Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Grief as Spiritual Purification and Renewal

Grief as Spiritual Purification and Renewal: It is our Lord’s will that you should taste of the sorrows of this vale of tears, and not of the milder but of the most bitter kind. May His name be ever blessed, His judgments adored, and His will fulfilled, for the creature owes its Creator reverence and sub­jection in all things, be they pleasant or painful. To test our obedi­ence, and to teach us what great things we are bound to do and to suffer for so great a Master, God is wont to deprive us of what is as dear to us as the light of our eyes.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Tolerating Terror - Crisis Magazine-by Fr. George Rutler

Tolerating Terror - Crisis Magazine: by Fr. George Rutler

We do not know what Father Jacques Hamel thought about capitalism or climate change, but it is obvious that he loved, and loved intolerably, and, because of that, his last words to his killer were: “Va-t’en, Satan!” – “Begone, Satan!”

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Healing and Change

Franciscan Penance Library

Healing and Change
They reached Jericho; and as he left Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus -- that is, the son of Timaeus -- a blind beggar, was sitting at the side of the road. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout and cry out, 'Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me.' And many of them scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he only shouted all the louder, 'Son of David, have pity on me.' Jesus stopped and said, 'Call him here.' So they called the blind man over. 'Courage,' they said, 'get up; he is calling you.' So throwing off his cloak, he jumped up and went to Jesus. Then Jesus spoke, 'What do you want me to do for you?' The blind man said to him, 'Rabbuni, let me see again.' Jesus said to him, 'Go; your faith has saved you.' And at once his sight returned and he followed him along the road. (Mark 10: 46-52)
I have to think that Jesus so often felt like a biological parent. Obviously, Jesus was ready for it since he is God and we are his children.
Look at the Gospel story of Bartimaeus. Doesn’t this sound like a parent and his kids? “I need something and I want it now!” That incessant tugging that a child would do. It makes me think of little kids in a grocery store line right by the candy station. Whoever invented that station, I think moms hate the most. “Mom, mom, mom, look, Snickers!” Doesn’t that drive you nuts?
Isn’t that what Bartimaeus was doing in this Gospel? “Jesus, son of David, hear me! Please!”
And so often God does to us just like a parent would. Our Lord desires what is good for us and, if we are persistent, he is going to listen and hear us. The theme of this Gospel is that we have to work for God’s graces. If we wish to live as Christians, and wish to have the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in our lives, then we have to work for it.
This story of Bartimaeus shows us what the stages of conversion are. These are the four things that we must do.
First Bartimaeus wanted to ask Jesus for healing. Have you noticed that, when Jesus heals someone, he does not just heal them, generally speaking, although he could. But that is not what he does. Instead he waits and allows us to call out to him. And then he asks the question, “What is it that you want me to do for you? What do you want from me?”
There is a lot going on with Bartimaeus. He was not just blind. He was also sitting at the roadside begging which meant that he did not have money. He did not have a family to support him. This man had issues!
What the Lord really wanted to know was, “Have you actually thought about what you really need?”
So often that is the problem with kids. They asked for things without thinking about what they really need.
We need to ask, “What is the root of our problem? What is the root of my sin?” Whether our sin is greed, or lust, or sloth, or gossiping, or whatever it might be, those sins are usually just the external manifestation of what is going on internally.
We need to think about what is going on internally. What is the root of our problems? Is it trying to find our fulfillment in this world? Is it the fact that we do not even think about the next world? We should be living for the next world rather than living for this world.
When Jesus asks you, “What is it that you wish me to do for you?”, what answer are you going to give him? You have to know what your problem is before you ask for the right solution.
The second thing we have to do is call out like Bartimaeus and keep calling out. But we need to expect to be answered in his time not ours. Jesus wants to see persistence in us, just like all parents want to see persistence in their children.
What does it usually take to get parents to say yes to something? Do they normally just give it the first time the child asks? No! The child generally has to beg and beg and beg, and then the parents say, ”Sure, if you clean the dishes and clean your room and be nice for a month and get A’s in all of your assignments from now to the end of school.”
Ultimately that is what Jesus does. He is asking, “Do you really want this? Do you really want the healing that you are asking for? Because if you do, you are going to seek it out in the way that I have offered you.”
What does Jesus tell us, “If you go to confession, if you deny yourself, and practice penance, offer up your sufferings, fastings. If you actually want this, are you willing to put effort into it?”
So once we find what the root of our problem is, the next thing is you have to put your money where your mouth is and say, “Lord, I not only know what the root of my problem is, but I am going to search out those many ways that you have given me to fix it.” And all the while you do this, you know that it may take a long time. And our answer may not just happen, just like that.
The third thing is to not be silenced. When Bartimaeus was crying out, the people following Jesus were telling him, “SHUT UP! Go back to your mat! Here is a quarter. Go sit there. Stop bothering Jesus. He is trying to save the world. Go sit in the back of the line, honey.” They were constantly trying to silence him.
People will try to silence us well. Because when you find the root of your  problem and start going to confession regularly, and you start trying to build up your life in the way of holiness and trying to deny yourself, and take on little sufferings, what are people going to tell you? They are going to tell you that you’re crazy. They are going to try and silence you.  They are going to say, “Obviously this is not working. Why do you even bother?”
There was another person who tried to do the same thing to Jesus. His name is Peter, and what did Jesus say, “Get the behind me, satan.” Struggling is worth it. Do not be silenced.
Life is like being on a football team. You have to work hard to get on the team. You have to put in that effort. And you have to know that the first year you start, you will not be playing on the field, because you have to work hard before you get to play on the field. And you can’t let anyone silence you and say, “You might as well give up, because you are never going to make it.” That’s not the attitude of a football star! You keep going because you have grit. You have tenacity. That’s what makes a great athlete. You do not just become a great athlete. You have to work for it.
So, step one -- we are blind and we have to find the root of the problem. Step two -- we have to never give up and we have to put some work into this. “I am going to deny myself, and, Lord, I am going to show you how much I want to be healed. I am not going to give up.” Step three--I will not be silenced by the world. I will not let this failure in my life hold me back. I will not give into the devil.
Lastly, we have to change. We have to be ready for change. Did you catch that nuance in the Gospel? When Jesus called Bartimaeus, he threw off his cloak and went to Jesus. If he thought he would not be healed, he would have carried his cloak with him. Bartimaeus was ready for change! He believed he would be healed so he would be able to see where he left the cloak once his sight returned.
Are we prepared for change? Bartimaeus did not just go back to his mat after he was healed. No, he changed. He said, “Lord, I will now follow you.”
Brothers and sisters, we have to change something in our lives. If you ever wish to be healed, you must change. Because the greatest temptation for Bartimaeus is that, now that he can see with the eyes that the Lord gave him, he could still be spiritually blind and fall into sin. All of us can still fall back into blindness.
We all have to change our lives. There has to be something that changes to live the Christian life. Following the Gospel is not easy. But it is worth the effort.
Do you want to be healed enough to change your life? Do you want to be healed enough to keep calling out? Do you want to be healed enough to spend time thinking about what the root of your sinfulness is? If you follow . Bartimaeus in these four steps, I cannot promise you success in this world, but I can promise you success in the next. Do you want heaven are not?  May the victory of salvation be yours, through the sufferings you have in this life.
--Father Jacob Meyer

