God’s Not Dead; There’s Something Happening Here

There’s something happening here, but what it is ain’t exactly clear…The opening words to the Buffalo Springfield (the band that would introduce to us the likes of Stephen Stills and Neil Young) classic song written in 1966, but released in 1967 certainly resonated to those who heard it whatever their political leanings. There was a sense even before the famous or infamous 1967 events, like the Newport Folk Festival and San Francisco’s Summer of Love that something in society was changing. The same could be said today in light of a flurry of religious themed movies that have come out in the first three months of 2014.

One could argue that the first signs of the secular sea change we have been under were first seen after the mid-term elections of 2006. By November of 2008 there was no doubt the western world was changing. However, for every action there is a reaction. It may have taken the world of faith a bit longer to react but it has. Already in 2013, the Bible mini-series caught the attention of those in Hollywood who notice TV and cultural move watching habits. The Bible mini-series, the brainchild Mark Burnett and Roma Downey literally spun off into the Son of God film which is currently one of the year’s early top grossing films.

However, it seems that what is bubbling under the current is what catches everyone by surprise, and so it is with the year’s first big surprise, God’s Not Dead.  The film’s entire production budget was between 1-2 million dollars, the mere advertising budget of most medium size films. The screenwriters are faithful Catholics Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman, whom I met some four years ago while giving one of my talks at Family Theater in Hollywood (founded by Servant of God Father Patrick Peyton CSC also known as The Rosary Priest.) I was impressed by Cary and Chuck, their frequent Mass attendance during the week, their fervent study and practice of the faith (as evidenced by the St. Thomas Aquinas type logic used in some of their arguments in God’s Not Dead,) and their embrace of the sacramental life, especially the Sacrament of Penance.

Both men weren’t living some fantasy of wanting to hobnob with Hollywood’s hipsters. They had been down that road successfully working and mingling with the likes of Sylvester Stallone among others. Cary and Chuck felt called to write faith based scripts. In an interview with me featured in the National Review both men spoke of the hypocrisy that the faithful have to endure in the public square.

  Hartline: I think a faithful Christian, or anyone of faith, feels a lot has changed in the last five or six years. People of faith are often mocked or belittled in popular culture, and the faithful are accused of all sorts of bigotry and ignorance. We are told to get with the times, as if our consciences could really leave the truth behind. It seems the movie is addressing that underlying feeling in the faith community.

Solomon and Konzelman: Yes, that’s definitely the nerve that’s been touched. Secular humanists insist that Christians in general — and Catholics in particular — are supposed to leave their belief system at home when it comes to matters in the public sphere. So according to the rules they propose, their belief system is allowable . . . and ours isn’t. Which is a deliberate attempt to subvert the whole democratic process. As someone else pointed out: Democracy is supposed to be about more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.

 I then posed the question as to why some are willing to defend their faith as did the college student in God’s Not Dead, but sadly most do not.

Hartline: College student Josh Wheaton appears to be the nondescript everyman. While everyone else accedes to the professor’s atheistic rants, Josh decides to take up the challenge, even though he’s far from being a theologian. Is there a message there for most of us?

Solomon and Konzelman: It’s a question of being willing to try . . . and fail, if necessary. Mother Teresa got it right: God does not require us to be successful, only faithful. Secular humanism has really been racking up the score in the culture wars lately, largely because of the unwillingness of many Christians to counter their efforts. Unfortunately, doing nothing is doing something: It’s enabling the other side. Every time we roll over and don’t confront the challenge, our forfeit shows up as a win in the other team’s column and encourages them to push further. Continue reading

Religious Cleansing in the Crimea

 

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Well that didn’t take long. Fearless leader and this thugs are making certain that Crimea is Catholic free.

