25 December 2012

Patriarchal Address on the Feast of the Nativity 2012

Sub Tuum. 

To the Bishops, Regular Clergy, and Faithful of the Anglican Rite Roman Catholic Church, greetings and Apostolic Blessings on this joyous Feast of the Nativity of our Lord in the two hundred and twelfth year of the Incarnation. This Christmas finds our Patriarchate growing in numbers and faith amidst the ever-present strife of the fallen world. We are pleased by the blessing of both new vocations and those who are discerning clerical and religious vocations. These new vocations will be the voice of evangelism in the coming years. Effective evangelism remains of utmost importance at this crucial time in the world's history. We must not be discourged from this mission, even if the godly admonitions of the Church from time to time fall on deaf ears.

As we celebrate the Incarnation of Christ more than two thousand years ago, we reflect of the magnitude and the scope of His holy mission. It is a mission that all Christians are called upon to continue. It is a mission that was met by great opposition in the time of Christ. And, it is a mission that continued to be met with great imposition after the Ascension of Christ, as the blood of the martyrs will certainly attest. Yet we must not shrink in the face of danger. We must be bold in our evangelism today just as Christ and the Blessed Saints.

The evangelism of today must indeed stand in the face of great opposition. It must stand against increasing secularism promoted by world government, commerce, and the media. Today the world continues to be plagued by the curse of abortion. The United States alone murders over a million unborn children each year. Secular society has bred a culture that does not respect the fundamental right of each human being to life. Yet, each and every other right enjoyed by human beings has as its necessary pre-condition the existence of life. The discussion of other rights cannot begin, therefore, until the right to life has been acknowledged.

The fundamental building block of all society is the family, and this, too, is being threatened. The family is built upon marriage, and a marriage is by definition between one man and one woman. Marriage is the acknowledgement of the natural differences between men and women and the beautiful complementary nature of those differences. It is an acceptance of how almighty God has made each of us individually. It is a humble submission to the way that we were made. The secularists, however, are pushing forward with their agenda of redefining what marriage is. Quite a few countries, including the United States, have legalized homosexual marriage in whole or in part. By making men and women essentially interchangeable in a marriage, we arrogantly laugh in the face of God and refuse to acknowledge how He made us. Rather than accepting our God-given nature, society today chooses to define its own nature. The work of our evangelists today is perhaps at the most daunting level it has ever been since the days of the Early Church.

Life in secular society dismisses the order of nature and turns a blind eye and a deaf ear to God. Secular society ignores its Creator and the rules of nature laid down by the Creator. Yet, the rocks, the trees, and the heavens all inevitaly follow the rules of God without question or exception. What would happen if the earth had a mind of its own and chose to stop obeying the laws of physics that keep it in an orbit around the sun that is conducive to life? Man is the only creation of God that has free will and the potential for comprehension. The secularization in society is a conscious choice to ignore God's natural laws and substitute our own. With gay marriage, we have a venerable and ancient institution thousands of years old that has been turned on its head. It is as if the earth no longer orbits the sun, but instead it is the other way around. The beauty of God's creation in man and woman is cast aside as society imposes its own definition that ignores nature.

Yes, the evangelists of today have a difficult task ahead of them. Their work is made all the more difficult by the vast number of liberals within our educational institutions that profess secularism and modernism. The media also widely pushes this anti-Christian and liberal agenda. The mission of the Christian people is only possible through the grace of God and the constant intercession of the Blessed Virgin, who sees her children in the world and lovinly prays for their conversion. So much did God want the world to turn to Him willingly and attain eternal salvation that He gave His only-begotten Son, whose birth we celebrate today. So much did the Blessed Virgin Mary love us all that she willingly submitted to God and stood at the foot of the Cross as Christ hung there dying for the sins of the world. It is those who profess secularism, liberalism, and modernism today who would have been shouting for our Lord to be crucified. They do not stand for the rights and freedom of all people. They have no sympathy for the suffering of our Lord. Rather, it is Christ on the Cross who stands for freedom, truth, and the rights of all mankind. It is the Blessed Virgin who stood by the Cross to the very end in sympathy with our Lord, her own Immaculate Heart pierced, herself crucified inside, who represents freedom and the rights of all. It is the Blessed Apostles and Saints, and the blood of the martyrs that stood firm as champions of the rights and freedom of all. The liberals present a false freedom that is attractive, but like a Venus flytrap, leads ultimately to one's own demise and the demise of society.

This Christmas season let us resolve to love our fellow man and stand up for the truth of Christ. Let us all pray for the current clergy and an increase in vocations, for there is yet much work to be done. Let us pray for the conversion of those who have turned from Christ. Let us indeed pray that the world will abandon secularism and embrace the love and beauty of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, in whom alone lies true freedom.

And now may the blessing of Almighty God, the Father +, the Son +, and the Holy + Ghost be upon you and remain with you always. R. Amen.

+ Rutherford Cardinal Johnson

20 December 2012

Perhaps our Youth Would Be Better Off Not Going to College

Sub Tuum.

There has long been a push for America's youth to go to college. It is now seen as a largely essential "ticket punch" to just about any career. Yet the harm done to the students at universities and by extension to society as a whole is such that either the university system needs to be changed drastically or people would be better off not going in the first place. It might surprise some to hear me say this. After all, I went to college and was even a college professor. Yet, I am a Christian first. If more people at universities would be Christians first and academics second, perhaps we wouldn't be in this dilemma. 

Let's consider some statistics about American university faculties. According to the Washington Post, 72% of professors in America self-identify as being liberal. At elite schools, that climbs to 87%. On church attendance, over half do not attend regularly or at all. 84% are in favor of abortion rights. Two-thirds consider homosexuality to be acceptable. 65% think the government should ensure full employment, despite the economic problems with doing so. Yes indeed, college professors are a liberal lot. 

I'm reminded of the many conversations I had with fellow professors who were in favor of socialism, of abortion, of homosexual marriage, and of just about every other thing in the world except, of course, the rights of conservatives to their points of view or of traditional Catholics to the practice and promotion of our faith. Sometimes it truly felt like I was talking to a brick wall, but then perhaps they felt the same way. 

As an undergraduate student at Georgia Tech, I saw the so-called "free speech zone" not be so free, but in reality be skewed highly towards liberal thought. The most offensive things to good and decent people could be written on the sidewalk in front of the student center or even displayed on the walls in the student center, and complaints were met with rhetoric that claimed it was all in the name of free speech and open-mindedness. Yet, anything that offended the liberals was immediately removed. It wasn't so free, after all. 

It isn't difficult to imagine that eventually school pressure and peer pressure work on the students to change their behavior towards the liberal, and even often their innermost beliefs. It takes a tremendous amount of moral courage to stand up in the face of such an onslaught of immorality. Many good young people have been corrupted at the hands of their professors and of the schools. But, while college football reigns supreme, perhaps nothing will be done about the situation within the school walls. The people cheer the game while the students descend into moral sloth more and more every day. 

We send our young people to college because we want them to have a better life. That is a worthy thing. The trouble is that we equate a better life only with financial well-being and career success. Those are fine things, but cannot be our focus. What does it profit our young if they go to college and get a good job, but they lose their souls in the process? It is any wonder that so many college graduates support abortion, homosexual marriage, pre-marital co-habitation, and more? Is it any wonder that we have lately been suffering such a moral crisis in America? This was one of the root causes of the financial crisis, so don't think for a minute that morality has nothing to do with career and financial success! 

So what are we to do? First, let's make high school mean something again. Let's make it so that people can get good jobs and even have a good career doing something fulfilling and meaningful with a high school diploma. Not everyone was made for books. Now, for those we send to college, consider not only the educational in their field of study, but also the environment that they will be in morally. Will they be spiritually uplifted at the school? Will they be morally edified? If not, leave and don't go back. There are schools like this in America. Exercise judgment and find them. Leave the professors who profess liberalism with no one left to teach.

+ Rutherford Cardinal Johnson

18 December 2012

True Love and False Tolerance

Sub Tuum. 

When we were young, if we think hard enough, we can remember there were two types of parents. There were those who were strict to one degree or another, and there were those who were permissive. The strict parents set boundaries. They said "no" a lot, and they told us what we could and could not do. I do not mean the totalitarian or abusive parents, of course, but those who believed in appropriate guidance and discipline. The permissive parents, on the other hand, didn't seem to be bothered by whatever their children wanted to do. They had various reasons for this and often thought themselves quite modern and sophisticated in their approach. Children of these permissive parents often thought themselves quite grown up, while the children of strict parents often felt stifled, over-controlled, and micromanaged. It was not uncommon for the children of strict parents to tell their parents, upon hearing the answer of "no" to a request, that little Johnny or little Sally's parents let them do that or even let them do whatever they want. That made the job of parenting surely all the more difficult for the strict parents. After all, the more the children saw of permissive parents, the more they longed to be delivered from the perceived bonds of their strict parents. 

Yes, the permissive parents were more tolerant of their children's behavior, but that was a false tolerance. False tolerance is a general acceptance of all behavior, whether right or wrong, whether beneficial or harmful, and whether edifying or destructive. It is an abdication of parental responsibility to teach right and wrong, and it is little wonder that those children so often grow up to have a blurred delineation between right and wrong. It is a carefully applied strictness and an intolerance of what is wrong that is the mark of a loving parent. False tolerance, the hallmark of the permissive parent, is a form of selfishness. It is placing the desire to be liked by one's child over the desire to raise one's child into a good and decent adult. It is the loving strict parent who was always there to clean our wounds, make us feel better, and most importantly to help us grow whenever we made the inevitable mistakes that all children make. The permissive parents offered no such comforts. In time, children came to see the merits of the strict parents and to understand that they really were looking out for what was best for the children whom God had placed in their care. 

When children are put into the world and left to discover what to do on their own, they have an internal moral compass called the conscience, but they must be shown how to use it. One likely guide becomes pleasure. A child naturally will want to do what gives the most pleasure, and without a developed sense of morality, this turns into the concept of "if it feels good, do it" that is so pervasive in our society today. The trouble with pleasure is that it is never enough. 

But we do not exist in a vacuum, and neither do children. Think of when we were children. How did we know what we wanted? We saw what the other children had. This is, after all, the basis of commercial advertising. Also, our teachers taught us. They taught us that 5x5 is 25, and 2+2 is 4. Humans are susceptible to their environment, especially impressionable young people. What young people are taught, told, and exposed to is so very important. It is also important that, as they grow older, they learn how to process information and discern right from wrong themselves. Parents who love their children should encourage this. Teachers who love their students should as well. Children will grow into adults. That is a fact of nature that hardly needs mentioning. Adults will encounter many, many things in this world, and they must learn to determine right from wrong and to stand firm against what is wrong. The peer pressure we all experienced in school does not go away in adulthood. It may take different forms, but it does not go away. 

True tolerance must be of what is good and accompanied by an intolerance for what is not good. This true tolerance comes from love; love of one's children, one's family, and one's fellow man. False tolerance, on the other hand, includes tolerance of what is wrong. Ironically, false tolerance is often also intolerance towards what is good and seeks to create confusion in the minds of people over what is good and what is evil. Unfortunately our society has given in to this false tolerance. We have been forced to accept as right many forms of degenerate and perverse behavior. No longer do teachers have the control in the classroom that they once had. The line between right and wrong has been obliterated in society and replaced with a general philosophy of doing "what is right for you." That means we each determine what is right and wrong. Now how does this work? Where does it end? Truly it does not make sense. If your job starts at 8 o'clock in the morning, but 8 o'clock to your boss is only 7:30 to you, then under this new relativism, who is correct? Is arriving half and hour late according to the boss's perspective actually "ok for you" because your sense of reality is different? I doubt too many bosses would truly accept that argument. 

In society today we also see a breakdown in the family. Couples are choosing to co-habitate before marriage to "try it out," which is really a fallacy if you think about it. Some couples are simply bypassing formal marriage altogether and just living together, even having children out of wedlock. The irony of this is that they are married under common law, though I doubt too many local governments would enforce that anymore. Yet we are now discouraged from saying anything to those who wish to engage in such behavior. We hear "Just because Jenny is unmarried and having a third child by as many fathers doesn't mean she isn't a nice girl." Well, one has nothing to do with the other! She might be nice, but that doesn't mean her personal behavior is appropriate. If we stand silently by for fear of being attacked or condemned for saying anything, then we become complicit in the problem!

And now we have the push for homosexual marriage, which seeks to redefine the fundamental nature of marriage. Proponents of homosexual marriage say that it is about equal rights and it does not negatively impact other people. Yet, it does impact other people. It cheapens what marriage means. Marriage itself is an affirmation and a celebration of the fundamental natural differences between men and women and of their complementary nature. To condone homosexual marriage as actual marriage makes men and women interchangeable and hence requires a redefinition of the intrinsic nature of marriage that has existed for thousands of years. This redefinition breaks down the acknowledgement and celebration of the fundamental and complementary differences between men and women and makes people interchangeable. This is not marriage, but false tolerance has gotten us to this point as a society. Say anything about it, and you'll risk being called hateful or homophobic. Yet, it should be out of love for our fellow man that we do speak out in favor of what marriage is and what it has always truly been. 

False tolerance has never led anywhere positive. Those who practice true tolerance for what is good and intolerance towards what is not good are, I'm afraid, a disappearing breed these days. It is difficult for the good and decent people of the world to stand up and proclaim the truth! They are viewed as the strict parent, while those who practice false tolerance are viewed as the fun-loving permissive parent. Yet, like the strict parent, it is those who are appropriately intolerance to wrong who love their fellow man and who are there to help others in a meaningful way. Like the permissive parents, those who practice false tolerance are never anywhere to be found when you fall down. 

Saint Paul reminded us to admonish one another in brotherly love. It is in this sense that we must tolerate what is good and be always intolerant towards what is not good. It is in this sense that we must love the sinner and hate the sin. It is in this sense that we must always have compassion and sympathy towards our brothers and sisters who sin, for we ourselves are sinners. This is the path that builds a good and decent society. This is true love for others.

+ Rutherford Cardinal Johnson

14 December 2012

Statement on School Shooting

Sub Tuum. 

To say that the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, today came as a shock to most people would be perhaps quite an understatement. The national outpouring of grief has indeed been great. We offer our prayers for the souls of the dead and our prayers and compassion for their families and for those who survived. 

This tragic event is not the result of a lack of laws. We have many laws in this country. The shooter did not respect or follow the law, for what he did was most certainly against the law. Why would anyone think that he would respect new laws? More laws that burden the good and decent citizens of our country are not the answer. Instead let us work through our tears and consider the real underlying problem. 

Today's tragedy was a part of a greater tragedy, and that is a nation that has largely turned from God and fails to respect life. How can we be outraged at the 27 deaths in today's shooting while we turn a collective blind eye to the murder of over one million unborn children? It is no surprise that a culture that glorifies violence and every type of perversion would spawn someone who would kill his fellow students and even his own mother. This is the root of the problem, and it has been a long time in the making in America as society seems determined to push the love of Christ to the back of the storage closet to gather dust. Indeed we need not scratch our heads in wonderment at why such a horrible thing has happened. 

I do not believe, however, that every person in America has turned from God or glorifies gratuitous violence and perversion. Perhaps these are the "silent majority" we hear whispers about. It is long past time for the good and decent people of America to stand up and be heard in spite of those who wish to ridicule and even silence them. It is long past time to stop this insidious indulgence of deviant behavior and instead restore the sense of right and wrong that made American society great. 

The school shooting in Connecticut is the product of the secular society that we have created. The earliest occurrence of a school shooting according to US News is in the 1960s, and they have continued regularly ever since. That decade marks the general start of liberalization and secularization in America. Tolerance for deviance, degradation, and sloth has been on the rise ever since, as has the belief in moral relativism. 

In the wake of this terrible school shooting, what America needs is an awaking of the spirit, not an Alka-Seltzer tablet to make us feel better because we witnessed or heard about something we do not want to see. That would be like taking an aspirin to dull the pain while ignoring the cancer that grows within. Condemn the shootings for the cowardly murders that they were. Console the families of the dead and the survivors. But, let us also turn the magnifying glass on ourselves as a society and realize that the only true path to ending school shootings is a return to the love of Christ above all other things. Remember the New Commandment given by our Lord that we love our neighbors as ourselves. That is the path to life.

+ Rutherford Cardinal Johnson

06 December 2012

What does it mean to be Christian?

Sub Tuum.

What does it mean to be Christian?

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

What does it mean to be truly Christian? Is it about music, buildings, or even service to others? Our Lord gave the answer. We must take up our own cross and follow Him. Without that, our worship is empty. Without that, the most splendid choir is mere entertainment, and the greatest service means absolutely nothing. Taking up our own cross and following the Lord, however, does not mean merely sitting in the pews on Sunday. Singing in the choir is insufficient, too. Giving money to the work of the Church is not enough, even in our commercialized society. Our worship on Sundays and Holy Days must be active. Christ must be the center of all that we do each and every day of the week. 

The late Abbot Leonard Giardina, OSB, had the most simple and eloquent way of putting this that I have ever heard. To experience what he said yourself, take a crucifix and look at Christ hanging on the front. Then turn the crucifix around and see the empty back. You must be willing to hang right there on the cross with our Lord. That is what it means to be a Christian. What a beautiful thing that is! 

You can experience this closeness to Christ first and foremost through the mass, for it is there that we witness and join with the true and living Sacrifice of our Lord upon the Cross. This is the most magnificent thing the Church has to offer. The entire ministry of the Church begins at the altar. Nothing in the world can take the place of the mass. No other sacrament means anything without it. Baptism does not, for without Christ on the Cross, there would be no Church to join. Matrimony does not, for there is no Christian sacrament of marriage without our Lord's Passion. Ordination does not, for without the Cross, there would be no Sacrifice to live, no Church and no Christian ministry. Holy Unction and Penance would not, for without the Cross, there would be no Resurrection and no hope for the remission of sins and victory over the grave. 

By taking up our own cross, by being willing to hang right there alongside Christ, we begin to live in Christ and for Christ. From there and only from there we may live the Great Commandment of our Lord, that we love one another. What greater love can anyone have than God the Father, who sent our Lord and Savior to the world as a man? What greater love can anyone have than our Lord, who suffered and died for the remission of our sins? This is true love and the kind of pure love that can only be expressed by one who is willing to hang on the Cross with our Lord. Mere human emotion is insufficient and will always leave a void. 

To achieve purpose, all things in your life must originate from the Cross of Christ, and you must be there alongside our Lord. To achieve true joy, you must be willing to suffer alongside Christ. This is the plain and simple essence of the Christian Faith. May your life be enriched greatly through it that you may attain to the eternal reward. 

Yours in Christ,

+Rutherford Card. Johnson