Monday, April 23, 2018

Being Nice Isn’t Good Enough

Being Nice Isn’t Good Enough

We often hear that religion is a very private matter. It’s a nice sentiment. It’s inclusive and non-judgmental. And nice non-religious people are really quite pleasant to be around. Catholics can be nice people too. We drive to work to nice offices—I walk to work from a nice rectory—and we return to our households with a nice “live and let live attitude.” And nice people keep religion to themselves, aside from a pious bumper sticker or two.

The other day I found myself pondering a WWII photograph. It’s a famous picture, maybe you’ve seen it. A German soldier is about to execute a Jewish prisoner and the body of the prisoner will soon tumble into a mass grave. About a dozen soldiers are looking on. The facial expression of the executioner is not particularly cruel but it is matter-of-fact. The face of the prisoner, a split second before the soldier would pull the trigger, is angry and defiant. The prisoner doesn’t look like a very nice man.

I zoomed in to view the faces of the bystanders. They are all soldiers, but they could have been people like you and me. I didn’t see expressions of horror. I didn’t see any of them averting their eyes. Nobody is weeping or expressing distress. And if any of them are praying they are keeping their religion to themselves. Individually, they look like they could be very nice people.

A couple of soldiers appear curious and attentive. One is stretching his neck to get a better look. Others seem to be bored. But all eyes are on the scene of the impending execution—a bullet in the back of the head. There’s a time for war, and there’s a time for peace, and there’s even time for entertainment. And this is high entertainment in the execution of Jews in the midst of the prison camp boredom. Taken as a whole, I saw sheep.

After the war many of the soldiers probably lived happily ever after, allowing for the pain of reconstruction.  In time, what they witnessed and what they did likely became distant memories. Perhaps they could take comfort in saying to themselves that at least they did not pull the trigger. Or they pulled the trigger with reluctant necessity. Life in the close quarters of Army barracks can be uncomfortable if there are divisive and polarizing views. Disrupting the process wouldn’t be nice. It’s nicer to have unity in the community, as spectators, allowing the cruelties of war to go without comment.

After pondering the picture for about ten minutes, I averted my eyes. As I said, the image isn’t particularly horrifying. The soldier had yet to pull the trigger, but I had a thought that became difficult to bear. The more I pondered the faces, the more I was able to see my own face among those soldiers. I saw the faces of my parishioners among them as well. Except for the angry face of the prisoner, they looked like nice people and we’re nice people. We are also sheep.

Catholics make up only 25 percent of the U.S. population. And most of us live as if religion is a very private thing. It’s nice to have unity in the community. So it’s tempting to suggest that we good Catholics had nothing to do with the moral collapse of our culture. It must have been somebody else, those people. We didn’t pull the trigger. We’re not executioners. We’re nice people. And we belong to the flock of Jesus.

But if Jesus the Good Shepherd defines his flock, one would think that 25 percent of our culture would be recognizably Catholic. So what went wrong? Maybe too many of us are huddling in the barracks of our workplaces, our families. Pretending that if we have our families in order—a continuing holy imperative—we need not busy ourselves with the plight of our neighbors. Families, like religion, we may insist, are very private things.

Or maybe we’ve reduced our faith to a spectator sport. So we look on with fascination as others pull the trigger. Because expressing disapproval wouldn’t be nice. And we might be accused of hate for identifying and opposing sinful behavior. A few of us—Catholics in very high places—are actually pulling the triggers, executing the enemies of progress. Regardless, the gunshots coming from the camps or the smoke belching from the ovens somehow happen without us. Religion is a very private thing. And it’s not nice to be divisive.

In truth, we are all visible members of a flock of sheep. The defining flock is either the polite company of our social or political circles or the flock of Jesus. What we believe is observable, verifiable, and points to our shepherd, whoever he or she is. So our religion and our morality really are not private. And our professed Catholic faith indicts us when we really belong to another flock.

Except for Confession, the Catholic faith is not at all private. And the Catholic faith is not a spectator sport. The Good Shepherd directs and defines us because we are the valuable sheep of his flock. We are his witnesses. Our job is to be nice and faithful sheep, but when there is a conflict, to cluster around the Shepherd, to be truly faithful in the face of adversity.

At the moment we still have the freedom in this country to punch back—even beyond a pious bumper sticker or two—and to reclaim our membership in Christ’s flock. A few modest suggestions:
  • Risk alienating friends and family by using words like fornication, adultery, sodomy, immorality, and perversion when the subjects invariably come up at social gatherings.
  • Write your pastor or bishop and asking him to replace his use of “transgendered” with “surgically mutilated”—and while you’re at it ask him never to use the word “gay” except in quotation marks.
  • Write monthly letters to the editor (wherever) pushing back on the Sexual Revolution.
  • Cancel cable TV and let people know why (other than saving a few bucks).
  • Take on your Congressman for his pro-abortion and pro-“gay” voting record and don’t let up when you fail.
With Jesus as the Good Shepherd, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” (Mt 10:28)

Editor’s note: Pictured above is a 1941 photo taken by an Einsatzgruppen (SS) soldier titled “Last Jew of Vinnitsa” (Ukraine).

Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Church and Islam: Nostalgia for the Sixties

The Church and Islam: Nostalgia for the Sixties

I recently received an email from a reader who took issue with my skeptical view of Islam. Between 1963 and 1965, he worked for the Peace Corps in a Muslim area of Nigeria. He came away from the experience convinced that “all people are basically the same” and “all want the same basic things.” Cultural differences, he maintained, were merely surface phenomena.

