Bipartisan Congressional Response to DC”Same-Sex Marriage”Bill

The DC Catholic Conference issued a statement today in support of recent Congressional efforts to address the recent actions of the DC City Council recognizing same-sex marriages contracted in other states. The statement follows. Then after that if you will indulge me, my own remarks follow in red.

The D.C. Catholic Conference applauds efforts by members of Congress to support marriage in the District of Columbia.

The District of Columbia Defense of Marriage Act (H.R. 2608) was introduced by Rep. Dan Boren (D-OK) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and more than thirty co-sponsors that recognizes in the District of Columbia, that marriage is a union between one man and one woman.

Marriage is a natural institution established by God and written in the very nature of man and woman and is therefore endowed with its own proper laws. The equality of men and women and the dignity of their coming together as husband and wife is not merely a fact of religious faith or a creation by civil authorities, but a fundamental reality rooted in human nature and experience. Marriage is not simply a union of two people who love each other and are committed to each other, but is reserved to man and woman because of their unique ability to bring children into the world. Civil recognition of marriage protects the rights of children to have both a father and mother, creating a stable and secure foundation for our society.

Earlier this month, the District of Columbia City Council voted to recognize same sex “marriages” from other states, and did so through an amendment process that prevented residents of the city from having a voice. The vote indicated a lack of understanding of the true meaning of marriage.

I think the most important wording in this statement is this: Marriage is not simply a union of two people who love each other and are committed to each other, but is reserved to man and woman because of their unique ability to bring children into the world. There has already been commentary on this blog that the procreation and rearing of children is an essential (not incidental) end of marriage (e.g.  HERE) As long as we continue to think of marriage as only about the happiness of adults involved and only incidentally about children we will continue to see high divorce rates, and confusions like “same-sex marriage” proliferate. We will also fail to see why marriage deserves special protection or privileges if children are only thought of as incidental and secondary aspects of marriage. This statement goes a long way to recover that fundamental insight. Marriage is fundamentally about children. The happiness and wishes of adults are secondary (though not unimportant). The fundamental and traditional structure of marriage is oriented to the good of children. Get this point right and a lot of other things fall in place. Of course marriages need to be stable and divorce frowned upon, children need stability. Of course marriage deserves a place of honor and should be accorded special privilege. Not for the adults, but for the children. Of course marriage should be heterosexual, this is how children are concieved. Finally, as the statement also makes clear: Civil recognition of marriage protects the rights of children to have both a father and mother, creating a stable and secure foundation for our society. The best environment for a child to grow up in is a stable home with proper influence and example from a resident mother and father, both a male and female influence. even if this best environemnt is not possible in every case it remains best for children and should be enshrined and protected in law.

Pertinent to this discussion is teaching from the Church document The Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons cf. in this video seven minutes and beyond:

What Do Catholics Think about President Obama at Notre Dame?

Well that depends on what Catholics you ask. Church going Catholics are more likely to oppose the President’s visit to Notre Dame but not by as much as you’d think. Catholics who do not attend Church regularly were more likely to support the visit. White, Church going Catholics were most likely to be non supportive of the President’s visit. All of this is depicted in a graphic summary by a Pew Survey of Catholics on this issue shown at the right. But no group of Catholics surveyed polled above 50% in disapproval of the visit.

So what is going on here and what does this say about Catholics? I am not a sociologist nor a statistician, just a biased observer. Of course I am biased. I am a Catholic priest who is strongly pro-life. Hence I am somewhat alarmed by how few Catholics actually are alarmed. But perhaps if I could venture a few observations about this poll and I will try to be fair.

