Sunday, October 30, 2016

Fr. George Rutler - October 30, 2016 - The Presidential Election and Voting for Life

October 30, 2016

by Fr. George W. Rutler
Exactly eight years ago I wrote a column titled “The One We Were Waiting For” in which I referred to a book by Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, The Lord of the World. That dystopian novel has been cited by Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis said he has read it several times. The protagonist, if one can apply that term to an Anti-Christ, imposed a new world religion with Man himself as god.  His one foe was Christianity, which he thwarted in part by using “compromised Catholics and compliant priests to persuade timid Catholics.”

  Since then, that program has been realized in our time, to an extent beyond the warnings of the most dire pessimists. Our federal government has intimidated religious orders and churches, challenging religious freedom. The institution of the family has been re-defined, and sexual identity has been Gnosticized to the point of mocking biology. Assisted suicide is spreading, abortions since 1973 have reached a total equal to the population of Italy, and sexually transmitted diseases are at a record high. Objective journalism has died, justice has been corrupted, racial bitterness ruins cities, entertainment is degraded, knowledge of the liberal arts spirals downwards, and authentically Catholic universities have all but vanished. A weak and confused foreign policy has encouraged aggressor nations and terrorism, while metastasized immigration is destroying remnant western cultures, and genocide is slaughtering Christian populations. The cynical promise of economic prosperity is mocked by the lowest rate of labor participation in forty years, an unprecedented number of people on food stamps and welfare assistance, and the largest disparity in wealth in over a century.

   In his own grim days, Saint Augustine warned against nostalgia: “The past times that you think were good, are good because they are not yours here and now.” The present time, however, might try even his confidence. Sands blow over the ruins of churches he knew in North Africa where the Cross is virtually forbidden. By a blessed irony, a new church is opened every day in formerly Communist Russia, while churches in our own formerly Christian nation are being closed dailyFor those who bought into the seductions of politicians’ false hopes, there is the counsel of Walt Kelly’s character Pogo: “It’s always darkest before it goes pitch black.”

   It is incorrect to say that the coming election poses a choice between two evils. For ethical and aesthetic reasons, there may be some bad in certain candidates, but badness consists in doing bad things. Evil is different: it is the deliberate destruction of truth, virtue and holiness. 

   While one may pragmatically vote for a flawed candidate, one may not vote for anyone who advocates and enables unmitigatedly evil acts, and that includes abortion. “In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to 'take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law, or vote for it'" (Evangelium Vitae, 73).
   At one party’s convention, the name of God was excluded from its platform and a woman who boasted of having aborted her child was applauded. It is a grave sin, requiring sacramental confession and penance, to become an accomplice in objective evil by voting for anyone who encourages it, for that imperils the nation and destroys the soul.

   It is also the duty of the clergy to make this clear and not to shrink, under the pretense of charity, from explaining the Church's censures. Wolves in sheep’s clothing are dangerous, but worse are wolves in shepherd’s clothing. While the evils foreseen eight years ago were realized, worse would come if those affronts to human dignity were endorsed again. In the most adverse prospect, God forbid, there might not be another free election, and soon Catholics would arrive at shuttered churches and vacant altars. The illusion of indifference cannot long be perpetuated by lame jokes and synthetic laughter at banquets, for there is handwriting on the wall. 

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Abortion | Catholic Answers

Abortion | Catholic Answers


The Catholic Church has always condemned abortion as a grave evil. Christian writers from the first-century author of the Didache to Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae ("The Gospel of Life") have maintained that the Bible forbids abortion, just as it forbids murder. This tract will provide some examples of this consistent witness from the writings of the Fathers of the Church. 

As the early Christian writer Tertullian pointed out, the law of Moses ordered strict penalties for causing an abortion. We read, "If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely [Hebrew: "so that her child comes out"], but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot" (Ex. 21:22–24). 

This applies the lex talionis or "law of retribution" to abortion. The lex talionis establishes the just punishment for an injury (eye for eye, tooth for tooth, life for life, compared to the much greater retributions that had been common before, such as life for eye, life for tooth, lives of the offender’s family for one life). 
The lex talionis would already have been applied to a woman who was injured in a fight. The distinguishing point in this passage is that a pregnant woman is hurt "so that her child comes out"; the child is the focus of the lex talionis in this passage. Aborted babies must have justice, too. 

This is because they, like older children, have souls, even though marred by original sin. David tells us, "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me" (Ps. 51:5, NIV). Since sinfulness is a spiritual rather than a physical condition, David must have had a spiritual nature from the time of conception. 

The same is shown in James 2:26, which tells us that "the body without the spirit is dead": The soul is the life-principle of the human body. Since from the time of conception the child’s body is alive (as shown by the fact it is growing), the child’s body must already have its spirit. 

Thus, in 1995 Pope John Paul II declared that the Church’s teaching on abortion "is unchanged and unchangeable. Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his successors . . . I declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written word of God, is transmitted by the Church’s tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal magisterium. No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the law of God which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the Church" (Evangelium Vitae 62)

The early Church Fathers agreed. Fortunately, abortion, like all sins, is forgivable; and forgiveness is as close as the nearest confessional. 

The Didache
"The second commandment of the teaching: You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not seduce boys. You shall not commit fornication. You shall not steal. You shall not practice magic. You shall not use potions. You shall not procure [an] abortion, nor destroy a newborn child" (Didache 2:1–2 [A.D. 70]). 

