Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Cradle of Love - A Mother & Father for the World's Children

Humanum is an international interreligious colloquium on the complementarity of man and woman, at the Vatican. As part of the gathering, they have released some AMAZING videos.

I posted one on the meaning of marriage on Tuesday.

The second video in the series is below; it is on the importance of having both a mother and a father.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Why Would Anyone Want to be A Catholic Priest?


Many people may ask - why would anyone want to be a Catholic priest?
Let these young men answer:



Too often people focus on what priests don't have (e.g., lots of money, wife, kids).
But, it isn't so much about what you are giving up, but what you are gaining. Life goes on:

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Destiny of Humanity + The Meaning of Marriage


Humanum is an international interreligious colloquium on the complementarity of man and woman, which is going on right now at the Vatican. As part of the gathering, they have released some AMAZING videos over a number of days. I HIGHLY recommend this video to you all, to get a taste of the quality of what they have done for us:



There are other fabulous videos, which can be found here.

Monday, November 17, 2014

50 Uplifting Bible Verses

Sometimes you might need a little encouragement.
Why not let the written Word of God help you out?

50 Uplifting Bible Verses
  1. "Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you." -1 Peter 5:7
  2. "For I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." -Jeremiah 29:11
  3. "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." -Romans 12:21
  4. "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." -Proverbs 3:5-6
  5. "Be strong and of good courage; be not frightened, neither be dismayed; for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."" -Joshua 1:9
  6. "He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me." -2 Corinthians 12:9
  7. "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away." -Revelation 21:4
  8. "Be strong and of good courage, do not fear or be in dread of them: for it is the LORD your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you." -Deuteronomy 31:6
  9. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." -Romans 6:23
  10. "Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." -Matthew 6:20-21
  11. "Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." -Matthew 7:7
  12. "Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." -Psalm 119:105
  13. "Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." -John 4:14
  14. "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." -John 1:5
  15. "The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing" -Zephaniah 3:17
  16. "O taste and see that the LORD is good! Happy is the man who takes refuge in him!" -Psalm 34:8
  17. "They who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint." -Isaiah 40:31
  18. "Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand." -Isaiah 41:10
  19. "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose." -Romans 8:28
  20. "So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." -2 Corinthians 4:16-18
  21. "For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." -Romans 8:38-39
  22. "For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." -Ephesians 2:10
  23. "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." -1 Corinthians 10:13
  24. "Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way which he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful;" -Hebrews 10:19-23
  25. "Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." -James 1:2-4
  26. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." -Matthew 11:28
  27. "Be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong." -1 Corinthians 16:13
  28. "I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you." -Psalm 32:8
  29. "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." -Romans 5:6-8
  30. "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let all men know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." -Philippians 4:4-7
  31. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." -John 3:16
  32. "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." -Romans 12:2
  33. "Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." -John 14:6
  34. "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." -Philippians 4:13
  35. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God" -Ephesians 2:8
  36. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." -Galatians 5:22-24
  37. "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." -John 10:10
  38. "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." -Phil 4:8
  39. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." -1 John 1:9
  40. "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed." -Isaiah 53:5
  41. "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." -Matthew 6:33
  42. "Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”" -Genesis 1:26
  43. "He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit." -Ephesians 2:17
  44. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" -2 Cor 5:17
  45. "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." -John 16:33
  46. "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." -2 Timothy 1:7
  47. "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." -Romans 15:13
  48. "Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies"" -John 11:25
  49. "The prayer of a righteous man is very powerful." -James 5:16
  50. "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." -John 14:27

Thursday, November 13, 2014

20 Lies About Sex!


20 Lies About Sex!
  1. Everybody is doing it. Wrong. Even if the sitcoms, commercials, music, and a lot of people you know are having sex, many still are not. The statistics say most people have sex before marriage, but that still doesn't mean it is good for any of them, is the right thing to do, or that there are no consequences.
  2. It is no big deal. We all know this is a lie, but think of the last romantic comedy you saw. Very few depict the emotional issues, broken hearts/relationships, failures at intimacy, chances of getting pregnant, or an STD. If sex is not a "big deal", then why is so much emphasis given to it?
  3. Love = Sex. These two things can be related, but aren't always. In fact, if you think of the hook-up culture, it has nothing to do with sex. Neither does porn. If love is choosing what is best for the other person, despite what it might cost me, then sex can be part of that, but only in the right context (marriage).
  4. If we aren't having intercourse, it isn't really "sex". Many young people tell themselves that they are really only having "sex" if it is intercourse. This isn't the case. Sex includes many different kinds of acts. But, if there is sexual arousal involved, it is a kind of sexual activity.
  5. As long as we aren't having intercourse, it isn't wrong. Building on the last lie, there are too many who tell themselves that what they are doing isn't wrong as long as it isn't intercourse. But, we don't determine right and wrong. If you doubt it is wrong to have sex outside of marriage, this might help.
  6. Porn doesn't hurt anyone. If by "anyone" you mean "everyone", then you are correct. If you doubt me look at the societal consequences and the cost on relationships.
  7. Porn is a great way to learn how to have good sex. Actually, porn is a good way to learn how to have a miserable sex life. It teaches, promiscuity, diminished fidelity and trust, and is a fantasy world where sex is everything there is. That is just a part of the issues it brings.
  8. Only losers don't have sex. Losers like JPII, Mother Teresa, and others? Do you really want to sink this low? Now we look silly.
  9. All physical contact is bad. On the flip of the coin is the lie that kissing someone else or even giving a big hug to someone will incite lust and should always be avoided. If this is the case, there are deeper issues. But, not all physical contact is wrong.
  10. Once you get married all your sexual dreams become reality. This is widely (and quietly) held assumption I have encountered in young people who have sexual struggles before marriage. They think marriage will mean sex without limits. But, this is merely fantasy world.
  11. If you have a porn problem, getting married will fix it. Too many believe marriage will help them overcome sexual problems, when in fact, it will probably just magnify them. A lack of self-control means you have a problem. Marriage can't fix that.
  12. Women don't really care about sex. Wrong. While the average woman may not have the sexual drive the average man does, we shouldn't think that women are asexual. That would be a problem.
  13. Sex is no big deal. Look at all the issues, problems, and relevant topics that are mentioned above. You still want to buy into this lie?
  14. Sex is like all other big sins. Is it? Check out what the Bible says about sexuality and how we treat our bodies before you answer.
  15. Porn is not a big deal. If that were the case, then it isn't a big deal to not use it either, correct? Nor would we have all the problems associated with it that have been discussed in other places. 
  16. A man wants sex and a woman wants emotional intimacy - but will give sex to get it. There is a partial truth with this statement, But, that means there is also a lie with it too. The lie is that every man and woman fall into this kind of thinking. We aren't robots.
  17. You won't know if you are "sexually compatible" if you wait until marriage. If you have only had sex with one person and learned to have sex with them, wouldn't that be what compatibility is? Sexual incompatibility means you are selfish and won't sacrifice for someone you say you love.
  18. There is no hope after you mess up sexually. Wrong. God will never stop loving you. You can't make Him stop. But, He can't forgive you if you hold onto your sins. 
  19. I can stop looking at porn whenever I want. Maybe. Maybe not. Try not looking for 3 months. See if you don't like your life better. See if you are able to stop.
  20. Sex is about pleasure and pleasure is life. If this is true, then our culture is the most enlightened of all time. If not, then we have really messed up the meaning to life and what will bring us true happiness.
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Further Reading:
**20 Steps to a Great Marriage
**Is Pre-Marital Sex Always Wrong?
**The Rotten Fruit of Hooking Up
**Killing The Red Lizard of Lust
**Why is Masturbation Wrong?
**How far is too far?
**What Is Wrong With Porn?
**Porn Hurts Others
**The Science Of Internet Porn - What Happens To The Brain & The Body
**The Cost of Porn
**Pornography Research
**Porn Is More Addictive Than Cocaine or Heroin!
**If You Aren't Convinced Porn Is Destroying Our Culture - Read This!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Kenyan Bishops Accuse WHO & UNICEF of Adminstering Vaccines Which Cause Infertility


