Search for “Ideas and consequences”

Ideas and Consequences

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2013/12/12 at 12:01 PM

One of the many properties that distinguishes humans from animals is a sense of history. Animals simply have no awareness of history (theirs or anyone else’s), but humans have been involved in history for at least 5000 years of recorded written history.  History is not an exact science; history can be biased or incomplete.  The most important history books are the four Gospels.  They give us a true history because if the events depicted  did not happen, Christianity falls on its face and can be set aside along with Greek mythology.  However, the Gospels are the true history of the life of Christ.  The events described therein really happened in real time; in fact they  more realistic than even the most objective histories today.

The Gospels  were written during the lifetime of many of those who witnessed  many of the events in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.  There’s no record of any claim that the Gospels are fictional.  When a historical record is controversial, there are those  who attempt to correct the errors or protest that the events described happened as the author claimed.  Again, this did not happen in the case of the Gospels.

Some non-Christian sources also wrote about the fact that Jesus of Nazareth existed.  This indicates that the existence of Christ was known beyond the Jewish world and that the story was not merely a Jewish or Christian fantasy.

No one dies for an idea that he knows is false or fraudulent.  There was no advantage to the writer of the Gospels whatsoever.  In producing the Gospels, it did not make them heroes, in fact, just the opposite.  St. Matthew was martyred for his Gospel.  St. John endured persecution and exile for his efforts, and the other apostles all suffered death rather than deny the content of the Gospels.

The Gospels have been analyzed, scrutinized, examined, re-examined for 2000 years.  Many have attempted to show the Gospels to be a hoax perpetrated by the Apostles and the early Christians, but no one has ever succeeded in proving the Gospels are anything but what the Church says they are.  Adolph von Harnack, a noted rationalist of the 19th century set out to prove definitively that the Gospels were false.  He labored many years, and, finally, he not only could not show the Gospels were false, but he even became a Christian.

The Gospel story has inspired and sustained millions of people for 2000 years.  One of the reasons is that Christianity has not changed its basic doctrines in 2000 years. No other religion can say that; they all have divisions and subdivisions. If nothing else, this shows that Christianity is a divine religion.

There is another factor in the Gospel history that is not alluded to very much: the Gospels were not written for several decades after the death of Christ. Thus, the Gospels are a compilation of what the early Christians believed. It is a fact that stories passed on orally change radically after a just a few transmissions. Yet, the oral Gospel story did not change.  I suggest that the Holy Spirit, observing His duty to protect the Church, simply did not allow deviation from the true history – a miracle of sorts.  Then, too, Christians believe that the Gospels are inspired by God and they could not possibly contain errors or false facts because God, in His very nature, could not inspire what is untrue.

Thus we say without fear of error that the four Gospels depict what was said and done by Jesus Christ in real time, centuries ago in the Holy Land. It all happened, and there is no evidence that it did not.

If the Gospels are true history of real events, there are serious implications for us. The historicity of the Gospels is not in doubt and never has been. If this is true, then we come to a “So what now?”  The Gospels contain divine truth that we cannot avoid, ignore, or reject except at great peril to our eternal life

1. Christ really lived and is a divine being in human form as He said He was; His words and actions are words and actions of God Himself.

2. His words are also of divine origin and were spoken in real time.

3.  His divine teaching is not optional because we are creatures and owe the Creator reverence and obedience.

4. He set up a Church now known as the Catholic Church (again, historical fact), and He intended it to be the chief vehicle of salvation for mankind.

If we accept the historicity of the Gospels, but do not accept the ramifications, we have missed the whole point.  Salvation does not depend on being able to defend the Gospels, but in living them to the best of our ability.

To paraphrase a Gospel verse,”What does it profit a man to know all about the technicalities of the Gospels, but fail to live accordingly.”


Consequences, part I

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2012/12/07 at 7:14 AM

People like to speculate.  They like to imagine what life would be like under different circumstances.  ” What if I won an eight figure lottery?”  “What would it be like to vacation in Tahiti?” “What would it be like to ride in a space ship?” Some have even wondered what life would be like without God.  Ah! We do not have to speculate about this; we are living in reality.  The Western World (which used to be called Christendom) has, in effect, rejected and/or ignored God.  The movers and shakers have declared themselves to be God by their actions or omissions.  The problem is that humans, according to divine plan, cannot reject or ignore God without bringing on themselves calamitous consequences.

The first consequence is the loss of the idea of truth in intellectual and spiritual areas.  God is the source and standard of truth.  When we reject or ignore divine truth, we are left with human opinion which is only as reliable as the facts and the intellect of the opiner.  Thus we end up living in a chaos of non-truths, half-truths, distorted truths, bias truths and other errors.  The very concept of objective truth is not even considered.  This is American society today…awash in opinions based on nothing but subjective ideas which one may or may not follow according to one’s own likes and dislikes.  Divine truth is certain truth; human “truth” replacing it is always grossly deficient.  Divine truth is a permanent and stable guide.  Human truth has no foundation beyond the human mind and can and does change with the culture.  No human truth is sure or lasting.  What is called true today may be declared false tomorrow and vice versa.

The corresponding consequence is the loss of the ability to think logically and rationally.  Without objective truth as a guide, conclusions drawn may be invalid. We fail to see the logical, but inevitable results of poor thinking.  The pro-abortion philosophy is based supposedly on women’s health, but in reality it means freedom from an inconvenience.  In the future, what other “inconvenient” might some want to get rid off?  The elderly? (already in the works by Obamacare).  The chronically ill?  The retarded?  The homosexual community is pushing for same-sex “marriage” under the guise of equality and civil rights.  Once the law declares that marriage is not solely between a man and a woman, then logically you can “marry” anyone or anything.  Illogical thinking leads to bad judgments, errors, mistakes, failure, etc.  These negative effects will remain until corrected or forever if they cannot be corrected.

We also lose wisdom.  Wisdom is not knowledge, but it is related to it.  Wisdom is the understanding, evaluation,  appreciation and implenentation  of values based on knowledge.  In other words, wisdom is knowing what is important, and this is impossible without truth and right thinking.  The psalmist tells us that awe of God is the beginning of wisdom.  How can those who have no relationship to God ever find real wisdom?  The wise person knows and acts upon what is truly important in life.  We cannot solve our societal problems because defective thinking prevents it.  Problems can be solved only by dealing with the cause.  Yet, the bureaucrats of public education seem to think that the answer to all their problems is more money.  But money is not the cause of education problems; therefore, more and more money is spent with little or no effect.  (The real cause lies in the false philosophies which are used to “guide” the public schools.)  Politicians also think that more money will solve anything, yet, it rarely does.  There are rules of right thinking and they must be followed or the results will be defective.  Right thinking is not accidental.

Do No Harm: The Shifting Standard in Medicine

In 09 Mary Summa, JD on 2012/08/17 at 1:11 PM

By Mary Summa, JDImagine receiving a call that your teenage son has been in a horrible car accident and has suffered a brain injury. You race to the hospital and discover he is burning up with a 105 degree fever. The doctor refuses to give him medicine to reduce his fever claiming that your son’s life isn’t worth saving.1Imagine rushing your disabled infant to the hospital because he is having trouble breathing. He is placed on a ventilator. He is stable and alert. Then, over your objections, the hospital staff decides that he’s not worth treating. They stop bathing him, changing his diaper and feeding him. They cut off his ventilator.2You may think you are reading futuristic fiction. Yet, unfortunately, both are true stories, which occurred here in the United States; the first in 1994 and the latter in November 2009.The movement driving the legalization of abortion has come full circle. Society’s acceptance of destroying the most vulnerable of human life threatens the lives of everyone, including the physically and mentally challenged, the elderly, the severely infirmed, and anyone and everyone deemed to be lacking in “usefulness.”3These two cases are not unique and are becoming all-too-common-place in American hospitals and nursing homes. Traditionally, public policy has upheld a “sanctity of life” ethic, that the intentional killing of innocent human life is always morally wrong.4 Yet, now family members are being encouraged to “let go” of their infant with severe deformities, to “let go” of their mother with Alzheimer’s, or to “let go” of their brother severely brain-damaged from a car accident. Such doctors and others in the medical profession are orchestrating their deaths, many times over the objections of the patient or loved ones. They say a life “not worth living” is not worth saving either. Medicine’s shift from a “sanctity of life” ethic to a “quality of life” morality endangers the lives of all of us.Historical PerspectivesMedical ethics—the ethics code of behavior controlling what should be done in medical research and clinical care of patients—has existed since medicine began. In Western Culture, this code of conduct was shaped by a theological principle—unlike other living creatures, human life is sacred because man has a soul and is made in the image and likeness of God. Doctors adhered to the principles mirrored in the ancient Hippocratic Oath—to do no harm. Doctors and medical professionals were obliged to cure the sick and comfort the dying. History testifies to the ramifications of doctors abandoning these basic tenets.The European Eugenics Movement
Hitler’s Holocaust remains one of the most disgraceful examples. In his book, The Third Reich at War, Richard Evans reported that under the Nazi Regime, in the 1930s, some 360,000 people were forcibly sterilized, abortion on eugenic grounds was legalized, and doctors were given the authority to kill “sick people who by human estimation are incurable … [i]nfants suffering from Downs Syndrome, microcephally, the absence of a limb or deformities of the head or spine, cerebral palsy and similar conditions and vaguely defined conditions such as ‘idiocy.’” The Jews were the last to be targeted for extinction.5It is important to underscore a critical point. Hitler did not create the underlying attitude in society that made this extreme depreciation of human life possible. That responsibility lies with the scientific and medical communities, which, since the beginning of the 20th century, had been promoting a morality which devalued human life.6

