Tough Times for Faith & Reason

A one-two punch in boxing might be a good analogy for what Catholic apologists are going through these days. The McCarrick scandal, and other diocesan abuse cases, combined with a sudden and historic revision to the Catechism of the Catholic Church regarding capital punishment could have even the best apologist staggering like a stunned prize-fighter in trouble. From my experience, people are generally not receptive to Faith & Reason when emotions are running high and when so many unreasonable things are going on.

In the shadow of recent events, the following reflection from Father Donald Haggerty1 got me thinking about faith, reason, the devil and human intelligence….

“The devil is a great liar, as Jesus warns, which means that his primary target is our intelligence. His effort is to work his whisper within the quiet of the mind without detection, unknown until the damage is done…”

One of my sins, or at least an imperfection, is “stewing”. I’ll intentionally replay a negative situation over and over in my mind. It could be a specific thing someone said or did, or perhaps just a general annoyance. I’ll even fan the flames a bit with my own imagination to make it seem even worse. After reading Fr. Haggerty’s reflection, I’m left to wonder if it’s just me doing the thinking or is there some assistance from “his whisper within the quiet of the mind without detection, unknown until the damage is done” The devil certainly has plenty of extra fodder to work with in recent weeks to do some extra damage…and incidentally, be careful not to “stew” too much about recent events in the blogosphere. It may be just what the devil ordered.

“…One observation would seem undeniable. With fixed, persevering intent, he seeks to undermine a soul’s attraction for the attainability of truth. He wants to replace a hunger for spiritual truth with an acquiescence to permanent uncertainties and confusion…”

It used to be that there were Catholics that practiced the faith and followed Church teaching and lapsed Catholics that did not…and the lapsed Catholics knew that they were lapsed.  For many today, there seems to be little difference between the two; it doesn’t matter how often you go to Mass and just pick the teachings you (or your culture) like best. In our age of self-identification, if you can make your gender whatever you like, you can certainly make-up other “truths” and still self-identify as Catholic. Desire trumps facts; agenda undermines truth. Instead of conforming our minds to reality, we try to conform reality to our minds. In such a world there can be no certainty.

“…The truth of Christianity is of course the primary concentration of his attack. A soul’s conviction in faith is the ultimate prize he pursues. In subtle whispers, he poses objections, raises doubts, insinuates the likelihood of false, unreasonable assumptions. He exaggerates and distorts what is sometimes called the irrationality of religious belief. He has a special love for useless questioning that has no end point, for reflections that veer off into idiosyncratic byways and tangents…”



When dealing with a complex and ongoing technical problem where I work, we strive to keep problems in proper perspective. This is difficult as our customers and sales representatives tend to get too emotional; mixing facts with perceptions that creates a false reality. At the same time technicians and engineers can get lost in the arcane details of a problem and start engaging in “useless questioning that has no endpoint.

Fellow blogger Bob Kurland recently gave us some perspective on other evils committed by other Church leaders throughout history just as grave as today’s scandals, but many did not involve sex. Seems the medievals were not as obsessed with sex as we are today. How can such an institution survive for so long? Church history stands in testimony to its divinity as Bob’s post reminded us:

“The Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine — but for unbelievers a proof of its divinity might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight.”

—Hilaire Belloc

To this, I would add (for believers)…what institution on Earth would Satan work harder to destroy than the Church? And yet, here we are; it’s another piece of evidence that the Church gets some divine help. Additionally, as Bob reminds us here. “Let’s not make a blanket assumption that the priesthood has been totally corrupted because of headlines engendered by a political opportunist.”

“ …His deceptions are often couched in commonsense logic. Other times he provokes hyperrational brooding and strained complications of argument. He loves to bait a soul with a remembrance of its native intelligence and a need to think independently, without reliance on any authority for truth other than a personal determination of truth…”

We all like to think of ourselves as independent thinkers, but people are like sheep and everyone eventually sits at the feet of a master. Who will whisper to your mind about what is real and what is true? Will you sit at the feet of Jesus through his Church or will it be some politician or political party, a celebrity or talk show host, a television evangelist, your favorite college professor, or will it simply be the always “infallible” majority? Who is your master? Whoever it is, be prepared to give an account one day for what you believe and what you say. “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will render an account for every careless word they speak” (Mt 12:36).

