Say What? June Again?

Well it’s that time of year again: Pride month. It used to be “gay pride”, and then “LGBT pride”, but now there are so many hitchhikers that have chosen to add their own little letter to the alphabet soup of sexuality, that it is easier, and saves time, to just call it “Pride”. Not that this blog is super active anymore, but it will be (hopefully) for this month.

In the past few years, the posts on this topic have been a lot about trying to persuade people to change their positions on homosexuality through appeals to Scripture, natural law, etc. Perhaps this approach has met with some success. Maybe some person somewhere has changed. Maybe that person is homosexual, which would be great. But I don’t know that that person exists. I also don’t know that the approach from reason is truly appreciated in our society which seems to be built on emotional experiences more than anything else. This is particularly true when it comes to sexuality.

I want to take a new approach this year. No politics. No current events. And no politics. I just want to write about the day-to-day experiences of life, how Catholicism and homosexuality do interact, how they should interact, and how to make progress. This is going to be far more geared towards someone who is actually homosexual than those who support it, approve it, and encourage it, but don’t actually experience it.

My goal is to write six to ten posts, and I hope to have the first one out by the end of the weekend, Monday at the latest. Stay tuned!

How Much Do You Love Me?

“He who loves me will keep my commands.”
-Jesus

It was painfully difficult at Mass this morning to hear these words of Jesus and then to look inwardly at myself and see what commands I’m keeping, or rather, who’s commands I’m keeping. I’m not quite sure if the commands I am keeping belong to Jesus, actually, I’m positive that the commands I’m keeping are not of Christ. When I look at my life it is hard not to see that when I say “I love you Jesus” I don’t actually mean it. Why? Because when I look at my actions, they are not the actions that Christ commanded me: the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, the Greatest Commandment, and the second, which is like it. In only trivial and minuscule ways does my life even remotely reflect these things that Christ requires of me. At best my life is lukewarm and apathetic towards the commands. At worst my life exemplifies the exact opposite of these commands.

If I’m totally honest, lately I’ve been following lies of the Devil whilst pretending and fooling myself into thinking that my life is one of obedience and discipleship, and that any slip-ups are minor offenses that don’t really matter to God. I’m basically a good person, so all the rest is just, I don’t know, inconsequential aspects of being human that God won’t hold me accountable for. There is a word in Norwegian for this type of belief:  et livsløgn: a life’s lie. It is a delusion not rooted in reality that accompanies us throughout life, and if we aren’t self aware, can swallow us up to varying degrees of severity. For some it might be some kind of grand illusion that we are the most amazing singer ever and that our haters just wouldn’t know good music of Johann Straus himself waltzed through the door. And for others like me, it is a complete lack of self-honesty about the virtues in our lives.

However, this revelation shouldn’t cause me distress. Christ lives to redeem creation, including myself. To acknowledge where I fall short and to ask him for the grace to help me overcome sin and live his commands in complete love and devotion to him as to opposed to self-love and self-devotion/self-worship.

One More Re-Hash on This Subject

I posted about a month and a half ago about some stuff surrounding annulments along with the reactions of family here, which, among other things, included accusations that I was personally, and incorrectly, interpreting what the Church teaches regarding divorce, annulment, and remarriage. But as I listened to the very reputable Catholic Answers Live today, it was confirmed that these accusations were not only unwarranted, but are flat out wrong.

However, this post isn’t about “being right” or saying “I told you so,” although it may seem that way, so you are free to believe otherwise, that is your prerogative. Instead, this post is to re-emphasize, that yes, what I’ve been saying for well over a year now is what the Church teaches regarding divorce: that without an annulment, a divorced Catholic is presumed to be validly married, and therefore, dating for that individual is morally no different than a non-divorced individual dating someone other than their spouse. This specific issue is brought up and addressed with the caller.

So, no it is not crazy for me to be concerned, for me to be morally opposed to what is happening in my family, and for me to pray, beg, and implore for this situation to end. What is in fact crazy, is for a Catholic to argue on the opposite side of this, because this is what the Church and Scripture unapologetically teach on the matter.

Segment begins at 36:10

To the married, however, I give this instruction (not I, but the Lord): A wife should not separate from her husband—and if she does separate she must either remain single or become reconciled to her husband—and a husband should not divorce his wife.

1 Corinthians 7:10-11

While I Was Weeping at the Tomb

A few nights ago I was praying Evening Prayer and the antiphon for the Magnificat was this:

While I was weeping at the tomb I saw the Lord.
 
It would be quite easy to let this gem pass by. Easter, yep. K, got it bye. But for some reason, it reached out and grabbed me by the heart, and so I’ve been reflecting on it for the last couple days. 
 
To be honest, its something that God has been continually pumping into my stubborn heart for months now. It would seem that the majority of Msgr. Richter’s homilies have been about this very topic for months now. That place where we feel the most dead/pained/fearful/enslaved is the place where Christ is going to meet us, the place where Christ is going to work.
 
We all have our tombs: a sin, an addiction, a situation, a wound. Perhaps we have many, maybe our souls feel like total graveyards. Here we find ourselves mourning and weeping. Or maybe we find ourselves avoiding these places at all costs. Well don’t! GO! Mary is an example, go to the tomb and weep! Mourn for your sins, your struggles. Begin to lament, to mourn, to weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection (James 4:9). Go to your tomb and weep and just as he did for Mary, he will do for you. He will meet you at the tomb. At the tomb we will see Christ, risen. Entering the place of death in our hearts is the only way to bring our hearts back to life in the Resurrection. We must be cast down in order to be exalted. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you (James 4:10).
 
While I was weeping at the tomb I saw the Lord.


Easter Joy

I think that I say this every single year, but one of the things I love about being Catholic is the liturgical year, and the fact that not only is Easter an entire season (not just one Sunday), but that Easter Sunday itself is repeated for eight consecutive days. Today is the second day in the octave of Easter, and it is liturgically still Easter Sunday. Today is Easter. Physically it is Monday, but spiritually it is Sunday. It is amazing!

The wonderful thing about the celebration of Easter for 8 days is the message of joy that it sends. Easter is such a joyous occasion that it’s joy cannot be contained within one day, but spills over all week. And I am doing my best to ride this wave of joy, to immerse myself in it, to let God transform me in that joy. I realize that my last post from several weeks ago was slightly dark. Though it was about hope, it expressed a great amount of fear, particularly the fear of abandonment. I still stand by what I wrote, how I feel about my situation, and the truth that I believe supports my experience. 

 

But the joy of the Resurrection covers all my fears. Christ has hold of me. He has delivered me to God the Father. And like a good father, God knows exactly what I need and will provide. If and when I need to be set straight, God will be sure I will be given that gift. I have faith in that and that gives me great joy! God did not rise from the dead and raise me from death just to give up on me when I need him most. Jesus’ resurrection is the promise that he will not abandon me. What joy! What joy!
 
I am so looking forward to beginning my ninth year as a Catholic and the joy that the Lord will provide this Easter season.

I Guess This is About Hope

Hope: one of the three theological virtues. As Christians we have hope in many things, our primary hope being the promise of Christ that through the perseverance of our faith and cooperation with God’s grace, heaven will be our eternal inheritance. Unfolding under this hope, is the hope that God, in his goodness, will place within our lives the graces necessary to reach that end. Of those graces, one that we might not consider very much, is the grace of being admonished by our fellow Christians. To be admonished when we lose our way so that we are brought back onto the path of God’s divine wisdom, is a grace for which we should pray. Over the past few weeks, this is a grace I have been reflecting on in my life, pondering whether those in my life would take up the responsibility to admonish me were my soul to find itself in grave, obstinate danger.

There is an ongoing situation in my family which has weighed heavily on me for quite some time. To summarize as discretely as possible (only a handful of my closest confidants and family are even aware of the more specific details): I have a very close non-Catholic, but Christian, family member who has chosen to become romantically involved with a Catholic. The Catholic is divorced, but has chosen not to go through the annulment process, and is therefore presumed to be validly married to their still-living spouse. For this individual to enter into a new relationship without the Church investigating to determine whether a marital bond actually exists between them and their spouse, is to violate the vows of that marriage. On this topic the Church is unambiguously clear. The goal of this relationship appears to ultimately be marriage between my family member and the Catholic. As you can see, this poses a moral dilemma since one party is currently married.

Because of the love I have for this close family member of mine, and quite frankly, for my fellow Catholic, I have done everything I can lovingly do to persuade my family member to encourage their significant other to initiate the annulment process or to break off the relationship, so as to not to take part in the violation of another’s marriage bond. I have done this because I take the words of St. James seriously:

My brothers, if anyone among you should stray from the truth and someone bring him back, he should know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

James 5:19-20

Through personal conversations, Scripture, and Catholic media I have appealed to the sacredness of marriage and our duty as Christians to respect that sacredness. When that appeared to have no effect, I utilized social media to share benign information that is of general interest to the public, but also pertinent to this situation in the great hope that should they see these things their heart might be softened.One thing I shared, for example, was paragraph 1649 from the Catechism  which outlines the duties of married couples who have not had their marriage bond annulled to remain single or be reconciled per 1 Corinthians 7:10-11. Anyone can plainly see that this particular passage from the Catechism is quite non-judgmental, sensitive, and altogether merciful and hopeful. This is my position on this situation. My words and intentions have never come from a place of judgment, hate, or ill-will.

And yet, my family, particularly Catholics within my family, have not been happy that I have expressed my concerns. I have been met with accusations of “casting stones,”  of  “trying to take the speck out of my brother’s eye while ignoring the plank in mine,” of “setting up stumbling blocks,” of “judging” and “personally interpreting Church teaching incorrectly.” I have been quite tactlessly told to accept this situation and get over it. I can understand these things coming from those unfamiliar with Catholicism, but to hear these things from Catholics has been a huge blow to me. To hear trite secular slogans like “so-and-so deserves to be happy,” and “how could you condemn so-and-so to be alone for the rest of their life” used to shame me for the Faith we share has been a stunning shock to me. This response seems so foreign to the Gospels, the New Testament, and the life of the Church, that has been difficult to make sense of it over the last few weeks. But more than my difficulty in making sense of the anger that I have received, this response is striking a deep chord in my own ongoing battle to live for Christ.

For long time readers, you know that I struggle with same-sex attraction. When I came out to the world a little more than three years ago, I was humbled and blessed at the immense support I received, from friends, family, and strangers who knew me not. I simply could not believe how much support I had. But one question I never asked myself  was: in what way do all these people support me? Do they actually believe I am doing the right thing by attempting to live the Church’s teachings? Or do they simply support me for choosing one of many different paths, perhaps selecting the one that seemed right for me at that particular time in my life? More importantly, if I were to ever find myself going down the wrong path, maybe choosing to marry a man and live a semi-domesticated life with him, would they support that choice or admonish me and try to convince me to return to God? I guess I had always hoped and assumed that at the very least, the Christians around me would do what they could to bring a lost brother home.

But now I am unsure whether they would admonish me. They may, according to the example they have shown, consider my earthly happiness a higher virtue than holiness. They may encourage me deeper into sin, possibly even celebrating the journey. The people I have believed that I could count on to lead me back if I went astray, may not actually help me. The family I had hoped would help me carry my cross when it was at its heaviest just might be the first ones to let it crush me to death. And what’s even scarier for me is that their example has shown me that they are unafraid to bully, harass, or shame someone who wants to bring me back to the right path.

This realization has left a heavy burden on my heart. This situation has helped me see that in my moments of weakness I cannot blindly assume I can rely on family. This startling epiphany has brought me to tears. But I cannot lose hope.  My opponent the devil is stalking me like a lion, waiting to devour me (1 Peter 5:8-9/Genesis 4:7) , and I do not have time to focus on what is not. I must pray more fervently than ever for God to place people in my life who will support and admonish me in my times of need, who will encourage me to strive for the greatness I was made for, and the holiness for which I am destined. This is one of the reasons that I have decided to get involved with Courage, something I should have done years ago. When God closes one door, he opens another.

But I am still a part of my family, and I pray for a peaceful resolution to all of these problems: the anger, the frustration, and doing the right thing. I do not desire that we should be separated now or in eternity, and that is why I will continue to not be ashamed of the Gospel that saves (Romans 1:16), and will not fear to encourage my family to strive for holiness. The situation is tense right now, and perhaps by expressing my newly discovered fears here, the situation is going to be more tense. But love covers a multitude of sins, and the prayer of a righteous man is effective, which is why I ask all you readers to pray for me and my family. I’ve included a prayer for you offer alongside me:

Prayer to St. Joseph in a difficult problem

O glorious St. Joseph, thou who hast power to render possible even things which are considered impossible, come to our aid in our present trouble and distress. Take this important and difficult  affair under thy particular protection, that it may end happily. (Name your request here)

O dear St. Joseph, all our confidence is in thee. Let it not be said that we would invoke thee in vain; and since thou art so powerful with Jesus and Mary, show that thy goodness equals thy power. Amen.

St. Joseph, friend of the Sacred Heart, pray for us.

 

Further Reading

So this question on healthcare and social justice has had me thinking all day, so I pulled my out my Sources of Catholic Dogmas book. It appears to me that two encyclicals may help me to further understand and contemplate these topics, and thus, will be of great value to me. 

Rerum Novarum by Pope Leo XIII (1891) and Quadragessimo Anno by Pope Pius XI (1931). If anyone is interested in reading along and discussing these, sound off in the comments. It may turn out to be some good Lenten reading. 

The Right to Healthcare

Last week I responded to a post on Mackerel Snapper regarding the idea that healthcare is a right and is fundamental to the pro-life movement, that without, essentially turns pro-lifers into pro-birthers. My response was this:

Here is the problem with this. This implies that people have a right to healthcare at someone else’s expense. The cold hard truth is that some things are incredibly expensive to get care for due to a number of factors including specific skill sets, development of technology, etc. If I have an absolute right to those things no matter my ability to pay it means that someone somewhere has no right whatsoever to freely determine what they will do with their own productive property (capital, time, talent, etc.) I can perhaps say no, but someone down the line MUST say yes if someone has an absolute right regardless of their ability to compensate the person or people serving them. This is really the same line of thinking that others use to force others to violate their consciences. It is a mentality that I’m owed a certain quality of life and someone else must give it to me no matter what.

There is an explicit moral obligation to not kill others. However, there is not an explicit moral obligation in Scripture, or otherwise, that healthcare coverage is a universal right. We certainly have an obligation as followers of Christ to do what we can to help others and to comfort the afflicted as we are able but that is a far cry from absolute universal healthcare coverage.

Surprisingly, my comment became the center of a follow-up post, entitled, Missing the Point of Catholic Social Justice. I was both surprised and flattered that someone had actually taken the time to read my thoughts, and then respond.

Every time I write something concerning Catholic Social Justice, I am always met with rebuttals that, for lack of better phrasing, super duper miss the point…Yet, in response, a reader posted this all-too-common spiel. [insert my comment from above].

I will admit that, regarding application, the reader presents legitimate concerns. But that’s all they are: concerns. They are factors. They don’t do anything to change the original premise.

So many of us hold the belief that  justice is somehow relative to our own personal situation. But it’s not. Justice is objective. It is static. It doesn’t care about material obstacles. It doesn’t care whether *we* think it’s fair or not. And it certainly has no problem demanding sacrifice.

It’s a great response, but Mackerel Snapper, I believe, also misses the point of Catholic social justice, and I think that there are several blind spots in a statement that flat-out says “healthcare is a right” and stops it right there.

The first problem is that, despite the staticity and objectivity relating to justice, the application of the principle are highly subjective, and always will be. While justice might not care about material obstacles, we live in a material world, and any application of justice must take those material obstacles into account, and very well may be hindered due to material limitations. To pretend that they don’t exist, and that justice demands that we meet its standards regardless of the material obstacles that exist is to not live within reality. There, is of course, the fact, too, that medicine is not itself a static field, and is always evolving, and does not evolve across the globe at the same speed. What is possible for one person in a particular place and time is not possible for a second person at a different place or time. So to say that a person is entitled to healthcare is in itself subjective and warrants further discussion due to the inherent disparity that exists in a non-static universe.

The second problem is related to the first, and it comes from the very subjective nature of defining what is healthcare, and which parts fall under the category of that fundamental right? Are life-saving and quality-of-life procedures the same? Are all quality-life-procedures in themselves equal? Are a blood transfusion and dental braces the same?  Is the providing of toothpaste and dental floss a fundamental right under this broad right to healthcare?

These may seem like ludicrous examples, but they highlight the necessity of having a legitimate discussion, rather than making broad statements. If only, though, these were the only issues.

There is of course, the concern of personal freedom. Unlike the rights to speech or self-defense, or worship, which don’t require the participation of anyone else, the right to healthcare, does. It requires that others serve you, and if it is a fundamental human right, it stands to reason, that humanity has an obligation to provide enough doctors and physicians in order to provide healthcare to all of our brothers and sisters. So what if, there is a shortage of doctors, or a workload that is so heavy that patients do not truly get the adequate care and attention that they need? In order to meet this human right, people must be drafted into the workforce, regardless of whether they want to become doctors or not. “Oh come on!” you say. “You’re being absolutely ridiculous.” No, I’m not. If healthcare is an absolute right, then, as Mackerel contends, no material obstacle should stand in the way. If someone has the brain power to become a doctor, they have an obligation to justice, even if that is not what they want to do with their lives. Don’t think that there has never been a state that did not allow its subjects the freedom to choose a profession they enjoy, or that such a state doesn’t currently exist in the world today, and will not at some point exist in the future.

Mackerel finishes with a quote from Pope Paul VI from Populorum Progressio:

In short, “as the Fathers of the Church and other eminent theologians tell us, the right of private property may never be exercised to the detriment of the common good.” When “private gain and basic community needs conflict with one another,” it is for the public authorities “to seek a solution to these questions, with the active involvement of individual citizens and social groups.”

Contrary to what the original post implies, this is not a statement of some static right to healthcare, and neither is what the Catechism has to say on the topic:

Life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God. We must take reasonable care of them, taking into account the needs of others and the common good. Concern for the health of its citizens requires that society help in the attainment of living-conditions that allow them to grow and reach maturity: food and clothing, housing, health care, basic education, employment, and social assistance.

-Catechism 2288

Rather than stating that health care is a right, it simply states that society must help in the attainment of health care. When I read that it conjunction with Pope Paul VI, it would seem to me that the issue does not come down to a static demand of justice, but rather, a conversation within society about how to balance personal rights and responsibilities of all of its citizens towards each other, and to determine what the minimum living conditions are for its citizens in its unique place and time in human history.

I am not anti-healthcare, or anti-justice, but the issue is, like most things Catholic, far more nuanced than Mackerel Snapper seems to express.

Lent Draws Near

Oh Lent, that wonderful time of the year. If you’ve heard of Lent, but aren’t quite sure what it is, Lent is a very ancient Christian custom. It is a penitential season, meaning we do penance, meaning we make sacrifices, to loosen our slavery to the flesh and the world and rely more deeply on God. It is a season of sanctification, a time of year that we double down on our cooperation with God’s grace to become the men and women we were intended to be from the beginning. 

Lent is not a time of year when we Catholics try to work our way to heaven, when we make sacrifice because we believe that we can earn our way to heaven. These are things Catholics do not believe, and the Church explicitly rejects.
 
Lent is the time of year when we kind of realize that we’ve been drifting. It is when we are reminded that we are in a relationship with Christ. Though Christ initiated the relationship outside of anything we could do, relationships always imply a multiplicity of persons, and so we must participate in the relationship actively, not simply be passive observers. So we take this time to renew our acceptance of Christ’s call to take up our crosses and follow him. Guided by him, we see the planks in our eyes and through prayer, fasting, and giving of alms, we seek to remove those things that make us less like Christ so that we can be transformed by his saving power into the light of the world, and the salt of the earth. 
 
Lent begins on Wednesday, Ash Wednesday. We will be reminded on that day of where we come from and where we are going. We will be smacked in the face with humility and a little bit of ash. And for 40 days we will, albeit on a much small scale, imitate our Lord in the desert. And then we will enter into Easter and celebrate the Resurrection of Christ and anticipate in excitement, our own resurrections.

 

With only a few days left, now is a good time to consider what sort of sacrifices or other penances you might participate in, other than the ones mandated by Holy Mother Church (fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and abstaining from meat Ash Wednesday and all the Fridays of Lent). Share in the comments what you are planning to do so that those of us who aren’t sure yet can be inspired!

Sometimes Loving Seems Unloving

There are moments in our own lives when we are too blind to see the harm we are causing ourselves, physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually. We want what we want, believing it will make us happy, believing that instead of harming us, it will fix us, strengthen us, complete us. I have been there so many times. I always seem to be on the edge of it. Willing to make any excuse as to why it is better for me to choose an easy wrong, than the difficult good that God asks of me.

Many times those around us can see these choices we are making, and sometimes we hide them from others very well. But when they see the choices we are making, or are about to make, they can see what we won’t allow ourselves to see. They see the danger we may be placing our body, mind, soul, health, and relationships in. They love us, and they desire that none of that harm should befall us. They talk to us, they show us what we have either ignored or not considered. They plead with us to consider the big picture. Hopefully our hearts are opened, but oftentimes, we refuse. 
 
So what are they supposed to do? What are the people who love us so much supposed to do? Are they supposed to give up and pretend that the harm we are causing ourselves is not the harm they know it to be? Are they supposed to continue to hound us and get in our faces about what we are doing to ourselves? I think that neither of these choices is a good choice. Regarding the former, Scripture talks in so many places about our responsibility to our brothers and sisters, our responsibility to live in truth, and our responsibility to the moral good. To lie about truth, and encourage those we supposedly love to continue to harm themselves whether it is physical, spiritual, or otherwise, can in no way be considered loving. As to the latter, there comes a point in time when further discussion and attempts at persuasion simply will do no good. This is the point where they have done all they can, it is where intellect meets will, and it is an internal battle that is between the one they love and God. The one they love knows what is right, but it is up to their will, and their will alone, to choose the good. They may end up doing more harm than good by continuing to persist. I think it was St. Paul who gave us the image of leaving a town that refuses the truth, and shaking the dust off our feet. All they can do is present the truth and allow others to accept or refuse it.
 
So what can they do? Personally, I think that it goes without saying that they must continue to love, but I think that how that love looks may change. I think it continues with constant prayer for the other. I think it means making it clear that they are always going to be there for them, but that depending on what exactly the other is doing, it may require keeping a certain distance, erecting new boundaries that perhaps weren’t there before. I think that they need to remember that, though they have a duty towards others, they have a duty to care for their own soul and to reject anything that is not true, not of Christ. 

 

To the other, this may seem unloving. It may seem like a personal, and shunning rejection. But this, of course is not the truth. For these people we can only pray, pray for their conversion, for their peace, for their physical, emotional, and spiritual health. And for those finding themselves having to make the difficult choice to keep a distance, we pray for their strength, fortitude, and courage.