America’s rising tide of stupid people

America’s rising tide of stupid people

Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of BizPac Review.
Stupidity is on a wildfire rampage in America. Yes, the champions of what-won’t-work are in the ascendancy.
stupid questionStupidity is not limited to unintelligent people. Plenty of educated folks sport decent or high IQs, yet they harbor dumb beliefs or devotion to causes that don’t meet the test of common sense. Where these people went wrong, it seems, is failing to apply critical thinking when forming their belief systems. Intelligence does not always bring wisdom. Most intelligent people know they’re smart, but they may not know their judgment is fatally flawed.
Poor judgment sometimes flows from reliance on inaccurate or inadequate information. Most folks in the stupid category have no sense of history, are unwilling to learn the lessons of history, and are unschooled in civic responsibilities and the rule of law. Ignorance of economics is one telltale trademark of stupid political activists, although New York Times economist Paul Krugman has found a way to be both an economist and stupid at the same time.
For some serious fun, let’s survey some categories of stupid people in America:
  • Bernie Sanders star-struck supporters. These are people who support socialism — a destroyer of nations — because they are ignorant of how free enterprise creates vibrant economies and jobs. Sanders believes the private sector role is to transfer revenue to the public coffers. But why would you embrace the judgment of a man who accomplished nothing worthwhile in life and who couldn’t keep a good job until he reached his 40s? And who extolled the virtues of Ortega’s communist regime in Nicaragua, while Ortega killed or tortured 15,000 people and practiced legalized theft?
  • Minimum wagers. Among the prominent members of the Unintended Consequences Club sit the minimum wage backers. The people who push for minimum wages are too stupid to understand how it hurts more than it helps. It causes minority unemployment, “underground jobs” where people are hired off the books and no taxes are paid, people permanently priced out of jobs, stores closing. The real minimum wage is always zero, regardless of laws.
  • “Black Lives Matter”. Radical blacks are driving cops away from protecting innocent blacks and businesses in America’s largest cities. The people being killed in inner city areas are young men of color — and it’s not the police doing the killing. Black Lives Matter is fanning the flames, hastening the plunge. Only crooks, racists and political opportunists say BLM is credible.
  • Tax-the-rich socialists. These people are killing the great job-creating mechanisms that fueled America’s greatness and quality of life, a beacon in the world. If government is going to penalize the risk takers and investors by taxing away the fruits of successful capitalism, too few will expose their own capital to the risk of building innovative companies that employ large numbers of people.
  • “It Takes A Village” Multi-culturalists. These people have barged their way into the ranks of the stupid in recent years by insisting that cultural diversity has no dark side and by denying the truths of human nature and its tribal ways. Powerful tribal coteries can rip a country apart, trampling on minority groups’ rights and sometimes slaughtering religious or political opponents. Stupid multiculturalists are prattling on that there is no danger allowing 10,000 Syrian refugees into this country, relying on Obama’s ineffective vetting system. Every single day, Islamists attack somewhere.
  • Spoiled brat college students. Too many college students enter stupidhood by taking college majors that offer little chance of good jobs that produce livable wages. Their participation-trophy childhoods push them toward wanting to be shielded from competition and “micro-aggressions”. These naïve, pampered college students think it’s more fun to play the victim and stage protests, than the hard work of solving problems. Well, you’re not a victim, you’re a psychological problem who wants to be handed a free education. Get over it.
Quibbles are possible, but these people afflict America. Mainstream media culprits often are reluctant to expose stupid and politically correct people, because they frequently espouse such media’s political agenda.  Worse, in too many instances the media won’t reveal the facts that prove stupid people are stupid.

http://www.bizpacreview.com/2016/08/02/americas-rising-tide-stupid-people-373214

Monday, August 1, 2016

Does the First Amendment Protect Warrior Religions? - Crisis Magazine

Does the First Amendment Protect Warrior Religions? - Crisis Magazine:
After every Islamic terrorist attack, whether in Europe or the U.S., people ask what can be done to prevent it from happening again. But when the obvious solutions are proposed, they are invariably met with the objection that “you can’t do that,” or “that’s unconstitutional,” or words to that effect.
Some of the obvious solutions are to close radical mosques and radical Islamic schools, to monitor suspected mosques, to deport radical imams, and, of course, to restrict Muslim immigration or ban it altogether. If you dare to say such things, however, it quickly becomes apparent that—for many, at least—only politically correct solutions are acceptable. The trouble is, the politically correct crowd doesn’t have any solutions. In the memorable words of French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, “France is going to have to live with terrorism.”
Catholics are frequently in the forefront of those who object to these “drastic” measures for preventing terrorism in the West. Pope Francis, for example, has made generosity to refugees and immigrants a hallmark of his papacy. Christians, he has reminded us on several occasions, should build bridges, not walls. Others, Catholics among them, have objected that restrictions on Islamic immigration would violate the freedom of religion guaranteed by the Constitution—as would surveillance of mosques and Islamic societies.
Catholics are understandably touchy about the subject of religious liberty. But concerns over Christians being forced to bake cakes for same-sex weddings shouldn’t be allowed to overshadow some other basic questions about religious liberty.
One of the questions is this: does a religion that doesn’t believe in religious freedom for others qualify for First Amendment protection? Another, related question might be framed as follows: Is a religion that calls for the subjugation of other religions entitled to the “free exercise” of that mandate? The underlying issue, of course, is whether or not Islam really qualifies as a religion. As any number of authorities have pointed outIslam is a hybrid—part religion and part a geo-political movement bent on world domination.
The “world domination” bit, by the way, is not confined to the fevered imaginations of right-wing fanatics. In a recent interview with Religion New ServiceCardinal Raymond Burke said “there’s no question that Islam wants to govern the world.” “Islam,” he continued, “is a religion that, according to its own interpretation, must also become the State.”
Here’s what I had to say about the matter four years ago:
Does this [the 1st Amendment] make the exercise of religion an absolute right to do anything in the name of religion? Should the free-exercise clause be extended to protect suicide cults or virgin sacrifice? The First Amendment also prohibits the establishment of a state religion, but one of the main purpose of Islam is to establish itself as the state religion. It can be argued that Islam’s raison d’etre is to be the established religion in every nation. Hence, another question must be asked: does the First Amendment protect its own abolishment?
Cardinal Burke is a canon lawyer—a profession that requires one to choose words carefully. Hence, when he talks about Islam becoming the State, he should be taken seriously. According to him, “when they [Muslims] become a majority in any country then they have the religious obligation to govern that country.” As we have seen, however, long before Muslims become a majority they begin demanding that their fellow citizens comply with sharia laws regarding diet, dress, and blasphemy. Allowing Muslims the full and free exercise of their faith is tantamount to restricting the freedom of others. Or, as Dutch MP Geert Wilders likes to say, “more Islam” means “more intolerance” for everyone else.
Wilders is referring to the consequences that follow upon the mass migration of Muslims into Europe. Although his was once a lonely voice, numerous polls show that the majority of Europeans now believe along with him that Islam does not belong in Europe. Pope Francis, on the other hand, has been in the habit of chiding Christians for their opposition to accepting more Muslim immigrants. He recently went so far as to warn them that they will have to answer to Christ at the Last Judgment because he (in the guise of the migrant) was homeless, and they did not take him in.
But, although charity is the paramount Christian virtue, there is another virtue that governs the exercise of charity. It’s called “prudence.” And prudence would suggest that spiritual leaders and secular leaders should exercise caution when advocating acts of charity that put the lives of others at risk. In Europe, there are now numerous prudential reasons for slowing or halting the flow of Muslim immigration: the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the Bataclan Theater massacre, the massacres at the Brussels airport and subway, the massacre at Nice, the Munich mall massacre, the axe attack aboard a German train, the bomb attack on a wine bar in the city of Ansbach, and the New Year’s Eve sexual assaults which targeted over 1,200 German women.
The most recent outrage was the slaughter of a French priest, Fr. Jacques Hamel, by two Islamic terrorists who burst into a church in Normandy during Mass and slit his throat. Pope Francis condemned the attack, but on the same day in Krakow he spoke once again about the need to welcome refugees. He called for “solidarity with those deprived of their fundamental rights, including the right to profess one’s faith in freedom and safety.”
But how about the right of Christians and Jews to profess their faith “in freedom and safety?” Fr. Hamel is no longer free to profess his faith, and now that the Islamic State has proclaimed its intention to target more churches in Europe, Christians are going to feel considerably less safe at Sunday service. Jews in Europe already know the feeling. Most synagogues in Europe are now protected by security guards during Saturday services.
But if you really want to see the European future, just look at those nations where Muslims are already a majority. In Nigeria, where Muslims make up about 60 percent of the population, Christians are regularly attacked during church services, and on some occasions entire congregations have been burned alive inside their churches.
All of which prompts a question: should Western nations passively stand by as their own population balance shifts in the direction of Nigeria’s? A curtailment or a moratorium on Muslim immigration is one of the obvious solutions to the problem of terrorism in the West. But, as I’ve suggested above, many Americans think that such a moratorium would be unconstitutional. After all, doesn’t the Constitution forbid a “religious test” in scrutinizing immigrants? Indeed today’s top news story concerns the attack on Donald Trump by the father of a slain Muslim soldier. At the Democratic Convention, Khizr Khan challenged Trump’s proposed ban on Muslim immigration by asking: “Have you even read the U.S. Constitution?”
In fact, the Constitution has no ban on a religious test for immigration. In a recent National Review piece, Andrew McCarthy points out that Article VI of the Constitution states that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” The clause has nothing to do with immigration and, as our bien pensants like to say, it has nothing to do with Islam.
The McCarran-Walter Act of 1952 actually gives the president wide latitude in restricting immigration:
Whenever the president finds that the entry of aliens or any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, the president may … suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or non-immigrants or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.
One of the main intents of the act was to prevent communist ideologues from entering the country, but it was also invoked in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter to keep Iranians out of the U.S. And—surprise—according to McCarthy, “under federal law, the executive branch is expressly required to take religion into account in determining who is granted asylum.” As McCarthy notes:
We have a right to require scrutiny of the beliefs of aliens who petition for entry into our country … this includes beliefs the alien may regard as tenets of his faith—especially if such ‘faith tenets’ involve matters of law, governance, economy, combat and interpersonal relations that in our culture’s separation of church and state are not seen as spiritual.
In short, if you believe your religion allows you to execute apostates or subjugate infidels, don’t bother to apply.
When Pope Francis visited Poland for World Youth Day, security in Krakow was at its highest level. Forty thousand security personnel were deployed and, according to The Guardian:
Mobile X-ray devices and metal detectors, as well as dogs trained to detect explosives, are in use at railway and bus stations, major road hubs and venues where papal events are due to take place. Police said that gas tankers and large trucks had been banned from Krakow following the use of a 19-ton truck in a terrorist attack in Nice earlier this month.
Does that suggest anything? Are the officials worried that Protestants or Jews are going to attack the Catholic youth? Are they fearful that Buddhist will attempt to bomb the popemobile? Before the era of mass Muslim immigration into Europe, such precautions would have been deemed as overkill. Now they seem like prudent measures to prevent overkill. The heightened security at World Youth Day and all over Europe is a tacit acknowledgement that Islam differs radically from all other religions. This is a point that Cardinal Burke made in his interview when he criticized Catholic leaders who “simply think that Islam is a religion like the Catholic faith or the Jewish faith.” Just so. It’s well past time to question whether a religion with totalitarian ambitions should be treated like all other religions.
In the Guardian story about the Pope’s visit to Poland, he is described as a “modern pope.” But in some respects he, along with many bishops, seems to belong to an earlier era—an era when it seemed that all people desired nothing more than peace and friendship. At a time when the world is faced with the resurgence of a seventh-century warrior religion, that sixties sensibility no longer seems so modern.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Why the Death Penalty is Still Necessary | Catholic World Report - Global Church news and views

Why the Death Penalty is Still Necessary | Catholic World Report - Global Church news and views

Why the Death Penalty is Still Necessary

Editor’s note: This is Part 2 of a two-part article on Catholicism and the death penalty. Part 1 was titled "Why the Church Cannot Reverse Past Teaching on Capital Punishment" and was posted on July 17th.

As we showed in Part 1 of this  essay, for two millennia the Catholic Church has taught that the death penalty can be a legitimate punishment for heinous crimes, not merely to protect the public from the immediate danger posed by the offender but also to secure retributive justice and to deter serious crime.   This was the uniform teaching of scripture and the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and it was reaffirmed by popes and also codified in the universal catechism of the Church promulgated by Pope St. Pius V in the sixteenth century, as well as in numerous local catechisms.  
Consider the standard language of the Baltimore Catechism, which was used throughout Catholic parishes in the United States for educating children in the faith for much of the twentieth century:
Q. 1276. Under what circumstances may human life be lawfully taken?
A.  Human life may be lawfully taken: 1. In self-defense, when we are unjustly attacked and have no other means of saving our own lives;  2. In a just war, when the safety or rights of the nation require it;  3. By the lawful execution of a criminal, fairly tried and found guilty of a crime punishable by death when the preservation of law and order and the good of the community require such execution. 1
Thus, killing another human being in self-defense, during a just war, or through the lawful execution of a criminal does not violate the Fifth Commandment’s rule “Thou shall not kill” (which many modern editions of the Bible translate as “Thou shall not murder”). The permissibility of these three types of lawful killing (unlike the deliberate killing of the innocent, which is always prohibited) depends on contingent circumstances.  As long as (in the words of Pope Innocent III) “the punishment is carried out not in hatred but with good judgment, not inconsiderately but after mature deliberation,” the death penalty may be imposed if it genuinely serves the common good.  

Generally, the Church has left these and similar prudential judgments to public officials.  For example, the current Catechism of the Catholic Church expressly affirms that when it comes to judging whether a decision to go to war is morally justified, “the evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have the responsibility for the common good.”  The institutional Church respects the authority and responsibility of public officials, guided by the sound moral principles it preserves and promulgates, to make these judgments.  Similarly, to the best of our knowledge, the Church has fully respected the authority of lawmakers to write statutes on self-defense that detail the conditions under which individuals may use force, including deadly force, to protect themselves and others.  

Unfortunately, in recent years churchmen have not been equally respectful of the authority and duty of public officials to exercise their prudential judgments in applying Catholic teaching when it comes to the death penalty, despite the fact that churchmen bring to the debate over capital punishment no particular expertisederived from their religious training and pastoral experience.  Given the Church’s longstanding and irreformable teaching that death may in principle be a legitimate punishment for grievous crimes, the key issue for Catholics is the empirical and practical question of whether the death penalty more effectively promotes public safety and the common good than do lesser punishments.  We maintain that it does and thus devote about half of our forthcoming book, By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of the Death Penalty, to making this case.

The current Catechism of the Catholic Church  affirms that “[l]egitimate public authority has the right and the duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense” and that “[p]unishment has the primary aim of redressing the disorder introduced by the offense.” 2 Thus, punishment is fundamentally retributive, inflicting on the offender a penalty commensurate with the gravity of his crime, though it may serve other purposes as well, such as incapacitating the offender, deterring others, and promoting the offender’s rehabilitation.  
The significance of this point cannot be overstated.  Secular critics of capital punishment often reject the very idea of retribution—the principle that an offender simply deserves a punishment proportionate to the gravity of his offense—but no Catholic can possibly do so. For unless an offender deserves a certain punishment—whether that be a fine, imprisonment, or whatever—and deserves a punishment of that specific degree of severity, then it would be unjust to inflict the punishment on him.  Hence all the other ends of punishment—deterrence, rehabilitation, protection of society, and so on—presuppose the retributive aim of giving the offender what he deserves. This is why the Catechism promulgated by Pope St. John Paul II reaffirms the traditional Catholic teaching that retribution is the “primary aim” of punishment.

Among the many reasons why capital punishment ought to be preserved (all of which we set out at length in our forthcoming book), the most fundamental one is that for extremely heinous crimes, no lesser punishment could possibly respect this Catholic principle that a punishment ought to be proportional to the offense.  We devote the remainder of this article to developing this point.

In the American states today the only crime for which the death penalty may be imposed (according to U. S. Supreme Court decisions) is murder.  (The Court has not ruled on the legitimacy of the death penalty for the national crimes of treason and espionage.)  Western societies, both before and after the rise of Christianity, never imposed the death penalty for all unlawful killings.  As far back as our records go, laws reserved the ultimate punishment for intentional and malicious killings and usually imposed a lesser punishment for negligent killings and those resulting from a “heat of passion.”  The thirty-one American states with capital punishment today are even more selective, reserving the death penalty for the most heinous murders, such as multiple murders, rape murders, torture murders, and the murders of the very young and the very old.
A close analysis of the 43 murderers executed in 2012 reveals the true depravity of the crimes and the criminals that merit the death penalty in the United States today.  Here are nine of the cases (space does not allow a complete listing):
David Alan Gore, who, with his cousin, cruised central Florida in the 1970s and 1980s, abducting, raping, and murdering at least half a dozen teenage girls (and the mother of one of them).  In his last murder, the 17-year-old girl, repeatedly raped by Gore, had managed to free herself and then ran naked from the house where she was being held.  Gore chase down the girl, dragged her back towards the house, and shoot her twice in the head in the driveway in full view of 15-year-old boy who was bicycling past the scene.


Edwin Hart Turner, who during a robbery shot and killed an unresisting convenience store clerk pleading for his life and then shortly thereafter robbed a customer at a gas station and shot and killed him while he was on the ground also pleading for his life.


Robert Brian Waterhouse, who early one morning left a bar with a 29-year-old woman and later beat her with a hard instrument, raped her, and sexually assaulted her with a large object.  She was alive throughout this assault.  He then dragged his victim into the water where she died of drowning.  She was discovered completely naked and her injuries were so severe that she was unrecognizable.  Fourteen years before, Waterhouse had broken into a home and killed a 77-year-old woman, for which he served 8 years before being paroled.


• Timothy Shaun Stemple, who murdered his wife to collect her life insurance by beating her in the head with a baseball bat, driving a truck over her head, beating her again, driving the truck over her chest, and then driving over her at 60 miles per hour, killing her.  While awaiting trial Stemple tried to get other inmates to arrange the death of several witnesses in his case.  


• Henry Curtis Jackson, who, in an attempt to steal money from his mother’s home, murdered a 2-year–old girl, a 2-year-old boy, a 3-year-old boy, and a 5-year-old girl.  He injured two other older girls and stabbed a 1-year-old girl, leaving her unable to walk. 


Daniel Wayne Cook, who, with an accomplice, killed a 26-year-old man after beating, torturing, and sodomizing him over a 6-7 hour period.  A few hours later the offenders sodomized and strangled to death a 16-year-old boy. 


• Robert Wayne Harris, who in retaliation for his firing from a car wash, murdered the manager and four other employees by shooting them in the back of the head at close range while they were kneeling on the floor.  Another survived but was left with permanent disabilities.  When he was being interviewed by police about this crime, he volunteered that he had previously abducted and murdered a woman and he led police to her remains in a field.  


Richard Dale Stokley, who with an accomplice abducted two 13-year-old girls from a campsite, drove them to a remote area, raped them, stabbed them in the eye, killed them by stomping on their necks, and then threw the naked bodies down an abandoned mineshaft.  


Manuel Pardo, Jr., who killed seven men and two women in five separate incidents over a four-month period.
Altogether, the forty-three offenders executed in 2012 killed a total of 70 individuals and injured another 12 during the capital crimes for which they were executed.  We also know that eight of the forty-three (19%) had previously killed at least one other person, and several had killed more than one.  And many of those who had not (as far as we know) killed in the past had previously committed other very serious crimes.  Altogether, at least two-thirds of those executed in 2012 had previously committed a homicide, sexual assault, robbery, felony assault, or kidnapping.

