Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bishop Thomas Tobin Responds to Congressman Patrick Kennedy

His Excellency, Most Rev. Thomas J. Tobin, Bishop of Providence responds to Congressman Patrick Kennedy's statement that, "The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic." By respond, I mean, he lays out in a clear and powerfully direct fashion exactly what being Catholic means.

Here are a couple of excerpts:

  • Since our recent correspondence has been rather public, I hope you don’t mind if I share a few reflections about your practice of the faith in this public forum. I usually wouldn’t do that – that is speak about someone’s faith in a public setting – but in our well-documented exchange of letters about health care and abortion, it has emerged as an issue. I also share these words publicly with the thought that they might be instructive to other Catholics, including those in prominent positions of leadership.
  • “The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues does not make me any less of a Catholic.” Well, in fact, Congressman, in a way it does. Although I wouldn’t choose those particular words, when someone rejects the teachings of the Church, especially on a grave matter, a life-and-death issue like abortion, it certainly does diminish their ecclesial communion, their unity with the Church. This principle is based on the Sacred Scripture and Tradition of the Church and is made more explicit in recent documents.
  • Well, in simple terms – and here I refer only to those more visible, structural elements of Church membership – being a Catholic means that you’re part of a faith community that possesses a clearly defined authority and doctrine, obligations and expectations. It means that you believe and accept the teachings of the Church, especially on essential matters of faith and morals; that you belong to a local Catholic community, a parish; that you attend Mass on Sundays and receive the sacraments regularly; that you support the Church, personally, publicly, spiritually and financially.

    Congressman, I’m not sure whether or not you fulfill the basic requirements of being a Catholic, so let me ask: Do you accept the teachings of the Church on essential matters of faith and morals, including our stance on abortion? Do you belong to a local Catholic community, a parish? Do you attend Mass on Sundays and receive the sacraments regularly? Do you support the Church, personally, publicly, spiritually and financially?

    In your letter you say that you “embrace your faith.” Terrific. But if you don’t fulfill the basic requirements of membership, what is it exactly that makes you a Catholic? Your baptism as an infant? Your family ties? Your cultural heritage?
This is how every Bishop should approach those politicians who want to claim their Catholicism in the Public Square and yet just as publically deny their Catholicism by the legislation they support or oppose. Lay it all out there in the hopes of the person's conversion and return to Christ's Body, his holy Catholic Church.

Read the full text of His Excellency's letter here.
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Monday, October 26, 2009

The Mathematical Consequences of Contraception

Let's use a mathematical argument in regards to the use of contraception.

  1. Let's use a simple equation that argues for two married people becoming one flesh: a + b = c.

  2. Let's use a simple equation that argues for two married people not becoming one flesh by contracepting so that they stay one: a + b = a. (It could also be a + b = b, but the first will be used in these examples.)

  3. Finally, let's use some different properties of math to flesh this out.
Using the Reflexive Property of Equality
We find that a = a
and that b = b
and that c = c

Using the Symmetrical Property of Equality
We find that if a = me then me = a
and that if b = you then you = b
and that if c = me + you then me + you = c

Using the Substitution Property
We find that if a = me, then me can replace a in any equation
and that if b = you, then you can replace b in any equation
and that if c = me + you, then me + you can replace c in any equation

Using our new values the original equations come out to the following:
(a + b = c) is me + you = me + you
(a + b = a) is me + you = me

As you can see the first equation mathematically makes sense no matter what the values of a/me or b/you are. The second equation is a little trickier. Let’s try some more math to see if we can have it work out.

In order for the second equation to be true, we must use another property.

Using the Additive Identity Property
We find that a + 0 = a

Applying this property to the original equation (a + b = a) we find that b = 0.

Using the Transitive Property of Equality
We find that if you = b and b = 0, then you = 0

So we find that in order for contraception to be added into the mix and for the original equation to be mathematically true, either a or b must become zero. Either me or you must become nothing. The only way that I can have sex with you and use contraception (i.e. not join myself to you) is for you to be nothing to me.

Further Reading

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Ecclesia Semper Reformanda

The Bishop of Sioux City, the Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless has written his first pastoral letter to his diocese, called Ecclesia Semper Reformanda (The Church is Always in Need of Renewal).

It is an excellent letter explaining where we have been for the last four decades and why the so-called "spirit" of Vatican II is not a correct intepretation of the council. He closes with very concrete ways we can change what we as Catholics have become in our witness to the world. I have included some of the many relevant passages (with my emphases in bold):

  • "We now find ourselves forty-four years since the close of the Council. Many questions still need to be asked and answered. Have we understood the Council within the context of the entire history of the Church? Have we understood the documents well? Have we truly appropriated and implemented them? Is the current state of the Church what the Council intended? What went right? What went wrong? Where is the promised “New Pentecost”?"

