Photo by Robert Phelps
31 July 2023
A Surfeit Of Victims
America’s moral traditions are collapsing. Radical secularism, moral relativism, raging racial and sexual accusations, and Neo-Marxism are promoted by a host of newly-minted “victims” and “social justice” militants who despise America. Facts are assaulted; falsehoods thrive. Examples are impossible to miss.
Here’s one: the eradication of sexual differences. The irrefutable fact is that sexual identity (male or female) is determined only by Nature - not “assigned at birth.” But the “victimhood” culture substitutes self-assigned “gender” for sexual identity, relying on benighted physicians to deny the undeniable.
Are Gender Ideology Debates Depolarizing? | City Journal (city-journal.org)
Another example: Family stability and parental authority are undermined in countless schools. Many educators exclude parents from their children’s lives. Kids are taught that white people are born “racists” or that abortion is acceptable even for children, and parents need not know.
Coalition For Parental Rights Website (caparentalrights.com)
For many parents, pornography (even in grammar schools) and Drag Queens entertaining tots in public libraries are critical issues, spurred by groups such Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood’s Depraved Marketing Gimmicks (dailysignal.com)
Planned Parenthood’s promotion of sex and abortion to America’s children (pregnancyhelpnews.com)
When educators are deaf to parental concerns, parents rebel. See this link:
TAKE BACK THE CLASSROOM
Sometimes, an entire State college system is poisoned by “social justice” warriors:
The Specter of White Supremacy in the California Community Colleges - Minding The Campus
Here’s another example: Men “chest-feeding” babies as “mothers” do.
CDC advises biological men on 'chestfeeding' their babies | Politics News (christianpost.com)
Family Policy Alliance
And see the deceptive messages regularly dumped into the minds of vulnerable children by “social media:”
Snapchat’s AI Chat ‘Talks’ to Kids About Gender Confusion (dailysignal.com)
Assaults on American tradition includes a Constitutional amendment proposed by Ibram X. Kendi. Kendi wants to create a Department of Anti Racism to “preclear all local, state and federal public policies to ensure they won’t yield racial inequity, monitor those policies, investigate private racist policies when racial inequity surfaces, and monitor public officials for expressions of racist ideas.” If an official reveals a racist streak, Kendi would empower government “with disciplinary tools to wield over and against policymakers and public officials who do not voluntarily change their racist policy and ideas" (the word “voluntarily” would be amusing, were Kendi were not serious).
Kendi’s proposed Department would be independent of elected oversight or control. Who, one wonders, would monitor the monitors, investigate the investigators or preclear the preclearers? And whose standards would be enforced?
But, enough! You get the message. If you wish to pursue these issues, here’s a brief historical overview of what has happened to our nation:
(14) How the Radical Left Conquered the Culture (substack.com)
It’s astonishing how quickly these deceptions have become the norm in education, corporations, politics, even churches. How did this happen?
To begin with, most of us mean well, have good intentions and like to think of ourselves as blameless. We try to demonstrate our good will and not offend anybody.
But … good intentions do not always produce good deeds, wise decisions or prudent behavior. Integrity results from what we do, not merely what we intend. Indeed, sometimes our good will might be excessive, leading us to err badly, as when we settle for expediency over fidelity, or evade moral principles and take the easier path to be “nice.” Too, unilateral good is often “weaponized” against us. S, it's for very good reason that we are warned to be wary of false prophets. “By their actions you shall know them…”
The Culture Of “Victimhood”
As we study the threats to our nation posed by Critical Race Theory, by the “victim” culture and by those who despise our Constitutional foundations, certain factors are evident:
- Claims of “victimhood” and “America as oppressor” are used to justify destruction of family, educational and legal structures, Constitutional traditions and moral customs.
- Hostility and even death threats are directed (often, with immunity) at those who adhere to orthodox traditions.
- A flood of self-righteous “virtue signaling” emerges from the “victim culture” to justify distortions of both truth and history.
The accusatory rhetoric of self-anointed “victims” claims America is filled with barbarians, “oppressors,” “haters” and anti-social nasties of all sorts. The self-proclaimed “victim” says “haters” oppress races, colors, ethnicities, genders, identities, sexual orientations and socioeconomic backgrounds as part of their white racial superiority and their rigid Christian ethic.
Many “victims” support Diversity, Inclusion and Equity to ensure fairness for “oppressed” masses and provide equal outcomes for everybody, even if some are lazy, incompetent or irresponsible.
In the last few years, declaring oneself a “victim” of racial or sexual discrimination (or even an ethnic slight) has become a cottage industry. Example: Some people now demand to be addressed by their “proper” pronoun. Apparently, this honors their new identity and bestows some sort of dignity which they would otherwise not possess.
Given the ubiquitous ascendence of “victims” in our midst, one must ask: “What, pray tell, is “victim-hood?”
To begin with, we have all felt misunderstood, especially when we’re young and/or powerless. Over time, most of us learn to roll with the punches. We learn that life is not always fair, but we move on and get over it.
No so the “victim.”
Research in “interpersonal victimhood” (e.g., Rahav Gabay et alii.; Mattias Desmet, and many others) reports that some people are prone to see themselves as “victims-in-waiting.”
- The self-defined “victim” may not experience personal trauma or victimization.
- Nonetheless, he purloins the pain of others and draws from a fictitious reservoir of moral elitism.
- He thereby attributes to himself a measure of righteous “virtue” for his imagined suffering.
- In his worldview, his self-righteous “victimhood” bestows upon him a sense of “entitlement.”
- His “entitlement” justifies his aggression and intolerance toward those he identifies as “oppressors.”
- His “entitlement” bolsters feelings of virtuous moral superiority.
- He is then inclined to trumpet his righteousness and broadcast his superiority – to “virtue signal” his righteous status.
- “Virtue signaling” is a common trait of today’s “victim.” Yet he lacks the virtue of empathy for those he labels “oppressors,” whom he may assault (verbally or physically). His violence against “oppressors” and “haters” is, he believes, justified.
These studies indicate that self-defined “victimhood” is strongly associated with 1) revenge, 2) a sense of moral elitism, 3) entitlement to immoral behavior, and 4) need for recognition.
So, the self-ordained victim is, he believes, “entitled” to express aggressive, revengeful behavior. He thinks his (distorted) sense of moral superiority justifies his lack of empathy and nullifies his responsibility for harm he’s willing to do to “oppressors” and to the larger society (including the Church) which, he thinks, favors the “oppressor’s” power and control.
America is oppressive, he believes, filled with racist institutions and sexist “haters,” hovering bigots, white supremacists, right-wing conservatives, Christian autocrats, TERFs (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists) and an unholy litany which insults history, reason and logic. Even patriotism is anathema.
The “interpersonal victim” is (from his early years) also likely to believe others intend to hurt him, even in ambiguous situations. Trusting others becomes problematic. Moreover, he learns to see any offense as more severe than other people do.
He attributes malice to those whom he sees as offenders, and reports his hurts as more intense and of longer duration than others. In addition, he holds onto the memory of such events for a long time. He’s prone not to forgive but to seek revenge, rather than avoid the offender, to whom he attributes bad will.
Two Other Factors
As if that’s not enough, there are several other reasons why some people abandon common sense and accept deceptions and lies.
1) One reason is called “truth bias.”
“Truth bias” inclines certain persons to think that whatever they hear, read or see is the truth. They believe (often with shocking naivete) that people are not trying to lie or deceive them.
Why we get conned and how to avoid it, with Daniel Simons, PhD, and Christopher Chabris, PhD (apa.org)
“Truth bias” is the simplistic belief that information which is 1) immediate, 2) seems to originate from so-called “experts,” or 3) is simply handy … is all that really matters, or is all that’s available (con artists and swindlers make fortunes from such gullibility).
2) The power of peer pressure and mob-mind.
Peer pressure triggers an often-overwhelming tendency in some people (especially social networkers) to be concerned their peers may judge them as being outside the mainstream, as outcasts … to be rejected, humiliated. Some children even declare that they’re “transgendered” to avoid exclusion by their peers.
The effects of “peer pressure” are not limited to the young. Many immature adults find peer pressure so powerful that they sacrifice their integrity and capitulate to the “mob-mind,” rather than be thought of as uncool or out-of-it.
The “mob-mind” (or “mob mentality”) is a very real, very powerful tool for the control of whole nations, as history re-asserts and our present culture reveals (see Desmet).
Living With Facts
History tells us that Americans have made grave mistakes. Our errors are self-evident … but our Constitutional Amendments testify to our nation’s efforts to remedy our blunders. From our inception, America has done its best to heal our human errors by responding to “the better angels of our nature.” We learn, slowly, but with avowed dedication to the Divine Ideal.
Thus, it is a lie - a grave distortion of history - to portray our country as an oppressor nation. Yet, this is exactly what today’s self-defined “victims” preach.
Lying sanitizes evil. Preaching falsehoods is a form of violence against Truth and the American people. No wonder violence gains support (even among legislators) in our morally polarized society.
As lies are accepted, denial and ignorance follow. A code of immorality replaces the rightly-educated conscience. This code is based on individual impulse and narcissistic urges which obliterate the best of America’s traditions and religious beliefs.
It is crucial Americans understand the shrewdly crafted beliefs of today’s “victimized” partisans, whose creed of Critical Race Theory voids honest dialogue, is deliberately destructive in its Marxist roots, and intends America’s destruction.
To Sum Up . . .
Clearly, many otherwise-intelligent people in America are willing to abnegate their individual rights, jettison their common sense, deny scientific facts, ignore religious teachings and moral guidelines, eschew long-standing social customs and ignore centuries of tradition … and accept the untruths and dangerously irrational ideas which are capturing the soul of our country.
So, with the above ideas in mind, let us hope we all have a better grasp on the human dynamics and false doctrines which now threaten our national identity and, at times, threatens us as grateful citizens of our extraordinary Republic.
11 July 2023
The Child Amongst Us
Is there a more precious gift granted to a family than children, or a more touching sound in this world than the irrepressible laughter of a giddy child, or a more moving sight than the unguarded simplicity of a baby?
Baby Scrunches At Scalp Massager | Watch (msn.com)
In my world, there’s no greater cause for gratitude to God than that hushed moment when a father (or grandfather) greets his child, face-to-face for the first time, as the newborn nestles in his/her mother’s arms. The mystery of life overwhelms.
I also believe there are no greater responsibilities in this life than the duties of parents, whose lives are made sacred by the indissoluble love of mother and father for their child.
To abuse a child takes incalculable hardness of heart. It is, Christ warned, better to have a stone tied to one’s neck and be tossed into the sea than to abuse a child in heart, mind or soul.
Corruption As Progress
Many of us were raised when every child’s dignity and innocence were universally respected. That day is past. Today, adult deception and abuse of children is rampant.
Many adults see children as commodities. Indifference to the corruption of the young is a major American industry. Adult deception and denial are everywhere. Example:
Much of our adult culture (i.e., some physicians, psychologists, teachers, government, corporations, even some parents) encourage confused children to use locker rooms and bathrooms of the opposite sex, to take puberty-blocking medications and undergo surgical mutilation for gender transition, to use bizarre pronouns, to dress as opposite sex persons, to join an opposite sex sports team…. on and on.
Most distressing of all is the willingness of some physicians and parents to support an emotionally confused child in thinking sex change is based on a desirable reality. Read this article, but cautiously; it presents grim details:
Oregon Health & Science University’s Castration Machine (city-journal.org)
Yes, America’s moral vision has changed drastically. The dregs of the “sexual revolution” proceed apace and are now the norm:
Mercator | A Compass for Common Sense (mercatornet.com)
Among other hazards to the innocence of children, the availability of pornography also highlights the constant threats we face to moral decency, to the God-given roles of parents, and to the stability of family as the core of civil society. And these threats begin at the highest levels of our society.
More examples: countless people (including the President) supported Pride Month’s abhorrent exhibitions of Drag Queen behavior, intended to normalize sexual deviance of every conceivable sort.
Another example: California State Senator Scott Weiner supports transgendering youngsters and defeating parental concerns. Read this profile of his activities:
Further, as Pride Month ended recently, morally sensible adults were stunned at the manner in which the minds and souls of children were - and are - abused:
As Pride Month Ends, Children Are Again the Main Victims| National Catholic Register (ncregister.com)
Loss Of Common Sense
Threats also extend into public schools, where our children’s intellectual lives and moral values are significantly influenced. If you have the least doubt, I urge you to view these links:
100 parents protest city's Pride event in Idaho (massresistance.org)
And here is a link to the damage done in Illinois:
The Counter-Insurgency Against the LGBT Colossus Has Begun (breakthrough-ideas.com)
… and in Massachusetts:
Massachusetts state agency seeks law targeting parents who deny kids ‘gender-affirming care’ | Fox News
In addition, we must face the abuse of countless immigrant children. Example:
'America's Darkest Secret': Sex Trafficking, Child Abuse and the Biden Administration :: Gatestone Institute
Erasing Moral Sensibilities
Again, in my judgment, the most pernicious trend today is the transgender craze, which trashes traditional family values and parental rights. Transgender aficionados say that obvious differences between man and woman have no bases in fact, science, Scripture, Revelation, history, tradition, culture, human experience … or common sense. But think about it:
- Transgender’s hormone-crushing medications and mutilative surgeries irreparably destroy Nature’s own designs.
- Yet many schools and teachers, churches and ministers, corporations and military support transgender transition.
- Adherents say naïve children may make major irreversible life decisions.
- Some State legislators even criminalize parents who object to their child’s gender transition.
- Transitioners support children as young as twelve years old making such decisions on their own, then allowing these children to leave their parents’ home when parents object.
Here are still more examples:
Maryland for Parental Rights in Education | Act for America
NJ Attorney General Sues to Block Parental Rights - CatholicVote org
(11) Self-ID is not safe if anyone can claim to be transgender (substack.com)
SaveCalifornia.com | Campaign for Children and Families - SaveCalifornia.com
Lutheran Church Recites ’Sparkle Creed’ Describing ’Nonbinary God’ and Jesus’ ’Two Dads’ | The Daily Caller
Until recently, it was the right of parents (with obvious exceptions) to determine how and when their children learn about morally sensitive issues. Now, parents must pass parental rights laws to protect their child from sex education and gender propaganda which sometimes starts in kindergarten through third grade.
However, Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, says parental rights measures are “propaganda” and “misinformation.” She says “this is the way in which wars start.” This - from a professional educator.
Countless citizens befoul the dignity of children as they deny sex is a God-given responsibility, not a vehicle for commercial exploitation nor a source of rootless amusement.
Nothing threatens our children, our families, our cultural stability, our national identity as moral indifference and the ascendence of moral relativism throughout our society.
