Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Transfiguration, Faith and Family Matters

The Transfiguration, Faith and Family Matters

If a person wants to probe the mystery of the life of Jesus, one might find it helpful to think of the Transfiguration of Jesus as it must have impacted the Holy Apostles, Peter, James and John, but especially Peter.

It is clear, is it not, that this experience dramatically affected the Apostles’ way of winning converts to Christ? When they started to evangelize after the Resurrection, the Transfiguration had made them stronger in tough times.  Understanding this experience can help us be better teachers of the faith.

As we think of the climb up the mountain, who knows, maybe Peter was having a good bit of doubt at this point. Maybe he was saying, "One minute you treat me like a prince, you call me the 'Rock of your Church.' The next minute, when I want to stop you from dying, you treat me like the enemy and call me Satan. What is all this about?" Then, they get up on the mountain there and Peter, James and John have this spectacular experience of seeing Jesus shining, standing with Moses and Elijah.
This whole scene is capped with the voice from the cloud, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.”

Ok, let’s take a step back then, and see what we can learn.  How does the Transfiguration change us, so to speak?  How can we learn from the Apostles, especially St. Peter? I want you to ask yourself what you might learn about transmitting the faith in your family from this experience.

There is a recent study published in a book called “Families and Faith: How Religion is Passed Down Across Generations,” (Oxford) by Vern Bengston, with Norella Putney and Susan Harris.  Bengston and his crew follow 350 families composed of 3500 individuals over several generations.

In a recent article on Zenit, (http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/39793, March 16, 2014) a review of the book says,
Church attendance in the United States hit a peak in the period 1950-59. Following that there was a gradual decline in the 1960s and a sharp decrease in the following decade.
Immigration from Hispanic countries has offset the numbers of Catholics leaving the Church, but what Bengtson singled out was the growth in the number of ‘nones,’ that is, those who say they have no religious affiliation. By 2012 they represented almost 20% of the adult population.”

The Zenit article then makes a number of observations from the book about the impact of family on the transmission of religion:

Nevertheless, the type of family life does influence the degree to which religious faith is passed on. Warm, affectionate parenting is most likely to result in the successful transmission of religion, Bengtson noted. This was particularly true for relations with fathers, he added.
….Grandparents can have considerable influence and are often more important regarding the religiosity of their grandchildren than is recognized.
Apart from the type of parenting, there are other family situations that have an important impact on the transmission of religion.
Parents in a same-faith marriage are more likely to achieve religious continuity across generations. This is particularly true when both parents are actively religious and religion plays an important role in their lives.
Divorce often, but not always, is a disruptive force in the transmission of religious traditions.

Here are three points to consider for faith in the family.

My first point:  Don’t let the crosses in your life be a stumbling block for your children’s faith.  Peter, in particular, has learned that you cannot reject the Cross without turning your back on God’s plan.  In doing so you become the enemy of God.  If you have been turning away from the Cross, get back to it. Get back to Jesus. When the going gets tough, don’t run. Let our blessed Lord show you the true meaning of the crosses in life. If you have difficulties, crosses, that are impacting the way you live and present the faith in the family, fight the devil. Remember, he will use anything to win the souls of your children including making you think you are unhappy, causing financial difficulties and any other problems that can take your mind off the most important things in life.  All the time you are thinking about how miserable you are, have you ever thought that maybe that is just the devil’s way of taking your children to hell? If you need help to get on the right footing, seek it out.  All things are possible with Christ.

Second: If you are following your own ideas about what the faith ought to be, you need conversion. The Apostles come to a deeper knowledge of who this Jesus is.  He is like Moses and Elijah, but even the voice from the cloud tells them that He is greater. If they had any questions about how to interpret the law and the prophets before this, they do not have any now. 

This is important for us.  Many times, people dip a finger into the Bible and come up with a morsel from one of the prophets or from the law and they want to judge that the Church has made a mistake.  But, if we are supposed to listen to Jesus, then we know that the Church, founded on the Rock of Peter, is the one against whom the gates of the netherworld cannot prevail.  So those Catholics who depart from this haven of safety, the One Holy Catholic Church, are living by following their own private interpretations. Don’t confuse the issue about those born into other communities of faith. God can handle that. That’s not your problem right now. I am talking about your Catholic children. Peter’s experience with his own faith propelled him to be very clear about the duties of his office.  In 2 Peter 2:20 he tells us to “know this, first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation.”  I ask you, what better lesson could Peter have had than these events to cause him to write this to us?  Remember Peter also warns in chapter 3 v. 18 that in the letters of Paul there are some things that are hard to understand that the ignorant and unstable distort to their own destruction, just as they do the other scriptures.

