What People Say About Us

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Kyle Killit
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Sergie Kalashnikov
CEO at BentoBox

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Bryant Chou
CTO at Slapper Labs

Audio: The Crisis

Audio: The Crisis

by Steve Wood[audio mp3="http://dads.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Faith-Family-Radio-Episode-A-205.mp3"][/audio]The crisis we are facing in the Church and in the world was:

  • predicted by Cardinal Newman
  • prophesied by St. John Paul II
  • foreseen by Pope Leo XIII
  • envisaged by Anne Catherine Emmerich

And it’s far more serious than what many imagine.


Video: Is Masculinity Toxic?



The Big Courtship Question: Earlier or Later Marriage? Part I

by Steve Wood

Men today face sexual temptations of cataclysmic proportions. I’m afraid that the vast majority of Christian men (both Protestant and Catholic) are on the losing side in the war for purity. Recently, a Protestant Evangelical pastor told me that he asked his potential deacon candidates if they had viewed pornography in the past six months. One hundred percent of these potential spiritual leaders had succumbed to porn. My estimate is that at least fifteen million Catholic men in the United States have done the same.Cohabitation has increased 900% over the past forty years. Most older teens and young adults don’t consider the big question about pre-marital sex any longer. The only question most now ask is how many dates are necessary before hopping into bed together. The “hooking up” culture on college campuses doesn’t even require a date before engaging in sex.In light of the skyrocketing cohabitation and purity struggles in our culture, I think it is time to reconsider the recommended age of marriage. The entire chapter five of The ABCs of Choosing a Good Wife deals with the question of earlier or later marriage for those wishing to explore the question in depth.Americans are generally waiting longer to get married. For men, the median age of first marriage in 2000 was 26.8, up from 22.8 in 1950. For women, the median age in 2000 was 25.1, up from 20.3 in 1950.A return to a younger age for marriage certainly isn’t a cure-all for sexual immorality, yet it is one way to preserve purity and build stronger marriages.One of the strongest advocates of earlier marriage was St. John Chrysostom, the fifth-century patriarch of Constantinople, who was probably the greatest preacher that ever lived. In his homily on 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7, he forcefully warns fathers against the dangers of delayed marriage:

“But at the season of marriage, let no one defer it. Behold, I speak the words of a match-maker, that you should let your sons marry... When thy son is grown up, before he enters upon warfare, or any other course of life, consider of his marriage. And if he sees that thou wilt soon take a bride for him, and that the time intervening will be short, he will be able to endure the flame [of passion] patiently. But if he perceives that thou art remiss and slow, and waitest until he shall acquire a large income, and then thou wilt contract a marriage for him, despairing at the length of the time, he will readily fall into fornication. But alas! the root of evils here also is the love of money. Wherefore, I exhort you first to regulate well their souls. If he finds his bride chaste, and know that body alone, then will both his desire be vehement, and his fear of God the greater, and the marriage truly honorable, receiving bodies pure and undefiled.”

To fully understand the last sentence of St. Chyrsostom’s quotation we need to consider St. Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 6:

"Do you not know that he who joins himself to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, ‘The two shall become one flesh.’ … Shun immorality. Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the immoral man sins against his own body” (verses 16-18).

St. Paul is teaching that fornication creates a profound bond between partners that mimics the one flesh bond of marriage. The married man who joins himself to a prostitute, or the single man who cohabits with a college co-ed, is creating within himself a permanent bond. This is why St. Paul says to “shun immorality.” Its lingering effects are unlike any other sin. There is no such thing as a one night affair. Conversely, as St. Chrysostom teaches, the man who remains pure until marriage will have a stronger marriage bond and purer desires in marriage.Before you recommend that your teenage sons run out and get married, consider the risks associated with early marriage. The divorce rate for those getting married between twenty-one and twenty-two years old is exactly double the divorce rate of those marrying at twenty-four or twenty-five. Teenage marriages have the highest probability of divorce. It is a widely acknowledged fact that early marriage is associated with high levels of divorce.Therefore, if we are to consider earlier marriage, we need to identify and change those factors associated with the destabilizing effects of early marriage. That’s what we’ll do in Part II of this article.


Lessons for Dads from Secondhand Lions

by Steve Wood

This article on Secondhand Lions is a reflection on a fascinating film for fathers, grandfathers, and uncles.Secondhand Lions features Walter, a shy and awkward boy being raised by an irresponsible single mom with multiple boyfriends. Walter is abandoned for the summer when his mother drops him off at the rundown rural Texas home of his great uncles.At the difficult stage of life when a boy needs to mature into his manhood, Walter seems to have every conceivable strike against his healthy development. Yet Walter’s manhood miraculously matures as a result of his relationship with two cranky old men.Garth and Hub (Michael Caine and Robert Duvall) are the gruff-talking, shotgun-toting, anti-social, rough-around-the-edges, great uncles. They sure don’t have Ph.D.’s in developmental psychology, and at first they don’t seem particularly interested in helping to make a man out of Walter. In fact, Garth and Hub seem like the worst possible father-substitutes for this semi-orphaned boy. Yet they do a marvelous job in helping Walter make the transition from boyhood to manhood.Here are Garth’s and Hub’s secrets for turning this boy into a young man: Shoot, fish, eat, work, ride in the truck, and have lots of fun as guys – not really too complicated. They just did all this stuff together and, despite having every social strike against him, Walter grows into a well-adjusted man.It takes a man to convey and confirm masculinity to a boy. It doesn’t come via auto-pilot. It doesn’t come from the most committed and talented mother, or female teacher. Dad, let me repeat this: It takes a man to help a boy to develop his masculinity. I wrote this in The ABCs of Choosing a Good Husband:“A young boy is naturally drawn into a close attachment to his mother. Being a ‘mama’s boy’ under seven years of age is fine and healthy. And yet for a boy to mature fully in his masculinity, he needs to ‘detach’ from Mom and form a closer attachment with his father throughout older boyhood and adolescence.A boy matures into manhood through this close identification with his father. Once a young man has fully matured in this way, he’s ready for a close reattachment to a woman — his wife. But it’s extremely difficult for a boy to mature in his masculinity without the presence of a father.”

When boys don’t have men to help them mature, they turn out haywire – hoods and homosexuals are just two extreme types of boys who don’t make the transition to manhood.The hoods in Secondhand Lions who pull switchblades and try (quite unsuccessfully) to rough up Robert Duvall were asserting their pseudo-masculinity. After the fight, Duvall befriends the hoods and takes them home. He recognizes that these young toughs have a deficiency of real manhood. So he gives them his “man talk” to help them become real men. After observing this, Walter wisely senses his own need for the “man talk” and desperately pleads for one.Although frequently unacknowledged, homosexuality and gender-confusion also stem from the failure to make the successful transition from boyhood to manhood. Homosexuality is now a common phenomenon among Catholic teens and twenty year-olds.What should Catholic parents of a homosexual or gender-confused child do? The last thing I would advise is heeding the document, “Always Our Children.” I also advise keeping your children far from anyone or anything associated with the National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian and Gay Ministries [NACDLGM]. Homosexuality and gender confusion are serious problems requiring solid psychological advice.Dr. Joseph Nicolosi is on my short-list of reliable Catholic psychologists. Every Catholic dad should read his book, A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality.Dr. Nicolosi, who has spoken with hundreds of homosexual men over the past fifteen years, says, “I have never met a single homosexual man who said he had a close, loving, and respectful relationship with his father. I have never known a single case of a homosexual man who was not wounded in his relationships within the male world.”Dr. Nicolosi asserts, “Fathers make men.” He describes how boys have a critical developmental task that girls don’t. A boy needs “to disidentify from his mother and identify with his father” if he is to grow into a normal heterosexual man. “Every boy has a deep longing to be held, to be loved by a father figure, to be mentored into the world of men, and to have his masculine nature affirmed and declared good enough by his male peers, his male elders, and mentors.”On a recent live radio show with Dr. Nicolosi as my guest, we received a call from a concerned mother about her son’s masculine development. Dr. Nicolosi asked her, “How is your son’s relationship with his father?” She said, “Oh it’s great. They’re buddies, they play sports together all the time, and they hunt and fish together.” Dr. Nicolosi said, “Everything’s okay, there will be no problems.” The mother, not entirely convinced, went on to voice additional concerns when Dr. Nicolosi interrupted her and confidently predicted that this boy will turn out just fine thanks to his relationship with his father.

Secondhand Lions is an encouraging film for dads (grandfathers and uncles) raising young men in our gender-confused and lack-of-genuine-manhood culture. Be sure to see this movie. If Garth and Hub, a pair of cranky and slightly crazy great-uncles, can lead Walter into his manhood, you can too. Garth and Hub weren’t perfect by a long shot, but they did share their lives and their manhood with Walter. It was a priceless gift.Don’t let yourself be absorbed by your career and your personal sports and hobbies apart from your sons. You’ve got to be with your sons in order to share your manhood with them. Your wife can’t do this job for you. Expensive toys will not fill this void in your son. It takes you to lead your son into his manhood.So, sweat with your sons while doing physical work together. Shoot some skeet this fall. Fish together. Maybe fix up an old truck and go places (boys really like going through dirt and mud). Finally, engage in some slightly risk-taking fun with them – deeply religious dads sometimes forget this vital “risky-fun” component of fathering sons. My attorney advises me against giving specific recommendations, but I’m sure you can come up with something!

“And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers.” Malachi 4:6

This article first appeared in the Dads.org E-newsletter, November 2003. Sign up here for free monthly Dads.org E-newsletter.


The Big Courtship Question: Earlier or Later Marriage? Part II

by Steve WoodIn

Part I of The Courtship Question, I discussed how a return to a younger age for marriage, while certainly not a cure-all for sexual immorality, is one way to preserve purity and build stronger marriages. This recommendation is nothing new. I cited St. John Chrysostom’s fifth century warning to fathers about the dangers of delaying their sons’ marriages.Yet in the United States sky-high divorce rates are associated with early marriages. This is not true in all parts of the world. In many cultures with low divorce rates, teenage weddings are common. It probably isn’t early marriage itself that is so destabilizing, but certain cultural factors affecting young people create the high rates of divorce.Although it could be argued that there are several causes contributing to the high divorce rates associated with early marriages, I’ve identified two primary ones listed below:Cause #1. Too little family income coupled with inadequate breadwinner preparationA Stanford University study on the economic influences on divorce found that lower income levels prevelant in early marriage is associated with high divorce rates.

Couples requiring government financial support had twice the divorce rates as couples who didn’t require such assistance. Increases in income, especially that of the husband, lower the probability of divorce until it reaches a high income level.Yet an earlier marriage and economic stability is possible, if a young man begins preparing to support a family before it is commonly done today.In biblical times, a Jewish boy crossed over into manhood at 12. It was the age he became “a son of the Law” and also when he chose a trade. The teen years were spent preparing for the responsibilities of family life. Rather than the accelerated maturity of biblical days, today’s teen years are a time of suspended maturity. The result is that young men often don’t give serious thought to the necessary preparations to support a family until they are ready to propose.With the assistance of their fathers and educational institutions, it would be wiser for young men to begin earlier training to support a family as a critical step in courtship preparation. A good starting point is making use of career counseling and good personality, aptitude, and career instruments. Part-time and summertime jobs should be chosen for work experience and career development.Cause #2. Teen lovers know better than parents

Mark Twain is alleged to have said, “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astounded at how much he had learned in seven years.”One of the reasons for marital success for older couples may be the dramatic increase in the parents’ I.Q. that comes with age. Love songs proclaim that teen lovers know better than parents. How many teen marriages, fueled by one or both spouses fleeing a troubled family background, run into a troubled marriage (described in chapter 2 of ABCs of Choosing a Good Wife).The scriptures and contemporary research highlights the importance of obtaining parental approval from both spouses’ parents for a satisfying marriage. I imagine that a lower divorce rate would accompany teen marriages that begin with courting in the family circle and proceed towards marriage with the advice and blessings of parents.For those with sufficient financial security, emotional maturity, and parental approval, I encourage consideration of earlier courtship and marriages.

Remember, this is only a general guideline. There are myriads of individual situations, such as required training for certain professions, that would call for adjustments.For more on this topic, read chapters five and six of my book, The ABCs of Choosing a Good Wife. I recommend you examine these chapters before your son enters his teen years. I also recommend giving your teenage sons a general idea of the financial costs of raising a family. This doesn’t have to be in-depth, just let them survey the budget worksheets in Phil Lenahan’s 7 Steps to Becoming Financially Free: A Catholic Guide to Managing Your Money.


Why Aren't Pro-Family Groups Cheering the Drop in Divorce Rates?

by Kiley Crossland

Declining marriage and divorce rates go hand in hand and reveal a cultural skepticism about relationship definition, according to a new report from The Heritage Foundation.The marriage rate has been trending downward for decades. From 2004 to 2014, the U.S. marriage rate fell by 20 percent, a drop of 8.3 marriages per 1,000 unmarried women over age 15, according to Heritage’s 2016 Index of Culture and Opportunity.The report also noted the divorce rate’s steady decline since 1979, from 5.3 per 1,000 people to 3.2 per 1,000 people in 2014—a 40 percent drop.But those numbers do not tell the whole story, according to experts.“The declining marriage rate is not so much a reflection that marriage is no longer desired, but that, in a culture of distrust and divorce, it is fragile,” write Amber and David Lapp, research fellows at the Institute for Family Studies and co-authors of the report’s essay on marriage.The Lapps assert young people today are not opposed to marriage—they are conflicted about it. They want a healthy, sustaining marriage relationship and desire to raise their kids within marriage, but they are afraid of divorce.“As a result, many young Americans are left on the outside looking in, admiring marriage but paralyzed with anxiety about becoming another divorce statistic or worried that their boyfriend or girlfriend is not trustworthy,” write the Lapps.Because of this, we should be “cautious in our celebration” about the dropping divorce rate, writes Julie Baumgardner, president and CEO of First Things First and author of the report’s essay on divorce.“Widespread divorce led people to believe that although relationships are good, relationship definition is risky,” Baumgardner writes. Generation X children lived through the rise of the divorce culture in the ’70s and early ’80s, almost half within broken homes. The result for Gen Xers: risk avoidance, undefined relationships, and a widespread belief that marriage is just a piece of paper.Today’s young people are adopting that message, according to Baumgardner. Cohabitation “precedes most marriages while fewer cohabiting relationships transition to marriage.”But rooted in these statistics is the potential for change, write the Lapps. Young people may carry wounds and have less confidence in marriage, but they want to avoid creating a broken family.“If anything, they possess a hard-earned understanding about the suffering wrought by family fragmentation,” the Lapps write. “They want a better life for their own children, and they deserve the support of everyone from cultural leaders to policymakers to business leaders as they seek that better way.”The Index of Culture and Opportunity also looked at 29 other cultural, poverty and dependence, and general opportunity indicators. Along with the divorce rate, the abortion rate and violent crime rate also dropped. But single-parent households, total welfare spending, food stamp participation, and teen drug use, among other negative factors, are on the rise.Reprinted with permission fromWORLD Magazine (wng.org).


Response to Cardinal Dolan on Gay Rights Group in St. Patrick’s Parade

by Hon. Robert G. Marshall

On Saturday I sent the letter below to Archbishop Vigano with regard to the statement Cardinal Dolan of New York gave in support of a Gay Rights Group being included in the 2015 New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  This parade  is a Catholic event and I am disheartened to hear that Cardinal Dolan would support a position contrary to that of the Church in this situation.September 6, 2014H.E. Most Reverend Archbishop Carlo Vigano Apostolic Nuncio 3339 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington, DC 20008Your Excellency Archbishop Vigano,New York’s Cardinal Dolan, appointed as Grand Marshal of the 2015 St. Patrick’s Day Parade, praised the decision to allow an openly gay group to march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. “I have no trouble with the decision at all … I think the decision is a wise one,” he said.His action has left many Catholics, including elected officials like myself, puzzled and disheartened especially when we measure Cardinal Dolan’s new policy with that of his predecessor, John Cardinal O’Connor.In 1993, when LGBT groups and government officials demanded that openly homosexual groups be included in the Parade, Cardinal O’Connor vowed in a St. Patrick’s Day sermon that he “could never even be perceived as compromising Catholic teaching. Neither respectability nor political correctness is worth one comma in the Apostles Creed.” (New York Times, 1/20/93)At that time, the New York Times also noted that, “The Hibernians and Cardinal O’Connor have said there is no place for a gay contingent in the parade because it is a Catholic Event and the Church teaches that homosexual acts are sinful.”Yet, Cardinal Dolan claimed, “Neither my predecessors as archbishops of New York nor I have ever determined who would or would not march in this parade,” adding that “the parade would be a source of unity for all of us.” (New York Times, 9/3/14)Would Cardinal Dolan, as Parade Marshal, applaud the inclusion of Irish abortion clinic owners or Planned Parenthood employees in a Parade honoring Saint Patrick? On what logical grounds does he applaud openly LGBT marchers and reject openly pro-abortion Catholics, including some “Catholic” nuns?Perhaps organizations which advocate to legalize prostitution and pornography should also be permitted to march? What about promoters of euthanasia for the elderly and disabled or advocates of physician assisted suicide? Where does Cardinal Dolan draw the line?The St. Patrick’s Day Parade, sponsored by the Irish Catholic Ancient Order of Hibernians under the auspices of and with the blessing of the Catholic Archdiocese of New York, is not a purely secular event, despite the fact that secular politicians participate. It honors a Catholic saint who converted pagans in Ireland away from immoral behavior.Promoters of homosexual behavior take part in many “gay pride” marches and parades, but these are not events sponsored by the Catholic Church or a Catholic organization. Therein lies the problem.Same sex “marriage” advocates say they feel marginalized by the Church, yet the Church has been very clear that it is a hospital for sinners, and no one is sinless. Jesus saves us from being “marginalized” by our sin, so long as we seek Him and seek to do His will.Everyone who rejects God’s word, or who ignores or violates the Ten Commandments (and we all are guilty of that) feel “marginalized” at times, but we don’t re-write the Commandments to make us feel less marginalized.News reports indicate that NBC which televises the Parade, New York’s Mayor, Guinness Brewery and others were pressuring the Parade sponsors to include openly LGBT groups. Choosing money over truth is never a good choice.This situation is not about judging individual souls. God loves all his children, and fortunately He is the only one who judges men’s hearts, but we live in a world of actions that have individual, social and legal consequences.Equality of persons is not the same as equality of behavior. What message does Cardinal Dolan’s decision give? The US Supreme Court is considering whether to hear challenges to state laws allowing only one-man, one-woman marriage. Cardinal Dolan’s statement and actions are most untimely.I grew up in Washington DC, worked in Congress for six years, have been privileged to serve the people of Virginia as a member of the Virginia General Assembly since 1992, was chief co-sponsor of the 2006 Virginia Marshall-Newman, voter approved one-man, one-woman marriage Amendment and pro-life legislation. I have overridden Governors of VA on abortion and LGBT issues, beat the ACLU in federal court on pornography prohibitions, and in 2008 won a precedent setting law suit overturning a tax law supported and defended in court by the Governor, Attorney General and Speaker.I know from a lifetime in and around politics that federal judges and Members of Congress read newspapers. They are influenced by the actions of moral leaders. They gauge what they can “get away with” by what Catholic prelates “tolerate.”We do our brothers and sisters no service by pretending that God’s teaching or the “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” are not important today. No one can change Natural Law or the Word of God, written in the blood of Our Savior for our wellbeing and redemptionI haven’t talked to one Catholic who thinks that what Cardinal Dolan did was prudent or helpful in defending the Faith, marriage or morals. Converts, especially, are distressed.Some contemporary American Catholics falsely think that “tolerance” is exercised by maintaining indifference towards ideas, opinion or even error, or holding that all points of view are equal. For a Church authority to embrace political correctness at such a time will have consequences which extend far beyond the parade route.Cardinal Dolan’s actions will make enacting legislation in conformity with the Natural Law immeasurably harder to defend especially for lay Catholics or Catholic legislators.Please pass my letter on to the appropriate Church officials. Thank you. You can contact me at 703-853-4213, delbmarshall@house.virginia.gov or bob@delegatebob.comSincerely, Delegate Bob Marshall Virginia House of Delegates


Why the New Evangelization Needs a Focus on Fathers

by Steve Wood

The New Evangelization may be a disappointment when it comes to evangelizing families if it neglects a focus on fathers. The call for a New Evangelization is a desperately needed initiative especially when it is directed at baptized Catholics who are secularized and distant from the Faith. A serious hemorrhage of Catholics, especially youth and young adults, is due to what St. John Paul II termed an “invasive secularism.”Key to the long-term success of an evangelistic effort that results in widespread cultural transformation is the targeting of specific “people-groups” (a term used in missions and in evangelistic planning) that are keys for the conversion of others. In other words, instead of trying to evangelize everyone, the focus is put upon those who in turn will be instrumental in the conversions and reversions of others. As far as I can tell, the key “people-group” for the New Evangelization of families has yet to be identified, namely fathers.Yes, it’s encouraging that we now have annual Catholic men’s conferences in many places, but that’s a long way from a full-court, year-long, and multi-faceted effort at evangelizing fathers.The Southern Baptists, who are effective evangelizers, published these remarkable results from research done by their church resource division: • If a child is the first in the family to become a Christian, there’s a 3.7 percent probability that the rest of the family will become Christians • If mom is the first in the family to become a Christian, there’s a 17 percent probability that the rest of the family will follow • If dad is the first in the family to become a Christian, there’s a 93 percent probability that everyone else in the family will follow his leadI reported similar striking findings in my book, Legacy, from an important Swiss study that asked the question, “What causes a person’s faith to carry through from childhood to adult religious belief and practice?” Here’s what I wrote summarizing the results: “The study found that the one overwhelming critical factor is the religious practice of the father. Dads determine the church habits of their children, and thus, to a significant degree, their eternal destiny.Can’t mom also do this? Shockingly, the study reported that ‘If a father does not go to church, no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions, only one child in fifty will become a regular worshipper.’Yet, ‘If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers (regular and irregular).’”From these statistics, I can predict that if the New Evangelization fails to focus on fathers it has a great probability of being a failure in re-evangelizing families. On the other hand, the good news is that it’s possible to turn things around if a laser-beam focus is placed on fathers.Unfortunately, many in the Catholic world believe that the greatest need in the Church and in the family is to advance the role of women. Yet, the best way to help young Catholic women is to create a large marriageable pool of mature young Catholic men. It seems that too many younger men are smoking pot, checking off exciting adventures on their bucket list, avoiding commitments to marriage, and playing video games half the night. In a similar vein, the highest need of married Catholic women is to have strong self-sacrificing husbands who are attempting to follow in the footsteps of St. Joseph. So, for the New Evangelization and for the good of women in the Church there should be a prime focus on reaching fathers and fathers-to-be who have an inactive faith.The New Evangelization can’t afford to be blind to the crisis of manhood in Catholic family and church life. Saint John Paul II said, “the future of the world and of the Church passes through the family.” So if we want to change the world, we must transform the family. To transform the family, we must focus on fathers. That’s an uncomplicated, yet highly effective strategy.For the New Evangelization to experience long-term success with entire families it simply needs to recapture an important dynamic from the old evangelization in the book of Acts: evangelize heads of household, then the family follows, and the empire is gradually transformed.When the (Philippian) jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, "Do not harm yourself, for we are all here." And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and brought them out and said, "Men, what must I do to be saved?"And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their wounds, and he was baptized at once, with all his family. Then he brought them up into his house, and set food before them; and he rejoiced with all his household that he had believed in God. – Acts 16:27-34This article was adapted from the lead article in the June 2014 edition of the Dads.org e-newsletter. Free subscription sign-up on the lower left of every page on Dads.org.


Video: Upsetting Statements on Marriage & Cohabitation - World Over with Raymond Arroyo

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8_VBW0a6ow[/embed]Three loyal sons of the Church, with honesty and courage, address some recent upsetting statements on marriage and cohabitation.


Video: Relationship DUI

Are you experiencing timeless love or a time-limited chemical high? Watch this video for great relationship advice from PREP.



The Truth about Contraceptives

Some things for you to ponder:

  • Oral contraceptives cause abortions before a woman knows she’s pregnant. How many abortions are there in the US each year of this kind? A conservative estimate says 8.1 to 12.75 million.
  • Planned Parenthood states that the majority of women who have abortions were using contraception when they were pregnant.
  • Barely four years after contraceptives were first tested, researchers found that marriages in which contraceptives were used were twice as likely to end in divorce as those in which they were not used.
  • Abortionists themselves attest that the greater use of contraception means a greater rise in the abortion rate.
  • In October 2006 the Mayo Clinic published an important study finding that women using oral contraceptives had a 44% higher rate of pre-menopausal breast cancer than other women.
  • The results of two major studies have shown that women who take Depo-Provera for two years or more before age 25 have at least a 190% increased risk of developing breast cancer. In addition, Depo-Provera may reduce a woman’s bone density, and worsen a woman’s cholesterol level. Women who had received injectable progestins for at least five years and who had used them at least five years prior, suffered a 430% increased risk of developing cervical cancer. Several studies have shown that women who receive injectable progestins have a 240% higher rate of contracting the AIDS virus if their partner is infected.

Legislation is now being introduced in France and Russia to ban birth control pills because of their adverse effects of women’s health, and some countries, realizing the economic effects that the widespread use of the contraception is having on their countries, are now offering incentives to families with more children.The lie that birth control is important to women’s health continues to be repeated, despite increasing evidence to the contrary. The Catholic Church has been reviled for years for its teaching against the use of artificial methods of family planning. But when even Business Insider publishes articles entitled, “Time to Admit It: the Church Has Always Been Right on Birth Control” (2.8.2012), maybe it’s time we revisit Paul VI’s prophetic encyclical Humanae vitae. There is a new book called Adam and Eve After the Pill: Paradoxes of the Sexual Revolution by Mary Eberstadt. If you are struggling with the Church’s teaching on natural family planning, I urge you to take the time to cut through the nonsense propagated by those with a financial interest in birth control and learn the truth. It may save, not only your soul, but your life.By Father Christopher Smith, STD/PhD. Reprinted with permission from Prince of Peace Catholic Church bulletin, May 4, 2014.


Prayer to St. Joseph for Family Synod

by Pope Leo XIII - To Be Said After the RosaryTo you, O Blessed Joseph, we come in our trials, and having asked the help of your most holy spouse, we confidently ask your patronage also. Through that sacred bond of charity which united you to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God and through the fatherly love with which you embraced the Child Jesus, we humbly beg you to look graciously upon the beloved inheritance which Jesus Christ purchased by his blood, and to aid us in our necessities with your power and strength.O most provident guardian of the Holy Family, defend the chosen children of Jesus Christ. Most beloved father, dispel the evil of falsehood and sin. Our most mighty protector, graciously assist us from heaven in our struggle with the powers of darkness. And just as you once saved the Child Jesus from mortal danger, so now defend God’s Holy Church from the snares of her enemies and from all adversity. Shield each one of us by your constant protection, so that, supported by your example and your help, we may be able to live a virtuous life, to die a holy death, and to obtain eternal happiness in heaven. Amen.We prescribe that during the whole month of October, at the recitation of the Rosary … a prayer to St. Joseph be added … and that this custom should be repeated every year. _______________________________________________

Guardian of the Redeemer [Redemptoris Custos]

Apostolic Exhortation of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II On August 15, 1989.One hundred years ago, Pope Leo XIII had already exhorted the Catholic world to pray for the protection of St. Joseph, Patron of the whole Church. The Encyclical Epistle Quamquam Pluries appealed to Joseph’s “fatherly love...for the child Jesus” and commended to him, as “the provident guardian of the divine Family,” “the beloved inheritance which Jesus Christ purchased by his blood.” Since that time—as I recalled at the beginning of this Exhortation—the Church has implored the protection of St. Joseph on the basis of “that sacred bond of charity which united him to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God,” and the Church has commended to Joseph all of her cares, including those dangers which threaten the human family.Even today we have many reasons to pray in a similar way …Today we still have good reason to commend everyone to St. Joseph.It is my heartfelt wish that these reflections on the person of St. Joseph will renew in us the prayerful devotion which my Predecessor called for a century ago. Our prayers and the very person of Joseph have renewed significance for the Church in our day in light of the Third Christian Millennium.


Quotations from Devotion to St. Joseph [Quamquam Pluries]

Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII promulgated on August 15, 1889.During periods of stress and trial—chiefly when every lawlessness of act seems permitted to the powers of darkness—it has been the custom in the Church to plead with special fervor and perseverance to God, her author and protector, by recourse to the intercession of the saints—and chiefly of the Blessed Virgin, Mother of God—whose patronage has ever been the most efficacious. The fruit of these pious prayers and of the confidence reposed in the Divine goodness, has always, sooner or later, been made apparent. Now, Venerable Brethren, you know the times in which we live; they are scarcely less deplorable for the Christian religion than the worst days, which in time past were most full of misery to the Church. We see faith, the root of all the Christian virtues, lessening in many souls; we see charity growing cold; the young generation daily growing in depravity of morals and views; the Church of Jesus Christ attacked on every side by open force or by craft; a relentless war waged against the Sovereign Pontiff; and the very foundations of religion undermined with a boldness which waxes daily in intensity. These things are, indeed, so much a matter of notoriety that it is needless for Us to expatiate on the depths to which society has sunk in these days, or on the designs which now agitate the minds of men. In circumstances so unhappy and troublous, human remedies are insufficient, and it becomes necessary, as a sole resource, to beg for assistance from the Divine power.This is the reason why We have considered it necessary to turn to the Christian people and urge them to implore, with increased zeal and constancy, the aid of Almighty God. At this proximity of the month of October, which We have already consecrated to the Virgin Mary, under the title of Our Lady of the Rosary, We earnestly exhort the faithful to perform the exercises of this month with, if possible, even more piety and constancy than heretofore. We know that there is sure help in the maternal goodness of the Virgin, and We are very certain that We shall never vainly place Our trust in her. If, on innumerable occasions. she has displayed her power in aid of the Christian world, why should We doubt that she will now renew the assistance of her power and favor, if humble and constant prayers are offered up on all sides to her? Nay, We rather believe that her intervention will be the more marvelous as she has permitted Us to pray to her, for so long a time, with special appeals. But We entertain another object, which, according to your wont, Venerable Brethren, you will advance with fervor. That God may be more favorable to Our prayers, and that He may come with bounty and promptitude to the aid of His Church, We judge it of deep utility for the Christian people, continually to invoke with great piety and trust, together with the Virgin-Mother of God, her chaste Spouse, the Blessed Joseph; and We regard it as most certain that this will be most pleasing to the Virgin herself. On the subject of this devotion, of which We speak publicly for the first time to-day, We know without doubt that not only is the people inclined to it, but that it is already established, and is advancing to full growth. We have seen the devotion to St. Joseph, which in past times the Roman Pontiffs have developed and gradually increased, grow into greater proportions in Our time, particularly after Pius IX., of happy memory, Our predecessor, proclaimed, yielding to the request of a large number of bishops, this holy patriarch the patron of the Catholic Church. And as, moreover, it is of high importance that the devotion to St. Joseph should engraft itself upon the daily pious practices of Catholics, We desire that the Christian people should be urged to it above all by Our words and authority. It is, then, natural and worthy that as the Blessed Joseph ministered to all the needs of the family at Nazareth and girt it about with his protection, he should now cover with the cloak of his heavenly patronage and defend the Church of Jesus Christ.You well understand, Venerable Brethren that these considerations are confirmed by the opinion held by a large number of the Fathers, to which the sacred liturgy gives its sanction, that the Joseph of ancient times, son of the patriarch Jacob, was the type of St. Joseph, and the former by his glory prefigured the greatness of the future guardian of the Holy Family… men of every rank and country should fly to the trust and guard of the blessed Joseph. Fathers of families find in Joseph the best personification of paternal solicitude and vigilance; spouses a perfect example of love, of peace, and of conjugal fidelity; virgins at the same time find in him the model and protector of virginal integrity.This is the reason why—trusting much to your zeal and episcopal authority, Venerable Brethren, and not doubting that the good and pious faithful will run beyond the mere letter of the law—We prescribe that during the whole month of October, at the recitation of the Rosary, for which We have already legislated, a prayer to St. Joseph be added, the formula of which will be sent with this letter, and that this custom should be repeated every year.


Scandal: World Meeting of Families President Funded Planned Parenthood Director's Campaign

The World Meeting of Families, which will take place in Philadelphia from September 22-27, describes itself as “a week-long international event of prayer, catechesis, and celebration that draws participants from around the globe. It seeks to strengthen the bonds between families and to witness to the crucial importance of marriage and the family to all of society.” The WMoF website further explains that:“Each World Meeting of Families has a theme that energizes and enlivens the event while adding great depth of meaning to our understanding of families. The theme of the World Meeting of Families – Philadelphia 2015 is “Love Is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive,” emphasizing the impact of the love and life of families on our society.”The president of the World Meeting of Families is Robert Ciaruffoli, a leading CPA with Baker Tilly, an accounting advisory firm. Previously, Ciaruffoli was the CEO of his own organization called ParenteBeard until it officially merged with Baker Tilly in October of 2014. Prior to that, Ciaruffoli was the chairman and CEO of Parente Randolph, which merged with Beard Miller Company in October 2009 to become ParenteBeard.Public records show that Ciaruffoli has made a number of political contributions to thoroughly pro-abortion and pro-same-sex marriage candidates, including a former executive director of Planned Parenthood. While these records also show that Ciaruffoli made contributions to pro-life candidates who support traditional marriage as well, his willingness to financially support candidates violently opposed to the lives of preborn children is greatly concerning. More to the point, such contributions make his position as president of the World Meeting of Families somewhat ironic.The Lepanto Institute contacted both the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and Robert Ciaruffoli on Thursday, August 20 for comment and clarification, and after repeated attempts to make contact has not heard back by press time.The most startling contribution Ciaruffoli made was a 2008 donation of $1,000 to Allyson Schwartz. In 1975, Schwartz founded the Elizabeth Women’s Center, a Planned Parenthood facility in Philadelphia, and served as its executive director until 1988. Not surprisingly, Schwartz’s voting record is 100% in support of abortion, contraception, and same-sex marriage. In 2005, she voted AGAINST restricting interstate transportation of minors to have an abortion and FOR expanding embryonic stem cell research. In 2006, she voted NO on a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman and she voted to ensure provision of abortifacient emergency contraception to rape victims in all hospitals. In 2011, she voted AGAINST banning federal health coverage that includes abortion and in 2013 she sought to ban pro-life measures limiting abortion.Other financial contributions from Ciaruffoli include the following:o In 2004, Ciaruffoli gave $1,000 to Chaka Fattah.-- Fattah’s voting record is filled with support for abortion and homosexuality. Here are a few highlights: In 2000, Fattah voted AGAINST banning partial-birth abortions. In 2002, he voted AGAINST funding for health providers who refuse to perform abortions. In 2003, Fattah received a 100% rating from NARAL Pro-Choice. In 2004, he voted AGAINST a Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage.o In 2006, Ciaruffoli gave $1,000 to Robert Brady.-- Brady’s voting record stands in firm support of abortion and homosexuality. Here are a few highlights: In 2004, he voted NO on Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage. In 2006, he voted NO on Constitutionally defining marriage as one-man-one-woman. In 2000, he voted NO on banning partial-birth abortions. In 2003, he again voted NO on banning partial-birth abortion, even with a caveat to “save mother’s life”. In 2003, he had a 100% rating by NARAL. In 2004, he even voted against making it a crime to harm a fetus during another crime.o In 2008, the same year he gave $1,000 to Allyson Schwartz, Ciaruffoli:-- Gave $1,000 to Robert Andrews. Andrews’ voting record includes voting against a constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage in 2006, voting against a ban on partial-birth abortions in 2000, voting against another ban on partial-birth abortion in 2003, voted against making it a crime to harm a fetus during another crime in 2004, and in 2005, voted against restricting interstate transport of minors to get abortions.-- Gave $2,000 to Joe Biden. Biden’s voting record includes a 2000 vote against maintaining the ban on abortions on military bases, a 2004 vote against criminal penalty for harming a preborn baby during other crime, and 2006 votes against notifying parents of minors who get out-of-state abortions, and against a constitutional ban of same-sex marriage.-- Gave $2,300 to Bill Richardson. Richardson’s public support for abortion and homosexuality is quite firm. On the campaign trail in 2002, Richardson said, “I have also resisted any effort to weaken a woman’s right-to-choose.” In 1993, Richardson co-sponsored the “Freedom of Choice Act,” which “provides that a State may not restrict the right of a woman to choose to terminate a pregnancy.” In 2007, Richardson said of the Defense of Marriage Act, “I would repeal that horrendous initiative that I voted for and I regret now. DOMA would preclude a number of the full partnership rights that I want to see with civil unions.” During a debate in 2007, Richardson said, ” I would move in the Congress for a hate crimes law. I would have domestic partnerships. I would have civil unions. I would initiate laws that practice non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. I would get rid of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ I voted against it as a congressman.”It should be noted that Ciaruffoli has also made campaign donations to pro-life candidates, such as Curt Weldon, Michael Fitzpatrick, and Pat Toomey. However, regardless of the pro-life candidates he has supported, it’s hard to imagine any justification for funding political candidates so opposed to the protection of preborn children and so firmly entrenched in their support for the moral abomination of sodomy.In the interest of maintaining the integrity of the World Meeting of Families, the Lepanto Institute is calling in Ciaruffoli to resign from this position.Contact information for Word Meeting of Families email – info@worldmeeting2015.org phone – 1-855-WMF-2015Article reprinted with permission from Lepanto Institute. Also appeared in LifeSiteNews.


Go to Joseph: Six Reflections on St. Joseph

By Fr. Francis Peffley


Joseph the Just ManJohn Paul II in his apostolic exhortation “The Guardian of the Redeemer” calls Joseph the just man. What does that mean? It means that he was a holy man. A righteous man. A man of honesty, integrity, and virtue. St. Joseph is the greatest and holiest saint after the Blessed Mother herself. In fact, some of the Doctors of the Church said that there was no grace ever given to any of the Saints (except Mary) that was not given to St. Joseph as well.St. Thomas Aquinas says that God gives grace proportionate to our office and to our state in life. So if you are a husband and father, you will be given the grace to be a holy husband and father. When someone has been ordained a priest he will be given the grace to be a priest. Think how much grace St. Joseph received to be the foster father of the Son of God and the virginal spouse of the Immaculate Conception. So St. Joseph is that just man. He is the greatest of Saints because he was the closest one to Jesus and to the Blessed Mother.As fathers and husbands you are called to holiness ‑ an obligation of every member of the Church. It is not just the priests and nuns, but everyone who is called to holiness. Every single person has this vocation ‑ the universal call to holiness. We should ask ourselves, “Am I developing the virtues that St. Joseph has? Am I developing the integrity and character of St. Joseph?”


Joseph the Obedient one.Joseph was truly obedient to the will of God in his life. The Angel said, “Have no fear about taking Mary to be your wife.” As soon as Joseph knew God's will for him, he obeyed. When the angel told Joseph that Herod was planning to destroy the child, Joseph immediately got up and began the flight to Egypt.Some people ask if St. Joseph was old. This is due to the apocryphal writings of the early church, ancient writings which were not divinely inspired, or approved by the Church as Sacred Scripture. These ancient writings say that when Joseph married the Blessed Mother he was 89 years old, and that he died at the age of 111. There is nothing in the Bible to suggest that St. Joseph was so old. We can be assured that Mary didn’t have to push St. Joseph in a wheel chair through the desert. Actually, I believe that Joseph was young and strong. Obviously older than the Blessed Mother; perhaps in his 20s or 30s. He was her guardian and protector. Scripture speaks about Mary’s betrothal to a man named Joseph. It does not say he was an old man, as Simeon or Zachary. So Joseph wasn't as old as some would like to claim him to be. Even in the ancient catacomb of Priscilla, Joseph was drawn without a beard showing him to be a young man.But Joseph was an obedient man. Whenever he was warned in a dream he always obeyed the will of God. He never questioned Divine Providence. Even though Mary was 8 3/4 months pregnant, Joseph had to believe it was God's will for them to leave Nazareth and go down to Bethlehem. This was to fulfill the prophecy of Micah that the Savior would be born in Bethlehem. Joseph abandoned himself to the will of God. Ask yourself these questions: “Am I obedient to the will of God? Am I obedient to the Ten Commandments? Am I obedient to the teaching of Christ and the teachings of the Church on marriage and family life?” Go to St. Joseph to become obedient sons of the Church.


Joseph the Silent One.There are no recorded words of St. Joseph in the entire Bible. There are words in the Old Testament for the great patriarch that we can apply to St. Joseph. But in the New Testament there are no recorded words for St. Joseph. He's always there, though, as a silent presence. In fact, even his death is wrapped in silence. There is no account as to how Joseph was buried. He's a man of silence. A strong man. A man with a deep interior life. Silence in our life helps us develop a life of prayer. Joseph was a man of prayer who listened to the word of God. He was not distracted by the many exterior things ‑ he was always a man of interior life. Why? Because God lived in his very house.We picture St. Joseph as a silent worker, as a craftsman, who suffered in silence as well. He did not complain, and he did not grow angry at God and say, “Why are you doing this, why do we have to flee to Egypt?” He was a man who accepted these things in silence. We should ask ourselves, “Do I have enough silence in my life? Do I spend enough time in prayer with Jesus? Do I listen to Jesus when he speaks to me during the Sunday readings? Do I spend time in the Blessed Sacrament chapel listening to Jesus who is truly present? Do I use my speech for lying, gossiping or backbiting? Or, do I truly follow St. Joseph by being a man of integrity and silence?”


Joseph the Example.Imagine the kind of man Joseph was. God the Father picked Joseph out of the whole human race to be the man to raise his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. When you get a baby sitter you don't just pick anyone, even if it is for only a few hours. Imagine entrusting your only son to the care of another person. That is why adoption agencies have to be careful in selecting to whom they entrust other people's children. That is why God chose the very best. He chose St. Joseph to be a great example.St. Joseph was an example to Jesus in his words and in his actions. He has been called the World's Greatest Father. Joseph was truly a father to Jesus in every way except for physical generation. He was the father who taught Jesus how to speak, how to read, and how to make doors and plows. Note the example that St. Joseph gave the Christ child and remember the saying, “Your example shouts so loudly I cannot hear what you say.” Isn't that the way children look at their parents? What was the example that St. Joseph gave to the Christ child? He was the perfect example, the world's greatest father, the educator of Jesus.Joseph homeschooled Jesus and taught him the virtues. This was the Son of God who always had the beatific vision, but (as the catechism says) he had to grow in the experiential, and had to develop as a boy develops. Jesus looked up to St. Joseph, even imitating his mannerisms. Let us ask ourselves, “What examples are we giving? What example do you give to your wife? To your children? Do you teach your children the faith? Do you study your own Catholic Faith by reading at least 10 ‑ 20 minutes every day? Do you make good use of your travel time to deepen your faith, so you can be a good example to your wife and children? Do you go on retreats? Are you living out your vocation as leader of your family?”


Joseph the Patron.St. Joseph is our benefactor who prays for us. Joseph is the patron Saint of fathers, husbands, and workers. We should always pray that we will have the same kind of death that St. Joseph had, dying in the arms of Jesus and Mary. He is the patron Saint of a happy death, which means dying in the arms of Jesus and Mary and Holy Mother Church. Go to St. Joseph for the grace of a happy death.He is also the patron Saint of the universal Church. Everything that St. Joseph did for Jesus he now does for the Church. Why? Because the Catholic Church is the mystical body of Christ himself. The Blessed Mother is the mother of the Church and St. Joseph is the foster father and guardian of the Church.St. Joseph lately has become the patron Saint of selling houses. I have to wonder about Aunt Selma selling her house by burying a statue of St. Joseph facing east. I have to wonder if that is what God really wants us to do. If you want to sell your house, place a statue of St. Joseph on your mantle and do a nine-day novena to him. You don't have to suffocate the guy! Keep him there and ask his intercession. He will help you sell your house or keep your job in every way. Remember that Joseph is the protector and the guardian of the whole Church, as well as ourselves as individuals. Ask yourself the question, “Do I pray to St. Joseph every day? Do I pray to him for a happy death?” Pray to him for your whole family that you will have a happy death. And ask St. Joseph to help you protect your family from all the immorality on TV or in the media.


St. Joseph the Helper of the Blessed Mother.St. Joseph was the virginal spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In God's plan of salvation he was a loving husband, kind, considerate, affectionate, and self-sacrificing. St. Joseph had an awesome responsibility with the Blessed Virgin. They worked as a team. St. Joseph had the responsibility for spiritual leadership since he was the head of the family. God's message from the angel was revealed to him even though the Blessed Mother was much holier through her Immaculate Conception. Obviously, Jesus as the Son of God and creator was far greater, but St. Joseph was chosen because he was the head of that family, just as every one of you is the spiritual head of your family.Joseph and Mary worked as a team. Remember TEAM spells “Together Everyone Achieves More.” Develop teamwork with your wife. I love the story that Zig Zigler tells of courtship after marriage using the example of Belgian horses. These huge Belgian horses could only pull 8,000 pounds individually. But when they are harnessed together, two horses working together can pull 32,000 pounds of weight. Isn't that amazing? It almost defies every law of mathematics. So when you are joined with your spouse in an effort to move your family towards God, you will accomplish much more than if you were to do it individually. Ask yourself this question, “Am I a helper to my spouse?” Your vocation is really to get your spouse and your children to Heaven. This is your ultimate vocation in life.Let us reflect on St. Joseph: that Just man, that loving leader, that Obedient man; let us reflect on his Silence, his Example, and his Patronage of our own lives and of the Church, and let us to try to imitate St. Joseph the Helper of Mary. God bless you.Fr. Francis Peffley currently serves as parochial vicar at Saint John the Apostle in Leesburg, Virginia.Click here for Pope Leo XIII Prayer to St. Joseph


St. Thomas More: A Father for All Seasons

by Steve Wood

You and I have only one chance to be a good Catholic father. We have to do it right the first time because the fruits of our fatherhood, for better or worse, will be felt for generations. What could be more difficult in today’s society than being a provider, protector, teacher, coach, disciplinarian, and spiritual leader? Trying to fulfill all these fatherly roles is the greatest challenge a man can face.Where do we learn how to be a good father? How can we get it right the first time? Fatherhood is more caught than taught. We need the power of a good example to imitate and assimilate in our fatherhood.The best starting point is to reproduce in our fatherhood those good traits we saw in our own fathers. We tend to become what we think. A wise man won’t dwell on negative memories of his father but concentrate instead on his good qualities. If we focus on our fathers’ failings (and every father has them), then we will unintentionally import those failures into our own fatherhood. On the other hand, by imitating and cultivating their strengths we can pass on their heritage, hopefully in an even fuller measure, to our children. God’s plan is for the good things in family life to grow as they go down the generations.The Church is the family of God. These seven words express a profound reality. Just as we can draw strength for our fatherhood from our earthly families, so also we have an inexhaustible legacy for our fatherhood in the saints of the Catholic Church. The saints are a vibrant witness on how to practically live the Christian life. A man seeking to be a good father will be careful to walk in the footsteps of the saints.After St. Joseph, one of the best saints for Christian fathers to imitate is St. Thomas More. The life of this layman who became a saint is like a diamond reflecting the many facets of a good father.A prime ingredient in successful fatherhood is proper priorities. Without godly priorities we dissipate our energies and resources on things of only secondary and passing importance.St. Thomas More had proper priorities because he put God first in his life. He rose early for prayer, scripture reading and study. He also attended daily Mass. From his rich spiritual life he had an abundance to share with his family, his Church, and his country.Thomas More was a member of Parliament, sheriff of London, foreign ambassador, knight, speaker of the House of Commons, sub-treasurer to the king, lawyer, judge, the first layman to serve as the Lord Chancellor of England (to enforce the laws against heretics), and an apologist for the Catholic faith. His collected writings fill more than 11,000 pages. Yet because of the divine priorities More cultivated, work did not absorb all of his energies.Thomas More made his family the chief priority in choosing where to live. Just when More’s professional life was bringing him into great social and political prominence in London, he moved his family (including his grown children and grandchildren) to a thirty-two acre farm on the north bank of the Thames River. He believed that the English countryside was a much more wholesome environment in which to raise a family. He commuted by boat to London. Fathers weighing possible job transfers should consider the option that will provide the most wholesome environment for their families.


Priests and the Importance of Fatherhood

Priests are not just "hosts" to the parish community; they are really fathers and consequently the heads of their parish families.by Dr. Paul Vitz and Fr. Daniel VitzMany thoughtful people today recognize that the United States—and indeed much of Western society—is in a cultural crisis. It takes little reflection to note that this crisis is centered in the family. The increase in divorce, the decrease in the number of marriages, increased numbers of cohabiting couples, plummeting birthrates, an increase in single mothers, abortion, the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples, numerous biological manipulations of maternity and paternity—all are clearly the result of a profound disorder in the understanding of the family.The crisis in the family, however, can be further understood as stemming from a crisis in the concept of fatherhood and the very notion of manhood. For it was men—despite what some would like to think—who pioneered the intellectual and social changes that ushered in the family crisis. It was men who first proposed the ideas and who then expressed the behavior of the so-called “sexual revolution”; it was men who first began to reshape society to view women simply as sex objects, which led to the search for new and improved contraception and to the public acceptance and pervasiveness of pornography; it was male scientists who led the experimentation on human embryos and have aggressively pursued human cloning. It was men who first pushed for homosexual “unions” and then “marriages,” and it is men who are already pushing for polyamorous groupings such as polygamy. It was also men who developed the social and political ideas that created our modern notion of the state as an answer for fatherless families—ideas that, when implemented, simply created more fatherless families. In short, men, by withdrawing their allegiance from the traditional concept of fatherhood and by seeking biological and social means of avoiding that responsibility, have been at the very center of our cultural-family crisis. The absence of fathers results in boys and young men who are formed without any understanding of what it is to be a father, and so the problem continues to grow. Thus it is of importance to understand not only the importance of fathers within the family, but also how young men and boys are formed in their attitudes toward the responsibilities of fatherhood and of manhood generally, so as to better understand how we can help to repair the broken family.To bring this issue into focus, it will be useful to summarize some of the now well-established findings on the contributions that fathers make to their families and especially to the lives of their children. It is these positive contributions that men have allowed to fall into decline or even disappear as a result of their moves away from fatherhood. The findings make it clear that fathers have distinctive and very crucial contributions to make that are distinct from those contributions made by mothers (the importance of mothers is well documented, and much more widely understood).The Importance of Natural FathersNumerous studies have shown that boys without fathers have a much higher probability than boys who have fathers of engaging in criminal activity—there is a greater correlation between this and any other factor (e.g., education, neighborhood, etc.). Indeed, the majority of our prison population is made up of young men who had absent fathers. Along with criminal behavior, fatherless boys begin sexual activity at an earlier age, and are much more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol—the social cost of these behaviors is enormous and represents one of the primary social ills of our day. A much-reduced tendency toward criminal behavior in boys has been reliably attributed to a father’s presence and discipline in the family. Young boys need the discipline and boundary conditions naturally provided by most fathers, and without such restraints they grow up not only with strong tendencies to criminal behavior, but also to impulsive actions and searches for immediate gratification. In addition, boys with no fathers have more problems with gender identity (this will be explained in greater detail later), and—taken as a group—have lower cognitive capacities, e.g., lower IQs, greater likelihood of dropping out of school, less likelihood of full-time employment in adult life, and in general less socio-economic success.Of course, it is also of key importance to understand the role of fatherhood with regard to the formation of healthy young women. It is clear that for girls without fathers the situation is similar to that of fatherless boys. These girls engage in sexual activity much earlier and more frequently, with all the negative consequences of such behavior—e.g., single motherhood, abortion, sexually transmitted diseases, dependency on welfare, and physical and sexual abuse. In addition, studies show that fatherless girls are more prone to depression and suicide, particularly in adolescence, and are also more prone to drug and alcohol abuse. In very recent years there has been a significant increase in criminal behavior and violence among adolescent women, and there is reason to suspect that this phenomenon is also closely related to absent fathers.A little-known aspect of fatherless-ness is its contribution to the decline of religion. Specifically, it is known that militant atheists very frequently have had dysfunctional fathers—either abusive, weak or absent. Since Freud it has been known that the first representation of God in a child’s psychology is his or her father, and that an individual’s subsequent relation with God is strongly influenced by how one understands one’s own father. In addition, a number of studies have shown that a child’s religion is more affected by the father than the mother. Of course the religion of the mother does have a positive impact on children, but the results show that the father’s impact is even greater—a fact that may be surprising to some.Psychologists generally agree that each child has two basic—or core—developmental tasks. The first is called separation/individuation; this refers to the need for the child to separate from its mother and to individuate, that is, to develop its own unique individual characteristics. The other basic task is to form gender identity, either masculine or feminine. On average, separation/individuation is more difficult for girls than for boys; girls are more likely to be closely bonded—even merged—with their mothers than are boys. Contributing to this is the fact that girls are more interpersonal than boys, and the first person they know is their mother or mother figure. Boys separate or individuate more easily in part because they are less interpersonal and also because both they and their mothers recognize that they are different from each other. However, boys have more difficulty with gender identity than do girls. The girl usually has her mother present and often other women as well, and they model the ways in which a girl is to be feminine. The boy may know he is different, but—particularly in early years—his father and other men are often absent, and without a role model, the boy doesn’t know what his sexual identity actually is. These are, of course, generalizations, and there are a fair number of exceptions; there are highly independent girls as well as boys who are “tied to their mother’s apron strings”—of course, this latter case is itself often the result of an absent father.The father has a very important contribution to make to these basic developmental tasks. First, he models masculinity for the boy. Without the father or other father figure as a genuine example of manhood, boys have a tendency to fall either into a pattern of effeminacy or machismo, a kind of hyper-masculinity often supported by peers, e.g., gangs. Second, fathers help their daughters to separate and individuate from their mothers and to establish an identity of their own. A common function of fathers is to introduce their children into the world outside the family—this may mean they introduce them to sports or camping, the business world or other pursuits—but fathers commonly serve as the mediator between the child and the outside world. This helps both sons and daughters, but is particularly important in helping daughters separate from the mother and the home environment. In addition, fathers are very important in appreciating their daughters’ feminine identities. The early promiscuity of girls without fathers is commonly interpreted as a search for male affirmation of femininity that they did not get at home.Priests as Substitute FathersIn our fatherless contemporary culture, both in the United States and many other parts of the world, there is a great need for what can be called “substitute fathers.” Indeed, very often a substitute father can make a remarkable difference in helping the development of children who have been somehow deprived of their biological fathers. Some of these substitute fathers are athletic coaches, teachers, uncles, older brothers and so on. But there is another very important substitute father—the Catholic priest. First, the obvious needs to be pointed out—priests are called to be fathers just as they are called “father.” The Pope is the whole Church’s Holy Father, and indeed “Pope” comes from the same root as “papa.” Christ explicitly said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father,” and every priest is himself called to be an alter Christus.Obviously, a priest will not be a substitute father in the same way that an uncle or someone who lives in the family can function in this role. It is important to note, however, how infrequently many fatherless children have interaction with any adult men. There are extremely few male elementary and middle school teachers, and many children can go through a week without a single personal interaction with an adult man. However, the effect of a substitute father is often great, even when there has been relatively little time spent with the child—another testament to the surprising resiliency of children. Boys in particular are capable of creating positive ideal images of men even when they don’t have the chance to meet them—sports figures are a good example of this (although it is worth noting how often celebrities give an unhealthy image of manliness). Therefore, even short periods of exposure to a priest—during the Mass, in the classroom, during confession—can have a profound influence on children who are desperately in need of father figures. Most of us can remember in our high school years that certain older students made a big impression on us even though we had little to do with them. Likewise, many a college professor has a great impact on his students in a relatively small number of class hours, and perhaps without ever having a direct conversation with the student. In this same way, watching a priest say Mass or teach a class can have long-term positive or negative effects on young people, who are often paying very close attention. An example, given by a fine and holy priest, illustrates this well. He recounted that when he was around twelve (this was back in the 1930s) a young, masculine priest came to his parish. One of the things that the altar boys in the parish did with this priest was to go target shooting with .22 rifles. This priest remained at the parish for less than a year, but he had a profound influence on this young boy, who himself later became a priest. All his life he remained a target shooting enthusiast, and attributed his first realization of his own priestly vocation to this young priest who had spent such a short time in his parish. Priests must make an effort to be accessible as father figures within their parishes, because in a world of so many fatherless children, the priest’s role as father becomes especially important.What are some of the essential roles of a father that a priest should represent and express in his daily life? First, he should have an authority that comes not only from his priestly status, but also from his knowledge of and commitment to the faith. Priests, like fathers in a family, are due a filial respect from their children—whether natural or spiritual. But they must also be able to defend their beliefs and ideas and to transmit that compellingly to their children. In the neo-pagan and atheistic culture of today, which is so hostile to the faith, every priest is especially called to this role of defender of the faith and of the family itself. If a child—especially a boy—cannot hear a cogent case for belief from his parish priest, he will assume that there is no such defense. A second characteristic of fathers is their natural function as disciplinarian and setter of boundaries. In each family there are many times that the father says, “you may not”: “You may not insult your mother”; “You may not take drugs”; “You must help with family chores”; etc. A father who does not say such things is simply an absent father. It is important to note that this guidance falls into two basic categories—moral norms and the establishment of discipline. General religious and moral issues would fall into the former category, and the particulars of running the family (curfews, peers to be avoided, etc.) would fall into the latter. Likewise, a priest needs to articulate what the Church teaches regarding faith and morals, but must also establish his authority with regard to the practical running of his parish—this too is part of his responsibility as a father, and if he cedes this responsibility to his parishioners, then he is neglecting one of his key paternal roles. In fact, by failing to establish the latter he weakens his authority with regard to the former. One of the terms that has recently become very popular in the Catholic Church is the “parish family.” This is certainly an appropriate term, but too often it is imagined as a fatherless family. That is, there is no sense of the pastor as the father who lays down the law, but rather of a family that is deprived of paternal authority—such a parish family is no family at all. St. John Mary Vianney and countless other holy pastors of the Church were comfortable in referring to their flocks as their “children”—today that mode of address would be regarded as condescending, even belittling. This is not to say that referring to one’s congregation as “my brothers and sisters” is at all inappropriate, but it is worth noting how the mentality over time as changed with regard to the parish priest as a real father figure, and how many today would be offended by a priest’s referring to his parishioners as his children.One of the simple ways in which a Christian father strengthens and supports his children is by blessing them. A priest, of course, has many opportunities to bless people, especially children, and this blessing can often have profound and lasting effects on those without fathers. However commonly priests give blessings to others, they must never forget how important a blessing may be to a person, and to always strive to impart a real sense of fatherly love in this action.In understanding their paternal role, priests must be very sensitive to the fact that as father figures, they may also occasionally be the target of the anger of parishioners who themselves were deeply wounded by their natural fathers. Further, their actions will be always under careful scrutiny by those who are anxious for a father’s attention and are yet fearful of rejection by a father figure. In addition, the role of the priest as father is one profound psychological reason why any instance of priestly misconduct is so incredibly destructive and so shocking to others as well—it is the same as a similar misconduct of a father within his own family. For example, for a priest to have sex with a parishioner—female or male—is an example of a kind of psychological incest. Therefore, a priest must be aware that he has great potential for helping others, but an equally great potential for hurting.David Blankenhorn has described our society as a “fatherless America,” and the description is sadly appropriate. Priests need to be on the front lines in the defense of the traditional family, and need to work tirelessly to keep struggling families together. However, it is also vital that priests themselves develop a strong identity as fathers. One of the primary functions of a father is to defend his family, and this is how priests must understand their role as well. This identity has been too often neglected of late in our culture, in our family life, and even within the life of the Church—that is, fathers are not just one of two equivalent or interchangeable parents, they have a unique role as men and as heads of their families. Similarly, priests are not just “hosts” to the parish community, they are really fathers and consequently the heads of their parish families. Priests need to recapture their identity as fathers—for if parishes are families, then pastors are fathers of what are always large and usually unruly families. This means that their identity is not simply that of the “nice guy,” but that of an upright man with a family that depends on him, perhaps more now than ever in the past. The manner in which they carry themselves, maintain discipline and deal with their parish families (especially the children) is more important than it has ever been before, because so many young people—and even many adults—are watching them intently, looking at them not only for spiritual leadership but also as fathers in the most essential and foundational sense of the word.This article appeared in the December 2008 issue of HPR


Saint Thomas More: Patron of Catholic Home Educators

by Steve Wood

The chief purpose of marriage is the procreation and education of children. Too many Catholic dads dump the entire responsibility for teaching their children onto the shoulders of their wives or teachers. The Catholic Church teaches that mothers and fathers are the primary educators of their children.Thomas More took a keen interest in the spiritual formation and education of his children. He emphasized education in virtue. Unlike some fathers who mistakenly think their child’s educational goal is to get into Harvard instead of heaven, More “put virtue in the first place … learning in the second.”More developed his children's curriculum that included Latin, Greek, theology, philosophy, logic, astronomy, and mathematics. His children were “home educated” by hired Oxford tutors. More’s one son and three daughters were among the best educated in Europe. In an age when women had little in the way of education, More educated five brilliant young women (his three daughters, an adopted daughter, and a ward). His daughter Margaret astounded scholars with her mastery of Latin.The burgeoning Catholic homeschool movement needs to look no farther than to Thomas More (along with St. Joseph of course) as a model for homeschool dads.Despite being such a devoted father, More was not solely occupied with the welfare of his own family. During the famine of the winter of 1528, he fed 100 people a day at his home. More is a perfect example of fulfilling the part of the purpose statement of St. Joseph’s Covenant Keepers that says, “We will show concern not just for our own families. We will also strive for a Christlike concern for the spiritual and material welfare of other families in our communities, in our parishes, and throughout the world” (Christian Fatherhood, p. 33).People often ask me if I think the current Christian men’s movement will be a fad like the many spiritual movements that seem to come and go every few years. I believe those portions of the Christian men's movement that sidestep tough issues such as the indissolubility of marriage and the immorality of birth control will not bear lasting fruit. The other men’s movements that have the courage to stand up for the tough issues, following the example of St. Thomas More did, will bear lasting fruit.The real test of a Christian men’s movement is whether it can pass on the Faith with such strength that it will run down through the generations in families. An authentic men's ministry will continue for generations: “The father may die, and yet he is not dead, for he has left behind him one like himself…” (Sirach 30:4).A glance in the old Catholic Encyclopedia (Vol. X, p. 564 and Vol. XIV, p. 692) showed three entries for More’s descendents. More’s great-grandson was a Jesuit scholar and missionary twice imprisoned for the faith. More’s great-great-granddaughter was a Benedictine nun known for her deep spirituality. The last male heir of the martyr was Fr. Thomas More, S.J., who died in 1795.Fathers today who follow the example of More by courageously living the fullness of the Catholic faith and teaching it to their children by example and by word will see the faith continue long after their lifetime.The fruits of this layman saint’s fatherhood are not limited to a few generations in his family. Saint Thomas More is a father for all seasons, especially in times where the faith and the family are under ferocious attack. More’s fatherhood did not end when Henry VIII had him beheaded. Rather, it took on an increased importance in the life in the Church.I realize that I have only one chance to be a good father. I know that I need to keep the best examples of fatherhood before me. I need to have the greatest saints praying for me. If, by God’s grace, I can incorporate even a fraction of Saint Thomas More's fatherhood into mine, then I have a much better chance of getting it right the first time.St. Thomas More, pray for us fathers.


Hillary's Letters to Saul Alinsky

By James K. Fitzpatrick

Should we cut Hillary Clinton some slack over her letters to Saul Alinsky, unveiled by Alana Goodman of the Washington Free Beacon in late September? The letters were obtained by Goodman from the archives of the Industrial Areas Foundation, a training center for community organizers founded by Alinsky, housed at the University of Texas at Austin. Hillary has gone to great effort for many years to keep these letters secret, along with her senior Wellesley College thesis on Alinsky and his theories.Hillary deserves no slack. But not because of what we learned about her in the letters. (You can read the exchange in its entirety at www. scribd. com/ doc/ 240077031/The-Hilllary-Letters.) The letters reveal Hillary to have been in the late 1960s what most of us suspected she was: an impressionable, self-important, posturing, middle- class Baby Boomer from the suburbs, caught up in the radical counterculture politics of the era.People like her were all over the place during those years. I can remember young teachers at the public high school where I was teaching at that time sitting around the faculty room pondering whether the time had come to resort to “direct action” to end the Vietnam War, in between making plans for their ski vacations and trips to see Broadway plays. Tom Wolfe, you will recall, described it as “radical chic.”Hillary corresponded with Alinsky several times in 1968 while writing her thesis. “Dear Saul,” she wrote, “When is the new book coming out - or has it come out and I somehow missed it? I have just had my one- thousandth conversation about Reveille for Radicals and need some new material to throw at people.”Reveille for Radicals was Alinksy’s book about community organizing.Hillary called Alinsky’s work a “revelation.” In a letter written after she graduated from law school, she added, “The more I’ve seen of places like Yale Law School and the people who haunt them, the more convinced I am that we have the serious business and joy of much work ahead - if the free and open society is ever going to mean more than eloquence and frustration.” (I guess it could have been worse: Some of Hillary’s contemporaries were sending their breathless fan letters to rock stars.) What Alinsky meant by a “ free and open society,” as he explained in Reveille for Radicals, was “to advance from the jungle of laissez-faire capitalism to a world worthy of the name of human civilization . . . the hope for a future where the means of economic production will be owned by all of the people instead of the comparative handful.”Alinsky worked for years with Chicago’s Communists, but never joined the party, preferring to work for his socialist goals through community organizing. It was the method of the Mensheviks and the Fabian Socialists: work for socialism, but gradually and through the system, “democratic socialism,” if you will.Hillary knew all this. It is what drew her to Alinsky. At the end of her undergraduate thesis she wrote, “If the ideals Alinsky espouses were actualized, the result would be social revolution.” She agreed with his gradualism. After graduating from Yale Law School, rather than take to the streets as a community organizer, she joined the law firm of Treuhaft, Walker, and Bernstein, a law firm known for promoting left-wing causes. The Black Panthers were among their clients. Carl Bernstein in his book on Hillary describes the firm’s four partners as “two Communists” and “two who tolerated Communists.”You can see why Hillary wanted this part of her life kept away from the public. She became a public figure during the time when Supreme Court nominee Douglas H. Ginsburg was forced to withdraw his nomination for the Supreme Court when it was discovered that he had smoked marijuana occasionally as a college student in the 1960s, and her husband’s run for the presidency was threatened by rumors about the extent of his anti-Vietnam War activities as a college student.In a way, you can sympathize with Hillary. If she had been a Saul Alinsky groupie ten years or so later, she might not have had to hide a thing. Barack Obama admitted to drug use and his association with radical Marxists during his college years and much of the country reacted with a yawn. My suspicion is that Hillary and her advisers are hoping that the country has changed enough to react with a similar yawn to these disclosures about her youthful radicalism. She may be right. Elizabeth Warren makes no bones about her leftwing background, and remains a favorite among Democratic voters.Why then do I contend Hillary should not be given any slack in this matter? Because of what it reveals about her character. We can’t view this attempt to deceive the voters in a vacuum. It is part of a pattern. It is true that the voters 20 years ago would have been more offended by these disclosures about Hillary’s youthful leftwing activism than the voters of today. But that does not mean her cover-up should be dismissed as irrelevant.When George Bush was confronted with rumors about drinking and drug use as a young man, his response to the press was, “When I was young and foolish, I was young and foolish.” His Democratic opponents tried to keep the issue alive, but it made little difference in the long run. People accepted his excuse. Al Gore reacted similarly when comments he made as a college student, reflective of the anti-war left’s view of the Vietnam War, surfaced. He shrugged and laughed, “I was young and stupid.” No one brought up the comments in his runs for public office.Hillary could have done the same thing. Years ago she could have said, “ As a young woman, my idealism led me to believe, as with many of my contemporaries, that Alinsky’s view of democratic socialism would be good for the country. I’ve learned since then that things are not that simple.” And then rushed to the airport for her next $100,000 speaking engagement. (I wonder what Saul Alinsky would think about Hillary Rodham, circa 2014?) The people who intend to vote for her wouldn’t bat an eye.Instead, she reacted the same way that she did when the stories came to light about her involvement in the Whitewater land deal, the profits she made in the cattle futures market, her false accusations of embezzlement against the head of the White House travel office she wanted to replace with cronies, her false claims about “running with head down” to escape sniper fire in Bosnia in 1996, the mysterious appearance of the subpoenaed Rose Law Firm billing records on a desk in the White House when she was First Lady, and the evidence contradicting her story about the attack on our embassy in Libya being the result of a demonstration over an anti-Muslim video.She concocted a cover-up, a deliberate deception of the American people. As she always does when it is convenient and she thinks she can get away with it. This matters. She wants to be president.Article originally published in The Wanderer, October 16, 2014 issue, page 4A. Reprinted with permission.


Bible Study: Playground or Minefield?

by Steve Ray

Imagine children running and tussling unsupervised in a playground. Now imagine the playground surrounded by deadly dangers: a sharp cliff dropping down a thousand feet to one side, a field of land mines, poisonous snakes in the sand, and a bog of quicksand on the other sides.

With anguish you watch the children decimated as they fall prey to the dangers around them. They plunge from the cliff to the rocks below, are screaming from the bite of vipers and are gasping for air as they sink in the quicksand.


Now imagine the same children playing in the same playground, but now they are carefully supervised and the area is surrounded by a chain-link fence. To be in danger now a child would have to disregard all the rules, disobey the supervisors and climb over the fence. You relax, a sigh of relief passes your lips, and you begin to chuckle at the children’s antics.

This is an analogy of Bible study. Two recent misconceptions have plagued Catholics. Ask around and find out for yourself. The average Catholic in the average parish frequently accepts two unhappy fallacies. First, that Catholics aren’t supposed to read the Bible since it is not important or they fear they will invariably misinterpret it and end up confused. Second, they may associate Bible study with Protestantism.

Well, isn’t the Bible hard to understand? Aren’t Catholics forbidden to read the Bible? Shouldn’t we leave Scripture study to priests and religious? If laymen study the Bible, don’t they interpret it incorrectly and go off the deep end?

I had just written the above paragraph and mentioned “Bible Study” when a parish priest visiting our home lamented, “Oh, if I could only get my parishioners over the deep-seated fear that if they study the Bible they will somehow become Fundamentalist Protestants!”

This sounds strange to us ex-Fundamentalists because it was the love and study of the Bible that brought us into the Catholic Church. Yet, this subtle fear prevents many Catholics from dusting off the family Bible and making a go at personal study.

Our imagined playground, fraught with dangers, illustrates the situation nicely. Are there real dangers associated with studying the Bible? Do pitfalls lie to the left and right? Yes, of course. The fear is not without foundation. Survey the landscape of Christian history and you will see well-meaning individuals and groups strewn in every direction. The carnage and division brought about by the “Bible-only” theology is apparent for everyone to see.

Yet we also see many who have loved the Bible deeply, studied it studiously, and have done so without casualties. They have reached the dizzying heights of biblical study and through it have grown to love Jesus and the Catholic Church with ever deepening ardor. What differentiates the two? Why do some stumble and fall by the wayside, while others “play” with a joyful, utter abandon—almost carefree in their study of Scriptures—and, seemingly, with no fear of falling?

The fence and the supervision make all the difference. They provide a barrier between the children and destruction. They allow the child to frolic with carefree abandon. What do the fence and the supervision represent in our illustration?

The fence is the Sacred Tradition preserved in the Church and the supervision is the magisterium of the Catholic Church. These two things—readily available to any who desire them—are what makes the difference. The dangers are real, but the protections and guidance provided by Jesus in his Church are just as real. Those who stay within the fence and yield to the supervision will study the Scriptures with great benefit, and I may add, with deep joy and pleasure.

The Catholic Church has provided the most wonderful resource to combine the fence and the supervision. It is the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Read the Bible with an open Catechism which is a wealth of wisdom and a compilation of the Church’s tradition, the teaching of the Popes and Fathers and councils. It is also an excellent summary of the teaching of the Church’s magisterium—which simply means “office of teacher.”

It is high time that Catholics wake up and discover the riches that have been deposited in their account. The Bible is a gift from God. The treasure is ready for withdrawal! Dust off the Bibles, cast aside paralyzing fears, learn the basic rules of biblical interpretation, observe the protective parameters of Church teaching, and frolic to your heart’s content!

St. Jerome said, “Ignorance of Scripture is an ignorance of Christ.”

Permission to reprint article granted by Steve Ray. Visit his website, www.catholicconvert.com.


Homeschooling and the Future of The Church

Many Catholic parents have discovered that their best educational option is to teach (& learn) with their children at home

by John Clark

 When I was homeschooled 35 years ago, I remember overhearing the objections to my parent’s chosen educational method: How will homeschoolers learn subjects that their parents don’t know?  How will homeschoolers socialize?  How will homeschoolers get accepted into college?   Over the past two generations, Catholic homeschooling has resoundingly answered all those questions—and many others—in the most positive of ways. But it’s time we ask another: Is homeschooling benefiting the Church?To address that question, let’s turn to Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, former ordinary of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. In 2011, Archbishop O’Brien said:There’s no greater feeder for the vocations than the home-schoolers….I’ve seen this over and over again across the country. It’s in home schooling that you have every opportunity to share the values that really matter: respect for one another, respect for the church and the sacraments and the ability to sacrifice for others and to see how best we can serve.The claim that there exists “no greater feeder for the vocations” than homeschooling families might shock some Catholics. Yet, many Catholics familiar with homeschooling have known this for years. According to a recent study— despite their comparatively small numbers versus their parochial, private and public-school counterparts — those men who have been home-schooled account for about 10 percent of the diocesan priestly vocations in America. If the family is the “domestic church,” these homeschooling families, and so many like them, have constituted the domestic seminary.On a human level, such success stories begin with the parents—a fact that seems to be increasingly recognized and appreciated at all levels of the Church. For instance, at an annual diocesan Mass for homeschool families last year that saw 12 hundred people attend, Bishop Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, addressed the homeschool students:
My young friends, how blessed are you to have such wonderful parents to teach you every day how to love God and how to love your neighbor….How blessed you are to have parents who understand and appreciate the privilege, role and responsibility God has given them to be your first teachers, certainly in academics, but most especially in the ways of faith.
What Cardinal O’Brien and Bishop Burbidge highlight is the constant teaching of the Catholic Church that Catholic parents are the primary teachers of their children. As the Church teaches, some of the teaching process can be delegated, but this natural authority and right of the parents can never be usurped.In 2015, Pope Francis reminded the world that parents have God-given rights, and criticized those “‘experts’ who pretend to occupy the role of parents, who are relegated to second place…” He even used the word “exiled” to describe what has happened to parents regarding their role in the education of their own children. Pope Francis implored, “It's time for fathers and mothers to return from their exile” and to “reassume their educative role.”

As Pope Francis put it back in 2015, “If family education regains its prominence, many things will change for the better.” As a homeschool student, then as a homeschool parent, and as an educator who assists parents teach their children, I’ve witnessed the benefits of homeschooling for 35 years: in the strengthening of marriages, in the bonding of family members, and in the calls to religious life. To Cardinal O’Brien’s point, I would suspect that homeschooling is not only unsurpassed as a feeder program for religious vocations, but also a feeder program to strong, sacramental marriages.

This summer, many Catholic families are considering the educational options for the next academic year. As parents consider their options, I would submit that homeschooling deserves a hearing. The Catechism teaches,“As those first responsible for the education of their children, parents have the right to choose a school for them which corresponds to their own convictions.” And while many parents certainly have access to good schools that “correspond to their own convictions,” parents might discover that their best educational option is to teach—and learn—with their children at home.© 2018 EWTN News, Inc. Reprinted with permission from the National Catholic Register

You Really Need to Listen to This

Homily given by Father Jay Scott Newman on 072918

What to think about the McCarrick crisis and what to do about it.


The Missing Link in School Shootings

by Brian Wilson

And so it begins…another shooting, another school, another student with a grudge and a gun, another body count and another 72 hours of MSM 24/7 Redundant Coverage featuring the same cast of media, political, social media and law enforcement “experts” showcased on the Evening News with the tears of relatives and near-victims, sotto –voice anchor interviews of “how do you feel…?” and “what was it like…?”, surrounded by non-stop re-runs of every cell phone vid available providing it shows at least a whif of the Horror From Within.Once the essential Who, What, Where and When facts are announced (49 seconds, tops), more bloviating follows in the form of conjecture, idealistic rhetoric and hypotheticals mixed with predictable mis- and disinformation intended to fortify a political agenda. Out come the Same Old Same Old “solutions” that either violate the Constitution or other (HIPPA) laws or cost incalculable amounts of unavailable revenue and “political will”.Eventually, the tragedy tails out in a cloud of “Why’s” and “If Only’s” – until the next time.Rinse. Repeat. The script writes itself.The Missing Link – Pragmatic Answers – remain hidden. The only tangible results are in the heart-breaking frustration of the survivors and snarky political points scored by the Usual Suspects who come out their holes to claim a few minutes of Fame.After 50 years toiling in “The Business”, covering the violence of civil rights demonstrations, anti-war riots, suicides and a panalopy of murders and mayhem, the only significant change in coverage has been method and tone. The speed of new technology hasn’t added a wit (or half-wit) of fact-based curiosity to Network News departments unless it’s Trump-Russian. Individual reporters who have the elusive Investigative gene are rare and generally kept in strict isolation until needed.Against this background, it was whiplash-startling today to witness a rare Live, on-camera revelation of the Missing Link! But first, see if you can spot it hiding in plain sight while studiously ignored by the integrity-challenged management of the Fourth Estate.Consider the following history:Eric Harris age 17 (first on Zoloft then Luvox) and Dylan Klebold aged 18 (Columbine school shooting in Littleton, Colorado), killed 12 students and 1 teacher and wounded 23 others, before killing themselves. Klebold’s medical records have never been made available to the public.

  • Jeff Weise, age 16, had been prescribed 60 mg/day of Prozac (three times the average starting dose for adults!) when he shot his grandfather, his grandfather’s girlfriend and many fellow students at Red Lake, Minnesota. He then shot himself. 10 dead, 12 wounded.
  • Cory Baadsgaard, age 16, Wahluke (Washington state) High School, was on Paxil (which caused him to have hallucinations) when he took a rifle to his high school and held 23 classmates hostage. He has no memory of the event.
  • Chris Fetters, age 13, while taking Prozac, killed his favorite aunt.
  • Christopher Pittman, age 12, murdered both his grandparents while taking Zoloft.
  • Mathew Miller, age 13, hung himself in his bedroom closet after taking Zoloft for 6 days.
  • Kip Kinkel, age 15, (on Prozac and Ritalin) shot his parents while they slept then went to school and opened fire killing 2 classmates and injuring 22 shortly after beginning Prozac treatment.
  • Luke Woodham, age 16 (Prozac) killed his mother and then killed two students, wounding six others.
  • Michael Carneal (Ritalin), age 14, opened fire on students at a high school prayer meeting in West Paducah, Kentucky. Three teenagers were killed, five others were wounded.
  • Andrew Golden, age 11, (Ritalin) and Mitchell Johnson, aged 14, (Ritalin) shot 15 people, killing four students, one teacher, and wounding 10 others.
  • TJ Solomon, age 15, (Ritalin) high school student in Conyers, Georgia opened fire on and wounded six of his classmates.
  • James Wilson, age 19, (various psychiatric drugs) from Breenwood, South Carolina, took a .22 caliber revolver into an elementary school killing two young girls and wounding seven other children and two teachers.
  • Elizabeth Bush, age 13, (Paxil) was responsible for a school shooting in Pennsylvania
  • Jason Hoffman (Effexor and Celexa) – school shooting in El Cajon, California
  • Jarred Viktor, age 15, (Paxil), after five days on Paxil he stabbed his grandmother 61 times.
  • Chris Shanahan, age 15 (Paxil) in Rigby, ID who, for no apparent motive, killed a woman.
  • Jeff Franklin (Prozac and Ritalin), Huntsville, AL, killed his parents as they came home from work using a sledgehammer, hatchet, butcher knife and mechanic’s file, then attacked his younger brothers and sister.
  • Kevin Rider, age 14, was withdrawing from Prozac when he died from a gunshot wound to his head. Initially, it was ruled a suicide, but two years later, the investigation into his death was opened as a possible homicide. The prime suspect, also age 14, had been taking Zoloft and other SSRI antidepressants.
  • Alex Kim, age 13, hung himself shortly after his Lexapro prescription had been doubled.
  • Diane Routhier was prescribed Welbutrin for gallstone problems. Six days later, after suffering many adverse effects of the drug, she shot herself.
  • Billy Willkomm, an accomplished wrestler and a University of Florida student, was prescribed Prozac at the age of 17. His family found him dead of suicide – hanging from a ladder at the family’s home in July 2002.
  • Kara Jaye Anne Fuller-Otter, age 12, was on Paxil when she hung herself from a hook in her closet. Kara’s parents said “…. the damn doctor wouldn’t take her off it and I asked him to when we went in on the second visit. I told him I thought she was having some sort of reaction to Paxil…”)
  • Gareth Christian, Vancouver, age 18, was on Paxil when he committed suicide in 2002, (Gareth’s father could not accept his son’s death and killed himself.)
  • Julie Woodward, age 17, was on Zoloft when she hung herself in her family’s garage.
  • Matthew Miller was 13 when he saw a psychiatrist because he was having difficulty at school. The psychiatrist gave him samples of Zoloft. Seven days later his mother found him dead, hanging by a belt in his closet.
  • Kurt Danysh, age 18, and on Prozac, killed his father with a shotgun. He is now behind bars, and writes letters, trying to warn the world that SSRI drugs can kill.
  • Woody __, age 37, committed suicide while in his 5th week of taking Zoloft. Shortly before his death, his physician suggested doubling the dose of the drug. He had seen his physician only for insomnia. He had never been depressed, nor did he have any history of
  • Hammad Memon, age 15, shot and killed a fellow middle school student. He had been diagnosed with ADHD and depression and was taking Zoloft and “other drugs for the conditions.”
  • Matti Saari, a 22-year-old culinary student, shot and killed 9 students and a teacher, and wounded another student, before killing himself. Saari was taking an SSRI and a benzodiazepine.
  • Steven Kazmierczak, age 27, shot and killed five people and wounded 21 others before killing himself in a Northern Illinois University auditorium. According to his girlfriend, he had recently been taking Prozac, Xanax, and Ambien. Toxicology results showed that he still had trace amounts of Xanax in his system.
  • Finnish gunman Pekka-Eric Auvinen, age 18, had been taking antidepressants before he killed eight people and wounded a dozen more at Jokela High School – then he committed suicide.
  • Asa Coon, Cleveland, age 14, shot and wounded four before taking his own life. Court records show Coon was on Trazodone.
  • Jon Romano, age 16, on medication for depression, fired a shotgun at a teacher in his New York high school.

Missing from list… 3 of 4 known to have taken these same meds:

  • Jared Lee Loughner on, age 21…… killed 6 people and injuring 14 others in Tuscon, Az?
  • James Eagan Holmes on, age 24….. killed 12 people and injuring 59 others in Aurora Colorado?
  • Jacob Tyler Roberts on, age 22, killed 2 injured 1, Clackamas Or?
  • Adam Peter Lanza on, age 20, Killed 26 and wounded 2 in Newtown Ct?

Only readers lacking that keen sense for the obvious will miss the culprit here. Kudos to Herb London, President of the London Center for Policy Research. Appearing on Fox Business News with Stuart Varney, who plainly stated he had no answers,  asked London for his take and received this response:“ Three-fourths of the population of the United State is taking psychotropic drugs. But all we focus on are guns. Violence is built into the very nature of popular culture. Entertainment? Violent. Rap music? Violent. It’s all around us. We in the US tend to ignore these matters and look at one issue: guns. But it’s not just guns, it is an environment where violence is promoted.”Two reasons News Outlets are terminally reluctant to connect the dots between school mass murders and kids on prescribed drugs like those listed above:

  1. The old Newsroom cliché cum axiom:” If It Bleeds, It Leads.” Nothing seizes the Viewers’ attention than an Anchor’s piously intoned trope: “We must warn our viewers, some scenes may be difficult to watch…”. (Ratings = Advertising Revenue)
  2. Advertising Revenue

When you ingest your next full helping of ABCCBSNBCCNNFOX News, observe the number of commercials for Viagra, SeeAlice, Lipizzaner, FaithandBegorium and a medicine chest full of other strangely named pills and liquids with Warning Disclaimers speed-read by the off-stage announcer. Do you think Pfizer (Prozac, Zoloft, Xanax), Paxil, Wellbutrin (GlaxoSmithKline), Ritalin (Novartis), Lexapro (Forest), Luvox (Abbott Labs) , Ambien (Sanofi) would appreciate having their advertising dollars spent on reporting they may be the manufactures of certain medications occasionally having serious anti-social side-effects on young patients? Similarly, would health care providers and their doctors want similar exposure?While there is an understandably strong public resistance to having personal medical records revealed to an over-reaching government in order to exercise the basic human right to bear arms, there may be a more acceptable way for the prospective firearms purchaser and his/her doctor to acknowledge any prescribed psychotropic medications. Ignoring the information will go a long way in failing to find a workable solution that everyone wants: protection of freedom and the innocent without sacrificing either. Right now, none of the old worn-out “solutions” are workable or acceptable in what is purported to be a “Free Society”.Let the discussion begin. This time let’s include the previously Missing Link.Article first appeared on 021718 in lewrockwell.com. Permission to post granted by author.


VIDEO: To Change the Church with Ross Douthat

Ross Douthat joins Peter Robinson on Uncommon Knowledge to discuss his new book, his thoughts and critiques of Pope Francis, and the changing conception of divorce under Pope Francis’s ambiguous teachings. Click on link below to watch.To Change the Church with Ross Douthat


Sticky Faith - Part II

by Steve Wood

In our last issue I mentioned that two professors from Fuller Seminary have written an insightful book entitled Sticky Faith. These researchers tried to discover precisely which type of youth ministry strategies are actually capable of reversing the epidemic of 40 to 50 percent of young people who graduate from church youth groups and then fail to stick with their faith in college. What exactly can churches and parents do to make the faith stick?Out of thirteen identifiable youth ministry strategies, intergenerational worship and discipleship stood out as the most identifiable. In other words, the best youth strategy for reversing the epidemic of college students abandoning the church was non-segregation of high school students into youth groups which keep them separated from their parents and other adults in the congregation as they grow in Christ.Here are some other valuable findings in Sticky Faith:

  • High school students who served in children’s or middle school ministry had stickier faith in college
  • “The key social influence in shaping a young person’s religious life is what is modeled by their parents.” (p.24)
  • 20% of college students who abandon the faith in college plan to do so in high school. The remaining 80% of high school students who depart from the faith in college intended to stick with the faith while in college.
  • If just one member of a college student’s congregation who is not a part of the youth ministry contacts the student during the first semester of college (text, phone, letter, or email) it helps “Sticky Faith.” (p.100)
  • Teens that sense that they have the freedom and opportunity to express their doubts tend to have more “Sticky Faith.”
  • When asked what it meant to be a Christian, 35% of the teens in the national survey did not mention God or Jesus. To them, Christianity was a performance-based list of do’s and don’ts more than a covenant relationship with God through Jesus.
  • The two million short-term mission trips teens take are not leading to lasting faith. Five out of six teens report that the mission trips don’t make much lasting impact on their lives. The Sticky Faith authors believe that service projects have stronger impact if they are done close to home. (pp.129-131)
  • Virtually all sexual activity is preceded and accompanied by large amounts alcohol.
  • College students spend in excess of $5 billion on alcohol each year. 80% of college fraternity and sorority members binge drink. The key decisions on whether or not to join the college drunkenness, party, and sex scenes are made during the first two weeks of the freshman year.
  • The key decision on whether or not to attend church and a campus ministry while in college is made during the first two weeks of college.
  • Most teens heading to college are unprepared for the major decision they will be making during the first few days and weeks at college. (p.151)

From these findings, one critical step to take is to help your college bound child have a concrete plan for joining campus fellowships, a local parish, and avoiding the allures of the degenerate party scene.This article first appeared in the Dads.org E-newsletter, June 2012. Click here for free sign-up.


Sticky Faith - Part I

by Steve Wood

The Educational Emergency Declared by Pope Benedict XVI“The crisis of a society begins when it no longer knows how to hand down its cultural patrimony and its fundamental values to the new generations.There is, as we know, an educational emergency, which in order to be faced requires parents and teachers capable of sharing all the goodness and truth that they have experienced deeply first-hand.”How Can Families Successfully Pass on the Faith and Prevent Faith-Washout?The secret for lasting faith formation in families is summed up in one word: fathers. Below is my letter to Pope Benedict XVI in response to his declaration of an educational crisis and the need for parents to pass on the Faith. I received a kind and gracious thank you note from the Holy Father.Dear Most Holy Father:With heartfelt agreement, I read of your recent pointed remarks concerning the “educational emergency” that exists in passing on the Faith and true Christian values to new generations.I believe that a substantial part of the solution to this crisis is Christian fathers re-discovering their role as family catechists and moral leaders. It is my experience that fathers require an explicit and specific challenge in order to respond to this responsibility.  When contemporary men hear it mentioned that catechesis is a “parents’ responsibility,” most men will assume this exhortation is directed to their wives.For your reflection, on pages 125 – 132 of the enclosed book [Legacy], I attempt to make the case why fathers are so critical in the cultural situation in which we find ourselves.Thank you for your gracious consideration and your efforts on behalf of the family and the next generation.Very respectfully yours,Stephen WoodIf fathers are the key for passing on the Faith and preventing washout, then an educational priority should be the training of fathers for their faith formation task. Is this a priority for your parish and local men’s group?Psalm 78 – Faithful Fathers Prevent Faith Washout“Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth!I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us.We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders which he has wrought.He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children; that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.”Sticky Faith – Part ITwo professors from Fuller Seminary have written an insightful book entitled, Sticky Faith. These researchers tried to discover precisely which type of youth ministry is actually capable of reversing the epidemic of 40 to 50 percent of young people who graduate from church youth groups and then fail to stick with their faith in college. What exactly can churches and parents do to make the faith stick?The book cites a six-year nationwide research project that identified 13 different youth ministry strategies. Of these 13, the youth ministry strategy that stood out the most was intergenerational worship and discipleship. In other words, the best youth strategy for reversing the epidemic of college students abandoning the church was non-segregation of high school students into youth groups which keep them separated from their parents and other adults in the congregation as they grow in Christ.Evangelical Protestants have spent the past half century developing the most intensive and comprehensive youth ministries in the 2000 year history of Christianity. Many Evangelical youth ministry leaders now realize that their fifty-year experiment in youth ministry needs a major modification to a family-integrated and intergenerational approach in order to be effective in producing faith that lasts past the high school years.I personally don’t know of any Catholic groups who are making the major switch in strategies as I’ve described above (integration of the generations vs. separation), but I hope that there must be some. Let me know if you know of any.I’ll be sharing a few more findings from Sticky Faith in next month’s letter.This article first appeared in the Dads.org E-newsletter, April 2012. Click here for free sign-up.


Two Words that Unlock the Catholic Understanding of Justification

by Stephen Wood

The Protestant understanding of justification is a legal one. God is viewed as a merciful judge before whom the sinner stands guilty. The judge declares the sinner, “Not guilty.” Although there’s no inward change in the person, the great gift of no more condemnation is received by faith.While Catholics don’t deny that there’s a forensic nature to justification, they believe that there’s a more profound change that occurs in justification than just going from guilty to not guilty.In the Catholic understanding of justification, God is primarily viewed as a father. The sinful person is forgiven and restored to the family fellowship as a child of the Heavenly Father, just like the prodigal son in Luke 15. This restoration as a son of God is called adoption, which is the central truth in Catholic beliefs on justification. Divine adoption is the inconceivably merciful and gracious acceptance of those justified into the divine family and a sharing of kinship with God the Father.The Council of Trent gave a summary of justification as follows:“The justification of the sinner [is] a translation from that state in which man is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace and of the adoption of the sons of God through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Savior.”Similarly, section 1996 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on justification, highlights becoming a child of God as a key aspect of justification:“Our justification is by the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God.”Protestants believe in adoption, but as separate and subsequent to justification. Catholics believe adoption is the core of justification and a central concept of faith.Father F. Cuttaz offers this profound summary of adoption in Catholicism:“Our divine adoption is the central concept of Christianity, the truth to which all the others relate and toward which they all converge, the truth through which they become clear, and around which they are synthesized. All other truths flow from it as from their source, radiate from it as from their center, rest upon it as their foundation.God is our Father, we are His children. That is the whole of our holy religion. The reason Christianity is different from other religions and surpasses them infinitely is because it is the religion of the children of God, the religion of a God who is a Father. No other religion has ever dared to postulate the existence of such a love on the part of God, or such grandeur in man.”Here’s a very simple way to remember to connect adoption with justification. First, only two books in the Bible have justification as their theme: Romans and Galatians. Second, only two books in the New Testament mention “Abba Father” outside of the Gospels: Romans and Galatians. This isn’t a coincidence.Becoming a child of God isn’t just a pious religious metaphor. It is an existential encounter with the love of the living God that is profoundly transforming. First century Catholics were transformed as they encountered the love of God the Father through justification and spontaneously cried out, “Abba, Father.”Helping men rediscover “Abba Father” and what it means to be a son of the Father through adoption is a powerful way to renew fatherhood in contemporary Catholic families. When you start hearing guys exclaim “Abba, Father” at men’s conferences, then you’ll know a profound renewal is underway.How to Get a Copy of Grace and Justification: An Evangelical’s Guide to Catholic BeliefsMy new book is available in print form and on Kindle at Amazon.If you find the book helpful and informative, I’d appreciate a brief review on Amazon’s site. Please be respectful towards Protestants in your reviews.Please consider sharing the book with friends and family members who have left the Church, or are contemplating doing so.Here’s how Scott Hahn describes the book:“In Grace and Justification, Steve Wood offers a clear, biblical, faithful - and peaceful - guide for addressing common misunderstandings that evangelicals have about Catholic teaching on salvation. But cradle Catholics will find it just as useful for brushing up on the basics. It’s simply the best primer I’ve read. Anyone who reads it — evangelical or Catholic — will be better for having done so.”Article first appeared in Dad.org Newsletter October 2017, Volume 23, Number 5. Sign up for free monthly newsletter here.


100th Anniversary of Fatima - October 13, 2017

by Stephen Wood

Here are three suggestions for the most accurate statements regarding the contemporary relevance of the apparitions at Fatima in 1917.“As for the Secret, well I happen to be one of those individuals who thinks we didn’t get the whole thing.” — Mother Angelica, 2001“One would deceive himself who thinks that the prophetic mission of Fatima is concluded … Mankind has succeeded in unleashing a cycle of death and terror, but failed in bringing it to an end.” — Pope Benedict XVI, 2010Question from Father Lombardi to Pope Benedict XVI on their 2009 flight to Fatima“Your Holiness, what meaning do the Fatima apparitions have for us today? In June 2000, when you presented the text of the third secret … you were asked if the message could be extended, beyond the attack on John Paul II, to other sufferings on the part of the Popes. Is it possible, to your mind, to include in that vision the sufferings of the Church today for the sins involving the sexual abuse of minors?”Holy Father: “Consequently, I would say that, here too, beyond this great vision of the suffering of the Pope, which we can in the first place refer to Pope John Paul II, an indication is given of realities involving the future of the Church, which are gradually taking shape and becoming evident …The important thing is that the message, the response of Fatima, in substance is not directed to particular devotions, but precisely to the fundamental response, that is, to ongoing conversion, penance, prayer, and the three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity. Thus we see here the true, fundamental response which the Church must give – which we, every one of us, must give in this situation.As for the new things which we can find in this message today, there is also the fact that attacks on the Pope and the Church come not only from without, but the sufferings of the Church come precisely from within the Church, from the sin existing within the Church. This too is something that we have always known, but today we are seeing it in a really terrifying way: that the greatest persecution of the Church comes not from her enemies without, but arises from sin within the Church, and that the Church thus has a deep need to relearn penance, to accept purification, to learn forgiveness on the one hand, but also the need for justice … This is our response, we are realists in expecting that evil always attacks, attacks from within and without, yet that the forces of good are also ever present and that, in the end, the Lord is more powerful than evil and Our Lady is for us the visible, motherly guarantee of God’s goodness, which is always the last word in history.”PersonalAs a personal favor, I ask you to re-read Pope Benedict’s statements above. They are actually worth re-reading twice. Fathers have a duty to know “what time it is” in the big scheme of things in order to provide wise guidance and prudent leadership for their families.Article first appeared in Dad.org Newsletter October 2017, Volume 23, Number 5. Sign up for free monthly newsletter here.


The Most Important Apologetics Topic

Editor's note: In light of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation on October 31st, I'll be devoting newsletters and Faith & Family broadcasts between now and November 1st to the central doctrine that prompted the Reformation: namely, justification.

The Most Important Apologetics TopicI've been involved with Catholic radio for eighteen years and have heard countless apologetics questions asked of myself and other hosts. While I agree that all Catholics should equip themselves to defend the Faith, I fear many are diluting their effectiveness by focusing on a multitude of secondary, and even tertiary, topics.Unless you are a full-time apologist and have time for limitless study, it is practically impossible to learn how to answer all apologetics questions. But everyone needs to learn the answer to the question, "What must I do to be saved (justified)?"The apologetics topic that stands above all others for a knowledgeable Protestant is justification. This is the doctrine that prompted the Protestant Reformation 500 years ago. Justification is why so many non-Catholic Christians are still protesting Catholicism. I suggest that justification should be one of your prime apologetics preparations.While a Protestant youth pastor and pastor, I didn't agree with calling priests, "Father," but I didn't attempt to lead Catholics out of the Church because of it. I was uncomfortable with religious statues in Catholic sanctuaries and homes, but my discomfort never prompted me to lead anyone away from Catholicism. Using the Bible while a Protestant pastor, I came to believe that Mary was the greatest woman who ever lived. So she was not the reason I tried persuading Catholics to leave the Church.There was one primary reason why I attempted to lead Catholics out of the Church. It was out of concern for their souls. I was taught and believed that the Catholic Church denied that salvation (justification) was by God's grace. Catholics confirmed the error of my beliefs. For twenty years, I asked Catholics on what basis they hoped to be granted entrance into heaven. For over two decades every Catholic answered that the primary reason God would let them into heaven was because of something he or she did or didn't do. There was no mention of a faith-dependence on God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, or the grace of God. The catechesis of the Catholics I met never informed them that to trust in oneself for salvation is the opposite of the Christian faith. It is a false and counterfeit belief of the first order.The hemorrhage of Catholics seeking greener pastures in Evangelical and Pentecostal settings and the Protestant opposition to Catholicism will not end until Catholics begin believing and learning to articulate exactly what their church teaches about justification.Justification by grace is the doctrine that Catholic educators must convey to their students so that they can resist folks like me when I was tempting Catholics to leave the Church to discover grace. Catechists, homilists, youth leaders, parents, and media outlets owe it to their fellow Catholics to continually refer to Section 1996 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It concisely and explicitly answers the primary apologetics question of Protestants."Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life."– CCC, Section 1996Does the Catholic Church teach that justification is by grace? For 500 years the answer to this question has divided Protestants and Catholics. Many Evangelicals and surprisingly most Catholics believe that the Catholic Church teaches justification by unaided human works. I wrote my new book, Grace and Justification, believing that it is past time to investigate whether this answer is true.How to Get a Copy of Grace and Justification: An Evangelical's Guide to Catholic BeliefsMembers of the Family Life Team, our circle of supporters, are receiving an autographed copy of Grace and Justification. If you would like to receive the letter describing how to get copies while supporting the Family Life Center, just send an email to team@dads.org.The book is available in print form and on Kindle at Amazon. If you find the book helpful and informative, I'd appreciate a brief review on Amazon's site. Please be respectful and charitable towards Protestants in your reviews. I wrote Justification and Grace to Evangelicals and not against them.Finally, please consider using the book with friends and family members who have left the Church, or are contemplating doing so. Here's what Baptist-convert Steve Ray said:"For the last 500 years, arguments and misunderstandings have swirled around the question, "What must I do to be saved?" There is no question more important and the answer should be clear. Catholics are often challenged by good-meaning folks confused about the teaching of the Catholic Church. How is a Catholic to respond? Simple—give them a copy of Stephen Wood's new book Grace & Justification: An Evangelical's Guide to Catholic Beliefs. Stephen Wood cuts through the confusion with surgical precision. The Protestant will receive a clarified understanding of justification. The Catholic too will understand the Church's biblical teaching and be better prepared to share the faith with others. Great for the scholar and the simple inquirer."On September 20th at 8:00 PM (ET), I'll be a guest on EWTN Live talking about the differences between Evangelical and Catholic beliefs on justification. My host, Fr. Mitch Pacwa, was the first Catholic from whom I heard the truth that Catholics do believe in justification by the grace of God.

Article first appeared


Amoris Laetitia is a ticking ‘atomic bomb’ set to obliterate all Catholic morality

By Peter Baklinski

August 23, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — One of the world’s top Catholic philosophers has called Pope’ Francis’ Exhortation Amoris Laetitia a ticking “theological atomic bomb” that has the capacity to entirely destroy all Catholic moral teaching.Dr. Josef Seifert, founding rector of the International Academy of Philosophy in Liechtenstein, said the only way the theological bomb can be defused is by Pope Francis retracting at least one major error in his 2016 Exhortation.With philosophical precision, Seifert pinpoints the main problem in Amoris Laetitia (AL) to a passage that he said suggests that God actively wills people, in certain situations, to commit acts that have always been considered objectively evil by the Catholic Church.He quotes directly from passage 303 of Amoris where Pope Francis speaks about “irregular couples” living in habitual adultery who decide to forgo following the Six Commandment.“Yet conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel,” wrote Pope Francis in his 2016 Exhortation.“It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal,” he added.Commented Seifert: “In other words, besides calling an objective state of grave sin, euphemistically, ‘not yet fully the objective ideal,’ AL says that we can know with ‘a certain moral security’ that God himself asks us to continue to commit intrinsically wrong acts, such as adultery or active homosexuality.”But Seifert pointed out that if just one intrinsically immoral act, such as adultery, can be permitted and even willed by God, then there is nothing stopping such a principle being applied to “all acts considered ‘intrinsically wrong.’”If it is true that God can want an adulterous couple to live in adultery against the Sixth Commandment, he said, then there is nothing to keep the other nine Commandments from falling.According to such logic, Seifert continued, evils such as murder, abortion, euthanasia, suicide, lying, thievery, perjury, and betrayal can be “justified in some cases and ‘be what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal.’”“Does not pure logic demand that we draw this consequence from this proposition of Pope Francis?” the philosopher said.Seifert said that if his above question is answered in the affirmative, then the “purely logical consequence of that one assertion of Amoris Laetitia seems to destroy the entire moral teaching of the Church.”The professor’s concern is similar to one of the dubia (questions) raised by the four cardinals to Pope Francis last year asking him to clarify the meaning of his Exhortation.Question two of five asks the Pope if, with the publication of Amoris, does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor that there are “absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts and that are binding without exceptions?”In his paper, Seifert pleaded with Pope Francis to withdraw and condemn the notion that God sometimes wills people to commit intrinsically evil acts.“If this is truly what AL affirms, all alarm over AL’s direct affirmations regarding matters of changes of sacramental discipline refer only to the peak of an iceberg, to the weak beginning of an avalanche, or to the first few buildings destroyed by a moral theological atomic bomb that threatens to tear down the whole moral edifice of the Ten Commandments and of Catholic moral teaching,” he said.Leaving such a notion uncorrected will lead to “nothing less than to a total destruction of the moral teachings of the Catholic Church,” he concluded.Last week, Cardinal Raymond Burke, one of the four cardinals who signed the dubiaalmost one year ago, outlined how the process for issuing a “formal correction” of the Pope would proceed if the Pope continued in his refusal to clarify his teaching.“It seems to me that the essence of the correction is quite simple,” Burke explained.“On the one hand, one sets forth the clear teaching of the Church; on the other hand, what is actually being taught by the Roman Pontiff is stated. If there is a contradiction, the Roman Pontiff is called to conform his own teaching in obedience to Christ and the Magisterium of the Church,” he said.“Pope Francis has chosen not to respond to the five dubia, so it is now necessary simply to state what the Church teaches about marriage, the family, acts that are intrinsically evil, and so forth. These are the points that are not clear in the current teachings of the Roman Pontiff; therefore, this situation must be corrected. The correction would then direct itself principally to those doctrinal points,” he added.Dr. Josef Seifert paper: Does pure Logic threaten to destroy the entire moral Doctrine of the Catholic Church?Reprinted with permission from lifesitenews.com


Harry Potter as Sacred Text!

Most Catholic parents think Harry Potter is fine for their kids. It even helps them become "religious."By Julie Zauzmer and Michelle Boorstein

Mark Kennedy grew up a Catholic, and a Harry Potter fanatic. Only one stuck."I considered myself a non-spiritual person,” he said. He thought he was done with religion. And then he stumbled on the podcast “Harry Potter and the Sacred Text.”The podcast told him that the Harry Potter series — the books that he always turned to for solace when he was angry or stressed or in need of an escape — could be a source of spiritual sustenance.“I feel like I’m born again,” he said.On Tuesday night, Kennedy came to an event space at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue in the District with hundreds of fellow fans of the podcast, who have found a surprising spirituality in the magical fiction series, which turns 20 years old this year.Hosted by Harvard Divinity School graduates Casper ter Kuile and Vanessa Zoltan, the podcast “Harry Potter and the Sacred Text” became the number-two podcast in America on iTunes soon after it debuted last summer. It has inspired face-to-face Potter text reading groups, akin to Bible study more than book club, in cities across the country. In Harvard Square, ter Kuile and Zoltan host a weekly church-like service for the secular focused on a Potter text’s meaning.In the episode they taped at Sixth & I, they used one chapter of the third Harry Potter book as a vehicle for discussing the topics of trust, betrayal, love and prejudice (against werewolves).Touring the country this summer, the podcasters have been met night after night by adoring, mostly millennial crowds who want to soak up their secular meaning-making. For the growing slice of Americans who label themselves “spiritual but not religious,” Casper ter Kuile and Vanessa Zoltan are kind of pop stars.The irony is, the pair are skeptical about secularism.“It doesn’t speak to people’s hearts and souls,” Zoltan said during a recent interview. “I get that people get connection and meaning from Soul Cycle, but will [those people] visit you when your mom is dying?”Zoltan and ter Kuile are complicated evangelists for their own cause. Even as their following grows, they are still pondering some big questions: Can non-traditional types of meaning-making build community? Can texts that are deeply moving to readers truly hold them to account in the way Scripture has among the God-fearing?Casper ter Kuile and Vanessa Zoltan (Courtesy of Robert Majovski)Neither one of them puts much faith in Humanism, though Zoltan tried working as a chaplain at the lively, cutting-edge secularism center at Harvard called the Humanist Hub, where there is a Sunday school for kids based on ethics. People who don’t want to join an organized religion aren’t looking to label themselves part of a religion for atheists either, ter Kuile said.“That’s all being unbundled. You might get your ecstatic experience at Soul Cycle, and your community in your book group, and your [spiritual] formation in Harry Potter or ‘On Being,'” he said.The podcasters said they worry that these disparate experiences leave people much lonelier than experiences that are all tied up within one faith community.“I’m scared what we’re going to do without the buildings. Some of the best things in the world happen in church basements,” Zoltan said. “That’s where you have sex ed classes, and that’s where you have kids on their church trip to build houses, and that’s where you house the new immigrant, and that’s where you register to vote…. I’m terrified if there aren’t these designated spaces. They’re called sanctuaries for a reason.”On their summer cross-country tour, which concluded in the District this week, the podcasters did fill church and synagogue auditoriums with fans in their 20s and 30s, many of whom hadn’t set foot in a house of worship in years.They said that their podcast doesn’t aim to offer all the benefits of a religious community, but does strive to provide the moral insights that seekers gain from study of Scripture. In their podcast, they use the rigorous methods they learned in divinity school, like the Benedictine monks’ practice of lectio divina and the medieval florilegium, to parse the lines of Harry Potter, which they typically refer to as “the text.”In the seven-book adventure story of Harry Potter growing up, mastering his magical powers, forming friendships and fighting the evil wizard Voldemort, ter Kuile and Zoltan find an ethical theme in every chapter, like “duty,” “forgiveness,” “mercy,” love,” “heartbreak,” “sanctuary” and “grace.”Onstage at Sixth & I, they parsed a solitary sentence from the third book, selected by the audience: “The important thing is, I was watching it carefully this evening.”Following a Jewish study method called Pardes, they analyzed the sole sentence on four levels, leading from the actual events of the story — a professor, looking at a moving map to see if it reveals that his students are in trouble — to an eventual sermonic conclusion. “I think what I would preach is that everybody needs to be taken care of in different ways. You should take care of the person in the form they need to be taken care of, not in the way that works for you. We have to teach each other how to take care of each other,” Zoltan said.She said in an interview that she hopes this sort of close reading teaches moral values.“To me, the goal of treating the text as sacred is that we can learn to treat each other as sacred. If you can learn to love these characters, to love Draco Malfoy, then you can learn to love the cousin you haven’t spoken to for 30 years, then the refugee down the street,” Zoltan said.Attendees at Sixth & I lined up to buy t-shirts reading “Harry Potter is my sacred text,” but Zoltan and ter Kuile say they’re not trying to create a new religious identity, and they don’t think anyone comes away from the podcast thinking his or her religion is now Harry Potter-ist. (They also say they have never communicated with J. K. Rowling, who wrote the texts that they study and promote.)Sally Taylor, 23, came to Sixth & I toting her journal. The trip to Washington to see the podcast taping was her graduation gift to herself for finishing her degree at the University of North Carolina in Asheville. She’s been writing down “sparklets” — a word she learned from the show for phrases that stand out to the listener as imbued with meaning — and she wanted to write more during the live taping.“It always gives me guidance in a way I didn’t know I needed,” Taylor, who said she has no religion, said about the podcast.That’s the goal. For a book to be sacred, Zoltan said, “You have to believe a text can give you blessings. You have to read it with rigor, commitment and practice, and do it with others.”Reprinted with permission from The Washington Post.


An Exceptional Blessing for Catholic Children to Request in Your Diocese

The age for Confirmation will be lowered to third grade, and it will be received right before First Holy Communion at the same Mass.

By Peter Jesserer Smith

On Pentecost Sunday, Archbishop Samuel Aquila made history in the U.S. by announcing that the Archdiocese of Denver would be the first U.S. Latin-rite archdiocese to restore the order of the sacraments of initiation to Baptism, then Confirmation, and finally Holy Eucharist.As the Register reported on Saturday, the age for Confirmation will be lowered to third grade and received right before First Holy Communion at the same Mass, reversing a century long custom in the Latin Church in favor of a traditional order for receiving the sacraments that dates back to the Acts of the Apostles.In this Register interview, Archbishop Samuel Aquila shares that he decided to restore the order to help as many Catholics as possible in his archdiocese “reach heaven” with the graces of Confirmation. And by doing so, he’s fulfilling a dream pope-emeritus Benedict XVI has had for the entire Latin-rite Church.What are the theological and pastoral reasons for restoring the order of the sacraments of initiation in the Archdiocese of Denver?The theology on the order of the sacraments of initiation is clear, and through my many experiences as both a parish pastor and a bishop, I knew that this was the right decision to make. As the title of my pastoral letter Saints Among Us suggests, the decision to restore Confirmation to its original place is motivated by my desire to help the people of the Archdiocese of Denver reach heaven.Was the decision a collaborative process?The process for the timing and the implementation was collaborative. We have had a committee working actively with pastors and youth ministers for over a year to discuss the implementation.For the past 100 years, Catholics in the U.S. have come to view Confirmation as a rite of passage for teens, and a lot of youth ministries are geared around this. What are the pastoral and catechetical challenges involved in making this transition to the restored order?To view Confirmation “as a rite of passage for teens” is an erroneous understanding of the sacrament, especially in light of the teaching in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the RCIA, and the Code of Canon Law. While there are many logistical challenges that will require some work to figure out, the pastoral challenges are more difficult to address. It will require the youth ministers to rethink how they are helping our young people grow in their faith, and to change the structure of their ministries so that they are geared toward forming authentic disciples of Christ.How do you plan to address those challenges? Do you have a plan for helping youth ministries make the transition, or will parishes and Directors of Religious Education (DREs) have to develop their own plans?Our Office for Evangelization and Family Life Ministries is helping pastors, parishes and youth ministers look for ways to address the pastoral and logistical challenges this change will present to them. I believe we have models that are out there which emphasize discipleship. The model of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) can be very helpful.  Each pastor will implement the restored order in the way that makes the most sense for his parish community as the parish communities are very different in the cities and rural and mountain areas of Colorado.Part of the concern is that parents whose children will drop out in 8th grade post confirmation will drop out in 3rd grade. How did you address that challenge in Fargo, and how do you plan to do it in Denver? I’ve heard that in Fargo, when you went to restored order, you filled the vacuum (so to speak) with a program engaging young people in lectio divina [a form of prayer that combines Scripture, prayer and meditation]. Could you elaborate on that as well?The fear that many have is that our children will drop out of religious education, and this might happen. Parents are the teachers of their children in the ways of faith, so their example is critical. Confirmation is not graduation or in the words of Pope Francis “the sacrament of farewell.” A key component in the restored order is the formation of the parents in assisting them to encounter Christ.The greater challenge to address, however, is how do we form our children in the faith in a way that truly brings them into relationship with Christ, and that this relationship lasts and grows throughout their lives. We don’t have all the answers, but we are working with pastors and catechists to rethink how we approach youth ministry. One of the greatest helps I have found in helping people to encounter Christ, even young people is to teach them lectio divina. Every class should begin with lectio even with the children. Through lectio even young children can encounter Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit and it instills in them a love for Scripture and especially the Gospels.Why did you choose now as the time to announce the restored order? Could you explain why the transition period begins in 2017 and is there a possibility that parishes could start sooner?Some parishes began to lower the age of confirmation to the 6th grade the minute I was named Archbishop of Denver, which they were already allowed to do according to our local archdiocesan law. For many of the smaller parishes, they will be able to implement the restored order this year or next year.The 2017 timeline is intended to give larger parishes time to educate their staff and parishioners, as well as offer time for them to draft and implement their plan for bringing Confirmation down to the 3rd grade.  It’s up to each pastor to determine the timeline that fits best for his parish, but the Office of Evangelization and Family Life Ministries has developed three models that parishes can use or adapt to lower the age of Confirmation by 2020.Thanks so much, Archbishop Aquila. As a final comment, can you share the personal impact that then-Pope Benedict XVI made on you regarding the restored order?During my 2012 ad limina visit while I was Bishop of Fargo, I shared with Pope Benedict and the other bishops present what I had done to restore the order of the sacraments of initiation for children baptized in infancy. After my presentation, his response surprised me, “You have done what I always wanted to do.”

© 2017 EWTN News, Inc. Reprinted with permission from theNational Catholic Registerwww.ncregister.comPhoto credit: Denver Catholic


Strong Words from a Noted Catholic Journalist

Article by Phil Lawler, Director, Catholic Culture/Editor, Catholic World News

Something snapped last Friday, when Pope Francis used the day’s Gospel reading as one more opportunity to promote his own view on divorce and remarriage. Condemning hypocrisy and the “logic of casuistry,” the Pontiff said that Jesus rejects the approach of legal scholars.True enough. But in his rebuke to the Pharisees, what does Jesus say about marriage?

So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”


Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.

Day after day, in his homilies at morning Mass in the Vatican’s St. Martha residence, Pope Francis denounces the “doctors of the law” and the “rigid” application of Catholic moral doctrine. Sometimes his interpretation of the day’s Scripture readings is forced; often his characterization of tradition-minded Catholics is insulting. But in this case, the Pope turned the Gospel reading completely upside-down. Reading the Vatican Radio account of that astonishing homily, I could no longer pretend that Pope Francis is merely offering a novel interpretation of Catholic doctrine. No; it is more than that. He is engaged in a deliberate effort to change what the Church teaches.For over 20 years now, writing daily about the news from the Vatican, I have tried to be honest in my assessment of papal statements and gestures. I sometimes criticized St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, when I thought that their actions were imprudent. But never did it cross my mind that either of those Popes posed any danger to the integrity of the Catholic faith. Looking back much further across Church history, I realize that there have been bad Popes: men whose personal actions were motivated by greed and jealousy and lust for power and just plain lust. But has there ever before been a Roman Pontiff who showed such disdain for what the Church has always taught and believed and practiced—on such bedrock issues as the nature of marriage and of the Eucharist?Pope Francis has sparked controversy from the day he was elected as St. Peter’s successor. But in the past several months the controversy has become so intense, confusion among the faithful so widespread, administration at the Vatican so arbitrary—and the Pope’s diatribes against his (real or imagined) foes so manic—that today the universal Church is rushing toward a crisis.In a large family, how should a son behave when he realizes that his father’s pathological behavior threatens the welfare of the whole household? He should certainly continue to show respect for his father, but he cannot indefinitely deny the danger. Eventually, a dysfunctional family needs an intervention.In the worldwide family that is the Catholic Church, the best means of intervention is always prayer. Intense prayer for the Holy Father would be a particularly apt project for the season of Lent. But intervention also requires honesty: a candid recognition that we have a serious problem.Recognizing the problem can also provide a sort of relief, a relaxation of accumulating tensions. When I tell friends that I consider this papacy a disaster, I notice that more often than not, they feel oddly reassured. They can relax a bit, knowing that their own misgivings are not irrational, that others share their fears about the future of the faith, that they need not continue a fruitless search for ways to reconcile the irreconciliable. Moreover, having given the problem a proper name, they can recognize what this crisis of Catholicism is not. Pope Francis is not an antipope, much less the Antichrist. The See of Peter is not vacant, and Benedict is not the “real” Pontiff.Francis is our Pope, for better or worse. And if it is for worse—as I sadly conclude it is—the Church has survived bad Popes in the past. We Catholics have been spoiled for decades, enjoying a succession of outstanding Vatican leaders: Pontiffs who were gifted teachers and saintly men. We have grown accustomed to looking to Rome for guidance. Now we cannot.(I do not mean to imply that Pope Francis has forfeited the charism of infallibility. If he issues an ex cathedra statement, in union with the world’s bishops, we can be sure that he is fulfilling his duty to pass on what the Lord gave to St. Peter: the deposit of faith. But this Pope has chosen not to speak with authority; on the contrary, he has adamantly refused to clarify his most provocative teaching document.)But if we cannot count on clear directions from Rome, where can we turn? First, Catholics can rely on the constant teaching of the Church, the doctrines that are now too often called into question. If the Pope is confusing, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is not. Second, we can and should ask our own diocesan bishops to step up and shoulder their own proper responsibilities. Bishops, too, have spent years referring the tough questions to Rome. Now, of necessity, they must provide their own clear, decisive affirmations of Catholic doctrine.Maybe Pope Francis will prove me wrong, and emerge as a great Catholic teacher. I hope and pray he does. Maybe my entire argument is wrongheaded. I have been wrong before, and will no doubt be wrong again; one more mistaken view is of no great consequence. But if I am right, and the current Pope’s leadership has become a danger to the faith, then other Catholics, and especially ordained Church leaders, must decide how to respond. And if I am right—as I surely am—that confusion about fundamental Church teachings has become widespread, then the bishops, as primary teachers of the faith, cannot neglect their duty to intervene.Reprinted with permission from catholicculture.org.


Catholic Lite and Europe’s Demographic Suicide

COMMENTARY: Europe’s population predicament bespeaks, first and foremost, a colossal evangelical failure.by George Weigel

 Ten years ago, after my meditation on Europe, The Cube and the Cathedral, had appeared in several languages, I was invited to speak to members of the European Parliament in Brussels. There, I tried to make what seemed three rather obvious points.Europe is committing demographic suicide, systematically depopulating itself in what British historian Niall Ferguson has called “the greatest sustained reduction in European population since the Black Death in the 14th century.”This unwillingness to create the future in the most elemental sense, by creating new generations, is at the root of many of Europe’s problems, including its difficulties assimilating immigrants and its fiscal distress.When an entire continent — healthier, wealthier and more secure than ever before — deliberately chooses sterility, the most basic cause for that must lie in the realm of the human spirit, in a certain souring about the very mystery of being.The response to this analysis that has stuck in my mind ever since came from an Italian Euro parliamentarian, who said, in so many words, “Look, we know we’re finished. We’re trying to arrange things so that we can die comfortably in our beds. Don’t you Yanks come over here and start stirring things up.”It was brutal, but it had the merit of being honest, and it came back to me the day after the recent French presidential election, when it was pointed out by several observers that the prime ministers or presidents of Europe’s largest economies — and of all the European members of that exclusive global club, the G-7 — are without children: Germany’s Angela Merkel, Great Britain’s Theresa May, Italy’s Paolo Gentiloni and France’s Emmanuel Macron. Add to the mix the childless Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and the childless prime minister of Luxembourg, Xavier Bettel, and something quite striking comes into focus: Of the six founding members of what has evolved into the European Union, five are now led by childless prime ministers or presidents, a situation that would have been unimaginable to one of the founders of modern “Europe,” Konrad Adenauer, who was the father of eight.The childlessness in this elite cohort certainly has several causes, given the diverse personalities involved.Some of these leaders doubtless experience their childlessness as a sorrow — although none seems to have taken the option of adopting children.Nonetheless, the childlessness of so many Western European leaders is, if nothing else, a stark illustration of the crisis I identified more than a decade ago — and which my Italian interlocutor in Brussels confirmed, if in a thoroughly depressing way.The members of the American commentariat most attuned to this plague of Euro childlessness tend to discuss its impacts in terms of the rapidly growing Muslim population in Europe and the difficulties so many European states seem to have in assimilating immigrants from a different civilizational orbit.Those problems are real enough. But for a Catholic, Europe’s demographic winter bespeaks, first and foremost, a colossal evangelical failure. Acknowledging that also sheds light on the contemporary Catholic situation in Europe.In recent years, the “Catholic Lite Brigade” has reasserted itself in Western Europe and in the counsels of the world Church.It is time to ask whether “Catholic Lite” — as displayed in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and elsewhere — does not have something to do with Europe’s demographic meltdown.It is time to ask whether Catholic Lite is not at least partially responsible, not only for Europe’s self-chosen sterility, but for Europe’s rapidly accelerating embrace of euthanasia.It is time to ask why Catholic Lite has been such an abysmal failure in forming public moral cultures in which self-gift, not self-aggrandizement, is the touchstone of human aspiration.Sixteen years ago, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger told me, “Organized Catholicism in Germany is a task force for the old ideas” — the ideas of Catholic Lite.The same might be said of “organized Catholicism” throughout much of Western Europe.And while there are signs of hope to be found in renewal movements and new forms of Catholic community across the European continent, the continued embrace of Catholic Lite by too many Western European Catholic leaders and intellectuals bodes ill for a European Catholicism that can inspire Europe to reject demographic suicide and rediscover the joy of creating the future through having children.George Weigel is distinguished senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington. His column  is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver.


The Four Cardinals and the Encyclical in the Room

The essential questions remain what they have always been: "what is freedom and what is its relationship to the truth contained in God's law? what is the role of conscience in man's moral development?"

By Carl E. Olson

How to make sense of the current situation? There is no single answer, for the ongoing saga—encompassing Synods and stratagems, debates and dubia, Exhortations and excoriations, posturings and pontifications—is about a wide range of questions. Some of them are obvious and capture the headlines, especially: does Pope Francis want to allow those Catholics who have been divorced and civilly remarried access to Holy Communion, even while they continue to live as though married?But beneath that question are other, very fundamental questions often not voiced or discussed. In the words of one pastor:What is good and what is sin? What origin and purpose do sufferings have? What is the way to attaining true happiness? What are death, judgment and retribution after death? Lastly, what is that final, unutterable mystery which embraces our lives and from which we take our origin and towards which we tend? ... These and other questions, such as: what is freedom and what is its relationship to the truth contained in God's law? what is the role of conscience in man's moral development? how do we determine, in accordance with the truth about the good, the specific rights and duties of the human person?That pastor was St. John Paul II, and he posed those questions in Veritatis Splendor(par 30), his great encyclical on the Church's moral theology, released in 1993. While mindful, again, of the many issues involved, I am increasingly convinced that Veritatis Splendor, nearly a quarter century old now, is the elepha—er, encyclical in the living room. Of course, it does not stand alone, since John Paul II spoke often and wrote in detail about mercy, marriage, freedom, conscience, and a host of related matters over the course of his lengthy pontificate. In fact, every single issue relating to family, marriage, divorce, Holy Communion, culpability, subjective experience, and objective truth that Pope Francis has sought to address, analyze, explore, and grapple with since he announced the Extraordinary Synod of 2014 had already been addressed, analyzed, explored, and grappled with by John Paul II in the 1980s and 1990s.Which is not to say that these pressing and often complicated matters should not be raised again or discussed further. Of course not. Rather, it is to wonder at how little attention has been paid in recent years to what John Paul II said and wrote over the course of his long and brilliant pontificate about family, marriage, divorce, Holy Communion, and all the rest.The 2014 Extraordinary Synod and the 2015 Ordinary Synod were held in order to address, as the USCCB site states, "topics related to the family and evangelization." This was followed by the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, which is (at nearly 60,000 words) the longest official papal text in history. What has been the result of all of this time, labor, discussion, and ink? Judging by events of recent weeks and months, it has been much discord, confusion, and frustration, quite a bit of it revolving around that one question: "Are divorced and civilly remarried Catholics now able to receive Holy Communion?" Prior to the current pontificate the answer was "No", as it was understood—if not always accepted or practiced—that those Catholics who had entered into a second "marriage" without addressing the validity or nullity of their first marriage were, in fact, committing adultery.Now, in short, that clear answer has been called into question, since Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia, entitled “Accompanying, Discerning and Integrating Weakness”) allows, as moral theologian Dr. E. Christian Brugger observed on this site earlier this year, "and seems intentionally [to allow]—for interpretations that pose serious problems for Catholic faith and practice."Proof of the contention over the now famous chapter is easy to find. Some bishops, such as Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, who is a member of a committee overseeing the exhortation’s implementation in the U.S., reiterated Church teaching: “With divorced-and-civilly-remarried persons, Church teaching requires them to refrain from sexual intimacy. This applies even if they must (for the care of their children) continue to live under one roof.” Then, in late summer, came news that a group of Argentine bishops had published pastoral guidelines for implementing Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia indicating, as Dr. Brugger summarized it in another CWR article, "under certain circumstances divorced Catholics in sexually active second unions may receive the Holy Eucharist, even without receiving an annulment." This was soon followed by even more startling news that Pope Francis had, in a private letter, told the Argentinian bishops that their “document is very good and completely explains the meaning of chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia”. Further, he stated, "There are no other interpretations.”Apparently empowered by this and other events, then-cardinal-designate Kevin Farrell of Dallas, Texas, took the unusual step of directly criticizing Archbishop Chaput in mid-November, as reported by CNS:"I don't share the view of what Archbishop Chaput did, no," the cardinal-designate said. "I think there are all kinds of different circumstances and situations that we have to look at -- each case as it is presented to us.""I think that is what our Holy Father is speaking about, is when we talk about accompanying, it is not a decision that is made irrespective of the couple," he said. "Obviously, there is an objective moral law," he said, but you will never find two couples who have the same reason for being divorced and remarried.Archbishop Chaput, in a November 17th CNS interview, responded by noting that he "was a delegate to the 2015 synod and then elected and appointed to the synod's permanent council. So I'm familiar with the material and its context in a way that Cardinal-designate Farrell may not be." That, in "bishop speak", constitutes a stern rebuke, followed up as it was by this:CNS: Cardinal-designate Farrell has told CNS that he believes that under Chapter 8's guidance, a pastor cannot say to all divorced and civilly remarried: Yes, receive communion. But neither can they say to all: No, it's not possible unless you live as brother and sister. How would you respond to this observation?Archbishop Chaput: I wonder if Cardinal-designate Farrell actually read and understood the Philadelphia guidelines he seems to be questioning. The guidelines have a clear emphasis on mercy and compassion. This makes sense because individual circumstances are often complex. Life is messy. But mercy and compassion cannot be separated from truth and remain legitimate virtues. The Church cannot contradict or circumvent Scripture and her own magisterium without invalidating her mission. This should be obvious. The words of Jesus himself are very direct and radical on the matter of divorce.This point is essential: The Church cannot contradict or circumvent Scripture and her own magisterium without invalidating her mission. Further, what Archbishop Chaput wrote and said is in complete continuity with what John Paul II wrote and said on many different occasions. Farrell, it seems fair to say, was not just directly criticizing Chaput, but implicitly criticizing John Paul II.Which brings us to the widely reported story that four Cardinals—Raymond Burke, Carlo Caffarra, Walter Brandmüller and Joachim Meisner—had sent a formal request to Pope Francis, in September, with five questions, or "dubia", about the interpretation of chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia. "We have noted," they stated matter-of-factly, "that even within the episcopal college there are contrasting interpretations of Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia. ... [W]e want to help the Pope to prevent divisions and conflicts in the Church, asking him to dispel all ambiguity."The five questions are as follows (further explanatory notes can be found in the full text):It is asked whether, following the affirmations of Amoris Laetitia (nn. 300-305), it has now become possible to grant absolution in the sacrament of penance and thus to admit to Holy Communion a person who, while bound by a valid marital bond, lives together with a different person more uxorio without fulfilling the conditions provided for by Familiaris Consortio n. 84 and subsequently reaffirmed by Reconciliatio et Paenitentia n. 34 and Sacramentum Caritatis n. 29. Can the expression "in certain cases" found in note 351 (n. 305) of the exhortation Amoris Laetitia be applied to divorced persons who are in a new union and who continue to live more uxorio?After the publication of the post-synodal exhortation Amoris Laetitia (cf. n. 304), does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II's encyclical Veritatis Splendor n. 79, based on Sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, on the existence of absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts and that are binding without exceptions?After Amoris Laetitia (n. 301) is it still possible to affirm that a person who habitually lives in contradiction to a commandment of God's law, as for instance the one that prohibits adultery (cf. Mt 19:3-9), finds him or herself in an objective situation of grave habitual sin (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Declaration, June 24, 2000)?After the affirmations of Amoris Laetitia (n. 302) on "circumstances which mitigate moral responsibility," does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II's encyclical Veritatis Splendor n. 81, based on Sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, according to which "circumstances or intentions can never transform an act intrinsically evil by virtue of its object into an act 'subjectively' good or defensible as a choice"?After Amoris Laetitia (n. 303) does one still need to regard as valid the teaching of St. John Paul II's encyclical Veritatis Splendor n. 56, based on Sacred Scripture and on the Tradition of the Church, that excludes a creative interpretation of the role of conscience and that emphasizes that conscience can never be authorized to legitimate exceptions to absolute moral norms that prohibit intrinsically evil acts by virtue of their object?Note that all five questions mention or reference texts written by John Paul II (the third question references a text citing Familiaris Consortio n. 84 in the key section), and that three of them specifically mention Veritatis Splendor. And then note that Veritatis Splendor is not quoted, mentioned, or cited once by Francis in Amoris Laetitia. It is rather mind-boggling that Amoris Laetitia, which addresses a whole host of moral issues, fundamental principles, and especially the matters of conscience and freedom, completely ignoresVeritatis Splendor.Although John Paul II wrote fourteen encyclicals, Veritatis Splendor is arguably the most important (and the most controversial) of those fourteen texts, described by biographer George Weigel in Witness to Hope as "one of the major intellectual and cultural events of the pontificate." It was the first papal document to present a comprehensive and cohesive understanding of the foundations of Catholic moral theology, with the purpose, the author stated, of setting forth "with regard to the problems being discussed, the principles of a moral teaching based upon Sacred Scripture and the living Apostolic Tradition, and at the same time to shed light on the presuppositions and consequences of the dissent which that teaching has met" (par 5). John Paul II, in explaining the purpose of the encyclical, wrote:Today, however, it seems necessary to reflect on the whole of the Church's moral teaching, with the precise goal of recalling certain fundamental truths of Catholic doctrine which, in the present circumstances, risk being distorted or denied. In fact, a new situation has come about within the Christian community itself, which has experienced the spread of numerous doubts and objections of a human and psychological, social and cultural, religious and even properly theological nature, with regard to the Church's moral teachings. It is no longer a matter of limited and occasional dissent, but of an overall and systematic calling into question of traditional moral doctrine, on the basis of certain anthropological and ethical presuppositions. At the root of these presuppositions is the more or less obvious influence of currents of thought which end by detaching human freedom from its essential and constitutive relationship to truth. Thus the traditional doctrine regarding the natural law, and the universality and the permanent validity of its precepts, is rejected; certain of the Church's moral teachings are found simply unacceptable; and the Magisterium itself is considered capable of intervening in matters of morality only in order to "exhort consciences" and to "propose values", in the light of which each individual will independently make his or her decisions and life choices. (par 4)Having now re-read the encyclical (which I first studied in 1998, under the guidance of moral theologian Dr. Mark Lowery of the University of Dallas), I am struck by how John Paul II again and again addresses the sort of vague language, ambiguous rhetoric, and dubious argumentation used by those who insist Amoris Laetitia points to "revolutionary" and "radical" ways of thinking about and living the Christian life that "cannot simply be reduced to a question of ‘yes or no’ in a specific pastoral situation." As mentioned, quite a few Catholic theologians treated the encyclical with complete disdain when it first appeared; it was, in some ways, John Paul II's Humanae Vitae. But, as Fr. Richard John Neuhaus noted in a January 1994 First Things symposium, "John Paul takes on those moralists, including Catholic theologians, who say that an evil act may be justified by the end to which it is directed ('consequentialism') or by weighing the other goods at stake ('proportionalism'). It is never licit to do evil in order to achieve good."In other words, it's not enough to say, "I love this person" and then commit an act of adultery; it's not true to assert that one's subjective state can somehow transform an objective evil into an objective good. Dr. Russell Hittinger, in the same symposium, made this astute observation: "If we take the century of modern encyclicals according to their logical rather than temporal order, Veritatis should be regarded as the first of the encyclicals." And Hadley Arkes, summed up the document in a way worth quoting at length:As John Paul II moves on in his commentary, he meditates on the negative injunctions of the second tablet of the Decalogue, and he takes this editing by Christ as the key to a moral distinction: the “positive moral precepts” leave far more room for prudence, in making an allowance for “exceptions.” But the commandments mentioned by Christ from the second tablet were “negative moral precepts,” and John Paul II treats those commandments as far more exacting, far less open to shading or compromise in the name of prudence. These negative precepts, he says, “prohibiting certain concrete actions or kinds of behavior as intrinsically evil, do not allow for any legitimate exception.” The Pope regards these precepts, then, as the hard, absolute guidelines to the moral life. They repel the claim that the principles of moral judgment are too airy or abstract to offer guidance in any concrete case. They are intelligible, precise—and unyielding.Exacting. Hard. Absolute. Precise. Unyielding. Would the great Pope and Saint John Paul II be called "rigid" today? Perhaps he would be dismissed (as he was a quarter century ago) as too black-and-white, too harsh, too unrelenting. I don't say so glibly. The term "rigid" seems to be strongly trending these days, proving to be one of Pope Francis' favorite negative descriptives, often linked to the sins of the Pharisees.A few days ago, the full text of Pope Francis' October 24th "dialogue with the Jesuits gathered in the 36th General Congregation" was released; it contained this statement from the Holy Father:Discernment is the key element: the capacity for discernment. I note the absence of discernment in the formation of priests. We run the risk of getting used to «white or black,» to that which is legal. We are rather closed, in general, to discernment. One thing is clear: today, in a certain number of seminaries, a rigidity that is far from a discernment of situations has been introduced.Francis then said, "I think Bernard Häring was the first to start looking for a new way to help moral theology to flourish again. Obviously, in our day moral theology has made much progress in its reflections and in its maturity; it is no longer a «casuistry.»" It was a rather startling remark since the German priest Häring (1912-1998) was a leading dissenter against Humane Vitae, and, as a 1989 article rightly observed, "has been writing and speaking without hindrance against Church positions for 25 years." Häring inspired the work of Fr. Charles Curran, the leading opponent of Humane Vitae from the day it was released by Paul VI in 1968. "Häring himself then and later," wrote Curran in 2013 in praise of the late German theologian, "without doubt became the most prominent and public proponent in the Catholic world for disagreeing with the conclusion of the encyclical." Häring, in so many ways, was precisely the sort of moral theologian whose thought and work John Paul II addressed and criticized in Veritatis Splendor. Could it be that John Paul II is precisely the sort of moral theologian that frustrates Francis? If not, how to make sense of all this?Cardinals Farrell, Cupich, Kasper, and others repeatedly emphasize that each situation is unique and different, as if such an observation is a revolutionary leap forward in appreciating the mysteries of human existence. (Actually, in the case of Cardinal Kasper, that might well be The Point.) Then, when it is clear they are on the edge of the cliff of relativism, they insist on their belief in an objective moral law. The problem is that a truly objective and eternal moral law must exist outside of and above any subjective, temporal situation—and it certainly does, as John Paul II demonstrated so well. Thus, the question is: where does the uniqueness of my situation end and the objective moral law begin? How do we avoid the grave danger of "a radically subjectivistic conception of moral judgment" (as John Paul II put it) and instead embrace the fullness of the splendor of truth?A clear answer is quite difficult to find; hence, in large part, the current situation. Instead, there is much talk about "discernment" and "accompanying" and "dialogue", as if the goal is to walk about in a fog until finally bumping into an unexpected solution uniquely customized for this or that specific situation. Or, as Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn put it, in trying to explain Amoris Laetitia 8, "One cannot pass from the general rule to 'some cases' merely by looking at formal situations. It is therefore possible that, in some cases, one who is in an objective situation of sin can receive the help of the sacraments. ... Because otherwise, there is a risk of falling into an abstract casuistry." Cardinal Schoenborn seems to argue further that we have now reached a point when the complexities of our unique time have overwhelmed the clarity of objective truth: "To a greater degree than in the past, the objective situation of a person does not tell us everything about that person in relation to God and in relation to the church. This evolution compels us urgently to rethink what we meant when we spoke of objective situations of sin."Yet John Paul II, it appears, would have none of it, asserting,some authors have proposed a kind of double status of moral truth. Beyond the doctrinal and abstract level, one would have to acknowledge the priority of a certain more concrete existential consideration. The latter, by taking account of circumstances and the situation, could legitimately be the basis of certain exceptions to the general rule and thus permit one to do in practice and in good conscience what is qualified as intrinsically evil by the moral law. A separation, or even an opposition, is thus established in some cases between the teaching of the precept, which is valid in general, and the norm of the individual conscience, which would in fact make the final decision about what is good and what is evil. On this basis, an attempt is made to legitimize so-called "pastoral" solutions contrary to the teaching of the Magisterium, and to justify a "creative" hermeneutic according to which the moral conscience is in no way obliged, in every case, by a particular negative precept. (VS, 56)That comes in a section ("Conscience and Truth", pars 54-64) which also takes on the faulty notion that the essential work of one's conscience is to make a "decision". So, for example, Cardinal Blaise Cupich has said, "I try to help people along the way. And people come to a decision in good conscience. ... Then our job with the church is to help them move forward and respect that ... The conscience is inviolable. And we have to respect that when they make decisions and I've always done that."But John Paul II said otherwise: "Consequently in the practical judgment of conscience, which imposes on the person the obligation to perform a given act, the link between freedom and truth is made manifest. Precisely for this reason conscience expresses itself in acts of 'judgment' which reflect the truth about the good, and not in arbitrary 'decisions'. The maturity and responsibility of these judgments — and, when all is said and done, of the individual who is their subject — are not measured by the liberation of the conscience from objective truth, in favour of an alleged autonomy in personal decisions, but, on the contrary, by an insistent search for truth and by allowing oneself to be guided by that truth in one's actions" (par 61).John Paul II went even further in a passage that certainly could be applied to some of the arguments used for giving Communion to those who are living in objectively adulterous situations:It is never acceptable to confuse a "subjective" error about moral good with the "objective" truth rationally proposed to man in virtue of his end, or to make the moral value of an act performed with a true and correct conscience equivalent to the moral value of an act performed by following the judgment of an erroneous conscience. It is possible that the evil done as the result of invincible ignorance or a non-culpable error of judgment may not be imputable to the agent; but even in this case it does not cease to be an evil, a disorder in relation to the truth about the good. Furthermore, a good act which is not recognized as such does not contribute to the moral growth of the person who performs it; it does not perfect him and it does not help to dispose him for the supreme good. Thus, before feeling easily justified in the name of our conscience, we should reflect on the words of the Psalm: "Who can discern his errors? Clear me from hidden faults" (Ps 19:12). There are faults which we fail to see but which nevertheless remain faults, because we have refused to walk towards the light (cf. Jn 9:39-41).Conscience, as the ultimate concrete judgment, compromises its dignity when it is culpably erroneous, that is to say, "when man shows little concern for seeking what is true and good, and conscience gradually becomes almost blind from being accustomed to sin". Jesus alludes to the danger of the conscience being deformed when he warns: "The eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!" (Mt 6:22-23). (VS, par 63)Much more could be said. The bottom line, for me, is this: if the ambiguities and problems with chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia can be clarified in accord with Veritatis Splendor, what really was the point of the past three years? Why wasn't the Apostolic Exhortation more clear and precise from the start? Was it a failure of competence? Or something else?But if these questions and concerns are finally addressed and clarified in a way contrary to Veritatis Splendor, what then? At the very least, we will be in deep and troubled waters, for it would mark a break with the Church's perennial teaching on bedrock moral truths. And, that being the case, if an Apostolic Exhortation written in 2016 can take magisterial precedence over an Encyclical written in 1993, what other teachings of the Church might be up for a less rigid, less black-and-white "evolution" (to borrow from Cardinal Schoenborn)? Contrary to the opinion of Cardinal Tobin, "reducing" this to a dubium is not "naive", but quite necessary. After all, we aren't in this situation because of the four cardinals.As one veteran observer of Church affairs remarked to me recently, "given the fact that bishops, including prominent cardinals, have different understandings of what AL allows or doesn't allow, and these differences are very public, surely someone in Rome should publicly and officially indicate whether (1) AL maintains the status quo of FC 84, as Cardinal Mueller and certain others seem to think (Archbishop Chaput, the USCCB's point man on AL, among them), or (2) it allows each bishop (or individual priest?) or bishops' conference to decide how AL is to be understood, or (3) AL is supposed to be understood as allowing communion to the civilly remarried, on a case by case basis, so have at it. And, if the last, it would be helpful to know explicitly what principles should be employed to assess each case. This is why we have a Magisterium. 'Figure it out for yourself' is kinda, well, Protestant." Dialoguing with Protestants is one thing; descending into Protestantism is quite another.So, the four cardinals and the entire Church—not to mention attentive non-Catholics—deserve a clear answer from the Holy Father. Considering how often he gives interviews and speaks to non-Catholic writers, surely he can find the time. To say so is not an act of rigid rebellion or insecure insolence, but a simple request that the "gift of the New Law", as John Paul II described the deposit of Divine Revelation, be upheld and treasured, befitting those who seek to follow the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. As He said: "Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?" (Mt 7:9).

Reprinted with permission from The Catholic World Report.


How the Search for Truth Led Me from Atheism to Catholicism

by Jennifer Fulwiler

"Best Conversion Story that I've read in 25 years."  Steve Wood*****

Jennifer Fulwiler is a former atheist who was born and raised with the natural materialist worldview that says, “If you can see it and touch it, then it is real.” Influenced by her atheist father, who told her, “Seek truth and do not believe assumptions,” from early childhood she sought answers to her many questions that eventually brought her to an unexpected destination.*****

One thing I could never get on the same page with my fellow atheists about was the idea of meaning. The other atheists I knew seemed to feel like life was full of purpose despite the fact that we’re all nothing more than chemical reactions. I could never get there. In fact, I thought that whole line of thinking was unscientific, and more than a little intellectually dishonest. If everything that we call heroism and glory, and all the significance of all great human achievements, can be reduced to some neurons firing in the human brain, then it’s all destined to be extinguished at death. And considering that the entire span of homo sapiens’ existence on earth wouldn’t even amount to a blip on the radar screen of a 5-billion-year-old universe, it seemed silly to pretend like the 60-odd-year life of some random organism on one of trillions of planets was something special. (I was a blast at parties.)By simply living my life, I felt like I was living a lie. I acknowledged the truth that life was meaningless, and yet I kept acting as if my own life had meaning, as if all the hope and love and joy I’d experienced was something real, something more than a mirage produced by the chemicals in my brain. Suicide had crossed my mind — not because I was depressed in the common sense of the word, simply because it seemed like it was nothing more than speeding up the inevitable. A life multiplied by zero yields the same result, no matter when you do it.Not knowing what else to do, I followed the well-worn path of people who are trying to run from something that haunts them: I worked too much. I drank too much. I was emotionally fragile. Many of my relationships with other people were toxic. I wrapped myself in a cocoon of distractions, trying to pretend like I didn’t know what I knew.A Guy Named JoeA year after I graduated from college, I met a guy at work named Joe. I was so impressed with him but I didn’t think I had much of a chance. He’d grown up poor, raised by a single mother, and had gone on to get degrees from Yale, Columbia, and Stanford. People who knew him said he was one of the smartest people they’d ever met. So when we began dating, I was thrilled. Our life together turned out to be even better than I could have imagined: We traveled the world on whims, ate at the finest restaurants, flew first class, and threw epic parties on the roof of his loft downtown. On top of that, both of our careers were taking off, so our future held only more money and more success.We were a perfect couple. The only thing we didn’t see the same way was the issue of religion. A few months after we started dating, it came out that Joe not only believed in God, but considered himself a Christian. I did not understand how someone who was perfectly capable of rational thought could believe in fairy tale stories like those of Christianity. Did he believe in Santa Claus too?It didn’t cause any problems between us, though, since we had the same basic moral code: he didn’t practice this bizarre faith of his in any noticeable way, and, mainly, I did not want to think about it. At all. Whenever the subject of God came up, something deep within me recoiled. Not that I had any problem demolishing silly theist ideas — it had been something of a hobby back in college — but the subject took me too close to that thing I was trying to forget. I had constructed my entire life around not thinking about it, so I never articulated what it was. It had been so buried by the parties and the socializing and the breathless running from place to place that it was no longer a specific concept, just some dark, cold amorphous knowledge I needed to avoid.Joe and I married in a theater in 2003, reciting vows we wrote ourselves, with me wearing a dark purple dress. The plan was that marriage would be just a stepping stone along the path we were already on. But then I discovered I was pregnant, and everything changed.Motherhood Turns My Life Upside DownMotherhood caught me completely off guard. I’d grown up as an only child in a culture where nobody I knew had more than two kids living at home. I never had a friend whose mom had a baby during the time of our friendship. And considering that I’d never wanted kids and had some minor medical issues that made me think I probably couldn’t have them anyway, I was utterly unprepared for motherhood. The physical, mental, and emotional changes I went through after the birth of my son were a hard blow, like a punch to the head that comes out of the blue, and it left me reeling.This cataclysmic event unearthed all those old thoughts about meaninglessness, and this time there was no re-burying them. Now that I had a child, it felt like my life had more meaning than ever. The dark-haired, blue-eyed baby felt so valuable; my own life was flooded with hope and joy at his presence. But with none of the usual distractions in place, the facts of the matter now descended upon me: There was nothing transcendent about my son’s life, my life, or any of the love I felt for him. He was destined for the same fate as the rest of us, to have his entire existence erased upon his inevitable death.For weeks, I hardly got out of bed. Some combination of severe sleep deprivation and more severe depression left me almost catatonic. But then one morning, as I looked at the baby in the pre-dawn light that filtered in through the window, I felt something new within me. It was something that was not despair, some unfamiliar yet welcome feeling. I peeled back the layers to find that it was doubt: Doubt of my purely materialist worldview, doubt of the truth I had believed since childhood that there is nothing transcendent about the human life.I considered that in almost every single time and place throughout human history, people have believed in some kind of spiritual realm. Almost every human society we know of has shared the belief that there is more to life than meets the eye, that what transpires here in the material world somehow reverberates into the eternal. Previously I had assumed that the vast majority of the billions of people who had ever lived were all simply ignorant; now I wondered if maybe I was the one who was missing something.My First Christian BookA few months later, I stumbled across a Christian book. I’d never been in the Religion section of a bookstore, let alone read anything about Christianity. I’d only picked up this book because the author claimed to be a former atheist, and I was curious to see what level of fraud he was. After flipping through the first few pages, I was surprised to find that I believed that he had been an atheist. I read a few more pages, and found his writing to be clear and basically reasonable. Obviously he’d come to the wrong conclusions, but I could respect the fact that he at least attempted to reason his way into his current belief system, rather than basing it on some emotional experience. I found that I couldn’t put the book down, and ended up buying it (loudly noting to the cashier that it was a gift for a friend).A quick internet search showed that the book was widely scorned by atheists, and some of their counter-points to the author’s arguments were good. But it was simply not true to say that there was nothing compelling about it. For example, the book pointed out that thousands of Jewish people abandoned the sacred practices that had sustained them through centuries, through all types of persecution, in the years after the death of Jesus of Nazareth. Almost all of Jesus’ original followers went to their death rather than recant their statements that they’d seen Him rise from the dead. Christianity spread like wildfire in the early centuries, despite the fact that becoming a Christian often meant persecution or even death.I had never seen Jesus as anything other than a silly fairy tale figure whom people called upon to give a divine thumbs-up to self-serving beliefs, but now I was intrigued by the man as a historical figure. Something happened in first-century Palestine, something so big that it still sends shockwaves down to the present day. And it all centered around the figure of Jesus Christ. As Joe once pointed out when I asked him why he considered himself a Christian, Christianity is the only one of all the major world religions to be founded by a guy who claimed to be God. That’s an easy claim to disprove if it’s not true.One afternoon, shortly after I finished the book, I was caught off guard by a thought: What if it’s true?What if there were a God? What if He chose to enter history as a human being? It was the most shattering thought that had ever crossed my mind. Never once in my life, not even as a child, had I considered that a personal God might exist, or that there could be even a shred of truth to any of Christianity’s supernatural claims. I quickly came to my senses and admonished myself to stop this silliness. Part of me wondered if I was losing my mind — what else could explain such a thought?I wanted to forget all about this embarrassing little incident … but I couldn’t. Some strange feeling had risen up within me, that wouldn’t let me walk away from this subject. I figured that it must be simple curiosity. All I needed to do was read a bit more about Christianity, then when I was overwhelmed with the obvious flaws in its theology, I could move on.Plunging Into the Deep End of the PoolI bought another Christian book, this one called Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. Unfortunately, this was not going to help me extricate myself from this religion.Lewis was reasonable and obviously intelligent. His book was one of the most clear, well-written things I’d read in a long time. I was particularly captivated by his case for the Natural Law, in which he proposed that God is the source of all that we call “good,” which is why people in all times and places have had the same basic ideas about what is good and what is bad. My curiosity piqued, I then read excerpts online from the great Christian thinkers like Augustine and Aquinas. I began to think that this religion was not opposed to reason at all — in fact, some of the most intelligent, reasonable people in history were Christians.I finally caved in and bought a Bible, the first I’d ever owned. Not knowing how else to approach it, I started reading at page one. I was alternately baffled and horrified by what I read in the first few hundred pages. Joe encouraged me to read the second part of the book, called the New Testament, since that is where Jesus comes into the picture. That didn’t help. There was no clear call to action, like, “If you like what you’ve read here and would like to become a Christian, here’s what you do.” I had no idea how to interpret most of the passages, and it seemed like no one else did either. When I would search online for whether or not the Bible said abortion, euthanasia, human cloning, etc. were right or wrong, I encountered as many different answers as there were people, with each person citing Bible verses to back up his or her personal view. Similarly, I had no idea which church to go to if I wanted to ask someone questions in person: In my community there was everything from Church of Christ to Jehovah’s Witnesses to conservative Baptist to liberal Anglican churches, each one claiming to be based on the Bible, yet they all taught drastically different things about what constitutes sin.This was a huge problem. If God is all that is good, then to define what is bad — in other words, sin — is to define the very boundaries of God Himself. It was nonsensical to suggest that His religion would be confused on that issue.I’d found what I was looking for: the flaw that showed that Christianity didn’t make sense. It was time to move on.What’s This with the Catholic Intellectuals?Shortly after I came to this realization, someone I’d encountered online made a crazy suggestion: he said that I’d been approaching the whole thing from a very modern and distinctly American perspective, that the traditional understanding of Christianity is totally different. He suggested that Jesus founded just one Church before He left the earth, and that He instilled it with supernatural power so that it would accurately articulate the truth about what is good — and therefore about what is God — for all times and places. As if that weren’t crazy enough, he was talking about the Catholic Church!Joe and I both balked. Joe said that Catholicism wasn’t real Christianity, and I knew that the Church was an archaic, oppressive, sexist institution. Besides, this idea of supernaturally-empowered people was just silly.However, I did notice something: almost all the people who had impressed me with their ability to defend their faith through reason alone, both famous authors and people online, were Catholic. In fact, the more I paid attention, the more I saw that the Catholic intellectual tradition was one of the greatest in the world. I began reading books by Catholic authors; not that I was really interested in Catholicism, I told myself — I was just looking for something good to read. But I couldn’t help but admit that these people seemed to possess an understanding of the world and the human experience that I’d never encountered before. They had the same solid grasp on science and the material world as the atheists, but also possessed a knowledge of the movements of the human soul that resonated as true down to the core of my being.I wasn’t sure what to make of all this Catholic stuff, and still vehemently disagreed with the Church on some of its crazier ideas, like its opposition to abortion and contraception. But I had to admit that the more I read about Catholic theology, the more sane it seemed.I also began to think that it was more likely than not that God does exist, and that if the Christians weren’t entirely right, they were at least close with their understanding of Him. But why, then, had I had no experience of Him? Not that this was a requirement for me to believe, but it just seemed like if there were a God out there and He cared about me, I would sense His presence in some way.I’d been under a lot of stress between having a new baby and some money problems we were experiencing, plus I’d developed a severe pain in my leg that was almost debilitating. All along I’d prided myself on saying that I would never convert based on emotional experience, that I only needed facts, not feelings. But now it was getting old. It was hurtful to think that God might be out there but just withholding comfort from me. I was tired of pressing forward in this pursuit with no sense of His presence. I could be miserable and feel alone in the universe as an agnostic — why bother with this religion business if that didn’t change anything?Will It Work? An ExperimentMy feelings of frustration and resentment toward God reached a head. And then, just at the right time, I happened to come across a quote from C.S. Lewis in which he pointed out:

[God] shows much more of Himself to some people than to others — not because He has favourites, but because it is impossible for Him to show Himself to a man whose whole mind and character are in the wrong condition. Just as sunlight, though it has no favourites, cannot be reflected in a dusty mirror as clearly as in a clean one.

Of course. I’d been walking around talking trash, watching TV shows that portrayed all types of nastiness, indulging in selfish behavior … and yet wondering why I couldn’t feel the presence of the source of all goodness. I realized that, if I were serious about figuring out if God exists or not, it could not be an entirely intellectual exercise. I had to be willing to change.I wasn’t sure if I was ready to sign up for that for the long haul, but I decided to give it a shot: I committed to go a month living according to the Catholic moral code. I bought a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a summary of the Church’s teachings, and studied it carefully, living my life according to what it taught, even in the cases where I wasn’t sure the Church was right.My goal with the experiment had been to discover the presence of God; instead, I discovered myself — the real me. I had thought that cynicism, judgmentalness, and irritability were just parts of who I was, but I realized that there was a purer, better version of me buried underneath all that filth — what the Church would call sins — that I had never before encountered.I found that the rules of the Church, that I had once perceived to be a set of confining laws, were rules of love; they defined the boundaries between what is love and what is not. It had changed me, my life, and my marriage for the better. I may not have experienced God, but by following the teachings of the Church that was supposedly founded by Him, I had experienced real love.Following the teachings about contraception had been moot since I was pregnant with our second child, but I did read up on it during my experiment of following the Church’s teachings. And, to my great surprise, I discovered that the Church had incredibly reasonable defenses of its points. I asked Joe to take a look at this stuff in case I was missing something, and, to his own amazement, he also found the Church’s arguments to be airtight. He had been doing his own investigation into Catholicism, and this was the final issue that had been troubling him too. We looked at each other, and for the first time dared to ask: Are we going to become Catholic?!Medical and Moral ComplicationsOnly two weeks after we had that thought, that pain in my leg got so bad that I ended up in the ER. I was seven months pregnant with our second child, and it turned out that I had a deep vein thrombosis, a life-threatening blood clot in a major vein. If the clot had broken free, I likely would have died.After some testing, the doctors delivered worse news: I have a genetic clotting disorder that means that my blood clots easily — and I inherited it from both parents, which makes it worse. On top of that, it is exacerbated by pregnancy, which makes pregnancy dangerous for me.I had a lot of time to mull over this turn of events: the clot couldn’t be treated during pregnancy, and the pain was so severe that I could no longer walk on my own. So I spent most of my days lying in bed, wondering what to do now.To treat the clot postpartum, the doctors wanted to prescribe an FDA Category X drug to treat the clot — it’s so dangerous for pregnancy that women often choose to be sterilized before they take it. They told me that my clotting disorder means I should not have any more children, because of the risk that pregnancy poses to my health. I didn’t want them to think I was religious for fear of what they’d think of me, but when I hinted at the question of using Natural Family Planning (a method for spacing children that the Church deems morally acceptable), they laughed. Someone with my condition had to use contraception, they said. There was no choice.Fatigued by the constant pain, overwhelmed by medical bills that were piling up by the thousands, I began to slide back away from this religion, tumbling down a slope that ended back in atheism. I hadn’t minded changing in the sense of not using the F-word so much, but this was a whole different ball game. To stick with the Church now would be to lose my life as I knew it, and to set out down an unfamiliar, frightening path.Not knowing what else to do, I went back to the basics of the way I’d been taught to work through problems since childhood. My dad, my parent from whom I got my religious views (or lack thereof), had not raised me to be an atheist as much as he’d raised me to seek truth fearlessly. “Never believe something because it’s convenient or it makes you feel good,” he’d always say. “Ask yourself: ‘Is this true?’”And so I set everything else aside, and clung to the simple question: What is true?I quickly realized then that this was not in question, and hadn’t been for a while. For weeks now, I had known on an intellectual level that I believed what the Church taught. What stalled me had not been a hesitation of whether or not it was true; it had been a hesitation of not wanting to sacrifice too much.I had no idea how things would work out. I thought there was a fair chance that this step would lead us to financial ruin, and may even take a serious toll on my health. But I decided, for the first time in a long time, to choose what was true instead of what was comfortable. Joe and I signed up to begin the formation process at our parish church. And, in the first statement of faith I’d ever made, I told my doctors that I would not use contraception, because I was Catholic.God Helps Us HomeAfter that moment, a bunch of fortuitous events occurred that smoothed the way for us to become Catholic. A series of windfalls gave us the money we needed to manage our medical bills. After they got over their initial shock at encountering someone who wouldn’t contracept, my doctors came up with creative solutions to keep me healthy. Even after a surprise positive pregnancy test came at the worst possible time, just a few weeks after I’d healed from the blood clot, a bunch of startling coincidences played out to help us stay afloat during that difficult time.The next spring, three days before Joe and I would be received into the Church, it was time for my first confession. As I approached the confessional, I had no hesitation. I had an intellectual understanding that God is the source of goodness, and that therefore it’s important that we take great care to repent when we have done something bad. But I’d already privately confessed all these sins in my head, so I figured that telling them to the priest, who was simply standing in for Jesus, would be redundant — after all, Jesus had already heard all this stuff.But as soon as I heard the words coming from my mouth, everything changed. To hear all of these selfish, cowardly, hateful acts articulated with real words, for another human being to hear, was more powerful than I could have ever imagined. Tears began to flow, and, as I continued recounting every unloving thing I’d ever done, I shook and sobbed. Never could I have imagined the impact it would have on me to hear of my own sins, spoken out loud; but never could I have imagined how much it would impact me to hear the words, spoken by the​ priest on behalf of God, that I was forgiven. I walked away from the confessional in a daze, and slid into a pew in the silent church. I knew that my life had just changed, never to be the same again.Later that night, around midnight, I stepped out on the back porch. When I was younger I used to avoid going outside at night when it was quiet and still, because it would trigger memories of all those ominous thoughts about meaninglessness that I was trying to forget. The darkness outside was too familiar, as if it had all spilled out from somewhere within me. But as I stood there that night after my first confession, I realized that all that was gone. The darkness within me was simply not there anymore. In its place was peace, and an unmistakable feeling of love. For the first time, I felt the presence of God.Reprinted with permission from The Coming Home Network. This story was originally published on whyimcatholic.com.


Humanae Vitae, Germany, And Amoris Laetitia

by John F. Kippley

(Editor’s Note: John F. Kippley is the author of Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality [Ignatius]. He is involved in the NFP movement and is available for presentations related to Humanae Vitae. Contact him via www.nfpandmore.org and at P. O. Box 112035, Cincinnati OH 45211).+ + +Although I have read many words about Amoris Laetitia, I don’t recall seeing anything that has related it to Humanae Vitae. To be more specific, I have not seen analyses that relate the non-support of Humanae Vitae by the German hierarchy in 1968 to the state of the Church today in Germany and then to the Kasperite interpretation of Amoris Laetitia. Now that it’s time to get ready for the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae next year, it is also time to connect the dots.For whatever reasons, in 1968 the German hierarchy became known the world over for its non-endorsement of Humanae Vitae. There were probably some outstanding exceptions at that time, just as there have been some wonderful supporters of that teaching in recent years and at present, but the impression I had at the time was that Germany was exceptional by not giving even lip service to the encyclical.As I recall, there was no open dissent on the part of the hierarchy, but there was also little or nothing to teach their people that the received teaching against unnatural forms of birth control still held true. Thus, it appears that a huge percentage of German Catholics followed the cultural spirit of the times and practiced unnatural forms of birth control.There is a special irony in this because it was in Germany that a Catholic priest in 1934 started to teach a very effective form of natural family planning (NFP). Fr. Wilhelm Hillebrand had been helping his people learn the relatively new Ogino-Knaus rhythm method, and he listened when some of his couples told him that it wasn’t working well for them. A doctor told him about the value of the temperature sign, so he then counseled his couples to look for some elevated temperatures to crosscheck the O-K calculations for post-ovulation infertility.In June 1967, when Pope Paul VI was preparing to write the encyclical, Dr. G.K. Doering published his study of a calendar-temperature NFP system in a German medical journal. He found a 99 percent effectiveness rate in avoiding pregnancy when couples abstained from the marriage act from Day 1 of the cycle until the evening of the third day of well-elevated temperatures. He found a 97 percent effectiveness when couples also used the early days of the cycle. Was this valuable information brought to the attention of the Pope?Large numbers of Catholics adopting the secular modes of contraception would then suffer the same consequences — marital disillusionment, unhappiness, and divorce. Many of them would try a second time in a civil marriage, and some of these would eventually miss the Catholic practice of Mass and Communion. Many, perhaps most, could not obtain an annulment of the first marriage because there were no valid grounds for thinking it was an invalid marriage. Their complaints have reached sympathetic ears, including mine, but reality is reality.Some perhaps kept complaining about the Church discipline while still attending Mass; others dropped out entirely.Among those who dropped out entirely, some have stopped checking the “Catholic” box on their German federal income tax form, not an easy thing to do. (The federal government collects a church tax and then uses it to subsidize all the various churches according to the data on the tax form.) To avoid paying the denominational church tax, a person has to make a public act of separation from his particular church. Thus, withdrawals from the Catholic Church reduce the income of the Church, but those empty churches still have to be maintained until they are sold. And some are sold for secular purposes such as skate parks and trapeze training schools. The Wall Street Journal ran a page-one story on this (January 2, 2015).All of this leaves the Church in bad shape, especially in terms of Catholic religious life. Not a few have suggested that allowing marital contraception would keep the pews full, but Malcolm Muggeridge years ago pointed to the Anglican empty pews as proof of a failed teaching. The same is true of the Catholic Church where it ignores Humanae Vitae or gives it only lip service. In Germany, weekly Mass attendance is a small fraction of what it was prior to the nonacceptance of Humanae Vitae.How dissent from Humanae Vitae leads to a Kasperite interpretation of Amoris Laetitia:In the Amoris Laetitia discussion, some wonder why some priests and bishops seem so open to the idea of people living in a state of adultery and receiving Holy Communion. I don’t know. But perhaps they have avoided some difficult questions. What about people who are engaging in the serious immorality of using unnatural forms of birth control and receiving Communion without repentance and Confession? What about those same people exercising public liturgical offices such as lectors and distributors of Holy Communion? Does this happen? Who knows?But for years I have heard about the long lines for Holy Communion but the almost absent lines for Confession while at the same time reading that 95 percent of fertile-age married Catholics are using unnatural methods of birth control.Considering these well-publicized numbers, let us imagine that in some dioceses and parishes it is recognized or at least seriously suspected that many couples have formed their consciences in a way that is objectively erroneous but subjectively allows them to practice contraception and receive Holy Communion. Let us imagine that it is considered pastorally acceptable for pastors at every level to remain silent on this objectively sacrilegious practice.The situation is even worse when the unnatural method has the potential to cause early abortions. That’s the well-known operation of the Pill and other forms of hormonal birth control. It is entirely possible that a Catholic woman using the Pill and distributing Holy Communion may be saying “the Body of Christ” while her Pill is aborting the embryonic body of a newly conceived child within her womb.It seems to me that willfully ignoring these unhappy realities creates an ecclesial environment of at least apparent indifference to serious sin. In that sort of permissive environment, divorced persons in invalid civil marriages can more easily feel comfortable in receiving Holy Communion while committing what is objectively adultery according to the teaching of Matthew 19.In brief, the rejection of Humanae Vitae leads to a greatly increased use of contraceptive behaviors which in turn result in more marital unhappiness and divorces of validly married couples. That leads to increased numbers of invalid second marriages in which some or many want to feel comfortable receiving Holy Communion. That leads to great pressure to change the Church discipline which supports the teaching of indissolubility. That creates confusion and disunity in the Church. And that’s where we are today, not just in Germany but all throughout the Western Church.After almost 49 years of relative silence about Humanae Vitae and consequent widespread marital unchastity, the time has come for Catholic pastors to do all they can to ensure that Catholic couples are properly evangelized and live their marriages in accord with that great encyclical. Whatever our state in life, we are all called to do and teach the truth in love. That’s the way to happiness and peace — in marriage and in the Church.Peace is the tranquility of due order. Peace within the Church requires the acceptance, teaching, and living of Humanae Vitae.(© 2017 John F. Kippley)Published in The Wanderer, February, 2017. Reprinted with permission by author.



By Bai MacFarlane

Much is being written about how the Church should accompany those in so-called second civil marriages. Bishops debate whether these Catholics should be able to receive Holy Communion, although almost nothing is being written about the pastoral accompaniment needed for those in marriage crisis, when the first marriages are breaking up.The debate about second marriages concerns adultery which violates both the Ten Commandments and Our Lord’s injunctions in the New Testament. However, there are other critical obligations to marriage besides resisting adultery.  Marriage promises include to love and honour the other spouse all the days of one’s life.  Married Catholics are supposed to maintain a holy, loving and safe home for themselves and their children. This is one of the reasons why divorce is such a grave offence, along with the grave sin of adultery.At present, it seems everyone in the Church is talking about accompanying those who commit adultery in addition to divorcing their spouses. It’s even more important to remember that those suffering abandonment need accompaniment too.This is why I work with the non-profit organisation, Mary’s Advocates, that seeks to help spouses and children suffering unilateral no-fault divorce.  I started this work after discovering that weekly-Mass-attending Catholics are forcing no-fault divorce on their families.  Mary’s Advocates helps spouses who want to keep their family together by showing them how to appeal to their diocese to implement the canon laws applicable to separation and divorce. Our hope is that once a Catholic who is initiating a unilateral no-fault divorce is made aware of the canonical consequences they will stop and reconcile. Dioceses have an essential role to play in making Catholics come to their senses about the gravity of their actions.The injustice of unilateral no-fault divorceIn many western countries it is now possible for one spouse to impose unilateral no-fault divorce on the other spouse and their children. As well as legally “dissolving” the bond of marriage, it is not uncommon for the abandoner to the freed from his or her obligations to support the marital home by household tasks, financial support, or child care. Even if there are legal requirements to financially support children, these never equal the contributions made when the couple was together, and they are often unenforced, or poorly enforced.Faithful spouses who take their responsibility to their family and children seriously can lose half or more of the marital property, lose day-to-day access to the children, and be ordered to pay spousal support or child support. No-fault divorce decrees order children to go back and forth between mom and dad’s home, regardless of how much the children want the abandoning spouse to reunite their split family, and regardless of how much psychological damage is caused by the division in the family.Innocent defendants in no-fault divorce, who refuse to agree to divorce, face huge financial and personal risks. Even in cases when there is a morally legitimate reason for separation of spouses, the civil no-fault divorce courts have no interest in arranging temporary separations enabling a perpetrator the time and space to amend his or her harsh ways.How bishops can help marriages threatened by divorceCatholics were never supposed to abandon their marriages. Moreover, because marriage is a public institution rooted in natural and divine law, Church tradition and Canon Law has a procedure for managing the separation of spouses. Catholics are not supposed to file for civil divorce until after an ecclesiastic investigation. If a spouse commits adultery or is dangerously abusive, the other spouse has a true reason to separate.According to canon law, only the bishop or one exercising his authority, has competence to decide a separation plan that is in accord with divine law. For Catholics this should take priority over civil divorce proceedings.  For example, if mom enters an adulterous relationship, it would give scandal to children to force them to pretend that mom’s new relationship is normal, and force the children to spend overnights with mom and her new “partner.” Or, if dad abandoned the marital home during some mid-life crisis in which he hardened his heart towards his wife, it would be contrary to divine law to force the children to leave the home they have always known to visit Dad in his new “bachelor’s pad.” Wouldn’t we hope the bishop would instruct dad of his obligations to uphold his marriage promises?As Director of Mary’s Advocates, I correspond with faithful spouses who are abandoned by their professed-Catholic spouse. We provide morally-grounded spouses with a template petition wherein they ask their diocese to implement the canon law on separation of spouses. This should have a very different outcome than the civil forum’s no-fault divorce.  Even in cases for which a marriage is truly invalid, canon law requires that the Church, not the state, decide the parties’ moral and civil obligations toward the other and the children.I have learned that dioceses sometimes disregard canon law on separation of spouses. Some Church personnel say a petitioner’s request should be denied for various unfounded reasons, such as the following:

  • because your spouse filed for divorce and does not want to reconcile, your spouse has ended the marriage and you should mourn the death of your marriage after appropriate anger.
  • because the Church has no mandatory power, we are not going to implement the canon law and you are hurting yourself and your children if you hold on to your marriage.
  • your spouse has no interest in reconciling, and if we issued a decree about separation of spouses, it would exclude the possibility of your spouse petitioning for a decree of invalidity of the marriage in the future.
  • because your spouse chose not to continue in the marriage and rejects reconciling, and because a church decree has no bearing in the civil court, the church will not handle your case.

It is a mistake to say that divorce is a merely civil matter in which the Church has no competence.  Civil divorce judges purport to have the power to relieve an abandoner of the obligation to maintain an intact home and the obligation to continue his full share of support to the marital home.  The Church, not the state, should be making these determinations.The work of Mary’s AdvocatesMary’s Advocates publishes a specialist collection of the Church’s teaching about divorce,  including those of the drafting committee that wrote the 1983 Code of Canon Law, the Italian bishops conference’ instruction that a spouse should repair evil, the University of Navarra’s commentary clarifying the requirement of permission from the bishop before filing for divorce, and the canon law requirement for the Promoter of Justice to participate in cases of separation of spouses.Mary’s Advocates seeks to support the healing of wounded marriages, certain that nearly every marriage has the inherent capacity to be healed. Psychologist Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, founder of the Institute for Marital Healing, writes:“The spouses who are not happy and who want to pursue divorce and a decision of nullity most often refuse to address their own weaknesses. Instead, they portray themselves as victims of insensitive treatment or emotional abuse. The psychological reality is that every spouse brings special gifts into marriage, but they also bring psychological weaknesses, which are most often deeply buried out of conscious awareness.”Dr. Fitzgibbons lists common weaknesses that threaten marriages, including selfishness, emotionally distant behaviors resulting in spousal loneliness; controlling behaviors from unresolved hurts with a parent; failure to master anger daily by growth in forgiveness; and weaknesses in confidence.  His institute has successfully helped clients overcome these issues.At Mary’s Advocates we believe that Catholics could learn much from Rejoice Marriage Ministries, a biblically based outreach, that supports the faithful spouses who pray for the restoration of marriage after divorce. Also, the Retrouvaille program has success in reconciling divorced couples.Mary’s Advocates assists spouses in formally requesting the Church to intervene, using the powers set out in canon law. While diocesan authorities have little influence over those who wilfully disregard the Church’s teaching, Mary’s Advocate encourages faithful spouses to petition the Church to implement the canon law about separation of spouses. The implementation of canon law on the separation of spouses has a three-fold result: 1) It challenges those who think breaking up one’s own marriage is fine; 2) Canonical decisions could have civil effects in territories in which contract rights are respected, and 3) some marriages may stay together and seek the right kind of help rather than enrich divorce lawyers and hurt children.Please get in contact with Mary’s Advocates support network if you remain faithful to your marriage after divorce. Please be inspired by the example of St. Monica, who prayed for 20 years for the conversion of her son and husband.Please visit our website, Mary's Advocates: Upholding Marriage -- Love Hopes and Bears All Things© 2015 EWTN News, Inc. Reprinted with permission from the National Catholic Register


Some Catholics are ‘Unnerved’ by Current Events in the Church, says Cardinal Pell

by Dan Hitchens, Catholic Herald

The cardinal said that conscience must refer to revealed truth and the moral law

Cardinal George Pell has said that “a number of regularly worshipping Catholics” are “unnerved by the turn of events” in the Church.In a talk at St Patrick’s Church, London, Cardinal Pell said one cause for concern was false theories of conscience and the moral law.Cardinal Pell was giving a talk on St Damien of Molokai as part of St Patrick’s series of talks for the Year of Mercy. But he also reflected on Catholicism today. He said that while Pope Francis has “a prestige and popularity outside the Church” greater than perhaps any previous Pope, some Catholics are currently uneasy.Later in his talk, the Australian cardinal, who has been asked to lead Pope Francis’s financial reforms and is a member of the Pope’s “C9” group of advisors, criticised some of the ideas about conscience which are now current in the Church.Cardinal Pell said that emphasising the “primacy of conscience” could have disastrous effects, if conscience did not always submit to revealed teaching and the moral law. For instance, “when a priest and penitent are trying to discern the best way forward in what is known as the internal forum”, they must refer to the moral law. Conscience is “not the last word in a number of ways”, the cardinal said. He added that it was always necessary to follow the Church’s moral teaching.The cardinal told the story of a man who was sleeping with his girlfriend, and had asked his priest whether he was able to receive Communion. It was “misleading”, the cardinal said, to tell the man simply to follow his conscience.He added that those emphasising “the primacy of conscience” only seemed to apply it to sexual morality and questions around the sanctity of life. People were rarely advised to follow their conscience if it told them to be racist, or slow in helping the poor and vulnerable, the cardinal said.His comments come after three years of debate on the Church’s teaching regarding Communion for the divorced and remarried. Cardinal Pell was among the senior figures who have publicly upheld the traditional doctrine repeated in Pope John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio – that the remarried should not receive Communion unless they are living “as brother and sister”.But some prominent Catholics have suggested a different approach. For instance, Cardinal Blase Cupich has argued that someone’s conscience might tell them to receive Communion, and that “conscience is inviolable”.Cardinal Pell quoted Blessed John Henry Newman’s writings on conscience, in which Newman rejected a “miserable counterfeit” of conscience which defines it as “the right of self-will”. He noted that Newman was defending Popes Pius IX and Gregory XVI, who in Cardinal Pell’s words, “condemned a conscience which rejected God and rejected natural law.”The cardinal also paid tribute to St John Paul II’s “two great encyclicals”, Veritatis Splendor and Evangelium Vitae, which present the moral law as something binding in all cases.Asked whether some Catholics’ unease about the state of the Church was related to false theories of conscience, Cardinal Pell said: “Yes, that’s correct.”He added: “The idea that you can somehow discern that moral truths should not be followed or should not be recognised [is] absurd”.“We all stand under the truth,” the cardinal said, pointing out that objective truth may be “different from our understanding of the truth”.He also said that while doctrine develops, there are “no backflips”.Cardinal Pell was asked about the letter to Pope Francis from four cardinals asking for clarification of the Pope’s recent exhortation Amoris Laetitia. The cardinals have asked the Pope to confirm that five points of Catholic teaching are still valid. These include the teaching that the remarried cannot receive Communion unless living as brother and sister, and the teaching that some moral absolutes have no exceptions.The Pope has not replied to the four cardinals’ request, which was sent two months ago. The cardinals have taken this as an invitation to publish their questions and continue the discussion. The head of the Greek bishops has said that the four cardinals were guilty of “very serious sins” and could provoke a schism.Asked whether he agreed with the cardinals’ questions, Cardinal Pell replied: “How can you disagree with a question?” He said that the asking of five questions was “significant”.In his talk, Cardinal Pell portrayed St Damien of Molokai as a sometimes difficult but very holy priest. He noted that St Damien’s ministry was partly motivated by his fear for the souls of the lepers in his care. The cardinal said that a priest’s pastoral strategy is heavily determined by how many people he thinks will be saved.He said that Jesus’s words, such as “Many are called, but few are chosen,” suggest a lot of people will go to hell. The cardinal said that while he did not relish this idea, “Jesus knew more about this than we did,” and that “our proper tolerance of diversity can degenerate” so that we believe “eternal happiness is a universal human right”.Cardinal Pell said that the truth about eternal punishment had been downplayed, just as a mistaken idea of conscience had become widespread. A sinful life made it hard to perceive truth, he said, including moral truths – and so not understanding the moral law might itself be a result of sin. “The idea, now, of culpable moral blindness is discussed as infrequently as the pains of hell,” the cardinal said.Reprinted with permission from Catholic Herald.


Why 2017 is Such a Critical Moment

Will you join me in special prayer this year, the 100th anniversary of the Fatima apparitions?

by Msgr. Charles Pope

 I have written elsewhere about why I think that 2017 will be a critical year. I believe it will be a year of hidden blessings or one of something so shocking that it will usher in a blessing that will only be understood later. It has been 100 years since the apparitions at Fatima and 500 since the Protestant revolt. The 1517 revolt ushered in a shocking, wrenching pruning of the Church. So did the apparitions in 1917, when Our Lady warned of great suffering if we did not pray and repent. God seems to permit (not cause) such things either as penance or as purification.The last 100 years have seen horrifying warfare, death tolls in the hundreds of millions driven by ideological conflict, abortion on demand, the destruction of marriage and the family, sexual confusion and misbehavior, and the rise of the culture of death (the demand for the right to die and the right to kill). Indeed, Christendom in the West is in the midst of a great collapse: tepid and compromised faith, a tiny minority who attend Mass, and the growth of militant secularism. Who among us can deny that the Church, especially in the affluent West, has been under attack. We have preferred to sleep through most of it and make one compromise after another. Who among us can deny that we need another “counter-reformation”?Two significant prophecies warned us of these events if we did not repent. For indeed, Scripture says, Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets (Amos 3:7). And while many apparitions occurred (some approved, some not), two in particular stand out:First, it is said that in 1884 Pope Leo XIII had an experience during which he heard God say that he would permit a period of 100 years that would test the Church in Job-like fashion. This alarmed Pope Leo enough that he penned the well-known Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel and asked that it be prayed at the end of Mass throughout the universal Church. Some dispute the accuracy of this and call it mere legend, but it is hard to deny that the attack/test occurred. But when and what is the hundred-year period? That leads to...Second, in 1917, Our Lady appeared in the region of Fatima, Portugal to three young children: Jacinta, Francesco, and Lucia. Mary indicated that the horrific First World War was soon to end, a war that featured the use of chemical weapons so devastating that an international agreement was developed banning their use. However, she warned that an even more terrible war would ensue if people did not repent and pray. Our Lady went on to say that in the aftermath of the war, Russia would spread the errors of atheism and materialism, leading to grievous suffering for the Church and many of the faithful. She also prophesied that there would be a final warning of light in the sky just prior to the onslaught of this new war.In order to provide veracity to her message, Our Lady promised a miracle at her final apparition. On Oct. 13, 1917, the “Miracle of the Sun” took place, and as many as 70,000 people witnessed the sun dancing about in the sky and moving toward the earth.In January 1938, a display of the aurora borealis vividly lit the skies far south of its normal reach; newspapers throughout the world reported the event. Later that same year, Germany entered Czechoslovakia, and in 1939, Poland was invaded; the Second World War was under way, a consequence of our failure to repent.More than 60 million people were killed in World War II. At the end of the war, Russia dropped the Iron Curtain and atheistic communism held sway in the Eastern Bloc. Churches were closed, clergy and religious were killed, and great suffering came to all who would not acquiesce. The prophesies of 1917 proved to be sadly and vividly true.Another prophecy of the Fatima apparitions was kept secret until the year 2000; it spoke of the murder of a pope as he walked past martyrs up a hill toward a cross in a ruined city. In 1981, St. John Paul II, nearly killed by an assassin, attributed his survival to the prayers of many who did hear the call of Our Lady to pray. Cardinal Ratzinger, in his commentary on the “third secret” of Fatima, called it the ViaCrucis (Way of the Cross) of an entire century. Indeed it was: ruined cities, martyrs, and the long shadow of a cross over those years for the Church and the world.A final aspect of the Fatima apparition came to light in 1981 when Sister Lucia wrote to Msgr. (now Cardinal) Carlo Caffara at the Vatican to thank him and to assure him of prayers for the founding of the John Paul II Institute on Marriage and the Family. In the letter she also related something she heard from Our Lady: a final battle will signal the end of the period in which we now struggle. Sister Lucia recounted Our Lady’s words as follows:The final battle between the Lord and the reign of Satan will be about marriage and the family. Don’t be afraid, … anyone who works for the sanctity of marriage and the family will always be fought and opposed in every way, because this is the decisive issue. … However, Our Lady has already crushed its head.I think the period of 100 years of trial seen by Pope Leo is coming to its culmination. My premise is that, though it was foreseen by Leo in 1884, it actually began in 1917 with the warning of Our Lady. Her message was clear: pray and be converted or else suffer grievously the consequences of human sinfulness. It is clear that we have suffered grievously for our failures.Attempting to follow Our Lady’s direction in 1917 at Fatima, three popes (Pius XII, John Paul II, and Francis) have consecrated Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. But arguments go back and forth about whether any of these was “valid” (e.g., Was the wording just right?). But no technicality can eclipse our failure to repent and pray; I believe that repentance and prayer are the true heart of Our Lady’s message.And so here we are at the culmination of the battle. Though it is disheartening, the battle in the Church over the sanctity of holy matrimony has reached the highest levels, just as our Lady said. Cardinal is pitted against cardinal, bishop against bishop. In the wider culture, marriage has been redefined; biblical and natural law teachings have been set aside. At this point I don’t think that our culture has a definition of marriage at all; it’s whatever anyone wants to say it is. This is no minor error; it is a civilization killer.Something tells me that this year of 2017 is going to be critical and that we had better pray — a lot more than we have in the past. Repentance is also crucial. Being sleepy in the battle cannot be an option. We are at a turning point. Perhaps the hundred years of trial are ending; they might end well or they might come to a dreadful conclusion. That is why we must pray.Cardinal Ratzinger, in the same Vatican document referenced above reflecting on Fatima, said:The purpose of the vision is not to show a film of an irrevocably fixed future. Its meaning is exactly the opposite: it is meant to mobilize the forces of change in the right direction. Therefore, we must totally discount fatalistic explanations. … Rather, the vision speaks of dangers and how we might be saved from them.Will you join me in praying with special fervency this year? In my own parish, we will be observing the First Saturday devotions that were requested by Mary at Fatima. This will be a communal way to engage the call to prayer. It involves attending Holy Mass, praying the Rosary, and going to confession (that day or within one week) on the first Saturday of five consecutive months. Others also add the wearing of the scapular and/or making a consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.Such a communal observance ought not to eclipse personal prayer and conversion; it is merely to augment it. Are there devotional practices you can undertake, such as the daily Rosary, the Angelus, or the Chaplet of Divine Mercy? Are there sins you need to make special effort to avoid? Are there lawful pleasures you can set aside?What will you do? This is a critical moment; I am convinced of it. Will you join me in special prayer this year, the 100th anniversary of the Fatima apparitions? 

Msgr. Charles Pope is currently a dean and pastor in the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, where he has served on the Priest Council, the College of Consultors, and the Priest Personnel Board. Along with publishing a daily blog at the Archdiocese of Washington website, he has written in pastoral journals, conducted numerous retreats for priests and lay faithful, and has also conducted weekly Bible studies in the U.S. Congress and the White House. He was named a Monsignor in 2005.

© 2015 EWTN News. Reprinted with permission from the National Catholic Register


The Maltese Falcons: The Attack on Catholic Marriage

by Father Brian W. Harrison, O.S.
New York Times columnist Ross Douthat recently published a widely circulated commentary on the recent fall-out from Amoris Laetitia entitled, “The End of Catholic Marriage”. In it, he argued persuasively that if Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on marital love comes to be generally interpreted and applied as liberally as it has been in the Diocese of San Diego, California, it will in effect mean the death of this sacrament as the Gospel of Christ and the Catholic Church have always presented it: a sacred covenant whose indissoluble character means that remarriage after divorce constitutes adultery – a violation of the Sixth Commandment that excludes one from sacramental absolution and Eucharistic communion.Almost as if to corroborate the accuracy of Douthat’s warning, the two bishops of a Mediterranean island nation have descended like birds of prey to inflict sudden death on Catholic marriage in their jurisdiction. Malta has been famous as a bastion of fervent and orthodox Catholicism almost since St. Paul evangelized it in the first century. No more. For in one fell swoop, Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna of Malta and Bishop Mario Grech of Gozo have avoided superficial flesh wounds and darted straight in for the jugular. They do admittedly try to disguise their death-blow with the standard bland rhetoric about the need for a sincere search for God’s will, serious prayerful discernment, “humility, discretion and love for the Church and her teaching”, etc. But their bottom line is that in Malta there will now be no objective and enforceable limits whatsoever on the right of (non-continent) divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive the Holy Eucharist. Priest confessors are being told they may no longer be deciders in such matters, only ‘accompaniers’; for access to the sacraments for all persons in these illicit unions will ultimately depend entirely on their own subjective decision of “conscience”.How and when did this revolution occur? On January 13, the two aforesaid bishops made public an 8-page pastoral letter to Maltese priests entitled Criteria for the Application of Chapter VIII of Amoris Laetitia. (It is dated January 8, 2017, Solemnity of the Epiphany.) Here you can read the full text.I have no inside information as to whether Pope Francis had prior knowledge of this document, but in any case the Pontiff’s predictable failure to censure it will signify his assent to its content; indeed, that message has already been spread abroad by the instant publication of the Maltese letter in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.Apart from noting two articles of the Catechism of the Catholic Church about factors that can diminish personal culpability for objectively sinful acts, this letter contains no references to any pre-Francis magisterial teaching. So in Malta the year 2017 has started off looking like Orwell’s 1984, wherein inconvenient history simply vanishes down the memory hole. This is papal positivism with a vengeance: the very pontiff who constantly berates traditional Catholics for “seeing everything in black and white” is now being turned into a Superpope whose authority trumps that of all his predecessors if he chooses to call white what they called black.Let’s take a look at the text of the document. Its general approach is clearly established right from article 1, wherein relationships that the Gospel and the Catholic Church call adultery and fornication are soothingly sociologized under the term “complex family situations”. Indissolubility is nowhere mentioned in this letter, and even an initial nod given to our Lord’s teaching on marriage reads like lukewarm lip-service. Before the two bishops turn to the manifold merciful mitigations of God’s law that really warm their hearts, they write, “As priests, we have the duty to enlighten consciences by proclaiming Christ and the full ideal of the Gospel” (art. 1). Ah, yes. Gospel teaching on lifelong marital fidelity is now just an ideal, no longer a grave obligation imposed on all spouses by Christ himself.The same disingenuous airbrushing of Jesus’ demanding teaching is apparent when the Maltese bishops come to discuss continence on the part of invalidly remarried couples in cases where there are serious reasons for them not to separate. In article 9 we read (with emphasis added here):  “Throughout the discernment process, we should also examine the possibility of conjugal continence. Despite the fact that this ideal is not at all easy, there may be couples who, with the help of grace, practice this virtue without putting at risk other aspects of their life together.”In this passage, note first of all the word “conjugal”: the bishops are whitewashing an adulterous relationship with an adjective that refers to true marriage. Next, continence is again described as a mere ideal, not a binding obligation. Indeed, the bishops depict this “ideal” as virtually unattainable by commenting coyly that there “may be” couples who actually observe it! In fact, their existence is far from hypothetical, as most experienced pastors are aware. Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke told me several days ago (January 14th) that, in speaking to the faithful who attend his Masses and lectures in various countries, he very frequently meets divorced and remarried couples who tell him they are practicing that demanding self-discipline – and finding peace and happiness in doing so. (His Eminence was in St. Louis visiting St. Mary of Victories Church, of which I am the rector, to celebrate Mass at the invitation of ‘Juventutem’, the international young adults’ organization that promotes the traditional Latin liturgy.) The Maltese bishops go on to imply that even those invalidly married couples who “may be” able to “practice this virtue” (i.e., continence) should do so only if this doesn’t “put at risk other aspects of their life together”. In plain language: Go ahead and practice vice instead of virtue – adultery instead of chastity – if that’s what it takes to safeguard “other aspects of [your] life”. The good end will justify the evil means.Yes, it’s frightening to see Successors of the Apostles uttering such pernicious doctrine – especially by appealing to a papal document. But it gets worse. In the next sentence all pretence of seriously advocating a ‘brother-sister’ commitment for these couples is dropped. For the bishops continue thus: “On the other hand, there are complex situations where the choice of living ‘as brothers and sisters’ becomes humanly impossible and gives rise to greater harm (see AL, note 329)”. “Humanly impossible”, Your Excellencies? Have you forgotten that the Council of Trent has anathematized as heresy the view that, even with the help of sanctifying grace, compliance with God’s commands can sometimes be impossible? (Cf. canon 18 on justification, Dz 828 [DS/DH 1568].) And how could obeying a divine command ever “give rise to greater harm” than disobeying it?  Would it not be blasphemous to suggest that our loving Father could ever command us to do something that is to our real detriment, not our benefit?It is all too easy to foresee the conclusion that will naturally be drawn from this paragraph (art. 9) by invalidly remarried Maltese Catholics: “Our official teachers of the faith are clearly telling us that sex between divorced and civilly remarried couples is not always gravely sinful; for they’re saying that the ‘brother-sister’ option is no longer a prerequisite for receiving the sacraments. And their rationale is that continence is not only humanly impossible for most couples but will in any case usually do more harm than good.  So why we should even attempt to live according this so-called ‘ideal’ when our bishops are saying that if we find it too burdensome we can go to Communion anyway?”The coup de grâce for the perennial doctrine on marital fidelity and sacramental integrity comes in the succeeding paragraph of the letter. Article 10, in full, reads as follows:“If, as a result of the process of discernment, undertaken with ‘humility, discretion and love for the Church and her teaching, in a sincere search for God’s will and a desire to make a more perfect response to it’ (AL 300), a separated or divorced person who is living in a new relationship manages, with an informed and enlightened conscience, to acknowledge and believe that he or she are [sic] at peace with God, he or she cannot be precluded from participating in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist (see AL, notes 336 and 351).”Please note the inclusion of “separated” persons above. Our two Maltese falcons (unleashed, it must be remembered, by the chief Falconer in Rome) have not only pried open the sacramental doors for those in bigamous unions that enjoy civil recognition. Their sharply logical beaks have simultaneously ripped out and discarded the need for divorce – so often a stressful, time-consuming and expensive process. Thus, Catholics in Malta who are cohabiting with one partner while still legally and sacramentally married to another will henceforth have access to the sacraments on the same basis as the divorced and remarried. Note also the ominous word “cannot” in art. 10. The island nation’s priest confessors are being told they not only may, but must, grant absolution (and thus, access to Communion) to unrepentant adulterers provided only  that the latter insist they have “manage[d], with an informed and enlightened conscience, to acknowledge and believe that [they] are at peace with God”. What, then, of the priest whose own “informed and enlightened conscience” tells him he may not comply with this revolutionary diktat? Once again Orwell’s scenario springs to mind: in Malta, it seems, all Catholic consciences may (perhaps) be equal, but some are now clearly “more equal than others”.As if all this were not bad enough, more is in store a little further down the road. In article 3 of the letter, the bishops say that before treating their main topic (those who are “separated or divorced” from a true spouse), they “would like to address the situation of those who cohabit or who have only married civilly”. That is, Catholics who have never been validly married. While this paragraph rightly recommends a pastoral approach that would encourage these couples to move toward true marriage, it is silent about whether or not they can ever approach the sacraments in their present condition. However, the bishops hasten to emphasize, in accordance with AL #294, that among such couples “the degree of moral responsibility is not the same for all cases”, i.e., that they are not necessarily in mortal sin. So it is not hard to see what conclusion about sacramental reception will be drawn from art. 3 by many unwed sexual partners whose “informed and enlightened consciences” also tell them they’re “at peace with God”. Indeed, they will be able to tell themselves that, if anything, they should have a greater right to receive Communion than the divorced and remarried. For as simple fornicators in God’s sight, they cannot be accused of the graver sin of adultery, which violates the cardinal virtue of justice as well as that of temperance.An explicit authorization for these folks too to approach the sacraments is probably just round the corner; and, since logical conclusions have a way of stubbornly following from their premises in practice as well as on paper, a similar permission for same-sex couples who find themselves “at peace with God” will surely not lag far behind. Not to mention corresponding concessions to polygamists all over Africa, as the orthodox Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban has recently warned us.All in all, 2017 seems to be shaping up pretty well for Protestants as they celebrate (with more than a little encouragement from our Catholic leaders) the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.  For if little Malta turns out to be a canary in the coal mine – an indicator of impending death for indissoluble marriage on a wider international scale – then our separated brethren will surely rejoice that we Catholics are finally seeing the light that Luther received five centuries earlier when he boldly relativized the Gospel’s stern teaching on this matter. Whether that ‘light’ really comes from Christ, who sent His Blessed Mother to appear at Fatima 100 years ago, is of course another matter. Among other things, she warned us then that “sins of the flesh” are those which most frequently send souls to Hell.Father Brian Harrison, O.S., M.A., S.T.D., is a priest of the Oblates of Wisdom and an emeritus professor of Theology of the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico. He is now scholar-in-residence at the Oblates’ Study Center and Chaplain of St. Mary of Victories Chapel in downtown St. Louis, Missouri.Reprinted with permission from OnePeterFive.com

Q&A: Attending a Same-Sex Wedding?

by Father Jeff Kirby

Q. My husband has a sibling who is getting married to a same-sex partner. They have been together for years. Given our religious beliefs, are we able to attend the ceremony? (Greenville, SC)A. This is one of those very hard questions from the real trenches of Christian discipleship. The question itself speaks well of your discipleship in that you understand that your faith and our moral teachings should influence all the areas of your life. Obviously, this is not easy and can sometimes cause tension between family relationships and our Christian witness.In answer to your specific question, therefore, a Christian believer cannot participate in a “gay wedding.” A wedding is a public, formal act and attending such a ceremony can be seen as an assent to the marriage itself. Since a marriage between two people of the same gender is contrary to both moral truth and nature, a Christian disciple cannot agree with such a union and therefore cannot participate in a ceremony that formalizes it.It is essential to the law of charity, however, that this non-attendance be communicated to a family member respectfully and in such a way as to avoid harsh rhetoric or judgment of their person. Additionally, every effort should be made to preserve some type of relationship with the family member so our loved one does not feel isolated or ostracized from his family. Such an approach builds a bridge and could leave an open forum for further conversation on love, marriage, sexuality, conversion, and virtue.In light of our current cultural trends, this may not be well received by your loved one, extended family members, or friends. This should not surprise you. In these moments of disagreement, speak the truth in love (cf. Eph 4:15) and show the world that love “is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Cor 13:4-5).Excerpt from Fr. Kirby's Column that first appeared in December 10, 2016 issue of The Catholic Miscellany. Reprinted with permission.


Should a Statue of Martin Luther Be Given a Place of Honor in the Vatican?

by Steve Wood

What was Martin Luther really like? What were his thoughts about the Catholic Church once his so-called Reformation got underway?Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth evil”(Matthew 12 34-35).Therefore, if you want to know what Martin Luther really thought and believed in his heart, just listen carefully to what he said.Click below to read the free PDF copy of a long out-of-print book entitled, Luther’s Own Statements: From the Earliest and Best Editions of Luther’s German and Latin Works. The book’s 61 pages (including my highlights of many of his statements) will give you a penetrating insight into the heart and mind of Martin Luther.When you are done reading, ask yourself, “Should a statue of Martin Luther be given a place of honor in the Vatican?”Highlighted Luther's Own Statements


Evolution Just Got Harder to Defend

Photo: Stromatolites – Shark Bay World Heritage AreaBy Eric MetaxasThere’s an old story about a chemist, a physicist, and an economist stranded on a desert island with nothing to eat but a can of soup. Puzzling over how to open the can, the chemist says, “Let’s heat the can until it swells and bursts from the buildup of gases.” “No, no,” says the physicist, “let’s throw it off that cliff with just enough kinetic energy to split it open on the rocks below.” The economist, after thinking a moment says, “Assume a can opener.” Read more


Don't Let Your Child Call the Shots, Psychologist Says

Psychologist Saysby Christina Lee KnaussJohn Rosemond is the rare person who can get away with telling a roomful of moms and dads that when it comes to raising kids, they don’t know what they are doing.The child psychologist, columnist and author did just that before a roomful of more than 200 people on Sept. 14 at Aquinas High School.He wasn’t being mean, just honest.Rosemond visited Aquinas to speak on “Understanding and Managing Your Teenager.”His talk, although geared toward parents of teens, offered advice that is relevant to any parent these days.As he does in his books and columns, Rosemond focused on how parents over the past 40 years have been led away from traditional parenting values and methods by trendy approaches that, in the end, don’t work and lead to confusion, exhaustion and turmoil in the home.His message was especially fitting for moms and dads at a Catholic school because so much of the parenting guidance he provides focuses on Christian values. One of his most popular books, “Raising Children By the Book,” is centered around the idea of raising children based on biblical principles.

He said that most problems parents deal with today stem from a culture that promotes a type of parenting that caters to a child’s whims and needs without focusing on true, loving discipline. The word, he noted, comes from the Latin word for pupil, “discipulus,” which also is the root of “disciple.”

Rosemond said parents, especially mothers, have become too focused on making their lives center around the child. Instead, he said, parents should be the focus of the child’s attention.He said many discipline problems with teenagers stem from the fact that parents did not begin early enough in life to teach their children about responsibility, consequences, independence, and respect for others. That teaching, he said, should begin at around age 3 and last until around age 13. If kids get that training early in life, he said, by the time they are teenagers they are prepared for gaining more freedom while at the same time having a respect for family rules and values.The lack of helping children to mature, he said, is leading more kids to begin school who are still exhibiting classic toddler behaviors such as temper tantrums, extreme mood swings and defiance. If not corrected, this behavior leads to impulsive, defiant teenagers who can do harm to both themselves and others.One of the biggest mistakes in modern parenting, Rosemond said, is that mom and dad feel the need to negotiate with kids, give them too many choices, and explain the reason they tell the child to do something. This undermines any effort at discipline, he said, because it gives kids who really need structure the feeling that their parents’ decisions are not correct or final.“Children are argumentative because you give them explanations for everything you do,” he said. “If you give an explanation, you act as if your authority is not legitimate. Why do you feel you need to explain yourself to a five-year-old?”The time-honored parental phrase “Because I said so” is a legitimate one that more moms and dads need to start using again, Rosemond said.He said one of the biggest mistakes parents commit with teenagers is to “make the punishment fit the crime.” The ideal way to reinforce rules and regulations is to offer up a consequence that is worse than the offense the teen has committed.He described a weekend long ago when his daughter refused to do two household chores and said she was going out with her friends. Instead of yelling at her and punishing her right then, he waited six days until she wanted to go out to a more important event and then told her she was grounded.“Too often, you’re letting the children call the shots,” he said. “Tell them once to do something and then if they defy you, they get a punishment. You do not have to do something right away. Take your time.”Too many parents are too focused on “being friends” with their teenager or not wanting to upset them when they do something wrong, he said, and in the end that approach does more damage to youth than many parents realize. The lack of adequate discipline at home often leads to a disrespect for authority that can have devastating consequences in adulthood.“Soon these kids will be in the real world, and in the real world, if you defy a legitimate authority figure like a boss, a police officer, or a judge, you’re going to pay a heavy price,” Rosemond said. “My idea with my daughter back then was that she had done something wrong that was big, so I was going to do something bigger. She learned that the price of her defiance had just come due, and it was an important lesson.”Reprinted with permission from The Catholic Miscellany, September 30, 2016.


Is There a Way to Curb Cohabitation?

by Steve Wood

Cohabitation is the new normal, up 900 percent over the past half century. About half to two-thirds of couples getting married today lived together before making a marital commitment. This morning, I received a letter from a distraught Catholic grandmother lamenting that every one of her 20 grandkids cohabited before marriage.This grandmother’s moral beliefs against cohabitation and pre-marital sex are now in the minority. A May 2016 Gallup Survey found that 68 percent of Catholics view premarital sex as morally acceptable. Approval of same-sex relationships was not too far behind.Is cohabitation harmful? A study by Cornell University found that the majority of cohabiting relationships don’t last. One-half of all cohabiting couples break up within a year, and 90 percent end within five years. This poor track record for cohabitation leads to serial cohabitation and a string of broken relationships.Patrick Fagan, director of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute, reports on the findings from a national survey of five-year-old marriages:· Having just one cohabiting partner, other than an eventual spouse, lowers the probability of the marriage lasting five years from 98 percent to 64 percent. · With two sexual partners, other than an eventual spouse, the marital success rate drops to 50 percent.Most young couples engaging in pre-marital sex and cohabitation don’t have any idea the huge impact that their lack of chastity has on the probability of a successful future marriage.Why do young adults cohabit? The Barna research organization conducted a nationwide survey during April 2016 asking those who think cohabitation is a good idea what their major reasons were for agreeing with the perception that living together before marriage is beneficial. Parents and grandparents would be wise to pay careful attention to the Barna findings.Of the three major reasons for cohabitation given, 5 percent said “cheap rent,” 9 percent said it was for “convenience,” and 84 percent said it was to “test compatibility.” By a very large measure, giving their relationship a “road test” for compatibility was reported to be the driving motivator.Young adults who have grown up in our divorce-prone world (and churches) are understandably fearful of marital failure and therefore skittish about getting engaged and married before testing for compatibility.I’m in full agreement with young adults who believe that a couple should test for compatibility before getting engaged and married. I believe that parents, grandparents, counselors, and churches should provide reliable moral methods to help young couples test for compatibility. Simply cursing the practice of cohabitation isn’t enough.The right way to test for compatibility There are four reliable tests for marital compatibility: PREPARE, FOCCUS, RELATE, and the T-JTA (Taylor-Johnson Temperament Analysis). The Pre-Cana marriage preparation in Catholic parishes usually gives the FOCCUS compatibility test after the engagement when a couple is actively preparing for their wedding.Giving a compatibility test after an engagement when wedding plans are well underway is obviously way too late and is totally ineffective in stemming the search for compatibility through cohabitation. Young couples need to be given a tool before engagement in order to test for compatibility.Since things seem to change slowly in the Catholic Church, I think we can expect that most Pre-Cana programs will continue for some time to use the FOCCUS inventory during the months after the engagement. The FOCCUS test is a good one and it doesn’t hurt to take a second compatibility test.What is needed immediately is an opportunity for couples to assess compatibility early enough in their relationship to curb cohabitation and/or to break off what may be a disastrous match.Starting September 2016, the Family Life Center will offer the T-JTA compatibility test to young couples contemplating a first marriage. The T-JTA is a convenient 60-minute method of measuring important personality traits that influence interpersonal functioning and adjustment.The test is taken on a computer from anywhere in the world. Both the young man and the young woman take the inventory first on themselves and then on their partner. The results are computer-graded with an easy-to-understand graphic representation of the strengths and weaknesses of themselves, each other, and the dynamics of their relationship.A comprehensive interpretative report for T-JTA is sent to the Family Life Center. After reviewing the results and the reports, I will meet with the couple for one hour via Skype to go over the results.It is my deepest wish that many others will begin offering the same type of assistance to young couples. I’ve waited for a decade for someone to start this service to no avail. After reading the recent Barna report on the main motivation for cohabitation, I decided that it’s time for action.If you, or someone you know, wants to learn the specifics about taking the T-JTA with the Family Life Center, just send an inquiry to mail@dads.org.This article first appeared in the Dads.org E-newsletter, September 2016. Click here for free sign-up.


America's Safest City

by Michael J. McManus

On Sunday The New York Times published a front page story on a weekend of crime in Chicago with 64 people shot, six of whom died. With in-depth reporting on four inside pages, the Times said "It is a level of violence that has become the terrifying norm, particularly in predominantly black and Latino neighborhoods."The Chicago Police Department with 12,000 officers, the nation's second largest, is so distrusted that witnesses of crimes say they cannot remember what happened and victims drive themselves to hospitals rather than call the police. In 2015 there were 470 homicides, few of which are solved. By June 3, another 239 were dead. Since the start of the year, Chicagoans have called the police 28,000 times to report gunfire.Contrast this carnage with El Paso, a city of 679,000, a quarter the size of Chicago. In 2010 El Paso had only five murders in the entire year - compared to six in one Chicago weekend. El Paso had 23 murders in 2012, 11 in 2013 and 20 in 2014.In fact, El Paso, America's 18th largest city, had the nation's lowest crime rate of all major cities for four straight years.Why is El Paso's murder rate a tiny fraction of Chicago's?Does Chicago have a much bigger percentage of blacks and Hispanics in its population? No. A third of Chicago is white compared to only about 12% of El Paso, where 80% are Hispanic.The city also has a high poverty rate, high unemployment and many school dropouts. It is also across the river from Ciudad Juarez in Mexico, which suffered 3,500 murders in 2010.I credit Barney Field, the leader of El Paso for Jesus, for the city's success. He took two major initiatives 20 years ago that changed the city. (Full disclosure: I was involved with one of them - the creation of the El Paso Community Marriage Policy.)Barney heard me interviewed on a radio show about our work at Marriage Savers to help a cross-section of churches in a city to better prepare couples for a lifelong marriage, enrich existing ones, and save those in crisis. I asserted that if Catholic priests and Protestant pastors took these steps together, citywide divorce rates fall.I was invited to make a presentation to El Paso clergy in 1996. For example, I proposed that all churches require any couples getting married to take a premarital inventory in which the man and woman indicated whether they agreed or disagreed with statements like these:

  • I am concerned that in-laws may interfere in our marriage relationship.
  • I am concerned that my partner is more of a spender than I am.

I suggested training couples in healthy marriages to discuss 150 such items over six sessions and teach skills to resolve conflict, and ask couples to be chaste till the wedding.In addition, I proposed that churches hold an annual event to enrich existing marriages, such as "10 Great Dates," in which couples come to church weekly, watch a brief DVD on such topics as "Resolving Honest Conflict" or "Becoming an Encourager." Couples then go on a date to discuss that item! It is a fun way to strengthen marriages.For troubled marriages, I proposed the pastor ask the congregation, "Are there couples whose marriages were once on the rocks, but who have healed them? If so, meet with me after the service." When that was first asked in Jacksonville, out of 180 people present, 10 couples met with the pastor.He asked them if they would share their stories with each other. Seven did so, which trained them to tell their stories to couples in crisis. Over the next five years, they met with 40 troubled marriages and saved 38 of them.I suggested that if they agreed with such goals, that they sign an El Paso Community Marriage Policy. Thirteen Catholic priests and 45 Protestant pastors took this step in 1996.An independent study by the Institute for Research and Evaluation reported that El Paso's divorce rate plunged 79.5% by 2001 - the biggest drop of 240 cities that created a Community Marriage Policy. (On average, divorce rates fall 17.5% in seven years.)The second initiative Barney Field took in 1997 was to persuade The El Paso Times to publish the entire New Testament with daily excerpts that took five minutes to read. Also, any reader could write for a free New Testament, and 70,000 people did so.These initiatives to strengthen the faith and marriages of El Paso transformed the city. Few kids became delinquent.That's how El Paso became America's safest big city.Ethics & Religion, June 8, 2016, Column 1815. Reprinted with permission.Michael J. McManus is President of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist.


Comfort Catholicism Has to Go; It is Time to Prepare for Persecution

By Msgr. Charles Pope

We are at war for our own souls and the souls of people we love. We are at war for the soul of this culture and nation. And like any soldier, we must train to fight well.There is a growing consternation among some Catholics that the Church, at least in her leadership, is living in the past. It seems there is no awareness that we are at war and that Catholics need to be summoned to sobriety, increasing separation from the wider culture, courageous witness and increasing martyrdom.It is long past dark in our culture, but in most parishes and dioceses it is business as usual and there is anything but the sober alarm that is really necessary in times like these.Scripture says, Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle (Psalm 144:1). Preparing people for war — a moral and spiritual war, not a shooting war — should include a clear setting forth of the errors of our time, and a clear and loving application of the truth to error and light to darkness.But there is little such training evident in Catholic circles today where, in the average parish, there exists a sort of shy and quiet atmosphere — a fear of addressing “controversial” issues lest someone be offended, or the parish be perceived as “unwelcoming.”But, if there ever was a time to wear soft garments, it is not now.The Church of the 1970s-1990s was surely well described as the era of “beige Catholicism” (a term coined by Bishop Robert Barron, and not by way of flattery either). Those of us who lived through that era, especially in the 1970s, remember it as a time when many parish signs beckoned people to “come and experience our welcoming and warm Catholic community.” Our most evident desire was to fit in and be thought of as “normal.” Yes, Catholics were just like everyone else; and we had been working very hard to do that, at least since the early 1960s when John F. Kennedy was elected. Catholics had finally “made it” into the mainstream; we had been accepted by the culture.Church architecture and interiors became minimalist and non-descript. Music and language in the liturgy became folksy. Marian processions, Corpus Christi processions, many things of distinctive and colorful Catholicism all but disappeared. Even our crucifixes disappeared, to be replaced by floating “resurrection Jesus” images. The emphasis was on blending in, speaking to things that made people feel comfortable, and affirming rather than challenging. If there was to be any challenge at all it would be on “safe” exhortations such as not abusing the environment or polluting, not judging or being intolerant, and so forth.Again, if there ever was a time to wear soft garments, it is not now. It is zero-dark-thirty in our post-Christian culture. And while we may wish to blame any number of factors for the collapse, we cannot exclude ourselves. We who are supposed to be the light of the world, with Christ shining in us, have preferred to hide our light under a basket and lay low. The ruins of our families and culture are testimony to the triumph of error and the suppression of the truth.More than ever we need to shift toward being distinctive from the culture we have refused to critique and call to reform. More than ever our faith needs to shine brightly and clearly in our churches and communities.

And if a world now accustomed to great darkness calls our light harsh, so be it. If our light does not shine, there is no light at all. Our Catholic faith is the sole and last hope for this world. It has always been so.Simply put, it is time for clergy to prepare themselves and God’s people for sacrifice. Seeking to compromise with this culture is now unthinkable. Our only recourse is to seek to lance the boils. And the culture will cry foul. And we who do the lancing will be made increasingly to suffer. But we have to be willing to embrace and endure such suffering in increasing ways in the months and years ahead.We are at war for our own souls and the souls of people we love. We are at war for the soul of this culture and nation. And like any soldier, we must train to fight well. We must study our faith and be more committed than ever. We must also know our enemy and his tactics, and we must be prepared to suffer — and even to lose our life.We have to retool and provide every opportunity to get clear about our faith. Sermons and other teachable moments must sound a clear call to personal conversion and to battle for souls and to stop treating lightly the sinful disregard for God’s law in our families and communities.Our bishops especially need to shift into another mode entirely. Collectively and currently they seem more interested in protecting what little we have left, than summoning the Catholic people to battle. Priests too seem loath to summon people to anything challenging or uncomfortable. The image of Peter trying to keep Christ from the Cross comes to mind. Peter said, “This shall never be for you!” And the Lord severely rebuked him saying that he was thinking as man, not God, and was in the service of Satan.And what of us? The Church cannot even seem to ask people to attend Mass on a Holy Day if it is on a Monday or a Saturday. It is apparently too much to ask people to come to Mass two days in a row. If that be the case, who will summon them to withstand and vigorously protest unjust and evil laws, even if it means financial penalties or even jail? And blood martyrdom? It hardly seems likely that most clergy today would counsel readiness for such a thing or even be close to being ready ourselves. Bishops or priests who do so can expect to be called reckless and imprudent in shy and soft times like these. The cry will surely go up, “It is not yet the time for such things!”But if not now, when?Scripture says, If the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? (1 Cor. 14:8). It cannot simply be priests who must make this call. Parents and other leaders need to sound it as well. Yes, parents need to prepare their children for more than a career. They need now to prepare them for difficult days ahead — days that will include persecution and even martyrdom if they decide to follow Christ unambiguously.Am I wrong? I sure hope so. But we can no longer, as a Church, sit idly by and hope things just magically get better. As a culture, and even in segments of the Church, we have sown the wind, and now we are reaping the whirlwind.Many, these days, like to criticize the Church of the past for any number of failings. But I wonder how the future members of the Church will remember the Church in our times. Columnist Joseph Sobran, writing over 15 years ago, wondered the same thing and wrote:[Catholics of the future] certainly won’t accuse us of excessive zeal. They might be shocked by our lukewarmness, our cowardice masquerading as tolerance, our laxity, our willingness to countenance heresy, sacrilege, blasphemy, and immorality, even within the Church itself, our eagerness to ingratiate ourselves with the secular world …(Subtracting Christianity, p. 268)Yes, I too wonder. From St. Peter to Constantine there were 33 Popes. Thirty of them were martyred and two died in exile. Countless clergy and lay people too were martyred. It is hard to imagine the Church in the decadent West being willing to suffer so. Surely our brethren in many less affluent parts of the world are dying in large numbers. But I wonder: After all these years of “comfort Catholicism”, would the average American parishioner or clergyman be willing or able to endure such loss?It is time, past time, to retool. It is time to prepare for persecutions that will get bolder by the month and year. The dark movements that marched in under the banners of tolerance never meant it. And having increasingly gained power, they are seeking to criminalize anyone who resists their vision. No tolerance for us. Religious liberty is eroding, and compulsory compliance is already here. The federal courts increasingly shift to militantly secular and activist judges who legislate from the bench.When will we as a Church finally say to the bureaucrats who demand we comply with evil laws: “We will not comply. If you fine us we will not pay. If you seek to confiscate our buildings, we will turn maximum publicity against you, but we still will not comply. If you arrest us, off to jail we go! But we will simply not comply with evil laws or cooperate with evil.”Right now, most of us can barely imagine our clergy standing so firm. Quiet compromises and jargon-filled “solutions” will be a grave temptation to a Church ill-prepared for persecution.Call me alarmist or call me idealist, but I hope we find our spine before it is too late. It is usually a faithful remnant that saves the day in the Biblical narrative. I pray only for the strength to be in that faithful remnant.  Will you join me too? Let’s pray and start retooling now. Only our unambiguous faith can save us or anyone we love. Pray for strong and courageous faith.
Reprinted with permission from the National Catholic Register.

Don't Wait for Marriage: Young Adults should be Tying Knot Earlier, not Later

By John Van Epp

Waiting around to walk down the aisle may make your wedding vows harder to keep.

It was the end of my junior year of college, and I was considering marrying the woman of my dreams. My father questioned the wisdom of marrying so young (even though he was even younger when he married my mother), but I reassured him that we had come to deeply know and love each other over the last two years and that we wanted to go through life together, starting right away. I explained that we did not want to become "established" and then get married; we wanted to go through that adventure together.We married the summer before my senior year with little money, a tiny apartment, and endless dreams of our future. Thirty years later, my wife and I are still thankful that we made the decision to grow up together through our 20s.But my father's apprehension in 1980 has become the trend of this new millennium. In fact, a recent Wall Street Journal article pointed out that some sociologists argue that "early marriage" is the No. 1 predictor of divorce. They encourage young adults to explore their identity, work, and love by delaying marriage and parenthood until their later 20s. They warn that those who fail to postpone these family transitions miss out on better career opportunities, make poorer choices on partners, and develop more marital problems.Today the perception is that marriage takes more than it gives and brings a good chance of ending in divorce. It shouldn't surprise anyone that the median age for one's first marriage has shifted from the early 20s in 1980 (my decision was the norm at that time) to 28 for men and 26 for women today.It seems intuitive that age would bring maturity, stability, and better decisions, which would result in more lasting marriages. However, there are a number of risks that work against these later marriages and question the wisdom of this social trend to delay marriage into your 30s.The starting point is a reconsideration of the claim that early marriages contribute to higher rates of divorce. There was a study conducted in 2002 by Tim Heaton that did find high rates of marital instability associated with young marriages, but the risks were with teen marriages. The impact that age had on predicting marriage outcomes leveled off around age 21 with age making little difference for those who marry between 21 and 30.Furthermore, there may actually be increased risks associated with delaying marriage to the end of your 20s or into your 30s. For instance, waiting to get married often leads to more premarital sex, premarital cohabitation, and premarital births, which are all associated with higher rates of marital instability. In addition, there is a smaller selection pool as you reach your early 30s (by age 30, 75 percent of the population are married). At that point, the chances of achieving a quality relationship lower because of the difficulty with finding a suitable partnerThese risks are often overlooked because of a prevalent attitude today that is quite dangerous and misleading: What you experience in one relationship has no bearing on what will happen in a subsequent relationship. You could call this "relationship compartmentalization," where each relationship occurs in its own compartment without any effect on another.I like to refer to this attitude as "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas." Obviously, this cannot be true because what occurs in relationships, no matter how insignificant, carries some measure of influence on you, the way you think, and what you take into your next relationship. As scripture says in what is both an encouragement and a warning, "You reap what you sow."A sobering example of this was found in the research on women by Jay Teachman from Western Washington University. He showed that premarital involvement with just one sexual partner other than the person a woman eventually married tripled the risk of divorce as compared with those who had only had sex with their husband.A second example of present relationship decisions affecting future relationship practices was a study that found a clear connection between the number of sexual partners before marriage and the likelihood of marital unfaithfulness; each additional sexual partner before marriage resulted in a significant increase in the risk of having an affair after marriage.These are just two examples from an extensive body of research that supports the continuity of relationship experiences. And yet these research findings seem to get lost on library shelves without reshaping the current practices in our dating culture.Several researchers examining the attitudes toward first marriage of 800 young adults ages 19 through 26 use the term "marital horizon" to talk about what young adults think is the ideal age for getting married. They found that having a more distant marital horizon was directly related to more risky premarital beliefs and behaviors.Today more than 65 percent of married couples say they cohabited before marriage. Yet there is no evidence that living together before marriage will improve the quality of your marriage or lower your odds of divorce. However, most do not realize that those who live together with just one partner other than the one they marry may increase their risk of divorce by 15 percent.The point is that one's attitude toward marriage during the dating years will affect relationship practices. And what happens in relationships today will affect any future marriage. For better or for worse, the principle that "you reap what you sow" holds true.How can we support marriage and stop the rising age of marriage? Societal attitudes will have to change, but that starts with individuals deciding to date in ways that will honor their future spouse and marriage.Reggie walked into my counseling office when he had just turned 23 years old. He was the personification of the current dating attitude that marriage was nowhere in sight and hooking up had no future consequences. However, the accumulation of his highly accelerated and sexually charged relationships had left him feeling empty and alone.After several months of exploring his past relationship patterns he decided to delay sexual involvement until he married and to build more serious friendships and romantic relationships with his goal of having a fulfilling marriage on his horizon.When we met again four years later, he had just become engaged to Renee and thought it would be good to meet together and make sure their relationship was ready for marriage.In one of our sessions Renee asked me if I thought Reggie's past would affect him in their marriage. In other words, was it too late for Reggie? I told them that we are creatures of habit and Reggie made changes in his romantic relationships that created new habits and patterns. He "sowed" four years of new habits that will reap better results in his future marriage than if he had continued his previous lifestyle to the edge of his relationship with Renee.Romantic relationships before marriage should be enjoyed-but this can be done in ways that benefit a future marriage. There is hope, promised in scripture and backed by research, for both the Renees and Reggies in the world. But it takes a commitment to attitudes and behaviors  beneficial to marriage long before the wedding bells ring.Reprinted by permission from the September 2010 issue of U.S. Catholic magazine. U.S. Catholic is published by the Claretians. For subscriptions, please call 1-800-328-6515 or click hereJohn Van Epp is author of the highly recommended book for young adults,How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk.


The Double-Fisted Gospel: A Remedy for Absent Male Catholics

by Steve Wood

Editor’s note: During this Year of Mercy, I thought it expedient to resurrect a modified edition of this article from seventeen years ago which highlights the unique perspective that men have regarding justice and mercy.

Why are so many Catholic men absent from the Church?The common reply is that men just aren’t as religious as women. Yet, there is no record of a lack of difference in piety between men and women in the early centuries of the Church. And why are there more men than women in synagogues and mosques today?The absence of men from Catholic [and Protestant] Churches is a crisis that few seem willing even to publicly acknowledge. Perhaps the crisis of absent male Catholics [AMC] is so large and seemingly hopeless that it is ignored. For the good of the Faith and the family we need to ask and answer two hard questions:Why have men left the Church?How can they be brought back?It is too simplistic to attribute the absence of men from the Catholic Church to a single underlying cause. Like any massive cultural or ecclesiastical phenomenon, there are several streams contributing to the main current. Nevertheless, two Irish researchers (F. John Herriott & Joseph Foyle) seem to have uncovered one significant cause for AMC by directly interviewing Catholic men who have quit practicing their faith.The major reasons AMC give for not turning up at Mass is that they have nothing to fear from God for violating his commandments, such as the obligation of Sunday Mass attendance and the Church’s teaching about sexuality. These men are deceived by a false security that they are going to heaven regardless of how they live.Single-Fisted PreachingResearchers Herriott and Foyle trace the root cause of AMC to what they call single-fisted preaching. For the past forty years (with many notable exceptions) Catholics have heard preaching that emphasizes the love, mercy, and forgiveness of God while excluding the fear of God, the justice of God, and the demanding holiness of God. Single-fisted preaching talks about Heaven, but only occasionally whispers about Hell and Purgatory.The Double-Fisted Gospel: The Cure of AMCHerriott and Foyle say that the secular world is well aware of the need for motivating men using the "Gain and Pain" factors. Do men respect and respond to a coach who just uses the "gain" approach? Do men achieve their potential in the military with superior officers who just use the reward approach? Of course not, yet the Church has followed this path for the past forty years. The "gain only" approach will not work with men in sports, the military, the workplace, and especially in the Church. The single-fisted gospel has created a hemorrhage of men from the Church.John Crosby, the former Chairman of the Department of Philosophy at Franciscan University of Steubenville said, "Are we not preparing for a violent rejection of the Faith by men who feel deeply and yearn for something real, when we, who would represent Christ’s Church, embody only ‘languid and unmeaning benevolence’? … If a man asks for bread, we give him only a stone by trying to love him without severity, in portraying God as unfit to be feared… Serious men cannot believe in a God reminiscent of a benevolent old grandfather."Men Require a "Kick in the Pants"I’ll never forget a community breakfast I attended in a southwest Florida community several years ago. The current Chief of Police was there in uniform to present a gold chief-of-police badge to a former chief. Before presenting the badge, the current chief told a story to highlight the practical wisdom of the former chief.It seems that a couple of teenage boys were caught drinking beer and drag-racing on the runway of this small town’s airport. Today the judicial system may want to send such boys off to a psychologist for self-esteem therapy. This former chief knew these boys and didn’t want them to get an arrest record, but he wanted them to straighten up. So he turned them around and gave them a swift kick in the rear and told them in no uncertain words to hightail it home. Which the boys promptly did! At the conclusion of his story as the current chief presented the gold badge to the former chief, he said with obvious emotion in his voice, "I was one of those boys."Most men occasionally need a kick in the pants. In church life a "kick in the pants" comes in the form of preaching the need for repentance, the neglected first fist of the double-fisted gospel. Men need to hear that certain specific sins are wrong (birth control, adultery, pornography, homosexual acts, sterilization, profaning God’s name, willfully skipping Mass, drunkenness, worshipping mammon, a persistent unforgiving heart towards a spouse, family member or any other person).Men need to be warned that refusing to turn in repentance from such sins can send them to hell. They need to be shown that following such a sinful course will ruin their lives and their family life. Men need to be told forthrightly to stop sinning - immediately - and turn their lives around. They need direct exhortations like Jeremiah gave when he said, "Turn now every one of you from his evil way, and amend your doings" (Jer. 35:15).Someone might object to the above prescription saying, "Men will leave the Church if we talk to them like that." More than half have already left and tens of thousands more will leave this year. The single-fisted gospel is the main reason these men give for leaving. Yes, some men will leave if they hear the double-fisted gospel again, but many others will come back.Catholic men do not want to be coddled in a soft, childlike fashion when it comes to dealing with the need to straighten up and live a holy life. At Catholic men’s conferences guys come up to me after a challenging call for repentance and say, "Thank you for treating me like a man tonight."Finally, men need to be encouraged to receive the Sacrament of Penance, as soon as humanly possible and thus experience a full measure of God’s bountiful mercy.The Year of Mercy is a perfect time to resurrect the double-fisted gospel. This entire year is to be a pilgrimage of reconciliation back to the God of Mercies. Many men question the need for a return if there are no serious consequences from sin. The double-fisted gospel gives men the necessary motivation to return to the Father of Mercies.This article first appeared in the 1999 Dads.org E-newsletter, and then again in June 2016.


The Existence of God

by Robert Herman BS, AM, MD

Scientists have postulated that life on this planet began in a “primordal soup”, a pond or sheltered bay that was teaming with thousands of chemicals.  Over millions or billions of years, as these chemicals interacted, life was eventually formed.  Let us take a critical and realistic look at how this could have been accomplished, going from non-life to life.The type of life forms we have on this planet are composed of cells.  So the simplest life form is a single celled organism, such as a bacterium.  It seems likely that if life began as a bacterium and then evolved into more complex forms there would had to have been the synthesis of a bacterium “from scratch” in the primordal soup by numerous random chemical reactions.  Is such a thing probable?  Let us imagine the steps involved.We can begin with the DNA.  DNA is a molecule composed of nucleotides.  A nucleotide is made of three parts:  a sugar molecule, a fairly strong acid and a weak base.  The interesting parts are the bases.  There are four of them:  adenine, guanine, thymine and cytosine, or A, G, T and C for short.  These bases are the “letters” in the genetic code.DNA is shaped like a ladder with the sugars and acids as the sides of the ladder and the bases as the rungs.  The other side of the ladder has a base which pairs so that we have a “base pair”.  If A is on one side then T is always on the other.  C always pairs with G.  So if the genetic code on one side is TTAGTCCAG, then the code on the other side is AATCAGGTC, for example.  Thus when discussing DNA we talk about the number of “base pairs”.Human DNA has about three billion base pairs.  A simple bacterium such as E. Coli has 600,000 base pairs.  Let us say that this first bacterium had 500,000 base pairs so one million bases, or nucleotides.  So if we start with creating this primordal bacterium from scratch, the first thing we need to do is synthsize one million nucleotides from random chemical reactions.  I suppose over millions of years a million nucleotides could form.  But consider this.  As stated, a nucleotide has a base on one side and an acid on the other.  This makes it a very reactive molecule.  Since we are postulating that there were thousands of chemicals in this promordal soup, how long could it take before a nucleotide reacts with another chemical?  I would conjecture that a nucleotide might last, at most, about one second before it bonds with something.  So the question is not “could one million nucleotides possibly be synthesized by random chemical interactions” but rather “could one million nucleotides be synthesized within one second of each other by random interactions”?  What are the odds of this happening?  I would say about one chance in some number that would stretch across our entire galaxy.The next thing to consider is the placement of these nucleotides in the soup.  For instance if some of the nucleotides are 10 meters away from the others then they would be too far apart to react with each other in this one second time period.  So all the synthesis needs to occur in close proximity.  How close?  I would imagine at least within one cubic centimeter of each other.  So what are the odds of one million nucleotides being synthesized within one cubic centimeter of each other?  I would say one chance in some number that would travel across a second galaxy.The next thing to consider is that these two events have to occur simultaneously.  The nucleotides need to be synthsized within one second and within one cubic centimeter of each other.  To calculate the odds of this occurring we would need to take the number from the first galaxy and multiply it by the number from the second galaxy.The next step is to form a DNA chain 500,000 base pairs long.  However, if two nucleotides approached each other might we expect the acid group from one to react with the base from the other.  Why would they even form a chain at all?  But for the sake of argument let us say that they do start to form a chain, perhaps four nucleotides long.  Since there are postulated to be thousands of chemicals in this soup then what would prevent a different chemical from bonding to this chain.  It could be an alcohol, a ketone, an ester or one of a host of other molecules.  Then we would no  longer have DNA but another chemical.  So what are the odds that we can actually get a DNA chain 500,000 base pairs long?  I think we are up to a third galaxy of numbers.We then need to consider the genetic code.  We cannot have just any old DNA chain but we would have to get the code right.  Remember there are four bases with 500,000 base pairs.  Think of the number of possible combination of bases going from one end of the DNA to the other.  The code could be:  ATTTCAGCAGTATAACC… etc.  Or could it be:  CCCATCATCATGGAAGGCAGCAG…, etc, etc, etc.  This is complicated by the number of bases involved.  If we are speculating on one million nucleotides with four bases, were there 250,000 of each base?  Not likely.  Perhaps there were 249,999 A and Ts and 250,001 C and Gs, or 249,998 A and Ts and 250,002 C and Gs, or 189,537 A and Ts with a corresponding number of C and Gs.  Not only could there be numeous combinations of numbers of bases but then think of all the possible combination of bases for each possible combination of number.  Then consider the likelihood of the code coming about by chance.  What are the odds of this happening?After all this, as improbable as it could be, if we did get this far what would we have?  A strand of naked DNA floating in this primordal soup. One of the issues regarding DNA is that it is a fragile molecule.  It could be destroyed by heat, changes in pH, mechanical shearing forces and of course by the thousands of chemicals in the soup.  So how long could DNA remain in this soup before it is destroyed?  Probably at most one second.  So the DNA would have one second to build a cell wall around itself to protect it from its environment.  What are all the stages in this process and how could it just happen to occur?  Perhaps the cell wall was built first.  But then we would stil have all the multitude of other issues involved in creating DNA.We do not know all the processes involved in building one cell.  There are probably billions of steps involved, each one needing to be done in the correct order with the precise temperature, pH, salinity, concentration of calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, carbon, etc, etc, etc.Astronomers tell us that our universe is so large that we should just about consider it to be infinite.  However, I do not think that our universe is large enough to come up with a number massive enough to calculate the odds of a single cell being created by a series of random events.In his book “The God Delusion” Richard Dawkins stated that the odds of a cell being created by random events is about one in a billion.  Since there are possibly one billion planets in our galaxy capable of supporting life then the odds that a bacterium could have been created somewhere is a possibility.  If it occurred on another planet then it could have been transported to our earth on a meteor or something. (1)One chance in a billion!!!  To create an entire cell!!!  Richard Dawkins has a PhD in biology.  This is inexcusable.  If he had thought about this for more than two seconds he would have quickly realized that the odds of just getting a proper genetic code are so infinitessamly small that no one in their right mind could consider this happening by random events.  If Professor Dawkins was a Medical Doctor he should be sued for scientific malpractice.Life is complex.  Even one cell is so complex we can only vaguely understand it.  How can something so complex be created by a series of random events.  This is a preposterous supposition.  We obviously needed an intelligent Creator to create such intelligent life.(1) The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Bantam Press 2006. pp 165-166.Robert Herman, BS, AM, MD received a BS in Chemistry from Lake Erie College, a Master's in Chemistry from Dartmouth College (after doing DNA research) and an MD from the University of Cincinnati. His paper, Existence of God, Part One - Science, is reprinted with his permission.


Parents as Courtship Coaches

by Steve Wood

Except for paying college costs, many parents consider their job practically finished after they drop off their college-bound student at the freshman dorm. This is a huge mistake. Parents need to be on-duty throughout the college, early career, and courtship years. Like many championship games, it is during the final moments of the fourth quarter that games are won or lost. Parents, like coaches, must pay attention to the final quarter, that is, the courtship years.I feel so strongly about the need during the courtship years that I’ve written two books on the subject: The ABCs of Choosing a Good Wife and The ABCs of Choosing a Good Husband to assist young adults in the mate selection process. I strongly recommend that parents read and digest this material long before your children enter the courting years. It is regrettable that the majority of young adults are left practically on their own to make their choice of a spouse, the most important decision of their lives.The most frequently-repeated mistake I have seen in thirty years of working with parents is the failure to anticipate the needs of teens and twenty-year-olds. Moms and Dads should have a pro-active parenting plan, not a reactive one. Parents need a game plan from early childhood to courtship and marriage. You can develop a complete game plan by being aware of what you need to know and the challenges you will face during the various phases of parenting, especially the often neglected final phase. Learning the necessary courtship coaching skills isn’t so hard, especially if you start long before you need them.Out of a desire to learn how to help others and myself live guided by a meaningful life mission, I took a course on Christian life coaching. What I discovered in my life coach training is that all of us have longed-for goals, wished-for achievements, and hoped-for priorities. Unfortunately, we so often fail to achieve and accomplish the very things that matter most. Life coaching helps fill the gap between intention and accomplishment. My two ABCs books incorporate a couple of important insights gleaned from my life coach training.I’ve observed how incredibly easy it is for self-deception during the high adrenaline, emotional roller-coaster phase of a budding relationship. I discovered that young people could enthusiastically read my book, attend conference talks on courtship, and listen to audio messages on the topic, and then proceed to act as though not a single word ever entered their minds.A real-life example is the subject of dating, courting, or marrying a non-Catholic.Chapter nine in both of my ABCs books deals with the question of inter-faith vs. same-faith marriage. My most recent editions of my ABCs books have a startling statistic showing that couples with children in inter-faith marriages have a divorce rate three times higher than couples in same-faith households. (I acknowledge in my books that there are many successful inter-faith marriages. Yet the existence of strong inter-faith marriages does not change the striking statistical evidence of the danger inherent in an inter-faith marriage.)I have observed highly-committed Catholic young people who have read my caution about inter-faith marriage and then proceeded to get completely entangled in relationships with people of a different faith, or of very little faith. The probability of an enduring legacy of faith in your family is greatly reduced by your grown children entering an inter-faith marriage.Therefore, the question is, “How do I help my child stick to his or her commitment to marry someone who shares their faith?” Three simple steps can vastly improve the probability of a good intention becoming a reality. (These steps, including a personal courtship commitment plan, are included in the appendix of both ABCs books.)The first step is your son or daughter writing out their intentions. You might be tempted to say, “Yeah, yeah I know that.” I know that you know it, but the question is, “Will your grown child do it?” Those who write down their intentions (whatever they are) dramatically increase the probability of realizing them. That is why every corporation will require a written business plan before allocating capital to a project.The second step is to have an accountability partner to witness the signing of the “Personal Courtship Commitments” and to hold the signer to his or her commitments. The accountability partner provides desperately needed third-party objectivity.The third step is to develop the “Personal Courtship Commitments” over a three to four week period. The probability of following-through with an intention is at least doubled if it is preceded by a period of reflection and preparation.You can prepare younger children for the courtship years by teaching them to write down major commitments, have an accountability system, and precede commitments with prayerful reflection.In upcoming articles, I’ll be talking about some other important things parents can do to prepare their children for successful marriage and how to assist them in the mate selection process. Your child’s choice of a marriage partner will affect your family’s legacy of faith for generations. The courtship years are a time when good parents, like good coaches, have a game plan for the courting phase of parenthood.


What the Church Teaches about the Papal Office

by Father Christopher Smith, STD/PhD

As Catholics, we have a great love for the Pope. But it is important to know what the Church actually teaches about the papal office. Occasionally I come across people who think that the Pope is an absolute monarch and can do whatever he wants. Or those who agree with one Pope, and will assert that anything that comes out of his mouth is revealed by the Holy Spirit because they like him, and then turn around and ignore everything another Pope says because they don’t like him.Pope Benedict XVI described the office beautifully: “The Pope is not an absolute monarch whose thoughts and desires are law. On the contrary: the Pope’s ministry is a guarantee of obedience to Christ and to his Word. He must not proclaim his own ideas, but rather constantly bind himself and the Church to obedience to God’s Word, in the face of every attempt to adapt it or water it down, and every form of opportunism.  The Pope knows that in his important decisions, he is bound to the great community of faith of all times, to the binding interpretations that have developed throughout the Church’s pilgrimage. Thus, his power is not being above, but at the service of, the Word of God. It is incumbent upon him to ensure that this Word continues to be present in its greatness and to resound in its purity, so that it is not torn to pieces by continuous changes in usage.”When the Pope definitively teaches what the Church has always taught on faith and morals, we are bound to assent to that teaching if we are to call ourselves faithful Catholics. If a Pope advances a theological opinion or political policy in a private manner, or even in his office as Roman Pontiff, we are not bound to that level of assent. We are bound to respect him, but we can also prudently disagree. If a Pope changes one of the disciplines of the Church, we are free to agree or disagree about that change, but we still must remain respectful.In the 19th century, the increased visibility of the Pope in media led many Catholics to a somewhat exaggerated opinion of the papal office called ultramontanism.  This current made the Pope and his person central to Catholic faith and life in a way it never was before. The doctrine of papal infallibility was declared at this time, and we have had a series of incredible men on the throne of Peter ever since, and, with increasing rapidity of communications, the Pope has become more present in the life of Catholics as he ever was.But we now have a bizarre situation, in which some Catholics claim that mere opinions or policies of a pope are as binding as the truths of the Gospel and the Creed, even when those opinions and policies change between one papacy and another. It is intellectually and theologically incoherent to act as if the Pope were an oracle of divine wisdom. Such has never been the teaching of the Church, and is a caricature of it. I get shivers when I hear Catholics act as if the Holy Spirit personally chooses each Pope, and makes his every act infallible. It’s not the teaching of Christ, or of the Church. We are not papolaters, and we are not papists. We are Catholics, and the ancient faith is entrusted to Peter’s successors to hand on from one generation to the next, whole and entire. Anything outside of that is worthy of respect, but does not bind our conscience. Adrian Fortescue’s work The Early Papacy shows how the Catholic teaching on Petrine primacy developed early, and how it is opposed to ultramontane exaggeration. Reprinted with permission from Prince of Peace Catholic Church (Bulletin -  November 1, 2015).


Timeless Catholic Truth from St. Pope John Paul II

Communion for Divorced Persons Who Have Civilly Remarried?

Familiaris Consortio – Section 84“…

Finally, there are those who have entered into a second union for the sake of the children's upbringing, and who are sometimes subjectively certain in conscience that their previous and irreparably destroyed marriage had never been valid.Together with the Synod, I earnestly call upon pastors and the whole community of the faithful to help the divorced, and with solicitous care to make sure that they do not consider themselves as separated from the Church, for as baptized persons they can, and indeed must, share in her life. They should be encouraged to listen to the word of God, to attend the Sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to contribute to works of charity and to community efforts in favor of justice, to bring up their children in the Christian faith, to cultivate the spirit and practice of penance and thus implore, day by day, God's grace. Let the Church pray for them, encourage them and show herself a merciful mother, and thus sustain them in faith and hope.However, the Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church's teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children's upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they "take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples.”Source: http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_jp-ii_exh_19811122_familiaris-consortio.htmlPhoto: Courtesy of www.catholic.org


Scary Story about the Power of the Rosary

This is a powerful but disturbing story regarding the power of the Rosary. It regards notorious Florida serial killer Ted Bundy. Some people are so far lost in sin they become dominated by evil, but Our Lord, through Our Lady, has power over them:At 3: 00 am on January 15 Bundy entered the Chi Omega sorority house at Florida State University and murdered two girls before heading off to search for more victims. When he entered a third girl’s room with a bat for a weapon, he saw a rosary clutched in her hand, dropped the bat and fled.Later the girl told authorities that before she left for college she had promised her grandmother that she would pray the rosary every night for protection, even if she fell asleep in the process. This is what she had done that night, and she was still holding the rosary when the murderer entered her room. Bundy later confessed to over thirty murders.Father Joseph M. Esper says in his book With Mary to Jesus, “Ironically, when Ted Bundy was on death row, awaiting execution for his crimes, he asked Monsignor Kerr to serve as a spiritual counselor, and the priest took the opportunity to ask about that terrible night. Bundy explained that when he entered the girl’s room, he had fully intended on murdering her; some mysterious power was preventing him.”Father Esper adds, “And not only does it (the rosary) aid our own spiritual growth — it also undermines the kingdom of Satan. The famous Vatican exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth testified, ‘One day a colleague of mine heard the devil say during an exorcism, “Every Hail Mary is like a blow on my head. If Christians knew how powerful the Rosary was, it would be my end.”‘Pray the rosary daily for protection and to defeat the forces of Satan!Source: http://miraculousrosary.blogspot.com/p/famous-rosary-miracles.html


Christian Parenting with a Purpose: Part I

by Joe Hyland

I once heard Herm Edwards, the former Kansas City Chiefs head football coach say, “a goal without a plan is a wish.” Christian parenting with purpose means that we actively develop a specific plan to reach the goals we desire for our children. Parents who desire their children’s healthy integration into adulthood make specific choices according to a plan. Both common sense and experience teach us that our attitudes, beliefs, values and behaviors are deeply influenced by those with whom we spend our time. Science, on the other hand, teaches us that from the moment of birth, children are always learning - most readily from individuals around them.Many parents comprehend the power of the influence which others have upon their children, but how many parents make specific, purposeful, daily choices based upon that knowledge? Parenting with purpose proposes that parents who desire that their children develop sound attitudes, beliefs, values and behaviors provide a consistent environment to support such goals.Sadly, many parents allow their child to take for their peer group individuals that do not support or uphold the values and behaviors taught in their home. I have often counseled parents whose children’s lives are out of control. Many of these parents claim to understand the influence of others while, at the same time, they desire to avoid being considered judgmental for telling their children that a person or group is not good for them.We make judgments everyday using the facts around us to better navigate through each day. For example, if we desire to make our way to a certain destination we pay attention to the obstacles that may prevent us from reaching our destination. We make adjustments to our course as needed based on information we have available to us. Those who parent with purpose parent in this way.Statistics show that a rather small minority of individuals involved in smoking, drugs or alcohol abuse begin doing so after the age of 21. Instead, these behaviors are more often the result of the influence of peer groups or family life in which smoking, drugs or alcohol abuse are encouraged, taught, or modeled.Christian parenting requires an understanding of the powerful influence of individuals or groups who occupy their children’s time. Therefore, these parents limit social settings with people who do not share the values, beliefs and subsequent behaviors of the family. In short, these parents have a destination for their children’s childhood: an adulthood that has as its foundation the values, beliefs and behaviors exemplified in their son or daughters family of origin.


Five Steps to Purity for Christian Men

by Steve Wood

Our sex-saturated culture makes it a challenge for Christian men to live a pure life. It takes intentional steps for men to keep their moral bearings in today’s world.The purpose of this article is to highlight five time-proven methods to strengthen your spiritual life. There’s nothing new and fancy here. I’m just covering those things that have worked for Christian men throughout the centuries, including those believers who successfully lived in the midst of ancient pagan cultures that were similar to our neo-pagan culture.1. ConfessionConfession cleanses us from sin, provides an objective cure for guilt that counseling by itself cannot, and strengthens us spiritually. It is good to go to Confession and it is even better to go to Confession regularly.For whatever reason, if you are a man who hasn’t been to Confession in a long, long time, why not rid yourself of guilt and renew your spiritual life?If you are looking for a good book to read on Confession, you will not be disappointed with Scott Hahn’s Lord Have Mercy. Also, Father Rego’s Guide to Conscience is one of the most useful tools for preparation for Confession that I have seen.“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:8-92. Prayer“Through prayer, we are able to be with God. He who is with God is far from the enemy. Prayer is the support and defense of chastity, the restraint on anger, the appeasement and control of pride. Prayer is the guardian of virginity, protection of fidelity in marriage, [and] hope for those who keep vigil.” Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience 09-05-07, quoting St. Gregory of Nyssa.Any man desiring to maintain, or recover, a pure life can’t do better than praying the Rosary. Even saying a single “Hail Mary” during a momentary temptation has powerful beneficial effects.3. The Eucharist“The effects flowing from the Eucharist have been called a ‘fountain of graces.’ They include a deeper union with Christ and an increase in sanctifying grace, thereby strengthening a man’s spiritual life. Holy Communion also has the effects of helping to free us from daily faults, preserving our souls from mortal sin, and a lessening of concupiscence (disordered appetites or desires which produce an inclination to sin).” Breaking Free, p. 26[The Eucharist] “restrains and represses the lusts of the flesh, for while it inflames the soul more ardently with the fire of charity, it of necessity extinguishes the ardor of concupiscence.” - The Catechism of the Council of TrentGo to Mass regularly and frequently.4. FastingMy prayer book has the following petition:“May our inmost soul be pure and the folly of impurity find in us no place; may moderation in food and drink wear down the body’s pride. So that when day has gone, and night, as God planned, has returned, we may be found free from sin though our self-restraint and thus sing praise to Him.”Officium Divinum (Divine Office), Angelus Press, 2001.Moderation in food and drink, and especially fasting, strengthens us spiritually. Most of us need to be toughened up and fasting is a good way to do it.5. ScripturePsalm 119:9 asks the question many men ask, “How can a young man keep his way pure?” The second half of the verse goes on to answer, “By guarding it according to thy word."Jesus used scripture to ward off the temptations of Satan at the end of his forty days fasting in the wilderness. We would be foolish not to follow his example in using scripture when facing temptation. All men in today’s toxic culture should have a regular exposure to the scriptures.


Get Your Kids Out of Toxic Schools

by Steve Wood

One of the biggest unrecognized perils facing Catholic families in our cultural crisis is the menace of “happy Catholicism.” From my experience of fourteen years in Catholic media, I’ve encountered a strong preference for happy news over realistic news. In ancient Israel, God chastised his people who wanted to hear “smooth things” rather than the sobering news of their condition. Listen to God’s rebuke through the prophet Isaiah:“They are … children unwilling to hear the instruction of the LORD: who say to the prophets … ‘Do not prophesy to us what is right: speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions.” – Isaiah 30:9-10If you have children or grandchildren, then desiring a type of “happy Catholicism” could lead to fatal mistakes since critical child-rearing decisions should be made in light of a realistic evaluation of the cultural condition and not as you wish things were. (See Legacy, chapter 6.)When the President of the United States declares …“NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month.”… It means that as a nation we have fallen into a deep pit and it means that every Christian father has to wake up and remain spiritually alert. Catholic parents must make some tough decisions that will minimize the chances of our children and grandchildren joining President Obama, unjust judges, weak-willed Republican and Democratic leaders, corrupt teachers, and media activists in the pit of cultural corruption.Get Your Kids Out of Toxic SchoolsI repeat my counsel that it is time to get your kids out of crummy schools. Homosexual indoctrination through classroom sex-education coupled with values clarification and moral relativism (i.e., nothing is really right or wrong) will rot your child’s soul.If at all possible, get your children out of government schools. Also avoid the plague of liberal heterodox Catholic schools since they are spiritually toxic and in some ways worse than public schools.If you are sitting on the fence about this major educational decision, then I urge you to watch just nine seconds (0:48 – 0:57) from this trailer of the DVD, Indoctrination. These nine seconds should help solidify your decision to act.Get Your Kids into Good SchoolsYou have two choices: Catholic homeschooling, or good Catholic schools. If you have a good affordable Catholic school in your town and you don’t want to homeschool, then by all means use it.What if you don’t feel equipped to homeschool and can’t afford a local parish school? In that case I recommend finding an affordable and orthodox Catholic school by moving to a town like Lincoln, Nebraska.For the sake of comparison, good orthodox Catholic schools in the Greenville, SC area cost between $4,400 and $5,500 in tuition for the grade school years. In contrast, for members of the St. Joseph parish in Lincoln the annual tuition is $535 (this isn’t a typo) with discounts for additional children. In addition, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has the best Catholic campus ministry that I’ve seen anywhere in the world.Many of you who can’t conceive of being able to homeschool might have a dramatic change of mind if you took the time to investigate how online education is revolutionizing both traditional classroom education as well as homeschooling. For example, in many traditional math classes teachers aren’t doing the teaching. They use a free online resource known as the Khan Academy. After students watch a math video relevant to the unit of study, teachers then spend classroom time assisting individual students with their homework. This has been termed “the 180 revolution in education.” Homeschooling parents no longer need to struggle teaching unfamiliar subjects. The Catholic homeschooler can use complete online courses, like the Khan Academy, where America’s top instructors teach the difficult subjects. Parents are then free to tutor those subjects they feel comfortable and confident in teaching. The Internet is revolutionizing Catholic homeschooling. Don’t eliminate this good educational option before investigating it.If you listen and watch both secular and religious broadcasts, you might get the impression that the outcome of the cultural wars ultimately depends on the winner of the next Republican presidential nomination, or the outcome of the next election. While elections are critically important, the educational formation of your child’s heart and mind is infinitely more important and will ultimately determine the future of our nation.Sometimes godless revolutionaries are wiser than Christians in determining what is central in changing culture. For example, one of the fiercest persecutions of Catholics in modern history occurred just on the other side of the border from the United States less than 90 years ago. These events were depicted in the movie (which I hope you’ve seen, if not get the DVD), For Greater Glory. In an attempt to stamp out Catholicism in Mexico, all Catholic religious education was forbidden, Catholic schools were closed, and secular school teachers were forced to take this oath:

“I, _______, before the Federal Board of Education, solemnly declare, without any reservation whatsoever, to accept the program of the Socialist School and to be its propagandist and defender; I declare myself an atheist, an irreconcilable enemy of the Roman, Apostolic, Catholic religion, and that I will exert my efforts to destroy it, releasing the conscience from every religious worship and to be ready to fight against the clergy in whatever field it may be necessary.”

I urge you to make a wise decision regarding the education of your children. You still have the freedom to educate your children with the light of Faith. Take advantage of your freedom while you have it.


Who Is to Blame for Measles?

By Elizabeth Lee Vliet, M.D.

The focus of the Obama Administration and media in the measles outbreak in the U.S. has been on American parents not vaccinating their children.This overlooks a key issue that other physicians and I warned about in May and June 2014: Illegal immigrants coming across the U.S. southern borders in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California were bringing with them many invisible travelers. These unwanted guests include viruses, bacteria, and fungal diseases that the U.S. had eradicated or controlled decades ago. Measles was one of the diseases mentioned then, since it is widespread in parts of the world from which the illegal immigration surge is coming—in particular, Central America.Fast forward to 2015 and suddenly we have the widespread outbreak of measles that was predicted. But the blame is being placed on “bad parents” who don’t want to vaccinate their children for fear of side effects of the vaccines.Because the U.S. declared that it had eradicated measles in 2000, parents were right to wonder why they should take an unnecessary risk. They are not the cause of this current outbreak. Being unvaccinated does not give you measles. Lawlessness on our borders is the culprit that re-introduced the measles virus to our territory. The same government that broke our immigration laws is now blaming U.S. parents for the predictable consequences of its policy. The U.S. government both facilitated and encouraged the flood of illegal border crossers, and assisted their rapid dispersal to cities across the U.S.Now the government that fails to follow its own laws is saying it will mandate that all parents vaccinate their children to protect against the disease it allowed to enter the U.S.Clearly there are risks to the public’s health with this measles outbreak. Most children recover quickly, but some patients, particularly adults, may have serious consequences: encephalitis, deafness, and even death. Additionally, such disease outbreaks are very costly: the expense of tracking contacts in an attempt to contain spread, as well as increased medical costs. Taxpayer-subsidized medical care for illegals is estimated to account for 20% to 40% of uncompensated (“free”) medical services. Then there are the economic burdens of lost productivity while ill or caring for sick family members.To vaccinate or not? Passions run high on both sides of the issue. Some parents object on moral grounds. Some parents fear the risk of autism. Even though we have no proof of a causal link between vaccines and autism, it is hard to ignore the anguish families have experienced when a normal, healthy, vibrant child suddenly becomes withdrawn and loses language skills soon after a mandatory vaccine. We simply may never know a “definitive” answer on this issue. Should the government force parents to take a risk they find unacceptable?There are valid reasons to vaccinate children, and adults. There are valid reasons not to do so. Both sides of the decision are medical ones, best made between physician and patient, based on the circumstances of each individual patient.Then there is another overlooked issue. The U.S. has only one company now making the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, with components, such as material from aborted fetuses, that make it morally objectionable to some parents. A similar vaccine, without the objectionable components, is available in Japan, but the FDA does not allow it to be imported into the U.S.  In Chile, where I am currently working with a new medical services program, there are several different manufacturers for these vaccines, allowing more choice in type of vaccine used, and better options for risk management related to possible side effects.We must stop blaming parents and face the fact that this measles outbreak has many causes, starting with our own government’s failed policies.We need to get back on track:

  • Follow our immigration laws and proper medical screening for people who wish to come to the U.S. legally.
  • Allow medical decisions to remain between physicians and patients, and not be dictated in the political arena.
  • Allow free-market principles to operate with development of multiple sources of vaccines, not just one company having a monopoly on the U.S. market.

Article from The Times Examiner, Wednesday 2/11/15 issue, p. 9. Reprinted with permission from author, Elizabeth Lee Vliet, M.D.Parents interested in learning more about vaccines derived from aborted fetal cell lines, visit Children of God for Life.


What Families Need to Know about the Ebola Outbreak

By Elizabeth Lee Vliet, M.D.

Ebola. Chikungunya. Dengue. Norovirus. Hantavirus. Swine flu. Varicella. Variola. The names sound like something out of a Sci-Fi movie. Yet, threats to American families are real, and escalating by the week. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reported on August 1 that serious diseases are spreading at detention centers for Illegal border crossers. Health care workers and Border Patrol agents, plus their children, have tested positive for tuberculosis (TB), swine flu, chicken pox, lice and scabies. Instead of being quarantined, illegal border crossers are being dispersed rapidly across the U.S., with those of school age being registered in public schools opening soon for all.Border Patrol Council reports that 75 percent of illegal border crossers are from countries around the globe, other than Mexico. They are bringing diseases not common to, or eradicated from, the U.S.:

  • Multiple-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) is spreading in India and Pakistan. Illegals from those countries have been identified coming across our southern borders.
  • July 23, China announced it had sealed off the city of Yumen due to a deadly outbreak of bubonic plague. Chinese are so numerous in the current surge of illegals that the federal government has added Mandarin translations to emergency signs across the Texas border regions.
  • Mexico has serious outbreaks of dengue fever, which can produce debilitating physical and neurological effects, and also has more severe and deadly hemorrhagic forms.
  • Deadly Ebola hemorrhagic fever is raging out of control in multiple countries in West Africa. Border Patrol agents confirmed that West Africans have been apprehended coming via Mexico into the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, with a number of seriously ill individuals whisked away to undisclosed locations for treatment of undisclosed illnesses. ABC News reported in mid-July that seriously ill illegals were flown from Texas to Ventura Naval base recently with high fever, respiratory difficulties, and coughing blood. At least three required ICU admission. No information was released on what illness was diagnosed, but the time course, severity of symptoms, and need for immediate ICU treatment is not typical for tuberculosis and more consistent with Ebola or hemorrhagic forms of dengue fever.

Ebola is one of the most lethal diseases we face, with a death rate from 60-90 percent of infected patients. It is a horrible death as the virus attacks the blood vessels leading to hemorrhaging internally and externally. There are no good treatments or vaccines.Ebola's use as a weapon of terror and mass destruction has been documented by GlobalSecurity.org, which reports that the former Soviet Union biological weapons program had weaponized the Ebola virus, and that Aum Shinrikyo, the Japanese terror group, recently sent members to Africa to harvest the virus during an outbreak.After long neglecting the contagious disease issues that arose in early June, on July 31, ABC, NBC, CBS and other news outlets simultaneously reported the arrival of two Ebola patients from Africa. Does this give "plausible deniability" to the possible role of illegal border-crossers in bringing Ebola to the U.S.?Not very contagious? Really? Then why do World Health Organization (WHO) officials say the "worst on record" Ebola outbreak in three countries in West Africa is spreading out of control? Why all the special haz-mat suits for doctors and nurses? Why did two doctors die treating Ebola patients? Why all the special and expensive isolation units for Ebola patients? In sharp contrast to WHO, US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and government spokespersons seem to be going out of their way to downplay risks to Americans.Dr. Richard Besser, a former acting director of CDC during the swine flu outbreak, and now ABC News chief health and medical editor, said "There is nothing to prevent someone traveling here asymptomatically during the incubation period." Then once ill, the person can easily infect many others, who in turn spread the virus further.CDC has recently been under fire for mishandling deadly pathogens, including smallpox and anthrax. Yet Dr. Thomas Frieden, CDC director, told reporters on July 31 that Ebola spread in the U.S. is "not in the cards." But can we rely on his opinion that risk to Americans is low?If risk is so low for the US, why is CDC quietly setting up Ebola Quarantine Centers in 20 cities across the USA? Why did the Congressional Record report that Ebola Bio kits have been deployed to National Guard units in all 50 states?These are undisputed facts:

  • Experts agree that we don't know all there is to know about Ebola's methods of spread.
  • Border Patrol sources repeatedly warn that we do not know who is coming across our southern borders, all the countries of origin, what diseases they may carry, or where they go after being released with a summons to appear months later in court.
  • Agents report we are apprehending only about three to five percent of the total illegal border crossers now.

There are too many unknowns. There is too much information being actively suppressed by this Administration and the politically appointed heads of DHS, HHS, CDC, ICE and other agencies.Americans have a right to straight talk about risks. Americans deserve a government focused FIRST on protecting the health and safety of American citizens. Reckless disregard for health is not humane.Article from The Times Examiner, Wednesday 8/6/14 issue, p. 9. Reprinted with permission from author, Elizabeth Lee Vliet, M.D.


Sibling Fights: Training Ground for Marriage

by Bill Bellet and Marie Bellet

Parents can get very discouraged when their children do not get along. We all dream of a mutually supportive family filled with peace and understanding. Does sibling fighting reflect our neglect as parents who allow a stew of selfishness and degradation - the stuff of reality TV? Actually, kids learning to fight and work through sibling rivalry is an irreplaceable training ground for marriage and all relationships.It’s important to remember that kids often fight simply because they want to fight. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a real problem to be solved. Many parents, mothers in particular, view fighting as a sign of their own failure to instill virtues in their children. It is actually a valuable part of growing up. There is no need to referee a solution.Kids need to know how to fight. They need to know that it is OK to push back and confront others when we are hurt or when we see them doing something that is wrong. They need to know how to handle their anger productively. We also need to teach them that nothing trumps forgiveness in healing relationships.We should intervene when feelings are being hurt. We should not allow fighting to become too personal or hurtful. The best of families always show respect, engage in disagreements with a sense of humor and never say or do anything to others that is degrading. The mocking example set in so many modern television sitcoms with sarcastic eye-rolling is humiliating and has to be off limits, no matter how funny the kids think they are being. Name-calling, demeaning remarks and ganging up on each other are off limits! Good-humored teasing that encourages everyone not to take themselves too seriously is OK. Kids have to develop the sensitivity to know the difference.Setting high expectations for how kids treat each other must start when they are young. We forced our kids when they were very young to kiss and make up after a fight and to sit with each other alone in the same room for half an hour. It is a good way to teach that you cannot “amputate” when there is a disagreement. You still have to bear with one another whether you want to or not!The culture of death is all about destroying relationships. Modern parenting styles unwittingly contribute to this destruction. Many parents, in an effort to just “keep the peace,” avoid sibling fights by providing electronic plug-ins for each individual child to keep them distracted, placated and quiet. While convenient, this is a huge mistake. Once the kids are not plugged in, they are even less able to get along because they have the false sense of being able to control the sensory stream coming their way – not unlike their music, games, and shows. They do not even have to argue about what to watch! Nothing has been solved. In fact, valuable years have been wasted. Even though the kids have shared the same home, they do not have a shared history. They have each lived in their own private, isolated world, which tolerates none of the messy irritation that defines human relationships.Kids clashing over who gets to play with things, who gets to talk at dinner, jealousies, access to facilities or privileges, etc., are invaluable learning experiences. They learn to share, to compromise, to be assertive, to give, to respect another’s response to them, and when they have gone too far. This is the work of becoming a companion, a friend, a future spouse. As irritating and difficult as it is, it cannot be replaced. Relationships are all about self-control. Sibling fights are an excellent training ground – “boot camp” for adulthood.We encourage parents to give their children the gift of each other. Let them be bored and learn to hash it out. Unless there is real meanness, let them figure it out if they talk too much or are too whiny, bossy or uncooperative. Better now than later. Nobody wants to be with someone who cannot tolerate the reality of another person. Their future spouses will appreciate it.


Family Moral Media with ClearPlay

by Steve Wood

The ClearPlay DVD filters and players are the very best option for family media management that I’ve seen in the past decade. If you watch movies in your home rated above “G”, then you need ClearPlay.I’ve used profanity blocking devices with success, but these didn’t do anything with the visual part of bad scenes. I’ve tried rental services that mailed edited DVDs, but the services were slow, the quality poor, and the DVDs often unplayable.ClearPlay offers DVD filters for over 4,500 movies and television shows. The filters can be used with DVDs that you purchase, rent, or borrow. ClearPlay is continually coming out with new and updated filters that can be quickly downloaded. You burn the downloaded filters to a special USB drive.It is a simple three-step process to watch a movie. First, you load the movie DVD into a special ClearPlay enabled DVD player and the player reads the movie title. Second, you load the USB drive with the filter into the player and it automatically loads the filter in a few seconds. Third, you are notified that the filter is loaded and you hit the play button. The whole process takes about a minute.This is such great technology that eight motion picture studios, the Directors Guild of America and about a dozen directors, including Steven Spielberg, sued for copyright infringement and for altering artistic products against companies offering DVDs that were edited for family friendliness. Hollywood wasn’t happy that smut, profanity, nudity, and excessive violence had been edited out of their creations. And I thought Hollywood was for “freedom of choice?”The United States Congress came to the rescue by passing the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act that permits filtering technology for movies. President Bush signed the bill into law on April 27, 2005.Be advised: I am definitely not giving a recommendation to every movie for which a ClearPlay filter is available, nor am I endorsing every editing decision made by ClearPlay.Families need to monitor the media in the home in order to preserve the faith and morals of children. Many parents regretfully discover way too late the media mistakes they make. Your guardian role as parents includes protecting your kids from the excesses of Hollywood. ClearPlay, while not inexpensive, is a valuable tool that helps you fulfill your role without saying “no” to every media request.To get started you’ll need a ClearPlay equipped DVD player and a filter subscription.Visit ClearPlay and see what they offer.


Video: Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation on the Family with Raymond Arroyo


Three men who are faithful to the Church, love the Holy Father, nevertheless have some balanced concerns regarding the release of the Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia.


Is the Pope Toying with Heresy?

By Patrick J. Buchanan

Are Catholic truths immutable? Or can they change with the changing times?This is the deeper question behind the issues that convulsed the three-week synod on the family of the 250 Catholic bishops in Rome that ended Saturday.A year ago, German Cardinal Walter Kasper called on the church to change — to welcome homosexual couples, and to permit cohabiting and divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion.Retorted traditionalists: This is heresy.Had the pope followed his friend Cardinal Kasper and ordered Catholic teaching and diocesan practice changed, he could have provoked a schism inside the Church.Such a change in doctrine would have called into question papal infallibility. Defined at the Vatican Council of 1869-70, that doctrine declares that when the pope teaches ex cathedra, on matters of faith and morals, he is protected from error by the Holy Ghost. Doctrinal truths, taught by popes in communion with the bishops, down through the ages, cannot change.But if Catholic truths about the indissolubility of marriage and intrinsic immorality of homosexual unions can be changed, then, either the Church has been in grave error in the past, or the Church is toying with heresy today.Saturday, The Washington Post described the synod as a “brawl over Francis’ vision of inclusion.”Reporter Anthony Faiola compared the synod deliberations to a Tea Party rebellion in John Boehner’s House caucus, and the pope to a change agent like Barack Obama who finds himself blocked and frustrated by conservatives.Saturday’s document from the synod ignored the call for a new Church stance toward homosexual unions. And it did not approve of giving Communion to divorced and remarried Catholics, whom the Church considers to be living in adultery.Yet, in Sunday’s sermon the pope seemed angered by both the defiance of the resisting bishops and the conclusions the synod reached. To Pope Francis, the traditionalists appear to be placing the strictures of moral law above the Gospel command of mercy.“None of the disciples stopped, as Jesus did” said Francis of the blind man. “If Bartimaeus was blind, they were deaf. His problem was not their problem.“This can be a danger to us. … A faith that does not know how to grow roots into the lives of people remains arid and, rather than oases, creates other deserts.”The pope seems to be saying that the dissenting bishops, no matter their command of moral law, are lacking in charity, the greatest of the three theological virtues.Where does the bishops’ synod on the family leave the Church?In confusion, and at risk of going the way of the Protestant churches that continue to hemorrhage congregants.Recall.With its acceptance of birth control at the Lambeth conference of 1930, the Church of England started down this road, as did its sister, the Episcopal Church. The process led to the decline of both.From birth control, to divorce and remarriage, women priests, gay clergy, homosexual bishops, same-sex marriage, the Episcopal Church first broke apart, and now appears to be going gentle into that good night.Indeed the Church of England began in schism, when Henry VIII broke with Rome after Pope Clement VII refused to approve his divorce from Catherine of Aragon and his marriage to Anne Boleyn. According to Cardinal Kasper, Clement should have cut Henry some slack.In this battle between traditionalists in the synod and the bishops who favor acceptance of some or all of Kasper’s recommendations, the pope seems to stand squarely on the side of the reformers.Yet, it was the Protestant Reformation that destroyed the unity of Catholicism, five centuries ago, as it divided nations and led to conflicts of religion and nationalism, such as the Thirty Years War.How the Catholic Church can avoid greater confusion among the faithful — after the pope’s virtual blessing of the Kasper recommendations, and the synod’s rejection of them — escapes me.What does the pope do now?If he ignores the synod’s dissent and moves the Church toward the Kasper position, he could cause a traditionalist break, a schism. Third World bishops might well refuse to change.If he does nothing, he will disappoint Western bishops, priests and secularists who have seen in his papacy hope for an historic change in Catholic teaching and practice.If he permits the bishops to follow their consciences in their dioceses, he will advance the disintegration of the Church.The inevitable result of any of these courses that the pope chooses will be, it seems, to deepen the confusion of the faithful.As for Pope Francis himself, he, too, must choose.He can emulate Cardinal Wolsey — or Thomas More.Reprinted with permission fromPatrick J. Buchanan, Official Website


Catholics Cannot Accept Elements of Apostolic Exhortation That Threaten Faith and Family

The promulgation of the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia by Pope Francis marks the conclusion of a synodal process that has been dominated by attempts to undermine Catholic teaching on matters relating to human life, marriage and the family, on questions including, but not limited to, the indissolubility of marriage, contraception, artificial methods of reproduction, homosexuality, “gender ideology” and the rights of parents and children. These attempts to distort Catholic teaching have weakened the Church’s witness to the truths of the natural and supernatural order and have threatened the well-being of the family, especially its weakest and most vulnerable members.The Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia is a very lengthy document, which discusses a wide variety of subjects related to the family. There are many passages that faithfully reflect Catholic teaching but this cannot, and does not, lessen the gravity of those passages which undermine the teaching and practice of the Catholic Church. Voice of the Family intends to present full analyses of the serious problems in the text over the coming days and weeks.Voice of the Family expresses the following initial concerns with the greatest reverence for the papal office and solely out of a sincere desire to assist the hierarchy in its proclamation of Catholic teaching on life, marriage and the family and to further the authentic good of the family and its most vulnerable members.We consider that in raising the following concerns we fulfil our duty as clearly laid out in the Code of Canon Law, which states:“According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they [the Christian faithful] have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.” (Canon 212 §3)Admission of the “divorced and remarried” to Holy CommunionAmoris Laetitia, over the course of Chapter VIII (paragraphs 291-312), proposes a number of approaches that prepare the way for “divorced and remarried” Catholics to receive Holy Communion without true repentance and amendment of life. These paragraphs include:(i) confused expositions of Catholic teaching on the nature and effects of mortal sin, on the imputability of sin, and on the nature of conscience(ii) the use of ideological language in place of the Church’s traditional terminology(iii) the use of selective and misleading quotations from previous Church documents.A particularly troubling example of misquotation of previous teaching is found in paragraph 298 which quotes the statement of Pope John Paul II, made in Familiaris Consortio, that there exist situations “where, for serious reasons, such as the children’s upbringing, a man and woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate.” However in Amoris Laetitia the second half of Pope John Paul II’s sentence, which states that such couples “take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples” (Familiaris Consortio, No. 84),  is omitted.Furthermore, in the footnote to this misleading quotation, we read:“In such situations, many people, knowing and accepting the possibility of living ‘as brothers and sisters’ which the Church offers them, point out that if certain expressions of intimacy are lacking, ‘it often happens that faithfulness is endangered and the good of the children suffers’ (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 51).”The document makes reference to this erroneous view but does not explain why it is a false approach, which is namely that:(i) All sexual acts outside of a valid marriage are intrinsically evil and it is never justifiable to commit an intrinsically evil act, even in order to achieve a good end(ii) “Faithfulness is endangered” by acts of sexual intimacy outside of marriage but faithfulness is lived when two individuals in an invalid union refrain from sexual intimacy in fidelity to their original union, which remains valid(iii) The quotation implies that children will suffer because their parents, with the help of divine grace, live chastely. On the contrary, such parents are giving their children an example of fidelity, chastity and trust in the power of God’s grace.The document cites Gaudium et Spes but the passage is quoted out of context and does not support the argument made. The context makes clear that Gaudium et Spes is speaking of married Catholics, in the context of procreation, not those cohabiting in an invalid union. The full sentence is as follows:“But where the intimacy of married life is broken off, its faithfulness can sometimes be imperilled and its quality of fruitfulness ruined, for then the upbringing of the children and the courage to accept new ones are both endangered” (Gaudium et Spes, No. 51).It is therefore difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Apostolic Exhortation is at least raising the possibility that adulterous sexual acts might in some cases be justifiable and has misquotedGaudium et Spes as if to provide grounds for this.Other approaches that undermine Catholic doctrine on reception of the sacraments will be discussed by Voice of the Family in due course.Parental rights and sex educationAmoris Laetitia includes a section entitled “The Need for Sex Education” (paragraphs 280-286). This section spans more than five pages without making even one reference to parents. On the other hand there is reference to “educational institutions”. Yet sex education is “a basic right and duty of parents” which “must always be carried out under their attentive guidance, whether at home or in educational centers chosen and controlled by them” (Pope John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, No. 37). The omission of this teaching seriously fails parents at a time when parental rights regarding sex education are under serious and sustained attack in many nations of the world, and at the international institutions. In this section Amoris Laetitia does not cite any of the previous Church documents that clearly affirm this right; it does however cite a psychoanalyst, Erich Fromm, associated with the Frankfurt school. The document’s earlier references to parental rights (paragraph 84), while welcome, cannot compensate for the exclusion of parents from this section.Homosexual unionsAmoris Laetitia, following an approach similar to that previously adopted in synod documents, implies that “same-sex unions” may offer a “certain stability” and can have a kind of similarity or relation to marriage. It states that:“We need to acknowledge the great variety of family situations that can offer a certain stability, but de facto or same-sex unions, for example, may not simply be equated with marriage.” (Paragraph 53)There is great pressure at the international institutions for the rejection of the traditional understanding of the family through the adoption of language which refers to “variety” or “diversity” in the forms of the family. The implication that “same-sex unions” form part of the “great variety of family situations” is precisely what pro-family groups are fighting hard to oppose. By using such language the Apostolic Exhortation undermines the pro-family movement’s work to protect the true definition of the family and, consequently, to protect children who depend on the family structure willed by God for their well-being and healthy development.It should be noted that in paragraph 251 the authentic teaching of the Church, that “there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family” is restated.“Gender ideology”Amoris Laetitia endorses a central aspect of “gender ideology” by asserting that it “needs to be emphasized” that biological sex and socio-cultural ‘gender’ can be “distinguished but not seperated” (paragraph 56). This acceptance of the underlying principle of gender theory undermines the document’s otherwise welcome criticism of the ideology and its effects. The false notion that biological sex is distinguishable from so-called “gender” was first proposed in the 1950s and is the foundation of “gender ideology”. Opposition to the consequences of “gender ideology”will be impossible if its erroneous first principle is accepted.Attacks on innocent human lifeAmoris Laetitia fails to grapple with the scale of the threat to unborn children, the elderly and the disabled. Conservative estimates indicate that over one billion unborn lives have been destroyed by abortion over the last century. Yet in a document addressing challenges to the family, which is 263 pages long, there are only a small number of passing references to abortion. There is no mention of the destruction caused by artificial methods of reproduction, which have also resulted in the loss of millions of human lives. The absence of serious discussion of attacks on unborn life in this context is a grave omission.There is also minimal reference to euthanasia and assisted suicide despite the increasing pressure for their legalization across the world. Failure to adequately discuss this threat is likewise another very regrettable omission.ContraceptionAmoris Laetitia fails to adequately restate Catholic teaching on the use of contraception. This is a troubling oversight given that (i) the separation of the procreative and unitive ends of the sexual act is a major catalyst for the culture of death and that (ii) there is widespread disobedience and ignorance of the Church’s teaching in this area precisely because of the failure of the hierarchy to communicate this truth.  The document’s discussion of conscience is likewise flawed both in paragraph 222, which deals with “responsible parenthood”, and in Chapter VIII which deals with the admission to the sacraments of those in public adultery. Paragraph 303 is of particular concern, especially in the following assertion:“Yet conscience can do more than recognize that a given situation does not correspond objectively to the overall demands of the Gospel. It can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits, while yet not fully the objective ideal. In any event, let us recall that this discernment is dynamic; it must remain ever open to new stages of growth and to new decisions which can enable the ideal to be more fully realized.”This statement seems to adopt a false understanding of the “law of gradualness” and suggest that there are certain occasions when sin is not only unavoidable but even actively willed by God for that person. This would clearly be unacceptable.ConclusionsThis is only a brief introduction to the very numerous problems to found within Amoris Laetitia. It will take further study to fully draw out all the implications of the text but it is already abundantly clear that the document fails to give a clear and faithful exposition of Catholic doctrine and leads inescapably to conclusions that could result in violations of the immutable teaching of the Catholic Church, and those disciplines which are inextricably founded upon it. Our initial overview provides sufficient cause to regard this document as a threat to the integrity of the Catholic faith and the authentic good of the family.We reiterate once again that we make these criticisms with great reverence for the office of the papacy but with the consciousness of our duties as lay Catholics towards the good of the Church, and our duties as pro-life/pro-family campaigners to work to protect the family and its most vulnerable members.Reprinted with permission from Voice of the Family, a recommended source for truthful, faithful and respectful reporting on Catholic family issues.


Pope Francis Appears to Contradict Doctrine of Paul VI & John Paul II on Contraception

By Matthew Cullinan Hoffman

Latin America Correspondent, LifeSiteNewsWhen Pope Francis appeared to tell reporters during an in-flight press conference Wednesday that contraception can be justified as the “lesser of two evils” in cases of danger of fetal deformity, he cited the example of Pope Paul VI. However, the claim made by the pope appears to contradict the precise words contained in Pope Paul VI’s own statement on the matter in his encyclical letter Humanae Vitae of 1968.The pope’s statement came in response to a question by a Spanish reporter who asked about the dangers of the Zika virus, which has been blamed for a rash of fetal deformity cases in Latin America. “As regards avoiding pregnancy, on this issue, can the Church take into consideration the concept of ‘the lesser of two evils?’” the reporter asked.Pope Francis responded by insisting that abortion can never be justified, but implied strongly that contraception can. “Abortion is not the lesser of two evils,” said Francis. “It is a crime. It is to throw someone out in order to save another. That’s what the Mafia does. It is a crime, an absolute evil.”However, the pope added, “On the ‘lesser evil,’ avoiding pregnancy, we are speaking in terms of the conflict between the fifth and sixth commandment. Paul VI, a great man, in a difficult situation in Africa, permitted nuns to use contraceptives in cases of rape.”  After reiterating that abortion is never morally justified, he said, “On the other hand, avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil. In certain cases, as in this one, such as the one I mentioned of Blessed Paul VI, it was clear.”The pope’s reference to Paul VI pertains to an alleged decision made by the then-pontiff regarding a situation in the Belgian Congo during the 1960s, when nuns were in danger of being raped. The pope reportedly recognized that the women were not actively engaged in a sexual act but were passive recipients of an attack, and therefore could take measures to protect themselves from the intrusion of rapists. (UPDATE: It now appears that decision in question never actually happened.  Fr. Zuhldorf has the details here.)However, in 1968, Pope Paul VI not only appeared to condemn the reasoning cited by Pope Francis in his in-flight press conference on Wednesday, but expressly rejected the same words Francis himself used.In paragraph 14 of his celebrated encyclical letter Humanae Vitae, Paul VI condemns both abortion and sterilization as a means to avoid pregnancy from sexual intercourse as “absolutely excluded” as moral options. He then adds: “Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means.”RELATED: The damage done – again – by the Pope’s interviewIn what appears to be an almost perfect anticipation of the argument made by Pope Francis on Wednesday, Paul VI then goes on to add:

Neither is it valid to argue, as a justification for sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive, that a lesser evil is to be preferred to a greater one, or that such intercourse would merge with procreative acts of past and future to form a single entity, and so be qualified by exactly the same moral goodness as these. Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good," it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it (18)—in other words, to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general. Consequently, it is a serious error to think that a whole married life of otherwise normal relations can justify sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive and so intrinsically wrong (emphasis mine).

Although Pope Paul VI recognized that lesser evils might be tolerated for the sake of avoiding greater evils, he expressly condemned the notion that one could morally defend an act of contraception, which he calls “intrinsically wrong,” by claiming that a lesser evil is to be preferred to a greater one. This appears to be the precise reasoning of Pope Francis.Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical letter Veritatis Splendor (the Splendor of Truth), cited the same passage of Humanae Vitae for the purpose of condemning erroneous opinions in moral theology in 1993. In opposition to those theologians who wished to claim that intrinsically evil acts could somehow be justified under certain circumstances, John Paul II writes:

Reason attests that there are objects of the human act which are by their nature ‘incapable of being ordered’ to God, because they radically contradict the good of the person made in his image. These are the acts which, in the Church's moral tradition, have been termed ‘intrinsically evil’ (intrinsece malum): they are such always and per se, in other words, on account of their very object, and quite apart from the ulterior intentions of the one acting and the circumstances. Consequently, without in the least denying the influence on morality exercised by circumstances and especially by intentions, the Church teaches that "there exist acts which per se and in themselves, independently of circumstances, are always seriously wrong by reason of their object

Pope John Paul II then quoted Pope Paul VI’s statement, quoted above, that contraception cannot be defended as the lesser of two evils. “With regard to intrinsically evil acts, and in reference to contraceptive practices whereby the conjugal act is intentionally rendered infertile, Pope Paul VI teaches: . . .” The quote cited above by Pope Paul VI follows, verbatim.In Veritatis Splendor, John Pual also cites the following statement from a 1967 allocution by Pope Paul VI to members of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer: “Far be it from Christians to be led to embrace another opinion, as if the Council taught that nowadays some things are permitted which the Church had previously declared intrinsically evil. Who does not see in this the rise of a depraved moral relativism, one that clearly endangers the Church's entire doctrinal heritage?”Despite the seemingly clear disparity between Pope Francis’ words and those of his recent predecessors regarding the intrinsic evil of contraception, the papal spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi is defending the pope’s statement, and is even citing Pope Paul VI to justify it.“The contraceptive or condom, in particular cases of emergency or gravity, could be the object of discernment in a serious case of conscience,” Lombardi told Vatican Radio today. “This is what the Pope said.”Lombardi added that the pope was speaking of “the possibility of taking recourse to contraception or condoms in cases of emergency or special situations. He is not saying that this possibility is accepted without discernment, indeed, he said clearly that it can be considered in cases of special urgency.”Lombardi reiterated the example that Pope Francis made of Pope Paul VI’s supposed “authorization of the use of the pill for the religious who were at very serious risk” of rape.  This, said Lombardi, “makes us understand that it is not that it was a normal situation in which this was taken into account.”Reprinted with permission from LifeSiteNews, a reliable source of pro-life, pro-family and pro-faith news.


What's All the Fuss? Pope Francis & Changes to Marriage Nullity Procedures

By Philip C.L. Gray, J.C.L.

Dearly beloved, taking all care to write unto you concerning your common salvation, I was under a necessity to write unto you: to beseech you to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3).When I became President of The St. Joseph Foundation, I adopted the Epistle of Jude, particularly verse 3, as my mandate in office.  Before reading any further, I urge each of you to prayerfully read this very short, often forgotten epistle.  Its message deeply influences this article and my views on the crisis present in the Church today.Contemporary ContextOn September 8, 2015, the Pope significantly changed certain procedures in marriage nullity cases worldwide.  The motu proprio, Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus, effected these changes in the Western (Latin) Church; Mitis et misericors Iesus, did the same for the Eastern Catholic Churches.  It is important to note that the changes only change ecclesiastical laws that affect procedures for hearing marriage nullity cases.  Acting as the Chief Legislator for the Universal Church, the Pope used his power to alter ecclesiastical discipline.  He did not proscribe doctrine.  He did not redefine marriage.  He did not define a matter of faith or morals.  Depending on one’s theological leanings, personal circumstances, or both, one may laud or complain.These recent changes in law take place during a time of rampant, moral relativism that has imbedded itself firmly within modern thought and practice—including the thoughts and practices of clerics, religious, and laity who catechize and influence millions of people.  Oftentimes, this moral relativism is expressed in the Church by way of a negligence that encourages a co-existence with evil rather than affirmative action to denounce it.  For example, what have bishops and priests done to decrease the number of divorces and encourage fidelity in marriage?  Where was the outrage from American bishops over the recent recognition of same-sex marriages?  What is the most affluent bishops’ conference doing to address an evil that caused the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and cited as a cause for the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of the Jews (c.f. Is. 3:9; Jer. 23:14; et al.)?I have found very few opinions or comments on the recent changes to law that I agree with, and almost none that I entirely agree with. I have been a canon lawyer for over 20 years, and have spent this time defending the faithful against unreasonable and unjust processes.  I cannot remember anytime that the number of my clients did not include those in a marriage nullity dispute.Historical ContextIn 1741, Pope Benedict XIV was Pope.  The Protestant Reformation, the Counter-reformation, and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire had occurred almost two centuries before.  Catholicism was settling into a co-existence with Protestantism in Europe, and the Church’s influence in secular society was declining.  Catholics were adopting Protestant views and values. Catholics married, divorced, obtained annulments and remarried multiple times over short periods.  The Pope was appalled.  He lamented that many would go through three marriages, and some even six marriages, in a lifetime.  The annulment process was easy.  If couples agreed on the facts of their situation, they could obtain an annulment without the need for unnecessary and bulky processes.  As the family goes, so goes society; and family life in the Catholic Church was on the verge of collapse.  The Pope acted decisively.  He instituted new procedures and elements to the annulment process that required a defense of the marriage bond itself in protection of marriage and family.Over time, the new elements to the process had an instructive effect.  By the 20th Century, it would be rare in Europe or the America’s for anyone—including non-Catholics—to believe the Catholic Church allowed divorce and remarriage.  People still had affairs; marriage vows were violated; but the Church’s clear position became an occasion for many couples to reconcile.  In fact, both the 1917 and the 1983 Codes of Canon Law, in reflection and application of Divine Law, obligate pastors and couples to pursue reconciliation before an annulment—even if a separation or divorce has already occurred; even if the marriage was invalid (Canons 529§1, 1676, et al.).In 1972, the Holy See allowed what were called the American Procedural Norms (APN) to be used experimentally in the United States.  The APN provided much the same procedures that the new law now provides.  Many canonists and priests hoped that the APN would be introduced into the 1983 Code of Canon Law.  After more than ten years of the experiment, Pope St. John Paul II rejected them.  The experiment was considered a failure due to significant, negative effects on Catholic marriages and family life in North America.A picture is worth a thousand words; allow me to paint a picture of the negative effects with quotes made by priests, canonists, even a professor of Canon Law, in the wake of the APN. “I can prove that all marriages are invalid.”  “God would never let divorce happen if the marriage is valid.”  “Anyone who opposes an annulment is a problem to be dealt with.” None of these comments focus on truth or reflect an objective doctrine on the indissolubility and sanctity of marriage.  I have heard from many people who approached their pastors for help in a difficult marriage situation, and were told, “Get a divorce, and I can make sure you get an annulment.  It will be easy.” And what about the children?  The law says they are not illegitimate, but that’s not their perception.  A primary, motivating influence on my clients—Protestant and Catholic—for defending the validity of their marriages, is their concern for the sake of their children. I know of no study or concern shown for the effects of a marriage nullity process on the children of the spouses; but from my conversations with those children, it is significant and it is negative.  Many turn away from God.What’s all the fuss?If you wake up and a fire is raging in your home, what would you take with you out of the house? Would you go for irreplaceable items that have significant meaning or the latest newspaper?  When the fire department comes, the firemen don’t throw fuel on the blaze to give themselves more to do. They do their job.  It’s a simple fact; we protect what is important to us.  Unfortunately, Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus removes necessary protections provided by law.  The world is burning the institution of marriage with the fires of hedonism (fornication, divorce, abortion, same-sex unions), and the Church gives us an easier way to claim freedom from our spouses.The document was issued in Italian and Latin, but the Vatican News Service published two articles in English that summarize the content of the documents.I urge Christifidelis readers to read at least the English articles.  If you do not have access to a computer and printer and want a copy, please call or write to us.  Because of space considerations, I offer a summary of the more harmful changes made to the current law followed by my comments on those points.No automatic review: Reflecting a fundamental principle to the ancient system of Roman (Civil) Law, all affirmative decisions issued by a Church tribunal must be reviewed by a higher court and either ratified by that court or submitted to an ordinary examination at trial. This mandatory, second instance review is a check and balance intended to discourage subjectivity, collusion, and laxity in the exercise of justice in the Church’s judiciary.  Many characterize this as an “automatic appeal”.  It is not an appeal but an obligatory review intrinsic to this system of justice.  The Pope abolished this mandatory, second instance review for marriage nullity cases only.Fewer judges: Canonical trials require a tribunal of at least three judges to issue a decision.  This requirement is also a check and balance in favor of objectivity and justice. The current Code of Canon Law allows conferences of bishops to allow a single, clerical (deacon or priest) judge to issue a decision in marriage nullity cases during the first instance trial, though bishops are not obligated to allow only one judge.  Second instance reviews must retain three or more judges.  The Pope has regularized the use of a sole judge.  With the abolition of a mandatory, second instance review, marriage cases will now be decided habitually by a single cleric.Rejection of an appeal: Currently, a second instance tribunal must follow a very specific process to determine whether an appeal made against a lower court will be heard.  The initial decision to hear the appeal or ratify the lower court is given by decree that explains the motivation of the three judges involved.  The Pope has added the possibility of a second instance tribunal to dispense from such a process and issue a rejection of the appeal a limine (literally, at the gate). This simply means the head of a second instance court, or one properly empowered by law or delegation, could reject an appeal summarily and simply issue a letter to that effect.The expressed intention of the Pope is to limit the number of cases heard on appeal.  As expressly stated by the Vatican, a second instance court could reject an appeal a limine if the court believed the appellant was abusing the right to appeal with an evident lack of supporting documentation.  Another reason identified is termed “instrumental appeals”; meaning the appeal is intended to harm the other party by dragging out the process. The specific scenario identified in which this could occur was a non-Catholic appellant who had already re-married after the divorce (the Vatican did not qualify this example any further).The new process: The diocesan bishop is the First Judge of his diocese.  That is, regardless of his training or background, every diocesan bishop, by virtue of his consecration and office, supervises the administration of justice in his diocese and may choose to serve as a judge in any trial conducted by his diocesan tribunal.  The Pope has now obligated diocesan bishops to act as a sole judge in all fast-tracked cases within his respective diocese.The Pope has established a new, fast-track process “to be applied in cases in which the alleged nullity of the marriage is supported by particularly clear arguments[i].  Of note, “supported by particularly clear arguments” would apply in cases when both the man and woman in the marriage nullity process agree to fundamental facts associated with the claim of nullity.  This is a departure from Canon 1536, §2, which does not allow a judge to arrive at moral certitude in favor of marriage nullity from the testimony of the parties alone.Salus animarum: It is important to note that the Holy Father expressly intended to streamline the marriage nullity process in order to provide for the salvation of souls.  He wants people in irregular unions—the divorced and remarried—to have greater opportunity to be reconciled with the Church and receive the sacraments again.Two Cents and More…In my opinion, the changes to the marriage nullity procedures will prove harmful to the Virtue of Justice and diminishes necessary safeguards that protect the sanctity of marriage and family.  Here’s why.Any legitimate and just system of law provides checks and balances against subjectivity, collusion, and any other element that may obstruct the Virtue of Justice.  Removing one element from a legal system without balancing that removal with some other method or element creates a loophole easily exploited.  Canonical trials for centuries have relied on the element of mandatory second instance reviews, three judge panels in first instance, and the procedures used on appeal to safeguard objectivity and truth in marriage nullity trials.  Removing these elements without providing other checks and balances substantially alters a system of law and creates significant loopholes that allow unjust practices.For example, I know of many cases in which the petitioner “bought” an annulment.  In one case, I actually saw a letter identifying the reward to be given.  In other cases, I know of judges who act out of fear of reprisal by their bishop or the judicial vicar.  More commonly, most tribunal judges I have encountered in North America demand a lower threshold of proof to arrive at moral certitude than demanded by papal instructions and long-standing jurisprudence.  In my experiences, the truths surrounding the marriages in question often have little value.  I have used the elements now removed to ensure an objective hearing for my clients.  The results are staggering.  More than 90% of the decisions issued against my clients were overturned on appeal.  In some cases, corrective action was taken against tribunal personnel.  Effective December 8, 2015, those safeguards will no longer exist.My concerns about removing essential elements of a process apply also to the innovation of a fast-track process for particular cases of marriage nullity.  This innovation is similar to certain elements of the APN and pre-1741 processes.  It was the failure of those procedures to provide objectively for the protection of rights that led to their demise.The innovation of a limine rejection of appeals is disturbing to me.  It is held as a matter of Natural Law that a person’s right to appeal is inalienable.  I recognize that this innovation in the process does not abolish the right to appeal.  I also understand that the implementation of law must be reasonable, and that unreasonable appeals should be rejected.  Nonetheless, given the aversion of many North American tribunals to objectively and comprehensively evaluate the facts of a marriage nullity petition, I am most concerned over how this will be done and the motivations used to reject appeals.Currently, a limine rejections of appeals are an element of the administrative appeal process at the Apostolic Signatura.  However, if the Supreme Tribunal rejects a case in limine, the appellant has the right to demand a full hearing from that Tribunal’s Congresso.  In other words, though the Prefect or Secretary may reject an appeal, the appellant can force a panel of prelates to review the case and issue a decision on the merits of the appeal.  If such a safeguard is not provided in marriage nullity appeals, this innovation—together with the loss of three judges and the loss of a mandatory second instance review—allows for significant abuses.The Holy See specifically uses the example of “instrumental appeals” by non-Catholics who have already remarried civilly as a potential reason to reject an appeal a limine.  This means a second-instance judge must determine the appellant’s intentions for appealing, and may dismiss the appeal without a hearing on the evidence.  The potential for abuse is immense.It is important to note the most marriage nullity cases in North America are not currently contested; i.e., both parties seek the freedom to marry and usually get what they want.  I also note that the current process allows for a rejection of an appeal with minimal review by the higher court.  Given the very high percentage of cases overturned on appeal and the ability of a higher court to reject an appeal in the current system, I wonder what value the a limine rejection would actually have in an objective process.It is also important to note that the Holy Father expressly intended to streamline the marriage nullity process in order to provide for the salvation of souls.  He wants people in irregular unions—the divorced and remarried—to have greater opportunity to be reconciled with the Church and receive the sacraments again.  Herein lies a significant problem.Divine Law intrinsically ties the salvation of souls to Truth (c.f. John 8:32).  As noted by Pope St. John Paul II, it is adherence to and protection of the Truth in marriage nullity cases that expresses true pastoral sensitivity.  This sensitivity must be directed toward the truth; not toward granting the parties freedom to remarry.  This is true freedom; to recognize the Truth of one’s circumstances and choose to accept the grace of those circumstances.  If that means one’s marriage is null, the parties may remarry in the Church; but if evidence is lacking, they must gracefully accept the circumstance and either reconcile with the other spouse or live a chaste life.  Salvation of souls requires us to desire and pursue what is true, not to call true what we desire.[ii]Where do we go from here?I am deeply concerned over how marriage and family will be viewed and promoted in the wake of these changes.  The disciplines of the Church are instructive, and I fear these new disciplines will encourage a changed perception in the Church’s doctrines.  What is the solution?  “I beseech you to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).  Be faithful to the Truth.  Be faithful in your marriages.  Do not be confused.  We must reclaim the Sacrament for what it is; the Primordial Sacrament as identified by Pope St. John Paul II[iii]; the only sacrament that existed before sin, and the only one that was not given as a result of sin.St. Joseph and his Immaculate Spouse, pray for us![i] His Holiness Pope Francis, motu proprio: Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus, 8 Sept. 2015[ii] C.f. John Paul II, Allocution to the Roman Rota, Jan. 18, 1990.[iii] General Audience, 20 Feb. 1980.Source: Christifidelis Newsletter, Vol. 33, No. 6. Reprinted with permission from author, Philip C. L. Gray, J.C.L., President of The Saint Joseph Foundation.


What Will Happen to Catholic Kids in Same-Sex Marriage America?

by Steve Wood

Catholic parents in America are asking themselves, “What will happen to my kids after the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision?” My prediction is that the United States of America is about to take the last train out of town to a destination called Sodom. As a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s declaration of the supposed constitutionality of same-sex marriage, I can’t shake the feeling that we are embarking on a path of no-return that will result in unimaginable consequences for our country, our culture, our families, and especially our children and grandchildren.Regardless of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 decision, I’m afraid the battle over so-called same-sex marriage was lost forty-eight years ago. In the landmark 1967 decision Griswold v. Connecticut, the Court declared it had discovered an unwritten “right to privacy” in the Constitution that it used to overturn a Connecticut law against the sale of contraceptives. The next year Pope Paul VI issued Humanae Vitae [On Human Life], the encyclical reaffirming the Church’s timeless teaching against the use of birth control. Pope Paul VI’s encyclical was met with widespread dissent followed by forty years of cowardly silence by most of those called to speak truth. The salt lost it saltiness (Matthew 5:13) when it came to the key twentieth-century issue on sexuality.Once procreation was separated from marriage due to widespread acceptance of birth control, it wasn’t too long until sex itself became separated from marriage resulting in the sexual revolution. Millions were asking, “Who needs marriage in order to have sex?” The Bible says that God removes restraints from societies that persist in licentious heterosexual lust to do that which is against nature, namely lesbian and homosexual acts (Romans 1:18-32). After the 60s sexual revolution festered for a generation we are now entering the terminal phase of degeneracy with ever increasing acceptance of sodomy and so-called same-sex marriage.According to Gallup, 70% of young adults between 18 and 24 feel that same-sex marriage should be legal. A Knights of Columbus survey of the same age group found that fully 63% of Catholic young adults said same-sex marriage was moral. Only 37% of Catholics ages 18 to 34 said same-sex marriage was immoral. Bottom line, we have lost the future of this battle because we have lost the youth. You can hold rallies, mass marches, protest, send postcards and emails to your congressman, vote so-called pro-family Republican, and watch Fox News 24/7, but if you don’t have the youth you don’t have the future. It’s that frighteningly simple.What will the world be like that our children and grandchildren will be growing up in? Although it takes time for corruption to spread, sodomy can spread with amazing speed in a morally restraint-free society. Read Genesis 19:4 slowly and carefully. The sin of unnatural lust (homosexuality) had spread to every man in Sodom including all the young men. Lot was a righteous man vexed by Sodom’s immorality, but his sons-in-law thought he was joking when he warned them of God’s impending judgment (Genesis 19:14). Ruth Graham, the wife of the Reverend Billy Graham, once said, “If God doesn’t punish America, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.” I agree wholeheartedly and I’m not joking.Lot departed Sodom but he left behind his sons-in-law and he also lost his wife who longingly turned to look back at the destructive blast that engulfed Sodom. Even though Lot did manage to get his two daughters out of Sodom, he didn’t manage to get Sodom out of the hearts of his daughters. Shortly after Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, Lot’s daughters got him drunk and committed incest with him.If you are a parent reading thus far, then I urge you to flee from the lies of false religious teachers who say that Genesis is just a pious poetic myth. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is a solemn historical warning. In the New Testament, Jesus, St. Paul, St. Peter, and St. Jude refer to a historical Sodom. St. Jude and St. Peter in their respective epistles explicitly warn the Church that the historical events about Sodom and Gomorrah should be heeded by Christians (2 Peter 2 and Jude vss. 7-17).Parents be warned: along with the societal acceptance of same-sex marriage, homosexual activists are seeking universal corruption of children through diversity training in government schools and explicit sex education stemming from “health” mandates. The Catholic Haydock Study Bible footnote at Genesis 19:4 says, “The whole city was corrupt; even the children were taught iniquity, as soon as they came to the years of discretion.” What happened to the young in Sodom will happen to the children in America, though I doubt they’ll wait until the years of discretion to corrupt American kids.Parents please listen carefully: It’s time to get your kids out of government schools. You have two options: Catholic homeschooling, or good Catholic schools.Notice that I emphasized good Catholic schools. A 2013 Barna Survey entitled, “The Spiritual Journeys of Young Catholics” found that “among those who attended a Catholic or faith-related school growing up, 65% said they have some misgivings about the church’s stance on sexuality and birth control, slightly above the average.” The fact that almost two-thirds of those attending a Catholic school end up with misgivings about Church teaching on sexuality means that there are a whole lot of Catholic schools that are failing in their mission and that is what you want to avoid.If there isn’t a good affordable Catholic school where you live and you can’t homeschool for whatever reason, then move. Consider some place like Lincoln, Nebraska where Catholic education is orthodox and affordable from kindergarten through high school. Abraham moved his family away from Sodom, while Lot moved toward Sodom and eventually moved his family to downtown Sodom. Lot completely lost a legacy of faithful descendants. In stark contrast, you can read about Abraham’s family legacy in Matthew chapter one.I realize that this article is like cold water splashed on the face. While it’s tempting to only want happy Catholic news, sometimes a cold water wake-up call is exactly what we need. There’s a war going on for millions of souls.In future articles, I’ll be sharing more practical suggestions for parents and those assisting families to deal with our cultural situation. I’ll also be sharing about some major changes we are making at the Family Life Center. For now, let me close with one question that can become a practical action step that I’d recommend to every men’s group, every Knights of Columbus chapter, every conference organizing team, every radio station, every apostolate, and every parish planning committee: “What can we do to help Catholic children, youth, and those in the 18 to 34 age group, especially young men, keep the Faith in an age of apostasy?”This article is adapted from the April 2013 Dads.Org newsletter. Free sign-up here.


An Open Letter to Synod from Catholic Converts

September 24, 2015

Your Holiness; Dear Fathers in Christ,  We are all converts to the Catholic faith. Some of us were raised in other Christian communities; some of us came, unbaptized, from other faiths; some of us had once been thoroughly secular and thought of ourselves as agnostics or atheists. Despite the diversity of our backgrounds we all have this in common: we entered the Church as adults. As you prepare for the Synod on the Family we hope that you will be encouraged by the multitude of lay faithful who were, and continue to be, attracted to the Church in large part because of what she proposes about the human being in her teaching about sexual difference, sexuality, marriage and the family.Early on, most of us would have objected to at least some elements of the Church’s teaching about such matters. Yet, as we began to notice how harmful were the effects of popular conceptions of human sexuality, and as some of our own congregations began to give way to the  dominant culture − its ideas about freedom, equality, progress, and its growing gnostic tendencies − each of us started to suspect that there was something right about the Church’s understanding of things. Unpopular though they often were, the Church’s teachings about the facts of life became strangely attractive to us. And in time, we became convinced that they expressed the deepest truth of ourselves, a truth that is both good and beautiful, howsoever demanding. What is more, the certainty the Church had in her teachings and her confidence in pronouncing them even in the face of hostile opposition was for us evidence that we could encounter in her the life of Jesus Christ as He truly is. As human beings we understand the dramatic nature of desire and the self-justifying “dictatorship” that often accompanies it. But as converts we also know the tendency, wherever ecclesial bodies lack a visible, historical, and authoritative bond with Christ through His vicar, to adapt Christianity to the dominant mentality. In short, the fact that the Catholic Church held fast to the deepest truth about our embodied human existence was for us a point of attraction, and a sign that the Church was the surest link to Jesus Christ Incarnate.With respect to the bewildering diversity of contemporary opinions about the human good, especially where questions about the human body are concerned, we understood that the radical nature of the Christian claim − that God, the Son, had taken up all flesh into Himself − was at stake. Christ “revealed man to himself” (Gaudium et Spes 22). He thereby “made clear” the meaning of our humanity – and with it the meaning of the body, of sexual difference, of sexuality, marriage and the family.  He did this, for example, when the Pharisees asked him about divorce, and he turned them (and his own disciples) back to “the beginning,” to human nature as it was created. What is more, he brought something new to that same humanity, bestowing on it, mercifully, a share in His own fidelity to the Church.  It was not by accident, then, that early Christians were drawn to the Church through the radiant humanity of His followers, manifest, for example, in their unique attitudes toward women, children, human sexuality, and marriage. And it was not by accident that, for the same reasons, we too were drawn to the Church many centuries later.We are keenly aware of the difficult pastoral situations that you will be confronting at the Synod, especially those concerning divorced Catholics. We also share something of the burden you carry in confronting them. Some of us have experienced the pain of divorce in our own lives; and virtually all of us have friends or close relatives who have been so afflicted. We are therefore grateful that attention is being paid to a problem that causes such grievous harm to husbands and wives, their children, and indeed the culture at large.We are writing you, however, because of our concerns about certain proposals to change the church’s discipline regarding communion for Catholics who are divorced and civilly re-married. We are frankly surprised by the opinion of some who are proposing a “way of penance” that would tolerate what the Church has never allowed. In our judgment such proposals fail to do justice to the irrevocability of the marriage bond, either by writing off the “first” marriage as if it were somehow “dead,” or, worse, by recognizing its continued existence but then doing violence to it. We do not see how these proposals can do anything other than contradict the Christian doctrine of marriage itself. But we also fail to see how such innovations can be, as they claim, either pastoral or merciful. However well meaning, pastoral responses that do not respect the truth of things can only aggravate the very suffering that they seek to alleviate.  We cannot help but think of the abandoned spouses and their children. Thinking of the next generation, how can such changes possibly foster in young people an appreciation of the beauty of the indissolubility of marriage?Above all, we think that the proposals in question fail to take to heart the real crisis of the family underlying the problem of divorce, contraception, cohabitation and same-sex attraction. That crisis, as Benedict XVI observed, is “a false understanding of the nature of human freedom.” Still worse, as he continued, we now have to confront an outlook that “calls into question the very notion of being − of what being human really means” (“Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI on the Occasion of Christmas Greetings to the Roman Curia,” 2012). Not only are the changes in the Church’s discipline called for by some far from adequate to the challenge before us, they seem to us to capitulate to the problem they purport to address.As has everyone else, we have witnessed the human wreckage brought about by the culture of divorce. But as converts we have also witnessed Christian complicity in that culture. We have watched our own communities abandon the original radical Christian witness to the truth about man and woman, together with the pastoral accompaniment that might have helped them live it.And so we turn to you. We look to you to uphold Christ’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage with the same fidelity, the same joyful and courageous witness the Catholic Church has displayed throughout her entire history. Against the worldly-wise who counsel resignation and concede defeat, let the Church once again remind the world of the beauty of spousal fidelity, when lived in unity with Christ. Who is left who can offer the world something other than an echo of its own cynicism? Who is left who can lead it toward a real experience of love? Now more than ever the world needs the Church’s prophetic witness! As Pope Francis said to the thousands of young people at World Youth Day in Brazil:Today, there are those who say that marriage is out of fashion….They say that it is not worth making a life-long commitment, making a definitive decision, ‘forever,’ because we do not know what tomorrow will bring.  I ask you, instead, to be revolutionaries, I ask you to swim against the time; yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes you are incapable of responsibility, that believes you are incapable of true love. World Youth Day, 2013)As you gather in Rome for the Synod on the Family, we want to offer you the witness of our conversion, which testifies to the attractiveness of the truth about man and woman as it has been “made clear” by Christ through His Church.  It is our hope that our witness will strengthen yours so that the Church may continue to be the answer to what the human heart most deeply desires.Sincerely in Christ,Mark Alder – Director, Christendom Awake James D. Anderson − Senior Advisor - History & Theology, The Coming Home Network International; former Lutheran seminarian Bryan Atkinson – Hospice Medical DirectorJoseph Atkinson – Associate Professor of Sacred Scripture, The John Paul II Institute for Studies in Marriage and the Family at The Catholic University of America (Washington DC); Director, Theology of the Family Project; former Anglican priestDeacon Mark Baker, Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter; former Episcopal priestDeacon James Barnett, Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter; former Episcopal priestFrancis J. Beckwith− Professor of Philosophy and Church-State Studies, Baylor University; former President of the Evangelical Theological Society; former minister in the United Evangelical ChurchesPhilip Bess− Professor of Architecture, The University of Notre DameJoshua Belokur – Nurse, Highland Hospital (New York) NY); former pastor in The Church of the NazareneRachelle Belokur – Nurse, Heritage Christian Services (New York)Timothy T. Bergsma - Pharmacometrician, CertaraRev. W. Scott Blick, Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter; former Episcopal priestRev. Kenneth M. Bolin, Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter; former Episcopal priestLaura Bramon − International child protection and anti-human trafficking specialistClinton A. Brand− Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of English, University of St.Thomas (Houston, TX)Christine-Thérèse Broesamle − Missionary in Africa and Europe; international negotiator; author; former Evangelical missionaryRev. Jerry BrownPastor,  Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church  (Brentwood, CA); Director of On-going formation for Priests (Diocese of Oakland); former Episcopal priestGail Buckley − President and Founder, Catholic Scripture Study International; President, The Catholic Leadership ConferenceJ. Budziszewski - Professor of Government and Philosophy, University of Texas at AustinRev. Mark Cannaday − Administrator of St. Gilbert of Sempringham Catholic Church, Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter (Retired) (Boerne, Texas); former Episcopal canon and rectorSteven L. Carlson − Catechist, St. John the Baptist Catholic Church (Plum City, WI); former minister in the ELCA Lutheran ChurchPaul Cates – President, Faith Christian Ministries; former Lutheran pastorJeff Cavins − Founder and President, The Great Adventure Bible Study SystemCharles M. Clowe − President, Clowe Oil Co. (Ardmore, Oklahoma)Paisley H. Clowe – Teacher; music ministerAdam G. Cooper − Permanent Fellow and Associate Dean of Research, The John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family (Melbourne); former pastor in the Lutheran Church of AustraliaRob Corzine − Vice President of Programs, St. Paul Center for Biblical TheologyDavid Crawford – Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, The John Paul II Institute for Studies in Marriage and the Family at The Catholic University of America (Washington DC)David B Currie − Fellow, St Paul Center for Biblical Theology; author; speaker; former fundamentalist missionaryRev. Peter H. Davids − Director, House of Studies of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter; Priest-in-Residence, Our Lady of Walsingham Catholic Church (Houston, TX); Visiting Professor of Bible and Applied Theology, Houston Graduate School of Theology; former Episcopal priestAlan J. Doksansky − Former Baptist pastorMost Rev.Peter J Elliott − Auxiliary Bishop, Melbourne; Director, The John Paul II Institute (Melbourne)Peter G. Epps − Visiting Assistant Professor of English, Oklahoma State University;RCIA Coordinator, St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church (Oklahoma City, OK); former professor at College of Biblical Studies (Houston, TX)Thomas F. Farr − Director, Religious Freedom Project, The Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, Georgetown UniversityJohn Finnis − Professor Emeritus of Law and Legal Philosophy, University of OxfordJohn Fraysier − Owner, CastleGuard Pest Management, Inc. (New York); former Area Director, InterVarsity Christian FellowshipClinton Froscher – Member, editorial board of Communio International Catholic Review; booksellerJennifer Fulwiler – Author; radio hostLaura L. Garcia − Scholar in Residence in Philosophy, Boston CollegeSherif Girgis − Research Scholar, Witherspoon Institute; JD candidate, Yale Law School; PhD candidate, Princeton University; authorDawn Eden Goldstein – Author; S.T.D candidate, The University of St. Mary of the LakeGregory Graham, Director of Technology, Cistercian Preparatory School (Irving, TX)George Griffin – Former Methodist pastorMarcus C. Grodi – Founder and President, The Coming Home Network International; host, The Journey Home (EWTN); former Presbyterian ministerJean De Groot− Professor of Philosophy, The Catholic University of AmericaRev. Lee W. Gross − Dean of Students, Mount St. Mary’s Seminary (Emmitsburg, MD); former Lutheran and Episcopal ministerScott Hahn – Professor of Theology, Franciscan University of Steubenville; author; former Protestant pastorKimberly Kirk Hahn – Author; speakerJacqueline Halbig von Schleppenbach – Consultant and Lay LeaderMichael Hanby – Associate Professor of Religion and Philosophy of Science, The John Paul II Institute for Studies in Marriage and the Family at The Catholic University of America (Washington DC)Greta Harper – Founder, Voices in the SquareRev. Brian W. Harrison − Scholar-in-Residence, Oblates of Wisdom Study Center (St. Louis, Missouri); Associate Professor Emeritus of Theology, Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico (Ponce, PR); Chaplain, St. Mary of Victories Chapel (St. Louis, Missouri)Rev. Richard Harrris, Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter; former Episcopal priestTodd Hartch − Professor of History, Eastern Kentucky University; former campus minister, InterVarsity Christian FellowshipFather Doug Hayman − Priest Administrator, Church of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Ottawa, Canada), a Quasi-Parish of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter; Chaplain and Faculty member, Augustine College (Ottawa); former priest of both the Anglican Church of Canada and the Anglican Catholic Church of CanadaJoy Elizabeth Heebink − Associate Professor of Religion, Waldorf College; former Lutheran (ELCA) pastorRichard George Herbel − Monk at St. Augustine's House (Oxford, Michigan); former Lutheran pastorFrank W. Hermann − Associate Professor of English, Franciscan University of SteubenvilleKent R. Hill − International development executive; religious freedom activist; former Nazarene College presidentRev. William Holiday, Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter; former Episcopal priestFr. John L. Holleman – Pastor, Holy Name of Jesus Church (Semmes, AL); former Episcopal priestRev. Charles A. Hough IV − Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter; former Episcopal priestRodney Howsare − Professor of Theology, DeSales University; former pastor in the Assembly of God ChurchJane Hartman Irwin − Professor of Music, Lincoln Land Community College; pianist; recording artistMike L. Isbell – Member, Board of Education (Beaufort County, North Carolina); former Disciples of Christ pastorRev. Joseph Jacobson –Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Grouard-McLennan (Retired) (Alberta, Canada); Parochial Vicar, Cathedral Parish of St. John the Baptist (Retired) (Alberta, Canada); former Lutheran pastor and bishop (Alberta Synod, ELCIC)Susan Jenkins − Pastoral Activities Minister, Maria Stein Shrine of the Holy Relics (Ohio)Frank Johnson − Master Catechist; former United Methodist pastorJennifer Johnson − Associate Director, The Ruth Institute.Katherine M. Johnson – Author; adult ministry leader; former missionary with Wycliffe Bible TranslatorsRev. Phillip M. Johnson − Pastor, Parish of St. Thomas More (Cherry Hill, New Jersey); former Lutheran pastorRichard Johnson −Adult and Family Ministry Director, Holy Spirit Catholic Church (Duncanville, Texas); former Director of Personnel, Wycliffe Bible TranslatorsRev. Carleton P. Jones − Prior, St. Dominic Priory (Washington, DC); former Anglican clergymanElizabeth Kantor – Author; Editor, Regnery PublishingRev. Lee Kenyon, Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter; former Episcopal priestRev. Leonard R. Klein – Administrator, Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Mary's/St. Patrick's Parish (Wilmington, DE); former Lutheran pastorRev. W.E. Knickerbocker, Jr.Sacramental Minister; St. Theresa Catholic Church (Junction, TX); Professor Emeritus, Memphis Theological Seminary; former Episcopal priestRobert C. Koons − Professor of Philosophy, University of Texas at AustinChristopher Marc LaRose − Assistant Director The Coming Home Network International (Retired); former United Methodist pastorRev. Mark Lewis and Mrs. Vicki Lewis, Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter; former Episcopal priestJody Vaccaro Lewis − Assistant Professor of Sacred Scripture, Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception at the Dominican House of StudiesV. Bradley Lewis - Associate Professor of Philosophy, The Catholic University of AmericaJurgen Liias – Pastor, St. Gregory the Great Ordinariate Catholic Church (Boston, MA); former Episcopal priestKatherine E. Lundstrom− President/CEO, Firm Foundations, Inc.Margaret Harper McCarthy – Assistant Professor of Theological Anthropology, The John Paul II Institute for Studies in Marriage and the Family at The Catholic University of America; Editor, HumanumSr. Laura Marie Menge – Novice of the Missionary Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing; former Lutheran pastorSerena Harper Miggins – Business Operations Manager, Aquinas Companies (Houston, TX)David Mills – Editorial Director, Ethika Politika; Senior Editor, The Stream; former Executive Editor, First Things.Anca Nemoianu − Director, Intensive English Program, The Catholic University of AmericaAlana Newman − Founder and Director, The Anonymous Us Project and The Coalition Against Reproductive TraffickingRev. Jay Scott Newman – Pastor, St. Mary’s Catholic Church (Greenville, S C)Rev. George Ortiz-Guzman, Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter; former Episcopal priestRev. David Ousley – Pastor, Church of St Michael the Archangel and Blessed John Henry Newman Catholic Community in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter (Philadelphia); former Episcopal rectorRev. Dn. Joseph A. Pasquella – Deacon of St. Patrick's (Bellfast, NY), St. Patrick's (Fillmore, NY) and Our Lady of the Angels (Cuba, NY); former Pentecostal ministerColin Patterson − Permanent Fellow, The John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family (Melbourne); former minister in the Uniting Church in AustraliaRev. Timothy Perkins − Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter; former Episcopal priestChad Pirotte − Instructor, School of Faith (Kansas City); former Presbyterian pastorDale Pollard − Professor of Sociology and Leadership, Trinity Western University; Director, 8th Day Community non-profit; former pastor in the Assemblies of GodSteve Ray – Author; speaker; producer; pilgrimage guideMark Regnerus − Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Texas at Austin; Senior Fellow, Austin Institute for the Study of Family and CultureRev. Carl Reid, Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter; former Episcopal priestJay Richards − Assistant Research Professor, School of Business and Economics, The Catholic University of America; Executive Editor, The StreamKeith A. Rickert Sr.− former priest in the International Communion of The Charismatic Episcopal ChurchAnna Rist – AuthorJohn Rist − Emeritus Professor of Classics and Philosophy, University of TorontoChristopher C. Roberts – Author; candidate for the diaconate, St. Charles Borromeo SeminaryRev. Patrick Rohen − Chaplain (Captain), United States Army (Retired); former Evangelical ministerRev. Richard Rojas − Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter; former Episcopal priestDevin Rose – Catholic apologist; authorAustin Ruse – President, Center for Family & Human Rights (C-Fam)Cathy Ruse − Senior Legal Fellow, Family Research CouncilKaren Sadock – Catechist; former candidate for priesthood in the Episcopal ChurchRev. John Saward − Priest-in-charge, SS. Gregory and Augustine, Oxford; Fellow, Blackfriars Hall, OxfordUniversity; former Anglican clergymanMarianne Scarborough − Former Lecturer in Ancient History, Salisbury University (MD); former Anglican missionaryJoshua W. Schulz – Associate Professor of Philosophy, DeSales University; Editor, Maritain Notebook Rebecca Samuel Shah – Research Associate, The Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, Georgetown UniversityTimothy Shah - Associate Director of The Religious Freedom Project, The Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, Georgetown UniversityMark Shiffman − Associate Professor, Department of Humanities, Villanova UniversityRev. Chori Seraiah and Mrs. Catherine Seraiah − Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter; former Episcopal priestRichard Upsher Smith, Jr. − Professor of Classics, Franciscan University of Steubenville; former priest of the Anglican Church of Canada and of ECUSAR.J. Snell - Professor of Philosophy, Eastern University; Executive Director, The Agora Institute for Civic Virtue and the Common GoodTim Staples − Director of Apologetics and Evangelization, Catholic AnswersMsgr. Jeffrey Steenson – Ordinary, Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter; former Bishop of the Diocese of the Rio Grande in the Episcopal Church USADeacon Mark Stockstill, Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter; former Episcopal priestRev. D. Paul Sullins − Research Professor of Sociology, The Catholic University of America; Senior Fellow, Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI); former Anglican clergymanBruce Sullivan − Parish catechist; advisor, Coming Home NetworkInternational; former minister in the Church of ChristKaren Taliaferro − Thomas W. Smith Postdoctoral Research Associate, James Madison Program in American Ideals & Institutions, Princeton UniversityCharles G. Tate − Special District Judge (Retired), State of Oklahoma; former Protestant pastorRebecca Ryskind Teti − Director of women’s Programs, Our Lady of Bethesda Retreat CenterPaul Thigpen – Author; Professor of Theology (Retired), Southern Catholic College; former member of the National Advisory Council of the U.S.C.C.B.; former Protestant pastor and missionaryRev. Pedro Toledo − Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter; former Episcopal priestHilary Towers − Developmental Psychologist; authorRev. Vaughn A. Treco – Chaplain, The Society of Saint Bede the Venerable Chaplain & Teacher, Providence Academy; former Anglican clergymanWesley Vincent − Clinical PsychologistRev. William G. Waun,


Family Synod Lasting Harm

Family Synod Lasting Harm

by Steve Wood

I can’t remember where I came across this riveting Civil War question, “Why didn’t the Civil War soldiers turn in battle when facing canons loaded with canister?” I often wondered how men kept marching forward in the face of near-certain death by having their flesh mercilessly shredded. Surely there was uncommon valor and bravery. Yet, was there another dynamic moving them forward in the face of a hideous death?Civil War soldiers marched into battle in units composed of men from their hometowns and home states. If a man turned in battle, his cowardice meant that he couldn’t go home as a man. His reputation was on the line. The vast majority of soldiers facing canister preferred to lose their lives rather than lose their manhood.Many Catholic Church leaders desperately need to learn a critical lesson from Civil War soldiers. Men have a deep divinely-embedded instinct to preserve their masculinity and thus are repulsed by feminized and homosexual-friendly environments.Leon Podles in his important book, The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity, states:“If the feminization of the Church continues, men will continue to seek their spiritual sustenance outside the churches, in false or inadequate religions, with high damaging consequences for the church and society.The current attempts, within almost all Christian denominations, to normalize homosexuality will, more than anything else, convince heterosexual men that religion had best be kept at a great distance.Catholic churches that cultivate a gay atmosphere (Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach, gay choirs, gay tolerance talks in schools) will keep heterosexual men away. Fear of effeminacy is one of the strongest motivations in men who will sometimes die rather than appear effeminate.” Millions of Catholic wives wonder why their husbands don’t want to go to Mass with them. Likewise, thousands of bright and beautiful young Catholic women wonder aloud, “Where are the marriageable young Catholic men?” I’m afraid it’s goodbye to many good men because of the effeminate atmosphere of the contemporary Catholic Church. The contemporary homosexualized church atmosphere is the penultimate level of feminization, and it stinks in the nostrils of normal men.Reporting on the defective interim report of the Family Synod, the secular media was delighted to broadcast worldwide that there is a pro-gay seismic shift in the Catholic Church. While the final report of the Synod backtracked on the morally defective statements on homosexuality and communion for those living in adulterous relationships, make no mistake, the lasting worldwide damage is done. For the man on the street, the Catholic Church is just one more institution caving in to our culture’s gay-friendly transformation.It’s important to keep in mind that the public perception of the Catholic Church’s pro-gay drift hasn’t just grown out of news reports from the Family Synod. A long train of events and declarations have supported the pro-gay drift of the Catholic Church. I’ll mention just a few of the disastrous statements and actions leading up to the Family Synod’s interim report.Despite the denial of a few within the Church, literally the entire world knows that the Catholic clerical crisis was mainly a homosexual crisis. The striking failure of so many bishops “to connect the dots” as they moved homosexual abusers from parish to parish revealed a lot about the moral framework of many leaders.According to the Pew Research Center, due to “the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests and their coverup by the Catholic Church, roughly a quarter (27%) of former Catholics who no longer identify with a religion cited clergy sexual abuse scandals as a reason for leaving the Church. Among former Catholics who now identify as Protestant, 21% say the sexual abuse scandals were a reason for leaving the Catholic Church.”A Barna Catholic youth 2013 survey reported, “Among all 18-29-year-olds who have a Catholic background, 43% say the “priest abuse scandals have made me question my faith.”The big bombshell was the media’s out-of-context reporting of Pope Francis’ statement, “Who am I to judge?” His question is emblazoned on the tee-shirts of homosexual activists. While I fully realize that the context of his answer was deliberately ignored, or misinterpreted, nevertheless, his answer convinced millions of youth and young adults that the Catholic Church is now “ok” with sodomy.The Catholic press may publish lengthy articles listing the seven reasons why the Pope’s answer was taken out of context (and it was), but young people are not reading these articles! They are just skimming the headlines and reading a few sentences on their smartphones. At colleges and universities, both Catholic and Protestant students are asking, “Why is Pope Francis pro-gay?”The Church is certainly right to reach out in mercy to homosexuals, couples having children out of wedlock, couples remarried outside the Church after divorce, and couples fornicating. Yet, such a merciful outreach needs to be carefully balanced with truth. Otherwise, the message that’s received is that the Catholic Church is finally ok with the full spectrum of the sexual revolution. Such a distorted message in today’s sex-saturated culture will catapult millions of youth and adults into the claws of the sins of the flesh.In case anyone in the United States had any lingering doubts about the homosexual-friendly atmosphere in the Catholic Church, Cardinal Dolan dispelled them when he agreed to be the Grand Marshal of the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City. In his announcement he said that he welcomes the inclusion of a homosexual group. This is an out-of-the-closet group of NBC’s homosexual activists marching under a homosexual banner with the cardinal’s blessing.Never before in the history of this annual parade, which first took place on March 17, 1762, has an in-your-face group of militant homosexuals marched carrying a homosexual banner. Rest assured that next spring Cardinal Dolan’s being ok with the homosexual activist participation in this parade will be broadcast coast to coast in the secular media.Oh, I almost forgot Cardinal Dolan’s widely reported exclamation of “Bravo” in response to a news story about a professional athlete who came out of the closet. Bravo? What was he thinking? Most men seeing the homosexual NFL player kissing his little boyfriend on ESPN were repulsed.Then there’s the utterly strange case of Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the primary author of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. One would imagine that Cardinal Schönborn of all people would be able to discern a genuine view of human sexuality from a corrupt one.Cardinal Schönborn complimented two practicing homosexuals in Vienna who allegedly live in what he said is “lifelong fidelity.” The cardinal said things like: “It was wonderful, in a human way as much as in a Christian way, how one was taking care of the other.” He added: “Such things must be recognized.”Questioned on the Church’s attitude to homosexuals, the cardinal said: “We should give more consideration to the quality of homosexual relationships,” while adding: “A stable relationship is certainly better than if someone chooses to be promiscuous.”In April 2012, the election of a young gay man who was living in a registered same-sex partnership to a parish council in Vienna was vetoed by the parish priest. After meeting with the couple, Cardinal Schönborn reinstated him. He later advised in a homily that priests must apply a pastoral approach that is "neither rigorist nor lax" in counselling Catholics who "don't live according to [God's] master plan".Since 2006, the cardinal has allowed active and unrepentant homosexuals to be “blessed” in his cathedral on St. Valentine’s Day.The Fatal-to-the-Family Vatican Synod interim report was just one link in a long chain of indicators revealing a growing pro-gay atmosphere in the Catholic Church. While faithful Catholics were understandably troubled by the interim report, not everyone was.It is instructive to read the comments of retired Anglican Bishop Gene Robinson on the Vatican Family Synod’s interim report published in The Daily Beast. Bishop Gene Robinson earlier in life was married and had two daughters. He divorced his wife. While openly living in a gay relationship he was consecrated as an Episcopal bishop. In 2014 Bishop Robinson announced the end of his “marriage” to partner Mark Andrew.Bishop Robinson, writing about the Family Synod said:“With respect to homosexual people, there is a decidedly changed tone. No wonder gay and lesbian people feel like it’s a new day!  No mention of sin here. No reiteration of official Catholic policy and teaching that homosexual persons are ‘intrinsically disordered.’  And most positive of all, there is mention that our unions may (emphasis added) contribute ‘gifts and qualities’ beneficial to the Body of Christ.”You can be sure that the active homosexual community was joyful upon hearing the interim summary report from the Family Synod, while many faithful bishops and laity were appalled.Despite the Family Synod’s backtracking in the final report, we can be sure the damage from the worldwide broadcast of the initial report will be lasting and profound. In the popular mind, the Catholic Church finally caved to the sexual revolution. The Family Synod has given the appearance that the last worldwide moral restraint on sexual sin has given way.At the fall 1980 Synod of Bishops, Pope John Paul II was asked by the Synod fathers to prepare something to aid the family. The result was, The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World [Familiaris Consortio]. This document was the primary cause for my conversion to Catholicism in 1990.The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World is faithful to Jesus’ teaching about marriage and divorce, timeless Catholic doctrine, and human sexuality, while being charitable to families and marriages in all situations. If you haven’t read it, I urge you to do so now.After hearing John Paul II speak on the importance of the family in 1991, I launched the Family Life Center International in 1992. For the past twenty-two years, it has been a joy and privilege to urge families worldwide to heed his advice and counsel on marriage, family life, and human sexuality.Now with the moral earthquake created by the 2014 Synod of Bishops, I’m forced to warn those same families about mixed signals, defective reports, and dangerous statements regarding homosexuality. In an attempt to deal with the crisis of the family in the modern world, the Cardinal Kasper coalition at the Family Synod has created one.My heartfelt wish is for the 2014-2015 Family Synod to re-adopt Saint John Paul II’s The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World and formally recognize it as the finest tool to deal with the contemporary crisis in family life. Please, no further action is needed!My plea to those in Catholic media is, “Please don’t put a happy face on this tragedy.” We’ve had enough Catholic-spin on the homosexual drift within the Catholic Church. The Church is in the midst of a full-scale crisis and the first step in healing and defending her is an honest and forthright diagnosis. In a nutshell, the problem is the sexual revolution and sodomy among many inside the Church.Tragically, the Family Synod modernists have set Catholic fatherhood backwards for our lifetime. It will be Catholic families, wives, children, and single young women who feel the brunt of men of all ages repulsed from the Church because of the sodomite smoke seeping from its midst.Yours in His Majesty’s Service on the Feast of St. John Paul II,Steve WoodThis article first appeared in our October 2014 Newsletter, Volume 20, Number 6


Did Thomas More and John Fisher Die for Nothing?

by Archbishop Aquila

October 19, 2015

The idea that Catholics should be allowed to remarry and receive communion did not begin with the letter signed by Cardinal Kasper and other members of the German episcopate in 1993. Another country’s episcopate – England’s – pioneered this experiment in Christian doctrine nearly 500 years ago. At stake then was not just whether any Catholic could remarry, but whether the king could, since his wife had not borne him a son.

As with those who advocate for communion for the civilly remarried, the English bishops were uncomfortable with embracing divorce and remarriage outright. Instead, they chose to bend the law to the individual circumstances of the case with which they were confronted, and King Henry VIII was granted an “annulment” — on a fraudulent basis and without the sanction of Rome.

If “heroism is not for the average Christian,” as the German Cardinal Walter Kasper has put it, it certainly wasn’t for the King of England. Instead, issues of personal happiness and the well-being of a country made a strong utilitarian argument for Henry’s divorce. And the King could hardly be bothered to skip communion as the result of an irregular marriage.

England’s Cardinal Wolsey and all the country’s bishops, with the exception of Bishop John Fisher of Rochester, supported the king’s attempt to undo his first – and legitimate – marriage. Like Fisher, Thomas More a layman and the king’s chancellor, also withheld his support. Both were martyred – and later canonized.

In publicly advocating that the king’s marriage was indissoluble, Fisher argued that “this marriage of the king and queen can be dissolved by no power, human or Divine.” For this principle, he said, he was willing to give his life. He continued by noting that John the Baptist saw no way to “die more gloriously than in the cause of marriage,” despite the fact that marriage then “was not so holy at that time as it has now become by the shedding of Christ’s Blood.”

Like Thomas More and John the Baptist, Fisher was beheaded, and like them, he is called “saint.”

At the Synod on the Family taking place right now in Rome, some of the German bishops and their supporters are pushing for the Church to allow those who are both divorced and remarried to receive communion, while other bishops from around the world are insisting that the Church cannot change Christ’s teaching. And this begs a question: Do the German bishops believe that Sts. Thomas More and John Fischer sacrificed their lives in vain?

Jesus showed us throughout his ministry that heroic sacrifice is required to follow him. When one reads the Gospel with an open heart, a heart that does not place the world and history above the Gospel and Tradition, one sees the cost of discipleship to which every disciple is called. The German bishops would do well to read, “The Cost of Discipleship” by the Lutheran martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. For what they promote is “cheap grace” rather than “costly grace,” and they even seem to ignore the words of Jesus that, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me,” (Mk. 8: 34, Lk. 14: 25-27, Jn. 12: 24-26).

Think, for example, of the adulterous woman whom the Pharisees presented to Jesus to trap him. The first thing he did was to protect her from her accusers, and the second thing he did was to call her to leave her sin. “Go,” he commanded her, “and sin no more.”

Following the words of Christ himself, the Catholic Church has always taught that divorce and remarriage is simply adultery by another name. And since communion is reserved to Catholics in the state of grace, those living in an irregular situation are not able participate in that aspect of the life of the Church, though they should always be welcomed within the parish and at the Mass itself.

Last May, Cardinal Kasper claimed in an interview with Commonweal that we “can’t say whether it is ongoing adultery” when a repentant, divorced Christian nonetheless engages in “sexual relations” in a new union. Rather, he thinks “absolution is possible.”

And yet, Christ clearly called remarriage adultery and said adultery was sinful (Mt. 5:32, Mk. 10:12, Lk. 16:18). In the case of the Samaritan woman (John 4:1-42), Jesus also confirmed that remarriage cannot be valid, even when informed by sincere feeling and fidelity.

When one adds to the equation the high failure rate of remarriages subsequent to a divorce, where Cardinal Kasper’s reasoning would lead, no one can say. For example, should sacramental communion be allowed only for the once-remarried? What about people remarried twice, or three times? And it is obvious that the arguments made for easing Christ’s prohibition on remarriage could also be made for contraceptive use, or any number of other aspects of Catholic theology understood by the modern, self-referential world as “difficult.”

Predicting what this would lead to isn’t a matter of knowing the future, but of simply observing the past. We need only to look at the Anglican Church, which opened the door to – and later embraced – contraception in the 20th century and for more than a decade has allowed for divorce and remarriage in certain cases.

The German bishops’ “Plan B” to do things “their way” in Germany, even if it goes against the grain of Church teaching, has the same flaws. And, it has an eerie ring to it – in an Anglican sort of way. Consider the words of the head of the German Bishops Conference, Cardinal Marx, who was cited in the National Catholic Registeras saying that while the German Church may remain in communion with Rome on doctrine, that in terms of pastoral care for individual cases, “the synod cannot prescribe in detail what we have to do in Germany.” Henry VIII would most certainly have agreed.

“We are not just a subsidiary of Rome,” Cardinal Marx argued. “Each episcopal conference is responsible for the pastoral care in their culture and has to proclaim the Gospel in its own unique way. We cannot wait until a synod states something, as we have to carry out marriage and family ministry here.”

The Anglicans also sought such autonomy – though with increasingly internally divisive results and the emptying of their communities.

It is undeniable that the Church must reach out to those on the margins of the faith with mercy, but mercy always speaks the truth, never condones sin, and recognizes that the Cross is at the heart of the Gospel. One might recall that Pope St. John Paul II – cited by Pope Francis at his canonization as “the pope of the family” – also wrote extensively about mercy, dedicating an entire encyclical to the topic, and establishing the feast of Divine Mercy. For St. John Paul, mercy was a central theme, but one that had to be read in the context of truth and scripture, rather than against it.

On remarriage, and many other issues, no one would say that the Church’s teaching, which is Christ’s, is easy. But Christ himself did not compromise on core teachings to keep his disciples from leaving him – whether it was on the Eucharist or marriage (Jn 6: 60-71; Mt 19: 3-12). Nor did John Fisher compromise to keep the king Catholic..

We need look no further for a model on this matter than words of Christ and St. Peter in Chapter 6 of John’s Gospel – a passage that reminds us that the teaching on the Eucharist is often difficult to accept even for believers.

“’It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe. … For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.’ As a result of this, many [of] his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, ‘Do you also want to leave?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.’”

