Enjoy re-reading Fr. John's weekly bulletin letters for the past year.
The young Americans, all right! By that I mean the three young men who stopped a would-be terrorist on a Paris bound train. Made my heart swell. And they were all very humble about it. Which is a good reminder for us Christians of Jesus words when we do any act of service: "don't let your right hand know what your left hand is doing". It's not about being noticed just doing the right thing.
Which is pretty much what happened at last week's protest at Planned Parenthood. Over 1,100 of you showed up, young and old and in-between at the Tempe Clinic. But that was just a small sliver of the tens of thousands that showed up across the country at over 250 abortion clinics. Despite that impressive showing the local and national media didn't seem to notice much.READ MORE
Within a breath of the US Supreme Court's ruling to redefine marriage calls for revocation of the tax-exempt status of Churches were loud and clear. In fact some put it this way, "it's time for the government to stop subsidizing the Churches". Well tax exemption and subsidies are not the same thing by a long shot. And here is why.
For the founders of the US not taxing the property of the Church (remember income tax didn't come along until the 20th century) was something that they brought with them from Great Britain. In many European countries there were official Churches, such as the Church of England, which gave the Church a quasi-governmental status. So why would the government tax itself? But beyond that as the Church and State became more and more disentangled the state saw the social work of the Church as benefiting the common good. So things like education, hospitals, feeding the poor etc., that the Church did, took the burden off the state. So for governments to tax the Church would mean less of those services. So for government this was a win-win situation.READ MORE
In recent years Alcohol producers have tried to market themselves as socially responsible. That's why you frequently will see attached to beer commercials the slogan: "Drink Responsibly" or "Don't Drink and Drive". Does it work? Well yes but not in the way you think. Alcohol producers spend a lot of money on advertising and they don't do it as a shot in the dark or with their fingers crossed hoping it has an effect. They carefully and meticulously measure the impact of their marketing strategies. What they find when they run those "Drink Responsibly" ads is that alcohol sales actually increase. What a fantastic cover: make yourself look socially responsible and increase your sales. Brilliant.
Up in Colorado the marijuana producers caught on to that same strategy so they advertise with the slogan: "Use Responsibly" and "You must be over 21". They likewise see their sales increase. Well, Planned Parenthood uses a similar marketing strategy, they claim: "the greater availability of contraception will reduce the need for abortion". Of course this makes them look socially responsible and seemingly wanting to reduce abortion rates. But like the alcohol and pot producers they study the effects of their marketing as well. And when it comes to contraception what the research reveals is that when contraception is widely and easily available at low or no cost abortion rates actually increase. New York City is a prime example of that: abundant availability of contraception and the highest abortion rates in the country. Hence PP's push to provide contraception actually helps their bottom line: increase abortion sales.READ MORE
Almost immediately after the Supreme Court issued its redefinition of marriage a columnist at the NY Times penned a piece calling for the revocation of the tax-exempt status of Churches that were not ecstatically embracing the redefinition. I must say I appreciate the columnist's candor in showing that the redefinition of marriage was not the end game and that punishment should be meted out to all dissenters.
There are two issues here that need to be examined together. The first: does tax-exempt status of Churches make them beholden to government? The second: what are the implications if the Church redefines marriage? The answers to both show that the intersection of Church-State is a rather complicated, often mutually beneficial and sometimes a treacherous affair. But let's look at the second first.READ MORE
Mes chers Amis,
It seems that the latest cultural haute couture is everything or everyone "trans". Somehow, with breathtaking speed that which was rive gauche has become the pinnacle of human advancement. As I listen to how the media report on stories of the trans-lifestyle I get the feeling we are all being warned to treat such persons not just with the utmost awe but actually better than anyone else including married ss couples.
Well in light of that status, I'll throw my lot in with the "trans" people. It's true I am a "trans" person. Not in the La cage aux folles sense. Still I am what I am or maybe better I will be what I am. Or something. So here goes:READ MORE
I always thought that the WWII era German people who participated in the systematic genocide carried out in Concentration Camps and those who looked the other way were an historical anomaly, one-time moral freaks. But now that we live in a country with Murder, Inc. also known as Planned Parenthood I'm beginning to think the people who lived under the National Socialism of the Nazi Party were more the norm than the exception.
The recent undercover investigation into Planned Parenthood's harvesting and selling of human baby organs and tissue (www.centerformedicalprogress.org) seems to make any distinctions between our society with its abortion mills and German society with its concentration camps a distinction without a difference. Yes there were those who resisted and tried their best to undermine the laws of the Third Reich, just witness the 5million non-Jews that died in concentration camps just like there are many of us today who resist and try to undermine the abortion laws of the US. But that fact that there is a law that officially legalizes the homicide of human beings based on status of development is every bit as morally repugnant as any other type of genocidal policy.READ MORE
In my previous letter I outlined ways in which religious freedom and the redefinition of marriage are currently in conflict. Hopefully now you can speak (not argue) in an informed way with those who insist that there is no conflict between the two. When you are having that conversation the first question to ask is "what is your definition of religious freedom"? Is it the robust, ample definition that we have employed for the past 239yrs of our nation's history or is it a very narrow, constricted definition that limits religious freedom to what happens inside the four walls of a church, synagogue or mosque? If it is the latter than there is a conflict.
The narrowing of the meaning of religious freedom from public practice to exclusively private worship will certainly affect how the Church operates in society. But always remember that this is God's Church and He will make us who He needs us to be at this present moment. We are by definition people of hope and so what we shall become is in God's hands. Maybe, as the Gospel points out when Jesus sent the Twelve on mission, he told them to take no walking stick, moneybag or extra tunic, we have become too loaded down, too encumbered to effectively carry the message of the Good News. So yes we might loose the institutions that we built to help Christianize the culture but implicit in that loss is an opportunity as well. We should never lose sight of that.READ MORE
The Supremes have sung and not in harmony and apparently there really ain't no mountain high enough. So what has Obergefell v. Hodges wrought?
We have been lead to believe there is a huge majority ground swell of support for the redefinition of marriage and those who oppose are the lunatic fringe. While polls often show a majority support for redefining marriage, thirty-six states, tens of millions of people voted not to redefine it. One of them, California, by a 60% margin voted to reaffirm the definition of marriage and did it during a Democratic primary election. What does the divide tell us? It tells us that we are less free. People will say one thing to a pollster but another in the voting booth.
So what happens now? When I drive around I frequently see "Coexist" bumper stickers. I support that, totally. "Live and let live, you do your thing and we'll do our thing". I am not being sarcastic or snarky, I really hope for that. It's just that the supporters of the redefinition of marriage don't appear to really want to coexist.READ MORE
"War is peace.
Freedom is slavery.
Ignorance is strength."
"It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words."
― George Orwell, 1984
I feel very simpatico with Justice Scalia. The jurist tries his best to apply rigorous logic and reason to the law all the while the other side starts with a predetermined outcome and then plays judicial jujitsu to supply their reasoning or lack there of. In the recent case King v Burwell, Justice Scalia lamented that "Words no longer have meaning if an Exchange that is not established by a State is 'established by the State."
I feel his pain. We all should. Our country has clearly rejected reason and logic and opted for emotion. New ideas that the elite wish to use to change our society are speedily whipped around social and other media to get you to believe that there is a ground swell of support for such ideas. Consent to the ideas requires not logic or reason but pure emotion enforced with fear. Making a decision based on emotion is like succumbing to a fast pace sales pitch with out reading the fine print. "Gee, it sounded like a good idea at the time."READ MORE
A portrait of a murderer as a young man.
Much has been said and written about the motivations and causes for the young man who massacred nine people at Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. For sure we can never fully unravel the twisted darkness of evil but we can at least examine it by parts to learn how to disarm it.
The first thing that always crosses my mind when I hear of these violent tragedies is "what chemicals was the perpetrator using or withdrawing from"? In this case we quickly learned (often the drug history of killers is kept from the public under the guise of medical confidentiality) he was a regular drug user including the prescription drug Suboxone (which is more recently being used by the medical industry to treat symptoms of narcotic withdrawal, especially heroin and other opiates and to replace methadone since users don't have to go to a clinic to obtain each dose). The drug is indicated for short-term use but many people stay on the drug for a very long time. While it does not have the intoxicating power of heroin it does distort thinking and reflexes (which is why most psychotropic drugs including alcohol and medical marijuana, have warning labels that tell you not to drive or operate heavy equipment while taking the drug). Additionally Suboxone is known to push young people into highly anti-social and destructive behavior. As usual the focus is on guns but it is time we start looking at the role psychoactive and mind-altering drugs play in these mass shootings.READ MORE
Ground Control to Major Tom
Your circuit's dead,
There's something wrong
Can you hear me Major Tom
Can you hear me Major Tom….
—"Space Oddity" by David Bowie
An Election Oddity. As things shape up for the next presidential election cycle my brain is starting to short circuit.
Since the 1980's our society has overdosed on the notion of "diversity". You're simply not acceptable to polite society unless you represent diversity of a very narrow and specified Zeitgeist. Even corporations, institutions and organizations have all contorted themselves to be able to proclaim: "we are diverse". Even though the Church is very diverse, members from every nation, ethnic, cultural and language group on earth, it obviously, so we were told, flunked the diversity test when the cardinals failed to elect the first ever black, Jewish, lesbian Pope and instead elected as usual a old celibate Bishop from Argentina. So much to my befuddlement as I look at the candidate line-up I see on one side running for president: two Hispanic men, one black man, one woman and a few middle aged white men. On the other side I see one elderly white woman and a few middle aged to elderly white men. But I am told the latter really represents diversity and not the former. What am I missing here?READ MORE
In one of my first letters of the year I wrote that the push for Assisted Suicide would become harder and fiercer as the year progresses. Right on cue the Gallup Organization published the results of a poll that showed a 20% increase in support for assisted suicide but with one caveat: support increases when assisted suicide is described euphemistically rather than accurately. Support increases to 70% when people are asked if they support "aid in dying" or as the poll asked: "allow physicians to end a patient's life by some painless means". However support decreases to 51% when the process is described as "allowing physicians to help patients commit suicide". (As we head into another election cycle be very careful to read how polls phrase questions because the phrasing of the question and not the actual issue determines how people respond.)
You can see why the pushers of Assisted Suicide press hard to change words and use propaganda to sell death on demand. Even the Euthanasia Society has changed its name twice since 1976 first to the Society for the Right to Die and now know as Choice in Dying. It all sounds very lovely and democratic but though the words changed the underlying reality did not but they count on your ability to be easily fooled. "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" well in this case words can actually kill you.READ MORE
Admittedly I am stupefied by the lightening speed with which the issue of transgender and transsexual lifestyles has been normalized in our culture. The issue is probably best symbolized by the very public transformation of former Olympic Gold medalist Bruce Jenner known now as Caitlyn. The way in which the media has promoted his change to her with thunderous applause and the highest accolades outdoes any other historical issue in my lifetime. And as expected no journalist has dared to report on the dark underside of making such a lifestyle change. There are plenty of people who went down this road and deeply regret it (see: "Sex Change Surgery: What Bruce Jenner, Diane Sawyer and You Should Know" www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2015/04/14905/ ).
This is a major cultural shift that is the crowning achievement of those who want to deconstruct the Judeo-Christian understanding of the human person. And I say cultural because culture is what drives everything: change the culture and you will change people's value system. Pope John Paul II understood this well and it is why he so heavily challenged us to shape a culture of life. Our efforts in that area have certainly born fruit, though there is still a long way to go. As with Abortion, trans/lifestyles, once you understand fully the issue and other solutions you have to ask yourself, "what really is the most loving thing to do" in order to help those with this struggle?READ MORE