Who Knew? A Courageous Canadian Bishop.

A Pro-Life Letter by Bishop Douglas Crosby, OMI

The Honourable Chrystia Freeland,P.C., M.P.
Minister of Foreign Affairs
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
chrystia.freeland@parl.gc.ca 
chrystia.freeland@international.gc.ca 

Dear Minister,

Bishop Douglas Crosby, OMI

Bishop Douglas Crosby, OMI

I am writing to express profound concern with your speech on Canadian Foreign Policy, which you gave in the House of Commons on Tuesday 6 June 2017, and on which Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau further elaborated on 9 June. In it, you equated women’s rights with the right to abortion and “sexual reproductive rights” and said “[t]hese rights are at the core of Canadian foreign policy.” You went on to say that these were also human rights and that they would set Canada’s current and future foreign policy agenda. While the Catholic Bishops of Canada share your concern for advancing the respect and dignity of women – an issue to which the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholics give great importance – we feel the need to point out, with all due respect, that your statement above is erroneous, confusing, and misguided.

First, to state that abortion, inter alia, is “at the core” of Canadian foreign policy is simply not the case. There is no precedent to support such a claim in fact. Indeed, you yourself offered many examples in your speech of a tradition of Canadian foreign policy marked by the goals of international peace, just order, free trade, foreign aid and global stability. There are, of course, many women’s issues that actually ought to have been raised as legitimate points of international engagement, but these were passed over in silence. They include Canada’s economic partnerships with countries in which female infants are murdered for not being male; those in which women earn less than men for the same job or where they do not enjoy the same privileges under the law, including the right to education or protection from rape, physical violence, and other forms of abuse. Canadians recognize these as grave violations of human rights – indeed, as heinous crimes in certain instances – far more readily and unanimously than opposition to abortion and artificial contraception. If we add to all of the above the fact that abortion and certain kinds of contraceptive technologies carry profound risks for women, including psychological and emotional harm, sterility, and even death itself, it is difficult to comprehend how the policy agenda you have advanced truly represents the interests of women, particularly those that are already at risk.

Second, to state that abortion, inter alia, is a Canadian value, is also incorrect in principle. How could such a statement be made in Parliament when the Supreme Court of Canada itself held in R. v Morgentaler (1988) that there was no constitutional basis in the Charter for the right to abortion on demand? An examination of the ruling by former PEI Supreme Court Justice Gerard Mitchell in his 2014 letter published in Charlottetown’s newspaper The Guardian pointed out, contrary to the popular belief, that in actual fact all seven judges of the Supreme Court of Canada acknowledged that the state has a legitimate interest in protecting the unborn! 1

The attempt to insinuate abortion advocacy in Canadian foreign policy, predicating it on a very particular understanding of feminism, also runs against the thrust of your overall argument. It contradicts the very idea, as you yourself stated, that “it is clearly not our role to impose our values around the world. No one appointed us the world’s policemen.” Such a desire cannot be easily reconciled with the rationale you offered for Canada’s pursuit of a two-year term on the UN Security Council, namely our “wish to be heard” and to “lead” by imparting our “broadly held national values” on others. What ever happened to Canada’s longstanding tradition of respect for cultures, values, and histories, including different religious and moral traditions? What happened to the acute understanding that in confronting global challenges listening is just as important as being heard? How is this consequent to your own words that “the path we choose must be one that serves the interests of all Canadians and upholds our broadly held national values”? More specifically, with respect to a foreign policy based on abortion advocacy and “sexual reproductive rights,” has Canada forgotten that for a considerable population (both within Canada and abroad) the unborn child is regarded as a human being created by God and worthy of life and love? This moral position can be found among Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Orthodox Christians, a number of Protestant Christians, Roman and Eastern Catholics, in addition to many other people of good will, including non-believers. We question whether it was wise or responsible to claim abortion advocacy and “sexual reproductive rights” as the core of Canadian foreign policy – as national values with which to enlighten others – knowing full well that they are not only legally contentious but completely contrary to the deeply held convictions of many both within and beyond Canada’s borders.

In these uncertain times, when Canada’s voice and leadership do matter on everything from climate change to global peace, political ideology cannot be allowed to dictate foreign policy and to override common sense and our humanitarian responsibilities to those in dire need. We saw this last March when the Prime Minister used his personal commitment to feminism to justify a public pledge of $650-million to facilitate abortion advocacy and sexual reproductive rights on a global scale. This amount contrasts sharply with his government’s response to the severe food shortages in South Sudan, Yemen, northeast Nigeria and Somalia, for which it had only pledged $119.25-million – a difference of $530.75-million. The UN, meanwhile, was already calling the situation in these regions the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II, with 20 million people at risk of starvation. Should this unfolding disaster not have prompted the Prime Minister to prioritize relief and aid over politicking at the lavish expense of hardworking taxpayers in Canada? Unfortunately, even the Government’s recent announcement to match 1 “Clarifying facts on Canada’s abortion law, or lack of” private donations 1:1 is too modest in light of what is really needed and of what Canada is capable of delivering both in terms of humanitarian aid and example.

The Catholic Bishops of Canada would agree with your statement that “seventy years ago Canada played a pivotal role in forming the postwar international order.” There can be no question that a new century presents us with new challenges and that the “unique experience, expertise, geography, diversity, and values” gleaned in recent times can help us in confronting them. But whatever our efforts, they will be deeply compromised if we neglect the obvious reality that moral traditions shape people’s perspectives, that perspectives therefore differ, and that it is not a failure of the other person if her or his views do not map onto your understanding of “Canadian values.” The idea that everyone can somehow just agree that abortion and contraception are universal human rights is neither convincing nor credible. Indeed, even here at home, where we live side by side with peoples of so many different backgrounds, moral and religious traditions, the belief that there is universal agreement on a single set of Canadian values is itself contrived.

If Canada’s foreign policy needs a stable ground it cannot possibly be abortion advocacy and “sexual reproductive rights.” And if the dignity of women is to have a universal moral foundation it cannot be based on principles that override the rights of the unborn child.

Sincerely
Douglas Crosby
(Most Rev.) Douglas Crosby, OMI
Bishop Of Hamilton and
President of the Canadian Conference
Of Catholic Bishops

Archbishop Chaput: You are Called to Chastity not Sexual Confusion and Disorder

Archbishop Chaput Addresses Fr. James Martin’s New Book

By Archbishop Charles Chaput, Archdiocese of Philadelphia:

Writing in the mid-First Century to “all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints” — and despite the dangers and frustrations he himself faced — St. Paul said “I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek, for in it the righteousness of God is revealed . . .” (Rom 1:7, 16-17).

Paul’s Letter to the Romans became a key text of the New Testament.  The Church has always revered it as part of the inspired Word of God and incorporated it into her thought and practice.  The books of Scripture, even when they’re morally demanding, are not shackles.  They’re part of God’s story of love for humanity.  They’re guide rails that lead us to real dignity and salvation.