  • Quoting Pope Benedict XVI who says,
    On the one hand, there is an interpretation that I would call “a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture,” it has frequently availed itself of the sympathies of the mass media, and also one trend of modern theology. On the other, there is the “hermeneutic of reform,” of renewal in the continuity of the one subject – Church – which the Lord has given to us. She is a subject which increases in time and develops, yet always remaining the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God.
    Bishop Nickless reflects, "It is crucial that we all grasp that the hermeneutic or interpretation of discontinuity or rupture, which many think is the settled and even official position, is not the true meaning of the Council. This interpretation sees the pre-conciliar and post-conciliar Church almost as two different churches. It sees the Second Vatican Council as a radical break with the past. There can be no split, however, between the Church and her faith before and after the Council. We must stop speaking of the “Pre-Vatican II” and “Post-Vatican II” Church, and stop seeing various characteristics of the Church as “pre” and “post” Vatican II. Instead, we must evaluate them according to their intrinsic value and pastoral effectiveness in this day and age.

    Therefore, we must heed the Holy Father’s point that one interpretation, the “hermeneutic of reform,” is valid, and has borne and is bearing fruit. This hermeneutic of reform, as described above, takes seriously and keeps together the two poles of identity (the ancient deposit of faith and life) and engagement with the world (teaching it more efficaciously).

    Lastly, the Holy Father, going into greater detail later in the address, explains that the “spirit of Vatican II” must be found only in the letter of the documents themselves. The so-called “spirit” of the Council has no authoritative interpretation. It is a ghost or demon that must be exorcised if we are to proceed with the Lord’s work."

  • "My brothers and sisters, let me say this clearly: The “hermeneutic of discontinuity” is a false interpretation and implementation of the Council and the Catholic Faith. It emphasizes the “engagement with the world” to the exclusion of the deposit of faith. This has wreaked havoc on the Church, systematically dismantling the Catholic Faith to please the world, watering down what is distinctively Catholic, and ironically becoming completely irrelevant and impotent for the mission of the Church in the world. The Church that seeks simply what works or is “useful” in the end becomes useless.

    Our urgent need at this time is to reclaim and strengthen our understanding of the deposit of faith. We must have a distinctive identity and culture as Catholics, if we would effectively communicate the Gospel to the people of this day and Diocese. This is our mission...We cannot give what we do not have; we cannot fulfill our mission to evangelize, if we ourselves are not evangelized."

  • His plan to implement this “hermeneutic of reform" is five-fold:

    1. We must renew our reverence, love, adoration and devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament, within and outside of Mass. A renewal of Eucharistic Spirituality necessarily entails an ongoing implementation of the Second Vatican Council’s reform of the liturgy as authoritatively taught by the Church’s Magisterium, the promotion of Eucharistic Adoration outside of Mass, regular reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of the Eucharist and our Mother.

    2. We must strengthen catechesis on every level, beginning with and focusing on adults. If we, who are supposed to be mature in faith, do not know the Catholic Faith well, how can we live it and impart it to our children and future generations of Catholics?

    3. The first two pastoral priorities, renewal in Eucharistic Spirituality and Catechesis, will foster faithful families that are the foundation of the Church and the society. We are called to protect, build up and foster holy families in our midst, without whom the Church and the world perish.

    4. If we renew the Eucharistic, catechetical, and family life of our diocese, we will simultaneously foster a culture where young people can more readily respond to the radical calls of ministerial priesthood and the consecrated life.

    5. We must acknowledge and embrace the missionary character of the Catholic Faith and the vocation of all Catholics to be, not only disciples, but also apostles.

  • In closing his excellency says, "We truly need today those “great acts of renunciation” for the sake of Christ: not so much renunciation of our material things, as of our false attachments to both material and spiritual things. In order to strengthen our devotion to Christ in the Holy Eucharist and worship God rightly, we need to renounce any attachment to how we worship currently. To improve the spiritual depth of how we perform the Church’s liturgy, we will need to renounce attachment to worldly expectations and long-standing habits. To spend more time adoring Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, we need to renounce attachment to how we currently use our time. To deepen our intimate love for God in our hearts and heads, we need to renounce attachment to whatever is not God that is filling our hearts and heads. To live in more intentional and holy Catholic families, we need to renounce attachment to distractions, sins, and imperfections that harm our domestic churches. To accept the divine plan God has for each of us, we need to renounce attachment to our own plans. To change the world for Christ, we need to renounce attachment to how we want the world to be for ourselves."
Please, if you have time, read it in its entirety here.
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Wednesday, October 07, 2009


Out of all the things that the Catholic Church teaches, indulgences are possibly the most misunderstood. I think it is safe to say that statement would include most Catholics. If you are one of those Catholics, it doesn't have to be that way. First things first...definitions.

An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.1
What an Indulgence Is Not
To facilitate explanation, it may be well to state what an indulgence is not. It is not a permission to commit sin, nor a pardon of future sin; neither could be granted by any power. It is not the forgiveness of the guilt of sin; it supposes that the sin has already been forgiven. It is not an exemption from any law or duty, and much less from the obligation consequent on certain kinds of sin, e.g., restitution; on the contrary, it means a more complete payment of the debt which the sinner owes to God. It does not confer immunity from temptation or remove the possibility of subsequent lapses into sin. Least of all is an indulgence the purchase of a pardon which secures the buyer's salvation or releases the soul of another from Purgatory. The absurdity of such notions must be obvious to any one who forms a correct idea of what the Catholic Church really teaches on this subject...2
So where is the definition of the definitions? If there are some words in there that you are not very familiar with, do not worry, we will get to them. To properly understand what the Church teaches about indulgences we only need to understand a few simple concepts.

