When Being Pro-life Means Being Attacked by Christians and the Culture

Fr. Stephen Imbarrato: The Protest Priest,

There is a trend going on in the pro-life collective that I find quite concerning and even dangerous. There is growing criticism of certain aspects (tactics) of the collective that others from within are referencing as unloving and lacking compassion. There are more so those inside the collective who believe that some people or groups in the collective are anti gay and anti transgender, haters and intolerant. Such criticisms or accusations within the collective have been growing the last couple of years. And the pattern I see is that if there is any defense or push back against these accusations (which I believe are largely false and made up) whether the accusations originate in some instances from perception minded corporate ministries or worse from people who are either clearly anti marriage and anti family, then those who stand up for the truth and for what is right and just morally are being chastised and even marginalized.

This is a microcosm actually of what we are seeing in the culture. The forces that are undermining life, marriage, and family, label those who believe in moral absolutes and traditional long held values as haters, bigots, anti women, and of course, now anti gay and anti transgender. Some of these attacks are quite serious and blatant and in almost all instances, false and made up. Yet when some of the moral traditionalists stand up for the truth in the face of these attacks, they are chastised within their own ranks for whatever reason.

This is evident within the Church. Good priests standing up for the faith being chastised and punished because they speak out when they see pastoral abuses when, in the name of being loving and tolerant, many ignore or tolerate behaviors that are against the truth, detrimental to souls, and offensive to God.

I can remember a time before I entered the seminary that by broadening our pro-life focus beyond anti abortion to a broader chastity message, we were able to get into venues such as public high schools that previously would not be inviting toward us st all. Within the chastity message, we would also talk about the abortion issue. It was an effective strategy.

I see a similar pattern happening in the pro-life collective but somewhat in reverse. Anti marriage and anti family influences who have taken up the pro-life position have gained acceptance and a platform for their broader agenda. They are now using the same rhetoric that others within the collective had already deployed for much longer…that certain aspects of the movement are not loving and compassionate; that they are harsh and judgmental. Accusations fly at will often in the form of implications that some groups (tactics) are loving, caring, compassionate, and embracing of women; the implication always being that other groups or tactics are not as such. Yet when those attacked stand up for the truth, whether it be continuing what they do in good conscience, push back in defending themselves, or even expose a particular agenda especially in the case of the anti family, anti marriage influences, these traditionalists (for lack of a better word) are often chastised and called out as being divisive or again not loving or embracing.

As I have pointed out, this reality has become a common occurrence on many levels and I think it needs to be confronted on the broader scale and particularly within the pro-life collective. Standing up for the truth is never unloving. Almost without exception those who do so act in good conscience according to the Holy Spirit. Yes sometimes it gets messy because it is getting harder and harder today to speak the truth, show the truth, and in some cases act in truth, but it is never unloving and those who do this messy, hard stuff within the collective should never be the ones who are felt marginalized because others want some false and illusory version of inclusion and unity or are concerned about perception or image.

We Christians should not be surprised by any of this. Christ spoke about such divisions within families and He also warned us that for His sake, we would be persecuted, insulted, and spoken falsely about. However He also encourages us! “Rejoice and be glad! Your reward will be great in heaven.” I encourage everyone who stands on the moral absolutes of life, family, and marriage to continue to do so regardless of the cultural attacks rendered and especially to stand courageously when those attacks come from within our own organizational or institutionalized families.

Confronting the Gay Priest Problem

The Catholic Thing,

Recently, a priest who was prominent in the pastoral care of those with sex addictions received his fifteen minutes of fame when he revealed to his congregation at a Sunday Mass and to the National Catholic Reporter that he was “gay.”  According to news reports, his self-congratulation was met with thunderous applause. In a television interview, he proclaimed there is “nothing wrong with being gay.”

The game plan of a gay priest “coming out” was quite predictable and is politically effective. In revealing his homosexuality, the Midwestern priest was careful to assemble a string of ambiguous assertions that cannot be immediately assailed on grounds of orthodoxy, but when bundled together are morally subversive.  Here is the template:

  • Claim that sexual transparency is a matter of personal integrity.
  • Remind the public that you are a Catholic priest in good standing.
  • Proudly proclaim that you are “gay.”
  • Cultivate the adulation of your congregation by claiming victim status and the freedom that comes from such an honest revelation.
  • As a pre-emptive strike against disciplinary actions by ecclesiastical authorities claim that your self-revelation is truly courageous.
  • Feign humility and presume you have become a necessary role model for others.
  • Remind us that you and all gays (and members of the alphabet soup of sexual perversion) are created in the image of God (implying our sinful neglect).
  • Commit to celibacy (i.e., not to marry), but carefully avoid the term “Christian chastity.”

Each of these assertions, standing alone, would likely withstand ecclesiastical censure.  But when woven together, the gay agenda promoting the acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle within the Church comes into a clear focus.

The priest’s bishop also responded according to a predictable contemporary ecclesiastical template: “We support [the priest] in his own personal journey and telling his story of coming to understand and live with his sexual orientation. As the Church teaches, those with same-sex attraction must be treated with understanding and compassion.”

The bishop probably succeeded in preventing a media firestorm. He also effectively allowed the priest to rise in stature as a gay freedom fighter. The studied moral ambiguity of the clerical gay activist proved to be an effective political buzz saw. The full and beautiful teachings of Christ on human sexuality, however, were further undermined.

Faithful and orthodox Catholics are at a political disadvantage in our gay-friendly culture.  We realize that same-sex inclinations – as with all seriously sinful inclinations – cause great suffering and, unrestrained, can become a true slavery that endangers others including adolescents and even young children. But our opposition to the gay agenda is often crudely characterized as hateful and unreasonable.  So a brief sketch of natural law in Catholic sexual morality may be helpful.

Male and female sex organs differ and have a unique reproductive function. The body of every human being contains a self-sufficient digestive or respiratory system. But it only contains half of a reproductive system and must be paired with a half-system belonging to a person of the opposite sex in order to carry out its function. These are undeniable biological facts.

“To engage in sex” is a relational term that implies male and female complementarity.  Only a male and a female truly “engage in sex.”  In contrast, same-sex “relations” involve the exercise of one’s sexual power, but not according to its self-evident nature.  Sodomy is not really relational “sex.”  It is merely a masturbatory use of sexual powers.  Similarly, there is no such thing as “sexual relations” with a “sex robot” (alas, an emerging technology).

When a priest claims to be “gay and proud,” he is revealing that he has assented to his same-sex attraction. Free and deliberate thoughts have moral implications, as Jesus asserted: “But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Mt 5:28)   The difference between internal assent and external action is only a matter of a sinful opportunity. An unabashed and proud “gay” priest has already committed sodomy in his heart.

So how might an ecclesiastical superior defend Church teaching if one of his priests (or religious) claims a special dignity by “coming out” as gay?  The superior should invoke immutable Christian moral principles in dealing with a self-described gay priest:

  • Acknowledge that he is afflicted with “same-sex attraction” (SSA).
  • Admit that SSA is an inclination toward mortal sin that if not restrained will lead him and others to eternal damnation.
  • Identify and renounce any physical expression of SSA.
  • Properly define celibacy to include Christian chastity that precludes all sexual activity in thought, word or deed.
  • Invoke Scriptural references condemning sodomy (cf. Genesis and Saint Paul).
  • Renounce the use of the word “gay” because it is a political term that has its roots in the homosexual subculture.
  • Apologize for encouraging others to publicly reveal their mortally sinful inclinations. (The Eighth Commandment protects natural secrets.)

After a careful inquiry, the superior should release a public statement of clarification, prohibiting the priest from his homosexual activism and taking further personnel action according to the demands of Catholic morality and Canon Law.

Would a media firestorm ensue? Probably. But the superior would courageously confirm that the studied ambiguity of the gay agenda promoted by the priest is a lie.

During the rite of ordination for priests, the bishop says, “May God who has begun the good work in you bring it to fulfillment.”  Priests – and everyone – are in a constant state of change, for the better or for the worse. Fulfilling the duties of Holy Orders or any Christian vocation with true moral integrity is a lifelong task.

If we are going to find our true and final happiness in Christ, we must not only recognize and understand our sinful inclinations, but make firm and constant efforts to overcome them. “Celebrating” those inclinations simply makes no sense – whether the inclination is same-sex attraction or any other deviation from God’s plan for us.

“This column first appeared on the website The Catholic Thing (www.thecatholicthing.org). Copyright 2018. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.”

What Every Family Needs.

By Fr. John Hollowell, On this Rock

Growing up in my home parish, being the oldest of 11, people would come up to us after Mass and say things like “Oh, what a lovely, well behaved family you have” and my brothers and I would all laugh quietly to ourselves because we knew all the stuff that had been going on during Mass between us while we were punching each other, stealing things from each other, and squeezing each others hands as hard as we could during the “Our Father” and the sign of peace.  We also, knew, as all families do, about all the stuff that went on at home – the fights, the losing of patience, the arguments, etc.

I know as a priest walking with lots of families as a pastor that ALL families have struggles and adversity.  All families have relationships that are strained, all families have struggles and challenges and pain and woundedness.  Sometimes there are strains and problem spots that are decades long!

And it seems to me that it is a great temptation for people to look around and think that other families are good, other families are well-behaved, OTHER families are “perfect” but that our family is a dumpster fire.

If that’s the temptation for families, then how much more so is that the case for the Holy Family???  How in the world would we ever feel like they have anything in common with us???  They are up on Mt. Olympus, and we’re down here 100 miles away looking at them – how could we look to them, as the opening prayer of Mass says, as an EXAMPLE???

But what does Scripture say?  I think, when we look at the evidence in Scripture, we see a family that, although we have no record of sin being in their family, they still faced great difficult, adversity, and temptation

1) The Annunciation – Mary is visited by an angel and told that she’s going to become pregnant by God, and that her child would become the savior of the world.  That’s HARD.  That’s ADVERSITY.  God coming and telling you all that.

2) Joseph, too.  He had these plans to “divorce her quietly” to do the honorable thing so that no shame or harm would be brought to Mary.  But God comes to him and says “I hear your plans, but I’m changing them”  That’s HARD.  That’s difficult to accept from God, to learn that our plans that we had come up with need to change dramatically.  That’s adversity.

