Pope Francis Said What? — Contraception and Catholic Doctrine

Pope Francis. Credit: Alan Holdren/CNA.

As well intentioned Pope Francis seems to be, he sure can generate a lot of misunderstandings of Church doctrine. I think it’s important to call out these instances and try to clarify them. After all, I don’t want the secular media, who aren’t the most Catholic friendly, having the final word interpreting the pope’s words.

While the pope’s supposed twitter war with Donald Trump has garnered a lot of attention, he also made statements about the use of contraception to combat the Zika virus in South America.  This didn’t get the amount of attention it deserves as it will live well beyond a few tweets between a presidential candidate and the pope. I fear the media will quote this in the future whenever the Catholic Church and contraception are mentioned.  Here’s the specific part of the transcript I want to focus on (bold is mine):

Paloma García Ovejero, Cadena COPE (Spain): Holy Father, for several weeks there’s been a lot of concern in many Latin American countries but also in Europe regarding the Zika virus. The greatest risk would be for pregnant women. There is anguish. Some authorities have proposed abortion, or else to avoiding pregnancy. As regards avoiding pregnancy, on this issue, can the Church take into consideration the concept of “the lesser of two evils?”

Pope Francis: Abortion is not the lesser of two evils. It is a crime. It is to throw someone out in order to save another. That’s what the Mafia does. It is a crime, an absolute evil. On the ‘lesser evil,’ avoiding pregnancy, we are speaking in terms of the conflict between the fifth and sixth commandment. Paul VI, a great man, in a difficult situation in Africa, permitted nuns to use contraceptives in cases of rape.

Here’s the problem. Did Pope Paul VI actually permit nuns in Africa to use contraception? Pope Francis’ argument hangs on the premise that a previous pope had a doctrinally sound reason for doing so. Surely, Pope Francis can refer to some papal document from Pope Paul VI supporting this position right? But it looks like the pope has been hoodwinked by a Catholic urban legend. I came across a great article by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf that examined the root of the “Pope Paul VI permitted nuns to use contraception” myth.

English: picture of pope paul VI Español: foto...
English: picture of pope paul VI Español: fotografia del papa pablo VI (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While I encourage you to read the entire article, the tl;dr version is that the scenario of nuns in Africa using contraception was written as a hypothetical example in a theological article about the principle of double effect that was published two years before Paul VI became pope. Like any urban legend, it starts based on some actual event and then little changes to the details are applied.  Like a game of telephone, eventually the story the persists is nothing like the original. There’s even a similar version of this story except it’s St. John Paul II instead of Paul VI and Bosnian nuns replace African nuns.

I understand why the New York Times or the Washington Post may mistakenly report this myth as fact. After all, they probably think Nancy Pelosi is an authority on Catholic doctrine. But I would hope that the pope would be better informed and not repeat an urban legend as truth. What’s worse is that while the words attributed to Paul VI or St. John Paul II are myths, the words of Pope Francis are not. He actually said them and believes that they are rooted in Catholic teachings. I fear that over time the Paul VI myth will be replaced with Pope Francis’ own words.  After all, who needs to keep a myth alive when you have the words straight from the pope’s mouth?

The pope’s off the cuff statements create a challenge for those who want to show the world the reality, truth, and beauty of the Catholic Church.  When the truth in areas like contraception are blurred, it waters down the appeal of authentic Catholicism.  Going back to the book, Rome Sweet Home, that I wrote about recently, part of the reason the Hahn’s left the protestant church was because they started to see inconsistencies and too much gray area in the doctrine.  They saw the Catholic Church as an unwavering rock of well reasoned, biblical doctrine that created an opportunity to truly live in the fullness of God’s grace.  Catholic doctrine may not be the easiest to understand and follow, but at least it’s true.  Speaking of rocks, the office of the pope should be acting as the doctrinal cornerstone as Jesus commanded Peter.  That is why Pope Francis’ interviews, where he creates a lot of confusion, bothers me so much.  When the pope gives off the cuff comments, I feel like he weakens the divinely appointed role and power of the papacy.

Retable de l’Agneau mystique

Whenever I think of Church doctrine, my thoughts go towards the Fourth Glorious Mystery of the rosary — Mary’s Assumption into Heaven.  I think that one of the reasons God assumed Mary into Heaven is because her duties as our mother extended beyond her earthly life.  God chose her to be our mother for all ages to come.  And like a good mother, Mary desires us to know our faith and see its depth and beauty.  There is so much misinformation out there about the Catholic Church, both intentionally and unintentionally spread.  It’s our responsibility to learn all that we can so we aren’t led astray into a false or watered down sense of our rich faith.  Holy Mary, we pray to you for guidance to learn as much as we can about the Heavenly Kingdom you so greatly want us to enjoy.  Amen.

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What’s in a Name? Cecil the lion and the Natural Law

I tried really hard to avoid writing about Cecil the lion. Like many people, I don’t really see the point in big game hunting. But I also don’t understand how this one case escalated to international news.  I don’t know the statistics, but I assume big game hunting (legal and illegal) goes on all the time.  Why this case got so much attention beats me.  I then came across an article that summed up why maybe this lion story touched such a collective nerve.