My final point:  You see the Risen Lord at each Holy Mass and it is your duty to lead others to Him.  I think you should know that Jesus expects you to speak about him in your life.  You are a prophet, a teacher, a priest, and a missionary to your children. You have a position in your current situation that requires that you speak of what you have seen and heard. This, my friend, is really very simple.  You are standing at the end of a line. If you do not attempt to bring some one to Christ that you are close to, what do you suppose will happen to them and to the Church? If you do not go to those around you and bring the Lord to them, that line, that part of the Church ends with you.


Now, if the Father is well-pleased with Jesus and tells us so.  Shouldn’t we be able to tell others.  If God can say how wonderful his Son is, won’t you do it, too?

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Cardinal Must Have Meant, "The Church Says We Must Clearly and Emphatically Oppose Same-Sex Unions"

So, in keeping with what I stated in the last post, here is my response to a story on Yahoo News, http://news.yahoo.com/pope-francis-dolan-gay-marriage-150312090.html.  Of course, this was all over the news this weekend.  

This is a long post, but if you are concerned about this issue, please read it.


First, here is the story from Yahoo.
Pope Francis wants church to study civil unions, Cardinal Dolan says 
Pope Francis wants the Catholic Church to study same-sex unions, Cardinal Timothy Dolan said on NBC's "Meet The Press" on Sunday.
According to Dolan, Francis wants church leaders to "look into it and see the reasons that have driven them."
"It wasn't as if he came out and approved them,"  Dolan said.  "He said, 'Rather than quickly condemn them, let's just ask the questions as to why that has appealed to certain people."
In an interview published last week by an Italian newspaper, Francis reiterated the church's longstanding opinion that "marriage is between a man and a woman." But, he said, "We have to look at different cases and evaluate them in their variety."
The Vatican moved quickly to clarify the comments.
"The Pope did not choose to enter into debates about the delicate matter of gay civil unions," Rev. Thomas Rosica, a consultant to the Vatican press office, said in a statement. "We should not try to read more into the Pope’s words than what has been stated in very general terms."
But according to the Catholic News Service, it was the first time a  pope has "indicated even tentative acceptance of civil unions."
When asked for his own views on same-sex marriage, Dolan said he is concerned it could "water down" the sanctity of traditional marriage.
"It's not something that's just a religious, sacramental concern," Dolan said. "It's also the building block of society and culture. So it belongs to culture. And if we water down that sacred meaning of marriage in any way, I worry that not only the church would suffer, I worry that culture and society would.”
Dolan was also asked about Michael Sam, the Univ. of Missouri football player, likely an NFL draft pick, who recently came out as gay.
"Good for him," Dolan said. "I would have no sense of judgment on him. God bless ya. I don't think, look, the same bible that tells us that teaches us well about the virtues of chastity and the virtue of fidelity and marriage also tells us not to judge people. So I would say, 'Bravo.'" (emphasis added)
Since being installed as pontiff in 2013, Francis has changed the tone coming out of Rome from one of exclusion to inclusion, irking some conservative Catholics in the process.
"I haven't sensed too much bristling among the conservatives," Dolan said. "They honestly will say, 'His style is a little different and might periodically cause us a little angst.' But in general they too seem to be rejoicing in what you might call the evangelical fervor, the good interest in the life of the church."
Here are some of the relevant points of Church doctrine:

1. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "Non-discrimination against Homosexual Persons." (July, 1992)“There is an effort in some countries to manipulate the church by gaining the often well-intentioned support of her pastors with a view to changing civil statutes and laws. This is done in order to conform to these pressure groups’ concept that homosexuality is at least a completely harmless, if not an entirely good, thing. Even when the practice of homosexuality may seriously threaten the lives and well-being of a large number of people, its advocates remain undeterred and refuse to consider the magnitude of the risks involved” (No. 9)

2. The doctrine and practice of the Church requires opposition to legal recognition of same-sex unions.  See the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith document, "Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons," (June, 2003) which states, "In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty." (bold and emphasis added)

This document was very specific about actions to be taken. The document questioned the genuineness of policies of so-called tolerance of these unions. It called upon Christians to give witness to the whole moral truth which is contradicted by homosexual acts and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons. It suggested ways that Christians could act: 1. Unmasking the way in which such tolerance might be exploited or used in the service of ideology. 2. Stating clearly the immoral nature of these unions. 3. Reminding the government of the need to contain the phenomenon within certain limits so as to safeguard public morality and above all to avoid exposing young people to erroneous ideas about sexuality and marriage that would deprive them of their necessary defenses and contribute to the spread of the homosexual phenomenon.

Regarding those situations wherein homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given legal status belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. “One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application."

The document made special mention of Catholic politicians in opposing the legal recognition of homosexual unions. It said that when legislation in favor of homosexual unions is proposed for the first time in a legislative assembly, the Catholic law maker has the moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favor of such a law is gravely immoral.

This document was signed by the Prefect, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and at the end of the document we see the Papal Authority attached explicitly to this document.  It reads: "The Sovereign Pontiff John Paul II, in the Audience of March 28, 2003, approved the present Considerations, adopted in the Ordinary Session of this Congregation, and ordered their publication."

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

Conclusions

So, given my principles of interpretation from my earlier post, I have to say that Cardinal Dolan's appraisal of the Pope Francis's comments do not imply that there is any openness to approval of same-sex unions.  The Church has instructed us that "clear and emphatic opposition [to same-sex unions] is a duty."  Moreover, there can be no agreement with the legislation's approval and no cooperation with such laws, as far as possible, when they are already enacted.  Given the authority ascribed to the Church's position on this matter, the Church will not approve so-called "same-sex unions."  So, tell all your friends.  

Cardinal Dolan uses some unfortunate words in describing the "coming out" of the Missouri college student.  Of course, we do not know exactly what the Cardinal might have intended in his response but I can say what he did not intend.  He did not intend to approve of homosexual acts or even the condition itself.  Unfortunately, the Cardinal's remarks makes most of us look outdated who try to encourage chastity and push back against this onslaught of the gay agenda.  Nonetheless, do not be discouraged. Keep the faith.  The Church needs YOU more than ever.  We can pray for Cardinal Dolan. We can write him and encourage him to be brave. He is in a difficult position as the Archbishop of New York.  We should be supportive of his efforts to go before a national audience and try to proclaim the truth in a venue that uses every opportunity to mock our religion. 



Sunday, March 9, 2014

A Year In: Reading Pope Francis on Moral Matters

I want to say that I have been reluctant to post blog entries in recent times because I have not been sufficiently certain about how I should approach it.  I think I have made the mistake of making too much of some of the reported statements of Pope Francis on moral matters. Well, he is my Holy Father and I love and respect him.  I have had considerable difficulty making sense of some of these things he says, though, and I have needed a bit of time to reflect upon how to speak about moral matters, any moral matter, while giving my sincere deference to the words of our Holy Father. What does he expect of a moral theologian of the Church? Of me? What does he expect of faithful Catholics who love the Church and the Lord, much as he does? I think I can provide some direction.

No matter how much we would recoil at the idea, it is hard to deny that a few of the Holy Father's comments have been interpreted to approve of gravely sinful actions and, to a degree, immoral behavior, in general. If he does not know this, he should be made aware of it. I bet every parish priest knows it. Pope Francis has a duty to know this. He is the most authoritative moral teacher with a worldwide audience.

Fortunately, the Holy Father has given us some guiding principles of his own way of speaking and acting as Pope that are helpful.  I humbly and cautiously proceed to set forth a few of those, in the most tentative fashion, subject always to the authority of Holy Mother Church.

The first principle is that Pope Francis is a loyal son of the Church--of course, I think that goes without saying--but he said it, so I will take it and run with it. There is no need to question this.  Indeed, the Pope wants everyone to love the Lord Jesus and the Church. That means that he wants them to fall in love with the Truth as it is taught by the Church. In turn, this means that the Truth must be known. He is concerned about the obstacles to the discovery of the splendor of the Church's real treasure. I want to help it be known in all its splendor.

The second principle is that he is not going to change doctrine. He said that. Obviously, he has no intent to do so. I can add to that, though. He cannot change doctrine, not a point of moral doctrine that is definitive, certainly, and not any principle of the Natural Moral Law or any principle of moral action generally taught in the authentic magisterium. In that respect he is the chief steward. If a Pope should err in a statement, which is possible if it is not made invoking the fullness of his authority as Pope speaking ex cathedra,--I am not suggesting that Pope Francis has--then anyone with sufficient knowledge of the matter can point out the error. Of course, questioning the veracity of a statement of any teacher of the faith, especially the Pope, must be done cautiously, respectfully and with charity. One must first carefully examine himself and take counsel if this is to be a prudent act and not an act of daring. The presumption is always in the Pope's favor and can only be refuted with sufficient authority. There are other considerations as to the manner of doing this. The point, here, is that there are times when a Pope should be corrected in an appropriate manner.