This orchestrated effort by the medical profession to “weed out” undesirables in society was the Eugenics Movement. Aspects of it were the brainchild of Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin and a scientist who lived from 1822-1911. Influenced by his cousin’s theory of evolution, Galton believed that society would be improved through the propagation only of those individuals with desirable traits—physically, intellectually, and morally.7 Only a generation later, Hitler was citing the Eugenics Movement in the United States.8


The U.S. Eugenics Movement
The Eugenics Movement was actually born in the United States. In the early 1900s, the Race Betterment Foundation, the Galton Society, and the American Eugenics Society were established in the U.S. to promote eugenics. The American Eugenics Society is “credited” with successfully promoting forced sterilization laws against the mentally disabled. By 1944, state-authorized programs had sterilized over 40,000 “feeble-minded” or “insane” individuals in 30 states.9 One investigation revealed that the practice continued until the 1970s with close to 8,000 women sterilized in North Carolina alone.10


The Eugenics Movement also left an indelible black mark on the private practice of medicine. In 1915, Dr. Harry Haiselden of Illinois became an overnight celebrity after he was acquitted of a murder charge for failing to provide treatment to a severely disabled newborn. Claiming that the doctor acted within his “professional rights” to decline treatment, the jury failed to convict the doctor, and he walked out of the courtroom as a free man. When Dr. Haiselden was asked by a reporter whether he considered his vindication a victory for eugenics, he responded, “Eugenics? Of course, it’s eugenics.”11 Dr. Haiselden continued to make headlines a few years later when he refused to operate on a child, claiming that the “kindest thing to do was to let the child die.”12


Thankfully, the horrors of Aushwitz and Dachau served to turn American public opinion in the 1940s against the Eugenics Movement. Nevertheless, history forgotten is soon repeated. Many believed that the Eugenics Movement ended when the crematorium at Auschwitz was finally closed. In this country, however, it was simply smoldering in the ashes, waiting for some sort of kindling to set it ablaze. It did not have long to wait.


Rebirth in the U.S.
In the 1960s, Joseph Fletcher with his book, Situation Ethics, ushered into American thought (and public policy) a wholehearted rejection of the moral absolutes of the Christian ethic. The premise is that as long as love is your intention, the end—any end—justifies the means. Succinctly put, “For the situationist there are no rules, none at all.”13


Dismissed by the general public as extreme, Fletcher’s ideas caught fire in the academic world, and did not take long to influence public policy.14 Bioethics was a new and upcoming subcategory of ethics. In 1979, Congress enacted legislation authorizing the creation of a commission to create guidelines through “consensus” on what was ethical in the fields of medical research, technology and patient care. Dominated by followers of Fletcher’s “moral relativism,” the field of bioethics in the 1990s drove a stake in the heart of the “sanctity of life” ethic.15


An Australian psychologist by the name of Peter Singer was an ardent follower of Fletcher and his theory of relativism. In 1993, Singer published a book entitled, Practical Ethics, which applied Fletcher’s theory to the rights of man and the practice of medicine. In 1999, a small but influential band of intellectual elites ushered him from Australia to the halls of Princeton University as the Chair of Bioethics in the newly created Center for the Study of Human Values, where he has become the most widely known bioethicist in the world, and, unfortunately, one of the most influential.


Rejecting the “sanctity of life” ethic, Singer believes that certain categories of people do not have a right to life, and can be exterminated with moral impunity. His conclusion is based on the belief that “personhood” is defined by specified levels of cognitive ability. “Some non-human animals are persons,” Singer says, and so, “killing a chimpanzee is worse than killing a human being who, because of congenital intellectual disability, is not and never can be a person.”16


Singer supports infanticide of newborns and euthanasia of some elderly because he believes that neither are “persons.” “Killing a disabled infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person. Very often it is not wrong at all,” he writes.17Comparing the elderly with cognitive impairments to a disabled infant, he matter-of-factly states, “The considerations of a right to life or of respecting autonomy do not apply. If they have no experiences at all, and can never have any again, their lives have no intrinsic value.”18


Exterminating the Sick and Elderly
Ideas can have deadly consequences. The Futile Care Theory is a belief that it is morally acceptable for a doctor to refuse to treat a patient if the doctor believes the patient does not or will not have an acceptable “quality of life.” Treatment withheld could include artificial food and hydration, medications to cure infections or a fever, ventilator support, or kidney dialysis.19 The theory represents the latest bioethical effort to implement the anti-life morality in medical practices and public policy.20


Medical Practice
Traditionally, hospitals have refused to provide treatment on physiological grounds—the treatment would not save or physiologically improve the patient’s life. For example, a patient could not march into a hospital demanding a heart transplant when his heart worked just fine. However, as Wesley Smith, an attorney and outspoken critic of the Futile Care Theory,21 has so aptly stated, it is “an exercise in raw social Darwinism in that it views some patients’ lives as having so little quality, value, or worth that the treatment they request is not worth the investment of resources or emotion it would cost to provide.” Proponents of the theory rarely articulate their position precisely. Instead, they speak in code words such as “quality of life,” a “life not worth living,” “limited resources,” and “duty to die.”


This utilitarian view of life and the “duty to die” mentality has been embraced and promoted since the 1990s by many influential bioethicists, who have discarded the “sanctity of human life” ethic in favor of the “quality of life” morality or, as one pro-life ethicist has described them, “death culture” policies.22 The inclusion of this view in numerous highly respected bioethics journals began to affect the practice of medicine. Long before state legislatures began imposing “futile care” laws, hospitals and medical institutions were incorporating their “quality of life” morality into hospital protocols.23,24,25 More recently, the Futile Care Theory has been expanded to suggest that “reasonable treatment” for a patient should also take into account the “needs of other members of society.” In other words, “how will providing the treatments one patient demands burden or benefit others in the community?”26


Public Policy
Two state legislatures have codified the “quality of life” morality into law—Texas in 1999 and Virginia in 2006. Idaho came very close in 2009, but to date, proponents of the Futile Care Theory have not succeeded in Idaho. Noteworthy, however, is that 24 states provide no effective protection of a patient’s wishes for life-preserving measures if a doctor refuses treatment. Only 11 states have laws to protect a patient’s directives for life-saving measures.27


In July 2008, a 53-year old Oregon man, diagnosed with prostate cancer, applied to the state-run health plan for help. He received a letter saying that the state would not cover the man’s pricey treatment—it did not meet the requirement of providing a greater than five percent chance of prolonging the man’s life for five more years—but would pay for the cost of physician-assisted suicide, which is legal in Oregon. The state was not willing to help the man live, but was happy to foot the bill to kill him. The man fought back and received the care he needed to help save his life.28


North Carolina has no relevant provision protecting a patient’s wishes. Instead, the legislature has skipped down the path toward codifying the Futile Care Theory. In 2007, the legislature authorized Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (MOST), which are documents that may override a patient’s Advance Directives. Furthermore, the statute authorizing the MOST document states that physicians are not prohibited from issuing orders “in accordance with acceptable medical practice and the facilities’ policies.” If the facility has adopted a “futile care” policy based on “quality of life,” it is unclear whether the doctor’s order would supercede the MOST or medical directive.


The Solution
The problem of treatment based on a “quality of life” ethic is so evasive in the medical community and public policy, according to futile care critic Smith, that the best approach is containment.29 Sanctity of life advocates must focus attention on what bioethics is, why it is important, and the real-life consequences of an unabated “culture of death.”


Secondly, pro-life doctors and lawyers should band together to provide needed assistance to families fighting hospitals and insurance companies who have adopted the Futile Care Theory. Doctors should refuse to participate in “futile care” protocols and should fight for the lives of their patients. Some do, but not enough. Lawyers should be willing to legally fight for patients if their wishes are not protected.