 

Members of the Ukrainian Catholic Church are fleeing Crimea to escape threats of arrest and property seizures, a priest told Catholic News Service just four days after Russia finalized the region’s annexation.
“The situation remains very serious, and we don’t know what will happen — the new government here is portraying us all as nationalists and extremists,” said Father Mykhailo Milchakovskyi, a parish rector and military chaplain from Kerch, Crimea.
He said officials from Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, had called him in for questioning about his community and to ask whether he “recognized the new order.”
Father Milchakovskyi told CNS that he and his family and at least two-thirds of his parishioners had left Kerch for Ukrainian-controlled territory on the advice of Ukrainian Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych.
“All my parishioners are patriotic Ukrainians who love their Crimean homeland. But Russia is now seeking to drive us out,” he said March 25.
He said Father Mykola Kvych, pastor of the Dormition of the Mother of God Parish in Sevastopol, Crimea, also fled after being detained and beaten by Russian forces, who accused him of “sponsoring extremism and mass unrest.”
“During 10 years in Sevastopol, he never said or did anything against Russians,” Father Milchakovskyi added. Continue reading

Atlanta’s “Archbishop Bling”? The mainstream media and liberals in the Catholic press have been silent…

 

When it comes to clerical “careerism,” ostentatious “princely” lifestyles, or even the mode of transportation, Pope Francis has sent a new standard—one of humility and poverty—for clerics. It’s been called the “l’effet Francois” (“the Francis effect”).

Members of the mainstream media and liberals in the Catholic press love it and have been quick to jump on the bandwagon to criticize clerics who have crossed the line that Pope Francis has drawn in the sand. Arguably, the most roundly criticized cleric to have crossed that line is “Bishop Bling,” the Most Reverend Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg, Germany. He constructed a new residence and office complex costing nearly $43M.

According to the National Catholic Reporter:

Not only did Tebartz-van Elst spend a ton of money on all the wrong things, but he did so just after the cardinals elected a pope who is making austerity and humility the hallmarks of a bishop in today’s church. Francis wants prelates to “smell like the sheep,” not pricey cologne, and he doesn’t want them to act with the sort of authoritarian and dismissive manner that Tebartz-van Elst displayed.

In fact, as the resignation of Tebartz-van Elst was being announced Wednesday, Francis was telling thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square that “a bishop who is not in the service of the community does no good.”

In addition, Tebartz-van Elst in November paid a court-ordered fine of nearly $30,000 to avoid a perjury charge over his false claims that he did not fly first class to India on a charity trip. That’s three strikes.

Okay, Bishop Bling deserved to be “fired,” although technically that’s impossible. Removed, yes. Fired, no. His conduct was egregious, although similar conduct certainly was not in the early- to mid- 20th century.

But, will those media outlets and liberals in the Catholic press be as vociferous when it comes to the Archbishop of Atlanta, the Most Reverend Wilton Gregory?

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Archbishop Gregory recently moved into a new, 6,196-square-foot home built at the cost of $2.2M. His previous residence—adjacent to the Cathedral of Christ the King—is also slated to be renovated as a rectory for the priests assigned to the Cathedral residence. The price tag for those renovations, which includes the purchase of additional property, is another $2.2M.

That’s a total of $4.4M for two residences.  That’s not quite $43M. Plus the money comes from a $15M bequest. So, technically, all of this housing is “free.”

But, is it consistent with the “l’effet Francois” that the mainstream media and liberals in the Catholic press on this side of the pond have been propounding as the standard for criticizing clerics?

Some believe Archbishop Gregory should have used the money for schools and the poor. “This is an excessive lifestyle,” said one parishioner of Christ the King, Beth Maguire.

Both Archbishop Gregory and the Cathedral’s Rector, the Reverend Monsignor Frank McNamee, call the expenditures “necessary.” Gregory said the new residence will allow him to “smell like the flock,” providing him a residence where he can more easily mingle with his sheep.

Isn’t that what Pope Francis said bishops should do?

Once again, will the mainstream media as well as liberals in the Catholic press who have been so quick to denounce Bishop Bling be as quick in denouncing Archbishop Gregory?

Time will tell. So far, they’ve been silent.

Why?

