Friday, March 25, 2016

A Convincing and Converging Proof for the Resurrection

Fr. John J Pasquini, Th.D.

After the betrayal of Judas and the arrest of Jesus, the apostles ran away for fear of being captured and killed.  Only the apostle John, Mary the Mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, Joses, and Salome had the strength to stand at the foot of the cross and see Jesus die.  The apostles scattered, finally hiding in the upper room fearing what would happen.  Would they be captured?  Would they be forgotten?  What were they to do?  Perhaps they hoped that all would just go away!

Then something happened on Sunday that would forever change the lives of the apostles and the world.  What was this something that happened?  Frightened apostles and disciples became suddenly courageous.  Where once they ran, now they stood with dignity.  Where once they hid, they now went to proclaim the Gospel on the rooftops to the whole world. 

James the Great, the son of Zebedee, evangelized Palestine and perhaps Spain. He was decapitated in 43 AD in Jerusalem.  Matthias evangelized Palestine, Scythia, and Armenia.  On his return to Jerusalem in 51 he was stoned to death by a mob.  Nathaniel (Bartholomew) evangelized Palestine, Asia Minor, Armenia, central India and Iran.  He was flayed and crucified in Iran in 57 AD. James the Less, the son of Alphaeus, evangelized Palestine and was stoned to death by a mob in the year 60.  Andrew evangelized Palestine, Asia Minor, Scythia, and Greece.  He was crucified in Patras, Greece in the year 65.  Simon bar Jonah, who would forever be known as Peter, the Rock, evangelized Palestine, Syria, Asia Minor and Rome.  He was crucified upside down during the persecution of the emperor Nero and buried on Vatican Hill in the year 67 AD.  Thomas evangelized Palestine, Osroene, Armenia, Egypt, and India.  His great efforts in India earned him the title of “Apostle to the Indians.”  He was stabbed to death in the midst of a Hindu mob in Burma in 72 AD. Simon the Zealot evangelized Palestine, Egypt, North Africa, Britain, and Iran and Jude evangelized Palestine, Osroene, Armenia, and Iran.  While Simon and Jude were in Iran, they were attacked by a mob led by pagan magi and were killed: Simon being mutilated and sawed to pieces, and Jude being impaled by a spear.  Both died in 79 AD.  Philip evangelized Palestine, North Africa, and Asia Minor.  He was crucified upside down in 87. Matthew evangelized Palestine, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Iran.  It is unknown how Matthew died: some accounts have him as martyred and others have him as dying of natural causes in 90 AD.  The apostle John was the last to die after evangelizing Palestine and Asia Minor.  He died in exile in the year 100.  His death marked the end of the apostolic age.

What can explain this change?  Frightened apostles and disciples became suddenly courageous.  What made the apostles willing to die, even after some 60 years after Jesus’ crucifixion?  Are we dealing with coincidence, chance, synchronicity?  Or did they really see a resurrected Christ?

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Catholic Rules For Voting & How They Impact One’s Salvation

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Decisions about political life are complex and require the exercise of a well-formed conscience aided by prudence.  The exercise of conscience begins with outright opposition to laws and other policies that violate human life or weaken its protection.  Those who knowingly, willingly, and directly support public policies or legislation that undermine fundamental moral principles cooperate with evil.

Sometimes morally flawed laws already exist.  In this situation, the process of framing legislation to protect life from conception to natural death is subject to prudential judgment and “the art of the possible.”  One is called to “limit harm done by a law” by lessening the negative impact of that law as much as possible. 

Catholics often face difficult choices about how to vote.  This is why it is so important to vote according to a well-formed conscience that perceives the proper relationship among moral goods.  A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who favors a policy promoting an intrinsically evil act, such as abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, deliberately subjecting workers or the poor to sub-human living conditions, redefining marriage in ways that violate its essential meaning, racist behavior, if the voter’s intent is to support that position….

When all candidates hold to a position that promotes an intrinsically evil act, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma. The voter may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods.

[Issues do not carry the same moral weight.  There is a hierarchy of values and rights: All rights and values flow from the right to life.]  It is important to be clear that the political choices faced by citizens not only have an impact on general peace and prosperity but also may affect the individual’s salvation.  Similarly, the kinds of laws and policies supported by public officials affect their spiritual well-being.

Having been entrusted with special responsibility for the common good, Church leaders must commit themselves to the pursuit of the virtues, especially courage, justice, temperance, and prudence….  Catholic politicians and legislators must recognize their grave responsibility in society to support laws shaped by these fundamental human values and oppose laws and policies that violate life and dignity at any stage from conception to natural death.

Cf. Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, USCCB, 14-16.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Hope for Our Faithless Loved Ones

Fr. Karl Rahner, S.J.

A Christian faith is not purely a private concern.  We live in the community of faith which is called the Church, but in practice we are a “diaspora” everywhere today, sometimes even among our own relatives….  I mean that quite a number of people in our environment have in effect lost the faith, some of them becoming real enemies to the Church and officially leaving her….

Often they are people who “belong” to us, whom we are attached to, who are bound to us by ties of blood, shared feelings, a common life and destiny, love—people dearer to us in many ways than those whom we call one with us in the “household of the faith.”

What problems this situation brings, what anxiety and grief!  How must a mother’s heart flinch as she wonders whether the faith or the unbelief in the world will win the hearts of her children!  What is a mother to say to her child when the father does not take part in the First Communion for which the child has been prepared in faith and love?  Or what is a father to do when his daughter marries in disregard of the Church’s law, so that he cannot recognize her marriage as valid before God?  At what point does confession of the faith become cowardice?  At what point does confession of the faith become meddling? 

The darkest and most difficult thing about all this is the question of the eternal salvation of those we love.  We hold that living by the faith which binds us to one another as members of the one mystical body is God’s gracious and mandatory will, and it would be unloving on our part to pretend we have no duty of love to be concerned for the salvation of those with whom God’s providence has connected us.  Thus the burden of others weights upon us. 

More than ever we will be outsiders, even among those we love….  Burdensome though the present state of diaspora may be for the Christian, it is also a grace and he must not evade it by remaining aloof as far as possible from his relatives and his fellow men. 

A cause for hope is that Scripture and the Church teach that every human being is given sufficient grace to work out his salvation.  Therefore, every human being who has reached the point where he is able to make morals decisions can forfeit salvation only through his own fault, and every human being who finds his salvation finds it on the road which logically leads to the visible Church.  But it does not follow that every individual must be given a sufficient grace capable of flowering into visible membership of the Church during his lifetime.  To affirm that it does would amount to saying that every adult who has lived for a considerable time among Catholic Christians without becoming a Catholic has committed a grave sin of rejecting the grace offered to him.  Such an allegation not only cannot be proved, but it also offends against the respect that we owe to the decisions of other people’s conscience—so long as their guilt has not been positively demonstrated…. 

There is divine grace through Christ for the “many”—that is, for all who stand before him, from the first man to the last—and therefore there is divine grace in Christ outside the visible Church as well.  It would be an error to suppose that acceptance of grace can in every case explicitly develop into the mature form of Christian faith.  Thus it may happen that a man has submitted to God through faith, somewhere in the depths of his conscience inaccessible to us, without this salvific process having flowered into full Catholic Christianity.

Every moral decision entails at least an unconscious acknowledgement of God….  When we meet people in our environment whose moral conduct compels respect, they may be people in whom the power of God in Christ is already at work without their being aware of the fact.
[Having seen the salvation of the non-explicit Catholic, what are we to say about the Catholic who has lost his faith?  First, many have not lost their faith as much as abandoned a false portrayal of the true Christ.  They are rejecting the false portrayal not the true image.  Hence their culpability is diminished.]

Also, theologians teach there is such a thing as implicit repentance, one where a man does not look directly at his past action—denying the faith—as such and repudiate it, but, without expressly recognizing his defection as sinful, so definitely affirms moral good that the real marrow of this former attitude is thereby given up and repudiated….  It is not inconceivable that a man could part company in the depths of his conscience with the faith and still recover the genuine attitude of a believer even though he be unable to get over the mountain of prejudice against ecclesiastical Christianity which he has accumulated.

[Having said the above, we are not to remain idle as believers.]  How could we be so apathetic as to neglect explaining the faith to those we love?  The Church and we individual believers have a mission to others-- for God wills the grace and truth of Christ to be a “sign” for the world.  [We preach the Gospel by Word and example, and leave the success to God.]  We bear witness with a responsible Christian mind, and we hope for the salvation of all because our impotence does not set limits on God’s mercy.

Cf. Karl Rahner, Do You Believe in God? (New York: Newman Press, 1969), 19-30.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Church Participation in Political Life--A Catholic Perspective


In the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation…..  As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, “It is necessary that all people participate, each according to his position and role, in promoting the common good.  This obligation is inherent in the dignity of the human person…..  As far as possible citizens should take an active part in public life” (CCC 1933-1915).

Unfortunately, politics in our country often can be a contest of powerful interests, partisan attacks, sound bites, and media hype.  The Church calls for a different kind of political engagement: one shaped by the moral convictions of well-informed consciences and focused on the dignity of every human being, the pursuit of the common good, and the protection of the weak and the vulnerable….

The Catholic call to faithful citizenship affirms the importance of political participation and insists that public service is a worthy vocation.  As citizens, we should be guided more by our moral convictions than by our attachment to a political party or interest group.  When necessary, our participation should help transform the party to which we belong; we should not let the party transform us in such a way that we neglect or deny fundamental moral truths or approve intrinsically evil acts.  We are called to bring together our principles and our political choices, our values and our votes, to help build a civilization of truth and love.

Clergy and lay people have complementary roles in public life.  [Bishops] have the primary responsibility to hand on the Church’s moral and social teaching.  Together with priests and deacons, assisted by religious and lay leaders of the Church, [they] are to teach fundamental moral principles that help Catholics form their consciences correctly, to provide guidance on the moral dimensions of public decisions, and to encourage the faithful to carry their responsibilities in political life…. 

[The role of informing and forming consciences is the role of the clergy but the direct and primary role of working for the just ordering of a society is proper to the lay faithful, not the clergy]

The duty [of ordering a just society] is more critical than ever in today’s political environment, where Catholics may feel politically disenfranchised, sensing that no party and too few candidates fully share the Church’s comprehensive commitment to the life and dignity of every human being from conception to natural death.  Yet this is not a time for retreat or discouragement; rather it is a time for renewed engagement.  Forming their consciences in accord with Catholic teaching, Catholic lay women and men can become actively involved; running for office; working within political parties; communicating their concerns and positions to elected officials; and joining diocesan social mission or advocacy networks, state Catholic conference initiatives, community organizations, and other efforts to apply authentic moral teaching in the public square.  Even those who cannot vote have the right to have their voices heard on issues that affect their lives for the common good.

USCCB, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, 7-9.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Faithful Citizenship and Human Life

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human life and dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental good and the condition for all others.  Abortion, the deliberate killing of a human being before birth, is never morally acceptable and must always be opposed.  Cloning and the destruction of human embryos for research or even for potential cures are always wrong.  The purposeful taking of human life by assisted suicide and euthanasia is not an act of mercy, but an unjustifiable assault on human life.  Genocide, torture, and the direct and intentional targeting of noncombatants in war or terrorist attacks is always wrong.

Laws that legitimize any of these practices are profoundly unjust and immoral.  Our Conference supports laws and policies to protect human life to the maximum degree possible, including constitutional protection for the unborn and legislative efforts to end abortion, assisted suicide, and euthanasia.  We also promote a culture of life by supporting laws and programs that encourage childbirth and adoption over abortion and by addressing poverty, providing health care, and offering other assistance to pregnant women, children and families.

The USCCB calls for a greater assistance for those who are sick and dying through health care for all and effective and compassionate palliative care and hospice care….  The end of life is as sacred as the beginning of life and requires treatment that honors the true dignity of the human person…. 

Policies and decisions regarding biotechnology and human experimentation should respect the inherent dignity of human life from its very beginning, regardless of the circumstance of its origins.
Respect for life is also the foundation for essential efforts to address and overcome the hunger, disease, poverty, and violence that take the lives of so many innocent people.

Society has a duty to defend life against violence and to reach out to victims of crime.  The Catholic Church has accepted the death penalty in the past for egregious crimes when there was a serious continuing threat to society and no alternative available.  But our nation’s continued reliance on the death penalty cannot be justified.  Because we have other ways to protect society that are more respectful to human life, the USCCB supports efforts to end the use of the death penalty….

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, 28-29.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Discerning Your Vote, a Catholic Approach

CPJ Staff
Adapted from Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops

The right to vote carries with it the responsibility to know the candidates.  There are moral and ethical dimensions to every public policy.  Issues carry different moral weight and urgency.  Some involve intrinsically evil acts that can never be approved, such as the intentional destruction of innocent human life.  Others involve an obligation to seek the common good [according to the principle of subsidiarity]. 

What are we called to support according to the hierarchy of values?
  1. We are called to protect the weakest in our midst by working toward the restriction and ultimate end to the tragedy of abortion.  So serious is this issue that one can never vote for a pro-abortion candidate when a pro-life candidate is offered as an alternative.  The mindset of a pro-abortion candidate is detrimental to the decision-making process with regards to healthcare and the multitude of life issues that people face on a daily basis.
  2. We are called to oppose the unnecessary destruction of the embryo in the name of research.  Stem cells that are pluripotent need not be obtained through the destruction of embryos. Science now makes it possible to obtain pluripotent cells through a variety of means, including through umbilical cords, the placenta, and oocyte assisted reproduction.  Sadly, the media is too often uninformed in this area—rarely, if ever, making a distinction between types of stem cells.
  3. We are called to foster palliative care for the ill rather than euthanasia and assisted suicide. 
  4. We are called to eliminate the death penalty in modern societies. In primitive societies (where life-long incarceration is not a possibility), the death penalty is still permissible.  Even the guilty are to be treated with dignity.
  5. We are called to fight false and politically correct “gender” ideologies by promoting the proper complementarity of the sexes.  That which is contrary to the natural law is contrary to the long-term psychological health of individuals and societies.
  6. Traditional Marriage is to be protected.  Marriage is a life-long and faithful union of one man and one woman.  The family is the central institution of society, the cell of society, the school of virtue and citizenship.  Non-traditional marriages tend to hinder the proper development of children and their pscyho-sexual identity.
  7. Comprehensive immigration reform must treat immigrant workers (legal or illegal) with human dignity, with the goal of keeping families—the cells of society--together.  We recognize the importance of maintaining border security and the rule of law.  We also know that solving the issue of illegal immigration requires addressing the factors that compel people to leave their countries.
  8. The basic moral and religious convictions of citizens must be respected.  The secular worldview cannot be the only worldview permissible in a pluralistic society.  To allow for a monopoly of one worldview is to persecute the others.
  9. We must seek to help families overcome poverty, provide for a fair wage, and ensure children choice in education.
  10. Working in solidarity with other nations is necessary for the good of individual nations and world nations in general—whether this involves combatting hunger and poverty or providing for the security of nations. 
  11. Healthcare is a right, not a privilege, that is due to every human person.  All persons are to have access to healthcare, a form of healthcare that is person centered, respecting human dignity, religious freedom, and the principle of subsidiarity (policies are best addressed at the local, state level).
  12. Military force is to be used according to the following criteria:
    1. The cause must be just.
    2. All means of avoiding war or ending aggression must be seen to be “impractical and ineffective.”
    3. The “damage inflicted by an aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain.”
    4. There must be an adequate prospect for success in putting an end to the aggression or evil.
    5. The use of weaponry must be used with prudence.  They must not “produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.”
    6. Every act of self-defense or war that is aimed at the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities is prohibited. Non-combatants must never be targeted.
All nations are called to join in solidarity in the pursuance of peace, the protection of human rights, religious liberty, advancement of economic justice, and the proper stewardship of creation.  

Friday, March 4, 2016

The Only Way to Secure Our Borders

Fr. John J. Pasquini, Th.D.

Every country has a right and obligation to provide for the safety of its citizenry.  In recent years a keen awareness has developed regarding border security.  Americans are acutely aware of illegal immigration and the trafficking of people and drugs through the southern border of the United States.  The rise of terrorism and recent high profile cases of violence by illegals has brought the issue of border security to the fore.

As the United States seeks to deal with the “border issue,” it cannot do so without taking into consideration the dignity and rights due to people by virtue of their humanness, legal or illegal.  Whether legal or illegal, human persons are not to be denied the rights due to them as human beings.  One does not cease to be a human person with human dignity upon the crossing of a border.
Is the creation of a border-long wall an affront to the human dignity of persons?  No.  Given the situation we are facing at this time, the extending of a wall or fence across the southern border is perfectly acceptable.  Having said this, it must be asked, “Why do we need a fence at the southern border and not at the northern border?”  The answer to this question is the answer to the illegal immigration issue.

No wall, no system of screening will ever be successful without addressing the underlying issues of the problem.  Poverty, economic disparity and inequality, low and unjust wages, and the lack of socio-economic development in Central and South America will continue to fuel illegal activity and the quest for a better future in a better place.  Until the United States views itself in solidarity with its neighbors, until it is willing to sacrifice its standard of living—even for a short period--for the good and development of other nations, the illegal immigration problem will never cease. 

Are Americans willing to lower their standards of living for any period of time? One child dies of hunger every fifteen seconds in the world unnecessarily—unnecessarily because “first world” countries are not willing to lessen their standards of living for the least fortunate.  If we are unwilling to lower our standard of living for the dying, we certainly will not be willing to lower our standard of living for the least fortunate below our southern borders.   This is the dilemma.  I cannot help but recall the words of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta:  “It is a shame that a child must die so that we can live as we wish.” 

The “border issue” may be, for the moment, unsolvable.  Sadly, until responsible consumerism and a spirit of poverty and solidarity pervades our culture, the problem of human trafficking, drug trafficking and illegal immigration, will continue to plague both sides of the border.