As these facts and a wealth of other data show, we reserve the death penalty in the United States for the most heinous murders and the most brutal and conscienceless murderers.  This is not, as some critics argue, a kind of state-run lottery that randomly chooses an unlucky few for the ultimate penalty from among all those convicted of murder.  Rather, the capital punishment system is a filter that selects the worst of the worst Here is one particularly telling statistic:  of the murders that resulted in the 43 executions in 2012, more than a third involved the rape of the murder victim or of another person either by the executed offender or his accomplice.  Yet, among all homicides in the United States in recent decades, only about 1% involved a sexual assault.  In nearly all of the thirty-one American states that currently have the death penalty, legislators have identified rape murder as especially heinous and thus potentially deserving a death sentence.  Indeed, before someone can be executed in the United States legislators must agree that the kind of murder committed potentially merits death and prosecutors and juries must agree that this particular murderer deserves to die for his crime(s).

Put another way, to sentence killers like those described above to less than death would fail to do justice because the penalty – presumably a long period in prison – would be grossly disproportionate to the heinousness of the crime.  Prosecutors, jurors, and the loved ones of murder victims understand this essential point.  As the mother of the murder victim of one of those executed in 2012 said to the sentencing jury, “I would beg this court and this jury to see that justice is done.  And justice to us is no less than the death penalty.”  Even offenders themselves sometimes recognize that justice demands their death, as three of those executed in 2012 fully acknowledged.  One who killed two men after a minor traffic accident said, “I killed two people.  I’ve always accepted responsibility for the taking of their lives. . . .  I believe in justice and I believe that the victims, their hatred, their anger, they need to have justice.”  Another who killed a 63-year-old prison guard during an escape attempt pleaded guilty and waived all appeals, resulting in his execution just one year after sentencing.  In a letter he wrote a week before his execution he commended the prosecutor and affirmed the justice of his punishment:  “I do not want or desire to die, instead I deserve to die; this I have always stated.”  In concluding he wrote, “It’s not about me or any future killers, it is about ensuring that in contested cases that the victims and their families get their intended and needed swift justice.”  And one who abducted, raped, and murdered a 9-year-old girl told a federal court, “I killed the little girl.  It’s just that the punishment be concluded.  I believe it’s a good thing, that the death penalty does inhibit further criminal acts.”  He added, “I killed.  I deserve to be killed.”

We have focused here on the retributive purpose of the death penalty because, again, according to Catholic doctrine retribution is the “primary aim” of punishment.  In By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed we also show that capital punishment has various practical benefits, such as protecting prison guards and other inmates from the most dangerous offenders, and protecting members of the community by giving “lifers” who escape from prison strong reasons not to kill while on the run. We also argue that capital punishment almost certainly deters at least some potential murderers, and gives murderers a strong incentive to plea bargain to very long prison sentences, which likely saves lives by increasing the deterrent and incapacitative effect of long prison sentences over shorter ones.  (We also refute the common charges that the capital punishment system in the United States results in the execution of the innocent and discriminates against minorities and the poor.)
But make no mistake:  retributive punishment in and of itself makes the world a safer place and upholds the common good:
• It powerfully reinforces society’s condemnation of the crime of murder, making it less likely that those growing up in a community with the death penalty would even consider killing someone in the first place.


• It anchors the entire schedule of punishments for serious crimes to the principle of just deserts, ensuring the survival of retributive punishment as a key element in the criminal justice system and thus shoring up the schedule of punishments against powerful modern tendencies toward ever greater leniency in criminal punishment.


• It reassures the families and other loved ones of the victims of grave crimes that they live in a society that is just, and that shows respect for the lives of victims by inflicting on their killers a penalty that is truly proportionate to the gravity of the offense. 


 It encourages repentance insofar as it makes offenders aware of the extreme gravity of their crimes and also of the shortness of the time remaining to them to get themselves right with God and to ask forgiveness from the families of their victims.


• Perhaps most importantly, in its supreme gravity it promotes belief in and respect for the majesty of the moral order and for the system of human law that both derives from and supports that moral order.
For well over a millennium the popes of the Catholic Church exercised civil authority over a large swath of territory in central Italy called the Papal States.  In that capacity they frequently authorized the death penalty for murderers and others.  Although we do not have data for how often they did so before the nineteenth century, we know that between 1796 and 1865, six popes authorized a total of 516 executions, four-fifths for murder.  

This papal endorsement of capital punishment, though rather recent in the history of the Church, is largely ignored in Catholic debates over the death penalty, as is the striking fact that from 1929 to 1969 the criminal code of the Vatican City itself included the death penalty for the attempted assassination of the pope.  The many dozens of popes who approved executions in the Papal States and the representatives of the Church responsible for the Vatican City criminal code understood a truth that too many in the modern Church have forgotten:  that justice demands the death penalty for the most heinous crimes and that if “the punishment is carried out not in hatred but with good judgment, not inconsiderately but after mature deliberation,” it promotes public safety and serves the larger common good. 

ENDNOTES:
1 The Baltimore Catechism is available from many online sources.  The death penalty is addressed in the third volume of the catechism, which is for older students.  See www.baltimore-catechism.com/lesson33.htm, accessed June 4, 2015. 
2 Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), sec. 2266, p. 546. 

Why the Church Cannot Reverse Past Teaching on Capital Punishment | Catholic World Report - Global Church news and views

Why the Church Cannot Reverse Past Teaching on Capital Punishment | Catholic World Report - Global Church news and views

Why the Church Cannot Reverse Past Teaching on Capital Punishment

Editor’s note: This is Part 1 of a two-part article on Catholicism and the death penalty. Part 2 will be posted later this week.
July 17, 2016
If Pope Francis were to teach that capital punishment is “absolutely” immoral, he would be contradicting the teaching of scripture, the Fathers, and all previous popes, and substituting for it “some new doctrine.”
Pope St. John Paul II was well-known for his vigorous opposition to capital punishment. Yet in 2004, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger -- the pope’s own chief doctrinal officer, later to become Pope Benedict XVI -- stated unambiguously that:
[I]f a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment… he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities… to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible… to have recourse to capital punishment.  There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about… applying the death penalty… (emphasis added)

How could it be “legitimate” for a Catholic to be “at odds with” the pope on such a matter? The answer is that the pope’s opposition to capital punishment was not a matter of binding doctrine, but merely an opinion which a Catholic must respectfully consider but not necessarily agree with. Cardinal Ratzinger could not possibly have said what he did otherwise. If it were mortally sinful for a Catholic to disagree with the pope about capital punishment, then he could not “present himself to receive Holy Communion.” If it were even venially sinful to disagree, then there could not be “a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics.”
The fact is that it is the irreformable teaching of the Church that capital punishment can in principle be legitimate, not merely to ensure the physical safety of others when an offender poses an immediate danger (a case where even John Paul II was willing to allow for the death penalty), but even for purposes such as securing retributive justice and deterring serious crime. What is open to debate is merely whether recourse to the death penalty is in practice the best option given particular historical and cultural circumstances. That is a “prudential” matter about which popes have no special expertise. 

We defend these claims in detail and at length in our book By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of the Death Penalty, forthcoming from Ignatius Press. What follows is a brief summary of some key points.

