Monday, December 29, 2008

Definitions of Terms

(For those of you who might be wondering: "What the [insert colorful metaphor here] is this all about?", this is the easiest way I could find to include a sidebar perma-link to some of the details, FAQ's, etc., that will eventually be explored. As I get a bit better with this HTML stuff, I might find a less "clunky" way to do it!)

"Paladin" = "virtuous warrior" (originally a reference to the 12 noble peers of the court of Charlemagne, but generalized to refer to any warrior dedicated to the heroic ideals of Christian virtue)

The three powers, or "faculties" of the rational soul:
  • "Intellect" = the power of the soul by which we apprehend truth; the faculty by which we "know" things
  • "Will" = the radically free power of the soul by which we embrace one option over another; the faculty by which we "choose" things
  • "Memory" = the power of the soul by which we retain experiences of the past; the pfaculty by which we "remember" things
The Three Theological Virtues:
  • "Faith" = the act of the will by which we believe all that has been revealed by God, Who can neither deceive nor be deceived
  • "Hope" = the act of the will by which we believe that God's promises will be fulfilled, and that He is in control
  • "Love" = the act of the will by which we freely choose the best good for another person, regardless of the cost to us

  • (Note: none of these are "passions" or "emotions"--despite the propaganda of the modern culture!)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Rise of the Faux Catholic

(with many thanks to Clinton for the turn of phrase!)

Note: most of this section can easily be adapted to the case of "faux Christians", in the general sense (try it, and see!); I restrict myself to Catholicism, since I'm most familiar with Catholic teaching, and since I'm of that Church, myself.

It doesn't take much to get the average faithful Catholic (or faithful non-Catholic, for that matter) to notice: the 55%+ of them voting for the President-Elect of Death, the vast percentage of "Catholic" retreat masters/mistresses who count themselves among their number, the plentiful "crop" of similarly-minded contributors to Vox Nova and the like, the "ardent, practicing Catholics [sic]" (h/t "One Mom") who unapologetically promote abortion, and on and on, almost interminably. In our culture, the word "Catholic" has been subtly redefined. It used to mean "any person who is validly baptized, who (in his/her adult life) gives full assent to the teachings of the Holy Catholic Church, and who strives to obey the Church's laws regarding Faith and morals." Now, on the cusp of 2009, it's been changed (in the common parleyance, anyway) to mean, "anyone who wants to label themselves Catholic, regardless of belief, lifestyle, or "choices").

"Abortion? Only one issue among many... and an annoying and narrow-minded one, too! As if anyone is really 'pro-abortion'; hmf... the very idea! Besides, 'too much' talk about abortion is hardly fitting for balanced, nuanced, open-minded, non-conservative, non-orthodox, non-Pharisaic, tolerant followers of the true, compassionate Jesus (if He existed, that is). Besides, if you're so pro-life, why do you support the war, huh? Huh? I bet you do..."

"Same-sex marriage? Come on, get over it; what harm does it do your marriage if two men (or women) who love [sic] each other want to marry? How spiritually immature of you to be so uncomfortable with that! Are you sure you're comfortable with your own sexuality?"

"Contraception? Grow up! Are you serious? You're the same 'oh, so orthodox' people who want to get rid of abortions, but you're the same people who won't let women have access to common-sense [sic] birth-control [sic: see what G.K. Chesterton says about that!]? Isn't it time you took another look at your unquestioning obedence to a bunch of man-made rules designed by a bunch of celibate, sexually repressed old men in Rome at the expense of women?" [In all likelihood, insert a gratuitous cheap shot about the sex abuse scandals among some members of the Catholic priesthood, here.]

Translation: the Faux Catholic has risen.

What's a Faux Catholic, you ask? Depending on how specific you want to be, the definition is laughably simple, or else frighteningly complicated. The easiest defintion is, "someone who claims (or is supposed) to fit the definition of 'Catholic', but doesn't." This gets complicated by the fact that spiritual laws and definitions are notoriously difficult to enforce "externally", this side of Eternity, and many who are responsible for teaching and protecting those laws and definitions have tolerantly smiled and nodded their acquiesence (or "nodded" as they dozed off) as the definition of "Catholic" gradually changed to include almost anything and everybody.

Interestingly enough: if you try to challenge a Faux Catholic on any point of Catholic discipline (e.g. celibate priesthood, obedience to the Holy Father, etc.) or doctrine (e.g. the Church's condemnation of abortion, contraception, embryonic stem cell research [ESCR], etc.), he/she will usually "morph" into one of two things: a Faux Canon Lawyer, or a Faux Wolverine. (Such a transformation might actually be fascinating to see, in other circumstances, if the gravity of their falsehood weren't so appalling, and if the stakes were not so high.) I've challenged many such fantastic creatures, and I've yet to see any third (or further) options...

What's the explanation for Faux Catholicism? Quite frankly, it's easier... at least, in the short run. That's the explanation for every heresy that has ever plagued Christianity: heresy is easier than orthodoxy, on one or more levels (e.g. the level of understandability, or of practice, or of emotional satisfaction, etc.). I admit, I *have* seen such heresies "morph" into exotic new versions that (ironically) outstrip true orthodoxy in complexity and/or rigidity... but that never happens until the original heresy proves itself shallow and unrewarding (as it always does), and its adherents "over-correct".

For the Catholics who've become infected with this disturbing disease, why do such people not simply be consistent, and leave the Catholic Church in favour of a religion which is more tolerant of their secular definition of tolerance? So far, I've heard at least three convincing explanations (one of which is from Clinton, from whom I took the phrase--it's only fair that I list his, first! :) ):

1) Catholic institutions offer greater-than-average job security--both in job sustainability, and in reluctance to fire the incompetent, the apathetic, the incurably confused, and the rebellious. This is a fairly strong argument (and it can readily be combined with the others), since the members of Catholic institutions--at least for the last 50 years or so--have ingested the secular redefinitions of "Catholic" and "tolerance" to the point where they fear to discipline wayward employees (how would they earn a living wage, otherwise?) or volunteers (goodness, they've given of their own time when no one else would; we can't get rid of *them*!). To those of this mindset, it's far more important to have a job filled than to have it filled *well*. "Not expecting perfection" becomes the buzz-phrase for "not expecting the job responsibilities to be followed at all".

2) They have a primitive, ineffable recognition of the Church's solidity and authority (which they would call "power"), and they don't want to give that up. To split away from the Church would be to become just another tiny "socially-conscious splinter group" (the Elks probably wouldn't take them as a group, anyway) who are very easily ignored by the world at large. After all: if you're at the weapons panel of a battleship, which would seem the more efficient way of getting your agenda pushed: to commandeer the battleship weapons, or to jump ship onto a raft and be content to bang the side of the battleship with your wooden oar?

3) They're scared. They fear persecution from the secular world (especially the media and their devotees), they don't know how to draw upon God's gift of supernatural courage (no one ever showed them how, since many of their elders were infected with the same disease), and they're starving for approval from the "cool people" (i.e. the media, Hollywood, and all who seem to have what they don't have).

(Side note: As a high school teacher, I've seen many different flavours of this: where student [x] will do some of the most remarkably disrespectful, destructive, and even cruel things, all because they're starved for attention, and their entire lives have been one long training ground, teaching them that "only negative attention will get mommy and daddy's attention away from the TV, the whiskey, their fight with each other, and so on"; by that point, it almost takes a miracle for them to *stop* doing stupid things, even if *good* ways to get attention are readily at hand! Only attention from "The Cool People" (whatever that means, at the moment) matters; attention from proper authorities? Pfft! Get real...)

As a hat-tip across cyberspace: Paul, in his excellent blog, offers the hypothesis that many of such people--specifically those who give vocal support for the "abortion-tolerant" position while disavowing the idea that they're "pro-abortion"--are lying. This hypothesis, to my eyes, is getting more and more difficult to refute by the day. I personally (being something of a mathematical purist) will acknowledge the mathematical possibility that someone might have just the right mixture of mental imbalance, bad upbringing and abysmal ignorance to hold such a position without being culpable for lying... but the number must be vanishingly small, even then.

So... given the disease of Faux Catholicism, a basic description, and some idea of its origins, what do we do about it? Is it curable? Treatable? Something?

Perhaps. But one thing at a time; the diagnosis comes first, and then comes the medical intervention. Here's a quick "self-diagnostic tool" for those at home who lay claim to the title of "Catholic":

1) Are there any circumstances in which you'd find a direct abortion (i.e. the direct killing of an unborn child) permissible? (E.g. rape, incest, danger to the life of the mother?)

2) Are there any circumstances in which you'd find artificial contraception (e.g. condoms, IUD's, injections, etc.) permissible?

3) Are there any circumstances in which you'd find homosexual sexual activity permissible?

4) Are there any circumstances in which you'd find ESCR (i.e. the extraction of stem cells from an embryonic baby, causing the baby's death) acceptable?

5) Are there any circumstances in which you'd find euthanasia (i.e. so-called "mercy killing") acceptable?

If you answered "yes" to any of the above, you've embraced a position that the Catholic Church condemns as intrinsically evil. If, after being made aware of that, you *persist* in that position, you can confirm your diagnosis as a "Faux Catholic".

More to come.

P.S. At the risk of sounding incongruous, at the end of a severe-sounding post:

Praise God, Jesus is Come in the Flesh!
Merry Christmastide!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Plea for Truth, Part II: A Plea for Reality

Is it so much to ask, that we treat things as if they really are what they are?

We do it in so many walks of life. When we teach our baby children to eat solid food, we gently encourage them not to insert the strained peas in their ears, nose, and other non-mouth orifices, right? When we teach young men and women how to drive, we encourage them not to treat brick buildings as if they were imaginary (i.e. gently encourage them to apply pressure on the brake pedal and angular force on the steering wheel, as needed), right? We don't consider it unreasonable when others ask us politely if we would refrain from treating their dog as a toothbrush, right?

So could someone please explain to me why it's acceptable for "Christians" to behave as if Christ didn't exist, or that He's irrelevant, or that He's of minor importance compared to our other priorities?

I'll stick to examples of so-called "good Catholics" (with thanks to Bishop Robert Hermann of St. Louis for the phrase), partially since I'm most familiar with Catholic teaching, and partially since I have the misfortune of being familiar with untold scores of cases in which dissidents, the heterodox, and (yes, even) heretics still claim the name "Catholic" and all the "privileges" pertaining thereto.

The president of the Catholic Health Association, Sister Carol Keehan, has issued a response to the pro-life advocates who are upset with her statement praising two pro-abortion picks by incoming president Barack Obama. Instead of backing down from her position, Sister Keehan goes further by offering a defense of Obama as well as his new pro-abortion Health Secretary Tom Daschle and pro-abortion deputy health care director Jeanne Lambrew. [...] Keehan also claims that Obama and his selections will provide better health care for pregnant women and unborn children. "They are committed to getting access to quality health care for all Americans, including pregnant women and their unborn babies," Keehan adds. "It is my belief that we ... will prevent more abortions by ensuring tangible health care for pregnant women and their unborn babies."

Despite a bishop's order to cease, a Catholic hospital in Tyler, Texas that had been caught routinely performing direct sterilizations has issued a statement denying it has contravened the Church's moral law.

The hospital's statement came less than a week after Tyler Bishop Alvara Corrada issued his own statement reaffirming that two investigations confirmed Trinity Mother Frances Hospital's history of tubal ligations and other direct sterilizations, and that such activity must cease as being intrinsically contrary to human dignity and forbidden by Church law. [...]

Father Gavin Vaverek, Promoter of Justice in the Diocese of Tyler, said that the hospital does not define tubal ligations as “direct sterilization,” and is basing its denial upon this false understanding of what constitutes sterilization.

It does not deny offering tubal ligations,” the priest said about the hospital’s statement, according to a CNA report. “Having admitted the procedures, Trinity Mother Frances now wishes to continue them in the face of clear teaching and directive of the bishop by reasserting its discredited opinion that the procedures really are not ‘direct sterilizations.’ Essentially, it is saying the bishop is wrong when he asserts that tubal ligations are direct sterilization.”

Let's translate these into plain English, shall we?

1) The president (a religious sister, consecrated and bound by vows in poverty, chastity and obedience to God through the Church) of the "Catholic" [sic] "Health" [sic] Association [okay]: (a) believes that the President-Elect of Death is a fine choice to lead our nation; (b) is thrilled with said President-Elect of Death's pro-death choices as members of his staff; and (c) is indignant that anyone would dare question her decision, her allegiance [sic] to Catholic teaching, and her standing as a "good Catholic" [sic].

2) A "Catholic" [sic] hospital, when confronted with the rightful orders of the local bishop that they cease all intentional sterilizations (which the Church condemns as intrinsically evil), refuses the order on the grounds that "the bishop doesn't appreciate the nuances of Catholic teaching in the matter, and that the condemned actions are really justified, if only they can be viewed in the correct way".

To this, I gently submit that a Catholic does, in fact, need to obey Catholic teaching--or else cease to be a "faithful Catholic", by definition. If someone claims to be a golfer while indignantly denying any suggestion that he use golf balls and gold clubs (preferring instead to use, say, avocados and a pair of tongs), then I might possibly support his right to choose not to avail himself of the normal tools of the trade--but I will also be justified in saying that he is not, after all, a golfer at all... but only claiming (without substance or merit) to be one, for whatever mysterious reason. If a satanist suddenly rejects all allegiance to Satan, I may well congratulate him for making an excellent spiritual step; but I cannot reasonably congratulate him on being a good satanist, because he has, in fact, ceased to be one by that very act of rejection... and, even in my newfound admiration of him, I could not help but understand the Satanist Club's decision to deny him his usual "members only" parking space.

Just so, I suggest, with Catholicism. How are we to view someone who wishes to cling to the "perks" of Catholicism (reception of Holy Communion, or whatever else those "perks" might be, in his or her mind), but refuses to obey even the most rudimentary elements of Catholicism (such as belief in necessary Catholic doctrines, obedience to rightful Catholic authorities, adherence to Catholic practices and the requirements that go with them, and the like)? How can an institution boast the name "Catholic", while at the same time arrogating to itself the decisions rightfully made by the Bishop (or other rightful Church authority over them)? In short: I can't see how such a person or institution could be viewed as anything but "not a good Catholic" (and, perhaps, not even Catholic at all).

As I've said before, there's a special pain in watching a Christian betray Christ (and even worse, to deny and "cloak" their betrayal with rhetoric and sophistries). I'd much rather encounter a sincere atheist or unapologetic pagan; they might decide to stab Christ in the chest, like an avowed enemy, but at least they don't stab Christ in the back.

Picture the following scene (with a hat-tip to Paul for the general theme:

(Disclaimer: the "pseudo-firefighters" in this scene are not meant to resemble, in any way, the true and literal fire-fighting heroes of our country--many of whom I'm proud to number among my friends! Hence the prefix "pseudo-"...)
You approach the house of a friend (who's married with 3 small children) just in time to watch the house erupt in flames, and to see an arsonist screech off in a very fast car. You call the fire department, and a number of pseudo-firefighters arrive... but--rather than single-mindedly fighting the blaze, as you expect--they look at the fire and shrug, and tell you earnestly how these flames aren't that bad (they've seen far worse), how the arsonist might not be culpable for his actions (perhaps due to troubled home life, or even because of a different cultural outlook), and how there are far more important concerns than merely fighting fires (one mustn't be a single-issue fire-fighter, after all). Another pseudo-firefighter walks up and suggests (in all seriousness) that we not forget all the other houses burning at that very moment, throughout the world... that we can't possibly fight them all, so the best way to fight this fire, and others (we mustn't be provincial and narrow, and focus only on *this* house, mind you!) is to work toward stronger and more sweeping state and federal regulations that mandate more flame-resistant houses. A third pseudo-firefighter opines, while the roof of the house begins to collapse and screams can be heard from inside the house, that more governmental support (and more money to strapped public school programs) would go a long way toward preventing poor, lost people like yonder arsonist from "acting out" in such a socially unhelpful way.

At the end of the day, as the medics remove the charred corpses of your friends, what would be going through your mind? What would you say to those who comment (perhaps tactfully) on your lack of charity and goodwill toward the pseudo-firefighters who arrived on the scene, and toward those who agreed with their way of handling things? What would you say to the pseudo-firefighters who rebuke you for yelling, screaming, perhaps physically shaking a pseudo-firefighter or two, or even illegally trying to go in and save the family yourself?

I'm sure Noah Webster never meant for "nuance" to be a foul word... but the distressingly large assembly of "liberated", "nuanced", "liberal", etc., Catholics--at "Catholic" hospitals, "Catholic" universities, "Catholic" blogs* and websites, and the like, have certainly made it unfit for most faithful conversation. May God have mercy on us.

To the "nuanced" of the world, here's my response: try objective truth, for a change. Christ (i.e. objective truth) would really prefer it of you... and perhaps you could then join us in stopping the runaway train known as the "Culture of Death", rather than adding fuel to the train's furnace?

(*) In all fairness, there seems to be at least one sensible contributor to Vox Nova, along with the courageous commenters who try to champion orthodoxy, over there.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

"...As Those Who Have No Hope..."

No, this isn't another reflection on the President-Elect of Death and his campaign mantra of "hope"; I'm sure I'll address that again, eventually. This concerns something a bit more local and immediate, though I'm sure others will be able to relate to at least some of it.

As I mentioned briefly, a few weeks ago, the Catholic school at which I teach suffered a tragic loss, when two students and their father died in a plane crash (while their mother and two brothers were in a car, en route to meet them). A period of shock, followed by grieving, set in (which was good and fitting)... but in the series of talks eulogies, and presentations to (and from) the students (both verbally and in writing, memorial notes, etc.), a theme kept coming up. Maybe you've heard this one:

"They're not gone. They'll always live on in our hearts."

Again, and again: "We'll never forget you! They'll never be gone, so long as we keep their memories alive! You'll always be alive in our hearts!"

I wanted to scream.

Just how pervasive is this? Is this the extent to which we've sunk? In a school which embraces the title of "Catholic" (which is still Christian, last I heard), the only "continued life" it can recommend is "living on in our hearts and minds?" Forgive me (and I truly mean no disrespect to the family, or to those who are having a difficult time with this shocking loss--allowances for human frailty must be made, to be sure), but is this the best that this "Christian" school can offer to those who grieve? To borrow a phrase from Our Lord: "Do not the pagans do as much?" It's horrid enough that such hope-less nonsense is coming from the mouths of our children--it means that catechesis is in a shambles (which we've known anyway, but this is a particularly bitter and poisonous aspect of it), but they're young enough perhaps not to know any better--but this was coming from the mouths of *adults* who were trying to comfort these same children! Is this the best we can offer for comfort? To "grieve as the pagans do, without hope" (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:12)? To act, for all practical purposes, as if there is no life to come, and that "only in our hearts and minds" can our beloved dead "stay alive"?

Let me lay this out clearly, at least for the sake of my own sanity (and, God willing, for alerting others):

1) If you are Christian, you are one who--by definition--believes in every article of the Apostles' Creed... including the bit about "[I believe in] the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. AMEN." It isn't true because we believe it. We believe it because it's true. (Amazing, what difference a small change in word order makes!)

2) To put it as bluntly as I can: if every last person on earth (including you!) were to be stricken with amnesia, so as to forget, utterly, everything about every loved one you ever cherished... if every last person (including you!) were to be stricken with some loathsome spiritual disease by which every last scrap of your "heart's devotion" toward your beloved dead was turned to utter hatred... you know what? Those beloved dead WOULD STILL EXIST. They don't dissolve into nothingness, the instant we stop thinking of them! Remember the "immortality of the soul", and all that "silly theology stuff" (that just happens to be critically relevant--imagine that)?

To highlight that idea: more than a few students, who were dear friends of the boys who died (or who wish they'd been closer, and were feeling guilty), honestly talked and behaved as if they simply weren't *allowed* to stop grieving--as if, by thinking about other things, even for a moment, they were somehow "betraying" the kids (and dad) who died... or worse, that they were somehow "allowing them to disappear from existence, never to get them back". From what I've gathered, this idea--while not exactly epidemic--isn't exactly a "fluke" occurrence, either; a significant number of people honestly think that they're obligated--in some way, shape or form--to grieve forever, so as to "keep the departed from disappearing completely"... a bit like Atlas holding up the world, lest it crash, or a bit like holding a soap-bubble on a soap-wand, lest it touch anything else and "pop".

Don't get me wrong: the idea of "remembering our beloved dead" can be a wonderful thing, if done in the right way, for the right reasons. If your remembrance of them moves you to *pray* for them (Note: I'll write a separate entry about that idea, later!), then yes, this is a good thing. But if your remembrance of them is a sort of "I need to 'keep them alive'!" idea, then I need to issue a very stern rebuke:


God alone holds life and death in the palm of His hand (cf. John 10:28); in God alone are all our beloved dead "alive" (cf. Matthew 22:32). God really doesn't need you to sustain them in existence; He has that quite under control, thank you.

