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Response to a question

Recently we had a commenter post a question on this video:

The question was this:

“Dear Al, it troubles me that  you are loosing focus as to what homosexuality really is as well as conversion. Homosexuality has varying degrees that go from hormonal imbalances to a lifestyle being the latter whats rapidly spreading in our culture. One has to do with medical treatment and the second  with, I’ll say it, conversion, and what is to convert? well the word say it: To become something you are not. In either case there has to be some kind of change. No wonder our Lord used the term “conversion” to imply to what extent that change could be.”

My response:

I may have missed your point. So my response is tentative. Homosexuality is a multi-faceted phenomenon. But I don’t expect state, professionally licensed therapists to do the work of pastors or evangelists or spiritual directors. Conversion, in the sense that I think you mean it, has to do with the moral and spiritual transformation that enables one to turn to God and away from sin. Is that what therapists should be promising? I don’t think they should nor do I think they are making such promises. President Obama and his cohorts seem to think that is what Christian therapists have been promising. I don’t think so.

I am unaware of any large movement of professionals claiming “conversion” therapy. This is a straw man that ends up discrediting those individuals who claim to have experienced some measure of change or at least freedom from unchastity.  The “conversion” language originates from non-professional Pentecostal groups who used to commonly promise conversion from homosexual desires when one was born again and became a new creation. Eventually, those who had claimed “conversion” sought to help other same sex attracted people. Prayer, deliverance, and biblical counseling got supplemented by neo-Freudian counseling that relied upon the belief that homosexuality was the result of a deficit in the relationship with the same sex parent. Sometimes this counseling helped, sometimes it didn’t.  (To this day, there are four schools of thought on how same sex attraction originates. If we don’t know where it comes from, it’s not likely we know how to change it.)

In the 1980s, I served on the board of an ex-gay ministry and asked lots of questions and saw lots of mixed results. What I found was that most people, whether through prayer or therapy, didn’t experience a 180 degree turn from homo to hetero. At least half, frankly confessed continued struggling with same sex temptation. Many also gained significant mastery over behavior. I do know those who claim significant to complete change and are married with children. I know others who claim significant change but who retain tempting memories of same-sex stimulation. I know others who have resigned themselves to dealing with same sex temptation for the rest of their lives and yet are committed to chastity. I know others who lied to themselves and others about change when none occurred and became victims of wishful thinking- their own and that of their “counselor”.

By forbidding professionals to offer the possibility of some degree of change is unscientific. The research is not settled. At the moment, far more people experience benefits from the these therapies than suffer harm if the actual studies are to be believed. While the self-reports of people are not the best way to settle the science behind the problem, it certainly isn’t a bad way to proceed on the availability of therapies.

My key points are:

1. Politics are polluting much of the research on homosexuality.

2. Christian therapists don’t promise extravagant conversion. If the client wants it, a humane therapist should be able to offer the possibility of some degree of change or behavior, based on the current science. Pastors, evangelists, deliverance counselors should be able to pray for miracles. Just as some alcoholics are freed from alcoholism at conversion, so too some homosexuals are freed. We don’t, however, license substance abuse therapists who charge people good money claiming their therapy will turn an alcoholic into a non-alcoholic through prayer alone. Professional Christian therapists should not be coerced into silence by a law that denies the full range of scientific studies.

In summary, gay politics is distorting science and harassing Christian therapists.

Secret Archives Show Vatican Tried to Stop Armenian Genocide

by Diane Montagna via Ateleia.org

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VATICAN CITY — Why did Pope Francis’ controversial comments on Sunday about the “Armenian Genocide” cause such a furor in Turkey?

To help understand the true history behind the 1915-16 atrocity, Aleteia interviewed the German historian and author, Dr. Michael Hesemann, who was in Rome for Sunday’s Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica commemorating the 100th anniversary of the genocide, otherwise known as Metz Yeghern [the Great Evil].

The atrocity involved the Ottoman government’s systematic extermination of its minority Armenian subjects inside their historic homeland which lies within the territory constituting present-day Turkey. The total number of people killed in what is also known as the Armenian Holocaust is estimated at between 1 and 1.5 million.

In a new book entitled, The Armenian Genocide [Völkermord an den Armeniern], Hesemann reveals for the first time the content of never-before-published documents on “the greatest crime of World War I,” and how Pope Benedict XV and Vatican diplomacy tried to stop the deportations of the Armenians into the Syrian desert, save the victims and prevent the massacre of an entire people.

In this interview, Hesemann shares his findings, which include evidence of Masonic involvement, and expresses both his admiration for Pope Francis for drawing attention to the genocide of Christians and ethnic minorities, and his disappointment over the absence of the German Ambassador to the Holy See at Sunday’s commemorative Mass.

Dr. Hesemann, what led you to write a book on what documents contained in the Vatican Archives reveal about the Armenian Genocide? 

Actually it was a kind of coincidence. I work as an historian for the “Pave the Way Foundation” in an intensive study of all the aspects of the life of Eugenio Pacelli, the man who eventually became Pope Pius XII.

From 1917-1925, Pacelli was Nuncio in Munich, so I went through the files of the Apostolic Nunciature in Munich, only to discover one folder with the title “Persecution of the Armenians”.

I opened it and found a letter of the Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal von Hartmann, to the Chancellor of the Reich, Graf (Count) Härtling, in which he calls the persecution of the Armenians “not less brutal than the persecutions of the Christians in the first centuries of Christianity.” The Archbishop requested an urgent German intervention, unfortunately in vain.

In the same file I found a copy of a letter written by Pope Benedict XV to the Sultan, asking for mercy for the innocent Armenians. These documents both touched me and aroused my curiosity. I felt I had just touched the tip of an iceberg and was sure I would find more data, and indeed I did — some 2500 pages so far.

I soon realized that no historian had ever worked with most of these documents, and that all this information was obviously unknown even to the leading experts on the Armenocide.

Given the importance of their content, I decided to write a book, putting the documents in the context of what we already know about the events of 1915-18.

What was the most surprising and unexpected insight you discovered in the Vatican Archives about the Armenian genocide?

The most surprising insight was that the Armenian genocide was in fact just part of a bigger plan — the extermination of all non-muslim minorities in the Ottoman Empire.

The ruling “Young Turk” movement came in contact with European ideas of nationalism and the concept that only a homogenous state can be a strong state. That is why they believed that the weakness of the Ottoman Empire was caused by its multi-religious and multi-ethnic character.

They wanted to “heal” this “weakness” by eliminating all foreign elements, which first meant the Christians who numbered 19% of the population in early 1914. Besides the Armenians, also Aramaic and Assyrian Christians, Catholic and Greek Orthodox Christians were persecuted and murdered.

The Turkish claim of a conspiracy between Russia and some Armenian leaders was nothing but a lie to justify those measures. If that were really the case, why did they kill innocent women and children, too? And why didn’t they spare the other Christian groups, which were never under suspicion? Indeed, the Turkish Secretary of the Interior, Talaat Bey, quite frankly told Johann Mordtmann of the German Embassy, according to a report to Berlin: “The (Turkish) government uses the war to get rid of our internal enemies — the indigenous Christians of all denominations — without diplomatic interventions by foreign nations.”

This is also what we read in some of the Vatican documents, e.g. a report written by Fr. Michael Liebl, an Austrian Capuchin missionary, who learned in Samsun: “Not the Armenians, the Christians were sentenced (to death) at a secret meeting of the Young Turks 5 or 6 years ago in Thessaloniki.”

What measures did Benedict XV take diplomatically to help save the Armenians from deportation into the Syrian desert?

Already in June 1915, the Vatican had a vague idea of what had happened in Eastern Anatolia. One month later, there was no doubt about the horrible massacres carried out against most of the male Armenian population. For the whole of August 1915, Msgr. Dolci — the Apostolic Delegate in Constantinople — did everything humanly possible to interfere diplomatically — without any success.

When drastic reports reached the Vatican in September 1915, Pope Benedict XV wasted no more time and decided to act. He sent an autograph to Sultan Mehmet V, pleading for mercy for the Armenians. The Turks refused even to receive it. For two months, Msgr. Dolci tried everything to present it to its addressee, but it was not received by the Sultan.

Only when he asked both the German and the Austrian ambassador for help was he granted an audience. When another four weeks later the Sultan answered, most of the deportations were already completed. All promises of the Turks to end the massacres or spare one group or the other — or to let them return home — turned out to be lies.

In December, Pope Benedict referred to the failure of any diplomatic intervention in his allocution to the Cardinals at the Consistory of December 6, 1915. In it, he spoke of “those sorrowful people of the Armenians, almost completely driven into their extermination.”

In June 1916, the Armenian Catholic Patriarch had to inform the Holy See: “The project of the extermination of the Armenians in Turkey is still going on. (…) The exiled Armenians … are continuously driven into the desert and there stripped of all vital resources. They miserably perish from hunger, disease and extreme climate. (…) It is certain that the Ottoman government has decided to eliminate Christianity from Turkey before the World War comes to an end. And all this happens in the face of the Christian world.”

Why is this only coming to light now?

Well, good question. Of course, the files from the pontificate of Benedict XV have only been open since the 1990s. Besides this, not too many historians have access to them. And perhaps just nobody had any idea what he would find there — it’s only a guess.

Among the documents contained in your book, you include a letter written by the Superior of the Capuchins in Ezrurum, Fr. Norbert Hofer, to the Vatican in October 1915, which states: “The punishment of the Armenian nation (for alleged uprisings) is merely a pretext used by the Masonic Turkish government to exterminate all Christian elements in this country.” 

Many readers may be surprised to hear mention of the Masons in relation to the Armenian Genocide, particularly in light of the desire at the time to unite Turkey with Sunni Islam as the state religion? Can you explain how the Masons factor in to the Armenian genocide, and who are the “Young Turks” which you referred to earlier?

Yes, of course. It would have been easy and rather populist to blame Islam for the Armenian genocide, especially as we are facing the horrible events of our own time in the very same region, with Islamic States’ massacre against Christians and Yazidis in the north of Syria and the Iraq.

But none of the responsible politicians, neither Talaat nor Enver nor Cemal Pasha, was a fanatic Muslim. The Young Turks were anything but fundamentalists. They were a young, revolutionary movement started by Turkish academics who had studied in most cases in Paris, where they came in contact with both the ideals of Masonry and European nationalism. Many of them were accepted by Masonic lodges and indeed the lodge of Thessaloniki became a kind of national headquarters for them.

Talaat Bey — the man responsible for the Armenocide — was even Grandmaster of the Grand Orient of the Turkish Masonry. That’s a historical fact. The ideology of the Young Turks can be described as “proto-fascism.” Only race did not play any role as the unifying element, since there is nothing like a “racially pure” Turk. Rather, it was substituted by religion, namely Sunni Islam.

Islam was therefore instrumentalized for political reasons. It gave all those who were involved in the killings a rationale, a justification for their deeds. But behind it was the master plan of a political ideology, which misused religion for its purposes, and so sought the homogenization of the Turkish nation.

As an historian who has studied in depth the events and circumstances surrounding the Armenian genocide, particularly those documented in the Vatican archives, what do you make of Turkey’s reaction to Pope Francis’ statements on Sunday in which he called the Armenian massacre a “genocide”?

I am very grateful to the Holy Father. On Sunday, we not only saw a beautiful, worthy and solemn commemoration of the Armenian martyrdom, we also experienced the victory of truth over diplomacy.

If you know how fanatically Turkey tries every means to debunk the events of 1915-1916, if you follow the chronology of their threats against nations much bigger and more powerful than the Vatican — nations such as France, Germany and the US — you get an idea what it takes to stand up and call a “genocide” what was indeed the first genocide of the 20th century. Thank you, Pope Francis! What a great, wonderful, political pope who indeed acted as the moral conscience of the world and taught us that, as Christians, we should never be afraid of the truth.

The Turkish reaction to his brave remark could be expected. It is always the same. They claim that the Pope was misinformed, although he knows the truth from his own archives. By the way, when will the Turks open theirs?

The Turks even spoke of racism. Should we now assume that, from the Turkish point of view, it is not racist at all to kill nearly a whole nation, a religious and ethnic group, but it is racist to call this a genocide?

It is so sad that the Turks don’t realize how they exclude themselves from the community of civilized nations by such acts. I mean, I am German and my nation committed the most horrible crime in history, the Shoah. But at least we admitted what we did, we deeply regret it and we tried anything possible for reconciliation and compensation.

As a Catholic, I believe that every sin and every crime can be forgiven, if you only confess and regret. But what you neither regret nor confess cannot be forgiven either. Turkey only has one chance to overcome the trauma and guilt of the darkest chapter of its history, and that is to confess and regret! And we will all forgive. If not, these wounds will always be wide open, even after 100 years.

What lessons does the history of the Armenian Genocide hold for us today, particularly in light of present day persecution of Christians in Africa and the Middle East?

If there is one lesson we should learn from the Armenian genocide, it is this: Never turn around, never look away when your brother suffers persecution.

We all, all nations of the civilized world and first of all Germany — Turkey’s ally — share the Turkish guilt, because we allowed this to happen. By opportunism, by giving other topics priority, by what Pope Francis rightly called “the globalization of indifference,” which is so evil. “Cain, where is your brother Abel?” That’s why nobody can ever say that he has nothing to do with the Armenian genocide, the holocaust or the fate of our Christian brothers in Syria and Iraq.

For ignoring their fate and their suffering makes us guilty, too. Not preventing a crime which happens before your very eyes makes you an accomplice of the perpetrator. We should never be ignorant, we should never be indifferent, but rather learn to act responsibly.

This is why I was so very ashamed that, of all the diplomats present in St. Peter’s Basilica that morning commemorating the Armenian martyrs, the one who was missing was Annette Schavan, the German Ambassador to the Holy See. Especially since, as I explained before, Germany as Turkey’s ally holds a special responsibility for their martyrdom. In her case, opportunism won over the truth. And that is a shame. We can only be people of the future if we are not afraid of the past.

Diane Montagna is Rome correspondent for Aleteia’s English edition.

The Tragic Case for Christ

by Joe Heschmeyer via WordonFire.org

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I. AN ANATOMY OF TRAGEDY

Man knows two things: how things are (the World), and how they should be (the Ideal). I don’t mean that he knows these things perfectly, or that every man completely agrees with every other man about what is or what ought to be. But everyone has some sense of these two things, and tragedy – all tragedy – can be traced to the chasm between the two. Together, these two observations form a single insight: things are not as they should be. The larger the gap between these two things, the greater the tragedy.

It is necessary to know both of these things – the World and the Ideal – to experience tragedy. There could be no experience of tragedy if everything were how it ought to be, or if we had no sense that things ought to be other than they were. Neither the beast in the field nor the angel in Paradise feels the anguish of tragedy. But man, in this “valley of tears,” does feel it, because he sees that things are not as they should be. He is like the beast, but without the tragic ignorance; like the angel, but without Paradise.

This is not just a truth about the external world. It’s also a moral assessment of man, and a damning one. You know how you have acted, and you know how you ought to have acted. It’s here that we encounter some of life’s deepest tragedies. Worse yet is the twofold recognition that you’re 1) even now not living the way that you know you should, and 2) not able to be the man that you know you ought to be.

II. THE FOUR POSSIBLE REMEDIES

If the entire drama of human tragedy is this war between how things are and how they should be, between the World and the Ideal, how can we be freed? Left to our own devices, we are faced with only four options: overturn the World, abandon the Idealboth, or neither.

Overturning the World was the most promising of our options. It recognized that the problem is not within our ideals or our interior longing for paradise but within the injustices and failings of daily life. If we could only actualize the Ideal, we could usher in Utopia. But the twentieth century is replete with examples showing how well these utopian crusades fared in practice. Instead of producing a Garden of Eden, these attempts resulted in a horrifying Necropolis.

In fact, even that is putting things too mildly. A Necropolis is a “city of the dead,” while former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski places the number of “lives deliberately extinguished by politically motivated carnage” throughout the last century at “no less than 167,000,000” and “quite probably in excess of 175,000,000.” That’s not a city. That’s the combined population of the United Kingdom, France, and Spain. So it’s not just that our attempts to achieve the Ideal have failed. It’s that, more often than not, these attempts have only increased the tragedy.

