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November is by far my favorite month of the year. It’s sort of bittersweet, but that is why I like it. The darkness lengthens, the trees turn, the air becomes chilled. And yet there is a special light and warmth as well. The warm hues of autumn leaves and gourds and chrysanthemums. The golden tone of the slanting sunlight. All the abundance and togetherness and festivities–not to mention smells and tastes–of the Thanksgiving feast. Wearing sweaters and fleecy pajamas for the first time in months. I appreciate and cherish these things more with each passing year!
I turned 36 this month, and that too was bittersweet. On one hand, I feel disappointment because my life at this age is nothing like how I always hoped and anticipated. I thought that surely by this time, I would be married and have at least a couple of children and a house all our own. Maybe I would even be able to leave the workforce to tend to the home and educate the children. I fully expected to be living a normal, respectable, successful life. But things have not turned out that way. In some ways, I feel like I have not made any progress at all from where I was ten years ago… only I’ve lost people and things that made up so much of the joy I had ten years ago.
But I’ve also gained important things: faith, maturity, and wisdom. And the older I get, the more I cherish the important things and the less I care about unimportant things, such as what people think or say about me, or how the world measures what is normal, respectable, and successful. The older I get, the more content (but not complacent) I become. And that is very liberating!
Also this month was Election Day in the United States, and it included the biggest election of all, the presidential election. I did my civic duty as a voter, and did so proudly and gratefully. But on the whole, I don’t put too much stock in government and politics. There is no form of worldly government that can make me entirely secure and confident. There is no form of worldly government that can make people happy. Happiness and security and confidence come from the heavenly kingdom and its Lord. This is not to say that the election didn’t impact me. It impacted me in that it revealed, yet again, how very polarized this nation is. No matter who won the most votes, nearly half the nation was going to feel defeated and frustrated and defiant. That’s not a good thing, and I don’t envy the president one bit. I also don’t much envy those who put him in office, for the burden of what happens in the next four years is going to be largely upon them.
But as for me, I shall continue doing what I always do and putting my trust and hope where I always put them, in my King and my God. My citizenship and good standing in His kingdom will always come first. Funny how folks in this country used to be suspicious of Catholics and say that Catholics could never be good Americans because they give their primary allegiance to the Vatican. The Vatican?! Boy, they didn’t know the half of it! They thought much too lowly and safely and mundanely of us. For we Catholics don’t just give our primary allegiance to another worldly kingdom, but to a completely otherworldly kingdom. We Catholics are far more bold and radical than our fellow citizens have ever given us credit for. The rather ironic part is that our allegiance to God and His kingdom actually entail being loyal and responsible to our earthly homes and leaders (or at least their offices). In the spirit of true charity, we love and serve our nation and respect our leaders out of love for God and Heaven. To adapt the famous last words of St. Thomas More, “I am the Republic’s good servant, but God’s first.”
November increases my tendency to wax poetic and philosophic.
For now, I am going to put aside my computer and go fix myself a nightcap of hot chocolate blended with a little tot of whiskey.
A blessed Fourth of July to my country and fellow citizens! This day marks the birth of the United States as a free nation, determined not to suffer tyranny any longer. It is a nation founded on the belief that man is free by nature and by the dignity bestowed upon him by his Creator.
Of course, like all human endeavors, the reality has not fully lived up to the ideal. Many of the same men who declared that this was a free nation and that all men were created equal were also slave owners. The nation was less than a century old when a massive civil war broke out, bringing extreme misery to people on both sides. People who came here from many other nations in search of relief from poverty, famine, war, oppression, and other forms of distress and injustice often found themselves suffering from the very same things after they’d arrived here. From the beginning of this nation right up until this very day, some people have been less free and less equal than others. Of course, this is not only the reality of the United States; it is the reality of the entire fallen world.
