24

Go and Sin No More

I have a handful of blogs that I look at each day.  The eponymous site of my co-blogger Darwin Catholic is one of them.  He has a very good post up currently entitled Hiding the Truth is Not Pastoral:

 

Mark Shea wades into the recent controversy about Cardinal Marx’s suggestion that perhaps the Church may in certain individual cases come up with some sort of blessing to be applied to same sex unions. (There’s some dispute as to what Cardinal Marx meant, with initial reports suggesting he proposed a standard approach to blessing such unions and clarification from his spokesmen suggesting that he was more ambiguous, but that ambiguity does not come into Shea’s piece so I won’t bring it up here further.)

Shea proposes nothing definite, but argues that the cardinal may be onto something because the presence of same sex marriages will be an established fact that the Church must deal with, and failure to do so will, he argues, result in rejection by many younger people who support same sex marriage in large numbers. It’s a long post, but I’ll try to quote the key sections below:

[H]ow do the people who are currently shouting denunciations at Cdl. Marx propose the Church proceed in a world where, like it or not, gay unions are here to stay? Put bluntly, if they do not want some kind of blessing on gay people, would they prefer the Church devise a curse for them?

My guess is no. Very well then, my question is this: what do we want to do, as Catholics committed to the evangelization of the entire world, including gay people? What concrete course of action do we propose for the Church to engage the here-to-stay, not going anywhere, immovable, staring-us-in-the-face sociological fact of a world which not only has gay unions, but has a rising generation of people, gay and straight, who have absolutely no problem with gay unions and who are increasingly alienated from a Church that does, in fact, appear to them to curse gay people? (We’re talking roughly 75% of Millennials here.)

If you say (as I suspect most of Cdl. Marx’s critics do) that the Church should simply do nothing, then at least be aware that “nothing” will, in fact, be read as rejection, not as nothing–by that 75% of Millennials. Mark you, I’m not talking about gay unions per se. I’m simply talking about the mere existence of gay people and the straight people who care about them.

If the message the Church is sending to every gay person on the planet–and to their straight Millennial friend–is “You are rejected” then it will be only the most extraordinary and motivated person who persists in seeking Jesus in the face of such rejection. And make no mistake, the most zealous and vocal Catholics are typically the ones sending just that message to gays and the straight people who love them. Indeed, they send it even to gay people who have committed to live in chastity and celibacy. I cannot count the number of times I have seen gay Catholics I know–faithful, chaste, celibate ones–spoken of as sinister fifth columnists within the Church and regarded with suspicion simply because they are open, frank, and honest that they are sexually attracted to people of the same sex.

I think the entire “burn heretics, not make converts” approach to the Catholic life is radically wrong and foreign to the mind of Christ. So I return to my question: what do we propose about evangelizing people in a world where gay unions–and an entire generation of people who do not even see a problem with them–are already an established sociological fact?

Jesus didn’t tell the centurion, “Get out of my sight, slaveowner!” He commended him for the progress in grace he had made. He didn’t tell the Samaritan woman to depart from him. He met her where she was and helped her take a step toward faith in him. At no point, does he order her to go home and break it off with her fifth husband.

I suspect something similar is where the Church will wind up with gay unions. Gay people, like everybody else, will come to the Church for spiritual help sooner or later because the Holy Spirit cannot be denied and gay humans, like all humans, hunger for God. And when they do, real shepherds are not going to slap their faces and send them away any more than Jesus slapped the centurion for daring to approach him while still owning other human beings. Shepherds are going to meet them where they are in all the complexity of their lives.

This will offend Puritans, whose first and last impulse is always to drive the impure away from Fortress Katolicus. But it seems to me that the Church is pretty much bound to take this route. It will not mean sacramentalizing gay unions. Rather, it will mean finding some way to help gay people take steps toward Jesus (who is the only one who can untangle the human heart) where they are.
[You can read the full post here.]