Over at CatholicAllYear.com, Kendra wrote an article titled Why We Feel Better if We Care About Cecil the Lion.  She recognizes the human need to acknowledge universal truth in a world that tries hard to suppress it.  She writes:

A huge segment of our population has been struggling ever since they reached the age of reason to reconcile a personal disgust with the idea of abortion, with the loudly trumpeted demands that we all must recognize that it’s NONE OF OUR BUSINESS and we’d better just pipe down. Choice. My body. Reproductive freedom. It’s not really a baby. All of it has been shouted in the streets until two generations now honestly can’t tell right from wrong or good from evil.

The same goes for other evils we’re supposed to celebrate as choice: like euthanasia, and free love, and conceiving children in such a way as to necessarily deprive them of one or both of their parents.

Moral relativism denies a fundamental part of our Truth-seeking human natures. As human beings, we crave moral absolutes. We know somewhere deep down that there IS such a thing as wrong, such a thing as evil. And we want so badly to be allowed to point a finger at it, finally, that when poor, not-actually-all-that-important-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things Cecil the lion comes along, we can barely contain ourselves.

Here’s my take.  People are upset because unlike other animals killed by hunters, this lion has a name and a history.  Like we do with our pets, we personify Cecil so his killing strikes at the same parts of our emotions as a human being’s murder.  This personification is why we cry watching Old Yeller and the lack of it is why most of us don’t give a second thought to the thousands of animals that are killed every day for food.

This lack of identification is also why we don’t bat much of an eye over the evil of abortion.  Because it’s evilness becomes strikingly obvious when you realize that every abortion is a life lost.  Does the fact that the aborted life didn’t have a name or a history make it any less tragic when he/she is killed?  Are we as a culture so short sighted that we don’t understand that an aborted life would have had a name and history if we let him/her grow?  We’ve murdered millions of Alisons, Margarets, and Jakes.  We’ve murdered many successful doctors, writers, engineers, and scientists that the world will never know.  We’ve murdered millions of best friends, husbands, shoulders to cry on, mentors, and co-workers.  It’s shocking what something as simple as attaching a name to a life does to the perceived value of it.  In one case, attaching a name to an animal raises international outcry while not attaching a name to a human being allows the murder of thousands every day.

Early ultrasound
Dr. Sam Livingston, a promising young physician, killed and harvested for his organs

The RosaryMeds Prescription

Whenever the issue of abortion comes up as it is with the release of these shocking videos from The Center for Medical Progress and debates within the halls of Congress, the Second Joyful Mystery seems like an obvious mystery to meditate on.  Elizabeth exclaims how the baby in her womb leaped for joy at the sound of Mary’s greeting (Luke 1:44).  It’s not “the tissue moved” or “some cells divided”, but a baby leaped out of joy.  This mystery reminds us just how precious life is at every stage of development and that we are infused with a soul at the moment of conception.  We must pray for the conversion of souls and the conversion of our culture to acknowledge the inherent dignity of human life at all stages.

English: Statue of the Visitation in the Churc...
English: Statue of the Visitation in the Church of the Visitation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But let’s dive deeper.  What about this craving for universal truth that the CatholicAllYear article mentions?  What rosary mystery speaks to the importance of knowing what is right and wrong?  The First Luminous Mystery comes to mind.  When I meditate on this mystery, I remember that not everyone is baptized into the Catholic Church and yet everyone does have the God given gift to know what is inherently good and what is evil.  This is often referred to as natural law and it’s something God inscribes in all our hearts; both the baptized and the unbaptized alike.

We live in a culture that tries so very hard to deny this natural law and reject this gift from God.  When we pray the First Luminous Mystery, let’s remember to pray for the conversion of those who struggle in life because of their denial of truth.  We must also pray for the conversion of our world to one that lives in acknowledgement of natural law, not in denial of it.


 

Notice anything different on the RosaryMeds home page?  More news on the new Meditations link coming soon.

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Fear Not! RosaryMeds is Alive and Well

Last week I posted an article that looked like a takedown notice from the Department of Justice. It appears many of you thought the notice was real. Part of my intent of writing that article was to grab your attention and maybe even have the post go viral (which unfortunately didn’t happen). I wrote that article in response to some concerning news articles I read. Instead of jumping straight into commentary and risk just going into a snarky rant, I decided to write the fake takedown notice to set the stage (pretty clever huh?).

First, I have some thoughts about the responses I received regarding my fake takedown notice. The fact that so many people thought that it was real struck me as very concerning. I find it alarming that many people believe that the government is taking legal action against people simply stating their religious beliefs. I would like to think that in saner times people would have immediately noticed the ridiculousness of such a post. That tells me that for many, the loss of religious freedom isn’t something that may happen one day but is already here.

Also alarming then is that we are just allowing the loss of our religious liberty without putting up much of a fight. If my article was real as many people thought it was, then besides of few “that sucks” or “really??!!!” comments, people just moved on with their lives. After all, who do you complain to? Is it really worth anyone’s time and energy to make a lot of hay over some obscure blog site being targeted by the US government?  Do you really want to stick your neck out and potentially being singled out for government harassment? Not that I want marches on Washington D.C. over RosaryMeds, but I wonder how many little nibbles the government can take into our religious liberties before we find that it’s gone entirely.

Yeah, that will show 'em we're serious.
Yeah, that will show ’em we’re serious.

Now let’s back up to what originally prompted me to write the satirical takedown notice.  After the Supreme Court made its gay marriage decision back in June, I immediately saw numerous commentaries suggesting reforms on religious institutions that object to gay marriage.  These commentators want to see the removal of tax exempt status for religious institutions and banning government aid to private colleges that object to gay marriage.  This is on top of the fines the government is already imposing on businesses (bakers primarily) who have a religious objection to participating in a gay marriage.

One of the main selling points of gay marriage was that it wouldn’t affect religious institutions or people who have a religious objection to it.  I heard over and over how the Catholic Church would never be forced to perform gay weddings.  And while that may technically be true, it seems like what was being muttered secretly by gay marriage advocates was “the Catholic Church will never be forced to perform gay weddings because the government is going to shut them down.

This should all seem like a rerun (or a reboot) of ObamaCare.  When it passed there were plenty of assurances that Catholic hospitals would never have to perform abortions or employers would have to provide abortive contraception coverage.  And yet millions of our tax dollars go to Planned Parenthood and the HHS Contraception Mandate has gone to the courts multiple times (thankfully the courts repeatedly rule in favor of religious liberty).  It’s still very unclear whether ObamaCare does fund abortion considering that the Executive branch has a habit of unilaterally changing the law when convenient.  It seems like assurances that religious beliefs will be respected are just platitudes and don’t carry much weight once the law is passed.

“The government is taking away our freedoms. Change the channel!”

Whether it’s gay marriage or health care, the trend is clear — we are entering a period of increased hostility to organized religion, especially Catholicism.  I believe that many in power would love nothing more than to see Christian organizations vanish and to scare Christian people from publicly voicing their faith.  The political class loves the idea that something is right or wrong based on whether they can convince enough people to vote and pass a law or mandate.  They hate the idea that there are universal truths that exist outside their power to change when it’s politically advantageous.  And that is why they will use any cause, whether it be health care, gay marriage, immigration, gun control, assisted suicide, etc. to rally people against religious truths.  Because if religion can be relegated to a church for one hour on a Sunday, politicians can pass all sorts of crazy laws without being bothered with people bringing up the moral implications.

This isn’t about Catholics wanting to codify our beliefs into law.  It’s not specifically about gay marriage or health care.  This is all about Catholics (and religions in general) fighting to preserve our God given right to our religious beliefs without being persecuted by the government by having our livelihood threatened.  The last time I checked, there was no Constitutional amendment repealing the First Amendment which reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

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5 Ways the Rosary Offers Relief from Today’s Headlines

Meditation ideas on the Glorious Mysteries of the holy rosary for dealing with all the troubling news the world is encountering right now.

Lately there has been a lot of news that has many people thinking the world is falling apart. We hear of people suffering from natural disasters across the globe, atrocities committed by groups like ISIS across the Middle East, silly presidential election news (Trump?  Hillary Clinton’s favorite ice cream flavor?), and troubling social/political news about Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage and ObamaCare. Basically, if you’re looking to get worried and upset about something, you don’t have to look much further than your Facebook news feed to grow a few gray hairs.

To me, praying the rosary is all about gaining perspective. And I think everyone could use a little perspective right now. I try to remember that the world has never been a perfect place and has been marked by problems both natural and man made. However, we live in a time when news has never been more accessible which means we get more bad news at an accelerated pace. Or we get a distorted view of the scope of outrage or support on any given issue. But thinking society is falling apart isn’t new.  Mankind has always had its share of problems.

Picture back to the time Jesus lived. If Facebook existed then people’s walls would have been filled with complaints about cheating tax collectors, Roman occupation, and corrupt pharisees. Furthermore, people were probably praying for the same types of solutions we pray for today.  Something to the tune of “Please God, make all our problems go away.”

Jesus did not come into this world to magically change the world with a wave of his hand.  He didn’t make all the Jews’ problems go away. But he did answer the people’s prayers. He did that not by making things easier but by challenging people to look beyond the troubled state of the world and their immediate, physical needs. He wanted them to concentrate more on the state of their souls rather than the actions of Cesar.  For example, he told the rich man to look beyond earthly wealth and to gain riches in Heaven by being charitable (Mark 10:17-31).  He said that those who are persecuted in this world will find glory in Heaven (Matthew 5:10).  He said that we all have to take up our crosses in this life so that we may find comfort in the next (Matthew 16:24-27).

In that spirit, let’s take a look at the Glorious mysteries of the rosary and meditate on gaining a more heavenly perspective instead of dwelling so much on the today’s troubling issues.

#1. Live for something more than this earthly world

The First Glorious Mystery is about Jesus rising from the dead.  The perspective gained from this mystery is that our earthly death is not an end.  Jesus’ crucifixion and death was only a transition from his earthly life to his true, heavenly one.  Jesus’ rising proved that there is so much more to us than the physical realities of this world.

When we think about all the injustice, death, and suffering in this world we should remember that none of it will persist after our earthly death as we rise to new life in Jesus’ kingdom.  And while a lifetime of pain and suffering may seem like an awfully huge cross to carry, it isn’t even a measurable instant of time compared to the eternal joy and happiness Jesus prepared for us in Heaven through his resurrection.

