Wednesday, August 27, 2008

All in the Family

This article was submitted for use by the Saint John's Society and for its website,

"For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him."
-Romans 8:14-17

For Catholics, it is not necessary to stress the importance of family in our spiritual lives. The family bond permeates Scripture and the Magisterium: two of the Persons of the Trinity are Father and Son, and Mary is called Mother of God. As shown in the passage from Romans, Christ’s paschal sacrifice initiated us into the New Covenant as God’s children, a familial bond stronger than any contract of ink and paper—rather, it is a bond sealed in our blood.

Jesus also taught us the importance of close friendship. Though Platonic love has been exalted since antiquity, Christ gave us the true model of friendship in his relationship with his Apostles. He laid His life down for His friends, exemplifying the highest kind of love (John 15:12-17). Similarly, we are called to be a friend to Jesus. This is why the St. John Society commits to loving Jesus as friend: for the simple reason that he asked it of us.

While we acknowledge the importance of family and friends, we too often view their importance within the frame of their assistance in our personal salvation. I thank my girlfriend for her help in guiding me lovingly back into the Church, but it is not enough to love her for what she has done for me. It is a selfish and fruitless love that does not strive for the other’s salvation but instead looks always inward at itself.

Even this we know because Christ himself told us on the Mount: "For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?" (Matthew 5:46)

And yet some may take this, coupled with other commands from Christ to evangelize, primarily as an order to go out and find those who do not love us and bring Christ to them. This is not a bad thing, but can sometimes lead to evangelizing only strangers.

It is sometimes easier to speak about Jesus to those we don’t know very well; they don’t know our pasts and will likely not call us hypocrites, they do not associate us with their past spiritual experiences and so might be more open to receiving what we say about Christ, and there is no prior friendship to make "awkward" by speaking of spiritual things.

Just as Jesus came to save the whole world, we are called to evangelize the world. But let us never pretend that "the world" does not include those closest to us.

For all of the reasons evangelizing a stranger can be easier, bringing Jesus to those close to us can seem a discomforting and impossible task.
My family is nominally Catholic: my father was raised in the faith, one brother and I graduated from Jesuit High School, and both my younger brothers attend Catholic schools. Despite all the opportunities we have had to know Christ, none of my family understands the Mass or the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. My oldest brother became a Presbyterian after feeling the Catholic Church was too boring, stiff, and exclusive; my other older brother is a fully confused agnostic, to the point of being perfectly certain of his uncertainty. My father and younger brothers rarely go to Mass, and have placed religion at the bottom of their priority list.

It seems I am the only one of my family who knows Jesus, and yet I happily lead retreats to evangelize those I’ve never even met before rather than help my family. I don’t really show that I love those who love me, like some kind of inverted tax collector.

However, we always have our example in Jesus. Jesus seeks a personal relationship with every person and loves each of them in a way that we can only imagine. Still, Jesus did not have the same relationship with everyone. From the world, Jesus picked the Twelve Apostles. From the Apostles, our Lord had His favorite three: Peter, James, and John. And of the three only John is known as the beloved disciple, the only Apostle present at the crucifixion.

Similarly, we are called to treat all those we meet with charity, but have a greater obligation toward those we already know. We have still a greater duty to our immediate family, especially our children. Yet, if we are called to marriage, our greatest familial obligation is to our spouse, the one who lies closest to our breast as John did with Jesus.

In an age when we are bombarded with information, some true but much false, how can we let our spouse, child, sibling, parent, boyfriend, or girlfriend learn about Jesus from anyone besides us, we who claim to love and know Him?

The reality is that we are where we are, and that is no accident. It is not coincidence that we have been given the family and friends we have—God has chosen them for us and us for them. And because everything comes from the Lord and is therefore His, the family and friends we’ve been given are also His.

When we do our daily devotions, we offer God not only our bodies, but also our freedom, memory, understanding, and will. We turn them back to Him, to be guided by His will. If we strive to put all of these gifts back into God’s hands, let us also remember to give back some of his greatest gifts: our friends and family.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Killing Them Softly

Note: This article was originally submitted to run in the Daily Barometer on 7/16/08.

Killing Them Softly

by Dan Fitzpatrick

I’m surprised the black community in Portland is not up in arms right now, as one of their new neighbors has a proven track record of anti-black bigotry and violence.

A new Planned Parenthood center is being built in Northeast Portland on Martin Luther King Boulevard, and while this alone typically is enough to stir up controversy, the process has become even more heated because at the end of June, the construction company set to build the center pulled out of the project following continuous protests from pro-life groups and activists.

But the developer isn’t worried, as The Oregonian reported: "James Adamson, one of the associates in Beech Street [the development company], said that, however uncomfortable, he respects that protesters have the right to voice their opinion. ‘And we also have fair protection under the law,’ he said. ‘It's basically a big exercise of free speech.’"