His view is common among people who came of age in the Sixties and Seventies. And, since many of our society’s controlling narratives were developed in that period, that optimistic view is still widespread. But times change, even if narratives don’t.

For example, the reality in Nigeria today is quite different from what my correspondent experienced in the mid-1960s. It no longer seems that all want the “same basic things.” In fact, many Muslims want to deny Christians some of those basics – such as the right to worship in peace, and even the right to life.
Bishop Joseph Bagobiri of Kafanchan (in northwestern Nigeria) reports that in his diocese alone: “53 villages burned down, 808 people murdered and 57 wounded, 1422 houses and 16 Churches destroyed.” Moreover, last year a report by the International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law revealed that 16,000 Christians had been murdered in Nigeria since June 2015.

What’s happening in Nigeria has been happening all over the Muslim world. Open Doors USA reports that globally some 215-million Christians face severe persecution, mostly at the hands of Muslims. The question is, which is the real Islam: the peaceable Islam experienced by my correspondent in the mid-Sixties or the aggressive Islam of today?

In the context of Islam’s 1,400 years of aggression, the relatively peaceful interval that began with the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century seems to be the aberration. At the time my correspondent worked for the Peace Corps in Nigeria, the Muslim world was far more moderate than it is today or was in the past. The Islam he experienced was a marked departure from traditional Islam.

Some of the flavor of that period is captured in an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Ali A. Allawi, a former Iraqi cabinet minister:
I was born into a mildly observant Muslim family in Iraq. At that time, the 1950s, secularism was ascendant among the political, cultural, and intellectual elites of the Middle East. It appeared to be only a matter of time before Islam would lose whatever hold it still had on the Muslim world. Even that term – “Muslim world” – was unusual, as Muslims were more likely to identify themselves by their national, ethnic, or ideological affinities than by their religion.
The face of Islam in Nigeria
In short, Muslim societies were more moderate in those days because they were moving away from Islam. As Allawi notes: “To an impressionable child, it was clear that society was decoupling from Islam. Though religion was a mandatory course in school, nobody taught us the rules of prayer or expected us to fast during Ramadan. We memorized the shorter verses of the Koran, but the holy book itself was kept on the shelf or in drawers, mostly unread.”

The more moderate Muslim world of the last century was not the result of deeper piety, but rather of increased secularization. There are still remnants of that moderation in Muslim lands, but it should be clear to anyone who is paying attention to current events that traditional, by-the-book Islam is once again ascendant. Mini-skirts are no longer worn in Tehran and Kabul as they were in the Seventies, and the hijab has made a comeback almost everywhere in the Muslim world. In other words, the process of secularization has been reversed.
The amazing thing is that much of the Western world hasn’t caught up with the changes. Why? Perhaps because the return of 7thcentury Islam undercuts the multicultural belief that all cultures share the same values. Hence, many prefer to think that the Muslim world is still much the same as it was in the days of King Farouk and the Shah of Iran – that relatively brief moment when “secularism was ascendant.”

Unfortunately, one of the important organizations that still lives in the past in regard to Islam is the Catholic Church. Many in the Church seem to think and act as though it’s still 1965, and that Nostra Aetate (which was promulgated in 1965) is still the last word on Islam.

The section on the “Moslems” in Nostra Aetate reflects the multicultural notion that cultural differences are unimportant, and that all people have the same basic desires. Thus, the writers of the document took pains to emphasize the similarities between Christianity and Islam, even going so far as to suggest that the two faiths share the same moral values.

Of course, it’s nearly impossible to ignore the radicalization that so many Muslims have undergone since 1965. But in their anxiety to preserve the Nostra Aetate “narrative” about Islam, Church leaders have found a way to get around this inconvenient fact.  Muslims who persecute and terrorize non-Muslims are said to have “distorted” or “perverted” their religion because, in the words of Pope Francis,“authentic Islam and a proper understanding of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.”

Indeed, as recently as March 16, Pope Francis told the head of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation that there is no link between Islam and terrorism. On other occasions, the pope had even said that the remedy for radicalization is for Muslims to go deeper into their faith, and find guidance in the Koran. That, of course, is the very opposite of Allawi’s first-hand observation that moderation is the result not of deepened faith, but of “decoupling from Islam.”

Church leaders are still clinging to a view of Islam that should have gone out with the Seventies. Unless and until they acquire a longer view of Islam, they will continue to be part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

© 2018 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to: The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

An Exorcist Describes Death, Judgement, and Our Everlasting Life Fr. Gabriele Amorth

An Exorcist Describes Death, Judgement, and Our Everlasting Life

An Exorcist Describes Death, Judgement, and Our Everlasting Life

Heaven, the Kingdom of Love

I wish to include some basic notions of Christian eschatology, which, because of the Resurrection of Christ give a reason for great hope to everyone — in particular, to those who suffer from evil spells. Our life, our earthly pilgrimage, and our suffering are not the fruit of a blind randomness; rather, they are ordered for our greater good and definitive friendship with God.

Let us begin, then, precisely from paradise, the final goal and the reason for which we have been created. “Those who die in God’s grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ. They are like God for ever, for they ‘see him as he is,’ face to face,” (CCC 1023).

Our Faith guarantees that in paradise we shall enjoy the vision of God; that is, we shall become participants in that same happiness that the divine Persons enjoy among themselves:
“The life of the blessed consists in the full and perfect possession of the fruits of the redemption accomplished by Christ. He makes partners in his heavenly glorification those who have believed in him and remained faithful to his will. Heaven is the blessed community of all who are perfectly incorporated into Christ” (CCC, no. 1026).
A question arises spontaneously: What need did the Trinity have for creatures, for men and angels, when It was already perfect and absolutely sufficient in Itself? The Trinity did it solely out of love, gratuitous and unconditional love for us. The advantage is solely ours: love, joy, and happiness, for all, in paradise.
There are degrees of participation in the joy and love of God. This degree of rank is given according to the level of sanctity each person has reached during his lifetime: the joy of St. Francis of Assisi, for example, will be different from that of the good thief. There is a difference between men on earth, and there will be a difference in paradise.

It is similar to what happens with the stars in heaven: there are those that shine brighter and those that shine a little less. So also it will be with men in the glorious resurrection: all of us shall be resplendent, but each one with a different proportion. Each one will have that maximum of splendor and happiness that he is personally capable of, based on how he has lived his life. Some will have a greater capacity and others less, but without envy or jealousy toward each other.

Indeed, each one will know complete joy. A verse from Dante’s Divine Comedy comes to mind: “In his will is our peace.” In paradise there is no jealousy; each one is in the will of God, and in His will there is peace. Eternal peace is definitive, where each tear, each sorrow, and all envy will be wiped away.

The Souls in Purgatory

Purgatory is the place, or, better, the state to which come the souls that have need of a purification and therefore have not been immediately admitted to contemplate the face of God. This purification is necessary in order to arrive at sanctity, the condition that heaven requires. The Catechism speaks of the souls in purgatory: “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven” (no. 1030).

This article is from a chapter in An Exorcist Explains the Demonic.
We can understand that there are gradations or diverse states in purgatory; each one accommodates the situation of the soul that arrives there. There are the lower strata, more terrible because they are closer to hell, and the more elevated that are less terrible because they are much closer to the happiness of paradise. The level of purification is linked to this state.
The souls in purgatory are in a state of great suffering. We know, in fact, that they can pray for us and that they can obtain many graces for us, but they can no longer merit anything for themselves. The time for meriting graces finishes with death.

Purged souls can, however, receive our help in order to abbreviate their period of purification. This occurs in a powerful way through our prayers, with the offering of our sufferings, paying attention at Mass, specifically at funerals or at Gregorian Masses, celebrated for thirty consecutive days.

This last practice was introduced by St. Gregory the Great in the sixth century, inspired by a vision he had of a confrere who died without confessing himself and, having gone to purgatory, appeared to him, asking him to celebrate some Masses in his favor. The pope celebrated them for thirty days. At that point, the deceased appeared to him again, happy for having been admitted to paradise. One must take care: this does not mean that it will always work this way: that would be a magical attitude, unacceptable and erroneous toward a sacrament. In fact, it is solely God who decides these matters when He wills it through His divine mercy.
On the subject of Masses, it is necessary to say that they can be applied to a particular deceased, but, at the last moment, it is God who destines them to those who have a real need. For example, I often celebrate Masses for my parents, whom I believe in my conscience are already in paradise. Only God in His mercy will destine the benefits of my Masses to those who have more need, each one according to the criteria of justice and goodness reached during his life.
Regarding all that I have said, I wish warmly to advise that it is better to expiate suffering in this life and become a saint than, in a minimalist way, to aspire to purgatory, where the pains are long-lasting and heavy.

The Pains of Hell

The book of Revelation says that “the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world — he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him” (Rev. 12:9).

Why were they hurled down to the earth? Because the punishment they were given is that of persecuting men, trying to lead them to eternal hell, rendering them their unfortunate companions for an eternity of suffering and torment.
How can this drama, which involves everyone, enter into the plans of God? As we have said, the next reason is the liberty granted by God to His creatures. Certainly we know that the mission of Satan and his acolytes is to ruin man, to seduce him, to lead him toward sin, and to distance him from the full participation in divine life, to which we have all been called, which is paradise.

Then there is hell, the state in which the demons and the condemned are distanced from the Creator, the angels, and the saints in a permanent and eternal condition of damnation. Hell, after all, is self-exclusion from communion with God. As the Catechism states: “We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves” (no. 1033). The one who dies in mortal sin without repenting goes to hell; in an impenitent way, he has not loved. It is not God who predestines a soul to hell; the soul chooses it with the way [the person] has lived his life.

We have some stories about hell that, because they are taken from private revelations or experiences, do not bind the faithful, but, nevertheless, have a notable value. I have spoken on more occasions in my books and in my interviews of the experience of St. Faustina Kowalska, who in her diary writes of her spiritual journey to hell.

It is shocking.

Stories and visions like these have to make us reflect. For this reason Our Lady of Fatima said to the seers: “Pray and offer sacrifices; too many souls go to hell because there is no one to pray and offer sacrifices for them.”
Being in the kingdom of hate, damned souls are subjected to the torment of the demons and to the sufferings they reciprocally inflict on one another. In the course of my exorcisms I have understood that there is a hierarchy of demons, just as there is with angels. More than once I have found myself involved with demons who were possessing a person and who demonstrated a terror toward their leaders.

One day, after having done many exorcisms on a poor woman, I asked the minor demon who was possessing her: “Why don’t you go away?” And he replied: “Because if I go away from here, my leader, Satan, will punish me.” There exists in hell a subjugation dictated by terror and hatred. This is the abysmal contrast with paradise, the place where everyone loves one another and where, if a soul sees someone holier, that soul is immensely happy because of the benefit it receives from the happiness of another.

Some say that hell is empty. The response to this affirmation is found in chapter 25 of Matthew’s Gospel, where it speaks of the Last Judgment: the upright will go to eternal life and the others, the cursed, will go to the eternal fire. We can certainly hope that hell is empty, because God does not wish the death of a sinner but that he convert and live (see Ezek. 33:11). For this He offers His mercy and saving grace to each one. In the Gospel of John Jesus says: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:23); thus He insists on our continuous conversion supported by the grace of the sacraments, in particular the sacrament of Penance.

Returning to the question of hell, whether it is empty or not: unfortunately, I fear that many souls go there, all those who per­severe in their choice of distancing themselves from God to the end. Let us meditate often on this. Pascal said it well: “Meditation on hell has filled paradise with saints.”

The Judgment on Life

The Catechism speaks of the particular judgment: “The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith” (no. 1021).

And further on it adds: “Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven — through a purification or immediately — or immediate and everlasting damnation” (no. 1022). Then it adds the criterion with which this judgment will occur, taken from the writings of St. John of the Cross: “At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love.”

The first thing that I would emphasize is precisely this last: the final criterion of our judgment will be the love that we have had toward God and toward our brothers and sisters. How, then, will this particular judgment occur?

At times, I run into persons who are convinced that immediately after death they will meet Jesus in person and that He will give them a piece of His mind for some of their dolorous affairs. Frankly, I do not think that it will happen like this. Rather, I believe that, immediately after death, each of us will appear before Jesus, but it will not be the Lord who will review our lives and examine the good and the bad each of us has done. We ourselves shall do it, in truth and honesty.

Each one will have before himself the complete vision of his life, and he will immediately see the real spiritual state of his soul and will go where his situation will bring him. It will be a solemn moment of self-truth, a tremendous and definitive moment, as definitive as the place where we shall be sent. Let us consider the case of the person who goes to purgatory.

It will involve the sorrow of not immediately going to paradise that will make him understand that his purification on earth was not complete, and he will feel the immediate need of purifying himself. His desire of acceding to the vision of God will be strong, and the desire for liberation from the weight of the pains accumulated during his earthly life will be compelling.

The Last Judgment: It Will Be Love That Will Judge Us

Let us end with the universal judgment:
The Last Judgment will come when Christ returns in glory. Only the Father knows the day and the hour; only he de­termines the moment of its coming. Then through his Son Jesus Christ he will pronounce the final word on all history. We shall know the ultimate meaning of the whole work of creation and of the entire economy of salvation and understand the marvelous ways by which his Providence led everything towards its final end. (CCC, no. 1040)
This is one of the most difficult realities to understand. The Last Judgment coincides with the return of Christ; however we do not know the precise time it will occur. We know that it will be preceded immediately by the resurrection of the dead. In that precise moment, the history of the world will definitively and globally end. The Catechism again specifies: “In the presence of Christ, who is Truth itself, the truth of each man’s relationship with God will be laid bare [cf. John 12:49]” (no. 1039).

The essential question is: What is the concrete rapport that each man has with God? As I have mentioned, the solemn response is found in the Gospel of Mathew. The saved and the damned will be chosen on the basis of their recognition or rejection of Christ in the infirm, in the hungry, and in the poor (Matt. 25:31–46). Two essential elements emerge from this. The first is a division, a schism, between those going to paradise and those going to hell, between the saved and the condemned. The second regards the manner in which this judgment will be accomplished — with love. God’s Commandments and every other precept are summarized solely in one commandment: “[L]ove one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

We can easily understand that this command is addressed to each human conscience in every age, including those who lived before Christ and those, who today, as in centuries past, never heard anyone speak of the Son of Man. Therefore, the finale of this stupendous passage is the beautiful passage from Mathew: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matt. 25:40).

If each man — apart from his religion, his culture, his epoch, and any other circumstance — has loved his neighbor, he has also loved the Lord Jesus in person. Any rapport with our brothers and sisters in any locality, any age, or any situation is, all in all, a rapport with Jesus Christ in person. Each human creature who achieves fulfillment in his human relationships is, at the same time, relating to God. For this reason, the love of neighbor is the fundamental precept of life. John the Evangelist helps us to understand that we cannot say that we love God, whom we cannot see, if we do not love our brother, whom we can see (cf. 1 John 4:20).

The love that will judge us will be the same love that we have (or have not) practiced toward others, the same love that Jesus lived in His earthly experience and taught us in the Gospels, the same love to which we are entitled through the sacraments, through prayer, and through a life of faith. The ability to love comes from grace, and it is much reduced in those who do not know Christ; and even more so in those who know Him but do not follow Him, a choice that assumes a serious sin. Indeed, Jesus said: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).

On the other hand, in announcing the extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis reminds us that the other fundamental aspect of the question is that the love with which we shall be judged will be the Love of mercy. “Mercy is the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us.” This mercy, he says, “is the bridge that connects God and man and opens our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.”

God’s compassionate glance and His desire to live in total communion with us opens our hearts to the hope that each sin and each failure inflicted on man by his great enemy, Satan, will be looked upon with the eyes of a loving and accepting Father. Therefore, let us live full of hope, because we know that, even in the difficulties of our life’s journey, God will wipe away all the tears from our eyes. On that day “death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a chapter in Fr. Amorth’s An Exorcist Explains the Demonic: The Antics of Satan and His Army of Fallen Angelswhich is available from Sophia Institute Press.
Find more of Fr. Amorth’s work on Catholic Exchange by clicking here.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Should You Still Buy Organic?

Should You Still Buy Organic?

Organic food usually (but, not always) costs more than conventional groceries. Is it really worth it to spend the extra money for organic? Of course, my answer is a very predictable and emphatic, “YES!” Allow me to explain three very important reasons why I feel this way.
1. By Eating Organic Food You Reduce Your Exposure to Toxic Chemicals
Today’s crops are heavily sprayed with a chemical cocktail of synthesized pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Some of these chemicals are highly toxic to humans and have a very long half-life. For example, DDT was banned from use in the USA in 1972 yet, this very dangerous pesticide is still showing up today in the placenta of birthing mothers. Girls exposed to DDT before puberty are 5 times more likely to develop breast cancer in middle age, according to the President’s Cancer Panel. This is just one of the 85,000 chemicals we humans have created in the last 150 years that now pollute our environment.
The practice of spraying crops with artificial chemicals upsets the balance of the natural ecosystem. Crops treated this way become increasingly dependent on these artificial substances which weakens the plant’s natural growth and defense mechanisms. Crops grown organically use only natural methods and products for fertilization, pest control, fungus control, and weed suppression which are harmless to humans without the use of any chemically synthesized pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, or fertilizers.

2. There is More Nutrition in Organic Produce
Because of several generations of unstainable farming practices, the topsoil on most factory farms has been depleted of minerals. Most of the food that is mass distributed for commercial consumption is grown on life support primarily of just three minerals: nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus (NPK.) These three nutrients are the most important ones because these are what make the plants jump up fast so farmers can turn around the quickest profit. But, where is the iron, the calcium, the magnesium, zinc, copper, and any one of the other 92 minerals we humans need for good health? If they are missing from the soil, they will be missing in the plants. If they are missing from the plants they will be missing in you!

Not only is the soil mostly depleted on factory farms but, plants fed high concentrations of nitrogen grow too fast before they are harvested. They are not given the time needed to uptake whatever few minerals may still be present in the soil. According to a UCLA study conducted on iron in spinach it was concluded that you would have to eat 43 bowls of spinach in 1997 to equal just 1 bowl in 1953! Not only was the spinach deficient in iron, but other minerals as well. As a consequence, when you do not have minerals sufficient, the body cannot use the vitamins. The best organic farming practices focus on more sustainable growing methods such as composting, crop rotation, rock dust, permaculture, and other methods that all help to restore and preserve the minerals in the soil. These types of practices produce more mineral rich crops.

Phytonutrients such as chlorophyll, beta-carotene, and lycopene are natural defense substances that plants produce to help protect themselves in nature from germs, fungi, bugs, and disease Organic fruits and vegetables have far more phytonutrients than nonorganic plants. This is because nonorganic plants become dependent upon the artificial, chemically-synthesized pesticides and fungicides farmers spray on them to help them grow. Consequently, the plants stop producing many of the antibodies needed to naturally deal with these challenges. Phytonutrients are also very sensitive to heat and are destroyed by the cooking process. Therefore fresh, ripe, raw, organic, and whole fruits, vegetables, and sprouts are the best source of these powerful defenders for your immune system.

3. Buying Organic Food Helps You to Avoid Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s)
The practice of creating GMO’s in food involves injecting the DNA of one species into the DNA of another species in an effort to develop certain characteristics. For example, the DNA of fungus, mold, bacteria, viruses, fish, humans, and jellyfish have been injected into corn, potatoes, and strawberries in an effort to increase crop yields. Unfortunately, this genetic manipulation creates unintended consequences in our food such as twisted proteins and twisted carbohydrates and other toxins. GMO’s have been linked to serious health challenges such as a weakened immune system, autoimmune diseases, food allergies, gastrointestinal problems, childhood learning disorders, leaky gut syndrome, autism, and cancer.
The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) recently released its position paper on Genetically Modified foods stating that “GM foods pose a serious health risk” and calling for a moratorium on GM foods. Citing several animal studies, the AAEM concludes “there is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects” and that “GM foods pose a serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health, and metabolic, physiologic and genetic health.”

Twenty six countries outside of the USA have already banned GMO’s at least partially, thanks to much more balanced media reporting on this topic in those regions of the world. Monsanto and other large corporations who stand to make enormous profits have invested heavily in false advertising and political lobbyists to influence government policy and the public’s perception on GMO’s.
The most common GMO foods in this country are conventional corn, soy, canola, sugar beets, Hawaiian papaya, zucchini, and yellow squash or any processed products containing any one of these foods. Your best defense to avoid GMO’s in the USA is to eat only organic food. According to the USDA, the use of GMO’s is prohibited in organic products. This means an organic farmer can’t plant GMO seeds, an organic cow can’t eat GMO alfalfa or corn, and an organic soup producer can’t use any GMO ingredients. To meet the USDA organic regulations, farmers and processors must show they aren’t using GMOs and that they are protecting their products from contact with prohibited substances, such as GMOs, from farm to table. You should also look for products that have the “Non-GMO Project Verified” label.

The purity of the “Organic” label on commercially distributed food has been somewhat diluted in the last few years. Still, it is better to eat organic than eating conventional food that we know is laced with toxic chemicals. Sometimes, it comes down to making the best choice of the options available to you. The best practice is to grow your own food so you know exactly how your food has been grown.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes a list of the top twelve crops with the highest pesticide load called the “The Dirty Dozen.” These foods should only be eaten when they are grown organically:
The Dirty Dozen
• Apples
• Strawberries and blueberries
• Grapes
• Celery
• Peaches
• Spinach
• Sweet bell peppers
• Nectarines
• Cucumbers
• Cherry tomatoes
• Snap peas
• Potatoes

Plus, I would also suggest avoiding the following seven foods unless they are USDA certified organic in an effort to avoid GMO’s:
• Corn
• Soy
• Canola
• Sugar beets
• Hawaiian papaya
• Zucchini
• Yellow squash

The following list of foods are the least likely to hold pesticide residues:
• Avocados
• Pineapples
• Cabbage
• Sweet peas (frozen)
• Onions
• Asparagus
• Mangoes
• Kiwi
• Eggplant
• Grapefruit
• Cantaloupe (domestic)
• Cauliflower
• Sweet potatoes

By Brian Hetrich CNC, ND
Brian came to Hippocrates Health Institute from Maryland, where he hosted raw food retreats and ran a successful private practice. He is a Certified Nutritional Counselor (CNC) and earned his Doctorate of Naturopathy from the International Institute of Original Medicine (IIOM.) IIOM is accredited by the American Naturopathic Medical Accreditation Board (ANMAB), and the American Association of Drugless Practitioners (AADP.) Brian is also a raw food chef and teaches classes on gourmet raw cuisine. He is co-author of the book, “Natural Vibrant Health – Raw Foods” which is a collection of his favorite raw food recipes. Brian’s book is available in the Hippocrates store.

5 Things to Know About GMOs

5 Things to Know About GMOs

Here is what you need to know about GMOs.
Bill Gates recently made headlines once again for his stance on genetically modified organisms, known as GMOs. In recent years, Gates has been known to promote GMOs as "perfectly healthy" and as a viable way of putting an end to world hunger, Business Insider reported. What's more is that he has made it clear that he is discouraged with those fighting to 
promote labeling and remove GMO products from store shelves.

As we have previously reported and as Ann Malkmus has so wonderfully captured in her book "Unravel the Mystery," there is a definite link between produce that has been genetically modified and numerous diseases, whether GMOs are the primary cause or a variable of the bigger picture. These altered foods have been attributed to a rise in allergies and perhaps most significant, the soil in which these plants and crops grow is void of many of its essential nutrients. God created the bountiful plants and vegetables as a source of vital nutrition: It was not His intention that they be modified in any way.
The next time you collect your weekly supply of vegetables, consider these facts about GMOs, and be wary of your selection:
1. History 
The first GMO product to hit the U.S. food market was the Flavr Savr tomato in the mid 1990s, according to Berkeley Wellness of the University of California School of Public Health, a leading evidence-based wellness information source. While interbreeding – the process of purposefully modifying or changing the characteristics of crops – has been practiced for centuries, the ability to alter organisms genetically is relatively new. Only in the last few decades have scientists been successful in remodeling specific genes in plants, such as size and rate of growth. This process has also enabled them to control the shelf life of produce.

Ensuring the produce from your local grocer is 100 percent GMO-free is difficult.Ensuring the produce from your local grocer is 100 percent GMO-free is difficult.
2. Reach
Since the introduction of genetically modified plants, animals and food, the reach of packaged and marketed GMOs has become widespread. According to Prevention, nearly 80 percent of processed food in U.S. grocery stores has been gentically altered in one way or another. This is likely true of some of the vegetables you eat as well as more than 165 million acres of GMO crops that fill our country today.
Of all the foods modified in the U.S., corn is the biggest victim. Canola, sugar beets and soy are not far behind. The reality is that you may never know what is and what isn't genetically enhanced because in the states, manufacturers are not required to include such labeling, Prevention explained.
3. Safety
The debate about GMO safety has been brewing since its introduction, and there exists a big divide among doctors, researchers and consumers. The Food and Drug Administration is one of the regulators disputing any risk associated with these altered crops, USA Today reported. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency are also among the organizations overseeing the regulation of GMOs though they do not treat these products any differently than non-GMO foods.
As The Global Healing Center reported, the failure to take GMO foods off the market boils down to money. Large corporations have used payouts and financial bargaining to keep consumers uninformed. Even major food companies continue to sell GMO food, despite an understanding of safety concerns or not, simply because of profits. For example, several years ago, General Mills made clear it was removing GMOs from Cheerios but then stopped there. The rest of its cereals remained as-is because the company did not see a rise in sales and has been led to believe that there are not significant risks associated with the engineered foods, The Global Healing Center explained.

Today, there are millions of acres of GMO crops in America.Today, there are millions of acres of GMO crops in America.
4. Disease
Many support the notion that this kind of modification is beneficial for produce in guarding against pesticides, building a resistance to external factors or increasing its nutritional profile. The real problem however, is concern over pesticide use and the growing risk of glyphosate, the key ingredient of the widely used Roundup of infamous organization Monsanto, Agmag of Environmental Working Group reported. According to a report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, those working directly with glyphosate – used in GMO crops – are especially at risk. Data has shown that farmers and those living in the area are at an increased risk for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and other blood cancers.
"A report concluded a connection between GMOs and 22 diseases."
Another study, published in the Journal of Organic Systems, found a correlation between GMOs and 22 different diseases. The researchers explained that both humans and animals are unable to detoxify these kinds of chemicals found in the pesticides, which can cause damage as a result. The diseases included several cancers, liver failure, stroke, hypertension and thyroid disease, to name a few. Though they were unable to confirm causation, the study authors concluded that:
"…we have data for 22 diseases, all with a high degree of correlation and very high significance. It seems highly unlikely that all of these can be random coincidence." 
The relationship between genetically engineered crops that are altered at greater and greater rates to resist, or become immune to, the use of glyphosate present a high risk of disease. Whether it is a direct cause or not remains to be seen, but the associated disease risk is certain.
5. Food Security
As mentioned above, Gates is among those who believe genetically enhanced or altered foods can be used in the fight to end world hunger. As Prevention explained, a number of researchers and organizations, including the United Nations, have found this assertion to ring false. In a report from the Rodale Institute documenting a 30-year trial on various farming methods, findings revealed that the practice of GMO would not be beneficial in providing surplus food supplies for the hungry. Only in perfect agricultural conditions and during the initial years were GMOs concluded to produce excess amounts of food. 
On the other hand, the organic produce resulted in similar amounts over the long term. In the event of a drought, organic methods would prove better at delivering high yields.
Given the above information, selecting organic, natural, GMO-free produce is important. While you can feel confident in buying from a local, trusted farmer, the best way to ensure you are consuming 100 percent natural produce is to grow your own. Consider starting your own garden today with these helpful hints from Hallelujah Diet.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

A Vulnerable Catholic Church Can Not Afford to Forget Its Enemies

A Vulnerable Church Can Not Afford to Forget Its Enemies

The 1960s were extremely hard on the Catholic Church. The damage done by relativism, contraception, abortion, no-fault divorce (summed up as the Sexual Revolution) and Cultural Marxism has resonated for five decades. When dissident priests such as Fr. Charles Curran advocated for a distorted version of social justice in Catholic colleges and universities, the prophetic teaching of Humane Vitae and the true intent of the Vatican II documents were mutilated by the secular media as well as by many Catholic writers and theologians who misused their skills to attack the kingdom of God.

At a time when sound catechesis and evangelization could have impacted the largest generation of high school and college aged Catholics in the history of the US, misinformation, confusion and outright heresy prevailed in many classrooms and too many Catholic churches across the country.

“Catholic” schools have now churned out hundreds of thousands of graduates who have little or no concept of what the Church actually taught, much less the sound reasoning, science and scriptural basis for her teachings. Some of these graduates are now tenured teachers, department chairs at colleges and universities, some are in the hierarchy of the Church in the US, and some are at very high levels of our state and federal governments. Many more are the parents and grandparents to generations who received their catechesis and evangelization through the words and deeds of people who live lives of little or no witness to an orthodox Catholic faith.

Some faithful Catholics made it through the 1960s, 70s, and 80s with a firm and authentic Catholic faith, but as we look back on the decline of Christianity in the US since 1960, we see that these Catholics are the exception to the rule. Yet these faithful Catholics have been our lifeline to orthodox Catholicism.

In 1965, there were about 46 million Catholics in the United States and 55 percent of whom attended Mass on a weekly basis. Today, we have about 73 million Catholics in the country and only 23 percent of us attend Mass on a weekly basis. If you do the math, you will find that there are over 8 million fewer Catholics at Mass this weekend, than there were on the same weekend in 1965. If you compare today to 1950, the numbers are even more depressing. Some sources say the weekly Mass attendance in the 1950s was more than 70 percent.

Catholicism has been on a 70-year slide in the US. We have more people who identify as Catholic than at any time in our history, but we have less than ½ of the sacramental marriages and baptisms we had in 1965. There has also been a 37 percent decrease in the number of priests since 1965 and a 75 percent decrease in religious sisters (nuns). If the American Catholic Church was a publicly traded company on the stock exchange, our shares would be extremely cheap if they had any value at all.

The vultures sense that the Church is weak. Because we are so weak, we cannot forget the things of the past. In 2016, WikiLeaks released emails from John Podesta, which confirm that there were groups specifically formed to cause the corruption and/or destruction of the Catholic Church in the US. The email exchange was between Sandy Newman at Voices for Progress and John Podesta in his capacity as Chairman of the Board of the Center For American Progress, a progressive think tank in Washington, D.C. Their brief email exchange is set forth below:
On February 10, 2012, Newman wrote:
Subject: opening for a Catholic Spring? just musing…
This whole controversy with the bishops opposing contraceptive coverage even though 98% of Catholic women (and their conjugal partners) have use contraception has me thinking… There needs to be a Catholic Spring, in which Catholics themselves demand the end of a middle ages dictatorship and the beginning of a little democracy and respect for gender equality in the Catholic church. Is contraceptive coverage an issue around which that could happen. The Bishops will undoubtedly continue the fight.
Does the Catholic Hospital Association support of the Administration’s new policy, together with “the 98%” create an opportunity?
Of course, this idea may just reveal my total lack of understanding of the Catholic church, the economic power it can bring to bear against nuns and priests who count on it for their maintenance, etc. Even if the idea isn’t crazy, I don’t qualify to be involved and I have not thought at all about how one would “plant the seeds of the revolution,” or who would plant them.
Just wondering…

On February 11, 2012, Podesta responded:
Re: opening for a Catholic Spring? just musing . . .
We created Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good to organize for a moment like this. But I think it lacks the leadership to do so now. Likewise, Catholics United. Like most Spring movements, I think this one will have to be bottom up. I’ll discuss with Tara. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is the other person to consult.
The “Tara” referenced by Podesta was likely Tara McGuinness. On February 12, 2012, McGuinness had an article published by New Republic which fit in perfectly with the musings of Newman and Podesta. In the article, McGuinness says that “Mine is a family in which priests and nuns outweigh any other profession except nurses.” In the article, McGuinness (who does not claim to be Catholic herself) was trying to use her Catholic affiliations in order to attack USCCB’s opposition to the contraceptive coverage in the Affordable Care Act.
Notice that McGuinness’ article was published within on day of John Podesta’s response to Newman.
But let’s look at the emails a little closer to see what has been going on in the powerful circles at the highest level of American politics and government. First, we have an email that calls for a “Catholic Spring.” If you recall December 2010 through 2011, gave us the “Arab Spring” in numerous North African and Middle Eastern countries which resulted in the total overthrow (often through extreme violence and chaos) of established power in those countries. Podesta’s reference to “a moment like this” indicates he was familiar with the term and the concept.

Newman saw the contraception issue as a potential spark for the destruction of the Catholic Church in the US. But due to his lack of familiarity with the Catholic Church, he turned to Podesta, who represents himself as a member of the Catholic Church. Newman wondered who could “plant the seeds of the revolution.”
Podesta drew on his apparent knowledge of a longstanding effort to destroy the Catholic Church, which is a strange interest for someone who claims to be Catholic. He informed Newman of at least two organizations who were founded for the specific purpose of starting a revolution in the American Catholic Church: Alliance For The Common Good and Catholics United. But he had his doubts as to their potential for success due to what he deemed to be weak leadership. Instead, he recommends “Tara,” who is likely the author of the article which shows up the following day, and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.
Who are all these people and organizations?

You probably recall that John Podesta was Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager and would have likely been her Chief of Staff had she won the election.
Sandy Newman was simply a non-Catholic progressive who wanted to advance the progressive agenda by destroying the Catholic Church. Newman founded Voices for Progress in 2009.

Tara McGuinness was the Senior Vice President for Center for American Progress Action and Communications in February, 2012 (at the time her article was published by New Republic).

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is the oldest child of Bobby Kennedy. In 2012, she was chair of the American Bridge, an organization which raised funds for Democratic candidates and causes. She was also on the board of directors of the Center for American Progress. On February 13, 2012, she appeared on C-Span, speaking out against the Bishops’ opposition to the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act. It does not appear to be a coincidence that her television appearance took place two days after Podesta’s response to Sandy Newman.
Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good (CACG) was started by Alexia Kelly after John Kerry’s failed bid for the presidency in 2004. Kelly was Kerry’s religious outreach coordinator during his campaign. CACG has received substantial funding from George Soros and was closely affiliated with Podesta, Catholics United, Catholics for Choice and other organizations who falsely claimed to be Catholic. CACG’s primary objective was to advance access to contraception and abortion. At this time, CACG appears to be inactive, but the people behind it and the agenda it embraced are anything but inactive. Since Kelly once worked for the USCCB’s Catholic Campaign for Human Development, we can expect to see her involved in something similar to CACG in the near future.

Catholics United (CU) aggressively promoted same-sex “marriage” as well as numerous other issues which contradict the Church teachings on morality. CU’s executive director is James Salt, who used to work for Kathleen Sibelius, a self-described pro-choice Catholic and the former Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Barack Obama.

We are all wise to respect passages such as Proverbs 6:16-20,
There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that hurry to run to evil,
a lying witness who testifies falsely,
and one who sows discord in a family.
My child, keep your father’s commandment,
and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.

Here is the point of all of this. In today’s fast-paced world of constant information and distraction, we are prone to forget important things that happened less than a few days ago, much less years ago. One tragedy replaces another, one atrocity casts its shadow over the prior atrocity… We don’t want to think about Stephen Paddock, Anthony Weiner, Abdelhamid Abaaoud or Jerry Sandusky, and we don’t have to because they will be superseded by a new mass murderer, pervert, terrorist or pedophile before we know it.

As Catholics, we need to remember that there are well-connected and well-funded people who were trying to dismantle the Catholic Church right here in our very own country. We need to realize that these people have not gone away, nor have they given up. At best, they have taken a break until they are called into action once again. More likely, they have been working quietly, sowing seeds of revolution in the hope that revolutionaries will spring up as soon as the moment is right.

We must remain diligent and make sure that the USCCB is not employing the likes of Alexia Kelly, that people like Jeannine Gramick are not welcomed into your parish as legitimate “Catholic” speakers and that groups like New Ways Ministries or Catholics for Choice and publications like the National Catholic Reporter, are not mistaken for trusted sources of Catholic information.

As we can see, a simple email exchange can result in the publication of propaganda within 24 hours and a television appearance within 48 hours. The power of those who hate the Church is capable of spewing out propaganda at a moment’s notice. Such is the benefit of not needing to be accurate or true.

The poor catechesis and evangelization after the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s has resulted in a lot of very devious people who claim to be Catholic, yet they plot revolution against the Church’s teachings. It is our job to make sure the influence of these people does not give rise to a revolt against those bishops, priests, institutions and lay Catholic leaders who remain faithful to the Church on matters of faith and morals.

We must remain familiar with the names of these individuals and these organizations as well as their tactics so we can spot illegitimate claims and propaganda when we see it. We must also keep other faithful Catholics informed, so people are not duped into trusting a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
(Photo credit: Mark Warner / Wikimedia)