Thirdly, there are a number of steps state legislatures should take to protect the sanctity of human life:


  1. Repeal laws that provide legal immunity for hospitals and doctors if they base care on the Futile Care Theory in violation of patients’ wishes.
  2. Enact legislation that specifically protects a patient’s medical directives to obtain food, water, and medicines, and provides specific criminal and civil liability for doctors and hospitals who override the patient’s medical directives for this basic care.
  3. Prohibit the withdrawal of artificial food and water, food and water by mouth, and the withdrawal of medical treatments if withdrawal of food and water and medical treatments is intended to cause death.
  4. Repeal, if enacted, the Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatments (MOST) documents and any other documents that allow the suspension of a patient’s medical directives. North Carolina is one of seven states to codify MOST documents.
  5. Reconsider statutes authorizing living wills. Living wills were enacted to protect loved ones from doctors who were trying to keep patients artificially alive on machines. Time has shown that it is almost impossible to predict every medical condition and adequately address them with a rigid set of directives. With the Futile Care Theory imbedded in many hospital protocols, living wills could be used to kill patients. It may be time to kill the living will.30


Doctors’ actions at Hitler’s death camps at Auschwitz, Dachau, and Treblinka remain forever burned into the memory of those who lived through the Holocaust. As Elie Wiesel wrote, “Thus, instead of doing their job, instead of bringing assistance and comfort to the sick people who needed them most, instead of helping the mutilated and the handicapped to live, eat, and hope one more day, one more hour, doctors became their executioners.”31


History will treat us no differently if we turn a blind eye to this travesty in American medicine.
We need to be a nation where the weak are protected from the strong, where our right to live will not be judged by our “usefulness” to society, where doctors and medical professionals return to the basic goal to heal rather than to harm.



Mary Summa, JD is an attorney in Charlotte, North Carolina. She served as Chief Legislative Assistant to U.S. Senator Jesse Helms during the 1980s.





  1. Smith, W. “Futile Care and Its Friends Hospitals – and Legislators – Want to Decide When Your Life Is No Longer Worth Living.” National Right to Life News. 1 Aug 2001. Web. 2 June 2010. <http://www.nrlc.org/news/2001/NRL08/index.html>
  2. “Breaking:Emergency Injunction Filed to Stop Hospital From Discontinuing Baby’s Care.” Jill Stanek. 23 Nov. 2009. Web. 25 May 2010. <http://www.jillstanek.com/euthanasia/breaking-hospit.html>; Unruh, Bob. World Net Daily “Hospital Backs off Threat to Stop Treating Baby.” World Net Daily. 23 Nov. 2009. Web.
  3. Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, 25 Mar 1995. Web. 1 June 2010. Reprinted at <http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_25031995_evangelium-vitae_en.html>
  4. Irving, D. “The Impact of International Bioethics on the ‘Sanctity of Life Ethics’, and the Ability of OB Gyn’s to Practice According to Conscience, International Conference: The Future of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations (FIAMC) and MaterCare International Rome, Italy, June 18, 2001. 3. Edited August 28, 2001. Print. Reprinted athttp://www.lifeissues.net/writers/irv/irv_40bioandconscience03.html June 1, 2010.
  5. Evans, R. The Third Reich at War. New York: Penguin Group. 2008. 77. Print.
  6. Potter, A. “Will the Right to Die Become a License to Kill? The Growth of Euthanasia in America.” Journal of Legislation, Notre Dame Law School. 1993. 19:31.50-52. Print.
  7. Weickert, Richard. From Darwin to Hitler. New York: Palgrave Macmmillian. 2004. 36. Print.
  8. Black, Edwin. “Eugenics and the Nazis—the California Connection.” San Francisco Chronicle 9 November 2003. Web. Reprinted athttp://articles.sfgate.com/2003-11-09/opinion/17517477_1_eugenics-ethnic-cleansing-master-race/5.
  9. Sofair, Andre, M.D. and Kaldjian, Lauris, M.D. “Eugenic Sterilization and a Qualified Nazi Analogy: The United States and Germany, 1930-1945” Annals of Internal Medicine. 15 Feb 2000. 32:312-319. Print.
  10. “State Secret: Thousands Secretly Sterilized.” abcnews. 15 May 2005. Web. 25 May 2010. <http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/Health/story?id=708780>
  11. See “Hitler’s Debt to America” The Guardian 6 Feb 2004. G2, p8. Print. Reprinted at <http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2004/feb/06/race.usa>
  12. “Surgeon Lets Baby Born to Idiocy, Die” New York Times. 25 July 1917. Print.http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9E06E3DF103BE03ABC4D51DFB166838C609EDE
  13. Joseph Fletcher. Situation Ethics: The New Morality. The Westminister Press. Philadelphia. 1966. Print.
  14. Smith, W. “Peter Singer Values Thriving.” Bioethics. 31 Oct 2008. Web. 25 May 2010. <http://bioethics.com/?p=5618>
  15. Irving, Dianne. What is Bioethics? Tenth Annual Conference: Life and Learning X (in press), University Faculty for Life, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. 3 June 2000. 4. Print.
  16. Singer, P. Practical Ethics. Cambridge University Press. New York. 1993. 117-118. Print.
  17. id., 191.
  18. id., 191-192.
  19. Smith, W. “Can Hospitals Have the Right to Pull Your Plug? Rational Argumentator. XXXII. 1 April 2005. Web. 25 May 2010. <http://rationalargumentator.com/issue33/hospitalspullplug.html>
  20. Robert Powell. “Will Your Advance Directive Be Followed?” A report by the Robert Powell Center For Medical Ethics of the national Right to Life Committee. April 15, 2005. Revised May 2007. 5. Print. Quoting “When Others Must Choose: Deciding for Patients Without Capacity” New York State Task Force on Life and the Law (1992) 196-7.
  21. Wesley Smith is a CBS News Special Consultant, a Senior Fellow in Human Rights and Bioethics at the Discovery Institute and the Associate Director of the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide.
  22. id., Smith, W. Bioethics.
  23. Smith, W. “Futile Care Theory and Medical Fascism” Raw Food Info. Web. 25 May 2010. <http://www.rawfoodinfo.com/articles/art_medicalfascism.html>
  24. Callahan, D. The Troubled Dream of Life: In Search of a Peaceful Death. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press. 2000. Print.
  25. John Hardwig. “Is There A Duty to Die?” The Hastings Center Report. 27. 2. (1997) 34-42. Print. Reprinted at
  26. id., Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics Report,.
  27. Day, L. “Medical Futility. Personal Goods and Social Responsibility,” American Journal of Critical Care, May 2009. 18. 3. 278-82. 282. Print. <http:// http://www.ajcc.aacnjournals.org&gt;
  28. id., Robert Powell Center for Medical Ethics, 7.
  29. Smith, W. Culture of Death: The Assault on Medical Ethics In America. New York: Encounter Books. 2000. 220. Print.
  30. Kerr, K. “Experts: Living Wills Often Flawed” Newsday 21 June 2004. Web. 25 May 2010 reprinted at <www.deathwithdignity.org/news/nday.06.21.04.asp> See Allen, C. “Back Off! I’m Not Dead Yet” The Washington Post. 14 October 2007. Web. 25 May 2010. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/12/
  31. Wiesel, E. “Without Conscience” The New England Journal of Medicine. 14 April 2005. 352. 15, 1511-13. Print.


Copyright © 2010. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.




Originally appeared: “Do No Harm:  The Shifting Standard in Medicine.”  Family NC. Summer 2010.


Politics and the Devil by Charles J. Chaput, Part I

In 03 Archbishop Charles Chaput on 2011/12/01 at 11:01 AM
Politics and the Devil  by Charles J. Chaput,  April 11, 2011
A healthy democracy depends on people of conviction working hard to advance their ideas in the public square—respectfully and peacefully, but vigorously and without apologies. We cannot simultaneously serve the poor and accept the legal killing of unborn children.

I have chosen to address the theme of “politics and the devil,” not because I plan to suggest that anyone in our national political life has made a pact with Lucifer—although, given the current environment, you never know; it’s not the sort of thing you’d put in a press release—but because it is the title of an essay by the late University of Chicago philosopher Leszek Kolakowski. Kolakowski was a former Marxist, a very gifted scholar, and a skeptic about many things—but not about the reality of evil or the nature of the devil. One of the disturbing things for Kolakowski’s secular colleagues was that he talked about Satan not as a metaphor or legend or the figment of neurotic imaginations, but as a living actor in history. That deserves some discussion, but let’s start at the beginning.

Politics often works like a virus. The simpler a political slogan is, the faster people absorb it, the faster they transmit it, and the less likely they are to really think about it—which means they don’t develop an immunity to its content.

For example, a theme we’ve heard from many of our cultural leaders over the past few years—at least when they’re not battling over the economy or health care—goes like this. America needs to return science to its “rightful place” in public life. And of course, who can argue with that? Science does an enormous amount of good. Obviously, science should have its rightful place alongside every other important human endeavor. But one thing that this theme often means, in practice, is that we need to spend a lot more money on research. Especially the controversial kind. And while we’re at it, we should stop asking so many annoying ethical questions, so that science can get on with its vital work.

I want to focus on those words “rightful place,” an interesting phrase. A “rightful” place suggests that there is also a wrongful place, a bad alternative. And words like right and wrong, good and bad, are loaded with moral judgment. A “good” law embodies what somebody thinks is right. A “bad” public policy embodies what somebody thinks is wrong, or at least inadequate.

All law in some sense teaches and forms us, while also regulating our behavior. The same applies to our public policies, including the ones that govern our scientific research. There is no such thing as morally neutral legislation or morally neutral public policy. Every law is the public expression of what somebody thinks we “ought” to do. The question that matters is this: Which moral convictions of which somebodies are going to shape our country’s political and cultural future—including the way we do our science?

The answer is pretty obvious: if you and I as citizens don’t do the shaping, then somebody else will. That is the nature of a democracy. A healthy democracy depends on people of conviction working hard to advance their ideas in the public square—respectfully and peacefully, but vigorously and without apologies. Politics always involves the exercise of power in the pursuit of somebody’s idea of the common good. And politics always and naturally involves the imposition of somebody’s values on the public at large. So if a citizen fails to bring his moral beliefs into our country’s political conversation, if he fails to work for them publicly and energetically, then the only thing he ensures is the defeat of his own beliefs.

We also need to remember that most people—not everyone, of course, but most of us—root our moral convictions in our religious beliefs. What we believe about God shapes what we think about the nature of men and women, the structure of good human relationships, and our idea of a just society. This has very practical consequences, including the political kind. We act on what we really believe. If we don’t act on our beliefs, then we don’t really believe them.

As a result, the idea that the “separation of Church and state” should force us to exclude our religious beliefs from guiding our political behavior makes no sense at all, even superficially. If we don’t remain true in our public actions to what we claim to believe in our personal lives, then we only deceive ourselves. Because God certainly isn’t fooled. He sees who and what we are. God sees that our duplicity is really a kind of cowardice, and our lack of courage does a lot more damage than simply wounding our own integrity. It also saps the courage of other good people who really do try to publicly witness what they believe. And that compounds a sin of dishonesty with a sin of injustice.

Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., is the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Denver and the author of Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life. This essay is adapted from the keynote address Archbishop Chaput delivered as part of the University of Notre Dame student-organized Right to Life lecture series.

Copyright 2011 the Witherspoon Institute.  All rights reserved. Re-printed on this blog with permission.  

Complete list of all articles by Jack Reagan

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2015/04/24 at 12:00 AM

The whole series:

01 Is It Just Semantics? – Love

02 Is God God or Are You God? – Purpose & change

03 Contemporary Mischief – Same-sex “marriage”

04 Correct Answer? – Divinity of Church

05 Abortion, A Realistic Viewpoint – Abortion

06 Moslems/Muslims – Islam

07 What is Truth? – Truth

08 Being Objective About Being Subjective – The difference between the two

09 Catholic Christians? – Are Catholics really Christians?

10 What is in a Name? – True Christians

11 Baal and the Tooth Fairy – False gods

12 Rest in Pieces? – Societal decline

13 Blessed Mary, Ever Virgin – Blessed Virgin Mary

14 “Now Let’s Not Be Judgmental” – What is true judgment

15 Art of Conscience – Correct conscience

16 Is That Fr. Phillis? – Women’s ordination

17 The 800 lb. Gorilla – Secularism

18 Some Truths About False Gods – False gods

19 Is Any Religion True? – Man is religious by nature

20 The Dropouts

21 The Great Deception – Sin

22 The Unpreached Sermon: “a layman thinking like a priest” – Christmas/Easter Catholics

23 Let’s Get Real – Reality examined

24 The Siblings of Christ?

25 What Could Have Been – Christmas

26 Coming Storm – Coming persecution

27 The Mythical God – False ideas about God

28 And The Blind Shall Lead – False ideas

29 Freedom, A Paradox – Free Will

30 A Helluva Place – Hell & Damnation

31 Consequences – World without God

32 Mind Over Matter – Truth

33 Life in a Mirage – Effects of immorality

33 A Trilogy of the Unreal – Separation of Church & State; Taking “offense”; Necessity of Morality

34 Signs For Our Times – Introduction & Part I: Unity of the Church – Marks of the Catholic Church

34 Signs For Our Times – Part II: Holiness of the Church – Marks of the Catholic Church

35 Signs For Our Times – Part III: Catholicity of the Church; Part IV: Apostolicity of the Church – Marks of the Catholic Church

37 Semantics of Easter – Easter & Christmas Catholics

38 Another Easter? – Easter Sunday

39 The Bible – A Perspective

40 Abstractions? – Liberal/Conservative

41 The Wanderers – God

42 With All Due Respect – Morality

43 Good Intentions – Moral illusions

44 Ideas and Consequences -Illusions

45 Searching For What Is Not Lost – Lapsed

46 Taking Chances – Mercy

47 Dabbling With Dogma

48 What Did You Expect?

45 Deceptive Labels

50 Forgotten, But Not Gone




“Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

In 07 Observations on 2016/08/26 at 12:00 AM

The one essential virtue God requires of us is FAITH.  Without it, nothing has any worth or gains any merit.  And, like Our Lord’s apostles, we must ask Him to increase our faith.  In our times, this is particularly important so that we do not live in fear.  This is because we are by nature cowardly and often quite weak and fearful.   It is only by faith that we can cope with the billowing  storm clouds of our times.

Our only fear should be that of being separate from God. If we compromise on any single truth of the Creed, it will follow that we will gradual compromise on others to the point that we will end up rejecting truth/faith for the value’s of this world’s so called culture.  There are many nowadays who do not want you to reject their false ideas, and it would be imprudent of you to remain silent  when doing so would cause confusion or even scandal.  Do not retreat to your own little world, but instead challenge your erroneous ideas with the truth to transform your milieu.  Our world is in great need of living examples of faith.

Stand up for your faith.  Be a living testimony to Christ despite the ridicule today’s world heaps on you.  Our Christianity obliges us to bear witness to the Truth regardless of the consequences.  We must be prudent and charitable but never cowardly or fearful in the defense of our beliefs.  Christ Himself will give us the courage to face our difficulties.   Throughout His life, Jesus was subjected to constant tauntings, criticism, and insults which He combated with the Truth.

A life of faith is a life of sacrifice meaning sacrificially rejecting whatever prevents us doing what we know is God’s will for us.  You will be faithful in important matters  of faith is you are faithful in protecting yourself from any occasion to compromise your belief, be it a movie, an event, a conversation. Do not be alarmed or discouraged by temptations.  Pray and flee, but if you must stay, stand your ground because by defending your belief, you can be an example that wins others to Christ.    Never follow the weak and blinking light of comfort and conformity which the world advocates; instead, be guided by the principles of Him who is the Light of the world.

If we meditate on the humanity of God Incarnate, we will be nourishing our souls to be faithful, loyal and unswerving in doing God’s will.  Like His Mother, we must keep our eyes on Jesus, trusting Him completely.  Our Lady’s whole existence had the solid foundation of faith in God.  Let us ask her to show us how to grow in faith daily.

The Real Henry VIII

In 13 History on 2016/06/10 at 12:00 AM

The Reformation in Europe was the work of the princes, but in England, of one lustful prince, so aid the Seventh Edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. How was this possible?  In order to understand the power of this one prince we need to go back to the days of his father, Henry Tudor.

In the Hundred Years’ War between England and France, England lost many from the ranks of the nobility.  The Wars of the Roses between the House of York and the House of Lancaster were precisely over the right to the throne, and it likewise cost many a noble his life.

Henry Tudor was not a member of the nobility but he was married to Margaret of York who had a distant claim to the throne.  However, the enterprising Henry Tudor was an ambitious man driven by a will to power and possessed of a practical organizational mind.  He promised the war weary nation: law and order, peace and prosperity.  They accepted him and he delivered.  But, how did he manage it?

First, the now Henry VII,  married off his heir, Arthur to the richest princess in Christendom: Catherine of Aragon, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, whose galleons creaked under the weight of the treasures the New World brought Spain.  Catherine’s dowry provided Henry Tudor with the funds to create kings’ men out of townsmen to whom he gave the lands of fallen lords; men loyal to him; men he made and could break.

Second, he gave his daughter, Margaret as wife to the King of Scotland and thus neutralized the wild Scots who had been plaguing England for centuries.  With the King of Scotland now his son-in-law, he thus had achieved much needed tranquility in the northern border.

Last but not least, he sent his second son, Henry, off to a monastery.  If Lorenzo the Magnificent of Florence could have a son a pope (Pope Leo X), he Henry Tudor would have his son, Henry be a future pope also.

Now for the fly in the ointment:  Little Arthur upped and died.  Catherine and her dowry need be return to her parents who would find her a new husband, particularly since the marriage had not been consummated. Henry VII could not returned the dowry, having used the funds for his purposes, so he approached the Pope to get his approval for the validity of the proposed marriage of his son Henry to his brother’s widow.  The Pope said their was no impediment.

While all the negotiations were proceeding, the multi-gifted Henry left the monastery and discovered the world of women.  His first of the many sired in the interim before his marriage to Catherine, was Geoffrey, later known as the Duke of Monmouth.

The age of discovery included an unhappy exchange between the New World and the Old World: syphilis and smallpox.  Each lacking the immunity, the consequences were devastating for both.  Before his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, Henry was already syphilitic.  The numerous children Catherine bore Henry were either still-born or died shortly after birth; the one exception being a daughter, Mary, later to be Mary Tudor, Queen of England.

Sing a Song of Six Pence…the King, Henry; the Queen, Catherine; the Maid, Anne Boleyn; the Blackbird, the executioner.  (See a lengthier treatment of this in Political Nursery Rhymes in the Category: Tib-bits)

After seventeen years of marriage which includes many lust filled daillances with ladies-in-waiting, Henry claimed scruples about his marriage to Catherine being wrong on the grounds of consanguinity…that it was wrong to have married his brother’s widow, and God was punishing him by not giving him a male heir.  The reason for this late-arriving scruple?  Henry was asked to pay a price by Anne Boleyn and that price was Queen.  Anne’s sister Mary had been left pregnant and indigent by Henry (now how’s that the consanguinity issue?)

Making a long matter short: the Pope could not grant Henry the desired divorce because the Pope does not have the power to dissolve a lawful marriage.  So, Henry declared himself the head of the Catholic Church in England, appointed an Archbishop who granted him a divorce and Henry married Anne who got what she wanted: to be queen, and what she did not want: to be beheaded for giving birth to a daughter (Elizabeth). Reason for her execution: (trumped up charge of) adultery!

Some of the casualties of friendly fire:

Cardinal Wolsey, the butcher’s son and king’s man, failed in his annulment mission to Rome.  When Wolsey heard that the King had ordered his death, he sent for a coffin, stripped himself naked and lay in it declaring: “If I had served my God as well as I had served my King, I would not now like naked to my enemies.”  An ensuing heart attack deprived his executioners.  Henry gave Anne a gift: Wolsey’s Palace, Hampton Court.

Thomas More, Chancellor of England and friend of Henry, refused to take the Oath of Supremacy acknowledging the Act of Supremacy of 1634 by which Henry made himself the head of the Catholic Church in England.  (Recommendation: film MAN FOR ALL SEASONS)

“Six wives did Henry wed: two died, two divorced, one beheaded, one survived.”  So went the ditty.  Died: Catherine with a penitent Henry at her bedside asking forgiveness and truthfully claiming he always loved her.  Catherine had long forgiven him; she knew him well.  Jane Seymour, his child-bride, died in childbirth. Divorced: Anne of Cleves and another Catherine.  Beheaded: Anne Boleyn; Survived by her wits: the last of three Catherines.

Cardinal Pole’s mother and Henry’s great-aunt, executed along with her sons. Cardinal Reginald escaped to the Continent but was hounded by would-be assassins sent by Henry.

Countless archbishops, bishops, abbots and monks; the “four-and=twenty blackbirds”.  Henry needed to get the lead out of the roofs of the monasteries for war material.  His dissolution of the monasteries and their enriched his coffers beyond imagination, but also left the sick, the poor and the homeless without the services rendered by the monks to them for the love of God.  This destruction of the charitable services of the church centuries later gave birth to welfare from the state.

Incongruous notes: Henry’s will left all his personal wealth for masses to be said for the repose of his soul. Henry always remained a Roman Catholic in belief.  The Pope had awarded him the title of Defender of the Catholic Faith for his book THE SEVEN SACRAMENTS written as a defense of the Church against Luther.  All monarchs of England thereafter have used the title as Defender of the Faith, having edited out the “Catholic”.

England remained Catholic in the days of Henry VIII.  The people were appalled by the atrocities committed by the syphilitic king whose disease was eating up his brain and they termed him “Bluebeard”. The change to Anglican or Church of England came during the reign of the boy-king, Edward VI and was the work of his uncle Seymour and Archbishop Cramner.  It was at this time that Calvinist ideas were incorporated and priest were specifically not ordained to offer sacrifice.

After the premature death of Edward, Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry and Catherine of Aragon became Queen and with her husband, Philip II, great grandson of Ferdinand and Isabella, they restored Catholicism to England.

With the premature death of Mary, the throne was vacant.  It should have automatically gone to Henry VII’s surviving descendant from the marriage of his daughter Margaret to the King of Scotland.  Mary Queen of Scots, Queen of France, Queen of England would meet her death at the hands of her cousin, Elizabeth, who would behead her in the first regicide.

By accepted international law, illegitimate children could not inherit.  If they could have inherited, the throne would rightly belong to Geoffrey, Duke of Monmouth.  Vested interests which had profited from confiscations of properties of Catholics feared he would continue Mary’s restoration.  So, the throne was offered to the discarded child of Henry, whose mother he had beheaded!  Needless to say, she accepted the condition: to make Anglicanism the official religion of the state.  As a female incarnation of Henry, she outdid him in destructiveness while her syncopates wove the legend of Good Queen Bess, not sustainable by historical facts.

