Degrees of Christian Persecution: Where Does America Fit?

Pope Francis does not, as the Catholic-bashing media likes to claim repetitively, “inherit a Church that is in disarray.” He does not, as they also like to say, “inherit a Church that people are abandoning.”

What he does inherit is a Church that is being subjected to historic levels of persecution all around the world. He inherits a Church that is the object of media vilification (of which these claims are a part) almost universal persecution that ranges from social hazing in the West to martyrdom of huge numbers of people in other parts of the world.

I’ve said a number of times that persecution is on a continuum. It never starts out with beheadings, Sunday worshippers burnt alive and mass migrations of displaced persons. It begins with verbal insults, moves on to a culture of verbal hazing and hate speech from the media fed by a militant, organized and ruthless group of propagandists. This leads to legal and economic discrimination. Only after enough slander, hate speech and propaganda have circulated to poison the public mind and a legal structure to allow it are in place, can a society move to overt physical brutality toward a group of people.

Take a look at the simple chart below and determine where you think your nation is on it. I think America today is in the process of moving from level one (which has become ubiquitous in our society) to level two. Other parts of the world are already deep int0 level three.

What do you think?

Chart

The Year of Two Living Popes and One Unchanging Faith

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Popes Benedict XVI, John Paul II, and Francis

Does anybody remember that this is the Year of Faith?

It’s certainly been a historic year so far.

Our beloved Benedict, Pope Emeritus, handed the Church forward to his successor, Pope Francis. The Year of Faith has become the Year of Two Living Popes. 

It is one faith; one holy and apostolic Catholic faith. For those who will stop to think about it, that is a miracle in itself. Benjamin Disraeli, when asked what proof he could offer of God’s existence, replied, “The Jew, sir, the Jew.”  To that I would add that if anyone doubts the divinity of Jesus Christ, I would offer them the Catholic Church and its 2,000 year history of faithful teaching.

The Catholic Church has persisted through the fall and rise of more than one empire. It has survived the venality of some of its own popes. It has come through plagues, famines and times of great wealth. And it has, through all of it, kept the teachings of the Gospels intact and unblemished.

I don’t think there has been an day or an hour in all this great swath of history that the Church has not been under concerted and powerful pressure to re-write the Gospels to suit the passing moral fashions of the time. I think the reason for this is simple: The devil is real. There is a malicious personality out there who wants to destroy us through our own predilections to immorality.

We are not so much engaged in a war as we are the objects of a war. This malicious personality wars against us by aligning itself with our own fallen natures. It attempts to subvert us in our path to our ultimate calling as sons and daughters of the living God. We are the object of war making based in a hatred that is outside time.

But this evil, which seems so powerful and omnipresent to us who are in the soup of this life, is almost nothing in the halls of eternity. It is a vanquished foe whose only hold on us was broken at the cross. All we have to do is turn our faces away from the darkness and walk into the light.

The Catholic Church is the light, shining in the darkness of this world. Despite the undeniable fallenness of the people who govern it, the Church itself does not falter when it comes to providing the sacraments and teaching the teachings that show us the way to heaven.

This Year of Faith and two living popes — one reigning and one emeritus — is historic. But it is also part of the flow of the Church through history. Pope Benedict handed the Church forward and the Cardinals chose Pope Francis to take it up.

People who unwittingly are the mouthpieces for the devil yammer about how the Church must “change” its core teachings about life, love, sexuality and the common good or be found guilty of being “out of step with the world.”

Out of step with the world haters

Let’s think for a moment what they are demanding. What does it mean to be “in step” with the world?

“In step” with the world, as they define it, means that people are only human when those who have the power to do so define them to be human. It means that vast numbers of people may be killed at any time, for no reason at all.

Being “in step” with the world means that women and children are commodities to be bought and sold, raped and worked. It means that reducing women and children to objects and then using their rape, torture and murder as entertainment is a “right” that transcends any claims to their human dignity. Being “in step” with the world means that women’s bodies can be harvested for their eggs that are then sold online. It means that women’s wombs can be rented as surrogates.

Being “in step” with the world means “designing” babies that we will find good enough for our celestial selves to raise. It means discarding tens of other babies in this process to get the one perfect one we want.

Being “in step” with the world means destroying marriage, doing away with family as a unit that creates, nurtures and supports young human beings. It means that multinational corporations can pillage and destroy without restraint.

I could go on, but the point is that being “in step” with the world is being “in step” with decay, death and destruction. Being “in step” with the world is the exact opposite of what the Church is called to do.

The Catholic Church is not called to make the world comfortable in its sins. it is called to lead the world to redemption from its sins. 

The world may and does excoriate the Church for “being out of step” with its many killing machines. It may and does excoriate Catholics for following their Church. It may and does try to force us out of public life and silence our witness.

But the world will not prevail.

White crucifixion

Jesus said, “On this rock, I will build my Church. And the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” 

This is the Year of Faith. It is also the year of two living popes.

But this year is, as all years are, the year of the One and only Jesus, Who is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Join the Discussions of the Year of Faith

Click here throughout the Year of Faith, as the Catholic Channel at Patheos.com invites Catholics of every age and stripe to share what they are gleaning and carrying away from this gift of timely focus.

