Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Fr. Rodriguez Speaks at El Paso City Council Meeting

Here’s another email from the El Paso group supporting Fr. Rodriguez:

This morning the City Council of El Paso had its regular Tuesday meeting. Any person is allowed to sign up ahead of time and speak in the open forum. Fr. Michael Rodríguez spoke briefly to City Council (~ 3 min). Attached is the text of his words, available as a press release.

The City of El Paso also streams its meetings live and then has video available at their website, it is normally located at:

The date for this event would be Tuesday, Jan 31, 2012. So the City should have video footage of this event as well for those interested.

Address to El Paso City Council
by Fr. Michael Rodríguez
JANUARY 31, 2012

In the middle of our dark, secular, godless society, there is a light. This light is the Holy Roman Catholic Church. Jesus Christ and His Church teach the truth about homosexuality, and we can summarize this truth in three points:

(1) Homosexual acts are acts of grave depravity; they are mortal sins which cry to heaven for vengeance. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
(2) Homosexuality is an objective disorder.
(3) Homosexual persons are to be treated with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.

In the debate over homosexuality, the dark side seeks to frame the issue as one of discrimination and civil rights. This makes no logical sense. No one has a civil right to do something morally wrong. I don’t have a right to steal. I don’t have a right to lie. I don’t have a right to commit adultery, and I don’t have a right to engage in homosexual acts. As for discrimination, discrimination exists when one is against a person not when one is against actions on the part of a person. The Roman Catholic Church condemns actions of a homosexual nature. She does not discriminate against homosexual persons.

Thus, before anyone speaks about discrimination and/or civil rights, the following questions must be answered:

(1) Do you believe in right and wrong?
(2) How do you determine what is right and what is wrong?
(3) Does society have an obligation to establish law and order in accordance with its best effort to determine right and wrong?

Thus, before anyone speaks about discrimination and/or civil rights, the following question must be answered:

(1) Are homosexual acts right or wrong?

If a Catholic does not believe and hold fast to the truth that homosexual acts are wrong, one is no longer Catholic. Such a “Catholic” must refrain from receiving our Blessed Lord in Holy Communion, because one is no longer in communion with the moral truths taught by Jesus Christ and His Church.

In conclusion, no one on the face of this earth has a greater love for homosexuals that the glorious Roman Catholic Church. But it is never loving to lie. If you lie to homosexuals and tell them that “homosexual acts are o.k,” then you are the one who is showing disdain for homosexuals, because you don’t care about their true good, happiness, and salvation.

Sancta Dei Genetrix, ora pro nobis.

I’ve also written about Fr. Rodriguez on this blog here and here.

See also "Religious Freedom and the Ochoa Lawsuit"

And "Effects of the Lawsuit Against Fr. Rodriguez"

And "Lay Faithful Sue Bishop Ochoa"

And "El Paso: Curiouser and Curiouser"

Lay Faithful Sue Bishop Ochoa!

I received this information this morning via email: 


After much thought and prayerful consideration, we have decided to take this extraordinary measure in order to ensure that truth and justice prevail within our beloved Church. We love our Catholic Faith and we maintain the utmost respect for the office of Bishop. However, we now face a real crisis situation and must step forward in order to witness to the truth. We and many other lay faithful donated money for a specific building project at San Juan Bautista Catholic Church under the supervision of the parish administrator, whom we respect and trust. We did not donate our money in order for it to be seized by the diocese or San Juan Bautista Parish and used for other purposes. Over six weeks ago we sent the Administrator of the Diocese, Bishop Ochoa, a letter asking him to resolve this situation in private and in a spirit of Christian charity. We simply asked that our money be used for the specific intention for which it had been donated or that it be returned to the rightful owners. He never even had the courtesy to give us a return telephone call. As lay Catholics, we have a certain responsibility to protect the spiritual and material patrimony of our Church, and this is also why we have taken this extraordinary measure. Canon 428 of the Code of Canon Law states very clearly that “those who temporarily govern the diocese are prohibited from doing anything which could in any way be prejudicial to the diocese.” By creating this unnecessary public scandal, Bishop Armando Ochoa is harming our diocese. We shall continue to pray for Bishop Ochoa and all our priests. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

