Friday, March 18, 2016

Pro-life

Usually during an election year I have the opportunity to point out from the pulpit that we need to elect a pro-life president because the new president may have the opportunity to appoint a Supreme Court Justice. We should be reminded of two things:
1. Supreme Court justices make decisions that literally mean life or death to innocent human beings.
2. Supreme Court justices are appointed to the bench for the rest of their lives.
Electing a pro-life president this year is even more important. The way things look now, the new president WILL appoint a justice to the Supreme Court very early in his or her term to fill the current vacancy. Moreover, at the time the new president takes office, four justices will be over the age of 82.
In the coming months and years, the Supreme Court will decide constitutionality to numerous pro-life laws that have recently been passed. Many of their decisions will mean life or death for the innocent.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Trivial and the Important

After offering the 5 PM Vigil Mass on Saturday night, one man from our unofficial Saturday dinner club asked me if I would be joining them as usual. I replied that I could not because I was going to do something really stupid. I was going to the Bengals game. You see: kickoff would be at 8:15; being a night-time playoff game, it would run longer than normal; I live an hour and a half from the stadium; and I had the 8:30 AM Mass on Sunday morning. But I can seize the opportunity just this once and put up with being tired the next day. Plus I appreciate sports. I have played most of the ones that are common in our culture today.

I had a great time at the game, catching up with the friend who invited me, and seeing some good plays on the field. But it was a stark reminder of the societal flip flop that has taken place over the last few decades. When I arrived at the parking lot adjacent to the stadium, the thousands of people tailgating in their orange and black clothing were the first to clue me in that the important has become trivial and the trivial has become important. Already their were long lines for the porta-potties. Already, the women were avoiding the one that was covered in vomit from a fan who had already celebrated too zealously, and the game had not yet started. 

Just a few decades ago, it seemed there was a three-tiered hierarchy. The most important things to get excited about, even culturally, would be those of infinite value and those with eternal consequences. The next level in the hierarchy of needs would be the ability to survive with adequate food, water and shelter. Then, after we are in good standing with the things of the first two levels, there are games. Play is important. Human beings are unique in the world because we have the ability to play games, but they are meant to be trivial, superfluous and enjoyable.

Since people get really excited, there are billions of dollars to be made, and those savvy at marketing are capitalizing big time. The sporting event is the new American liturgy. Athletes are the new gods. The fans drape themselves in the clothing of the athletes. They study the athletes and know their statistics. The fans display raw emotion, at successes and failures of the athletes with colorful, vulgar language and bodily gestures. It is even complete with liturgical dancing. Resting only momentarily, there are 24 women paid to dance suggestively the entire time. This might seem extra, but the people who are in charge of marketing the full "experience" of the game know exactly what their dollars are getting them. All of the things for sale, food and drink, and even the architecture of the stadium play into the total message of what is important. No liturgy is complete without music. There was plenty of it in the tailgating areas and during the game.

In the midst of all of it I began to wonder how we would ever see the important regarded as important and the trivial regarded as trivial. How could people realize games are good but they are just games? In the grand scheme of things, in the eternity of the cosmos, it does not matter which team is victorious in the contest. Since there is big money involved, it will matter to some people in this life: the players, coaches, and those who bet on the game. If only the fans could use their passion for the game as training in the true contest between good and evil in the world. If only those 24 dancing women could know their infinite dignity being made in God's image.

Since there are so many billions of dollars at the top of the industry, those at other levels in the world of sports are drawn into the greed. It seems that decades ago, children would play sports at leisure and still have time for interaction with family, especially their parents. Now it seems that parents are pushing their children to try every sport possible, not for exercise or enjoyment, but just in case of the off chance this child might have some special hidden ability to be the next great one to strike it rich in the pros. Now it's all about winning.

Even though the societal flip flop if the hierarchy of importance has taken place, the seeds of it are nothing new. St. Augustine warned the people of North Africa of an over-emphasis on their adoration of play actors and charioteers over a millennium and a half ago. 

In the correct ordering of the three-tiered hierarchy of the important and trivial, we would study God not athletes. We would study the saints, the ones who are victorious over the real forces of evil. "Evil" in sports is just pretend because the opponent comes from another city or school district. Maintaining the middle tier of the hierarchy, we uphold the importance of food, clothing and shelter for ourselves and those we love. Finally, sports would be regarded as good but trivial, not ends in themselves. They would be means to a greater end. From games we can learn virtues like team work and patience. We can get exercise thus leading to better stewardship of the body which is a gift from God. But these bodies will decay in death. What have I stored up that has infinite value and will last for eternity?


Friday, October 16, 2015

Why Not Show the Product?

On Columbus Day many students and workers had the day off. 11 parishioners and I joined up with 40 Days for Life at the Planned Parenthood abortion facility in Cincinnati for an hour of prayer.
Even though the CEO of Planned Parenthood recently admitted that 86% of the money they earn comes from abortions, the word "abortion" is nowhere to be found on the extensive list of services listed on this huge banner attached to the building.
Maybe abortion services fall under "All Options Counseling" or maybe under "Birth Control Options" which are both on the banner. Some people use abortion as a form of birth control, but the "birth control" usually refers to an artificial way to prevent pregnancy, some of which do cause early abortions.
For more information, click this.
The abortion industry is the only industry that does not want anyone to see its product, not the dead child, nor the emotionally broken mother who chose the abortion. Now it seems they are even shying away from the word "abortion" which used to be a nice euphemism for killing the child in the womb. Maybe people are starting to realize what it actually is.
Finally: I imagine this promotional banner was paid for at least in part by the $500,000,000.00 this organization receives in our tax dollars.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

One More Soul

Back on July 19th, three parishioners and I headed over to the Athenaeum for an evening lecture on marriage. It was Sunday of NFP Awareness Week.
Part of the deal was for our little group to have dinner on the way. We went to the new B-Dubs in Anderson Township by the seminary.
After ordering food, I walked into the men's room. I walked past a man changing the diaper of a newborn baby. On my way to the sink, I walked past the same man and baby. Since he was busy with the diaper changing, I don't know if he ever looked up at me or noticed my collar.
I remarked: "Looks like you have a brand new one there."
He replied: "Yeah, she's a month old," and immediately added: "and she's our second, so I think we're done."
I was at a loss for words. As I washed my hands, I was thinking, "Why is this complete stranger telling me something so intimate and personal about his family?" With no reply, I went back to my party at the table.
Once at the table, I told the parishioners what happened. I acknowledged that a complete stranger in the men's room just shared with me--a complete stranger--that he is either going to stop having sex with his wife, or one of them is going to alter his or her fertility. Why is he telling a complete stranger something so intimate?
Having studied the devastating effects of contraception and sterilization on marriages, I had a desire to respond to this young father. I could see where he was sitting in the restaurant with his wife, the baby, and an older couple, probably his or his wife's parents.
I told the group of parishioners that I really should reply in some way. After all, it was NFP Sunday. I wished I had a calling card to give him. One woman in our group offered me a blank deposit slip. The back of it was plain white where I wrote: "onemoresoul.com". Now all I had to do was think of a smooth way to pass the note to the guy and minimize any embarrassment.
As our meal was wrapping up, I noticed that the young father was not in his chair at the table with his family. Even though I was taken aback that he shared intimate details of his life with me in the men's room while changing his baby's diaper, I headed toward the men's room in case I might be able to give him the note. As I walked past the bar, the young father was coming toward me. As we passed, I held out the note and he took it from me. I added: "You shared some really intimate details with me in the men's room earlier. Check this out. You'll find some excellent information." The guy didn't say a word. He seemed more dumbstruck than I was earlier.
About a week later, I was on the phone with a woman who works for the Catholic Church. She told me she just got back from maternity leave. I congratulated her and asked the name of the baby. She told me the baby's name and added that this was her fourth and final child. Once again I was dumbstruck asking myself: "Why is this woman, whom I have never met telling me such intimate details about her life?" She is either telling me that she and her husband are going to stop having sex, that something went terribly wrong with the delivery of this new baby rendering her infertile, or that she or her husband are going to have one of their bodies altered to become sterile.
This woman knows I am a priest. I would hope that someone who works for the Church might know the teachings of the Church as they have been handed down from Christ over the centuries.
Even though I find it surprising, I know it's really not about telling a stranger something intimate. There is a cultural disdain for new human life. It seems that once someone notices a new baby, the mother or father has to "apologize" by saying: "I'll never do it again." So few really know that Christ and His Church have the best plan for marriage and family. The culture at large will never know it until the lay faithful witness by being open to life. The ones who are open to life are the most joyful people I have met. They have found the freedom and fulfillment Christ offers through the teachings of His Church.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

NFP Awareness - Sunday Homily

“They were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.” Jesus easily slips into this role because he is the Good Shepherd. A good shepherd is always kind and supportive. And a good shepherd brings members of the flock to the truth when they get off course. This is what Jesus did for people in his time. Then there are countless times when he tries to get the Pharisees back on track when their ideas take them off course.

We just heard in our first reading from Jeremiah: Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture… Who are the bad shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock? Anyone who goes against Christ and the teachings of the Church he founded.

Our modern day culture misleads and scatters the flock in countless ways. Pope Francis calls it a throw-away culture. Pope Saint John Paul II called it a culture of death. The culture of death has many symptoms. 
In order to fight against some of the symptoms of the culture of death, the Church gives us Natural Family Planning Awareness Week in the week ahead. The culture of death promotes things like artificial contraception or sterilization as a “fix” to the “problem” of fertility. The Church reminds of that those things are beneath our dignity. We are beautifully, wonderfully made in God’s image. We are made for more. Our bodies need understanding, not chemicals and alterations to healthy organs that function as they should.

Does a good shepherd ignore these so he doesn’t have to unpack the difficult issues? Or does a good shepherd point out the problems with artificial contraception destroying families? Woe to me the shepherd if I mislead the flock. Sure, NFP isn’t for everyone. But we all need to know about it so we can share it with people who are misled by the lies of the culture. Yes contraception is a problem because it’s unhealthy for the human body, but it’s especially problematic because of the harm it can do to relationships.
We are made for lasting relationships.

Simple biology shows us the conjugal embrace has two meanings, procreative and unitive. It’s procreative because it’s God’s way of bringing new human life into the world. And it’s unitive because it’s God’s way of bonding a man and woman in married love for the rest of their lives. Powerful bonding hormones are activated. People who are open to both the unitive and procreative meanings of the conjugal embrace are presumably giving themselves fully to each other. Ideally, there is a full self-giving for the benefit of the other.
Sounds like love, doesn’t it… Nothing is held back, not even one’s fertility.

When a barrier is placed in the way, there is no longer a full self-giving. Now something is held back. We would never say to a spouse, “I love you except for your fertility.  Hold back that part of you. I’m not interested in all of you.” So we shouldn’t say it in our actions either.

So we see that diminishing the procreative meaning can easily diminish the unitive meaning of the conjugal embrace as well. Imposing barriers in this most intimate of settings can quite often manifest itself in emotional ways too. If the physical barriers are in the way, it becomes easier to put up emotional barriers or communication barriers as well.

As human beings, we are designed to have a very powerful unitive bond, but we can do things to diminish it. The worst thing about contraception and sterilization is that they reject God’s design and his plan for our happiness. Furthermore the contraceptive mentality feeds the despair of the culture that life is not worth living. But life is worth living.

NFP or Natural Family Planning keeps the unitive and procreative meanings of the conjugal embrace intact while effectively helping married couples space children if they need to for grave reasons. NFP is more effective than contraception but without the destructive side-effects. And it has proven to enhance marital love rather than diminish it. It forces the husband and wife to communicate, thus building their relationship, rather than taking the risk of using the other for selfish reasons.

47 years ago Pope Paul VI predicted what would happen if the use of contraception became widespread. He was correct on every prediction. Divorce rates would increase. They have: from 6% in 1960 to more than 50% now. Disrespect of women would increase. Men would become more irresponsible. Marital infidelity would increase. There would be a general lowering of morality.

As Christians, we are called to trust completely in the Lord. If we look around, we see that those who seem open to his plan for their lives also seem to be the happiest. Our culture tells us that one way will bring happiness. But Christ proves that his way of self-giving love is what really brings happiness and lasting joy.

Those with little regard of Natural Law reasoning or morality are forcing upon the American people a contraceptive mentality. Our own federal government, which has coercive power over its citizens, is forcing almost all employers to literally buy into the contraceptive mentality that destroys families, the building blocks of society.

Just this past week, the Little Sisters of the Poor lost a court case that says they have to provide these things and abortion-inducing drugs to their employees. The sisters are not allowed to live out the convictions of their faith.

NFP Awareness Week is not about condemnation. It’s an invitation for us to learn God’s plan for authentic happiness. It’s an invitation to learn what the Church teaches and why. Then we can bring the good news of the Gospel of Life to the world. We all know people who need to learn it as well. Let’s have the courage to trust in the Lord and invite others to the happiness that only He can bring.


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Supreme Court and Marriage

A while back, I wrote this post when Senator Portman flip-flopped on "gay marriage":
Most of it still seems relevant, saving me from having to rewrite essentially the same thing.

With last week's Supreme Court decision, there is much hysteria over the issue. I am glad I am not on facebook. As people of faith, we are likely looking forward to a future of much persecution. Also in front of us, is much work. As people of faith, all the baptized should become well versed in what the Church teaches but especially WHY the Church teaches what she does. It is up to us, with God's help to bring the culture to conversion.

With that in mind, I will add one thing at this time.  Sins are called sins because they are bad for me. God, Church, and grandma do not just declare certain actions to be wrong or sinful arbitrarily. Fornication and sodomy are bad for the human person, body and soul. I heard an interesting statistic the other day that men living the gay lifestyle have an 8,000% higher risk of rectal cancer. Reproductive organs are designed to be coupled with the reproductive organs of a person of the opposite sex. They are not designed for other organs such as those of the digestive system. If we use our cell phones to drive nails into the wall, we will get some nails in place but we will soon be shopping for a new cell phone. Problems with fornication are not as obvious but affect us on a much deeper level. In my Sunday homily, I pointed out that the desire of some to legalize "gay marriage" is a symptom of a much larger problem.

The reason governments began to regulate marriage in the first place is because they realize that new citizens come from this union of husband and wife, and this family setting is the building block of a stable society. Some in government positions seem to have forgotten this. Children have enough issues already. Raising children is difficult enough already. The last thing we need to do is add another layer of confusion. The bishops state this well in the links provided below. Because of the contraceptive mentality, thus rendering the marital act sterile, governmental focus on marriage has shifted to affection and companionship as if they were its essence. These things are effects of marriage but certainly not the essence that we find in the unitive and procreative meanings of marriage at its core.

This is a link to a statement from the USCCB on the issue.

This is a link to a statement from the Most Reverend Dennis M. Schnurr, Archbishop of Cincinnati.


Friday, February 27, 2015

Media bias against pro-lifers

Matt Swaim pointed this out earlier this week on the Son Rise Morning Show.
The pro-life community around the world mourns the loss of Dr. John C. Willke. The press release from Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati, and the story from National Right to Life show Dr. Willke to be a joy-filled and courageous leader whose life's work could be summed up in a single word: love.
If you get your news from the mainstream media, you will likely get a warped view of this loving, courageous pro-lifer. The story the Associated Press ran at the passing of Dr. Willke shows an obvious bias against the pro-life movement. Instead of "pro-life" they use "anti-abortion" which is no big deal. But already in the first sentence of the story they misrepresent Dr. Willke with a half-truth of something he said back in 1999. He did not say "women can resist conception from a sexual assault" as if it is something that can be controlled consciously. The story continues with some facts about his life and some nice quotes. Then by the 10th sentence it once again brings up the quote from 1999, which is a blatant misrepresentation, and continues it for several more paragraphs. It is obvious to me that the agenda of the AP is to paint Dr. Willke as a quack who had weird ideas. I remember, in the early 2000s, reading about studies showing that in instances of extreme trauma, like the assault of rape, women conceived less frequently than in normal consensual instances as a subconscious defense mechanism. The AP tries to make it sound like Dr. Willke was saying the woman could turn fertility off or on like a switch consciously, which was not the case at all. The only person the AP story quotes in regard to medicine is a pro-abortion person who is not even a doctor. Of course her agenda is to characterize every pro-lifer as a kook. It seems to me the AP is trying to tarnish the legacy and smear the reputation of this pro-life pioneer who asked: "Can't we love them both?"