Monday, February 27, 2012

The Nature of the Priesthood

Vatican II explains the priesthood in Presbyterorum Ordinis.  Here's an Antiochan Orthodox explanation of how the priest as an icon of Christ must be male, a point reiterated (and apparently defined as to be definitively held by all the faithful) by Pope John Paul II in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis.

"Stand Stark and Strange": Pro-Life Witness in the Culture of Death

A piece on the subject from Catholics United for the Faith's flagship publication Lay Witness magazine. Excerpts:
...But our efforts, like similar efforts everywhere, seemed to be the most provocative thing imaginable to many people. “How dare you politicize prayer?” demanded fellow students in the school newspaper. “How dare you attack women making a very difficult choice?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

HHs Mandate Politics

I wonder what the President will think of these allies if these moves cost him reelection.  Excerpt:
...The Vice President and others argued that this wouldn’t be seen as an issue of contraception – it would be seen as an issue of religious liberty. They questioned the polling of the rule advocates, arguing that it didn’t explain the issue in full, it ignored the question of what religious groups should have to pay for. And they argued that women voters for whom this was an important issue weren’t likely to vote for Mitt Romney, who has drawn a strong anti-abortion line as a presidential candidate, saying he would end federal funding to Planned Parenthood and supporting a “personhood” amendment that defines life as beginning at the moment of fertilization.

The Cost of Divorce

Not a happy picture.  Here's an interview with Elizabeth Marquardt, author of Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce (review here).  Excerpts:
...How does divorce affect how the children of divorce read the Bible?

Let's take, for instance, the parable of the Prodigal Son. The children of divorce don't focus on the end of the story, when the child comes home and is welcomed by a loving parent. They focus on the beginning of the story, when someone leaves the family home. For them, it's not the child who leaves the home; it's the parent.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Talk About Prophetic

Well, someone saw what was coming.  Excerpts:
...Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone.

98% of Catholic Women Use Contraception

is a bogus claim. Not just according to Mike Flynn, but also according to Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post. Excerpts:
...If a statistic sounds too good to be true, be wary. A spokesman for Pelosi said she was saying that 98 percent of Catholic women have used birth control at some point in their lives — because that is how the media characterized it.

But, judging from the examples above, the media has gotten it wrong. The journalistic shorthand has been that “98 percent of American Catholic women have used contraception in their lifetimes.” But that is incorrect, according to the research.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Natural Family Planning: Effective and Cheap

As with all forms of family planning, effective if used properly.  From ScienceDaily:
Researchers have found that a method of natural family planning that uses two indicators to identify the fertile phase in a woman's menstrual cycle is as effective as the contraceptive pill for avoiding unplanned pregnancies if used correctly, according to a report published online in Europe's leading reproductive medicine journal Human Reproduction today (21 February)...
Study abstract can be found here.

Lawsuit Against the Vatican Dropped

Because you weren't likely to hear about it anywhere else.  Excerpts:
A high-profile lawsuit in the United States accusing Pope Benedict XVI of covering up sexual abuse has been withdrawn.

Lawyers for the plaintiff in John Doe 16 v. Holy See filed a notice of voluntary dismissal last Friday, bringing the case effectively to an end...

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Contraceptives: Why Not?

From the secular side of things, we have a fair range of data indicating at least some significant increase in the risk of certain kinds of cancer arising from chemical contraceptives. The data varies somewhat from source to source, but it's there coming from rather reputable places. Here's CancerHelp UK on the cancer risk from contraceptives. Here's WebMD on the subject. Here's the National Cancer Institute on the subject. Note: some of these also speak of a reduced cancer risk from some forms of birth control pills.

Arguments for Opposing the HHS Contraceptive Mandate

Bioethicists weight in with philosophical arguments, which do not depend on being Catholic.  See the links at the end for their collection of the best statements of opposition.  Excerpts:
...Some of the fundamental reasons the “Mandate” must continue to be opposed are:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

For Ash Wednesday, the Jubilee Repentance

In 2000, Bl. Pope John Paul II and members of the Curia held a public ceremony of repentance for the sins of members of the Mystical Body of Christ.  It's worth remembering that today on Ash Wednesday.

I, A Sinner, Ask Your Prayers

Lest anyone be deceived by the existence and nature of this blog, let you now know the truth: I am a sinner, and know that I am a sinner.

Am I a good Catholic?


I'm a bad Catholic. And thusly, I gotta go to Confession.

Monday, February 20, 2012

How Long Has the Catholic Church Banned Contraception?

This long.  Excerpts:
...The recent indignity by which the Obama administration wants to mandate everyone, including all Catholic institutions or their insurers, to pay for contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, has raised the issue of Catholic teaching on these issues.

Some commentators have mistakenly asserted that the Catholic ban on these practices only goes back to Humanae Vitae (On the Regulation of Birth), by Pope Paul VI in 1968, or as far back as Casti Connubii (Of Chaste Wedlock), by Pope Pius XI in 1931...

Sir Christopher Lee--A Remarkable Life

Well, holy crud.  In his youth, the man who played Saruman, Count Dooku, Dracula, Sherlock Holmes, and the head of a murderous occultic cult, among a lot of other parts, fought Nazis.  Indeed, he fought Nazis to such a degree that he has expert knowledge of what the sound of someone getting knifed in the back should be.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Who Speaks for the Children?

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse was right.  Excerpts:
Lesbian parents 'betrayed' by gay father demanding to see his son

A two-year-old boy with "three parents" - his lesbian mother, her partner and a gay father - is at the centre of an Appeal Court test case on the status of "alternative" families...
As predicted here:

Ruse on Komen and Planned Parenthood

An interesting analysis.  Excerpts:
...In the end, Nancy Brinker faced the real possibility that affiliates would leave, personnel would quit, the funding base could be decimated, and the story would have lingered for weeks in the national media. She had little choice but to staunch the wound.

Trillion Dollar Forgery: Oddities

Okay, so there's some strange stuff sloshing around the internet about this.

Let's begin with a Bloomberg story.  Excerpts:
...Gombar says his first whiff of the bond con came in 1976, while working in the agency’s Los Angeles office investigating a similar bluff involving Venezuelan government paper.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

What's Inside a Pregnant Woman?

Let's ask an expert, shall we?

Trillion Dollar Forgery

It turns out that when small, Catholic news services report on billions of dollars in apparent US securities seized going between the Swiss and Italian borders, probably it's worth paying attention to--even if the US news services apparently fall silent.

Italian prosecutors say they have broken up an organised crime ring that was hiding trillions of dollars of fake US bonds.

The Return to the Catholic Ghetto

Some comparisons are being drawn between current policies and the times of the Elizabethan persecution of Catholics in England.  Excerpts:
...Intentionally or not, the administration's policy smacks of the methods established by England's Queen Elizabeth against Catholic "recusants," who refused to participate in the worship services of the Anglican Church during the late 16th century. Although Elizabeth's regime, and those that followed for the next two hundred years, did not provide a penalty for Catholic belief as such, they found a simple and devastating way to coerce Catholics to violate their consciences: the recusancy fine, which was levied against those who absented themselves from Sunday Anglican worship or failed to receive communion once a year.


Really, really interesting stories from two top observers of the Catholic Church.

First, John Allen, in the midst of a longer story about the ongoing leaks of confidential Vatican documents, makes some very interesting observations.  Excerpts:
...There are also two dimensions of the story with American implications.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Caste System vs. Catholicism

Interesting controversies.  Excerpts:
...“We are in the crosshairs of violent individuals because we help the destitute.” Hindu extremists consider the Church an enemy because of its commitment to human development and against the caste culture that marginalizes the “untouchables”. In a public speech in Bangalore, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Mumbai and President of the Indian Conference of Bishops, complained that the Catholic Church is under attack because of its social work in favour of lower castes. According to Cardinal Gracias, “although the Catholic Church represents just 3% of the total population, it continues to make a significant contribution to nation-building: with our schools and our educational institutions, we are committed to bringing ethics into public life and the economy.”

Bad Catholic: Stand Up, Church!

One of the best new Catholic bloggers on the scene in a while, Marc Barnes of Bad Catholic, explains what's going on.  Excerpts:
...We stood up. The net result of the Bishop’s hardass response, the preaching directed against the mandate in parishes across the country, and the blogosphere’s immature and shrill cry of outrage was this: We are winning, and not just the battle, but hearts along with it. The fact that something as obviously wrong as the HHS mandate happened should be no surprise.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Planned Parenthood and the Food Pantry

The Anchoress points out another warning sign.  Excerpts:
...Thus, the move to dismantle the Catholic conscience — or at least to redefine it as a threat to the public good — is underway. To that end an administration that didn’t need to involve the churches in its policies at all has gone out of its way to do exactly that.

And now, comes a “nuanced” assist.

A Distributist Reading List

Looks very interesting:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Self-Proclaimed Catholic: "God Does Not Directly Speak To Us"

Oh. Dear. Heavens. Excerpts:
As critics repeatedly point out, 98 percent of sexually active American Catholic women practice birth control, and 78 percent of Catholics think a “good Catholic” can reject the bishops’ teaching on birth control.
The 98% statistic is really misleading for the reasons laid out here.
What the church teaches is what the bishops (and, ultimately, the pope, as head of the bishops) say it does.  But is this true?...
Ummm...yes. One of the definitions of being Catholic. You're kinda committed.

Supreme Knight Anderson: Ghettoization Coming

An interesting analysis I haven't seen anywhere else is given here by Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, head of the Knights of Columbus.  Excerpts:
...Arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC late last year, the administration sought unprecedented limits on the autonomy of churches and religious institutions in employment matters.

The administration argued that the free-exercise clause of the First Amendment is not relevant to any “ministerial exception” in employment law claimed by religious institutions. To the extent that the administration was willing to recognize any exception, it wanted such exceptions “limited to those employees who perform exclusively religious functions.”

So radical was the administration’s reasoning that the Supreme Court unanimously disagreed, saying: “We are unsure whether any such employees exist,” because even the highest-ranking churchmen have “a mix of duties,” not all of which are religious....

All You Need Is Love!

St. Augustine on love:

Cardinal George: Unprecedented Interference

Really strong words from the Cardinal from Chicago. Excerpts:
...Even in the midst of this strengthened unity, news of attempts to weaken the unity between the bishops and the faithful have been reported. This is the first time in the history of the United States that a presidential administration has purposely tried to interfere in the internal working of the Catholic Church, playing one group off against another for political gain. What isn’t always understood is that the Bishops of the Church make no attempt to speak for all Catholics; they never have. The Bishops speak for the Catholic and apostolic faith, and those who hold that faith gather around them. Others disperse. That dynamic is clear in history and became clear also in the official visit to Rome that the Bishops of our region made this week.

Our visit has reminded us that the Church enjoys divine assistance even when she is being attacked. It was a timely visit.
Italics mine.  Wow.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Liberty Flows From Life

An interesting point.  Excerpts:
...Amid the turmoil of the HHS contraceptive mandate controversy, Americans should not miss out on this profoundly teachable moment—and respond accordingly. The lesson is that he or she who denies the right to life will eventually seek to deny the right to liberty as well.

The pro-life movement has been sounding this alarm for years. Unfortunately, we now have undeniable evidence that we are right.

Do you believe us now, America?...


A fascinating interview:

Monday, February 13, 2012

The USCCB and President Obama

So what's going on?  This is a useful overview.  Excerpts:
...what's the problem?
Well, Catholics consider paying for those things sinful. So they are flaming mad at Obama. And Catholic priests have been reading a letter to almost all Catholics at church promising that the Church "cannot–and will not–obey this unjust law." This is pretty much unprecedented.

It seems like there is some subtext to this, right?
You betcha. Many of the bishops supported Obama's health-care reform effort precisely because they believed they had assurances this wouldn't happen. Update 4:59 The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops did eventually turn against the bill as written.

Why is this a big deal though? This is a minority issue, no? 
Well not exactly. The Church has built or maintains about 625 non-profit hospitals in the United States right now. 1 in 8 hospital visits in America are to Catholic hospitals. It's the largest non-profit sector of the health-care industry by a long shot.

Whoa that's a lot.
Yeah–and then there are the schools. About 65,000 professors work at over 230 Catholic universities and colleges in America. And then there are secondary schools, etc. And charity organizations.

But aren't hospitals and schools really secular enterprises? 
So when Jesus said heal the sick and feed the poor it had nothing to do with religion? Not sure that is going to fly. But that brings up the point that the Obama administration seems to be saying; that anything a religious person does outside of a Church or with someone who isn't part of their religion is somehow not-religious. In fact, it can't help but make that judgment.

But isn't the Church just a criminal enterprise of child-molesting freaks! I can't wait until the day it dies. It is based on fairy-tales!
We've been seeing a lot of comments like this. And well, it seems unlikely that the Church of approximately 70 million people here and a billion worldwide is going to go away tomorrow. Also, a lot of people of all faiths wouldn't have non-profit hospitals. Is this how you talk to people you meet?

All right, it's not going away, but the Church's teaching against contraception is really stupid. They're just against contraception because they hate women and their bodies. 
You don't take away people's rights because you disagree with them...

Komen and Planned Parenthood: Media Bias

Oh, boy.  Excerpts:
...the piece embedded here [is] by Howard Kurtz. He’s a media writer for the Daily Beast, after years as a star media-beat reporter at The Washington Post. He says many obvious things about how biased most stories about Komen were. He doesn’t even think it’s a bad thing, necessarily, he’s just saying that it was. So Kurtz says there’s no question that the media drove this story, forced the apology from the Komen foundation and have been approaching the whole narrative from the left. He remarks on how Andrea Mitchell hammered Komen, but adds that most journalists in the mainstream media were doing the same thing. He notes that many in the media simply weren’t interested in telling more than one side of the story, likely due to their strong feelings. But their framing was overwhelmingly similar: that Komen was stupid ever to have thought it could pull funding from such a wonderful and apolitical organization as Planned Parenthood. He points out the obvious double standard of viewing funding of Planned Parenthood as apolitical but no funding as political..

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Seattleites--Your Archbishop Speaks

alongside Bishop Elizondo. Read the whole thing, and pass it along!

"When They Accuse Us"

The Anchoress, as usual, is cool.  Excerpts:
...When someone spits the word “homophobe” at us, we must offer them the USCCB’s pastoral letter, “Always Our Children” and—acknowledging that the document may not be precisely what they like—ask whether, having read it, they can make a credible argument that the church is “anti-gay.”

Then, when they accuse us of misogyny and a lack of compassion, give them the brief but powerful and prophetic encyclical Humanae Vitae and then ask: can you credibly call the church anti-feminist or anti-humanist?

Can they read Pope John Paul II’s exhaustive teachings on The Theology of the Body and credibly declare the church to be sexually repressed or disinterested in the full expression of ourselves as sexual beings?

Can they read Gaudium et Spes and credibly argue that the church is out of touch with the Human Person or Society.

Can they read Fides et ratio and credibly argue that the church does not hold human reason in esteem.

Can they learn of the Vatican supporting and funding stem cell research, or read even the briefest list of religiously-inclined scientists and researchers and credibly argue that Christianity is “anti-science?”

The secularist society does not want to hear alternative thought; they want a simple “yes,” to whatever is on the agenda of the worldly world and suits its values. People seem not to realize that far from being an Institution of No, the church is a giant and eternal urging toward “Yes”—a self-actualized “yes” formed through an engagement with what is true, over what is reported; what is real, over what is caricature. A “yes” that is greater than the self, and lives beyond the moment...

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The President Is A Liar

or else this article is incredibly inaccurate.  Excerpts:
...Despite what President Obama said at his White House press conference, the actual regulations make permanent the “interim final regulations” issued August 3, 2011 — the ones that sparked the furor in the first place...

the words that have the force of law appear on pages 18 to 20. That’s where the actual amendments to the Code of Federal Regulations are made by three departments — Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services — that Congress previously granted joint oversight of employer health plans...

Translation: The Obama administration Friday afternoon put into federal law the very regulation that drew objections from almost 200 Catholic bishops, some 50 religiously affiliated colleges and universities, 65 North American bishops of Orthodox churches, numerous other Jewish, Evangelical and Lutheran leaders, and even some liberals — and without changing so much as a comma.

From this point forward, any changes to this regulation have to go through the formal regulatory process all over again...
Unless someone can show that is false, this is staggering. On the same day as his conciliatory press conference, they do this.

Along the same lines, we see this.  Excerpts:
In a perceptive analysis of the political debate, reporter Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times said that in its decision to amend the original HHS mandate, the Obama administration was “never really driven by a desire to mollify Roman Catholic bishops, who were strongly opposed to the plan.” She explained:

Rather, the fight was for Sister Carol Keehan--head of an influential Catholic hospital group, who had supported President Obama’s health care law--and Catholic allies of the White House seen as the religious left. Sister Keehan had told the White House that the new rule, part of the health care law, went too far.
Now that Sister Keehan has endorsed the Obama “compromise” (along with Father Larry Snyder of Catholic Charities USA), the Obama administration can claim that many Catholics, including some who had originally opposed the plan, now see the wisdom of his ways. President Obama does not intend to persuade the American bishops to support his proposal; he intends to siphon off support for the bishops among American Catholic voters, driving a political wedge further into the country’s Catholic community.
Isn’t this always the technique that subtle politicians use to attack the power of the Catholic Church?...
Well, we're in for it now. Here's a positive testimony to the Church's teaching.

Mary and Miracles

Rod Dreher shares an interesting personal story.  Excerpts:
...S.'s cancer had gone into remission, but came back not long before my sister died. She's still fighting it.

S. is a prayerful Catholic. For the past 10 days, she's had in her house a Rosa Mystica statue of the Virgin Mary. It's about 18 inches tall, and she has it on her coffee table. I had never heard of this particular devotion, even during my Catholic years, but S. says this is one of two (I think) such statues in south Louisiana.

Both are passed around among Catholics who are very ill or otherwise in distress. S. told me that she and others sometimes see moisture forming in the eyes of the statue during prayer. She showed me a couple of images on her iPhone purporting to document this, as well as other eerie alterations on the statue's face during and immediately following prayer.

We were sitting right next to the statue the whole time. I didn't notice anything unusual about it.

We talked for a while about how her cancer treatment was going, and things that have been on her mind. After a while, she asked me if I had time to stay and pray her daily rosary with her. Sure, I said.

We knelt down to pray, and I could see at the bottom of the statue's right eyelid moisture forming. It was strange.

It was definitely not there when I first saw the statue, and I had not moved more than two feet from it the whole visit. Nobody ever touched it. We prayed the rosary together, and asked God's help and blessing for the sick, and others in need of mercy.

When we had finished, S. said, "Do you see that?"

Yes, I did see that. There were two small beads of liquid appearing on the lower lid of the statue's right eye. They had been there since we started to pray.

Make of that what you will. I know better than to try to say what that was, or what it meant. I believe this kind of thing can and does happen, miraculously. All I'm willing to say about this particular incident is that these "tears" weren't there when I first examined the statue -- and I examined it from a number of angles, both before and after this incident.

Nobody touched the statue while I was there. The liquid appeared to have emerged as we knelt to pray...

As I left, she gave me three white roses from a vase next to the statue -- one for my sister's family, one for my mom and dad, and one for my family. They looked fresh, but S. said they have been in that vase since the day the statue was brought to her house. They haven't decayed...

Bishops: Rescind the Mandate

The USCCB has a response to the "accomodation:" fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.  Excerpts:
"...First, we objected to the rule forcing private health plans — nationwide, by the stroke of a bureaucrat's pen—to cover sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortion. All the other mandated "preventive services" prevent disease, and pregnancy is not a disease. Moreover, forcing plans to cover abortifacients violates existing federal conscience laws. Therefore, we called for the rescission of the mandate altogether.

Second, we explained that the mandate would impose a burden of unprecedented reach and severity on the consciences of those who consider such "services" immoral: insurers forced to write policies including this coverage; employers and schools forced to sponsor and subsidize the coverage; and individual employees and students forced to pay premiums for the coverage. We therefore urged HHS, if it insisted on keeping the mandate, to provide a conscience exemption for all of these stakeholders—not just the extremely small subset of "religious employers" that HHS proposed to exempt initially...

we note at the outset that the lack of clear protection for key stakeholders—for self-insured religious employers; for religious and secular for-profit employers; for secular non-profit employers; for religious insurers; and for individuals—is unacceptable and must be corrected. And in the case where the employee and insurer agree to add the objectionable coverage, that coverage is still provided as a part of the objecting employer's plan, financed in the same way as the rest of the coverage offered by the objecting employer. This, too, raises serious moral concerns...

stepping away from the particulars, we note that today's proposal continues to involve needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions, and to threaten government coercion of religious people and groups to violate their most deeply held convictions. In a nation dedicated to religious liberty as its first and founding principle, we should not be limited to negotiating within these parameters. The only complete solution to this religious liberty problem is for HHS to rescind the mandate of these objectionable services.

We will therefore continue—with no less vigor, no less sense of urgency—our efforts to correct this problem through the other two branches of government. For example, we renew our call on Congress to pass, and the Administration to sign, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act. And we renew our call to the Catholic faithful, and to all our fellow Americans, to join together in this effort to protect religious liberty and freedom of conscience for all."
And from an internal memo, circulated amongst the US Catholic bishops, excerpts:
We remain fully committed to the defense of our religious liberty and we strongly protest the violation of our freedom of religion that has not been addressed. We continue to work for the repeal of the mandate. We have grave reservations that the government is intruding in the definition of who is and who is not a religious employer. Upon further study we are very concerned that serious issues still remain and we have found numerous problems which we will raise in this letter.

...Our brother bishops permit us to repeat the principles that are guiding us:

First, there is the respect for religious liberty. No government has the right to intrude into the affairs of the Church, much less coerce, the Church faithful individuals to engage in or cooperate in any way with immoral practices.

Second, it is the place of the Church, not of government to define its religious identity and ministry.

Third, we continue to oppose the underlying policy of a government mandate for purchase or promotion of contraception, sterilization or abortion inducing drugs.

Thank you, brothers, for your commitment to work with everyone concerned about religious freedom in our society and to advance our principled goals. We will continue to keep you informed as we study this issue and learn more about this policy and our opportunities for its correction. We heartily welcome your observations and continued prayers and support...

