Clearing the Heart to See the Truth

What has Pope Francis Changed?...

A lot of good men and women, many of them my former teachers, have said that if Pope Francis allows communion for the divorced and remarried, it will either explicitly or implicitly contradict orthodox Catholic teaching about the Eucharist and/or marriage. The result is that for a while people have been banking on the Holy Spirit preventing the Pope from making such a decision. In other words, some faithful folks reason as follows: a) allowing divorced and remarried people to receive communion would be – at least practically – tantamount to heresy; b) the Pope can’t officially commit heresy (that’s one of the main reasons we have a Pope); c) so the Holy Spirit won’t allow the Pope to officially allow communion for the divorced and remarried. Okay, but now it’s starting to look like the Pope has made the decision to allow the divorced and remarried to receive communion. So all the folks who relied on the above reasoning are going to be tempted to doubt the institution of the papacy, or the irreformability of Catholic teaching, or the Holy Spirit, or all three. In other words, I’m afraid that because of the Holy Father’s recent statements a lot of good Catholics are going to start questioning their faith. So here’s my message: it’s okay if Pope Francis changes the Church’s current practice. It’s okay if people in adulterous relationships aren’t prevented from receiving communion. It doesn’t mean adultery isn’t adultery, and it doesn’t mean the Pope isn’t the Pope, and it doesn’t mean people shouldn’t generally refrain from receiving communion when they’re conscious of having done something gravely wrong. All it means is that there can be a change in pastoral practice to reflect the distinction between...

Communion and Consequences...

Why are so many Catholics leading the civic charge towards American degeneracy? Our vice-president is Catholic, and champions abortion blithely, unblushingly, as a matter of course. Same goes for the House Minority Leader, the highest ranking female politician in our history so far. The last Secretary of Health and Human Services is Catholic, and warred with her own bishops in an effort to get Catholic money to go to drugs designed to kill kids and objectify women. Out of nine Supreme Court Justices, six self-identify as Catholics. Six! That’s a majority vote plus one! And that’s the governing body that just made a disorder of body, mind and soul legally equivalent to one of the fundamental metaphors for understanding how we’re loved by God. What’s going on here? It’s one thing for Catholics to be sinners, for God’s people to be tempted by the conditions of time and place to the point where they’re no longer distinguishable from their non-Catholic or non-Christian neighbors. That’s one thing. But it seems like another thing when you’ve got so many high-profile Catholics doing such disproportionate damage. Scandalous Catholics are nothing new, but why are there so many scandalous Catholics, and why are they so lamentably influential? My take? It’s because they receive communion. I bet these prominent, disastrous Catholic politicians go to Sunday mass with some regularity, and I’m sure every time they go they receive the Eucharist. And that’s really dangerous, because receiving the Eucharist always has an effect, and it’s not necessarily a good one. Drinking the Blood of Jesus can, of course, make you a saint, but you can also be drinking your own damnation. God in flesh is never something neutral – after contact you’re either a greater...

Rome and Reasons for Hope...

I just returned from my second pilgrimage to Rome in the last 10 months. This one was to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Apostles of the Interior Life community, a Roman/American community of consecrated women, priests, and laity, of which I am a lay member. The Lord God lavished grace upon grace upon me, and gave me reasons for hope in this time of world-wide moral struggles. It is for this reason that I compose this entry. God is utterly generous and gratuitous in the bestowal of heavenly gifts.  Of this truth, I am a living witness. So, if you feel anxious or worried about this present darkness, be at peace and confident in this fact–in Christ, the battle is won, and the victory is ours. Consider the following: Without realizing the audacious events that were about to unfold in the U.S. regarding the Supreme Court and the redefinition of marriage, we were given the privilege to celebrate Holy Mass in the crypt of the  tomb of St. Peter directly beneath the High Papal Altar in St. Peter’s Basilica on June 26. While attending Mass, I was able to peer continually over the priest’s shoulder to eye the actual tomb of Peter. Immediately after the homily, all of the married couples present were invited to approach the altar and renew our wedding nuptials. My wife was able to enjoy the pilgrimage with me, so we were deeply honored to be able to renew our vows with all of the other wonderful married couples. Only later that afternoon did we find out about the SCOTUS ruling. After my shock and anger subsided, I realized what had happened earlier in the day–I renewed my marriage, along with around 20 other...

Wasting Money on the Poor; Wasting Time on the Dysfunctional...

Last spring I went to a lecture by Peter Brown, an expert on “Late Antiquity” (a time period centered around the early centuries of Christianity). The lecture dealt with the massive cultural and economic changes which occurred in the Roman empire due to the distinctively Christian way of conceiving the poor. Here’s more or less how Professor Brown put it: In pagan Rome, it was seen as socially irresponsible to give your money to the poor. Why? Well because it wouldn’t do any good. You’d give to the poor, they’d spend it, and then they’d be right back where they started from. So you’d be blowing your money on something with no long-term benefits. If you want to help society, do something that would improve the social infrastructure – don’t waste it on hopeless individuals. But then Jesus came along and told his followers that if you give your money to the poor, you’ll be “laying up treasure in Heaven.” Now once this idea took off, the poor became hugely important, since, after all, Christ had basically said that they were the currency exchange people for the next life. The poor were the folks who could change your Earth-bucks into Heaven-bucks, so it was a very savvy financial move to give them your money. Which is why, according to Brown, the poor became such a major factor in the economics of Christendom. Because in the Christian system it is wise to waste your money on the poor. So I thought that was interesting. Then this fall I got to go to a lecture by Leon Kass, who’s a sort of public intellectual figure. His presentation was on the “new poverty” in America – a poverty not characterized by material...

Is it enough to be a “Good Person”?...

In my experience, some people just don’t want to talk about the big questions – Does God exist? Is Jesus Lord and Savior? What must I do to be saved? – and their dismissal of these kinds of questions almost always appeals to the notion of “good person.” It usually goes something like this: “If God exists, then all He cares about is whether you’re a good person. Because at the end of the day, all that really matters is being a good person. And I’m a good person, so I don’t really need to worry about anything else.” What are we supposed to say to this? What do we say when someone pits “being a good person” against the urgency of accepting and spreading the Gospel? Well, I think there are a couple of things you can say to a “good person” who doesn’t feel the need to worry about God or His Christ or His Church: First off, ask the person: have you ever really tried being a good person? I mean a really good person? Because if you have, if you’ve really made an effort to be fair and courageous and to think your decisions through carefully, and only to say what should be said, and not to act on cravings or impulses you know are addictive and hurtful, and to really behave as though other people are just as important as you are – if you’ve ever tried to do that, then you know it’s incredibly difficult. It’s hard even to know how to be good, let alone actually being good. In fact, one of the best preparations for understanding who Jesus is and why we need Him as our Savior, is actually, sincerely putting “being...

Who Are We To Judge

Recently, I was asked to be part of a Catholic Q&A panel along with two priests for an evening of beer, pretzels, and theology. With ingredients like that, it was bound to be a fun evening, and it was. I was honored to be asked to take part, as both priests were faithful and articulate.  The format made for an evening that was as challenging as it was interesting. We had no prep time, as the questions were presented to us with an immediate expected response.  Due to the packed house, we received two hours worth of questions from a very broad spectrum of issues. I enjoyed myself immensely. Any Q&A involving the teachings of the Catholic Church will soon attract controversy, and after about an hour into the evening, this event was no different. Our moderator drew a question that I knew would be coming: “My son is gay and is happy. Who are you (or the Catholic Church) to say otherwise?” A deafening hush ensued. Everyone’s gaze transfixed on the dais where my clerical colleagues and I were expected to attempt an answer. The question was worded so as to provide no easy escape. How does one question another’s experience without sounding utterly judgmental? The question’s wording implied that no objective moral standard could justly condemn activity that makes for a happy man. Fortunately, I was the last one to reply. Each priest responded well, I thought, by pointing out that we don’t judge people but acts, and that God wants our happiness, too. He knows best what makes us happy as He is the one who designed us. Therefore, He sets the terms on happiness, not us, and He has condemned homosexual activity outright (see Rom...
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