Saturday, June 26, 2021

We Have Work to Do

The USCCB meeting is ended and even the media has conceded that the decision to draft a document was not about barring politicians from Communion. It is to be about the meaning of the Eucharist and the importance of being properly disposed to receive it.


However, the reaction from vocal groups of Catholic critics shows that—for whatever their motivation might—we have a desperate need to re-educate the faithful on what the Eucharist is (only a minority believe it is The Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ) and why we cannot receive in a state of grave sin (cf. canon 916). Moreover, the rhetoric used to attack those bishops concerned with the attitude of pro-abortion politicians shows a general loss of understanding of what sin is in relation to God.


It was never the intention of Pope Francis to say that the impenitent should receive the Eucharist or that we do not need to make use of the Sacrament of Penance. That is an invention of those who disagree with Church teaching. Pope Francis stressed being sorry for our sins and turning back to God. We must understand his words on the Eucharist being for sinners, not a reward for the perfect in light of what St. John Henry Newman said:


Now all of us are sinners, all of us have need to come to God as the Publican did; every one, if he does but search his heart, and watch his conduct, and try to do his duty, will find himself to be full of sins which provoke God’s wrath. I do not mean to say that all men are equally sinners; some are wilful sinners, and of them there is no hope, till they repent; others sin, but they try to avoid sinning, pray to God to make them better, and come to Church to be made better; but all men are quite sinners enough to make it their duty to behave as the Publican. Every one ought to come into Church as the Publican did, to say in his heart, “Lord, I am not worthy to enter this sacred place; my only plea for coming is the merits of Jesus Christ my Saviour.” (St. John Henry Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. 8, Sermon I)


All of us have sinned and all of us will sin again. The question is whether we approach God in a proud manner or humbly. We need to say, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13), not, “I’ve done nothing wrong; you change your Church!” The former admits to God that they have done wrong and would make it right if possible, trying to avoid that sin. The latter does treat the Eucharist as a reward. The person says they are good enough to receive it… because the sin the Church speaks out against is “not as important” as the sins of their enemies. This is a perversion of what we are called to be, and what Scripture and Sacred Tradition tells us we must strive to be.


Of course, this is not only the problem with one party. We all need to remember that the most dangerous sin for each person is the one which condemns him or her to hell. I see some Catholics arrogantly proud that they oppose abortion and other Catholics arrogantly proud that they oppose unjust immigration policies… yet both make excuses for the evils they or their faction supports. That is a clear sign that we have lost sight of The Lord’s command to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). If we immediately think of others when we hear this, we need to think again.


So, yes, the Church has work to do in reminding everybody that we must seek to live this way. But we also have work to do. Every one of us must strive to live this way with God’s grace and seeking forgiveness when we fail.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Reflecting on the Current Rebellion

You shall not commit murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not corrupt boys. You shall not commit fornication. You shall not steal. You shall not practice magic. You shall not practice sorcery. You shall not kill an unborn child or murder a newborn infant. And you shall not desire the goods of your neighbor. (Didache Chapter 2.2)


* * *


Here is another suggestion, which may not be without its value—if you find yourself thus apparently deserted by the light of faith, do not fluster and baffle your imagination by presenting to it all the most difficult doctrines of the Christian religion, those which unbelievers find it easiest to attack; do not be asking yourself, "Can I really believe marriage is indissoluble?  Can I really believe that it is possible to go to hell as the punishment for one mortal sin?"  Keep your attention fixed to the main point, which is a single point—Can I trust the Catholic Church as the final repository of revealed truth?  If you can, all the rest follows; if you cannot, it makes little difference what else you believe or disbelieve. (Msgr. Ronald Knox, In Soft Garments, pages 113-114).


Back in 2016, I wrote a piece about the attack against the authority of the leaders in the Church. At that time, the main issue was people using the misconstrued words of Pope Francis to push an agenda either to excuse rejecting a teaching or to undermine obedience to the Pope. Five years later, the main issue is… pretty much the same thing.


The issue in question is the Eucharist and receiving in a worthy manner. What drives this question is the fact that certain Catholic politicians are protecting and expanding abortion as a “right,” contrary to the obligations of Catholic teaching. Catholics conscious of grave sin must not present themselves for Communion (canon 916). Manifest public sinners must not be admitted to Communion (canon 915).


Among the bishops, the dispute is over reminding the faithful about what the Eucharist is and how they must be disposed to receive. In the past, American bishops have went along with a “let the individual bishop decide how to handle it in their diocese” approach. Unfortunately, since the treatment varies from place to place, some politicians appear to be facing no consequences for their actions.


Adding to the confusion is the misrepresentation of Pope Francis’ words on the Eucharist. It is true that the Pope said that the Eucharist is medicine for the sinners, not a reward for the saints… and there is nothing wrong with that statement, properly understood. All of us are sinners in need of salvation. Pope Francis’ Year of Mercy stressed Confession and he told priests not to make it difficult for those seeking to return.


The problem is some are twisting his words in a way that denies the need for that  repentance. The Catholic understanding is that God will continue to forgive us when we fall. But people forget that part of being reconciled with God is the intention of turn away from sin. Yes, we will fall again. But the The result is some Catholics do think the Eucharist is a reward… in the sense of a Participation Trophy. The common attitude is that one can go on sinning with no need for reconciliation or firm purpose of amendment to “go and sin no more” (cf. John 8:11).


This attitude is exposed when we see people treat abortion as a “political issue” and falsely accuse the bishops of political bias. It shows a serious problem when Catholics think of it as a “liberal political policy” and not the “deliberate killing of the unborn child” that was condemned since the First Century AD (see the quote from the Didache at the top of the article). Catholic Politicians and their defenders ignore this universal denunciation, treating it as a matter of preference.


In addition, we see extensive use of the tu quoque fallacy which distracts from the issue at hand by accusing the bishops of ignoring other issues. If one wants to to discuss these issues separately, that can be done. But the fact that Bishop X is accused of wrongdoing does not remove the guilt from the evil of abortion or the requirement of the proper disposition to receive the Eucharist. The bishops have to respond to that. Ezekiel 3:17-21 tells us:


Son of man, I have appointed you a sentinel for the house of Israel. When you hear a word from my mouth, you shall warn them for me. If I say to the wicked, You shall surely die—and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade the wicked from their evil conduct in order to save their lives—then they shall die for their sin, but I will hold you responsible for their blood. If, however, you warn the wicked and they still do not turn from their wickedness and evil conduct, they shall die for their sin, but you shall save your life. 


But if the just turn away from their right conduct and do evil when I place a stumbling block before them, then they shall die. Even if you warned them about their sin, they shall still die, and the just deeds that they performed will not be remembered on their behalf. I will, however, hold you responsible for their blood. If, on the other hand, you warn the just to avoid sin, and they do not sin, they will surely live because of the warning, and you in turn shall save your own life.


The bishops as shepherds are the sentinels. Regardless of whether we accept or reject their warning, they must speak out or perish. And we are called to obey the teachings of the Church because the Church teaches with the authority given by Christ. (Matthew 7:21-23, 16:19, 18:17-18, Luke 10:16, John 14:15, John 20:23). If we will not give our obedience to the Church, we are rejecting Christ.


This current rebellion is a symptom of a larger problem. We will follow the Church only as far as that obedience costs us nothing. But if she tells us specifically that we are supporting evil, we get angry. That can be Catholic Democrats on abortion, or Catholic Republicans on unjust immigration policies. It can also be Catholics belonging to political parties of other countries with their own situations of sin. In all of these cases, the Church teaching crosses national boundaries.


If we are angry when the Church does speak out, we should recall the words of Msgr. Knox, quoted above: “if you cannot [accept the teaching authority of the Church], it makes little difference what else you believe or disbelieve.” The parts we pick and choose will be of no avail at the final judgment when God asks us why we did not listen to the Church on the rest.




(†) It should be noted that people routinely practiced abortion and infanticide when the Church condemned this, so it is not a cultural belief.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

It’s Iimi! Of Course I’m Still With Him!

