Monday, October 31, 2011

Violent Skinhead Finds Redemption

This is an interesting story and one which shows that no matter how far away anyone is from truth, love, and God - there is always hope.

I can't imagine the pain he went through.

My guess is he became Catholic, because he mentions penance and there is an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in his house.

Please pray for him, his family, and all caught in violence and hatred.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Why Do Animals Have to Suffer?

Q - Can you explain the Catholic view or doctrinal explanation for why animals suffer? I struggle to form a coherent explanation which explains the seemingly violent and apparently innocent suffering of so call “dumb” and not so dumb animals.

A -
Thanks for the question. If you have ever seen an animal in physical pain, it can be quite distressing. My dog was attacked by another dog and mortally wounded last year. For more than 24 hours she suffered physical pain until the Veterinarian advised us to have her euthanized, because she would not be able to recover. It was a horrible experience for us all.

A few points about the suffering of animals:
  • We have to delineate the suffering of animals from the suffering of humans. Humans can suffer in number of ways - physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional. Animals only suffer physically. They do not have an intellect, will, or immortal soul as we do.
  • God does not like pain and suffering, nor did He create the world for it.
    "Because God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For he fashioned all things that they might have being" -Wisdom 1:13-14.
  • We should never kill or harm an animal without serious reasons, though they are not human. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
    CCC 2418 "It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly....One can love animals; one should not direct to them the affection due only to persons."
When humans fell from grace in the Garden of Eden, all of creation fell from grace with them. In other words, all of the created universe suffers from Man's sin. This is because all of creation was made for humanity and suffers because the purpose of the created order suffers. Animal suffering is part of the suffering and death brought about by sin. Creation is united, for good and bad, together. But, humans have a special role to play in the created order, because we are the only creatures made for our own sake.

As stewards of the rest of creation, we have a duty to see to it that animals are treated with the respect they deserve - which does not equal human respect. In fact, the respect due to animals comes from our respect of God who created them. We should not abuse His great gifts.

That being said, there is no easy answer as to the suffering of animals, because ultimately, there is no obvious good we can see in it. For humans, we can find meaning in our suffering and good can come out of it. This is because humans can combine their suffering to Christ's suffering and participate in our own redemption by offering our suffering for ourselves or others. Thus, we can grow in virtue and holiness through it. For animals, there isn't such a meaning. But, there is hope that all of redemption shall one day be redeemed, as St. Paul says:
"For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies."- Romans 8: 19-23
Then there is the prophecy of Isaiah:
"Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them. The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest; the lion shall eat hay like the ox. The baby shall play by the cobra's den, and the child lay his hand on the adder's lair." -Isaiah 11: 6-8
One day all suffering will be over with, including the physical suffering of animals. Ultimately, there is no adequate answer I can give you as to why animals suffer. John Paul II echoed this mystery in his masterful encyclical on suffering - Salvifici Doloris:
"It is obvious that pain, especially physical pain, is widespread in the animal world. But only the suffering human being knows that he is suffering and wonders why; and he suffers in a humanly speaking still deeper way if he does not find a satisfactory answer. This is a difficult question, just as is a question closely akin to it, the question of evil. Why does evil exist? Why is there evil in the world? When we put the question in this way, we are always, at least to a certain extent, asking a question about suffering too."
I hope this helps.

Fr. Barron on The Movie "The Ides of March"

NOTICE - There are spoilers.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

St. Mary's Catholic Center to Offer For-Credit Theology Starting Spring 2012

BIG NEWS - I just released the following news this afternoon. I have been working on this project (in different forms) for the last 5 years!
The Gospel and Letters of John 
In spring term, 2012, St. Mary’s Catholic Center is hosting a credit bearing theology course sponsored by the University of St. Thomas (Houston).   
Course Title: THEO 3365 - Gospel and Letters of John 
Professor: Rev. William Kelly, SSL 
Father William Kelly is an emeritus professor of Theology at the University of St. Thomas (Houston) where he still teaches on a part-time basis. He earned his licentiate in Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute following studies in both Jerusalem and Rome. He has thirty-two years experience teaching Scripture on the university level. Father Kelly is also a former pastor in the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese; he currently lives and ministers at St. Mary’s Parish in Plantersville. Dates and 
Times: TU/TR 11:10 AM - 12:25 PM 
Location: Room 101 of St. Mary’s Catholic Center – 603 Church Avenue. 
Prerequisites: Upper Division Students Only 
Since this is an upper division theology course, it will be available only for students with a sophomore standing or higher. 
Cost: $1,196 The cost of a three-credit undergraduate course at the University of St. Thomas is $2,496. Through the generosity of donors, scholarships of $1,300 will be made available to students associated with St. Mary’s who register for this class, making the cost for them to be $1,196. (For comparison, the cost of tuition and fees for the first three credits for undergraduate resident tuition at A&M for fall, 2011-spring 2012 is $1,194.17.) 
Transferability: Although UST cannot guarantee that Texas A&M will accept Gospel and Letters of John for transfer credit, this course has successfully transferred to Texas A&M in the past. 
Registration: Details about how to register will be coming soon. If interested in attending a meeting where you will learn more, (date and time TBD) Please sign up at the receptionists desk ASAP or email us your name, email, phone and classification to   
Preference for enrollment will be given to those who sign up first. Please contact Marcel LeJeune, Assistant Director of Campus Ministry at St. Mary’s, for more information.
I do expect that we will add additional classes in the future and would like to have multiple offerings every semester.

Cremation vs. Burial

Q - Burial is discouraged in more and more places, and even outlawed in many more. Family or group tombs are again gaining in popularity. Besides the cost savings, much of the argument for cremating revolves around preventing the terrible mistreatment that happens so much now (leaving in storage sheds, mini storage units, or placing multiple bodies in a single grave and selling the same grave many times without informing the people) and the moving of bodies for development where a cemetery once existed in peace and quiet. So, what is the official position of the church? Is it ok to be cremated?

A - Thanks for the questions! The official position of the Church comes from several current documents, but first a little history. Cremation used to be quite popular throughout world cultures including many pagan cultures and China. But, through the growth of Christianity and the belief of the sacredness of the body and that one day all will attain the resurrection of the body, cremation faded out of use in the Western world. This was because the body was to be revered and held as the temple of the Holy Spirit.

The Church officially outlawed cremation in 1886 when the Vatican issued a statement banning it, particularly because it was commonly used in Masonic rituals [see the book Questions and Answers by Father John Dietzen]. The Pio-Benedictine Code of Canon Law (1918 Code) upheld this by law.

This changed in 1963, when the Vatican, through what is now called the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, took away the ban on cremation, but only in narrow circumstances. Burial was still to be HIGHLY preferred and if a cremation happened, it could only happen after a Catholic service where the body was still intact.

In 1969 the Vatican allowed Christian burial for those who were cremated in the document - Ordo Exsequiarum.

