Thursday, August 30, 2018

"A Great School"

Speaking with a friend a while back, he commented that he knew someone whose ancestor was one of the founders of a well-known and prestigious college (which I will not name) here in America. He often bragged about this fact of his connection with "such a great school". I was surprised that he thought this way, as all that I knew of the college was that it was decidedly anti-catholic. The school had taken a stance supporting many things that the Catholic Church considers to be gravely immoral, and it had attacked (sometimes violently) many things that the Catholic Church considers to be holy.

His comment was clearly presuming that just the name of the school is enough to make one gasp with awe. When I gave only a hesitant acknowledgement to his statement, he was clearly offended. I had said, "I don't know about their academics, but I would not consider them to be strong in morals or theology". He was upset at me, and replied, "they would disagree with you, as they are one of the top schools in the US". That is not what I would consider to be godly way of thinking.

Let us imagine that "Beelzebub University" had a very rigorous and vigorous medical program. Let us also imagine that they graduated some of the top doctors in the USA. Does that necessarily mean that they were free from moral corruption, or (worse) that their moral stance does not matter? Anyone with a clear sense of logic would know the answer to that. Does a college or university's good school of medicine negate any concern as to what their theology is like? It is quite remarkable that criticizing a school (any school) seems to be a major taboo. It is as though the educational establishment is untouchable.

How are we supposed to think about a school that promotes ungodliness, immorality, and knowingly encourages division in society? Do we brush it off and ignore it because "they have a great music department" (or whatever department you like)? Maybe it is their football team that we have a worldly attachment to, and we refuse to consider how they are destroying the souls of numerous young adults every day? It is not very hard to distinguish between an academic field and a moral or theological field. Yet, why are so many willing to compromise the morals for the sake of the academia? I fear that it is because many Catholics have bought into the idea that a big paycheck is more important than theology (which is a damnable lie).

Accepting academics over morals is certainly not the only reason why so many people come back from college having lost their faith, but it is definitely one of the most significant factors in it. "I want to go to this school because they have a great [insert name of favorite subject] department" is not a justifiable reason to subject yourself (or your children) to a faculty of heretics and pagans. For that matter, how can we say that their area of study is "fantastic" if they also deny the Catholic faith? We must distinguish fields of study, but we cannot fully separate them. A bad theology will affect every area of our thinking (whether we realize it or not).

Do you give full consideration to the sources that you learn from? Just because someone can teach you how to swing a hammer, or balance the accounts on a computer program, does not mean that they will keep their errant theology separate from what they do. If you have fallen into the error that compartmentalizes religion and theology into a "private sector" in the back of our minds, and claims that theology should be kept out of the public sphere, then you need to know that this is the deception of the devil himself. This is the grounds of the confusion that cannot see how doctrinal errors will affect every area of thinking.

Learn discernment. Grow in your knowledge of the faith. Understand the fact that all truth is God's truth, and if someone steals God's truth and then tries to exclude Him from it, then they are at war with God, and all their thinking is suspect. It is the heresy of modernism that tells us that it is OK to exclude God from science, medicine, philosophy, history (etc.). Be cautious of who you learn from (and especially who your children learn from). Do not allow paganism and secularism to creep into your heart and mind. Your eternal destiny is at stake.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Tyranny of Worldliness

I mentioned yesterday about the tyranny of worldliness. I want to return to that concept at this time. Worldliness, and the attachment to it, is a great problem for Catholics today. A couple millennia ago the Jews were tempted to become more like the Greeks whom they were under. Some of these methods were just outright compromise, others were hard for us to understand, but they were all an attempt to become "more Greek" and less distinctly Jewish. The faithful Jews of the day rightly viewed this as apostasy.

This was largely the result of Alexander the Great's policy of "hellenizing" whomever he conquered (and this relates to much of the story of the Maccabees). Alexander knew that if his subjects were allowed to continue their own religious practices, that they would be more likely to revolt. If, however, he could make them passive citizens who kept the status quo, then he would not have to worry about these kinds of problems as much.

We in America do not have the same kinds of forces pressuring us today (at least not yet), but we do have a similar situation. The world looks at devout Catholics and is threatened by them. They try to convert us in many and various ways, but it is always the same tactic: they tell us that Catholic teaching and practice has to "get with the times" and update it's stance on things. Our theology is called "archaic myth" and our practices are considered a layover from the "dark ages". There are the subtle methods--tv shows and secular music--and then there are the more overt methods--lawsuits when someone refuses to bake a cake for sodomites.

Worldliness is easy to define, but actually very hard for many to recognize. A person has become worldly when his devotion is stronger to the world and its behaviors than to God and His commands. Whenever someone finds themselves at odds with a traditional teaching of the Church, he must ask the question of whether he has bought into the world's lies. If your first question in a challenging situation is not "what does God think of this, and how can I best please Him?" then you have very possibly been drawn into worldliness.

Another aspect of worldliness is attachment to the things of this world more than attachment to things of the next world. Whether it is money, or youth, or power, or fame, or any other of these things that will fade away with time, we cannot be more attached to them than we are to God. It is one thing to be sinfully drawn to worldly things (most of us are at one time or another), it is wholly another thing to have bought into the philosophy of the world (and thus be unable to see our own worldliness for what it truly is).

Nowadays, worldliness is not just a temptation. It has become an all-out tyranny. Pagans, and heathens both tell us that we must conform to the world. I have even read some who have said that they will tolerate our "backwardness" for now, but that there will be a point when they have given us enough time to come around, and that we will need to be "eliminated" (no I am not making this stuff  up). Currently, the tyranny is only applied to our hearts and minds (which is bad enough); there may come a time when it is applied even more forcefully to our very lives on this earth.

If you are not aware of where the tyranny of worldliness has affected you directly, then it is quite likely the case that you have given in to it somewhere. Maybe it is in your own life, maybe it is in your family. We each must take a look at any place that we have compromised. Will you bow before the tyrant? Or will you take a stand for your very soul and say "no"? Worldliness is an infection, and once it starts spreading it is very hard to root out. Begin working on it right away.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

These are the times . . .

These are the times that try men's souls . . . yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly.
These words by Thomas Paine, written during the early period of the American Revolution in 1776, though referring to a political tyranny, are quite applicable to our current spiritual tyranny. The tyranny of worldliness is upon us; it has infected even the highest levels of the Catholic Church, and the root of it is infidelity. Infidelity in sexual morals is obvious, but that infidelity is only a symptom of infidelity to the vows of holy orders.

The recent document released by Archbishop Vigano appears to be fully valid and there is nothing about it that gives us cause to doubt what he claims. The (so-called) response by Pope Francis is virtually an admission of guilt (I tried to find something else in his words, but was unable to). I had to read the subtitles of his talk on the plane from Ireland but the words and his mannerisms are very revealing. Sad.

I truly wish there were something else to talk about right now, but this is flooding our thoughts and I want to encourage my parishioners to faithfulness and perseverance in these times. I actually waited a few days to comment on the most recent events in hopes that we would hear something clear and definitive from the Holy Father; either an admission of guilt, or a clear statement that Vigano was in error. Neither has come; so what do we do now?