A few months ago, when I stepped up my writing on abortion, someone asked what changed my mind. Recently, with my defending the USCCB voting to write a draft document on the Eucharist, others wondered if I was disillusioned with Pope Francis. My answer to both is, that I haven’t changed my views and, of course, I’m still with the Pope. I simply reject the false interpretations around him and trust that God will continue to protect His Church.

For those interested in the “behind the scenes” of the comic, in designing Fr. Gabe, this program doesn’t have clerical dress. So what he wears is actually a black variant of a uniform that male students might wear in Japanese schools.

Monday, June 21, 2021


In a past article, I discussed how the reaction of American Catholics to the USCCB voting to draft a document about the Eucharist showed a deep and dangerous situation that needs correction. I likened the backlash against disciplining public sinners to an iceberg. However, as the backlash grows, it has also revealed what a vocal portion of the non-Catholic United States population thinks about the Catholic Church: they hate us when we say that certain things are evil, and actions have consequences. They take advantage of this backlash to claim that the Catholics of the world agree with them and try to silence the Church. If we would just be silent on these evils and be a charitable NGO instead, the world would have no problem with us. 


The problem is, we cannot just be a philanthropic organization if we are to be faithful to Christ and His Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). We are sent to instruct the world on what we need to do if we would be saved (cf. Acts 2:37-40). If we refuse to do that, we will be held accountable for those who fall into damnation from our silence (Ezekiel 3:17-21).


It is true that Pope Francis has stressed mercy and compassion in how the Church reaches out to sinners. There is nothing wrong with that. Unfortunately, some people misinterpret Pope Francis and his calls for mercy and compassion by assuming that people can come to communion if they “feel called” without repentance or changing their behavior. That is not and never was any part of his call for mercy.


It is also true that, in Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis stressed that we cannot assume mortal sin without determining if all the conditions (grave matter, full knowledge, free consent) are present. And, in the context of divorce and remarriage, there are situations where the knowledge or consent might be lacking. But we are not talking about people who were badly instructed or coerced into a situation where they cannot escape an invalid marriage. We are talking about Catholic lawmakers who say they will not follow their Church’s teaching against legalizing and expanding abortion as a “right.” Since the Church has made clear that abortion is grave sin and politicians are obliged to oppose it, canon 916 requires those in grave sin to not “receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession” does apply. And those who are “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion” (canon 915). So, the Church in America needs to address this issue. Those Catholic lawmakers who do work to protect and expand the evil of abortion must be corrected. 


Among the bishops, the disagreement is over how to handle this matter. Since we must not commit rash judgment, we must not impute bad will to the bishops we disagree with. That can be hard when one has passionate feelings on what we should or should not do, but sometimes being a Catholic is difficult because we must be willing to put God’s will above our own. American Catholics often resent and rebel against teachings we disagree with, praising or condemning the Popes and bishops depending on whether what they say line up with their views. Both sides downplay their own rebellion with special pleading, while being rigorous towards those they disagree with, even though they are guilty of the same thing.


So, while the bishops might legitimately have different views on how we should best approach those who know what the Church teaches and refuse to change, we cannot use that difference as an excuse to defend those we politically favor who do wrong. The Church in America needs—as the Ladaria Letter reminds us—to unite around the teachings of the Church and come to a common understanding on how to respond to those who refuse to follow these teachings.


Our part is to stop judging rashly. If someone calls the ~73% of the bishops who voted in favor of drafting a document “defying the Pope,” they have rashly judged. If someone accuses the ~24% who voted against drafting the document “pro-abortion” or “pro-Democrat” they have rashly judged.


The document has not been drafted yet and will not involve President Biden when it is drafted§. Acting against pro-abortion politicians in one’s own diocese is already permissible. The anger over national policy is months—possibly years—premature.


The iceberg of Catholic factionalism and dissent needs to be broken. Catholics need to relearn obedience to the Magisterium and charity towards those they disagree with.  If we can do that, we can break the iceberg that threatens the mission of the Church. If we will not, then we are merely part of the iceberg of rebellion.




(†) I have encountered people who deny they have factional leanings, but I can only ask, “Is that really true?” Whether we are aware of it or not, all of us are tempted to give one side a “pass” when we either fear the opponent more or favor our side. Justice forbids us to act that way, however.


(‡) Only 50%+1 is necessary to begin drafting such a document. However, approval for a national policy (which may or may not be included in the final draft submitted to Rome) either has to be unanimous or 2/3 and approved by Rome.


(§) Canon 1405 restricts judging a Catholic head of state to the Pope.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

It’s Iimi! So, What Are You Gonna Do About It?

Sean wants to make a proposal for the youth group that they should focus on issues that might be “solvable” instead. So, he asks Iimi to evaluate it for him. Iimi questions whether Sean would be willing to go along if it was another issue other than abortion being considered.

The argument Sean presents here was actually directed at me on Facebook. Except for cleaning up the grammar and spelling, it is presented verbatim. 

Saturday, June 19, 2021


Canon 915: Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.


Canon 916: A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition which includes the resolution of confessing as soon as possible.


There is a rule of thumb for an iceberg. For every foot sticking out of the water, ten feet are below the surface. So, except for when a change of balance causes a shift that reminds us about how big it is, the visible portion looks less threatening than it actually is. Aside from the practical nautical knowledge of navigation in icy waterways, this knowledge makes for a lot of memes involving what lies beneath a problem.


In the aftermath of the USCCB meeting of June 16-18, I think the iceberg meme serves as a useful symbol for the hostile response directed towards the bishops. Yes, we now have an ominous threat emerging where Catholics—including Catholic politicians—have reacted with hostility towards the decision to draft a document that in part looks to consider the requirements for receiving the Eucharist. But that threat was not caused by the USCCB vote. It was always that big beneath the surface. What the vote did was expose just how big the threat is.


The hidden part of the iceberg in this metaphor was just how large the number of American Catholics who failed to grasp what the Eucharist really is and how we are to prepare ourselves to receive it, combined with the failure to understand that the teachings of the Church are not opinions that can be rejected. The result is, when the bishops voted (fewer than 25% voted against it), it brought how big a problem it was to the surface.


The situation is that the long held teaching is being labeled as “weaponizing the Eucharist” by those who fall under the prohibition. And that demonstrates, as Ven. Pius XII put it:


Perhaps the greatest sin in the world today is that men have begun to lose the sense of sin. Smother that, deaden it — it can hardly be wholly cut out from the heart of man — let it not be awakened by any glimpse of the God-man dying on Golgotha's cross to pay the penalty of sin, and what is there to hold back the hordes of God's enemy from over-running the selfishness, the pride, the sensuality and unlawful ambitions of sinful man? Will mere human legislation suffice? Or compacts and treaties? In the Sermon on the Mount the divine Redeemer has illumined the path that leads to the Father's will and eternal life; but from Golgotha's gibbet flows the full and steady stream of graces, of strength and courage, that alone enable man to walk that path with firm and unerring step.


The loss of the sense of sin makes reception of the Eucharist “a right” and the Church insisting on our need to receive sacramental confession if we are conscious of grave sin “being political.” It is a problem that runs deep and over a long period of time. With no past agreement on how to handle it, this reaction demonstrates the opposition has hardened.


This is not going to be a lament on what might have been. There is no point in saying “we should have dealt with this earlier.” We have to deal with the situation as it exists now. Unfortunately, because the bishops are in disagreement (168 for, 55 against, 6 abstentions), those Catholics who are supporting what the Church has always called evil can play on this division to attack those who want to enforce the Church teachings.


That does not mean we can attack those 55 bishops who voted against writing the document. Sure, under canon 212 §3, we can make our concerns known… if done “with reverence toward their pastors.” But disagreement over how to handle a situation does not automatically prove a rejection of Church teaching or moral laxity.


Nor can we claim that the 168 bishops voting in favor of writing a document are acting “in opposition to the Pope.” The Ladaria Letter did not forbid the bishops taking action. It called for “agreement as a conference,” which doesn’t necessarily mean a unanimous vote (73% voted in favor. A 2/3 margin is required). During the process of drafting it and before voting for it, there will be opportunities to come to agreement on what is to be done.


But we should be speaking out against the dissent that attacks Church teaching. Sure, one can legitimately say that Bill Barr was wrong to sign off on an execution (this is currently a popular tactic on the internet… though it’s a tu quoque and the differences are greater than the similarities). But, if these critics are aware that his action was wrong (and it was), then they are without excuse for not also condemning the continuing actions of the pro-abortion politicians who enable and protect the evil of abortion.


So, I believe that the iceberg that threatens the Church in the United States is the disobedience and the justification for evil given when that evil is on our side. It is easy to be self-righteous towards the other side’s faults. But, if we will not repent of our own failures while condemning the other side for theirs, then we should remember the words of The Lord: “For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you (Matthew 7:2).” This does not mean that the Church is guilty of being judgmental when she applies censure to the recalcitrant who publicly flaunt their disobedience. But it does mean we play the hypocrites if we excuse our own side—going against the teachings of the Church—for what is unforgivable for our enemies.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us: A Reflection on Factionalism

can. 750 §1.† A person must believe with divine and Catholic faith all those things contained in the word of God, written or handed on, that is, in the one deposit of faith entrusted to the Church, and at the same time proposed as divinely revealed either by the solemn magisterium of the Church or by its ordinary and universal magisterium which is manifested by the common adherence of the Christian faithful under the leadership of the sacred magisterium; therefore all are bound to avoid any doctrines whatsoever contrary to them.

§2. Each and every thing which is proposed definitively by the magisterium of the Church concerning the doctrine of faith and morals, that is, each and every thing which is required to safeguard reverently and to expound faithfully the same deposit of faith, is also to be firmly embraced and retained; therefore, one who rejects those propositions which are to be held definitively is opposed to the doctrine of the Catholic Church.

can. 751† Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.

can. 752† Although not an assent of faith, a religious submission of the intellect and will must be given to a doctrine which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops declares concerning faith or morals when they exercise the authentic magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim it by definitive act; therefore, the Christian faithful are to take care to avoid those things which do not agree with it.

can. 753† Although the bishops who are in communion with the head and members of the college, whether individually or joined together in conferences of bishops or in particular councils, do not possess infallibility in teaching, they are authentic teachers and instructors of the faith for the Christian faithful entrusted to their care; the Christian faithful are bound to adhere with religious submission of mind to the authentic magisterium of their bishops.

can. 754† All the Christian faithful are obliged to observe the constitutions and decrees which the legitimate authority of the Church issues in order to propose doctrine and to proscribe erroneous opinions, particularly those which the Roman Pontiff or the college of bishops puts forth.

There is a famous phrase that some attribute to cartoonist Walt Kelly of Pogo fame and others attribute to a 1970 ecology poster that goes, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” It has become more popular than the original saying and is generally used to say that we are the cause of our own problem.

I bring this up as a general conclusion to the It’s Iimi! comics (HEREHERE) because I think the current fight over the USCCB meeting running from the 16th to the 18th is a symptom rather than a problem in itself. Regardless of what the bishops decide to do regarding their “coherence” section on the proposed document on the Eucharist, The lay Catholics have decided for themselves who are the “heroes” and “villains” of the Church. Based on this assumption, they have already concluded that the “other side” of the “battle” is acting against what the Church teaches.

I say that the reaction to the USCCB meeting is a symptom because we have been before. We are constantly seeing a factional group in the Church who argue that there is only one way to handle a situation. Whoever disagrees with that proposed solution is accused of being in the wrong… even if the accused are the Pope and bishops in communion with him issuing a formal teaching. 

Sometimes it is a case of dissident Catholics claiming that the Pope and bishops are failing to show love, as it happened with St. Paul VI issuing Humanae Vitae and the CDF under Pope Francis reaffirming that same-sex relationships cannot be blessed. At other times, it is a case of Catholics disagreeing on the best way to carry out a teaching. For example, the infamous “anti-abortion but not pro-life” comment was rooted in the assumption that one had to vote for certain social policies and rejected the possibility of other legitimate solutions.

