals hamper proper care of pregnant women in medical distress, leading to medical negligence.

The suit was filed in federal court in Michigan on Friday on behalf of a woman who says she did not receive accurate information or care at a Catholic hospital there, exposing her to dangerous infections after her water broke at 18 weeks of pregnancy.

In an unusual step, she is not suing the hospital, Mercy Health Partners in Muskegon, but rather the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Its ethical and religious directives, the suit alleges, require Catholic hospitals to avoid abortion or referrals, “even when doing so places a woman’s health or life at risk.”

The suit opens a new front in the clash over religious rights and medical care.

Evangelii Gaudium Cliff Notes: Part 1, The Call

Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the end of the world. Jesus Christ

 

Evangelii Gaudium is a call to you and me and every other Catholic on this planet to step out of our petty personal piety and evangelize the world.

There is a considerable body of support for this call throughout Christian history. The first and most important — in truth, the only support anyone needs — comes from Jesus Christ Himself in what He said in the words I put above.

Protestants call it the Great Commission, and a number of their denominations are built on living it out. Jesus Christ told His followers to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Just to put emphasis on it, He had, before His murder, cursed a withered fig tree for not bearing fruit. What did that fig tree do to Jesus, and what meaning does Our Lord’s action have for you and me? The tree was a symbol of all of us who do not bear the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Jesus taught the same message over and over. Bear fruit, use the grace you are given to bring others to Me.

That, without the more negative allusions (I used the fig tree story, not the Pope.) is what Evangelii Gaudium is about. The Pope is calling us to do exactly what Jesus told us to do. He is calling us to bear fruit by converting the world around us. Evangelii Gaudium is a call, directly from Pope Francis to every Catholic everywhere, to shake the dust of self-absorption off our feet and take the message of the Good News of Christ to the world.

Pope Francis calls us first to remember our own salvation and to rejoice in it. Think about it for a moment. We are eternal beings who, because of the great sacrifice of Our Lord at Calvary, are given the opportunity to chose of our own free wills to spend our eternal life in the company of the God Who made us.

I experienced a touch of what that means at my own conversion experience when the Holy Spirit filled me with the divine love and rapturous joy of God. Heaven is for real, folks, and it is too wonderful to describe. We can spend eternity there in that joy and love. All we have to do is chose Christ.

But in this world that is stunted, deformed and perverted by the wiles of the evil one, heaven can seem a distant and irrelevant country. I have been fascinated for a long time by the fact that we are so much better at depicting hell in our art than we are at depicting heaven. Heaven, in the movies we make and the poetry we write, comes across more insipid than heavenly, whereas hell glows and glowers with its sadistic reality.

I think that is because this world is so blighted by the father of lies that in some ways, his dark version of things seems to be reality. If we want to see his handiwork, all we have to do is click on our televisions and punch in the number for any news channel.

“The world is too much with us … getting and spending we lay waste our powers,” Wordsworth wrote. That is true of every single one of us, including me.

Pope Francis is calling us in clear language that a fourth grader can understand to remember that we are more than “getting and spending,” and that there is more to every person than the evils they do. Evangelii Gaudium is an exhortation for us to remember our salvation and rejoice in it.

The Holy Father is asking us to remember that first love when the Holy Spirit filled us with Divine Joy. Joy is exactly the right  word for it. It was the word I used before I gave up trying to find words to describe what I experienced when Christ first hugged me to His heart.

Joy.

Joy beyond our ability to describe or comprehend. Joy based on love that is also beyond our ability to describe or comprehend.

That is what Pope Francis is calling us to in this great document he has written. He is asking us to set aside the “getting and spending” that lays waste our powers and live in the joy of being eternal children of the eternal God Who loves us beyond our ability to either describe or comprehend.

He is asking us to live in the joy of Christ and the peace that passes all understanding and then to exercise the generosity which is a natural outgrowth of that kind of living in our dealings with the lost and unwanted people around us. I have failed in this call as much as anyone I know. I am a mass of resentments and angers, ironically, many of them over the way I have been treated by those tormented people who reject Christ.

Reading Evangelii Gaudium was an occasion of convicting conversion for me. I have allowed myself to forget the joy I knew when I first met Him in my too-earnest attempt to follow Him and be true to Him. I, like everyone else, need to go back to what Christ called “your first love,” which is that moment when He loved me from life to death.

Then, I need to do as the Holy Father is calling me to do and share that love with those I encounter. That is the root and the beginning of the New Evangelization. It is the core message of Evangelii Gaudium.

Pope Francis did not write about politics. He wrote about Jesus and our call to bring all the world to Him.

Here in Pope Francis’ words, is what Evangelii Gaudium is all about:

The Joy of the Gospel fills the the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew. In this Exhortation I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come.

I Am a Woman, a Feminist, a Christian.

Fellow Patheosi, Tony Jones, who blogs at Theoblogy, published one of those slap-in-the-face posts last week that really get people humming.

Tony called for a schism in Christendom, or at least in Christianity.

He wants to part company with those Christian communions who don’t allow women to “preach and hold positions of ecclesial authority, support complimentarity, or that do not affirm women as leaders, speakers, teachers.”

Since that sounds like he’s describing my Church, the Catholic Church, I was interested. Since Tony was speaking about something that I feel to the core of my being, which is the equality of women as full human beings, I was very interested.

I am a woman, a feminist, a Christian.

I am a woman who has spent a good bit of my life working for women’s rights. I am a woman who has made some serious mistakes in pursuing women’s rights; mistakes that I would not be able to live with without the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

I am also a woman who encountered Christ in what I can only describe as a knock-you-down-in-the-middle-of-the-road conversion experience that left no doubt in my mind that God is real and that He loves us with an ecstatic love that is beyond our comprehension. But I don’t want to write about that conversion today. I want to write about what came after.

Conversions of the type I experienced are not long on explanatory material. People like Leah Libresco and T. S. Elliot, who reason their way to God, probably walk into Christianity with a more formed understanding of what they’re doing that I did. All I knew was that God is real and that He loves me and is with me every moment.

The rest of it was a learning experience that took years and is still on-going.

I walked into my encounter with Christ like a prize fighter with his arms down, and it knocked me flat. When I got back up, a hand reached out to help me, and I began a journey of discovery and inquiry.

I entered the world of faith with a lot of baggage from my life before faith. Odd as this may sound, it was not the things I had done which ultimately proved most difficult to deal with, but things that had been done to me. It was a long, slow walk from the woman I was when God filled me with His love, and the woman I have become and am becoming because of that love.

What does all this have to do with Tony’s call for schism among the faithful? What does it mean and how does it apply to the question of his assertion that those who believe in women’s rights should no longer associate with those who do not? What, in fact, does his assertion that the definitions he uses actually separate those who believe in women’s rights from those who do not?

Do the things he lists say anything at all about women’s rights? Or, are they window dressing that dances around the real issues of violence and suffering that are far too often woman’s lot in this life? And finally, what does my conversion experience have to say about that set of delimiters?

Just this.

I understand where Tony is coming from. I do not know what life experiences have led him to this passionate espousal of women’s human dignity and full equality before God. But I would venture that they are not any more profound and powerful than the life experiences that led me into a prolonged and ultimately failed anti-God period in my own life.

I didn’t just espouse leaving those who did not accept the full equality of women behind. I did it.

I did it in a way far more thorough and absolute than any of the atheists who fill their blogs with endless chatter about faith and Christianity even begin to approach. I cut off my contact with that other world with a cut as final as amputation.

And I meant it.

I meant it all the way through.

When I ran headlong into the living God that day, I was unprepared, did not imagine, and could not comprehend the power of the love and joy that Being poured into me. I was home and I knew it.

I also knew that this God I had met and Who was now walking with me every step of my every day, had very little to do with the god I’d heard about in sermons when I was a teen ager. He had nothing at all to do with the denouncing, loveless god I’d been taught to think was God.

That little g, woman-hating god I had been shown as a teen was more like a shade of the devil than a glimpse of the real God I encountered at my conversion. I had met the real God and He was love.

But the baggage remained.

I spent years, thinking and praying through all the contradictions between the real God and the god of the pulpit. My eventual conversion to the Catholic Church intensified these questions.

I remember, not too long after my conversion, that I asked Him if He hated women. It seemed to me, based on what I had seen and known, a fair question. It still does.

I don’t always or even often get direct answers to my prayers. But I got one then. I don’t want to describe it in a blog, since it was a heart to heart experience of breadth and power, but I’ve known ever since that anyone who preaches and teaches violence and harm to women is not of God.

It is as simple as that, and I would guess that a similar insight may very well be what is driving Tony Jones to make his call for separating from those churches that don’t live up to his understanding of how women should be treated. I will never fault anyone who evinces a genuine concern for the welfare of womankind.

I will, however, offer a bit of advice. That advice is to slow down and go back to the God of love Who made us all and use Him for a reference.

This is advice I should take myself. I can get pretty riled up over issues and come across far harder and more inflexible than I actually am. I’ve been thinking about that after reading Pope Francis’ Evangellii Gaudium. It’s a convicting document. I say that in the best sense possible.

So, my advice to Tony and all the other Tonys reading this, is the same advice I’m trying to give myself: Slow down and go back to the God of love. You know the one. Go back to the God Who made women in His Image and Who loves us with a love that, if you’ve ever experienced it, you have no words to describe.

Go back to Him and realize that He’s leading each of us Who tries to follow Him by the hand, each at our own pace, like precious little children. He is gently guiding us toward a time when we will be able to do more than just accept that love that defies description. He is leading us to an understanding and a conversion so deep and so real that we can pass that love on to one another.

I am not going to argue with Tony about the things that trouble him. I will, however, point out that the answer to our differences is not schism. It is love.

Go back to God, Tony. Ask Him if He hates these other Christians who you find so confoundingly unkind to the female half of the humanity He created.

The answer will change you from top to bottom.

Nobody Asked My Opinion. But that Doesn’t Stop Me from Giving It.

Patheos has been running a debate among high-profile thinkers about Christian engagement in politics.

I am not in the league of the intellectual/social/pundit gravitas of the writers who have addressed this. Also, nobody has asked my opinion. But that doesn’t stop me from giving it.

Let me begin by saying that political Christianity as it has been practiced in America for the past four decades is heresy. It is based on the totally incorrect but implicit teaching from a lot of wing-nut preachers, religious leaders and religio-politicians that righteousness before God is to be found in how you vote and who you hate.

That is heretical. It is also anti-Christ. It teaches self-righteousness, encourages slander and leads people away from the cross, not to it. It is the astral twin of the same kind of co-option of the Christian moral voice that took place in Nazi Germany.

Political parties have “claimed” the Christian moral voice as their means to getting votes to gain power for themselves that they then use to allocate the budget and government favor to those who pay the parties’ bills. They have not delivered on any of their promises to the Christians who blindly voted in their column, and they will not. That was never their intention.

This heresy of a political christianity (little c) has done a great deal of harm to the moral voice of real Christianity at a pivotal time in the moral decline of our nation. It has also, as time has passed and people have begun to gag on its hypocrisies and obvious lies, declined in its vote-getting ability. This has happened at the same time that members of the public who are disgusted with political christianity and who have become diametrically opposed to it have reached a critical mass in key electoral states and can now be big players in the outcome of presidential elections.

In other words, political christianity has become something of a liability to the people who have used it to gain power for these last four decades, largely by virtue of the fact that it has diminished and tarnished real Christianity in the public eye to the point that real Christianity itself is becoming besieged in the larger culture.

To put it bluntly, the smart money is beginning to be on the anti-Jesus crowd and for this reason, the smart money is backpedalling on their aggressive “moral” stands, which were nothing more than political poses in the first place.

Since Christianity has spent so much of its moral capital in lending itself to the election of people who are nothing more than puppets of an amoral corporate conglomerate, it is floundering a bit.

What to do?

Should Christians (real Christians) withdraw from the pubic sphere, head for the hills and comfort one another around the hidden campfires of our faith? Should we drop all pretense of taking our beliefs into the court of public opinion? Should we stop taking a stand for the things we believe because those beliefs no longer resonate with large groups of very vocal people?

Should we get smart in the worldly sense and go along to get along, even if that means giving up on what has been basic Christian teaching for 2,000 years?

Should we, in short, tuck tail and run now that the pay-off has become a pay-back?

That is what a good many political christians who have capitalized on the naiveté of the earnest believers they led into this heresy decades ago are hoping. Shut up and leave us alone, they tell their befuddled flocks. We’ve got deals to do and this morality stuff is no longer helping us do them. It has become a liability we want to shuck.

The answer, at least so far as I’m concerned, is that yes, the political christians who were using real Christianity to gain power for themselves need to take off their lamb’s wool and be the wolves they always were. I also think that the many political preachers who’ve been teaching the heresy of redemption through politics to their flocks need to stand down. In fact, I think a lot of them need to leave the pulpit altogether and go into the wilderness to find their Lord.

Does this mean that I think that Christians should give up on the sanctity of human life and holy matrimony, or that they should stop being engaged with the world?

Absolutely not.

We are the light of the world and we need to be that light. That is true especially now when we are becoming besieged and battered by a culture that is (rightfully so) turning its back on the heresy of political christianity.

There is a difference between genuine belief and political expedience. This difference manifests itself in a number of ways, one of which is standing firm when things go wrong.

My advice to Christians is that they should not become cowards about their faith because people who were using Christianity for their own purposes have begun to desert the ship. That’s what rats do, you know. Let them do it.

But you stand firm.

Catholics are being challenged by a Pope who is deliberately and directly addressing this heresy of political christianity and calling us to take on the whole Gospel of Christ. Political christians and their phoney-baloney religious leaders have taught a shorn and neutered political gospel that they have mis-interpreted to fit the political fashion of one or the other of the two political parties for a long time now. They have many well-intentioned but deluded followers.

There are several generations of American Christians who have grown up being taught the heresy of political christianity as if it was real Christianity. When Pope Francis goes in your face with this heresy and teaches us the whole Gospel instead of a truncated corporatist version of it, these people are confounded and offended. Some — perhaps many — of them will not follow the Pope, but denounce him for his failure to validate their allegiance to the false gods of political christianity.

That is sad, and it rests entirely on the doorstep of the political christian leaders of the past decades. By that I mean the same exact christian leaders who are now trying to turn the political christian ship away from the very things they once trumpeted as “non-negotiable issues” for “serious” catholics, or, ‘serious” christians.

There is no reason for people to be dismayed or frightened by all this. Christ will prevail. All we have to do is follow Him and not some bogus political christian leader who is manipulating us to maintain his or her access to the political halls of power.

There is no better way to do this than to follow the teachings of the Catholic Church as they are elucidated by His Vicar, Pope Francis.

Should Christians be engaged in politics?

Absolutely.

We are the leaven, the light, the salt and the hope of this fallen world. Involvement in politics is not our mission, it is an expression of our fidelity to Jesus Christ in every aspect of our lives, including the political. For those of us who have a calling to active involvement in politics, this expression becomes both more compelling and more fraught than it is for those who are called to live out their faith in other arenas.

But America is somewhat unique in that every citizen is to some extent a politician. Government of, by and for the people is not only a privilege, it is a responsibility. No American can shrug off their responsibility to vote according to what they think is best. If you are a Christian, then what you think is best will be in accordance with the teachings of Jesus Christ. To that extent, every Christian is political.

Genuine Christian involvement in politics at any level must be indifferent to party loyalties and the various demagogues who try to exploit our faith. You cannot follow Christ and these bogus religious leaders with their bogus gospel both at the same time. They lead down entirely different paths.

As I said earlier, I believe that the best way to follow Christ in any endeavor, including the political, is to be faithful to the teachings of the Gospel as interpreted by the constant, 2,000-year-old teachings of the Catholic Church.

We don’t need to re-invent the wheel or re-write the Gospels. We just need to be faithful to our call, which is always and forever, the Person of Jesus Christ.

Rush Limbaugh, Pope Francis and Frogs

Rush Limbaugh, who is nobody’s nominee for Nice Person of the Year, says that “somebody’s either written this for him … or gotten to” Pope Francis.

According to Mr Limbaugh, the Holy Father’s recent document, Evangelii Gaudium, is “pure Marxism.”

I’m going to write about Evanelii Gaudium in detail next week when we aren’t digesting turkey, spending time with our families and watching football. In the meantime, I want to toss this little bit of bile from Mr Limbaugh out there for your consideration.

I think it juxtaposes nicely with President Obama’s action of folding America’s Embassy to the Holy See into our Embassy with Italy. Mr Limbaugh’s comment and President Obama’s action form bookends of a sort. They illustrate both the right and the left wing angst that they cannot control the Pope.

Both the right and left wings of current political debate are Godless philosophies that try, each in their own way, to bend the Gospels into a perverted version of themselves that gives moral gravitas to the respective evils of their two socio-fiscal-political viewpoints. The left wing has confined itself to association with churches that bend the Gospels to suit Democratic Party Moral teachings, while the right wing has associated itself with those churches that edit the Gospels to suit Republican Party Moral Teachings.

Lately, the left wing has abandoned the churches altogether and headed out onto the ice of militant secularism. Even while their toady churches continue their slavish apologetics for what has increasingly become an amoral political viewpoint, they find themselves shunted aside as no longer necessary.

The right wing is a bit behind the curve on this, but not much. They are trying to ignore their religious supporters while still hanging on to their votes. It remains to be seen how successful they will be.

Mr Limbaugh, with his deft ability to say vulgar and hate-filled things, has pointed the way.

If the Pope, or any other Christian leader is going to preach a Gospel that includes moral imperatives relating to economics and concern for the poor, then that religious leader is no longer either useful or welcome at the right-wing party.

I’m not writing this to enrage my Limbaugh-following readers — although I imagine that will happen. I am writing it to point out to those who are willing to see it that a true follower of Jesus Christ is without a political country in today’s American landscape.

You can follow Jesus and His Vicar, or you can make up excuses for President Obama and Mr Limbaugh.

However, you cannot do both.

Either Jesus Christ meant what He said in those Gospels Pope Francis is trying to teach us, or He didn’t. Either Christ the Lord is your Lord in every aspect of your life, including your politics, or He is not your Lord at all.

Choose this day whom you will serve: The Rs. The Ds. Or Jesus Christ.

I am writing this in a hurry because I need to get ready to go to mass. This evening I will begin my own personal journey through one of the Church’s two great penitential seasons. Mass tonight marks the start of Advent, when we look at ourselves through a Gospel prism and confess both to ourselves and to our God the many ways in which we fall short of that Gospel ideal.

As such, it is an obvious time to consider where our loyalties in this world actually lie.

Do you love me more than these? Jesus asked Peter.

The question applies to you and me as we begin this Advent season. Who is your God? Does he stand behind a podium with an American flag as a backdrop? Does he wear headphones and spit out diatribes on the radio?

Or, perhaps, are we awaiting your God in this season of Advent, looking forward to the day when He will be born among us in a stable to a young carpenter and his innocent bride?

Do you love me more than these?

In this post-Christian America where Presidents can lie and everyone knows they are lying and no one cares, where commenters can rail against the Pope and still keep their cult-like followings, that question is not only salient, but urgent.

What is your answer?

From TheRawStory:

On his Wednesday radio show, Rush Limbaugh admitted being “befuddled” by the harsh words about “unfettered capitalism” released this week by Pope Francis.

… He also said that up to now he had admired the new pope, if he also thought that Pope Francis was putting on the “common man touch” a bit too thick. “I thought there might have been a little bit of PR involved there,” he said.

But … the pope’s latest Evangelii Gadium, or Joy of the Gospel

… didn’t sit well with Limbaugh. “Somebody has either written this for him or gotten to him,” Rush said. “This is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the pope.”

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Closing the American Embassy at the Vatican and Frogs

Former American Ambassador to the Holy See Raymond Flynn

Five former American Ambassadors to the Holy See, who were appointed by both Democratic and Republican presidents, are unanimous in their condemnation of the closure of the American Embassy at the Vatican.

I made no comment about this embassy closure at first because I didn’t know what it was about. I changed my mind when I read these former ambassadors’ statements. I take the unanimous opinion of five former ambassadors seriously.

Here are a couple of things I don’t take seriously.

First, I don’t take the Vatican’s public statement that they aren’t disturbed by the move seriously. What did you expect them to say? It would have been destructive to whatever diplomatic relations they have left with the Obama administration if they had, as we say in this part of the world, pitched a fit over the closure.

In politics, it’s always wise not to let them see you sweat. It’s also wise not to close off dialogue. I put the Vatican’s public statements about this situation in that column.

Second, the fact that the current ambassador to the Holy See backs the president who appointed him means nothing. It’s this guy’s job to take the administration line in matters pertaining to the Vatican. If he went off the rails over this and joined his fellow ambassadors to the Holy See in their condemnation of the action, he’d be packing for the next flight home.

And now, I’ll talk about the thing that I have begun to take extremely seriously. I think President Obama is an anti-Catholic bigot. I think he uses his position in the White House to engage in faith-baiting against Catholics. The HHS Mandate stands alone in the audacity of its attack on the First Amendment, religious freedom and the Catholic Church.

The regulation, as the president first signed it, was an outright broadside against the faith practices of the Catholic Church. It was an open attack on Catholic institutions, ranging from hospitals to schools to counseling and on through pastoral activities.

Congressman Stupak and President Obama Before the Lies Came Down

In addition, it made the assurances that President Obama gave Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak about abortion and the Affordable Health Care Act appear to have been manipulative lies. Congressman Stupak issued a statement about the HHS Mandate. Here is part of what he said (emphasis mine):

Two and a half years ago, I sat in a small storage room on the fourth floor of the Cannon Building to begin negotiations between the Obama Administration and a group of Pro-Life Democratic Members of Congress.  These Democratic Members, myself included, formed a small handful of critical votes necessary to secure passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, National Health Care legislation.

These negotiations … resulted in Executive Order 13535, signed by President Obama, and upheld the principles contained in the 40 year old Hyde Amendment which prohibits the use of taxpayer dollars to fund abortions.  The Executive Order also reaffirmed the “conscience clause” which states that no person or institution can be forced to accept, provide or comply with health care policies or medical procedures contrary to their religious and moral beliefs.

Upon his signing of the Executive Order, President Obama assured me this was an “iron-clad agreement”

I am, therefore, perplexed and disappointed with the recent mandate put forth by HHS requiring faith-based employers to provide contraceptive coverage in their health care plans, including birth control, use of the RU-486 morning after pill, and contraceptive services resulting in the abortion of embryos.

… No individual or organization should be forced by government to set aside deeply held religious convictions, abdicate moral beliefs, or deny one’s own conscience.  Yet, the recent HHS rule requires faith based employers to abandon principles and provide contraception coverage for all employees.  This rule clearly violates Executive Order 13535.

Section One of the Executive Order states that

“…longstanding Federal laws to protect conscience (such as the Church Amendment 42 USC 300a-7) and the Weldon Amendment, section 508(d)(1) of Public Law 111-8) remain intact and new protections prohibit discrimination against health care facilities and health care providers because of an unwillingness to provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions”.

The President lied to Congressman Stupak in order to get the votes to pass Obamacare. He also lied to the American people. The HHS Mandate is proof that he lied.

Last summer, the president issued a statement assuring churches that he was not going to require them to perform gay marriages. Inherent in that statement was his assumption that he had the right to force them perform gay marriages if he wanted. I believed then and believe now that this statement was just another of his positions of the moment and could “evolve” into something sinister any time the president thinks he can get away with it.

All these things play into the equation that led to what I wrote earlier about the closure of the American Embassy at the Holy See. When five former ambassadors from both political parties take the unprecedented step of a unanimous public condemnation of an action of the United States Department of State and the President of the United States, I take that seriously, too.

In fact, I think that if you don’t take it seriously, it’s because you either don’t understand just how unlikely it is for such a thing to happen, or you want to back anything President Obama does, no matter what it is.

When was the last time you saw five former American Ambassadors to Great Britain or Spain or Taiwan unanimously  condemn the diplomatic position taken in those countries by a sitting American president?

Can’t think of one?

That’s because this sort of thing doesn’t happen.

Here is what they said:

It’s a “massive downgrade of U.S.-Vatican ties,” said former U.S. Ambassador James Nicholson in the National Catholic Reporter. “It’s turning this embassy into a stepchild of the embassy to Italy. The Holy See is a pivot point for international affairs and a major listening post for the United States, and … [it’s] an insult to American Catholics and to the Vatican.”

Mr. Nicholson — whose views were echoed by former envoys Francis RooneyMary Ann GlendonRaymond Flynn and Thomas Melady — also called the justification for closing the existing facility a “smokescreen,” Breitbart reported.

“That’s like saying people get killed on highways because they drive cars on them,” he said in the report. “We’re not a pauper nation … if we want to secure an embassy, we certainly can.”

Moreover, the existing facility has “state of the art” security, he said.

Mr. Flynn, meanwhile, said the administration’s announcement reflects a hostility toward the Catholic Church.

“It’s not just those who bomb churches and kill Catholics in the Middle East who are our antagonists, but it’s also those who restrict our religious freedoms and want to close down our embassy to the Holy See,” he said in the National Catholic Reporter. “[There’s no] diplomatic or political benefit to the United States” from the relocation at all, he added.

Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/nov/26/obamas-call-close-holy-see-embassy-slap-face-catho/#ixzz2lrEVl1qP
Follow us: @washtimes on Twitter

Will our lives change because of this specific collapse of this specific embassy into that of another government?

Not directly and not immediately.

Will our lives change because the President of the United States is using his office to attack our Church, and the American people, including a good many Catholics, are going along with him about it? I am afraid they will.

American Catholics and Christians today are like the frog in the pan of water that is slowly heating up. We just keep on sitting there until we are cooked.

