Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Standing for Justice

by Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson
from the January 2012 issue of Columbia Magazine

Because it conflicts with the natural moral law,
Roe v. Wade can never be regarded as "settled"

THIS MONTH we observe nearly four decades of pro-life activity in response to the infamous decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v Wade. I am proud that the commitment of the Knights of Columbus in building a culture of life has grown stronger each year.

Some say that Roe v. Wade should be accepted as "settled law" and that attempts to restrict or overturn it should end. This argument has appeal because there should be clarity and certainty in our laws. But it falls short because there is a principle more important than certainty in our legal system - justice.

Although there are many problems with the legal reasoning in the Supreme Court's opinion in Roe v. Wade, the most fundamental is that the court's decision rests upon a falsehood, which is expressed in Justice Blackmun's statement, "We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins."

Whatever Blackmun may have believed in 1973, it is simply untrue in 2012 to say that abortion does not take the life of an unborn human being. Because of this reality, abortion will never be settled law in the United States and must someday be overturned.

As I wrote in my first book, A Civilization of Love, our situation is similar to that faced by the civil rights movement after the Supreme Court ruled in the 1896 case of Plessy v. Ferguson that "separate but equal" laws were constitutional. That decision enshrined the hateful system of de jure segregation throughout much of the United States and took 58 years to overturn.

The Supreme Court's decision in Plessy v. Ferguson was based upon an untruth - the court rejected the obvious fact that the legally enforced separation of the two races "stamped" African-Americans "with a badge of inferiority." The court went on to say that if African-Americans thought "separate but equal" laws were demeaning and unfair, it was only because they chose "to put that construction on" such laws.

In his dissent, Justice John Marshall Harlan contended that the court's view was pure fiction and that people knew it to be so.

The same must be said of Roe v. Wade. If we remain determined and committed, it too will one day be brushed into the dustbin of history.

Roe v. Wade will also on day be swept away for another reason: As I showed in my latest book, Beyond a House Divided, the decision has failed to gain the support of the American people after nearly four decades. Most Americans want legal restrictions on abortion that go far beyond what is permitted by the court's ruling.

This presents another lesson that can be learned from the civil rights movement. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. never hesitated to remind the people of the United States of their Judeo-Christian values. In his famous 1963 Letter from Birmingham Jail, he even relied upon Catholic natural law tradition. King wrote: "One may well ask, 'How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?' The answer is found in the fact that there are just and there are unjust laws. I would agree with Saint Augustine that 'An unjust law is no law at all.'"

He continued, "Now what is the difference between the two? How does one determine when a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of Saint Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law."

A law "that is out of harmony with the moral law" can never be regarded as "settled" as long as there are men of conscience, men of determination and men who understand that our nation will be judged by the respect we give to every person - even to "the least among us."

Vivat Jesus!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

From the "Why Can't We All Just Get Along" File

One of the things I enjoy most as a Christian is sharing my faith. Engaging in discussions with people who's theological bents range from raging atheists to agnostic to that of varying other Protestant traditions. I enjoy hearing their perspective and giving them mine. We're called as disciples of Christ to do it. I also enjoy the opportunity to learn and the exchange of ideas, but my primary goal is to plant a seed, to make them think, to get them to try on a different set of "theological glasses", if you will.

I endeavor to use as my guide in these conversations, 1 Peter 3:15. I cannot lie, sometimes I fall short of that goal. Sometimes frustration grips me. I would ask for your prayers in that. The thing that frustrates me the most is something called the Straw Man fallacy. The Straw Man fallacy is committed when a person simply ignores a person's actual position (i.e., what the Church actually teaches) and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position. I find this particular tactic most egregiously utilized when I am in discussion with or reading something by a Fundamentalist Christian.

I recently found a web page that caught my attention as it represented itself as comparing and contrasting Church services in different Christian traditions. However, it soon got off track and ended up in Strawmanville. 

An example:
"The Roman Catholic Church emphasizes the "Mass", (an act viewed by Catholics as re-sacrificing the actual body and blood of Christ through Communion." 
I get this a lot. It usually comes in the form of a question, "Why are you re-sacrificing Christ when the Bible says His sacrifice was once for all?" The answer: Catholics don't view the Mass as a re-sacrifice of Christ. The irony is, as it is with all of these points, that simply picking up a Catechism would clear up any misconception. Paragraphs 1362-1367 of the CCC say, "1362 The Eucharist is the memorial of Christ's Passover, the making present and the sacramental offering of his unique sacrifice, in the liturgy of the Church which is his Body. In all the Eucharistic Prayers we find after the words of institution a prayer called the anamnesis or memorial. 1363 In the sense of Sacred Scripture the memorial is not merely the recollection of past events but the proclamation of the mighty works wrought by God for men.182 In the liturgical celebration of these events, they become in a certain way present and real. This is how Israel understands its liberation from Egypt: every time Passover is celebrated, the Exodus events are made present to the memory of believers so that they may conform their lives to them. 1364 In the New Testament, the memorial takes on new meaning. When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, she commemorates Christ's Passover, and it is made present the sacrifice Christ offered once for all on the cross remains ever present.183 "As often as the sacrifice of the Cross by which 'Christ our Pasch has been sacrificed' is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out."184 1365 Because it is the memorial of Christ's Passover, the Eucharist is also a sacrifice. the sacrificial character of the Eucharist is manifested in the very words of institution: "This is my body which is given for you" and "This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in my blood."185 In the Eucharist Christ gives us the very body which he gave up for us on the cross, the very blood which he "poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."186 1366 The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross, because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit: [Christ], our Lord and God, was once and for all to offer himself to God the Father by his death on the altar of the cross, to accomplish there an everlasting redemption. But because his priesthood was not to end with his death, at the Last Supper "on the night when he was betrayed," [he wanted] to leave to his beloved spouse the Church a visible sacrifice (as the nature of man demands) by which the bloody sacrifice which he was to accomplish once for all on the cross would be re-presented, its memory perpetuated until the end of the world, and its salutary power be applied to the forgiveness of the sins we daily commit.187 1367 The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: "The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different." "In this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner."188" Emphasis Added. I have left the scriptural footnotes intact.

We are not re-sacrificing Him. His once and for all sacrifice is being re-presented. Now we can discuss that, but lets be clear about what the Church actually teaches. We don't believe we are re-sacrificing Christ.

Another example:
"Catholics believe in the practice of worshiping icons in the Church."

Really? I personally have never met a Catholic who actually worships an icon? Neither have I met a Catholic who worships Mary or any of the Saints. Catholics would consider that idolatry. Statements like this smack of an utter ignorance of the history of the Church. It's like saying that having a picture of your wife in your wallet constitutes "wife worship". God forbade the worship of idols. Not the use of statues or artwork. If He did how do you explain Solomon's Temple?

And a Third:
"The Roman Catholic Church teaches salvation by works"  

As Catholics, we believe the grace of Jesus Christ saves us. We can do nothing outside of God's grace. We accept his grace through faith, but our faith is evidenced by our words and deeds. Our works show the faith in our hearts; therefore, faith and works bring us salvation through grace. Galatians 5:6 tells us that only faith working through love saves. This is the basis of my argument against the belief in "eternal security". Nowhere does the Bible guarantee salvation to the Christian. On the contrary we are constantly warned against falling away. Even St. Paul didn't assume he was saved. Quite frankly, if St. Paul wouldn't do it, I'm not going to do it.

I could go on with many more examples, but I think you get the picture. The Catholic Church makes it VERY easy to know what it is She teaches. If you want to take issue with anything she actually teaches. I'd be glad to discuss it with you. But please, know what it is you're protesting against. Don't knowingly proffer falsehoods as truth and if I tell you what you say we believe is not accurate, allow me to explain.

By discussing our faith, we can all grow in our faith with God's grace. Isn't that what we all want?
God Bless!!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Lent: It's not just for Catholics anymore!

With Ash Wednesday and Lent in the offing, I had been researching Lenten-related topics and ran across an article from the Associated Baptist Press, Increasingly, Baptists turning to the observance of Lent

The headline caught my eye immediately. I thought, "Wow, really?" Truthfully, I didn't think that any "free-church" congregations where liturgical at all. I knew, of course, that our Orthodox and Anglican/Episcopal brothers and sisters maintained the liturgical aspects of the faith as have the Methodists to an extent, but Baptists? No way!

