Showing posts with label Christian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christian. Show all posts

Friday, October 2, 2020

Reflections on Our Attitudes About Trump and COVID-19

was startled to learn about the news that Donald and Melania Trump had been diagnosed with COVID-19. It certainly brought home the fact that if the rich and powerful can get it, so can the rest of us. But this article is not about the moral goodness or badness of a human being, dealing with an illness, or the precautionary measures needed against them. Rather, it is about looking at the reactions on social media and having to ask, “What is wrong with people?”

The reason I ask this is because a certain set of Americans are responding with malicious glee to the fact that two human being have been afflicted by a disease that seems to have called almost 208,000 deaths and afflicted 7.35 million people in the United States alone. I have seen people wish the President a painful death, and I have seen people seek to use this for a partisan gain. Even in the media, we are seeing the main discussion focusing on how it will impact the elections and the Supreme Court nomination process. Some of those carrying out this abhorrent behavior are self-professed Christians.

Once again: These Donald and Melania Trump are human beings, made in the image and likeness of God and worthy of as much respect and compassion as every other human being. If we claim to care about human lives, we need to show concern for these specific human lives as well.

Those who dislike the President will no doubt bring up a litany of his sins. To which I will respond with the words of Christ:

Do to others as you would have them do to you. For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit [is] that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount. But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as [also] your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:31-36).

The attitude of the Christian for the suffering must be one of compassion and caring that is not contingent on how they have treated us or how their affliction will benefit or harm us. Regardless of what one thinks of a person’s politics or character, we are not exempted from that part of God’s great commandment that tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves.

And if we invent excuses as to why someone who we dislike doesn’t count, we’re pretty reprehensible.


(†) Worldwide, we have 1.35 million deaths and 34.5 million cases.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

What Are We Really Trying to Do?

15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves. (Matthew 23:15).


Such words are “liberality,” “progress,” “light,” “civilization;” such are “justification by faith only,” “vital religion,” “private judgment,” “the Bible and nothing but the Bible.” Such again are “Rationalism,” “Gallicanism,” “Jesuitism,” “Ultramontanism”—all of which, in the mouths of conscientious thinkers, have a definite meaning, but are used by the multitude as war-cries, nicknames, and shibboleths, with scarcely enough of the scantiest grammatical apprehension of them to allow of their being considered really more than assertions.


 John Henry Newman, An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent (London: Burns, Oates, & Co., 1870), 41–42.

We must do all by love, and nothing by force.

We must love obedience rather than fear disobedience.

[Written to St. Jane Frances de Chantal]


Francis de Sales, Letters to Persons in the World, trans. Henry Benedict Mackey and John Cuthbert Hedley, Second Edition, Library of Francis de Sales (London; New York; Cincinnatti; Chicago: Burns and Oates; Benziger Brothers, 1894), 160.

Some people I know quit Facebook, disgusted over the tone. I can understand the disgust. It seems that most of what crosses my feed involves people who are posting stories giving the worst interpretations possible to the actions of those they dislike, politics and religion alike. The problem I have with this is: giving the worst possible interpretations to an action is not seeking the truth. Instead, the critic has tried the target in abstentia and declared them guilty of openly supporting what the critic fears from him.

It leads me to ask, what are we really trying to do here? Are we trying to inform people about the truth of the matter? Or are we trying to vilify the person, encouraging others to hate the person like we do? I admit this can be a fine line. If we think a person or an idea is dangerous, we want to warn others about the danger. But when we reach the point of repeating whatever makes a person sound evil, often showing no interest in understanding what a person is actually trying to do, I think we’ve stopped warning and started propagandizing.

For example, politically, supporters of the President are called “Fascist.” His enemies are called “Communist.” Both labels assume that the other side is not only wrong but actively trying to overthrow the good. But when pressed, the reasons I’m given for the opposition can be summed up as only their political position is right and there can be no good reason for opposing it.

The same thing happens in terms of religion, people who defend the authority of the Pope are called “ultramontane,” “modernist,” or “liberal.” Again, when one delves into the accusations and rhetoric, the basic assumption is that only the accuser’s interpretation on the application of Church teaching is correct, and there can be no good reason for taking a different view.

If we were serious about warning people about the truth of the matter, we’d start by learning the truth about what a thing is supposed to be and how the person we warn against is violating it. But instead of showing this knowledge, people use these labels aimed at demonizing the person opposed and conditioning the target audience to believe the attack.

Words do have proper meaning, and words can be misused or abused. When we abuse words to invoke a certain emotion, we’re not trying to get to the truth. We’re trying to get others to irrationally accept what we say. For those of us who profess to be Christian, this attempt to replace truth with emotional appeals to buzzwords goes against the great commission, where we are told to teach people. We need to teach people what we must do and why we must do it so they understand. We must submit our opinions to the teaching authority of the Church to be sure we have not deceived ourselves and do not mislead others.

When we’re tempted to use the labels instead of the teaching the truth, we need to ask what we are really trying to do. Are we really trying to help people do right? Or are we looking for recruits to bolster the size of our faction? If we’re trying to help people do right, we’ll stop with the propaganda, the labels, and the ad hominem attacks. Instead we’ll seek to lovingly show what the truth is so they accept it freely. But if we’re focussing on recruiting for a faction, Our Lord warned us harshly against it.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Armageddon in 2016? Fearing the Future after November 8th

Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power. Help the Pope and all those who wish to serve Christ and with Christ’s power to serve the human person and the whole of mankind. Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of States, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development. Do not be afraid. Christ knows “what is in man”. He alone knows it.


John Paul II [October 22, 1978], Homilies of Pope John Paul II (English) (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2014).

This year, an election year, disagreements between Catholics are reaching a fevered pitch. People fear the evils of the future, and reasonably want to limit them. Unfortunately, they cannot agree on what the worst evils are and how to face them. Because of this, Catholics who fear the evils from one candidate accuse other Catholics who disagree of supporting those feared evils or willfully ignoring the danger. For proof of their claims, they point to certain Catholics who do support these evils in defense of their candidate and argue “guilt by association” (a fallacy). To further muddy the waters, many blame the Pope and bishops for not focussing on their issues. Why doesn’t the Pope speak more about X? Why do the bishops spend so much time talking about Y? People assume that if our shepherds were doing their jobs right, we wouldn’t be in these difficulties, and also assume that these are the worst times ever faced, and it has to be somebody’s fault.

Of course, some of the promoted policies do promote evil and could end up persecuting the Church. It is reasonable to oppose such evils and try to limit those which are inevitable. But it’s not the worst possible times ever faced by Christians. In other times, and currently in other regions, the Church has faced persecution to the point that members of the faithful faced martyrdom and other miseries. No, I’m not arguing the fallacy of relative privation here. We do want to avoid whatever harms the faithful and we want to stop whatever leads people away from God.

But as I work my way through works like A History of the Councils of the Church written in the 19th century by the German Bishop Karl Joseph von Hefele, I see a Church history full of governments backing the enemies of the Church, supporting the dissenters and persecuting the faithful. The Church survived these evils, and eventually converted the oppressing rulers. This is a scenario that repeats itself throughout Church history. The faithful, in concert with the Church—under the headship of the successor of Peter and never apart from—challenge the triumphant dissenters and eventually restore the Christian world to faith. As Cardinal George once remarked:

I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the Church has done so often in human history.

