Clearing the Heart to See the Truth

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Grace and Works

Posted by on Feb 15, 2015 in featured, Theology | 1 comment

Grace and Works

In two previous posts, I expressed concerns I have about Catholics attending non-Catholic bible studies due to unbiblical assumptions that Catholics unwittingly incorporate into their thinking, making certain teachings from the Church difficult for them to swallow. On more than one occasion I have heard comments from Catholic adults say things like, ‘I just don’t buy the Mary thing;’ Or, ‘where is that teaching found in God’s Word;’ or ‘I don’t need to go to confession if I’ve accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior;’ etc. You can read the posts dealing with these faulty either/or suppositions on Mary here, and the Sacraments here. The point is, all of the teachings of the Catholic Church are found in God’s Word, because God’s Word is Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh and dwelt among us (Jn 1:14.) I am not at all opposed to ecumenical discussion and mutual study of the Sacred Scriptures. I am simply pointing out that, as Catholics, we need to be aware that often non-Catholic Christians assume either/or oppositions we don’t assume. In this last post in the series, I wish to briefly discuss one last either/or assumption that deals with grace and human effort. The Protestant Reformers argued that grace is a free gift from God. No problem there. However, they further taught that human effort was opposed to the gratuitous nature of this gift. In other words, if you have to do something to receive grace, it is not free. For many evangelical and fundamentalist Christians, this is the issue of the Reformation. When it comes to salvation, either God is doing everything, or He requires our help, which is where the works come in. If a believer must have faith and works, he must be adding to what God is dong. Paul clearly condemns this in various places, most notably Romans 3:28. Regardless of the proper interpretation of Romans, the Catholic Church teaches that we, indeed, are saved by faith, not works, otherwise we wouldn’t need a savior. Then what about works: does the Catholic Church teach that our works add to the saving grace of God? Of course not. But our understanding of grace and works is very different to the protestant view. This is a crucial point! When the Church, in following the clear doctrines of scripture (see James 2:17-18, Gal 5:6; Rom 2: 2-8, Mt 7:21, just to name a few,) teaches that we must have grace and works, she is not saying that we must add to God’s power. This is impossible. What the Protestants fail to grasp is that in our works, we are participating in what God does, because He wills to share his power with us!  His grace now works through us; our works, therefore, are His. They are generated by Him, but they are in us, if we choose to respond. Even our response is prompted and carried forth by Him. Let’s use a classroom analogy to express this. In a math class, we don’t assume that either the teacher knows everything about arithmetic, or the student must add to her knowledge. If a student offers a correct answer to a math question, he isn’t adding to her knowledge, but the teacher is allowing the student to participate in her knowledge without adding...

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The Touch of Grace

Posted by on Dec 26, 2014 in featured, Interior Life, Theology, Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Touch of Grace

The Touch of Grace

In my previous blog, I shared some concerns I have regarding Catholics who attend some non-Catholic bible studies. As I indicated, I often discover in their thinking assumptions that are un-biblical. I summarized these in a series of either/or assertions: either you go to Christ, or Mary and the saints; either you receive grace spiritually (not sensibly) or you don’t receive it at all; and grace is either a free gift, or you have to do something, which means that its not free. In this post, I wish to examine the second another either/or assumption that can be unknowingly be presupposed in the understanding of our relationship with Christ. I summarize it as follows: either grace is given spiritually, or it’s not given at all. If some Christian (here read Catholic) tells you that you must enact some ritual (i.e. the Mass, or some other Sacrament,) to receive grace instead of a pure profession in Christ, he is placing an obstacle between you and Christ. At first glance, this certainly seems correct. God is pure spirit. His life and power come from His own eternal reality as pure spirit. Grace, the gift of His life and power to human creatures, is therefore a spiritual reality, and benefits us in our spirit. Therefore, grace must be received spiritually, or it’s not received at all. If God had not become man in Christ, I would completely agree with this. However, the reality of the Incarnation reveals the mystery of God’s new relationship with creation: The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us! (Jn 1: 14.) This means that the pure, eternal Spirit–God– has now permanently and irrevocably wed Himself to His creation by taking it unto Himself as Jesus Christ, the God-man, and now acts through His material world. This explains the entire sacramental vision of Catholicism. And this is where the disagreement comes in. If I am saved by faith alone, as Luther attested, then visible, tangible encounters with God are unnecessary.  The only thing that matters, according to this view point, is that we accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior. He will then impute His innocence on us in a purely spiritual exchange, and the process of salvation is complete. Although I agree that our faith must be personal and must firmly accept Him so as to become His disciple, the problems lie in the lack of an appreciation of the reality and effects of the Incarnation. How does this faith come to me, since all Christians agree that we need a Savior? After all, if I could produce the faith on my own, without divine assistance, I wouldn’t need a savior. The answer is through the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ. His physical reality now mediates Divine grace. Further, He, Himself, established His Church as His Mystical Body (see Colossians 1:18; 1 Cor 12: 13-ff; Eph 5: 29-30, to name a few,) through which to continue to offer His living and active grace today. I recently had a conversation with someone who told me that she grew up Catholic, but wanted a personal relationship with Jesus and so was attending an Evangelical worship service and bible study with a friend. Although I was glad that she approached me after one of the classes I was teaching (which told me that she hadn’t shut the door on the...

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Mary, Mother of the Both/And

Posted by on Dec 12, 2014 in featured, Theology | 15 comments

Mary, Mother of the Both/And

In my career as a Catholic catechist, I have noticed that one of the problems with Catholics attending some non-Catholic bible studies is that they begin to integrate assumptions that are actually non-biblical. These assumptions not only make it difficult to understand the bible in the spirit in which it was written, to paraphrase the Catechism, but also undercuts the foundation on which so many of our Catholic beliefs are based. The assumptions that undercut orthodox belief can be summed up in a series of either/ors: Either one goes directly to Christ or indirectly (here read superfluously) to another; Either Grace is given to us spiritually or it is not given to us at all (i.e. through visible/sensible means); Grace is either a free gift or we must do something to receive it, in which case it is no longer free. With these either/or assumptions, Catholic belief becomes untenable as a Christian faith system. This is why so many Protestants think that it is their duty to save us from certain damnation. But are these assumptions themselves biblical? In these next few blog entries, I intend to show how they are not only unbiblical, but that they attack an orthodox understanding of Christ. Today, I would like to examine the view that either we go to Christ, or we go to Mary. According to this view, prayers to Mary and the saints are at best superfluous, at worst, an evil distraction that get in the way of “pure” belief in Christ. The deeds and teachings of Christ and His Apostles in the New Testament offer clarity on the matter. There are so many references that show us how closely Christ identifies Himself and His mission with other men that I can’t begin to show them all. Let the following texts suffice: While speaking to His apostles, he says, “He who hears you, hears me. He who rejects you, rejects me, and whoever rejects me, rejects Him who sent me.” (Lk 10:16.) “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father.” (Jn 14:12.) “He (the Spirit of Truth) will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore, I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (Jn 15:15.) In going to Christ’s Apostles, then, we not only go to them, but also go to Christ, hearing His voice, receiving His truth, enjoying His healing power, through them. Thus, it is not either/or, but both/and: we both go to Christ and go to one of His ministers/mediators. They bring Him to us, while bringing us to Him. And in the midst of this, there He is. “Where two or three are gather in my name, there I am in their midst.” (Mt 18:20.) This is the pure teaching of the Gospel. I remember giving a class on Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant and I had a very sincere man come up to me afterwards to ask me why we need Mary at all when we can go straight to Christ. I confess that I was...

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All Souls, Purgatory, and the Bible

Posted by on Oct 27, 2014 in featured, Interior Life, Theology | 10 comments

All Souls, Purgatory, and the Bible

On All Souls Day, the Catholic Church offers prayers and liturgies for the repose of the dead. As Catholics, we are called by the Church to focus our spiritual energies to assist these poor souls, who, though saved, are still in need of purification. Our prayers and sacrifices assist them in this process of purification as a means used by God to communicate purifying grace to them. After all, He is the vine, we are the branches so that He produces his fruits of grace through us.  The practice of praying for the dead actually predates Christianity. In 2 Maccabees 12: 41-45, Judas offers prayers and sacrifices for his fallen comrades to make “atonement for the dead that they might be absolved from their sin.” Some argue that the books of the Maccabees are not inspired scripture. Leaving that argument aside for now, we can at least look at them as historical books detailing accepted pious practices of God’s people some 300 years before Christ. If that is the only place in the Bible where we find any reference to purgatory, many Protestant Christians argue, then that is a weak support for such a practice. Fortunately, we know as Catholics that all of our doctrines are indeed found in the Word of God, as is the doctrine of Purgatory. Hence what follows is a biblical understanding of the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory. The book of Genesis recounts for us the far reaching repercussions of Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden. This sin, we find, brought about four consequences which I will summarize here (Gen 3: 16-24): First, their sin brings about disharmony between persons. God tells Eve that both her relationship to her husband and children will now be characterized by pain and mistrust (Gen 3:16). Further, God has to make garments for man and woman because now, as the text implies, they feel shame (Gen 3:21). Second, their sin brings about disharmony between man and creation. God tells Adam that he will produce the fruit of the earth with toil and difficulty (Gen 3: 17). Even the ground itself is cursed because of their sin (Gen 3: 17). Third, their sin brings about disharmony between man and himself. He no longer has spiritual control over his body; thus, his body returns to the dust of the ground (Gen 3: 19). Adam and Eve are no longer able to receive everlasting life (Gen 3: 22). Lastly and most importantly, sin brings disharmony between God and man. This consequence results in mistrust and fear of God (Gen 3: 10), and, worse, spiritual death. Without God, neither physical nor spiritual life can be sustained (Gen 3: 19, 24). The first three disharmonies mentioned above are called ‘Temporal punishments due to sin.’ Temporal refers to things pertaining to this world. The last disharmony, the disharmony with God, is called eternal punishment, because it refers to things pertaining to the eternal world with God. All four of these disharmonies are healed by Christ. The only healing we experience fully in this life, however, is from eternal punishment–or disharmony with God. That’s why Christ is the One Mediator between God and man. It should be clear that we don’t experience a full healing from the temporal disharmonies/punishments as Christians, because we still struggle....

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Sense of the Faith-Lacking

Posted by on Oct 12, 2014 in Current Events, featured, Theology | 6 comments

Sense of the Faith-Lacking

The latest Extraordinary Synod of Bishops has captured the attention of the world in its discussions on marriage and family, but the reasons behind this interest are questionable. St. John Paul II once said that the way of society goes by way of the family. Thus, decisions regarding the family have a universal impact. The interest of what appears to be the entire world can be interpreted as a good thing, provided that the interest comes from a genuine desire to promote and protect the sanctity of the family. To the extent that they come from desires to redefine and/or lower the moral expectations of the family, the interest is misleading, dangerous, and futile. This past year, bishops from around the world gathered information from the pews to help guide their pastoral responses to the issues faced by Catholic families worldwide. The Bishops are also receiving testimonies from couples and families during the synod to further assist their decision-making. From these sources, we discover that many, many Catholics are cohabiting, divorcing and remarrying without receiving a declaration of nullity from their previous marriage, are acting on same sex attractions, and expect to receive communion while in these relationships. Surprise! Surprise! This data, many are arguing, captures the Sensus Fidei, or Sense of the Faith. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Sense of the Faithful is understood as a “supernatural appreciation of the faith, shown by the universal consent in matters of faith and morals manifested by the whole body of the faithful under the guidance of the Magisterium. (cf. the glossary, and #92 CCC.)” It has been traditionally  understood to be a reliable litmus test for sound doctrine. Changing the teachings of the Church, some argue, is not so much a change in doctrine, but a recognition of what the true doctrine is, according to this sense of the faith possessed by the faithful. This argument appears plausible. However, upon closer examination, the errors become easily apparent. First, the faithful include the whole people of God, “from the bishops to the last of the faithful…who manifest universal consent in matters of faith and morals.” (#92 CCC) I know many, many Catholics, including myself, who don’t agree that we can accept non-marital sexual living arrangements as consistent with the teaching of Christ, and thus extend Holy Communion to individuals who have chosen or find themselves in such situations. Moreover, understanding what the Church means by the word faithful discloses the second error. To be faithful, one must be full of faith. According to the Catechism, faith is “both a gift of God and a human act by which the believer gives personal adherence to God who invites his response, and feely assents to the whole truth that God has revealed.” (Emphasis mine.) The Sensus Fidei is not just a straw poll of the world’s Catholics regarding what they want and how they are currently living. Rather, it is a personal response to Divine Revelation—truths which come in the form of intellectual propositions, to which one freely adheres. If one feely chooses not to adhere, then, by definition, that person does not reflect this supernatural sense of the faith(ful). Perhaps things like ignorance reduce personal culpability, but ignorance can’t be an ingredient in the Sense of the Faithful because...

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Hidden Treasures, Blessed Adventures in Italy

Posted by on Sep 23, 2014 in Current Events, featured, History, Interior Life, Theology, Uncategorized | 6 comments

Hidden Treasures, Blessed Adventures in Italy

Pilgrimages reflect and remind the pilgrim of his sojourn on earth. They are not vacations, but, rather, journeys into God’s providence. It is a time of recognizing what is our true goal, union with God in heaven, versus what is merely the means to get there, our life on earth. We often get those two mixed up. I recently returned from leading a pilgrimage to Italy. I was reminded several times that I still lack patience and charity, and so my earthly pilgrimage still has a long way to go in achieving its end. Nevertheless, this pilgrimage was for me a truly blessed adventure. God never allows our own weaknesses and sins to completely deter Him from accomplishing what He wants to do in us. He only asks that we allow Him the opportunity. I experienced profound grace at every destination. It would take too long to recount the entire journey, but there were some hidden treasures that are worth sharing. Our pilgrimage started in Florence. Florence possesses some of the greatest art treasures on earth and is an art-lover’s paradise. One of the sites that really struck me was the convent of San Marco. This ancient monastery is less known compared to some of the other art museums in the city. 600 years ago, inside this old Dominican cloister, lived a friar and master-painter named Fr Angelico, Blessed Fra Angelico, as St. John Paull II beatified him in 1982. He was asked by his superior to paint frescos inside each monk’s cell. Those frescos are still there, and their splendor has not faded with the passing of the centuries. The holiness of Fra Angelico radiates through his work. Michelangelo said of him, “he must have seen heaven to paint heaven.” The elegance and gracefulness of his paintings actually encourage one to be silent. In fact, I think that they can only be appreciated fully in contemplative stillness, the same atmosphere in which they were created. I was captivated. I left San Marco feeling as though I viewed heaven, and was touched by grace.   We then traveled to Assisi. The entire town is so quaint and clean, you wonder if you have been transported to the middle ages. It doesn’t take long to experience the real attraction of Assisi, St. Francis. His spirit permeates the village. Outside of the Holy Land, I have never been to a place that so conveys the spirit of another. There is so much to see in Assisi, I was glad that we stayed three days. The one place that left our group speechless more than any other was the visit to Eremo or Carceri Hermitage. Francis came here with his friars to sleep in caves in an extended retreat. The hermitage was built by hand by the friars after they became too large to stay in the few caves. One of the oratories was even built by St. Bernadine of Sienna. The footpaths that trail out of the hermitage are so peaceful and beautiful, one could understand what inspired St. Francis to write the Canticle of Creation. Stone altars used by his priests for Holy Mass are still there and are still used for the sacred sacrifice. The beauty, simplicity, and solitude of the hermitage landscape mirrors the beauty, simplicity, and solitude...

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Changing the World By Changing Yourself

Posted by on Jun 20, 2014 in Current Events, featured, Interior Life, Theology | Comments Off on Changing the World By Changing Yourself

Changing the World By Changing Yourself

Carol staggered through the overcrowded streets in Pattaya, Thailand, deeply troubled by what she witnessed: bar after bar where women could be bought and sold as slaves for sexual desire. She witnessed black magic, drug use, intoxication—the smell of evil. She even witnessed a three year old offered for prostitution. This experience inspired her to begin a ministry aimed at rescuing young women from such a hopeless life of enslavement. Michael is a truck driver, and by his own admission, a recovering addict of many vices. When he gave his life over to Christ many years ago, he discovered the power of Jesus to heal and forgive, and decided to offer himself as an ambassador of hope for the addicted. Michael has been offering recovery counseling and encouragement for almost 20 years, now. Randy is a physician who grew weary of the antilife philosophies he encountered in a profession that is supposed to be aimed at helping sustain life and promoting health. He decided to do something about it. He now helps lead a physician’s guild for Catholic doctors who wish to practice according to the teachings of the Catholic Church. I have had the pleasure of getting to know all three of these individuals, as well as many, many others just like them, through a program called the Spiritual Mentorship Program in Kansas City, Kansas. I am an eye witness to the transforming power of grace and of the powerful creativity of God in the lives of His beloved. Working closely with my School of Faith team, as well as with the Apostles of the Interior Life, a religious community from Rome, Italy, I have been overwhelmed at the focused intensity of the Holy Spirit during our time together, one week in January, and one in May, in this two-year program. This program is designed to train lay people to be leaders of the spiritual renewal taking place in the midst of our cultural demise. It was the brain child of Archbishop Joseph Naumann, Kansas City, Kansas, when he was traveling in Rome. He and Sr. Susan Pieper, the Superior General of the Apostles of the Interior Life, were traveling in a bus filled to the brim on a hot Roman day, and the Archbishop commented to Sr. Susan that he wanted to raise up an army of trained laity who could spiritually mentor others in the interior life and their growth in holiness. He asked for her help, and asked the School of Faith for our help; the rest is history. We are now on our second class of 80 or so students, who are due to graduate in January of 2015. I am so impressed with the growth that I see from these adventurous souls. Carol came because she wanted to receive training in the interior life to bolster her confidence and energy with the power of Christ in her ministry.  In order to assist young women to transition out of the sordid life of sexual use and lost hope, she utilizes the formation she received in the Mentorship Program to teach them about prayer and the interior life. Michael takes the spiritual training he received to meet with and challenge other addicts to discover the freedom found only in Christ. Whether they be in the physical...

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Don’t Lust after the Church

Posted by on Jun 3, 2014 in featured, Interior Life, Theology | 2 comments

The Body-Person relationship is key for the Catholic understanding of the Church – St. Paul says the Church is Christ’s Body, and therefore to understand how Christ relates to His Church we just need to reflect on how we relate to our own bodies. For instance: 1. We express ourselves through our bodies. Therefore, Christ expresses Himself through the Church. 2. We identify ourselves with our bodies (e.g., “Why’d you throw that rock at me?”). Therefore, Christ identifies Himself with the Church (e.g., “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”). 3. Our bodies are how we interface with people. Therefore, the Church is how Christ interfaces with people. Okay, so far so good. But there’s another crucial fact about the Body-Person relationship that you don’t very often hear applied to the Church. That fact is the phenomenon of lust: sometimes we focus on the body to the exclusion of the person. In lust all we care about is the body, and instead of allowing the body to facilitate a relationship with the person, we reduce the person to the body. We ignore the personal, or at least make the personal secondary to the bodily. Not good. Now, let’s translate that into an ecclesiological principle: 4. It is possible to focus so much on the visible body that the potential for relationship with the person is diminished. Therefore, it is possible to focus so much on the visible Church that the potential for relationship with Christ is diminished. This is what I call ecclesiological lust, an excessive focus on the visible Church which is bad for our relationship with Christ. It’s maybe an esoteric disorder, but it’s one that I’m prone to and I think a lot of other Catholics are as well. In my life, at least, it has two primary manifestations: First, an excessive preoccupation with Church politics and Church rumors in general. Who got appointed to which commission? What are the important episcopal placements, and what are the various opposition parties in the bishop’s conference, or the curia? Did you hear Cardinal so-and-so’s response to Cardinal whats-his-name’s comment from last week? Who’s in favor with Francis, who’s out of favor? Did you hear the word on the street on the Via Nomentana? Did you read Lombardi’s latest statement? It’s one thing to be well-informed, but it’s another thing to be into gossip. And again, I struggle with this. I get into ecclesial trivia and hearsay the same way (and maybe for the same reason) other folks read the celebrity nonesense in E Weekly and People. It’s fun, it can be sensational, but it isn’t healthy – it’s too focused on the superficials, the skin-depth of Christ’s visible body. I’d be better off praying for the Church and for her hierarchy and for my own soul. A second form of ecclesiastical lust is liturgical hyper-sensitivity. Again, this is a big one for me. At mass I want the church to look nice, I want the music to sound nice, I want the homily to be insightful and orthodox, and I don’t want anybody messing with the rubrics. And if those pieces aren’t in place I really have a hard time not getting angry, and I even have a hard time praying. In other words, what I see and...

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Is it enough to be a “Good Person”?

Posted by on Apr 12, 2014 in featured, Morality, Theology | 7 comments

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 a good person” as the number one priority of you life. When you make that your main goal, you’ll really see how desperately you need help–how desperately you need Christ. Or maybe this “good person” dismissal is trying to say that the only thing that matters is to be an okay person. An average person. Not a psychopath or a sociopath. Maybe what some people mean by “good person” is just a “pretty good person.” But is that really all that matters? Would anybody really say that the main thing in life is to be mediocre? Because if mediocrity is your priority, if that’s what matters to you, then you actually have some very serious problems – you are lost in life, and you badly need to get some direction. You need to ask God for help, and you need to be open to the help He sends you. Here’s another point: either Christianity is true or it isn’t. If it’s true then the things it says about how to be good are true as well. And if you don’t recognize that then you won’t know as much about how to be good. In other words, if Christianity is true then it matches up with reality – but in that case your ignoring or rejecting Christianity will set you in opposition to reality. And if you’re acting against reality then it doesn’t matter whether you’re a well-wishing sort of person, you’ll actually be doing a lot of harm. So if you really care about being good then you simply can’t...

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Who Are We To Judge

Posted by on Mar 9, 2014 in Current Events, featured, Morality, Theology | 6 comments

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 1: 18-ff, 1 Cor 6:9, and 1 Tim 1:10.) These were very good points. I wasn’t sure what I was going to say. I could go the direction of explaining objective moral norms and the God-given meaning of sex, but needed more time to organize my thoughts so as to answer the question properly. Plus, I knew that I needed to keep my responses brief due to time constraints.  Since the question appealed to human experience as the standard for moral evaluation, I decided to fight fire with fire. Many years ago, when I was single, I volunteered for 18 months with the Missionaries of Charity at a home for men dying with AIDS, called Seton House. Mother Theresa herself chose Denver, Colorado as the location for this AIDS home, and sent 8 of her sisters to run it. The vast majority of the infected occupants were homosexuals.  I volunteered every Monday night. My job was to stay awake with the men all night while the sisters slept, so that the men could be cared for round the clock. I was basically their mom; I bathed them (bed-ridden patients often lose all track of time so a 3am shower didn’t seem so odd to them,) changed their diapers, fed them, gave them water, held their hands, prayed with them, talked with them, sat with them, shared my life with them, and they shared theirs with me. I formed wonderful friendships with many. I got on up-close and personal look at their life style, and I heard many sad and sordid...

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