The Two Consequences of Sin

Grave, or mortal, sin has two consequences; the first, which is called eternal punishment, and the second, which is called temporal punishment. The eternal punishment of sin is hell or an eternal deprivation of communion with our Creator. Eternal punishment is only a consequence of mortal sin. It is not a consequence of venial sin. "Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent."3 In other words it is a serious matter, you know it, and you freely choose to do it anyway. A sin is venial when at least one of the three conditions for mortal sin are missing. Temporal punishment is a consequence of both mortal and venial sin. Temporal punishment is a consequence that takes place in time. It is not eternal in nature, hence the name.

The Tale of Two Brothers

At this point an example might make things clearer. You and your brother like to play catch after school and every day you come home and go outside and throw the ball back and forth. You do it outside because your parents have told you that you are not allowed to do it inside. This particular day it is raining outside and instead of doing something else you decide to throw the ball around inside the house and end up breaking a window. In true sorrow and repentance you both confess to your parents what you have done when they come home and they forgive your disobedience towards them. Just as your parents have restored you and your brother to your previous place in the family, so does God restore us when we repent of our sins in true sorrow and confession. The theological term for this is justification. The normative way that man is justified by God is in baptism. If following baptism man separates himself from God through mortal sin he can be re-justified by God in in reconciliation. Justification is not what is going on with indulgences. When we are made just (or justified) our eternal punishment, that eternal separation from God, has been removed.

There are some people who would say that everything is good now. You are just in the eyes of God and if you were to die you would go to heaven. Well, almost. You might notice that it is still a bit breezy in here. There are some other things that resulted from your little foray into disobedience. The most obvious is that the window is still broken. That is an example of the temporal consequences of our sin. There are many other temporal consequences that might not be so obvious. There is the bad example we have set for our younger brother who we convinced to join us in the disobedience of our parents. There is the resultant lack of trust that our parents will have in us when we are home without them there to supervise us. There is the predisposition to commit this sin again because the more we indulge in disobedience the more likely it is to become a habit, etc., etc. The list goes on and on. As you can see our sins affect us and others in many different ways. These are just some of the ways that we can readily think of. Imagine the ones that we have no idea are going on.

The Treasury of Merit and the Keys to the Kingdom

Let's say the window is going to cost $100 to fix. You do not have any money because the unemployment rate for 12 year olds is pretty high. Since you do not have a job and it has been quite awhile since you spent the last of your birthday money, you are in quite the pickle. Although you desire to fix the window, you have not covered that in shop class yet and your piggy bank is completely empty. What is a boy to do? You ask your parents for help of course. They tell you that they recognize your desire to repair the window and would like to help you and your brother earn enough to fix it. They tell you that you can mow the lawn and earn $10 towards fixing the window. You could also help dad this Saturday rip out the old deck and install a new one to pay off the whole $100.

It is the same way with us when we sin. The Church, thanks to the infinite merit of Jesus Christ, has a vast, limitless treasury of merit that she has access to. Because our Lord granted Saint Peter (and his successors) the keys to the kingdom and the powers to bind and loose, the Church is able to give us ways to make satisfaction for our temporal debts. Even when we are forgiven of the eternal punishment due to our mortal sin by God's grace and through repentance, contrition, and confession, we still have the temporal consequences of it to deal with. The Church, through her access to Christ's infinite merit, attaches an indulgence to a particular pious act. In this way the penitent can really pay for the temporal consequences which he may have no earthly way of perceiving or simply cannot repair. The Church offers us two different kinds of indulgences. They are either partial (as in the $10 example above) or plenary (as in the $100 example).

Just as we can benefit from receiving from this treasury of merit, we can also contribute to it. As Christians united to Jesus Christ, acting in and by his grace, our good works, penances, and sufferings are also added to this treasury. Although the treasury is already infinite our additions are real because they are acquired through the merits of Jesus Christ.

The benefits of an indulgence may also be applied to those who are in Purgatory. Continuing the previous example, if the younger brother were to have died without having made restitution, the older brother could mow the lawn and use those benefits, the $10, to pay his brother's part of the debt.

Indulgences are consistent with both God's mercy and his justice, because he allows us to unite ourselves to him through Jesus Christ whose satisfaction to the Father more than fulfills the indebtedness man has caused by his sin. Indulgences are a wonderful gift to every Christian. We will be called to account for all the temporal consequences of our sin, in this life or in the next. As Saint Augustine tells us:
But temporal punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by others after death, by others both now and then; but all of them before that last and strictest judgment. But of those who suffer temporal punishments after death, all are not doomed to those everlasting pains which are to follow that judgment; for to some, as we have already said, what is not remitted in this world is remitted in the next, that is, they are not punished with the eternal punishment of the world to come.4

Further Reading

[1] Catechism of the Catholic Church ¶1471 ^
[2] Indulgences - The Catholic Encyclopedia <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07783a.htm> ^
[3] Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et paenitentia (17 § 12) - Pope John Paul II ^
[4] Saint Augustine, City of God - Book 21, Chapter 13 ^

Purchase the Handbook of Indulgences now from amazon.com!