Abandoning the Ideal. As this striving for Utopia has repeatedly proven disastrous, we are currently trying its opposite: a sort of resignation. If we cannot overturn the World to achieve our Ideal, perhaps we should reject our Ideal. And so we have tried every method that we can imagine. We’ve declared ourselves “good enough,” “basically good people,” pretending that we don’t see the gulf between our actions and our ideals. We’ve proclaimed ourselves ignorant, trying to lose the Ideal in the mists of moral relativism, writing off our misdeeds as mere differences in preferences, rather than real, and tragic, failures. We’ve told ourselves that every ideal or belief, no matter how secular, is a form of “religion” to be rejected as irrational. We endorse a hedonism that acts as if the World is the Ideal. We pretend that the World shouldn’t be any better than it is, that we shouldn’t be any better than we are, and yet we fail to convince even ourselves.

When all of this fails, we simply distract ourselves with the pleasures of the flesh. If we cannot make ourselves angels, we will try to make ourselves beasts. Some of these pleasures are obvious enough: the so-called “pleasures of the flesh,” like sex, drugs, and pornography.

But more often, we lose ourselves in mindless diversions, both on the Internet and “in real life” (a term that has, for many of us, become grimly ironic, as more waking hours are spent online than off). These diversions – sitcoms, social media websites, games, and the rest – are not necessarily bad, of themselves. But when we spend our days chasing our tails rather than our ideals, it’s worth asking what these diversions are diverting us from. We don’t want to ask that question, but we cannot ignore it entirely. Even in the world of escapism and distraction, we find ourselves haunted by the Ideal, and we cannot hold on peacefully to an intentionally meaningless existence. We never fully succeed in lowering ourselves to the level of beasts, and our mindless entertainment can’t drown out our minds completely. We can bury the Ideal, but not kill it.

And so tragedy finds its way even into our life of diversions. Nowhere is this clearer then in the man who has pursued these worldly pleasures with reckless abandon.. Having found that fleeting pleasures flee, he eventually but necessarily slides helplessly into ennui or outrage.

A little of both. The third option, then, is to attempt a sort of balancing act in which we reject ideology and ideologues, but tell ourselves that we still have ideals. We hold to loosely-defined principles and “beliefs” that give us a sense of meaning, but which we can abandon or ignore when convenient. Rather than escaping from the tragic, this risks amplifying it, by acknowledging it without doing anything serious to solve it.

Absurdity and despair. Having seen the futility of our efforts at achieving the Ideal, and the impossibility of avoiding it, we are left with one last option: give in to the tragedy. Sometimes, this takes the form of embracing despair, the approach advocated by absurdism. In his commentary on Camus’ The StrangerSartre writes that “the absurd man will not commit suicide; he wants to live, without relinquishing any of his certainty, without a future, without hope, without illusions.”

But suicide remains an ever-present possibility, a final, desperate attempt to flee tragedy. Some of the clearest-thinking atheists, have seen this. Camus opens The Myth of Sisyphus by declaring, “There is only one really serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.” But even those who don’t believe in hell can recognize this for what it is: not an escape from tragedy or a triumph over it, but a surrender to it.

III. THE TRAGIC PREAMBLE TO THE GOSPEL

So far, then, this might not sound like the Good News of the Gospel. But in a real way, this is the prolegomena to the Gospel. What we’ve just heard is the secular story of the Fall. Genesis 3:24 tells us that, after the Fall, God “drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.” You don’t need the Bible to tell you this, because you already know it. You’ve seen and felt within yourself a sense of the Ideal, a sort of homesickness for Eden and for Heaven. But you’ve also seen within the world, and within yourself, that something has gone seriously awry.

You see within yourself the need for salvation, and if you’ve been paying attention, you’ve also seen that you’re incapable of saving yourself. None of us can, no matter how hard we try. It’s precisely here that we encounter Jesus Christ and the Gospel. Revelation shows us why we long for the Ideal: we’re made for Him. And it shows us why we fall short: we’re sinful, fallen creatures. We need grace. Through the Cross, the Gospel gives meaning to tragedy. And best of all, Christ offers us a way out of tragedy, the only way out. We cannot make ourselves angels, and we don’t have to be beasts. We can be Saints instead.

That’s Why I Could Never Be a Catholic

by David Mills via Aleteia.org

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Note to my Protestant friends: When you begin an item with “This is why I could never be a Catholic,” you slightly undermine your point simply by saying it. It tells us that “Should I enter the Church?” is a question you feel you must answer —and answer definitively in public too. When someone assertively answers a question no one is asking, we suspect that he doth protest too much.

Perhaps he feels guilty about not entering the Church. I made such statements at the point my mind and heart were both beginning to push me toward the Church. The great Newman did as well. It’s not unusual. When you’re being drawn to what seems to be the edge of an abyss you dig in your heels and yell “Nooooooo!”

Now, maybe that’s unfair. The speaker may be the victim of aggressive Catholic friends, the kind whose response to hearing you have a terminal illness would be, “Great, now you can become a Catholic,” followed by “You’re going to be in enough pain when you die, don’t add more by dying a Protestant.” Catholics like this make you want to put up a sign saying “Leave Me Alone.” I understand that.

In either case, we’ll take your declaration as a compliment. No one starts random notes with “This is why I’m not a United Methodist,” much less “This is why I’m not a Unitarian.” They might start one with “This is why I’m not a Southern Baptist,” because the SBs share something of the Catholic Church’s weight and seriousness and cultural marginalization. Methodists, however, no. Unitarians really definitely no.

The real problem with this unintended compliment is what usually follows. The Catholic Church the writer won’t enter doesn’t exist. Before my Protestant friends object, I’m not saying that you don’t have reasons to remain Protestants. I’m saying that the kind of person who suddenly declares that he can’t enter the Church usually doesn’t have good ones, or at least that he doesn’t give them.