Where They Have to Take You In

Thanksgiving weekend is an annual opportunity to kick back and enjoy the people who matter most.

Robert Frost said, “Home is where, when you go there, they have to take you in.”

The same could be said for family. Just for today, let’s not trot out the laundry list of “bad” families and family dysfunctions and remember instead that when, as we say in these parts, push comes to shove, your family members are the only people who will stick by you.

As a long-time/small-time public figure, I can tell you that there are days when home is not only where the heart is, it is also the only safe place.

Enjoy your family this weekend. Your life will be better for it.

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Pope Francis Dedicates 2015 to Consecrated Life

Pope Francis announced that 2015 will be dedicated to consecrated life.

His message to consecrated people is consistent with the message he has been delivering since his papacy began. He called them to “go out to frontiers, working first and foremost with people excluded from society … to avoid hypocrisy and clericalism and to develop a tender heart.”

This message is not just for the consecrated, but for all of us. It is a call to convert the world and to begin that work by following Christ in our own lives.

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25 Black Friday Facts

I’m skipping Black Friday shopping. I never go to these sales. But for those of you who do, here are a few facts.

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Somewhere Over the Rainbow/It’s a Wonderful World Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

Happy Thanksgiving!

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We Try So Hard to be Good, to Lead a Life Worth Living

Gratefulness is a blessing in itself.

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Flying with the Kestrels — USS Abraham Lincoln

Taking off from and landing on an air craft carrier is not for the faint of heart. It takes a special kind of person.

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Former Vatican Ambassador Calls Out Obama for Hostility Toward Church

President Obama, the most virulent anti-Catholic President in modern history, took another shot at the Church when he closed the US Embassy to the Holy See.

In one of the most specious explanations I’ve read in quite some time, the administration says that the United States needs to close the US Embassy at the Vatican because of  – get ready for this now — “security reasons … because of last year’s attack on the American facility at Benghazi.”

When someone comes up with a “reason” as stupid as that, they’re trying to insult you.

Former American Ambassador to the Holy See, Raymond Flynn, said what I think has become obvious when he stated that this action “reflects this administration’s hostility toward the Catholic Church … It’s not just those who bomb churches and kill Catholics in the Middle East who are our antagonists, but it’s also those who restrict our religious freedom and close down our Embassy to the Holy See.”

This president is not just pro abortion or pro gay marriage. He is aggressively and actively anti-religious freedom and anti-Catholic.

From the Washington Times:

The Obama administration, in what’s been called an egregious slap in the face to the Vatican, has moved to shut down the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See — a free-standing facility — and relocate offices onto the grounds of the larger American Embassy in Italy.

The new offices will be in a separate building on the property, Breitbart reported.

And while U.S. officials are touting the relocation as a security measure that’s a cautionary reaction to last year’s attacks on America’s facility in Benghazi, several former American envoys are raising the red flag.

It’s a “massive downgrade of U.S.-Vatican ties,” said former U.S. Ambassador James Nicholson in the National Catholic Reporter. “It’s turning this embassy into a stepchild of the embassy to Italy. The Holy See is a pivot point for international affairs and a major listening post for the United States, and … [it’s] an insult to American Catholics and to the Vatican.”

Mr. Nicholson — whose views were echoed by former envoys Francis RooneyMary Ann GlendonRaymond Flynn and Thomas Melady — also called the justification for closing the existing facility a “smokescreen,” Breitbart reported.

“That’s like saying people get killed on highways because they drive cars on them,” he said in the report. “We’re not a pauper nation … if we want to secure an embassy, we certainly can.”

Moreover, the existing facility has “state of the art” security, he said.

Mr. Flynn, meanwhile, said the administration’s announcement reflects a hostility toward the Catholic Church.

“It’s not just those who bomb churches and kill Catholics in the Middle East who are our antagonists, but it’s also those who restrict our religious freedoms and want to close down our embassy to the Holy See,” he said in the National Catholic Reporter. “[There’s no] diplomatic or political benefit to the United States” from the relocation at all, he added.

Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/nov/26/obamas-call-close-holy-see-embassy-slap-face-catho/#ixzz2lrEVl1qP
Follow us: @washtimes on Twitter

Pope Francis Calls on You and Me to Evangelize the World

 

This is a video summary of Evangelii Gaudium, written by Pope Francis and issued by the Vatican yesterday.

It is, among other things, our — yours and mine — marching orders.

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It Must Be Almost Thanksgiving Because I’m Steam Cleaning the Shower

So I was steam-cleaning the shower; giving the house it’s Thanksgiving go-over.

I have an industrial-strength steamer that, when it’s fully rigged up, looks a lot like one of the bugs in Starship Troopers. It produces hot, hot steam in violent jets that dissolve dirt and slay bacteria with a single hiss.

I was running it with the squeegee attachment, going up and down the shower walls, steam coming out in an angry zzzzzzzz, my laboriously straightened hair collapsing into tight little curls, when my youngest son popped his head around the bathroom door.

“Whachadoin’?” he asked.

(Duhhhhhh …)

“Cleaning the shower.”

“I want you to come do that to my shower,” meaning, the shower in the house he shares with his brother, a shower so dirty that there’s no way to be sure what color the enamel might be; a shower so dirty that self-respecting bacteria moved out months ago; a shower so dirty that I wouldn’t use it to bathe a dog.

“Nope. But you can borrow the steamer.”

“But I want you to come do it.”

“Nope.”

“All right then,” he said, wandering off.

I guess I’m responsible. After all, I raised him.

When he marries, I plan to begin my relationship with my new daughter-in-law by apologizing.

 

 

Pope Francis Issues New Document. Calls for Missionary Church.

I dream of a “missionary option”, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation. Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium

Pope Francis has issued a beautiful new document, called an Apostolic Exhortation, and a wonderful exhortation it is.

Needless to say, the popular press has already begun issuing their skewed interpretations of what he said.

I think the reasons for this constant re-writing of the Holy Father’s message is twofold. First, they are literally putting words in the pope’s mouth to advance their own social/political agendas. Second, the drive to pick out the most compelling headline and pull readers into their publication leads them to sensationalize Pope Francis’ statements.

I’m not going to write in detail about Evangelii Gaudium until after Thanksgiving. We’ve all got turkey on the brain right now. I’ve been steam cleaning and dusting and vacuuming. Then I’ve got to start preparing food for a small army of hungry family and friends.

That’s why I put the quote above. I can’t take the time to analyze the Holy Father’s statements until after Thanksgiving, but I can, and have, let him summarize himself.

The Holy Father did not, as one press report I’ve read claims, call for the dissolution of Vatican authority in the Church. What he did do was call each and every one of us to our universal Christian vocation of living for Christ and sharing the Gospel with the world. It’s a beautiful document that spoke to my heart as I read it.

He’s so right about what ails us and what we have to do to live out our vocation as Christian evangelists in this fallen world. Those of us who live in the post Christian West have our own unique challenges. Our first challenge — and it appears to be a tough one for most Christians — is to know and to believe that we live in a culture that is hostile to Christ and His message and to us as Christians. We have to choose this day whom we will serve. That choice has eternal consequences.

A lot of us don’t want to believe that uncomfortable fact. We don’t want to chose and make people mad at us by our choice. We want to slip by without incurring the wrath of the culture and still slide home to heaven after it’s all done.

We’d rather compromise our faith than face the wonderful fact that we are a new First Century generation, called to evangelize a libertine and openly anti-Christ culture. We have been entrusted with the gift of being able to stand up for Jesus and take a couple of verbal brickbats for him from our child-sacrficing, marriage-and-family-destroying, women-and-children-selling culture.

Our grandparents didn’t have the opportunity to stand for Him that we’ve got. They lived in the days of ez-pz faith in a country where saying you were a Christian opened doors instead of shutting them.

But we can stand for Jesus in a way that makes a difference. That is the challenge of, and the gift to, our generation.

Pope Francis is all about issuing that call to stop hiding our light and make a stand for Jesus. He is leading us to give up passively sitting in the pews and watching self-absorbed priests wave around incense and preach feel-good homilies that don’t address the human meat market world in which we live. We are, all of us, from the bishops on down, being challenged by a pope who sees the problem and knows that the solution is us and our fidelity to Christ.

The time for lukewarm ministers, politically correct bishops and social club laity is past. It is no longer a get out of jail free card to be a Christian. In fact, proclaiming your faith in Christ and the teachings of His Church will get you reviled, mocked and attacked.

Pope Francis has written a wonderful, much-needed document calling you and me, our bishops, priests and all the religious to our true vocation, which is proclaiming the Gospel of Christ by how we live, what we say, and what price we are willing to pay.

You can find Evangelii Gaudium: On the Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s World here.


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