Truth Should Speak To Power

Abortion is the gravest evil of our time and we all have a duty to be informed and be active in combating this great slaughter, be it through incessant prayer or through pro-life work, we can all make a difference.

Two articles (also to be viewed as videos) by the Catholic British parliamentarian Lord David Alton and by Dr. Alveda King, the niece of Martin Luther King, commemorate the sad anniversary of 50 years of legalized abortion in Great Britain:

Here is an excerpt:

What abortion involves then is not a mere removal of ‘potential life’, or a ‘blob of cells’. It is the wilful killing of the smallest and most helpless member of the human family in the very place she should be safest: her mother’s womb.

And it is done by the most barbaric means. Whether it is tearing her body apart piece-by-piece by strong plier-like instruments in ‘Dilation and Evacuation’ or by a powerful suction machine in ‘Vacuum Aspiration’, or whether it is simply starving her to death by chemically-induced miscarriage, abortion is an act of the cruellest destruction.

In some cases of later abortion, in order to prevent the baby from being born alive, it is actually recommended practice by the RCOG – the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists – that the surgeons inject a salt solution into the baby’s heart to cause her a fatal heart attack. This also softens her bone tissue, making it easier for them to dismember her body.

This savagery actually takes place in Great Britain in 2017. At a time when we pride ourselves on our liberalism, our humanity, our civilisation, our compassion. In an age where human comfort for the average Briton has never been easier, and the welfare of almost every individual has at least been paid lip-service by the existence of a welfare state and a modern economy, however flawed in practice either of those might be.

We are told that this callous killing is justified. We are told, this is about a woman’s ‘autonomy’, and her ‘right to choose’.

But we know by common sense that our autonomy is obviously limited by the effect that it has on others. The ‘choice’ to not be a mother no more justifies the killing of a child in the womb than it justifies leaving a baby outside the womb to die of exposure.

No-one has the ‘right to choose’ to end the life of another human being, and so no-one has the right to have an unborn child destroyed.

Rather, we all have the duty to make sure that every member of our society is properly cared for, and that their right to life – recognised by international treaties to which our country is signatory as applying to every human being, to every member of the human family – that the right to life of everyone is given adequate legal protection.”

Here is the full text: https://davidalton.net/2017/10/27/truth-should-speak-to-power-the-50th-anniversary-of-the-abortion-act-text-of-a-speech-delivered-outside-of-the-british-parliament-on-the-50th-anniversary-of-legislation-that-has-claimed-more-than/

 


This is a prayer John Paul II prayed every day – it became a habit when he was 11 years old

Veni Creátor Spíritus,
Mentes tuórum vísita:
Implesupérna grátia
Quae tu creásti péctora.

Qui díceris Paráclitus,
Altísimi dónum Dei,
Fons vivus, ignis, cáritas,
Et spiritális únctio.

Tu septifórmis múnere,
Digitus paténae déxterae,
Tu rite promíssum patris,
Sermóne ditans gútera.

Accénde lumen sénsibus,
Infundeamórem córdibus,
Infírma nostri córporis
Virtúte fírmans pérpeti.

Hóstem repéllas lóngius,
Pacémque dones prótinus:
Ductóre sic te práevio,
Vitémus omne nóxium.

Per te sciámus da Patrem,
Noscámus atque Fílium
Teque utriúsque Spíritum
Credámus omni témpore.

Deo Patri sit glória,
Et Fílio, que a mórtuis
Surréxit, ac Paráclito,
In saeculórum sáecula.

Amen.

Translation in English:

Come, Holy Spirit, Creator blest,
and in our souls take up Thy rest;
come with Thy grace and heavenly aid
to fill the hearts which Thou hast made.
O comforter, to Thee we cry,
O heavenly gift of God Most High,
O fount of life and fire of love,
and sweet anointing from above.

Thou in Thy sevenfold gifts are known;
Thou, finger of God’s hand we own;
Thou, promise of the Father, Thou
Who dost the tongue with power imbue.

Kindle our sense from above,
and make our hearts overflow with love;
with patience firm and virtue high
the weakness of our flesh supply.

Far from us drive the foe we dread,
and grant us Thy peace instead;
so shall we not, with Thee for guide,
turn from the path of life aside.

Oh, may Thy grace on us bestow
the Father and the Son to know;
and Thee, through endless times confessed,
of both the eternal Spirit blest.