I think of an old friend’s recent “This is why I can’t ever be a Catholic” moment. He’s a very smart and unusually reflective man. He reads lots, including good Catholic works. He’s not even anti-Catholic. And his declaration that he could not become a Catholic was followed by this explanation. Although the pope

is supposedly infallible when speaking ex cathedra, Catholics are stuck having to defend the silly and false things the current pope says. Papists must get back aches twisting around trying to prove the pope didn’t mean what he said. To be a good Catholic one must be a hermeneutical gymnast, as when he said that even atheists can get to heaven by doing good deeds and gays have gifts to share with the church. Just dumb.

When I protested, my friend responded by insisting that the Catholic is “forced to defend dumb things the pope says — even when he isn’t speaking for the church.” He also added a criticism of the idea of the Magisterium that made a trainwreck of the argument, but that I’ll leave for another time.

You throw up your hands. A few minutes reading the Catholic press would show that Catholics of all sorts, including conservatives, have no trouble criticizing the pope. You will find very few aching backs. Search the web for “John Paul II Curran” or “Benedict Kueng” for other examples.

I should note, while I’m at it, that what people criticize as attempts to prove the pope didn’t mean what he said are almost always attempts to get people to listen to what the pope actually said, and not the major media’s misreporting of what he said, or else attempts to explain to people who don’t know the context or the terminology that a statement doesn’t mean what they think it means. This takes some care, but care is not twisting.

Of course, the Catholic will feel hesitant to criticize the Holy Father in public, as one would hesitate to criticize one’s own father in public. The Catholic will also first ask himself what the pope has to say to us that we need to hear, even if he said it badly. He will give the pope the benefit of the doubt. He will generally say, with regard to the Holy Father’s statements, “Who am I to judge?”

This is a disposition to authority my friend, a political and cultural conservative, would admire. And I think that if he weren’t talking about the Catholic Church he’d recognize it as such. Respect and deference are very different from being forced to twist yourself into knots trying to rewrite the pope’s statements. The people who might do that (were it needed) might do it from a natural sense of filial protectiveness, of the Church and her pope. That also my friend should admire.

Typically for this kind of statement, my friend is just wrong about the facts. The pope didn’t say that even atheists get to heaven by doing good deeds. Catholic Vote has a good explanation with links to others. He only said, quoting Brian Kelly, “there can be, and is, goodness, or natural virtue, outside the Church. And that Christ’s death on the Cross redeemed all men. He paid the price so that every man could come to God and be saved.”

And if he had said something like what my friend thought he’d said, he would have been saying only what the Church teaches in sections 846-848 of the Catechism. More to the point, given my friend’s allegiances, he would only have been saying what C. S. Lewis, a writer my friend admires, said at the end of The Last Battle, when Aslan explains why a warrior who had worshipped a false god was found in heaven (the passage is found here ). That’s not dumb, even if one disagrees with it. The Catholic wouldn’t need to twist himself into a pretzel to explain that idea, had the pope said it.

The Catholic Church isn’t that hard to understand. The Church herself has created a huge paper trail of authoritative documents designed to declare and to teach. Thousands of people have answered every possible question and their answers are only a google search away. There are some difficult questions, the senior seminar questions, but at the 101 and 201 level, and even at the 301 level for people as smart as my friend, the questions can be answered with just a little effort.

And yet very smart people I like and respect make a hash of the Church’s teachings and then use that confused account to justify their refusal to enter the Church. Serious people, people of integrity do this. They have lots of good reasons to reject the Church’s claims, given their beliefs, yet it’s often the bad ones they use when vexed into bursting out with “That’s why I’m not a Catholic.” It’s baffling.

Kresta in the Afternoon – April 15, 2015

Talking about the “Things That Matter Most” on April 15, 2015

 

4:00 – Marriage and the New Evangelization

Scott Hahn is our guest as we discuss what marriage means for the New Evangelization.

4:40 – Marriage Reality

Support for the redefinition of marriage is increasing throughout the country. All evidence suggests that the Supreme Court will allow for redefinition of marriage throughout the country. Is the battle lost? Bill May of Catholics of the Common Good joins us with his plan for taking back marriage.

5:00 – Changing the Terms of the Debate at the UN

5:20 – The Family on a Mission: Lessons from the Early Church

What lessons can we learn from the early Church fathers? How can we continue their mission? What would the Church fathers be doing to promote the New Evangelization? Mike Aquilina, an expert on the history of the early Church, is here to talk about how we can learn from and be inspired by the Church’s earliest members.

 

English Church Wants To Make Priest Who Died On Titanic A Saint

by Antonia Blumberg via HuffingtonPost.com

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Catholics in Essex, England, are working to give sainthood to a priest who died in the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, recalling his humility and sacrifice aboard the fated vessel.

Father Thomas Byles was among the 1,500 passengers who went down with the ship that April morning.

“He’s an extraordinary man who gave his life for others,” Father Graham Smith, the priest of St Helen’s Church in Essex, where Byles served as rector, told BBC. “We need, in very old parlance, to raise him to the altar, which means that the Vatican will recognize him as a martyr of the church. We are hoping and praying that he will be recognized as one of the saints within our canon.”

Multiple sources report that according to survivors’ accounts, Byles refused several opportunities to escape into a lifeboat as the ship was going down, preferring to stay on board to take confessions, pray with passengers and help others into lifeboats.

The website of the Ongar & Doddinghurst parish, where St Helen’s Church is located, states:

“When the Titanic struck the priest was on the upper deck walking backwards and forwards reading his office, the daily prayers which form part of the duties of every Roman Catholic priest. After the real danger was apparent, Father Byles went among the passengers, hearing confessions of some and giving absolution. At the last he was the centre of a group on the deck where the steerage passengers had been crowded, and was leading in the recitation of the rosary.”

Born Roussel Davids Byles on Feb. 26, 1870, to a Protestant family in Yorkshire, England, Byles assumed the name Thomas when he was baptized in the Catholic Church on May 23, 1894. He served as rector at St Helen’s for eight years before boarding the Titanic to attend his younger brother William’s wedding in New York,according to the St Edmund’s College & Prep School’s Edmundian Association.

Several months after the ship sank, William and his new bride traveled to Rome where they had a private audience with Pope Pius X, who praised Byles’ actions anddeclared him a martyr, the Edmundian Association reports.

The path to sainthood can be a long one, noted Jesuit priest James Martin, requiring that two miracles be attributed to the deceased person.

“The process begins at the local level, and then continues with a Vatican investigation into a person’s life,” Martin told The Huffington Post. “But surely giving your life for others, or providing spiritual comfort in the face of certain death, should qualify a person to be, at the very least, considered for canonization.”

Smith told BBC he encourages believers to pray to Byles so the required miracles can occur.

“We hope people around the world will pray to him if they are in need,” he said, “and, if a miracle occurs, then beatification and then canonization can go forward.”

Did Catholic Traditionalists Save Patricia Jannuzzi’s Job?

by Mark Stricherz via Aleteia.org

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Did Catholic traditionalists save the job of an embattled theology teacher?

The question comes after Immaculata High School in Somerville, New Jersey announced Friday it reinstated Patricia Jannuzzi, who had been suspended for making controversial comments on her Facebook page about gays and traditional marriage.

According to mycentralJersey.com, the head of an orthodox Catholic organization implied that he had doubted Jannuzzi would return to work:

Michael Hichborn, president of Lepanto Institute, the conservative Catholic group that paid for the radio ads, said Friday he was surprised by the news.

“That’s excellent. It was a great injustice and thank God that the right outcome came about,” he said. “If they changed their mind I hope it is for a matter of justice and not for a matter of looking to see which way the wind is blowing.”

Orthodox Christian blogger Rod Dreher too doubted that Jannuzzi would win reinstatement. “(T)his is a surprising outcome. One is not used to the orthodox side in these disputes winning,” Dreher wrote.

Last month, Dreher brought attention to Jannuzzi’s plight after he wrote a blog post in which he said that if Jannuzzi were to be fired, the dismissal would mark a turning point in the history of the Catholic Church in America. Hichborn’s organization ran radio ads during commercial breaks of conservative talk show hosts in the New York City media market that urged listeners to tell the school that Jannuzzi should be allowed to return to work.

Dreher’s and Hirchborn’s doubts stemmed from the school’s suspension of Jannuzzi and the local bishop’s comment that her Facebook post was “disturbing.” Cultural progressives said Jannuzzi’s Facebook post showed intolerance toward gays and was a form of hate speech.  They launched a campaign on Change.org against Jannuzzi.

Whatever the role of Catholic traditionalists and cultural progressives, Jannuzzi’s employer said her suspension was an administrative rather than philosophical matter. Jannuzzi returned to Immaculata High School in Somerville, New Jersey Friday,according to NewJersey.com. The school’s pastor sent a note to parents Friday:
Immaculata High School has reached an understanding with Mrs. Patricia Jannuzzi. It is the School’s position that a Catholic school teacher must always communicate the faith in a way that is positive and never hurtful. Tone and choice of words matter and I trust Mrs. Jannuzzi’s stated promise to strive always to teach in a spirit of truth and charity.

Given Mrs. Jannuzzi’s otherwise good reputation as an educator over her 30 years at Immaculata, Principal Jean Kline and I have made the decision to reinstate her as a teacher as of today.

From the beginning this was a personnel and not a theological issue. We are now and always have been united in our understanding and commitment to the teachings of the Catholic Church. By agreement with all parties involved, there will be no further comment on the issue.

At issue in the dispute over Jannuzzi was whether she would return to work at a Catholic high school. Although gay-rights advocates have extended their reach over the country’s institutions, their reach in Catholic secondary schools proved more limited.

5 Things Fulton Sheen Teaches Us About Social Media

by Dominicans of the Province of St. Joseph via WordonFire.org

Sheen

 

“Jesus loves you.” #JN3:16 #Easter #risn

“Pray. Hope. Don’t worry.” #faith #believe

“Preach the Gospel at all times” #Francis #peace #prayalways

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest and countless other platforms are filled with almost empty Christian one-liners and other messages.  Oftentimes trite sayings are re-tweeted or shared along with some kind of exhortation to “spread the word.”  Since you’re a Christian, you can feel guilted into supporting this sort of thing, to do your share of evangelization.  Believe me, I’m committed to building up a Christian culture, but sometimes I can be downright ashamed of that content.  In the most extreme cases it can feel like not sharing whatever image or quote “because you’re a Christian” is a denial of Jesus himself.

So what about social media evangelization?  Is tweeting 140 characters going to convince someone of the Gospel?  The Church refuses to be absent from the conversation—that alone tells us something important.  Pope Francis (@Pontifex) has some 5.87 million followers on the English language account (over 15 million if all the eight language groups are added together).  The Church is called to be leaven for the world, and that means continuing to share the light and hope of the Gospel message, even on the web.  Msgr. Paul Tighe puts it this way, “If we withdraw, then we’re leaving those areas to the trolls. We’re leaving it to the bullies.”