Sadly, this latent snobbery exists in many Oregonians. They have a nominal respect for free speech, but have little respect for what is actually being said. How tragic that monstrous things are being done in Northeast Portland, with most of the victims likely to be blacks, and the only reaction is dismissing it all as an exercise of free speech.

It’s certainly much easier on the mind and soul to pretend that Planned Parenthood going in is a good thing, but the facts tell a different story. The Oregonian article calls the company a non-profit (this despite the $336 million they receive in taxpayer money and their $115 million per year profit margin) that provides 38 percent of their patients with contraception, 29 percent with STD treatment, and 3 percent with abortions.

If their biggest seller is allegedly-effective contraception (which is meant to prevent disease and pregnancy), then why do a third of their patients come in for STD treatments or abortions? Planned Parenthood essentially operates as a racket: it sells people contraception that doesn’t do what it’s supposed to, so when it inevitably fails their customers can come back and demand medical treatment.

Convincingly sell people a problem, and there’s a good chance they’ll return to buy the solution.

But it’s not even a matter of windfall profits or shady business practices. The issue is the product. Planned Parenthood claims to sell people sexual responsibility—use contraception because it’s the responsible thing to do; abort your unplanned child because it’s the responsible thing to do; etc.
But, just as latent smugness has bled into Oregonians, so subtle bigotry has leaked into feminism and the abortion industry.

It can be traced back to Margaret Sanger, the founder of the American Birth Control League (which became Planned Parenthood). Sanger was a major proponent of eugenics, and strongly believed that members of the "unfit" classes should not be allowed to reproduce. To this end, Sanger loudly promoted birth control, especially among blacks and the poor.

And though Sanger herself was against abortion, calling it a "barbaric" taking of life, it is little surprise that the organization and movement she helped launch have embraced it so totally. Abortion is simply the logical conclusion of the mentality Sanger promoted.

This mentality holds that women cannot control themselves and would be unfit mothers, so they should, respectively, use contraception to sterilize their fertility and undergo abortions to prevent them from ever having a child.

Sanger herself seemed to admit as much in a 1957 interview, saying that "I think the greatest sin in the world is bringing children into the world–that have disease from their parents, that have no chance in the world to be a human being practically. Delinquents, prisoners, all sorts of things just marked when they’re born. That to me is the greatest sin — that people can — can commit."

None of this is intentional in today’s feminism and abortion industry; it’s simply been unthinkingly integrated into it. Combined with the liberal entitlement and noblesse oblige philosophies that already undermine the black community’s ability to thrive under its own power, this bigoted view of women and blacks has deadly consequences.

As author Jonah Goldberg points out, "Abortion ends more black lives than heart disease, cancer, accidents, AIDS, and violent crime combined. African Americans constitute little more than 12 percent of the population but have more than a third (37 percent) of abortions…Nationwide, 512 out of every 1,000 black pregnancies end in an abortion. Revealingly enough, roughly 80 percent of Planned Parenthood’s abortion centers are in or near minority communities."

And the trend will only continue in Northeast Portland.

Rebecca Walker, the daughter of black feminist icon and The Color Purple author Alice Walker, found out first hand the destruction that arises from the twisted philosophies of Planned Parenthood and feminism. Last May, Rebecca wrote in London’s Daily Mail how she "grew up believing that children are millstones around your neck, and the idea that motherhood can make you blissfully happy is a complete fairytale."

As loneliness grew within her due to her mother’s emotional absence, Rebecca began having sex at age 13 (with her mother’s blessing) and, wonder of wonders, would undergo an abortion at 14 despite being on the Pill. Her mother and mother’s boyfriend escorted her to the abortion clinic.
Following the procedure, Rebecca wrote, "the aftermath haunted me for decades. It ate away at my self-confidence and, until I had [new son] Tenzin, I was terrified that I'd never be able to have a baby because of what I had done to the child I had destroyed. For feminists to say that abortion carries no consequences is simply wrong."

And yet, in Northeast Portland, the architect continues with the building project because, "[developer Adamson]’s really trying to do the right thing and improve that neighborhood."

I don’t doubt that the black community of Portland will soon suffer these "improvements," as Planned Parenthood kills them softly through abortions, sterilization-via-contraception, and family devastation. While the aborted children will never be able to spin in their graves, I imagine Margaret Sanger is smiling from hers.