The local media has an initial story although it is not the most accurate in my opinion, so please take it with a grain of salt:

Yesterday the story also ran in the local paper here in Spanish:

See also: "El Paso: Curiouser and Curiouser" 

See also: "Fr. Rodriguez Speaks at City Council Meeting about Homosexuality"

I’ve also written about Fr. Rodriguez on this blog here and here.

See also "Religious Freedom and the Ochoa Lawsuit"

And "Effects of the Lawsuit Against Fr. Rodriguez"

Monday, January 30, 2012

Freedom? Conscience? Truth!

There’s lots of talk, of course, about the current issue of the HHS contraception mandate, and the affront to “religious freedom” in this country. This is as it should be, I think, and I am very glad that the bishops are at least using strong language and urging people to take action by contacting their representatives and senators. 

Still, it seems to me that there is an even greater foundational issue to consider. Spurred on by a couple of comments on my post “War on Conscience, or War on Truth?” I have spent the last couple of days thinking and reading about these concepts:

Freedom of religion
Freedom of the Church

These concepts “legislated” and considered in our Constitution, and if our bishops end up in court over the HHS mandate, the issue will be resolved (sort of) on a short term legal basis. I hope that’s not the end of it, though; there are questions here that the Church really must address with the faithful on a long-term spiritual basis.

First, let’s back to the legal part: what’s the difference between freedom of religion and freedom of the church?  

This is apparently a question that’s been tossed around in constitutional law circles for a long, long time. (Who knew?!)  Dr. Steven D. Smith has written:

The embarrassments of modern religion clause jurisprudence are no secret. …[T]he most serious embarrassments can be traced back to a common misconception: we have supposed that the First Amendment’s religion clauses are about religion. They are not. They are about the church. ("Freedom of Religion or Freedom of the Church", August 2011)

In a nutshell, “freedom of the church” means that the institution of the church, the organization itself, if you will, should be free of coercion and/or interference from secular governmental forces so that it can pursue its divine mission of saving souls.

This concept has its roots in the struggle in the “Investiture Controversy” of the 11th and 12th centuries, when the Church sought relief from the control and manipulation of kings and emperors who dictated the appointment of clerics; and the struggle went on for centuries.

However, the word used in the Constitution is “religion”, not “church”, so we need to ask what that meant for the founding fathers. First of all, as far as I know, the founding fathers were all Protestants, and so I imagine that if you said “the Church” to them, - you know, Church with a capital C – they’d be thinking, “those darn Papists!” Protestants don’t have a Church in the same sense Catholics do; there’s no one source of authoritative doctrine, and that’s why there are so many Protestant sects. Dr. Smith notes:

Thus, in Protestant thinking, some of the central functions previously performed by the church were transferred to the individual conscience. Earlier, the laity had depended on priests to read the scriptures, teach the Gospel, and perform the sacraments; in the Protestant “priesthood of all believers,” by contrast, anyone could read the Bible for himself or herself, and could commune with God directly without the intercession of priests, saints, or sacraments… ("Freedom of Religion or Freedom of the Church", August 2011)

The “church” then, for Protestants, becomes more “internal” than “external”, and this leads to the reliance on the term “conscience”. “Conscience” becomes the voice of God within us, and “conscience” supplies the “authoritative doctrine” for Protestants that the magisterium of the Church supplies to Catholics. So, for the founding fathers, it seems likely that “religion” was, in a sense, another word for “church”, but with a more Protestant connotation.

Even in Church teaching we see muddying of the waters. Dignitatis Humanae, the Vatican II document on religious freedom, further conflated the concepts of “freedom of religion” and “freedom of the Church” and “conscience” for our day and age. The document begins by stating that the Council professes the one true Catholic faith, and then goes on to discuss “religious freedom” (my emphases):

2. This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that…no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.

…the right to religious freedom …continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it and the exercise of this right is not to be impeded, provided that just public order be observed.

These words sound good, but there’s some muddying going on here, especially if one considers what’s going on in our society today in the name of conscience and religious freedom! The document insists on “freedom of religion” as a universal right, even for those who are following a false religion, “within due limits” and “provided that just public order be observed”; and it also seems to insist on “freedom of the Church”, since it is the Church which presents us with truth and the means to define “limits” and “just public order”.

But who really determines “due limits” and “just public order” in our society? The Church? Obama and Sebelius? The individual? Obviously, we are going to have vastly different definitions from each of those quarters! And of course the notion of “conscience rights” follows from this – which for most people today simply means “what I think is right”. That is not a useful construct (and it is not what the Church means by “conscience”)! It can only lead to anarchy, as individuals with opposing views of right and wrong demand that they be allowed to follow their own consciences. The law cannot recognize the myriad differences in individuals’ “morality” and remain effective in any sense of the word.

And that’s why the choice of words is important. Are we talking about freedom of religion, or freedom of the Church?

The recently-decided Supreme Court case of Hosanna Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was hailed as a victory for freedom of religion, but really it seems more like a victory for freedom of the church – the freedom of the institution to govern itself (hire and fire teachers and ministers, for example), rather than being forced to comply with state or federal laws concerning discrimination in employment issues.  It seems that it would be very good to make it about “freedom of the church”; that’s a much more clear-cut distinction. (See this article: Libertas Ecclesiae versus Libertas Religionis)

When we make it all about freedom of religion, though, we open another can of worms…not that the can isn’t already open. We open the door to all kinds of “religions” whose adherents then demand certain rights and recognitions – like homosexual “marriage” and the “right” not to have to view a Nativity scene on public property during the Christmas season and the right to abortion and contraception. Again, Dignitatis Humanae does address this problem by calling for religious freedom “within due limits”, and “as long as the just requirements of public order are observed”. But it’s pretty clear that these limits have gone by the wayside in our society; they are not being observed.

So why is this important for the Church?

This is important for the Church because one reason why “due limits” are not being observed in our society today is that the Church is not observing them – or teaching them. The Church is not speaking up for the truth – and this includes bishops, priests, and laity. We have succumbed to the “conscience rights” of moral relativists, and to “tolerance” of morally evil behaviors and actions. We as Catholics don’t follow our own consciences, and in that failure we are complicit in the ills of society.

Why don’t we speak up for the truth? Let me count the ways:

  •  political correctness fostered by “ecumenism”
  • poor catechesis of the faithful
  • abandonment of Church teaching on some issues
  • bad liturgy. Seriously. 
And what will be the cost of not speaking up for the truth in our current problem with the HHS contraception mandate? It may mean that, despite their bishops’ exhortations,  many Catholics will fail to take action because they don’t know (or believe) the truth about the evil of contraception, and the vast majority of Catholics use some sort of contraception. On this last point, I asked two law professors whether they thought the court would be influenced by the facts of Catholic contraception use; both said that many judges probably would be swayed by that fact…even if they shouldn’t.
So, if the bishops take the case to court on the basis of religious freedom and conscience rights, it may be that the judge won’t take the bishops’ complaint seriously. After all, how can the Catholic Church maintain that this is an issue of “conscience” when Catholics use artificial contraception in the same proportions as the general population? The conscience of the Church is not reflected in the individual consciences of Catholics throughout the US, apparently!

And, by the way, aren’t those Catholics who deviate from Church teaching on the use of contraception just exercising their “freedom of religion”? Aren’t they following their consciences?

You see? The words are important.

And the most important word, I think, is “truth”. We must teach the truth. We must argue for the truth. The truth in this situation is that artificial contraception is sinful, that some contraceptives have abortifacient effects, and that sterilization is wrong. That’s why they should not be paid for by insurance companies – regardless of the religious affiliation of the various employers.

We can only argue for these truths if we believe them.  

Learn your faith. Know your faith. Teach your faith.

See also:

Stacy's cute cartoon on conscience, for comic relief

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Wendi Wonders Whether You Care (about sacred music)

Wendi cares about sacred music, and she’s not afraid to let you know it. She has some cogent thoughts on the subject and some ideas about how to help your parish move toward greater reverence in the Mass by simply following the guidelines for music which the Church Herself has laid out for us.

Wendi wrote about her daughter’s wedding here, and noted that the music for the nuptial Mass – Gregorian chant, sacred polyphony, organ – made quite a positive impression on those who attended.

The other day, she wrote more about sacred music, and why she cares about it. Read the whole thing here.

I’ll give you a few tidbits. Why does she care? Because:

I just happen to think it's THAT important.  Let me try and explain why.

…what is Sacred music in the Mass designed for?  What is its proper function?

There are many theories.

It's supposed to foster a sense of community.
It's supposed to help the people participate.
It's supposed to make people feel good.
It's supposed to reinforce catechesis.
It's unnecessary.
It's supposed to help people focus on Jesus.

I've heard all of those.

I think the last comes the closest, but it's not quite right.

The purpose of Sacred Music in the Mass is to draw the attention of the faithful and allow them to more fully express their joy in the eternal mysteries being celebrated.

The purpose of Sacred Music is to draw attention to the fact that this space and this time are set apart from the every day.  The Mass is a banquet.  A Wedding Feast.  Special.  Important.

Wendi has lots more to say, and you really need to visit her blog and read her posts. But she makes another point about sacred music that I want to emphasize here: it’s not about the individual - the soloist or the cantor. It’s about the music itself, and the function of the music in the Mass:

A choir on the other hand...many voices singing the congregational responses with no one person on the "mike" encourages the participation of the faithful.

Then too, a well-trained, properly rehearsed choir can give as a gift to the faithful, some of those beautiful pieces of music that are part of the treasury of the church. 

One reason that the young people are turning towards chant and polyphony is the 
other-worldly beauty of it. We have a Schola cantorum at our church made up almost entirely of college students.  It's about the chant and the Latin.

That music sounds special.  Important.  Set Apart.  The young recognize and respond to that.

The charismatic Masses on the other hand, with their "contemporary music", my own teens pronounced boring.  My daughter's fiance who self-identifies as a charismatic...attended my oldest daughter's Nuptial Mass and immediately asked if they could have that music for their wedding.  He, like many others, said it was the most beautiful thing he had ever heard.

…I find it interesting that these young people immediately and instinctively seem to grasp that which continues to elude many others: That music in the Mass isn't just an afterthought, tacked on, inserted into the Mass. It's an essential, functional part of what we are offering as a community.  It's important.

It sets the Mass apart from our every-day activities (at least it should).

Sacred Music should be beautiful.  It should be special.  It should offer the best of what we have to offer.

And then Wendi hits us right between the eyes:

So why do I care?

I have better questions.

Why don't you care enough to demand chant and polyphony in your parish?

Why are you settling for the pap and pablum they give you? 

How important is the Mass to you?  

Why don't you care whether it's special or not?

Excellent questions. Think about it.

Wendi is not one to leave us wondering what to do next. Here’s her follow-up:

…It occurs to me that some of you want change but don't know how or where to begin. In the next few posts I'll offer some suggestions on how to make your voice heard in a productive way.

Suggestion number One.

Stop simply sitting in the pew and complaining to your spouse or friends.

…If you are genuinely concerned about what your children are hearing during Sunday Mass or what you yourself have to listen to, make a determination you are going to do something about the music.

Suggestion number Two.

Educate yourself. Read the documents concerning music in the Liturgy, so when you do start asking for change, you have the proper information to back up your requests…

Here are some of her suggestions:

Sacrosanctum Concilium (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy) from Vatican II

Musicam Sacram : Instruction on Music in the Liturgy

General Instruction of the Roman Missal

And, she adds:

The one thing all these documents have in common, is the recognition that Latin and chant have pride of place in the Mass. 

So start there.  Get the facts to back up your requests.  If you have friends that feel as you do, send them the links to the documents.

This is definitely a situation in which numbers make a difference.  One person is a crank.  Ten people are a minority.  Fifty people are a movement.

This fits in with the request Fr. Z made of us a few days ago. He provided this paragraph from an address of the Holy Father:

As we know, in vast areas of the world the Faith is in danger of being snuffed out like a flame that no longer has any sustenance. We are at a profound crisis of faith, at a loss of a religious sense that constitutes the greatest challenge for the Church of today. The renewal of the faith must therefore be the priority in the undertaking of the whole Church in our times. I hope that the Year of Faith can contribute, with the cordial collaboration of all the members of the People of God, to bring God back anew to this world and to open to men an access to the faith, to a reliance on the God who loved us to the end (cf John 13,1), in Christ Jesus, crucified and risen.

Fr. Z added:

I will add my view that nothing of which His Holiness spoke is going to be accomplished without a renewal of our liturgical worship.

Our identity as Catholics cannot be separated from our worship.

… Lay people: band together and start requesting celebrations Holy Mass also in the Extraordinary Form. Get organized. Form a schola and start singing chant so you will be ready when the time comes. Offer to take care of all the material details. Offer to provide vestments, books, money so the priest can go get training. Start thinking about forming a group of servers, perhaps even father and son teams.

Our Catholic identity is in great need of revival right now. Sacred music, liturgical renewal, the extraordinary form of the Mass: these are essential elements of our Catholic identity.
I believe we need a top-down effort on this as well (bishops need to get on board with the EF Mass!), but if we can generate a sort of grass-roots, bottom-up effort as well, we can all converge on the renewal of our faith.

Don’t just sit there. Do something.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

St. Francis de Sales and Philothea on Phire

Last Tuesday, January 24, was the feast day of St. Francis de Sales – in the Novus Ordo calendar. This saint’s feast is on January 29 in the “old” calendar.

My Roman Martyrology (trans. by Rev. Raphael Collins, Newman Press, 1952) says, for January 29:

St. Francis de Sales, Bishop of Geneva, confessor and doctor of the Church, special patron before God of all Catholic writers in explaining, promoting, or defending Christian doctrine either  by publishing journals of other writings in the vernacular. He departed to heaven on the 28th of December, but because of the transfer of his body on this day, his feast is now celebrated…

Just as an aside here, one wonders why the feast was moved to the 24th in the new calendar. I’ve heard that many of the changes were…capricious.  At any rate, in my little world, I tend to follow the old calendar, and thus I am celebrating the feast of St. Francis de Sales on the 29th.

St. Francis de Sales is important to me personally for several reasons. For one thing, he is the patron saint of St. Francis de Sales Cathedral in Baker City, Oregon, in which city I have lived for the past nine years. We moved to Baker City a few months before my first anniversary as a Catholic, and I was thrilled to be attending Mass at the small but majestic-looking Cathedral. At the time, I was a little disappointed that it was not St. Francis of Assisi for whom the church was named, because I knew who he was. I didn’t have a clue as to the story of this de Sales guy.

But I learned. And I was delighted to find that St. Francis de Sales was the patron saint of Catholic writers. I’ve always enjoyed writing, and when I was a little girl in the early ‘60’s who wanted to be “just a housewife”, my teachers coached me to say that I wanted to be “an author” when I grew up – it was more in keeping with the times. This seemed a good option to me even at the time, because I knew I didn’t want to have a job outside the home; my motivation was not all that traditional, though – I just was very shy and didn’t want to deal with people! Writing at home seemed the perfect “career”, because I could assure myself that I wouldn’t have to go out into the scary world, and I could assure my teachers that I had a career goal.

I never did earn a living at writing, but I did earn a few dollars with some articles that were published by Homiletic and Pastoral Review.  I also “edited” the parish bulletin for several years, and thought of St. Francis de Sales watching over my shoulder when I worked on it. I often added little quotes from his writings to cultivate our identity as St. Francis de Sales Cathedral parish.

St. Francis de Sales is also the patron saint of the Diocese of Baker, and that’s been especially  important to me in the months since I started this blog.  I started the because it seemed that there was just too much going on in the Church in general and in our diocese in particular to justify my sitting on the sidelines any longer. I felt that there were things that needed to be said, and that a blog would be the way to say them.  And so, I began. I began with a prayer to St. Francis de Sales, and I continue to beg his assistance and guidance on a daily basis (at least!).

My special icon...thanks to N.A.
St. Francis de Sales also influenced my choice of a title for my blog. Having read his Introduction to the Devout Life”, I knew that he had addressed that treatise to “Philothea”. That’s why I have written in the banner section at the top of this blog:

 "You aim at a devout life, dear Philothea, because as a Christian you know that such devotion is most acceptable to God's Divine Majesty," says St. Francis de Sales in his book "Introduction to the Devout Life".

And we can all be Philotheas, as St. Francis notes: "I have made use of a name suitable to all who seek the devout life, Philothea meaning one who loves God."

I’m a Philothea, you’re a Philothea, all God’s children can be Philotheas!

But…I can’t resist…let’s switch gears to a liturgical issue. I love liturgy – good liturgy- and I love celebrating a feast as a feast, a solemnity as a solemnity. I love incense and bell-ringing and candles and appropriate altar antependia and plenty of altar servers. I love these things not as ends in themselves, but because their proper use enhances the liturgical sense of the celebration. Their proper use tells us whether it’s a memorial, or a feast, or a solemnity, and that gives us a proper appreciation of the importance of the saint for our parish, our diocese, or our community.

Since St. Francis de Sales is the patron saint of the Diocese of Baker, then, while most places celebrate this feast every year as a “memorial” in the new calendar, the parishes of the Diocese of Baker should celebrate it as a feast. And since the Cathedral parish bears the name of the Saint, the liturgical celebration there should a solemnity.  Of course, we’re talking about a Tuesday this year (not too many people around here follow the old calendar), so I suspect that in most parishes, the day passed without much fanfare or acknowledgement of the feast, and daily Mass was probably celebrated as a simple memorial of St. Francis de Sales. It would be interesting to hear what actually transpired around our Diocese.  This would have been an ideal day to devote a few extra prayers to St. Francis de Sales for a new bishop for our diocese – a bishop who is holy, pastoral, and courageous. Times are going to be tough for our new bishop, whoever he may be.

At the Cathedral parish, there was indeed a significant celebration of the feast day with an evening Mass at 7pm, followed by an ice cream social in the parish hall – a long-standing tradition there. I do not know whether or not the Mass was truly celebrated as a solemnity; in the past this has not been the case from a strictly liturgical point of view. Still, just the fact that there was Mass on a Tuesday evening is a big deal in this town!

Next year, perhaps we will find the Diocesan Chronicle filled with photos and stories of the various parishes of the Diocese of Baker having proper Feasts of St. Francis de Sales on January 24th.  

And perhaps it will be a time of great thanksgiving for a new bishop, as well.

(The information about feasts and solemnities is found in a document entitled General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, promulgated by the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship in 1969. You can view the entire document here.)

Friday, January 27, 2012

No Soldiers for the Army? Voris Has a Point

I can always count on Michael Voris to express my thoughts for me in a nice concise little 5 minute video!

Where's the rest of the troops?
He hits one out of the park again today, with the current Vortex episode (see below), "An Army with No Soldiers".

In fact, I was reading earlier today about Bishop Zubick who has urged the faithful to write to Obama, to Sebelius, to their senators, and to their congressmen to demand that this policy be revoked. And I thought, “But Catholics use birth control in the same proportions as the rest of American society. How many are upset about the Church being required to pay for contraception?”

Seems to me that many Catholics are probably silently (or not so silently) cheering.  Indeed, the Catholic News Agency ran a story about the favorable reaction to the ruling announced by “Catholics United” (which CNA describes as a “democratic-leaning Catholic group”). The article states:

James Salt, executive director of Catholics United, responded to the HHS ruling on Jan. 20.

“Although we recognize the authority of Catholic teaching on the issue of contraception, we also acknowledge that there is a silver lining in today’s ruling,” Salt said. “Increased access to contraceptive services will dramatically reduce the abortion rate in America. Reducing abortion should be a goal recognized by both sides of this highly polarized debate.

(Of course, that’s statement is completely wrong, but then when does reason, logic, or science supersede the rhetoric of those who wish to condone artificial contraception – and ultimately abortion when contraception fails?)

As I mentioned in my post “War Against Conscience, or War Against Truth?”, the problem with decrying the attack on religious freedom and/or conscience rights is that, well, EVERYONE has those “rights” -- whether their conscience is correctly formed or not. There is a pressing need to fight for the TRUTH, not just our right to believe a certain way. And while Catholics may be up in arms over religious liberty, they are not all on the same page when it comes to truth...especially the truth about artificial contraception.

Michael Voris hits the nail on the head in today’s Vortex, saying in part:

We now have developing before us one of the strange cases in Church history. Consider: the Obama White House has now declared that religious institutions must now begin paying for contraception in their employees health plans. What certainly seems to be a violation of religious freedom is going to wind its way through the courts it now seems…

But consider further the great irony present here. The bishops are outraged that such a matter can come to pass. Good for them. Outrage IS the correct response. But now, they appear to be rallying the Catholic troops to gather round and support the cause of defending religious freedom in the specific case on birth control.

Do you see the great irony here? For years – almost 50 years now and counting – much of Church leadership has either passively rejected Church teaching on birth control or in some cases actively worked against it.

Hats off to the Bishops for challenging Obama and … secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebellius. But after these past 50 years, they shouldn’t be surprised if they sound the trumpet blast and lead the charge, only to look over their shoulders and see no army and no soldiers running up the hill with them. The generation of bishops before them took care of that.

They may well win the legal battle that is looming, and they should. But Obama could not have struck at a weaker point in the defenses of a shrinking population of faithful Catholics.

Amen. If there was ever a clarion call to a return to strong, no-nonsense, orthodox catechesis – on any number of issues – surely this is it.

Here's the Vortex:

War on Conscience, or War on Truth?

We are hearing lots of talk about conscience rights and religious freedom now that  Kathleen Sebelius and Obama have teamed up in an attempt to force the Catholic Church to act against its own teachings by providing insurance for contraceptive (and worse) services to its employees.

Still, as I have listened to and read the arguments about the violation of religious freedom and the abandonment of “conscience clauses”, I have had some nagging doubts and a little confusion rattling around in my brain. Certainly I believe that we, as Catholics, are protected by the 1st Amendment, and that we must not be required to violate our consciences regarding the teachings of the Church.

However, those same terms are also used by non-Christians to justify their position on various issues, which is often incongruous with the teachings of the Church.

Indeed, the argument for the right to “follow one’s conscience” is also used by dissident groups within our Church to justify their disagreement with Church teachings, and to justify actions they take that are opposed to the Church. “I’m following my conscience,” people in these groups say, “therefore, I am doing the right thing, and it’s not a sin.”

The problem, of course, is that when the Church talks about conscience, She means a properly formed conscience. That means a conscience that is formed according to truth. And that means truth taught by the Jesus and the Church instituted by him, which is the “pillar and bulwark of the faith”.