The Letter of Barnabas
"The way of light, then, is as follows. If anyone desires to travel to the appointed place, he must be zealous in his works. The knowledge, therefore, which is given to us for the purpose of walking in this way, is the following. . . . Thou shalt not slay the child by procuring abortion; nor, again, shalt thou destroy it after it is born" (Letter of Barnabas 19 [A.D. 74]). 

The Apocalypse of Peter
"And near that place I saw another strait place . . . and there sat women. . . . And over against them many children who were born to them out of due time sat crying. And there came forth from them rays of fire and smote the women in the eyes. And these were the accursed who conceived and caused abortion" (The Apocalypse of Peter 25 [A.D. 137]). 

"What man of sound mind, therefore, will affirm, while such is our character, that we are murderers?
. . . [W]hen we say that those women who use drugs to bring on abortion commit murder, and will have to give an account to God for the abortion, on what principle should we commit murder? For it does not belong to the same person to regard the very fetus in the womb as a created being, and therefore an object of God’s care, and when it has passed into life, to kill it; and not to expose an infant, because those who expose them are chargeable with child-murder, and on the other hand, when it has been reared to destroy it" (A Plea for the Christians 35 [A.D. 177]). 

"In our case, a murder being once for all forbidden, we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from the other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to birth. That is a man which is going to be one; you have the fruit already in its seed" (Apology 9:8 [A.D. 197]). 

"Among surgeons’ tools there is a certain instrument, which is formed with a nicely-adjusted flexible frame for opening the uterus first of all and keeping it open; it is further furnished with an annular blade, by means of which the limbs [of the child] within the womb are dissected with anxious but unfaltering care; its last appendage being a blunted or covered hook, wherewith the entire fetus is extracted by a violent delivery. 

"There is also [another instrument in the shape of] a copper needle or spike, by which the actual death is managed in this furtive robbery of life: They give it, from its infanticide function, the name of embruosphaktes, [meaning] "the slayer of the infant," which of course was alive. . . . 

"[The doctors who performed abortions] all knew well enough that a living being had been conceived, and [they] pitied this most luckless infant state, which had first to be put to death, to escape being tortured alive" (The Soul 25 [A.D. 210]). 
"Now we allow that life begins with conception because we contend that the soul also begins from conception; life taking its commencement at the same moment and place that the soul does" (ibid., 27). 

"The law of Moses, indeed, punishes with due penalties the man who shall cause abortion [Ex. 21:22–24]" (ibid., 37). 

Minucius Felix
"There are some [pagan] women who, by drinking medical preparations, extinguish the source of the future man in their very bowels and thus commit a parricide before they bring forth. And these things assuredly come down from the teaching of your [false] gods. . . . To us [Christians] it is not lawful either to see or hear of homicide" (Octavius 30 [A.D. 226]). 

"Women who were reputed to be believers began to take drugs to render themselves sterile, and to bind themselves tightly so as to expel what was being conceived, since they would not, on account of relatives and excess wealth, want to have a child by a slave or by any insignificant person. See, then, into what great impiety that lawless one has proceeded, by teaching adultery and murder at the same time!" (Refutation of All Heresies [A.D. 228]). 

Council of Ancyra
"Concerning women who commit fornication, and destroy that which they have conceived, or who are employed in making drugs for abortion, a former decree excluded them until the hour of death, and to this some have assented. Nevertheless, being desirous to use somewhat greater lenity, we have ordained that they fulfill ten years [of penance], according to the prescribed degrees" (canon 21 [A.D. 314]). 

Basil the Great
"Let her that procures abortion undergo ten years’ penance, whether the embryo were perfectly formed, or not" (First Canonical Letter, canon 2 [A.D. 374]). 

"He that kills another with a sword, or hurls an axe at his own wife and kills her, is guilty of willful murder; not he who throws a stone at a dog, and unintentionally kills a man, or who corrects one with a rod, or scourge, in order to reform him, or who kills a man in his own defense, when he only designed to hurt him. But the man, or woman, is a murderer that gives a philtrum, if the man that takes it dies upon it; so are they who take medicines to procure abortion; and so are they who kill on the highway, and rapparees" (ibid., canon 8). 

John Chrysostom
"Wherefore I beseech you, flee fornication. . . . Why sow where the ground makes it its care to destroy the fruit?—where there are many efforts at abortion?—where there is murder before the birth? For even the harlot you do not let continue a mere harlot, but make her a murderess also. You see how drunkenness leads to prostitution, prostitution to adultery, adultery to murder; or rather to a something even worse than murder. For I have no name to give it, since it does not take off the thing born, but prevents its being born. Why then do thou abuse the gift of God, and fight with his laws, and follow after what is a curse as if a blessing, and make the chamber of procreation a chamber for murder, and arm the woman that was given for childbearing unto slaughter? For with a view to drawing more money by being agreeable and an object of longing to her lovers, even this she is not backward to do, so heaping upon thy head a great pile of fire. For even if the daring deed be hers, yet the causing of it is thine" (Homilies on Romans 24 [A.D. 391]). 

"I cannot bring myself to speak of the many virgins who daily fall and are lost to the bosom of the Church, their mother. . . . Some go so far as to take potions, that they may insure barrenness, and thus murder human beings almost before their conception. Some, when they find themselves with child through their sin, use drugs to procure abortion, and when, as often happens, they die with their offspring, they enter the lower world laden with the guilt not only of adultery against Christ but also of suicide and child murder" (Letters 22:13 [A.D. 396]).

The Apostolic Constitutions
"Thou shalt not use magic. Thou shalt not use witchcraft; for he says, ‘You shall not suffer a witch to live’ [Ex. 22:18]. Thou shall not slay thy child by causing abortion, nor kill that which is begotten. . . . [I]f it be slain, [it] shall be avenged, as being unjustly destroyed" (Apostolic Constitutions 7:3 [A.D. 400]). 

NIHIL OBSTAT: I have concluded that the materials
presented in this work are free of doctrinal or moral errors.
Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004
IMPRIMATUR: In accord with 1983 CIC 827
permission to publish this work is hereby granted.
+Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004

Sunday, October 23, 2016

New Film Documents the Persecution of Christians---OCTOBER 6, 2016

New Film Documents the Persecution of Christians

Like many young boys he is happy to be interviewed.
This is war-torn Iraq, however, so he tells of the day ISIS came to his village.  What took place, horror after horror, he starts to recount.  It is hard to accept that one so young has already seen so much evil.  Gradually, his urgent retelling of what happened slows and he breaks down.  It is hard to watch as the tears flow down his cheeks.  He tries to stem them, brushing them away … but to no avail.  His grief is too great.  He is now talking to himself as much as to the camera.  He talks of when he used to go to school, ride his bicycle and play soccer with his friends — the normal things of a once happy childhood.  He stops.  Again, he looks at the camera, finishing with the lament of someone much older and the words: Now all that is gone…

This is just one of the harrowing testimonies in a new documentary: Our Last StandThe film tells of what is left of the ancient Christian communities in Iraq and Syria.  They are a people who have been systematically attacked, then murdered, raped and displaced.  The plague that is ISIS, along with other Islamic extremists, seem to take a sadistic delight in destroying the lives, the lands and the livelihoods of Christians who have only sought to live in peace with their more numerous Muslim neighbors.  In this latest genocide, no one came to the aid of the Christians.  They looked to the West, but to no avail.

In Our Last Stand, we initially meet these displaced Christian peoples in refugee camps in Iraq.  The first camp is where the young boy mentioned above now lives.  It is a desolate place.  This is not surprising as its inhabitants are still dazed from having had their lives destroyed before their eyes.  The second such camp presented is different.  It is in Erbil and run by a priest, Father Douglas Bazi.  Somehow, despite the desperate circumstances, he has an abundance of energy and fortitude.  When a flood of frightened refugees descended upon his parish, he set to work.  With some help from Catholic aid agencies, he has created an impressive reception centre.  Here these people are not simply fed and given shelter.  From the start, he recognized, sagely, that they would need something else besides: hope.  He created a school, and a daily timetable for all the children.  Placing education at the center of his people's lives has proved a master stoke.  It points to a future just at a time when ISIS and its ilk are trying to consign these Eastern Rite Christians to history.

Whatever these people have lost, and it is a great deal, not just loved ones but most of their worldly possessions too, they have held to one thing: their Catholic faith.

The film crew visit the villages of the Khabour region.  This was home to Christian communities for centuries — a vibrant place of many villages, at their center was often a Catholic church.  In 2015, ISIS attacked.  Their modus operandi was to behead the men and then enslave the women and children.  Today, these places are deserted after ISIS withdrew having abducted all the townsfolk not murdered.  Nevertheless, Our Last Stand film crew ventured there.  What they found were ghost villages.  They also found them uninhabitable on account of ISIS leaving mines and booby traps everywhere.  They came across a once beautiful church in ruins.  There is evidence of desecration with Christian iconography strewn around, broken and smashed; Islamic propaganda was sprayed upon the church's walls.  Even just seeing this on film, one senses a form of savage fury reserved for this place of worship, a place that once held the Body and Blood of Christ.

The documentary crosses the border into Syria.  Sadly, ISIS is here too.  In fact, the film crew now move ever closer to the land occupied by that terror group and the war they propagate.  Here we meet the last line of defense for the few Christian villages still standing there.  Those left tell of how no one came to help the Christians as they were attacked across the Nineveh plain.  The few young men left have banded together and formed their own militia.  We watch them train.  We listen to them speak of why they fight, and why they are prepared to die defending their villages.  As one of the fighters says: "We will not desert our villages — we have nowhere else to go."

The first thing one notices about these men is how young they are.  The vast majority are not yet 30 years old.  The second thing is how few of them there are.  Against the terrifying fanaticism of a well-organized military force such as ISIS, they are barely 1000 men.  Nevertheless, the militia stand ready to fight an army that masses not more than a kilometer away.  When the shelling starts, the camera crew accompanies the militia in their defense.  We are taken up into their bullet-riddled lookout posts.  From there they return fire as, in the near distance, through plumes of smoke, the fluttering black flag of ISIS draws ever nearer…
By the end of the film we learn that many of those militia seen on camera are now dead.  Killed trying to defend their Catholic wives and children as all the while the once Christian West continued to look the other way.

Here is a documentary trying to report on what is really happening to the Christian peoples of the Middle East.  It fails.  It fails only because the magnitude of the task is too great.  Nevertheless, the filmmakers, Jordan Allott and Helma Adde, are to be commended for having begun the reporting of a genocide that is happening today, now, as you read this.

The filmmakers have, furthermore, to be applauded for two things. The first is that they have started to document what is happening not through the prism of the Western secular media, with its own agenda, but from a faith perspective.
The filmmakers have, furthermore, to be applauded for two things.  The first is that they have started to document what is happening not through the prism of the Western secular media, with its own agenda, but from a faith perspective.  It is hoped that this will prompt a series of such films; for that, they will need funds.  Catholic parishes and schools should consider purchasing a copy of Our Last Stand and arranging a screening night.  The proceeds raised from such a screening could then be sent via a Catholic aid agency to help fellow Catholics languishing in refugee camps: like the woman who talks of her constant nightmares since managing to flee from the brutality of ISIS, or the woman perplexed by why her fellow Catholics in the West don't help.