That’s a good thing.  Much of human history – far too much — is a record of our species’ capacity for self-harm.  The Word of God is an expression of his mercy.  It helps us to become the people of integrity God created us to be.  As Paul reminds us, we’re “called to be saints.”  Sometimes Scripture’s lessons toward that end can be hard.  But God cannot lie.  His Word always speaks the truth.  And the truth, as Jesus tells us in the Gospel, makes us free.  This is why Christians must never be ashamed of God’s Word – even when it’s inconvenient.

Which brings us to the heart of my comments this week.

In Romans 1:21-27, speaking of the men and women of his time “who by their wickedness suppress the truth,” Paul wrote:

. . for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened.  Claiming to be wise, they became fools . . .

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions.  Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error.

If reading that passage makes us uneasy, it should.  Many of Paul’s Roman listeners had the same response.  Jesus didn’t come to affirm us in our sins and destructive behaviors – whatever they might be — but to redeem us.  Paul’s message was as resented in some quarters then as it is now.  In an age of sexual confusion and disorder, calls to chastity are not just unwelcome.  They’re despised.  But that doesn’t diminish the truth of the words Paul wrote, or their urgency for our own time.

What we do with our bodies matters.  Sex is linked intimately to human identity and purpose.  If our lives have no higher meaning than what we invent for ourselves, then sex is just another kind of modeling clay.  We can shape it any way we please.  But if our lives do have a higher purpose – and as Christians, we find that purpose in the Word of God — then so does our sexuality.  Acting in ways that violate that purpose becomes a form of self-abuse; and not just self-abuse, but a source of confusion and suffering for the wider culture.  The fact that an individual’s body might incline him or her to one sort of damaging sexual behavior, or to another very different sort, doesn’t change this.

This can be a difficult teaching.  It’s easy to see why so many people try to finesse or soften or ignore Paul’s words.  In a culture of conflict, accommodation is always the least painful path.  But it leads nowhere.  It inspires no one.  “Fitting in” to a society of deeply dysfunctional sexuality results in the ruin that we see in so many other dying Christian communities.

In his recent book Building a Bridge (HarperOne), Father James Martin, S.J., calls the Church to a spirit of respect, compassion and sensitivity in dealing with persons with same-sex attraction.  This is good advice.  It makes obvious sense.  He asks the same spirit from persons in the LGBT community when dealing with the Church.  Father Martin is a man whose work I often admire.  Building a Bridge, though brief, is written with skill and good will.

But what the text regrettably lacks is an engagement with the substance of what divides faithful Christians from those who see no sin in active same-sex relationships.  The Church is not simply about unity – as valuable as that is – but about unity in God’s love rooted in truth.  If the Letter to the Romans is true, then persons in unchaste relationships (whether homosexual or heterosexual) need conversion, not merely affirmation.  If the Letter to the Romans is false, then Christian teaching is not only wrong but a wicked lie.  Dealing with this frankly is the only way an honest discussion can be had.

And that honesty is what makes another recent book – Why I Don’t Call Myself Gay by Daniel Mattson (Ignatius) – so extraordinarily moving and powerful.  As Cardinal Robert Sarah writes in the Foreword, Mattson’s candor about his own homosexuality, his struggles and failures, and his gradual transformation in Jesus Christ “bears witness to the mercy and goodness of God, to the efficacy of his grace, and to the veracity of the teachings of his Church.”

In the words of Daniel Mattson himself:

We cannot remain reluctant to speak about the beauty of the Church’s teaching on sexuality and sexual identity for fear that it will appear “unloving,” “irrational,” or “unreal.”  We need to love the world enough to speak about the Christian vision of sexual reality, confident that God’s creation of man as male and female is truly part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ we are called to proclaim to a lost and confused world.  We need to be a light for the world and speak passionately about the richness of the Church’s understanding of human sexuality.  We can’t place the Good News of the Church’s teaching on human sexuality under a bushel any longer, for the world desperately needs the truth we have (p. 123).

Spoken from experience.  Spoken from the heart.  No one could name the truth more clearly.

Pelosi: You Make a Mockery of the Catholic Faith

Fr. Pavone’s Letter to Nancy Pelosi

Dear Mrs. Pelosi,

Last Thursday, June 13, you were asked a question in a press briefing that you declined to answer. The question was, “What is the moral difference between what Dr. Gosnell did to a baby born alive at 23 weeks and aborting her moments before birth?”

Given the fact that the Gosnell case has been national news for months now, and that Congress, where you serve as House Democratic Leader, was about to have a vote on banning abortion after 20 weeks fetal age, this was a legitimate question.

Instead of even attempting to answer the question, you resorted to judgmental ad hominem attacks on the reporter who asked it, saying, “You obviously have an agenda. You’re not interested in having an answer.”

Mrs. Pelosi, the problem is that you’re not interested in giving an answer.

Your refusal to answer this question is consistent with your failure to provide an answer to a similar question from me and the members of my Priests for Life staff. Several years ago, we visited your office with the diagrams of dismemberment abortion at 23 weeks, and asked the simple question, “When you say the word ‘abortion,’ is this what you mean?” In response, nothing but silence has emanated from your office.

In what way is this refusal to address an issue of such national importance consistent with the leadership role you are supposed to be exercising? Public servants are supposed to be able to tell the difference between serving the public and killing the public. Apparently, you can’t. Otherwise, you would have been able to explain the difference between a legal medical procedure that kills a baby inside the womb and an act of murder — for which Dr. Gosnell is now serving life sentences — for killing the same baby outside the womb.

Moreover, you stated at the press briefing on June 13, “As a practicing and respectful Catholic, this is sacred ground to me when we talk about this. I don’t think it should have anything to do with politics.”

With this statement, you make a mockery of the Catholic faith and of the tens of millions of Americans who consider themselves “practicing and respectful Catholics” and who find the killing of children — whether inside or outside the womb — reprehensible.

You speak here of Catholic faith as if it is supposed to hide us from reality instead of lead us to face reality, as if it is supposed to confuse basic moral truths instead of clarify them, and as if it is supposed to help us escape the hard moral questions of life rather than help us confront them.

Whatever Catholic faith you claim to respect and practice, it is not the faith that the Catholic Church teaches. And I speak for countless Catholics when I say that it’s time for you to stop speaking as if it were.

Abortion is not sacred ground; it is sacrilegious ground. To imagine God giving the slightest approval to an act that dismembers a child he created is offensive to both faith and reason.

And to say that a question about the difference between a legal medical procedure and murder should not “have anything to do with politics” reveals a profound failure to understand your own political responsibilities, which start with the duty to secure the God-given right to life of every citizen.

Mrs. Pelosi, for decades you have gotten away with betraying and misrepresenting the Catholic faith as well as the responsibilities of public office. We have had enough of it. Either exercise your duties as a public servant and a Catholic, or have the honesty to formally renounce them.

