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DAMNATION AND DIVINE MERCY

Posted by on Sep 6, 2013 in featured, Interior Life, Morality, Theology | 15 comments

DAMNATION AND DIVINE MERCY

One of the constant challenges I get from my classes regarding the Church’s teaching on the existence of hell is that this doctrine is incompatible with their idea of a merciful God. “My God is a God of Mercy, Troy, and He wants all to be saved. That’s in the Bible!” Which is true, God does will all men to be saved, but under certain conditions. Ah, there’s the rub! Not abiding by these conditions may cause some souls, perhaps even many souls, to end up going to hell forever. This brings us back to the problem of Divine Mercy. Many Catholics believe that there is a contradiction between Divine Mercy and the existence of hell. When Luke recounts the episode in his Gospel where Jesus is approached by someone from the crowd who asks Him a direct question regarding the number of those saved, Jesus, in His typical mystifying fashion, responds by saying, “Strive to enter by the narrow door, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough” (Lk 13: 24 NAB. See also Mt 7:14.) I recognize the difficulty in Jesus’ response. If God wills that all men be saved (1 Tim 2:4,) then why would He make the door to salvation so difficult to open for so many? There could only be three possible answers: God makes it difficult despite willing all to be saved, Satan makes it difficult, or we make it difficult. Which answer is implied by Jesus? The first answer is simply implausible based on what we know about God. As stated earlier, God wishes all men to be saved. Further, He sent His only begotten Son to save us, not to condemn us, even though that is what we deserve. Thus, in sending His Infinite Son, God offers the most magnificent and powerful gift He can give to get us all into heaven. Since He is infinite, His gift—namely, His own Son—lacks nothing. Therefore, we can conclude that God can’t be the cause of difficulty for souls getting into heaven. Satan is certainly a likely culprit.  The problem with this possibility, however, is that he is defeated by the blood of the Lamb of God who is Jesus, and his power is vanquished. (Rev. 12: 11, 20:10; 1 Jn 3:8; Lk 11: 21,22, Mt 16: 18; et al.) Therefore, Satan is incapable of barring the doors of heaven since God became incarnate precisely to defeat him and to despoil him of his goods and power. It would make no sense to still leave him the power to prevent persons from entering heaven (see Lk 11: 22.) This can’t be the answer, either. This leaves only one final option: that the door is narrow and heavy because we have made it so. Yet, this understanding is not without its problems. Christ came to save us, and this includes making us strong (see Eph 6:10-11; 2 Cor. 12:10.) How, then, do we make the door to heaven heavy if Christ came to make us strong? The answer is sadly very simple: through our pride, we compromise our ability in Christ to make our way through the narrow gate. Part of the message of Christ is to repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand. This repentance...

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Fear and the Liturgical Year

Posted by on Jul 4, 2013 in Current Events, featured, Interior Life, Morality | 7 comments

Fear and the Liturgical Year

Christians are afraid. I read it in their blogs; I hear it in their voices. Recently, I, too, experienced a deep sense of foreboding. A couple of nights ago, I had trouble sleeping.  I had watched some rerun from the 1970’s and noticed something in this program—a program my family watched in my youth—that I hadn’t noticed before: the early stages of the inculcation of the homosexual agenda. Although subtle, from our present perspective, the intention was nevertheless apparent. I went to bed thinking, ‘My Lord, they have been working out their strategy for almost 40 years! No wonder this push is coming from so many different directions. The purveyors of this agenda have been at it for years and years while we have been asleep at the wheel. We are doomed!’ Not exactly the ideal closing thoughts to the end of the day of a trusting Christian. The next morning, just as I was beginning my prayer time, I asked the Lord to really speak to me that day regarding my fears. ‘I really need to hear your voice, Lord,’ I told Him, ‘to break through the darkness being caused by my fears and worries!’ As I opened the readings for the Mass, He spoke. The first reading was (surprise, surprise) the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. These wicked cities were destroyed by God’s angels precisely because of their sexual impurity and licentiousness. The destruction, however, was the result of there being found no good person within the districts of these cities. This result was brought about but the refusal of the citizens in these towns to repent and live. They chose their end based on the warped response given to angels of light sent to them from God. Lot, the only God-fearing one of the bunch, was saved, along with his family. The Gospel reading was Matthew’s account of Jesus sleeping in Peter’s boat amidst a violent and raging storm that threatened to swamp the boat. The apostles were so afraid that they could only sputter out one word commands, arousing the Lord with incomplete sentences, “Help, Lord, Save!” (Mt 8:25.) Jesus awoke, examined the scene and asked one simple question before addressing the situation, “Why are you terrified?” (Mt 8:26.) He quickly offers His own answer, “Oh men of little faith.” He then calms the storm with His own command. Oh man of little faith. No truer word could be spoken. This statement hit me like a ball bat square in the forehead. This is why I was terrified, or at least fearful. I know intellectually that darkness can’t overcome the light. I know intellectually that Christ is God made man. I know intellectually that Christ has overcome the world by the victory of His resurrection. In depths of my heart where faith resides, this truth grows in shallow soil. The readings that day confronted me with this sobering truth. I was afraid because my faith is small. Archbishop Fulton Sheen used to say that worry is soft atheism.  He was obviously inspired by this Gospel passage. The boat of Peter, a symbol of the Church, was besieged by a violent storm and in danger of capsizing. Any fool would know, let alone experienced fishermen, that this resulted in almost certain death. The apostles’ fears were...

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Fertile Sex For Infertile Couples? The Fallacy of Division and the Procreative Process

Posted by on May 6, 2013 in featured, Morality, Politics | 35 comments

Fertile Sex For Infertile Couples? The Fallacy of Division and the Procreative Process

By C0-Blogger John-Mark Miravalle, S.T.D. Defenders of Humanae vitae have sometimes felt forced into a bit of a tightrope walk when it comes to the connection between sex and fertility. On the one hand, the document’s principle is straightforward enough: don’t separate what belongs together. It’s the principle invoked by Christ against divorce, and it covers plenty of other cases. It illuminates why we should avoid decapitation (separation of head and body), hypocrisy (separation of declared conviction and behavior), and even the use of torture in interrogation (which tries to separate the prisoner’s speech from his considered judgment). So it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to apply the same principle to sex and fertility: don’t separate them. The devil, as always, is in the details. When you get down to particular cases, the “No Sex Disconnected from Fertility” rule looks pretty extreme. In fact, it might seem to ban any sexual behavior that doesn’t actually terminate in a child, or at least any sexual behavior that we’re certain won’t terminate in a child. Of course, not even the Vatican wants to go that far, but then how to make sense of the rule? The case of infertile couples is surely the favorite counter-example of those who question the consistency of traditional Catholic sexual ethics. How can homosexual, masturbatory, or contraceptive behavior be condemned for its infertility when allowances are made for heterosexual couples who know in advance that pregnancy is an impossibility? Traditionalists usually argue that, for instance, when a man engages in sexual acts with another man he is choosing to pursue sexual fulfillment in a way that removes the potential for procreation. To which critics respond that when a man knowingly engages in sexual behavior with a woman who is post-menopause or post-hysterectomy, he is choosing to pursue sexual fulfillment in a way that removes the potential for procreation. The latter activity may look very different from sexual activity between two men, but surely they are both equally known to be incapable of resulting in a child (barring a miracle, of course, but best to leave miracles out of it, otherwise it might be claimed that God could, if He wished, ordain the impregnation of a man). The presumption is that sex between an infertile heterosexual couple is, by definition, no less infertile than that between two members of the same sex. The standard traditionalist strategy at this stage in the discussion is to try and characterize heterosexual intercourse between infertile couples as “procreative in type,” or “oriented towards procreation” or “fulfilling the behavioral conditions required for procreation.” This is all surely true, but to my mind it already yields too much ground to the opposition. Why not simply say that sex between infertile couples is still fertile? If we find such a claim paradoxical it must be that we have fallen victim to the fallacy of division, whereby a property belonging to the whole is ascribed indiscriminately to the parts. Such a fallacy would be at work, for instance, if one began with the fact that a week is made up of seven days, and then went on to suppose that each of the days is itself made up of seven days. Just because something’s true about the whole doesn’t mean it’s true about...

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Following the Footsteps of the Early Christians in a Debate with Atheists

Posted by on Apr 23, 2013 in Current Events, featured, Morality, Theology | 12 comments

Following the Footsteps of the Early Christians in a Debate with Atheists

A couple of nights ago, my dear friend and colleague (and co-blogger) John-Mark Miravalle participated in his third debate in a year sponsored by SOMA (the Society of Open-Minded Atheists and Agnostics) at the University of Kansas. The topic of the debate centered on whether or not one can tell the difference between right from wrong without the existence of God. For some reason, SOMA is quite interested in pursuing ongoing debates with Christians of whom they openly despise.  Praise God! They are willing to do what Christians too often lack the interest or courage to do–engage opponents on important points of divergence. As in the past, folks at SOMA brought in another professional debater and invited John-Mark to debate him, a backhanded compliment to John-Mark if there ever was one (both previous debates are still on You Tube.) This time, John-Mark was joined by his dad, Mark Miravalle, one of my former professors when I was in graduate school at Franciscan University in Steubenville, OH. As in previous cases, the atmosphere prior to the debate was tense, as the crowd of some 500 people filled Woodruff Auditorium at the Kansas University Student Union.  Although the Christians were well represented (I would say over half), there were enough folks from SOMA or fellow travelers of SOMA to create a sense of anxiety visible on all involved. The debate was video- taped yet again and will be posted on the School of Faith website once it is posted on You Tube, so I won’t recount the entire two hours here. Instead, I would like to offer some brief reflections on the night: All presenters were logical and well prepared. They articulated their positions well, and it was often difficult to identify the weakness of their argument. Both sides were passionate regarding their position. Both atheist presenters seemed to assume that all theists, or at least Christians, believed that our morality rests on what is called the Divine Command Theory; meaning, given actions are good or bad because God says so, a weakness team Miravalle was able to exploit. As Catholics, we agree things are right or wrong because God says so, but also because they either respond or fail to respond to fulfilling our design. Actions that do are good, actions that do not are bad. The atheist team scored highest on offering what I call ‘rousting’ points, or statements that rousted the audience to an energetic response: “When I see a picture of a starving child I want to feed that child. I don’t need God to tell me, and I don’t accept the answer that some day that child will receive his reward!  Anyone who could help should help, and a god that does not help only proves that Christian morality is vastly unjust, at least more so than a moral system that recognizes how reasonable it is to help that child now!” To which much of the crowd responded with hoots and hollers. Of course, this particular version of the problem of evil retort has been addressed in several excellent books, not the least of which is C.S. Lewis’ classic, ‘The Problem with Pain.’ Team Miravalle scored the highest on the ‘torpedo’ scale because they asked questions that, if not answered, would sink their opponents. When the...

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Same Sex Marraige and Love, Updated

Posted by on Apr 1, 2013 in Current Events, featured, Morality, Uncategorized | 2 comments

Same Sex Marraige and Love, Updated

Many family members and friends have worked hard to help people like me understand what is at stake in the current debate regarding gay marriage. I have read and listened to many from both sides, and have been enlightened and I see now what changes I must undergo in order to embrace the world that is unfolding for me and my children. I understand the gay marriage position holds that sexual love is not connected with sexual complementarity. Neither is it intrinsically linked to procreation. Further, that marriage is not designed by God, nor is it a gift from him, for if it were, we would have no claims on it as a gift can only be received and appreciated as it is.  Rather, I have learned that society can change marriage at will. In reflecting on all of this, I thought I’d try updating Paul’s first letter and chapter (13) to the Corinthians, which is now obsolete. Perhaps this can be read in new churches for these new marriages, as we have changed the old concept of love for a more modern one, one that is more reflective of our enlightened mentality. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have tolerance, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the government so as to make all things equal and give over my body that I may boast but do not have instant gratification, I gain nothing. If I don’t feel good about myself, and, worse, you don’t feel good about me, I haven’t love. Love wants it now. Love seeks its own fulfillment. Love is not concerned with consequences. Love is desire. Love makes all desires good. Love seeks the self. Love is receiving. Love is a redundant gift. Love is sterile. Love offends and is easily offended. Love does not rejoice in what once was considered the truth. Love is not designed. Love is faithless. Love is not a gift. Love is godless. Love is its own god. Love bends others to its own rule. Love is fleeting. Love is not love. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became enlightened, I need to love like a man; I need to love like this, otherwise I am filled with hate. In the now, tolerance, diversity, and love exist, but the greatest of these is love. The question is, do you really want to be loved like this? With this conception of love, what is the difference between heaven and hell? So, I think I get it now: if someone tells me that they love me, I should flee for my very life! Clearing the Heart to See the Truth Subscribe today to receive an email once a week.  A great way to get regular insights into the Catholic faith....

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It’s a Wonderful Life Celebrates a Good Life

Posted by on Dec 26, 2012 in Current Events, featured, Morality | Comments Off on It’s a Wonderful Life Celebrates a Good Life

It’s a Wonderful Life Celebrates a Good Life

When I was a young retourner to the Catholic faith, I was struggling with desires to revisit a former way of life. Further, I wondered why I should put forth the effort to be good, or, at least, to try to keep the Commandments. This was my ongoing struggle. In an odd way, it was the cause of my apostasy. I fell away while in the military in Panama because I was tired of experiencing alienation. ‘Why’, I asked myself, ‘can’t I just fit in and do what everyone else is doing? Why do I have to feel so guilty about doing what I knew to be bad?’ And there was the rub: I knew in my conscience what was good and bad. My parents did an excellent job of instilling that sense in me, much to my apparent demise. This caused me undo harm, I believed, because it meant that I couldn’t do what everybody else was doing and live with myself. Hence, the alienation. The solution, I wrongly assumed, was to just forget my conscience and party and chase ladies like my buddies. I was simply tired of being the only one (so I perceived) who recognized good from bad, and feeling terribly guilty when indulging in the bad. So, around Christmas of 1990, I was having a repeat of some of these same feelings—desires to return to a former way of life I had renounced upon a recent return to the Church- and feeling the of anxiety about trying to live a good life. I noticed a movie advertised without commercial interruption highly recommended from the announcers on the local PBS station. The movie—It’s a Wonderful Life. I had seen this movie advertised before, even tried watching it once on Christmas day many years earlier. An old black & white movie without shooting and actual WWII footage left me cold, and so my interest lasted about 5 minutes…until this particular evening. I began watching out of simple curiosity. What could be so riveting about an old movie that lacked John Wayne and combat footage, I wondered? After about 20 minutes, I was hooked. By the time the movie was finished, and after utilizing half of a box of Kleenex, I discovered what was so riveting. This film (or rather the Lord through this film) spoke to me like no other, and at a time when I needed it the most. It targeted precisely the source of my anxiety. I asked ‘why be good,’ and George Bailey answered it for me. Subsequent to that first viewing of this great movie (I have viewed it perhaps 12 or 15 times since), I saw interviews with Frank Capra, the legendary Hollywood movie director of this great film. He mentioned how Jimmy Stewart was totally transformed in this movie, becoming George Bailey. He specifically mentioned the scene when George is in Martini’s bar praying to God for help. Jimmy Stewart became George Bailey at that moment, according to Capra, as the character completely enveloped him to the point where he no longer acted but responded. This was beyond coincidental I thought, as at that same point in the movie, George was praying/speaking for me, too. Why, I wondered, were my prayers always answered with a punch in the mouth? This...

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AMERICA GONE TO POT: THE LEGALIZING OF MARIJUANA AND THE LOSS OF OUR COUNTRY’S SOUL

Posted by on Nov 15, 2012 in Current Events, featured, Morality, Politics | 8 comments

AMERICA GONE TO POT: THE LEGALIZING OF MARIJUANA AND THE LOSS OF OUR COUNTRY’S SOUL

Among the lesser talked about but just as troubling results from the travesty known as the Election of 2012 was the approval of the recreational use of marijuana in my once native state of Colorado, along with the state of Washington. This situation is sad and regrettable but unfortunately not surprising. The moral compass in our country was broken in the 1973 legalization of baby murder, and has only grown more warped with each passing fall lineup for network t.v. (I think writers for most current t.v. programs must have a bowl with three slips of papers in it which they select to determine the plot and theme for this week’s episode: sex, morbid violence, more sex.) Those who favored the legalization of marijuana in Colorado argued that regulating the drug would keep it from the “underground market.” O.K.  Other proponents argued that it is safer and healthier than alcohol. Hmm. Spoken like a true consumer of healthy, mind numbing narcotics. For the clearer-minded, these arguments should have sounded just a little convoluted and irrational. Should not the question under consideration be is marijuana use really good for America? Hang out with a few pot-heads for about a day and your question will be answered. Amidst bouts of laziness, irresponsibility, and conversations lacking both focus and substance, interrupted only by ravenous forays into somebody’s kitchen to snarf anything resembling food, anyone with half of a brain not dazed by the second-hand smoke would see that legalizing marijuana may not be the best of ideas. Voter response like this makes me yearn for a return to the days of a government ruled by monarchs named Louis. At least then I’d expect self-serving, short-sighted superficial rulings aimed at placating an egocentric faction of the citizenry.  So what‘s the difference between smoking a little weed and drinking a little alcohol? Is a drunk any safer behind the wheel of a semi than a stoner? The answer to this question is obvious: neither a drunk nor a stoned driver is safe behind the wheel of any moving vehicle, nor are any of the other drivers. Pot-users argue that motor function isn’t impaired with marijuana use the way alcohol use impairs motor function. This is like saying that someone handling dynamite in public is less dangerous than someone handling nitro glycerin. But what is a person doing having explosives in public?? Asking which poses the lesser danger is a foolish question if the goal of government is to protect the safety of its people. The difference between consumption of alcohol and consumption of marijuana is that a person can sit down and have a drink or two without the goal or end of getting drunk. In fact, he can stop once he feels the ‘buzz’ coming on, which is the sign that he has had too much and is about to intentionally damage his rational and moral judgment (hence, the buzz.) This is not the case with pot. With pot, the intention—whether to have one hit or more—is to get stoned, to get impaired rationally and impaired in one’s moral decision making. That’s what it means to get ‘stoned,’ or high, or whatever. Thus, what is called the ‘remote intention’ is different in these two cases. A temperate person can remain so with one...

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A Dog’s Life

Posted by on Nov 14, 2012 in featured, Morality | 18 comments

A Dog’s Life

Personal identity is a strange thing; great philosophers have spent a lot of time puzzling over the essence of human personality. These days, though, plenty of people are puzzled just by animal identities. What about the identity of dogs and cats and dolphins? I mean, they have inner experiences too, right? They aren’t just robots. So are they persons, the same as we are? And is their personal identity as hard to define as ours? Take the Dog. Is the Dog as mysterious as the Man? First, let’s review why the Man is mysterious. He’s mysterious because he can’t seem to get at his identity. His identity isn’t his body – in fact, the Man even uses phrases like, “My body,” which imply that he’s different than his body; he’s something that has a body. Also, we couldn’t say that the Man is identical to his body because the Man has a number of experiences which go beyond his biological parameters. The Man innovates, the Man has abstract beliefs, worldviews, conceptual definitions. The Man makes inferences which go beyond his immediate bodily experiences, and performs mathematical calculations without checking to see if they hold in the physical world. Now all these experiences need a single thing to connect them, some binding cord to tie them all together as “The Man’s Experiences.” But that binding cord can’t be the body, since the experiences I’ve mentioned deal with non-physical stuff, and body just deals with physical stuff, stuff you can see and touch. It would be like trying to get a bunch of mathematical-realization-experiences into a glass jar. Not going to happen. So there has to be a non-material reality – the Person that is the Man – connecting all these trans-body experiences. None of that is true of the Dog. The Dog would never say, “I hate my body,” or “My body’s looking just the way I like it.” The Dog doesn’t make a linguistic or conceptual distinction between self and body, since the Dog doesn’t make linguistic or conceptual distinctions at all. He doesn’t innovate, doesn’t do math, doesn’t theorize. Does the Dog have memory? I think almost everybody would say he does. Well then, doesn’t he need some sort of mysterious personal identity to link those memories, just like the Man? No, because all of the Dog’s memories have to do with physical experiences. The patterns, formed by physical experience – stimulas-response, really – can be kept in a physical storage unit like a brain. The Man’s experiences, which go beyond the physical, require something beyond the physical to keep them connected. So the Man is way more mysterious than the Dog, because with the Man you can’t just explain who he is by pointing to his brain, or to his bodily structure. Okay, even though we could leave the matter here and be done with it, I want to talk a bit more about the Dog having memory. Why? Haven’t you already proved your point about the differences between people and animals? Yes, I think so. So why beat a dead horse? An apt metaphor. Thank you. Because I think it’s interesting and because it’s my post so I can write about what I want and because I don’t think animals actually do have memory. What????!!!! You...

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Hopelessness and Divine Mercy

Posted by on Nov 1, 2012 in featured, Morality | 1 comment

Hopelessness and Divine Mercy

A friend contacted me recently to vent his frustration at and deep sorrow with an unfolding situation with his parents. His mother’s health is deteriorating physically. This was not the full reason for his anxiety, however. The cause of his mother’s illness, he explained, is not entirely physical, but moral and spiritual. He then went on to tell me that his father revealed several months ago that he is in an ongoing affair, initiated at least two years ago, and has no intent of ending it. His mother is now submerged in grief. Her experience of betrayal in their marital covenant overwhelms her with each passing day. She recognizes that her husband’s infidelity not only attacks their vows but also her sense of self worth and lovability. She is now wallowing in a sense of hopelessness, emotional breakdown, anger, and anguish, all of which contribute, my friend believes, to her physical illnesses. My friend, who is married, is not only deeply concerned for his mother and his parents’ marriage, but he is also further shocked at his father’s immaturity. His natural reaction is ‘how can he do this? Especially when they have been married for over 35 years?’  His note to me conveyed this same sense of betrayal and hopelessness experienced by his mother. Unfortunately, his was not the first such news I had recently received. My work in the Catholic Church puts me in touch with many hurting people, and this story is beginning to be repeated all too often. My friend’s note to me was the third of such similar sad news I received within the past week. I felt quite limited in what to say—what could I say, his pain was so raw and exposed—but that we must always trust in God’s mercy, and that these are His times of mercy as revealed by St. Faustina. I believe that with the apparent unbounded limits regarding sexual sins, lies, covenantal betrayals, degradations and lost sense of self-sacrificing love, God has an ultimate purpose that will drown out and wash clean such purposeless selfishness: His limitless Mercy. These are His times of mercy. The late John Paul II often spoke of the ensuing result of the eclipse of God in a society that denied God would be the eclipse of man. When modern (so called) societies seek more and more to define themselves and write laws to govern themselves apart from God, these societies will lose the sense of the dignity of the human person, as each man and woman are created in the image and likeness of God. Without God, there is no ground for human dignity. We may further add that without a sense of God’s Covenant with man, earthly covenants will similarly lose their permanence. If there is no belief in God’s steadfast love of humanity, then there is no reason to seek to live in steadfast love with another creature. With the situation of broken marriages, pornography addiction, fornication, abortion, the attempts at redefining homosexual activity as good, etc. the situation seems hopeless and endless. Christians appear to be on the losing side of the culture war. Whenever I read St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, I cannot help but feel that somehow he wrote that letter for us! It seems so timely, especially...

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ARE CATHOLICS BECOMING SECULAR LIBERALS: OBAMA AND THE CATHOLIC VOTE

Posted by on Oct 25, 2012 in Current Events, featured, Morality, Politics | 10 comments

ARE CATHOLICS BECOMING SECULAR LIBERALS: OBAMA AND THE CATHOLIC VOTE

There’s an interesting story about an unusual problem St. Francis of Assisi had to face once his fame began to spread and followers and disciples had begun to collect around him. It seems some early Franciscans understood Francis as a religious Robin Hood; their error led to them robbing the rich to give to the poor. To counter this threat, Pope Innocent III sought to ordain Francis to the priesthood in order to give the latter greater juridical leverage within the burgeoning community. Although Francis’ humility prevented him from being ordained to the priesthood, he did accept ordination to the diaconate. This, as the story goes, was one of the sets of conditions that initiated not only his official canonical recognition as a religious brother and founder of a community in the Church, but also the codification of the Rule of Life in his order to prevent further abuses. This story perhaps illustrates not just Francis’ challenge, but also the difficulties Christians had and continue to have regarding the proper Gospel response to the poor. If poverty is the root of social injustices, as his filching friars believed, then a Christian must act, using whatever force is necessary, to alleviate this great evil – even if that should mean robbing from the rich. After all, taking what belongs to another is wrong only of the other possesses it justly. Clearly, this wasn’t exactly what Francis had in mind. In fact, he referred to poverty as ‘Lady Poverty,’ and voluntarily accepted this state in order to reveal to the world the true joy that can be had in possessing God alone. In so doing he made plain his conviction that ridding the world of poverty could not be the Christian’s primary goal. This story may serve as a parable regarding our current political situation. Although there’s much chatter regarding what is called, ‘the Catholic Vote,’ it’s clear from the polls that Catholics are greatly divided regarding their political choices. This isn’t too surprising when we consider how divided Americans are in general. What is surprising is that Catholics are so divided based on their claimed religious commitments. Catholics voting Democrat are just as likely as those voting Republican to cite religious reasons for their political affiliation. This becomes quite perplexing when one considers that both groups claim to belong to the same religious organization that prides itself on doctrinal clarity and consistency in order to foster a unified social mission. Why then the stark religious motivated disparity for voting Catholics? It may be that the reason for this disparity lies close to the same difficulties Francis had with his followers regarding how a Christian should respond to poverty.  A quick assessment between Catholic political affiliations reveals a deep cleavage in this response, one not unlike that present in that of the early Franciscans. The Catholic approach to politics can be classified, as I see it, into two basic camps: The first sees poverty as the root of all social ills – from abortion to war – and believes it to be the result of various governmental and economic institutions; the second sees poverty as symptomatic of a deeper problem – selfishness – which affects the materially poor and rich alike and is epitomized by sexual immorality. For those in the...

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