Then when the new Code of Canon law came out in 1983, it stated the following in canon 1176, section 3:
The Church earnestly recommends that the pious custom of burial be retained; but it does not forbid cremation, unless this is chosen for reasons which are contrary to Christian teaching.
Finally, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says this, while citing the Code of Canon Law:
The Church permits cremation, provided that it does not demonstrate a denial of faith in the resurrection of the body.
The Compendium of the Catechism says:

479. How are the bodies of the deceased to be treated?
The bodies of the departed must be treated with love and respect. Their cremation is permitted provided that it does not demonstrate a denial of faith in the resurrection of the body.
254. Christian piety has always regarded burial as the model for the faithful to follow since it clearly displays how death signifies the total destruction of the body. The practice eschews meanings that can be associated with mummification or embalming or even with cremation. Burial recalls the earth from which man comes (cf. Gen 2, 6) and to which he returns (cf. Gen 3, 19; Sir 17,1), and also recalls the burial of Christ, the grain which, fallen on the earth, brought forth fruit in plenty (cf. John 12, 24).
Cremation is also a contemporary phenomenon in virtue of the changed circumstances of life. In this regard, ecclesiastical discipline states: "Christian obsequies may be conceded to those who have chosen to have their bodies cremated, provided that such choice was not motivated by anything contrary to Christian doctrine"(369). In relation to such a decision, the faithful should be exhorted not to keep the ashes of the dead in their homes, but to bury them in the usual manner, until God shall raise up those who rest in the earth, and until the sea gives up its dead (cf. Aps 20, 13).
So, we can still see a prejudice for burial over cremation, but this is now left to the discretion of the faithful as long as it is within the guidelines given above.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People...

These questions seems to be a constant question of humanity. Why does a good and loving God allow such evil to happen? Why does God allow horrible things to happen to those who love Him? Why do bad things happen to good people? Another way to label the questions is to call it "the Problem of Evil".

The answer does not always satisfy unless you have a good idea of who God is. To really understand the answer, and in turn God Himself, then we have to dive into exploring what evil is.

First off, evil is not a thing. In fact, it is more of a lack of something else, good, than anything else. Just as darkness is a lack of light, so evil is a lack of goodness. When we think of it this way, we see that God, who is goodness by nature, did not "create" of "invent" evil. Rather, it is God's creatures' failure to be good that allowed evil to enter into existence.

Secondly, the reason that death and physical suffering exist is because there is spiritual and moral evil. The cause of suffering and death is ultimately man's sin. Because of our disobedience we suffer, in both body and soul. What we have earned by our sin is suffering and death for eternity.

This also helps us to understand the eternal love of God for us. "But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us." (Romans 5:7) Even though what we merit by our evil is death and punishment, we are forgiven.

The amazing thing about this paradox of love overcoming evil is that it leads us to the answer of why God allows evil. The answer is found in the cross.

Suffering and physical death are not good, but neither are they evil in and of themselves. In fact, through the cross, suffering and death can be redemptive. That is, they can help us to re-capture some of the purity, love and holiness that we are called to. The cross is God's answer to evil. In it, He conquers and shows us how to overcome it.

From this the questions might be turned on their head. We can now understand why bad things happen to good people, but why do good things happen to bad people? It is once again because of the love that God has for all people. Not just the "good" ones.

Suffering and death can lead to holiness and union with God. Therefore, it isn't as evil as we make it out to be. It is the eternal death of the soul we should be afraid of. All of this perfectly explains the reason St. Paul could write these words to the Romans:

"For if, by the transgression of one person, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one person Jesus Christ. In conclusion, just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so through one righteous act acquittal and life came to all. For just as through the disobedience of one person the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of one the many will be made righteous. The law entered in so that transgression might increase but, where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through justification for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." - Romans 5:17-21

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Evangelization is Hard and Scary

What do you think of when you hear the word “evangelization”? Some images that may come to mind are door-to-door missionaries, street corner preachers, or those in foreign mission-lands. While these are certainly a part of proclaiming the good news, they do not make up the whole of it and are the more extraordinary forms of evangelization, not the normal day-to-day ways we are called to witness to others about Christ.

The first way we witness to others is through the witness of life, which is the initial act of evangelization, and is indispensable. As Pope Paul VI says, “Above all the Gospel must be proclaimed by witness.” The witness of the Christian life is done by conforming our human will to the divine will of Jesus. In living out our faith daily, we point to the one that gives us the strength, joy, and love that draws people to seek the source of our joy and love.

This cannot be done without growth in holiness, prayer, conversion and continually seeking grace in the sacraments. It is rarely seen in grand acts of holiness, but rather quiet and humble acts of love. A saying, commonly attributed to St. Francis (though he didn't say it) says it well - “preach the Gospel always. When necessary, use words.” Yet, we must remember that this phrase does not give us an excuse to not talk about Jesus. The kerygma, or preached Gospel, is also a necessary part of evangelization. In fact, evangelization is incomplete until the declaration of the saving message that Jesus commands us to proclaim to others is pronounced.

This is, of course, the part of evangelization that is most intimidating to the majority of people who become frightened when called to vocally witness to others. I am one of many modern Catholics who grew up in the Church, fell away, and now has come to love the faith after an initial conversion as an adult and later through an intense study Catholic teachings. This study of the faith helped me to understand what the Church taught, but like many Catholic evangelists, I made many mistakes when I answered the call to share my faith. The mistake I can most readily identify with is using my the truth as an offensive weapon in order to beat others into submission. This is the antithesis of true evangelization.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen evangelized according to the fitting motto, “win the argument, lose a soul.” If we aim to win, we are not sharing our faith out of love, but pride. I am blessed to be able to see numerous young adults fall in love with Jesus and the Catholic faith. Many of them take hold of their faith, like other Catholics, and then feel the need to share and defend it. Nevertheless, many continue to fall into the trap that I did. We mistake offensive volleys against others as a defense of the faith. Yet, most need to be loved into the Church, not argued into it.

I am certainly not saying that there is not a great need for defending the faith or being able to “give a reason for your hope” (2 Pet 3:15), but we must not forget the second part of the passage that says to do it with “gentleness and reverence.

St. Paul tells us that he was an “ambassador for Christ.” (2 Cor 5:20) An ambassador was a person given the full authority of the leader they represented. As an emissary for Christ, Paul now carries the saving message of the Lord with him and is empowered to give it to others. Yet, it is not only St. Paul and the other apostles who were given this charge, but all who are baptized into Christ.

We have all been created to share in the ministry of Christ to all souls on earth. Do we share the gospel with others when we have the opportunity through both our deeds and words? Let us pray that Christ will give us both the opportunities to witness to his truth in our every day lives and the grace to do share the saving message of Jesus with love.

Soul and Body - Which Makes "You"

Q - I've been seeing this quote, attributed to C.S. Lewis, pop up lately and I'm curious if it is theologically sound and in line with Church teaching. "You don't have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body." 

 A - Thanks for the question. There are certainly problems with the quote. I am a big fan of CS Lewis, but we must remember that he had several things wrong, even when he had most things right.

Here is what the Catholic Church teaches about the body and soul, which is all based on the Incarnation - God taking on flesh.

A human person = body + soul

To be human means that we have both. Those creatures that are merely spiritual (without a body) are called angels. When we no longer have our bodies joined to our souls, this causes us to die. So, to say we merely "have a body" is a reflection of early Christian heresies, especially Manichaeism. Many of the early Church heresies were dualistic in nature. They taught the soul is the real person and bound for eternity, but the body is merely a shell that is to be used while on this earth.

But, this denies how humans are made and that the body has meaning. If the body has no meaning, then the Incarnation has no meaning. If the Incarnation has no meaning, then can Christ really save us from our sins?

This tendency to separate body and soul is still strong in modern Christianity, but we must fight for the goodness of the body, because in it is found our identity in Christ and His body, which was laid down on our behalf.

Vatican II taught:
“Though made of body and soul, man is one. Through his bodily composition he gathers to himself the elements of the material world; thus they reach their crown through him, and through him raise their voice in free praise of the Creator. For this reason man is not allowed to despise his bodily life, rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and honorable since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day. Nevertheless, wounded by sin, man experiences rebellious stirrings in his body. But the very dignity of man postulates that man glorify God in his body and forbid it to serve the evil inclinations of his heart." -GS 14
John Paul II knew well the problems that had once again come into Christianity and the denigration of the body. He fought this anti-body mentality by writing his Theology of the Body. This is an anthem for the goodness of the body and a treatise on why the body is in need of redemption.
"We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies." - Romans 8:22-23

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Mute Button

If only we had one for those loud moments in life...

We Are The 1%

No, not the 1% that is being occupied on Wall Street.
Rather - the Catholic 1%.
Here is what we look like:

The good:

The bad:

What does this tell me? The Church has a number of great gifts which are not being used by the Church.

What should we do about it?
5 things that will turn around the bad and expand the good.

  1. Live the faith - we need saints.
  2. Teach the faith - especially to adults. The Church's catechetical documents focus on this, but our parishes focus on kids.
  3. Form disciples who pray - if you don't know how to pray, you don't know Jesus personally.
  4. Share the faith - our faith is personal, but never private. Why wouldn't we share it with others, if we truly care about them?
  5. Pray for our leaders and for those who have fallen away. Prayer changes lives.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Catholic Church and Immigration

I struggle with the issue of immigration. The politics seem to me, to go too far one way or another. Some want to build huge walls around the US and kick out all illegal immigrants here currently. Then on the other side, it seems that any restrictions would be too much. So, what is a Catholic, who struggles with the issue to do? I wish I knew. The exercise of writing about this issue is as much an exercise of organizing my thoughts on the issue as it is to offer a balanced and Catholic view on the issue.

There are several principles about immigration that the Catholic Church teaches, sometimes having a tension that we must balance when examining the issue.

As a nation we are obligated to welcome those who wish to enter the USA, in search of a better life (that is, within limits that are imposed by the state). Those immigrating also have the duty of following the law.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in paragraph 2241, says:
"The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.

Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants' duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens."
Notice, that the Church is not advocating an "open border" policy. Yet, there are duties for those who immigrate as well - notably to obey the laws of the country they are entering (including how they enter, paying taxes, etc.). Illegal immigrants, by definition, are not cooperating in fulfilling this principle.

Principle #1 - The state has the right to set the boundaries around what they consider to be the ordinary ways of entering the country and how they secure their borders. Thus, the policies of the USA are not inherently unjust because they define these parameters. But, this can't be a closed-door policy either. In fact, the manner in which all immigrants (both legal and illegal) are processed in the USA is shameful. But, the USA doesn't have to accept everyone who wants to come either.

Principle #2 - The homeland of every person should seek justice for it's people. There is a scourge of corruption which continues the cycle of poverty in most poor countries. If we truly want to seek justice for the immigrant, then we need to seek it in the homelands of our immigrants, first. The USA is still just in the vast majority of it's laws and public policies.

Principle #3 - If need be, then persons have the right to migrate for the good of their families or for their own sake. But, the Church doesn't make this an absolute. Rather, it is to be for the protection of those who cannot survive otherwise.

Principle #4 - Refugees and those seeking asylum should be protected. We should be the country where people can feel safe from totalitarianism and we should be a haven for refugees who cannot live in their homelands.

Principle #5 - Illegal immigrants are still human beings with inherent dignity and rights and should be treated as such. Yet, this doesn't mean that the USA can't enforce it's laws, but rather, it's laws should treat people justly. For instance, deporting only parents and leaving their children behind is unjust. All have the inherent right to be treated fairly by the justice system during legal proceedings and/or deportation.

Principle #6 - Immigration is not an issue that is easy to solve, nor are any of the "easy solution" advocates balancing all of the above principles. This principle is my own. I rarely see someone who wrestles with the issue, but more commonly see a political agenda being pushed.

What we should not do is pass off the issue as an easy one of either completely opening / closing the borders or of enforcement/non-enforcement of current laws. Rather, true immigration reform will have to take up the competing rights and interests of the many facets of the issue.

So, as Catholics, when trying to decide what political policies are best in this area, we must do the following:
  1. Properly form our consciences on the subject, including intellectual and spiritual formation. So, we should continue to study the issue and pray about it. I would also recommend discussing it with a spiritual director.
  2. We must then follow our consciences on the matter.
Immigration policy is one of the more difficult political issues for me. I haven't seen any proposed (or current) policies that reflect the myriad of conflicting interests, but rather they seem to me to all serve a single political purpose, not the common good. May informed and conscientious Catholics lead the way in seeking such just political policies.

God bless all immigrants and our leaders trying to reform the system.

Fr. Barron Explains What Faith Really Is

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Why Do We Have Relics In Altars

Q - Why do we put relics in altars? Doesn't it date back to the early early church?

A - Thanks for the questions. Here at St. Mary's we dedicated a new altar in 2008 and were blessed to receive a gift of two relics, one of St. Dominic (founder of the Order of Preachers - Dominicans) and one of St. Thomas Aquinas (patron of students). Both of these relics were placed in the altar before it's dedication by Archbishop Aymond.

Now, on to your question. Yes, the veneration of relics of the saints comes from the early church. In the early years of the Church in Rome, during the persecutions, the Christians would meet in the catacombs. These catacombs housed the tombs of the Christian martyrs and therefore Mass was celebrated on their tombs. This practice grew into a veneration (a reverence - not a worship) of the saints as a reminder that God worked through them and their deaths.

Thus, the practice of keeping a reminder of the saint was begun in keeping a relic of them. A relic is a physical reminder of a person. There are three types (or classes) of relics:
  1. A first class relic is a part of a Saint's body (e.g., hair, bone, etc)
  2. A second class relic is something the Saint owned or an instrument of torture that may have been used against them
  3. A third class relic is something that has touched a first or second class relic or a tomb of a Saint.
This is a good reminder to us that when we celebrate Mass, we celebrate with all the saints and angels in heaven.

When he broke open the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slaughtered because of the witness they bore to the word of God. - Rev 6:9
I hope this helps.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

CS Lewis

CS Lewis...
On learning:
"The proper motto is not "Be good, sweet maid, and let who can be clever," but "Be good sweet maid, and don't forget that this involves being as clever as you can." God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than any other slackers."

On love:
"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket -- safe, dark, motionless, airless -- it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. "

On pain:
"We can rest contentedly in our sins and in our stupidities, and anyone who has watched gluttons shoveling down the most exquisite foods as if they did not know what they were eating will admit that we can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Is Receiving the Eucharist a Requirement for Salvation?

Q - I was recently posed the question, "Is a literal interpretation of true presence in the Eucharist (and subsequently receiving the sacrament) a requirement for salvation?" My answer was "yes," as backed up by John 6: 53-58 and other sources of church teaching that expound on the necessity of and graces poured out in receiving Christ in the Eucharist. After further thought however, I'm beginning to have some doubts. At the time of baptism, we receive sanctifying grace and need nothing else. For most Catholics, there is a multiple year time span between baptism and first communion. Are these children lacking in salvation because they haven't received Eucharist? Also, we maintain that there are non-catholics in heaven. How could they get there if they don't believe in or receive sacramental Eucharist? Am I missing something?

A - Thanks for the question. There is a bit of confusion and I hope I can help you out, though I might even add to it with my answer below.

First off, there seem to be some contradictions with Catholic doctrines as we have below.

  1. The Eucharist is necessary for salvation. Jesus clearly teaches in John 6 that we must eat his flesh and drink his blood for eternal life. He couldn't be more clear.
  2. We are saved by grace and the Eucharist gives us grace we need to resist sin and be faithful.
  3. Some who are non-Catholic might be saved through Baptism (whether an explicit baptism or a baptism of blood or a baptism of desire), though they never received the Eucharist.

How do we reconcile these teachings? Well, we must understand them in their proper context.

Receiving the Eucharist is necessary for salvation of those that know the truth about the Eucharist. Therefore, a Catholic, who knows the teachings of the Church about the Eucharist, and who deliberately refuses to receive the Eucharist is putting their souls in grave danger. As adult Catholics, we are required to receive the Eucharist for our salvation, once we know the truth about it.

Yet, a non-Catholic who might not know the truth of the Eucharist or who might not believe it, even if he knows it, is not necessarily part of the normative requirement to receive the Eucharist as part of their salvation. Rather, the grace they receive through baptism is enough for their salvation.

I hope this helps.

Welcome To The Future

Monday, October 17, 2011

Do Penguins Have Confession?

After watching this, I think they need it...

Imagine For a Moment...

It is common for actors, athletes, musicians, and other famous persons to be applauded by the press and the prevailing culture when they decide to "come out of the closet" and reveal that they have a same-sex attraction.

Imagine for a moment that one of these famous persons decided they didn't want to give into these tendencies. Imagine for a moment that they decided they were going to try and seek counseling and guidance so that they would not act on these tendencies. Imagine that they decided they were now heterosexual and no longer had a same-sex attraction or simply that they were going to be chaste and not allow the tendencies to rule their life.

Now, imagine how the press and the prevailing culture would go after them.

Here is what I would imagine seeing:
  • That person would be said that they were never "gay" in the first place.
  • Maybe they would be treated as a religious fanatic.
  • Psychologists and therapists would say they were wrong, because you don't choose to be "gay".
  • The media would find GLBT activists to quote and the press would dig up dirt on them.
Ultimately, I can't imagine any kind of positive spin from the media or the culture-at-large.

Why is it okay to decide you are "gay" but not okay to decide you are not "gay"? 
Isn't this just another choice for an individual to make?
Isn't having the power to choose what many in society say is the greatest good?

Not according to our modern culture.

Why is this? Because it would challenge the notions about same-sex attraction that are accepted as a given. It would be considered a slap in the face to the GLBT equality movement. It is because the same-sex marriage advocates would see it as a setback. 

The Catholic Church is the #1 enemy of many modern people and groups. This is because we believe in something that contradicts the false "truths" the culture sells us in the form of lies about God and the human person.

These lies include the thought we need to teach GLBT course work to kids in schools in order to indoctrinate them into a certain mindset.
The Catholic Church values every human person. We have value inherently, not because of a tendency or a choice. We are loved by God no matter what we do. But, we show God our attempt at loving Him by our choices. This means there are actions which are wrong, though some don't want us saying they are. Conflicting world-views are the result.

God help us make the best choices possible.

I believe GK Chesterton has some wisdom for us:
"These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own." ― G.K. Chesterton
"Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions." ― G.K. Chesterton
"When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything." ― G.K. Chesterton
“Once abolish the God and the government becomes the God.” ― G.K. Chesterton

A Mother Lays Down Her Life So Her Child Might Live

What an amazing story of sacrifice. A mother chooses life for her child and in the process she dies.
Stacie Crimm called her brother with astonishing news.

“You're not going to believe this,” she said.

She laughed and cried all at once that day in March as she explained that five pregnancy tests showed she would be having a child. It was a joyous surprise at age 41 but even more so because she'd been told she would never be able to get pregnant, said her brother, Ray Phillips.

But even as she shopped for clothes for the child she longed to hold in her arms, she knew something was not right.

She sent 159 text messages about her pregnancy to her brother in the months that followed. Many were joyful but then the bone-chilling messages came in during the predawn hours. She said severe headaches and double vision tortured her while tremors wracked her entire body.

“I'm worried about this baby,” she texted.

“I hope I live long enough to have this baby,” said another message. “Bubba, if anything happens to me, you take this child.”

Initially, she and her brother used the Internet to try to diagnose her illness. The single mother-to-be had been exposed to mold while she was remodeling her home and her symptoms seemed to match up to mold exposure.

At her family's encouragement, she visited a number of doctors. In July, a CT scan revealed that she had head and neck cancer.

Now she had to choose between her life and her baby's life. Phillips said she agonized only for a while before deciding against taking potentially lifesaving chemotherapy in hopes that she would soon hold a healthy baby in her arms. CONTINUE READING.

"No one has greater love than this,j to lay down one’s life for one’s friends."
-John 15:13

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Higher Education Bubble

This is something that a lot of recent graduates are learning the hard way - A college degree is no guarantee of success. Is the Higher Ed Bubble about to pop?
Some sobering stats...

Higher Education Bubble
From: The Best Colleges

The Real "Spirit" of Vatican II

It is a widely held belief that Vatican II's implementation immediately following the Council was not done well. In fact, in most parts of the Church, it was done very poorly.

Many times the teachings of Vatican II were (and still are, in some quarters) misused and not implemented properly because of the "spirit of Vatican II". This is an idea which posits the intentions of the Council Fathers were different from or implicit within the actual documents they wrote. It is used as a justification for many things which have caused problems throughout the Church in the last 40 years or so. This misunderstanding of the council was criticized by both John Paul II and Benedict XVI. They believe it is not consonant with the true spirit of Vatican II.

I am blessed to work with the generation that has the real spirit of Vatican II. The young adults of today are ready for the challenge of implementing the Council in the way it was meant to be implemented. There is a deep desire to engage modern culture in dialogue and take the Gospel to the streets. There is a vibrancy and a zeal that hasn't been this great in many generations.

I know that many people are pessimistic about the Church facing the problems of today, but the young adults who have such love for Christ make it impossible for me to hold the same kind of outlook. Yes, we have many problems in our Church, but the truth of Christ is being preached with great faith, hope and love right now! How can we not see that The Truth will triumph?

So, I challenge us all to call to mind the great things going on in our Church today. This isn't just a re-treading of the same-old model of the Church, but rather a thoroughly orthodox re-invigoration of the same Church, that speaks to today's men and women with truth, faith, hope, and love.

This is what John Paul II called the New Evangelization. The New Evangelization is an effort to re-evangelize peoples and cultures that were once Catholic with renewed fervor and in different ways that touch the culture of modern man.

This kind of evangelization is attractive to modern people. Which is what Vatican II ultimately wanted in the first place.

The real spirit of Vatican II = The New Evangelization.

It has taken us a long time to implement Vatican II correctly, but our young people are doing it.

This is cause for great hope.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Fr. Barron Criticizes The Theory of The Catholic Church is To Blame For Society's Problems

This is a good critique of Stephen Greenblatt's The Swerve:

Living the Gospel of Life

October is Respect Life month. Respect of the Life and Dignity of the Human person is the most basic Catholic Social Teaching and concerned a spectrum of issues as Bishop Mulvey explained us in a recent statement. This was also the topic of Blessed Pope John Paul II encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae (the Gospel of Life) issued in March 1995.
Pro-life is whatever violates the integrity of the human person
by Bishop Wm. Michael Mulvey, Diocese of Corpus Christi

Pro-life concerns include anything that promotes the dignity of men and women created by God in His image. To transgress life, in any form, is to disobey God and to blemish His presence within us. Paragraph 27 of the “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World,” propagated by Pope Paul VI in 1965 towards the end of Vatican II, enumerates the many sins that violate the sanctity of life. “Whatever is opposed to life itself,” the Constitution reads, “such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or willful self-destruction…” are pro-life issues.

The Constitution, however, does not stop there in defining violations against human life. It continues; “whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons…” The Constitution decries all these “infamies” that “poison” society. Doing “more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are a supreme dishonor to the Creator,” the Constitution says.
Continue Reading.

Cohabitation Is a Terrible Idea

When any relationship has no real commitment before intimacy goes too far (on any level - emotional, mental, physical, etc.), then the persons in the relationship, no matter their good intentions, are playing Russian Roulette with the relationship.

The analogy that is most commonly used is that cohabitation is like taking a car on a "test drive". The problem is that when we use people as objects, it is the worst thing we can do in a relationship. Pope John Paul II said the opposite of true love is use. This is because we make them less than human when we use them.

When a couple cohabitates they are using each other in every respect, whether it be for sex, companionship, intimacy, good feelings, etc. - because true love is wanting the best of someone regardless of the cost to yourself. Putting a relationship in such a "danger zone" is never loving. It basically is saying to the other person (or more than likely to each other) - I see you as useful to me at this time and therefore I am willing to take a risk in hurting you physically (pregnancy, disease, etc), emotionally, spiritually and the future of our relationship and others. If there was true love, then we would have a binding commitment to the future of the relationship - marriage - before living together.

Thus, cohabitation can never be about love. This is the reason that couples who cohabitate before marriage divorce almost double of non-cohabiting couples.

Marriage should be a permanent state - for Christians it is a covenantal and sacramental bond that is irrevocable. This permanence along with faithfulness offers a safe environment for real sacrificial love to grow. When a relationship can be changed like a shirt, love can't grow to it's fulfillment. To make yourself a true gift to someone is the point of marriage. When you cohabitate, you are only able to give a partial gift - which points the relationship down a dead-end street. A partial commitment is no commitment. Another big thing to consider for Catholics is it can be argued a cohabiting couple may not be able to validly marry. This is a very serious consideration.

Reasons not to cohabitate are numerous and I have many of them above. Here are some further stats:
  • One-sixth of cohabiting couples stay together for only three years.
  • One in ten survives five or more years.
  • The rate of divorce among those who cohabit prior to marriage is nearly double (39 percent vs. 21 percent) that of couples who marry without prior cohabitation.
  • Cohabitors who never marry have 78 percent less wealth than the continuously married.
  • Compared to children of married biological parents, children age 12-17 with cohabiting parents are six times more likely to exhibit emotional and behavioral problems.
Tell me again why cohabitation is a good idea?

--Related Topics:

To Be Human - What Does It Mean?

We humans have lost our identity. While individuals might have answers to the big questions of life, that isn't the case with us as a people.  We no longer have the answers to these questions:
  • Who am I?
  • What is the purpose to life?
  • Who is God?
  • Why was I created?
These questions and the corresponding answers directly effect what we believe, how we view life, and how we live. The root of the issue is this - without an identity in Christ, we cannot see ourselves, others or the world in the proper context. We mistake a lie for the truth.

What is the truth? It is that each of us are created in the image and likeness of God. Big deal, you might think.  But, it is. It is our identity. We are adopted into the family of God (the Trinity) and made partakers of the divine nature. This means we that our nature is caught up into God, by our participation in God's divine life. A new-found identity in Christ means we can no longer look at ourselves or others in the same way. This is why the John Paul the Great quoted the following verse more than any other from Vatican II:
"Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear." (Gaudium et Spes 22)
If we want to know who we are, who others are, and the answers to the other questions that have been planted deep within us, then we need to understand who Jesus is and who we are in light of Christ. When God became man in the Incarnation, He didn't lower His own divine nature, which is impossible - because God is unchangeable, rather He raise up our human nature higher. The document goes on to say our nature

"has been raised up to a divine dignity in our respect too. For by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man."

This is our "supreme calling" - to find who we are in Christ. To live fully in the Fathers' love, truth and grace. This is what we were made for.

This is the truth about the mystery of humanity. We were made to live this way, to find this truth. When we do so, we find what real human "dignity" means.
"The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light." 
When we do not live in this truth we bring suffering upon ourselves and others. This is the root of EVERY problem in our culture today. Let me offer a few examples of this.

1 - Abortion. When we do not see a developing baby in light of the mystery of God and humanity, then the dignity of a baby who can't act as we act or do as we do is lost. They then become something that impedes our attempt to be happy, as we understand it. They are an inconvenience. But, if we see the child through the eternal eyes of God they have an inestimable value. They are priceless and their dignity is not dependent on what they "do". Their identity is a son and daughter of the Father. They are the brothers and sisters of the God-Man, Jesus.

2 - Relationships. When we enter into a relationship with another person who is as valuable as me, then I will do nothing but truly love them and give of myself to them. I will never treat them as someone who exists for me, but rather who exists for God. They are never to be used. They are always to be valued. What I say to them and what I do with them will always reflect this reality. More than anything - I will never use God's own beloved in for my own selfish pleasure or allow them to enter into any danger, whether it be a physical, mental, spiritual, or social danger because of me. This means chastity, prudence, and charity are the virtues that will come from such a relationship.

3 - The poor. How would I treat my own child if they were to come to me and in need of food? I would give it them. Just so, God's children sometimes are in need and we are called to treat them as God's children, not as someone who is inconvenient. If we see them for the persons they truly are, there is no other reaction but for us to do what is best for them.

4 - View of self. The times we see ourselves as worthless or without dignity are the times we fail to see ourselves in light of the Incarnation. God took on flesh, not for His own sake, but for my sake and your sake.  He became a man in order to show that there is nothing more worthy of love than the height of His creation - human beings. Nothing more worthy of love than you. Not a "feeling" of love, but a sacrificial love. A love that humbles Himself to live and die for another. That is love. It is for you.

5 - Suffering. 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.

Theses are just a few examples, but this is part of the antidote to the problems of our culture. 

The mystery of man and the mystery of God isn't just fun to think about. It is the most important thing to search for. It is what will change us and our culture. It is the answer to the questions of life. As Gaudium et Spes 22 ends it says it all.

Such is the mystery of man, and it is a great one, as seen by believers in the light of Christian revelation. Through Christ and in Christ, the riddles of sorrow and death grow meaningful. Apart from His Gospel, they overwhelm us. Christ has risen, destroying death by His death; He has lavished life upon us so that, as sons in the Son, we can cry out in the Spirit; Abba, Father


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Medicine and God

Q - First, thank you for maintaining such an excellent blog. I have enjoyed reading your thoughtful posts. I am a first-year student at a college of medicine. My question has to do with reproductive technology. I am seriously considering working in a Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Clinic next summer. The embryologist in charge, has given lectures at our school and I find his work very interesting. He has invited medical students to intern at his clinic. They do a lot of good work there, however, some of it is immoral (IVF, ICSI, ZIFT, and illicit methods of artificial insemination). It seems that I could be accommodated by the Doctor by not directly participating in practices contrary to Church teaching. I would be focused on Church-sanctioned ways of assisting married couples to conceive. However, my conscience tells me that simply working in such a place might be morally dangerous. Do you have any advice?

A - Thanks for the question. I am glad to see that you are concerned about practicing medicine in a way that is consonant with your faith. I want to commend you for that and for wrestling with these issues.

The first thing I will tell you is that I am not a bio-ethicist, but I know the principles that guide most of these decisions and how to apply them in many bio-ethical situations, but not all. There are more informed and intelligent persons on this subject and I am open to any correction they may offer in this area.

I will also refer you to the National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC). They do great work their and they put out a great journal which Fr. David subscribes to. He recently donated several dozen issues of their journal in the St. Mary's library. They will be put into the reference section shortly.

Also, the Pope Paul VI Institute deals directly with infertility treatments that are in accord with the Church's teachings. They also do good work.

Third, the USCCB has issued Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. It is a good guide.

Lastly, the Vatican issued a great document, Donum Vitae, that will help you in this field. It answers most questions about IVF, fertility treatments, and more. Great document that will help you immensely.

Now, that being said, and before I get into the issue at hand, I hope you will allow me to give you some advice in this area. Many Obstetrician Gynecologists treat infertile couples like machines, not human beings. Their treatments do not take into consideration medical questions about morality or ethics, but rather they use the human as an object. This is not in accord with the dignity of the human being or good medicine.

Also, many well-intentioned Catholics treat fertility as a right and not a gift. This is backwards and puts us in the place of God. There are moral treatments for fertility, but we cannot act in an "anything goes" manner, which you clearly understand. But - the doctor you want to intern with does not. If you are interested in this kind of science, you might talk to a good pro-life Catholic doctor. I can put you in touch with one if you like in town (if you live in BCS) or I will refer you again to the Pope Paul VI Institute, where you might think about an internship as well.

As for being complicit in the immoral things that happen at a fertility clinic that you would be interning at, John Paul II introduces us to the concept of remote and material cooperation in an evil act. This should help guide you. He writes in Evangelium Vitae:
In order to shed light on this difficult question, it is necessary to recall the general principles concerning cooperation in evil actions. Christians, like all people of good will, are called upon under grave obligation of conscience not to cooperate formally in practices which, even if permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to God's law. Indeed, from the moral standpoint, it is never licit to cooperate formally in evil. Such cooperation occurs when an action, either by its very nature or by the form it takes in a concrete situation, can be defined as a direct participation in an act against innocent human life or a sharing in the immoral intention of the person committing it. This cooperation can never be justified either by invoking respect for the freedom of others or by appealing to the fact that civil law permits it or requires it. Each individual in fact has moral responsibility for the acts which he personally performs; no one can be exempted from this responsibility, and on the basis of it everyone will be judged by God himself (cf. Rom 2:6; 14:12).
To refuse to take part in committing an injustice is not only a moral duty; it is also a basic human right. Were this not so, the human person would be forced to perform an action intrinsically incompatible with human dignity, and in this way human freedom itself, the authentic meaning and purpose of which are found in its orientation to the true and the good, would be radically compromised. What is at stake therefore is an essential right which, precisely as such, should be acknowledged and protected by civil law. In this sense, the opportunity to refuse to take part in the phases of consultation, preparation and execution of these acts against life should be guaranteed to physicians, health-care personnel, and directors of hospitals, clinics and convalescent facilities. Those who have recourse to conscientious objection must be protected not only from legal penalties but also from any negative effects on the legal, disciplinary, financial and professional plane.
In other words, we cannot formally cooperate with evil. For instance, we ought not get an abortion, but neither should we drive someone to the clinic, tell them it is okay or keep silent when presented with an opportunity to speak the truth about it.

Depending on our actions, we have different degrees of cooperation in the act.
If the evil act is not intended by someone and the person is sufficiently remote from the act, then they are not complicit with it. This is called remote material cooperation. Things that might cause an act to be remote include (not in order and an incomplete list):
  • Time between the complicit act(s) - in some cases, time between events can cause distance. But, time is not a cure-all. For instance, using research gained from the Nazi death camps is still immoral.
  • Steps separating the complicit act(s) - For instance. If you buy a piece of clothing that was originally made in a child-labor sweatshop from another part of the world, then you are many steps from the original evil (sweatshops using child labor). If we intended to buy it because of the origin of the clothing, then we would be complicit.
  • On-going or one-time (or completed) complicit act(s) - The US supporting slavery is an example. We no longer allow it, but how are we now responsible as a people for once doing so? On the other hand, the sex-trade is still an on-going problem. We cannot participate in such evil.
  • Severity of the complicit act(s) - For instance, abortion. The act is an indescribably evil in and of itself. We cannot cooperate in acts that formally support such evil. On the other hand, there are lesser evils where it is not quite as clear.
  • Nature and Immediacy of the Goods - The most common example is a custodian at a hospital that performs abortions. As long as the person does not formally cooperate in them and disapproves of them, he is not complicit in them - if he is dependent on the job for his livelihood. If he is able to get a job elsewhere, then his cooperation could be formal and not material.
Now, these principles alone don't answer the problem. Therefore I will give you a system whereby you might work through the issue. It is called the Principle of Double Effect (PDE). It isa framework that gives us a Catholic understanding of which acts are moral and which are not, when things aren't clear. Through the principle of double effect, the act must pass four criteria:
  1. The moral object must be good or neutral, not intrinsically evil.
  2. The evil result is tolerated, not intended; the good effect is what the agent intends. Then, the evil effect comes indirectly fromt the act, while the good effect comes directly from it.
  3. The good effect doesn't occur as a result of the evil effect, in other words, you can't do evil to get good. Therefore, the evil effect is not intended directly as a means toward the good effect.
  4. There must be a proportionate reason for doing the act. This implies that there can also not be any other alternatives.
In your particular case, it is left up to your prudential judgment as to your course of action. So, you should follow your conscience after prayerfully discerning what God wants you to do. There could be a case made for either choice - in seeking an internship elsewhere where you could be educated from a Catholic understanding as well as being leaven in the world and interning with the clinic where ethical problems remain, but witnessing to a Catholic ethic.
Here are some questions that might help guide you throough the process:
  • Would you be an agent of witness and possible change?
  • Do you have enough formation and information to do this?
  • Are you ready to stand up for your beliefs in situations of intense pressure and possible problems that might result in your professional future?
  • What is your conscience telling you?
  • Have you sought the advice of a spiritual director of confessor?
I will keep you in prayer and I hope it all works out for you.
Peace. I will give the final word to the Church in Donum Vitae:
The humanization of medicine, which is insisted upon today by everyone, requires respect for the integral dignity of the human person first of all in the act and at the moment in which the spouses transmit life to a new person. It is only logical therefore to address an urgent appeal to Catholic doctors and scientists that they bear exemplary witness to the respect due to the human embryo and to the dignity of procreation.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Baby Farms and Surrogate Mothers

The following is a story about baby farms in India. This growing new phenomenon is when a surrogate mother from India gets paid to carry a child because it is less expensive than doing it here in the USA.

The story is quite sad because:
  • I feel for those who would want a child and cannot have one due to infertility.
  • Most of these people have no idea of the spiritual, emotional, and relational consequences of their actions.
  • Pregnancy/fertility is now a commodity which we buy and sell.
  • Too many people believe children are a "right" not a "gift" and therefore we can treat them however we choose.
  • The poor women are not being "helped" at all. But, rather they are being used.
A quote from one of the women says a lot about the rationalization of it all:
“If I’d had a child by normal means, then I would probably think it was exploitation,” says William. “But I don’t personally feel bad. These women are all adults and they know what they’re doing. The reason is mainly financial, and it gives them a chance to improve their lives. Are they being exploited? I don’t think so. I do feel very sorry for the people here. Even the waiter in our hotel gets £200 a month, and you look at it and it just doesn’t seem fair. It’s the luck of the draw really, but can we solve the problems of the world?”
Just because we can does not mean we ought to.

Mother of God, pray for us!

8 Month Old Deaf Baby Hears Mom's Voice

A while back I posted a wonderful video of a woman hearing her voice for the first time after receiving an implant. Here is a similar one of a baby hearing mom's voice. It is an amazing thing to watch.

Co-ed Dorm Rooms

UCLA is considering allowing men and women to share dorm rooms on-campus. Here is the rational:
“Students wouldn’t be placed in this circumstance,” said Seplow. “They would still be placed based on gender, but if there was a request or a returning student requested it, they certainly could have the option.”

Seplow explained that the proposal is in reaction to a trend popping up throughout the nation that initially began as a way to work with people who are transgendered — for instance, someone born biologically as a man, but living as a woman, who might not be comfortable living with a male roommate.

“UCLA is just following suit of this national trend,” said Seplow — one that could lead to your typical male and female students rooming together.
Talk about terrible reasoning. Studies show even co-ed dorms are a bad idea, so co-ed dorm rooms would be even worse.
A new study finds university students in coed housing are 2.5 times more likely to binge drink every week. And no surprise, they're also likely to have more sexual partners, the study found. Also, pornography use was higher among students in coed dorms. Some 90 percent of U.S. college dorms are now coed.
The problems even go farther than the study above - but college administrators don't care.

Why are the colleges and universities ignoring this data? Because many administrators aren't looking out for the best interests of students, but are trying to further push a progressive world-view, a false understanding of "equality" issues, and a mentality of moral relativism. This is also going to encourage co-habitation, which compounds relationship problems drastically.

Facts don't figure into the equation.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Why Young Christians Leave the Faith

newly released 5-year research project from the Barna Group highlights 6 reasons why young Christians leave Christianity. I will comment below, between the quotes of the study.
The research project was comprised of eight national studies, including interviews with teenagers, young adults, parents, youth pastors, and senior pastors. The study of young adults focused on those who were regular churchgoers Christian church during their teen years and explored their reasons for disconnection from church life after age 15. 