We are Catholic

This put a grin on my face. I hope it does the same for you.

Have a blessed Sunday, my friends.

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Pew Survey: Catholics Want the Next Pope to Maintain Traditional Teachings

Despite claims to the contrary by the chattering class, practicing Catholics like their pope and want the Church to stay the course on its moral teachings.

I’m glad to hear this. I was beginning to wonder if I attended mass in churches that were somehow “different” from other Catholic parishes. The foment for gay marriage, contraception, abortion on demand is nowhere to be found where I worship. I’ve attended mass in Catholic Churches all over this country and I have yet to find a parish that was any different about these things from those that I see here in Oklahoma.

They all have their “respect life” signs and programs for the unborn. There are the usual Altar Guild bake sales, announcements about raising money for this or that family in distress and I swear in each parish, the same rock-ribbed little old lady with a dangerous-looking cane who sits in “her” seat and will not budge for errant newcomers who want to slide past her.

I’ve never seen anything but respect for the Eucharist. There is nary a sign in any of them of all this dissent I keep hearing about. I was beginning to think that I must be lucky in my choices of churches when I travel or that maybe the stories I was hearing were greatly exaggerated.

According to a recent poll by the Pew Foundation, it was the latter.

Seventy-four percent of Catholics approve of Pope Benedict.Sixty-three percent of Catholics who attend mass each week said that the next Pope should maintain traditional Catholic teaching. Less than 10% called for the Church to accept same-sex marriage, women priests or contraception.

What I think that means is that the authors of these stories about “dissent” in the Church are basing their claims on surveys which include Catholics who don’t go to mass and are not practicing Catholics at all.

I have a relative who says that she is a member of the Disciples of Christ church. She does not attend church, ever. When someone dies, that’s where she has the funeral. When her son got married, that’s where they had the wedding. This is the extent of her activity in the Disciples of Christ church. But if you polled her on a survey she would tell you that she was a member of the Disciples of Christ denomination. I think those are the kind of “Catholics” who pollsters quiz to get these dodgy numbers that the pundits like to quote.

If they talk to people who actually participate in the life of the Church, the numbers become something that those of us who also attend mass and interact with practicing Catholics can validate from our own experiences.

I recognize the attitudes expressed in a poll that shows that the vast majority of Catholics support the pope and traditional Catholic teachings. Those attitudes are the ones I see at mass every weekend in whatever parish I happen to be. The other numbers that the Catholic bashers like to bandy about don’t gibe with my experience as a practicing Catholic at all.

I think that people who take such pleasure in reporting the impending demise of the Catholic Church are expressing their own wishful thinking. These people don’t like the Church precisely because of its stubborn refusal to change 2,000 years of Christian teaching to suit them and their wishes.

They defame the Church and natter on about its failings because they are trying to create a phony moral high ground for themselves from which to assail the Church and bully it into silence. These constant claims of a Church whose followers do not believe in it and who are about to abandon it are what they wish would happen.

The Catholic Church is the repository of faith. These teachings it won’t bend are its charge. It offers each of us a simple, followable roadmap to heaven. The Catholic Church is not made up of perfect people. All of us, both those who wear collars and those who sit in the pews, are fallible, fallen human beings living out our lives in a fallen world. We can and we do sin.

The teachings of our Church — the ones that cause such anger and wrath on the part of the Church’s critics — are how we know the finer points of right and wrong. The Church guides us in how to discern right and wrong, and then, when we are ready to turn things around and try again, it gives us the remedy of forgiveness and reorientation through the sacrament of confession.

I am gratified to see this Pew survey. But I’m not surprised. It simply verifies what I’ve been seeing at mass every weekend for years.

The CNA article describing this Pew Foundation survey says in part:

Washington D.C., Feb 22, 2013 / 02:05 am (CNA).- As the Feb. 28 resignation of Pope Benedict XVI approaches, the vast majority of U.S. Catholics have a favorable view of the pontiff, and the majority support traditional Catholic teaching as well.

According to a recent survey by Pew Research Center, 74 percent of U.S. Catholics “express a favorable view of the pope.”

Pope Benedict has been regarded favorably throughout his entire papacy, with approval ratings among U.S. Catholics ranging from 67-83 percent.

Pope Benedict’s predecessor, Pope John Paul II, also enjoyed a high favorability rating over the course of his papacy. The Pew Forum’s polling in the 1980s and 1990s found that more than 90 percent of Americans had a positive opinion of Pope John Paul II.

Weekly Mass attendees were most likely to favor tradition, with 63 percent saying the next Pope should maintain traditional teaching.

Those Catholics who favored taking the Church in a new direction could give pollsters an open-ended response as to where they would like to see change. Nineteen percent said the Church should “become more modern,” while 15 percent wanted a tougher stance on sex abuse.

Fewer than 10 percent called for the Church to accept same-sex “marriage,” women priests or contraception. (Read the rest here.)

Pope Benedict’s Legacy is His Faithfulness to the Truth of Christian Teaching

What sustains and illuminates me is the certainty that the Church belongs to Christ, whose care and guidance will never be lacking.

