One of my former bishops was described, even by himself, as an extreme moderate. It would have called him a pathological moderate, but, hey, that’s just terminology. He was and is a nice fellow and a good man, but he made the mistake of assuming the the middle ground was always the truth. He also made the mistake of thinking that he was always in the middle ground. (Often his positions were liberal/progressive.)
This is a common way of looking at the world. Heck, I looked at the world that way during my stupid liberal college days. You just find what you consider to be two opposite and extreme positions, create a continuum and stake out a mid-ground between them, and then you are safe. Except, that it makes a lot of false assumptions.
2 Falsehoods of Moderation
The first falsehood is that is assumes the things are opposites, like good and evil, male and female. Good and evil are not opposites. That view is heretical. Evil is a privation of good. It is nothing, a defect. Moderation between a thing and its privation is just less defective. Male and female are not opposites. The are complementary sexes of the same species. Neuter or androgyny aren’t are virtuous middle between two extremes, but rather something else entirely.
The second falsehood is to assume that the extremes are natural opposites. Consider fascism and Marxism. They are opposites, right? Wrong, they are both versions of socialism. They differ but that doesn’t make them opposites. Much of the time, the moderate will just pull two relevant things or positions out of a cocked hat and say, “Look at these two extremes. I am in the middle, so I must be right.” But the secret is that there is no middle between the two positions.
Where does this come from? Ultimately, I thing from a misunderstanding of Aristotelian ethics. Aristotle framed virtue as a mean between two extremes. It works in his systems, but that does not mean that it is valid as a universal principle. From Aristotle, it passed into a cliche. “Virtue is found in the middle.” Usually said by people who don’t know a damned thing about Aristotle. A little philosophy is a dangerous thing.
So here we find ourselves with a bunch of well meaning folks who think that moderation is ipso facto position to take and compromise is always the thing to do. Except that they aren’t!
Sorta true is false and sorta false is false. Compromised truth is always falsehood.
But, but, but, what about conversion isn’t that moving along a continuum from falsehood to truth, evil to good? No. Usually, what it is is trying to live out the truth and failing a lot while doing it. Or trying to change one aspect because trying to change everything at once can be too overwhelming. Doesn’t that make the sins you are not working on not sins? No. All it means is that most of us can’t do everything at once.
Watered Downed Gospel
Compromising on the Gospel in not possible. What is arrived at is something else with no power to save. To try, to present a watered down false Gospel does nothing but earn the presenter a great big millstone. Stick with the truth, wherever it is perceived to be; left, right, up, down, or dead center.
An aphorism I like to use is: the only thing you will find in the middle of the road is a dead rabbit and a yellow line.
I occasionally turn on a regular network TV station. My gorge rises and I flee back to books, cable news or DVDs.
I understand that there is now a TV series called Lucifer. I won’t be seeing that one.
However, a priest friend sent me an SMS about it:
Have you heard about this horrible new show Lucifer? I watched it last night just because I am sure that many of my parishioners will have done so. It is super new age, with all the stupid notions of the need for the existence of good and evil to create balance, etc.
Lucifer is bored with hell so he incarnates on earth to do good for humanity, and this results in a ‘lack of balance between heaven and hell’ it is basically blasphemous….
Blasphemous and stupid.
My IQ dropped a few points just learning of this show.
Let’s be clear about the Enemy of the soul and fallen angels.
“But Father! But Father!”, some numb-skulls are whimpering, “We don’t focus on these things any more! We are now happy in our faith communities and the sharing of fellowship and we all go to heaven together so we can be in fellowship and communities of sharing and be with our pets. Vatican II did away with all this devil talk and nonsense about people going to hell. That’s all people like you can talk about but you hate Vatican II! Don’t listen to Fr. Z! Everyone sing! ♫ ♫ My little pony… my little pony…♫ ♫”
Sure, we must also talk about heaven and goodness and joy and kitties and sunshine and birthday cakes. Let’s get this Hell and Devil thing straightened out because it’s been neglected for far too long.
Priests and bishops who don’t teach about Hell will probably wind up there.
