Wednesday 29 April 2015

Catholics in today's Non-Judgemental Society

The Non-judgemental society springs from the person-centred psychology of Carl Rogers. Now we all know that Catholics have a problem with this, since there are behaviours of which we cannot approve. Father Dickson mentioned a number of these in his post on “The Culture of Death”. However, for many people, our judgement of acts is interpreted as judgement of persons, which is in fact contrary to Catholic Faith. Our injunction from the Lord is “Do not Judge, lest you be judged” (Matt.7v1-3), so it is beyond the remit of Catholics to judge persons and as such, non-judgementalism is to be a core trait of our character.

That we must not judge persons does not, however, remove from us the duty to judge acts. But as Father Dickson often says, “We must be like a physician who, while not judging the smoker to be a bad person, judges the smoking to be bad for the person and has to call the person out on it”. This is to be truly person-centred; more person-centred in fact, than those who refuse to judge acts as part of the Culture of Death, for those who refuse to judge acts in which the person engages allow the person to be damaged by those acts spiritually (and we should add, physically and socially. For example, homosexual sex practices in males can result in ano-rectal tears; while sexual liberty leads to an increase in STI’s, some of which cause infertility.) The Mayo Clinic, a not-for-profit medical practice and research group, Minnesota, USA, notes that,

“Sexual activity plays a role in spreading many other infectious agents, although it's possible to be infected without sexual contact. Examples include the hepatitis A, B and C viruses, shigella, and Giardia intestinalis.”
(Mayo Clinic, Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 19.08.2014)

It notes too that

The more people you have sexual contact with, the greater your overall exposure risks. This is true for concurrent partners as well as monogamous consecutive relationships.

A difficulty we have as Catholics is getting this message across to those who feel judged by us. It cannot be denied that to have our actions judged makes us feel we are being judged, since the person performs the act. Yet the person is not the act nor even the sum total of their acts. Acts may indicate a disposition within the person, but cannot always be taken to be a concrete expression of the person: how often have we lost our temper without meaning to, or struck out in the heat of the moment?

It remains however, very difficult to have a person distinguish our judgement of their acts from a judgement of them as a person. Taking my lead from Father Dickson as my parish priest for the last ten years I offer the following three strategies for engaging in challenge of what we as Catholics consider damaging behaviours.

  1.  Make “I” statements: “I cannot/couldn’t do that because...”

  1. Always give the reason as to why you “cannot do that”, this simply provides another point of view, and can help the person to make their decision from a wider information-base. If we begin with “You” rather than “I” we begin in an accusatory tone.

  1. Gently and carefully help them to engage in self-challenge. For example, ask them if by engaging in sex before they are married they are not saying they agree with non-marital sex, and how that will play into their marriage? A better example, if a person is talking about the possibility of abortion and speaks of ‘terminating the pregnancy’, always use the word ‘baby’. This allows you to be honest and might help the person to come to a new way of thinking. If s/he asks you why you speak of a baby when s/he is speaking of a pregnancy, you can clarify that since the embryo/foetus has its own DNA from fertilisation, and its own heartbeat from around 20 days post conception, it cannot be anything other than an individual human life.

We must be free to make our contribution to the debates in the public square, but if we can learn to offer them from a position in which persons are respected, we not only show human respect to others but bring truth into the situation.
Post Script on Truth:

A central problem for Catholics today is that we live in a society that has espoused relativism. Rogers’ Person-centred approach was a precursor of moral relativism, which can be summarised in the statement, “What is true for you may not be true for me”. We have to note that those who make such statements are in logical self-contradiction: they are making an absolute statement that an absolute cannot exist, and therefore cancelling their statement out as foundations for life. The moment a person declares that their statement is true, they have admitted to the reality of objective truth, the existence of which they are seeking to deny.

Tuesday 28 April 2015

The Culture of Death: An Introduction Updated

By ‘culture’ we mean the attitudes of a given society as expressed in and fostered by its politics, education, social care, arts, media etc. By ‘death’ in this context we mean anti-life practices. A society that utilises anti-life acts or the actual taking of life is a society which cannot be anything but a society which has espoused the Culture of Death. ‘Life cultures’ seek to help persons; ‘anti-life’ cultures eliminate persons. Whenever we see anti-life practices proposed or enshrined as the answer to life’s problems we know we are living in The Culture of Death, and it is the Culture of Death which is currently pervading Western society.

As Pope St. John Paul II stated: “it is true that we are confronted by an even larger reality, which can be described as a veritable structure of sin. This reality is characterized by the emergence of a culture which denies solidarity and in many cases takes the form of a veritable "culture of death". “While it is true that the taking of life not yet born or in its final stages is sometimes marked by a mistaken sense of altruism and human compassion, it cannot be denied that such a culture of death, taken as a whole, betrays a completely individualistic concept of freedom, which ends up by becoming the freedom of "the strong" against the weak who have no choice but to submit.
 “We have to go to the heart of the tragedy being experienced by modern man: the eclipse of the sense of God and of man...Those who allow themselves to be influenced by this climate easily fall into a sad vicious circle: when the sense of God is lost, there is also a tendency to lose the sense of man, of his dignity and his life; in turn, the systematic violation of the moral law, especially in the serious matter of respect for human life and its dignity, produces a kind of progressive darkening of the capacity to discern God's living and saving presence.
“This situation, with its lights and shadows, ought to make us all fully aware that we are facing an enormous and dramatic clash between good and evil, death and life, the "culture of death" and the "culture of life". We find ourselves not only "faced with" but necessarily "in the midst of" this conflict: we are all involved and we all share in it, with the inescapable responsibility of choosing to be unconditionally pro-life.
“Walk as children of light ... and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness" (Eph 5:8, 10-11). In our present social context, marked by a dramatic struggle between the "culture of life" and the "culture of death", there is need to develop a deep critical sense, capable of discerning true values and authentic needs.” (cf. Evangelium Vitae)

Many fail to see the reality of the Death Culture because we cultivated it piece by piece over several decades. The approval of artificial contraception by the Anglican Communion (the ‘Church of England’) in 1930 was the first erosion of traditional morality in the minds of the populace, and it influenced many to accept the Culture of Death, leaving the Catholic Church the only voice upholding the Culture of Life (though many of her pastors and people also became blind to the Culture of Death; some –Bishops included- even advocate its acceptance as a ‘pastoral practice’).

Today, most people have come to see ‘anti-life’ acts as the answer to human problems, thereby espousing the Culture of Death. How did this happen? There are basically two precursors at the core of the Culture of Death being tolerated and promoted today.

The first precursor to the Culture of Death, which facilitated the blindness in man to the reality of that Culture, is the kind of person-centred psychology promoted by Carl Rogers. Rogers believed that at the core, all people are good, and that helped to find their ‘own solutions’ will always make a morally good choice. His fellow person-centred psychologist Abraham Maslow took Rogers to task for failing to recognise that iniquity also dwells at man’s core; that there is a fundamental flaw at man’s centre from which the individual's malevolent inclinations and actions  arise.

The second precursor to the Culture of Death is the social engineering enacted by protagonists of the death culture. These changed the language we use; softening-down the stark reality of the acts in question: infanticide became ‘abortion’ and ‘termination of pregnancy’; killing the sick became ‘euthanasia’ or ‘mercy-killing’; sodomy/buggery became ‘man-man sex/love’. This language was then promoted through the media (films, TV, magazines etc) until protagonists of the Culture of Death had gained enough credibility and influence to lobby for a change in the law and gain legal accommodation of these anti-life acts and behaviours. Bit by bit people got used to the new ways of speaking and thinking, and changed their behaviours accordingly, coming to live by the Culture of Death rather than the Culture of Life. This process of social engineering was akin to a frog in a pan of cold water brought slowly to the boil: unlike a second frog placed directly into hot water, the first frog does not jump out; it constantly adapts to the change of temperature as the water comes to the boil -which ultimately proves fatal.

Aspects of the Culture of Death which we can criticise for their harm to human persons and society are the following.

Artificial Contraception, since it acts against life, is thus part of the culture of death. Indeed artificial contraception is the foundation stone of the Culture of Death since it allows the act geared toward one unique gaol -the procreation of the species- into an act of mere recreation free from the propagation of life. Bonding of the couple, often used as a reason for non-productive sex, can be achieved in other ways so it is not intrinsically linked to sex, but the propagation of the species is possible only via sex, so claiming sex is necessary for bonding is a false argument. Synthetic hormones in the pill, patch, injection, implant, are all chemical contraception, and are the only drugs prescribed by a doctor to disrupt healthy functioning, which means the woman who uses them is engaging in chemical warfare against her own body.  Barrier methods (condom and cap) spread disease since they do not prevent STD’s which spread by skin contact and not by penetration. Thus, these methods too are part of the Culture of Death. Tubal ties and vasectomy permanently eliminate (kill-off) the life-giving powers of the person and as such they too are part of the Culture of Death. The IUD or Coil, though often called contraception, is in fact an abortion device, preventing implantation of a conceived embryo which passes through the womb and dies in menstruation. As such, the IUD too is part of the culture of death.  

Abortion and euthanasia literally take human life. Any ideology which says we can kill the person to end their suffering would also allow us to kill the poor to alleviate the suffering of poverty. Abortion and euthanasia are therefore intrinsically part of the Culture of Death, annihilating persons rather than the person’s problems.

Serial sex partnerships (sexual liberation) make human persons ‘disposable’ to one another, and increase sexually transmitted disease throughout society, some of these are fatal.. As such, serial sex partnerships too are part of the Culture of Death.

IVF (‘test-tube baby’ techniques) annihilates several embryos in each treatment cycle, killing around eight to ten blossoming human lives to achieve one healthy delivery. As a destroyer of individual human lives. IVF tis part of the Culture of Death.

Embryonic and foetal research all include the destruction of human embryos; of these individual human lives,. Thus,  like IVF, they are part of the Culture of Death. (People may be blind to the fact that IVF and embryonic research are part of the Culture of Death in that the aim is to bring about new and healthy lives, but we cannot engage in the destruction of ten children so that one may live, or engage in human experimentation so that we can eradicate disease. Medical science does not need human experimentation in order to progress. That tactic was used by the Nazi’s and condemned the world over.

Homosexual acts use the life-transmitting act in ways that cannot generate life; ways which, additionally, bring STD’s and physical damage (i.e., ano-rectal tears/trauma), so these too are part of the Culture of Death.

Transgender surgery aims to eliminate (kill-off) one’s birth sex. Indeed, it is a lie tod to society and individuals since we are always our birth sex in our DNA. The most that can be achieved by plastic surgery is a mimicking/impersonation of, the opposite sex. As an eradication of life-giving powers and a mutilation of the body, Transgender surgery is part of the Culture of Death.

Intoxication by drug & alcohol abuse renders one more liable to accident and attack, risking life and limb. As such it too is part of the Culture of Death. One does not ‘get a life’ by endangering one’s life.

Violence which is not undertaken in immediate self-defence is always an attack upon a person’s physical safety and as such, part of the Culture of Death. Sexual violence (rape) is of the same order: it is an attack upon the physical safety of the victim. Such violence has the added evil of being a violation of the victim’s self-experienced integrity as a person.

Where does the Culture of Life differ from the Culture of Death? The Culture of Life requires that we (and the law) recognise the intrinsic equal value of every human life, male or female, young or old, black or white, sick or well, born or unborn, so as to provide help in a person’s social needs and healing in their illness. In the Culture of Life, abortion and IVF are replaced by adoption, which upholds the life of every child and provides parenthood to husbands and wives. In the Culture of Life, stability of family life replaces temporary relationships and the family chaos that ensues with successive living arrangements. In the Culture of Life, friendship replaces aberrant homosexual acts which bring disease. In family planning, artificial contraception is replaced by natural family planning as provided by naprotechnology. Developed by Dr. Thomas W. Hilgers, MD, naprotechnology works with the woman’s body, allowing a couple to space out their children naturally and in many cases, restore health where there is infertility, endometriosis, polycystic ovaries and ovulation failure. Successful pregnancies after successive miscarriages have also been achieved by naprotechnology, even in cases where IVF has failed. It is a natural, healthy process of both contraception and conception. 

Is not the Culture of Life not a healthier culture than the killing of unborn babies and of the sick? A healthier culture than one in which friendship and mutual respect replaces damaging sex acts? A healthier culture than one which spreads disease and abandonment of spouses and children by serial cohabitation and serial sexual experience? A healthier culture than one which encourages self-mutilation? And while we know marriages also break down, this has increased not simply because of easier divorce laws but because we have made persons and relationships disposable by promoting sexual liberty. In that sex is now a recreational experience and can be engaged in with reduced likelihood of pregnancy, infidelity has increased, with all the pain and family break-down that brings.  Logically, there can be nothing ‘healthy’ in a Culture of Death, since health and death are clearly opposites. The Culture of Life is the only one that can produce a healthy, stable society with persons valued at all stages -and in all conditions- of life. All the culture of death offers is the elimination of persons.

Monday 27 April 2015

Vocations Sunday and Fr Lawrence Jones

Yesterday we prayed for vocations to the religious life and priesthood. Monks & nuns lead an enclosed life of prayer for the good of the Church; Sisters & brothers live and work in the world as educators, nurses, social workers etc. Each of these is important: without prayer we cannot draw upon Divine Power; without health, education and social care the Gospel does not impact the world and the common good. But what the Church needs to sustain us all is priests. We do not want to be left without someone to anoint us in sickness; absolve us from sin; to celebrate the Mass and solemnise our marriages. Small wonder that Our Lord lamented over sheep without a shepherd. Without a priest a community is a flock without a shepherd; even a body without a head. We should encourage those who voice an interest in following a vocation to listen to the Lord, and ask those we think might make a good priest to consider asking the Lord about it.

And do pray for the priests you already have. Many are now running two or three parishes, and I can tell you from my own experience of having run two parishes at one time, that each parish thinks you are there full time, and expects from your part-time hours all that they had from a resident, full-time pastor. Add to this the general perception of priests in the mind of the public today following the abuse scandals, and the pressures upon priests are hefty. A great deal of that pressure comes from within: the desire to preach well; to celebrate the sacraments in a worthy and dignified manner; to be a shepherd to the sick and housebound; a guide to the children in school and a support to families and others in crisis. It is a varied and challenging life for which none of us thinks he is fit, but we struggle on doing the best we can and trying to be the kind of priest, the sort of Father, we are called to be. We are not meant to simply but be his envoy, but to make Him present; to personify Him in the world around us. And that is no easy task.

Today in our Diocese we received notice of the death of one of our own priests: Father Lawrence Jones. Father was 53 years old and a priest for 29 years this year. He had a great sense of humour, of fairness, and of dedication to God and the people. He will be sadly missed. If we were having a vocations talk today I would be sharing the following video of Father Lawrence. Enjoy, and offer a prayer for Father and his family, please.

Monday 20 April 2015

Yesterday's Homily...

...pleased some and displeased others. That, I suppose, is par for the course. Here it is.

In today’s Gospel we see Our Lord and the writer of the Gospel going to great lengths to prove the reality of the Lord’s physical resurrection from the dead. Our Lord invites the Apostles to touch Him and even goes so far as to eat before them. It was clearly important to establish the reality of the Resurrection because it is core to forming our courage to leave behind the attractions of this world for the happiness of the world to come.

It amazes me that I hear such things as “We know the ancient N’s did this because of a manuscript found at... and which can be dated to...”. It amazes me because while we have four Gospels and a number of apostolic letters, some of those same people free to question the reliability of the Bible and our Faith. One wonders why, and I can only presume it is because if they accept the Truth of The Faith they will have to give up living by their own rules in order to live according to God’s rules. And today’s world does not like rules; it rejects “external ought’s and should’s”. But the resurrection and the establishing of the Catholic Church by Christ are facts of history that we ignore to our peril.

Note too that in both the first and second reading there is a common theme: sin and its forgiveness. The first reading reminds us we are to repent and turn to God that our sins might be forgiven. Some people want their sins forgiven without their tuning to God, but we cannot receive something from someone to whom we have our back turned; we must turn toward them. Forgiveness requires a turn-around of lifestyle. The second reading reminds us that we can know we are at one with God only by keeping his commandments. So turning toward God and keeping His commandments are needed for the forgiveness of sin; the Divine Mercy cannot be received if we turn our back on God or if we turn to Him without changing our ways.

Now we all sin, and all need forgiveness. Some people do not seek forgiveness because they think their sin is too big, too grievous to be forgiven. That is not the Catholic Faith: the Catholic Faith tells us that no sin is too big or too heinous to be forgiven, for no sin can be bigger than God (who is without end -how can one commit a sin bigger than a mercy which has no end?) So always encourage people who think their sin is too great to consider the infinite nature of God and of His forgiveness.

Other people do not seek forgiveness because they don’t accept that what they are doing is wrong; they simply don’t agree with all that the Church teaches. But then, what are such Catholics saying when they recite the Creed and say “I believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church”? The Church was told by Christ “He who hears you hears Me; he who rejects you rejects Me”, so if we disagree with the Church’s official doctrinal teaching we are disagreeing with God. When we receive converts into the Church they must recite the Creed and add “I believe all that the Holy Catholic Churches teaches and proclaims to be revealed by God”. If they say “I believe in a most of (or a lot of) what the Catholic Church teaches” I’d have to say “Well, we can go no further”. Yet it is common among cradle Catholics to hear that very thing: “I believe most of what the Church teaches, but I disagree with it on contraception, homosexuality, euthanasia (etc)”. In effect, such folk have lost their Catholic Faith because they have lost faith in the Church: if they cannot trust the Church in everything, how can they trust in her in anything –including her teaching on salvation? They may retain belief in a benevolent god, but it is not the God of the Bible or Tradition: not the God of Divine Revelation. 

Today, let us take seriously the reality of our Faith as testified to by the Apostles and handed on to us by the Church; let us turn to God no matter how heinous our sins, and encourage others to do the same. God wants all to turn to Him and be saved, and we should want it to. 

Friday 10 April 2015

Recovery is on the way...

...for my nephew. Yesterday they were able to remove him from the ventilator and are hoping he can be moved from Intensive Care to the High Dependency Unit over the weekend, from where he will go to a General Medical Ward before discharge. Thank you all for the prayers.

Wednesday 8 April 2015

Up-date on Lee's Condition

Very many -and sincere- thanks to you all for praying for my nephew, and his young family. His  infection markers have slowly fallen over the last 24 hours (following the administration of a different set of antibiotics post-blood culture). He is still very poorly but making better respiratory effort now than when admitted (following several chest physio sessions which are removing the accumulated gunge). So while we are not out of the woods, the signs provide hope. Very many and sincere thanks, for the prayers.

Friday 3 April 2015

Thank you for continuing to pray for Lee

Thank you to all who are praying for my nephew Lee, and for his family. I am very, very grateful to you all for your prayers. I will present your needs in the offering of Holy Mass. God bless you for your charity.

Urgent Prayer Request

Prayers please, for my nephew. He contracted sudden and severe community-acquired pneumonia this week, possibly complicated by pleurisy. His name is Lee, and he is married to Lisa, and they have two young children.
Thank you.