Bishop Conley: The Pro-Choice Political Dictatorship of Relativism

Bishop James D. Conley

Bishop James D. Conley

An Irrational Ideology of Abortion 

By Bishop James D. Conley, Southern Nebraska Register:

In 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who would soon be elected Pope Benedict XVI, preached that “we are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.”

In the past month, we’ve learned that relativism can be a very cruel dictator.

Most basically defined, the pro-choice political position is that the “right to choose” is sacrosanct, and that no one may legitimately question the moral choices of another with regard to abortion. That overwhelming and indisputable scientific evidence regarding the beginning of unique human life through conception, has no place in the political conversation about abortion. That all philosophical, anthropological, or biological arguments regarding abortion must be subordinated, at all times, to the primacy of other people’s choices.

The pro-choice political position is the true embodiment of the dictatorship of relativism. It demands that there can be no “right choice” or “right answer.” Pro-choice ideology prioritizes individual decision-making above every other concern, including the right of unborn children to life. This is simply irrational.

Two weeks ago, Tom Perez, the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee, affirmed this position unequivocally. He said that “every Democrat” in America is expected to support the pro-choice position, without exception. He insists that there is no room for pro-life Democrats in his party. The dictatorship of relativism expects absolute conformity, and is willing to jettison anyone who dares to disagree with his party on this issue.

“Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health,” Perez said. “That is not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state.”

The so-called “right to choose” is sacrosanct except, of course, the choice to support unborn children. This is the real irony of Mr. Perez’ statement. He claims to prioritize the rights of conscience, but he makes no provision for those in his own party who, in conscience, disagree with him.

Of course, this means that many Catholics who agree with other elements of the Democratic platform have been rejected by their political party, for failing to swear allegiance to relativism. But the pro-choice position, which embodies the dictatorship of relativism, allows no dissent, no disagreement, no questioning and no exceptions – period.

In our state, this was demonstrated by a nearly seven-hour debate in the Legislature last week. The state’s mainline budget bill proposes to prioritize the recipients of federally-provided Title X family planning funds, directing money to facilities that offer comprehensive healthcare, namely: community health centers, hospitals, and public health departments. This move would ensure that Nebraskans have access to facilities able to provide them comprehensive health services.

But Planned Parenthood, by far the largest provider of abortions in America, and the primary recipient of Title X funds in Nebraska, opposed the change, because it would route the few hundred thousand dollars Planned Parenthood receives to other, more qualified, and more accessible agencies. The dictatorship of relativism would not allow this.

Immediately, Planned Parenthood and its allies attacked and reframed a reasonable and commonsense measure designed to help Nebraskans, as a “war on choice.” The bill is about helping Nebraskans to access healthcare. But the dictatorship of relativism demands federal dollars, and bullies and threatens those who oppose it.

We oppose the dictatorship of relativism by the telling the truth. Abortion harms women. Abortion kills children. Planned Parenthood is an abortion retailer masquerading as a community health provider. And Planned Parenthood opposes providing healthcare access to Nebraskans in order to protect its bottom line. None of those things is morally right. And none of them should be acceptable to Nebraskans.

It’s time we choose to support women and their unborn children, by ending abortion. It’s time we choose to stop providing public money to abortion providers who exaggerate their public health services. It’s time we choose to stop living under the dictatorship of relativism. It’s time we choose the freedom that comes from truth.

Kansas City Archdiocese Ending Ties Girl Scouts

Statement Regarding Kansas City Archdiocesan Transition from Girl Scouts to American Heritage Girls

By Archbishop Joseph F Naumann:

Courageous Priest Note:  This was a 10 year on-going dialogue with the Girls Scouts.  To get greater detail click here:

After several consultations with the Presbyteral Council and with the recommendation of our Office for Youth Ministry, I have asked the pastors of the Archdiocese to begin the process of transitioning away from the hosting of parish Girl Scout troops and toward the chartering of American Heritage Girls troops.

Archbishop Joseph Naumann

Archbishop Joseph Naumann

Pastors were given the choice of making this transition quickly, or to, over the next several years, “graduate” the Scouts currently in the program. Regardless of whether they chose the immediate or phased transition, parishes should be in the process of forming American Heritage Girl troops, at least for their kindergarteners, this fall.