It is the job of every bishop and priest to keep as many of you as possible out of Hell.
As I have noted before, the greatest accomplishment of the Enemy of our souls is to deceive people that the Enemy doesn’t exist … that there is no Hell … that people can’t go to Hell … that no one is in Hell, … that evil is somehow a necessary component of existence… blah blah blah.
The Devil exists. Fallen angels re real, personal beings. There is nothing cute about the Enemy.
Fallen angels hate you with a malice no human can imagine. They have an intellect that surpasses our mere human faculties in a way that we can’t fathom. They never tire. They are relentless. They are real. If you don’t believe in the existence of malicious fallen angels, you are in serious risk of joining them in Hell. This is no joke.
The Devil and the fallen angels hate you.
They have angelic abilities. They never sleep, never tire, are never distracted, have no need to travel from point a to b, and they never miss what you are up to.
Think this through.
Imagine what sort of profile on you some government agency could put together. I’ve written on this before, but it bears dredging up and repeating.
Imagine that government agencies want to build a psychological profile of you, much as the FBI might when they use clues and evidence to hunt down an unknown serial killer.
These government agents, let’s call it The Agency, teamed up with a newly minted Dem President’s Domestic Security Force, are profiling Catholics. Real Catholics are, of course, terrorists and dissidents: they refuse to worship Moloch and offer sacrifices of incense to the statue of the POTUS.
Said Agency and DSF plot your movements through your mobile phone and car’s GPS as you move in and out of cells which they monitor to triangulate your location. They learn something about you through your patterns of travel. They learn about your tastes and interests through your purchasing history. They monitor your calls, where you go on the internet, what you write and read in your email and on webpages. They look at all your online transactions. Through your credit card records they hunt up the actual receipts and examine what you bought at every store… including those embarrassing things. After all, you leave amazingly information-rich and detailed trails and clues to who you are with every move and purchase. The Agency and DSF review all your library checkouts, your magazine subscriptions, your movie going habits, your DVD choices through Netflix or digital downloads through Amazon and iTunes. They watch your channel selections through your cable or satellite. All this information can be mined. They watch your every interaction with your friends… and strangers too, for that matter, with listening devices and cameras. After gathering all this information, the Agency’s profiling experts build a picture of you, get into your head. They figure out what you are about, who you are, and what you going to do next.
They are merely humans with a lot of bits of information.
How much better can fallen angels, the demons do this?
Angels, the holy angels and the fallen, have never missed anything of your lives since the instant of your conception. And they never forget. Anything.
Fallen angels, the enemy, the Devil, can’t literally get into our heads or thoughts or touch our will, but they don’t have to in order to know us really well.
And they hate you. They hate you. They hate you.
With relentless malice the “prince of this world” works to trick you into letting him have some control in your life. Demons cleverly and with perfect timing stimulate your appetites and passions based on how well they know your proclivities. They strive to twist your heart and mind away from God in order to diminish – even by a little – the love everyone will share in heaven as they shine in the magnified glory of the Trinity.
When a soul is lost to Hell, and I think that happens a lot, the Enemy crows, “That’s one more You don’t have!”
The Devil and other demons are always held in check by God. They cannot simply have their way with us or the material cosmos around us unless God permits it according to His plan. But they are devious and tireless.
Remember your Guardian Angels. Call on them to help you. Remember Our Lady, Queen of Angels. Remember St. Joseph, whom we invoke in his beautiful litany as the “Terror daemonum… the Terror of demons”.
If you don’t believe in the Enemy and Hell, you will probably wind up there. And if you choose that fate, it would be better for you had you never been born (cf Matthew 26:24).
In my recent Pastoral Letter, I wrote that the Alberta Government Gender Guidelines issued on January 13 show no evidence of consultation with, or sensitivity to, the Catholic community. They breathe pure secularism. This approach and directive smack of the madness of relativism and the forceful imposition of a particular narrow-minded anti-Catholic ideology.
If you are reading this piece in the hopes of discovering an apology and/or a retraction, you might as well stop reading right now. That’s simply not going to happen.