The second thing the filmmakers are to be commended for is their bravery.  To stand filming less than half a mile from an ISIS advance takes courage, specially given the retribution such a group would exact upon the camera crew and female journalist if captured.  Yet, the film crew did stand and film.  They must continue to do so in order to document what is taking place — if not them, then who?
This film will provoke many emotions in the viewer: tears at the plight of Catholics in Syria and Iraq; anger at the barbarism of ISIS and their fellow travelers; dismay at the West's lack of willingness to act; admiration for the bravery of the Christian militia willing to defend their families to the death no matter how large the advancing army arraigned against them; but, most of all, a deep sympathy at how much all those caught on camera have suffered, and suffer still, for the crime of sharing our Catholic faith.

At our own indifference and inaction, we should all hang our heads in shame.

K.V. Turley. "New Film Documents the Persecution of Christians." Crisis Magazine Report (October 6, 2016).

Peace is within---BY---DONALD DEMARCO

Peace is within


Since I had 150-or-so students, evenly divided into three philosophy classes, it was a good opportunity for me to allow those who were in my charge to improve my grasp of that elusive ideal which had so enthralled and animated them. After all, they were the "peaceniks" of the Movement.

In each class, I put to them the same simple question, "What is peace?" My students responded with alacrity, but each description of peace they proposed was phrased in the negative: "Peace is the absence of war"; "Peace is freedom from turmoil"; "Peace is the removal of stress"; "Peace is the avoidance of hostility". I suggested that such "peace offerings" stated what peace is not, but not what it is.

I then requested a positive description of peace. But the second flurry of responses also fell short of the mark: "Peace is a state of nirvana"; "Peace is a condition of feelinglessness"; "Peace is the cessation of pain". Unfortunately, as I explained, such definitions of peace are not distinguishable from Requiescat in pace. I wanted a livelier definition of peace, something that is not a synonym for anaesthesia. At this point I was 0 for 150, not a very good batting average.
I was not about to give up, however. In an attempt to be less abstract and more concrete, I asked my students what they would do to experience peace, if that were a course assignment. What would they do to find just ten minutes of peace? In one class, after a lengthy period of silence, one student confessed, rather disconsolately, that given all the assignments she was burdened with and all the deadlines she had to meet, she simply could not fit an extra ten minutes into her time schedule to experience this elusive, if much-ballyhooed, ideal.

Peace of soul is an interior disposition that is linked to a transcendent reality that superintends and guides our efforts. Peace is the blessing that comes when we order the temporal events of our life to our eternal destiny. 
Her implication seemed to be that we do not have time for peace until we get all the other things we are worrying about out of the way. And if we never consummate this Herculean task, we may never get around to experiencing peace. Because life is so congested with practical concerns, peace becomes endlessly deferrable.

The philosopher Baruch Spinoza said that "Peace is not the absence of war: it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition of benevolence, confidence, justice." Alfred North Whitehead said that peace is "a trust in the efficacy of beauty". My favourite definition of peace is that of St. Augustine: "Peace is the tranquillity of order."
Since the 'sixties when I was getting my feet wet as a teacher, things have not changed all that much for me. I continue to hear variations on the same lament: "I didn't have enough time to do the assignment properly"; "I was too rushed"; "I had too many things to do"; "My schedule is too crowded"; "There just isn't enough time in the day".

Time is a universal source of anxiety. It is finite and always running out. Does life supply us with enough time so that we can do all the things we are supposed to do? If we fret too much about not having enough time to do anything properly, then all of our obligations seem to crowd together, robbing us of the peace of mind we need in order to do anything right. It is like getting several radio stations at the same time, all interfering with each other so that nothing is intelligible. It is like the compartments in the hull of the Titanic, collapsing one after another under the rush of water until the ship can no longer remain afloat.

Time can be viewed as either a source of anxiety or of opportunity. Bishop Fulton Sheen wrote in his book Peace of Soul that "The difference between peace of soul and discontent comes from the kind of anxiety we have; the broadest division of all is between anxiety over the things of time and the values of eternity." We should not fret unduly about the things of this world: "Be not anxious, for your Heavenly Father knows you have need of these things." Trust in God allows us to take a more relaxed attitude toward time, so that we can find the peace of soul we need to execute our responsibilities properly. Only God knows how much time we have. We should trust Him and be more concerned about timeless eternity. 

We become unduly anxious when we think that we are alone in the work of filling out our time-line. Peace of soul is an interior disposition that is linked to a transcendent reality that superintends and guides our efforts. Peace is the blessing that comes when we order the temporal events of our life to our eternal destiny. In the final analysis, our ultimate obligation is not packing our life with as many accomplishments as possible, but doing what we can with peace of mind in such a way that the temporal is always ordered to the eternal. Paradoxically, we can accomplish more in this life when we direct it toward the next.
Donald DeMarco. "Peace is within." Social Justice Review. (September/October, 2008).

Is Islam a Religion of Peace?

Is Islam a Religion of Peace?

I was raised a practicing Muslim and remained one for almost half my life.  I attended madrassas, that is, Islamic schools, and memorized large parts of the Qur'an.  As a child, I lived in Mecca for a time and frequently visited the Grand Mosque.  As a teenager, I sympathized with the Muslim Brotherhood.

At 22 while my family was living in Kenya, my father arranged my marriage to a member of our family clan, a man that I had never met.  I ran away, made my way to Holland, studied there and eventually was elected a member of the Dutch parliament.  Now I live in the United States.

In short, I have seen Islam from the inside and the outside.

I believe that a reform of Islam is necessary and possible.  And only Muslims can make that reform a reality.  But we in the West cannot remain on the sidelines as though the outcome of this struggle has nothing to do with us.  If the jihadists win and the hope for a reformed Islam dies, the rest of the world will pay a terrible price.  The terror attacks in New York, London, Madrid, Paris and many other places are only a preview for what is to come.

For this reason, I believe that it's foolish to insist, as Western leaders habitually do, that the violent acts committed in the name of Islam can somehow be divorced from the religion itself.  For more than a decade, my message has been simple: Islam is not a religion of peace.

When I assert this, I do not mean that Islamic belief makes all Muslims violent.  This is manifestly not the case: There are many millions of peaceful Muslims in the world.  What I do say is that the call to violence and the justification for it are explicitly stated in the sacred texts of Islam.  Moreover, this theologically sanctioned violence is there to be activated by any number of offenses, including but not limited to adultery, blasphemy, homosexuality and apostasy — that is to leave Islam.

Those who tolerate this intolerance do so at their peril.

As someone who has known what it is to live without freedom, I watch in amazement as those who call themselves liberals and progressives — people who claim to believe so fervently in individual liberty and minority rights — make common cause with the forces in the world that manifestly pose the greatest threats to that very freedom and those very minorities.

In 2014 I was invited to accept an honorary degree from Brandeis University for the work I have done on behalf of women's rights in the Muslim world.  That invitation was withdrawn after professors and students protested my criticism of Islam.  My subsequent "disinvitation," as it came to be called, was no favor to Muslims — just the opposite.  By labeling critical examination of Islam as inherently "racist," we make the chances of reformation far less likely.  There are no limits on criticism of Christianity at American universities or anywhere else, for that matter; why should there be of Islam?

Instead of contorting Western intellectual traditions so as not to offend our Muslim fellow citizens, we need to defend both those traditions and the Muslim dissidents who take great risks to promote them.  We should support these brave men and women in every way possible.

Imagine a platform for Muslim dissidents that communicated their message through YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.  These are the Muslims we should be supporting - for our sake as much for the sake of Islam.

In the Cold War, the West celebrated dissidents such as Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Andrei Sakharov, and Václav Havel, who had the courage to challenge the Soviet system from within.  Today, there are many dissidents who challenge Islam, but the West either ignores them or dismisses them as "not representative." This is a grave mistake.  Reformers such as Tawfiq Hamid, Asra Nomani & Zuhdi Jasser and many others must be supported and protected.  They should be as well known as Solzhenitsyn, Sakharov, and Havel were in the 1980s.

If we do in fact support political, social and religious freedom, then we cannot in good conscience give Islam a free pass on the grounds of multicultural sensitivity.  We need to say to Muslims living in the West: If you want to live in our societies, to share in their material benefits, then you need to accept that our freedoms are not optional.

Islam is at a cross roads of reformation or self-destruction.

But so is the West.

I'm Ayaan Hirsi Ali of Harvard University for Prager University.



- September 22, 2016 -
NEW YORK, NY - Today, the Donald J. Trump campaign announced a new group convened to provide advisory support to Mr. Trump on those issues and policiesimportant to Catholics and other people of faith in America.

The Catholic Advisory Group is a key element of the Faith and Cultural Advisory Committee to the campaign. And Mr. Joseph Cella, Founder of the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, will serve as the Catholic Liaison for the members and the campaign.

The formation of this group represents Donald J. Trump’s endorsement of a range of issues and policies important to Catholics and other Christians, and his desire to have access to the wise counsel of such leaders.

“On the issues and policies of greatest concern to Catholics, Donald Trump will fight for Catholics whereas Hillary Clinton is openly hostile to those issue of greatest concern to Catholics and will attack the core teachings of the Catholic Church, and has worked against them as First Lady, as US Senator and as Secretary of State, and would continue to do so if she is elected President,” said Congressman Sean Duffy.

“Catholics are particularly concerned that she would pack the Supreme Court with 3-5 young ideological liberals whose decisions will have far reaching and long lasting implication for the Catholic Church and the lay faithful on everything from the pro-life issue, to religious liberty to health care and educational mandates, just to name a few,” Duffy concluded.

“America is on the wrong track, as economic opportunities wane and families face a coarsened society where people of faith feel bullied, disrespected and marginalized. We have slipped so far, so fast, at a pace quickened by our failure to uphold the dignity of unborn life,” said Matt Schlapp, Chairman of the American Conservative Union. “There are moments when people of deep faith have to stand up. Voters who know deep in their soul that America needs to heal also know we need refreshing, bold conservative leadership. 2016 is one of those times and I’m proud to support Donald Trump for President.”

Click here to view Mr. Trump's Issues of Importance to Catholics

The Catholic Advisory Group Members are as follows:
1. Sen. Rick Santorum, Former US Senator and presidential candidate
2. Marjorie Dannenfelser, President, Susan B. Anthony List
3. The Honorable Matt Schlapp, Chairman, American Conservative Union
4. Ambassador Francis Rooney, Former US Ambassador to the Holy See
5. Sean Fieler, President, Chiaroscuro Foundation
6. Rev. Frank Pavone, National Director, Priests for Life
7. Chris Slattery, Founder & President, Expectant Mother Care
8. Cong. Andrew Harris, US Congressman, Maryland, 1st District
9. Janet Morana, Co-Founder, Silent No More Campaign
10. John Klink, President Emeritus, International Catholic Migration Commission
11. Marjorie Murphy Campbell, Founder & Publisher, New Feminism
12. Deacon Keith Fournier, Chairman, Common Good Foundation and Common Good Alliance
13. Tony Maas, President & CEO of JTM Food Group
14. Patrick Walsh, Former Chief Secretary and Attache, US Embassy, Dublin, Ireland
15. Matt Smith, President, Catholic Advocate, Board Member, American Conservative Union
16. Austin Ruse, President, Center for Family and Human Rights
17. Richard Viguerie, Chairman, ConservativeHQ
18. Angela Flood, Former Director, Secretariat of Communications, Archdiocese of Washington, DC
19. Lou Murray, New York Life Financial Consultant
20. Lisa Bourne, Journalist, LifeSiteNews
21. Cong. Steve Chabot, US Congressman, Ohio, 1st District
22. Cong. Mike Kelly, US Congressman, Pennsylvania, 3rd District
23. Ed Martin, President, Eagle Forum
24. Chuck Mifsud, President, Catholics for Ohio
25. Gov. Sam Brownback, Kansas Governor and former Kansas US Senator
26. Tom Monaghan, Founder, Ave Maria University/Ave Maria School of Law
27. Mark Corallo, Founder, Corallo Media Strategies
28. Jay Shepard, RNC National Committeeman, Vermont
29. Joseph Cella, Founder, National Catholic Prayer Breakfast
30. "The Honorable" Faith Whittlesey, Former US Ambassador to Switzerland and "member of White House senior staff, Reagan Administration" 
31. The Honorable R. James Nicholson, Former Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Ambassador to the Holy See
32. The Honorable Frank Keating, Former Governor of Oklahoma
33. The Honorable Sean Duffy, Congressman, Wisconsin, 7th District
34. Mary Matalin, Former Counselor to the Vice President

Friday, October 21, 2016

Fr. Gabriele Amorth on Satan and the Fallen Angels

Fr. Gabriele Amorth on Satan and the Fallen Angels:

Facts About Satan and the Fallen Angels

God, in His infinite power, created multitudes of angels, an impressive, incalculable number. One day during an exorcism Father Candido Amantini — a Passionist priest and my great teacher — asked a demon: “How many are you?” The demon responded: “We are so many that if we were visible we would obscure the sun.” The demon on that occasion gave information that we have no reason to disbelieve because it is confirmed in the Bible.

A great number of the angels fell because they rebelled against God. We recall that before admitting the angels to paradise, God subjected them to a trial of obedience and humility, of which we know the nature but not the specifics. The sin of the fallen angels was one of pride and disobedience. Satan, the most beautiful of all the angels, being aware of his extreme intelligence, rebelled at the idea of being subjected to someone. He forgot that he was a creature made by God. Many angels followed him in his folly.

The original sins of the angels are the same as those who implicitly or explicitly adhere to Satanism. Angels and men who follow Satan base their existence on three principles and practical rules of life: you can do what you wish, that is, without subjugation to God’s laws; you obey no one; and you are the god of yourself.

What happened between the angels is narrated in the twelfth chapter of the book of Revelation: there was a great war between the angels who remained faithful to God and those who rebelled against Him — in brief, a war between the angels and the demons. In this passage, the Bible tells us that Michael the Archangel was at the head of the angels and that the dragon guided the angels who rebelled (and were defeated). The result was that “there was no longer any place for them in heaven” (Rev. 12:8).

Can the Devil Read Our Thoughts?

This article is from “An Exorcist Explains the Demonic,” the final work by Fr. Amorth. Click image to preview other chapters.
We have now arrived at the specific action of the devil, and we begin with the first question: Can the devil know our thoughts; is he able to understand what we are thinking at a certain moment in our life? The response is simple: absolutely not. Theology is agreed on this question. Only God — who is omniscient, who intimately possesses the secrets of created reality, that of men and angels, and that of uncreated reality, which is His own essence — knows in depth the thoughts of each man. Although a spiritual creature, the demon does not understand what is in our mind and in our heart; he can only surmise it through observing our behavior. It is not a complicated operation for him, having an extremely fine intelligence. If a young person smokes marijuana, for example, the demon can deduce that in the future he will also use stronger drugs. In a word: from what we read, see, say, and experience, and from the companions we choose, even from our glances — from all this he can discern where he will tempt us and at which particular moment. And that is what he does.
This brings to mind a passage from the first letter of St. Peter: “Brothers and sisters, be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith” (cf. 1 Pet. 5:8–9). My interpretation of this passage, on which various scholars are agreed, sounds like this: “Brothers and sisters, be vigilant. The devil wanders around each one of you, searching where to devour.” That word where is important: the devil looks in each person precisely for his weak point and “works” on it, creating his next sinful occasion. It will be the targeted person himself, who in his liberty, will commit the sin, after having been well “cooked” by Satan’s temptation.

The most frequent weak points in man are, from time to time, always the same: pride, money, and lust. And, let us note well, there are no age limits for sinning. When I hear confessions, I often say to my penitents, somewhat jokingly, that their temptations will end only five minutes after they have exhaled their last breath. Therefore, we must not presume or hope that at an advanced age we shall be exempt from sin. A vice that is cultivated in youth will not lessen in old age without some work and intervention. Let us consider lust: when I hear confessions, it’s not uncommon for the elderly to confess to looking at pornography more often then the youth. The will to struggle against sin must be cultivated even to the end of our days.

Does the Devil Fear Man?

We proceed to the second question: Who must be afraid, us or the devil? The letter of James says textually: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). The demon keeps his distance from the one who nurtures his faith, who frequents the sacraments, and who wishes to live devoutly. Why? Simply put, the devil hates God and is in terror of Him and anything that even has the odor of sanctity. If we think about it, we can recall periods of our existence in which we have intensified our interior life and felt stronger in resisting temptations. On the other hand, we must avoid becoming arrogant and must always remember that the demon does not ever cease to tempt us, even to the end of our days.

I should also mention that sacred places, in particular those where a strong Marian devotion exists, have a similar effect. For these Satan has an invincible aversion: Loreto, Lourdes, Fátima, just to cite a few that are well known. Many liberations occur in these places.

Satan fears the sons of God, those seeking to conform their lives to Jesus. The devil is aware that he is stronger and more intelligent than we are, but he also knows that we are not alone in the struggle against him. One example suffices: toward the sunset of his life, Don Bosco, one of the greatest saints of the nineteenth century, liberated a girl from possession simply by entering the chapel dressed in sacred vestments to celebrate Mass. The devil is in fear of the saints and their sanctity.

Where Does the Evil One Dwell in the Human Body?

To put it as simply as possible, demons influence our body or one part of it without locating themselves in that particular organ or limb. When the possessed person falls into a trance and the Evil Spirit takes “control” in some way — inducing in him uncontrolled movements or making him speak or curse — it is as if the demon wraps around the entire body of the possessed, causing him to lose control of himself. Sometimes it can seem as if the spirit is localized in the throat, in the stomach, in the intestine, or in the head, where pains and spasms are manifested. In reality, the demon is not there in a specific part of the body but only influencing a specific organ within that moment.

If this is the way things are, do diabolical possessions and other spiritual evils exclude the presence of the Holy Spirit? We cannot reason in a human way with spirits. The represented space within the human body is not empty or refillable the way that a glass can be refilled by and emptied of water. In the case of the demon and the Holy Spirit, the two rival entities can live together — obviously in conflict — in the same person. On the other hand, we know that diverse saints were possessed by bad spirits, even if evidently they were filled with the Holy Spirit. How does one explain this if the demon does not occupy physical space? Certainly, the Holy Spirit can chase away the demon, but He does it within the boundaries of our own free will, thus permitting us to make our own choices. The Gospel of Mark says: “This kind [of demon] cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).

Who ought to pray and fast? Everyone — the person struck by the spiritual evil and those close to him. For the first, it is a trial of extraordinary faith, a response to a very particular call to sanctity. For the others, it is an appeal to demonstrate Christian charity concretely. Indeed, the prayers of close family members are very efficacious; their collaboration can be very helpful in creating a positive climate in the house. To these persons I add the exorcist, the pastor, friends, and whoever lends a hand in the liberation of the obsessed.

What Does the Devil Look Like?

Among the most recurring questions, and in my opinion the most amusing, is: How does the devil appear or what does he look like? He is a pure spirit; he does not have corporeal substance; therefore, he is not representative to us in a fully comprehensible form. It is the same for him as for the angels: if they wish to appear to men, they must assume characteristics accessible to us. The Bible is filled with visions of angels as men. In the book of Tobias, for example, the Archangel Raphael accompanies the young Tobias on his mission by assuming the form of a youth.

Returning to the appearance of the devil: one can say that, in his essence, he is much uglier than we can even vaguely imagine. His horrific appearance is a direct consequence of his distancing himself from God and of his explicit and irrevocable choice of rebellion. This we can infer from logical reasoning: if God is infinitely beautiful, whoever decides to distance himself from God must be the exact opposite. Naturally, this is only one type of theological augmentation that we find based on revelation and from the support of our natural reason when it is illuminated by faith.

And if, stretching the discourse, we wished somehow to give the demon an image? We begin, necessarily, by setting aside the figures derived from traditional depictions of the devil with horns, a tail, the wings of a bat, talons, and inflamed eyes. Being a pure spirit, evidently he cannot embody these characteristics. If these images can help us to fear his actions toward us — and we have good reason to — then we should welcome them; on the other hand, we risk making the devil appear like an ancient relic, a frill of times past, and the stuff of simpletons. There is a great danger in over-relying on these images, and they can be of service to the devil!

The devil, being very shrewd, can also assume innocuous forms. The case of St. Pio of Pietrelcina is exemplary. At times, the devil showed himself to him as a ferocious dog, at other times as Jesus or as our Lady, at still other times as his confessor or as the father guardian of his convent, who commanded him to do something. But after verifying the order he received with his superior, he understood that he had had a vision of the devil. There were even a few times when the devil appeared as a beautiful, naked girl.

Finally the demon could present himself with unpleasant odors, such as sulfur or animal excrement (it happens at times when one is blessing a house), or, to persons particularly sensitive, with odious noises, such as a clearly perceived rustling of the wind, or harassing tactile sensations.

What Does the Church Say of Wandering Souls?

Let us now confront another topic. Someone attests to seeing and perceiving “spirits.” Are they only imaginings? Does it involve “wandering souls”? Regarding this we must be very prudent and discerning. The “presences,” spirits or ghosts, are seen in particular literature and in the vast exorcistical caseload. What can be said about these things?

There are, above all, the certitudes of our Faith. The first is that we have only one life, and we play it out here; at the end, we shall be judged to be worthy to rise to life in God or to be unworthy, distancing ourselves from Him eternally.

The second certitude of our Faith is that a form of communication exists between the dead and us: it is the principle of the Mystical Body, of the Church that communicates to her interior­ity, to her inner self. Specifically, there is a spiritual exchange between the souls of the dead in paradise and in purgatory and those of us still on our earthly pilgrimage that is manifested through the prayers of intercession. In particular, the souls in purgatory who are experiencing purification have the capacity to offer their suffering in extraordinary reparation for us; they, in turn, greatly enjoy the benefits of our prayers. Excluded are the souls of the damned; being in hell they do not enjoy (and do not desire) our prayers.

Returning to the wandering spirits: in my view, if immediately after death we go to paradise, to hell, or to purgatory, it is doubtful that wandering souls exist. In the old ritual of exorcism, one was put on guard against “presumed” possessions or spiritual disturbances caused by the damned soul of a deceased. It is, instead, the devil who is disguised like this. It happened to me, for example, that during an exorcism a spirit claimed to be one of these wandering spirits. A deeper verification revealed that he was a demon. But other exorcists are convinced of the contrary: according to them, the presence of such wandering spirits is a fact. Since it concerns a problem that is still unresolved, theologians will have to study it deeply through Scripture, the Magisterium of the Church, and the experience of mystics and seers.
Fr. Amorth on Satan and the Fallen Angels
Editor’s note: This article is an excerpt from Fr. Gabriele Amorth’s An Exorcist Explains the Demonic: The Antics of Satan and His Army of Fallen Angels, which is available from Sophia Institute Press. 
To learn more about Fr. Amorth and his final book, see Sophia Institute Press and a review of the life and work by K. V. Turley here on Catholic Exchange.
image: Ceiling of San Carlo al Corso in Rome depicting The Fall of the Rebellious Angels / By Livioandronico2013 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Devil wants to confuse children about gender: late chief Rome exorcist

Devil wants to confuse children about gender: late chief Rome exorcist

October 7, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — Demonic disturbances that torment individuals, called diabolical obsession, “can lead to confusion about one’s gender,” “particularly in the young,” one of the world’s most famous exorcists wrote in a forthcoming book about Satan’s tactics.

Father Gabriele Amorth, who served as the chief exorcist of Rome, founded the International Association of Exorcists and performed tens of thousands of exorcisms throughout his life, died at 91 last month. In his new book, An Exorcist Explains the Demonic: The Antics of Satan and His Army of Fallen Angels, Amorth wrote that disordered ideas about gender, especially in children, can be a sign of torment from the devil.

Amorth warned that many of the devil’s “ordinary” temptations are passed off as “modern ideas” but really serve to “unhinge the principles of the faith.” These include abortion, same-sex “marriage,” euthanasia, divorce, and cohabitation, Amorth wrote.

“The loss of a sense of sin that characterizes our era helps Satan to act nearly undisturbed and, inducing man to sin, takes man progressively away from the love of God,” Amorth wrote. Suggestions like “everyone does it” applied to grave sins “weaken the consciences of men and women and lead them toward closing their hearts, egoism, lack of forgiveness, and doing everything for money, power, and sex.”

But “everything that seduces and enslaves souls leads to their death, which is Satan’s objective,” Amorth explained. Even though Satan’s promises of money, pleasure, and power seem alluring, they actually come at a terrible price and don’t allow those who choose them any peace, the late exorcist wrote.

The principle of total personal liberty, the promise of no obligation to anyone, and the denial that all truth comes directly from God are “seductive” in appearance but ultimately unfulfilling, especially for young people, Amorth wrote. These notions “delude” people “into thinking that life is a beautiful holiday” where “everything is permitted and where your ‘I’ does not recognize any limits regarding pleasure or enjoyment.” This is all because Satan wishes to lead people away from God, Amorth wrote.

Other ways that Satan infects and attacks the modern culture are certain types of music, which can provoke “violence, suicide, sexual perversion, and acts destruction against the state, the civic order, and the Church of God,” and games like Ouija boards. 

“Today families are among the most targeted by the ordinary action of Satan,” according to Amorth. To counter this, he recommended all married couples pray together and extend the habit of prayer to their children.

Although An Exorcist Explains the Demonic was deeply disturbing, Amorth reminds readers of God’s victory over Satan and the many means of growing in holiness and fighting evil provided by Holy Mother Church in the Sacraments, sacramentals, and prayer. God loves us so much and wants to protect us.
Amorth’s book is a call to authentic love for neighbor and self and a manual that can help everyone embrace God’s protection and recognize Satan’s lies.

Father Amorth recommends the following prayer:
Prayer for Deliverance (approved for the laity)
My Lord, you are all-powerful, you are God, you are Father.
We beg you through the intercession and help of the archangels Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel
for the deliverance of our brothers and sisters who are enslaved by the evil one.
All saints of heaven, come to our aid.
From anxiety, sadness and obsessions,
We beg you, free us, O Lord.
From hatred, fornication, envy,
We beg you, free us, O Lord. 
From thoughts of jealousy, rage, and death,
We beg you, free us, O Lord. 
From every thought of suicide and abortion,
We beg you, free us, O Lord. 
From every form of sinful sexuality,
We beg you, free us, O Lord. 
From every division in our family and every harmful friendship,
We beg you, free us, O Lord.
From every sort of spell, malefice, witchcraft, and every form of the occult,
We beg you, free us, O Lord.
Lord, you who said, “I leave you peace, my peace I give you,” grant that, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, we may be liberated from every evil spell and enjoy your peace always, in the name of Christ, Our Lord. Amen.