Friday, November 30, 2007

Friday Quick Hits

*In a ridiculous and quite frightening story, a British teacher is sentenced to jail in Sudan for having her class give a teddy bear the name Muhammad. Shameful to put her in jail for this.

*Apparently the ACLU thinks that a football team voluntarily going to Church is wrong.

*Big numbers aren't always good. Example - more than 37,000 religious now over 70 yrs old.

*A group in Mass. wants to ban spanking.

*Another diocese, Kansas City this time, has started to quickly up the number of seminarians.

*Lastly, First Things ends is series on Mary with these two:
-The Mother of God at Prayer for the Kingdom of God - by Cornelius Plantinga Jr.
-The Brothers and Sisters of Jesus - by Matthew Levering

Spe Salvi

Here is your new encyclical. Review to come later.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

New Encyclical Released Friday

It will be on the theological virtue of Hope and entitled - Spe Salvi ("Saved By Hope").

Shameless Self Promotion

Plugging myself a bit. I am now working with a Catholic Speakers' Bureau (CMG Booking) to help book more speaking opportunities - check them out.

If you'd like me to speak at your parish, diocese, conference, etc. - then now is the time to set it up. Email me and we'll see what we can arrange! Please check out my website - (TheCatholicEvangelist.com). I will respond as soon as I can!

Need a referral on whether hiring me is a good bet? Then check out the testimonials from others on the website.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Radio Station

96.9 FM KACB is no longer Gregorian Chant alone. Turn it on now if you are in town!

Interesting

John Allen, by far the most fair of all the National Catholic Reporter's staff, has an interesting article about the baby Catholic church in Mongolia. While there is a lot to criticize about the approach the Bishop is taking, there is also a lot to be impressed with. Evangelizing a people who have never heard of Christ, have no sense of the history of the church and against a government that stonewalls you is admirable, even if the techniques are not what I would employ. But, what do I know, I have never been to Mongolia.

Mary for Catholics and Evangelicals continued

Today's First Things blog put out the newest writing by T.M. Moore on Mary entitled Call Me Blessed.

Sierra Club promotes abortion.

Read about it here. This quote from the article is illuminating:
"The answer in their minds is clear, environmental problems can be addressed by aborting the next generation."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

USA Today on Blogging

USA Today has an article about religious blogs today and prominently features three Catholic Bloggers. Worth a read.

Mary for Catholics and Evangelicals

First Things has a great series of articles they are doing this week on Mary. This comes from the group that started the ecumenical group Evangelicals and Catholics Together. So, not all the articles are from a Catholic perspective, but they all have something to tell us.

Fr. Oakes, a Catholic scholar, had the first one titled - Sola Gratia and Mary’s Immaculate Conception.
Now, JI Packer, the editor for Christianity Today, has one out - Mary: Mother and Disciple of Christ Jesus the Lord.

Analysis on Dialogue with Muslims

In the letter signed by Muslim scholars and leaders asking Christian leaders (first and foremost among them, the Pope) to join them in dialogue, I expected a quick response from the Vatican. But, it hasn't happened. Why? Well, this article has a good explanation of it all.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Letting it soak in

In the winter months my hands get very dry. This is in part because of the dry cold air and in part because I get a bit germ- phobic with everyone around me sniffling and sneezing. I wash my hands every chance I get.

I’ve noticed that the only “cure” for this dryness is to repeatedly and regularly apply a good hand lotion. I have to really glob it on and let it soak in a few times a day or my knuckles crack and bleed, not to mention my hands look like those of an 80 year old woman.

This morning as I was letting the mounds of lotion soak in I thought about all the life lessons that also have to soak in – repeatedly and regularly. They are “life lessons” not because they are lessons about life . . . but because they are lessons we will be learning our whole lives. We are never done learning them, until perhaps we meet our God face to face. Here are the lessons:

God loves me. Completely and totally. Regardless of what I’ve done (bad or good), what I’ve accomplished, how far I’ve wandered, or how zealously I’ve come running back. His love is the same. Unconditional. Steady. Steadfast, as the psalms say.

God is in control. Always. Despite my emotions, despite the seemingly hopeless situations, despite the chaos, He is in control. I read chapters 38 and 39 of the book of Job this week. If God can create and sustain the universe . . . surely He can work out my life’s “troubles”.

God loves everyone. God loves everyone as completely and totally as he loves me. Yup, even the person who annoys me most, has hurt me most, has inflicted harm on others, is inflicting harm on others. He loves them. Completely and totally. And He calls me to do the same!

God heals. It isn’t magic – “I pray this, therefore He must do this”. It is mystery. His love can transform our hearts and heal us. He brings new life. He changes. He transforms. He heals.

I need God. I seem to learn this one new every day, sometimes every moment. I need Him – for existence, for purpose, for tasks beyond my doing. I need Him.

We sometimes live in a dry and cold world, a sickly (sniffling and sneezing) world. We live in a world that says:
“You’re unlovable unless . . .”
“Take control of your life!”
“Love those who make you feel good.”
“Miracles are for Disney movies, mere fairy tales.”
“What you really need . . . is more stuff.”

It is easy to become dry and cracked. We must spend time regularly and repeatedly in the presence of our God, the God of love, and let His love soak into our hearts. We must absorb these lessons (and many others I’m sure) and let them restore us and refresh us.

Glob on these truths. Let them soak in.

Monday Tidbits

*Zenit interviews the newest Cardinal just an hour and a half to the south of us.

*The Washington Post does a story on the Nashville Dominicans. We have several Aggies in this order.

*Vatican reverses direction and now will not meet with Dalai Lama.

*Texas common sense tells us that babies are human too.

*The Pope tells the Cardinals what he expects of them - service and love. It is the same that Christ expects:
“Dear brothers –he then said- in becoming part of the College of Cardinals, God asks of you and entrusts you the service of love: love for God, for His Church, for your brothers and sisters with the maximum dedication, usque ad sanguinis effusionem, as the formula for the imposition of the biretta reads and as the crimson colour of your vestments show. You are the Apostles of God who is Love and witnesses of evangelical hope: this is what the Christian community expects from you”.

Pachelbel

Since there was no "Friday Fun" on Friday, I moved it to Monday.


Friday, November 23, 2007

I Am Not Kidding...

...someone accidentally swallowed the wrong medicine this morning. I can't come up with another reason why anyone would say that being pregnant is like slavery.

UPDATE - I found someone who said something even more remarkable. Apparently having children is "selfish", "bad for the environment" and killing a child instead of giving birth is good because "it would have been immoral to give birth to a child that I felt strongly would only be a burden to the world".

If you want to scream at your computer screen, then read this.

An Aggie Thanksgiving

A&M beat t.u. in football.
A&M wins the NIT pre-season basketball tournament.

Whoop!

Thank you God for my Aggie Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thank You!

True Thanksgiving = The Holy Eucharist.
True Thanksgiving does not equal Cowboys winning...but it doesn't hurt to make the day a little better.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Blogging will be sporadic, at best, the rest of this week. Happy Thanksgiving.

Thy Word

In 9th grade I auditioned for a select “pop” choir called Celebrations! (The exclamation point goes with the name, not the sentence.) Cheesy, I know. The song choice and choreography were equally cheesy. We sang a Gloria Estefan song with hand motions. For real, we did.

A zealous new Christian I picked Amy Grant’s Sing Your Praise to the Lord as my audition piece. To this day, I don’t know what I was thinking. It was the longest song ever with multiple key changes and instrumentals, not to mention I went to public school – awkward! Amazingly, I made the cut. But since then every Amy Grant song (no matter how good) has a cheesy, awkward, adolescent connotation to it. (Sorry Amy!)