I could go on—and these factions doubtless will—but these examples show what I think the problem is in all our disputes: We will only obey the Church when she teaches what we want. If the bishops speak out on an issue we do not want to hear about, we will cease to give the “religious submission of the intellect and will” (canon 752). We think we are justified in doing this and invent all sorts of complex theologies to proclaim our righteousness. At the same time, we refuse to consider whether those on what we consider the “other side” could legitimately reach their conclusions through a faithful study of the same documents we read. We refuse to consider the possibility that we can be in the wrong about those documents.

As I watch the different feuds, I am struck by how many determine orthodoxy by saying, “I can see no other way to interpret X than…” while ignoring the fact that their opponents say the same thing. But logically, both factions are making an argument from ignorance fallacy. Just because one “can see no other way” to interpret something does not mean there is “no other way to interpret” something.

Yes, if a group of bishops does issue statements in opposition to the Pope, they are devoid of authority. We saw that with the unfortunate statements by the dubia cardinals or Archbishop Vigano for example. An opinion is an opinion that must yield to the teaching of the Church. But sometimes what we see as a “conflict” is nothing more than a proposal that runs counter to our own.

The other side of that coin is the attempt to turn a binding teaching into an “opinion.” For example, the attempts to undermine the CDF statement on blessing same-sex relationships by implying they were issued as a topic of discussion instead of being promulgated by the Pope. This is also factionalism.

If we want to claim to be faithful Catholics and fight to defend the Pope, or the moral teaching of the Church, then let us remember that we must obey the Pope and the bishops in communion with him when they intend to teach, whether ex cathedra or the ordinary magisterium.

It is not wrong, of course, to have a preference on how the Church teaches or disciplines… provided that the preference is in keeping with the teaching of the Church. But if the Pope and the bishops in communion with him should decide on a way to handle things that is different than we would like, then we cannot sacrifice submission to our preferences.

We should not hide behind excuses. Political factionalism is not the only kind of factionalism. The other side’s actions are not automatically worse than our own. If we choose to condemn others for what we are guilty of, we will be judged as well (cf.Matthew 7:2). 

So, we need to constantly be on guard. We all have faults we are blind to, even though we clearly see that fault in others. We all are tempted to excuse our own wrongdoing, even though it is what we condemn in others. But we need to be willing to change when the Church says, “we will do it this way,” and this way is not ours.

If we will not do this, then let us be aware that the enemy in the Church is us. 





(†) It is a satire of the 1812 statement by Oliver Hazard Perry to William Henry Harrison: “We have met the enemy and they are ours.” 

(‡) Contrary to some claims, what the bishops will be discussing is whether to write a document on restoring the lost belief in the Real Presence. It is will not be about excommunicating President Biden.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

It’s Iimi! Just Who is Factionalized Here?

With the Bishops’ meeting beginning tomorrow (6/16/21), I thought this would be a good time to get out one final manga on the misconceptions and hostility directed against it. Like Iimi does at the end of this piece, I urge the readers to pray for our bishops that they may reach a decision that is God’s will.

In this episode, with Daryl being absent from the youth group, Sean goes on the attack over bishops acting “in opposition” to the Pope and accuses Iimi of acting against the Pope. Iimi points out that while she might have preferences on what should be done, she will be obedient to the teachings approved by the Pope even if it should go against her preferences. 

For those who are interested in the “behind the scenes” notes, this comic was written script first, instead of constructing both text and pictures at the same time.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Announcement for Those Who Follow my Blog via E-Mail

 Blogger has informed me of the following:

Recently, the Feedburner team released a system update announcement, that the email subscription service will be discontinued in July 2021.

After July 2021, your feed will still continue to work, but the automated emails to your subscribers will no longer be supported. 

If you do follow my blog via e-mail, you will need to find another way of getting notified of my blog posts. My blog's Facebook page can be found HERE. If you have an RSS reader, there is a widget on the right side of the page... assuming it still functions.