God provides the grace to accomplish this, but He also sends heroic men and women in every generation to stand up against the state and teach what is right. Thinking about this makes me ponder. If we find ourselves wondering where these heroic men and women are in this generation, then perhaps this is a call from God for us to be one of them. Whether the coming times are times when Christians will die in bed, die in prison, die in the public square, or pick up the shards, Christians are called to stand up and promote the faith despite how the world treats us.

So, yes, let’s take this election seriously. Let’s properly form our conscience through the teachings of the Church, promoting good and trying to oppose evil wherever possible. Let’s vote responsibly. But let’s not live in terror of the aftermath. I’ve no doubt things will be hard for us, and I have my opinions on which way will be harder for us. But let’s remember our obligations to evangelize the world regardless of who gets elected or what unjust laws get passed. We should pray for Our Lord’s protection as we do His work, and relief from evil. But since Our Lord warned us people would hate us on account of Him (John 15:20-25), we can’t be surprised if we have a rough time for the next four years . . . or ten years, or a hundred years or more.

So we have to work, and Our Lord wants us to work together (John 17:20-21). As it says in Psalm 133:1, “How good and how pleasant it is, when brothers dwell together as one!” That won’t happen if we savage each other and accuse each other of bad will in our actions, when it is a matter of simply having different ideas on what we must do to be faithful to God and His Church.

So let us keep our mind on our real Savior, who will remain Lord over all creation regardless of who gets elected. Let us live for Him regardless of what happens to us in the future.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Qorban-ite Maneuver: Fidelity to and Evasion of Our Responsibilities

Alas you phariseesYet you say, ‘If a person says to father or mother, “Any support you might have had from me is qorban”' (meaning, dedicated to God), you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother [Mark 7:11-12].


With the major candidates in what looks like a race to find how far one can go in moral decline and still get elected, and the largest minor parties saying, “We can be more extreme than the major parties,” the Catholic has major problems finding a candidate who fits the obligation to promote good and limit evil. No matter who we vote for, the candidate who becomes president will, in some way, endorses an intrinsic evil that would normally disqualify them in favor of a sane candidate. While some have made up their minds how to vote and have no problems telling everybody who disagrees that they are wrong. Others see the race as a moral quagmire and can’t find a choice that doesn’t trouble their conscience.

The Common Good

Personally I think the 2016 elections are not an easy choice, and there are serious moral concerns regardless of whether one supports a major party or a minor one. So, when I see someone quickly and confidently embracing a candidate as the “Catholic choice,” I wonder whether they’ve carefully considered the problems with him or her. Since we, as Catholics, must promote the teachings of Our Lord to the world and to seek out the true good of our society, we have to consider what these teachings are and how to apply them properly.

Promoting the common good includes all Catholics, and we can’t opt out of playing our part. According to the Catechism, just societies and just leaders need to address three key points:

1907 First, the common good presupposes respect for the person as such. In the name of the common good, public authorities are bound to respect the fundamental and inalienable rights of the human person. Society should permit each of its members to fulfill his vocation. In particular, the common good resides in the conditions for the exercise of the natural freedoms indispensable for the development of the human vocation, such as “the right to act according to a sound norm of conscience and to safeguard … privacy, and rightful freedom also in matters of religion.”

1908 Second, the common good requires the social well-being and development of the group itself. Development is the epitome of all social duties. Certainly, it is the proper function of authority to arbitrate, in the name of the common good, between various particular interests; but it should make accessible to each what is needed to lead a truly human life: food, clothing, health, work, education and culture, suitable information, the right to establish a family, and so on.

1909 Finally, the common good requires peace, that is, the stability and security of a just order. It presupposes that authority should ensure by morally acceptable means the security of society and its members. It is the basis of the right to legitimate personal and collective defence. 

When we think about what candidates to support or initiatives to support, we have to keep these things in mind. We can’t decide to ignore the parts of political platforms we don’t like or choosing what parts of the Church to obey. So, respect for the person means we can’t support positions which violate the right to life or the freedom to follow a properly formed conscience. We can’t choose to support policies that treat some people as less important than others (for example, the born over the unborn). So, when we vote, or endorse a party platform, we have to make sure that what we endorse—or reluctantly choose as causing less harm—reflects accepting Church teaching as she understands it. We can’t change the rules to benefit us.

The Qōrbān-ite Maneuver [†]

Balok puppetNo . . . not Corbomite Maneuver...

In Mark 7:11, Jesus denounces the Pharisees for a human tradition used to evade God’s commands. This involved declaring something a “gift to God” through a vow (Leviticus 2:1, 4, 12 and 14 are examples of what was properly qorban) which meant one couldn’t use it for other things. Usually, qorban involved gifts to the Temple and for ending a Nazirite vow. Fulfilling a vow to God was not sinful, and was not what Our Lord condemned.

What He denounced was evading the commandments through using whatever was for the care of parents to pay for obligations to God. The piety behind it claimed that one’s obedience to God superseded one’s duty to parents. The reality was using this piety as an excuse to avoid spending extra money by deliberately setting two obligations commanded by God (vows and honoring parents) in conflict and deciding the obligation to God won out. In short, it was an evasion which benefitted the person under a pretense of piety.

So, what does this have to do with the Catholic moral obligation? There is a temptation to misuse Church teaching to justify what one wants, without getting hindered by another moral obligation. This sacrifices one in the name of the other while pretending (or perhaps being sincere in their error) to be more focussed on God in doing so. When the Church teaches on our obligations, we can’t look at it as a hindrance to get around. We need to look at this as guidance on shaping our behaviors to do right in the sight of God.

Doing Right, Not Doing What Benefits Us, Means Difficult Choices

So, when the Church defines the right to life as always opposing abortion and euthanasia, we don’t support a pro-abortion candidate and claim we are doing so to follow Church teaching on respect for the human person. Nor do we support a pro-torture candidate and claim we’re faithful to Church teaching on respect for the human person. Ditto the candidate who violates our religious freedom. If we cast our vote for such a candidate, it is only legitimate in trying to limit a greater evil. This is a matter of discerning Church teaching, not of interpreting things to benefit us.

So we never “sacrifice” one part of Church teaching (which we “coincidentally” think is less important) in favor of another (which "just happens" to be one we strongly agree with). Since we’re faced with a slate of major party candidates who endorse different evils, we have to decide whether to reject both and support a minor party or whether we try blocking the candidate who supports the greater evil and oppose the evils of the less extreme candidate if elected. Of course, voting for a candidate because he supports an evil is a sin. It’s not an easy choice, as the Church is vehement against abortion and torture both and somebody is going to get elected who supports one or more of these evils. 

Offering my own opinion (which is NOT intended as an endorsement of any candidate), I believe we should vote to block the candidates we think will do the most harm to the nation according to Catholic moral values (not our own preferences), and plan to fight the evils endorsed by whoever gets elected—even if it puts us at odds with our preferred political party. We must not think that our job is over on November 9th 2016. If our president-elect supports abortion and violates religious freedom, prepare to fight on those grounds. If our president-elect supports torture and unjust immigration policies, prepare to fight on those grounds. That’s true regardless of whether one votes for a major candidate or a minor party. And of course, as Christians, Our Lord’s teaching on charity means we have to give aid to those in need regardless of what party gets elected and what policies they enact.

As I said, this is a hard decision. It involves trying to limit the harm to our nation, but knowing some harm will happen no matter what. We should pray for the nation and soberly reflect on what Church teaching forms our conscience to do, and then be faithful to that decision, knowing God will judge our intentions and our actions.


