Jul 26, 2017

Audio Books for Catholics (Available for Free)

Want to make the best use of technology? I highly recommend downloading an Audiobook App to play public-domain Libervox recordings on your smart phone or ipod.

There is a ginormous library, which includes:

POETRY/STORIES:
Les Miserables (Hugo)
The Day-Dream (Thomas Moore)
Holy Sonnets (John Donne)
Snow-Bound (Whittier)
Forgiveness (Whittier)
The Jumping Frog (Mark Twain)
A Horse's Tale (Twain)
The Wit and Humor of America
Utopia (Thomas More)
The Innocence of Father Brown (Chesterton)
The Wisdom of Father Brown (Chesterton)
Wopsy: The Adventures of a Guardian Angel (Scriven)
Sense and Sensibility (dramatic reading) (Austen)
Little Women (dramatic reading) (Alcott)
Ben-Hur (Wallace)
The Legends of the Jews (GInzberg)
Bible Apocrapha: The First Book of Adam and Eve (Platt)
The Forbidden Gospels and Epistles
Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Apologia Pro Vita Sua (John Henry Newman)
Barbara Frietche (Whittier)

HISTORY:
Declaration of Independence (Founding Fathers)
Constitution of the United States of America
Amendments to the Constitution
The Anti-Federalist Papers (Henry)
Declaration of Rights (Stamp Act Congress)
The Gettysburg Address (Lincoln)
The Journal of Lewis and Clarke (Lewis)
Daniel Boone (Thwaites)
Geronimo's Story of His Life (Geronimo)
The Early History of the Airplane (Wright)
Bede's Eccleastical History of England
Europe and the Faith (Belloc)
The French Revolution (Belloc)
Catholic and Anti-Catholic History (Chesterton, Walsh, Belloc)
Universal Declaration on Human Rights (United Nations)
The Wars of the Jews (Josephus)

ARTS:
The Arabian Art of Taming and Training Wild and Vicious Horses (Kincaid)
Woodcraft (Nessmuk)
Making a Rock Garden (Adams)
Remodeled Farmhouses (Northend)
Ion (Plato)
This, That, and the Other (Belloc)
The Art of Public Speaking (Carnegie)
Phaedrus (Plato) ?
How to Appreciate Music (Kobbe)
How to Sing (Lehmann)
How to Tell Stories to Children (Bryant)
The Story-teller (Lindsay)
Mother Stories (Lindsay)
Poetics (Aristotle)
Philosophy of Style (Spencer)
Stops, or How to Punctuate (Allardyce)
Lessons on Manners for Home and School Use (Wiggin)
Etiquette and Politeness (Hartley)
Roberts Rules of Order (Robert)
The Montessori Method (Montessori)
The Mother and the Child (Montessori)

PHILOSOPHY:
The Apology of Socrates (Plato)
The Consolation of Philosophy (Boethius)
On Nothing and Kindred Subjects (Belloc)
Gorgias (Plato)
Prior Analytics (Aristotle)
Rhetoric (Aristotle)
Sophistical Elenchi (Aristotle)
On Anything (Belloc)
Memory: How to Develop, Train and Use It (Atkinson)

ETHICS:
Protagoras (Plato)
The Republic (Plato)
The Nicomachean Ethics (Aristotle)
The Brothers Karamazov
The Defendant (G.K. Chesterton)
Eugenics and Other Evils (Chesterton)
First and Last (Belloc)
Politics (Aristotle)
On the Duty of Civil Disobedience (Thoreau)
The Servile State (Belloc)
The Free Press (Belloc)

SCIENCE:
Posterior Analytics (Aristotle)
Categories (Aristotle)
Timaeus (Plato)
On Something (Belloc)
Flatland (Abbott)
Physics (Aristotle)
Outline of Science (Thomson)
Meteorology (M'pherson)
Romance of Modern Chemistry (Philip)
Experiments in Plant Hybridisation (Mendel)
The Endinburgh Lectures on Mental Science (Troward)
Essay on the Creative Imagination (Ribot)
Relativity (Einstien)
Metaphysics (Aristotle)

BIBLE:
Bible (DRV) NT

THEOLOGY:
The Divine Comedy
Treatise on Purgatory (Saint Catherine of Genoa)
Summa Theologica - 01 Initial Questions
Summa Theologica - 02 Trinity and Creation
Summa Theologica - 04 Man

CHURCH FATHERS:
Theological Orations (Gregory Nanzianzus)
Treatise on Christ and Antichrist (Hyppolytus of Rome)
Against Heresies (Irenaeus)
Fifty Spiritual Homilies (Macarius of Egypt)
Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians (Polycarp)
The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians (Pope Clement I)
Epistles of Ignatius (Ignatius of Antioch)
First Apology (St. Justin Martyr)
Second Apology (St. Justin Martyr)
The Enichridion of Augustine
The City of God (Augustine)
Confessions (Augustine)
Concerning Virgins (Ambrose)
On the Duties of the Clergy (Ambrose)
The Orthodox Faith (St. John of Damascus)
Commentary on Galatians (St. John Chrysostom)
The Sermon on the Mount-Commentary (St. John Chrysostom)

SPIRITUALITY
Story of a Soul (St. Therese)
Poetry of St. John of the Cross
Conceptions of Divine Love (Teresa of Avila)
The Interior Castle (Teresa of Avila)
Life of St. Teresa
Book of the Foundations (Teresa of Avila)
The Relations of Saint Teresa of Avila
The Way of Perfection (Teresa of Avila)
Flowers from the Garden of St. Francis
God's Troubadour, The Story of St. Francis (Jewett)
The Rule of St. Benedict (St. Benedict of Nursia)
Autobiography of St. Ignatius
Lives of the Saints (Alban Butler)
The Life and Doctrine of St. Catherine of Genoa
The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ (Emmerich)
Revelations of Divine Love (Julian of Norwich)
On Loving God (Bernard of Clairvaux)
The Practice of the Presence of God (Lawrence)
Collected Works of St. Patrick
Consoling Thoughts (Francis De Sales)
On the Love of God (Saint Francis de Sales)
On Union with God (Albert the Great)

The HHS Mandate and the Catholic Course of Action (A Discussion)











https://sosuchouki.blogspot.com/2013/08/the-disputed-question-regarding.html

Jul 25, 2017

Come, Meet Jesus and Grow Deeper in His Love

Hi! If you've encountered the joyful witness of a Christian and want to know the One Who motivates her, or if you've met someone on fire with the Faith which you had as a child but never explored into adulthood, then this post is for you!

