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Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

“Catholax” by Deacon James H. Toner

In 07 Observations on 2016/09/09 at 12:00 AM

What we think is the right road
I go to Mass every Sunday, usually. But when Mass is over, I have a life to lead as I want. I’m a Catholic, but I’m not a fanatic or a zealot.

But it’s the wrong road

Vice President Joe Biden is Catholic, as are five of the eight current justices of the Supreme Court, about 160 members of Congress, and about a dozen of the 35 (or so) people President Barack Obama has named to his cabinet. One might conclude that U.S. public policy must be well grounded in Catholic moral and social teaching. Not so, of course.

The reason that our public policy often directly contravenes Church teaching is that so many of our “leading” Catholics are, well, “Catholax.”

Laxism (from the Latin for “slackness”) is a 17th-century concept in moral theology that excused Catholics from their moral duties on very slight and insufficient grounds. When Catholic teaching authorities (ranging from parents and priests to college faculties) abandon the inculcation of moral virtue, replacing it with casuistry – case studies and weak-kneed or perplexed ethical “analysis” – laxism results.

Modern laxism dates at least to 1960 when presidential candidate John F. Kennedy declared, “I do not speak for my Church on public matters; and the Church does not speak for me.”

If, as we Catholics believe, Our Lord is head of the Church, then denying the authority of the Church is tantamount to denying the authority of Christ.

So often, all of us – not just politicians – find it much easier to acknowledge the “authority” of a “replacement supreme being.” That replacement may be the idol or mammon of power, prestige, pelf (money) or politics, but the replacement of God or of God’s authority is always at the heart of sin. When we substitute anything for God, we endorse that substitute as divine, and we begin the worship of false gods (see Catechism of the Catholic Church 398).

Worshipping spurious gods invariably leads to treating the world and the things of the world as more sacred than what is truly divine. Wrote philosopher Peter Kreeft: “The Church needs to recover some moxie, some chutzpah. We need to stop being nice and conforming to the world, saying, ‘We’re going to win you by being just like you.’ The Church has got to say, ‘We’re better than you – not better people than you, but we have a better worldview, a deeper truth. Our product’s the best one on the market.’ The Church has been so bedeviled by the American religion of egalitarianism that we are terrified to claim superiority. Only if you believe you have something better can you be enthusiastic about it.”

Having become tepid about Catholic teaching, we find it convenient, perhaps necessary, simply to ignore the admonition found in Revelation: “Because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I am going to spit you out of my mouth” (3:16; see also Rom 12:11).

So Catholic enthusiasm may be necessary but, as St. John Paul II told us, enthusiasm alone is not sufficient: “The enthusiastic faith which enlivens your communities is a great enrichment, but it is not enough. It must be accompanied by a Christian formation which is solid, comprehensive and faithful to the Church’s Magisterium.”

“Catholax” may be remiss or negligent about doctrine. They may be vague or slack about the faith. They may be careless or indifferent about the liturgy. The effects of such moral atrophy, however, are well beyond the realm of what may be. The result of lax Catholicism is public policy unmistakably corrupted by “serious errors in the areas of education, politics, social action, and morals” (CCC 407).

Our pre-eminent Catholic duty is always to be witnesses for Christ and for His Church (see CCC 2044). That duty is not minimized – in fact, it is maximized – when one enters the corridors of power and politics. We must speak for Christ and for His Church; and God have mercy upon our souls if we say that Christ and His Church do not speak for us. Courageous public witness requires our being steadfast in the faith: “Unless your faith is firm you shall not be firm” (Is 7:9; see also 1 Cor 16:13). No wonder the lax flicker and flutter, slip and slide, and toss and turn in every political wind: they have no moral anchor. So they are “children, carried by the waves and blown about by every shifting wind of the teaching of deceitful men, who lead others into error by the tricks they invent” (Eph 4:14; see also Col 2:8, Heb 13:9).

We are called “to be the light of the world. Thus, the Church shows forth the kingship of Christ over all creation and in particular over human societies” (CCC 2105). That is our duty, despite the siren songs of the world. And firmness – not laxity – in the faith is our trust (2 Tm 1:14) and our joy (Rom 12:12).

Deacon James H. Toner serves at Our Lady of Grace Church in Greensboro.

– See more at: http://www.catholicnewsherald.com/104-news/viewpoints/713-deacon-james-h-toner-catholax#sthash.exHxfnqs.dpuf”

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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

 

 

 

The Wanderers

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2014/03/07 at 12:00 AM

In the long history of the human race, never have humans been as conflicted as they are today.  Technology has made the whole world accessible to almost anyone.  Yet, in spite of this new familiarity, there is hardly a section of the world not in some kind of turmoil from wars, terrorism, civil unrest, etc.  There is a widespread attitude of “What’s next?”.  Modern man is miserable and frustrated.  He does not know where he came from, why he is here, and where he is going.  In a word, he is alienated from himself, from people (often even his own family), his work, his civic responsibilities, his past, and his future.

The root cause of his problem is that he is first alienated from God, without whom life is meaningless.  Because he has rejected God, man has lost the standard of rational thinking and his ability to deal sensibly with his world and the world of others.  Without God, there can be no rational or moral standards beyond those made by the “movers and shakers” of society.  We know how well that has worked over the last 60 or so years.  What are the causes of this human upheaval?  How did modern man lose sight of what is so vitally necessary to his well-being?

The first cause is SIN . . . sin in the traditional sense of the Ten Commandments, not the politically-correct sins of racism, sexism, and homophobia to the exclusion of the Commandments.  Habits of serious sin break any connection we might have with God because He is a holy God, and He and sin are incompatible.  Sin alienates the sinner from God.  Those who never or rarely attend worship services, those having affairs, those promoting abortion,  the promiscuous, by their actions, have objectively separated themselves from God.  We saw the effects of sin in the story of Adam and Eve.  We cannot serve two masters, God and Devil.  We must choose by our lifestyle.

Some people sense instinctively that they are living immoral lives, and to make themselves feel better, they grasp at false teachings of the incompetent in order to be able to keep their pet sins.  For example, the false doctrine that there is no hell or if there is, it is not eternal.  Very comforting to the sinner and very false.  Then there is the common idea that all religions are pretty much the same, and all the sinner needs to do is find a religion that approves of his immoral life.  If one wishes to live the gay lifestyle, it is easy to find a church that will accommodate that wish, forgetting or ignoring the fact that no Church or no human being has any authority to veto a divine command.  (A human may announce a veto, but God does not ratify it.)

The ultimate purpose of human life, believe it or like it or not, is to be reunited with our Creator after death.  Our souls come from God, and we are meant to return to Him.  Habitual serious sin makes that impossible and makes life an ultimate failure.

Another cause of alienation is the CULTURE we live in.  In the story of Noah, we are told that God destroyed most of the human race because they were so immoral.  What does that say about us?  Those people did not have anywhere near the means to sin we have and which some use without a second thought.  The result has been chaos because sin, by its very nature, is irrational and unnatural.  To indulge in it habitually is to act abnormally.  “Right is right even if no one is right, and wrong is wrong even if everyone is wrong.”

The contemporary culture of the Western world is Godless and immoral.  The culture advocates sin; it applauds it; it invents new sins of which earlier people could not have conceived.  The chief movers of society show a disdain for God in the sense that they do not consider religion to be of great importance beyond a person’s private “hobby.”  The film and TV industries are always extending the range of vulgarity, and the internet generates a multi-billion dollar porn output.  The print media is seen as so biased that they have become a joke.  Fair reporting died long ago.  Democrats can do no wrong; Republicans can do no right.

Education at all levels is atheistic in practice.  Schools do not teach about moral right and wrong.  (One could wonder if there is a connection between that and the increasing disciplinary problem at all levels.)  The ACLU lies lurking somewhere to catch some child doing something religious.  (Their venom is aimed mainly and mostly at the Christian religion.)  We don’t want religion in school because someone . . . whoever that is . . . “might be offended.”  The irrational rationale is usually the so-called separation of Church and State, an idea found in neither the Declaration of Independence nor in the Constitution.  Our culture is awash in sin.  There is no charismatic voice to object to any of this.  Those few who do express opposition are vilified because those on the wrong side cannot justify their positions with any convincing arguments; it is easier and more effective to call your opponent names. Global warming, like evolution, has been declared a proven fact (neither one has actually), but to go counter to these prevailing orthodoxies is to risk at least ridicule, but never a counter-argument.

The reason is the culture does not believe in objective truth.  Truth is what the individual says it is, and that’s final.  Applied to morals, the result is moral chaos and cannot be other than that.  Humans devise laws because too many people cannot be relied on to use common sense.

It is not easy to resist a culture because it impinges on so many aspects of life.  It makes demands; it makes judgments; it censors.  But cultures come and go.  God is still God; Truth is still Truth; error is still error.  We will be judged by our attitude to Divine Truth, not cultural truth.  Modern man has allied himself with the culture, a totally selfish and false ally.

Modern man is a wanderer.  He has no guide, no map, no compass.  He has decided that he can walk through life using his own skills.  The result is a life of doubt, fear, uncertainty and apprehension about the future.  He wanders in his alienation.  He has no idea where he is going or where he should be going.  Unless he realizes his folly, he will wander right over the cliff.

Remember the lament of the unrepentant sinner: “The past has deceived me; the present torments, and the future terrifies me.”

Signs For Our Times – Part III: Catholicity of the Church

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2013/04/17 at 1:00 AM

The third  mark or sign of the true Church is CATHOLICITY.  “Catholic” written with a small “c” is a legitimate word, but it is rarely used except in reference to the Catholic Church.  The word itself means universal.  In modern times, universality is a much-coveted trait.  Credit card companies boast that their cards can be used anywhere in the world.  Cell phone companies tell you, that with their phones, you can reach anyone in the world.  The same boast is made for travelers checks.  Universality is then seen as a very positive attribute.

The idea of universality applies to the Catholic Church in different ways.  The Catholic Church is universal or catholic because its founder, Jesus Christ, is universal in that, because He is God, He is everywhere.  There is nowhere in the world you can go where He is not.  Every other religious founder was subject to the limitations of space, place and time.  Christ is everywhere at once, and where Christ is, there is also the Catholic Church.

That the Church be a world-church was a direct command of its divine founder who told His apostles to preach the Gospel to all nations.  This she has done.  There is no place in the world where the term Catholic Church is not known.

The Catholic Church is catholic or universal in that it embraces all races and nationalities without favoring any of them.  All true Catholics the world over believe in the same doctrines and moral code because the Catholic Church does not have denominations or sects.  Practicing Catholics anywhere in the world would recognize the faith of a Catholic from another continent.  All Catholics consider themselves under the religious jurisdiction of the Pope and the local bishop.  Because of this, any particular parish is also a part of the universal church, rather than an independent entity.

Other churches cannot claim universality or catholicity because they do not have a missionary spirit from their beginning.  Buddhism makes no effort to win converts.  (Buddhism is not really a religion because it espouses no Deity.  It is really a philosophy that promotes a certain life-style or way of thinking about life.)  Protestantism is almost five hundred years old, but gave missionary activity no thought until the eighteen hundreds.  The vast majority of Protestant denominations are not large enough to support missionary activity.  Early Islam made converts by the sword.

Thus, only the Catholic Church has consistently, from its founding, set out to spread the good news of salvation to all people and places, thereby making it the only Church that has followed the mandate of the Founder.

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

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2013/04/10 at 12:00 AM

The second mark of the Church or sign for our times is that of HOLINESS.  Holiness is a state of existence in which a person consciously endeavors to live in accordance with the perceived will of God because He is seen as far superior to man and to whom man owe’s obedience and worship.  This attitude may arise from the dictates of the Natural Moral Law embedded in the minds and hearts of all people by their Creator or the active participation in a religion that fosters holiness of life.

God in His goodness has given man through the Catholic Church a certain way to strive towards holiness because holiness of life is an essential of attaining salvation  which,  whether you believe it or not, is the ultimate goal of human life.  However, holiness of life can be rejected and contemporary society has done just that.  The capital sins are easily embraced and the Ten Commandments are flagrantly violated.  Holiness is not popular even among too many “Catholics”.  Holiness may be rejected, but it is still necessary and it will only be found fully in the Catholic Church.

The first aspect of the Church’s holiness is evident in its Founder.  It can be proven that Jesus Christ is a Divine Person in human form who came to save the human race (those who want to be saved) from the effects of its sins. The historical record shows without doubt that the Founder of the Catholic Church was God Himself.  He claimed to be God and proved it by doing things (miracles) that only God could do.

He even challenged His enemies to point out any moral deficiencies in His life and they could not.

Founders of other religions did not claim to be divine and in every case their lives did not suggest any notable degree of personal holiness.  For example, Mohammed, Martin Luther, the Buddha, and all the other lesser known founders.

Because He was God, Christ could endow the Church with the means to help its members acquire holiness in accordance with the individual’s free choice and acceptance of the graces given.  The means that set up by Christ are the seven Sacraments, which if used correctly, will enable the believer to make steady progress towards holiness.  No other religion, even many who call themselves Christians, have anything even remotely resembling the Catholic Sacraments, and therefore, if any of their members happen to be holy in God’s sight, it is in spite of their religion.

There are thirty thousand plus “Christian” denominations.  Some claim one, two, or three sacraments; none claim seven.  Without the Seven Sacraments, no church can claim to be the Church founded by Christ.

There will be those who say that they have the Bible and that is quite sufficient.  The problem is that the Bible as we know it came from the Catholic Church historically and did not appear as we know it until the end of the fourth century.  Only one apostle could possibly have read the New Testament (St. John).  Christ Himself did not tell the Apostles to write but to preach.  For the first centuries, Christians really did not have access to the Bible as we know it.  If the Bible had been meant to be an essential part of the true Church it would have been available from the  beginning.  The Catholic Church reveres the Bible and uses it, but does not claim it is the only means of knowing God’s will.

