Save the Children

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

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?

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?

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.