While few people may think that the Church should absent herself from the “new media,” many might wonder what good it all does.  Will seeing a Scripture passage in someone’s Facebook news feed actually help infuse a soul with an abundance of actual graces, even the grace of justification? It seems unwise to just close that door.  The workings of Providence are mysterious, and the Creator loves using instrumental causes to achieve his aims.  Far be it from this theologian to declare the internet an option banned from God’s playbook.

The Holy Father offers one helpful way to define our Catholic web presence in light of the following goal: building a culture of encounter.  “The great challenge,” says Pope Francis, “the great challenge facing us today is to learn once again how to talk to one another, not simply how to generate and consume information.”  Genuine evangelical encounters demand authentic relationships and true exchanges.  This is our aim, then, to use the web to nourish these encounters, which prompted and directed by God’s grace, may bear fruit in countless lives.

But who can we look to as an example for how to do this?  The innovations of the “new media” are by definition without precedent.  Nonetheless, I think we ought to appeal to the life and teaching of Fulton Sheen.  By mining the example of his life and teaching, we can deduce some principles to guide our e-preaching.

1. Relationships

By the time his show stopped airing in 1957, Archbishop Sheen had a viewing audience of some thirty million people.  People loved his presentation of the Gospel because it felt like he was talking to them.  Sheen never used a teleprompter or idiot cards.  He was a professor, so he did what he loved doing—he taught.  He taught the audience, and they responded as his students.  Sheen managed to build, across the barriers of microphones and screens, personal connections to his audience, the very real relationship of a teacher and his students.  On social media, we too have to find a way to bring people into our little “broadcasts”—our likes, posts, and shares—and build real relationships with our friends and followers.  Sheen didn’t use his shows to proselytize; he left it to his audience to conclude that his words should draw them to Someone Else whom they needed in their lives.  In Sheen’s own words, “There is a need to take hold of tortured souls like Peter, agnostics like Thomas and mystics like John and lead them to tears, to their knees or to resting on [Christ’s] Sacred Heart.”

2. Panache

Whatever might be said about Fulton Sheen, it can’t be said that he lacked style.  The whole world knows his cassock and episcopal cape (called a ferriola).  Sheen appeared on television wearing the garb of the tradition.  His vesture sent a clear message: my job is real and so are my words.  But the show was also strikingly simple.  His only props were a piece of chalk and a chalkboard.  This combination of noble simplicity should guide the aesthetic choices of the e-Gospel, which can send such a strong message without even offering words.  Our websites should be handsome and easily navigable.  The pictures we share should be striking and beautiful. Our designs should be clearly inspired by our traditions, and we should eschew art forms and depictions that are discontiguous or incompatible with our work.  The Church—even on the web—should feel like the Church.

3. Substance

The English novelist Dorothy Sayers writes, “It is hopeless to offer Christianity as a vaguely idealistic aspiration of a simple and consoling kind; it is, on the contrary, a hard, tough, exacting, and complex doctrine, steeped in a drastic and uncompromising realism. And it is fatal to imagine that everybody knows quite well what Christianity is and needs only a little encouragement to practice it.”  Archbishop Sheen was a philosophy professor.  He was a man steeped in Aristotle and Plato, indeed the product of years of study at the prestigious Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium.  His teaching and preaching took the best of Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, and he used their wisdom to compose a straightforward presentation of the Gospel.  As he says, “Preaching and lecturing are impossible without much studying and reading.  This perhaps is one of the weaknesses of the modern pulpit…”  The archbishop didn’t mince words, but he worked tirelessly to show the fullness of Catholic teaching.  In a society that hardly knows what meaning to assign the word “Christian,” we have to undertake a full-bodied explanation of the faith.  The new paganism requires us to teach the timeless truths of the faith as if they were totally new.  Fulton Sheen didn’t undermine or hide the tradition; he exposed its genius.

4. Originality

George Orwell believes the first cure to remedy the fallen state of the English language is to “never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.”  The same point is true for our social media presence.  I should think very few people are actually interested in the sight of “John 3:16″ on a poster—they think they know what it means.  And (to them) it’s boring.  Sheen was a creative genius.  He loved to use stories, metaphors and examples.  They made his teaching what it was, and captured the hearts of millions.  Of course not every disciple is a creative genius, but everyone can filter what they share.  If you think some content banal or dreary, why would you offer it to someone else?

5. Christocentric

Archbishop Sheen prepared all of his sermons in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. In his words, “A lover always works better when the Beloved is with him.”  The most brilliant ideas come from meeting God face to face, because preaching work is God’s own work.  We alone are not going to build a twenty-first-century Christian culture by the arthritis earned from fevered typing or the coffee consumed from late-night study.  Christ draws men and women to himself, and we participate in His work.  God’s grace fueled and enlivened the preaching of Archbishop Sheen, taking his natural talents and molding them to bear supernatural fruit.  The mystery of our Baptism, the mystery of our Christian vocation, is that God will do the same for us too… even via the internet.

 

This article was written by Br. Patrick Mary Briscoe, O.P. who entered the Order of Preachers in 2010. He hails from Fort Wayne, IN. He attended Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, where he studied philosophy and French literature. Jazz music, manly fiction, and exploring D.C. are among his recreational interests.

Kresta in the Afternoon – April 14, 2015

Talking about the “Things That Matter Most” on April 14, 2015

 

4:00 – The End of Comfortable Catholicism

It’s no longer “easy” to be a faithful Catholic in America. The upside to this is that more faithful, committed Catholics will start to rise up and evangelize. We discuss this new phase of Catholicism with Anne Hendershott.
 

4:40 – Kresta Comments: How Pope Francis Awakened the Faith of  a CNN Anchor

 

5:00 – The Role of the Family and Race in the New Evangelization

Dacon Harold Burke-Sivers is our guest as we discuss the role of the traditional family in fighting new cultural norms and promoting the New Evangelization.

Can we delete death? Transhumanism’s lofty goal meets a Catholic response

What used to be science fiction is now bona fide research projects involving big money, multinational corporations and technocratic genius. I write about in Dangers to the Faith, chapters 12 & 13, “Evolutionism” and “Myth of Humanity 3.0: Human Enhancement Through Technology”. I thought this piece was worth sharing with you. – AK
by Adelaide Mena and Mary Rezac via CatholicNewsAgency.com
bionic_eye_iris_pupil_CC0_10_Catholic_News_Agency_CNA_4815

.- It sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie – being able to “upload” our minds to computers to live on after we die, to freeze our bodies only to bring them back in the future, or to pop pills to enhance our mood and intelligence.

While these may seem like impossible notions, these are the kinds of things the transhumanism and posthumanism movements are hoping for and working toward.

However, as with most technological advancements, these proposals have bioethicists and theologians questioning: just because we can, does that mean we should?

Transhumanism is a loosely-defined cultural, intellectual and technical movement that describes itself as seeking to “to overcome fundamental human limitations” including death, aging, and natural physical, mental and psychological limitations, says humanity+, a transhumanist online community.

The movement overlaps greatly with posthumanism, which posits that a new, biologically superior race is on the horizon, and could replace the human race as we know it. Posthumanists support technologies such as cryogenic freezing, mood-and-intelligence-enhancing drugs, genetic engineering, nanotechnology, bionics and “uploading” a mind to an artificial intelligence.

These movements stem from the idea that human limitations are just “technical problems” that need to be overcome, said history professor Yuval Noah Harari in a March 4 interview in “Edge,” a non-profit website devoted to the advancement of technology.

“Once you really solve a problem like direct brain-computer interface … when brains and computers can interact directly, to take just one example, that’s it, that’s the end of history, that’s the end of biology as we know it,” he said. “Nobody has a clue what will happen once you solve this.”

But is human nature a problem to be solved? Will treading into this territory completely change the way man relates to God, to their own bodies, and to one another? These are the questions many bioethicists are grappling with as they consider the morality of such technologies.

For Catholics, escaping suffering and trials by escaping human nature itself is a morally unacceptable option, according to Fr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, Ph.D., Director of Education for the National Catholic Bioethics Center.

“Catholics cannot accept a vision of man which presupposes an outright ‘unacceptability’ of his basic human nature, nor a vision that labors to replace it with an alternate bodily structure that is engineered to be ‘post-human,’” Fr. Pacholczyk told CNA.

Instead, the “integral vision of man” accepts that man is incarnate – that humans have a body –and that “we are meant to embrace and grow through the limitations of our human nature,” he said.

“Even if our nature were to be radically re-engineered and modified,” he elaborated, “our innermost self would retain fundamental shards of incompleteness.”

The human experience is a struggle between a longing for the infinite, and learning to accept and embrace human’s finite nature, Fr. Pacholczyk explained. This longing would still exist even if technology were to significantly advance man’s material reality, because the longing for the infinite transcends the material world, he added.

Christ’s life provides the road map to transcendence – rather than transhumanism – for man’s life, “achieved through repentance, discipleship, self-denial, committed love, and generous self-giving,” said Fr. Pacholczyk. The infinite that man longs for “is effected from above through grace, rather than through the mere machinations of human cleverness or willfulness.”

Only by accepting their nature can humans re-orient themselves to “the only authentic source of redemption compatible with his essence,” which is Jesus, he added.

Peter Lawler, a bioethicist and government professor at Berry College, said while he did not think transhumanism is possible, the movement’s ideology alone can impact society.

The mindset of detaching humanity from biology contributes to a “paranoia about existence” which sees the natural world as the enemy of man, and views the body as a mere machine rather than as an integral part of a person, Lawler said.

“We’re living longer than ever,” he said. Improvements in healthcare, life expectancy and other technologies have changed the way people think about many things such as sexual morality, desired family size, and the integration of elderly people into society.

Charles Rubin, a professor of political science at Dusquenes University and author on the transhumanist movement, also takes issue with the transhumanist or posthumanist ideology. The idea of “a superior version” of human beings implies that humans are poorly-designed “creatures of evolutionary chance,” Rubin said.

“They have the very ‘thin’ understanding of what it means to be human that is in many ways characteristic of our contemporary thin ideas about self-hood,” he said. The movement also makes the assumption that “material circumstances can solve all our problems.”

“Building as they do on a thin sense of self, they risk encouraging those tendencies of contemporary thought that treat human beings instrumentally or that otherwise diminish human dignity.”

But it’s not all necessarily bad.

Some technologies that improve and even extend human life can be beneficial, so long as they don’t violate morality, Lawler noted.

“The consistent pro-life position is that we are for life,” he said, referencing Pope Benedict XVI’s 2009 encyclical, “Caritas in Veritate” (Charity in Truth).

“Technology is highly attractive because it draws us out of our physical limitations and broadens our horizon,” the Pope wrote.

Still, he cautioned, technological advancements can never trump the good of the human person – they must always be done in an ethically responsible way.

“Human freedom is authentic only when it responds to the fascination of technology with decisions that are the fruit of moral responsibility,” Pope Benedict XVI wrote.

While extending life can be acceptable, the promises of transhumanism should be critiqued, Rubin said.

What should be combated, he continued, is those who “dogmatically assert the benefits of a longer life without having ever having asked seriously the question of what constitutes a good human life.”

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