The answer is unknown. But, there are at least three possible answers:

  1. The magnitude of his expenditures for suitable housing is only a little more than 10% that of Bishop Bling. If so, is this a new standard for judging the nation’s bishops and cathedral rectors that the mainstream media as well as liberals in the Catholic press have deemed acceptable?
  2. The mainstream media as well as liberals in the Catholic press perceive Archbishop Gregory to be a theological liberal and kindred spirit. It would be indecorous to take one of their own to task, would it not? But, if a conservative bishop were to do the same, then watch how quickly he will be denounced.
  3. They don’t want to attack one of the nation’s most respected Black Catholic leaders. But wouldn’t that be using a double standard?

Atlanta’s “Archbishop Bling”?

Pope Francis may not be as silent. He may speak by denying Archbishop Gregory a red hat because of that new residence.

But, all of that doesn’t really matter. What matters is the perception of duplicity on the part of the mainstream media and liberals in the Catholic press.

 

 

To read the National Catholic Reporter article, click on the following link:
http://ncronline.org//news/vatican/pope-francis-fired-bishop-bling-will-more-follow

To read the Atlanta Journal-Constitution article, click on the following link:
http://www.ajc.com/news/news/state-regional/church-spending-ignites-debate/nfGBP/

To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, Omnibus, click on the following link:
http://www.richard-jacobs-blog.com/omnibus.html

 

Saint Augustine: Late Have I Loved Thee

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Continuing on with our Lenten series in which Saint Augustine is our guide, go here  , here  ,here  and here to read the first four posts in the series, we come to the whole purpose of Lent.  We repent our sins and turn away from them, but these are not ends in themselves.  We do them to help reawaken in our souls our love of God.  God loves each of us with a love the intensity and magnitude of which we, in this life, cannot hope to fathom.  It has been said that God loves each man as if he were the only one.  He loves us enough to die for us, the creator of life suffering an ignominious human death to bring us to Him.  Blinded by sin and the follies of this Vale of Tears we are often unable to see that the sweet loves we encounter in this life are but pale reflections of His love.  Saint Augustine, after a wasted youth, did finally understand that love, and wrote about his discovery in imperishable words: Continue reading

The Long Lent of Venezuela

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The current condition of Venezuela is symbolized by Stefanía Fernández, Miss Universe 2009, in a stunning photograph symbolizing her as her beloved country as it struggles to regain its freedom:

The Vatican says it’s willing to help facilitate talks between Venezuela’s government and its opponents aimed at ending weeks of deadly unrest that have paralyzed much of the country.

President Nicolás Maduro on Thursday said he was willing to sit down with the opposition under the watch of an outside observer. He floated the name of Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who served as the Holy See’s ambassador to Venezuela before being called to Rome last year.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, told The Associated Press Friday the Holy See and Parolin were “certainly willing and desirous to do whatever is possible for the good and serenity of the country.” He said Parolin, in particular, “knows and loves” Venezuela. But he added that the Vatican needed to understand the expectations of its intervention and whether it could bring about a “desired outcome.”

Mediation I think would be would be worse than useless in this case.  You have a murderous regime intent on using any means to hold on to power, confronting a fed up populace that has had enough as they have seen their liberties taken away and their economy destroyed: Continue reading

Anchors Aweigh

Something for the weekend.  Anchors Aweigh.  The fight song of the United States Naval Academy, it was composed in 1906 with music by Charles A. Zimmerman and lyrics by Alfred Hart Miles.  Universally regarded as the song of the United States Navy, it has never been officially adopted, although that has not stopped it being loved by most of the sailors who have served in Uncle Sam’s Yacht Club. Continue reading

PopeWatch: Women

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From the only reliable source of Catholic news on the net, Eye of the Tiber:

Washington, DC––Fresh off her groundbreaking sermon denouncing “the misogynist St. Paul” for depriving the demoniac girl of her spiritual gifts in Acts 16:16, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori has published another landmark piece of scriptural exegesis.  In a new set of essays entitled The Great Amend, Schori highlights the systematic oppression, degradation, and misunderstanding of women throughout Holy Scripture. Prominent examples include Delilah, long viewed as a villain, actually a sexually-liberated freedom-fighter; Jezebel, a trailblazing political leader and forerunner to such modern figures as Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi; and Eve, an independent, free-thinking woman who was ostracized by the all-male establishment because of her dietary preferences.  “By far the most egregious example of the oppressive patriarchy within the Bible,” Jefferts Schori observes, “is a particular teenage girl, about three-quarters of the way through the book, who is forced to consent to an unwanted pregnancy.  Any fair and just society would have provided her access to proper reproductive services — including safe, legal, state-subsidized abortion.” Continue reading