Again, I have no desire to add to the pain of grief, for someone who's lost a loved one and hasn't yet taken these truths to heart. But I refuse to stand by, in the name of misplaced "mercy", and watch the poison arrow of "pagan grief" swallow you alive. By all means, it is good to grieve at the death of a loved one; we honor them and their precious value before God (and to us), when we do so, as Jesus Himself demonstrated when He--the God of creation, the Resurrection and the Life--wept at the death of Lazarus (cf. John 11:35); if He, Who knew full well that He was to restore Lazarus to earthly life in mere minutes, and Who knew that eternal life awaited Lazarus in the years to come, could weep, then we can, as well. But please, I beg of you, know that we can, through the victory of Christ, grieve without losing (true) hope, and even without losing true joy!

As a hat-tip across cyberspace: Sarah, on her excellent blog, recently posted about the fact that the "lifeblood" of Christianity, if you will, is paradox. The Creator took on a created nature, and the Immortal One subjected Himself to death. The Master of Life--who, by human reckoning, should have been chuckling behind His hand in glee in anticipation of His resurrection of Lazarus ("Just you wait and see what *I* have up My sleeve!"), instead wept with heartbroken grief. The All-Holy God, Who would have been all too justified in wiping all of us sinful, rebellious and prideful creatures from the face of the earth, chose instead to let us rip His Sacred Back to shreds with a whip, to tear His Sacred Head with thorns, and to pound 6-inch spikes through His Sacred Hands and Feet, to leave Him to die, naked, of suffocation and shock after hours of agony, surrounded by mockery.

Is it so hard to believe that this same God, in Whose Sacred Image and Likeness we were made, can empower us bothto grieve and, at the very same time (not waiting for later) to cherish the joy found in true (and not counterfeit) HOPE--a hope that no "worldly secular messiah" could ever give? At the very brink of His agony in the Garden, mere hours before He was tortured to death for our sins, and before the spiritual agony of all of Hell was injected into His Sacred Heart on our behalf, He said, "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and your joy may be filled."

Grieve for the beloved dead, by all means. But know that such grief, when used in complete submission to God's Holy Will (by which everything--no matter how agonizing and dark--will work to good, for those who love Him--Romans 8:28), can live side-by-side with faith, hope, love... and even joy. Only the world's "grief" and the world's "hope" and the world's "joy" cannot coexist; I assure you, God's true versions are far stronger than they.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Plea for Truth

You'd probably never know it, to read my posts... but I'm not a confrontational type of guy, by nature; I enjoy lively discussion (so long as it remains friendly and reasonable, or at least civil and respectful), but I really dislike quarrels, sniping, and the like, and I usually try (under most circumstances) to avoid saying or doing anything which would rile anyone else up. However, when I'm confronted with what appears to be a blatant violation of an important truth, I'm caught in a dilemma: do I let the violation slide, or do I fight (with all the pain and unpleasantness that entails)? Well... God has made it increasingly clear to me that my vocation includes a defense of His Truth, as His Paladin (my full name from the Gaelic translates roughly into "virtuous warrior", or "Paladin", interestingly enough!); so I really have no choice but to fight... while holding to as high a standard of chivalric honour that I can, during the fight.

As such, there are times when I have to throw down the gauntlet, versus those who (consciously or unconsciously) stand athwart the Truth of Christ, and most especially versus those who claim the title of "Catholic" while minimizing, ignoring, dismissing, or even openly rejecting the Church's teachings (and on matters of severe importance, at that). The gauntlet does not mean that I hate my opponents; nor does it mean that I hold them to be evil, irredeemable, or anything other than fellow sons and daughters of God who happen to have been deceived (or otherwise "captured") by the Father of Lies. But the gauntlet does mean--regrettably--a battle. I can only offer such opponents, above and beyond my promise (insofar as my fallen nature, supported by the grace of God, allows me) to conduct the battle with honour, an idea from C.S. Lewis, in his excellent book, "Mere Christianity":
"When soldiers came to St. John the Baptist asking what to do, he never remotely suggested that they ought to leave the army: nor did Christ when He met a Roman sergeant-major--what they called a Centurion. The idea of the knight--the Christian in arms for the defence of a good cause--is one of the great Christian ideas. War is a dreadful thing, and I can respect an honest pacifist, though I think he is entirely mistaken. What I cannot understand is this sort of semipacifism you get nowadays which gives people the idea that though you have to fight, you ought to do it with a long face and as if you were ashamed of it. It is that feeling that robs lots of magnificent young Christians in the [armed] Services of something they have a right to, something which is the natural accompaniment of courage--a kind of gaiety and wholeheartedness.

I have often thought to myself how it would have been if, when I served in the first world war, I and some young German had killed each other simultaneously and found ourselves together a moment after death. I cannot imagine that either of us would have felt any resentment or even any embarrassment. I think we might have laughed over it."
(C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Ch.7, pars.8-9)

To fight without rancor, to spar without hate; that, I offer to my opponents. Do not confuse that for any lack of resolve to strike directly and keenly, at need; I will not ravage anyone's emotions out of mere spite; but nor will I soften a necessary blow, simply out of some deference to feelings or (far worse) the "ritualized cowardice" of political correctness.

That being said: I now call upon those Catholics, in particular, who have embraced heterodoxy... who have taken it upon themselves to "follow their own consciences" to places which flatly contradict the spirit and law of the Church in Whom they were baptized... who have become content to invert venial sin with mortal sin, the negotiable with the non-negotiable. I most especially call upon those who trumpet their unyielding defense of any opposition to the death penalty, their hopes for the elimination of involuntary poverty, their unequivocal condemnation of the War on Terror, and all (otherwise good) goals which share an almost uncanny resemblance to the goals of the present-day U.S. Democratic Party. Most of all, I call those of the above whose ferocity in furthering the above goals is matched only by their lack of ferocity in fighting the evils of abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, the cultural "normalization" of homosexuality, and the like.

To these, I ask the following simple question:


For the love of all that's holy: do you seriously think that, if you were completely loyal to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, you'd have to abandon ANY of your other good efforts? Why on earth would giving true and clear priority to the fight against the non-negotiable "articles of the Culture of Death" (e.g. abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, homosexual "marriage" [sic], human cloning, etc.) interfere with your other efforts to end poverty, to find practical ways to bring the War in Iraq to a speedy conclusion, to work against the death penalty, and such? Why, in the name of all that's good, would placing your efforts on the rock foundation of Truth endanger those efforts in the slightest, if those efforts are truly good?

Moreover, I warn you against a terrible danger, so subtle as almost to be imperceptible when you're immersed in it (as I well know--having been there for years of my life): when you give yourself permission to "detach" from obedience to the Church, you necessarily set something/someone else (almost always "yourself"!) as the final arbiter of truth... and that "something else" cannot possibly serve in that role successfully. The beginning of this "detachment" is subtle: it often starts with an appeal to the "supremacy of your own conscience" (which a cursory and context-free reading of Church documents will seem to confirm), and it seems so very innocent! After all: if you change from "I assent to the Church's Teaching in all matters of Faith and Morals" to the variant, "I currently happen to agree with all the Church's teachings regarding Faith and Morals", how would anyone else know the difference? If you're of a utilitarian and/or pragmatic mindset, there would seem to be no difference at all! In fact, it might even "feel" better, since--as you could easily tell yourself, using words almost identical to those of the Church: "The Church doesn't want blind obedience [which is true, so far as it goes]--She wants us to use our reason to meet and grapple with these truths, for ourselves!"