But there is another reality both in this country and in this world. A reality made up of saints and heroes and leaders and peacemakers and ordinary people winning everyday victories over afflictions great and small, public and private. Mercy, justice, charity, steadfastness, resourcefulness, cooperation, humility, gratitude, grace, steadfastness, reason, ingenuity–these are some of the countless threads that make up the fabric of this reality. And while this reality may seem more feeble than the other, though it may at times seem non-existent, this reality has in fact underlain all of human history. While it may be difficult to discern among immediate circumstances, we will always find when we look back that it stretches away in a great swathe. Oh, it may be battered and torn in some places, but in others it shines forth radiantly and completely intact.
What condition it will be in moving forward is for us to decide. We always have a choice–always–which fabric we will lay down. In times when other people are intent to impose the more dismal reality over us, even if they are able to do so in a very powerful way, even then, we still have a choice! We have the choice to strive to overcome it! The Founding Fathers were not wrong about man’s freedom and dignity. They are ours by nature, and we exercise them every time we make a choice which path we will follow and every time we choose to stand against adversity!
It doesn’t matter if we be in chains or in prison, if we be poor or hungry, young or old, rich or poor, male or female–we still have our freedom and dignity. Race doesn’t determine it, nor ethnicity. No circumstance in this world determines it. Our own choices and deeds determine it, and the eyes of our God, who alone can see clearly what is occurring inside a person. A man may appear to others to be utterly worthless, defeated, and a failure–Christ appeared that way as He hanged dead upon the cross. But it wasn’t true of Him, and it needn’t be true of us. Because of Him, even death itself is nothing but a final obstacle to overcome!
Let us declare our independence from the harsh ways and harsh circumstances of the world–we may not be able to change them, at least not on the surface, but we can nevertheless declare independence from them and refuse to serve them. Let us declare our independence from the Tyrant who seeks the deception, degradation, and eternal ruin of our souls, and from all who have chosen to serve him. Let us declare our independence from all that troubles, tempts, misleads, and holds us captive. Let us strive to become saints, heroes, leaders, peacemakers, and victors no matter what happens or who tries to exert power over us.
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are free to us all. Nobody can give them to us or take them away from us. We have only to choose them and strive for them.
When visiting the site of one of my favorite organizations, Catholics Come Home, I saw an item about how Bill Maher recently made a mockery of one of their beautiful commercials and used it as a springboard for another of his typical excoriations of the Church–focused, as usual, on the clergy sex abuse scandal.
I know this isn’t new. Bill Maher and his fans might think it’s somehow new and daring and progressive to mock and excoriate the Catholic Church. They may think they are blazing some kind of new trail. The fact is they are just trudging along the same muddy path beaten out by nearly 2,000 years of predecessors. The tradition of mocking Christians has been around as long as Christianity itself. Maher et al. are just carrying on the ancient ways. There is nothing fresh and new about any of it.
I also know that our Lord promised outright that His followers would suffer. After all, He suffered for us, and no servant is greater than the Master. And I certainly count myself very fortunate if the worst thing I have to suffer are the verbal mosquito bites of people like Maher, when my Catholic brethren in some parts of the world are suffering blood-red martyrdom every day.
But still, the word martyr literally means “witness” and every one of us is called to be a witness. No matter how insignificant the sticks and stones of Maher may be to us personally, we don’t have the right to just look the other way. That’s one of the things he and those who watch and listen to him want us to do–either look the other way so that they may mock us as cowards who support their claims against us by our silence–or else react hysterically so that they can mock us as thin-skinned lunatics.
We must do neither. Rather, we, as witnesses of and for the Church, should stand quietly and still and stare them down firmly but peacefully. In doing so, we also stand together, with and for each other. If society sees us doing this, it may be edifying. Who knows? Stranger things have happened. I’ve heard it said that when the ancient Romans witnessed the Christian martyrs firmly but peacefully facing gruesome and violent deaths, many of them were converted. That story has been repeated in many times and places.
Whenever I am even tempted to react angrily to Bill Maher or anybody else, I think of people like St. Joan of Arc and St. Thomas More who lost their lives after being fiercely betrayed and perjured against. They had every right to be angry, didn’t they? But they weren’t. They quietly bore witness to the sin, cruelty, and corruption of the world around them, neither fighting nor fleeing. Once they were left with no choice other than either renouncing their faith or dying, they gracefully took the only right way out. In short, they followed Christ’s example extremely well.
Certainly, I don’t blame the good folks at Catholics Come Home for responding to Maher’s piece by setting straight some of his false claims. We all have the right and the responsibility to correct the ignorant and to maintain innocence and defend the truth of our own characters and beliefs. If somebody were to make inappropriate claims against me personally, I would definitely respond to that. Bearing false witness against another is a sin against one of the Ten Commandments, after all, and we don’t do anybody any favors by not calling them out on it.
But for most of us, we have plenty of freedom in choosing how we will react and not react when we encounter mockery, slander, unjust criticism, etc. I believe the best choice in most situations we face in this country is to just stand our ground. Which isn’t the same as letting somebody off the hook, mind you…
Regarding Bill Maher, if he really cared about the sexual abuse of children, he would abandon his myopic focus on the Church and talk about the areas in our society where such abuse is far more rampant and far more ignored than it is in the Catholic Church: public schools, other religious groups, and, sadly, families. He demands that the Church be responsible, but I don’t see him being any more responsible himself. As far as I can tell, sexual abuse is just a big Catholic-bashing joke to him.
And his viewers surely never get tired of it. It’s become one of those comedic trademarks that viewers find funny not because it’s something new and unexpected but because, to the contrary, it is something eagerly expected and anticipated. You know, like when Lucy Ricardo gets that conniving gleam in her eye, or Rose Nyland starts telling a St. Olaf story, or Hyacinth Bucket stumbles into the bushes when that dog barks at her. No matter how many times it happens, it still makes us laugh.
It’s a shame that “discussing” sexual abuse has become a comedic trademark for some people. How is that helping anything or anybody? It’s only progressing the already rapid coarsening and hard-heartedness of our society, where personal pleasure is considered more important than the common good. This society needs strong Catholic witnesses more than ever.
So, thank you, Bill Maher, for providing us ample opportunities to serve. And thank you, Catholics Come Home, for helping to increase our ranks.
It reminded me of this Sunday’s scripture readings, and the wonderful homily our deacon gave, about the challenges and trials of the prophetic mission we all receive at baptism–and what happens when we neglect that mission. Why, asked the deacon, is it practically taboo to speak of God in public? Or why is there public outcry when Pres. Obama swats a fly, but silence when children are killed in the womb? It’s because the prophets have disappeared. Their voices have fallen silent. And those prophets are you and me. Every single baptized Christian.
On the other hand, when we do speak out, we often find ourselves in a situation similar to that in which Lord Jesus found Himself in this Sunday’s gospel. He was visiting His hometown, surrounded by family, friends, and neighbors, all the people He had grown up with. And they reject Him. They don’t believe in Him. They scoff.
It’s not so different when some of our fellow Catholics tell us to quiet down about abortion, to stop being “single-issue” Catholics, or even to give up the pro-life movement altogether because it’s already lost. Those who should stand with us instead stand against us. Those with whom we already have so much common ground to share distance themselves from us. Those who should encourage us scoff at us.
Never mind all the opponents we have in the secular world. There’s more than enough opposition among us! And it’s not because some of us need to tone it down. It’s because too many of us care too much about feeling safe and comfy and all respectable in the eyes of the world to exercise our prophetic voices. They may sincerely think that they are preserving some kind of peace and harmony, seeking common ground and dialogue with society. I understand these things. In fact, I’d be a bold-faced liar if I said I didn’t struggle with them myself. But I do struggle, because I know that the easy, smooth, popular way is never the right way.
I think I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Catholics have no safe, comfortable place in this world. We will never be popular. The sooner each of us realizes and accepts this, the more at one we will be as Catholics. The more we will share genuine common ground.
Speaking of which, lots of those people out there who talk so much about common ground and dialogue and tolerance would actually prefer that we Catholics vanish from society, disappear from the public square, never to be heard from again. They want to do whatever they want, without any response from us. Oh, I’m not suggesting they want us dead (though that has been the case before at various times and in various places), but they do want us silent.
