15 August 2012

The Church's Vices

Sub tuum. 

I  have never understood it when someone says they are leaving the Church because the Church on earth is not perfect and has vices. For what green pasture are they leaving? Whatever the problems of the Church, those of the rest of the world are worse. Certainly the Church's past involves cruelty, but the world was and continues to be far more cruel. If the Church has suffered from corruption, then that of the world is far worse. Consider the numerous financial scandals and ponzi schemes that seem to have reached epidemic proportion of late. Consider the political corruption that exists in every country around the world. The Roman Communion's sexual abuse scandal was horrible, but it was not isolated to the Church. Consider the Penn State scandal as but one example. The Church has suffered scandals, but the scandals of the world are much worse. The Inquisition is held up by many as an example of the Church's cruelty and corruption, yet it was far milder than the secular courts of the day. Though accurate statistics are difficult to obtain, it is easy to say with relative certainty that fewer people died from the Inquisition than from the modern Chinese government. America, for example, has executed more than 1300 people just since 1976.

Christ established the Church knowing that its institution on earth would be run by imperfect humans and hence would suffer from problems and vices. For all its problems as an institution, she remains the Bride of Christ. It is the imperfections of we frail humans that gives vices to the institution of the Church. It is very encouraging to think that the important work of the Church was entrusted to imperfect and frail human beings. Indeed God has already used humans to do His will, despite our many failings and vices, and He loves us all despite our imperfections just as He loves the Church. Few things give me as much hope for eternal salvation as the fact that the institution of the Church on earth, despite her vices stemming from imperfections of humanity, is still loved by God. Whatever the vices one may encounter in the Church or one may learn about from the Church's history, it is still a better place than the world at large.

+ Rutherford Cardinal Johnson

Atheism among America's Youth

Sub tuum.

Commentary on a recent news article regarding the trend of atheism among America's youth stated that "This is going to continue as long as such emphasis is placed on random cherry pickings of Leviticus. It doesn't make any sense to a large chunk of the youth and severely damages the credibility of the rest of the text." It is unfortunate that an alarming number of the youth of today choose to be anti-religious simply because they do not understand certain parts of the Christian faith. That having been said, the "cherry picking of Leviticus" mentioned in the comment on the article above also underscores a problem of Protestantism, and that is the general trend of cherry picking of the Bible.

Also stated in the commentary on the article was the notion that "...giving the youth some breathing room on the things they find important (equality, womens' health issues, etc.)..." is a good idea. This points out the unfortunate trend in many denominations and faith communities to attempt to modify the religion to fit the desires of today's youth. It is no wonder that such modification causes confusion in the minds of young people. How can they be expected to make something a guiding force for their life when it appears to change so easily before their eyes?

Indeed it seems that the sin Pope Leo XIII terms "Americanism" is alive and well. Religion, even Christianity, today is widely privatized, i.e., each individual's personal beliefs are held to be inherent to that individual and hence intrinsically equal to the private beliefs of each and every other person. Individuals now begin with a generic notion that there is a God and Jesus Christ exists, and then mold their own version of the faith to suit their own personal views and desires. Such a view is incompatible with the universal truth of the Christian Faith. Such a view mocks the teaching authority of the universal Church, for if each individual Christian is permitted to invent his own version of the Faith, how then can they acknowledge the authority of the Church?

It certainly seems inconceivable to the devout Christian that anyone could claim individual authority based on the Bible to invent one's own version of the Faith, for the Bible itself prohibits this. Yet, this is what many people do today. It is a dangerous school of thought and a slippery, slippery slope. The faith once handed down by Jesus to the Apostles and carried on to this day through unbroken succession through the Bishops is the only hope of salvation for our youth.

+ Rutherford Cardinal Johnson

14 August 2012

Responsibility of Government

Sub tuum.

It's amazing how many politicians, especially liberals, demand that the rich pay their fair share and that people should live more simple lives to benefit the poor, but they themselves live luxurious lifestyles and often get rich off of public service. The rich do have an obligation to the poor, but those in the government preaching this line do not seem to be practicing it. The government can legitimately be used as an agent of care for the poor, the sick, and the destitute, but it has long proven itself incapable of effective management of charity. How can politicians ask the people to pay more when they themselves do not take significant cuts in pay and benefits? Simply raising taxes to pay for more social programs and asking the people to tighten their belts while the government does not cut back its own extraneous spending is irresponsible, no matter which party is in power. Likewise, social programs that are mere handouts that increase dependence of the people on the government rather than "teaching them to fish" is irresponsible. Government has come to serve its own purposes rather than the needs of the people. This is what is meant by "big government." Government, though, must place at the forefront of its efforts giving real and effectual help to its citizens. This includes both helping the poor and helping commerce so that as many people as possible are self-sufficient. An effective and legitimate government must hold the needs of those in its temporal care as its primary responsibility and indeed as its sacred duty.

Olympics and Sports as a Religion

Sub tuum. 

IT is an unfortuante fact of the modern Olympics that, according to their founder the Baron de Coubertin, they constitute a religion. (Read more in this BBC article.) I must confess to not being fully aware of this until very recently, but one must take the founder of the games at his word as to his intention. Furthermore, the various ceremonies at the games lend credence to the idea that they are indeed a religion. How, then, can any Christian participate in the games in good faith if the games themselves are part of a non-Christian religious activity? It is a question worth pondering.

In a more broad sense, it seems that God and the Christian Faith have been replaced by the religion of sports. I am entirely in favor of sports as a means of personal growth and development. Sports programs in schools, for example, are very valuable. And, there is nothing inherently wrong with being a professional athlete, either. It is the level of obsession to which fans (short for "fanatics") have taken their interest in the sport that is troubling. We have all heard no doubt about the football fan sitting in church listening to the game on a radio with an earpiece. There is plenty of truth to such stories. Football indeed has come to dominate Sundays during the season.

Actually, it is worse than that. Liturgical seasons have been replaced with sport seasons. The sports fans can easily tell you what games are in season, but would be hard pressed to tell if it was Advent, Trinitytide, Lent, etc. Fridays are for high school football rather than Friday devotions. Saturdays are for college football rather than remembrance of Our Lady. For the fans, Sundays are not centered around the principal Holy Mass of the week and one's own spiritual development, but rather around professional football.

Household decorations for the fan are more likely than not based on sports. One would be hard pressed to find a relic or a prayer corner in the truly devout fan's house, for there simply would be no room. Even if there is some religious symbology in the house, it is dwarfed by the sports icons. A ball or a jersey signed by a legendary athlete becomes the fan's own form of holy relic. Icons of the Saints are replaced with photos of sports favorites. There is nothing wrong, of course, with having sports memorabilia. It is simply a matter of what takes priority.

Pews sit empty in the great churches of the land while fans fight over thousand dollar seats at the sports stadiums. Sometimes they will even camp out to get tickets, even though they would likely find it quite an inconvenience to attend a vigil. Countless hours are spent effortlessly by the true fan, yet they are likely to have a convenient excuse when asked to watch one hour with our Lord at a Holy Hour.

Sport has long since joined money as the new religion of modern America. If the Olympics are to be considered the pinnacle of amateur sports achievement, then it seems only right that their founder openly considered them to constitute a religion.

08 August 2012

Changes in America

Sub tuum.

America today is not the country I grew up in. It is not even the same country it was four or five years ago. The changes in government policy and societal attitudes have been both rapid and dramatic. What is intrinsically evil is now embraced by the very same nation that defeated the intrinsic evil of the Nazis a little more than half a century ago. It is legal for a woman to murder her unborn child, but there is talk of banning french fries for children because it is bad for health. Every form of lifestyle and belief is now expected to be tolerated except, of course, the traditional Christian way of life.

In many ways what is most troubling is that many of these liberal and modernist agendas being forced on everyone else is that often they are promoted under the guise of religion. The liberals and modernists have taken bits and pieces of Christianity, often taken completely out of context or simply re-interpretted, and used it to further their agenda. They then make the fantastic claim that those who do not support their viewpoints are not Christian. When confronted with the fact that their arguments do not stand up to theology, they respond with accusations of intolerance, though they are not themselves tolerant to traditional Christianity. Their real agenda is clear, and that is to enact fundamental changes in society. To do this, they must convince Christians that the only way to be a "real" Christian is to do what the liberals and modernists say.

How is this possible? How can this happen that people do not know their own faith enough that others can sway them so easily? First, there is secular pressure. Society has for decades been pushing radical secularization, using as one of their chief weapons a reinterpretation of the First Amendment of the Constitution. Related to this is the notion of privatization of religion, i.e., the belief that one's religious beliefs are merely one's own and all beliefs are inherently equal in merit. This stems largely from the moral relativism so prevalent in a secularized society. As a result, individuals have been re-defining Christianity to suit themselves. They take Jesus Christ and then build up their own set of beliefs around Him, ignoring the truth Christian religion established by Christ and those appointed by Him as they find it inconvenient. In reality, what they have done is broken completely from Christianity and created completely new religions that fit their own personal beliefs. In today's society, each so-called Christian can have his own personal religion. And, since that is considered one's right to do, all beliefs must necessarily be considered to be "equal" or "correct," even in the face of disagreement. After all, if someone believes a certain way and someone else believes a completely different way, they must accept each other's viewpoints if they themselves want to justify their position that they can make up their own version of Christianity and have it be just as valid as the true and original Christianity. This makes it very easy for an individual to be swayed by modernist reformers bent on using pseudo-Christianity to turn Christians away from Christ and towards the new agenda.

Under the guise of freedom, we are slowly having our freedoms taken away. Already this year many Christian organizations and individuals have been told that they must fund medical procedures that they find morally reprehensible. While in a free society such as America one may be free to do as one pleases within the bounds of the law, it is inconceivable that those who disagree should be forced to pay for it. And, while society is being forced to accept every type of perversion and immorality, those who hold the true Christian faith handed down from Christ through the Apostles in unbroken succession are being marginalized. The wear of the burka is the right of Muslim women in America, but the wear of the clerical collar by a priest in the same circumstances is not? It is acceptable to voice support for gay marriage, but not to oppose it? The government intrudes into the business of the Church. Christians peacefully and legally exercising their right to free speech under the Constitution have even been arrested. In America one has the right to voice one's support or opposition for legislation. Yet, today this does not seem to extend to conservative Christians. There is ultimately one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, and one Church. It is our duty to uphold and defend the Faith. Until recently, it was also our clear and undoubted right in the United States. Now I am not so sure that America guarantees that right under secular law. Despite all the rhetoric that new reforms are about freedom and rights, the freedom and rights of traditional Christians is diminishing greatly.