  1. The poll asks about a visit and speech of the president. Some are angry just about that. But there is the further matter about the President receiving and honorary  Law degree. Thus I wonder if the poll numbers would be different if this question were asked: “Do you favor the conferring of an honorary degree?” I have heard some Catholics say that their disagreement is more about the honors than the speech. Others just don’t think he should come period. But it would have been interesting to see the results of my question.
  2. Politics complicates everything, even moral issues. It has been my experience (sadly) that many people (both right and left) are more passionate about their politics than their faith. Faith, and moral and ethical issues tend to be “tucked under” political views and worldview.  Thus, in vacuum over 60% of Church-going Catholics oppose legalized Abortion. But take it out of a vacuum and into the world of politics and the numbers swing a lot. If opposing abortion means one is  opposing a favored candidate or party many who oppose abortion theoretically do not do when it “rocks their world” somehow.  Conservatives too struggle with some of the moral issues and often do not wholeheartedly support the requests of recent Popes to oppose use of the death penalty nor did they wholeheartedly agree with the Pope’s opposition to the Iraq War. I am aware of the many arguments that declare that these are not dogmatically defined positions but my only point is that, when requested to oppose these things  disinclination due to political leanings was a strong factor.
  3. Race complicates this matter as well. Here too many who oppose abortion as an isolated issue are reticent to apply their opposition directly to a President who also represents a kind of racial healing in this land. Just as Abortion is now, racism was and to some extent remains another of the great moral struggles of our time. Thus, I suspect, even to generally anti-abortion Catholics, the President is a complicated figure. On the one hand he represents injustice by his support of abortion, on the other hand he is a sign of greater racial justice. I suspect it is not always easy for everyone to sort all this out.
  4. With all the complicating issues of race and politics therefore I am not sure what to make of these numbers. It remains true, (and you can check these numbers by using the link to the Pew Study above), that Church going Catholics are against legalized abortion by over 60% but only 39% oppose the visit of the President.  I think some heard the question not as a question about abortion but more this way: “Do you like or dislike President Barack Obama?”  Generally people like to report that they like people. Generally too the President remains a popular figure even to those who do not like some of his policies or decisions.

What do? It seems clear that the Church has not closed the deal with most Catholics on the pre-eminence of the Abortion issue. Even many Catholics who do oppose Abortion do not see it as trumping other things they also see as important. It is an important issue to them but context and abortion’s inter-relatedness to other matters sways how they register their opinion. Many are simply not as focused or adamant as the Church would like when it comes to this critical moral issue. Hence we have to work to close the deal more. We have to teach and encourage. When I say encourage I mean it as the word was originally intended. To encourage meant to summon a person to courage. Many will privately say they oppose abortion but when a pollster calls they do not always have the courage to stand firm when it appears they are opposing a popular President who is a symbol of racial healing and thus represents far more than himself or even his party.

In the end, as many Bishops have already indicated, Notre Dame has made a huge moral compromise here. I pray for our President every day and respect that he has authority from God to lead this land. But he is wrong on this issue of abortion and honoring him with a Law Degree sends the wrong message. As the Church we must remain unambiguous on this issue. We must respectfully engage our president on this matter but a law degree would suggest we accept his jurisprudence on this and find it honorable. We do not. Yet it remains true that more than half of even Church-going Catholics may disagree with what I have said. That is on us. We are once again reminded as a Church that there is work to do.

Remember, this is a blog. I have written to provoke a response and to initiate discussion.  I do not write to pontificate (even though my name is Pope 🙂  ) If you disagree or would like to clarify a point, if you prefer to distinguish or debate a point that is what the comments are for. If you want to agree and add a point, comment . Agree or disagree, and comment.  Please be civil and above all else, pray to end abortion in this Land. Pray for Church leaders and for civil authorities. Pray.



Pondering Persecution

In this week just before Holy Week we are reading from the 8th Chapter of John’s Gospel wherein Jesus enters into increasingly severe conflict with the temple leaders in Jerusalem. The conflict will ultimately end with Jesus death which we celebrate a week from this Friday.

I wonder if most Catholics today are ready for persecution. It probably doesn’t take a prophet to realize that, as the world around us goes increasingly insane and strays from God’s ways, we are more and more likely to experience persecution. The basic path seems to be this:

  1. Biblically Based moral vision is set aside either as old fashioned or as merely “personal opinion.”  
  2. Tolerance is exulted as the only real virtue.
  3. Insist that all behavior (except perceived intolerance) is to be tolerated.
  4. Accuse anyone who questions newly sanctioned behaviors of being intolerant and thus worthy of increasing punishment. Call them names such as intolerant, reactionary, rigid, unkind, mean, hateful, etc. Generally incite personal dislike of those who hold to traditional biblical morality through such labeling.
  5. Begin the process calling all perceived intolerance “hate crimes”  and start exacting punishment. Start by removing tax exempt status, begin permitting lawsuits for failing to observe all forms of tolerance (Except tolerance of intolerance).  
  6. Exact more punitive measures such as jail time for those guilty of  so-called “hate crime” or intolerance. Declare such people as dangerous since their “intolerance” may cause violence and thus call for their imprisonment.

As the world gets crazier such a process (which is already far along) does not seem so far-fetched. In Canada there are already clergy on trial for the “hate-crime” of opposing so-called “Gay marriage.” You can read more of that  HERE  and HERE. But there are several things to ponder about persecution:

  1. Persecution is normative for the Christian. Jesus exemplifies this in his own life and also teaches: If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. (John 15:19ff)
  2. Hence, the fact that we are persecuted does not mean we have done anything wrong.  – Too many Christians are swayed by the anger of others into thinking that they have done or said something wrong or inappropriate. While not every tactic we might use is always appropriate, our message, even if delivered with appropriate means will often anger the world. Again, this DOES NOT mean we have done anything wrong.
  3. Refuse to accept and internalize the labels. Just because some one calls you intolerant does not mean that you are. Further we should not be required to tolerate everything. Hence it is appropriate to strongly oppose, to refused to tolerate that which we consider wrong.
  4. Courage– Preaching and living the faith in a world gone increasingly mad will require guts and persistence. We must re-examine our intense need to be liked by everyone and approved by all and prefer nothing to God and his truth.

So, as we see Jesus in the Gospels of this week go into the fray for our sakes, we must admire his courage and pray for similar strength and virtue. Things may get difficult in the years ahead. But listen again to Jesus: In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage, I have conquered the world.”  (John 16:33).

I preach on this topic at this morning’s Mass. If you’d like to hear more you can listen here: Pondering Persecution (17 Minutes)

Here too is a video clip of John 8 that depicts the increasing opposition that was mounting against Jesus. It is from the Movie The Gospel of John.

Post-Abortion Healing

Among those who have fallen away from the practice of the faith are some who feel in some way that the Church has rejected them or disapproves of something they have done or are doing. Of those who feel this way are some who have struggled with abortion, one of the great moral issues of our day. Without doubt or compromise the Church prophetically announces that abortion is a great evil since it is the taking of innocent human life. And yet we in the Church also announce God’s mercy and compassion for all who have struggled with abortion (or any sin) and fallen. As Pope John Paul wrote in 1995 to those who have had or participated in abortion: The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. (Evangelium Vitae, 99).  

 If you are a woman, or a man, who, in the aftermath of abortion, has struggled with guilt or shame. If you have a fear of rejection and so have stayed away from the Church please understand this: God has never failed to love you and neither have we. Despite the Church’s prophetic stand against abortion, we are just as adamant about mercy and forgiveness. It is the heart of the Church’s ministry to celebrate God’s healing and forgiveness. It has been my privilege as a priest to reconcile many women and men who have, at some point in the past, chosen abortion. God is rich in mercy and it is a great joy to announce, celebrate and confer that mercy.

Please know that there are priests and laity who stand ready to assist you in you in the possible and likely struggles that ensue after an abortion. Understanding, mercy and healing are offered in the Church, not only at the parish level and in confession but also through a ministry known as Project Rachel. It is a healing ministry to  women and some men as well who deal with the many hurts that often emerge after an abortion. Sometimes these feelings occur immediately after the abortion, sometimes years later. Project Rachel Ministry makes referrals for one-on-one meetings with a priest especially sensitive to the needs of someone healing from abortion decisions, and also makes referrals to professional counselors, offers days of prayer and healing, and a support group. The next day of prayer and healing in English is Saturday, June 27, and the next day of prayer and healing in Spanish is Saturday, May 30. Know that you are not alone and there is healing for your soul. Project Rachel takes its name from a passage in scripture in the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah 31:15 In Ramah is heard the sound of moaning, of bitter weeping! Rachel mourns her children,she refuses to be consoled because her children are no more. Thus says the LORD: Cease your cries of mourning, wipe the tears from your eyes. The sorrow you have shown shall have its reward…There is hope for your future.

Here is the essential thought to end this post with: If you have had an abortion, the Lord loves you and so do we in the Church. If you wish to seek counseling and help, there are many ready to help you from the parish priest to trained experts and kindred souls in Project Rachel. Don’t stay away because you think you’re rejected. You are loved and your presence and gifts in the Church are needed.

Locally in Washington the phone number for Project Rachel is 301-982-2008 or 202-269-4673. The Website is here Project Rachel

The following video depicts the journeys of a few women. This is their own testimony. It may not be your exact experience, but just so you know that others have made the journey too.

God does not love us because we are good but because He is good.

 People stay away from the Church for many reasons. There are some who struggle with sins and a sense of unworthiness. Why would God be calling me? I am a sinner and I am not even sure I can give up my sin. If you are among those who may stay away for this reason, I wonder if you might consider watching this video. It is the end of a talk by Christopher Cuddy, a covert to Catholicism. He ponders our unworthiness to have received this call from Christ and encourages us to simply accept God’s love for us. God does not love us because we are good, we can only be good because God first loves us.

Christopher Cuddy is a convert to Catholicism from Evangelical Protestantism

He is the co-editor of I CHOOSE GOD: STORIES FROM YOUNG CATHOLICS and co-author of SWORD OF THE SPIRIT: A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO ST. PAUL.

40 Reasons for Coming Home – Reason # 24 – Martyrs have died to give you the faith.

Reason# 24 – Martyrs have died to give us the faith.  Every Sunday at Mass we recite the Creed: I Believe in one God, the Father Almighty….  I often think of the blood of Martyrs as I pray the Creed. They died for the faith that I can so easily take for granted. Others, though not suffering death lost property and jobs, or were imprisoned and disowned. For many of us in modern day America the idea of suffering death or extreme punishment for the faith seems remote. At worse,  we are verbally scorned for our faith or laughed at; maybe a raised eyebrow or a smirk. We may suffer more in days ahead but for now, we have it easy compared to others. And consider this too, martyrdom is not something from the remote past. Many suffer intensely and are killed for the faith in many parts of the world even today. See how precious the faith was and is to them! They willingly suffered for it.

 So here is an important reason to come home. The faith that we celebrate each Sunday is so precious that multitudes of martyrs down through the ages were willing to suffer extreme punishment, torture and death for it. Rolling out of bed on Sunday mornings may seem an inconvenience, living the faith may have its demands, but these things do not compare to what Jesus and the martyrs experienced to hand on the faith to us. When I roll out of bed early on Sunday morning to unlock the Church I may grumble at having to end my sleep. But others suffered far worse for me so that I could celebrate Mass and know that Jesus is Lord. When someone told them to be silent and not speak of Jesus they spoke anyway and suffered on account of it. My faith has come at great price and I think of that each Sunday, especially as I so easily say the Creed, a creed written in the Blood of Jesus and the Martyrs of every age. Come home to the faith of Jesus and the Martyrs.

Be careful of the following video. It is graphic in its depictions of the suffering of the early Christians in the Colosseum. But if you are able to look upon it, it is a powerful and moving depiction of the horrors they faced as they were thrown to the lions while hard hearted on-lookers were “entertained” by their sufferings.  If this video is too much perhaps the second video will be more palatable.

Sermon for the 4th Sunday of Lent – Lighten Up!

In The Gospel in today’s Mass (Cycle B) is one of the most familiar texts of the New Testament. Many can quote it from memory: For God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son, that all who believe in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God sent not his Son in the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16). But it is interesting that most quote only the first part of the passage. But the second half contains a warning and announcement of the essence of our judgement. Jesus says, “Here is judgement, the light has come into the world but some have preferred the darkness….they hate the light and do not come near it.

It is a very profound teaching about the nature of our last judgement. And here is the teaching:   In the end, our judgement is not so  much about God’s decision as about ours. God wants to save us. But do we want to be saved? You might say, “Everyone wants to go to heaven!” But heaven is not just a place of our design, heaven is the Kingdom of God in all its perfection. The truth be told, there are many who do not love God’s kingdom! The Kingdom of God is about justice, mercy, love of enemies, chastity, mercy, truth, love of the poor, and so forth. There are things in this description that many hate! Many today hate chastity and calls for sexual purity. Many do not love the poor and stridently disagree with many fundamental and truthful teachings of the scriptures and the Church. But this is what the kingdom of heaven is! Yes, everyone wants to go to heaven, but it is a heaven of their own making, not necessarily the real heaven. Jesus says in the gospel today that some people hate the light. This is evident today. Hence this Gospel says two things.  First, God wants to save us and invites us to His kingdom. Secondly, not everyone wants to live in God’s kingdom. The judgement in question is not God’s decision, but ours

If you’d like to listen to it my homily for today is here in mp3 format: Lighten Up!  

In this homily we explore the following:

  1. The desire that God has to save us.
  2. But what do we desire? Jesus says some prefer darkness and hate the Light? What does he mean?
  3. Our final judgement is ultimately God’s acceptance of our choice to love or hate the light.
  4. But how is it that some end up hating the light? In effect they go to sleep, enter a moral night-time and come to hate the light like a grouchy sleeper who doesn’t want to wake up and who curses the morning light that bids them to get up.
  5. Well then, walk in the light. Don’t go into moral darkness and sleep such that you grow so accustomed to the dark that you come to hate the light.

40 Reasons for Coming Home – Reason # 21 – The Command

Reason # 21 – The Command.   Not uncommonly today I hear some people say that they do not go to Church because they “don’t get anything out of it.” We can address the substance of this complaint in a moment but first it must be said that we don’t go to Church merely to get something out of it. We go because we are commanded by God to do so. The Third Commandment says, “Remember to keep holy the Sabbath.” The Book of Leviticus spells the commandment out for us further: “For six days work may be done; but the seventh day is the sabbath rest, a day for sacred assembly.” (Lev 23:3). Let’s be clear, God is not merely suggesting or requesting that we keep holy the Sabbath, he is commanding it. We are to avoid unnecessary work and to keep “sacred assembly,” Sacred assembly means, getting to Church. The notion that we should simply go because we get something out of it is rather an ego-centric approach and misses the more simple reason of obedience. We ought to go simply because God commands it.

Now we may wonder as to why God commands it. It remains true that God does not command things of us merely for arbitrary reasons. The most obvious answers as to why he commands it would seem to be these:

  1. He has many graces to bestow on us at Mass
  2. He knows we need community and fellowship in order to be spiritually healthy
  3. We need to be instructed in his Holy Word
  4. We need to be fed on his Body and Blood
  5. Alone, we do not have all the gifts we need, but together and with Christ we have all the gifts we need.
  6. We need the blessings and minsitry of the priest who acts in the person of Christ.

Now as to the point that some raise that they don’t get anything out of  Mass there are many possible answers. I would first say that it is a call and reminder to the clergy and to parishes that the Mass and all liturgical celebrations should be well planned, beautifully celebrated, and reverently prayed. The Mass, well celebrated, should never be boring. Every priest or deacon who preaches should be prepared, enthusiastic and prophetic. The choirs, lectors, ushers and others should all be prepared and enthusiastic about what they do. Every priest should celebrate Mass with piety and devotion. So, in the first place I think that we who are tasked with planning and celebrating the Sacred Liturgy should take to heart the complaint that some (not a few) make when they claim to get little out of it.

However, it also remains true that in order to get something out of Mass, everyone has to come prepared and with plans to participate. The Mass is not spectator sport. We are all to pray and take part in the Sacred liturgy. We ought to grow in our understanding of the Mass over the years and be as attentive as possible. In the end, if we  receive Jesus in Holy Communion can we really say we “got nothing out of Mass?” So here is a call to faith as well.

But let’s end where we started. We go to Mass in the first place because we are commanded by God to do so. Hence, even if the choir is off for the summer or my favorite priest is away on vacation, or the new pastor isn’t to my liking etc, we go anyway. We go because we love God and want to obey him. We don’t just go to get entertained. We go to worship God. And God is worthy of our praise, worthy of our obedience. Here’s a reason to come home: He’s worthy of our praise and our obedience.