Monday, October 01, 2018

Did he or didn't he?

I am writing this as Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the United States Supreme Court has become an emotional firestorm.  Dr. Christine Ford provided very convincing testimony that she was assaulted by Kavanaugh when they were both high school teenagers.  Kavanaugh vehemently denies it ever happened.  Watching the all day hearing on Thursday, September 27th, I thought both of them appeared to be truthful.  Obviously, one of them is either wrong, or a very good liar.  Despite the allegation, the Republican majority wants to push his nomination through before the mid-term elections.  Democrats are doing all in their power to block his confirmation.  

Make no mistake, the combustible in this conflagration is abortion.  Kavanaugh would take the seat of Justice Kennedy, a swing vote on the court.  Those on the left fear that Kavanaugh’s conservative record could overturn Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion.  Those on the right see that as a hopeful possibility.  I watched the Kavanaugh interviews before the assault allegations came out.  I thought he gave great answers, and as an opponent of legalized abortion myself, I favored his confirmation, but now, I have reservations.

Yes, If the process extends beyond the mid-term elections, the Republicans could lose their majority, and any hope of putting a conservative judge on the court could be lost.  But if the Republicans strong-arm his confirmation while the allegation of sexual misconduct is still an issue, they most certainly face disaster in the mid-terms.  As of this writing, it looks like the vote may be delayed a week while the FBI does an investigation.  

I’m not one to make predictions, but my gut tells me Kavanaugh will not be confirmed.  Whether he is innocent or not, he has been damaged.  Unless the FBI can find evidence that Kavanaugh is falsely accused, and I doubt that they can, a cloud hangs over his nomination.  Women who have been victims of sexual assault are very vocal these days, and voting for an accused abuser could be political suicide.  Conservative Christian groups still calling for Kavanaugh’s confirmation should be cautious.  In the event Kavanaugh’s nomination is eventually withdrawn or negated, President Trump would be wise to nominate a woman. 

 UPDATE: So, I was wrong.  Kavanaugh was confirmed on a close party-line vote.  I really thought a few Republicans would acquiesce to those opposing his confirmation while considering the possibility something inappropriate may have happened under the influence of alcohol when he was a teenager.  While the Supreme Court vacancy has been filled, the controversy remains.  Protests, talks of impeachment, threats, and vicious comments permeate the airwaves and social media.

Once upon a time, the news media reported on the activities of the day.  Sometimes at the end of the newscast, someone would give an editorial comment, clearly labeled as such.  Now, most every media report seems to have an editorial slant, and the real story is how social media reacted.  We hear how Twitter lit up in response to some event of the day.  The problem is that people say things under the anonymity of usernames that they would never say in person.  Deliberate agitation adds fuel to the already intense fire.  Will things will cool down after the mid-term election in November?  Probably not. 

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

To whom shall we go?

Catholics have been reeling from the most recent revelations of alleged sexual abuse among the hierarchy as charged by the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report.  It was the subject of many a homily on Sunday, August 26, the same day news broke of ex nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano calling for Pope Francis to resign, claiming he withdrew sanctions imposed on Archbishop Theodore McCarrick by Pope Benedict. 

There seems to be a fear among the clergy that Catholics will be making a mass exodus (no pun intended) because of the terrible conduct of priests and bishops we had once respected as our spiritual leaders.  While one can hardly fault some Catholics for having this thought, the majority realize that evil perpetrated by individuals within the clergy, even a pope, does not diminish the truth of the Catholic faith.  Christ promised us the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church. 

On the same Sunday the scandal was in the forefront, we heard these words from John’s gospel in Chapter 6, where Jesus’ disciples had also heard some news that was difficult to accept:

As a result of this,
many of his disciples returned to their former way of life
and no longer accompanied him.
Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?"
Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe
and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” 
(- John 6:66-69)

For those of us who may think we may want to leave because of the scandalous behavior among even the highest members of the clergy, we have the same question, to whom shall we go?  Jesus Christ established the Catholic Church.  There is no other option!  No other church has the Eucharist, Confession, Holy Orders, and holds the keys to the Kingdom of God. 

And if you read ahead to the next two verses in John 6:
Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you twelve? Yet is not one of you a devil?”  He was referring to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot; it was he who would betray him, one of the Twelve.
Yes, even one of the first bishops of the Church, selected by Jesus Himself, committed an evil act.   The evil one is purged and replaced.  Back then, Mathias replaced Judas and the Church continued to flourish.  This isn’t the first scandal to scar the Church, and it won’t be the last.  Do what we can for the victims, purge the evildoers, learn from our mistakes, and move on. 