Given the evidence of the continuing collapse of right reason and common sense; given the weakened influence of religion, no one should remain morally neutral in the name of Diversity, Inclusion or Equity – that triad of lies which destroys our nation.
Where Do We Find Truth ?
To those who share my concerns about deceptions and abuses to which children are subjected, I recommend this organization:
Child & Parent Rights Campaign – Defending the parent's voice in America. (childparentrights.org)
Moreover, the Catholic Church has, for centuries, promulgated the most persuasive teachings about family stability, parental rights and the transcendent dignity of every child. The Church’s positions are as morally mature and as biologically sound as the Rock upon which they are based.
One may disagree with aspects of Catholic doctrine, or find reasonable fault with the errant behavior of some Catholics today. But the Catholic Church’s principles are specific, profoundly insightful and of long-standing - based on a transcendent comprehension of human nature’s relationship to our Creator.
It is also worth pointing out that the principles of the Catholic Intellectual Tradition are assuredly not weakened by the egregious behavior of a few miscreants. Indeed, the Catholic Intellectual Tradition clarifies parental responsibilities and rights as no other cultural or theological tradition has ever done.
A basic Catholic principle says all human rights and freedoms (including parental rights and freedoms) are contingent on pre-existing laws and limits:
- These laws and limits are set not only by society but - first and foremost - by our Creator, to Whom we are accountable, from whom we receive life.
- Denial of God’s sovereignty does not alter its truth.
- God creates, we do not. As my Sainted Mother used to say, “We are not God, difficult as this is for some to accept.”
Thus, our freedoms and rights are always limited:
- Our responsibilities always precede our rights.
- Our freedoms are always limited by prior obligations to God and to one another. God is our First Lawgiver.
- The need to observe these principles originates in the family and should be taught by parental words and example.
Children And Family
Furthermore, the Church stresses that the education of children is a sacred duty of both parents. Education of children requires warmth, closeness, dialogue and a parental model of God’s love for the child. Family is intended to foster loving relationships.
- Wife and husband (i.e., female/wife and male/husband) have the inalienable right 1) to establish a family, 2) to decide on the spacing of births, 3) to determine the number of children.
- Since parents confer life on their children, they have the primary responsibility and inalienable right to educate them.
- Parents also have the right to educate their children according to their rightly-educated consciences, their religious convictions and cultural traditions which favor the child’s moral education.
- Since parents have responsibilities to their children, parents also have a right to necessary aid from society to perform their educational roles.
- Education in “sexual facts of life” are also the parents’ domain, not the school’s, not radical organizations such as Planned Parenthood or the ACLU, whose morally toxic views of human sexuality poison children’s minds.
Family: Sacred And Essential
In the area of a child’s sexual education, parents should give a positive and balanced explanation of Catholic morality as it applies to the spiritual and psychological purposes of courtship, marriage as lifetime commitment, the relationship of marital love to procreation, and moral principles of premarital relations, abortion, contraception and masturbation.
Parents must also teach their children the Virtue of Self-restraint and the boundaries of decent behavior, morally and civilly. This is a normal parental function often involving “discipline.” But the word “disciplina” (Latin) means “learning,” not punishment. The intention of true discipline is not to punish but to teach the child, to clarify priorities, to develop the power to reason, to form an educated conscience and build character, to focus attention so the child discerns what’s important from what’s not.
The traditional family is the agency to which God and society have entrusted this complex and delicate task. If necessary, parents must organize to resist State, media or population control groups which dare to present erroneous models of moral behavior (e.g., lying, transgenderism, immoral sex, lying and deception, abuse of language to hide and distort Truth) which corrupt their children and destroy family trust.
Surveys reveal that most Americans (regardless of political affiliation) support Parental Rights in Education laws. But the militants still push “freedom” far beyond its intended meaning into a distorted form of “anything goes,” which bolsters the moral degradation of our children and our nation.
Catholicism emphasizes 1) "freedom" with responsibility, and 2) recognition of our status as created persons. Simply put, we owe to obedience to God.
Again, think about it. We are utterly dependent on our Creator; God made us. We are never free from that fact. Consequently, God’s revealed words are, without doubt, the best guidelines for human life and society.
God gives us guidelines for our exercise of freedom. BUT (and here's the hang-up for many folks) God’s guidelines impose limits on what “freedom” means and what “rights” allow.
Some people find God an abhorrent intrusion upon their desires, so they ignore God, and disdain His guidelines and limits. When they do, they also ignore our Creator’s authority and existence.
So … where’s a good place to start?
- The Virtue of Humility, which means accepting the Truth of God’s reality, His laws and limits, and our responsibilities and rights;
- The Virtue of Prudence which guides our actions within the limits which our Creator (not Woke politicians) rightly imposes.
- The blend of Humility and Prudence inevitably leads to our recognizing God’s Wisdom in our lives - and our share in it.
Somewhere along life’s decades, many of us lose the original innocence of our own souls. Some of us recover our innocence in moments of undefended delight when, for example:
- the laughter of a child touches us and reminds us of our own innocence;
- reminds us of our God-given instinct to love and to be loved;
- reminds us of that time when we possessed an undefended heart, when we listened well and deeply … and without fear.
It would be an incalculable good for every child (and, indeed, for every adult) if we again would listen, seek and find our own innocence once more, then defend it dearly … as we protect and defend the innocence of every child, ever more and always.
13 June 2023
Personal Reflections About
Indulgence And Its Benefactors
Religious prejudice is alive in America, as demonstrated by the praise lavished this month (Gay Pride Month) on the so-called Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence by the Los Angeles Dodgers and the White House, among others.
Who, you may ask, are the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence who receive the plaudits of politicians and business leaders?
Let me explain.
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are actually men (and only men) who dress in the robes of Catholic nuns, wear garish facial make-up, adapt bizarre names which ridicule religious titles, openly insult Catholic beliefs and celebrate satanic rituals which desecrate the Holy Eucharist, Catholicism’s most sacred belief.
This month, the Los Angeles Dodgers (ordinarily an athletic organization) awards the “Sisters” their Community Hero Award. Here is the Catholic Bishops’ response:
Here’s what the bishops are saying about the Dodgers honoring an anti-Catholic group | Catholic News Agency
Other Catholic sources have also spoken. For example:
CatholicVote ad campaign rips LA Dodgers for embracing 'vile' Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence drag troupe | Fox News
It is also worth noting that the “Sisters” were also honored this month by (among others) the California Legislature:
California Legislature's honor for drag activist angers state Republicans (msn.com)
A Ministry Of Mockery
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (SPI) first appeared in 1979 in San Francisco. As I say, these “Sisters” are actually men who dress in degrading “drag” outfits similar to the religious habits of Catholic nuns, while these “men” preen in flamboyantly cosmeticized faces.
At first blush, the eerie behavior of these “men” might seem merely ridiculous and quite unstable - were it not for the fact that they intentionally demean the Catholic Faith and employ sexual affrontery as public spectacle.
The SPI website reports that these “men” pursue a “ministry of spiritual enlightenment.” They claim to use “humor and irreverent wit to expose the forces of bigotry, complacency and guilt that chain the human spirit.” To this end, they indulge in a self-defined “ministry” by flaunting civility, offending common decency and demeaning the Catholic Faith.
For example, SPI’s spiritually “ministry” includes “Hunky Jesus” contests, in which men wear as little as possible, while mordantly mocking the sufferings of Christ carrying His Cross, to the delight of raucous onlookers who applaud this perverse form of “spiritual enlightenment.”
The SPI website features lengthy lists of their contributions to social betterment, including marching in a Gay Pride parade “…inside the shaft of a 40-foot penis covered in a huge condom … with two flesh covered beach balls connected to umbilical cords bouncing the entire length of the parade…”
Thus does SPI’s enlightened ministry proceed in “unchaining the human spirit.”
But Wait . . . There’s More
During Gay Pride Month, celebratory events are also held at the White House and the Pentagon. “Drag queen” events were praised by Department of Defense and military officials. (Contrarily, at one Pride event, police arrested a man for reading the Bible in public).
Enlistments in America’s armed services are at an all-time low; our military preparedness is in serious question … but the transgendered agenda is “de rigueur” in the military, and organizations such as the SPI are feted, while our military readiness and our concern for American Exceptionalism lag. Pentagon Officials Slam 'Anti-LGBTQ' Legislation at Pride Event (breitbart.com)
Oddly - and tragically - we hear no commemorative remarks from Pentagon or Oval Office honoring the sacrifices of our American soldiers on June 6, 1944, D-Day; no galas to express respect for the many real men who gave their lives and limbs so that true - true - freedom might prevail. But the White House just held the largest Gay Pride celebration ever. See this link for a small summary of D-Day:
Remembering the Horrors of D-Day (dailysignal.com)
Celebrations of SPI and Drag Queens by our political, military, legislative and corporate leaders render insult to the Catholic Church and to the courageous work of authentic Catholic Nuns throughout this world; work which these Good Women do sometimes at the risk of their own deaths.
For a few courageous examples of the generosity of Real Nuns in spirit and heart, see this link:
Global Sisters Report | A Project of National Catholic Reporter
My Gratitude To These Women
I personally owe much to the Real Nuns of my youth. They were the first teachers (after my parents) to introduce me to the satisfactions of life-long learning and the value of the Catholic Intellectual Tradition. They taught me to read, to think and to study, to respect self-discipline and self-restraint, and to observe the rights of others.
The Good Nuns taught me to appreciate imagination and symbolism as avenues to reality and to understanding the mystery of life. They taught me how to honor the poetic nature of human need; how to reconcile the contrary urges of the flesh with the heart’s yearning for clarity and peace.
They taught me how to believe as a Catholic, to recognize our inescapable human thirst for God; to recognize that Faith is indeed quite practical, and makes far more sense than the ambiguities of agnosticism or the barbs of cynicism.
Only later in my life did I realize the price these Good Women pay for their dedication and fidelity. They vow their lives to God, sacrificing the consolations of a solid marriage and the incomparable gifts of family and motherhood. They lead by example in our human search for life’s meaning, both here and hereafter.
Fidelity And Dedication
The dedication which the Good Nuns exemplify is – thank God – still found in authentic religious orders among these faithful Servants of God who seek nothing of the world’s applause. They give more than they are asked to give, take less than they are allowed to take, and offer everything to God, so that our lives and our families may be enriched in Hope and Faith and, finally, Love.
Thus, am I astonished by the incalculable arrogance and blatant ill will of the SPI and their shallow, contemptuous flippancy.
I am further bewildered by legislators (starting in the Oval Office) and corporate executives who reward such abysmal behavior as “heroic.”
Certainly, no organization would applaud “men” who assume female garb and mock the demeanor and beliefs of gays or Muslims or pronoun-bending transgendered folk; “men” who knowingly insult the most sacred doctrines of others. No one with a shred of common sense would - or should - find such behavior worthy of applause and recognition.
Yet, the SPI receives public accolades from American leaders, beginning with our President. The logic of this thinking and the degrading message it sends regarding the character and moral sensibilities of much of our nation’s leadership is beyond my comprehension.
I can only conclude that our nation’s moral acuity is gravely wounded.
The Loss Of Civility
Let us be clear: a person’s chosen lifestyle is a private affair, to be respected as his right to choose. That’s why we have access to just laws when basic civil courtesy breaks down and common decency is not honored.
I recall a time in America when mutual respect for other people’s moral traditions and religious beliefs held public sway. Common decency and good will dictated civility throughout our society. A person’s beliefs were a private matter, between that person and his God. Everyone was entitled to his own beliefs – unless and until …
… until mutual good will was jettisoned and some people imposed their lifestyle on me or my family, especially my children;
… until some people deliberately belittled my moral beliefs; … until some people incited violence against me, my family or my own private lifestyle choices.
The craven antics of the SPI tells us that the spirit of public respect has been abandoned in our nation in favor of distorted freedom-gone-mad. This is worsened by today’s intolerant rhetoric of accusation. But America is paying a price: we are morally and culturally diminished. We have become a darkly polarized nation.
Catholics As Villains
Here is one example of present-day irrationality:
My Catholic Church believes the incontestable, scientifically verified fact that there are two – and only two – sexes.
Because Catholics acknowledge this fact, we are called “oppressors,” “judgmental,” “haters,” and a litany of similar fatuous epithets.
Despite the tidal wave of disapproval which we Catholics receive from adherents of the Preferred Pronoun Generation, facts remain stubborn realities which no amount of weaponized disdain can change.
Furthermore, we Catholics believe that human behavior is moral before any other consideration. We believe it is evil to encourage a child to pretend to be other than God made him. It is unquestionably evil to offer a child transgender medication and surgery. It is evil to forbid or punish parental involvement in their child’s choice.
When we state these actions are morally wrong, our critics become frothily apoplectic. Even the mere mention of the morality of human acts is cultural “sin.” Nonetheless, facts are facts. Here is yet another link to many sources which explain Catholic beliefs and medical facts:
Catholic Teaching, Church Documents, and Diocesan Policies – Person and Identity Project
How Far Shall It Go ?
One more time, let me re-state a basic truth which has been lost in much of America:
Our sexual identity is the first, absolute, and fundamental identity which Nature assigns to all human persons. Our sex is not assigned to us at birth by some medical functionary who randomly checks off boxes on a form, with disregard to Nature’s clear and immutable message and God’s creative intent.
This truth is vehemently denied by the “spiritually enlightened” Woke culture and by the rancid antics of SPI. To the “enlightened” disciple, being born a man – a male – is now an indefinite state of existence. “Men” and “women” are merely indeterminate “things” whose sexual selves can be manipulated with pills and surgical methods. We are even at the point at which parents who do not “affirm” their child’s desire to change their sex are guilty of child abuse. California Bill Would Classify 'Not Affirming Child's Gender' as Child Abuse (dailysignal.com)
Many of our leaders now applaud the self-evident lies of transgenderism. Our nation’s highest officials (and, God forbid, some educators) further the deception and perpetuate the lie to our children - to our children - that men need no longer be men, nor act as men, nor aspire to that state of sacrifice and goodness to which manhood is called; no longer need pay the price of true manhood; no longer aspire to stand proudly as fathers, nor act honorably as brothers, nor serve as our nation’s natural defenders of our common hopes.
I cannot help but wonder how American leadership has so corrupted the priceless principle of true freedom as to honor people who perpetuate this deception, thus dishonoring the laws and limits which God and Nature establish.
Searching For Truth
So … the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and their fans are the latest example of America’s celebration of religious prejudice, the latest declaration of our blindness to the anger and hubris which prejudice spawns and by which it polarizes our citizenry. Our society now elevates deception and foments condemnatory rhetoric on a national scale. A norm of irrationality now infects America.
As I write, I am again reminded how grateful I am to be a Catholic. My Catholic Faith starts and ends with the Love of God revealed in the Life of Christ and in His parables. Indeed, His parables are actually moral lessons which are the bases for our Christian doctrines and laws, our Traditions and customs. The parables are moral messages which the Catholic Church still unfolds, as it has done throughout history to this day and into the future.
As Catholics, we celebrate both the reality and limits of life’s inherent mystery. We realize that each human being shares in the staggering mystery of Creation. We are all conceived and born as individuals, as persons endowed by God with identity and dignity as male or female, as man or women, not as some indeterminate “gender,” not as an arbitrary pronoun-of-choice in search of a surgically-defined “self.”
Experience has also told me that criticism of the transgender craze is anathema to people who prefer false tolerance and phony “inclusion.” Criticism is anathema to folks who are blind to facts and history; anathema to people who naively accept the colossal lies upon which Woke culture and groups such as SPI rely.
The Heart Of Catholic Life
Christ told us that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. This is Catholicism’s foundational belief, my belief. Catholics understand that much of God’s work in our lives is mystery-by-design. On the other hand, much of God’s work is readily self-evident, available to us, knowable through our Reason, as well as knowable through Revelation and Faith; knowable as our Way to Truth and Life.
So, Catholics emphasize that Faith and Reason are not opposed. They are two sides of the same hand. What Reason cannot explain, Faith allows us to accept. Revelation and Faith deepen and complement Reason, so that we accept God’s Word as His people. We understand our need to know, and yet we accept our unknowing with Faith and Hope and, one day, Love.
To know and accept in our hearts and souls what we cannot comprehend solely with our Reason is the beginning of Wisdom. And, God knows, there is an overwhelming amount we will never grasp solely with our minds.
But this is as it should be, for it is God – our Creator and our Loving Friend - Who merits our full fidelity; God alone Who offers each of us eternal clarity; God alone Who, first and finally, makes eternal sense.
30 May 2023
What’s Your Worldview ?
Aristotle supposedly said we are the sum of our experiences. Not to be outdone, let’s see what this means these days.
Most experiences quickly fade into forgetfulness. However, some experiences - and some people - have lingering impact on mind and heart. Over time, they shape our opinions, beliefs, attitudes and judgments to form our “worldview.”
Our worldview rests on perceptions and standards by which we “see” and evaluate life, judge people, events and ourselves. So (to update Aristotle), our worldview includes:
- our perceptions (or distortions) of reality;
- our moral beliefs - our conscience - about right and wrong, good and evil;
- social standards we use to evaluate people and events;
- our “philosophical” view of how things are … and ought to be;
- our assumptions and judgments about people and self.
Our worldview develops for years. By adulthood, our moral character and social personality are well-formed, taken for granted. However, our worldview reveals both our idiosyncrasies and (in ways we may not realize) the nuances of our character, i.e., what we really value, what sort of person we really are.
Here are a few fundamentals:
- We are born with moral instincts which serve as bases for our moral standards and conscience.
- Our worldview starts to form very early in life, influenced mainly by parents, elders, church, school and friends.
- When we’re young, our critical senses are undeveloped; we usually take things “on faith.”
- We (ideally) learn to distinguish truth from falsity, good from evil, fact from fiction, history from myth, etc.
- We also learn (or should) that truth and facts, not opinions or prejudices, determine if events and people are true or false.
- We’re wise to get facts straight and know the context of events before we make judgments.
- Ruthless people frequently manipulate ignorance and indifference for personal, political or financial gain.
- Therefore, we should trust only reputable sources of truth and facts when we make decisions and form opinions.
Good Intentions Aren’t Sufficient
In time, our worldview becomes entrenched, hard to change, resistant to challenge, stubbornly defended; we get “set in our ways.” Even if our underlying assumptions are wrong and our judgments erroneous; even if our beliefs rest on faulty information and our perceptions are distorted, they’re still part of us, part of our ego, our identity. In our minds, they define us, even when we know we’re wrong. Prejudice is a good example.
Some people refuse to change their opinions or behavior, even when they know they’re wrong. They won’t accept criticism or admit error. We all know people with egos so touchy that we tiptoe around them, lest we rouse their anger by an innocent comment. They resent candor, even lovingly given. Denial is comfy, control a necessity. Facing truth requires humility - and that’s a rare virtue.
It would be reassuring if we all shared the same honest worldview, but we don’t. We’re exposed to many worldviews every day. Some inspire us with their idealism and perspicacity (that is, if we’re open to being inspired). But we also encounter hypnagogic worldviews which bow to inane fads, which reveal breathtaking depths of ignorance or, worst of all, which smother facts with sluggish indifference.
Today our culture is deeply polarized about issues which are actually moral problems, not merely political opinions. In fact, our nation’s moral problems are very often masked in political jargon which is stark and shrill, often violently “weaponized.” But beneath every politicized issue is a moral issue, a moral challenge which aims to eradicate the stability of our nation.
Some differences - moral differences - threaten the existence of our nation. For example, strident demands for fake “rights” distort Constitutional freedoms to dangerous extremes and contradict Scripture, science, tradition and common sense.
One fact should be evident to every honest person: We are created beings, entirely dependent on our Creator for our existence. We did not create ourselves, nor are we our own masters. Even the ordinary in life is extraordinary.
Our overriding responsibility is to obey our Creator. Our responsibilities and our rights originate from God and constitute the moral universe into which we are born. We are His creatures, each and all of us. It follows logically that:
- We are accountable to mandates not of our own making.
- These mandates originate with our Creator and are given to us through His chosen sources of Scripture and revelation.
- We’re also created as social beings, so we’re subject to human laws which are just.
- Human laws are reflections of God, the origin of all law.
The Christian Worldview
Since we are created, we’re at our best when we attend to God’s mandates, revealed in Scripture and religious tradition.
These Commandments and traditions tell us how to live according to our Creator’s wishes. And nowhere else are God’s wishes more clearly expressed than in the Christian worldview.
However, skeptics say God is a myth and Scripture is folly. Hard-core cynics add that Faith is irrelevant, religion oppressive, morality entirely personal, prayer a useless distraction.
Nonetheless, the Christian Revelation proclaims 1) we’re created by God, 2) redeemed from our weaknesses by the historic intervention of Christ, and 3) upheld by God’s Holy Spirit in our lives - and all around us.
Our Primary Responsibility
The Virtue of Charity is at the center of the Christian worldview.
Charity is love of God and people. But “love” in this context is not quick and easy, not accompanied by candlelight and soft music. Christian love is a commitment, a stable, benevolent attitude of mind and heart by which we express 1) gratitude to God and 2) concern for all people, including strangers as well as loved ones.
Christian Charity is not - is not - just a feeling or passing emotion, nor merely giving alms to the poor. It is a worldview of forgiveness given and sought, of obeying God’s Commandments, respecting the limits of human nature, gratitude to God for the abundant gifts in Creation - despite our contradictory urges.
- Everyone has the obligation of kindness to one another.
- When our behavior falls short, we start anew.
- Responsibilities and duties are mutual. For example, it’s irresponsible to risk another’s safety by reckless driving or to violate anyone’s dignity by abuse, slander or calumny.
- Our rights are the flip-side of our responsibilities, but in the adult world responsibilities come first, not rights.
- Our responsibilities are not burdens but benefits, so we are NOT victims to God’s mysterious ways.
- Most people know right from wrong, but some people don’t care, and choose to violate other people’s dignity and rights in word and deed.
- Therefore, Charity does not exclude vigorous opposition to evil which others may foist upon us.
- And ever so much more …..
On a practical level, the Christian worldview offers us specific gifts for our intellectual and emotional needs:
- The gift of Wisdom, by which we see the world as God sees it, not from a conceited worldview.
- Understanding helps us realize that reality is a source of revelation and insight.
- Judgment distinguishes right from wrong even in small ways.
- Courage is the gift to speak and act with moral probity.
- Knowledge gives us insight into truth amid the intellectual chaos of our culture.
- The gift of Reverence recognizes the transcendent presence of God even in life’s smallest details.
- Wonder grants us a sense of awe (“fear” of the Lord) by which we value the mysteries of life around and within us.
The Christian worldview - with Charity at the center - reveals that we are responsible to God and one another, including the unborn.
In fact, Christian Charity urges us to see God in every person, even if they ridicule us.
Critics regularly cite horrible examples of Christians who violate these principles, as if such examples invalidate Christian belief. Horrible examples don’t negate the Christian worldview. Rather, they emphasize the necessity of the Christian worldview.
The Christian worldview stresses the value of every human person, including the unborn. Indeed, Catholicism (the original Christian worldview) emphasizes human dignity as evident in 1) its condemnation of abortion, 2) the sanctity of man-woman marriage as a Sacrament, and 3) the indisputable evidence that there are two – and only two – sexes. These, for starters.
So, every horrible example has value by showing us what NOT to do, what NOT to be, how NOT to behave - and the awful weight of duplicity on the soul.
Worldview Of Gratitude
The Christian worldview insists that evil does exist and that human beings long to be rescued from our errant, violent ways. It also proclaims that when we truly repent, God forgives even our repetitive acts of crass disobedience.
Instead of arousing violence or duplicity, the Christian worldview often ignites gratitude in the hearts of persons who live in a state of “Thank you, God” for endless blessings.
What blessings? To name only one, it’s a profound blessing to live in America. Our blessings are many but, above all, Christians are not slaughtered, as happens in cultures where they’re in constant jeopardy. See this link: Gatestone Institute
Our utter dependence on God makes gratitude the natural and befitting response. Indeed, our wisest choices are 1) to gratefully nourish our lives by faith, hope, perseverance and fidelity, and 2) to seek goodness and do what is morally right.
Even when we are given the gift of suffering, we are still assured that our relationship with God abides. Even with loss, we are wise to express our gratitude for the gift of life.
Some people take their blessings for granted and seek God only when they want a favor. They expect God to make things happen on their terms. When they don’t get their way, they blame God. Other people say God plays no part in their lives; their “success” is self-made. But, given the fragility of life, their attitude is neither wise nor gracious.
Granted, it’s sometimes difficult to put ego aside, especially in a culture of conflict and self-centered “rights.” Nonetheless, our choice of gratitude is always available to us. Always.
Humility Makes Sense
The Christian worldview also helps us embrace God as the first and final Truth. Eventually, our quest for truth leads us to the Virtue of Humility. But let’s be clear: Humility is simply dealing with truth. It’s not the “Aw, shucks” stereotype of kicking dirt, eyes downcast, hat in hand, pretending to be inferior and worthless.
Humility simply means we’re rooted in the soil of truth, honesty and prudent candor. We don’t pretend we’re superior to others, nor do we worship ourselves, nor make ourselves look chic at someone’s expense, nor avoid truth for popularity’s sake.
Humility honors human dignity in ourselves and others. Humility keeps us focused on the goal of loving God and our neighbor, not on enhancing our ego’s strutting puffery, especially at the cost of other’s dignity. Humility begets unquenchable kindness.
Finally . . .
The Christian worldview teaches respect for truth tempered with prudence, seasoned with humility. It urges us to accept mistakes and disappointments, and take responsibility for our actions.
In time, our moral acuity deepens, and we gratefully accept even suffering (physical and emotional) which invariably enters every life. Discernment alerts us to the evasions, denials and “games” people play, even in family. Wisdom warns us against deceiving ourselves (as we’re all prone to do) by finding excuses for our own selfishness. Truth matters, and the need for self-restraint is evident.
But enough . . . These insights are only a sample of the Christian worldview. Of course, it’s sometimes costly, but it’s still a bargain - especially when we behold the toxic chaos of worldviews which flippantly demean God, scoff at Christian insights and denigrate our reverence for virtue.
Thank you for reading this. Now, I realize some folks may differ with what I say above, so if you have a better idea, I’d like to hear about it.
18 May 2023
Reflections On Freedom
Americans value freedom. Freedom from oppression was the impetus for our nation’s founding. Freedom to think and act without undue intrusion is so deeply ingrained in our daily living that we rarely consider what life might be without our freedoms.
But what does freedom mean?
Is it freedom from something or freedom for something? Does it mean we are free of any restraint? Does it mean we are free of addiction to “recreational” drugs, alcohol abuse, porn, or the fallacious arguments of transgender advocates?
Freedom - the right kind - is a social and moral good, but common sense says freedom always has built-in limits and conditions, a fact many people deny these days. Nonetheless, common sense insists we are never free from Nature’s God-given limits, nor from legitimate moral obligations, cultural restraints, laws and customs which rightly limit behavior. Limits are part of being “free.”
We’re Free . . . Sorta
An old cliche says “freedom is not free,” and it’s true. I am free, but so are you. Since we’re different, whose “freedoms” prevail when our differences assert themselves?
In reality, then, everyone is free . . . but only to a point, even if some people distort their version of “freedom” to dangerous, even absurd, extents.
Some principles about freedom should be obvious:
- The exercise of our freedom involves respect for the freedom and dignity of others.
- Limits on freedom are essential for the well-being of everyone.
- We’re free only as we respect the freedom of others.
- Freedom’s restraints are both 1) voluntary, and 2) imposed by law, custom, religion and a host of legitimate sources.
- Our exercise of freedom demands we behave as responsible persons who respect our own limits and the rights of others.
To be clear: Our limits - and our rights - originate, first and foremost, 1) from God, our Creator, and then 2) from science, education, Scripture, valid moral and social traditions, just laws and community standards which work for the common good.
When we exercise our personal freedoms, the common good is the first consideration. The common good is best served by living the virtues which we discuss below - even when it’s difficult.
The virtues - both civic and spiritual - provide guidelines for the exercise of our limits and our rights. Civic and spiritual virtues are normally learned in church, school and especially in the family. The family is God and mankind’s main avenue for civilizing and educating us to become mature adults.
The value of a virtuous life is obvious to right-thinking persons. Yet the freedom and dignity of others are repeatedly violated by people whose self-righteous ideologies abjure civil discourse, reasoned problem-solving and mutual benevolence. If you think otherwise, read this worthy analysis:
America’s Imperial Ideology by R. R. Reno | Articles | First Things
Abuses of freedom result in restraints by extrinsic (social) and intrinsic (self) sources. Some restraints are essential for stable society. Some, however, are intimidating, brutish, based on lies and intended to squash true freedom and people who exercise it.
In mature society, moral and social restraints are expected to be self-imposed. Indeed, maturity is defined as principled self-regulation, regard for others and respect for truth.
Feelings have no part in honoring our responsibilities, which requires virtuous character and principled perseverance.
Freedom Without Responsibility
Claims now abound in our society for new “freedoms” previously unheard of or patently absurd. Calls for “rights” of all sorts fill our workplaces, our military, our educational institutions with stunning disregard for science, religion, tradition and law.
This renegade version of “freedom” is based on 1) denial of truth, 2) negation of personal responsibility, 3) accountability only to self, and 4) accusatory demands for irrational “rights.”
In this tawdry scenario, true freedom is deliberately disfigured to mean, “It is my right to do anything - anything - I please, without restraint of any kind. If you disagree, you are a racist, sexist oppressor. You deserve what you get, including violence.”
Today’s absurd demands give rise to social pathologies which obliterate not only objective truth, rational thinking, science and history … but simple common sense.
One example of these extremes is found in the defund police movement:
Race, Homicide, & Data - Beyond Woke with Peter Boghossian (substack.com)
Another example: Critical Race Theory teaches that America is a nation of “systemic inequities” where minorities endure constant “microaggressions,” “microinsults,” and “microassaults.”
Another: The "1619 Project" says America was founded in 1619 (when slaves arrived), not 1776, when our Declaration of Independence promulgated the belief that we are all created equal and possess unalienable, God-given rights.
And, some States (e.g., California and Illinois) now consider bills requiring menstrual products in boys’ bathrooms - starting in third grade. This is a prime example of politicizing a moral aberration.
Irrationality is now the norm. Truth is rejected and American ideals are assaulted. Anything goes, as lies are knowingly promoted. As Robert Royal writes: “Our Western non-culture seems hell-bent on not only opposing but wiping out the very memory of the best that made us who we are.”
People of good will find it difficult to believe that some citizens actually support reckless, often evil, practices and knowingly destroy our God-given moral limits and natural boundaries. People of good will are stunned as Nature, science, law, patriotism, custom and common sense are trashed, while evil thrives and goodness withers under outlandish excess.
It is abhorrent to claim (as some do) that America’s faults originate in our highest ideals, in our American identity or our Judeo-Christian traditions or our Constitutional heritage. This is nonsense.
Despite our grievous faults, America has - more than any nation - struggled to remedy abuses and uphold the ideals which true freedom proposes for all persons, near and far.
Nevertheless, some critics still reject our centuries of law and tradition, disparage religious affiliation, work for the breakdown of family and parental authority, welcome the ongoing eradication of our historic national borders, disparage citizenship. The meaning of true “freedom” is deviously - and deliberately - distorted.
Many Americans do not realize that the need for virtue in both political life and in an informed citizenry was a constant theme of many founders of our nation. But these days, the mere mention of “virtue” or anything which nudges the divine is taboo. Even public schools prohibit mention of God. But our denial of God’s countless gifts is the soil in which evil and social pathology always flower.
Some people say belief in God is silly or intrusive. It is, they say, ridiculous to believe our Creator watches over us in a seemingly chaotic Universe. They forget that the power in the Universe is a reflection of the power of our Creator, power beyond imagining.
Even with advances in science and technology, it is most unwise not to acknowledge the natural limits of our achievements. We may be great inventors, but we are never our own masters.
We did not invent the Universe, nor do we invent ourselves. Creation and our own lives are gifts from God. When we ignore that fact, we move away from our Creator; our vulnerability to evil then increases.
The truth is that individual and community virtues do matter – very much. Here’s why…
Virtue Is Personal And Social
Virtue requires courage and strength of character to choose attitudes and behaviors which are morally right and culturally beneficial for ourselves and the community.
To act virtuously calls for sacrifice of one’s instincts, one’s urges and one’s selfish agenda . . . for a greater good.
Virtue rests on 1) adequate knowledge and a properly educated conscience, and 2) freedom to choose attitudes and behaviors which produce the best moral and social outcomes for ourselves and our neighbors, near and far.
The community benefits when virtue inspires Reason and Faith to work together in the hearts of citizens for the common good.
Respect for virtue (both civic and religious) is exactly what’s missing today!
Faith and Reason are the bases of virtuous behavior in private and in public life, in personal and political life. But in today’s hostile environment, angry critics vilify self-restraint, prudence, temperance, humility and truth, even though these virtues - and their corollaries - enrich every community.
In truth, virtuous behavior - doing the morally right thing for the common good - enlivens and inspires our age-old human struggle for freedom and responsible behavior.
Evil and sin are real. They arise from our deliberate rejection of, or indifference to, the laws of God and the dignity of our neighbor.
We choose evil when we knowingly disregard God’s limits, when we dismiss the absolute value of truth in human affairs, when we violate the rights of others, including unborn children.
Our society now normalizes sinful behavior and “psychologizes” evil away. Various “pathologies” replace sin and evil. Many people deny evil exists at all. We’ve banished sin from our vocabulary, yet our children watch all sorts of porn, deceit and lies prevail at the highest levels of governance, the lives of pre-born and elderly persons are increasingly devalued, and traditional marriage and family life are assaulted.
Whether we admit it or not, evil remains a reality in our lives, and sin is a choice we can, and do, make.
That’s why virtue – i.e., the strength of character to choose the truth and act on it - is fundamental to our existence and essential for the survival of our humanity.
Freedom to choose is at the core of human nature. We may choose evil or goodness. The choice is ours. Every day, the choice is ours.
To Choose True Freedom
Since we are created by God, our true freedom is to rise above temptations of conceit, to accept limiting truths of our humanity and to honor the responsibilities of fidelity and gratitude.
How do we attain true freedom? We strive to develop the habit of choosing virtue. We strive to live a virtuous life.
There are seven fundamental Christian virtues which have beneficial outcomes for individuals and communities:
1) Faith, Hope and Charity guide our relationships with God and our neighbor;
2) Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance are practical guidelines for thinking, doing and being. They produce abundant good for one’s self and for the community.
- Each virtue applies to a variety of settings.
- Each is eminently practical in everyday life.
- Lack of these virtues (through ignorance, bad education, denial, avoidance, impulsive behavior, selfishness, lousy attitudes, mental dysfunction, etc.) is at the root of problems in politics, family life, education, etc.
- These virtues are remedies to many emotional problems.
- They guide our relationships with God and one another in family, work and community.
- The Virtue of Charity, moderated by Prudence and Truth (humility in practice), is central to all others.
- Charity is a far more than almsgiving, and may be bluntly truthful, benignly confrontive - and ultimately liberating.
Virtues are practical habits and beneficial behaviors for us all.
- - 1) They are morally and psychologically healthy.
- - 2) They respect our neighbor’s rights and well-being.
- - 3) They originate in God but they infuse every aspect of life.
- - 4) They’re found in every culture throughout history.
- - 5) They are most effectively refined in the Christian tradition.
- - 6) They are profoundly beneficial for community stability.
- - 7) They’re rooted in the truth about human nature.
- - 8) They meet our daily needs for guidance about how to act as individuals and as a society.
Although much of society disdains or ignores God, it’s unwise and illogical (to say the least) to reject the abundant evidence of divine intervention which permeates Creation. The power and presence of God are all around us and within us - constantly.
Still, some people find it insufferable to admit that God is the source of their existence. But acceptance of - and gratitude to - God is the Ultimate Freedom.
So, we may deny or evade God as individuals and as a society, but we shall never be free of Him. Why? Because we are created by God and sustained by His Will. And, in our heart of hearts, we know that, sooner or later, we shall have to face that fact. As Saint Augustine says in his Confessions: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
28 April 2023
A Tribute To Nancy: In God’s Good Time
It is now five years since Nancy, my Beloved spouse, died May 1, 2018. She is missed each day, loved anew each day, greeted as a friend-beyond-friendship with each memory.
In the beginning of our marriage, we were content to live in idyllic locales on the Pacific Coast. We walked the beach each morning, read the newspaper over coffee at our favorite hangout, found delight in seaside living.
In God’s good time, however, we realized that making our marriage “work” would require us to move beyond comfy distractions. We learned that loving - truly loving - one another was going to be a contrary, itchy, often unruly and certainly costly enterprise for us both. We learned that truly loving one another beyond mere compatibility demanded the sacrifice of our precious, long-held defenses; that truly loving one another required us to change in ways which only a committed marriage demands - or allows.
Insight came slowly but inexorably. Gradually, we admitted the need for selfless concern, wherein every moment becomes an opportunity to form a listening heart; every moment an opportunity to transcend the selfish conceits and ego-centric isolation which consumes many lives, single or married.
The Costs Of Learning
Eventually, we got the gritty message that to truly love one another with selfless concern, we had to grow up, to mature emotionally and spiritually, to realize that marriage is a call to precious - but costly – intimacy; a calling like no other in this life.
Soon, of necessity, we faced some challenging truths:
- We realized that our marriage was no place for benign hypocrisy or self-righteous evasion.
- We realized that authentic intimacy would not allow the facile dodges and brittle denials which coddle the fragile ego, but drain the soul and psyche of candor and courage.
- We realized that our marital intimacy would be thwarted if we “played games,” if we avoided hard truths and, thus, stymied mutual trust.
- We realized that marital intimacy directs our lives to the best interests of our Beloved, not to the self.
- And we realized that by honoring the Beloved, we become the truest source of goodness we both shall have in this life.
We came to see that giving one’s self in marriage is also receiving. Giving of one’s self united us in the mysterious, yet enriching, process of trusting each other. And, as we grew closer, we came to trust one another, for trust is the gift without which truly loving another is not possible.
And the gift of mutual trust gave birth to inexhaustible tenderness from the Beloved in ways which were (and remain) ever-so-rare.
Dinah Craik, the 19th century British poet, described such trust when she wrote: “Oh, the comfort -- the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person -- having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.”
The Necessity Of Prayer
Thus, over time, we were sustained by our prayerful awareness of the rightness of our marriage . . . and I realized, finally, that I was indeed blessed with the love of a woman of intense sincerity and simplicity of heart – a woman of virtues which are rarely reciprocated or applauded. And, it came to me that I was, at long last, caught up into the unadorned goodness of love, and I was re-learning how to live in an entirely new rhythm of life.
We embraced the gift our Catholic faith and, together, recognized the presence of divine grace in our lives. For Catholics, grace is more - far more - than benevolence or “feeling right with God.” Grace is, we believe, a eucharistic gift of actual participation in the divine life of our Creator, freely given, gratefully received.
Living in grace does not mean we become divine, by any means. But grace gave us a tangible portion of God’s loving goodness, and afforded us a model of selflessness which the life of Christ exemplifies. And the words of a Shakespeare sonnet assumed new meaning:
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising from sullen earth,
Sings hymns at heaven’s gate.
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
Is Love Truly Blind ?
My faith teaches that a form of heroism exists in the lives of men and women who strive for mutual sanctification in marriage. Virtues such as fidelity, self-restraint and humility in the face of truth make no sense to self-assured critics who disdain traditional marriage. Yet these virtues are befitting to both God and man, for they are virtues which enrich both the soul and society.
Indeed, virtues are divine and human realities which no hostile rhetoric can eradicate. No one can stifle the divine epiphanies around us - and within us - nor negate the graces of Creation which are abundant, constant and ever reassuring; graces which are transcendent, yet essential to our lives, as are the virtues which define goodness, both divine and human.
I will add that, perhaps for some who read my words, I may sound too rhapsodic or idealistic; over-stated, perhaps, or simplistically weighted with dewy memories amid the reverie of loss. But if you read these thoughts with personal recall of life’s most precious times, then you will understand.
Loving Is Life
So, together, my Beloved and I learned life’s simplest, yet most tenacious, message: that we are born to love and to be loved. Of all the needs which define humanity, the most enduring is our universal need to love and to be loved, to give and to receive.
To love and to be loved: this is the elusive pearl of great price, the grace freely given, gratefully received. And the love for which we are created calls us to worship our Creator, no matter the cost.
Finally, it’s common knowledge that we humans are prone to error and mistakes; no one is perfect. Happily, my Beloved and I learned that, beyond our mistakes, the redeeming factor in our marriage was not - is not - our achievement of perfection but, rather, our mutual striving to love one another with fidelity; our striving to trust one another and to share our failures openly, time and again, renewing and being renewed. Only in our honest striving - together - were the ideals of our marriage possible.
So, each day I renew my gratitude to my Beloved - and to our Creator. Each day, my love is refreshed anew, and each day I greet her as my friend-beyond-friendship. And each day, I express my gratitude to God for granting me such goodness as she brought into my life … and still does.
6 April 2023
"I Jes’ Wanna Be Loved . . ."
Many years ago, I counseled a college sophomore (let’s call him Ted). While Ted was under the numbing influence of drugs and alcohol, he “fell” from a third-floor dorm window. Fortunately, he landed in a cushioning clump of bushes, then spent a sobering night in the student infirmary.
When we met next morning, Ted was deeply depressed. He slouched in his chair, stared at the floor, rested his head in his hands. But, ever so slowly, his inner turmoil surfaced. He spoke of unceasing family strife, of emotions shredded, resentments hovering, needs unmet; of his thwarted desires to speak as a needy son to his ever-busied parents; of his emotionally-absent father, a political appointee dominated by endless trivialities.
Finally, Ted said: “I jes’ wanna be loved, that’s all. Is that asking too much?” Ted looked at me hopefully, waiting for me to make sense of his troubled life, waiting for me to tell him how to be loveable, how to be loved.
What Happened ?
As Ted unraveled his family turmoil, he finally sighed with great relief. When he was calm, I asked him one question: “What inner price do you think your mother and your father are paying for all the years of pain they have caused each other … and you?”
Ted looked surprised. “I never thought of them that way,” he said. I replied, “It’s time you do …” and we started there.
Ted’s father arrived that afternoon. By then, we decided Ted would ask his father (as gently as possible) a single question: What price was his father still paying to survive the travail of his family life?
When we three met, Ted asked his father that question. Soon, Ted was comforting his father, consoling his father, as the grief and isolation which Ted’s father had held in his own heart for so many years finally found voice.
I sat quietly as Ted and his father talked for hours. For the first time in either man‘s memory, their mutual love and need for each other’s friendship emerged into the light. Later - together - they called Ted’s mother. Blessedly, several years after that, both mother and father were - together - at Ted’s graduation.
Our Universal Dilemma
After many years of hearing the same refrain from countless persons, I’ve learned that we all experience that same hope at some point in our lives. We, too, just want to be loved. Finding out how is the universal theme in every life.
At some point, our search for love propels all of us to heights - or depths - of vulnerability. When our hopes are thwarted or rejected, many of us lapse into dark despair or intolerant cynicism, especially if we’re unsure of how loveable we truly are; especially if we’re without the anchor of wisdom’s insight; especially if we do not have support of a wiser person to reassure us that, yes, we’re still OK.
Many people never comprehend that love (true love, not its manipulated facsimiles) always costs us a goodly part of ourselves. Why? Because true love involves not only receiving the love of others but giving others the kind of love appropriate to our relationship with them - sometimes silently, at a distance, with no return on our investment, at cost to ourselves.
Being a loving person always involves some measure of personal sacrifice. There is always a cost to true love. That’s what makes true love so valuable.
Loving others means we give of ourselves generously, gratefully, willingly, without complaint. The ability to love others is an inborn potential, a gift given to all of us … but it’s a fragile gift. So, how do we learn to use, not abuse, that gift?
Some principles apply - but they’re costly principles. Many persons dismiss them as too idealistic, too other-worldly, too naïve, too soft. Here are some basics:
- Giving our love, respect and kindness to others comes before receiving love, and it’s often done without reward. This calls for a degree of maturity. What does that mean?
- For starters, loving others is not a “feeling.” It is a worldview, a commitment to treat others with kindness and empathy (not sympathy), even if they’re condescending, narcissistic, harsh, indifferent, self-absorbed - or we just don’t “feel” kind.
- Thus, being a loving person is an enduring choice, a stable conviction, not merely a “nice” feeling or a reciprocal act.
- The loving person seeks goodness and forgiveness as permanent ways of life, regardless of obstacles. And that’s where many people disagree and go their own way.
- Believing in goodness and acting with consistency and dedication takes years. Why? Because many skeptics see goodness as weakness and kindness as naïve.
- Kindness may not be appreciated, reciprocated or even noticed. For people who crave recognition, that’s another hurdle. Nonetheless, true love is selfless; it’s done for its own sake and for the benefit of others. That’s why it’s true, not a ploy to impress others.
- True love is also uncomplaining. Even when they are not appreciated, loving persons still do not play “victim.”
- A loving attitude is a skill we can learn, but only if we are willing to pay a price - and take the risk to love quietly.
- Note well: Loving others starts with loving one’s self - BUT self-love is intelligent and disciplined, not indulgent or narcissistic. This calls for rigorous self-restraint and virtue.
To people who scoff or find these principles too difficult, I ask:
Is there a more humane or mutually beneficial way to live one’s life than in the pursuit of goodness and kindness, respect and patience, justice and altruism and courage, all of which are engendered by true love? If so, pray tell, what is it?
True Love, Marriage And Family
God and Nature intend that true love is first experienced, best learned and naturally expressed within the security of traditional - traditional - marriage and family, headed by a woman-as-mother and a man-as-father (it is odd to say this, but in today’s culture, clarity is rare, rebellion rampant).
True love, mutually given and received, is the core of traditional marriage and family. In family, the price is (or should be) easier to pay because love’s attributes are (or should be) constant. Even when arguments and anger erupt, healing and reconciliation are (or should be) instinctive in loving families.
Traditional marriage is designed to promote virtues such as fidelity and loyalty to the Beloved. Loyalty instills humility, which means one’s ego-defenses may have to be jettisoned for the good of the marital relationship. Consequently, traditional marriage also involves listening attentively to the Beloved, even when we hear painful truths which require us to make difficult changes and put our ego aside for a higher goal.
Love And Friendship
Traditional marriage is the pinnacle of human friendship - a friendship rooted in virtues such as faith, generosity, patience, hope, trust, marital sexuality, intimacy.
Marital love and true friendship are goals of traditional marriage in which love and fidelity are visibly present, mutually fostered, tenaciously sustained and fearlessly expressed. Friendship in traditional marriage is based not merely on networking, business connections or temporary compatibility. It is based on shared vulnerabilities in ways social links don’t allow:
Male Friendships Are Not Doing the Job | Institute for Family Studies
Traditional marriage is intended to create life-long friendships found nowhere else in Creation. It is designed to be a permanent relationship founded on hope in God and trust in one another, intensive listening and willingness to give of one’s self to the Beloved as no other relationship asks or requires.
Endangering Traditional Marriage And Family
We are extremely unwise to tamper with divinely-established traditional marriage and family. Why? Because Faith, Scripture, history, anthropology, biology, common sense and centuries of human experience insist that traditional marriage is the foundation of family life and raising healthy children - and is the very heart of stable societies and cultures.
Throughout history, traditional marriage and family have provided the ideal environment for spiritual, physical and emotional development. The lifelong influence of fathers and mothers on their children cannot be replaced by political agendas seeking to destroy our finest religious and social traditions.
Today, traditional marriage is being re-defined – and eradicated. This is a threat to our nation and a preventable tragedy. So, let’s make no mistake: Traditional marriage and family allow no substitutes. The God-given roles of men and women as moral exemplars in marriage and family life cannot be negated by cultural fads or frothy tirades about “gender.”
Propaganda by anti-family militants cannot excuse nor validate current abuses of Nature’s Godly design.
What If …
But what do we do if/when family life does not teach us or encourage us to love and to be loved? What do we do when true love is denied? Do we sink into despond or seek revenge? Do we nurture self-righteous rationalizations to justify our antagonism? Do we allow bitterness to infect our souls? Do we play “victim?”
Again, certain truths apply:
- Denial of love is a painful reality, but if pain is inescapable, it is best used as a means of learning and maturing.
- To do this, it is essential to find principles and virtues to offset the travail which lack of love may trigger.
- For the young and inexperienced, it is crucial they have a stable adult - a moral exemplar - to clarify the role of suffering in their maturing.
- The goal is to develop practical principles which provide a stable worldview and a solid philosophy of living; to learn useful ways to think clearly and behave rightly - ways both truthful and practical.
- When painful challenges occur, we retreat into habitual thought patterns. Our worldview - what we habitually think - determines how we feel and what we do to manage challenges.
- Of various worldviews, the Christian worldview offers the most effective principles to counteract the tyranny of belittling thoughts and distraught feelings.
- In the Christian worldview, our loving attitudes (for ourselves and for others) calms our need for solace, strengthens altruism, tempers our urge for approval, and makes sense of what may seem to us senseless.
- Christian principles present a worldview of clear thinking, prudent action and practical wisdom. Practical wisdom offsets travail and reminds us that every painful moment offers a step into maturity.
A Practical Worldview . . .
Christian principles are practical and applicable, especially if we habitually anticipate catastrophe and do not invoke the healthy insights of wisdom and maturity.
We know logic does not explain the value of painful events. To prevent us from succumbing to cynicism and anger, we need the principles of Christian wisdom, starting with gratitude to God.
Christian wisdom is not an intellectual mind-game or a pietistic delusion. It’s a spiritual reality and a pragmatic approach to making sense of senseless moments.
Our best alternative to chaotic thinking is to pursue wisdom and maturity based on trust in God and the principles and virtues revealed in the words, the works and the example of Christ.
To a skeptical reader, all this may sound naïve, glib or shallow, but, again, I ask:
Are mental chaos and emotional despair better options? If there is a better worldview than the Christian worldview, what is it?
- When we face painful ambiguity, logic doesn’t satisfy the heart or soul, mind or spirit, as Christian wisdom does.
- Christian wisdom insists that painful events do indeed have a definite purpose.
- Wisdom gradually imparts understanding and insight which transcend feelings of impotence or entrapment.
- As we attend to our relationship with God, we mature in wisdom and discerning clarity – and a path of reconciliation opens to us.
- Pain may not cease, but we recognize its purpose. That’s why people who nurture faith in God understand life’s travail with greater clarity and hope than persons who dismiss God.
- Wisdom inspires practical virtues for the proper love of self and others: patience and perseverance, fortitude and prudence, humility and forgiveness, justice and passion for truth, courage to fearlessly extend kindness to others – and to ourselves.
Certainly, history reveals that human weaknesses perpetrate great harm in God’s name. Nonetheless, wisdom urges us to accept God's mysterious, yet abiding, love through Christ, Who is our moral exemplar. Let us make no mistake: the practical, salvific messages of Christian wisdom and of the virtues which Christ teaches us - even to this moment - do not change.
So, again I ask: If there is a better, more humane worldview than the Christian worldview, what is it?
13 March 2023
What I’ve Learned
My years are sufficient to qualify me as an elder. As such, I believe many of us elders have learned worthy lessons over our lifetimes. So, with due respect, I wish to share a few I’ve learned. If you disagree, I welcome your comments. I hasten to add that age is not the sole criterion for learning life’s lessons. It’s not merely our length of days which renders age honorable or bestows maturity. Nor is the number of our years the measure of anyone’s value.
Truths I’ve Come To Accept
First of all, I’ve learned that elderhood comes with a price. For example, there are days when gym workouts are extra tough; days when a grocery cart becomes a clumsy appendage; nights when the pillow is lumpier than in years past; nights when dreams and memories are not dreamt entirely in sleep.
But these are minor inconveniences, not problems. So let me be clear: Aging affords insights into human nature which I did not appreciate in my earlier years. For instance, I’ve learned that:
- We do not know everything, even if we think we do;
- We are unwise not to listen to others and learn from them, even when we learn something which hurts our fragile egos.
Another lesson I’ve learned is that when we’re young and nimble, work, social life and myriad distractions help us to be needed and appreciated. As we age, socializing becomes less ebullient and distractions lose appeal. Wonderment (which many avoid for decades) re-emerges from that part of our mind which never fully forgets; that place in our heart’s memory which struggles to quiet our fears; that part of our soul from which none of us is ever distant – even when we try.
Vagaries Of Our Years
I’ve learned that gratitude to God is the best choice for young and old. Gratitude helps us be ever-more aware of the precious quality of life. Even that pause between heartbeats merits our gratitude.
Think about it: merely being aware that I am alive is a miraculous event. When I wake each morning in darkness, I realize I am indeed alive to a new day. Gratitude to God becomes inescapable, and I’m conscious of the fact that:
- I have been given the gift of a new dawn, as light inches through the leaves outside my window and softly greets me;
- My cat, Gypsy, taps gently on the pillow to wake me for her breakfast;
- My life has, once again, been renewed for another day, and I thank God for this astonishing miracle of life;
- Then, I rise and follow Gypsy to her bowl where, in our separate ways, we celebrate this new day as yet another gift in God’s countless life-long gifts.
Our striving to live an honorable life is heightened when we express our gratitude to God for so many gifts; when we take nothing for granted, admit our essential fragility, accept the inevitable ambiguities and mysteries of life, and gratefully respect creation’s limits, including our own.
To live an honorable life means we extend kindness and patience to the uncaring, the uncommunicative, the indifferent; to those in denial and evasive self-delusion; to self-proclaimed “victims” awash in self-pity and anger; even those who treat us disdainfully – while we tenaciously preserve our faith.
Living honorably is a daily struggle for virtue (even in elderhood). It is a struggle we must daily renew with a prayer for self-restraint and perseverance, proceeding always in hopeful gratitude to God – while we tenaciously preserve our faith.
Revelation, Tradition, history and common sense tell us these are the traits of a life well-lived, no matter the number of years living it or the cost we pay to tenaciously preserve our faith!
Maturity And Stability
Another thought: I have been a psychologist for well over a half-century. I’ve seen every variety of "mental health," from debilitating psychoses to the “normal” oddities - the quirks, idiosyncrasies and mildly neurotic tics - we all possess. I’ve learned that psychological health and maturity are connected in folks who (most of the time) have these traits in working order:
- emotional and mental ability to sustain relationships without undue conflict;
- concern not to violate the common good,
- respect for mutual rights and responsibilities,
- self-restraint, altruism and empathy, without cruelty or bullying others, without betrayal or revenge;
- regard for truth, justice and obedience to just laws,
- a value system grounded in objective moral norms.
These standards are the bases of every stable culture and every humane society. A stable culture (and its subdivisions, such as schools and businesses) accepts these standards. They become the invisible “glue” which binds stable societies. They also create universal expectations which underlie just laws, family life, church, education, politics, business, etc.
The fact that behavior has consequences is also a moral concern for healthy societies and mature citizens. Today, consequences are fleeting, as laws are shredded. This undercuts the “glue” of civic responsibility and moral stability. The result is lawlessness. See this link: The Price of Eliminating Consequences (dailysignal.com)
Thus, I’ve learned that no society survives without a moral core and its practical applications to civic life.
Conscience And Moral Maturity
But what does “moral” mean?
It’s honoring and respecting ourselves and one another as individuals and communities. True morality is inspired by our healthy relationship with our Creator - as we tenaciously preserve our faith. Let me explain...
I’ve learned that we are born with the potential to understand what’s right and wrong, to know and to choose good over evil. This is the role of “conscience,” a word which means “with knowledge.” Conscience means we know what we’re doing.
Obviously, some adults lose their moral edge and thoughtlessly disregard the dignity or needs of others. That’s why moral cultures reinforce (ultimately, for their survival) the fundamental dictate of morality: ‘Do good and avoid evil.”
At birth, conscience (which is our reservoir of moral learning) is unformed and untutored, but primed to be educated. We’re dependent upon adults in word and example, so the formation of conscience is greatly influenced by the quality and content of instruction and example in early life.
The objective norm of morality - and the hallmark of maturity and civility - is the educated conscience of the person who learns and observes God-given, universal standards of right and wrong, good and evil.
Evil is rebellion against these standards. Evil is our choice to ignore our responsibilities to our Creator and one another.
In our Judeo-Christian culture, these standards are found (for starters) in the Ten Commandments and in the virtues, traditions and truths revealed to us over centuries. These are our best sources of both objective morality and adult maturity because:
- The enduring lessons of Scripture, especially the Beatitudes and the Parables of Christ, echo human behavior at its best.
- The specifics of right behavior are spelled out in the Moral Virtues of Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance. These are behavioral guidelines which direct us in our civic and social relationships with one another.
- The Theological Virtues - Faith, Hope and Charity - are personal virtues which guide our choices for good over evil and direct us in our relationship with God.
I’ve learned that true morality is not - is not - subjective. Contrary to today’s myths, true morality is not - is not - found in how we “feel,” nor in distorted fads, nor in moral relativism which engulfs our nation and strangles our moral awareness.
The moral person 1) knows and does what is right in word and deed - even when it’s difficult, and 2) avoids saying or doing evil, even when the “in-group” says otherwise.
When we do not follow these objective moral guidelines, God is banished. Life is chaotic. Violence emerges and truth is rebuffed. The first law of society becomes, “Don’t get caught.”
I’ve learned that in our personal lives and in our culture, adult “normalcy” and maturity always suffer when we ignore and evade truth. Two common strategies are “denial” and “avoidance.”
Originally, denial and avoidance were attributed to addicted persons who won’t face their addiction, who explain it away and continue to feed it, as they deny responsibility and avoid sobriety.
Today, addictive behavior abounds with us “normal” people in our dependency on cell phones, TV sets and other modern devices. These seem benign because they’re common - but try one day without your cell phone.
Another example: Facts are clear - science, biology, history, tradition and common sense attest that there are two - and only two - sexes. Yet some “professionals” supply youngsters with life-altering drugs and surgeries - even though the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons condemns this practice.
Denial and avoidance by physicians, psychologists, teachers, even befuddled parents, have spawned irrational beliefs and barbaric practices which stifle America’s moral acuity.
Life, Anyone ?
