The Apostolate of the Laity

Waxing philosophical in communion with one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

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Location: Portland, Oregon, United States

I am just a sinner who holds fast to the notion that every human being on the planet is the result of a thought of God.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Journey Back to Eden

"In the beginning..."

These first three words of sacred scripture describe a time, a place, and even a state of being where man earnestly desires to return. It's interesting to imagine the lives of Adam and Eve post Eden. Did God in His mercy erase their memories of what it was like to be in perfect harmony with Him, or did they live out their lives with full awareness of Paradise lost? A case can be made that humanity's first parents did indeed retain some memory of their original innocence as the drive to find a way back to God seems to get passed down from generation to generation as an ever present characteristic of man's very nature. Much of his lived experience centers on acting upon this constant yearning.

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth."
(Genesis (RSV) 1:26-28)

That word "dominion" is a tricky one. For many it implies a possessive meaning. The idea that God gave man the Earth to conquer, control, and have absolute authority over nature. And He very well may have intended that, but what gets subtly lost in the telling of the account of creation is the very fact that when Adam and Eve lost Paradise, they lost their dominion over the Earth right along with it. In their fallen nature, how could they, or their descendants for that matter, be entrusted as good shepherds of the planet. The fish of the sea, birds of the air, and every living thing were not the ones that became less. They did not fall from grace nor was their nature changed. A fish is still a fish.

Man did fall. His tumble from grace ontologically changed him. And while he still maintains a moral obligation to respect the world God created for him, he has a far reduced dominative role to play despite what Al Gore says. Man didn't become evil by the fall as the Calvinist would suggest. He simply became wounded. The desire to repair that wound drives him in many ways to seek his creator. In his mercy, God gave man a way back home. Faith, hope, and love in concert with the gift of His only son, Our Lord Jesus Christ was the remedy for the injury to man's fallen nature. And before Christ, a belief in God served as the moral compass of man.

That all began to change a few hundred years ago, which in this instant information age of this high-speed Internet world seems like the distant past but in reality is relatively recent. It was at this time, in the 1700s, that man began to look at his world through the eyes of science discounting the disciplines of philosophy and most important theology. For a masterful summation of this event in history one should refer to Pope Benedict's Spe Salvi, sections 16-23. In short, technology advanced to a point where man could start explaining more of the mechanics of his physical world and his fascination with these discoveries led him to begin to believe that he could indeed achieve dominion over his world once again. Redemption via faith began to be supplanted by knowledge gained through the scientific process.

Now, this “redemption”, the restoration of the lost “Paradise” is no longer expected from faith, but from the newly discovered link between science and praxis. It is not that faith is simply denied; rather it is displaced onto another level—that of purely private and other-worldly affairs—and at the same time it becomes somehow irrelevant for the world. This programmatic vision has determined the trajectory of modern times and it also shapes the present-day crisis of faith which is essentially a crisis of Christian hope...If technical progress is not matched by corresponding progress in man's ethical formation, in man's inner growth (cf. Eph 3:16; 2 Cor 4:16), then it is not progress at all, but a threat for man and for the world.
Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi

This crisis of hope the Pope speaks of manifests itself in very real ways. Recently the Centers for Disease Control released a study indicating that the suicide rate among Baby Boomers had increased 20% since 1999. The study reveals that of the approximately 32,000 suicides that happened in 2004, about 7,000 were Boomers. Put another way. If one hears of a person committing suicide there's a better than one in five chance that person was born between 1944 and and 1964. That's a higher percentage than teenagers and the elderly who used to dominate this macabre statistic.

So what happened?

This generation was the first that in large numbers displaced God as a purely optional, private matter. Instead they put their faith in enlightened self-interest and in the technological progress of man. What is interesting is that most of this generation did not live the stereotypical life identified with the Sixties. Most did not march in the streets, burn their bras, or become hippies. Their protest was much more passive and private. In their attempt to conform to what the media and their peers portrayed as "my generation," they discarded the faith of their fathers and pursued something else or in most cases believed in nothing at all except their own abilities. Small wonder that as some approach the last third of their lives, they see no hope and lose their will to endure and meet an unnatural end.

The Holy Father references the philosopher Immanuel Kant to describe this unnatural end:

Now Kant considers the possibility that as well as the natural end of all things there may be another that is unnatural, a perverse end. He writes in this connection: “If Christianity should one day cease to be worthy of love ... then the prevailing mode in human thought would be rejection and opposition to it; and the Antichrist ... would begin his—albeit short—regime (presumably based on fear and self-interest); but then, because Christianity, though destined to be the world religion, would not in fact be favoured by destiny to become so, then, in a moral respect, this could lead to the (perverted) end of all things.”
Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi

The good news is that one who has been on the path of hopelessness can change course. Christ, entered human history to give humanity a way out of its fallen existence. And if one missed the message in one's youth, adolescence, and young adulthood, so what? The truth remains ready for one's embrace. There exists a hope far beyond the banality and limitations of physical science. The politician, the eco-warrior, the television pundit may all be screaming that the sky is falling; however, they miss the mark entirely. The Heavens have not fallen. It is man who has.

"Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way where I am going." Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me."
(John (RSV) 14:1-6)

This journey back to Eden, back to harmony with God, begins with a walk with Christ. All other paths no matter how interesting and alluring lead to dead ends, but Christ leads to eternal life.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Protestant Prison of the "I"

“Should I have found joy? No ... only my joy, and that is something wildly different ... The joy of Jesus can be personal. It can belong to a single man and he is saved. He is at peace ... now and always, but he is alone. The isolation of this joy does not trouble him. On the contrary: he is the chosen one! In his blessedness he passes through the battlefields with a rose in his hand”
Henri de Lubac, Catholicisme. Aspects sociaux du dogme, 1983

Our Holy Father uses the above passage in Spe Salvi to highlight the tendency for many to abandon the communal nature of salvation and cling to a terribly isolated understanding of the Christian experience. While the Pope does not specifically single out any one particular group, the hard reality exists that this realm of thinking frames nearly all of Protestant theology. For those separated from the one Church Christ gave to humanity, man has a direct, one on one, relationship with the Savior that supersedes anything that might be offered by the community at large and certainly trumps any kind of perceived, man-inspired authority. In essence each human is an island unto himself and while he may share Jesus as a focal point with his Christian brother, there can be no room for any sort of communal relationship.

Hope then becomes greatly watered down under this system of belief. Saved by faith alone in an individualistic relationship with Christ, hope gets diluted by certainty. So sure of one's salvation by the proclamation of faith, hope may be seen as little more than wishful thinking. Political entertainer Rush Limbaugh made this point the other day on his radio program when he unabashedly proclaimed that hope never did anything for anyone as he quoted Frederick Nietzche who asserted that "Hope is the worst of evils, for it prolongs the torments of man." The idea being that man wastes his time sitting around hoping in things when he could be going about the business of solving his problems. Limbaugh likely expresses the sentiment of many a cultural Christian who having solved the problem of salvation by her one time acceptance of Jesus as "Lord and personal savior" now must get down to the business of running one's life with Christ as a neatly compartmentalized character trait.

This kind of thinking reflects a soul where faith remains unleavened. For true hope is not an aimless desire for something. It is not a sitting around waiting for something to happen. Hope must be coupled with action and a very real expectation and even anticipation that the thing desired will be firmly grasped. For the Catholic, hope, this theological virtue, persists as a longing for God and the assurance of His company through His only son, our Lord Jesus Christ. No better realization of this hope is found then in the communal, Eucharistic meal shared by Catholics in the mass.

This company with our creator is not an individualistic phenomena. As Pope Benedict writes in Spe Salvi:

...salvation has always been considered a “social” reality. Indeed, the Letter to the Hebrews speaks of a “city” (cf. 11:10, 16; 12:22; 13:14) and therefore of communal salvation. Consistently with this view, sin is understood by the Fathers as the destruction of the unity of the human race, as fragmentation and division. Babel, the place where languages were confused, the place of separation, is seen to be an expression of what sin fundamentally is. Hence “redemption” appears as the reestablishment of unity, in which we come together once more in a union that begins to take shape in the world community of believers.
Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi

Salvation as a social reality presents more than a leap of faith for the Protestant believer; it requires a swim across the Tiber leaving behind the lonely walk with self and joining the mystical communion of the saints. It means a proactive effort on the individual to rejoin with that which man fractured by his ego, frustration, and most often benign ignorance.

Continuing in this vein, the Holy Father writes:

This real life, towards which we try to reach out again and again, is linked to a lived union with a “people”, and for each individual it can only be attained within this “we”. It presupposes that we escape from the prison of our “I”, because only in the openness of this universal subject does our gaze open out to the source of joy, to love itself—to God.
Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi

As the Lenten journey continues, let each Catholic realize the joy that awaits one who continuously donates self to the mystical Body of Christ, and in the spirit of ecumenism, reach out those who walk in a self-imposed solitude yet earnestly desire the higher gifts of Our Lord. The more excellent way that St. Paul describes (1Corinthians (RSV) 12:31) is not found in the many members of many bodies of many ecclesial communities, but rather in the the one body with many members that comprises the Bride of Christ...His one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

From Eternity to Here

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
- 1John (RSV) 3:1-2

Continuing this series of reflections based upon Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical, Spe Salvi, it is time to turn to a compelling proposition presented by the Holy Father concerning "eternal life." The Pope reflects:

But then the question arises: do we really want this—to live eternally? Perhaps many people reject the faith today simply because they do not find the prospect of eternal life attractive. What they desire is not eternal life at all, but this present life, for which faith in eternal life seems something of an impediment. To continue living for ever —endlessly—appears more like a curse than a gift. Death, admittedly, one would wish to postpone for as long as possible. But to live always, without end—this, all things considered, can only be monotonous and ultimately unbearable.
- Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi

There exists a drive within each human being to strive for something better then what he has, today, but for the non-believer whom the Pope addresses in this passage, what exactly one works for remains disturbingly intangible. Man then turns to that which can be touched and felt and thus the accumulation of material goods becomes the apparent highway to happiness. More is better. In fact "more" defines success within the culture, especially in Western society and most notably in America. More has no limits and it remains insatiable. More money, more power, more sex, more drugs, more fame. And as Hollywood has proven, more is a dead end road. A simple skimming of the day's entertainment headlines is full of celebrities gone insane, gone to prison, or assumed room temperature over the fact that the pursuit of "more" was not all it was presented to be, and the despair that "more" turned out to be an existential lie.

And the lie is repeated and trumpeted incessantly to the point that one may find it difficult not to believe in it. How many television game shows are sold on the concept that one could win vast sums of money and one's problems would be solved? Even programs that portend the virtue of charity, such as Extreme Makeover Home Addition, send a message that life's most difficult problems are largely ameliorated with vast material goods. One interesting element of that show is the fact that each individual family member is given an oasis in the form of a highly customized bedroom within the home away from not only the world but even including an escape from the family.

Given this reality of the culture, the Pope's question regarding the potential lack of desire for eternal life proves perfectly reasonable. What possible motivation could one have to live forever in an existence that mirrors one's present life in a fallen world? There has to be something more. This hunger for the answer; this yearning to know; this instinctual grasping to understand perhaps begins to define the very texture of hope.

And because God is merciful, one does not have to wait for death to encounter true life. Yes, this temporal life represents an exile from the ultimate eternal glory that awaits the believer; however, this is not wasted time. So often the focus on the hereafter distorts the clarity of the here and now. For God created one as an eternal being from the moment of one's conception. Life, everlasting life, becomes the choice that gets made by the sojourning body through this state of existence. And if the choice is life, then the choice is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ, today.

It is a choice. One has the free will to choose the way of the fallen world. A world full of many pleasures; many experiences; many good feeling; and many freedoms. Yet as alluring as the world may be, it is finite, limited, and fleeting. The pursuit of her happiness does not lead to hope but rather to a perpetual state of nonfulfillment and a struggle for inner peace. This struggle is not an illogical one as the Pope describes:

In some way we want life itself, true life, untouched even by death; yet at the same time we do not know the thing towards which we feel driven. We cannot stop reaching out for it, and yet we know that all we can experience or accomplish is not what we yearn for. This unknown “thing” is the true “hope” which drives us, and at the same time the fact that it is unknown is the cause of all forms of despair and also of all efforts, whether positive or destructive, directed towards worldly authenticity and human authenticity. The term “eternal life” is intended to give a name to this known “unknown”. Inevitably it is an inadequate term that creates confusion. “Eternal”, in fact, suggests to us the idea of something interminable, and this frightens us; “life” makes us think of the life that we know and love and do not want to lose, even though very often it brings more toil than satisfaction, so that while on the one hand we desire it, on the other hand we do not want it.
Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi

Maybe where hope truly resides lies in the death to self as Christ so often proclaimed in the Gospel and so perfectly demonstrated at Golgotha. Jesus could have had all the world had to offer. Satan offered him that very thing at the beginning of his ministry, and Christ rejected it. For while the world does have many beautiful things, its greatest attribute are the very souls who inhabit her. Notice the devil didn't dare offer Our Lord a claim on all the souls of the world for that would have left him with nothing but meaningless, empty things. Perhaps this realization fuels the devil's hatred of God and His creation. For even his rule of the Earth is limited. Eventually he loses everything and is left with only himself and the fallen angels and souls who follow him to perdition.

Christ rejected the riches of the world to claim those whom His Heavenly Father had fashioned in His image. Even the smallest amount of belief should give rise to faith. The joy of the here and now lies in the recognition of one's eternal nature; the continuous outreach and communion of Christ to His bride; and the hope that life, true life, continues on an even grander reality in the eternity now veiled from one's vision.

Friday, February 08, 2008

The Substance of Faith

Describing faith tends to lend itself to the use of subjective thinking. No where does this prove truer than when one examines the reason behind the existence of some 40,000 Protestant denominations who have separated themselves from the Church Christ gave to humanity. Each has fashioned its own take on what faith in Christ really means. The two more common tenets of course are found in the once saved always saved soteriology and the notion that all of God's revelation is found in the King James version of sacred scripture, though interpretation of said scripture waxes on the side of personal opinion of the pastor in charge of whatever ecclesial community he or she leads.

The very notion of a magisterium has no place in a community which holds to an individualistic philosophy on one's relationship with Jesus. There really cannot be a communion as each of its members functions as islands unto themselves with regard to their personal relationships to Our Lord. So their sect of Protestantism functions more as a collective of believers who may share like interests, but still each of her members functions on a fiercely independent basis.

The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me.
(John (RSV) 17:22-23)

Perfectly one. These words from The Christ do not point to a world of 40,000 different opinions. The Savior did not pray that He have an independent relationship with each individual apostle. He asked God for not just unity, but communion itself. The entirety of John 17 cries out for this union between Church and Christ. There remains no room for subjectivity in His desire so eloquently expressed in this perfect prayer for His disciples.

Consider the reality that faith is not just a feeling, an opinion, or a body of knowledge, but actually part of one's very essence with a divine origin. What if faith is not subjective but rather very objective?

In Pope Benedict's Encyclical, Spe Salvi, the Holy Father brings this issue to light by examining the definition of faith as presented in Hebrews 11:1, which translated into English perhaps loses much of its original meaning:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews (RSV) 11:1)

Regarding this passage Pope Benedict teaches:

For the time being I shall leave this central word untranslated. The sentence therefore reads as follows: “Faith is the hypostasis of things hoped for; the proof of things not seen”. For the Fathers and for the theologians of the Middle Ages, it was clear that the Greek word hypostasis was to be rendered in Latin with the term substantia. The Latin translation of the text produced at the time of the early Church therefore reads: Est autem fides sperandarum substantia rerum, argumentum non apparentium—faith is the “substance” of things hoped for; the proof of things not seen.
Pope Benedict XVI - Spe Salvi

Substance. Proof. Those two solid nouns leave little room for subjectivity. Aristotle spent a good amount of time (he didn't have the Internet, television, or video games as distractions) looking into the nature of things. A fundamental building block of his philosophy states that a substance exists in its own right in its natural state. For example a rock is, well, a rock. It doesn't exist as anything else. It might be used to make a wall, but it never stops being a rock.

So when St. Paul states that faith is the hypostasis/substance of things hoped for suddenly this faith takes on a more solid meaning. It loses its subjectiveness that the men of the Reformation tried to give to it, and it takes on a more tangible and even absolute quality. After all, this faith is a gift from God.

The Pope continues:

Faith is not merely a personal reaching out towards things to come that are still totally absent: it gives us something. It gives us even now something of the reality we are waiting for, and this present reality constitutes for us a “proof” of the things that are still unseen. Faith draws the future into the present, so that it is no longer simply a “not yet”. The fact that this future exists changes the present; the present is touched by the future reality, and thus the things of the future spill over into those of the present and those of the present into those of the future.
Pope Benedict XVI - Spe Salvi

From this one sees that the substance of faith has an eternal nature. Faith far transcends a simple default position to explain the unobservable or that which proves difficult to understand. For the Protestant thinker, Christ gets neatly packaged into a past event that one can learn from to apply to today. It even comes with it's own instruction manual, the bible. The hope is that one day He will emerge again and that if one accepts the action of Christ in the past one gains salvation in the future regardless of one's present condition. Jesus in the "now" exists mostly as a symbol of what was or what is to come. Oh, the spirit of Christ might be felt, but as to Our Lord's physical presence among His people, that is reserved for an "on that day."

The Catholic's faith might well be described as the embracing of the continuum of love exchanged between God and his people. It began at the creation of man; it is ever present; and it lasts forever. God became man to suffer with man and take on his sins. He remains ever present in body, blood, soul, and divinity; however a physical vision of Him is veiled by our unglorified and sinful state yet Catholics know that Christ remains actually, physically present through the sacraments He gave to the Apostles.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.
(1Corinthians (RSV) 13:12)

So faith is not wishful thinking, but rather an objective understanding of one's own existence in accepting one's communion in the reality of the mystical body of Christ yesterday, today, and forever. Communion with Christ is all that one hopes for. Proof of Him is found in the sacraments of His Church. It is an experience to be lived in the here and now.

Giving the Holy Father the last word:

Thus the word indicates a lived hope, a life based on the certainty of hope. In the New Testament this expectation of God, this standing with God, takes on a new significance: in Christ, God has revealed himself. He has already communicated to us the “substance” of things to come, and thus the expectation of God acquires a new certainty. It is the expectation of things to come from the perspective of a present that is already given. It is a looking-forward in Christ's presence, with Christ who is present, to the perfecting of his Body, to his definitive coming.
Pope Benedict XIV - Spe Salvi

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


"How quickly we fall back from nothing to nothing."

Pope Benedict XVI in his Encyclical, Spe Salvi, draws attention to this epitaph common during the days of St. Paul to point out the lack of real hope that marked the people who had not yet seen the great light of Christ. Today is Ash Wednesday, a holy day of obligation when millions of Catholics begin their Lenten journey with an act of humility. At mass, today, they will approach the alter and the priest will take the ashes created from the burning of the palms used in the last Palm Sunday mass and mark a sign of the cross on their foreheads speaking words similar to that ancient dark commemoration:

"Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return."

Cultural icon of the sixties, John Lennon, encouraged his followers to imagine that there was no Heaven and a host of other things he deemed as distractions to happiness. It was a call from the leader of The Beatles to abandon the notion of a God and focus solely on the here and now. His slightly melancholy lamentation promised the possibility to live in a utopia where God, seen as the ultimate potentate of the establishment, would no longer be necessary. And many who had been swept up into the cultural revolution followed Lennon's advice. They chased after a world of enlightened self-interest where "I'm okay, you're okay" defined its creed, and they discovered this new world inadequate so they filled it with drugs, casual sex, abortion, divorce, and a myriad of false religions and egocentric philosophies that ushered in what historians may one day label the post Christian Era.

The Baby Boom generation made an unconscious-conscious effort to return to the days that St. Paul lived; that time when people had no hope in anything greater than themselves. And while it will take several generations to undo the damage done to the culture since many of their beliefs have been codified into civil law and embedded into the minds of their children, hope remains that one's distant progeny will one day study this period of time, scratch their heads in amused disbelief and ponder, "What were they thinking?"

"But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope." (1Thessalonians (RSV) 4:13)

Here too we see as a distinguishing mark of Christians the fact that they have a future: it is not that they know the details of what awaits them, but they know in general terms that their life will not end in emptiness. Only when the future is certain as a positive reality does it become possible to live the present as well. So now we can say: Christianity was not only “good news”—the communication of a hitherto unknown content. In our language we would say: the Christian message was not only “informative” but “performative”. That means: the Gospel is not merely a communication of things that can be known—it is one that makes things happen and is life-changing.

- Spe Salvi - Pope Benedict XVI

A positive reality. Good news. Performative. Makes things happen. Life-changing. It is for these very aspects that many have fallen in love with the only church Christ gave to humanity; a love that manifests itself in ways that the unbeliever finds difficult to embrace. For at the core of this perfect model established by Our Lord lies this concept of communion where self becomes a gift to the mystical body of Christ versus self being one's most valued possession. The payoff is not the aggrandizement of the individual but rather a humble, eternal exchange of love between man, his Creator, and His creation.

How many earthly versions of utopia will man entertain before he surrenders to the love of Christ? Lennon dreamed of unbridled socialism. Lenin proposed a system of communism. At the other extreme many see the answer in pure capitalism, and the scientist seeks a universe governed by empiricism.

Perhaps Christ viewed all of these systems of distraction during his agony in the garden yet He never lost hope for humanity. Rather he moved forward and embraced His cross and gave rise to the eternal hope available to all who open their hearts to His love and to His Church. It is not a communal love one needs to dreamingly imagine. It lives in the here and now and simply waits for one's embrace.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Natural Law and the CIA

Today, U.S District Judge Michael Mosman removed the injunction that he had placed on a new law in the State of Oregon that allows gay couples to register as domestic partners. The new law gives gay couples similar rights as married people. Such laws are common in many liberal states and the only real surprise is that Oregon was not the first to enact such legislation, Vermont beat it to the punch. Washington and California already have like provisions in their code of law so the addition of The Beaver State (no, that has nothing to do with, well, oh never mind) means that every state on the left coast now considers the natural law not good enough but rather in need of amending.

Natural law does not necessarily equate to the dictates of the passions. For the gay community, same sex attraction feels like it is a part of nature. Many a gay person will tell you his experience is one where he has an inexplicable attraction to members of his sex. Thus, it seems normal though it is in conflict with the rest of society. The rational conclusion then is if feels natural it must be as nature intended, and the whole of society just does not understand. Choice cannot be involved here as that would negate the argument for a distinct need for a protected class of society. And if nature intended it, God must be alright with it, too. So natural law is based on little more than how something feels, with pleasure and happiness as its ultimate end.

This becomes a bit problematic for the laws of nature are explained and interpreted by the subjective nature and limited knowledge of man. Such laws once held that the sun orbited the Earth which was flat. There can be no absolutes in this system of belief for all of its laws are subjected to being debunked by newer science or even simple public opinion. The whole man-made global warming panic presents a supreme example of this phenomena. Western society expends vast amounts of resources and energy on a theory and its appeal to the human psyche which wants to control the environment and indeed be its master.

Catholics look at natural law as immutable. St. Thomas Aquinas described the natural law as "nothing else than the rational creature's participation in the eternal law." That word participation is an important one for it implies that one does have a choice in the matter. One can choose communion with God's design, His eternal law, or one can follow a different path. Often times it is far easier to allow one's feelings to dictate a particular act rather than allow Our Lord to lead one to respond to circumstances using moral absolutes.

The Ten Commandments are perhaps the best road map to God's eternal law. If one is struggling with a particular moral issue, one should examine which of the Ten Commandments that issue could be linked to. Hardly a modern moral issue is found that does not have a corresponding reference in this ancient, divine Decalogue.

The culture of the day struggles largely in part because it has a distorted understanding of the CIA, that being circumstance, intent, and act. Common rationalization in a society grounded in relativism is that given the right circumstance and good intent, an act which would be otherwise evil can be made good. Case in point, abortion. While the natural law holds that murder is wrong, the relativist will argue given a circumstance such as rape, and an intent such as avoiding the scandal faced by the victim, murdering the child in the womb is perfectly acceptable.

Another more common evil practiced by far too many Catholics is contraception. The circumstance being the desire to have sex, the intent to have that sex whenever one wants, justifies the act of purposefully changing God's intent for the marital act by interrupting it or simply rendering oneself temporarily or even permanently sterile. True, there certainly exists more seemingly noble intents such as not wanting to transmit a genetic disease; however, the good intent does not trump the evil act. This is not to say that people who practice contraception or have had themselves sterilized are evil and destined to the lake of fire. God's mercy remains more than bountiful enough to forgive and accept one into His kingdom. But if one is Catholic, and understands the teaching of the faith, and willfully disregards it to follow his own path, unrepentant, one must give pause to consider the potentially grave consequences for one's soul.

Catholics hold to the absolutes of God's natural law. An evil act can never be made good by circumstance or intent. The book of Revelation identifies the characters who commit these evil acts that challenged humanity 2,000 years ago and still do today:

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death." (Revelation (RSV) 21:8)

As Lent begins let Catholics offer their prayers and even engage in redemptive suffering for the souls who have been led by the culture into the abyss of relativism where solid ground proves illusive and the practices that appear to appease the passions, in the end, result in sorrow, distress, and calamity.