Communism and the Denial of Human Dignity

Remembering the Evils of Communism

I recently finished reading a book and watching a short movie on peoples’ experience under Communism in the 20th century. This is a timely topic given the current events unfolding in Ukraine. Many of us are so detached from the events of the Cold War and the rise of Communism in the 20th century. In fact, many of you reading this article probably weren’t born when the Berlin Wall came down. It’s important to take a look at the effects Communism had and why it’s so antithetical to Church teachings on the value of human life.

I read a book titled Willing to Die. This is an autobiography of John Muntean, someone who grew up in Romania under Nicolae Ceausescu’s communist regime. He goes into detail about how his village went from close-knit and self-sufficient to just scraping by. He’s quite clear that one of communism’s needed goals for it to succeed is the elimination of religion. This is because a centralized and planned economy and society can’t have anything outside of government interfering with its plans. Under communism, everything is done in service of the state. People are nothing more than cogs in that machine. Religion isn’t tolerated because it preaches the inherent freedom, dignity, and value of the individual.

The Eroding Religion

Much of the religious opposition to socialism has already eroded away since the Cold War ended. And that is what makes Western society’s march towards socialism so scary to me. It didn’t take tanks, soldiers, and labor camps either. It took a virus, mandates, and Netflix to wipe out peoples’ desire for religion. I fear that the days of people willing to die rather than deny their faith are gone in much of the Western world. If communism needs religion out of the way to succeed, then it’s pretty much there. But there’s still a sliver of hope.

I know the Russian invasion into Ukraine is on our minds. And while I’m sad to see fighting and indiscriminate destruction, at least I see a nearly unanimous reaction that what Putin is doing is morally wrong. It doesn’t matter the country or political party, there’s been an almost total condemnation of the attacks. That provides some hope that when the world is pushed into a dire situation, we can put aside various partisan issues and see evil for what it truly is. Perhaps we haven’t moved away from listening to God as I may have thought.

If you don’t have time to read about the evil done in the name of Communism, watch the 1-hour movie, To Believe. It’s free to watch on ETWN. It’s about the horrors done to the Ukrainian people by the Soviet Union in the 20th century. It again focuses on the communists’ hatred for religion because it gave people a doctrine to live by that wasn’t under state control. When you read about current events, keep in mind what it means to these people to have Russia invade their country and why they fight so hard to defend it.

Remembering Human Dignity Through Rosary Prayer

For me, it’s hard to read these books and watch these films and not get angry when I hear people praising socialism. I feel like they have no understanding of history and what socialism inevitably leads to. That’s when I need to take out my rosary and pray the Second Joyful Mystery. I think about Elizabeth’s greeting towards Mary in the Visitation, “Blessed is the fruit of thy womb.” I think about the inherent value and dignity everyone has from the moment of conception. Every human life is blessed. That dignity is something that a government or ideology doesn’t have the authority to give or take away. It’s given to us by God.

All  human beings, therefore, are ends to be served by the institutions that make up  the economy, not means to be exploited for more narrowly defined goals. Human personhood must be respected with a reverence that is religious. When we deal  with each other, we should do so with the sense of awe that arises in the  presence of something holy and sacred. For that is what human beings are: we  are created in the image of God (Gn 1:27). (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Economic Justice for All, no. 28)

Life and Dignity of the Human Person | USCCB

God is Unchanging Truth

What is Truth?

The teachings of the Catholic Church are universal. They are the same regardless of time, place, or cultural trend. This is one of the key aspects I’m learning as I read the Catechism this year. The source of everything, including truth, lies with God. God is not only the source of truth, He IS truth. And the mission of the Catholic Church is to reveal that truth to everyone.

This is why calls for the Catholic Church to change her teachings to conform to cultural trends frustrate me. People want to take God’s truth and change it. They probably aren’t aware that they are trying to change God Himself. The Catholic Church seems inflexible because it won’t change her teachings. But she can’t! We need to have the humility to know that we can’t change God. And we should strive to have the faith in God’s truth even when we don’t completely understand it.

