Saturday, February 28, 2009
Democrats have declared war on the Catholic Church, with new laws that threaten to bankrupt Catholic schools, hospitals, charities and parishes. Thus far, the worst attacks have come in New York.
“We’ve taken a lot of hits this year,” Dennis Poust, spokesman for the New York State Catholic Conference, the policy arm of the state’s Catholic bishops, tells Newsmax. “Outside the government, the Catholic Church is the largest provider of health, human services and education in the [New york]. But some legislators are so driven by malice that they’re willing to see our charities and schools go under.”
The Empire State’s Democrats are attacking on three fronts:
1. A proposal to require all hospitals to perform abortions, or lose their state license would put Catholic hospitals out of business.
2. Major funding cuts for Catholic schools by Gov. David Paterson, who continues to force the parochial schools to run state-mandated programs at their own expense.
3. An effort by Democratic lawmakers to abolish the statute of limitations on sex abuse lawsuits against the Church, allowing people to sue over decades-old cases in which the alleged perpetrators are dead.
The proposed sex-abuse law applies only to private institutions such as the Church and the Boy Scouts. Public schools are exempt. Yet sex abuse is more common in public schools than in private institutions.
"The physical sexual abuse of students in schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests”, concluded a 2002 study by Hofstra University scholar Charol Shakeshaft. It estimated that 6 to 10 percent of U.S. public school students had been sexually abused by teachers and school employees.
An Associated Press investigation found that 485 “moral misconduct” charges were brought against New York State teachers between 2001 and 2005, most involving sex.
By contrast, new charges of sex abuse against Catholic priests in New York numbered “less than 10” during that same five-year period, says Poust.
Given these findings, the Child Victims’ Act of New York (Assembly Bill Number A.2596) seems strangely off the mark. First introduced in 2006 by Democratic state assemblywoman Margaret Markey, the bill is scheduled for a committee vote next week, to determine whether or not it will go to the assembly floor.
The bill targets private entities such as churches, but exempts government entities such as public schools. Under current law, a person who was abused as a minor can file suit up to five years after turning 18.
The new bill would suspend that five-year limit. It would open a one-year window, during which anyone could sue the Church -- or other private entities -- for alleged abuse going back 60, 70 years or more.
A similar law passed in California in 2002 produced so many lawsuits that the Church could not afford legal defense. It settled hundreds of cases, no matter how dubious the evidence, paying out more than $1 billion dollars.
Democrats hope for a similar bloodletting in New York. Markey’s current bill is modeled on the 2002 California law.
By contrast, New York state law discourages sex abuse claims against public schools.
A person charging sexual abuse against a public school must file a notice with the court within 90 days of his 18th birthday, or lose his right to sue.
Markey’s bill will not affect this 90-day deadline. Child molesters in public schools and other government entities would continue to enjoy special protection.
“It is unfair and bad policy when governments exempt themselves from lawsuits of a kind that can bankrupt their private counterparts,” states a Memorandum of Opposition sent to state legislators by the New York State Catholic Conference.
Markey’s bill would suffice, in and of itself, to bankrupt the Church in New York. But Democrats are also targeting Catholic schools and hospitals.
The federal Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) may or may not pass this year. However, a state-level version may well pass in New York.
The so-called Reproductive Health and Privacy Protection Act (RHAPP) could potentially force all New York hospitals to perform abortions. Catholic hospitals could lose their licenses, for failing to comply.
Catholic schools are also threatened. Costs are rising, and competition growing. Government-subsidized charter schools, which charge no tuition, have lured many families away from Catholic education.
Since August 2008, Governor Paterson has been slashing funding to New York’s Catholic schools, while insisting that they continue paying for many state-mandated programs.
Dozens of Catholic schools have closed in New York. Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio is currrently negotiating with Mayor Michael Bloomberg to save several doomed schools.
However, the deal will come with a high price. These schools will no longer preach the Gospel. They will become public charter schools, under city control.
“Religious instruction would be banned and religious symbols in the buildings would be covered,” reports The New York Times.
If the Church falls in New York, Catholic dioceses will tumble like dominoes across the nation. Where Nero failed, Democrats seem determined to succeed.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Why I Am Catholic
By G. K. Chesterton
From Twelve Modern Apostles and Their Creeds (1926)
Reprinted in The Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton, Vol. 3 Ignatius Press 1990
The difficulty of explaining "why I am a Catholic" is that there are ten thousand reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true. I could fill all my space with separate sentences each beginning with the words, "It is the only thing that . . ." As, for instance, (1) It is the only thing that really prevents a sin from being a secret. (2) It is the only thing in which the superior cannot be superior; in the sense of supercilious. (3) It is the only thing that frees a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age. (4) It is the only thing that talks as if it were the truth; as if it were a real messenger refusing to tamper with a real message. (5) It is the only type of Christianity that really contains every type of man; even the respectable man. (6) It is the only large attempt to change the world from the inside; working through wills and not laws; and so on.
Or I might treat the matter personally and describe my own conversion; but I happen to have a strong feeling that this method makes the business look much smaller than it really is. Numbers of much better men have been sincerely converted to much worse religions. I would much prefer to attempt to say here of the Catholic Church precisely the things that cannot be said even of its very respectable rivals. In short, I would say chiefly of the Catholic Church that it is catholic. I would rather try to suggest that it is not only larger than me, but larger than anything in the world; that it is indeed larger than the world. But since in this short space I can only take a section, I will consider it in its capacity of a guardian of the truth.
The other day a well-known writer, otherwise quite well-informed, said that the Catholic Church is always the enemy of new ideas. It probably did not occur to him that his own remark was not exactly in the nature of a new idea. It is one of the notions that Catholics have to be continually refuting, because it is such a very old idea. Indeed, those who complain that Catholicism cannot say anything new, seldom think it necessary to say anything new about Catholicism. As a matter of fact, a real study of history will show it to be curiously contrary to the fact. In so far as the ideas really are ideas, and in so far as any such ideas can be new, Catholics have continually suffered through supporting them when they were really new; when they were much too new to find any other support. The Catholic was not only first in the field but alone in the field; and there was as yet nobody to understand what he had found there.
Thus, for instance, nearly two hundred years before the Declaration of Independence and the French Revolution, in an age devoted to the pride and praise of princes, Cardinal Bellarmine and Suarez the Spaniard laid down lucidly the whole theory of real democracy. But in that age of Divine Right they only produced the impression of being sophistical and sanguinary Jesuits, creeping about with daggers to effect the murder of kings. So, again, the Casuists of the Catholic schools said all that can really be said for the problem plays and problem novels of our own time, two hundred years before they were written. They said that there really are problems of moral conduct; but they had the misfortune to say it two hundred years too soon. In a time of tub-thumping fanaticism and free and easy vituperation, they merely got themselves called liars and shufflers for being psychologists before psychology was the fashion. It would be easy to give any number of other examples down to the present day, and the case of ideas that are still too new to be understood. There are passages in Pope Leo's
Nevertheless, the man who made that remark about Catholics meant something; and it is only fair to him to understand it rather more clearly than he stated it. What he meant was that, in the modern world, the Catholic Church is in fact the enemy of many influential fashions; most of which still claim to be new, though many of them are beginning to be a little stale. In other words, in so far as he meant that the Church often attacks what the world at any given moment supports, he was perfectly right . The Church does often set herself against the fashion of this world that passes away; and she has experience enough to know how very rapidly it does pass away. But to understand exactly what is involved, it is necessary to take a rather larger view and consider the ultimate nature of the ideas in question, to consider, so to speak, the idea of the idea.
Nine out of ten of what we call new ideas are simply old mistakes. The Catholic Church has for one of her chief duties that of preventing people from making those old mistakes; from making them over and over again forever, as people always do if they are left to themselves. The truth about the Catholic attitude towards heresy, or as some would say, towards liberty, can best be expressed perhaps by the metaphor of a map. The Catholic Church carries a sort of map of the mind which looks like the map of a maze, but which is in fact a guide to the maze. It has been compiled from knowledge which, even considered as human knowledge, is quite without any human parallel.
There is no other case of one continuous intelligent institution that has been thinking about thinking for two thousand years. Its experience naturally covers nearly all experiences; and especially nearly all errors. The result is a map in which all the blind alleys and bad roads are clearly marked, all the ways that have been shown to be worthless by the best of all evidence: the evidence of those who have gone down them.
On this map of the mind the errors are marked as exceptions. The greater part of it consists of playgrounds and happy hunting-fields, where the mind may have as much liberty as it likes; not to mention any number of intellectual battle-fields in which the battle is indefinitely open and undecided. But it does definitely take the responsibility of marking certain roads as leading nowhere or leading to destruction, to a blank wall, or a sheer precipice. By this means, it does prevent men from wasting their time or losing their lives upon paths that have been found futile or disastrous again and again in the past, but which might otherwise entrap travelers again and again in the future. The Church does make herself responsible for warning her people against these; and upon these the real issue of the case depends. She does dogmatically defend humanity from its worst foes, those hoary and horrible and devouring monsters of the old mistakes. Now all these false issues have a way of looking quite fresh, especially to a fresh generation. Their first statement always sounds harmless and plausible. I will give only two examples. It sounds harmless to say, as most modern people have said: "Actions are only wrong if they are bad for society." Follow it out, and sooner or later you will have the inhumanity of a hive or a heathen city, establishing slavery as the cheapest and most certain means of production, torturing the slaves for evidence because the individual is nothing to the State, declaring that an innocent man must die for the people, as did the murderers of Christ. Then, perhaps, you will go back to Catholic definitions, and find that the Church, while she also says it is our duty to work for society, says other things also which forbid individual injustice. Or again, it sounds quite pious to say, "Our moral conflict should end with a victory of the spiritual over the material." Follow it out, and you may end in the madness of the Manicheans, saying that a suicide is good because it is a sacrifice, that a sexual perversion is good because it produces no life, that the devil made the sun and moon because they are material. Then you may begin to guess why Catholicism insists that there are evil spirits as well as good; and that materials also may be sacred, as in the Incarnation or the Mass, in the sacrament of marriage or the resurrection of the body.
Now there is no other corporate mind in the world that is thus on the watch to prevent minds from going wrong. The policeman comes too late, when he tries to prevent men from going wrong. The doctor comes too late, for he only comes to lock up a madman, not to advise a sane man on how not to go mad. And all other sects and schools are inadequate for the purpose. This is not because each of them may not contain a truth, but precisely because each of them does contain a truth; and is content to contain a truth. None of the others really pretends to contain the truth. None of the others, that is, really pretends to be looking out in all directions at once. The Church is not merely armed against the heresies of the past or even of the present, but equally against those of the future, that may be the exact opposite of those of the present. Catholicism is not ritualism; it may in the future be fighting some sort of superstitious and idolatrous exaggeration of ritual. Catholicism is not asceticism; it has again and again in the past repressed fanatical and cruel exaggerations of asceticism. Catholicism is not mere mysticism; it is even now defending human reason against the mere mysticism of the Pragmatists. Thus, when the world went Puritan in the seventeenth century, the Church was charged with pushing charity to the point of sophistry, with making everything easy with the laxity of the confessional. Now that the world is not going Puritan but Pagan, it is the Church that is everywhere protesting against a Pagan laxity in dress or manners. It is doing what the Puritans wanted done when it is really wanted. In all probability, all that is best in Protestantism will only survive in Catholicism; and in that sense all Catholics will still be Puritans when all Puritans are Pagans.