The Catholic Church doesn’t bend on essential matters of faith.

In 2,000 years, through bad popes and good ones, through corruption, wars, plagues and persecution, the Church has held true to the core teachings which define Christianity. This makes the Catholic Church itself one of the most compelling witnesses to the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit available to us.

Pope Benedict has faced direct challenges to the faith that many of his predecessors never experienced. This has not been a “Reformation,” but an attempted obliteration of Christian teaching altogether. We live in a world where the world itself proclaims that evil is good and good is evil. Those who stand for the truth of Christian teaching are attacked, reviled and accused of everything from bigotry to stupidity.

There is no middle ground in the culture wars, no island of neutrality where the combatants can join hands and say “at least on this we agree.” This fight is for our children, our families and our survival as a culture.

Pope Benedict XVI did not falter in the leadership he gave the Christian world concerning core issues of the sanctity of human life and the unique sacramental value of marriage between one man and one woman as the cradle of humanity. He has paid a price for his fidelity. But his leadership in this was critical.

As more and more of the various Christian denominations begin to parse the Gospels to create a false teaching which makes peace with the world at the cost of their discipleship, the Catholic Church is forced to stand alone in its absolute fidelity to the Truth.

It does this despite bishops and priests who fail, popes who age and a laity that wants to go along to get along. There are no perfect people in the Church, only pilgrim people, each of us on our way to our own personal Zion. When that day comes and we stand before God, the media, our friends and the people we’ve compromised for won’t be standing there alongside us. We will stand alone.

That is why leaders who follow Christ and teach us to do the same are so important. Everything depends on them. Those who mislead the children of God by twisting the Scriptures to tell them that evil is good and good is evil do so at their own great peril.

The whole wide world owes the Holy Father a thank you for staying the course and not telling us the easy lies that excuse our sins.

The following CNA/EWTN article discusses what we owe Pope Benedict for his faithful teaching on marriage. It says in part:

 Catholic leaders say Pope will be remembered for marriage defense 

ROME, ITALY, February 20 (CNA/EWTN News) .- Two leaders from one of the world’s largest pro-life groups think Pope Benedict XVI will be remembered for defending traditional marriage and his contributions to bioethics.

“He defended marriage as between a man and a woman and made statements, which later he was attacked for, because we really are in a very concerning situation where same-sex ‘marriage’ is being legalized worldwide,” said Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro, director of Human Life International’s Rome office.

“People are going to realize how the pressure to give legal status to same-sex ‘marriage’ grew in this decade, they’ll will see it as a problem, and they’ll see Pope Benedict as prophetic after having been very clear that this goes against nature,” Msgr. Barreiro told CNA Feb. 15.

Joseph Meaney, the institution’s director of international coordination, pointed out that people raised by same-sex parents are already coming forward to talk about all of the problems caused by marriage being redefined.

“It has become this sort of libertarianism gone wild, where everyone has a right to everything,” Meaney said. (Read more here.)

If You Want to Read the Church’s Teaching on Euthanasia, Here It Is

From the Vatican website:

SACRED CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH

DECLARATION ON EUTHANASIA

 

INTRODUCTION

The rights and values pertaining to the human person occupy an important place among the questions discussed today. In this regard, the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council solemnly reaffirmed the lofty dignity of the human person, and in a special way his or her right to life. The Council therefore condemned crimes against life “such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, or willful suicide” (Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, no. 27). More recently, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has reminded all the faithful of Catholic teaching on procured abortion.[1] The Congregation now considers it opportune to set forth the Church’s teaching on euthanasia. It is indeed true that, in this sphere of teaching, the recent Popes have explained the principles, and these retain their full force[2]; but the progress of medical science in recent years has brought to the fore new aspects of the question of euthanasia, and these aspects call for further elucidation on the ethical level. In modern society, in which even the fundamental values of human life are often called into question, cultural change exercises an influence upon the way of looking at suffering and death; moreover, medicine has increased its capacity to cure and to prolong life in particular circumstances, which sometime give rise to moral problems. Thus people living in this situation experience no little anxiety about the meaning of advanced old age and death. They also begin to wonder whether they have the right to obtain for themselves or their fellowmen an “easy death,” which would shorten suffering and which seems to them more in harmony with human dignity. A number of Episcopal Conferences have raised questions on this subject with the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Congregation, having sought the opinion of experts on the various aspects of euthanasia, now wishes to respond to the Bishops’ questions with the present Declaration, in order to help them to give correct teaching to the faithful entrusted to their care, and to offer them elements for reflection that they can present to the civil authorities with regard to this very serious matter. The considerations set forth in the present document concern in the first place all those who place their faith and hope in Christ, who, through His life, death and resurrection, has given a new meaning to existence and especially to the death of the Christian, as St. Paul says: “If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord” (Rom. 14:8; cf. Phil. 1:20). As for those who profess other religions, many will agree with us that faith in God the Creator, Provider and Lord of life – if they share this belief – confers a lofty dignity upon every human person and guarantees respect for him or her. It is hoped that this Declaration will meet with the approval of many people of good will, who, philosophical or ideological differences notwithstanding, have nevertheless a lively awareness of the rights of the human person. These rights have often, in fact, been proclaimed in recent years through declarations issued by International Congresses[3]; and since it is a question here of fundamental rights inherent in every human person, it is obviously wrong to have recourse to arguments from political pluralism or religious freedom in order to deny the universal value of those rights.