Confession is a private matter, and it may be possible (if Francis is indeed guilty of one of the worst cover-ups in this entire scandal) that the Pope has already gone to confession for these things. Yet, given his place as the Vicar of Christ and head of the Church, we must know his penitence. The only proper thing to do, if he is actually guilty, is to step down and to call for all other Bishops who are complicit in this to step down as well; to remove themselves from public ministry and retire to a life of prayer and penance. That is the humble and pastoral thing to do; that would be an act of mercy toward the world (regardless of one's personal interests).

As the quote said above, however, if we obtain things in too cheap a manner, then we will not esteem them rightly. We all (guilty, or not guilty) must acknowledge that these difficult times that "try our souls" are also the times that strengthen us in the end if we will but persevere. So then what do we do if Pope Francis is guilty and he steps down? We persevere. What do we do if Pope Francis is guilty and refuses to step down (which would inevitably cause a massive schism and possibly competing "Popes")? We persevere. What do we do if he is not guilty and yet people assume he is (which could also lead to a schism)? We persevere. Are you seeing the direction that this is going?

As the quote above also said, the harder the conflict, the greater the glory. What can God do in the midst of this? Here are a few things that I see possibly coming from this current state of affairs:
1) We could have a new Pope elected who will remove those who resist the faith and who promote immorality.
2) The Catholic Church could get significantly smaller, but also stronger.
3) The laity could learn not to be complacent, and to seek deeper dedication to Christ.
4) The Church could return to many of the traditions she has forgotten, and learn to apply the teachings of Vatican II in a way that is consistent with the past.
5) Although many marriages and families will crumble under these trials, many will be strengthened because they will unite in their efforts to holiness.
6) The end result will go one of two ways: either God will grant a time of relative peace that will be comparable to the middle ages, or the world will be enraged and we will experience a time of persecution throughout the world like there has not been for a long time.
Yes, I know that last one is yucky. I know it is not very encouraging, but it all depends on the overall faithfulness of the people of God, both clergy and laity. Will we be a penitent people who persevere in good times and bad? Will we see that these difficulties can lead to great blessings? Will we stand firm and tell the impenitent that this is Christ's Church and not the devil's coven? These are the times that try men's souls, and these are the times that develop great Saints!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Friday, August 24, 2018

Theology Does Not Change

I once said to someone that I do not tend to trust any idea that is less than 500 years old. Yes, that includes most of modern science. Do you want to know why I trust theology and refuse to trust science? Science changes and theology does not. Science once said that blood letting was a good way to heal certain diseases; we know better now. Science once said that smoking cigarettes (and inhaling deeply) was good for you; we know better now. Theology on the other hand, does not change. Theology has said that there is One God in Three Persons; that is still true. Theology has said that marriage is one man, one woman, for life; that is also still true. Science changes; theology does not.

Sometimes science changes for the better (as with the two examples above), but often it changes for the worse. Take for example science's acceptance of Darwin's theory of evolution; not a change for the better. Even if it were a scientific possibility (and it seriously appears not to be), the consequences of it alone should make us see it as suspect (abortion, nihilism, sodomy, and a host of other evils can all be shown to develop from an evolutionary train of thought). Science has also opened the doors to chimera hybrids, trans-humanism, and artificial contraception; it does not have a good track record.

Theology, although it can grow better, it does not truly change. To "grow better" means to gain a better understanding of what we already know. When the Pope dogmatically defined the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, he was adding to our knowledge of her life and ministry. Yet, that was not a change or contradiction in anything already known about her. If the Pope were to declare tomorrow that the Blessed Virgin actually had three other children by Joseph after Jesus' birth, that would be a change. That type of idea would contradict what we know from the past, and thus it would a definite change (and therefore, heretical).

Today, science (I believe) still says that it is impossible to travel faster than light. Tomorrow, there could be a new discovery that shows that to be false. Technically speaking, science could never state anything with certainty. It can only postulate what it sees for the time being (acknowledging that a change can always come later). That is not stability; that is not something I can trust. As a protestant, theology felt like modern science. Someone could teach some interpretation of the Scriptures, and then find later that there was another better discovery, and as a result his whole theology would change (I saw many people do this over the years).

Theology, however, is firm. Yes, it could develop a greater understanding, and even discover something that was not technically known before--but those discoveries and developments will never contradict what has come in the past. For someone to say that theology can "evolve" is to venture into an area that is quite dangerous. Similar words were used in the Episcopal Church in the USA when she began to abandon her faith back in the 70's.

If Pope Francis really believes (and I pray that he does not) that theology can "evolve" and that the Catechism can be "updated" when he has an idea he wants to spread, or some cause he wants to promote, then there is a serious problem. I am not his judge, and I do not pretend that I know his mind; I only can affirm what his written words portray. If the Scriptures and the Church can teach that capital punishment is a good practice, commanded by God in certain circumstances, at one time; and then later say that it is "inadmissible" then it is difficult not to see that as a contradiction. Many have asked for this to be explained. We sincerely want to believe that he has done nothing wrong. Yet until the Holy Father makes it clear, I (and many others) find it hard to see it any other way.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Great Gift of Celibacy

I have been given a great gift: my wife. I have been devoted to her for 28 years of marriage, and I truly appreciate what God has given me through her. She is a wonderful complement to me. Yet, there is something about that gift that frightens me. You see, I have gotten used to her being there, and I am sincerely worried that she may pass from this world before I do. As a married Catholic priest, my vows of chastity would become a vow of celibacy upon her death. I cannot ever marry again. We both knew that before I was ordained, and we both willingly accepted that fact.

Now the reason that I fear this is not just personal, it is much deeper than that. I fear it because it means that the gift of my wife will be gone, and I am not sure that I have the great gift of celibacy. Chastity to one's wife is obviously very different from chastity in a celibate life. My wife and I have a very traditional, smooth-working, relationship. Although we do not always see eye to eye, we have always been able to work things out. I have my place in the home and its activities and she has hers. This does not mean that I will be unable to cook a meal, but that when you are used to someone's presence it is hard to get used to their absence.

In spite of what we are reading about in the news, there are a large number of priests who have been given the gift of celibacy and are faithful to that calling. Not all have fallen the way that the secular media wants you to think. These men truly have this gift, and I have deep respect for them. Their calling has a different kind of self-control than does the calling of marriage. They have willingly accepted to sacrifice something--which I know firsthand is a great joy--for the sake of the Kingdom of Christ.

So I am concerned about the differences that exist there. Celibacy is not just a "rule" enforced upon most priests; it is a genuine gift that God grants. We think of things wrongly if we believe that getting married is a gift whereas being celibate is just a burden (it is our modern sex-obsessed society that has put that idea in our heads). That is certainly not how our Lord viewed things. When Jesus pointed out the requirements for faithfulness in marriage, the Apostle responded with frustration:
The disciples said to him, 'If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.' But he said to them, 'Not all men can receive this precept, but only those to whom it is given' (Matt 19:10-11).
Do you see those last words? "To whom it is given." It is given to some to have this state in life, for they have been gifted by the Lord. It is not given to others to have that state in life. For a few rare priests (as myself), it is given to have the state of marriage and the state of holy orders. Yet, each is a gift; given by God to enable one to fulfill the calling he has in life. This is my calling; my brother priests have the same calling but with different gifts and circumstances.

One of the grave errors that appears to have occurred in the vetting process for seminarians, is a failure to distinguish this. Rather than verifying that they had the "gift" of celibacy, they seem (at least in some instances) only to have checked whether they are willing to practice celibacy. The two are not the same thing. To allow a man with homosexual inclinations to come into seminary is, in itself, a foolish idea (aside from the ecclesiastical prohibition of it). It is comparable to a heterosexual man being made to live in a girl's dormitory and share the bathroom with them; his self-control will be difficult to maintain. Yet, to bring any man into the priesthood who is willing to practice celibacy, but does not actually have the gift of celibacy, is putting a man into the "near occasion of sin". Not good; not right.

Take for example an 18 year old virgin girl. She is maintaining chastity, but desires to get married. She is in the "state of celibacy" but does not likely have the gift of celibacy. Were she suddenly to be told that she had to maintain that state, she may be able to do so, but you would not want to place her in a situation that will be a temptation to her.

If we could ensure that this distinction could be maintained as a definite practice in the vetting process for seminarians, then we may be able to overcome much of the problems that we are experiencing today. Not because it is a better policy, but because it is the proper means of spiritual formation for someone planning to enter the priesthood. That is truly what we are aiming at, is it not: holiness? For if our only concern is "never let it happen again" and we put no effort into better spiritual formation, then it will happen again.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

This Valley of Tears

My family and I sat down to say the rosary together last night. We have done it many times before, but last night I was particularly struck by the words of the Salve Regina. "Hail holy Queen, Mother of mercy . . . sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears . . . after this our exile". There have been times when I have said the rosary in a joyful mood and found those words somewhat anticlimactic. "Sighs", "mourning", "weeping", and "valley of tears" do not seem to have much weight when you are not actually feeling like you are in "exile", do they?

I have been saying for years now that I could "sense" a trial for the Church on the horizon. It was something like when you can smell a coming rainstorm in the wind. It is not as though I was wanting this -- God forbid it. But the tension in society and the compromise in the Church over the last few decades could not continue without something snapping. Sadly, I have to say that it appears that we have only just begun to see the ugly stuff that is coming. I guess now those words in the Salve Regina can mean something to us, since we have more and more things to mourn and weep about.

I ache down deep inside, and the drudging up of these things by the media just serves to create greater and greater unrest in our already scarred society. Division is being encouraged and now acts of violence against (innocent) Catholic clergy are starting to show up more and more. It has been said often that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. In line with that thought, I would say that the Church cannot truly be strong until we are hated. To a certain degree it does not matter whether we are hated for what we have done, or for what someone else in the Church has done. The problem that exists is that the things the world is hating us for right now are also things that we as Catholics hate. This makes it hard to speak against their anger (even if they ignore the far more common sexual abuse that exists in the public schools!).

So here we are, mourning for the sins that have occurred and been protected and/or ignored by some of our own Bishops. Yet, while we are angry at these sins, and heartbroken for those who have suffered at their hands, let us make sure that we have not gone off the rails ourselves. What is the purpose of seeing the sins of others, after all? It is not merely to get us upset, or to drive us to wring our hands in hopelessness, while whining, "how could this happen?" That does not help anything. As my own Bishop, Steven Lopes, said recently, fixing the policies does not actually change things; cleansed hearts change things.

Therefore, since we cannot force others to change just by being upset at them, what do we ourselves do? We force ourselves to change! If we want to see Bishops do a better job, then let us do a better job. Let us make sure that at times like this we are not just mourning about the sins of others, but using this time to mourn for our own sins. What have you done to fix the sins that are occurring in your life right now? Have you "doubled your efforts" to avoid covering up your own sins? It is not a great idea to condemn someone else's "cover up" if you yourself are "covering up" something in your own life. It is hypocritical to complain that someone ignores his own sins when you are ignoring yours. Think long and hard about this truth!

Those words from the Salve Regina mean so much more to me today than they did formerly. I have genuinely offered up a great number of "sighs". Things do feel like a "valley of tears" right now. I have cried to our Holy Queen asking for her prayers for me to find greater holiness and to turn from my own sins. No, I am not depressed (I rarely get so), but it does feel like a spiritual punch in the gut. God struck Korah and his followers dead when they complained at Moses, and He did it in front of all Israel so that they would not fall into the same sin. Let us take our experiences and learn from them. Let us take full advantage of this trying time, and find the holiness that God calls us to.

I beg for God's hand of healing on those who have been hurt by their own priests and bishops, and I pray earnestly for penitence in those who have fallen into these grave sexual sins. I also thought about a passage in Ezekiel that speaks about something similar. In fact, it is the first reading for tomorrow. It is where God condemns the "evil shepherds" who "fed themselves and not the sheep". Let none of us be subject to the same condemnation because we failed to show concern for our sins, or for the well being of others.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

An Admonition to My People

When there is a contagious illness spreading, people will wear surgical masks, wash their hands, and be extra careful about what and where they eat. When a war breaks out (or rioting, or some other form of civil unrest), people will find means to protect themselves and hide in safe places. When a large storm is on the way, people will gather provisions, find a shelter, cover the windows, and hunker down. During times of crisis, there are basic responses that everyone expects.

We can all see that the Church (and therefore the whole world) is experiencing a major crisis. We have been infiltrated in the deepest areas of the hierarchy of the Church. Sodomites have been so forcefully pressing their vile agenda that it is clear that this is more than a coincidence; it is a demonic plan (and I do mean real demons). It is present in the situations that we have read about in the news (I should not need to be specific), and certainly other places we have not heard about yet. During a time of great spiritual crisis, what do we do?

Historically, led by their Popes and Bishops, the faithful would perform spiritual disciplines in increased measure (think of the battle of Lepanto). They would respond to a spiritual crisis with spiritual warfare. The following are my spiritual recommendations (maybe "seriously urgent admonitions" would be a better term?) for all of the people under my pastoral care (and any others who may be reading this). And if this list sounds too difficult, then change your schedule and give up some things for the sake of the glory of God; this is not a time to sit and do nothing. As your shepherd, I strongly urge you to:

1) Begin each day by asking the Lord to grant you the grace to love God, and love your neighbor as yourself.
2) Choose a time each week to fast from at least one meal.
3) Return to the traditional discipline of abstaining from meat on every Friday of the year.
4) Say the rosary as often as possible (at least daily) for the intention of the repentance of the clergy.
5) Avoid any excuse to miss Sunday Mass and attend at least one daily Mass every week as well.
6) Find an opportunity to spend regular time in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for the restoration of holiness.
7) Pray daily to St. Michael to "defend us in battle" and to the Blessed Virgin to ask Christ for mercy.
8) End each day with a self-examination and prayers of personal penitence.

Those who stand by and watch a storm, or do nothing to avoid a disease; they are the casualties. I do not want any of my people to be casualties. Imagine what would happen if we were able to inspire every Catholic in the world to spiritual renewal?

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Self-Control and Sexuality

For years now, I have been lamenting the overdose of sex and sexual themes in modern society (advertising, education, movies, music, etc.). It seems the more we talk about sex, the less we understand it. Now (because this is all part of the devil's evil plan of attack on the Church) we have a sex scandal that is even bigger than the one back in 2002. Sex, sex, sex, and a bit more sex.

I have felt at the end of almost every day for the past few months that I need to clean my brain after hearing more and more about this and that sexual scandal. What I fear at this time is that there will be some calling for a re-examination of priestly celibacy. Now, given that I am one of the few priests in North America who has been given special permission to be ordained (in spite of my impediment of marriage) it may seem to many of my readers that I will be in support of a change in the custom of celibacy as the norm for priests. That is, most emphatically, not the case.

There are many who have already spoken about the idea that celibacy encourages immoral inclinations and thus leads priests and bishops to fall more easily into sexual sin. I have seen this false claim pop up in a few places already, and it worries me. I can confidently say that I am happy to understand the graces of marriage as well as the graces of holy orders, and that they are hard to keep in balance. I truly respect and appreciate my brother priests who are celibate.

Opening the doors for more married priests will not help with the sexual abuse problem in the slightest manner. This is so because celibacy is not the problem; the combination of a poorly formed conscience and a lack of sexual self-control are the problem. If a man does not have his sexual appetite under control he will not do well in the priesthood. The Church forbids men with homosexual desires to enter holy orders, and this is because both homosexual desires and the practice of sodomy are gravely disordered. Therefore, a man whose sexuality is gravely disordered cannot properly lead the people of God in holiness.

Celibacy for priests is a perfectly godly practice if the man's sexuality is under control. No I am not saying the man must be a living saint, but he must be properly ordered toward heterosexuality and be able to control himself as the norm (and be completely penitent if he ever fails in this). The need for him to "like women" is because that is the natural order that God has created for men (both married and celibate), and if he cannot abide by this, he cannot rightly understand human relations at all. Anything less is asking for disaster (both for the priest and for the people under his care).

Likewise, marriage is a perfectly godly practice if the couple's sexuality is under control. If either of them are not in control of their sexual appetite, then the marriage will not do well (I have counseled many couples in problematic marriages who can prove this point). Lack of self control is not only a problem for single people or for priests. We all must be chaste in accord with whatever state in life God has put us in. Scripture is very clear that sexual sin impacts everything that we do and think.

Recognizing that both of these two practices are holy, we must also look at the other side of things. Sodomy is a completely sinful practice under any circumstances and can never be seen as merely "how God made someone" (He does not -- it is a sinful choice) or allowable "given the circumstances". It is always wrong, whether between consenting adults (who can never be validly married regardless of what the Supreme Court of the US claims) or especially with minors. Therefore, any (yes, any) sexuality outside of marriage is sinful.

In the same way child molestation is a completely sinful practice under any circumstances and is an even more grave form of evil than most other sexual sins. The slightest signs of a problem in this area should immediately eliminate a seminarian from further pursuing holy orders, and it should mean immediate removal from active assignment for a priest (and possibly laicization). If a person's understanding of sexuality is not fully in accord with dogmatic Church teaching, then that person should not be leading God's people.

It will be no help to our current situation if celibacy is lessened as a practice for the priesthood; there will be no good done if we try to loosen the rules for holy orders. At times like this, we must become more strict, not less so. Even allowing the practice of greater allowance for married men to become priests will not help, since marriage does not help to overcome sexual problems (as I have said before, I counsel just as many married people with sexual issues as single people--lack of self control, is lack of self control, regardless of your state in life).

I want the Church to retain her custom of celibacy, but she needs to do so in connection with a heavily enforced practice of forming the self-control of a seminarian's sexuality. We need to teach and practice exactly what the Church says (and has always said) and not give in to any "sodomite mafia". Does that mean that we may be persecuted? Probably. Does it mean that the world will hate us? Definitely. But is that not what Jesus said when He told us what it means to be His disciples?

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Matrix Has You!

Why is it that some days I do not write posts for this blog? A couple of you have mentioned to me that you wish I would write every day. I appreciate the sentiment. I like writing, and I pray that the Lord will use what I write to help people to grow in their faith. So then, I should answer the question. Why do I sometimes not write? It is too simplistic to say "I was busy"; I want to be more specific. It is because I am busy with the real world. I want to emphasize two words in that last sentence. Not "busy with", but "real world".

We live in an age where it is difficult for many to tell the difference between reality and fantasy -- I am not exaggerating. There are a number of people who really believe that social media is an important part of their lives. Yes; quite sad. On the grand scheme of things, social media is about as important as a candy bar. It is probably OK for most people to have a small amount; large doses are dangerous; it really gives no nutrition; and when someone gets too much of it, their personal health suffers for it. It would probably be OK to spend only a few minutes a day using it, but much more than that means that the person has likely lost touch with the real world.

One aspect of the (false) world of social media that might have a bit more value (in certain circumstances) is commonly called the blogosphere. That is the diverse world of "blogs" where people write what they think (whether anyone really wants to hear about it or not). Yes, I am fully aware that I contribute to this "world" in what I write. I hope and pray that what I write is of some value in the spiritual direction of those who read it. The problem, of course, is that many people spend so much time "surfing" the "blogosphere" that they begin to think it is the real world. It is even worse when those who actually write in this "world" begin thinking that it is real. They have been deceived into imagining that the things that they read and write are a reality in themselves and the result is that their whole understanding of the world gets skewed.

Although writing and reading good material is important; life is much more than reading a good comment, or a helpful post. Life--real life--is where the real world occurs (and it is not on a computer screen). The "blogosphere" is not the real world, it is only a bunch of images displayed in digital format (even if they are good images). The real world is: marriage, disciplining children, paying bills, turning your eyes away from immodesty, and mourning the death of a loved one. The real world is the place that is spoken about in the Scriptures numerous times, and if you are cut off from it by the time that you spend in the "blogosphere" then I am going to guess that your real relationships are struggling (marriage, children, work, school, etc.) and you probably do not know why (assuming you do have some interaction with other humans).

When you get stuck in reading blog posts, and watching videos by "media outlets" and checking your facebook status, your entire mode of thinking has been corrupted -- you have fallen into a new form of gnosticism and are trying to avoid the real world. People who are suffering in this state of affairs remind me of that sci-fi movie from a few years ago: they are "stuck in the matrix" and probably do not know it. If you realize that you have been seduced into this false reality, then it is time to get out now. You must not justify it by saying "my readers need me" or "I have to comment about this"; that is the very thing the devil wants you to do so that he can keep you hooked.

So then, I do appreciate all my readers, but I do not want you spending your life staring at the computer or phone screen (even if you are reading my stuff). The only reason I write is to encourage greater faithfulness in your life -- not to create a separate reality that becomes your life. Really, if that is what you are doing, then stop now. So if what you read here, or in any other good blog, actually helps you in your faith, good. Take advantage of it and then live your life faithfully. Go out and fulfill the calling that God has given you, and serve Him in all faithfulness. If you do not, you will descend deeper and deeper into an "abyss" of confusion.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

I'm Glad I'm Catholic

After reading an article about the latest aspect of the clergy sexual scandal in Pennsylvania, I scrolled down and read a couple of the comments (something I rarely ever do). I am glad that I did, because one of those commenting made the naive claim, "I'm glad I'm not a Catholic". Although I completely understand the sentiment, especially when you realize that the media (and immature Catholic bloggers who do not know how to deal with problems) like to make everything seem as bad as possible. I do not, however, agree with the sentiment.

In fact, I can say today that I am glad I am a Catholic. No, I am not glad about what some of my brother clergymen have done -- it is a vile and disgusting sin. I am glad (and proud!) that I am a Catholic because I am in the only place where the men who have committed these abominable sins can find the full grace of God through the Sacraments. They (if truly penitent) can come to the sacrament of confession and experience the forgiveness of God. What better place is there on Earth for sinners to be able to repent of their sins?

Furthermore, these priests and bishops who have fallen like this, in coming to repentance (if they are able and have not already died and met their Maker), can find not only their own forgiveness, but also be better able to pray for others who struggle with the same sins. No, we will probably never hear about this occurring, but we can expect that is exactly what every truly penitent person would do. God never grants someone repentance without also granting them an ability to help others once they learn from their mistakes.

In the Church (in spite of her sinful members) God pours His grace on us through many different means. Those different means are available to any who is willing to repent of their sins. Those who are unwilling to repent--for them, their fate is clear: eternal Hell (this is not time to tone it down). Yet for those who are willing, if they go anywhere else other than the Catholic Church, it is not assured that they will find the fullness of God's grace. They may get a touch of it, but "just a touch" of life saving medicine is insufficient.

That life-saving medicine, which can only surely be found in the Catholic Church, is given out like a vaccine at a hospital. That is why the Church has often been called a "hospital for sinners". Notice that it does not say a "hospital for laity who are sinners" but just "sinners". This means that the grace that the Church administers through the sacraments is grace for laity and clergy. No one is exempt from needing God's grace. We should not be surprised to find that there are sinners in the Church (even priests who are sinners). Yes, the sin of sodomy is grave; especially when it is young boys that are harmed (which is the wide majority in each of these cases). Those, however, who fall into this sin outside of the Church, do not have available to them as readily the grace of the Sacraments; they must come to the Church to find it.

Will all those fallen priests and bishops choose to accept God's grace? I do not know. I have heard that sexual sin is very hard to eradicate, and that it is like alcoholism -- once an addict, always an addict. Whether the temptation will ever go away or not is another question (though men who have fallen like this should never be returned to ministry, even if they say they are "OK now"). For those who do choose the path of repentance, then we can rejoice that God can heal anyone. The Church has more blemishes now than she appeared to have in the past, but that just means that she is needed that much more today.

I rejoice that I am Catholic at times like this. Yes, that may sound a bit odd, but it is true. I rejoice that in spite of all of the sins men commit (and all the attempts of the devil to tear down God's Church), that at the end the Church will still be here. It is true that the Church will likely get much smaller after this scandal. It is also true, however, that it will get much stronger. It feels like Gideon in the book of Judges. God told him that he had too many men to win the battle so the Lord eliminated a few from the ranks. God is clearly "eliminating" clergy from the ranks; and I believe it is so that He can more clearly win the battle. If we won the battle with large numbers, we would presume on our own abilities. When we win the battle and it is clear that we were too small to do it on our own, then we do not get the honor -- Christ does.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

What Should You Be Doing in a Time of Church Crisis?

I just bought a copy of the Catechism of the Council of Trent. Not exactly earth-shattering news; I know. What might be considered "earth-shattering" is the fact that it is obvious that there are quite a few other people buying the same and similar other materials (Catechism of Pope Pius X, Baltimore Catechisms, etc.). People are searching for traditional materials that will clearly and emphatically give them the dogmas of the Catholic Church. Some of the pages on book seller websites have numerous positive reviews of older traditional books that were all posted within the last couple weeks. What does that say? It says people are seeking to reconnect with the historic faith of the Church because they feel attacked by some things that Pope Francis and other Bishops are doing (or not doing!) today.

There is always a good that comes out of bad experiences. Sometimes we do not personally see that good, but Scripture tells us that it is there. The Lord never lets us go through any suffering without also sending us a blessing. Although there may be others, I believe that this search for the traditional teachings of the Church is certainly a blessing. I regularly deal with Catholics who have not been taught many of the basics of the faith, and find that I cannot assume even the minimum of knowledge in many of the faithful today. The precepts of the Church used to be viewed as "the bare minimum" and yet today many do not even follow the "bare minimum".

One thing that I think is greatly contributing to this lack of knowledge and commitment today is the fact that there are many Catholics who are reading and learning from protestants more often than from Catholics (if they learn from them at all). Protestant books are easily found on Church "lending libraries" as though there was no real difference in teaching. "We all believe in the same Jesus, don't we?" Well . . . no we do not. Our protestant brethren are aiming at the same Jesus, and they may get fairly close (usually out of ignorance) but the Jesus that they worship is not the One Who founded the Catholic Church 2000 years ago through the Apostles (just ask them!). If the books you are reading are teaching a different path of Grace than the one that the Church provides through the Sacraments, then we must admit that any spiritual advice from them is suspect. Why would we willingly choose to read them when there are fantastic Catholic books out there?

Another problem that I believe is impacting us is the easy manner in which Catholics marry non-Catholics. Now, I have seen some cases where the non-Catholic is "right on the brink" of conversion, and those are wonderful to watch when they finally do decide to submit to Christ's Church (I have watched a few up close, and those are always a joy), but they are not the norm. In fact, statistics show that the majority of non-Catholics who marry Catholics, not only do not convert, they end up weakening the faith of the Catholic spouse. When this occurs, none of the modern efforts at protestantizing the Church are seen as bothersome by the Catholic spouse. It is often the case that the Catholic in a mixed marriage is unable to resist the errors of protestantism, and thus unable to lead the children of that marriage rightly either.

This new "search for the true faith" that we find many Catholics (cradle and convert) moving into, is a wonderful development in history. Where will it take us? I can only guess. Yet, whenever the laity have moved in this direction, they have always helped to encourage a stronger and more faithful Church. When, however, the laity choose other responses during this time of crisis (especially those reactions that are truly protestant in nature) then they become part of the problem. This is the time to deepen our faith, not a time to get a picket sign that says "the end is near" and yell "woe is me". Does the Church have problems? Yes, she does; absolutely. Will she prevail against the "gates of Hades"? Yes, she will; absolutely (even if some of her leaders have to fall in order for the Church to remain).

Although I will admit to being disheartened by the current crisis, at the same time, my faith is just as strong as it ever was. If someone has been working to prevent the devil from destroying his faith, why would he allow a bad clergyman to destroy his faith? I am not going to allow the sins of anyone--Pope, Bishop, Priest, Deacon, or layman--to move me away from Christ. Even those who have suffered abuse directly from disobedient clergymen are able to find their consolation and strength in Christ and His great mercy. Our Lord is always faithful, and in His love for us, He has chosen us for this time. He has allowed us to experience these trials, and He promises to lead us through them. Let us strengthen our faith, renew our commitment to Christ and His Church, and wait for times of blessing from our Lord.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

We've Been Invaded!

Having mentioned a movie yesterday, another one came to mind, but only as a brief illustration. Most people have heard of the story "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (and its multiple remakes). The whole idea of people walking among us, looking like us, but actually being invaders who are seeking to take over, gives just about everyone the creeps. This concept came to mind today as I was reading a few more blog posts and news articles regarding the numerous sexual scandals with clergymen in the Church.

It is a good thing that people are noticing (finally) that the problem is not predominantly pedophilia (though that has occurred) but rather sodomy (euphemistically referred to as "homosexuality"--as though it were only a "condition" or a "state" and not a grave immorality). This realization has helped the Church to focus on the right part of the battle, but we still need to see how to fight it. Seeing now that there have been a number of Bishops who have been implicated in this as well, it makes us wonder how all this happened.

No, I do not think that extraterrestrials have infiltrated the Church, but someone has, and it was hard for most of us to spot because they looked just like us. The difference with the "Body Snatchers" illustration is that I do not think that there was an attempt to "take over" but rather an attempt to destroy. Let us be honest about the facts: if we put it all together, we will have to admit that we have been invaded. Infiltrators have secretly come into the Church (whether communists, atheists, or those under demonic influence, we cannot be certain) and they have allowed evil to spread in such a way that it cripples us. The Church will not fall, but many of her members have.

If one man with extreme sexual compromise has been ordained, then an infiltrator is in our midst; and we have multiples. We cannot say that every single clergyman who fell into sin started it himself; it is completely possible that just a few with wicked intent got in and then were successful in leading others down the path of immorality and cover-up. Regardless of how many "started it" or how many were drawn into it, we cannot deny the fact that there is a breech in the wall and there are men who have been ordained that never should have been.

I struggle with this horrid truth almost on a daily basis lately. "Am I worthy to be God's priest?" "Are my sins enough to disqualify me?" "Could I fall into some grave sexual sin myself?" Any priest who does not ask these questions is not being honest with himself and is likely a bit too self confident (and thus, in more danger of falling). No, the laity should not have to ask these questions of their priests (though I am sure many are doing so today), but if the priests and bishops themselves would have asked these questions long ago (with genuine sincerity) then we would likely have much less problems than we do right now.

I would propose that if there is a crack in the wall, that the wall be fixed. Sort of elementary, I know, but if we do not know what the crack is, we cannot fix it. That is what we should be asking right now: "what is the crack in the wall?" It appears to be the ease with which many pass through the process for ordination. Is it easy everywhere? I assume not, but it is clearly easy in some places for these men who have gotten "caught" recently certainly got through their formation without being found out. I have deep hesitation for sounding like I am attacking a brother priest, and that is not what I am doing, but I am sure that I am not the only priest who asks, "who else is out there and has not yet gotten caught?" Nothing short of a complete overhaul of the process of spiritual formation that deals specifically with sexuality will have any noticeable success at this point.

We have been secretly infiltrated and we must not respond as though this is only a small problem in a few isolated places that the rest of us do not have to worry about. With the sheer numbers of those implicated, we must realize that a concentrated effort was what got us to this point; therefore a concentrated effort must be worked out if we are going to get out of this. This widespread problem is not all coincidental. The effort to get us out of this should not just be to discipline those who did this, but rather to find out how we were infiltrated in the first place; "how did they crack the wall?"

I do not have a solution for this (sorry -- I wish I did), as I do not have enough information even to begin to think it through all the way. Yet if we treat the problem like an isolated set of coincidences rather than a intentional attempt to cause the downfall of the Church, then we will not be seeing who the real enemy is, and what he is doing. Since there is no structure by which local Bishop's conferences can discipline a Bishop, many have called for the Bishops to gather and work on this as a united whole; great idea, as long as they do not try to "fix him" but to "fix what caused the problem in the first place".

Regrouping is difficult, and it takes some humility to do it right. We can certainly go too far, but given the circumstances, it is not as likely as falling short (which we have been doing for generations). It reminds me of the call for a healing process "in head and members" of the late medieval Church. It took the council of Trent to overcome the protestant confusion; what will it take to overcome this one?

Saturday, August 11, 2018

A Higher Power and Authority

One of my favorite movies is called "Midnight Special". There is a good possibility that you have neither seen it, or even heard of it. It is not the most well-known movie, but it has some amazing points that underlie its basic message. I do not want to give too much away (because I am hoping that some of you will see it), but the plot of the story focuses on a father and his (strangely powerful) young son who are running from the law. It is not a "Christian story", but it is filled with a distinctly Christian message in a beautiful allegorical form.

The cult that the father and son recently escaped from has no idea who the boy really is; the police have no idea who the boy is; the federal government have no idea who the boy is; even his parents are unsure of what is exactly going on. The beauty of the picture is not as much in these details (though they are quite powerful), but rather in a deeper layer of the message itself. I do not know much about the writer/director but he made a clear point in this story (his other movie, "Take Shelter", is just as powerful).

It is a remarkable experience watching the movie and seeing the National Security Agency and the FBI chasing their respective tails. The American federal government has the idea that they are the strongest force on Earth, and yet this movie makes them out to be mere pawns in the grand scheme of things (something like ancient Rome at the birth of Christ). The members of the religious cult want to be holy, but they too are merely pursuing their own ends.

The underlying message that can easily be missed is that there are powers and forces that are above and beyond what any of us fully grasp. Another realm that is everywhere around us is revealed. The story has a very subdued feeling to it, that might be too heavy for many to appreciate. As I watch it tonight on DVD, I can see a significant parallel between the boy's parents and the martyrs of Christ. They knew that there was something going on that was beyond the regular pattern of events; a higher power, a higher law. They are seeking to serve that higher power, regardless of the fact that everyone seems to be against them.

How do you think of the authority of Christ? Do you consider it to be just different from the authorities of this world? Do you think of it as a higher authority? Maybe your concept is that the authority of Christ is merely spiritual and therefore it never really has any conflict with the world's authority (I hope not)? Or, worse, maybe you think that the authority of Christ is either the same as, or submissive to, the authorities of this world. How you view this one issue, will determine exactly how you will respond when the world tells you to disobey Him. What will you do when that time comes (and, trust me, it will come--and possibly soon)?

Will you acknowledge the higher authority of Christ? Will you submit to the fact that sometimes you have to do something that is completely against what the world says; even to the point of sacrificing yourself in the process? That is what you are called to do. The martyrs of the first century were told "deny Christ" and they said "no". They knew that God never promised that life would be smooth, but He did promise that you would be called upon to to follow Him and reject the world.

The added bonus to the story that is so important for God's sons and daughters in every age, is that we do not always know all the details of why we are going through our particular experiences. Sometimes we find out in this life, and sometimes we do not. Yet, we do not need to understand, we just need to obey; obey what God has commanded, regardless of how challenging it may be or what the consequences are to ourselves. Those who know the authority of Christ (while the world denies it) find it easier to obey Him. This is why Jesus says at times that if we are not willing to give up everything we are not worthy to be His followers.

Can you commit yourself to doing what is right? Can you accept that there very well may be a task for you that goes completely against what everyone in the world says is right? For that is a hard thing to swallow, and many balk at it merely because they cannot endure the pressure. Seeing the "good guys" in the movie realize that they did what was right, in spite of their own suffering, is compelling. My brothers and sisters, remain obedient to the Lord, in whatever circumstances He sends you, and he will let you see you have done what is right; maybe not in this life, but definitely in the next.

How will each of us fare in the coming trials? One of the final lines from the movie that stays with me so powerfully is when one of the "good guys" is being questioned by the federal government. He tells them "I can tell it to you as many times as you want, my story's not changing 'cause its true". That is the testimony of the martyrs. That needs to be our testimony to the world, as well.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Continuing Conversion

How much of the marriage is finished on the day that a couple says "I do"? Sounds like an odd question, right? It is supposed to be. None of us would imagine that the moment of "I do" everything is done, and there is nothing more to happen. In fact, it is just the opposite. When they say "I do", that moment is merely the beginning of the marriage. The days, months and years following, is when the marriage is expected to grow and thrive. In the same way, one is not finished with the process of conversion to the Catholic faith on the day of "conversion".

When we think about the evangelistic understanding that I have been writing about (a full-orbed, in depth, all encompassing, evangelism), we must have the right perspective of what the actual conversion is that we are aiming at, or we could foul up the process. It is true that there is an initial "conversion point" (as there is a point that we call the "marriage") but that does not mean that once that point is passed that the person "has arrived". It would be more accurate to say that at the conversion point the person has begun his journey.

Marriage does not end with the vows, life is not finished at birth, and conversion is only the start of a life in Christ. This may sound obvious, but the point has to do with conversion itself. One's life as a member of the baptized faithful consists in a process of conversion. That initial conversion point is merely the first turning toward God; but since we are weak people and often fall into sin, we need to be steadily converting ourselves back to God.

There is another way that conversion is not just one time event. Conversion is not merely the regular turning back to God that we each need to do regularly; it is also the process itself. We are "being converted" daily as we continually reshape who we are to become more and more like Christ our Redeemer. We all know that we are not made perfect in a moment, and that is why we must continue in the process of conversion. It might seem nice to be able to convert entirely in a moment, but that is not how God has ordained things for us. We can change whose authority we are under in a moment, but we cannot change our own faithfulness to that authority that quickly.

This is why it is so important to make this point clear to those we communicate the gospel to. If we give the impression that all they have to do is "sign on the dotted line" and then everything will come together in life, then we have lied to them, and possibly even stunted their spiritual growth. I have heard many stories of converts who faded away from the Church after just a few months. This is the perfect example of bad instruction on what the Christian life really is. Those who are seeking to discern the call to conversion, need to know that it involves all of their life (as in every aspect) for all of their life (as in the entire duration of it).

If a couple got married, then we would normally presume (in ordinary circumstances) that they are doing something to stay together (if they are doing it well and not lying, then they are also growing in their relationship with one another). If we know someone who "was converted", then we can presume that he is still "being converted". That is the normal process of growth. Let us make sure that we communicate this wonderful truth to those we reach out to with the gospel, and make sure that they know precisely what the journey is that is ahead of them.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

A Brief Theology of Rest

The word "vacation" comes from the Latin "vacatio" which means to be exempt from service, or to take a respite from work. I am taking my family on a brief vacation this next week. We have a friend who will be taking care of the home and our pets while we are gone, but we are going to "exempt ourselves from service" and "take a respite from work", so to speak.

In one sense, we are never supposed to stop serving others, for service of our fellow man is not a temporary calling, but is part of our baptismal call. So, I guess it would not exactly be accurate to say that we are stopping our "service", but I am sure that this connotation for the ancients held a lot of weight. More specifically, however, I want to consider (just briefly) the idea of what it means to take a "vacation". In the gospels there are a number of places that Jesus tells the disciples to "come away to a lonely (or quiet) place to rest". He does this because Christ knows that we all need to rest.

Even before the fall of man, when creation was still in a pristine state, God established a day of rest. There is something about physical rest which accomplishes more than just the physical refreshment that we all think about. There is a spiritual impact on us when we rest. The problem arises when we want rest too much. When we get lazy and insist on rest even when we have not done anything to cause us to need rest, that is when we have taken a blessing of God and abused it. Anything that God gives to us can be abused, and we must recognize that every one of us is subject to this temptation.

If, however, we are doing the work that we are called to do, then we do need to have proper rest; and sometimes that rest can be enjoyed a bit more if one can play at the same time. I have never heard of anyone in the Church developing a "theology of rest and play", but it is written into the very fiber of our being. All of creation recognizes it. I was watching two baby deer playing outside my living room window the other morning, and was enthralled with seeing their joy. My pet cat is obsessed with playing at times; she will play with her "mouse toys" for hours sometimes--both by herself, and with us. Rest and play are those things that help us to find godly pleasure in simple things.

Yes, modern society can corrupt our rest and play, but we should work to avoid those abuses and focus rather on what God offers to us. Genuine rest, a ceasing from work, helps us to be more appreciative of the work that we, and others, do in our particular calling. So when a priest takes a vacation, he is seeking to enjoy the blessings that God gives to him, as well as attempting to restore and deepen his ability to help others. I have never had anyone say it to me, but I have heard that there are some who say in the old days priests never took a vacation, and that today's priests are lazy. I was not a priest back then, but I do know that to reject proper rest, is to reject the blessings of God. A priest rests, precisely so that he can work better after.

We can actually come closer to God when we receive the rest from God's hand (and avoid making it be something that we "take" by our own hand). In this way, we can give thanks for the ability to step away from our common efforts (to "vacate" the norm, per se) and to prepare ourselves for further work of the Kingdom. Yet, as I said before, a priest never really is "exempt from service". I have often told my parishioners, that a priest never "clocks out". Priests "clock in" on the day of their ordination, and they do not "clock out" until they receive last rites. So, although I am not "clocking out" yet, I am going to rest. I am going to accept this from the hand of God, and give Him thanks for His commandments.

This Sunday, I encourage you to think about rest. To pay attention to what it means to refresh yourself, body and soul, so that you can serve God better afterward. Give Him specific thanks, and ask Him to help you with your calling that you will return to later. It is what I am going to do, and I encourage you join in with me. Let us together praise our wonderful God.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Rules Are Not Made to be Broken

Years ago there were a few practices that were forbidden in the Church, but they were still happening, and in many places. Eventually they got "grandfathered in" because they had become so widespread that it was apparently easier to change the rules than to enforce them. This practice is not only horrible for parents with their children, but it is also horrible when clergymen do it in the Church. The three practices of this sort that I am thinking about right now are altar girls, communion being received in the hand, and extraordinary ministers of holy communion. Anything that starts in disobedience should automatically be suspect.

At my Ordinariate parish, I can be a bit more bold with things like this (when I need to) than I can in a diocesan parish (largely because the others are not my jurisdiction--I am serving "out of bounds"). That said, however, the Ordinariate does not allow altar girls, and I serve communion by intinction at St. George parish (the latter of which makes both communion in the hand and communion ministers impossible). These three "disobediences converted into obediences" are not, however, what I am actually wanting to discuss. Rather, I want us each to think about the fact that "winking" at and ignoring disobedience for so long will eventually create a culture that thinks rule-breaking itself to be no big deal.

If these wrongful practices happened so much that they were eventually more common than the right practice, then that means that many people grew up with disobedience as a norm. They became so used to "letting it slide" that after a time that practice is certain to slip into other areas of life. There are, of course, some areas that we are supposed to be willing to compromise (especially when we are being wrongfully stubborn); outright disobedience, however, is never one of them. Once compromise becomes common in our practice, and we continue to allow it, then we will find it easier and easier to compromise in more and more important areas of life.

The big issue here is not the manner in which the laity are encouraged to compromise. No, instead it is the fact that the clergy have become soft on compromise. Who was it, after all, that was encouraging the practice of having altar girls, communion in the hand, and lay communion ministers years ago when it was forbidden? Although there may have been some laity who sought it out, things like that come from the priests and bishops first. They are the ones who said, "let's try it this way" knowing already that it was against the rules (I am going to presume that they knew it, because the only other presumption is that they were foolishly ignorant of what is right and wrong in the Mass!).

Therefore, if it was the clergy who promoted this compromise in the Mass (the most important thing we do in love of our Lord here on Earth), then should we really be surprised that many of the same clergy are the ones who were "looking the other way" at compromise of sexual ethics? Sodomy does not just happen "ex nihilo". It is the result of earlier compromise in other areas of God's law (and in spite of how grave sexual sin is, between the two, compromise in the liturgy is more grave than compromise in sexuality). So they had already been practicing compromise in how they behave toward God. As a result, it was an easy step to begin compromising in how they behave toward their fellow men (and I do mean "men").

I am sure that there were many more areas of compromise that occurred in the Church in the 20th century, and I am only picking on a few that are still causing problems today. Yet, we all must acknowledge that compromise leads to more compromise; it is the nature of the beast (and the devil loves to encourage it). That is the whole point with the issue of compromise: it is a slippery slope that perpetuates itself, and it can be seen easily in this instance.

So then, you may be asking, what is the solution to this issue? There are many that have been put forward; some good, some hideous (here is a good one). The obvious solution is to stop compromising. This means that we need to make the conscious decision to do things as we are expected to and not seek to improve upon God. The consequence of this decision is to stop disrespecting God, as so often happens in the modernist and casual performance of the Mass. Return to reverence, return to complete obedience. Say the black, do the red; as I like to say.

This is not a "quick fix" because it takes time for hearts to change. It is, however, a genuine solution. I have been saying it for years now, but maybe our current crisis (and it is a crisis) will help everyone to see that things will not change until people change. Reverence for God is the necessary foundational attitude of our hearts that impacts everything we do, and if we do not truly reverence Him (especially in the Mass) then we cannot truly be obedient to Him (in any area of life). It is time to stop compromising; it is time to quit winking at breaking the rules and acknowledge that we are called to genuine faithfulness. Without faithfulness, our crises will just get worse.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The King's Evangelism

When I lived in Oregon years ago, I found out quickly that there was a driving rule that I was used to that was very different there. In other states, the policy was that you could make a "u-turn" as long as there were no signs prohibiting it. In Oregon (at least back then) the rule was you could only make a "u-turn" if there was a sign that said it was OK. Quite the opposite, and that made it very hard to get used to. Residence in a new state means a new way of doing things, and we were required to get used to it whether we liked it or not.

This is something of what is happening in the conversion process. When someone hears the truths of the Kingdom of Christ and His redeeming work for Kingdom citizens (the baptized) they need to understand that this means that they are under an entirely different set of rules. Things do not work in God's Kingdom the way that they work in the rest of the world. The obvious reason is because the world is fallen and its culture is, at best, flawed, and, at worst, corrupt. God's Kingdom is, on the other hand, perfect; no, not all the citizens of it behave perfectly, but that is always contrary to the Kingdom itself.

It is absolutely essential for someone hearing the gospel to understand that Christ is not just a "best buddy" for us; He is not just a cosmic "bodyguard"; He is the King of kings. If we portray Jesus along the same lines as we hear people speak about their favorite politician ("he's really a great guy, and you ought to get behind him"), then we have entirely missed the point of Who Christ is. It is true that Christ came as our Savior, but if we forget the fact that He has already been given "all authority in Heaven and on Earth" then we do not have a full understanding of Christ.

This is why the Kingdom and authority of God should be a part of what we are speaking about in evangelism. Jesus is not merely some mercenary who is rescuing people in a last ditch effort before the whole world goes to Hell (though many evangelistic messages seem to come across that way). I can think of many times when I heard my protestant brothers and sisters speak so emphatically about "accepting Jesus as your-personal-Lord-and-Savior" because they were concerned that a convert have a personal relationship with Christ. Yes, it is true that our relationship with Jesus needs to be personal, but He is much, much, more than a "personal" Lord and Savior; He is a universal Lord and Savior, because, right now, everything has already been put in subjection to Him (regardless of the fact that many do not realize it yet and we cannot yet see it; cf. Hebrews 2:5-8).

This is why the earliest confession of the Church (which led to many of the early Christians being martyred!) was "Jesus is Lord" (Romans 10:9) and not "Jesus is Savior". In fact, it would have been easy for the early Church just to say "Jesus is Savior" and virtually no one would have had a problem with it. You see, many of the pagan Greeks and Romans would have been content to allow Jesus to join the pantheon with the other gods, but to call Him "Lord" meant that He was above all the rest. The early Church did not compromise this (the story of Polycarp's martyrdom is a wonderful testimony of this fact) and it was always part of their message to the world.

Over time, as a protestant, I came to see that there was an incredibly selfish aspect to evangelistic messages. I do not want to assume that this was intentional, but it was still there. Potential converts were encouraged to make their "decision for Christ" based largely on selfish motivations and I could see easily how it led to mistake that everything is all about us. As much as Jesus cares about us, and wants us to know His great love for us, it is not "all about us"; it is "all about Christ" and nothing else. The more a person falls into the error of thinking that it is "all about them" the less he will be willing to submit to the lordship of Christ, and that is not a formula for persevering in the faith

If, however, we are able to include in our evangelism the fact that conversion means just that--converting to a different situation in life and submitting oneself to a new set of rules with a new Ruler--then we help them to see the fullness of the Catholic faith, and the call to faithfulness and obedience that we are given when we are baptized. When we view the whole world in relation to the Kingdom of Christ and His absolute authority (as I spoke about yesterday), we understand what we is expected of us and then we can grow in our faith joyfully. As you work to draw people to conversion, make sure that you are not starting them off on the wrong foot--after all, we are supposed to be telling them the "Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ".