Tuesday, March 2, 2021

In Gratitude for Joe Biden 🙃


In Gratitude for Joe Biden

By Fr. Jerry Pokorsky ( bio - articles - email ) | Feb 26, 2021     

Sacraments, according to the Baltimore Catechism, are outward signs instituted by Christ to give grace. The Sacraments define and direct our lives. Our choices form us. When we choose to live a sacramental life, in a sense we become sacraments reflecting the Lord. But the contrary is also true.
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In the Sacraments Jesus accompanies us throughout our lives: Baptism and birth, Confession and healing, the Eucharist and food, Confirmation and maturation. Marriage governs families and Holy Orders governs the Church. The Last Sacrament, the Anointing of the Sick, prepares us to enter through the narrow gate of death with God’s grace.

All creation has beautiful sacramental aspects. “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.” [Psalm 19:1] Psalm 104 is a poignant hymn describing how all living things clothe God with “honor and majesty.” Wherever we can see the handiwork of God, we see His image.

God created man in His image and likeness. Our response to His grace accentuates the Divine imprint. The saints in their goodness—Mary above all—reflect the holiness of God: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior….” [Luke 1:47]

But sin and evil, by analogy, are also formative and have their own “sacramental” aspects. Perhaps it is better to say, anti-sacramental characteristics. In the Gospels, we see various metaphors for sin. Leprosy is an outward sign of sin in general. Above all, the Cross is a terrible anti-sacrament of sin. But from the point of view of the Resurrection, it is the triumphant sign of final victory.

Just as holy people magnify the Lord, those spiritually deformed by the evil they commit become anti-sacraments of evil. Solomon in his splendor reflected the Lord’s wisdom. But when he took pride in God’s gifts, failing to attribute them to the Lord, he became an anti-sacrament of apostasy and his kingdom split apart.

Throughout our lives we walk the line, magnifying God’s holiness or reflecting sinful pride and rebellion. It is holy and good continually to seek the crown of sanctity. But a single seriously evil act—committed with sufficient freedom and informed consent—threatens our eternity. So it is presumptuous and dangerous to proclaim oneself as a devout Catholic or to encourage (or even allow) the description.

President Biden’s supporters repeatedly claim that he is a devout Catholic. In 2005, Biden himself protested those who questioned his Catholicism: “The next Republican that tells me I’m not religious I’m going to shove my rosary beads down their throat.” But the words of Jesus are foreboding: “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” [Mt. 7:21] Biden’s habitual and unapologetic sinful acts are on full display.

In less than a month after his inauguration, he issued a statement celebrating the 48th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. He said he is “committed to codifying” the decision that legalized abortion. He promised he will be “appointing judges that respect foundational precedents like Roe.” He rescinded the pro-life Mexico City Policy, which ensured that foreign aid would not go to organizations that perform or refer for abortions.

Biden revoked the Trump administration’s ban on so-called gender transitioning in the military, allowing troops to serve based on their gender identity. He called on Congress to quickly pass the Equality Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Washington Post called Joe Biden a “president who has been called the most pro-transgender in history.”

Biden’s nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, like Biden is Catholic. But contrary to the moral law, he supports legislation that permits partial-birth abortion, forces every healthcare plan to pay for abortions, forces pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise abortions, forces the Little Sisters of the Poor to pay for contraception and abortion drugs, and allows assisted suicide.

For most of his political life—from his consistent pro-abortion record to his officiating at a gay wedding in 2016—despite his Catholic affiliation and public pious practices, Joe Biden has magnified and institutionalized countless major violations of the Ten Commandments. The hypocrisy rivals that of the chief priests and Pharisees and is worthy of the same condemnation. Indeed, Biden is the most aggressively anti-Catholic President in history.

Meanwhile, Catholic clergymen are in disarray. Some of the bishops have tried silence, presumably hoping to avoid greater scandal. Others use flattery, praising Biden for those of his policies that dovetail with USCCB politics, but do not bind the faithful in conscience. A few bishops have attempted praiseworthy polemical pushbacks.

But so far the bishops have not initiated a single disciplinary measure to protect the Catholic faith from scandal. On the contrary, several prominent bishops have declared Biden worthy of Catholic-in-good-standing status. The Georgetown Jesuits celebrate with elation his Mass attendance as President.

As perhaps the most powerful man in the world, Biden’s insistent claim that he is a devout Catholic forces an unavoidable choice. We either: stand with the Church and her sacraments and reject Biden’s iconic culture-of-death policies, or we join those who celebrate Biden’s flouting of Church teaching. In so doing, we will reveal whether we intend to magnify the Lord or magnify Biden’s immorality.

Some prominent bishops and cardinals have already declared themselves sheep of Biden’s flock. Others apparently hope to go unnoticed by their silence. But they are successors of St. Peter, St. Paul, and the other apostles, who were not silenced even when authorities threatened them with incarceration or martyrdom. (Of course, fear of crippling lawsuits likely explains a good deal of current episcopal paralysis.) So their continued silence is an anti-sacrament of cowardice and the spiritual treason of collaborating with the enemy.

The election of Biden has forced a crisis. From the ashes, we can expect the Holy Spirit to raise up successors to those who opposed another anti-Catholic tyrant: Saint John Fisher and Saint Thomas More. May there be many of them.

If only for the clarity this brings to the Church, we have Joe Biden to thank.


Fr. Jerry Pokorsky is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington who has also served as a financial administrator in the Diocese of Lincoln. Trained in business and accounting, he also holds a Master of Divinity and a Master’s in moral theology. Father Pokorsky co-founded both CREDO and Adoremus, two organizations deeply engaged in authentic liturgical renewal. He writes regularly for a number of Catholic websites and magazines.  See full bio.

Friday, February 12, 2021

When Catholics Disagree With The Church


“The Canon of Issues”: When Catholics Disagree With the Church

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI named the long list of questions that we Catholics confront in contemporary society the “canon of issues.” This canon includes women’s ordination, contraception, celibacy of priests, and remarriage of divorced persons. These issues, among others, often cause tension between many Catholics and the Catholic Church, because many Catholics feel that the Church’s teachings are outdated.

This tension leads to a variety of responses. Some Catholics abandon the Church and become Protestants, claiming that Protestant ecclesial communities do a superior job of articulating the Gospel in light of the signs of the times. Others form new communities, and claim that they are the true Catholic Church. Still others are so disturbed by the Church’s teachings that they reject the idea of religion and God altogether. The majority, I speculate, dissents in private but, for any number of reasons, do not wish to leave. They believe certain teachings of the Church while ignoring others that they find hard to stomach. The question before us, then, is this: what are we — as thoughtful and compassionate Catholics of western civilization in the twenty-first century — to do when our own personal beliefs come into conflict with what the Catholic Church declares as Truth? I would like to offer a few thoughts about the process I go through when asking myself this question.

The first thing I do is pray for wisdom.

The second thing I do is pray for wisdom.

The third thing I do is pray for wisdom.

The fourth thing I do is to learn what the Catholic Church actually teaches about these issues. If one knows where to begin to look, a sophisticated and nuanced understanding can be gained fairly quickly. Although the Catechism is always a great place to start, learning what the Church says is not the end of the investigation, because each issue does not exist in a vacuum. I next place my new knowledge into the larger context of the Church’s thinking.

Let us use contraception as an example. Once I have learned what the Church says about it (it arrests the fullness of the act of love), I now must locate this new knowledge on the web of related ideas so that I may understand why the Church prohibits it. In order to have a full picture, I have to see how She understands rightly-ordered sexual behavior (self-giving love) — which is directly connected to the question of what it means to be a human being (created in the image and likeness of God) — which is directly connected to the question of who God is (a Triune communion of love) —which is directly connected to the question of who Jesus Christ is (the fullest manifestation of God’s love). All of these points — what is proper sexuality, who are we, who is God, and who is Jesus? — must be understood in relation to each other, and as a unified whole. Although learning about the Church’s position on contraception may be accomplished in short order, placing it in this constellation of ideas in order to comprehend the Church’s coherent system of thinking takes serious study, contemplation, struggle, conversations, and, most importantly, prayer.

Does the journey end there? Will I automatically be convinced to change my opinions to conform to the Church once I have done the intellectual heavy lifting? Often times, the answer is “no,” as the head and the heart do not always speak the same language. It often feels, therefore, as if I am back to square one. Here I stand, toe-to-toe with the Church, paralyzed to the point of inaction. What do I do? Do I stick to my guns? Do I walk away and find another community that articulates a message that fits my established belief system? I could find a community that agrees with whatever I have already decided is true, but I wonder if in doing so I am bending the Truth to fit my desires. Truth challenges me to bend myself to it, not the other way around.

In order to break this stalemate, we must investigate the nature of our interlocutor. In other words, we must ask “what is the Church?” Is She, on the one hand, a man-made institution that centuries of celibate men in Rome, who have political and financial power, have used to impose their rules on the rest of us? If so, then I think that it is our right and our responsibility to discard any established teachings that sound antiquated to our Postmodern ears. If this is the Church, though, then I need to ask myself: “what am I doing here?” If the Church is just a random collection of culturally constructed rules that were codified by men long dead, why would Catholics give themselves to Her?

Though the Church is a human institution, is She also something more? Is She what She claims to be — that is, the mystical body of Christ that was founded on Peter, whose teachings have been handed down through apostolic succession and, most importantly, is guided by the Holy Spirit? Is the Church not only a human institution but a God-given institution that has been provided for us so that we are not left to wander the desert of this life, so that we don’t have to create for ourselves the definitions of right and wrong, and so that we don’t have to construct for ourselves the meaning of life? Each Sunday, we declare that we believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, not a Church that articulates the fickle whims of a given age. If the Church truly is guided by the Holy Spirit, then I need to take Her teachings very seriously.

When I think about these teachings, I am greatly comforted by the thought that they were not established overnight. The Church has always taken Her time and developed Her ideas over many centuries. Papal infallibility, for example (which, I’ll admit, used to give me trouble), was not something that was established the day after Pentecost. It wasn’t until 1870 at the First Vatican Council that the Church made an official claim about infallibility, which had been debated for over 600 years. Some people are frustrated by how long it takes the Church to articulate definitive teachings; I wouldn’t want Her to act any more quickly for fear of hasty, trendy, or sloppy theological conclusions.

Is my understanding of the Church too optimistic? Am I naïve? I’m sure we have all met clergy who have led less than exemplary personal lives, or — because of a poor seminary formation — made statements that are against the Church’s teachings. Should these indiscretions lead us to say that the Church is flawed at Her core? Any surface reading of the history of Christianity will quickly reveal the atrocious behavior that has been done in the name of the Church and, therefore, suggest such a conclusion. We are all aware of the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and infidelities of the clergy, both past and present. How could a God-given institution allow such shameful behavior?

While it is true that Christianity has a shady past, we should never confuse the sinfulness of individual popes, bishops, priests, or lay persons with the Church, because the Church is not the numerical sum of all Catholics who are alive at any given moment. Rather, the Church, to use language from Vatican II, is, among other things, “the spotless spouse of the spotless lamb” (LG 1.6), the “mother who, by baptism, brings forth daughters and sons, who are conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of God, to a new and immortal life,” and the “virgin . . . who keeps, in its entirety and purity, the faith She pledged to her spouse” (LG 8.64). The line between the sinfulness of humanity and the purity of the Church is best heard each week during Mass before the Sign of Peace, when the priest prays to God, saying “look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church.” This simple, yet elegant, prayer points to the difference between our sinful flaws and the holiness of God’s Church.

With this understanding of the Church in mind, we may return to our main question: what do I do when I disagree with this Church? As it is impossible to force myself to change my opinions overnight, I believe that the only course of action is to submit to the Church in obedience until I have been converted by the grace of God. For many of us, this word, “obedience,” causes us to shift uncomfortably in our seats, because, in our Postmodern, individualistic society, we bristle at the idea of obedience. The thought of it makes us nervous because of our “don’t tread on me” attitude, and the primacy of “freedom” in our culture. The popular definition of freedom, which is at the center of our American ethos, is: “do whatever you want, as long as it does not hurt anyone else.” We feel that obedience is equal to slavery.

But is this the way we should understand obedience? I think that it should be seen in a different light. Obedience is not a rejection of the freedom to do whatever you want. Rather, it leads us to true freedom — freedom from the radical slavery of sin so that we may be able to choose the Good and, therefore, to become what we were intended to be: faithful sons and daughters of God. Obedience is not its own end; it is a means that leads us to the end of a rightly ordered relationship with God by calling us to move beyond ourselves. Through obedience, we are liberated from the narrowness of our own desires and it allows us to have a clear vision of a gracious God who will lift us up to love Him, and each other, properly.

Allow me an example borrowed from Fr. Servais Pinckaers. Everyone has the freedom to walk up to a piano and to start banging on it. But only the most radical Postmodernists among us would dare to call that music. In order to create something beautiful, a musician first must spend years training to be conformed to the rules of music. Although our musician does not master music theory for the sake of the theory itself, it is only after she has done so that she will be able to craft a song that will allow her to express her most intimate longings. In a similar way, it is only by being formed to the Church — not to the cacophony of our own disordered hearts — that we will become spiritual virtuosi.

This idea of obedience, it must be made clear, is not proclaimed at the expense of a well-formed conscience, which St. John Henry Cardinal Newman described as the “aboriginal Vicar of Christ.” Indeed, the Catechismclearly stresses the importance of one’s well-formed conscience as an authority. It defines a well-formed conscience as “[formulating] its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator” (1783). This statement prompts me to ask two sets of questions. First, when is my conscience finally formed? Don’t I spend my entire life forming my conscience so that, as Ignatius of Loyola stated, I will “think with the Church”? As formation is a life-long process, my conscience should never be exercised independently of the teachings of the Church. When it does act independently, more often than not I have been led astray by my own passionate attachments.

Second, how do I determine what is the “true good willed by the Wisdom of the Creator”? The Bible could tell me, but anyone who has ever read it knows how confusing it can be, and how easy it is to come up with dozens of contradicting interpretations. Vincent of Lérins, in the fifth century, recognized this when he said, in his Commonitorium, that the Bible “seems to be capable of as many interpretations as there are interpreters.” It is only through the Church, then, that I come to understand what the Catechism means by “the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator.” Vincent said this as well when it claimed that “the rule for the right understanding of the prophets and apostles should be framed in accordance with the standard of Ecclesiastical and Catholic interpretation.”

While the idea of obedience often may make us uncomfortable, deep down it also resonates with us at the same time. When we go to Mass each week and recite the Profession of Faith, we express to everyone present our deep-seated belief that there is a Greater Reality than us. And, by bowing and saying “Amen” when the Body of Christ is offered, we set aside our own desires in order to be part of that Greater Reality by joining ourselves to the Church through the Eucharist.

The final thing I do is pray for wisdom, and along with Mary — our best model of obedience — say: Here I stand, “the servant of the Lord; let it be it done unto me, according to Thy word.”

Dr. Stuart SquiresAbout Dr. Stuart Squires

Dr. Squires studied theology at The Catholic University of America (Ph.D.), The University of Chicago (M.A.), and DePaul University (B.A.). He has published several scholarly articles on the Church Fathers in Augustiniana, The Scottish Journal of Theology, Cistercian Studies Quarterly, The Heythrop Journal, and Augustinianum. He has published a book in 2019 with Wipf and Stock titled The Pelagian Controversy: An Introduction to the Enemies of Grace and the Conspiracy of Lost Souls.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Thank you President Trump!

Thank you President Trump by a priest  


The Cohabitation Dilemma


The Cohabitation Dilemma

The number of couples who choose to live together without marriage has risen dramatically in the past fifty years, from near zero to 60%. For Catholics the percentage is almost 50%. One subject regarding this which has received little attention is that of the religious dilemma for a couple who claim Catholicism (or any Christian religion) as their faith.

Why Cohabit?

Why do couples choose to cohabit? Two out of three do so to test their compatibility with each other.1  They assume that if they live together for a time they will better prepared for a marriage and will thereby avoid divorce. It is easy to see why that conclusion might be intuitively assumed.

Alas, it just isn’t so. A large number of studies in the latter part of the twentieth century showed that living together before marriage increased the chances of divorce once married. However, a number of studies between 2010 and 2014 concluded that living together before marriage had no effect on divorce rates.2 Then, in 2018, Rosenfeld and Roesler carried out a new study that showed pre-marital cohabitation does indeed increase the chances of divorce down the line.3

In an article about divorce rates for cohabitors which didn’t consider Rosenfeld and Roesler, Brett and Kate McKay wrote:

What’s important to note here, however, is that while there may be emerging evidence that cohabitation isn’t harmful to marriage stability, there isn’t any evidence that it is helpful. It may not increase your chances of getting a divorce, but it doesn’t at all decrease them, either.4

Moral Issue

The first issue is that of pre-marital sex. Sacred Scripture has some things to say about fornication, that is any sexual intercourse between unmarrieds:

…[Jesus said] From within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy . . . All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man.5 (emphasis added)

St. Paul had something similar to say:

Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.6 (emphasis added)

It should be clear from this that fornication is a serious matter, the matter of mortal sin.7 The Church makes this explicit: “According to Christian tradition and the Church’s teaching, and as right reason also recognizes, the moral order of sexuality involves such high values of human life that every direct violation of this order is objectively serious.”8

St. Pope John Paul II taught this in different words in 1987:

It is sometimes reported that a large number Catholics today do not adhere to the teachings of the Church on a number of questions, notably sexual and conjugal morality, divorce and remarriage. Some are reported as not accepting the Church’s clear position on abortion. It has also been noted that there is a tendency on the part of some Catholics to be selective in their adherence to the Church’s moral teachings. It is sometimes claimed that dissent from the Magisterium is totally compatible with being a “good Catholic” and poses no obstacle to the reception of the sacraments. This is a grave error . . . (Address in Los Angeles, 9/16/87)

Being unable to receive the sacraments means one is not in the state of grace, but is in the state of mortal sin. This has serious implications regarding a person’s candidacy for salvation.

Fatima visionary St. Jacinta Marto reported before she died that the Blessed Mother told her, “More souls go to hell because of sins of the flesh than for any other reason.”9 She received that message in 1920. If one watches TV, reads the news, or uses the Internet, it should be clear that sins of the flesh have multiplied manifold since 1920.

Public Sin

It is not unreasonable to presume that a romantically involved couple that live together are fornicating. But there is more than the sin of fornication here. It’s living in sin publicly. A cohabiting couple doesn’t hide the fact that they are living in sin. That is far more serious than fornicating. They’ve gone public with it.

They are, whether they intend it or not, setting an example for others by their behavior. Although setting an example is usually far from their intention, it is de facto an example, one which they are willing to tolerate to achieve their goal.

In other words, the influence their actions have on their siblings, their nieces and nephews, their friends, etc. is something for which they are responsible.

How serious is that? Here is what Jesus had to say about it:

Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of things that cause sin! Such things must come, but woe to the one through whom they come! (Mt. 18:6-7)

That’s pretty strong, no?

Now some may say, “Well, in this day and age, living together is hardly scandalous.” It’s true that due to the prevalence of this behavior, the number of those who might be scandalized is much lower than it was thirty or forty years ago. Nonetheless, it would be naïve to think that no young person would be negatively influenced by a sibling or relative cohabiting. Our goal as followers of Christ is to set a different example than that of the world. Even if we prevented one child from pursuing cohabitation when she entered adulthood, it would be worth it to refrain from it ourselves.

The Dilemma

So here is the dilemma: a Catholic unmarried couple living together must either admit to themselves that they are publicly living in mortal sin, or they have to reject the Biblical teaching that fornication is wrong. Option two would be unthinkable for a follower of Christ. Of course, a third option would be to try not to deal with the issue. But, in order to marry in the Church, they have to deal with it.

If they marry in the Church, and they marry another Christian, they participate in the sacrament of Matrimony. But to participate in this sacrament in the state of mortal sin is a sacrilege. So, it is important for the couple, or at least the Catholic party, to learn the Church’s teaching on sexual morality and its Biblical origins and, as a minimum, to embrace it as truth. If they do that, and confess their sins before the wedding, a sacrilege is avoided.

That doesn’t solve the scandal issue, but it is a step in the right direction. What would be better is if the couple chose to live separately before the wedding to manifest their acceptance that pre-marital cohabitation is contrary to the Biblically based teaching of the Church. A good number of couples have done that in the past. Some have said they are very happy they did live separately for that time.

At the very least they should live in separate rooms and attempt to live chastely before the wedding. I have seen many couples do that as well. One such couple told their priest that doing so improved their relationship a good deal.

There have been a number of saints who cohabited for several years before their conversion. The most notable were St. Augustine (14 years) and St. Margaret of Cortona (9 years). After their conversions they prayed and did penance for many years for their former sinful life, which they deeply regretted. They should give us all hope.

If a couple really wants to avoid divorce, they should commit to praying together daily. A 1997 Gallup Poll done by the National Association of Marriage Enhancement (nameonline.net) showed the divorce rate among couples who pray together regularly is 1 out of 1,152.10 That’s less than 0.1%. The national divorce rate is 40% (and perhaps more for cohabitors). There is no law against couples starting to pray before they marry.

How much better to do something to prevent divorce that helps their relationship with God, rather than do what harms that relationship. The need for grace in marriage is far more important than testing compatibility so as to avoid greater odds of divorce. And, as we saw above, living together doesn’t reduce those odds anyway.

Couples who are seeking to marry in the Catholic Church should use this time of matrimonial preparation to take stock of their relation to Christ and their level of commitment to live the Catholic faith. The Lord promised us a cross if we would follow him. Do we really want to follow him?

Jesus expects a great deal. But he gives a great deal more.

  1. “Should You Live Together Before Marriage?” by Brett and Kate McKay • June 7, 2017 • Last updated: September 5, 2020. At www.artofmanliness.com/articles/live-together-marriage/. 
  2. These studies included: Copen, Daniels, Vespa, and Mosher in 2012; Reinhold in 2010; Manning and Cohen 2012. (from https://ifstudies.org/blog/premarital-cohabitation-is-still-associated-with-greater-odds-of-divorce). 
  3. They agreed that chances of divorce were lower in the first year of marriage, but for every year thereafter the chances are higher. See “Premarital Cohabitation Is Still Associated With Greater Odds of Divorce,” OCTOBER 17, 2018 by Scott Stanley, @DECIDEORSLIDE, and Galena Rhoades, https://ifstudies.org/blog/premarital-cohabitation-is-still-associated-with-greater-odds-of-divorce. 
  4. “Should You Live Together Before Marriage?” by Brett and Kate McKay, op. cit. They added, “While more recent research showed that, even when controlling for selection factors, married couples who had lived together before getting married (or engaged) ‘had more negative interactions, lower interpersonal commitment, lower relationship quality, and lower relationship confidence,’ and were almost twice as likely to have at some point suggested divorce.” 
  5. Mk 7:21-23; see also Mt 15:19, 20. 
  6. 1 Cor 6:9, New American Bible (New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1991). See also Gal 5:19-21. 
  7. For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: “Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.” Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 1857). 
  8. Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics, Congregation for The Doctrine of the Faith, 1975, n. 10. 
  9. archive.org/stream/TheMessageOfOurLadyOfFatimaWithPicture. 
  10. https://medium.com/@ajhillis/your-marriage-isn-t-christian-enough-78e32fa3cbd7. 
Rev. Thomas G. MorrowAbout Rev. Thomas G. Morrow

Reverend Thomas G. Morrow has a doctorate in Sacred Theology from the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family. Fr. Morrow is a priest of the Washington (DC) Archdiocese. He is the author of several books, including Be Holy: A Catholic's Guide to the Spiritual Life. His website is: www.cfalive.org.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

The President and the Bishops: What’s Next?


Catholics have never been more confused than now about what they are supposed to believe.  The causes of the confusion are not difficult to find:  widespread immorality among priests and bishops and even more widespread coverup of same; a pope who affirms traditional teaching one moment, and tears it down the next; Church leaders who seem more concerned about climate change than Christian persecution; and the introduction of pagan elements into Catholic liturgy.

To add to the confusion, a highly contagious virus swept across the world in 2020.  Although the virus had a low fatality rate, reporters and politicians alike treated it as though it were the second coming of the Black Death.  Schools and shops were shut down, and so were churches.  Catholics got used to “attending” Sunday Mass in front of computer screens.  The fact that the vast majority of bishops readily complied with the shutdown gave the impression to many that worship of God was not, after all, a very important activity.

For American Catholics, the confusion has now been compounded by the election of a Catholic president who rejects essential Catholic teaching, yet is warmly welcomed by the pope along with many American bishops.

Of course, several past American presidents have pursued policies that contradict Catholic teaching and they, nevertheless, received good wishes from the Catholic hierarchy.  The difference is that they were not Catholics, and there was no danger that their policy positions would be mistaken for Catholic positions.

But that’s not the case with President Biden.  Not only is he a Catholic, but he also makes a show of his Catholicism.  He attends Mass weekly, wears rosary beads around his wrist, blesses himself in public, refers to scripture and Catholic hymns during political speeches, and speaks often of how his Catholic faith has helped him through difficult times. To top it off, he has installed a photo of Pope Francis in the Oval Office.

 In many respects, Joe Biden appears to be a traditional pious Catholic. Yet Biden is strongly pro-abortion and favors policies that would spread abortion throughout the developing world.  In addition, he seems to be on board with the whole LGBT agenda.  He officiated at a wedding of two gay men, wants to reverse the transgender military ban, favors the Equality Act which allows men to compete in women’s sports, and believes that 10-year-olds should be able to choose whatever gender they please.  And, in what seems a deliberate slap at the Catholic concept of gender, he has appointed Dr. Rachel Levine (nee Richard Levine) as Assistant Secretary of Health despite his/her minimal qualifications for the job.

Attempts to present Biden’s brand of Catholicism as the real thing is bound to have a confusing effect on both Catholics and non-Catholics. Stephen P. White, Director of The Catholic Project, observed that “Biden’s words and actions will shape how the Catholic faith is perceived and understood.”  Some bishops understand this, and they realize that simply extending good wishes to the new president is not a sufficient response to the new situation—namely a President who proudly proclaims his Catholic identity while trampling on central Catholic beliefs about marriage and sexuality.

It was refreshing, then, that a statement issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) tempered the congratulations with sharp criticism.  Archbishop Jose Gomez, the president of the USCCB, wrote:

I must point out that our new President has pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender.  Of deep concern is the liberty of the Church and the freedom of believers to live according to their consciences.

At a time of great moral confusion, this is exactly the kind of clarity that Catholics need to see and hear.  But this is not only a time of confusion.  It’s  also a time of great danger—a time when Catholics and other Christians stand in danger of being stripped of their right to free speech and freedom of religion.  Hence, Archbishop Gomez adds: “Of deep concern is the liberty of the Church and the freedom of believers to live according to their consciences.”

As some of the bishops are beginning to realize rather late in the day, the party that is coming to power in Washington has a totalitarian streak a mile wide.  How much longer will priests and bishops be able to tell their congregations that abortion and same-sex “marriage” are contrary to God’s laws without being fined—or worse?

In his statement, Archbishop Gomez, says “Rather than impose further expansion of abortion and contraception, as he has promised, I am hopeful that the new President and his administration will work with the Church and others of good will.  My hope is that we can begin a dialogue…”

But what if the dialogue never gets off the ground?  What then?  If Biden goes ahead with his pro-abortion policies, and the bishops do nothing, except to ask for more dialogue, it will only serve to confuse Catholics even more.  Unfortunately, many will conclude that abortion can’t really be that serious.  If it was, the bishops would surely have taken stronger action.

And so, they must.  Moreover, the action they should take is no mystery.  The bishops already understand full well that after dialogue fails, the next option is denial of Communion, and after that, excommunication.  These are options, not requirements.  And in the case of ordinary Catholics, these two remedies are rarely used.  However, Joe Biden is no ordinary Catholic.  He is, as Stephen White puts it, “the most powerful and influential Catholic layman in the world.”  Moreover, Biden presents himself as one who is in full communion with the Catholic Church.  But someone who persists in promoting such a grave sin as abortion has already broken communion with the Church.  And denial of Communion is just an acknowledgment of that fact.

Because of his position and influence, the bishops have a duty to make clear that Biden’s brand of “progressive” Catholicism is in opposition to Catholic teaching. But there is a difficulty involved in refusing Communion to Biden.  The difficulty lies in getting all the bishops to agree to this approach.  We already know that Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the Archbishop of Washington, D.C., will not deny Communion to Biden, and undoubtedly there are many other progressive bishops who will follow suit.  Since Biden will, for the most part, be attending Mass in Washington, D.C., he will continue to receive Communion.

Of course, Biden will have to travel from time-to-time, and individual priests and bishops in different states may refuse him Communion.  But this will only serve to strengthen the impression that Catholicism is a pick-and-choose religion.  Many will conclude that, if the bishops are divided on the issue, it can’t be that important after all.  Many will further conclude that, as the pro-choice forces would have us believe, it’s up to each individual to decide whether abortion is right or wrong.

Moreover, don’t expect that refusal of Communion by a single cleric will be a big news event which will put Biden in an awkward position, and force progressive Catholics to search their souls.  Father Robert Morey of St. Anthony Church in Florence, South Carolina did refuse Communion to Biden in November, 2019 and the news was largely ignored by the mainstream media.  It seems that a scattershot approach to challenging Biden’s anti-Catholic version of Catholicism will simply not work.  If the American bishops wish to make a sufficient impact, a unified plan of action will be required.

There is another, more serious option to consider:  excommunication.  While denial of Communion is similar in some ways, it is not the same as a formal excommunication.  There is a strong possibility that a denial policy won’t have the intended effect because many bishops and priests will simply ignore it, with the result that more Catholics will be left wondering why they too can’t ignore Church rules they disagree with.

Given the current situation, it seems that the strongest possible penalty is required.  Biden advertises his Catholicism at every opportunity, and his acolytes in the media are now portraying him as if he were a new Saint Francis.  If the bishops do nothing, Biden and his backers will get to define what it means to be a good CatholicIt is even possible to imagine the eventual creation of a state-run church along the lines of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association—a church where elements of Catholicism and party doctrine are skillfully blended.  Don’t dismiss the possibility.  If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that strange and unexpected developments have become the order of the day.

Undoubtedly, many in the media and in the Church itself will dismiss excommunication as a relic of medieval times.  But there is a relatively recent precedent for excommunicating Catholic politicians, and it’s one which liberals would find it difficult to criticize.  On April 16, 1962, Joseph Francis Rummel, the Archbishop of New Orleans, publicly excommunicated three local political figures for their flagrant opposition to the desegregation of New Orleans Catholic Schools.

One wonders what Cardinal-Archbishop Wilton Gregory thinks of Rummel’s action, and why he thinks the current case of a Catholic politician who flagrantly promotes abortion should be treated any differently.

Not coincidentally, the mention of Archbishop Gregory’s name brings up one of the chief difficulties with pursuing the path of excommunication.  Normally, the jurisdiction to pronounce an excommunication belongs to the local bishop.  In Biden’s case that would be Wilton Gregory, and, barring a miracle, Gregory would refuse to excommunicate.

However—at least to a layman’s eyes—the issue of jurisdiction is a very fuzzy one.  In the case of the President of the United States, it would seem that jurisdiction should not belong to the local bishop (Gregory) because the President is not just the President of the District of Columbia, but of the whole nation.  His decisions affect the lives of millions of Catholics outside D.C.  Arguably, the bishop who should have jurisdiction should be an American bishop in a position comparable to the one held by the President.  And that would be Archbishop Jose Gomez, the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  Unlike Cardinal Gregory, he was elected to his position by a vote of his fellow bishops. Moreover, unlike Gregory, he understands that this is not a time for business as usual. Gomez has already indicated that certain of Biden’s policies “advance moral evils.” Consequently, the claim that Biden is a Catholic in good standing cannot be left unchallenged.

More than many in the hierarchy, Archbishop Gomez seems to realize that the election of Biden has brought the Church to a major turning point.  Let’s hope and pray that he has the courage to move it in the right direction.

William Kilpatrick is the author of What Catholics Need to Know about Islam and other books about culture and religion. His work is supported in part by the Shillman Foundation.

Pictured above:  President-elect Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden attend services at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle

Photo credit:  FOX 5 DC

Sunday, January 24, 2021

God punishes us.

 God does not wish to see us in affliction, but it is we who draw down sufferings upon ourselves, and by our sins enkindle the flames in which we are to burn. God punishes us, because we oblige Him to do so. St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori

Friday, January 8, 2021

Why Did God Allow Biden-Harris to Prevail?


Why Did God Allow Biden-Harris to Prevail?

News: Commentary
by David Gordon  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  January 7, 2021   

Because your family, friends and neighbors are crooked as hell. 

The specter of an impending Joe Biden presidency is haunting America's Christian faithful, leaving many wondering why providence would grant the forces of evil such a pivotal political victory. The simple answer is this: America has gotten exactly the type of government that she deserves. She's reaped the poisonous chaff that she's spent decades and decades sowing. America will be governed by a wicked, Culture of Death, homosexualist, socialist shill because the majority of Americans are wicked, Culture of Death, homosexualist socialists (whether expressly or not). After all, the beauty — and horror — of self-governance is that nations always get the government they deserve.

President Reagan

In order to be free, a people must be virtuous and God-fearing. On this, the Founding Fathers were unanimous, with, perhaps, Samuel Adams putting it best: "Neither the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt." Since most men this side of Eden live vile, bestial lives, the norm for mankind has been to live as serfs underneath brutal, vicious regimes.

America is no exception to this infallible political calculus. A nation is always just one generation from tyranny: All that stands in the way of the degeneration from republic to dystopia, from free people to cattle, is the orientation and vitality of the aggregate conscience of the populace. As Ronald Reagan famously warned:

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.

The universe naturally inclines from order to disorder. The firewall against political entropy is virtue built upon grace. When virtue degenerates, so does freedom.

Our Founding Fathers — men of honor, nobility and high ideals — gifted us a constitutional republic built from the ground up as a hedge against tyranny, the default condition for the fallen human race. Ours was the unmerited privilege of taking the blank slate of a free nation and making of it what we willed. And we chose our path and chose it clearly. In her collective recklessness spurred on by hedonistic excess, intoxicant-fueled indifference and practical atheism, America has frittered away her freedom posthaste for gold-plated dung. We have assembled our own chains of political bondage "link by link and yard by yard" (as Dickens' Jacob Marley would say), girding them on by our own free will.

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.

We have, since the dawn of the republic, allowed judicial tyrants (beginning with Chief Justice John Marshall) to legislate from the bench, rewriting the Constitution under the guise of interpreting it. So we've been left with an untrammeled Supreme Court drunk on its own power — a judiciary that's blighted us with, inter alia, universal access to contraceptives, a "right" to possess pornography, a "right" to slaughter our own children in utero, and sodomitical faux marriage. We didn't do a thing about it, save offer a token, lip-service resistance so characteristic of the indolent, impotent Right.

We've sat idly by and allowed Congress to become a den of thieves, one that has rapaciously appropriated to itself legislative powers reserved to the states alone under the Constitution. We allowed this wake of vultures — under the pretexts of the Necessary and Proper Clause, the Commerce Clause and the Tax and Spend Clause — to invade with onerous regulations and profligate spending every facet of our daily lives. They've destroyed health care; unduly restricted the right to bear arms; financed child-assassination mills like Planned Parenthood with generous gifts from the public coffers; warped our education system with No Child Left Behind; tanked manufacturing; driven up the price of energy; gutted college sports with Title IX and attacked the nuclear family with insidious, feminist legislation like the Violence Against Women Act  

And the few duties that actually wereconstitutionally delegated to the congressional circus are carried out with haphazard incompetence by vainglorious career-politician legislative pimps. The postal service is slow, expensive, disgruntled and flighty; the military, while being overextended to the four corners of the world contra the solemn admonition of George Washington in his Farewell Address, is lowering its fitness standards at the expense of public safety so that women can play soldier and treat it like a job-advancement program; the tax code is a fear-inducing labyrinth of asinine complexities where somehow, despite our communist-inspired graduated income tax, the most opulent corporations pay nothing but average citizens fear debtors' prison; and the borders are porous inlets for drug cartels and unvetted undesirables from all of Latin America.

Depiction of President Washington's
Farewell Address

We have an imperial presidency where cult-of-personality strongmen rule by executive fiat, unlawfully bypassing the legislative branch to make policy from on high while at the same time often refusing to enforce the laws that the chief executive is, by definition, charged with enforcing (e.g., President Obama's creation of the "DACA" program to avoid deporting illegal aliens in contravention of extant federal law). And we've done nothing to restore order and justice, because the Center is vulgar and illiterate, the Right is apathetic and the Left is affirmatively evil.

How did American civics devolve to this point? Make no mistake about it: We got here because of the unconstrained moral degeneracy of our good-time-Charlie family members, friends and neighbors. To care about justice in government, you first have to care about truth and goodness. And don't give me the reflexive, warmed-over, regurgitated talking points endemic among gutless conservatives: "I believe in the fundamental decency of the American people"; "I remain hopeful for America's future," yadda yadda. No. I don’t. And you shouldn't either. 

Confronted with the bleak prospects of a Marxist doom pock-marked by mob violence and overt anti-Christianity, there's no more room for optimism, not by a long shot. The "aww shucks" whistle-past-the-graveyard contrived cheerfulness that was dishonestly passed off as charity by cowardly preceding generations has to be declared anathema to men of goodwill. I hold my many ignoble countrymen in contempt, and so should you. 

Why has God allowed us to escape the natural (and preternatural) consequences of our moral decay for as long as He has?

A brief survey of Americans' moral outlook should suffice to sober up the delirious glass-is-half-full automatons of the nominal Right. So drink in deeply this alarming bevy of statistics:

  • 83% of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in some or all circumstances
  • 73% believe divorce is morally acceptable
  • 65% believe having a baby outside of marriage is morally acceptable
  • 65% believe that smoking marijuana recreationally is morally acceptable
  • 91% believe birth control is morally acceptable
  • 69% believe fornication is morally acceptable
  • 67% percent believe homosexual relations are morally acceptable
  • 54% believe euthanasia is morally acceptable.

To put this in perspective, a higher percentage of Americans believe it's immoral to wear fur clothing (37%) than believe embryonic stem cell research is unethical (29%).

Looking at the various bellwethers of America's moral integrity, it's hard to believe that the nation has been as resilient to outright socialistic tyranny as she actually has. By all indicia, we're a nation of acedia-ridden, playboy savages. So the question is not, "Why has God allowed a corrupt Biden-Harris ticket to win (or steal) this election?" The real question is, "Why has God allowed us to escape the natural (and preternatural) consequences of our moral decay for as long as He has?" That we've made it this far without a catastrophic national meltdown is a minor miracle. It's delusional to think that our countrymen are so perverse and backwards that they view almost every major vice as a virtue but that such ignominy will not translate to the polls. Of course it will, and it has. And barring a national religious awakening, things are only going to get worse.

So never again scratch your head and wonder aloud why it is that evil has been allowed to prevail politically in 2020. The answer is as close as your nearest neighbor.

David Gordon holds university degrees in political science, law and theology. He is co-author of Rules for Retrogrades: Forty Tactics to Defeat the Radical Left. Gordon is an associate copy editor at Church Militant and a co-host of the Resistance Podcast with Joe Gallagher.