July 31, 2012
The HHS mandate kicks in at midnight tonight. Unless something big happens in the next 15 hours and 45 minutes, today is the last day of religious freedom in America. The quest for religious freedom is what got us started in the first place.
And it ends tonight.
Think about that…
NFP is not just for controlling family size…
Pope Benedict XVI offered an encouraging message to the recent meeting of the Equipes Notre Dame (translation: Teams of Our Lady), a pro-marriage apostolate. The Holy Father invited all Christian married couples to be “the gentle and smiling face of the Church.” There is no greater way for couples to achieve this than to joyfully open their marriage to the gift of life.
In our secular contraceptive culture, it is assumed that a married couple will, as a matter of course, avoid pregnancy. Only for very narrow windows of time does a couple welcome the conception of a child, if they do at all. Contrast this with the Catholic marriage that makes openness to life the default position. Occasionally, a couple may prayerfully discern that for a limited period of time there exist grave reasons why they should not conceive. Instead of resorting to contraception, however, the faithfully Catholic couple relies on one of the methods of Natural Family Planning (NFP) and abstains from marital relations when conception is likely. As an added benefit, when the couple is ready to resume having children, the same fertility awareness system will identify when sex is most likely to result in pregnancy.
The greatest benefits of NFP, however, do not necessarily lie in its usefulness to achieve or avoid pregnancy, in its safety or even in its ecological benefits. An often forgotten feature of Natural Family Planning is that it strengthens both the spiritual and emotional aspects of marriage. Couples who practice Natural Family Planning have a divorce rate of about 5%, markedly lower than the 50% divorce rate of couples who utilize contraception. Using NFP requires couples to communicate. They have to talk to each other about whether or not reasons exist to postpone pregnancy. They have to talk about whether or not it is a fertile time in the woman’s biological cycle. They do not treat their conjugal relations as mere recreation, but as a time to open their marriage to God’s will. Rather than distort their relationship with contraception, they exercise self-control as necessary for prudent parenthood.
What Can Science Tell Us About Creation and Design?
The Big Bang Theory
Evidence For The Standard Big Bang Model
Can A Beginning of the Universe Be Proved?
What Is The Law of Entropy and How Can It Indicate A Beginning of the Universe?
Evidence of a Beginning of the Universe From The Law of Entropy
Evidence of a Beginning of the Universe From Space-Time Geometry
Evidence of a Beginnig of the Universe from the Borde-Vilenkin-Guth Theorem
Evidence of Supernatural Design From Low Entropy at the Big Bang
Evidence of Supernatural Design from the Anthropic Values of Our Universe’s Constants
How Can the Anthropic Values of Our Universe’s Constants be Explained? Pure Chance? Multiple Universes? Or Supernatural Design?
Creation According to Physics and the Bible – Is There Really a Contradiction?
Tonight I was reading a post by Jennifer Fulwiler on her blog site ‘A Conversion Diary’. She was describing a conversation about ‘gay marriage’ she had engaged in with a gay friend. I have been thinking about her post, and it triggered some thoughts of my own…
Human society absolutely requires one basic thing – humans.Without humans, humans don’t exist and, therefore, human society cannot exist. That seems pretty basic, I know, but that’s where everything human (on an Earthly level) starts. How many people ever stop to consider that?
In order to create a human being, you need a human sperm and a human egg.
In order to acquire a human sperm and a human egg, you need a human male and a human female. That’s just the nature of things.You can’t, within nature, no matter how hard you try or wish it to be, get sperm from a female or an egg from a male member of the species. Nature is simply not going to bend her own rules to accommodate two people of the same gender and allow them to create life together. No matter how much they like or love each other.
So, in order for society to exist, procreation must occur, and the only way that procreation can occur is for a man and a woman to engage in the only (natural) activity through which new human life is created – sex. And when a new life is created, the basic building block of society comes into existence – a family.
The family is where all society begins. Without a mother and a father, there can be no children. And if there are no children, humanity becomes extinct, taking with it human society. (I know that’s a bit redundant, but it’s important to understand that propagation is the only reason we exist.)
Throughout history, nature has demanded the propagation of the the human species, and the only way she has provided for our survival is through conjugal relations between a man and a woman. As civilizations developed, these relationships became formalized, and the moniker of “marriage” was applied to the committed procreative state.
And, at it’s core, that’s what “marriage” is – the natural coming together of a man and a woman to fulfill the requirements of nature and society for the purpose of ensuring that the Human Race continues.
And that’s the way “marriage” has been defined and practiced for thousands of years. It is the natural state of things. Anything else is outside of nature.
To remove the possibility of a child from the sex act is unnatural, but that is what became the “norm” around 1930. (See “Fruits Of The Contraceptive Mindset” for background.) Artificial contraception got the ‘go ahead’ from the Church of England and suddenly we started down the road of “All sex all the time” with no fear of pregnancy.
The natural result of sexual relations is a child, and since you take the (possibility of) a baby out of sex, there is no reason to have a normal sexual relationship – they all become normal…
And here’s a short list of what’s become the norm, or is becoming the norm, since we started thinking this way…
- Rampant Adultery
- Ubiquitous pornography
- Mercy killing/Euthanasia
- High divorce rates
- Childhood sex
- Unchecked unwed motherhood
- Gay marriage
- Epidemic levels of sexually transmitted diseases
The mindset which grew out of the acceptance of artificial contraception has brought us to where we are today. The gravity of the contraceptive mentality has made the journey down the slippery slope an unnatural reality.
The word “Artificial”, by definition, means “not natural”. “Not natural” means “outside of nature”. Hence, everything that has transpired since sex became disassociated with the bearing of children is based on practices against the natural order. And, of course, gay marriage is on that list.
The gay lifestyle is a product of the mindset that “children are not the product of a sexual relationship”. “Gay marriage” is the unnatural progression from acceptance of the gay life style, and therefore, of the contraceptive mindset.
The “contraceptive mindset” is, at it’s deepest foundation, unnatural and, therefore, against nature itself.
And as the concept of “gay Marriage” is based on the artificiality of the contraceptive mindset (that procreation is not a part of the sexual union), it is also against nature itself.
Even if gay couples live together, adopt children and call themselves a family, the most they can ever hope to be is an artificial family unit.
If two men or two women could, without outside human interference, produce life together, there would be no reason to oppose “gay marriage”. But they cannot.
Here is Archbishop Chaput’s entire homily…
Paul Claudel, the French poet and diplomat of the last century, once described the Christian as “a man who knows what he is doing and where he is going in a world [that] no longer [knows] the difference between good and evil, yes and no. He is like a god standing out in a crowd of invalids . . . He alone has liberty in a world of slaves.”
Like most of the great writers of his time, Claudel was a mix of gold and clay, flaws and genius. He had a deep and brilliant Catholic faith, and when he wrote that a man “who no longer believes in God, no longer believes in anything,” he was simply reporting what he saw all around him. He spoke from a lifetime that witnessed two world wars and the rise of atheist ideologies that murdered tens of millions of innocent people using the vocabulary of science. He knew exactly where forgetting God can lead.
We Americans live in a different country, on a different continent, in a different century. And yet, in speaking of liberty, Claudel leads us to the reason we come together in worship this afternoon.
Most of us know today’s passage from the Gospel of Matthew. What we should, or should not, render unto Caesar shapes much of our daily discourse as citizens. But I want to focus on the other and more important point Jesus makes in today’s Gospel reading: the things we should render unto God.
When the Pharisees and Herodians try to trap Jesus, he responds by asking for a coin. Examining it he says, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” When his enemies say “Caesar’s,” he tells them to render it to Caesar. In other words, that which bears the image of Caesar belongs to Caesar.
The key word in Christ’s answer is “image,” or in the Greek, eikon. Our modern meaning of “image” is weaker than the original Greek meaning. We tend to think of an image as something symbolic, like a painting or sketch. The Greek understanding includes that sense but goes further. In the New Testament, the “image” of something shares in the nature of the thing itself.
This has consequences for our own lives because we’re made in the image of God. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the same word, eikon, is used in Genesis when describing the creation. “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” says God (Gen 1:26). The implication is clear. To be made in the image of God is more than a pious slogan. It’s a statement of fact. Every one of us shares — in a limited but real way — in the nature of God himself. When we follow Jesus Christ, we grow in conformity to that image.
Once we understand this, the impact of Christ’s response to his enemies becomes clear. Jesus isn’t being clever. He’s not offering a political commentary. He’s making a claim on every human being. He’s saying, “render unto Caesar those things that bear Caesar’s image, but more importantly, render unto God that which bears God’s image” — in other words, you and me. All of us.
And that raises some unsettling questions: What do you and I, and all of us, really render to God in our personal lives? If we claim to be disciples, then what does that actually mean in the way we speak and act?
Thinking about the relationship of Caesar and God, religious faith and secular authority, is important. It helps us sort through our different duties as Christians and citizens. But on a deeper level, Caesar is a creature of this world, and Christ’s message is uncompromising: We should give Caesar nothing of ourselves. Obviously we’re in the world. That means we have obligations of charity and justice to the people with whom we share it. Patriotism is a virtue. Love of country is an honorable thing. As Chesterton once said, if we build a wall between ourselves and the world, it makes little difference whether we describe ourselves as locked in or locked out.
But God made us for more than the world. Our real home isn’t here. The point of today’s Gospel passage is not how we might calculate a fair division of goods between Caesar and God. In reality, it all belongs to God and nothing – at least nothing permanent and important – belongs to Caesar. Why? Because just as the coin bears the stamp of Caesar’s image, we bear the stamp of God’s image in baptism. We belong to God, and only to God.
In today’s second reading, St. Paul tells us, “Indeed religion” — the RSV version says “godliness” – “with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it.” True freedom knows no attachments other than Jesus Christ. It has no love of riches or the appetites they try to satisfy. True freedom can walk away from anything — wealth, honor, fame, pleasure. Even power. It fears neither the state, nor death itself.
Who is the most free person at anything? It’s the person who masters her art. A pianist is most free who — having mastered her instrument according to the rules that govern it and the rules of music, and having disciplined and honed her skills — can now play anything she wants.
The same holds true for our lives. We’re free only to the extent that we unburden ourselves of our own willfulness and practice the art of living according to God’s plan. When we do this, when we choose to live according to God’s intention for us, we are then — and only then — truly free.
This is the freedom of the sons and daughters of God. It’s the freedom of Miguel Pro, Mother Teresa, Maximillian Kolbe, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and all the other holy women and men who have gone before us to do the right thing, the heroic thing, in the face of suffering and adversity.
This is the kind of freedom that can transform the world. And it should animate all of our talk about liberty – religious or otherwise.
I say this for two reasons. Here’s the first reason. Real freedom isn’t something Caesar can give or take away. He can interfere with it; but when he does, he steals from his own legitimacy.
Here’s the second reason. The purpose of religious liberty is to create the context for true freedom. Religious liberty is a foundational right. It’s necessary for a good society. But it can never be sufficient for human happiness. It’s not an end in itself. In the end, we defend religious liberty in order to live the deeper freedom that is discipleship in Jesus Christ. What good is religious freedom, consecrated in the law, if we don’t then use that freedom to seek God with our whole mind and soul and strength?
Today, July 4, we celebrate the birth of a novus ordo seclorum – a “new order of the ages,” the American Era. God has blessed our nation with resources, power, beauty and the rule of law. We have so much to be grateful for. But these are gifts. They can be misused. They can be lost. In coming years, we’ll face more and more serious challenges to religious liberty in our country. This is why the Fortnight for Freedom has been so very important.
And yet, the political and legal effort to defend religious liberty – as vital as it is – belongs to a much greater struggle to master and convert our own hearts, and to live for God completely, without alibis or self-delusion. The only question that finally matters is this one: Will we live wholeheartedly for Jesus Christ? If so, then we can be a source of freedom for the world. If not, nothing else will do.
God’s words in today’s first reading are a caution we ignore at our own expense. “Son of man,” God says to Ezekiel and to all of us, “I have appointed you as a sentinel. If I say to the wicked, ‘you will surely die’ – and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them . . . I will hold you responsible for their blood.”
Here’s what that means for each of us: We live in a time that calls for sentinels and public witness. Every Christian in every era faces the same task. But you and I are responsible for this moment. Today. Now. We need to “speak out,” not only for religious liberty and the ideals of the nation we love, but for the sacredness of life and the dignity of the human person – in other words, for the truth of what it means to be made in the image and likeness of God.
We need to be witnesses of that truth not only in word, but also in deed. In the end, we’re missionaries of Jesus Christ, or we’re nothing at all. And we can’t share with others what we don’t live faithfully and joyfully ourselves.
The leading Catholic media organization in the world, Eternal Word Television Network, is prepared to pay a “financial fine on faith” likely to exceed at least $600,000 per year rather than comply with Obamacare’s anti-conscience mandate.
EWTN is suing the federal government over the anti-conscience mandate, which requires religious institutions to provide “preventative” services — including abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilization — in its health plans, regardless of the institution’s moral or religious objections.
This global company — comprised of Catholic Television, Catholic Radio and Catholic News Network — faces significant penalties but won’t violate its principles, according to EWTN counsel Kyle Duncan of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.