Now I think it’s important to say that Mark is right that there is a faction within the Church which is so suspicious of people who are gay (in the sense of being consistently sexually attracted to those of the same sex, regardless of whether they act sexually on those attractions) that they do indeed attack even faithful gay Catholic writers who write about ways for people who are gay to live chastely according to the Church’s teachings. This is a problem. Christ came to being salvation to all who are willing to follow Him, and that includes people who are gay. We must have a welcoming place within the Church for those who are living according to the Church’s teachings under difficult circumstances: those who are gay, those who are divorced, those who are unwillingly single, those who struggle to follow the Church’s teachings within their marriages.

Go here to read the rest.  When it comes to sin the trite observation that we are to love the sinner and hate the sin is completely accurate, and is a good summary of what Christ commands us.  To repentant sinners Christ was ever merciful, but that did not detract one iota from His condemnation of their sins.  Truly this is not rocket science and the Church has been doing it for twenty centuries.  Yet today we have people within the Church who seek to argue that condemnation of certain politically correct sins, almost always involving sex, is somehow condemnation of the sinner.  This is completely the reverse.  It is no mercy to a sinner not to condemn their sin, for that attitude abandons them to their sin and the price they pay for it in this world and the next.  What is merciful is to point out the sin and the mercy and love of Christ that can free them from their sins.  For all of us sinners the message of Christ is always the same:  Go and sin no more.  Something to remember this Lent and every day of the year.

 

 

5

Saint Thomas Becket, Sin and Contrition

Henry II:  Hear me!
People of Canterbury
and citizens of England,
as I have submitted myself to the lash,
so have I petitioned the Pope.
And this day,
I have received his answer.
Thomas Becket,
former Archbishop of Canterbury
and martyr to the cause
of God and his church,
shall henceforth be honored
and prayed to in this kingdom
as a saint.
(crowd cheering)
Henry II:  (sotto voce) Is the honor of God
washed clean enough?
Are you satisfied now, Thomas?

Becket(1964)



 

 

 

 

 

Today is the feast day of my confirmation saint, Saint Thomas Becket, the holy, blessed martyr.  His story tells us how foreign to our time the Middle Ages are.  Becket was a worldly cleric who had risen to be chancellor of England for Henry II.  Henry seized the opportunity to place his man, Becket, on the throne of Canterbury as Primate of England.  Becket had a sudden and complete religious conversion and fought Henry for the liberty of the Church for which Becket suffered exile and, ultimately, murder.  In penance for Becket’s murder Henry had himself beaten by the monks at Canterbury before the tomb of his former friend who, two years after his death, was canonized by the Pope.  For over three centuries his tomb became one of the major pilgrimage sites in Europe and inspired the immortal Canterbury Tales.

The Middle Ages were fully as immersed in sin as our own time, although with different mixtures of evil, but the sins of the Middle Ages were often followed by great penances and acts of contrition that brightened and inspired countless lives down through the centuries.  This we have lost and this we must regain.  G.K. Chesterton put what we lack in high relief when he wrote about Saint Thomas:

At the grave of the dead man broke forth what can only be called an epidemic of healing. For miracles so narrated there is the same evidence as for half of the facts of history; and any one denying them must deny them upon a dogma. But something followed which would seem to modern civilization even more monstrous than a miracle. If the reader can imagine Mr. Cecil Rhodes submitting to be horsewhipped by a Boer in St. Paul’s Cathedral, as an apology for some indefensible death incidental to the Jameson Raid, he will form but a faint idea of what was meant when Henry II was beaten by monks at the tomb of his vassal and enemy. The modern parallel called up is comic, but the truth is that mediaeval actualities have a violence that does seem comic to our conventions. The Catholics of that age were driven by two dominant thoughts: the all-importance of penitence as an answer to sin, and the all-importance of vivid and evident external acts as a proof of penitence. Extravagant humiliation after extravagant pride for them restored the balance of sanity. The point is worth stressing, because without it moderns make neither head nor tail of the period. Green gravely suggests, for instance, of Henry’s ancestor Fulk of Anjou, that his tyrannies and frauds were further blackened by “low superstition,” which led him to be dragged in a halter round a shrine, scourged and screaming for the mercy of God. Mediaevals would simply have said that such a man might well scream for it, but his scream was the only logical comment he could make. But they would have quite refused to see why the scream should be added to the sins and not subtracted from them. They would have thought it simply muddle-headed to have the same horror at a man being horribly sinful and for being horribly sorry.

Bishop Stephen Gardiner who helped Henry VIII destroy the Catholic Church in England so long under the protection of Saint Thomas Becket, Henry plundering and destroying the tomb of Saint Thomas as a symbol of the Catholicism he hated, later repented and sought to restore the Catholic Church in England under Queen Mary.  He died before Queen Mary and therefore he did not live to see the failure of the attempted restoration as a result of Mary’s death and the accession of Bloody Elizabeth.  As he lay dying he purportedly said something in his grief that I think gets at the heart of what sickens the modern world:  Erravi cum Petro, sed non flevi cum Petro.  (Like Peter I have erred, unlike Peter I have not wept.)  Sin remains sin, no matter what the world in its folly calls it.  Sin without repentance leads to damnation in eternity and endless evil in this world, something the Middle Ages knew well and our Modern World has almost completely forgotten.

 

14

Prayer Request

 

LarryD at Acts of the Apostasy has the dreadful news that his nineteen year old nephew took his life.  I would regard it as a personal favor for prayers to be offered for LarryD, the young man’s family and the repose of the soul of the young man.  I have long believed that before we reach our end, God throws a rope to us.  Let us hope that the young man grasped it before his soul left his body.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.  Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.

5

Murder and Redemption

Trafton

 

 

When I was a kid I watched way too much TV.  How little of those hours I can recall now!  However there is one television show that I watched that has always stayed with me.  On October 25, 1971, when I was a freshman in high school, a Gunsmoke episode aired entitled Trafton.  The guest star of the episode was character actor Victor French, who would make twenty-three appearances on Gunsmoke, usually portraying a villain.  The Trafton episode was no exception.  He portrayed a gunman known simply as Trafton.  A murderer, Trafton had learned the gunman’s trade while riding with Confederate raider “Bloody Bill” Anderson during the War.  The episode opens with Trafton and his gang shooting up a town in New Mexico.  They attempt to rob the bank, only to find that the vault contains no money.  Frustrated, on his way out of town Trafton sees a Catholic Church.  He enters the Church and goes up to the altar, and takes a gold cross, a gold communion chalice and a gold paten.  The priest appears and tries to stop him,  Trafton unhesitatingly gunning down the priest.  Seeing a gold cross about the neck of the dying priest, Trafton stoops down to remove the cross.  As he does so the priest with his last strength, to the utter astonishment of Trafton, says, “I forgive you.” and with his bloody right hand traces a cross on the forehead of Trafton just before he dies.  Trafton uneasily touches his forehead, and then leaves the Church and rides off. Continue Reading

12

Saint Thomas Becket, Sin and Contrition

(I originally posted this on December 29th last year.  I think it is worth a repost on December 29th this year.)

Today is the feast day of my confirmation saint, Saint Thomas Becket, the holy, blessed martyr.  His story tells us how foreign to our time the Middle Ages are.  Becket was a worldly cleric who had risen to be chancellor of England for Henry II.  Henry seized the opportunity to place his man, Becket, on the throne of Canterbury as Primate of England.  Becket had a sudden and complete religious conversion and fought Henry for the liberty of the Church for which Becket suffered exile and, ultimately, murder.  In penance for Becket’s murder Henry had himself beaten by the monks at Canterbury before the tomb of his former friend who, two years after his death, was canonized by the Pope.  For over three centuries his tomb became one of the major pilgrimage sites in Europe and inspired the immortal Canterbury Tales.

The Middle Ages were fully as immersed in sin as our own time, although with different mixtures of evil, but the sins of the Middle Ages were often followed by great penances and acts of contrition that brightened and inspired countless lives down through the centuries.  This we have lost and this we must regain.  G.K. Chesterton put what we lack in high relief when he wrote about Saint Thomas: Continue Reading

17

The Alamo, John Wayne and Faith

The tumult and the shouting dies—
The Captains and the Kings depart—
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.

Rudyard Kipling, from Recessional

Interesting that John Wayne, who directed the film The Alamo, would have a religious debate just before the final battle scene.  However, as I have written in a post which may be read here, John Wayne, death bed Catholic convert, had a strong faith in God, even as he realized that in many ways he was not living properly.  The film The Alamo was first and foremost Wayne’s love note to America, but I think Wayne was also making a statement about faith in God.

Wayne’s personal relationship with God is represented well in this clip, beginning at 9:26, that did not make it into the film.

 

Continue Reading

4

Saint Thomas Becket, Sin and Contrition

Today is the feast day of my confirmation saint, Saint Thomas Becket, the holy, blessed martyr.  His story tells us how foreign to our time the Middle Ages are.  Becket was a worldly cleric who had risen to be chancellor of England for Henry II.  Henry seized the opportunity to place his man, Becket, on the throne of Canterbury as Primate of England.  Becket had a sudden and complete religious conversion and fought Henry for the liberty of the Church for which Becket suffered exile and, ultimately, murder.  In penance for Becket’s murder Henry had himself beaten by the monks at Canterbury before the tomb of his former friend who, two years after his death, was canonized by the Pope.  For over three centuries his tomb became one of the major pilgrimage sites in Europe and inspired the immortal Canterbury Tales.

The Middle Ages were fully as immersed in sin as our own time, although with different mixtures of evil, but the sins of the Middle Ages were often followed by great penances and acts of contrition that brightened and inspired countless lives down through the centuries.  This we have lost and this we must regain.  G.K. Chesterton put what we lack in high relief when he wrote about Saint Thomas: Continue Reading

14

Abby Johnson and the Still Small Voice of God

As faithful readers of this blog know, I am an attorney, for my sins no doubt.  It supplies me with bread and butter for my family and myself as well as an opportunity to observe the frailty, follies, crimes and, occasionally, the nobility, of the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve.  However, that is just my day job.  For over a decade now I have also been chairman of the board of directors of the Caring Pregnancy Center located in Pontiac, Illinois in Livingston County, the county in which I live.  There, dedicated pro-life volunteers, almost all of them evangelical women, labor ceaselessly to help women in crisis  pregnancies.  In the movie the Agony and the Ecstasy Pope Julius II is depicted as saying that when he comes before God he will throw into the balance the ceiling painting of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel against the weight of his sins and he hoped it would shorten his time in purgatory.  If such an opportunity exists for me, it will be due to my association with the Caring Pregnancy Center and their truly awe-inspiring and selfless female volunteers.

On April 14th, we held our 25th anniversary banquet which was a grand affair, with our supporters and well-wishers turning out in en masse.  I opened with a few introductory remarks where I talked about the Center and its 25 years of service to the women of Livingston County and their babies.  I also asked why we did this.  First and foremost to protect innocent human life, and, second, because we remember with Thomas Jefferson, “Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.”  It will come as a vast shock, no doubt, to faithful readers of this blog that I somehow worked into my remarks the surrender of Fort Sumter 150 years before on April 14, 1861 and Mr. Lincoln’s remarks in his Second Inaugural Address that the terrible war the nation had been through was God’s punishment on both the North and the South for the sin of slavery.  I ended by stating that it was still possible for America to turn around and repent for the great sin of abortion and that the great words of the prophet Isaiah, as always, give us hope:  “Though your sins be as scarlet, they will be made white as snow.”

Abby Johnson was our speaker, and she gave the most effective pro-life speech I have ever heard and I have heard many over the decades.

She was funny and moving at the same time.  Her delivery was as natural as if she was talking to a next door neighbor, but every word she said was riveting. Continue Reading