Thursday, December 31, 2009

Muy Interesante



Some very interesting items:

1 - The US Postal Service will soon be putting out a stamp of Mother Teresa.

2 - The Washington Post has a good story of how hard it is being a bishop in the Middle East.

3 - The US Bishops are butting heads with some Administrators of Catholic hospitals.  I hope this is settled soon.

4 - Phil Lawler lists the worst stories of 2009.  All of them should lead us to prayer.

5 - Ignatius Insight has put together an impressive array of different lists of the best books of 2009.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Top 12 Catholic Bloggers of 2009

No, this is not an official list.  I just thought I would throw together those who I think are the top Catholic bloggers of the year.  Without further interruption - the top 12 Catholic bloggers of 2009.


12 - Deacon Greg Kandra - The Deacon's Bench
Informative and funny.  Best Deacon blogger of all-time.

11 - Ed Peters - In the Light of the Law.
The only Catholic canon law blog worth reading.  Ed Peters does not post often, but almost everytime he does post something it is interesting and enlightening.

10 - Carl Olson - Ignatius Insight Scoop.
Something for everyone, his best material is when he cuts loose and analyzes the writing of others.

9 - Patrick Madrid
Patrick has been writing for a long time, but he only started blogging recently.  He has found his blogging voice quickly.  His dry wit is always entertaining.

8 - Jennifer Fulwiler - Conversion Diary.
One of the best bloggers on the scene today.  Always thinking deeply.

7 - Fr. Z - What Does the Prayer Really Say?
He has what might be described as the most rabid following of all Catholic bloggers.

6 - Fr. Dwight Longenecker - Standing on My Head.
Great source for a wide variety.  Fr. Dwight shines most brightly when he discusses the Anglican/Catholic issues.

5 - Rocco Palmo - Whispers in the Loggia
The Catholic insider blog.

4 - Elizabeth Scalia - The Anchoress.
Politics, religion, and everything else you aren't supposed to talk about in a polite conversation.

3 - Mark Shea - Catholic and Enjoying It
Mark is probably the most prolific Catholic blogger.  He posts on just about every topic there is.

2 - Patrick and Matthew Archbold - Creative Minority Report
Funny, irreverent, and always interesting to read.

1 - Thomas Peters - American Papist
He has become the most influential and leading blogger of the year.

One True Church?

Q - How do we explain the one true Church doctrine to Protestants?


A - Thanks for the question.  This can be done in a simple manner or a more complex one.  But, before we go further, I would like to make an observation.  


We have to be careful in using the label "Protestant".  I don't believe this to be your intent, but we have to be careful of putting all Protestants into one neat and tidy box.  Sometimes we Catholics seem to think there is just one set of "Protestant" beliefs, but this isn't the case.  You can take almost any Christian doctrine, (outside of a few Catholic dogmas - e.g. The Papacy, Marian dogmas, etc.) and find a range of beliefs that different groups of Protestants have on these different doctrines.  Thus, before you attempt to explain any doctrine, you should know where the other person is coming from and what they believe personally, because the other thing you need to be careful of avoiding is assuming what the other person knows or believes.  While someone may call themselves a Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc. they may not follow all of the doctrines that a Protestant denomination might teach (this of course goes for individual Catholics as well).



With this in mind, I think that the explanation can be as detailed or as simple as necessary.  The things you want to include in any kind of discussion include the following descriptions of apostolic succession and authority:

  • Christ founded one Church.
  • The one Church founded by Christ had the Apostles as her leaders after Christ ascended to heaven.
  • Peter was the leader of the Apostles.
  • The authority and power of the position of the Apostles was handed down to successors.
  • The divisions in Christianity today are scandalous.
  • The Church has both a spiritual and physical reality. Spiritual - all the baptized are members of the Church and are bound together in Christ.  Physical - Christ set up a hierarchy with real authority that can still be found in the Bishops of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

Something else that should be a part of any discussion on this matter is not that you are trying to "win".  Archbishop Fulton Sheen once wrote, "Win an argument.  Lose a soul."  We should allow the truth of what the Church teaches, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to do the heavy lifting and we should try to get out of the way.


Now, if you want to see another person's answer to this question (one who was much smarter than I will ever be), then I suggest you read this article by the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus and I also suggest the old Baltimore Catechism's take on the subject + the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Lastly, I recommend this older post I wrote a while back on the subject "Outside the Church Their Is No Salvation."


I hope this helps.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Catholic Church and Plastic Surgery

Q - My friend, "Jennifer" keeps talking about getting breast augmentation. I keep trying to convince her out of it, but i guess she has never been happy with her body in that regard. What is the church's stance on this sort of elective surgery? And in the bigger scheme what sort of morality issues exist regarding it? She is looking to do it purely for self esteem issues. Also, as an ancillary question, what is the church's position on other types of things like piercing or tattoos?

A - Thanks for the question. First I have to say that the Catholic Church doesn't get as specific in answering such issues as many would like. Rather, the Church gives us guiding moral principles and then we must try and do the most prudent thing while following our consciences. I know some might apply them to a situation themselves and say that everyone has to do the same, but this just isn't the case. So, what are some of the principles that would help us here? Let me give some.

1 - Therapeutic plastic surgery is generally considered a good thing. Think of a cleft lip. Having surgery to repair it to what is "normal" for a human is a good thing. The doctor is restoring the originally intended order of the body. In these situations there is no debate about right or wrong, it is a good thing to do.

2 - When there is no harm done and the surgery is not intrinsically wrong (such as sex change), then elective plastic surgery is left to the prudent choice of those involved.

3 - When there is significant harm done or the surgery is intrinsically wrong, then plastic surgery should not be done.

Other issues that should be part of the decision would be intent of the person (is it for a health reason or pure vanity), monetary resources, number of procedures (some people have many procedures), and more. A simple question might be - would the procedure harm the patient (physical, mental, spiritual) and what is the intent?

As for tattoos and piercings - this one can follow the same basic principles. First, I should say that they are not intrinsically wrong. If so, then just about 90% of women are in trouble for having their ears pierced. With that being said, there are different kinds of piercings and tattoos today.

If there was to be significant damage to the integrity of the body, then there getting a piercing or tattoo could be sinful. For instance, without getting too graphic, there are some kinds of piercings that can cause parts of the body to lose some or all functionality. If this is the case, then it is wrong.

Some of the principles mentioned above apply. For instance, what is the intent? Is the purpose of doing so to spite parents, hide a feature we don't like, please someone else, a part of a tribal ritual, etc? Some reasons are good, some are not.

Also, some kinds of modern body decoration lead to mutilating the body - these would be sinful to participate in.

Other guiding questions to ask - how will this effect others? We are not only to do as we wish, but rather we need to think of others. How will my parents, friends, family, employers, etc. react? Would it be offensive to others? Can I afford it or is it a strain to me financially? What will the tattoo contain? Is it a good message? Some get tattoos to show a devotion to Mary - that is a much different reason than spiting your parents.

I hope this helps.

A Good Book

If you find yourself with a little time on your hands and need a recommendation for some good fiction to read, I have a few suggestions.   None are written for just a Catholic audience, but all have deep spiritual meaning:

**The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky.  I have never read another novel as good as this one.  Top of my list.

**The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene.  Set in Mexico during the government persecution of the Catholic Church.  A priest who finds meaning in losing himself in fear.

**Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather.  Nobody paints a picture in your mind's eye like Cather.

**Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.  Written decades ago, it describes a frightening future, that in many ways we are living out as foretold by Huxley.

**Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe.  Classic novel which helped turn hearts against slavery.

**1984 by George Orwell.  Another great futuristic tale.

**Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.  Yet another.

**Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe.  A great story of how faith can sustain us.

**The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo.  Classic French literature.

**The Moviegoer by Walker Percy.  A desperate story of needing to find meaning

Offbeat

This is very odd.  I could explain it, but it might be better if you just read it for yourself.  I ain't buying it though.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Fr. Barron on Abortion and Health Care

John Paul is made Venerable.

Big news I missed.  John Paul II has been declared "Venerable".  This is the first step to sainthood.  He will next be canonized and then made a saint.  But, he is not alone.  Many others have moved farther along in the process.

Please pray that this process continues on quickly.
John Paul II pray for us!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Pope Attacked

The Pope was attacked by a mentally ill woman (the same woman for a second time) at the Christmas Eve mass.  He is fine.  Video below.

Pray for our Pastor, Pope Benedict XVI and his safety.

Christmas



A quick reminder - the Christmas season has just started.

Merry Christmas to all of the readers of the Aggie Catholics blog.  May God bless you.
If you are not already a follower of our blog, you can follow us through facebook - through Network Blogs or through Google - click the "Follow Us" icon.  Or you can subscribe to our RSS feed through a reader or aggregator.  All these options are in the right toolbar.

Whatever way you choose to read, we thank you.

Time...

What do students do during Christmas break when they have time on their hands?

This:

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Andrea Bocelli

MILLE CHERUBINI IN CORO



English translation:
A CHOIR OF A THOUSAND CHERUBS


Sleep, sleep,
dream, my little love.
Sleep, dream, ,
rest your head on my breast.

A choir of a thousand cherubs
smiles on you from the sky
A sweet song
caresses your brow,
A hand is gently guiding you
through the clouds of gold,
dreaming and keeping watch
over you, my treasure,
protecting your path through life.
Over you, my treasure,
protecting your path through life.

Sleep, sleep,
dream, my little love.
Sleep, dream,
rest your head on my breast.

Close your eyes,
listen to the little angels,
sleep, sleep,
dream, my little love.

Sleep, sleep,
dream, my little love.
Sleep, dream, ,
rest your head on my breast.

Close your eyes,
listen to the little angels,
sleep, sleep,
dream, my little love.

Dream, my little love.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Expectations

This is a very unexpected performance. Talk about shattering expectations...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What Mark Will You Leave?

When you die, how will you be remembered?


Tip o' the hat to CMR.

Another Approach to Health Care Reform


George Weigel explores other options in reforming Health Care while being faithful to Catholic social teachings and principles.  Worth a close read and reflection.  Here is a snip:
For all its virtues, today’s American medical system does not afford access to needed care for some, so it fails the tests set by Catholic social doctrine. We can meet those tests and fix the system’s gravest problems by working incrementally, testing results as we go: changing the liability laws that distort insurance costs, reforming the insurance industry to mandate portability and coverage of pre-existing conditions, lifting the ban on interstate competition in health insurance, and covering the uninsured by tax credits and small business reforms. That would be health-care reform that satisfies Catholic principles across-the-board.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday Fun

Maybe a last-minute Christmas present idea?  The Japanese have improved the Piggy Bank:

Catholics Who Don't Act Catholic

Q - Shouldn't the Bishops do something more to those Catholic politicians (and other famous Catholics) who say they are Catholic but rarely, if ever, go to church and are living their lives in public scandal - sometimes even supporting abortion?  I am frustrated by them because they seem to be at odds with the Catholic Church about all Catholic doctrines and they don't even really know what they are, yet the Bishops don't seem to do much at all!


A - Thanks for the question.  I can tell you are frustrated.  I hope I can help ease some of your frustration.  There are many approaches and opinions on how to handle Catholics who don't act Catholic. I won't offer my own in this space, because it matters little. This is up to the Bishops, not me. I understand how the Church works. But, an important part of how the Church understands herself is the teaching of John Paul II that "the Marian dimension of the Church precedes the Petrine". This means that the Church is contemplative and receptive to God's grace and guidance before she exercises her authority and apostleship.

With that being said, there are some Catholics who clearly reject what the Church teaches, and it isn't hard to find examples in almost any area of public life - politics, entertainment, etc.

A while back I read an article by a Catholic journalist who clearly stated that he rejects the hierarchy, the teachings of the Church, the authority of the Pope, and wants to "impeach" the Pope because he is upholding centuries of apostolic teaching.

Amazingly bad. But, here is what I want you to understand. This man clearly doesn't understand the Church's teaching. I can gaurantee that he has never studied the Church's teachings on birth control, the Theology of the Body, or women. When we form a dogmatic understanding of our own opinion, which is based on ignorance of the opposition, we do ourselves a disservice. Again, I ask, what should the Church do about Catholics such as this man?

Some say kick him out. I think this is the worst response. It serves no good. Oh, yes we could "purify" the ranks of bad Catholics all day long, but that isn't what the Church is for.  We aren't the place where only holy people should be members - we are the place the sick go to get well!  Being as good a sinner as I am, I might be the first to go.

Also, while the Church must try and make sure that doctrine is taught properly, we can't kick out all the Catholics that have a teaching incorrect. What we need to do is pray and catechize. We need to love them into understanding what the truth really is about sex, marriage, contraception, life, salvation, etc. They have never truly heard the "good news" if they believe the Catholic Church is hateful to women and just wants power. What a shame! What a call to be merciful! Do we really see those in the Church that we disagree with as our true brothers and sisters? Really? Just as much as some of my siblings have hurt my parents by their sins, I have never wanted them "kicked out" of my family. In the same way, I repent of ever wanting to kick out a brother or sister who just doesn't understand or believe in what the Church teaches - or better yet, what they believe her to teach.

Some want to excommunicate Catholics who disagree with the Church in such a public way. One of my former profs argues that it is a possibility that the Bishops should look into. I am not so sure. I think it should be a last resort in this instance. There are other ways of addressing it before getting into canonical penalties. If those don't work, then excommunication could be a possibility.

NOTE: excommunication is a medicinal penalty that bars one from active participation in the sacramental life of the Church. It is meant to serve as a way to call back into the fold, the wandering sheep. It is NOT getting kicked out of the Church or being damned to hell.

Pray for our bishops and those Catholics that do not understand the Church and reject what they believe she teaches. But, evangelize them with mercy as well. Lastly, thank God that you and I are not bishops that have to make these decisions.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Catholics Come Home

If you haven't heard of "Catholics Come Home", then you haven't seen the best program ever put together to re-evangelize fallen-away Catholics.  An Aggie Catholic, Carson Weber, is heading up the program for the Diocese of Sacramento.  He is the Associate Director for New Media Evangelization there.  Here is the website for the Diocese of Sacramento's Catholics Come Home program.  Very well done.

Below is one of the commercials that will be airing around the diocese on TV stations.  Parishes are then having programs to welcome home all the Catholics that will be coming back.  In other dioceses, they have seen hundreds of thousands return to church because of this program.  Here are some of the numbers:
**in the Diocese of Phoenix reported a 12 percent increase in weekly Mass attendance
**in the Diocese of Corpus Christi - 17.7 percent increase in weekly Mass attendance

Check out why...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Are You Ready To Die?

A priest of the Archdiocese of Washington lays it on the line.  Here is an excerpt of a post and below is an excerpt of a funeral homily.  Don't let this one pass you by.
I will admit that some of the things I say are tough. But remember, I only have them once and I have to come right to the point. No one will follow an uncertain trumpet. A very few have criticized my approach by insisting that funerals are sensitive times and we ought just to console the grieving family and say pleasant and encouraging things. Others, especially the older ones come to me and say, “Thanks Father, there are people in my family that needed to hear it!” But in the end I cannot preach either to please or displease man. Rather, I have a conviction that this is what God would have me do. I cannot waste an opportunity to clearly warn, as Jesus often did, that judgment day is coming, and maybe sooner than you or I expect. We have to be ready for, at an hour that we do not expect the Son of Man will come (eg Mat 24:44).

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cardinal DiNardo on Health Care

The US Bishops continue to speak out boldly on health care reform and the moral problems that are still underlying many of the current proposals.  Yesterday, writing for the USCCB, Cardinal DiNardo sent this letter out to Senators.  I think it is worth a full reading, but his final paragraph sums up the issue well:

From the outset of the health care reform debate, we have not sought to use this legislation as a vehicle for advancing the pro-life cause – and we have urged others not to use it to advance the pro-abortion cause. The current Senate bill fails to achieve this balance. While its abortion language has been called a “compromise,” it is only a compromise between current law and a broader policy on abortion funding, as it explicitly authorizes the use of federal funds to subsidize health plans covering elective abortions for the first time in history. Health care reform is too urgently needed to be placed at risk by one lobbying group’s insistence on changing the law. Before the Senate considers final votes on its health care reform legislation, please incorporate into this bill the longstanding and widely supported policies of current law, acknowledged and reaffirmed by the Senate itself only yesterday. Please give the American people health care reform that respects the life, health and consciences of all.

Tuesday Headlines

**The health care debate continues.  The American Papist has all the information you need.  I highly recommend you look at what he has posted about "Everything Health Care".

**Also, there are some Catholic lobbyists in DC that are causing some blurring on what is really "Catholic" in health care and what isn't.  Read more about this in an article in Catholic World Report.

**When canon law changes, and it did today, look to Dr. Ed Peters to explain it all.

**As a parent of five, I love babies.  That being said, this film could be good or it could just show how baby-centric some people have become.  On the other side we have those that would just see these children as barriers to a better earth and pollution.


**Archbishop Listecki points out that the group "Young Catholics for Choice" is anything but "Catholic".

**Politics has always been a dirty game, but it is getting worse.

OUTRAGEOUS

This is so outrageous...I don't have words, so I will quote the story:
A Taunton father is outraged after his 8-year-old son was sent home from school and required to undergo a psychological evaluation after drawing a stick-figure picture of Jesus Christ on the cross.

The father said he got a call earlier this month from Maxham Elementary School informing him that his son, a second-grade student, had created a violent drawing. The image in question depicted a crucified Jesus with Xs covering his eyes to signify that he had died on the cross. The boy wrote his name above the cross.
I take it back, I have a few words.  It kid isn't the one who needs the evaluation, our culture does.

Supreme Court to Hear Very Important Case

A case coming before the Supreme Court could have reverberations throughout Universities, churches, and organizations in the USA.  The court case will determine whether Christian organizations at public universities have the right to determine their membership.  More details on the case:
The Christian Legal Society, a national law-student group, has a clause in its constitution prohibiting executive members from engaging in sexual conduct outside of a traditional marriage — including homosexuality.


The clause has generated controversy across the country and at the UI.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. The court’s decision will decide whether a public university’s law school may deny funding to a student organization requiring its officers and voting members to agree with its core religious viewpoints even it goes against university policy.

The decision will affect all chapters.

The justices agreed to hear an appeal from members from the chapter at the University of California-San Francisco after the school refused to recognize the society because it did not abide by its universitywide policy barring discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The UI has a similar clause in its Human Rights Policy.

Supporters of the society say the members have the right of expressive association, or to choose who to allow in their group to make sure their leadership is compatible with its message.

“It’s completely unreasonable — and unconstitutional — for a public university to disrupt the purposes of private student groups by forcing them to accept as members and officers those who oppose the very ideas they advocate,” Gregory Baylor, a lawyer with the Alliance Defense Fund Center for Academic Freedom, said in a press release.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pornography Research



I have written frequently on how pornography is tearing apart lives, families, and relationships and how it bad for everyone who uses it or produces it (an example can be found here in the post "What is Wrong With Porn?").  This problem is only getting worse.  I got a phone call today about someone struggling with the issue and a priest who I know called to ask what we could do to help them, because the father couldn't stop using pornography and it is tearing the entire family down.

Now, there is hard data accompanying many of the anecdotal examples.  The Family Research Council did a study on the effect of pornography.  Here are the findings:

KEY FINDINGS ON THE EFFECTS OF PORNOGRAPHY
THE FAMILY AND PORNOGRAPHY
  • Married men who are involved in pornography feel less satisfied with their conjugal relations and less emotionally attached to their wives. Wives notice and are upset by the difference.
  • Pornography use is a pathway to infidelity and divorce, and is frequently a major factor in these family disasters.
  • Among couples affected by one spouse's addiction, two-thirds experience a loss of interest in sexual intercourse.
  • Both spouses perceive pornography viewing as tantamount to infidelity.
  • Pornography viewing leads to a loss of interest in good family relations.
THE INDIVIDUAL AND PORNOGRAPHY
  • Pornography is addictive, and neuroscientists are beginning to map the biological substrate of this addiction.
  • Users tend to become desensitized to the type of pornorgraphy they use, become bored with it, and then seek more perverse forms of pornography.
  • Men who view pornography regularly have a higher tolerance for abnormal sexuality, including rape, sexual aggression, and sexual promiscuity.
  • Prolonged consumption of pornography by men produces stronger notions of women as commodities or as "sex objects."
  • Pornography engenders greater sexual permissiveness, which in turn leads to a greater risk of out-of-wedlock births and STDs. These, in turn, lead to still more weaknesses and debilities.
  • Child-sex offenders are more likely to view pornography regularly or to be involved in its distribution.
OTHER EFFECTS OF PORNOGRAPHY
  • Many adolescents who view pornography initially feel shame, diminished self-confidence, and sexual uncertainty, but these feelings quickly shift to unadulterated enjoyment with regular viewing.
  • The presence of sexually oriented businesses significantly harms the surrounding community, leading to increases in crime and decreases in property values.
  • The main defenses against pornography are close family life, a good marriage and good relations between parents and children, coupled with deliberate parental monitoring of Internet use. Traditionally, government has kept a tight lid on sexual traffic and businesses, but in matters of pornography that has waned almost completely, except where child pornography is concerned. Given the massive, deleterious individual, marital, family, and social effects of pornography, it is time for citizens, communities, and government to reconsider their laissez-faire approach.
The full study can be found here.
Pray for our culture.  Porn = death.

Monday Mania

**In a crazy encroachment of the right to worship as we choose (as well as parental rights), a judge has put a restraining order on a father who wants to take his child to church.  I just wish this were a joke.

**If this ever happens in the US, you might be sending me to jail as well:
At least eight Russo-German families in Salzkotten, Germany, have suffered heavy fines and now their fathers have been sentenced to prison, because they have refused to send their elementary school-age children to mandatory sexual education classes.
**A former lay campus minister here at St. Mary's, Katie, is now Sr. Kathleen.  There is a nice picture of her at the bottom of this page.

**Even deer know that Christmas hasn't come yet and we are still in Advent. That is why this deer went into revolt and started taking down all-too-early Christmas lights:

Bionic Man Coming Soon!

In a story taken straight out of science fiction - we have the world's first bionic finger/hand.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

OLOG

Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patroness of the Americas and we will celebrate her day across the continent tomorrow.

After she appeared to humble Juan Diego, the Americas would never be the same. Here is a message from Mary to Juan Diego:
“My dearest son, I am the eternal Virgin Mary, Mother of the true God, Author of Life, Creator of all and Lord of the Heavens and of the Earth...and it is my desire that a church be built here in this place for me, where, as your most merciful Mother and that of all your people, I may show my loving clemency and the compassion that I bear to the Indians, and to those who love and seek me...”
Our Lady of Guadalupe pray for us!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Linus Tells It Like It Is

Friday Headlines

*Even Buddhists have violent extremists.

*When you have no God, you create one that will fit your view.  Since radical environmentalism is so popular, it should be no surprise that more and more people have decided to worship the earth again.  Thus, humans become a plague on the earth that need to be disposed of.

*More people need to be politically engaged NOW or we are going to have abortion rammed into our "health care" very soon.

*I FULLY SUPPORT THIS PROJECT.  We need more Catholics engaging culture, just as Fr. Barron does.


*Ignatius Press is having a sale.  Time to buy books.

Friday Fun

I think the title of this video says it all, "Painfully Honest and Epic Mobile Home Commercial".

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Are You Busy This Time of Year???

If so, then watch this...

Tip O' the hat to Mark.

Faith and Reason Radio Show Podcast


Andi and I talk about Theology of the Body.
Three parts:

*Part I
*Part II
*Part III

Moral Distinction Between Abortion and Other Issues

I have run across a number of articles and editorials lately that have been critical of the US Bishops on a number of issues, including the attempt to get abortion out of health care and Bishop Tobin denying Communion to Representative Patrick Kennedy for his pro-abortion stance.  What has marked each of these critical items is a failure to make the proper distinctions between issues.  A few examples will shed light on the problem.

Joseph Califano writes:
In recent years, the bishops have heavily criticized Catholic politicians who support federal funding for abortion. The attack is understandable, but the denial of the Eucharist seems to me a sort of nuclear option. Is it only aimed at politicians who vote for federal funds for abortion? What about Catholic legislators who vote for the death penalty or to fund the Iraq war, which the Vatican condemned as immoral? Should they be denied the Eucharist?

As Catholics and as citizens, we have a right to assert our convictions on public issues clearly and vigorously -- to hope and to work that they should prevail.

But to have convictions of conscience and be guided by them is not a license to impose such convictions indiscriminately on others.
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend writes:
As Catholics, are we so laser focused on the issue of abortion that we are willing to join tea partiers and the like to bring down the health care reform bill? And at the enormous expense of millions of Americans who suffer every day because they can’t afford to get checkups, because they must choose bankruptcy in order to save the life of their loved one?

Not this Catholic. As someone who was raised by a family absolutely committed to public service and to making sure that our nation provides health care to the least among us, I am devastated that the bishops are using their influence to try not to increase access to health care for the millions of people who don’t have insurance. Where is their passion for the families who need health care?
One more. Sam Sperry writes:
There is no moral righteousness in denying affordable health-care coverage to the millions of uninsured and underinsured citizens for the sake of further restricting coverage for a woman's reproductive health.

But the Catholic bishops are willing to abort health-care reform because they insist Congress disallow any publicly funded or subsidized private health-insurance plan that may help finance a woman's decision to choose an abortion.

His article then completely goes off the deep end when he then starts to try and explain Catholic morality to the Bishops. His logic is so bad I can only hope it is because he failed his 1st Communion Religious Eduction class.

My response:
1 - Abortion is not one issue among many.  Abortion is THE issue.  Without life, there are no other rights that matter.  To kill an innocent human being intentionally is always and everywhere murder.  There is no situation that justifies taking the life of a baby in a mother's womb.  The moral equivalence issue is therefore bunk. Abortion is not morally equivalent to the things listed in these articles (e.g. death penalty,  unjust war, etc).  A Catholic can never support abortion and be in full communion with the Church.  But, a Catholic can support applications of the death penalty and argue for war in certain circumstances and not suffer in their communion with the Church.

Furthermore, abortion isn't just a "Catholic" issue.  It is a universal human issue.  Even without Christian revelation, we would have to oppose abortion because it attacks the most basic and primal of all human rights - the right to life.

Here is what the US Bishops teach about the issue, basing their teaching on the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
There are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor. Such actions are so deeply flawed that they are always opposed to the authentic good of persons. These are called “intrinsically evil” actions. They must always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned. A prime example is the intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion. [They are clear and unambiguous - not every action is morally equivalent. We cannot lump all political policies into one bunch] In our nation, “abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental human good and the condition for all others” (Living the Gospel of Life, no. 5). It is a mistake with grave moral consequences to treat the destruction of innocent human life merely as a matter of individual choice. A legal system that violates the basic right to life on the grounds of choice is fundamentally flawed.
2 - The Bishops have every right to impose disciplinary measures on the members of their flocks.  This does not therefore mean that they are interfering in political matters.  They are dealing with internal issues, not external ones.  Also, every US citizen has the right to express their opinion about public policy decisions, including the Bishops.

On the flip side, a US citizen, Catholic or not, is free to disagree with the Catholic Church. If you call yourself Catholic and decide to exercise this freedom through doctrinal dissent, you should not complain if you don't have the full freedom to practice the faith within the Church when you publicly cause scandal by dissenting.
From a Vatican document on political life:
By its interventions in this area, the Church’s Magisterium does not wish to exercise political power or eliminate the freedom of opinion of Catholics regarding contingent questions. Instead, it intends – as is its proper function – to instruct and illuminate the consciences of the faithful, particularly those involved in political life, so that their actions may always serve the integral promotion of the human person and the common good.
3 - It is not the US Bishops trying to deny health care coverage for the poor.  This is a smoke screen and a silly argument.  The pro-abortion members are willing to sacrifice health care for the purpose of widening the use of public money being used to pay for abortions.  Don't blame the Bishops.  Look in the mirror.  The US Bishops have been some of the strongest proponents of overhauling the health care system.

Why would any rational person expect the Catholic Bishops to cave on the issue of abortion?  They don't really, rather they are trying to pull a slight of hand and lay the blame at the Bishops' feet.  Don't let it work.
I end these thoughts with words from the US Bishops:
As Catholics, we should be guided more by our moral convictions than by our attachment to a political party or interest group. When necessary, our participation should help transform the party to which we belong; we should not let the party transform us in such a way that we neglect or deny fundamental moral truths.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The 13th Day Movie Review


I don't get excited about movies that get a big push from our Catholic (or general Christian) community in the US anymore.  There have been too many times movies haven't lived up to the expectation that preceded them. For example, I know that others might disagree, but I didn't like Therese much (it moved much too slowly) and while I thought Bella was a decent film (the acting and cinematography were well done) the script was too predictable and the dialogue a bit too sappy for me.  On the evangelical Protestant side, I could barely finish Fireproof.  When Kirk Cameron is head and shoulders better than any other actor (yes, I know the others were not professionals), then we have a problem.  It was almost unwatchable, even with a great message.

All of these movies have meaning.  But, quality is just as important.  If I am going to read a work of fiction, I want to have good writing and a good story.  It is the same with movies.  We need to have quality scripts, directing, production value, acting, etc.  Otherwise, Christian and Catholic movie projects will only be able to reach a minuscule number of the non-church going crowd.  Those not going to church are the ones who need good movies with good messages most.  It is a great way to evangelize through a cultural medium and to evangelize culture itself.

With low expectations, I watched the new movie, The 13th Day, last night.  I was impressed by the trailer but didn't want to get my hopes up.  The most striking feature of the movie is the use of color, or lack thereof, within the film.  It is quite an artsy way of shooting a film and reminds me of the movie adaptations of the graphic novels 300 and Watchmen (I don't recommend either movie).  I thought the production value for the movie was the best part, considering the small budget the filmmakers had.

The story is based on the Marian apparitions at Fatima, though many details about the story are left out.  The movie dig drag in parts because of this, and this is a shame, because there is plenty of material which could have been used to keep it moving.  Yet, if the goal of the movie is to introduce viewers to the Fatima story, then the movie works, for the most part.

The acting isn't award-winning, but is good enough.  Th young lead actors do a good job, but are much too old to pull off being 10, 9, and 7.

The music is wonderful and helps accent the cinematography nicely.  There are parts of the film that are not suitable for small children, but can be viewed by older children.  There are a few intense scenes where the visionaries who see Mary suffer imprisonment and visions of hell, which could be too much for some youth.

All-in-all I would give the movie a B+.  With a small budget the producers did what few could do before - they held my attention and drew me in.  I couldn't ask for more, considering my past experiences.

If you are looking for other movies with a good message to watch that I would give an A or A+ to, here is a short list:
*The Passion of the Christ
*Schindler's List
*It’s a Wonderful Life
*Braveheart
*Life is Beautiful
*Groundhog Day
*The Mission
*The Human Experience
*Lord of the Rings trilogy
*The Princess Bride
*The Incredibles
*Toy Story
*Cinderalla Man
*Up

Bishops Let Congress Know They Are Unhappy

The US Bishops express their disappointment in the Senate for failing to block abortion from being in the health care bill. Snips from a statement from the USCCB. Cardinal DiNardo:

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Chair of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said: “Congress needs to separate facts and truth from political rhetoric on abortion funding. Even our opponents claim they do not support federal funding for elective abortions and they want current restrictions to apply. The way to settle this often misleading debate is simply, clearly and explicitly to apply Hyde restrictions to all the federal funds in the legislation. That is what the House did and what the final bill must do. The Senate should not approve this bill in its current form.”
Then Cardinal George lays it on the line (emphasis added):
Cardinal George concluded: “While we deplore the Senate’s refusal to adopt the Nelson-Hatch-Casey amendment, we remain hopeful that the protections overwhelmingly passed by the House will be incorporated into needed reform legislation. Failure to exclude abortion funding will turn allies into adversaries and require us and others to oppose this bill because it abandons both principle and precedent.”

Planned Parenthood Investigation

Live Action, a youth-led, pro-life movement that started at UCLA with undercover videos of Planned Parenthood, has released a new video.  If you haven't seen the other videos, you can check them out at their website.  This video also includes inside information from Abby Johnson, former director of our local Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan.  Here are a few quotes from the video from Planned Parenthood employees:
A fetus is what is in the uterus right now.  That is not a baby.  A baby is what's born at 40 weeks.
Then when responding to to the question "when does it become a baby?", the answer given is "birth."  Then later when the abortionist is asked about when the fetus becomes a baby, he says "when your like seven months pregnant or so."

Pass this video on:

HOLY COW!

A cow born with a cross on its head.  Is it a sign?  Some think so.  Well...I am not so sure about that, but there are a lot of jokes with it.

Wed. Morning Briefing

1 - Brownsville has a new bishop.


2 - A pro-abortion nun says Mary was one of the first New Testament women to "express choice".  In other words, she is trying to claim Mary' was a pro-choice person in terms of abortion.  Scandalous.

3 - Contrary to the story above, the Pope's Immaculate Conception homily was awesome.  Here is a snip:
Mary Immaculate helps us rediscover and defend what is inside people, because in her there is perfect transparency of soul and body. She is purity in person in the sense that the spirit, soul and body are fully coherent in her and with God’s will. Our Lady teaches us to open up to God’s action and to look at others as he does, starting with the heart, to look upon them with mercy, love, infinite tenderness, especially those who are lonely, scorned or exploited. “[W]here sins increased, grace overflows all the more.”
4 - The Senate rejected an amendment to the health care bill to stop abortion.  Keep fighting to keep abortion out of health care.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Prayers for Finals

Here are some prayers for your finals starting on Friday.  St. Thomas Aquinas is the patron of students, so it is a common practice to ask for his intercession and use prayers that he wrote.
PRAYER OF ST. THOMAS
Ineffable Creator, Who out of the treasures of Thy wisdom has appointed three hierarchies of Angels and set them in admirable order high above the heavens and hast disposed the divers portions of the universe in such marvellous array, Thou Who art called the True Source of Light and supereminent Principle of Wisdom, be pleased to cast a beam of Thy radiance upon the darkness of my mind and dispel from me the double darkness of sin and ignorance in which I have been born.
Thou Who makest eloquent the tongues of little children, fashion my words and pour upon my lips the grace of Thy benediction. Grant me penetration to understand, capacity to retain, method and facility in study, subtlety in interpretation and abundant grace of expression.
Order the beginning, direct the progress and perfect the achievement of my work, Thou Who art true God and true Man and livest and reignest for ever and ever. Amen.
Another from St. Thomas Aquinas - patron of students. We used this one in Grad. school frequently.
Grant, O merciful God, that I may
ardently desire,
prudently examine,
truthfully acknowledge,
and perfectly accomplish
what is pleasing to You,
for the praise and glory of Your Name. Amen.
A good prayer to use before studying.
A Prayer before studying for exams.“God of Wisdom, I thank you for the knowledge gained and the learning experiences of the semester. I come to you this day and ask you to illuminate my mind and heart. Let your Spirit be with me as I prepare for exams, guiding my studies, and giving me insight so that I can perform to the best of my ability. Please grant me the strength to handle the pressure during these final days of the semester, the confidence to feel secure in my knowledge, and the ability to keep an appropriate perspective through it all. Help me to keep in mind what is truly important, even as I focus my time and energy on these tests in the immediate future. Finally, may I sense your peace in knowing that I applied myself to the challenges of this day.”
-Amen-
Here is a nine-day novena (in pdf format) for those who want to start today and end next Wed, the end of finals.

Finally, here are two prayers from Catholic.org:
Prayer for Students
Under thy patronage, dear Mother, and calling on the mystery of thine Immaculate Conception, I desire to pursue my studies and my literary labors: I hereby solemnly declare that I am giving myself to these studies chiefly to the following end: that I may the better contribute to the glory of God and to the promotion of thy veneration among men. I pray thee, therefore, most loving Mother, who art the Seat of Wisdom, to bless my labors in thy loving-kindness. Moreover I promise with true affection and a willing spirit, as it is right that I should do, to ascribe all the good that shall come to me therefrom, wholly to thine intercession for me in God's holy presence. Amen.
Prayer before Study or Instructions
Incomprehensible Creator, the true Fountain of light and only Author of all knowledge: deign, we beseech Thee, to enlighten our understanding, and to remove from us all darkness of sin and ignorance. Thou, who makest eloquent the tongues of those who lack utterance, direct our tongues, and pour on our lips the grace of thy blessing. Give us a diligent and obedient spirit, quickness of apprehension, capacity of retaining, and the powerful assistance of Thy holy grace; that what we hear or learn we may apply to Thy honor and the eternal salvation of our own souls. Amen.
St. Thomas Aquinas pray for all students.

Monday, December 7, 2009

US Bishops Urge Senate To Adopt Pro-Life Amendment on Health Care Reform

The US Bishops have sent a letter to all Senators asking them to back the Nelson-Hatch-Casey Amendment to the health care reform bill.  Here is the letter:
December 7, 2009

United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator:

On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), we strongly urge the Senate to adopt essential changes to the health care reform bill to ensure that needed health care reform legislation truly protects the life, dignity, consciences and health of all.

Therefore we urgently ask you to support an essential amendment to be offered by Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE), Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Robert Casey (D-PA) to keep in place the longstanding and widely supported federal policy against government funding of health coverage that includes elective abortions.

Sadly, the current Senate bill fails to keep in place the longstanding federal policy against the use of federal funds for elective abortions or health plans that include elective abortions -- a policy upheld in all health programs covered by the Hyde Amendment, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program -- and now in the House-passed “Affordable Health Care for America Act.” We believe legislation that violates this moral principle is not true health care reform and must be amended to reflect the Hyde restrictions. If that fails, the current legislation should be opposed.

This amendment will have the same effect as the Stupak-Pitts-Ellsworth-Kaptur-Dahlkemper-Smith-Lipinski Amendment already accepted in the House by an overwhelming bipartisan majority (see attached fact sheet). Like that amendment, it does not change the current situation in our country: Abortion is legal and available, but no federal dollars can be used to pay for elective abortions or plans that include elective abortions. This amendment does not restrict abortion, or prevent people from buying insurance covering abortion with their own funds. It simply ensures that where federal funds are involved, people are not required to pay for other people’s abortions.

The bill currently before the Senate allows the HHS Secretary to mandate abortion coverage throughout the government-run “community health insurance option.” It also provides funding for other plans that cover unlimited abortions, and creates an unprecedented mandatory “abortion surcharge” in such plans that will require pro-life purchasers to pay directly and explicitly for other people’s abortions. The bill does not maintain essential nondiscrimination protections for providers who decline involvement in abortion. The Nelson-Hatch-Casey amendment simply corrects these grave departures from current federal policy.

We urge the Senate to support the Nelson–Hatch-Casey amendment. As other amendments are offered to the bill that address our priorities on conscience protection, affordability and fair treatment of immigrants, we will continue to communicate our positions on these issues to the Senate.

The Catholic bishops have long supported adequate and affordable health care for all. As pastors and teachers, we believe genuine health care reform must protect human life and dignity, not threaten them, especially for the most voiceless and vulnerable. We believe health care legislation must respect the consciences of providers, taxpayers, and others, not violate them. We believe universal coverage should be truly universal, not deny health care to those in need because of their condition, age, where they come from or when they arrive here. Providing affordable and accessible health care that clearly reflects these fundamental principles is a public good, moral imperative and urgent national priority.

Sincerely,
Most Reverend William F. Murphy
Bishop of Rockville Centre
Chairman
Committee on Domestic Justice
and Human Development

Daniel Cardinal DiNardo
Archbishop of Galveston-Houston
Chairman
Committee on Pro-life Activities

Most Reverend John Wester
Bishop of Salt Lake City
Chairman
Committee on Migration

New Undercover Video Coming Tomorrow

Live Action, (from Lila Rose - a UCLA student), the group who started the undercover video series that is exposing the abuses and illegal actions of Planned Parenthood, will be releasing a new video tomorrow.  From a Facebook invite:
Get ready for the first undercover video release from Live Action's brand-new investigation, Investigating Planned Parenthood: An undercover look at medical lies, manipulation and murder.

Join our team as we travel across the United States to document deception and abuses within the abortion-industry giant, Planned Parenthood.

=== THE VIDEO ===
- You can watch the new video when it releases on Tuesday. There is no physical event to attend, the online release IS the event.
- You will be able to see the video from this event, our website (http://liveaction.org) or Facebook page (http://facebook.com/liveaction)

=== OUR PAST INVESTIGATIONS ===
- THE MONA LISA PROJECT: http://Liveaction.org/monalisa

>>> Planned Parenthood Bloomington Caught in Sexual Abuse Cover-up
WATCH VIDEO: http://liveaction.org/index.php/projects/monalisa/63

-Planned Parenthood Indianapolis Caught in Sexual Abuse Cover-up
WATCH VIDEO: http://liveaction.org/index.php/projects/monalisa/62

-Sex Abuse Coverup is OK with Tucson Planned Parenthood
WATCH VIDEO: http://liveaction.org/index.php/projects/monalisa/65

-RACISM PROJECT: http://youtube.com/watch?v=4UHeCOeoC_s

=== QUICK FACTS ===
- Planned Parenthood is the biggest human abortion business in the U.S. doing over 300,000/yr
- Our government gives over 340 million to Planned Parenthood annually
- Every year, there are 1.2 million abortions in the United States

=== HOW YOU CAN HELP ===
1) Invite all your friends to join this event. Click on "Invite People to Come"
2) Visit this event next Tuesday to see our new video release. Once you watch it, post the video to your profile.
3) If you are media, we would love to have you cover our video release. Media inquiries can reach us at media@liveaction.org or 323.454.3304

As long as the culture of death misleads and abuses vulnerable women and kills children, we in the culture of life will fight to expose the injustice.

PASS THIS EVENT ON. INVITE YOUR FRIENDS. EXPOSE THE ABUSE.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Fr. Matt Foley and Chris Farley

This is a great story by itself.
He was ordained in 1989 and spent five years at a parish on Chicago's west side and then six years in Mexico. He returned to the west side of Chicago in 2000 where, in 2006, he presided over the funeral of Pfc. Daniel Zizumbo, a soldier killed by a makeshift bomb in Afghanistan whose parents were Foley's parishioners.

Zizumbo's death was motivational for Foley, whose brother and college roommate served in the Army and whose uncle was an Army chaplain in Vietnam. On the second anniversary of Zizumbo's death, Feb. 27, 2008, Foley was sworn in as an Army officer by his brother Michael, a lieutenant colonel.

"I'm a Catholic priest and I know there's a shortage of Catholic priests in the Army. I thought it was my time to serve," Foley said in his office at Enduring Faith Chapel at this large air base north of Kabul.
But the story gets even better.
If Foley's name sounds familiar to Saturday Night Live fans, it's because Chris Farley named his motivational speaker character after Foley. The two became friends while rugby players at Marquette and when Farley created the loud, brash character at Second City he would use the name of an audience member. When Foley went to see Farley at Second City, the comedian promised he would always use his friend's name, which he did when he brought the character to Saturday Night Live.

When Farley died in 1997, Foley flew up from Mexico to preside over his funeral and has since officiated at the weddings of two of Farley's siblings.
In honor of Fr. Foley, I give you...

Friday Fun - Brian Regan

He makes my face hurt.

Fr. Barron on Protesantism and Authority

Fr. Barron is spot on again.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Vocation


What is your primary vocation? Most Catholics hear the word "vocation" and start thinking of states of life - married, priests, religious, or single. The first thought when a Catholic hears "vocation" is almost always the priesthood / religious life. Afterward they also may include married life and being single. There is nothing wrong with thinking of "vocation" in this way. But, I would like to offer a few thoughts to broaden our view.

Vocation = call. We can explore the word more deeply by looking at vocation as more than just a call from God to a state of life. Before there was time, in the eternal mind of God, He knew what would happen in our lives. He had a meaning and purpose for what would happen at each moment and He desires only what is best for us.

But, more than vocation being what we do with our lives, it is who we are.

With that in mind I want to tell you that vocation is more than living our lives in a certain state of life (i.e., priesthood, religious, married and single). It is about something higher and even better. It is about the call to holiness. The states of life we might live in are the means to the end of holiness.

We are all called to holiness.
The vocation to holiness is for you.
Sainthood is not something merely for the super-religious or pious.

We all need to answer the call to holiness again and again with a resounding "yes" to God and His call to us each as individuals.

Lord help us to choose to say "yes" to holiness.

Viral Marketing Mocking Catholicism

Dante's Inferno, a new video game by Electronic Arts (EA) based on one part of Dante's book, The Divine Comedy, has a viral marketing campaign that has confused (and upset) a few good Catholics.  The campaign has a website called "Mass We Pray" which spoofs (or mocks - depending on your perspective) the Catholic Church.  You can tell watching the video (below) that the creators of the video aren't Catholic, because the kids don't even do the sign of the cross correctly.

What it boils down to is a publicity stunt.  I don't want to blow it out or proportion.  EA doesn't care about the Catholics they might offend, they just want to make money.  This is why the same group paid people to act as offended Christians in order to create buzz about the game.

Just don't buy it and leave it at that.  Here is the promo, which (of course) is made to look cheesy, because all Christians are boring prudes, right?  Bah!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Eucharist and Grace


Q - Last week at Catholicism 101 you talked about only receiving the Eucharist when you are in a state of grace.  Doesn't the Eucharist bring you into a state of grace?


A - Thanks for the question.  No, the Eucharist doesn't bring you into the state of grace.  This is for other Sacraments of the Church.  The first Sacrament received by a Christian is baptism.  This is what initially brings a person into the state of grace and therefore entry into the Church and into God's family.

If we fall from grace due to mortal sin, we can come back into the state of grace through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

To receive the Eucharist while in a state of mortal sin, and thus not in a state of grace, is to profane the Eucharist and is dangerous spiritually (see 1 Corinthians 11: 27-32).

For more about this topic, see these related posts:
-Mass can be boring. How can I go to Mass and get more out of it? 
-How is Jesus present in the Eucharist? Where do we find the teachings about this presence?
-Why Can't Non-Catholics Receive Communion?