Category Archives: Social and Political Issues

Election Day, Whether You Like it Or Not…

There is no need for me to tell you about the election.  I think that for those who are concerned with the failing economy, unthinkable debt, America’s sliding into socialism, the attack on religious freedom, abortion on demand, the homosexual agenda, and blatant disregard for the Constitution, the choice is fairly clear.  But neither of our alternatives are very exciting.  For the first time in American history, neither of the candidates are true Christians.  In a country largely founded by Christians who wanted freedom of worship, we find freedom of worship attacked, with neither of its prospective leaders personally concerned with Christianity in the slightest (Obama is a-religious, and Mormons are not true Christians, no matter how much they may try to convince you that they are — do some research….)

As many of you know, I was once heavily involved in politics.  I have a masters degree in politics, and worked for lobbying firms and political campaigns all through college; but my conversion changed all that.  When my blood starts boiling about politics, I try to stop and remind myself of my fundamental insight, and that insight is the following:  I always wanted to be in the middle of the battle when it came to world events and the “meaning of it all.”  But when I had my conversion, I came to the realization that the real battle was the spiritual one, not the political one.  ALL WE SEE IN THE POLITICAL ARENA ARE THE EFFECTS OF THE SPIRITUAL BATTLE.  Imagine that the spiritual battle is like a nuclear war between God and Satan.  The real bombs are going off through prayer, acts of kindness, fasting, singing, and the strengthening of Church and families (or the opposites of all these, if you are on the “other guy’s” team).  What we see in the political arena is the just fallout of those soul-transforming explosions.

It’s happening all around us, but what can we do?  It is prophesied that towards the ends of days, the love of men will grow cold (matt 24:12), nation will rise against nation (Luke 21:10), and disasters will occur all over the globe.  And listen to St. Paul writing his final words to Timothy:

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons through the pretensions of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid [lawful] marriage and enjoin abstinence from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. (1 Tim 4:1-3)

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.   As for you, always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry.  (2 Tim 4:3-5)

Today’s reading is that beautiful hymn of Phillipians that tells us that Jesus himself did not hold on to the privileges of his divinity, but poured himself out for us so that he might serve others through love and save those whom he could.  When we get too wrapped up in concerns with the earthly kingdom, The Gospel reminds us that only one kingdom lasts, and that’s God’s.  And he will see it filled.  We were invited to the table, but will we go to the table to be sustained, or will we look elsewhere for answers?

So let the election happen — there’s nothing we can do about it.  There are spiritual events that are occurring all around us, striking our souls like unseen hurricanes.  And you can’t really do anything about a hurricane.  Or can you?  We actually can prepare for a hurricane.  And I think that God is asking us to prepare ourselves for these great spiritual events as well.  In a spiritual hurricane as well as a physical one, we gather in those whom we love, we pray, we show kindness to those who are lost and suffering, and we remember what is truly important in this life; and we also remember that there is another life coming after this one, and that next one is going to be a bit longer than this one, if memory serves me correctly.  This life is just a dress rehearsal.

What can we do to “fulfill our ministry,” as Paul tells Timothy?  How can we pour ourselves out in our little corner of the world to establish the Kingdom of God, one brick at a time?  In the words of the well-known “Serenity Prayer,” “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

So take comfort, my friends, from some of the most consoling words that Jesus ever spoke:

Do not be afraid, little flock for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”  (Luke 12:32) “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33)

2 Comments

Filed under Social and Political Issues, Spirituality

RECENT HOMILY ON ABORTION

THIS IS MY OTHER “SOCIAL TEACHING HOMILY,” DELIVERED LAST WEEK ON OCTOBER 21, 2012.  IT IS MOSTLY EDITED.

As you know, for four weeks the parish is focusing on different issues of Catholic social teaching.  (If you didn’t know that, you know it now.)  This week is week 3 in the series and it is essentially about abortion.  If there are some parents in the congregation who would rather their children not hear about this issue, I would invite you to take them in the cry room or in the back for about 20 minutes.  It is not my intention to offend anyone, but this is a difficult subject both to hear and to speak about.  So please bear with me.

The pamphlet is entitled, “Life Matters:  Responding to Unplanned Pregnancy.”  Honestly, I think that the pamphlet is was badly named and badly written.  Obviously, the teaching is not simply about pregnancies that are unplanned in households that are pro-life.  Lots of pregnancies aren’t planned.  There are many of us in this church who were not “planned” by our parents, and yet here we are, because they would never have dreamed to end our lives in the womb.

I once heard a comedian say that he had two brothers and a sister, and all four of them were not planned.  Their last name was “Johnagin,” which is a good Irish name.  So this is what he concluded.  He said, “So, my friends, what I’m trying to say is that if you ever meet a Johnagin, then you really shouldn’t have.”

We do not often preach about these issues from the pulpit, but since people are becoming less and less informed about their faith, it has become more important to do so.  Isn’t it strange that in an age where information can exchange hands instantly across the globe and can be ours at the touch of a button, we seem to know less and less about what really matters?  A great writer, T.S. Eliot once wrote, ” “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”

First, let me just give you some facts about precisely what is going on with abortion.  Just to be conservative, I will stick with the facts as provided by the United States Government and pro-choice organizations like Planned Parenthood.

According to the official United States Abortion Statistics, Nearly half of pregnancies among American women are unintended; about 4 in 10 of these are terminated by abortion. Twenty-two percent of all U.S. pregnancies end in abortion.  The entire number of abortions performed in 2008 in the United States alone was 1.3 million, and this was the most conservative estimate that I could find, with the highest estimated figure doubling that.  We should stand in awe that one-third of the younger generation is MISSING because they never got the chance to live.  Who have we allowed to die?  What musicians, poets, scientists, budding mothers and fathers–what great saints have we never met who lie in unmarked graves?

In 2010, Planned Parenthood, which is the largest abortion provider in the country, performed 329,445 abortions–and those were just the ones that were officially reported.  Those statistics are provided by Planned Parenthood themselves.  It is interesting that Planned Parenthood sets themselves up as an organization that pretends to help women and counsel them, and yet it is also a fact that it only referred 841 women that year to adoption agencies.  Why is that?  Because Planned Parenthood can charge between $300-1000 for an abortion depending upon how many weeks pregnant she is and whether or not she wants to be sedated during the procedure.  They get little or no money if the child actually lives.

My brother and sisters, I am convinced that there is truly something evil going on here.  I actually went to the March for Life last year in Washington, D.C.  Nearly half a million people marched on washington in the cold and the rain.  We stretched for miles through the streets.  And do you know that the event went virtually unreported by the major networks?  The AP showed pictures only of a few pro-choicers on the steps of the Capitol rather than the thousands behind them.  CBS and NBC were virtually silent.  I got to speak to at least a few hundred teenagers at the event the next day, and held up the major newspapers while they watched in horror that March for Life was not in those papers, and if it was, it was a tiny story that often showed pictures of the handful of pro-choicers rather than the pro-lifers.  The teens were angry, and they should be.  By contrast, there were multiple stories about the Occupy Wall Street Movement, which was a tiny fraction of what had happened with the March for Life Movement.

Make no mistake.  You are not getting the real news or the complete news when you watch the news, and there is something truly evil going on when it comes to defending the culture of life.  We really need to wake up before its too late.

On October 10–only ten days ago–the minister for Education for the entire province of Ontario in Canada, Laura Broten, announced that Catholic schools can no longer teach that abortion is wrong because doing so is a hate crime against women.  The same bill that would pass this into law also forces Catholic schools to permit gay-straight alliance clubs.  Look it up.  It’s all over the news in Canada.  If you did not know, even Catholic schools are under the public school system in Canada because their system is essentially socialistic, which is where we are headed as well if we fail to speak out, and speak out very forcefully.

I am wondering precisely how we have become so insane to think that killing a child in the womb is more of a hate crime than allowing its mother to murder him or her in the womb?  The minister of education obviously thinks that those women who are pro-life are stupid and are being brainwashed by millions of men who are pro-life simply because they hate women.  And if you believe that, then you probably believe in UFO attacks and that Bigfoot is secretly running the country.

But you men, we are not off the hook on this.  On the other hand, there is no doubt that many women end up having abortions because their men actually do hate them or are too selfish to step up to the plate, act as protectors and leaders of their families, and support them no matter what.  It is absolutely not the case that abortion is caused by a bunch of evil women.  In most cases, they are poor, frightened, confused, and feel unloved.  And one of the main reasons for this is because of the selfishness of the men in their lives.  If men actually stepped up and acted more like men, then maybe women would not have to go through the horrors of abortion.

Now let me tackle a few arguments very quickly, because I want to get to the more spiritual point at the end.

Many people believe that there should be some exceptions for abortions in cases of rape.  In a study by Dr. Sandra Mahkorn, these cases are only .005% since abortion was made legal in 1973 numbering only a few hundred cases, and 75% of these women decided to have the baby hoping that God would bring something good out of something horrible rather than adding the guilt of an abortion to the shame of what some terrible monster has done to them.

There is an argument that if abortion is not fully legal and available, women will perform back alley abortions and hurt or even kill themselves.  Though it is true that a few have done this or might do this, the statistics about it were horribly trumped up by pro-choicers.  Dr. Nathanson, who was one of the original people who got Roe vs. Wade passed and then later had a conversion, said the following:  “We fed the public a line of deceit, dishonesty, a fabrication of statistics and figures. We succeeded because the time was right and the news media cooperated. We sensationalized the effects of illegal abortions, and fabricated polls which indicated that 85 percent of the public favored unrestricted abortion, when we knew it was only 5 percent. We unashamedly lied, and yet our statements were quoted [by the media] as though they had been written in law.”

Did you know that the woman that was duped into making the lawsuit that legalized abortion in Roe vs. Wade, Norma McCorvey, is now pro-life, and goes around preaching how much Planned Parenthood and their lawyers lied to her and used her?  She is a native of Louisiana and was received into the Catholic Church in 1998.

But the argument that we hear the most is that women should simply have the right to choose what they should do with their bodies without exception.  This sounds on its face like a wonderful thing.  We’re all about freedom.  We’re all about equal rights, and that’s a good thing.  But the problem is that those who support pro-choice are not very clear about WHAT is being chosen.  What is being chosen is the life and death of another human being, and no one should have the right to make that choice.  That baby is not her body.  That baby has his or her own body, which is nourished by the mother.  It has its own heartbeat, its own nervous system, his own everything.  If something that belongs to you is in my house, do I have the right to destroy it or confiscate it?  But these people think that just because the baby is in the womb, they can do with it what they want?  What about protecting the defenseless?  Isn’t that what law is supposed to do?

Let’s do a thought experiment.  There are lots of mothers in this room, and in the very least, we all have a mother, don’t we?  Let me ask you mothers a question:  when did you really think you became a mother — was it the moment that you knew you had a baby in your womb or the moment it was born?  Every woman that I’ve ever asked that question has told me that she was a mother the moment that child was conceived, and no one can tell her otherwise.  Try telling a pregnant woman that she is not really a mother yet and see what sort of response you get, and good luck with that, by the way.

So think about that logically.  If there are millions of women who know for a fact that they are mothers as soon as they know they are pregnant, then they admit that what is in their womb is a child.  In order to be a mom, you have to have a child.  So what we have with the pro-choice position is a group of people who are deciding whether or not another group of people are human.  Or worse yet, pro-choicers admit that the baby is human but that it is better to kill it.  The only tragedies equal to the tragedy of abortion in history is the tragedy of slavery and that of the Holocaust of World War II.  My friends, we can never, never decide that a group of human beings are less than human, or that they must be destroyed because they are an inconvenience to us.

A very holy priest once told me that if your ship is sinking, it’s a good idea to plug up the biggest hole first.  My brothers and sisters, if we can’t get together and get on board with defending life itself from conception until natural death, I have a feeling that all of those smaller holes won’t matter, because the ship will have sunk.

I realize that some of you would rather not hear what I am saying.  Let me counter by telling you that I would rather not say it.  But I will not stand before God and say that I said nothing about the greatest horror perpetrated in my country.  Some of you think that this is a political issue and that it has no place in church.  I would counter by saying with St. James that “Faith without works is dead,” or with St. Paul that the one who will not care for his own family is worse than an unbeliever and has already cast aside his faith, or with St. John that God is love, or with Jesus who said that he is the Way, the truth, and the Life?  THE LIFE?!!  Do you think that a God who is love and life could look upon the destruction of his little ones with anything less than horror?  The church, as God’s hands and eyes and feet in the world, must try to act as he would act.  If we don’t, then we don’t deserve to be called his church.  And we may lose many battles, but our faith tells us that we will not, in the end, lost the war.  And that is why we should be pro-life.  Amen.

1 Comment

Filed under Social and Political Issues

Recent Homily on Pornography

THE FOLLOWING HOMILY IS (GENERALLY) WHAT I DELIVERED THIS PAST SUNDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2012 — THE PASTOR WANTS US TO PREACH ON IMPORTANT SOCIAL ISSUES.  IT IS NOT ENTIRELY CLEANED UP, BUT MOSTLY SO.

Some of you have already heard the rumors about the homily topic today, or guessed at it from the content of the bulletin.  And it’s on pornographyThat’s right.  I am so thrilled, and I am sure that you are, too.

So here is where we are going, just so that you know.  First, I’m going to give you a bit of an introduction to the topic and let you know why we are talking about it.  Second, I’m going to give you some statistics about the present state of the problem.  Third, I’m going to indicate how we got to this state of affairs and what some of the consequences are.  Fourth, I will indicate how there may be some healing.

So I include the same disclaimer that I included last week on abortion that it is not my intention to offend, but I don’t know any other way to tackle this issue but to do it truthfully and straighforwardly.  My guess is that if your children are listening then they may ask questions about this, and that is not necessarily a bad thing.  You can guarantee that the world is bombarding them with information or will do so, and it is better that they do so in a forum where they are more certain to get the truth than the fantasy and the lie.  But as for whether or not it would be better to take your children to the back for 20 minutes, that’s your call.  But I think it’s my duty to at least  warn you.  You parents are better equipped to make that decision than I am.

As for you adults that think you should leave just because you’ve decided to be offended, let me suggest that that is a trick of Satan himself.  Because we will tolerate this junk on our T.V.’s, billboards, magazines, and just about everywhere else, but woe to us if we try to actually bring it up in church and expose it to the light of Christ?  Let’s stand up and realize how much of a problem some of these social issues are and actually have our churches try to take some responsibility for them.

The reason why we are doing this is because several years ago, Fr. Frank and the staff decided that there should be a set time when we do some specific teachings about Catholic Social thought, and it was decided that this would happen in October.  So we were presented with about 9-10 pamphlets, and the staff voted on four of them to be presented this month.  And pornography was one of them.

So I stand before you in obedience.  But I am not going to sugar-coat it, because that’s not my way.  If I’m going to teach about a topic, I do it.  When I read over my notes for this homily, I noticed that the word pornography came up a lot, and I didn’t really like it.  I even had an idea to replace it with some other word, like the writer of the old comic Bloom County, and call it snugglebunnies; but that just seemed ridiculous.  So I’ll try to make some of my references generic and let you guess what I’m talking about.

First, let me offer you some statistics as to the state of pornography in the United States of America.  I am gleaning this information from the Institute for the Psychological Sciences, just so as you don’t think the figures are exaggerated because they come from a religious source that is trying to make a “big deal” out of this issue.

  • Every second of the day, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, 372 people type in explicitly sexual words on search engines on the Internet.
  • Every 39 minutes one of these videos is being made in the United States alone.  If we included the entire globe, this figure would increase to nearly every 2-3 minutes.
  • In the United States Alone, it is a 100 billion dollar industry, with 3 billion dollars of that being spent specifically on child pornography.
  • Every second of the day, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, almost $4000 dollars is being spent on pictures and videos.
  • The last estimate is that there are about 4.2 million pornographic websites on the internet.  Please keep in mind that this figure is the number of websites, with each website containing the capacity to house thousands if not millions of demeaning text, videos, and pictures.
  • 10% of men have admitted being addicted to pornography, with the actual figure being closer to 20%, which is 1 out of 5 men.  Almost half of the male population admits to at least having some trouble with this issue.
  • Women are not free of this problem either.  Approximately 9.4 million women access pornography per month.  And although men are much more likely to have a problem with this issue because of the fact that men are actually mentally wired to be stimulated visually, women are 80% more likely than men to actually go and meet someone whom they know exclusively on the Internet, which is extremely, extremely dangerous.  The reason that the psychologist give for this fact is that women’s brains are more wired to respond to actual relationships, and so they will risk themselves more than men in order to attain that relationship.
  • HERE ARE SOME FACTS ABOUT YOUTH
  •           The average age of initial exposure to it is 11 years old
  •           The largest group that accesses these sites is the ages of 12-17
  •           29% of these teens said they would or had given out their addresses online
  • And make no mistake about it parents, and this is vital information that you really need to know — MOST OF THIS ACCESS IS THROUGH THE CELL PHONE, AND NOT THE COMPUTER.  You can get anything through the internet on a cellphone, so if you were not aware of this before, than please make note of it.

These figures do not indicate that snugglebunnies is just a problem for a few disturbed people sitting in a dark room.  This is not a problem for bad, evil people.  That’s simply naiive.  It’s our problem.  It’s us.  It’s people in this church.  It’s our country.  And what should we expect from a world that has filled itself with garbage?  Have you ever tried to play and work in a garbage dump and not gotten dirty?

In 1968, in the encylical Humane Vitae, Pope Paul VI predicted that if widespread contraception were available, it would lead to a universal idea that man has dominion over his own body, it would lead to a cheapening of sexuality in pornography.  We have lived to see the face of the Unites States totally change since 1968.  And Pope Paul VI, who was once criticized and laughed at, is now recognized for the prophet that he was.  I would love to say so much more about this, but suffice it to say this:  the marital act is supposed to have two separate dimensions:  both unitive and procreative.  By unitive, we mean that it is an act by which marriage vows are renewed and love itself is born again.  If we look at this activity as merely recreational, we cheapen it far below what it was mean to be.  Sex is not suppposed to be GREAT.  Coffee is great.  Frosted Flakes are great.  Sex is supposed to be HOLY.  If we totally separate it from its dimension as procreative, then we divide it from the great responsibility that is necessary when two people decide to come together in that embrace.  If we treat ourselves like toys and recreation parks, those get boring.  Want to know why homosexuality is on the rise?  Well, if you cheapen this embrace so much that you think it should be recreational and separated from its dimension as procreative, then why not engage in that act with a person with whom it would be impossible to conceive a child with?  Why not use videos or pictures and treat my body like a toy?  Why not something even more terrible?  True love given by two unselfish people never gets boring.

CONSEQUENCES

With pornography, there are no diseases, no broken families, no children or risk of pregnancy, no issues involved with performance or negative emotions — in short, it is fantasy pure and simple.  But it’s not just a fantasy.  The Lord of the Rings is a fantasy.  Star Wars is a fantasy.  Mother Goose stories are fantasies.  But those fantasies can actually teach us something about heroism, about the meaning of life, the nature of suffering, and the battle between good and evil.  Pornography is a fantasy of epically destructive proportions.  It has nothing to teach us.  What it teaches us is that sex is a recreational act completely separated from love, that human beings are purely animals, and that human beings — particularly women — are nothing more than objects of pleasure, and that it never causes problems with relationships, children, or an addiction that feeds a 100 billion dollar industry.

Their fantasy will not tell you that regular use of pornography can wreck not only your marriage, but even your friendships, and that it can also wreck your ability to perform and enjoy true romance when it tries to show up in your life.  Their fantasy will not tell you about those statistics that I mentioned have.

There are five faulty believes that fuel this addiction.  I want you to listen very closely to these, and try to realize how much they truly are lies.  As a matter of fact, these lies in the soul are the fuel for almost any addiction:

1.  I am unworthy of love.

2.  If people knew me, they would reject me

3.  I cannot trust anyone, including God, to meet my needs

4.  I must find something that I can control to meet my needs

5.  Pornography is my greatest need and source of comfort.

How can these lies be combatted?  They can be combatted by the following things.

1.  Self-knowldge and commitment — realize that you have a problem, realize that you have these lies in your soul and that your behavior is wrecking that soul and those around you and make a decision to change.

2.  Purifying the environment — you need to get control of what you are looking at and what you are hearing.  If you are what you eat, then you are also what you watch, what you hear, and what you read.

3.  Get support and accountability from a group or a good trusted friend

4.  Get some counseling if you are able

5.  Make a spiritual plan of action and start a daily prayer life

6.  Continue to get education about this issue so that you are no longer fooling yourself (that’s what this talk is for)

My brothers and sisters, we are supposed to be temples of the Holy Spirit, and this world has us believing that our bodies are simply animal, and at worst, dirty.  That was not supposed to be the plan.  Look around you.  God’s plan for sexuality has failed and failed miserably.  As a church, we are called into an adventure in which we give ourselves to one another in love and mutual self-respect–not use one another to gratify our needs.

LEWIS:  “It is a serious thing,” says Lewis, “to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw [it in its full glory in heaven,] you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such [as if you met in hell], only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ‘ordinary’ people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whome we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously — no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love…

If it doesn’t cost us something to get it, then it isn’t real love.  We might as a society spend money on pornography, but the Lord wants more.  He wants love to cost hearts and souls.  But he promises to give us his heart in return.  Satan wants it to cost our hearts and souls, and plans to give us nothing in return.  A heart hooked on such things ends up empty and lifeless.  And if we as a church allow that to happen, then we aren’t doing our jobs very well.

The problem with pornography is not that it reveals too much — as a matter of fact, it reveals too little.  We were meant to be immortal splendors, not cheapened toys.  So lets be about the mission of building a more heavenly, purer heart.  And let’s start with ours.

1 Comment

Filed under Social and Political Issues