Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Epiphany of Our Lord

The Epiphany of Our Lord is the Christian feast observed on Jan. 6.   An “epiphany” is an appearance. In today’s readings, with their rising stars, splendorous lights and mysteries revealed, the face of the child born on Christmas day appears.

In honor of this day, I thought I’d bring you a little exchange of the pro-life position to a pro-choice individual using what science has made known to us on when human life actually makes its appearance in this world, ie when life begins…

Pro-lifer: What do you think about abortion?

Pro-choicer: I don’t know. I mean, if a woman already has three kids and can barely feed them, I don’t see why she has to be forced to bring another child into the world.

PL: I agree it would be really tough to not know how you are going to provide for your children. I don’t know how I’d handle that situation. But can I ask you a question?

PC: Sure.

PL: Let’s say this woman knows she can take care of three children and she actually wants a newborn. Should she be allowed to kill one of her other children, such as her two-year-old, so that she can make ends meet?

PC: No! I mean, she could always adopt that one out.

PL: Yeah, but what if she doesn’t want to worry about what will happen to that child after she adopts him out? Maybe she’s worried about him being abused by a stranger. Why would you say she shouldn’t be allowed to kill her two-year-old?

PC: Because the two-year-old is a living, born human being. It’s completely different! Are you saying that a woman should be forced to drop out of school or lose her job just because she’s pregnant?

PL: I don’t think women should be fired just because they are pregnant—that’s definitely unfair. But let’s say a woman gives birth and finds that she can’t finish school or keep her job because her baby demands too much of her. In fact, most moms I know find born babies to be harder to handle than unborn babies. Should women be allowed to kill their newborns if that will help their education or career?

PC: Of course not, but you’re confusing the issue.

PL: How am I doing that?

PC: You’re talking about killing babies, and I’m just talking about women’s choice.

PL: A choice to do what exactly?

PC: To not be a mother if they don’t want to be one.

PL: I agree with you that no woman should be forced to become a mother.

PC: You do?

PL: Of course. We also agree that it’s okay to force a woman to stay a mother by forbidding her from killing her born children. She can put them up for adoption and give up being their legal mother, but she’ll always be a biological mother as long as the children are alive.

PC: But that’s because you can’t kill people.

PL: Ah! So that’s the issue. It’s not really about poverty or choice, since you and I agree those reasons wouldn’t justify killing born people like two-year-olds. But if the unborn are just as human as a two-year-old, then why not treat them like we treat two-year-olds and make it illegal to kill them just because they are unwanted?

(exchange found in Trent Horn’s book “Persuasive Pro-Life” in the chapter named “The Pragmatists”)


God Bless

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Holy Family

December 28, 2014 - Feast of the Holy Family

Our True Home

Sirach 3:2-6,12-14
Psalm 128:1-5
Colossians 3:12-21
Luke 2:41-52


Why did Jesus choose to become a baby born of a mother and father and to spend all but His last years living in an ordinary human family? In part, to reveal God’s plan to make all people live as one “holy family” in His Church (see 2 Corinthians 6:16-18).

In the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, God reveals our true home. We’re to live as His children, “chosen ones, holy and beloved,” as the First Reading puts it.

The family advice we hear in today’s readings - for mothers, fathers and children - is all solid and practical. Happy homes are the fruit of our faithfulness to the Lord, we sing in today’s Psalm. But the Liturgy is inviting us to see more, to see how, through our family obligations and relationships, our families become heralds of the family of God that He wants to create on earth.

Jesus shows us this in today’s Gospel. His obedience to His earthly parents flows directly from His obedience to the will of His heavenly Father. Joseph and Mary aren’t identified by name, but three times are called “his parents” and are referred to separately as his “mother” and “father.” The emphasis is all on their “familial” ties to Jesus. But these ties are emphasized only so that Jesus, in the first words He speaks in Luke’s Gospel, can point us beyond that earthly relationship to the Fatherhood of God.

In what Jesus calls “My Father’s house,” every family finds its true meaning and purpose (see Ephesians 3:15). The Temple we read about in the Gospel today is God’s house, His dwelling (see Luke 19:46). But it’s also an image of the family of God, the Church (see Ephesians 2:19-22; Hebrews 3:3-6; 10:21).

In our families we’re to build up this household, this family, this living temple of God. Until He reveals His new dwelling among us, and says of every person: “I shall be his God and he will be My son” (see Revelation 21:3,7).

Yours in Christ,
Scott Hahn, Ph.D.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Do I Have to Go?

"Mass is boring." "I don't get anything out of Mass — why should I go?" “Why can't I just pray alone?”

These are common feelings, especially among young people but among many adults as well. The great Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, when conducting a retreat for teenagers, once gave a talk on the meaning of the Mass. He said, "If you don't get anything out of Mass, it's because you don't bring the right expectations to it." The Mass is not entertainment, he said. It is worship of the God who made us and saves us. It is an opportunity to praise God and thank Him for all that He has done for us.

If we have a correct understanding of Mass, Bishop Sheen said, it will become more meaningful for us. We will want to go to Mass. We will understand why the Mass is God's precious gift to us, and we wouldn't think of refusing that gift.

The Eucharist is the lynchpin of this argument.  At the institution of the Mass Jesus said to “do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).  Will you deny Him when He commands you to go and receive Him in the Eucharist.  Will you freely and willingly abstain from eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood as He commanded?

The Church is instituted by Christ (“and on this rock I will build my church” Matt 16:18).  And Christ gave this Church the authority to bind and loose on matters of faith and morals those who would follow Him in the faith (“whatever you [ie, the Apostles] bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven  Matt 18:18).  He told the apostles that those who won’t even listen to the Church that they are to be considered as pagans and tax-collectors (“If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax-collector.Matt 18:16-17), ie outside of the Church.  Therefore, it is a mortal sin to knowingly and freely ignore what the Church has bound.  And the Church has determined to be binding that of receiving Him as He commanded us, on a weekly basis.  At a minimum, to receive on the day of the week that He Rose from the dead, Sunday (or the Vigil Mass the night before).  To knowingly and freely reject or ignore this binding decree is to reject the authority of His Church, a grave sin.

We ought to go to Mass on a weekly basis not simply to avoid removing ourselves from the Body of Christ but for the much better reason to show our gratitude for what He has done for us.  Indeed, the word ‘Eucharist’ comes to us from the Greek. The earliest Christians called it ‘Eucharistia’ which means ‘Thanksgiving’.

The Mass is, in part, a meal.  At the consecration, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ.  Not just a symbol, but Jesus’ real flesh and real blood, under the appearance of bread and wine.  When we receive Holy Communion, we receive Jesus Himself.  He is real food for our soul.  He told us as much when He said: “I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.  My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  Whoever eats my and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” (John 6:55-56)

To refuse reception of this greatest gift of Himself is to refuse Him.  Please, please, do not abstain from the greatest gift we can ever receive: The gift of God Himself in the flesh. 


God Bless

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Do Denominations Matter?

Question:  Does the denomination really matter?
Person asks:
I have always believed that “a Christian is a Christian.” If we love Jesus and believe that He died for our sins, we will be saved. Promoting a specific “brand” of Christianity only promotes division. I am a Methodist, but I love Catholics, Lutherans, Baptists, and Pentecostals all the same. We need to learn to live together. What we have in common is more important than our differences.

My reply:
The compromise you’re suggesting doesn’t work in matters of salvation.  Let me explain.  As a Christian, you believe in the Ten Commandments, right?  In the First Commandment, God warns us not to worship false gods.  If we do, we commit the mortal sin of idolatry and condemn ourselves to hell.  Sound about right?

Now, if a pagan comes to your door and shared with you his religion and worship of the Great Tree, you would have a moral duty to explain to him that what he is doing is wrong and to reject this religion, repent of his sins and come to Jesus Christ who is the only way of salvation.  Make sense so far?

Now, here’s your problem.  Catholics worship what appears to be mere bread, which the Church calls the Eucharist.  We worship the Eucharist because we believe that, in the sacrifice of the Mass, the bread becomes the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ and is thus worthy of worship.  Our belief is based on Scripture, history and the entire Christian tradition.