That’s the way of the world. No Catholic can choose that way. It’s not an option. It goes against everything we stand for. It goes against the way our Lord and King took. It goes against the way the prophets of old took. It goes against the way all the Apostles took. It goes against the way every single Martyr and Saint has taken.
No. We have to take our role as prophets seriously. Especially when it comes to the defining issue of our time, which is undisputably abortion. The Church has consistently taught the evil of abortion. But she has never been faced with it on this scale. It out-scales every other social justice issue combined. Every future generation of Catholics is going to look back at the Church of today and remember us for how we did or did not deal with the abortion issue. They are going to judge whether we succeeded or failed… or even tried. How do we want them to remember us? Think about that for a moment. If we truly represent the Culture of Life, we have to think about the future; not taking the future into consideration is a trademark of the Culture of Death. It may sound silly or even arrogant, but I want to be thought of well by future Catholics. Honestly, if I may say so, I wouldn’t mind being canonized!
That’s what I mean by the “defining issue of our time.” It will define us. It’s the great trial for us now. The great battle right now. The great crucible. It’s not going away. And it’s not going to make the secular world fond of us. We have to take it very seriously. We have to speak and act seriously on it. We have to be willing to put ourselves on the line for it. And we have to not allow ourselves be swept under carpets or hammered underground. Not by the secular world, and not by other Catholics.
From Bishop Emmanuel de Gibergues, Keep it Simple. I am not sure when Bishop de Gibergues lived, but I think these words are extremely relevant today, not only for individual Catholics but for our Catholic, or formerly-Catholic, universities and institutions:
Make Jesus the beginning, the center, and the end of all things. May His name always be for you first and last, your alpha and omega. May Jesus have the first place, the place of honor, the royal place, in your heart.
In the world, we see silly, frivolous people, vain, material creatures, who think only of the world’s opinion. This thought absorbs and guides them; they are possessed, hypnotized, by it. On rising, while dressing, when at table, at home or abroad, in their thoughts, words, or actions, always and everywhere, they ask themselves, “What will the world say?” For them, the world is a real and perpetual presence, an ever-watchful eye, by which they are governed, conquered, and enslaved. May Jesus be to you what the world is to them, and may your whole life be inspired by the desire to please Him.
Today the world expels Jesus from its midst. Today men cry as did those before them, “We will not have Him to reign over us; take Him away and crucify Him!” “The nations have trembled,” says the psalmist. “All the powers of the earth have gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ.” It is a conspiracy that savors of madness; they would abolish the very name of God.
It is for you to make amends by quietly protesting and resisting as a Christian may. It is for you to give your heart to Jesus all the more generously as the world gives Him less, and to receive Him with all the more love in proportion as others drive Him away with a more intense hatred.
The more the world rails against our Lord and King, the more faithful and devoted to Him we must be. The stronger the currents of the world, the more vigorously we must swim against them. As Chesterton said, “”A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.”
There is nothing and nobody more alive than a Catholic. And so there is no excuse for a Catholic not to swim against the stream. If we refuse to do so, we refuse our very selves, the greatest yearnings of our souls, not to mention all that our Lord has given us, He being the source and summit of the life we have.
Lately I’ve come across some posts in the Catholic Blogosphere about the perils of our English Catholic ancestors.
My Dominican brethren at Godzdogz post about a visit to the recusant house, Mapledurham, near Reading:
The house has several hiding holes in which priests would hide from the authorities during penal times, and we were all most impressed at how cleverly constructed these hiding holes were. They boasted many ingenious features that allowed the priest, among other things, to look out into the grounds of the house and to escape when the coast was clear. The hiding holes must have served their purpose for there is no record of a priest ever being captured at Mapledurham!
The house boasts many other interesting features, including a bureau that hides an altar, complete with tabernacle and candlesticks inside. All of this made for a very enjoyable day, particularly as we were blessed with fine weather. The house is well worth a visit, it would interest anyone but is of particular interest for Catholics of course, being such a good reminder of how much our ancestors in the faith suffered and struggled to remain true to the faith of the Catholic Church during those dark years.
Thank God for that, but you can imagine the anxiety and anguish, both of the priests and those who sheltered them? Although they may have been fortunate to escape physical punishment, their suffering was no less real or difficult to bear. They suffered white martyrdom.
Father Blake of St. Mary Magdalen Church in Brighton celebrated his 25th anniversary of ordination on 12 May, which is also the feast day of the English Carthusian martyrs–men who suffered red martyrdom. From Father Sean Finnegan’s homily on the occasion:
John Houghton, together with two other priors from the North, went to speak to Thomas Cromwell, the King’s strong arm man in religious matters. We can be sure that with his lawyer’s training, St John tried everything to make it possible to take the oath of allegiance to the King, without, however, compromising principle. Nothing availed, however, and all three were arrested, the charge being that —and I quote — ‘John Houghton says that he cannot take the King, our Sovereign Lord to be Supreme Head of the Church of England afore the apostles of Christ’s Church’, which rather makes it sound as if the apostles had also usurped what was the King’s rightful position.
In any event, he was condemned, of course—Cromwell had had to threaten the jury with treason charges themselves in order to achieve it, and the three priors together with a Bridgettine priest and a secular priest were all dragged to execution together. St Thomas More, by now in the Tower of London, watched them from the window of his cell setting off, and commented to his daughter who was visiting that they looked just like bridegrooms going to their wedding, a comparison that St John Fisher was also to use on the morning of his own death.
King Henry was insistent that the priests should be executed in their religious habits, to teach other religious a lesson, one presumes. This meant that after St John was cut down from the gallows, still alive, to be butchered, the thick hairshirt he wore under his heavy habit had to be cut through by the executioner, who had to stab down hard with the knife. And then, finally, as the executioner drew out St John’s still beating heart before his face, he spoke his last words: ‘Good Jesu’ he said, ‘what will you do with my heart?’
Father Timothy Finegan also shares the story, illustrated with paintings from the Chapter House at Parkminster.
In this picture you can see one monk hanging while another forgives the man who is about to execute him.
The stories of the English martyrs always give me a rather sound shaking. They are a powerful safeguard against complacence. The mad, cruel, and unjust persecution of good and blameless men like St. John Houghton and his Carthusian brethren, not to mention St. Thomas More, St. John Fisher, and many other English Catholics began with the lust and arrogance of just one man, and the crookedness and/or cowardice of his supporters.
How capricious temporal powers are! How tenuous the position of our Church and ourselves in this world! Things can shift in any direction at any time. Who would believe that St. Thomas More would fall from being Chancellor of England to having his head cleft off? Who would believe that St. John Fisher would be the one and only bishop to remain true to the Catholic faith? Who would believe that such innocent and holy monks could be found guilty of treason? Who would believe it if it weren’t a fact of history?
And what about us? We here in the 21st century, in the U.S. and elsewhere in the western world–do we really imagine that we are safe? We Catholics are not safe in this world. We never have been and never will be. If we are fortunate, we may be spared the red martyrdom of those Carthusian martyrs. But to escape martyrdom completely is impossible for a devoted Catholic. We will always be dealt wounds by this world, to some or other degree. We all, without exception, have our crosses to bear.
But far from calling us to fear and anxiety, the stories of the martyrs call us to fortitude, steadfastness, and ultimately victory! May they be always in our hearts and minds as we are always in their prayers.
Although Father’s Day is not until next month, I thought I would share some good writings on fatherhood that I’ve come across today.
First, Father Thomas Euteneuer (one of the men who inspired me to become pro-life) provides some reflections on priestly celibacy and priestly fatherhood in his latest Spirit and Life letter:
Celibacy is a gift to the world, not a rule imposed by the Church on a few seemingly-abnormal men. Celibacy initiates men into a life of spiritual fatherhood in a strikingly positive way for others. We are called “father” for a reason: we bring spiritual life to our people through the sacred mysteries which we handle, and they are drawn into a spiritual family thereby. A truly dedicated priest has thousands of spiritual children who sometimes make immense demands on him—I often wish I had only seven children like my father! In an age where men have massively renounced their sacred duty to generate, protect and nurture families, there are myriads of selfless, celibate men sacrificing themselves in a truly manly way for the sake of God’s family and, indeed, even for the sake of many individual families.
The presence in society of men who make this sacrifice is profoundly challenging to a culture that wants to reduce everything in life to the pleasure principle. Such a total renunciation is truly counter cultural: it’s like choosing to live with a permanent wound in the heart that never heals but out of which flow “rivers of living water” (Jn 7:38) that heal countless others. Celibacy is not easy for anyone to live, in fact, it is a constant death to self; but it is enormously life-giving to others, and the Church has not lost sight of that for two thousand years.
I’m not one who needs persuading of the goodness of priestly celibacy, but I do find Father Euteneuer’s reflections very powerful and moving. I love the connections he draws between celibacy, fatherhood, and manliness. So often, our society regards celibacy as an awful monstrosity of abnormality and emasculation.
Think about that as you read about the effects of abortion on men (from the Elliot Institute):
According to Dr. Vincent Rue, one of the nation’s most experienced psychologists in the field of post-abortion issues:
Induced abortion reinforces defective problem solving on the part of the male by encouraging detachment, desertion, and irresponsibility…. Abortion rewrites the rules of masculinity. While a male is expected to be strong, abortion makes him feel weak. A male is expected to be responsible, yet abortion encourages him to act without concern for the innocent and to destroy any identifiable and undesirable outcomes of his sexual decision making and/or attachments…. Whether or not the male was involved in the abortion decision, his inability to function in a socially prescribed manner (i.e., to protect and provide) leaves him wounded and confused.
Abortion, of course, is very much a result of that “culture that wants to reduce everything in life to the pleasure principle” mentioned by Father Euteneuer. Also known as the Culture of Death. Only that culture could distort and vilify priestly celibacy and pure, authentic manhood in general. Only that culture could portray both chastity and fatherhood as burdens to be disposed of.
Learn more about how abortion hurts men at the Elliot Institute’s men’s page.
Reading all this makes me more determined than ever to fight for a Culture of Life for all of us!
I just felt like saying that! :) Because it’s true.
I’ve been going through one of those phases when I find myself besieged by lots of things which, individually, seem pretty trivial and silly. It’s amazing how quickly things can overwhelm me and tip my world off its axis. I get a kind of tunnel vision that only sees the negative in things.
But you know, there is always a way out. I am never trapped. Yesterday, when I’d just about reached the end of my rope, I went to church, went to Confession, attended Mass, and received Holy Communion. And I came out of church as a completely new person. As usual, the priest was able to help me put things back in proper perspective and remember how very good the Lord has been to me.
I’m still amazed at the simple and yet profound power found within the Church. For the life of me, I can’t understand why I ever left her. I don’t know what I would do or where I would be without her. Truly. I shudder to think. And when I think of all the people out there who are without her, whether by choice or not, my heart goes out to them. My heart wants to go out and embrace every one of them and draw them home!
God Himself is there. Love and Life are there in all truth and purity, goodness and beauty. Oh, if only all souls knew what and, more importantly Whom, they could find in a Catholic church!
Our society is increasingly trying to shut God and Church out of the public square. I hate to see that happen. But if, or when it does, hope won’t be defeated. Hopefully, many people begin to realize what and Whom they are missing. And hopefully they will seek Him out. And when they do, they ought to find Him in our midst.
This is the time for Catholics to unite, to be of one heart and mind, to truly be one Body. This is the time for us to get serious and hold fast to our tradition. This is the time for us to embrace our identity, even if it sets us at odds with some. This is the time for us to say, “Here we are, and we want you to come and find your home with us!” This is the time to remove all the bushel baskets and let our light shine into to the world, so that people may give glory to God. The beacon of the Church will attract enemies. But it will also attract seekers of goodness, truth, and beauty.
As I can testify from my own personal experience, God miraculously transforms bad things into good. The more darkness and evil are in the world, the more light and grace come to be. Time and time again, it proves true!
Let us not fall into that awful tunnel vision that sees only bad. Let us remember: God is so good! And if we have trouble keeping sight of that, let us avail ourselves of what our Church offers us–nothing less than God Himself!
Here is an article that nicely summarizes responses–both negative and positive–to Pope Benedict’s recent statement that condoms will not combat the AIDS epidemic in Africa, and in fact could exacerbate it (with my emphases and comments):
By Hilary White
ROME, March 19, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Two days after Pope Benedict XVI warned that more condoms would facilitate the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa, the world’s condom-promoters and their political allies are leading an all-out attack on the pope and on the Catholic Church. However, at the same time, Catholic and other conservative leaders are defending the pope, pointing out that not only is science on his side, but also that in his remarks the pope was showing a welcome deference to the pro-family culture of Africa, which is opposed to the population control agenda promoted in the continent by many Western “aid” agencies.
The day after the Pope made his comments, the heavily anti-Catholic government of Spain announced it would be sending over a million condoms to African countries. The Spanish health ministry said in a statement Wednesday, “Condoms have been demonstrated to be a necessary element in prevention policies and an efficient barrier against the virus.”
The French foreign ministry called the comments a “threat to public health policies and the duty to protect human life,” while the Dutch development minister said it was “extremely harmful” and that “the pope is making matters worse.” Former French Prime Minister Alain Juppé, interviewed Wednesday by France Culture, said, “This pope is becoming a real problem.” [As a Catholic, I consider that a good sign.]
“To go say in Africa that condoms increase the danger of AIDS is, first of all an untruth and it is unacceptable for the African people and for everyone else,” Juppé said.
Aurelio Mancuso of the Italian group Arcigay said, “While across the world and especially in Africa thousands are dying of Aids, Ratzinger [Benedict] can think of nothing better to say than repeat the Vatican’s position on condoms. [The way this is said makes the pope sound like a brainless idiot who does nothing but parrot sayings. Give me a break--we're talking about one of the most brilliant, articulate, and eloquent people on earth! But as for the position he holds and supports--what on earth do they expect from the pope?]
“We are now beyond the paradox, this view simply contributes to the spread of the disease and especially in Africa where there are not enough medical resources to treat patients.”
The Telegraph also quoted Lisa Power of Britain’s homosexualist activist group, the Terrence Higgins Trust, who said, “We deeply regret the continued misinformation around condoms, which remain the most effective way of preventing the spread of HIV.
“Both abstinence and condoms are valid weapons in the fight against HIV, but unfortunately abstinence has a far higher failure rate.”
Rebecca Hodes, of the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa, told the Guardian that the Pope’s “opposition to condoms conveys that religious dogma is more important to him than the lives of Africans.” [Or could it be that religious dogma is important because it saves and improves the lives of human beings? But only a stupid, unenlightened Catholic could believe that.]
However, while Pope Benedict in his remarks was merely reiterating Catholic teaching, backed up by research showing that the failure rate of condoms and the promiscuity they encourage significantly contribute to the spread of AIDS, defenders of the pope have observed that the Holy Father’s remarks had a further inspiration, beyond the science of the matter. [Given what a thorough thinker Pope Benedict is, I'm sure this is true.]
Franciscan Father Maurizio Faggioni has suggested that the pope was in part responding to a grave cultural threat to Africa posed by the condom philosophy and the international population control movement that promotes it. Faggioni, who has advised the Vatican on sexual morality issues, told Catholic News Service that the pope sees condom campaigns as a question of “cultural violence,” especially in Africa, where there has never been a “contraceptive mentality.” [The contraceptive movement is just the latest form of Western imperialism. I'm sure that this is something the Holy Father has in mind.]
This opinion is supported by local African AIDS activists who regularly complain that AIDS sufferers in their countries are being used in a massive international campaign both to reduce African populations and undermine traditional African family values. ["Being used" is the operative phrase here. Whenever human beings are used as means to an end, when human beings are treated like objects, we're talking grave, intrinsic evil. The fact that these particular human beings are already gravely ill and suffering just makes it more monstrous.]
Martin Ssempa, a key player in Uganda’s highly successful abstinence and faithfulness anti-AIDS programmes, [Hello! This can't be ignored!] told LifeSiteNews.com that the hostility towards the Catholic Church of the international AIDS organisations is matched only by their hatred of traditional Christian sexual morality. [Their alleged concern for AIDS and AIDS patients is their means of trying to bring down the entire body of Christian sexual morality. By pressuring the Church to give up its stance on condoms, they expect that they can get the Church to give up its stance on everything else as well. And they'd probably be right--but they aren't going to succeed.]
Ssempa, a Protestant minister, said in October 2007, during a previous media-sponsored wave of furor over the Catholic Church’s opposition to condoms, “Condoms have not reduced HIV-AIDS anywhere in the world … Higher condoms [rates] across Africa have resulted in higher HIV.”
Condom promoting international organisations such as UNAIDS, he said, are “demonizing the Catholic Church unfairly.” [Again, I take that as a good sign. If the Church were no longer demonized unfairly, I think we'd need to seriously examine ourselves.]
“In fact,” he said, “in countries where the Catholic Church is strong, there is lower HIV than places where the Catholic Church is not.”
In 2008, Sam L. Ruteikara, the co-chair of Uganda’s AIDS-prevention Committee wrote in the Washington Post that in the fight against AIDS, “profiteering has trumped prevention.”
“AIDS is no longer simply a disease,” he said, “it has become a multibillion-dollar industry … [And of course, those who cash in on it aren't really interested in destroying it.] Meanwhile, effective HIV prevention methods, such as urging Africans to stick to one partner, don’t qualify for lucrative universal-access status.”
Rutkara said, “Our wisdom about our own culture is ignored. [Because the West knows best, dontcha know?!] Telling men and women to keep sex sacred – to save sex for marriage and then remain faithful – is telling them to love one another deeply with their whole hearts. Most HIV infections in Africa are spread by sex outside of marriage: casual sex and infidelity. The solution is faithful love.”
In a meeting with the press on board the plane taking him to Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon, on Tuesday, the pope set off a firestorm after responding to the assertion that the Catholic Church’s position on combating AIDS is considered “unrealistic and ineffective.”
“I would say the opposite,” Benedict said. [I love how he begins his response this way! It is bold in its contradiction. As I've said before, the Holy Father has an exquisite manner of calmness, gentleness, and charity--but he's no push-over. He doesn't hesitate to draw sharp lines when it comes to ideas and beliefs and what's wrong and what's right. God bless him for it!] “I think that the reality that is most effective, the most present and the strongest in the fight against AIDS, is precisely that of the Catholic Church, with its programs and its diversity.”
“I would say that one cannot overcome this problem of AIDS only with money — which is important, but if there is no soul, no people who know how to use it, (money) doesn’t help,” he said.
“One cannot overcome the problem with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, they increase the problem.”
Benedict said that combating the spread of AIDS requires “first, a humanization of sexuality, that is, a spiritual human renewal that brings with it a new way of behaving with one another. [Sexuality must involve relating with another human being--not using them.] Second, a true friendship even and especially with those who suffer, and a willingness to make personal sacrifices and to be with the suffering.” [True compassion--something the secular world just doesn't understand any more. " 'Make personal sacrifices'? Sounds hard and painful--why on earth would we do that?"]
I definitely understand why his statements are making some people angry. But I love that he’s willing to say things that make people angry. If the pope can’t or won’t do so, then what hope is there for the rest of the Catholic world? I’m so grateful that we have a Holy Father who is able to lead by example and inspire courage and reassurance in his flock. May God bless him with continued long life!
And just in case we need further evidence that the pope was right in his statement, here’s another article to look at: Harvard AIDS Expert Says Pope is Correct on Condom Distribution Making AIDS Worse