Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Late Lenten Meditation on the Reality of Spiritual Warfare

A Late Lenten Meditation on the Reality of Spiritual Warfare


Every ancient prayer manual and guide to spirituality until about fifty years ago had at least one large section devoted to what was known as Pugna Spiritualis(spiritual battle or spiritual warfare). In more recent decades, many spiritual books have downplayed or completely deleted references to spiritual battle or spiritual warfare.
Sadly, many modern approaches to faith, religion, and spirituality prefer to emphasize exclusively consoling themes rooted in self-esteem, affirmation, etc. To be sure, the authentic faith can and does offer great consolation, but the truest and deepest consolation often comes after one has persevered along the sometimes-difficult path, along the “narrow way” of the cross.
But too many today, in the name of affirmation and pseudo-self-esteem are ready to excuse, and even affirm grave moral disorders, rather than fight them. Grace and mercy are preached, but without reference to the repentance that opens the door to these gifts. Both the possibility of Hell and any consequences of sin, are absent from many modern conceptions of faith and religious practice.
Some years ago, I was approached by a rather angry woman who, having heard my sermon on the seriousness of certain sins (which were in the readings of the day), expressed great indignation that I would preach on such topics. She said, “I come to church to be consoled and have my spirits lifted, not to hear old-fashioned warnings about judgment and sins.” She felt quite a “righteous indignation,” and was most certain that I had transgressed a fundamental norm, namely, that religion exists to console, and that any challenge to one’s moral stance, (except perhaps caring for the poor), is intolerant and way out of line.
Indeed, many today have this kind of attitude: that it is their birthright not to be troubled or vexed in any way by something people might say, especially a preacher who claims to represent God! The “God they worship” would never trouble them. They will have Jesus for their consoler and best friend, but not their Lord, and certainly not their judge. And never mind the literally thousands of verses from Scripture in which Jesus himself speaks sternly and warns of sin, death, judgment, and Hell. They will have none of it, and are certain that “the Jesus they know,” would never raise his voice at them or challenge them even for a moment. Never mind that the real Jesus says to take up our cross and follow him.
With spiritual battle having been removed from many people’s spiritual landscape, the idea that the Lord would summon us to battle, or ask us to choose sides, seems strangely foreign, intolerant, and uncompassionate.
Even more dangerous, these modern conceptions not only distort Jesus, but they downplay the presence and influence of Satan. This is a very, very bad idea. Even if we cease fighting against Satan, he will never ceases his sometimes very subtle attacks on us.
Jesus called consistently for prayerful, sober vigilance against the powers of evil and sin. Like it or not, we are in a battle. Either we will soberly and vigilantly undertake the battle, or we will be conquered and led off like sheep to the slaughter.
Despite what modern spiritual approaches would like to eliminate, Christianity has been a militant religion since its inception. Jesus was exposed to every kind of danger from the beginning. Herod sought his life; Satan tried to tempt him in the desert; many enemies plotted on all sides as he worked his public ministry, misrepresenting him, levying false charges, and conspiring to sentence him to death, and eventually even succeeding though only for a moment.
And as for Jesus, so also for his mystical Body the Church: Saul, Saul why do you persecute me!?  (Acts 9:4) Jesus warns us that the world would hate us (Luke 21:17; John 15:20); that in this world we would have tribulation (Jn 16:33), and that we should watch and pray lest we give way to temptation (Matt 26:41). He summons us to persevere to the end if we would be saved (Mk 13:13). Jesus rather vividly described the kind of struggle with which we live when he said From the time of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force (Matthew 11:12). Indeed, no Christian until the time that Jesus returns, can consider himself on leave or dismissed from this great spiritual battle, from this great drama that we exist in, this battle between good and evil.
Popular theme or not, we do well to remember that we are in the midst of a great cosmic and spiritual battle. And in that battle, we must be willing to choose sides and fight with the Lord for the Kingdom of God. Either we will gather with him or we will scatter. We are to fight for our own soul, and the souls of those whom we love.
In the holy week that is about to unfold, we are reminded once again of the great cosmic battle that the Lord waged, and that is still being waged in our time. Though already victorious, in his mystical Body the Church, the Lord in his faithful members still suffers violence, rejection, and ridicule. It is also for us to reclaim territory from the evil one, to take back what the devil stole from us. We are to advance the glory of God’s Kingdom through the fruits of great spiritual struggle, sacrifice, prayer, fasting, preaching, and an extensive missionary campaign to which the Lord has summoned and commissioned us.
The battle is on; the struggle is engaged! To spiritual arms one and all! Fight the good fight for the Lord.
Still not convinced we are at war? Let the Lord pull back the veil just a bit and let you look at what’s really going on. The final words of this article will not be mine; they will be the Lord’s. Here is described the cosmic battle that is responsible for most of the suffering and confusion you experience:
A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.” And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days. Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers who accuses them before our God day and night,has been hurled down. They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.” When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach. Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus. (Rev 12)

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Greatest Easter Painting Ever Made

The Greatest Easter Painting Ever Made



Tucked away in a central Parisian museum that was once a railway station, there hangs an Easter painting quite unlike any Gospel masterpiece created before or after it. It is not painted by a Rembrandt or a Rubens or the patron saint of artists, Fra Angelico. The painting is the work of a little-known Swiss painter.  For those who make a trip to see it, viewing the canvas is a special spiritual experience in their lives.
The work does not even show the risen Jesus.  It merely portrays two witnesses, Jesus’ oldest and youngest apostle.  The youngest who was the only man brave enough to stay by Jesus’ cross and the only one who did not die a martyr’s death as a result of it. The oldest apostle who first denied Jesus in fear, yet ultimately chose to be crucified upside down by the Roman authorities rather than deny Christ’s resurrection.
In “The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of the Resurrection” by Eugène Burnand, John clasps his hand in prayer while Peter holds his hand over his heart.  The viewer feels the rush as their hair and cloaks fly back with the wind.  They are sprinting towards discovery of the moment that forever altered heaven and earth.  As you look at it, engage for a moment in what the Catholic blogger Bill Donaghy calls “the visual equivalent of Lectio Divina.”  As Donaghy notes, “This Resurrection scene does not put us before still figures near a stagnant stone, or figures standing with stony faces in a contrived, plastic posture, pointing to an empty tomb. This scene is dynamic; we are in motion.”
During his time, Burnand was fascinated by the possibilities of the emerging art of photography. Ironically, he would later be dismissed in the twentieth century as too “bourgeois” and anti-modernist when in fact he was merging his love of tradition with his interest in new technological ways of capturing the human person.  His painting feels cinematic long before cinema existed as a major art form.
Through the movement and immediacy of the scene, the preceding minutes with Mary Magdalene are palpable.  In a sense, she is in the painting too.  “You can almost hear her voice in the background, can you not, a few minutes earlier, as she burst into their house…” writes the Episcopal Bishop Dorsey McConnell in an Easter sermon meditating on the painting.
Apart from Jesus’ mother, no other three participants capture the closeness of Jesus’ encounter with humankind quite like John, Peter and Mary of Magdala. Their interactions with Christ embody a relationship to God previously unimaginable to mankind.  Jesus turning to Peter as they sit by the fire and asking three times, “Do you love me?”, thereby washing away the sin of the three denials past; Christ turning to John in the midst of his suffering and saying, “Behold, your mother,” giving her to the Church entire.  And, of course, the beautiful moment about to transpire in which Jesus’ merely says Mary’s name and she recognizes Him with a cry of “Rabbouni!”  They are the moments which cause one to wonder how those who truly hate Christianity (not merely disbelief it) can remain so hostile to its narrative beauty.
Burnand’s work was part of a late nineteenth century version of the new evangelization. The public, particularly in the United States, desired original religious imagery.  Burnand lived in an era in which a revived spiritual hunger fought against the push of emerging atheistic philosophies, philosophies that would eventually consume a continent and leave only a struggling remnant of European Christendom in its wake.
He was “an illustrator of popular working types: collectors of coal, sowers in the field and even penitent woodsmen praying at a roadside cross,” writes Gabriel P. Weisberg, a professor of art history at the University of Minnesota. For him the image of two fishermen racing toward a supernatural realization about the death of a carpenter would be instinctive.
Look into Peter’s wide open eyes and John’s intense gaze.  Their eyes contain a mix of anxiousness and hope, the way a parent or grandparent’s eyes look at the news of an impending birth.  A new life is about to emerge, but there is still uncertainty because it is a mystery beyond full human comprehension or control. Peter and John’s faces capture the same sense of anticipation.
Burnand created a sparse, simple painting capturing two of the most important players in the greatest story ever told. Meditate upon their faces as Burnand intended you to do and through them discover the empty tomb.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Pope Saint Martin I

Pope Saint Martin I - Saints & Angels - Catholic Online


Martin I lay too sick to fight on a couch in front of the altar when the soldiers burst into the Lateran basilica. He had come to the church when he heard the soldiers had landed. But the thought of kidnapping a sick pope from the house of Goddidn't stop the soldiers from grabbing him and hustling him down to their ship.
Elected pope in 649, Martin I had gotten in trouble for refusing to condone silence in the face of wrong. At that time there existed a popular heresy that held thatChrist didn't have a human will, only a divine will. The emperor had issued an edict that didn't support Monothelism (as it was known) directly, but simply commanded that no one could discuss Jesus' will at all.
Monothelism was condemned at a council convened by Martin I. The council affirmed, once again, that since Jesus had two natures, human and divine, he had two wills, human and divine. The council then went further and condemned Constans edict to avoid discussion stating, "The Lord commanded us to shun eviland do good, but not to reject the good with the evil."
In his anger at this slap in the face, the emperor sent his soldiers to Rome to bring the pope to him. When Martin I arrived in Constantinople after a long voyage he was immediately put into prison. There he spent three months in a filthy, freezing cell while he suffered from dysentery. He was not allowed to wash and given the most disgusting food. After he was condemned for treason without being allowed to speak in his defense he was imprisoned for another three months.
From there he was exiled to the Crimea where he suffered from the famine of the land as well as the roughness of the land and its people. But hardest to take was the fact that the pope found himself friendless. His letters tell how his own church had deserted him and his friends had forgotten him. They wouldn't even send him oil or corn to live off of.
He died two years later in exile in the year 656, a martyr who stood up for the right of the Church to establish doctrine even in the face of imperial power.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

How to Assist Evil

How to Assist Evil


"Engineering Evil" is a documentary recently shown on the Military History channel. It's a story of Nazi Germany's murder campaign before and during World War II. According to some estimates, 16 million Jews and other people died at the hands of Nazis (http://tinyurl.com/6duny9).
Though the Holocaust ranks high among the great human tragedies, most people never consider the most important question: How did Adolf Hitler and the Nazis gain the power that they needed to commit such horror? Focusing solely on the evil of the Holocaust won't get us very far toward the goal of the Jewish slogan "Never Again."
When Hitler came to power, he inherited decades of political consolidation by Otto von Bismarck and later the Weimar Republic that had weakened the political power of local jurisdictions. Through the Enabling Act (1933), whose formal name was "A Law to Remedy the Distress of People and Reich," Hitler gained the power to enact laws with neither the involvement nor the approval of the Reichstag, Germany's parliament. The Enabling Act destroyed any remaining local autonomy. The bottom line is that it was decent Germans who made Hitler's terror possible -- Germans who would have never supported his territorial designs and atrocities.
The 20th century turned out to be mankind's most barbaric. Roughly 50 million to 60 million people died in international and civil wars. As tragic as that number is, it pales in comparison with the number of people who were killed at the hands of their own government. Recently deceased Rudolph J. Rummel, professor of political science at the University of Hawaii and author of "Death by Government," estimated that since the beginning of the 20th century, governments have killed 170 million of their own citizens. Top government killers were the Soviet Union, which, between 1917 and 1987, killed 62 million of its own citizens, and the People's Republic of China, which, between 1949 and 1987, was responsible for the deaths of 35 million to 40 million of its citizens. In a distant third place were the Nazis, who murdered about 16 million Jews, Slavs, Serbs, Czechs, Poles, Ukrainians and others deemed misfits, such as homosexuals and the mentally ill.
We might ask why the 20th century was so barbaric. Surely, there were barbarians during earlier ages. Part of the answer is that during earlier times, there wasn't the kind of concentration of power that emerged during the 20th century. Had Josef Stalin, Mao Zedong and Hitler been around in earlier times, they could not have engineered the slaughter of tens of millions of people. They wouldn't have had the authority. There was considerable dispersion of jealously guarded political power in the forms of heads of provincial governments and principalities and nobility and church leaders whose political power within their spheres was often just as strong as the monarch's.
Professor Rummel explained in the very first sentence of "Death by Government" that "Power kills; absolute Power kills absolutely. ... The more power a government has, the more it can act arbitrarily according to the whims and desires of the elite, and the more it will make war on others and murder its foreign and domestic subjects." That's the long, tragic, ugly story of government: the elite's use of government to dupe and forcibly impose its will on the masses. The masses are always duped by well-intentioned phrases. After all, what German could have been against "A Law to Remedy the Distress of People and Reich"? It's not just Germans who have fallen prey to well-intentioned phrases. After all, who can be against the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act"?
We Americans ought to keep the fact in mind that Hitler, Stalin and Mao would have had more success in their reign of terror if they had the kind of control and information about their citizens that agencies such as the NSA, the IRS and the ATF have about us. You might ask, "What are you saying, Williams?" Just put it this way: No German who died before 1930 would have believed the Holocaust possible.
http://townhall.com/columnists/walterewilliams/2014/04/09/how-to-assist-evil-n1819754/page/full

Friday, April 4, 2014

Illinois bishop upholds priest’s decision to deny Communion to pro-abort Sen. Dick Durbin

Illinois bishop upholds priest’s decision to deny Communion to pro-abort Sen. Dick Durbin

SPRINGFIELD, IL, April 3, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, known for his outspoken defense of the right to life and the natural family, has signaled his support for denying Communion to Catholic politicians who publicly endorse activities gravely contrary to the moral law.
The bishop wrote recently to a pro-life activist to affirm that he is upholding a diocesan priest’s decision to deny Communion to U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-IL, who has a 100% rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood.
Paprocki’s e-mail was reported Thursday by Catholic commentator Matt Abbott.
“Senator Durbin was informed several years ago by his pastor at Blessed Sacrament Parish here in Springfield that he was not permitted to receive Holy Communion per canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law,” Paprocki wrote. “My predecessor upheld that decision and it remains in effect. It is my understanding that the senator is complying with that decision here in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.”
Canon 915 states that those who are “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”
In placing the onus on ministers of Holy Communion, canon 915 is distinct from canon 916, which places the onus on the communicant to not approach for Communion if they are “conscious of grave sin.”
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Canon 915 has been at the center of the dispute in recent years over how Church leaders should deal with the plethora of Catholic politicians who vote for pro-abortion and pro-homosexual legislation.
Some prelates argue that denying politicians Communion turns the Eucharist into a political “weapon.” Defenders of the canon, however, argue that it is an expression of charity by protecting the individual from taking part in sacrilege and protecting the faithful from scandal.
The clear position from the Vatican has been in favour of enforcing the canon. In 2004, as America’s bishops were debating whether to deny Communion to pro-abortion Catholic politicians, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then-head of the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith, wrote a letter to the bishops exhorting them to do just that.
Cardinal Ratzinger wrote:
Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.
When “these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible,” and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, “the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it” (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts Declaration “Holy Communion and Divorced, Civilly Remarried Catholics” [2002], nos. 3-4). This decision, properly speaking, is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy Communion passing judgement on the person’s subjective guilt, but rather is reacting to the person’s public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin.
The cardinal’s letter was not considered during the U.S. bishops’ debate, however, because Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, to whom it had been sent, withheld the text. The letter was eventually leaked to Vatican reporter Sandro Magister, who published it in full. Cardinal Ratzinger’s office then confirmed its authenticity.
U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke has been the most prominent defender of canon 915. In an interview published exclusively in English last month by LifeSiteNews, Burke insisted denying Communion when required is not about punishment but charity.
“The priest’s refusal to give Holy Communion is a prime act of pastoral charity, helping the person in question to avoid sacrilege and safeguarding the other faithful from scandal,” he explained.
“The exclusion of those who persist in manifest and grave sin, after having been duly admonished, from receiving Holy Communion is not a question of a punishment but of a discipline which respects the objective state of a person in the Church,” he added.
As prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, Burke is considered the Church’s highest-ranking canonist.
http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/illinois-bishop-upholds-priests-decision-to-deny-communion-to-pro-abortion

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Pelosi Calls Pro-Lifers "Dumb" While Accepting Planned Parenthood Award

Charming: Pelosi Calls Pro-Lifers "Dumb" While Accepting Planned Parenthood Award

On Thursday, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was awarded Planned Parenthood’s Margaret Sanger award at the organization’s annual gala. Sanger was a radical eugenicist, yet Pelosi gladly accepted the award that bears her name.
But, Pelosi didn’t just take her trophy and sit down. She also used the opportunity to mock pro-lifers, calling them “oblivious” and “dumb:”
"When you see how closed their minds are or oblivious or whatever it is — dumb — then you know what the fight is about," Pelosi said. "Whatever happens with the court...we must remember these battles will not be the end of the fight."
pelosi- a blind soul

With these comments, Pelosi is following in the intolerant footsteps of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who charged that pro-lifers and "extreme" conservatives “have no place” in the state. Unfortunately for Cuomo and Pelosi, those “dumb” pro-lifers have just achieved another victory. As Planned Parenthood was putting the final touches on its banquet, a federal appeals court upheld the abortion law in Texas which bans the procedure after 20 weeks – the point at which unborn babies can feel pain.
But, I’m guessing that wasn’t on Planned Parenthood’s agenda. They were too busy celebrating injustice.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Bishop Vasa Defends the Courage Apostolate Speaker:::homosexual behavior is sinful.

Bishop Vasa Defends the Courage Apostolate Speaker

Courage, an apostolate of the Catholic Church
Courage, an apostolate of the Catholic Church
By MARTIN ESPINOZA, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT – A former gay-porn actor who says his Catholic faith saved him from a world of pornography, homosexuality and the occult is scheduled to make a presentation in Santa Rosa to a religious group called Courage, an apostolate of the Catholic Church that ministers to people with same-sex attractions.
The program will feature Joseph Sciambra, an author and missionary who has said, among other things, that “gay identity is tantamount to imprisonment of the soul within the disorder” and that anal sex releases “into the world these rare demonic entities.”
The planned presentation has raised concerns among some local Catholics that the Santa Rosa diocese is sanctioning religious tactics that harken back to the days of reparative therapy, aimed at changing people’s sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual.
The presentation comes amid a focus by Santa Rosa Bishop Robert Vasa on traditional Catholic teachings about homosexuality, birth control and abortion.
Vasa said Thursday that Catholic doctrine is clear on one point: homosexual behavior is sinful.
“The proper ordering of the sexual faculty is toward procreation,” he said.
Whenever people use the “sexual faculty” in ways that are not aligned with this order, “even in a vague kind of way, then we would say it’s not properly ordered, it’s out of order.”
Vasa’s strict interpretation of long-held Catholic doctrine has upset some parishioners in his generally liberal diocese, which has 165,000 members and extends north to the Oregon border. The bishop has acknowledged a need for church leaders to become more “pastoral” in their work following comments by Pope Francis that have been widely seen as conciliatory toward gays.
Vasa said that Courage’s teachings bear similarities to spiritual encouragement centered on chastity that is given to teens.
Other diocese officials dispute that the local Courage ministry resembles reparative therapy. They say the presentation, like regular Courage meetings, is aimed at offering prayerful support to those with homosexual inclinations.
“Courage does not do therapy. Therapy is left to the professionals,” said John Collins, superintendent of Catholic education for the diocese.
Collins, who is the coordinator of the local Courage group, said the point of the presentation, as well as that of regular Courage meetings, is to give people spiritual encouragement that, among other things, “leads them away from homosexual behavior.” That means helping them live chaste lives.
Those assurances do not assuage local Catholics and former Catholics who say the church is out of step with modern interpretations of their faith.
Bill Boorman, a 79-year-old gay Catholic who lives in Santa Rosa, said the church should accept that “homosexuality is a basic manifestation of human sexuality.”
Boorman, a retired naval officer, said that he’s long come to terms with his sexuality and that he feels compelled to live “as a full human being” who embraces others without judgment and who follows his conscience.
“I feel that as a homosexual man I have exactly the same responsibility as any other human being — to live a compassionate, responsible, caring existence. Living a moral life was foremost.”
Though it is sanctioned by the local diocese, Courage is not an official ministry of the diocese, and the nearest chapter is in San Francisco. Collins said the group has met about 50 times in the past seven years.
People are not not “forced” to attend the group, he said. The group’s main focus is chastity and the teaching of “truth” according to the official Latin text of the Catholic Catechism, which teaches “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” are inclinations that are “objectively disordered.”
“Chastity means you do take people where they are, you love them, you embrace them as persons” who are made in God’s image, Collins said, adding that chastity “will always help a person to treat himself and any other human being as a human subject, never as an object. In other words, the object of my sexual desire.”
Sciambra, the former porn star, said that he’s known John Collins since about 2001. Back then, he said, they tried to start a Courage group in Santa Rosa without much success.
He said the local priests and the diocese were supportive but that “it was hard getting the word out, getting people to know about it.”
Sciambra now lives in Napa, where he owns and operates a shop called St. Joseph Religious Goods.