Wedding Feast at Cana

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2016/01/22 at 12:00 AM
  • Today’s Gospel story of the wedding feast at Cana follows well upon the Gospel stories of the past two Sundays. Two weeks ago we celebrated the Epiphany of the Lord, in which Jesus’ divinity was made manifest to the world through the adoration of the Magi.
  • Last week we saw the divinity of Christ manifested in His baptism in the Jordan River, as God the Father spoke aloud from Heaven: “You are my beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.”
  • Today we see this theme of the manifestation of Jesus’ divinity continued as He performs His first public miracle: changing water into wine at a wedding feast in Cana.
  • In some ways this is the most beautiful of these three manifestations of Christ’s divinity, for this manifestation occurs at His mother’s request and out of a sense of charity to a newly married couple, who would have been gravely embarrassed without Jesus’ help.
  • But today’s Gospel story is more than just a nice anecdote from the life of Jesus. In fact, the miracle at Cana is more than just another revelation of our Lord’s glory.
  • The Catechism states that: “The Church attaches great importance to Jesus’ presence at the wedding at Cana. She sees in it the confirmation of the goodness of marriage and the proclamation that thenceforth marriage will be an efficacious sign of Christ’s presence” (CCC 1613).
  • And so it was that the institution of marriage was raised to the dignity of a sacrament at Cana. And so it is that the Church proclaims that the matrimonial bond between a husband and his wife should be a symbol of the love our Lord has for the Church.
  • Think about that for just a moment: your marriage is meant to be “an efficacious sign of Christ’s presence. Your marriage should be a revelation of Christ’s love for the Church!”
  • Christ’s love for the Church is best seen in the fact that Jesus sacrificed Himself, suffered and died for us. In doing so our Lord shows us that love is essentially sacrificial and self-giving. Thus, the love between husband and wife must be sacrificial and self-giving, too.
  • We see this best illustrated through the marital act. In this sacred act husband and wife speak an intimate language in which they say to one another: I give myself fully to you, and I receive you fully back unto myself.
  • Because of the totality of the gift of self made in the marital act, the only ones who should enter into it are those who have vowed to live a marital covenant with one another, for the marital act is the sign and consummation of that vow.
  • Moreover, entering into the covenant of marriage implies the willingness to accept the responsibilities that naturally flow from the conjugal act: namely, the responsibility of raising children.
  • Thus, marriage and the conjugal act are inseparably linked. You cannot have one without the other. To engage in conjugal relations before getting married is akin to stealing a gift that does not yet belong to you. It is always, in every situation, wrong.
  • Unfortunately, this inseparable link between marriage and the marital act is a truth that has been ignored by a huge segment of our society – and with serious consequences.
  • Since the sexual revolution of the 1960s, many have selfishly come to believe that any form of conjugal relations are acceptable, as long as all such relations are consensual.
  • Aided and abetted by contraception’s pernicious promise of freedom from the natural consequences and responsibilities of the conjugal act, the conjugal act has become, in the minds of many, less and less about procreation, and more and more about recreation.
  • The upshot? What was designed by God to be an act of selfless self-giving resulting in the creation of new life has become for many (if not most) members of our society, a selfish act resulting – at times – in the destruction of both bodies and souls.
  • This week our country observes the 40th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. In doing so we see quite plainly the evil fruit of this errant and distorted view of conjugal relations: the murder of 55 million babies in the womb since 1973!
  • Those children were aborted because so many people in our society engage in conjugal relations outside of marriage and with no intention of being open to new life. Those children were aborted because the conjugal act was misunderstood and misused.
  • But as terrible as it is, abortion is not the only evil consequence of the sexual revolution.
  • As the understanding of the marital act has changed for so many people, so too has theunderstanding of marriage itself – and to such a point that several states in our country havenow completely redefined marriage.
  • Our faith teaches that marriage is the indissoluble, intimate, and exclusive union of a man andwoman ordered toward the procreation and education of children and the unity and good ofthe couple.
  • This structure of marriage has not been arbitrarily created or imposed by the Church, butrather revealed to us by human nature, and thus by God. The Church didn’t make this up!She simply accepts what marriage is.
  • Indeed, this understanding of marriage is so fundamental and so deeply rooted in humannature, that every society and culture in human history has managed to grasp this truth – eventhose outside of a Judeo-Christian influence.
  • And as Pope John Paul II taught us, this understanding of marriage is even written into ourhuman bodies, as simple anatomy reveals that the male and female bodies are complementaryand designed for union with one another.
  • Only in the intimate union of life and love enjoyed by a man and a woman is new life createdand best nurtured.
  • So to believe – as so many in our society do – that the institution of marriage can and shouldbe extended to unions other than those formed by one man and one woman is to believe a lie,a lie pedaled by those who value political correctness above truth.
  • Obviously I am referring to those who would redefine marriage so as to include same-sexunions.
  • The problem with so-called gay marriage is not so much that it goes against our Church’steachings. The problem is that the whole concept of gay marriage is contrary to human natureand human dignity, and thus it is a very serious threat to human society.
  • Enshrining gay marriage in our nation’s laws means the acceptance of some very harmfulideas, most egregiously the idea that children don’t need both a father and mother, but also theidea that man can marriage to be whatever he wants it to be.
  • Enshrining gay marriage into our nation’s laws means accepting, as well, the idea thatmarriage is ordered to a person’s own satisfaction. And if that’s the case, what’s to stop aperson from leaving a marriage once he no longer satisfied with his spouse?
  • But even beyond that, when we redefine marriage and distort the meaning of the marital act, itmakes it much harder to grow in holiness through marriage. It makes it harder for marriagesto be an efficacious sign of Christ’s presence and a sign of His love.
  • And when this happens, it becomes much harder for people to get to Heaven. That’s thebiggest tragedy of all. Souls are going to hell over this.
  • My brothers and sisters, marriage is one of God’s greatest gifts to humanity, most especially because it’s a vehicle for growing in holiness. But this growth in holiness is only possible if we live our marriages as God intends us to.
  • May we hold fast to and defend our Church’s understanding of marriage and the marital act, so that all marriages can be an efficacious sign of Christ’s presence and love.

20 January 2013

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

Homilies from June 17, 2012 onward have audio.
To enable the audio, lease go directly to Fr. Reid’s homily homilies and select the matching date.


Forgotten, But Not Gone

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2015/10/16 at 12:00 AM

Modern man has avidly accepted the false philosophy that there is no objective truth in the non-physical fields.(Object truth means something is true regardless of our belief about it.)  But it is this non-physical world that distinguishes us from the animals; they live in a physical world and are guided by instinct. The mental world is reserved for man and refers to the areas of religion, politics, fine arts, music, law, among others, and, of course, thinking. With modern man there are no true or false ideas, no good or bad morals, no right or wrong pursuits. Everything is true or false according to his own perception, and no one can legitimately say he is wrong.

One of the negative consequences of this philosophy is the denial of personal sin. When is the last time you heard a sermon on sin? Frankly, I can’t remember one. After all, current thought says we are not really responsible for our “bad” actions because we are “victims” of environment, economics, race, neighborhoods, etc.

Although many people may reject or “pooh-pooh” the idea of serious sin, it is, nevertheless, alive and well, encompassing the entire world. The world is in the mess it is in because of sin. Situations get worse because of the refusal to acknowledge that faulty morality may play a significant role in the world’s seemingly insoluble problems. But to even acknowledge sin is to face the task of repentance. Many serious sins have mass appeal, so changing to a better moral code simply is not an option for many people. A problem not admitted or rationalized is a problem that will remain unsolved. Look around you!

There are consequences to this denial of sin because sin is real and its consequences are real – they exist. Look around you! Sin is really an irrational act. Habitual sin clouds the mind and prevents sensible thoughts about the situation one is in.

Serious sin always demands more. When one sin is not enough to satisfy, eventually 100 will not be enough to satisfy, and the sinner is trapped. He becomes a slave to his sin because it has become part of his mental operation. He loses sight of any of the worthwhile aspects of life because he is driven by the compulsion to sin.

Eventually he may become so hard-hearted that he becomes like a frenzied demon in his pursuit of evil. This could happen to anyone – and probably did to individuals like Hitler, Stalin, Mao, serial killers, etc. A habitual sinner is follower of Satan. You may say, “I don’t believe in that nonsense.”  Well, Satan believes in you, and he is readying you for his kingdom.

Habitual sin separates us from God who is the ultimate goal of human life. One who dies in the state of habitual serious sin cannot except to share eternity with anyone but those like him. There are no former habitual sinners in Heaven. Sin is a violation of divine law, and lawbreakers are not in favor with God. But, the sinner says, “God is so good that He would never consign a sinner to eternal Hell.” God does not consign anyone to Hell or Heaven; we consign ourselves. When we die, the time for repentance is over. Even the inexhaustible divine mercy is unavailable then because in eternity, there can be no change. Besides, when the sinner dies, he will instantly grasp what a fool he has been, but it will be too late.

Modern man has been seduced by the idea of instant gratification; he does not want to wait for anything. “I want it now” is his watchword. However, this is the way of a young child, and it is a sign of immaturity in adults or teens. Habitual sin is instant gratification run amok. Such a person cannot be serious about the serious issues of life because few of them are instantly gratified.

In the story of Adam and Eve, the focus is usually on the actual sin. If we look at the story more closely, we can see that there was a prior mistake: they fell for the idea that sin would make them equal to God. Every habitual sinner has fooled himself into thinking that he, like God, has the right to conduct himself according to his own wishes and desires. That never works, though, because God is God. And, we are not.

The concept of sin may  have been forgotten, but it is by no means gone. It may be forgotten in the sinner’s mind, but it is still as real as it ever was. What you believe about it, one way or the other, does not change the reality of its existence. If you think all this is nonsense, look around you, and tell me how well things are going.





Becoming a Catholic

In 12 Converts on 2015/04/10 at 12:00 AM

by Father John McCloskey

As the Catechism reminds us, winning converts to our Faith should be a constant concern for all Catholics: “The true apostle is on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers…or to the faithful” (#905). How should we go about it? People are brought to the Church one by one. God pours out his saving grace in many ways, but He normally requires, and we could even say desires, the willing collaboration of his sons and daughters in this joyful task. Winning converts is your task and there is no more endlessly satisfying and challenging work than that of saving souls. The famous Catholic philosopher (and convert) Dietrich von Hildebrand said that we should look upon all people we encounter as Catholics in re (in fact) or in spe (potentially). I agree.

Admit it. Don’t you from time to time think about sharing with your neighbor, your friend, your family member, your colleague the joy that it is in your heart in enjoying the fullness of our Faith in the Catholic Church? No apologies here (except in the “Pro Vita Sua ” sense), thank you. Perhaps already some of you have had the wonderful experience of being the godparent or sponsor of a friend whom, by God’s grace, you have guided into the Church. You know then the joy that fills the heart in being God’s instrument. The only comparable joys are marriage, becoming a parent, and performing in “persona Christi” the sacraments of the Church as a priest!

This delight in a friend’s baptism or reception into full communion with the Church is always a cause for holy celebration, but it is a particular joy in the present circumstances of our culture and in the present ecclesial moment as we await the third millennium of the Christian era. We see ourselves surrounded in our “culture of death” by so many persons bereft of any real meaning in their lives. Has there ever been in the Christian era a more joyless, aimless, lonely society than our own, a society that is truly “Clueless,” a society that has appeared to have gained the whole world but forgotten the existence of its own soul? On the other hand, has there ever been a Roman Pontiff at the head of our Church who has so incessantly and hopefully proclaimed the Gospel in all its fullness throughout the world, addressing the fallen yet redeemed world’s hopes and anxieties so completely?

The constant growth through the first three centuries of the infant Church up to the Edict of Milan in the early fourth century took place through the witness and personal influence of thousands of Christians and their families. With the passage of more centuries, Christian ideals lived out in the world by persons and families gradually transformed the West into a form of a Christian culture which we know as the Middle Ages. In our own time, following the gradual dissolution of that particular culture through, in part, such historical events as the Reformation, the Enlightenment and the titanic struggles of ideas and ideologies of the last two centuries (Darwinism, Marxism, Freudianism, and so on), we are called to do the same. The partial success of these various heresies and ideologies on the world stage has been due in part to the fact that a large portion of the Catholic laity have been “missing in action” in the apostolic sense through the last several centuries, ignorantly content to let the clergy and religious do the “heavy lifting.”

This article aims to give some insights, largely based upon my own experience, into how we can more effectively spread the gift of faith through example and friendship, or what Cardinal Newman referred to as the “apostolate of personal influence.” As we rapidly draw to our crossing the “threshold of hope” into the third millennium, it is the historical moment to throw off our timidity, our fear, and let our light shine out not only from under the basket but upon the shining hill. Why do you think it is that at the end of this century our Faith, so abused, attacked and vituperated, has drawn to it well known Jewish atheists, Protestant ministers by the dozens, prominent politicians, etc.? Why did the Holy Father in his last pastoral visit to the U.S. in October 1995 virtually conquer the heart of New York, the capital of secularism? Why is it that in the media today when the word “Church” is used, it is always understood to mean the Catholic Church and not pan-Protestantism? Certainly not because membership in the Church is the road to riches, affluence, fame, good health, and a care-free future! It attracts those seeking eternal verities that promise eternal life, “life everlasting.”

If now is “the age of the laity,” as is incessantly proclaimed, its success will be measured not by the ever-increasing participation of the laity in ecclesiastical “ministries” but rather by the growth and spiritual health of the Church as manifested in an increase both in numbers and in the intensity of laymen’s prayer, sacramental participation and apostolic fervor. This, in turn, will lead inevitably to a gradual transformation of culture into one that reflects faithfully Christ’s teaching as mediated through the Church. As the Pope said in his address to the American Bishops in Los Angeles in l987, “Primarily through her laity, the Church is in a position to exercise great influence upon American culture. But how is American culture evolving today? Is the evolution being influenced by the Gospel? Does it clearly reflect Christian inspiration? Your music, your poetry and art, your drama, your painting and sculpture, the literature that you are producing–are all those things which reflect the soul of a nation being influenced by the spirit of Christ for the perfection of humanity?” To be able to answer in the affirmative may take decades but the effort will start with our own personal conversion which will result in the conversion of others.

The prophetic message of the Council and the present pontificate have led to this thinking about the laity… The Holy Father believes that, as we enter the third millennium, we are crossing the “threshold of hope” into “a new springtime for the Church.” If this is to happen, it will depend ultimately on the apostolate of millions of persons and families. He said in his letter on missionary activity: “The witness of a Christian life is the first and irreplaceable form of mission. Christ, whose mission we continue, is the ‘witness’ par excellence and the model of all Christian witness. The first form of witness is the very life of the missionary, of the Christian family, and of the ecclesial community.”

We may refer to this sharing of our faith as evangelization, giving witness, etc. I prefer the word used most often by the Conciliar fathers in this regard, apostolate: The second Vatican Council tells us: “The individual apostolate, flowing generously from its source in a truly Christian life, is the origin and condition of the whole lay apostolate, even of the organized type, it admits of no substitutes (my emphasis). Regardless of status, all lay persons (including those who have no opportunity or possibility for collaboration in associations) are called to this type of apostolate and obliged to engage in it.”

In a later encyclical on the laity by John Paul II, the point could not be made clearer: “The entire mission of the Church, then, is concentrated and manifested in evangelization… In fact, the ‘good news’ is directed to stirring a person to a conversion of heart and life and a clinging to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior; to disposing a person to receive Baptism and the Eucharist and to strengthen a person in the prospect and realization of new life according to the Spirit.” In short, the buck stops with each one of us to evangelize those who surround us. No excuses. “Every disciple is personally called by name; no disciple can withhold making a response: ‘Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel’ (I Cor 9:16).”

Perhaps we should firmly establish our right, as well as our duty to bring our friends to Christ’s Church. First, it is His Church, with the successor of St. Peter as the Vicar of Christ. As the Holy Father points out in the encyclicalOn Commitment to Ecumenism, “the one Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church. The Decree of Ecumenism emphasizes the presence in her of the fullness (plenitudo) of the means of salvation. Full unity will come about when all share in the fullness of the means of salvation entrusted by Christ to his Church… The Catholic Church is conscious that she has preserved the ministry of the Successor of the Apostle Peter, the Bishop of Rome, whom God established as her ‘perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity.'”

If we can put it more succinctly, all who are saved are saved through the Church even if they are not aware of it on earth. Everyone in heaven is a member of the Church. Belloc had it right, I think: “One thing in the world is different from all other. It has a personality and a force. It is recognized and (when recognized) most violently loved or hated. It is the Catholic Church. Within that household the human spirit has roof and hearth. Outside it, it is the night.”

Second, there is a mistaken notion that is fairly widespread in our society that the second Vatican Council was about the role of the lay Catholic in the Church. It was not. It was about the role of the lay Catholic in the world. This role can be summed up in the search for holiness that is our baptismal right and duty and consequently in assuming the right and privilege of extending the kingdom of God here on earth through witnessing to our faith through the Christian example of our family and friendships.

A few words of caution. We are not speaking of proselytism (in the pejorative sense). That is to say our sharing, witnessing, speaking, giving, forming, educating and so on has absolutely nothing to do with coercion, or, perish the thought, lack of respect for the “freedom of the children of God,” particularly in that which refers to our “separated brethren” Christians. Quite the contrary. I am in total agreement with the landmark ecumenical statement from Evangelicals and Catholics Together in l994, written by Charles Colson and Richard John Neuhaus and co-signed by many other prominent churchmen of both Catholicism and the Evangelical faiths, which says: “It is understandable that Christians who bear witness to the Gospel try to persuade others that their communities and traditions are more fully in accord with the Gospel.” We realize that only God’s grace can effect a conversion and that pressure, other than our prayer, sacrifice, good example, and friendship, would not only in the long-term certainly be counter productive but would also not respect “the dignity of the human person” so central to the teachings of the 2nd Vatican Council and of John Paul II.

“Christian witness must always be made in a spirit of love and humility. It must not deny but must readily accord to everyone the full freedom to discern and decide what is God’s will for his life. Witness that is in service to the truth is in service to such freedom. Any form of coercion, physical, psychological, legal, or economic corrupts Christian witness and is to be unqualifiedly rejected….” No, we are interested only in our personal total “gift of self” which is never more complete than when we act as God’s collaborators in communicating the gift of divine life, God’s grace. Cardinal Newman, the proto-convert of the last two centuries, made it clear that “to believe is to love” and that grace of the fullness of faith is only given to those who are freely seeking it.

But now on to more practical matters. How do we “make” converts? First of all, we don’t, God does. Having made that abundantly clear, what is our first step in approaching someone to consider becoming a Catholic? Naturally the desire will flow out of our prayer life. To paraphrase the epitaph written on the tomb of the famous London architect Christopher Wren, If you seek converts, circumspice (look around you). We come into contact with dozens if not hundreds of people in the course of our daily lives each month. They range from dearest family members and intimate friends to the butcher, baker, and candlestick maker. We look at them and ask ourselves “could this person be open to our Faith?” If the answer is yes, on to the next step. It is said that the most effective way to raise money for a good cause is to simply ask for it. The same may be applied to our situation. The question “Have you ever thought of becoming a Catholic?” addressed to many people over the course of our life will certainly produce not only converts but also interesting and thought provoking conversations and new personal relationships. You may have to practice this line in front of a mirror a few times just as you did before asking out your first date. You generally will be surprised at how flattered, if somewhat surprised, people are at the question. Naturally it has to be emphasized that we are not approaching perfect strangers. Indeed, if we are not in the process of developing a deep and lasting friendship with the potential new member of the Church, then our question lacks authenticity and will be rightfully judged as impertinent and insincere. The great majority will say that you are the first person who has ever asked them that question, and more than a few will say they have been waiting for someone to ask them that question all their lives! A few will react negatively, but after all, not all “have eyes to see or ears to hear.” We “shake the dust off our feet” and go on. We are not looking for success. It is the “love of Christ that compels us.” We may also be surprised to see after the passage of time, even many years, people coming back to us looking for answers because we had the courage to offer them at an earlier time our Faith.

We are challenging people to consider making the most significant decision they will ever make in their lives, infinitely more important than the choice of school, profession, or spouse; one that will affect every fiber of their being for the rest of their lives, and have serious consequences in the hereafter. It is essential that you get to know them well, particularly their religious background, if any, so, as is said in the vernacular, you “know where they are coming from.” Of use in this regard would be a thorough reading ofSeparated Brethren (Our Sunday Visitor), a survey of Protestant, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, and other denominations in the U.S. by William J. Whalen. By engaging in conversation on this point you will be inviting your friend, and committing yourself, to go deep below the surface of everyday trivialities into the heart of the matter. Why are we here? What is truth? Is there a right and wrong? Is there a God? An afterlife? Is Jesus Christ God? Did he found a Church during his lifetime? If so, which one? Do we need to belong to it to be saved? Of course, you need to be not only willing to discuss and answer these queries but prepared.

“Be ready always with an answer to everyone who asks a reason for the hope that is in you” (I Peter, 3:15). To be an evangelist in today’s world means to be an apologist. This is the work of a lifetime, but that does not excuse us from evangelizing while we learn on the job. Remember, no matter how little we know, our friends knows less. And what is more important, we know where to go for the answers. A lot of our catechetical work with our potential convert friends will be, happily, simply to refer them to the best sources. Obviously we should have a good grasp of the New Testament and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, our fundamental texts. However we should also slowly but surely read and study the great English and American apologists: Newman, Lewis, Chesterton, Benson, and Knox and the more modern masters, Sheed and Kreeft. Many of their works are in print. It is also useful to be familiar with the magisterial teachings of the Pope for the most current teachings on matters of faith and morals.

Reviewing our own preparation leads directly to the question of recommending reading for friends who express an interest in our faith. An increasing number of people simply don’t understand the basic vocabulary of what it means to believe. An excellent brief volume is Belief and Faith by the famous German philosopher Josef Pieper. He draws heavily on Cardinal Newman’s much more complex Grammar of Assent. Many people today need a book to awaken their interest in Christianity or a volume that helps to make Christianity “reasonable” and understandable. Several books come immediately to mind. Both Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man of G. K. Chesterton will stimulate the reader. I am thinking also of a basic primer,A Map of Life (Ignatius) by Frank Sheed, and the famous Mere Christianityof C.S. Lewis. Most fundamental, of course, is the New Testament. An excellent version with ascetical commentary is The Navarre Bible (Scepter Publishers). And we might recommend a good Life of Christ (try Goodier, Sheen, Riccioti, Guardini). Your friends simply must come to know the life of Jesus Christ if they are going to be able to join His Church. Second is a good Catholic catechism so that they may come to know the Church and her teachings. There are many excellent ones in print, by Frs. Trese, Hardon, Lawler, Noll, and the list goes on. Just choose one that you are comfortable with and one that reflects the sound teaching of the Church updated for the Second Vatican Council and the authoritative recent Catechism.

I would recommend that you whet their appetite for conversion by giving them a book or two on stories of conversions: Spiritual Journeys (Pauline Publications) or Surprised by Truth (Basilica Press) come immediately to mind. Our friends will be intrigued to read about the contemporary conversion stories of so many people drawn to the faith from such varied backgrounds and are sure to find at least part of their story in one of these histories. Don’t forget, either, the classic spiritual autobiographies of St. Augustine, John Henry Cardinal Newman, Thomas Merton and Malcolm Muggeridge and the more recent one of Dr. Bernard Nathanson. They have changed millions of hearts and minds.

You should also familiarize your friends with the richness of the history of the Church. They clearly will see the continuity of the Faith through the apostolic succession and read the dramatic story of evangelization through the centuries with its ups and downs. I would recommend Msgr. Philip Hughes’s Popular History of the Church for a short synopsis of Church History, and the first three volumes of the magisterial History of Christendom by Warren Carroll (Christendom College Press). The latter volumes read like novels, are painstakingly researched, and reveal the Church in all its heights and depths, in its saints and sinners.

An important part of our work of introducing our friends to the Faith will be exposing them to the beauty of the Catholic liturgy and to the art, literature, and music of Catholic inspiration. Accompanying them to the Holy Mass and other liturgical events, such as the celebration of solemn Benediction, a baptism, a wedding, the Easter Vigil, an episcopal consecration, or the ordination of new priests, or a Rosary-filled pilgrimage to a Shrine of the Virgin, will bring them to a deep appreciation of the incarnate aspect of our Faith and its sacramental nature. To listen to Gregorian Chant, today so strangely popular, or the great classical compositions centered on the Mass, the Psalms, or various events in the life of Christ and our Lady will also draw them closer to the heart of the Church. Listen with them to the great works of Mozart, Beethoven, Bruckner, and to the more contemporary Gorecki and Messiaen for starters. Surely such beauty in music could only be inspired by the Truth.

Introduce them to the great Catholic authors, starting with Dante and continuing on down the centuries to Manzoni and Sienkiewicz in the last century to the Undsets, Waughs, O’Connors, Bernanos’, Mauriacs, and Endos of our own day. They will thus understand that the truth really does make us free and no one so free as the artist who has the standard of a faith-filled metaphysic that gives him full rein of expression in capturing the divine in the human.

Let’s be realistic. Not all of your friends, by any means, are going to be receptive to this heavy “intellectual” approach. You may have to be much more selective in what you recommend to your friends: pamphlets rather than books, Catholic hymns rather than symphonies, a more contemporary (although sound) version of the New Testament rather than the Douay-Rheims, the stained glass in your parish church rather than Chartres. Listen to their needs, their questions and try to satisfy them. A time of prayer spent with them or a visit to poor or elderly people may be much more influential in the process of their movement towards the Church than any possible reading you might give them.

Oh yes, let’s not forget the parish and the priest. After all, our friend wil most probably spend the rest of life normally worshipping in a parish setting. If our friend has not been baptized, the Church normally asks that the budding catechumen be enrolled in the R.C.I.A. program (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) in his local parish which will take him through a month by month program of initiation in the Church that culminates normally in Baptism during the Easter Vigil (hopefully with you there as his godparent!) If he has been baptized, he will make his first confession and then receive the Sacrament of Confirmation and first Holy Communion within a Mass on Easter or at another time. It is useful and proper to establish a team approach in dealing with your friends. Find a prayerful, zealous (they really are synonomous) priest with whom you can work and triangulate, which is to say both of you working together can offer your insights and wisdom, your prayer and sacrifice to your friend, The priest may be able, perhaps, to enter better into some areas that you cannot on account of his sacramental power. He will also be able to advise you as to the best way and moment for your friend to be incorporated in the Church, taking careful notice of personal circumstances.

What happens if over a reasonable amount of time your friend doesn’t react, he just doesn’t “get it?” He claims he doesn’t see it. His difficulties with Christ and the teachings of the Church still result in doubt. His family, parents, spouse present what appear to be insuperable obstacles. Do you throw him overboard in order to sail off for other prizes? You wouldn’t think of it! The answer is prayer, persistence, and patience. The violence of your prayer (remember Who is in charge of this operation) will eventually bear him away. Your persistence and constancy in your true friendship will eventually win him over by showing that your love is unconditional. Remember you may be the one person in his life who is interested only in his salvation. No ulterior motives of any sort. By patience we show our realization that conversion takes place at God’s pace, not a minute sooner or later. The conversion may not happen until he is is on his death bed, and you may witness it from heaven.

Good, thanks be to God, he finally made it; he is in! What now? Naturally it is on to the next person, or perhaps you are already dealing with several people at the same time. However, don’t forget your new-born Catholic friend. He is just a very young child, taking his first tottering steps into a bright new world that will have its storms and shadows. He will be surrounded by some who regard Catholicism and his conversion to it in Chesterton’s words as “a nuisance and a new and a dangerous thing.” He needs nurturing, your encouragement, your friendship, your support. Blessed Josemaria Escriva says, “Sanctification is the work of a lifetime” and as your friend’s godfather, sponsor, or guide, you have to be with him every step of the way. Perhaps you will introduce him to other institutions and spiritualities of the Church that can further his spiritual progress. He will be eternally grateful to you and you in your turn will echo the words of a famous French convert and poet, Paul Claudel, who said, “Tell him his only duty is to be joyful.”

Reprinted with permission from Catholic City.  First appeared in Catholic World Report.