Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

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Friday, August 30, 2013

Obama's Real Syria Problem

Obama’s Real Syria Problem

Barack Obama is considering military action against Syria for apparently using chemical warfare against innocent civilians.  Any military action would not include boots on the ground, occupation, or have as its goal the overthrow of the Assad regime.  The objective would be to punish Syria and to drive home the point to all nations that the international community will enforce the norm against using chemical weapons.
But Mr. Obama has a credibility problem, and it does not just stem from the British Parliament’s vote against military action and the impossibility of getting the endorsement of the UN security council.  No, the heart of Mr. Obama’s credibility problem is that he has long been a strong supporter of chemical warfare against innocent civilians.
Millions of unborn children are aborted through chemical attacks in the United States, and Mr. Obama has been an outspoken supporter.  Not only that, he has opposed efforts at recognizing the pain caused to both the babies and their mothers, and he has forced taxpayers and even religious institutions to pay for the brutality, in contradiction to American law.
So when Mr. Obama gives a stern warning about the brutality of the Syrian attacks, their violation of international norms, and the punishment they merit, a reasonable person doesn’t know whether to laugh or to cry.
But the problem is not only Obama’s.  It’s one that has plagued our country since at least 1973.  We have heard, in recent years, the debate over whether the United States should be “the world’s policeman,” and whether we have the military capability to do so.  But a more fundamental question is whether a society that is increasingly built on the culture of death has any moral capability to be a leader at all, let alone enforce the values of human rights and human dignity.
A fundamental principle in philosophy is that one can not give what one does not possess.  As our culture no longer possesses justice and righteousness, there is no way we can give them to anyone else.  The use and proliferation of chemical weapons is something no one should want, but as we consider the need to deter Syria, we must first focus on repentance for ourselves.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Worldly Christianity

Worldly Christianity

          Recently a well-known Protestant speaker made some remarks on a television show regarding birth control that were troubling.  It was during a regular question-answer segment in which viewers could submit questions for his “wisdom.”
          I don’t mean to personally insult this man (I am sure he is sincere), which is why I’ll refrain from using his name.  But his responses demonstrate a dangerous snare that exists, of which all Christians need to be aware.
          This particular caller said that her pastor had preached against artificial birth control.  She and her husband had been using it, and she wondered if they were sinning.  The response began with a distorted presentation of the Catholic position against birth control, followed by the inaccurate statement that, “The Protestant Church has always supported artificial birth control,” and finally the assurance that not only was she not sinning, she was being a responsible Christian by being prudent and taking control of her own reproduction.
          There are many pitfalls in this response.  Frist, it should be noted that there is no such thing as “The Protestant Church.”  Different Protestant denominations approach different theological and moral questions their own way.  The Southern Baptist Convention would probably not appreciate being lumped in with the United Methodists, for example, given their stark differences on abortion.  Also, every Protestant denomination considered artificial birth control sinful before the Lambeth Conference in 1930.
          The second problem is an even bigger one.  This person’s presentation of the Catholic position (not to mention his description of Natural Family Planning) was shamefully distorted.  I doubt that he intended to deceive; I’m sure he shared what he believed to be true.  But his error potentially led many others into error.  It reinforces the importance of learning what Catholics believe from the Catholic Church directly.  The catechism is readily available.  Of course, our Protestant brethren deserve the same respect.  It’s only when we have an accurate understanding of each other that any useful dialog can occur.
          Finally, as I listened to his response, I felt like I could have been watching the Ricki Lake Show.  What I mean is, he was simply affirming the wisdom of the world to the caller, and just putting God’s stamp of approval on it.  Again, my purpose is not to question this man’s integrity (or Ricki Lake’s, for that matter). 
But we have to beware of worldliness masquerading as Christianity.  We are all at risk of falling into that trap.  I certainly have.  Rationalization is the one skill at which we are all masters. 
As Catholics we have the benefit of the Church to safeguard us from interpreting God’s Word in a manner that simply validates our own lifestyles.  Obedience is critical to our avoiding the snares laid out by the devil.
And especially regarding the issue of artificial contraception, it would be an act of charity for us to know and understand the teaching Christ has given us through His Church.  We have many brothers and sisters who need to hear the truth presented with clarity, confidence and charity.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Link - The Continuing Fukushima Disaster

Link – The Continuing Fukushima Disaster

          This article may not seem a perfect fit for a Catholic blog, but exposing dangerous disinformation is important.  Those paying attention recently have learned that we have been grossly misinformed about the fallout from the Fukushima nuclear disaster.  The following article explores some of the long-term ramifications stemming from the recent bad news.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Why Aren't our Judges Smarter than a Fifth Grader?

Why Aren’t our Judges Smarter
than a Fifth Grader?

          Quick: What’s the first freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution?  If you have completed fifth grade history, you should know this one.  Here is the text:
          Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…
          Most readers of this blog knew that and unlike most of our government officials, they probably also know what it means.
          Case in point: The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled last week against a photographer who chose not to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony due to her strongly held Christian beliefs.  The opinion read, in part, that the photographer and her husband “are compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives,” calling it “the price of citizenship.”
          Pardon my rudeness, but how do such ignorant people become Supreme Court justices?  Their job is to uphold the Constitution, which, as noted above, is quite clear that people can not be prohibited from exercising their religion.  Of course, the Amendment refers to Congress, but its implications are clear.  The New Mexico Supreme Court either does not know the First Amendment, or it does not care.
          This is a major sign of dangerous times to come.  Christians will not comply with the unjust laws upheld by the court.  In fact, we know that they are not actually laws at all and are not binding on us.  We must, and we will, continue to defy them.  According to the court, prepare for persecution.
          It’s bad enough that there are people hell-bent on persecuting Christians; it is worse that they inhabit positions of power in government.  But we also have judges (I wish the New Mexico Supreme Court was a rare exception) who willfully trample the Constitution they have promised to uphold.
          The state of the nation is clear.  But now the state of the Church will become clear.  Will we persevere or will we "compromise"?  Will we endure the persecutions that are coming?  If not, society is lost.  But if so, it can be saved.  The courage of Christians in the face of injustice has long been the seed of the Church’s growth, along with Christian charity.
          We are being given an opportunity.  If we can endure, with courage, charity, and faith, the politicians don’t stand a chance against us.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Not Peace, but Division

Not Peace, but Division

Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division.  From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. (Lk. 12:51-53)
These words of Jesus come from this past Sunday’s Gospel.  This reading is definitely one of those that makes people uncomfortable, especially people who are used to a sterilized reading of the Bible.  How can Jesus say that He has come to separate families?  Don’t we value family as Christians?  Shouldn’t we desire peace in our families?  Why would Jesus want to injure our most intimate human relationships?
Well, of course Jesus doesn’t desire strife in families.  As Catholics, we value family, and take seriously family obligations, as much as anyone, and more than most.  So how are we to understand this Gospel, or apply it to our lives?
I’m sure your parish priest gave an excellent answer to this question on Sunday, but I want to look at only one angle of it.
Often in Scripture, Jesus shows the incredible value of something by highlighting the goods that must be sacrificed for it.  So, for example, we know how exalted celibacy is because of the great good of marriage, which is sacrificed for its sake.  Jesus tells us that our devotion to Him must surpass even that to our own families, which has always been held as one of the highest goods, among both Christians and Jews.
An encounter with Jesus demands a choice.  How will we respond to Him?  Because our relationship with Him is even greater than those with our families, it can not be sacrificed for family peace.  In the passage above, Jesus makes clear exactly what we must be willing to suffer for His sake.
Of course, God offers grace to our families.  They are an image of His, and we should desire true peace in our families, a peace cemented by a mutual love of God.
But many Catholics suffer because that peace has not been realized in their families.  Often it is the faithful members who are blamed.  Their devotion to Jesus (“religious fanaticism” is how it will probably be characterized) has caused the division.  They are rigid, unwilling to compromise their values for the sake of the demands of their less faithful family members.
This can begin to wear, not only on the emotions of a Christian, but even on his conscience.  Is it true?  Am I a fanatic, who is causing strain in the family, the very family that God so values?  Am I unreasonable for being faithful to my principles when it would be so much easier for everyone if I just compromised my values a little?
Sunday’s Gospel answers with a resounding, “NO!”  Our consciences need not be troubled.  Jesus tells us that this is the price we may have to pay for our faithfulness.  And He makes it clear that it is a price worth paying, a price that we must be willing to pay.
Now, of course, we should examine our attitudes and motives, and whether our practice of our Faith can be characterized by authentic charity.  But we should never be ashamed of being uncompromising with our values. Who knows?  Perhaps our fortitude will be the instrument God uses to bring our families true peace, in Heaven.