I.
THE VALUE OF HUMAN LIFE

Human life is the basis of all goods, and is the necessary source and condition of every human activity and of all society. Most people regard life as something sacred and hold that no one may dispose of it at will, but believers see in life something greater, namely, a gift of God’s love, which they are called upon to preserve and make fruitful. And it is this latter consideration that gives rise to the following consequences:

1. No one can make an attempt on the life of an innocent person without opposing God’s love for that person, without violating a fundamental right, and therefore without committing a crime of the utmost gravity.[4]

2. Everyone has the duty to lead his or her life in accordance with God’s plan. That life is entrusted to the individual as a good that must bear fruit already here on earth, but that finds its full perfection only in eternal life.

3. Intentionally causing one’s own death, or suicide, is therefore equally as wrong as murder; such an action on the part of a person is to be considered as a rejection of God’s sovereignty and loving plan. Furthermore, suicide is also often a refusal of love for self, the denial of a natural instinct to live, a flight from the duties of justice and charity owed to one’s neighbor, to various communities or to the whole of society – although, as is generally recognized, at times there are psychological factors present that can diminish responsibility or even completely remove it. However, one must clearly distinguish suicide from that sacrifice of one’s life whereby for a higher cause, such as God’s glory, the salvation of souls or the service of one’s brethren, a person offers his or her own life or puts it in danger (cf. Jn. 15:14).

II.
EUTHANASIA

In order that the question of euthanasia can be properly dealt with, it is first necessary to define the words used. Etymologically speaking, in ancient times Euthanasia meant an easy deathwithout severe suffering. Today one no longer thinks of this original meaning of the word, but rather of some intervention of medicine whereby the suffering of sickness or of the final agony are reduced, sometimes also with the danger of suppressing life prematurely. Ultimately, the word Euthanasia is used in a more particular sense to mean “mercy killing,” for the purpose of putting an end to extreme suffering, or having abnormal babies, the mentally ill or the incurably sick from the prolongation, perhaps for many years of a miserable life, which could impose too heavy a burden on their families or on society. It is, therefore, necessary to state clearly in what sense the word is used in the present document. By euthanasia is understood an action or an omission which of itself or by intention causes death, in order that all suffering may in this way be eliminated. Euthanasia’s terms of reference, therefore, are to be found in the intention of the will and in the methods used. It is necessary to state firmly once more that nothing and no one can in any way permit the killing of an innocent human being, whether a fetus or an embryo, an infant or an adult, an old person, or one suffering from an incurable disease, or a person who is dying. Furthermore, no one is permitted to ask for this act of killing, either for himself or herself or for another person entrusted to his or her care, nor can he or she consent to it, either explicitly or implicitly. nor can any authority legitimately recommend or permit such an action. For it is a question of the violation of the divine law, an offense against the dignity of the human person, a crime against life, and an attack on humanity. It may happen that, by reason of prolonged and barely tolerable pain, for deeply personal or other reasons, people may be led to believe that they can legitimately ask for death or obtain it for others. Although in these cases the guilt of the individual may be reduced or completely absent, nevertheless the error of judgment into which the conscience falls, perhaps in good faith, does not change the nature of this act of killing, which will always be in itself something to be rejected. The pleas of gravely ill people who sometimes ask for death are not to be understood as implying a true desire for euthanasia; in fact, it is almost always a case of an anguished plea for help and love. What a sick person needs, besides medical care, is love, the human and supernatural warmth with which the sick person can and ought to be surrounded by all those close to him or her, parents and children, doctors and nurses.