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Friday, August 07, 2009

Archbishop Chaput - "St. Paul in the Public Square"

In the June/July 2009 issue of First Things Archbishop Chaput of Denver lays out the state of Catholicism in the U.S. and then uses Saint Paul as an example of how we should be engaging the culture. As always Archbishop Chaput does not mince any words. Here are four examples:

  • The November election showed us that forty years of American Catholic complacency and poor formation are bearing fruit.
  • If 65 million Catholics really cared about their faith and cared about what it teaches, neither political party could ignore what we believe about justice for the poor, or the homeless, or immigrants, or the unborn. If 65 million American Catholics really understood their faith, we wouldn't need to waste one another's time arguing whether the legalized killing of an unborn child is somehow balanced out or excused by other social policies.
  • If we learn nothing else from last November, it should be this: We need to stop overcounting our numbers, our influence, our institutions, and our resources, because they are not real. We cannot talk about following St. Paul and converting our culture until we sober up and admit what we've allowed ourselves to become. We need to stop lying to each other, to ourselves, and to God by claiming to oppose personally some homicidal evil - and allowing it to be legal at the same time.
  • We've forgotten how to think, especially how to think as Catholics. We have to make ourselves stupid to believe some of the things American Catholics are now expected to accept. There is nothing more empty-headed in a pluralist democracy than telling citizens to keep quiet about their beliefs. A healthy democracy requires exactly the opposite. Democracy requires a vigorous public struggle of convictions and ideas. And the convictions of some people always get imposed on everybody else. That's the nature of a democracy. So why should faithful Catholics play by different rules and a misguided sense of good manners?
God bless Archbishop Chaput. See the full piece here.
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Saturday, May 09, 2009

Archbishop Burke's Keynote Address at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast

Please pray for the good Archbishop Burke. They will be coming after him full throttle now...They know that now that he is the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura that what he says has wider implications then when he was 'just' the Archbishop of Saint Louis.

Be warned this is very long, but well worth your time.








MAY 8, 2009


1. I am deeply honored to give the Keynote Address at this annual gathering of Catholics to pray for our nation. I express my heartfelt esteem and gratitude to those who, each year, organize and support the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast.

2. The theme of this year's Breakfast is most fitting to the difficult time through which our nation is now passing. Before the fundamental and great challenges which we as a nation are facing, how better to express our patriotism than by celebrating the teachings of our Catholic faith. The most treasured gift which we as citizens of the United States of America can offer to our country is a faithful Catholic life. It is the gift which, even though it has often been misunderstood, has brought great strength to our nation, from the time of its founding. Today more than ever, our nation is in need of Catholics who know their faith deeply and express their faith, with integrity, by their daily living.

3. Although I no longer have my residence in our beloved nation, I am no less bound to practice the virtue of patriotism, taught and exemplified by Our Lord during His public ministry. It is Our Lord Who gives us, in the Church, the grace to practice patriotism as a fundamental expression of the bond of charity which we have, in Him, with our fellow citizens. From my earliest formation in the life of the faith, received at home from my parents and in the Catholic schools, it was clear to me that duty to one's nation, to one's fellow citizens, is integral to our life in Christ in the Church. In the Baltimore Catechism, the virtue of patriotism is joined with filial piety. These essentially connected virtues, in the words of the Catechism, dispose us to honor, love and respect our parents and our country (Revised Baltimore Catechism and Mass, No. 3, New York: Benziger Brothers, Inc., 1949, 1952, no. 135). Surely, the most fundamental expression of patriotism is daily prayer for our homeland, the United States of America, her citizens and her leaders. Our participation in the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast is, I trust, an extraordinary expression of the daily prayer which we all offer for our country, as good Catholics and, therefore, good citizens.

4. It pleases me that today's celebration included a presentation by Mother Shaun Vergauwen, Superior General of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist. I have known Mother Shaun's religious congregation for all the years of my priestly life. The consecrated life of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist is an inspired witness to the truths of our Catholic faith, especially what pertains to the Gospel of Life, and, therefore, also makes a strong contribution to the good of all citizens in our nation.

Growing Crisis in Our Nation

5. I come to you, this morning, with the deepest concern for our nation. I come to you, not as someone who stands outside of our nation but as a citizen who, with you as fellow citizens, takes responsibility for the state of our nation and, therefore, cannot remain indifferent and inactive about what most concerns the good of us all, especially those among us who are small, weak and defenseless.

6. Over the past several months, our nation has chosen a path which more completely denies any legal guarantee of the most fundamental human right, the right to life, to the innocent and defenseless unborn. Our nation, which had its beginning in the commitment to safeguard and promote the inalienable right to "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" for all, without boundary, is more and more setting arbitrary limits to her commitment (cf. The Declaration of Independence: Action of Second Continental Congress, 4 July 1776, in The Constitution of the United States with the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation, New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 2002, p. 81). Those in power now determine who will or will not be accorded the legal protection of the most fundamental right to life. First the legal protection of the right to life is denied to the unborn and, then, to those whose lives have become burdened by advanced years, special needs or serious illness, or whose lives are somehow judged to be unprofitable or unworthy.

7. What is more, those in power propose to force physicians and other healthcare professionals, in other words, those with a particular responsibility to protect and foster human life, to participate, contrary to what their conscience requires, in the destruction of unborn human lives, from the first or embryonic stage of development to the moment of birth. Our laws may soon force those who have dedicated themselves to the care of the sick and the promotion of good health to give up their noble life work, in order to be true to the most sacred dictate of their consciences. What is more, if our nation continues down the path it has taken, healthcare institutions operating in accord with the natural moral law, which teaches us that innocent human life is to be protected and fostered at all times and that it is always and everywhere evil to destroy an innocent human life, will be forced to close their doors.

8. At the same time, the fundamental society, that is, the family, upon which the life of our nation is founded and depends, is under attack by legislation which redefines marriage to include a relationship between two persons of the same sex and permits them to adopt children. In the same line, it is proposed to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. At the root of the confusion and error about marriage is the contraceptive mentality - which would have us believe that the inherently procreative nature of the conjugal union can, in practice, be mechanically or chemically eliminated, while the marital act remains unitive. It cannot be so. With unparalleled arrogance, our nation is choosing to renounce its foundation upon the faithful, indissoluble, and inherently procreative love of a man and a woman in marriage, and, in violation of what nature itself teaches us, to replace it with a so-called marital relationship, according to the definition of those who exercise the greatest power in our society.

9. The path of violation of the most fundamental human rights and of the integrity of marriage and the family, which our nation is traveling, is not accidental. It is part of the program set forth by those whom we have freely chosen to lead our nation. The part of the program in question was not unknown to us; it was announced to us beforehand and a majority of our fellow citizens, including a majority of our fellow Catholics, chose the leadership which is now implementing it with determination. For example, I refer to our President's declared support of the Freedom of Choice Act, which would make illegal any legislation restricting procured abortion; his repeal of the Mexico City Policy, permitting U.S. funding of procured abortion in other nations, together with the grant of fifty million dollars to the United Nations Fund for Population Activities which, for example, supported the Republic of China's policy of one child per family by means of government-dictated sterilization and abortion; his proposal to rescind the regulations appended to the federal Conscience Clause, which assure that, not only physicians, but also all health-care workers may refuse to provide services, information or counsel to patients regarding medications and procedures which are contrary to their conscience; his removal of limitations on federal funding of embryonic-stem-cell research, involving the wholesale destruction of human life at the embryonic stage of development; and his choice of the members of his administration, who are remarkable for the number of major officials, including several Catholics, who favor the denial of the right to life to the unborn and the violation of the integrity of marriage and the family. These are only some examples of a consistent pattern of decisions by the leadership of our nation which is taking our nation down a path which denies the fundamental right to life to the innocent and defenseless unborn and violates the fundamental integrity of the marital union and the family.

10. As Catholics, we cannot fail to note, with the greatest sadness, the number of our fellow Catholics, elected or appointed by our President to public office, who cooperate fully in the advancement of a national agenda was is anti-life and anti-family. Most recently, the appointment of a Catholic as Secretary of Health and Human Services, who has openly and persistently cooperated with the industry of procured abortion in our nation, is necessarily a source of the deepest embarrassment to Catholics and a painful reminder of the most serious responsibility of Catholics to uphold the natural moral law, which is the irreplaceable foundation of just relationships among the citizens of our nation. It grieves me to say that the support of anti-life legislation by Catholics in public office is so common that those who are not Catholic have justifiably questioned whether the Church's teaching regarding the inviolable dignity of innocent human life is firm and unchanging. It gives the impression that the Church herself can change the law which God has written on every human heart from the beginning of time and has declared in the Fifth Commandment of the Decalogue: Thou shalt not kill.

11. As is clear, the anti-life and anti-family path down which our nation is being led has repercussions for many other peoples who rely upon the United States for aid or who are influenced by the international policies upon which our nation insists. The interest of so many nations in our recent presidential election is a clear sign of the world leadership which our national leadership exercises. What those who were so enthused about the strong message of change and hope in the United States, delivered during the last election campaign, are now discovering is a consistent implementation of policies and programs which confirm and advance the culture of death, which can only finally leave our world without the great hope, described by our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI in these words:

Let us say once again: we need the greater and lesser hopes that keep us going day by day. But these are not enough without the great hope, which must surpass everything else. This great hope can only be God, who encompasses the whole of reality and who can bestow upon us what we, by ourselves, cannot attain. The fact that it comes to us as a gift is actually part of hope. God is the foundation of hope: not any god, but the God who has a human face and who has loved us to the end, each one of us and humanity in its entirety. His Kingdom is not an imaginary hereafter, situated in a future that will never arrive; his Kingdom is present wherever he is loved and wherever his love reaches us.

His love alone gives us the possibility of soberly persevering day by day, without ceasing to be spurred on by hope, in a world which by its very nature is imperfect. His love is at the same time our guarantee of the existence of what we only vaguely sense and which nevertheless, in our deepest self, we await: a life that is truly life (Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Spe salvi, On Christian Hope, 30 November 2007, Acta Apostolicae Sedis no. 31).

The change which brings hope can only be the renewal of our nation in the divine love which respects the inviolable dignity of every human life, from the moment of its inception to the moment of natural death, and which creates and gives growth to new human life through the love of man and woman in marriage. Any hope which is incoherent with the great hope is truly illusory and can never bring forth justice and its fruit, peace, for our nation and world.

Addressing the Crisis

12. How can we as Catholics address effectively the critical situation of our nation in what pertains to the fundamental right to life and the integrity of the family? What does the virtue of patriotism, together with all of the virtues inspired by the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, require of us for the common good, for the good of the whole nation? First and foremost, it demands what we are doing this morning, that is, prayer, and the serious reflection which arises from our communion with God in prayer.

13. When Our Lord descended from the Mount of the Transfiguration, he found that his disciples had tried, without success, to help a boy afflicted by an unclean spirit. Our Lord then cast out the unclean spirit, prompting his disciples, when they were alone with Him, to ask why they had been unable to free the boy from his affliction. Our Lord responded with these words: This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting (Mk 9:29). Our Lord reminded them that the good which they wished to accomplish in the face of great evil could only be attained through prayer and fasting. In other words, evil cannot be overcome by our own forces alone, but by the grace of God which inspires and strengthens our thoughts and actions. It is Christ alone who has accomplished the victory over sin and its most evil fruit, eternal death, and it is Christ alone, in the Church, who continues to bring forth the fruits of His victory in our lives and in our world.

14. In the battle for the protection of the right to life and for the safeguarding of the integrity of marriage and the family in our nation, we are easily tempted to give way to discouragement. And it would be right to do so, if the outcome of the battle depended upon us alone. But it does not. Christ is with us always in the Church and, in a particular way, in the struggle to restore the respect for the right to life of all of our brothers and sisters, especially those who are helpless and who have the first title to our care, and to safeguard the integrity of marriage and the family. Christ Who is the Gospel of Life, encountered in prayer and through the Sacraments, will give us the strength to announce His word of life and to act upon His word of life, on behalf of all in our nation, especially those who depend upon us to care for them and protect their God-given rights.

15. If we are serious about our patriotic duty, then we must pray everyday for our leaders, especially our President, and our nation. We should also practice more fervently our fasting and abstinence for the conversion of our lives and the transformation of our society. If we want to act for the common good, the good of all, in our nation, then we will seek to convert our lives each day to Christ, especially through the Sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist. Christ desires to announce the Gospel of Life and bring about its saving effects in our nation by the complete conversion of our lives to Him for the sake of all our brothers and sisters, without boundary, and for the sake of the preservation of the sanctuary of human life, marriage and the family.

16. At various times of great crisis in our nation and in the world, the Holy Father and our Bishops have called upon all Catholics to offer special prayers for the nation and for the world. I recall so well, from my youth, the Leonine Prayers offered at the conclusion of every Mass to address the growing threat of atheistic materialism in our world. Remember, too, how Pope Saint Pius V, in 1571, called upon the whole Church to pray, especially through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, when the Christian world was under attack by the Turks. After the victory of the Battle of Lepanto, on October 7, 1571, he established October 7th as an annual feast in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary and introduced the title of Mary Help of Christians into the Litany of Loreto. In the present crisis, praying daily the Rosary for our nation and invoking daily the intercession of Mary Help of Christians will be powerful forces for the victory of life and love.

17. At every Mass, we should offer special prayers for our nation and her leaders, in order that the culture of death may be overcome and a civilization of love may be steadfastly advanced. All Catholics throughout the nation should take part in Eucharistic adoration and in the praying of the Rosary for the restoration of the respect for human life and for the safeguarding of the integrity of the family. In our prayers, we should seek, above all, the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, under her title of the Immaculate Conception. Mary Immaculate is the patroness of our nation. In a most wonderful way, she appeared, on our continent, in what is present-day Mexico City, in 1531, as the Immaculate Mother of God, in order to manifest the all-merciful love of God toward His children of America. Through her example and intercession, the Native Americans and Europeans, who were on the brink of a most deadly conflict, were brought together to form one people under her maternal care, and the widespread practice of human sacrifice among the native people was brought to an end. In our time, in many parishes and dioceses there are campaigns of prayer for our nation and her leaders. May these powerful spiritual works continue and prosper, so that, through prayer and fasting, the grave evils of contraception, procured abortion, euthanasia, the experimentation on embryonic human life, and so-called same-sex marriage may be overcome in our nation.