Thus, for instance, Catholicism, in a sense little understood, stands outside a quarrel like that of Darwinism at Dayton. It stands outside it because it stands all around it, as a house stands all around two incongruous pieces of furniture. It is no sectarian boast to say it is before and after and beyond all these things in all directions. It is impartial in a fight between the Fundamentalist and the theory of the Origin of Species, because it goes back to an origin before that Origin; because it is more fundamental than Fundamentalism. It knows where the Bible came from. It also knows where most of the theories of Evolution go to. It knows there were many other Gospels besides the Four Gospels, and that the others were only eliminated by the authority of the Catholic Church. It knows there are many other evolutionary theories besides the Darwinian theory; and that the latter is quite likely to be eliminated by later science. It does not, in the conventional phrase, accept the conclusions of science, for the simple reason that science has not concluded. To conclude is to shut up; and the man of science is not at all likely to shut up. It does not, in the conventional phrase, believe what the Bible says, for the simple reason that the Bible does not say anything. You cannot put a book in the witness-box and ask it what it really means. The Fundamentalist controversy itself destroys Fundamentalism. The Bible by itself cannot be a basis of agreement when it is a cause of disagreement; it cannot be the common ground of Christians when some take it allegorically and some literally. The Catholic refers it to something that can say something, to the living, consistent, and continuous mind of which I have spoken; the highest mind of man guided by God.
Every moment increases for us the moral necessity for such an immortal mind. We must have something that will hold the four corners of the world still, while we make our social experiments or build our Utopias. For instance, we must have a final agreement, if only on the truism of human brotherhood, that will resist some reaction of human brutality. Nothing is more likely just now than that the corruption of representative government will lead to the rich breaking loose altogether, and trampling on all the traditions of equality with mere pagan pride. We must have the truisms everywhere recognized as true. We must prevent mere reaction and the dreary repetition of the old mistakes. We must make the intellectual world safe for democracy. But in the conditions of modern mental anarchy, neither that nor any other ideal is safe. just as Protestants appealed from priests to the Bible, and did not realize that the Bible also could be questioned, so republicans appealed from kings to the people, and did not realize that the people also could be defied. There is no end to the dissolution of ideas, the destruction of all tests of truth, that has become possible since men abandoned the attempt to keep a central and civilized Truth, to contain all truths and trace out and refute all errors. Since then, each group has taken one truth at a time and spent the time in turning it into a falsehood. We have had nothing but movements; or in other words, monomanias. But the Church is not a movement but a meeting-place; the trysting-place of all the truths in the world.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
How to Win the Culture War
To win any war, the three most necessary things to know are (1) that you are at war, (2) who your enemy is, and (3) what weapons or strategies can defeat him. You cannot win a war (1) if you simply sew peace banners on a battlefield, (2) if you fight civil wars against your allies, or (3) if you use the wrong weapons.
Here is a three point checklist for the culture wars. If you don't know that our entire civilization is in crisis, I hope you had a nice vacation on the moon.
Many minds do seem moonstruck, however, blissfully unaware of the crisis -- especially the "intellectuals," who are supposed to be the most on top of current events. I was dumbfounded to read a cover article in Time devoted to the question: Why is everything getting better? Why is life so good today? Why does everybody feel so satisfied about the quality of life? Time never questioned the assumption, it just wondered why the music on the Titanic sounded so nice.
It turned out, on reading the article, that every single aspect of life that was mentioned, every single reason for life getting better, was economic. People are richer. End of discussion.
Perhaps Time is just Playboy with clothes on. For one kind of playboy, the world is one great big whorehouse. For another kind, it's one great big piggy bank. For both, things are getting better and better.
There is a scientific refutation of the Pig Philosophy: the statistical fact that suicide, the most in-your-face index of unhappiness, is directly proportionate to wealth. The richer you are, the richer your family is, and the richer your country is, the more likely it is that you will find life so good that you will choose to blow your brains apart.
Suicide among pre-adults has increased 5000% since the "happy days" of the '50s. If suicide, especially among the coming generation, is not an index of crisis, nothing is.
Night is falling. What Chuck Colson has labeled "a new Dark Ages" is looming. And its Brave New World proved to be only a Cowardly Old Dream. We can see this now, at the end of "the century of genocide" that was christened "the Christian century" at its birth.
We've had prophets who warned us: Kierkegaard, 150 years ago, in The Present Age; and Spengler, 100 years ago, in The Decline of the West; and Aldous Huxley, seventy years ago, in Brave New World; and C. S. Lewis, forty years ago, in The Abolition of Man; and above all our popes: Leo XIII and Pius IX and Pius X and above all John Paul the Great, the greatest man in the world, the greatest man of the worst century. He had even more chutzpah than Ronald Reagan, who dared to call Them "the evil empire:" He called Us "the culture of death." That's our culture, and his, including Italy, with the lowest birth rate in the world, and Poland, which now wants to share in the rest of the West's abortion holocaust.
If the God of life does not respond to this culture of death with judgment, God is not God. If God does not honor the blood of the hundreds of millions of innocent victims then the God of the Bible, the God of Israel, the God of orphans and widows, the Defender of the defenseless, is a man-made myth, a fairy tale.
But is not God forgiving?
He is, but the unrepentant refuse forgiveness. How can forgiveness be received by a moral relativist who denies that there is anything to forgive except a lack of self-esteem, nothing to judge but "judgmentalism?" How can a Pharisee or a pop psychologist be saved?
But is not God compassionate?
He is not compassionate to Moloch and Baal and Ashtaroth, and to Caananites who do their work, who "cause their children to walk through the fire." Perhaps your God is -- the God of your dreams, the God of your "religious preference" -- but not the God revealed in the Bible.
But is not the God of the Bible revealed most fully and finally in the New Testament rather than the Old? In sweet and gentle Jesus rather than wrathful and warlike Jehovah?
The opposition is heretical: the old Gnostic-Manichaean-Marcionite heresy, as immortal as the demons who inspired it. For "I and the Father are one." The opposition between nice Jesus and nasty Jehovah denies the very essence of Christianity: Christ's identity as the Son of God. Let's remember our theology and our biology: like Father, like Son.
But is not God a lover rather than a warrior?
No, God is a lover who is a warrior. The question fails to understand what love is -- what the love that God is, is. Love is at war with hate, betrayal, selfishness, and all love's enemies. Love fights. Ask any parent. Yuppie-love, like puppy-love, may be merely "compassion" (the fashionable word today), but father-love and mother-love are war.
In fact, every page of the Bible bristles with spears, from Genesis 3 through Revelation 20. The road from Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained is soaked in blood. At the very center of the story is a cross, a symbol of conflict if there ever was one. The theme of spiritual warfare is never absent in scripture, and never absent in the life and writings of a single saint. But it is never present in the religious education of any of my "Catholic" students at Boston College. Whenever I speak of it, they are stunned and silent, as if they have suddenly entered another world. They have. They have gone past the warm fuzzies, the fur coats of psychology-disguised-as-religion, into a world where they meet Christ the King, not Christ the Kitten.
Welcome back from the moon, kids.
Where is the culture of death coming from? Here. America is the center of the culture of death. America is the world's one and only cultural superpower.
If I haven't shocked you yet, I will now. Do you know what Muslims call us? They call us "The Great Satan." And do you know what I call them? I call them right.
But America has the most just, and moral, and wise, and biblical historical and constitutional foundation in all the world. America is one of the most religious countries in the world. The Church is big and rich and free in America.
Yes. Just like ancient Israel. And if God still loves his Church in America, he will soon make it small and poor and persecuted, as he did to ancient Israel, so that he can keep it alive. If he loves us, he will prune us, and we will bleed, and the blood of the martyrs will be the seed of the Church again, and a second spring will come -- but not without blood. It never happens without blood, sacrifice, and suffering. The continuation of Christ's work -- if it is really Christ's work and not a comfortable counterfeit -- can never happen without the Cross.
I don't mean merely that Western civilization will die. That's a piece of trivia. I mean eternal souls will die. Billions of Ramons and Vladamirs and Janes and Tiffanies will go to Hell. That's what's at stake in this war: not just whether America will become a banana republic, or whether we'll forget Shakespeare, or even whether some nuclear terrorist will incinerate half of humanity, but whether our children and our children's children will see God forever. That's what's at stake in "Hollywood versus America." That's why we must wake up and smell the rotting souls. Knowing we are at war is the first requirement for winning it.
The next thing we must do to win a war is to know our enemy.
Who is our enemy?
Not Protestants. For almost half a millennium, many of us thought our enemies were Protestant heretics, and addressed that problem by consigning their bodies to battlefields and their souls to Hell. (Echoes of this strategy can still be heard in Northern Ireland.) Gradually, the light dawned: Protestants are not our enemies, they are our "separated brethren." They will fight with us.
Not Jews. For almost two millennia many of us thought that, and did such Christless things to our "fathers in the faith" that we made it almost impossible for the Jews to see their God -- the true God -- in us.
Not Muslims, who are often more loyal to their half-Christ than we are to our whole Christ, who often live more godly lives following their fallible scriptures and their fallible prophet than we do following our infallible scriptures and our infallible prophet.
The same is true of the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses and Quakers.
Our enemies are not "the liberals." For one thing, the term is almost meaninglessly flexible. For another, it's a political term, not a religious one. Whatever is good or bad about political liberalism, it's neither the cause nor the cure of our present spiritual decay. Spiritual wars are not decided by whether welfare checks increase or decrease.
Our enemies are not anti-Catholic bigots who want to crucify us. They are the ones we're trying to save. They are our patients, not our disease. Our word for them is Christ's: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." We say this of the Chinese communist totalitarians who imprison and persecute Catholics, and to the Sudanese Muslim terrorists who enslave and murder Catholics. They are not our enemies, they too are our patients. We are Christ's nurses. The patients think the nurses are their enemies, but the nurses know better.
Our enemies are not even the media of the culture of death, not even Ted Turner or Larry Flynt or Howard Stern or Disney or Time-Warner. They too are victims, patients, though on a rampage against the hospital, poisoning other patients. But the poisoners are our patients too. So are homosexual activists, feminist witches, and abortionists. We go into gutters and pick up the spiritually dying and kiss those who spit at us, if we are cells in our Lord's Body. If we do not physically go into gutters, we go into spiritual gutters, for we go where the need is.
Our enemies are not heretics within the Church, "cafeteria Catholics," "Kennedy Catholics," "I Did It My Way" Catholics. They are also our patients, though they are Quislings. They are the victims of our enemy, not our enemy.
Our enemies are not theologians in so-called Catholic theology departments who have sold their souls for thirty pieces of scholarship and prefer the plaudits of their peers to the praise of God. They are also our patients.
Our enemy is not even the few really bad priests and bishops, candidates for Christ's Millstone of the Month Award, the modern Pharisees. They too are victims, in need of healing.
Who, then, is our enemy?
There are two answers. All the saints and popes throughout the Church's history have given the same two answers, for these answers come from the Word of God on paper in the New Testament and the Word of God in flesh in Jesus Christ.
Yet they are not well known. In fact, the first answer is almost never mentioned today. Not once in my life have I ever heard a homily on it, or a lecture by a Catholic theologian. Our enemies are demons. Fallen angels. Evil spirits.