Now to the Father and the Son,
Who rose from death, be glory given,
with Thou, O Holy Comforter,
henceforth by all in earth and heaven. Amen.

Source: https://aleteia.org/2017/10/22/this-is-a-prayer-john-paul-ii-prayed-every-day/


Suffering for her Faith: Asia Bibi has spent more than 3,000 days in prison for blasphemy

Condemned to death in 2009 for insulting Islam, the Pakistani Catholic is still awaiting her final verdict.

On June 14, 2009, Asia Bibi was thrown into jail. A year later she was sentenced to death for blasphemy, and since 2013, after two transfers, she has been languishing in one of the three windowless cells on death row in the southern province of Multan in the Punjab Penitentiary. A year after the Supreme Court of Pakistan postponed her appeal amid death threats by 150 muftis (Muslim legal experts) against anyone who would assist “blasphemers,” the case has not progressed by one iota. On August 30, Asia Bibi had spent 3,000 days in prison.

Her family lives underground. The only thing we know comes from her lawyer, the Muslim Saif ul Malook, who has visited her in recent months. He says she is doing well and is still hoping for her release. On the other hand, the Supreme Court seems to have forgotten the case, and has still not decided whether to confirm her death sentence or to release her.

During those 3,000 days Asia Bibi has never stopped praying and asking for prayers. As a tribute to this Christian who has become an icon for all those who struggle in Pakistan and the world against all violence in the name of religion, this is the prayer she composed last year on the occasion of the Easter celebrations, and which accompanies her in her detention:

Resurrected Lord, allow your daughter Asia to rise again with you. Break my chains, make my heart free and go beyond these bars, and accompany my soul so that it is close to those who are dear to me, and that it remains always near you. Do not abandon me in the day of trouble, do not deprive me of your presence. You who have suffered torture and the cross, alleviate my suffering. Hold me near you, Lord Jesus. On the day of your resurrection, Jesus, I want to pray for my enemies, for those who hurt me. I pray for them and I beg you to forgive them for the harm they have done me. I ask you, Lord, to remove all obstacles so that I may obtain the blessing of freedom. I ask you to protect me and protect my family.

After eight years of suffering, anguish and disappointed hopes, let us keep up our prayers and our actions of support for her, because through her we support all the persecuted Christians in their sacrifices.

Source: Isabelle Cousturie – Francehttps://aleteia.org/2017/09/18/asia-bibi-has-spent-more-than-3000-days-in-prison-for-blasphemy/


The Church doesn’t need our opinion, she needs our holiness

It is doubtful that the Holy Spirit needs the voice of every Catholic with a blog and a Twitter account to set things straight.

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,  but only in expressing his opinion.

Proverbs 18:2

We live in a world full of opinions. And the internet has amplified the number of opinions we hear each day. People who used to grouse about life to their best friend or next-door neighbors now have websites, blogs, and social media accounts through which they can announce their opinions on any given subject to the world.

“I can be silent no more!” This sentiment is widespread, as if typing out our grievances will somehow solve the world’s problems. The democratizing force of the internet makes us all feel like our opinions are much more valuable than they really are.

It sounds harsh but most of our opinions don’t really matter. The only thing that matters is truth and action, and that is not the same as opinion. Of course, the problem is that we often confuse having an opinion with knowing the truth. We step onto our soapboxes and pontificate as if we have a full and comprehensive understanding of the truth. But we don’t.

The closest we can get to knowing and understanding truth is to enter and live within the Church. Like a mother, the Church takes us close to her breast and feeds us the milk of truth. But this truth is not given to us to wield against others like a whip. Rather, as Saint Paul tells us, we are called to speak “the truth in love” so that we may “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Eph 4:15).

Paul’s image of “growing up” is right on target. We remain as children if we do not learn the art of speaking boldly both truth and love. If we emphasize one rather than the other, we are still being called to a greater maturity in Christ. And most of us will admit that we do not speak the truth in love perfectly. As humans, we almost never speak a full truth to another person, at least not the Truth that is a person, Jesus Christ.

Instead, we speak a mishmash of opinion, truth, lies, and love all at once. We often don’t realize it. But once in a while, God reveals to us how little we actually know. It is a mercy when he does this because we are revealed to ourselves in our nakedness. For “no creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account” (Heb 4:13). Only when we realize our nakedness can we cling more closely to Christ in the Church and trust in his guidance.

Though it is woefully unpopular to say, the Church does not need our opinion in matters of faith and morals. She is not a democracy. Even if some of us find ourselves in disagreement with Church teaching or we disapprove of something a pope has said, we often can find maturity and truth in doing something our egoistic, self-centered world disdains: remaining silent. As the book of Sirach tells us, “There is a man who keeps silent but is wise” (20:1).

The Church needs us to speak the truth in love, but She does not need our correction in matters of faith and morals. The Holy Spirit corrects the Church, and he taps people like Saint Paul, Saint Catherine of Siena, and Saint Athanasius to play the part. But it is doubtful that the Holy Spirit needs the voice of every Catholic with a blog and a Twitter account to set things straight. In fact, it seems likely that the devil uses our obsession with such matters to distract us from what really matters.

What the Church does need is our holiness. She needs us to preach the Gospel to all creatures (Mk 16:15). She needs us to pull our eyes away from the internal politics of the Church and focus our eyes on spreading the Gospel and the Body of Christ. The Church needs us to desire and thirst for sanctity.

In the words of Saint Paul, the Church needs us to “increase and abound in love [for] one another…so that he may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God” (1 Thess 3:12-13).

 

Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP, is the author of The Prodigal You Love: Inviting Loved Ones Back to the Church. She blogs at Pursued by Truth.

This article was taken from: http://aleteia.org/2017/01/24/the-church-doesnt-need-our-opinion-she-needs-our-holiness/#sthash.WZkI52Dh.dpuf

 


The Most Important Person on Earth

The Most Important Person

on earth is a mother. She

cannot claim the honor of

having built Notre Dame

Cathedral. She need not. She

has built something more

magnificent than any

cathedral—a dwelling for an

immortal soul, the tiny

perfection of her baby’s

body…The angels have not

been blessed with such a

grace. They cannot share in

God’s creative miracle to bring

new saints to Heaven. Only a

human mother can. Mothers

are closer to God the Creator

than any other creature; God

joins forces with mothers in

performing this act of

creation… What on God’s

good earth is more glorious

than this: to be a mother?

—Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty

 

Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty

1892 – 1975

Joseph Mindszenty was born in Hungary on March 29, 1892. He was ordained to the priesthood on the Feast of the Sacred heart of Jesus on June 12, 1915, and was consecrated Bishop of Veszprem on March 25, 1944. From November 27, 1944 to April 20, 1945, he was imprisoned by the Nazis. Pope Pius XII appointed him Archbishop of Esztergom and Primate of Hungary on October 2, 1945. Just a few months later, on February 18, 1946, the Holy Father raised him to the Cardinalate. As Pope Pius XII placed the Cardinal’s hat on his head, the Pope said: “Among the thirty-two, you will be the first to suffer the martyrdom whose symbol this red color is.”

When the Communists arrested Cardinal Mindszenty in Budapest on December 26, 1948, his twenty-three long years of persecution, suffering and enforced isolation began. Throughout his ordeals, he was unwavering in his faith, hope and love of God.

Upon the request of Pope Paul VI, Cardinal Mindszenty departed from his country of Hungary, still occupied by the Communists, on September 29, 1971, and settled in Vienna, Austria. He died there at the age of 83 on May 6, 1975.

Today, Cardinal Mindszenty is buried in the Church of the Assumption, the Basilica of Esztergom, Hungary, where pilgrims visit daily and pray for his intercession in their needs.

(taken from: http://www.mindszenty.org/)


Every life is worth living – A challenging and inspiring story

Saying Yes To Sara – a testimony by Catherine MacMillan

I found out I was pregnant in the summer of 2009 when I was 18 years old. I had recently returned from a gap year in Africa and had a place at Glasgow University to study music. The course was due to start that September.

Of course I did not feel ready to be a mother: I felt I was too young, I worried that I might not be able to cope with being a young mum. I had so many plans and I didn’t have a great relationship with the father. I booked an abortion, and this fact has filled me with such guilt that I’ve only started openly admitting it this year.

It is becoming more and more rare for young people to hear the case against abortion and it can be disheartening when the only advice available from people around you is to take take the opposite action. It is a counsel of despair. Pressure on young women in these situations is now huge. Abortion can seem the only way out of a frightening new situation.

Miraculously, my wonderful family found out about my pregnancy. Only then did I realise that they were going to be supportive of this new chapter in my life, and that abortion was no longer something that needed to be considered. When I speak about the person I was then, it doesn’t seem as if I’m talking about myself.

Although I was naive, self-centred, self-destructive and stupid in so many ways, I am proud of, and so very grateful to that old version of me for eventually saying yes to new life. As it turned out that wonderful new life was on its way to teach a lot of lessons, and ultimately to save me. In my 26th week of pregnancy I decided I would like to know the sex of my unborn child, so my mother and I went along to a private gender scan.

At this scan it was revealed to us that I was carrying a little girl, but also that this little girl had quite a few brain abnormalities. We were passed over to the hospital for further assessment. I used to think of that week as my “mourning period”— mourning the loss of the child I thought I would have. I tried to forget some of the hopes and plans I had already made for her, like teaching her how to play the cello and how to sing, and I mentally cancelled all the nice nurseries and schools I had made a list of in my head.

I’m now glad that week was so tough, as it matured me emotionally by about 10 years. Something else happened that week. It might have been happening before then, but that point in my pregnancy signified when I became my daughter’s advocate and began to stand up for her life, her right to life, and all that comes with that.

I’ll never forget the doctor I met the following week. She was the first of many with appalling social and people skills. She was a very severe woman and she didn’t give a hint of empathy for my situation the whole time I dealt with her. She scanned my (at this point enormous) belly in total silence, and when she had finished she took a deep breath and recited this speech: “There is a chance your child will be ‘normal’ and perfectly healthy, but there is also a chance she may not make it through birth. She will potentially be extremely disabled, she could have anything from Down’s syndrome . . . ” She then went on to list lots of possible scary syndromes, with a few of them usually resulting in the child’s death during or straight after birth.

The doctor strongly advised termination and offered no support whatsoever for my decision to continue with my pregnancy. I now know that this is scarily common in our hospitals. It is legal in this country to have a disabled child aborted up to 40 weeks into pregnancy. NHS guidelines consider a baby full-term at 37 weeks, though most women go into labour between 38 and 42 weeks into their pregnancy. Ninety-two per cent of prenatal Down’s syndrome diagnoses are terminated. This means that  if modern medical procedures continue in the way they have been going for the past decade, it will not be long before the condition is virtually extinct.

When I went in for my 30-week scan with the same doctor she was still pushing termination on me. I was a huge, waddling pregnant woman. Such a procedure routinely involves giving the baby an injection, usually of potassium, into its heart so it dies before the process starts. Then the mother would have to give birth to the dead child, or a suction device would be used to remove the dead child from the womb. No one ever tells you that. No one ever explained what I would really have had to do if I had agreed to “terminate”. I would have still had to give birth to my child, and it would have been my fault that she wasn’t breathing.

Doctors don’t tell you how traumatic that choice would be, how much of a burden that would be to carry around with you for the rest of your life. The same doctor continued to strongly advise termination until I was 35 weeks pregnant. On March 31, 2010, my beautiful Sara Maria was born. She was crying, loudly, she weighed 6lb 7oz, she was alive and she was perfect. It took a few months before the extent of her problems became clear. Even the doctors were encouraging in their prognosis after her birth, but only for a short while.

As soon as she was born, things became so much easier in a way. She was a gorgeous baby. Sara spent the first two years of her life very unwell with constant chest infections because of an undetected unsafe swallow. This meant that she had been aspirating on her feeds. When it was eventually detected, she had a gastronomy feeding tube surgically fitted in her stomach. Unfortunately, the way we were treated by the doctor who initially told us Sara could be disabled was the start of a recurring theme. Sara needed a lot of medical intervention; she had five major operations, 20-odd specialist doctors and she needed round-the-clock care.

I had to file complaints against doctors for neglect and bad practice. I had constant rows with some of her doctors about whether they had her best interests at heart. Some of them did not view Sara as a human being; they viewed her merely as a medical problem that they could not solve. Instead of trying to make her life the best it could be, some of them acted as if they could not be bothered, because unlike other children’s conditions, such as cancer, they couldn’t be the hero and cure Sara’s.

Sara’s condition is called Dandy Walker Syndrome, which means that three parts of her brain did not form correctly in the womb. Her other conditions included epilepsy, cortical vision impairment, scoliosis and hip problems, and she was fed entirely through the gastrostomy tube in her stomach. She was non- verbal and immobile. She also wore hearing aids for a long time, but at the end of last year we discovered, after much debate and disbelief on my part, that we were right about her not having hearing impairment. Despite my fears of her never being musical, Sara was a pianist and a drummer, with an eclectic taste in music already, ranging from Rachmaninov piano concertos to lots of different folk and rock music.

Sara’s favourite singer, Jackie Oates, came and sang specially for her at her fifth birthday party last year, thanks to the generosity of the Make A Wish Foundation. Despite not being able to talk, she learned to quack like a duck. One of her favourite things to do was to visit the ducks at the pond and have little conversations with them. Sara had her feeding tube fitted when she was two years old. It dramatically changed her quality of life, although she still struggled with reflux and digestion issues. I eventually found out that this was because of the milk being prescribed by her gastro-surgeon and dietician.

After some research I decided to put her on a blended diet of real food. Anything you and I would eat, she got it too. This had a huge impact on her health and happiness and for the last three years her main medical problem was hip dysplasia, which she had surgery to correct last year. The high-protein diet appeared to cure her epilepsy, and she stopped having seizures altogether, which was wonderful. She was a late smiler but she certainly made up for that. I have been told by countless people that Sara is the happiest child they have ever met.

Being so inspired by my daughter’s bravery and everything else, I completed a Bachelor of Music university degree, on time, with honours and a 2:1. Sara inspired me to do work with disabled adults and children doing music therapy, and I now teach early-years music classes. I will be going back to university in August for my one-year postgraduate teaching diploma.  I want to become a primary school teacher. When Sara’s health improved I started to take her on a lot more adventures. Such a well-travelled girl, such a happy girl, such a fulfilled life. Lots of days at the beach, visiting historical castles, a life filled with going to classical music concerts and plenty of parties and social gatherings, which she thrived in.

I took her to Disneyland Paris just before last Christmas, and it was just as magical as we could have ever hoped for. On the morning of January 5 this year I was busily preparing Sara’s uniform for her return to school the next morning, and sorting through my piles of work for my return to work after the Christmas holidays. Sara hadn’t made any noise yet, but it was not unusual for her to have a long lie-in, so I let her sleep for a little longer while I got organised.

Little did I know that in the early hours of that morning, my happy, beautiful, miraculous little girl’s soul had returned to Heaven. She passed away peacefully in her sleep and with no warning at all. She would have been six years old at the end of March. We still don’t know the cause of death, but it is likely that Sara died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. I wasn’t prepared for that. But I take comfort from knowing that she didn’t die from any of the scary things I had been prepared for, like the pneumonia she came close to suffering from when she was two years old, or a long stint in hospital with her health deteriorating over time, and me having to watch her suffer.

At her Requiem Mass my father, the composer Sir James MacMillan, said this: “Catherine’s life changed forever when she said yes to new life, and we saw in this relationship an astonishing love and devotion; we saw rapture gazing at rapture, tenderness embrace tenderness, devotion build upon devotion, worship meet worship, the cherisher lift up the cherished, the enchanter astonish the enchanted, and heart lost to heart.”

He continued: “Our world celebrates strength and power. We glorify might and wealth and health and success. We cheer winners and achievers, we bow before men and women of financial clout, we laud politicians of guile and ruthlessness. Sara had nothing of any of this. Our society doesn’t know what to make of children like Sara any more. There are some very important, powerful, professional, ‘caring’ people in Glasgow who made it clear that they thought Sara should not exist—that the compassionate response to her significant disabilities would be to stop her living, for her mother to say ‘no’ instead of ‘yes’ to Sara. The concept of ‘Lebensunwertes Leben’ (life unworthy of life) did not disappear 70 years ago on the defeat of Nazi Germany. It’s here now—in our modern, oh-so-caring-and sharing nice democracies. Well, Sara interfered with that narrative too and turned it on its head.”

In a recent article in the Daily Telegraph, Neil Lyndon wrote of a father’s pain, two decades after he and his girlfriend decided to terminate her pregnancy on the grounds of severe disability. After going into great detail about his son’s severe, extensive disabilities, and, by the sound of it, being advised to abort, he wrote: “Human beings aren’t made to take such superhuman decisions. We sexual mammals exist basically to reproduce, to suckle and to nurture our young and to let them go when they reach their majority, around the age of 21; not to determine whether they should live or die.