18. Connected with our prayer must be the thoughtful and faithful reflection upon the Church's teaching on the respect for all human life and the integrity of the family. In our homes, in our Catholic schools and universities, in parish study groups, and in everyday conversations and discussions with our neighbors, we are called to give an uncompromising witness to the Gospel of Life. Parents, parish priests and institutions of Catholic education must be aware of the constant anti-life and anti-family messages which constantly bombard us and our young people. One has only to think, for example, of the corruption of the goodness of our youth by the multi-million dollar industry of pornography, especially on the Internet. Our reflection as individuals and groups must open our eyes to the gravity of the situation in our nation, lest we fail to take responsibility for the widespread attacks on human life and the family. Our reflection must help us all and, in a particular way, our young people to see the godless secularism and relativism which underly and justify our nation's anti-life and anti-family programs, policies and laws.

19. Our encounter with the world must be clear and uncompromising. Parents must reflect in their daily living the lifelong and rich fruit of the Gospel of Life, which they are called to teach to their children. Catholic educational institutions must devote themselves ever more strenuously to the study of the truths of the faith, addressing them to the moral challenges of our time. In a culture marked by widespread and grave confusion and error about the most fundamental teachings of the moral law, our Catholic schools and universities must be beacons of truth and right conduct. Clearly, the same is true of our Catholic charitable, missionary and healthcare institutions. There can be no place in them for teaching or activities which offend the moral law. Dialogue and respect for differences are not promoted by the compromise and even violation of the natural moral law. The profound granting of an honorary doctorate at Notre Dame University to our President who is as aggressively advancing an anti-life and anti-family agenda is a source of the gravest scandal. Catholic institutions cannot offer any platform to, let alone honor, those who teach and act publicly against the moral law. In a culture which embraces an agenda of death, Catholics and Catholic institutions are necessarily counter-cultural. If we as individuals or our Catholic institutions are not willing to accept the burdens and the suffering necessarily involved in calling our culture to reform, then we are not worthy of the name Catholic.

Catholics and Public Life

20. Our prayer and conversion of life, and the serious reflection upon and study of the truths of the moral life, both as individuals and in our Catholic institutions, require that we accept our responsibility as citizens to work tirelessly to change unjust programs, policies and laws. In a nation set so firmly on a path of violation of the most fundamental moral norms, Catholics and others who adhere to the natural moral law are pressured to think that their religious commitment to the moral law as the way of seeking the good of all is a merely confessional matter which cannot have any application in public life. Apparently, a number of Catholics in public life have been so convinced. How often do we hear Catholic legislators who vote in favor of anti-life and anti-family legislation claim that they are personally opposed to what the legislation protects and fosters, but that they as public officials may not allow religious beliefs to affect their support of such legislation? How often do we hear fellow Catholics supporting candidates for office, who are anti-life and anti-family, because of political-party loyalties or for reasons of other policies and programs supported by the candidate, which they deem to be good? How often is such thinking justified by the claim that religious faith is a purely private matter and has no place in the public forum? On the contrary, the common good depends upon the active engagement of religious faith in the public forum.

21. Addressing the role of the Church in the political order, Pope Benedict XVI reminds us:

It must not be forgotten that, when Churches or ecclesial communities intervene in public debate, expressing reservations or recalling various principles, this does not constitute a form of intolerance or interference, since such interventions are aimed solely at enlightening consciences, enabling them to act freely and responsibly, according to the true demands of justice, even when this should conflict with situations of power and personal interest (Pope Benedict XVI, Ad Congressum a Populari Europae Faction provectum, Acta Apostolicae Sedis 98 [2006], 344)."

In his Encyclical Letter Deus caritas est, our Holy Father reminded us of the great gift of our faith which enables reason to do its work more effectively and to see its proper object more clearly (Pope Benedict XVI, Encylical Letter Deus caritas est , On Christian Love, 25 December 2005, Acta Apostolicae Sedis 98 [2006], 239, no. 28). When the Church addresses her social teaching to issues of the common good, she has no intention of giving the Church power over the State or to impose on those who do not share the faith ways of thinking and modes of conduct proper to faith (Deus caritas est, no. 28). Her aim, which is our aim as patriotic Catholics, is simply to help purify reason and to contribute, here and now, to the acknowledgment and attainment of what is just (Deus caritas est, no. 28). In addressing the critical issues of our nation, the Church and we, as her faithful sons and daughters, intervene on the basis of reason and natural law, namely, on the basis of what is in accord with the nature of every human being (Deus caritas est, no. 28).

22. Our uncompromising commitment to protect the inviolable dignity of innocent human life and to safeguard the integrity of marriage and the family are not based on peculiar confessional beliefs or practices but on the natural moral law, written on every heart and, therefore, a fundamental part of the Church's moral teaching. At the same time, what is always and everywhere evil cannot be called good for the sake of accomplishing some other good end. All of us must be concerned about a wide range of goods which are important to the life of our nation, but the concern for those goods can never justify the betrayal of the fundamental goods of life itself and the family. We must take care to uproot from our moral thinking any form of relativism, consequentialism and proportionalism, which would lead us into the error of thinking that it is sometimes right to do what is always and everywhere evil.

23. An important part of our moral reflection must include a clear understanding of the principles regarding cooperation in evil, especially by the act of voting. Too often, in our time, our inability to accomplish all that we should for the sake of the defense of the right to life and of the protection of the integrity of the family is used to justify the direct choice of a political leader who espouses a position or positions in violation of the natural moral law. The Servant of God Pope John Paul II, in his Encyclical Letter Evangelium vitae, addresses at length the question of cooperation in evil which violates the dignity of innocent human life. He offers as an example the case of a legislator who has the possibility of voting for a law which would restrict the evil of procured abortion, even though it would not eradicate it completely. He concludes that the legislator could vote for the legislation, while his own opposition to procured abortion remains clear, for his vote does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects (Pope John Paul II, Encylical Letter Evangelium vitae , On the Good and Inviolability of Human Life, 25 March 1995, Acta Apostolicae Sedis 87 [1995], 487, no. 73). In an analogous manner, as voters, we are often faced with a choice among candidates who do not fully oppose unjust laws. In such a case, we must choose the candidate who will most limit the evil effects of unjust laws. But, there is no element of the common good, no morally good practice, which a candidate may promote and to which a voter may be dedicated, which could justify voting for a candidate who also endorses and supports the deliberate killing of the unborn, euthanasia or the recognition of a same-sex relationship as a legal marriage. The respect for the inviolable dignity of innocent human life and for the integrity of marriage and the family are so fundamental to the common good that they cannot be subordinated to any other cause, no matter how good it may be.

24. In the present situation of our nation, a serious question has arisen about the moral obligation of Catholics to work for the overturning of the Supreme Court decisions in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. There are those who would tell us that such work is futile and, therefore, is to be abandoned, so that we can devote ourselves to help prevent individuals from choosing abortion. As Catholics, we can never cease to work for the correction of gravely unjust laws. Law is a fundamental expression of our culture and implicitly teaches citizens what is morally acceptable. Our efforts to assist those who are tempted to do what is always and everywhere wrong or are suffering from the effects of having committed a gravely immoral act, which are essential expressions of the charity which unites us as citizens of the nation, ultimately make little sense, if we remain idle regarding unjust laws and decisions of the courts regarding the same intrinsic evils. We are never justified in abandoning the work of changing legislation and of reversing decisions of the courts which are anti-life and anti-family.


25. As we gather this morning to pray for our nation, let us draw courage and strength from the glorious pierced Heart of Our Lord Jesus. Let us not give way to discouragement in our exercise of patriotism but rather be confident of the essential contribution which our Catholic faith makes to the life of our nation.

26. May the courage and strength which comes to us from the Sacred Heart of Jesus enlighten our minds to see more clearly the gravity of the situation of our nation and inflame our hearts to do our part to transform the life of our nation, in accord with the natural moral law, that is, with what is just and serves the good of all. Let us draw courage and strength from the Sacred Heart of Jesus through prayer and the Sacraments, especially the Sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist. May the courage and strength of Christ guide our reflection on the state of our nation and lead us to that just action, taught to us by our faith, which serves the good of all.

27. Invoking the intercession of Mary Immaculate, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of America, let us pray today and everyday that we as Catholics, true to our faith and, therefore, patriotically devoted to our nation, may promote respect for all human life, safeguard the sanctity of marriage and the family, and, thereby, foster the good of all in the nation and in the world.

Thank you. God bless you.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Twelve Tribes of Israel

A co-worker of mine brought this to my attention and I have since spent way too much time looking it over.

The question is this...Who exactly are the twelve tribes of Israel. Jacob (aka Israel) has 12 sons. Each son is listed as he is born in Genesis chapters 29, 30, 35. Also in chapter 35 we have a listing of the sons grouped according to their mother. The list is as follows:

Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun

Joseph and Benjamin

Bilhah (Rachel's Maid)
Dan and Naphtali

Zilpah (Leah's Maid)
Gad and Asher

Now we have 12 sons listed which makes 12 tribes. Seems simple enough. However, Jacob (Israel) complicates things in Genesis 48:5 by claiming Joseph's two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh as his own sons. In Genesis 49:28 we get the statement, "All these are the twelve tribes of Israel". This after Jacob (Israel) has finished blessing each of the twelve sons listed in chapter 35.

Fast forward to the New Testament in the book of Revelation. In chapter 7, verses 4-8, the twelve tribes are listed as the following: Judah, Reuben, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, Simeon, Levi, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, and Benjamin. We are missing Dan and Manasseh has been added in. Recalling that Jacob (Israel) claimed Ephraim and Manasseh as his own we might expect them to both be listed, but instead Ephraim has been replaced by his father Joseph.

If we look in Numbers chapter 1 we see a census listing of the 'sons of Israel'. Broken into tribes Levi is left out because they were to be 'over the tabernacle of the covenant' and later would not be apportioned any specific area in the Promised Land. Manasseh is listed as a tribe and so is Ephraim, but curiously Ephraim is listed as 'of the people of Joseph, namely, of the people of Ephraim'. Since Ephraim was given the blessing of the first-born, this could explain why Joseph is listed in the listing of the tribes in Revelation instead of Ephraim. Since Ephraim's people were considered Joseph's people.

Now there are many other lists of the 'twelve' tribes of Israel throughout Scripture and strangely they are almost all different in content or order, but what I want to know is why Dan is missing in the Revelation list. Anybody...
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