So says Jesus Christ: "Do not fear those who can kill the body and then has no more power over you. I will tell you whom to fear. Fear him who has power to destroy both body and soul in Hell."
So says St. Peter, the first pope: "The Devil, like a roaring lion, is going through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Resist him, steadfast in the faith."
So says St. Paul: "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers of wickedness in high places."
So said Pope Leo the XIII, who received a vision of the 20th century that history has proved terrifyingly true. He saw Satan, at the beginning of time, allowed one century in which to do his worst work, and he chose the 20th. This pope with the name and heart of a lion was so overcome by the terror of this vision that he fell into a trance. When he awoke, he composed a prayer for the whole Church to use to get it through the 20th century. The prayer was widely known and prayed after every Mass -- until the '60s: exactly when the Church was struck with that incomparably swift disaster that we have not yet named (but which future historians will), the disaster that has destroyed a third of our priests, two-thirds of our nuns, and nine-tenths of our children's theological knowledge; the disaster that has turned the faith of our fathers into the doubts of our dissenters, the wine of the Gospel into the water of psychobabble.
The restoration of the Church, and thus the world, might well begin with the restoration of the Lion's prayer and the Lion's vision, because this is the vision of all the popes and all the saints and our Lord himself: the vision of a real Hell, a real Satan, and real spiritual warfare.
I said there were two enemies. The second is even more terrifying than the first. There is one nightmare even more terrible than being chased and caught and tortured by the Devil. That is the nightmare of becoming a devil. The horror outside your soul is terrible enough; how can you bear to face the horror inside your soul?
What is the horror inside your soul? Sin. All sin is the Devil's work, though he usually uses the flesh and the world as his instruments. Sin means inviting the Devil in. And we do it. That's the only reason why he can do his awful work; God won't let him do it without our free consent. And that's why the Church is weak and the world is dying: because we are not saints.
And thus we have our third Necessary Thing: the weapon that will win the war and defeat our enemy.
All it takes is saints.
Can you imagine what twelve more Mother Teresas would do for the world? Can you imagine what would happen if just twelve readers of this article offered Christ 100% of their hearts and held back nothing, absolutely nothing?
No, you can't imagine it, any more than anyone could imagine how twelve nice Jewish boys could conquer the Roman Empire. You can't imagine it, but you can do it. You can become a saint. Absolutely no one and nothing can stop you. It is your free choice. Here is one of the truest and most terrifying sentences I have ever read (from William Law's Serious Call): "If you will look into your own heart in complete honesty, you must admit that there is one and only one reason why you are not a saint: you do not wholly want to be."
That insight is terrifying because it is an indictment. But it is also thrillingly hopeful because it is an offer, an open door. Each of us can become a saint. We really can.
What holds us back? Fear of paying the price.
What is the price? The answer is simple. T.S. Eliot defines the Christian life as: "A condition of complete simplicity/Costing not less than/Everything." The price is everything: 100%. A worse martyrdom than the quick noose or stake: the martyrdom of dying daily, dying to all your desires and plans, including your plans about how to become a saint. A blank check to God. Complete submission, "islam," "fiat" -- Mary's thing. Look what that simple Mary-thing did 2000 years ago: It brought God down and saved the world.
It was meant to continue.
If we do that Mary-thing -- and only if we do that -- then all our apostolates will "work:" our missioning and catechizing and fathering and mothering and teaching and studying and nursing and businessing and priesting and bishoping -- everything.
A bishop asked one of the priests of his diocese for recommendations on ways to increase vocations. The priest replied: "The best way to attract men in this diocese to the priesthood, Your Excellency, would be your canonization."
Why not yours?
Thursday, February 12, 2009
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers. He will crush your head while you strike his heal.”
Why is this so good? Because God is prophesying about the coming of the messiah who will be born of “the woman” and redeem mankind from the Fall. Now, we tend to forget this, but ancient Jews did not. They were constantly looking for the woman whose child would restore them. This is one reason why those genealogies are so important - they are messianic credentials!
You can sit down and read the Old Testament as a story of God’s people looking and waiting for the offspring of the woman. Time after time, good men arose. In each case, however, they each came up short. Noah was a drunk, Moses struck the rock, and David had his affair…
We as Christians know, however, that it would be to Mary and Jesus to which this prophesy refers. This is the big reason why the Bible refers to Mary as “woman” or “the woman” so often. She is the one who is in a state of total enmity with the Devil – or in other words, is sinless by the grace of God.
What’s more, Jesus defeats the Devil and his offspring (sin and death) through allowing his heal to be struck through his passion and death. Though one might say this is more than a simple bruised heal, they seem to forget that the passion and death of Jesus led to the victory over death through the Resurrection on Easter Sunday!
There’s much more to be said on the protoevangelium – so if you’d like to read more, check out my other posts on the subject:
Why God Had to Protect Mary from Sin
Are We Making Some Assumptions About the Assumption?
Dublin, Feb 9, 2009 / 05:34 am (CNA).- During a trip to Ireland this past weekend, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver delivered a talk to the Irish chapter of Human Life International that outlined the "dos and don'ts" for the pro-life movement. Those who claim pro-lifers should avoid the "divisive" issue of ending legalized abortion and focus on providing better support for pregnant mothers are creating a false division, the archbishop insisted.
Following the theme "An American view on how to build a culture of life," Archbishop Chaput explained that his goal was "to offer some lessons from the American experience that Irish Christians might find useful."
More than three decades after the legalization of abortion in the U.S., Archbishop Chaput diagnosed Americans' beliefs on abortion as schizophrenic as he gave an overview of the current situation. "Most believe abortion is wrong. But most also want it legal under some limited circumstances," he said.
The consequences of holding two such divergent views are that the U.S. has "a large and well-funded abortion industry" and that a "very vigorous prolife movement" has grown up "right alongside the abortion industry," Chaput observed.
