Archive for the 'Catholicism' Category

Quote of the Day

Would Christianity, as regards truth and peace, faith and charity, fare worse, would it not fare better, without any Church at all, than with a thousand Churches, scattered through the world, all supreme and independent?

-Ven. John Henry Cardinal Newman


The real battle

WARNING: What follows is going to be a pretty bitter rant. Let me qualify everything I may say (since I won’t have time to edit it) with this: no, I have not lost my faith. I am still every bit the traditionalist, pro-life, wholeheartedly believing Catholic I was. I’ve simply seen too much in the past few days to believe that we’re having any success whatsoever at reaching those who need us more than anyone else: the poor.


We’re fighting the wrong battle. Abortion is so visible; it attracts so much attention; but, it’s a wicked feint. We’re like French soldiers haplessly manning the impregnable Maginot Line while the Germans, ruthlessly efficient, simply marched around. We feel so good praying our Rosaries in front of abortion clinics; we might even spend time showing others the horrors of “termination” with graphical photos of dismembered fetuses. We donate to pro-life causes; we volunteer at agencies that promote support of pregnant women. We really do make a difference.

But for every person we help lead back to a culture of life, we lose countless others who fall victim to the ultimate modern seduction. It goes by a simple name; it is a simple ploy; and unfortunately, it works. It’s called the Pill, and it may be the Enemy’s perfect weapon.

Think about it: what else can you procure that will instantly divest you of any responsibility for anyone but yourself? Just take a pill every day (or even better, a shot every three months or a patch every week), and you no longer have to worry about kids interrupting your pleasure. It’s no wonder that the vast majority of poor Hispanic women, of whom a large number are nominally Catholic, fall for it. Why have a brood of children when you can have sex with your boyfriend (and why bother to get married for that matter?) with impunity?

And yes, there are consequences to this libertine mentality. Sexually-transmitted diseases are rife. But there’s another subtle aspect to this sabotage of fertility: an often warranted faith in the infallibility of modern medicine. If we do get sick, the doctors can fix it. What’s scary is that, in many cases, we can.

So, on the one hand, we have the Catholic ideal: accepting the God-given gift of marriage and fertility, loving children as we procreate them, supported by a community–a Church–that makes the raising of future faithful generations possible. It’s an incomparably beautiful vision–but it relies upon self-denial. On the other hand, we have the modern ideal: planned parenthood. Sex is for your pleasure only; if you want to, you can let it follow its “natural” course to produce children; if you don’t, it’s not a problem. Hedonism rules under the guise of liberty, and self-denial is the ultimate evil.

Look at the evidence and tell me which of these two visions is winning the hearts of the one group of people that we are commanded above any other to serve: the poor. We well-catechized Catholics can see the beauty of the culture of life–and even we, if we really look into our hearts are seduced to some extent by the other side. Imagine those who do not know their Faith–those who often simply struggle from day to day to make ends meet. They are provided–usually for free, by our health care system–access to the modern vision of freedom. We Catholics, on the other hand, offer an alternative that is costly. Beautiful and true, yes, but at a price that most people today are unwilling to pay.

So what can we do to stem what I’ve described as an inexorable tide? I really don’t know, but here are some thoughts.

We have failed first and foremost in community. If a woman has a child in an adulterous relationship, we should step and help her to take care of him. If she can’t, then we should take the child in. We must, for our own souls’ sake, rely upon others of like commitment.

We have also been failed by our priests. If Father neither preaches from the pulpit nor counsels in private that contraception is a problem, then the message is obvious: that it’s OK. Even worse, if he actively counsels his flock in private (or in public) that it’s OK to contracept and have sex outside of marriage–and I know this happens in our parishes daily–there is no way we will be able to convince people otherwise. Especially not in a hierarchical Latin-American society where the padre, for some reason which escapes me, still commands a vestigial position of authority. Our pastors must be men of faith who preach and practice what the Church teaches. Yes, they are human and they will sin, but that does not change the Truth they proclaim.

And we have failed, and will continue to fail, individually. Original sin still haunts us and will continue to do so. So, in the end, despite my bitterness, I am compelled to write that there indeed is hope. We are not intrinsically different from our fathers; they failed but the possibility of life eternal continues. We should pray; we should start attempting to rebuild, on a small scale at first, the communities, pastored by good priests, that make living the Catholic life possible. It was possible before despite our sinfulness; it is still possible. Maybe, as Alasdair Macintyre suggests, we do need a new St. Benedict to lead us into the desert and teach us to purify our souls.

We rightly fight the evil of abortion, but by all means, we mustn’t lose sight of the real battle.

Quote of the day

All things were made to lead us to God. As a matter of fact, though, most things turn us away from him. The only puzzle to be solved is to make the things which turn us away from God become means to lead us to him. … It is we, by the bad use we make of things, who render them blockades between him and us. There is therefore no other problem than to transform these very same things, the things that make up our daily lives, from obstacles into means. And it is there, then, that our temporal activities, our work in the world, become the very material, we might say, for our practice of the spiritual life–means for going towards God. At that moment, we shall have caught on to the unity of our life. A day that can be spent in the most total banality, taken up by the purely human aspects of work, and bringing me in the evening only a kind of frightful void–it is up to me to transfigure it by a miracle of the heart and to invest it with a kind of incorruptible substance.

– Jean Cardinal Daniélou, The Scandal of Truth

Just when I thought it was safe to cut back…

…I get linked by Eric Scheske in the National Catholic Register as a “Southern blog.”

Well, that it is, but much more the blog of a Catholic convert biochemist turned medical student who just happens to be from the South. Welcome to all who might be visiting, and I’ll attempt to write a little bit more. But no promises as I’ve been putting in 80 hour weeks here lately, and studying in my “free time”.

Stem cell research in NC

My bishop today asked North Carolina Catholics to contact their legislators regarding a bill supporting embryonic stem cell research that is making its way through the State House.

Here’s my contribution:

Dear Representative X,

As one of your constituents, I recently discovered that the State House is considering the “Stem Cell Research Health and Wellness Act,” HB 1837, which has been recently sent to the Appropriations Committee on which you serve. I would like to point out two areas in particular for your consideration as your committee considers this bill: the failure of this bill to adequately address ethical concerns about embryonic stem cell research, and the lack of support for other kinds of stem cell research which avoid the insurmountable ethical problems with embryonic research.

The bill as currently written would make it state policy that embryonic stem cell research could be conducted only on cells derived from “excess” embryos donated after in vitro fertilization treatment. On its surface, this appears to be an admirable solution. However, it does not address the primary ethical concern that many of your constituents have with such research: that it destroys a human embryo. Whether created for the purpose of stem cell research or for in vitro fertilization does not change the basic fact that embryos are destroyed to produced embryonic stem cells. If you consider an embryo to be a human life, this can never be condoned, even if miraculous treatments be generated as a result.

Our legislature could, however, endorse and fund research designed to circumvent this problem. Researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, for example, have derived cells with many of the properties of embryonic stem cells from amniotic fluid. With the support of our state, these scientists and many others like them may generate ways to produce cells with many, if not all, of the benefits of embryonic stem cells without destroying embryos in the process. In addition, adult-derived stem cell research shows great promise in medical therapeutics. By focusing on areas of research that do not contain ethical pitfalls, we would set an example for the rest of the country to follow.

I acknowledge that my requests may sound like pleas to limit the creativity of scientists. But, as a molecular biologist by training, I have come to understand that what we can pursue must be tempered by what we ought to pursue. Embryonic stem cell research may be a panacea for all I know, but to save lives at the expense of countless others is a cure that we cannot risk. This policy debate turns on whether a human embryo is a human life. That is something that science cannot answer, so we should err on the side of caution.

If you’re in North Carolina, please go write your state representatives. It doesn’t take much time, and it just might make a difference.

Stealing Sheep

Like Fr. Longenecker, I have great love and respect for my Evangelical friends and family. I will be forever grateful for the foundation that I received in Christianity from my upbringing. But, there is one aspect that, quite simply, enrages me. It’s the constant missionary efforts in Catholic lands. They operate under the assumption that Catholicism is not Christian. Granted, there are a whole lot of “cultural Christians” in Catholic countries who don’t know their faith at all, but if Evangelicals considered Catholics truly their brethren, then shouldn’t they be pushing us to get our act in gear?

We’re Dealin’

The Mission Territory Parody Department is back after an extended break. I will leave it to my devoted reader(s) to determine my ulterior motive at this characterization…

(to the tune of “We Are Called“)

Come! We’re open tonight!
Drive ’round the lot, our prices are right,
All our cars passed a ten-point inspection,
And for your protection,
Our best guarantee…


Buy our cars! We’re sure that you’ll like ’em!
Buy our cars! Get a beach trip for free!
Buy our cars! No credit? No problem!
There something for one, and for all!

What? Can’t find our lot?
Just look for the spotlight off I-95!
We have all our cars washed, waxed and spotless!
Forget our street address?
Find the American flag!


Look! Our special this week
Is a ’96 Taurus with ten thousand miles!
It was owned, by a granny from Cincy,
Drove only on Sundays,
To the church down the street!


Once you’ve purchased a car,
For service, don’t worry, we’ll handle it all!
From your oil, to a bad alternator,
Or something more major,
No job’s too big or too small!