27 December 2011

The Fate of Christians in Iraq and Afghanistan


A news report on television today spoke of the distinct possibility of Christians being expunged from Iraq and Afghanistan. A news article from 2010 detailed mass persecution of Christian in Iraq, including many violent attacks. This leaves me wondering precisely why we fought the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Are we going to leave the Christians to their fate at the hands of the Muslims, despite our rhetoric of fighting the wars for the freedom of the Iraqi and Afghan people? Does that freedom only apply only to Muslims? Do we oppose Islamic attacks on the United States, but tolerate Islamic attacks on Christians in Iraq and Afghanistan?

The fact is that neither Iraq nor Afghanistan is at this time a secure country. The American military has withdrawn from Iraq, but do the Iraqi officials we left in control actually care about the freedom and security of all their people? And, if they do care, then are they truly capable of securing the freedom of Christians? If not, then why have we withdrawn when the stated job of the military has not been completed? No doubt it is considered politically incorrect today to wage war against Muslim forces in order to protect Christians. Yet, we waged a war to protect and free the people of Iraq and Afghanistan from tyrannical rule. Why are the Christians of those countries any less entitled to freedom and security than the Mohammedans? And why does the United States government seem unwilling to do anything tangible about it?

Whether anyone in the government wishes to admit it or not, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have at their heart the very issue of religion. There is on the one hand the Islamists carrying out the principles of their religion to seek world domination against every other religion, and this includes attacking the great bastion of religious freedom, the United States. And then there is the United States, along with the other allied nations, who have fought back. The War on Terrorism is inherently about religion, because at the root of that terrorism is the issue of religion. They cannot be separated. Attempting to separate them or attempting to explain the actions of terrorists and others from any basis other than that of the principles of Islam leads to nothing more than a skewed comprehension of the situation. This leads to inappropriate and ineffective action.

So, we are left with two countries, Iraq and Afghanistan, which have supposedly been freed from oppression. Whether that has actually been accomplished in general is perhaps a matter of opinion. It is clear, however, that freedom from oppression, basic security, and respect of human dignity has not been accomplished for Christians in Iraq and Afghanistan. Again, is this why we asked our young men and women to deploy overseas? Is this why our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines have died and suffered wounds? Without freedom and security for Christians in Iraq and Afghanistan, the victory is hollow, if it can even be called a victory. The task should be seen through all the way and finished properly or it should not have been undertaken at all.

08 December 2011

On the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary


Hail, full of grace, the Angel Gabriel saluted our Lady. She surely had to be in the fullest state of grace possible in order to be worthy to be that vessel by which our Lord was to be brought into the world. We each receive graces through the Sacraments and by other means that God has established, but only the Blessed Virgin was so endowed by God with grace that she was indeed full of grace. This state of grace began at her Immaculate Conception, defined infallibly as dogma by Pius IX. In order to be in this state of grace, it was necessary that she be preserved from original sin. And she was so preserved from the very instant of her conception. This was a singular event, a special exemption granted by God from universal law to Mary for the special purpose of bringing into the world our Lord Jesus Christ, Savior of all Mankind.

Neither could our Lord be born by the work of man, for man is in a fallen state. What good would it do for the vessel to be pure, only to be contaminated? This would not do as a worthy means for our Lord to be born into the world. If the purest golden cup receives even the most infinitesimal drop of poison, it is no longer worthy to hold wine, let alone the finest fruits of the vine. As Mary was pure, spotless, and white as snow, only the Holy Ghost could be upon her to make her conceive. And, for our Lord to be wholly man and wholly God, being of one substance with the Father, then if he was to be born of woman, he must be conceived of God, and specifically God the Holy Ghost, the Holy Paraclete. Considered in the reverse, as our Lord was wholly man and wholly God, being born of woman and conceived of the Holy Ghost, then only a woman pure and spotless, born immaculate, without the stain of Original Sin, would be fitting.
Mary is sometimes referred to as the Second Eve, for just as Eve was the vehicle by which loss came to the human race, Mary was the vehicle by which its Redemption would come. Just as Eve had a choice, Mary had a choice. Eve made the wrong choice, with all its negative consequences for the world. Mary, on the other hand, made the right choice. She accepted the work of the Holy Spirit and bore the Son of God, saying "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word." Her acceptance was essential for salvation, for without it Christ would not have come into the world. There would be no ministry of Christ, there would be no Passion, no Cross, and no Resurrection. However, Mary's acceptance of the weighty task was only one necessary factor. Our Lady was given the choice of accepting conception by the Holy Ghost because she had been made ready and acceptable for it through her Immaculate Conception. God gave the fallen world the gift of a special woman, full of grace, upon whose free will depended the salvation of mankind. As Eve lost paradise for all mankind, Mary brought back into the world the hope of salvation for all mankind.

Though we can never have the fullness of spiritual grace that Mary possesses, nevertheless we are all endowed by God individually with certain gifts and abilities. As was the choice our Lady faced, we also face the choice of accepting those gifts and using them for the glory of God or using them either not at all or for some ignoble purpose. This is the choice we each face in our daily spiritual struggle. The general life choices we make affect ourselves, of course, but as with Mary's choice, they may also affect others. Nowhere is this more evident than in the spiritual decisions we make. We may uphold the Catholic Faith, or we may choose not to. We may accept what God has has revealed to us, or we may reject his saving graces. The choice is ours. The consequences are not only ours, though. Whenever we stray into apostasy or even act weakly in our faith and morality, it makes it all the more difficult for those in our lives to maintain their faith and morality. Moral courage is so often absent in human beings because a lack of moral courage is so contagious. People would so often rather merely get along and serve worldly or selfish interests than uphold the Holy Truth and stand up for right and wrong. It is a constant battle against the ways of the world, for the path of God is rarely easy. The path of God, however, is the only way to true and everlasting happiness.

07 December 2011

The Very Real Danger of Christian Persecution in America


Never in my life, until now, have I had concern that Christians could be persecuted in America for upholding Christian morality. Never, until now, have I had concern that Christians could suffer legal penalties or even be arrested in America for upholding the Christian Faith. Now the threat is real, and due in large part to government actions and policies, I have significant concern that we will see a steadily-increasing amount of persecution against Christians in America.  

The time has come in America in which Christians and secularists are locked in a war. No longer is it live and let live, allowing each to follow his conscience and beliefs in an atmosphere of tolerance, but rather the secularists have made clear their agenda of destroying the authentic Christian Faith. Secularists have long since been attacking the fundamentals of natural law and Christian morality, but they have never made such progress at eroding the rights of Christians as they have in the recent period. Theirs was a process of gradually chipping away at the walls so that few, if anyone, would notice and stand up to it. The secularists have now managed to get many to turn from their faith towards secularism through this gradual process of eroding beliefs. They have even infiltrated the highest levels of the U.S. government. Now more and more of the government's policies and practices are not only against the basic principles of the Christian faith, but are also increasingly more directly hostile towards Christians. A new government-imposed morality is rapidly being forced upon Christians, who may be faced with the very real choice of going against the Faith or facing legal, social, or occupational consequences.

Now is the time for Christians to stand up for our rights, for if we do not, then soon it may be too late. We may see in America persecution against Christians as seen in communist China and under Stalin in the Soviet Union. Truly, if we do not defend our rights, we will surely lose them. The secularists are not resting and are working as actively as they can to dislodge religious freedom, substituting their own dogma for that of the Faith.

It is far easier to be complacent, and that is what the adversary is counting on. To stand up for that which is right in the face of a seemingly-overwhelming threat and refused to yield takes true courage, conviction, and faith. If we do not face this challenge now, then the armies of secularists will succeed in creating their form of utopia in which authentic practice of the Christian Faith will be virtually impossible. Americans must speak up for religious freedom, for moral truth, and for the laws of Christ while we still have the chance. Inaction will lead to defeat and usher in a period in which the Christian Faithful in America stand the real risk of being driven underground. Never forget that this is a war. Let us all adopt as our own the motto of my native State of Alabama, Audemus jura nostra defendere. We dare defend our rights.

12 October 2011

Alabama knows how to handle immigration and the jobs crisis


Alabama's new law on illegal immigration has been the talk of the nation. The President has sought the law's demise and misguided religious liberals have pushed for it to be overturned, yet Alabamians are squarely behind the Governor on this issue. Now, I'm a native Alabamian. Most of my formative years were spent here, though most of my adult life thus far has been spent outside of the State. It would be easy to suggest, therefore, that I am biased towards the law, and that would be a true assumption. The opponents of the law claim that the illegals are coming over here seeking a better life, and that is likely true. But how can we allow that at the expense of others? How can we tolerate that to be done at the expense of the people in the State of Alabama who, especially in this time of great economic turmoil, are seeking a better life? As Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches us about charity, I realize we are called to help people, I realize we are unable to help everyone, and I realize that we should help those who are closest to us first.

