Archive for the ‘Marriage and Family’ Category

 

The Precious Gift of Conscience

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

     The unfortunate decision of the Department of Health and Human Services to mandate that all health insurance plans include contraception, sterilization, and even some abortion causing drugs is a malicious attack on the freedom of conscience of millions of Catholics and others who hold that these kinds of medical practices, far from being “preventative medicine”, are in fact intrinsically immoral.  This decision to treat fertility and the ability of a man and woman to come together in total lifelong and life-giving love as co-creators with God in the creation of new human life as a preventative disease is another striking example of how the prophetic message of Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae in 1968 was absolutely right.  He states:

 

Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife. (17, emphasis mine)

 

     The Church from her beginning has always stood for the life and dignity of the human person, and the dignity of the sexual union between man and woman as the very foundation of marriage, family, and society itself.  Pope Paul VI made yet another stand in 1968 in the face of the sexual revolution and warned of the dire consequences for human society if the truth about the human person and human sexuality is not upheld and respected.  Now we find ourselves in a day and age when the government mandates that fertility is a preventative disease, when the state, not God, tries to define what a marriage is, and when the largest religious denomination in the United States, Roman Catholics, are no longer protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution to follow their consciences in a matter of grave moral consequence.

    The HHS mandate not only calls all Catholics and people of good will to action, but it also calls us to once again rediscover the truth about conscience and our serious responsibility to form and follow our consciences. 

     Our conscience is at the heart of our human dignity as being created in the image and likeness of God.  It is the voice of God in our souls always calling us to the truth and to fullness of human life.  Conscience is a judgment of reason, enlightened by the Holy Spirit that enjoins us to do what is good, to avoid what is evil, and recognize the divine plan written in our heart.  It judges an action that has taken place, is in the process of being performed, or is going to take place. Each of us has the duty and responsibility to act in accordance with our conscience.  The dignity of the human person demands that each person is always free to act in accordance with their conscience and can never be forced or coerced to do otherwise.  This is a fundamental and God given right of each and every person.  As Vatican II teaches in Dignitatis Humanae:

This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such ways that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.  The council further declares that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person as this dignity is known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself.  This right of the human person to religious freedom is to be recognized in the constitutional law whereby society is governed and thus it is to become a civil right. (2)

      While we are always to follow our conscience, our consciences are not just how we “feel” about any particular moral question or teaching of the Church.  It is not just doing whatever we feel is right.  Our consciences are not the source of truth, but a gift of our reason that allows us to conform our minds, hearts, and lives to the truth about God and about the human person that God has revealed to us through Christ and the Church.   Therefore, we have the serious responsibility of also forming our consciences according the truth that God has revealed.  We act in good and true conscience when we both follow our conscience and it is truly formed according to the teachings of Christ and the Church. 

      We act in good conscience when we follow it, but we must always strive to have it well informed.  If we act in good conscience and our conscience is true, then we have made a good moral decision.  Sometimes our conscience is true, but we act against it, or we act in bad conscience.  This is what happens when we sin.

      But there are other times in which we follow our conscience, or act in good conscience but our conscience is in error, and is not formed correctly according to God’s law.  This would be a false conscience.  When we act in good conscience but it is false, that is called erroneous judgment.

      Having a false conscience many times comes from the fact that we simply may not have known something was wrong, or may have misunderstood or were not properly informed of the teachings of the Church.  We may have had ignorance of the moral law.

      This ignorance is invincible when it is not our fault; when we have not deliberately ignored the duty to form our conscience.   However, our ignorance is vincible when we do not take seriously the responsibility of forming our conscience or when we deliberately ignore or dissent against the moral law.  Vincible ignorance is a grave sin and seriously undermines the moral life.   

