by Catherine Harmon, Catholic World Report
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, released the following statement about the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling legalizing same-sex marriage:
Regardless of what a narrow majority of the Supreme Court may declare at this moment in history, the nature of the human person and marriage remains unchanged and unchangeable. Just as Roe v. Wade did not settle the question of abortion over forty years ago, Obergefell v. Hodges does not settle the question of marriage today. Neither decision is rooted in the truth, and as a result, both will eventually fail. Today the Court is wrong again. It is profoundly immoral and unjust for the government to declare that two people of the same sex can constitute a marriage.
The unique meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is inscribed in our bodies as male and female. The protection of this meaning is a critical dimension of the “integral ecology” that Pope Francis has called us to promote. Mandating marriage redefinition across the country is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us, especially children. The law has a duty to support every child’s basic right to be raised, where possible, by his or her married mother and father in a stable home.
Jesus Christ, with great love, taught unambiguously that from the beginning marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman. As Catholic bishops, we follow our Lord and will continue to teach and to act according to this truth.
I encourage Catholics to move forward with faith, hope, and love: faith in the unchanging truth about marriage, rooted in the immutable nature of the human person and confirmed by divine revelation; hope that these truths will once again prevail in our society, not only by their logic, but by their great beauty and manifest service to the common good; and love for all our neighbors, even those who hate us or would punish us for our faith and moral convictions.
Lastly, I call upon all people of good will to join us in proclaiming the goodness, truth, and beauty of marriage as rightly understood for millennia, and I ask all in positions of power and authority to respect the God-given freedom to seek, live by, and bear witness to the truth.
Across the US, Catholic bishops have released statements on the historic ruling. Below are links to statements of individual bishops as well as several statewide bishops’ conferences (did we miss your bishop’s statement? Leave a link in the comments and we’ll include it in this post). [Updated]
Archbishop Gregory Aymond, New Orleans
Bishop Michael Burbidge, Raleigh, North Carolina
Archbishop Robert Carlson, St. Louis
Archbishop Charles Chaput, Philadelphia
Archbishop Paul Coakley, Oklahoma City
Bishops of the Colorado Catholic Conference
Bishop Robert Cunningham, Syracuse
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Galveston-Houston
Bishop Kevin Farrell, Dallas
Bishop John Folda, Fargo, North Dakota
Bishop Daniel Flores, Brownsville, Texas
Archbishop José Gomez, Los Angeles
Archbishop Wilton Gregory, Atlanta
Bishop Robert Guglielmone, Charleston
Bishops of Iowa
Bishop Michael Jarrell, Lafayette, Louisiana
Bishop David Kagan, Bismarck, North Dakota
Archbishop Jerome Listecki, Milwaukee
Archbishop William Lori, Baltimore
Bishop Richard Malone, Buffalo
Bishop Robert McElroy, San Diego
Bishop Patrick McGrath, San Jose
Bishops of the Michigan Catholic Conference
Bishop Robert Morlino, Madison
Bishop William Murphy, Rockville Centre, New York
Bishops of the Nebraska Catholic Conference
Bishops of the Catholic Conference of Ohio
Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Boston
Bishop Thomas Paprocki, Springfield, Illinois
Bishop Glen John Provost, Lake Charles, Louisiana
Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, Albany
Archbishop Dennis Schnurr, Cincinnati
Bishop Edward Slattery, Tulsa
Bishop Joseph Strickland, Tyler, Texas
Bishop Joe Vásquez, Austin
Bishops of the Virginia Catholic Conference
Archbishop Thomas Wenski, Miami
Archbishop John Wester, Santa Fe
Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Washington
Bishop David Zubik, Pittsburgh
Catherine Harmon [email protected]
Catherine Harmon is managing editor of Catholic World Report.
“It is a sad truth that in many places the Mass has
become something akin to a show or entertainment.”
by Rev. Stephen V. Hamilton, S.T.L.:
There is a value to mystery in human life. We naturally enjoy it as kids: telling tales and stories; kids love Easter egg hunts. But somehow as we age we treat these things as just games, even though most of us still enjoy watching children enjoy such things. Mystery sparks creativity and artistry. Mystery is also a value in the life of faith. After all, we walk by faith and not by sight (cf. 2 Cor. 5:7). Mystery means we do not delude ourselves into thinking that we first fully understand God and then we follow Him. We do not delude ourselves into thinking that obedience is authentic when we act as if God’s ways must first be submitted to our judgment. No, it is we who are under judgment, not God. Obedience is not obedience where we think God’s ways must first be understood by us.
The Mystery of Parables
Jesus teaches in parables. Parables engage the hearer differently than does the communication of mere facts as teaching. Parables cause the hearer to wrestle and to search and to learn more later after the parable is concluded. Parables begin to feed the heart and the mind, but they leave one hungry and thirsty enough that you keep searching and wrestling. This is because parables permit and engage mystery. The gospel says, “With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.” Was Jesus wanting to leave people in the dark? Why do the disciples get to hear everything explained clearly, but the average listener does not? Are those who are average listeners at a disadvantage when it comes to salvation? Is saving teaching being kept from them, from us?
God desires all men to be saved (cf. 1 Tm. 2:4). The Father sent His Son on that very mission. Thus, we need to reject at the start any notion that somehow God came and has withheld teaching that is necessary for our salvation. In ancient times, cults sprung up that would claim secret knowledge for only the insiders, knowledge that would mean the average person was on the outside, lacking in gifts of grace and lacking even in salvation. The Church has always rejected such ideas. It is true that the gospels show that Jesus spoke in parables and explained things plainly only to his most intimate band. Furthermore, we must recall, that even while speaking in parables, Jesus was in fact revealing, not hiding, the saving truths of God’s kingdom. Whatever may have remained hidden in parables was soon to be revealed.
The Catholic Church Proclaims Clearly What We Need to be Saved
Once the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, Jesus’ closest followers, the ones charged with teaching in his Name, received the gifts they needed to proclaim with clarity, conviction, and power the truths mankind needs to be saved. Thus, we need not labor under any false idea that somehow Jesus hides saving truth from his hearers or from us now centuries later. No, the apostolic Church went out – and still goes out – to proclaim clearly what we need to be saved. The Catholic Church has always held an appreciation both for intellect, the use of the mind, and for mystery, the humble admission that we cannot and will not understand all things of the universe and certainly not all things of God.
To be clear, our intellect is a gift from God mirroring His own intellect, and where our intellect can plumb the depths of the world around us and the revealed truths of salvation then, yes, we should seek to understand these things as best we can. In so doing, we honor our Creator who gave us this gift and who has made us in His image and likeness. However, we must also avoid the arrogance that acts as if we can understand everything, or that acts as if we are owed an explanation of all things, or that expects that the ways of God must first makes full sense to us before we will step forward and follow into His kingdom. Ours is a religion of the head, but not before it is a religion of the heart, for it is the love of God for us that has first established all we believe and seek to understand. Mystery is good for us. It is part of a natural and full human life. It engages our higher powers of thought, creativity, and artistry. Furthermore, mystery is part and parcel of being a person of faith. All the more, in a world that makes the error of thinking it must understand and control everything before it believes, we need to be comfortable with mystery. In fact, our permission of mystery in life can be a great service to draw others to an authentic faith.
2 Vital Ways Mystery Needs to be Put into Practice
There are two areas where mystery is important and needs to be appreciated in Christian life. The first is in our individual prayer. I hope you have had experience where God has done something unexpected in prayer. You come to prayer with things on your mind. You say prayers. You come before the Lord in adoration. You wait in silence. And some inspiration comes to you that you did not initiate and that you can only explain as a true religious experience. This is mystery. You can’t explain it rationally, but it is real. And it is perhaps most notable when the way God moves surprises you and answers your prayers in a way you did not foresee. In fact, His answer may often not be what you were asking, but the answer shows you a deeper need and a deeper request that you weren’t necessarily aware was even there. I find this type of experience with mystery most especially when I use the Scriptures to pray and when I observe silence in prayer. The Scriptures are God’s word, His communication to us. Those words are rich in meaning. And they have meaning beyond the literal written word on the page. Silence trains us to withstand distraction and to listen to how God speaks. Silence gives God room to act in ways that are deeper than we may expect. This is mystery and we need to cultivate an appreciation for mystery in prayer. Prayer is not simply saying my prayers and checking them off a list, as if prayer is only my activity. Rather, prayer is an encounter with God. We need to give Him silence and room to act.
The Mass has been Largely Stripped of Mystery
Finally, mystery needs to be cultivated in our corporate, public worship, the Sacred Liturgy, most especially in the Holy Mass. The Holy Mass is supposed to communicate mystery. We come to the Holy Mass to encounter God and His love. But we do not understand all of His ways nor can we anticipate all that His grace will do for us here when we listen to His word, when we worship reverently, and when we receive the Holy Eucharist worthily. In an entirely unique way the Sacred Liturgy immerses us in mystery to encounter God. One of the challenges resulting from the exercise of certain options in the Holy Mass these past several decades is that the Holy Mass has been largely stripped of mystery. Mass almost exclusively in the language of the people and
Mass said facing the people has created an expectation of the Mass that is not consistent with our history. The expectation is that we must understand everything going on if it is to be of value. Certainly, the Church doesn’t think this and never intended to communicate this. But you see this negative development frequently.
The Sad Truth. . .
It is a sad truth that in many places the Mass has become something akin to a show or entertainment. Decisions made in planning the Mass tend to show an excessive emphasis on what makes sense to us, what we can understand and appreciate. In this we are robbed of the proper place of mystery. I try mightily not to succumb to such pressures, which can be quite a challenge when the very set up of the sanctuary lends itself easily to considering the Mass as a stage where the priest faces out and gives a performance. In the face of this trend we must always seek to connect ourselves to what is beyond us, to our large liturgical history and practice, and ultimately we must seek to connect ourselves to God Himself who is the only reason for our common gatherings. It is He Who is addressed and Who is our focus when we worship at Holy Mass.
Mystery engages us and leaves us hungry for more. In this, we employ our gifts to seek the Lord ever more. God does not overwhelm us. Rather, He seeks to draw us to Him by love. Mystery permits this. Jesus employed the mystery of parables to reveal God’s kingdom. We need not fear that he is hiding salvation from us. Rather, in faith, we should permit mystery in life and in faith. It engages our higher powers. And in prayer and at Holy Mass, mystery sets the stage for a personal encounter with God that we cannot fully comprehend but that should inspire us to seek Him always more.
The Future of Marriage Hangs in the Balance
Archbishop Paul S. Coakley:
The recent media fascination with the “transition” of Bruce Jenner into Caitlyn has highlighted the tragic confusion about gender and sexual difference in society today. Rooted in both natural law and divine revelation, our Catholic teaching affirms that men and women are equal and different. Together they are created in the image and likeness of God. Man and woman are designed by God in relation to one another to form a conjugal union that brings forth children. The consequences of this affirmation are far-reaching.
Sexual difference is essential to marriage and child rearing. Our bodies matter. We don’t just have a body. We are a body. Without this basis in sexual difference and complementarity, there is no limit to what “marriage” could mean.
Perhaps by the time this issue of the Sooner Catholic is published, and certainly by the end of June, the Supreme Court will have issued its ruling on two crucial questions dealing with the very definition of marriage. The questions the court is addressing ask whether the 14th Amendment requires a state to license a “marriage” between two people of the same sex, and whether the same amendment requires a state to recognize same sex “marriages,” which were lawfully licensed and performed in another state.
No matter how the court rules, it cannot change what marriage really is. Marriage by its nature remains the union of one man and one woman. It is a natural institution that predates and precedes governments and government regulation.
Archbishop Paul S. Coakley
Every society has acknowledged that the sexual union of man and woman matters because it creates the next generation. While Jesus elevated Christian marriage to a sacrament, the complementarity of the sexes and the natural meaning of marriage can be known through reason even without appealing to Scripture.
Governments have long maintained an interest in protecting and preserving marriage. Society needs an institution that connects children to their mothers and fathers, and marriage is the only institution that does this. Every child has a mother and father and deserves to be loved and raised by them. Certainly, there are many circumstances that can hinder and prevent this, but marriage has always been the primary way that society protects this right of children to be raised by both a mother and a father. Both matter. Both are irreplaceable. Only a man can be a father and only a woman can be a mother. A child should not be deliberately deprived of either one. There are certainly wonderful single parents and others who make great sacrifices to raise children. They deserve our respect and support. But, every society ought to affirm each child’s basic natural right to come from and be raised in a loving home formed by his or her own mother and father joined together in a stable marriage.
Law is a teacher. A redefinition of marriage in the law teaches that one sex is interchangeable with another, and that either mother or father is dispensable as a parent. This ignores the wisdom of millennia of lived experience. It teaches that marriage is whatever consenting adults say it is and that these adults have a “right” to children they did not conceive. This is not only false, but it fails to take into account what is good for the child. Affirming the tried and true definition of marriage denies no one their basic rights. Rather it affirms the equal dignity and complementarity of men and women, and safeguards the rights of children.
Advocates for so-called “marriage equality” claim that the traditional definition of marriage unjustly discriminates against homosexual persons. Unjust discrimination is always wrong. But treating different things differently is not unjust discrimination. Protecting marriage is a matter of justice.
In addition to the devastating effect that a redefinition of marriage would have on children, there also are far-reaching religious freedom issues at stake.
It would change literally thousands of laws all at once. Marriage redefinition would immediately set the Church’s teaching and witness concerning the meaning and sanctity of marriage in opposition to the law of the land. This would result in countless conflicts between the state and religious institutions and individuals who adhere to the teaching of their faith and the judgment of their consciences.
So much hangs in the balance. What can we do? We can pray and we can fast for the protection of marriage and religious liberty. We can become advocates for marriage by our own witness to its sanctity and goodness. We can talk about the truth of marriage with patience and kindness and understanding. Who could have imagined that such common sense wisdom would become so counter-cultural in our time?
By Fr. Peter Carota:
We all know that we are weak. Our enemies: the demons, the flesh and the world are at our sides continuously. So, we need help to stay in God’s grace and out of sin. Here are 10 suggestions to practice to stop sinning, stay out of sin and to grow in holiness.
1) Prayer. Pray anyway and anyhow that will keep you from sinning. All day long, we attempt to shoot arrows of communications with God no matter if we are working, eating, driving, sitting, kneeling or talking. It is a constant attempt to keep all we do in union with God. We also need to develop a habit of prayer that automatically comes into action as soon as we are being tempted.
2) Mortification of the body. Instead of always giving what the body wants, food, rest, comfort, music, sweets, pleasure, we need to have some mortification of what it wants every day in small ways. Fasting and abstinence are important disciplines that train the will to say no to the body and yes to God.
3) Availing to God’s Graces. Frequent confessions and Holy Communion give graces and strength to weak souls and wills. In confession be very humble, sorrowful and honest as to the gravity of your sins even if it is embarrassing to say. Never hold anything back.
4) Devotion to the Virgin Mary. Mary is the mediatrix of all graces coming from God. If we run to her in times of temptation, “No one has ever invoked her in his necessity without being heard” (St. Bernard). She is virginal purity and wants to help us stay pure. Say Hail Marys until the strong temptation passes. It may literally take hundreds a day, but it is worth it.
5) Avoid the Occasion of Sin. What ever leads up to the sinning must be avoided like the plague. The time, the way and the place are all to be cautiously considered and avoided if they lead to sinning. Anyone who talks about sin, shows sin or encourages sin is your enemy, not your friend. St. Jerome said: “Remember that a woman (Eve) drove out the inhabitants of paradise, and that you are not holier than David, stronger than Samson, or wiser than Solomon, who all fell by evil intercourse.”
6) Custody of the Eyes. Pious Job made a covenant with his eyes that he would not so much as look at a virgin. Our eyes lead to thoughts that then can lead to actions. Look away from what will cause lust.
7) Keep busy. Many saints made vows to never live in idleness. That is a great idea and allows one to do great things with one’s life. “Idle hands are the devils workshop”.
8) Hell. Remember the consequences of past sins and the possibility of being damned forever for these sins. Meditate on the reality of death, judgement, heaven or hell. Go over in detail the torture of hell for the instantaneous pleasures obtained through sin.
9) Avoid Depression. Remember how sad the separation from God feels after sinning. Remember the guilt the shame and sadness caused by these sins. Would you like the whole world to be watching you sin? God, Mary, your guarding angel are watching every detail. And in the second coming of Jesus, all will be made public.
10) Help other people to stop sinning. As we try to save our own souls with God’s help, we must also live to save others souls. It is easier to live a good life if we are helping others live holier lives to. Be prophets today to tell people sin is still sin and they offend and crucify Our Lord.
May God, Mary and all the saints be our example of a pure and holy life. We are so fortunate to be traditional Catholics and to have all this help from God to live pure lives.
Hat tip: Fr. Richard Heilman, Roman Catholic Man
“Whenever you feel guilty, even if it is because you have consciously committed a sin, a serious sin, something you have kept doing many, many times, never let the devil deceive you by allowing him to discourage you. Whenever you feel guilty, offer all your guilt to the Immaculate, without analyzing it or examining it, as something that belongs to her…
My beloved, may every fall, even if it is serious and habitual sin, always become for us a small step toward a higher degree of perfection.
In fact, the only reason why the Immaculate permits us to fall is to cure us from our self-conceit, from our pride, to make us humble and thus make us docile to the divine graces.
The devil, instead, tries to inject in us discouragement and internal depression in those circumstances, which is, in fact, nothing else than our pride surfacing again.
If we knew the depth of our poverty, we would not be at all surprised by our falls, but rather astonished, and we would thank God, after sinning, for not allowing us to fall even deeper and still more frequently.” -St. Maximilian Kolbe
The Extraordinary Value of the Priesthood
By Fr. Ed Broom, OMV
Jesus said: “The Harvest is rich but the laborers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest to send more laborers.” Essential to the extension of the Kingdom and the salvation of souls is the Sacrament of Holy Orders, that we call the priesthood.
One of the greatest priests in the history of the Church, who spent close to forty years in the Parish of Ars, spending from thirteen to eighteen hours on a daily basis in the confessional, reconciling souls to God, commented on the indispensable presence of the priesthood. This was the Saint John M. Vianney, known as the Cure of Ars (1786-1859). This saint knew the extraordinary value of the priesthood: “A good shepherd, a pastor after God’s heart, is the greatest treasure which the good Lord can grant to a parish, and one of the most precious gifts of divine mercy.”
Let us listen to the exact words of the Cure of Ars and then translate them into the application in our spiritual lives. Some of the words and quotations of the Cure of Ars are overwhelming in depth and beauty but of the utmost simplicity. Let us read and meditate and then apply:
“O how great is the priest! If he realized what he is he would die… God obeys him: he utters a few words and the Lord descends from Heaven at his voice, to be contained within a small host. Without the Sacrament of Holy Orders, we would not have the Lord. Who put him there in the tabernacle? The priest. Who welcomed your soul at the beginning of life? The priest. Who feeds your soul and gives it strength for the journey? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, bathing it one last time in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest—always the priest. And if the soul should happen to die (as a result of sin) who will raise it up, who will restore its calm and peace? Again the priest. After God, the priest is everything. Only in heaven will he fully realize what he is.”
Following will be a brief commentary on all the sublime functions the priest carries out so as to glorify God in heaven and for the salvation of the souls on earth.
If there is no priest, then there is no Holy Mass; if there is no Holy Mass, then there is no consecration of the Sacred Host; if there is not consecration of the Sacred Host then there is no Holy Communion; then if there is no Holy Communion there is no Sacramental Presence of Jesus. That means that we become spiritual orphans. We become like a ship without a port, an arrow without a target, a scout without compass, a dog without his master. We wander through life aimless and with no clear purpose.
The same great Saint made the following observation. In all the key spiritual moments in our lives, who is present? Baptism? Usually it is the priest who God uses as the instrument to transform that child into a son/daughter of God. Confession? It is only the priest who is the means by which we are reconciled to God through the outpouring of the Blood of the Lamb that cleanses our souls and consciences of sin and guilt that weighs us down so heavily. Finally we can experience true peace of soul! First Holy Communion? It was the priest who celebrated Holy Mass, confected the Eucharist and gave us the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus the Lord.
Confirmation? It was the Bishop, who has the fullness of the priesthood, who confirmed us by which we were fortified by the presence of the Holy Spirit, ready to be soldiers of Christ to both spread and defend the faith. What about Holy Matrimony? It was most likely the priest who sat down explaining the sublime vocation of Holy Matrimony, the importance of being faithful until death do we part and the importance of being open to life and bringing forth children into the world so that one day they will be eternal citizens of Heaven.
Anointing of the Sick? It is the priest that we spontaneously call when we see our grandmother, mother or any person’s health has so seriously declined that they might die. It is the priest who anoints them with holy oil by which they are strengthened to fight the good fight and unite their sufferings to the sufferings of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Death and burial? Who is present at the Funeral Mass praying for our loved one who has passed away and has gone to be judged by Jesus who will come to judge the living and the dead? We all must pass through the gateway of death and pass from the realms of time into eternity. It is the priest, acting in the person of Christ, while celebrating Holy Mass, who offers the Victim Jesus to the Father for the purification and salvation of this immortal soul.
Family problems? Often when family problems set in who is it that the family will have recourse to as a means to work through these tangled and intricate and knotty problems? Frequently it is the person of the priest who comes to mind. The priest becomes the listener, the sounding board, the counsellor as well as the consoler to save the family from capsizing and sinking into the depths of sadness and oblivion! It is the priest who, like a human sponge, absorbs all of the problems in his heart and offers them to Jesus the Eternal priest for healing and salvation.
Sorrows and sufferings of all sorts? When sorrows, sufferings, contradictions, and depression visits our homes and hearts, who is it that we seek out as a solution for problems that seem to be beyond the realm of solution? It is the priest! It is the priest that listens to the problems. It is the priest who opens up his heart to hear and understand. It is the priest who is called to the ministry of compassion. Exactly what does this word compassion mean? Compassion means the willingness and the ability to suffer with those who suffer.
Listening? Who is the one we seek out to listen to our inner anguish and agony, because we know others either do not know how to listen or they simply do not want to listen attentively. It is the priest the one that we seek out to be heard, listened to and to be understood. How true this is! Often we might come into the priest overloaded with moral, emotional, spiritual baggage that we know not where to dump it, to leave it and to be alleviated from this burdensome weight. Then the priest receives us and invites us to be open and bare our hearts and reveal our tortured consciences.
Listening and healing. How often this is the scenario! We unload all of our baggage and the priest is simply there to listen. We weep, cry, complain, get angry, and blurt out nonsensical ideas in our anguish and confusion. And the hands on the clock fly by—already 50 minutes and then an hour has flown by! The poor priest has barely even opened up his mouth to say a word! After this session of unloading, we get up renewed, energized, with healing and hope. Overflowing in gratitude we tell the priest thanks a million times for having been of great help to resolve these—so to speak—impossible problems!
Prayer? How often have we felt totally overwhelmed with life and problems that seem to be a mountain in size and weight? We want help and we know only God can help us. Who then is it that we turn to with faith and trust to intercede on our behalf and to pray for us so that this problem will be resolved or at least we can cope with the problem better? It is the priest. The priest becomes the intercessor or the mediator for us between heaven and earth.
Our Lady. Let us then turn to Our Lady who is the Mother of God, the Mother of the Church, the Mother or all mankind, but especially she is the Mother of priests. Let us beg Our Lady to place her mantle of love and protection and comfort over all priests so that they would be protected from the fiery darts of the enemy, also that they would be protected from the devil of discouragement. Let us beg Our Lady to pray for priests that they would strive with all of the energy in their minds, hearts and souls to conform themselves to Jesus the High and eternal priest. May Our Lady’s prayers help them to recognize that Jesus is the High and Eternal priest—how lofty and sublime—but also that Jesus is very close to them as their best Friend in time and He will be their best Friend in heaven for all eternity.
No Law can be Based on Injustice
By Bishop James Conley: In 2010, the United States Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was designed by President Obama and Congressional leaders to expand access to affordable and comprehensive health insurance coverage in the United States.
After the law passed, President Obama said that the Affordable Care Act’s goal was “making affordable coverage available to all Americans, including those with preexisting conditions.”
In fact, this is a noble goal. Ensuring reasonably priced and accessible health care is a public good, one that the Catechism of the Catholic Church calls a duty of every political state. The Catechism teaches that, “the political community has a duty to honor the family, to assist it, and to ensure especially, in keeping with the country’s institutions, the right to medical care, assistance for the aged, and family benefits.”
Bishop Conley: “The Affordable Care Act undermines the right of every family, every citizen, and every religious institution to live according to the dictates of their conscience.”
Ensuring the right to medical care is a part of the state’s duty to assist the family. The family is the sovereign and fundamental unit of every community, and the goal of the state is to support the family. While the Affordable Care Act undertakes the noble goal of health insurance coverage, it also causes great disruption to families across the United States.
Whether the Affordable Care Act has actually helped more families to gain insurance coverage is a question for economists and policy analysts. Whether it is an efficient, affordable, and sustainable program is a matter for further study. But what is clear is that the Affordable Care Act undermines the right of every family, every citizen, and every religious institution to live according to the dictates of their conscience.
The Affordable Care Act still requires many business owners and religious institutions to provide and facilitate contraceptive coverage, in violation of their consciences. Although many federal courts have considered this issue, and the Supreme Court has expanded conscience rights to some businesses, many religious institutions are still required by law to ignore or deny the basic convictions of their fundamental beliefs. Providing universal access to contraception does not support the family—it undermines the dignity of women, the dignity of marriage, and the meaning of our God-given sexuality.
We face many threats to our religious liberty in the United States. All of them are serious. But the contraceptive mandate remains among the most profoundly offensive threats to religious liberty in our country. We need to continue to oppose it, and to support those who fight it, in courtrooms, and legislatures, and in the realm of healthcare administration.
This week, President Obama was invited to address the leadership of the Catholic Health Association—a group that represents and supports Catholic hospital systems across the country. He addressed concerns about the future of healthcare, especially the Affordable Care Act. The Affordable Care Act threatens the religious liberty of American Christians, and the president’s address failed to recognize that.
The Catholic Health Association claimed to be “delighted and honored” to welcome President Obama to their assembly. Of course, patriotism is a virtue, and we should always be glad to dialogue with our civic leaders. But we should also tell the truth. This week, thousands of Catholic doctors, members of the Catholic Medical Association, called upon the president to withdraw his threats to our basic religious liberties. We should be truly “delighted” when the Affordable Care Acts ceases to threaten our fundamental religious liberties.
Thousands of doctors, from across the country, understand that health care coverage should not come at the expense of the rights of families, or the rights of religious believers. No just law can be based on injustice. Each one of us needs to continue to pray for the end to the contraceptive mandate, the end to federal support for abortion rights, and for authentic health care reform, which makes health insurance affordable while supporting the fundamental, God-given rights of the family.
by Rev. Stephen V. Hamilton,
Communion with God requires obedience to His ways and follow the voice revealed to us in His Church. Fr. Stephen Hamilton
Let us never take for granted that the Holy Eucharist is the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, of Jesus Christ. We should never take this for granted because the Holy Eucharist is the greatest treasure Christ left to his Church, for it is his resurrected living flesh, his Real Presence by which, when we consume it worthily, we participate in his gift of salvation leading to eternal life. This gift is no mere bread and wine and so it should never be treated as mere bread and wine. No, what comes to us from the sacred altar is Jesus’ presence, and it is our nourishment on the journey to heaven.
Communion Requires Obedience
Let us recall that, after God gave His people the first Passover and Exodus, God established a new covenant with His people on Mt. Sinai, giving them all His words and ordinances. After the people twice promise to do all that the Lord God has said, Moses sprinkles the people with blood from an animal sacrifice. This blood of the covenant symbolizes God’s desire to make His people members of his own family, his “blood” relations. But the reading shows us that it is not only simply by being sprinkled with blood that makes a person a member of God’s covenant. Rather, to belong to God’s family also requires that a person live in communion with God’s commands. Communion requires obedience.
During the Last Supper we hear Jesus speak words especially over the chalice that borrow heavily from Moses’ words. Jesus says his Body is food and that the chalice is the Blood of the covenant shed for many. While Moses’ words were symbolic, Jesus transforms the Passover to a new and higher reality. God has truly entered a communion with us by taking on our flesh. He calls us to truly be his flesh and blood relatives, by a sacred communion with this true Body and Blood in Holy Communion. This is the new covenant Christ established with his people. And the Old Testament lesson remains true for us: Communion with God requires obedience to His ways. Our family membership with Christ must first be marked by our agreement to do all he says, to keep his teachings, to follow his voice revealed to us in his Church. First being in communion with Christ by our keeping of his teaching, then we are eligible to come forward to receive Holy Communion, then we enter an even deeper communion with God in the flesh.
And when, like the people of the Old Covenant, we sin and fail to live as we ought, we must be purified again, cleansed, as we heard in Hebrews, “from dead works to worship the living God.” Here we have God among us. He is with us in the gift he transforms from ordinary bread and wine to become his Real Presence, his Body and here by returning to the Father his greatest gift to us: the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. But our covenant must also be reflected in how we live each moment of each day. Our covenant membership in God’s family requires our obedience to Christian moral living. With our consciences cleansed, we come here to call upon the name of the Lord. With awe for the Holy Eucharist, may we live our faith well as a clear sign to others and a pledge to God that we desire nothing but life in his family.
The Scriptural pattern shows us that by word and by sacrifice a covenant family is established with God. This is the meaning of the ordinances of which Moses spoke in the first reading along with the altar and the sprinkling of the blood of sacrificial animals. The gospel shows us Jesus establishing a new covenant, this time not by animals but the very sacrifice of God Himself. This new covenant sacrifice was brought to completion in the sacrifice of the Cross by which the disciples came to see with new eyes what Jesus meant by saying: “This is my body; this is my blood.” The word of promise followed by sacrifice creates covenantal family.
The Relationship between the Eucharist and Marriage
And so, as we reflect on the Body and Blood of Jesus, I want to draw a connection between Jesus’ New Covenant established by word and by his sacrifice to the covenant established by a man and a woman in Holy Matrimony. By the exchange of their vows, especially within Holy Mass, a husband and wife rest their own commitment upon the total self-gift of Jesus. It is Jesus who is the solid foundation of the covenant a Catholic makes by marrying in the Catholic Church. And how is that covenant between spouses established? This is an important lesson for all who live the vocation of holy matrimony. The covenant of holy matrimony is established by word and by sacrifice. The vows spouses make are the public proclamation before God and His people that from that day forward they belong exclusively to one another and to no one else. These vows are the words that initiate a covenant family. But never forget what must follow those words: sacrifice. I hope no one will think I am trying to be provocative, but in a real way, pure conjugal love, open to the transmission of life as God’s gift, will be a most intimate sacrifice by which spouses speak of the totality of their gift of self to one another. By this love spouses speak in their own proper vocation the words of Jesus: This is my body, given up for you. That intimate gift of self belongs within marriage and it must be the pinnacle of the many daily sacrifices, small and large, that spouses make for one another.
When your words, your deeds, and your bodies speak of sacrifice your love will grow to become more like that of Jesus. In this you will find lasting joy as you journey in this life toward fullness of life with the family of God in heaven. Communion with God and full life in His covenant family requires obedience to His word and to His sacrifice. For each Christian, no matter his age or his vocation, the Holy Eucharist is the pledge from God Himself that He is never far from us. He awaits us to come visit Him in adoration. He desires us to live our family membership worthily so that we may receive Him with reverence in Holy Communion. He becomes present on the sacred altar to be worshiped at Holy Mass. He remains with us so that we are strengthened to draw others into deeper commitment to the covenant family in the Body and Blood of Christ.