28 March 2012

The Faith Worth Dying for

The Daily Cross

It is often easier to accept, in a burst of generosity, the great sacrifices and sufferings of a singular occurrence, than the little, insignificant sufferings, closely connected with our state of life and the fulfillment of our duty : sufferings which occur daily under the same form, with the same intensity and insistence, among endless and unchanging circumstances. These may include physical ailments caused by poor health, economic restrictions, the fatigue attendant upon overwork or anxiety; they may be moral sufferings resulting from differences of opinion, clash of temperaments, or misunderstandings. Herein lies the genuine cross that Jesus offers us daily, inviting us to carry it after Him--an unpretentious cross, which does not require great heroism, but which does demand that we repeat our Fiat every day, meekly bowing our shoulders to carry its weight with generosity and love. The value, the fruitfulness of our daily sacrifices comes from this unreserved acceptance, which makes us receive them just as God offers them to us, without trying to avoid them or to lessen their weight. "Yea, Father, for so hath it seemed good in Thy sight." (Mt 11:26).

--Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdelene, OCD, DIVINE INTIMACY

24 March 2012

The Myth of Religious Freedom in Colonial America

Only three of the original thirteen colonies allowed Catholics to vote. Every colony save Rhode Island prohibited Catholics from holding public office, and no colony allowed Catholic schools except for Pennsylvania. Virginia passed a law ordering the arrest of any priest who entered the state. It was regular practice to celebrate Guy Fawkes Day as their English counterparts did overseas, by burning the Pope in effigy and chanting anti-Catholic slogans. (George Washington, to his credit, attempted to do away with this bigoted festival, and rumor has it he died a Catholic.) When British Parliament passed the Quebec Act, permitting the Catholic Church to be the official church of Quebec, colonists raised an uproar against "the popish threat" looming from the northern border.

Founding Father Alexander Hamilton said, “Does not your blood run cold to think that an English Parliament should pass an Act for the establishment of arbitrary power and Popery in such an extensive country? ...Your loves, your property, your religion are all at stake.” The Quebec Act, in his mind, would attract Catholics from all over Europe to America and thus destroy his fair country.

Hero of the Revolution Paul Revere drew a cartoon mocking four mitred Anglican clergy for drawing up the Quebec Act, a dark, winged Luciferian figure hovering behind them whispering his counsel in their ears to encourage their "approbation and countenance of the Roman religion."

Samuel Adams warned that the law “to establish the religion of the Pope in Canada [would mean] some of your children may be induced instead of worshipping the only true God, to pay his dues to images made with their own hands.”

The Continental Congress expressed its outrage at the Quebec Act by penning an open letter to "the People of Great Britain" (the authors were John Jay, Richard Henry Lee, and William Livingston), proclaiming the colonies' surprise that Parliament would support the Catholic religion in Canada, a religion that "disbursed impiety, bigotry, persecution, murder and rebellions through every part of the world." Its conspiratorial tone could rival Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code, the authors convinced that Canada's Catholic population would set its sights on invading the colonies, and once having converted Protestant Americans, would enlist them in a vast popish army to attack and enslave England's Protestants.

Little wonder that English Cardinal and Benedictine Francis Gasquet claimed that “the American Revolution was not a movement for civil and religious liberty; its principal cause was the bigoted rage of the American Puritan and Presbyterian ministers at the concession of full religious liberty and equality to Catholics of French Canada.

John Adams, in a letter to his wife Abigail, gives his impression of the Catholic faith:
Dec. 22, 1774
The Orders of Ecclesiastics at Corunna are only Three, The Dominicans, the Franciscans, and the Augustins, but the numbers who compose the Fraternities of these religious Houses are a burden beyond all proportion to the Wealth, Industry and population of this Town. They are Drones enough to devour all the honey of the Hive. There are in addition to these, two Convents of Nuns, those of St. Barbe and the Capuchins. These are a large Addition to the Number of Consumers without producing any Thing. They are very industrious however at their Prayers and devotions that is to say in repeating their Pater Nosters, in counting their Beads, in kissing their Crucifixes, and taking off their hair Shifts to whip and lacerate themselves every day for their Sins, to discipline themselves to greater Spirituality in the Christian Life. Strange! that any reasonable Creatures, any thinking Beings should ever believe that they could recommend themselves to Heaven by making themselves miserable on Earth. Christianity put an End to the Sacrifice of Iphigenias and other Grecian Beauties and it probably will discontinue the Incineration of Widows in Malabar: but it may be made a question whether the Catholick Religion has not retained to this day Cruelties as inhuman and antichristian as those of Antiquity.
And in an October 9, 1774 letter:
This afternoon, led by curiosity and good company, I strolled away to mother church, or rather grandmother church. I mean the Romish chapel. I heard a good, short moral essay upon the duty of parents to their children, founded in justice and charity, to take care of their interests, temporal and spiritual. This afternoon’s entertainment was to me most awful and affecting; the poor wretches fingering their beads, chanting Latin, not a word of which they understood; their pater nosters and ave Marias; their holy water; their crossing themselves perpetually; their bowing to the name of Jesus, whenever they hear it; their bowings, kneelings and genuflections before the altar. The dress of the priest was rich white lace. His pulpit was velvet and gold. The altar-piece was very rich, little images and crucifixes about; wax candles lighted up. But how shall I describe the picture of our Savior in a frame of marble over the altar, at full length, upon the cross in the agonies, and the blood dropping and streaming from his wounds! The music, consisting of an organ and a choir of singers, went all the afternoon except sermon time, and the assembly chanted most sweetly and exquisitely.

Here is everything which can lay hold of the eye, ear, and imagination–everything which can charm and bewitch the simple and ignorant. I wonder how Luther ever broke the spell. Adieu.
Enough with the romanticized view of early colonial America and the so-called purity of intention of our revolutionary forebears. Simply to know the Founding Fathers sympathized with the French Revolution is enough to make me wonder--as it should any thinking American Catholic...

05 March 2012

The Broken Path, by Judie Brown

The Broken Path: How Catholic Bishops Got Lost in the Weeds of American Politics, Judie Brown

The American bishops are to be commended for standing up to the Obama administration and refusing to accept the so-called compromise regarding the HHS mandate. It remains the case, however, that had this bold leadership been on display many years ago, we would never have been forced to deal with this battle in the first place. Years and years of silence (and in some cases outright dissent on the part of some clergy) on the issue of contraception have led to the vast majority of Catholics today not only using birth control, but not even knowing the Church's teaching on this issue, such that it is seen as a quaint and even ridiculous thing that the Catholic Church should be so outraged at being forced to provide access to contraception through its insurers. The fact that the majority of American bishops did very little in the last election to oppose Obama played a large part in helping secure office for the man who is now clearly an enemy of the Church.

Well-known pro-life leader Judie Brown has written a book about how we got here--and it pulls no punches. There are so many salient, quotable parts of this book it's hard to know where to begin. She begins by clarifying that her book is not intended to pass judgment on anyone's soul, but rather to take an honest look at some of the actions of the hierarchy that have contributed to today's crisis.

The problems didn't begin only recently; one can see the roots of today's crisis in Pope Leo XIII's 1899 warning against Americanism, a heresy that would place certain American ideals over that of the Magisterium. Fast forward a century later, and we find the Holy Father's words fulfilled: we have an American Church infested with Americanism. Other problems include homosexuality allowed to run rampant in the priesthood for too long, and heresy being taught for years in American seminaries. Pope John Paul II began the long turn back, and the current Holy Father is continuing the reverse.

The USCCB has also played its part. Recall the Call to Action conference of 1976, supported by the bishops, which became "a gathering point for Catholic groups and theologians who take issue with Catholic teaching and are committed to misrepresenting the essence of Catholicism whenever the opportunity presents itself."

The various committees of the USCCB have also undertaken shocking actions to scandalize the faithful. For example, she cites Bishop Howard Hubbard, chair of the USCCB's International Justice and Peace Committee, who approved the 2010 initiative of diocesan Catholic Charities to distribute free needles to drug abusers in order to prevent the spread of AIDS.

Catholic Charities has also played a role in the current crisis. An arm of the USCCB, Catholic Charities received a $100 million disaster relief grant from the federal government after it pandered to the Obama administration.

Then there is the Safe Environment office of the USCCB, created in response to the sex abuse crisis. Teresa Kettelkamp, executive director of this office, once served as adviser to the militantly pro-abortion group Feminist Majority Foundation's National Center for Women and Policing. Safe Environment's mandatory VIRTUS program, which is meant to educate children on how to protect themselves from sexual abuse, has been controversial because of the sensitive material of a sexual nature that its young watchers are exposed to. Despite national outcry by concerned parents and even some bishops, the USCCB continues to mandate that every diocese implement the VIRTUS program.

Finally, one cannot complete the discussion without mention of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, which has been mired in controversy once it was discovered that hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money from this arm of the USCCB went to local programs that promote abortion, contraception, or the homosexual lifestyle.

These are only a few things Judie Brown highlights in her discussion of how the Church has gotten to where it is today. A cure cannot be found without first diagnosing the problem. After Ms. Brown lays out the problems, she provides suggestions as to the solution:

-Take the opportunity to discuss concerns with your priest and bishop, and always in a spirit of charity.

-Teach those around you what it means to be truly Catholic through word and deed.

-Pray for priests.

She closes the book with this prayer for clergy, which we would do well to pray on a regular basis:
O God, who hast appointed Thine only-begotten Son to be the eternal High Priest for the glory of Thy Majesty and the salvation of mankind; grant that they whom He hath chosen to be His ministers and the stewards of His mysteries, may be found faithful in the fulfillment of the ministry which they have received. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.
I highly recommend this enlightening and readable book.

You can order it here.

"Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Psalm 90:12

Paris--Catacombs, Stephen Edelbroich

03 March 2012

“To live without faith, without a patrimony to defend, without a steady struggle for truth, that is not living, but existing.”
--Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati