You Gotta Serve Somebody

09-30-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

But you're gonna have to serve somebody,
yes indeed You're gonna have to serve somebody,
It may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.

—"Gotta Serve Somebody" by Bob Dylan

The values we hold and the choices we make reveal to others who we are serving. The problem we face is that left to our own devices we tend to rationalize and justify choices that are really self-serving. So we need something outside of ourselves to hold us accountable for our choices. Being part of a community helps us to do that but only if we are willing to use the community of the Church to measure our choices so that they are made not by a self-deluded standard but by the standards of Christian service.


Effective Stewardship

09-23-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

One of the harder ideas to shake from our thinking is that the amount of wealth that can be had in the world is basically a zero-sum game. In other words if someone gets rich it is because someone else got poor. But this way of thinking has for centuries kept people in poverty. Today many economists are challenging this way of seeing wealth and the free market by pointing out that there is in fact a nearly infinite amount of wealth that can be created and in which everyone can participate in its creation and benefit from it. Markets tend to reward those who excel by serving others well and meeting the needs and wants of customers. Economic activity then should be pursued as mutually beneficial exchanges and not the domination of the strong over the weak. In this view each of us then is a potential producer of wealth and resources for others.

Transposing this from the temporal to the spiritual means that if each of us is the best steward we can be then each of us individually and the Body of Christ at large will have all that we need. St. Thomas Aquinas taught that when we observe our neighbor's success that we ourselves do not possess we should react with zeal for self-improvement. But too often, Aquinas noted that when we observe good in others that surpasses what we ourselves possess we grieve over it rather than rejoice and in a malicious spirit seek to destroy it. This is the sin we call envy. If that is us then the spiritual challenge we face is to rejoice over a neighbor's good rather than resent that we do not possess the same and to be inspired by it not to tear others down but to address our own flaws and weaknesses.


Are you loyal to your political party or to your Church?

09-16-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

Singer and Songwriter, Neil Diamond wrote the song "Sweet Caroline" with a young Caroline Kennedy in mind. The artist says he was inspired by a photograph of the young Kennedy taken during those Camelot years in the White House. But now sadly it seems that "sweet" Caroline has turned rather sour. At the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte recently she proclaimed: "as a Catholic woman I take reproductive health seriously." Of course by reproductive health she did not mean having lots of children. And most people, including those living under a rock find her statement an oxymoron. Or at least not something a Catholic declares on National TV.

The fact is how could you (and why) call yourself a Catholic and be so willing to embrace a position that is at complete odds with essential Catholic moral doctrine? Caroline Kennedy is by no means the exception as there are numerous well-known Catholic politicians and public figures cheerleading for abortion. Yet the world sees them as "enlightened" and progressive and it never seems to matter that these public figures are taking a position that is radically different than the Church they claim to be a part of. Yet when a Catholic politician, like Rick Santorum holds the Catholic position he is called "extreme". The Santorums of this world are just ordinary Catholics and the Kennedys are the "extreme" Catholics.


Circumcising religious liberty from the culture - part 2

09-09-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

A few weeks ago I wrote about how a Court in Cologne, Germany ruled that circumcision was a violation of the right of a child to “bodily integrity” and that it amounted to a form of religious child abuse with no therapeutic benefit therefore the Court outlawed the practice. Well recently the first rabbi, David Goldberg of Northern Bavaria was charged with performing circumcisions. Frankly this should chill your spine. Are these people that unaware and insensitive to the anti-Semitic overtones? (The ruling affects only one state in Germany. I don’t want to castigate all Germans.) And think of the arrogance of the Judge who bans a religious ritual that has been performed consistently for 4,000 years. The Judge joins the company of Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Antiochus Epiphanes, Titus and other oppressors of the Jews.

Sadly European anti-Semitism runs deeps and wide. The circumcision ban was argued in the language of human rights but right below the surface you can sense a deep hostility to Judaism as well as a point of view that sees religious rituals as archaic and superfluous. But the fact is that the ritual of circumcision has helped Jews maintain their identity despite not having a homeland for centuries nor all the things that normally help maintain ethnic and religious identity. Circumcision is hardly superfluous to Jews.


Exceptions in the case of rape

09-02-2012Fr. John LettersFr. John

Dear Friends,

What about "except in cases of rape, incest and the life of the mother"? This exception to permit abortion is one that generates intense emotional reactions, which makes it difficult to discuss without descending into highpitched arguments that usually end in personal attacks. Even though this issue has been in the news constantly as of late because of statements made by a candidate for elected office, very little serious reporting has been done which would shed some light on this painful and difficult subject.

The pro-abortion side always tries to make its case from the exceptions and not the rule. And the rule is that the direct taking of innocent human life is always wrong. This basic principle keeps us from sliding back into barbarianism. If it is always wrong then there really can be no exceptions, which is what the pro-life side argues. The proabortion side uses this against the pro-life side to paint them as crazy, heartless and irrational. They do this especially well by arguing from the worst-case scenarios which are heart wrenching and challenging to defend and which make most pro-lifers fold like a house of cards. Don't fold, the "exception cases" are straw men designed to get pro-lifers to back down and agree with the abortionists. It is a conquer and divide strategy.