May 9, 2014

Health Coverage Options for Catholics (An Open Letter)


"Hi, Donnie!  A young woman asked me to advise her about taking health insurance from a provider that funds abortions. She says she has to do this under state law...  I told her that she had options... She asked me for them... How can she get insurance from a company that does not go along with abortion coverage, etc.?  Thanks!...God bless!"

Dear [Friend],

May the Lord give you His peace! Thank you for sharing with me the concern of the young woman you know about her health insurance covering abortions. I followed this issue very closely after the USCCB gave a primer a couple of years ago about the way in which these abortions would be funded http://goo.gl/HCPjvb and this is the bad news that has been like a thorn irritating our consciences.

The good news is that there are a few good options out there, as you suggested to her. There are a total of three Christian alternatives to health insurance, called health sharing ministries, whose members are exempt from the individual insurance mandate. Also, for Catholic organizations and Catholic business owners, there is still the option to obtain insurance, along with the Little Sisters of the Poor, from an insurance company run by the Christian Brothers, http://goo.gl/sbkpYj as long as their battle in court does not fail. This might be the best option for your friend if she works for someone who is Catholic. Otherwise, one of the three health-sharing ministries might work for her:

1) For an individual who is looking for an alternative to insurance that functions just like insurance, Medishare http://goo.gl/jJSDST would be the best option, because when you sign up you are given a card that functions just like an insurance card when you present it to your medical provider.

2) For an individual who is looking for the least expensive health coverage option, I would invite them to join CHM, Christian Healthcare Ministries, http://goo.gl/PfLP1S of which I have been a member for over a year. It is less expensive than Medishare or insurance because I do not have to pay the ministry to negotiate with my healthcare provider to arrange the payment, but rather, I present myself as if I
were a self-pay patient, explaining that I have "something better than insurance," in which my medical bills are shared by thousands of other Christians. As a self-pay patient, I am still entitled to ask for the same discount that they give to the insurance companies, which is usually around 60%. This little bit of effort on my part is the key to keeping costs low for the ministry. Within the ministry, there are three different levels of coverage, the highest of which, for $150/month, covers most medical expenses.  I chose the lowest level of participation, at $45/ month, in which I will be responsible for the first $5,000 (you might call this a deductible) of medical bills from an illness or injury that requires hospitalization, while the rest of these bills are paid by the ministry, up to a certain capped amount. However, even at this level, I was able to join a program within the ministry called Brother's keeper, in which "catastrophic" medical bills above the usual limit are shared among the other members who opt-in to this program. To opt-in to this program costs $40/ yr, and these costs are shared quarterly. Because of the rapid growth of this program, my brother's keeper bill has been very low, around $12/quarter. Also, my most recent $45 monthly bill was waived, because someone else who signed up said that I was the one who referred them to the ministry, and so I got a month free.

3) The third option is called Samaritain: http://goo.gl/GEY14f 
*Important Updates: There is now a Catholic version of Samaritain with a group called Christ Medicus There is also a Catholic Ministry just rolled out called Solidarity Healthshare

For someone considering one of the health-sharing ministries, I would encourage them to compare all of the essential details in this handy chart: http://goo.gl/4KuS4r

Certainly this is good news, and woe to me if I do not share it. I do hope that this is helpful, and that it is more widely shared. I will pray for your friend. Please continue to pray for me.

In Christ,

Donnie Schenck
(513) 849-oo22
CHM Member # 156332

Oct 4, 2013

Good News for Catholics in America


Contemplating the life of St. Francis, humble image of Christ and lover of poverty, let us consider how we can be better stewards of the good things God has given us. Let us follow the example of Pope Francis in his financial motu propio, and make sure that whatever resources we have, be they great or small, are being used to do good, not evil. 

As I write this, the United States federal government has "fallen sick" because we cannot agree on a morally acceptable budget.  There is more than just math involved in formulating a budget—there is an intrinsic moral dimension involved whenever someone makes a choice on how he is going to spend his money.

Let us find the courage to say, "as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Let us be courageous in doing what is right in the sight of the God who loves us, because this is the key to our happiness.  Let us take a stand against the dictatorship of relativism by opening up dialogue and renewing the pursuit of the truth.

For those who feel compelled to finance abortion under the disputed healthcare law, there is good news: A class-action lawsuit has been launched under the Beckett Fund in order to defend a morally acceptable health insurance option with the Christian Brothers. If you do not know who the Christian Brothers are, they are a religious order that has adopted the ministry of providing many different financial services, including health insurance for dioceses, religious organizations, and Catholic employers—an option worth looking into—and good news, indeed—especially if you are a Catholic employer, or are employed by someone who is Catholic, or know of anybody else struggling with issues of conscience under Obama-care. There is also another morally acceptable option, especially for individuals, called health sharing ministries. Brothers, while we have time, let us do good! God bless you!

Sep 5, 2013

"Blessed are You..."