Sister Jane Tells It Like It Is

Sister Jane Dominic Laurel

In a testament to just how bad so much of what passes for Catholic education is today, note this reaction to Sister Jane Dominic Laurel preaching basic Catholic doctrine:

Charlotte Catholic High School has invited parents to a meeting Wednesday night to air concerns many of them – and their kids – had about a recent speaker’s comments about homosexuality, divorce and single parents.

Sister Jane Dominic Laurel, a Dominican nun based in Nashville, Tenn., addressed a student assembly on March 21. Days later, some students launched an online petition that called her comments “offensive and unnecessarily derogatory.”

A record of the comments  was not available. But students attending told their parents she criticized gays and lesbians and made inflammatory remarks about single and divorced parents.

The petition, which has drawn more than 2,000 supporters, listed 10 objections to her remarks, including this: “We resent the fact that a schoolwide assembly became a stage to blast the issue of homosexuality after Pope Francis said in an interview this past fall that ‘we can not insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods.’ We are angry that someone decided they knew better than our Holy Father and invited (this) speaker.”

Some students told their parents that a few teachers left the assembly in tears.

In addition, parents called for a letter-writing campaign, sending out emails that listed the addresses of the Diocese of Charlotte, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, even the pope in the Vatican.

Shelley Earnhardt, who is divorced and who sent one of the emails, wrote that “in my home, there was outrage, embarrassment, sadness, disbelief, and further reason for my 16-year-old to move as far away from her religion as possible and as soon as she can.”

Other parents faulted the school for not notifying them about the sensitive nature of Laurel’s planned remarks. “It’s too big of a topic for parents to be surprised,” said Casey Corser.

Diocese spokesman David Hains acknowledged parents were not told ahead of time that Laurel would speak. But he said she has spoken frequently in the diocese and has a doctoral degree in sacred theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome.

“We have seen the petitions, and we have gotten the emails,” Hains said. “And we really hope to be able to answer their questions and address their concerns” at the meeting, which he said will be closed to the media.

The Rev. Tim Reid, pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, sent an email lauding the nun, saying “she represented well the Catholic positions on marriage, sex, same-sex attraction and proper gender roles … The Church has already lost too many generations of Catholic schools students to … a very muddled and watered-down faith.” Continue reading

End Times

 

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Steve Skojec  has an interesting post over at his blog pondering whether we are in the End Times.  It appropriately is entitled Something Wicked:

 

Is there a part of you that aches when you feel a storm coming? An old injury, a creaking joint, maybe your sinuses? For me, it was always my left arm. Could be a bright, sunny, cloudless day, but if it started throbbing in just that certain way, I knew: before too long, the dark clouds would be rolling in.

I don’t know if it’s possible for our souls to feel something similar, but I’ve talked to a number of people who have serious spiritual aches.

There’s just this feeling that something bad is coming. Nobody can put their finger on it. It could be spiritual, or temporal, or possibly even both. All I can say is that it’s as if we’re watching the world stage, and the house lights have gone down, and we can just barely make out that the scenery is being rearranged by people dressed all in black. We can’t see them with any clarity. There’s just the sense of deliberate and hasty movement, as pieces are being put into place for a big scene.

I’ve never been given to apocalyptic fantasies, but it’s hard not to wonder if when the curtain comes up, we will be witnessing the beginning of the final act.