Hard to Accept != Hateful

Currently, one of the more divisive areas of Church teaching is that on gender and sexual orientation. Because the Church teaches that homosexuality is sinful, people immediately jump on the Church as being “outdated” or “hateful.” They basically want God to get with the times. People act like we can tell Him that his creation took a vote and we decided to override some of His decisions.

The mistake that many of us make is that we equate unpopular or hard to accept with hateful. It doesn’t help that we hear this day and night from various politicians who desire votes and donations. Of course, they will promote what is popular, not necessarily what is true because it’s popularity, not the truth, that gets them votes.

Look at Jesus. Did he ever promote hate? On the contrary, he directed us to love everyone, even those who we don’t like. But, did he equate love with acceptance of sinful behavior? Never. He forgave sins but never endorsed them. He called people to a life of conversion. It wasn’t he that needed to change, it was the people he called to follow him. His unwillingness to alter Truth is what led him to his crucifixion. The Church, from its very start, embraced Truth over popularity.

Fear of God is a Good Thing

And this is what makes this manifesto from the German Catholic bishops so frustrating. They are demanding that the Catholic Church change its teaching on sexuality. They even have a catchy tagline — For a church without fear. Probably in addition to the term hate, fear is another one of those words that tend to be thrown around in an attempt to score political points.

Maybe a little fear is a good thing. It shows an understanding that some of our actions conflict with truth and we have some remorse. We’re afraid because we know, at some deep level, that what we are doing conflicts with God’s design for us. By not embracing truth, we don’t embrace God. We should be afraid of our actions separating us from God’s grace.

Rather than demanding that God changes, perhaps we should find the humility to change our views and actions. Even when we don’t understand the truth, God asks us to have faith in Him. And having faith in God means having faith in the truth. When you pray the Rosary, look to Mary as the ultimate example of humility and accepting God’s truth even when we can’t completely understand it. And pray that these Geman bishops also have the humility to look past their politics and remember the Truth they are called to teach.

When you pray the Rosary, meditate on the ideas of God and Truth when you pray the Third Luminous Mystery — The Proclamation of the Kingdom Heaven and the Call to Conversion. It is our duty to learn God’s truth and convert our hearts and minds to honor Him. When we fear God, we’re on our way to understanding Him. When we desire truth, we desire God.

Finding Hope When the World Hates You

Bad News

There seems to be so much unhappy news lately. But more than that, there is so much anger, rage, and despair as well. It’s more than just people getting angry over world events; we’ve been doing that for generations. What’s more concerning is seeing how people vilify each other and tear each other apart in reaction to the news. Whether it’s the tragedy in Afghanistan, laws in response to Covid19, pro-life laws, or California recall elections, I see more than just disagreement; it’s hate. It’s hard going through my day knowing there’s so much hatred towards my faith and morals.

For example, look at what’s happening with the heartbeat law that recently passed in Texas. It’s a law protecting human life. The people who support it have a noble intention — all human life is sacred and deserves protection. And yet, the pro-abortion crowd characterizes pro-life supporters as tyrannical monsters on par with the Taliban (while trying to downplay what the actual Taliban is actually doing). They hate us because we don’t condone murder. I don’t want to get into the details of this law. I could pick any headline (or better yet, events that don’t make headlines because they don’t fit the media’s narrative) and it will lead to the same outcome — people attacking each other over deeply held beliefs because they don’t align with someone’s political agenda.

Read this opinion piece in the Washington Post by San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone. It’s about the Catholic Church’s history of defending civil rights when it was culturally unpopular. He makes a comparison between those events in the 1950s and what is playing out with abortion now. But if you have the stomach, look at a few of the 8,000 comments. You will see post after post of people attacking the Catholic Church, pro-lifers, conservatives, and anyone who doesn’t ascribe to a specific liberal, woke agenda. As a Catholic, it’s hard to read these comments and not become depressed that there are so many people out there who don’t just disagree with me but hate me because of my morals and faith.

Age-old Persecution

Is this rage and persecution of the faithful new? Unfortunately, it goes back thousands of years. Let’s take a look at Psalm 73. It’s a long one, but worth reading. King David asks why God allows such terrible things to happen to His flock, the faithful who follow him. Read and meditate on this.

Why, God, have you rejected us so finally?
Why this rage against the sheep of your flock?
Remember those you have gathered,
those who were yours from the beginning.
The stock you redeemed to be your own possession;
the mountain of Zion, where you chose to dwell.
Turn your steps towards the final devastation:
the enemy has laid waste the sanctuary.
Those who hate you have roared
in the midst of your flock.
They have set up their emblems,
taking the place of your own.
They have raised their axes high,
hewing the wood.
With hatchets and axes
they have hewn down the doors.
They set fire to the sanctuary,
profaned and trampled your tabernacle.
They said to themselves, ‘Let us crush them
once and for all.’
They burned to the ground
every shrine of God in the land.
Our emblems have vanished,
our prophets are gone,
and none of us knows any more.
How long, O God, will the enemy deride?
Will he insult your name forever?
Why do you keep your hand away?
Why do you fold your arms?
God is our king since the beginning,
he has given us help throughout the earth.

Universalis: Afternoon Prayer (None)

I couldn’t help but think of Christians now and how our beliefs are being constantly profaned and trampled by politicians, the media, and anyone with a Twitter account. While King David may have been talking about physical tabernacles, sanctuaries, and emblems being destroyed, we can think about the spiritual, ethical, and moral emblems of Christianity that are under attack now. The powerful are destroying not structures (although look at the vandalism happening against churches), but people’s spirit and will to follow God’s Will.

Finding Hope

What’s my takeaway from all of this? Is there any message of hope? Can I see the rage over Texas’ pro-life law or the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and find something positive? You bet! I take comfort that King David saw similar events thousands of years ago. And yet, those faithful to God remain. The world has never been a welcoming place for God’s people whether they be Jewish or Christian. And yet, God has never allowed those forces to completely overwhelm and destroy the faithful. The hate and persecution will always be there, but so will God’s protection of His Church.

I know it sucks that we live in such difficult times. It’s even worse if these events directly affect you. Knowing that God protects His flock as a whole is little comfort if you’re personally suffering. I believe that the Church will live to see another day but that doesn’t make the insults sting any less. But that’s how martyrs are made — seeing that we are part of something larger than ourselves and committing to it, even onto death. We should take comfort and maybe even some honor knowing that we live for something greater than a politician, political party, or social fads. We live for a Church that God has protected for thousands of years. And while we may bend, He will never let us break. We endured when King David lamented in Psalm 73 and we will endure now.

Praying for Those who Hate You

As Jesus instructed us, pray for those who hate you. I can’t imagine the suffering that so many people carry with them because of their hatred. What’s worse is that much of their anger and hate isn’t based on reality, but false narratives and characterizations by people with ulterior motives. Those who spread lies to advance their interests also need our prayers. If you want to find peace in a world that hates you, you need to pray! It’s that simple.

While I don’t usually associate with Twitter, I found this post interesting.
Sue Perkins 💙 on Twitter: “Who shook the jar? https://t.co/Gzm26UTopH” / Twitter
Before you get upset over someone’s post attacking a deeply-held belief, ask yourself, “who’s shaking the jar?”

Awesome Letter for the Archbishop of San Francisco

Lacking Understanding

I’ve been a huge Star Wars fan my whole life. You can consider me your classic Star Wars nerd; knowing all the trivia and details of the franchise. May 4th was Star Wars day (“May the Fourth be with You”, get it?). On that day, many people talked about Star Wars including one of the podcasts I listen to. They confessed they didn’t know much about the series and it showed. They asked many questions that any Star Wars fan knows like “how many movies make up the Skywalker saga? It’s nine by the way. As someone who knows Star Wars, it was a painful podcast to listen to.

I think many of us feel a similar pain when we hear on the news about our “Catholic” president or just about any mainstream news reporting about religion. It’s painful hearing the misinformation about the Church. The media just doesn’t understand the logic behind Catholic teaching. They act like universal truths can just be ignored or revised at will. They think the Church should just bend to whatever the woke cause de jour happens to be.

Listening to the news misreport about the Catholic Church is like listening to clueless people talk about Star Wars. It’s extremely frustrating the amount of misinformation they spread. It’s dangerous in many ways too. First, Catholics weak in their knowledge of the faith may be led astray if they believe that what the media or politicians say about the Church. Second, in this woke cancel culture, mobs can attack the faithful based on a false perception of Church teaching.

Pray that radical progressives stop at only destroying statues

A Clear Voice

That is why it’s so refreshing when someone comes along and lays out the teachings of the Catholic Church in a clear, unambiguous way. I’m talking about the archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone. In his letter on May 1, the archbishop wrote about the sanctity of human life, Communion, and politicians. He didn’t mince words when he says, “the killing must stop.” Here’s what he tells politicians:

To Catholics in public life who practice abortion or advocate for it: the killing must stop. Please, please, please: the killing must stop. God has entrusted you with a prestigious position in society. You have the power to affect societal practices and attitudes. Always remember that you will one day have to render an account to God for your stewardship of this trust. You are in a position to do something concrete and decisive to stop the killing. Please stop the killing. And please stop pretending that advocating for or practicing a grave moral evil—one that snuffs out an innocent human life, one that denies a fundamental human right—is somehow compatible with the Catholic faith. It is not. Please return home to the fullness of your Catholic faith. We await you with open arms to welcome you back.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone

The letter is long but is worth reading. Any attempt I try to make to summarize it won’t do it justice. Trust me, I’ve tried writing some bullet points but it never comes together with the same impact as the letter. The letter has several layers that build on top of each other so it must be read in its entirety. I would be no better than the news pundits if I tried to cherry-pick certain lines.

The fact that the letter shouldn’t be cherry-picked for information is what is missing in modern discourse. Complex discussions about the dignity of human life, evil, mortal sin, and the Eucharist take time to express. The Church is guided by thousands of years of teachings from brilliant minds and inspired hearts. The problem is that no one in politics or the media wants to make an effort to understand Church teaching. Understanding takes time. Whipping up a bunch of woke activists takes a Twitter post.

The Rosary “Meds”

When I pray the Fourth Glorious Mystery, I think about how Mary was assumed into Heaven to help guide us to her Son, Jesus Christ. Part of coming to know and love Jesus is knowing and understanding his Church’s teachings. Yes, that can be hard on all sorts of levels. Sorry, but the Catechism or the Bible can’t be expressed in 140 characters and emojis. But making an effort to understand our faith is what we are called to do. We can’t love or hate something without making an effort to learn and understand it. Mary wants us to love her son and hence, wants to help us understand him and his Church.

I urge you to read or listen to the archbishop’s letter. Listening to it takes no more time than most podcasts. If you’re only hearing about politicians’ worthiness to receive Communion from the media, you’re not hearing the entire story.

Biden and Pelosi, Who do You Serve?

Compare the relatively short lines for Confession on Saturday to the long lines for Communion on Sunday. We’re either living in an era of saints or people are receiving Communion who should not.

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about Catholic politicians in the United States and whether they should receive Communion if they publicly support abortion. Namely, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and President Biden have come under fire. Pelosi infamously said that those who supported Trump because of his pro-life support “sold democracy down the river over one issue.” And Biden, in his spree of executive orders, reversed the Mexico City policy which prohibited U.S. funding of foreign organizaitons that promote abortion.

The Real Presence

The San Francisco Archbishop, Salvatore Cordileone, provided a profound response to Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden. He didn’t just address them but took the opportunity to comment on how Catholics, in general, are forgetting what is considered the foundation of the Catholic faith — the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

“For that kind of action [denial of Communion] to make sense to a lot of people, we need to reclaim this sense of what it means to receive [Communion],” Archbishop Cordileone said, pointing to a lack of belief in the real presence of the Eucharist among Catholics. “What are you really saying when you receive Communion? To me, it goes hand-in-hand with this decline in the belief of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist,” he said.

Archbishop Cordileone

Archbishop Cordileone backed up his statements citing Canon Law. Whether you agree or not, abortion or publicly supporting abortion is a mortal sin. And individuals in a state of mortal sin must not receive Jesus in the Eucharist. That’s a clear teaching of the Catholic Church. It’s not something up for debate and can be vetoed or eliminated through executive action because people don’t like it.

Watering Down Catholic Beliefs

It would be great if bishops and cardinals would all be one, clear voice on that matter. Unfortunately, there are those who confuse the issue like Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego:

These bishops, he said, “argue that abortion is not merely a ‘preeminent’ issue in Catholic Social Teaching, but rather constitutes the de facto litmus test for determining whether a Catholic public official is a faithful Catholic, and for determining whether the overall policy stances of non-Catholic officials can be considered morally legitimate.” He added that “if adopted, such a position will reduce the common good to a single issue.”

Bishop Robert McElroy

It’s sad that bishops will throw the Eucharist under the bus under the false sense that it will somehow bring about the common good. How can the Church or government bring about the common good if we confuse what “good” and “evil” even are? What it does is undermine one of the foundations of the Catholic Church. It doesn’t unify but divides not just pro-abortion vs. pro-life groups, but Catholics against Catholics. It creates a Church where people have wildly different beliefs which then fractures the Catholic identity. We see this all the time now where there are the pro-life Catholics, social justice Catholics, pre-Vatican II Catholics, Christmas and Easter Catholics, etc. Each with their own ideas of what the Church teaches.

What frustrates me about Bishop McElroy’s comments is his rather narrow view on why we can’t correct and guide Catholic politicians doing un-Catholic things. I inferred from his comments that we cannot call out politicians over abortion because focusing on that one issue will overshadow good qualities they may possess. Really? Is our government or Church really any better because of politicians like Nancy Pelosi or Joe Biden? Are we admitting that there are no other Catholics out there that adhere to the Church’s teachings and can promote the common good? Pelosi is the best we can do? Are we so weak as a Church that we’ll readily water down Jesus’ teachings so that politicians like Pelosi and Biden can feel like good Catholics and good Democrats?

The Truth is Hard

It’s not easy being a Catholic. Jesus didn’t say that it was. But these pro-abortion Catholic politicians can’t have it both ways. They have to decide what they love more — Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church or their positions of power and support from Planned Parenthood. If they think they are entitled to receive Communion in a state of mortal sin, then what exactly do they think they are receiving? If Jesus was present in human form, would they come to him clinging to their pro-abortion position or begging for forgiveness?

Too difficult to give up the sin? That’s what separates the saints from the rest of us. The saints had the courage to give up all they had to follow Jesus. There were many saints like Saint Francis of Assisi, who came from great wealth. He threw that all away to serve God. And there are other saints that died protecting the Eucharist like Saint Tarcisius. We’ve gone from people willing to die for their faith to those scared of upsetting Pelosi and Biden by correcting their understanding of Church teachings.

Not Just the Politicians

It’s easy to point fingers at Nancy Pelosi or Joe Biden. But let’s be honest, most of us, unless we just received the Sacrament of Reconciliation, aren’t saints either. We are guilty of often not appreciating the power and importance of the Eucharist whenever we zone out at Mass (or not go to Mass). Most of us probably wouldn’t have the courage to give up our money, livelihoods, or lives to protect the sanctity of the Eucharist. If we did have a saintly level of commitment to the Eucharist, wouldn’t we be demanding more from our priests and bishops to both teach the importance of the Eucharist and defend its role as the cornerstone of the Catholic faith? Instead, we go out of our way to accommodate and validate politicians’ warped understanding of Catholicism.

The Rosary: Fifth Luminous Mystery

When you pray the Fifth Luminous Mystery, pray for increased faith in the Real Presence in the Eucharist. And pray for all those souls who receive Jesus in an unworthy state. Pray for our Church leaders, that they follow Archbishop Cordileone’s lead and project a unified voice on the importance of the Eucharist.

RosaryMeds is Going Ad Free

I try incredibly hard to keep politics out of RosaryMeds’ posts. After all, the Rosary does not belong to a certain political party, country, or race. Our Holy Mother gave it to everyone to better know and love her son, Jesus. If you want to follow politics play-by-play, there are plenty of other websites for you to follow. You come to RosaryMeds because you love the Rosary and want resources for deeper prayer. I thank you for that. But because of recent political events, there are certain improvements I’m going to make to the website.

The Changes

Here are the changes that I will be rolling out on RosaryMeds. I think many of you will like them since they will provide a less distracting experience on the site.

  • No more Google-hosted advertisements via their AdSense platform.
  • No more Amazon affiliate links.
  • No more promotion of RosaryMeds on Twitter.
  • My books will remain on sale on Amazon for now although I’m seeing if there is a way to offer them directly through the RosaryMeds website.
  • I’m going to keep linking articles on the Rosary Prayer Facebook page but not do any type of paid advertising or post boosting.

In short, I’m not giving big tech my money nor making commissions from those of you who visit my site.

Why the Changes?

I have come to realize that the media and large tech giants have no interest in promoting free speech and will actively censor opinions and platforms that they disagree with while misinforming the public about why they are censoring certain voices. These changes to RosaryMeds aren’t about whether I agree with the recent actions at the US Capitol. They are about me using my freedom to not expose my audience to platforms that limit, control, and twist the free exchange of information. Granted, Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon are private companies, free to run their platforms how they want. And I’m free to not use or support them.

Will these changes make a huge difference to these tech giants? Probably not. RosaryMeds only has a few hundred visitors per day on good days. So it’s not like Google and Amazon are going to be affected by losing RosaryMeds’ user base. But accepting ad and affiliate revenues from these companies just doesn’t feel right anymore. By accepting their payments, I’m solidifying their hold on the market to blacklist and shut down any other company that doesn’t align with their political views or those of their political allies.

What this Means for RosaryMeds

I remember the internet before Google, Amazon, and Facebook. Back then, you would hear about a website from a friend and visit it. If you liked it, you bookmarked it in Netscape Navigator and told your friends. Websites would link to other sites on the same topic (remember webrings?). I guess that is the model RosaryMeds is going back to. If you like RosaryMeds, tell your friends! Sign up to receive email updates. If you run a website, link to RosaryMeds. If you want to kick a few dollars my way for hosting costs, please do. But I’m done with giving big tech a platform to silence free speech.

The good ‘ole days of screechy modems and static text!

I started RosaryMeds as a hobby to learn how to create a website and write blogs. I later experimented with ads, SEO, and affiliate marketing out of curiosity. I used it to learn how to self-publish books. But RosaryMeds has never been a serious source of income or even a “side hustle.” I learned what I wanted and now I’m turning the site back to ad and affiliate free.

The True Value of RosaryMeds

The real value of RosaryMeds to me is that it has been a way for me to better explore the Rosary. It’s been like a prayer and meditation journal that I’ve shared with the world. It has helped me get more out of the Rosary and I hope it has also helped you. There’s no amount of money that Google or Amazon can throw my way that is worth more than a single person coming to know the joys of Rosary prayer. If you’re reading this, I hope you will continue to visit this site and, more importantly, pray the Rosary. We need Rosary prayer more than ever right now!

The Value of Not Praying for Specific Outcomes

I’m going to talk briefly about politics. I know, I can hear the collective groan from you all because you’re sick and tired of everyone talking about the US elections. But please, stay with me as this ties into Rosary prayer and faith.

I can’t tell you who is going to win the presidency or which party will control the Senate after November 3. But one thing is certain — there will be a large group of people unhappy with the results because their side lost. And there were be others ecstatic because their side won. Some people will think their prayers were answered while others will ponder why God ignored them and would allow such an outcome. What is playing out in 2020 has happened thousands of times throughout human history.

Regardless of the winner, now is the time to learn this important lesson — we shouldn’t pray by asking God for a specific outcome to our concerns. That’s missing the point of prayer and reduces God to the role of a genie. Instead, we should ask God to give us strength, patience, and understanding to live with the outcome. The outcome of an election is manmade, but how we deal with it can be aided through God’s grace. God doesn’t favor one political party over the other. He sees all of us, whether we are Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, etc. as His children.

