Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Challenge: Watch This Video

I’ll be gone for a few days (over the rainbow!), but while I’m away, you might want to take a look at the video below.

Starting in October, the Vatican has announced, we enter a “Year of Faith”. It begins on October 11, which is the date of the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II. There are big plans for the Year of Faith, of course, and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith suggests that “The Year of Faith will offer a special opportunity for all believers to deepen their knowledge of the primary documents of the Second Vatican Council”.

I think it would also be instructive to stop hiding some of the seamy underside of the Council, and to admit that there were forces that were bent on de-Catholicizing the Mass and other aspects of the faith in order to make the Church more palatable to the Protestant world. Not only were they present, they accomplished much of their agenda.

The video below is an excellent show by Michael Voris, produced in 2010, called “Weapons of Mass Destruction” – it’s part of the series called “CIA: Catholic Investigative Agency”. This video is a great expose of the forces that were behind the destruction of the Traditional Latin Mass.

This show – and many others like it – are available to premium subscribers of CMTV; however, CMTV allows limited sharing of the videos, so I’m embedding it here. If you appreciated the work of Michael Voris and ChurchMilitant.TV, I recommend that you become a premium subscriber – go here for more on that.

Now, here’s a bit of a teaser to encourage you to watch the video, which is just under an hour long.

The thesis statement of the program is this:

That certain individuals at Vatican II set about to destroy the theology of the Catholic Mass which would ultimately destroy the Catholic Church.

This bold thesis is backed up with extensive research, according to Voris – hundreds of hours’ worth. I have no reason to doubt that this is true.  

At the beginning of the video, Voris notes that many of those who sought to destroy the “old” Mass were not shy about what they were doing. For instance:

“This needs to be said without ambiguity: the Roman rite as we knew it no longer exists. It has been destroyed.” – Fr. Joseph Gelineau, Vatican II Periti

Opponents of the liturgical changes were also vociferous at times. Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani was one of those who tried to sound the alarm:

“They wanted to make a clean slate of the whole theology of the Mass. It ended up in substance quite close to the Protestant theology which destroyed the sacrifice of the Mass.” – Ottaviani Intervention, p. 2

Others make similar comments:

“Truly if one of the devils…had been entrusted with the ruin of the liturgy, he could not have done it better.” – Dietrick von Hildebrand

Voris then goes on to describe the whole process of the de-construction of the Mass, the politics underlying the process at the Second Vatican Council, and more. It’s well worth your time.

This program is from ChurchMilitant.TV

Monday, July 30, 2012

Romanian Martyrs in the 20th Century: Vortex

Today, the Vortex episode focuses our attention on Romanian martyrs of the 20th century – especially clergy and religious who were tortured and killed by the Communist regime in that country. Michael Voris relates that

Prior to 22 years ago…the Catholic faith was officially banned in Romania. The suffering that the Church went through here, deep behind the Iron Curtain has never really been told to a great extent for various reasons. It has never really made it into the bloodstream of the western mainstream media, most likely because the western mainstream media never really likes to report on or really even admit the horrors – and they ARE horrors – of the Communist regimes.

The physical brutality that so many priests and bishops and nuns and seminarians went through here at the hands of their Communist overlords is almost indescribable, but we shall attempt to bring it to life for you.

Voris also points out that these are recent events, within the memories of many people still living today:

We aren’t talking about ancient history or what the emperors of Rome did to the first century Catholics. We’re talking about contemporary events, in living
memory. Think of it like this: when Americans laugh about disco in the 70’s or the economic prosperity of the 80’s, this is what was happening at the same time on the other side of the globe. [And the video describes what “this” is.]

It’s well worth your time to watch the full 8 minutes.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

On the Lighter Side: Attire at Mass

An informant email correspondent tells me that a certain parish in our diocese, which shall remain nameless at the moment, seems to have a less-than-orthodox view of proper dress for the faithful at Mass.

I’ve edited her comments just a bit, but here’s what she told me in response to my post on “Liturgical Embarrassment”:  

We have men in shorts and flip-flops presenting the Eucharist at all of our "too many to count Masses". God doesn't care what we wear, or that we're eating and drinking and texting during Mass; He just wants us to be happy…Oh, really? They must think He wears a red suit with a black belt and boots when He comes down from heaven on Christmas morning. Now you've done it, Jay, are you happy? My blood pressure in now up.
I grew up in Boston and we spent every summer on Cape Cod (my family still has four cottages there). Even though we spent every day in shorts and sandals, we always dressed for Church, or we weren't allowed in. If my mom can dress 7 kids with dresses gloves and hats with patent leather shoes (white for summer), the adults at [our parish] should be able to dress for the Altar. It's disgraceful.

When we ask individuals to show the same respect to God that they would show their bosses at work, we are told God doesn't care what we wear as long as we show up.
As far as dressing for Mass goes, we should hold a fund raiser for the worst, most inappropriate dress, Diocese-wide; [my parish] would win hands down and if everyone had to pay a dollar to enter the contest, we could pay off our note [on the new church].

The other day, I tapped the shoulder of the father of a teenage girl and asked him what he was thinking about the length[or lack thereof!] of his daughter’s skirt. He told me to ask her mother, bu I said, “No, I am asking you. You’re her father, and you are supposed to watch out for her where her mother fails.” Then I asked him to give the girl his jacket and cover her up, and he did. 

Once we had a lector bring her 10-12-year old daughter up to the Ambo to read (a task too great for this poor child; what do they teach in public school instead of reading?)…where was I…oh, she had on flip-flops and a sarong over a wet bathing suit. So please, Jay, don't tell me about your short shorts [I had mentioned the dress of a teenage girl at our Mass recently]; those were our good old days. Once, I was at Mass in [a neighboring parish] when the priest stopped the Communion procession and told the women to please wear underwear, that he was also a man. How awful.


My informa correspondent also had a few comments about the two churches in the parish. The old church is lovely, but was too small, I guess, for the growing congregation, so a new one was built at a hefty expense. She notes

We call the Downtown Church, the Traditional Church; it’s officially known as the Historic Church. We call the "new" church the Armadillo, because from the top it looks like one. [Hint: I've called it an Aztec handball court.]

The contingent that likes the traditional church has come forward with funds to restore some of the “renovated” aspects. My correspondent says:

Father has received some donations to fix up the traditional church, and it's looking pretty good. I love that church. We are looking for a Communion rail. The original one was cut up and neighbors to the church have placed the pieces they acquired on their front porches many years ago.

That makes me weep!

But the conclusion of our email conversation on the subject brought tears to my eyes for a different reason. I had responded to one message by simply writing, “ROFL!” Her quick response asked, “What does that mean?” and I explained, “Rolling On the Floor Laughing." I added, "And LOL means Laughing Out Loud.” Later, this note arrived in my inbox:

Thanks. I was told by my daughter that LOL means lots of love, so all this time I was wondering if you and I were having a moment. I can't tell you how glad I am that you cleared things up.

SheIsCatholic NFP Video: Missing an Important Piece

I’ve highlighted Leah Chen’s videos here on my blog; she is also known as “SheIsCatholic”, and she’s a great young spokesperson for the Church – for the traditional and orthodox Church. She’s the one with the videos on “the Latin Mass” and “how to wear a veil”, among others. And I'm delighted to read that she has discerned a vocation to religious life.

But then there’s her video on NFP…which has just won first place in two contests. Unfortunately, her video contains a serious error: she neglected to mention that a couple should only use NFP for serious reasons. There are some other problems as well. The temptation is to let it all slide, because she’s so darn entertaining and creative.

But really, cute should not trump truth.

First, let me say that Leah includes very good information about the dangers of using the Pill, including the myriad side effects that include an increased risk of cancer. And she tells her alter-ego in the video that, as a Catholic, she shouldn’t even be thinking about using contraception anyway, pointing out the potential abortifacient effects. 

Still, she makes a couple of disconcerting comments:

Alter-ego: “I guess I’m just supposed to be a baby-making machine…”

Pause right there. This kind of comment, though used to make a point, denigrates the couples who do have large families. I wonder if the women I know who have 8 or 9 children see themselves as “baby-making machines”.  The primary end of marriage is procreation. That’s been the teaching of the Church for 1,962 years. And before that, God’s command was to “be fruitful and multiply”.

Continuing with the dialog in the video:

Leah: “Dude, you can just use natural family planning.”

[Explaining further]:  “Natural family planning is a way of achieving or avoiding pregnancy according to God’s plan.”

Folks, really, ask yourselves, and let’s be honest: Just how is this God’s plan? Is it God’s plan because the woman has a fertility cycle, and it is possible to discern when she is fertile and when she is not? That is God’s plan – his “blueprint” – for our bodies, but it is not necessarily God’s plan that we use that information to avoid pregnancy! Just because we are able to use that information does not mean that we should. For instance, science has given us knowledge about cloning, too, and in vitro fertilization; but there are serious moral problems with those processes. Though I wouldn’t put NFP on this level of immorality, there are still moral issues at stake.

Leah continues with her explanation, stating that the couple can

“…measure a woman’s fertile and infertile times and you do or do not engage at those points when she’s fertile depending on whether or not you can take care of children.”

This brings us back to “responsible” parenthood (the new teaching) vs. “generous” parenthood (the centuries-old teaching).  A correspondent made this observation:

One might ask, “Can ‘Responsible Parenthood’ be so bad? We wouldn’t want ‘Irresponsible Parenthood’ would we?” Here’s what we do want: generous fruitfulness, abandonment to divine Providence, and the joyful holiness of large families living the traditional Catholic faith. Humanae Vitae and the rest of the marriage theology since Vatican II recommend a different, a non-Catholic vision,

And of course Leah mentions that final selling point for NFP:

“…and it’s 99% effective…”

It just seems to me that by focusing on how effective NFP is for avoiding pregnancy, we are taking a contraceptive approach and attitude toward the fruitfulness God intends for families.

Another problem: Leah explains that by using NFP, the couple will have a better, stronger relationship, and less chance of divorce. This is a common claim of NFP promoters; however, even if NFP-using couples do have a lower divorce rate, correlation does not imply causation. I suspect that the couples who decide to use NFP and who “stick with it” already have a strong relationship. It takes teamwork and commitment to use NFP, and if the couple doesn’t have a solid foundation in their relationship, one or the other is not likely to put forth the effort required to use NFP.  (I don’t doubt that there have been couples with marital problems who have found some benefit in the communication required by NFP, but I’m not talking case studies here; I’m talking statistics.)

Leah also maintains that NFP “can only make your marriage better”. Well, that may be true for the couple who agrees to use it and who has that committed relationship. Otherwise, I can imagine that the frustration a husband feels when he cannot engage in the marital embrace with his wife at the time when she is most attractive to him, and he to her, can lead to problems if the couple is not truly in agreement about using the process.

That brings up another important caveat: the Church teaches that use of periodic continence is only licit if both partners agree to it. If one or the other does not agree, then she or he is entitled to have the “marriage debt” paid by the other. This, of course, is not a popular notion in today’s culture, but it is Church teaching.

The article noting Leah’s award-winning video also notes that the video has been available on-line as a “tool” to be used during the NFP Awareness Week promoted by the USCCB.

Sigh. Frankly, I think the USCCB has no business promoting NFP the way it does. The teaching is all about avoiding pregnancy and having great sex, because the bishops are quite aware that many, if not most, Catholic couples are using illicit contraception. A commenter on this blog made the very astute observation that

…the entire NFP industry is one big Potemkin Village. It is simply a salve to the conscience of those Catholic bishops, priests and lay leader who look out over their congregations and fail to see any large families. It is the misdirection of the stage magician who directs your attention over towards the non-existent NFP while the reality is that everyone is using artificial birth control. It is the "gateway drug" that allows one to say, "The Catholic Church says it's all right to use birth control," and then after a few "failures" with NFP, one decides, "Well as long as birth control is okay, I might as well use a method that actually works as well as NFP claims to work." 

Finally, I did email Leah last June when I first saw her NFP video, and I addressed the fact that the need “serious reasons” was not included in the discussion. Leah noted that she had a time constraint, and that she had toyed with the idea of including the “serious reasons” part, but she told me:

It was also my assumption that anyone who was truly interested in NFP would attend a class and realize that part from their instructor.

I suppose that would be a reasonable assumption…but I doubt it’s happening. Instead, I see a focus on “responsible” parenthood – a focus that makes large families seem irresponsible, and gives couples a ready excuse to enter into the contraceptive mentality.
For more NFP posts on this blog, click on the "NFP Posts" tab at the top of the page.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

This New Archbishop Gives Me Hope!

In doing a little research on the newly-appointed Archbishop-to-be of San Francisco, I have been greatly heartened about the state of the US episcopacy!

I mentioned in a recent post the blatant refusal of the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry, or CALGM, to sign an "oath of personal integrity" to Catholic teaching given to them by Bishop Salvatore Cordileone. I must admit that he had been “under the radar” for me prior to that, but I certainly recognized his name when I saw via VIS that he had been named the new archbishop of San Francisco.

Well, he certainly seems to “get” the liturgy:

Wikipedia offers this information about him:

Salvatore Cordileone was born in San Diego, California, and attended Crawford High School from 1971 to 1974.He then studied at San Diego State University for a year before entering the University of San Diego, from where he obtained a Bachelor's degree in Philosophy in 1978. He then furthered his studies in Rome at the Pontifical Gregorian University, earning a Bachelor's in Sacred Theology in 1981.

Go here for more photos
Returning to the United States, Cordileone was ordained to the Catholic priesthood by Bishop Leo Thomas Maher on July 9, 1982. He then served as an associate pastor at Saint Martin of Tours Parish in La Mesa, California until 1985, whence he returned to the Pontifical Gregorian University and received a doctorate in canon law in 1989. Cordileone, upon his return to the Diocese of San Diego, served as secretary to Bishop Robert Brom and a tribunal judge (1989–1990), adjutant judicial vicar (1990–1991), and pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Calexico (1991–1995).

In the summer of 1995, he returned to Rome, Italy to work as an assistant at the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the highest judicial body in the Holy See under the Pope. He was raised to the rank of Chaplain of His Holiness in 1999.

At Abbey Roads blog, I found this note:

Bishop Cordileone is one of my very favorite bishops in the United States. Why? Because he's a straight talker - he teaches Catholic doctrine clearly and distinctly, in direct language anyone can understand - and he does so with genuine charity and concern for the welfare of contemporary men, women and children. In defending the family, he defends the Faith.

The Abbey Roads post highlighted this excerpt from an article about Bishop Cordileone:

He noted that the advent of the birth control pill led to an “explosion of contraception” that “divorced procreation from the conjugal act.” Other erosions to marriage quickly followed, including no-fault divorce, which was “a huge blow to marriage,” and experimenting with “open marriages.”

Suddenly, the traditional marks of marriage – fidelity, permanence and openness to children – were all gone, he said. Eventually, this led to a culture of “widespread promiscuity” as sex lost its meaning, a phenomenon that was serious “facilitated” by the common use of contraception.

It’s heartening to know that a) there is a bishop with this kind of backbone; and b) that he’s likely to be around awhile!  

Let’s hope his actions speak as loud as his words, and let’s pray for him to bring some semblance of morality back to San Francisco.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Seven Holy Sleepers

This is a homily of Fr. Eric M. Andersen, Sacred Heart in Gervais, OR for July 27th, 2012.

The Seven Holy Sleepers of Ephesus

The Roman Martyrology for July 27th, the sixth day in the Kalends of August:

At Ephesus, the birthday of the Seven Sleepers: Saints Maximian, Malchus, Martinian, Denis, John, Serapion and Constantine.
And elsewhere, many other holy martyrs, confessors, and holy virgins.
Thanks be to God.

Sometimes a quick perusal of the Roman Martyrology can be too quick. We can easily overlook such an entry as this. When I looked over the various entries for today, I didn’t notice this one. It is the 7th entry for July 27th. But what I just read to you is the English version from 1961. The newest version of the Roman Martyrology from 2004 has never been translated into English. It is available only to us in Latin. So, I usually check both just to see if there are any new saints that I recognize. Well, when I looked at the entries for today in the Latin edition, this moved up to the first entry. I noticed it because it speaks of the Dormientium, of those who are sleeping. It was such an interesting word to use. It is a very short entry and easy to translate. This is what it says in the 2004 version:

The Commemoration of the seven holy sleepers of Ephesus, who, so it is told, consummated martyrdom, and rest in peace, expecting the day of resurrection.

I decided to see if I could find anything out about these seven sleepers. I checked a couple of sources and found a chapter in the Golden Legend of Jacobus Voragine.

He has a chapter about these seven sleepers. Fascinating!

Here is the story (from Voragine, The Golden Legend. Vol II. Ch. 101: The Seven Sleepers):

“The emperor Decius, who decreed the persecution of Christians, came to Ephesus and gave orders to build temples in the center of the city, so that all the people might join him in worshiping false gods. He further ordered that all Christians were to be rounded up and put in chains, either to sacrifice to the gods or to die; and the Christians in Ephesus were so afraid of the threatened punishments that friends betrayed friends, fathers their sons, and sons their fathers” (p. 15).

“…seven young Christian men named Maximianus, Malchus, Marcianus, Dionysius, Johannes, Serapion, and Constantinus who “held high rank in the palace…refused to sacrifice to the idols. Instead they hid in their houses and devoted themselves to fasting and prayer. For this they were denounced and brought before Decius. They affirmed their Christian faith, but the emperor gave them time to come to their senses before he came back to the city” (15).

