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

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 ( – “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, 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

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Ecce Homo: Behold the Man!

Ecce Homo: Behold the Man!

“Ecce Homo!” Pilate said to the crowd. That is, “Behold the man!” Behold the man, the Christ, who stands alone and rejected by his people. 

To be an outsider and misunderstood is the lot of God’s closest friends. As far as I know, there is not a single canonized Saint who was not rejected by their own in some way and hence felt alone at some critical juncture in their life. Jesus warned as much when he said he came to bring not peace but the sword. 

The Lord’s chosen instrument of pruning and purification is quite often being excluded by those closest to us. By far, the worst pain is to be endured during spiritual desolation; that is, when the soul feels totally abandoned by God himself. In this instance, the soul can be so deprived of the “sense” of grace that she deems itself to be denied of God’s mercy. Not a few Saints were tempted with despair; the feeling of being totally left behind by their Best Friend. 

Consider the patriarch Joseph, one of Jacob’s twelve sons. Although God guaranteed that he would be blessed in several dreams he had, he was sold into slavery by his own brothers. For twenty long years it seemed as if God abandoned him. But he was later elevated to prime minister of Egypt. As such, he was in a position to save his family from starvation. 

Moses, the great legislator of God’s law, was driven out of Egypt by Ramesses II for forty years. But he too would rise up and lead hundreds of thousands of Hebrews out of slavery.

Before his anointing as king of Israel, David did not fit in with the rest of brothers. This is why he would shepherd the sheep by himself. Again, it was not his brothers that Samuel anointed the second king of Israel, but David, who was overlooked by his own father and siblings. "Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart." (I Sam. 16:7)

The prophet Elijah, for his part, was not welcomed in the so-called band of prophets. The only real companion he had was his disciple Elisha. 

As for the minor prophet Hosea, he was instructed by God to marry a prostitute named Gomer (she was to symbolize the infidelity of Israel), this, only to be rejected by her later on. 

Indeed, the character and greatness of these patriarchs, kings and prophets of the Old Testament came about through the rejection of their own.  Rejection and banishment was no less the chosen instrument used by Christ in fashioning his Saints. Just to name only a few, there was his own family- the Holy Family –who had to flee Israel in order to take refuge in Egypt so as to escape the wrath of King Herod. 

And centuries later there was St. Thomas Becket, St. Thomas More, and St. John Fisher who were rejected and martyred by their English countrymen. And we cannot forget Pope St. Gregory VII, a champion of Church reform. He managed to get the State off of the Church’s back, but was eventually driven out of Rome by King Henry IV only to die in exile. About seven hundred years later, St. Alphonsus Liguori was kicked out of the Redemptorist order; the religious order he himself founded. 

In more recent times, the Lord continued to set men and women apart for his work through the very same means: that of trials and rejection. St. Edith Stein, for instance, was a convert from Judaism to Catholicism. As such, she was estranged from her own people- most notably her own family -because of her faith in Christ. St. Padre Pio was forbidden by the Vatican to publicly exercise his ministry for ten years. Unable to minister to his people, he became a prisoner of his friary. And there is Bishop Fulton Sheen, arguably the most gifted evangelist of the twentieth century. According to Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Bishop Sheen was an outsider with regard to his brother bishops. He never quite belonged.

After becoming familiar with God’s friends in Scripture and the Saints to follow, this recurring phenomenon of being excluded by our own should not surprise us. Our Lord himself said that no servant is above his master. And what did the Master say as he was dying on the Cross? He uttered the memorable words of Psalm 22: “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” 

Quite often the friends of God feel estranged, not only by their own people, but by God Himself. A wonderful book that captures this feeling of being alone in the desert is The Spirituality of the Old Testament. We discover that by no means are we singled out as if something unusual was happening to us. Instead, we are reminded that following in the footsteps of our Savior- at times a lonely walk -is the path many prophets and saints have traveled. The author, Paul Marie de la Croix, writes as about this holy abandonment: 

“[S]ouls cease to understand the reason for the trials that afflict them and believe they are separated from God forever...divine conduct seems utterly incomprehensible, even extremely arbitrary and unjust. Everything bewilders them, causing uneasiness, anguish, obscurity. They more they seek God, the more deeply hidden He remains; the more they desire Him, the more he rejects them...they experience a reversal of God’s relationship to them. They seem to be permanently abandoned or even rejected, though divine favor and friendship had been theirs before.”