Like a parent watching children quarrel over a toy, God will let us fight and argue without intervening in some large, magnificent way. Because from God’s perspective, what we argue about in this world isn’t all that important. Yes, even something as worldly important as the US 2020 general election isn’t significant universally. Who we choose as president of the United States is minuscule in importance compared to the state of one’s soul. That is what matters most to God and should be of the utmost concern to us.

It’s not that I don’t care about the outcome of the election. I do. And I’m concerned about the direction the United States could go in after this election. But when I meditate on the First Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary, I think about Jesus in the garden asking God to let this cup pass over him. Jesus asks God to find a way for salvation that doesn’t involve pain and suffering. And I pray that the outcome of this election doesn’t result in increased hardship and suffering. But Jesus also said that he would do God’s Will. I too ask that I will remain faithful to God’s plan for me regardless of how the world changes.

Let’s also think about the Fifth Luminous Mystery and the institution of the Eucharist. In the Eucharist and Holy Mass, Jesus is present with us. No matter how the world changes and what hardships we encounter, He is with us. We can always find him in the Mass. He is always waiting for us in the stillness of a church to come and pray. Even if governments try to inhibit our ability to visit Christ in the Eucharist, it’s nothing the Church hasn’t endured before.

I know this is a big ask. But please don’t put all your energy and focus into an election. Don’t stake your happiness on a particular outcome. Don’t give Biden or Trump all-consuming power over your emotional wellbeing. Don’t be a slave to the 24-hour news cycle trapping you in an emotional whirlwind to bump up ratings. The sure bet is to put your faith in God. In other words, “vote” through your actions that you want to send your soul to Heaven. That is way more important than endlessly worrying about who we send to the White House.

Jesus Is Not a Politician

No matter what I read, everything seems to have a hint of politics these days. And by “hint” I mean it proclaims in bold letters some political view and repeatedly hits me over the head about it throughout the article or video. I can’t read a chocolate chip cookie recipe online without the author finding it necessary to proclaim his support for Black Lives Matter.

Because everyone in the news, whether it be Nancy Pelosi or Donald Trump, is trying to drive a political agenda, we naturally insert politics into religious texts as well. It’s easy to read the Gospels and see Jesus as a politician trying to enact new political and social policies. This leads to us reading the Bible with a hint of skepticism and not fully believing in Jesus’ teachings because we think he has some ulterior motive like all politicians.

Last Sunday’s Gospel about the workers, like many parables, can be misunderstood if you think of Jesus as the politician. Many people point to parables like this one to support specific social and political ideas. One may read this parable and say that Jesus is advocating a socialist-style of governance, minimum wage reform, or universal basic income. After all, Jesus is saying that everyone should be paid equally out of fairness right?

My parish priest, in his homily, provided a great insight into parables like the workers. You have to remember that Jesus starts by saying, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…” That is very important. First, Jesus is using a simile. A simile is a comparison between two unlike things. If I say “she is like a rose,” I’m not saying everything about the woman is the same as a rose. I don’t mean to say she is made up of a long thorny stem, photosynthesizes, and sprouts petals. A simile makes a comparison between certain attributes of two things but it does not equate the two.

In the case of the workers in the field, Jesus is not talking about labor and wage laws. He is not saying that Heaven is exactly like what he describes in the parable. It is a simile about God’s grace and mercy and how everyone can receive them. That is why Jesus does not come out and say, “Landowners should pay their workers the same wage.” He wasn’t talking about wages. This parable has as much to do about economics as the parable of throwing seeds has to do with a lesson in agriculture. These are all similes comparing what people know about earthly realities with God.

The second point to understand is that Jesus talks about the nature of God and Heaven in his parables. He is trying to explain what Heaven is, not prescribe how the world’s laws should be. In other words, Jesus isn’t trying to sway Roman law or whip up the people in revolution. He isn’t trying to get a coalition together or establish a political party. He wants people to understand who God is and have them freely turn towards God and do His Will. By explaining Heaven, Jesus gives people a sense of hope and something to live for beyond what they can see and hear.

Okay, maybe it’s not 100% accurate that Jesus wasn’t trying to sway opinions. But he was trying to sway the hearts of individuals. He was turning people towards God by teaching them God’s Will. That is different than someone trying to espouse a political philosophy or enact new laws and policies. If Jesus had been a politician, he would have tried to change laws. He’s didn’t do that. He changed people’s hearts by having them use their free will to turns towards God after learning about Him through Jesus’ teachings.

In closing, don’t read the Bible as if it were the New York Times. And don’t read the New York Times as if it is the Gospel (you’re probably better off not reading the NYT at all).

Pray for Abortion Supporters to Convert Them

The focus at the end of January is on protecting the unborn.  January 22nd is a day of prayer for the legal protection of unborn children and it’s bookended by pro-life marches on both coasts of the United States and throughout the world.  As I read news about pro-life rallies, the comment sections are usually littered with both support from pro-lifers and derision from the pro-abortion crowd.  It’s easy to feel frustrated when pro-life marches get no attention while other, smaller marches plaster headlines.  I want to try to explain the mindset of the pro-abortion lobby and tell you a way we can turn them around.

It seems pointless to try to argue or debate someone who is pro-abortion with scientific evidence or even basic ethics. For many of them, abortion rights will always be nothing more than a woman’s right issue.  Don’t get me wrong, women’s health and rights are important.  But the abortion issue covers so many other important issues of science, ethics, and morality.  When human life is at stake, it’s disingenuous to ignore sound ethical and scientific arguments.  Unfortunately, that is where we find ourselves because too many people are willing to accept and publicize the pro-abortion lobby’s limited scope of the issue.

English: Anti-abortion demonstrators taking pa...
English: Anti-abortion demonstrators taking part in the 5th Paris March for Life (Marche pour la Vie) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For pro-aborts, the abortion debate does not and cannot go any further than women’s rights. If they entertained even the slightest idea that abortion goes far beyond a woman’s right issue, they would have to confront questions that they would not have adequate answers to. They avoid this reality by making the abortion issue as tightly scoped as possible. This way, any pro-life argument becomes nothing more than an attack on women’s’ health or rights.  Any other argument is out of bounds and gets ignored or dismissed as irrelevant.

Think of the abortion debate like this. Imagine trying to describe the sport of snowboarding to people who have lived in a desert their entire lives and have never seen snow (let’s also assume no access to a television or internet). You can talk about the gear, the technology, the mechanics, and the fun of it all you want. They will just not understand you. They don’t have a frame of reference or any way to compare what they know from their experiences with what you’re describing. The same goes for the pro-life vs. pro-abortion crowds.  The abortion supporter does not see the issue beyond “a woman’s right to choose.” A pro-lifer might as well speak a foreign language or be from another planet because a pro-abortion advocate looks at the issue completely differently.

This is where prayer comes in. When words fail, prayer succeeds. You may not be able to debate, argue, or reason with pro-abortion supporters, but you can pray for them. The Holy Spirit has a way of breaking through where words, reason, and logic fail. The Holy Spirit talks to the soul in a language that is beyond linguistics. The Holy Spirit doesn’t need to come up with a convincing argument or coerce people into agreeing with Him. This is going to sound odd, but because the Holy Spirit can work outside of human logic, He can open people up to logic. In short, the Holy Spirit can help someone who never thought of abortion as a life issue start to see it as one. And when that wall falls down and the scope broadens, the logic, reason, and morality of pro-life argument can begin to take hold.

We pro-lifers need to perform these one-two punches. Reason, debates, and even 100,000+ people marches are not enough. Neither is retreating from the public square into the silence of prayer. It is prayer and asking the Holy Spirit to break down walls that will make the logic, debates, and marches that much more effective and ultimately triumphant.

And if you don’t believe me, just look at all the people who used to be pro-abortion supporters or Planned Parenthood employees who became pro-life advocates.  I have a hard time believing that it was reason and debate alone that steered these people away from the abortion industry.  The takeaway — no matter how fruitless the marches and prayers appear, they matter.  Keep it up.

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.