Monday, November 30, 2020

God is My Savior: Reflections at the Beginning of the Liturgical New Year



When I was growing up in the 1980s, there was a popular T-shirt that read, “Life’s a ***** and then you die.” It is something we thought was funny as teenagers. But looking at it from the perspective of today, I can see it was a cry of despair that life is suffering and meaningless.

Flashing forward to today, the temptation to think that way is real. Regardless of one’s outlook on life and wherever one lives, 2020 can easily be considered—expressed most charitably—sub-par. Depending on your outlook, 2021 can only get better… or can only get worse.

Of course, for Catholics, the New Year has already begun with the First Sunday of Advent. The message of Advent is important because it tells us that, no matter what hope or despair we feel about the Presidential Election or with COVID-19, that we need a savior and that our Savior will not forsake us.

That does not mean life will be all “sweetness and light” of course. Life does have hardship and injustice that is out of control. It also has hardship that comes in response to our own actions. Those who suffer the worst of it quite naturally feel embittered if told to “hang in there” because things are “looking up” (cf. James 2:16-17).

Rather, the Advent declaration of The Savior serves as hope to those in the worst of circumstances that no matter how bad life gets, there is respite offered to us. Not a superficial ephemeral respite of this world. But that things will be made right in the substantial and eternal sense. 

But, at the same time, it tells those whose faith is in themselves, in politics, in science, that we need saving in a way that these things cannot solve. At 12:01pm, January 20, 2021 we will have the same problems we have today. A change of political administration cannot change that. We will still be subject to the ravages of disease. A coronavirus vaccine cannot change that. In other words, we are mortal finite beings who are unable to solve certain things.

If we do not have a Savior, all we have been through in 2020 is meaningless, a farce. The changes we might get in the future does no good for those who died this past year, for those who suffered this past year.

But, if we do recognize our need for a Savior and seek to live according to His ways, we will be able to make sense out of what we have been through and will go through. There is a point to life, there is a relief from our sorrows that is much more than nothingness. God is in control.

He is in control, but He is not a “fairy godmother” or a “genie” who grants wishes when we pray. Sometimes, we do have to say, like Jesus did, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). We may have to be told like St. Paul was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Job could not see the sense of his suffering. He railed against the perceived injustice of God in letting these things happen to him when he did not do anything that merited such punishment. God’s response to Job was not to excuse Himself. It was to point out that Job could not grasp what God knew and designed and Job had no basis for telling God that what He permitted was unjust.

We do need to keep this in mind. I do not know what might happen to me today, tomorrow. I could drop dead. I could be stricken by a disease. I could lose my family or friends. But come what may, I trust that God is my Savior and that what happens to me here on Earth does not mean that God has abandoned me.

So yes, 2020 is a dumpster fire… and I am sure others can say it more vehemently than I can, having suffered more. But, regardless of whether 2021 is better or worse in the temporal, physical sense, we have a Savior who offers us what we cannot possibly do for ourselves. We would be wise to trust and follow Him regardless of how the road looks here on Earth.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

It’s Iimi! Vile Evil (Part III)

One of the problems with using a teenage protagonist for the It’s Iimi! comics is that she is obviously too young to have lived through the turbulent events prior to the mid-decade of the 2000s. So, to have someone who was there, Iimi’s mother enters the discussion on how Catholics reacted in the past. This isn’t done to deny the pain or justify the suspicion against the claims. But it is important to understand why so many of us went down that path in the 90s and early 00s so we can avoid 

Another part of this comic is aimed at showing that those who were hurt by people in the Church are not cardboard villains that hate the Church without cause. Even when we defend the Church from false claims, we can’t downplay the very real suffering that victims went through or condemn them if their pain is keeping them away. 

This concludes the story.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

It’s Iimi! Vile Evil (Part II)

What if you thought you had everything figured out and then you discovered your assumptions were wrong? Iimi-tan and Ms. Baculum both discover that some things aren’t as you thought and other things don’t have to be as you thought.

Part One can be found HERE.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

What Are We to Do About This? (Hint: Not What They’re Doing on the Internet)

If you have been following the news of Cardinal-Elect Gregory, you probably are aware of the recent information that he has no intention of denying the Eucharist to the Catholic President-Elect Joe Biden over his intention to enable policies contrary to Catholic Moral Teaching. As this seems to be contrary to Canon 915, this is troubling to many. This canon and the companion canon 916 read:

CAN. 915 Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.

CAN. 916 A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to celebrate Mass or receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition which includes the resolution of confessing as soon as possible.

As commonly understood, someone who is aware that they committed a grave sin must not go to Communion and, if they try, they are to be refused. Since Confession of a grave sin requires a firm purpose of amendment to avoid that sin in the future. To confess a grave sin with no intention to change is a serious matter indeed.

Unfortunately, matters are muddied by the fact that the coverage seems slanted. Those who react strongly against the abortion issue are outraged and report it as such. Those who tend to downplay it tend to focus more on the need to work together and think he is doing the right thing. Those of us who are trying to be faithful Catholics and avoid rash judgment are confused.

Speaking personally, I am deeply troubled by the statement. Regardless of the policies Biden supported when he was a member of Congress or Vice President, he is now in the position to enable those policies with even fewer restrictions. Personally, I am praying that someone (like the Pope) will “have words” with him about this. I want to ask, “if canon 915 does not apply now, when will it?”

However…

(And you should know by now, there is always a “however” when I write articles like this), it’s not as clear cut as it seems.

Despite my personal feelings, we members of the Catholic laity do need to be aware of the fact that there is more to consider than we know that might merit a pastoral decision like this. No, I cannot personally think of any that convince me either. But we need to avoid the argument from ignorance fallacy. Just because we do not know of such a reason does not mean no such reason exists. We do know that there are pro-abortion Catholic politicians in other countries, and we would certainly need to first research whether they are denied the Eucharist.

And here we see that Cardinal-elect Gregory’s plan—however much we deplore it—is not unusual. In other nations, this approach has been used for awhile (See HERE for examples). So, like it or not, we are a bit late in our outrage… we were just ignorant about the situation.

God is not mocked (Galatians 6:7). If Biden does receive the Eucharist unworthily, he will answer for that as well as any unrepented sins… just as we all will. This may or may not apply to the Cardinal-elect or bishops in other nations as well that permit a pro-abortion politician to receive. But that is a judgment that God will have to make.

The judgment the Pope and Curia will need to make is, at what point does canon 915 apply when it comes to politicians creating and protecting laws contrary to Catholic teaching.

So, if Cardinal-Elect Gregory persists in this, and Rome does not overrule him, we do have an obligation to understand the thinking involved instead of committing rash judgment. No, this is not a doctrine. No, we are not required to give “religious assent of intellect and will” to this decision. No, this is not a stamp of approval by the Church for Biden’s policies. We do know that the Pope is opposed to abortion, after all. But, even if we are morally appalled by this, we are still required to behave in a Christian manner. Canon 212—the part that gets forgotten—requires us to make our concerns known respectfully:

§3. According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.

So, if we are morally troubled, let us pray for Biden and for Cardinal-elect Gregory, that they might do what is right in God’s sight. And, if they persist in acting in a way we are morally appalled by, then let us pray that we might understand God’s will in the matter. But let us not invent charges of heresy and act like an angry mob. If conscience demands that we speak out, we cannot do so in a way that treats the clergy as if they were enemies… because then we are guilty of doing wrong as well.

 

______________________

(†) As I understand it, canon 1398 (“A person who procures a completed abortion incurs a latae sententiae excommunication”) does not apply to the politicians that legalize abortion, but only those who participate in a specific act of abortion.

(‡) We might fail of course, but the intention must be there.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

It’s Iimi! Vile Evil (Part I)

Iimi-tan has a discussion with Ms. Baculum about the McCarrick Report. Sometimes hurt and pain are found in unexpected places. This is part one in a series. In this chapter, Iimi discusses the things we need to keep in mind in assessing the report.

As a special note, nothing in this comic should be seen as blaming the victims or giving the Church a whitewash. This only looks at the McCarrick Report (not other cases) with the intention of determining who knew what when.





























HEREHERE

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

It’s Iimi! Flag of Truce?

Under a flag of truce, Daryl asks Iimi why she’s not bothered by all the confusion surrounding the Pope.











Saturday, November 7, 2020

Faithfulness to All of God’s Commands

Barring some irrefutable evidence (none has been presented yet) that invalidates a portion of ballots in a way that changes the Electoral Vote count, we need to face the reality of a new President… a President who is on record as saying he will institute things at odds with the Catholic faith that he professes to follow. So, it is understandable that some Catholic voters will be dismayed or angry at the results. Of course, when any government tries to make an unjust law, we have the obligation to oppose it.

But the obligations of Catholics do not stop with opposing unjust laws. We are called to act rightly, even when those who hate us treat us wrongly. And that calling means we may not hate or do evil to anyone.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? (Matthew 5:43-47)

That is the kind of command that does not permit evasion or exceptions. Whatever you think of the President-Elect, we are commanded to love him even should he make himself our enemy by his actions. And even if he does govern unjustly, we are forbidden to behave in certain ways. As St. Peter teaches:

For whenever anyone bears the pain of unjust suffering because of consciousness of God, that is a grace. But what credit is there if you are patient when beaten for doing wrong? But if you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.  (1 Peter 2:19-21)

I think we need to keep this in mind. Barring a miraculous change of heart, we can expect Biden to do certain things contrary to the teachings of the Church as he promised to do. But we do not have the right to disobey Christ just because Biden refuses to follow the Church Christ established. Nor do we have the right to disobey Christ just because the “other side” refused to act in this way towards his predecessor.

Tragically, many seem to think that this obligation means we must stay silent and not oppose evil. So, we can expect a litany of charges against Biden and what he supports along with accusations that we are either ignorant of or supporting evil policies. But that is not true. We are aware. Christians were not ignorant or silent in the face of the persecutions in the Roman Empire either. But they still insisted on recognizing that the persecutors were human beings and needing salvation. As St. Paul wrote to St. Timothy:

First of all, then, I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. This is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

In following his lead, we are not only asking for deliverance from being harmed by them, but we are also seeking the ultimate good for them. 

And that brings us to our own obligation. We are called to take part in the Great Commission (see Matthew 28:19-20). That is achieved in part by our words, and in part by the witness we provide in our actions. Do we show that we practice what we preach to them? People are good in spotting hypocrisy on the other side, but not so good spotting it on their own side. So, even if those who oppose us should live in a reprehensible way and not notice it, they will notice if we fail in our calling to live according to what Jesus taught.

There is an old quote, apocryphally attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, that goes Preach the Gospel Always. If Necessary, Use Words.  What it means is, we should be living in a way that shows we believe what we claim. The Christian life was one of the greatest witnesses to the pagans. Tertullian observed (Apology, Chapter 39.7):

The practice of such a special love brands us in the eyes of some. ‘See,’ they say, ‘how they love one another’; (for they hate one another), ‘and how ready they are to die for each other.’ (They themselves would be more ready to kill each other.)

So, let us consider that. If we believe that the incoming government and the people within it are championing it are doing and risking their souls, what is going to be a response more likely to let them respond to the grace God offers: An opposition that treats them like a brother, or an opposition that treats them like the scum of the Earth§?

You might say that the stakes are too high, and these are unrealistic ideals. But countless Christians who were martyred chose to witness love, not hatred to their persecutors. What Christ commands is not unreasonable. So, if we are inclined to balk, we must ask whether it is a case where we just do not want to follow it when it threatens our comfort.

We are the ones who witness Christianity to the world. We should ask ourselves how that witness looks to the outside world, and whether we will be called to give an accounting of ourselves.

________________

(†) Some seem to be in denial, expecting that the rumors of voter fraud will be proven true.

(‡) It does not seem to have been known in this form before the 1990s.

(§) If someone chooses the latter as a correct answer, might I suggest a remedial course in Catholic teaching?

Friday, November 6, 2020

Our Obligations Begin Now

So it seems clear to me that we need to realize that the missions are not far away in Africa and Asia.  The mission is right here.  Our neighbors, our families are the mission field.  God desires the salvation of His people, and has sent us to carry it out.

Regardless of what government policies may be enacted in the next four years, the next eight years, the next generation… we have a mission to re-evangelize America.

—From my own blog after the 2012 elections.

What we cannot do is let our partisan values supersede our Catholic faith. We have to bear witness in Democratic administrations and in Republican administrations, regardless of whether it seems to be convenient or not (see 2 Timothy 4:2).

So my recommendation over the next four to eight years of this administration is to remember our Catholic faith and let it shape our response, neither giving our next President a free pass nor unremitting hostility based on our personal politics. Let us pray for our country, and that those who govern us may govern justly.

—From my own blog, after the 2016 elections.

As I sit down to write this article, we in the United States do not have an official call on who will be our next President. However, barring any stunning reversals in the final counts, and setting aside all the bizarre conspiracy theories, we can make a safe assumption on who it will be. And like 2016, we will have to face up to our Catholic obligations.

This is where we must move from infighting to standing up for our Catholic Faith and morals. We cannot speak out when the other party is in power and stay silent when our own is running the show. But here is something we cannot avoid. Those Catholics whose votes helped bring our President into power have a special obligation to stand up against those presidential acts that go against our Catholic teaching. Why? Because, regardless of what party the President is from, we need to realize that criticisms from Catholics in the other party do tend to be written off as political attacks. So, Catholic Democrats need to lead the way in challenging a Democratic President while Catholic Republicans need to lead the way in challenging a Republican President. That obligation exists even if the “other side” failed to do it in the previous administration. The fact that person X sins by omission does not excuse person Y from acting rightly.

What is more, if we fail to do what we demanded that others do, we show ourselves to be hypocrites and cause scandal by leading people to think our moral beliefs are merely partisan behavior and therefore something to dismiss.

Put in a syllogism, we might say:

1.      All [violations of Catholic moral teaching] are [that which must be opposed by Catholics] (All B is a part of A)

2.      [Policy X] is a [violation of Catholic moral teaching] (C is a part of B)

3.      Therefore [Policy X] is [that which must be opposed by Catholics] (Therefore C is a part of A).

So, when the Church condemns policy X, no Catholic can justify supporting it. During elections, one might say we must give a higher level of priority to opposing policy Y than policy X—if policy Y is also a violation of Catholic moral teaching—but we can never absolve ourselves from opposing policy X.

But, once the election is over, we will have a clearer position as to which Catholic teachings will be under fire from the political policies of the winning party. We will have an obligation to defend those teachings, not explain them away or ignore them.

And, if someone voted for the party which winds up out of power, the obligation to change things is not limited to political sniping at the other party, while saying “that is all I can do.” The reform of one’s own party remains an obligation. Those who voted for the other candidate have the obligation to work to influence their party to be closer to the Catholic position. This is the time to work to change planks in a platform and vote for midterm candidates who are closer to the Catholic position on all issues§.

But, regardless of how we voted, and regardless of the result, we do have an obligation to oppose abortion and euthanasia; to work for social justice; to defend marriage. Where a party is in the wrong, we have the obligation to say no. On the other hand, where a party does something in line with our beliefs, we should not play “dog in the manger” and oppose it because of the source, or that it isn’t in line with our preferred party platform.

As Catholics, we are obligated to work for the good of our nation, recognizing that what our Church teaches does promote that good. If we should put party above Church, or confuse our party preference for Church teaching, what we do is worthless and potentially damning. So, regardless of how we voted and how our party did, our obligations begins now.

________________

(†) While I was blogging in 2008, and did have a post-election reflection then too, those articles existed only on the now defunct Xanga site and are lost to time (I haven’t been able to find them on any of the internet archive sites). Of course, given how bad my writing was back then, that is probably a good thing.

(‡) Since C is entirely contained in B and B is entirely contained in A,  opposition to C is mandatory.

(§) Yes, those who voted for the party that takes control of the Presidency also have this obligation. But I am focusing on those Catholics who might think that their obligation stops at voting.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

It’s Iimi! Checkmate

The anti-Francis Catholic sites are now trying to argue that while nobody claims Pope Francis “changed” Church teaching (which they very much did... they were arguing we had a duty to reject it), he did “contradict” Church teaching as taught by the CDF. But these claims only quote part of section 10. Iimi-tan reminds the anti-Francis Catholic, Daryl, that there’s more to the CDF statement and given what Argentina was trying to do (full-blown same-sex “marriage”), the Pope was following the CDF document in limiting the damage and making known his opposition to what the state was trying to do.




Monday, November 2, 2020

It’s Iimi! Why I Keep Fighting

Last week, Iimi-tan faced a 4-1 battle on the false accusations that Pope Francis was changing Church teaching. Now, with the context given  most of the secular media have conceded that they were wrong. But the anti-Francis Catholics continue their fight, and so must Iimi.







Sunday, November 1, 2020

Are We Making a Shipwreck of Our Faith?

I entrust this charge to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophetic words once spoken about you. Through them may you fight a good fight by having faith and a good conscience. Some, by rejecting conscience, have made a shipwreck of their faith (1 Timothy 1:18-19a)

 

I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:1–2).

 

With the Presidential Election happening in two days, the most alarming thing is not that Candidate X (X being the candidate you dislike) might win. It’s that American Catholics are so entrenched in party politics that they think that only the other party is in the wrong vis a vis Catholic teaching and if the Bishops should dare speak out on an issue where their own party is in the wrong, it is seen as “proof” that they favor the other party. It is not unusual to see partisan Catholics of both factions in social media simultaneously accuse the bishops of being pro-Democrat and pro-Republican, while denouncing fellow Catholics for doing exactly what they do themselves: Excuse the evil in their own party as being less important than the evil in the other party.

 

You have probably heard the counter-slogans already. Those who intend to vote for Biden will stress racism and immigration. Those intending to vote for Trump will stress the issue of abortion. Both will act as if only the other side’s voting for a party supporting evil is intolerable while their own is a justifiable sacrifice. Some even go so far as to make excuses for their party and their personal failure to oppose the evils within. Both sides are confident that they stand on the side of Christ and equally confident that those they disagree with are deliberately, and with full knowledge, choosing evil. 

 

I say this makes a shipwreck of faith because all of us need to constantly ask ourselves where we have done wrong and work to turn back to God. We need to bring the world to Christ, not to our political party. If we call ourselves Catholic Christians but make excuses instead of work to change the evils within our own party, we are conforming to the world instead of transforming it… which is a perversion of our calling.

 

Yes, we can find both Catholic Democrats and Republicans alike who are morally concerned about our country. Yes, both belong to one party because they are appalled by the platform of the other. But it is never enough to stop at condemning the other side for doing something you personally are appalled by. If we are not also appalled by the evils within our own party, we are no better than those we condemn. 

 

Yes, some evils are worse than others. But that does not mean that the others are morally acceptable. Gaudium et Spes (#27) gives us a litany of evils that indicts both Democrats and Republicans for their silence on them:

 

Furthermore, whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or wilful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are supreme dishonor to the Creator.

 

I do understand the temptation to fear the consequences of calling our own party out. I used to think that way. We fear that calling out our own party means weakening our party or even being forced to vote for the other party. But nowadays I think it we should think of it in a “You break it, you bought it” way. If you identify with a political party, then—win or lose—you “bought” the responsibility to work to change that party when it goes against Catholic teaching. If you vote for a candidate who is at odds with the Catholic teaching and he gets elected, you “bought” the responsibility to oppose him on those issues. You do not get to shirk responsibility for living out and making known Church teaching just because you voted a certain way. You do not get to be silent on, explain away, or downplay those evils that are inconvenient to your own party just because you think other evils are worse. That is called being corrupt, and the cost is greater than the gain.

 

Corruption is everywhere: for two pence many people sell their soul, sell their happiness, sell their life, sell everything. (Pope Francis, “Holy Mass Celebrated for the Gendarmerie Corps of Vatican City State. Saturday, 3 October 2015)

 

For Wales? Why, Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world.… But for Wales! (Bolt, Robert. A Man For All Seasons (Modern Classics). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition).

 

When the Church teaches against an evil that we have grown accustomed to, one that strikes at the human institutions we have put our trust in, we need to change how we think. We must stop thinking of that teaching as a “threat” or “capitulation” to the other side. If we feel fearful or resentful of the Pope or a bishop speaking out, we should ask ourselves why we are taking sides againstthose given the authority to interpret God’s teaching and guide us and bind us on what we must do or avoid if we hope to be saved.

 

If we are tempted to say that we are not the ones taking sides, but they are, we should ask ourselves why we are so sure of our own understanding of the Church teaching while the Pope and bishops consistently go “wrong.” It is easy for corrupt culture to blind us to the evil of their practices after all. It’s easy to be so accustomed to our vicious customs that we grow blind to the fact that something is evil, and we think the attempts to overturn it are themselves evil.

 

We should remember that Jesus Christ established the Catholic Church with the intention to teach with His authority and with His protection. If we are so certain that we, not they, are in the right, that is a sure sign we are making a shipwreck of our faith.

 

_______________

 

(†) As always, I put candidates, ideologies, and parties in alphabetical order to avoid accusations of bias.

 

(‡) I will not say how I voted. Yes, I think one party is worse than the other. But that does not make the other party “good.” All I will say is I looked at both parties and decided which I thought would do the most harm to living a Catholic life. From there I voted with an intention to block it. But, no matter who wins, I will oppose the evil they stand for. If the reader immediately assumes that I ignored the evils on “the other side,” it’s kind of proving the point of my article.