It’s Iimi! On Life, Language, and Leanings

Della and Myrna discuss abortion rhetorical dichotomies and the assumptions behind them. Della gives a neutral definition that she thinks might be useful while admitting that she prefers the term Pro-Life. Myrna notices that Della’s subconscious use of language reflects what she believes and tries to live.

I chose to use Della-Myrna instead of Iimi for this dialogue, because Iimi’s dialogues with her friends tend to turn into arguments and I needed a calm discussion.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

It’s Iimi! The Ladaria Letter and Other Things

The “Ladaria Letter” seems to be a Rorschach test for Catholics… hold it up to the anti-Francis Catholic or the so-called “Pope Francis Catholic” and they see a rebuke of the US bishops. Regardless of whether they see that as positive or negative depends on misunderstandings of Pope Francis’ preaching on Mercy.

Iimi takes a different approach, seeing the CDF letter from Cardinal Ladaria to Archbishop Gomez as a reminder to the Bishops about what is necessary to address the issue of pro-abortion politicians in a divided American episcopate.

Relevant documents:
The 2002 CDF Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life
Aparecida Document of 2007 (which explains “Eucharistic Coherence.”)

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Look to Your Own Beam First

“Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5)

Those involved in factional fighting might pretend to be acting for the “good of the Church,” but the reality is they are selectively quoting what the Church teaches to discredit their political opponents. Then, when challenged over the sins of their own side, they argue that “the stakes are too high” to worry about that at this time. The problem is this way of thinking will never find the “right time” to challenge their own faction. There will always be a perceived crisis that prevents us from looking to reform ourselves.

But we are called to change ourselves regardless of what others do. Our Lord tells us:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ 23 Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

Yes, teaching others to reject evil is part of the Great Commission (cf. Matthew 28:19-20). But if we will not do what we expect others to do, we will answer for it.

This gets worse as Catholics misidentify Church teaching and political preference. The result is accusing Catholics on the “other side” of wrongdoing, while never asking themselves about their own behavior.

10 I urge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose. 11 For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers, by Chloe’s people, that there are rivalries among you. 12 I mean that each of you is saying, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Corinthians 1:10-13)

Recently, the war between the Original Pro-Life Movement (hereafter OPLM) and the New Pro-Life Movement (hereafter NPLM) has flared up again. It is not a new conflict. It happens in America with every change of a Presidential party in power. One party thinks that abortion is a “human right.” The other recognizes it is not. Catholics, of course, can never licitly support abortion… even though some Catholics do.

The battle of the OPLM and the NPLM basically comes down to how abortion should be weighted when it comes to the moral obligations of voting. Both factions are caricatures of what the Right to Life means. The OPLM generally argues that abortion is the worst evil of our times, and we can never licitly vote for a candidate or party that supports legalized abortion. The NPLM tends to argue that since the other social justice issues are a part of the Seamless Garment of Life, we need to elevate them in the discussion. Unfortunately, the practical result of this factionalism is that the OPLM argues that “the stakes are too high” to hold candidates accountable for issues other than abortion, while the NPLM argues that “the stakes are too high” to worry about abortion. The OPLM Catholic tends to vote Republican regardless of that party’s failings and the NPLM Catholic tends to vote Democrat regardless of that party’s failings.

Both factions are quick to point out the failures of the other side. But, neither does more than pay lip service to their own side’s failures. The result is, hostility and self-righteousness grow apace.

The fact is, the Catholic Church does indeed teach that the Right to Life is the first right. However, her teaching shows that both factions have gone wrong:

In effect the acknowledgment of the personal dignity of every human being demands the respect, the defence and the promotion of the rights of the human person. It is a question of inherent, universal and inviolable rights. No one, no individual, no group, no authority, no State, can change—let alone eliminate—them because such rights find their source in God himself.

The inviolability of the person which is a reflection of the absolute inviolability of God, fĂ­nds its primary and fundamental expression in the inviolability of human life. Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights—for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture—is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.

The Church has never yielded in the face of all the violations that the right to life of every human being has received, and continues to receive, both from individuals and from those in authority. The human being is entitled to such rights, in every phase of development, from conception until natural death; and in every condition, whether healthy or sick, whole or handicapped, rich or poor. The Second Vatican Council openly proclaimed: “All offences against life itself, such as every kind of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and willful suicide; all violations of the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture, undue psychological pressures; all offences against human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children, degrading working conditions where men are treated as mere tools for profit rather than free and responsible persons; all these and the like are certainly criminal: they poison human society; and they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are a supreme dishonour to the Creator”. (Christifideles Laici 38)

So, on one hand, Catholics cannot limit the right to life to abortion. On the other hand, Catholics cannot reduce the importance of abortion… it is listed next to murder and genocide, after all. Moreover, certain rights are considered secondary to the right to life. So, while rights to housing and healthcare are important, we cannot sacrifice the obligation to oppose abortion to them.

I would say that contra the OPLM, we do have an obligation to speak out against more than abortion. But contra the NPLM, we also have an obligation to oppose abortion as the first assault on the right to life.

Therefore, I think the assaults on the bishops are unjust. The OPLM is wrong in saying that the bishops ignore abortion. They are not. But the NPLM is wrong in claiming that the bishops were obsessed with abortion and neglecting the other issues. Anybody paying attention to the USCCB releases showed they spoke about all the issues Americans were wrong over… but they were always attacked for not speaking about Y, when the focus of the debate was X.

Let us face the facts: when a Presidential administration is in line with Church teaching on X but wrong on Y, the bishops will tend to focus on Y. If the administration is in the wrong on abortion, the bishops will speak out on abortion. If the administration is in the wrong on immigration, the bishops will speak out on immigration. They are not behaving in a partisan manner. I would say that the person accusing them of being partisan is the one who is biased. 

We can see this OPLM v. NPLM factionalism in play with the USCCB expressing concern over Biden and abortion. Both factions will pick out their heroes and villains on how they face the fact of a pro-abortion Catholic President… the first in US history§.

And I think that is the key to the situation. America has had pro-abortion presidents before and Catholic pro-abortion politicians before. But this is the first time we have had a Catholic pro-abortion President in the United States. So, the US bishops are dealing with something entirely new#.

So, it does not help when the OPLM and NPLM are picking out heroes and villains from the bishops. Yes, the bishops are publicly divided over what should be done, and that should not be. Yes, we do need a solution on how to handle it. And yes, all of us (including me) have ideas on what that solution should be. But our response should be prayer for them to reach a wise decision, not accusing the bishops we disagree with of bad will. Because of this, I say that the OPLM and NPLM need to spend more time considering the beam in their own eyes and less on the splinter in the eye of their foes. It might help coming to a non-partisan response that helps the bishops instead of hindering them.


(†) Relatively speaking. Often, a political party will support an action that the Church teaches but do so with a different motive.

(‡) “Pro-Choice” is a propaganda term where the party tries to separate the claimed personal feelings of the politician from what he does, even though the claimed personal feelings have no impact on what he freely chooses to do. We should not use the term.

(§) Remember, when the first Catholic President was elected, Roe v. Wade was over ten years away, so it was not a factor.

(#) Canon 1405 does limit the judging of a chief executive of a country to the Pope. But that is beyond the scope of this article and will need to be addressed another time. Briefly, it can be used to interpret the meaning of the Ladaria letter as saying that the bishops need to be unified and talking to Biden privately before bringing it before the Pope. It does not mean that those bishops wanting to move beyond the status quo are wrong. Also, keep in mind this canon was not part of the revision of canon law.


Thursday, June 3, 2021

It’s Iimi! What Good Is The Golden Rule?

I’ve mentioned Iimi’s older sister, Della, before. Here we meet her and her college roommate, Myrna, as they discuss how losing sight of the Golden Rule led to the situation we have in this country today. Even for people who do not accept Catholicism as true, the teachings are a way leading out of ruin.

I chose to bring Della in because, as the comic progresses, she will play a role. So, it seemed good to establish her character quirks before then.