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Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Vulture Culture

What do gay marriage, abortion and reality TV shows have in common? In famously Protestant America, each of these culturally reflect and enshrine the Protestant version of the Ten Commandments, the commandments Judge Moore and company fight about. This may seem a remarkable statement, but it is true.

Take gay marriage, for instance. One-third of teens who choose to be actively gay will be dead from disease by the age of thirty. Disease will kill half of them before their fiftieth birthday. The lifestyle of active homosexuals is deadly. Though they have access to the most advanced medical technology in history, gays today have a life expectancy virtually identical to someone living in the late 1800’s – when we had no antibiotics and few survivable surgical procedures.

Because of this, many civic planners, influenced by Richard Florida’s The Rise of the Creative Class, are cultivating a gay subculture in their cities. Neither city officials nor Mr. Florida mention the real reason: active homosexuals pursue personal pleasure above all else, which means they spend lots of money on themselves. They have, after all, no one else to spend it on and no particular reason to save it. Their lifestyle pumps millions into the local economy, their lingering deaths from disease pump in millions more from the insurance companies. For those few gays who chose to adopt or IVF a child before they die, the orphans become wards of the state, and bring in still more federal dollars. For city officials, it’s a sweet setup – the city isn’t exactly written into the will, but by encouraging debauchery the city coffers profit enormously. Homosexuals are a revenue source, a set of substantial bank accounts to tap. Throughout the country, the death tax is notoriously high. Both city and state profit from encouraging a high population of wealthy people who die rapidly.

So, our city planners now echo the abortionists, the only doctors who don’t accept charge cards or checks. “It’s their right to live as they wish,” say proponents as they ring up the sales, “and who are we to interfere with a right? Cash only, please, and step to the left as you die so as not to upset the others in line.” Abortionists don’t tell women what the March 2004 issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology reports: women who abort are three times more likely to be dead within a year of their abortion than they would be if they gave birth. Likewise, city officials don’t mention what everyone knows: the city’s homosexual neighborhood always has real estate agents hustling empty housing units. Everyone just wears black armbands when a particularly wealthy homosexual kicks the bucket. Loving funeral notices are written, and the number of funeral homes increase. Everybody wins but the corpse.

In a society uncontaminated by Christ, people are tools, and we reward those who recognize this. Is it any wonder that the first reality television show, Survivor, was won by a homosexual? This is not to say that heterosexuals cannot coldly and callously use people as instruments – we do it every time we sin – but using people like objects is part of the fabric of homosexual society to a unique degree. According to a 2003 issue of the journal AIDS (vol. 17), “monogamous” homosexuals typically have between six and ten anonymous sexual affairs a year outside of their “monogamous” relationship. No heterosexual would think to define monogamy that way. The homosexual life is about use – who uses whom, and what do I get out of it? Likewise, reality television shows are all about how I can use other people in order to get what I want. Thus, it is fitting and right that the homosexual Richard Hatch win the first reality gameshow, Survivor.

In an interview after having been voted off a later All-Star Survivor game, Richard Hatch was asked who the smartest member left in the game was. His reply, “I've been voted off, so... who cares?” In a vulture culture, we talk about me or we don’t talk.

And this is ultimately why gay marriage is a contradiction in terms. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church points out “Matrimony [is] directed towards the service of others; if [it] contributes as well to personal salvation, it is through service to others that [it does] so” (#1534). Marriage is a sacrament of service because it makes me the primary servant to my spouse. Through marriage, I voluntarily bind myself to the service of my spouse before all others.

The Catholic understanding of marriage is radically at odds with American culture. The vulture culture asks, “Is my spouse doing a good job of serving me? Is my spouse helping me achieve my goals?” Orthodox Catholics ask, “Am I doing my job of loving service? Am I giving myself entirely to my spouse so that she has all she needs to become more perfect?”

How many heterosexuals get divorced because they know they aren’t serving their spouse well enough? In that sense, the homosexuals are right: homosexual marriage cannot threaten heterosexual marriage because heterosexual marriage in the Catholic sense is a concept that really doesn’t exist in America. It never has. The great irony in the gay marriage/Ten Commandments fight lies precisely in the fact that non-Catholic Christians have no idea their position is self-contradictory. They haven’t thought it through.

Catholics separate the sins of coveting your neighbor’s wife and coveting your neighbor’s house. Coveting a person, that is, treating a person like an object, is a sin against the ninth commandment and entirely different from coveting someone else’s goods, the sin against the tenth commandment. Contrast this to non-Catholic Christian theology where a person is treated as an object – the two different kinds of coveting are not distinguished. They both offend a single commandment, the tenth.

Likewise, when considering God, non-Catholic Christians concentrate on the means more than the end. They concentrate on separating the mis-use of words (taking God’s name in vain violates their second commandment) from the mis-use of things (using idols violates their third commandment). Catholics know all of these are offenses against the infinite majesty of God’s Persons, and condemn all such offenses in a single commandment, the second. Protestant theology doesn’t really understand the difference between an object and a person. Catholic theology does. And that is why homosexual marriage is simply the next logical step on the road that redefines social justice.

Homosexual marriage will not only change our understanding of monogamy, as we have already seen, it will also change our understanding of social justice, but not in the way you might think. Consider: lesbians are three times more likely to be alcoholic than non-lesbians (nearly half reported frequent drunkenness), and most pointed to money problems, not social acceptance, as the cause. Gays make up 80% of the both the AIDS and the syphilis cases in the US, their rate of syphilis is ten times that of the heterosexual population, and hepatitis-B transmits nearly nine times more efficiently than AIDS among homosexuals. 55% of homosexual men with ano-rectal complaints have gonorrhea, one-third have herpes simplex, 15% have chlamydia. Gays contract gonorrhea of the throat at a rate four times higher than heterosexuals. 91% of homosexual men have intestinal protozoa: the majority of shigella and amoeba infections among non-travelled immunocompetent patients are homosexuals. Indeed, one New York study found that every single such patient with giardiasis was homosexual. E. histolytica infection is a staggering twenty-seven times more prevelant in homosexuals. Not surprisingly, the most powerful predictor for both giardiasis and E. histolytica infection is homosexual behaviour. Rates of anal cancer are 2500 times higher in homosexuals. The list could go on, but you get the point.

