26th Sunday of Ordinary Time

“I came into the world. Free by nature, in the image of God, I was nevertheless the prisoner of my own violence and my own selfishness, in the image of the world into which I was born. That world was the picture of Hell, full of men like myself, loving God, and yet hating him; born to love him, living instead in fear of hopeless self-contradictory hungers”.

These words, from Father Thomas Merton’s autobiography, “The Seven Story Mountain” were quoted by the Holy Father in his address to Congress on Friday. If you’ve been paying attention for the last few years, you know that I’m a great fan of Father Merton. In fact, I’ll be going on retreat to Gesthemane Abbey, Merton’s home, in a couple of weeks. Naturally, I was pleased to hear Francis choose him as one of four Americans, along with Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, and Dorothy Day, to cite in his talk.

I know you’ve been following the Pope’s visit to the United States, along with millions of other Americans, Catholic and non-Catholic alike. Wherever the Pope goes, especially this Pope, there’s a tremendous interest in what he has to say.

Thursday night I was talking to my brother-in-law and we were discussing what a huge impact this man has on everyone, regardless of their faith. I suppose it’s because he’s not just OUR Pope, he’s THE Pope. No other faith tradition has a single leader like we do. Even non-Catholics recognize the man’s holiness and his authority to speak on matters of faith and morals.

In his talk to Congress, he hit on just about all the hot-button issues of our day. Naturally liberals disagree with him on many issues and think he’s too conservative. On the other hand, conservatives find him too liberal. But, both sides of the aisle applauded his comments, sometimes reluctantly. But, they all recognize his authority and his spirituality.

We live in a divided nation and a divided world. Yet no one can dispute this man’s leadership. Like most of his predecessors he’s not afraid to tackle the tough issues, and that’s what he does and has been doing in his visit to our country.

Obviously many people in Jesus’ day violently opposed things that the Lord said. Some were so opposed that they had Him tortured and killed. Many of His teachings went against the leaders of the day, and they still rub many of our current leaders the wrong way as well. But they all listened!

One reason that so many opposed Jesus is that His teachings threatened their power and authority. But that didn’t stop Him from speaking the truth.

Merton said that he was born into a world that was “the picture of Hell, full of men like myself, loving God, and yet hating him; born to love him, living instead in fear of hopeless self-contradictory hungers”. Today’s world is no different from Merton’s; in fact it’s worse. Those “self-contradictory hungers” are running rampant. We’re still born to love God, but our hunger for self-gratification often blinds us to the truth.

Great Americans, like Lincoln, King, Day, and Merton suffered for their beliefs. Lincoln and King were assassinated. Day was scorned by many. And Merton, who deserves to be declared a saint, hasn’t been and possibly never will be because his views were often unpopular.

So, what’s all this mean to us? It means that we must all stand up for the truth, even if it makes us unpopular and uncomfortable. It’s ironic that our Catholic faith disturbs people on both sides of the political spectrum. I think most people agree that we should respect life. But we often disagree when it comes to particular lives. The same people who argue that abortion is wrong have no problem with capital punishment. Jesus taught murder is always wrong. “Thou shalt not kill” is one of the Ten Commandments. It doesn’t say “except when the new life is inconvenient” or “except when someone has committed a terrible crime.” We don’t get to make that choice. Yet people of faith will argue forcefully on both sides of this argument. How ironic is it that our local daily newspaper is so accepting of the killing of an innocent child but is diametrically opposed to capital punishment?

Even as the Holy Father was speaking to Congress, they were in the process of killing legislation that would have taken our tax dollars away from Planned Parenthood. Their desire to gain political points is more important to them than doing what is right. It’s one of those “hopeless self-contradictory hungers” Merton spoke of.

The Pope spoke about the importance of the family, yet same-sex marriage is now the law of the land. But even he must wrestle with contradiction. His past words show that he’s no fan of capitalism, yet he recognizes that the great wealth of the United States is important in so many ways.

He ended his message by saying, “In these remarks I have sought to present some of the richness of your cultural heritage, of the spirit of the American people. It is my desire that this spirit continue to develop and grow, so that as many young people as possible can inherit and dwell in a land which has inspired so many people to dream.

God bless America!

 

And God bless Pope Francis for telling it like it is.

I do want to take just a minute to mention that next weekend there will be a second collection for the formation of Permanent Deacons.

It’s no secret that the Church is suffering from a vocation crisis. We desperately need more priests to serve the people of God. Here at Saint John Nepomuk we are more aware than most that the Church is looking to ease the shortage by using deacons and lay people to do the things that priests have always done in the past.

Right now the Archdiocese is taking a hard look at every parish to find better ways to use our limited resources, both physical and human. We’re going to see more cases where parishes are administered by non-priests, freeing priests up to do the things that only they can do. But we need more deacons almost as desperately as we need more priests. The formation of deacons is a long and expensive process and the men in training for the diaconate pay many of their own expenses.

Your generosity to this collection will make it possible for more men to answer the call to serve. Let me be clear. This collection does not benefit those of us currently ordained. The administration of the office of the Permanent Diaconate is funded through the Annual Catholic Appeal. This collection is for the educational expenses of our upcoming deacons. It would be a shame if future deacons had to be turned away because of the lack of funds. It would be an even greater shame if small communities like this one had to be closed because of the lack of deacons.

Please be as generous as possible to this important collection.

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Abortion

OK, I have to do this.  I’ve been thinking about it for several days but today’s Gospel (Luke 1:39-45) made my decision for me.  The story is about Mary’s visit to Elizabeth.  The presence of Jesus in Mary’s womb makes John in Elizabeth’s womb “jump for joy”.  Two unborn infants:  one the Son of God and one the prophet who would go before the Lord to prepare His way.  We’ve heard this story countless times and it may never occur to us that this story could have ended differently.

ABORTION!

Think about it.  Mary was a young girl.  Although she was engaged to Joseph, clearly this wasn’t his child.  “Modern society” would council Mary to terminate the pregnancy.  She was too young to take on such responsibility.  Planned Parenthood would have the “solution” to her “problem”.

Then there’s Elizabeth.  She’s an old lady.  Surely delivering a baby at her advanced age would be very dangerous.  She might even die.  Even if abortion were illegal,  she would fall under the so-called “exception” for danger to the mother’s life.

I’m not saying that anyone is walking around today with God in their womb, or even a prophet.  But who else have we killed?  Maybe the person who would have found the cure for cancer.  Maybe the person who could broker peace in the Middle East.  Maybe the person who could save Twinkies.  We’ve killed millions of children in this country since Roe vs. Wade became law.  If just one percent of those children, and they were children regardless of what the abortion-rights folks call them, if just one percent had been men and women of great promise, imagine what a difference that would have made in the world.  Ten percent or twenty percent?  Who knows?

People ask what’s wrong with this country?  That’s easy.  We’re killing our potential.

What I’m about to say may offend you, but please hear me out.  The tragedy that took place in Newtown, CT is beyond belief.  I can’t begin to imagine how awful that must have been and will continue to be for the parents and loved ones of those who were senselessly murdered.  The outcry has been world-wide as it should be.  Even one child is too many to lose to violence.  But, in the week that’s passed since the Sandy Hook massacre, hundreds of babies have been killed by abortionists and no one bats an eye.  It may be a bit of a stretch, but what if one of the millions of children we’ve killed by abortion was meant to be the person who would have stepped in and prevented the killings at Sandy Hook?  Just a thought.

Where’s the outrage for those children?  Many of the same people who are demanding that the government do something about mass murders support the extermination of millions of kids and call it a “woman’s right”.  Sorry, it just doesn’t make sense to me.

Our “Catholic” Senator

I received the following email today from Claire McCaskill, our soon-to-be-ex senator from Missouri.  It was in response to a letter I sent her several weeks ago concerning the HHS health care mandate.  Note that Ms. McCaskill claims to be a faithful Catholic.  (Emphasis is mine.  Comments to follow)
March 12, 2012

Dear Mr. Buckley,

Thank you for contacting me regarding birth control and women’s health.  I appreciate hearing from you and welcome the opportunity to respond.

I believe we should all work to prevent and reduce the number of abortions in this country.  I support access to birth control, which will help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and ultimately reduce abortions.  This is an emotional, difficult subject.  But if you really believe that reducing abortions is important in this country, which I do, then it doesn’t work to keep putting up barriers to women getting birth control.  For this reason, I voted against the amendment offered by my colleague, Senator Roy Blunt (Senate Amendment 1520), which would have allowed any employer, health plan sponsor, or insurance company to refuse coverage for their employees for any type of essential health care services — including birth control, maternity care, prenatal testing, and HIV/AIDS screening — based solely on an undefined “moral objection.”

As you may know, following considerable debate, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reached a compromise so that religiously-affiliated employers will not have to provide birth control if it violates that employer’s religious beliefs.  This compromise, which I support, ensures that all women with employer-sponsored health plans will have access to free preventive health services, while protecting the religious freedom of religiously-affiliated employers.  If a church or religious employer determines that covering birth control would be inconsistent with their organization’s beliefs, the insurance company rather than the employer will be required to offer these services directly to women.

Groups on both sides of the debate, including the Catholic Health Association and Planned Parenthood, have expressed their support of this compromise.  Under the new HHS guidelines, no one will be required to use birth control or other preventive care services under any plan.  each woman, pursuant to her own beliefs, will access the services she deems appropriate.  However, a woman will not be denied access to health services, like birth control, based on the decision of her employer, instead of retaining for herself the right to choose whether to use birth control or not.  The new guidelines also do not eliminate or change existing conscience protections, which I support, that allow doctors and individual healthcare providers to choose whether or not to prescribe or administer birth control in accordance with their own beliefs.

It should be noted that 28 states already require health insurance plans to cover contraceptive services.  The compromise guidelines follow in the steps of most states, including Missouri, which have already found a reasonable way to ensure access to preventive health services while also respecting employers’ First Amendment right to religious freedom, a fundamental principle on which our nation was founded.

Again, thank you for contacting me. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of further assistance to you on this or any other issue.

Sincerely,

Claire McCaskill
United States Senator

Let’s take a look at the points I highlighted.
I support access to birth control.”  No surprise here.  My only issue here is her claim to be a practicing Catholic.  Maybe she need more practice?
“essential health care services”  How in the world does artificial birth control qualify as an essential health care service.  Later in the letter she refers to “preventive health services.”  This well-worn liberal phrase is right in line with the idea that pregnancy is some sort of disease.  Our president was widely quoted as saying, in support of birth control and abortion, that he “didn’t want (his) daughters punished with a child”.
“Undefined ‘moral objection'”.  Of course the undefined moral objection is the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church which has been very clearly defined; much more clearly defined than Ms. McCaskill’s version of Catholicism.
” following considerable debate, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reached a compromise so that religiously-affiliated employers will not have to provide birth control if it violates that employer’s religious beliefs.  This is an untrue statement.  There was no debate and there has been no compromise.  Catholic employers will be forced to include artificial birth control in its employee health plans.  The fantasy that insurance companies will provide this coverage out of the goodness of their hearts is nonsense.  There may be no line-item charge for this coverage but you can bet your last dollar that the cost of some other service will be raised accordingly.  For the many Catholic employers who are self-insured, they will have to pay.
“free preventive health services.”  There it is again.  Birth control prevents the “disease” of pregnancy.
Groups on both sides of the debate, including the Catholic Health Association and Planned Parenthood, have expressed their support of this compromise”  Again, there was no compromise which would explain why Planned Parenthood would support it.  Catholic Health Association is Catholic in name only.
“No one will be required to use birth control or other preventive care services under any plan.” At least not yet, and
 “retaining for herself the right to choose whether to use birth control or not.”  The Church opposes artificial birth control.  We consider it a sin.  Having said that, the Church has no way of keeping any individual, Catholic or otherwise, from using the pill.  We do have a right, and that’s what this debate is all about, to not pay for it!  Our not paying for birth control does not interfere with any woman’s right to choose.
And, finally, “employers’ First Amendment right to religious freedom, a fundamental principle on which our nation was founded.”  She almost got this one right.  But, notice that she doesn’t endorse this freedom herself.  She just points out that others might endorse those rights.
The Senator’s letter is a perfect example of how those in power can twist words and give the impression to some voters that they are interested in our rights.  This is nonsense.  She’s shilling for the current administration and masquerading as a Catholic to do so.

So-called “public servants” like McCaskill have to go.


free: Not under the control or in the power of another; able to act or be done as one wishes