And the Idea of Progress

The philosophical foundations of America are built upon the Idea of Progress, which has since given rise to Faith in Progress. This philosophical school, while having some merit, eventually resulted in calling people to change for change sake. This school particularly took a turn in the era when eugenics and evolution theory were on the rise. At the core, it saw nature, including the nature of Man, as a progressive, evolving reality that is moving toward an end they know not what. Rather than accepting the nature of things as being what they are and seeking perfection through the proper fulfillment of their ends, the nature of things has become ever changeable entities that have no definitive end -- which means that all manipulations and alterations are permissible. All changes that bring about desired results must be good, albeit the results desired may not be anchored to a proper end. The Idea and Faith in Progress marks the greatest challenge to Natural Law and the understanding of morality as it relates to Salvation.

Previous to the dominance this school of thought, the end of Man was clearly understood as God and Eternal Life. By disconnecting spiritual and salvific progress from its proper end, change becomes the credo although what has to be changed becomes unclear. And so with change as the nature of all things and the constant of existence, everything must be changed or changing all the time. When reading spiritual masters like St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Francis of Assisi, or St. John of the Cross, repentance and conversion are not linked with a change of being or even change for change sake. Rather, they speak of change with regard to conforming one’s being to its ultimate End, that is, God. In the spiritual life, and especially in Lent, we are not talking about progress for progress sake or change for change sake but change in regard to our ultimate end and progress toward eternal life with God.

Through the Idea of Progress, as the separation from ultimate ends gradually occurred, change was transferred to more immediate ends. In this regard, penance and mortification became trite actions that help correct undesired behaviors. Rather than striking at the roots of Sin, most Catholics now choose actions that are formed by the social engineers of the modern world. And many priests and deacons have fallen prey to this way of thinking. Thus, today we hear preachers proposing as Lenten activities things such as, “be nice to your siblings,” or “say something nice each day to your spouse,” or “work on losing a few pounds by giving up sweets.” These fall into the realm of the social engineering in which the central claim is that the “good can be constructed” rather than the Good being a fixed reality established by God. We must always remember that we do not change ourselves in an attempt to be “better” but are called to conform our beings to the Good, which is God. Everything we say or do, every Lenten practice, must be ordered to conforming our beings to the Divine Will, which is beyond all relative perspectives.

Only by breaking from the errors of the modern world can one truly understand what the word “repent” means. We cannot truly express the regret we have for sins committed until we fully understand the Good we have violated. We cannot truly begin to change or progress in the spiritual life until we understand the Good toward which we are progressing. Lent is more than an opportunity to change… It is an opportunity to conform oneself to the Good.

A Lost Art

What Ever Happened to -- Mortification?

In recent decades, there has been a decided shift in Lenten practices, a shift that has eliminated the time honored connection to mortification. This particular ascetical practice has Biblical roots and has been a part of our Tradition until recent years. Among the practices that fall into this category, fasting has always been one of the most common, but fasting from something that brings about personal discomfort. Yet so many people today have difficulty curtailing their food intake for just two days a year in the spirit of discipline and sacrifice.

As Lent begins, the penitential practices chosen should reflect a level of difficulty and not just mere change of behavior. What makes this shift even more disconcerting are the homilies given in which priests are asking people to take on as penance practices that should already be part of one’s everyday life, such as being nicer to a neighbor or family member. Rather, penance and mortification should not be an endeavor in correcting unpleasant vices but should be acts that mortify errant passions through the cultivation of the virtues of fortitude and temperance. To give up using bad language or fighting with a sibling is not penance in the true sense but a practice that we should always work on. To try to say something nice to someone everyday is not penance or mortification.

To go hungry for a day has intrinsic value in disciplining the self in preparation for eternal life. To say a rosary before the Blessed Sacrament every day while kneeling has intrinsic value in cultivating the passions for virtue. To take on some daily physical challenge with joy and hope has intrinsic value in pursuit of the True, Good, and Beautiful. These practices help a believer to rightly order himself or herself to virtue. As Lent unfolds, may our chosen penitential practices truly reflect the spirit of penance and mortification!

And So It Continues...

Conscience and Morality

The recent HHS mandate that clearly requires a violation of Catholic conscience continues to make headlines. Apparently everyone has an opinion and no one wants to pursue the Truth. The secular media has certainly mired the question in rhetoric and apparently refuses to allow the Church to present the problem as it truly is -- one of morality. Human sexuality is not a medical condition but a personal human act that must be guided by moral norms, which are ultimately established by God. Violating moral norms and conscience places one in danger of eternal damnation.

In this regard. the Church is not “anti-contraception” or “anti-healthcare” but pro-eternal life. The Church is not imposing Her “views” on society but rather engaged in the works of mercy that impels Her to instruct the ignorant and warn the sinner. Conscience must be pure in this regard -- every person must act “CON SCIENTIA,” that is, “WITH KNOWLEDGE.” The Church, established by Jesus Christ, is tasked with Teaching the fulness of knowledge, that is, knowledge that cannot come from a laboratory or some medical experiment or even a public debate. The Church is not offering a perspective or opinion but stating the Truth about human sexuality and its connection to moral living with an eye on eternal life.

Contrary to the secular claim that the issue is about access to family planning measures, the fact of the matter is there are other ways to plan the spacing and timing of children -- ways that are completely faithful to human nature and honest to the nature of the human sexual faculty called natural family planning. Contrary to the secular media rhetoric that we are dealing with a “health issue,” fertility is not a health “condition” but an integral part of the human sexual faculty, which is integral to the human person. It is not something that is “controlled” by human manipulation but relationally expressed through free human action, ordered to its own end and perfection. Fertility must always be integrated within the whole of human sexuality and understood as a good of Marriage. And sadly, the secular rhetoric has continuously left out this important aspect of the problem at hand.

I would be remiss, however, if I did not note that a great deal of this issue is the U.S. Bishops, Catholic priests, and other Catholic theologians fault. For too long there has been a deafening silence on the immorality of contraception in this country, evidenced in the arguments put forward of the number of Catholics who use artificial means of contraception and have no problem with it. Regardless of the moral and catechetical failure, artificial contraception is still an intrinsic evil and no Catholic can be said to be in “good” standing (aka, a state of Grace) if he or she uses any artificial form of it. This can be extended to anyone who cooperates formally and materially with those who do. It is within the latter that the Church cannot pay for contraception, even for non-Catholics who work in their institutions, as doing so is clearly a form of cooperation. Having heard all the rhetoric, it is extremely disappointing that no one is presenting a public statement with regard to the Truth and speaking of the morality that is at the heart of the issue.

So how much longer do we wait before we start Teaching again?

Insulted Again

News Media Attacks the Priesthood

On News 12 Long Island, Sean Bergen did a piece for Valentine’s Day. He presented himself as one having trouble getting a date and needed some flowers to help. When showed a beautiful arrangement, he said something to the effect, “If this does not do it for me I am totally pathetic and should probably consider being celibate and joining the priesthood or becoming a monk.” Apparently publicly bashing Catholicism and the priesthood is still in fashion and still the last acceptable prejudice. For the record, priests are not pathetic guys who had trouble getting dates leading them to settle for something less. The priesthood is a superior path and is filled with healthy men who did not enter the priesthood because they could not get dates but have willingly chosen to give their Love totally to Christ and the Church.

When things like this happen, Catholics should be outraged and should contact the station to let them know such statements are inappropriate and a retraction is in order.

February 14

The Feast of Sts. Cyril and Methodius

It is amazing how the secular media and businesses have latched on to St. Valentine and made this particular day so popular. Unfortunately they have stripped the third century saint of his historical connection and substituted the cherubs and hearts. Even more unfortunate is that the great patron saints to the Slavic Peoples are the ones celebrated by the Church today. Sts. Cyril and Methodius are responsible for spreading the Gospel throughout Eastern Europe. It is situations such as these that should make Catholics take notice and resist the attempts by profiteers to usurp our Tradition and Feasts.

Thus, to all of those of Slavic descent, Happy Feast Day!

Job Well Done

Good Homily

A local pastor in the Bronx used the readings this weekend to preach on the diseases in today’s world that destroy Marriages. Here is an audio recording of the homily. This past weekend was World Marriage Day and he was able to show the issues in today’s world that slowly deteriorate Marriages today. Congratulations on a job well done!


The Bishops Have Reacted and the Word is Spreading

In recent weeks, the attacks on Religious Liberty by the current administration have finally pushed the limits for the USCCB and parishes around the country have been asked to read a prepared statement. Many priests took the opportunity to take the challenge one step further and preach on the issue of abortion, which is one of the key moral evils with which we must contend.


We Need to Keep the Ball Rolling…

The recent incursion by the government into religious freedom has mobilized the U. S. Bishops in a way that has not been seen in recent decades. This mobilization is much needed and hopefully will get the attention of the Catholic Faithful. While calling the people to action cannot be an everyday method, it is necessary from time to time to wake up the people. The fact of the matter is that the faithful today are lethargic in regard to the Faith. There are so many reasons for this lethargy. Probably the biggest contributor to this state of affairs is lack of uniform action and teaching. For too long, from one parish to the next or one diocese to the next, people lived under the dominance of relativism, particularly with regard to liturgy and Church teaching. Now more than ever we need the USCCB to unite but that unity must be reflected in Teaching.

The question that remains is whether the bishops will continue to ride the momentum and turn the mobilization into an opportunity for catechesis. The fact of the matter is that most Catholics do not understand the Church’s Teaching on abortion and contraception, much less on a host of many other issues. Coming out of the era of catechetical failure, we now have many Catholics who do not know the depth of the Teaching in these areas. There were leaders in parishes and schools who did not teach the Truths of the Faith and many suffer for it today. Now that the bishops are asking everyone to listen, they can also begin the process of correcting the errors. The process of renewed catechesis must begin at some point and this seems to be an excellent opportunity, hopefully one that will not be wasted.

Catechesis Desparately Needed

Our Own Need to Know More

So many issues in the public forum today indicate the lack of Catholic Formation in many today. In reading the online articles, comments, and blogs on the recent HHS mandate it is evident that our own do not understand the depth and breadth of our Catholic Faith and Teaching. Some comments state that there are “rules” that must be abided by and the rules are made by the pope. Others claim that the prohibition against contraception is not in the Bible and the Church’s Teaching is not binding. Others claim that we are dealing with a health issue, as if sexual activity and pregnancy are diseases. The most common mistake is that many make claims to support the mandate which rely on opinion polls that include Catholics. Yet this latter mistake is the one that is most distressing in that it indicates how many Catholics do not know the Church’s Teaching and that the Teaching is not based on popular vote.

For too long we have not provided a solid foundation in the catechetical programs, leaving many Catholics ignorant of the Truths of the faith. Many of the recent proposals to overhaul Catholic Schools speaks about restoring the Catholic identity to the institutions. However, this identity did not deteriorate overnight and will not be restored overnight. Thus we are dealing with multiple generations of Catholics who are “lost.” The overhaul is very much welcome but will need time and effort to put things back on track. The hard question is -- are those putting the plan into effect qualified enough to address the failure and do they actually have a plan. To say something needs to be done is one thing but to get that accomplished is a whole different problem.

It is at this point that we must always recall that the Church was founded by Christ, is sustained by Christ, and will always belong to Christ. May we all make an offering of these weaknesses we find in the Church today to Christ and ask that He restore the Church through His Grace.

What Are Words For?

Linguistic Gymnastics!

Everyone is aware of the various issues of public morality and the lack of honest discussion due to the dominance of secularism in the public forum. As has been the case for some time, the debates are clouded by misusing certain words and phrases. Since it was first introduced to the public, the notion of “Plan B” has been rejected by the Church for many good reason, most notable the intrinsic evils of abortion and contraception. Yet this has not had any impact on Shippensburg University. It is bad enough that society has made contraception a norm that has been tied into discussion of “health”. Now they are dispensing contraceptives and abortifacients from vending machines and many think that the delivery method is the issue.

To enter this conversation, every Catholic must be clear -- Plan B is NOT only a contraceptive, even though they continue to use this terminology. Albeit reluctantly, there are medical experts who admit it also works as an abortifacient. In both cases, making such items available from an impersonal machine further deteriorates any possibility of encouraging moral behavior in young people. In the battle of words and linguistic manipulation, no one seems to be using the public forum to discuss the root causes of such illicit uses of the sexual faculty and why better catechesis is needed to form good consciences.

Ironically, most Catholics will most likely miss the depth of this issue and become mired in questioning the wisdom of dispensing such things in vending machines. Because they have not been well catechized, the discussion of sexual morality will most likely never enter the discussion. We can play with the language all we want, but in the end all linguistic gymnastics will not impress the Lord on Judgment Day.

Creation without the Creator

Can you say Modern Man?

The Office of Readings today includes a section from Gaudium et Spes that offers a strong reminder -- we must always give priority to understanding what something is before trying to discover what it does or what qualities it has. This is especially true with regard to Man because, as the document notes, “Man’s worth is greater because of what he is than because of what he has.” Modern science has been attempting to understand Man through its constant manipulation. With each step, as the Church recalls the epitome of knowledge about Man, science resists as it wants to remove all reference to a Creator and dependence on the Divine for existence. Part of that dependence is the intrinsic value that God has instilled in all things, with the highest value in Man.

Science, in its truest sense, without God becomes a manipulation and deterioration rather than true progress in knowledge. Yet we find this very state of affairs today whenever science, morality, and faith come together. Today, just about every aspect of morality has been undermined by this pervasive approach to reality and the result has been devastating to the personal sense and worth of every person. This was foreseen by the council fathers in the same document that “creation without the Creator fades into nothingness.” If anyone wants to test this prediction, all they need do is look at the growing number of nihilists in the world today.

Fortunately, there is the Church Whose very presence and Teachings is that not only is there a Creator but all things have significance because of Him. If only Modern Man would pause and ponder the beauty of Creation He would encounter the Creator!

Time to Catch Up?

Better Late than Never…

As part of a recent mandate in the United States, yet another piece of civil legislation blurs the lines of morality using “health” language and leaves religious institutions in a vulnerable position. In recent decades, the voice of religious leaders has been slowly minimized on public moral issues, typically claiming certain moral issues as private matters, yet the most recent incursion strikes directly at religious liberty. In this ruling we once again see the meaning of tolerance as proposed by the secularists -- tolerance is a good thing until it is to be given to a religious institution.

It is interesting how some are interpreting the Church’s response to the contraceptive mandate as one in which the Church is attempting to impose morality on others. However, the mandate to cover contraception and abortifacients in all medical coverage is not a matter of the Church telling people what they can or cannot do… it is the government telling the Church what It can and cannot do. Every Catholic should be outraged and take action on this matter. Those in New York State can learn more here about how to send an email to their representative.