III.
THE MEANING OF SUFFERING FOR CHRISTIANS
AND THE USE OF PAINKILLERS

Death does not always come in dramatic circumstances after barely tolerable sufferings. Nor do we have to think only of extreme cases. Numerous testimonies which confirm one another lead one to the conclusion that nature itself has made provision to render more bearable at the moment of death separations that would be terribly painful to a person in full health. Hence it is that a prolonged illness, advanced old age, or a state of loneliness or neglect can bring about psychological conditions that facilitate the acceptance of death. Nevertheless the fact remains that death, often preceded or accompanied by severe and prolonged suffering, is something which naturally causes people anguish. Physical suffering is certainly an unavoidable element of the human condition; on the biological level, it constitutes a warning of which no one denies the usefulness; but, since it affects the human psychological makeup, it often exceeds its own biological usefulness and so can become so severe as to cause the desire to remove it at any cost. According to Christian teaching, however, suffering, especially suffering during the last moments of life, has a special place in God’s saving plan; it is in fact a sharing in Christ’s passion and a union with the redeeming sacrifice which He offered in obedience to the Father’s will. Therefore, one must not be surprised if some Christians prefer to moderate their use of painkillers, in order to accept voluntarily at least a part of their sufferings and thus associate themselves in a conscious way with the sufferings of Christ crucified (cf. Mt. 27:34). Nevertheless it would be imprudent to impose a heroic way of acting as a general rule. On the contrary, human and Christian prudence suggest for the majority of sick people the use of medicines capable of alleviating or suppressing pain, even though these may cause as a secondary effect semi-consciousness and reduced lucidity. As for those who are not in a state to express themselves, one can reasonably presume that they wish to take these painkillers, and have them administered according to the doctor’s advice. But the intensive use of painkillers is not without difficulties, because the phenomenon of habituation generally makes it necessary to increase their dosage in order to maintain their efficacy. At this point it is fitting to recall a declaration by Pius XII, which retains its full force; in answer to a group of doctors who had put the question: “Is the suppression of pain and consciousness by the use of narcotics … permitted by religion and morality to the doctor and the patient (even at the approach of death and if one foresees that the use of narcotics will shorten life)?” the Pope said: “If no other means exist, and if, in the given circumstances, this does not prevent the carrying out of other religious and moral duties: Yes.”[5] In this case, of course, death is in no way intended or sought, even if the risk of it is reasonably taken; the intention is simply to relieve pain effectively, using for this purpose painkillers available to medicine. However, painkillers that cause unconsciousness need special consideration. For a person not only has to be able to satisfy his or her moral duties and family obligations; he or she also has to prepare himself or herself with full consciousness for meeting Christ. Thus Pius XII warns: “It is not right to deprive the dying person of consciousness without a serious reason.”[6]

IV.
DUE PROPORTION IN THE USE OF REMEDIES

Today it is very important to protect, at the moment of death, both the dignity of the human person and the Christian concept of life, against a technological attitude that threatens to become an abuse. Thus some people speak of a “right to die,” which is an expression that does not mean the right to procure death either by one’s own hand or by means of someone else, as one pleases, but rather the right to die peacefully with human and Christian dignity. From this point of view, the use of therapeutic means can sometimes pose problems. In numerous cases, the complexity of the situation can be such as to cause doubts about the way ethical principles should be applied. In the final analysis, it pertains to the conscience either of the sick person, or of those qualified to speak in the sick person’s name, or of the doctors, to decide, in the light of moral obligations and of the various aspects of the case. Everyone has the duty to care for his or he own health or to seek such care from others. Those whose task it is to care for the sick must do so conscientiously and administer the remedies that seem necessary or useful. However, is it necessary in all circumstances to have recourse to all possible remedies? In the past, moralists replied that one is never obliged to use “extraordinary” means. This reply, which as a principle still holds good, is perhaps less clear today, by reason of the imprecision of the term and the rapid progress made in the treatment of sickness. Thus some people prefer to speak of “proportionate” and “disproportionate” means. In any case, it will be possible to make a correct judgment as to the means by studying the type of treatment to be used, its degree of complexity or risk, its cost and the possibilities of using it, and comparing these elements with the result that can be expected, taking into account the state of the sick person and his or her physical and moral resources. In order to facilitate the application of these general principles, the following clarifications can be added: – If there are no other sufficient remedies, it is permitted, with the patient’s consent, to have recourse to the means provided by the most advanced medical techniques, even if these means are still at the experimental stage and are not without a certain risk. By accepting them, the patient can even show generosity in the service of humanity. – It is also permitted, with the patient’s consent, to interrupt these means, where the results fall short of expectations. But for such a decision to be made, account will have to be taken of the reasonable wishes of the patient and the patient’s family, as also of the advice of the doctors who are specially competent in the matter. The latter may in particular judge that the investment in instruments and personnel is disproportionate to the results foreseen; they may also judge that the techniques applied impose on the patient strain or suffering out of proportion with the benefits which he or she may gain from such techniques. – It is also permissible to make do with the normal means that medicine can offer. Therefore one cannot impose on anyone the obligation to have recourse to a technique which is already in use but which carries a risk or is burdensome. Such a refusal is not the equivalent of suicide; on the contrary, it should be considered as an acceptance of the human condition, or a wish to avoid the application of a medical procedure disproportionate to the results that can be expected, or a desire not to impose excessive expense on the family or the community. – When inevitable death is imminent in spite of the means used, it is permitted in conscience to take the decision to refuse forms of treatment that would only secure a precarious and burdensome prolongation of life, so long as the normal care due to the sick person in similar cases is not interrupted. In such circumstances the doctor has no reason to reproach himself with failing to help the person in danger.

CONCLUSION

The norms contained in the present Declaration are inspired by a profound desire to service people in accordance with the plan of the Creator. Life is a gift of God, and on the other hand death is unavoidable; it is necessary, therefore, that we, without in any way hastening the hour of death, should be able to accept it with full responsibility and dignity. It is true that death marks the end of our earthly existence, but at the same time it opens the door to immortal life. Therefore, all must prepare themselves for this event in the light of human values, and Christians even more so in the light of faith. As for those who work in the medical profession, they ought to neglect no means of making all their skill available to the sick and dying; but they should also remember how much more necessary it is to provide them with the comfort of boundless kindness and heartfelt charity. Such service to people is also service to Christ the Lord, who said: “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt. 25:40).

At the audience granted prefect, His Holiness Pope John Paul II approved this declaration, adopted at the ordinary meeting of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and ordered its publication.

Rome, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, May 5, 1980.

Franjo Cardinal Seper 
Prefect

Jerome Hamer, O.P.
Tit. Archbishop of Lorium
Secretary


FOOTNOTES

[1] DECLARATION ON PROCURED ABORTION, November 18, 1974: AAS 66 (1974), pp. 730-747.

[2] Pius XII, ADDRESS TO THOSE ATTENDING THE CONGRESS OF THE INTERNATIONAL UNION OF CATHOLIC WOMEN’S LEAGUES, September 11, 1947: AAS 39 (1947), p. 483; ADDRESS TO THE ITALIAN CATHOLIC UNION OF MIDWIVES, October 29, 1951: AAS 43 (1951), pp. 835-854; SPEECH TO THE MEMBERS OF THE INTERNATIONAL OFFICE OF MILITARY MEDICINE DOCUMENTATION, October 19, 1953: AAS 45 (1953), pp. 744-754; ADDRESS TO THOSE TAKING PART IN THE IXth CONGRESS OF THE ITALIAN ANAESTHESIOLOGICAL SOCIETY, February 24, 1957: AAS 49 (1957), p. 146; cf. also ADDRESS ON “REANIMATION,” November 24, 1957: AAS 49 (1957), pp. 1027-1033; Paul VI, ADDRESS TO THE MEMBERS OF THE UNITED NATIONAL SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON APARTHEID, May 22, 1974: AAS 66 (1974), p. 346; John Paul II: ADDRESS TO THE BISHOPS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, October 5, 1979: AAS 71 (1979), p. 1225.

[3] One thinks especially of Recommendation 779 (1976) on the rights of the sick and dying, of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe at its XXVIIth Ordinary Session; cf. Sipeca, no. 1, March 1977, pp. 14-15.

[4] We leave aside completely the problems of the death penalty and of war, which involve specific considerations that do not concern the present subject.

[5] Pius XII, ADDRESS of February 24, 1957: AAS 49 (1957), p. 147.

[6] Pius XII, Ibid., p. 145; cf. ADDRESS of September 9, 1958: AAS 50 (1958), p. 694.

How Beautiful

is the Body of Christ

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Giving Up the Fight: Should Republicans Drop Pro Life; Should Evangelicals Give Up on Traditional Marriage; Should Everybody But the Catholic Church Run Away?

Losing. Sucks.

There has been a spate of articles and interviews, including one with no less a personage than former Presidential Candidate John McCain, expressing the hand-wringing dismay of defeat that many right-wing politicos and even some socially conservative Christians seem to feel because they got slam-dunked in the November 7 election.

I’ve ignored most of this, for three reasons.

1. It’s natural to go a little nuts after you get beat in an election. It’s a humiliating experience all around and it makes anyone who goes through it a little bit crazy for a while.
2. I’ve never taken the Republican position on social issues all that seriously in the first place. I know there are many sincere people who have an R on their voter ID card who believe in traditional moral values right down to the ground. But I have thought for quite some time now that these people are being tolerated, patronized and used by the party power structure. I think the Republican Party is really all about corporatism and is just using social issues to get votes to push for corporatism once it gets power. I’m basing this on what they’ve done when they do get power.
3. I’ve assumed that after the clothes-tearing, ashes on the head, woe is me, I wuz robbed, post getting beat emotions pass that most people will settle down and go back to thinking more carefully again.

One of the miseries of the internet is that it makes it too easy for people to pull down their own pants in public. There was a time when we confined our crazy grief from the getting whupped times in life to the safety of our homes, families and close friends. We kept our embarrassments within the circle of people who would never tell on us, and who, out of the blindness of love, would soon forget it as if it never happened.

Losing. Sucks.

But the internet makes it all to easy to spew out a bunch of hyped up, grief-ridden angst onto the screen and then, by hitting send, memorialize all our crazy stinkin’ thinkin’ for the ages.

My totally unsolicited advice and equally unsolicited but sincere admonition to all these woe-is-me sayers is to calm down, slow down, take a breath and wait. Give yourself the space to feel and think this through before you jump in there and start saying things you’ll have to explain away later.

If, for those of you this may happen to, somebody sticks a mike in your face and asks what you think, tell them you’re still too close to it to have thought it through and you’ll get back with them. They may argue. They may accept it. But who cares? The press doesn’t have subpoena powers. You don’t have to talk to them if you don’t want to, and my advice is that when you’re feeling as shook up as a lot of people appear to be about this election, you shouldn’t want to.

As to the questions I posed in the title, Should Republicans drop pro life; should evangelicals give up on traditional marriage; should everybody but the Catholic Church run away, I have an answer for you.

No.

If you believe it, and you know it’s right, then why would you be dropping out and giving up and changing course?

If, right now, you’re too frazzled and frizzled and just plain scared to face the fight head-on, take a breather. Tomorrow is Advent. Go say your prayers. Take an honest look at yourself. Go to confession. Get right with God.