Thus is the door opened to the sin of pride... and a good-tasting and addictive poison it is, too. Not many 12-step groups to help you recover from it, either.

The "drift" then continues. Eventually, when you hit the first teaching of the Church which runs against your own feelings (and possibly thoughts)--it's almost always something related to sexual ethics, it seems (e.g. homosexuality, contraception, in-vitro fertilization, etc.)--you'll first experience the effects of being "cut off" from your base. (A tree that's cut completely through won't necessarily fall at first; it might need a breeze to start it tipping.) You'll think, "Hm... that doesn't make sense to me. In fact, I don't think that makes very much sense at all! Especially since my dear friend [x] is [homosexual, contracepting, using IVF, considering an abortion, etc.], and I love them, and they're not a bad person, and since only bad people would violate the Church's teachings, they can't possibly be violating the Church's teachings--or else, the Church's teaching is just plain wrong!"

Then come one of at least four main paths toward heterodoxy (i.e. "wrong belief"):

(1) [the more explicit] "The Church is just wrong about this one!"

(2) [the more implicit] "These teachings must not be real "Church teaching" at all! They're probably just the opinions of some old, celibate men in Rome, and Jesus probably wouldn't have agreed with it, either!"

(3) [even more implicit] "They may be Church teaching, but they're not *infallible* Church teaching! They're just one of those changeable ones, like limbo!"

(4) [one of the most implicit] "The teachings may be true, but other teachings are of far greater importance; love (see here for the real definition of that!), for example, is of a far higher priority than are picky, heady, theological 'rules' about details regarding sexuality."

And then, if you're brutally honest with yourself, you'll have only two authentic options before you: embrace your pet ideas, and formally leave the Church (whereupon even your pet ideas will eventually wither, fragment, and degenerate into putrefied parodies of what your once embraced with a clean heart); or surrender your pet ideas and reconcile yourself to the Church (whereupon all of your pet ideas that were truly good will eventually be given back to you, purified of the dross of error and sin).

I fully admit: when I was of that mind, I wasn't the least bit interested in such honesty; I was into feelings, feelings, and more feelings (which I thought were the basis of all "real" life). I suspect that many of the "heterodox Catholic" camp have that same insidious virus. I wish the prognosis of that disease were better... but it took literally *years* for me even to start facing the "fracture" at the core of my life (living "in" and "out" of the Church, at the same time), and it took many more years--and several life-shattering and painful events--for me to start making the hard choices necessary for moving away from it. I can only tell you that it's possible, and that it's by God's Grace alone, and that having lots of people "never stop praying for you" has a lot to do with chances of recovery (and with the chances of recognizing that it's something from which you need to recover!).

So... here's my challenge to you, if you're a heterodox Catholic (i.e. a Catholic who gives him/herself permission to go against the explicit teachings of the Magisterium of Christ's Church) reading this: I stand ready--with my all-too-human swordsmanship, my fallible shield-work, and my borrowed armour--to try my best to battle the errors that hold you, and I stand ready to pray for you, daily, no matter what. (I already do, in fact.)

The gauntlet is thrown. In the next weeks, months, and years, Catholics (and all Christians, for that matter!) need to unite in Truth, as well as in Spirit; no other kind of "unity" can hope to endure... especially if the near future is even half as dark as it promises to be, for those of Faith. In this present gathering darkness, Christ needs us all on the same side, and not fragmented into hundreds of politically-motivated mini-camps! The stakes are far too high to do anything else. And if taking and giving some hard knocks is what will bring people to shake off their errors and embrace the fullness of truth, then so be it; I can do no less, in the service of my Lord and Master.

Friday, December 5, 2008

"Cooperation with Evil", Part III

(Boy, I had to go and start this blog in one of the busiest times of year, didn't I?)

Anyway... we've explored the following, so far:

1) Faith, Hope and Love are acts of the will, not feelings. Feelings are good, but they can't "steer" your life. Thus, making decisions based on your feelings is--well--not smart.

2) An evil effect can never be intended, and can only be tolerated under strict conditions (the intended act is good or neutral, the evil effect is not intended, the good effect is not caused by the evil effect, and the need for the good effect is grave enough to justify tolerance of the evil effect). For example: fatally shooting an intruder is justified if your intent is to protect yourself and/or your family; fatally shooting him/her is not justified if your intent is to have a dead intruder at the end of the scene.

So, we get to some of the more sticky points--not the least of which is, "Can a Catholic justifiably vote for an unapologetically abortion-tolerant candidate (such as Barack Obama)?" Let's sweep up some loose ends, first:

The Catholic Church recognizes some very clear distinctions, when talking about evil and sin (some of these are just FYI, and don't directly feed into the main point--hey, I have to have a *little* fun! :) )...

  • "intrinsic" evil: evil regardless of the circumstances (e.g. abortion, contraception, torture, etc.)

  • "relatively" evil: evil in some circumstances, but not in others (e.g. breaking a window [perhaps to escape a fire], taking a loaf of bread from someone else's house [perhaps if you and/or your family are starving], etc.)

  • "grave" evil: seriously evil (a necessary component of mortal sin) (e.g. stealing a large sum of money, adultery, murder, etc.

  • "non-grave" evil: lesser evil (i.e. not involving a serious matter)(e.g. stealing a small sum of money, typical rudeness, etc.)

(Note: the Church has the Christ-given authority and responsibility to discern grave matter from lesser matter.)

  • "mortal" sin: a sufficiently free and informed choice to engage in an act (or omission) that is gravely evil

  • "venial" sin: a sufficiently free and informed choice to engage in an act (or omission) that is evil, but not gravely so--or, possibly, engaging in a gravely evil act (or omission) with insufficient knowledge or freedom

  • formal cooperation with evil: both enabling an evil act (through action/omission) and willing that act (e.g. voting for an abortion-tolerant politician because of his/her abortion stance)

  • informal cooperation with evil: enabling an evil act (through action/omission) without willing that act, per se (e.g. selling a gun to a person who intends to murder someone with it, without consenting to the murder)

  • material cooperation with evil: performing any action/omission which materially (i.e. "tactically") enables an evil act to happen (e.g. paying for a friend's abortion, or providing a ride to the abortion mill)

  • immaterial cooperation with evil: performing any act/omission which offers support to an evil act, but which does not contribute "tactically" to the performance of that action (some might argue that this would constitute a completely separate sin; e.g. being pleased that an abortion-tolerant politician has contracted a terminal illness--note: this is not to be confused with justifiable relief that the politician's pro-abortion activities will come to an end)

  • proximate (material) cooperation: any contribution (by action/omission) to an evil act without which the act could not have been done at all (e.g. buying poison for a suicidal friend)

  • remote (material) cooperation: any contribution (by action/omission) which assists an evil act in a nonessential way (e.g. verbally defending someone else's choice to abort a child)

So... given that sea of distinctions, how do we know what's morally allowed, and what isn't? Remember the following:

  1. Formal cooperation in evil (i.e. willing it) is never morally lawful.

  2. Material cooperation in evil is morally lawful only if it meets the conditions for an unintended "double effect" (see previous post for details).

(There are more factors, but this should do, for now.)

Now, then: where do some of the popular Culture of Death (TM) activities fall, in the moral scheme of things? I'll use Planned Parenthood as the key component in most of these first examples, since they're one of the clearest examples of an organization which performs gravely and intrinsically evil acts as a matter of course. I'll also be assuming that the given individual *knows* about the business "ends" of Planned Parenthood (and that they're not "blissfully ignorant").

"working as an abortionist for Planned Parenthood": morally forbidden (principal agent in a grave evil)

"working as a 'family planning' counselor for Planned Parenthood": morally forbidden (proximate material cooperation in a grave evil without proportionate/necessary cause, combined with formal cooperation for those who approve of and/or tolerate abortion)

"contributing financially to Planned Parenthood": morally forbidden (proximate material cooperation without proportionate/necessary cause)

"contributing financially to a company which donates to Planned Parenthood": morally forbidden, under most circumstances (you'd have to show how the need for such donations outweighs the gravity of aiding/abetting an abortion/contraception business, and you'd need to show how no feasible alternative charities exist)

"working as a janitor for Planned Parenthood": morally forbidden, under most circumstances (you'd have to show how your need for that employment outweighs the gravity of helping to maintain an abortion/contraception business, and you'd need to show how no feasible alternative employers exist)

"working as a janitor for a company which contributes to Planned Parenthood": morally allowable, in many circumstances--provided that a ready alternative (all other things being equal) does not exist. In general, this sort of participation is so remote as to remove an obligation to quit one's job... but it would still be morally necessary to work (in whatever way was possible) to have the company change its practices.

Okay... enough teasing. The main event:

"voting for Barack Obama in the previous election": morally forbidden.

Here's a short list of reasons why:

1) Barack Obama's positions support the intrinsic evils of abortion, embryonic stem cell research, homosexual "marriage", euthanasia, and (as Paul put it well) "recreational human cloning"... and each to a greater extent (categorically) than did his opponent. (Note: this does not imply that a vote for John McCain was obligatory; far from it. There were several fine moral alternatives [Alan Keyes, Chuck Baldwin, write-ins], or one could have withheld one's vote for president, altogether.)

2) Barack Obama's stance against the War on Terror (WOT), the War in Iraq, etc., does not constitute a rejection of an intrinsic evil, nor is a "cut and run" strategy (or any variation thereof) anything like a moral obligation (quite the opposite!) even if one *had* granted that the WOT was/is an unjust war. Even granted a supposed "illegitimacy" of the WOT, there is no single action which Barack Obama could take in this case which would ensure a morally acceptable outcome (e.g. pulling out would devastate the infrastructure of Iraq, it would leave hundreds of thousands of civilians prey to vendetta-seeking extremists who wish quickly to re-conquer the country, etc.), meaning that the "pro-Obama, anti-war" vote has nothing close to the moral weight necessary to counterbalance "cementing" the Culture of Death in America, the SCOTUS, and even the World (via U.N. treaties, etc.) through Barack Obama's positive advocacy of the same.

3) Barack Obama's stance on the economy is dubious, at best; no one is in any position to say that his plan (if he has one) is guaranteed success, or whether such a hypothetical "guaranteed success" would bring good that outweighs a "cemented toleration/promotion" of abortion "rights", or whether such a situation would reduce abortions in any meaningful way (quite the opposite, in all likelihood).

In short: even if one were to try to vote for Barack Obama and try to plead "remote material cooperation", the conditions for morally licit "double-effect" fail, at least insofar as a lack of "proportionate good effect" is concerned.... campaign promises of starry-eyed "hope" notwithstanding.

So... to those of the "Vox Nova" crowd and the like: tell me again why it's okay to vote for Barack Obama and still be considered a "good Catholic/Christian"?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

To Be Continued...

Just a quick note: I haven't forgotten you all! The normal frenzy of work, etc., has temporarily captured me... but I shall return soon! (Maybe Wednesday or Thursday? God willing...)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"Cooperation with Evil", Part II

Okay... Hollywood Lies are defined, and we're ready (God willing) for part II of the "How on earth does a Christian form his/her conscience properly?"

Start with the most basic of moral principles:

Moral Law #1: The end (i.e. goal) of an action never justifies evil means.

In practical terms, this means that no one is ever morally allowed to intend an evil act (or outcome), no matter what the potential "payoff" might be. If I could save a billion people from agonizing deaths by the murder of a single innocent child, it would be morally wrong for me to do that. If I could save a billion people from agonizing deaths by the euthanasia of an Alzheimer's patient who was to die in 6 months anyway... it would be morally wrong for me to do that. NO ONE can intend an evil act, even if the potential "payoff" is mind-numbingly "good". Evil is evil, and it must not be chosen. To say otherwise is to say to God, "You designed and You run the universe so badly that I need to break Your Laws in order to do Your Will (i.e. what is good)!" A few moments' reflection will show how absurd that idea is.

Note: make every effort to keep in mind the proper place of emotions; they are good things, created by God, but they were never designed to replace your intellect (the power by which you "know" things), or your free will (the power by which you "choose" things). Just as Faith, Hope and Charity ultimately reside in the Will, so do sins reside in the will. For example: "feeling" angry is not a sin; but the free *choice* to *nurture* that anger (i.e. hold a grudge, or inflame your anger into unjust wrath) is a sin.

I mention this, because one of the most common (and fierce) objections to these principles is the cry, "I couldn't possibly bear to do (or not to do) [x, y, or z]!" That's your heart, taking... you know, the thing that's "deceitful above all things"? Don't trust it to run your life. The heart needs to be directed by the will, which needs to be informed by the intellect; that may seem "cold and unfeeling" (it isn't!), but that's how not to fall into moral evil. Too many "heart-led" people have "followed their foolish hearts" and killed their unborn children, or murdered their disabled and/or elderly relatives/friends, or violated and betrayed their marriages in order to "follow their hearts" to "new soul-mates". In short: the heart is good; but it's not a good driver.

Moral Law #2: If an action has multiple effects--both good and evil--the evil effects are not sinful to the extent that they are not willed.

This is often called the "principle of double-effect". If you intend an action to cause [good outcome x], but it also causes [evil outcome y], the action is not necessarily sinful for you, provided that it satisfies four basic conditions:

1) the intended action is good, or at least morally neutral
2) the evil effect is not intended
3) the good effect is not caused by the evil effect
4) there is sufficiently grave reason for permitting the evil effect

(See HERE for details, on this.)

So... let's try a few examples, to flesh out this principle. (In the below, when I say "lawful", I mean morally lawful; civil law is irrelevant, to the extent that it violates the moral law, anyway.)

Situation #1: Is it lawful to kill an embryonic human baby (for the purpose of "harvesting" his/her embryonic stem cells), so that potential (or even guaranteed) cures for others may result--even to the extent of saving lives?

Answer: NO. The saving of lives is certainly a good intention; but no matter how many lives are saved (i.e no matter what the "potential or actual payoff"), it is never lawful to intend the death of any other person (see condition #1). Even if every last human on earth were threatened with death from agonizing disease, and if only one embryonic child's death were necessary to save all of humanity from terrible suffering and death, it would still be immoral.