Unsurprisingly, “monogamous” gays are as diseased as promiscuous gays: The American Journal of Public Health published a 1990 study that found, "Being in a monogamous gay relationship was associated with higher risk sex throughout the entire study." The AIDS article referred to above agreed: “monogamous” homosexuals were more likely to be infected, not less so.

So, this is the love homosexuals have for one another: my partner must give me pleasure until s/he dies from it. The principle is already enshrined in heterosexual law via legal contraception and legal abortion. Homosexuals want the same rights heterosexuals have to use their partner like Kleenex. Who can deny them?

Historically, society has regulated harmful activities, such as alcohol use, tobacco use and drug use. Prostitution, contraception, abortion and homosexual activity also used to be heavily regulated. After all, these activities tend to kill you and the rest of us have to pay your medical bills and take care of your widows and orphans. But the pursuit of sexual pleasure appears to hold a special place in the hearts of Americans. Apparently, we want to keep people from using alcohol, tobacco and drugs, but we want to encourage people to use people. Homosexuality, contraception, abortion, gay marriage, embryo screening, reality television shows: these are all social justice issues.

Social justice now means I have a right to use you. Use you until you die.

Can this be attitude be beaten? Yes. John Paul II has given us the answer. Learn to speak the Theology of the Body . It is the only coherent way to explain to our separated brethren and our pagan friends that people are not objects. Properly used, it speaks the language of every person’s heart, expressing what we each know. I am a person, I am important, and I am not to be used like an object for someone else’s pleasure or gain.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

The Facts of Life

Want to hear something strange? Not once, never in the history of mankind, has a fertilized egg ever implanted in a woman’s womb. Surprised? It’s true. Misunderstanding this single fact destroys the ability to think clearly about a host of issues, yet even medical doctors regularly mis-speak when they discuss it. There’s a reason for this.

When a woman’s ovary releases an egg, the clock starts ticking. That single cell has only one of two possible fates: disintegration or fertilization. On average, the ovum disintegrates in about twelve hours; it certainly doesn’t last much more than twenty-four. The Fallopian tubes, the egg’s highway to the womb, are about six to eight inches long. The egg will disintegrate before it travels more than a third of the distance. Unless, of course, it meets a spermatozoon.

Since sperm have flagella, they move quite a lot faster than eggs. If they can make it to the egg before it disintegrates, the egg will be fertilized. Keep in mind what this means. As soon as the egg is fertilized, it meshes the new DNA into its own and starts using the new information immediately. That is, the fertilized egg almost immediately begins to divide.

Now, according to every embryology text in the world, as soon as a fertilized egg begins to divide, it is no longer a fertilized egg, she is an embryo. She will remain an embryo until about the end of the eighth week, when she is old enough and mature enough to be called a fetus. Yet even with that first cell division, the cells within the embryo are organizing themselves. As the embryonic child travels down the Fallopian tube, she is constantly growing, dividing, creating and organizing more and more cells within herself, getting everything ready to prepare for implantation in the womb.

Unlike fertilization, which is the work of a moment or two, it takes days for implantation to occur. The embryo typically makes it into the womb about four days after fertilization; the growth necessary to complete implantation won’t finish until roughly day ten. Like God in Genesis, it takes the embryo six days to create the right conditions and get everything in the womb arranged as it needs to be.

The moral of the story? No egg, fertilized or not, ever makes it to the womb. Not ever. Only embryos enter the womb because only an embryo can implant in the womb. A fertilized egg can’t implant. Even the pagans at the local IVF clinic recognize this. After the lab technicians conceive a child, they wait until the embryo is ready before they attempt implantation.

And herein lies the irony. The same people who deny the existence of the child in the womb or in the petri dish likewise can’t seem to keep their medical terminology straight. Back in the early 1980’s, researchers who had both the curiosity and the moral scruples of a hyperactive three-year old wanted to tear little boys and girls into little pieces in order to see how they worked. But they knew that tearing apart embryos might get them into trouble with ethics committees. So, they simply invented a brand new term: pre-embryo.

“Pre-embryo” was the smokescreen term for an embryo prior to the fourteenth day of growth. By changing the name to “pre-embryo”, the researchers neatly got around the ethics panels who didn’t want anyone messing with “embryos.” They could IVF and tear up little kids all day long, and no one would yell. The American media, which supports slicing and dicing little boys and girls no matter what the reason, went along with it. So did many OB/GYNs who performed abortion on the side. They avoided violating their Hippocratic oath largely through never having taken the real thing.

Embryologists, the people whose life’s work is the study of very small children, were uniformly livid at the invention of the term. From their point of view, a bunch of nut-cases masquerading as medical professionals were perverting a solid century’s use of scientific terminology, the very terminology whose accurate definition was necessary for embryologists to do and discuss their own work. This was not acceptable. As a result of their protests, the term “pre-embryo” gradually fell out of favor, but the embryologists were never forgiven for their rashness in objecting to the politically correct takeover. From 1973 through to the present day, embryologists have never been consulted by any American court as it considers issues of human embryology, such as contraception and abortion, nor have embryologists been invited to sit on any of the major ethical boards that have discussed embryonic stem cell research, IVF embryology or abortion technology like the morning after pill. Their views are not welcome.

And what are the views of honest embryologists? Well, honest embryologists note how the people who used to promote talk about “pre-embryos” are the same medical idiots who now consistently mis-use the phrase “fertilized egg.” Honest embryologists point out that embryonic stem cell research has never healed a single disease, while morally acceptable adult stem cell research has already healed dozens of diseases.