I have received considerable support for what I said and the way in which I said it. Nevertheless, there were a few “nay-sayers” some have called for my resignation, others have resorted to unpublishable name calling, and of course, there were several references to the famous catch-all these days, “Who are you to judge?” The later suggesting that I was espousing a teaching contrary to the openness of Pope Francis.
In point of fact, Pope Francis has said quite a bit about gender. “The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation. Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology. Also, valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment. It is not a healthy attitude which would seek to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it” [Laudato Si 155].
What Does Scripture Say?
Furthermore, in Sacred Scripture there are different but interrelated sets of texts about judgment. Without attempting to be exhaustive, there are at least three that are especially noteworthy:
1) Warnings about judgment: “Stop judging that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged….” This is not an injunction against judgment, but a warning that the judgment should be rendered with a good heart free from hypocrisy, arrogance, meanness of spirit, or hate. Consequently, “remove the beam from your own eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.” The principal purpose of a judgment is to help a brother or sister avoid debilitating actions and improve. The awesome burden of judging is the realization that we will be “judged as we have judged.” Some cite the incident of the woman caught in adultery and brought to Jesus by those who would stone her as evidence that we should not judge others. Nothing could be further from the truth. The incident manifests God’s mercy and loathing of hypocrisy, but he did judge her behavior as evidenced by his admonition: “Go and sin no more.”
2) Instances of judgment abound: Peter to Simon the magician “…for your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness of yours… for I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and the chain of wickedness” [Acts 8: 20-23]. Paul to Elymas, “you son of the devil, you enemy of all that is right, full of every sort of deceit and fraud. Will you not stop twisting the straight paths of the Lord?” [Acts 13:9-10]; and Paul to Peter, “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he clearly was wrong” [Gal 2:11].
3) Cautions particularly to overseers or leaders about judgments: “Thus says the Lord: you, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel; when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me if I tell the wicked, ‘oh, wicked one, you shall surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked one from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death. But if you warn the wicked, trying to turn him from his way, and he refuses to turn from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but you shall save yourself” [Ezekiel 33: 7-9].
Paul’s advice to Timothy is difficult for some of us: “Avoid foolish and ignorant debates, for you know that they breed quarrels. A slave of the Lord should not quarrel, but should be gentle with everyone, able to teach, tolerant, correcting opponents with kindness. It may be that God will grant them repentance that leads to knowledge of the truth, and that they may return to their senses out of the devil’s snare, where they are entrapped by him, for his will” [2 Tim 2: 23-26].
Only God can judge the state of the human soul but it is pure nonsense to suggest we cannot and should not judge human behaviour. Reluctance to judge moral behaviour is the inevitable consequence of moral relativism and moral subjectivism that has eroded confidence in the ability to determine objective moral truth on which sound judgment is based.
The last word on this subject belongs to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI:
“How many winds of doctrine we have known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking. The small boat of thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves thrown from one extreme to the other…. Every day new sects are created and what Saint Paul says about human trickery comes true, with cunning which tries to draw those into error [cf Ephesians 4, 14].
Having a clear Faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labelled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and ‘swept along by every wind of teaching,’ looks like the only attitude acceptable to today’s standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires. However, we have a different goal: the Son of God, true man. He is the measure of true humanism. Being an ‘Adult’ means having a faith which does not follow the waves of today’s fashions or the latest novelties.
A faith which is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ is adult and mature. It is this friendship which opens us up to all that is good and gives us the knowledge to judge true from false, and deceit from truth” [Way of the Cross in 2005 for Good Friday].
✠ F. B. Henry
Bishop of Calgary
– See more at: http://www.calgarydiocese.ca/messages-from-the-bishop/1370-totalitarianism-in-alberta-part-ii.html#sthash.zxoM6jD0.dpuf
We’ve hear that we are all one Body in Christ so MANY times, which is good, but we probably lose the REVOLUTIONARY nature of what St. Paul was saying.
Every culture before Christ had, in one way or another, looked at some people as “more human” and other people as “less human” or even “expendable non-humans”
Saint Paul says – “THOSE DAYS ARE OVER”
Additionally, not only does St. Paul say the days of marginalizing the weaker members of the Body of Christ over, he also says those
“That seem to be weaker are all the more necessary, and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable we surround with greater honor”
The Church is the immune system of the Body of Christ. It looks for threats to the Body of Christ, threats that attack the dignity of any single member of the Body of Christ, and the Church points out those threats.
A great example of the “Church as Body of Christ immune system” is this very month that we are in right now. January is
1) Poverty Awareness month
2) Mid January – Migrant awareness week
3) This past week, we, for the 43rd year, remembered through prayer and fasting the anniversary of Roe v. Wade
There are a lot of ways the Body of Christ is attacked. The Church speaks to all of the threats and attacks.
Several years ago, the bishops of the US wrote a letter addressing all these attacks to the dignity of the human person. They mention:
2) denial of health care
3) deadly violence of armed conflict and the scandalous arms trade that spawns such conflict.
4) domestic violence,
5) the spread of drugs,
6) a reckless tampering with the world’s ecological balance.
But the document goes on: “Yet abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental human good and the condition for all others. They are committed against those who are weakest and most defenseless, those who are genuinely “the poorest of the poor.”
Military people are always assessing – “What are our GREATEST threats…most eminent threats”?
A question for us as Catholics – “Who do we listen to on this topic?” Whose “humanity threat assessment do we utilize?”
EVERYONE believes that SOME of these threats are a problem. But which one’s are MOST EMINENT? Some people listen to the UN on how to order these threats. Some people listen to news outlets. Some listen to political parties, some listen to celebrities, and some listen to Jesus through the Church He founded.
This whole assessing of threats and deciding which are most eminent leads some to say two things (which are equally wrong)
1) Some say: “We can’t speak up against abortion and euthanasia because it will water down our speaking up on the other threats against the human person.
2) Some say: “I won’t speak up against anything else except abortion and euthanasia, lest someone think I’m wavering on abortion and Euthanasia”
These are both WRONG!
We can speak up vociferously against abortion and euthanasia AND still care and work very diligently for the poor in our community. We can speak out against abortion and euthanasia AND protect all that God has created.
On Friday, we diverted our planned trip to Washington DC for the March for Life and instead went to Indy to avoid “snowmaggedon”. Archbishop Tobin had two beautiful homilies at our vigil and Mass for Life.
He noted the same thing that our US bishops noted several years ago – there are a lot of attacks on the Body of Christ, but he too singled out abortion and euthanasia as the two preeminent threats. He noted that what is most troubling about them is that they are both often done by people who have been trained to bring healing and health to people.
Archbishop Tobin also talked about what we, as faithful Catholics, ought to be doing about all these issues.
“We do not fight against darkness and the culture of death with violence…but we do not take a vow of silence either, we speak the truth”
Saint Boniface: Let us be neither dogs that do not bark nor silent onlookers nor paid servants who run away before the wolf. Let us preach the whole of God’s plan to the powerful and the humble, to rich and to poor, to men of every rank and age, as far as God gives us the strength, in season and out of season.
May the Eucharist strengthen us to preach the WHOLE of God’s plan, and not just the parts that suit our politics.
Faithful Catholics: Pray More and Complain Less,
A Message of Hope
Dear Catholic Friend,
I am writing to you to give you a word of encouragement. So I would hope you take this in the fatherly way I want to address you, as one who is a priest of over 32 years and as spiritual director of dozens of people, a priest who very much has personal contact with many of the lay faithful and knows very well the deep concern – anxiety may be a better word – over the present situation in the Church. Take this as if I were in your presence, saying firmly and clearly and with great confidence: Be at peace! Pray more! Calm down and don’t lose heart!
St. Padre Pio, “Pray, hope, and don’t worry.”
Padre Pio is quoted as saying, “Pray, hope, and don’t worry!” I want to aim that especially at people who write those anxiety-filled blogs and articles at the Church’s present situation, but certainly to all the Catholic faithful who are confused, bemused, or just plain angry. I certainly understand your concern; in fact, I share it but my consideration as to what to do is different. I conclude that we should pray more and complain less; besides you might recall the words of Psalm 95 which we priests and religious who recite the Divine Office have the joy of choosing as the invitatory psalm in our daily recitation of the breviary; specifically the verse that says: “Forty years I endured that generation. I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray and they do not know my ways.’ So I swore in My anger, ‘They shall not enter into My rest.’”
What Are You Going to Do?
Let’s not try our Lord’s patience, rather let’s take this as an opportunity to establish a firmer faith, a more secure hope and a deeper charity. After all, what are you going to do? Leave the Church?! Wouldn’t the Evil One then have the victory over your soul?
Think of it! Aren’t you one who loves that old title given to us at confirmation, “soldiers of Christ.” Well, then don’t walk off the field of battle. These are the times, I’m convinced, that St. Louis Marie de Montfort prophesied, the time of the great saints: “Towards, the end of the world . . . Almighty God and His holy mother are to raise up great saints who will surpass in holiness most other saints as much as the cedars of Lebanon tower above little shrubs.” (St. Louis Marie de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, article 47). Take it a s a compliment that our father God finds you worthy of these times, that He finds you capable of great sanctity!
I write as one who gives direction to many souls and who is alarmed at the discouragement that has entered so many hearts. I hear it and see it a lot and I must confess that discouragement is not foreign to me, especially given the confusion spread even by those called to strengthen our faith. That being said, I want to tell you what I tell the souls entrusted to me: Pray more! Pray for an increase of faith, hope, and love and make it an apostolic prayer, said with missionary zeal for the sake of others. “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, increase our faith, hope and love!” Not just once, but many times a day, pray this way and you will fulfill your duty as a good soldier of Christ.
Hang in There Friends!
I write this out of gratitude for all the Catholic faithful whose loyalty to Christ and His holy Church has inspired me throughout my life. Hang in there friends! Hang in there with greater faith, hope, and love. “The gates of Hell will not prevail!”
May holy Mary, the woman of great faith and mother of the Church, envelop you in Her most compassionate and immaculate heart. Peace!
It saddens me to say but totalitarianism is alive and well in Alberta
Prior to becoming Pope, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio on May 25, 2012 gave a “Te Deum” homily commemorating the establishment of Argentina’s first national government following the revolution of 1810. The major thrust of his homily was that only the commandment of love, in all of its simplicity – steady, unassuming, but firm in conviction and in commitment to others – can save us. We need to re-root ourselves in a sovereign love that is simple and deep, to love God above all else and our neighbour as ourselves.
Tow Forms of Deceptions
Two forms of deception impede the realization of any plan as a nation, i.e., the madness of relativism and the madness of power as a monolithic ideology.
“Relativism, under the guise of respect for differences, is homogenized into transgression and demagoguery; it allows anything, because it wishes to avoid being burdened by all the inconveniences required of a mature courage to uphold values and principles. Relativism, is curiously, absolutist and totalitarian. Relativism does not allow for any differing opinion. In no way does it differ from an attitude of “shut up” or “don’t get involved.”‘
Power as a monolithic ideology is another lie which accentuates narrow-mindedness and seeks dominance over others. Consequently, social trust, the root and fruit of love is eroded.
On November 5, 2015, David Eggen, the Minister of Education issued an edict to Boards Chairs of Public, Separate, Francophone and Charter School Boards re learning environments that respect diversity and foster a sense of belonging. Board policies are to be shared with him, together with the required regulations or procedures by March 31, 2016.
“It is important to specifically address the board’s responsibility as it relates to the LBTQ community…. As part of my review, I will also be looking for evidence of policy and regulations or procedures related specifically to Section 16.1 of the School Act and the support for the establishment of gay-straight alliances (GSAs) and queer-straight alliances (QSAs)…”
The Alberta Government “Guidelines” issued on January 13th show no evidence of consultation with or sensitivity to the Catholic community. They breathe pure secularism.
The Madness of Relativism and the Imposition of Narrow-Minded Anti-Catholic Ideology
This approach and directive smack of the madness of relativism and the forceful imposition of a particular narrow-minded anti-Catholic ideology. Such a totalitarian approach is not in accordance with the Supreme Court of Canada opinion (Loyola) delivered on March19, 2015 and must be rejected.
Catholic schools share a foundational belief that all children are loved by God, are individually unique and that the school has a mission to help each student to fulfill their God-given potential in all aspects of their persons: physically, academically, socially, morally and spiritually.
Our Catholic schools are committed to supporting inclusive communities that teach care and compassion for every person, regardless of age, race, sex, gender or sexual orientation, and require that every person be treated with dignity and respect.
Our teaching is rather simple and direct. God created beings as male and female. In doing so, he gave equal dignity to both man and woman. In his plan, men and women should respect and accept their sexual identity. God created both the body and sex as good. Hence, we do not approach sexuality with fear or with hostility to the flesh. It is a gift of God by which men and women participate in his saving plan and respond to his call to grow in holiness.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that sexuality involves the whole person. “Sexuality affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and soul. It especially concerns affectivity, the capacity to love and procreate, and in a more general way the aptitude of forming bonds of communion with others” (CCC, no.2332).
All persons – married, single, religious and ordained – need to acquire the virtue of chastity. “Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus, the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being.”(CCC, no.2337).
Chastity unites our sexuality with our entire human nature. It approaches sexuality as related to our spiritual natures so that sex is seen as more than a physical act. Sexuality affects the whole person because of the unity of body and soul. Jesus is the model of chastity.
“Chastity includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom”(CCC, no.2339). The acquisition of chastity depends on self-discipline and leads to internal freedom, which enables human beings to temper sexual desires according to God’s plan for the appropriate expression of love in the marital relationship of a man and a woman..
GSAs and QSAs are highly politicized ideological clubs which seek to cure society of “homophobia” and “heterosexism,” and which accept the idea that all forms of consensual sexual expression are legitimate. The view of sexuality that they espouse is not Catholic.
The Supreme Court held that “to tell a Catholic school how to explain its faith undermines the liberty of the members of its community who have chosen to give effect to the collective dimension of their religious beliefs by participating in a denominational school”(para.62), “ìt amounts to requiring a Catholic institution to speak about Catholicism in terms defined by the state rather than by its own understanding of Catholicism” (par.63), and “ìt also interferes with the rights of parents to transmit the Catholic faith to their children” and the “rights of parents to guide their children’s religious upbringing”(para. 64 & 65).
✠ F. B. Henry
Bishop of Calgary
– See more at: http://www.calgarydiocese.ca/messages-from-the-bishop/1367-pastoral-letter.html#sthash.ITvprLnQ.dpuf
This week, representatives from high schools across Nebraska will vote on policies to define the scope of participation in high school athletics and other extra-curricular activities. They will consider whether students should participate in sports and other activities according to the sex into which they were born, or according to a gender of their own choosing.
By the time many of you read this column, the votes will have been cast: if three Nebraska regions support the truth that the sex we’re born with matters, the issue will be considered by a statewide assembly of school districts in April. But if three or more districts decide that students can choose or define their genders at will, Nebraska schools will soon be required to permit students who identify as transgendered to compete on the playing field according to their chosen gender.
For the past several months, the Nebraska Catholic Conference has worked tirelessly to promote the idea that our God-given gender matters. That the sexes are different, and that ignoring the sex into which we are born—the “gender identity” God gives us—has real consequences. Parents across the state of Nebraska have contacted their school districts to encourage them to make the right choice. Our governor, lieutenant governor, state treasurer, and secretary of state have unequivocally stated that gender matters. And many people have taken this issue to prayer.
Still, if you read this column after January 13th, the votes will have been cast, and Nebraska may be continuing down a path that defies reason, justice, charity, and God’s revealed truth. [If you are reading this before January 13th, click here to make your voice heard.]
To many people, this issue seems unimportant. They ask why “transgendered” students should not be supported in the identities they choose for themselves. They ask if the Church is unfairly persecuting students with gender dysphoria. They ask if Catholics have compassion for those who see and experience the world in a different way than the Church does.
But the truth is that our sex is a fundamental part of who we are. God made us to be male and female, and he created men and women to complement each other—to be partners in love, parenting, and family life. Not one of us can define our own gender—we are male and female because the Lord created us each, exactly as we are, for a purpose.
There are people who, sadly, experience confusion about their sex, or sexual orientation, or personal identity. For psychological, emotional, and even physiological reasons, there are men and women who are convinced that their bodies do not reflect the reality of who they are. This is especially common among young people—many of whom grow out of this confusion as they mature.
We are called to support men and women who experience this kind of confusion. We are called to welcome them into the life of the Church, and to welcome them into our communities and into our friendships. But true compassion does not validate their confusion, or encourage them to deny the reality of God’s plan for their lives. This is especially true of children, who depend on adults to help them understand how to grow and mature into adulthood.
If Nebraska high schools endorse the idea that our “gender identity” is something we choose, they will send students down deeper paths of confusion and darkness. If adults validate every confused feeling children experience, we will deny them the opportunity to grow in wisdom and maturity. If we care about children—especially those who experience gender dysphoria—we will be present to them, we will be patient with them, and we will teach them the truth about who God made them to be.
Our culture has an ethos that endorses every preference or feeling that people experience—especially in the area of sex and gender. Our culture tends to believe that we should “live and let live,” and that we should encourage children to trust and pursue every curiosity, desire, or attraction they experience. But adults have the wisdom to know that many of our feelings and preferences have unhealthy consequences, especially during the turbulence of adolescence.
The Church is called to speak on behalf of all children across Nebraska. We are called to advocate for truth. We are called to share the wisdom of the Gospel, especially the basic idea that if we defy who God made us to be—as revealed in our own bodies—or if we believe that we can define the parameters and meaning of our own existence, we will only experience greater turmoil, greater unhappiness, and greater confusion. The path of truth—although often difficult—is the path of joy, peace, and freedom.
The Church has a great love for those who experience gender dysphoria. And we have an obligation to proclaim and witness to the truth. As our culture becomes ever more relativistic, the voice of truth seems to be heard more faintly, and by fewer people. The Church needs your voice—to proclaim God’s love, to witness to truth, and to express the profound goodness of God’s plan for us.
Advocates of libertine social ethics will not stop with “transgendered” high school sports policies. They will continue to attack the basic realities of humanity, of family life, of God’s great gift of sexuality. And with each victory for relativism, more people will be led into darkness, confusion, and grave harm. But the mercy of God, which brings light, clarity, and healing, is available to all. And each one of us must be a missionary of God’s mercy to a world in ever-greater need of his love.
One of the more troublesome and damaging human traits is our susceptibility to deception. Scripture speaks often of this problem and we do well to examine some of those texts and consider what they teach us.
Perhaps it is good to look first to the Latin and Greek roots of the word deceive.
Latin: The Latin root of deceive is decipere, meaning to ensnare (de (of or up) + capere (to seize or take)). And thus the Latin emphasizes our tendency to be easily caught up or carried away, to be ensnared by error. It evokes the image of an animal being carried off as prey in the mouth of a lion. We are so easily are we carried away by the latest fashions, trends, and thinking of the world. And having been carried away, we are ensnared by error and to some degree cut off from the truth.
Greek: There are several words in the Greek New Testament that are translated asdeceive in English. By far the most common is πλανάω (planao), meaning to go astray, to wander off course, to deviate from the correct path, to roam into error, to be misled. (Planao is the also the Greek root of the English word planet (literally, wandering body)). In the Greek New Testament, this term nearly always conveys the sin of roaming from the truth. And thus we see that the Greek emphasizes that we go astray or are led astray, that we wander off. Isaiah the prophet lamented, All we like sheep have gone astray; every one to his own way (Is 53:6). Yes, and if sheep are wayward animals, human beings are more so, for at least a sheep knows its master’s voice. Too many of us will listen to and follow anyone but the Lord.
We humans are involved in deception in three different ways.
I. We are sometimes the victim of deception. The Scriptures frequently warn, “Do not be deceived.” Jesus warned, At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many (Mat 24:11).
St. Paul also lamented false apostles and Judaizers who misled many. He warned of savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them (Acts 20:29-30). He also spoke of some who will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons (1 Tim 4:1).
St. John warned of the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world (1 John 4:3).
Thus to some degree we are victims of deceivers. The Scriptures warn us to be on our guard: Do not be deceived! We are not to allow these deceivers to lead us astray, to make us wander about in error and sin. We are to resist them and see them for the deceivers they are.
II. We can be among those who deceive (though hopefully this is less frequent).This refers to something deeper than the more common human foible of lying. The deception here involves misleading people in matters of the true faith.
God warns deceivers, Why do you boast of evil, you wicked man?Why do you boast all day long, you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God? You who practice deceit, your tongue plots destruction; it is like a sharpened razor. You love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth. You love every harmful word, you deceitful tongue! Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin (Psalm 52:1-5).
God declares a curse on those shepherds who mislead their flocks: “Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the sheep of My pasture!” declares the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD God of Israel concerning the shepherds who are tending My people: “You have scattered My flock and driven them away, and have not attended to them; behold, I am about to attend to you for the evil of your deeds” (Jer 23:1-3).
Jesus declares, If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea (Mat 18:6).
St. Paul speaks of the lot of deceivers: But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived (2 Tim 3:13).
III. The final category is perhaps the most troubling of all: a middle ground between being a victim and a victimizer. It is that middle ground where we connive in deception. When deceivers speak to us, not only do we fail to rebuke them for their deception, we perk up our ears and in effect say, “Tell me more.”
We do this because, to some degree, we want to be deceived; we want to be affirmed in our sin, in our weakness. Many want the truth to be watered down and are delighted to listen to those who call into question the demands of righteousness. Yes, many of us connive; we enter into partnership with the deceivers.
Many of the warnings that we “not be deceived” are not simply alerting us to the presence of deceivers; they are cautioning us to be wary our own tendency to enter into agreement with those would deceive us. In this context, the warning, “Do not be deceived,” takes on more of this tone:
“Don’t kid yourself; don’t tell lies to yourself; don’t go on playing the fool or the ignoramus. You know better. The voice of God echoing in your conscience bears witness to the fact that you’re lying to yourself and you’re letting others lie to you.”
Premier among the conniving texts is St. Paul’s warning to Timothy:For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear, and will turn away from the truth (2 Tim 4:3).
5 Common Ways Catholics Choose to be Deceived
What are some of the common things people “want” to be deceived into believing? A brief survey of Scripture reveals this. (I have boldfaced the various forms of the word deceive to illustrate that God is teaching us about the various forms of this sinful connivance.
A. That our actions will not have consequences: Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-8)
B. That faith can be perfunctory, intellectual, or mere lip service;that good intentions are enough; that one can love the world:But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves… If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world (James 1:22-27).
Hear the word of the Lord, all you men of Judah who enter these gates to worship the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.” If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever. But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless. Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe—safe to do all these detestable things?” Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord (Jeremiah 7:1-11).
C. That sexual sin is no big deal:Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-10).
Be sure of this, no fornicator, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light … and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness (Eph 5:5-11).
When lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren (James 1:16).
D. That regular consort with sinners will not affect us:Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame (1 Cor 15:33).
But encourage each other daily, while it is still today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception (Heb 3:13).
E. That we can wholly avoid deception and error apart from Scripture and the teaching of the Church:Jesus answered them, “You are deceived, because you don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God” (Matt 22:29).
Wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the Truth and so be saved (1 Thess 2:10).
Here then is a brief excursus on the lamentable human tendency to wander, to be carried off, to be deceived. And frankly, too many of us want to be deceived. Be alert to this deep drive rooted in sloth and pride; learn its moves and despise its lures.