In the meantime, we’re not likely to “reason” our way through this current crisis, so what are we to do? Many commentators have mentioned both prayer & fasting, and who should disagree, if that is what our Lord instructed his disciples to do after another kind of evil encounter they could not handle (see Mat 17:19-21); but it should be done with an intentionality to change ourselves for the better as well as the whole Church up to the highest levels, without forgetting the many victims in-between who have suffered so much for so long.


  1. Fr. Donald Haggerty, The Contemplative Hunger (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2016) p. 197.

Top photo from Wikimedia Commons


This May Help…a Little

Are you shell-shocked? Don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired of “bombshells”; from new headlines in the abuse scandal to sudden and historic changes to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

This may help (a little). I recently had a discussion with my fourteen year old daughter about why we are sometimes forced to go through things we don’t want to go through; it relates to the problem of evil. Why does God permit it?

The classic answer to this classic problem is that God allows certain evils in order to bring out the greater good. I admit that the discussion with my daughter had more to do with the evil of math homework than any kind of scandal, but we both found the following reflection helpful in understanding the role of “trust” when going through a difficult time not of our own doing and not of our own choosing…

“Facing various possibilities, it is good for us to choose among them. Yet perhaps the highest and most rewarding exercise of freedom is assenting to things we haven’t chosen, welcoming in trust realities that transcend us.

Our real prison is ourselves: our limited perception of reality, our narrow-mindedness and narrow-­heartedness. Experience often shows that we break out of this prison and open new horizons in accepting situations we haven’t chosen and so come to perceive a deeper dimension of reality, more rich and more beautiful.”1

Maybe God is beginning a process to purify his Church into something more beautiful that will take decades, or maybe we should brace ourselves for something quicker in the realm of  “Shock & Awe”.

  1. Jacques Philippe, Fire & Light: Learning to Receive the gift of God, (New York: Scepter Publishing, Inc. 2016) ebook


Erin Manning at And Sometimes Tea gets it:


I’m seeing a new talking point about Scandal 2.0 emerge among some of the more left-leaning or progressive Catholics whose writings I see in various places on the Internet (including in comment boxes; I’m always willing to chat with anybody who is willing to be civil). The talking point goes like this: No, the Scandal doesn’t have anything to do with gay men being ordained to the priesthood, and the sexual harassment, abuse, or rape of boys isn’t a homosexual act. Rape is about power, and victims are usually people the rapist has access to, so since priests really only have access to boys more boys were harmed than girls. Blaming gay men or same-sex attraction is really just a form of bigotry, usually only indulged in by right-wingers who vote Republican and commit other horrible crimes.

I think the technical term for this sort of thinking is: balderdash.

Go here to read the rest.  Ignoring the homosexual component of the sexual abuse cover up in the Church is akin to ignoring the meat component of meat loaf.


Need Reader Input: Who Are The Top 10 Dynamically Orthodox Catholic Bishops?

 I would like some help in identifying the most active, passionate, orthodox American Catholic Bishops currently serving. It is a cultural thing that we seem to love rating everything- not a bad thing- and I have a personal interest in this topic because I want to offer my services to a Bishop who needs someone who gets the following Big Three Realities that I have been focusing on in my last three postings here at American Catholic.


1. The Obama Administration is threat #1 to the continuance of our Hierarchical Catholic Church- here in America and since we are a Superpower in worldly terms this could damage a big chunk of Christendom. I do not speak as an Obama-basher with Republican talking point tie-ins- I was a lifelong Democrat who only recently gave it up to become an Independent, not Republican. My realization about the Obama threat emerged slowly after being absorbed in a national Catholic Democrats listserve with some of the real heavyweights- like FOB (Friend of Barack) Vicki Kennedy. It was clear to me that Kennedy with her fellow travelers in Catholic universities, and liberal Catholic political organizations, have been intent on much much more than just getting more traction in American policies and legislation for a few political issues often neglected by the conservative-Right. There is blood in the water for the Church Hierarchy due to the notorious Minor Abuse Scandals. These prominent Catholic Dems seem intent on using whatever power they can muster to force changes in the Church to cut the Hierarchydown to size- replace the Teaching Authority with liberal Catholic college professors and liberal political activists who will “save” the Church from irrelevance among the youth. We have seen that President Obama has been systematically assisting in this process- not openly- but consider his choice of Joe Biden as VP with his pro-choice, pro-gay marriage beliefs, and Kathleen Sebelius as HHS Secretary who is pushing contraceptives down everyone’s throats, and I suspect we’ll see that Justice Sotomayor is pro-choice, pro-gay marriage eventually. The threat to religious liberties will hit the Catholic Church Hierarchy first, with the contraceptives mandates and then gay marriage will turn the Catholic Church Catechism into Hate Literature and every orthodox Catholic into a bigot along the lines of the old school racists back in the 60’s. No one wants to be a racist- so I’m sure that Vicki Kennedy et al are counting on most American Catholics to simply abandon their Bishops’ leadership and embrace her brand of progressive Catholicism which is Obama-cool. So- me thinks the Bishops need a few folks around who see this danger and are willing to stand with the Bishops and the Catechism. I’m here to help.  Here’s a link to my piece on the Catholic Dems/Obama “conspiracy”-  http://the-american-catholic.com/2012/05/31/obama-working-willfully-to-undermine-hierarchical-catholic-church/


2. Having this information about the Obama-Catholic Dem elite battleplan is useful- but I am also interested in assisting a good Bishop at the parish level with practical steps- all perfectly legal- for assisting the process of cultivating a new breed of orthodox Catholic political leaders. Pope B teaches us to free ourselves from ideologies in his last encyclical- the social doctrine of the Church is the stuff we need more of in America- the reason we keep swinging wildly from Republican to Democrat in the races for political power is that at the gut level most people get that each Party has got some things right and some things wrong. There is no Party of God- even if right now the mainstream Democratic Party represents the greater threat to the Church/Christ- we are still talking about lesser evils. The Catholic social doctrine is about building civilizations of love- this is the positive vision that is the corrective of narrow ideologies which feed on anger for the most part. The way to bring Christ’s Way into the marketplace of ideas in American political thought and debate is for more fully informed and inspired Catholic voices to emerge and assume the responsibilities of leadership at every level of our society. There is so much that we could do in every parish and school-  here is my POA (Plan of Action) which I would love to bring into a parish in a diocese where the Bishop is aware and involved to guide the development- I’m not interested in being a lone ranger or riding against the wishes of the local Bishop.  Here’s the Plan-  http://the-american-catholic.com/2012/05/10/wanted-orthodox-catholic-political-leaders-time-to-get-serious/


3.  Finally, my long experience in the trenches of Catholic high schools has left me with many thoughts on how to inculcate a genuine Catholic identity which has a chance of being transmitted to our very distracted youth. I would love to be part of an orthodox Bishop’s team to help select passionately orthodox Catholic administrators/teachers/staff to be in place to give life witness, along with instructional guidance, to budding disciples of Christ. You can’t give what you don’t have- so if we want Catholic students to come out the other side in love, or more in love with Christ and His Church- then you don’t load up the schools with adults who are full of dissenting views from the Catechetical teachings of the Church. I’m not saying everyone has to be some kind of a stepford-wife cheerleader type of Catholic- we all have our personalities- but if you are an adult working in a Catholic school you should be someone who is thirsty to know what the Church teaches and why- especially if it pertains to your particular discipline or area of responsibility. I get into a lot more detail beyond just the staffing issue in my article below.  I am open to returning to the teaching field or entering new territory in administration under the right Bishop in a diocese that really wants to play it straight-up as a passionately Catholic institution -without being satisfied with a PR-level Catholic Identity which produces nice dog and pony shows for visiting bishops and parents- but scratch the surface and where is the love for the Church? If you fall in love with the Church you will just want to know more and more and to share more and more with the youth and everyone you meet- am I right?  Here’s the last link-  http://the-american-catholic.com/2012/04/16/a-vision-of-catholic-education-from-the-front-lines/


OK- if you are still with me- here is how you can help- write out up to 10 names(and email addresses if you have them!) of Dynamically Orthodox Catholic Bishops here in America- with the name of their Diocese.  You can order them according to your own rating system. I want to follow the science here and the shortest distance between two points is a straight line- I want to begin a new mission in using whatever talents I possess for the sake of Christ and His Church- I have tried to use these talents to produce something helpful to preserve and protect the Hierarchical nature of our Catholic Church- If Christ didn’t desire a Hierarchy why bother with Apostles- He could have just had disciples with no leadership inherent in the Church- but He didn’t- evidence from Scripture, history and logic all persuaded me in my Truth Quest. I don’t want to just apply for jobs blind to the leadership in a given Diocese. Leadership matters, that’s why leaders get targeted all the time, and why assassinations are so unfortunately common throughout human history. I want a meaningful mission within the Church and short of that I will do whatever I can do to provide for my wife and four young children- this is my story and why I need our Reader’s Input. Brother (Sister) can you spare a moment and share what you know? God Bless you.


CNN Joins The Hit Piece Parade Against Pope Benedict XVI and The Catholic Church

It would appear that those in the mainstream media who want to do hit pieces on Pope Benedict XVI need to take a number. The latest to engage in Yellow Journalism is CNN. The “network of record” dispatched Gary Tuchman to do the dirty work. One might recall that it was none other than Tuchman who remarked how distressing it was travelling in the heartland during the 2008 Election campaign. He complained that some who recognized him told him that their Middle American views and ideas were repeatedly mocked by the mainstream media, all the while those of the liberal establishment were hailed. Tuchman’s words were quite revealing when it comes to this story.

CNN has been advertising their hit piece on Pope Benedict XVI as if he was already guilty of some sort of cover up, even though during the Abuse Scandal it was none other than the New York Times who praised then Cardinal Ratzinger for tackling the tough problems. What tough problems did he tackle? The most notable example being Father founder of the Legionaries of Christ. Father Marcial Maciel was one of the few prominent conservatives caught up in the Abuse Scandal, most of the abusers were Church liberals who wanted to change the Church. Cardinal Ratzinger took on Father Maciel at the height of his power and popularity. One might recall that Father Maciel was quite close to Pope John Paul II. So from this example we can see that Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) showed no favorites and pulled no punches. The Legionaries of Christ were shaken to the core and as pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI removed their leadership and installed his own, hardly the work of someone who was timid.

The CNN piece was perhaps even more despicable than the New York Times hit piece, because in the interim much of the modus operandi of the Old Gray Lady was exposed. Still CNN used the same material and claimed that they had something new. There is nothing new here. The crux of their argument comes from material provided by Jeffrey Anderson the attorney who has made millions off the scandal. Anderson says he is one a mision to “reform the Church.” What kind of reform would that be? Some Catholic dioceses have been forced into bankruptcy, which means the poor whom they dioceses assisted through their social programs are left in the cold. For all his concern of “reform”  Anderson hasn’t provided a penny to these particular poor.

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The Timeline of Abuse

One of the more oft-heard responses to the recent outbreak of coverage on the abuse scandals in the Church is the following: ‘when is the Church going to respond to this and protect children?’ This question is entirely sensible. We have heard about these scandals in the past, and yet fresh stories of abuse are appearing on a weekly basis. Moreover, the responses of many in the Vatican, as in several other incidents in the pontificate of Benedict XVI, has been disheartening. At the same time, I think it is important to point out for those concerned about the abuse of children (as opposed to the competency of the Vatican press office), that the crisis phase of the abuse scandal has been over for the better part of twenty years in the U.S. (and notice the recent reporting has focused on incidents at least that old). The following graph summarizes the annual reports of abuse by priests in the United States over the last fifty-five years (for those who are curious about post-2004, there were six reported incidents in 2009):

Source: the John Jay Report, h/t Ross Douthat.

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