Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

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Monday, April 30, 2012

Just War Theory

Just War Theory

          I recently attended the Religious Education Congress in Anaheim, California, as the teachers at my school do every year.  I was blessed to see some great speakers, such as Fr. Leo Patalinghug and Matthew Kelly.  One of the talks I attended was from a dynamic and holy priest from Washington whose name I have forgotten.  He gave a wonderful talk on the marriage of social justice and the new evangelization, but there was one thing he said that was a departure from Catholic teaching.  He said that he didn’t believe a war could ever be justified.  Certainly he presented it not as dissent, but as a personal prudential opinion that may be likened to recent popes’ opinions that in our day and age the death penalty can no longer be justified.

          However, I had to admit that I disagreed with this priest on this point.  I can certainly relate to his hatred of war, but I also relate to the adage, “The only thing worse than a people that is fighting is a people that no longer believes there is anything worth fighting for.”

          The Catechism makes Catholic thought on the issue of war quite clear in paragraph 2308: “All citizens and governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war.  However…governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed.”

          The Catechism then goes on to enumerate those things necessary for a war to be considered just.

1)    The damage faced by the aggressor must be lasting, grave and certain.

2)    There must be serious prospects of success.

3)    The evils resulting from the war must not be greater than the evils avoided by the war.

4)    War is to be only a last recourse, after all reasonable peaceful attempts at a solution have failed.

As Catholics we are also aware that the means of fighting a war must be just, not targeting civilians, etc.  We can use these criteria to put into perspective the morality of past wars we have fought, at least the reasons for going to war if not the manner in which they were fought.  For example, though the Vietnam War proved to be very unpopular, it seems to me the use of force, once South Vietnam was invaded, was justified.  Same for Korea.  Of course the very popular Mexican-American War would have a much more difficult time standing up to the test.

But what about today?  Pope John Paul II spoke against the Iraq War and although it was not a statement under the charism of Infallibility, when the pope speaks, Catholics should at least pay close attention.  To be sure, pre-emptive strikes have to be very closely considered, particularly in light of criterion number one above.

It has become clear that once again we will not have a Catholic President after the November elections, so we can’t assume our Commander-in-Chief will be well-versed in just war theory.  And he will be tested, especially by Iran and North Korea.

During the Republican debates this primary season the issue of Iran came up a lot, but not nearly as much was said about North Korea.  However, that country has recently come to the fore with at least a show of testing nuclear missiles, proving to the world what every rational person already knew, that their nuclear ambitions were weapons-based.

It has also come to light that North Korea has numerous Nazi-style concentration camps, in which dissidents and their families for three generations are forced to work until they starve to death or are murdered.

I am not advocating a war with North Korea, but it’s hard to imagine that we can comfortably turn a blind eye to Hitler’s regime reincarnate, only this time on the brink of obtaining a nuclear weapon.  There are serious, difficult decisions to be made.

It is important that we Catholic citizens of the United States become familiar not only with current events, but also with just war theory and prayerfully contemplate its application.  Our voices will need to be heard, and we can have a reasonable hope, at least if Mitt Romney is elected, that they may be.  Not that we will be making decisions of that nature ourselves, but at least that there is a serious, Catholic moral perspective brought into the debate.  And above all, let us pray for true peace.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Stand Up Rally - June 8

Stand Up Rally – June 8

          The next Stand Up Rally against the Obama administration’s HHS mandate forcing Catholic institutions to either violate their consciences or shut down, will be held Friday, June 8.  This is the second in a series of rallies at which freedom loving Americans will stand up for their rights by rallying in front of federal buildings.  The first was held Friday, March 23.

          June 8 is the 223rd anniversary of the introduction of the Bill of Rights by James Madison.  To find out the details of this and other upcoming rallies, or to bring a rally to your city, visit

          Currently rallies are scheduled for the cities of:





Kenai & Soldotna





Los Angeles



San Diego

San Francisco






New Haven
















Fort Wayne



South Bend








Baton Rouge




Ellicott City




Ann Arbor



Grand Rapids




Traverse City


Twin Cities




St. Louis






Las Vegas

New Hampshire


New Jersey


New York



Garden City



New York




North Carolina


















Rhode Island


South Carolina


South Dakota


Rapid City






Del Rio

El Paso

Fort Worth






Green Bay




Wednesday, April 25, 2012

CD Review - From Love, By Love, For Love

CD Review – From Love, By Love, For Love

          The most recent CD received by members of Lighthouse Catholic Media’s CD of the Month Club is called From Love, By Love, For Love, by Father Michael Schmitz.  I had never heard of Fr. Schmitz before, but he is an extraordinary speaker.

          This CD touches upon the timely topics of contraception and same-sex attraction, in the context of a Catholic understanding of authentic love.  The CD is not only excellent for its clear explanation of Catholic teaching, but also because of Fr. Schmitz’s energy, compassion and humor, which make the presentation so accessible to everyone.

          Father begins with a look at the Gospel story of the rich man and Lazarus, the beggar who died at the rich man’s door.  He asks how people of different world views would understand and react to Lazarus.  To a Christian, Lazarus, as a person, is a body and soul made in the Image and Likeness of God.  Because Man is both body and soul, what happens to our bodies matters.  When we suffer in our bodies, we suffer; when we sin in our bodies, we sin.

          He discusses the nature of Man and goes on to discuss the nature of sex, which is twofold: the unity of the spouses, and the procreation of children.  He stresses that the sexual embrace can be engaged in primarily for either purpose without violating the nature of sex, so long as the other purpose is not excluded.  Excluding openness to unity is rape; excluding openness to procreation is contraception.  Both violate the nature of sex and are sinful.

          He then goes on to talk about homosexuality and people who struggle with same-sex attraction.  He speaks with such emotional compassion it is clear that he has great love.  He notes that homosexual acts are a violation of the nature of sex but points out that the Church condemns all violations against the nature of sex, as shown by the inclusion of homosexuality in the Catechism with heterosexual sins.  However, the Church is also very adamant in its condemnation of unjust discrimination against homosexual persons.

          Fr. Schmitz also laments the labels people are constantly being defined by, especially when it comes to same-sex attraction.  (Same-sex attraction alone, of course, constitutes a temptation, not a sin.)  He says, echoing Pope John Paul II, “You are not defined by your sins, your weaknesses, or your failures, or your temptations, or your attractions.  You are defined by the fact that the Father loves you, by your capacity to receive the Father’s Love, and to be an image of Christ to this world.”

          He goes on to make the bold statement that, “there is no safer place for a man or woman with same-sex attraction than the Catholic Church [because] we will not stop saying that you have a dignity – that you are made in the Image and Likeness of God.”

          Father urges compassion for people who struggle with same-sex attraction, pointing out that for most it is a heavy cross, and reminding us that we all struggle with sexuality; each has his own particular struggle.  And even if we have failed at times in that struggle, no one’s sins are too big for God.

          If you are interested, you can get a copy of the CD at the “Online Store” on the sidebar of this blog.  You can also sign up to receive a new Catholic CD each month by clicking on the “CD of the Month Club” icon.  You can even sign up to receive more than one copy of the new CD each month to give extras to family and friends.  If you do, please listen to it first, as some have Scriptural references that people may have trouble interpreting in context.  Prepare yourself to answer questions of clarification or refer them to a priest who can.

          Listen below to an excerpt of From Love, By Love, For Love.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Link - Santorum's Run

Link – Santorum’s Run

          The article at the link below is a tribute to Senator Santorum’s run for the Republican Presidential nomination this year, which ended a couple of weeks ago.  The most notable aspect of Mr. Santorum’s run is what he refused to run away from – his Catholic Faith.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Is a Progressive Income Tax Just?

Is a Progressive Income Tax Just?

          Before I begin I want to say that I like Dave Ramsey and loathe class warfare.  I say that because I don’t want anyone to think my intent is to insult the former or laud the latter.  It was a conversation I heard on the Dave Ramsey Show last week that spurred my consideration of this topic.

          For those not familiar with Mr. Ramsey, he is a best-selling author and host of a radio show on which he gives financial advice to people, predominantly focused on getting out of debt.  He is also a Christian, which is something he makes no secret of on his show or in his books.  The discussion the other day was on the progressive income tax.  A couple of callers called in trying to explain to Mr. Ramsey why they supported it, as he apparently did not.

          Before I go further I should also point out that I heard about 20 minutes of a three-hour show, so my commentary is certainly not on Mr. Ramsey who, as I said, I like.  But it got me thinking about the progressive income tax, which I support, and the reasons I would give for doing so.

          Now, as a Catholic, I don’t want my politics to be labeled simply “liberal” or “conservative.”  I do my best to let my Faith define my political beliefs regardless of where that means they will fall.  Now, given the current political climate, it’s true that I most often fall in the category labeled “conservative,” but the progressive income tax would be an exception (though both our political parties have tended to support it, at least in practice).

          I also need to point out that I do not believe my position to be the “Catholic position.”  It is the one I have come to, informed by my Faith, but people can disagree with my conclusions completely without being any less faithful to Catholic teaching.

          Now that all the disclaimers are out of the way…I began thinking last week as I was listening to the radio about how I would explain my support of a progressive income tax to Mr. Ramsey if I had the time to call in, particularly knowing he would be open to arguments based on Christian principles.

          The first question for me is whether taxation is a proper function of government.  The government often does things, with good ends in mind, that are not its proper function.  I oppose those actions, and am firmly a limited government man.  However, taxation is universally a function of government, and always has been in this country (though one could argue whether we ought to have a federal income tax at all, since for more than half our history we did not).

          Government should not overstep its bounds, but I believe the functions it does perform should take into account the principles of Catholic social justice, in this case I think particularly of the preferential option for the poor.  Is it just to tax the wealthy at a higher rate than the poor?  I believe it is, because if the government is going to levy taxes, it should do so in a way that gives preference to the poor.

          Now the tax rates on the rich should not be unreasonable, and I am not arguing that they currently don’t pay enough, only that a progressive tax code is not unjust.  I am also aware that overtaxing job producers and investors in the economy is counter-productive and hurts everyone, rich and poor alike.

          Mr. Ramsey made the familiar point that when you look at the percentage of federal income tax revenue that comes from the richest five percent of people, it far exceeds the percent of the country’s wealth they actually earn.  And 49 percent of people pay no federal income tax.  Some have used this statistic to claim that half the country is not poor, yet they pay no taxes.  This, however, misses one incredibly important point – social security tax.

          When I do my taxes and see my total annual income, I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry.  To be honest I pay very little federal income tax.  But social security kills me.  And since social security is only collected up to a certain income level, it taxes the poor at a higher rate than that five percent spoken of earlier.  (Please don’t accuse me of being an Occupier; that’s not my point.)

          I’ve heard people say that these are two different taxes and need to be considered separately, but that’s silly.  The money comes out of my paycheck and I don’t see it.  Whether that money goes to the federal government as social security tax or federal income tax doesn’t matter one bit to my paycheck.  Talking about how much federal income tax a group pays is a straw man.  You must include social security and then talk about someone’s tax rate.  (State taxes, however, are different since they vary more due to where you live rather than income and are not collected by the federal government.)

          What’s my point in all this?  I am not complaining or calling for anyone to pay more taxes.  We have an election coming up, but with babies being killed by the thousands every day, marriage under attack, and religious liberties being liquidated by executive order, tax policy is largely irrelevant.  However, it is never futile to examine our political beliefs in light of our Faith.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

I Have a Say

I Have a Say

          A few weeks ago I posted a video by Father John Hollowell responding to Planned Parenthood’s ‘I Have a Say’ campaign, requesting that women post videos in favor of abortion and the President’s HHS mandate.  Here is another response, from a young woman reminding Planned Parenthood that they don’t speak for women.  Her focus on the ways in which abortion degrades men, women and children, encourages irresponsibility, and denies human dignity, is spot on.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Who is our Father?

Who is our Father?