I’ve recently learned that not everyone celebrates elderhood as a Godly gift. Some folks now propose we elders be encouraged to commit suicide. Some “experts” even push for compulsory elimination of elders.
Unfortunately, death as a solution to “unwanted” citizens, young and old, has become a common refrain. After all, our culture celebrates killing babies in the womb, for any reason. Some abortion adherents even argue for a period of 28-30 days after birth for taking the lives of healthy newborn infants (“perinatal” abortion of a thriving child, proposed in several States).
In addition, a committee of the Canadian parliament wants to expand Canada's assisted suicide program so "mature minors" may hasten their doctor-assisted suicides without parental consent. Given the number of immature adults in society, who would qualify as a “mature minor?”
We have all learned to expect a measure of moral arrogance from self-appointed elites. But it is foreboding to hear leaders propose killing innocent persons for any reason. Killing innocent people is the saddest theme of history in our lifetimes – yet it’s here, now.
Of equal concern is widespread indifference to, and support of, this ongoing extermination of human life. This bespeaks a dearth of moral awareness and pernicious disregard for human life among our citizens. God knows where this trend will take us….
What Holds Us Together
What holds individuals and communities in stable order and balanced orbit? As Tevye says in “Fiddler On The Roof,” respect for tradition, which starts with our relationship with our Creator.
Some people disparage and dismiss our relationship with God. They speak of prayer as a foolish, dead-end monologue with a non-existent entity. The truth is God that speaks to us all the time through Creation, through our reason and our senses, through history and imagination and all that we have been given.
I’ve learned that Creation ceaselessly reveals God’s constant messages. Leaves on the trees, flights of birds, sunlight and shade, billions of planets speeding through space, the existence of life in each of us - each of us with beating heart, a mind to think, and free will to choose to say “Yes” to God . . . or “No.”
I’ve learned that God calls to us in ways too obvious to miss, too abundant to deny. He invites us to respond to His call – and that is our moment to communicate our gratitude in prayer. It is our moment to respond on our side of the relationship, our moment to enter into the divine dialogue. And it is a moment without end…
So, I’ve learned that our part in this divine dialogue begins with expressing our personal gratitude to God for all we’ve received, even our pain and doubt, which are designed to bring us to Him.
I am old enough to realize history’s repetitive lesson - that every civilized nation requires moral guideposts and stable traditions. Without these, nihilism, chaos and violence emerge.
Today, many people deny the lessons of history and science. Worse, they reject our historic Judeo-Christian traditions which (until recently) served as America’s guideposts, even in times of strife and contradiction - times when the worst in America arose.
I am old enough to realize that human nature is often blind to its weary penchant for moral error and historical folly. I realize that history repeats itself only when we reject history's messages and become so hardened of heart that we miss the need for gratitude.
The evidence of history is harsh but enlightening. It teaches us, in hopeful terms, that moral clarity and reconciliation are always available to us, always awaiting … if, that is, we will seek them.
Shall we do so? As a nation, shall we, once again, embrace moral clarity and seek reconciliation?
As “they” say, time - and the choices we make - will tell.
27 February 2023
To Be An Adult: Two Views
The Williams Elementary school in Chesapeake, Virginia, recently held its first after-school Satan Club meeting. The Club was organized by parents of “nontheistic” elementary school children in reaction to (or against) a Christian club. The Satan Club is sponsored by the Satanic Temple which celebrates the “rite” of abortion as a “sacrament.”
The ACLU calls this “a victory for free speech and religious (yes, religious) liberty.” The irony is unmistakable. Satan’s name defines him as God’s loveless adversary - and ours. Satan exists to create in us doubt, distrust, excessive shame, anger, revenge. He is the Father of Lies, dedicated to disobedience, to hatred of authority, to betrayal and duplicity, to violence and sinful self-indulgence, to moral chaos – to evil for evil’s sake.
It is reasonable to wonder if adults who promote the Satan Club believe the minds and hearts, souls and character of their “nontheistic” children are bettered with Satan as their sponsor?
When I hear the word “satanic,” I immediately recall my visit to Auschwitz, the Nazi extermination camp in Poland, where 1.5 million innocent Jewish persons were murdered during the Holocaust.
My visit also informed me of the goodness of 300,000 Polish people - including countless children - who risked death to aid their Jewish neighbors. Among these heroic protectors of innocent Jewish persons were the nine members of the Ulma Family who lived in Markowa, a small, rural community in Southern Poland.
Before the War, 120 Jews lived in Markowa. The villagers hid twenty-nine Jews; twenty-one survived. No family paid a higher price for their love of neighbor than the Ulma Family – including the Ulma children. Briefly, here is their story.
The Ulmas Of Markowa
The Ulmas - Josef and Wiktoria and their seven children - were a farming family in Markowa. They are remembered as “good people, beloved by the local community.” Josef built the first wind-driven power station in the village and was the first to have electricity in his home. He also had a collection of books he’d lend to his neighbors.
When the Nazis occupied Poland, the Ulmas sheltered eight Jewish persons for two years. One can imagine the constant anxiety Josef and Wiktoria felt for their children. Finally, they were betrayed by a local police official who informed Nazi authorities that the Ulmas were hiding Jews.
On March 24, 1944, Nazis invaded the Ulma home. First, they shot the eight Jews whom the Ulmas sheltered. Then they shot Wiktoria and Josef, as the children watched. When the Nazis had slaughtered the Jews and the Ulma parents, they decided to shoot the children – the children.
When they were murdered, the oldest child, Stasia was 8; her sister, Barbara, was 7. The oldest son, Wladyslaw, was 6. His brother Franciszek, was 4, and his youngest brother, Antoni, was 3. Their little sister, Maria, was almost 2. The Ulma’s unborn child died with them. Witnesses confirmed that Wiktoria started to give birth to their seventh child upon her death.
The Ulma Family - including the children - died for their Catholic belief that they must love their neighbor. Recently, the Vatican confirmed the martyrdom of the entire Ulma family (including their unborn child). All nine members of the Ulma family will be beatified September 10th. The ceremony will be held in Markowa.
The entire Ulma family - including the children - are recognized by the Catholic Church as loving exemplars of heroic virtue. And, for the first time in history, an unborn child is on the path to sainthood.
A surviving family member said, "It's important that the next generations remember the Ulma family’s sacrifice, remember the Jews who were killed with them, so we never forget they all died because of lack of love in the hearts of the murderers.”
The goodness of the Ulma Family - including the children - and their example of Christian Love stand in stark contrast to Satan as loveless exemplar for “nontheistic” youngsters.
The Price Our Children Pay
So, what’s my point?
Satan’s Club, designed by adults for their own children, highlights the mounting conflict between faith and culture and, worse, the price our children are paying. It reveals distortions and excesses of “freedom, human values and civil rights” infesting our morally-wounded culture, especially our schools. Examples:
- The increase in violence and murder by children;
- Availability of hard-core porn for children of all ages;
- Millions of father-less families and increase in gangs;
- Extensive drug use among young people;
- Myth that a boy doesn’t have to be a man anymore - a stunning example of adult scorn for biological facts;
- Professional persons (e.g., teachers) must now use the pronoun re-gendered kids assign themselves;
- Aborting children is now a “human right” paid for by the State, celebrated by countless public officials;
- The widespread lie that abortion is healthcare (see this link)
Doctor Confirms Abortion is Not Health Care, It's "Ending a Baby's Life" - LifeNews.com
- The idea that parents have no right to know when their child seeks re-gendered identity, with schools hiding the facts;
- Physicians prescribe medications and surgeries for children who seek new genders (as children self-diagnose);
- The public desire of some adults to normalize pedophilia;
- Concern about climate instead of curriculum;
- Focus on “equity” of outcomes over equal opportunities;
- Belief that children must be pampered, not led to maturity, never tested nor allowed to risk failure (trophies for losers);
- These - for starters.
The Toxicity Of Moral Relativism
Is it not clear that these concerns reveal America’s acceptance of, and indifference to, moral relativism? Do we not realize that moral relativism changes American identity, erodes our Constitution, our laws, our religious sensibilities, our schools and common sense?
Our misguided tolerance for moral relativism - especially in the lives of children - adversely effects our culture in many ways:
- It aims to eradicate traditional family and marriage, the God-given bases of raising healthy, loving children;
- It deliberately distorts our Constitutional freedoms;
- It re-defines “rights” as unlimited, without legal precedent, with no religious origin or historic boundaries.
- It destroys the link between rights and responsibilities.
- We are accountable only to ourselves, not to law, not to God nor our neighbor, not to our children nor our nation’s future.
How Does This Happen ?
Why are some people seduced by moral relativism? Here are a few reasons:
- Our basic psychological instinct is ego-protection. We use numerous defenses to avoid admitting that we have irrational thoughts and cognitive distortions (as all humans do).
- We develop interior dialogues, personal excuses, myths and fantasies to buffer ourselves from truths we should face.
- Eventually, we absolve ourselves of responsibility for our behavior, and lie to ourselves to protect “self-esteem.”
- We shun anyone who threatens us with abrasive truths.
- We use denial and avoidance as habitual justifications.
- We shun family and friends who might tell us truths we should hear.
- Self-deception gradually becomes a life-style.
- At long last, we believe the cumulative untruths we’ve told ourselves; we shed responsibility and avoid accountability.
- Finally, we are comfy with moral relativism, which tell us: A) there are no moral absolutes, not God, church or culture; B) to avoid, even disparage, those who threaten our self-image.
How does moral relativism gain widespread cachet in our culture? Why do people buy in? Many individuals are attracted to persons who demonstrate these qualities:
- Persons who preach a “cause” which sounds worthy, such as “civil rights” or “medical necessity,” or “Black Lives Matter,” even when the “cause” is fabricated or a scam;
- People who promote the “cause” with apparent conviction and ardent “certitude;”
- People who claim oppressed “victimhood,” then use their “abuse” and “oppression” as credentials;
- People who persuasively appeal to listeners guilt, shame and empathy with self-righteous passion;
- Persons who effectively use group pressures and mob psychology to weaken resistance and render opposition risky, even dangerous.
When the cause sounds worthy, the powerful suasion of group emotion often stifles rationality. Group pressure and the subtle, but incessant, need for “inclusion” motivate people to suspend their beliefs, doubt their intelligence, accept the group mindset.
Examples of “crowd power” abound. Think of the millions who applauded the vicious rants of Hitler; followers of Aum Shinrikyo’s deadly doctrines; the palpable mob-urgency at home football games or partisan political rallies.
The “cause” may be propagandistic babble or a chic, mindless fad, yet some people succumb to group pressure simply to be ahead of the social curve. Some are seduced by “experts” claiming victimhood; others, by superficial rhetoric or the glitz and savvy in glib, but empty, “causes.”
For The Children
Gullibility, naivete, irrational thinking and the desire to be “with it” can be more powerful than moral principle, right reason, logic, facts and independent thought. Even the boundaries of discipline set by loving parents can be lost in a culture of self-gratification.
Recall Solzhenitsyn’s insight -- that the line between good and evil (the line separating right reason from irrationality, and accountability from moral relativism) runs through every human heart. So, every intelligent adult is aware of his/her propensity to faulty thinking and moral error. Knowing the difference and acting accordingly is what mature adulthood is all about.
Thus, for our children’s sake and for ourselves, we adults are supposed to avoid temptations and pitfalls which we know lurk in human nature; pitfalls which, we also know, invariably emerge when we reject our Christian heritage and ignore the “better angels” of our nature.
Therefore, why would we (as individuals or as a culture) ever think our children - our immature, needy children - possess the moral sense to recognize their own irrationality, or possess the wisdom of mind and the strength of character to pursue goodness and common sense on their own?
Community And Consequences
We are born into many communities … family, church, society, school, countless relationships, marriage, work, friendships, nation. Life soon teaches us that, by ourselves, without God’s Wisdom to give us direction, we soon stray from goodness and responsibility.
So, we ask, “Where do we find guidance?” No matter how many distractions we pursue or excuses we allow, we know we need God to show us the way; we need our Creator’s light to find our true path. We know God’s Wisdom speaks to human nature - when, that is, we choose to listen.
Whether we admit it or not, we know God has imposed certain absolutes upon us. We know our rights come with responsibilities which we must always honor, especially for our children.
We know it is right – that it is God’s will – to feed the hungry and visit the sick and shelter the homeless. We know it is right to bear trespasses patiently, to forgive those who offend us, to shun violence and beget kindness in this world. We know it is God’s will that we comfort the afflicted, and pray for the living and the dead.
We know it is right to give hope to the doubtful - especially to our children. We know it is right to confront error - especially in our children, rather than let them float in confusion, or betray their trust in us with our “nontheistic” palaver.
Finally . . .
We are God’s creatures, not our own. We have been created to listen to God and heed our call to goodness and self-restraint. We know God expects us to make morally right choices and stand as moral exemplars for our children. That’s what mature adults do.
This is our gravest responsibility: to exemplify this heritage of goodness for our children – but only in God’s name, only in God’s name.
That’s why we are here upon this earth.
Given our gift life, given the goodness we are called to do for one another, and given the abundant needs of our children - how could we think or do otherwise?
16 February 2023
What Do You Think ?
My first semester in high school (a very long time ago) changed my life. Here’s why.
Early in freshman year, I posed a question to my teacher, Father Gerard Benson (a fine priest and good man whose kindness is well-remembered). He thought for a moment, then looked at me and asked, “What do you think?”
That semester in his class was a revelation. Fr. Gerard listened carefully to me, asked questions, probed my arguments, gently pushed me to offer reasoned evidence for my answers.
With exquisite patience and humor, he gradually taught me to value right reason over impatient impulse, to trust reliable evidence over group pressure, to value logical thinking over handy hunches, to respect rationality rather than be seduced by flighty approval of mindless peers.
It was exhilarating. For the first time in my very young life, a respected adult attentively listened to me, led me into a new cognitive cosmos, started the process of reasoning - and changed my life.
Throughout that year, Father Gerard taught me to respect tradition, to value history, to seek facts, not to trust egocentric irrationality or unexamined feelings, not to be a crowd-pleaser or fall back on snarky self-righteousness.
I learned to be wary of evasive people who rely on subtle duplicity and barbed denial; people who disdain solid principles; people ruled more by infantile emotions than objective evidence; people who do not value thinking and right reasoning - and, worse, who do not have the gumption to face their ignorance nor pursue the truth and honor the facts.
What’s The Big Deal ?
My coming-of-age may seem insignificant to people who might say, “Everyone thinks; everyone has ideas and opinions. It’s no Big Deal.” Maybe so, but for me, learning to respect human reason and to seek evidence opened doors … doors which have never closed.
So, it was a “Big Deal” for me when I learned to see the importance of The Truth. It was a lesson which extends to this day, for I am still awed by our miraculous ability to think at all, to use our brains in so many astonishing ways.
And all of our human capacities begin miraculously when we are but a zygote, i.e., a fertilized, single human cell which contains all the programs we need for our lifetime as unique persons.
Moreover, all our thinking (even nutty daydreams) arises from our brain’s reservoir of life experiences, stored over decades.
We pay conscious attention to some thoughts, prioritize certain values and beliefs. Other thoughts drift away, and merit scant attention. But the gift of thinking is always a Big Deal.
In fact, our identity and character form by how we think and judge, remember and imagine, learn and change, honor Truth or settle for evasion and falsity; in short, how we use our cognitive powers.
All our thoughts flow from billions of brain cells with which we process incoming data and weld our experiences into what we eventually call our “worldview.”
Our “worldview” is our overall philosophical outlook on the world: what we think about the meaning of life, the value of everything (ourselves included), how things come about, how things are, how life ought to be. Eventually, our worldview reflects (for starters):
- our moral and cultural assumptions and values, including our beliefs about marriage, family and children;
- what we think of others and of ourselves;
- how we speak and act . . . in short, our character;
- who we are as adults;
- what virtues and ideals (or lack thereof) we possess.
We are born with the gift of choice. As years pass, our choices contribute to the formation of our character; eventually we become who we choose to be. We may inherit certain traits, but we are the result of what we learn (especially from elders), what priorities we hold, how responsible we are to our obligations, what we choose to think, say and do.
So, who we are as adults is the cumulative result of our own making. Even personal tragedy does not change this. Our learning and choices, character and values, conscience and behavior are the ingredients of our worldview.
As our worldview develops, we face unavoidable questions:
- What are we here for?
- Where do we come from?
- What’s life all about?
- Does God exist: If so, why is He so hard to reach?
- How should we treat one another?
- What and whom do I/we value?
- What are the best moral standards to follow?
- What prevents me from following those standards?
How we answer these questions reveals our worldview.
How we avoid answering these questions also reveals our worldview.
And The Answer Is . . .
A worldview prominent in our culture teaches that personal possession of social control and power defines human nature. It preaches these principles:
- Self-assertion is the highest form of morality.
- The role of society (including government and education) is to reaffirm individual choice as the highest form of “inclusive” society.
- Laws, including traditional laws promulgated by church and police, intrude on the “sacred” arena of individualism.
- Furthermore, secular laws and religious prohibitions are sexist-racist tools of white, Christian oppression and male domination.
- The exercise of “civil rights” and individual “freedoms” as I define them is paramount in a diverse and equitable society.
- My only responsibility is to “be myself,” to fulfill my self-defined “therapeutic destiny” as only I define it.
- Whoever restricts my “fulfillment” must be met with self-righteous condemnation and punishment, particularly Christians, especially Catholics (e.g., florists, bakers, clergy and laity) who promulgate sexist/racist ideologies.
This worldview obviously rejects God and dismisses the Ten Commandments, the Bill of Rights and centuries of religious history, cultural traditions - and common sense. In addition, long-standing laws and scientific facts which contradict this worldview are ignored and, often, vilified, as we see daily.
Individual power is everything – including power to punish contrarians. Power defines morality and culture. Nothing else matters, not people nor family, not tradition nor science nor human life, including life in the womb.
And what does power actually mean in everyday language?
- It means no one can interfere with my “freedom” to do exactly what I choose, including denying biological facts.
- I account to no one, and am not responsible to others (including God).
- Only I decide what the terms of “freedom” are.
- Past laws and restraints of Church and State are tools of white racist oppression, to be overthrown by any means.
In this worldview, no ultimate meaning or revealed purpose or objective moral standards can exist. It’s everyone for him/herself.
With this worldview operating, nihilism reigns. Even normal humor is intolerable.
Think About It
When nothing matters except personal desire, when no objective (i.e., obliging everyone) social or religious criteria exist, then good and evil have no meaning.
Nothing has intrinsic value – not my children, my family, church, science, law … and certainly not you, my neighbor.
The outcome is frightening. Laws are not enforced. No objective standards exist. No moral norms bind us. No stable definitions of reality, truth or goodness exist. Chaos reigns.
Given this worldview (as Shakespeare said): “Life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
What Are Our Options ?
Several less-extreme worldviews have existed for centuries, linking (for starters) rights with responsibilities.
But that’s not enough.
Most of these “naturalistic” (i.e., secularist) worldviews speak of Nature-as-God. This approach seems myopic. Why? Because something – or Someone – is missing.
- Nature does not create itself;
- We do not create ourselves;
- The Universe did not just “pop” up out of nothing;
- Nor did the Universe set itself in motion.
These Nature-As-God worldviews are incomplete. The evidence for God as Cause and Creator of Nature - including human beings - is just too logically powerful to ignore or deny, too rationally cohesive and insistent to dismiss.
The voices of history, Revelation and Tradition are simply too reasonable to ignore. The weight of evidence for a Creator is entirely too persuasive to resist.
The evidence of God’s creative power and abiding presence is simply too obvious and too overwhelming to deny.
Now What ?
Consequently, the one worldview I have found most logically coherent and reasonably persuasive all my life - the worldview that best befits our created human nature - is the Christian worldview.
The Christian worldview teaches (again, for starters) that we have two goals in life, a natural goal and a supernatural goal.
We learn about our natural goal through thinking and right reason.
We learn about our supernatural goal through reasoning which is inspired by Scripture and Revelation, seasoned for centuries by theological traditions which emphasize Faith, Hope and Love, along with a panoply of virtues for mind and body, spirit and soul.
It is the worldview of faith AND reason united, of thinking AND believing united.
The cumulative evidence of the Christian worldview gives it inescapable heft and undeniable validity. What evidence?
- Its realistic understanding of our flawed, needy humanity;
- its emphasis on forgiveness and its encouragement to persevere, despite our flaws and errors;
- its insistence on virtuous mutuality in our human community;
- its emphases on the value, dignity and moral beauty of traditional marriage and solid family life;
- its vision of many virtues as paths to our supernatural goal;
- its vision of these virtues as the very best way to treat one another in this created world in which we live and breathe and have our being.
- its elevation of the human condition through the redemptive intervention of Christ Incarnate in ways which astonish;
- its insistence that our natural and our supernatural lives are inextricably linked;
- its respect for truth and human dignity, starting in the womb;
- its comprehension of the pitfalls we face as we seek to be loving human beings, come what may;
- and much more . . . much more.
The initial facts about the Christian worldview are, of course, presented in the Bible, refined by the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. It is the blueprint for how we should view ourselves and how we should treat one another.
When We Stumble
There are, of course, many times when faith and fad collide, and the faith of some people is, unfortunately, diminished. The result for individuals or to a culture is usually anger, uncertainty and the tendency to be seduced by populist trends and by persons fluent in duplicity.
We are wise, then, ever to guard our vulnerability against arrogance and moral snobbery; ever wise to embrace the Christian worldview and to express our gratitude to God for the gifts we possess - the gifts of thinking clearly, of holding to the truth, of respecting facts and preserving our rationality.
To aid in our endeavors, the Christian worldview teaches us:
- to honor compassion rather than dismissive ambition;
- to hold tenacious respect for proven tradition;
- to practice self-restraint, kindness, humility, gentleness but never to back away from what we know is true;
- to be patient with one another - and with ourselves;
- to respect hard truths, especially about ourselves;
- to search for peace to which we are all called;
- to express our gratitude in soul, mind and heart; and
- to hold onto faith and hope when we’re tempted.
We all have periods of hesitation, anger, despair and doubt, sometimes for many years. But let us never forget the overriding lesson which life constantly teaches us - namely, that the Will of God (not our will) always prevails and is always present to us.
Our job is simply to stay the course . . .
Our Years Tell The Tale
As we age, God’s purpose becomes less murky - if we admit the humbling reality that we will never know it all, nor have it our own way (which is the way life is, anyhow).
As we age, clarity may still elude us, but ambiguity no longer discomforts us - as long as we maintain trust in God, which is the basis of faith and hope and love.
As we age, God still withholds much from us, but not hurtfully so.
As we age, whatever hurt occurs is best returned to God through our intention to persevere in trust and love . . . no matter what.
As we age, we are called to live in gratitude and to think with God’s own Wisdom, trusting in our hearts that we are beloved in His eyes.
So, with the cleansing clarity of faith and hope, and in an abiding spirit of gratitude, we choose to persevere.
Even when wonderment arises and pain persists, we stay the course. We persevere in trust, for this is why we are here – to trust God.
So, let us indeed persevere . . . and be grateful.
2 February 2023
An Elder Ponders What Shall Not Perish
We all have something - or someone - of incalculable value in our lives. For some people, it’s a treasured object, a Maserati, for example, or a glittering Rolex or other emblems of caste and class.
These folks are usually driven by a more-than-ample ego which delights in symbols of affluence, often at the expense of traditional family life and the invaluable lessons which family imparts about the subtleties and nuances of giving oneself thoughtfully to others.
On the other hand, some people hold family at the center of their hearts and hopes. They learn to gratefully revere their core relationships, especially the traditional family, as irreplaceable treasures.
For these folks, the lessons and insights which they learn in the family become life’s cornerstones, the center of their identity, the origin of their character and values - for them, for those who love them, and for those they learn to love in years ahead.
To Destroy Family
History teaches us that the traditional family is our God-given core of stable community life and is, in fact, the historic foundation of cultures in which family values are honored and defended.
Today, many forces in America vigorously attack traditional family as a “male-dominated, white supremacist tool of oppression through the racist rigidity of Christianity’s intolerant moral codes.”
Efforts to destroy traditional family are common among groups such as Black Lives Matter and supporters of Sophie Lewis’s ideas, explained in her book "Abolish the Family." There, Ms. Lewis depicts traditional family as "a terrible way to satisfy all of our desires for love, care and nourishment."
Marxists, Progressive militants, Socialist ideologues and a host of ill-advised followers attack traditional family as capitalism’s dastardly sexist instrument which victimizes bourgeois classes who seek “inclusion” and “equity” and the right to kill unwanted babies as “liberation from forced pregnancy.” Traditional family values are, they say, capitalism’s technique to maintain power over private property, to limit “genderized” freedoms, to perpetuate rigid Christian morality, and so forth, ad nauseum.
To our nation’s detriment, we have only to look at some schools and corporations, some elected officials, professional associations and far too many “Woke” clergy to realize that the spiritual and cultural traditions of our Judeo-Christian heritage (centered around traditional family) are being annihilated with stunning effectiveness.
These are some reasons why I am concerned about the future of our nation and (much closer to my heart) about the intellectual and spiritual welfare of my grandchildren – and yours.
Children At Risk
My days as doting grandparent are long passed, but I frequently think of my grandchildren – two very bright college Freshman. I often recall, with nostalgic relish, the blessed days, two decades ago, when my Beloved wife and I would babysit them, feed them, play with them, and find ourselves happily immersed in enthralling moments of sheer delight amid the inescapable aura of childhood’s innocence . . . loving them all the while, simply for the pure sake of loving them.
Thus, I am ever so aware that countless intellectual and spiritual pitfalls exist in our culture. We’re daily exposed to rancid philosophies and corrupting ideas which seduce even some adults who know better (or certainly should). My grandchildren - and yours - inevitably encounter absurd ideas as they proceed into young adulthood and seek the gifts of maturity and discerning insight.
So, I pray my grandchildren - and yours - will safely traverse that period of life from the vulnerability of youth to the blessings of Wisdom, with its transcendent gifts of clarity of mind and will, well-reasoned thoughts and deeds, sincere heart and principled soul.
I have great hopes for them both, great faith in their ability to meet the relentless challenges of a morally imploding culture, which we elders never had to face.
What specific hopes do I hold for my grandchildren? Let me express my hopes and prayers for them – and yours, too.
To Hope Is To Live
Above all, I hope my grandchildren will find God’s peace in their lives and in themselves. I hope they will recognize the enormity of the gifts of life and Creation, and realize their best response is gratitude and a humbled sense of “Deo gratias” (“Thank you, God”) in the face of such astonishing goodness.
Certainly, life takes its toll on us all, but we always - always - have redemptive options and hopeful choices before us. So, as my grandchildren move through the decades ahead, they’ll encounter the costly lessons which Wisdom requires, but they will also have the choice to find the transcendent path.
Along that path, they will inevitably face five fundamental realities:
- ) the perishable nature of “things,” including our years upon this Earth and the uselessness of denial and subterfuge;
- ) the nagging burdens of vanity, excessive pride and the temptations to which flesh is heir;
- ) the obvious, yet soul-moving, value of true love, especially Christo-centric love incarnated in Him Who chose death as proof and promise of His fidelity to our fallen, yet ever-hopeful humanity;
- ) the necessity of giving one’s love to other persons not in flighty, shallow fashion, but always through virtues such as kindness and patience, empathy and self-restraint, moderated by prudence and humility and the readiness to face the truth about oneself;
- ) the ability to give love responsibly and receive the love of others, and not be overwhelmed by their own needs and urges; needs and urges which God’s love redeems if we ask.
My hopes may seem a tall order to some, but it is the path to which they are called . . . the path to which we are all called. The “secret” is, of course, to choose that path willingly and gratefully, knowing that every other path leads only to wonderment frustrated and, eventually, hope unfulfilled.
To Live Rightly Is To Love Responsibly
Our culture is filled with skewed, distorted notions of what love is, so I hope they will realize that true love - true love - is not simply an emotional experience, not simply a short-term “feeling” nor justification for consensual sex, as our pop culture endlessly preaches and shamelessly prompts.
Yes, love’s first flush is always emotional, often powerfully sexual, especially for the young and inexperienced - which is in accord with their budding sexuality. But Wisdom reveals that sex has little to do with the fidelity and self-sacrifice which true love requires.
So, as they mature, I hope my grandchildren recognize that the emotional sheen soon wears off, and true love - love that lasts - requires commitment of heart and mind, fidelity to virtue, and determination to remain morally truthful, reliable, prudent and accountable . . . qualities all too rare today.
I hope they soon understand that Nature established traditional marriage as a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman. That’s why traditional marriage involves shared lifetimes in which husband and wife mutually learn to express the love and fidelity which defines their union, as their love grows and deepens in ways which only such marriage affords.
Much To Learn
I also hope my grandchildren learn that a commitment to true friendship - especially in marriage - makes demands on both persons for mutual empathy, self-restraint, sacrifice, diminishing egos and a fierce hold on truth.
This is also a tough lesson. Why? Because we’re all subject to regrettable foibles and errant urges of shared human nature. So, true love and fidelity to the Beloved does not guarantee that loving the other is without strife or misunderstanding. Indeed, there are times when painful truths must invariably surface, hard truths be shared, mutual intentions be made clear.
