My Lenten Mission

February 19th, 2015

Ash Wednesday has come and gone.  And I have to admit that I am not very good at Lent.

I never miss an Ash Wednesday Mass, and I have no problem walking around with ashes on my forehead.  I readily answer questions about why my head is dirty, and I even posted an #AshTag selfie on Facebook.  But I am far too often like the seeds that fall amid the thorns, and the “cares of the world” overtake me and “choke the word” so that it bears little fruit (see Matthew 13:1-23).  My intentions are good, but my persistence is weak, and I let the busyness of my life distract me from the path to greater holiness.

So I would very much like to grow spiritually through the spiritual and penitential practices of Lent.  Last year, I tried something new, and I found that it bore fruit.  So I’m going to try it again this year.  During Lent, I’m going to dedicate myself to intercessory prayer, praying for other people who are in need, particularly if they have nobody else to pray for them.

In his Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis had this to say:

One form of prayer moves us particularly to take up the task of evangelization and to seek the good of others: it is the prayer of intercession…. The great men and women of God were great intercessors. Intercession is like a “leaven” in the heart of the Trinity. It is a way of penetrating the Father’s heart and discovering new dimensions which can shed light on concrete situations and change them. We can say that God’s heart is touched by our intercession, yet in reality he is always there first. What our intercession achieves is that his power, his love and his faithfulness are shown ever more clearly in the midst of the people. (281-83)

So I’ve asked people to send me names of people whom they would like me to pray for, and I’m keeping a list on my phone.  Every day, when I say my morning prayers, I go through the list and pray by name for each of the people and for their needs.

Now, I don’t think that I have any kind of special pull with the Lord, or that my prayers jump to the front of the line, or that I think I deserve any special credit for this.  Intercessory prayer has been a practice among God’s people stretching all the way back to Abraham.  It’s part of every Mass, and we do it every time we ask our Father to “give us today our daily bread” and Mary to “pray for us sinners”.

But I have a sense that this is what God wants me to focus on this Lent.  I’ve been feeling a desire in my heart to pray for others, and I’ve always trusted those feelings as promptings by the Spirit or subtle nudging by my Guardian Angel.

And so, that’s my Lenten mission — to pray for others.  If anyone out there has a prayer intention, feel free to email it to me at emechmann@archny.org.  And perhaps you could say a prayer for me, too.

Life is Worth Living, Even When You’re Terminally Ill

February 10th, 2015

Legislation has been filed in New York State to legalize physician assisted suicide, and a lawsuit has been filed seeking the same goal.  The advocates of death are calling their effort “death with dignity”, and are appealing to a sense of compassion for those experiencing suffering as the end of life approaches.  We cannot fall for this — it is wrong, it is dangerous, and it must be opposed with all our energy.

The very term “death with dignity”, used as a euphemism for suicide, is a terrible lie.  It demeans those whose death from natural causes was not just dignified but even beautiful.  My mother passed away a few years ago from cancer.  It was a long illness, and she experienced real suffering, as did all of her loved ones.  But we worked with her doctors and with hospice staff to alleviate her pain, and give her as much comfort and love as we could.  She died at home after receiving the Anointing of the Sick, with her family around her.  Her death was holy, and beautiful.  It is an insult and a lie to imply that her death did not have dignity, because she did not kill herself.

The effort to legalize assisted suicide is based on an even deeper falsehood — trying to eliminate the crucial difference between allowing natural death to occur, and intentionally causing someone’s death.  Death will come for us all, from one cause or another.  And when the time comes, we are not morally obligated to undergo extraordinary or disproportionate forms of treatment — measures that will cause unnecessary suffering while yielding little benefit.  But that is not the same as killing a patient or killing myself.  It is accepting the inevitability of death by natural causes.  Life is a great gift from God, and He will call me back to Him in His good time.  I cannot become my own god and just throw this gift away.

The advocates for death must realize that they cannot face the truth about what they are doing, because they are hiding their bill behind the Orwellian term “aid in dying”.  In fact, in the Assembly bill, they even try to deny that what they are legalizing is suicide or assisted suicide — as if such a transparently phony statement can conceal what is really going on.

Assisted suicide also seriously distort the nature of our health care system, which is already under so much pressure to treat patients as commodities and to look primarily to the bottom line and to convenience, rather than to care for the human person.  The relationship between a doctor and a patient should be about healing, care, and trust.  Legalizing assisted suicide fundamentally changes that sacred relationship — that’s why the American Medical Association opposes bills that will have doctors break their promise to “do no harm”.

This will also increase dangerous pressure on vulnerable patients to choose death — people who are chronically ill, handicapped, lonely, isolated, depressed.  In fact, assisted suicide discriminates against those who are most in need of our help.  This will become more and more of a problem as health care resources become more expensive and scarce.   We’ve seen in other countries that once you introduce assisted suicide, the pressure to expand it to people who are not terminally ill, and for euthanasia — the direct killing of a patient, even without their explicit consent — is not far behind.

In discussing this issue, it is vital that we all recognize that when death approaches, there is always some suffering.  Some deaths seem more tragic than others, and bear particular pain to the person and their loved ones.  But we need to address that suffering, and not just give up on the patient.   Modern medicine has the ability to relieve almost all cases of physical pain in a terminally ill patient.  We need to work harder to address the other forms of suffering — the familial, psychological and spiritual pain that accompanies a person’s final illness and passing. We also need to think about preventing the pain and suffering that suicide will leave with families and loved ones, and the sense of guilt that often goes along with that.

That’s why more people need to know about institutions like Calvary Hospital, which provides wonderful support and care for those with terminal cancer.  They allow people to exit this life with true dignity and compassion, and utterly reject the idea of giving people lethal overdoses of drugs.  People also need to know more about the teachings of the Church on end-of-life issues, and what options are morally acceptable and available.  To that end, the New York State Catholic Conference has created a wonderful website, “CatholicEndofLife.org”.  This site deserves to be widely known and used by Catholics and others who want to know the truth, and not the lies of the assisted suicide promoters.

Our society spends lots of time and money trying to prevent suicide, particularly for teens and depressed people.  It makes no sense — and it will hurt those efforts — to designate it as an acceptable option for elderly and sick people.  Think of the awful message that sends — that for some people, we’re all better off if you kill yourself.  Talk about creating a culture of death.

We’ve all driven over bridges with signs that say, “Life is Worth Living”.  Well, life is always worth living, even when you are terminally ill.  That’s the message we should be sending to those who are suffering, and that’s why we must resist any attempt to legalize assisted suicide.

The Politics of Principle

February 2nd, 2015

(This is a repeat of a post from this same day the last six years.  This post was written in memory of Jack Swan, a great warrior of faith and politics, who entered eternal life on February 2, 1998.  God sent Jack into my life to teach me these lessons about politics, and I’m just a pygmy standing on the shoulders of a giant.  As time goes by, I see more and more a need for us to recapture the politics of principle.  Jack, please pray for me, that I get the lessons right.)

In the mind of most people, “politics” is the struggle of candidates, political parties, and their supporters to gain power and influence in the government. That is certainly true up to a point, and it makes for interesting entertainment.

I write a good deal about politics on this blog and elsewhere, and I’m frequently perceived as being “political” in that sense — of being”partisan”. That completely misses the point.

There is a deeper, more significant nature of politics. It is the way we order our society together, so that we can live according to our vocations and be happy, and ultimately attain eternal life. In this understanding of politics, the partisan theater is an important reality, but it is not the main focus. What really matters is principle.

Without principles, politics becomes mere pragmatism, where the question is whether something “works”, or, in the less elevated version of the game, what’s in it for me. Now, don’t get me wrong. Pragmatism is important — we want our government to be effective. But again, principle is more important.

I received much of my tutelage in the real world of politics from a man who devoted his life to being a practitioner of the politics of principle. I learned that it was fine to be keenly interested in the partisan scrum, but only to the extent that it advanced the principles we hold dear — defense of human life, protection of marriage, family and children, and religious liberty. The promotion of those principles is more important than party label, and the idea is to support — or oppose — politicians based on their fidelity to those principles, not based on what party label they happened to be wearing this week.

That’s how I try to practice politics, in my small and limited way. I have opinions and judgments about many pragmatic issues, and what kinds of national security, economic and other policies would “work” better than others. But none of those pragmatic issues matter at all, compared to the core principles.

Here’s how it works for me. If a politician doesn’t protect human life, I don’t care what his position is on other issues. If he can’t understand that human life is sacred and must be protected at all stages, I have no reason to trust his judgment about any other issue. And, very frankly, anyone who does not understand that basic principle is not, in my opinion, fit to hold public office.

The same holds for the other core issues. I don’t care if you’re a Republican or a Democrat. If you don’t respect human life, don’t see the need to preserve marriage as one man and one woman, and won’t defend religious liberty, they you just have to look elsewhere to get your fifty percent plus one.

This means that I am perpetually dissatisfied with our political process and our politicians. But that’s fine with me. They are all temporary office holders anyway, here today and gone tomorrow, and their platforms are passing fancies that nobody will remember in a short time. The principles, however, remain perpetually valid.

Listen, Our Lord made a very simple request of us. He said, “Follow me”. He didn’t say, be a Republican or a Democrat, a Socialist or a Whig. He demands that I be his follower. So I need to look to the Lord for my principles, and in this age that means I have to listen to the Church. That’s what Our Lord wants me to do — after all, he said to his apostles “he who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Lk 10:16). We happen to have in our midst the successors of those apostles — the Holy Father, our bishops, and my bishop in particular. As a Catholic I must listen to them, and get my political principles from them, not from Fox News, CNN, talking heads of the left or the right, the editorial page of the Times, or either the Democratic or Republican Parties.

This, to me, is the way to live as a disciple of Christ in this crazy political process. I realize that this will be considered odd by many, and even dangerous by some.

But we hardly need more party loyalists at this, or any other, time. And we certainly need more practitioners of the politics of principle.

Engagement and Resistance

January 17th, 2015

Reflecting on my pessimistic take on the Supreme Court’s decision to make a final ruling on the marriage redefinition cases, I had an interesting email exchange with my friend and colleague Alexis Carra. She wrote to me:

Inevitably, the government/legislature/court will no longer recognize true religious liberty, amongst other things. This is an unfortunate consequence of a metaphysical and anthropological revolution/decline that has swept society; a phenomenon in which people no longer have a proper understand of human nature, reality, and our relationship to God.

1) So in this “post-human” age, how do we go about testifying and defending the Truth in the public sphere, especially when our court system will inevitably be against us? Is it time to change methods? If so, what should our new method(s) be?

(2) Similarly, in this “post-human” age, how do we go about testifying and defending the Truth in the private sphere? How should we engage our children, our friends, and our communities, especially when they are often hostile towards our message?

I replied, in part:

I wish I had answers to your questions. I have believed for many years that the time is rapidly approaching when Catholics may no longer be able to give their consent to the Constitutional morass that our judicial oligarchy has now imposed on us. This is a regime where truth and morality are denied and are instead branded as invidious bigotry, while laws that violate fundamental human rights are foisted upon us and we are compelled to cooperate with them. The Supreme Court’s decision on the marriage case may put us in a position where we can no longer recognize the legitimacy of the current regime.

Alexis’ response gets right to the heart of the matter, and adds some important distinctions:

It’s going to be even harder to live as authentic Catholics within the American system or as you say, “the current regime.” We will be forced to cooperate with evil under duress or become martyrs.

However, I actually do have some hope. I think the distinction must be made between “engaging with the public system” and “utilizing the public system.” I think — for most cases – we will be unable to utilize the system in order to uphold our religious liberties, etc. Yet this does not mean that we completely retreat from the system. Instead, we must continue to engage with the system; we must become the gadfly to the system (thinking of Socrates here). And this is a very important role that cannot be underestimated.

I still think there is something to be said for public engagement. I think the gay marriage debate has been largely a disastrous failure, but the same cannot be said for abortion. I think progress has made been made particularly because many young people rightly perceive abortion as the murdering of innocent life.

Overall, I think we are called to live as counter-cultural witnesses in an active sense; most of us are not called to completely separate ourselves from society.

I think that she is precisely correct. I too am pessimistic but not hopeless. There are many who advocate for disengagement from society, similar to the Amish. I refuse to do so. Engagement is clearly the proper course, but as a form of resistance to the dictatorship of relativism — where we continually proclaim the truth with love, and steadfastly refuse to conform to the lies. My model for this is Vaclav Havel’s The Power of the Powerless.

Nothing can erase the human desire for, and recognition of, the truth. Even under all the lies, the vast majority of people will try to live in truth. We are always called by our faith to be witnesses to the truth, even when that truth may be a “sign of contradiction”.

Pessimism about Marriage and the Supreme Court

January 17th, 2015

The Supreme Court has now agreed to decide one of the marriage redefinition cases. The oral argument will be held at the end of April, and a decision will come down at the end of June.

In my opinion, this is not good news. The conventional wisdom is that the Court takes cases in order to reverse lower courts, and the statistics bear that out (in revious terms, they’ve reversed about 75% of the cases they take). So it’s very significant that the Court took the case from the Sixth Circuit — the only Circuit Court to have upheld real marriage.

We also have to bear in mind that in the Windsor case, the majority of the Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, on the theory that it violated Equal Protection because the law was enacted specifically with “animus” towards homosexuals. In the case the Court just accepted, each of the state laws involved (Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee) would be vulnerable to that same argument, since they adopted constitutional amendments specifically to rule out the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples.

So I think there’s every reason to anticipate that the Court will rule the wrong way. It’s clear that there is a solid 4-vote bloc that will vote to recognize same-sex “marriage” (Sotomayor, Kagen, Breyer, and Ginsberg), and a 4-vote bloc that will likely vote against it (Alito, Scalia, Thomas, and probably Roberts). Given Justice Kennedy’s past record on homosexual rights cases — he has always voted in favor of them and has written some terrible majority opinions centered on the issue of alleged “animus” (see the Lawrence, Romer, and Windsor cases) — it seems virtually certain that he will follow his own reasoning in his Windsor majority opinion, and rule that the secret messages, written in invisible ink but that he manages to discern in the Constitution, somehow require the recognition of same-sex “marriage”.

In other words, the Court will likely decide that the Equal Protection Clause requires that we must abandon logic, and say that inherently different things are actually the same.  Welcome to the Humpty-Dumpty world of justice, where words mean whatever the people in power wish them to mean.

I am innately pessimistic about Court rulings, but I just can’t see any path to a good outcome here. Not only will a marriage re-definition ruling flout the will of the people as expressed in the democratic process, it will contradict the fundamental truths about marriage contained in the natural law and in the nature of the human person. It will also increase pressure on religious people to conform, and will test our ability to live in keeping with our faith in an increasingly hostile nation.

 

Our Unconventional Christmas Tree

December 25th, 2014

If you were to visit my home this Christmas season, you would be met with a most unusual sight.  Instead of the traditional pine Christmas tree, this year our tree is very unconventional, and you might be tempted to laugh at it as weird or silly.  But there’s a story behind it, and it might make a little more sense out of our strange Christmas tree.

Here’s a picture of it:

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Very odd, indeed.  Here’s the story:

This autumn has been very difficult for us.  My wife, Peggy, is getting close to finishing her Masters degree in Library Science, and she’s been slaving away at her final project.  For the last month, it’s pretty much all she’s been able to do.  This has been a particular challenge for her, because she suffers from fibromyalgia, an unpredictable and debilitating disorder that gives her acute pain at unexpected times and usually leaves her exhausted and unable to concentrate.  The fact that she has been able to do masters-level work with this condition is amazing to me.

Peggy is very traditional, and loves to decorate the house for Christmas.  She loves to make the place special for us, our children and our guests.  So it was particularly painful to her that she was so busy with her masters paper — which she finally handed in, three days before Christmas — we weren’t able to get out and buy a Christmas tree this year.  Our house won’t be well-decorated, and she’s deeply embarrassed about it. Tears have been seen in the vicinity of our home.

One of the watchwords of our marriage has been that we will always try to adapt and overcome any problem that arises.  So we came up with an idea for a different kind of Christmas tree, the one you see in the picture above.

It’s an umbrella plant, and Peggy gave it to me when we were first dating, way back in 1979.  It was much smaller then, but she’s kept it alive ever since (I have a black thumb).  It’s kind of like our marriage — growing and thriving after all these years, despite all the twists and turns that fate has given us.  So, in a way, this tree is a symbol for the generosity of God that was manifested at Christmas — and the great gift of each other, united and in love, still going strong.

At the base of the umbrella plant, we put another small plant, a Christmas cactus.  It belonged to my mother, and thanks to Peggy’s care, it has bloomed for the first time in many years.  So it, too, is another symbol of something central to Christmas — the fruitfulness of life, and the legacy of our wonderful parents.

The last piece of the story is also important.  I read in the newspaper of the terrible plight of Christians in Iraq, displaced from their homes and unable to celebrate Christmas.  They have no trees — traditional or unconventional — and no gifts.  So we decided that the money that we would have spent on a Christmas tree would instead be donated to the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, which is doing such great work to alleviate the suffering of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  So our odd tree is a symbol of something else essential to Christmas — the vocation to be a gift of self to each other and to all those in need.

So, yes, it’s a very unconventional and strange Christmas tree.  But I hope that the story behind it has helped make sense of it.  If that doesn’t help, let’s look back at the the original Christmas story.  The Son of God emptied himself, and became human in the poorest of circumstances, being born in a cave where the animals lived.  His family suffered to bring him to birth, and they became refugees to protect him.  They sacrificed for the love of each other, and he sacrificed all for the love of us.

I’d like to think that the Lord who came in such a way, and who lived such a life, would like our humble little tree.  I think he’d smile at it, and appreciate what it means.  And he’d feel perfectly at home in its shadow.

The Radicalism of Roe v. Wade

December 17th, 2014

During his tireless campaign to promote abortion here in New York, Governor Cuomo has repeatedly alleged that his Abortion Expansion Act would do nothing other than codify the law as established in Roe v. Wade in our state law.  Journalists and editorial boards have parroted this argument.

It’s essential that we grapple with this baseless claim, for several reasons.  One of the best ways to do so would be to pick up a copy of Clarke Forsythe’s new book, Abuse of Discretion.  In this very important work, Forsythe examines the shoddy, unprofessional way in which Justice Blackmun and his allies on the Supreme Court invented the holding in Roe without regard to basic principles of justice and fairness, and without any concern about the dangers to women that would come from legalizing abortion.

There are four important points that we should consider, so that we understand just how radical Roe really was, and thus how extreme the Governor’s proposal is.

First, we have to understand that the legal standard established in Roe was extremely liberal, and established a regime of abortion on demand, for all nine months of pregnancy, for any reason whatsoever.  Also, courts used it to strike down virtually every abortion regulation passed by state legislatures.

This can be seen clearly in the history of abortion decisions after Roe — virtually no regulations affecting abortion survived judicial scrutiny, including many common sense proposals like health and safety regulations and parental involvement laws. In essence, the entire abortion industry was exempted from any accountability or oversight.

Second, we also have to recognize that even the Supreme Court eventually backed away from the extremism of Roe, and eventually adopted a standard that permitted more leeway for states to regulate abortion. This led to the 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. In that case, the Court transformed the applicable legal standard in a way that made it possible for states to regulate abortion in more ways (e.g., by enacting bans of partial birth abortions, clinic health and safety regulations, etc.).

As a result, the governor’s proposal would actually enshrine the high-water mark of liberal abortion law, and ignore the subsequent legal developments that have pared that standard back towards a more reasonable system. It would lock in place an abortion law that is extremely permissive and hostile to any attempt to regulate or restrict the practice in any way.  It would create a system of abortion with impunity.

Third, we have to appreciate what a terrible piece of law Roe actually was — which speaks volumes about why we shouldn’t want anything to do with it here in New York.   I’m pretty cynical about what goes into judicial decisions, but even I was appalled at Forsythe’s account — backed by meticulous research — of the way that the Justices manipulated, schemed, and maneuvered in preparation for the Roe decision. They heedlessly took the case under false pretenses (supposing that it was to be decided on merely a procedural point of law), and disregarded the need for any facts about the nature and impact of abortion. They irresponsibly failed to consider the devastating impact their decision would have on public health as a result of invalidating every abortion law in the nation, and removing abortion from any possibility of further regulation.

Finally, and most importantly, Forsythe exposes, based on an astonishing number of scientific and medical studies, just how bad abortion on demand has been for women’s mental and physical health.   This includes short and long-term physical side effects and complications from the surgery, a correlation with a host of mental health problems, increased risks of breast cancer, plus the horrors that have occurred at unlicensed and unregulated clinics.  The simple fact is that abortion is not good for women.

This is the tragically misguided abortion regime that our Governor wishes to foist upon New York. I heartily recommend that people should read Clarke Forsythe’s excellent and important book, Abuse of Discretion, to understand just how radical, and how dangerous, that would be.

Truth and Torture

December 12th, 2014

The Senate Intelligence Committee has released a scathing report about the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program.  I have read the Executive Summary of both majority and minority reports, and some of the articles from the Washington Post and the Times that provided the basic facts from the report.

It’s very hard to read such horrible things that were done in our name, and to realize that they were done essentially with impunity, and that nobody will ever be held accountable for it. It pains me personally to know what kinds of physical torments were inflicted upon human beings in those places.

How can we respond to this disturbing situation?

Last weekend, there was a book review in the Wall Street Journal for a biography of the great Czech dissident and statesman, Vaclav Havel. The review contained this passage:

Havel’s personal and political philosophy can be summed up in a phrase from his 1978 essay “The Power of the Powerless”: “living within the truth.” The world imposes great burdens on men, Havel argued, the first of which is a collective responsibility to be honest about the society they inhabit. In Havel’s political context, “living within the truth” meant speaking plainly about an inhuman political system—communism—and the lies and humiliating routines it forced its subjects to tell and endure.

Our first commitment is always to the truth. The essential question, in my mind, is what really happened in those secret prisons. The issues that have dominated the debate about the report (and most of the objections by the committee minority) are really procedural, and are not relevant to the question of whether the men in custody were tortured. On that question, we shouldn’t concentrate on party loyalty (i.e., who issued the report?), separation of powers (i.e., was Congress misled?) or raw pragmatic calculations of effectiveness (i.e., did torture “work”?).  Nor should be be swayed by arguments that essentially amount to vengeance and retribution.

The real question is, what really happened? It seems very clear — and nobody really disputes — that there was widespread and very brutal treatment of prisoners. These acts were committed by people acting under the authority of the United States government, and without regard to our laws and treaties banning torture. And there was no consideration of moral principles, which utterly forbid this kind of mistreatment.

Is this the kind of nation we are? Can we live within that truth about ourselves?

I hope not.

How the Abortion Expansion Act Would Let Non-Doctors Do Abortions

December 4th, 2014

The debate continues over Governor Cuomo’s abortion expansion plan (currently packaged as the tenth point, “Part J”, of his Women’s Equality Act). The current trope being used by the WEA’s backers and abortion supporters is that in opposing the bill, we are not being truthful in saying that the bill would allow non-doctors to do abortions. Part of the way that they make this argument is to ask “show me where it says that in the bill”.

Permit me to do so, in four easy steps.

Step One — Current New York law permits only doctors to perform abortions (see Penal Law section 125.03(3)).

Step Two — The WEA states that:

No prosecution or proceeding shall be brought or maintained under the penal law or otherwise for acts that are authorized or permitted pursuant to this section or by this chapter and the education law (Part J, Section 1, emphasis added)

Step Three — Title 8 of the Education Law governs the practice of various health professions (e.g., doctors, nurses, physician assistants, midwives, etc.) health professionals. Under that law, the New York State Education Department has wide authority to define the “scope of practice” for professionals — in other words, what procedures they can perform within the law. As a result, the WEA would give the New York State Education Department Office of the Professions the authority to permit non-doctors to perform surgical and chemical abortions, simply by re-defining their “scope of practice”.

Step Four — Disregard everything I just said, and listen instead to the words of Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, the chairman of the Assembly Health Committee, one of the leading experts in health care law and policy in the Legislature, and a co-sponsor of the WEA. In a letter to constituents, Mr. Gottfried says:

The current New York law only allows a physician to perform an abortion. However, there are forms of abortion that are well within the ordinary scope of practice of physician assistants and nurse practitioners. Since, under Roe, abortion should be regulated on the same terms as other health care, the physician-only provision should be repealed and the ordinary rules of scope of practice should apply. The WEA language would do this. (emphasis added)

There it is, plain and simple.  So, the next time a newspaper editorial accuses us of lying, or a public official asks “where does it say that in the bill”, just hand them a copy of this blog post.  And then ask them, “do you really think it’s a good idea for non-doctors to be doing invasive, risky surgery on women?”

You Can Come In Off the Ledge Now

November 11th, 2014

In recent days, I’ve been approached by several friends who are very upset and even frightened about the state of the Church, and where things are going.  I’m a worrier by nature, so I can sympathize with them, but I can’t help but think that things are getting a little over-blown.  The Church is always in trouble, but I’m not seeing any icebergs in the immediate future.

Let me offer a few suggestions to my friends who are feeling such deep anxiety.

The first is to relax.  The best way to do that is to ignore everything being said by the mainstream media and the secular pundits (including most of the Catholic pundits). The news reports are obsessed with their favorite issues, and don’t understand anything that they’re talking about. As far as the pundits go, they’re all projecting their own agendas (and fears) onto the Holy Father and Church. Don’t read any of them. Just think of Mark 8:33.

I’m sorry to say that, in my opinion, much of what passes for the Catholic blogosphere is only a little bit better, and some of it is much worse. If certain Catholic blogs and websites are causing you agita, then ignore them.  They have no more authority than anyone else with a keyboard and an internet connection (such as yours truly). Or, if you can’t resist yourself, ignore the comboxes. Many of the comboxes are toxic, and bad for our souls. (In this regard, I’m reminded of a famous warning). In any event, all the suspicion and arguing that’s going on in the Catholic blogosphere encourages a spirit of division into the Church. That’s neither useful, not good for the state of our souls.

The second is to relax.  Another good way to do that is to ignore Vatican politics. I have no idea why some bishops are promoted, and others are cast aside, which cardinal is in favor and which is in Siberia, and which party or conspiracy is ahead and which is losing. And you know what? Nobody else does, either. Fretting about all that stuff does nobody any good.  Think about — or even better, pray about — Psalm 131.

The third is to relax.  One of the best ways to do that is to pray more.  We should pray constantly for each other, and particularly for our Holy Father and our bishops.  Most people have no idea how hard the life of a bishop is.  I can’t even imagine how hard the Pope’s life is.  They really need our prayers.  Our pastors, parish priests and deacons, too, are hard pressed to give wounded people the pastoral assistance they need.  They could use some more prayers too.  Prayer helps them, but it also transforms us.  And I don’t know about you, but I could sure use some major transforming.

If those suggestions aren’t sufficient for you, can I make a few more? Are you worried about how the faith is being transmitted to the youth? I don’t blame you — and I bet your parish could use your help as a catechist. Are you concerned about the state of marriage, and what’s going to be done about the separated and divorced?  You should be, we all are too — so how about volunteering for some kind of marriage ministry?  Unsure about how the Church will give pastoral care to homosexual persons?  So are we all — could you maybe give some support to the Courage apostolate, which reaches out to homosexual persons and helps them live chaste lives?

There’s no doubt that we live in “interesting times”, as the old expression goes.  When things are unsettled, it’s always good to relax, and return to Christianity 101, to make sure that we’re solid on the basics — prayer, solid belief, sacraments, charity.  If our foundation is strong, then the whole structure will withstand whatever storms may assail it.

In these times, I think it’s also particularly important to pray to the Holy Spirit, who has been guiding the Church through thick and thin, and to Mother Mary who has been tirelessly protecting her Church.