"American pro-lifers have had many setbacks. They never have enough money. They don't get treated fairly by the media. Too many of their leaders argue with each other too much of the time. But they just won't give up or die. And so they've won quite a few modest but important legal victories. Meanwhile they continue to work toward the strategic goal of overturning the 1973 Supreme Court decision."
With all of this in mind, Archbishop Chaput offered what he sees as six "don'ts" and five "dos" that pro-lifers around the world should learn from their American counterparts.
"First," he recommended, "don't let yourselves be tricked into an inferiority complex." Drawing on a point made in his book "Render Unto Caesar," he told his Irish audience:
"Critics like to say that religion is divisive, or intellectually backward, or that it has no proper place in the public square. … But this is nonsense. Democracy depends on people of conviction carrying their beliefs into public debate -- respectfully, legally and non-violently, but vigorously and without apology. If we are uncomfortable being Christians in a public debate, then we've already lost the war. In America the word "pluralism" is often conjured up like a kind of voodoo shield to get religious people to stop talking about right and wrong. In reality, our moral beliefs always shape social policy. Real pluralism actually demands that people with different beliefs should pursue their beliefs energetically in the public square. This is the only way a public debate can be honest and fruitful. We should never apologize for being Catholics."
The next two "don'ts" cited by the Archbishop of Denver were, "Don't let divisions take root" and "Don't get trapped by politics -- especially partisan politics."
He related how as a bishop he has been "baffled" by how much energy is wasted on internal pro-life bickering and that pro-lifers should "never allow our differences to become personal" since infighting within the movement is "a gift to the other side."
Sticking to one political party is also dangerous, Archbishop Chaput argued. "The more pro-lifers tie themselves to a single political party, the less they can speak to society at large. In the United States, Catholics -- both on the right and the left -- have too often made the mistake of becoming cheerleaders for a specific candidate," he said.
"Don't create or accept false oppositions," the archbishop cautioned as he waded into a topic that has caused great debate in the American pro-life community.
"During the last U.S. election," Chaput recalled, "we saw the emergence of so-called pro-life organizations that argued we should stop fighting the legal struggle over abortion. Instead we should join with 'pro-choice' supporters to seek 'common ground'."
"Their argument was simple: Why fight a losing battle on the legal, cultural and moral front since - according to them -- we haven't yet made serious progress in ending legalized abortion? Let's drop the 'divisive' political battle, they said, and instead let's all work together to tackle the economic and health issues that might eventually reduce abortions," he explained.
But this argument doesn't sync with history, Archbishop Chaput stressed.
"Did Americans take a gradual, social-improvement road to 'reducing' racism? No. We passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964," he pointed out.
Taking the logic a step further, the Denver prelate said, "Nor have I ever heard anyone suggest that the best way to deal with murder, rape or domestic abuse is to improve the availability of health care and job training. We make rape illegal -- even though we know it will still sometimes tragically occur -- because rape is gravely evil. It's an act of violence, and the law should proscribe it.
"Of course, we also have a duty to improve the social conditions that can breed domestic and sexual violence. But that doesn't change the need for the law."
"Likewise," Chaput reasoned, "if we really believe that abortion is an intimate act of violence, then we can't aim at anything less than ending abortion.
"It doesn't matter that some abortions have always occurred, and some will always occur. If we really believe that abortion kills a developing unborn life, then we can never be satisfied with mere 'reductions' in the body count."
The new groups that materialized during the last election seem to operate from an "either/or" mentality, that argued that pro-lifers needed to choose between abortion "reduction" programs and outlawing abortion, the archbishop said. But protecting the unborn child "is not an 'either/or' choice. It's 'both/and'," he countered.
"We need to help women facing problem pregnancies with good health care and economic support; and we need to pass laws that will end legal abortion. We need to do both."
Despite this disagreement, the archbishop's fifth "don't" cautioned pro-lifers against hating their adversaries. "Our adversary is an opponent, but never our "enemy." Our enemy is the Evil One," he said.
Playing off his previous "don't," the Denver archbishop focused on adversaries again, saying, "Don't let your adversaries set the agenda."
President Barack Obama's recent reversal of the Mexico City policy in office served to illustrate this point for the archbishop. "His reason for signing the executive order was that it was time to put this 'divisive issue behind us,' once and for all," Chaput reminded.
"There's something a little odd about rhetoric that tells that we're the 'divisive' ones, and lectures adult citizens about what we should challenge, and when we should stop. In a democracy, we get to decide that for ourselves.
"An issue that involves the life and death of unborn children and the subversion of entire traditional societies can't be 'put behind us' with an executive signature."
Switching gears, the archbishop moved on to give his Irish audience his list of "dos."
"Do become martyrs," he challenged as he quipped, "I said it was simple. I didn't say it was easy. Be ready to pay the ultimate price."
In modern society, you may not have to give your life for the unborn, but you may sacrifice your reputation or have lies told about you, the prelate counseled.
With the annual March for Life fresh in his mind, Archbishop Chaput called on pro-lifers to his second do—"keep hope alive." "Many of the marchers are young, joyful people who radiate a strong hope in the future - and not the shallow hope of political sloganeering, but the real Christian hope that emerges from self-sacrifice and the struggle to do God's will."
"I've never in my life seen a joy-filled pro-abortion event. And I've always found that instructive," he added.
The third "do" offered by Chaput was to "be strategic." Likening pro-life advocates to "sheep in the midst of wolves," he told his audience that this "doesn't mean we can also be dumb as rocks."
"Being strategic means planning ahead, setting the agenda, working together and outsmarting our adversaries. To achieve these goals, we need a big dose of realism. We should never dream or whine about all the things we could do with the million Euros we don't have. We need to focus on the ten Euros we do have," the archbishop said.
Next on the "do" list was a message that echoed Pope Benedict's recent message for the World Day of Communications—use new technologies to spread your message.
Archbishop Chaput closed out his "dos" by stepping back for a look at the big picture. "Remember that renewing the culture, not gaining power, is our ultimate goal," he counseled.
Culture is everything, the archbishop stated as he encouraged pro-lifers to make evangelizing it their ultimate goal. "Our real task, and our much longer-term and more important goal, is to carry out what John Paul II called the 'evangelization of culture'," he explained.
Exhorting pro-lifers to continue fighting for this goal, Archbishop Chaput said "cultural trends can be changed. And I'll prove it."
"Mainline media have been telling us for a decade that the American public is evenly divided between those who consider themselves prolife and those who describe themselves as 'pro-choice'."
"This is broadly true. But the devil - or in this case, God -- is in the details."
Archbishop Chaput went on to cite a national poll by Harris Interactive that came out in December 2008, which found among other things that "fewer than ten per cent of Americans support legalized abortion on demand as it stands today."
The findings of the poll show that "prolife efforts have made real progress in improving people's awareness of the sanctity of unborn life," he asserted.
"We need to work to change the culture. And that demands a lifelong commitment to education, Christian formation and, ultimately, conversion. Only saints really change the world. And there lies our ultimate victory: If we change one heart at a time, while we save one unborn life at a time, the day will come when we won't need to worry about saving babies, because they'll be surrounded by a loving, welcoming culture."
Sunday, February 8, 2009
The most serious challenge for Christianity today isn't one of the other great religions of the world, such as Islam or Buddhism.
Nor is it simple atheism, which has no depth, no mass appeal, no staying power. Rather, it's a religion most of us think is dead. That religion is paganism — and it is very much alive.
Paganism is simply the natural gravity of the human spirit, the line of least resistance, religion in its fallen state.
The “old” paganism came from the country. Indeed, the very word “paganism” comes from the Latin pagani, “from the fields” or “country-dwellers.” Country people were the last to be converted to Christianity during the Roman Empire, the last to abandon their ancestral roots in pre-Christian belief. Today, country people are the last to abandon Christianity for the “new” paganism, which flourishes in the cities.
The old paganism was a far greater thing than the new. In fact, Chesterton brilliantly summarized the entire spiritual history of the world in this one sentence: “Paganism was the biggest thing in the world, and Christianity was bigger and everything since has been comparatively small.”
There were at least three elements in the old paganism that made it great. And all three are missing in the new paganism.
The first is the sense of piety (pietas), the natural religious instinct to respect something greater than yourself, the humility that instinctively realizes man's subordinate place in the great scheme of things. “Moderation” or “temperance” went along with this, especially in classical civilization. The motto “nothing too much” was inscribed over every temple to Apollo, along with “know thyself.”
This natural modesty and respect contrast sharply with the arrogant attitude of the new pagan in the modern West. Only Oriental societies still preserve a traditional reverence. The West does not understand this, and thinks it quaint at best and hypocritical at worst.
The new paganism is the virtual divinization of man, the religion of man as the new God. One of its popular slogans, repeated often by Christians, is “the infinite value of the human person.” Its aim is building a heaven on earth, a secular salvation. Another word for the new paganism is humanism, the religion that will not lift up its head to the heavens but stuffs the heavens into its head.
A second ingredient of the old paganism that's missing in the new is an objective morality, what C.S. Lewis called “the Tao” in his prophetic little classic The Abolition of Man. To pre-modern man, pagan as well as Christian, moral rules were absolute: unyielding and unquestionable. They were also objective: discovered rather than created, given in the nature of things.
This has all changed. The new paganism is situational and pragmatic. It says we are the makers of moral values. It not only finds the moral law written in the human heart but also by the human heart. It acknowledges no divine revelation, thus no one's values can be judged to be wrong.
The new paganism's favorite Scripture is “judge not.” The only judgment is the judgment against judging. The only thing wrong is the idea that there is a real wrong.
The only thing to feel guilty about is feeling guilty. And, since man rather than God is the origin of values, don't impose “your” values on me (another favorite line).
This is really polytheism — many gods, many goods, many moralities. No one believes in Zeus and Apollo and Neptune any more. (I wonder why: Has science really refuted them — or is it due to total conformity to fashion, supine submission to newspapers?) But moral relativism is the equivalent of the old polytheism. Each of us has become a god or goddess, a giver of law rather than receiver.
A third ingredient of the old paganism but not of the new is awe at something transcendent, the sense of worship and mystery. What the old pagan worshiped differed widely — almost anything from Zeus to cows — but he worshiped something. In the modern world the very sense of worship is dying, even in our own liturgy, which sounds as if it were invented by a Committee for the Abolition of Poetry.
Our religious sense has dried up. Modern religion is de-mythologized, de-miraclized, de-divinized. God is not the Lord but the All, not transcendent but immanent, not super-natural but natural.
Pantheism is comfortable, and this is the modem summum bonum. The Force of “Star Wars” fame is a pantheistic God, and it is immensely popular, because it's “like a book on the shelf,” as C.S. Lewis put it: available whenever you want it, but not bothersome when you don't want it. How convenient to think we are bubbles in a divine froth rather than rebellious children of a righteous divine Father! Pantheism has no sense of sin, for sin means separation, and no one can ever be separated from the All. Thus the third feature, no transcendence, is connected with the second, no absolute morality.
The new paganism is a great triumph of wishful thinking. Without losing the thrill and patina of religion, the terror of religion is removed. The new paganism stoutly rejects “the fear of God.” Nearly all religious educators today, including many supposedly Catholic ones, are agreed that the thing the Bible calls “the beginning of wisdom” is instead the thing we must above all eradicate from the minds of the young with all the softly destructive power of the weapons of modern pop psychology — namely, the fear of the Lord.
“Perfect love casts out fear,” says St. John; but when God has become the Pillsbury Doughboy, there is no fear left to cast out. And when there is no fear to cast out, perfect love lacks its strong roots. It becomes instead mere compassion—something good but dull, or even weak: precisely the idea people have today of religion. The shock is gone. That the God of the Bible should love us is a thunderbolt; that the God of the new paganism should love us is a self-evident platitude.
The new paganism is winning not by opposing but by infiltrating the Church. It is cleverer than the old. It knows that any opposition from without, even by a vastly superior force, has never worked, for “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” When China welcomed Western missionaries, there were 2 million conversions in 60 years; when Mao and communism persecuted the Church, there were 20 million conversions in 20 years. The Church in East Germany is immensely stronger than the Church in West Germany for the same reason. The new paganism understands this, so it uses the soft, suggestive strategy of the serpent. It whispers, in the words of Scripture scholars, the very words of the serpent: “Has God really said...?” (Gen. 3:1).
The new paganism is a joining of forces by three of the enemies of theism: humanism, polytheism and pantheism. The only five possibilities for ultimate meaning and values are: atheism (no God); humanism (man as God); polytheism (many gods); pantheism (one immanent God); and theism (one transcendent God). The Battle of the Five Kings in the Valley of Armageddon might, in our era, be beginning. Predictions are always unwise, but the signs of the times, for some thoughtful observers, point to a fundamental turning point, the end of an age.
The so-called “New Age Movement” combines all the features described under the title of the new paganism. It's a loosely organized movement, basically a re-flowering of '60s hippiedom, rather than a centralized agenda. But strategies are connected in three places. There may be no conspiracy on earth to unify the enemies of the Church, but the strategy of hell is more than the strategy of earth. Only one thing is more than the strategy of hell: the strategy of heaven.
The gates of hell cannot prevail against the Church; in fact, God uses the devil to defeat the devil, just as He did on Calvary, when the forces of the Hebrew, Greek and Roman worlds united to crucify Christ, as symbolized by the three languages on the accusation sign over the cross.
The very triumph of the devil, the death of God, was the defeat of the devil, the redemption of mankind, “Good Friday” Because God, who spoke the first word, always gets the last word.
Follow the links below for more information:
Covenant Love: Introducing the Biblical Worldview
Description: “Covenant” is the master concept that unlocks the meaning of the Bible. The Bible tells the story of God the Father’s love for His children and His plan to fashion all people into one holy family. God unfolds this plan of salvation through a series of covenants, culminating in the New Covenant He makes in Jesus.
Genesis to Jesus: A Journey Through Scripture
Description: What is the Bible, where does it come from and what is its purpose? How are Catholics supposed to read the Bible and what story does it have to tell? These are the questions we take up in this “big picture” survey course.
The Lamb’s Supper: The Bible and the Mass
In this course we explore the intimate and inseparable relationship between the Bible and the Mass. Following an overview of the Eucharist in the New Testament, we look at the deep roots of the Mass in the biblical history of sacrifice - a history that culminates with the Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist.
He Must Reign: The Kingdom of God in Scripture
The drama in the Gospels turns on a single question: Is Jesus the long awaited Messiah, the son of David come to restore the everlasting monarchy promised to David? Underlying this drama are centuries of rival interpretations of the Jewish Scriptures and competing expectations of who the Messiah was to be, the signs that would accompany his coming, and the shape of the kingdom he would establish. We explore all these issues in this thematic survey course, which goes to the heart of what the New Testament has to say about the identity of Christ and the Church.
Holy Queen: The Mother of God in the Word of God
The Mother of Jesus is mentioned only about a dozen times in the New Testament. So why is Mary so important to Catholic faith and devotion? As we’ll see in this in-depth study, Mary is a key gateway into salvation history. The Bible portrays Mary as the all-holy one who gave the Word flesh, the Mother of God, and the spiritual mother of all who live by faith in her Son.
Reading the Old Testament in the New: The Gospel of Matthew
How did the New Testament writers read the Old Testament in light of the coming of Jesus Christ? This course offers an in-depth answer to that question, focusing on the use of the Old Testament in the Gospel of Matthew.
The Gospel According to Saint Paul: A Six-Lesson Audio Study
As we continue to celebrate the Year of St. Paul, join Dr. Scott Hahn as he explores the rich theology of the “Doctor of the Gentiles” in this six week audio series available as part of our free online studies.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
In a nutshell, the teachings of Christ were given to the Apostles. These men appointed bishops to succeed them and to them they entrusted the protection of the Christ’s teachings. The appointing of bishops down to our day is known as Apostolic Succession and the passing on of the Christ’s teachings is called Apostolic Tradition. While other Christian writers had referred to both in the decades prior to St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies provides us with the role of the Pope as the source of unity in the Church and protector of the Faith.
Keeping in mind that this was written around the year 180 AD, check out the words of St. Irenaeus:
It is within the power of all, therefore, in every Church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the Churches, and [to demonstrate] the succession of these men to our own times; those who neither taught nor knew of anything like what these [heretics] rave about. For if the apostles had known hidden mysteries, which they were in the habit of imparting to the perfect apart and privily from the rest, they would have delivered them especially to those to whom they were also committing the Churches themselves. For they were desirous that these men should be very perfect and lameless in all things, whom also they were leaving behind as their successors, delivering up their own place of government to these men; which men, if they discharged their functions honestly, would be a great boon [to the Church], but if they should fall away, the direst calamity.
Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church [in Rome], on account of its preeminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolic tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.
The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate [as second Pope]… [Irenaeus then lists the popes up until his own day] Eleutherius does now [reign as Pope], in the twelfth place from the apostles, hold the inheritance of the episcopate. In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth.