Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Debunking Demographic Salvation

Some Catholics believe that in the long run, Catholics will eventually gain power and influence by sheer force of numbers. Since (on average) practicing Catholics have many more children than non-believers, they argue, practicing Catholics will simply in the long run outbreed non-believers. Therefore, the argument concludes, Catholics simply need to retreat from society and wait for their eventual numerical advantage to kick in.
This argument is dangerously wrong, and fails to take into account three important factors.
The first reason why it fails is numerical. There are far too few Catholic “breeders” to be able to outbreed the general population. If 95-98% of a population is not composed of practicing Catholics (and that is the percentage of Americans who support or practice birth control), that means that the massive percentage of families that have only one child will breed enough children to outnumber their few believing counterparts over one and possibly even two generations. It takes at least two, and more certainly three, generations to outbreed a population. And who knows what will happen in two or three generations?
Also, due to medical advances, people effectively live longer and longer lives. Non-believers will be able to live longer and longer lives, effectively lengthening the process of cultural replacement.
A more telling reason why the demographic argument fails is the fact that the culture of death tends to corrupt. The temptation of risk-free pleasure pushed by the prevailing culture is very strong, and one that young people find difficult to resist. If Catholics are not active in opposing this culture, many of their sons and daughters will be sucked into the vortex of the culture of death. Not all Catholics raised in the Faith remain in the Faith forever!
Finally, and most importantly, “letting people die off” reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the Church’s mission. As Christians, we cannot let people just remain in their sins. We are called to be missionaries to those in darkness and in the shadow of death. God willing, we are called to bring Christ’s light to all people. We are called to be missionaries to those afflicted by the culture of death, converting by word and example.
So we cannot simply allow non-Catholics to destroy themselves by cultural suicide. We must vocally oppose the evils of those who promote the culture of death, in all its various incarnations, and publicly live the Christian life to the fullest, if we wish Catholicism to thrive for our descendants.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Mystery of Suffering

Since God is all-powerful and all good, how could He allow suffering to exist? Such is the dilemma which all people face at one time or another in their lives. It is a question which the human mind may never be able to fully comprehend.
There are three common questions which are raised about suffering. The first is the question of what suffering and evil are. The second is the question of why suffering exists. The third is the question of why suffering happens to good people. The first question is one that no man has been able to answer. Many philosophers have formulated ideas as to the nature of evil, but no one has been able to adequately explain what evil is. The idea of the absence of good as a positive malignant force is one that will always elude human comprehension.
For Christians, the answer to the second question is simple. Sin ultimately causes suffering in one form or another. St. Paul in his letter to the Romans says that “the wages of sin is death.” Sin causes infinite separation from God, for any evil is completely separated from a good and perfect being. Therefore, the effects of sin separate man from God’s good gifts; as goodness brings happiness and comfort, so also evil brings suffering.
The third and most important question to a Christian is why suffering happens to good people. If God is just, surely suffering can be parceled out by the gravity of the evil which a person commits. The Jews of Jesus’ day believed this, seeing illness, poverty, and physical maladies as the mark of sin on a person or a family. Christ, however, turns this idea on its head. He came into the world poor, associated Himself with the outcasts and mistreated members of society, and died the death of the worst criminals in the Roman Empire. If God Himself took on a human life full of suffering, then a human being’s personal association with evil cannot be the measure of that person’s suffering.
For Christians, suffering in reality is a gift that allows us to re-examine ourselves. We lose our pride in the face of being confronted with the same suffering that others experience. Suffering forces us to make important decisions, both about our current actions and our future ones. This process can bring out the best in others, prompting decisions to benefit whole groups of people or ones which will strengthen a person’s personal integrity.
The measure of a gift, however, depends on the person’s response to it. A person who takes suffering and broods over it only begets more suffering for himself. The person who uses the suffering of others as a means of manipulating people to seize power does irreparable harm not only to himself, but to others around him. All gifts, misused, bring destruction; this is true of suffering.The person who accepts suffering and resolves to be better because of it achieves fullness of life. This is what Christ means for us when He tells His disciples to take up their crosses. We cannot simply acknowledge that suffering exists; indeed, we must embrace it.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Poetry Session

The marble heart is broken,
The flaccid hand is clenched,
The narrow path is taken,
The crimson gush is stanched.
Not as I was, but will be,
Not my will, but Your plan,
Not as I am, but as You see,
Not me, Lord, but a man.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Church and Publicity

To people deeply influenced by the major press organs of the day, the Church is a repressive institution, capable only of ruining the lives of its members (especially women and young boys).
Dissenters within the Church, sex abuse scandals in the clergy, the behavior of so-called “Catholic” politicians, and a distorted view of Catholic teaching – these elements are what the general public sees of the Church (and to a lesser extent religion in general).
By contrast, the incredible good that the Church does is ignored or belittled. How many stories do the media run about the work of Catholic Charities? How many reports do the media produce about the power of the Catholic faith to unite communities and even entire nations?  How many miracles do the media present to the general public? (And miracles still do occur. Incorruptible saints, Eucharistic miracles past and present, and miraculous cures still occur today.)
The answer to all these questions is very few, if any. The media, as an institution, focuses almost exclusively on negative stories about the Church, while burying or ignoring positive coverage.
Part of this is due to the fact that journalism focuses on negatives by design. “If it bleeds, it leads” is a depressing but true dictum of journalism. Stories of war, death, plague, and scandal naturally get an inordinate amount of coverage, simply because they are easy to report on and draw a lot of interest.
But part of the refusal to cover the good that religion does stems from a genuine hatred of what the Church stands for, on the part of many media elites.
These media elites influence others to despise the Church by spreading falsehoods about the Church and Her mission. And people, duped into believing these falsehoods, loathe the Church for what they are led to believe are Her evil ways and hypocrisies.
The famous saying of Archbishop Sheen holds true: “Hundreds of people hate the Church for what She stands for. Millions hate the Church for what they think She stands for.”
The Church is the ultimate institution for good in this world. But the incredible work of the Church is buried under an avalanche of slander from Her enemies.
To counteract these lies and slanders, Christians must practice their Faith – publicly – through their good example and prayerful lives. The lies of the enemies of the Church must be counteracted daily by the good work and holy lives of faithful Christians.
Since many people are force-fed a negative view of the Church, it is therefore the task of the Christian to provide good publicity to the Church.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

"Foul-Weather" Christians and Prayer

Many self-professed Christians pray to God only during dark periods in their lives, and ignore Him when life is going well. These so-called “Christians” only pray to God when they “need” Him or want something from Him.
Such an attitude is incredibly selfish. God is not a crutch to be used when times are bad and cast aside when life is good. He gives to us everything that we possess – in good times and in bad times. We should be thanking him MORE in good times for His incredible generosity.
There are four types of prayer: praise, adoration, thanksgiving, and petition. Only one type of prayer (petition) involves asking God for things. The other three types of prayer are necessary for a self-professed Christian to truly live a Christian life.
In times of joy and celebration, Christians should gratefully acknowledge God’s graciousness for all the gifts He has given us. And in times of darkness and distress, we should ask Him for the grace to bear our trials. But “foul-weather” Christians myopically focus on prayers of petition, and neglect the other three types of prayer.
To pray to God only in times of trial is the equivalent of using God. Those who do pray in that manner show that they care nothing for Him, except as a means to His gifts.
When people do not get what they want from God when they pray and complain, they are like spoiled children, who whine when they don’t get what they want. When they receive what they want from God and refuse to thank Him, they are like the nine lepers who were healed by Jesus, who walked away rejoicing without thanking Him.  (Luke 17:11-19)
Like human beings, God does not like being used. He wants us to love Him for His own sake, and not merely for what He can give us. If we treat Him as only a “sugar daddy” and pray to Him only when we need something from Him, what right do we have to demand that He will help us?
As Christians, we must remember to pray to God not merely because we want His blessings, but also to remember His generosity with gratitude, and to joyfully acknowledge Him in prayer for His awesomeness and love. He gives us everything we possess – and we should always remember that when we pray to Him.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Poetry Session

Farewell, my lovely queen I never knew.
I lived, and loathed, and lied, in loving you.
If fairest nature wrought her finest art,
Then fairest wouldst thou be in every part.
So fair, that for your hand a million fought,
And in the end, none won what they had sought.
Unworthy are the mortal men of earth, 
To those who bear the blood of royal birth.
Although you hold a million hearts in thrall,
But one you love – a king, or none at all.
I, with another million souls, desire,
Your golden throne to which we all aspire.
Alas, my longing for you is a lie.
My truest service to you is goodbye.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

My Abortion Story

If a medical test shows that a child will be born disabled or in any way imperfect, pro-abortion advocates argue that child should be aborted, because his or her “quality of life” will be diminished, and he or she will be a burden to the mother and to society. Better, they argue, for a disabled child to be killed then to experience a life of pain and suffering.  
If my mother had followed this logic, I would not be writing this. My bones would be lying in a landfill somewhere. And I would be dead.
My abortion story begins when my mother was twelve weeks pregnant with me. (I was her first baby, and she was newly married.) She went to a gynecologist for the first time, and was asked to take what is known as the alpha-fetoprotein test, which checks for possible medical conditions in unborn children, including mental retardation.  
The blood test came back positive (or, as she later found out, in the “high” range of the normal category of proteins). My mother was led to believe by her doctor that I would live a life limited by mental retardation.
My mother was told that by the age of twenty, I would have the intellect of a five-year old. I would know my name, my address, maybe my phone number – and no more.
My mother’s gynecologist told my mother that I would not have a worthwhile life, and she strongly advised my mother to abort me. But my mother still wished to have me, mentally retarded or not, and rejected her doctor’s “advice.”
But her doctor would not give in so easily. She grew progressively nastier to my mother as the pregnancy progressed. Until the very end of my mother’s pregnancy, she pressured my mother to get rid of me. And my mother had no idea where else to go for medical help with the pregnancy (I was her first child, and she was young and newly married), so she was forced to undergo this doctor’s pounding week after week, until it was time for her to give birth.
When I was born, my mother’s gynecologist was cruel to her, even saying to her during her delivery: “Will you hurry this up? I have other patients to attend to.” Even after I was born, she wouldn’t relent; her last words to my mother were: “You make sure to come into my office Monday morning so that this NEVER happens again.”
Of course, the “expert” was wrong, and God has blessed me with an intellect greater than that of a five-year old. But I am a very lucky man – for if I was born to other parents, I would very likely not be writing this.
How many women could have borne perfectly healthy children, who instead chose abortion because they were falsely told that their child would be born useless or his or her “quality of life” would be diminished? How many “wasted lives” were aborted, boys and girls long since aborted, some of whom might be my friends today?
Only God knows the answer to that question. But the answer is certainly very many.
My mother’s story also provides insight into the trials of what many women undergo during pregnancy. Doctors, family, lovers, and friends of pregnant women often lead them to believe that their child is worthless or will have a diminished quality of life due to disability. And so they abort their children. And children who might well have been healthy are now dead as a result. Many women are simply not strong enough to bear their children in the face of authoritative pressure and the lies of those they trust.
I do know that I am very grateful to my mother for bearing and raising me. Many women, under the pressure she was forced to undergo, wouldn’t have been able to hold firm against a doctor’s demands and bear me to full term. My mother was strong and courageous enough to do so. And for this, as for everything else she has given me (and she has given me a lot!), she deserves my undying gratitude.
My father supported my mother throughout her pregnancy, and stood with her as she was being pressured to abort me. Many women are forced to make their decisions alone, under incredible pressure to abort their unborn children, without the help of the child’s father. My mother had my father’s unconditional support.
I owe them both my life; they wanted me to be born and fought hard for my birth, and I am writing this today because of their strength and willingness to accept even a disabled son into the world.
Thank you, Mom and Dad, for accepting me into this world. It is an honor and a joy to be your son, and I will always be grateful to you for fighting for me to be born. I love you both, now and forever.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pro-Life, Inside and Outside the Womb

A common and ridiculous claim among many self-styled “progressives” is that pro-life advocates care nothing about people outside the womb. 
This claim is nonsense, of course. It is incredible hypocrisy for abortion groups to claim that pro-life men and women care nothing for those outside the womb. After all, groups such as Planned Parenthood do not concern themselves with the health of the mother after birth control or abortion. Women after abortion (many of whom are poor and troubled) are thrown back onto the street, without healing or counseling from abortion providers. They are left alone by pro-death groups to bear their loss and guilt. And religious and pro-life groups such as Rachel’s Vineyard and Silent No More are left to pick up the pieces. 
Nevertheless, the progressive gibe, however ridiculous and untrue, still raises an important point. Pro-life advocates must be concerned with life after conception. After all, the common prayer that all human life be protected “from conception to natural death” spans the breadth of human existence. The true Christian must – and indeed is – concerned with human life during all stages.
This is NOT to say that opposition to abortion is optional. It is not, and never will be. But concern for those outside the womb is demanded of a person who claims to be pro-life, just as concern for those inside the womb is neccesary.
And the Church and pro-life groups consistently rise to the challenge. Pro-life people and pro-life groups are incredibly generous in the time and support they give to the underprivileged and the troubled. Crisis pregnancy centers, soup kitchens, food pantries, missionary work, teaching, and a host of other activities are run by the Church.
The Catholic Church does care for the poor, the troubled, and the disabled - indeed, more so than any institution. Motivated by the love of God, it effectively and joyously serves men and women of all ages.
The Church’s care for the unborn, the aged, and EVERYONE in between – is unmatched. The Church provides a consistent ethic of life from conception to natural death. And she lives that life out in Her mission, just as Her master commands.
And all of us who are Christians must remember to live out that mission, of service to all, inside and outside the womb.  

Friday, October 7, 2011

Another Poetry Session

Deeper, deeper in the mystery.
Closer, till it drives you mad,
Quicker, that the dawning shadow
Rends whatever sense you had,
Faster, faster, to the furnace.
Swifter into sight unseen.
Lower down the drop of darkness,
Farther now. What could it mean?

Stare into the light that blinds you.
Deeply, now, behold your own,
Dare to see the sight that binds you -
Knowledge of the great unknown.
Deep, too deep inside the temple,
Shackled in the sacred shrine,
From the altar strikes swift justice -
Endless night - the blast is thine.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Feminist Hatred of Women

It is an odd characteristic of radical movements today that they seek the destruction of the very institutions that protect and sustain them. Radical environmentalists, who use the technology of modern technology to spread their radical agenda, call for the destruction of civilization itself.
This same self-destructive tendency is also evident in feminism. Catholic apologist and writer G. K. Chesterton famously quipped that “feminists want to destroy womanhood.” His quip is unfortunately devastatingly accurate.
For feminists hate everything there is about being a woman. They reject motherhood, deny their own femininity, and seek traditionally male roles solely because they are not traditionally female roles. They seek liberation from the duties (and joys!) of motherhood and marriage, and instead seek empowerment and license. They want all the good points about being men, without any of the difficulties.
(I am not saying women should be forced to leave the workforce. But women who choose to raise their children at home should be supported for making that choice, and not attacked by amazons who scorn their free decision to do so.)
In short, feminists want women to be males – without the duties that manhood entails. And in doing so, they render themselves and other women less happy. No one can be happy if they deny the role that God gives them. And feminists who reject their roles as mother and wife destroy the family, which in turn creates unhappiness in their own lives.
Many men have refused to accept their God-given roles, as part of a misbegotten reaction to feminism. They have instead retreated into an adolescent stage where sex, alcohol, and pleasure reign supreme. The spirit of self-sacrifice which makes a man male is discredited in modern society.
And the cycle feeds upon itself. If most men actually acted like men, feminism would be instantly be rendered irrelevant. For a virtuous man is far better at being a man than a woman will ever be. (Sorry, ladies.)
Male virtues like self-sacrifice, honor, courage, solidity, and strength are difficult to fully replicate in women. Female virtues such as nurturing, understanding, empathy, and intuition are impossible to fully replace in men.
Men and women were created with different capabilities and talents by God. Feminism seeks to deny these differences and assert the dominance of one gender over the other, just as chauvinism does on the other side. What is meant to be a complimentary relationship between man and woman becomes a power struggle. And both genders suffer as a result.  
This makes for a confused society – a society where women become hard and men become soft. A reversal of gender roles takes place, and the consequences for society are dire. Discord and strife between the genders is the inescapable result of this confusion.
A radical reexamination of gender roles is needed in society. Women, far from turning against their femininity in self-destructive feminism, need to embrace what it means to be fully female. And men, far from encouraging this behavior through cowardice, need to embrace their masculinity, with all the responsibility that entails.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Mercy of Purgatory

In the sixteenth century, religious “reformers” claimed that Catholic belief in Purgatory was false. They agued that the concept of Purgatory was incompatible with God’s mercy. What kind of God would let His saved creatures suffer torment after death before allowing them to enter Paradise? 
But this view completely misunderstands the very nature of Purgatory. Far from being the work of an unmerciful God, Purgatory is a sure sign of the mercy of God.
For as I noted in a previous post, nothing undefiled can enter heaven. Only the perfect can bear the presence of God.
But very few people reach the state of perfection on earth. Since this is so, how could anyone but a very few enter heaven? What of all the good men in this life who do not achieve perfection?
Logically, they either need to be somehow purified, or else kept out of heaven entirely. The Catholic answer to this dilemma is Purgatory.
Luther saw this difficulty, and tried to get around it by arguing that while man was inherently depraved, God’s grace “covered up” the sins of those who believed in Him. In a famous phrase, Luther argued that God’s grace was like “snow covering a dungheap [of the human soul].”
But this is a horrible portrayal of both God and humanity.  Is God really so blind as to be able to “cover up” the sins of His creatures, so that He and they are not aware of their own wretchedness and sinfulness for eternity? And is man so horribly depraved that his sin cannot be purged? Are not men called to be perfect by Christ Himself? (Matt 5:48) How can man be perfect if mankind is inherently sinful, and God has to “cover up” our sins?
Far more realistic – and joyful – is the belief that men and women can be purified of sin after death. We who need purging of our sins will be purged of them, after a temporary time of pain and trial. We who need purging will become the truly perfect beings God made us to be – and live with Him forever in heaven, cleansed of our sins forever.
The doctrine of Purgatory means that those who love God imperfectly will be able to love Him completely, without stain or blemish. How then, is the doctrine of Purgatory not merciful?