Thursday, December 10, 2009

Waiting In Joyful Hope

As Christians wait in joyful hope for the birth of Christ, my thoughts often turn to the many pregnant women in this country who will choose not to wait with joy for the birth of their child. It saddens me that they will choose to end the wait with sorrow long before their child would have been born.

And, somewhere in this country, every 26 seconds of every minute of every hour of every day, that choice is made. It staggers the mind to think that 1.2 million little lives are savagely ended in the womb every year. Incredibly, 70% of these women who make this awful choice are Christian. ( Alan Guttmacher Institute and Planned Parenthood's Family Planning Perspectives.)

Why? Why do they choose not to wait? Well, 93% of these women make that terrible choice because the child is not wanted or will be an inconvenience! And, 47% of all those women have made that choice before! Disturbing statistics.

Preaching that life is sacred is the moral coloring, if you will, that we give to the black and white act of taking a life. Often, that message doesn’t register because many of those who make that choice to end a life do not believe the fetus is alive. Ah, there’s the rub. For them, to end a pregnancy is simply to remove “a bunch of tissue” or “some blob of matter”, as some practitioners of this procedure have been quoted as saying. They no doubt have forgotten or chose to forget what they learned in Biology 101.

How could they forget that human development begins with fertilization, the process in which the male sperm fuses with the female egg to produce the single cell, the very beginning of medical pregnancy, the very beginning of their child? Did they not remember that this single cell divides and divides again in an orderly way as it travels down the Fallopian tube to find the place on the uterus wall where it will continue to grow and from whence it will be taken to the outside world?

Before the first month ends, the heart in that child-in-the-making begins a lifetime of beating. Before the second month ends, brainwaves are detected in this wonder of creation. By the end of the third month, all the organs and systems of this child, now called fetus, are developed and functioning. This is not religious dogma, but scientific fact.( Alabama Physicians for Life) ,

How did this happen? How did we get to this place where a woman was given the right to end a life? Blame it on the Supreme Court that made a sad and strange ruling in 1973 that the only time of pregnancy when a woman had that right with no restriction was in the first three months. The first three months!

And so, we wait. Advent is that time of great expectation. Soon Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be born. Let’s not forget that Mary carried Him in her womb for the whole nine months.

My prayer during this holy and happy season is that women who are thinking about making that cruel choice will not. May God inspire them to wait with joyful hope for the coming of their child.

Joy to the world! The Lord is come. Let earth receive her King. Let every heart make room.

Every heart. Especially those that have just started beating.

Have a joyous Christmas.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Getting Away With Murder

“Off with his head!”

Like the Queen in Alice in Wonderland, that’s what we should be shouting when we execute criminals in America. Derived from the Latin, capitalis, “ regarding the head ”, the death penalty is capital punishment and was originally a severing of the head.

According to Amnesty International, as of December 2008, more than two thirds of the countries in the world have abolished the death penalty in law or practice.

Much to my unhappy surprise, Christians are divided on the death penalty. Some quote Leviticus 24: 17-22 “ And he that killeth any man shall surely be put to death”, while others quote Exodus 20: 13 “ Thou shalt not kill”. In this country, we favor Leviticus and kill those convicted of killing others. Methinks we’re getting away with murder.

The recent execution of Max Payne ( the 6th execution in the first 10 months of 2009 in Alabama!), reminded me how we trifle with human life in this country. We discard embryos we don’t need and destroy unborn children we don’t want.

The heinous nature of Mr. Payne’s crime was undoubtedly the reason the penalty was carried out. But, none of us gave him life, so none of us is allowed to take it away. Christians, of all people, should know that.

It was arrogant of us, in fact, to award ourselves this divine ability by attaching it as punishment for the violation of a law. Our desire to avenge a murder blinds us to the realization that we are not the givers of life. Execution is not punishment, it would seem, but revenge. And we all know what Christ said about revenge.

There has been some discussion, however, about ending the death penalty. In recent years the Supreme Court has voted to forbid the execution of juveniles and the mentally retarded, and it banned using the death penalty for crimes that did not involve killings. But, to my mind, that’s no different than the Nazis choosing who would go to the gas chambers and who would not. We still put people to death.

I’m no constitutional scholar, but, in my view, the Eighth Amendment implicitly forbids the death penalty.

Consider it was written by men who fled a country where punishments, such as public whipping or exposure in the stocks, were designed largely to shame the offender, and where the only death penalty was the brutal and also shameful hanging. Presumably, they wanted no more whippings, stocks or hangings in their new life and is probably what they had in mind when they wrote “cruel and unusual”.

The tone of the 8th Amendment, I feel, is concern for the convicted. Go easy on the bail and fines and, for heaven’s sake, don’t torture.That being the case, why would they want death as punishment?