Illegal aliens cost the people of Alabama around $300 million each year. This is a tremendous burden to be borne for those who come across the border in a manner that is against the law, work for money to send back to Mexico or wherever they are from, reap our benefits, and take jobs away from citizens and legal immigrants, get into automobile accidents without insurance, cause a rise in crime, and much, much more. Yes, they want a better life, but so do the people of Alabama.

And what has happened as a result of this immigration bill? Illegals have fled, or at least gone into hiding waiting to see if the President's efforts to foil the rights of Alabama to govern itself will succeed. Of course, the federal judge assigned to hear the case has largely sided with the Governor of Alabama. 

The town of Albertville, which had an hispanic population of around 20%, had 35 students withdraw from school in one day. Shelby County, just south of Birmingham, had 20 students leave. (Read more here.)  Illegals, even if they have gone into hiding, have left their jobs...which, again, they held illegally. What has happened as a result? Citizens and legal immigrants who were out of work now have jobs. At one fell swoop Alabama has made a significant step forward for dealing with the problems of illegal immigration and of unemployment. People who have been out of work for a long time, in some cases well over a year, are now able to have a real chance at employment...now that the practice of hiring illegal immigrants is illegal. So much for the theory that illegal immigrants do the jobs that the "rest of us" do not want to do. One need only look to the jobs done on Mike Rowe's Dirty Jobs television program to see that plenty of even white multi-generation citizens will do the jobs that need to be done.

It is worth mentioning, though, that the 1982 Supreme Court ruling requires children of illegal immigrants to be educated. The goal of the Alabama law is not to force children of illegal immigrants out of schools or consign them to a permanent underclass status. The point of the law is to protect the sovereignty of Alabama and the rights of her people.

And what of the radical liberal Christians who say it is un-Christian to turn away the illegal immigrants? I ask, rather, is it Christian to demand that the people of Alabama (or of any State) bear the burden for those who have such little respect for the laws of the land that they enter the country illegally, take jobs that could have gone to a long-unemployed Alabamian, etc.? I say that it is not Christian for the people of Alabama to bear the burden of immigration. Just like the illegal immigrants, Alabamians are seeking a better life, perhaps now more than ever. We cannot sacrifice those closest to us and consider ourselves to have done our Christian duty to our people. We should at the same time welcome immigrants who have come here legally, and we should have reasonable programs for such immigration that provide the opportunity of immigration to as many as possible, but only as many as the United States or any particular State can handle. Immigrants ought not only receive benefits, but they ought to contribute to the country, to the State, and to their community. Immigration can be a great benefit to all people, if done correctly. Christian charity is for everyone, not just immigrants.

Alabama has set a model law for immigration reform and taking steps to solve unemployment problems. It is time for other States to adopt such laws.

11 October 2011

Occupy Wall Street is a communist movement


The Occupy Wall Street is an unfortunate attempt at instilling socialist and communist ideals into the United States. These are ideals inconsistent with America and with the Church, yet Mr. Bloomberg has promised that the so-called occupiers can stay indefinitely, and the President of the US has embraced the movement. Many in the academic community, long known for its liberal and socialist leanings, have endorsed the movement.

Though it appears difficult to get a coherent statement from the "occupiers," there is a central theme of blaming the top 1% of income earners in America (represented by Wall Street) for the problems of the other 99%. All issues of their socialist agenda aside, the problem is that their movement is directed in the wrong location. Rather than blaming corporate America, it ought to blame the government. Decades of mismanagement, fiscal irresponsibility, entitlement programs gone out of control, bailout programs, and much more is far more to blame than anything the corporate sector has done. This does not absolve the corporate sector of any responsibility it may have, though, and corporate greed and moral atrophy have indeed contributed to the economic crisis. However, government programs made it far easier to act on this greed. The economic crisis is a joint responsibility. Yet, this responsibility is not only shared between the government and the corporate sector. Consumer society is also to blame. Society wants more and more and more. They want to finance something with a loan they cannot possibly pay back, and then corporate greed, through programs allowed by the government, make a loan. After this was done on a large scale, bank failure resulted. Handout and entitlement programs run by the government fueled consumer greed as well. Widespread greed, even likely among a lot of the very people occupying Wall Street now, led to the economic crisis. Yet, the "occupiers" want to blame everyone else but themselves.

Now, while again there does certainly exist corporate greed, and I have written on this issue extensively in my own pastoral and academic writings, that someone else has something you do not have is not justification for blaming them for your woes. That honest workers and honest executives go to work each morning and earn their money does not inherently make them evil. That someone has more money than you does not entitle you to a piece of it. What we have is a group of people who have such a sense of entitlement that they pitch a temper-tantrum when they do not get their way. Occupy Wall Street is nothing more than a giant temper-tantrum, and just like with a child who behaves that way, no one who values an orderly and decent Christian society can give into them.

One need only look to the writings of the Church Fathers to be reminded that the world's resources are not distributed evenly or fairly...and that those who have been blessed with large amounts of resources should use it not to fuel greed, but for good. Yes, those who have large amounts of money are bound by the Laws of Christ to provide in some way for the sustenance of the poor. That does not mean, however, that the government should tax and tax the so-called rich for the purpose of giving it to others. Aside from the government's proven irresponsibility with money, providing for the sustenance of the poor does not mean redistribution of wealth - Simple redistribution of wealth, such as in entitlement programs, does not provide real help for the poor. Rather, it provides incentives for the poor to remain on such entitlement programs. The entitlement programs and hand-out programs provide a disincentive to work. Worse than that, it has the potential to create generations of "government zombies," or those who are completely dependent on the government. This is not freedom.

Providing for the sustenance of the poor means giving what you realistically can to those who are truly in need. It does not mean providing welfare with incentives that make it attractive as a way of life. It does not mean encouraging people to live off the hard-earned money of others. It does not mean giving false help, i.e., help that appears to be nice and makes the giver look generous, but in reality does no good for the person in need or for society. Remember the old maxim: give a man a fish and feed him for a day; teach him to fish, and feed him for a lifetime. Unfortunately, the socialists camping out on Wall Street for so long without bathing, urinating and defecating on the streets, and behaving generally in a barbarian fashion want this redistribution of wealth. They want Wall Street to open its coffers and give to those who want it. They want to use their presence to force a major change...though they do not seem completely sure at all of what this change ought to be. This is not freedom. This is an attempt at mob rule, and that is how a communist revolution starts.

What is needed is real jobs reform. The government needs real policies to stimulate real jobs, and these policies largely involve the government staying out of the business of micromanaging business. The government's job is to create an environment in which business can thrive. Education also must mean something again. Rather than selling overpriced college degrees to those who do not really need them and likely will not be able to repay their student loans, high school ought to once again provide skills needed to have a decent job and a decent life. 

Unemployment numbers reported now mean very little. Consult Crossing Wall Street, and you'll be reminded that a corporate executive who is now working at McDonald's does not really count. He is employed at a much lower level, even though he is technically employed. In situations like the nation is in now, it is easy for the unemployment level to be manipulated into showing economic growth that simply is not there.

One thing that will help is to lower taxes, not raise them. Never has an increase in taxes resulted in more jobs. It is the very corporations that the "occupiers" are railing against that provide jobs. Corporations with money can hire people. People with money can buy consumer goods. Ironically, it is the top 1%, the so-called "villains" in the uninformed minds of the occupiers, who pay for a lot of the entitlement and hand-out programs.

What is most disturbing, though, is that this Occupy Wall Street movement is spreading. Not only is the same basic event spreading to other cities, the idea of occupation and using mob rule to influence policy is spreading to other aspects of society. One theology professor even suggests that Catholics ought to stage something akin to Occupy Wall Street in order to affect whatever change they want in the Church. Mob rule is not freedom. Mob rule is not an orderly society. Mob rule is chaos.

This whole event reminds me of a much larger scale version of protests I saw in China. It reminds me of the writing of Mao Tse Tung, in which he openly promoted class warfare and mob uprisings. This, of course, resulted in the communist take-over of China that persists to this day. In fact, the Occupy Wall Street movement is aimed as inciting class warfare. Some have explicitly promoted this. No freedom-loving Christian can tolerate that in America.

Greed never leads anywhere good, but neither do uncivilized attempts at mob rule. God is order. All that is opposed to order is opposed to God.

27 September 2011

Catholics targeted again by Obamacare


Catholics are under fire again. Obamacare, a program that supposedly will make health care affordable for all (or at least most), comes with a high cost. That cost is to the conscience, to religious freedom, and indeed to the individual freedom held so dear by Americans. At the heart of the debate now is the issue of coverage for prescription contraceptives and sterilization procedures. In this health care plan, a good number of companies and individuals (through their premiums) will effectively be funding programs of which they object. Catholic hospitals, universities, and other institutions, for example, would be forced to choose between dropping health care for their employees or paying for procedures they find morally objectionable. This was detailed in a recent article regarding a statement by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

What is most troubling to me in this recent episode is not even that there are aspects of Obamacare that run contrary to historic Church teaching, for we expect that the ways of the world often will run contrary to the Church. Rather, what is most troubling is that the exemption from certain provisions of Obamacare is so narrowly defined that, as the USCCB stated, not even Jesus would qualify.

The provision for exemption is only available to a religious organization, and organizations are deemed not to be religious if they meet the following criteria: (1) It serves those who are not already members of the church, (2) it fails to hire based on religion, or (3) it does not restrict its charitable and missionary purposes to the inculcation of religious values. Unfortunately this tends not to apply to any branch of the Catholic Church. Any church that seeks to follow the model of Christ violates Number 1, as our duty is to help all people, whether they are members of the Church or not. Number 2 is often violated when people are hired based on skill set rather than adherence to a particular religious creed. Similar to Number 1, Number 3 is violated when the Church does more than proselytize, seeking to make people's lives better, e.g., disaster relief in Haiti, disaster relief after other natural disasters, and inner city youth programs to teach life skills. Do any of these things, and it appears that your church is not eligible for the religious exemption under Obamacare. I agree with the USCCB statement that not even Jesus would qualify, for his ministry was to help all people. So was the ministry of the early Church, and so is the ministry of the Church today.

Some might say that this is a non-issue, given that surveys show a large number of Catholics do not agree with or follow the proscriptions against artificial contraception. I submit that this is not the real issue here. The issue is one of religious and individual freedom and of Church sovereignty. Obamacare as it stands now appears to be forcing a large number of people to go against their conscience, with exceptions available only in situations that generally occur only when they are not living up to their duty as Christians. It's a Catch 22.

What is important to note here is that if the government can do this on such a widespread scale on this one particular issue, it sets a precedent for further discrimination against and persecution of Christians. Christians are being marginalized in our increasingly secular society. Most every group of society has more rights and protections today than Christians. Most every group of society today has more right to object based on conscience, more right to say what they believe, and more right to live their lives according to their beliefs than Christians.

This outcome was predictable. As more and more immoral activities were brought into the mainstream, the voice of dissent became the Christians...and most especially true Catholics, as many Christian denominations have gone the way of the world. The Catholic Faith stands in opposition to much of what American society is currently doing. It is no surprise that society wishes Catholicism suppressed or at least rendered less effective in influencing society morality and actions.

This is the real reason why this current fight against Obamacare is so important. It's not a political matter as some try to suggest. It is simply a matter of faith. It is a matter of upholding the Faith, even against attacks. It is a matter of doing one's duty as a Christian. The price of failure will be the souls of many who are lost due to the suppression of religion by the government. We must never give up or yield one inch to the forces of darkness in the world today.

13 September 2011

Disturbing Trend in American Religion


A recent article that I read underscores a serious problem in American religion. The article, entitled "More Americans tailoring religion to fit their needs," discusses the growing trend of Americans simultaneously claiming they believe in Jesus and accept the Bible, but do not accept the Church. Rather, they make up whatever they want as a religion. According to the article, many of those who do not attend so-called "regular church" say it is because of the clergy and the churches themselves. For example, they lament that a priest says "say this prayer," but then it does not work for them, they get burned out and discouraged, and then leave to do whatever makes them feel better. This is all a most unfortunate turn of events. They simply have it wrong. And, they are giving up too easily.

When someone tries a prayer and then says "oh, it didn't work, so the prayer and the church must be flawed," they make one very large error. That error is the one of expecting that prayers will be answered exactly as we want or expect, rather than how we need, and in our time rather than in God's time. We see ourselves too much as mere individuals rather than as part of a much greater plan that knows neither time nor space. The other problem with this attitude, though, is just that: attitude. Someone who goes into prayer with a half-hearted "I'll try this, but if it doesn't work now, I'm leaving" approach is not so likely to be successful. It is a wrong attitude. It is a selfish attitude. One must approach God with true humility of heart, and that takes time and effort to develop and continued work to maintain. And when you quit trying in favor of an alternative that simply makes you feel better or gives you an emotional high, you are doing nothing more than selfishly looking for an easy way to achieve a solution. That is the sin of pride. The trouble is that it is no solution at all. It has the veneer of a solution, but underneath is spiritually empty.

So, instead of sticking with the faith given to the Apostles and handed down to us, this article discusses how many are going it alone, making up their own version of Christianity. The trouble is that one cannot simultaneously claim to accept Jesus and the Bible while rejecting the Christian Faith and the Church. The Church was founded by Christ. Acceptance of one necessitates the acceptance of the other. Without both, one cannot call one's self a Christian. These pseudo-Christians are self-deluding themselves into thinking that they have the Christian Faith. The worse thing is that these days the trend is contagious. As the trend grows, more and more people are encouraged to go this harmful route. The Church herself need not be worried about her own survival, for she will survive, even if reduced to a handful. The Church is and should be worried about the souls of those who are going astray.

Those who are tempted to make up their own version of Christianity need to come back into the Church and try again. They need to evaluate the attitude with which they approach God. They need not to quit because things are not, in their opinion, perfect. And, the clergy need not be blamed for their imperfections and used as a justification for this disturbing trend of self-customized Christianity. The clergy, though called to service by God, are not perfect. The clergy have a special role of pastoral leadership. Yet, that does not mean that the members of the clergy do not have character flaws, just like everyone else. To refuse to listen to the clergy simply because of their flaws is another manifestation of the sin of pride, for we indeed all are sinners. Look at the men and women God has chosen to lead his Church and work great miracles. They include men of ill temper, a murderer, a womanizer, and even one man who was already dead. It has been said that if God created the darkness, then it was so that we can better see the light. So too with the leaders of the universal church. If the clergy and the Saints throughout history have had personal imperfections and character flaws, it is so that we all may better see the light of life and the truth that they preach. May all mankind see this light and return to the flock of Christ.

22 August 2011

The United States is, was, and always must be a Christian nation


In recent time, and particularly with the socialist ideals being pushed on America at the moment, it has become popular to suggest that the United States of America is a secular nation. Yet, this is not true. One need only look to the National Anthem, the Star Spangled Banner, to see this. Not the first verse with which we all are (or should be) familiar, but the fourth verse. Here it is:

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation,
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heav'n - rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, for our cause is just,
And this be our motto--"In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Yes, there it is. America is indeed a Christian nation. We are not a secular nation, and we are certainly not a Muslim nation. America is one of the great societies in the world's history, and perhaps the only one today that stands for the Christian Faith against the evil tyrannies of the world. Let all Americans stand up proudly and reaffirm that the United States is, was, and always shall be a Christian nation.

09 August 2011

Entitlements and the London Riots


The London riots continue to rage on as scenes of fires in the city on the Thames are shown in the media. The riots are said to be about proposed cuts in entitlements programs in the UK, such as health care. So, in order to protest this, they go around harming the very same innocent people who pay the taxes that support their entitlements. They're biting the hand that feeds them, so to speak. More than that, they are allowing their anger over not getting what they believe they should get from other people to turn into violent aggression. It rather reminds me of the poor, misguided souls who bomb abortion clinics to stop abortion, thereby committing murder, the very act they claimed to be against. This outcome is what logically follows from long-term entitlement programs, though the London case is perhaps a bit more dramatic than I hope will be seen elsewhere. Various demonstrations against proposed entitlement cuts in the US, for example, have thankfully thus far remained non-violent.

While a society has a moral obligation to tend to the poor, Christian duty applies to helping those who really need it and, when help is given, that help should be real help. Real help is something that facilitates a person's well-being and growth. As the saying goes, teach a man to fish, and you will feed him for a lifetime. Entitlement programs, on the other hand, are largely hand-outs from the government and create incentives not to work and contribute. Those who truly could be productive members of society but choose not to be, instead living off of welfare programs of socialist governments are selfishly committing the sin of pride as they live off the sweat of others. The more they stay on the entitlement programs, the more they feel entitled. It becomes a way of life. Now try to reduce or take away those entitlements to prevent the nation as a whole from going under. Ask those on entitlements to share in the financial woes everyone else is facing. Not surprisingly, as they feel the entitlements are, well, their entitlement, they act out as if their sacred rights are being violated.