But as St. Francis de Sales once said, "An ounce of desolation is worth more than a pound of desolation." Through rejection and humiliations, we are given the opportunity to possess God for his own sake; to love the God of gifts over the gifts of God. To be sure, through the wine-press of suffering, we come to better understand our own sinfulness and unworthiness to have our prayers answered. The feeling of being entitled to his gifts and favors- the most common of faults–gives way to humility and gratitude. 

This is why we must never wince, never draw back when faced with the possibility of offending people by speaking the truth and doing God's work. Indeed, we may be rejected and excluded; we may have to eat lunch by ourselves in the cafeteria; we may risk losing a job; we may lose friendships and disappoint colleagues; and though it pains us very much, we may be ostracized from our family. Our Lord did not say that we should merely tolerate these trying circumstances, but to rejoice in them! As hard as it may seem, we have to ask Jesus- the Man that stood condemned before the crowd -for the grace to rejoice and see through short-term sacrifces to lay hold of long-term gains. It is only then we can stand with our Lord through thick and thin.

On Good Friday our Lord stood alone before his people as a rejected king. From the Thursday night to three o’clock Friday afternoon, God the Father- as if to side with the angry crowd -had appeared to reject his only begotten Son. Alone our Lord Jesus stood before Pilate and his people. A true outsider

He was born outside of Bethlehem in a cave and he died a condemned man outside of the walls of Jerusalem. Can there be any doubt, then, that in the Sacred Heart of Jesus there is a special place for the ostracized and the rejected. They have not been forgotten by Him who knows what it feels to be forgotten

Have you been forgotten or excluded from those closest to you? Please know you have a friend in Christ! There is a special place in His heart for such friends.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Truth About Same Sex Attraction

The Truth About Same Sex Attraction

The Truth About Same Sex Attraction

I'm so used to being gay and Catholic, I forget how strange that sounds.

I forget that, for some people, "homosexual" describes something like a different race, or maybe even a different gender.  I forget that some Christians think I'm the worst kind of pervert (but a pervert they have to treat nicely), and some secularists think I'm the worst kind of hypocrite;  the former because I'm sexually attracted to men, and the latter because I don't do anything about it.

Read the last part again.  Yes, I'm attracted to men;  no, I don't sleep with them, for the same reason that a lot of Catholics don't sleep with people they're not married to.  But you'd be surprised how often people hear the first part (gay) and not the second (celibate) — even though the second is the only part that's up to me.
I wrote a whole article once about what it was like to be a celibate, gay Catholic, and what was the first response in the combox?  "Repent!!"
Not that everyone who finds out that I'm gay is like that.  Overwhelmingly, the people I've told — mainly family and close friends — respond with compassion and even admiration.  Usually it's something like "I'm honored that you trust me enough to tell me this."  But even the most understanding people don't always understand what I mean, if only because (unlike me) they haven't had the last 14 years to figure it out, and because "I'm gay" is not a simple sentence.
I'm not very sensitive about the word "gay", but some of us in the Gay Catholic business prefer the phrase "same-sex attraction," or SSA.  I find it more accurate than "gay" or "queer" or any of the others, just because it suggests that homosexuality is something I have rather than something I am.  That's the way I think of it.  So the idea of gay culture, gay rights, gay marriage, gay anything really, is foreign to me.  You might as well talk about gluten-intolerance culture, or musician's rights.
Which is not to say that I don't strongly identify with those parts of myself that people often conflate with being "gay."  I'm musical, I'm verbal, I'm intuitive, I have a strong aesthetic sense.  But men with SSA don't have a monopoly on those things, and the fact that I have those characteristics doesn't mean I belong to some special culture; it means I'm myself, and not anybody else.
I also don't mean to trivialize the experience of having SSA.  Sex isn't everything, but as anyone with any kind of sexual dysfunction knows, it's an awful lot.  Put the sexual aspect together with the other things that homosexual men and women often experience — depression, low self-esteem, loneliness, a sense (however false) of being utterly different — and you have a heavy cross.
I've experienced healing in every area I mentioned above, but nobody's healing is complete this side of heaven.  Loneliness can be the worst part: not the absence of friends, I've got those, but the effort of forging out a way to live in a society that constantly tells us that romantic love is anyone's only shot at real happiness, and that celibacy (not to mention virginity!) is some kind of psychological disease.
And there's the question of friendship.  I love men, and I always will.  That's not weird, that's not strange, that's not even gay.  But it's not as simple as "look, but don't touch" — chastity is a question of the heart and soul and emotions, as well as the groin.  What do you do if your best friend turns you on?  How do you learn to love another man without making him into an idol?
These questions are still present to me, but none of them are show-stoppers anymore.  You deal with them, you pray and seek advice, you offer up the incidental pangs, and you get on with your life.  And none of the things I deal with are unique to gay men or women.  Being straight isn't a guarantee of having a healthy, shiny, pre-integrated sexuality; it just means the whole beautiful, messy concerto is in a different key.  Nobody gets to sit this one out.
To quote the YouTube campaign — you know the one, full of compassion and good intentions and muddled thinking — it does get better.  If anyone had told me ten years ago what my life would be like today, maybe just showed me a video of an ordinary Tuesday evening in the life of contemporary Steve, my eyes would've bugged out.  I never had any idea things could be this good, that I could be so confident, that I would so often feel like smiling for no particular reason.
You will be wondering how I got from there to here.  There's no quick answer.  It took lots of prayer and hard work, and the love and patience of brothers, sisters, mentors, and friends.  If you are looking for a good place to start — for yourself or someone you know, or just because you want to understand the whole thing better — I recommend browsing around People Can Change and Courage.  I recommend picking up a copy of Fr.  Harvey's The Homosexual Person and Alan Medinger's Growth Into Manhood.  You might also try Melinda Selmys' Sexual Authenticity and Wesley Hill's Washed and Waiting.  And of course there's my blog.
And maybe the most important thing: you can do this, but not alone — and the Church may be your greatest ally.  Maybe you don't understand yet why the she teaches what she does; but don't quit listening.  Maybe you don't feel Jesus' love in the Mass; so then go more often, not less.  Maybe you ran into a priest who didn't understand; so find one who does.
Most of all, don't accept any easy answers, from the right or from the left.  The quick way is rarely the right one, and the long way around is well worth the trip.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT Joseph Prever. "The Truth About Same Sex Attraction."Catholic Exchange (February 14, 2014).