Friday, February 10, 2012

"So-Called 'Accommodation' Changes Nothing"

Clarification on the accommodation from "former Vatican Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon, Princeton Prof. Robert George, Notre Dame Law Prof. Carter Snead, Catholic University of America President John Garvey, and EPPC Fellow Yuval Levin." Excerpts:
...This so-called “accommodation” changes nothing of moral substance and fails to remove the assault on religious liberty and the rights of conscience which gave rise to the controversy. It is certainly no compromise. The reason for the original bipartisan uproar was the administration’s insistence that religious employers, be they institutions or individuals, provide insurance that covered services they regard as gravely immoral and unjust. Under the new rule, the government still coerces religious institutions and individuals to purchase insurance policies that include the very same services.

It is no answer to respond that the religious employers are not “paying” for this aspect of the insurance coverage. For one thing, it is unrealistic to suggest that insurance companies will not pass the costs of these additional services on to the purchasers. More importantly, abortion-drugs, sterilizations, and contraceptives are a necessary feature of the policy purchased by the religious institution or believing individual. They will only be made available to those who are insured under such policy, by virtue of the terms of the policy.

It is morally obtuse for the administration to suggest (as it does) that this is a meaningful accommodation of religious liberty because the insurance company will be the one to inform the employee that she is entitled to the embryo-destroying “five day after pill” pursuant to the insurance contract purchased by the religious employer. It does not matter who explains the terms of the policy purchased by the religiously affiliated or observant employer. What matters is what services the policy covers...

The simple fact is that the Obama administration is compelling religious people and institutions who are employers to purchase a health insurance contract that provides abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization. This is a grave violation of religious freedom and cannot stand.

"We Are All Catholics Now"

Wow.  Well, good for him.  Excerpts:
...The argument is not about theology. It’s not about abortion. It’s not pro-life versus pro-choice. It’s not about birth control.

It’s about freedom.

Aside from this direct assault on the faith of practicing Catholics, the fact that a cabinet secretary can, of his or her own volition, without an act of Congress and with no practical avenue of redress, issue regulations mandating that someone must do something that he or she as a matter of personal ethics or faith would otherwise never do, is an assault on the country’s very foundation...

All of this is further evidence, as if evidence is needed, of government that has slipped its constitutional bonds. If you, like me, are not Catholic and have no opposition to the use of contraceptives, and thus think that you’re not affected, think again.

If a practicing Catholic or a Catholic institution in the United States can be compelled by the government to act against religious faith, it’s only a matter of time before some equally offensive compulsion is brought down upon you by the same heavy hand of a government that refuses to respect its limits.

That’s why we’re all Catholics now.

Vatican II's Teaching Authority

What authority hath Vatican II?  One answer.  Excerpts:
It is impossible ('for a Catholic') to take a position for Vatican II but against Trent or Vatican I. Whoever accepts Vatican II, as it has been clearly expressed and understood itself, at the same time accepts the whole binding tradition of the Catholic Church, particularly the two previous Councils. And that also applies to the so-called 'progressivism', at least in its extreme forms. It is likewise impossible to decide in favour of Trent and Vatican I, but against Vatican II. Whoever denies Vatican II denies the authority that upholds the other two Councils and thereby detaches them from their foundation. And this applies to the so called 'traditionalism', also in its extreme forms. Every partisan choice destroys the whole which can exist only as an indivisible unity.

Over against both tendencies, before all else, it must be stated that Vatican II is upheld by the same authority as Vatican I and the Council of Trent, namely, the Pope and the College of Bishops in communion with him, and that also with regard to its contents, Vatican II is in the strictest continuity with both previous councils and incorporates their texts word for word in decisive points." (The Ratzinger Report,1985)...

Together, the Pope and the bishops in assembly constitute the highest teaching authority of the Church, so you can probably deduce for yourself that wilfully to reject such authority would separate you from the Church in a very serious manner. At the conclusion of each document of Vatican II, there is a statement by Pope Paul VI emphasizing the collegial unity of the Pope and the bishops in approving the documents:

"Each and every one of the things set forth in this (here the type of document is named) has won the consent of the fathers. We too, by the Apostolic Authority conferred on us by Christ, join with the venerable Fathers in approving, decreeing, and establishing these things in the Holy Spirit, and we direct that what has thus been enacted in Synod be published to God’s glory…I, Paul, Bishop of the Catholic Church."

At the close of the Council, the following words read on behalf of Pope Paul VI convey the expected response from the faithful:

"We decide moreover that all that has been established synodally is to be religiously observed by all the faithful (our italics), for the glory of God and the dignity of the Church… we have approved and established these things, decreeing that the present letters are and remain stable and valid, and are to have legal effectiveness, so that they be disseminated and obtain full and complete effect..." (December 8, 1965)

The argument is sometimes put forward that no infallible pronouncements were made during Vatican II, and certainly the words of Pope Paul VI seem to support this:

"There are those who ask what authority, what theological qualification the Council intended to give to its teachings, knowing that it avoided issuing solemn dogmatic definitions engaging the infallibility of the ecclesiastical Magisterium. The answer is known by whoever remembers the conciliar declaration of March 6, 1964, repeated on November 16, 1964: given the Council’s pastoral character, it avoided pronouncing, in an extraordinary manner, dogmas endowed with the note of infallibility." (Paul VI, General Audience of January 12, 1966)

Even if we accept that the Council made no infallible pronouncements, however, it is still a serious act of disobedience, a sin in fact, to ignore or reject the Church's non-infallible teachings. When Pope Paul VI stated "that all that has been established synodally is to be religiously observed by all the faithful," he is reminding us that all the teachings and admonitions of the Church are worthy of reverence. The Catechism speaks of the assent required of all Catholics:

Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a "definitive manner" (our italics),they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful "are to adhere to it with religious assent" (our italics) which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it (Catechism:892).

Again, it is important to focus on exactly what the Council wrote and actually intended, rather than to focus on certain interpretations of Council documents that you believe are unacceptable or damaging to the faith. No one is asking you to shut down your critical faculties, however, and you should feel free to express your views in a respectful manner as the need arises. Nevertheless, give the Council what theologians call assensus religiosus; that is, the religious assent of mind and will, trusting that Holy Mother Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, possesses "the fullness of the means of salvation." (The Second Vatican Council: Decree on Ecumenism)...

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Social Justice Catholics: A Call to Action

Michael Sean Winters for the win.  Excerpts:
...The administration’s logic seems to be that when a poor person comes to a Catholic soup kitchen, we should not ask if he is hungry, we should ask if he is Catholic. Sorry, but that is not how we conceive of our Catholic mission and social justice Catholics should be the first to recognize this instead of shamefully making apologies for the administration or bashing the bishops or shifting the conversation away from these first principles into a defense of contraception...

Make no mistake about it - those who support denying Catholic institutions a more robust exemption have placed their commitment to pro-choice orthodoxy above their commitment to health care reform. Is that progressive? Is that something progressive Catholics, who fought so hard to pass the ACA, want to defend? It is time for so-called progressive Catholics to stop serving as chaplains to the political status quo and recognize a first principle when they see one. It is time for Catholics to insist that a conscience exemption that only applies to religion on Sunday and no help for the poor unless they are also Catholic is no conscience exemption at all. And, if the White House doesn't see it that way, let them pay the political price for it. This isn't a neighborhood bridge game. It is politics.

Religious Freedom Condemned to Die

A powerful homily.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The USCCB's 6 Things About The HHS Regulation

What you need to know. Excerpted:
1. The mandate does not exempt Catholic charities, schools, universities, or hospitals. These institutions are vital to the mission of the Church, but HHS does not deem them "religious employers" worthy of conscience protection, because they do not "serve primarily persons who share the[ir] religious tenets." HHS denies these organizations religious freedom precisely because their purpose is to serve the common good of society—a purpose that government should encourage, not punish.

2. The mandate forces these institutions and others, against their conscience, to pay for things they consider immoral. Under the mandate, the government forces religious insurers to write policies that violate their beliefs; forces religious employers and schools to sponsor and subsidize coverage that violates their beliefs; and forces religious employees and students to purchase coverage that violates their beliefs.

3. The mandate forces coverage of sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs and devices as well as contraception. Though commonly called the "contraceptive mandate," HHS's mandate also forces employers to sponsor and subsidize coverage of sterilization. And, by including all drugs approved by the FDA for use as contraceptives, the HHS mandate includes drugs that can induce abortion, such as "Ella," a close cousin of the abortion pill RU-486.

4. Catholics of all political persuasions are unified in their opposition to the mandate. Catholics who have long supported this Administration and its healthcare policies have publicly criticized HHS's decision, including columnists E.J. Dionne, Mark Shields, and Michael Sean Winters; college presidents Father John Jenkins and Arturo Chavez; and Daughter of Charity Sister Carol Keehan, president and chief executive officer of the Catholic Health Association of the United States.

5. Many other religious and secular people and groups have spoken out strongly against the mandate. Many recognize this as an assault on the broader principle of religious liberty, even if they disagree with the Church on the underlying moral question. For example, Protestant Christian, Orthodox Christian, and Orthodox Jewish groups--none of which oppose contraception--have issued statements against the decision. The Washington Post, USA Today, N.Y. Daily News, Detroit News, and other secular outlets, columnists, and bloggers have editorialized against it.

6. The federal mandate is much stricter than existing state mandates. HHS chose the narrowest state-level religious exemption as the model for its own. That exemption was drafted by the ACLU and exists in only 3 states (New York, California, Oregon). Even without a religious exemption, religious employers can already avoid the contraceptive mandates in 28 states by self-insuring their prescription drug coverage, dropping that coverage altogether, or opting for regulation under a federal law (ERISA) that pre-empts state law. The HHS mandate closes off all these avenues of relief.

Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan on HHS Conscience Regulation from Rocco Palmo on Vimeo.

Conversion of the Converted

A challenge to all religious people: take the next step and become a saint. Excerpts:
...The young abbot was speaking to his community one day, and he made a remark that shocked me on my first reading of it. "There are more people converted from mortal sin to grace, than there are religious converted from good to better." Over the years the more I have experienced of life and thought about this statement the more I have been convinced of its truth. Yet one may ask, what is so shocking about it?

Before responding to this question, it may be helpful to unpack the implications of this plain fact. What Bernard said of religious unfortunately is true in all states of life: bishops, priests, married men and women. Routine daily experience bears it out. Like any competent speaker, the saint wanted to be clear and direct, and so he spoke of the men in front of him. Yet we may wonder: what is shocking about this prosaic but seldom discussed truth?

Putting the saint's observation in simple contemporary terms may help. Bernard was saying that there are more men who give up serious alienation from God, mortal sin, than there are people who give up small wrongs, willed venial sins. And there are even fewer who grow into heroic virtue and live as saints live. If we are not saddened by this realization, we ought to be. We need to notice the title of this book: Deep Conversion/ Deep Prayer. The twice repeated adjective is important. Seldom explained, it is what we are about here...

Corrupt Popes? We Know, We Know...

So sometimes people seem shocked that Catholics can follow the Pope, even though there have been many sinful pontiffs.  To which Catholics can answer--um, yeah?

Considering the fact that they are elected to lead people in prayer, mission and good works, surprisingly few popes have been beatified or canonized, especially in the last 500 years.

From St. Peter to Pope Benedict XVI, there have been 265 popes; 78 of them are saints, and Pope John Paul II's beatification brought to 11 the number of popes known as blessed...
We've had saints and sinners hold the chair of Peter down through the years. The papacy has had high points and low, but all must be seen in light of its first occupant. St. Peter was a sinner, called by Jesus to a unique place, and transformed by the fire of the Holy Spirit, just as all saints must be. It is the person who dwells in the presence and the power of God who become supernaturalized, a partaker in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).

Monday, February 6, 2012

Why Pray?

Father Thomas Dubay, author of Prayer Primer : Igniting a Fire Within, says it brilliantly.  Excerpts:
...Scripture says it best of all. With a charming invitation the Lord shouts "Oh, come to the water all you who are thirsty; though you have no money, come .... Why spend money on what is not bread, your wages on what fails to satisfy .... Pay attention, come to me; listen, and your soul will live" (Is 55:1-3, JB). Nothing less can bring us to life. And Isaiah himself keeps vigil through the night as his spirit yearns for his Lord (Is 26:9). He practices what he proclaims.

The psalmist is of like mind: his soul thirsts for the living God (Ps 42:2-3). Like a parched desert he pines for his Lord, for only in him does he find rest (Ps 63:1; 62:1). The inspired writer knows that God must be our consuming concern, for pursuing him, adoring him, loving him, being immersed in him can alone profoundly delight and fill us. Anything less than Everything is not enough.

The New Testament has the same message, for the Fountain has appeared in the flesh. He declares in the Sermon on the Mount that they are blessed who hunger and thirst after holiness (Mt 5:6), and his Mother proclaims in her Magnificat that the Lord fills the hungry with every good thing (Lk 1:53). Jesus explicitly invites all those who are thirsty to come to him for a quenching with living water (Jn 7:37). At the very end of both Testaments this same invitation is extended to everyone: let all the thirsty come forward to be forever quenched with the life-giving waters, that is, an eternal enthrallment in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit seen face to face (Rev 22:17).

Prayer life is therefore profoundly rooted in the needs of our human nature. Without it we are frustrated creatures. All the way from the beginnings in vocal prayer through meditation, which leads to the summit of contemplation, this prayerful immersion in the indwelling Trinity gradually transforms us from one glory to another as we are being turned into the divine image (2 Cor 3:18). Here alone do men and women become "perfect in beauty" (Ezek 16:13-14). We can understand why Henri de Lubac was prompted to say that man is truly man only when the light of God is reflected in a face upturned in prayer...


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