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Korean Martyrs vs Hell

Do you ever wonder what it would be like if things were like how they “used to be?”  We imagine that back in the day our American culture was not so hostile to Christianity.  The Catholic churches were full and everyone went to mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation.  Whether or not Christianity in the US was really as alive as many think it was is a topic for a different article.

I want to focus on our reality now.  We definitely live in a culture hostile to Christianity as a religion.  Christians are bombarded with false accusations of bigotry, judgmentalism, and hypocrisy.  Some of these criticisms are accurate.  Most are not.

There definitely is a gap between what Christianity is and what many think Christianity is.  A wise bishop once said that there are not more than a hundred people in the world who hate the Catholic Church.  But there are millions who hate what they think is the Catholic Church, but is not.

Now our response should not entail a pity party.  Many great thinkers and writers have commented on the hostility and confusion surrounding religion in general and Christianity in particular.  Sometimes we use this to feel sorry for ourselves and become defensive in the face of attack.

The truth is, we have a mission.  We are sent by our Lord Jesus Christ to proclaim the Gospel to the nations.  Hostile, ignorant, and confused people are included in these nations.  Many of them will not accept the Gospel no matter how we proclaim it.  In Luke 7 Jesus describes those who do not listen to his message no matter what:

                                                                    For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine; and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of man has come eating and drinking;                                                                             and you say, ‘Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 35 Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.”1

This constitutes a simple rejection of our message.  Yet, for some, rejection of the message is not enough.  Some want to kill the message.  We see this with the Jewish leadership, such as the pharisees and chief priests.  They were directly responsible for handing Jesus over to the Romans to be crucified.

Today, Christians are literally being handed over to death all throughout the world.  The pharisees and chief priests have been replaced by Communist dictators and Islamic terrorists.  Christians are killed by atheistic secularists on one side and religious radicals on the other.

How do we respond?

The Korean martyrs Sts. Andrew Kim and companions provide us an example.  We celebrate their memorial on September 20.  These martyrs, canonized in 1984 by Pope John Paul II, stood with great courage and love before the threat of death in 19th century Korea.

The Korean government threw St. Andrew Kim, the first native Korean to be ordained a priest, into prison.  How did he respond?  Not with complaints nor with self-pity.  He responded by writing a letter of encouragement and thanksgiving to his fellow Korean Catholics.

He recognized three things in this letter, which can be read in the Office of Readings for September 20, in the Proper of Saints.

First, that persecuted Christians follow the example of their founder, Jesus.  Jesus, who IS the Gospel message, was killed:

Dearest brothers and sisters: when he was in the world, the Lord Jesus bore countless sorrows and by his own passion and death founded his Church.

Second, that persecuted Christians, by bearing their sufferings without compromising their mission as disciples, actually advance that mission:

Now he gives it (the Church) increase through the sufferings of his faithful.

Third, that the powers of hell which work through these persecutions will not prevail against the Church:

Hold fast, then, to the will of God and with all your heart fight the good fight under the leadership of Jesus; conquer again the diabolical power of this world that Christ has already vanquished.

If the Korean martyrs held this attitude in the face of death, what should be ours in the face of cultural persecution?

We should respond first by reflecting on the fact that God allows these persecutions so that we may serve as humble, courageous, and lovKorean_martyrsing witnesses in a world that badly needs them.

Second, we should encourage each other, just like Fr. Andrew Kim, recognizing that we do not really fight other people, but the forces of hell trying to steal as many souls as possible.

Third, we should look at the enemies of the Church not with hostility.  Rather, we should look at them with the eyes of Christ crucified, who said, “forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.”  At the moment of his death he said, “I thirst.”  He thirsted for our salvation.

Let us thirst for the salvation of others.  Let us recognize our own sufferings in the name of our Lord as instruments of satisfying the thirst of our Crucified Lord, against whom the powers of hell will not triumph but have already been defeated.  Therefore, we look past the superficiality of our sufferings and into the deeper victory of the Christian.

  1. Catholic Biblical Association (Great Britain). (1994). The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic edition (Lk 7:33–35). New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.

 

Why Catholics Must Vote

Should the Catholic Church be involved in politics?  Isn’t it supposed to focus on God and getting to heaven?

The answer to the second question is yes, the Church is supposed to focus on God and getting to heaven.  The answer to the first question is yes, the Church should be involved in politics, because the Church is supposed to focus on God and getting to heaven.

This may seem confusing if we think that politics and the mission of the Church are two separate things.  But that is completely false.  Often when we hear the demand, “keep politics out of the Church,” what we are really hearing is “keep God out of politics.”

To be clear, the Church does not teach that it should be the political power that rules our country.  In fact, the Church does not allow clergy to run for political office.  Nor can clergy command people to vote for a particular candidate.

This is because it is not the role of the Catholic hierarchy to identify with politicians or with partisan interests.

At the same time, in the words of Archbishop Charles Chaput:

[The Church] has every right—in fact an obligation—to engage secular authority and to challenge those wielding it to live the demands of justice.  In this sense, the Catholic Church cannot stay, has never stayed, and never will stay “out of politics.”  Politics involves the exercise of power.  The use of power has moral content and human consequences.  And the well-being and destiny of the human person is very much the concern, and the special competence, of the Christian community (Render Unto Caesar, Chaput, pg. 218).

For this reason, the Catholic Church serves as a teacher and guide for the holy people of God.  She teaches nothing but the message of Jesus Christ, which belongs in every aspect of human life, including and especially politics.

Then the Catholic faithful, the laity worshiping at Mass, hear that message and prayerfully, courageously, and faithfully apply that message in public life, including the political process.

Jesus said in Mark 12:17, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  Jesus made clear that His people are citizens of heaven and of earth.

As we pass through this time on earth, we are on our way to heaven.  Our way to heaven is to help our brothers and sisters on earth.

And we Catholics help our brothers and sisters on earth by rendering unto our political process what belongs to it: our involvement, our influence, and our vote.  And we render unto God what belongs to Him when we vote in order to keep God in politics.

John the Baptist and Iraq

The beheading of JBapIt appears that in some places not much has changed.  Herod beheaded John the Baptist because of his witness to the truth of his unlawful and incestuous marriage.

Today, especially in Iraq and Syria, IS literally beheads Christians because of their witness to the truth of Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately, news outlets in the United States speak little of this horrendous persecution.  What Christians are going through in that region dwarf the persecutions under Emperors Diocletian and Marcus Aurelius in ancient Rome.

There are a few lessons to be learned here.  First, religion was not, is not, and will not ever be a private matter.  This is especially true of the biblical religions such as Islam, Christianity and Judaism.  They believe in a God of history, a God who is intimately involved in the lives of human individuals, communities, and entire civilizations.  Part of his involvement includes divine law which guides how we are to live together.

Because of this, biblical religions, if they remain faithful to the public aspect of their faith, will always influence everyone around them even if they claim that religion is strictly private.

This leads to a potential for great and transformational good as well as great and destructive evil.  Jesus Christ calls his disciples the light of the world and a leaven of the Kingdom of God.  This means that Christians are to influence the world by bringing the light of Christ to bear on all.  This takes place through gentle charity and mercy in both words and deeds.  It includes a civil aspect in that Christians must engage in the public sphere of politics and institutions in order to be that transformational leaven.

Because of that, the history of the world shows how Christianity forever shaped and molded the entire world.  It also shows how the influence of Christianity threatened the existence and power of those who wished to impose other kinds of orders.  These powers include the governments of Ancient Rome (initially), Nazi Germany, and Communist Russia.  Christianity diametrically opposed, by it’s very existence and mission, the worldviews and influence of these powers.  This is especially true in the case of the Catholic Church, which exists as a tangible and global institution.

In these cases, this diametric opposition motivated these powers to deal with Christianity in a most brutal matter–oppression, forced conversion, and murder.  Since much has been said about Christians doing the same in it’s own history, I need not do more than to mention it.  I propose only to concentrate on the topic of Christian persecution because of current events, which are under-reported.

In Iraq and Syria, non-Muslims, especially Christians, are slaughtered by the thousands and driven out of their homes by the 10’s of thousands.

children-iraqThat this takes place in the modern world shows the need for constant vigilance in maintaining a culture of friendship and religious tolerance based on the dignity of the human person and the recognition of religion’s place in the public sphere.  It also necessitates strong opposition to all forms of religious persecution by the media, the public, and governments.  Such opposition should include the possibility of the use of force in the form of sanctions, blocking of resources, and diplomatic pressure.

Let us pray for the end of all religious persecution, a growing friendship among Christians and Muslims, and peace among nations.

The Cross vs Satan

What would you say is the hardest thing about being a Christian?

I would say that the hardest thing about being a Christian is that it is so hard!  Sometimes we are slow to admit or quick to forget the cost of following Jesus Christ.

We are in good company.  Jesus called Peter “Satan.”  Which in the Greek text translates into something like, “stumbling block.”  Peter stood in the way of the Messiah’s mission by denying the most powerful part of it: his suffering for our sake.

Also, denying the place of suffering in the Messiah’s mission denies the place of suffering of those who follow the Messiah.  For this reason Jesus makes it very clear that “whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (MAT. 16).

Temptation of ChristSatan stands in the way of the cross–both Satan the devil and the spirit of Satan in the minds of Christ’s disciples.  Indeed, the devil tempted Jesus three times to deny the way of suffering as Jesus fasted in the desert (MAT. 4).  The devil entered into Judas Iscariot when Judas exchanged his own cross for 30 pieces of silver (LK. 22).  However, in the end we know that the cross of Christ triumphed over Satan through the Resurrection.  The apostles embraced the cross and followed Jesus all the way to martyrdom!

Thankfully, we have the help of Christ and his apostles in accepting the cross.  We know of the Resurrection.  We know of the power of the Holy Spirit.  We know of the great joy of the apostles and the saints.  From their writings and examples we know of the great gifts that we receive through faithfully embracing the cross of discipleship in our life.

For example, we read in John 19 that Mary and John stood at the foot of the cross.  Mary accepted the cross even before the Resurrection.  We see now that she who was closest to Jesus at the cross is now the closest to him in heaven.  For that reason we can always call upon the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary for help (especially by praying the Rosary).

Like Mary, when we embrace the cross, Jesus helps us bear our sufferings and we help Jesus bear his.  Like John, when we accept the cross we enjoy friendship with Jesus and Mary.  We experience their suffering at the cross so that we may experience their joy.

We can do this everyday.  First, we can pray before a cross everyday that we may embrace our own crosses.  This also prepares us mentally for the suffering we will experience that day.

Helping NeedySecond, we can ask the Lord that we may share in his suffering by sharing in others.  This goes directly against Satan.  The devil rules hell and hell is a place of suffering in isolation.  Yet, you and I can be heaven for those who suffer from sickness, loneliness, poverty, and marginalization.  We can ask the Lord today to help us seek out those who suffer and to be with them, listen to them, love them and help them.

In these ways the cross of Christ defeats Satan and brings us the victory of life and joy!

 

Anglicans Joining Catholics

We live in a very significant time in which the Catholic Church has made it easier for Anglicans to enter the Church and live in a space that is a bit more familiar to them.

This space is called the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.  What is that?  It is a Church entity that is within and part of the Catholic Church which allows for Catholics who were formally Anglican to continue to enjoy their theological, pastoral, and liturgical life that was uniquely Anglican but not at all opposed to the life of Catholicism.  Indeed, this ordinariate enriches the Catholic Church.

You probably have a million questions about this.  But I think the best place to start is with the ordinariate’s website:

http://www.usordinariate.org/index.cfm?load=page&page=160

Also, as an example of why Anglicans are moving so quickly into the Catholic Church, watch this video from EWTN featuring Fr. Steve Sellers, a priest of this ordinariate (who is also one of the teachers at Resurrection Catholic School in Houston, Texas):

Let’s continue to pray for the unity among all Christians!

Taxpayers Paying for Abortions – A Proposed Ban!

USCCB

Finally, legislation has been proposed to end all federal funding of abortion and promotion of abortion.  This is long overdue.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has voiced official support.

Read the full text here:  http://www.usccb.org/news/2014/14-005.cfm

This is a good time to reflect.  It is impossible to separate morality from politics.  Indeed, politics is a moral enterprise.

There is a very easy way to understand how anything is moral in nature: look for the words, “should” and “ought.”

Politics is the enterprise of a civilization dealing with the question, “how should we live together?”

For example, if someone says that we should not legislate morality, they are making a political, and therefore moral, claim.

How the federal government spends money reflects its moral compass.  The imposition of a federal income tax rests on the moral claim that the people living and working in the United States should fund the operation and programs of the federal government.

The premise behind this claim is that the federal government exists for the very same people who pay for it.

Federal funding of abortions, then, is a curious issue…an anomaly in our democratic republic.

Indeed, we can ask the question, should the people pay the government to fund the killing of its own children?

How interesting.  How appalling.  How sad.

The Catholic Church, and other religious institutions that recognize this morally grotesque situation, serve this nation as one of the intermediary structures between the people and the State.

They do so by standing up for the unborn in this very public and moral matter.

What Moses, Elijah, and Jesus Left Behind

When you think of Moses, you may imagine the Red Sea dividing in two, just like in the movie, The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston. When you think of Elijah, you might remember how he did something similar, dividing the river Jordan by slapping his cloak into it.

But perhaps one of the most overlooked aspects of the life of Moses and Elijah are what they left behind. And paying attention to this aspect shows us how God works in our lives.

In the last chapter of Deuteronomy, 34, Moses dies. That is not how the book ends. After he died, Joshua, whom Moses blessed by laying hands on him, received the spirit of wisdom that Moses had.

In 2nd Kings Chapter 2, Elijah leaves the earth in a more dramatic way. A fiery chariot reaches down and snatches away Elijah, body and soul. Elisha, his pupil, then receives the spirit of Elijah. This becomes clear when he takes his cloak and slaps it into the river Jordan. The river split in two .

What did Moses and Elijah leave behind? By God’s grace, they left behind a portion of the spirit that God gave them.

The disappearance of Moses and Elijah and what they left behind foreshadow what we celebrate today.

As the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles tells us, Jesus disappeared into heaven as he ascended. That is what we celebrate today. Just like Moses and Elijah, Jesus looked down on his successors, and he promised to leave a very important gift. Not just the spirit of wisdom and prophecy but the Holy Spirit himself!  God Himself!

Yet this time one thing is very different from the stories of Moses and Elijah.

Even though, like Moses and Elijah, Jesus gives the Spirit to his successors, the Apostles, it doesn’t stop there. You see, Joshua and Elisha received the spirit of their predecessors but they did not directly bestow this gift on anyone else.

The Apostles, on the other hand, following the command of Jesus to baptize the nations, prayed for the Holy Spirit to descend upon the whole Church and each member in it.

Foreshadowed by Moses and Elijah, Jesus bestows the Holy Spirit. And through his Apostles and their successors (bishops and their helpers, the priests and deacons) he bestows the Holy Spirit on all of us who have been baptized!

We have the same Holy Spirit who energized, guided, and empowered Christ himself to do the works of his Father. We have the power of Christ!

If you want to know what that makes possible for us, read the stories of Moses, Elijah, and the apostles. Those same things are possible for us, mostly in ordinary ways but no less powerful.

Let’s pray this week to be open to the Holy Spirit and to recognize how he works in us. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to enter us in a new way as we prepare to celebrate Pentecost next Sunday.

Church Controversy and Pillars of the Faith

Homily for May 5, 2013

What happens when we have questions about what Christ taught about the truth and about how to live?  Currently, we Americans struggle with questions regarding homosexuality, politics, mandatory celibacy for priests, women priests, contraception, and even abortion.  The Acts of the Apostles instructs us on how to approach such questions and others.

In chapter 15 of the Acts of the Apostles, there were teachers in the region of Antioch who were teaching something false.  They taught that everyone who was baptized also had to be circumcised.

That it was false was not clear to many if not all.  Isn’t that interesting?  God allows the Church to experience ignorance and confusion, even division!  Jesus did not make everything clear to His Church before He ascended into Heaven, returning to His Father.  He certainly did not even approach the question about whether Christians needed to be circumcised.

Yet, His Church was not abandoned.  Jesus said to the Apostles, “the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you” (John 14).

The Holy Spirit resolves the controversy with the apostles, the elders, and the community.

In the confusion and the conversation that takes place among the Apostles, the elders, and the communities of faith, with the Holy Spirit, the Church could discern God’s will.

For that reason, when the the apostles decided that circumcision would not be required, they said, “it is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us.”

This is how the Church worked together in unity and faith.  When there was disturbance about certain teachings, the communities of faith would refer to the apostles (and elders).  Then the apostles, in prayerful conversation with the community, with each other, and the Holy Spirit, made a decision.

The apostles also appointed successors.  These successors form a lineage reaching all the way to us.  We know who they are: our bishops!

Our bishops are signs that the Holy Spirit continues to work with us to discern the will of the Father and to do the work of Christ here on earth in the same way as He did in the days of Paul, Barnabas and Peter.

So, when we feel that our “peace of mind” is disturbed by certain teachings, which may be true or false, we can trust in the Holy Spirit and refer to our bishops.  The best way to do that is to pick up the Catechism of the Catholic Church and read it.  Another great way is to talk to your priests, who work in unity with their bishop.

As we prepare for Pentecost let us pray for our renewal through the Holy Spirit, that He may resolve all disturbances, remove all cynicism, and work with our beloved bishops.  So that when we hear the decisions of the Holy Spirit and of our bishops, we may rejoice at the consolation that we are not abandoned to ignorance and disunity (Acts 15:31).

FC
frplant.com

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I Will Draw Everyone To Myself

Beginning October 11th, the Catholic Church will celebrate the Year of Faith, announced by Pope Benedict in Porta Fidei.  This celebration will focus on the New Evangelization–a preaching of the Gospel in a new way to people who have already heard the name of Jesus but remain fundamentally unconverted.

This includes those who are merely culturally Catholic; those who have some kind of Catholic identity because their family or nation is Catholic, but they have yet to enter into the depths of faith in Christ and His Church.

The New Evangelization begins not with a new program, a refashioning of Catholicism, a re-branding of the Gospel, a raising of our voices, or a re-imposition of ego.  We can say it initiates in us with our personal renewal of faith.

But the New Evangelization does not even begin there.  It does not begin with us Christians.

In the words of Jesus: “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself” (Jn 12).  John’s Gospel makes clear that He was referring to the kind of death He was to endure.

Yes, the New Evangelization begins not with us but with Jesus drawing all people to Himself on the Cross.  The Cross of Christ is the beginning and source of all evangelization.  By His great love poured out from the Cross, Jesus draws everyone to Himself.

For this reason, we need not burden ourselves with the prospect that the task of evangelization begins and ends with our own strength, intelligence, and personality.

It begins and ends with Jesus on the Cross, and through the Cross to the Resurrection.

Therefore, the New Evangelization initiates in us by our union with Jesus, who was lifted up from the earth.  When unbelievers see us, they “would like to see Jesus” (Jn 12).

For that reason, the Year of Faith, which will be a year refocusing on the New Evangelization, begins with the Christian’s personal conversion.  Conversion changes our perspective to look on our brothers and sisters with the eyes of Christ, elevated on the Cross, which are eyes of love.

The HHS Controversy And How Religion Preserves Democracy

No doubt, by now you have all heard of the federal Health and Human Services edict that forces all health insurance plans to provide coverage for contraceptives, including abortifacients, regardless of religious conflict.

On January 20th, 2012, Cardinal-Elect Archbishop Timothy Dolan was quoted on usccb.org:

“To force American citizens to choose between violating their consciences and forgoing their healthcare is literally unconscionable.  It is as much an attack on access to health care as on religious freedom.  Historically this represents a challenge and a compromise of our religious liberty.”

This a fine example of how the Catholic Church serves the United States.  The Catholic magisterium speaks out against violating a right that belongs to every American: religious liberty.

The importance of the voice of the Catholic Church becomes clear by way of contrast against those who disagree with it.

Last Sunday morning, a panel on Meet The Press debated over this very issue.  One of the members of the panel stated that this is not a religious issue.  Rather, it is a simple issue of health care.

If you want to be in the business of health care, so the argument went, you should follow these guidelines that everyone else must follow or close your health insurance.

What is fascinating is that this argument fails to grasp that when the government imposes any kind of regulation on its citizenry, the regulation carries with it some kind of value that ultimately follows from a religious presupposition.

So, when the government says that all health coverage must include contraceptives, it is imposing a secularist religious value on all.  That secularist religious value is that contraceptives are a necessary medication to prevent pregnancy.

Here, pregnancy can easily be viewed as a preventable disease, with the unborn child being the primary symptom.  Abortion is the cure.

Let’s put aside the discussion about whether or not such a secularist value is corrosive for all society no matter its religious belief.

The heritage and the founding principles of the United States have a deep respect for religion as a force and institution that sustains a democratic republic.  Such respect motivates it to work through the entanglement of religious plurality by first preventing the government from becoming part of that entanglement.

Hence, the first amendment.

The bishops are heroically standing against the HHS edict precisely because it violates the first amendment and it forces Americans to act against their conscience.

Indeed, this is a prime example of how religion preserves this fragile democratic experiment in which we live: by vocally teaching us the values necessary to preserve it.

To paraphrase what Archbishop Timothy Dolan wrote on usatoday.com, if this religious liberty is violated, what’s next?  Many other figures, both religious and secular, agree with this question.

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Comment Submitted on February 7, 2012:

So on your blog you state “pregnancy can easily be viewed as a preventable disease, with the unborn child being the primary symptom.  Abortion is the cure”  This is the second time I have heard this in two days.

I don’t see the connection between contraception and viewing pregnancy as a disease. Can you please expand on this to help me understand.

Arthur H.

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Thank you for the question, Arthur.

When someone takes a pill they typically do it to prevent an unwanted health condition.

People take vitamins to promote good health and prevent bad health.

Some take aspirin to promote a healthy heart and prevent heart disease.

When someone takes a contraceptive, typically it is to promote a current lifestyle and to prevent pregnancy.

In other words, if one is taking a contraceptive for this purpose and they still get pregnant, that pregnancy may be considered an undesirable outcome impacting their life.

The pregnancy is treated like a disease–an undesired health condition preventable through contraceptives.

The contraceptive couple have sex with the expectation that they will not get pregnant.  So when the contraceptives fail and they do get pregnant, this is considered problematic.

Of course, I am not addressing the complex question over whether or not the couple should be having children.

I am focusing on this peculiar situation in which we Americans find ourselves.

In the urban setting of 70-hour-work-weeks, broken families, and rising costs of living, we find ourselves saying that the real problem is the child and contraception is the solution.

We resolve the challenge of an environment hostile to the family not by changing the environment, but by changing the family.

What is so fascinating is that outside of the context of a contraceptive mentality, getting pregnant after having sex is considered very healthy.

There is so much more that can be said but this is how I would begin to answer your question.

Fr. Christopher Plant

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Comment submitted on February 7, 2012

The reality is, that we in our culture and government, have lost sight of the sanctity of life and the truth of the  beauty of the act.  If we in our culture and government valued life and the act that conceives life, we would not hold to this contraceptive mentality.

In other words, we would not be a culture of “Sex-On-Demand”. We would would not consider the committing of this act, outside of marriage, as acceptable as long as you “take care of yourself”, or “it”.

Within the Holy Sacrament of Marriage, sex should not be treated as sex-on-demand; which is self-seeking and without concern for the responsibility of the act. We have lost sight of the fact that this act is life giving.  That this act is about giving one to the other and not self-seeking.

If a couple concludes, that waiting to have children is for the best, then the couple should understand the need for self-restraint and to keep the treasure of their marriage intact.

This keeps the dignity of their marriage and upholds the dignity of this life-giving act.

We as Catholics must strive to live our lives as Holy Mother Church has directed us. We can help others by living wholeheartedly the examples of Church teachings.  Just as Father says, we can change our families, so as to change the environment.

The truth that we were made to conceive children through this sexual act, is why we do consider sex and pregnancy to be very healthy.

This also proves to the culture that a contraceptive mentality has only driven us away from a government that promotes healthy lifestyles and healthy families, to the state we are in today.

-Elsie H.

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Thanks, Elsie, for your comment.  You submitted a fascinating take on my response: that we change our families to change the environment.

I suppose this means that if we start having children as we should, that this would change the environment around us to be more hospitable to families (as far as that is possible).

For example, the labor market seems to cater to those who can work long hours with less pay and less vacation.

However, if more in the labor market demanded less time for work and more pay in order to sustain their families, imagine the difference this would make.

The general price of production might certainly go up, but perhaps we need not be as economically efficient as we have been.

Look at what the five years of incredible economic efficiency yielded in the five years leading up to the crash of 2008.

In the long term, look at the impact of contraception on the economy.  In the short term it has yielded more efficient workers, greater disposable income, greater commercial competition and higher consumption.

In the long term, as some demographic studies suggest, we no longer have a birth rate that will sustain the American culture as it is now.

This video might help feed our thoughts on this:

http://www.demographicwinter.com/index.html

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Comment Submitted On February 17, 2012

I appreciate your comments and was referred to an article on which you commented by our Bishop.

I understand belief and faith behind Humanae Vitae and support it as an American Catholic.

However, this rule applies equally to all enterprises employing people of any faith.  Given the compromise announced by President Obama, it would seem as if there is no disconnect now between the Church and health insurance.

The Church is specifically not providing birth control for anyone, which would be wrong.  They are providing health insurance, which is required to provide coverage for healthcare as defined by secular authorities.

We are already seeing the slippery slope the Republican party is now sending this down; they want “exclusions” for all religious objections.

Now a business owner or ceo who became a Jehovah’s Witness can mandate that his employees shall not undergo blood transfusions paid for by his insurance.  The list goes on and on, depending upon how obscure and extreme the religion.

It starts with contraception and ends with providing only coverage for prayer.

This is why our society and system of government, while it claims to have been divinely inspired, must be controlled on a secular and not religious level.

Unless we are ready for an official religion in this country, there must always be balance and there will always be a difference between what perhaps a Catholic and Mormon believe is moral and right.

Finally, I don’t understand why our clergy seem so ready to jump (proverbially) in bed with a political party who espouses the virtues of unmitigated greed, lack of concern for the poor and absolute faith in the death penalty.

Take away the abortion argument and there isn’t much a Catholic should find attractive about the Republicans.

As an aside on abortion, its only an issue for either party when they want votes.  Republicans had both houses of congress and the presidency for a number of years and did nothing to end abortion.

Yet Catholics continue to be hoodwinked into thinking they must vote for the party of “pro life”.

Thanks and hopefully I have not rambled on too long or to incoherently!

Kieth N.

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Kieth,

Thank you for your submission.  You are correct in saying that we have to be careful how we understand the separation between Church and state.

However, your interpretation of the separation between Church and state seems to indicate that there should be an alienation between religion and secular authority.  This is absolutely impossible in theory and it has never happened in reality.

All secular authority and secular institutions, including the government, operate out of some kind of religious perspective.  It may be Christian or it may be practical atheism, both of which are religious perspectives.

To even attempt to separate religion from a secular power, like the government, would create an artificial vacuum that must be filled by some other religion–it could be civil religion (read secular atheism), the will of the Third Reich, or the Communist Brotherhood.

These are all religious because they lay claim to what is ultimately important and how we should ultimately live together as a human community.

So the separation of Church and state, or the establishment clause, does not exist to accomplish the impossible: separating religion from the secular government.

Rather, it protects the spheres of both the secular and religious institutions from swallowing the other and then everybody else.

What you are suggesting is that the secular authority, in this case, the federal government, should mandate legitimate religious institutions (schools, hospitals, insurance companies, churches) to violate their own moral law.

This is an obvious example of the secular government violating the separation of Church and state by invading the sphere of the religious institution.

In this case it violates the sphere of the Catholic Church because it is essentially telling us which part of our institution is religious and which one is not.  The insurance that the Church provides is an agency of religious action.

As an aside, this position is not Democrat or Republican.  It is American Catholic.

-Fr. Christopher Plant

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Comment submitted on February 18, 2012

These last weeks have made me so proud of the US leaders of the Church. In this world of moral relativism, this type of stance is what so many of us need.

My hope is that this is just a first step in better defining our values within our own community and to the American people.

My greatest concern as we continue this fight for our rights as American Catholics, is the Church’s message will be diluted by those who do not share our values.

The most relevant and obvious examples concerning this issue are Nancy Pelosi and Kathleen Sebelius. These prominent figures, among many others, publicly profess to be members of the Catholic Church and make statements completely at odds with our values.

My question is, how can our Church continue to allow these figures to misrepresent our beliefs and still effectively fight for those beliefs? What stronger message would be sent than a severe public reprimand from our leadership? Or even officially excommunicating those who actively work against the causes most important to the Catholic Church?

I am aware many Catholics, from laity to members of the USCCB, do not agree with such an approach. I believe we are risking our rights as Americans and the lives of the most innocent if we continue to allow our message to be distorted.

I sincerely hope the current stance of Church leaders is a start of a new and prominent public image.

Jeremy P.

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