[†] Yes, I love bad puns and am a bit of a geek. So, yes, I did a play on words with a Star Trek episode. No, the wordplay doesn’t have anything to do with that episode. The Hebrew term is also spelled Corban or Korban.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Let's Talk Elections—More Specifically Let's Talk About Our Behavior in Them

I’ve said elsewhere I don’t want my blog to be a vehicle for my political opinions. I especially don’t want my blog to misrepresent my political opinions as being Catholic moral theology. While we’re forbidden certain actions, we can reach different decisions about how to best be faithful to Church teachings. We must avoid rationalizing the forbidden choices through pick-and-choose quoting Church teaching in order to justify what we were planning to do anyway. We have to apply Church teaching to every aspect of our lives, promoting good and opposing evil to the best of our ability. That includes our political preferences. When one candidate openly supports an evil condemned by the Church, we’re not supposed to support that candidate without a reason that outweighs the harm done. 

I don’t think I am violating my blog editorial policy by saying this election is particularly bleak for Catholics and other Christians seeking the right thing. In ordinary times any one of these candidates would disqualify themselves as the greater evil. This time, we’re going decide between two dismal choices. Donald Trump fails because of his violations of social justice teaching. The Democrats (at this time I can’t figure out who’s going to get the nomination though, at the time of my writing this, Hillary Clinton seems favored to win) fail because of their open support of moral evils. Some people enthusiastically support one of these candidates. Many are reluctantly choosing one on the basis of reducing the harm done to the nation. A few are championing a Third Party in general, write-in, or not voting at all. (My post on all these concerns is HERE). The problem with that movement is, while these people are clear on who they oppose, they cannot agree on who to support.

When we analyze these choices, we need to remember that the right to life takes top priority. We can’t take a number of lesser concerns and claim that, put together, they outweigh the right to life. St. John Paul II called support for these other concerns “false and illusory” (Christifideles Laici #38) without support for the right to life. But, when no credible candidate supports the right to life, we can vote to shrink the damage done by voting for the candidate we think is less extreme in their support for evil. We don’t support that candidate’s evil, and we have an obligation to oppose it. We can’t just wash our hands of it on Wednesday, November 9th and say “Not my problem."

That’s standard teaching on Catholic ethics in voting. People faithfully obeying Church teaching can reach different decisions on what their conscience will allow. The question we have to answer is, What defense will we offer at the last judgment for our vote? In other words, we will have to answer to God for our actions so we need to take our decision seriously.

What leaves me with election burnout are those Catholics who have embraced one of the choices—usually for reasons I find unconvincing—and go out of their way to condemn people who reach a different decision as being bad Catholics. Each of these factions will contrast the evils of the other choices with Church teaching, but when they compare their own choices with Catholic teaching, I find that reasoning shallow and, as a result, the accusation of being a bad Catholic for disagreeing with them to be offensive.

We all have the obligation between now and November of being open to new discoveries of truth that might impact how we need to vote. Truth is a key word here. Many throw unproven allegations—often based on what they think the words mean—across social media. We have the obligation to investigate them—NOT assume they must be true because we dislike this candidate—in light of our obligation to promote good and oppose evil. We may discover one candidate grows progressively worse than we thought, or we may discover allegations against a candidate are false. In these cases, we have to reevaluate our decision to see if it is still in keeping with Church teaching.

Certainly we can still hold opinions on the best way to vote, and we can debate each other about these opinions. That’s a good way to learn more about the consequences of our opinion and whether we still want to hold them. But we can’t commit rash judgment in doing so. Trump supporters and third party supporters (the biggest civil war I see between Catholics on social media[†]) can’t accuse each other of being bad Catholics when their consciences forbid them to vote the other way.

Dialogue is certainly welcome to help people reach the right decisions. But in doing so, we should keep in mind something said by GK Chesterton. “It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong.[*]” We must not condemn faithful Catholics who make a legitimate choice different from ours. Nor can we refuse considering if we somehow went wrong in our own reasoning.

If I was making a single point about what to watch out for, I’d say the danger is pride. Nobody wants to be in the wrong. Being a practicing Catholic means trying to live according God’s teaching and the teaching of His Church. So when someone says “I think that’s wrong,” anger is easy to come by. But even practicing Catholics are sinners. We don’t have the papal charism of infallibility. We can make mistakes. That’s why it’s important to constantly reevaluate our views and respond to differing views with patience and charity. If we don't, the results could be serious...



[†] Generally speaking, I haven’t found Catholics who support Hillary Clinton and few who support Bernie Sanders because they openly support things as “rights” which the Church calls intrinsically evil (always evil regardless of intention or circumstance). I have met some third party supporters who would support Clinton or Sanders over Trump if they didn’t have a 3rd party to consider, because they believe Trump is lying about opposing abortion and/or fear Trump would cause great harm in nuclear or conventional war. “Abortion vs. World War III” is the common rhetoric used here.

[*] Chesterton said this in the context of providing reasons for why one is Catholic, and not coming across like an uninformed bigot. I think his words can apply to other disputes as well.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

We Must Stand Up For Right When Society Goes Wrong—Because We Are Christians

‘Isa: So you have no universal law, no higher law, no higher standard than culture, right?

Libby: Right. We don’t claim to have a private telephone line to heaven, like you.

‘Isa: So you can’t criticize your culture, then. Your culture sets the standard. Your culture creates the commandments. Your culture is God. “My country right or wrong.” That doesn’t sound like progressivism to me. That sounds like status quo conservatism.

Libby: You’re confusing me. You make everything stand on its head.

‘Isa: No, you do. Or your media do, and you’ve been suckered by them. It’s a big lie; it’s pure propaganda. If you just stop and think for yourself for a minute, you’ll see that it’s really just the opposite of the media stereotypes. Only a believer in an absolute higher law can criticize a whole culture. He’s the rebel, the radical, the prophet who can say to a whole culture, “You’re worshipping a false God and a false good. Change!” That’s the absolutist; and that’s the force for change. The Jews changed history more than anyone because they were absolutists—the conscience for the world, the Jewish mother who makes you feel guilty about not calling her, not calling on God, not praying. Or guilty about vegging out in front of the TV instead of going out and getting an education and getting a job and changing the world.

Libby: Not fair! The relativist is for change too.

‘Isa: But he has no moral basis for it. All a relativist can say to a Hitler is, “Different strokes for different folks, and I like my strokes and I hate yours.” The absolutist can say, “You and your whole society are wrong and wicked, and divine justice will destroy you, inescapably, unless you repent.” Which of those two messages is more progressive? Which one is the force for change?

[Peter Kreeft, A Refutation of Moral Relativism: Interviews with an Absolutist (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999), 75.]


Being a Christian today—at least one who takes a position contrary to what is currently favored culturally—is becoming an unpopular and potentially dangerous stand to take. While society is stressing the importance of being nice, and not saying anything negative about someone we disagree with (except when directed against said Christians), we are unpopular because we say “This is wrong, and cannot be done.” To which, the world says “Stop judging, you bigot!” (completely unaware of the self-contradiction). The impression one gets is that society would be perfectly willing to welcome us back into the fold if we would stop being so obstinate and go along with what they hold.