3) In Today’s Gospel, Mary and Joseph, in bringing Jesus to the temple when he’s 8 days old, they are told by the holy sage prophet at the temple – “Mary, your heart will be PIERCED because of this child”  That’s HARD.  That’s ADVERSITY.

4) Finally, Mary watched her son be tortured and murdered.  Are you still tempted to think of the Holy Family as a family of virtuous robots whose lives were the equivalent of vacationing in Tahiti?

The Devil wants you to think that the Holy Family is so aloof from your family, so different that your dumpster fire of a family has nothing it can learn from the Holy Family because your experiences and struggles are SO different from your own.

So what is needed to help families move closer to the example of the Holy Family?  In our second reading St. Paul says one of the biggest keys for families that I’ve seen – FORGIVENESS!!!

Forgiveness is the oil that keeps the engine of the family working properly and running well.  Oil keeps parts of an engine that would otherwise get overheated and strained – oil keeps those spots of the engine cool enough to not fall apart.

FORGIVENESS is just that.  So many families need forgiveness in so many relationships.

But forgiveness is certainly hard.  It is hard to offer, and it can be hard to receive.

So let me suggest one way to get better – the sacrament of confession.  Everyone is afraid of confession and dreads it, but everyone experiences a great freedom and peace afterwards.  It is place to ask for and receive the forgiveness of God, and after that, you are so much better disposed to forgive and seek the forgiveness of others in your family.

Finally, then, let me conclude by noting that through our baptism we are adopted brothers and sisters with Christ.  So the Holy Family isn’t JUST a virtuous example, it is also true that St. Joseph is our adoptive father and Mary is our adopted mother – so they live now to intercede for us, for fathers and mothers and husbands and wives and children and siblings…so if you are struggling, know that the Holy Family knows adversity too, and also that because of your connection and life IN their family, we can draw strength from their prayers for us in our earthly families as well!

On “Coming Out” From the Pulpit

A Healthy Approach to Same Sex Attraction

Here is a good response to the National Catholic Reporter on a priest “coming out” on the pulpit.

By Father Nathan Reesman, In Exile:

Father Nathan Reesman

For a few years now I have had the privilege to walk with men and women who experience same sex attraction, and who desire to live an integrated life of wholeness and joy, in fidelity to the demands of chastity.

They do not like the terms “gay” or “lesbian” because they understand that whole, healthy persons do not reduce themselves to their mere parts, or to labels that can put them in boxes for years to come.

These same men and women also understand the pitfalls of sharing their own sexual struggles and attractions with wide audiences. Occasionally some of them may prayerfully discern the need for a carefully delivered witness talk about their story in support of the Church’s teachings, but such situations should be the exception rather than the norm. In our modern culture where the prevailing approach to sexuality is to speak without restraint, the people that I walk with attempt to take a very different approach that treats such topics with the delicacy, modesty, and sacred veiling that they deserve. We are not meant to live as though we are turned inside out, and doing so is not necessary for healthy integration.

There is wisdom in their approach, and it is one many of them have learned the hard way. Their approach is also the recommended pastoral approach of the Catholic Church, grounded in centuries of careful study of the human condition, and guided by the unbroken truth of revelation.

The men and women who experience same sex attraction, seeking to live life in the way that Divine revelation clearly points out to us, are aware that it is very easy to awaken unhealthy desires in themselves, and others, when they dwell on the topic of sexuality too openly and too often. Doing so feeds the appetite for stimulation and unchastity, glamorizing ways of acting and thinking that blur our reason and vision.

The men and women I walk with are keenly aware of the deep emotional wounds that frequently accompany their particular situation, which means they spend a great deal of time working to avoid attention seeking behavior. They know how tempting it is to make their sexual struggles or personal wrestling into a focal point.   Their self knowledge leads them to work hard at focusing on the countless other facets of life that do not directly intersect with their sexuality.

They are also wary of being used and manipulated for other people’s agendas, especially that of the gay lobby. Many of them have been used already in life due to sexual wounds, and they have no desire to become a pawn in the manipulative game of identity politics that is sweeping the culture and now the Church as well.

“Coming Out” Makes Healthy Integration Even More Difficult

For all of these reasons, and many more, these men and women do not make a point of identifying themselves as “gay.” It is precisely because they wish to be known as more than a label, and known as son or daughter of God first and foremost, that they quietly choose to deal with their struggles in the protected and appropriate zone of private spiritual direction, the confessional, and a trusted support group.

This is why the best pastoral approach that the Church can suggest to people who experience same sex attraction is NOT to “come out” as “gay.” Doing so only leads to more confusion, pain, and emotional frustration. It is not in accord with the virtue of chastity, or the dignity of discretion that we are all called to. It does not lead to wholeness, joy, or healing but rather the reverse.

Is there such a thing as a “Gay Celibate?”

All of the above is adequate reason to be troubled whenever a Catholic priest chooses to “come out” at Mass, from the pulpit, to his congregation. Doing so is a wildly unhealthy thing for any man who experiences same sex attraction as our pastoral practice over the years has shown again and again.

In the case of a priest, however, the situation is even more acute.

