Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Flaws of Moral "Puzzles"

When I was in college, I had professors try to deconstruct and demolish Christianity, and they did so primarily through "morality puzzles"


You are a Jewish mother of an infant child
You and 50 jews are hiding in a basement
The nazis come to the door
Your baby starts crying...what would you do...

And then their statement: "see, sometimes it is okay to kill children"


But these "morality puzzles" are, in a word, dumb


The option a Catholic should take in the above "puzzle" is "I'm not killing my child.  If my crying child leads the Nazi's to find us, and then, when they find us, they also then decide to kill us, guess who that is on...THEM."


People who try to deconstruct the Church's moral teachings are always using these puzzles, but they are always ridiculous.s



A friend recently asked me one of these puzzles in response to my statement that I don't see how I will be voting for president in 2016

"A car is burning
You can only save 3 of the 4 people
1) call 911 (takes too long, all will die)
2) Grab people out yourself knowing that you can save at most 3 persons
or 3) do nothing and watch them all burn to death"


This puzzle, again, presents false options

No one, in the above scenario, would know any of the parameters as the person has laid it out

I would call 911 because no angel would be standing there saying "Don't call 911, it won't work"
I would then run and start trying to pull people out because again no angel would be there saying "you can only save at most 3 of the 4"
I would also note that the above choice would be one I think I would make, but it would be what the Church would consider "heroic virtue" in that you are not REQUIRED by the Church or God's laws to run toward a burning car and try and save people


So to answer the question, this is the way people try to deconstruct Catholic moral reasoning, but it is deeply flawed

Friday, April 22, 2016

"The Blacklist" On Suicide

A show I have followed with some regularity is the show "The Blacklist"

It isn't the best show of all time, but it certainly is well done.


Last night's episode had a VERY powerful soliloquy that speaks to the utter horror of suicide, and I wanted to share it


A character speaks about a time he was driving up to a restaurant in Tel Aviv:


"A 20-year-old Palestinian named Ghazi Safar entered the restaurant and detonated a vest wired with C4.  The shock wave knocked me flat, blew out my eardrums.  I couldn't hear.  The smoke... It was like being underwater. I went inside. A nightmare.  Blood.  Parts of people.  You could tell where Safar was standing when the vest blew.  It was like a perfect circle of death.  There was almost nothing left of the people closest to him. 17 dead, 46 injured.  Blown to pieces.  The closer they were to the bomber, the more horrific the effect.  


That's every suicide.  Every single one.  An act of terror perpetrated against everyone who's ever known you... Everyone who's ever loved you.  The people closest to you... the ones who cherish you... are the ones who suffer the most pain, the most damage.  Why would you do that?  Why would you do that to people who love you?"




Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Saint's Homily that Inspired "The Matrix Revolutions"...I think

Death trampled our Lord underfoot, but he in his turn treated death as a highroad for his own feet. He submitted to it, enduring it willingly, because by this means he would be able to destroy death in spite of itself. Death had its own way when our Lord went out from Jerusalem carrying his cross; but when by a loud cry from that cross he summoned the dead from the underworld, death was powerless to prevent it.
Death slew him by means of the body which he had assumed, but that same body proved to be the weapon with which he conquered death. Concealed beneath the cloak of his manhood, his godhead engaged death in combat; but in slaying our Lord, death itself was slain. It was able to kill natural human life, but was itself killed by the life that is above the nature of man.
Death could not devour our Lord unless he possessed a body, neither could hell swallow him up unless he bore our flesh; and so he came in search of a chariot in which to ride to the underworld. This chariot was the body which he received from the Virgin; in it he invaded death’s fortress, broke open its strong-room and scattered all its treasure.
At length he came upon Eve, the mother of all the living. She was that vineyard whose enclosure her own hands had enabled death to violate, so that she could taste its fruit; thus the mother of all the living became the source of death for every living creature. But in her stead Mary grew up, a new vine in place of the old. Christ, the new life, dwelt within her. When death, with its customary impudence, came foraging for her mortal fruit, it encountered its own destruction in the hidden life that fruit contained. All unsuspecting, it swallowed him up, and in so doing released life itself and set free a multitude of men.




He who was also the carpenter’s glorious son set up his cross above death’s all-consuming jaws, and led the human race into the dwelling place of life. Since a tree had brought about the downfall of mankind, it was upon a tree that mankind crossed over to the realm of life. Bitter was the branch that had once been grafted upon that ancient tree, but sweet the young shoot that has now been grafted in, the shoot in which we are meant to recognise the Lord whom no creature can resist.

We give glory to you, Lord, who raised up your cross to span the jaws of death like a bridge by which souls might pass from the region of the dead to the land of the living. We give glory to you who put on the body of a single mortal man and made it the source of life for every other mortal man. You are incontestably alive. Your murderers sowed your living body in the earth as farmers sow grain, but it sprang up and yielded an abundant harvest of men raised from the dead.
Come then, my brothers and sisters, let us offer our Lord the great and all-embracing sacrifice of our love, pouring out our treasury of hymns and prayers before him who offered his cross in sacrifice to God for the enrichment of us all.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A Key Paragraph from St. John Paul II referenced several times in the most debated portions of Francis' "Amoris Laetitia"

A key passage that is referenced in the most hotly debated parts of "Amoris Laetitia" is paragraph 84 from St. John Paul II's "Familiaris Consortio"

Here's paragraph 84, which DEFINITELY warrants reading by all Catholics

84. Daily experience unfortunately shows that people who have obtained a divorce usually intend to enter into a new union, obviously not with a Catholic religious ceremony. Since this is an evil that, like the others, is affecting more and more Catholics as well, the problem must be faced with resolution and without delay. The Synod Fathers studied it expressly. The Church, which was set up to lead to salvation all people and especially the baptized, cannot abandon to their own devices those who have been previously bound by sacramental marriage and who have attempted a second marriage. The Church will therefore make untiring efforts to put at their disposal her means of salvation.

Pastors must know that, for the sake of truth, they are obliged to exercise careful discernment of situations. There is in fact a difference between those who have sincerely tried to save their first marriage and have been unjustly abandoned, and those who through their own grave fault have destroyed a canonically valid marriage. Finally, there are those who have entered into a second union for the sake of the children's upbringing, and who are sometimes subjectively certain in conscience that their previous and irreparably destroyed marriage had never been valid.

Together with the Synod, I earnestly call upon pastors and the whole community of the faithful to help the divorced, and with solicitous care to make sure that they do not consider themselves as separated from the Church, for as baptized persons they can, and indeed must, share in her life. They should be encouraged to listen to the word of God, to attend the Sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to contribute to works of charity and to community efforts in favor of justice, to bring up their children in the Christian faith, to cultivate the spirit and practice of penance and thus implore, day by day, God's grace. Let the Church pray for them, encourage them and show herself a merciful mother, and thus sustain them in faith and hope.

However, the Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church's teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.

Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children's upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they "take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples."[180]

Similarly, the respect due to the sacrament of Matrimony, to the couples themselves and their families, and also to the community of the faithful, forbids any pastor, for whatever reason or pretext even of a pastoral nature, to perform ceremonies of any kind for divorced people who remarry. Such ceremonies would give the impression of the celebration of a new sacramentally valid marriage, and would thus lead people into error concerning the indissolubility of a validly contracted marriage.

By acting in this way, the Church professes her own fidelity to Christ and to His truth. At the same time she shows motherly concern for these children of hers, especially those who, through no fault of their own, have been abandoned by their legitimate partner.

With firm confidence she believes that those who have rejected the Lord's command and are still living in this state will be able to obtain from God the grace of conversion and salvation, provided that they have persevered in prayer, penance and charity.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Thoughts on the Apostolic Exhortation "Amoris Laetitia"

1) Here's one thing that people forget in all this divorce/remarriage/Communion discussion - I've had the hard conversations with people and explained to them the Church’s teachings on these things.  I’ve also explained to them that if they are remarried, have children, etc. - if they live as brother and sister and are not sexually active, they can take Communion.

But here’s the deal, if they come forward at Communion time, am I supposed to ask them, in the Communion line - "Remember what we talked about...are you and your partner sexually active? I just want to check before I give you Communion"???

 If that were the path forward, then I guess we priests should interview everyone that comes up. Perhaps a 200 question examination of conscience for each person taking Communion?



2) To those who think annulments are pharisaical bureaucracy - Chesterton basically said (paraphrasing here) "The Church is often described as being about rules and hell and damnation while Jesus is thought of in popular lore as being a hippie pacifist, when, in actuality, Jesus talks a lot about rules, hell and damnation, while the evidence shows that it is the Church that is often trying to help soften the blow"

Jesus says if you are divorced and remarry, then sexual activity with this new person is adultery.
The Church, then, is just trying to help soften the blow of Christ's words through the annulment process (which, as a person who works with annulments all the time is beautifully in line with Christ's teaching above.)

If you don't like the annulment process, or think the Church invented it, and you decide to remarry after a divorce without getting an annulment, just make sure you're ready to square that decision with Christ because He speaks quite clearly on the subject.

Side note: how Biblically literal Protestants overlook Jesus' teaching on this subject will always baffle me



3) I’ve seen some traditional Catholics lamenting any mention of pastoral nuance and the messiness of life that Pope Francis mentions in “Amoris Laetitia.”  I don’t hear Pope Francis saying anything about getting rid of annulments whatsoever, nor do I hear him saying that as priests we can handle divorce and remarriage in the confessional.

As a rebuttal to these traditional Catholics, I would ask them to imagine that they are a pastor of a parish with 2,000 families.  Tell us priests how to do it!  How would you ensure that no one who is in an invalid marriage takes Communion ever at your parish?

Don't say "preach against divorce" because I do that and so does Pope Francis and every priest I know

Don't say "preach against contraception" because I already do. And so does Pope Francis and every priest I know

Don't say "do better marriage prep" because I meet with them 6 times myself, require a retreat and a psych eval. So do my priest friends.

Don't say "work on annulments with the people" because I DO work with them myself from beginning to end. So do most of the novus ordo priests that I'm friends with.

The only thing I could do is announce, before Communion at every Mass - "if you're divorced and remarried, don't take Communion" but then again that's not in the missal so if I did say that I'd be a crazy liberal doing something NOT in the missal.



4) I remember being in the seminary and I had those 4-5 homilies I couldn't wait to give because I thought it would change everyone and everything. I preached those homilies and they didn't change everything. They helped. But they didn't change the world. Most traddies think that one homily or even 20 homilies will change a parish. It doesn't. I wish every lay person could preach for a year and see how little impact it makes compared to what they think it will.  That goes for Progressive Catholics as well.  The homilies you think the world needs to hear…it doesn’t change things like you think it will.

5) Am I saying the preaching can't get much better, and much more orthodox...definitely not. Preaching in the Church has a LONG way to go. But if people think that this "divorced and remarried" thing will go away if you preach on it, then you're deceiving yourselves. It's a DEEP issue.



Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A great story from a first confession

My godson was preparing for his first confession last week.

His mother read to him about 20 different sins from an examination of conscience for kids

His mom said he sat there thinking very hard as she was reading them, but he didn't say anything.  She wasn't sure what he was thinking, but she kept going.

When she finished, he looked up and said "Wow.  I've done all of those!"


From the mouth of children!


P.S. - as a follow up, I asked him how his first confession was.  He told me, smiling ear to ear "I felt a LOT lighter"




Sunday, March 27, 2016

No salvation outside the Church? Easter 2016

One of my favorite Biblical passages

A Pharisee in the Sanhedrin named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, respected by all the people, stood up, ordered the men to be put outside for a short time, and said to them,

“Fellow Israelites, be careful what you are about to do to these men. Some time ago, Theudas appeared, claiming to be someone important, and about four hundred men joined him, but he was killed, and all those who were loyal to him were disbanded and came to nothing

After him came Judas the Galilean at the time of the census. He also drew people after him, but he too perished and all who were loyal to him were scattered. 

So now I tell you, have nothing to do with these men, and let them go.  For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself.  But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them


Acts of the Apostles, 5:34-39


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

If this is your opponent's locker room....

You're probably in serious trouble




Everyone, in the history of the UNIVERSE, who has ever gone up against Catholic nuns has lost in the end. There are still Catholic nuns serving all over the world, while those who have gone to battle with them are nothing more than a pile of dust.
If this picture is what is happening in your opponent's "locker room", know that you are definitely "on the wrong side of history"

President Obama, I do not say this sincerely - "good luck!"

Monday, March 21, 2016

A post about something very VERY right

A lot of times I post or talk about things that are wrong with the world, but I wanted today to share a story about something that was very VERY right

The funeral of Benjamin Zachary Durcholz.

Ben had a rare disease that usually takes the life of its victims around 13 or 14.  Ben made it to 14, but at the end of last week, an infection took his life.

Ben's parents Chris and Annette had met with me and our music director, Mr. Edward Atkinson, several months ago to plan the funeral.  They wanted it to be more traditional, and they asked for servers, incense, and a schola to sing sacred music at Mass.


The funeral this morning was one of the most beautiful things I've ever been a part of.

The Church was standing room only - a strong testimony in opposition to our culture of death that is starting to whisper that if a child has some sort of "genetic imperfection" parents might just want to go ahead and abort.


All of our high school servers were on Spring Break today and so they were almost all able to serve the funeral Mass today.  Although Ben has been confined to a wheel chair, and has been unable to communicate for several years, the high school guys who serve at Mass all have felt a special closeness with Ben through the years, and that closeness was evidenced by the tears that were running down their faces throughout the Mass today.


The schola sang music that was not "gaudy" nor was it chosen to showcase their skills, it was simply beautiful.  The musical pieces from the funeral today conveyed both the sadness of death, and the hope that intermingles in with sadness when someone dies as faithful and practicing Catholic.



Today I was able to be a part of something truly special - a special funeral for a special person, and I just wanted to pass on that I'm really thankful to have been a part of it.


Ben Durcholz, may you rest in peace.






Monday, March 14, 2016

Football Coaching Clinics and the Sin of Pride

I've mentioned before that I coached high school football for a few years.  Part of coaching is going to coaching clinics.

Something fascinating happens at coaches clinics, a lot of the presentations are coaches telling their rival coaches how they do what they do.

"Here's the secret to what I do at school _______ that makes us so successful."


Does Coca-Cola do that with Pepsi, or vice versa?

"Here's the secret recipe, but we just wanted to let you in on it"??????

of course Coca-Cola doesn't do that


From a strategic standpoint, telling your rival coaches your strategies and tricks makes no sense.



The only way I could ever think to explain this crazy phenomenon was the realization that perhaps pride doesn't necessarily egg us on to seek to rule the world, but just to be thought very highly of by a small group of people.