The Problem

If the society was the source of determining what was right and wrong, then it would be foolish of us to be countercultural. Under such a view, whoever rejected the mores of society would be a hateful person. But this is where the problem lies. Christianity cannot accept society as the source of determining right and wrong. Indeed, we know that societies have a bad habit of going very wrong. In America, our mistreatment of American Indians and African-Americans give us examples of behavior that cannot be considered good even though society once favored it. The totalitarian dictatorships of history give us examples of behavior we cannot condone. So there has to be a source for determining right and wrong which is outside of society. Otherwise, when a new group is in power, people will find themselves without grounds to protest actions they find offensive. And society, in the name of freedom, is rapidly undercutting the pillars that support freedom. They do this by saying, “Stop trying to push your values on us!” while pushing their values on others.

It is only when the people of a society is willing to investigate why a thing is right or wrong and then seek out the right while rejecting the wrong, that it can bring about justice while rejecting injustice. But that is precisely what the people of society are not doing. Instead we have an emotionalism that holds that people should be allowed to do what makes them happy, but that concept of “happy” is based on what makes them feel good. The problem is, some forms of pleasure affect others in a negative fashion. Other forms of pleasure are harmful to the person who pursues them in the long run. But when someone stands up and says, “This is actually harmful,” he or she is shouted down as “intolerant.” The label is not a refutation of the objection, but everybody assumes that it is.

The Christian Mindset

The informed Christian, on the other hand, starts from the perspective that the all-knowing, all-powerful and perfectly good God designed the universe and everything in it (which does not require a belief in “creationism”). God may be above reason, but is never contrary to reason. From this perspective, God designed His universe in a way that reflects His goodness. As a result, when we try to do things in a way which goes against this design, it is harmful. Maybe that harm is immediately apparent—such as attempting to defy gravity. Other times it takes time to discover—like people who abuse drugs and alcohol not discovering the harm before it is too late.

The point is, the Christian moral code is not an arbitrary ipse dixit invented by a cranky God or made up by a celibate priesthood. The Christian certainly follows God’s commandments because of love for Him (John 14:15), but the reasonableness of God’s teaching is apparent in the cause and effect of what His laws order us for and how rejection of those laws cause harm even for the person who does not believe God exists (physical, psychological and social effects).

That’s not to downplay the very real harm a person does to his or her relationship with God, which is even more serious than the physical, psychological and social effects. But it does show that the Christian’s objection is not based on “Because God said if you don’t do this, you’ll burn in hell!” Rather it is based on, “If you do this, you will destroy yourself spiritually, physically, psychologically and socially and we do not want you to cause your self-destruction."

What Follows From This

Once a person realizes this, the falseness of accusation of “pushing your values on us” is exposed as untrue. The Christian is not trying to force people into adopting a creed. He or she approaches the world from the perspective of trying to do what is right, and challenging the world to stay away from things that are harmful. When we push for society to be good, it is because we recognize that a bad society is harmful to the well-being of each individual and to the cohesion of society as a whole.

And, of course, the Christian protest is true. Society is falling apart. Family ties are collapsing. The individual is considered primary, and anything that dares to suggest that the individual’s desires cannot be elevated at the extent of harming others or disrupting society as God designed it is met with hostility.

Because of What We Are, Christians Must Act

So, even though our stands are increasingly unpopular and misrepresented (it’s easier to hate someone who is misrepresented as acting out of intolerance or other bad will), the committed Christian will not “go along to get along.” Our Lord has tasked us with a mission:

18  Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

The consequences of rejecting what God has commanded will be alienation from God in the most important aspect, but will affect the other parts of our life as well. For us, standing by while a person destroys their life is akin to standing by while a person drowns. If we could have done something (even if our aid is rejected), but did not, we share in the blame:

The word of the Lord came to me: Son of man, speak to your people and tell them: When I bring the sword against a land, if the people of that land select one of their number as a sentinel* for them, and the sentinel sees the sword coming against the land, he should blow the trumpet to warn the people. If they hear the trumpet but do not take the warning and a sword attacks and kills them, their blood will be on their own heads. They heard the trumpet blast but ignored the warning; their blood is on them. If they had heeded the warning, they could have escaped with their lives. If, however, the sentinel sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the sword attacks and takes someone’s life, his life will be taken for his own sin, but I will hold the sentinel responsible for his blood. 

You, son of man—I have appointed you as a sentinel for the house of Israel; when you hear a word from my mouth, you must warn them for me. When I say to the wicked, “You wicked, you must die,” and you do not speak up to warn the wicked about their ways, they shall die in their sins, but I will hold you responsible for their blood. If, however, you warn the wicked to turn from their ways, but they do not, then they shall die in their sins, but you shall save your life. (Ezekiel 33:1-9)

Our speaking out to the world can only go so far, and if a warning is unheeded, we cannot help that. But if we do not warn when we should warn, we do evil. 

The Obligation to Search For Truth Remains

Now, the person who rejects this Christian view is not free to go on doing as they like. Each person has the obligation to seek out and live according to what is true, not what is pleasurable. You might say you reject Christian teaching. But on what basis do you reject it? Do you even understand the teaching you are rejecting? Or do you merely associate it with “being mean?” The problem with that is sometimes there is no time for niceties when it comes to shouting a warning—HEY! WATCH OUT! Sometimes the individual lacks the social graces in expressing the truth. But these are not legitimate reasons to refuse to see if the claim is true.

It is not enough to say, “Well I don’t see anything wrong with this!” That’s the argument from ignorance fallacy—just because you don’t see anything wrong with it, doesn’t mean nothing is wrong with it. Each person has the obligation to examine their life and see whether what they do is good or evil. In doing so, they must reject the evil.

Unfortunately, that is seldom done. Many people just go along with an injustice being done, saying “I didn’t know!” or “What could I have done?” But I think we should consider the final lines from the 2004 movie, Downfall:

Traudl Junge: All these horrors I've heard of during the Nurnberg process, these six million Jews, other thinking people or people of another race, who perished. That shocked me deeply. But I hadn't made the connection with my past. I assured myself with the thought of not being personally guilty. And that I didn't know anything about the enormous scale of it. But one day I walked by a memorial plate of Sophie Scholl in the Franz-Joseph-Strasse. I saw that she was about my age and she was executed in the same year I came to Hitler. And at that moment I actually realised that a young age isn't an excuse. And that it might have been possible to get to know things.


The obligation of each person is to seek out and follow the truth. The reason we are Christians is because we believe we have found the truth—a truth beyond us and above us which guides us to be what we are called to be. Because we possess this truth, we will continue to let people know what it is that we offer. And it is not just a negative, mocking “you’ll be sorry if you don’t listen to us…” warning either. We want people to know and share in the good we have found. Benedict XVI said, in 2005:

Anyone who has discovered Christ must lead others to him. A great joy cannot be kept to oneself. It has to be passed on.

In vast areas of the world today there is a strange forgetfulness of God. It seems as if everything would be just the same even without him.

But at the same time there is a feeling of frustration, a sense of dissatisfaction with everyone and everything.

People tend to exclaim: “This cannot be what life is about!”. Indeed not. And so, together with forgetfulness of God there is a kind of new explosion of religion. I have no wish to discredit all the manifestations of this phenomenon. There may be sincere joy in the discovery. But to tell the truth, religion often becomes almost a consumer product. People choose what they like, and some are even able to make a profit from it.

But religion sought on a “do-it-yourself” basis cannot ultimately help us. It may be comfortable, but at times of crisis we are left to ourselves.

Help people to discover the true star which points out the way to us: Jesus Christ! Let us seek to know him better and better, so as to be able to guide others to him with conviction.

[Benedict XVI, August 21, 2005, Homilies of His Holiness Benedict XVI (English) (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2013).]

Out of love of God and love of neighbor, we let people know about the truth. Not for our benefit of course. We’re not on a commission basis. We share because we want you to share in the treasure we have found (Matthew 13:44-47). We want you to avoid the pitfalls which can keep you from receiving it.

Monday, November 24, 2014

More Thoughts on Sin and the Sinner

He then addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.c 10 “Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’d 13 But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’e 14 I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”f

The standard interpretation of the verses today is to equate the Pharisee with the Church. The fact that she says sins exist and that all are sinners is seen as judging the world while praising herself. That is to miss the point of why the Church exists. The Church doesn’t exist to pick out and exalt the exemplary person while shaming the rest. She exists to carry out Christ’s role of bringing back the Lost Sheep to the fold and the Prodigal Son to the family, each Christian acknowledging his or her own sins. The Christian, properly formed in his or her faith, knows they sin and seeks out Jesus as Savior. The Prayer of St. Ambrose before Mass expresses well how Christians should see themselves:

I approach your banquet table in fear and trembling,
for I am a sinner,
and dare not rely on my own worth,
but only on your goodness and mercy.
I am defiled by many sins in body and soul,
and by my unguarded thoughts and words.
Gracious God of majesty and awe,
I seek your protection,
I look for your healing.
Poor troubled sinner that I am,
I appeal to you, the fountain of all mercy.
I cannot bear your judgment,
but I trust in your salvation.

None of us can approach Our Lord with the attitude of “I am Good, Praise me!” All of us must acknowledge that we do evil and seek His help in repenting from this evil. If we do not recognize that we are sinners, we cannot seek out His healing and His mercy.

Unfortunately, the curse of modern times is the fact that people don’t recognize that they do evil anymore—instead they assume that their sins “aren’t important,” and point to the sins of Christians throughout history as a way of showing their superiority to the Christian. “My sleeping with my boyfriend/girlfriend isn’t as bad as their intolerance!"

It is that charge of “intolerance” as an unforgivable sin” that seems to place the modern person in the category of the Pharisee and not the Tax Collector. The modern person looks at Christianity as hating the person who sins, but this is because the modern person cannot distinguish between the person and the acts they perform—they are seen as one and the same. But Christianity has a view which divides what the world will not divide. G.K. Chesterton expresses this division very well:

A sensible pagan would say that there were some people one could forgive, and some one couldn’t: a slave who stole wine could be laughed at; a slave who betrayed his benefactor could be killed, and cursed even after he was killed. In so far as the act was pardonable, the man was pardonable. That again is rational, and even refreshing; but it is a dilution. It leaves no place for a pure horror of injustice, such as that which is a great beauty in the innocent. And it leaves no place for a mere tenderness for men as men, such as is the whole fascination of the charitable. Christianity came in here as before. It came in startlingly with a sword, and clove one thing from another. It divided the crime from the criminal. The criminal we must forgive unto seventy times seven. The crime we must not forgive at all. It was not enough that slaves who stole wine inspired partly anger and partly kindness. We must be much more angry with theft than before, and yet much kinder to thieves than before. (Orthodoxy, page 175)

The distinction is important. It points out that Christianity recognizes forgiving the sinner always, but never accepting the sinful act as allowable. So, the murderer can be forgiven for his sin, but murder can never be redeemed as a good act. The man is not destined to be a murderer forever. Jesus gives grace to repent and if the sinner chooses to say, “I did wrong,” he can be cleansed of his sin with the admonition to “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11). But the choice has to be made—does he reject the sin and repent or does he let the sin define him and refuse to repent? 

Now in cases like murder and rape, we tend to all be in agreement, but I think the problem in the modern West is we don’t want to give up certain sins and resent the implication that we are sinners because of this attachment. We let the sin define us and denouncing the sin is seen as hating the sinner. But that’s the problem. The teaching of Jesus Christ is that all of us are sinners—both the Pharisee and the Tax Collector—and repentance is required if one wants salvation. When the Pharisee praises himself, he does not go away justified. But what if the tax collector praised himself and refused to recognize his sinful actions as sinful? He would not be justified either.

When we look at things this way, I think we see why modern society is in such moral danger today. It defines Christianity as self-righteous in judging others, but it refuses to judge itself. Essentially, modern society stands the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector on its head, saying “I thank you I am not like that Christian!" 

So, that’s the trap. Both the Pharisee and the Tax Collector can repent and be justified because they humbled themselves. But both the Pharisee and the Tax Collector can deny their sins, look down on others and walk away unjustified because they exalt themselves.

Perhaps Advent, less than a week away, would be a good time to reflect on where we individually stand before the Lord.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Accusations Without Proof in America

The American Justice System holds two principles that I consider relevant to today's discussion:

  1. Innocent until Proven Guilty
  2. Guilty Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

These principles mean that guilt (not innocence) must be proven when an accusation is made and that the guilt must be proven to the extent that no reasonable doubts of the evidence or its interpretation exist in the mind of the person called to make the decision.  In other words, the burden of proof is on the accuser to establish that the guilt of the accused is clear and not that the accused must demonstrate that he is innocent.

The principles are good ones and are designed to prevent the conviction of someone based on false accusations and misapplied evidence – so long as justice is sought.

When justice is not sought, it becomes easy to turn the concepts into a mockery. Invalid evidence can be permitted and relevant evidence is rejected. This can result in the evils of the innocent being punished and the guilty set free.

This seems to be what is going on with how Christian moral teaching is being recast as bigotry today. The accusation is made that unpopular Christian teaching X is motivated by bigotry, and thus needs to be opposed. The practitioners of Christian teaching X are therefore bigots and can be ostracized, sued, prosecuted, etc.

Now if we applied the two principles of justice proclaimed by our Justice System to these accusations, we would recognize that the accusers are the ones with the burden of proof. They would have to demonstrate how the unpopular Christian moral teaching is rooted in bigotry. But that is precisely what is not done.

Take for example the Christian teaching on Marriage. The accuser makes the claim that "opposing same sex marriage is homophobia," for example. This is the point which the accuser is obligated to prove. But, instead of proving it, the accuser assumes it is proven and calls for action to be taken against the person who believes in and supports the Christian teaching on marriage – which does not accept same sex "marriage."

That's a dangerous idea. Imagine if I alleged that atheists were disloyal Americans because they could not be trusted to swear their loyalty to the country before God? I could seize on the fact of their disbelief in God and twist it to declare that because they couldn't swear sincerely before God (because they don't believe in God) that it meant they were actively disloyal towards America. Perhaps some atheists are disloyal citizens, but it doesn't follow from the fact of their rejecting oaths before God that they do so because of disloyalty. So if I were to claim, without proving, that all atheists who were unwilling to swear their loyalty before God did so out of motives of disloyalty, and got people to accept this without proof, I could bash all atheists who disagreed with my views even if they were not disloyal citizens.

People can recognize the injustice of my hypothetical (and to some extent historical) example above. But what is not apparent to many is that this is exactly the charge leveled against Christians who stand up for their beliefs today. It is assumed that Christians who stand up for the moral teaching of the Church do so with the motivation of intolerance. Since intolerance must be oppressed, says the unqualified statements of today, Christian teaching must be opposed. But when we look at the accusation, it doesn't hold together.

Q: Why is Christian teaching on marriage intolerant?

A: Because it rejects the legitimacy of same sex "marriage."

Q: Why is rejecting the legitimacy of same sex "marriage" wrong?

A: Because it is intolerant.

That's called Arguing in a Circle. The point to be proven (that opposition to same sex "marriage" is intolerant) is assumed to be true when the truth of the point is exactly what is under dispute.

The fact is, a thing can be opposed for many different reasons and not all of them are based on bigotry. Yes, the Westboro Baptists practice a hateful form of bigotry in their actions of opposing homosexual acts. But that's not the only motivation for opposing them. The entirety of Christians who believe that homosexual acts are wrong can only be condemned for holding the Westboro position IF, and only IF, the entirety of these Christians have the same views as the Westboro Baptists.

But in fact, the Westboro Baptists and their "God Hates F*gs" signs come nowhere near the teaching of the Catholic Church which decrees in the Catechism:

2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved. (2333)

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection. (2347)

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 566. [Emphasis added]

So, the Catholic who behaves like a member of the Westboro Baptist Church is acting against Catholic teaching in behaving unjustly. It's one thing to say:

2363 The spouses’ union achieves the twofold end of marriage: the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life. These two meanings or values of marriage cannot be separated without altering the couple’s spiritual life and compromising the goods of marriage and the future of the family.

The conjugal love of man and woman thus stands under the twofold obligation of fidelity and fecundity.

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 568.

…and therefore reject sexuality being used outside of this context (it also rejects adultery, fornication, prostitution, mistresses, masturbation, divorce and remarriage, etc.)

It's quite another thing to say that we may do harm to those people with same sex attraction. The Catholic defense of marriage has nothing to do with the thugs out there who beat up people with same sex attraction. In fact, we condemn such behavior. It doesn't seek to deny that people with same sex attraction the same human rights others have. We say such behavior cannot be considered marriage.

We believe sexual relations can only be legitimately used in the concept of marriage between one man and one woman. We stand firm on this in the face of the polygamist, the adulterer, the fornicator and others. Even if they believe their behavior to be acceptable, we must say it is not.

However, we reject any claim that our beliefs are made out of malice or hatred for others, and we hold that no person can prove that our beliefs do have this malice and hatred. A just society will stop trying to persecute people for holding to our beliefs on the basis of a person claiming without justification that we act out of hatred.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Do Christians Have a Double Standard?

It occurs to me that some people might believe that there is a double standard in play, where we object to the CEO of Mozilla and a member of the Duck Dynasty cast being bullied out of a job for privately supporting something in keeping with his or her beliefs while we think it is acceptable for a religious school to terminate an employee whose life is not in accord with the values of the religious school. Do we have a double standard when we think Hobby Lobby should be exempted from the Contraception Mandate but think Mozilla was in the wrong in encouraging the resignation of their CEO?

Such a person might ask, "Shouldn't you either accept the right of both to exclude, or the obligation of both to ignore personal behavior?"

It's a fair question, but if we explore the issue I think we will find the two scenarios are not equivalent and there is no case of special pleading or double standard in having two separate responses.

First of all, we must consider the purpose of the institution in question. For a secular company which operates under a code of ethics concerning how they behave towards customers or employees, what a person does in his or her own time that does not fall into these areas does not fall under the authority of the code of ethics.  It doesn't matter whether the employee personally holds views that others disagree with if he or she does not violate the code of ethics or the law.

In contrast, Hobby Lobby is a company which specifies it operates under Christian principles. A non-Christian is free to live his or her private life according to their personal values and Hobby Lobby does not interfere. What they insist on is the right to run their business according to their Christian values, which include no working on Sundays and no funding of abortifacient drugs. Hobby Lobby takes no action if an employee chooses to use these drugs. It's only when an employee's conduct is public and is in violation of the company code of ethics that it takes action.

So far, no double standard.

Now we come to the Catholic school who has to terminate an employee who is living in a way contrary to the Catholic moral beliefs. In this case, the purpose of the school is not just to teach, but to teach in a way which testifies to the Catholic vision of how to live. The teachers bear witness to this way of life. Now people who are not Catholic are educated by these schools and people who are not Catholic may be employed by these schools.

BUT, because these schools bear witness to the Catholic moral teaching, the employees are required to sign agreements that they will not live contrary to these teachings... a teacher who publicly lives against these moral values creates a scandal, forcing the Church to either:

■ Ignore the violation, giving the impression that Catholic moral teaching doesn't really matter.
■ Hold the teacher responsible for violating the code of conduct, showing that this is a very serious matter.

Thus the Catholic school may hire a teacher who has homosexual tendencies under the recognition that such a person must live a chaste lifestyle. However, if such a teacher publicly takes part in a "gay marriage" -- which the Church cannot accept as a true marriage -- this teacher is declaring to his or her students that he or she openly rejects the Catholic values. Because of this, the Church has no choice but to fire the teacher.

Again, there is no double standard. The employee agreed that he or she would live in a way compatible with Catholic teaching and then willfully broke that agreement. Because the Catholic Church believes that one may never choose to do evil, the employee who publicly testifies by his or her lifestyle that there is nothing wrong with the act, and that the Church is wrong is just as unfit to be a teacher in a Catholic school as a person who shows up for class drunk.

In short, there is no special pleading, no double standard between being appalled by the gay bullying against Mr. Eich and supporting Hobby Lobby or the Catholic Church.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Facing the Persecution

It's no secret that it's open season on Christians that dare to publicly affirm their beliefs in Christian moral values... particularly when it comes to moral values concerning sexuality. Dare to affirm your beliefs in public and you run the risk of being fired (or "encouraged" to resign), sued or prosecuted depending on the circumstances of your behavior. Never mind the fact that the Bill of Rights was designed to protect Americans from that threat. Our beliefs are classified as intolerance and therefore those who disagree don't have to tolerate us.  Which brings us to the question of what we are to do about it.

No, this isn't going to be a post about preparing bunkers and stocking up on firearms. I figure that if society collapses, I'm likely one of the weak who get eliminated quickly by the mobs. How could I advise you on this?

Nor is this going to be a post about the need to overthrow the government. Yes, our government is terribly unjust and corrupt at this time, favoring those they like and harassing those who disagree with them. But so long as we have some freedoms left, let us use them to reach out to those people of good will. Remember, St. Justin Martyr didn't call for the overthrow of the Roman Empire.  He wrote to the Emperor (Antonius Pius) appealing to his reputation for justice.  It took almost 300 years before Christians could practice their faith without legal harassment or persecution... and Christians still spread the faith without seeking to overthrow the government.

What this is about is encouraging every Christian to begin preparing for the fact that we may be challenged to deny aspects of our faith and do evil to protect our lives or our freedom. We may not have time to hide or to evade a question forcing us to choose between our freedom and our faith.

Because we believe God is almighty and creator of everything visible and invisible, we cannot accept the State as having the right to change the natural law on what is moral. We believe God is all powerful and all good. What He decrees is not arbitrary.  It then follows He decrees what is good because it reflects His own goodness.

Now, for the Catholic, we believe that because Jesus is God and that He gave the Church His authority to bind and to loose and to teach in His name (see Matt 16:18-19, Matt 18:18 and Matt 28:20). Because we believe this, we cannot accept any encroachment from the State onto the authority of what the Church can or cannot say.

Thus, we need to prepare ourselves by remembering what we believe. Those who hate us and try to both force our beliefs out of public life and force us to contradict our beliefs when we are in public may have power, but we must remain faithful to our Savior and witness to the truth about Him as God's way of reaching out to those who hate us.

Religious Freedom and Mozilla

News has been brought to my attention about the latest attack on the freedom to do as we ought. The current CEO of Mozilla (Eich) was found to have made a donation to the defense of marriage in California (Proposition 8).  Because of his acting on what he believed to be right, the Firefox browser was blocked from accessing a certain site, and people who used Firefox were told they should use a different browser. The Mozilla company apologized for this action, and affirmed its support for "gay marriage."

Apparently this is irrelevant to the activists. They want him fired for his personal beliefs, and I have just been informed he resigned today.

Now, let's consider this. A man who believes marriage is between a man and a woman and personally donated $1000 for Prop 8 lost his job for doing what he believed right.

Consider the ramifications of this. Any one of us might also lose our jobs simply because we stand by the belief that marriage is created by God as a union between one man and one woman. That is what Christ Himself has said in Matthew 19:4-7...

He said in reply, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.”

So, regardless of whether you're a TV celebrity (remember Duck Dynasty?) an owner of a Bed and Breakfast, a photography studio owner or a baker, taking actions in keeping with your faith can get you sued, fired or prosecuted.  A friend of mine wrote:

In serious honesty, I think that this [affects] me directly. If I want to move up in my own organization, is my progress now capped by past donation to organizations which support traditional marriage or oppose abortion? How far will this eventually extend? This is no longer about what a company itself supports - though the persecution [of] businesses fortheir beliefs has been bad enough - but now about what you believe andsupport as a private person with your personal money.

My friend's concern is quite valid. With the Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy saying, "The differentiation demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects and whose relationship the State has sought to dignify. And it humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples.", it does not bode well for the person expecting justice from the courts.

Now some people may feel indifferent about this issue. Perhaps you disagree with Catholic teaching. Perhaps you just don't think it important. Either way, consider this. If we can get fired, sued or prosecuted because someone dislikes our beliefs, you too can get fired, sued or prosecuted for your beliefs if the wind shifts and goes against you.

It is only in standing with us that you can oppose people targeting you.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Reflections on the "Helpful" Advice to a "Dying" Church

Following newsfeeds online, I see many editorials talking about how the Church is "dying" and needs to change if it is survive  (By allowing women priests, permitting abortion, contraception and so-called homosexual "marriage.")  Personally, I wonder why these people express such concern.  After all, given that they seem to think we are a misogynistic homophobic institution, you'd think they couldn't wait for us to die.

I suspect that, far from being altruistic, this advice is being made in the same spirit as the pack of wolves suggesting to a flock of sheep that they need to get rid of those burdensome sheepdogs so there can be a dialogue on what to have for dinner.

The imminent demise of the Catholic Church has been announced by many so-called prophets who believe their movement will cause the Church to die.  When the Protestant Revolt began, some of the founders predicted our demise before their challenges in the name of Scripture.  The Enlightenment predicted our demise in the before their challenges in the name of Reason.  Atheists today predict our demise before their challenges in the name of Science.

These challenges however failed to kill us in the past and will not kill us now because the Catholic Church is not an enemy of reason, scripture or science.  Truth does not need to fear truth.  While some may apply erroneous philosophies based on their worldviews and confuse them with the teachings of Reason, Scripture or Science, the fact is their philosophies of interpretation do not accurately attack the Church – basically these attacks are aimed at the wrong target.

Other challenges come from political movements and social revolts.  Communism and Fascism both predicted that Christianity in general and the Church in particular was an archaic relic holding people back, while their movements would provide what the people really needed.  The modern hedonism argues that nobody cares about sexual morality and the Church is stupid/old-fashioned for clinging to teachings they disagree with.

But these movements have fallen or will fall.  Where Fascism was once seen as the wave of the future, it is now recognized as a wrong turn.  Despite the media message which sells sex, the media cannot hide the fact that free sex is a terribly empty thing and that there must be more to life than one night stands.  These movements mislead people.  They do not rest on truth, but rather on desires and fears.

Now these challenges can lead individuals and groups astray of course.  Regions have fallen away from the Church.  Many individuals do indeed reject the Church teachings on subjects based on the slogans of the age.  "Reproductive Freedom" for example.  It is true that the Church in America and Western Europe  are facing these trials.  It is also true that scandals in the media make it appear the Church is crumbling.

But difficulties and attacks and sinful members do not prove the demise of the whole Church.  While these challenges may cause the faithful to suffer and the weak to be led astray, and property to be lost, the Church does not exist for the comfort of her members, the body count in the pews, dollars in the collection basket or popularity with the elites.

Whether or not one accepts her claims or not, the Church exists as the means Christ chose to bring His salvation to the world.  It is true that a bad shepherd in the Church may obscure that message of salvation.  But whether or not this message is popular has no bearing on whether it is true.

If the Church believes what she teaches about her own mission, she cannot change the message of salvation to something more popular.  Why?  Because it is not her message – it is Christ's message.

The Church teaches about herself:

"Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it. At the divine command and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it listens to this devotedly, guards it with dedication, and expounds it faithfully. All that it proposes for belief as being divinely revealed is drawn from this single deposit of faith.” [Catechism of the Catholic Church #86]

Because the Church believes herself obligated to be faithful to Christ, she cannot change her message without being unfaithful to Christ.

Once one realizes that the Church believes this – whether or not they agree with the Church over the truth of her belief – it becomes clear that to say "change or die" is a foolish ultimatum.  We remember Christ's words in Mark 8:36-38

What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? What could one give in exchange for his life? Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this faithless and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.

The Pagan Romans, for example, told the early Christians "Change or Die."  Christians knew it was better to die for the truth than to compromise what they believed.  The Church is still here.  Pagan Rome is a pile of ruins.  We will still be here when this current attack is ruins as well.

As Cardinal Francis George said,

"I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history."

That will happen here as well.

We as Catholics believe Christ promised to be with the Church always (Matt 28:20), and that the gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church (Matt 16:18).

People of good will may or not accept what Catholics believe about the relationship of Christ and the Church.  But they should consider this.  If we're wrong we should have collapsed long ago under the weight of sinners inside and persecution outside.  But if we're right, perhaps people should consider the ramifications of that.

But as the teacher of the Law, Gamaliel, pointed out when faced with the Christians:

So now I tell you, have nothing to do with these men, and let them go. For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God.” (Acts 5:38-39)

If we're right, it means those who oppose her teachings are not fighting a human institution…

…they're fighting God.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

And WE'RE The Bigots?

There seems to be a popular internet picture going around Facebook at this time in response to the Chick-Fil-A events of this past week:

[EDIT: Picture removed. It was a picture of Jesus saying he hated FIGS—a play on words with the vulgar term for people with same sex attraction. Because that picture was somewhat blasphemous and because the picture it was posted in opposition to no longer exists, it makes no sense to keep it here.]

The point is to argue Christians who support traditional marriage share the same views as the Westboro Baptists who post reprehensible signs like this:

[EDIT: Sometime between 2012 and 2017, this hot-linked picture was removed. It was of the Westboro Baptists offering offensive slogans against people with same sex attraction]

But the Catholic teaching is:

2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved. (2333)
2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection. (2347)

Catholic Church. (2000). Catechism of the Catholic Church (2nd Ed.) (566). Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference. (Emphasis added)
So, what we have is actually an act of bigotry – but not by Christians.  What we see is gross stereotyping that presumes all Christians think the same way as the Westboro Baptists, when in fact most Christians condemn their grossly unchristian behavior.  It's basically like assuming all Muslims are terrorists because a few groups are, or that all Hispanics are illegal aliens because some are.  It's grossly intolerant to assume from the behavior of some that all are this way.
One of the main problems I see is the Either-Or fallacy (sometimes called the Black or White fallacy). The argument runs in this case:
  1. Either you [support "gay marriage"] or you [are homophobic]. (Either A or B)
  2. You Do not [support "gay marriage."] (Not A)
  3. Therefore you [are homophobic.] (Therefore B)
The reason this is a fallacy is because the main premise assumes [A] and [B] are not only in opposition to each other (which they are), but are the only two options – which they are NOT. If there is any option [C] out there (opposes "gay marriage" but not out of hatred), then the argument is invalid and the claim is not proven true.
Many people seem incapable of recognizing that third option exists, so let's put the shoe on the other foot.
  1. Either you [Support Traditional Marriage] or you are an [Anti-Catholic bigot]. (Either A or B).
  2. You don't [Support Traditional Marriage] (Not A)
  3. Therefore you are an [Anti-Catholic bigot] (Therefore B).
I suspect most people who disagree with Traditional definitions of marriage would object to this. "Hey! Just because I think they are wrong doesn't mean we hate Catholics!"
Right, and that's my answer to you.  Just because we consider a certain behavior to be wrong does not mean we believe God hates people struggling with homosexual tendencies – or even people who are committing homosexual acts.  All people have struggles with sin, and all of us are to call on God to give us the grace to overcome our sins.  We may fall at times, but we need to continue to persevere.
If a person fails to distinguish between this and the view of the Westboro Baptists, perhaps the problem with intolerance isn't with those who believe in the Christian understanding of Marriage.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Propaganda and Lies: You Homophobe!


The term homophobia is a popular one to use when confronting people who believe that homosexual acts are intrinsically wrong (wrong by their very nature).  Whether the confrontation is with the continuous teaching of the Catholic Church, or with an individual, the response is the same: “You’re a Homophobe!”

Since the term is used so broadly, I thought it would be helpful to study what the term means.  Since the term is based on “phobia” (an extreme or irrational fear of something that causes someone to want to avoid it at all costs) it is clear that it must have a medical definition, like claustrophobia or agoraphobia, which we can look up, to see whether it is applied accurately.

No Medical Definition

The problem is, it doesn’t have a medical definition.  “Homophobia” is not any sort of a medical term to be found in a medical dictionary.  It is nothing more than a pejorative label which covers any person or group which rejects homosexual acts as wrong.

In other words, the Westboro Baptist Church, with their reprehensible “God Hates F*gs” signs (I think this kid had the right response) is classified in the same way as Catholic teaching, which holds:

This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition. (Catechism of the Catholic Church #2358)

So the term “homophobia” is so broad that it lumps together people who have actual irrational hatred with those who condemn such hatred.

That sounds fishy, doesn’t it?

The Assumed Principles of the “Homophobia” Label

It should sound fishy.  It indicates that the label of “homophobia” is based on certain assumptions that cannot be questioned.

First of all, it assumes that there are no moral problems with homosexual acts.  Either they are morally neutral or just as morally acceptable as heterosexual acts.

Second, it assumes that any person or group who does have a moral problem with certain sexual acts is doing so out of bigotry – even if the person or group deny such a motive or condemn such motives.

In other words, the term argues: If you don’t agree with us, you’re a bigot!

That’s nothing more than propaganda and an ad hominem attack.  It demonstrates a mindset which is fixated on a certain point of view with the inability to consider any other points of view or motives for that point of view.

The Sinister Tactic

What we have is a label which is used to vilify all persons who disagrees with any other view.  Such behavior has happened many times in American history by one faction to attempt to shame or otherwise silence people who think differently.  The right winger who called a liberal a “Communist;” the Southern racist who labels a supporter of civil rights as “a N*gger Lover” and so on, are examples of this tactic.  Today, these terms seem archaic and offensive.  But back in those days, they were seen as acceptable – or at least by those who used the terms.

It argues, “Either you agree with us or you are a vile person!”  It tries to make people accept their view as right, and the opposing view as being held out of malice.  Actually, it is the person who is using this tactic is doing nothing more than name calling.

The Term is a Lie and a Stereotype

The term homophobia is not a phobia as recognized by any credible medical source.  It merely assumes all opposition is irrational, refusing to hear any arguments.  It points to a group of extremists and tries to paint all who believe homosexuality is wrong as if they shared the extremist view.

That’s remarkably similar to assuming all Muslims are terrorists, just because some are.  Or similar to those who assume all Blacks or Hispanics must be criminals just because some are.

We call that a stereotype, assuming the whole must be this way based on the behavior of a few.

It is certainly a lie to label all people as having a hatred of homosexual persons simply on the grounds that they believe that certain sexual acts are always wrong and that people who have an inclination towards such acts need to practice chastity.

The Dilemma: Who’s Really Intolerant?

Let’s look at the two views – the Catholic view that says homosexual acts are wrong and the pro-homosexual view which says people morally opposed to homophobia are “homophobes.” 

The Catholic view says that even though the homosexual act and inclination is disordered, persons with this affliction must be treated with love and respect on account of the fact that they are still persons.  Any Catholic who does not treat the homosexual person with love and compassion, while opposing such acts against what the Church requires of the faithful.

Now let’s assume that homophobia is a real phobia.  That would make those who display hostility to those with homophobia as reprehensible as those who display hostility to other phobias.

The late comedian, Mitch Hedberg, once said:

Alcoholism is a disease, but it's the only one you can get yelled at for having. Goddamn it Otto, you are an alcoholic. Goddamn it Otto, you have Lupis... one of those two doesn't sound right.”

It’s a good point.  If alcoholism is a disease, then to abuse people for having the disease is wrong.  Likewise, if “homophobia” is truly a “an intense aversion to homosexuality and homosexuals” (according to the OED), then to abuse people for having the “condition” would also be wrong.

I think we can rephrase it this way to demonstrate the point.

If Homophobia is a mental illness, it’s the only one they can hate you for having.  “You claustrophobics disgust me.”  “You homophobes disgust me!”  Something doesn’t sound right.

The problem is, if homophobia was truly a mental illness (as opposed to a derogatory term) like other phobias then the person who was abusive to the “homophobic” would be just as reprehensible as the person who was abusive to the claustrophobic – it would be discrimination.

That leads us to the dilemma.  If “homophobia” is a real illness, then the person who is hostile to the “homophobic” is a bigot.  If “homophobia” is nothing more than a label used to attack people who think differently, then the person who labels his opponents “homophobic” is a bigot.

The only way to avoid the bigot label is not to behave in a bigoted manner.  That means ending the abuse and hatred towards those who believe homosexuality is wrong.  Yes, there are people who do wrong in their opposition (violence, verbal abuse) and they can be opposed civilly and in a law abiding manner because of the wrong behavior, and they should be opposed – especially by Christians who recognize homosexuality is wrong.

However, to abuse and harass people simply because they recognize homosexual acts are always wrong is not a defense of tolerance.  It is the practice of intolerance.


Really, it is time for people to recognize that this term is nothing more than a slur, and shows intolerance for those with a different point of view.  People of good will, even if they should disagree with the Catholic teachings on the subject should not use such terms, but rather engage in civil dialogue with those they disagree.

We should recognize that the term “homophobic” is as repugnant as the term “f*g” or “n*gger” or any other intolerant slur.  It should no longer be used, and we should recognize that the person who uses it is intolerant, behaving hypocritically – using intolerance while claiming to champion tolerance.

(edited 7/6/12 to make a point more clear)