#2. Pray for those have fallen

The Second Glorious Mystery is about Jesus ascending into Heaven.  The perspective gained from this mystery is that Jesus sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty, and will judge the living and the dead.  This is important to understand because we need to pray for the repentance and conversion of those who live in sin and cause so much scandal, misery, and unhappiness.  It may seem easy to complain and become stressed over others’ misdeeds.  It’s also easy to ignore them and focus only at our own salvation.  But we do need to pray for them and always be an example to the world of Jesus’ Truth.  Because everyone, including those who live in sin, will one day stand before the Lord with their sins in plain view.  Since we are called to love one another, we should do whatever is possible so that everyone, saint and sinner alike, will enjoy eternal happiness in Heaven.

#3. Let the Holy Spirit guide you

The Third Glorious Mystery is about the Holy Spirit coming to the apostles after Jesus’ ascension.  We live in a difficult world but we can look to the Holy Spirit to give us the strength and courage to persevere and maybe even change the hearts of others.  I don’t think any of the apostles would have thought that they were going to change the world when Jesus first called them to put down their nets and become fishers of men.  But with the guidance of the Holy Spirit they did just that by boldly venturing out and spreading Jesus’ truth.

We too may not think that there is much we can do when we see what appears to be impossible situations to fix or the deep seated hatred in people’s hearts.  But the Holy Spirit does give us the power to live according to Jesus’ truth and to lovingly bring people into God’s grace.  Like when Jesus was here in this world, he did not provide a quick fix to humanity’s problems.  Similarly, the Holy Spirit won’t give us a quick fix either.  But if we have faith and let the Holy Spirit guide us, we can personally thrive and bring others to know Jesus Christ.

#4. Follow our mother Mary’s roadmap for happiness

The Fourth Glorious Mystery is about Mary’s assumption into Heaven.  God had a very special plan for Mary and her assumption shows just how revered and elevated she is.  She was not only set aside to be the vessel through which God would manifest himself in human form, but she was also set aside to be our guide and mediatrix after her earthly death.  Like with the Third Glorious Mystery, the perspective we should gain from this mystery is that Mary is always there to help guide us closer to her son’s love.  She has appeared many times with a message of hope, love, and a call to action for conversion.  Over the generations, she has laid out a roadmap of prayer, fasting, and repentance which we should follow.  While it’s easy to get down and think nothing we do can do that will make much difference, Mary says otherwise.  And we should all listen to our mother.

#5. Remember that you are protected

The Fifth Glorious Mystery is Mary’s coronation in Heaven.  We have to understand that there are evil force at work.  And Satan and his minions are playing the long game where they want you to focus all your energy on this world in the hopes that you will be led astray and become his slave for eternity.  He wants you to “go with the crowd” even if what is popular in modern society goes against God’s plan.  Or he wants you to fall into despair, blame God for all that is wrong with the world, and turn away from your faith. But Mary is a powerful queen who reigns in Heaven.  When we accept and live for God’s Heavenly Kingdom then we fall under Mary’s protection against evil and Satan’s influence.  No matter what transpires in our world we know that we will have protection for what matters most — our eternal soul.

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Morality Clauses and the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary

In my last post I talked about how Archbishop Cordileone of San Francisco was battling opponents over his additions to the high school teachers’ hand book about leading a Catholic example while on the job.  He wrote a fantastic clarification about why he added the new clauses and what he hopes to accomplish.  You can read the full letter at Catholic Minority Report.  I know that for many of you who don’t live in the archdiocese of San Francisco, or even the USA, the details of this battle may not hold much interest.  But like many things in life, this controversy does tie back to the rosary (and hence the RosaryMeds website) and provides some thoughts for meditation.  Let’s take a look at the Joyful Mysteries.

First Joyful Mystery

I said in my previous post that teaching at a Catholic school is as much of a vocation as it is a career.  I do think God calls people to use their talents specifically at a Catholic school instead of a secular or public school.  The First Joyful Mystery is all about vocations and reflecting on how God calls us to follow the path He sets before us.  We may have our doubts about God’s plan, similar to Mary questioning the angel Gabriel about how she could become the mother of God since she was an unwed virgin.  But like Mary, when we put our faith in God’s plan for us, no matter how outrageous it may seem, He will bestow upon us the graces to triumph.  We pray that we all reflect on our vocation and do what God asks of us even if we have our doubts.

Second Joyful Mystery

To me, the Visitation is primarily about ministry.  I’ve said in many past articles how Mary had every right to feel like she was a queen to be pampered and honored because she was to become the Mother of God.  But instead she headed off to the countryside proclaiming how she is the handmaiden of the Lord.  Her initial instinct was to go out proclaiming the glory of God when bestowed with God’s grace.  Similarly, Catholic schools are a ministry as well.  They are a place where young minds come to learn, not just reading, science, and mathematics, but also about what it means to be Catholic.  We pray that we remember to show what the Catholic faith professes through our words and actions in a direct, unambiguous way.