Monday, June 30, 2008

3 objections to the Church

So I just had a conversation with a friend online about a Protestant who was questioning her about Confession. It can be tough as a Catholic since you basically always get questions from everyone about everything. The Church is the most misunderstood and hated institution on the planet. In my eyes, there are really three groups that attack the Church and her faith in subsequent levels. First, there is the skeptic.  Academic atheists as well as  your typical "skeptic" on campus all question the foundational truths of the Christian faith in general. A secularist does not accept the authority of Revelation, nor accept the miraculous nature of Christ's earthly ministry, and often will even question the mere existence of God. The assertive notion that the Catholic Church proclaims THE truth (Gasp! The evil "T" word!) strikes many as arrogant and offensive in our politically-correct society. Protestants, on the other hand, accept Revelation and the primary realities of God's existence, though attack the Church on the contents and implications of this Revelation. The irony here is that Protestants rely on the Church even for their foundational beliefs that they share in common with us. Protestants believe in the Trinity, but where did this faith come from? Its not explicit in the Bible, but came from a Church Council in the 4th century. Even the Bible itself is a product of the Church. There is no "table of contents" hidden in Leviticus 32 or on page 952 in the Scriptures. The cannon of Scripture too comes from a Church Council. This is a difficult fact for those Christians who hold to a "Bible only" formula of faith to explain away. 
Thirdly, there are un-orthodox Catholics within the Church who attack her. They accept the reality of God that a secularist denies and the reality of a visibly established Church (usually, that is) that a protestant denies, but attack some of the finer points of the Church's doctrine. They are, in effect, protestants who go to Mass and have labeled themselves as Catholics. I can think of Hans Kung, Richard McBrian and those who are members of "Call to Action" and other leftist groups in the Church. They pay lip service to the reality of the Church's divine nature, but deny it in their attacks on her infallible doctrines. 
These three groups, secularists, anti-Catholic protestants, and heterorthodox Catholics all present a challenge to the faith of the Church. Of course, there is an answer to all of their objections, but they are voices crying out to Catholics less informed about their faith. And this brings me to my point. Many people that we come across on campus or in the workplace are one or another of these groups. Each needs to be shown the love of Jesus Christ and treated with respect and compassion. Yet their arguments need to be met clearly and directly, albeit using different means. The secularist often needs philosophical and logical reasons for accepting the validity of a theistic worldview. Using Bible verses when talking to a non-Christian will not get you very far, despite what Bible-man in front of the Oregon State library may think. Similarly, a protestant needs to hear the clear Scriptural foundations of Catholic belief above all else. Each needs a different approach to effectively stir the heart to conversion. 
This is what St. Paul means when he calls us as believers to be "all things to all men". Speak in the language of a feminist to the feminist, as a protestant to the protestant, as a hippie to the hippie, etc. Each person brings a unique perspective in their questions to the Faith. The Church has not only the answer to every objection, but on an even deeper level, the answer to every need of the human heart. It is important to present the Faith in beautiful clarity and charitable sincerity to all who may come to us with objections or questions to the Church. We should welcome these questions, not be afraid of them or be defensive in their midst. 
"There are not one-hundred men who hate the Catholic Church for what it really is, but millions who hate it for what they think it is"

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Dan and I both are members of the St. John Society. Here is their website:

Check em' out. 

What? Another blog?

Dan Fitzpatrick and I created this blog for a couple reasons. The first is a way for us to stay connected with each other through the infinite space of Corvallis to Portland. As I sit here and listen to a combination of the composer Palestrina followed by the exceedingly excellent "Top Gun" soundtrack (I challenge anyone to listen to "Danger Zone" and not get fired up to go out with your best friend, call sign Goose, and fly a plane), I am thinking of my other reason for starting this blog with Dan. The other day I was reading a blog by a young member of a group named "Voice of the Faithful". This is a liberal, un-orthodox Catholic group which seems to have a median age of 130 years and whose essential position on every issue in the Church (abortion, the Liturgy, women priests, homosexuality, contraception, Church authority, feminism, the role of God) is the opposite of authoritative voice coming from Rome (which comes of course from the Holy Spirit). I was reading this "blog", short for "bunch'a-liberal-unorthodox-garbage" in my opinion, and was thinking about the role of the media in the life of the Church. 
The media, as everyone knows, can be a source of good or evil in the world. Often, it is a source of evil. The media, and specifically television and the internet, allows people access to a vision of the world starkly in contrast with that of the Gospel. I don't think I need to mention how the internet can be used as a source of evil in particular to make this point. Pornography is but one example. The misinformation available on that blog I refered to earlier is another. 
In contrast, the media can also be a source of enormous good if used by men and women of faith to promote Gospel values to a world increasingly closed off to traditional approaches of evangelization. In this regard, I think of the influence of EWTN television, Catholic radio and Catholic websites such as Catholics Answers and Catholics Come Home should be proof enough of the influence that Catholics can have using the media. 
I hope that Dan and I get the chance to discuss some things which are pertinent to the lives of Catholic students at a university. Often, these issues are not discussed in homilies or at youth group gatherings, or a variety of reasons. I think that as Catholic young adults, our primary responsibility is to "go deeper", both spiritually and intellectually with our faith. Only by doing so will our faith be credible and attractive to those outside the Flock of Christ. There is nothing on earth more appealing to an honest seeker than a Catholic fully alive in the grace of God with a strong intellectual and moral foundation. Feel free to leave comments and suggestions following our what I am sure will be random and politically-incorrect thoughts.