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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Pope Francis’ Great Cri de Coeur for the Suffering of the Children

by Phoebe Wise

The Passion of the Children

Passion of the children…  Say what?  Like what does that mean, dude? I don’t wanna to be, like, judgmental, but it sounds kinda kinky.”

Author Phoebe Wise 
Pope Francis talked about it last week.

Oh, you mean like those pedophile priests, right?  That sucks, man.  Those guys should just die in a fire.”

Well, yeah, that’s part of it, but he was really talking about all the terrible things that adults do to children. 

At his regular Wednesday audience, April 8, 2015, Pope Francis coined a phrase, “the passion of the children.”  Don’t think  “passion” as in romance.   Think “passion” as in suffering -- as in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.

“Every child who is marginalized, abandoned,
Pope Francis and the children he loves 
 who lives on the street begging with every kind of trick, without schooling, without medical care, is a cry that rises up to God and denounces the system that we adults have set in place,” the pope told members of his audience.

The phrase,  “Passion of the children,” deserves to rank with some of the better-known coinings of Francis’ predecessors. I’m thinking of Pope Saint John Paul II’s “the culture of death” and Pope Benedict’s “the dictatorship of relativism.”   

There is enough suffering to go around for everyone in today’s world, but Pope Francis has a particular heart for the suffering endured by children.   He chose to devote his Easter week address, when presumably more people will be paying attention to what he has to say, to raise a great cri de coeur for their 
Is this the face of the
world's children?
“passion.”  When he looks at children today, he sees Christ scorned and abandoned, Christ tortured and crucified. 

The “passion of the children” is not just metaphor.  Children have been literally crucified by members of ISIS; bombed and torn limb from limb by warring adults.  Who can forget Martin Richard, the 7-year-old victim of the Boston Marathon bombing?

Francis went on to speak of all the ways that adults mistreat children, condemning those who neglect and abandon them, and the criminals who “exploit them for shameful trafficking or commerce, or train them for war and violence.”

But in no way should their suffering justify their murder: “There are those who dare to say ... that it was a mistake to bring these children into the world. This is shameful! Let’s not unload our faults onto the children! Children are never a “mistake.” Their hunger is not a mistake, nor is their poverty, their vulnerability, their abandonment — so many children abandoned on the streets — and neither is their ignorance or their helplessness.”

Few people, we hope, would argue with his condemnation of those things.  But he goes on to talk about the suffering of children in so-called rich countries, who are living in the ruins of a culture degraded by the sexual revolution. 

Here is what he said:  “Children also pay the price for immature unions and irresponsible separations:  they are the first victims; they suffer the outcome of a culture of exaggerated individual rights, and then the children become more precocious.”

This translation is from the official Vatican website  vatican.va.  I think a better translation of the Italian would be, “and then the children become prematurely precocious.”  What Francis is saying is that because of irresponsible adults, the children grow up too quickly and are robbed of their childhood.

He goes on:  “They often absorb the violence they are not able to ‘ward off’ and before the very eyes of adults are forced to grow accustomed to degradation.”

Now “degradation” is a strong word, but it is probably not strong enough for what children are forced to endure in the “culture of exaggerated individual rights.”  This phrase of Pope Francis also deserves to be noted and quoted, but have you seen it repeated in any news source?

No, what gets quoted is his “who am I to judge?” quoted out-of-context and held up as an endorsement of homosexuality.  I guess no one wants to talk about how the “culture of exaggerated individual rights” has brought about the “passion of the children.” 

Pope Francis has spoken out against abortion, the tyranny of gender theory, homosexual marriage, selfish people who prefer pets to children, and the use of the “products of abortion” in the cosmetics industry. 

But what do we see in the popular press? 
 Francis X Rocca,
writer for the Wall Street Journal,
is not listening. 
Look at a recent article about Francis in The Wall Street Journal, April 4, entitled “The New Rome.”  Its subheading claims, “From poverty and sexual ethics to church governance, he has set a course to modernize Catholic tradition and teachings.” The author, Francis X. Rocca, says that, “The pope’s relative silence on certain widely contested moral teachings [abortion, gay marriage, contraception] has left some worried that these questions are now of secondary importance.”

