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, August 30, 2008

A Real Catholic

John McCain's selection of Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin, has delighted the conservative base of the Republican Party and will likely aid in attracting many of the disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters who were less than enthusiastic by the Obama bin Biden ticket. Catholics especially should rejoice for Palin, a mother of five, appears to be at the very least in communion with the teachings of the Church on life issues. Given the sad history of Catholic politicians such as Rudolf Giuliani, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, and Joe Biden, all of whom have created scandal by their decidedly anti-Church positions on a variety of issues, there is a somewhat satisfactory temptation to exclaim:

"At last, a real Christian is running for office."

While the statement seems true it is a bit perilous because it can lead one down the path of pure judgment while neglecting a dire need for love. Christ outlined a due process for dealing with those who have fallen away:

"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector."
Matthew (RSV) 18:15-17

In the case of the politician, at least two of the three of the steps outlined by Our Lord have been followed. Surely several souls have informed the errant public figures mentioned above that their positions on life issues are sinful. Certainly many have complained to the bishops of their respective diocese. The challenge may very well lie in the listening to the church, which specifically on the local level has been silent.

True, the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops and several bishops around the country recently issued strong statements against Speaker Pelosi for her misrepresentation of Catholic doctrine, but the correction from the bishop of her diocese, Archbishop George Niederaur has been slow in coming. Rumor has it that he plans to publish a response in the local Catholic newspaper in San Francisco next month.

There has never been any public statement by Cardinal Egan of New York correcting the former Mayor Guiliani whose multiple marriages and public pro-choice stance are indications of his being outside of communion with the Church. And yet when Pope Benedict celebrated mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral, Rudy received communion.

John Kerry and Ted Kennedy have received a lot of flack from many over their pro-abortion stance while still professing to be in full communion with the Church; however, the shepherd in their Boston diocese, Archbishop Sean P O'Malley has kept a safe distance speaking in generalities.

Joe Biden has not been so sheltered. Bishop Michael Saltarelli has publicly stated in direct response to Biden's pro-abortion stand that politicians who promote abortion should refrain from receiving communion. He also forbade Catholic schools in his diocese to allow Biden to speak at their school. Saltarelli submitted his resignation when he turned age 75 as is custom, and one only prays that his successor, the Most Reverend W. Francis Malooly will join with Saltarelli in this cause.

It is not out of judgment that bishops, clergy, and even the laity should dare to correct the wandering politician, but rather out of love. Each of those mentioned above has been given the gift of leadership and thus have become culpable for the example that their public lives display. By taking a position against the Church on such a non-negotiable issue as the sanctity and dignity of human life, one has to genuinely fear for the politician's very soul.

What is more, love of neighbor should inspire a loud hue and cry protesting the misrepresentation by the politician of the Church and her teachings. For if the light of truth does not shine on the lie put forward by the politician, then there will be those who will be led astray by the lie.

Oh how the choirs of angels would rejoice were Pelosi, Guilianai, Kerry, Kennedy, and Biden to publicly state that they have been in error on their support of abortion. As Catholics we must not only stand firm in our correction of these leaders, but pray in earnest for their conversion. Ultimately what is at stake transcends the rhetoric and discourse of the culture. Each and every time a Catholic politician openly defies the Church, one is witnessing a soul that is perishing.

As Christ instructs, they should be regarded as the tax collector or gentile. That is to say, they have by their own actions placed themselves outside of the communion with Christ. To follow them or more bluntly to vote for them cooperates in that stepping outside of unity with the mystical body. Would one give an alcoholic a drink? Would one give a heroine addict money for drugs? Why then would one give his vote to support the continued fallen path of the heretical politician?

Christ's mercy is infinite. Any of the anti-life leaders can repent, convert, and come home at anytime. The door to forgiveness stays ever open. Let all Catholics pray for the return of all leaders who have been lured by power, pride, and a false sense of importance that they may one day leave the culture of death and join in the wedding feast of the Lamb.


Postscript. September 7th, 2008. Here is a link to the letter published, today, by Archbishop George Niederaur. Pray that Ms. Pelosi agrees to meet with her pastor.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Here We Go Again

Now that Mr. Obama has selected his running mate, Senator Joe Biden from Deleware, Catholics are once again confronted with another political leader who claims to be in full communion with Rome in words yet the legislation he has supported indicates him to be in direct opposition to the Church.

For example, on the issue of when life begins, Mr. Biden says:
"I am prepared to accept my church's view. I think it's a tough one. I have to accept that on faith."
Meet the Press interview, 2007

Notice he didn't say life begins at conception, but rather he was prepared to accept such a notion. It seems to be a theoretical proposition for Mr. Biden versus a statement of fact. Juxtapose that comment with his thinking on Roe Vs Wade:
"I strongly support Roe v. Wade. I wouldn't have a specific question but I would make sure that the people I sent to be nominated for the Supreme Court shared my values; and understood that there is a right to privacy in the United States Constitution."
South Carolina Democratic Primary Debate, 2007

So life begins at conception, but if you choose to kill it that's your business.

According to Mr. Biden new life growing in the mother's womb should also not be eligible for health benefits from the government that is perfectly willing to fund its termination. As recently as March of 2008 he voted no on allowing benefits to cover the unborn of the poor under the SCHIP program.

Mr. Biden also believes that a minor should be allowed to travel across state lines to obtain an abortion if the state said minor lives in requires parental involvement in the decision to abort. He voted no in March of this year on a bill that would have prohibited such activity. He also voted no on a bill that would require parents to be notified when their child sneaked across state lines to have an abortion. Such actions earned him a rating of 0% from NARAL, which is their odd way of saying that a politician is in their camp. By contrast John McCain has a 75% rating which indicates a mixed record on the abortion issue while someone like Sam Brownback has a 100% pro-life rating by NARAL.

Life begins at conception? That's a definite maybe for Mr. Biden. He supports expanding embryonic stem cell research which involves taking a created life, killing it, and harvesting its stem cells. The Catholic Church is opposed to this as well.

The Catholic Church is crystal clear on its position that contraception is gravely immoral; however, in 2005 Mr. Biden voted yes on a $100 million to expand the distribution of contraceptives including emergency contraception, which is a euphemism for the morning after pill.

Ask a Protestant brethren what exactly he protests about the Catholic faith. In most circumstances, he is not really sure. He simply grew up Protestant and that is the faith he knows. Mr. Biden cannot make such a claim. He is Catholic protesting the teachings of the Church on some very fundamental matters. He does not deserve the vote of any Catholic; however, all Catholics should pray for his conversion.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Happy Birthday Dad

Dear Dad,

Today is your birthday, and as usual, I'm behind in my sending of gifts. I was never very good at remembering that kind of thing and as I get older I seem to be only getting worse. On this special occasion, however, I'm not sure what gift I could send that would be adequate. Oh, I could have sent the traditional golf item or perhaps a book I thought you might like. And I know you appreciate everything we kids send you.

You do realize you're a man who is hard to shop for don't you? That probably amazes you as you are a person of simple wants in life. Near as I can tell, you pretty much want what you already have, which is a fine way of achieving happiness, but also puts you in the category of shopping for the man who has everything he wants.

Seventy-five years. I wish I could be there with you, today. I really do. This is a special day, and while two timezones stand between us along with my new job, on this day I wanted to give you my talent which I strive to multiply as the parable in sacred scripture encourages. God gifted me with the ability to string a few sentences together, and it is with this gift I wish to express my thoughts and sentiments in a way no box of golf balls ever could.

First and foremost, I am proud to be your son. You've taught me many thing over the years. As a kid, you taught me how to fish, which, today, I actually do pretty well. You also taught me how to play golf, which, today, I totally stink at, but that's not your fault. Come on, it's golf. Actually, I think it's pretty wonderful that a man who is seventy-five can beat his forty-four-year-old son in any sport.

You've given me an example of patience and how to treat others in this world. I don't think I've ever seen you just totally lose your temper, and I've always admired that about you. No matter what the situation, you always seem to somehow maintain a calmness about you. That's a characteristic I've been able to emulate in the work place which has served me well. I've been told by bosses and coworkers that one of the things they really like about working with me is that I always keep my cool in stressful situations. I credit you with that gift.

I wish I could say that I've been equally successful at home in that regard, but remember half of me comes from Mom and I have good dose of Latin passion. Apparently I've also acquired a number of habits that you have that drive Mom nuts and irritate my wife was well. But you know, Dad, if we didn't have these peccadilloes they would probably find us terribly boring. I might pay for that statement when my wife reads this, but what the heck.

Growing up, every Sunday you and Mom got us kids to church. Small wonder that, today, all three of your kids, and all of your grandkids, love Our Lord Jesus Christ with a passion. Even those many years when I strayed from the faith and lived my life as a secular man in this secular culture, I always knew deep down where home really was, and I am glad you got to see me come home to Christ.

As I write this, I'm sipping my morning coffee. Some of my fondest memories as a kid was sitting at the breakfast table with you reading the paper before you went to work. It as a quiet time, and to this day I cherish the quiet of the morning. It is in the early hours of the day that I sometimes picture you sitting in the breeze way of your house; reading your paper; drinking your coffee, and sharing this simple pleasure with me.

Seventy-five years and some nine months ago, God gazed upon the Earth and saw that it was good, but that something was missing. In a flash of divine inspiration He created you. Mom, us kids, and your grandkids all celebrate Our Father's decision that day.

Happy 75th Birthday Dad!

I love you.


Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Illusion

Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of our religion: He was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.
1 Timothy (RSV) 3:16

St. Augustine once said that if anyone claimed to understand God, that person had created an idol for himself. God is a mystery. He is beautiful, powerful, loving, merciful, omniscient, and omnipotent, and yet none of those adjectives do justice to describing who He really is. No matter how poetic or primitive the description, the fact remains that God is a mystery.

Modern living has a tendency to lull one into a belief that by the simple virtue of living several hundred or even thousands of years later one has greater wisdom than the ancients. Certainly humanity has gained more scientific knowledge. Man knows more facts about things in this world. Aristotle would likely not make it very far in Jeff Foxworthy's popular game show "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?"

The question must be asked. Does knowledge of all of the intricacies of a fallen world that is passing away really matter? If man were somehow able to explain everything about his temporal world from the grandiose to the subatomic, is he all the better for it, or has he simply immersed himself into a grand illusion of self-reliance that finds no need for God?

And yet the things of this world do matter. They were created by God to serve a purpose. What if instead of studying simply how things worked one instead focussed upon how things glorified God? True, this would not be an exact science. There would be many areas of subjectivity. One scientist in this field might argue that a tree glorifies God because it provides shade and comfort to man while a second scientist might posit that the tree's greater glory rests in its production of life-giving oxygen. The primary conclusion for both would be that the tree praises the Almighty. How it does it becomes secondary.

For all men who were ignorant of God were foolish by nature; and they were unable from the good things that are seen to know him who exists, nor did they recognize the craftsman while paying heed to his works; but they supposed that either fire or wind or swift air, or the circle of the stars, or turbulent water, or the luminaries of heaven were the gods that rule the world. If through delight in the beauty of these things men assumed them to be gods, let them know how much better than these is their Lord, for the author of beauty created them. And if men were amazed at their power and working, let them perceive from them how much more powerful is he who formed them. For from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator.
Wisdom (RSV) 13:1-5

It was a Jew living in Alexandria, Egypt, about 100 years before Christ, who by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, committed these words to parchment. He wrote it in Greek. His name has been swallowed up by history and likely will never be known, but the word of God he scribed lives into today. It is clear that all created things are intended to point to God.

And humanity, especially humanity, gets included in that created list of things that give a corresponding perception of the Creator. No clearer could that fact be than the reality that a century after the Book of Wisdom was written, God stepped directly into human history in the form of a man whose nature was divine, our Lord Jesus Christ.

"Follow me."

That was the simple command of Our Savior over and over again. He didn't say to Phillip, "study me." His words to Peter were not "dissect me." Matthew wasn't asked to understand the origin of things. Each of these apostles and a few disciples were simply asked by Jesus to follow Him.

God is a mystery, a truth one can never fully understand; yet the mysterious can be embraced. One hardly understands why a parent's first sight of a newborn child infuses such instant love into their hearts; and yet that love is real even if and especially since it transcends the bonds of quantification.