Sincerely,

Fr. Frank Pavone
National Director, Priests for Life

Catholic Controversy

Who Can Receive a Catholic Funeral?

By Trent Horn; Catholic Answers

Last week, Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois issued a decree forbidding persons in “same-sex marriages” who cause public scandal from receiving Communion or from being received into the Church through RCIA if they choose not to end their relationship. Pastors are to meet with such individuals in private and call them to conversion through the sacrament of reconciliation.

Some, like Fr. James Martin, have criticized the decree as an example of the Church’s judgmentalism and lack of inclusion. But when we examine the Church’s teaching on celebrating funerals we see that it’s not intended to bring condemnation to sinners but rather prayerful support for the deceased and solace hope for the living.

Who can receive a Catholic funeral?

According to the Code of Canon Law, “Deceased members of the Christian faithful must be given ecclesiastical funerals according to the norm of law” (1176.1). This also includes catechumens who died before they received the sacraments of initiation like baptism and confirmation (CIC 1183.1). If a bishop deems it appropriate, a funeral can also be given to children who died before being baptized or even, in some cases, to a baptized non-Catholic (CIC 1183.2-3).

The inclusion of catechumens and unbaptized children shows that the Church wants to provide funerals for as many believers as possible. However, canon 1184 stipulates that:

Unless [the deceased] gave some signs of repentance before death, the following must be deprived of ecclesiastical funerals:

1. Notorious apostates, heretics, and schismatics;

2. Those who chose the cremation of their bodies for reasons contrary to Christian faith;

3. Other manifest sinners who cannot be granted ecclesiastical funerals without public scandal of the faithful.

The Catechism teaches that “The bodies of the dead must be treated with respect and charity, in faith and hope of the Resurrection” (2300). This means all people, including non-Christians, should receive honorable burials. But in the context of a Christian funeral we recognize that “the Church who, as Mother, has born the Christian sacramentally in her womb during his earthly pilgrimage, accompanies him at his journey’s end, in order to surrender him ‘into the Father’s hands’” (CCC 1683).

A Christian funeral can serve as a reminder to those who have separated themselves from God through mortal sin that they should reconcile with God as soon as possible, since the time of our earthly departure can be sudden and unexpected. But a funeral for someone who engaged in manifest, unrepentant sin could cause those in attendance, or even those who merely hear about the funeral, to think that certain mortal sins are not a big deal. “After all,” they may ask, “If the morally certain hope of eternal life is preached at this person’s funeral, then why would it be wrong to live just like he did?”

This part of canon law does not forbid funerals for Christians who struggled with sin (otherwise no one would have a Christian funeral). It also does not forbid funerals for people whose struggle with serious sins had become public knowledge. It only includes “manifest sinners” whose funerals could cause the faithful to think their unrepentant, mortally sinful behavior was not a serious matter. It prohibits liturgies that distort the truth that “all who die in God’s grace and friendship [emphasis added], but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation” (CCC 1030).

A less-controversial example that illustrates this point involves refusing funerals to members of organized crime families. Notorious gangsters such as John Gotti and Paul Castellano, for example, were denied Catholic funerals because of their potential for scandal.

Inconsistent discrimination?

In response to Bishop Paprocki’s decree, Fr. James Martin—who recently published a book on how the Church can build bridges with the “LGBT community”—wrote this on his public Facebook page:

If bishops ban members of same-sex marriages from receiving a Catholic funeral, they also have to be consistent. They must also ban divorced and remarried Catholics who have not received annulments, women who has or man who fathers a child out of wedlock, members of straight couples who are living together before marriage, and anyone using birth control. For those are all against church teaching as well. Moreover, they must ban anyone who does not care for the poor, or care for the environment, and anyone who supports torture, for those are church teachings too. More basically, they must ban people who are not loving, not forgiving and not merciful, for these represent the teachings of Jesus, the most fundamental of all church teachings. To focus only on LGBT people, without a similar focus on the moral and sexual behavior of straight people is, in the words of the Catechism, a “sign of unjust discrimination.”

The problem with Fr. Martin’s response is that it fails to make a distinction between gravely evil, public displays of sin that can cause scandal, and other types of sin against which the faithful struggle.

Take, for example, his claim that someone like Bishop Paprocki should also deny funerals for people “who are not loving, not forgiving and not merciful.” According to James 3:2, “we all make many mistakes,” so we should expect the deceased at Christian funerals to have failed at times to be loving or merciful. But there is a difference between being a sinner and being a cause for scandal. A person’s “failure to love” would only involve the latter if it was exceptionally grave, publicly known, and unrepented (as with the mafia bosses we discussed earlier). To equate any failure to love or forgive with remaining in a disordered, publicly recognized sexual union reveals an ignorance of the Church’s teachings on the gravity of sin (CCC 1854).

What about failing to care for the poor, the environment, or prisoners? These failures to act only become gravely sinful under certain conditions, such as by causing serious harm. They are not like specific actions, such as murder or sexual activity outside of marriage, that are always wrong and can become mortal sins if a person who knows they are gravely wrong freely chooses to commit them anyway. Likewise, the conditions for these sins to become objects of scandal are also fairly rare. A public advocate of social Darwinism who wanted the poor to “die off” might engender enough scandal to deny him funeral rites, merely being lax about contributing to a second collection would not result in a similar ecclesial sanction.

Having conceived a child outside of marriage is not an ongoing source of scandal, since a person could repent of that sin and still live out a holy vocation of parenthood. Contraception use is not a publicly known matter, so a priest could not know with certainty if a person repented of this sin before death. A same-sex union, on the other hand, is a matter of public record and it would be known if someone remained in such a union until death. Unless a pastor made it known that the deceased had vowed to remain chaste and repented of his behavior, a funeral for such a person would be a cause for scandal. The sin of contraception might only reach a similar level of scandal if a Catholic publicly and notoriously advocated for its use: such as by being a director of a Planned Parenthood or similar organization.

Finally, there is the issue of allowing funerals for Catholics who remain in invalid marriages. Some theologians hold that funerals for Catholics in invalid marriages are scandalous and so they should not be celebrated. But other theologians and bishops believe that funerals in this case can be offered in a way that does not lead to scandal. The Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, for example, allows funeral masses for Catholics in invalid marriages who upheld Church teaching (by living as brother and sister, for example) but recommends the “Funeral Liturgy Outside Mass” for those who neglected the Church’s teaching on marriage in this regard.

We must also remember that the fact that the deceased was in an invalid marriage would only be known by a select number of people and so it would have a low potential for generating scandal. If the deceased were in a same-sex union, however, the invalid and disordered nature of therelationship would be known by anyone who heard about the funeral. Given the unique political climate surrounding the issue of homosexuality, such a funeral could attract widespread attention and be used as a platform to misinform people about the Church’s teachings on this subject or a rallying cry to change the teachings and undermine the Church’s authority in the process.