As disciples we are always called to listen to the voice of Jesus before the voice of the world, culture or history. The voice of Jesus sheds light on the darkness of the world and cultures. Let us pray that all concerned will listen to those words of eternal life, no matter how difficult!

Reprinted with permission from Denver Catholic.


Extraordinary Address from Romanian Doctor at the Synod

The following intervention was made by Dr. Anca-Maria Cernea,  President of the Association of Catholic Doctors of Bucharest (Romania), at the Ordinary Synod on the Family on Friday.

Your Holiness, Synod Fathers, Brothers and Sisters, I represent the Association of Catholic Doctors from Bucharest.I am from the Romanian Greek Catholic Church.My father was a Christian political leader, who was imprisoned by the communists for 17 years. My parents were engaged to marry, but their wedding took place 17 years later.My mother waited all those years for my father, although she didn’t even know if he was still alive. They have been heroically faithful to God and to their engagement.Their example shows that God’s grace can overcome terrible social circumstances and material poverty.We, as Catholic doctors, defending life and family, can see this is, first of all, a spiritual battle.Material poverty and consumerism are not the primary cause of the family crisis.The primary cause of the sexual and cultural revolution is ideological.Our Lady of Fatima has said that Russia’s errors would spread all over the world.It was first done under a violent form, classical Marxism, by killing tens of millions.Now it’s being done mostly by cultural Marxism. There is continuity from Lenin’s sex revolution, through Gramsci and the Frankfurt school, to the current-day gay-rights and gender ideology.Classical Marxism pretended to redesign society, through violent take-over of property.Now the revolution goes deeper; it pretends to redefine family, sex identity and human nature.This ideology calls itself progressive. But it is nothing else than the ancient serpent’s offer, for man to take control, to replace God, to arrange salvation here, in this world.It’s an error of religious nature, it’s Gnosticism.It’s the task of the shepherds to recognize it, and warn the flock against this danger.“Seek ye therefore first the Kingdom of God, and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.”The Church’s mission is to save souls. Evil, in this world, comes from sin. Not from income disparity or “climate change”.The solution is: Evangelization. Conversion.Not an ever increasing government control. Not a world government. These are nowadays the main agents imposing cultural Marxism to our nations, under the form of population control, reproductive health, gay rights, gender education, and so on.What the world needs nowadays is not limitation of freedom, but real freedom, liberation from sin. Salvation.Our Church was suppressed by the soviet occupation. But none of our 12 bishops betrayed their communion with the Holy Father. Our Church survived thanks to our bishops’ determination and example in resisting prisons and terror.Our bishops asked the community not to follow the world. Not to cooperate with the communists.Now we need Rome to tell the world: “Repent of your sins and turn to God for the Kingdom of Heaven is near”.Not only us, the Catholic laity, but also many Christian Orthodox are anxiously praying for this Synod. Because, as they say, if the Catholic Church gives in to the spirit of this world, it is going to be very difficult for all the other Christians to resist it.Source: Voice of the Family, a highly recommended site for information on the Synod.NOTE: If you are interested in a surprisingly good editorial from The New York Times, read this.


Gender Mainstreaming - The Secret Revolution

© Gabriele Kuby 2008

"Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil, who change darkness into light, and light into darkness, who change bitter into sweet, and sweet into bitter!" (Isaiah 5.20)A spectre is haunting the world, the spectre of — "gender." Hardly anyone knows this concept, although it is extremely powerful and has extended its influence over international and national institutions. The gender ideology is in the process of creating a new man, whose freedom should include the choice of his sex and sexual orientation. This means to arbitrarily decide whether he or she wants to be man or woman, heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transsexual (GLBT). This view of freedom and sexuality, according to the will of the UN, EU and most European governments is to be imprinted onto the minds of children from the nursery onwards.Since 1999 gender mainstreaming is Leitprinzip (the guiding principle) and Querschnittsaufgabe (the task for every government ministry) of German politics. On the homepage of the Ministry of Science is written: — The Federal Government has established an equal opportunities policy based on the political strategy of gender mainstreaming as a universal guiding principle and horizontal task. "The Federal Government is thus participating in world-wide activities aimed at the more effective implementation of an equal opportunities policy."1The facade of this new ideology is — "equality" between men and women. More equality leads allegedly to greater justice. It is never questioned whether enforcing equality between that which is not equal can contribute to solving the enormous challenges of the future. Behind the facade lurks the general attack on the moral standards to which we owe the Western culture. Without it, neither the family nor Christianity can survive.Until the seventies gender was a term to distinguish the grammatical gender of a word. The term was used by radical feminists, who usually belong to the international gay and lesbian organizations to propagate the idea that "gender" has nothing to do with the biological sex. According to them there are not two sexes, but six or more, depending on sexual preference. The Gender choices are to become mainstream by government action, that is the unquestioned Zeitgeist. The "gender perspective" recognizes no essential or innate differences between men and women, although each cell of the human body is male or female. It represses and ignores the results of brain research, medicine, psychology and sociology, which prove the different identities of men and women in their brain structure, hormonal balance, and psychological structure and social behavior. World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 The breakthrough of the "gender perspective" was achieved by the feminist — lesbian NGOs at the World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. They knew that social change cannot be achieved without changing language. With an astonishing strategic vision they succeeded in replacing the word sex , standing for the sexual d (at this point the text is truncated. Following is a rough translation of the German and the original German) designation, in official documents by the term "gender." [Den Durchbruch der „Gender-Perspektive“ erkämpften die feministisch/lesbischen Nicht-Regierungs-Organiosationen auf der Weltfrauenkonferenz in Peking 1995. Sie wussten, dass gesellschaftliche Veränderung nicht ohne Veränderung der Sprache zu erreichen ist. Mit staunenswerter strategischer Weitsicht gelang es ihnen, das Wort „sex“, welches für die Zweigeschlechtlichkeit steht, in den amtlichen Dokumenten durch den Begriff „gender“ zu ersetzen.]The "Family Coalition" tried to resist — without success. They protested against the final document: "The Beijing Platform for Action is a direct attack on the values, cultures, traditions and religious beliefs of the vast majority of the world, both in developing countries and in industrialized nations . . . The document shows no respect for the dignity of man, tries to destroy the family, ignores marriage, devaluates the importance of motherhood, promotes misleading sexual practices, sexual promiscuity and sex for teenagers."2The Beijing Platform for Action was subsequently turned into law.3 With the Treaty of Amsterdam (1999) and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights of Nice (2000), gender mainstreaming became a mandatory requirement, equipped with huge financial resources.Abortion follows automatically as part of the global agenda of gender mainstreaming. Unimpressed by epochal demographic changes, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe decided on 16th of April 2008, that in the 47 member states there should be a de jure and de facto right to abortion. Cultural Revolution At German universities, there are currently 29 Institutes for Gender Studies, a booming market with considerable growth. Gender research is well established in the humanistic departments and is expanding over department boundaries. The goal is the abolition of the "patriarchal and hetero-normative" teaching contents.4 Students confirm that the appropriation of "gender perspective" has become relevant for succeeding in exams and making a career. In addition to the academic institutes, there are countless counselling institutions, funded by individual states or the EU, that are in the process of "gendering" all kinds of organizations.In Germany, the political control centre is the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs with the "Inter-ministerial Working Group on Gender Mainstreaming" and "Gender Competence Centre" at the Humboldt University of Berlin, funded by the Ministry.Since the mentality of adults is not easy to change regarding forms of sexuality, which until recently were legally and socially sanctioned, the whole brunt of this culturalrevolution is directed towards the next generation, to children and adolescents. Some recent examples: In 2008 Brazil officially introduced "sexual diversity" as a school subject in public schools for grades one to nine. The socialist president Luiz Lula da Silva called "homophobia" the "most perverse disease that has ever attacked the human mind."5In Vienna the childcare-association "Fun & Care" practices "gender-sensitive education" with infants and teaches them "gender-appropriate language". Boys will receive a basket of cosmetics and princess dresses, while girls are encouraged to screaming and physical violence.In Berlin "Dissens e.V.", founded in 1989, aims for "gender democracy", particularly through the intentional destruction of male identity in boys.6After sexual assaults by children on children in a Bavarian kindergarten, a leading representative of "Caritas" informed worried parents that children have a right to sexuality, masturbation and "playing doctor". Trying out sexual intercourse would be normal and should be allowed.7The Bundeszentrale für gesundheitliche Aufklärung (Federal Centre for Health Education), affiliated to the Ministry of the Family, sent out 650,000 copies of a "Guide for Parents on Child Sex Education" in which parents were invited to sexual stimulation of their infants. The Family Minister had to retrieve the brochures in July 2007, because of media pressure due to publications of the author.8That is no reason to be at ease: In all sex education writings of the Federal Center for Health Education (BzgA) children are seduced with words and pictures to early sexual activity and homosexuality, which is consistently presented as an equal and positive alternative to heterosexuality. It pushes the question: How is it possible that such a revolutionary ideology can take hold, when most people instinctively recognize it as false? We know that we are either a man or a woman. We know and feel that the opposite sex is essentially different and therefore attractive. Love is the only key to the "foreign country" of the opposite sex.Yet the new message is: Sex differentiation is a social artifact, designed to oppress women. Women must become men! Men must become women! Or anything in between. This is your right. You are what you feel yourself to be, and if you feel uncomfortable, then take the clothes of the opposite sex, or have a surgeon amputate your penis and implant plastic breasts under your skin — or vice versa. It is your human right!How is it possible that homosexual conduct, which every religion rejects, and until a few decades ago was punishable in Western societies, is now encouraged, even aggressively promoted, in schools, to children? Are there really any parents who rejoice when their children are homosexual? What is the contribution of homosexuality to the public interest and the future, especially in times of epic demographic crisis? How could this happen? The attack on the sexual identity of a man and woman has a philosophical background: relativism. According to relativism, there is no truth, because reality arises only through subjective perception. Contemporary philosophers think that they can throw natural law and metaphysics on the scrap heap of history. Instead, only "the human quest for happiness, lust or love" applies. Their credo is: "Pleasure is good", as we can read in the College of Practical Philosophy.9If there is no way to recognize truth, and from truth to judge what is good or evil, then all talk about "values" means nothing. If someone speaks of values he implies that his goal is what is good, assuming that there is an agreement about what is good. But this is not the case, because there is no longer a consensus about the nature of man (nor about what is good). On the bases of which values can man decide what is good? If it is reprehensible to derive absolute values from reason, from natural law or from divine revelation, then the values of a society can only be enforced by power.10 Therefore, relativism leads necessarily to a regime where values are dictated.In his sermon at the opening of the conclave on 18 April, 2005, Cardinal Ratzinger said: "A dictatorship of relativism is about to be created, which recognizes nothing as final and accepts as criteria only one's own ego and its desires."For Christians, truth has a face and a name: Jesus Christ. He does not say, "Live according to my values," but, rather, "If you love me you will keep my commandments." (Jn 14.15)With the denial of the possibility of recognizing truth and of deriving a criteria for good and evil from it, all doors are open to ideologies. Ideology in its various manifestations left an appalling trail of blood through the previous century. Be it fascism or communism, they both denied God and persecuted those who believe in God. But first they blinded and seduced the people with promises of equality and justice. Roots of gender mainstreaming The root of gender mainstreaming is in Marxist soil. Marx and Engels formulated the utopia of a classless society, which seeks equality for all people. The new totalitarianism operates with the old socialist bait of "equality", to which people are always vulnerable, because ever since Cain envy continues to flow in human veins. And yet, we know we are not "equal." Of course, each and every person has equal worth in the ultimate sense, as children of God our Father, but we are not all the same. And the social revolutionaries invariably reduce the meaning of equality to sameness, forgetting in the process that uniformity destroys our humanity, whose essence is uniqueness.Like previous utopian projects, gender mainstreaming tries to create a "new man", this time on a deeper level than ever before. The program was already formulated by Friedrich Engels in the 19th century: "The first social conflict, which occurs in history, coincides with the development of the antagonism between husband and wife in the monogamous marriage and the first social oppression with the oppression of women by the male sex."11To abolish the alleged class conflict between husband and wife, therefore, the family must be destroyed. The most influential feminist of the last century, Simone de Beauvoir, called on woman to escape from "the slavery of motherhood" and heralded the gender revolution with her famous phrase, "One is not born a woman, one becomes a woman".12The intellectual fathers of the student rebellion of 1968, Adorno, Horkheimer, Marcuse, Wilhelm Reich, flanked this battle cry with the theoretical dethroning of the "authoritarian family" and the legitimation and practical agitation for the dissolution of Judeo-Christian sexual morality in favor of a so-called "sexual liberation".Now, little more than a generation later, we see the effects: Gender mainstreaming has led us to the edge of absurdity. The main ideologist, Judith Butler, professor at the University of California and the European University for Interdisciplinary Studies in Switzerland, is a member of the leadership of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. She declares "biological sex" as a "normative fantasy" which is imposed by the "regime of heterosexual hegemony."13Once the biological sexual identity of men and women has been destroyed, nothing can prevent the deconstruction of social roles and institutions. Because no sector of society is free from the influences of bipolar sexuality, all areas of social life are targeted for deconstruction: marriage, family, fatherhood, motherhood, education, language, work, culture, religion. This is called "undoing gender". The graduates of the University Institute for Gender Studies have much to do and they are indeed doing a lot.On the 3rd of September 2008 the European Parliament enacted, with 504 against 110 votes, a "resolution on the impact of marketing and advertising to promote equality between women and men"(A6-0199/2008). The EU parliament wants to ban by law so called "sexual stereotyped images" from advertising, from text books, video and computer games and the Internet, "starting in the early years of the socialization of children" — in other words, no woman at the stove, but instead a man; no man at the helm, but instead a woman. First the language was changed, now the pictures.The EU parliament feels entitled to break the innermost core of the culture, namely the different identities of men and women. Here are iconoclasts at work. What will be left of art and culture when the drama of the attraction of the sexes is eliminated? People who state that sexual polarity is given by nature, or even believe that human beings are created by God as man and woman, are considered Christian "fundamentalists" who must be rendered irrelevant and powerless.With the same strategic enforcement, the members of the European Parliament could have decided to clean our culture of the toxic waste of pornographic and violent images. On the internet, 35% of all downloads are pornography; porn sales worldwide are about 57 billion U.S. dollars each year.14 This is the quagmire in which the gender ideology is flowering. This is the reason why there is almost no resistance.Why do women not see that their freedom to be wives and mothers is about to be mercilessly strangled? Why do men not understand that the raging battle of the sexes is seeking to take away their male power and identity — a battle which has won considerable territory such as the tangible discrimination against boys in education? (see Spiegel online 25.08.08) Totalitarianism in new clothing Ideology — by which I mean false thinking in the service of the interests of a minority, veiling these interests at the same time — destroys healthy social structures and leads to totalitarianism.While Christians are gradually awakening from the dream of everlasting prosperity, democracy and religious freedom, the enemy has already made big advances. By false labels such as "tolerance," "freedom" and "non-discrimination" he finds acceptance. Through a refined manipulation of language, resistance is socially ostracized and criminalized by law, even before it ever seriously comes to exist.A crucial role is played by the European Court of Human Rights. The former federal president of Germany, Roman Herzog, warned about the erosion of national sovereignty and democracy, because the decisions of the ECJ automatically eliminate national law.15 The ECJ is a power center of the gender agenda.Resistance against the homosexualization of society is met by slander, loss of influence and professional exclusion. The overthrow of the designated Interior Commissioner of the EU, Rocco Buttiglione, in 2004, was the most spectacular case. Freedom of expression no longer exists.A new pejorative term becomes a judicial fact, criminalizing the resistance: homophobia. The term turns reality upside down. In reality, a phobia is a pathological state of fear. "Homophobia" implies that those who base their beliefs and practises on natural law and the morals common to all healthy societies are pathological. Those who maintain that sexuality serves the well-being of individuals, families and society, if it is the expression of conjugal love of man and woman and open to procreation, are now considered by a dominant elite to be ill, in fact dangerous, and thus in need of silencing (or worse) by all the force at the law‘s disposal.In the documents of the EU "homophobia" is put in the same category as racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia in order to criminalize it. Anti-discrimination laws and "hate laws" already exist in several countries, and a battle wages for their worldwide enforcement. Any utterance against homosexuality, whether in scientific research or biblical quotations, is interpreted as hatred. With this lie, a widespread emotional condition is created in the general populace, rendering them more passive to the criminalizing of resistance against the homosexualization of society.In the resolution B6-0025/2006 of January 18, 2006, the EU announced its will to "eradicate" homophobia by "educational measures, such as information campaigns in schools, universities and the media, by laws and administrative regulations." "Hate speeches colored by homophobia and incitement to discrimination should be efficiently punished. The fight against homophobia has to be allocated by the distribution of funds for the year 2007." The process "should be strictly monitored" and "any omission by a member State to implement these measures has to be reported to the European Parliament". Here speaks the spirit of totalitarianism. Resistance So far, there is virtually no resistance. Most people do not even know the term "gender mainstreaming". It is a silent revolution, from top to bottom, from inside to outside. No media debates, no genuine parliamentary decisions, have arisen around these changes in the nerve centres of social reality, particularly the formation of students, children and adolescents. That is one of the reasons why the population only vaguely perceives the changes, yet does not recognize the strategy. Whoever comes in contact with it — for example, if one's own institution is being "gendered" — will experience directly, personally, that resistance is met by sanctions.The media, which in a democracy should have a watchdog function, are mostly agents of this revolution. No one now goes to jail for damaging another person‘s reputation as long as the damage fosters the revolution. Whoever controls media harassment against dissenters does not need to fear losing his job, but he takes a serious risk if he tries to resist the GLBT- movement. The victims of gender ideology Ideologies create victims. The previous century has amply demonstrated that revolutionary attempts to create a "new man" produce totalitarian suppression that destroys man. Who, then, are the victims of gender ideology?The gender ideology

  • fights against common sense because it denies the biological, psychological and social differences of man and woman.
  • fights against woman because it causes the feminist man-oriented images of women to prevail and devalues mothers materially and morally.
  • fights against man because girls and women are systematically privileged, whereas the authority and influence of men is diminished, by effeminizing man.
  • fights against the unity of man and woman in marriage and their necessary cooperation in service of the future.
  • fights against the unborn child, because it declares abortion to be a "human right".
  • fights against the child because it destroys the family, the irreplaceable place of formation of healthy personalities and the place of transfer of culture and faith.
  • fights against the family because it ideologically, socially and materially cuts of its bases of existence.
  • fights against the scientific ideal of truth and reason because it turns science into an agent of ideology and abuses its resources to enforce goals that transform society.
  • fights against free speech in the media and science by suppressing dissenting opinions.
  • fights against democracy, because through the power of the state the common good is sacrificed for the interests of a minority.
  • fights against Christianity, in particular against the Catholic Church, the only bastion of the resistance in international organizations.
  • fights against God and the order of creation.

Ideologies do not serve the ultimate good of the human being; they intend to re-create man in order that he serves the interests of the ideologists. But only the creator of man has the right and the ability to create his creature anew: God. The attack goes to the root of the human being. On the first page of the Bible it says: "So God created man in his image, an image of God he created him. Male and female he created them." (Gen 1.27) God created man with a bipolar sexuality, because the experience of the need of complementation pushes us to extend ourselves to another human being and transcend our boundaries. As an image of the triune God, we are called to love, and only by loving can we find peace and happiness.Apostasy from God has never failed to lead to human catastrophe. We are now in the midst of one of the worst in history: The biological decimation of the population by one third within three decades. Nowhere do we see a beginning of a solution to the problem. It doesn‘t exist, because real discussion of the causes is taboo.If our present situation is reality, and not merely a nightmare from which we can awaken, what does this mean for Christians?The struggle seems hopeless. If Christians do not fight, but allow that religion becomes a completely private affair, this private space will soon no longer exist. The next generation will be transformed into sex-variable gender-people, including your children and grandchildren.At this stage of history, the main attack of evil is in the field of sexuality. Christians need to meet the enemy there, otherwise they will have lost. If the young generation is pushed into moral degeneracy, the human condition of family and faith will be further destroyed and abortion will never be overcome. We need a movement for purity among the young generation.16 Because gender mainstreaming is the "guiding principle and all-important task" of global politics, Christian sexual morality must become the "guiding principle and all-important task" of the Church's pastoral work with the young. Will the spiritual movements, in the power of Jesus, prepare the way and attract the youth, where the need is greatest: in the chaos of sexual relationship? Will they recognize the need to bring the topic of sexuality out from the private space of the community and make it the starting point of evangelisation?John Paul II has given us a marvellous new light on the meaning and beauty of sexuality with his Theology of the Body. Let us use this treasure, so that truth can transform the present situation!When will the Church reclaim the ground that it has lost by the rejection of the encyclical letter Humanae Vitae? Cardinal Schönborn of Vienna made a first step in the Supper Room in Jerusalem in March, 2008. He said: "Europe has said 'no' three times in the last forty years to its own future. The first time in 1968 . . . by rejecting Humanae Vitae. The second time in 1975, when the abortion laws flooded Europe. And now the third time with homosexual marriage. The 'no' to life was also a sin of us bishops . . . Even if we were not bishops at the time, we need to repent this sin of the European episcopacy, who did not have the courage to support Paul VI . . . If we would have known the consequences of this 'no' to life, we would have never said 'no' to Humanae Vitae, we would have had the courage to strengthen our brothers: 'Have faith, believe in life!'"17In so speaking and acting, bishops would not risk their lives. They would risk some media and ecclesiastical bullying. They would protect their flock from the wolves and would infuse new life into the body of the Church.

  1. http://www.bmbf.de/en/532.php
  2. Dale O'Leary, the Gender Agenda, Lafayette 1997.
  3. Marguerite Peeters, Willkür als Moralgesetz, in VATICAN, No 10, Oct. 2007
  4. http://www.handelsblatt.com, Septembre 19, 2007
  5. http://www.lifesitenews.com, June 20, 2008
  6. http://www.dissens.de. René Pfister, Der neue Mensch, in: Der Spiegel 1/2007
  7. personal testimony reported to the author
  8. Gabriele Kuby, Auf dem Weg zum neuen Gender-Menschen — Verstaatlichung und Erziehung, Kisslegg 2007 and Ausbruch zur Liebe — Für junge Leute, die Zuunft wollen, Kisslegg 2005
  9. quoted by Alexander Kisler, Am Nachthemd der Ewigkeit, in: Die Tagespost, September 30, 2008.
  10. Günter Rohrmoser, Kulturrevolution in Deutschland, Gräfelfing 2008 and Wer interpretiert die Geschichte. Die Herausforderung der Wertedebatte. Bietigheim/Baden 1996.
  11. Friedrich Engels, Der Ursprung der Familie, des Privateigentums und des Staats, Höttingen/Zürich 1884, page 52
  12. Simone de Beauvoir, Das andere Geschlecht, Reinbek bei Hamburg 1968, page 265
  13. Judith Butler, Körper und Gewicht. Die diskursiven Grenzen des Geschlechts. Berlin 1995, S. 22-24; dies.: Gender Trouble, Deutsch: Das Unbehagen der Geschlechter, Frankfurt 1991. Ulf Heidel et. al. (Hrsg.), Jenseits der Geschlechtergrenzen, Queerstudies an der Universität Hamburg, 2001.
  14. Thomas Schirmacher, Internetpornografie, Holzgerlingen 2008.
  15. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 8. September 2008.

Free for non-commercial use, for commercial use or further information about the author please contact: office@only-you.eu. First published in German in VATICAN magazine, November 2008.

Gabriele Kuby, born 1944, is an author living in Bayern, Germany. She is the mother of three children. She studied sociology and was part of the 1968 student revolution. She was a translator in psychology and the esoteric realm for over twenty years, before she turned towards Christianity. Her books mainly deal with faith, relationship, sexuality and gender.


Advice to Pope Francis in Light of the Family Synod

By Rev. Dwight Longenecker

The Holy Father has been very good in lecturing priests and telling us what to do. We are to go out into the world and “make a mess.” We are to “smell like the sheep.” We are to welcome all with compassion, forgiveness and mercy. We are to be good and kind pastors who administer the sacraments with care and concern. We are to seek out the poor, castigate the rich, side with the unfortunate, heal the sick, support the immigrants and reach out to the lowly. We are to welcome the divorced and remarried, not judge those with same sex attraction and open the doors of the church to all with a warm hearted and affirming form of evangelization by attraction.This is a message I endorse and embrace. I want to be that kind of priest. I want to be Jesus to the world. I long to care for the poor and hungry, minister to their needs, welcome all to the church as the father welcomes the prodigal. I wish to have the open heart Pope Francis has. I want to show the attractiveness of Christ, the radiant truth of the gospel and the joy of the abundant life that Jesus brings to the world. I long to celebrate the sacraments with love, care, hope, joy and compassion. I want to be the persona Christi, the image of God and the face of the Father not only to my flock, but to all who I meet.I have heard the words of my Holy Father and taken them to heart. I sincerely want to be that kind of priest.However, I can only do this if the timeless truths of the Catholic faith are firmly defined and defended. The dogmas, doctrines and disciplines of the Catholic faith are the tools of my trade. They provide the rules for engagement, the playbook for the game, the map for the journey and the content for the mercy and compassion I wish to display. The historic teachings of the Catholic faith, founded on the teachings of Christ the Lord, revealed by divine inspiration and developed through the magisterium of the Catholic Church provide the method for my mercy, the content for my compassion and the only saving truths I have to share.This is teamwork Holy Father. I can only do the job you want me to do if you do the job you have been called to do. With the greatest respect and love, please don’t feel that it is your job to tinker with the timeless truths. If my job is to be the compassionate pastor for those in the pew and beyond, then your job is to be the primary definer and defender of the faith. I can’t do my job if you don’t do yours.Yes, I know you want to inspire us to be that kind of compassionate pastor, but to be honest, I find that inspiration elsewhere. I remember meeting Mother Teresa of Calcutta and being inspired by her compassion. I am inspired by St Damien of Molokai, St Maximillian Kolbe, St Isaac Jogues and a host of other valiant and radiant souls. While your example of compassion, humility and simplicity is stunning and attractive, your most important work is to define and defend the teachings of the Catholic Church so that together we can all proclaim it and live it with the compassion, mercy and forgiveness we all agree is necessary.I know the Synod on the Family is an attempt to make the church more compassionate and caring, but with respect, this is not best done at the Vatican or diocesan level but on the parish level. I was taught that subsidiarity is a Catholic principle: that solutions to problems and ideas for initiatives are best taken within the local community. Compassion, mercy and the struggle with family issues happens every day at the parish level. You know that from your own work at the front line as a priest and bishop. At the Vatican level the discussion is theoretical and theological as it should be. If you try to tinker with these matters at the global level it doesn’t help. It makes life more confusing and frustrating for us at the local level.Here is an example: twice in the last week I have had to deal with Catholics in irregular marriages. One woman married outside the church and told me that she thought it was now okay for her to come to communion because, “The pope has changed all those old rules.” Another man has divorced his wife and is living with another woman. He also assured me very confidently that it was now fine for him to come to communion because, “Pope Francis has changed the rules.” I know you mean well Holy Father, and I admire and like you, but this process on which you have led us is not helping.Here is another example from my experience as a parish priest: a young couple came for marriage preparation. They do not practice their faith and are living together already as husband and wife. I welcomed them and listened to their story. I told them it was good that they wanted to be married. I said we would help prepare them not only for a Catholic wedding, but for a Catholic marriage. However, when I gently began a conversation about their irregular lifestyle the girl began to pout and accuse me of being “unwelcoming.” Then she said, “I thought with this new pope we would be welcomed.” What she meant by this was, “I expected Pope Francis’ Catholic Church to condone cohabitation.”You have been very good at giving us fatherly instruction, and I have listened and learned. You have also asked for a frank debate on these matters. So that I can do my job I respectfully ask you to do yours. I’ll do my best to evangelize by being compassionate, welcoming and merciful if you do your best to sharpen the tools I need for the job.Compassion without content is mere sentimentality. Mercy without truth is an empty gesture. Kindness without correction is cowardly.I’ll do my best to preach and live the merciful faith once delivered to the saints but I need you to do your best as the successor of Peter, the Vicar of Christ and the Servant of the Servants of God to define, defend and uphold that unchanging faith in which mercy is grounded.This article was originally published on 101414 in Crisis Magazine. Reprinted with permission.


Why I Left My Pastorate and Was Drawn to the Catholic Faith

by Steve Wood

Twenty-four years ago, on July 1, 1990, my family entered the Catholic Church at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice, FL. There were at least a dozen significant reasons for my leaving Protestantism and becoming a Catholic, but one reason stands far above all the others. It was a life-changing encounter with Section 84 of St. John Paul II’s, The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World.I may be the world’s only convert to Catholicism because of Section 84, the portion of the apostolic exhortation dealing with the question of communion and the divorced and civilly remarried. I need to relate a portion of my pilgrimage to Catholicism in order to explain why this document had such an impact on me.I developed a keen interest in the after-effects of Christian divorce and remarriage after observing the damaging impact marital breakdown had on teens in my Protestant youth group. For a dozen years following my youth ministry, I studied marriage, divorce, and remarriage in the Church Fathers, in the Greek New Testament, and in books by a wide range of Christian authors. A brief summary of my research is contained in Christian Fatherhood, Appendix Two: “What Scripture Teaches About Divorce and Remarriage.”What became unmistakably clear was that the early church taught that a true Christian marriage was indissoluble. The early church was faithfully echoing the teaching of Jesus:“Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery” (Luke 16:18).I agonized for a couple of long years about what to do with my beliefs about the indissolubility of marriage. Even though I knew that I was in the mainstream of historic Christianity in my beliefs about indissolubility, I also knew that I was in a distinct minority among my fellow Protestant clergy. Then one Sunday morning I found myself walking away from my pastorate after preaching a sermon on marriage. Here is how I described those five minutes in Chapter Two in Christian Fatherhood:I had five minutes to decide whether or not to follow Christ.I had just delivered a sermon on the indissolubility (lifelong permanence) of marriage from the Old Testament book of Hosea. As I sat down during the offertory to prepare my thoughts for celebrating the Lord’s Supper, I realized that I had just preached myself out of the Protestant pastorate. Twenty years of study, preparation, and effort had been undone by a 30-minute sermon on the covenant of marriage. I had just told my congregation that valid marriages are indissoluble. How could I administer the Lord’s Supper to those who had been unlawfully divorced and remarried?Although my palms began to sweat, my heart was filled with conviction. I realized that as pastor I couldn’t continue administering the Lord’s Supper to those who were in unlawful marriages. Giving communion to people unfaithful to their marriage covenants would be profaning the divine covenant. Receiving the sacrament of oneness between God and his people while being unfaithful to the oneness of the marriage covenant is a sacrilegious contradiction. By giving the Lord’s Supper to people in illicit marriages, I would be participating in that sacrilege.The Holy Spirit was prompting me in the strongest possible manner to stop administering the Lord’s Supper immediately. I thought, “Well, I can take some time over the next few weeks to consider this.” Yet I feared that God was passing by in a special way, and he was saying, “Come now or never.”The implications of obeying raced through my mind. “I have a wife and five children to support. If I do this I will not only be unemployed, but unemployable as a Protestant minister. This is my job, my career, my calling. I have invested over two decades of my life to do this. How can I walk away from my ministry? I must talk to my wife Karen first.” But God didn’t let up. His call was very direct: “Do it now.”I stood up and walked to the communion table. I apologized to my congregation and said that I was unprepared to administer the Lord’s Supper. They reacted with shocked silence and confused looks. Everyone was wondering why their pastor was “unprepared” to serve them communion. I pronounced a benediction and walked out of the sanctuary.After explaining my reasons to the church elders for not administering communion they kindly but firmly informed me that my time was over at that congregation. Even more, I knew that it was permanently over for me as a Protestant pastor.The week following my sermon on marriage was one of the loneliest in my Christian life. Here I was a pastor, but I didn’t sense belonging to any church. I felt as though I was a clergyman in an ecclesiastical no man’s land. In a sense of desperation for someone who shared my beliefs in indissolubility, I pulled from my bookshelf an unread copy of St. John Paul II’s, The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World. Again from Christian Fatherhood, here is my reaction after reading it:I was astounded. He expressed such tender care for divorced persons who have remarried, and yet insisted that they refrain from Eucharistic Communion while their state of life contradicts the covenant union between Christ and the Church.Reading this document, I was struck by its wisdom, its fidelity to Christ’s teaching, and its pastoral graciousness. Finally, I had found the solid foundation for the survival of the modern family. I was instantly hooked on the Catholic vision of family life. It was so good that I wondered what else the Catholic Church had to say. I was now open for an honest investigation of Catholic teaching.It was Section 84 of The Role of the Christian Family which convinced me that the Catholic Church had preserved intact the teaching of Jesus on the indissolubility of marriage. St. John Paul II clearly explained why those divorced and remarried outside of the Church cannot receive communion. Yet while faithfully upholding marital indissolubility, St. John Paul tenderly, compassionately, and charitably reached out to the divorced and remarried. I had read widely on subjects related to marriage, divorce, and remarriage, but nothing approached the level of faithfulness to Christ coupled with the balance of Christian charity that I found in The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World, especially Section 84. I am profoundly grateful for these three pages to which I owe my Catholic life.In recent months, I was disheartened to hear that a German Catholic cardinal proposed that the Church modify its stance on giving communion to the divorced and civilly remarried. Doing so would effectively undermine the entire basis of Catholic moral teaching on marriage and sexuality. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, describing a civil remarriage states, “the married spouse is then in a situation of public and permanent adultery” (Section 2384).St. Paul similarly says in his epistle to the Romans, “A married woman is bound by law to her husband as long as he lives … Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive” (7:2-3). The Greek verb for “she will be called” means “to bear the name, or title of.” The verb tense indicates an ongoing sense in bearing the title of adulteress.The German cardinal suggested that if a divorced and civilly remarried couple undertakes a period of repentance, then they should be allowed to partake of communion without a change of lifestyle. This suggestion overlooks the fact that being civilly remarried is thereby living in an ongoing state of adultery. A period of repentance can’t change the objective fact of a continuing grave sin.If the Church gave communion to the divorced and civilly remarried, it would be giving communion to persons living in a situation of breaking the sixth commandment. Opening communion to those living in adultery would logically lead to giving communion to those living in fornication and those committing sodomy since these acts are also sins related to the sixth commandment.A relevant question is, “Why would anyone suggest changing the relevant, wise, charitable, and balanced practices put forth by St. John Paul II in 1981?” Some suggest that his exhortation is out-of-date given the dramatic rise in the rates of divorce and remarriage. This claim is erroneous for two reasons.First, the teaching in The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World is timeless. Doesn’t it seem offensive even to suggest that an apostolic exhortation by a saint who brought historic Catholic marital teaching to the modern world just thirty-three years ago is out of date?Second, the claim that divorce and remarriage has gotten significantly worse since St. John Paul II wrote his apostolic exhortation is false.Take for example the United States, currently number 12 among the 20 countries with the highest divorce rates. America, about in the middle of the list of the most divorce-prone countries, is a good indicator of modern divorce rates.During the 19th century, divorce was relatively rare in America. The divorce rate stayed under three per thousand until the 1960s during which no-fault divorce legislation was legalized and the pill widely accepted. The damaging effects from both fell upon marriages. The divorce rate in America soared during the 1970s finally peaking at 5.3 divorces per 1000 in 1981 – the very year St. John Paul II wrote his apostolic exhortation. Divorce rates have been declining ever since. As of 2011 the divorce rate is 3.6 per 1000.St. John Paul’s apostolic exhortation, blessed with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, promised to the successors of Peter, was issued at the very peak of the modern divorce and remarriage crisis. Rather than calling his exhortation out-of-date, it would be more accurate to call it prophetic and timely.For the above reasons and also for the truth on marriage which illumined my path to Catholicism, it is my earnest hope that the cardinals gathered in Rome next fall for the Synod on the Family will reaffirm Section 84 of St. John Paul II’s, The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World.”“To bear witness to the inestimable value of the indissolubility and fidelity of marriage is one of the most precious and most urgent tasks of Christian couples in our time.”St. John Paul II – The Role of the Christian Family, Section 20This article appeared in the Dads.org E-newsletter, July 2014.


The Sixty-Four Thousand Dollar Question for Catholic Men’s Groups

by Steve Wood

Before starting a Catholic men's group, it's important to consider the purpose and goals.How do we go about establishing the goal of a men’s small group? First, we should be more concerned with strong finishes than quick starts. Jesus said, “I commissioned you to go out and bear fruit, fruit that will last” (John 15:16 - Jerusalem Bible). Therefore, we should set long-term goals. With such goals we work for those things with lasting value. Without a careful consideration of long-term goals, a spectacular beginning may fizzle before a decade has passed.One good way to establish a long-term goal is to simply ask yourself this question, “What fruits do I want to see develop from my men’s group fifty or sixty years from now?” Blessed John Paul II said, “The future of the world and of the Church passes through the family.” Since the key to the future is a family focus, this emphasis should be central in establishing a long term goal for a Catholic men’s group.This brings us to the sixty-four thousand dollar question for men’s small groups: What can our group do that will bear fruit in the lives of our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren?The several good answers to this key question can generate activity in small groups for years. Yet there is one family-focused small group activity that stands above all the rest in its long-term effects: training fathers to teach the faith to their children.Psalm 78 mentions the powerful trans-generational effect that results from a father teaching his children. This psalm says that when a father passes on the faith to his children he is also passing on the faith to his grandchildren and great grandchildren who are not yet born. How can this happen? A father teaching the faith not only passes on the content of the faith to his children, but he also models the world’s best method for passing on the faith. The deepest and most lasting impact in teaching occurs when there is a strong relational bond between the teacher and student. This is what makes a parent such an effective teacher of the faith. A son will grow up to follow the example of his father and take the time to teach the faith the next generation. This is God’s timeless plan for passing on the faith within a family.In the U.S., the Catholic faith is not successfully being passed on to the younger generation. There are millions of Catholic parents anguishing over the loss of faith in their children. Even with years of Catholic education the Faith is being lost in unprecedented numbers.There is a remedy for the crisis. Psalm 78:7-8 says that if fathers will teach the faith to their children, then the faith will not be forgotten, or cast aside in rebellion. It will stick with their children. Just how effective is this method of fathers passing on the faith? Will it work with all the anti-Christian cultural pressures young people face today?Genesis 18 contains one of the best demonstrations of the principles of Psalm 78 put into action. In Genesis 18:17 God reveals how he is going to bring lasting blessings to Abraham’s family. “I have chosen him, that he may charge his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice; so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” Abraham (whose name means “exalted father”) is the model O.T. father. God promised to bring covenant blessings to future generations of Abraham’s family as a result of the fathers passing on the faith initiated by Abraham.Someone might respond to Genesis 18 by asking, Isn’t this an outdated four thousand year-old strategy? We are living in the twenty-first century. Take a close look at the context of Genesis 18:19. The verses before and after this verse refer to God’s coming to judge Sodom and Gomorrah. The wider cultural context of the fatherly effectiveness of passing on the faith in Genesis 18:19 is Sodom and Gomorrah. Fathers teaching the faith to their children is what works even when a culture has collapsed. Family catechesis is the special need of the hour.Family catechesis therefore precedes, accompanies and enriches all other forms of catechesis. Furthermore, in places where widespread unbelief or invasive secularism makes real religious growth practically impossible, “the Church of the home” remains the one place where children and young people can receive an authentic catechesis. Thus there cannot be too great an effort on the part of Christian parents to prepare for this ministry of being their own children’s catechists and to carry it out with tireless zeal. Encouragement must also be given to the individuals or institutions that, through person-to-person contacts, through meetings, and through all kinds of pedagogical means, help parents to perform their task: the service they are doing to catechesis is beyond price. (On Catechesis in Our Time [Catechesi Tradendae], Apostolic Exhortation by Blessed Pope John Paul II)How do fathers compare with mothers in fulfilling the task of teaching the faith? A Family in America Survey (Barna) asked parents with children under 18, “Which parent spends the most time discussing religion?” Forty-eight percent of the responses indicated that mothers spent the most time and only eleven percent said fathers did. In light of the fact that Scripture highlights the father's role in teaching the faith, dads have some catching up to do.Is your group following Blessed John Paul II’s exhortation for the restoration of Catholic fathers teaching the Faith to their children?

"Above all where social and cultural conditions so easily encourage a father to be less concerned with his family or at any rate less involved in the work of education, efforts must be made to restore socially the conviction that the place and task of the father in and for the family is of unique and irreplaceable importance." - The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World, Section 25

Where should the effort to encourage a father's role in education begin? Men’s small groups are the perfect place where assistance and encouragement can be given to fathers to perform the task of catechesis. John Paul II says that a group that performs this task is doing a service so valuable that it is “beyond price.”What are some practical ways a small group can assist in this task?First, select a good curriculum to recommend. The Faith and Life Series is a solid catechetical resource for grade-school children. The teacher’s manuals contain background information, illustrations to use in teaching, the main point to convey with each lesson, and references for further study.Second, it’s essential that you have a live demonstration of a father teaching his children. The majority of Catholic men would never dream of attempting to teach their children thinking it is too difficult. The live demonstration will ease fears and help convince them that teaching the faith is a task that an average dad can accomplish. Do not underestimate the need of anxiety-reducing demonstrations. The number of men actually catechizing their children will quadruple after a demonstration and an opportunity to take a first-hand look at the Faith and Life Series.Third, realize that many men under fifty years old have not received an adequate catechesis themselves. Their hesitancy to catechize will be greatly reduced if you offer them a variety of opportunities to be catechized themselves. For these men it would be wise to make available classes and easy-to-understand materials explaining the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Hint: more fathers will attend such classes if they are “for men only.”Fathers need to be equipped, encouraged, and held mutually accountable in fulfilling their responsibility to educate their children in the Faith. World-changing impact in future generations will come from groups that equip and encourage men to teach the faith to their children.Family Life Center resources for men’s small groups:Christian Fatherhood Study Guide (print & ebook)Legacy Study Guide (ebook)Beginning Apologetics (booklet & study guide)


Unintended Consequences from Easy Annulments

by Steve Wood

I was recently talking with a Catholic woman in her mid-twenties when the subject of annulments came up. Her immediate response was, “It’s a joke.” If you supposed that this young adult woman was a cafeteria Catholic showing up for Mass a few times a year, picking and choosing convenient moral doctrines, you assumed wrong. She is a faithful Mass attender who knows her faith and adheres to all of the Catholic moral teachings.The Catholic Church is suffering a severe credibility crisis among faithful young adults. Nothing looms larger in the credibility crisis than the clergy sex abuse of minors and the subsequent cover-ups by episcopal leadership. Lengthy explanations and rationalizations that appear in the Catholic press and media are mostly read by older adults. Younger adults are not remotely interested in any media spin on what are grave sins and felony crimes.Pope Francis recently called the failure to take action in response to clergy sex abuse, “sins of omission on the part of church leaders.” He called the widespread abuse of minors, “a terrible darkness in the life of the Church.” Such plain-spoken, honest, non-sugar-coated talk by the Holy Father will help restore confidence in the Church, especially with youth and young adults.The Church needs such frank descriptions of the annulment crisis as well, especially in the United States, the world leader in annulments. In the United States the annulment process is commonly viewed as the way large numbers of Catholics divorce and remarry.Am I saying that all annulments in the United States are somehow defective? No, I am not saying anything of the sort. There are indeed persons getting married with serious pathological disturbances causing a lack of capacity for entering a life-long commitment at the time of their wedding. There are some others who were pressured, threatened, or forced into marriages. In such situations declarations of nullity are most certainly justified.Unfortunately, most Catholics in the United States have known people granted declarations of nullity such as the two real-life examples below:At the urging of a devout Catholic wife, I met her Protestant husband in the hope that I might be an influence in his becoming a Catholic. To break the ice in our meeting he asked me, “What caused you to become a Catholic?” I responded that it was the Church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage that initially drew me towards the Catholic Church.In response, he shook his head and told me about his Catholic friend who boasted on a fishing trip how he planned to dump his wife and marry his young girlfriend. To top it off, he bragged about getting the Catholic seal of approval for his sinful actions having been unwisely assured of an annulment beforehand.Catholic teaching on the indissolubility of marriage, that which I cherished as a Catholic convert, was scorned by this man. Obviously, I didn’t make much headway in persuading him of the truthfulness of Catholicism. Sometime later, the husband I spoke with followed his Catholic fishing buddy’s bad example and divorced his wife and left his family heartbroken.I encountered a second shocking situation regarding attitudes towards annulments shortly after our family entered the Catholic Church.We considered moving to the Front Royal, Virginia area due to the presence of a strong Catholic community there. We used a nice mother-daughter realtor team to investigate properties. We mentioned to them that as new Catholics we were interested in living within driving range of the Front Royal Catholic community.During a few private moments between looking at houses, the daughter asked me why I became a Catholic. Her curiosity was piqued regarding the reasons for my conversion when she learned that I was formerly a Protestant pastor. I mentioned that it was the Catholic teaching on marriage and family life, especially the indissolubility of marriage, which prompted my conversion. At this, her normally pleasant countenance changed.In mid-life, her father took up with a young girlfriend. He subsequently divorced her mother, abandoning both of them to fend for themselves. When she spoke of the Catholic Church rewarding her father’s sins with an annulment, she could barely contain her emotions. To her, such annulments were not merely a joke; rather they were something corrupt, anti-family, anti-marriage, anti-Christian, and utterly despicable.Some Church leaders are advocating making the annulment process easier at the Vatican’s Synod on the Family next fall. Part of the reasoning is that many who civilly remarry outside the Church might quit church participation altogether. I think this concern has some basis in fact. Yet I wonder if the same leaders have considered the greater harm stemming from extreme multi-generational bitterness towards Catholicism generated by easy annulments. There’s a world of difference between quiet-quitters from the Faith and perpetually angry and embittered family members profoundly harmed by easy annulments.I am convinced that the Catholic Church says all the right things about the indissolubility of marriage. Yet, most folks both inside and outside of the Church, as well as those on the margins, will give greater weight to what the Church does with annulments when forming opinions on just how serious the Church is about indissolubility.Yes, I am very aware of the many websites, books, articles, media campaigns, and broadcasts explaining how declarations of nullity are not simply the way Catholics do divorce and remarriage. Yet most of these noble efforts lack effectiveness since most Catholics in the United States have firsthand experience of friends or family members getting undeserved easy annulments. They see Catholics divorcing and remarrying like the general public, except Catholics just need some expensive paperwork.I am not saying this is an accurate universal portrayal of annulments, but the fact is too many easy annulments have created a distorted perception of Catholic marital teaching. Church leaders, religious media personnel, and faithfully practicing older Catholics desperately need to go outside of the narrow circle of various Catholic media outlets to discover what tens of millions of Catholics, especially young adults, are really thinking about annulments.Equally important is to uncover why the marriage rate of young Catholic adults is plummeting. While easy annulments are not the only cause, they are certainly one of the primary reasons why thousands of young adults hold such a low view of a sacramental church wedding that they are increasingly avoiding it altogether.Counselors divide marriages that end in divorce into two general categories: high-stress and low-stress. Divorces from high-stress marriages are characterized by such things as rampant alcoholism, drug addiction, verbal and physical abuse, and pathological psychological disturbances.Yet, divorces from high-stress marriages are a minority of the marital breakups in the U.S. and hence only a minority of the cases that are brought before tribunals. According to Dr. Paul Amato, a sociologist at Penn State University, 55 to 60 percent of divorces occur in low-conflict/low stress marriages. Other researchers estimate that as many as 70 percent of divorces are from low-conflict marriages. Regardless of the exact percentage, Dr. Amato’s research found that children suffer the most negative effects after a divorce from a low-conflict marriage, rather than from a high-conflict marriage.Psychologists and marital sociologists state that it is easier for children to deal with the death of a parent than it is for them to struggle with the aftermath of their parents’ divorce from a low-stress marriage. Since the majority of declarations of nullity are for divorces from low-stress marriages, we need to realize that an annulment in such a situation does absolutely nothing to heal the decades of profound pain experienced by millions of Catholic children.I am appalled by defenders of easy annulments when they simply mention that the declaration of nullity doesn’t mean that the children from such broken marriages are in any way illegitimate. The statement is completely true, yet fails to mention that annulments do not ameliorate the decades of a child’s suffering after the divorce as seen in higher rates of: depression and psychological disturbances, substance abuse, welfare dependency, school suspension, incarceration, cohabitation, out-of-wedlock child-bearing, and rates of divorce in future marriages.The welfare of Catholic children is the ultimate reason why it’s imperative that next fall’s Synod on the Family doesn’t make annulments any easier and thus unintentionally weakens the indissolubility of marriage.In a low-stress marriage no one is getting black eyes, harmed, or threatened. What is experienced in low-stress marriages are the normal marital problems that all couples experience, but with a lack of the necessary skills and perseverance to navigate through the difficulties. Low-stress marriages may have unmet needs, unrealistic expectations, poor communication, or are simply going through a very difficult rough patch in their marriage.Low-stress unhappy marriages can be healed and become very happy, especially with adequate time and with what is known as “skill-based marital education.” Rather than granting annulments following divorces from low-stress marriages the focus should be on preventing such divorces in the first place by offering widespread effective skill-based education and support.While there are many fine exceptions, overall there is a shocking lack of pastoral and parish support for those experiencing marital difficulties. Saying to a troubled spouse, “Come see me after the divorce and I’ll help you through the annulment process,” is not support for lifelong marriage. In fact, just saying such a thing could easily be a strike against a marriage that otherwise could be healed.It is not uncommon for a couple experiencing a painful period in their marriage to think that the pain will last for the rest of their married life. At such times they are vulnerable to overt and subtle suggestions from clergy, family, friends, and counselors to abandon the marriage. The alluring prospect of being able to start over with a new and different spouse after divorce and an easy annulment is enough for many hurting couples to choose a marital exit strategy over making the necessary sacrifices to develop a lifelong marriage.The proposal by some Catholic leaders to increase the availability and ease of obtaining annulments will have the unintended consequence of weakening an already weak Catholic marriage culture. What Catholic marriages really need, especially in Europe and North America, is practical and effective assistance in healing hurting marriages in order to reduce the Catholic divorce rate.In my next letter I’ll present seven practical and proven ways to reduce the Catholic divorce rate. These types of practical steps to prevent divorce and strengthen marriages are what the Synod on the Family should be focusing upon.Editor’s Note: This is one of the longest newsletters I’ve sent you. This newsletter is intended to assist in preventing serious harm to the Catholic family from some of the ruinous proposals for the Synod on the Family in Rome next fall. Parents may want to save the citations from our past two popes regarding abuses in the annulment process in case there is a need for material to discourage a grown child from prematurely giving up on a marriage.Prophetic Witness about Annulments from St. John Paul II & Benedict XVI "The tendency to extend nullities instrumentally, neglecting the horizon of the objective truth, entails a structural distortion of the whole process.”St. John Paul II Address to the Roman Rota (the supreme marriage court of the Church), 2004.“The normal human condition in this world, also includes moderate forms of psychological difficulty. Consequently it includes the call to live in accordance with the Spirit even in the midst of tribulation and at the cost of renunciation and sacrifice. Where such an integral vision of the human being is lacking, normality on the theoretical level can easily become a myth and on the practical level, one ends up denying to the majority of people the possibility of giving valid consent.”“Bearing in mind that only the most severe forms of psychopathology impair substantially the freedom of the individual and that psychological concepts do not always correspond with canonical, it is of fundamental importance that, on the one hand, the identification of the more serious forms and their distinction from the slight, be carried out by means of a method that is scientifically sure.”“All possible explanations for the failure of a marriage for which a declaration of nullity is sought will have to be considered and not just the hypothesis of it being due to psychopathology ... It may, in fact, be a case of people who are substantially normal but who have difficulties which could be overcome, were it not for their refusal to struggle and make sacrifices.”St. John Paul II, Address to the Roman Rota, 1988“The fact of a problem that continues to be very real is visible to everyone. In some cases one can, unfortunately, still sense the pressing need of which my venerable Predecessor spoke: that of preserving the ecclesial community ‘from the scandal of seeing in practice the value of Christian marriage being destroyed by the exaggerated and almost automatic multiplication of declarations of nullity, in cases of the failure of marriage, on the pretext of some immaturity or psychic weakness on the part of the contracting parties.’”“In this regard it is opportune to recall again some distinctions that draw the demarcation line above all between ‘psychic maturity which is seen as the goal of human development’ and ‘canonical maturity which instead, is the basic minimum required for establishing the validity of marriage.’ Secondly … ‘only incapacity and not difficulty in giving consent and in realizing a true community of life and love invalidates a marriage.’”“In this regard it seems opportune to recall that the Code of Canon Law's norm concerning mental incapacity, and the application thereof. In order for this incapacity to be recognized, there must be a particular mental anomaly that seriously disturbs the use of reason at the time of the celebration of marriage and the use of reason or the critical and elective faculty in regard to grave decisions, particularly in freely choosing a state of life or that puts the contracting party not only under a serious difficulty but even the impossibility of sustaining the actions inherent in the obligations of marriage.Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the Roman Rota, February 2, 2010 Personal This passage from the prophet Malachi is what shocked me as a Protestant pastor out of my complacency towards divorce from a lawful marriage followed by remarriage. When I finally realized that this passage could apply to me as a minister, I resigned from my pastorate and eventually became a Catholic. Even though this passage proved very disruptive in my life, I’m profoundly glad that I heard its message before judgment day.I reproduce the passage here without comment, or suggested application. Whatever your position, vocation, or state in life, just ask the Holy Spirit to speak through Malachi’s words whatever God wishes you to hear."If you will not listen, if you will not lay it to heart to give glory to my name, says the LORD of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings; indeed I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart.Behold, I will rebuke your offspring, and spread dung upon your faces, the dung of your offerings, and I will put you out of my presence. So shall you know that I have sent this command to you, that my covenant with Levi may hold, says the LORD of hosts.My covenant with him was a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him, that he might fear; and he feared me, he stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity. For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.But you have turned aside from the way; you have caused many to stumble by your instruction; you have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the LORD of hosts, and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you have not kept my ways but have shown partiality in your instruction."And this again you do. You cover the Lord's altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor at your hand. You ask, "Why does he not?" Because the LORD was witness to the covenant between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Has not the one God made and sustained for us the spirit of life? And what does he desire? Godly offspring. So take heed to yourselves, and let none be faithless to the wife of his youth."For I hate divorce, says the LORD the God of Israel, and covering one's garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So take heed to yourselves and do not be faithless."You have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet you say, "How have we wearied him?" By saying, "Every one who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delights in them."— Malachi 2:1-9, 13-17This article appeared in the August 2014 edition of the Dads.org E-Newsletter.


The Power of Imitation: Fathers’ Secret Weapon for Child Training Success

by Steve Wood

I have a bad habit that I picked up years ago at military school. I was taught to spit shine, not the polite way with polish and water, but the old fashion way with black Kiwi and spit. I thought nothing of my old habit until one memorable meeting of the Wood’s Shoeshine Club.Like it or not, when my children were younger I had an automatic shoeshine club whenever I shined my shoes. All I had to do was sit down with dirty shoes and polish and my children would run to collect their shoes and join me. One memorable evening while I was (unconsciously) spit shining my shoes, I had to leave the room for a few minutes. When I came back in the room I discovered one of my daughters imitating my behavior - with a slight modification. If spit shinning was good enough for dad, then she felt “lick shinning” would be even better. I stared in amazement at my daughter licking her shoes. It was a rude awakening at the power of imitation that a father has with his children.Once I consciously tried a “power of imitation” experiment. One of my daughters had a splinter in her foot and I needed to soak it in some Epsom salts. She was scared and very resistant to the idea of putting her foot in the bucket of warm water and salts. Her siblings nervously watched this first-aid mini-crisis unfold.I had two alternatives. I could forcefully hold her foot in the bucket while she wailed for fifteen minutes, or I could try the power of imitation. I thought that if the secret of imitation worked in this tense situation it could work in almost any situation. Without saying a word, I took off a shoe and sock, rolled up a pant leg, and stuck my foot in the bucket. Immediately I found the formerly nervous siblings putting a foot in the bucket while roaring with laughter. My daughter with the splinter put her two feet in the bucket! Other than the problem of a crowded bucket, the power of imitation worked beyond all expectations.God has made children to learn behavior from what they see. Every child is a born imitator. Your children do not have to be trained to imitate observed behavior. They will do it automatically. Guaranteed. A wise father will seek to maximize the power of imitation in his children. Fathers have the simple, yet challenging task of modeling in their own lives what they want to see reproduced in the lives of their children.Imitation is the fundamental path of Christian discipleship. The Imitation of Christ is one of the greatest Christian classics by Thomas á Kempis. The title of this masterpiece describes the essence of Christian living and discipleship.As Christians we are to be imitators of God. We are to be merciful because God is merciful (Luke 6:36). We are to be holy because God is holy (Leviticus 11:45). We are to be kind and forgiving because this is what God is like (Ephesians 4:32). St. Paul said, “Be imitators of God, as beloved children.”The important question for fathers then arises, “How do I teach my children to imitate a God they cannot see?” Fathers are to be an image of the heavenly Father before their children. Fathers are to live in such a way that their children can imitate their lives and grow in likeness to God. Therefore, the most important thing needing change in the process of training children is not the kids, but the dads! Children will imitate the godly transformation of their fathers.St. Paul could say to his spiritual children, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Can we as fathers say the same?To explore more of the topic of imitation, see: Legacy: A Father’s Handbook for Raising Godly Children, Chapter 4.


How to Keep your Kids Catholic

by Jim Burnham

When my three-year-old son makes the sign of the cross and sweetly tells Jesus how much he loves Him, I am so proud. When that same son screams in anger and frustration, I am ashamed. He learned to do both by imitating me.Wouldn't parenting be easier if children would just do all the good things you tell them to do, and none of the rotten things they see you do? Children are natural-born imitators: they mimic whatever they see, both good and bad. Unfortunately, parents are not always natural-born good examples.If we want our children to be good Catholics, then we must be good Catholics. If we want them to live and love their Catholic faith, then our children must see us living and loving our faith. The formula is so easy, and yet so hard to apply consistently. To always be a good example to both your young children and teens is extremely difficult, even with God’s grace. Fortunately, there are ways to make up for our parental shortcomings.The most effective way to keep your teens in the Catholic Church is to show them how to fall in love with Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. The Eucharist is the secret weapon in the war for the soul of your teenager. The combined forces of the world, the flesh, and the devil are utterly powerless against it.The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls the Eucharist “the heart and the summit of the Church’s life,” as well as the “sum and summary of our faith.” (CCC, #1407, #1327). The Eucharist is the sacrament of sacraments, the divine reality toward which all the others sacraments point and in which they are all fulfilled.Currently, there is a lamentable lack of faith in the Real Presence. A 1993 Gallup poll revealed that 70% of Catholics hold false views about Christ’s presence in the Eucharist. Only 30% of those Catholics surveyed correctly believe that Jesus Christ is truly present—body, blood, soul, and divinity—under the appearance of bread and wine. A more recent survey found that belief in the Real Presence sharply decreases among younger Catholics. Only 17% of 18-29 year-olds accept that Jesus Christ is truly present in Holy Communion. It is shocking that five out of six Catholic teenagers reject the Real Presence, the heart of our faith.The Eucharist is an infinitely precious gift from God because it is God. How many Catholics appreciate the immeasurable graces which flow from this sacrament? How many of us are aware that by receiving Communion in the state of grace, we receive forgiveness of our venial sins, grace to avoid mortal sins, and a deeper union with Christ? Going to Communion also binds us to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, strengthens us to persevere in our earthly pilgrimage, and makes us long for eternal life. When we truly believe these promises, we will teach our children to treasure this gift above all others.But before we can strengthen our teen’s faith in the Eucharist, we must first revitalize our own faith. We should deepen our knowledge of this sacrament, since love increases with knowledge. As Frank Sheed noted, “Every new thing known about God is a new reason for loving Him.” (Theology and Sanity) Likewise, the more we learn about the Eucharist, the more we will cherish it. Additionally, the better we know this doctrine, the better we can communicate it to our teens.An excellent place to begin studying the Eucharist is the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs #1322-1419. Another great resource is Mark P. Shea’s This Is My Body: An Evangelical Discovers the Real Presence.But it is in showing your teens that you love the Eucharist that you will enable them to fall in love with Jesus in the Sacrament. Go to Mass regularly, even daily, if your schedule allows. Daily Mass is not just for people like the Holy Father and Mother Teresa: it is for everyone who hungers for the Eucharist, which should be all of us. Sure it takes effort, but anything worthwhile takes effort. The sacrifice you make to get to Mass frequently speaks volumes to your children about the value you place on the Eucharist.Children notice the smallest details. Ask them who makes the most reverent sign of the cross in your family. Have them tell you which priest holds up the consecrated host longest, or says Mass most reverently. Their answers should convince you to become more devout in your own behavior. At Mass, adore God wholeheartedly at the consecration and elevation. Genuflect respectfully each time you pass in front of the tabernacle. Make a deliberate sign of the cross, not some fly-swatting swish of the hands. Linger a few minutes after Mass, to give thanks to the infinite Creator you carry within your body. At least once a week, make a family visit to the Blessed Sacrament. Children will judge the sincerity of your faith by the sincerity of your actions.A strong faith in the Eucharist is the best protection your teenager can have against the lure of non-Catholic evangelizers. Many Catholics leave their bland parish for another denomination that serves up the Gospel hot and spicy. People who give up the Catholic faith often say they were looking for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. How much more personal can you get than to have Jesus literally and physically living within your body? Ex-Catholics who claim that they are now being “fed” with the written Word at their new church, don’t realize that they have abandoned the banquet of the Living Word, the body and blood of our Savior Jesus Christ.The Eucharist is Catholic “super-glue,” binding believers to the Church for a lifetime. To keep your teens Catholic, instill in them a love for Jesus in the Eucharist. And since you can’t give what you haven’t got, fall in love with our Eucharistic Lord yourself.


In God We Trust: Making God the Father of Our Finances

by Steve Wood

I was standing at the kitchen sink staring at my backyard agonizing over how the Family Life Center was going to survive financially. In the year after founding St. Joseph's Covenant Keepers we experienced a 1200% growth rate, but only a 4% growth in donations. Our success was killing us financially. We only had a few days of operating funds. Since we did not even have the money to send a mailing to our supporters notifying them of our predicament, we would have to close our doors and I would be out of a job. While transfixed on these financial anxieties, I felt a little tug on my leg.I looked down to see my two-year-old daughter, Susan, holding a cup and asking me for a drink of water before bedtime. Her eyes reflected a special childlike confidence in her father. There was not a hint of doubt or anxiety in her request. She simply trusted me to fulfill her need for a cup of water. As I handed Susan back her full cup I wondered why I could not trust God for my needs the same way Susan trusted me. Didn't Jesus say that instead of financial anxieties we were to have confidence in our heavenly Father?Knowing that we should trust the heavenly Father instead of having financial anxieties is one thing. Actually doing it in trying circumstances can be very difficult, especially for grown-ups like me with little faith!While still at the sink it struck me that St. Joseph could be the missing link between a doubting anxiety-filled father and the heavenly Father. Certainly St. Joseph can relate to family financial anxieties. He was a man of modest means who received an angelic midnight job transfer. Overnight he had to leave his home and his business. St. Joseph faced the challenge of providing for his uprooted family in a foreign country with just a few of his carpenter's tools.St. Joseph is different from a buddy who can relate to our family financial difficulties; he can do something about it! James 5:16 says, "...The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects." Matthew 1:19 calls Joseph, the "just man." The two English terms "just man" and "righteous man" are two ways to translate a common Greek word. Therefore, St. Joseph is the righteous man with unique intercessory access to God himself. In the carpenter shop Jesus willingly responded to any request by St. Joseph. Do you think that Jesus responds any differently to a request that St. Joseph would make on our behalf today?When both pagan and Jewish people needed "daily bread" during an excruciating famine they were told to "go to Joseph" (Genesis 41:55). God raised up the patriarch Joseph to provide for the needs of many in the midst of great want. The Church fathers recognized that the Old Testament patriarch Joseph foreshadowed St. Joseph in the New Testament. Contemporary fathers struggling with providing "daily bread" for their families need to "go to Joseph." In St. Joseph they will find a powerful and sympathetic advocate.I entrusted my family's finances and the work of the Family Life Center in a renewed way to St. Joseph that evening. I asked him to bear and to present our needs to God. Within a week we were out of financial danger. Within a month we were back on our feet financially. Incredible! Through this experience and others like it since then, I have learned that St. Joseph is a saint that a father can rely upon when the chips are down. You don't "go to Joseph" and come away disappointed.God the Father gave Jesus a perfect earthly father to provide for his needs. It is because Jesus becomes our brother through the New Covenant (Hebrews 2:11-12), that Jesus' Father is "Our Father in Heaven" and St. Joseph is our human covenant father. When we need an intercessor for "our daily bread" with the Heavenly Father, St. Joseph stands willing to help any father who asks for his assistance.Financial anxiety has almost become a way of life for many modern families. Too often, many of these families facing financial anxieties sense little or no support from the Church. Listen to the anguish of a father from Stamford, Connecticut:

"As someone who was 'restructured' - that is, fired - from his job, I've completely lost interest in reading Catholic newspapers. I'm also finding it terribly difficult to go to Mass, since I don't hear a word of understanding there for those of us living a financial nightmare.  When I wrote Pope John Paul II about the sufferings of American children due to unemployment, the Holy Father acknowledged my letter and said he would pray for me and my family at Mass. He understood the sufferings many are going through. But the lack of understanding in Catholic newspapers and in the Catholic community as a whole is demoralizing. I get the sense that my sufferings aren't worth noting or addressing."

Families should respectfully request that prayers be offered during Mass, not only for the poor, but also for struggling middle-class families, businesses, workers, salesmen, and those needing jobs. After six years as a Catholic I cannot remember hearing a single prayer during Mass on behalf of the finances for middle class families. Someone like the father writing from Connecticut could easily get the impression that the Church is either unaware or uncaring about the enormous financial pressures faced by "average" families today.A regular feature of Christian men's groups should be mutual supporting prayer for family finances. Children should be encouraged to pray for the success of the family breadwinner(s). We should encourage devotion to St. Joseph as a way of relieving some of the financial stresses faced by families. We should share our answered prayers with congregations, small groups, and families as a way of encouraging others to discover through prayer that God is willing to be the Father of their family's finances.

"Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" - Matthew 7:7-11

Indifferentism- Who Cares?

by Jim Burnham

These are all familiar expressions of religious indifferentism: the notion that all religions are equally valid. Indifferentism is particularly strong in America, with our long tradition of rugged individualism that claims every man should decide right and wrong for himself. We think of religion as an intensely private affair, man's personal search for God. And who is to say that one man's path is better than another's? We might raise an eyebrow if our neighbor Jones worships the oak tree in his backyard. But as long as he doesn't make too much fuss, it's live and let live. If it makes him feel closer to his god, who cares?While most Catholics don't hold with worshipping trees, few would tell Jones to his face that he was wrong. Fewer still would be comfortable telling Protestants that their faith is incomplete. Most would rather say: "We are each worshipping the same God in our own way. Who are we to judge others? Who are we to impose our beliefs on others?" It all sounds so open, so broadminded, so charitable, so … American!There's just one thing wrong: it is so false. Religion is not man's search for God, but God's search for man. Only God has the authority to establish a religion. Only God can set the conditions for salvation. He is the Creator; we are the creatures. God makes the rules; we must follow them. If God reveals how He wants to be adored, then we are obliged to obey, not invent our own methods.Christians believe that God revealed himself through his Son Jesus, who established one Church. Christ promised that this one Church would last until the end of time as the pillar and foundation of the truth (Mt 28:20; 1 Tim 3:15). It is the vehicle through which all men might be saved. If the Church was so important that God became man to establish it, then it must be important enough for us to join, follow, and remain in.Indifferentism depicts religion as multiple paths ascending one mountain with God at the top. In this case, there is no single way to the summit. One route might be easier than another, but we can't call any route false, since they all have the same goal. In fact, religion is more like a helicopter lowering a lifeline to people stranded on a mountaintop. They can't get to the helicopter by themselves; they can be rescued only by climbing the lifeline. God chooses the method of rescue; if we don't accept it, we put ourselves in unnecessary peril.God sent Jesus as the lifeline to rescue man from sin and death. Jesus established one Church to continue his work of preaching, forgiving, and sanctifying. This one Church has endured the test of time, persecution, schism, and sin. Guided by the Holy Spirit, linked by an unbroken line of apostolic succession, it has preserved the fullness of truth and grace unto the present day. Its name is the Roman Catholic Church. Through this one Church, God continues to call all men to himself.But hasn't the Church's ecumenical movement changed all that? By aiming to restore unity among all Christians, hasn't the Church basically said that all religions are equally valid? No. Ecumenism is not indifferentism. Ecumenism called for resolving the doctrinal differences among Christians, not ignoring them. The same Church that has frequently encouraged ecumenism has also frequently condemned indifferentism as heretical.The new Catechism teaches that only the Catholic Church has the fullness of the truth and the fullness of the means of salvation (sections 819 and 830). Therefore, the ultimate goal of ecumenism can only be to bring our separated brothers to the fullness of the Catholic faith. As the Holy Father said in his 1995 encyclical, Commitment to Ecumenism:"The one Church of Christ subsists [exists] in the Catholic Church. The Decree on Ecumenism emphasizes the presence in her of the fullness of the means of salvation. Full unity will come about when all share in the fullness of the means of salvation entrusted by Christ to his Church" (Ut Unum Sint, 86).We can't be indifferent to doctrinal differences. Consider the Eucharist. Catholics believe that Jesus is literally present under the appearances of bread and wine. If Christ is only symbolically present, as most Protestants claim, then Catholics are guilty of idolatry: worshipping mere bread and wine as God. However, if Christ is really present, then those Protestants are guilty of ignoring, rejecting, or even despising their Savior in the Eucharist. Both can't be right. If Catholics are wrong, then in true charity we must be rescued from our blasphemous blunder. If Protestants are wrong, then in true charity they must be invited to accept Christ's life-giving gift of himself. Neither can remain indifferent on such a critical issue. There can be no unity without resolving questions like these.It does matter what Church you attend-only one was founded by Christ and preserved in the fullness of grace and truth. Organized religion is important-because God himself did the organizing. Good Christians will become even better Christians when they participate in the Church's full sacramental life. Ecumenism means conversion of our separated brothers, not desertion. Withholding the truth of Catholicism would be even more uncharitable than withholding a cure for cancer.How do we begin evangelizing our non-Catholic brothers? Before we can share the fullness of Catholicism, we must first learn it. Don't go to an inter-faith Bible study if you are not well grounded in your own faith. Very likely, you'll come away confused about or even hostile to the Catholic Church. Devour good Catholic books and tapes: especially those focusing on doctrine, Scripture, and Church history. Only when you understand your faith well will you be prepared to explain it clearly, defend it charitably, and share it confidently.With a little study, you'll be able to answer your friends' tough questions about Catholicism. You'll be able to clear up their misconceptions about the Church. You'll be able to give them reasons to become Catholic, or return to the Church. It won't always be easy. But the rewards are eternal. As you grow in knowledge of your faith, you will grow in love. As you grow in love, you will grow in zeal for evangelizing. As you lead people to the fullness of the truth, you will win imperishable glory: "those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever" (Daniel 12:3; see James 5:19-20). Who could be indifferent about that?


Christian Parenting with Purpose (Part III): Family Time

by Joe Hyland

Nearly nine years ago, while working as the clinical director of a treatment facility for at risk adolescents I heard a shocking statistic – the average American father spends only 13 minutes per day with their children! My experience working with families has turned up similar findings and, while 13 minutes may be the low side of the norm, an hour a day has proven to be on the high side. As such, it has confirmed contributing factors at the root of the deep-seeded anger I have witnessed in so many of the adolescents that I have coached, taught or counseled. While these young people come from various backgrounds, there was a consistent similarity among them – lack of time together as a family.It has been said that manifesting their love for one another is the greatest thing parents can do for their children. This is a natural, organic process that happens over time – random and unscheduled moments – and it is done on a consistent basis with consistent effort. The often quoted “quality time over quantity time” is a mythical rationalization which serves only to justify the abdication of parental responsibility in the family. The reality is that life presents questions and challenges which rarely fit nicely into a planner. Children transition through milestones in often unperceived ways, provoked by events that are usually unforeseen and often unknown to parents. So, if our children are walking through the gauntlet of development and all of the trappings therein, it is crucial that parents are attentive, diligent and intentional about the irreplaceable interaction required of them in the lives of their children. Family time allows for the all important development of a sense of stability and the necessary experience of security that emboldens the awareness of being valued which is essential to mental health and also serves as the bedrock of a type of fortitude required to weather the trials inherent in life.Family time is vital to the life and culture of each individual family. Time together as a family offers the opportunity to teach, supervise, model, listen, laugh, pray, grieve, relax, discipline, explore, grow and challenge, all in the safe setting provided by the presence of one’s family. Of course, it should be stated that such time together allows for parental supervision which is essential to the healthy development of our children. This type of family time includes family meals or prayer, various projects or chores, as well as family games and recreation.Unfortunately, there exists a litany of examples whereby parents sabotage time together as a family by overbooking their calendars with work or activities and other events as they run the matrix of modern life. I have witnessed countless situations where parents are both out of the home earning fortunes while their children make do without them and when parents return, exhausted from often futile materialistic pursuits, their children are perceived as nuisances to be medicated, quite honestly, because many parents are too exhausted to meet their various needs. This is an epidemic as statistics continually show the increasingly alarming rate at which both parents and children are being medicated. I believe this stems from parents being aware that something is amiss but often unable to unplug from the fast-paced matrix they live in while, for kids, the message received is that they simply do not matter, they are not valued. The fact is that so much of what is troubling families can be overcome by spending more time together, and intentionally working at making the time spent together as a family one of quality.One of the most important objective characteristics of family time is parental supervision. Even when we are not engaged in a planned event or a formal activity, time together allows for parents to actively supervise their children. By supervising their children, parents are then able to model and, as needed, correct inappropriate or unacceptable behaviors while rewarding desired behavior. The opportunity to supervise one’s child is most available to those parents who intentionally safeguard their time together as a familyChildren need to be able to rely upon their parents to be there for them not just physically but emotionally as well. When this happens, children learn to trust their parents and feel safe as well. This combination provides a much needed sense of security that makes healthy development possible.  Unfortunately, when the supervision of a parent is not the norm within a family, children come to the conclusion that they cannot count on or trust their parents and, subsequently many children withdraw and often become emotionally attached to negative peer groups or various cultural icons who invariably do not hold the same values for children that parents do. So, such children invariably behave in ways consistent with their peer groups which are increasingly not only negative groups but also groups that behave in ways that are altogether antithetical to the beliefs and behaviors that parents desire for their children. Thus, between the point of the displaced emotional attachment of a child due to a lack of family time, wherein parental supervision should take place and the inevitable call that I receive to help such families, exists a litany of unhealthy and terribly sad statistics.To parent with purpose is to make an investment in your children. This requires that we familiarize ourselves not only with what to do to purposefully raise our children but also to recognize the importance of parenting in such a way given the near inevitabilities that occur if we do not.Many of the difficulties that families are currently dealing with stem from a lack of parental investment in the lives of their children. The good news is that the active presence of parents within the family setting on a consistent basis can overcome the troubles they face and those seeking to parent with purpose can choose this day to begin anew and make family time the most important time of every day.Joe is now a licensed counselor by the State of South Carolina.


Navigating Your Family through the Fog

by Steve Wood

By mid-January most economists, political forecasters, social scientists, and others have made their predictions for the year ahead. Accurate predictions are challenging as Yogi Berra warned, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”Many of us fail to realize that it’s often just as difficult to recognize looming present realities staring us in the face as it is to accurately predict the future.Fathers need to be alert to the cultural and spiritual situations in which their families are living. Therefore, I will attempt to describe the moral, spiritual, and cultural situations we find ourselves in at the beginning of 2015.Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, described by Fulton Sheen as one of the three greatest Catholic apocalyptic writers, said in his Lord of the World, that around the turn of the millennium a strange fog would cause moral and spiritual perceptions to dim. Msgr. Benson put it this way:“But what surprised him was the density of the air; it was now, as old books related it had been in the days of smoke. There was no freshness, no translucence of morning atmosphere, it was impossible to point in any one direction to the source of this veiling gloom, for on all sides it was the same. Even the sky overhead lacked its blue. There was no sense of mystery as of a veiled city, but rather unreality.”Monsignor Benson’s description of the smoky gloom eclipsing reality over rebellious mankind reminds me of St. John’s account of the results of the fifth angel blowing his trumpet in Revelation 9:“And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key of the shaft of the bottomless pit; he opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft.”The minds of modern men have been eclipsed by a demonic darkening that has led to a bewildering cultural and moral disorientation. This spiritual fog isn’t something that will descend with some shocking event in our distant future. It is occurring right in front of our eyes.Have you ever wondered, what’s behind a judicial system declaring that it’s a constitutional act to slaughter babies in the womb, or for two men to marry each other? Are you perplexed how a majority of Catholics can be in agreement with the legalization of same-sex marriage? Are you mystified how a Florida Bishop could begin 2015 by publically stating that same-sex couples share “relationships marked by love and holiness?” Are you puzzled how some European Catholic cardinals can propose giving communion to those living in an active state of adultery?What’s the source of such absurdities? Are these things just the antics of some progressives, or is something else at work? Put simply, the pit is opened and demonic smoke has filled the air causing a diabolical disorientation in the hearts and minds of millions.In Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s 1975 Reader’s Digest article entitled, “Wake Up! Wake Up!” he said: “We are approaching a major turning point in history. I can compare it only with the turning point from the Middle Ages to the modern era, a shift of civilizations. It is the sort of turning point at which the hierarchy of values to which we have been dedicated all our lives is starting to waver, and may collapse.”America certainly didn’t wake up by listening to this brave Russian prophet. Instead we’ve rushed past the turning point as our culture wallows in cesspools of filth and corruption and while our church is threatened by those who want to dismantle the foundations of morality by a not-so-subtle attack on the sanctity of marriage.So what’s a father to do in order to guide both himself and his family through the perils of the 21st century’s disorientating fog?I can’t think of better advice for living through a time like ours than that offered by Jesus in Luke 21: "But take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a snare; for it will come upon all who dwell upon the face of the whole earth. But watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of man." -- Luke 21:34-36If we have entered the period of history Benson and Solzhenitsyn warned about (and I think we have), then it would be supremely wise to engage in Advent watching and praying all year long.When Jesus sternly commands watching and praying he is giving us the way to avoid being disoriented in the fog of modernity. This is the divine method for not getting sucked into the demonic vortex that is capturing most of the world.Here are two practical ways to implement Jesus’ command to watch and pray in your family.First, it is absolutely necessary to pray if you want a spiritual life. If you and your family need an easy to use resource for daily prayer, I recommend a tiny Catholic prayer book. Even though it’s only 2”x 3”x 1/8”, it’s packed with enough good prayers to get you prayerfully through 2015. If you want copies for your family, simply send an email to mail@dads.org letting us know how many copies you need along with your mailing address. It’s our gift to your family.Second, I recommend reading through the New Testament this year. It’s not as difficult as it sounds. Spending just a few minutes reading a chapter a day will easily get you through the New Testament in a year even if you start after Valentine’s Day. There are a number of free audio New Testaments that you can load on your smartphone. Just listening to a chapter a day during the first few miles of your commute will get you through the entire New Testament in 2015.In case you are interested in a convenient-sized New Testament, you can’t do better than the Ignatius New Testament and PsalmsRevised Standard Version (dark blue bonded leather). This is a wonderful gift for any family member. If you want a plan to read through both the New Testament and the Psalms in a year, then just read a chapter a day through the year and up your daily reading to two chapters a day during Lent.In an age of spiritual disorientation, prayer and reading the scriptures will serve you and your family as sure beacons by which to navigate.Watch and pray are two good watchwords to guide our families through 2015 and beyond.This article first appeared in our January 2015 Newsletter


Christian Parenting with a Purpose (Part II): The Essentials

by Joe Hyland

At times Christian parenting can be messy and difficult, but parenting successfully is possible for those who are committed to doing so with purpose. Those that parent with purpose do it because they understand that even the best children are inclined to act upon impulse, choosing whatever is easiest and most pleasurable in a given situation. Children who exhibit such behavior without being addressed become adults who habitually take the path of least resistance, selfishly choosing whatever is most appealing to them in a given moment with little or no consideration given to the consequences. If this pattern continues unchecked, a child can easily become an entitled, self-centered and selfish adult.Admittedly, there are many factors that impact the development of children.  Parents should realize that they cannot possibly control every one of these influences. Thus, my approach with parents is the same approach I take with the young men that I coach or those whom I counsel: assess and address. In short, this approach emphasizes first identifying what you can control, and secondly, directing your efforts towards mastering those things. In fact, together these make up the first two in a series of nuts and bolts approaches for those wishing to be successful in Christian parenting. The difficulty that many people have with these first steps is not so much in the assessing or the addressing. Rather, the difficulty is in letting go of what you cannot control. If you don’t believe it, give it a try!It is critical that we work intentionally to train our children to do what is right. Parenting with purpose, however, goes further - for kids to do what is right, they must know what is right. Many good and well-meaning parents overlook this simple point: that it is impossible for our children to avoid wrongdoing and choose what is right without knowing one from the other. They will learn and make this distinction from someone. Therefore, our effort must be deliberate and exhaustive from a child’s earliest stages to provide them with the environment and the role models that establish a culture marked by the discovery of truth, the pursuit of virtue through the practice of goodness, and the ongoing development of a godly mind and heart.Another important component to Christian parenting with purpose that is increasingly overlooked is supervision. Parents must actively supervise their children as they are trained in doing what the parents have taught to be right. This includes seeking forgiveness when wrong, doing chores, constructive and healthy play with siblings or peers, mealtime manners, and various social interactions, among other things.  Again, the process of learning will take place. Parents who control who it is their children learn from and what their children are learning, have maximized their efforts by identifying external sources of reinforcement for their parenting.As parents whose vocation it is to raise up children to know, love and serve God it is essential that we are continually discerning the most appropriate and effective ways to live out this vocation. Parenting with purpose provides us with a roadmap to stay the course as Christian parents who desire for our children a healthy and mature assimilation into adulthood. To understand and apply the points elicited above is a definitive stride forward for parents, but it is the next and final installment of parenting with purpose which addresses the two components to parenting that have proven to be indispensible - family time and discipline.Joe Hyland is a guest speaker at "Destination Dignity" - a conference focused on purity, dignity, and chastity for adults and young adults ages 12 and up. The conference will be hosted at St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church in Simpsonville, South Carolina on March 14-15, 2014. For more information, click here.


A Tale of Two Churches

by Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.

Once upon a time there was a church founded on God’s entering into human history in order to give humanity a path to eternal life and happiness with him. The Savior that God sent, his only-begotten Son, did not write a book but founded a community, a church, upon the witness and ministry of twelve apostles. He sent this church the gift of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of love between Father and Son, the Spirit of the truth that God had revealed about himself and humanity by breaking into the history of human sinfulness.This church, a hierarchical communion, continued through history, living among different peoples and cultures, filled with sinners, but always guided in the essentials of her life and teaching by the Holy Spirit. She called herself “Catholic” because her purpose was to preach a universal faith and a universal morality, encompassing all peoples and cultures. This claim often invited conflict with the ruling classes of many countries. About 1,800 years into her often stormy history, this church found herself as a very small group in a new country in Eastern North America that promised to respect all religions because the State would not be confessional; it would not try to play the role of a religion.This church knew that it was far from socially acceptable in this new country. One of the reasons the country was established was to protest the king of England’s permitting the public celebration of the Catholic Mass on the soil of the British Empire in the newly conquered Catholic territories of Canada. He had betrayed his coronation oath to combat Catholicism, defined as “America’s greatest enemy,” and protect Protestantism, bringing the pure religion of the colonists into danger and giving them the moral right to revolt and reject his rule.Nonetheless, many Catholics in the American colonies thought their life might be better in the new country than under a regime whose ruling class had penalized and persecuted them since the mid-16th century. They made this new country their own and served her loyally. The social history was often contentious, but the State basically kept its promise to protect all religions and not become a rival to them, a fake church. Until recent years.There was always a quasi-religious element in the public creed of the country. It lived off the myth of human progress, which had little place for dependence on divine providence. It tended to exploit the religiosity of the ordinary people by using religious language to co-opt them into the purposes of the ruling class. Forms of anti-Catholicism were part of its social DNA. It had encouraged its citizens to think of themselves as the creators of world history and the managers of nature, so that no source of truth outside of themselves needed to be consulted to check their collective purposes and desires. But it had never explicitly taken upon itself the mantle of a religion and officially told its citizens what they must personally think or what “values” they must personalize in order to deserve to be part of the country. Until recent years.In recent years, society has brought social and legislative approval to all types of sexual relationships that used to be considered “sinful.” Since the biblical vision of what it means to be human tells us that not every friendship or love can be expressed in sexual relations, the church’s teaching on these issues is now evidence of intolerance for what the civil law upholds and even imposes. What was once a request to live and let live has now become a demand for approval. The “ruling class,” those who shape public opinion in politics, in education, in communications, in entertainment, is using the civil law to impose its own form of morality on everyone. We are told that, even in marriage itself, there is no difference between men and women, although nature and our very bodies clearly evidence that men and women are not interchangeable at will in forming a family. Nevertheless, those who do not conform to the official religion, we are warned, place their citizenship in danger.When the recent case about religious objection to one provision of the Health Care Act was decided against the State religion, the Huffington Post (June 30, 2014) raised “concerns about the compatibility between being a Catholic and being a good citizen.” This is not the voice of the nativists who first fought against Catholic immigration in the 1830s. Nor is it the voice of those who burned convents and churches in Boston and Philadelphia a decade later. Neither is it the voice of the Know-Nothing Party of the 1840s and 1850s, nor of the Ku Klux Klan, which burned crosses before Catholic churches in the Midwest after the civil war. It is a voice more sophisticated than that of the American Protective Association, whose members promised never to vote for a Catholic for public office. This is, rather, the selfrighteous voice of some members of the American establishment today who regard themselves as “progressive” and “enlightened.”The inevitable result is a crisis of belief for many Catholics. Throughout history, when Catholics and other believers in revealed religion have been forced to choose between being taught by God or instructed by politicians, professors, editors of major newspapers and entertainers, many have opted to go along with the powers that be. This reduces a great tension in their lives, although it also brings with it the worship of a false god. It takes no moral courage to conform to government and social pressure. It takes a deep faith to “swim against the tide,” as Pope Francis recently encouraged young people to do at last summer’s World Youth Day.Swimming against the tide means limiting one’s access to positions of prestige and power in society. It means that those who choose to live by the Catholic faith will not be welcomed as political candidates to national office, will not sit on editorial boards of major newspapers, will not be at home on most university faculties, will not have successful careers as actors and entertainers. Nor will their children, who will also be suspect. Since all public institutions, no matter who owns or operates them, will be agents of the government and conform their activities to the demands of the official religion, the practice of medicine and law will become more difficult for faithful Catholics. It already means in some States that those who run businesses must conform their activities to the official religion or be fined, as Christians and Jews are fined for their religion in countries governed by Sharia law.A reader of the tale of two churches, an outside observer, might note that American civil law has done much to weaken and destroy what is the basic unit of every human society, the family. With the weakening of the internal restraints that healthy family life teaches, the State will need to impose more and more external restraints on everyone’s activities. An outside observer might also note that the official religion’s imposing whatever its proponents currently desire on all citizens and even on the world at large inevitably generates resentment. An outside observer might point out that class plays a large role in determining the tenets of the official State religion. “Same-sex marriage,” as a case in point, is not an issue for the poor or those on the margins of society.How does the tale end? We don’t know. The actual situation is, of course, far more complex than a story plot, and there are many actors and characters, even among the ruling class, who do not want their beloved country to transform itself into a fake church. It would be wrong to lose hope, since there are so many good and faithful people.Catholics do know, with the certainty of faith, that, when Christ returns in glory to judge the living and the dead, the church, in some recognizable shape or form that is both Catholic and Apostolic, will be there to meet him. There is no such divine guarantee for any country, culture or society of this or any age.This column was originally published in Catholic New World, official publication for the Archdiocese of Chicago.


A Forgotten Secret to Raising Catholic Children in a Secular Culture

by Marie Bellet

The most powerful agent for raising Catholic children and immunizing ourselves against the anti-family culture that surrounds us is the nightly family dinner. This regular meeting conveys that no matter what happens to you today, your family will be there at the end of the day, to love you and remind you of what really matters. When dads make it a priority to be home for dinner, the kids know that the family is important!Even though everyone is tired at this time of day and it’s tempting to just “get it over with,” we should remember that it is not just about the food. Everyone should look forward to getting home and being together. We need to put some personality into it! This conveys to everyone that family is top priority. The regular ritual of the family dinner is the building block for knowing each other well, showing care and consistency, and giving kids a concrete expectation for unity and fidelity.Family dinners are also a great time to teach basic manners. Many teens chew with their mouths open, talk with food in their mouths, and do not look adults in the eye when they speak. This is a clear sign that they do not have family dinners or conversations with adults. It puts kids at a real disadvantage in the adult world. You should expect good manners. That means no interrupting, no monopolizing the conversation and no bad language. It also means having the self-control to listen. Teach this by doing. Your kids should take turns, say “please” and “thank you.” They should not grab, yell or talk about gross things. They should wait to be excused before leaving the table and refrain from eating until dad says grace. In fact, dad might even have to moderate the conversations until the kids learn to be civilized.Dinner conversations can be pretty chaotic when kids are young, but as they get older, the art of conversation has to be developed. Conversations should not be administrative or disciplinary. This is a sacred time to talk about the issues of the day, movies, politics, how people treat each other at school and how to interpret what is going on. This helps kids make sense of what they have seen and heard, to put things into a larger context. This is also a time to develop a charitable sense of humor and remind each other to avoid gossip. Discuss what is going on in their lives and yours in terms of the values you are teaching.Nightly dinners must be maintained and guarded. What used to be considered “the precious dinner hour” has all but disappeared for most families today. After school or work meetings and sport team practices are routinely scheduled at the same time that families used to gather together to reconnect and recharge over a family meal. We must make a valiant effort to reclaim this time, giving the family and our commitment to raising Catholic children the top priority. Strong families do not just accidentally happen while everyone is minding their own business. We must fight hard against the temptation to “do everything” and to sacrifice family life as the most central and satisfying aspect of our lives.Many young adults today do not really respect and know their parents because they did not take the time to look at each other, know each other, share each other’s burdens, and challenge each other. The family dinner is that time! Don’t waste the opportunity. Let them hear your struggles and know your stories. They really want to hear about your childhood, your triumphs and failures, the characters in your family. This will connect them to you and your values. Tell them of the heroic everyday sacrifices that have gone before. Let them know that they are part of a bigger picture that made them who they are. Seeing themselves in the larger context of the flawed, eccentric but still loveable family tree will give them the courage to risk failure.The family dinner is the constant that creates and strengthens family culture. It is a time of sharing, listening, forgiveness and humor. It provides the warmth and perspective to drown out the shallow pop culture.


Parental Supervision for Teens

by Steve Wood

Successfully fathering children through the transition from childhood to adulthood has never been easy. Fathers of teens in the decade ahead face the most challenging fathering task in human history. We are living through nothing less than a worldwide collapse of Christian culture. While all of us are going to be painfully affected by the collapse, no one is going to feel the pressures of this cultural collapse more than teenagers.Most of the cultural and institutional aids that have traditionally assisted parents guiding their children through adolescence have lost their effectiveness. Even worse, some of these institutions have become a significant part of the problem. The lifestyle most young people adopt before they reach their twentieth birthday is one that regards mortal sin as an acceptable lifestyle. More than ever, teens need their dads to shepherd them through this difficult phase of life.Some fathers may chuckle at these warnings, seeing them as alarmist misapprehensions. Other fathers, realizing that the eternal welfare of their teen is really at stake, will exclaim, “What can I do as a father to save my teen?” One very practical step parents can take is to provide parental supervision for their teens.Parents who grew up in the sixties might be tempted to think that sexual temptation for teens is still greatest at Lover’s Lane, or at the drive-in. Here is news: Lover’s Lane is now a subdivision and the drive-in is now a shopping mall. So where do most sexual temptations for today’s teens occur? They occur in at home, maybe even in your own bed! This can come as a shock to many parents.Home is the place where today’s teens get into trouble the most. Sixty percent of teens who have sex do so at home when their parents are away (Reported in annual survey by Who’s Who Among American High School Students).Some Catholic dads might exclaim, “These rates of sexual sin at home could not possibly be occurring among Catholic teens.” No, they might not be occurring at these rates. There is one study that indicates that the rates among Catholic teens may be even higher. In a study appearing in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence researchers investigating 1,228 U.S. parochial students reported the eye-opening finding that “three out of four [sexually experienced] teenagers reported using someone’s home for the location of first sexual experiences. It appears that an empty and unsupervised home provides more opportunity for the adolescent as well as for the younger grade-school latch key child to engage in sex” (Quoted from Family in America, published by the Rockford Institute, Rockford, IL, February, 1996).Another study done by Michigan State University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that unchaste teenagers are likely to come from homes “where parents do not monitor them [teenagers] closely and hold permissive values regarding teen sexual behavior.” This study showed “a very clear association between level of parental monitoring and sexual experience for both males and females” (Journal of Marriage and the Family, Vol. 56, 1994, pp. 181-192 quoted in Family in America, June 1994).Michael McManus in his book, Marriage Savers, reports on two recent secular studies showing a 53% to 71% higher probability of divorce if pre-marital intercourse has been engaged in. To translate this into concrete terms it means a 53% to 71% increased probability that your grandchildren will grow up fatherless. According to studies reported by David Blankenhorn, in Fatherless America, “Daughters of single parents are 92% more likely to dissolve their own marriages” (p.46). The effects of pre-marital sex and the subsequent likelihood of divorce taken to the third generation carry a staggering probability of marital breakup.The statistics above certainly do not prove that if your teen engages in pre-marital sex that your great grandchildren will automatically grow up in fatherless families. Yet the statistics do warn of a string of potential catastrophic consequences stemming from a lack of adequate supervision.What you do, or do not do, by way of providing supervision for your teen could have effects for generations to come.Fathers of teens and younger children should take a close look at the seventh commitment of St. Joseph’s Covenant Keepers which reads, in part, “…We will seek to provide the maximum opportunity of our wives to nurture our children at home.” It is worth sacrificing material comforts and pleasures to provide the opportunity for our wives to be at home for our teens. In the many situations where it is financially impossible for your wife to be at home, then seek the active assistance of grandparents, relatives, friends, and neighbors for the times when you are not at home, but your teens are.


Handing on the Faith

by Mark SheaIn

Our family, we have a tradition. Every evening, my wife and I (sometimes one of us, sometimes both) go into the children's bedrooms, make the sign of the cross on our kids' foreheads and bless them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It has become a last sign of love for the day, a fixed point in a hectic, crazy and painful world. No matter how things went at school, no matter whether they were rotters or angels, no matter what, they know they will find hands extended in blessing at the end of the day. The kids have come to expect it, and to share it with their younger siblings as one of the deepest expressions of love they know. The life and love grows and spreads and puts down roots.I often think of our family tradition when I think of the way God's family, the Church, grows and spreads and puts down roots. For the human experience of family love is a kind of image of the love of God. God, after all, is a little like a family Himself. He is one God in three Persons. And the love between those Persons is so intense and creative that He desires nothing more than to be given away to the creatures He has made, even when those creatures have sinned against Him. We are called to be members of God's family, even if we are black sheep.But how? Does He hand us a Bible and say, "Read this, kid. If you can understand it well enough, I'll see you in heaven when you die. Otherwise, tough beans. Now I'm going out of town for many years. Bye."No. God is not some distant Father or abstract theological concept. So far from being distant, His Spirit is, as one of the saints says, closer than water to a fish. So far from not being able to get near Him, the Psalmist exclaims rather that he can't get away from Him even if he wanted to! (Ps 139:7-12)But even this closeness was not enough for God. That is why the Second Person of the Trinity was born in a stable at Bethlehem. He came to us, not merely through a book, but as a man. The Word became, not just words, but flesh. And when He did, He offered us, not just words, but his hands extended in blessing just as, in our own fumbling way, my wife and I offer our hands to our children. "He stretched out his hand and touched" the leper (Matt 8:3). He touched Peter's mother-in-law and the fever left her (Matt. 8:15). "He took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them" (Mark 10:16). And in the climactic moment of his life, he stretched out his hands-and died.Yet the glorious truth is, He did not stay dead. "See my hands" He told His astonished disciples (Luke 24:39). It was by His hands that He showed Himself alive to Thomas (John 20:27).Not strangely then, the Church sees its mission as "handing down" the revelation entrusted to it. Like families still do, it passes down the life given to it by its Father, not just in the family diary called the Bible, but in the family memory called Sacred Tradition: the common life, common teaching and common worship of the whole family in union with the bishops and our Holy Father the Pope. It hands down the sacraments. It collects images of its children the saints in photo albums called icons. It honors its Mother Mary. It passes on to us the full knowledge of what it means to be children of God. As St. Paul said, what he received, he also handed on (1 Cor 15:3).In this way, Jesus makes us, by the Holy Spirit, "participants in the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4), agents of His grace and power, and "members of the family," not so much by handing us a book as by handing us Himself. And He calls us as Catholic fathers to participate in His work in a crucial and irreplaceable way. For we are called to be like our heavenly Father and "hand" Christ to our children, not just with words, but by our example, by our love for our wives, by our prayer for and with our families, by our teaching them of and exposing them to the sacraments, by teaching the doctrines and living the life of the Church, by upright conduct at home and at work, and by our care for the poor and marginalized. In so doing, we hand our families our very lives, just as Christ handed us his.For as St. Teresa of Avila said long ago, "Christ has no hands on earth now but yours."[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column] [/et_pb_row] [/et_pb_section]


St. Joseph the Worker

by Steve Wood

In 1955 the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker was created by Pope Pius XII to counter the influence of the communist’s May Day celebrations. Some think that with the fall of the Berlin Wall communism is no longer a threat to free society. For a time I thought that too, until I realized Russia, with its sophisticated and updated ballistic missile technology; Red China, using our Walmart dollars to arm itself to the teeth; and North Korea, unstable at best, all have missiles pointed directly at the United States coupled with extensive plans to wage and win a nuclear conflict. Within the past few weeks Russian TV boasted that Putin and his military have the capability of reducing the United States to “nuclear ash.” As utterly serious as nuclear war is, the ever spreading “errors of Russia” (where the state replaces and opposes God) are even more threatening, since by leading souls to hell the consequences are eternal. The “errors of Russia” even seem to have seeped into the White House.What’s to be done in response to all this?Some seem to think a military response is all that’s needed. Even though the United States has the most powerful military in the history of mankind, it alone cannot save us from what seeks to destroy us. Why? The primary attack on our country is one that comes from within: corruption of morals, marriage, youth, culture, entertainment, education, communication, and even the sanctity of human life. Our country has been under a comprehensive cultural corruption for decades. Our enemies cannot externally conquer us unless we first culturally implode. Have you noticed that the cultural implosion seems to be progressing with increasing velocity since the year 2000?So again I ask, what’s to be done in response to all this?My suggestion is to ignore the skirmishes on the periphery of the battle for God’s kingdom and try to discern the bullseye of the enemy’s attack. Where is he aiming? What is he trying to destroy above all else?We can find the answer to the above questions in the last three pages of St. John Paul II’s book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope. His words deserve a slow and careful reading. Here’s what he said:“In human history the ‘rays of fatherhood’ meet a first resistance in the obscure but real fact of original sin. This is truly the key for interpreting reality. Original sin is not only the violation of a positive command of God but also, and above all, a violation of the will of God as expressed in the commandment. Original sin attempts, then, to abolish fatherhood, destroying its rays which permeate the created world.”Satan is gunning for nothing less than to obscure and obliterate the fatherhood of God in this world. St. John Paul II highlighted the role of fathers in families when he said that their role “is to reveal and relive on earth the very fatherhood of God.” Therefore, one of Satan’s prime strategies is to obliterate a clear and loving perception of God the Father in a child’s heart by destroying earthly fatherhood. Satan is having a field day destroying modern fatherhood through divorce, desertion, preoccupations, addictions to alcohol and pornography, so-called same-sex marriage, and an effeminate culture inside and outside of the Church.God has muscle, lots of it. Theologians call this omnipotence. He is so powerful that he doesn’t need to go around flexing his muscles. In fact, he often shows his incredible strength by quietly working through what appears to be obscure, humble, and poor vessels – like St. Joseph, the carpenter from Nazareth.At the beginning of the Christian era, God, by directing St. Joseph, managed to put a dent in Satan’s and his dear servant Herod’s plan to destroy the Christ-child. As we move closer to the end of the Christian era, I fully expect a divine replay of the first century. St. Joseph will play a key role in protecting Christ’s children, just as he safeguarded the Christ-child.Who would ever expect a counter-punch to the full scale attack on the goodness of God’s fatherhood to come from a humble carpenter? Who would expect that this man from Nazareth could inspire men to awaken men from addictions, mindless video games, neglect of family, playboy pursuits, and worship of the almighty dollar? Who would expect that a Catholic carpenter saint could inspire men and young men to again be real men in the midst of a sissified culture?In my view, Pope Pius XII was right on target by bringing St. Joseph to the forefront of Catholic thought and piety as the “errors of Russia” were flooding the world in the 1950s. The only thing that has changed in the 59 years since he instituted the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker is that the need for it today is one hundred times greater.It’s time for all of us Catholic men to renew and deepen our devotion to and dependence on St. Joseph. I don’t mean doing something sacrilegious and superstitious like the burial of a statue of St. Joseph upside down and underground when you want to sell a house. Instead, why not begin by getting an honorable above ground statue of St. Joseph for your lawn and put a solar light on it to have St. Joseph lighten the night we are living in?St. Joseph: The New Evangelization & The “Power from on High”“This patronage must be invoked as ever necessary for the Church, not only as a defense against all dangers, but also, and indeed primarily, as an impetus for her renewed commitment to evangelization in the world and to re-evangelization in those lands and nations where … religion and the Christian life were formerly flourishing and ... are now put to a hard test. In order to bring the first proclamation of Christ, or to bring it anew wherever it has been neglected or forgotten, the Church has need of special ‘power from on high’ (cf. Lk 24:49; Acts 1:8): a gift of the Spirit of the Lord, a gift which is not unrelated to the intercession and example of his saints.”On the Person and Mission of Saint Joseph in the Life of Christ and of the Church, Section 29,Apostolic Exhortation, St. John Paul II, August 15, 1989


For What It's Worth...Gaining Economic Perspective

by Bob VanNorden
“There's somethin' happenin' hereWhat it is ain't exactly clear...I think it’s time we stop, hey, what's that sound?Everybody look what's going down.”- For What It’s Worth, by Buffalo Springfield

The stock market is making new highs, interest rates are at lows, unemployment percentages are dropping, the current Washington Administration is confident of economic recovery – what a wonderful economic environment we now enjoy here in the USA. What's that I hear some of you whispering about? You're not too sure? You have a rather uneasy deep-seated feeling about all of this? Well, I'm with you.Let me be clear from the very beginning, there are many brighter and more highly educated experts in economics and personal finance than me. But having spent most of my adult life around the stock market and having worked for 25 years on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (the so-called “belly of the beast”) with one of the principal investment firms on Wall Street, perhaps I can share some worthwhile insights with our readers. Or at least pose some worthwhile considerations for those who may have different perspectives. I must also disclose that an important part of my perspective comes from a spiritual realm that I believe many good and trustworthy Christians around the globe share. As the world delves deeper into darkness, something of great significance seems about to unfold. It is in this light that I have greatly appreciated the writings and broadcasts of my friend Steve Wood, who for well over a decade has had his finger very much on “what is happening here.” Let's see if we can help provide some insight into making things a little more “clear.”The world has a deep-seated spending problem. In America it seems despite what money we may make as a nation, we spend more. It is never enough. Our national deficit alone is now over 16 trillion dollars. Is this really a problem? Well, do we really think that continued borrowing will eventually bring us out of debt and back into prosperity? In a recent article by Van Hoisington and Larry Hunt, they put the situation quite succinctly: “Borrowing to finance consumption does not generate a productive income stream nor does it create the resources to repay the borrowed funds. Consequently, velocity (velocity of money is defined as the average frequency with which a unit of money is spent on new goods and services produced domestically in a specific period of time) has collapsed and now stands at a six decade low."(1)They then go on to indicate that although money is being printed in unparalleled fashion, it is not having the impact on our economy one would imagine. “Our present economic situation is nearly unparalleled in American history. An examination of the real economic growth rate of each decade in the United States from 1790 to 2012 reveals the unprecedented sluggishness of our present economic environment. The 1.8% average rise in the thirteen years of this century is less than half of the 3.8% growth rate since 1790. The only decade that witnessed worse economic conditions was, of course, the 1930s." (2)Real GDP Where does this money come from? Well it comes from the US Treasury issuing bonds to finance our debt. And who is buying this debt? Despite large amounts of buying from foreign investors (especially China and Japan) this is not enough to exhaust the large supply of bonds issued. Normally, this would mean a respective rise in interest rates until demand could offset supply (that is, bond yields would rise to become attractive enough for investors to buy them). However, there is another source of buying that has soaked up this US Treasury bond supply and kept interest rates at historic lows. The Federal Reserve is now buying $85 billion of longer dated US Treasury and mortgage backed bonds every month.This appears to be quite a game. Our government needs money, so it issues bonds (through the Treasury Department) and then buys a large chunk of the bonds themselves (through the Federal Reserve). This is how the government is able to go about “printing money.” The results are artificially low interest rates and a surge of money into the equity markets. But the effects on our economic growth seem quite muted at best. Van Hoisington and Hunt go on to point out: "In other words, there is no evidence that the massive security purchases by the Fed have resulted in a sustained acceleration in monetary growth; nor is there evidence that economic conditions have improved." Additionally, the extreme level of indebtedness is a force entirely independent of the Fed, and it is restraining aggregate demand and serving to neutralize what minimal influence the Fed has on the economy.” (3)How long can this last? Of course no one can determine a date (although a great many are guessing) but suffice it to say that when it does, things may end very badly indeed. Artificial bubbles usually do, and this may be a whopper.My future articles will explore this economic perspective more fully as it relates to such issues as inflation, deflation, banking, college loans and most importantly how all of this could affect your family finances. All the while, it will be framed within the spiritual realm that seems to be calling to "those who have ears" to "stop" and take the time to understand "what's that sound."1) Van R. Hoisington and Lacy H. Hunt, Hoisington Asset Management-Quarterly Review and Outlook, 13 April 2013.2) Ibid3) Ibid


The Bible ALONE?

by Mark Shea
Do you understand what you are reading?" asked Philip. "How can I" said the Ethiopian, "unless someone explains it to me?" (Acts 8:30-31).

Many lay Catholics are getting interested in studying their faith. And for a large percentage of these folks this means increased Bible study, which the Church heartily commends. However, when we try to put that into action, we can often run into a problem: the Invisible Contact Lens Syndrome. Most people don't realize it, but the air is actually filled with millions of invisible contact lenses. These contact lenses--with names like "skepticism," "New Ageism," "materialism," "conservatism," "liberalism," and countless other "isms" are especially concentrated in schools, near TV sets, around close friends, and near magazine racks. Silently and imperceptibly, they stick to your eyes as you watch TV or read the paper or watch a movie. As they do, they begin to alter the way in which you see everything, including Scripture. And the fact is, no matter what you do, you can't keep your eyes free of them. Nobody does anything--including reading Scripture--without some set of contact lenses. So the question is not whether we will read Scripture through such lenses. It is, rather, whether we will read Scripture with the lenses God intends us to use.Now the great thing about the Catholic Faith is that our Lord Jesus has, in fact, given us a wonderful set of contact lenses. This set of lenses is called "Sacred Tradition" and the "Magisterium" or teaching office of the Church, which is His Body. Many people, unaware of the contact lenses stuck to their eyes by American culture, imagine the lenses Jesus offers us are optional. "I'll just read the Bible Alone," they say. "I don't need the Catechism or all that Tradition stuff."But the fact is, this is like saying "I want a one-sided coin." For the Bible is just the written portion of a much larger Tradition handed down by Jesus to his apostles. And the Magisterium is simply the continuation of the office of those apostles who were told (by Jesus himself) "he who listens to you, listens to me" (Luke 10:16) and who appointed bishops to succeed them in preserving the fullness of the Faith. To try to learn the Faith using "the Bible Alone" is not really to read Scripture without Tradition; it is merely to substitute the traditions of men for the Tradition of God. It is to see Scripture through some set of man-made lenses.If you don't believe it, consider this. Many an ex-Catholic Protestant has told me they rejected the Church because some Catholic teaching (say, Purgatory) was "not mentioned in Scripture" But these same ex-Catholics usually believe in the Trinity when that is not mentioned in Scripture either. They are usually pro-life though abortion is never explicitly mentioned in Scripture. They always believe the books in their Bibles are apostolic, inspired, and trustworthy despite the fact that the authorship of many is completely unknown. Why?Because they have unconsciously retained a whittled-down part of the Sacred Tradition Jesus gave the Church. It is only the bits of Sacred Tradition they reject which they call "additions" to Scripture. But if my ex-Catholic friends apply the same treatment to the rest of Sacred Tradition that they apply to Purgatory, they will soon find there is no reason left to believe in the Bible at all, for Scripture exists only because the Body of Christ, under the Spirit's guidance, wrote, edited, compiled and canonized it.In short, when you pit the Bible against the community that produced it, you logically find yourself calling into question, not just supposedly "extra" doctrines like Purgatory, but the whole of Sacred Tradition, including the Bible itself. The deal is, Sacred Tradition and Scripture: Both or neither.If you opt for "both", you suddenly find yourself in communion with armies of people who have not only studied Scripture, but become holy and wise by contact with our Lord in its pages (and, among other things, found a very clear biblical basis for Purgatory there). If you opt for "neither" you lose, not only Tradition, but Scripture as well.So the Church's understanding of written and unwritten Tradition and her divinely created teaching office look like a pretty good deal to me. After all, we wouldn't have refused the help of a professional mechanic friend as we struggled through a car repair manual when we were in college. We wouldn't have pooh-poohed the insights of a pro quarterback as we tried to learn about football when we were 10 years old. Why then should we ignore 2,000 years of accumulated insights from saints, theologians and scholars who are a lot more mature in Christ than we are?The Ethiopian Eunuch knew this. When confronted with a mysterious passage from Isaiah (and there are many mysterious passages in Scripture) he made a common sense observation: he said he didn't understand it. Moreover, he followed this with a common sense deed: he asked the Church (in the person of Philip the Evangelist) for help in understanding it. And the Church gave it. That is what the Church does, for the Lord who breathed his Spirit into Scripture and the Lord who breathed his Spirit into the Church is one Lord (John 20:22; 2 Timothy 3:16).That's why I think if the Ethiopian Eunuch were around today, he would drool over the Catechism of the Catholic Church. How wonderful to have the compendium of the Magisterium's teaching concerning the fullness of Sacred Tradition, both biblical and extrabiblical--the very thing the Ethiopian asked for! Any Catholic who wants to study Scripture should start by learning from the Ethiopian's sterling example. For as St. Paul told the Thessalonians, we are to stand firm and hold fast to the Traditions the apostles passed on to us, whether by word of mouth (that is, by Sacred Tradition) or by letter (that is, by Scripture) (2 Thessalonians 2:15). The Ethiopian Eunuch would not settle for part of God's gift; he wanted it all. So should we.