A good embryologist points out that every attempt to treat diseases in real people using stem cells from embryos has met with failure, often catastrophic failure. Embryonic stem cells injected into the brains of Parkinson’s patients, for instance, make the symptoms radically worse. Autopsies of test subjects, both animals and people, who had embryonic cell injections reveal that these embryonic cells often begin to grow into fetal body parts inside the skull. This is fairly typical.

Honest embryologists point out that anyone can get perfectly good embryonic stem cells from umbilical cord blood: hundreds of children are delivered in maternity wards each day in America. All we have to do to get hundreds of unique, clean, usable embryonic cell lines is ask for the umbilical cords after each delivery. That’s it. Oddly, researchers argue that they should be able to dissect children left over from IVF treatment because “the embryos will just be thrown away”, yet they have never extended the principle to umbilical cords, even though the stem cells from umbilical cords are actual useful in treating disease, whereas the stem cells obtained from dissecting IVF embryos are not.

Honest embryologists point to the fact that both cord blood and adult stem cells are actually being used to treat dozens of different diseases, from cancer to diabetes, right now, and have been for several years. They ask why certain scientists pretend embryonic stem cells are useful when both moral theory and repeated hard experience shows these cells are trash when it comes to treatment. They ask why these same people pretend adult and cord blood stem cells are barely useable when, in fact, adult and cord blood stem cells have provided the only cures that stem cell therapy can claim. Not one person on either side of the debate argues that this will change anytime soon.

But worst of all, anyone who listens to an honest embryologist might discover that embryonic stem cell researchers tears apart very small boys and girls for one damned reason: it’s one hell of a lot of fun to rip apart small children.

That, in a nutshell, is why the media never interviews embryologists. We can’t let medical professionals use that kind of language in front of children.

The Facts of Life

Want to hear something strange? Not once, never in the history of mankind, has a fertilized egg ever implanted in a woman’s womb. Surprised? It’s true. Misunderstanding this single fact destroys the ability to think clearly about a host of issues, yet even medical doctors regularly mis-speak when they discuss it. There’s a reason for this.

When a woman’s ovary releases an egg, the clock starts ticking. That single cell has only one of two possible fates: disintegration or fertilization. On average, the ovum disintegrates in about twelve hours; it certainly doesn’t last much more than twenty-four. The Fallopian tubes, the egg’s highway to the womb, are about six to eight inches long. The egg will disintegrate before it travels more than a third of the distance. Unless, of course, it meets a spermatozoon.

Since sperm have flagella, they move quite a lot faster than eggs. If they can make it to the egg before it disintegrates, the egg will be fertilized. Keep in mind what this means. As soon as the egg is fertilized, it meshes the new DNA into its own and starts using the new information immediately. That is, the fertilized egg almost immediately begins to divide.

Now, according to every embryology text in the world, as soon as a fertilized egg begins to divide, it is no longer a fertilized egg, she is an embryo. She will remain an embryo until about the end of the eighth week, when she is old enough and mature enough to be called a fetus. Yet even with that first cell division, the cells within the embryo are organizing themselves. As the embryonic child travels down the Fallopian tube, she is constantly growing, dividing, creating and organizing more and more cells within herself, getting everything ready to prepare for implantation in the womb.

Unlike fertilization, which is the work of a moment or two, it takes days for implantation to occur. The embryo typically makes it into the womb about four days after fertilization; the growth necessary to complete implantation won’t finish until roughly day ten. Like God in Genesis, it takes the embryo six days to create the right conditions and get everything in the womb arranged as it needs to be.

The moral of the story? No egg, fertilized or not, ever makes it to the womb. Not ever. Only embryos enter the womb because only an embryo can implant in the womb. A fertilized egg can’t implant. Even the pagans at the local IVF clinic recognize this. After the lab technicians conceive a child, they wait until the embryo is ready before they attempt implantation.

And herein lies the irony. The same people who deny the existence of the child in the womb or in the petri dish likewise can’t seem to keep their medical terminology straight. Back in the early 1980’s, researchers who had both the curiosity and the moral scruples of a hyperactive three-year old wanted to tear little boys and girls into little pieces in order to see how they worked. But they knew that tearing apart embryos might get them into trouble with ethics committees. So, they simply invented a brand new term: pre-embryo.

“Pre-embryo” was the smokescreen term for an embryo prior to the fourteenth day of growth. By changing the name to “pre-embryo”, the researchers neatly got around the ethics panels who didn’t want anyone messing with “embryos.” They could IVF and tear up little kids all day long, and no one would yell. The American media, which supports slicing and dicing little boys and girls no matter what the reason, went along with it. So did many OB/GYNs who performed abortion on the side. They avoided violating their Hippocratic oath largely through never having taken the real thing.

Embryologists, the people whose life’s work is the study of very small children, were uniformly livid at the invention of the term. From their point of view, a bunch of nut-cases masquerading as medical professionals were perverting a solid century’s use of scientific terminology, the very terminology whose accurate definition was necessary for embryologists to do and discuss their own work. This was not acceptable. As a result of their protests, the term “pre-embryo” gradually fell out of favor, but the embryologists were never forgiven for their rashness in objecting to the politically correct takeover. From 1973 through to the present day, embryologists have never been consulted by any American court as it considers issues of human embryology, such as contraception and abortion, nor have embryologists been invited to sit on any of the major ethical boards that have discussed embryonic stem cell research, IVF embryology or abortion technology like the morning after pill. Their views are not welcome. (link in this http://www.all.org/abac/ab020326.htm)

And what are the views of honest embryologists? Well, honest embryologists note how the people who used to promote talk about “pre-embryos” are the same medical idiots who now consistently mis-use the phrase “fertilized egg.” Honest embryologists point out that embryonic stem cell research has never healed a single disease, while morally acceptable adult stem cell research has already healed dozens of diseases.

A good embryologist points out that every attempt to treat diseases in real people using stem cells from embryos has met with failure, often catastrophic failure. Embryonic stem cells injected into the brains of Parkinson’s patients, for instance, make the symptoms radically worse. Autopsies of test subjects, both animals and people, who had embryonic cell injections reveal that these embryonic cells often begin to grow into fetal body parts inside the skull. This is fairly typical.

Honest embryologists point out that anyone can get perfectly good embryonic stem cells from umbilical cord blood: hundreds of children are delivered in maternity wards each day in America. All we have to do to get hundreds of unique, clean, usable embryonic cell lines is ask for the umbilical cords after each delivery. That’s it. Oddly, researchers argue that they should be able to dissect children left over from IVF treatment because “the embryos will just be thrown away”, yet they have never extended the principle to umbilical cords, even though the stem cells from umbilical cords are actual useful in treating disease, whereas the stem cells obtained from dissecting IVF embryos are not.

Honest embryologists point to the fact that both cord blood and adult stem cells are actually being used to treat dozens of different diseases, from cancer to diabetes, right now, and have been for several years. They ask why certain scientists pretend embryonic stem cells are useful when both moral theory and repeated hard experience shows these cells are trash when it comes to treatment. They ask why these same people pretend adult and cord blood stem cells are barely useable when, in fact, adult and cord blood stem cells have provided the only cures that stem cell therapy can claim. Not one person on either side of the debate argues that this will change anytime soon.

But worst of all, anyone who listens to an honest embryologist might discover that embryonic stem cell researchers tears apart very small boys and girls for one damned reason: it’s one hell of a lot of fun to rip apart small children.

That, in a nutshell, is why the media never interviews embryologists. We can’t let medical professionals use that kind of language in front of children.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Pain: Da Vinci’s Code versus The Passion

“What kind of God would want that kind of pain inflicted on someone?” This is one of the central questions posed in Dan Brown’s bestselling novel, The Da Vinci Code. It is also the question posed by Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Mr. Brown’s answer is simple: God, whoever he or she might be, does not want the scourging and Cross that Jesus embraces. Thus, Jesus cannot be God.

The idea is logical in a certain sense. It demonstrates an understanding that pain is evil. But it also demonstrates a failure to understand why pain is evil, or how pain is evil. Mel Gibson understands the answers to these questions, his secular critics, critics who embraced The Da Vinci Code, do not. And that, as the poet says, makes all the difference.

While pain is a natural evil, it is morally neutral. A natural evil is something that was not originally part of God’s design for the world. God created everything good. Pain, at least to the extent it is present today, is not part of God’s original design for the world.

Now, there is a difference between natural evil and moral evil. Natural evil is a result that man created for himself, it is not what God intends for man. Hurricanes, tornadoes, blindness, plague, physical or mental deformity: these are all natural evils. But wait: if man causes natural evils, and hurricanes are natural evils, am I saying men cause hurricanes? That’s absurd! How can that be? Well, we have to understand how the world works.

First, we have to understand that grace is power. It is the power that keeps the universe running harmoniously. God set mankind up as stewards who care for the world. God sends grace into the world. We are supposed to direct this grace, this power so as to help all creation bring greater glory to God.

Man has two choices. He can accept the grace God sends new every morning, or he can reject it. If mankind rejects grace, then the world does not have the power needed to work harmoniously. We are all acquainted with machinery that breaks when it is run with insufficient power. The world is exactly that kind of machine. When we choose to reject the power of grace, the world inevitably fractures. Natural evils such as those listed above are some of the fractures.

As stated above, there is a difference between moral good/evil and natural good/evil. Morality refers to the consequences that are visited on persons. A morally good act fills a person with grace. A morally evil act strips grace away from that person. Each person can only affect his own state of grace. I cannot strip grace from you, nor can you strip grace from me. Conversely, I cannot add grace to you, nor can you add grace to me.

A natural good or natural evil refers to a created thing that is not a person. If a created thing is working the way God intended it to work, it is a natural good. If it is not working the way God intended it to work, it is a natural evil. Natural goods and natural evils also have no direct effects on persons. A natural good will not add grace to a person, nor will a natural evil remove grace from a person.

However, when created things work the way they are supposed to, we generally find it easier to act in a morally good way. When created things do not work the way they are supposed to, that is, when we encounter a natural evil like plague or drought or physical deformity, we tend to find it more difficult to act in a morally good way.

Now, earlier we noted that no human person can add to or injure another person’s state of grace. However, we can each add to or strip away the grace in a situation. This is a poor example, but it will have to do: suppose I see you sitting in front of a malfunctioning computer. I fix the computer. I have “graced” that situation, because I have turned a natural evil (your broken computer) into a natural good through the skills that grace has bestowed on me. As a result, your ability to retain the grace you have is much improved.

On the other hand, if you were sitting in front of a working computer and I harmed it or harmed you (perhaps blinding you with acid), I have used the skills given me by grace in order to strip away grace from the natural objects around you. Now you are forced to deal with natural evils, a situation that shouldn’t be the way it is. As a result, you are much less likely to be able to hold onto your own grace. For my part, I have misused the grace within me, and I am now emptied of it. Grace is power precisely because it is the presence of God, and God will not abide in one who does evil.

How we respond to the natural goods and evils we meet every day influences how we decide to cooperate with the grace that dwells within us. The idea is this: no matter what comes our way, we will choose to cooperate with the power of grace within us, we will not choose to empty ourselves of it in despair.
When we take something good and grace-filled – the human act of sex, for instance – and intentionally empty it of grace, we simultaneously empty ourselves of grace. But God sends grace new every morning. When we use the grace He sends to fill and thereby heal a situation that lacks grace, the very act can open us up so that God can fill us with even more grace if He chooses.

God is the source of grace. We experience pain because the world is short on grace. If the world is the road to heaven, pain is one of the potholes, a possible impediment to reaching our destination if we hit it with the wrong attitude and/or use it wrong. However, if at the moment we encounter pain, we remain open to the God Who is the source of grace, we become a pipeline. If we cooperate with the grace He places within us, He can use us as instruments to fill the potholes in the road. The world’s pain is lessened. Not only do we find ourselves on the road to heaven, but we have also helped make the road smoother for others to follow. Thus, like an athlete training for a marathon, a Christian can say “pain is good” only in reference to the pain he himself endures as part of the work he does with God as God goes about healing the world.