Third Joyful Mystery

The birth of Jesus revolves around the theme of humility.  God humbled himself by not only taking shape in the imperfect human form, but also as a lowly peasant.  And yet, through this unexpected person came God’s perfect revelation as taught by Jesus.  I think the archbishop is asking teachers and also the entire Catholic community in the archdiocese to show a lot of humility for the Church’s teachings as revealed by Jesus Christ and handed down over the years by the Magisterium.  It is difficult to accept and promote teachings that you may personally disagree with or are contrary to societal norms.  I’m not just talking about high school teachers either.  We all probably have a hard time accepting some of the Church’s teachings.  When we pray this mystery of the rosary, we should ask God for the humility to accept His perfect teachings although we may have an imperfect understanding of them.

Fourth Joyful Mystery

Jesus’ presentation in the temple focuses on adherence and obedience to the law.  Mary and Joseph waited the prescribed forty days before taking Jesus to the temple.  They also offered a sacrifice of turtledoves as was the custom.  Later, Jesus insists that John baptizes him although Jesus needed no purification.  When I think about many of the objections over the additions to the faculty handbook, I see an absence of the respect of an ancient institution.  The Church hasn’t been secretive about her teachings over the last few millennia nor has it dramatically changed them.  And yet so many people complain about the archbishop’s request to honor the sacred traditions of the Catholic Church in a Catholic school.

When we pray this mystery, we should remember that the Church is an institution that teaches what it teaches for a reason.  Church Scholars have pondered and written brilliant defenses for the Church’s teachings and its rituals over the years.  These “rules” and doctrine of the Church are not arbitrary but are insights into the natural law imprinted on our hearts.  By following those rituals and taking them seriously we follow in Jesus’ footsteps when he, who is the Law, also respected the Law.

Fifth Joyful Mystery

When I think about Mary and Joseph finding Jesus in the temple I recall Jesus’ words about needing to be in his father’s house.  What is amazing to me was Mary’s reaction of not understanding what Jesus meant.  What!??  An angel came to Mary and told her she would be the Virgin Mother of God!  Angels proclaimed his birth.  Wise men followed a star and paid homage to him.  What part of Jesus being special does Mary not yet understand?

This painting is on display at the Kunsthistor...
This painting is on display at the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Art History) in Vienna, Austria (site). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I think about those protesting the archbishop’s words I also wonder what part of teaching Catholicism at a Catholic school are they not understanding?  Through all the prayers, Masses, retreats, and religion classes, how are the archbishop’s words, which are essentially the Apostles’ Creed, something new and shocking?

Like the other mysteries, I pray this one for an understanding and acceptance of the Church’s teachings.  I also pray that I see those teachings even in the most unlikely of places.  The scholars were amazed by the knowledge of Jesus Christ as a young boy.  It goes to show that God tries to teach us in many different ways.  We should look for God’s Truth not just in the readings on Sunday, but everywhere around us.  Even a letter of clarification from the archbishop may hold wisdom and offer new insights.

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I stand with Archbishop Cordileone

Huzzah to San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone!  For those of you who don’t live in the California Bay Area, the Archbishop has come under attack for clarifying specific teachings of the Catholic faith that high school faculty in the archdiocese must not publicly confuse or contradict.  You can read the full text of what will be included in the teachers’ handbook.  However, you might as well recite the Apostle’s Creed and the Ten Commandments because that’s basically what the archbishop is asking teachers to uphold in Catholic high schools.

This additional wording to the faculty handbook has caused quite a stir.  Archbishop Cordileone was already under attack from various groups because of his vocal stance on traditional marriage in the very liberal Bay Area.  Now many are upset because of his request that high school teachers not confuse or dilute the teachings of the Catholic Church in Catholic schools.  He’s not asking teachers to be saints or even practicing Catholics, but merely keep in mind who their employer is and what is expected of them in the workplace.  But in today’s world, asking Catholic schools to espouse Catholic teachings is considered controversial.

Crackers!

Let’s back up and look at other work environments.  Suppose I worked at a factory that made crackers.  I would have to follow the guidelines outlined by my employer and not do things that harm my company or consumers.  I couldn’t modify the cracker recipe to my liking.  I couldn’t tamper with the machinery.  I couldn’t sabotage or undermine the company because I personally don’t like the crackers being made or I prefer a different company’s crackers.   I would be fired for such things.  Most of us would be fired if our employers caught us saying anything nasty about them on social networks.

Now look at Catholic schools.  What is their product?  I would say it’s a Catholic education.  So employees (the teachers) have a duty to produce the best possible product for their employer.  Teaching personal opinions that are contrary to the Church’s teachings or watering them down sabotages that product and undermines the employer.  In other professions, such behavior would land you a pink slip.

I can sympathize on how difficult it must feel to work for an employer you may personally disagree with.  Or it may be tough to accept rules that have always been in place but never really clarified or enforced.  But no lay person has ever been forced to work at a Catholic school.  Working at a Catholic school truly is a vocation because teachers generally make less money and benefits than their public school counterparts.  And some people, who may be great teachers, just won’t flourish and be happy working under a Catholic employer.  Like with any form of employment, you have to ask yourself if it’s truly an environment you want to work in or if there is something else that would be a better fit.

My Story

I completely understand what Archbishop Cordileone wants to avoid.  I went to a Catholic high school with a very confusing Catholic identity.  It was a great school and didn’t do anything in open defiance to Catholic teaching.  But the focus on a truly Catholic education was missing. We had a one priest and one nun so there wasn’t an overt Catholic presence on campus. Furthermore, many masses on holy days of obligation were optional and held in the morning before classes started. Good luck getting a teenager to school on time, let alone an hour early. The masses that were held with the full student body were more like mandatory choir concerts as no one would be actively participating except those singing. High school students are just at that age where expressing faith isn’t very cool and doing so makes you about as popular as the student who sits in the front row of the class, raises his hand for all the questions, and gets A’s on all the tests.

I really wish there was a strong statement like the one delivered by the archbishop when I was in high school. I think a lot of students would have benefited from going to a Catholic school rather than a secular school (in practice) that had mandatory religion classes. Since espousing the Catholic faith wasn’t a priority at my high school I learned that it wasn’t something I should make as a priority in my life.  I basically bought into the idea that faith was something practiced in a church on Sundays and shouldn’t be made public out of the fear of offending someone. It took me a long time to realize the joy and freedom that comes with actively participating and celebrating the faith because of my experience attending a high school with a muddled Catholic identity.

I was in high school before the internet took off and no one had ever said the words social network.  Now we live in a world where there is a constant drumbeat of ideas that run counter to the Catholic Church’s.  I applaud Archbishop Cordileone for not allowing the Church’s core teachings to be drowned out by popular culture.  If the world is screaming and attacking the Church, the Church has every right, even duty, to shout back.

Do you stand with Archbishop Cordileone?  Take 30 seconds to sign this petition.

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The Catechism: Teaching What Is Right, Not What Is Easy

I came across this article over at the National Catholic Register about how “real men pray.”  It’s a commentary on Cardinal Burke’s comments that men have lost their sense of purpose within the Catholic Church.  He points to the confusing and often conflicting messages presented by popular culture and the Church and how the Church is often silent addressing what it means to be a moral man.

I keyed in on this part of Cardinal Burke’s comments (I encourage you to read the full article at the National Catholic Register):

The crisis between man and woman has been made much worse by a complete collapse of catechesis in the Church. Young men grew up without proper instruction with regard to their faith and to the knowledge of their vocation. Young men were not being taught that they are made in the image of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. These young men were not taught to know all those virtues that are necessary in order to be a man and to fulfill the particular gifts of being male.

Prayer isn’t just for little, old ladies

I found Cardinal Burke’s comments timely because I made my new year’s resolution to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church (which is going well; I’m on verse 167 of 2865).  I want to be better catechized particularly in this world of “soft Catholicism.”  I liken myself to a patient wanting the doctor to give me the hard truth about my condition and the prescription for leading a spiritually healthy life.  And I’m not looking for what is easy, but what is best for my mind, body, and soul.

Going back to Cardinal Burke’s comment, why do we have such a collapse of catechesis in the Church?  I find it interesting that when we learn math, we learn about rules and formulas.  When we learn science, we learn about rules and formulas.  Economics — rules and formulas.  Engineering — yep, rules and formulas.  Languages, again with the rules and formulas.  But for some reason, many people shy away from educating about the rules and dogmas of the Catholic faith out of a fear that it might upset someone or it may not be politically correct.

This fear of Church dogma wasn’t always the case.  My mom told me that growing up the Baltimore Catechism was basically her text book for religious education.  But over the years we’ve infantilized religious education to simple platitudes like “God loves you” and “Jesus wants us to be nice to each other.”  Yes, it’s good to learn about a loving and merciful God.  But that’s the starting point.  We can’t stop there.  If we want deepen our faith and our relationship with God we need to deepen our understanding of what our faith is.  Furthermore, we can’t ignore or disregard the truth we learn because we don’t like it or it’s hard to follow.  That’s like saying you don’t believe in gravity or 1+1=3.

One of the goals of RosaryMeds is to motivate you to really take the next steps, whatever that may be, to increase your understanding and love of your faith in Jesus’ church.  When you pray the rosary, ask God to show you what those next steps are.  Maybe it’s to pray more earnestly.  Maybe its to read the Bible or the Catechism.  Maybe it’s to read more RosaryMeds articles (hint, hint).  Whatever form it may take, try hard to move your understanding of the Catholic Faith forward.  We have an infinitely complex God so trust me, there is always something new to learn.

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Synod on the Family — A Messy Process

As many of you know, I’m a software engineer.  My career revolves around analyzing the business needs of my employer and designing and implementing a software solution.  Although my job title has the word engineer in it and my degree is in a science, the software development world can be an undisciplined, unscientific mess.  Someone who doesn’t understand software development might be a little uneasy with the number of bugs that are introduced in the process, the amount of code that gets thrown out or rewritten, and how different a final product will look from the initial concept or prototype.  Personally, every good idea I have usually stems from five bad ones — some being immediately dismissed while others I worked on a bit before realizing they weren’t a good fit for what I was trying to accomplish.

I see a lot of parallels between my experience in writing software and the recent Synod on the Family.  A lot of commentary and fuss has been made over the midterm report.  It shows a process where it may appear bishops are make statements and decisions contrary to Church doctrine in topics like divorce and homosexuality.  We have to remember that this report isn’t the finished product nor a definitive statement upholding or changing Church doctrine.

The synod is like a piece of code in progress.  Sometimes I just have to write a few lines of code to steer my thinking in the right direction.  Similarly, I think the bishops have to bring up topics and lines of thought, not with the intent of those thoughts becoming the final word.  Rather, it steers the dialog in different directions to find the right path — the truth of Jesus Christ.

While I’m a little uneasy about the statements being reported, I’m also glad that they are at least being mentioned.  It wouldn’t be much of a synod if the bishops sat down and just regurgitated Church teaching, patted each other on the back for their rote knowledge, and went home.  Again, in the software world I would be highly skeptical of a code’s quality that was completed quickly with no revisions.  How do we know that the developer took into account all the scenarios and details?  Why didn’t he integrate any feedback from his colleagues?  Similarly, the mentioning of ideas that run counter to the Church’s teachings shouldn’t be seen as a challenge to the doctrine but as part of the exploration of these broad and complex topics.  I want my bishops to leave no stone unturned in their search for truth.

Father Robert Barron, who is often very level-headed about topics like this says it best in his recent article:

One of the great mysteries enshrined in the ecclesiology of the Catholic Church is that Christ speaks through the rather messy and unpredictable process of ecclesiastical argument. The Holy Spirit guides the process of course, but he doesn’t undermine or circumvent it. It is precisely in the long, laborious sifting of ideas across time and through disciplined conversation that the truth that God wants to communicate gradually emerges.

The interim report on the Synod represents a very early stage of the sausage-making process and, unsurprisingly, it isn’t pretty. Two more weeks of discussion will follow; then a full year during which the findings of the Synod will be further refined, argued about, and clarified; then the Ordinary Synod on the Family will take place (the one going on now is the Extraordinary Synod), and many more arguments and counter-arguments will be made; finally, some months, perhaps even a year or so, after that, the Pope will write a post-Synodal exhortation summing up the entire process and offering a definitive take on the matter. At that point, I would suggest, something resembling edible sausage will be available for our consumption; until then, we should all be patient and refrain from bloviating.

Now, I would also be naive to think that there aren’t some bishops guided more by politics than the Holy Spirit in this process.  I think that’s part of the reason why this interim report was released to the public — so that some bishops could score some political points with the Church’s critics.  It’s their way of getting some political cover by implying, “You see!  I did try to represent your viewpoints but the magisterium didn’t listen.”  Unfortunately, I think some bishops are aiming more to increase the Church’s likability by bending her teachings to the whims of society and not through explaining her truths.

I don’t think there will be a radical rewriting of Church doctrine when this is all over and many of the bishops know that.  So those who may have ulterior motives other than fostering dialog may want their viewpoints made public so that they can become a talking point or be used in a counter argument in future debates.  Unfortunately, our society (the media in particular) has an uncanny way of turning “this was mentioned in the synod” into “this is what the Catholic Church believes.”  And over time, the context certain statements were made in will be completely lost and all you’re left with is a soundbite from Nancy Pelosi quoting the interim synod report and misrepresenting Church doctrine.

Nancy Pelosi, Representative from California.
The media’s “goto” person for Catholic teaching.

Like St. Simeon in the Fourth Joyful Mystery of the rosary, we must show patience for this process.  St. Simeon had faith that he would one day see God’s Chosen One.  We too must have faith that the truth of Jesus Christ will not only reveal itself, but will burn more brightly when held up against weaker ideas.  We pray for patience with the Church, both personally and for a patience from the greater society to not misrepresent the Church’s teachings.  We also need to pray for the bishops and all those taking part in the synod that they let the Holy Spirit guide their thoughts and actions.  And we must pray especially for those bishops who may treat their vocation as a political office rather than spiritual shepherds.

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Oklahoma City’s Black Mass — 42 vs 1600

 

In a previous post I wrote about how a group of satanists were going to hold a “black mass” in Oklahoma City.  The day came and went and the black mass drew a crowd of 1,600 people!  Oh wait, that was the number of potesters and people coming to pray and bear witness to the Christian faith.  Only 42 people (0f the 88 tickets sold) actually attended the black mass.  To put that in perspective, 42 people probably fills the first two or three rows of a large church.  Not too many at all.

From NewsOK:

About 1,600 Roman Catholics gathered Sunday afternoon to bear witness to their Christian faith in the face of “dark forces targeting Oklahoma City, the site of a satanic “black mass” to be held Sunday night.

About 1,200 people crowded into the sanctuary, gym and a cafeteria area at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church for a holy hour prayer service called by Archbishop Paul S. Coakley.

Another estimated 400 people gathered outside the church at 1901 NW 18 to listen to the service blaring through speakers set up outdoors. In his homily, Coakley thanked the faithful for joining together on the eve of the satanic event.

“Your presence here today is a powerful witness of your faith in the midst of a challenging time for our community,” Coakley said.

Coakley, spiritual leader for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, then shared the reason for the afternoon gathering — a war being waged against the devil.

“Our city has been targeted by dark forces,” he told the crowd.

Coakley said as Christians “we know that Christ conquered Satan.  The war has been won, Christ has conquered though skirmishes will continue until Christ comes to reign forever.”

I would like to think that many of the people who bought a ticket to the black mass but didn’t attend had their hearts swayed by the Holy Spirit invoked by those praying for these misguided souls.  Perhaps some of the no-shows realized that they were playing with fire if they attended, even if they were only curious.  Attending a black mass because you’re curious is like shooting yourself in the chest because you’re curious what a gunshot wound feels like.  There are just some things you don’t need to personally experience to know that they aren’t good for you.  I really feel like the Holy Spirit was able to reach a few souls and awakened them to the harm participating in a black mass would do to them.