The third principle, an offshoot of the previous two, is that what Pope Francis says must always be understood in light of the authentic teaching of the Church. He expects this. He often speaks in terms of pastoral application, not expounding upon moral truth. Be aware that his pastoral pattern functions only upon the foundation of authentic doctrine that he upholds, even when the media and individuals ignore this and distort his intent. I can add to this point, though. Pastoral charity and truth cannot be opposed to one another. If the Holy Father's statements are being used to contradict doctrine and against the authentic magisterium, they must be explained and the opposition between pastoral charity and moral truth must be disavowed. The Church must respond decisively to this. These interpretations of those who unjustly appeal to the Pope's words for their own nefarious ends are absurd. It is not as though the grave sinfulness of abortion, same-sex unions, and adultery are in dispute. However, there is the problem of passive scandal and a pastoral response to it. As the Church's universal shepherd, he has a duty to respond to the proliferation of false and harmful interpretations of his words or intent. The fact of these distortions is not a matter of speculation.  The erroneous opinions are verifiable in the media. Prudentially and pastorally, it would be helpful if the Holy Father took into account the ill will there is in the world against truth, against the faith, against good morals, against the Petrine office and his predecessors, and even against his own person.  Those malefactors who abuse the Pope's words are leading the little ones of Christ to sin. This is on their heads, of course.

Correlatively, those Catholics with concerns about the Pope's statements must listen to him reverently and interpret his words properly in light of the authentic universal magisterium of the Church. This is something that many in the Church are not quick to do. Pope Francis allows the Vatican Press Office to clarify his words on a routine basis. We can expect more of this in the future and we must allow for this pattern. To that, I would add that I believe that I can contribute something to that process and intended outcome for those who read what I write. I can provide the moral doctrinal context of the statements of our leaders in the faith. They are competent to apply their own pastoral prudence within the limits of their canonical authority.  The doctrine, however, remains the same. I can help them and the readers of this blog.

These principles are enough for me to act on.  These principles can be applied to the statements of all prelates, as well.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Deception, Coercion and Healthcare



I wonder if President Obama’s blatant and repeated deception about health care plans is enough to get at least a few people to think twice about the basic need for “the pill” as a part of healthcare. I know, I know.... You don't think the two are connected.  You should reconsider.

In the “real” world, it must surely cause at least a few thoughtful individuals some degree of astonishment that the nation’s chief executive would have to deceive on a worldwide scale in order to sell insurance.  Who would have thought? What is it all about?

The reason the U. S. Government has become the nation’s insurance broker, number 1, is that the government now thinks that the health of the nation depends on government control, especially birth control.

Is there any real danger out there today that your average Jane America cannot get the pill? Does anyone really think so? For that matter, do even the poorest among us in these United States have trouble accessing birth control measures? I am willing to be enlightened if someone cares to try to prove that they do.

If birth control is being covered for health purposes, one might ask, with all the dangers of the pill, whose health is in question?  Remember, the pill is used because the body is functioning normally, not because it isn’t.  People do not need birth control like a patient needs antibiotics for a serious infection. Is it now the government’s objective to direct people, poor and not so poor, to use more birth control, sterilizations and abortifacients, so much so that the risks of using these things must be ignored?  Is it reasonable to ignore the risks if this is supposed to be about health?

Now that we are learning that insurance policies are being cancelled because they do not meet minimum standards, the factor in the cancellations that cannot be ignored is that, according to the government, they are subpar in the birth control department. 

As strange as it is to us, we have witnessed the imposition of birth control upon the public as a major factor in the president’s healthcare initiative from the beginning. Birth control holds so much meaning for the government, in fact, that the Congress and the Presidential administration will not even allow those who object to the coverage of birth control to opt out of it. If you do not do what you are told to do, according to Chief Justice Roberts you can be taxed and fined into submission. 

The pill is now used inordinately in women’s healthcare to cover everything from acne to PMS to endometriosis, but you haven’t seen anything, yet. Men and women, poor and not-so-poor, who are now brought into these government-approved plans will be required to adhere to whatever guidelines are now imposed with the force of the taxing authority of the Congress and the executive power of the President. If the IRS—I mean one’s doctor, sorry--says “health” requires that one be sterilized, take the pill, or abort for that matter, there is nothing and no one to stop them. 

I hope that you don’t think that nothing like this will happen. It has, in fact, already happened in the United States.  Do you know about Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200 (1927)? In that decision of the United States Supreme Court, written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., the Court ruled that a state statute authorizing compulsory sterilization of certain “undesirables,” "for the protection and health of the state" did not violate the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This decision has never been explicitly overruled.  

How much are you willing to wager that new healthcare guidelines will not be used to impose birth control for your own good? Deception and the force of government are setting the new standards in your healthcare. This is not a good way to inspire confidence in the nation’s new socialized system. Deception and government force are never the right ingredients in just governance. This does not bode well for the future of freedom or the health of our nation’s citizens.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Mom takes pills to abort "brain dead" baby on doctor's advice, finds out he's perfectly healthy: law | LifeSiteNews.com

Mom takes pills to abort| LifeSiteNews.com

In my experience of consultation in these cases, this is not an unusual case.  Often, the diagnosis is completely wrong. One needs to understand that in contemporary medical training and practice, abortion is seen as a convenient treatment for alleged complications.