In this essay, I hope to try to stitch together some of the disparate factors I see coalescing, and others I merely suspect. I have no special gift for divining the course of the future; I receive no private revelations. But I have a sense that something is very much not right in the world, and I am trying to address that for myself. I have chosen to also share my attempt to make these connections with you. Continue reading

PopeWatch: Obama

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Well, Obama finally has had his meeting with the Pope.  It seems rather similar, based upon the Vatican description, to his meeting with Pope Benedict:

This morning, 27 March 2014, the Hon. Barack H. Obama, President of the United States of America, was received in audience by His Holiness Pope Francis, after which he met with His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States.

During the cordial meetings, views were exchanged on some current international themes and it was hoped that, in areas of conflict, there would be respect for humanitarian and international law and a negotiated solution between the parties involved.

  In the context of bilateral relations and cooperation between Church and State, there was a discussion on questions of particular relevance for the Church in that country, such as the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection, as well as the issue of immigration reform. Finally, the common commitment to the eradication of trafficking of human persons in the world was stated. Continue reading

Hannibal Hamlin: Forgotten Man of the Lincoln Administration

Thomas E. Marshall, Vice-President under Wilson, summed up the historical fate of most Vice-Presidents in this joke he used to tell:  There were two brothers.  One was lost at sea and one became Vice-President.  Neither were heard from again.  That was certainly the case with Hannibal Hamlin, Lincoln’s first Vice-President.  In an administration where almost everything has been examined endlessly by tens of thousands of historians with magnifying glasses, Hamlin is a complete void.  At the time Hamlin knew that he simply did not count in the Administration, although Lincoln was cordial on the rare occasions they met.  I am the fifth wheel of a coach is how Hamlin described his non-role in shaping the affairs of the nation during his term as Vice-President.

The most prominent politician from Maine, both before and after his term as Vice-President, perhaps Hamlin regretted his four years in political oblivion as Lincoln’s Veep.

Hamlin began his political career in 1836 when he won election to Maine’s house of representatives as a Democrat.  Serving in the Federal House of Representatives in 1843-47.  Appointed to serve out a term in the US Senate in 1848, Hamlin elected to a full term in his own right in 1851.  In 1856 he became a national celebrity when he broke with the Democrat party over slavery, and joined the Republicans.  Elected as a Republican as Governor of Maine in 1856 and  serving briefly, he resigned to take up a seat next year as a Republican, being one of the few members of the Senate to serve in that body as both a Democrat and a Republican.

He was placed on the Presidential ticket for regional balance and for the fame he had won as a former Democrat who left the party over slavery, a natural vote getter among anti-slavery Democrats.  Hamlin and Lincoln did not meet for the first time until after the election.  During the campaign Democrats spread the rumor that Hamlin was a mulatto.  Hamlin did have a swarthy complexion, but there was no truth in the allegation.  The same charge was made against Lincoln, racism being a weapon wielded freely by Democrats in both 1861 and 1864.

Hamlin as Veep advocated Emancipation and the use of black troops.  Less presciently, he also supported placing Fighting Joe Hooker in command of the Army of the Potomac.  Hamlin was left off the ticket in 1864 in order to broaden the ticket.  Hamlin was firmly associated now with the radical wing of the Republican Party, and Lincoln believed that a War Democrat would be a better choice in what was likely to be a close contest.  Andrew Johnson thus ultimately became President and Hamlin missed his opportunity to be something other than an historical footnote. Continue reading

So God Made—

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The above video is in honor of Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst.  Go here to read about her.

 

The below video is in honor of Iowa Senate candidate Bruce Braley.  Go here to read about him.

 

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PopeWatch: Secret Consistory

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This is very interesting.  Rorate Caeli has a story, written by  Marco Tossati for La Stampa, about the “Secret” Consistory on February 22, 2014 at which Cardinal Kasper proposed that a “pastoral” approach be taken to Catholics in adulterous marriage to give them a process by which they could receive communion while remaining in their adulterous marriages.  Apparently the Cardinal’s proposal was as well received as a skunk at a perfume convention:

Marco Tosatti, for LA STAMPA

 
The Consistory on  the 22nd February to discuss the family, was supposed to be secret. Instead a decision came from the top that it was opportune to publish Cardinal Kasper’s long report on the theme of the Eucharist for the divorced and remarried. In all probability [this] to open the way in prospect of the  October Synod on the Family. However half of the Consistory remained secret: [that half] concerned  observations from Cardinals. And maybe not by chance, as, after Cardinal Kasper had presented his long report (and as it seems it was not very light when given ,) rather a lot of voices were raised in criticizing it. So much so, that in the afternoon when the Pope gave him the job of responding, the German Cardinal’s tone appeared piqued, even angry to the many [present].
 