Reprinted with permission from the Catholic Exchange.  The original article can be found here.
Catholic Exchange seeks to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ as proclaimed by the Catholic Church to the world. 
Joseph Prever graduated from the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts with a bachelor's degree in English and a penchant for romantic existentialism. He now lives in Massachusetts, where he works as a web developer and freelance writer. He blogs, under the semi-pseudonym of Steve Gershom, about issues of faith, sexuality, and mental health. Michael Chabon is his favorite living author, and Dostoevsky is his favorite dead one.

Copyright © 2014 Catholic Exchange

Sunday, March 2, 2014

5 Reasons Christian Businesses Shouldn't Be Legally Forced To Support Gay Weddings

5 Reasons Christian Businesses Shouldn't Be Legally Forced To Support Gay Weddings

Future historians will likely be flummoxed by the moment we’re living in. In what amounts to less than a blink of an eye in the history of Western civilization, homosexuality has gone from a diagnosed mental disorder to something to be celebrated — or else. Indeed, the rush to mandatory celebration is so intense, refusal is now considered tantamount to a crime. And, in some rare instances, an actual crime if the right constable or bureaucrat concludes that you have uttered “hate speech.” -- Jonah Goldberg
For a free society to function, a wide range of speech and behavior has to be tolerated, but that doesn't mean everyone has to approve of it. So, for example, although I don't drink, I have many friends who do. While I think Justin Bieber's music is appalling, I don't think it should be illegal. While I would like to see abortion banned except in the case of rape, incest and danger to the life of the mother, I have friends who've admitted to me that they've had abortions.
Unfortunately, when it comes to gay marriage, we have people who seem to be unable to tell the difference between tolerance and approval. It's not enough that gay marriage is legal in 17 states. As a practical matter, that means every gay American in the country can get married if he or she wants to do so while those who don't want gay marriage also have the option to live in states where the practice isn't legal. Although some Americans would like gay marriage to be legal everywhere and others, like myself, would like it to be illegal everywhere, there's something to be said for leaving the matter to each state.
This is still not enough for many liberals who've insisted on going further and actually persecuting Christian businesses who oppose gay marriage. Christians who don't want to sanction gay marriage are being sued, prosecuted and driven out of business for doing nothing more than living up to their Christian beliefs, which are incompatible with condoning gay marriage. In Oregon, Sweet Cakes by Melissa faced fines from the state and eventually lost its business because the owners declined to bake a cake for a gay wedding. In Washington State, florist Barronelle Stutzman has been sued for refusing to provide flowers for a gay wedding. The Wildflower Inn in Vermont was sued for refusing to host a gay couple’s wedding reception. Christian photographer Elane Huguenin in New Mexico was told she wasn't allowed to decline to participate in a gay marriage commitment ceremony. In New Jersey a seaside retreat, which is a United Methodist Church Christian facility, was told it wasn’t allowed to refuse a civil union ceremony.
Whether you believe as I do that all of those businesses made the right choice when they refused to sanction gay marriage, you should at least believe that they have the right to make their own decisions. Here's why....
1) Businesses should generally have the right to refuse customers: Because of slavery, segregation, Jim Crow and the other abominations Democrats forced on America, we did choose as a nation to treat race differently than most other issues. So, we do not allow businesses to discriminate based on race -- and that's a good thing. However, businesses can and do turn away customers for almost every other reason imaginable. Shouldn't they be able to do that?