Situation #2: Is it lawful to kill an unborn baby by abortion, if he/she was conceived through rape or incest?

Answer: NO. Even if the intended effect were "relief of the mother from alleged psychological distress" (which is a false hope, anyway), it is never lawful to intend the death of any other person (see condition #1), and no appeals to emotion will avail against this truth.

In my next section, I'll try to tackle the thornier issue of "to what extent can someone vote for abortion-tolerant [or tolerant of other intrinsic evils] politicians?"... which is one of the main reasons I started this 3-part series in the first place! To be continued...

Monday, November 24, 2008

"Cooperation with Evil", Part I

As some readers of Paul's Masterful Blog may have detected in my comments, already: I have some rather large issues with anything that smacks of "cooperation", "compromise", or even (a particular weasel-word, when used with moral absolutes) "negotiation" with the culture of death. Do I dialogue with other people? Absolutely... and charity (note: "charity" = "self-sacrificial seeking of another person's best good--not to be confused with "niceness", "mildness", or any other oft-synonym of Political Correctness) certainly should be the rule, there. But a great many Catholics in the USA, at least, have gotten rather muddled on this point, and can no longer tell the difference between the obligations of God, and the demands of a secular culture that's making corrupt demands.

Perhaps a refresher course of basic terms would be in order. It's a big refresher course. "Twelve credits might not be enough, it's so big..." (Okay, name the movie!)

Here are what I "affectionately" call "The Three Hollywood Lies (TM)"; those who are even passingly familiar with St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 13, will pick up a pattern to these, rather readily...

Hollywood Lie #1: "Faith is a feeling."
Hollywood (and its ilk) says, "Your faith in God is a function of the feelings you can whip up; if you're feeling distant from God, you are distant from God, and you'd better get that fixed!"

Reply: Hogwash. Faith is a *choice*--an act of the WILL--and it has nothing especially to do with "feelings". No, not even the "deepest feelings of your heart" (and no denigration of those is meant!). How about the old (and all-too-common) dodge of, "No, no... I don't mean just superficial, fly-by-night feelings; Like, I mean the... (*insert sounds, words and gestures that imply emotionally "gushing" over something, here*)... really DEEP feelings, like, at the very core of your very BEING, y'know??" Sorry... wrong answer. Those feelings have a real and good place in life (God made them, after all), but they no more belong in the "driver's seat" of your faith than would a 5-gallon can of gasoline belong in the driver's seat of your new Prius. Emotions (e-motion) give you needed energy to cling to the good, or to fight/flee from evil. They don't do your choosing for you. Your free will, informed by a non-secular intellect, is still on for that job.

Hollywood Lie #2: Hope is a Feeling.
This is a particularly timely item, given that the main slogan of the Candidate of Death has been "HOPE" [sic].

Hope is not wishing (no, not even on a star--sorry, Pinocchio fans!), nor is it fervently, fervently wanting something to happen reeeeeeeeally badly. Hope is--you might have guessed it--a *choice*--an act of the will, by which we can be assured that God will keep His promises, because He is all-able to to keep them, He has promised them, and He can neither deceive nor be deceived. God is the *only* true basis of hope; no one else is. (Sorry, "Catholics" [sic] for Obama, and Vox Nova: the Secular Messiah doesn't count, and the Catholic Catechism--to which you allegedly adhere, as faithful Catholics--says so. The secular messiah *does*, however, make a very schnazzy Antichrist; point to ponder?)

And the deadliest of all three (which will be eminently predictable, by now... though usually the hardest for secularists to swallow):

Hollywood Lie #3: Love is a Feeling.

From the top of the highest roof to the bottom of the lowest valley, let this be shouted: LOVE IS NOT A FEELING!!! IT ISN'T, IT ISN'T, IT ISN'T!!!! NO!!! NEVER WAS, ISN'T NOW, AND NEVER WILL BE!!!!!"


Love (a.k.a. "charity", mentioned earlier) is a *choice*--an act of the will--to sacrifice oneself for the best good of another. That's it. That's how God loves. God gets nothing out of the bargain that He didn't already have (except aggravation), when He loves us; just so, are we to love others. "Love one another,", Jesus the True and Only Messiah says, "as I have loved you."

Is that quite clear? Love is not an emotion, or a collection of emotions... no, not even the "deepest" ones. Those are called "affections", and they're good and proper, in their place... but love is far beyond that. (That's a helpful hint to those in relationships of any kind; if you think "love" lasts only until you stop feeling a certain way, I pity your relationship's life-expectancy. Feelings come and go, and then come back again; that's just what they do. Love, on the other hand, never fails.)

More to come on this...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Prayer request

Could I ask everyone to pray for a special intention, which came up suddenly? I just heard, today, that two students (who go to the school system in which I teach), along with their father, died in a private plane crash, earlier today... while the mother and other siblings were driving home to meet them. It's going to be a rough few days.

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine;
et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Requiescant in pace.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord;
and let light perpetual shine upon them.
May they rest in peace.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

When Revelation Comes Alive

As long as I'm still in a "pensive" mood about our nation's recent and apparent betrothal to darkness, let me share a few tid-bits that I'd noticed, in recent days, which seem to put a bit more "flesh on the bones" of the Book of Revelation (a.k.a. "Apocalypse") in some very provincial, arguably small, but still unsettling ways.

Some of you already know that I teach math at a Catholic high school; some of you (if you've read any of my comments on Paul's masterful blog also know that, for the most part, its Catholic identity is presently in a rather sorry state. Case in point: the school held "mock elections" for each grade, and for the faculty; and John McCain (for whose candidacy I've never had anything even resembling enthusiasm) "won" by the slimmest of margins, overall... but the breakdown of the classes was striking:

6-8th grade: McCain (by about 55%)
9th grade: McCain (by about 60%)
10th grade: McCain (by about 55%)
11th grade: Obama (by about 60%)
12th grade: Obama (by about 65%)
faculty: McCain (by 12 to 9, I think--I'm sure about the 9)

One of the students, who knew my pro-life convictions (I'm not exactly secret about it, with Feminists for Life fliers plastering my door, a 120-point font pro-life quote from Pope John Paul II spanning my back wall, etc.), turned to me as this was announced, and said, "Aren't you happy that McCain won?" I said something noncommittal... since I simply couldn't explain to him how emotionally crippling it was to hear the results. Of the grades 6-12 staff in a Catholic school, *NINE* teachers not only voted for Obama, but did so in a mock election (which stood to gain nothing politically) which was read for the whole student body to hear. The message? "Voting for America's foremost advocate of the Culture of Death is hereby declared a viable option [among others, of course--we're very tolerant!] at this Catholic school!"

I wanted to cry.

"Father, forgive them; they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34) At least, I hope they don't. God, have mercy on us.

Later, on the following day, some of the senior boys were carrying through a sort of "gag routine"; every time they'd pass each other in the hallway between classes, they'd yell, "O-BAMAAAA... YAH!" and give each other a high-five. The effect this had on me can't easily be put into words... save, perhaps for this: a day later, I came to the ugly realization:

These are the same kids who would be cheering at the Coliseum, 1800 years ago.