Last month I was on a youth retreat that gave a new meaning to an otherwise cheesy notion. Saturday night we walked the Stations of the Cross in the dark through the woods in the hill country. It was awesome. Hilly terrain, profound darkness, peaceful silence, and bright stars. We had our flashlights on as we walked from station to station, but turned them off for the praying of each.

As we hiked back to the cabin we, again, used our flashlights. Part way down the trail my friend and I fell in line behind one of the adults who was carrying the camp’s lantern. I was surprised by how much light it gave off. It lit up a good 10 to 15 foot area. Clicking off my flashlight I turned to my friend saying, “If we stick close to him, we don’t need this!”

And it hit me.

So often I go through life with my cheap dollar store flashlight, scanning the road ahead with a tiny beam of light, peering desperately into the darkness.

This brought to mind a beautiful scripture (previously clouded by cheesy, awkward, adolescent connotations): “Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

This isn’t a cheesy song. It is truth. (And I'm sure that is what Amy was thinking when she recorded the song!)

We don’t need to peer into the darkness. We don’t need to frantically scan the upcoming terrain with our 5 inch weak beam of “light”. We have thy word. We have the Word. If I stick close to Him, He will “keep steady my steps” (Psalm 119:133) and “show me the path of life” (Psalm 16:11). He will “lead me in paths of righteousness” (Psalm 23:3) and “He will be our guide forever” (Psalm 48:14).

Though the path ahead may at times seem dark and uncertain, “Nevertheless I am continually with thee; thou dost hold my right hand. Thou dost guide me with thy counsel, and afterward thou wilt receive me to glory.” (Psalm 73:23-24) “For lo, those who are far from thee shall perish . . . But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge . . .” (Psalm 73:27-28)

Today may we all “draw near”, walk in His light, and make Him our refuge.

Hook-Ups

The Hook-Up Culture is not healthy. This reality isn't something that needs to be debated. It is a fact. But, apparently many people can't tell the that the sun gives us light either.

Of course, our culture tells us that as long as it makes you happy you should do it. LIES! If you want to see who helps sell those lies, look no further than these sources:
WARNING - THESE LINKS ARE NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART:
*Planned Parenthood
*Our Universities (the link to Columbia is shocking)
*Entertainment culture

Pray for chastity and purity.

Tuesday Quick Hits

*The Pope speaks out about the international campaign supporting abortion.

*Mexico City's Cathedral is closed until the government can heighten security, after leftist protesters burst into the Cathedral during Mass and started to threaten parishioners and clergy.

*Bishop in Venezuela speaks out against Chavez's totalitarian government. My guess is payback is coming soon.

*Bishop Broglio is named Archbishop of the US Military Archdiocese.

*As Mark Shea says "Behold the Ninja Throwing Star Rosary"

*Studies were skewed to show that homosexual parenting is no different than heterosexual parents. Of course, the lies come out now.

*Insight Scoop points to the Telegraph for this big news, if true:
The Pope is considering a dramatic overhaul of the Vatican in order to force a return to traditional sacred music.

After reintroducing the Latin Tridentine Mass, the Pope wants to widen the use of Gregorian chant and baroque sacred music.

In an address to the bishops and priests of St Peter's Basilica, he said that there needed to be "continuity with tradition" in their prayers and music.

He referred pointedly to "the time of St Gregory the Great", the pope who gave his name to Gregorian chant.

Gregorian chant has been reinstituted as the primary form of singing by the new choir director of St Peter's, Father Pierre Paul.

He has also broken with the tradition set up by John Paul II of having a rotating choir, drawn from churches all over the world, to sing Mass in St Peter's.

The Pope has recently replaced the director of pontifical liturgical celebrations, Archbishop Piero Marini, with a man closer to his heart, Mgr Guido Marini. It is now thought he may replace the head of the Sistine Chapel choir, Giuseppe Liberto.

The International Church Music Review recently criticised the choir, saying: "The singers wanted to overshout each other, they were frequently out of tune, the sound uneven, the conducting without any artistic power, the organ and organ playing like in a second-rank country parish church."

Mgr Valentin Miserachs Grau, the director of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music, which trains church musicians, said that there had been serious "deviations" in the performance of sacred music.

"How far we are from the true spirit of sacred music. How can we stand it that such a wave of inconsistent, arrogant and ridiculous profanities have so easily gained a stamp of approval in our celebrations?" he said.

He added that a pontifical office could correct the abuses, and would be "opportune". He said: "Due to general ignorance, especially in sectors of the clergy, there exists music which is devoid of sanctity, true art and universality."

Mgr Grau said that Gregorian chant was the "cardinal point" of liturgical music and that traditional music "should become again the living soul of the assembly".

The Pope favoured the idea of a watchdog for church music when he was the cardinal in charge of safeguarding Catholic doctrine.

He is known to be a strong supporter of Mgr Grau, who is also in charge of the Cappella Liberiana of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.

Monday, November 19, 2007

No Human Cloning for Dolly's Father

The man who lead the charge to clone Dolly, the sheep, has abandoned killing embryos for research. Read more on why it makes sense to him both socially and scientifically.
Note: The morality is never really addressed.

Conversion

The following letter is from a young man who struggled - for a while - with the direction God was leading him in life. I am blessed to play a very small part in his story. The letter is addressed to the former church he attended before becoming Catholic. It is written with much charity.

November 1, 2007
The Feast Day of All Saints

Dear Christian Brethren,

I praise God for the faith you have in His Son Jesus Christ. Your love for Him has been demonstrated by your love for people, me especially. It is with a heavy heart that I write to tell you of my departure from the Baptist/Fundamentalist church to go home to Rome. The Catholic Church, not an organization of men, but the Institution Jesus Himself created and commissioned, has called me to be reconciled to Her. Rather than send a short email that leads to many unanswered questions, I’ve decided to expound a bit on my journey crossing the Tiber. So you can get a broader picture, please allow me to start with a narrative:

I first visited Sagemont Church (in Houston) with a friend when I was 10. Brother John Morgan, the senior pastor since the church’s founding in 1966, gave all visitors, myself included, a fancy table Bible that probably would have cost upwards of $50 at a bookstore. When I took it home, my father was intrigued that a church would give something like that to someone who obviously couldn’t significantly tithe, or give to the church, for some time. My parents and I started attending regularly and became members shortly afterwards. In my Junior year of high school, I joined the church orchestra where I found “the little church in the big church.” I left for Texas A&M in the fall of 2002 and joined a little group called Fellowship Community Church, which later changed its name to Fellowship Church to stop us from calling it FCC. There, I met a few men who had a profound impact in my walk with Jesus Christ. Whenever I would come home to Houston, I would pick up my fiddle and play on Sundays at Sagemont and catch up with my mentors in that group.

I had joined the Young Conservatives of Texas, a political activist group, and was introduced to the Coalition for Life at one of YCT’s meetings. CFL was having a “40 Days for Life” campaign and needed crazy young college men to cover the night hours of their nonstop 960‐hour prayer vigil. I showed up one evening to find many Catholics there blaspheming God by praying the Rosary. As a well‐read, good‐intentioned Baptist, I felt it my responsibility to convince these poor heathen to repent of their apostasy and believe the Gospel. Now I’d witnessed to a good sum of people in my few years, many of them arguably professional anti‐Christians when it came to the depth of their discourse. Of course, my upbringing had taught me how to retort such theories as moral relativism, indifferentism, and post‐modernism. I also had a solid (or so I thought) education in battling the dogmas of the Whore of Babylon, the Roman Catholic Church. When I set forth prayerfully to lead these lost souls to the saving grace of Jesus Christ, I was dumbfounded to find they already had quite a bit of grace. One man in particular struck me as an enigma: Jason Ferguson. Now Jason was a senior in the Corps of Cadets, which immediately merited at least a little respect. He also knew Scripture, which was reassuring, but I was confused why he would remain a Catholic after reading the Word of God. His life is an incredible pro‐life story, but I was more interested to find he had actually been a Baptist before leaving “the faith” for Catholicism. So Jason and I talked several times at length about the similarities of our faiths, but mostly about the vast chasms that separated us. I’ll get into theology later.