Sacred Scripture
The Church holds that scripture is infallible, particularly when it teaches on matters of faith and morals. The First Vatican Council teaches that scripture must always be interpreted in the sense in which the Church has traditionally understood it, and in particular that it can never be interpreted in a sense contrary to the unanimous understanding of the Fathers of the Church. 
Both the Old and New Testaments teach that capital punishment can be legitimate, and the Church has always interpreted them this way. For example, Genesis 9:6 famously states: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image.” The Church has always understood this as a sanction of the death penalty. Even Christian Brugger, a prominent Catholic opponent of capital punishment, admits that attempts to reinterpret this passage are dubious and that the passage is a “problem” for views like his own.i

St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans teaches that the state “does not bear the sword in vain [but] is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer” (13:4). The Church has always understood this too as a warrant for capital punishment, and by Brugger’s own admission, there was a “consensus” among the Fathers and medieval Doctors of the Church that the passage was to be understood in this way.ii But in that case, attempts to reinterpret the passage cannot possibly be reconciled with a Catholic understanding of scripture. 

Not only Genesis 9:6 and Romans 13:4 but also passages like Numbers 35:33, Deuteronomy 19: 11-13, Luke 23:41, and Acts 25:11 all clearly regard capital punishment as legitimate when carried out simply for the purpose of securing retributive justice. The lex talionis (“law of retaliation”) of Exodus 21 and Leviticus 24 is also obviously a matter of exacting retribution for its own sake. Deuteronomy 19:19-21 talks of execution as a way of striking “fear” in potential offenders, and deterrence is clearly in view in Romans 13:4. Hence scripture clearly teaches that capital punishment can in principle be legitimate for the sake of deterrence.

The Fathers and Doctors of the Church
The Church has always regarded the Fathers as having an extremely high degree of authority when they are agreed on some matter of faith or morals. Now, some of the Fathers preferred mercy to the use of capital punishment. However, every one of the Fathers who commented on the subject nevertheless also allowed that capital punishment can in principle be legitimate. For example, in his Homilies on Leviticus, Origen teaches that “death which is inflicted as the penalty of sin is a purification of the sin itself.” Clement of Alexandria says that “when one falls into any incurable evil… it will be for his good if he is put to death.” In his commentary On the Sermon on the Mount, Augustine writes that “great and holy men… punished some sins with death… [by which] the living were struck with a salutary fear.” Jerome taught that “he who slays cruel men is not cruel.”

It is sometimes claimed that Tertullian and Lactantius were exceptions to the patristic consensus on capital punishment as legitimate at least in principle, but even Brugger admits that this is not in fact the case.iii And again, the Fathers also uniformly regarded scripture as allowing capital punishment, and the Church teaches that the Fathers must be followed where they agree on the interpretation of scripture. 

Like scripture, the Fathers also speak of capital punishment as in principle legitimate for purposes like the securing of retributive justice and deterring others. (Indeed, neither scripture nor the Fathers refer to protection against immediate physical danger even as a purpose of capital punishment, let alone as the only legitimate purpose.) 

The Church has also regarded the Doctors of the Church as having a very high degree of authority when they are agreed on some matter of faith or morals. Like the Fathers, these Doctors—including thinkers of the stature of St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Robert Bellarmine, and St. Alphonsus Ligouri—are all in agreement on the legitimacy in principle of capital punishment. Aquinas even dismissed as “frivolous” the suggestion that capital punishment removes from offenders the possibility of repentance, arguing that “if they are so stubborn that even at the point of death their heart does not draw back from evil, it is possible to make a highly probable judgment that they would never come away from evil to the right use of their powers” (Summa Contra Gentiles III.146).

The popes
No pope from St. Peter to Benedict XVI ever denied the legitimacy in principle of capital punishment, and many popes explicitly affirmed its legitimacy, even as a matter of basic Catholic orthodoxy. For example, Pope St. Innocent I taught that to deny the legitimacy of capital punishment would be to go against biblical authority, indeed “the authority of the Lord” himself. Pope Innocent III required adherents of the Waldensian heresy, as a condition for their reconciliation with the Church and proof of their orthodoxy, to affirm the legitimacy in principle of capital punishment. Pope St. Pius V promulgated the Roman Catechism, which states that:
Another kind of lawful slaying belongs to the civil authorities, to whom is entrusted power of life and death, by the legal and judicious exercise of which they punish the guilty and protect the innocent. The just use of this power, far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to this Commandment which prohibits murder.

The 1912 Catechism of Christian Doctrine issued by Pope St. Pius X says in the context of discussion of the Fifth Commandment: “It is lawful to kill… when carrying out by order of the Supreme Authority a sentence of death in punishment of a crime.” Pope Pius XII taught that “it is reserved… to the public authority to deprive the criminal of the benefit of life when already, by his crime, he has deprived himself of the right to live.

It is sometimes alleged that while Pope John Paul II did not contradict past teaching, he did modify doctrine on capital punishment in a more restrictive direction in the catechism which he promulgated. In particular, it is claimed by some that John Paul taught that it is in principle immoral to resort to capital punishment except for the purpose of protecting others against the immediate physical danger posed by an offender. However, then-Cardinal Ratzinger explicitly denied that there was any change at the level of doctrinal principle. He affirmed that “the Holy Father has not altered the doctrinal principles which pertain to this issue” and that the revisions to the catechism reflected merely “circumstantial considerations without any modification of the relevant doctrinal principles.iv
Moreover, as Cardinal Avery Dulles has pointed out, had the pope made such a modification to doctrine, he would have been partially reversing or contradicting previous teaching rather than merely modifying it.v For as we have noted, scripture and the Fathers teach that capital punishment can be legitimate specifically for purposes of retribution and deterrence, and not merely for the purpose of counteracting some immediate physical threat.

Pope Francis
Like other recent popes, Pope Francis has opposed the use of the death penalty. But there are indications that, unlike any previous pope, Francis may be inclined to declare capital punishment intrinsically immoral. For example, in a recent statement, Pope Francis said that “the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ has absolute value and applies both to the innocent and to the guilty” (emphasis added). It has also been reported that he has set up a commission to explore changing the Catechism of the Catholic Church so that it will “absolutely” forbid capital punishment. 
Does Catholic doctrine permit a pope to make such a change? It very clearly does not. The First Vatican Council explicitly taught that:
[T]he Holy Spirit was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by his revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by his assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or deposit of faith transmitted by the apostles. (Emphasis added)
And the Second Vatican Council explicitly taught that:
[T]he task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church… This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on… (Emphasis added)
If Pope Francis were to teach that capital punishment is “absolutely” immoral, he would be contradicting (rather than “religiously guard[ing],” “faithfully expound[ing],” and “hand[ing] on”) the teaching of scripture, the Fathers, and all previous popes, and substituting for it “some new doctrine.” He would be overruling the many scriptural passages that support capital punishment, thereby putting himself “above the word of God.” If he were to claim warrant for this novel teaching in the commandment against murder, he would be contradicting the way every previous pope who has addressed the subject has understand that commandment. As we have seen, Pope Pius XII teaches that the guilty person “has deprived himself of the right to live,” and the catechisms promulgated by Pope St. Pius V and Pope St. Pius X explicitly affirm that capital punishment is consistent with the commandment against murder. 

Moreover, if Pope Francis were to teach that capital punishment is intrinsically immoral, he would undermine the authority of Catholic teaching in general. As Cardinal Dulles wrote:
The reversal of a doctrine as well established as the legitimacy of capital punishment would raise serious problems regarding the credibility of the magisterium.  Consistency with Scripture and long-standing Catholic tradition is important for the grounding of many current teachings of the Catholic Church; for example, those regarding abortion, contraception, the permanence of marriage, and the ineligibility of women for priestly ordination.  If the tradition on capital punishment had been reversed, serious questions would be raised regarding other doctrines…vi

Indeed, a change vis-à-vis the death penalty would undermine the pope’s owncredibility as well. Cardinal Dulles continues:
If, in fact, the previous teaching had been discarded, doubt would be cast on the current teaching as well. It too would have to be seen as reversible, and in that case, as having no firm hold on people’s assent. The new doctrine, based on a recent insight, would be in competition with a magisterial teaching that has endured for two millennia -- or even more, if one wishes to count the biblical testimonies. Would not some Catholics be justified in adhering to the earlier teaching on the ground that it has more solid warrant than the new? The faithful would be confronted with the dilemma of having to dissent either from past or from present magisterial teaching.

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that, were Pope Francis to condemn capital punishment as intrinsically immoral, he would thereby be joining the ranks of that very small number of popes who have taught doctrinal error (which is possible when a pope does not speak ex cathedra). 

However, we do not believe that Pope Francis will do this. For one thing, as is well known, the pope is prone in his public utterances to making imprecise and exaggerated statements. He has certainly done so before when speaking about capital punishment. For example, in a statement from March 15, 2015, the pope approvingly cited some lines he attributed to Dostoevsky, to the effect that “to kill one who killed is an incomparably greater punishment than the crime itself. Killing in virtue of a sentence is far worse than the killing committed by a criminal.”
Consider a serial killer like Ted Bundy, who murdered at least fourteen women. Bundy routinely raped and tortured his victims, and also mutilated, and even engaged in necrophilia with, some of their bodies. He was executed in the electric chair, a method of killing that takes only a few moments. Should we interpret the pope as seriously suggesting that Bundy’s execution was “far worse” and an “incomparably greater” crime than what Bundy himself did? Surely not; such a judgment would be manifestly absurd, and indeed, frankly obscene. Surely the pope did not intend to teach such a thing, but was rather merely indulging in a rhetorical flourish. A charitable interpretation of some of his other remarks about capital punishment would lead us to conclude that he does not intend to contradict the tradition.

For another thing, if the pope has indeed set up a commission to study revising the catechism, that in itself indicates that he wants to be careful not to contradict past teaching. Presumably, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, current prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, would play a key role on such a commission. Commenting on the controversy the pope’s remarks on various subjects have sometimes generated, Cardinal Müller has noted that “Pope Francis is not a ‘professional theologian’, but has been largely formed by his experiences in the field of the pastoral care.”vii Asked if he has sometimes had to correct the pope’s remarks from a doctrinal point of view, the cardinal replied: “That is what he [Pope Francis] has said already three or four times himself, publicly…” Cardinal Müller also emphasized that the pope himself “refers to the teaching of the Church as the framework of interpretation” for his various remarks. In another interview in which he was asked about Pope Francis’s sometimes doctrinally imprecise statements, Cardinal Müller acknowledged that churchmen sometimes “express themselves in a somewhat inappropriate, misleading or vague way,” and that not all papal pronouncements have the same binding nature.viii
Having shown here that Catholic teaching has always supported the legitimacy of capital punishment, in part 2 of this article we will discuss some of the reasons for believing that it remains necessary for achieving public safety and the larger common good.
ENDNOTES:
i Brugger, Capital Punishment and Roman Catholic Moral Tradition (University of Notre Dame Press, 2003), p. 73.
ii Ibid., p. 112.
iii Ibid., pp. 77 and 84.
iv Response to an inquiry from Fr Richard John Neuhaus, published in the October 1995 issue of First Things.
v Dulles, “Catholic Teaching on the Death Penalty: Has It Changed?” in Erik Owens, John Carlson, and Eric Elshtain, eds., Religion and the Death Penalty (Eerdmans, 2004).
vi Ibid., p. 26.
vii Cardinal Müller’s remarks were made in a March 1, 2016 interview with the German newspaper Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger. The English translation is quoted from Maike Hickson, “Vatican’s doctrine chief: Pope is not a ‘professional theologian,’” LifeSiteNews.com, March 14, 2016.
viii These remarks were made in an interview in the German magazine Die Zeit, December 30, 2015.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

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Finding Freedom in Detachment: The way in which a man puts away the false self and grows into the real self is that which the masters of the interior life call Detachment.

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Saturday, July 16, 2016

Sky View: To Sin By Silence: A homily by Fr. Peter Mitchell

Sky View: To Sin By Silence: A homily by Fr. Peter Mitchell

To Sin By Silence: A homily by Fr. Peter Mitchell


Fr. Peter Mitchell is a pastor of St. Mary of the Immaculate Parish- Greenville, WI. The following is the homily he delivered on the Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (June 27-28, 2015)

 "To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards out of men." - Abraham Lincoln

My dear parishioners, I had hoped I would not have to give this homily. But as your pastor and shepherd, I must speak today, lest I sin by silence and act in cowardice. This past Friday, June 26, by a 5-4 decision, the US Supreme Court has told us that our entire nation must accept the redefinition of marriage. The decision is being hailed by many as a victory for love. Our President's twitter account acclaimed the decision as victory for freedom with the signature #LoveWins. It is no secret that the Catholic Church opposes this decision, and so it would seem to many in this confused cultural moment that we are now part of a church that is opposed to love, and is in fact a church that proclaims hatred by its teaching. For a long time now our society has been being prepared to celebrate and affirm this decision as a victory for love - the press, the entertainment media, our schools, the medical profession, business associations, the military - every aspect of our society has very aggressively been told that to oppose this decision is to be against the free expression of love. Why would we withhold the right to happiness and love from fellow citizens? Why would we tell others they cannot fulfill themselves in the way they choose to? Everyone is now forced to accept this redefinition by means of judicial rewriting of the law. And - here is the crux of the issue for us as the church - if we will not accept this redefinition, we are expected to be silent. And it is in this light that I wish to take President Lincoln's challenging words - "To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards out of men" - and ask how we may respond courageously and joyfully to the present challenging cultural moment.

Let's be clear about what happened on Friday in terms of the big picture of the history of Western Civilization. I've brought a few books along for dramatic effect. Let's see... Socrates...out the window. Plato...out the window. Aristotle...out the window. Roman law...out the window. Notice we haven't gotten to Christian sources of law and culture yet. The Old Testament - Genesis 19, out the window. The New Testament - Romans 1 - read it, it is so clear! "While claiming to be wise they became fools...God handed them over to their undiscerning mind to do what is improper" - out the window. St. Augustine, out the window. Thomas Aquinas, out the window. The entire legal precedent of the United States up to 2003, out the window. The implication of course is that all of these sources of our law had a blind spot of prejudice when it came to the definition of marriage. All of these wise men were unenlightened, and it is only as of June 26, 2015, that we can say that we truly live in a free and loving society. Hence the hashtag, #LoveWins.
What was the reason for all of these foundational sources of our culture condemning the behavior associated with the redefinition of marriage, for calling such behavior a sin and a crime? Let's say this very simply - with great wisdom, they understood that such behavior is destructive. It is destructive of the human body because it goes against human nature - it causes disease and death, and no less importantly it is destructive of the human soul. It leads to depression, anxiety, loneliness, mental illness, and even suicide. It is destructive of families and of children's happiness. This was the established consensus of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), until 1973, when it removed such behavior from its lists of mental disorders in a change that had absolutely no scientific or medical basis but was pushed through by pressure from a small group of activists.

Now, however, we are told that the entire society must legally accept the redefinition of marriage and thus affirm the rationalization that what is bad and destructive is actually good and fulfilling. My dear people, let's say this simply and clearly - to call what is bad good is a lie. And the redefinition of marriage into something other than a permanent covenant between a man a woman for the purpose of raising a family is a lie. Why would we be opposed to Friday's decision? The simple answer is- because it is based on a lie.

If someone would ask us, "Why is it a lie?" we need to be able to connect the dots as to how we got here. There is a very simple thread of logic running through the Supreme Court's decisions since 1966 concerning, first contraception, then abortion, and finally the redefinition of marriage. All three issues are intertwined, and ultimately to embrace one as a right is to embrace the others. We need to be able to understand that logic so as to refute it. First, in 1961 Planned Parenthood sued the State of Connecticut for the right to distribute contraceptives, which was at that time against the law. In 1966 in Griswold v. Connecticut, the US Supreme Court defined the right to contracept as part of the "right to privacy" it claimed to find in the Constitution. This decision was then invoked in the decision with which we are all familiar, Roe v. Wade in 1973, which legalized the right to abortion as part of the "right to privacy.' It made logical sense. If children intrude upon our right to privacy, we need to have a way to eliminate them. To fully embrace the use of contraceptives, many of which act as abortifacients by killing the developing embryo in the mother's womb, is to affirm abortion, which is the ultimate act of contraception. The Church's beautiful teaching has always seen this connection and proclaimed it, even as our culture has scoffed. This brings us to 2015. Friday's decision was entirely consistent with the precedent of Griswold and Roe. If we as a culture have sterilized married love by legalizing contraception and abortion, it is logically consistent that we would redefine marriage so that it no longer has any necessary connection with procreation, based on the "right to privacy." A culture where everyone is contracepting and in which anyone can get an abortion, must, to be consistent, redefine marriage. Our Supreme Court acted consistently on Friday. It invoked its own language defending the right to abortion: "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life" (Planned Parenthood v Casey, 1992). Justice Kennedy's opening sentence in Friday's decision reaffirms this definition of liberty: "Liberty includes the right to define and express one's own identity." This is the heart of the lie. But there can be no freedom divorced from the truth of God's law, which is also the law of human nature. In ignoring the natural law, our Supreme Court has proclaimed that we must all accept a lie.

What is to be our response as disciples of Jesus Christ to the lie? It is the same joyful witness that we always give: living lives of poverty, chastity, and obedience and mercifully inviting others, with us, to heed the first words of Jesus in the Gospel, "Reform your lives, and believe in the Gospel!" (Mark 1:15). Our witness needs to be joyful and compassionate, convicted and committed. No less than we are convicted that we would never let our little ones play with matches, because they are potentially destructive, so we must be convinced that the redefinition of marriage is destructive to individual people and to our entire society. If we are so convinced, we will joyfully invite others as fellow sinners to turn to the Merciful Jesus and know his healing grace as the woman with the hemorrhage did in today's Gospel.

We can turn more than ever to the intercession of some of the great martyrs of our faith who were called on to witness to the truth of God's law in the face of legal redefinition of the truth. I am thinking of the joyful witness of St. Thomas More and the Martyrs of England in the 1500's. When King Henry VIII wished to deny the truth of his marriage, he ordered Parliament to pass the Act of Supremacy, which proclaimed Henry head of the Church and thus able to redefine marriage. The vast majority of bishops in England acquiesced to Henry's demand. The law was changed and persecution followed for those who did not remain silent. The courageous martyrs of that storied moment in English history are interceding for us. They stood firm as they were accused of hating their King and hating their country. St. Edmund Campion's powerful words ring clear - at his sentencing to execution, he said simply, "In condemning us, you condemn all of your own ancestors, all that was once the glory of England." The present redefinition of marriage has indeed condemned all the great figures in American history as having been fundamentally opposed to freedom and rights in their understanding of marriage as a God-given gift between a man and a woman.

I am thinking of the joyful witness of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the martyrs of the Third Reich. All of the reforms of the 1930's were accomplished legally as the German nation was told to embrace a lie about the human person - that the Jews were not truly persons. As long as people were silent, the lie had room to grow.  Anyone who loved Germany was expected to support the Fuhrer. The law was changed and persecution followed for those who did not remain silent. Those who spoke out paid the ultimate price. Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor who dared to speak out in protest and to resist, wrote before his execution, "Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

I am thinking, lastly, and perhaps most powerfully, of the courageous witness of John the Baptist, whose birth the Church just celebrated this past week. Face to face with King Herod, who had redefined marriage by taking his brother's wife to be his own wife, John spoke the truth about marriage: "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife" (Mark 6:18). John chose not to remain silent, and persecution followed. Because he spoke the truth about marriage, John was beheaded.

 "To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards out of men." My dear people, all we have to do today is to remain silent in the face of the lie and we will be able to remain comfortable. May this comfortable silence never be our response. In the words of the great Russian dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn, "Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me." The Church in America in 2015 needs to call upon the intercession of all of these holy martyrs, asking them to obtain for our bishops and priests and for all of us the courage to bear witness to the truth about marriage.

So many are confused and hurting in their search for love today - they are searching for Christ without even knowing it. It falls to us at this moment to show forth Jesus by our witness of poverty, chastity, and obedience.This witness will mean having the courage to face whatever persecution, large and small, will come to us as a result of our refusal to remain silent. It will mean enduring accusations that we are opposed to love and hateful of those who celebrate and promote the redefinition of marriage. Let's be confident that the Holy Spirit is with us and is raising up a great generation of witnesses - joyful, loving, compassionate, merciful, courageous witnesses. I am confident that I am looking at those witnesses as I preach to you today.

Saint John the Baptist, pray for us.
St. Thomas More, Edmund Campion, and the martyrs of England, pray for us.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the martyrs of the Third Reich, pray for us. Amen.


Come, Holy Spirit!
Father Peter Mitchell