Shouldn't the Super Bowl be allowed to decline an advertisement from a porn website? Shouldn't the NAACP be able to turn away KKK members from a speech? Shouldn't a movie theater be allowed to tell people who insist on using cell phones in the theater that they're not welcome? Shouldn't Wal-Mart be allowed to refuse to carry NAMBLA literature in its stores? Shouldn't a nightclub be allowed to tell people wearing gang colors that they’re not welcome? Shouldn't the Democratic Party be allowed to decline ads on its website from the Republican Party? On a personal note, at my website Right Wing News I've declined advertisements from porn websites, a dating service for "sugar daddies," a dating service for people who are married, and even a t-shirt seller I considered to be homophobic.If the Westboro Baptist Church were to one day decide that they wanted to sell "God h*tes F***" t-shirts on my website, should I be forced to sell it ad space even though I consider its beliefs to be repugnant and incompatible with my faith? For every American with rudimentary common sense, these questions answer themselves.
2) It violates the First Amendment: Per the First Amendment, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
Supporting gay marriage is incompatible with Christianity. Baking a cake for a gay marriage, renting out a building for it, taking the pictures, etc., etc. could very fairly be considered sanctioning the marriage. To force a Christian to do that violates the First Amendment. This entire column could consist of that one point and it should be sufficient, but let's do continue on.
3) It's a misguided attempt to legally force people to accept gay marriage: In a very real sense, the gay marriage fight isn't about gay marriage. Civil unions confer all the same rights as marriage and the biggest point of contention on civil unions has become that they're being used as a stepping stone to gay marriage. If that wasn't an issue, civil unions would have overwhelming support and then everybody would be happy, right? Wrong. Because again, gay marriage isn't really about that.
At its core, gay marriage is really about acceptance.
A lot of gay Americans have made the mistake of centering their whole existence on their sexual orientation and so they almost see it as an insult if everything "gay" isn't treated as wonderful and fantastic. Except it's not. Everything heterosexual certainly isn't wonderful and fantastic either; so how could everything homosexual be wonderful and fantastic? Do you think these Christian bakers would bake a cake for an orgy? Would the photographer shoot naked pictures of Miley Cyrus? Would a Christian church host an S&M convention? It's highly doubtful.
The Left loves to encourage gay Americans to define their life by their sexual orientation, which cruelly sets people up for disappointment. It's now common to hear liberals say things like, "Oh well, in 20 years everybody will approve of gay weddings." Of course, liberals were saying the same thing about abortion after Roe v. Wade and how did that work out? Oh...right.
The truth is nobody gets universal acceptance. There are people who don't like me because I'm a white, conservative, Christian, male Tea Partier. I know this because I get emails and Facebook messages from them telling me so almost every day. There are a lot of terrific human beings out there who are gay, but if they make the mistake of demanding universal acceptance of everything about their sexual orientation a condition of being content, they're likely to have long, unhappy lives.
4) It's anti-Christian: There's an intense dislike of Christianity on the Left and it's an order of magnitude more intense for gay liberals for obvious reasons. Although as Billy Graham has said,
"God will not judge a Christian guilty for his or her involuntary feelings," Christianity doesn't condone homosexual behavior. Under the best of circumstances, few people want to hear that they're doing something immoral. It's even worse when people feel as if they're being judged for something they believe would be difficult or even impossible to change. So, some of the people who are put in that position love getting an opportunity to victimize a poor Christian baker or florist because it allows them to lash out at Christianity by proxy. Since these Christians are paying a big price for standing up for our faith, they deserve our support.

5) It's involuntary servitude: It's highly ironic that liberals have compared a baker choosing not to bake a cake for a gay wedding to slavery and Jim Crow laws. After all, the Christian businesses are the ones that are being forced into involuntary servitude for ungrateful, vicious masters. Ask yourself why anyone with good motives would want to FORCE an unwilling person to bake his or her wedding cake or take pictures at his or her wedding? What's next? Will people who don't respond to invitations to gay weddings be charged with a hate crime?