And also, clean up your house, hug your kids, tell your spouse how much they mean to you, go to a movie, read a good book, and spend an evening with your friends.

Losing. Sucks. Life is beautiful anyway.

Live. Breath. Get over it.

After the New Year is plenty soon enough to start gearing up for the next political war. I know that the boys and gals in DC are already threatening to push the whole country and the entire world along with it into economic catastrophe. If you’re going to do one political thing, I would advise you to send your Congressman and Senators an email telling them to stop show-boating and just do their jobs, at least until after Christmas. The New Year is soon enough for them to start whamming each other.

There. I’ve said my say.

If you’ve got any thoughts on any of this, feel free to chime in. I’ll even allow wailing and moaning and we wuz robbed complaints just this once.

The Sacramental Vending Machine vs The Highway to Heaven

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.

“Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way …’” John 14: 1-6

 

Leah Libresco

When my colleague Leah Libresco enters the Church today, she will do so with the support and the presence of a sponsor.

Candidates for Baptism and Confirmation in the Catholic Church usually go through what is called a Rite of Election before their big day. During this rite, their sponsor vouches for them, affirming that they are, indeed, sincere in their desire to become Catholic.

The reason for this is ancient. In the early days of Christianity, there were those who would pretend to be converts in order to infiltrate the Church and then use the knowledge they gained to aid those who persecuted it. They were, in the parlance of the Cold War, double agents.

Back in the 1950s, there was a television show called I Led Three Lives about just such a double agent. It told the story of a man who pretended to be an ordinary citizen on the outside, was an active spy for the Communists in one of his inside identities and a double agent for the United States who was, in fact, spying on the Communists in his hidden, but true, identity. Evidently, a good many people once tried to infest the Catholic Church with their own version of I Led Three Lives  in much the same way back in the early days of Christianity.

Most Christians in those days led at least two lives; passing as best they could as ordinary citizens in their outside identity and living for Christ in their hidden, but true, identity. Thus, converts who go through the rite of election do so with a sponsor, who is a known Catholic in good standing and who vouches for their sincerity of intent concerning their desire to enter the Church.

Unfortunately, this part of the Rite of Election is no longer as archaic as it was, say, 30 years ago, not even here in the “Christian West.” More and more people seem to be attempting to enter the Church as what amounts to current-day double agents. They demand the sacraments of baptism and confirmation as if the Church was a sacramental vending machine and they’ve put in their dollar and deserve their sacrament in return.

These people approach entry into the Catholic Church with an arrogance they would never employ during pledge week at a university. The same people who will grovel and debase themselves to be part of a fraternal organization, think nothing of demanding entry into the sacraments without any requirements of genuine belief or fidelity. They are open and arrogant in their refusal to accept Church teaching.

History has made a turn into a full circle. We are once again back at a time when double agents inside the Church cooperate and aid those who want to persecute it. We have also come to a day when some of those who seek entry into the sacraments often do so with an arrogant assumption that this places zero responsibility on them to take this step with a sincere heart and genuine desire to follow what the Church teaches in their lives.

All of this makes the continuing rise in numbers of sincere conversions an even more powerful testimony to the love of Christ. One Leah Libresco is worth any number of false Christians. Leah is quite open about the fact that she is still seeking to understand certain Church teachings. Honest questioning from a sincere heart that is seeking to understand is not what I am talking about when I use phrases like “double agent.” The strongest followers of Christ grow from those who begin with honest seeking and the open hearts and minds of sincere questions.

Conversion is an on-going process. It’s a life-long process. None of us will get to the end of our growth in Christ in this life. Life in Christ is an ever-deepening miracle of love that grows and expands as we step out in our lives and live it. Questions, seeking answers to the confusions of living this faith in a fallen world, are a natural and honest part of it.

What is not honest are those who are not questioning but condemning the Church for teachings that fall afoul of the current world thinking. What is not sincere is someone who enters the Church with no interest in conversion for themselves and a hardened intention to defy the Church and support its attackers in matters of faith.

I found Christ while driving my car without any intellectual reasoning at all. Leah Libresco reasoned her way to Him in a way that reminds me of C. S. Lewis’ conversion. I think that speaks more to the kind of people Leah and I are than anything else. Jesus comes to you where you are. Then, if you give yourself to Him, He leads you gently to where He wants you to go. But the key is that you must give yourself to Him. He is the potter and you are the clay.

The Catholic Church has distilled its great wisdom of 2,000 years of Christian witness into simple, follow-able teachings that are accessible to the smallest child and challenging to the greatest scholar. I think of the Church’s teachings as a roadmap to heaven, and not just to the heavenly Kingdom but to heaven on earth as well. If we could truly follow the path of Christ in the here and now, we would re-create the paradise of before the fall.

But we can’t. Not now. Not yet. We are fallen people in a fallen world and there are tough times in life when the best we can do is just to hang on and do what God tells us. That’s when the teachings of the Church are most valuable. There are days when the confusions and griefs of life rob each of us of our judgement. There are times in every life when all we really want to do is just walk off, walk away and forget about it. Those are the times when this roadmap of Church teaching may be the only path we can see.

Go to mass. Say your prayers. Don’t lie, steal, cheat, rape, rob, kill or commit adultery. Care for the poor, stand for life, pray, even if grudgingly, for your enemies. Chose Christ by doing what He has told you to do, putting one shaky foot in front of the other … day by day by day. Stay the simple, clearly-defined course of Church teaching, and it will lead you through to the other side of whatever angst and dire is tearing at you. That is the truth of Christian living when the going gets tough as I know it.

I am not the intellectual wonderment of a Leah Libresco. I am just one of many battle-scarred veterans of living the Christian life in an openly hostile environment. In that world, sincerity and honest seeking is all.

History has made a turn into full circle and enemies of Christ attack the Church from within as well as without. But compared to the honest seeking of an honest convert who has truly found Him, they are nothing.

Welcome home, Leah. You are God’s gift to the rest of us.

 

Patheos Election Month: The Most Important Issue For Catholics Is …

I almost took a pass on this one.

Something about Catholics picking out one issue and saying “That’s it! That’s the only thing you need to care about in this election!” seems wrong to me. I don’t think you can trim the Gospels down to an issue, or for that matter to an election, or the democratic process itself.

Following Christ means giving all of you, your whole life, and not just your vote. Too many people these days have convinced themselves that voting right is the equivalent to living right, and living right is all the grace or goodness any of us will ever need. My main complaint about that tidy little approach to Christianity is that I don’t believe it’s Christianity at all.

What kind of Christianity can it be that leaves out Jesus, the Gospels and the Cross?

However, no matter how broad our call, we are also tasked with living out our faith by the decisions we make when we go to the polls and cast our votes. We do this not as a substitute for following Christ day by day, but as part of it.

Clearly, the one issue that threatens my Church, which is the Catholic Church, above all others is the HHS Mandate. I would argue that this Mandate threatens not only Catholics, but all churches. I would follow that argument with another; that the HHS Mandate threatens not just religious people, but secularists, as well.

The HHS Mandate is a broadside fired straight through the First Amendment. The First Amendment not only protects the right of religious people and churches to practice their faith without government interference, it also protects the rights of those who are not religious to ignore and argue against faith without religious interference.

The First Amendment is a wall built around individual conscience and freedom of belief which has allowed us to believe and not believe in harmony with one another for over 200 years. It’s ironic that the forces which seek to tear down this wall are the ones who benefit from it the most.

Atheists are fond of pointing to the excesses of religious practice in the hands of fallen people, even while they seek to practice those same excesses themselves in their attacks on religious faith. What they leave out of their calculations is that the same First Amendment they are working so hard to turn into an instrument of oppression can, once it is fashioned, become an instrument to be used against them.

We live in a time when political activists have become so enamored with their various visions of a brave new tomorrow that they seek to abandon the basic freedoms of speech and religion on which they base their own claims. They would deny those who disagree with them the same freedoms of self-expression and right to organize that they used in their own march to a successful presentation of their arguments.

Thus we have laws and campus rules that deny Christian clubs the right to organize on college campuses because they require their members to express a commitment to traditional Christian principles. The argument is simple: Those principles are opposed to views that other people want to further, in particular same-sex marriage and abortion. So, the clubs must either bend to those views or disband.

All these acts of religious oppression were forerunners and foundation builders for the HHS Mandate. They created a large group of people who have been taught to hate Christianity and Christians so much that they are willing to toss away their own freedoms, if those freedoms also protect the rights of Christians. When these people were presented with the HHS Mandate, they rallied around it in a knee-jerk, hating-Catholics-is-cool reaction.

That leads us back to the question of our votes in two weeks. There is no single issue that, to my mind, trumps the HHS Mandate. I view it as one of the most serious challenges to our Constitutional government since the Civil War.

All this is not to say that we should abandon every other issue and ignore whole chapters of the Gospels in order to fit our faith to political party dictates. Whoever wins this election, Christians are in for a real fight. Political candidates who patronize Christians in order to co-opt them are just as dangerous to our faith as those who attack us outright.

My hope is that no matter how this election turns out, Christians will awaken to the threat the HHS Mandate represents and realize that, even if it should be overturned in the future, it still represents a current threat.

To continue with my use of nautical terms, the hull has been breached. Simply rescinding this mandate does not change the fact that government has stepped over this line. It most certainly will happen again. We can not trust our freedoms to electoral whim, nor can we vest our defense of them in politicians.

We must begin, as Christian people, to take on the responsibility of standing up for our faith ourselves. Every time we have acceded to a diminishment of our rights, we have been faced with another, more extreme, demand that we accede further.

Catholicism is a comprehensive approach to the Gospels. If we are to be true to our Catholic faith, we must work to bring the Kingdom  by our faithful attempts to follow the whole Gospels. The reason why is simple: Jesus doesn’t ask for what’s left over after we give ourselves to everything else first. He wants all of us.

 
Content Director’s Note: This post is a part of our Election Month at Patheos feature. Patheos was designed to present the world’s most compelling conversations on life’s most important questions. Please join the Facebook following for our new News and Politics Channel — and check back throughout the month for more commentary on Election 2012. Please use hashtag #PatheosElection on Twitter.


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