OK. It’s the responsibility of the state to protect its citizens. How then, you may ask, can the state maintain peace and order in society unless it rids us of those who commit awful crimes? Well, the punishment handed down for crime should restore that peace and order. Catholic teaching is clear on this issue and makes perfect sense: if there are non-lethal means sufficient to defend and protect the public while punishing for the crime, the state should limit itself to such means (such as life without parole). In that way, we are also respecting the dignity of the person who committed the crime.

God made man in His image and that is why life is sacred, whether it’s microscopic, cradled in a womb or spent making bad choices.

It troubles me that not much has changed since the days, 2,000 years ago, when people screamed, “ Crucify Him, crucify Him.”

Till next time...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Kicking The Habit

From the clothing seen in an eleventh century monastery to the clothing worn by nuns on picket lines in the 1960’s, “habits” have always been designed and worn for a reason. Benedictines and Dominicans, for example, were clothed in outfits that were specifically created to identify women who had consecrated their lives to God. Many other orders of nuns wore habits that reflected their desire to blend in among the people they served. The understated habits of Mother Teresa’s Sisters of Charity that resembled the uniform of nurses comes to mind. When many religious abandoned their habits in the 60’s and 70’s, it stirred a debate that continues today.

Does it ever. If I live to be 100, I will never understand why some orders of nuns decided to begin to dress like laywomen. It was almost as if they were ashamed to be identified as nuns. Their reasons given for this radical change pale in comparison to why they should dress like religious. There is no plausible explanation for this sudden desire to appear as lay women. None. Oh, the reasons given for the big switch ranged from “ the habits were bulky, hot and uncomfortable” to “ lay clothes are donated or bought at thrift shops and are cheaper than habits”.

This is simple. Those excuses are secondary to the primary reason nuns wear and should wear clerical garb: they are clerics of the Catholic Church. Furthermore, they should be proud to display to the world that they have given up their lives to Christ. Dressing in mufti, as it were, tells those who know they’re nuns that they gave up their lives to Christ, but they not only want to be comfortable, but also do not want everyone knowing it. Disgraceful.

Once some of these nuns began dressing like laity, it was a foregone conclusion they would soon act like laity, albeit faithful to their vow of chastity. The parochial school system of the Church was the first to feel it. Little by little, the “ sisters”, those who were our teachers, were out of the convents and living on their own. Whereas they were receiving stipends because they had taken a vow of poverty, their replacements in the schools were laity and had to be paid living wages. That was the fundamental reason for the economic problems that suddenly faced the Catholic school system. The rest, as they say, is history. The wonderful nuns who taught me in grade school, were disappearing. And, for the most part, they are gone.

It is interesting and significant to note that, over the past 30 years, the number of women in Catholic religious orders has decreased by a reported 50%. There are now approximately, only 85,412 religious sisters in the United States and their average age is 68.

The good news is that the religious orders that are actually seeing growth are the ones that wear the traditional habit including the Dominicans and Mother Teresa’s religious order.

It is widely held that Vatican II said that nuns should take the habit off in favor of secular clothes. Surprisingly, not true (See below). Nowhere in the Council documents does it say that the priests and religious should dispense with religious habits, and it never said that habits should be the street clothes of the common man. Vatican II stated that habits are to be an outward sign of consecration. They need to be simple, modest, poor, becoming, and needed to be changed if they were unhealthy or not suited for today's needs. Maybe that was the “opt-out” wording seized upon by some nuns.

This is not a new idea. Religious habits have changed throughout history, but for obvious reasons priests and nuns wearing secular apparel from a department store does not fit the bill. Pope Paul VI and John Paul II both have told priests and religious that they must wear their religious habit, but many have chosen to ignore the Papacy and the Second Vatican Council.

Certainly, the gradual disappearance of habits of some nuns does not change any fundamental doctrine of the church. But, how are we, as Christians, to transform the world for Christ if some religious are in disguise?

And, what are we to make of the disappearance of the habit causing the disappearance of “role models” for young women considering the religious life? There are some women who just naturally draw young people to them whether wearing a habit or not. But, as some young women have been reported to have said, “ wearing civilian clothes makes them just ‘one of the bunch’. Traditional garb is special (maybe not the most comfortable) and attracts even the youngest to these traditional women.”

The document, “ Perfectae Caritatis” , proclaimed by His Holiness, Pope Paul VI on October 28, 1965, spends a long time laying out the parameters of the discussion, but eventually reaches some very important conclusions.

Section #17 ( of the 25) is spot on:

17. The religious habit, an outward mark of consecration to God, should be simple and modest, poor and at the same becoming. In addition it must meet the requirements of health and be suited to the circumstances of time and place and to the needs of the ministry involved. The habits of both men and women religious which do not conform to these norms must be changed. (Editor's note: notice here that the idea of abandoning the habit altogether is not even considered)

One final note: Canon 669,1 in Code of Canon Law states: Religious are to wear the habit of the institute determined according to the norm of proper law as a sign of their consecration and as a testimony of poverty.

As a sign of their consecration. Wonderful.

Till next time.....

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Father's Love

If I live to be a hundred, I will never understand why some children treat their parents the way they sometimes do. “Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother” was a Commandment by Christ, not a suggestion.

A good friend of mine has not spoken with his son in eleven years. They’re estranged. What a terrible word. Estranged means to be removed from usual surroundings and to become strangers to one another. He has told me there is no acceptable reason for this silence of one of his lambs. But, whatever it might be must never thumb its nose at that Commandment. Never.

It saddened me to think that my friend had helped create a child, held him in his arms, taken him to school, taught him to play ball, fed him, clothed him, laughed with him, cried with him, watched him grow and, then, felt him slowly drift away. Was this the reward for becoming a father?

Keenly aware that he did not want to anger his son as St. Paul warned in his letter to the Colossians, “Fathers do not provoke your children, so they may not become discouraged ”, he traveled to the city where his son worked to find out what was wrong. He was also well aware of the first part of that warning of St. Paul: “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord ” (Colossians 3: 20-21) Tough call, but good for him.

It is the teaching of my Christian faith that “divine fatherhood is the source of human fatherhood.” * (“ For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named ” ) ( Ephesians 3:14-15). “This is the foundation of the honor owed to the parents. It is required by God’s Commandment.” * ( “Honor your father and your mother that you may live a long life in the land which your God is giving you ) (Exodus 20:12)

“Respect for parents comes from gratitude towards those who, by the gift of life, their love and their work, have brought their children into the world and enabled them to grow in stature, wisdom and grace.” *(“ Remember that through your parents you were born; what can you give back that equals their gift to you?”) ( Sirach 7:27-28) (* Cathechism of the Catholic Church )

No one will doubt or challenge that mothers and fathers deserve respect. Much of what I’ve quoted from the Bible and my church’s teaching will surely resonate with many of you. We need simply look around today to see the collapse of the family through divorce, drugs, scandal, what have you. The moral fabric of our society is badly frayed.

Some may argue that something must have happened to cause this parting of their ways. Indeed, obviously, there was something that this father could not fathom and is why he sought out his son. He claimed he was not aware of anything he might have done to cause this rupture, but would offer apologies nonetheless and ask forgiveness if need be. If his son is embarrassed and is shielding him from some grief, he needs to know so that he may offer comfort. But, overriding all of this speculation is the profound truth that children must respect their parents and parents must love their children.

“He who honors his father atones for sins; he stores up riches who reveres his mother. He who honors his father is gladdened by children and when he prays he is heard. He who reveres his father will live a long life. He obeys the Lord who brings comfort to his mother”(Sirach 3: 2-6)

Love is a powerful force and prayer is even stronger. Together, they have been known to make miracles.

Let’s pray for that, since he never connected with his son.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

God And Evil

Why Does God Allow Evil In The World?

Having recently left the horror of hurricanes in Florida, I have now settled in to my new home in Alabama and discovered the terror of tornados.

Lately, there have been natural disasters the likes of which we have not seen in years. Fires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes are happening far too often and are causing death and destruction. Let me not forget the frightening evidence of global warming and widespread drought.

The question often asked is being asked more frequently these days. Why does God permit these terrible tragedies? Tough question. Obviously, no one knows. But, we can speculate. I have a theory.

For those of us, who believe in God, believe He created a world in a state of journeying towards its ultimate perfection which we believe is being with Him. Whatever that might be. As long as it has not reached that perfection, it is an imperfect world with both good and evil Or, to put it another way, a perfect world could not be both good and evil.

So, ours is not a perfect world. No siree! It is filled with natural beauty and natural disaster. God is supremely good and would only permit the evil of disaster to occur or to exist in His works, such as storms like the deadly Katrina or the recent spreading wildfires in California, for example, because He knows that good can be derived from evil.

Don’t scoff. The good that comes after storms such as Katrina is evident in the help the victims received with love and consideration of people around the world. This is always the case after every flood, hurricane or fire. Compassion inevitably follows chaos. It is happening in California to the victims who saw their homes and all their possessions reduced to ashes.

These disasters are not punishments by God. So, we should not ask why He ‘allows’ them, implying He is angry with us for our moral decay. The disasters, on the contrary, are opportunities for good. Consider that the greatest good came from the greatest evil: the redemption of sin came from the crucifixion of Christ.

All of these disasters, I believe, therefore, are blessings in disguise.

Till next time... 

Sunday, August 23, 2009

T'ain't Easy

It’s not easy being Christian. Or, as Molly McGee said to her husband Fibber on their radio program many years ago,” T’aint easy McGee”. No. it isn’t. Christ never said it would be.

The hard and fast rules of Christianity are sometimes difficult to accept in a culture that can best be described as “ whatever works ”. Opposing abortion and the death penalty, for example, will not win you many friends and alienate some you have, many of whom, surprisingly, might be Christians.

To be Christian means to belong, through Baptism, to a church founded by Jesus Christ, Son of God, It means to believe and obey all that Church’s doctrines based on Christ’s teachings which carry the responsibility to preach them and transform the world.

The current town hall meetings filled with shouting, angry citizens got me to thinking. What does it mean to be a Christian citizen? How do you faithfully follow the tenets of your faith and, at the same time, obey and accommodate those laws or challenge possible reform that does not respect life?

While many objected to the now proven false “ death panels” in the health care reform bill, the protests at their core were manifestations of responsibilities as Christians ( and non-Christians, to be sure)

OK. So far so good. But, what does a Christian do when a politician, seeking public office, does not openly proclaim opposition to either abortion, the death penalty or the “death panels” when that rumor began.? Can a Christian vote for such a politician? The simple answer is “yes” if the purpose of the vote is, obviously, not to promote any of those barbaric acts.

The flip side is that a Christian may choose not to vote because the candidate may support abortion or the death penalty or some other intrinsic evil, such as embryonic stem cell research or euthanasia, aka “death with dignity”. Although we shouldn’t be one issue voters, it is possible and permissible.

But, it really doesn’t end there. The Christian citizen has a serious moral obligation to participate in political life so that evil laws are changed. It is heartening, then, to see these town hall meetings however raucous they may be.

What does it mean to be a Christian politician? Ah, that’s a lot tougher than just being a Christian.citizen.After all, a Christian politician is also a Christian citizen.Christians are called to bring truth to political life. The people who make laws also have an obligation in conscience to work toward correcting morally defective laws, lest they be guilty of cooperating in evil and in sinning against the common good. Not a popular concept.

Hearing all this, there are those who will scream First Amendment, separation of Church and State! Nonsense. Fulfilling responsibilities as Christians is not establishing a national religion. It is, quite simply, living the faith as Christ commanded us.

Responsible citizenship, then, is a virtue and participation in political life is a moral obligation. That does not mean we should all run for office. Rather, at the least, we should raise our voices on matters that affect our lives and the common good. (Of course with more decorum than is being displayed in those town hall meetings)

It is essential, then, that we bring our convictions ( read: our faith) into public life. It is far too common to hear the separation of church and state argument as if our faith is like the good china that we keep at home and only use on Sunday.

Yeah, t’ain't easy, but worth it for the heavenly reward.

Till next time....

Saturday, August 15, 2009

America’s Royal Court

Hollywood aside, the closest that we come to anything resembling royalty in this country is the Supreme Court. Calling it the Supreme court should be the first clue.

It has long fascinated me that, in this democracy, most of the rulings on laws that have directly affected our individual lives have been made by people who were not elected by us. And, once chosen to serve, cannot be removed by us, no matter how much we may dislike them. Talk about to the manor born!

Think about it. Nine people can have more effect on our lives than the elected President and 100 members of the Senate. Or, for that matter, 435 elected members of the House. Nine. And, the one justice who causes the majority is the one holding ‘ the balance of power’. One. What a country. “We the people. .” Yeah, right.

With Judge Sonia Sotomayor now confirmed by Congress to fill the Court vacancy, I thought it would be interesting to examine how this extraordinary body of barristers came to be.

As you will see, we made this court a royal one, not the Founders. In fact, we call it the High Court, which the Founders never did.

Other than establishing it, the Constitution spells out neither the specific duties, number of justices, powers nor organization of the Supreme Court. “ The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court ...” (Article III, Section I ) Instead, the Constitution left it to Congress and to the Justices of the Court itself to develop the authorities and operations of the entire Judicial Branch of government.
( )

That special power to choose justices was, in fact, given to the President :" nominate, by and with the advise and consent of the Senate" and curiously was buried in Article II, Section II of the Constitution. It was stated after " appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls.." and followed by " all other Officers of the United States, whose appointments....",and on and on. Originally there were only six Justices, later 7 (1807), then 9 (1837), a failed attempt at 10 with nine finally settled on (1869).

You have to wonder why we make such a big deal of these appointments since the Founding Fathers apparently didn’t. Of course, they didn’t have TV, the Internet or cell phones with cameras, texting, tweeting and whatever. It’s my guess, then, that they probably never imagined that the ‘power’ to select would someday result in a court of nine people who would resolve life-altering issues. “Roe v. Wade” comes to mind.

But, here’s the unbelievable part. When chosen and consented to, these judges remain on the bench for life. For life. Ye gads. Why? Because the authors of the Constitution wrote, “ The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their Offices during good behavior.” (Article III/Section I ) Good behavior ? Boy those guys lived a simple life! Well, since the average lifespan at the time was in the mid-40’s, how long they served was probably of no real consequence to them.

In my view and, in due respect, the Founders really blew this one. But, the Constitution is, as they say, a “living document ”, so, we can and should perform minor surgery and amend the constitution to create term limits.

Should we do that, the regal aura surrounding these reclusive, virtually cloistered lawyers might then dissipate and even better, the Congressional hearings with televised posturing that gives birth to sound-bites might mercifully disappear.

Too bad, by the way, the Founders didn’t include “during good behavior” when establishing the rest of our government.

Till next time.....

Friday, August 7, 2009

Fantastic Voyage

When does life begin?

Good question. Is it when the child is still a fetus inside the womb? Or is it when the fetus becomes a baby and takes it’s first breath outside the womb?
As a Christian, I believe that life begins at the magical, mysterious moment of conception. To understand why I believe that, come with me on a fantastic voyage.
Imagine we’re miniaturized like those actors were in that old classic science fiction movie,“ Fantastic Voyage ”.

Please don’t be squeamish, but imagine we’re floating in a tiny vessel that is taking us through the bloodstream in a woman’s body. Since women have been chosen and blessed by God to be the receptacles-almost the tabernacles, if you will-of life, then, maybe, if we’re lucky, we’ll see how life begins.
Imagine we are watching an egg (ovum) traveling down the hollow organ
(fallopian tube) that connects the ovaries( female egg hatchery) with the
uterus (the nursery, so to speak). The egg seems to be looking for that
certain ‘someone’ among the countless sperm swimming by.

Look! Oh my, it appears to have found ‘ the one’ among millions swimming in the womb and doesn’t it look like they’ve ‘ kissed and made love’? (Scientists call it “ fusion”) Oh boy, a single cell has now emerged and it’s dividing, again and again Wow. It’s getting bigger.( known as a blastocyst)
Here we are, a few short days later and what began as a microscopic cell
has become what is called an embryo. Ah, an embryo. Isn’t that what’s being slaughtered on the altar of research? Look at that. Just like a baby, it has found the most comfortable and secure spot on the uterus wall and attaches itself as if to nestle in a crib. Isn’t that wonderful.
Listen. Hear that? We’ve only been here about a month and already we can hear the tiny heart beat. In a few more weeks, I understand we’ll see the eyes, legs and hands begin to develop. If we stay for eight weeks, we’ll see facial features, muscles, nervous system and sex organs-sex organs! Imagine that! Of course, if we stayed even longer, we could see this baby-in-the making grow from 1/5 of an inch to about 10 inches, from an ounce to many pounds. What a show that would be.
Absolutely amazing. That almost invisible single cell, the “offspring” you
might say, of “mother ovum” and “father sperm”, will grow and in only
nine months or so, it will be their newborn child.

We really didn’t need to imagine all of that, since it’s all been recorded.

But, it was fun to imagine that we were there.
So, when did life begin? Was it when an arm, a leg or a face was formed
during its growth? That makes no sense. Life doesn’t begin in the middle of growth and development. Or was it later, when the doctor slapped the bare bottom of the baby as it came into the world? Please. Despite what you may have heard, the doctor is not God. He only gave it breath, not life.
No. Remember the sperm meeting and mating the ovum? That’s when life begins. That’s not religious dogma that we have to believe in blind faith. It is scientific fact. Fertilization of the female egg. Biology 101.
Each and everyone of us began life as that single cell that emerged when our father’s sperm met our mother’s egg. We grew from a single cell to a full grown, crying baby.,
So that single, first cell must have been alive, since dead things don’t grow.

That’s when life begins.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Other "N" Word

Hate the sin and love the sinner.

That’s what is said to opponents of gay marriage when our objection is misunderstood as our contempt for homosexuals. Well, we do love the sinner. But, this is the time to talk about the sin, especially since gay marriage is so often in the news. This is about what we, Christians especially, perceive is meant by “ gay marriage”. This is about the “ n ” word.

No, not that word. That’s about race. This is about sex. “ Natural ”. That “ n ” word..

Gay marriage isn’t natural. Notice that I didn’t say “normal” since ‘normal’ is a relative word in these days of “whatever works”.

Now that I have your attention and hopefully have not offended anyone, let me explain.

First, it’s important to understand that when we speak of gay marriage, we are not only speaking about a loving, committed relationship. We are talking about the physical sex that expresses that love. Otherwise, we’re simply talking about roommates. We must assume the marriage that gays seek is more than two

roommates seeking equality under the law for all the benefits enjoyed by heterosexual couples. Otherwise, they would be happy with “civil unions” that are enjoyed by many in some states.

So, is sex between same sex partners unnatural ? Yes, because it is contrary to the natural law. Natural law or the law of nature is a theory that states the existence of a law whose content is set by nature and that therefore has validity everywhere. ( Translated, that means natural is that which operates according to its nature.

Which brings me to the human reproductive or sex organs. You might say they were made for each other. Literally. There is a certain beauty, an elegance, in these reproductive organs. The operative word, of course, is “reproductive”. Even if you did not believe in God, the creator of all things, you must marvel at the complexity of how women produce human eggs and men produce the seeds that fertilize those eggs and give them life. To reproduce the species is their purpose. It is their nature.

(That does not mean that every sex act must result in childbirth. In point of fact, it doesn’t always. But, that’s not germane.)

“Traditional Christian beliefs have always declared that people with homosexual tendencies are to be loved and embraced but, homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. Those acts are contrary to the natural law and close the sexual act to the gift of life.”(Catechism Catholic Church)

There it is: “They close the sex act to the gift of life.”

To call a relationship of gays a "marriage", then, is obviously not to describe a relationship for the procreation of children. So, you have to wonder why the gays passionately pursue being called “married ” Perhaps they seek respect, since society holds long term commitments in great regard. But a "commitment" does not a marriage make.
No, it’s more than respect for their commitment. I believe the gays are seeking to have the state sanction those relationships as “marriages” because it will grant an imprimatur of “normal” to what is essentially unnatural.

So, let me be clear. Christians oppose gay “marriages” not because they threaten traditional marriages. How could they? They are fundamentally not the same. No, Christians-and others- oppose the sanctioning of gay relationships as “marriages” because they will condone the unnatural sex that is presumably present in those relationships.

And, unnatural sex is the sin that we hate.

Till next time....

Friday, July 31, 2009

Life Is Sacred

The fundamental truth that permeates the Catholic church’s teaching on embryonic stem cell research, abortion, death penalty and euthanasia is that life is sacred.

In this country today, women’s right to control their reproductive choices seems to be more important than the unborn’s right to life, which can never be claimed, because it can never be heard. And, those who speak for the unborn are given negative labels such as “ anti-abortionists ” as if respecting life is a terrible thing.

To argue that banning abortion will lead to a nightmare scenario of back alleys and desperate measures is to imply that legalized killing of unborn children is acceptable because it is done safely. It is still killing. The unborn child nestled in the womb is not a potted plant in a garden. Oh, how I wish those babies could scream.

It amazes me how many people can be duped by the slogan “Pro-Choice”. The slogan “Pro-Choice” has always bothered me. There are only two choices regarding abortion: yes or no. The choice of “No” is, effectively, “pro-life”. Well, certainly, abortionists would never admit to that. So, there is really only one choice of “yes” and that choice would be, de facto, forgive me, “pro-death”.

No wonder abortionists parade behind an attractive banner that hides one of the choices that is ugly. In the matter of respecting human life, there should be no choices.

And, speaking of hiding behind a a name for an ugly thing, consider the abortion pill, Mifeprestone , also known as RU 486. Giving a name like RU-486, that looks like a license plate, to a pill with deadly consequences was a stroke of genius. Because, now, for pregnant women, " taking the pill " will sound innocent and not as terrifying as " having an abortion”.

But, make no mistake. This is the abortion pill that terminates pregnancy by stopping the growth of the embryo and expelling it from the womb, as if it were waste matter.Horrible.

In this country, whether we are adults executed in electric chairs, children murdered with guns in school, or embryos denied life on the wall of the mother's uterus, killing each other is as easy as throwing a switch, pulling a trigger or as easy as taking a pill and calling the doctor in the morning.

To paraphrase the late Rodney Dangerfield, " Life in this country gets no respect"..Till next time...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Love One Another

These days, love is not a many splendored thing. The news is filled with criticisms of others whether they deserve it or not.

If there is one trait that would describe-or should describe “being Catholic” it would be “ loving ”. Christ said, “You will know them by their love for one another”. Unfortunately, many Catholics are not full of love.

But, what is love? Or, as Cole Porter, the songwriter once famously wrote, “ What is this thing called love? This funny thing called love? Just who can solve its mystery? ”

We still ask that question and always have, since we first felt a strong emotional attachment to someone. Every February, we celebrate love with the feast of Saint Valentine, the priest who was beheaded for marrying Christians while he was in prison, in defiance of Emperor Claudius II. While in prison, he befriended a young girl visitor and sent her heartfelt messages signed “from your Valentine”. The rest is history.