As I was puzzling over this issue, a Culture of Life Briefs e-newsletter appeared in my email inbox; the title was “Whose Conscience? Which Religion? The Enemy is Paritally Us”. This little article by Dr. Christian Brugger addressed exactly the questions I was mulling over.

The sentence in Dr. Brugger’s article that probably struck the strongest chord in my mind was this one:

I think the problem to a certain degree is that none of us any longer believe in truth.

Yes. We are unwilling to say that the Church is right. We are only willing to say that the Church has a right to its own religious beliefs.

That fact seems to be borne out by a recent poll highlighted by Michael Voris on The Vortex. The poll appears to indicate that, as Voris puts it, “85 percent of Catholics simply reject the idea of the superiority of Christianity [as a means to a better world]. This is an impossible situation to square with Our Blessed Lord’s command to go out and baptize all nations.” (The Vortex episode is at the end of this post.)

Dr. Brugger explains further that, since we no longer believe in the truth (all emphases mine):

…we talk rather about opinion, consensus and party platforms. We reduce moral judgment and religious belief to sectarian "rights," with the full implication that no moral judgment or religious doctrine is timelessly true. In order to avoid sectarian conflict, we agree to tolerate the ideas of the other side. But we believe they (i.e., the other side and their ideas) are stupid and our side is right. And rightness -- and this is the clincher -- is an essentially subjective concept, no connection to truth. Of course, to sever rightness and truthfulness is philosophically untenable. But dammit we're Americans, not philosophers.

So when we talk about Obama “waging war on religious liberty” or “trampling conscience rights”, we run into a problem: those on the other side think they’re waging a war on our oppressive religious dogma. Says Dr. Brugger:

Ten out of 10 conservative blogs and sites after the HHS decision announced: "Conscience is under attack!" "Religion is under attack!" Rubbish. Truth, reality, human welfare is under attack. "Conscience" to the other side means subjective moral opinion; and when it's our consciences they're referring to, it means dangerous moral opinion; and "religion" means bigotry. Of course they're going to oppose it. But we -- all of us -- have supported the public rhetorical instruments by which those terms have become morally inert.

Morally inert…yes. I think Dr. Brugger has hit the nail on the head. Our arguments for religious freedom and conscience rights lack the force of moral certitude. We say, “This is what WE believe, and we have a right to believe that way and follow our conscience.” And the other side says the same thing right back at us: “Well, that may be true for you, but it’s not true for us.” By insisting simply on a right to believe, we have embraced the terminology of moral relativism.

But when you enter Truth into the equation, things change. When you say, “This is immoral”, you bring the discussion to a new level.

Unfortunately, we have forfeited that possibility over the years because of our unwillingness to defend the truth, as opposed to our individual right to believe what we believe as Catholics. In other words, we no longer believe that what we believe is the Truth; we only believe that we have a right to believe it.

And that puts us on the same level as any other moral relativist.

Dr. Brugger concludes:

Yes, there is a lot of anger over Obama's radically illiberal policy. But that anger is only rightly felt if it concerns the violation, not of legal or even constitutional rights, but the violation of truth. We need to stand up and say confidently and resolutely to Kathleen Sebelius, her thugs at HHS and her puppet-master in the White House: Your view is false and untrue; it radically violates human good and is destructive of communal integrity.

Words are important. When we use the right words, we put the discussion back on the plane it should have been on all along.  And if we don’t do this, Dr. Brugger suggests:

…we'll all end up like Dr. Seuss' North-going Zax and South-going Zax, puffing out our chests, standing nose to nose with our enemy, barking out disagreements devoid of understanding of the deeper problem.

I think Michael Voris has some good insights as to those problems. Watch these Vortex episodes:

Here's the link to the one mentioned above - can't get the Youtube to load.

See also: "No Soldiers for the Army? Voris Has a Point"

and "Freedom? Conscience? Truth!"

Watch this one, too:

And...this one of Rick Santorum's statement: