Running Afoul of the”New Morality”

The latest edition of Gloria TV News contains the following item:

Catholics Under Pressure Because of Gay Legislation – UK  The Charity Tribunal has ruled that Catholic Care– the Diocese of Leeds’s adoption agency– must cooperate with homosexual couples who wish to adopt children. “If the charity now sticks to Church policy and continues to follow its ‘heterosexuals only’ policy it could lose its charity status and public funding,” the Daily Telegraph notes. “ It might also face discrimination claims by same-sex couples it has turned away in the past.”

This is not dissimilar to what has happened to Catholic Charities in Massachusetts and  California. Catholic Charities has largely had to remove itself from providing adoption services due to it’s inability to comply with state laws baring discrimination against gay couple who want to adopt. Church teachings and policy forbid placing children with gay couples. But State Law in both Mass. and California, forbid any distinctions being made. Attempts to pass an exemption for religious institutions failed in Mass and in California the wording of the religious exemption clause cannot be met by Catholic Charites. The clause states that only Catholics are served. Obviously Catholic Charities serves more than just Catholics.

So here is another indicator not only of where we are, but also of  the road ahead. Increasingly the Church and other Christian denominations will be forced to comply with edicts of the “new morality.” If we do not comply we can either be sued for discrimination or accused of “hate crimes.” The alternative seems to be comply, or get out of the business. The Catholic Church as a long legacy of serving the Community through our Hospitals, Catholic Charities and the like. This is beginning to erode. Increasingly we may see such services ending because of those who want to force us to comply with laws that contradict our faith. Thus, if we fail to  provide contraceptives in our health plans, a judge says we must or we violate the law and are subject to fines or worse.  If we refuse to adopt to Gay couples we are now being told we must or we violate the law and are open to lawsuits. If some elements of the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) are enacted we will be required to provide or refer abortion services.  Otherwise our hospitals and clincs will be in violation of law, subject to fines, closure and desertification.

Do you see what is happening? There is a steady erosion of religious liberty underway. Advocates of the “New Morality”  have long marched under the banner of tolerance but as they gain greater power and influence, the mask of tolerance is shed and forcible compliance is at revealed as the true policy. The Catholic faith is 2000 years old. We are not some extremist group of haters. We have a long and noble religious teaching that deserves respect even if everyone does not agree with it. We should not be pressured to set aside 2000 years of religious teaching simply because some in the modern world have chosen to depart from long held and basic moral beliefs. Religious Liberty is a precious cornerstone of this Country’s history but it is being eroded by judges and advocacy groups. Pay attention.

Abortion’s Parallels to Slavery

June is Abortion Awareness in the African American Community. Here’s a post in my Bulletin from a couple of years Back in St.  Thomas More Parish, a predominately African American Parish. I plan to run it in my current parish as well later this month:

Abortion Awareness Month – Uh Oh! Not that Conservative Republican Issue again! But for a moment, set aside the old wineskins.  Turn off images of modern day fanatics, white-racist-conservative-fundamentalists, Pro-Lifers who kill doctors, ugly and violent confrontations between fierce adversaries.  Set aside for a moment the true observation that too many view abortion as all that matters and refuse to consider other life issues e.g., poverty and racism.  Just for one moment, consider these shocking parallels between Abortion and Slavery:

  1. Fate of certain human beings is dictated by financial and personal interests of others.
  2. Courts establish who is human/non-human and use categories of partial humanness (slaves were called 3/5 of  a person for legal purposes, fetuses lack all human rights).
  3. The right to life  and liberty are not inalienable for the fetus just as for slaves. They are a different category than the  “all men who are created equal” Fetuses, like slaves of old,  are held to receive their  fundamental rights of life and liberty  not “from God” but only if other more powerful people say they have them.
  4. More powerful persons are also more valued in society and their rights trump the less powerful.
  5. Less powerful fetuses like the slaves lack all legal standing and cannot advocate for themselves.
  6. Fundamentally both slavery and abortion are economic and convenience issues. Slavery was considered by many a “necessary evil” to protect economic, political and social realities. So is abortion.
  7. Overturning the injustice depends on  unrelenting, courageous efforts of people who are labeled as “fanatics” just like the abolitionists of old were called this.

And, While we are at it, the following slogans apply the abortion rationales to Slavery. Try these on for size and see how they feel:

  1. “Let’s keep slavery safe, legal and rare.”
  2. “I’m not pro-slavery, but I do think slave owners should have the right to choose how they  run their plantation.”
  3. “I am personally opposed to slavery, but I don’t want to impose my values on somebody else.”
  4. “Slavery has been upheld by the US Supreme Court (Dred Scott), it is the settled Law of the Land.”
  5. “We really can’t say the slave is  a person.”
  6. Abolitionists are just trying to impose their extreme religious views on us.

How do these slogans feel? How are they different than the current thinking?


Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide – Catholic Teaching

One of my privileges as a priest is to have accompanied many people on their final journey toward death. I also journeyed with my father in his last days. (My mother died suddenly so I was not able to do that with her).  But in making these journeys  I have come to discover that some of God’s greatest and most necessary work takes place in and during the dying process.  When a person who has faith is dying many powerful things begin to happen. I have seen pride melt away, I have seen powerful contrition for past sins emerge. I have seen gratitude intensify, both in the one who is dying and in the love ones who surround him or her.  I have heard beautiful words like, “I just want to be with God now….I want to go home.” I have seem a letting go and a letting of God take over.  And even in the painful sight of once strong individuals reduced to weakness there is a kind of strange beauty. In the nursing homes of this land are people who once ran businessness, raised families, and led communities. Now many have returned to a kind of infancy. They cannot walk, or only with effort, some have to be fed, some can no longer talk, some clutch dolls and many even wear diapers. All this seems so horrible to many but important things are happening. The Lord says, Unless you change and become like little children you will not inherit the kingdom of God.   (Mat 18:3) And really are those in nursing homes really so different than you and me right now. Are we not little children to God? Does he not have to provide for our every need? Does he not have to feed us, clothe us and enable us to speak? Perhaps with the elderly and dying it is just that the illusion of self-sufficiency has been shed.

So, among the elderly and dying there is important work being done by God. Yet today our world frequently does not understand or accept God’s ways. There is a kind of hatred of the Cross and a refusal to accept that the cross and suffering both have important roles n our lives.  Increasingly there are those among us who demand the right to assisted suicide and that doctors should be legally permitted to end lives .  In the midst of this, we as Christians must once again reaffirm our acceptance of the cross. We must also reaffirm God’s absolute sovereignty over the time and manner of our death. For individuals to demand a right to end their life ultimately threatens us all because it implicitly denies the dignity of the dying. Failing to understand this dignity will lead to poorer care and increasing pressure for the dying to end their lives and no longer burden us. Further it arrogantly ends God’s work, either considering it unnecessary or unfair. No one likes the cross, but as Christians we have been taught by Christ that the cross is both necessary and saving. Think carefully before you support assisted suicide through some sort of limited notion of compassion. The truest compassion is to want for someone what they truly need to be saved. Only God can ultimately say what this is. We do not have dignity because we can control our lives, we have dignity because our life is in God’s hands.

Here are some quotes from the Catechism on this topic:

Those whose lives are diminished or weakened deserve special respect. Sick or handicapped persons should be helped to lead lives as normal as possible. Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable. Thus an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator. The error of judgment into which one can fall in good faith does not change the nature of this murderous act, which must always be forbidden and excluded.

Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of “over-zealous” treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted. The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able or, if not, by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected.

Even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted.  (CCC 2277-2279)

If you have time to watch this 14 minute video, it is a beautiful meditation on the process of dying with faith and the care of the dying.  It is also an articulate defense of the Church’s Teaching against assisted suicide. If you know of anyone who is going through the dying of a loved one this video can be a great help and support.

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.