As I continued volunteering with the Coalition, praying and counseling customers outside the Planned Parenthood in Bryan, I wanted to let my homegroup (small group weekly bible study/worship) get involved and share in the blessings of being active in pro‐life ministry. I announced the days that the abortion clinic would be performing their most horrid acts, and asked for prayer warriors to stand in unity outside. None of these faithful fundamentalists with whom I fellowshipped in College Station ever showed up on abortion days, so I stopped asking them after a couple months. After some of those who discipled me in Bryan/College Station graduated or moved away, I felt disconnected from Fellowship Church and started going to Central Baptist, which was a large church in which one could easily get lost, which is what I wanted to do. I desired to attend worship services where I could sing (they had an orchestra, but the string section was doing fine without me), listen to preaching of the Word, and have my weekly emotional time with God. Of course I still prayed often (mostly at the clinic), but I saw a special kind of fulfillment in these Catholics who went to mass several times each week. Admittedly, there are hundreds of thousands of mainstream cradle Catholics who fill the pews on Sundays and go about living as if there is not God the rest of the week, but these men and women (and children, too) were different. They did what they did not out of fear of Purgatory, or of being required to do penance after confessing auricularly to their priests, but out of love for God, love for each other, love for other Christians, and love for the lost. They also knew their faith, unlike the few Catholics for whom I had personally been responsible in ripping them from the jaws of the pope in the years of my vehement anti‐Catholic paradigm.

In early March 2006, Shawn Carney, the Executive Director of the Coalition for Life, a young man with whom I had been friends for about a year and a half took me to lunch and asked me to be on staff with the nonprofit organization. I asked for some time to consider and pray about it. Two days later I accepted, but wouldn’t start until mid May. In the summer of 2006, I was introduced to several prominent members of the Bryan/College Station community, met with a few pastors at various protestant churches, and trained a couple dozen sidewalk counselors. When meeting with the clergy (one of whom was a woman), I noticed a vast difference in their messages. Granted, I never spent more than an hour and a half with any of them, and our topic was quite narrow, but there didn’t seem to be any over‐arching “Christian” theme amongst them when it came to the issue of life. I began to accept the Church’s teaching on contraception as a profoundly beautiful thing and was surprised to find that prior to the 1920s, ALL Christian denominations rejected contraception. Today, only the ancient Church maintains that man’s (read: human’s) interference with the natural states and actions of our bodies for our own selfish convenience is a demonstrable lack of faith.

I read 23 Reasons to Reject Sola Scriptura, a booklet whose title was repulsive at first. You see, my tradition held that Scripture alone was our rule of faith, that it was sufficient, and nothing else could be placed aside it. This got me interested in reading more on the subject, so I picked up By What Authority: An Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition by Mark Shea and the dominoes began to fall.

I first attended mass on All Saints Day, November 1st, 2006. Though I did not fully understand why, I respected the Church’s wish that I abstain from partaking in what they called the Holy Eucharist. I continued going to mass 4‐6 times a week but remained in the pew during Holy Communion. One Monday I approached the alter to receive a blessing while partaking in spiritual communion. The priest, an old Fransiscan who only said Mass on Mondays, placed his hand upon my head and said, “may God bless you and grant you peace, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” In that short moment, I felt a wave of soothing calmness go through my body, and I couldn’t stop smiling for nearly an hour after Mass. I’ve walked up for blessings many times since, but this was a sort of conversion moment for me, much like that first moment I yielded to Our Lord when I prayed the “sinner’s prayer.” I met with the pastor of St. Mary’s parish and asked what I needed to do to be able to call myself Catholic. Though this certainly is not the only mode of God’s grace, the ordinary process one goes through to be reconciled to the Catholic Church is called the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA). At A&M, more than a dozen baptized Christians complete the program and receive their First Communion each semester. I met with the RCIA coordinator and planned on starting mid January.

I moved back to Houston mid‐December after much prayer and still had the intention of converting. I emailed the RCIA director at the local parish, but the email listed on the parish website must have been out of date. I went back to Sagemont and fell back in love with the community there. I tried so hard to fight my convictions, I even enrolled in the Catholic Connection class. (Former) Sister Stella Walsh has a wonderful heart and knows her curriculum well, but left many of my questions unanswered. The main concern I had was not to be a hindrance to those Catholics who knew not their faith, but could find God more easily at Sagemont, from getting out of the class what its original purpose was: pointing out Scriptures that seem to disagree with Catholic dogma. After several weeks of trying to learn what I expected to be advanced techniques for conquering the growing Catholicism in my own soul, and after being told (nicely) that I was to listen more and speak less (in a class of half a dozen), I left the class.

Reading upwards of 30 volumes on either viewpoint and from testimonies I’d heard personally, I found those who left the Church for fundamentalism never really knew Her and those who left fundamentalism for the Church left so much because they were surprised by truth. I continued to war within myself for several months leading up to the wedding of two Sidewalk Counselors who volunteered at the CFL. It was at Jacob & Christine’s wedding, held at St. Mary’s in College Station, that I realized I needed to pick up the cross of leaving Sagemont and follow Him as a Catholic. When I returned, I called Shawn and told him that due to faith and reason, I was finally ready to convert and he came back with a name: Monsignor James Golasinski of Annunciation Church, right next to Minute Maid Park. I contacted him and we started meeting individually in the rectory on Wednesday nights. This is why I haven’t been to an orchestra rehearsal in some time. I’ve also started praying at the Planned Parenthood on Fannin as part of the nationwide 40 Days for Life (inspired by the local campaign in Bryan that started all this) immediately after my meetings with Msgr., so no Bruce, I wasn’t lying outright when I omitted the first portion of my Wednesday evening ritual. I’m more than half‐way through my instruction and should be fully welcomed into the Church shortly.

I love Sagemont for your mission to be Living Proof of a Loving God to a Watching World, but I cannot forsake my Lord or His Church just so I can feel happy at my church. I must withdraw from the orchestra, from tithing, from attending Worship Services, and from all membership with Sagemont Church.

You all have had some kind of impact on my life or else you wouldn’t be getting this letter. Please forward it to whomever you feel was omitted, or to any you think might benefit from it. I ask only that it be transmitted in full without modification. I know there will be several questions as well as Scriptural challenges on this dogma or that doctrine, but as I’ve been writing this for the past couple weeks, I’ve taken much out that might help answer those questions so that the length could be more manageable and it wouldn’t turn into a tome of Catholic apologetics; there are several already published that cover much more than I would be able. Those of you who would like to enter into a more detailed dialog, please feel free to respond. For all of you, please join me in praying Jesus’s will for all Christians as proclaimed in the 17th Chapter of John: that we may be one. I long for the time when we can be in full communion together, be it at Mass here on earth, or when we’ve beheld the Beatific Vision in Heaven.

In Jesus,
John Barnett

Pope Speaks To College Students

The following remarks were made by Pope Benedict XVI on Nov. 9 during an audience he granted at the Vatican’s Clementine Hall.

“Study … represents a providential opportunity to progress along the road of faith, because well-cultivated intelligence opens man's heart to listening to the voice of God, highlighting the importance of discernment and humility.

In modern society, there exists a race, sometimes a desperate race, towards appearance and possession at all costs, at the expense, unfortunately, of being. The Church, teacher of humanity, never tires of exhorting people, especially the young of whom you are a part, to remain watchful and not to fear choosing 'alternative' paths, which only Christ can indicate.

Jesus calls all His friends to live in sobriety and solidarity, to create sincere and disinterested emotional relationships with others. From you, dear young students, He asks for honest commitment to study, cultivating a mature sense of responsibility and a shared interest in the common good. May your years at university be, then, training for a convinced and courageous evangelical witness. And to realize your mission, seek to cultivate an intimate friendship with the divine Master …

Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday Fun - Colbert and The Pope

Quick Hits - Friday

*Want to know everything about why The Golden Compass is a book and movie we shouldn't support? Then you can read the new book called the Pied Piper of Atheism.

*Remind me never to say anything stupid to this priest.

*The Pope's next encyclical is being translated and should be out in Advent. It is on the virtue of Hope. Remember the first one was on Charity. I guess we can expect Faith next.

*The next time you stay at a hotel you may not find a Bible, but rather an "intimacy kit". Ug.

*Cardinal O'Malley comes out swinging at pro-abortion Democrats.

*JP Moreland apparently is causing quite a stir in evangelical circles for daring to ask if Evangelicals focus too much on the Bible. Very interesting read.

*The Pope has given some great guidelines for Scriptural interpretation:
Continuing his catechesis initiated last week on St. Jerome in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Benedict XVI noted that "for Jerome, a fundamental criterion for interpreting Scripture was that it should harmonize with the Magisterium of the Church."

In this regard, he noted that "we cannot interpret Scripture alone because we come across too many closed doors and fall into error. The Bible was written by the People of God and for the People of God. ... Only in this communion of the People of God can we enter 'with ourselves' into the heart of the truth that God Himself wishes to tell us."

The Pope stressed how Jerome "did not overlook ethical aspects and often recalled the duty of living in accordance with the divine Word. Such coherence is indispensable for all Christians, and especially for preachers" whose actions must be "in keeping with their words."

The saint emphasized that "the Gospel must be translated into attitudes of true charity because the Person of Christ is present in every human being. ... And Jerome makes it clear that 'it is yours to clothe Christ in the poor, to visit Him in the sick, to feed Him in the hungry, to shelter Him in the homeless'."

St. Jerome "also left us a rich and varied teaching on Christian asceticism," said the pontiff. "He recalls the fact that courageous commitment to perfection requires constant vigilance, frequent mortification (with moderation and prudence), assiduous intellectual or manual work to avoid idleness and, above all, obedience to God."

Finally, the Holy Father highlighted the contribution of St. Jerome to Christian teaching through education. "Among Jerome's main achievements as a pedagogue we must highlight the importance he attributed to healthy and complete education from earliest infancy, ... and the need for study in order to achieve a more complete human formation. Moreover, a question somewhat overlooked in antiquity but considered vital by our author was the promotion of women, whom he recognizes as having the right to a full education."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Logan. A Wise Son of God.

We can all learn something from this young man.
Logan is a 13 year-old boy who lives on a ranch in a very small town in Nebraska. Logan listens to Christian Radio station 89.3FM KSBJ which broadcasts from Houston. Logan called the radio station distraught because he had to take down a calf . His words have wisdom beyond his years.


A Day In the Life Of Benedict XVI

Fascinating video, even if I didn't understand 90% of it.


Tip O' The Hat to AP.

Bishops Winding Down Meeting

The US Bishops approved the statement on Faithful Citizenship (warning - large PDF document in link). It was approved with a 98% vote. Here are John Allen's comments on some of the changes that came after the discussion.

The only two criticisms I have are that they didn't clearly define a uniform policy on how to deal with dissenting politicians and Communion and a clearer moral decision-making process. I understand they don't want to infringe upon the freedom of conscience of their flocks, but unfortunately (as they readily admit in the document), many of those same consciences aren't formed well and need a clearer guide to help form them.

With that said. Read this section:

Making Moral Choices

31. Decisions about political life are complex and require the exercise of a well-formed conscience aided by prudence. This exercise of conscience begins with outright opposition to laws and other policies that violate human life or weaken its protection. Those who knowingly, willingly, and directly support public policies or legislation that undermine fundamental moral principles cooperate with evil.

32. Sometimes morally flawed laws already exist. In this situation, the process of framing legislation to protect life is subject to prudential judgment and “the art of the possible.” At times this process may restore justice only partially or gradually. For example, Pope John Paul II taught that when a government official who fully opposes abortion cannot succeed in completely overturning a pro-abortion law, he or she may work to improve protection for unborn human life, “limiting the harm done by such a law” and lessening its negative impact as much as possible (Evangelium Vitae, no. 73). Such incremental improvements in the law are acceptable as steps toward the full restoration of justice. However, Catholics must never abandon the moral requirement to seek full protection for all human life from the moment of conception until natural death.

33. Prudential judgment is also needed in applying moral principles to specific policy choices in areas such as the war in Iraq, housing, health care, immigration, and others. This does not mean that all choices are equally valid, or that our guidance and that of other Church leaders is just another political opinion or policy preference among many others. Rather, we urge Catholics to listen carefully to the Church’s teachers when we apply Catholic social teaching to specific proposals and situations. The judgments and recommendations that we make as bishops on specific issues do not carry the same moral authority as statements of universal moral teachings. Nevertheless, the Church’s guidance on these matters is an essential resource for Catholics as they determine whether their own moral judgments are consistent with the Gospel and with Catholic teaching.

34. Catholics often face difficult choices about how to vote. This is why it is so important to vote according to a well-formed conscience that perceives the proper relationship among moral goods. A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter’s intent is to support that position. In such cases a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity.

35. There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.

36. When all candidates hold a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma. The voter may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods.

37. In making these decisions, it is essential for Catholics to be guided by a well-formed conscience that recognizes that all issues do not carry the same moral weight and that the moral obligation to oppose intrinsically evil acts has a special claim on our consciences and our actions. These decisions should take into account a candidate’s commitments, character, integrity, and ability to influence a given issue. In the end, this is a decision to be made by each Catholic guided by a conscience formed by Catholic moral teaching.

38. It is important to be clear that the political choices faced by citizens not only have an impact on general peace and prosperity but also may affect the individual’s salvation. Similarly, the kinds of laws and policies supported by public officials affect their spiritual well-being. Pope Benedict XVI, in his recent reflection on the Eucharist as “the sacrament of charity,” challenged all of us to adopt what he calls “a Eucharistic form of life.” This means that the redeeming love we encounter in the Eucharist should shape our thoughts, our words, and our decisions, including those that pertain to the social order. The Holy Father called for “Eucharistic consistency” on the part of every member of the Church: It is important to consider what the Synod Fathers described as Eucharistic consistency, a quality which our lives are objectively called to embody. Worship pleasing to God can never be a purely private matter, without consequences for our relationships with others: it demands a public witness to our faith. Evidently, this is true for all the baptized, yet it is especially incumbent upon those who, by virtue of their social or political position, must make decisions regarding fundamental values, such as respect for human life, its defense from conception to natural death, the family built upon marriage between a man and a woman, the freedom to educate one’s children and the promotion of the common good in all its forms. . . . (Sacramentum Caritatis, no. 83)

39. The Holy Father, in a particular way, called on Catholic politicians and legislators to recognize their grave responsibility in society to support laws shaped by these fundamental human values, and urged them to oppose laws and policies that violate life and dignity at any stage from conception to natural death. He affirmed the responsibility of bishops to teach these values consistently to all of their people.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

St. Mary's on TV

Here is a link to the story about the 10 Commandments challenge. No video is up on it.

People passing through Rudder Plaza on the Texas A&M campus Wednesday were able to participate in the Ten Commandment Challenge.

A recent study revealed more Americans are able to name the ingredients in a Big Mac than can name the Ten Commandments. The Catholic Students Association at Texas A&M decided to put this study to the test.

The first 400 students to recite the Ten Commandments correctly were appropriately awarded a coupon for a Big Mac.

"I think that the people that are taking the challenge are tearing it up. They're doing a really good job. They know the Ten Commandments," Marcel Lejeune, Assistant Director of Campus Ministries at Saint Mary's said. "A&M is a little bit different. More people know the Ten Commandments than a lot of other places."

Aggie Evangelists

Today we had a new program going on called the "Ten Commandments Challenge". There was a recent survey that more people know the ingredients of a Big Mac than the 10 Commandments. Therefore, we set out to do something about it. We went on campus and had students tell us the 10 Commandments. If they got them right (or at least close), then we gave them a coupon for a free Big Mac. We ended up giving out about 200-250 coupons for Big Macs. It was a lot of fun and a great, non-offensive, way to evangelize. We will also be on to the local news tonight.


Another project we have been doing recently is one that I started at Texas Tech and brought to A&M. It is called "Ask-A-Catholic-A-Question". I have trained students in some basic evangelization techniques and then thrown them "into the fire". They wear some obnoxiously-colored t-shirts (see pictures) and they go on campus in teams of three. Currently there are 5 teams that go on campus from 1-2 hours per week and answer any questions that come their way. They get everything from "what time is Mass" to "explain the Catholic view of justification in light of St. Paul's teaching". It is another great way to evangelize. The best response is sometimes "I don't know, but will find out and we can talk again", because it gives a chance to build a relationship.















Eye-catching color!
















I hand out a coupon to a student.





















Xavier, a student, issues the 10 Commandments challenge and helps answer questions.

Catholics and Orthodox to Unite? Maybe.

It certainly is something to hope and pray for.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Archbishop Naumann Takes on Politicians

In an article that First Things took from a speech that Archbishop Naumann, of Kansas City, presented a while back, we read:

We need talented and principled Catholic men and women to seek elective office. Public life requires enormous sacrifices on the part of those who do it for the right reasons and motives. I have the highest admiration for the dedication and integrity of many Catholics who serve at the national, state, and local levels in government.

At the same time, it saddens me to see the many Catholics in public life who abandon the moral teachings of the Church on fundamental human-rights issues in order to appease the leadership of their party or because they believe it necessary to get elected. We do not need Catholics serving in public office who are willing to check their principles at the doorway of the legislative chamber. A Catholic in public life must allow the moral values of his faith to inform his positions.

Certainly, a Catholic elected to public office must make prudential judgments on how to best advance the rights and the dignity of the human person. There are many issues, in fact most issues, where Catholic politicians may disagree and adopt different policy positions—a just immigration policy, for example, or public-assistance programs for the poor, or health-care policy, or military engagement, or taxation policies.

He then gets to the heart of the matter:

The issue of the scandal caused by Catholic politicians who persistently act contrary to Catholic moral teaching on matters of intrinsic evil has become a significant problem. Catholics and others are confused about the teaching and the seriousness of the teaching of the Church on fundamental human-rights issues, such as the sanctity of human life, when Catholics in public life contradict this church teaching while still claiming to be faithful Catholics.

The bishop must have pastoral concern for the Catholic politician as a member of his flock. He must attempt through pastoral dialogue to enlighten the Catholic politician about the moral seriousness of his or her position. At the same time, he must protect his flock from being misled.
Then he knocks it out of the park:

Every Catholic should be concerned about a wide range of issues, as noted above. But we must realize that those issues that involve intrinsic evils—direct attacks on human life, abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, or direct attacks on the institution of the family (for example, a redefinition of marriage to equate with same-sex unions or cohabitation)—must assume a moral priority. While all issues are important, all are not equally important from a moral analysis.

Even if we have our priorities correctly ordered, we may or probably will not find a perfect candidate. Sometimes we must choose between a candidate who opposes legal abortion in most instances but not all and one who supports the legalization of abortion without restriction. Or we may be presented with a choice of a candidate who supports all abortions but opposes funding of abortion and one who supports legal abortion and tax-funding of abortions.

In such cases, we must choose the lesser of two evils or, conversely, the choice that will yield the greater good. We should not allow the perfect to become the enemy of the good. In other words, it is not prudent not to vote because we have no perfect choice rather than attempt to elect someone who is imperfect but is significantly better than the alternative.

In a 2004 memo, addressed to inquiries by American bishops about the responsibilities of Catholic politicians and voters, then Cardinal Ratzinger stated: “A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favor of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.”

This inevitably leads to the question: What could be a proportionate reason for more than forty-five million children killed by abortion during the past thirty-five years and the much greater number of adult men and women spiritually and emotionally scarred by their participation in abortion?

The Catholic community needs to find its voice on the abortion issue. This is not about supporting a particular party. There are heroic members of both parties who defend the sanctity of human life. Unfortunately, at this moment, one party has adopted a position that faithful Catholics and others that share their view about abortion are not to be permitted roles of leadership within the party.

Our ultimate goal cannot be to capture just one political party and keep them in power. Our goal must be to build such a broad consensus that neither the Democratic nor the Republican party will tolerate someone who advocates legal abortion to represent them, just as today neither party allows an anti-Semite or racist to speak for their party.

Jean Garton, for many years the leader of Lutherans for Life, uses a wonderful biblical image for the attitude of the Christian pro-lifer in the face of the apparent insurmountable strength of the pro-abortion forces in our time. She invites those engaged in the struggle to protect life to remember the fear of the adult soldiers of Israel when confronted with the Philistine warrior giant Goliath. They looked at his size and strength and concluded he was impossible to defeat. The boy, David, on the other hand, armed only with his slingshot and a few pebbles, looked at the immenseness of Goliath and thought: How can I miss?

As Christians, we know that the victory of life has already been won and we are just privileged to take part in its unfolding in this particular moment of human history. We have to spend our time in this world doing something. To what greater enterprise could we devote our time and energy than defending the sanctity of innocent human life?



I recommend reading the whole thing.


USCCB Meeting Updates

The US Bishops have elected their new president, and as expected, Cardinal George of Chicago will be taking over. As Vice President, Bishop Kicanas of Tuscon won on the third ballot. Our own Bishop Aymond received about 12% on the first ballot.

I have met Bishop Kicanas before and can tell you that he is one of the most engaging Bishops I have ever met. I don't know too much about his pastoral style, but I am guessing he is liked by most of his brother bishops. For him to beat out some other Bishops that I am more familiar with, and who are very popular in the USCCB, is quite an accomplishment.

Edit - Committee chairs have been elected as well (in the next cycle of elections, these are the men eligible to be VP and then the VP almost always becomes President).
  • Cultural Diversity in Life of the Church -- Archbishop Jose Gomez of San Antonio
  • Clergy, Consecrated Life and Religious -- Cardinal Sean O'Malley OFM Cap. of Boston
  • Catholic Education -- Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry of Los Angeles
  • Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs -- Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta
  • Evangelization and Catechesis -- Bishop Richard Malone of Portland in Maine
  • International Justice and Peace -- Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany
  • Canonical Affairs and Church Governance -- Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Chicago
  • Protection of Children and Young People -- Bishop Blase Cupich of Rapid City.
For those bemoaning the failure of the Bishops in electing Archbishop Burke to either the VP or Canonical Affairs chairmanship, then read this post by Ed Peters - one of my profs.

Monday, November 12, 2007

NFP gets Government and Insurance Coding

Now you can file your NFP training sessions with your insurance company.
Read about it here.

Random USCCB tidbits

The US Bishops are meeting in DC this week. I was there two years ago at this meeting (to accept an award for the campus ministry at Texas Tech) and it is a unique experience. You can't walk ten feet without running into an apostle. But, I digress. Here are a few interesting tidbits to start the meetings off:

1 - The Pope's trip to the US has been confirmed.

2 - Apparently the Document on Faithful Citizenship is going through some changes. We shall see.

3 - Liturgical music guidelines are going through a review - good.

4 - Ongoing updates can be found here when they issue documents.

5 - Finally for a preview of what the Bishops have on their plate, read John Allen's column.

Sites covering the meetings:
-Whispers in the Loggia
-American Papist
-John Allen

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Go against the tide, Pope urges students

Catholic World News : Go against the tide, Pope urges students: "Vatican, Nov. 9, 2007 (CWNews.com) - Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) said that young Catholics are 'called to go against the tide,' during a November 9 meeting with an Italian students' organization. In contemporary society, the Holy Father said, too many people are caught up in 'a race, sometimes a desperate race, toward appearance and possession at all costs-- at the expense, unfortunately, of being.' Young Catholics, he said, should be constantly cautioned to avoid that mistake, and 'not to fear choosing alternative paths which only Christ can indicate.' The Pope was speaking to members of the Italian Catholic University Federation (FUCI), who were celebrating the group's 100th anniversary. In his remarks, Pope Benedict called attention to the illustrious history of FUCI, which has seen two of its former members beatified (Piergiorgio Frassti and Alberto Marvelli), and two others rise to prominent in national politics only to be 'barbarously murdered (Aldo Mori and Vittorio Bachelet). He took note, too, of the part played by Pope Paul VI, who was 'the principal ecclesiastical assistant to FUCI during the difficult years of fascism.' In university life today, the Pope continued, students are confronted with appeals to 'arrogance and the achievement of success at all costs.' In opposition to that"

Friday, November 9, 2007

Apples and God

Q - "From a friend who likes philosophy - Think of an apple on the table. You and your friend see the apple. You will never be able to describe it exactly the same way because you both experience the apple differently. We still understand that there is only one apple; how is a God any different? Why can we differ on our perception of an apple yet still both be talking about the same apple, and not both be talking about the same God (Christian, Muslim, Jewish, etc.)? First, because I can measure the apple. Second, the physical apple is the same, but the conception and perception is different. In the case of a God, there is no physical substance. Your conception of God is limited to your own subjective experience.....which leads to the question: Can we objectively demonstrate the existence of God?"

A - Thanks for the questions.

First - can we objectively prove God's existence? To say yes, would mean that God is scientifically measurable as an apple is. So, in that sense, certainly not. But, there are arguments for God's existence that are rational and objective in a philosophical sense. Not, that we prove God's existence beyond a shadow of a doubt or that we prove it in the way science proves the existence of the apple, but rather we can show that a belief in God's existence is rational and true. To scientifically prove God would make God into less than God.

Second - is our concept of God subjective? In a certain sense it is and in a certain sense it is not. Each of us experiences life as an individual subject. But, this subjectivism does not mean that there can therefore be no objective knowledge. If this is the case, then there is no universal truth. Yet, for Christians, we believe that God objectively reveals Himself to us through His Son Jesus Christ - who is The Truth.

Truth is independent of our conceptualization of it or our experience/knowledge of it. Truth is.

It seems your friend has been reading quite a bit of Kant or Hume. The problem with there agnosticism is that they deny truth or our ability to know it. But, for a Christian, we would argue for the simple law of non-contradiction. Not all religions can be true if they contradict one another. How can Christianity / Islam / Judaism all be the same when we have exclusive claims about the nature of God. Jesus is or isn't divine. The truth about Him cannot be both. In examining the evidence surrounding Christ, I believe Him to be the Truth itself - a divine truth revealed to us objectively.

Bishop Aymond on Golden Compass

In today's "E-Pistle", Bishop Aymond had the following:
The upcoming movie version of “The Golden Compass” has led to questions about the trilogy of books by Philip Pullman. Catholic schools and religious education programs should not encourage children to read any of these books and they should not be held in their libraries. "The Golden Compass” attempts to devalue religion, especially Christianity. Our children deserve better education than what is in these books and movie.

Quick Hits - Friday Edition

*What would happen if Roe was reversed? A pro-abortion law firm says 30 states are set to ban abortion.

*One Vatican official (which really means little unless that official is the Pope) thinks that Sacred Music could use a governing office in the Vatican to clean it up.

*Pope encourages spreading the truth about the dignity of life.

*Archbishop Burke threatens excommunication for two women who want to be ordained "priests".

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Quick Hits - Thursday Edition

*China refutes accusations of banning Bibles at Olympic village.

*Tony Blair may become Catholic soon.

*The abortion and breast cancer link is studied again. The insurance field takes notice.

*Senators seek to block federal funding of abortion.

US Bishops on Politics - Part III

Below is the final section of the US Bishops Document on Faithful Citizenship.
Part I can be found here.
Part II can be found here.

Remember, that this is a draft. A well-done draft, but a draft nonetheless. Also, the Bishops didn't ask for my commentary, I just offer it for the readers.

(my emphasis added in italics - with my commentary in brackets[] )

Section III:

Goals for Political Life:
Challenges for Citizens, Candidates, and Public Officials

As Catholics, we are led to raise questions for political life other than “Are you better off than you were two or four years ago?” Our focus is not on party affiliation, ideology, economics, or even competence and capacity to perform duties, as important as such issues are. Rather, we focus on what protects or threatens human life and dignity.

Catholic teaching challenges voters and candidates, citizens and elected officials, to consider the moral and ethical dimensions of public policy issues. In light of ethical principles, we bishops offer the following policy goals that we hope will guide Catholics as they form their consciences and reflect on the moral dimensions of their public choices. Not all issues are equal; these ten goals address matters of different moral weight and urgency.[again they rightly emphasize that not all issues are equally important] These and similar goals can help voters and candidates act on ethical principles rather than particular interests and partisan allegiances. We hope Catholics will ask candidates how they intend to help our nation pursue these important goals:

· Address the preeminent requirement to protect the weakest in our midst—innocent unborn children—by restricting and bringing to an end to the destruction of unborn children through abortion. [amen]

· Keep our nation from turning to violence to address fundamental problems—a million abortions each year to deal with unwanted pregnancies, euthanasia and assisted suicide to deal with the burdens of illness and disability, the destruction of human embryos in the name of research, the use of the death penalty to combat crime, and imprudent resort to war to address international disputes. [the last issue is one of prudence alone?]

· Define the central institution of marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman, and provide better support for family life morally, socially, and economically, so that our nation helps parents raise their children with respect for life, sound moral values, and an ethic of stewardship and responsibility.

· Achieve comprehensive immigration reform that secures our borders, treats immigrant workers fairly, offers an earned path to citizenship, respects the rule of law, and addresses the factors that compel people to leave their own countries. [this is a very touchy subject that needs to be fleshed out further]

· Help families and children overcome poverty: ensuring access to and choice in education, as well as decent work at decent wages and adequate assistance for the vulnerable in our nation, while also helping to overcome widespread hunger and poverty around the world, especially in the areas of development assistance, debt relief, and international trade. ["For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat" Matt 25:35]

· Provide health care coverage for the growing number of people without it, while respecting human life, human dignity, and religious freedom in our health care system.

· Continue to oppose policies that reflect prejudice, hostility toward immigrants, religious bigotry, and other forms of discrimination. [which policies reflect such things?]

· Encourage families, community groups, economic structures, and government to work together to overcome poverty, pursue the common good, and care for creation, with full respect for religious groups and their right to address social needs in accord with their basic moral convictions.

· Establish and comply with moral limits on the use of military force—examining for what purposes it may be used, under what authority, and at what human cost.

· Join with others around the world to pursue peace, protect human rights and religious liberty, and advance economic justice and care for creation.

I once again reiterate that I believe this document is a vast improvement over the previous one. I also believe there is still room for improvement. I am sure the discussion of the full body of Bishops will be an interesting one. I also expect amendments to be forwarded and few, if any, to be accepted. In particular, there are too many Bishops with too many differing approaches of how to address individual politicians.

US Bishops on Politics - Part II

Below is the text of Part II of the Bishops' document on Faithful Citizenship, with commentary.
My commentary on Part I can be found here.

Again I issue this warning- this post will be long. Remember, that this is a draft. A well-done draft, but a draft nonetheless. Also, the Bishops didn't ask for my commentary, I just offer it for the readers.

(my emphasis added in italics - with my commentary in brackets[] )

Part II begins as follows:

Politics is about values and issues as well as candidates and officeholders. In this brief summary, we bishops call attention to issues with significant moral dimensions that should be carefully considered in each campaign and as policy decisions are made in the years to come. As the descriptions below indicate, some issues involve principles that can never be violated, such as the fundamental right to life [never means never - pro-choice politicians]. Others reflect our judgment about the best way to apply Catholic principles to policy issues [notice a differentiation of kind, not degree]. No summary could fully reflect the depth and details of the positions taken through the work of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) [because there would be no trees left if all the Bishops got to put their political opinions in this]. While people of good will may sometimes choose different ways to apply and act on some of our principles, Catholics cannot ignore their inescapable moral challenges or simply dismiss the Church’s guidance or policy directions that flow from these principles. For a more complete review of these policy directions and their moral foundations, see the statements listed at the end of this document.

The specific policies below are bolded in the document, but I removed the bolding for my commentary. This section gets quite long, but starts with the life issues:

Our 1998 statement Living the Gospel of Life declares, “Abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human life and dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental good and the condition for all others” (no. 5). Abortion, the deliberate killing of a human being before birth, is never morally acceptable and must always be opposed. Cloning and destruction of human embryos for research or even for potential cures are always wrong. The purposeful taking of human life by assisted suicide and euthanasia is not an act of mercy, but an unjustifiable assault on human life. Genocide, torture, and the intentional targeting of noncombatants in war or terrorist attacks are always wrong. [Notice the strong language - never, oppose, always wrong, unjustifiable assault, etc.]

Laws that legitimize any of these practices are profoundly unjust and immoral. Our Conference supports laws and policies to protect human life to the maximum degree possible, including constitutional protection for the unborn and legislative efforts to end abortion and euthanasia, as well as laws and programs that promote childbirth and adoption over abortion and that provide assistance to pregnant women and children.[The Bishops do actually care for the women, contradicting those who accuse pro-lifers of only caring about the babies.] The USCCB calls for greater assistance for those who are sick and dying, through health care coverage for all and effective and compassionate palliative care. We recognize that addressing this complex issue effectively will require collaborative efforts between the public and private sectors and across party lines. Policies and decisions regarding biotechnology and human experimentation should respect the inherent dignity of human life from its very beginning, regardless of the circumstances of its origin. Respect for human life and dignity is also the foundation for essential efforts to address and overcome the hunger, disease, poverty, and violence that take the lives of so many innocent people.

Next we get into war:

Catholics must also work to avoid war and to promote peace. Nations should protect the right to life by finding more effective ways to prevent conflicts, to resolve them by peaceful means, and to promote reconstruction and reconciliation in the wake of conflicts. Nations have a right and obligation to defend human life and the common good against terrorism, aggression, and similar threats.[while there is a right for the state to defend itself, there are also just war criteria that have to be met for a war to be morally just] This duty demands effective responses to terror, moral assessment of and restraint in the means used, respect for ethical limits on the use of force, a focus on the roots of terror, and fair distribution of the burdens of responding to terror. The Church has raised serious moral concerns about preemptive or preventive use of military force. [but has not finished the discussion] Our Church also recognizes the moral right of military personnel to conscientious objection to a particular war or military procedure.

I have left out another paragraph about war. The next paragraph is on the death penalty:

Society has a duty to defend life against violence and to reach out to victims of crime. Yet our nation’s increasing reliance on the death penalty cannot be justified. Because we have other ways to protect society that are more respectful of human life, the USCCB supports efforts to end the use of the death penalty and, in the meantime, to restrain its use through broader use of DNA evidence, access to effective counsel, and efforts to address unfairness and injustice related to application of the death penalty. [this is very strong language, much stronger than the Catechism]

Family life is next:

The family is the basic cell of human society. The role, responsibilities, and needs of families should be central national priorities. Marriage must be defined, recognized, and protected as a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman, and as the source of the next generation and the protective haven for children. Policies on taxes, work, divorce, immigration, and welfare should help families stay together and should reward responsibility and sacrifice for children. Wages should allow workers to support their families, and public assistance should be available to help poor families to live in dignity.[not quite sure how we define this] Such assistance should be provided in a manner that promotes eventual financial autonomy.[this is a nice touch]

Children are to be valued, protected, and nurtured. As a Church, we affirm our commitment to the protection and well-being of children in our own institutions and in all of society.

Parents—the first and most important educators—have a fundamental right to choose the education best suited to the needs of their children, including public, private, and religious schools. Government, through such means as tax credits and publicly funded scholarships, should help provide resources for parents, especially those of modest means, to exercise this basic right without discrimination. Students in all educational settings should have opportunities for moral and character formation. [school choice is a right of parents that is rarely voiced, I am glad they did so here]

Families and values are shaped by all forms of media—print, broadcast, and Internet. To protect children and families, responsible regulation is needed that respects freedom of speech yet also addresses policies that have lowered standards, permitted increasingly offensive material, and reduced opportunities for non-commercial religious programming.

Regulation should limit concentration of media control, resist management that is primarily focused on profit, and encourage a variety of program sources, including religious programming. [I don't quite understand what they are arguing for here] TV rating systems and appropriate technology can assist parents in supervising what their children view.

The Internet offers both great benefits and significant problems. The benefits should be available to all students regardless of income. Because access to pornographic and violent material is becoming easier, vigorous enforcement of existing obscenity and child pornography laws is necessary, as well as technology that assists parents, schools, and libraries in blocking unwanted or undesirable materials. [education about how harmful porn is, treatment for addiction and more also needs to come from the Church]

Now for Social Justice:

Economic decisions and institutions should be assessed according to whether they protect or undermine the dignity of the human person.[Exactly. We need to be careful of uncritically supporting a market that doesn't take the human person into consideration] Social and economic policies should foster the creation of jobs for all who can work with decent working conditions and just wages. Barriers to equal pay and employment for women and those facing unjust discrimination must be overcome. Catholic social teaching supports the right of workers to choose whether to organize, join a union, and bargain collectively, and to exercise these rights without reprisal. It also affirms economic freedom, initiative, and the right to private property. [*cough* - imminent domain stupidity - *cough*] Workers, owners, employers, and unions should work together to create decent jobs, build a more just economy, and advance the common good.

Welfare policy should reduce poverty and dependency, strengthen family life, and help families leave poverty through work, training, and assistance with child care, health care, housing, and transportation.[in other words, don't just throw money into a broken welfare system] It should also provide a safety net for those who cannot work. Improving the Earned Income Tax Credit and child tax credits, available as refunds to families in greatest need, will help lift low-income families out of poverty.[maybe]

Faith-based groups deserve recognition and support, not as a substitute for government, but as responsive, effective partners, especially in the poorest communities and countries. [subsidiarity] The USCCB actively supports conscience clauses, opposes any effort to undermine the ability of faith-based groups to preserve their identity and integrity as partners with government, and is committed to protecting long-standing civil rights and other protections for both religious groups and the people they serve. Government bodies should not require Catholic institutions to compromise their moral convictions to participate in government health or human service programs.[amen]

Social Security should provide adequate, continuing, and reliable income in an equitable manner for low- and average-wage workers and their families when these workers retire or become disabled, and for the survivors when a wage-earner dies.[how we define "low" and "average" makes a big difference in policy here]

Affordable and accessible health care is an essential safeguard of human life and a fundamental human right. With more than 47 million Americans lacking health care coverage, it is also an urgent national priority. Reform of the nation’s health care system needs to be rooted in values that respect human dignity, protect human life, and meet the needs of the poor and uninsured, especially born and unborn children, pregnant women, immigrants, and other vulnerable populations.[there is no easy or quick fix here. The issue of socialization is a lightening rod, esp. when our system is still the best in the world] Religious groups should be able to provide health care without compromising their religious convictions.[esp. in the contraception/sterilization areas in conjunction with other attacks on human dignity] The USCCB supports measures to strengthen Medicare and Medicaid. Our Conference also advocates effective, compassionate care that reflects Catholic moral values for those suffering from HIV/AIDS and those coping with addictions.

The lack of safe, affordable housing requires a renewed commitment to increase the supply of quality housing and to preserve, maintain, and improve existing housing through public/private partnerships, especially with religious groups and community organizations.[subsidiarity again] The USCCB continues to oppose unjust housing discrimination and to support measures to meet the credit needs of low-income and minority communities.

A first priority for agriculture policy should be food security for all. Because no one should face hunger in a land of plenty, Food Stamps, the Special Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and other nutrition programs need to be strong and effective.[preferential option for the poor isn't optional - but not every program is a fulfillment of it] Farmers and farm workers who grow, harvest, and process food deserve a decent return for their labor, with safe and just working conditions and adequate housing. Supporting rural communities sustains a way of life that enriches our nation. Careful stewardship of the Earth and its natural resources demands policies that support sustainable agriculture as vital elements of agricultural policy.

The Gospel mandate to “welcome the stranger” requires Catholics to care for and stand with immigrants, both documented and undocumented, including immigrant children. Comprehensive reform is urgently necessary to fix a broken immigration system and should include a temporary work program with worker protections and a path to permanent residency; family reunification policies; a broad and fair legalization program; access to legal protections, including due process and public benefits; refuge for those fleeing persecution and exploitation; and policies to address the root causes of migration. The right and responsibility of nations to control their borders and to maintain the rule of law should be recognized. [seems they have contradictory statements here - I am certainly open to being corrected though]

All persons have a right to receive a quality education. Young people, including those who are poor and those with disabilities, need to have the opportunity to develop intellectually, morally, spiritually, and physically, allowing them to become good citizens who make socially and morally responsible decisions. This requires parental choice in education. It also requires educational institutions to have orderly, just, respectful, and non-violent environments where adequate professional and material resources are available. The USCCB strongly supports adequate funding, including scholarships, tax credits, and other means, to educate all persons no matter what their personal condition or what school they attend—public, private, or religious. All teachers and administrators deserve salaries and benefits that reflect principles of economic justice, as well as access to resources necessary for teachers to prepare for their important tasks. Services aimed at improving education—especially for those most at risk—that are available to students and teachers in public schools should also be available to students and teachers in private and religious schools as a matter of justice. [don't get me started about the broken public education system. Of course most government policies in this area generally include testing more and throwing more money into the drain, not real reform]

Promoting moral responsibility and effective responses to violent crime, curbing violence in media, supporting reasonable restrictions on access to assault weapons and handguns, and opposing the use of the death penalty are particularly important in light of a growing “culture of violence.” An ethic of responsibility, rehabilitation, and restoration should be a foundation for the reform of our broken criminal justice system. A remedial, rather than a strictly punitive, approach to offenders should be developed. [we certainly do have the "lock 'em up and throw away the key" mentality. We need to seek some different policies about our justice system including rehabilitation]

It is important for our society to continue to combat discrimination based on sex, race, ethnicity, disabling condition, religion, or age, as these are grave injustices and affronts to human dignity. Where the effects of past discrimination persist, society has the obligation to take positive steps to overcome the legacy of injustice, including vigorous action to remove barriers to education and equal employment for women and minorities.

Care for the Earth and for the environment is a moral issue. Protecting the land, water, and the air we share is a religious duty of stewardship and reflects our responsibility to born and unborn children, who are most vulnerable to environmental assault. Effective initiatives are required for energy conservation and the development of alternate, renewable, and clean-energy resources. Our Conference offers a distinctive call to seriously address global climate change, focusing on the virtue of prudence, pursuit of the common good, and the impact on the poor, particularly on vulnerable workers and the poorest nations. The United States should lead in contributing to the sustainable development of poorer nations and promoting greater justice in sharing the burden of environmental blight, neglect, and recovery. [I am glad they balanced this section well. They didn't over-react as many have. We can't just ignore those who will be most effected by radical environmental policies.]

Global Solidarity next:

A more just world will likely be a more peaceful world, a world less vulnerable to terrorism and other violence. The United States has the responsibility to take the lead in addressing the scandal of poverty and underdevelopment. Our nation should help to humanize globalization, addressing its negative consequences and spreading its benefits, especially among the world’s poor. The United States also has a unique opportunity to use its power in partnership with others to build a more just and peaceful world. [Very true. As the only real super-power we are expected to take the lead. To whom much is given...]

  • The United States should take a leading role in helping to alleviate global poverty through substantially increased development aid for the poorest countries, more equitable trade policies, and continuing efforts to relieve the crushing burdens of debt and disease. Our nation’s efforts to reduce poverty should not be associated with demeaning and sometimes coercive population control programs; instead, these efforts should focus on working with the poor to help them build a future of hope and opportunity for themselves and their children. [In other words, not how the UN wants to do things]
  • U.S. policy should promote religious liberty and other basic human rights. The use of torture must be rejected as fundamentally incompatible with the dignity of the human person and ultimately counterproductive in the effort to combat terrorism. [Torture cannot be justified. We cannot do evil for a good result]
  • The United States should provide political and financial support for beneficial United Nations programs and reforms, for other international bodies, and for international law, so that together these institutions may become more responsible and responsive agents for addressing global problems. [? The USA already supplies the majority of funding to the UN]
  • Asylum should be afforded to refugees who hold a well-founded fear of persecution in their homelands. Our country should support protection for persons fleeing persecution through safe haven in other countries, including the United States, especially for unaccompanied children, women, victims of human trafficking, and religious minorities.
  • Our country should be a leader—in collaboration with the international community—in addressing regional conflicts in the Middle East, the Balkans, the Congo, Sudan, Colombia, and West Africa. [How we address them is still a big question]
  • Leadership on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an especially urgent priority. The United States should actively pursue comprehensive negotiations leading to a just and peaceful resolution that respects the legitimate claims and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians, ensuring security for Israel, a viable state for Palestinians, and peace in the region.
  • While the Holy See and our Conference have raised serious moral questions regarding war with Iraq, we bishops call on our country to work with the international community to seek a “responsible transition” in Iraq and to address the human consequences of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. [raising questions is the easy part.]
  • Defending human life, building peace, combating poverty and despair, and protecting freedom and human rights are not only moral imperatives—they are wise national priorities that will make our nation and world safer.
Part III coming later today.