Holiness, by its very nature, suggests consistency and permanence.  This is  one of the reasons the Catholic Church is hated and ridiculed…it is consistent in its teachings. It does not bow to the whim of any contemporary culture. What was demanded by divine law centuries ago is still valid, and therefore, the Church refuses to join the cultural bandwagon which is clamoring for sin to be declared non-sin. Other groups that call themselves “Christian” readily and easily salute the contemporary cultural icons and are duly applauded for failure to be a consistent defender of God’s law. How many groups have embraced the homosexual demands  to be designated as  just another lifestyle with no negative moral implications? The Catholic Church does not do this, thus affirming her commitment to the idea of consistent standards of holiness. In another fifty years, the cultural elite will be demanding something else. The Church demands holiness.

There are three questions each person should ask himself:

1.  Where did I come from? (We came from God because parents only make our bodies, but it has to be God who creates our soul because human parents are incapable of creating an immortal soul.)

2.  Why am I here? (Merely to get the most out physical life and then die without any consequences?  No, to serve that God who created your soul and who will judge your performance.)

3. Where am I going?  (To a grave and nothing more?  We have a built-in sense of immortality (which means it is real) and we reach that state eventually, but how we spend it is up to us.)

(The above questions and answers are true whether you believe them or not.)

The Catholic Church alone has the complete truth regarding these questions and the best means to achieve the goals is through the holiness of the Church given through the Sacraments.  If you are a Catholic striving to lead a holy life, keep it up.  If you are a lapsed or an indifferent Catholic who picks and chooses what you will accept or do, you are telling God that you are right and He is wrong.  Rather risky!  If you are not a Catholic, pray for the grace to find God’s will.  If you find it is in the Catholic Church, embrace it and be grateful and live it to the fullest (as do most converts).

Next time we will look at another sign for our times, the Catholicity of the Church.

Signs For Our Times – Introduction

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2013/04/04 at 6:15 AM

(This is the first in a four-part series on what are usually termed the “marks” of the Church.  These are signs that one can use to find the one true Church founded by Jesus Christ.  Based on the Gospel narrative (which is objective history) these signs will apply only to the true Church and all four must be present to indicate the true Church.)

The unexpected resignation of one pope and the election of another has caused the world media to focus on the Catholic Church.  The Catholic Church always seems to be big news that whets the appetite of the media far more than any other Church or religion.  But the media is selective in its coverage.  It likes to cover the external pageantry but has little use for anything of real substance such as doctrine and morals.

One important Catholic doctrine that I did not hear mentioned by the media is the doctrine that the Catholic Church is the one and only true Church.  Contemporary philosophy and attitudes which claim that there is no objective truth would not be the least amenable to such a discussion.

The doctrine of the one true Church is of eternal importance because, if the Catholic Church is the only true Church, then it means that all the others are not true to some degree, i.e. not completely true.  Since eternity looms before us all, it would seem only sensible and reasonable to find and join that one true Church.

Catholicism’s claim to being the only Church founded by the Divine Christ is not mere boasting or cheerleading; the claim can be proven rationally.  Then it behooves everyone who is aware of this truth to become a member of the only true Church because, if you are called by Divine grace to embrace the Catholic Church and you refuse to do so, your future may be bleak.

There are four marks or signs of the true Church based on Scripture, reason and history.  These signs have certain necessary characteristics; they are easily understood by the average mind and they are unchangeable so as to avoid confusion, dispute and instability.

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.

Consequences, part II

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2012/12/07 at 7:11 AM

Another victim of the godless society is morality.  Traditional, rational, effective morality is replaced with contemporary cultural morality under the banner of freedom.  But only fools think freedom means doing whatever you wish.  Rational people know that true freedom lies in restraint.  An orchestra is free to play Mozart’s “Requiem”, but only if the musicians restrict themselves to Mozart’s score.  Otherwise, the “music” would be nothing but a noisy cacophony.  In our society, restraint is not very popular; instant gratification seems to be the watchword.  And the results?  An epidemic of sexually-transmitted diseases.   (According to government statistics), illegitimate births in the 40% range, insatiable appetite for illegal drugs, etc.  Read your newspaper for a week and add up the departures from traditional morality.  The bottom line is that a society without a rational moral law simply cannot ultimately survive.  Whether we believe it or not, God has put into humans a natural sense of morality i.e. what is right and what is wrong, and when it is rejected moral chaos follows and we are living in it (this does not mean that every person is immoral merely that temper of the times).

A further loss is the loss of objective goodness.  Humans and angels are the only creatures with free will by which they can make choices for good or evil.  The will is designed by the Creator to seek what is good (even a criminal thinks his crimes are good for him at least for the moment.)  Thus, a distortion can arise in the concept of what is good and what is evil.  The prophet Isaiah warned against declaring the good to be evil and the evil to be good.  Ex. Bible reading in schools, Nativity scenes at Christmas are now considered evil by some while same-sex “marriage” (a raging contradiction) is now in some circles considered good, as is abortion, euthanasia, sexual license.  Since objective evil is usually more attractive than moral good, evil becomes more and more acceptable within the society.  In the 2012 elections voters in three states approved same-sex “marriage” which is contrary to truth, reason and goodness because we have treated civil rights as a quasi religion, and in this case “civil rights” trumped divine law.  When a society no longer labels evil as evil, a kind of social insanity develops.   When evil is thought to be good, and good to be evil, we no longer have a longer functioning society.

Can we escape the consequences of many decades of bad idea, philosophies, and attitudes?  Societal decline is a very gradual erosion, and those living during the decline, especially if they are helping to precipitate it, do not notice it day by day or even year by year.  Then too, decline is not a popular subject.  To admit decline means we must admit faults, and to admit faults suggests some kind of repentance.  History is not kind to declining societies; it tells us that no declining society has ever reversed course.  Is there a solution?  Yes…becoming wise and realizing that one’s most important relationship is the one with God,  (as He really is not as we think He ought to be).  If you have a valid relationship, the day of your death will be the most important day of your life.  If you have no true relationship with God, the day of your death will be your worse day.  As Christ said: “What doth it profit a man if he gains the whole world and suffers the loss of his soul?”  In other words, time is short; eternity is long…very, very long.

Repair My House: Renewing the Roots of Religious Liberty

In 03 Archbishop Charles Chaput on 2012/07/05 at 9:11 AM

+Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. Indianapolis, 6.20.12

I’ve known Greg Erlandson as a friend for many years. So I was glad to accept his invitation to join you tonight. And I’m very glad to speak on the theme of religious liberty because events in our country have made it an urgent concern. I can sum up my remarks tonight in five simple points.

First, religious freedom is a cornerstone of the American experience. This is so obvious that once upon a time, nobody needed to say it. But times have changed. So it’s worth recalling that Madison, Adams, Washington, Hamilton, Franklin, Jefferson – in fact, nearly all the American Founders – saw religious faith as vital to the life of a free people. Liberty and happiness grow organically out of virtue. And virtue needs a grounding in religious faith.

Gertrude Himmelfarb, the historian, put it this way: The Founders knew that in a republic “virtue is intimately related to religion. However skeptical or deistic they may have been in their own beliefs, however determined they were to avoid anything like an established Church, they had no doubt that religion is an essential part of the social order because it is a vital part of the moral order.”1

Here’s my second point: Freedom of religion is more than freedom of worship. The right to worship is a necessary but not sufficient part of religious liberty. Christian faith requires community. It begins in worship, but it also demands preaching, teaching and service. It’s always personal but never private. And it involves more than prayer at home and Mass on Sunday – although these things are vitally important. Real faith always bears fruit in public witness and public action. Otherwise it’s just empty words.

The Founders saw the value of publicly engaged religious faith because they experienced its influence themselves. They created a nation designed in advance to depend on the moral convictions of religious believers, and to welcome their active role in public life.

Here’s my third point: Threats against religious freedom in our country are not imaginary. They’re happening right now. They’re immediate, serious and real. Earlier this year religious liberty advocates won a big Supreme Court victory in the 9-0 Hosanna- Tabor v EEOC decision. That’s the good news. Here’s the bad news. What’s stunning in that case is the disregard for religious freedom shown by the government’s arguments against the Lutheran church and school. And Hosanna-Tabor is not an isolated case. It belongs to a pattern of government coercion that includes the current administration’s HHS mandate; interfering with the conscience rights of medical providers and private employers, as well as individual citizens; and attacks on the policies, hiring practices and tax statuses of religious charities and ministries.

Why is this hostility happening? A lot of it links to Catholic teaching on the dignity of life and human sexuality. Catholic moral convictions about abortion, contraception, the purpose of sexuality and the nature of marriage are rooted not just in revelation, but also in reason and natural law. Human beings have a nature that’s not just the product of accident or culture, but inherent, universal and rooted in permanent truths knowable to reason.

The problem, as Notre Dame law professor Gerry Bradley points out, is that critics of the Church reduce all these moral convictions to an expression of subjective religious beliefs. And if they’re purely religious beliefs, then – so the critics argue – they can’t be rationally defended. And because they’re rationally indefensible, they should be treated as a form of prejudice. In effect, 2,000 years of moral tradition and religious belief become a species of bias. Opposing same-sex “marriage” thus amounts to religiously blessed homophobia.2

There’s more though. When religious belief gets redefined downward to a kind of private bias, then the religious identity of institutional ministries has no public value — other than the utility of getting credulous people to do good things. So exempting Catholic adoption agencies, for example, from placing kids with gay couples becomes a concession to private prejudice. And concessions to private prejudice feed bigotry and hurt the public. Or so the reasoning goes. This is how moral teaching and religious belief end up getting hounded as hate speech.

Here’s my fourth point: Unless we work hard to keep our religious liberty, we’ll lose it. It’s already happening in other developed countries like Britain and Canada.3 The U.S. Constitution is a great document — historically unique for its fusion of high ideals with the realism of very practical checks and balances. But in the end, it’s just an elegant piece of paper. In practice, nothing guarantees our freedoms except our willingness to fight for them. That means fighting politically and through the courts, without tiring and without apologies. We need to realize that America’s founding documents assume an implicitly religious anthropology – an idea of human nature, nature’s God and natural rights that many of our leaders no longer really share. We ignore that unhappy fact at our own expense.

Here’s my fifth and final point: Politics and the courts are important. But our religious freedom ultimately depends on the vividness of our own Christian faith – in other words, how deeply we believe it, and how honestly we live it. Religious liberty is an empty shell if the spiritual core of a people is weak. Or to put it more bluntly, if people don’t believe in God, religious liberty isn’t a value. That’s the heart of the matter. It’s the reason Pope Benedict calls us to a Year of Faith this October. The worst enemies of religious freedom aren’t “out there” among the legion of critics who hate Christ or the Gospel or the Church, or all three. The worst enemies are in here, with us – all of us, clergy, religious and lay – when we live our faith with tepidness, routine and hypocrisy.

Religious liberty isn’t a privilege granted by the state. It’s our birthright as children of God. And even the worst bigotry can’t kill it in the face of a believing people. But if we value it and want to keep it, then we need to become people worthy of it. Which means we need to change the way we live – radically change, both as individual Catholics and as the Church. And that’s where I’d like to turn for the rest of these brief remarks.

A year ago I was serving happily in Denver, laughing at rumors I was getting moved anywhere. That turned out to be a mistake. Since then I’ve been asked many times how I like Philadelphia. The answer is pretty simple. I don’t “like” it. I love it – or rather, I love the people and clergy of Philadelphia because they’re easy to love. They’re now my family, an intimate part of my life. And I hope that each passing year will draw me deeper into the life of the community because Philadelphia is really more than just a great city. It’s the birthplace of our country and a jewel in our national legacy. It’s also an icon of the American Catholic experience. So it’s a joy and a blessing to serve there as bishop.

“Joy” may seem like an odd word to use, given events in Philadelphia over the past 16 months. Obviously the abuse tragedy has burdened the life of the local Church in a very painful way. Our laypeople are angry, and they should be. Their frustration shows in the pews. In Denver about 40 percent of registered Catholics attended Mass weekly. In Philadelphia, barely 18 percent do. The scandal has caused terrible suffering for victims, demoralized many of our clergy, crippled the witness of the Church and humiliated the whole Catholic community.

That’s the bad news — or at least some of it — and it’s not simply “bad,” but bitter and damaging for everyone involved, beginning with victims and their families, but rippling throughout the community. As a bishop, the only honest way I can talk about the abuse tragedy is to start by apologizing for the failure of the Church and her leaders — apologizing to victims, and apologizing to the Catholic community. And I do that again here, today.

There is also good news. Even now, after all the challenges of the past decade, the Church in Philadelphia plays a very large role in the life of the region, and in many quarters, she still draws — and still earns — great respect. I think the staff Cardinal Rigali assembled last year after the second grand jury report to reach out to victims and prevent abuse in the future is strong by any professional standard. And from what I’ve experienced over the past 10 months, the Church in Philadelphia today has a much deeper understanding of the gravity of sexual abuse and a sincere zeal for rooting it out of the life of the Church and helping anyone hurt in the past.

One reason the Church has survived at all in the current crisis is the extraordinary reservoir of good will and fidelity among the clergy and people of the diocese. Pennsylvania remains a largely faith-friendly environment. Our people have strong prolife and pro-family instincts, respect for religious ministries and a history of saints and excellent Catholic education. The habits of Catholic culture run very deep in the Philadelphia region. Our Catholic health and social services, and our Catholic school system, are among the largest and best in the United States. The Church contributes in a substantial way to the welfare of the general public, and most people on some level understand that.

But the abuse crisis, as grave as it is, masks other problems that also run very deep, and they belong to the same troubled Catholic culture. They began building decades ago. And while they may be especially sharp in Philadelphia, I’d wager that some version of these problems touches many of the dioceses across our country.

Here’s an example. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is currently owed about $60 million by our own parishes for insurance premiums, assessments and other expenses shared by the whole local Church. Much of this can’t be recovered because the parishes simply don’t have the money. More than two-thirds of our 267 parishes have operating deficits. About 100 are in some form of financial distress. More than 90 parishes minister to fewer than 400 families. And the archdiocese itself has struggled with frequent budget deficits for many years. We’ve reached a point where – if we did nothing to fix the problem – the gap between our projected expenses and our projected income in Fiscal 2013 would exceed $17 million.

That won’t happen. That will end. The Church is finally a family. No family can survive for long if it spends more than it takes in. In the first nine months of Fiscal 2012, the archdiocese spent more than $10 million on legal and other professional fees. But as crushing as that sounds – and it is – the real problems of the Church in Philadelphia are more subtle than money and more chronic than a habit of bad budgets. They’re not even financial. And they’re not at all unique to Philadelphia.

We need to look honestly at the arc of Catholic history in our country. The lessons may not be comforting. American Catholics began as an unwelcome minority. The Church built her credibility by defending and serving her people. She developed her influence with the resources her people entrusted to her. A vast amount of good was done in the process. We need to honor that. But two other things also happened. The Church in the United States became powerful and secure. And Catholics became less and less invested in the Church that their own parents and grandparents helped to build.

I think it’s fair, in part, to blame Church leaders for a spirit of complacency and inertia, clericalism, even arrogance, and for operating off a model of the Church – often for well- intentioned reasons — rooted in the past and out of touch with reality. But there’s plenty of blame to go around. Too many ordinary Catholics have been greedy to lose themselves in America’s culture of consumerism and success. Too many have been complicit in the dullness — the acedia — that has seeped into Church life, and the cynicism and resentment that naturally follow it.

These problems kill a Christian love of poverty and zeal. They choke off a real life of faith. They create the shadows that hide institutional and personal sins. And they encourage a paralysis that can burrow itself into every heart and every layer of the Church, right down to individual Catholics in the pews. The result is that Philadelphia, like so much of the Church in the rest of our country, is now really mission territory – again; for the second time.

My point is this. We live in a world of illusions when we lose sight of who Jesus Christ really is, and what he asks from each of us as disciples. One of novelist Ray Bradbury’s characters once said, “I wonder if God recognizes his own son the way we’ve dressed him up, or is it dressed him down? He’s a regular peppermint stick now, all sugar crystal and saccharine.”4 Father John Hugo, a friend and counselor to Dorothy Day, put it even more forcefully when he wrote of our “falsified picture of Jesus [with his] eyes perpetually raised to heaven, soft, even girlish in beauty, [the] very incarnation of impotence.”

The real Jesus, in Hugo’s words, “did not hesitate to condemn the rich, to warn the powerful, to denounce in vehement language the very leaders of the people. His love and goodness were chiefly for the poor, the simple, the needy. And his love for them was not a limp, indulgent love, like that of a silly, frivolous mother. To his friends he preached poverty of spirit, detachment, the carrying the cross. No more did the kindness of Jesus spare his followers, than the kindness of God the father spared his son. We are to drink of the same chalice that he drank of.”5

That’s our vocation. That’s the life of honesty, heroism and sacrifice God calls us to as a Church and as individual believers. And in our eagerness to escape it, to tame it, to reshape it in the mold of our own willful ideas, we’ve failed not only to convert our culture, but also to pass along the faith to many of our own children.

Emerging American adults – in other words, young people in the 18-23 age cohort – are not only skeptical of organized religion in general and Christianity in particular, but they often lack the vocabulary to engage in, or even identify, issues that require basic moral reasoning. As a group they have unusually high rates of intoxication, loneliness and sexual alienation. They also, contrary to popular belief, have very little interest in public affairs or political engagement, and a lopsided focus on materialistic consumption and financial security as the guiding stars of their lives.6

Of course, tens of thousands of exceptions to what I just said are walking around right now. We all know some of them. These are young adults of faith and strong moral character, determined to do something worthy with their lives. Just this week Our Sunday Visitor did a portrait of Catholic young adults who live the Gospel with reallywonderful passion and joy.7 Their lives will touch hundreds of other lives. And that should give us enormous hope. God never abandons his Church or his people.

But their good witness only brings us back to the conversion that you and I and the whole Church in the United States need to undergo.

Notre Dame scholar Christian Smith and his colleagues, whose research on emerging adults is so compelling, wrote that “most of the problems in the lives of youth have their origin in the larger adult world into which youth are being socialized . . . [One] way or the other, adults and the adult world are almost always complicit in the troubles, suffering and misguided living of youth, if not the direct source of them. The more adults can recognize and admit that fact, [the] sooner we will be able to address some of young people’s problems more constructively.”8

I suppose that’s obvious. But if it’s really so obvious, then who let it happen? And what are we going to do about it?

We’re becoming a nation where, as Ross Douthat describes it, “a growing number [of us] are inventing [our] own versions of what Christianity means, abandoning the nuances of traditional theology in favor of religions that stroke [our] egos and indulge, or even celebrate, [our] own worst impulses.”9 And it’s happening at a time when the Church is compromised by her own leaders and people from within, and pushed to the margins or attacked by critics without.

Tomorrow we start the Fortnight for Freedom. It’s a moment for each of us to be grateful to our bishops for doing the right thing – the important and urgent thing – at the right time. If we don’t press now and vigorously for our religious liberty in the public arena, we will lose it. Not overnight and not with a thunderclap, but step by step, inexorably. And each of you as a Catholic media professional plays a key role, a really vital role, in that effort because our prestige news media, with very few exceptions, simply will not cover this issue in a fair and comprehensive way.10

But we also need to remember with Pope Benedict that resistance is “part of the task of the Church,”11 and with Henri de Lubac that it’s “not our mission to make truth triumph, but to testify for it.”12

Scripture says, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things shall be yours as well” (Mt 6:33). We work best for religious freedom by first opening our hearts to God’s will instead of our own; and loving our country and our Church; and renewing the witness of the Church with the zeal and purity and obedience of our own lives. That freedom, that joy, no one can ever take from us.

From the cross at San Damiano, Jesus said to Francis: Repair my house, which is falling into ruin. Those same words fill this room tonight. How we respond is up to us.

© +Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. Indianapolis, 6.20.12

1 Gertrude Himmelfarb, One Nation, Two Cultures, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1999, p. 85

2 Gerard V. Bradley, “What’s Behind the HHS Mandate?”, The Public Discourse (www.thepublicdiscourse.com), June 5, 2012
3 Ibid.
4 Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1951, 1995, p. 77
5 David Scott and Mike Aquila, editors, Weapons of the Spirit: Living a Holy Life in Unholy Times; Selected Writings of Father John Hugo, Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, IN, 1997, p. 108-109
6 Christian Smith, et al, Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood, Oxford University Press, New York, 2011
7 Emily Stimpson, “The Next Generation,” OSV Newsweekly, June 17, 2012, p. 9-12
8 Smith, p. 11
9 Ross Douthat, Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics, Free Press, New York, 2012, p. 4
10 The website http://www.getreligion.org has done several analyses of the lopsided mainstream news coverage of the HHS mandate and related religious liberty disputes. See for example Mollie Hemingway, “Grading coverage of religious liberty,” May 4, 2012, and “Plotting about ‘religious liberty’,” May 30, 2012, among others
11 Joseph Ratzinger, God and the World: A Conversation with Peter Seewald, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2002, p. 357
12 Henri de Lubac, S.J., Paradoxes of Faith, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1987, p.72

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Mind Over Matter

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2012/06/16 at 12:00 AM

A major problem nowadays is that too many people (including too many Catholics) think that a statement or idea is true merely because they think or believe it is true. In other words, the individual has assigned to himself the task of determining what is true or false. Modern American culture is based on the idea that each one may decide for himself what he can think, believe and do in the moral order. When it comes to physical matters, no one disputes the laws of nature. Only a fool would think he could repeal the law of gravity. Yet, too many decide they are at liberty to repeal or ignore whatever ideas or laws they don’t happen to like. As a result what is really important in life is left to subjective interpretation, usually of those who have no intellectual background to decide on such matters as the nature and destiny of man. When anyone claims the right to reject natural order or divine law, he is on a very slippery slope.

Let’s revisit the concept of truth. Truth is a concern only of humans. Animals are not even aware of truth. Their nature and destiny is something they never ponder. Previously in these pages I stated that truth is reality: what really is, not what we think is. St. Thomas Aquinas, arguably one of the most brilliant men who ever lived said that truth is the conformity (agreement) of the mind with reality. Note: he did not say that truth is the agreement of reality with someone’s mind.

This reality, of course, refers what is called objective reality. There is such a thing as legitimate subjective reality such as favorites foods, or books, or people. We naturally develop favorites in such matters and no can say that your choice is wrong. Another may have a different choice, but both are right. My favorite flavor is probably coffee, and if yours is vanilla, so be it. But, when we try to make subjective evaluations of objective reality, then a choice can be judged to be in error. For example, a person decides that the Ten Commandments are out of date and need to be re-evaluated. (Ted Turner actually  proposed this idea.)

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