Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"Actually, that's perfect. I think we're done."

Alright, I promise a serious post soon, but funny this is, to be shared it must.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I've been tagged!

It's been a long time since I played tag. Or freeze-tag, or TV-tag. (Freeze tag: the person who was it turned people to statues by tagging them, in TV tag, the statues could come back to life if they could immediately name a TV show. What can I say, we were dorks.)

Aaaaaanyhoooo, I got tagged by Nod in the "Five Favorite Devotions" meme.

My five favorite devotions (in no particular order):
1. Rosary -- especially the sorrowful mysteries
2. Stations of the Cross
3. Novenas to St. Joseph and the Sacred Heart of Jesus
4. "Salve Regina" -- one of our bedtime prayers
5. Reciting the Exultet (I don't think you need a link.)

Now I get to tag five other bloggers to share their favorite devotions. And no, they can't get out of it by yelling, "Starsky and Hutch!"

1. PattyinCT (I think she's cute.) at My Apologies
2. Subvet at Blowing San #1 -- (No, I don't think he's cute.)
3. dadwithnoisykids at Scorpion Stalking Duck
4. Magister Christianus at Bedlam or Parnassus
5. Kristin at 11onmyown

Oh, and in honor of Nod who tagged me, who impresses and intimidates me with his gourmet recipes of all sorts, please feel free to check out the video here of Aretha Franklin showing Martha Stewart how to make "Chicken Italiano." No two women could ever be less alike.

Monday, August 9, 2010

I guess we know where his priorities lie...

Yesterday morning, Wifey was in the bathroom when I heard a blood-curdling scream. Running to find out what was wrong, expecting to find her in a contorted position beneath the sink, I found her instead flailing her hands about her, running out of the room. In a high-pitched shriek, she promptly informed me that there was a wasp over the toilet. Frac, who will be five next week, overheard this and must have come to the conclusion that it was necessary for us all to evacuate the house, for he immediately ran to the pile of VHS tapes we just acquired from Fr. Tito's rummage sale, and scooped them up, proclaiming loudly, "I'll save the movies!"

It's a good thing his baby sister has learned to walk for herself.

in faith and morals

When the Church says, "No, that's a sin; it's bad for you," she's always right, even if it takes a while for the rest of the world to notice.

And apparently, even cardinals sometimes take a while to join in the chorus.

Friday, August 6, 2010

AIDS, condoms, and the pope

Since we're on controversial topics, let's add this one. Check out this video and commentary at Fr. Longenecker's blog about the AIDS epidemic in Africa, and what approach is ACTUALLY WORKING at stemming the tide.

Sorry, judge. Marriage is between one man and one woman.

I said that yesterday on Facebook and started a firestorm of comments, many from people who rarely comment. That's cool, I like dialogue. I find it more fruitful than the monologue format of blogging. I'm moving the conversation here, though, because it was getting a little too lengthy for Facebook, and I think that it would make good fodder for public discussion here.

Most of the commentary in disagreement with me was sincere, but predictable. We can't judge others, we're all God's children, it's not fair to deny homosexuals happiness, etc. I was accused not only of being judgmental and insensitive, but also of repeating dusty arguments without putting any thought into it.

The truth is, I have thought about this, a lot. Well, this in particular somewhat, sexual ethics moreso, but the whole ethical dilemma in general a lot.

I have to reject moral relativism because it denies the existence of truth; the push for gay marriage, as well as all the comments I got yesterday, were examples of moral relativism. Moral relativism says that what is right always depends on the circumstances, what is right (or wrong) for one is not necessarily right (or wrong) for others. Consequently, all debate about morality breaks down into shouting matches of "Yeah-huh!" vs. "Nuh-uh!" because there is no basis for measurement. Without any foundation for morals, we all become our own emperors. The problem with this is that some emperors are stronger than others, and some emperors become tyrants while others become slaves. Moral relativism leads to the gas chambers.

As a Catholic, I reject moral relativism because it rejects the existence of truth. We believe in Natural Law, the moral law that governs all people in all places. It is the inborn conscience universal to mankind. Natural Law informs mankind that murder is wrong, that child abuse is wrong, that theft is wrong. Natural Law causes mankind throughout history to revere courage, honesty, valor, devotion, commitment. Natural Law is not only universal, but universally binding. It is wrong to murder. It was wrong to murder 100 years ago. It was wrong to murder 1000 years ago, just as it was wrong for Cain to murder Abel in the beginning of humanity. Individuals may nonetheless murder, but the mere fact that they committed the act of murder does not make it morally licit.

Natural Law recognizes also that there is "a nature" to creation. This holds true to the sexual act as well. Our bodies are created male and female and as such, they are complementary. The sexual act, while pleasurable, is aimed at a specific purpose: the procreation of mankind. In that act, man and woman take part in an action that is unitive and procreative. Man and woman, in an intimate act, find an expression so strong that it has the potential to bring into being a whole new person. The biological explanation of how is empty in its understanding of why. That new person has constant needs: nurture, food, education, support. The most stable and effective environment for meeting those needs are in a family.

Because of this understanding of human sexuality, it is only appropriate to engage in the sexual act in a way that mirrors the open-ness to new life. Hence masturbation, artificial contraception, and homosexual acts are not appropriate in the scheme of the nature of our bodies' dignity. Because of the needs of the offspring brought into being through the sexual act, the institution of marriage has been necessary throughout history to safeguard the environment of children, and to form the building blocks of society as a whole.

Marriage, properly understood, is an institution of a life-long commitment between one man and one woman, who share intimate union, and if their union be fruitful, to protect, nurture and educate their children through adulthood.

Homosexuality is a disordered sexuality, in that it by definition, cannot express itself in a life-giving way. This is not the same as a man and woman marrying past child-bearing years, as their union still gives expression to the complementarity of their being. The homosexual act is by nature not open to life, therefore homosexual unions are not marriage.

And this brings us to the point of yesterday's post. Judge Walker in California declared that gender has nothing to do with the institution of marriage. And he is wrong.

Now, I accept that there are homosexuals. I accept that there are homosexuals living together in a committed relationship even. But it is not marriage. Accuse me of engaging in semantics, but it is not rightly called a marriage. Similarly, a cohabitating heterosexual couple is not rightly called a marriage. Both arrangements have some aspects in common with marriage, but they do not fit the requirements of definition.

So is that all I'm fighting for? A definition? Well in some ways yes, and in some ways no. Yes, I am fighting for a definition, as it is imperative that we live according to truth. If the judge had declared that 2 + 2 = 5, that would not make it so, any more than it was so when an earlier court ruling once declared that black people were property. Declarations that are falsehoods must be rejected, otherwise words, relationships, laws, lose their meaning. If marriage can be redefined, what about love? What about war? Peace? If words can, by fiat, be made to mean the opposite of their meaning, communication quickly loses its meaning.

And also, I'm standing up against more than a definition. Catholic blogger Mark Shea has posted numerous stories to illustrate the point that the modern movement to legalize gay marriage is not merely to allow homosexual couples legal options, which they have already achieved, or to be tolerated in society, which they also have already achieved, but that the end goal is approval. Tolerance is not enough; you must approve.

Now to turn to the Catholic faith, by which I order my life.

Some of the comments that I received were aimed at my religious sensibilities in an attempt to convince me that I was wrong in this matter. They said that God is love, only God can judge, and that if God made homosexuals the way they are, who is the Church to deny them happiness? I'll try to address that here.

God is love. Love is not a feature of God, that He may have at one time and not at another, but is His essence. Not all that He does is love, but all that He is is love. His love is strong so as to give Himself up in bloody agony and torment to buy back his beloved (that's you and me) from the claws of death. His will is for our eternal happiness, which finds its fulfillment in Him. But God does not force His love upon us. Man can, and often does, reject God. For one cannot accept God, yet reject His commandments. Love is an act of the will which seeks the good of the beloved in accord with truth. Love must be based on truth, and truth cannot contradict truth, just as God cannot contradict Himself. So we must live in accord with truth to live in God's love. We must live as God has revealed Himself, in imitation of Christ, in all ways possible.

Now to the question of judgment. Not to pick on the ones who made the comment (because I've heard the statement countless times from countless people), but of course we are to judge, as long as we understand in what way we mean to judge (for judgment already has more than one meaning). Let me pose it this way: Is there anyone reading this who doesn't reject the actions of sinful priests? Is there anyone who doesn't judge them to be wrong? When the priest abuse scandal broke, did anyone reading this say, "Well, it's not for me to judge how others live their lives"? Or another example: If you have children, would you allow your children to engage in sexual acts at the age of 6? or 10? Or would you judge that to be wrong, inappropriate, even -gasp- sinful? Do you judge the actions of politicians? Do you judge the actions of criminals? Of course you would! The point is that every one of us makes all sorts of value judgments all the time. So to choose this particular instance of "gay marriage" and declare that it's not for us to judge is frankly, a copout. Either one doesn't want to think it through to the logical consequences, or what that statement really means is "I judge it to be morally acceptable, and just don't want to say it."

The other meaning of judgment is that of the state of one's soul. That judgment is left to God alone. Neither you nor I can judge another person's soul and declare their damnation. By the grace of God we all aim at eternal life, though the choice is up to us.

As to the last comment, that God made homosexuals gay and to deny them marriage is unfair, let me just say this. It is not known why some people have an attraction to members of the same sex. I do know, however, that opponents of gay marriage are criticized for suggesting that homosexuality is genetic, and conversely, also criticized for suggesting that homosexuality is learned. No one really knows why, though in the end, I don't see that the question of why it is to be the important question. The important question is "What now?"

I believe, as I posted in my comment, that what is important is to encourage all people, homosexual and heterosexual, the importance of chastity. Chastity recognizes the gift of human sexuality (and the sexual act) and that the dignity and worth of a person far exceeds their sexual actions. People need to hear that abuse of their sexuality is an abuse of their dignity. The dignity of each person is to be respected, first and foremost by one's self. Such self-respect demands self-control. (Remember, I'm not letting heterosexual people off the hook here, either.)

I'm not an advocate of "fixing" gay people to make them straight. I'm cynical of such attempts. What I do respect is the effort to support homosexuals in carrying the cross that they bear in having a sexuality that cannot find a life-giving expression. Groups like Courage are an example of such support.

The Church doesn't seek to deny anyone happiness. To the contrary, the Church recognizes that the fullness of happiness lies in union with God. Such union, as we saw before, must realize truth and live in accord with that truth. Gay marriage does not accord with the truth of God's plan for the human family. That may sound painful, but sometimes the truth is painful.

I, like many other people of the current generation, grew up with a deficiency. Our culture has denied the validity of the Ten Commandments for the absolute sovereignty of the One Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Offend Anyone. You can't stand for what you believe in, for it might hurt someone's feelings. Well, if hurting someone's feelings leads them to truth, so be it. I'm not out trying to crush people, in fact, many times I'm still a coward who keeps my head in the sand. But like C.S. Lewis described, sometimes on an arduous journey that one is frightened to undertake, the most important first step is to throw one's bag over the wall. Then, one convinces himself that he is not undertaking the journey, but merely climbing the wall to retrieve one's bag. After that, one has already climbed the wall and might as well keep going.

I'm not trying in this discussion to crush anyone, nor to deny anyone happiness. But sin never leads to happiness. It may lead to pleasure, it may lead to good feelings for a while, but it is far short of the true happiness that we seek in our eternal union with God.

For more reading (as if this post wasn't long enough!) consider these three posts:




Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Holy Potato Sack, Batman!

I found the link to this on CMR today and had to share, because I agree, it is the funniest thing I read all day...


Update: OK, I SWEAR I didn't copy the title of the other CMR post there, honest! I guess Patrick and I both watched too many scenes of Adam West doing the Bat-tusi. Scary, truly scary.

"Precious Blood"

Last week I filled in an hour of adoration for a friend of the family away on vacation.

It was late, and of course, I was tired, and sometimes when I'm tired I have a hard time concentrating on prayer. I picked up the hymnal. It was a good one, no Bernadette Farrell or Dolores Dufner. This chapel is at a Franciscan Friary dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the friars there don't put up with any bull.

I was struck by this verse of "Precious Blood", the Italian hymn Viva, Viva Gesu, translated by Frederick William Faber, Cong. Orat. :

3. Oh, Sweetest Blood, that can implore
Pardon of God, and heav'n restore,
The heav'n which sin had lost,
While Abel's blood for vengeance pleads,
What Jesus shed still intercedes
For those who wrong him most.

No pandering, diversity praising, self-congratulations. No "Gather Us In" or "Sing a New Church" in this place.

No, we worship the God who paid the price of our sin. In paying any ransom, the cost must be something dear, something we want not to part with. Ransom has to hurt to be a ransom. But all of the universe is God's creation; by His word it exists, by His will it came to be, and if He willed it so (God forbid!), it would all cease to be. All of creation is external to God, and is not "of Him." Truly, and this is not a limit on God, but a recognition that He is necessary, and we are not, He had nothing with which to pay off a creature's debt except that which is truly His: His own Son, inseparable from and co-equal with Himself.

And in the flesh, Christ had nothing to give of Himself but the very lifeblood in his veins, which He shed willingly: "No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again." (John 10:18) As Isaiah foretold of Him, "Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth." (Is 53:7)

All for us! "But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed." (Is 53:5) We sometimes get the erroneous impression that the Church is a social club of good-feeling people, or a wax museum of long-dead saints. But it is a hospital for sinners. People have been scandalized by the visible sins of Christians, many understandably so. Others think their own sins too grave to be brought out into the open. But both conclusions are nonetheless wrong. The only unforgiveable sin is our own choice to reject God's forgiveness; even in mercy, God does not force Himself upon us.

Our sins caused and necessitated the nails in Christ's hands and feet. But like the hymn says, His blood does not cry out for vengeance, as Abel's blood did. Christ's blood cries out for mercy. When we resist His mercy, Christ cries out the louder to plead for our forgiveness.

The sinner who sins out of spite, knowing the gravity of his actions, throwing his defiance into the face of God, is nonetheless loved by God, though he hurts Him most. It is not our place to reject them, (although we reject the sin) but to pray and encourage their repentance and mercy.

"Oh my God, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell. Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of your mercy."

Lincoln was not a Know-Nothing

President Lincoln, from a letter he wrote to his longtime friend Joshua Speed in 1855:

“I am not a Know Nothing. That is certain. How could I be? How can anyone who abhors the oppression of negroes, be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that ‘all men are created equal.’ We now practically read it ‘all men are created equal, except negroes.’ When the Know Nothings get control, it will read ‘all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics.’ When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty — to Russia, for example, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.”