Relative silence?  The Pope is speaking.  Who is not listening?  Francis X Rocca for one.  In addition to the Wall Street Journal, Rocca writes for the Catholic News Service, The National Catholic Reporter, and America—all outlets with a “progressive” or liberal outlook on things Catholic. 

Liberal writers are masters of spin and half-truths.  They know how to exaggerate and quote out-of-context.  But with Francis, what they know how to do best is to ignore.  If he says something that does not agree with the progressive image that they are trying to build up for him in the minds of their public, they simply ignore it.  Don’t repeat it.  Don’t write about it.

That’s why the only way to know what Francis is really saying is to go to the official vatican.va website.  You can still find his words faithfully documented there.  For now.  Until they get hacked.

But if you have read this, you know about the passion of the children.  Let us all carve that phrase on the palms of our hands.

Phoebe Wise has a master's degree in Medieval Languages from Harvard University. She has also written Raspberry Crazy Ants and The Synod on The Family.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Atheism Diagnosed (and Dissected)

By Christopher Ziegler

"Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened." —Winston Churchill

Imagine a school playground during recess.
Christopher Ziegler can be
found on Twitter @CZWriting
Happy young children are dashing about, playing hopscotch, jump rope, and kickball. One young boy, let’s call him Sebastian, is running along when suddenly…WHAM!…He does a face plant onto the blacktop. Stunned, he looks up and sees the leg of another boy, let’s call him Dale, stretched out by his feet. “You did that on purpose!” Sebastian yells. To which Dale calmly replies, “No. It was an accident.”

What does Sebastian mean when he accuses Dale of tripping him on purpose? He means that Dale intended the fall to happen. That is, he intentionally positioned his leg at that spot at that moment so as to bring about the result of Sebastian doing a face plant onto the pavement. 

What does Dale mean when he insists that it was an accident? He means that he did not intend the fall to happen. That is, he just happened to stick his leg out at the moment Sebastian happened to be running by.  

When we say that something happened on purpose we mean it was intended to happen. When we say that something happened by accident we mean that there was no intention. It just happened.

What occurs next is intriguing. Sebastian, having heard Dale’s excuse, picks himself up, dusts himself off, and hurries along in the direction he was originally headed as if nothing had occurred. Why does he do this? He does this because it is preferable for Sebastian to tell himself that his fall happened by accident than to accept that it happened on purpose. 

Just consider what horrible things will happen to Sebastian if he accepts that Dale tripped him intentionally. Immediately, a train of unsettling thoughts enters his brain. “Why would Dale do such a thing? Does this mean Dale doesn’t like me? Do the other kids not like me, too? Is it because of my glasses? Why does mom make me wear these stupid glasses? Does mom want the other kids to not like me?”

In short, accepting that Dale tripped him on purpose will force Sebastian to reckon with the meaning of Dale’s intentions. He will have to wrestle with another being who has a will contrary to his own. And that can be very messy business. It inevitably produces a series of “why?” questions which are difficult to answer and which tend to prompt a nauseating level of self-examination.

But now watch what happens if Sebastian chooses to believe that it was all an accident: POOF! All those nagging questions go away. There is no need for him to ponder the unsettling question of why Dale doesn’t like him, because there is no reason to conclude that Dale doesn’t like him. If it was an accident, then there is no intention that needs to be reckoned with.

Here is something I’ve learned in life: adults are really just grown-up children. There’s a little Sebastian in all of us. We do, sometimes, become more educated—this is true. But education too often expands our knack for artifice while leaving our capacity for honesty unchanged. And never is artifice more useful than in the field of calculated self-deception. 

We sometimes have strong psychological motives for believing an event happened by accident rather than on purpose. Intentional events force us to ponder the will of others. Accidental events, by comparison, are much cleaner affairs, because there is no will behind them that we need to accept or ponder. Accidents are easily understood, because there’s nothing about them that needs to be understood.

Consider the recent plane crash in Europe. At first we heard that a plane had crashed and everyone had perished. That was sad. Then a few days later we heard that the co-pilot had intentionally crashed the plane. This was horrific. Knowledge that the event was intentional made it more, not less, tragic. 

Why? Because machinery and gears we can understand. The will we cannot. Wills are inscrutable; accidents, dismissible. Discerning another person’s intentions provokes the dreaded “why?” question. It is a question for which there is no satisfactory answer.

I think this fact of human psychology—the appeal of accidental causation—explains a well-known phenomenon of the adult human. I call this phenomenon atheism. Atheism is the belief that the universe is an accident. The stars are an accident. The earth is an
Accidentally existing Kanye West,
wife Kim Kardashian and daughter North
accident. Life is an accident. Women are beautiful by accident. The moral law exists by accident. Black Rapper Kanye West exists by accident!

I don’t believe this because I don’t have enough faith. Not even a Dixie-Cup has been made by accident. In the case of the universe it would seem that, at the very least, a consultant must have been brought in. It takes mighty faith to believe that nothing accidentally turned itself into everything. If you can believe that then you can believe literally anything.

By parity of reason you must also believe that Mount Rushmore was carved out by wind and erosion, because that’s far more probable than the universe happening by accident. You must also be open to the possibility that the words on this page assembled themselves through random quantum fluctuations, because that, too, is far more probable than the universe happening by accident. I simply lack the imaginative power. Oh me of little faith.

But I envy this faith! I sympathize with it completely! Blessed is this faith! Because the plane crash we’re talking about now, is the plane crash of our existence. 

A Germanwings plane crashed in the French Alps
Tuesday, March 24, killing 150 people
Please do not object: but surely our existence is not at all like a plane crash! Oh, but it is! Our existence is so much worse than any plane crash! Anyone who doesn’t see this, just hasn’t spent long thinking about the matter. 

You see, if our existence is not an accident, then our existence is an insult. It’s an insult because we’ve been given no choice. It’s an insult because it means there’s a will greater than my own. It’s an insult because it means I don’t really own my own life, even though I must bear the consequences of living my life. And worst of all, at any moment something really awful might happen to me—a plane crash, for instance.

Imagine climbing down the chimney of a random home and trying to get along as best you can with the people you find inside. That’s what it’s like to be born. It’s undignified. We come into this world through the most humiliating circumstances. And the humiliations don’t end there, they pile up year after year. But as it was with little Sebastian, so it is with us. We’re the recipients of the ultimate insult. This plane has been crashed intentionally, and we’re left here to paw through the wreckage, looking for answers. Why, why?

And so the god of accidental causation arrives on the scene. He is a kind and decent god. “I am so sorry about all this,” he says. “None of it was meant to happen. Although I cannot reimburse you, I assure you your anger is justified.” The god of accidental causation has a theology which seems to provide the best way to move on with the wreck of our lives. It does not ask us to ponder menacing questions. It makes very few demands on our time. And the only sacrifice it requires is the occasional declaration of our cosmic insignificance.

I believe in religious tolerance. That is why when I see a man expounding with conviction the notion that he is a soulless speck, living on an unremarkable rock in a vast, indifferent cosmos, I do not interrupt him. I know he is praying to his god.

If things don’t happen for a reason, then there is no reason to think too much about them. If my life is an accident, then there is no need for any sustained period of self-examination. This frees me from the nausea of worrying about my purpose. If I have no purpose, no one can ever say I’ve failed in life. I’ve succeeded just by showing up. The exclusion of purpose from my worldview is empowering because it eliminates the need to consult a will that might contradict my own. 

But if life is not purposeless, if life has a goal and intended destination, if something is required of me and my life, then that means there is an objective standard against which my life, and my purpose, can be measured. The anxiety that I may be found wanting fills me with dread. And so I flee into the loving arms of the god of accidental causation.

There’s just one drawback to the god of accidental causation: mostly, that he does not exist. He is a necessary falsehood. The universe is not just one of those things. The universe is a really, really weird thing. As the Noble Prize winning astro-physicist Sir Fred Hoyle said, the universe looks like a put-up job. It’s actually quite frightening. The universe has all the hallmarks of being the work of an eccentric artistic genius, or perhaps a mad scientist. There are no ordinary things. There are only extraordinary things. 

If we could not doubt God’s existence, if God was just always assumed and we had no choice in the matter, then all of creation would just be assumed as well. If our minds were made in such a way that we could not conceive of any possibility beyond our known reality, then we would be stuck thinking that our known reality is the only possibility. This is why God gave us the capacity to doubt his existence, because only in this way could we really appreciate how crazy, how marvelous, and how unlikely the whole shebang really is. And that’s how crazy God is!

Not only is life not an accident, it is so soaked with purpose it is embarrassing. Everything that’s ever happened to you has had meaning. Every person you have ever met has been for a reason. It is downright scandalous how important you are. You know what’s even worse? Everything you do matters. It matters a lot. This is not a good thing. It puts an almost unbearable burden on the decision making process. Hence we have a deep need to become desensitized to our reality. The only way to carry on with any sense of respectability in the world is to forget these facts.

As my old companion G.K. Chesterton once wrote: “We are all under the same mental calamity. We have all forgotten what we really are. All that we call common sense and
English Writer G.K.Chesterton
rationality and practicality and positivism only 
means that for certain dead levels of our lives we forget that we have forgotten. All that we call spirit and art and ecstasy only means that for one awful instant we remember that we forget.”

The more one is committed to the atheist position, the less of an appetite one has for wisdom. These men become allergic to truth and terrified of poetry. They cannot stand metaphysics. Their only refuge is in dogmatic assertions about the ignorance of belief. This is because the atheist must convince himself that the believer is deceived. For if the believer is not deceived, then the authority of God is real. Hence, a great deal of effort is exerted by the atheist in convincing himself that he is a clever chap. He bowdlerizes reason to mean nothing more than the ability to spy the accidental cause in any matter in question. Reason thus degraded, he exalts it and claims exclusive ownership.

In following this course, the atheist is only fooling himself. We want atheism to be true because atheism gives us license to do what we want to do. Acknowledging God’s authority takes away that license. And when it comes to God, acknowledging his existence and acknowledging his absolute authority are one and the same. Hence his existence must be denied by any conceivable stratagem. 

Men are not inclined to do good. We’re inclined to do what we want. This is the essence of sin: doing what we want. Hence the accidental cause is appealing to us because it lets us off the hook completely. It eases conscience and relaxes consciousness. But it never completely relaxes. The atheist must still maintain his denial of the obvious intentionality of the universe, he must “keep it up,” so to speak. This prodigious effort produces that level of haughtiness which so often characterizes atheists.

Richard Dawkins is an especially rich example of this. Atheist literature abounds in supercilious assertions, but Dawkins’, who wrote a book called The God Delusion, has set an unusually high bar for chutzpah. 
Atheist Richard Dawkins 
“Religion’s power to console,” he once wrote, “doesn’t make it true.” In this Dawkins is correct. But notice how he neglects the logical corollary: that if religion is true, it does not matter if it has the power to console. Dawkins does not believe religion is true, and he makes it abundantly clear that he finds it discomforting. But he fails to notice that he finds it untrue because he finds it discomforting. 

There is nothing inherently comforting about the ideas of Christianity. On the contrary, there is much that an outside observer could justifiably find discomforting. People don’t flee Christianity like a pestilence because they possess some natural immunity to its alleged comforts. People stay away from Christianity because they perceive (correctly) that adherence to its ethics would spell nothing but trouble for their personal lives. In the battle of which belief system is best suited to man’s preferences, atheism wins hands down. Christianity is a belief system curiously designed to make it harder to do the things you want to do and easier to do the things you don’t want to do. The reality of this effect is not in question. People’s response to this effect is the ever-abiding question.

“Being a Christian isn’t for sissies,” Johnny Cash once said. “It takes a real man to live for God—a lot more man than to live for the
Country Music Icon
Johnny Cash
devil.” Christianity does not give you what you want. If it consoles at all, it does so in spite of this fact. Several times in the Gospel, Jesus warns us that if we believe in Him we will be made to suffer for it. He says we should expect betrayal by friends and family, and possibly persecution by society-at-large. These are not the words of a born salesman. These are not the terms and conditions people are generally inclined to accept. 

At another point Jesus advises a rich man that if he wants to follow Him he must go and give everything he has to the poor. The Gospel then says that the rich man walked
away very sad. Who wouldn’t be? Does anyone else find this comforting? Because I sure as heck don’t! It gets worse. At one point Jesus actually says that if we look at a woman with lust we’re automatically guilty of adultery. Again—not comfortable! Not comfortable at all!

If I was only in search of some vague metaphysical comfort, I wouldn’t pick Christianity to be my belief system. I would much rather be praying with chakras or dream crystals or some other nonsense. Christianity, out of all belief systems, gives the most uncompromising articulation of the moral law.

This is not comfortable. It’s not why I believe it. I believe it because it is true. The truth will, in fact, set you free, but freedom is no

The Truth Shall Set You Free
guarantee of comfort. In practice, it more closely resembles a quote by the Catholic writer Flannery O’Conner: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd.” People seem to have a mixed up notion that being Christian is about being a good person. Actually, being Christian means realizing how impossible it is to be a good person. 

I have always thirsted after truth. After many years on that quest, I, like so many before me, have finally discovered the source. It is Christ.

I know that Christ is the Truth because I am being honest with myself about what truth is, and nothing besides. If I am mistaken, then that simply means that there is no such thing as truth. In that scenario, the Gospel would still be the best candidate on the ballot to fill the office of truth.

In other words, even if the Gospel were proven to be made up, then we would still have to worship whoever made it up. The reason men refuse to believe it is because they prefer death and darkness. We can’t hack it. 

For as it is written: “Everyone who does evil things hates the Light and does not come toward the Light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the Light, so that his works may be clearly seen." (John 3:20-21)

"For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37)
Mr. Ziegler walking
Into the Woods 

This piece has developed a fascinating discussion in the comment section. If you don't see comments at the end look at the tiny words "X comments" at the bottom of the post. Right now it says "8 comments." Click on that and the comments will appear. Mr Ziegler has expounded further in answer to atheist objections. Thank you to everyone. We are always grateful for comments for or against anything we publish. 

Did you enjoy this piece? There's more by Christopher Ziegler The Battle for the Identity of Man: A House Divided

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Resurrection Is The Foundation of Christianity

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea
Easter Sunday, April 5, 2015
Saints Peter and Paul Parish, Tucson, AZ

Happy Easter! Alleluia! Christ is risen! 

My brothers and sisters, today we celebrate the greatest miracle in human history, the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. It is in fact the resurrection of Our Lord that is the foundation of Christianity! 

Everything we believe and all that is sacred stands on the fact that Christ has resurrected from the dead! Today’s celebration reminds us that the resurrection is not something to be seen with ordinary eyes, but with the eyes of faith through the words of the witnesses of we hear in the Scriptures. 

Yet, our belief in the resurrection of Our Lord does not come simply from the writings of the early disciples. It comes from the radical changes we see in their lives! 

Early Christians gave up  everything -- their lives, their goods, position and sometimes their family in order to live  as Christians. 

These individuals suffered the most horrendous deaths as a result of their faith. They suffered crucifixions, stoning, beatings, burning at the stake, and were fed to the lions. 

Today’s celebration of Our Lord’s resurrection is both glorious and challenging. Through the resurrection we are given new life! But in order to live this new life we need to radically change our lives! 

In today’s second reading (Col. 3:1-4), Saint Paul says, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.”

So, the resurrection of our Lord calls us to focus our hearts not on the things of the world but Something Greater than what is on earth! 

The resurrection teaches us we are to become children of God, destined to appear with Our Lord at the final resurrection.

The resurrection teaches us that even in this life, when we live for God, our body becomes a temple of light. But, when we live in sin, our body becomes a vehicle of darkness.

We can see this darkness in the lives of many in our society today! Those who live solely for the world, suffer the pains of the world. Drug addicts… those who use their body for immorality...those who lie, cheat, or steal are not happy. They live miserably! 

In fact, whenever any one of us lives more for the world than for God, then we become despondent as well.

But Our Lord has come  to call us out of the world because in its present form, it is passing away. Our Lord calls us to live for Him alone, to seek what is above. Our Lord asks us to pray, to live chaste lives, to know and live the truth by learning Scripture and the teachings of His Church. He wants us to teach our children about the commandments and the teachings of our Church. He wants us to love Him and our neighbor with a true and honest heart, to strive to be holy! This is how to become a resurrected people!

Fr John Paul Shea
Our Lord Jesus Christ has risen from the dead! He died and rose so that we can share in His resurrection. But if we want to share in our Lord’s resurrection, we must live holy lives now.

So let us seek conversion of heart and purity of mind and body so that we can become the resurrected persons our Lord has died for. And let us praise the glorious resurrection of our Lord! Let us give glory to His name! For Christ has risen! Alleluia!

Enjoy this sermon? There's more by Fr. John Paul Shea. Try "Who is Fr. John Paul Shea? From Mormon to Catholic Priest."