St Gregory wrote a rule calling for heroically virtuous priests. But in our day, when heroic virtue is needed across the whole Church, how many of us are listening to that call in the words and actions of our priests?

To this deafness we say...YES WE CAN...handle the truth! As we consider going to War against Syria, as if to punish someone, when it is we ourselves who are responsible for the bloodshed there, let us repent, let us return to the sacrament of Confession, receive the gifts of forgiveness and peace, and follow the example of Pope Francis in his most recent motu propio: let us stop our financial cooperation in "terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction!"

With the same determination, let's strive to stop financing Abortion: Here is a call to "heroic" virtue: Pay no premium that contributes to this evil. Yes, your health insurance is now paying for abortions, just check the list of benefits. This means it may be time to join one of the 3 health-sharing ministries and drop the insurance. Wait...Do you hear that?...People are complaining about the cost of insurance. No reason to waste time complaining! Save yourself some money as you save your soul!

Sep 4, 2013

"How Can This Be?" Rainbows and Metaphysics

Many are being swayed by the "dictatorship of relativism" because they do not have enough confidence in the human capacity for truth. Looking the other way when our leaders fail to secure the necessary conditions for a just war is only one example of this problem. Acting in accordance with our capacity for truth is not only a right, but a grave duty, precisely because we have the capacity for truth. The way to truth is traveled by means of dialogue, and this way of encounter is the only path to peace. 



How can there be "certainty" of knowledge?—Is any knowledge absolute?

A good scientist knows that what he studies is reality. His quest is to understand "that-which-is." He has an inquisitive and active imagination, and as he experiences a given reality, he approaches that reality with the question, "how can this be?," searching for possible explanations. 

Often, there are many possible explanations, and a persisting sense of wonder and awe before the reality indicates that there are still more not-yet-thought-of explanations regarding the thing's manner of existence, of it's way of being. He does not approach the reality alone, but in dialogue with the rest of humanity. This dialogue will critically examine the many different hypotheses that are put forward, and it will falsify some. But it does not stop there, because that is not sufficient for scientific understanding. Real scientific knowledge comes also from demonstrating an understanding of the thing--an understanding which would provide sufficient cause for that thing's manner of being--an understanding with such clarity and grasp of the reality (i.e. "completeness") that the scope of all possible explanations could be seen, within which all but one explanation is shown to be false or insufficient. 

This kind of true, certain knowledge of reality is possible, and actually exists when the attitude of Aristotle, the attitude of "Metaphysics" is utilized as the most fundamental philosophical approach to reality. The closing of the modern mind to the horizons of truth is due to the fact that Epistemology and Logic has replaced Metaphysics as being the most fundamental, and this causes us to first ask the question, "how can I know this?," a question that seeks only certainty, but not understanding of being, leaving us stuck in our own minds, seeking to know ideas rather than the reality itself, and these ideas are dogmatically imposed as scientific conclusions, without, along the way, making any differentiation between theories and demonstrably certain truths, because we often do not have the prudence or the courage to enter into the kind of dialogue that is oriented toward demonstratiive, scientific knowledge. For a more complete explanation of the role of Metaphysics in the areas of Philosophy and human knowledge, I intend to read "Being and Truth," by Martin Heidegger. 

One example of real scientific knowledge is with the way a rainbow is formed. Here is a video where someone demonstrates both scientific and unscientific knowledge. http://goo.gl/HWk0Fn He demonstrates scientific understanding of the way in which a simple rainbow is formed, but not when he attempts to explain the formation of the second rainbow. [Also, isn't the refraction of light still kind of "mysterious"?] Perhaps a few more diagrams would have been helpful to demonstrate the reality:http://goo.gl/MH2J5L http://goo.gl/glhJBu Those pictures are worth a thousand words.

Here is another person whose demonstration (and excitement) comes more from a sense of understanding (understanding not just the ideas that he has been taught but the reality itself) and an attitude of wonder and awe at the depth of the reality, recognizing the element of mystery involved for the learner, and what it is like to be "surprised" by truth: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7k85eD_tQZo . 

Here's the Bottom Line:  Let's question authority the way Mary did, "How can this be?," rather than the way Zechariah did, "How can I know this?"


Aug 11, 2013

The Disputed Question Regarding Compliance with the HHS Mandate

["You are the Salt of the earth...You are the Light of the World."]*


Whether or not we, as Catholics, "cannot, will not comply" with the HHS-mandated cooperation in abortion and sterilization? [—Is that a loaded question, or what?]*


1.  It seems that the principle of "double-effect" can be invoked in order to justify compliance with the HHS Mandate.


ON THE CONTRARY: The principle of double-effect can only apply to a single act, which must be good in itself. It cannot be applied to two separate acts, one of which is good and the other of which is bad, because an objectively evil act cannot be justified (We cannot choose to do something evil so that something good might come from it). Caring for the health of a person is a good act, and we must do this. But choosing a means to pay for healthcare services is a different act, and must be regarded as a separate act. Consider that the dignity of the human person demands that the person be cared for regardless of their own ability to pay.

Furthermore: The choice to buy an insurance product (which is designed to use the collected funds to make payments for healthcare services on behalf of those who have bought the product) is, in a sense, a choice to help others to pay for the healthcare services that they receive.

One problem: Abortion, contraception, and sterilization are not healthcare services. They are objectively unhealthy, contrary to the natural functioning of the body and to the very lives, health, or eternal salvation of each person involved in these acts. The choice to buy an insurance product that covers abortion, contraception or sterilization is a choice to help other people pay for these "services" and it is a choice to cooperate in these objectively evil acts. We have, not only the right, but the duty to refuse to cooperate. Consider that our freedom depends entirely on our moral adherence to the truth.

2.  It seems that the concept of "duress" can be invoked in order to justify compliance with the HHS Mandate.


ON THE CONTRARY: The circumstances of duress can indeed lessen moral culpability, but they cannot make an evil act good. Even when people seem to be "forced" to act against their conscience, such a situation is a very great evil, and in a certain sense, it is even "worse than killing them." (YOUCAT, 296) It follows that it would be better to die a martyr than to comply with the HHS mandate, even under "duress." Consider that the early Christians refused to eat meat sacrificed to idols, even to the point of martyrdom—Nor would they agree to burn a single grain of incense to an image of the emperor as if he were God.

3.  It still seems that we are not responsible for the abortions funded by our insurance product.


ON THE CONTRARY: suppose that there is a girl considering abortion, who is covered by an insurance product which we have bought. If she ultimately makes her decision based on whether or not the abortion would be covered by the insurance, and if she therefore chooses to have an abortion, then the insurance product would be "necessary" with regard to the procurement of the abortion, and we [would all be, as a whole, responsible for that abortion, in a "network of complicity" (please see Evangelium vitae, 58-59). Furthermore, those of us]* who knowingly chose this insurance product that pays for abortions, would be formally cooperating in that abortion. This is so serious that we would be automatically excommunicated [if we are aware of this specific penalty]*, so as to bring us, without delay, to repentance, and to the peace of reconciliation with God through the Sacrament of Confession. (please see Evangelium Vitae, 62)

4.  It seems that we have no other options than to buy insurance that violates our conscience.


ON THE CONTRARY: I, personally, was not happy with my insurance before the Affordable Care Act was signed into Law. In fact, it [literally]* made me sick to find out that my plan was paying for abortion and contraception. But when I sat down to read the new law, I discovered that there are alternatives to health insurance called "health sharing ministries," and that members of those ministries will be exempt from the individual insurance mandate. Thanks to this provision in the law, I, as a Catholic and as an individual, have been able to avoid cooperating in what I clearly understand to be a grave evil. Please promote this option to other Catholics and people of good will who object to the insurance mandate on grounds of conscience, and it would go a long way to restoring peace in our nation.

Furthermore: If we, as a nation governed by law, can show respect for the conscience rights of individuals, it wouldn't seem to be too difficult to make provisions that respect the conscience rights of various groups of people as well. With groups of people, there is more than just immoral cooperation to consider. These groups, whether they be religious organizations or family-run businesses, have the right (and the duty) to prevent harmful things from falling into the hands of their children, and this duty is so profound and such an intrinsic aspect of society that society itself cannot survive without it.


In Conclusion:

Some things will never be in our control (or under the control of the government, for that matter). One of those things is the conscience of the people, which is free insofar as it is informed by the Truth, which is not something that we can create on our own, but something which we receive from God and through the natural order of Creation. Let us then be willing, even to the point of laying down our lives, to defend this authentic freedom for every human being, which is the crown of glory given to us by God.

PLEASE, SAY SOMETHING:  A good place to engage in the nation-wide dialogue about this question is on the USCCB Facebook Event Page which was launched for the Fortnight for Freedom. You could also write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.

May 20, 2013

"For Freedom Christ Has Set us Free."



Dear Friend,

I want to share with you some Good News:

Christ loved us so much that He found the human courage to lay down His life for us. Let us also find the courage, with His help, to do what is right and just, and not submit to the HHS Mandate.

A few years ago, I had health insurance with Anthem. Then one day, I had the opportunity to go online and find out that we were paying for Mifepristone, an abortion-inducing drug. 

I was outraged, and then I was sickened (literally) when I could not find a single health insurance company that did not cover contraception or abortion (this was before the HHS Mandate!) 
I thought that I could run away from the responsibility by embracing a life of absolute poverty, but even there I was stuck with using my insurance with Anthem!

Finally, I found some hope in an unexpected place: buried in the 2,000-page Obamacare legislation is a clause exempting members of a "health-sharing ministry" from the individual insurance mandate.  This means that we now have three moral, legal choices:  "Medishare," "Samaritain," and “Christian Healthcare Ministries" (CHM).  [Comparison ChartI chose to join CHM because it has the least expensive membership option.


This kind of ministry is not foreign to the Church—in fact, the "ministry of charity" is precisely the reason why deacons were instituted in the early years.  But today, we have the welcome opportunity to cooperate with our separated brethren in one of the three legally recognized "health-sharing ministries," because it is no longer legal for us to initiate such a ministry on our own.  Pope Benedict XVI recently put it into Canon Law that a bishop "is to promote charitable initiatives in cooperation with" our separated brethren in Christ, "where appropriate."  Considering the gravity of the HHS Mandate, it is definitely appropriate in this situation. Please encourage your bishop to promote these charitable initiatives. 

Pope Benedict XVI also wrote into Canon Law that we must now seek to form our own parish-based ministries of Charity. Your bishop may already have given subtle directives for this to happen.  


What hope this means for the Church!  If we do not have  to comply with the HHS Mandate,  let us choose  not to!  Let us be martyrs—martyrs of Charity!

Sincerely Yours in Christ,

Donnie Schenck (Trenton, OH)



Apr 25, 2013

"There is no Authority except from God..."


Is it Illegal to give Legal Advice?

Well, here goes--Let's let God be the Judge--In the end, His opinion is the only one that matters. All authority comes from God, but just as the Lord gives, the Lord can take away.

So, here is my legal advice for anyone seeking peace:  Obey God, Who created you, loves you, and wants to give you the fullness of life.  Obey the divine Law, which is present in Nature, governing the created order of the universe, an order which is understandable by human reason and sheds light on the moral quality of human choices--obey the divine Law, which was gradually revealed to our Fathers in Faith, and made crystal clear in Jesus Christ and His Love for the Church.

Obey the Law, first and foremost, at its most fundamental level--as a reality that we receive, not as a reality that we would create--Consider that only God can create something from nothing, and while He does share with us the capacity to create things, we are limited in the use of this creative power--we can only create something from something else, respecting the nature of the things we started with, the things God gave us--Whether we are building something out of wood, or endeavoring to build a just and peaceful society, we must respect the integrity of the wood itself in such a way that it does not splinter or shatter, just as we must respect the Family, given to us by God, as the fundamental building-block of society.

Now, here is some more legal advice:  Obey all human laws out of respect for the divine Law, and heed, insofar as you are able, all reasonable requests from human authorities (Parents, Teachers, community Leaders at every level and branch of government and free association, and yes, your Spouse). But do not neglect to listen to God when He vindicates his Truth and Love through the Church and even whispers to you through your conscience--At the right moment, He will speak to your heart, prompting you to do for your neighbor what you would want him to do for you, what is good or necessary for his well-being, even (and especially) if he would be ashamed to ask you for it. This "Golden Rule" is at the heart of the Natural Law.

That said, here is my last bit of legal advice for those who truly seek peace:  Do not be afraid!  Obey God's Law at all costs, whether it is the Law of Moses and the Law of the Gospel, or the more subtle expression of the same divine Law inherent in Creation. Here is a summary, but please examine it for yourself with the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
  1. Seek the Truth ...............................................................(CCC 2104)
  2. Confess the Faith without Fear .......................................(CCC 2145)
  3. Sunday is a Day of Protest..............................................(CCC 2172)
  4. Family is the Foundation of Freedom ..............................(CCC 2207)
  5. Do not provide abortifacent drugs to women ...................(CCC 2272)
    Do not look the other way, and do not be silent, when the innocent sick or elderly receive a death sentence. Do not fail to give them nutrition and hydration, even by artificial means, if it is possible and safe for the patient. (CCC 2277) (Clarification)
    Yea--human life is sacred ...............................................(CCC 2258)
  6. ...and so is human sexuality .............................................(CCC 2361)
  7. Do your part to take care of Creation and the Poor...........(CCC 2443) 
  8. Bear witness to the Truth .................................................(CCC 2471)
    Do not allow the truth to be silenced by the powerful........ (CCC 2499)
  9. Modesty is decency......................................................... (CCC 2522)
  10. The Poor will see God......................................................(CCC 2547)
Keep in mind that any human law that does not respect the divine Law is actually an act of violence, and is therefore no law at all, and that any unjust request by human authority must not be obeyed, insofar as doing so would [clearly and] objectively violate God's Law [and not just be perceived as a "lesser good"].  In such a situation, God permits those in authority to abdicate their own authority by the very act of issuing an unjust law or command, but only with respect to that particular law or command.  However, they abdicate their authority entirely [their authority "breaks down completely" and is regarded as "null"] when there is a certain, grave, and prolonged abuse of their power. We must be very careful here--The HHS abortion mandate has now been clearly identified, both by the bishops and by the faithful, as such a "grave" and "sustained" abuse...What's next?  I don't know--It is like [riding with poor Dorthy] in a house that has been ripped off its foundation.  [But let us be patient. When the house finally lands on its proper foundation, Jesus Christ, the wicked ways of the West will lie squashed under His feet!]

Now is the time to Pray--and to pray earnestly for an increase in Faith.
Now is the time to Examine our Consciences--accept the forgiveness and mercy of Jesus Christ, and with the grace of the Sacraments of Baptism and Reconciliation, make concrete amends.

God Bless You.

P.S.--As a reference in support of what has been said here, You may also want to read:

In the Bible, the Book of Acts and the Book of Revelation
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (Paragraphs 1897-1904, but especially para. 1903)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (Paragraphs 2238-2243, but especially para. 2242)
The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (paragraphs 393-399, but especially para. 399)
The Gospel of Life (paragraphs 68-74, but especially paragraph 74)
Peace on Earth (paragraphs 48-52, but especially paragraph 51)
The Long-Continued and Most Bitter War (Paragraph 15)
The Service of Authority and Obedience (paragraph 5, etc.)

Mar 15, 2013

"Come, Let us Walk Together in the Light of the Lord"

Pope Francis approaching the altar of the Sistine Chapel.

I was struck by how slowly, thoughtfully, and prayerfully Pope Francis delivered his first homily, at the Mass with the Cardinals to close the conclave. He reminds me of a mystic, who is not afraid of the kind of silence which allows the Word of God to resonate in the heart, even to become "incarnate" in one's life. These are some of my reflections on his homily. Referring to the readings (Is. 2:2-5, 1 Pt. 2: 4-9, and Mt.16: 13-19) he highlights the theme of action, or "movement:" "In the first reading it is the movement of a journey; in the second reading it is the movement [of] building the Church; in the third, the Gospel, it is the movement of confession [the profession of faith]." He explains, leaving time for the hearer to ponder the meaning:

"Journeying.  'House of Jacob, come, let us walk together in the light of the Lord' (Isaiah 2:5). This is the first thing that God said to Abraham: Walk in my presence and you will be blameless. Journey: our life is a journey and when we stop it does not go on. Journey always in the presence of the Lord, in the light of the Lord, seeking to live with that blamelessness that God asked of Abraham in his promise.
 "Building. Building the Church. Stones are spoken of: the stones have a consistency, but they are the living stones, stones anointed by the Spirit. Building the Church, the Bride of Christ, upon that cornerstone that is the Lord himself. Building is another form of movement in our life.
 "Third, confessing. We can journey as much as we want, we can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, the thing does not work. We will become a welfare NGO but not the Church, the Bride of Christ. When we do not journey, we stop. When we do not build upon the stones, what happens? Everything collapses, loses its consistency, like the sandcastles that children build on the beach. When we do not confess Jesus Christ, I am reminded of the words of Léon Bloy: 'Whoever does not pray to the Lord, prays to the devil.' When we do not confess Jesus Christ, we confess the worldliness of the devil, the worldliness of the demon."

The "way" of the Church, then, includes "Journeying, building-constructing, [and] confessing." Pope Francis warns us that these actions, these "movements," are not easy, because "there are movements antithetical to the journey: there are movements that take us backward." This statement should come as no surprise to the faithful endeavoring to read the Catechism during this Year of Faith, since these "antithetical movements" were summed up in paragraphs 675-677. Because the Church herself "will follow her Lord in his death and resurrection," we, as Christians, must have the courage to embrace the Cross in every aspect of our lives:

"This Gospel continues with an important moment. The same Peter who had confessed Jesus Christ said to him: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let’s not talk about the cross. This is not a part of it. I will follow you in other directions, but not to the cross. When we journey without the cross, when we build without the cross and when we confess a Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord: we are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord."

Let us ask for the grace to set our hearts on the "New Heavens and the New Earth," "of which the pilgrim Church has been [a sign,] 'in the nature of a sacrament.'" (CCC 1045) It is this Hope that gives us courage:

"I would like for us all, after these days of grace, to have courage, precisely the courage, to walk in the Lord’s presence, with the cross of the Lord; to build the Church upon the blood of the Lord, which was poured out on the cross; and to confess the only glory there is: Christ crucified. And in this way the Church will go forward."

Let us remember that this hope, this courage, is truly a gracea gift from God. Let us ask for it, with Pope Francis:

"It is my wish for all of us that the Holy Spirit – through the prayer of Our Lady, our Mother – bestow upon us the grace of journeying, building, confessing Jesus Christ crucified. Amen."


Feb 28, 2013

"I Thirst!"--A Case Against Euthanasia




This is my great-grandmother, Evelyn. She has since gone to Jesus, but look how beautiful she was for my cousin’s wedding, ten years ago.  It was quite an event: at the reception, she was choking on some roast beef, and I happened to be there to perform the Heimlich maneuver and save her life. Anyone else could have done it, but God put me there at that particular place and time.

People called me a hero, but that wasn't heroic virtue. Heroic virtue is what was called for a year later, when Evelyn was in hospice. Perhaps you have a parent or grandparent who needs more and more help. You may soon be called upon by God to practice heroic virtue. As any good Boy Scout would tell you, "Be prepared."

Do not forget that a moderate amount of nutrition and hydration will keep a person comfortable, and it should be considered ordinary, "everyday" care. The nursing staff will refer to this as "activities of daily living," or "ADLs." To deprive someone of nutrition and hydration when they are nearing the end of their life could actually become the cause of their death, and if it is done deliberately, it would be  "euthanasia." (CCC 2277)



We should be quick to forgive, and slow to judge mistakes in this area, even if this means forgiving ourselves for past mistakes when our conscience becomes better informed. But let us be honest and open to dialogue, because the Truth will set us freeIf the Truth convicts us, let us remember that Jesus Christ is Himself the Truth, and He will show us mercy when we seek Him and acknowledge that we have done wrong.

I am ashamed to say that Evelyn was deprived of nutrition and hydration for the last 6 days of her life. [Up to that point, there were many things going wrong in her body. Drinking was difficult for her, because she would easily inhale it into her lungs. This fluid build-up in her lungs, made worse by her congestive heart failure, resulted in a few bouts of pneumonia. Eventually, she became septic, meaning that the infection had spread to her bloodstream. The septic shock caused vital organs to began to "shut down:" the digestive system was not working properly, the liver was removing less toxin from the bloodstream, and the kidneys were reduced in functioning, although there was still urine output until the last day. However, despite the septic shock and the danger of dehydration, no I-V was given. Perhaps the technology for regulating hydration just wasn't as readily available then as it is today.]  I knew that withholding nutrition and hydration was wrong, but I did not know how to give it to her at the time, and neither, it seems, did anyone else in my family. However, I still wish that I would have pressed the doctor further to address the question of just how much hydration (even if it were just a few drops) that her body would have been able to assimilate, because a week without water is long enough to kill a person.

As we fast during Lent, we are painfully reminded that being dehydrated and malnourished is not a comfortable feeling. As one continues in such a state, the impulses of hunger and thirst may disappear, but they were only the first indications that the body is in need of water and energy. These needs will naturally arise as time progresses, but of course we must honestly address the question, “Is the body capable of assimilating that nutrition/hydration?”

Hydration can be easily given by an I-V, and the flow rate can be monitored very precisely, so that it does not cause fluid build-up in a way that could be harmful or uncomfortable. Also, methods of dialysis can easily remove excess hydration from the bloodstream. We are morally obligated to provide hydration, in whatever small amounts that can be safely assimilated by the body. This issue has caused a lot of people a lot of grief, including myself. But think of the rich man Jesus tells us about who had died, and as he was suffering from the heat of the flames, asked for Lazarus to be sent to dip just the tip of his finger in water, and bring him relief.

Nutrition, also, can technically be delivered directly into the bloodstream. But the last I heard, the current technology for regulating the blood-sugar levels of such a situation is not precise enough for this to be considered safe in all circumstances. If it is true that this is a risky procedure, you are not morally obligated to do it. However, as long as the intestines are functioning well, a feeding tube would be an easy way to provide nutrition, and would be morally obligatory if the person cannot eat for a long period of time.

Also, beware of the DNR and the Living Will, because they can be used to deny care to a person in the case of an emergency. It is best not to sign them at all, or to find some other advance directive forms that are morally acceptable. It is best to set something down in writing to designate friends and family who have good moral judgment, who could be there to help take care of you in an emergency.


Please pray for the people making these decisions:  It is not easyThat's why the struggle to care for our grandparents with an informed conscience should be called "heroic."

When God places you in the position to be present to human suffering, it is best to focus on the positive—consider that it is Jesus Himself who is crying out in thirst, mystically present in the person who suffers. For example, Mother Teresa became a saint because she recognized Christ's voice in that cry of thirst, and she followed after Him:

Feb 17, 2013

"I Will Not Leave You Orphans."--Why God's Plan Will Triumph Over the HHS Mandate

"Christian love leads to denunciation, proposals
 and a commitment to cultural and social projects; 
it prompts positive activity that inspires all who sincerely 
have the good of man at heart to make their contribution..."
--CSDC 6


Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Lori officially sounded the alarm--faithful Catholics in the United States are being asked to drop their health insurance,  "if they want to preserve their religious and moral integrity " and be true to their "morally well-informed consciences." No longer can we just "keep the status quo." We must discern the real meaning of "keep the status quo," which would present us with a fundamental choice: "keep paying for abortions through your monthly insurance premiums," or "keep [yourself rooted in Jesus Christ, by keeping] the faith, and everything that Holy Church has taught you."

STOP, take a deep breath, close your eyes, and say a prayer...

Why should any member of the Body of Christ have to worry?--Our Father in heaven knows our every need, and by His Loving Providence, He has given us a couple of options for legitimate health coverage, through the prudent additions to Canon Law made by Pope Benedict XVI, in his motu propio, "On the Service of Charity."

But before we explain the solutions, we must understand the scope of the problem:  It has been made clear by every bishop in charge of dioceses in the United States that "We cannot, will not comply" with the HHS mandate. And the sense of the faithful has indicated that, for the faithful themselves, to comply with the mandate would be, in a very real sense, "apostasy from the truth"--It seems that the act of funding an abortion, with at least $1 automatically from each monthly premium, is "by its very nature" [with a necessary connection between the funds and the act] a kind of proximate material cooperation in abortion, and therefore, "formal" cooperation in a sin of grave matter (see Evangelium Vitae, 74).  In this case, it also seems to be an excommunicable offense.  [Let us repent!]  Furthermore, if we fail to withhold the funds levied by this unjust law, it would be a very serious act of omission, by failing to fulfill the grave duty of Conscientious Objection. [Let us take action!]

Basically, Obamacare presents the faithful with a kind of moral dillema:  On the one hand, we all have the moral obligation to provide healthcare for those who are in great need, especially those closest to us, but on the other hand, we cannot do evil so that a good effect may come from it. We cannot buy "a product that violates our conscience"--we cannot buy Obamacare-compliant health insurance, just as we cannot buy a [self-automated robot] pre-programmed to attack babies and the elderly, or a vending machine that will dispense condoms, abortion pills, and vouchers for surgical sterilization, to which one's own children would have easy and free access, without any further parental consent or even notification.

NOW, HERE IS THE GOOD NEWS--TWO POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS:

(1)--Join one of the three existing Health-Sharing Networks: "Medishare," "Samaritain," or "Christian Healthcare Ministries." Although these are largely run by Protestants, it may be appropriate to cooperate with our separated brethren in these ministries of Charity, according to article 14 of the Pope's recent motu propio "On the Service of Charity." This would be a good short-term approach.

(2)--The best long-term approach is to form a Catholic version of these charitable ministries in each and every parish across the United States. This kind of thing is what the Pope is specifically asking for in article 9 of the same motu propio. The Holy Father even goes on further to describe how there could be cooperation between neighboring parishes, and even suggests that there could be coordination between neighboring bishops, in article 12, paragraph 2. [Even though Pope emeritus Benedict XVI has retired, this motu propio remains effective because each article was incorporated into Canon Law.] To help get parish-based healthcare ministries started, there is a group membership option under CHM.  According to article 1 of the motu propio, such a parish-based association of the faithful for the purposes of healthcare would need to submit statutes concerning the governing of funds, to be approved by the pastor. The Knights of Columbus already have a good model in place for this, because they were originally instituted for this very purpose, with each council having a Treasurer to assist members in the case of "accident, illness, or need," and a Financial Secretary to collect money and to keep track of the Treasurer.



SOMETHING TO KEEP IN MIND, AS WE FORM PARISH-BASED MINISTRIES:

Pope Benedict cautions against an impersonal endeavor that is limited only to "collecting and distributing funds" (Introduction), noting that the parish-based ministries must "also promote in the whole community educational activities aimed at fostering a spirit of sharing and authentic charity." (article 9) In practice, this means, when we see someone in need, we should first consider if it is possible to help them ourselves, under our own initiatives, before getting the parish-based ministry involved in the matter. [This is our own opportunity to touch Christ in the poor!] This would be a perfect example of the principles of Solidarity and Subsidiarity, after the model of Christ, [the King of the Universe, who does not feel it beneath His dignity to wash us clean, if only we would let him!]




N.B.--There is also a third course of action, which must not be overlooked:
Small Christian Communities. There is a good example of this with Presentation Ministries.