These young men acted fast. They distributed all their wealth to the poor and together, all seven of them agreed to take refuge on Mount Celion where they would live a holy life. Among them, Malchus was chosen to dress as a beggar and go into town each week for supplies and food. Meanwhile Decius returned to Ephesus commanding that the seven be brought before his presence and forced to sacrifice. The seven men hiding in the mountain cave ate their last meal in fear and trembling and with full stomachs, “by the will of God, fell asleep” (15).

They were betrayed and denounced for having given away their wealth to the poor and by deserting the city. Decius sent his men to wall up the cave with stones so that they would die of hunger.

Two Christian men, “Theodorus and Rufinus, wrote an account of the martyrdom and left it concealed among the stones that closed the cave” (15-16). “Three hundred seventy two years later…in the thirtieth year of the reign of…the Most Christian emperor…Theodosius, there was an outbreak of heresy and widespread denial of the resurrection of the dead.”

In that year, a good citizen of Ephesus decided to build a shelter for sheepherders on Mount Celion. He hired stone masons and they found a good collection of very fine stones stacked very deliberately in a pile outside of a cave.

Click image for more info about the cave
[Meanwhile] Malchus and his companions awoke to the light of day and were gravely concerned about the actions being taken by the Emperor Decius. Malchus was sent into town as usual to buy extra loaves of bread for their sustenance should they be forced to stop making these trips into the city.

But the city which Malchus entered was visibly changed. It was the same city, but he was disoriented. There were notable changes, such as huge crosses on all the imperial property, and he kept hearing people talking and using the name Christ. He went to a bread baker to buy bread “but when he offered his money, the sellers, surprised, told each other that this youth had found some ancient treasure. Seeing them talking about him, Malchus thought they were getting ready to turn him over to the emperor” (16). He became afraid and told them to keep the bread and the money, but they thought he was suspicious and caught hold of him.

Word of this reached St. Martin, the bishop, and he ordered the citizens to bring this youth and the money to him. The bishop looked at the coins. “The inscription on the coins (was) more than 370 years old. The bishop and his proconsul questioned him and Malchus was so confused. They too were confused. The youth told the bishop that he and his friends were hiding from the Emperor Decius, and he would take the bishop and show him the cave.

“The bishop thought this over, then told the proconsul that God was trying to make them see something through this youth. So they set out with him and a great crowd followed them. Malchus went ahead to alert his friends, and the bishop came after him and found among the stones the letter sealed with two silver seals. He called the people together and read the letter to them. They marveled at what they heard, and, seeing the seven saints of God, their faces like roses in bloom, sitting in the cave, all fell to their knees and gave glory to God” (17).

The emperor Theodosius was summoned. When he arrived, “their faces shone like the sun. The emperor prostrated himself before them and gave praise to God, then rose and embraced each one and wept over them, saying: ‘Seeing you thus, it is as if I saw the Lord raising Lazarus from the dead!’” St. Maximinus proclaimed that God must have done this, without their knowledge, “so that you may believe without the shadow of a doubt in the resurrection of the dead” (18).

Then, while all looked on, the seven saints bowed their heads to the ground, fell asleep, and yielded up their spirits as God willed that they should do. The cave was embellished with guilded stones (18).

Jacobus Voragine, who presented this story as it is, added this note at the very end:

“There is reason to doubt that these saints slept for 372 years, because they arose in the year of the Lord 448. Decius reigned in 252 and his reign lasted only fifteen monts, so the saints must have slept only 195 years” (18).

Thus far the story of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus…

Thanks be to God. 

Liturgical Embarrassment

Watch this video. See if it doesn’t make you absolutely embarrassed for the bishops, priests, and deacons who attend the annual dissent-fest known as the Los Angeles Religious Education Conference. Even more, I am embarrassed before God at what is offered to Him as worship but is simply liturgical abuse of the Novus Ordo. Lord, have mercy on us.

The liturgical abuses that go on at that conference are legion. This stuff goes on year after year, and even though the evidence is all over You Tube, it seems nothing is done to stop the waylaying of thousands of Catholics who think they are faithful, but can hardly know what they are faithful to with this kind of nonsense masquerading as education.

The thoughts that cross my mind could go on for thousands of words. I'll try to control myself:

First, how do bishops expect to get any respect when they condone this kind of liturgical abuse by their presence, participation, and apparent approval? Do they not know that they are responsible for the souls of the faithful in their care? Do they not realize the affront to God that such liturgical abuses represent? The videos I’ve seen of what they call Mass at the RE Congress look more like Satanic rites to me.

Second, what is the point of catering to the “faithful” who want tambourines and trumpets accompanying saccharine songs of “praise and worship” in their Protestantized liturgies? Liturgies like the ones at the LA RE Conference are ludicrous; on the other hand, the blatant showmanship and abuses should be readily apparent to many of the faithful and evoke a sense of “that’s just not right.” The liturgies at most of the parishes I’ve been to in my neck of the woods are not as ostentatious in their liturgical abuses, but that’s almost worse. It’s the “frog in boiling water” problem: If you throw a frog into boiling water, it’ll hop out as quickly as it can; but if you put the frog in water and slowly heat it, it’ll just get used to the increasing heat and let itself be cooked.

Third, I know that many priests and bishops play a “numbers game” – they are concerned to know “how many” people come to a particular Mass. The question is almost always asked about the EF Mass: “How many people come?” And the answer, especially here is Eastern Oregon, is “not very many”. But is that a reason to deny those faithful few their right to the Traditional Latin Mass? (Hint: the answer is “no”.)

Fourth, why is it that those who prefer the liturgical abuses get their way? They throw tantrums and say “Well, I just won’t come to Mass, then!” And priests and bishops act like that’s the end of the world. Many with that mentality are Catholic in name only. Many are receiving Holy Communion unworthily (having not been to Mass the week before, for example, or using contraception, or supporting homosexual “marriage”, etc.). But we don’t want to “lose” them by saying Mass according to the rubrics!!! Excuse me…but…we’ve lost them already.

Finally, and related, to number four, why is it that those who are asking for a traditional liturgy, or at least for the rubrics to be followed in the deficient Novus Ordo, are spurned time and time again? Why are priests and bishops not worried about losing them? Why aren’t priests and bishops concerned about how the liturgical abuses affect the faithful who recognize them? Oh yeah…back to number three above: the numbers game.

I could go on…and on…and on…but I’ll stop for now. My blood pressure will thank me.

UPDATE (per comments):
In the Vortex from yesterday (July 26), Michael Voris addresses these same issues. Watch the video (below) for the full force of his point, but here’s the introduction: 

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a quiet scuttling job going on inside the Church of Nice – which, by the way, isn’t so nice.

Faithful orthodox Catholics – those who accept everything the Church teaches and are in full support of the Pope and the Magisterium – are under attack. And these attacks are coming from their “TOLERANT” brothers and sisters who will be tolerant of anything and almost everything it seems…EXCEPT a traditional expression of the faith.

Cardinal Raymond Burke noted as much recently during an interview where he said in reference to the restoration of the traditional Latin Mass:

"There's no question that there remains in certain places a resistance to what the Holy Father has asked, and that's sad. It's sometimes even an expression of disagreement with the Holy Father's discipline and even an expression that this is harmful for the church."

And there it is: in one brief statement, His Eminence summed up the crux of the problem.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Is NFP Really "God's Plan"?

During the current NFP Awareness Week, I stumbled upon an interesting blog post about NFP. I’d like to dissect it a bit, but I want to preface my remarks by saying that:

I do not deny at all that use of NFP is licit (for “serious” reasons);

nor to I mean to question the author’s reasons for spacing births;

nor do I deny the legitimacy of the author’s experience.

However, I think it’s important to realize that when we focus on individuals’ personal experiences, we can lose sight of the importance of underlying principles, and the logic and reason behind Church teaching in certain areas.

The article begins on an encouraging note (all emphases mine):

Years ago, right before I got married, my grandmother and great aunt were having a conversation about their children, all born in the forties and fifties, and their long marriages. They each had five children and part of their discussions included, “Right before I had my third,” or “Then came number five.” I naively asked, “So, how did you plan your pregnancies and how did you space your kids like tha…?” I was interrupted by chuckles. “PLAN? What do you mean by plan? We just had them when they came! 

I thought to myself, “Wow! They just had them? What about spacing? What about being able to afford them? What about…?” I had been so programmed to believe that we should have control over our childbearing. It was our right to plan, because there are so many things to consider when having children. But these women, whom I respected and loved, were perfectly happy. I saw no regret or angst during the discussion, because having children was a natural thing to them.

Shortly after the conversation, I went to the doctor and she asked “What are you planning in regards to birth control?” Oh! I have to have a plan? I thought about this and walked away from the doctor’s appointment with a prescription in hand and the worrisome idea that I had better start planning. This was such a heavy burden. I was getting married soon and I thought we could just love each other without worry, but apparently not.

Frankly, I wish she could have recalled her grandmother’s and great aunt’s words at that point. Yes, couples can “just love each other without worry”. They’ve been doing that since time immemorial, and it works pretty well. Do bad things happen? Yes. This is life; this is fallen humanity. But it’s not a good thing to start out prepared to take all manner of precautions simply out of fear that something might go wrong. The author continues:

Society dictates that we plan these things, but getting pregnant should be in God’s time–that was certainly the natural progression of things.

This is a wonderfully succinct commentary on what is truly “God’s plan” for marriage and family! It actually sounded like she was going to take a “providentialist” direction! “Natural progression” is exactly right: people get married, they engage in the marital act, and out of that act there comes (if God wills) a baby!

But then she does a 180:

I was so confused. Desperately wanting a sign, I looked across the lobby of the doctor’s office and there was a sign—an actual sign that read: CREIGHTON OVULATION METHOD CLASSES STARTING SOON. There it was: my plan! I crumbled up the prescription and tossed it in the trash.

Wait…didn’t she just say…? Now I’m confused! Is it going to be society’s plan, her plan, or God’s plan? She comments on the experience she and her husband had with the classes:

…[L]ittle did we expect we would learn so much! We learned about biology, about intimacy, about communication…we learned about God’s PLAN for us

What a liberating feeling to know that we could trust God’s PLAN with this aspect of marriage…Certainly, respect within marriage is part of God’s plan for families, and we have to become humble and trust in God’s plan.

The author then implies that we “become humble and trust in God’s plan” by taking control, adding that

We control only what is natural and do not have to resort to that which is artificial or destructive, which would permeate into the emotional aspects of our marriage. In keeping with God’s plan, we have longevity in our marriage and three lovely children who came along in God’s time.

If we take control of spacing births, how is it that we can be so sure this is “God’s plan”, and that the children came “in God’s time”? Again, I’m not quibbling with her personal experience of marital satisfaction; but logically, does the statement make sense? If her children came in “God’s time” – with a little help from her and her husband – what does that say about the timing of her grandmother’s and great-aunt’s children, who were not “planned”? Were they not following God’s plan? And, by the way, why is it that NFP promoters always have to make the point that NFP is not the rhythm method?!)

This next statement from our author really plays havoc with logic:

Above all else, NFP has released us from the burden of “playing God” with our fertility.

“Playing God” with our fertility?! I think that there is ever and always a temptation to do just that with NFP – if not in actual practice, then in intent. If the couple makes the choice to avoid pregnancy, and takes steps to avoid it, haven’t they decided to “play God” with their fertility? She concludes that

God never meant for us to take that upon ourselves…

She means that God never meant for us to “play God” with our fertility, but to the extent that NFP means taking control and deciding not to engage in the marital brace in order to avoid pregnancy, she and her husband have indeed “taken that upon” themselves! It matters not a bit whether that control is through “natural” or “artificial” means – at least as far as the end result of controlling and limiting births is concerned. It is still birth control. It is still human beings implementing their plan. How can they be so sure that it is God’s plan as well?

Most of the comments I’ve seen from NFP promoters are heavily laden with indications that the couple prays and that they discern God’s will for their marriage and their birth control. That’s all well and good, but too often that means relying on the “feelings” we get when we pray. For instance, supposed a young woman tells you that she has prayed and feels that God is telling her to get an abortion. Wouldn’t you tell her that she was definitely not hearing God’s voice?! “More tortuous than all else is the human heart, beyond remedy; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). We can’t trust our hearts; we have to rely on Church teaching as well, so that our conscience is well-formed and will not let our emotions rule it.

It’s no secret to anyone who’s read any of my NFP posts that I do not agree that NFP must be taught to all Catholic couples, and that I am concerned about the misuse and abuse of NFP which is treated by some as “Catholic contraception”. I don’t believe that it is right for the USCCB to promote NFP through an “awareness” campaign.

But if they insist on doing so, can we also have a “Large Family Awareness” week? Why not promote having many children as an act of sacrifice and love of God? Why not return to some traditional teaching – some truth – about the primary end of marriage (procreation!)? 

Now that would be countercultural.

For more NFP posts on this blog, click on the "NFP Posts" tab at the top of the page.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

USCCB's CRS Demands Retraction

Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the foreign-aid branch of the USCCB, has demanded a retraction from both LifeSiteNews and ChurchMilitant.TV regarding coverage of the story about CRS giving $5.3 million dollars to the pro-abortion, contraception-providing organization CARE. (I wrote about this here.)

LifeSiteNews reported yesterday that:

After LifeSiteNews published the piece, CRS demanded a retraction or correction. “None of the activities listed suggest support of or involvement in immoral activities,” spokesman John Rivera wrote in an e-mail. “In the terminology of moral theology, there is no material cooperation with evil.”

Then on July 20th, CRS issued a press release titled CRS Disputes LifeSiteNews Article, in which they stated that “all of the CRS programs … are entirely consistent with Church teaching.” At the same time, they strongly implied that the grant was approved by Dr. John Haas of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, the U.S. Bishops’ top advisor on bioethical issues.

But when LifeSiteNews contacted Dr. Haas he revealed a very different picture.
Dr. Haas told LifeSiteNews that when he reviewed the proposed donation to CARE it was “of grave concern to me.”

While Haas noted that the NCBC assessment did not dispute that CARE’s project was laudable nor that the monies were non-fungible, he opposed the grant because of the scandal it would cause. His main concern was the stridently pro-abortion stances taken by CARE’s president and CEO, Helene D. Gayle.

Read the rest here. The statements by Dr. Haas in that article are very telling.

ChurchMilitant.TV also was sent a letter asking for a retraction. Michael Voris issued this video response:

As I noted in my previous post: Through this kind of inconsistency – and incompetency – the bishops stand to lose ground in the legal battle against the HHS mandate. They can’t make the case that contraception is a moral evil against Church teaching in the US, all the while cheerfully handing out millions of dollars for the spread of contraceptives in other parts of the world. 

Here's an excerpt of the concluding remarks made by Michael Voris in the above video:

Why, why, why is there the default attitude that there must always be compromise with organizations that support evil and fight against Church teaching? That’s not an approach of the Church Militant – that’s a total capitulation.

Compromise should always be an absolute and final last resort and EVEN THEN we need to always be looking for a way to advance the right and end the compromise. There is no absolute NEED to give CARE 5 million dollars, just as there is no absolute NEED for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development to hand over millions of dollars to anti-Church programs in the United States.

Why can’t the Church take all these monies and direct them only to groups that fully support Church teaching AND fight poverty? If such groups don’t exist, start them. Before the liberals got their hands on the levers of power, that’s exactly what used to happen; they were called religious orders.

How cool would it be to harness all the enthusiasm of so many young people renewed in their faith and start a Catholic Peace Corps type program that does this sort of work. The point is simple: stop giving money to groups that to one degree or another are enemies of the Church.

Just say NO! And until CRS and other groups are totally forthcoming, maybe you might want to think twice about those donations.

Imagine the ridiculously incredible position the US bishops have now been put in by their own overseas aid organization. Their lawyers are in court fighting against Obama contraception mandate while their CRS staff is handing money to groups overseas that support it.

I would want to be the bishop or lawyer who has a judge staring at me from across the bench asking me to explain that.

And here's the message sent to CMTV:

From: Rivera, John
Sent: Monday, July 23, 2012 1:53 PM
To: Contact@ChurchMilitant.TV
Subject: Request for retraction of Special Report 07-21

Dear Mr. Voris,

I am writing to insist on a retraction of your inaccurate and distorted
YouTube video on the $5.3 million grant CRS gave to CARE. The thrust of
your piece is that by giving CARE these funds (which are not just federal
government money, but also from U.S. foundations), we are supporting
the family planning activities it engages in. This is completely false.
The grant in question was used to provide vitally needed food, clean
water, sanitation services and basic nutrition programs to desperately
poor families in Zimbabwe, Madagascar and five countries in Central
America. Make no mistake about it, these programs are saving lives.
Furthermore, these funds are not fungible. In other words, these funds
are specifically for these anti-poverty programs mentioned above, and
cannot be used for any purpose other than that stated in the grant. If
CRS and CARE had not received these grants, the programs would not
have existed. Therefore, the funds can in no way be considered to “free
up” money for either CRS or CARE to engage in other activities. Those
who claim it does either don’t understand how this funding works or
are being disingenuous.

You fail to mention in your piece that Dr. John Haas of the National
Catholic Bioethics Center conducted a thorough review of our
partnerships, including the CARE grant, and concluded that none of the
activities listed suggest support of or involvement in immoral activities
or any violation of Church teaching.

We are doing everything in our power to ensure that we are adhering to
Catholic teaching and to ensure that we can provide desperately
needed services to suffering people around the world in light of the
Gospel mandate to help the "least" among us.

John Rivera

For other Vortex posts, click on the "Vortex" tab at the top of the page.