Dan Brown doesn’t understand any of this. All he sees is the pain of the Cross. He doesn’t understand that one man chose to stand still in the middle of our desert of pain. One man stood tall in the thrashing, fractured world, stood still and absorbed into Himself all the pain the world could deal out, all so that the grace, the power, necessary to heal the world could pour in through Him like water through a pipe, like water to a dry desert, to heal a dying world.

This column is a slightly adapted chapter from Fact and Fiction in The Da Vinci Code, available through Bridegroom Press.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

The Anti-Semites

We have all heard the charges. Mel Gibson’s movie is anti-Semitic, as are the Gospels he drew from. Never mind that Gibson specifically showed several Jewish leaders protest Jesus’ unfair trial. Ignore the fact that Mr. Gibson wove together Jesus’ discourse “I lay my life down. No one takes it from me” with clips of the Jewish elders precisely to demonstrate that no one could have harmed Jesus if He had not permitted it. Ignore too, that Mr. Gibson made a point of dressing Joseph of Arimethea as a Jewish leader when he placed him at the foot of the Cross as Jesus body was taken down. Close your eyes to the piercing gaze Mary gave each one of us as we gazed upon what we had done to her Son.

Let us throw all of this to the winds. We will not dwell on the fact that this movie was about the Jew who saved the universe, instead, we will grant every assertion of anti-Semitism without a fight.

There. Don’t you feel better? Now that we know what anti-Semitism is, we must all stand up and condemn anti-Semitism wherever we find it. When we consider anti-Semitism according to these most excellent new rules, horror strikes. A most notorious book, a work of nearly pure anti-Semitism, has not yet been properly exposed for what it is.

This infamous book asserts that Jews are adulterers, thieves, murderers, harlots. Open the book up to any page: here is a story in which virtually an entire Jewish family tries to kill their own blood relative, there, an eyewitness tells us how Jews killed and ate their own children. It goes on in nauseating detail. The pages are filled with anti-Semitic stories of this kind.

But the authors of this book hold Jewish leaders out for special attack. They assert that the leaders of the Jews stole from the poor and the orphan, ground the widow under their heel, took bribes, lied, raped, enslaved: men were callously sold for the price of a pair of sandals. It lists the most horrific crimes, the most perfidious blood sport, and places them all at the feet of the Jews.

Now that we all know what true anti-Semitism is, we should turn with one voice and repudiate this book and its authors. But the situation is actually worse than I painted. You see, this is not just a single book, it is a whole series of books, a virtual travelling library of anti-Semitism. It is read regularly in synagogue every Sabbath. It is the best-selling book in the United States.

An old man named Moses wrote the first five volumes of it. This barbaric Moses person shows that the founder of the Jewish Faith was an adulterer, willing to send his consort and his illegitimate son to certain death just to keep his wife happy. A family with a son named Joseph sold him into slavery after their attempted murder failed. Moses personally saved Joseph’s descendants from slavery and death only to see them mock everything he had worked for when he came down the mountain. Moses is the first, but not the worst. Dare we even read the so-called “prophets”?

Nearly every one of the rabidly anti-Semitic “prophets” in this collection accused the Jews of the things listed above and worse besides. Book after sickening book in the “Bible” lists the crimes of the Israelites. Thank heavens the Mel Gibson controversy opened our eyes! Now we can clearly see that anti-Semitism has a long history. Given the kind of disgusting man Mr. Gibson is, he would probably blush to be compared with the authors of this book. Still, he undeniably has their vision of the world. His movie is the kind of nonsense you can expect from Adonai’s men.

If anyone were to write a book today that contained a tenth of the nasty statements made in the Law and the Prophets, what Christians call the Old Testament, the ACLU lawyers would go into shock while B’nai B’rith would have an epileptic fit. One can only guess what Andy Rooney would say, “I won’t waste nine dollars to get a few laughs out of a lousy book like the Torah,” he might opine, “That kind of violence and bloodshed is just mindless.” B’nai B’rith would immediately agree.

Historically, there has been one major difference between the Jews and all the rest of the nations of mankind. The Irish, the Chinese, the Italians, the Germans, the French, the Americans, the Russians, we work hard to forget the perfidious cruelties, the blood-drenched evils our people have perpetrated on others and on ourselves. We like to believe we are all wonderful people. Inconvenient historical facts are ignored.

The Jews, on the other hand, turn the historical list of their own evils into Sacred Scripture. Why? Because the Jews are wiser than modern secular man. They know Scripture isn’t just about the evils – it is also about the heroic virtue displayed by the people of Israel, the incredible courage, the noble self-sacrifice, the enormous gift and burden of making all of humanity aware of the one God and His love for broken humanity.

Unlike other peoples, the Jews don’t just keep the history they like and throw the rest out. They are honest enough to keep both before their eyes constantly, so that they might do what Adonai commanded: we have before us the path of life and the path of death. He asked them, He asks us through them, to choose life, so that we and our children might live. To do any less is to betray the Faith.

So, let’s stop playing games and state the facts. A small group of evil men, Jews and goyim, killed a noble man, the Jew who saved the world. A small group of heroic men, all Jews, carried the news of this Jewish hero to the goyim. This is the constant story of the Torah: Jewish Joseph was nearly slaughtered but Jewish Joseph brought Adonai to Egypt. The nation of Israel was enslaved, but the Israelites brought Adonai to the desert people and the Promised Land. David committed adultery and murder, but King David brought Adonai to the nations.

The Gospels simply compress the millennia-long story of the Law and the Prophets into three short years, three years in which one man lives all the trials and the prophecies of Israel in His own body. He dies at the hands of his family, just as Joseph nearly did, but He brings Adonai to the world, for He is Adonai.

The New Testament and the Old Testament are both anti-Semitic by today’s standards precisely because they both celebrate the single mystery that only Jews have known and only Jews could bring unto us goyim: Hear O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is One, and He is to be loved with all our heart, all our soul, all our might. These words we are commanded to place upon our heart, and teach diligently to our children. We are to talk of them when we sit in our house and when we walk by the way, when we lie down, and when we rise up. The Jewish Saviour of the world bound it through His own hands and made it a crowned frontlet to his eyes, and so the Cross has become the doorpost of our house and of our gates.

This is The Passion of the Christ. It captures the whole of Jewish and Christian Scripture at a stroke. The whole world conspired together to kill Him, both goy and Jew, but when it came time to save that same world, only the Jews could manage it. Where sin abounds, grace abounds more. Where pagan goyim and apostate Jews conspire, faithful Jews overcome. As the strains of fascism swept pre-war Europe, Pius XI famously told a group of German Catholics that all Christians are spiritually Semites. He was right, of course, but he left unmentioned the choice that still remains: will we be Joseph? Or will we be his brothers?
Choose.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Solving the Education Problem: Part II

As many of you have noted, parish schools are virtually the only thing in many parishes that will bring adults out of their homes. For this reason, the parish school can be absolutely vital to adult formation.

You may think this an odd position for me to take, given what I’ve written so far. It isn’t. Successful adult formation is built on sales. As a friend of mine likes to say, “No need, no deal.” Gas can be twenty cents a gallon, but I won’t stop if I have a full tank. On the other hand, it may be twenty dollars a gallon, but I’ll fill up if it’s the only station in town.

Adults are driven by interest and by need. We are often not interested in learning the Faith but we will come when we have to. How does your parish get adults into formation sessions right now? That’s easy – nearly all parishes require six months of marriage formation. Nearly all parishes require one or more session of adult instruction in order to get a child baptized in the parish. The adults all come even though most of them hate it. Why? Because they want to get marred in the Church or they want that baptismal certificate and celebration. They’ll put up with the sessions. The price is worth the trade.

So, we use that principle and expand the concept. We all know the Sunday homily is not sufficient for adult formation. The popes have said this for roughly a century. It makes sense. Can you name any subject that you can master simply by listening to a 10-minute talk once a week? Neither can I. We need to demonstrate that the Catholic Church actually has useful things to say to adults.

Get the parents first
But first, we need bait to get them in. We have it: the parochial school. Most schools already require the parents to invest a certain amount of “volunteer” hours. Simply require some of those hours to be spent in weekly or bi-monthly adult formation session as a condition for their children’s attendance in the parochial school. Sure, some of the parents aren’t Catholic – so? They don’t have to convert. They just need to listen. This is informed parenting – the parish insists on making sure every parent knows what the school teaches. Run short session series: an hour or so a week for four weeks, with free baby-sitting (the eighth-graders can pitch in here), perhaps with a light dinner thrown in. Then they can take a break for four weeks. Keep in mind that some parents work split shift, so schedule accordingly.

Motivate the parents of younger children. Parents are supposed to be doing sacramental preparation, so the classes in kindergarten and first grade teach them how. When this first parent class hits second grade, close down the First Confession/First Eucharist component in the parochial school and the CCD. It’s the parents’ job from now on. For third grade and later, continue the sessions – now the parents have to prepare their children for confirmation, after all. If your parish is one of several in a big city, get other parishes on board, get the bishop behind the plan. Otherwise, parents as lazy as I am will flee to other schools in a wild attempt to avoid the coming responsibilities.

Now, sweeten the pot. Getting them in the door is a start, but we have to keep them coming back without rebellion. So, parents or parochial school teachers who attend a certain number of weekly formation sessions get a cut in tuition, a bonus, or cash payments/prizes. Maybe a local travel agency will donate a cruise, the local appliance store a refrigerator. Ask parents and teachers what they would like for prizes, and get those prizes. Make the sessions look and feel like an adult event. It should resemble what professional people see when they walk into a conference in their field of expertise - classy.

“But not all parents will do this!” the pastor exclaims. “I am responsible for seeing that those kids are prepared for the sacraments!” Not really, Father. The parents are responsible for that. They are the primary educators. Pastors need to get to the parents – without the parents, the kids will generally abandon the sacraments. Remember, priests assist the parents, not the other way around. Assistants often have to live with bosses who are impossible, as we all know. Does a priest take over another pastor’s parish when he dislikes what the pastor next door is doing? Parents are the priests of the domestic Church, the family is their parish. In the family, every priest is a visiting priest. When it comes to the children, treat the parents the same way you would treat a brother pastor. They are, you know. And they’ll respond well to that level of respect.

American Parish Idol
Pastors, you have an enormous resource staring you in the face. Homeschoolers are the best teachers and mentors you could ask for. They know the Faith, they know how to transmit it, and they know what it is like to be scared doing it, so they know how to deal with parental fears. Have them run your adult education classes, especially the sacramental prep sessions. Pay them.

In fact, pay professional speakers to come in on a regular basis. Most charge somewhere between $500 and $1000 for a talk, plus travel expenses. Put them up in the rectory and book travel well in advance to minimize costs. Forty weeks of that will cost forty to sixty thousand dollars, or the price of four parochial school teachers, and you get top-notch presentations. But only 20 adults show up! So? How many kids do you need to fill a grade school class? Why is this different?

Now, I could plug the speakers at places like Bridegroom Press, Catholic Exchange, Catholic Answers, St. Joseph’s Communications and the like, but there’s no need. A parish can generally roll its own speakers’ bureau. Set up a committee and have an audition night. Anyone who wants to speak on a topic can audition for a spot on the roster. Make it clear that you are paying several hundred dollars for a person to give a one-hour talk plus Q&A on any subject that touches on Catholic Faith, and people will come out of the woodwork.

Have the committee decide who makes the cut after a ten-minute sample presentation. Then have the full talk previewed and vetted for orthodoxy. For the first year, take anyone remotely good, have the audience vote, and invite popular speakers back for four-week or six-week series. It’s the parish version of American Idol. You might even use one of the many fund-raising cruise firms to put together a cruise for the parish, with popular parish speakers as the highlighters – they get a reduced price or free berth in exchange for talking on the cruise. That way, the cruise pays for the adult education and the educators have a prize to compete for all in the same boat, so to speak.

Once adults start seeing that the Catholic Church actually has useful things to say, form parish small groups around specific topics: men’s group, women’s group, health group, etc. Family groups should figure prominently. Families are supposed to band together to support one another. Start a group reading Familiaris Consortio or John Paul II’s Letter to Families. There are good study guides out for both, and I’ve never met a parent who studied either one and wasn’t delighted by them.

What to use for material?
Start a Catholicism 101 class and give out certificates of completion at the end. Do a series on Catholic-Protestant differences. A presentation on medieval and Renaissance artwork brings enormous numbers of people out – you can download pictures off the web and run an overhead to show them. Run the RCIA series slightly adapted for Catholic adults. Catholics who have been sponsors in orthodox RCIA programs love it: they’re finally getting the Faith at an adult level.

I will try to make available on my website the talk outlines I used when I was teaching RCIA. The first six weeks of that instruction is essentially found in my book Sex and the Sacred City, and it is written to be used for group study. As I get the opportunity, I will make available the class notes from the graduate theology courses I took. These notes will be free downloads. I’ll also set up a web discussion board at www.bridegroompress.com for blog readers to throw ideas around. Watch for it before the end of the month.

Other good resources to build a class around: Frank Sheed’s A Map of Life or Scott Hahn’s A Father Who Keeps His Promises. For Bible study, Jeff Cavin’s Great Adventure timeline is a good start. Both Emmaus Road and Ignatius Press puts out good Scripture studies, and the Navarre Bible study series is excellent. The Little Rock and Collegeville series are short on doctrine, but some people like them for the emotional support they provide.

Ask the adults in the parish what they want; maybe a series on stem cells or medical research or gay marriage or the problem of pain. A talk on annulments and divorce is almost always popular. Debunk The Da Vinci Code, discuss The Passion of the Christ, take your topics from the news media headlines and let the pagans do your advertising for you. Give Catholic adults a list to choose from, poll them, collect the forms along with the collection envelopes. Listen to them, answer their needs, and they will respond.

Advertise, talk to your friends and start your own group in your home or at the parish center. This is both the right and duty of lay Catholics, described in the documents of Vatican II, and we need to start living it. But most of all, pray. Gather a small group regularly in front of the Eucharist and ask God for assistance. He will send it.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Solving the Education Problem: Part I

For the last three weeks, we’ve looked at the problem of Catholic education. What must we, as parents, do in order to keep the Faith alive in our children?

At Home
First, don’t despair. God ordained us in the sacrament of marriage to deal with exactly this problem. We have the grace, we just have to figure out how to use it. Remember, the Magisterium doesn’t require us to do much actual formal instruction: we have to prepare our children for the sacraments and teach them common prayers. That’s it. You and I are under no obligation to homeschool in all subjects, or even to formally school our child beyond the areas just mentioned. If you want to do more formal schooling, that’s fine, but don’t let anyone bully you into thinking you have to. You don’t.

For at-home sacramental preparation, keep in mind that your child only needs three things to be properly prepared. (1) the child must know enough about the ritual to move through it successfully, (2) he must know how the sacrament changes him, and (3) he must desire that change.

That’s it. Really. The rest is just window-dressing to make the curriculum look imposing. So, for reconciliation, your child needs to know an act of confession and the prayers that will likely be assigned for penance: Hail Mary, Our Father, Glory Be. For the sacrament of Confirmation (which is an obligation, not a choice), know that it perfects the gifts of baptism and it empowers you to tell others all about Jesus. For Eucharist, know that the species is Jesus: Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, present entirely in the host and present entirely in the cup, and be able to make a sign of reverence prior to receiving. Read John 6 with your child to show them why Eucharist is important. Make sure they know their Sunday obligation to attend Mass.

For all three, the child needs to be aware of the liturgy surrounding the sacrament, that is, he should know when absolution takes place, what words are used at confirmation, when consecration takes place and the two major parts of the Mass. Your seven-year old can master this and receive all three sacraments the same year, if you want. By the way, the decision on when to present your child for confirmation is yours, not the bishops’. He may set the time by which the child must be prepared (“must be ready by high school,” for instance), but you can present the child earlier (in second or third grade, for instance), if the child is prepared and you feel it is best for him. As long as the child is of the age of reason and prepared, confirmation cannot be denied solely on the basis of age.

Still concerned about sacramental preparation? Contact Catholic homeschooling parents in your area and tap them for advice. They’ve done it before, they’ve been just as scared as you, they’ll know how to help. The Pope encourages families to band together to accomplish things. It’s good advice.

For parents of grade/high school children
Your local parochial school or high school may be a very fine private school, even if it is not good at transmitting the Faith. There is nothing wrong with sending your children to a private school. Just remember that it is only a private school, despite the pleasant “C-word” in the title. As long as you (1) know this, (2) have an adult grasp of the Faith, and (3) are careful to correct the inevitable mistakes that good but misinformed people will make as they attempt to teach the Faith, you’re fine. Learn the Faith on an adult level, live it in front of your kids, and discuss the instructional problems frankly both with them and with their teachers. Honest teachers know they aren’t qualified – they’re doing the best they can, just like everyone else. They will appreciate support from home.

As the parent, you have both the right and the duty to decide what is best for your children in regards to schooling – no one else has the right to interfere, not even your pastor or bishop. You are the primary educator of your children, not them. Point this out to them if they start implying that you are a sinner for not sending your kids to “Catholic” school. If you think the local parish school is teaching too much heresy or is oozing with too much hypocrisy to be a safe environment for your child’s soul, pull them. On the other hand, if the public schools in your area pose an even greater threat to your child’s safety, by all means, keep them in the parish school. This is your decision, no one else’s.

If you choose to pull your children from the school, write the principal, copy the pastor and/or bishop. Do exactly the same thing the parents of college students are doing (see below). Describe in your letter exactly why you are pulling your children and exactly how much money the school will lose. Write a separate letter to the pastor and/or bishop asking them to show their solidarity with Catholic families by joining you in recommending to all Catholic families that these unfaithful schools be avoided.

If the pastor or bishop accuses you of harming community life, point out our Holy Father’s words, “As the family goes, so goes the nation, as the family goes, so goes the Church!” You build community by safeguarding your family. Pastors and bishops build community by supporting Catholic parents. They should appreciate your work, and encourage others to put family before parish school. To the extent that pastors do not encourage and support parents in this, they are the ones attacking the community, not you. Depending on how your state law is written, a pattern of heterodox teaching in the school might be grounds for malpractice and/or fraud lawsuits. This would not look good in the local papers (diocesan papers tend not to print this kind of thing, since the editors like their jobs). Although pastors don’t like to discuss it, they know this is a real possibility. Point out that you know it, too.

If you choose to keep your child in Catholic school, keep a close ear to the spiritual practices and the teachings. Get involved the minute heterodoxy is alleged. First, meet with the teacher. Children have a habit of mis-characterizing what teachers say, especially if the teachers are not well-liked. If that doesn’t resolve it, meet with the pastor and teacher together. If that doesn’t resolve it, bring it to the bishop’s attention. If this is likewise fruitless, you still have several options. You can appeal to the apostolic nuncio for the United States, you can sue the school for malpractice and fraud, or you can let the secular newspapers in on the conversation, or any combination thereof.

For parents of college students:
Here is a list of schools that require the mandatum . If you had considered a college or university, but had to reject it due to the lack of mandatum, then write the president of that university and copy the bishop of the diocese in which it resides. Point out to the president that you would have encouraged your children to go there, but faculty unwillingness to proclaim the Catholic Faith changed your mind. Take the university’s yearly tuition, multiply it by four and add 3% - that’s the minimum amount of money they lost from a faithful Catholic because of their unwillingness to be faithful. Point that out in the letter. All faithful Catholics are going elsewhere, along with their money.

This is a boycott. As people who advocate social justice, Catholic university presidents will certainly appreciate it why it is necessary. To be honest, more many bishops will be quietly cheering you on from the sidelines, even though their public face may be neutral. Encourage the president to join you in this boycott and tell all the Catholic parents they know to stay away from their school, just as you will inform all the Catholic parents you know to do the same. Write a separate letter to the bishop, urging him to warn Catholic families to avoid this university. According to the Magisterium, all segments of the Church are desirous of displaying solidarity with the Catholic family so you know they’ll be interested in assisting you spread the message.

Then write a letter to the president of the college you will be attending, thanking him for his school’s fidelity. Copy the bishop of his diocese and the bishops and presidents of the colleges you won’t be attending. We want to show them that we don’t just denigrate the negative, we actively embrace the positive, as good Catholics should.

And when you are considering places of higher education, don’t forget to check out secular schools with great Newman centers! Newman centers, like Catholic universities, are of varying quality, but some of them are absolutely stellar. One case in point is the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. It is the largest, most active Newman Center in the country with one of the best college retreat programs in the nation. Its current director, Msgr. Stuart Swetlund, is renowned for his orthodoxy and vibrant ability to transmit the Faith. The Sisters of the Contemplative Life who assist there are marvelous at spiritual direction. Don’t be put off by their lack of habits. It is the only order of order of profoundly orthodox consecrated women I am aware of that was founded without a habit. There are other marvelous Newman Centers across the United States. Investigate them. Look for kneelers in the chapel, proper central placement of the tabernacle, and interrogate the pastor of the center about his position on abortion, contraception, women’s ordination, and the like. Look at their library. Investigate.

If the Newman Center isn’t orthodox, write the pastor, copy the bishop and copy the university president, telling them why you had to choose against their school. Point out to the university president that the bishop is always open to input about what kind of pastor best suits a particular environment. If a secular university president gets enough of those letters, he’ll write the bishop himself to ask for a new priest at the Newman Center. That’s the kind of thing that carries weight.

If your child is already in a heterodox university and the administration won’t respond, document instances of heterodox teaching or practice, then follow the methods outlined above. If you don’t get satisfaction, investigate the possibility of suing the school for malpractice and fraud, and make sure the suit is well-publicized. They want to be secular institutions – fine. We should give them the same respect any secular entity gets.

Be bold. Make a nuisance of yourself. Jesus did.

Next week, we’ll discuss how to address the adult formation problem in the parish. We’ll also provide some links to help you get the job done.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Please Write CBS

March 1, 2003

Assignment Desk
CBS 2 News
6121 Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028

To the Editors:

Andy Rooney’s recent comments concerning the content of the film, The Passion of the Christ are unacceptable. He went beyond commentary on the movie to a bigoted, essentially racist attack on the spiritually Semitic heritage of Catholic Faith. His comments are indistinguishable from those associated with the Know-Nothings, the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups of American history.

What would be done to a CBS commentator who said about a movie concerning Martin Luther King’s assassination, “I don't plan to see it. I don't want to pay nine dollars for just a few laughs”? I would hope that such obvious, nationally promulgated bigotry would result in the guilty individual being summarily removed from his position. I certainly expect CBS to do no less to Mr. Rooney.

The recent coarsening of American television, highlighted in the disgusting anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic bigotry of people like Mr. Rooney and the escapades of Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake, are precisely what is causing Congressional investigations into operations such as yours.

Mr. Rooney’s remarks were the subject of lively commentary at my place of business today. Speaking as president and owner of my company and for all my employees, I am happy to inform you that CBS will no longer have any viewers from among my company’s ranks until Mr. Rooney leaves employment with you.

Gentlemen, either Mr. Rooney goes or your viewer ratings do. Choose.


Serious as a heart attack,
Steve Kellmeyer
President-CEO Bridegroom Press