But what should a parish do if a member of a same-sex couple approaches them seeking a funeral? They should show, contra critics like Fr. Martin, that it is possible to be compassionate towards those who suffer without scandalizing others and leading them into sin.

A pastor or parish staff member faced with this request should remember that the surviving member of such a couple will certainly be experiencing a deep sense of grief. He or she may also be suffering from loneliness, depression, or financial hardship. Catholics should reach out to such a person, who is created in the image of God and loved by him, and strive to meet his or her basic human needs through empathy and acts of charity, especially to help alleviate the financial burdens and emotional tolls that accompany burying a loved one.

This person may be hurt by the denial of a Catholic funeral, but by offering an olive branch of compassion this person can have a genuine encounter with Christ, who always calls us to conversion and gives us the grace to follow him in any circumstance.

Losing the Horror of Sin

Do Not Get Lost in Gehenna

By Fr. James Farfaglia,

“And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” (Matthew 10: 28)

What is Gehenna?  The word Gehenna is the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew ge-hinnom, meaning “Valley of Hinnom.” This valley, south of Jerusalem was where some of the ancient Israelites sacrificed their children to the Canaanite false god Molech.  In later years, Gehenna continued to be an unclean place used for burning trash from the city of Jerusalem.

The Gehenna Valley was thus a place of burning sewage, burning flesh, and garbage.  Maggots and worms crept through the garbage and sewage.  The smell from the smoke was strong and nauseating.   It was a place that was utterly filthy, disgusting and repulsive to the senses.

Gehenna presented such a vivid image, that Jesus used it as a depiction of hell: a place of eternal torment where the fires never ended and the worms never stopped crawling.[i]

“And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.”

Who are the people that are not afraid to die so that they do not lose their soul in hell for all eternity?

These are the martyrs.  There are millions of them throughout the history of Catholicism.

Some are very young and some are older.

They all died under cruel and terrifying circumstances.

Here is the story of a young girl, a child, who preferred to die rather than to commit a mortal sin.

She was only eleven years old. 

Maria Goretti (October 16, 1890 – July 6, 1902) is an Italian virgin-martyr. and she is one of the youngest canonized saints.

She was born on the eastern side of Italy to a farming family, but increased poverty forced the family to move to the western side of the country when she was only six.

Her father died from malaria when she was nine, and they had to share a house with another family, the Serenellis, in order to survive.

The Serenelli family was what we would call today a very dysfunctional family. Alessandro Serenelli, the young man who attacked Maria was part of a terrible mess.

Giovanni, his father, was an alcoholic and his mother died in a psychiatric hospital when he was only a few months old, apparently after trying to drown Alessandro when he was a newborn. Alessandro’s brother was interned in a psychiatric hospital where he died.

On July 5, 1902, eleven-year-old Maria was sitting on the outside steps of her home, sewing one of Alessandro’s shirts and watching Teresa, her baby sister, while Alessandro was threshing beans in the barnyard. Knowing she would be alone, he returned to the house and threatened her with a knife if she did not do what he said; he was intending to rape her.

She would not submit, however, protesting that what he wanted to do was a mortal sin and warning him that he would go to hell.  She desperately fought to stop him. She kept screaming, “No! It is a sin! God does not want it!” He first choked her, but when she insisted she would rather die than submit to him, he stabbed her eleven times.  She tried to reach the door, but he stopped her by stabbing her three more times before running away.

Teresa, the little baby, awoke with the noise and started crying, and when her mother and Alessandro’s father came to check on her, they found Maria on the floor bleeding and took her to the nearest hospital.

She underwent surgery, but her injuries were beyond anything that the doctors could do.

Halfway through the surgery, she woke up. She insisted that it stay that way. The pharmacist said to her, “Maria, think of me in Paradise.” She looked at him and said, “Well, who knows, which of us is going to be there first?” “You, Maria,” he replied. “Then I will gladly think of you,” she said. She also expressed concern for her mother’s welfare.

The following day, 24 hours after the attack, having expressed forgiveness for Alessandro and stating that she wanted to have him in Heaven with her, she died of her injuries, while looking at a picture of the Virgin Mary and clutching a cross to her chest.

The wounds penetrated the throat, with lesions of the pericardium, the heart, the lungs and the diaphragm. Surgeons were surprised that the girl was still alive.

In a dying deposition, in the presence of the Chief of Police, Maria told her mother of Serenelli’s sexual harassment, and of two previous attempts made to rape her. She was afraid to reveal this earlier since she was threatened with death.

Alessandro was promptly arrested, convicted, and jailed. After three years he repented, and when eventually released from prison, he visited her mother begging forgiveness, which she readily granted. He later became a lay brother in a monastery, eventually dying peacefully in 1970. Maria Goretti was beatified by Pope Pius XII in 1947, and canonized in 1950 by the same Pope.  Maria’s mother and Alessandro were present at both ceremonies.[ii]

Lost the Horror of Sin

My dear friends, we live in a culture where we have lost the sense of sin.  We have lost the horror of sin.  This is true because we have lost the sense of who God is.

These tragic loses has caused many Catholics to neglect or even forget about the importance of the Sacrament of Confession.

Let us, once again, remember some basic teachings of our Catholic Faith.

What is sin?  The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives us a concise definition. “Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law” (CCC #1849).

Scripture tells us that actual sin is divided into two classifications: mortal sin and venial sin. “There is a sin that leads to death…” (1 John 5:16).  “Every kind of wickedness is sin, but not all sin leads to death” (1John 5:17).

Mortal sin is forgiven through the Sacrament of Confession. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “Confession to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament of Penance. All mortal sins of which penitents after a diligent self-examination are conscious must be recounted by them in confession…” (CCC #1456).

Just like all the other sacraments of the Church, Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Confession.  The Church has always understood the Scriptural reference for the Sacrament of Confession to be John 20: 22-23: “Receive the Holy Spirit.  For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.”

What an immense gift we have been given!  The Sacrament of Confession is an enormous source of interior peace.  The priest raises his hand, and then with a blessing pronounces those amazing words: I absolve you from your sins.  At that moment, we know that God has heard our cry for forgiveness, and we have been pardoned of our sins.  “God, who is rich in mercy…” (Ephesians 2: 4).

There is a direct relationship between the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Confession.

Saint Paul speaks to us about this essential relationship in his First Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 11, verses 23-32.  Let us consider the entire text.

“For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.

Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying. If we discerned ourselves, we would not be under judgment; but since we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.”

The Sacrament of the Eucharist is one of the sacraments of the living.  We need to be free from mortal sin before we receive Holy Communion.  If we receive the Eucharist while we are in the state of mortal sin, we are committing a sacrilege.  “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.”

That act of receiving the Eucharist with a bad conscience has a direct influence on our physical health.  “That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying.” 