No single reason dominated the break-up between church and young adults. Instead, a variety of reasons emerged. Overall, the research uncovered six significant themes why nearly three out of every five young Christians (59%) disconnect either permanently or for an extended period of time from church life after age 15.
This first statistic is startling - right at 60% of all Christians are leaving the faith. Previous research has shown that religious engagement, after college, by those who are active in their faith during high school is only at 20%. Another way of looking at that previous data - 80% of young adults are falling away (or are fallen away completely) from their faith. We aren't losing a generation - they are lost. The question now is, what do we do about it?
Reason #1 – Churches seem overprotective. A few of the defining characteristics of today's teens and young adults are their unprecedented access to ideas and worldviews as well as their prodigious consumption of popular culture. As Christians, they express the desire for their faith in Christ to connect to the world they live in. However, much of their experience of Christianity feels stifling, fear-based and risk-averse. One-quarter of 18- to 29-year-olds said “Christians demonize everything outside of the church” (23% indicated this “completely” or “mostly” describes their experience). Other perceptions in this category include “church ignoring the problems of the real world” (22%) and “my church is too concerned that movies, music, and video games are harmful” (18%).
The problem here? Young Christians aren't connected the harmful parts of culture and analyzing them. Rather, they absorb them, accept them as valuable, and then have their faith tell them something different. The problem is that we aren't forming them into disciples of Christ first, and then releasing them into the culture. Rather, we allow the culture to form them first. This means the culture has the upper-hand in guiding them and teaching them where happiness is found.
Reason #2 – Teens’ and twentysomethings’ experience of Christianity is shallow. A second reason that young people depart church as young adults is that something is lacking in their experience of church. One-third said “church is boring” (31%). One-quarter of these young adults said that “faith is not relevant to my career or interests” (24%) or that “the Bible is not taught clearly or often enough” (23%). Sadly, one-fifth of these young adults who attended a church as a teenager said that “God seems missing from my experience of church” (20%).
This is nothing we haven't known for a while, the problem is we have done little about it. Too often we seek to "engage" teenagers instead of challenging them to live out their faith. I am not proposing that the two are mutually exclusive (in fact they can't be if we do both successfully), but we do seem to have a desire to entertain teens more than anything else. This is also indicative of modern parenting. We leave the formation of young people, in faith issues, to the churches and religious schools. Too often parents do not model or teach the faith in the home. Now, do we need to make church relevant? Certainly. But, never at the expense of the Gospel and the call to holiness.
Reason #3 – Churches come across as antagonistic to science. One of the reasons young adults feel disconnected from church or from faith is the tension they feel between Christianity and science. The most common of the perceptions in this arena is “Christians are too confident they know all the answers” (35%). Three out of ten young adults with a Christian background feel that “churches are out of step with the scientific world we live in” (29%). Another one-quarter embrace the perception that “Christianity is anti-science” (25%). And nearly the same proportion (23%) said they have “been turned off by the creation-versus-evolution debate.” Furthermore, the research shows that many science-minded young Christians are struggling to find ways of staying faithful to their beliefs and to their professional calling in science-related industries.
I don't think this is as big a problem in the Catholic Church as it is in fundamentalist, Pentecostal, and Evangelical Protestant denominations, but it is still an issue. Too many Catholics think of Galileo (as taught by anti-Catholics), contraception, and fetal stem cell research. The bad part is most Catholics believe that the Catholic Church is wrong on all these issues. Another formation issue here.
Reason #4 – Young Christians’ church experiences related to sexuality are often simplistic, judgmental. With unfettered access to digital pornography and immersed in a culture that values hyper-sexuality over wholeness, teen and twentysometing Christians are struggling with how to live meaningful lives in terms of sex and sexuality. One of the significant tensions for many young believers is how to live up to the church's expectations of chastity and sexual purity in this culture, especially as the age of first marriage is now commonly delayed to the late twenties. Research indicates that most young Christians are as sexually active as their non-Christian peers, even though they are more conservative in their attitudes about sexuality. One-sixth of young Christians (17%) said they “have made mistakes and feel judged in church because of them.” The issue of sexuality is particularly salient among 18- to 29-year-old Catholics, among whom two out of five (40%) said the church’s “teachings on sexuality and birth control are out of date.”
When you don't have anything to say "Yes" to about sexuality, then you will only here the Catholic message about sexuality as a big "NO". But, this isn't what the Church has ever taught. We teach that the NO to premarital sex, contraception, and other sexual sins is really a big "YES" to God, life, purity, chastity, healthy relationships, spiritual wholeness, bodily integrity, etc. But, if all a kid knows is NO, then the other stuff doesn't make sense. The solution to this one is age-appropriate teaching of sexuality by parents, backed up by the Church's teaching of Theology of the Body.
Reason #5 – They wrestle with the exclusive nature of Christianity. Younger Americans have been shaped by a culture that esteems open-mindedness, tolerance and acceptance. Today’s youth and young adults also are the most eclectic generation in American history in terms of race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, technological tools and sources of authority. Most young adults want to find areas of common ground with each other, sometimes even if that means glossing over real differences. Three out of ten young Christians (29%) said “churches are afraid of the beliefs of other faiths” and an identical proportion felt they are “forced to choose between my faith and my friends.” One-fifth of young adults with a Christian background said “church is like a country club, only for insiders” (22%).
This certainly isn't what the Catholic Church teaches, but it certainly is the message given to others by many believers. The Church is made up of sinners who can find common-ground with many other faiths. Certainly there are some exclusive claims in Catholic doctrine that are non-negotiable, but if we don't teach the basis of what those are, then they are easy to shoot holes through. In addition, most parishes are not very welcoming and are hard to get involved in. This is terrible. The people of God should always be looking outward, not inward. Now, the final problem here is found in a culture where open-mindedness is esteemed more than truth. Relativism is to blame and we need to continue to fight this false philosophy at every turn.
Reason #6 – The church feels unfriendly to those who doubt. Young adults with Christian experience say the church is not a place that allows them to express doubts. They do not feel safe admitting that sometimes Christianity does not make sense. In addition, many feel that the church’s response to doubt is trivial. Some of the perceptions in this regard include not being able “to ask my most pressing life questions in church” (36%) and having “significant intellectual doubts about my faith” (23%). In a related theme of how churches struggle to help young adults who feel marginalized, about one out of every six young adults with a Christian background said their faith “does not help with depression or other emotional problems” they experience (18%).
As someone who welcomes questions and doubted myself, I can agree this is a problem. Too often we sell Christianity to others as a package-deal - in other words, it seems we tell others they should accept every challenge Christianity has for them NOW or else. We have little patience for the free will of others to have doubts, fears, and different conclusions than our own. We need to be more open and patient when dealing with the struggles of others. Jesus didn't get the apostles completely on board even after three years with them!

We need a change in several areas of our Church to re-capture this generation of young people:
  1. We need to all evangelize. We can't wait for others to go and get young people, we need to do it ourselves. This is the purpose of the Church - to make disciples of all nations.
  2. We need better Catholic parenting. Too often parents check their faith at the door. Formation of parents should be the focus of our parishes. Then they in turn can form their children. This is what the universal church has always taught - catechesis should focus on adults, not children. But, we have it backwards in our parishes.
  3. We need better youth ministry that is more formation-oriented. When I say formation, I do not mean more class time. Students get enough of that. But, when teaching social justice, take them to a soup kitchen. When teaching sexuality, have young married couples come talk to them. When teaching why the Incarnation is so important, bring them to Adoration. Teach them to pray. Teach them to love Jesus. Preach the Gospel, again, again, and again. I commend the youth ministries that are already doing these things, but too many are not.
  4. We need better campus ministries. Many campuses have nothing. Most have little. Only a few have good ministries and even these capture less than 50% of Catholics on-campus. 
  5. We need more dynamic young adult ministries. We need something more than a singles' group or young married couples groups. These are fine, when done well, but we need amazingly attractive programs that think outside of the box.
I wish I had all the answers, and I sometimes act as if I do, but I don't. Rather, let this serve as a call to all of us - THE CHURCH - to do something about it personally, rather than wait for others to do it for us.


Comments and thoughts are welcome. Please be kind.