The Church and politics

How often have you heard it said, or maybe, you have even said, “The Church has no business in politics!”  I hear it all the time.  Even good Catholic people tell me the Church should not talk about politics.  Just what do they mean by that? Are they saying that the Church has no right to speak about moral issues that come up in the public arena?  Are they saying that we should be silent in the midst of injustice and human rights issues?  Do people really know what they are saying when they say the Church has no place in politics?

Of course the media would like to silence the Church, but this is for monetary and political gain.   The media is no longer a news outlet, but more of a tool to propagate an elite agenda.

Many good people in the pews are beginning to swallow the lie that the Church has no place in politics.  They don’t realize that the media would really like to say: “Keep your morals to yourself”.  “How can the big bad Church, think they have a right to judge people for how they live?
The Church has always been the moral compass for secular society.  The US judicial system is based on the Judeo Christian moral code.  Christianity is a way of life which provides a set of moral principles for one who adheres to it.  However, it does not end there.  True Christianity is not meant to be something one keeps on a shelf and takes it down on Sunday mornings.  Faith must be lived.  Faith is to have a connect to daily life.  One cannot say, “I believe”, they are called to “practice what they preach”.  A person who proclaims one thing and does another is an “empty gong” or a car without gas!

It is so clear in the Letter of St. James 1:23-25: “For if any one is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who observes his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But he who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer that forgets but a doer that acts, he shall be blessed in his doing.”

A faithful Christian is called to embrace the faith in their heart, and also has the responsibility to effect change in the world in which he or she lives.  For the past 2000 years, the Church has championed the rights and dignity of the human person.

From paternal authority and marriage, wills and testaments, property rights and contracts, prescriptions and legal procedure, the Church has been at the side of those without a voice.  If one looks carefully enough, much of our legislation was supported with Sacred Scripture.  In the 20th century the role of Church’s influence in society has come to be disdained. Yet, She will not be silent in the face of injustice and sin.

St. Francis Xavier’s scolded the King of Portugal over his support of the slave trade: “You have no right to spread the Catholic faith while you take away all the country’s riches. It upsets me to know that at the hour of your death you may be ordered out of paradise.”  Bishops and priests may not use the same words as Francis Xavier, “yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world”.

Today as always, the Church has a role in the public square.  Men and women have given their lives for these truths in the past and will continue to in the future.  The Church will never be silent, She has the privilege and the obligation to proclaim the Truth “in season and out of season”.<

What Makes a Church?

I was struck by the headlines: “Church sermons include time, place for congregants to get tattoos“.  There is “The Church of Euthanasia”, “The Church of Body Modification”, “The Church of Light”, “Church of Seven Planes”.  Then, there is the “1st Church of Christ” and down the street are the “2nd Church of Christ” and another few doors down, “The True Church of Christ”.

Isn’t it crazy!  It is estimated that there are over 335,000 churches in the United States alone and 67,000 Christian denominations in the world.   That is a lot to choose from.  From all of those “churches”, there has to be one Church that is the “Church” of churches, the One True Church.  To begin with, we have to narrow the topic a bit.  For those of us who believe in Christ all admit that Jesus Christ is “the only way to the Father”.

So back to my question – What makes a Church?  Can I go rent a store front on main street and start my own church?  And if I do, will it be a real church?  If I do everything according to state and federal regulations it will be a church.  But, will it really be a church?

William Cardina Levada, Prefect for the Congregation For the Doctrine of The Faith addressed this very question on June 29, 2007 in  a document entitled “Responses To Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of The Doctrine On The Church“.  The document doesn’t question what people of other faith backgrounds believe about their congregations, and it is not an attack on other faith bodies, but this document is to clarify what we as Catholics believe about The Church.

Since the Second Vatican Council, some people, even those within the Catholic Church have posed the question of what the Church is and if the Council Fathers took a new road, leaving behind what we previously believed about the Church.  In fact, Vatican II did not change, not did it intend to change the doctrine of the Church.  The intent of Vatican II was to “develop, deepen and explain” it more fully.  What we have is what we will always have.  We might come to a deeper understanding, but it will never change.  My prime example of change and Church doctrine is always the tomato.  A tomato is a tomato, no matter how you slice it.  The tomato on the vine is beautiful, it has a rich color and might even give off a rich fragrance.  The next step is picking it off the vine. Once we touch and maybe even give the tomato a gentle squeeze, we have an even deeper understanding of it. Next we cut it in half.  Now the aroma becomes much stronger and juices flow out from it.  The moment has come to bite into the tomato, are you drooling yet, and taste it.  Finally, you chew and swallow it and savor the taste.  That is how doctrine works.  The tomato that was on the vine and the tomato that I ate is the same tomato.  The only difference is that I have a much deeper understanding of the tomato than a person who never picked or at one.

As Catholics, we believe that Our Lord Jesus Christ only established and instituted one one Church on earth and we believe that Church to “subsist” in the Church which is “governed by the successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him.”  During Vatican II, the Church Fathers choose to use the term “Church” when relating to “the oriental Churches separated from full communion with the Catholic Church”.  We do this because they, like us “have true sacraments and above all – because of the apostolic succession – the priesthood and the Eucharist, by means of which they remain linked to us by very close bonds”.  We call them “sister Churches”.

At the same time, we do not use the same title of “Church” for  “those Christian Communities born out of the Reformation of the sixteenth century .”  “According to Catholic doctrine, these Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church.”  This can be seen most clearly in the recent decision of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI in his invitation to those Anglicans that wish to enter full communion with the Catholic Church as a body.  All of their priests and bishops who would like to continue ministry as priests would need to be re-ordained.

So, to conclude, speaking in theological terms as the Church, we only recognize as a “Church” those Christian bodies that have Apostolic Succession and therefore valid sacraments.  All other Christian Communities are our brothers and sisters and we respect and love them for the good works that the Lord does through them and long for the day when all who believe in Christ will be one body, united around the successor of St. Peter who is the visible source of unity for Christ’s Church.

Muddying the Waters

In the past few weeks, Bishop Thomas Tobin has been in the news a number of times. Patrick Kennedy a “Catholic” who resides in the State of Rhode Island and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence,  attacked the Bishops of the Catholic Church for opposing any health care reform that would involve public funding for abortion.  Kennedy had the gaul to suggest the Catholic Church was fanning the “flames of dissent and discord”.  With Kennedy’s serious and offensive remarks, Bishop Tobin had no choice but to respond.  The Bishop invited Patrick to meet in privacy to discuss the issue at hand and Kennedy declined.  Since then, Kennedy also made public a letter he received from the Bishop in 2007 requesting that he refrain from receiving Holy Communion.  Kennedy even went so far as to lie about the Bishop notifying his priests to refuse to give him Communion.  I personally never received any such memorandum, and the Bishop stated that he never sent one.

In the midst of this, the media has given their usual spin.  On November 10th, Providence Journal article “Bishop again attacks Kennedy over abortion stand in health-care reform”.  Again on November 24th, Projo reported “R.I. Bishop Tobin has testy exchange with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews”.  Who was the one that actually attacked who?

Last night, Matthews kept turning the issue to how the bishop would punish women who have an abortion.  In reality, this was not the issue at all.  The issue Matthews will not face is that the Bishops, and most Americans do not want to support abortion with our money.  WE DON’T WANT TAX FUNDED ABORTION!

This evening Bishop Tobin was interviewed by Bill O’Reilly.  O’Reilly was much fairer in his treatment of the bishop, allowed him to speak and give his response, unlike the rude and hostile treatment of Matthews.

Again, the issue for the Catholic Church is plain and simple.  We are against the killing of innocent human life in all instances and we do not want to pay for it!  I wonder if our Catholic politicians who are against abortion, but don’t want to force their opinions on others would allow someone to own slaves!  It’s called intellectual dishonesty.

Let’s not muddy the waters!

Wanna Change the World?

From the time I was a seminarian, to now, I can remember new programs and movements coming in and out of parishes in the hope of some kind of renewal.  You can probably list a number of them yourself.  Some of them were/ are good and some of them were/ are bad, but all them have failed.

It seems that most programs and movements only give a temporary fix.  Our churches fill up for a time and then empty again.  Those of us who were involved in the Charismatic Renewal can remember the days when prayer groups had 400 people every week. The meetings would last for a few hours and some people would remain all night long if you let them.  Those days have passed, and the few prayer groups that remain have dwindled to just a few people.  Today’s prayer groups are considered a large if they have 15 to 20 people.

just read about National Youth Conference in Kansas City.  The article highlighted the Eucharistic Procession through the street of Kansas City with 22,000 high school students.  The sight of all of those young people processing through the streets with Jesus Christ is beyond words.  I don know one thing, it was an very powerful witness to anyone who saw it.  This is is how we will change ourselves, our Church and our world.  Programs and movements come and go, but Jesus is Eternal.

The only answer to true and lasting renewal is Eucharistic Adoration.  Pope Benedict XVI, speaking of St. Maximus the Confessor in one of his general audiences, stated that “adoration is the beginning of the true transformation, (and) the true renewal, of the world”.  We might ask ourselves why.  Why do not all these programs and movements last?  Some of these movements had hundreds of thousands of adherents, yet today, they are like a western ghost town.

The answer is pretty simple.  We loose our focus.  I believe that many of these programs, that were good in the beginning and had great intentions, became centered on man and Jesus Christ was put on the side lines.  It became about the leader, the gifts, who is in control, and what can “we do”.

With Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, that can’t happen.  Jesus is front and center, Jesus is in control, Jesus is gift and our attention is focused on Him alone.  John Lennon’s song Imagine speaks of how it would be in this world if we lived the Communist philosophy.  There is no God, no heaven or hell, just the hear and now and if we all just gave everyone a big hug, all the world’s problems would be solved.  Personally, I would not want to imagine that there is no heaven, no hell, no religion – no God, and that means no eternity, when we die, we are gone forever.  But here this is how I would write the song if it were my place.

Imagine every Catholic
In cities big and small
Come to worship Jesus
The Lord and God of all
Imagine all God’s people
Worshiping The Lord.

Imagine God’s great power
The Blessed Sacrament
Power to transform us
And transform the world too
Imagine all God’s people
Living just for Him.

You may say that I’m a dreamer
There are many just like me
I hope that someday we’ll see it
Become reality

Gazuntite!

Etiquette is a code of polite behavior in society or among a specific group of people.  For example, it is not polite to burp at table or talk with one’s mouth full.  How embarrassing it is when inadvertently do something in public that we know to be against good etiquette.

There is also a code of etiquette that is often overlooked or neglected.  It is not so much wishing someone a blessing when they sneeze, but sneezing in a proper manner!

When was the last time you were in a crowd and someone sneezed?  Maybe you felt the spray of a sneeze or cough.  Just as disgusting is when someone sneezes or coughs in their hand and offers you the sign of peace or handshake.  There is a way to sneeze/ cough and there is a way NOT to sneeze/ cough.

The following video shows the importance of proper sneeze/ cough etiquette and the second one shows you how to do it properly!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e2QAGVMlns4

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MfNGq96-ruE