I think this event is an interesting example of why God allows bad things to happen in our world.  One of the popular answers to this vexing question is that God knows that it will bring about the greater good.  Look at this case.  1,600 people assembled and prayed together on a Sunday afternoon because of this great evil taking place.  These people (along with who knows how many more in spirit) took time out of their day to witness their faith when they otherwise might have been going about their lives running errands or watching football.  That’s 38x as many people strengthening their faith as those putting their soul at risk.  A definite win for the greater good!

“That’s it, we’re firing our agent!”

Now while 42 people attending the black mass is small, it’s still 42 souls at risk.  Jesus and Mary are saddened by every soul that deliberately turns away from God.  We need to pray for those souls that they open their hearts to the Holy Spirit and our Mother Mary to the healing embrace of God’s grace.  I remember the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery of the rosary, Jesus’ Crucifixion, where he prayed to God to forgive the people who crucified him saying, “they know not what they do.”  I think knowing not what they do pretty accurately describes all those who attended the black mass.  These are the people in most need of our prayers.  When you take out your rosary today, pray not only these 42 wayward souls but for everyone who doesn’t really know the seriousness and eternal consequences of their actions.

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Helping Iraq’s (Forgotten) Christians

I know many readers are probably put off by now about my recent political commentary even if you sit on the same side of the political aisle as I do.  But like I said in previous posts, we live in the real world and rosary prayer and meditation need to play a part in it.  Rosary prayer cannot be something detached and isolated from the other parts of our lives.  It is meant to fuel us and guide us through our our lives, especially the hard parts.

We should turn our prayers toward what is happening in Iraq right now.  Since January, 1.2 million people have been displaced by ISIS and other radical groups.  One group that was already being actively persecuted in the region before January, but are now targeted to a heightened degree is the region’s Christian communities.  Rev. Andrew Write, an Anglican pasture in Baghdad, said “It is as if hell has broken out here and nobody cares.  The situation is so serious and it is very easy to feel forgotten.”

The ultimatum imposed by militants for Christians to convert to Islam, pay a tax or be killed has passed with the collapse of communities that have existed for millennia

Iraq is just one of many places where Christians have been driven from their homes with nothing but the shirts on their backs.  In some places, they are beheaded or even crucified!  Over the last few years churches that have stood for hundreds of years were shut down, vandalized, or destroyed throughout Syria, Egypt, Libya, and other countries.  By some measures, Christians are now the most persecuted group in the world, but as Rev. Write said, nobody cares.

I’m really not qualified to give a detailed analysis of international politics and why there isn’t a more vocal outrage over the world’s besieged Christians.  But here are some of my thoughts.  In the developed world, when we think of Christians we have the image of nicely dressed people attending a suburban church and then going to a nearby coffee house for pancakes and omelets.  Or we think of the majesty of St. Peter’s Square.  Some stereotypical images of the Spanish inquisition, European witch hunts, or the Crusades might come to mind.  Throw all these perceptions together and it forms a picture of a group of people who don’t need any help at best, or are getting what they deserve at worst.

But in much of the world, the Christian communities are no different from the non-Christian communities around them.  It’s not like Christians in Iraq are some wealthy, powerful group that are being toppled by a desperate underclass.  They are farmers, shopkeepers, employees in some business, mothers, fathers, and children just like everyone else.  Their day to day lives are no different from those around them except maybe they have different diets and worship habits.  They don’t have a direct connection to the politics or history of Christianity.  And yet, in their moment of need, many in the international community are silent because of their perception of who Christians are.

This Iraqi Christian should consider himself lucky.  He was only driven from his home and wasn’t beheaded.

Jesus challenges us to help one another personally.  One of my readers commented about my previous article on how Jesus offered a place for those who were left out of the normal hierarchy.  Jesus didn’t espouse politics nor catered to a specific group of people.  Yes, he taught mostly amongst the Jews, but His message was for everyone regardless of religion, ethnicity, time, or place.  We look at the Third Glorious Mystery, Pentecost, where the Holy Spirit gave the apostles the courage to go out and teach Jesus’ message to all the world.  And while they preached the Word to religious and political leaders (since they would have the most influence) they also taught to the masses and spread the Word as individuals to individuals.

St. Paul teaching the masses about Jesus Christ

Individuals helping individuals is the core of Jesus’ ministry.  Yes, we still must lean on our governments and religious leaders to help.  After all, it’s religious and government institutions that have the best infrastructure to deliver aid effectively.  And yes, we must pray for those who are feeling so alone and abandoned as forces of evil drive them from their homes and kill them.  But prayer is not the end of our role in helping those in need, it’s the beginning.  Jesus didn’t want people to pray and then wait for governments and religious leaders to officially adopt His Word before living the Gospel.

Now it’s not like we can jump on the nearest plane to Iraq and drive from the airport to the area where Christians have fled.  But we can still help on a personal level.  Please consider donating to the Catholic Relief Services as they do have the means of reaching out to those undergoing hardships that we will (hopefully) never know.

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