Overlooking the Essentials: Reflections on the Negative Catholic Reaction to Pope Francis

With the Pope’s visit to the US, people—including Catholics—are scrutinizing his words to use them in order to justify their political positions. If the individual agrees with his words, he is a great Pope, while if they don’t, he is not. Unfortunately this mindset seeks to take the Pope’s words and cram them into a dualistic political mindset: “Either the Pope is conservative or liberal.”

On one hand, we get Nancy Pelosi’s reprehensible statement of “I actually agree with the pope on more issues than many Catholics who agree with him on one issue” where that “one issue” is abortion and St. John Paul II spoke of “Precisely in an age when the inviolable rights of the person are solemnly proclaimed and the value of life is publicly affirmed, the very right to life is being denied or trampled upon, especially at the more significant moments of existence: the moment of birth and the moment of death.” [John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae #18]—a pretty big disconnect. On the other hand, we get the accusation that the Pope is a liberal-leftist-marxist-who-should-stick-to-religion-and-not-get-into-politics (whew!) whenever he speaks on a topic they dislike.

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Quick Quips: Thoughts on Synod Agendas and Annulment Concerns

God remains watching over His Church even in the worst of times—which this time certainly is not. Yes individual bishops and even the bishops of entire regions have gone astray in the past, but those events have not changed the official teaching of the Church. Instead, those bishops have simply exceeded their authority and done wrong. We need to remember that whatever the failings of individuals in the magisterium, that has never led to teaching error by the magisterium.

So when we pray for the Church, let us do so with faith that God looks out for her and will not let her lead us astray. (See HERE for full article)

Pope Francis: Family Prayer

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Authentic prayer is a gift from God, a gift we receive with joy because God initiates and we simply respond.

For his 100th general audience,Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the family by considering family prayer. In his opening statements, the pope pointed out that most people find it difficult to find time to pray.

Pope Francis teaches that love of God, not guilt will inspire us to pray.

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The Two Mirrors: An Allegory

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Once, long ago, our Noble Lord was hung upon a tree and died thereon. Strange to relate at certain seasons the tree and Him upon it are made present among us. At such times His lovers are mysteriously enabled to drink His blood as if it were wine and to eat His flesh as if it were bread gaining great strength thereby.

For the most part though our Noble Lord is hidden from our senses. During these times two great and rival companies re-enact His Passion for our benefit. These are the Dark Companions, who are always the most numerous, and the Companions of the Light, who are always led by a most wondrous sweet Lady.

The Dark Companions fully and perfectly reconstruct among us the instruments of our Lord’s death. They are the most perfect liars, they are filled with envy and spite, they are consumed with anger. Of sympathy they are naked but nonetheless they are well clad, covering themselves with mockery and cursing.With all this and much more besides they present the play “The 50 Dark Moments of our Lord’s Passion.” Always they receive the just reward for their performance.

Whenever the Dark Companions appear together assembled the Companions of the Light timidly run away. Presently though they are rallied by their womenfolk, and by one woman above all other women. Led by her they enter into the heart of our Lord’s Passion. They make present among us most perfect love, patience, grief at the evils men do and steadfast but tender endurance. Their play is “The 50 Moments of Light” It is not always obvious to human eyes but it is certain that they too receive the just reward for their performance….click here to read more

 

To Hell With You? Not If We Can Help It!

The doctrine of Hell is one that is easily distorted into portraying Christians as gleefully awaiting non-Christians to be sent there, while thinking that we have a free pass where what we do doesn’t matter. While it is true that some Christians have so missed the point about what they are called to be that they do think this way, it is an aberration which perverts what Christianity really believes.

Far from being a cruel belief invented by a vindictive people in a way that contradicts the concept of a loving God, the concept of Hell recognizes that:

  • God created us with an immortal soul
  • God created us with free will to choose Him or to reject Him
  • If we misuse free will in a way which rejects God, our immortal soul has to exist somewhere that is the logical result of that rejection

So, Hell is not an issue of “don’t steal that cookie or you’re going to burn forever!” It’s a reality of, “If you choose to reject God, that decision has eternal consequences if you do not change your ways.”

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Love and Hell

One of the things people in modern times find hard to reconcile is how God can be love (1 John 4:16) and the existence of Hell. The general assumption is that Hell is an arbitrary, disproportionate punishment tacked on to a crime—something like shooting a person for jaywalking. Because of this, it is assumed that God, being “good” (in an undefined way) would not really send them to Hell for their own actions. Maybe Nazis, but not “good” people. I suspect this is where the whole “God doesn’t care about X!” attitude comes from.

But this is to miss the point about what Hell is about. It is not an arbitrary sentence to a crime like, “If you commit theft, I will punish you with Prison.” It is more like, “If you jump off of a cliff, you will die.” In other words, Hell is the logical consequence for choosing to do what goes against what God has called us to be.

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Because Sin Is Real: The Truth America Forgot

If you read the works of the saints, or their biographies, you can see that they were aware of a truth that America has forgotten—sin is real and it alienates us from God. Instead, America (or, rather the whole of Western civilization) has a bad habit of presuming that God “doesn’t care” about the action we do that falls under the category of sin. As a result, we have an understanding about sin that is both self-contradictory and has nothing to do with the reality:

  • When others do something we dislike, we have no qualms about acknowledging it as a sin.
  • When we do something that is a sin, we refuse to acknowledge it as a sin and call it an arbitrary decision made by human beings that doesn’t matter to God.

In other words, while people are perfectly willing to denounce others, the fact is that, instead of thinking rationally about the good or evil of our actions we contemplate doing, we rationalize the things we already do to avoid thinking about whether they are good or evil or rationalize a reason not to do what we ought to do.

This mindset actually convicts the person before God—because we call the actions of others “sin” or “wrongdoing,” we acknowledge that there is a good which must be lived and an evil which must be avoided. But because we refuse to apply this knowledge to ourselves, we show ourselves to be hypocrites and evildoers.

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We Must Stand Up For Right When Society Goes Wrong—Because We Are Christians

Being a Christian today—at least one who takes a position contrary to what is currently favored culturally—is becoming an unpopular and potentially dangerous stand to take. While society is stressing the importance of being nice, and not saying anything negative about someone we disagree with (except when directed against said Christians), we are unpopular because we say “This is wrong, and cannot be done.” To which, the world says “Stop judging, you bigot!” (completely unaware of the self-contradiction). The impression one gets is that society would be perfectly willing to welcome us back into the fold if we would stop being so obstinate and go along with what they hold.

If the society was the source of determining what was right and wrong, then it would be foolish of us to be countercultural. Under such a view, whoever rejected the mores of society would be a hateful person. But this is where the problem lies. Christianity cannot accept society as the source of determining right and wrong. Indeed, we know that societies have a bad habit of going very wrong. In America, our mistreatment of American Indians and African-Americans give us examples of behavior that cannot be considered good even though society once favored it. The totalitarian dictatorships of history give us examples of behavior we cannot condone. So there has to be a source for determining right and wrong which is outside of society. Otherwise, when a new group is in power, people will find themselves without grounds to protest actions they find offensive. And society, in the name of freedom, is rapidly undercutting the pillars that support freedom. They do this by saying, “Stop trying to push your values on us!” while pushing their values on others.

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“You Have Cast Off the Weight; Beware, Lest the Sand Overwhelm You”

Let’s consider a Bible passage from Matthew 9:9-13…

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. 10 While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. 11 The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. 13 Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

From what we know about what Jesus taught, there is one thing we can never forget:

  • Major Premise: Jesus came to call the sinners, not the righteous.
  • Minor Premise: Jesus came to call us.
  • Conclusion: Therefore, We are sinners.

If we forget this fact, then we run the risk of becoming like the Pharisees, looking upon others as sinners, but giving no thought to our own sins.

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Thoughts on the Love of Truth vs. Sophistry

The love of truth requires a person to find out what is true about a thing in its very nature, responding to that truth in approaching life. But many people are not actually willing to do this. They want to stop searching at the level where they are content—especially if continuing to follow the truth means an uncomfortable change of how one lives. This approach to life is known as Sophistry—which is the use of fallacious arguments, especially with the intention of justifying a position contrary to an unpopular truth.

The difference between the two outlooks are polar opposites. One seeks to find out what is. The other seeks to justify himself or herself in the eyes of others. When shown that his or her position is wrong, the Sophist tends to become hostile—seeing the demonstration as a personal attack on their comfortable little world, and even an attack on the person. It is important to remember, however, that sophistry is not something exclusive to one ideology—where one side is always seeking the truth and the other side seeks to deceive. Anyone of us can become a sophist if we stop searching for truth when it makes uncomfortable or even try to justify ourselves against truth.

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