Sexual sin is not the only sin, but like for the Corinthians of old, it is certainly the battle of our times.

Adultery, fornication, masturbation, addiction to pornography, contraception, sterilization and abortion are real life struggles for many Catholics.

Relativism has convinced a lot of Catholics that there is no longer any need to go to confession for these sins before they receive the Eucharist.

It is possible to live the virtue of chastity in an unchaste world.  We have to make a decision to change and to live the Gospel with greater authenticity.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (John 3: 16-17).

We experience God’s mercy through the Sacrament of Confession.  It is there that we acknowledge who we are: limited, weak and sinful creatures in need of redemption.  It is there that God forgives us of any and all of our sins.

Everyone is welcome to the Catholic Church, but let Jesus liberate you from sin.  No one who has ever met Jesus has remained the same.

And now let us pray:

Oh Saint Maria Goretti who, strengthened by God’s grace, did not hesitate even at the age of eleven to shed your blood and sacrifice your life to defend your virginal purity, look graciously on the unhappy human race which has strayed far from the path of eternal salvation. Teach us all, and especially all young people, with what courage and promptitude we should flee for the love of Jesus anything that could offend Him or stain our souls with sin. Obtain for us from our Lord victory in temptation, comfort in the sorrows of life, and the grace which we earnestly beg of you , and may we one day enjoy with you the imperishable glory of Heaven. Amen.

 

[i] https://www.gotquestions.org/Gehenna.html

[ii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_Goretti

 

Relativizing Sexual Pronouns: A Passive form of Hatred

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

“The young need to be helped to accept their own body as it was created” since believing we have “absolute power over our own bodies” might lead to the belief that “we enjoy absolute power over creation.”
– Pope Francis

As a child I always enjoyed playing RPG games.  Role-playing-games offer us a world of our own making, and often an opportunity to “create a character” as we would prefer them to be.  In the fantasy genre, you not only had the opportunity to pick your gender, but you could also choose a race, your hair-colour, your skills, your class, et cetera.  This world of self-creation is of course attractive but it is also an illusion – a game, but not a reality.  The issue of transenderism today is not totally unlike this, except that an RPG game can be turned off, but for those experiencing gender dysphoria, their affective preference remains, and can weigh heavily upon them.  Their subjective experience is not trivial like a game, but such affective inclinations are also not grounded in an ontological reality, either.  Today however, instead of helping others find self-acceptance in the context of reality, psychologists are entering into their patient’s own delusion or dysphoria, thereby doing harm.

It is my philosophical view that today the world has now erased that line between preference and reality – and no longer bothers to make such a distinction. Even within the scientific field where once transgenderism was considered gender-dysphoria, now it is merely a matter of catering to the person’s subjective/affective preferences and allowing them to dominate or violently impose themselves upon reality.

Bishop Robert Barron has discussed this as nothing more than a recapitulation of the early heresy of Gnosticism, which ascribes to the view that one has a type of “knowledge” that does not necessarily manifest within concrete reality.  In other words, “mind over matter.”  Instead of reality informing us on what the truth is, our mind dictates to the matter what the truth is – and as a result one can slice and dice at our own world in order to conform it to our own affective preferences.

Another term for all of this could be existentialism.  Existentialism ascribes to the view that things of themselves do not have any intrinsic worth or even a definition or nature.  Rather, man has the capacity to create for himself his own definition, simply by willing it.  This type of philosophy is predominantly expressed by Mr. Nietzsche. Nietzsche believed that terms such as “good” and “evil” were merely social constructs, typically proclaimed to be “objective” by the powerful as a way of allowing the state or Church to impose its own “will” upon the people.  However, this notion of “objectivity” was merely itself a social-construct, having absolutely no real value.  For Nietzsche, in order to become enlightened man had to transcend the concepts of good and evil, and decide for himself right from wrong.  The man who could accomplish this was termed the “Superman.”Nietzsche187a

Often what is true of the individual is true of the social momentum within a movement.  When there is an objective reality to morality, there is a specific way to think and argue a point.  However, when one proposes a view that is only elicited by personal preference or an affective inclination there is no real ground to develop an argument.  Therefore those who seek to impose their own will, which is not grounded in logical discourse (that of itself appeals to the logos, or objective reality), only can do so with violence or logical fallacies (sophistry).  What means, therefore, does such a group have to impose its own affective preference upon the society it belongs to?  The answer is simply violence.  It has been a long-time view of classical philosophers that those who begin to personally attack others or interpret arguments as personal attacks, they have already lost the argument.

Recently there has been an increase in not only seeking what are considered “rights,” but imposing this way of thinking upon others, without an argument.  There is nothing objectively wrong with imposing upon a society laws which safe-guard the rights that belong to individuals, but those rights need to be grounded in something more than consensus and individual preference.  Rather, the rights should be grounded upon rational discourse and logical assessment of what reality for itself says about what it means to be a human person.

What I would suggest however is that society’s approach to logic and preference is disingenuous.  Rarely will you find a person who is willing to admit that they reject objectivity in every sense of its possible meaning.   This conclusively means that the good instinct to cling to reason over gnostic preference still remains within man – except man offers himself an exception when his preference or inclination would have to be sacrificed to spirituality subsist within reality/reason.  That is a common-plight – we all have moments where reality is challenging, and love demands of us to let go of our preferences and immediate desires for the good of another.  A parent who hears a child crying is objectively in need of their parents, and despite the fact that the parent would rather rest, he or she gets up to care for that child.  A good parent does not define the reality of their children’s need, subordinating to what is comfortable to them – they know that the needs of their child remains nonetheless the same, regardless of whether they return to sleep.

hard-thinkingRationalization, however is a common-tendency within the human person, when reality clashes against our preference for what is not real (an illusion). Rationalization often can be done by an individual, but when he clashes his views against a society, it can become more difficult to maintain the weak arguments that are constructed not from reason but from preference.  As a result he can attempt to lie, deceive, and convince others of his views in order to gain their own consensus.  Once he has their approval he reinforces the rationalization and subjectively begins to convince himself that what is an illusion is actually a reality, even though deep-down he knows otherwise.

When a Christian community continues to boast of what the truth is, what the objective criteria is, it naturally creates and fosters conflict.  And this naturally wounds others for many reasons.  One of the reasons could be a misapplication of the argument.  For instance, often the narrative within the LGBT is that Christians view those who experience a same-sex attraction are automatically going to hell.  Therefore, when Christians speak about the subject, the natural responses for such individuals to take offense, and therefore to not realistically entertain or even discern the logic in such arguments.  There is a fear and dread at the prospect of being condemned so arbitrarily.  However, with the exception of a few forms of Christianity, this simply is not a true narrative of Christianity.  Catholicism for instance speaks about the acts of homosexuality as being gravely sinful, but does not suggest that if a person has a same-sex attraction they are “de-facto” condemned to hell.  People are held accountable for choices, not for things that they did not choose, such as a sexual orientation.

These false-narratives often foster or compound a victim-culture.  This does not diminish the fact that many are factually victims of discrimination, which the Church also condemns, and rightfully so.  But in replacement of an argument, appealing to being a victim often is nothing more than a recapitulation of the logical fallacy of an “appeal to emotion” whereby an argument is shut down, not because it lacks merit, but because it doesn’t make another person feel good.  I once encountered a religious leader who wanted to share wisdom from his diseased mother, wisdom she offered on her death bed.  However, what his mother said was not wise, but to voice disagreement with her view would have seemed insensitive – and therefore he was able to facilitate within the venue he offered an argument that everyone was timid to disagree with publically.

Please do not misunderstand this point to imply that we should not be concerned with those who subjectively perceive themselves to be victims.  If a person truly believes this, even if it is not grounded in an objective experience, they are nonetheless still wounded, and wounded as a result of the false-narrative.

Applying everything I have said before now I would like to apply to the whole question of pronouns being relativized to cater to the preferences or affective inclinations, specifically for those who decide for themselves what their pronoun ought to be.  Specifically transgenderism.  In this regard, an argument can be made that the Canadian government has passed a bill which will necessarily interpret those who do not cooperate with this relativistic philosophical system of pronoun-assignment as a form of hate.  But I would argue to the contrary.  While it may cause pain to a person to know that someone disagrees with them on a subject as sensitive as this, it does not denote hatred.

What we have, in an objective world that insists upon its own ordering subordinate to consensus and individual preference is a consensual hallucination.  When a voice speaks to the contrary it comes at a great cost.  When St. Thomas More did not compromise on his faith toward Henry VIII, he, as a friend to the King did not endorse the rationalized course of behaviour that he wanted to have validated.  As a result he was imprisoned and eventually killed.  In this regard, I would say that a healthy Christianity is not one that compromises with the government or the mob or the powerful, but rather the one that is willing to be imprisoned with Christ and St. Paul and all the saints before us. Selling out Christ for 30 pieces of silver is perhaps just another recapitulation of the dark-side of the gospel that continues to be re-echoed to this day and is found in God’s providence, but this doesn’t denote that we ought to find it favourable or even cooperate with it.  As a Church we need to resist this way of living.  Of course, one needn’t even appeal to matters of faith to understand why morally speaking one should not subordinate pronouns to cater to the preferences of others.  While it might be considered in some cases to avoid offending someone, we must not see this as the supreme good of a healthy relationship.  If reality is itself what is offensive, than it is truth that is unjustly offended by those who promote such an illusion.decisions

Furthermore, for a person to passively reject their own ontological configuration as a man or woman is to passively hate themselves.  The irony here, therefore is that hatred is actually being endorsed by the government, on behalf of those who would prefer they were a different sex than what they truly are.  One, as a Christian or a man or woman of philosophical logic, cannot cooperate with such an illusion precisely for reasons of love.  When one fosters the illusion that truth is always subordinated to our own personal preferences there is no limit to what this type of thinking can accomplish.  At this point in time, man knows he does not existentially dictate to himself that his eyes are for the purpose of seeing, or that his ears are for the purpose of hearing.  These are truths grounded in the very anatomy of the body.  Yet, in our civilization, when it comes to matters of sexual organs these are relativized even though biologically we know better.  This inconsistency must be attributed to the fact that remaining in the truth of this, with an affect that does not line-up with the nature of the body (for whatever reason) requires integrity to nonetheless subsist, spiritually, in truth.  For such an individual, subsisting in this type of truth would likely require sacrifice, and that sacrifice is painful and uncomfortable. Nonetheless, to subsist in reality is what permits one to have any authentic (truthful) experience of joy and interior freedom.  Man is not a beast.  Beasts get “fixed” because they cannot control themselves, whereas mankind also gets “fixed” because he begins to resemble less of an intelligent being, and rather one controlled by impulses.  Why else do we have people turning into a stampede, killing other humans in a shopping mall on Black-Friday?

St. Thomas Aquinas defines pride as a problem precisely because man clings to his own fallible judgment that is enslaved to his impulses and affective preferences rather than what is true.  Pride is therefore an exaltation of our own will and intellect beyond what is actually reasonable:  beyond what is good or evil.  What Nietzsche espoused was nothing new, in fact, it was already written about in the book of Genesis when discussing man not having the prerogative to decide for themselves good from evil (eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil).  The humble disposition that requires self-mastery and interior strength is not to subordinate reason to our preferences, truth to our subjectivity, but rather to examine reality and allow ourselves to discover it, rather than invent an illusion and coerce others to follow it.

Therefore, I cannot cooperate with any notion of referring to a person to another gender than what they are objectively – precisely because who they are, as an ontological reality is worth loving, even if they cannot. This is the type of love that offends, and actually makes love seem like something that is desirable to crucify.  Yet, it must be done anyways – because if no one loves such individuals, who will?  The whole culture, collectively wants us to mutually hate each other, and label it as love.  We consider legalizing prostitution as a liberation of women (and men), and yet all it is, is the commodification of one’s sexuality – reducing their dignity to something that can be sold.   Our culture really has, in many ways turned away from love, while nonetheless nominally labeling hatred as love, and love as hatred.  In a purely subjectivist society, this is possible – anything is possible, except truth.  Truth is not something merely exterior to the individual, the individual themselves is a truth, is a reality.  That reality is made up of matter and soul – and that individual must be loved as who they are – not in a gnostic way, but ontologically (who they objectively are).

Shocking! A Pornography Homily

Fr. Hamilton, Apologizes to Parishioners for Failing to Address Pornography Epidemic

Action Item: At Fr. Hamilton’s encouragement, please read this article with your son.  Statistics show your son is already exposed or needs the positive reinforcement from his parents to grow in virtue.  As Father said, “It is serious sin that needs to be confessed immediately, and especially before coming forward to receive Holy Communion.” Don’t be afraid, take courage.  Your son’s salvation is at stake.

Action Item #2: Your priest has full permission to use this homily as his own without crediting Fr. Hamilton.  Please go and encourage your pastor to give this homily.  Father Hamilton has received many thank you’s for this courageous homily.

By Rev. Stephen V. Hamilton,
Sollemnitas Corpus Christi
Dt. 8:2-3, 14b-16a; 1 Cor. 10:16-17; Jn. 6:51-58
18 June 2017 (Father’s Day)

Stop Pornography

Pornography, it becomes enslaving.

I want to begin today with a brief prayer. If you are so inclined you can close your eyes and ask for the grace of the Holy Spirit. “Lord Jesus Christ, we pray that You would cover us, our families, and all of our possessions with Your love and the power of Your Most Precious Blood. Bind and drive out from among us any spirits who are opposed to Your Kingdom. Soften our hearts and heal our wounds so that we may receive Your Word today. Surround all of us with Your heavenly Angels, Saints, the strong arms of St. Joseph, and the mantle of Our Blessed Mother. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Consider this hypothetical situation: What if we all knew that some defect in the water pipes of this church was resulting in harmful exposure to a high percentage of parishioners and running the high likelihood of serious physical health risks and even death… and we did nothing? We said nothing. I take it you would think that is crazy and irresponsible. You might even sue or demand the Pastor and other parish staff be replaced. We have basically that very situation, but in the area of spiritual health. And most people hear almost nothing about it from pulpits. Little is said or done to battle the crisis which is at epidemic proportions.

Today I want to discuss a topic that impacts many men and women across many age categories. While the impact is broad, it does seem true that this spiritual health risk seems to have a more significant hold on men and boys. Since the male susceptibility to this challenge is so high I am intentionally using Father’s Day to treat this topic and to call men in particular to battle, to better health of soul, and to better fulfill the role of protector for their family. Of course, I want to be sensitive to younger ears among us, but at the same time it could be irresponsible for me to be vague. Thus, I am going to speak this word one time so that no one can doubt what I am treating today, but after that I will use other language so as to limit exposure to younger ears. I think it is necessary to speak on the topic of the pervasive presence and use of pornography in our society.

All indications are that this is a widespread problem in our society, made ever more broad by easy access and free content through the internet. I have made some general reference to this topic in other homilies but this is, I believe, the first time in eighteen years as a priest that I have given this topic direct focus. Thus, I first want to apologize to you on this Father’s Day for failing to devote attention to this earlier in a clear, courageous, and manly way as your spiritual father. That is a failure and a weakness on my part because I should have been more resolved to protect my flock, just as you dads must do for yourself and for your families. Today that failure ends.

The statistics are alarming.

  • Studies indicate that 73% of kids are exposed to explicit material before the age of 18. 42% of kids first view it before the age of 13.
  • The average age of first exposure to explicit images on the internet is 11 years old.
  • The largest consumers of this material on the internet are kids ages 12 to 17.
  • 50% of all Christian men and 20% of all Christian women say they are regular users of this material.
  • And with access to the digital world on our smartphones it is alarming that 1 in 5 mobile phone searches is for explicit material.

At younger and younger ages kids are spending significant amounts of time online daily. One study found that nearly 70% of kids ages 2 to 5 can operate a computer mouse, but only 11% can tie their own shoes.1 Together with this, studies show that only 1/3 of parents set up parental controls and monitor their children’s online activity. In addition, 41% of American teens agree that their parents have no idea what they are doing online.2  No one is immune from this invasion and the problem exists in Christian homes as it does in other homes. I don’t want to be misunderstood as if the problem doesn’t exist among girls and women too. However, boys and men fall prey to this at significantly higher rates. In all categories of statistics measuring things like type of content viewed, age of first exposure, and frequency of use, boys and men outpace girls and women by large percentage margins. One study indicated that the strongest predictor of use of explicit material is simply being male.

One of the realities of this topic is that a person, through no fault of his or her own, can be exposed to this material quite innocently. A misspelled word in a search engine can lead to exposure and that can place a hook in a person. If we aren’t careful first exposure develops into repeated curiosity and that develops into habitual use that impedes healthy human development and spiritual development. First exposure happened easily enough when I was a kid, but we must admit that with the dawn of the internet it happens much more easily and frequently now, and it comes directly into your home. First exposure to explicit material now happens in the room next door where your child is on the computer, tablet, or smartphone.

It Cannot Be Ignored

This is a matter that cannot be ignored in the parish, in your family life, or in each person’s examination of conscience. We can’t be silent while souls are being ensnared and the risk of hell increases. Use of this explicit material makes its users spiritually crippled and deadened. It is serious sin that needs to be confessed immediately, and especially before coming forward to receive Holy Communion. It becomes enslaving. It negatively impacts personal discipline, dating, marriage, and even the ability of a young person to trust a call from God to priesthood or to a religious vocation.

I hope I don’t cause rash judgment or awkward situations here, but given the statistics on use of explicit material: Parents, you should likely just assume that your child has been exposed, and that your middle school and high school aged child may already have a habit of use. You must speak with them. You must first treat this issue in your own life with serious resolve. You must take measures to control and eliminate the entry points for this material into your home. Use internet locks and filters and even have everyone in the house turn in all cellular and internet devices each evening where they remain locked in the parents’ bedroom until morning. Men, dear brothers in the faith: You especially need to take such measures to protect yourselves, your wives, and your children. We need to live courageously this aspect of fatherhood as protector in our homes.

Don’t Be Shamed

As the spiritual father here I want to set the tone for our response to this moral epidemic by saying that in the spiritual family of this parish, no one is permitted to shame anyone else about this struggle. The devil knows what he is doing in trafficking this filth. Anyone who is struggling needs to know they are loved, they are supported, and that they are called to true and authentic human relationships. Jesus gives us the example from the woman caught in adultery who easily could have been shamed. Instead, he says: “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again” (Jn. 8:11). So, in this parish, I am opening this topic for conversation and I am asking you to continue it in your home and with your family. Opening this to conversation can allow healing to take place.

This is because in talking openly and honestly we will draw each other, spouses and children, into more authentic relationships that, together with confession, prayer, struggle, and acts of penance, will result in lessening the grip of false virtual “relationships”. Anyone struggling needs to be prudent, but opening this matter – not to everyone – but to a trusted friend can offer accountability in the battle. I want you to know that there are in fact people who do not use explicit material. The battle is possible. Victory is already with Christ Jesus. And others in this parish will be ready to stand with you as you engage in battle. It is time to reject the devil’s message that tells you to keep this matter hidden. Kept hidden in the darkness, he increases his power over you. In the light, he flees.

Furthermore, we are also going to confess this matter with humility and honesty each and every time there is a fall and a sin. God is ready to meet you in this struggle and He is already loving you as you hear this invitation to confession. He loves you and He wants you to have a deeper relationship with Him. In the bulletin this weekend there are some resources grouped together to go along with this topic. You can follow the links provided and get more information and resources for help in the battle for purity. Remember too that my homilies are recorded and available as a podcast on the parish website (http://www.stmonica-edmond.org/_blog/podcast). The text is also posted on the website (http://www.stmonica-edmond.org/_blog/Homilies_and_Remarks). It may be helpful to listen to this message again or to pass it along to others you know. As spiritual father I want to give some clear directions. These directions can be followed by anyone, but on this Father’s Day I want to issue a special call to the men of our parish to engage in this battle and to step up with fellow brothers to be evermore the protectors and the spiritual heads of our families that we are called to be.

  • Therefore, I want every man in this parish to learn how to pray the Rosary to invoke Mary in this battle. She brought us her Son who crushed the serpent’s head. Her intercession is powerful. Resources to learn the Rosary can be found through the parish office or online. Pray it in your home with your family. I would like more and more men to volunteer to lead the Rosary before the start of each weekend Mass.
  • Reverent worship is a weapon in the battle and so, in addition to faithful attention at Holy Mass, I ask each of you to sign up for a Holy Hour of Adoration in our chapel, or to share an hour with your family, or with another friend. Come receive blessing in the Lord’s Real Presence and train your eyes to look upon the Holy One in our midst.
  • Men, I encourage you to invoke St. Joseph in this battle and to ask his help to see in him a great example of what it means to be a man of faith, a man of strength, and a man of purity in the family.
  • Don’t forget the value of using Sacred Scripture, taking on practices like fasting, and using blessed objects like Holy Water or religious medals.
  • Finally, make regular use of confession and take the steps necessary to find an accountability partner.

On this Solemnity of Corpus Christi, we celebrate our faith that in holiness and purity Jesus gives us His true Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity as the food for our journey to salvation. In this battle for purity where easy temptation offers the ability to be a consumer of someone else’s body, we need to respond by preparing ourselves to consume Jesus’ flesh with always greater reverence so that we remain in him. Jesus shows us the characteristic of sacrificial love, which is part of human love and the meaning of the human body. “This is my Body.” We hear those words of Jesus at each and every Holy Mass. May they be our constant reminder to say “no” to those whose flesh is exposed for profit and instead to submit ourselves to the flesh of Jesus Christ that saves us!

1. Smith, J.R. 2011, January. Kids are learning computer skills before life skills. AVG Official Blogs, http://blogs.avg.com/uncategorized/kids-learning-computer-skills-before-life-skills/.
2. Symantec, 2008, February 13. Parents, get a clue! Norton Online Living Report reveals what your cyber-savvy children know that you don’t. http://www.symantec.com/about/news/release/article. jsp?prid=20080213_01.
3. Gustavo Mesch, “Social bonds and Internet pornographic exposure among adolescents.” Journal of Adolescence 32 (2009): 601-618.

Archbishop Chaput: “Our Adversary is the Devil”

Sympathy for the Devil

By Archbishop Charles Chaput, Catholic Philly:

“Never forget, when you hear the progress of the Enlightenment being praised, that the devil’s cleverest ploy is to persuade you that he doesn’t exist.”
— Charles Baudelaire

Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.

Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.

Leszek Kolakowski was an unusual man of letters. A fierce critic of the Church as a young man, he was a leading Marxist philosopher in Poland until he asked too many awkward questions about Soviet life under Stalin and got exiled to the West.  He went on to become a fan of John Paul II and one of the great scholars of the last century.

Exactly 30 years ago, Kolakowski gave a lecture at Harvard entitled “The Devil in History.” Early in the talk, the mood in the room became restless. Many of the listeners knew Kolakowski’s work. They knew he could be playful and that he had a wicked sense of irony. But they couldn’t figure out where he was going with his lecture.

Present that day were the historians Tony Judt and Timothy Garton Ash. About 10 minutes into the talk, Ash leaned over to Judt and whispered incredulously: “I’ve got it. He really is talking about the devil.” And in fact, he was.[1]

 It was a moment when the little bigotries of our intellectual class were laid bare.  Apart from Judt and Ash, the audience was baffled that an urbane public intellectual, fluent in five languages, could really believe in “religious nonsense” like the devil and original sin. But that’s precisely what Kolakowski did believe.  And he said so again and again in his various works:

An example: “The devil is part of our experience. Our generation has seen enough of it for the message to be taken extremely seriously.”[2]

And: “Evil is continuous throughout human experience. The point is not how to make one immune to it, but under what conditions one may identify and restrain the devil.”[3]

And: “When a culture loses its sacred sense, it loses all sense.”[4]

Kolakowski saw that we can’t fully understand our culture unless we take the devil seriously.  The devil and evil are constants at work in human history and in the struggles of every human soul.  And note that Kolakowski (unlike some of our own Catholic leaders who should know better) was not using the word “devil” as a symbol of the darkness in our own hearts, or a metaphor for the bad things that happen in the world.

He was talking about the spiritual being Jesus called “the evil one” and “the father of lies” — the fallen angel who works tirelessly to thwart God’s mission and Christ’s work of salvation.

This is why the evangelization of culture is always, in some sense, a call to spiritual warfare. We’re in a struggle for souls. Our adversary is the devil. And while Satan is not God’s equal and doomed to final defeat, he can do bitter harm in human affairs. The first Christians knew this. We find their awareness written on nearly every page of the New Testament.

The modern world makes it hard to believe in the devil. But it treats Jesus Christ the same way. And that’s the point. Medieval theologians understood this quite well. They had an expression in Latin: Nullus diabolus, nullus redemptor.[5] No devil, no Redeemer. Without the devil, it’s very hard to explain why Jesus needed to come into the world to suffer and die for us. What exactly did he redeem us from?

 The devil, more than anyone, appreciates this irony, i.e., that we can’t fully understand the mission of Jesus without him. And he exploits this to his full advantage. He knows that consigning him to myth inevitably sets in motion our same treatment of God.

So what’s the point of my column this week?

Jeffrey Russell, who wrote a remarkable four-volume history of the devil, noted that the Faust character is the most popular subject in Western paintings, poems, novels, operas, cantatas and films after the characters of Jesus, Mary and the devil himself.[6] That should tell us something. Who is Faust? He’s the man of letters who sells his soul to the devil on the promise that the devil will show him the secrets of the universe.

Faust is the “type” of a certain species of modern man; a certain kind of artist, scientist and philosopher. Faust doesn’t come to God’s creation as a seeker after truth, beauty, and meaning. He comes impatient to know, the better to control and dominate, with a delusion of his own entitlement, as if such knowledge should be his birthright. A prisoner of his own vanity, Faust would rather barter away his soul than humble himself before God.

There’s a lesson in Faust for our lives and for our culture. Without faith there can be no understanding, no knowledge, no wisdom. We need both faith and reason to penetrate the mysteries of creation and the mysteries of our own lives.

That’s true for individuals, and it’s true for nations. A culture that has a command of reason and the byproducts of reason — science and technology — but lacks faith has made a Faustian bargain with the (very real) devil that can only lead to despair and self-destruction. Such a culture has gained the world with its wealth, power and material success. But it has forfeited its soul.

***

[1] Tony Judt, “Leszek Kolakowski (1927-2009),” New York Review of Books, September 24, 2009

[2] Leszek Kolakowski, My Correct Views on Everything (South Bend, IN, St. Augustine’s Press, 2005), 133

[3] Ibid., 128

[4] Ibid., 271

[5] Jeffrey Burton Russell, Mephistopheles: The Devil in the Modern World (Ithaca, NY, Cornell University Press, 1986), 33.

[6] Ibid., 58