Even though I had it marked on my calendar, I still missed posting about the encyclical that I studied the most before I was received into the Church, before I sought instruction, before I took that fateful catechism class in the summer of 95. Before all of that I’d have to say it was this encyclical that moved my study from intellectual tourism to a heart-and-mind-engaged commitment to seeking and gaining admittance to the Catholic Church. (Notes and links will be at the end of this post.)Continue reading “This Encyclical Pushed me Over the Edge and Into the Church”
I have not watched the videos all the way through. You know the videos I’m talking about. Those videos. I have not watched them all the way through because they make me ill. They make me want to throw up and the images haunt me. I go to sleep and I wake up in a cold sweat, still seeing them before my eyes.
Bad enough that I have been researching for the last couple of years the Holocaust and the World Wars. Bad enough that I have been watching the last couple of weeks many documentaries about these subjects and have seen things I wish I had never seen, things I wish had never happened. Bad enough I have been reading about eugenics and “scientific racism” and the incredible and preposterous cruel things man can do to his fellow man in the name of the “greater good” or “science”. Bad enough, all of that.
But something very like the Holocaust is happening now, and has been happening right under our noses since 1973 when we had the audacity to make legal to do to humans what we consider monstrously inhumane to do to wild animals. And do not misunderstand me: I care about wild animals and would not think of trying to harm one unless I had to protect myself or someone else. But I love my fellow man even more and certainly do not want to cause any harm to any man, woman, or child, unless, likewise, in defense of myself or someone else.
I find the chopping up of tiny babies to be sickening, but not less sickening than killing them in the first place. ALL of it must stop. There is no reason to take an innocent human life, ever. To directly and deliberately take an innocent human life is always and everywhere evil. There is no way around it. There is no name you can give it to justify it. There is no way to cover it with ridiculous words and excuses, no way to hide from the truth of what it really is.
There is no way we can pretend that we do not know what we are doing, what we are permitting, what we are approving and condoning, what we are selling, what we are making legal and profitable.
In the end, what does it profit you if you make all the money in the world and drive the fanciest car you can buy and wear the best clothes and drink the best wine, when you have to hack tiny human babies to pieces to do it? How much money do you make for each of the lives you take, to make it worth it to you to take them? How many pieces of silver do you get for selling your own soul?
“The Second Vatican Council, in a passage which retains all its relevance today, forcefully condemned a number of crimes and attacks against human life. Thirty years later, taking up the words of the Council and with the same forcefulness I repeat that condemnation in the name of the whole Church, certain that I am interpreting the genuine sentiment of every upright conscience: ‘Whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, or wilful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where people are treated as mere instruments of gain rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others like them are infamies indeed. They poison human society, and they do more harm to those who practise them than to those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are a supreme dishonour to the Creator’.”
From the Gospel of Life, 40 and 41:
- The sacredness of life gives rise to its inviolability, written from the beginning in man’s heart, in his conscience. The question: “What have you done?” (Gen 4:10), which God addresses to Cain after he has killed his brother Abel, interprets the experience of every person: in the depths of his conscience, man is always reminded of the inviolability of life-his own life and that of others-as something which does not belong to him, because it is the property and gift of God the Creator and Father.
The commandment regarding the inviolability of human life reverberates at the heart of the “ten words” in the covenant of Sinai (cf. Ex 34:28). In the first place that commandment prohibits murder: “You shall not kill” (Ex 20:13); “do not slay the innocent and righteous” (Ex 23:7). But, as is brought out in Israel’s later legislation, it also prohibits all personal injury inflicted on another (cf. Ex 21:12-27). Of course we must recognize that in the Old Testament this sense of the value of life, though already quite marked, does not yet reach the refinement found in the Sermon on the Mount. This is apparent in some aspects of the current penal legislation, which provided for severe forms of corporal punishment and even the death penalty. But the overall message, which the New Testament will bring to perfection, is a forceful appeal for respect for the inviolability of physical life and the integrity of the person. It culminates in the positive commandment which obliges us to be responsible for our neighbour as for ourselves: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Lev 19:18).
- The commandment “You shall not kill”, included and more fully expressed in the positive command of love for one’s neighbour, is reaffirmed in all its force by the Lord Jesus. To the rich young man who asks him: “Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?”, Jesus replies: “If you would enter life, keep the commandments” (Mt 19:16,17). And he quotes, as the first of these: “You shall not kill” (Mt 19:18). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus demands from his disciples a righteousness which surpasses that of the Scribes and Pharisees, also with regard to respect for life: “You have heard that it was said to the men of old, “You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment’. But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment” (Mt 5:21-22).
By his words and actions Jesus further unveils the positive requirements of the commandment regarding the inviolability of life. These requirements were already present in the Old Testament, where legislation dealt with protecting and defending life when it was weak and threatened: in the case of foreigners, widows, orphans, the sick and the poor in general, including children in the womb (cf. Ex 21:22; 22:20-26). With Jesus these positive requirements assume new force and urgency, and are revealed in all their breadth and depth: they range from caring for the life of one’s brother (whether a blood brother, someone belonging to the same people, or a foreigner living in the land of Israel) to showing concern for the stranger, even to the point of loving one’s enemy.
A stranger is no longer a stranger for the person who mustbecome a neighbour to someone in need, to the point of accepting responsibility for his life, as the parable of the Good Samaritan shows so clearly (cf. Lk 10:25-37). Even an enemy ceases to be an enemy for the person who is obliged to love him (cf. Mt 5:38-48; Lk 6:27-35), to “do good” to him (cf. Lk 6:27, 33, 35) and to respond to his immediate needs promptly and with no expectation of repayment (cf. Lk 6:34-35). The height of this love is to pray for one’s enemy. By so doing we achieve harmony with the providential love of God: “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Mt 5:44-45; cf. Lk 6:28, 35).
Thus the deepest element of God’s commandment to protect human life is the requirement to show reverence and love for every person and the life of every person. This is the teaching which the Apostle Paul, echoing the words of Jesus, address- es to the Christians in Rome: “The commandments, ?You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet’, and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, ?You shall love your neighbour as yourself’. Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom 13:9-10).
When I ran a search in the Gospel of Life for the word “murder”, I got 29 hits. I highly recommend reading it in full. I’ve read it many times, usually once a year or every two years, along with the Splendor of Truth. More than anything else I have ever read, outside of Scripture, these two encyclicals changed my life (and just so you know, John Paul II’s encyclicals are filled with Scripture references). They woke me up. I went from being someone who was nominally pro-life to someone who was pro-life actively, outspokenly, finding out more, sharing what I had found, voting for pro-life laws, supporting pro-life candidates, no longer supporting candidates who are not pro-life. Really, if you do not stand for life, then what in God’s name do you stand for?
(A post for the Year of Faith) Several people have asked this question: Why does the Year of Faith last 410 days instead of 365?
Answer: Part of being Catholic is learning to think with the mind of the Church. She thinks liturgically about time, which differs from the civil (as in secular, not as in polite) measuring of time. The Church measures time from one liturgical or spiritually or historically important event (historically important to the Church, that is) to another, not a mere length of 365 days that carries no meaning beyond the amount of time it takes the earth to revolve once around the sun.
Looking further I found this quote at Catholic Culture.
“The opening and closing dates of the Year of Faith carry special significance. October 11, 2012, will mark the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II, and the Vatican notes that the special year should be “a propitious occasion to make Vatican Council II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church more widely and deeply known.” November 24, 2013, will be the feast of Christ the King, and the CDF underlines the importance of using the year to encourage Catholics to share the precious belief in Christ as the redeemer of the mankind.”
The dates of liturgical celebrations, even the release of documents, generally correspond to a significant date on the Church calendar or in her history. Look at a few encyclicals and other publications and you’ll see what I mean. For example, here’s what you’ll find at the end of Pope John Paul II’s encyclical, the Gospel of Life:
Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on 25 March, the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, in the year 1995, the seventeenth of my Pontificate.
Who is to blame for the culture of death? Not atheists or progressives or democrats or republicans or pro-choice advocates. No, according to Dr. John Cuddeback in his talk, Spiritual Warfare: The Battle for Life in a Culture of Death, we Christians have no one to blame but ourselves. For we have forgotten who we are. We have forgotten to put on the mind of Christ. We have forgotten how to pray. We have forgotten that prayer is necessary to the life of the Christian. We have forgotten that the Eucharist, the highest form of prayer, is absolutely necessary to the life of the Christian. Prayer and reception of divine grace in the sacraments is not optional, not something extraneous to the Christian way of life but is absolutely central to it. Continue reading “Who is to blame for the culture of death?”
When I sponsored a friend in the RCIA (1) last year, I accompanied her to all but one of the classes. We dutifully carried Bibles, Catechisms, notebooks, and other materials with us…until we realized that the instructor wasn’t referring to materials, didn’t expect us to, and generally displayed an amazing lack of familiarity with (or understanding of) the teachings of the Church. We had stopped bringing books with us, but after a few incidents we began bringing our book bags back. The most important book in our bags was the Catechism. I cannot stress this enough: if you don’t have a good grounding in the faith, please refer to the Catechism to answer enquirers. If you do have a good grounding in the faith, please refer to the Catechism to answer enquirers. Then maybe you won’t tell someone that “the Church teaches evolution” or that the Gospel of Life is “just an encyclical”. Oy.Continue reading “Using the Catechism”
A follow-up note to my ongoing annoyance with statements I’ve heard from instructors teaching RCIA classes (see earlier post, Just an encyclical?): I’ve been researching the doctrinal nature of The Gospel of Life by the late John Paul II. Here’s what the Vatican says about it.
The encyclical is presented with great doctrinal authority: It is not only an expression, like every other encyclical, of the ordinary magisterium of the pope, but also of the episcopal collegiality which was manifested first in the extraordinary consistory of cardinals in April 1991 and subsequently in a consultation of all the bishops of the Catholic Church, who unanimously and firmly agree with the teaching imparted in it (No. 5). (Quoted from The Vatican’s Summary of Evangelium Vitae on the Priests for Life website. The summary was released by the Vatican on March 30, 1995 along with the encyclical.)
Just an encyclical. Indeed! Give me a break. And a catechist who knows what he’s doing. Oy ve.
(See part 2.) I have a friend who is beginning RCIA (taking “convert classes”) soon. A few days ago she thrust a magazine in my face, exclaiming, Have you heard about this? Is this right? The story before me was about the little nine-year old in Brazil who had been sexually abused by her stepfather, resulting in her pregnancy with twins. The bishop excommunicated the girl’s mother and also her doctor after they aborted the babies who were a few months old. My friend, who is just beginning to learn about the Church’s moral teachings, was frankly disturbed, confronting me with a barrage of questions. Wouldn’t giving birth to these babies kill the girl? Wasn’t abortion the right thing to do? And how would she raise them if she and they survived? Wasn’t the bishop wrong to excommunicate the mother and the doctor?Continue reading “Rape and abortion, a Catholic view, Part 1”
Welcome to the site where I’ll be blogging my journey into (and within) the Catholic Church. More than a decade has passed now since I was received into Holy Mother Church and I won’t say it’s always been easy. But I will say that it has been powerful, intense, joyful and life-changing. The best thing I ever did was say Yes when I heard that still small voice calling me. I’m still learning to say yes. Things always work out better when I do. Listening, that’s important to learn, too. Of course, I’m still learning about that. Sometimes I don’t listen very well at all. (Everyone around me knows this. I was the last to know.) But enough about me. Let’s talk about the blog. And what I’ll be talking about on the blog.Continue reading “Introductions”