The decision to end our relationship with Girl Scouting was not an easy one. Over a period of many years, our Archdiocesan Youth Ministry staff spent hundreds of hours researching concerns regarding the policies of both the International and the National Girl Scouting organizations. In addition, they have spent hundreds of hours in dialogue with Scouts, parents, pastors, and national Girl Scouting representatives regarding our concerns with disturbing content in materials and resources developed and promulgated by the national organization. I personally have been in conversation with national and local Girl Scout leaders regarding my concerns about the new direction of national Girl Scouting reflected in the content of their program materials.

Eventually it came down to this. Our greatest responsibility as a church is to the children and young people in our care. We have a limited time and number of opportunities to impact the formation of our young people. It is essential that all youth programs at our parishes affirm virtues and values consistent with our Catholic faith.

To follow Jesus and his Gospel will often require us to be counter-cultural. With the promotion by Girl Scouts USA (GSUSA) of programs and materials reflective of many of the troubling trends in our secular culture, they are no longer a compatible partner in helping us form young women with the virtues and values of the Gospel.

The national organization, for example, contributes more than a million dollars each year to the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGS), an organization tied to International Planned Parenthood and its advocacy for legislation that includes both contraception and abortion as preventive health care for women.

Margaret Sanger, Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem are frequently held up in materials as role models for young Scouts. These as well as many other “role models” in the GSUSA’s new manuals and web content not only do not reflect our Catholic worldview but stand in stark opposition to what we believe. 1

While I am grateful that offensive and completely age-inappropriate material was recently removed by GSUSA from portions of their Journey series of manuals in response to concerns raised by the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and others, it is disturbing such an intervention on our part was necessary. We prefer to partner with youth organizations that share our values and vision for youth ministry, not ones that we have to monitor constantly to protect our children from being misled and misinformed.

American Heritage Girls, a program based on Christian values, we believe is a much better fit for our parishes. I encourage you to read more about the American Heritage Girl program by going to its website, www.americanheritagegirls.org. For more information about the history of and issues surrounding our Girl Scouting decision, go to www.archkck.org/scouting-home.

On a final note, I want to express my appreciation for the many extraordinary Girl Scout leaders of the archdiocese who have served so many so well. We look forward to having as many of them as are willing join us in leadership roles as we take this new step into the formation of our girls. I will always be grateful for their exceptional service.

My First 5 Years as a Collar Wearing Priest

Why the Collar: A Visible Witness

By Fr. Chris Pietraszko, Fr. Pietraszko’s Corner:

Whenever my parents got into an argument, as a child it was somewhat of a confusing experience.  I didn’t understand how two people who loved each other could disagree, especially when they seemed unanimously in agreement on my own behaviour and how I was to be punished…lol.   They were a united front in most things, and so an argument was an experience that was out of the ordinary and an unexpected experience of observing my parents relationship.  However, arguments happen often because we “care” and we are willing to discuss the issues we think matter and the issues we are passionate about.  I would think that most healthy marriages demand an argument from time to time to demonstrate a spirit of indifference hasn’t taken root, and that our own perspectives are going to continue to be perfected and purified by dialogue and discussion.  But as a child, knowing that divorce was a possibility in many people’s homes, my immediate thought, when I observed arguments fostered a devastating fear that my parents might get a divorce.  As a child I didn’t have the tools to realize that arguments, even heated arguments do not imply that love is absent.  And so I remember asking both my mom and my dad, separately:  “Are you getting a divorce?”  Their response was exactly the same, and it has made a rather large impact on my own priesthood.  Their response was unequivocally, and unconditionally:  “never.”

Love Requires Sacrifice

For our culture, to say “never” is to place limits on our own personal autonomy and freedom.  It is to close off possibilities in the near future, possibilities we feel entitled to preserve for ourselves.  But in reality, 0G1C1466love requires a sacrifice of personal liberty, because it recognizes that liberty is not an end in itself, but is there primarily to give way to love.  When we slam the door on unfaithfulness and never allow even the thought to be entertained, we are committing ourselves to love.  But the moment we begin to reserve for ourselves the hypothetical possibility of going back on our word, we have already lost the deeply rooted spirit of faithfulness, as we have built within our soul an escape-hatch that will always remain a cause of temptation and lead to a lack of interior freedom to say “yes” to our commitment to love.

My Incredible Adventure

This April marks my 5th year in the priesthood – and it is has been an incredible adventure.  There has been a great deal of hardships, humiliations, failures, arguments, and other things that are best kept between me and those to whom it concerns.  There have also been incredible graces, moments of encountering God in a new way through ministry, and also incredible moments of watching others encounter God in miraculous ways.  I have seen people experience ecstasy in prayers, grade 8 students receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit during Adoration, having faith become borne in their own heart.  I have heard confessions where massive wounds and heavy burdens have been lifted or healed.  I have made relationships with many people in time of death, sickness and joy and sorrow.  I have been greatly encouraged by those who have returned to the faith or returned to confession as a result of something I said or did that God blessed with grace.

Whether it was a moment of desolation or consolation, it matters not – my love for Christ and the priesthood has not changed, it has grown.  This is simply another way of saying that the Priesthood does not “need me” but that “I need the priesthood.”  This vocation is changing my heart every day, humbling it, giving me tougher skin, helping me to put others before my own needs, and above all, placing God in the centre of my life’s priorities, because it is “Truly Right and Just.”  If anyone would ever think I would waver, let me re-echo what my own parents said without qualification, without conditions:  I will never leave the priesthood.

Please Call Me Father

One of the blogs I posted earlier on in the beginnings of this call of the priesthood pertained to my wearing of the Roman Collar.  I still fervently practice this because the level of my commitment and love for the priesthood has taken on this particular means of tangible expression.  That is to say, my commitment to being available in serving others has taken on the tangible sign of being visibly present in public, wearing my collar.  This is both a chance for consolation and desolation, but it is a commitment not to an external practice itself, but through this external practice to achieve the very spirit behind the ministry I am called to.  Not only do I continue to adhere to the wearing of the Roman Collar, but I also maintain boundaries with most people, gently and politely hoping they will refer to me as Fr. Chris, and not the familiar “Chris.”  This comes with some challenge, as people often interpret this to mean that I want respect, personally.  I have, however, never called my own father “Mike,” and I never plan to.  Not because I consider my father as having more dignity than I, and not because “Dad” is a title – but rather because it is a type of relationship that I am called to have with him, and one that I cherish.  I have spent a great deal of time reflecting on the type of relationship I have with others, and with a few exceptions, I always realize that I am to be first a Father to others, not just in name, but in the manner of relating to others.  This means I am called to provide for their spiritual needs; I am to not ask them to serve me, but I am meant to serve them.  I am to die for them, and stand in the way of anything that could harm their spiritual life.  These are the things that come to my mind when I hear “Father Chris.”  What does not come to my mind is, “special me.”  This paternal role is not meant to be denigrated to mere authority and power as some begin to believe it is or some have twisted it to mean for clericalist purposes.  Rather, it is more deeply and profoundly a call to love those whom God has entrusted to me, as my own Heavenly Father has loved me.

The Collar: A Visible Witness

People have been most receptive of this – with a minority of exceptions.  The exceptions normally come from those who have been taught by others to interpret these external signs to only communicate something pejorative.  The most enjoyable experience I have of the collar is not when people scorn you publically for being a priest, as I experienced a few times.  Rather, I enjoy the times that I have walked into a Pub in Windsor and had people ask me, right there, to hear their confession.  Or as I walk through Wal-Mart, the same takes place, with a person who hasn’t been to confession in years.  Sometimes at the mall, youth ask for a blessing or simply say hello, and request prayers or we simply share a laugh.  These are not exceptional cases, they happen quite often, and it always makes me wonder how much good would I not accomplish today, had I hidden this simple white tab in my shirt?  More importantly it has made me deeply aware of how to penetrate the secular culture we live in, by simply being visibly present, showing up, and communicating to others that I am willing to drop everything for them – that is to be:  Salt and Light for the world.

It has been five years since I was ordained, this month, and amongst the failures, successes, and the fruitfulness of ministry, harsh remote-judgments and odd canonizations (others oddly think I’m a saint) – all I can say is I’m in it for the long run.  And with my brother priests who have proven time in again that they have my back, and that I have theirs, we march forward.  To five years in ministry, God I say to you, thank you for this tremendous gift and I will never abandon it:  never.

