Cowardly Bishops and Priests vs. Courageous Ones

For the past 31 years, Patricia Jannuzzi has been a Catholic school teacher in the diocese of Metuchen, NJ. She was recently punished by the diocesan bishop, Bishop Bootkowski, who placed her on administrative leave for writing a post critical of the homosexual agenda along with her support of the concept of traditional marriages and families. (Also, she may not have her teaching contract renewed for the next school year as a result of this controversy.)

Her post is shown below, slightly edited for clarity and spelling.

“See this is the agenda…one minute they argue they are born this way and it is not a choice (in order to get 14th Amendment rights equal protection which was carved for permanent characteristics… unchangeable characteristics such as race and disability..but once they are under the 14th amendment they will argue everyone should be able to choose a gay or lesbian lifestyle…in other words they want to reengineer western civ into a slow extinction We need healthy families with a mother and father for the sake of the children and humanity.”

Essentially, she is saying that there is a gay agenda and as a consequence it may radically change western culture while marriage should only be between and man and a woman. Her comments of a traditional marriage are firmly rooted in the teachings of her church.

There is some evidence of a gay agenda and this may be exemplified by a book written in 1989 entitled After the Ball–Why the Homosexual Movement Has Won.

The first paragraph of this book review reads as follows:

“The spectacular success of the homosexual movement stands as one of the most fascinating phenomena of our time. In less than two decades, homosexuality has moved from “the love that dares not speak its name,” to the center of America’s public life. The homosexual agenda has advanced even more quickly than its most ardent proponents had expected, and social change of this magnitude demands some explanation.”

The Catholic Church’s position regarding homosexuality may be found in the Catholic Church Catechism, (CCC) paragraphs 2357-2359 which is shown below:

2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

Footnotes: 140 Cf. 1 Cor 6:15-20, 141 Cf. Gen 19:1-29; Rom 124-27; 1 Cor 6:10; 1 Tim 1:10.

While the Church essentially states that the psychological genesis of homosexuality remains unexplained, homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered and under no circumstances can they be approved. However, homosexuals must be accepted with respect and compassion and every sign of unjust discrimination should be avoided. As the church attempts to balance its dogma by being pastoral and merciful, it cannot condone homosexual acts. This is representative of the official teaching of Patricia’s church.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) also deals with the subject of marriage in paragraphs 1601 through 1666. I would like to quote just two of all those paragraphs which sufficiently supports Patricia Jannuzzi’s post:

1660 The marriage covenant, by which a man and a woman form with each other an intimate communion of life and love, has been founded and endowed with its own special laws by the Creator. By its very nature it is ordered to the good of the couple, as well as to the generation and education of children. Christ the Lord raised marriage between the baptized to the dignity of a sacrament (cf. CIC, can. 1055 § 1; cf. GS 48 § 1).

1661 The sacrament of Matrimony signifies the union of Christ and the Church. It gives spouses the grace to love each other with the love with which Christ has loved his Church; the grace of the sacrament thus perfects the human love of the spouses, strengthens their indissoluble unity, and sanctifies them on the way to eternal life (cf. Council of Trent: DS 1799).

So it would seem Patricia is in conformity with her church’s tenets on the subjects of homosexuality and marriage while the 1989 book entitled After the Ball, presents a probable gay agenda which was remarkably successful.

Now, her bishop’s reaction to Patricia’s post is contained in a public statement that he made which is shown below:

My dear brothers and sisters,

We are a compassionate Catholic community committed to treating our students, faculty and parishioners with respect. We have never wavered from our traditional Catholic teachings.

To that end we need to correct some misstatements with regard to the teacher in question.

The teacher’s comments were disturbing and do not reflect the Church’s teachings of acceptance. However, she has never been terminated, as some media outlets have reported. She has been put on administrative leave. There has been no interruption in her pay and benefits.

Pope Francis reminds us that we are to accept all of our brethren. We must ensure that our educators steer away from harsh and judgmental statements that can alienate and divide us.

We regret that certain individuals and groups are using inaccurate media reports to push their own agendas.

Signed by bishop Bootkowski

The bishop does not explain what he means by the “Church’s teaching of acceptance.” Perhaps he should have done so since it is a seemingly ambiguous statement. Nor does Patricia’s post as an educator seem harsh since it is in conformity to her church’s teachings.