This is truly diabolical. The Catholic Bishops of Kenya have released a statement that reads:
Dear Kenyans, due to the direction the debate on the ongoing Tetanus Vaccine campaign in Kenya is taking, We, the Catholic Bishops, in fulfilling our prophetic role, wish to restate our position as follows:
  1. The Catholic Church is NOT opposed to regular vaccines administered in Kenya, both in our own Church health facilities and in public health institutions.
  2. However, during the second phase of the Tetanus vaccination campaign in March 2014, that is sponsored by WHO/UNICEF, the Catholic Church questioned the secrecy of the exercise. We raised questions on whether the tetanus vaccine was linked to a population control program that has been reported in some countries, where a similar vaccine was laced with Beta- HCG hormone which causes infertility and multiple miscarriages in women.
  3. On March 26, 2014 and October 13, 2014, we met the Cabinet Secretary in-charge of health and the Director of Medical Services among others and raised our concerns about the Vaccine and agreed to jointly test the vaccine. However the ministry did not cooperate and the joint tests were not done
  4. The Catholic Church struggled and acquired several vials of the vaccine, which we sent to Four unrelated Government and private laboratories in Kenya and abroad.
  5. We want to announce here, that all the tests showed that the vaccine used in Kenya in March and October 2014 was indeed laced with the Beta- HCG hormone.
  6. On 13th of October 2014, the Catholic Church gave copies of the results to the cabinet secretary and the Director of Medical Services. The same was emailed to the Director of Medical Services on October 17, 2014. 
Based on the above grounds, We, the Catholic Bishops in Kenya, wish to State the following:
  1. That we are shocked at the level of dishonesty and casual manner in which such a serious issue is being handled by the Government.
  2. That a report presented to the Parliamentary Committee on Health November 4, 2014 by the Ministry of Health, claiming that the Government had tested the Vaccine and found it clean of Beta- HCG hormone, is false and a deliberate attempt to distort the truth and mislead 42 million Kenyans.
  3. That we are dismayed by attempts to intimidate and blackmail medical professionals who have corroborated information about the vaccine, with threats of disciplinary action. We commend and support all professionals who have stood by the truth.
  4. That we shall not waver in calling upon all Kenyans to avoid the tetanus vaccination campaign laced with Beta-HCG, because we are convinced that it is indeed a disguised population control programme.
This is VERY DISTURBING. I myself had some questions, because I had never heard of a "vaccine" that can cause infertility. After doing a bit of research, it is true and the research proves it. In fact, the tests included putting the vaccine alongside the Tetanus vaccine!

The Kenyan Catholic Doctors Association has also released a statement, giving the history of the issue and the way the government has ignored the issue. Pia de Solenni has more too.

Of course, Paul VI foresaw such policy decisions by governments and others in power, when he wrote:
"Careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone."

Friday, November 7, 2014

Why Catholic Bibles Have More Books Than Protestant Bibles



Q - How was the Biblical canon established? I understand that it happened over centuries and wasn't officially finalized until many years after Christ, but why were some books accepted while others were rejected? Who were the primary figures in the establishment of the Biblical canon, and when was it established?

A - 
Thanks for the question.

The word "canon" means rule or measure. In terms of the Bible, it specifically refers to the list of the books that are inspired by the Holy Spirit and are thus deemed Sacred Scripture. Therefore, the books in the Bible are called canonical and the books that are not determined to be inspired by God are extra-canonical. How did this determination come about? This is what we will examine here.

Almost all Christians believe in the truths found in the Bible, but there are two different lists of what belongs in the Old Testament - the list used by the Catholic Church (and most Eastern Orthodox) and the list used by most Protestants. The Protestant canon contains 7 fewer books than the Catholic canon. These 7 books are called the deuterocanon ("second" canon). These books were given the name deuterocanon because a few hundred years ago we did not have copies of them in Hebrew and they were not part of some Hebrew Bibles. Thus, they were deemed to be part of a second canon written in Greek. We now have manuscripts, or partial manuscripts, that show that most, if not all, of the books were written in Hebrew or Aramaic.

Protestants call these seven books apocryphal, meaning that they are not part of the canon of the Bible.

Thus, we have two different lists of what books should be part of the Old Testament.

Many Christians have never reflected on the history of the Bible and how it came to be. They just assume that it is authoritative and we should consider all the books in the Bible as Sacred Scripture.

Here is a brief history of how the Bible came to be put together.
  1. Jesus came and taught his disciples. During the time of Jesus there were several different lists of the Old Testament Scriptures in different Jewish groups.
  2. Jesus' disciples spread his message orally for years.
  3. His disciples started to write down the messages of Jesus.
  4. Before Jesus and after the early Church was established, different Jewish groups had different lists of what should be in the Old Testament canon. Thus, the Jewish canon was never decided authoritatively by the Jews. Once Jesus came, the Jews no longer had the authority to set the Jewish canon for Christians.
  5. Different local Churches started to compile these different writings. Many of the lists differed from one another.
  6. The Catholic Church started to discern, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, what was inspired and what was not. This goes for both the New Testament and the Old Testament.
  7. Several Catholic Councils of Bishops declared the list of Scripture as we have it today
    **Council of Hippo /393 A.D. /
    **Carthage, 397 A.D. /
    **Carthage 419 A.D.
  8. The established canon of books remained fixed through hundreds of years.
  9. Saints, bishops, Popes and the Council of Florence (1442 A.D.) affirmed the list.
  10. The list is challenged seriously for the first time by Martin Luther, when he rejects the 7 deuterocanonical books. He decides to throw them out of his new canon. Thus, the Protestant Bible is first born in the 1500s. He bases this decision on faulty evidence:
    1. He claimed they contained doctrines contrary to the rest of Scripture (rather, he didn't like the teachings that supported Catholic doctrines).
    2. He claimed that the Jews had set this canon (rather, there were still different lists by different Jewish groups).
    3. He claimed that only the Scriptures written in Hebrew were of the canon (rather, he didn't have access to the documents that show they were written in Hebrew).
  11. The list of Sacred Scripture is put down dogmatically in the Council of Trent, which followed the Protestant Reformation. This is because dogma is usually not declared unless first challenged seriously.
You can see from this short history that the canon was established by the Catholic Church early on. All Christians agree on the New Testament, but still differ on the Old Testament canon.