      Therefore, our conscience must be formed and moral judgment be enlightened.  The education of one’s conscience is the responsibility of all and is a life-long task.  It requires interiority, to enter one’s heart to recognize the voice of the Creator.  The Word of God, authentically found in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition as authoritatively interpreted and taught by the Magisterium, is the light of our path, and our conscience should always be formed in accordance to God’s revealed law.  One can’t just say “just follow your conscience.”  We have the serious responsibility to see that the conscience that we are following is conformed to the teachings of Christ and the Church.  Many people today have used the excuse of “just follow your conscience” to dissent from various Church teachings.  The result of such a fallacy is to reduce one’s conscience to simply what one feels about a certain doctrine or moral action which then makes each individual’s conscience the source of truth instead of the unchanging law of God.  This false view of conscience has become the source of the moral relativism that is unfortunately prevalent in our modern culture. 

      Consequently, it must be clearly stated that conscience is not the source of truth but rather the witness, in the very depths of our soul, of a truth that is beyond us, that is unchanging and eternal.  Christ has given us the gift of the Catholic Church and the Magisterium to always be that sure light of truth that guides the faithful through the many storms and dark nights that have visited us all throughout human history.  As Blessed Pope John Paul II teaches:

Christians have a great help for the formation of conscience in the Church and her Magisterium. As the Council affirms: “In forming their consciences the Christian faithful must give careful attention to the sacred and certain teaching of the Church. For the Catholic Church is by the will of Christ the teacher of truth. Her charge is to announce and teach authentically that truth which is Christ, and at the same time with her authority to declare and confirm the principles of the moral order which derive from human nature itself “.  It follows that the authority of the Church, when she pronounces on moral questions, in no way undermines the freedom of conscience of Christians. This is so not only because freedom of conscience is never freedom “from” the truth but always and only freedom “in” the truth, but also because the Magisterium does not bring to the Christian conscience truths which are extraneous to it; rather it brings to light the truths which it ought already to possess, developing them from the starting point of the primordial act of faith. The Church puts herself always and only at the service of conscience, helping it to avoid being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine proposed by human deceit (cf. Eph 4:14), and helping it not to swerve from the truth about the good of man, but rather, especially in more difficult questions, to attain the truth with certainty and to abide in it.  (Veritatis Splendor, 64)

     Therefore, in light of the HHS mandate, I encourage all Catholics to not only exercise our right and duty to participate in the public square and demand that this mandate be repealed, but to also take some time to rediscover the Church’s wise and unchanging teachings concerning marriage and sexual morality.  There you will discover that the Church is the one institution who is truly defending and promoting the dignity of every woman and man and each of our calling to live a truly human life:  “For I came that they might have life and have it abundantly.”  (John 10:10) 

Mysteries of Light

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Even though I was raised in a large, Catholic family and received 12 years of Catholic schooling, I left the Church as an undergraduate and didn’t come back until I was in my 20s. My newly rediscovered love for Christ not only led me to study His teaching, but also to take a fresh look at traditional prayers and devotions used by Christian disciples for countless generations as aids to growth in the spiritual life.

And so I enthusiastically embraced the Rosary as the most time-tested and efficacious spiritual weapon in our arsenal after the sacred liturgy itself. Even so, it always seemed strange to me that we had an entire set of mysteries for Luke 1-2, namely the Joyful Mysteries, and then we had to jump to Luke 22 for the Agony in the Garden, the first Sorrowful Mystery. It seemed to me that Luke 3, Luke 4, Luke 5, and so on, up to Luke 22, also contained much solid meat for contemplation. Therefore, I heartily welcomed Pope John Paul II’s introduction of the Luminous Mysteries as a means of encouraging the faithful to prayerfully contemplate Christ’s public ministry.

Love for the Church

Luminous Mysteries: Biblical Reflections on the Life of ChristEach of the Luminous Mysteries is inexhaustibly rich, and so I recommend obtaining good meditation guides and reflections on the new mysteries to help plumb their depths. In particular, I recommend Tim Gray’s Bible study entitled Luminous Mysteries: Biblical Reflections on the Life of Christ, with a foreword by Archbishop (and soon to be Cardinal!) Raymond L. Burke. This dynamic study is available at www.emmausroad.org.