Nice. But, what is this thing called love? It is one of the most used and misused words in our language. We say, “ I’d love to smack you” as easily as “I’d love to kiss you”. We sing that love is a many splendored thing and we freely throw around phrases such as “ love is in the air”,”love is everywhere”,”love is never having to say you’re sorry”. But what is love? No one really knows.

They also say “love and marriage go together like a horse and a carriage”. True. More than that, what should overcome any disruptive behavior in marriage and explains why the bride and groom wanted to be “joined together” in the first place is love. Pure, simple, unconditional love. Love for one another. Sounds familiar.

Oh, we know when we are in love, we know the pain of losing love or someone we loved, but we cannot define that emotion, that feeling. The 13th century Catholic theologian, St.Thomas Aquinas, defined Hell as the absence of God’s love. Just add ‘for all eternity’ and that really gives meaning to hell and to love as well.

But, if we had to define love, I believe St.Paul defined it best when he wrote to the jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails”.

In the end, I suppose it doesn’t matter that we cannot put our mind around the concept of love as if it were something we could hug. All that matters is that we can love and when we have loved or been loved, it was, well, indescribable.

“ Love thy neighbor as thyself ”, Christ said. He really didn’t have to define love. He simply said we would know who His followers were “ by their love for one another.” Unfortunately, today, it seems everyone is wrapped in their own stuff and no one has time for another.

The flip side of love is, of course, hate. The ultimate expression of hate is fighting in one form or another. One glance at the TV or newspaper will tell us that there is more fighting in our world than there is loving. I really think we love to fight. Which makes me wonder. Why do we fight? More than that, why did God give us the capability to fight as well as the capability to love.

Certainly, we cannot like everyone. Christ never commanded us to do that. That would be a formidable obligation. But, we tolerate one another because we love them. That allows us to be patient, kind,…well, you know the rest.

The news is filled with reports of war, conflict, aggression, insurgency, rebellion, genocide, ethnic cleansing and sectarian violence. Let’s not forget the murder and mayhem in this country and, sadly, in our own neighborhoods. It seems like fighting is everywhere and has been happening for a long time. ( The earliest recorded war was fought in 2700 B.C. Imagine that.)

What is it about us that makes us fight? Why are we wired that way? God told us to love one another and yet He gave us the capability to hurt one another. Why. No one knows. Maybe it’s because if we never fought, we would always love. I can’t even imagine that.

So, isn’t it possible that we fight because we want to retrieve the peace and quiet that was taken from us by whatever means and for whatever reason? Certainly, it can be a little more complicated than that. But basically, I believe most of us prefer peace and quiet.

And, kindness, charity and love flourish only in peace and quiet. Ah, for that.

Till next time...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My Faith, The Handrail In My Life

These days, it’s not easy being a Catholic. The hard and fast rules of the Church are sometimes difficult to accept in a culture that can best be described as “ whatever works”. If it isn’t the still rippling effects of the clergy sex abuse scandals, it’s opposing abortion and the death penalty that will not win you many friends and alienate those you have.

Growing up as a Catholic, I liked the black/white of behavior. Right and wrong. No gray areas. It’s been that way since Christ told Peter,” Upon this rock…” The simple unbreakable distinction between right and wrong has been the handrail which I have been grasping as I walk through my entire life.

Some Catholics are sometimes described as “ good Catholics” But, there is no such thing as a “good” Catholic. Well, it’s redundant. Surely there are good people and bad people who are Catholics. But a person baptized as a Catholic is a Catholic forever. It’s unnecessary to say a person is a “good” Catholic because being Catholic implies that person observes the faith. “Good” is not necessary. So also, when you say a person is a bad Catholic, you are saying that person is not living a Catholic life. In that case, that person is a Catholic who is living a sinful life. That is not being a “ bad ” Catholic, it is being bad and a Catholic. And not living the way a Catholic should. The way Christ commanded us to live. So, really, that person should not be honored with the description, “Catholic”.

Sure, there are cradle Catholics ( like me ) lapsed Catholics and I’ll even accept “devout” Catholics, although I sometimes feel that should be redundant.

But, the terms, “ liberal” and “conservative” should never be applied to Catholics. “Liberal” means or implies that these Catholics feel free ( liberal) to believe what they want. To justify that basically heretical attitude by allowing it to be described as “Catholic” is offensive to Catholics who adhere to the teachings of the Church without question. “Conservative” means preserving tradition. Here again, while “conservative” is not at all pejorative, it is unnecessary and implies that there are Catholics who are non-traditional. That’s ridiculous.

To be Catholic means to belong, through Baptism, to a church founded by Jesus Christ, Son of God, and to believe and obey all that Church’s doctrines based on Christ’s teachings. They carry with them the responsibility to preach these doctrines and transform the world.

Till next time.....

Monday, July 27, 2009

Heaven Will Be Empty

Nobody likes a grouch. But, I’m not a happy Catholic.

My church, the Catholic Church into which I was born and baptized, the church that I have always loved all of my 78 years, the comfort zone where I went when all my problems became too much, is suffering. And that makes me sad.

At a time when Catholicism should be a guiding light for all people who wish to please God and win their reward of heaven, my church was shaken by a sex abuse scandal. As if that wasn’t enough, far too many of the laity have been voicing discontent with some of the church’s teachings. And all of this has been happening in a culture that is beginning to look like the early days of the fall of Rome.

So, personally, this has been a tough time. Vatican II changed the look and feel of my church. The reverent simplicity of the holy sacrifice of the Mass was unnecessarily complicated by lay lectors, extraordinary ministers, turned around altars and, of course, the vernacular liturgy that completely dissipated the mystery that the Latin brought to the celebration. And lest I forget, Vatican II granted permission to all orders of nuns to shed their habits if they so desired. Soon gone were the outward sign that these women were special and that they were in our world but not of our world.

Granted all of these changes wrought by Vatican II were superficial and did not alter the fundamental teaching of our church, but Vatican II somehow gave the laity the courage, the nerve to challenge some of the teachings of our Church. This gave rise to the “cafeteria Catholics” and the Catholics who hid behind the groups with names that rationalized what they were attempting to do: bend the teachings as if they were flexible.

As a man who spent high school and college in a seminary studying for the New York priesthood, the sex scandal by some of our priests shocked and saddened me beyond words. But, there again, this scandal gave voice to some of our lay people who felt priests should marry. That’s not all of the suggestions made often and loudly by these well-meaning but misguided laity.

Nevertheless, throughout these 44 years since that Council, the indisputable teachings of my Church have been like beacons of light always leading me to safe harbor whenever I needed it.

Now, as I look around at the moral decay in America, I grieve not only because of the disappearance of the distinction between right and wrong or sin and virtue, but also because of the many Catholics who are voicing discontent within our church instead of denouncing what is wrong outside our church..

And so, I decided to write this blog. I am sick of the immorality that passes for normalcy in our everyday living. I am sick of the Catholics challenging doctrine and attempting to justify their behavior by calling it intellectual pursuit. This blog is not a scholarly treatise. Rather, it is a strong reminder and reiteration of Catholic doctrine. It is a fervent plea that all Catholics need to announce to the world what our basic, fundamental teachings are if we are to lead the way out of our modern Gomorrah.

Sometimes, I feel like a lone layman lamenting, a voice crying amidst the noise of some laity discontent and saying, “Enough! This is what you must believe or you must leave”. Other times, I just feel like a lone Catholic wondering how our society has gotten so morally polluted and why Catholics-at least- have done very little about clearing that air.

Much of what I have written has already been published in letters to the editor, Guest Columns and web postings It is my fervent hope that these thoughts of mine will inspire some Catholics to change and encourage others to continue in the pursuit of heaven.

My point is simple: We must get our act together. Everybody. Not just Catholics. But, unless Catholics get back to basics and begin setting examples that Christ wanted and begin to transform the world, Catholics-and non-Catholics as well-are all going to hell.

Well, maybe not all of us and maybe not hell. Purgatory, for sure.

Count on this, though: the way so many are behaving, heaven will be empty.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

My Faith, Love of My Life

I’m in love.

With my beautiful faith.

My Christianity or more specifically, my Catholicism.

What makes my Catholic faith so beautiful is the plain fact that each and every one of the Catholic Church’s teachings makes sense. Paradoxically, you don’t need faith to understand and believe many of the doctrines.

Faith, by the way, is a gift. Sometimes it is given when you pray for it and sometimes it comes without asking. I am one of those lucky people called “ Cradle Catholics ” who, without asking, received the gift of faith when they were born. My faith has been the handrail which I have been grasping as I walk through life.

And,I remain a Catholic. I always have been, always will be and I am thrilled to be..

This is the beginning of my blogging. As you will see in my profile, I have been writing for the last eleven years or so. In a short time I began getting my letters to the editor published in St.Pete Times with an occasional Guest Column. Now, for the past year and a half since I moved here, I have been writing a monthly column for the Cullman Times. Most of the subjects have been about-you guessed it-Catholic teaching as it relates to our behavior

For a short while in my youth, I studied for the priesthood. Unfortunately, it was not to be, I was “called, but not chosen”. My vocation ended with a thoughtful decision that I could not clear the hurdle of celibacy. It might surprise some that I am a staunch advocate of celibacy as a requirement for ordination. For my money, it is a price of admission to a life of true happiness.

Whenever I can, I will post some of the stuff I've had published that might be relevant to what's happening....Till then....