The goal of Courage,

he said, is to give those with homosexual attractions “hope.”
“There are so many people that are gay and are in the gay lifestyle, and they don’t see a place for themselves in the Catholic church,” he said.
“What Courage tries to do is say, ‘Yes, you are welcome in the Catholic church and you can be in full communion in the Catholic church but you need to be chaste,’” he said. “You have to accept chastity.”
Santa Rosa Bishop Robert Vasa
Bishop Robert Vasa
Vasa echoed a similar sentiment.
“Morally speaking, everyone is called to chastity and everyone is given sufficient grace to live a life consistent with the Commandments regardless of their situation circumstances or inclinations,” the bishop said.
Former Catholic Lin Campbell,
a facilitator for the Santa Rosa chapter of PFLAG, formerly known as Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays, likened Courage to “spiritual reparative therapy.” Campbell said she previously worked at St. Eugene’s Cathedral for 23 years but left the church when she realized that her gay son, a former eucharistic minister who attended Catholic schools through college, would not be accepted by church hierarchy.
Campbell said she drew the line when she heard Archbishop Wilton Gregory, former president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, say that gay priests were responsible for the church’s pedophile sex scandals.
“The day that I realized there was no place in the church for my son to be an authentic gay man in a loving, committed relationship — married, with three children — was the day I realized there was no place in the church for me, either,”
Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, a national organization of LGBT Catholics and supporters, said many Catholic dioceses across the country are adopting Courage as their official ministry to the lesbian and gay community.
“I think of it as really the 1950s, when being gay was considered sick, sinful or criminal,” Duddy-Burke said, adding that organizations like hers are working toward changing literal interpretations of the Bible and ultimately church acceptance of gays and lesbians in every aspect of the church.
“What we’re working for is full inclusion and equality for LGBT people,” she said. “We’re not literalists. We understand that the Bible is symbolic and that God’s word needs to be interpreted and studied and mostly it needs to live in your heart and in your soul.”
For Sciambra, the idea of equality for gays and lesbians is an example of the “inherent demonic influence upon the modern homosexual mind-set.”
Homosexual Facts
He said gays who are in a committed, monogamous relationship are a minority.
“There’s certainly a very small segment of the population that is monogamous, partnered and married,” he said. “The majority of gay men are very sexually active, very promiscuous, and that’s the world that I lived in.”
Sciambra said he is compelled to speak out against homosexual behavior because of the high rates of HIV among gay men. He cited extensive statistics from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that show gay men disproportionately are infected with HIV.
“According to the CDC, 4 percent of the population is homosexual men,” he said. “They are 160 times more likely to contract HIV … In 2010, gay men accounted for 78 percent of all new HIV infections.”
Sciambra said he’s driven by his wish to keep people alive. He denied that he’s demonizing gays and lesbians.
Homosexual acts “are aberrations of nature,” he said. “That, I’ll stand by. Anal sex is not natural. That’s why we see these huge rates of HIV in gay men.” He added that condoms don’t always work.
Ryan Hoffmann, a spokesman for Call to Action, a national organization that advocates for a number of changes to the Catholic church including the ordination of women and the acceptance of gays and lesbians, said his group does not endorse the work of groups like Courage.
“It’s about getting people to repress their natural feelings of same-sex attraction,” Ryan said. “That’s just not something we believe is healthy.”
Sciambra himself said he no longer identifies as gay.
“I have same-sex attraction but I don’t identify myself as gay,” he said. “God didn’t make me gay, so I don’t identify as gay.”
You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 521-5213 ormartin.espinoza@pressdemocrat.com.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

California bishop defends diocesan talk by former gay porn actor on the dangers of homosexuality

California bishop defends diocesan talk by former gay porn actor on the dangers of homosexuality

SANTA ROSA, CA, March 13, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – “Courage,” an official apostolate of the Roman Catholic Church, often faces criticism from Catholics and non-Catholics who believe it is a harmful part of the Church's doctrine on marriage. In Santa Rosa, California, however, Bishop Robert Vasa is ignoring these criticisms in their entirety.
Last week, Vasa sponsored a program that included a presentation by former homosexual porn actor Joseph Sciambra to the local arm of Courage. Sciambra, who has a book on his experiences and how they led him to embrace the Church, believes that homosexual relationships are devastatingly harmful to the bodies and souls of men who engage in sex with other men. 
Critics of Bishop Vasa and Sciambra have
abounded. However, the bishop has been a source of relief to serious Catholics. While critics say that having an abstinent man with same-sex attractions present to Courage harms acceptance of homosexuals in the Church, orthodox Catholics find the push against the permissive American culture a welcome change. 
Bishop Vasa's prioritization of Church teachings over public opinion is nothing new. For years, he has emphasized Church teachings about sexual morality and life, and has long been a leader among orthodox Catholics for his adherence to Church doctrine. 
In 2010, Vasa severed the Church's relationship with an Oregon hospital that was affiliated with the Church for nearly 100 years over its performance of sterilization. Last year, he said more talk was needed at the pulpit over “cultural issues.” 
What local news is calling a “generally liberal diocese” appears to have taken issue with Vasa's unapologetically Catholic stances, and the presentation by former homosexual porn actor Sciambra is not sitting well with them. Some have said the program – especially Sciambra's presentation – resembles reparative therapy. 
Courage says on its website it provides “spiritual support for Catholic men and women with same-sex attractions who desire to live chaste lives.”  On its FAQ page, it distinctlynotes it “is NOT a group that seeks conversion to heterosexual desires,” but instead “join[s] in prayer that we, and all who live with same-sex attractions, may come closer to Our Lord as His beloved children.”
Sciambra was slotted to speak at the Faith Room of the Parish Life Center at St. Eugene's Cathedral.
Last year, he spoke with LifeSiteNews about his experiences, describing how he spent nearly a decade in same-sex relationships and gay pornography before his conversion to Catholicism.
Several organizations led by Catholics and former Catholics who oppose the Church on the issue of same-sex relationships have been quoted as being against what one person called the “spiritual reparative therapy” of Courage. According to Lin Campbell – described as a “former Catholic” who worked for the Church for over 20 years – she left the Church after former USCCB President Archbishop Wilton Gregory said gay priests were at fault in the priest scandal. 
Campbell, a facilitator with the Santa Rosa arm of PFLAG, told local press that “the day that I realized there was no place in the church for my son to be an authentic gay man in a loving, committed relationship — married, with three children — was the day I realized there was no place in the church for me, either.” 
One man quoted by local press says he is a 79-year old gay man who has “exactly the same responsibility as any other human being — to live a compassionate, responsible, caring existence.” He says “living a moral life was foremost,” and the Church should accept how “homosexuality is a basic manifestation of human sexuality.”
However, Vasa and Sciambra are uncompromising. The former porn actor says sex acts among homosexual men “are aberrations of nature.” Vasa has said that “morally speaking, everyone is called to chastity and everyone is given sufficient grace to live a life consistent with the Commandments regardless of their situation circumstances or inclinations.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Rebuilding Catholic Society

Rebuilding Catholic Society


A man prays during Ash Wednesday Mass at St. Andrew's Church in the Manhattan borough of New York March 5. (CNS photo/Carlo Allegri, Reuters)
The Church is not part of the State. Nor is she simply a part of civil society set up by her members to advance their public and private goals. She is an independent society established by God to be a light to the world. As such, she has her own principles of existence, authority, and action.
Her mission does not normally imply direct involvement in politics. Catholics may campaign for social and political causes that they believe promote good ends, just as they may run businesses in accordance with Catholic principles. The main political contribution of the Church, though, is the view of man and the good life for which she stands.
Nonetheless, proposing that view calls for practical action that has social effects. The Church won’t be listened to unless she embodies something the world needs. To convert others we must first convert ourselves. For that reason evangelization must begin with the self-evangelization of the Christian community. That is a practical and social effort, and it means the leaders of the Church are fundamentally pastors, not philosophers, pundits, philanthropists, or outreach coordinators. The Apostle Paul preached the Gospel to the gentiles through half the Roman world, but his letters have to do with the promotion of Christian life within the Church.
The single most important practical goal of the Church is for Christians to thrive as Christians. The primary way that comes about, of course, is for them to love God and neighbor and live accordingly, and for their pastors to show them how to do so by word, sacrament, and example. There is more to it than that, though. We don’t become good simply by deciding to do so, and even the best words, sacraments, and examples are not enough for most of us. We respond to our total environment, and most of us need all the help we can get.
So we are likely to do better in a setting that is as Catholic as possible. That is especially so in times like the present, when secular society is comprehensively organized and pervasively anti-Catholic. Evil communications corrupt good manners. If Catholics go home from Mass and spend the rest of their time awash in pop culture and studying or working in settings that trivialize religious concerns and enforce perverse conceptions of right and wrong, the strong will no doubt survive. Not all of us are strong, though, and sink-or-swim cannot be the right approach for the Church to take toward her members.
In addition to the Church as a divine institution, we need a Catholic social world that includes the Church as an institution but also extends to the ordinary affairs of life. In a previous column I called that world “Christendom,” and emphasized that when it’s not established as a matter of law we still need it as a system of habits, institutions, and attachments to which we are loyal and by which we can more readily live a Catholic life.
The Church must engage the world while remaining in some sense unworldly, so Christendom—the social world in which Catholics carry on their lives as Catholics—is an in-between sort of affair. It is far from watertight, since it accepts secular arrangements such as markets, modern science, and legitimate government authority. Further, it reflects the imperfections of Catholics. Even saints are not perfect, and the Church includes people who are far from saintly. The leaven of the Kingdom doesn’t work instantaneously among those who have begun to accept it, so the Church must maintain a place for those who are not specially holy or even specially serious.
Mediocre Catholics—who are most of us—contribute to the Church and to Christendom through what is Catholic in them and their aspiration for better things. A drama needs extras and spear carriers as well as heroes, and by their numbers they can help make a Catholic social environment a real though imperfect reality. For the sake of such people the Church must support a way of life that attracts them, leads them to stick with it and support it, and puts them in a web of influences that points toward God rather than the gods of the city.
At present that way of life and web of influences is in disarray, and needs to be pulled together. Many points are obvious. We need schools that are thoroughly Catholic in orientation. If sink-or-swim is bad for ordinary Catholics, it is a thousand times worse for Catholic children. We also need more universities, publications, and other cultural institutions that are authentically Catholic. The assumptions on which mainstream intellectual and cultural life are now based make networks of independent institutions necessary for Catholic thought and culture to maintain itself.
In recent decades Catholic institutions have tended to assimilate to the society around them. That trend is part of the current disarray. There are some Catholic homeschoolers who would like to send their children to the Catholic school across the street but can’t in good conscience because the education on offer is not actually Catholic. That tendency needs to reverse, and it seems likely to do so in the coming years, at least for the institutions that continue to matter. The reasons are intellectual, cultural, and educational as well as specifically religious.
Before the Second Vatican Council many people complained about the narrowness of the Catholic ghetto. The idea seemed to be that the life of the world was going on much more outside the Church than within her, and the Church should throw open her doors and windows and go where the action is. The attempt to apply that strategy may not have improved Catholic intellectual and cultural life, which to all appearances has gone downhill, but the secular culture has gone downhill even more. That’s no surprise: rejecting natural law, adopting a pragmatic attitude toward truth, and making choice the highest good is not a recipe for true or productive thought about the world. The conversion of Saint Augustine came at a time when the exhaustion of classical culture had made the Church the natural home for intellectual activity. If we are right that the Church has a better grip on reality than secular culture, the same seems likely to happen again.
We also need to make it possible to carry on the activities that claim most people’s energies in a more Catholic setting. For most people the greater part of social engagement takes the form of gainful employment. So we need to find and develop work environments that are not at odds with the Faith, either by reason of the employer’s purposes and activities or the view of man inculcated. That will have its complications. Anti-discrimination laws make it impossible to give an ordinary business of any size a specifically Catholic identity, for example by preferring employees who are committed to Catholic principles, or even preferring natural law understandings of human relations. Catholic business would have to be small and informal, perhaps taking the form of networks of independent contractors.
Catholics engage society in other ways, of course, and those should also be put on as Catholic a footing as possible. Charitable activity is an obvious example. In recent times Catholic charitable efforts have emphasized cooperation with government and other non-Catholic actors. The usefulness of that approach is doubtful when government is committed to an anti-Catholic conception of life that inevitably determines the orientation and operation of health and welfare programs in which it is involved.
And finally, Catholics need to engage in political action to defend the Church and Christendom. Government is now inclined to allow the institutional Church some degree of freedom, but to promote social goals such as unity and inclusion in a way that suppresses Christendom as a system of social life. Fighting that tendency will have to be the main focus of Catholic political efforts in the coming years if the Church and Catholic life are to thrive.
In spite of difficulties, the outlook is bright for Christendom, even from a human standpoint, because there is such a need for it. Life must go on, and people carry on as best they can. The rejection of natural law means that secular culture is becoming not only anti-Catholic but anti-reason and anti-human. It’s becoming less and less livable, and if we can offer an alternative that is more adequate to human needs and aspirations there will be takers. Doing so is the social challenge for the Church in the coming years.

Cdl. Brandmüller: "The moral doctrine of the Church can be changed only if human nature changes."

Cdl. Brandmüller: "The moral doctrine of the Church can be changed only if human nature changes."


Cardinal Walter Brandmuller elevates the Eucharist during a Tridentine-rite Mass at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican May 2011. It was the first time in several decades that the rite was celebrated at the altar. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
(Rome, kath.net) In February 2014, after the publication of controversial statements by a German bishop about the need to change Catholic moral teaching, Armin Schwibach interviewed Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, President Emeritus of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences about current problems in a broader perspective. Excerpts from that interview follow.
A. Schwibach: In an interview with the editor of the Mainzer Allgemeine Zeitung, the Bishop of Trier, Stephan Ackermann, started a not-so-new discussion about “morality”. The bishop emphasized, first of all, that this is not about “fundamental changes of doctrine”. Nevertheless, it is essential to strengthen the individual awareness of responsibility, so as “then to respect also a decision made in conscience”.
Moreover the bishop addressed three larger issues and declared that is no longer opportune to regard a second marriage as a mortal sin and to refuse to admit the remarried to the sacraments permanently. It is likewise indefensible, he said, to treat premarital sexual relations generally as a serious sin. The distinction made by Pope Paul VI between natural and artificial methods of regulating birth is in Ackermann’s opinion “also rather artificial”, and no one understands it any more.
In all these areas he sees “a need to change the morality and sexual ethics” of the Church. Your Eminence, can the Church’s moral doctrine be “changed”, and if so, when and how?
Cardinal Brandmüller: First a remark: It is astonishing, that for so many of our contemporaries all moral doctrine is reduced exclusively to sexual morality. How many problems there are, however, with truthfulness, justice, the defense of human life, and so on! There ought to be a lot more talk about that!
But now concerning the question of whether the Church’s moral doctrine must or can be changed: The moral doctrine of the Church can be changed only if human nature changes. For the Church’s moral teaching follows from the nature of the human being as a person who is both body and soul. Conclusions about the concrete way in which a human being should live his life must be drawn from these basic facts. Then comes the Gospel, which elevates the human person, and thus also his actions and his responsibility, to the level of a child of God. Now, neither human nature nor God’s commandments and the Gospel have an expiration date. Someone who nevertheless makes the aforementioned demands for a change in Catholic moral doctrine finds himself in contradiction with God’s Word.
As for talk about “conscience”: Strengthening the awareness of personal responsibility and enabling the individual to make a responsible judgment in conscience have been the goal of the Church’s pastoral ministry from the start. The conscience is the final subjective norm for human action; this is a classical Catholic teaching. It must be added, that such a binding judgment in conscience is possible only if the individual’s conscience takes the objective norm as its guide. Conscience is not a judgment that sets norms, but rather a judgment that interprets norms, a judgment or human faculty that applies a norm that is always valid for everyone to the individual case in question and decides it accordingly. [...]
A.S.: Both the statements by the Bishop of Trier and the publicized results of the questionnaire distributed by the Holy See with a view to preparing the Instrumentum laboris [working document] for the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the Family, made it clear that the Church—and not only in Germany— apparently has a major problem in communicating her understanding and her teaching about marriage and sexuality, about what the family is and what makes the family important. A significant percentage of Catholics seem neither to accept elements of Catholic moral teaching nor to see its relevance.
How can or should this communications problem be solved? Cardinal Marx [Archbishop of Munich and Freising] opined that the Church should not speak about morality in terms of “catalogues of sins and indexes of penalties”. Rather it is a question of helping people to be able to “shape” their lives according to the demands of the Gospel and to arrive at “well-considered” decisions in conscience.
Cardinal Brandmüller: Who on earth nowadays still talks about catalogues of sins and indexes of penalties?! And is there such a thing as “badly-considered” decisions in conscience? In this connection we find again and again the phenomenon of language being spoken by someone with ecclesiastical authority that is hazy and nebulous and leaves much to be desired in terms of precision and clarity. Thus we may hear formulas with which one can neither agree nor disagree, and so everyone then takes from them whatever suits him.
It is urgently necessary for clear concepts to be communicated in the Church’s proclamation of faith and morals. Of course, right away we have to say also that this communication should use a language that appeals not just to the ear but also to the human heart, a language that sympathetically enters into the concrete situation of the hearers and is capable of leading them to a real understanding of the Church’s message. A quotation from Goethe should be written in the notebooks of all bishops, priests and religion teachers today: “In a time of vacillation, anyone who is inclined to waver makes the problem worse.”
Furthermore, one thing must not be forgotten in all these “moral questions”: there is a big difference between the objective judgment of an act or a way of acting and the subjective responsibility of the person who is acting—something that is usually overlooked. Even Saint Augustine says: Hate the error, but love the sinner!
One more thing should be said: if someone with full authority to proclaim the faith in the name of the Church should ever become convinced that he is unable to advocate Church teaching authentically, intellectual honesty demands that he draw the consequences.
Translated from German by Michael J. Miller