Sep 14, 2012

"Works of Love are Works of Peace" (Mother Teresa)


Youth in the Middle East greet Pope Benedict XVI as a courageous herald of truth and peace, thanking him for giving them each, as a personal gift, the new Arabic translation of the YOUCAT, the Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church:
Here are some of the words of the Holy Father during his visit to Lebanon:
"Fundamentalism is always a falsification of religion. It goes against the essence of religion, which seeks to reconcile and to create God’s peace throughout the world. ... The essential message of religion must be against violence - which is a falsification of that message, like fundamentalism - and it must educate, illuminate and purify consciences so as to make them capable of dialogue, reconciliation and peace". (Pope Benedict XVI, September 15th 2012)
Surely, as Pope John Paul II would say, the Pope has come to "greet the martyrs of the third millinieum." JP II also warned against violence in God's name:
"It is a profanation of religion to declare oneself a terrorist in the name of God, to do violence to others in his name. Terrorist violence is a contradiction of faith in God, the Creator of man, who cares for man and loves him."—Blessed John Paul II
To government leaders in the Middle East, and to citizens across the world, Pope Benedict explains what it takes to achieve peace among peoples, and identifies the obstacles to peace. In his speech he exclaims, "If we want peace, let us defend life!" (Here is the full text of his speech, translated by the Vatican.)

Sep 8, 2012

"The Truth Will Set You Free." (Jn. 8:32)

  

Quote from the Youcat (Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church) on Freedom:
286 What is freedom and what is it for?

Freedom is the God-given power to be able to act of one's own accord; a person who is free no longer acts under the influence of someone else.
God created us as free men and wills our freedom so that we might decide wholeheartedly in favor of the good, indeed for the greatest "good"--in other words, for God. The more we do what is good, the freer we become.

287 But doesn't "freedom" consist of being able to choose evil as well?

Evil is only apparently worth striving for, and deciding in favor of evil only apparently makes us free. Evil does not make us happy but rather deprives us of what is truly good; it chains us to something futile and in the end destroys our freedom entirely.
We see this in addiction: Here a person sells his freedom to something that appears good to him. In reality he becomes a slave. Man is freest when he is always able to say Yes to the good; when no addiction, no compulsion, no habit prevents him from choosing and doing what is right and good. A decision in favor of the good is always a decision leading toward God.

288 Is man responsible for everything he does?

Man is responsible for everything he does consciously and voluntarily.
No one can be held (fully) responsible for something he did under coercion, out of fear, ignorance, under the influence of drugs or the power of bad habits. The more a person knows about the good and practices the good, the more he moves away from the slavery of sin. God desires that such free persons should (be able to) take responsibility for themselves, for their environment, and for the whole earth. But all of God's merciful love is also for those who are not free; every day he offers them an opportunity to allow themselves to be set free for freedom.

289 Must we allow a person to use his free will, even when he decides in favor of evil?

For a person to be able to use his freedom is a fundamental right based on his human dignity. An individual's freedom can be curtailed only if the exercise of his freedom is detrimental to the freedom of others.
Freedom would be no freedom at all if it were not the freedom to choose even what is wrong. It would violate the dignity of a man if we did not respect his freedom. One of the central duties of the State is to protect the liberties of all its citizens (freedom of religion, of assembly, and association, freedom of opinion, freedom to choose one's occupation, and so on). The freedom of one citizen is the limit to the freedom of another.

290 How does God help us to be free men?

Christ wants us to be "set free for freedom" (see Gal. 5:1) and to become capable of brotherly love. That is why he sends us the Holy Spirit, who makes us free and independent of worldly powers and strengthens us for a life of love and responsibility.
The more we sin, the more we think only about ourselves and the less well we can develop freely. In sinning we also become more inept at doing good and practicing charity. The Holy Spirit, who has come down into our hearts, gives us a heart that is filled with love for God and mankind. We avail ourselves of the Holy Spirit as the power that leads us to inner freedom, opens our hearts for love, and makes us better instruments for what is good and loving.
Quote from the Youcat on Conscience:
295 What is Conscience?

Conscience is the inner voice in a man that moves him to do good under any circumstances and to avoid evil by all means. At the same time it is the ability to distinguish the one from the other. In the Conscience God speaks to man.
Conscience is compared with an inner voice in which God manifests himself in a man. God is the one who becomes apparent in the conscience. When we say, "I cannot reconcile that with my conscience", this means for a Christian, "I cannot do that in the sight of my Creator!" Many people have gone to jail or been executed because they were true to their conscience.

296 Can someone be compelled to do something that is against their conscience?

No one may be compelled to act against his conscience, provided he acts within the limits of the common good.
Anyone who overlooks the conscience of a person, ignores it and uses coercion, violates that person's dignity. Practically nothing else makes man more human than the gift of being able personally to distinguish good from evil and to choose between them. This is so even if the decision, seen in an objective light, is wrong. Unless man's conscience has been incorrectly formed, the inner voice speaks in agreement with what is generally reasonable, just, and good in God's sight.

297 Can a person form his conscience?

Yes, in fact he must do that. The conscience, which is innate to every person endowed with reason, can be misled and deadened. That is why it must be formed into an increasingly fine-tuned instrument for acting rightly.
The first school of conscience is self-criticism. We have the tendency to judge things to our own advantage. The second school of conscience is orientation to the good actions of others. The correct formation of conscience leads a man into the freedom to do what has been correctly identified as good. With the help of the Holy Spirit and Scripture, the Church over her long history has accumulated a vast knowledge about right action; it is part of her mission to instruct people and also to give them directions.

298 Is someone who in good conscience acts wrongly guilty in God's sight?

No. If a person has thoroughly examined himself and arrived at a certain judgment, he must in any case follow his inner voice, even at the risk of doing something wrong.
God does not blame us for the objective harm that results from a wrong judgment of conscience, provided that we ourselves are not responsible for having a badly formed conscience. While it is quite true that ultimately one must follow one's conscience, it must likewise be kept in mind that people have swindled, murdered, tortured, and betrayed others on the basis of what they wrongly suppose to be their conscience.  

cardinal wilfrid youcat