          I had an interesting conversation the other day with a neighbor as I was out on my driveway drying out all our camping gear from our very wet visit to Yosemite after Easter.  He saw the Rick Santorum sticker on my car (which I will sadly be removing now that the senator has withdrawn from the race).

          He opened up a political conversation and shortly into it told me he was squarely on the opposite side of the political aisle as Mr. Santorum.  He said something I found quite incredible: “I think Obama is the best thing since sliced bread.”

          My shock was obvious, but we proceeded to have a respectful and friendly conversation.  I certainly don’t mean to be insulting, and found him to be a very nice man, but the logic in much of what he said was somewhat confused.  There was one statement he made, however, that helped me understand where he was coming from, and why I couldn’t relate.

          He said, “I see the President kind of like a father, and we are his children.  In every family there is someone who has the final say, and we just have to trust that the father knows what’s best for his family.”

          As much as I like this man, and do not mean to insult him personally, I would venture to say this kind of thinking is extraordinarily dangerous.  In many ways it is what has been behind the rise of Communism in certain parts of the world, as well as other abuses of human freedoms and basic rights.

          Not surprisingly, this man made clear that he is not religious.  When we do not recognize that God is our Father, we are at great risk of finding a surrogate.  Unlike God, who truly does know what’s right for His children, politicians do not, and sadly, more often than not, have personal self-interest foremost at heart.

          God deserves our unwavering devotion; politicians do not.  Currently, the President is at war with the Catholic Church, a war which he declared.  If God is our Father, we will defend His Law against governmental abuses.  If the President is our father, we will see the Church as the enemy.

          I would not have suspected that my neighbor’s thinking was actually subscribed to by anyone, but having heard it from him, I can begin to understand why so many of my countrymen adopt philosophies I have such trouble understanding.

          What, then, must be our response?  We know, as Catholics, that patriotism is a virtue, but nationalism is a vice.  And though we should respect the office of the Presidency, any leader that denies God’s Law must be opposed with vigor.

          What about our friends and neighbors, however, who don’t just support Mr. Obama, but think as radically as my neighbor professed to?  I don’t know the answer to the problem, but I suspect it is not a simple one.

          I do know, however, that I will not get far with him discussing the role of the President without first discussing the place of God.  Last week I discussed the separation of powers, the branches of government, and his disdain for President Bush, who held the same office as Mr. Obama currently does.  I didn’t get very far.

          God is real.  Our need for Him is real.  If we refuse to put Him in His rightful place, we will put someone or something else there.  The result is disorder in our lives.  This principle applies to all people, including ourselves any time we put something else in the place in our lives which is properly God’s.  That is perhaps why the First Commandment was placed first.

          And, as in the case of my neighbor, who is an intelligent and friendly man, with many legitimate things to say, prayer must be at the base of our relationship.  He is open to discussion, and any time God blesses us with someone in our lives that does not know Him, but is open to us, we must find a way to show that person the God for whom they unconsciously long.  That can not be accomplished without prayer.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Reflections of the Creator's Beauty

Reflections of the Creator’s Beauty

          All created beauty is a dim reflection of the beauty of its Creator.  We know that everything that is good comes from God, and the goods of this world are foretastes of the goods of Heaven.  They pale in comparison, of course, but we are meant to recognize God in the things He has made.  This past week I was blessed to spend some time enjoying the beauty of the Yosemite Valley with my family and some friends.  Below are some pictures of the wonderful things God has created there.  Since we were hit with rain and snow this week I’ve included some pictures from another recent trip.

Wildcat Falls - a lesser known but easily accessible waterfall that usually dries up in early summer.  One of my favorites.

Half Dome

One of the local residents

The Merced River

Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls

The view from Tunnel View

El Capitan

Nevada and Vernal Falls

Fern Spring

Ribbon Falls - My oldest son's favorite.