For Catholics, the spirit of Lent is rooted in Baptism. For in Baptism, we die to sin and rise to new life in Jesus Christ (Romans 6:4). So in preparation for that new life, realized in Christ's death and resurrection, we offer up our own sacrifices to, in a little way, unite ourselves with the sacrifice of the Cross. Traditionally, the penances of Lent are prayer, fasting and almsgiving (all biblical - Matthew 6:1-6,16-18). Each person, together with his/her confessor, must decide what practices will best prepare them for Easter.

To be sure, there is no unanimity of teaching (if any teaching at all) on Lent throughout the various Baptist conventions. But there is no unanimity of teaching on a lot of things within Protestantism in general. I don't mean that as a slight, simply as a statement of fact.

I would say most Baptists out and out reject Lent. As Pastor Jim West said in the article, "...Baptists repentance can't be confined to a mere 40-day period preceded by the most intense gluttony and occupied with the setting aside of trivial pleasantries and followed by a return to the same-old, same-old...". This is really a misrepresentation (or a misunderstanding) of Catholic teaching. Catholics do not limit their repentance to the 40 days of Lent. This type of attitude reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the Liturgical calendar and how it was used in the catechesis of the faithful throughout Church history.

That said, what I see in the Baptists in this article (and others) that are embracing Lenten practices is an innate yearning for a connection to historical Christianity. As a Catholic I long to see what Christ prayed for, "...that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." (John 17:22-23), be realized. I wholeheartedly welcome any of my separated brothers and sisters in Christ to embrace the Lenten ideals and humbly offer up their sacrifices (with Him working for His good pleasure in us), to the greater glory of God. Remember to always keep your focus on Christ and his Good Friday sacrifice. The crucifix is a powerful reminder of the full extent of God's love for us all. God Bless.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Examination of Conscience, Repentance and Forgiveness

Monday night at my 4th Degree Knights of Columbus Assembly meeting, during prayer requests, one of my brother Knights asked that we pray for the happy repose of the soul of Dr. Bernard Nathanson who was laid to rest that day in New York. For the few who may not know, Dr. Nathanson was the co-founder of NARAL and a leading proponent of "Abortion Rights" in the 60s and 70s. After becoming pro-life, he admitted that NARAL had inflated the numbers of  "back-alley abortion deaths" to influence public opinion in favor of making abortion legal. This is an argument still used today by Planned Parenthood. In the end, the death toll was astounding. Nathanson was responsible for over 75,000 deaths; and was personally involved in the killing of at least 5,000 children, including one of his own.

He performed his last abortion in 1979, however, deciding it was not right based on of all The use of ultrasound technology led him to the realization that it was, in fact, a human life he was taking. Amazing, huh? Interestingly, it would be over fifteen years after becoming pro-life before he came to faith. In his much quoted piece, Confession of an Ex-Abortionist, Dr. Nathanson states,

"As a scientist I know, not believe, know that human life begins at conception. Although I am not a formal religionist, I believe with all my heart that there is a divinity of existence which commands us to declare a final and irreversible halt to this infinitely sad and shameful crime against humanity."

Seeking understanding of his life as an abortionist, he began to read the “literature of sin,” he said. After working with a priest in counseling for several years, he was baptized a Catholic in December of 1996.

So what can be learned from the life of Dr. Nathanson?

First, don't ignore the obvious. If God gives you an "ultrasound" pay attention to it. One of the best tools he left us is his film The Silent Scream. I've included it at the bottom of this post (If you get an age appropriate error, open in YouTube and acknowledge that you're 18). Watch it and pay attention to it...

Secondly, nothing is impossible with Grace. Don't believe for a second that the Grace of God was not at work in this man to move him from where he was in his life to where he ended up. Romans 8:28 tells us that, "We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose."  The Lord definitely worked for his good pleasure in this man's life, bringing much good out of a terrible evil.

Lastly, with the advent of Lent (sorry for the liturgical play on words) about a week away, take the time for a thorough examination of conscience and remember...Jesus Christ died for your sins, therefore no sin, except refusing to ask for forgiveness, is unforgivable. This man's life is surely a testament to that.

Please pray for the happy repose of the soul of Dr. Bernard Nathanson and for the souls of the over 46 million children aborted since Roe v. Wade.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Our Civic Responsibility as Christians

Father Frank Pavone is a contributing writer to the Washington Post's On Faith column. This is only a part-time gig for him though. His day job is the national director of Priests for Life, the largest Catholic, pro-life organization in the country, a man truly doing God's work.

In his February 23rd article entitled Walking tightrope of religion and politics, he talks about the proper perspective the discussion of religion should be given in the political debate. For me, the "ah ha" moment in his article is the sentence,

"Religion isn't just private. Beliefs have consequences on public policy, morality, and the safety and rights of citizens."

How many times have you heard someone say, "Religion is a private matter between me and God"? (seems the Governor of New York just used that one recently)  It's a particularly American attitude, isn't it? We are, after all, the ultimate individualists. But is that what we are really called to do as Christians? Are we really supposed to just be sitting at home on the love seat, being satisfied that we supposedly have a "personal relationship" with Jesus? See James 2:14-26. Maybe we've forgotten that we are called to be the salt and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16). Ultimately, it's your responsibility, people, to take a stand for what you believe in, to put your faith into action.

Why don't more people do it? That is an interesting question. The fact is that a lot do! But more need to. To me, the problem is ultimately rooted in the misinterpretation and ridiculous misapplication of the concept of separation of church and state. Do you think the founders envisioned their democracy stripped of any semblance of its Christian roots? Did you ever think that you'd live to hear the President of the United States would say that America is NOT a Christian nation?

How about students being suspended for having a rosary at school? An American university attempting to implement a policy that defined religious discrimination as Christians oppressing non-Christians? In many cases the ludicrous has become the norm. Many Americans have allowed themselves to be sold a bill of goods that to hold a religious conviction and to speak on it publicly (other than in Church) is somehow un-American, is somehow infringing on the rights of other Americans. Seriously?

The bottom line is this, beliefs DO have consequences in society, STAND UP for yours, take action, participate in the process, love your neighbor as yourself and above all, by the Grace of God "...let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven."

Think about what may happen if you don't.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Church Militant

In starting this blog, I'd like to explain its purpose and how its name represents that purpose.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 954 reads as follows:

954 The three states of the Church. "When the Lord comes in glory, and all his angels with him, death will be no more and all things will be subject to him. But at the present time some of his disciples are pilgrims on earth. Others have died and are being purified, while still others are in glory, contemplating 'in full light, God himself triune and one, exactly as he is"':
All of us, however, in varying degrees and in different ways share in the same charity towards God and our neighbors, and we all sing the one hymn of glory to our God. All, indeed, who are of Christ and who have his Spirit form one Church and in Christ cleave together.

In Catholic theology, the Church Universal is traditionally divided into:
the Church Militant (Ecclesia Militans), made up of Christians on earth who are living and who struggle against sin, devil and "..the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Ephesians 6:12).
the Church Triumphant (Ecclesia Triumphans), those who are in Heaven, and
the Church Suffering (Ecclesia Penitens), consisting of those Christians presently in Purgatory**.

**Purgatory is brought up here only to outline the understanding of the Catholic Church (my church) of the Communion of the Saints. It is not meant to be a barrier to my non-Catholic friends as I am endeavoring to be ecumenical in my presentation. That is not to say that you won't see good old fashioned apologetic discussions about the differences in Catholic and Protestant exegesis, you will. But debate is healthy.

These terms explain the three states in which Christians exist within the Communion of the Saints. Although we may be physically separated from each other by the barrier of death, we nonetheless remain united to each other in one Church, through Christ, and support each other in prayer.

Thus the name of the blog. The Body of Christ on Earth is the Ecclesia Militans and we are called to holiness in Him. Our mission here on Earth is summed up nicely by St. Paul in Philippians 2:12-18:

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. 14 Do all things without grumbling or questioning, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 Even if I am to be poured as a libation upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. 

I hope to bring to this blog commentary on news of the day from my perspective in the light of Church teaching; examples of God working in us for His own good pleasure for the betterment of our brothers and sisters; and anything else that happens to pop into my head. :-)

Thank you for your time. Hopefully you'll enjoy it. If you feel it to be edifying, I would appreciate it if you would follow the blog and share it with others. God Bless.

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