Here is some other evidence in favor of the Catholic list of the OT canon.
  1. God never gave the Jews a way to settle the debate over what books should be in the Jewish canon.
  2. In the time of Jesus there were several different groups of Jews with different lists of their Scriptures:
    1. The Samaritans and Sadducees accepted the law but rejected the prophets and writings. 
    2. The Pharisees accepted all three. 
    3. Some Jews used the Greek version called the Septuagint. This is the list that the Catholic Church uses. Textual analysis indicates that most of the New Testament writers quote most often from the Septuagint in the NT, therefore indicating that they used and accepted it.
    4. Some smaller groups with different lists.
  3. The early Christian Church Fathers accepted the deuterocanonical books as inspired.
  4. If the Church had the authority to establish the New Testament, then they had the authority to establish the old as well. If we deny that authority, then there is no way to be assured the Bible we are reading is inspired and all the books are meant to be there.
To summarize - the Catholic Church put together the different books of the Bible, while guided by the Holy Spirit. This list was not challenged until Martin Luther threw out 7 books. Unfortunately, many Christians uncritically accept the lie that the Catholic Church added 7 books, which doesn't square with the evidence. We can be confident that the books in the bible, as ratified by the Catholic Church, are truly inspired by the Holy Spirit for our salvation.

I know this is the Cliff Notes version. If you want more details, I highly recommend the book - Where We Got the Bible by Henry Graham.

I hope this helps.

More:

Thursday, November 6, 2014

When You Don't Feel Like Praying


A few days ago, my wife and I got into an argument about some silly little thing. I thought we were done with the issue, when it cropped up again the next day. I got upset and was not a very happy bald man. Of course, my wife also unhappy with me and honestly neither of had too many fond feelings about one another at the time. So, when we started to get ready to go to bed, there was still tension in the air. It was during this time my wife said, "do you want to pray"?

Honestly, I didn't want to. When we are upset, agitated, angry, etc sometimes the last thing we want to do is pray. But, that is exactly what we need to do at those times.

We did end up praying and it certainly helped.

Our state of mind, situations in life, and emotions can all cause us to have very little desire to spend time in prayer. Since prayer is a relationship with God, and we are sinners, everyone will experience times of fervor and times where God seems distant. Every Christian, once they have prayed long enough, will experience times of both dryness and sweetness within prayer. But, our love for God, which can be expressed by use choosing to pray no matter how we feel about it at the time, shouldn't merely depend on me getting something which feels good out of my prayer.

In every relationship there are going to be hard times. The same is true with our relationship with Jesus, which is founded upon prayer.

If I decided I was going to leave my wife because of an argument, I wouldn't be a very good husband. The same is true if I stopped praying because I didn't feel good about it. In that case, I wouldn't be a very good disciple.

So, the next time you don't feel like praying, do it anyway. I guarantee your Father in heaven will be happy with you when you choose to pray even though you struggle to do it. He isn't looking for perfection, good feelings, or an easy prayer. He just wants a faithful heart - in good times and bad.

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RELATED POSTS:
**15 Secrets to Transforming Your Prayer Life
**100 Catholic Ways To Pray
**11 Ways To Study And Pray With The Bible
**How To Get More Out of Mass?
**The Dos and Don’ts of Reading the Bible
**How To Have a Personal Relationship With Jesus

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Gay and Catholic


I know what it is like to be uncomfortable in my own skin. I also know what it is like to wrestle with my desires and yet still have a fondness for them at the same time. In fact, I don't know of a single person who hasn't had some kind of struggle with identity and desire on some level.

In her ground-breaking book, Gay and Catholic, Eve Tushnet has given me a peek into what it is like to be gay. But, even more importantly, she has given me insights into what it is like to be gay and Catholic at the same time and the implications of being both.

I work with sex-addicts and those struggling with pornography, in my work in campus ministry (just to be clear, I am not equating sex-addiction and being gay). I certainly don't have all the answers for these young people I work with, but I have learned this in 12+ years of my work - God still loves us all, even through the times we don't love ourselves or God. I have also learned God's love isn't just for those that have all the doctrines straight. He doesn't just love those who are pious or know how to pray 500 different novenas. God doesn't just love those we are comfortable with. The truth is God is extravagant with His love and if we are called to be more like God, so are we!

Tushnet's book helped me see a blindspot in my call to love others. Too often I subconsciously write off many who identify as gay as opponents rather than brothers and sisters who have their very being stamped with God's own heart. Too often I want to put those who are gay in a safe box, where I can either dismiss their ideas or deomonize their views about morality and God. This is, in part, because I don't relate to a same-sex attraction. It is completely foreign to me.

But, I certainly understand the desire to love and be loved. We are maded by love itself, out of love, for love, and in order to love! I am made to love others. You are made to love others. We are made to be loved! Furthermore, we are supposed to love those we are attracted to. In fact, our sexuality is made to be a reflection of this love. This is where the hiccup comes in. We are all sexual beings. We cannot escape this reality, even if we want to sometimes. As a married man, I am called by God to love my wife in every way, included sexually.

Yet, the Catholic Church (and most cultures through history) has limited moral sexual expressions of love to marriage between one man and one woman. For those who are gay, this is a particular issue. Because the Church says you sin if you express your love for someone sexually and you are not married to them. This tension is very real and too often I have dismissed it.

While reading Gay and Catholic, it dawned on me why so many of those who are gay reject the Catholic idea of sexuality. They really do understand they are called to love others. Yet in a culture which clearly identifies love first and foremost with sex, why would they give the Catholic Church a second look? Tushnet tells us why - because it is a beautiful, fulfilling, and life-giving way of living close to the one who made us to love.

Tushnet teaches that being gay and Catholic doesn't always have to be about what you are giving up. In fact, is is much more about what can be gained in a relationship with Jesus and His Church. in Fact, we all have to give something up to follow our Lord. I certainly did.

I want to say "thank you" to Eve Tushnet. Thank you for your honest and beautiful story of how God reached down and touched your life. In telling your story, you have helped me see a gap in my own walk with God. I really do want to work harder at seeing individuals as individuals who have something unique and wonderful to teach me. I will work on loving better and being OK with the process of conversion, no matter how many ups and downs it takes.

Finally, I really want to be someone who loves like our God does - extravagantly. Someone who isn't afraid to speak truth, but to be bold in reaching out to those who are hurting. Someone who can hold the goodness of Catholicism in one hand and balance it with the understanding that all people are part of God's plan to teach me how to love.

As you can tell, I really liked it. So, go buy it!

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**This post is part of the Gay and Catholic book club on Patheos.**

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NOTE - I know there is a discussion in Catholic circles about the language surrounding "gay", "same-sex attraction", etc. I am using gay in this post for the purposes of having consistent language with Tushnet.

Monday, November 3, 2014

5 Lessons From Brittany Maynard's Death


The story of Brittany Maynard, the young woman who took her own life before terminal cancer killed her, is one that has captured the imaginations of many.

We who might not agree with the decision she made have something to learn in this situation.

5 Lessons From Brittany Maynard's Death

1 - This is not a time for condemnation, but one of prayer. To pray for Brittany Maynard's soul, family, and friends is an act of charity. To condemn her is not. Some Catholics (and other Christians) might feel we need to actively oppose others who back suicide (and they are correct), but this is not the time to do so. She took her life this weekend, not last year. So, the wounds of her death are fresh in the minds of others.

Furthermore, to cast her into hell or any other such judgment about her soul, is a true act of judgment. This should be left to God alone. Even if you are not judging her soul, to say she did something wrong may be correct, but discussions about the morality of the act can come later, when the issue isn't so raw. The witness of prayer is more powerful now anyway.
FYI - many don't understand the distinction between condemning someone to hell and judging their actions. Here is more on that subject.

2 - Our culture is guided more by emotions and slogans than logic. Emotivism is when emotions rule our decisions. "I feel this is true" or "I feel uncomfortable about that" are bigger drivers in our world than objective truth or logic. This is reflected in the individualism of "choice" and "death with dignity"; these kind of phrases are the quick soundbites that frame most issues in our world today. Rarely do people even try to challenge themselves by opposing viewpoints, but rather, most read and view only those views that support the ones they already hold.

Still, we are more than just emotions and truth goes beyond how we feel about it. Yet, in cases such as Brittany Maynard, we cannot just throw logic onto the table and expect others to agree, unless we also appeal to the emotions of a people that won't spend time thinking through the issue without them. So, those that just want to say "Maynard was wrong", "suicide is a sin", or another argument such as this are missing the point. We have to appeal to both logic AND emotions, if we are to convince modern people even give us a fair hearing.

3 - People of faith, who are suffering from similar diseases and yet choose to let death come naturally, are the strongest voices. There are numerous examples of people of faith who are dying and have written beautiful and provocative pieces (here is one example). Sharing these is a good way to witness to the truth that there is something better.

4 - Sharing the reason for our hope with others should be done with love, gentleness, and kindness - this will mean that others may come to know death doesn't have the last word. When my sister died, I wrote about it with sadness, but also great hope. It was because I believed she would see the face of Jesus after her time on this earth was ended. This is true hope! It transcends and defeats even death!

5 - Dignity isn't dependent on choosing how you die. In fact, our worth is found in the nature of who we are, not our actions. Our worth is found in how we were created by God, in His image and likeness. Because our dignity comes from God and we cannot fully understand dignity without a true relationship with the one who has implanted it within us. But, because our culture says that we have no worth outside of our own selfish pleasure, we are on a path of destruction and grief, not happiness and glory.

Furthermore, for a culture without Jesus crucified, there is no purpose to suffering. It is to be avoided at all costs and is the worst thing that can happen to us. Without the crucifix, pleasure becomes the highest good. But, pleasure comes and goes. When it is gone, our lives lose meaning. The Cross rightly orders our lives. It points us to the real meaning to life - living in the truth of who we are as humans made by God for sacrificial love. In this identity we can find why God allows suffering - in order to draw us closer to Himself.

But, trying to get an unbelieving world to believe this won't be done in condemnation, but by love, prayer, and gentle witness. AFTER this, we can teach.

------

Please join me in praying for Brittany Maynard, her family, her friends, and our world.

Monday, October 27, 2014

15 Tips To Help Your Prayer Life


I once asked a class of college students to rate their spiritual lives on a scale of 1 to 10. Most were very hard on themselves and gave themselves a 5 or less. I then asked "how would you describe your relationship with God?" and again, most were not very positive. These were good Catholics.

When I asked for clarification as to the reason they were hard on themselves, most of the comments from the class were about difficulties in prayer. Why do we have such difficulties? Simple - we are human. But, before I spell out some tips on how to overcome difficulties, we ought to talk about why we pray.

St. Paul writes:
"With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit." - Ephesians 6:18
Paul doesn't just suggest, but commands us, to pray "in the Spirit" at "every opportunity". If we are to follow this command, it should be done out of love, not out of mere obedience. But, how are we to meet this high call?

He writes in another letter:
"The Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings." - Romans 8: 26-27
We can't do it alone. The Holy Spirit does, for us, what we can't do in our prayer. This is vital, because prayer is essential for success. But, by success, I mean success in the eyes of God, which is much different than success by the world's standards. The world says success is money, fame, power, possessions, pleasure, etc. But, God's idea of success is holiness - being the person God intends you to be.  In other words, success = fulfilling the vision for your life that God has for you. Prayer is indisposable in attaining this process.

In the Gospel of Luke, Luke writes:
"he told them a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary." -Luke 18:1
We must make prayer the center of our lives. It isn't a choice for us as Christians. But, it requires perseverance and faith to achieve such a prayer life. In fact, I believe a good answer to the question of "do you have a personal relationship with Jesus?" can be answered by pointing to your prayer life. If you pray, then you have a personal relationship with Jesus.

So, with this in mind, you might ask - why would any Christian let their prayer life slip and what can we do about it?

7 REASONS WE LET OUR PRAYER LIVES SLIP
  1. Discouragement - Sometimes we don't know what to say, how to pray, what to do. Sometimes we are tired, feeling bad, or we just don't have a desire to pray. 
  2. Doubt - Is God really there? Can He hear me? Does He care, even if He exists? Does prayer really even matter?
  3. Impatience - Prayers can seem to go on forever with only silence coming from heaven. When will God answer me?
  4. Temptations - It is easy to pray when you aren't challenged internally through temptation. But, when the temptations enter in, it becomes drudgery. 
  5. Laziness - We sometimes just give up or never establish habits that sustain us in dry times or through the business of modern life.
  6. Dryness - God seems distant and prayer becomes a chore. This can happen at any time.
  7. Physical, Mental, or Emotional Problems - When we suffer, it is hard to pray, because we sometimes feel that a loving God would make it stop.

15 TIPS TO HELP YOUR PRAYER LIFE
  1. Frequent the Sacraments - If you can make daily Mass even once a week, you have doubled your access to the greatest gift ever given humanity. Now, go to Confession at least monthly and you are surely going to get a multitude of graces. Put these on a calendar so you don't skip them.
  2. Establish Good Habits - You should be able to rely on your habits to help you, and not hurt you, in your prayer. A good habit takes 66 days (at least) to establish. So, if you can commit to a routine of prayer for 2 months, you should start to lay the groundwork for healthy prayer habits.
  3. Accountability Counts - You need someone who is more objective than you are to look at your prayer life and see how you are doing and how the Holy Spirit is working. A spiritual director is invaluable in helping. But, if you don't think you are ready, even have a holy friend to talk to can be good.
  4. Try Different Types of Prayer - We all have different tastes in prayer, just like most other things in life. So, try out different types of prayer and see which ones work for you. One caveat - don't give up too soon on a type of prayer. It might take a good long time to discover whether it is good for you or not.
  5. Fast Regularly - There is great power in fasting. We see it in Scripture when Jesus fasts and calls his disciples to do the same. When we have better control over the desires of our bodies, we can pray better.
  6. Overcome Distractions - The simple way to overcome a distraction is to not give into it. Once you realize you are distracted turn your heart and mind back to your prayer, not to examining the distraction. This simple act is the easiest way to defeat distractions.
  7. Don't Over-think Prayer - Too often we tend to complicate something that should come naturally to us. We are made for communion with God. Prayer is merely directing your mind and heart in the direction of God. If we over-complicate it, we get caught up in the externals.
  8. Dryness is Good For Us - Dry prayers are a gift from God. Yes, we all long to have consolations in our prayer, just as a child longs for candy and having those denied is difficult, but healthy for us. It is in dryness that our faith is tested and strengthened.
  9. Pray for Humility - To the extent we are humble is the extent of the power of God's grace changing our lives. Without humble prayer, God is unable to reach us, because we have no interior need for Him.
  10. Work on a Proper Understanding of God and Self - I can not emphasize this one enough. Many of us struggle to understand how a perfect God could love us and want a relationship with us. But, this is due, mainly, to our bad perceptions of our own dignity and the way God loves us unconditionally.
  11. Quiet - Our modern lives are filled with noise. We need to quiet ourselves to hear God - both internally and externally. Find a peaceful and quiet place to pray. Church is helpful in this respect - so if you can stop at a church, even for a short time, I recommend you do so.
  12. Prioritize Prayer. Schedule it. Bump something else. Get up early. Do whatever you have to do, but don't let a day go by without spending time with the most important person in your life.
  13. Don't Be Too Hard On Yourself - Struggles in your prayer life do not make you a terrible Christian. They are a universal experience of everyone who prays. So, don't get down on yourself for struggles.
  14. Don't Wait To Start - procrastination is the enemy of prayer. If you feel called to pray, don't ever put it off.
  15. Find and Use Good Resources - When you don't know what to do or how to do it, the resources can help. Resources include people, friends, books, websites, sacramentals (e.g. rosaries), Sacred Scripture, etc.
Pray for me and I will pray for all who read this.




Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Aggie Catholics - WOW!


St. Ann in Coppell, TX have one of the largest youth ministries in the country.
The Director of High School Ministry & Young Adults, Kurt Klement (who is an Aggie), sent the following video to me.

It is an intro to the current Core Team for their Youth Ministry.
Count how many Aggie Catholics are on the team...


As Fr. David Konderla says all the time:
"Aggie Catholics: Forming Apostles for The Church and the World!"

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Day In the Life of a Seminarian


After some thoughts about the foundational principles of the seminary, you get to see what the daily life of a Catholic seminarian is like.

The video was done by seminarians at Holy Trinity Seminary, in Irving, TX.

Another fun thing to do while watching this video is to try and pick out all the Aggies you see!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Cognitive Dissonance of Tolerance


Words have meaning.
Thoughts have consequences.

Unfortunately, these are important concepts that have escaped some.

Take, for instance, the word "tolerance". In modern use, it has a unique meaning to some and a completely different meaning to others. The result behind the differing definitions of the word, mean that by subscribing to one definition above-and-over another will lead to different consequences.

True tolerance means we need not accept an idea which is false or an action which is wrong, but it should accept the full dignity of other human persons and their basic human rights. Thus we should always uphold another's dignity and human rights (true rights, not made-up ones), because this is how we are bound together. We do all of this, because it conforms to what is true and good. In other words, we accept and "tolerate" the person at all times, even when their actions are offensive or immoral.

As a consequence of true tolerance, we must accept the freedom of others to believe as they wish, speak as they wish, and act (within the bounds of natural and civil law) as they wish. Thus, we should strive to live in peace and we should try to understand one another as much as possible. THAT is true tolerance.

Many who have a social agenda have used a much different understanding of tolerance to further their agenda. It holds the following ideas out as both true - at the same time:
  1. We must be tolerant of other people's ideas, lifestyle, choices, etc.
  2. You must agree with certain modern ideas, lifestyle, choices, etc or you are a bigot and we will not tolerate you.
This is the definition of modern cognitive dissonance and we have bought it - hook, line, and sinker. How?
It has been done in five steps:
  1. Separate tolerance from truth.
  2. Expand the definition of "tolerance".
  3. Placing tolerance among the highest of the "virtues" of a Western democratic society.
  4. Ignore the logical inconsistencies.
  5. Malign those who hold-out against this idea of tolerance as prejudiced and bigoted.

Step #1 - Separate tolerance from truth.
Our culture, as is the case in many other things, has bought the lies about what tolerance should be and it goes well beyond the definition of true tolerance given above.

If we do not know the truth, then we can accept almost anything. But, if we know the truth and act in accord with the truth, then we are limited to what we can accept, because the truth is, by definition, not tolerant of that which is not true. It creates boundaries and is exclusive.

G.K. Chesterton said
"Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions."
As I said at the beginning. Thoughts have consequences. If we have true thoughts, then the consequence is we ought to live according to that which is true. When we don't live according to the truth, we face natural consequences to those actions. For instance, if a woman chooses to ignore the truth an affair could ruin a marriage, then she must live with the consequences if her husband leaves her.

EXAMPLE FROM CULTURE - All proponents of the modern idea of tolerance will reject some traditional understanding of morality. It might be on issues of abortion, same-sex relationships, etc. but they all have a relativistic understanding of truth.

Thus, the truth is merely anything you want it to be in the cafeteria of choices.

Take for example the reaction to what Phil Robertson, of Duck Dynasty, said a while back.
NOTE - he didn't speak words of gentleness or tact, nor did he make an important distinction. Those who have same-sex attraction are not sinning unless they act on their sexual desires in a sinful way (which would be sinful for anyone). Merely having a same-sex attraction is not sinful. Nonetheless, the backlash is telling. Here is a comment from one opponent:
"Phil and his family claim to be Christian, but Phil's lies about an entire community fly in the face of what true Christians believe."
So, here we have one person being intolerant of another's perceived intolerance, which then leads to a divorce from truth and the decision to be able to determine who is Christian and who is not.

BTW - some are saying the big issue is lumping homosexuality alongside bestiality, but if you read his entire comment, he also lumped heterosexual sex outside of marriage in there too. But nobody was outraged about that. Notice the cognitive dissonance?

Step #2 - Expanding the definition of "tolerance".
The modern idea of tolerance = you must not "judge" another person's actions as wrong. You should accept (plus approval of and permission to) whatever lifestyle they live and choice they make. Even if the choice is sinful or harmful to their mental or physical health, we still must tolerate (e.g. accept) it.

If you don't agree to this kind of tolerance, then you are intolerant. we should "live and let live". Of course, this kind of idea false apart quickly when we oppose someone's views.

Other say that tolerance is "open-mindedness". The problem is that most who say they are "open-minded" have very set beliefs about a lot of things and when you disagree with them, their minds seem to close very quickly. Once again, GK Chesterton said it best:
"Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid."
EXAMPLE FROM CULTURE - No Catholic I know would think that harming a person with same-sex orientation was good. In fact, it is wrong to do so and this is what the Church clearly teaches in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph #2358). But, it only takes one act of violence (which no Catholic should ever think is OK) against a student who is same-sex attracted in a public school to give license to teach that we all have to accept the gay lifestyle by implementing tolerance programming into the schools.

This is the modern idea of tolerance is being taught in public schools today and trumpeted to our culture.

Step #3 - Placing tolerance among the highest of the "virtues" of a Western democratic society.
A generally accepted definition of the word "virtue" = the habitual and firm disposition to do the good. This means that I do what is good easily and frequently.

The modern idea of tolerance is said to be a virtue. The problem with this idea is that it then leads to the conclusion that if it is a virtue, then it is morally "required" of all sane people in society and we are "obliged to cultivate the virtue of tolerance" (note - pdf in link).

Tolerance by intolerant demands has become a false virtue.

EXAMPLE FROM CULTURE - Studies within Academia prove that there is a conscious effort to change the view of modern tolerance into a virtue, and thus an obligation. Here is a quote from the abstract of one such study (emphasis added):
Some political theorists argue for a view of political tolerance that requires more from people. These theorists define positive tolerance as peoples’ beliefs that they have a duty or obligation to take action to protect people’s freedom to be different. Such an obligation should lead people to take action to help people who belong to disliked groups so they can “lead the good life” and share in society’s benefits. Employing undergraduates in a study at a metropolitan Midwestern university, we develop the first such scale to measure positive tolerance. We demonstrate it is reliable with exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis. We also find that among those prejudiced against gays and lesbians, positive tolerance leads to some support for the rights of gays and lesbians to both marry and adopt children. We conclude with a discussion of how some of the positively tolerant overlook their negative group affect to support gays and lesbians in “living the good life.”

Step #4 - Ignore the logical inconsistencies.
This radical understanding of tolerance is only useful if we ignore the logical inconsistencies inherent in it.

**We must be tolerant. Except when we are intolerant of intolerance.
**We must be open-minded. Except when we are close-minded about close-mindedness.

If you say that tolerance is accepting everything about others, then you should never have a problem with another disagreeing with you. If one thinks tolerance means acceptance of all actions (even actions another considers wrong), then the "tolerant" one must accept that others do not accept certain actions or those who are "tolerant" are being intolerant.

EXAMPLE FROM CULTURE - Catholics who say that marriage should only be between one man and one woman are charged with bigotry and intolerance. The fact is that Catholics are limiting themselves as well with this idea, not just others. No person can marry another person of the same sex. So, it isn't about picking on one group, because the rule applies to all.

Some say it is about the "right to marry someone you love". But, as we have discussed in other posts, it is never loving to have ANY sexual act which might cause harm to the other, and a same-sex sexual act is, by nature, harmful to the both persons. Thus, it can't be about love.

It also isn't about "equality" either. The purpose of the state recognizing marriage and giving certain rights to married couples is because the state depends on the family to raise the children that naturally come from the family, so the state can survive and thrive. Same-sex couples, by nature, cannot have kids. Thus, they should not get legal recognition of their relationships or preferential treatment. I won't even get into the other reasons why gay marriage is a bad idea, but you can read about it here.

The logical inconsistency is that those who support same-sex marriages are intolerant of the Catholic Church's intolerance of same-sex marriage.

Step #5 - Malign those who hold-out against this idea of tolerance as prejudiced and bigoted.
The examples for this step are too numerous to give, though I have posted a few above.

It is obvious that this step is very important, because most people do not like to be told they are being mean, exclusive, or rejecting others. But, the problem is that the Church isn't doing this. They reject certain actions, because we believe they are harmful to others. This isn't mean - it is a LOVING ACT. If I think you are doing something bad and don't tell you - then I am acting cruel toward you.

But, if I am looking out for your best interests, then I am acting out of love.

CONCLUSION

Christianity IS INTOLERANT of :
  • sin
  • immorality
  • scandal
  • injury to another persons dignity
  • etc.
But, the Church is NOT intolerant of people.

We must fight against this false understanding of modern tolerance as a virtue and obligation. We must fight against sin. But, we must also tolerate other human beings and their human rights.

Words have meaning.
Thoughts have consequences.
"Are tolerance and belief in revealed truth opposites? Putting it another way: Are Christian faith and modernity compatible? If tolerance is one of the foundations of the modern age, then is not the claim to have recognized the essential truth an obsolete piece of presumption that has to be rejected if the spiral of violence that runs through the history of religions is to be broken? Today, in the encounter of Christianity with the world, this question arises ever more dramatically, and ever more widespread becomes the persuasion that renouncing the claim to truth in the Christian faith is the fundamental condition for a new universal peace, the fundamental condition for any reconciliation of Christianity with modernity."
-Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)
One more:
"We need to remember that tolerance is not a Christian virtue. Charity, justice, mercy, prudence, honesty - these are Christian virtues. And obviously, in a diverse community, tolerance is an important working principle. But it’s never an end itself. In fact, tolerating grave evil within a society is itself a form of serious evil. Likewise, democratic pluralism does not mean that Catholics should be quiet in public about serious moral issues because of some misguided sense of good manners. A healthy democracy requires vigorous moral debate to survive. Real pluralism demands that people of strong beliefs will advance their convictions in the public square — peacefully, legally and respectfully, but energetically and without embarrassment. Anything less is bad citizenship and a form of theft from the public conversation.”
-Archbishop Charles Chaput
Fr. Barron on the limits of tolerance:


More from Fr. Barron:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Patience With The Process of #Synod14

As I wrote yesterday, there is a big picture that is being missed in the news from the Synod in Rome. Fr. Robert Barron helps provide more perspective on the situation:
Having Patience for the Sausage-Making Synod
By Very Rev. Robert Barron

Father Robert Barron is the founder of the global ministry, Word on Fire, and the Rector/President of Mundelein Seminary. He is the creator of the award winning documentary series, "Catholicism" and "Catholicism:The New Evangelization." Learn more at www.WordonFire.org

The midterm report on the deliberations of the Synod on the Family has appeared and there is a fair amount of hysteria all around. John Thavis, a veteran Vatican reporter who should know better, has declared this statement “an earthquake, the big one that hit after months of smaller tremors.” Certain commentators on the right have been wringing their hands and bewailing a deep betrayal of the Church’s teaching. One even opined that this report is the “silliest document ever issued by the Catholic Church,” and some have said that the interim document flaunts the teaching of St. John Paul II. Meanwhile the New York Times confidently announced that the Church has moved from “condemnation of unconventional family situations and toward understanding, openness, and mercy.” I think everyone should take a deep breath.

What has just appeared is not even close to a definitive, formal teaching of the Catholic Church. It is a report on what has been discussed so far in a synod of some two hundred bishops from around the world. It conveys, to be sure, a certain consensus around major themes, trends that have been evident in the conversations, dominant emphases in the debates, etc., but it decidedly does not represent “the teaching” of the Pope or the bishops.

One of the great mysteries enshrined in the ecclesiology of the Catholic Church is that Christ speaks through the rather messy and unpredictable process of ecclesiastical argument. The Holy Spirit guides the process of course, but he doesn’t undermine or circumvent it. It is precisely in the long, laborious sifting of ideas across time and through disciplined conversation that the truth that God wants to communicate gradually emerges. If you want evidence of this, simply look at the accounts of the deliberations of the major councils of the Church, beginning with the so-called Council of Jerusalem in the first century right through to the Second Vatican Council of the twentieth century. In every such gathering, argument was front and center, and consensus evolved only after lengthy and often acrimonious debate among the interested parties. Read John Henry Newman’s colorful history of the Council of Nicaea in the fourth century, and you’ll find stories of riots in the streets and the mutually pulling of beards among the disputants. Or pick up Yves Congar’s very entertaining diary of his years at Vatican II, and you’ll learn of his own withering critiques of the interventions of prominent Cardinals and rival theologians. Or peruse John O’Malley’s history of the Council of Trent, and you’ll see that early draft statements on the key doctrines of original sin and justification were presented, debated, and dismissed—long before final versions were approved.

Until Vatican II, these preliminary arguments and conversations were known only to the participants themselves and to certain specialist historians who eventually sifted through the records. The great teachings of the Councils became widely known and celebrated, but the process that produced them was, happily enough, consigned to the shadows. If I might quote the great Newman, who had a rather unsatisfying experience of official ecclesial life in Rome: “those who love the barque of Peter ought to stay out of the engine room!” This is a somewhat more refined version of “those who enjoy sausage ought never to watch how it is made.” The interim report on the Synod represents a very early stage of the sausage-making process and, unsurprisingly, it isn’t pretty. Two more weeks of discussion will follow; then a full year during which the findings of the Synod will be further refined, argued about, and clarified; then the Ordinary Synod on the Family will take place (the one going on now is the Extraordinary Synod), and many more arguments and counter-arguments will be made; finally, some months, perhaps even a year or so, after that, the Pope will write a post-Synodal exhortation summing up the entire process and offering a definitive take on the matter. At that point, I would suggest, something resembling edible sausage will be available for our consumption; until then, we should all be patient and refrain from bloviating.

The historian and theologian Martin Marty commented that our debates today about sex and authority are analogous to the arguments in the early centuries of the Church’s life concerning Christology and to the disputes about anthropology and salvation around the time of the Reformation. Those two previous dust-ups took several centuries to resolve, and Marty suggests that we might be in the midst of another centuries long controversy. I’m glad that Pope Francis, at the outset of this Synod, urged the participating bishops to speak their minds clearly and fearlessly. He didn’t want a self-censorship that would unduly hamper the conversation and thereby prevent the truth from emerging. This does not imply for a moment that Pope Francis will agree with every point of view expressed, and indeed he can’t possibly, since many are mutually exclusive. But it does indeed mean that he has the confidence and the patience required to allow the Holy Spirit to work in his preferred fashion.

Monday, October 13, 2014

10 Issues With The Media's Narrative About Catholicism & The Synod on Marriage & Family

Let us be clear, the narrative about the Catholic Church from the mainstream media is rarely accurate about the reality of the situation. So, when you see headlines which are like these below, it is natural to doubt them:
So, what is going on? Some background to set the scene:

Currently, there is a synod meeting in Rome about marriage and family issues. A synod is a gathering of Bishops (and some others) from all over the world. They gather with the Pope to reflect upon certain topics which are relevant to the entire Church.

The Synod is half over, so they released a report on some of the discussions. The media has taken what they believe are the highlights of the report and fashioned attention-grabbing headlines. But, there are many issues with the way they frame the issues, as we will see below.

Here are some of the problems with how the media is framing the narrative.


10 Issues With The Media's Narrative About Catholicism & The Synod on Marriage & Family

  1. The media frames all the synod's discussions in terms of politics. The usual narrative is progressive vs conservative and too often Catholics get caught in this game as well. We have to learn that these are political terms and don't really apply to The Church
  2. The media only sees the human element of the Church, not the divine element. There is more to the Catholic Church than just humans who have agendas, play political games, and are trying to get their way. But, since all the media sees are these human elements, the divine elements are not part of the story.
  3. A discussion on issues doesn't mean the Church is adopting every aspect of the discussion. Pope Francis has asked the Bishops in attendance to be honest and open. In other words, he is hoping that all options are thrown on the table. That doesn't mean the Catholic Church will be adopting every idea thrown into the mix. I have a feeling a lot of media will be disappointed at the end of it all.
  4. The Church is in the process of getting back to her primary mission (evangelization) and is examining everything she does in light of this mission, including marriage and family. Too often the Church has merely proclaimed the teachings of Jesus, rather than learning how to communicate them with charity and love of the those who she is speaking to. In understanding how we communicate is important, just as what we teach, there might be a change in tone but not content. Francis is particularly concerned with how Catholicism is perceived.
  5. The media is currently more about selling a product than fairness / truth in reporting. When most reporters write articles today, they are thinking in terms of making money for their employer, getting name recognition, and having readers pay attention. News media is rarely about accuracy, nuance, complexity, and getting the story straight. Remember all the major news outlets are now owned by mega-corporations who have investors that expect to make money. 
  6. The Church is still terrible about managing the media and working with the issues discussed above. Almost every major organization now has internal experts that help manage marketing, communications, and advertising. The Catholic Church does not and it shows. From the outdated design on the Vatican's website to the way they hold press conferences to the press releases they put out, most understand we are woefully deficient in this area. We don't manage media, marketing, and the press well, which means we don't get to set the story lines they print.
  7. Some folks in the media do not like the Catholic Church and will use every opportunity they can to put us in a bad light. Sometimes the "we are persecuted" line gets rolled out too much. But, the truth is there are still a good number of decision-makers in the media who have no love for Catholicism. Knowing this and doing something about it are two different things however.
  8. The Church has been discussing these issues for a while, but they didn't hit the press until Pope Francis started to change the perception of the Papal office. The problem with waging a "culture war" is someone seems to be an "enemy" and not very amenable to hearing the other side. Yet, look at the quote below. It appears very similar to what Francis is saying, but Francis is the one who is credited with shaking things up. Well, not necessarily: "It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the church's pastors wherever it occurs." -Benedict XVI
  9. The issue is confused because of the failure to separate the action with the person, in regards to persons with same-sex attraction. Many people identify themselves as "gay" or "homosexual". This is unique, because they are identifying themselves with an action or desire. The issue is the Church separates each person from the things they do or desire. We are ALL children of God and precious. But, sometimes we do things that aren't good for us and sometimes we all do things that are wrong. This separation of act and person is a fundamental split between Catholicism and the media which reflects our wider modern culture.
  10. The Catholic Church doesn't have the power to change her doctrines, but how she communicates them is something else. Both these statements are true: (a) stealing is wrong and can have eternal consequences. (b) God's mercy can forgive anything we do wrong, if we are truly sorry. Which is more attractive? Most would say (b) is the more attractive option. The same goes for all the issues above. We can't change the teaching of Jesus, but how we communicate the truth is another thing.

Is the Catholic Church out of touch, out of date, and does it need to change? Well, some say so, but is that the reality?

The Church has suffered a great deal from clashing with modern cultural trends. Some have left the practice of the faith. Many criticize the Church as behind the times when it comes to sexuality, contraception, abortion, the role of women, bureaucracy, the scandals of individual Catholics (including leaders) who shame The Church, and issues with family / marriage.

It is true that when we look at the Church through the lens of modern western culture, that the Church is not trendy. Church leaders are not interested in changing doctrine to keep up with the times. It seems the Church is too old and stuck in her ways.

To be quite honest, this is a good thing. But, the Church isn't behind the times, she is above them.

What has our culture brought us:
  • Abortion on-demand
  • Hyper-sexualization
  • Addiction
  • Culture of death
  • More wars (in the 20th Century) than any other time in history
  • More slavery TODAY than any other time in history.
  • Divorce and broken families.
  • Pornography and selfishness.
  • etc.
Why would we ever think this culture is healthy or good enough to be a model for the Catholic Church to follow?
Why would we ever believe the modern way of thinking is really true?
Where is the beauty in this modern culture?

Here are just a few of the problems with believing the Church just needs to be updated to keep up with the culture:
  1. with this mindset we jettison all of the teachings of Christ, believing they are not applicable to us today.
  2. we make ourselves smarter than God. If we believe that the Church needs to change her ways, to line up with our thinking, then we are making ourselves the final judge of what is true and good = making ourselves a god.
The world needs the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has the answer for all the world's problems in the fullness of truth and the fullness of grace she offers to the world. The Church gives us a moral anchor, an answer to broken families, addiction, sin, war, violence, abuse, and all the other issues in our culture. More than ever the world needs the Catholic Church, if our society is to last. This answer is the personal relationship with Jesus that the Catholic Church offers to us all through the Sacramental grace, teachings of the Church, and in our own personal prayer we all need.

Jesus created one Church. We are that Church, the Catholic Church and if the world needs the Catholic Church, then the Church needs saints. We need to be holy if we are to change the world.

NOTE - Comments are welcome, but discussion MUST remain charitable at all times. Comments are strictly monitored.

How Much Money Should I Give To My Church?


Q - I feel a call to give more money to the Church, but I don't know where to start? How much do I give? To whom? Help me out here!

A - Thanks for the questions. Stewardship (care and supervision of something another owns) of our resources is something that many struggle with. Let me start with some principles that may help:
  1. All of our gifts, talents, objects, relationships, etc. are gifts from God that we are given for a short time to take care of. This comes with a serious responsibility.
  2. We will be held accountable for our stewardship by God.
  3. Tithing and stewardship are about faith not money.
  4. Our perception of our needs may not match the reality of them.
  5. We can be either tippers or tithers with God. Tippers believe God exists to serve us. Tithers believe we exist to serve God.
  6. Prayer and discernment should always accompany such decisions.
These principles can help us to rightly order our giving.

First, there is no mandate by the Church that we have to give a certain percentage. Still, the Biblical model is 10% of gross income as demonstrated by the following passage (as well as others):
"Speak to the Levites and say to them: 'When you receive from the Israelites the tithe I give you as your inheritance, you must present a tenth of that tithe as the LORD's offering." -Numbers 18:26
Second, it isn't so much about the percent of our gift as much as what is happening in the heart. Paul tells us:
"On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made." -1 Cor 16:2
"Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." - 2 Cor 9:7
My own recommendation is that you start with a certain percent (say 5%) of whatever gross income you receive (include any money you receive in support of your expenses). Then set up a different account as a tithing account. Do nothing with this money but give it away. Give half of the % you are putting away to the church you attend and the other half to your diocese, other charities, and mission groups.

Continue to up the percent as long as you can do so until you (at least) reach the Biblical model of 10%.

Remember that faith is certainly required and that prayer should always accompany all of these acts of charity and that all these recommendations are merely guidelines. Some give away much more than 10%, some less. In fact, some give away a majority of their income, but these are the exceptions, not the rule.

God is always pleased with a good steward of his gifts. The Catechism even defines a Christian based on the principle of stewardship.
“A Christian is a steward of the Lord's goods.” (CCC, 952)
Finally, think of the whole issue this way. God gives us everything we have and only asks for a small portion back.

I hope this helps.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

How Can We Be Both Equal & Yet Different?


Many define equality based on our actions. So, you could say that equality, as defined by modernity, is being able to perform the same functions as everyone else. But, there is something missing if we define equality as mere "sameness" in action. The Scriptures and Church teaching tell us more about what true equality is.

Being made in God's image and likeness teaches us all of these things below and more:
  • We all share in a magnificent gift of God - our creation.
  • We each have an equal dignity (worth) given by God.
  • Our equality with one another is based on this dignity.
  • Being different from one another does not affect our equality or dignity.
  • We are not God.
  • Our individual uniqueness has meaning and goodness.
  • Our uniqueness tells us something about God.
  • Our differences should compliment one another.
  • Our differences are gifts from God and are part of God's plan for creation.
Remember this - God is three persons in one Divine nature - a Trinity of persons. Thus, he is a family and community of persons. The three persons do not differ in action or nature, but by relationship with one another. Therefore, when we were created, we were made with a share in God's image and likeness in 2 ways:
  1. Each individual human reflects God's image in likeness - just as God has a divine intellect (knows things) and a divine will (freedom to make choices) so each individual human has a human intellect and will. 
  2. We are also made in the image and likeness of God as a community of persons. Just as there is a Divine Father and Son + the love between them, so we are called to image God by being in communion with others, especially our families.
The Catechism says this:
 "1704 The human person participates in the light and power of the divine Spirit. By his reason, he is capable of understanding the order of things established by the Creator. By free will, he is capable of directing himself toward his true good. He finds his perfection "in seeking and loving what is true and good."
and:
1702 The divine image is present in every man. It shines forth in the communion of persons, in the likeness of the unity of the divine persons among themselves
In the communion of persons we live out the image of God not only through our own individual gift of humanity, but also through the communion with others.

Thus, we are called to see how God is reflected in our own selves as well as in others, even though they are different. Each of us reveals, in a mysterious way, a truth about the nature of God, which was given to us in our creation. Part of our purpose in life is to find God's presence within. Our humanity is connected to our individual giftedness and in the differences we each live out the image and likeness of the Trinity in a different way.

What we need to avoid is the idea that equality = "sameness". This is wrong. We can never be truly equal if this is true, because there is no way to achieve "sameness", due to our innate differences.

We must ask how our differences complement each other, and how we are tied to one another and to God. If we side with the view of sameness and the world-view that humanity is defined by what we do, then, for example, the unborn child has no rights since it cannot "do" anything (nor is it the "same" as a fully developed human). But if we side with the Church and the sacramental, sign-value, view of humanity, then our dignity is tied to the fulfilment of our beings as found in each other and in the relationships God created between us.

True equality acknowledges our differences and then finds that which transcends them and is shared by all - our human dignity. Thus, we are "different but equal" while still being made in God's image and likeness.