When God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son, he removed from the father the moral responsibility for the decision and the deed. Nobody could have said it was the old man’s personal choice. “Thanks to the miracles of modern medicine, my girlfriend and I had no such consolation.” Being in a similar situation almost seven years ago, I can tell you now, after losing my most precious creation, how thankful I am that I don’t have that kind of pain. The pain that asks, “What if?” The pain that wonders what might have been.

The pain I am experiencing now, and will experience for the rest of my life, is worth it. Worth it to have those almost six years of joy, love, heartache and extreme pride. Worth it to have the happiness, the smiles and everything that Sara taught me.

Source: http://www.standpointmag.co.uk/node/6464/full


Man and Woman in Marriage: Foundations of Society

There is nothing that can replace the bond of marriage between a man and a woman. In every faith and culture of the world, the complementarity of the two sexes united in a relationship of fidelity and fruitfulness (whether physical or spiritual) is the foundational building stone of society.

The West, with its materialistic and relativistic approach to human life is the first culture in the history of mankind that deliberately and aggressively tries to deconstruct this natural reality of creation, in which we see this complementarity of two “opposites” fruitfully at work in every possible realm. Not only with human beings, but also in the animal world, we see that life is created and developed through the necessary difference yet at the same time compatibility of male and female. The world of physical laws is guided by the same principle, for example the need for electrical currents to have a positive and negative pole.

If Western societies want to survive the current crises that threaten to destroy or at least gravely weaken them, modern Man has to return to the healthy practice of accepting the reality of the natural created order, in which God created Man in His image as man and woman in order that the two can become one flesh and be fruitful. In God’s plan for humanity, so well described in the first two chapters of the Book of Genesis, we see the description of the creation of man and woman in God’s image and the institution of marriage as the groundwork of creation. Genesis speaks about the need for Man to be fruitful and multiply and inhabit the earth. We do not find calls for contraception and abortion, neither for population control.

If Jews and Christians of all stripes would accept these clear teachings of the Bible unequivocally and live them joyfully and responsibly, our world would soon see peace and prosperity flourish. It is really as simple as that.


Quietism and the need for Evangelization

A survivor of the Holocaust described very well to the Historian Martin Gilbert how this great evil could happen: it “depended most of all (…) upon the indifference of bystanders in every land”. The famous quote of Edmund Burke that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” equally underlines the core of the problem, something which Pope Francis is today calling the “globalization of indifference”. Whether it is politicians or those of us who decide to turn our back on the many harsh realities of our world because we think “there is nothing we can do”, it is all the same quietism that overlooks a central exhortation that Christ has given to his followers: go out to all nations and proclaim the Gospel – in words and in deeds.

There is the quietism surrounding the great evil of abortion and its dreadful consequences, most recently exposed by a group of courageous men and women in the United States through the release of a series of undercover videos showing how executives of the abortion industry discuss over lunch and wine how best to crush the skull of an unborn child in order for its organs to be sold intact to interested buyers. The Center for Medical Progress videos show a culture of death that bears all too much resemblance to other well documented forms of barbarism.

There is a quietism surrounding the ideological colonization perpetrated by Western governments that require developing countries wishing to receive financial aid to implement so-called progressive concepts of “sexual- and reproductive health” (a euphemism for desired-for population control through the means of unlimited abortion and contraception) and “marriage equality” (a euphemism for redefining marriage to include same-sex unions). These policies reek of a new form a racism.

There is the quietism surrounding the well-planned persecution of Christians from the Middle East and other parts of the world where a genocide is going on that has only one goal: to wipe out all Christians and their culture from the lands where Christianity was born. In the meantime, arms are flowing unimpeded to the various parties in the various conflicts in the Middle East. As a result, Europe is unsuccessfully trying to deal with an influx of refugees and migrants on an unprecedented scale. Most Europeans are showing their basic Christian humanism by receiving these our fellow human beings with charity and understanding. But this is not enough. Only the Gospel is enough.

To defend life in all its stages, Christians need to show by their lived example as couples and families God’s plan with humanity

To defend marriage, Christians need to themselves live and courageously testify to the meaning of human love and sexuality

To defend the faith, Christians need to stand up, go out, and bring the Gospel to everybody – in Europe, now more than ever, we need to bring the Gospel especially to the fallen-away Christians, and to the Mohammedans. Humanism towards refugees and immigrants is not enough. They need Christ above all else. In the words of Pope Francis to the millions of youth on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro in 2013:

Where does Jesus send us? There are no borders, no limits: he sends us to everyone. The Gospel is for everyone, not just for some. It is not only for those who seem closer to us, more receptive, more welcoming. It is for everyone. Do not be afraid to go and to bring Christ into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent. The Lord seeks all, he wants everyone to feel the warmth of his mercy and his love.

 


Just who do we think we are?

With these words Chief Justice Roberts of the United States Supreme Court underlined his firm opposition to the majority ruling of that same court making “marriage” for same-sex couples a constitutional right throughout the United States of America. Reading the majority opinion delivered by (Catholic) Justice Kennedy and then the dissenting opinion delivered by (Catholic) Chief Justice Roberts is like reading two tales of two entirely different worlds. Both justices write their opinions with civility and respect for the other, but that is the only similarity.

The first point that should grab our attention is the fact that two judges known to be Roman Catholics hold diametrically opposed views when it comes to marriage and its definition. This fact should give Catholics pause for thought, as well as the fact that it is traditionally Catholic and Protestant-Catholic countries in the West that have in recent years been redefining marriage to include same-sex couples, without much of a real fight ever being fought over it, let alone a fair public debate being held or sought: Ireland, France, Spain, Canada, Belgium and The Netherlands. It seems that many of us Christians have given up the good fight or have chosen to go with the flow, which is so much more comfortable and does not disturb our nice lives of quietism amidst material well-being. It is also a sign of our own flawed understanding of what marriage really is and how it should be lived.

The problem, really, lies in the following definition the United States Supreme Court gives to marriage, in which it does not differ much from the way too many Christians think about it today:

From their beginning to their most recent page, the annals of human history reveal the transcendent importance of marriage. The lifelong union of a man and a woman always has promised nobility and dignity to all persons, without regard to their station in life. Marriage is sacred to those who live by their religions and offers unique fulfillment to those who find meaning in the secular realm. Its dynamic allows two people to find a life that could not be found alone, for a marriage becomes greater than just the two persons. Rising from the most basic human needs, marriage is essential to our most profound hopes and aspirations. (Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. (2015), 26 June 2015, Opinion of the Court, II.A, P.3)

At first reading, this sounds quite profound and beautiful. However, the fundamental issue that has been the defining raison d’etre for marriage since the beginning of mankind is entirely missing from this definition, and deliberately so. Throughout the ruling of the Court, procreation plays no part in its deliberations and neither does the welfare of children who objectively need their biological father and mother to rear them in a stable and lasting relationship, which is what marriage is meant to be. The fact that many children have to suffer the absence of (one of) their biological parents in their lives does not take away their natural need to know and love them, even if circumstances do not always allow a closer relationship. Where marriage as an institution protected and privileged by the law was meant throughout all ages and cultures to secure the well-being of a people by enabling children to grow up in the best possible of imperfect human environments, the lifelong bond between their father and their mother, the West has now reverted to a model of marriage where the feelings and desires of the couple itself come first. Once more, the United States Supreme Court makes this very clear:

Marriage responds to the universal fear that a lonely person might call out only to find no one there. It offers the hope of companionship and understanding and assurance that while both still live there will be someone to care for the other.

Very true, but also very limited. There is much more to marriage than this alone. Self-giving, the complementary character of man and woman, and openness to life make marriage fruitful in many different ways (ways that can make marriage equally fruitful for heterosexual couples who cannot have children of their own) and allows new human beings to come into this world and find a protected environment where they learn what it means to be human and thus how to live in this world. Our self-indulgent Western societies have instead chosen to institutionalize pleasure-only selfish sex, where it is not spousal fidelity, measure and fruitfulness that defines this intimate realm, but rather the unlimited access to chemicals, rubbers and medical interventions that treat the gift of human fertility as a dangerous risk to be controlled by all possible means, including the massive state-sponsored killing of new life in the mother’s womb. Once sex becomes the free-for-all commodity it now so often is, anything goes. No wonder that American judges, even Catholic ones, are profoundly confused about the true meaning of marriage.

Some weeks ago Pope Francis had some clear words to say about love and sexuality as he addressed young people gathered in Turin. He reminded them that true love is chaste and “you young people, in this hedonistic world of ours, in this world where only advertising, pleasure…the good life…prevail, I tell you: be chaste! Be chaste!” This is the core issue we have to address – and which for many, also within the Church, is still a taboo – to bring back to our societies a correct understanding of love and marriage. As long as sex is deliberately disconnected from fidelity, fertility and life-long responsibility, marriage in the secular understanding can only be a public legal form to arrange a feel-good relationship between different persons, today two, tomorrow any given number. The redefinition of marriage in Western countries is just a symptom, not the illness itself. The illness itself is contraception, and this can only be treated by the Catholic Church and its members following their call as Christians to go against the flow and live and speak charitably and responsibly the truth of God’s plan with humanity, so clearly stated in the first pages of the Bible many thousands of years ago:

Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the tame animals, all the wild animals, and all the creatures that crawl on the earth. God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and God said to them: Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that crawl on the earth.(Genesis 1, 26-28).

God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good… (Genesis 1, 31).


Our Responsibility for Humanity

The result of last month’s referendum in Ireland, where a sizable amount of people from a traditionally Catholic nation voted to amend the country’s constitution in favor of redefining the concept of marriage to include same-sex couples, was rightly described by Cardinal Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, as a defeat for humanity. When human beings decide that they can overrule the natural order of creation by ignoring its objective realities – like that of the bipolarity of man and woman as a source of new life and the well-being of their children, the whole point of marriage as a protected institution in society – humanity itself is indeed the greatest victim of such grave error. However, we Christians are ourselves at least partly to blame for this disruptive development because we have clearly failed to educate young men and women, in our schools and parishes, to know, understand and respect the eternal truths of what it means to be human.

In a recent rare publicized letter of 21 April 2015, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI writes how he has lately rediscovered the great responsibility the Church has today to actively engage with the world at large: since the Church is part of the world, Benedict says, she can only fulfill her mission when she herself is concerned by the world as whole:

Only if we think together with the perspectives and the questions of our time, will we be able to grasp the Word of God as addressed to us in the present. Only if we join in the concern for the possibilities and the needs of our time, can the sacraments come to the people with their real power. There is another element contained therein: Inasmuch as the care of the faithful who directly seek the faith is first of all entrusted to us, so also the service of the shepherd cannot be limited to the Church alone. The Church is part of the world and so she can only rightly carry out her proper mission by looking after the entire world. For its part, the Word of God likewise regards the whole of reality, and its presence places a responsibility upon the Church for the whole. [..] the Church must involve herself in the struggles which humanity and society pass through to find the right path, and for this purpose the Church must find a way of debating these questions which also reaches out to non-believers. Only if she goes out of herself and assumes the responsibility for all of humanity does the Church remain true to herself.

At times like these, when it seems that common sense is rarely to be found in the public sphere and Christians are ridiculed and verbally abused – like we have recently seen in Ireland on a large scale – because of their fidelity to an understanding of what it means to be human that is increasingly rejected by modern man, it is easy to retreat into intellectual ghettos and false ideas of moral superiority or victimization. What however is being asked from us is something entirely different: it is the moral courage to stand up, to speak clearly and to evangelize incessantly. Let us not forget the words of Christ in the Gospel of Matthew (28, 18-20):

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.

The real answers to the problems modernity presents us with are found in these verses: Christ has all authority, despite the human follies of today; Christians are called to make disciples of all peoples – so we still have more than enough work to do; we have to teach the whole of humanity all that Christ has commanded us – also here, we have our work cut out for us; and finally, Christ himself is with us always until the end of times. What else could we ask for? Our responsibility for humanity lies exactly here, that we follow this exhortation faithfully and do our work without complaining. The Gospel has never told us it was going to be easy, to the contrary: the cross is ours, and it is our salvation.

As Pope Francis recently commented, through evangelization we have to become “instruments of salvation for our brothers” and allow all men and women to encounter Jesus Christ. Only a personal encounter with Christ can enable a person to want to know his teachings and to decide freely to follow him. To put this into the perspective of today: only when those promoting the many disordered ideologies of our times – like abortion, contraception, euthanasia or same-sex ‘marriage’ – personally encounter Jesus Christ, will these brothers and sisters of ours be able to see and accept why these ideologies are disordered and why they do not bring peace and happiness to their lives and to mankind as a whole. In order, however, for these personal encounters to be able to take place, every Christian has to be this instrument of salvation by daily testifying to the merciful love of the Father in word and deed. This requires a vibrant faith in charity and clarity – and an always listening heart that is open to the world. This is the responsibility of every Christian for humanity.