Today, however, I would like to briefly mention two refrains that run through all the Luminous Mysteries that I think are extremely important for Catholic laity today. [more]

The first refrain is “love for the Church.” We live at a time when many people are to some extent open to Jesus Christ, but want nothing to do with His Church. So what has the Pope done? He has encouraged us, by means of the Luminous Mysteries, to contemplate the public ministry of Christ. What was at the heart of this ministry? Nothing other than the proclamation of the kingdom of God–that it was “at hand.” Well, was it or not? And if it was, where did it go? About a century ago, French heretic Alfred Loisy bemoaned that Christ promised a kingdom, and all that we got was the Church.

We joyfully respond that the Church is, in fact, the kingdom of God on earth. The Church continues, despite our own human failings and weaknesses, to bring the light of Christ to all the world. It’s no accident that the central document issued by the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) on the mystery of the Church is called Lumen Gentium, or “Light of the Nations.”

The Luminous Mysteries help us to see the Church as our Mother (cf. Catechism, nos. 169, 507), and not as a merely human institution or an outside force that’s imposing arbitrary rules on us. Now more than ever, especially given the horrible scandals that have afflicted the Church in this country, we need to affirm–to proclaim from the rooftops–our love for the Church!

Do Whatever He Tells You

The other refrain running through the Luminous Mysteries is the virtue of obedience. Of the new mysteries, the one that I gravitate toward is the Wedding at Cana. Mary’s simple words are striking and still ring out today: “Do whatever Jesus tells you.” This message calls forth our obedience. This theme runs through the other mysteries as well. The proclamation of the kingdom calls forth from us an “obedience of faith” (Rom. 1:5). In the Transfiguration, Our Heavenly Father declares, “This is my beloved son . . . listen to him” (Mt. 17:5). Even in the Institution of the Eucharist, the Church is commanded to “do this in memory of me” (Lk. 22:19). In fact, Jesus bluntly tells us that if we don’t “do this,” we have no life in us (cf. Jn. 6:53). So Our Lord means business. We need to do what He tells us.

Perhaps it would be easier if Jesus were in our midst telling us things to do. And yet, even though He no longer walks the earth, He does speak to us through His Church, and notably through the successors of Peter and the other apostles. Jesus says if we hear and obey them, we hear and obey Him (cf. Lk. 10:16). And further, if we hear and obey Our Lord, then we are also obeying Our Blessed Mother, who lovingly exhorts us to do whatever He tells us.

Many contemporary problems are rooted in disobedience to authority in the home, in society, and in the Church. Disobedience and dissent wreak havoc. Those in authority surely have contributed to the problem, but obedience is our virtue, not their virtue. Let me explain.

My daughter Brenda’s favorite verse (she quotes it for me all the time) is Colossians 3:21: “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” Fair enough, I will be judged on this verse and similar verses, as will priests and bishops–our spiritual fathers. I’ve encountered many Catholics who are angry, provoked, or discouraged, and those who so alienate the faithful will be held strictly accountable by the Lord.

But I’m still ready for Brenda when she playfully cites her verse, as I counter with the preceding verse: “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” Those in authority will be judged on how they exercise their authority. We, on the other hand, will be judged according to how we obey legitimate authority.

Only God’s authority is limitless. Surely we’re not bound to follow laws or directives that are immoral or which go beyond the scope of one’s authority. But in general, our disposition toward Church authority should be one of respectful obedience. We must encourage our children to do whatever Jesus tells them and to hear the Good Shepherd’s voice coming from His Church.

Protected: Protecting the Sheep

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

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The Family Rosary

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Back in 2002, Pope John Paul II issued a document entitled Rosarium Virginis Mariae, or more simply “The Rosary of the Virgin Mary,” to foster a renewed devotion to the Rosary in the new millennium. This magnificent teaching is for all the faithful, but in a very special way the Pope is speaking to families. Here is what he said to us:

“A similar need for commitment and prayer arises in relation to another critical contemporary issue: the family, the primary cell of society, increasingly menaced by forces of disintegration on both the ideological and practical planes, so as to make us fear for the future of this fundamental and indispensable institution and, with it, for the future of society as a whole. The revival of the Rosary in Christian families, within the context of a broader pastoral ministry to the family, will be an effective aid to countering the devastating effects of this crisis” (no. 6). 

It’s not an overstatement, then, to say that the family Rosary can and must play a pivotal role in the renewal of our society. For that reason, I’m going to dedicate a post each week during October to this issue, and in doing so I hope to provide practical encouragement and assistance to individuals and especially families to “put out into the deep” (Lk, 5:4) and make the Rosary part of their daily life.

Today, I simply want to note that praying the Rosary as a family has a teaching component. Yes, it’s primarily a prayer, but the focus on the individual mysteries over time provides important catechetical formation for everyone involved, especially children.

I must admit that I didn’t have a particularly high opinion of the Rosary as a child. I don’t want to be critical of my late father. I like to say that as the youngest of fourteen children I’m grateful that my Mom and Dad didn’t have the “good sense” to stop at thirteen! But my Dad, for whatever reason, didn’t even mention the mysteries as he prayed the Rosary, but just seemed to be rattling off the prayers. That seemed empty and boring to me.

Now, the prayers themselves are powerful, but it’s very important that we don’t skip over the meditative dimension of the prayer. After all, while the prayers are the percussion, the meditation is the melody.

Next week I will discuss ways to introduce this prayer to children, but for now I simply want to emphasize the importance of announcing the mystery. And particularly when praying the Rosary with one’s family or in some other group setting, I’ve found it very helpful to include a short biblical reading with each mystery to further aid our entry into the given mystery.

More to come. And by the way, my wife Maureen and I wrote an entire chapter on the family Rosary in Catholic for a Reason IV: Scripture and the Mystery of Marriage and Family, which is available through Emmaus Road Publishing.

Labor Management

Sunday, September 5th, 2010

Many men today think a “holy hour” means being able to watch the second half of a game without interruption, and that a “retreat” is 36 holes of golf interspersed with appropriate beverages. In countless parishes I’ve visited, the women far outnumber the men in the pews (and in the sanctuary). Meanwhile, try getting a seat at the local sports pub now that football season has begun.

There are countless things competing for men’s time and attention and, frankly, we don’t always do a good job of prioritizing, of putting first things first. And what could be more important than bending the knee before Our Heavenly Father, the source of all fatherhood (cf. Eph. 3:14-15)?

In this regard I suggest that we take a lesson from St. Joseph this Labor Day. [more]St. Joseph’s entire life was ordered to God. This enabled him to reflect in his actions an interior life that perfected his manhood and thus enabled him to take the right approach to his work.

We know that children learn mostly by example. They know where our heart is and what our priorities are. There simply isn’t a better example for children than a father on his knees before Our Lord in prayer. This holds true as well for our spiritual fathers. The faithful are always edified and strengthened in their own prayer lives when they witness the sincere, devoted prayer of priests. Without prayer, dads and priests become less like fathers and more like mere managers.

St. Joseph the Worker, as his title suggests, teaches us the goodness and value of human work, especially manual labor. Work manifests our cooperation with God as stewards of His creation, and it also furthers our own personal development. In other words, hard work is for “our own good.”

Honest labor has been redeemed by Christ so that it contributes to our sanctification. That’s why, for example, experienced vocation directors recommend training young men in the discipline and virtue of industriousness as an aid to fostering vocations.

Surely we must vigorously work against the vice of laziness, or the absence of industriousness. Yet, we must also avoid misguided industriousness, such as work which reflects poor stewardship of creation or which violates the moral law. Further, work is something we do, but it does not define who we are. Unfortunately, not everyone experiences work as cooperation with a loving God. Instead, many people are consumed by their work and it wields an ungodly tyranny in their workaholic lives.

St. Joseph the Worker must have played a significant role in Jesus’ human formation. Through His experience of His foster father’s God-centered work ethic, Jesus “became strong, filled with wisdom” (Lk. 2:40; cf. Catechism, nos. 470, 472).

I admit that I don’t always get it right (understatement of the week nominee), but I’ve tried to manifest the proper balance of prayer, work, and leisure in my celebration of this Labor Day. Mass will be the focal point tomorrow morning, but I also hope to take the kids on a hike, and later I might take my son Samuel out to hit some golf balls. To you fathers out there, once you finish reading this blog, go out and do something fun with your kids. Go ahead, I think the Lord would delight in that decision.

Everybody Still Loves Raymond

Monday, August 30th, 2010

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the finalization of the adoption of our youngest son, Raymond. Filled with thanksgiving to our Heavenly Father, I will once again tell Raymond’s remarkable story. For those of you who have already heard it, tough! [more]

Toward the end of October 2004, while I was still serving as president of Catholics United for the Faith, our Tucson CUF chapter underwent a name change, taking as its new patron the recently canonized St. Gianna Beretta Molla. All this took place in the context of a regional conference cosponsored by the chapter.

At the Friday night banquet, I was privileged to introduce the keynote speaker, Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis. Even though the presidential election was only a week away, Archbishop Burke was not there to talk about the role of Catholics in political life, much less who should or should not be allowed to receive Holy Communion. Instead, he was there to tell us about St. Gianna, whose image was prominently displayed during the banquet and throughout the weekend.

Archbishop Burke gave a moving overview of the life of this twentieth century saint: a wife, mother, and physician, who ultimately gave her life so that her youngest child, Gianna Emanuela, could live. Her loving husband, Pietro, was present at her canonization. (For those interested in reading more about St. Gianna, I recommend this biography published by Ignatius Press.

I was already somewhat familiar with St. Gianna, but I was struck by Archbishop Burke’s comment that she’s a powerful intercessor for infertile couples. Even though Maureen and I already had five living children, we have struggled with infertility throughout our marriage and we had already lost six children in utero. We were open to another child, but our “window of opportunity” seemed to be closing.

So, hearing Archbishop Burke’s words, I was moved that evening to pray to St. Gianna for the first time, hoping against hope that our family would be blessed with another child.

The rest of the weekend conference was predictably both tiring and fruitful, and Sunday afternoon the CUF staff members who attended the conference boarded the plane for the trek back to Ohio. On the plane, I pulled out a journal I had been keeping for my (then) three-year-old son Samuel, and I wrote him a letter. It was October 31st, Halloween, the birthday of my dear brother Ray who, with my father Leon Sr., died in 1978. In the journal entry I told Samuel about his Uncle Ray. I also mentioned that his mother and I were still hoping that someday he would have a little brother, if that was God’s will for our family.

It’s a Boy!
 
After two flights and a 45-minute drive, I finally entered my home after midnight and crawled into bed. A few hours later, there was much activity, as we all got up early Monday morning to go to All Saints” Day Mass at our parish. Then, as a feast day treat, our family went to a coffee shop for breakfast to catch up on what had happened the past few days while I was gone. I remember thinking at the time that it was one of the nicest mornings our family had ever had, and I rejoiced to be back with “everybody.” But then I dropped everybody at home and drove to the CUF office. We were closed for the holy day, but I had a few things that needed my immediate attention.

As soon as I arrived at the CUF headquarters, I realized that I needed a phone number, so I called home. Maureen answered the phone. She sounded like she was in a state of shock. I asked her what was going on, to which she replied, “Honey, I just got a call from Florida. We are going to adopt a little boy.”

St. Gianna doesn’t waste any time!

Maureen explained more of the situation to me. The birth mother was due to deliver in two weeks, but she wanted to meet us before she went into labor. In addition, we had to get busy to prepare for this sudden addition to our family.

Later that afternoon we talked about a name for the little boy and we selected the name Raymond Leon, not only for the great Dominican canonist St. Raymond and “great” Pope St. Leo I, but also for my brother Raymond, my father, Leon, and Archbishop Raymond Leo Burke, who encouraged the prayer to St. Gianna.

We flew down to Florida that week to meet the birth mother, her family, and the social worker. The birth mother told us she chose our family specifically because of Samuel. She saw that we had already welcomed a biracial child into our family, and so she felt comfortable that her son would likewise be accepted and loved. We also made arrangements with a generous CUF family in Florida who would take in Maureen and baby immediately after the birth, since it takes about a week to get clearance to leave the state. The family was part of our new “Our Lady of Life” CUF chapter!

In His merciful providence, Our Lord ordinarily gives parents nine months to prepare for the rigors of childbirth and caring for a new baby. In this case, though, we had nine days, not nine months. After scurrying to get all our paperwork in order, we received a call on November 10th, the feast of St. Leo the Great, telling us that our son was born.

Family Reunion
 
We put Maureen on the first available flight the next morning, and the baby was only 24 hours old when she first laid eyes upon him. As the birth mother was being discharged from the hospital, she took Raymond in her arms and gave him a long, affectionate embrace. Then she poignantly said, “I’m going to give you back to your mother now.” Then Maureen and little Raymond had privileged one-on-one time as they awaited legal clearance to come home.

Meanwhile, back at the home-schooling ranch, I was staying home with our other children by day and trying to keep up with CUF responsibilities by night. Not only did I develop a renewed appreciation of all that Maureen does as wife, home-schooling mom, and “heart” of the home, but I also quickly went through my cooking repertoire. Thank God for Pasta Roni!

After some anxious moments, including the airline’s refusal (at first) to allow a newborn baby to fly, Maureen and Raymond finally made it home. I picked them up at the airport. What a thrill it was to see them! We got home after the other children had gone to bed, but as Maureen unpacked and Raymond fussed, the children one by one awoke and came into the room to meet their little brother. The experience was part delivery room, part Christmas morning. I’ll never forget that night.

Father’s Joy

Ray was baptized a few weeks later on the magnificent feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. His adoption into our human family was thus crowned by his adoption into God’s family as His beloved child (cf. 1 Jn. 3:1).

With each adoption experience, Maureen and I have come to an ever-deepening appreciation of how the unique gift of adopting a child teaches us something about our Heavenly Father. After all, when He communicates His divine life to us so that we truly become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4), we are thereby brought into a familial relationship with the whole Christ, head and body. While we all have the freedom and responsibility to persevere in faith, hope, and charity, our rebirth as children of God in the Communion of Saints is the pure gift of an incredibly generous Father who delights in His adopted sons and daughters.

Something of the superabundant love and joy of our Heavenly Father is experienced in the human family whenever a child is welcomed into the home (cf. Eph. 3:15). This joy, in part, led us to name one of our daughters Abigail, which literally means “Father’s Joy.” The sudden, surprising arrival of cheerful little Raymond Leon into our home, however, was simply off the charts. The sheer gratuity of God’s blessing, which far exceeds our own limited expectations and plans, produced in our hearts a joyful gratitude beyond measure.

So now this evening, five and a half years later, with Raymond  sitting on my lap and quietly smiling at me, I had to share this story again. Thank you for sharing it with me.

This article orginally appeared, in modified form, in Lay Witness magazine.

Gay Parenthood

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

One argument offered in support of same-sex marriage is the assertion that children raised by same-sex couples have no more problems than children raised by their married biological parents. Aware that a major impediment to their agenda is public concern about the welfare of children raised by same-sex couples, gay activists have encouraged researchers to “prove” that their thesis. They offer these “findings” to the courts in marriage cases.

The majority of these studies do not compare children raised by same-sex couples with those raised by married biological parents, but with children raised by single mothers or in other less-than-ideal circumstances. Further, many of these studies have been shown to be externally or internally invalid. And in some cases, researchers simply ignored their own findings and skewed their conclusions to fit their agenda.

Persons with same-sex attractions (SSA) are human beings. It’s natural for them to want to experience the joy of having children: to love, to nurture, to leave a legacy. There’s nothing wrong with a woman wanting to become pregnant and bear a child, or a man wanting to experience the joy of seeing his son grow into manhood or his daughter develop into a beautiful woman.

Yet children are not trophies, or a way to meet one’s personal needs, or props to help forward an ideology. [more]People aren’t a means to an end; they’re meant to be loved for their own sake. Therefore, no one has a “right” to a child. It’s children who have the rights. When circumstances separate a child from one or both biological parents, adults should try to create a situation for him or her that is as normal as possible. No matter how honorable the intention, no one has the right to compound the tragedy of separation from biological parents by subjecting a child to another suboptimal situation.

At this point, children raised by same-sex parents are being subjected to a massive social experiment not undertaken for their benefit, but to further the gay rights agenda.

Activists might claim that couples with SSA are “rescuing” children by adopting them out of poverty or other hard circumstances. Although laudable, this intention doesn’t negate the real problems caused by same-sex parenting—problems deeper and longer-lasting than material deprivation. This argument also loses force when one considers the many roadblocks to adoption faced by stable, well-to-do married couples. Same-sex adoption doesn’t provide more homes to needy children; it just keeps those children away from married couples who would otherwise adopt them.

Of course, when reproductive technologies are used to create babies for same-sex couples, these children aren’t being “rescued” from anything. Instead they’re being intentionally (and immorally) conceived to be placed in suboptimal situations. This is child abuse.

On pp. 218-19 of her outstanding book, One Man, One Woman: A Catholic’s Guide to Defending Marriage (Sophia, 2007), author Dale O’Leary summarizes the risks to children of same sex parenting as follows:

(1) Each of these situations is either fatherless or motherless. Children flourish when they can identify with a parent of their own sex and feel loved and accepted by a person of the other sex.

(2) These children are fatherless or motherless because of adult decisions–often based on a need to feel validated or “complete”–not unavoidable circumstances. Either by adopting them or conceiving them artificially, their care-givers deliberately choose to deprive their children of a mother or a father.

(3) In every same-sex household, one or both parents have no biological relationship to the child. Often compounding the situation are complicated and often contentious legal and emotional relationships with sperm donors, surrogate mothers, former spouses, and ex-partners.

(4) Persons with SSA have a psychological disorder rooted in childhood trauma, which can negatively affect their relationships, their attitudes toward the other sex, and their attitudes toward parenting. They are also more likely to have psychological disorders and therefore are more prone to engage in behaviors that might negatively affect their children.

(5) Adults with SSA are part of a community that views itself as oppressed and in conflict with the greater society. This at-war-with-the-world stance place a burden on the children.

(6) Homosexual behavior is considered sinful by many religions, and same-sex parenting is otherwise stigmatized to some degree in mainstream society. The majority of people in most communities believe marriage should be between one man and one woman. Right or wrong, this can’t help but isolate the children raised by same-sex couples, creating feelings of differentness and inferiority.

(7) The community of adults with SSA tends to have attitudes toward sexuality that encourage sexual experimentation and don’t adequately protect minor children from exposure to sexually explicit materials and sexual exploitation.

Dare to Discipline

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

I used to listen to a talk radio host who would say, “In the department store of life, sports is, after all, the toy department.” Surely that’s a useful message for us “weekend warriors.”

But let’s take that comment a step further. In the department store of life, is our faith merely a department–and a “boring” one at that, such as housewares or women’s clothing? If so, then what about the rest of the store? Are there parts of our life that our faith doesn’t affect?

I think it’s very easy to compartmentalize our day. If we’re not careful, however, this could lead to our assessing our spiritual development based solely or at least excessively on explicit religious observance. In other words, we might look to whether we “got in” our Rosary, chaplet, holy hour, or whatever other devotion(s) we set out to do each day, as if these admittedly good things were ends in themselves.

Or we might pride ourselves on our “orthodoxy,” but then check our faith at the door in certain areas of our lives, such as in our business dealings or even our highway driving. Yet deep down we know that religious observance and doctrinal orthodoxy, to be authentic, must inform the totality of our lives. [more]

Our Lord instructed His Apostles to go “make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 28:19). This call goes in a special way to bishops as the legitimate successors of the Apostles. Yet the call goes out to all of us. And when it comes to the family, parents are, in the words of Pope Pius XI, “vicars of Christ” within the home, the “domestic Church.” The various duties of parents described in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (nos. 2221-31) all point to the vocation of Catholic parents to make disciples of their children. “Disciple” comes from the Latin word discipulus, which means “learner.” But just as being a disciple is more than mere “learning,” making disciples is more than mere “teaching.”

As Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II have emphasized in recent decades, teachers must first and foremost be witnesses. In other words, they must already be disciples themselves. But what are the hallmarks of a disciple, a true follower of Christ? One concise response was given by our Lord Himself when He said: “Anyone who wishes to be My disciple must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Lk. 9:23).

What kind of disciples are we raising if we spoil our children, deny them nothing, and soften the daily requirements of Christian living when they seem inconvenient or burdensome? As far as that goes, what kind of disciples are we?

The word “discipline” comes from the same root as disciple. Discipline is not limited to correcting inappropriate behavior. It’s more about instilling virtue, self-control, and a sense of order in our children’s lives as well as our own. As Scripture says, “At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it” (Heb. 12:11).

Discipline is hard work even in the intellectual realm, as sound catechesis requires some memorization. At times it’s easier to give in and let the child do what he or she wants, but such myopic solutions in the long run lead to ruin. But we don’t merely discipline–we “disciple” our children as we draw them around Jesus in the Family of God (Catechism, no. 542).

Our children are watching us like hawks. Sure, they watch me when I’m praying with them or explaining Church teaching to them. But they’re also watching to see how I respond to conflict or disappointment, how I treat strangers, how I use “free time,” and where I turn for refreshment and meaning in life. What do they see?

Our children are God’s, not ours. Yet He entrusts these treasures to us for a time. Therefore, making disciples of our children must always be the top priority. We really need to “bring it” when it comes to their religious education, beginning in the home. What excuse could we possible have for doing less?

Protected: All in the Family

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

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Novice Training

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

One of the hallmarks of the Church in our age is the renewed emphasis on the role of the laity. Drawing upon the rich, traditional teaching of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), the Church reminds the laity that all of us are called to holiness by virtue of our Baptism, and we are all called to play an active role in the apostolate, serving as leaven in the world.

All that’s well and good, but saying it doesn’t make it so. All Catholics–and not merely those who are called to the priesthood and/or religious life–need a sound Christian formation to be able to respond generously and well to their own personal vocation in Christ. We need ongoing catechesis. In short, we can’t expect the fruits of discipleship, such as growth in holiness, apostolic zeal, and so forth, unless we truly are disciples.

In recent decades the Church has called the family the “domestic Church.” This is a powerful image that suggests something more than a once-per-week catechism class and maybe a crucifix on the wall. [more]

Men and women who are called to the religious life don”t take vows on the first day. Rather, they go through a period of spiritual formation and preparation known as the “novitiate.” By way of analogy, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the family is called to be a “lay novitiate,” with the family home being the “motherhouse.”

I’ve been called many things–and more often than not I deserved it!  But one accusation I’ve never really understood is the charge that my family is ”too religious” simply because we believe the faith should carry over into the way we live. When it comes to following Christ, we’re either “all in” or we’re not. The family, then, must be an incubator of faith, a school of virtue, and a training ground for prayer, always in a context of being a joyful, welcoming environment.

Today, I want to invite our readers to reflect on Catechism, no. 2225, which in my estimation calls us to see our homes as “lay novitiates.” As we read, let us ask the Lord how we might live this teaching more fully in our own families:

“Through the grace of the sacrament of marriage, parents receive the responsibility and privilege of evangelizing their children. Parents should initiate their children at an early age into the mysteries of the faith of which they are the “first heralds” for their children. They should associate them from their tenderest years with the life of the Church. A wholesome family life can foster interior dispositions that are a genuine preparation for a living faith and remain a support for it throughout one’s life.”