If the Eucharist is not Jesus Christ, but a mere piece of ordinary bread, then Catholics are committing idolatry.  If we are committing idolatry, you have the same moral obligation to us as you had to the pagan.  You are obligated to tell us that we are committing idolatry and must reject our false religion, lest we go to hell.  If Catholics worship bread, then Catholicism must be renounced by all Christians.  In fact, the Catholic religion lives or dies with the Eucharist, for the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Catholic faith.  If the Catholic faith is false, then you must not sit idly by and let us Catholics commit idolatry and die in our sins.

If, however, the Eucharist is truly the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, then the Catholic Church is the one and only true religion.  Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except by me.”  As Catholics we are obliged to bring the fullness of the truth to all since we wish all to have the fullness of Christ.  And what could be better than to receive the WHOLE Christ as He intended;  Body, blood, soul and divinity, into your very self both spiritually AND physically?

To recap, if we Catholics are wrong then it is the Christians duty to bring it to our attention so that we would reject this great sin of idolatry of a false god.  But if we are right, then of course we are obliged to bring this truth to all who are unawares.

Inspired by John Slaza’s response on his website:
God Bless

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Biblical Way We Worship

The Biblical Way We Worship

The Mass begins where the Bible leaves off. In God's plan of salvation, the Bible and the Mass were made for each other.
That's probably news to you. In fact, if you're like a lot of people, including many Catholics, you probably haven't given much thought to the relationship between the Bible and the Mass.
In fact, if somebody asked, "What does the Bible have to do with the Mass?" many of us would probably answer, "Not much."

That seems like an obvious answer.

After all, we hear readings from the Old and New Testaments in every Mass and sing a Psalm in between. But aside from that - and maybe the homily which is based on the readings - it doesn't seem like the Bible plays a big part in the Mass.

When you're done with this course, you'll have a much different perspective - and hopefully a far greater love and appreciation for the deep mystery of faith we enter into in each Mass.

Let's jump right in and look at the Mass through a new, "biblical" lens.

Every Mass begins the same way. We make the Sign of the Cross and say, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

We'll get to why we do that later.

For now, just note that the Sign of the Cross started with the Apostles, who "sealed" the newly baptized by tracing this sign on their foreheads (see Ephesians 1:13; Revelation 7:3).

The words we pray as we make this sign come straight from the lips of Jesus. Indeed, they're among the last words He spoke to His Apostles (see Matthew 28:19).

Next in the Mass, the priest greets us. Again he speaks, and we respond, with words from the Bible. We say: "The Lord be with you" (see 2 Timothy 4:22).

In Scripture these words are a pledge of divine presence, protection and help (see Exodus 3:12; Luke 1:28). The priest might opt to use a different greeting, such as "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ . . ." but that greeting too will be drawn from Scripture (see 2 Corinthians 13:13; Ephesians 1:2).

The Mass continues this way - as a "dialogue" between the faithful and God, mediated by the priest. What's striking - and it's something we rarely recognize - is that we carry on this conversation almost entirely in the language of the Bible.

When we beg "Lord, have mercy" - our cry for help and forgiveness is one that runs throughout Scripture (see Psalm 51:1; Baruch 3:2; Luke 18:13,38,39).

When we glorify God, we use the song the angels sang that first Christmas night (see Luke 2:14).

Even the Creed and the Eucharistic prayers are composed of biblical words and phrases.

As we prepare to kneel before the altar, we sing another angelic hymn from the Bible - "Holy, holy, holy . . . " (see Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8). We join that to the triumphant Psalm sung by those who welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem: "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes . . . " (see Mark 11:9-10)

At the heart of the Mass, we hear Jesus' words from the Last Supper (see Mark 14:22-24).

Then we pray to our Father in the words our Savior gave us (see Matthew 6:9-13). We acknowledge Him with a line from John the Baptist: "Behold, the Lamb of God . . ." (see John 1:29,36).

And before receiving Him in communion, we confess our unworthiness - in words once used by a Roman soldier seeking Jesus' help (see Luke 7:7).

What we say and hear in the Mass comes to us from the Bible. And what we "do" in the Mass, we do because it was done in the Bible.

We kneel (see Psalm 95:6; Acts 21:5) and sing hymns (see 2 Maccabees 10:7,38; Acts 16:25); we offer each other a sign of peace (see 1 Samuel 25:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:26).

We gather around an altar (see Genesis 12:7; Exodus 24:4; 2 Samuel 24:25; Revelation 16:7), with incense (see Jeremiah 41:5; Revelation 8:4), served by priests (see Exodus 28:3-4; Revelation 20:6). We offer thanks with bread and wine (see Genesis 14:18; Matthew 26:26-28).
From the first Sign of the Cross to the last "Amen" (see Nehemiah 8:6; 2 Corinthians 1:20), the Mass is an aural and sensual tapestry woven with words and actions, even accessories drawn from the Bible.

We address God in words that He himself has given us through the inspired writers of sacred Scripture. And He in turn comes to us - instructing, exhorting and sanctifying us - again through the living Word of the inspired Scriptures.

Taken from Dr Scott Hahn’s Bible study “A Biblical Introduction to the Mass”  found at:

God Bless

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Jesus Is God

Last weeks Mass readings on Christ the King reminded me of a discussion I had with a close relative who doubted Jesus’ divinity because Jesus Himself never claimed to be God in the Scriptures.  At the time I was ill-prepared to respond but I was able to at least point to the place where Jesus said: “Before Abraham was, I am.” in the Gospel of John, Chapter 8, verse 58.  You see when Moses asked the Lord God what His name was, God answered him: I am who I am.  Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Exo 3:14)  Therefore when Jesus said “Before Abraham was, I am” He was in fact calling Himself God.

In reality, many times did Jesus make it plain to his listeners that He was claiming to be God and we know this because these listeners tried to stone and kill him.  For a clear example of this see John 10:31-33 where it says: “--"I and the Father are one."  The Jews took up stones again to stone Him.  Jesus answered them, "I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?" The Jews answered Him, "For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God."

If Jesus was not God then being a good Jew, Jesus would’ve stopped anyone from worshipping Him as God and yet we find the Apostle Thomas, at seeing the risen Christ in front of him and touched his wounds, said: “My Lord, and my God.” (John 20:28) with no rebuke from Jesus.

Are these verses enough evidence?  No, you say?  Well then how about we look at a few more.  We find in the Old Testament that the Lord said: “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.” (Isaiah 44:6) and we find in the New Testament that Jesus said: “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and of Hades.” (Rev 1:17-18)  We know with certainty that the one speaking here must be Jesus since he says that he was dead. And yet he calls himself by the same title as the Lord God “the first and the last”.

Still not enough?  Alright, here’s one final proof which can be found in the last two chapters of the book of Revelation.  According to Revelation 21:6-7, the Almighty God reveals himself in plain terms: “And he said to me, ‘It is done!  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.  To the thirsty I will give from the fountain of the water of life without payment.  He who conquers shall have this heritage, and I will be his God and he shall be my son.’”

But then, in Revelation 22:6, 13, 16, we find Jesus revealing himself to be “the Alpha and the Omega . . . the beginning and the end.”:

And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true.  And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place . . . I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end . . . I Jesus have sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches.  I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright morning star.”


Therefore Jesus Is God.
God Bless

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Works Part of Salvation Process?

Are we justified by faith alone, works alone or a combination of the two?  What do the Holy Scriptures alone have to say about the subject?  This idea that all truths of Christian right-living is found in Scripture through a plain reading of the text, a Protestant Christian doctrine of Sola Scriptura, will be used in this endeavor.  Plain texts of Scriptures will be used to support the idea of justification(salvation) by faith or by works.

Let’s look at a few verses supporting the idea of salvation by faith alone…
Gal 3:11 “Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.”

Gal 3:24 “So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.”

Rom 3:28 “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.”

Acts 16:30-31 “He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Eph 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.

There are quite a few more verses I could bring to your attention but these are a good sampling of verses pointing to faith for salvation.  And yet, did you notice anything curious?  Not one verse mentions salvation or justification by faith alone.  In fact there is not one verse in all of Scripture that states that salvation is found in faith alone.  Faith is definitely required but nowhere can we find a verse of Scripture stating that faith ALONE is required for salvation.  In fact whenever we find the criteria of salvation when we are judged we find that we will be judged by our WORKS, not on whether or not we had faith.  Here are some examples of this…

Rom 2:6-8 “God "will give to each person according to what he has done."To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.”

James 2:12-13 “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!”

Rev 20:13 “The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done.

1 Tim 5:8 “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

And of course Matthew 25 where faith is only assumed and ones final destiny is determined by what we did or failed to do.

“‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ […] ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Mat 25:34-41)

Knowing that all of Scripture is inerrant we must find a way to merge the two ideas together.  From the first set of Scriptures we know that faith is required for salvation.  We also know from the second set of Scriptures that we will be judged to be worth salvation or damnation by what we do or have failed to do (works).  Therefore we can rightly assume that salvation is NOT found through faith alone but through faith AND works.  In fact there is only one place in all of Scripture where we find the words ‘faith’ and ‘alone’ together and it is to negate it (James 2:24) and just a few verses later we find that faith, if it is alone (ie without works) it is dead.  Does a dead faith save?  Defining or explaining how this relationship between faith and works mesh together goes beyond the scope of this paper.  What we have found is that salvation is dependent on BOTH our faith and our willingness to carry our cross daily (works) because of that faith.  And so we find that Scripture clearly teaches that salvation through faith alone is most definitly unscriptural.

God Bless

Thursday, November 13, 2014

What do you say about loving Jesus but not Religion?

What do you say to someone who says that it doesn't really matter what church he goes to so long as he has faith in Jesus? I guess my answer would be that Jesus would strongly disagree with that statement.
The idea that Jesus came to abolish religion is ludicrous. He didn't come to abolish, He came to fulfill. He didn't come here to "abolish the Law or the Prophets." (Matt 5:17) What is the Law and the Prohets? Judaims. What's Judaism? A religion. Jesus specifically says that He has NOT come to abolish religion.
Jesus makes this evident through His actions and commands by instituting rituals (the Last Supper, baptism, etc.) and by giving certain men some specific authority (to forgive sins, to bind and loose concerning doctrine, etc).

Jesus came to establish a Church. He established a Church with rituals, priests and sacraments. A list of rules to follow is not what the Christian religion is about. If its is just a set of rules and not a love affair, it is dead. But the idea that following rules is inherently contradictory to loving Christ flies in the face not of religion, but of Christ. He says, "If you love me, keep my commandments." Love of Christ requires obedience to his commands. You cannot have one without the other.

You say you love the Bible? That's interesting. Did Christ hand out Bibles before He ascended into Heaven? No. The Bible is a product of a religion. A religion called Catholicism.

This hating-religion-loving-Jesus thing is the logical consequence of Protestantism. For the 21st-century Protestant looking at a thousand-something churches, I imagine there is an immense temptation to say "It's all a wash. I'll follow Christ, not a religion," and be done with it. I can empathize: There is either one, true religion or there is no religion at all.

God gave us a church to aid us on the journey, so that we might be one (John 17:22-23). To love Jesus and hate religion is equivalent to calling upon a doctor and smashing all his instruments when he arrives.

Realize that the challenge is not whether Jesus came to abolish religion but to find, and hold on to, the religion Jesus fulfilled.

Text adapted from:

God Bless

Thursday, November 6, 2014


Reflecting on Fr Kyle’s homily last Sunday, I thought I’d say a few words on Purgatory.  Recall that last Sunday was November second, the feast of All Souls Day, the Commemoration for all the faithful departed.  The day before we celebrated the feast of All Saints Day, celebrating all those faithful servants that have “attained the victory of Heaven.”

What’s the difference between ‘All Souls Day’ and ‘All Saints Day’ you say?  The fundamental difference is that the Saints we are celebrating on Nov 1st are in heaven and therefore when we pray to them we are celebrating their accomplishment and asking them to pray for us and with us to Jesus.  On Nov 2nd though, we are celebrating those souls that are destined for heaven but may be in the final process of being sanctified, ie Purgatory.  We pray to God for their early release and/or to ease their suffering.

Paul said: “11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. 14 If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.(1 Cor 3:11-15)

You’ll notice that Paul is speaking of the Day of one’s particular judgment where his works will be tested through fire on the day of his death, the Day.   Paul is describing the method of purifying gold and precious metals and tying it to burning impure works and leaving behind the true works of God.   There is a lot of other metals and impurities in raw gold.  To remove these impurities we heat the nugget and its impurities so that the impurities burn away leaving behind pure gold.  Paul describes the removal impurities from our works.  This process is a painful one since the one who goes through this “will suffer loss.”  This state of being cannot be Heaven since this process is painful and there is no pain and suffering in Heaven.  This state of being cannot be Hell either since we know that he “is saved”.  This process is neither Heaven nor Hell, it is what we call Purgatory.  It is how we become clean from all our sins and attachment to sins.  This is how we are ‘purged’ from our impurities and become worthy of heaven (Rev 21:27).
God Bless

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

On the Importance of Voting

It is hard to underestimate the importance of voting.

As you are well aware, here in the US, the silly season is in full swing. Candidates are filling the airwaves and making media appearances in an effort to solicit your vote for this important midterm election.

PLENTY AT STAKEI realize this is not a Presidential election this year, so voter turnout won’t be as high as two years ago. Nonetheless, this election season will have a big impact on the country.

On top of control of the US Senate, governor races, House of Representative seats, and Senate spots are up for grabs. These candidates could possess tremendous power if (re-)elected.

A governor can determine judge appointments, veto state bills, and sign bills into state law, for instance. Elected Congressmen can go on to chair Congressional committees, and vote on national laws, as well. Such decisions impact all of us at some level.

WE ALL HAVE A MORAL OBLIGATION TO VOTEWe have an obligation to vote, as stated by the Catechism of the Church, 2240:

“Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one’s country.”

Voting serves the common good, and thus it serves the Natural Law, as well.

We all should seek justice, liberty, and peace for all members of our nation. We must discern the best candidates and vote for them, so as to help them to win. Then we must hold them accountable to enact laws and fulfill their duty to serve.

CATHOLIC VOTING RECORD HISTORICALLY AN INDICTMENTAs great as the importance of voting is, sadly Catholics, at least here in the US, do not have a good track record. This must change!

Five of the last six Presidential candidates who won the popular Catholic vote also won the election. This means that the majority of self-identifying Catholics voted into office Barack Obama (twice), George W. Bush (once), and Bill Clinton (twice). The lone exception was in 2000, when Al Gore won the popular Catholic vote (by two points), but lost the election in the electoral college.

That is frightening.

In 1998, the US Council of Catholic Bishops issued a document called, “Living The Gospel Of Life: A Challenge To American Catholics.” I think it sums up perfectly why Catholics have failed at the ballot box.

I want to direct your attention to the spot-on observation in section 24 of this “Challenge:”

“Today, Catholics risk cooperating in a false pluralism. Secular society will allow believers to have whatever moral convictions they please—as long as they keep them on the private preserves of their consciences, in their homes and in their churches, and out of the public arena.

“Democracy is not a substitute for morality. Its value stands – or falls – with the values which it embodies and promotes. Only tireless promotion of the truth about the human person can infuse democracy with the right values. This is what Jesus meant when he asked us to be a leaven in society.

“American Catholics have long sought to assimilate into U.S. cultural life.

“But in assimilating, we have too often been digested. We have been changed by our culture too much, and we have changed it not enough.

If we are leaven, we must bring to our culture the whole Gospel, which is a Gospel of life and joy. That is our vocation as believers.

“And there is no better place to start than promoting the beauty and sanctity of human life. Those who would claim to promote the cause of life through violence or the threat of violence contradict this Gospel at its core.”

We would do well to recall the words of our bishops and to heed them. We can start with this election.

IN CLOSINGWithout the right to life, no rights exist or matter. That’s why it is the foundational criteria by which any candidate must be measured by a faithful Catholic. If a candidate does not support the right to life from conception to natural death, he or she is disqualified from properly serving office.

I hope you agree on the importance of voting. Now, get out there and vote pro-life!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Synod on the Family - A Commentary

Synod Surprise

by MARK BRUMLEY10/21/2014 Comments

– Mazur/ (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Those expecting big changes in Catholic teaching in the final report of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family just encountered the “God of surprises,” to use Pope Francis’ expression. No big changes.

Of course, the interim report surprised people, too. Apparently, someone “adjusted” it to fit a certain approach to issues concerning homosexual persons, civilly remarried Catholics, and Communion and cohabitation. This approach wasn’t generally shared by the synod fathers, despite everyone’s desire to be inclusive and merciful. That made the report a misrepresentation. Surprise.

Media “spun” the story, essentially saying that the Catholic Church had “caved in,” to use George Weigel’s expression. The Church is changing her teaching, they said. The story was wrong. No surprise.

What surprised many was the bishops’ pushback. Many openly criticized the interim report. They began taking more responsibility for their own “messaging.” Even some of the so-called “progressive” voices severely qualified things:

Mercy, inclusivity and respect for human dignity doesn’t mean anything goes, many bishops noted. Human dignity isn’t a blank check to do as we please. Disapproving of certain things doesn’t mean we don’t know that people do other, praiseworthy things. Even bad actions sometimes have positive elements, which don’t, of course, make the bad things good. None of this needs to compromise Catholic teaching. We should praise faithful Catholic families. And so on.

Told by synod leadership that the bishops’ small-group reports wouldn’t be available to the public, the bishops balked. The small-group reports were published.

The final report of the synod aligns with Catholic teaching.

Some observers compared the synod’s discussion to Vatican II. Good comparison. The Roman Curial leadership at the Second Vatican Council wanted the bishops to “rubber stamp” the prepackaged documents. The bishops said, “No.” Similarly, some synod fathers tried to get a “rubber stamp” on a misrepresentative interim report. The bishops said, “No.”


The African bishops, who a few European participants seemed to want to marginalize, spoke out. Why shouldn’t their contributions to the universal Church be considered? The Pope added South African Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, one of the most outspoken critics of the interim report, to the final report’s writing team.


The synod upheld Catholic teaching but was eager to find new ways to present it. Call that groundbreaking if you want — it seems more like “Let’s do better.” The hot-button issues were there — holy Communion for civilly remarried Catholics, cohabitation and how to reach out to same-sex attracted people — but the final report addressed them in a more coherently Catholic way.


The evangelical thrust of Pope Francis (and his predecessors) permeated the final report. The Church should reach out to struggling families, not wait for them to come to her. What’s more, the Church is to cure wounds, not just bandage them and pretend they aren’t there. The Church must “meet people where they are” — going to the highways and byways. Yet we mustn’t “leave them where they are.”

Sounds like the New Evangelization.

One “surprise” never came: a call for collective repentance. Pope St. John Paul II renewed Catholic teaching on marriage and family life through his theology of the body, yet his teaching was often ignored, even resisted, by some Church leaders. Consequently, God raised up other people to spread it. Many of them are “JP2 Generation” people. Yet they have often faced resistance at the diocesan and parish levels. Is it any surprise most Catholics haven’t heard the case for Catholic teaching, much less been transformed by it?

Some mea culpas seem in order.

Some synod fathers called for a new “language of love” with which to present the gospel of the family. Surprise! We have “new language” in the teaching of Pope St. John Paul II. Much, though certainly not all, of the necessary work of adapting it for popular audiences has begun. Maybe it’s time to get more of the institutional Church behind it. Fortunately, the God of surprises is also the God of second chances.

The final report from this year’s synod will be the basis for the discussion at next year’s ordinary synod. It’s no surprise that, in the coming year, other input will likely be added. Things may become contentious, as problematic proposals get repackaged and promoted for next year’s synod. The Holy Father called for open and frank (but charitable) discussion at the extraordinary synod. As we go forward, let’s hope and pray for a discussion without rancor, misrepresentation and the false choice either of standing for truth or standing for mercy.

In Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton compares his rediscovery of Christianity to a man who sails from England only to return after many days to the place from which he started. He thinks he has found a new land. The journey has transformed his vision of the familiar. He sees with new eyes. Surprise!

Pope Francis described the synod as a kind of “journeying together.” As it turns out, the place from which we started is the place to which we’ve returned. Even so, the journey should have given us new eyes to see what has been before us: Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever. The Church, ever ancient and ever new, and people needing the Gospel.

In the coming year, let’s explore a renewed vision of Jesus, the Church and people in need. What does the New Evangelization mean for the family?

In answering the question, let’s avoid the temptations of “hostile inflexibility” and “deceptive mercy,” of which Pope Francis spoke in his closing synodal address. We need new methods, new ardor and new expressions to address today’s situations, as St. John Paul II insisted. We need a new openness to reach out to others. But it is still the same Jesus, the same Church and the same life-transforming gospel of the family we bring to people.

Wouldn’t it be a surprise, both pleasant and challenging, if the “new message” some seek turns out to be a freshly presented gospel of the family we’ve had all along?

Mark Brumley is president of Ignatius Press and author of The Seven Deadly Sins of Apologetics.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

USCCB Voting Guide


By Randall Smith
Thursday, 25 October 2012

Twice now I’ve published articles here arguing that: a Catholic with a properly formed conscience cannot vote for a candidate who favors allowing abortion over one who favors restricting it – any more than a Catholic with a properly formed conscience could have voted for a candidate who favored allowing slavery over one who favored restricting it.
Several people since have asked about the USCCB voter’s guide: “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.” My answer: while I have rather strong reservations about some wording in the document, and although I think the approach the document takes eviscerates its rhetorical force, all-in-all, it’s hard to accuse the authors of not beating the drum against abortion.
In a thirty-page document with very large type, abortion comes up no fewer than fourteen times – indeed, it shows up on nearly every page. You can’t read far before you find a sentence prohibiting abortion. Permit me a few examples:
·         “There are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor. Such actions are so deeply flawed that they are always opposed to the authentic good of persons. These are called “intrinsically evil” actions. They must always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned. A prime example is the intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion and euthanasia. In our nation, “abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental human good and the condition for all others.” (22)
·         "Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights – for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture – is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.” (26)
·         “Two temptations in public life can distort the Church’s defense of human life and dignity: The first is a moral equivalence that makes no ethical distinctions between different kinds of issues involving human life and dignity. The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life from the moment of conception until natural death is always wrong and is not just one issue among many. It must always be opposed.” (27-8)
·          “The Holy Father, in a particular way, called on Catholic politicians and legislators to recognize their grave responsibility in society to support laws shaped by these fundamental human values, and urged them to oppose laws and policies that violate life and dignity at any stage from conception to natural death.” (39)
·         “A candidate’s position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter’s support. Yet a candidate’s position on a single issue that involves an intrinsic evil, such as support for legal abortion or the promotion of racism, may legitimately lead a voter to disqualify a candidate from receiving support.” (42)
Is that clear enough?
Some have faulted the USCCB document for equating abortion with other issues. That’s not entirely fair. The document states repeatedly that “some issues involve principles that can never be violated, such as the fundamental right to life. Others reflect [a] judgment about the best way to apply Catholic principles to policy issues.” (63) The latter, admits the document, are matters “for principled debate and decision.”
Above all, though, the document insists: “It is essential for Catholics to be guided by a well-formed conscience that recognizes that all issues do not carry the same moral weight and that the moral obligation to oppose intrinsically evil acts has a special claim on our consciences and our actions.” (37)
The document seeks repeatedly to affirm the priority of abortion while not diminishing the importance of the other important issues we face. Doesn’t that make sense? We can’t cease concerning ourselves with health care, concern for the poor, the debt crisis, and marriage and family issues until and unless the scourge of abortion is ended: “Although choices about how best to respond to these and other compelling threats to human life and dignity are matters for principled debate and decision,” says the document, “this does not make them optional concerns or permit Catholics to dismiss or ignore Church teaching on these important issues.” (29)
Of course not. What if there were two pro-life candidates running against one another? Can we just forget that election or the issues involved? Absolutely not.
In that regard, however, consider this: What would happen if the pro-abortion party in the country – the one dedicated to keeping out any pro-life candidates or voices – were guaranteed to lose 90 percent of the Catholic vote given their stance on abortion? There is an odds-on chance that the pro-abortion party might not remain entirely pro-abortion.
We might finally have a real election again between two parties and candidates with roughly equal claims on our moral concern. And then we could consider those other important issues. We’ll never get there, however, as long as some people keep bellying up to the bar with the guy we all know is a sad, dangerous, and self-destructive alcoholic who, when he gets a few drinks in him, kills babies.
Randall Smith is associate professor of theology at the University of St. Thomas, Houston.
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