Bridalveil Falls - A favorite for post cards.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Father Barron on the Cross and Resurrection

Father Barron on the Cross and Resurrection

          I will be spending some time with my family and unable to post for a little over a week.  This is my last post until April 17.  Have a very blessed Holy Week and a glorious Easter!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Link - Reason Testifies to Faith

Link - Reason Testifies to Faith

One of the major propaganda pieces of the “New Atheists” is that they have a monopoly on reason, and that Faith is irrational.  Of course that is a lie.  Nothing has more reasonable defense than the belief in God, and anyone remotely familiar with the works of the “New Atheists” knows that reason is not exactly their strong suit.  Their works are generally filled with misinformation and logical fallacies.  At the link below, Tom Gilson does a good job expanding on that point.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Louis Martin

Louis Martin

          St. Therese of Liseux, the Little Flower, died just over a century ago.  The most contemporary of the Doctors of the Church, she is a very well-known and well-loved Saint.  But there are many lessons that can be learned from the lives of her parents, Louis and Zeille Martin, whose causes for canonization are also open.
          I recently read a short book, written by Therese’s sister Celine, titled The Father of the Little Flower, in which the life of Louis Martin is shared in detail.  Of the many things I could say about this holy man there was one phrase used to describe him that I have grasped on to, as it seems like the perfect motto to strive to make my own.  Celine said of her father that he was a man of “uncompromising faith and overflowing charity.”
          Uncompromising faith.  Louis Martin was a devoted disciple of Jesus Christ and faithful son of the Church.  Living in modern France he found himself in a society in many ways like our own.  His was a Catholic nation that had become very secularized.  France, of course, had suffered through a bloody revolution during which the Faith was forcefully purged.  In Louis’s time being a faithful Christian did not mean signing up for martyrdom, but it certainly meant being counter-cultural.
          And yet he was a man of uncompromising faith.  He refused to compromise with the spirit of the age, to go along to get along.  He did not stand preaching on street corners, but he displayed throughout his life the Christian virtues, including those scorned by society, with an unapologetic constancy.
          How that constancy and faithfulness is needed in our own day!  During our time, when the culture has pulled so far away from Christ, we are charged with being unapologetically counter-cultural.  Yet if we are, we will be attacked.  We will be falsely accused of being judgmental, hypocritical, bigoted and closed-minded.  So be it.  There are worse crosses to bear.
          A story is told of a time on a train when Louis wanted to shield his young daughter from immoderate conversation and was accused of being a Pharisee.  What was he to do?  He was willing to accept being falsely accused of judgmentalism rather than compromise his duty as a father.
          I recall a similar situation from my own life.  Bringing my kids to a large gathering at an all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant an extended family member suggested I pretend my three year-old was only two so I wouldn’t have to pay for him.  What was I to do?  Certainly I could not lie and defraud the restaurant.  So of course I paid for my son only to be accused of being “holier than thou” since I clearly, by not following the relative’s advice, was passing judgment on him.
          Or with the battle we currently face over the administration’s immoral HHS mandate.  As Catholics we can not simply “go with the flow.”  We must follow the lead of our shepherds and push back against the flow.  If in the eyes of the secular society it makes us unreasonable or closed minded, so be it.
          Is that, then, how we will define ourselves now as Christians in this age?  No, because of the second part of Celine’s description of her father, that he was a man of overflowing charity.  Despite Louis’s uncompromising faith he was a man who was respected and beloved by those who knew him, Catholic or not, because of his great love. 
          What our culture needs more than anything else, perhaps, is the witness of people who are uncompromising in their faithfulness to Christ, and who are also images of His beautiful, loving Face.  Mother Teresa never compromised with the spirit of the age and yet she was widely acclaimed when she died as one of the greatest women of her time because of her great love.
          Louis Martin’s heart always belonged to the Lord and his spirit exuded the Love of Christ.  So he was able to touch the hearts of many other people.
          We do not win souls by dumbing down the Faith, by compromising so it seems easy or accommodating.  We win souls by authentic love, by “speaking the truth in love,” as the Scripture says. 
As a man who has very much the same vocation as Louis Martin, that of husband, father and lay witness in my culture, I often come back to that goal of being a man of “uncompromising faith and overflowing charity.”  If I can do that in an authentic way, I can live my vocation to a saintly degree as did Louis Martin whose beautiful example gave the world one of its most beautiful Flowers.