Priests should know that the people in the pews have the right to receive, at Mass, the unbroken teachings of the Catholic Church, rather than being forced to make a false choice between supporting or abandoning a priest who willfully makes the occasion of a homily about his own interior struggles that are best left dealt with in the internal forum of spiritual direction and pastoral counseling.   Being forced to make a judgment about the needs of a priest of God, their shepherd, causes deep wounds to their faith and unleashes wave upon wave of confusion.

Granted it is easy to get confused about why we might want to be supportive of a priest, or any man, to do something so public. After all, the Church does recognize that people struggle, and we know that God has infinite patience for us as we strive after the life of goodness and virtue. Priests are weak men, too, that much is clear.

But, the priesthood, and a life of celibacy by its very unique and beautiful calling, can never be about exercising authority in order to meet the emotional needs of the minister. That is not the radical other-centered behavior that all priests (and all fathers, mothers, consecrated men and women) are called to.   The love and acceptance that any priest who “comes out” is seeking is never authentically discovered in such a radically self-revelatory act.

Only Christ can calm our restless inner need for earthly affirmation. And he does so most keenly as we strive to assent to the truth of his revelation about human nature. For married couples this assent to revelation finds its proper context in the marital embrace and in the daily lived sacramental reality of married life, and even then the Church recognizes this state to be only a temporary one, confined to this life.

The celibate priest, on the other hand, must find the healing and affection his heart desires in the context of radically other-centered shepherding, as he is conformed more and more to Christ the priest who offers himself as a pure sacrifice for the salvation of all. And even then, at the core of celibacy is an intentional ache that priests must rest within, deliberately, so that they can realize most deeply that it is Christ for whom they, and all humanity, longs.

To speak of a “gay celibate” is theologically, pastorally, and emotionally confusing and incoherent. One term, “gay,” is about an identity reduced to categories and misplaced emphases. The other term, “celibate,” is about a calling to the highest levels of other-centered integration and wholeness. The two terms are fundamentally incompatible.

If an ordained priest does happen to experience same sex attractions, then there are some essential points to abide by based on the Church’s pastoral wisdom. Firstly, the answer for him is not to adopt such a reductionist label as “gay.” Also, it is unwise for him to satisfy his emotional thirst for acceptance by forcing his flock to minister to the minister. The priest must also know that the path to wholeness can never take the form of strident rejections of the Church’s teachings. Wholeness comes only by embracing them. Lastly, a priest should not adopt a public label that will follow him for the rest of his ministerial assignments causing no small amount of confusion, questioning, and conflict as he lives out the remainder of his ministry.

Essentially, a priest who experiences same sex attractions must do what any other man with his same inclinations must do. He must handle it in a subtle, gentle, prayerful, discreet, and private network of healthy support, in accord with the Church’s best pastoral practices.

Advising a priest not to “come out” has nothing to do with rejecting struggles. It has nothing to do with some refusal to accept people. On the contrary, it has everything to do with the best of pastoral practices that we have learned are essential for fostering the healing and wholeness that God desires for us all.

Religious Leaders Affirm Beauty of Being “Created Male and Female”

Dear Friends:

As leaders of various communities of faith throughout the United States, many of us came together in the past to affirm our commitment to marriage as the union of one man and one woman and as the foundation of society. We reiterate that natural marriage continues to be invaluable to American society.

We come together to join our voices on a more fundamental precept of our shared existence, namely, that human beings are male or female and that the socio-cultural reality of gender cannot be separated from one’s sex as male or female.

We acknowledge and affirm that all human beings are created by God and thereby have an inherent dignity. We also believe that God created each person male or female; therefore, sexual difference is not an accident or a flaw—it is a gift from God that helps draw us closer to each other and to God. What God has created is good. “God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27).

A person’s discomfort with his or her sex, or the desire to be identified as the other sex, is a complicated reality that needs to be addressed with sensitivity and truth. Each person deserves to be heard and treated with respect; it is our responsibility to respond to their concerns with compassion, mercy and honesty. As religious leaders, we express our commitment to urge the members of our communities to also respond to those wrestling with this challenge with patience and love.

Children especially are harmed when they are told that they can “change” their sex or, further, given hormones that will affect their development and possibly render them infertile as adults. Parents deserve better guidance on these important decisions, and we urge our medical institutions to honor the basic medical principle of “first, do no harm.” Gender ideology harms individuals and societies by sowing confusion and self-doubt. The state itself has a compelling interest, therefore, in maintaining policies that uphold the scientific fact of human biology and supporting the social institutions and norms that surround it.

The movement today to enforce the false idea—that a man can be or become a woman or vice versa—is deeply troubling. It compels people to either go against reason—that is, to agree with something that is not true—or face ridicule, marginalization, and other forms of retaliation.

We desire the health and happiness of all men, women, and children. Therefore, we call for policies that uphold the truth of a person’s sexual identity as male or female, and the privacy and safety of all. We hope for renewed appreciation of the beauty of sexual difference in our culture and for authentic support of those who experience conflict with their God-given sexual identity.

Sincerely Yours:


Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera 

Bishop of Scranton
Chairman, USCCB Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs

The Most Rev. Dr. Foley Beach 
Archbishop and Primate
Anglican Church in North America

The Rev. John F. Bradosky
Bishop
North American Lutheran Church

Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Archbishop of Philadelphia
Chairman, USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth

Most Rev. James D. Conley
Bishop of Lincoln
Chairman USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage

The Rt. Rev. John A. M. Guernsey
Bishop, Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic
Anglican Church in North America

Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison
President
Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod

Imam Faizal Khan
Founder and Leader
Islamic Society of the Washington Area

Most Rev. Joseph E. Kurtz
Archbishop of Louisville
Chairman USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty

Melchisedek 
Archbishop of Pittsburgh
Orthodox Church in America

The Rt. Rev. Eric V. Menees

Bishop, San Joaquin
Anglican Church in North America

Rev. Eugene F. Rivers, III 
Founder and Director
Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies
Church of God in Christ

Rev. Dr. Gregory P. Seltz, PhD 
Executive Director
The Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty

The Rev. Paull Spring 
Bishop Emeritus
The North American Lutheran Church

Rev. Tony Suarez 
Executive Vice President
National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

Very Rev. Nathanael Symeonides 

Ecumenical Officer
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

The Rev. Dr. L. Roy Taylor
Stated Clerk, General Assembly
Presbyterian Church in America

Andrew Walker 

Director of Policy Studies
Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

The Rev. Dr. David Wendel 

Assistant to the Bishop for Ministry and Ecumenism
The North American Lutheran Church

Paul Winter 
Elder
Bruderhof

7 Questions on Hell

Msgr. Charles Pope, Community in Mission:

This is the thirteenth and final installment in a series on the Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell.

The teachings of the Lord on Hell are difficult, especially in today’s climate. The most difficult questions that arise relate to its eternal nature and how to square its existence with a God who is loving and rich in mercy. As a closing reflection on Hell and on the Four Last Things, let us ponder a series of questions.

1. Does God love the souls in Hell? Yes.

How could they continue to exist if He did not love them, sustain them, and continue to provide for them? God loves because He is love. Although we may fail to be able to experience or accept His love, God loves every being He has made, human or angelic.

The souls in Hell may have refused to empty their arms to receive His embrace, but God has not withdrawn His love for them. He permits those who have rejected Him to live apart from him. God honors their freedom to say no, even respecting it when it becomes permanent, as it has for fallen angels and the souls in Hell.

God is not tormenting the damned. The fire and other miseries are largely expressions of the sad condition of those who have rejected the one thing for which they were made: to be caught up into the love and perfection of God and the joy of all the saints.

2. Is there any good at all in Hell? Yes. Are all the damned punished equally? No.

While Heaven is perfection and pure goodness, Hell is not pure evil. The reason for this is that evil is the privation or absence of something good that should be there. If goodness were completely absent, there would be nothing there. Therefore, there must be some goodness in Hell or there would be nothing at all. St. Thomas Aquinas teaches,

It is impossible for evil to be pure and without the admixture of good …. [So]those who will be thrust into hell will not be free from all good … those who are in hell can receive the reward of their goods, in so far as their past goods avail for the mitigation of their punishment (Summa Theologica, Supplement 69.7, reply ad 9).

This can assist us in understanding that God’s punishments are just and that the damned are neither devoid of all good nor lacking in any experience of good. Even though a soul does not wish to dwell in God’s Kingdom (evidenced by rejection of God or the values of His Kingdom), the nature of suffering in Hell is commensurate with the sin(s) that caused exclusion from Heaven.

This would seem to be true even of demons. In the Rite of Exorcism, the exorcist warns the possessing demons, “The longer you delay your departure, the worse your punishment shall be.” This suggest levels of punishment in Hell based on the degree of unrepented wickedness.

In his Inferno, Dante described levels within Hell and wrote that not all the damned experience identical sufferings. Thus, an unrepentant adulterer might not experience the same suffering in kind or degree as would a genocidal, atheistic head of state responsible for the death of millions. Both have rejected key values of the Kingdom: one rejected chastity, the other rejected the worship due to God and the sacredness of human life. The magnitude of those sins is very different and so would be the consequences.

Heaven is a place of absolute perfection, a work accomplished by God for those who say yes. Hell, though a place of great evil, is not one of absolute evil. It cannot be, because God continues to sustain human and angelic beings in existence there and existence itself is good. God also judges them according to their deeds (Rom 2:6). Their good deeds may ameliorate their sufferings. This, too, is good and allows for good in varying degrees there. Hell is not in any way pleasant, but it is not equally bad for all. Thus God’s justice, which is good, reaches even Hell.

3. Do the souls in Hell repent of what they have done? No, not directly.

After death, repentance in the formal sense is not possible. However, St. Thomas makes an important distinction. He says,

A person may repent of sin in two ways: in one way directly, in another way indirectly. He repents of a sin directly who hates sin as such: and he repents indirectly who hates it on account of something connected with it, for instance punishment or something of that kind. Accordingly, the wicked will not repent of their sins directly, because consent in the malice of sin will remain in them; but they will repent indirectly, inasmuch as they will suffer from the punishment inflicted on them for sin (Summa Theologica, Supplement, q 98, art 2).

This explains the “wailing and grinding of teeth” in so far as it points to the lament of the damned. They do not lament their choice to sin without repenting, but for the consequences. In the Parable of Lazarus, the rich man in Hell laments his suffering but expresses no regret over the way he treated the beggar Lazarus. Indeed, he still sees Lazarus as a kind of errand-boy, who should fetch him water and warn his brothers. In a certain sense the rich man cannot repent; his character is now quickened and his choices forever fixed.

4. Is eternal punishment just? Yes.

Many who might otherwise accept God’s punishment of sinners are still dismayed that Hell is eternal. Why should one be punished eternally for sins committed over a brief time span, perhaps in just a moment? The punishment does not seem to fit the crime.

This logic presumes that the eternal nature of Hell is intrinsic to the punishment, but it is not. Rather, Hell is eternal because repentance is no longer available after death. Our decision for or against God and the values of His Kingdom values becomes forever fixed. Because at this point the will is fixed and obstinate, the repentance that unlocks mercy will never be forthcoming.

St. Thomas teaches,

[A]s Damascene says (De Fide Orth. ii) “death is to men what their fall was to the angels.” Now after their fall the angels could not be restored [Cf. I:64:2]. Therefore, neither can man after death: and thus the punishment of the damned will have no end. … [So] just as the demons are obstinate in wickedness and therefore have to be punished for ever, so too are the souls of men who die without charity, since “death is to men what their fall was to the angels,” as Damascene says (Summa Theologica, Supplement, q 99, art 3).

5. Do the souls in Hell hate God? No, not directly.

St. Thomas teaches,

The appetite is moved by good or evil apprehended. Now God is apprehended in two ways, namely in Himself, as by the blessed, who see Him in His essence; and in His effects, as by us and by the damned. Since, then, He is goodness by His essence, He cannot in Himself be displeasing to any will; wherefore whoever sees Him in His essence cannot hate Him.

On the other hand, some of His effects are displeasing to the will in so far as they are opposed to any one: and accordingly a person may hate God not in Himself, but by reason of His effects. Therefore, the damned, perceiving God in His punishment, which is the effect of His justice, hate Him, even as they hate the punishment inflicted on them (Summa Theologica, Supplement, q 98, art 5).

6. Do the souls in hell wish they were dead? No.

It is impossible to detest what is fundamentally good, and to exist is fundamentally good. Those who say that they “wish they were dead” do not really wish nonexistence upon themselves. Rather, they wish an end to their suffering. So it is with the souls in Hell. St. Thomas teaches,

Not to be may be considered in two ways. First, in itself, and thus it can nowise be desirable, since it has no aspect of good, but is pure privation of good. Secondly, it may be considered as a relief from a painful life or from some unhappiness: and thus “not to be” takes on the aspect of good, since “to lack an evil is a kind of good” as the Philosopher says (Ethic. v, 1). In this way it is better for the damned not to be than to be unhappy. Hence it is said (Matthew 26:24): “It were better for him, if that man had not been born,” and (Jeremiah 20:14): “Cursed be the day wherein I was born,” where a gloss of Jerome observes: “It is better not to be than to be evilly.” In this sense the damned can prefer “not to be” according to their deliberate reason (Summa Theologica, Supplement, q 98, art 3).

7. Do the souls in Hell see the blessed in Heaven?

Some biblical texts say that the damned see the saints in glory. For example, the rich man in the parable can see Lazarus in the Bosom of Abraham (Lk 16:3). Further, Jesus says, There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves are thrown out(Lk 13:28). However, St Thomas makes a distinction:

The damned, before the judgment day, will see the blessed in glory, in such a way as to know, not what that glory is like, but only that they are in a state of glory that surpasses all thought. This will trouble them, both because they will, through envy, grieve for their happiness, and because they have forfeited that glory. Hence it is written (Wisdom 5:2) concerning the wicked: “Seeing it” they “shall be troubled with terrible fear.”

After the judgment day, however, they will be altogether deprived of seeing the blessed: nor will this lessen their punishment, but will increase it; because they will bear in remembrance the glory of the blessed which they saw at or before the judgment: and this will torment them. Moreover, they will be tormented by finding themselves deemed unworthy even to see the glory which the saints merit to have (Summa Theologica, Supplement, q 98, art 9).

St Thomas does not cite a Scripture for this conclusion. However, certain texts about the Last Judgment emphasize a kind of definitive separation. For example, in Matthew 25 we read this: All the nations will be gathered before [the Son of Man], and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. … Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life (Mat 25:32, 46).

Clearly, Hell is a tragic and eternal separation from God. Repentance, which unlocks mercy, is available to us; but after death, like clay pottery placed in the kiln, our decision is forever fixed.

Choose the Lord today! Judgment day looms. Now is the time to admit our sins humbly and to seek the Lord’s mercy. There is simply nothing more foolish than defiance and an obstinate refusal to repent. At some point, our hardened hearts will reach a state in which there is no turning back. To die in such a condition is to close the door of our heart on God forever.

Somebody’s knocking at your door.
Oh sinner, why don’t you answer?
Somebody’s knocking at your door!

Immaculate Conception: the Unprecedented Gift of God

The Immaculate Conception

By Fr. Tim Henderson:

The Immaculate Conception does not celebrate the virgin conception of Jesus Christ.  The Immaculate Conception does not celebrate the Virgin Mary’s yes to God, though there can be no doubt that that ‘yes’ is the most important ‘yes’ ever made by a human being.  What we celebrate is the Grace behind the ‘yes.’  We are often asked, ‘where does it say in Sacred Scripture that the Blessed Virgin Mary never sinned?’  Or to say it in the most accurate way possible, ‘where does it say that the Blessed Virgin Mary had the contagion of original sin, but that contagion never incubated into a full fledge virus of sin?’  To answer this, all we needed from our Gospel was, ‘Coming to her, [the Archangel Gabriel] said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”’  The translation to Latin from the original Greek leaves us with puny words.  The original Greek word can be translated into almost a full sentence, ‘you who were Graced in the past; you who are Graced now; and you who will be Graced into the future.  Or to say it another way, a way which completely eliminates any thought that this was only about the Blessed Virgin Mary being the Mother of God… you could also translate the Angel St. Gabriel’s words as, ‘you who have Grace perfected in you.’

And yet, I wondered, how can I further prove this unprecedented Gift of God to the world, and to the Blessed Virgin Mary her self?  What struck me, and perhaps the best way to show the Gift of Grace that God gave her, and us was the one place – the one place that the Blessed Virgin Mary speaks her understanding of God in more than just a sentence or two… where she really makes a statement to St. Elizabeth and indeed to the whole world.

If the Our Father is the prayer from the Mouth of the Savior, second to only the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, then this prayer called the Magnificat – from the mouth of the Blessed Virgin Mary comes in third.  It has many of the same elements or at least similar elements in this prayer as the Our Father.  And the two times she speaks of her self, she speaks only to praise God for what God has done on her behalf, and behalf of the whole world.  There is not a selfish part of this prayer.

‘Our Father who art in heaven’; Mary, ‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…’ ‘the Almighty has done great things for me’.  ‘Hallowed be Thy Name’; Mary, ‘holy is his Name’.  ‘Thy Kingdom come, They Will be done, on earth as it is in heaven;’ Mary – well frankly, this whole prayer from the mouth of the Blessed Virgin Mary is about God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven.  ‘Give us this day, our daily bread’; Mary, ‘He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.’  ‘Forgive us of our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us’; Mary, ‘He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation’ – indeed from the beginning, Israel was told to forgive. ‘Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil’; Mary, ‘He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever.’  Through Christ, she – Mary – and us have been delivered from evil, the ‘promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever.’

This is a perfect prayer – never selfish, always pointing to God, and similar and sometimes identical to what is stated in the Our Father.  Catholics often stand accused of making Mary into a goddess… but this prayer is our greatest insight to how Mary thought of her self – as being unfathomably Graced by God, and always… always in relationship to what God has done for her.  Her words reveal the workings of her heart and mind; it is our greatest insight into how God blessed this unfathomably Graced soul – and is similar to how Jesus asked us to pray.

‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.  From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.  He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.  He has shown the strength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit.  He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.  He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.  He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever.’

Amen.’

Does Satan Really Exist?

It’s Time to Fight for Your Church and Your Country!

By Fr. Daniel E. Doctor:

Jesus said, “I have observed Satan fall like lighting from the sky.”  Most modern progressive Catholic thinkers would say, that Jesus was using some very colorful language to make His point about evil and its existence but – He did not mean this literally.

So the question remains, does personal evil really exist?

I mean the modern Catholic, who is uneducated in their faith, would say; that isn’t the devil just some story or tool invented by the Church to control people?  You know to make us afraid so we will follow blindly whatever the Church says – so the popes, bishops and priests could control us?

Can’t all those stories in the Bible about Jesus casting out demons be explained away by modern psychology and its understanding of psychological disorders – or religious fanatical behavior?  Aren’t Hell and the devil just childhood stories told around the campfire, to entertain us with a little bit of fear?  Or maybe just the reoccurring plot – of too many horror movies?

Didn’t the Second Vatican Council with its new modern liberal mindset bring us out of a backward medieval belief system to make us modern progressive thinkers capable of realizing that hell and Satan are just the products of ignorance, superstition, or an over active imagination?

Well, lets think about this for a moment.  Here is what Gaudium et Spes, one of the Second Vatican Council documents has said; “The whole of man’s history has been the story of our combat with the powers of evil, stretching, so our Lord tells us, from the very dawn of history until the last day. Finding himself in the midst of the battlefield, man has struggle to do what is right, and it is at great cost to himself, and aided by God’s grace, that he succeeds in achieving his own inner integrity” (Gaudium et Spes, 37).

Some Catholics maybe surprised in this day and age, that the existence of evil, the devil as well as hell, are all truths of our Catholic Faith. All one has to do is pick up a copy of the Catechism and look it up and you will find that the Church officially teaches – from paragraph #1033 through paragraph #1037 – that evil does exist, that there is a person, a fallen Angel to be exact, who wants nothing more than to destroy humanity and if that is not possible then at least to get as many people away from God, away from salvation to spend eternity in hell with him.

Pope Paul IV, taught that “evil is not merely a lack of something, but an effective agent, a living spiritual being, perverted and perverting.   A terrible reality – mysterious and frightening – who goes about acting in a way contrary to the teaching of the Bible and the Church.”

Of course there is the New Testament, which alone refers to the devil and his wickedness nearly 300 times as a warning to us of his presence and activity in our world.

This leads us to the Gospels, where Jesus talks more about the devil and evil then anything else except His divinity.  We also heard in today’s Gospel, that the disciples were overjoyed because – demons were subject to them through the Holy Name of Jesus.  This power of the name of Jesus was given not only to the disciples but to the whole Church to fight against and overcome any and every evil in this world.   This power is the authority of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, built on the authority of Jesus Christ Himself, which causes the gates of hell to tremble.

What we learn from the New Testament, is that the main purpose of Jesus’ ministry was to destroy the works of the devil and to bring about the Kingdom of God, which will destroy the Kingdom of Satan. Christ came to cast out, bind up and deliver humanity from its slavery to sin and death as well as from the chief works of the devil – called vices.  According to the Old Testament, the devil gets his foot hold in this world and in our lives through things like fortune-tellers, soothsayers, charms, diviners, and spells as well as when we consult with ghosts and spirits or seek oracles and revelations from the dead.  In our day and age, He still uses these things including horoscopes, the new age movement, Gnosticism, moral relativism, or even more explicitly through Satanism and the worship of the devil.

Everyday we see his evil played out right in front of our eyes and then we ignore what we see and the underlying cause.  We fail to recognize that there is a very real enemy, who likes to remain hidden, while he plots our destruction and doom.  This evil is increased with the destruction of Fatherhood, marriage and traditional family life. In the increase in war, murder, and suicide.  The devastation of our youth through drugs and sexual addiction.  The massive diffusion by the media of corrupting errors and sinful practices.  And most especially in our day, with the ruinations of our religious freedoms and those individuals who bravely speak up for them.

Satan’s progressive and the new modern family

Nowadays, objective evil is displayed out in the open – all of which are meant to destroy us – caused by a malicious Angel who wants nothing more than to eradicate us from the face of the earth.   Satan has gone so far as to attack humanity at its source with the sin of abortion, birth control, embryonic stem cell research, and cloning – as well as using the cumulative forces of this world’s sinfulness to redefine life and marriage as we know it and calling it – progress and the new modern family.  Nothing can escape from the rebellious forces of hedonism and secularism in their violent march throughout the world trying to force us to believe that sinfulness and evil rebellion against our Creator and His definition of morality is normal and warranted.

We have come so far that not to follow this march of evil to our own destruction is to be portrayed as crazy, abnormal or ignorant. We have come so far that good is bad and evil is really good. Good people are boring and evil people are fun. We defend the criminal and imprison the lawful. Our daily poor example to our children teaches them that magic and fairy tales are real and that God, His angels and Saints, do not exist – but somehow all humans and dogs go to heaven. No wonder our world is so confused and ignorant of what God really says and teaches.

So it goes without saying, with all certainty, that those of us who want to be truly holy and virtuous, who want to wholeheartedly embrace the Catholic Church’s authentic teaching and mission to save souls, will live a very difficult life.  One full of challenges and at times real sorrows, but at the same time, a life of immense blessings and graces, which all those who follow Christ enjoy for all eternity.

If we really want to be God’s saints and His holy people, we need not fear what is coming or what is already here, we need not fear the other sheep or those wolves among us dressed up like them – for God will not be mocked or made a fool of – in the end all will be revealed and He does not deal lightly with the devil or his unrepentant companions,  be they angelic or human.  That is why He created hell, just for them.

We are in the midst of a war – a war between good and evil – and the worst thing you can do in any combat situation is to believe that you’re not in one and that this fight has nothing to do with us. This, sadly, has been the mindset of us humans, us Christians, and us Catholics, for far too long.

Pope Leo XIII stated it boldly, “Catholics are born for combat!”  So, we the people must become we the Saints. We must once again become the Church Militant – soldiers and warriors of Jesus Christ. The devil certainly knows that his time is short and that it would be even shorter should the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church ever take the call to spiritual warfare and authentic holiness seriously.

The Liturgy of the Hours for the Martyrs states; “We are warriors now, fighting in the battlefield of faith, and God sees all we do; the Angles watch and so does Christ. What honor and glory and joy, to do battle in the presence of God, and have Christ approve our victory.”  Let us arm ourselves in full strength – with Rosary in hand; and prepare ourselves – through Eucharistic Adoration for the ultimate struggle with blameless hearts, true faith, and unyielding courage.

The venerable Bishop Fulton Sheen taught, “Christ demands fire – he demands zeal for His followers.”  In the scriptures, Christ commands us to go out and preach the gospel, to live virtuous holy lives, to convert the nations – and to cast out evil.  When we pray the “Our Father,” we ask God to deliver us from evil – this is the normal daily petition said in the Church’s greatest prayer.

Don’t we think that maybe it is time for us to make this petition part of our daily actions and not just part of our prayers?

Praying for the deliverance from evil, working for its destruction, is at the very center of our Catholic faith because when we act this way we recognize that only God can truly save us from the power of the devil, who enslaves us with sin and evil. So be at peace, be unafraid, as St. Paul tells us, “we bear the marks of Christ on our bodies” through baptism and the Holy Eucharist, as we are being“sent out into the world as lambs among wolves” where “the harvest is rich and the laborers are few”  where “the world is crucified to me and I to the world.”  So rejoice because “your names are written in Heaven” and “as a mother comforts her child – so God will comfort you.”

It is time, my brothers and sisters, to get up and fight for your Church and your country before both are gone!!