It is no surprise that socialist European and British governments are finding that their social programs could not last forever. The problem is that they created a monster in the process, and that's the vast army of people now fully convinced that they are entitled to government payouts and social programs. Another problem is that socialism tends at the same time to suppress religion, thereby removing any sense of Christian obligation to society from those on entitlements.

And the United States is not far behind Europe in this regard. As the recent debt debate showed, America also cannot continue to spend like it is spending. Entitlements were at the heart of the debate, and both sides, but especially the socialist Democrats, were in the end unwilling to take the lollipop away. Entitlements were essentially left untouched. The politicians know that cutting benefits from those receiving them, even if they shouldn't be receiving them, is likely to have a negative impact on their chances of getting re-elected. So, instead of doing the ethical thing, they do the politically expedient thing. The people have figured out that they can vote themselves benefits from the public treasury, so now the elections go to those who promise the most to the most. The trouble is that this is not a sustainable position. We are seeing the fruits of the seeds that were planted in the 1930s.

The London rioters' behavior, as completely unacceptable as it is, nevertheless is not surprising. It is the fruit of what socialism planted. The rioters are behaving like spoiled children, and really that is what anyone who is hooked on entitlements is: a spoiled child. It is time for a new generation of truly ethical statesmen in both America and Europe to take back society from the socialists and rebuild under Christ's Holy Cross all that had made our societies great.

02 August 2011

Saint Alphonsus Liguori and Redemption


SAINT Alphonsus Liguori, well-known as the founder of the Redemptorists, and also as a Bishop, Confessor, and Doctor of the Church, is a shining example to all in the clergy. A nobleman, Saint Alphonsus had a successful secular career as lawyer before dedicating himself completely to the service of God through the Church. He turned down two advantageous arrangements of marriage made by his father to remain celibate for the Roman Rite priesthood. His family was a bit put out at his decision to be a priest. Yet, he followed the calling of God anyway. It reminds me of a Roman Catholic bishop I know who told me once that the only time he ever saw his father cry was when he announced he was going to become a priest.

As a priest, Saint Alphonsus, of course, founded the Redemptorists. He also was made, against his wishes, a Bishop. His order and his own work were dedicated to the poor and ignorant. For his work he was much maligned by those within and without the Church. Yet, he labored on doing his duty to God and to the Church, helping the poor and working for the redemption of those he encountered and, through his writings, of those of future generations. If he had allowed himself to be bullied into giving up or modifying his work, think of those who would likely not have found redemption through Christ.

If a priest is doing his job, we know that he will be maligned. Perhaps it will not happen as much as to Saint Alphonsus or to Saint Ignatius, whose feast we celebrated two days earlier, but it will happen. People will try to claim a priest is teaching falsehoods when he is professing the truth of the Catholic Faith. People will try to badger a priest into giving up his vocation, his obligations, his duties, and his work all in the name of "getting along," or "getting ahead," or other worldly platitudes. The world rejects that which is not of the world. The degree to which this happens to a priest depends on the environment he is in and what he is doing. Even within a purely religious setting, human nature leads to jealousy, politics, and other problems that cause internal turmoil within the Church. The specific problems a priest faces are ultimately individual, but the point is that a priest doing his job necessarily will face opposition.

It is so very important for priests to understand this and take solace in the life and work of Saint Alphonsus and others like him. Priests, and especially Bishops must not abdicate even a modicum of their responsibility simply for personal comfort, worldly security, to "get long," or even to keep people in the pews. The latter sounds perhaps counter-intuitive, but it is true all the same. Priests cannot water down the Faith simply to keep the stubborn in the pews. If the will of the parishioner is so great as to refuse to accept the Catholic Faith, then they will effectively excommunicate themselves. A priest cannot give in to such intimidation and must maintain the Faith for the spiritual good of both the entirety of their parishioners and for the redemption of the stubborn parishioners who choose to leave. You do no one any good by watering down the doctrine simply to keep more people in the pews.

The world, furthermore, will try to tempt priests into giving up their solemn pledge to God and joining the ways of the world. Yet, priests, as servants of the Kingdom of God, are in this world, but not of this world. Especially in the secular society we live in today, this becomes all the more difficult. Yet, we must persevere. If we do not, then how many souls might be lost? Even the mere sight of a priest in his clerical collar or cassock out in public might turn people to God or cause people to examine their own conscience more than they otherwise would. The more the Church is allowed to be suppressed and allows itself to be suppressed in society in general, the more difficult it will become for people to attain to everlasting life. Christianity is a constant struggle, not a panacea to soothe and affirm with weekly emotional highs. Christianity is a process of true conversion of heart, of warfare against darkness, and of self-sacrifice as we deny ourselves and take up our own cross and give ourselves completely and entirely to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

30 July 2011

Illegal Immigration in America


There is no denying the illegal immigration problem in America today. The US government certainly does not make it easy to enter the country legally. With few exceptions, the process is lengthy and involves a bit of luck, as there are lotteries run by the government for green card issuance. Also, that people want  to come to America is no surprise. It is a country blessed with abundance of natural resources and opportunity. And, people do indeed enter legally each year, many of them becoming proud new American citizens. Some of our greatest Americans have been immigrants. However, many enter illegally each year as well. This not only causes an array of problems for the country, it has sparked an intense debate.

A country so blessed as America has an obligation to help others, just as wealthy people have an extra obligation to help the poor. And, as the record shows, America is perhaps the most generous nation in history in terms of financial and other assistance given to other countries. However, there is no obligation to bankrupt the country to help others, for then the nation not only loses its ability to help other nations, but its ability to take care of its own people. Following Saint Thomas Aquinas, the American government has an obligation to see to the needs of its own people first. So, just how far should the American government go in permitting immigrants currently considered illegal to enter openly, and what are the ethics relating to illegal immigrants themselves?

First, there is the category of immigrant that is really a refugee from some horrible set of conditions or circumstances. We do have, as much as we are able, an obligation to help those who are legitimately refugees. It would also be irresponsible for us knowingly to send back persons to another nation where we know they will face persecution, torture, execution, etc. These are not the immigrants I am discussing. Rather, I am discussing those who do not come from such conditions, but seek to enter the United States for the understandable goal of a better life.

Legal issues aside, illegal immigrants create a tremendous burden on the infrastructure. While in small numbers it might not be so bad, in the large numbers we are seeing, the burden is great. It has been argued that some pay taxes. While that is true, this applies only to those with illegitimate documents used to get into the tax system and work openly, or to those who entered legally on a work visa and stayed after the visa expired. Many are paid under the table and send most of their money back to their home country. Yet, they reap the benefits of the nation in terms of medical care, schooling for their children, and more. The payment burden falls to the citizens, permanent residents, and those here legally on work visas. Furthermore, the mere presence of too many people taxes the system greatly, removing opportunities for those here legally, increasing financial burden, and generally causing strain. For example, a town in New England took in thousands of Somali refugees (who came legally) some years ago, but eventually had to say that they could take no more. While they were bullied in the press for this, they simply did not have the resources to continue taking care of more and more people. It is too much growth too fast.

Another argument that is made is that the illegals do the jobs the rest of us do not want to do. Anyone who has seen Mike Rowe's television show, "Dirty Jobs," knows that there are plenty of hard-working Americans who are willing to do jobs most people find disgusting. The massive influx of illegals are paid less by greedy corporations who would rather have the jobs done for less by an illegal. That might make the cost to the corporation lower, and it might even make the retail price on the shelf lower, but it comes at a great cost in terms of lost jobs and the unemployment burden that causes, as well as the strain to infrastructure caused by the massive presence of illegals. As our recent financial crisis shows, the nation simply cannot continue paying out entitlements and giving handouts at such a massive rate if it is to survive financially. The government has a moral obligation to its people, as well as to the people who immigrate here, to be financially responsible. This involves not allowing illegal immigrants to contribute to bankrupting the nation.

And what of the ethics of the illegals themselves? If they are simply leaving their country and coming here for a better life, that is understandable. However, there is a process set up for this to help ensure that the US takes in only as many people as it can handle. Those we are discussing who choose to enter illegally have chosen to violate the laws of another country in order to get more money or have more opportunities. This reasonably can be considered the sin of pride and is highly unethical. They seem to think nothing of asking the citizenry of another country (which they have entered illegally) to give them benefits, even if it means that hospitals have to close down because of the unpaid overload, schools have problems as a result, and so on. It is selfish and dishonest. Coveting their neighbors goods, they conspire to take what they want anyway when it is denied them. There is a process in place to help ensure that there will be an America capable of providing the wealth of opportunities that it does now for the future generations of current citizens and immigrants.

This no doubt seems harsh to the liberals and socialists in America, and even to many Christians. However, help must be rendered to the poor and less fortunate in a rational manner. There is a obligation of Christian duty to render humanitarian assistance to all, even illegal immigrants, but it should be notes that this refers to humanitarian concerns, not ongoing use of facilities. We in the United States have an obligation to help others, but must do so in a responsible way that allows our nation to continue to flourish and continue to be able to help people.

27 July 2011

Misperceptions of Catholicism


Only a few people likely truly hate Catholicism, but there are many who hate what they perceive to be Catholicism. Centuries of misinformation inside and outside the Church have left Catholics and especially non-Catholics wondering just what is Catholicism. Even many Anglo-Catholics remain confused, preferring to focus on their differences, real or perceived, from the Roman Church. Misperceptions cause and perpetuate so many divisions within the Church.

The anti-catholics might even be Catholics themselves if they would get over their stubbornness and make a sincere effort to understand just what is Catholicism. Their pride is usually too strong, though, and this pride is ultimately an admission of the weakness of their beliefs. They cannot risk any challenge to their position, for they know in a fair competition their position will not stand.

Eventually, though, some who were even vehemently anti-catholic experience a true conversion of heart. God opens their mind, and they see that logic points to only one thing, and that is Catholicism.

18 July 2011

Bible Rejection in the Modern Era


A recent article in the Huffington Post by Jeffrey Small, author of the Breath of God, captures many of the modernist errors of today regarding the Bible and the Faith. I cannot say his position and its many errors are entirely his fault, though. The Church has gotten progressively weaker and weaker for a variety of reasons, allowing the Faith as it is presented to be watered down so much that people become complacent in their own faith and indeed do not even know their own faith well. This leads to erroneous conclusions such as those drawn in the aforementioned article, which I shall discuss in more detail later.

Now, the author's conclusions may perhaps, though not necessarily be formed through excellent logic, and the article as written certainly appears not be the product of overt anti-religious sentiment or propaganda as such. Yet, even flawless logic applied to an incorrect set of data or assumptions will nevertheless yield an erroneous result. The starting point always matters. If you throw a dart perfectly straight, but you are not positioned correctly in front of the dartboard, you will miss. If you see only part of an object, you are possibly likely to deduce its purpose incorrectly. Data and assumptions always matter.

As to the arguments Mr. Small makes, they begin with an assertion that the Bible ought to be treated as mythology. In fact, he suggests that he got even more out of the Bible reading it that was than when he read it "literally" as a child from a more stringent religious perspective. Yet, we know that the Bible is not to be read literally, but must be correctly interpreted. (See Saint Augustine’s discourse on Biblical interpretation.) The author continues with a series of points as to why scholars tend to reject the Bible as historical or literal. I will now address these individually in brief.

1. In his first argument, the author states that science and technology make the Bible largely unbelievable. He cited that the Bible claims the earth is 6000 years old, while physics says it is 13.7 billion years ago. These are flawed arguments ab initio, as they assume science and religion are incompatible or separate, or that religion is correct only in so far as it does not come into conflict with our present understanding of science. The numbers in the Bible need not be taken literally. When the creation of the world was taking place, it was said in Genesis that certain things were created on certain days. How long is a "day" in the context of the Supreme Being who created the vastness of the universe? How long is a "year"? The writings of the early Hebrew people further need not be taken absolutely literally in our understanding of the language, and they cannot be. Observe how much time and experience separates us from them. Our understanding of the world is vastly different from theirs, but it does not at all change the fact that we are talking about precisely the same great act: God's creation of the world.

Refer to Cardinal Newman's writings on the interrelationship between science and religion. Theology is the queen of all sciences, and all other sciences therefore must in some way agree with theology. The statement that science makes it difficult to believe the tenets of the faith is arrogant in the extreme in that it assumes that we can know all. Are we so convinced that our science today completely explains everything, and that therefore the Bible is wrong and not to be listened to? Perhaps most people today are indeed so convinced. However, even science has evolved. Science has even proven that its own understanding of the world previously was wrong or at least incomplete. Yet, the Bible, properly interpreted (again, see Saint Augustine), has never been proven to be wrong or incompatible with science. Science is nothing more than the explanation of God's world and the way he made it to work given in human terms.

2. The author claims that the Bible contains many "impossible" feats. The author states, "[many] of the stories are also scientifically impossible, like the tale of Joshua stopping the sun moving across the sky. This story assumes (as was the thinking then) that the earth was flat and was at the center of the universe."  There are two points worth mentioning. One is that the events in the Bible, again, must be interpreted properly and according to the context and experiences of the people writing them. Two people separated by thousands of years may explain the same event completely differently. The second point is that the Faith is indeed based on accepting that God can do as he wishes and is not bound by the laws of physics. Does physics permit the resurrection of the dead? Yet, Christ did it. Does physics permit an immaculate conception? Yet, God did this for Mary. Does physics permit a virgin birth? Yet, it happened. If you say you do not believe any of these occurrences because of science, then you are no longer a Christian and you have chosen to follow a "religion of science". It ultimately is a matter of faith. We must believe that there are things that we cannot understand, yet believe them anyway. The belief that we can understand everything is arrogant and impossible. The belief that we should only believe those things that we can understand demonstrates a weak faith rather than the child-like faith that Christ wants us all to have.

3. The author of the article claims in his third point that there are explanations for many of the Biblical divine events. Yes, indeed there are. Physics may have an excellent potential explanation for the parting of the Red Sea, for example, but that nevertheless does not prove that God did not do it. It merely offers an explanation as to the physical means by which it was done. In fact, such explanations serve merely to prove that certain events in the Bible did indeed happen, hopefully strengthening the faith of those who needed, like Thomas, more proof.

4. The author claims the Bible draws from "other myths." He states "...[the] Epic of Gilgamesh -- Sumerian poem detailing the creation of the universe that predates the writings of Genesis by many centuries -- contains a flood story whose plot points are almost identical to the story of Noah. "  Does this mean that the Bible account of the flood was incorrect? If the Sumerians were present at the flood, which covered the entire earth, then it stands to reason that they would also write about it. Here the author is merely trying to see what he wants to see. If physics and chemistry both explain the same natural phenomenon, does that mean that chemistry is wrong because it is talking about something in physics? Of course not.

5. The author, discussing that other religions have myths and miracles, states "On what basis can we Christians claim that our miracle stories are legitimate, yet theirs are flights of fancy?" Here again, it comes down to a matter of faith. If you seek hard proof, then I pray one day that you will receive a miraculous conversion of heart like Paul on the road to Damascus. Here also it is worth referring again to the writings of Cardinal Newman on the proof of God's existence. However, those who wish to doubt will nevertheless continue to doubt.

6. The author bemoans the Biblical inconsistencies. Here again, it is a matter of understanding the Bible in its proper context and interpreting it properly. This underscores the importance of Sacred Tradition. The knowledge of the Bible has evolved as humans have evolved.

7. The author states: "Reading the Bible as a literal historical account of events from the past limits the power of these stories. Rather than expressing universal truths, a literal interpretation limits the actions of God to certain events in history. God's actions in the world become finite, confined to certain historical events: like the chess master making individual moves on a chessboard frozen in time two thousand years ago. Reading these same stories mythologically, however, can bring forth their universal qualities."  Here he might be said to make somewhat of a rational point overall in terms of the universal qualities of the Bible. Yet, his argument is flawed. The Bible indeed is not a work confined in meaning to one time and place. It is universal. Its difficulty comes from the fact it was written by people through Divine inspiration in one particular time. Yet, the meaning of everything contained in the Bible is for everyone everywhere and at all times. This is, again, where the interpretation becomes so important. And, it is up to the Church to determine this, not science or "scholars." The answer is not to downgrade the Bible to a collection of myths. If you do so, then you can no longer claim Christianity as your religion.

8. The author claims that the "...literal reading of the Bible alienates much of our society." It claims that the Bible is discriminatory. This is perhaps the most offensive accusation of this article. Christ came for everyone. Christianity is very much inclusive. Christianity is for everyone. In fact, in the Anglican Rite Roman Catholic Church, we have adopted a slogan that makes this point clear, i.e., "The Church for Everyone." (TM)   Yet, welcoming everyone does not mean that we should change the tenets of the Faith. We do not alter the Divine Truth to suit the ever-changing whims of society. To do so would be the sin of modernism, as condemned by Pope St. Pius X, among many others of the Church’s leadership over the years. It would be to allow the Faith to be governed by the ways of the world rather than by the ways of God.

The author claims this alleged “discriminatory nature” of the Bible exists because the Bible was written "...an age in which slavery was legitimate, an age when discrimination based on gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation was the norm." I will address these five accusations one at a time. First, it is true that slavery was the norm at the time. However, Christ came to free all men. Slavery itself is not a part of Christianity or a divine precept, except that we, especially in the clergy, should be slaves to Christ. Therefore, that slavery exists in historical context in the Bible and in the history of the Church is irrelevant. This was a societal aspect being discussed, not a religious tenet. The Church today is very clear that slavery is not consistent with Christianity.

Second is the accusation of so-called gender bias. Nowhere in the tenets of Christianity does it state that there may be or should be discrimination or abuse of women. Yet, the Faith has a clear order of nature. This has been upheld as a theological truism for more than 2000 years. Men have their role in the Church and family, and women have theirs. Unfortunately the modern feminist society claims that Catholicism is biased because it refuses to permit the ordination of women. They have been successful in forcing ordination in the Episcopal Church, for example, and most if not all mainline protestant denominations also ordain women. This is another example of modern society's social viewpoints being used to claim the Church is wrong and demand change. That the Church upholds her principles does not make her biased. The Church simply states that each person was created special and for a special purpose. We each have our role and should fulfill. Upholding the Faith over modern social viewpoints is simply not gender discrimination. It is being a good and faithful Christian. It is better to be right in the eyes of God than to follow the ways of the world, even though society may condemn you for it.

Third and fourth are the accusations pertaining to race and ethnicity. It is quite absurd. Christ, once again, came for everyone, regardless of race or ethnic background. The Catholic Church is just that...Catholic. Universal. For everyone. 

Lastly is the argument regarding sexual orientation. Homosexuals are welcome in the Church. Yet, we will not and cannot say that homosexuality is acceptable. Sinners are welcome in the Church in general, for we are all sinners. We do not claim that the sin is acceptable, though. We are here to save souls, not pander to the myriad of social movements over the years. We do not approve of or advocate abuse of sinners. We seek their conversion. Love the sinner, but hate the sin.

In conclusion, the author of the referenced article, Jeffrey Small, claims in effect that the Church must get with the times in order to survive and be relevant. O Jeffrey of Small Faith! So long as there is even one person in the Church, the Church will continue. The Church does not need to adopt every perversion as acceptable in order to survive. We know that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church. We know that there will be many attempts by the world to change and destroy the Church, even from within, for the world hates the Church, as the Church is not of this world. Yet, the Church will survive. The Church has always survived. One should not advocate watering down the Sacred Truth of the Christian Faith, or relegating it to mere mythology like that of the Pagan Greeks. One harms the souls of many through doing this. And, remember that a flawed data set or flawed set of assumptions will lead to wrong conclusions, no matter how good the logic. We have 2000 years of the collective wisdom of the Church on our side, which thoroughly embraces the totality of true science. Those who embraced the modernist theories against the Church have only what is in the present. Their approach lacks any foundation to make a real argument.

Want to know more? Read Card. Johnson's book An Incidental Priest. Click here to find out about it

01 July 2011

The World Turned Upside Down


The World Turned Upside Down is the title of a tune popular in the Revolutionary period in America. It seems equally applicable to the present time. 

In the wake of the New York decision to legalize gay marriage and the Church's vigorous opposition to it, a  recent article in the Huffington Post by college professor Lee Jefferson sought to detail what the Bible "actually says." Unfortunately Jefferson adopts the approach of claiming that the Bible is just a bunch of stories and was written long ago, so therefore has no relevance today. He specifically says "Simply put, the Bible is a complicated collection of documents that was never meant to "speak" to our contemporary situation, but groups often speak through the lens of the Bible and lob textual grenades on issues like same-sex marriage." Ironically, while criticizing the opponents of gay marriage for citing the Bible as a source, he falls into the trap of prooftexting to further his own point. In fact, much of what he says actually proves the point of opponents of gay marriage. Scripture must be taken in the context of the entirety of Scripture, as well as the tradition in which it was written. Doctrine is the interpretation of the Scripture. The Doctrine regarding homosexuality is well-established and has been quite consistent throughout the history of the Church. It is well grounded in Scripture. It applies equally to the issue of same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage is, by the Doctrine of the Church, thoroughly in conflict with Christian Doctrine, as well as the Scripture from which it is drawn. Anyone with even the slightest bit of proper catechesis should know this.

Now, add to this the stunning plans of California to include so-called "gay history" in school textbooks. Does any decent Christian person want his child writing a term paper on the struggle of homosexuals to mainstream their deviant behavior?

Further add to this a government that largely seems determined to make decisions that at best are a bandage for a major problem while doing nothing substantial to end the economic crisis. The government has long past the point where its primary goal is to serve itself. The President and his wife seem to be taking quite a number of trips of questionable need in this time of financial trouble, despite the cost to the government. People are suffering in the country, and the government pays it lip service. This is not, of course, a political statement, but one of ethics and the moral duty of a government towards its people.

The world certainly seems upside down at the moment. Let us all pray for a return to a Christ-centered life in America.

26 June 2011

Belief Statements Demonstrate a Weak Position


On this Sunday within the Octave of Corpus Christi, we continue to celebrate in a special way our true and living Lord, ever present in the Most Blessed Sacrament. Indeed, the Sacred Scripture is alive because Jesus himself is the Word. It is a living thing to be for all people in all places and at all times, for God is omnipresent. As the Word is alive, so too must be its accompanying doctrine, the means by which we as humans comprehend the Word. The vastness of God and all his mysteries are far too great for humans to comprehend, and so our understanding evolves and our doctrine develops. Legitimate, true developments are evolutionary, not revolutionary. They are built upon the same foundation, as a skyscraper has one floor built upon another, carrying it ever higher. If a skyscraper has a floor built off all the floors beneath it, the building becomes unstable and may fall. Such a floor would not represent a development of the building's construction or a continuation of the architect's original plans, but rather a perversion of the course of development and a corruption of the original plans. Similarly, with doctrine, all developments in doctrine must build on all of that which came before it and remain true to the original spirit and intent of what was revealed by the Author of Life. This is the Catholic way. This is the way of strength. Doctrine built upon a firm foundation and upon all that came before it is strong and prepared to weather any storm. It need not vociferously proclaim who and what she is any, for the constancy of ideas and ideals over more than two thousand years have made it plain to all.

Those who wish to modify the course of religion, however, must make changes that pervert the natural course of development of doctrine. This is inherently unstable, and what one believes and professes is not inherently obvious to all, for it is not simply new, but in a completely different direction than the natural course of doctrinal development. To do this, therefore, requires a clear statement of how this new sect is different. These must be adhered to vigorously in order to overcome the instability, for it is only these new principles that have no strong foundation that hold the group together. And for what purpose are they different? They are different from the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. They are a tangent or even a reversal of Church development, and their statements of belief indicate just how they are different. This is the way of the Protestants and schismatics.

We need only look to the Anglican Articles of Religion that, while they maintain many historic Christian principles, continue further to reject many of the developments of doctrine over the years. This is how the Protestant factions within the Anglican Church sought to set themselves apart from Catholicism, such as removing the veneration of the Saints, much to the continuing angst of the Anglo-Catholics to the present day. An Anglo-Catholic needs only the historic Creeds and the totality of Church doctrine to know what his religion is. He does not need a conference or a convention to formulate "what we believe and how we are different," because he knows he is not different and the totality of Catholic thought and doctrine is well-established. The Reformers needed these Articles, however, to impress upon others just how different they were from Catholics and attempt to force their corruption of the development of doctrine on all within the Anglican Church. Their position is weak, of course. They depend upon these Articles to hold them together. When someone disagrees with them, then a new schism forms, and another, and another, and so on ad infinitum. This is one aspect of the cause of the alphabet soup of so many Anglican jurisdictions today, each with their own statements of belief and practices.

Indeed, one need only scan the wide array of "continuing Anglican" jurisdictions, not to mention the seemingly endless assortment of Protestant denominations to find an equally vast number of differing statements of belief and practice. Methodists have them. Presbyterians have them. The countless Baptist churches all have them. It is the Protestant way. This is how they set themselves apart. In their view, a person need only find the church that has a belief statement with which they agree and set of practices that they do not find too terribly irksome and will not interfere with their life. It becomes a type of marketing. Yet, again, their position is determined merely by their statement of belief. It belies an underlying weakness of position.

Some Anglicans have tried to move past this Protestantism with documents such as the Affirmation of Saint Louis. One might even question the need for such a document as well. After all, it is a general statement of Catholic Faith that suggests a return to the fullness of the Catholic Faith. So, why is it necessary to write this out in a formal declaration? Thou highly laudable, it is not necessary. All that is needed is to say that one accepts the fullness of the Catholic Faith. What that entails is fully known, because the Catholic Faith has been built upon all that came before it through the development of the Church. Its true course is clear. All that is needed is to embrace it in its totality, without adding exceptions or qualifications. 

Within the Anglican Rite Roman Catholic Church, we do not have a statement of belief, a mission statement, or anything of the kind. We embrace the fullness of the Catholic Faith. We embrace the richness of the Anglican Rite. As we say, it is the combination of Roman strength and Anglican beauty. We need not make statements to set ourselves apart, for we do not seek to set ourselves apart from the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. Now, it is true in a roundabout way that, by doing this, we do indeed set ourselves apart from continuing Anglican jurisdictions and from the Protestants. But, we are neither continuing Anglicans nor Protestants. We are first Catholic. It is well-known what it means to be Catholic. It needs no Articles or Statements of Belief.

25 June 2011

The Inexcusability of Prejudice


Prejudice is an unfortunate aspect of human nature. It is all around us in virtually every part of life. It is formed in us unconsciously. Yet, it is something that we can control, albeit it with some effort, and we must seek always to control. To be clear, elimination of prejudice against sin such as the modernists propose regarding activities such as sexual immorality is not a benefit to the soul or to society, but a reduction in the strength of one's faith. One is called to oppose sin, and if we are "prejudiced" against it, then rightly so. This is not the type of prejudice of which I speak, however, when I say that prejudice is inexcusable.

Prejudice develops as a result of environment. Things around us make an impression on us. Words people speak leave their lasting mark on us. This is one reason we refer to children and teenagers as being at an "impressionable age." Their minds are fresh enough that it is easier to leave a lasting mark. Yet, even more mature minds of great intellect and reason are subject to this. Remember the Latin phrase repetitio mater memoriae, i.e., repetition is the mother of memory. Repeat something to someone enough, and they are likely to believe it. This is all well and good when that something is the truth. However, when it is not necessarily the truth, the repetition may form a prejudice in the minds of those who hear it. Once an opinion is formed about someone else, no matter how wrong it may be, it is very difficult to eradicate. Even when conclusive evidence is presented challenging a prejudice with certainty, there is still a natural tendency to hold firmly to the prejudiced views. People often love gossip and scandal and prefer to believe the worst of others.

For example, the United States sadly has an anti-Catholic streak running through it, which I would not call a lingering prejudice from a bygone era, but an active one actively nurtured by those who are opposed to Catholics of any form. In the Bible Belt, home to fundamentalists and other flavors of protestants, anti-Catholic rhetoric is rampant. Children are raised to believe Catholics are evil, not really Christian, against the Bible, and other slanders. They naturally believe this as they grow into adulthood, and their prejudice remains with them. In fact, the prejudice was formed at such a young age in many cases that they don't even remember its formation, but rather just take their prejudice as Gospel truth. And then they pass their prejudice on to their children, and the cycle continues ad infinitum until someone has the courage to stop it. 

As a more specific example of anti-Catholic policies in the United States, there once were many laws prohibiting the wear of religious garb in public schools by teachers. These laws were aimed specifically at keeping clerical and religious habits out of the classroom in order to prevent Catholic influence. The laws were supported by such unsavory groups as the Klu Klux Klan, whose hatred was so vast that it extended past blacks and Jews onto Catholics as well. These laws have been repealed by the grace of God in all but two states (Nebraska and Pennsylvania), and this, coupled with anti-discrimination laws pertaining to religion, should help end discrimination against clergy in the schools.

The prejudice against Catholic in schools is not limited to secondary education, however. It exists in universities as well. Even so-called Christian universities that claim to be ecumenical act in a manner suggesting they are deathly afraid of even the hint of Catholic influence that might enter into their halls. Those coming from any of the 30,000 or more protestant denominations, even though their views are often violently opposed, are welcomed in general. But not Catholics. At an institution of higher learning, a place of free thought for the purpose of seeking truth, this is even more reprehensible.

In society in general, there is also bias. Due to a massive scandal within the Roman Rite in the US, people have developed a prejudice that priests are more likely to be pedophiles. They hold to this view even in the face of any evidence to the contrary. Some men are afraid to enter the priesthood and some priests are afraid to wear their habits or collars in public for fear of being thought to be a child molester, even though they are not. With prejudice, you see, truth is moved to the back seat of the bus.

People were afraid of John F. Kennedy being Catholic, thinking that perhaps he should be disqualified for being Catholic. Today sometimes people lose job opportunities because of their Catholic faith. There is a bias against Catholics, and especially against clergy doing what their religious requirements mandate. The list of anti-Catholic prejudice perpetrated by Protestants and secularists is virtually endless. It is very difficult indeed for anyone today who wishes to live out their Catholic faith in all aspects of their life as they ought to do.

Even within the Anglican Church, there is a frequent prejudicial bias against the word "Roman." And, some in the Roman Rite have a strong bias against anything "Anglican." Those who stubbornly hold on to their views against others within the Church Universal simply based on labels, even in the face of a mountain of evidence proving them wrong, fail in their Christian duty. Clergy who do this are not worthy of the sacred trust that has been given to them. 

Despite progress such as the repeal of the religious dress ban for teachers, the long-standing prejudice against anyone in a clerical collar or indeed anyone who is openly Catholic may continue. People must actively work to eliminate their prejudices, and this requires an act of will. People may choose to hold on to their prejudices, or they may choose to try to eliminate them. It is a matter of personal choice, and for this reason, stubbornly holding on to prejudices, even in the face of contrary evidence is an inexcusable act against one's fellow man.

24 June 2011

Equality does not mean that morality is relative


In a recent address to a homosexual political fundraiser, Obama indicated that the fight for "gay rights" was really about the American principle of equality. Unfortunately he does not seem to grasp that the equality of humans before God and the universal right to human dignity does not mean that all acts and choices are equal. Equality of all humans does not imply moral relativism. Homosexuality remains a sin, and so-called gay marriage or civil unions make a mockery of the sanctity of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony and family values. While homosexuals do indeed deserve the same human dignity to which we are all entitled, good Christians cannot condone the behavior of homosexuality and still call themselves Christians. Tolerance does not mean abrogating one's responsibilities to God, and it does not mean the elimination or redefinition of the moral code to suit the ever-changing whims of society. We are called to love the sinner, but hate the sin. Yet, today far too many people allow a desire to be "nice" to outweigh their duty to choose and to stand up for what is right.

A recent statistic I saw suggested that only about 4% of adults in the United States maintain a Biblical view of the world. Apparently only about half of the population can name all of the Gospels, and around 10% thinks that Noah's wife was Joan of Arc. It is no wonder that people are failing morally on such a grand scale and choosing the path set by the world rather than the path set by God. John Paul II said that freedom is not doing whatever you want to do, but rather being able to do what you ought to do. Unfortunately without the strong hand of the Holy Church, people lack a true compass and the go down whatever path they are led.

It is time for a new evangelization. It is time for a renewal of our Faith. It is time for people not just to call themselves Christian, but to truly live as Christians in full knowledge of what their faith means. Relativism, modernism, and liberalism must be expelled from the Church. The moral compass must be restored to the nation.

08 June 2011

Obstinacy in Anglicanism


There is an unfortunate problem within Anglicanism, and that is persistent obstinacy. It does no one any good, and unfortunately very few seem willing to do anything about it.

This evening I was reading a condensed version of the Rule of Saint Benedict. The Benedictines are certainly interested in maintaining obedience and discipline. Saint Benedict encouraged the use of criticism and rebuke, excommunication, and even corporal punishment for those who did not humbly follow the rule. Now, a monastic community is certainly far more disciplined than those of us who live outside the cloister. However, there is a point to be taken from the illustrious Founder of the Benedictines. Obedience is important for Christians, and continued obstinacy is detrimental to spiritual growth. We are all called to obedience within Christ's Church.

Usually this obstinacy originates from protestant forces so often alive and well within Anglican communities. Sometimes clergy are called to task by low church protestants for upholding or promoting Catholic doctrine. The parishioners think they can moderate the speech and writing of their clergy. Unfortunately the clergy often seems more interested in placating them so they do not lose their congregation than fulfilling their obligations as clergy. Bishops and parish priests have a duty to correct those in their flock. They should correct with kindness and love with a mind towards improvement, always mindful of their own condition. Yet, after a few attempts at gentle correction, more stern measures are required. Public rebuke may be necessary, as may censure, interdict, and even excommunication. And, if the parishioner does not like your correction, they are free to leave. They will no doubt find a modernist parish that will indulge their ways.

And what of the fear that a priest might lose his congregation? I ask, what is worse? To have your obstinate parishioners leave, perhaps even causing you to lose your church building, or to fail in your duty to the souls of the flock? The answer is obvious. Any priest who is more worried about not offending others is simply not doing his job and ought to be removed from parochial responsibility.

This problem is not simply limited to the laity, however. Even clergy sometimes become poisoned with obstinacy and disrespect. Priests and sometimes even bishops lead their flock into schism over the most selfish of reasons. A Catholic, even an Anglican one, cannot be a Catholic if he is completely "independent." There may be forms of independence that certain jurisdictions have, such as the See of Utrecht as one example, but true Catholics must seek unity in whatever form is possible. Priests and Bishops who value indulging their own interests more than the most worthy goal of Christian unity are unworthy of the trust they have been given.

Let us all seek to place the wisdom of Christ's Church above our own wisdom. Let us all seek to place unity above selfish interests. Let us all seek to place the love and service of God above all things. Let all clergy do their duty and love their flock, even when that love must be tough love.

07 June 2011

A Touching Story of Lifelong Fraternal Devotion


Brothers Julian and Adrian Riester were more than fellow Franciscan friars, and they were even more than biological brothers. They were twins. They served God and their fellow man as friars together until their death at age 92 on Saturday within hours of each other.

It is a very heartwarming story. You may read it in its entirety on this page.

23 May 2011

Encyclical - Sine Roma


To the Bishops, Regular Clergy, and Faithful of the Anglican Rite Roman Catholic Church, greetings and Apostolic Blessings.

1. Without Rome, there would be no Anglican Church. Saint Augustine of Canterbury was sent to England in the Sixth Century by Pope Saint Gregory the Great with a mission of building the Church in that country. (1)

2. The Anglican Church proper, having been thus founded by Saint Augustine of Canterbury, naturally evolved as part of the Roman Church, while retaining and developing its own customs, still within the framework of the Roman Church. In A.D. 597, Pope Saint Gregory the Great authorized special liturgy for the English people be developed by Saint Augustine of Canterbury. (2)

3. The political break with Rome by Henry VIII occurred in 1529 over the matter of divorce and annulment. However, while the Anglican Bishops were forcibly cut from communion with Rome, the mass remained the same Latin mass as had been used before. (3)

4. In 1592, the Book of Common Prayer, in English, is revised to suit Protestants, with the doctrine of the Real Presence removed, as well as vestments, holy oil, the sign of the Cross at Confirmation, the reserved Sacrament, and prayers for the departed. However, when Mary Tudor ascended to the throne, 1553, succeeding Edward VI, the connection to Rome was again restored. However, it had become clear that the Protestant influence had thoroughly taken root in England. When Elizabeth I, a staunch Protestant, became Queen upon the death of Mary Tudor, the break from Rome for religious reasons was carried out, and the Anglican Church went into doctrinal schism. (4)

5. During and after the reign of Elizabeth I, the Protestant influence has been felt within the Anglican Church, even to the present day. While many Catholics, generally referred to as Anglo-Catholics, remain present within the various jurisdictions of the worldwide Anglican Church, even in some cases at Anglo-Catholic parishes professing Catholic doctrine, they are largely discriminated against. Attempts are made to suppress Anglo-Catholics.

6. At many Anglican parishes and within many Anglican dioceses, this suppression takes the form of catering to vocal low-church Protestants who criticize their ecclesiastical leaders and other parishioners who profess Catholic doctrine and seek Catholic worship in the Anglican tradition. The result of this is to bring worship and catechesis to the least common denominator, watering down the Faith of the Ages to suit the heretical whims of low-church Protestants within the Church. The Catholics are forced to suppress their views and further suffer by not receiving the fullness of the liturgical and catechetical life of the Church. The Catholics within such parishes or dioceses are often left feeling disenchanted, offended, and as second class citizens whose needs are insignificant to the other parishioners and to the clergy.

7. While low-church Protestants may be welcomed in Christian brotherhood, clergy and faithful alike fail in their duty to God and to his Holy Church when they uphold, adopt, or profess heresies. They need not openly adopt said heresy, but may nevertheless be guilty of its promulgation by not opposing it. (5)

8. One of the greatest strengths of the Anglican tradition is that there is ability for variation in worship. This tradition is strengthened by the fact that Pope Saint Gregory the Great charged Saint Augustine of Canterbury with the task of developing new liturgy for the Anglican Church. Yet, any such variation of change made must in all cases be consistent in fact and in spirit with the doctrine of the Church and must never imply or promote doctrinal changes. The liturgical changes within the Protestant Reformation were made to promote a break with Rome, the true heritage of the Anglican Church, and to imply changes in doctrine to be consistent with Protestant thought. Such liturgy cannot be permitted or tolerated within any Anglican jurisdiction professing the Catholic Faith.

9. In 1560, "An Apology for the Church of England" was written by John Jewel, in which Rome is declared to be the schismatic force, not England. In 1563, the Thirty-Nine Articles were drafted as a statement of the new Protestant doctrine of the Church of England. Rome was viewed as the enemy, then, by the Protestants. Fear and dislike of Rome is a byproduct of the Protestant Reformation and its influence on the Anglican Church. It is not and cannot be a product of the Anglican Church simply being different, as the Anglican Church was founded by Rome. As such, the history, doctrine, and traditions of the Anglican Church cannot exist, cannot function, and cannot be explained or understood outside of the context of Rome.

10. To claim to be Anglican and take offense at Rome is both to deny one's own heritage and to profess a steadfastly Protestant viewpoint. To claim to be Anglican and Catholic (or Anglo-Catholic) while denying Roman heritage is either to be not Catholic at all or at the very least not to have a thorough understanding of one's own heritage, history, and tradition.

11. It is incumbent upon all Catholic clergy of the Anglican Rite to impress the history and doctrine of the Church upon all the faithful. The simple truth must be promulgated that to be Anglican is to be Roman. The history of the two cannot be separated if one is going to profess the Catholic Faith.

12. A further problem that stems from procedural changes beginning in the Protestant Reformation is that of a Parish Vestry or a Parish Council taking upon itself far more authority than it is due. Far too often the laity of a parish, organized often in the form of a Parish Council or a Vestry, seeks to be the ultimate authority in the parish, usurping the authority of the clergy and often mistreating them.

13. In the Anglican Rite Roman Catholic Church, it must be remembered that the authority of the Vestry or Parish Council is limited to an advisory or operational role only. (6) Furthermore, as the principal authority in a parish is vested in the Rector, a parish need not have lay officers. (7) In this way, the Church keeps with the historic nature of its organization.

14. The Church is and has always been organized from the top down. Jesus Christ gave the authority to the Apostles at the first Pentecost. The Apostles gave authority to the Bishops. The Bishops have passed their Apostolic authority down through the ages to the present day through unbroken Apostolic succession. Bishops ordain priests and deacons, and commission to the Minor Orders in order to carry out the functions of the Church's ministry.

15. The Church is not a grass-roots organization in which the laity gives authority to the Rector, who gives authority to the Bishop, and so forth. To assume that it is organized in such a fashion is an affront to the Church and ultimately to Jesus Christ himself, who established the Church in a particular way.

16. Those clergy who wish to usurp the positions of higher authorities within the Church, as well as those members of the laity who seek to usurp the rightful position of the clergy commit the sin of pride. If such usurpations continue, it breeds an atmosphere of discontentment and instability within a parish, a diocese, or even the Church as a whole, rather than a prayerful, peaceful atmosphere that is intended.

17. The clergy and faithful who seek to impose their own will in matters of liturgy, doctrine, and ecclesiastical law and practice in contravention of Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and higher ecclesiastical authority, lay no claim to call themselves Catholic. This individual arrogance is one of the largest impediments to Christian unity today, even unity within the Anglican Church.

18. Therefore, all members of the clergy and faithful are exhorted to keep the Catholic Faith in all matters of life, upholding the doctrine, and never forgetting the completeness of our Anglican heritage. This heritage includes, as a matter of historical fact, the heritage of the Roman Church. This heritage is not merely a point of history, but rather an inseparable aspect of the spiritual nature of our Church. Only the Protestants seek to deny this. To be Anglican is to be Roman. Without Rome, there is no Anglican Church.

Rutherford Card. Johnson
Patriarch of the Anglican Rite Roman Catholic Church

Given at the Court of Saint Mary of Walsingham
on the Fourth Sunday after Easter
22 May A.D. 2011.

(1) New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia; St. Augustine of Canterbury.
(2) Anglican Timeline. E. Friedlander.
(3) Idem.
(4) Idem.
(5) Eph. 4.25.; 2010 Anglo-Catholic Book of Common Prayer. Ways of Being an Accessory to the Sin of Another.
(6) Can. 276, Sec. 5, Code of Particular Canon Law.
(7) Can. 276, Sec. 1, Code of Particular Canon Law.