When Patricia’s post became so controversial on social media, I believe her bishop (Bootkowski) should have taken it as an opportunity to first tell the public she is and remains a teacher in good standing in his diocese. And secondly to proclaim the church’s teaching on traditional marriage and that all sexual activity outside the bond of marriage is sinful. Shown below is an e-mail which I sent to the bishop on 3/24/15

The text of the e-mail is shown below:

Subject: COWARDLY BISHOPS AND PRIESTS VS. COURAGEOUS ONES

Most Reverend Paul G. Bootkowski, DD:

Re:Patricia Jannuzzi, a theology teacher at Immaculata High School in Somerville, NJ

Your excellency, you should have taken this as an opportunity to affirm and proclaim the Church’s teaching on sacramental marriage and the sinfulness of having any sex outside the marriage bond. Unfortunately, you choose to take the “politically correct” and easy way out of this controversy. As a result your actions are conforming to the prevailing culture rather than standing up for what is right in the eyes of God.

Please contrast your actions with the position that Archbishop Cordielone is taking in San Francisco and as a result is under attack for upholding the tenets of our Catholic Faith.

While my statements may seem harsh to you and they are, we are living in an age of the need to confront the prevailing culture of evil in order to overcome this present darkness.

God Bless you abundantly.

(signed)

Luke

Christian leaders must teach and proclaim the doctrines of their churches. They must hold fast to their core beliefs and not be intimidated by the questionable values and standards of today’s society. They must courageously proclaim God’s truths to the culture rather than conform to it. This seems to be a course of action which is necessary to halt our nation’s current chaotic downward spiral toward moral confusion, so that there may be a return to the once cherished Judeo-Christian values upon which our nation was founded.

Update 4/13/2015

It appears that on 4/10/15, Bishop Bootkowski has now made a decision to renew Patricia Jannuzzi’s contract. This is good news and regardless of what prompted this change by the bishop, I thought it worthwhile to praise him for taking this course of action and sent him the following e-mail dated 4/10/15:

Most Reverend Paul G. Bootkowski:

Re:Patricia Jannuzzi, a theology teacher at Immaculata High School in Somerville

Your excellency, thank you for making the decision to renew Patricia Jannuzzi’s contract. You are on the road to becoming one of the courageous bishops that are sorely need in this time of a wayward culture that seems to be worsening each passing day.

I worked with your Dad in Western Electric many years ago and believe his prayers for you are most efficacious. As James 5:16 states in part “the prayer of a righteous man has great power..”

Please remember, we must keep the faith more than ever.

God Bless you, abundantly,

Luke M. Amoroso

Under the Influence?

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Are we as a nation under the influence of the Evil One? Wow! What a question in this post-modern day age of the 21st century. Such an inquiry or issue like this would have been seemingly more appropriate during the Dark Ages and through the Medieval Era. However, after the progress of the Renaissance, Enlightenment, Industrial Revolution, etc., it would now appear that science and all the other remarkable advances in technology have all but abolished the need for such concerns.

But is it really such an outdated and ludicrous question?

Since 1973, abortion on demand has been the law of our nation and as a result 57 million unborn lives were extinguished by millions of mothers. (Some women have had more than one abortion.) They have decided to “terminate” their pregnancies using legal abortion procedures which in effect rip apart the fruit of their wombs. In virtually all these cases the fathers of the unborn have participated and encouraged these women to take this course of action. In addition, a significant number of parents also join in and insist that their daughters rid themselves of these “inconveniences” (pregnancies). This great number of individuals involved in the killing of the unborn must be supplemented by those doctors, medical workers and others in the pro-abortion industry that promote and carry out this human tragedy.

As a consequence, a great portion of our nation’s population is permeated with a culture-of-death mindset and must be by necessity deeply scarred emotionally and spiritually. There has to be a collective hardening of hearts and an epidemic of self-centeredness in our society that is likened to an infectious disease. In effect, our populace is carrying the weight of all this corporate sin and guilt which abortion brings to the collective psyche of our nation.

This is our nation’s burden and therein, one may discover the influence of the Evil One. Our country is now imbued with the values of the profane and the Father of Lies. So it would seem that, yes, we as a nation may be under the influence of evil.

The solution to this struggle is first of all to continue to promote pro-life values more than ever before in order to weaken the hold that the Evil One has on our culture. And we must pray for the advent of a great revival necessary to hasten the return of the values that were once held by our once great and proud Judeo-Christian nation.

An Un-sung Pro-life Hero

Bill Draghi is one of the unsung heroes of the pro-life movement. He is a retired math teacher/computer programmer, married with five children and grandchildren. Six years after his retirement, Bill was inspired to do sidewalk counseling at the American Women’s Services abortion clinic located at 228 Main St. in Woodbridge, NJ.

He was so taken by his experience during a “40 Days For Life” commitment that he decided to continue to do sidewalk counseling all year round. Bill is at this clinic virtually every day despite any and all weather conditions. He is present there in the bitterest cold winter days and during the hottest humid sultry days of summer. His schedule coincides with all the hours that this clinic is opened.

When the forces of evil are there doing their work of killing the unborn, Bill is there with his three sandwich-sized pro-life signs, praying. Two of them are on each of his left and right flanks fastened with cords around his neck and a third at his back. One says, “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” another “Choose Life – Let Your Baby Live” and the third reads, “Adoption Not Abortion.” Bill holds a fourth larger sign about 36” by 54” with his extended left hand. This larger one is framed with PVC piping and rests on the sidewalk. One side shows a photo of a three month old baby, and faces the heavy traveled Main St. road in Woodbridge, while the other side faces the abortion clinic and shows a picture of an 8 week old unborn child and has the words inscribed on it, “Heartbeat at 22 Days”. Bill also holds a rather large crucifix in his right hand which is about 14 inches high and gets heavier to hold with time so he rests it on the top of the PVC frame.

This clinic is not really conducive for close contact with the women and men entering the building. When facing this abortion mill there is a driveway entrance on the left. Virtually all must enter the driveway and park in the rear parking lot. There is a side entrance to the building which is used for entry. The only legal access for sidewalk counselors at this location to interface with those seeking an abortion is to shout out to those going into the abortion mill. Bill usually cries out, “Please save your baby. No one has to kill their baby. There is help for you and your baby ma’am.”

Bill has been present there for the past six years as a witness that it is wrong to kill the unborn. I try to be with Bill for an hour or so each week, usually on a Friday or Saturday. He is a remarkable man. I sense in Bill a saintly and humble soul. We pray together and talk about various topics dealing mostly with pro-life issues. Bill actually keeps a record of how many women enter this abortion clinic and how many changed their minds about having an abortion.

He indicated to me that about 70 to 80 go in there for an abortion each week. He estimates that about half going in for an abortion are Black, one third are Caucasian and the remainder are Hispanics and Indians who are about evenly divided. When I asked him about the number of babies saved through his counseling he humbly answers, “I can only count as saves those women who come up to tell me they have changed their minds about having an abortion and they usually say it is because of me being there and seeing my signs or they and/or their escorts give me a thumbs up.” So in the six years of prayer and sacrifice that Bill has made being at that abortion mill day after day, year after year enduring brutal winters and hot humid summers, he can claim that 150 babies were saved.

About three months ago Bill told me this inspiring story. Earlier that very day a car parked in front of the clinic, a woman came out and opened the door on the rear passenger side to take a little boy out of the car. This mother told Bill that, “I was going in there to abort my child a little over four years ago. You were there like you are now telling me to save my baby. I was so moved that I changed my mind and left. Here is my four year old son. I wanted you to know this and thank you.” I asked Bill what was the boy’s name, Bill responded with a beaming smile. “Manuel, and he is a good looking kid.”

I have been blessed to meet this saintly pro-life hero and have a deep and abiding respect for him and have asked Bill to pray for me. “For the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)

What is the source of human dignity?

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God is the supreme source of human dignity. His Son Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, became like us in all things except sin. His perfect sacrifice offered on our behalf to His Father gives us an opportunity to have an everlasting relationship with Him. Genesis 1:26-27 tells us we are made in the image and likeness of God and as such have transcendent worth and value. As human beings we alone among all other creatures are capable of knowing and loving God. Thus, human dignity is an intrinsic quality that cannot be taken away from us.

Unfortunately, a wholesale denial of God and His Commandments as exemplified by the forces of radical secularism can lead to an erosion of certain ethical principles and an attack against our God-given rights.

Before Creation, before time itself began, God for some mysterious reason decided to create the Universe. In one place our Catholic Liturgy comments that “God’s Love creates us.” Perhaps from our limited human perspective this may sum up why we are here.

Science tells us the process of the Creation of this Universe began some 13.7 billion years ago and the very vastness of our Universe was necessary to support life on a planet such as ours. Astronomer Hugh Ross quips, “Given the vast quantity and time and resources involved in creating a cosmic home for humanity…only one conclusion makes sense: The Creator of the cosmos places an extremely high value on and has a purpose for human beings.” In chapter 14 of his book The Creator and the Cosmos, Hugh Ross lists twenty six “parameters that the universe must have within narrowly defined ranges for life of any kind to exist.”

So the latest science postulates that the universe had a beginning at the precise moment of the “Big Bang” and it seems one may logically infer that everything that exists must have a cause. If you go back in time you cannot go back infinitely so you must arrive at the first cause. This first cause by necessity must, in itself, be uncaused. Nothing can exist without a cause except for God. Therefore, God exists. (Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at Boston College and The King’s College, gives a detailed explanation of the five proofs of God’s existence in an article entitled The First Cause Argument.) These proofs are based primarily on the teachings of ancient Greek philosophers and medieval theologians, e.g., Aristotle and St Thomas Aquinas. The latest cosmological science, postulating the “Big Bang”, supports the teachings and conclusions of these ancient minds.

So we have a God, Who out of an act of love creates an exquisitely fine-tuned Universe to support his creatures, culminating with the first man, Adam, our first common ancestor. The latest modern day science, using the forensic tools of DNA has posited the existence of the first man whom they nicknamed “Adam.” Spencer Wells, a geneticist and historian, used DNA technology to explore human history. He has traveled the world collecting blood samples in far-flung cultures. He sought to learn how closely we are related. Wells concluded that all human beings living on earth today are descendants from a single ancestor who lived some 60,000 years ago. This quest for “Adam” is an ongoing project undertaken in a partnership between IBM and the National Geographic Society. By analyzing genetic changes in the Y-chromosome of people in all regions of the world, Wells and his colleagues concluded that all humans alive today are descended from a single man. “We’re all effectively cousins, separated by 2,000 generations,” he said.

590_Michelangelo_-_Touching_the_Hand_of_God
Now on August 12, 1950, Pius XII wrote an encyclical entitled HUMANI GENERIS (CONCERNING SOME FALSE OPINIONS THREATENING TO UNDERMINE THE FOUNDATIONS OF CATHOLIC DOCTRINE), which in part was written to combat the errors of Modernist theology which relies heavily on the theory of evolution. The Pope declared in paragraph 37 that Adam is the first true man and all human beings are his descendants. In this document the Pope also condemned polygenism which is defined as the theory that all human races descended from many ancestral types. This theory was born from a secularized interpretation of evolution in part to undermine the Scriptural account of Adam and Eve. However, the latest forensic DNA science used by The National Geographic genome project confirms that all humans are descendants from the one man, named “Adam.”

The book of Genesis gives us an account of the fall of the first Adam and as a result all human beings are part of his fall. We have inherited his sinful nature. This sets up the need for a New Adam to reconcile us with the Creator, God. Despite being a fallen race, God’s Love for humanity is so great that He devised a means whereby we may become reconciled to Him. In the passage of Romans 5:12-19 we see that Paul compares and contrasts Adam and Christ. While Adam filled the world with sin and misery, the grace of Christ (the New Adam) more than compensates for the damage done by the first Adam. Verse 18 reads, “Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.” To reiterate, Christ more than compensates for the damage done by Adam’s rebellion.

The Incarnation of Jesus Christ is one of our Church’s greatest mysteries and underscores the extraordinary honor bestowed upon human dignity. At the moment of Christ’s conception in the womb of the Virgin, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity assumed a human nature. The Catholic Catechism (CC) paragraph 468 tells us that the fifth ecumenical council, at Constantinople in 553, “confessed that ‘there is but one hypostasis [or person], which is our Lord Jesus Christ, one of the Trinity.’ Thus everything in Christ’s human nature is to be attributed to his divine person as its proper subject, not only his miracles but also his sufferings and even his death…’” God then could humble Himself taking the form of a suffering servant and die on the cross on our behalf. (Philippians 2:5-11) “The Church confesses that Jesus is inseparably true God and true man. He is truly the Son of God who, without ceasing to be God and Lord, became a man and our brother…” (CC paragraph 469)

Jesus Christ as true God and True Man greatly exalts human dignity. By becoming our brother, Christ reconciles us with His Father. With God as our Father we become His children and heirs of Heaven. (Romans 8:17 and Galatians 4:4-7)

The past century, and even to the present day, the world has witnessed the growing forces of radical secularism blatantly disobeying God’s commands, resulting in the violent death of hundreds of millions along with many more millions suffering the ravages of war, ethnic cleansing, famine and disease. Today, it is common to kill the babes in their mother’s wombs and declare it to be a good in the name “of a woman’s right to choose.” Likewise outrages such as same sex marriages are celebrated as one’s “civil rights”. The book of Isaiah (chapter 5:20) reads, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil . . .”

However, the source of human dignity is a God, who created an exquisitely fine-tuned Universe for us to live in and created our common ancestor in His Own Image. When our ancestor sinned and died leading us into sin and death, the Love and the Grace of God through the merits of His beloved Son restores us to eternal life.

Given the great gift of our human dignity, how then can anyone harm or take the life of another, especially the most vulnerable, the babe in the womb? Remember that the Person of God resided in His mother’s womb for nine months thus sanctifying the lives of all the unborn. This was the beginning of His preparation to empty Himself on our behalf even to death on a Cross.


PS: The CC Paragraph 2270 tells us “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.” Paragraph 2271 condemns abortion and goes on to say that any formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. “The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.”

Choose Life / Choose Death

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Late last year, terminally ill Brittany Maynard, age 29, chose to die by her own hand in a well-publicized suicide. She was 29 years old. Brittany used legally-prescribed lethal drugs under Oregon’s assisted suicide law on Saturday November 1, 2014.

She is quoted as saying, “Goodbye to all my dear friends and family that I love. Today is the day I have chosen to pass away with dignity in the face of my terminal illness, this terrible brain cancer that has taken so much from me … but would have taken so much more,” Brittany wrote on Facebook. “The world is a beautiful place, travel has been my greatest teacher, my close friends and folks are the greatest givers. I even have a ring of support around my bed as I type …. Goodbye world. Spread good energy. Pay it forward!”

Contrast her decision with that of Lauren Hill, 19 years old, also diagnosed with a terminal illness called DIPG (Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma) which is inoperable and with a zero survival rate. Lauren not only chooses to live but this St. Joseph University freshman played basketball on the very next day that Brittany Maynard chose to die.

“On Sunday, Lauren Hill played her first and only college basketball game despite her rapidly declining health. She did it in front of 10,250 watery-eyed locals, with a few celebrities to boot. She scored a layup on the first possession of the game, and scored another basket just before the final buzzer. The game was held at Xavier’s Cintas Center, and MSJ beat Hiram 66-55. It very well could have been held at Paul Brown Stadium if not for the Jaguars/Bengals game — the only difference would have been that there would have been more tears.

On the way to the game Sunday, I watched my 8- and 9-year-old daughters in the back seat of the car, innocently tapping away on an IPad, fussing over whose turn it was to play. Ten years ago, that was Lauren. Lauren probably sat in her parents Brent and Lisa Hill’s backseat, no doubt fighting with her younger siblings, Nate and Erin, on the way to who knows where.” (Per Chris Mack, Special for USA TODAY Sports November 3, 2014.)

Lauren wishes to live as long as possible to publicize her illness with the hope that researchers may eventually find a cure so others may not die from DIPG.

Did one choose life thinking of others while continuing to suffer, while the other chose death concerned only with self? Regardless, it is a sad situation in both cases.

Through a Closed Door

Through a Closed Door

Does a bullet fired through a closed door
Kill more acceptably?
Is the trauma of death made easier,
And the bite of conscience less painful,
When the victim need not be confronted?
Like an unwanted kitten drowned in a sack,
Or a faceless innocent of war,
Slaughtered in a hailstorm of bombs from above,
Does anonymity seem to soften the act,
By obscuring the result?

You were there, Lord, in the warmth of conception.
Were You not there too when the partnership was routinely dissolved,
In the chilling void of love and swirl of hospital green?
Did you not breathe in the heavy odor of antiseptic?
See the flash of surgical steel?
Hear the leathal suction?
Know that, to the masked and gowned that were present,
The tiny fetal life was but excess tissue?
An offending cluster of cells,
No more than appendix,
Without future,
Without rights,
Without a whisper of defense.
Is not the rose, cut as a bud, still a rose?

Open wide our eyes that we might see the sacred
Beauty of your creation:
In the flower,
In the kitten,
In the delicate splendor and promise
Of each new human life.

– James Howard Ribbe

Save the Children

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Do we today consider children as a gift from God? Since post WWII, children have often been viewed as a burden, not a blessing! They are sometimes considered a financial yoke. They may be thought a hindrance to the aspirations of the working mother. During the 1950’s, 8% of our homes consisted of a double income. In the 2010 census , 80% have a double income. They are sometimes considered a disturbance to the “peace” of the home. And sadly, many are physically and sexually abused in their own homes, the place that was meant to be safe!

Children are a “gift from God” and if they have survived the most dangerous place on earth (mother’s womb) there are many more pitfalls along the road of young life! More than fifty-five million children have been lost to abortion in the United States (and four hundred million in China) since 1973! There is a wonderful ministry called “Save the Children.” It reaches out to the international poorest of the poor. The question I present to you is — what about our own? With “save the Children” we can sooth the conscience with a few dollars, but with our own, it takes hard work for a good chunk of our life.

What can we do to protect and provide for our children—a gift from God?

  • Have them! Don’t believe the lie that children are too expensive or a burden to the happiness of a marriage. Actually, it’s the other way around. I have had 7 children and God has always provided. By the time I’m 80 there will be approximately 80 members in my immediate family to impact the world!
  • Teach them! The primary responsibility for our children’s education is ours, not the local public school. We have to stand before God some day and give an account for that responsibility. Get involved in their education!
  • Show them! Children don’t expect perfection from their parents but they do expect guidance and a lack of hypocrisy. They will most likely choose our standards, principles and convictions and what are they going to be?
  • Win them! Lead them to a relationship with God. There is a battle going on for our children and we must win the battle.
  • Pray for them! Intercede before God on their behalf. Ask the Lord to bless them and make them a blessing to their generation. Remember, they are a gift from God and to God we must go for guidance on how to raise them.

Reverend Steve Nash is Pastor of Christian Community Chapel in Hillsborough, NJ, and a member of our Advisory Board.

Bible Study Experiences

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In the early 1950’s I became aware that Pope Pius XII encouraged the laity to read and study the Bible. This was specifically stated in his encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu promulgated on September 30, 1943, (Paragraph 9).

As a result as a very young man I began to read the Word of God. And as I poured through the Scriptures, I was struck with the tone that “all is vanity” in the book of Ecclesiastes. It would seem that nothing can really give us a lasting measure of true happiness. Wisdom, merit, riches and pleasure are all fleeting and in vain. Life then is an unsolvable enigma beyond human understanding. This message may lead to pessimism or despair. But there is a hint that everything ultimately rests with God. The clear answer to this predicament of course is the Light of Christ who overcomes the darkness with giving us hope in the life to come.

Chapter 12 of this book, verses 6-8 is a poetic expression of this theme of all is vanity. “6.Before the silver cord is snapped and the golden bowl is broken and the pitcher is shattered at the spring, and the broken pulley falls into the well, 7. And the dust returns to the earth as it once was, and the life breath returns to God who gave it. 8. Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, all things are vanity.”

But then the glimmer of hope which can be fulfilled only by Christ is expressed in the epilogue, verses 13-14. 13. “The last word, when all is heard: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is man’s all; 14. Because God will bring to judgment every work, with all its hidden qualities whether good or bad.”

“Man’s all” above, is explained by St. Jerome as “Unto this is every man born, that, knowing his Maker, he may revere him in fear, honor, and the observance of his commandments.”

Is “Personal Sin” – Nothing Personal?

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Our society deplores the so called “corporate sins” such as discrimination, racism, terrorism, unjust wars, social injustices, poverty, exploitation, and so on, but is virtually silent and blind when dealing with the day to day “personal sins” plaguing Americans such as abortion, adultery, fornication, homosexual acts, pornography, euthanasia, etc., fueled by the “Seven Deadly Sins” (pride, anger, greed, gluttony, lust, envy and sloth).

The reality is that you cannot have one set of sins without the other. The collective unrepentant personal sins of our culture generate and aggravate the level of corporate sins which our society abhors. Without this volume of unrepentant personal sins being committed daily by our citizenry, the level of corporate sins would not be such a prevailing problem in our society.

Before Creation, before “God created the heavens and the earth” there was no sin. Sometime after the Creation, sin and death entered into the world. However, today a growing number, especially in the West, believe that since “God is dead,” or “morality is relative”, so too is the idea of the nonexistence of personal sin. This is a serious and dangerous notion since it tends to cross over into the realm of the “unforgivable sin.”

G.K. Chesterson once said, “The doctrine of original sin was the one belief that was empirically validated by 3,500 years of human history. But the doctrine of sin has fallen on hard times lately. Not because we have bettered ourselves, nor even because we have denied it, but because we have given it another name besides ‘sin!’ If you doubt, read your newspaper.” There is a book written by Karl Menninger entitled, Whatever Became of Sin? In it he asks the question, “[Sin] was once a word on everyone’s mind, but now rarely if ever heard. Is no one any longer guilty of anything? Anxiety and depression we all acknowledge, and even vague guilt feelings; but has no one committed any sins? Where, indeed, did sin go? What became of it?”

Webster’s definition of sin is a “transgression of the law of God; disobedience of the divine will; moral failure. Sin is failure to realize in conduct and character the moral ideal, at least as fully as possible under existing circumstances; failure to do as one ought toward one’s fellow man.” The glossary of the New Catholic Catechism (CC) tells us that “Sin is an offense against God as well as a fault against reason, truth, and right conscience. Sin is a deliberate thought, word, deed or omission contrary to the eternal law of God. In judging the gravity of sin, it is customary to distinguish between mortal and venial sins.”

From the beginning men and women have sought to shift the blame for their sinful actions. In the Garden of Eden, Eve blames the serpent for her sin (“The devil made me do it!”), and Adam blurts out that the woman (Eve) led him into sin. Today sinners find genetic predispositions to excuse their transgressions. “My upbringing, my parents are to blame, my medical or environmental problems or my DNA causes me to sin.” From the very beginning up to the 21st century, sinners wish to blame someone or something else for their transgressions.

Genesis 1:26-27, God declares, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over . . . all creatures. God created man in his image, in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them.” This passage tells us that men and women are unique above all other creatures since we are made in the image of God. As a result we have spiritual souls, intellects and wills. We are then free to choose either good or evil. Through our intellects we are able to determine the morality of our actions. These judgments of the intellect form our consciences. Using our free will we can choose to do good or to do evil.

However, God commands us to use our free will to live a good moral life, avoiding evil. In order to help us do this He has given us a road map for our life’s journey. This road map takes the form of the Ten Commandments. Jesus in Matthew 22:37, summarizes the Ten Commandments by saying the greatest and first commandment is to “Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” The second commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus concludes this passage by saying, “The whole law and the prophets, depend on these two commandments.” It is obvious then by truly loving God and neighbor, one would choose to do good and avoid evil.

God has given us a conscience to enable us to make informed decisions in our lives. Conscience is the judgment of our reason about the good or evil of a particular act. We must indeed follow our individual conscience; however, “Personal conscience and reason should not be set in opposition to the moral law or the Magisterium of the Church” (CC paragraph 2039). Therefore, one cannot justify doing something inherently wrong based on one’s own conscience. “One may not do evil so that good may result from it” (CC paragraph 1756). There are intrinsically evil acts such as abortions, murder, rape, adultery, fornication, homosexual acts, euthanasia, etc., that remain as intrinsically evil acts regardless of the circumstances or intentions.

Our society has seemingly dulled individual consciences by using the rationalizations and false justifications foisted primarily by the teachings of dissident theologians and other bad educators who challenge the teaching authority of the Magisterium. In fact it would seem that more than a few in our churches have abandoned the effort to have our American culture conform to the teachings of the Church. Rather, they would support efforts to have the Church conform to the prevailing secular culture. This would not work well for those souls who are in jeopardy, encouraging them to persist in their sinful ways and to “follow their own consciences;” which were somewhat deadened by bad Catholic formation or no orthodox Catholic teaching whatsoever. Is it more compassionate to have sinners remaining immersed in their sinful lives and justifying them in that state or for them to be awakened in order to recognize their need for the Mercy of the Lord? This condition of minimizing or discounting one’s serious sins may lead to a hardness of heart and may result in such individuals succumbing to the “unforgivable sin.”

Let it first be said that there is no limit to God’s Mercy. But the “unforgivable sin,” blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, precludes its own forgiveness. It is not a sin of error but of pure malice. Jesus used the concept of the unforgivable sin in Matthew 12:32 against the religious groups of his day. They were blinded by their sin of pride and persistently shut themselves off from the grace of God. In the book of Acts chapter five, Ananias and his wife Sapphira both lied to the Holy Spirit by obstinately lying to the Church and were suddenly stricken dead after continuing in their lie. So there are consequences to sin.

Anecdotally, I have observed that in pre-Vatican II days the confessional lines were longer and the communion lines were shorter. Now in post Vatican II days it is obvious that the communion lines are a lot longer and the confessional lines are almost non-existent. Does this mean that the moral level of the American Catholic culture has risen to a higher level since Vatican II? The answer should be obvious. No, it means that the awareness of sin has been diminished while individual responsibility for not recognizing the effects of sin had soared. This is not necessarily a criticism of Vatican II, but an observation of what has transpired in the two generations following the Council.

Section 16 of Gaudium et Spes , the central document of Vatican II, tells us that conscience is God’s voice speaking within us, not just our own opinion. This voice summons us to love good and avoid evil, for we all have in our hearts a law written by God. Conscience can never conflict with Church teaching since Church teaching is also God’s voice. If our “conscience” conflicts with Church teaching, then we know it cannot be a well-formed conscience.

To better form our conscience, it may be a good practice at the end of each day to reflect on all the blessings received from the Lord and to ponder on how we may have offended Him or others in our lives. Before retiring, consider making a good Act of Contrition and resolve to do better the next day. This is what has traditionally been called “An Examination of Conscience.”

The goal of diminishing the “corporate sins” in our society is dependent upon the development of a well-formed conscience enabling us to recognize our “personal sins.” Repentance from such sins should help to reduce the number of times we offend the Lord. This in turn should help diminish the weight of corporate sin which plagues our society these days. This can be achieved by having a true sorrow for offending a Holy God and praying for the grace to amend our lives. Thus, obey the Commandments by loving the Lord and loving our neighbors as we love ourselves. Try to see Christ in everyone you meet each day and treat them as you would Christ.

Why Do We Have A Respect Life Sunday?

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Why not? It is fitting and proper to respect life on a Respect Life Sunday and also to do so on every other day of the year. Since 1972, a year before abortion was legalized in our nation, the Church designated the first Sunday in October as Respect Life Sunday. So for some 40 years now, the Catholic Church has dedicated the month of October as a Respect Life Month by exhorting her flock to spend extra time in prayer, activism, and education to counter the lies and distortions promoted by the pro-abortion advocates.

How effective has this effort been for the past 40 years? You be the judge. Since the Supreme Court legalized abortion on demand with their 1973 ruling in the case of Roe vs. Wade, 54 million human lives have been extinguished in our land. Abortions continue unabated on a daily basis. How often is this grave subject mentioned from our Church’s pulpits (including the Cathedral’s pulpit), how many of the clergy lead their parishioners in prayer and activism against this blight on our once blessed nation? How many Catholic public figures continue to persist in supporting this grave sin without receiving serious consequences from our bishops, clergy or their fellow Catholics? Remarkably, virtually all Catholic politicians who have promoted and supported abortion throughout the past 40 years do so with impunity and are in fact rewarded by being re-elected time and time again usually by receiving the support of the Catholic “voting bloc.” How do we reconcile what is going on in our country with the Church’s teaching on abortion?

The New Catholic Catechism (CC), paragraph 2270, tells us that “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.” This paragraph closes by quoting the following Scripture, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

In Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo’s Statement for Respect Life Month, issued on September 26, 2011, he states that Catholics “will join together to witness to the inherent equality and transcendent value of every human being.” He urges Catholics to voice their “opposition to the injustice and cruelty of abortion on behalf of those victims whose voices have been silenced.” The Cardinal also reaches out to the mothers and fathers who have chosen to abort their child exhorting them to seek God’s mercy through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Church’s Project Rachel Ministry. Cardinal Di Nardo also notes that in today’s culture “contraceptives are promoted even to young teens as though they were essential to women’s well-being, and abortion defended as the “necessary” back up plan when contraceptives fail. And fail they do.”

The source of the sin of abortion seems to be multi-faceted; that is, having sexual relations outside the bonds of matrimony, using contraceptives within and outside the bonds of marriage to avoid pregnancy, and using abortion as a back-up plan when contraceptives fail. While our relativistic, self-indulgent, materialistic culture has lost its moral compass, our Church on an official level condemns the sins of fornication, contraception, and abortion. Unfortunately, there is virtual silence from the pulpits regarding any of these sins except perhaps abortion being mentioned once a year on Respect Life Sunday. For example, about a mile from my parish there is an abortion clinic operating six days a week, extinguishing human lives day after day and year after year. The silence and lack of activism from my parish – and I suspect virtually from all Catholic parishes within close proximity to abortion mills – allows our nation to passively accept this “silent (invisible) holocaust.”

It seems Catholic women have abortions at the second highest rate of the general population. “Women identifying themselves as Protestants obtain 37.4% of all abortions in the U.S.; Catholic women account for 31.3%, Jewish women account for 1.3%, and women with no religious affiliation obtain 23.7% of all abortions. 18% of all abortions are performed on women who identify themselves as Born-again/Evangelicals.” It seems 93% of all abortions occur for social reasons, i.e. the child is unwanted or inconvenient. (Source: AbortionNO). Similarly, among sexually active women, 68 percent of Catholic women use highly effective contraception, i.e., sterilization, the pill or another hormonal method, or the IUD as compared to 73 percent of mainline Protestants. (Source: Guttmacher Institute)

The Catholic Church on an officially high level as exemplified by Church encyclicals, pronouncements, and the Catholic Catechism proclaims it is unconditionally against such serious sins as fornication, contraception and abortion. However, it is somewhat logical to conclude based on the lack of action and complacency which we seem to be witnessing that there is at best some low-keyed lip service given concerning these evils which continue to permeate our ailing nation. The question arises whether our Church leaders and the rank and file Catholics really take these issues seriously. Again it would seem our Church is conforming to the prevailing immoral culture, “going with the flow” rather than taking the uncomfortable position of attempting to have our immoral culture conform to the teachings of the Church. Bottom line, as a Church we do not seem to practice what we officially preach. Collectively, we are all responsible for this situation. We fall far short from what the Lord would have us do.

Again when it comes to voting for political candidates, the Pope and some of our other bishops may teach and preach that Catholics should not vote for candidates who are in favor of abortion, euthanasia, homosexual marriages, in vitro fertilization, and embryonic stem cell research. These are five “non-negotiable” life issues and Catholics must seriously consider not voting for candidates who favor any of them. Rarely if ever are these issues brought up at all at the parish level. The result is that Catholics continue to vote for candidates who are openly in favor of these “non-negotiable” life issues, thus perpetuating the “silent (invisible) holocaust” plaguing our once blessed land.

P.S.: I pray for my family, especially for my grandchildren and all other peoples of good will that by the next Respect Life Sunday scheduled to take place in October 2012 that our Holy Catholic Roman Church becomes more pro-active and outspoken on behalf of the pro-life cause. A glimmer of hope is arising as more and younger people are beginning to participate in demonstrations for life in many places and we pray that their numbers steadily increase in the foreseeable future.

The quote, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing,” is usually attributed to Edmund Burke, an 18th century philosopher. It indicates that evil must be confronted and challenged by the good folks, and if not, God help us. The Respect Life issue is the paramount issue of our times and the survival of our world truly hinges on whether it succeeds or not. Remember, time is running out for our land to repent of this evil. Our hope is in the promise of the Lord, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear them from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7 NIV) Pray for the conversion of our nation.