The current opinion is  that “Kasper’s theorem”  tends to allow permission in general for the  divorced and remarried  to receive communion, without the previous marriage being  recognized as null.  At present this does not happen,  based on Jesus’ words which were very severe and explicit on divorce.  People who live a full  matrimonial life without the first union being regarded as invalid by the Church, find themselves in a situation of permanent sin, according to present doctrine.
 
In this sense, Cardinal Caffarra of Bologna as well as German Cardinal Mueller (Prefect of the Congregation of the Faith) spoke clearly.  Equally explicit was Cardinal Walter Brandmuller (“ Neither  human nature nor the Commandments nor the Gospel have an expiry date[…]Courage is needed to enunciate the truth even against current customs.  Whoever speaks on behalf of the Church must possess courage if he does not want his vocation to be a failure.[…] The desire to obtain approval and applause is a temptation which is always present in the transmission of religious teaching.”   Afterwards he made his words public).  Also the President of the Italian Bishops, Cardinal Bagnasco expressed himself in a critical manner with regard to “Kasper’s theorem”;   the same went for the African Cardinal Robert Sarah, Head of “Cor Unum”  who at the end of his comments, recalled  that in the course of the centuries even on dramatic questions controversies and divergences  had existed  inside the Church, but that the role of the Papacy had always been the one of defending doctrine.
 
Cardinal Re who was one of Bergoglio’s greatest electors, gave a very short statement, which can be summarized thus:  “I will speak for just a moment, because there are future new cardinals here and perhaps some of them do not have the courage to say it, so I will: I am completely against this report.”  Also the Prefect of the Penitentiary, Cardinal Piacenza said he was against it and more or less said: “we are here now and we will be here again in October for a Synod on the Family, and so since we  want to have a positive Synod, I don’t see why we have to touch only on the matter of  Communion for divorcees.”  He added: “Since we want to have a debate on pastoral care it seems to me that we should have to take note of  a widespread pan-sexualism  and the attack of the “ideology of gender” which tend to demolish the family as we have always known it.  It would be providential if we were lumen gentium so as  clarify the situation we find ourselves in, as well as the things that can destroy the family.”  He concluded by exhorting a re-reading of the catecheses by John Paul II on corporeity, since they contain many positive elements about sex, being a man and a woman, procreation and love.
 
Cardinal Tauran, (of Inter-Religious Dialogue) returned  again to  the attack on the family, also in light of relations with Islam. Likewise Cardinal Scola of Milan raised theological  and doctrinal perplexities .
 
Cardinal Ruini was also very critical.  He [also]added: “I don’t know if I understood well, but at this moment, about 85% of the Cardinals have expressed opinions apparently contrary to the layout  of the report.”  He added that among those who did not say anything  -  therefore could not be classified – he took from their silence that: “I believe they are embarrassed”. Continue reading

What Is Social Justice?

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Jonah Goldberg for Prager University asks and answers what is social justice.  I agree with him that social justice usually in practice ends up with thieves employed by the government taking property from A, keeping a substantial cut, and throwing the much reduced remainder at favored B and C.  This poorly thought out Robin Hood theology is at the basis of the manifestly failing welfare states today.  It is the antithesis of the voluntary charity called for by Christ in the tale of the Good Samaritan and it is beyond shameful that powerful people within the Church still think that the State is the preferred medium for social justice.  For those completely destitute and unable to work through no fault of their own, State support is a last resort necessity.  Where the welfare state ideology, masquerading as social justice, has gone astray is in taking a last resort and always making it a first resort, with disastrous consequences that are obvious to all, and completely ignored by those who ever bleat “social justice” and usually mean “state control”.

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