Cardinal Sarah: The Mass and the Serious Crisis of Faith

Adapting the Liturgy to Our Decadence

Cardinal Robert Sarah, The Catholic Thing:

Cardinal Robert Sarah

Cardinal Robert Sarah

Certainly, the Second Vatican Council wished to promote greater active participation by the people of God and to bring about progress day by day in the Christian life of the faithful (see Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 1). Certainly, some fine initiatives were taken along these lines. However we cannot close our eyes to the disaster, the devastation and the schism that the modern promoters of a living liturgy caused by remodeling the Church’s liturgy according to their ideas. They forgot that the liturgical act is not just a PRAYER, but also and above all a MYSTERY in which something is accomplished for us that we cannot fully understand but that we must accept and receive in faith, love, obedience and adoring silence. And this is the real meaning of active participation of the faithful. It is not about exclusively external activity, the distribution of roles or of functions in the liturgy, but rather about an intensely active receptivity: this reception is, in Christ and with Christ, the humble offering of oneself in silent prayer and a thoroughly contemplative attitude.

The Serious Crisis of Faith

The serious crisis of faith, not only at the level of the Christian faithful but also and especially among many priests and bishops, has made us incapable of understanding the Eucharistic liturgy as a sacrifice, as identical to the act performed once and for all by Jesus Christ, making present the Sacrifice of the Cross in a non-bloody manner, throughout the Church, through different ages, places, peoples and nations. There is often a sacrilegious tendency to reduce the Holy Mass to a simple convivial meal, the celebration of a profane feast, the community’s celebration of itself, or even worse, a terrible diversion from the anguish of a life that no longer has meaning or from the fear of meeting God face to face, because His glance unveils and obliges us to look truly and unflinchingly at the ugliness of our interior life. But the Holy Mass is not a diversion.

What is the Meaning of the Mass

It is the living sacrifice of Christ who died on the cross to free us from sin and death, for the purpose of revealing the love and the glory of God the Father. Many Catholics do not know that the final purpose of every liturgical celebration is the glory and adoration of God, the salvation and sanctification of human beings, since in the liturgy “God is perfectly glorified and men are sanctified” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 7). Most of the faithful—including priests and bishops—do not know this teaching of the Council. Just as they do not know that the true worshippers of God are not those who reform the liturgy according to their own ideas and creativity, to make it something pleasing to the world, but rather those who reform the world in depth with the Gospel so as to allow it access to a liturgy that is the reflection of the liturgy that is celebrated from all eternity in the heavenly Jerusalem.

As Benedict XVI often emphasized, at the root of the liturgy is adoration, and therefore God. Hence it is necessary to recognize that the serious, profound crisis that has affected the liturgy and the Church itself since the Council is due to the fact that its CENTER is no longer God and the adoration of Him, but rather men and their alleged ability to “do” something to keep themselves busy during the Eucharistic celebrations. Even today, a significant number of Church leaders underestimate the serious crisis that the Church is going through: relativism in doctrinal, moral and disciplinary teaching, grave abuses, the desacralization and trivialization of the Sacred Liturgy, a merely social and horizontal view of the Church’s mission. Many believe and declare loud and long that Vatican Council II brought about a true springtime in the Church. Nevertheless, a growing number of Church leaders see this “springtime” as a rejection, a renunciation of her centuries-old heritage, or even as a radical questioning of her past and Tradition. Political Europe is rebuked for abandoning or denying its Christian roots. But the first to have abandoned her Christian roots and past is indisputably the post-conciliar Catholic Church

“This column first appeared on the website The Catholic Thing (www.thecatholicthing.org). Copyright 2017. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.” Slight editing.

This is Super Serious: Fortune Telling, Ouija Boards, Tarot Cards . . .

Ouija Boards and Demonic Oppression

By Fr. John Hollowell, On This Rock:

I spoke with a young man who was battling authentic demonic oppression for over twenty years after being in a room where a Ouija Board was being used when this young man was in seventh grade.

He shared that he felt something come into him and that from that point on in his life, he knew he was battling a Demon that had considerable ability to harm him (head aches and weariness) and to suggest things to him denigrating himself, his family, discouraging him from going to Church, discouraging him from confession and priests, and much more.

Stay away from fortune telling, Ouija boards, Tarot Cards, and all that other garbage.  EVIL IS REAL.  

“All forms of divination are to be rejected:  recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to ‘unveil’ the future.  Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers.  They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone”
– Catechism 2116

Note that Deuteronomy compares all these evil consultations with killing children: “Let there not be found among you anyone who immolates his son or daughter in the fire, nor a fortuneteller, soothsayer, charmer, diviner, or caster of spells, nor one who consults ghosts and spirits or seeks oracles from the dead.”
– Deuteronomy 18: 10-11

St. Paul and Deuteronomy note that those who engage in these types of acts commit mortal sins.  It is SUPER SERIOUS

As noted from this particular young man’s story, even those AROUND this type of activity can be harmed in serious ways.

Satan’s Great Evangelizer: Judas

The Vital Importance of Knowing the Judas in Ourselves

By Fr. Paul Scalia, The Catholic Thing:

During we remember Palm Sunday, Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, that brief moment before he was betrayed. Every Gospel writer points out that our Lord’s betrayer was one of His closest friends. At the beginning of our Lord’s public life, when He calls the Apostles, Judas is already pegged as the one “who became traitor.” (Lk 6:16; cf. Mt 10:4; Mk 3:19). In the account of his going to the chief priests, he is “one of the twelve.” (Mt 26:14; Mk 14:10; cf. Lk 22:3). In John’s Gospel it is the Lord Himself Who makes this observation: “‘Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil.’ He spoke of Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was to betray him.” (Jn 6:70-71)

In a sense, the repeated phrase “one of the twelve” states a simple historical fact. Jesus was not just put to death by His enemies but betrayed by one of His own. In a deeper sense, however, the line serves as a warning to all who follow Christ – and, indeed, to those closest to Him. Judas was with our Lord for the same three years as the others. With them, he heard the sermons, witnessed the miracles, and was sent forth by Christ. And yet he betrayed our Lord. We should never think ourselves beyond the wickedness of Judas. Proximity to Jesus does not always mean intimacy with Him.

So it is a healthy thing to look at Judas’s negative example. Not with a view to condemning him all over again or to feel our own superiority. Rather, we do so with a certain empathy, aware that we labor under the same human weaknesses and are likewise capable of grave sin – of betrayal. What then do we find in the betrayer that we might also find in ourselves?

The Faults of Judas

Judas kisses Jesus

First is Judas’s failure to persevere in his conversion. Our Lord chose him just as surely as He chose Peter and John. He did not do so begrudgingly or out of necessity. When our Lord addresses Judas as “friend” in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mt 26:50), He does intend it as irony or sarcasm. At some point, Judas’ conversion seems to have faltered. Perhaps it was simple sloth. Perhaps it was a teaching he couldn’t accept. John hints that the Bread of Life discourse was Judas’s undoing – hence the Lord’s reference to him as “a devil” at the end of it.

 Or maybe Judas felt betrayed by the Lord. He may have had expectations of the Messiah that Jesus did not fulfill – expectations of glory and power hard to square with the repeated references to the Son of Man suffering, being rejected, and killed. For three years, he followed this rabbi and the anticipated glory had not arrived. He grew impatient with the Lord’s talk about suffering. In this regard Romano Guardini observes: “That he did not leave, but remained as one of the Twelve was the beginning of his treachery. Why he stayed, we do not know. Perhaps he still hoped to muddle through inwardly, or he wanted at least to see how things would develop – unless he already dreamed of profiting by the situation.” (The Lord)

Judas’s Greed

Which brings us to the next point: Judas’s greed. Judas objected to Mary’s anointing of Jesus with costly ointment not out of concern for the poor but “because he was a thief, and as he had the money box he used to take what was put into it.” (Jn 12:6) Greed is grasping. It’s really not so much about possessions but control – about having such means at our disposal that we do not need to rely on others, or even God. It is “practical” in the worst sense of that word. And Judas was an eminently practical man. In fact, one theory is that he foresaw our Lord’s coming defeat and was hoping to set himself up politically and financially by the betrayal. A very practical consideration.

Seeing Things in Worldly Manner

Further, there seems to be a superficiality or shallowness about Judas, a tendency to see things in only natural, worldly terms (not surprising in the practical man). At the Last Supper, our Lord says to His Apostles, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” They ask Him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” Except Judas. He asks instead, “Is it I, Rabbi?” (Mt 26:21-25) The others saw Jesus as Lord. Judas saw Him as only a rabbi, a teacher.

Of course, a teacher is important. But one does not worship a teacher. A teacher’s words can be powerful, perhaps even life-changing. But they are ultimately human, limited by the world’s wisdom and time itself. Jesus’ words endure: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Mt 24:35) Judas does not seem to have realized the depth of our Lord’s words or have entrusted himself to their authority. They were for him perhaps interesting and challenging, but not authoritative. How often we hear that about His teachings today?

Regret Versus Repentance

Finally, and sadly, Judas fails to repent. No doubt, he feels remorse over what he has done. And this is no small thing. In the tangle of his heart he still bore at least some love for Jesus. But notice: he returns not to Jesus but to the chief priests – to his coconspirators. To them, he acknowledges his sin. Judas possesses not repentance but regret. By repentance we look to the good God, to the Redeemer, to the one Who is Mercy. In His light, we reject sin. By regret we look to ourselves, turn further inward, and close ourselves off from the reconciliation and healing that come from God alone.

In Holy Week, we would like to be more like John, who stood faithfully at the foot of the Cross, or like Mary Magdalene, who kept a sorrowful vigil at Calvary. But that would be to give ourselves too much credit. This is the hour to think not of our strengths but of our weaknesses. It is no time to look askance at Judas but to realize that we labor under the same wounded human nature as he.

Like Judas, we fail to persevere in our conversion. We settle for piety instead of holiness. We turn aside if things get difficult and fail to deepen our devotion. We may even feel betrayed by the Lord – if He has not answered a prayer the way we want or catered to our own imaginings of Him.

Grasping  Control

Like Judas, we grasp for things – for money, possessions, power. In a word, for control, trying to keep our dependence on God at bay. Like him, we tend to superficiality, making our faith only a matter of human wisdom, interesting insights, psychological comfort rather than an encounter with the Word made flesh. We adopt a worldly view of religion rather than put on the mind Christ.

Hence, we do not entrust ourselves to His words as we should: Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. . . .He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. . . .Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. . . .as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.

And most of all we fail to deepen our repentance. We feel regret for our own sake, because our sins made us look bad. For all these failings and sins the Lord has granted us now the opportunity for real repentance. “Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor 6:2)

“This column first appeared on the website The Catholic Thing (www.thecatholicthing.org). Copyright 2017. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.”

Slight editing of headlines and bolding.

What the Church Really Needs

The Passion of Christ

By Fr. Daniel E. Doctor – The reading of the Passion reminds us, calls us, to remember that the death of our Savior is one of the saddest stories of all time. It is a terrible example of our sinful human nature and what we are capable of doing to each other. As Thomas Hobbes, the great English Philosopher, once observed, “life in this world is cruel, brutish, and short.”

This too, we see in the history of Christ, a tragic story about the death of a 33-year-old carpenter. It is depressing and a horrible thing to witness such injustice against the innocent, a fake trial, unreliable witnesses, false testimony, cruel treatment for committing no real crime. This, the killing of a blameless man, an execution of the Truth, a silencing of Goodness and Beauty.

There was in Him no stately bearing to make us look at Him, nor appearance that would attract us to Him. A man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, one of those from whom men hide their faces, spurned and we held him in no esteem. Yet, it was our infirmities that He bore, our suffering that He endured, as one smitten by God and afflicted.

In the words of the Prophet speaking for Christ, “I have not rebelled, have not turned back…I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard, my face I did not shield for the buffets and spitting.”

A horrible thing to witness, a human person, a man…tortured, mocked, rejected, bloody and bruised, ultimately alone with no one to speak for him, no one to protected him, to stand up for him, scourged, beat up, abused and discarded as worthless.

God our Savior wants all men to be saved and come to know the Truth. And the truth is this...that this man Jesus Christ was sent by His Almighty Father. The Divine Son of God in the flesh, to give, to sacrifice, to offer Himself, His body, His soul as a ransom for many.

So, Christ was pierced for our offenses, crushed by our sins, upon Him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by His stripes we were healed. We have all gone astray, each following His own way. But the Lord laid upon Him the guilt of us all. Though He was harshly treated, He submitted and opened not His mouth.

But Jesus, the afflicted one, He knew what the Psalms said of Him in prophecy, for “the Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame. And so He was silent and opened not His mouth.”

This is what sin has done to our Lord, your sin and mine, ultimately beating a man to His death. And if that wasn’t enough, after His death we run Him through with a spear and walk away. A job well done. . . God is dead. . . !!

Christ suffered for us and left us an example, to have us follow in His footsteps. He did no wrong, no deceit was found in His mouth. When He was insulted, He returned no insult. When He was made to suffer, He did not counter with threats. Instead, He delivered Himself up to the One who judges justly. In His Own Body He brought your sins to the Cross, that all of us, dead to sin, could live in accord with God’s will.

This passion, this Passover of our Christ is a horribly sad story about a Father who so loved the world, who gave us His only begotten Son and we murdered Him. Strong and sober words, but the Truth nonetheless. No one can pride themselves into thinking that they are innocent of this crime done against the Only Son of God. The level of our own ingratitude alone to our Lord who gave us life and freedom, then we use these gifts to kill His Son. And yet even in the midst of all of this, He still continually calls us to repentance and forgiveness because “by His wounds you were healed.”

But our time here on earth is not eternal and it runs out for all of us. Wouldn’t it be wise and prudent of us to be grateful now and turn our lives over to Him, instead of waiting? As St. Augustine said, “long have I waited to love you.” But why have we waited? What benefit can there be in waiting to love God? Waiting to turn our lives completely over to Him. . .?

Scripture warns us, “No one makes a fool of God. A man will only reap what He sows. If he sows in the field of the flesh, he will reap a harvest of corruption; but if his seed ground is the Spirit; he will reap everlasting life.”

The message of the Cross is complete absurdity to those who are headed for ruin, but to us who are experiencing salvation it is the power of God. Scripture says, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and thwart the cleverness of the clever. God’s folly is wiser than men and His weakness more powerful than men. God chose those who the world considers absurd to shame the wise.”

The Great Grace of Charity

This is a great grace that the virtue of charity can bring to us, if we live it. This virtue of charity gives us clarity in knowing and serving God; that makes the wise and the powerful ashamed; and exposes the thoughts of this world as absurd, imprudent, and foolish.

Remember, Charity means that we must aid, help, and assist our neighbor. Think of the story of the “Good Samaritan.” Charity means to go out of our way to show our neighbor kindness, to be tolerant and compassionate, “to suffer with,” as Saint Pope John Paul II reminded us, to be “generous, sympathetic, and understanding.”

True Christian Charity is the willingness to judge others in a tolerant and favorable way, to give to others the benefit of the doubt, to show affection for, even friendship towards, to actively love.

Christ taught that as we grow in charity, as we pray and become more mature in our practice of the virtues, then we naturally grow in a deeper love of Him and our neighbor. Simply put, we are to pray, do good, and love. We do these three things, out of love for Jesus Christ, with the firm hope that our faith will bring us to unending love with God the Father. We also know that while we are in this life – we need to receive the sacraments frequently, with Confession and Holy Communion once a year as the minimum requirement, so that we continue to grow into what God created us to be. That is what real mature love is, and the only way our Lord ever uses the word, as a sacrifice for the sake of the other for the good of the other.

What the Church Needs

What the Church really needs today is what the saints knew it needed during their lives, and they lived it. It is what the Popes and Bishops of the past, knew it needed, who fought the evils of their day and protected their sheep with the same determination that a Father protects his family. This reminds me of Pope Francis, and his scandalous behavior when he publicly failed to truly shepherd the Church when he said “who am I to judge” when he should have said, “go and sin no more. . . .”

We all, deep down within us, truly know that what is good, true, and beautiful must be defended, protected, and cherished by someone who is willing to get into the fight for what is right. To put on the armor of faith and stand with Christ, His Angels, and Saints in defense of His Bride the Church.

What the Church needs is strong men, masculine men, who are willing to walk more closely the path of Christ by serving the Church as her spiritual fathers, as Her Captains in the great battle for souls, so that the next generation of Catholics will not be fatherless.

What the Church needs is strong men and women, who are consecrated in the Truth, willing to seek out and do the good: prepared by the Sacraments, educated in the “Science of the Saints,” invincible in their prayer life, willing to defend at every turn no matter the personal cost, and even die if need be in defense of Holy Mother Church. And with Christ, as our great crucified champion, our dying to our life of sin ultimately leads to everlasting life. . . where we are seen as the great heroes, saints, and martyrs of our time, following the Bridegroom of the Church, that Divine Lamb, wherever He goes. . . .

A Hard Case: Divorce and Cohabitation

Desiring to Live a Virtuous Life

In an interview with Edward Pentin, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio offers this example and says: yes. He refers to his recent book on Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia in which he speaks of this case:

Think of a woman who lives with a married man. She has three little children. She has already been with this man for ten years. Now the children think of her as a mother. He, the partner, is very much anchored to this woman, as a lover, as a woman. If this woman were to say: “I am leaving this mistaken union because I want to correct my life, but if I did this, I would harm the children and the partner,” then she might say: “I would like to, but I cannot.” In precisely these cases, based on one’s intention to change and the impossibility of changing, I can give that person the sacraments, in the expectation that the situation is definitively clarified.

What’s the harm to the partner in her departure? “But how can she leave the union? He [her civilly married spouse] will kill himself. The children, who will take care of them? They will be without a mother. Therefore, she has to stay there.”

He even states that the woman who desires to end the adulterous relationship would be guilty of killing her partner by leaving: “But if someone says: ‘I want to change, but in this moment I cannot, because if I do it, I will kill people,’ I can say to them, ‘Stop there. When you can, I will give you absolution and Communion.’”

The argument posed here is a quintessential “hard case” being used to establish a premise in favor of treating publicly known adultery as no longer an obstacle to the lawful reception of Holy Communion. But this premise sanctions emotionally manipulative coercion and victimizes the woman further by treating her desire to live a virtuous life as the cause of harm to another.

How can that be? Obedience to God’s law is the cause of good in the life of the woman in question and that good radiates out to those around her. Her departure might shock the man into realizing how abusive his behavior has been toward her. His children are his responsibility, along with their mother, assuming she is still alive and involved in their lives. Her decision to follow God’s law will bring the children sadness, but more importantly gives a living witness of the Christian duty always to obey God’s law.

Cardinal Coccopalmerio

The man in question uses the threat of suicide to coerce this woman, not simply to remain in his household to raise his children, as would be the case if he agreed to live in a chaste, brother and sister relationship for the sake of the children; he is coercing her into committing acts of adultery. He is sinning gravely on two counts. She is conscious of her objectively sinful behavior and wants to conform her life to the demands of the Gospel.

Her culpability is mitigated by the force and fear imposed upon her by this man’s threat. Nonetheless, when grace moves a person to reject sin, the Church must never tell that believer that she need not worry about her sinful situation because the man she is civilly married to is somehow entitled to adulterous relations, lest he kill himself.

Is it an authentically Christian pastoral approach to allow a deadly threat by the man to go unchallenged? Could the threat of suicide likewise be invoked to allow other gravely sinful situations to continue? If he were sexually abusing his children, and threatened to kill himself if they were removed from the house, would anyone think they should be left there? Why should his demand to continue in adulterous acts with a reluctant woman be treated differently?

An underlying assumption here may be that once the woman agreed to live with this man more uxorio, she somehow lost her right to refuse pseudo-conjugal rights, and that such a refusal would harm him, if not kill him. This is a backwards way of looking at the plight of a woman who, moved by God’s grace, wants to live faithful to the Sixth Commandment.

By allowing this “suicide exception,” the Church would be tolerating the woman’s exploitation and reinforcing the man’s mistaken notion that he can, without any consequences, manipulate another person, until such time “that the situation is definitively clarified” (whatever that means).

The role of the priest confessor in this case is to help this man and woman to live virtuous lives, which means abandoning threats to commit suicide and giving good example to the children by living a chaste life together. If that is not possible, the priest should advise the repentant woman to live in accordance with her upright conscience by departing.

Sad to say, Cardinal Coccopalmerio believes it is impossible (emphasis added) for some Christians to change their situation: “I say in the book, it’s necessary to instruct the faithful that when they see two divorced and remarried that go to the Eucharist, they ought not to say the Church now says that condition is good, therefore marriage is no longer indissoluble. They ought to say these people will have reasons examined by the ecclesial authorities on account of which they cannot change their condition, and in the expectation that they change, the Church has placed importance on their desire, their intention to change with the impossibility of doing so.”

Sed contra: “With God all things are possible.” Mt 19:26

 

“This column first appeared on the website The Catholic Thing (www.thecatholicthing.org). Copyright 2017. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.”