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Imagine no Possessions

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two
and gave them authority over unclean spirits.
He instructed them to take nothing for the journey
but a walking stick—
no food, no sack, no money in their belts.
They were, however, to wear sandals
but not a second tunic.
He said to them,
“Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave.
Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you,
leave there and shake the dust off your feet
in testimony against them.”
So they went off and preached repentance.
The Twelve drove out many demons,
and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

On Sunday, July 15, we heard Mark’s gospel where Jesus sends His apostles out to teach.  Our priest, in his homily, said this is where His disciples became apostles.  The word disciple comes from a Latin word meaning learner.  Apostle is derived from a Greek word aposotolos, meaning one who is sent, or a messenger.  The Latin term would be missio, where we get the word missionary.

Interesting to me is the way Jesus sent his missionaries.  He told them to take nothing for the journey, no food, no sack, no money, no extra clothes.  They were to take only a walking stick, their sandals, and the clothes on their backs.  The homilist said this meant we should detach ourselves from material things that weigh us down or prevent us from focusing on our mission.  Travel light, in other words, so to be not encumbered by excess baggage.  Applying this passage to our current parish mission of evangelization, I think the message goes even deeper.

At the end of every Mass comes the dismissal.  We are invited to go forth.  When the Mass was in Latin, the priest said, “Ite, missa est.”  We are being sent forth as missionaries to spread the good news.  If you are like me, I walk out of Mass with this mission, but I go home and resume my normal daily routine.

Now, imagine what would happen if the priest is standing at the rear of the church greeting people as they prepare to leave, but acting in the person of Christ, he collects your car keys, your house keys, your cell phones, your wallets and purses.  Acting in the person of Christ, he gives you a walking stick, tells you to pair up with a partner and go spread the gospel.  Could you go home and resume your normal routines?  No!  You have no way of getting home unless you walk, and even then, you are locked out.  You have no food, no money for food or lodging.  What would you do?

I can envision all of us standing in front of the church dumbfounded.  Whoa!  What do we do now?  I have the clothes on my back and this stupid stick.  Now what?  It occurs to me that we would suddenly find ourselves completely dependent on those we are called upon to evangelize.   If we are to obtain food and shelter before nightfall, we will need to rely on the generosity of others.  Our mission suddenly becomes something we do not when convenient, but immediately out of necessity. 

Perhaps the apostles were equally shocked by Our Lord’s instruction.  Their sustenance was dependent on the success of their mission.  Humbled by their lack of possessions, they approached the community as faithful servants of God, able to share their message without pretense. 

The challenge for us is to approach our mission of evangelization with humility, as an immediate need rather than a waiting opportunity, despite the material possessions that make us so comfortable in our routine. 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Lean Right

The deep polarization of our country is unsettling to say the least.   Here in northwest Indiana, we are inundated with political ads for the Illinois governors race.  Whoever writes those television spots must think the voters have sub-zero IQs.  Both Democrats and Republicans insult our intelligence with inane characterizations of their opponents, trying to make them look as ridiculous as possible.  Do they realize the middle school demographic they appear to target cannot yet vote?

I can imagine how the Catholic faith will be disparaged during the upcoming Supreme Court confirmation hearings.  Brett Kavanaugh’s orthodoxy will be scrutinized by the Democrats for fear that he actually follows Catholic teaching.  Front and center will be Roe v. Wade with the left concerned that a right leaning court will eventually overturn legal abortion.  The same people who are outraged about children being separated from their parents at the Mexican border have no qualms about an unborn baby being violently separated from its mother.

Before any nominee was even announced, the protesters were gearing up for a fight.  Think about what our society has come to.  The President nominates a good honest family man who respects life, and promises to interpret the Constitution as it was written.  People on the left attack him viciously because he likely opposes destroying the life of unborn babies. 
If I were being questioned in a pejorative way about my Catholic faith, I would say, “Senator, with all due respect, if your judgement were not so corrupted by evil, you would view my Catholic faith as a blessing, not a liability.”  Of course, I wouldn’t stand a chance of being confirmed after that!

Generations from now, historians looking back at this period will view abortion the same way we now view human sacrifice that took place centuries ago.  They will wonder how a civilized society ever permitted unborn children to be dismembered in the mother’s womb.  At least, I pray this will be the case. Otherwise, a continuation down the path we are on does not bode well for the future of humanity.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Comeback attempt

Our parish evangelization effort continues.  We held our second meeting this week.  Several contacts had been made with fallen-away Catholics since our last meeting, but no one has as yet come home.  We also made a few contacts at our festival booth this past weekend and gave away several copies of Trent Horn’s book, Why We're Catholic.  Seeds planted, still waiting for any to sprout. 

I was listening to a Catholic Answers Live podcast today while mowing the grass.  The guest was Lisa Cooper speaking on the Prosperity Gospel.  Someone mentioned Joel Osteen and how he has such a tremendously large following.  Lisa Cooper said he comes across as a very gentle Christian man which most people find appealing.    Even Catholics who may not be firmly grounded in their faith may find themselves attracted to his personality.  People can be easily swayed by good looks, a nice suit and a pleasant disposition.  The doctrinal accuracy of the message may not always hold up to scrutiny, but that matters little when the listener enjoys the experience. 

Conversely, Catholic truth can fall on deaf ears when the presentation is less than appealing.  The Catholic not firmly grounded in the faith can be turned off by a poorly executed homily.  Like it or not, the experience of the listener is paramount to how the message is received.  This is a concern for those of us trying to get fallen-away Catholics to return to the faith.  The person who has not set foot in church for many years will be affected more by the experience than the message during that first time back.  A priest or single member of the parish can determine whether a second or third attendance occurs.  Given time, it may be possible to keep them returning for the right reasons. 

During our town’s annual festival parade last weekend, I drove a truck behind an elaborate float representing a Protestant church nearby.  They had probably twenty youngsters dressed in matching tee shirts, handing out candy and pamphlets along the parade route.  They reached many more souls than we Catholics did with our rather passive tactic of setting up a booth and waiting for festival-goers to approach us.  Even more discouraging is the fact that we do not have twenty young people active in our parish anymore.  While the Catholic Church will be here until the end of time, there is no guarantee that our particular parish will survive.  Our work is cut out for us.  Time to get busy!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Diploma See

Having graduated from Purdue University many years ago, a recent newspaper article about the 2018 Commencement Address by Purdue President Mitch Daniels caught my eye.  Commencement speeches often focus on worldly problems the graduates will conquer.  While acknowledging the fact that today’s graduates are academically prepared to meet the challenges they face, President Daniels talked about the moral and ethical challenges that await them.  He put it bluntly.

When we can genetically engineer perfect children, should we? When wealthy adults can radically enhance their own mental abilities and life spans well beyond those less fortunate, should we let them? When robots, and a dwindling fraction of technologically gifted workers, are producing the majority of all the value and wealth in society, what will become of those who appear unnecessary? Will they be treated with respect, or as helpless dependents? If the latter, will the productive minority decide, as some have begun to speculate, that the others no longer deserve an equal say in the society’s decisions?”

Some of these questions are already being answered today, and the answer is frightening.  Last year, a US Fertility Clinic supposedly engineered a baby boy using the DNA of three different people.  A British court refused to let the parents of a brain-damaged boy take him out of the country for further treatment, and instead cut off life support allowing the child to die. This is what happens when human beings decide to play God. 

Daniels went on to caution graduates to resist the unintentionally tendency to segregate from their less blessed, less well educated fellow citizens.  He notes that our nation has seemingly divided into tribes, made up of people with very different views of true and false, right and wrong.  They seem deeply alienated from each other and deeply distrustful, and this distrust has eroded confidence in our public institutions.  Again, quoting from his speech:

“There are plenty of culprits here, starting with too many who have misused positions of authority. The so-called social media – I have come to think of it as “antisocial media” – enables and encourages hostility from the insulated enclave of a smartphone or a laptop.  People say things to and about each other that they would never say face to face, or maybe even think, if they knew each other personally.”

Here, he hits on one of the major causes of the polarization plaguing our nation today.  I am appalled at some of the statements internet trolls post online.  Such disrespect would never take place in a face-to-face conversation.  If the political viciousness weren’t enough, cyber bullying may be one of the major factors contributing to the violent acts we see taking place in our streets and schools.  This tribal mentality is particularly dangerous when the tribe gangs up on a weaker individual.  The helpless victim may see no relief other than self-destruction or violent retribution.  Daniel’s term “anti-social media” describes it well. 

I find it refreshing that the president of a secular institution of higher learning would speak on moral and ethical responsibility in a commencement address.  The graduates, and indeed all of us, would do well to ponder his concerns.  Despite our diverse views, we should always treat everyone with respect.