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.