That doesn't quite mean what many people might think; I don't say that in order to call them wickedly evil, or even fully responsible for what they were doing. (I'm sure much of it expressed one of many ways that teens--especially those in institutional schools--rebel against what they perceive to be "irksome, chafing rules" against their "freedom"--and their understanding of the entire spiritual battle was shallow, or nonexistent.) It actually gave me a glimpse into the hearts of the people who screamed, cheered, and cried for more Christian blood in the Roman ampitheatres. Such people, if you met them in a quiet moment at home, would doubtlessly have thought of themselves as "good people"--and said so, readily. Such people might well have lived fairly self-disciplined lives (secularly speaking--many athletes do, for example, regardless of their faith), just as these kids do (some of whom literally stay up until midnight, studying for classes in-between their extracurricular commitments). These same people, if met with a person who had fallen on hard times, would be likely to donate food, money, help in finding a place to stay, and more. "Nice" people, beyond any reasonable doubt.

How can this be?

How can such "good" kids embrace (and even defend, in school-assigned political papers) such sweeping evils, and be so ready to treat their Faith as "just one more extracurricular activity"?

Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.

But the second connection came when I was talking with my wife, this morning; she was reading from the daily Mass readings (which are from the Book of Revelation, as the Church year comes to an end, this Sunday), and she noted the death of the "two witnesses" of God (see Revelation 11:3-13). She noted the part where the Antichrist rose up and slew the two witnesses (Rev 11:7), and the following verse after that struck her (and me):

"And their bodies shall lie in the streets of the great city, which is called spiritually, Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord also was crucified. And they of the tribes, and peoples, and tongues, and nations, shall see their bodies for three days and a half: and they shall not suffer their bodies to be laid in sepulchres. And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry: and shall send gifts one to another, because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt upon the earth." (Rev 11:8-10)

High-five, guys. The culture of death won; time to rejoice and make merry!

Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.

Michael D. O'Brien, the author of "Fr. Elijah"--a book that I highly recommend--once wrote that (I'm paraphrasing), "the end times will probably look very different from the inside (i.e. living it), than from the outside (i.e. reading about it). The dramatic and apocalyptic signs that are so easy to see in story form, will not attract a great deal of attention from those who've grown up with it seeming 'normal'."

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying that the final showdown between Christ and Antichrist, or Church and Anti-Church, is imminent; I have no idea whether it is, or not, and--ultimately--it really shouldn't make much difference to our Christian walk. (Our Lord told us to "be ready" all the time, right? Not panicked, or hysterical, or obsessively preoccupied with signs and omens, but ready.) But it gave me something of a new insight into how such a large number of Christians can apostasize (Sacred Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church are both unanimous and firm in their guarantee that, in the final days, a vast number of Christians will abandon the Faith)--can abandon the Faith, slowly or quickly--without realizing (or caring) what they're doing; the ones who intend to follow their passions (for carnal lust, power, money, pleasure, entertainment, etc.) until stopped by a clear "dramatic sign from the sky" will probably be surprised to find the Angel of Death taking them unawares, without any trumpet fanfare. Christ assured us that the end of time would be ushered in with dramatic signs. He didn't assure us that we'd be of a mind to recognize them when they happened... or to pay attention to them (much less heed them) when they did. And He certainly didn't assure us that our OWN end (i.e. physical death) would be heralded by high-scale theatrics. "If they will not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they convert even if one should rise from the dead. (Luke 16:31)" We've been warned plentifully, already. The choice is ours, now. Do we follow Christ, and try to lead as many of these lost sheep to Him as possible? Or do we give up--or worse, slip quietly and "comfortably" into the smooth slide into the culture of eternal death?

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Twilight of Our Culture?

Well. I wish I could say that I picked an uplifting time to start this "chronicle of my own" (rather than simply "mooching" off of Paul's excellent blog... :) ), but that simply isn't so. Oh, I'm sure I'll branch off into comments on the usual current events, and such, in the days that follow... but for the moment, I have to at least try to say something about what's on my heart, in recent days.

It's a good thing that the hope of every Christian is in God alone... because we seem to be on the edge of one of the darkest eras of our nation. Fr. Benedict Groeschel, a well-respected and widely known Catholic priest/speaker, called this time "the beginning of the twilight" of our country. Argue that point, if you will, but it led me to think: am I ready?

The call of every Christian is to keep watch, for we know neither the day nor the hour that Our Lord will come again... and to wait faithfully for His return, no matter how long that takes, and no matter what tribulations we must suffer. But, while I'm generally a sober (and even skeptical) type regarding anything that smacks of the preternatural, I've watched the events of the past few weeks (re: the elections in the United States) with--well--what I can only call "grim sobriety".

I've faced death, before. I know that this life is not the end, and I know that God is in control, and I know that "to them that love God, all things work together unto good, to such as, according to his purpose, are called to be saints." (Romans 8:28) But what I find so very oppressive about this current time is not only the ongoing holocaust of the blood of millions of helpless children, ripped apart in the name of "compassion", "tolerance", "convenience", or even "coercion". It's not only the seemingly head-first plunge that our culture has taken into sexual immorality (e.g. contraception, fornication, same-sex intercourse, etc.). It's not only the corruption of the mass media, by which the darkest elements of our society seem to find an unswerving advocate.

It's the Christians who betray Christ.

Somehow, a Judas is harder to handle than a Caiaphas; at least, when you run into an avowed enemy who's marching under an enemy flag, you can respect their integrity, and you don't have to struggle with betrayal. Michael Card (one of my favourite Christian recording artists) once wrote, in one of his songs, "Only a friend can betray a friend; a stranger has nothing to gain. And only a friend comes close enough to ever cause so much pain." (See HERE to listen.) But when I meet a Christian who betrays the Gospel, it hurts me in ways that physical suffering and dying never could. It really doesn't help much to find out that such betrayals are often done "in all sincerity", or "out of honest conviction", or (my least favourite) "following their own conscience". It doesn't help much when I learn that such people are doing so because they're ignorant, uncatechized, misled, scandalized by other heretical "Catholics", or simply clueless.

If someone dropped your newborn infant daughter on the stone floor, would it take away all of your pain to know that it was done without direct malice?

Just so, should I be expected to "absorb" the abuse that bloodies the Body of My Lord, and walk away whistling a happy tune, just because the attackers don't know any better?

Some people (especially heterodox Catholics), when they hear me talk like this, react with a great deal of defensive vigour, accuse me of melodramatics, and worse. I can sympathize, actually; because I was of their number, not so very long ago, and I remember being offended at the direct words of those who challenged my "privatized Gospel". I remember thinking of those people as "cold, unfeeling, hateful Pharisees", and worse. So if I absorb some of that type of abuse in turn, now, I pray that God uses it to help atone for the damage that I did--to myself and others--in my ignorance, stubbornness, and (yes) PRIDE. To the people who now hurl such at me, all I can say is this: I pray for you, every day, that your eyes be opened, and your heart healed. I will not stop proclaiming the truth--to you, and to others; may God give me the strength. And as for my stridency?

Get used to it.

In Christ, now and forever,