Facing hard and painful truths with the Beloved confuses and stymies us. Pain from someone we love seems contrary to our deepest need for trust and acceptance, especially from our Beloved. But candor and truth-telling - which are forms of “tough love” - are not only valid in marriage; they’re essential.
Because truth in marriage seeks the greater good, namely, 1) our mutual assent (even painfully given) to listen to one another, 2) our willingness to move beyond our defensive walls, and 3) our rejection of any deception or deliberate evasion between us.
At such times, loving candor is Wisdom’s costly crown.
This sort of “tough love” may be difficult even when reasonable. But hard truths shared are:
- the best way to love one another for the long haul;
- the best way to banish deception and to respect oneself and one’s Beloved;
- the best way to build mutual trust, which is the essential basis of all love;
- that’s why marital infidelity is a threat to every marriage: mutual trust is very difficult to recover;
- and that’s why fidelity in every phase of marriage is salutary and life-enhancing.
And that’s not all that I hope for my grandchildren,
We know love is kind, even when kindness is costly. In fact, when we are misunderstood, love tells us to still persist in kindness, even in silence. Why? Because true love is not boastful nor envious, not arrogant nor rude nor pushy about rewards. It does not advertise nor impress with sly modesty, and it certainly does not retaliate vengefully.
Love does not insist on always having its way, does not play “victim” nor assert its bruised and flailing ego for all to see. When love is snubbed or treated with indifference, it does not become irritable or resentful, or nurse grudges, nor wish others ill, nor return insult-for-insult in a childish, back-handed manner.
Furthermore, love never seeks to manipulate others under the guise of feigned interest or, worse, crass exploitation. It never rejoices in gossip or falsehoods or wrongdoing . . . but love does rejoice in the truth; quietly, perhaps, and always with gratitude.
So, I hope my grandchildren learn how to treat people responsibly and not selfishly. I hope they see that loving others in proper manner requires knowledge of their own motives, goodly measure of self-respect, gratitude to God and a listening, responsive heart.
Endless sources - including the Life of Christ - insist that self-respect involves true love of one’s self. That means:
- we are aware of our own needs and intentions;
- we are patient with our own foibles when we err;
- we are repentant about our sins, forgiving of our mistakes, and ready to seek forgiveness from others, when called for;
- we are always learning about ourselves, forever seeking and finding the goodness and forgiveness of God through Christ and His love for us …
Finally, Hope Springs . . .
So, I hope my grandchildren learn that love is intended to grow and flower within the traditional family, where we learn the nuances of gratitude, moral decency and responsibility. It is in the traditional family that God intends us to be touched by the grace of love given and love received.
Especially in family, we learn to be loving human beings who bear all things, who believe in one another, who hope and strive for all good and Godly outcomes, who endure all things with-and-for those who are our Beloved.
I pray my grandchildren will realize the grandeur and mystery of life and of Creation.
I hope they do not overlook the importance of Christian Charity in small, everyday moments, in a kindly smile or gentle words to those in need -- or, for that matter, a stern, honest confrontation when it’s appropriate and timely.
I hope they never lose sight of the Christian vision of life and reality, a vision richly enlightened by Revelation, as no other is.
I hope they never lose sight of Faith and Hope, which are central to our lives as Christians.
I hope they will look with awe at the stars, and realize that some of those blinking lights have traveled eleven billion years through "space," and are reminders of our Creator’s Will.
I hope they remember that everything we have in life is given as a gift, even the light from those stars, of which there are trillions upon trillions, so many, in fact, that they are uncountable in numbers and in distances.
In the face of Creation, our Christian hearts tell us that gratitude is the only reasonable response for us humans. And our knowledge, such as it is, seems so fragile and so small before God's Wisdom.
And, given all of this, I hope my grandchildren remember these truths:
- God is infinite in His caring for us;
- Even when pain and confusion are upon us, God is with us;
- God endows us with personal freedom so we may cherish and nurture our gift of life . . . or, most unwisely, reject and ignore our dependence on God as His children;
- Christ reminds us - in His gentle, forgiving way - that we have been created for our relationship with the Divine;
- To assist us each moment, Christ remains always in us and among us, repeatedly befriending us by His crowning act of love, His act of redeeming Charity;
- We are all called to accept His message of redemption and transcendence. Acceptance is a choice we can all make.
Finally, then, I hope my grandchildren will gratefully remember to say every day, many times each day: “Deo gratias, thank you, God,” for life and love and whatever else each day may bring, be it joyous or painful. I hope they say each day, “God, I do indeed thank you . . . for everything!” May it be so. May it ever be so.
16 January 2023
A Look At Mystery
Next time there’s a lull in conversation with friends, you might ask (nonchalantly, of course): “What is reality?” People don’t often think about “reality,” so your friends might respond, “Reality? Well, reality is, ah, what’s real? Right?” And a few suspicious folks might ask: “Is this a trick question?”
To most of us, reality is commonplace, self-defining. It’s just … there!! But it’s also elusive, ambiguous, mysterious, with numerous subjective interpretations.
One way to perceive objective reality at its most glorious is to look up at a starry sky. There, we see “reality” and, more importantly, we gaze upon the mystery of Creation. However, even as we behold the stars, we really don’t know much about them. So, yes, they’re familiar, but they’re ever-mysterious.
The Ordinary Is Extraordinary
In fact, mystery is everywhere in our lives - above us, around us and in our very being. Mystery is healthy and life-enhancing; it reminds us that there’s so much in Creation we will never know, and are not meant to know.
Creation is mystery beyond our grasp, yet we often take it for granted. But complacency can be counter-productive because mystery is essential for a balanced life. We’re wiser to nurture awe, wonder and reverence.
No matter how self-assured we are, we’re still mysteries even to ourselves. For example, consider our brain, with its 100 billion (or so) neurons and its trillions of connecting synapses. Our complex brain is a gift from our Creator but, to us, it’s still a mystery. For such a gift, our gratitude is a starting point for recognizing which mysteries we can resolve and which mysteries are rightly beyond us - and for good reason.
The Euclid Mission
Here’s another example of the inescapable, perplexing grandeur of mystery.
For ten years, the European Space Agency (ESA) has been preparing the Euclid Mission to explore mysteries within the stars (e.g., their ages, how they form, distances and chemistry). Euclid’s instruments will scan billions of galaxies to “investigate the expansion history of the Universe and the growth of cosmic structures over the last 10 billion years...” Euclid will also study radiation which saturates the Universe but is invisible to us.
Scientists measure “space” in billions of miles, “time” in billions of years. These are attempts to squeeze these mysteries into conventional categories. But time and space exceed all efforts to conveniently delimit Creation.
Here's a superficial look at a few of the extraordinary mysteries Euclid will examine:
- Our Milky Way is only one small galaxy among billions of galaxies in space.
- Our sun is only one small star amid 100 billion to 400 billion stars in our Milky Way Galaxy alone.
- Again, billions of galaxies exist, and
- They’re all moving away from us and each other at incredible speed.
Creation’s challenges are astounding - yet Euclid’s designers have faith they’ll bring some clarity to its mysteries. They have faith in the evidence of the Universe; faith in their scientific methods; faith in themselves, as they take huge risks; faith in their search for truth.
Belief In Action
The faith of Euclid’s designers inspires them to confront some astonishing mysteries, such as:
- They believe the expansion of space and the growth of stars and galaxies are influenced by the so-called “dark universe.”
- They believe the “dark universe” is composed of “dark matter” and “dark energy.”
- “Dark matter,” ESA scientists say (they’re not certain), is a collection of unknown particles which contribute to gravity.
- “Dark energy,” they believe, is a still-unidentified component of the Universe. They think (again, they’re not sure) it’s present in such a large quantity that it overwhelms all other matter and energy combined.
- Some suggest “dark energy” is the Big Bang as it still expands, even after billions of years.
- Scientists calls these elements “dark” because they cannot see “dark matter” or “dark energy,” which are invisible.
- They believe these invisible “dark” elements exist from studying the effects of gravity on the fabric of space.
In sum, then, science believes 1) “dark energy” accelerates the expansion of the Universe, 2) “dark matter” accelerates the growth of galaxies, and 3) gravity provides a unifying force.
ESA admits they do not know what “dark energy” and “dark matter” really are. Yet they believe “dark matter” and “dark energy” comprise about 95 percent of the Universe, though we cannot see them.
So, the Euclid Mission will study Creation’s ultimate mysteries. Euclid illustrates the indispensable value of, and need for, living faith. Despite doubts, pitfalls and challenges, faith moves Euclid’s people to courageous action.
Of course, there are messages in all of this for you and me!!
What Messages ?
For starters, we are born into mystery, born to learn and confront the unknown, not to avoid or flee it. We are born to know - but not to know everything. Even with our accomplishments, we know far less than we think. Our ignorance of Creation, of ourselves and of others is extensive, but these mysteries are blessings, not dead ends nor reasons for us to scoff.
Blessings? Why? Because science, medicine and all human endeavors are sometimes brought to a halt by mystery. Despite our knowledge, we’re often stuck in ambiguity and uncertainty. Let us remember that humanity is heir to a host of neuroses and oddities, to ignorance and weakness, to unseemly urges and frustrations, and to occasional elations. All this makes us mysteriously normal and grandly human.
- Without mystery’s ambiguity and its demand for serious thought, its confounding challenges and provocative allure, its benign promises and jubilant revelations, what would life be like?
- Without mystery’s generous rewards, unsettling trials, consolations and delights, what would life be like?
- Without mystery’s benign prod for us to have faith in our patient Creator, what would life be like?
- Mystery is a blessing, often in disguise, but a blessing, nonetheless.
We need the challenges of mystery in our lives if we are to live as we’re intended to live, in faith in ourselves, in one another – and with hope in our Creator, to Whom we lovingly belong.
Mystery Does Not O’ershadow Truth
There are basic principles about mystery which fund our temporal and spiritual enrichment, such as:
- Mystery is meant to stimulate our faith, not our fatalism; meant to bolster our belief and hope, not our doubt and cynicism.
- Mystery does not close doors to knowing; it opens doors to understanding, acceptance and, with perseverance, to wisdom and discernment.
- Mystery urges us to think about the person we wish to be, and how (with work and generosity) we may become that person;
- Mystery challenges us to be worthy of the trust and affection of our family and of those we influence (even unwittingly);
- The mystery of personhood (which everyone possesses) challenges us to respect the dignity of others, even strangers;
- Mystery moves us to find greater dignity in ourselves beyond indulging fleeting whims or mourning fictitious victimhood.
Faith And Mystery
Given all this, we are wise to treat mystery (even suffering and loss) not as an obstacle but as a benefit to mind and heart. We are wise to view mystery as an invitation to wisdom, rather than a step into darkness. In this way, we rise from natural faith to transcendent faith in our Creator.
To that end, consider:
- If we look at the sun, we’re bedazzled by its power, cast into temporary darkness but no one can say the sun is not bright.
- By the same token, when God is mentioned, some people see only darkness and choose to look away in anger, denial or resentment.
- Doubts in mind and heart are universal. We all experience darkness and disappointment (Mother Teresa spent forty years without consolation, but she persevered).
- Darkness does not mean there’s no clarity to be had, only that we must see with different eyes and seek new vision.
- Stumbling blocks are A) our lack of perseverance and B) lack of trust in our Creator, Whose ways are often not to our liking, Whose gifts we often take for granted.
Mystery is at the very core of everything we see and feel, taste and touch, smell and think. Given our dependence on our Creator, it’s wise to 1) trust God with tenacity and hope, 2) defuse the energy of our conceits, 3) calm the raucous roar of our oft-wayward ego, and 4) express our gratitude to God for our freedom and our ability to think and struggle, to seek and find.
Some people disdain God when they face ambiguity or encounter a rough patch. They want answers right now, quick-and-easy answers, on their terms. They’re stymied if they have to wade into the evidence of Creation. But Creation’s mysteries are not intended to confuse or taunt us, but to enlighten us, to move us to trust in God; to assure us that His ways are better way than what we demand.
Insight into God’s mysteries comes not with power or control, but with our surrender to our Creator. We know that God does not spurn a contrite heart. So, we’re wise to listen (humbly, if possible) to our deeper self and heed our need for solace and understanding, the hopeful engines of every life.
As we pursue faith in our Creator, mystery gradually unveils understanding, as faith reveals its simplicity. Gradually, we realize it is not our intellectual acuity nor our sophisticated status which gives meaning to life. It’s our response to the call of divine mystery.
Our human limits tell us we will never comprehend the gift of life by ourselves. Only faith affords the understanding and discernment which always exceed human knowing.
We are offered the gift of faith because mystery will always be with us, even if our doubts rule us for decades. But, unless we choose to activate our gift of faith, mystery’s meaning remains in the “dark universe” of denial and our inevitable refusal of Love, faith’s greatest gift.
The gift of faith (when we activate it) allows us to look at the mystery of the Universe and of ourselves, and recognize the work of God, where we find human and divine meaning. Gradually, we realize that the gift of faith is actually God’s revelation of Himself to each of us through His Creation – and that includes us.
- So, despite bouts of frustrated retaliation against “fate;”
- Despite our fleeting moments of gentle reverie in the arms of our Beloved;
- Despite years of toil and travail as we seek our fortunes;
- Despite the hurtful failure of friends who let us down, or whom we disappoint by our infidelity;
- Despite our clever inventions or our egocentric indulgences, even our heartless intrusions into Creation’s flow;
- Despite all this, the gift of mystery abides as the gift from-and-of God, Who awaits each of us.
Some people dismiss faith’s challenges. Others persevere and, at last, the mercy and love of God become part of their reality.
For believers - new and old - it is always God Who is the Final Mystery; God, the fullness of reality, God awaiting, with all the love and kindness we ever could hope to find. Therefore,
- We are wise to direct our thoughts and hopes to faith.
- We are wise to direct our uncertainties and needs to faith.
- We are wise to believe with contrite heart that we are already embraced by our Creator - for this is precisely what faith asks us to believe.
First and finally, then, it is God Who bestows upon us our gift of mystery. It is God Who assigns meaning to the billions of stars and galaxies which Euclid will soon scan.
It is God Who is our Final Reality; God, who patiently and lovingly awaits you and me.
4 January 2023
Is Truth Old-Fashioned ?
The New Year so often revives memories from my youth. Of course, memories prompt comparisons, especially when profound changes are obvious. So, with slight trepidation at being adjudged a nostalgic elder (or merely grumpy), let me share a few of my youngster memories of a long-ago time in America.
First, I recall when married parents ruled family life - and we kids knew it. Our parents could be strict at a moment’s notice, so we watched our step. In fact, in those days, all adults (parents, teachers, neighbors, even strangers - all of them) made it clear to us kids that adults were in charge.
Only foolish youngsters pushed limits or tried to manipulate the sympathies of easily distempered grown-ups who possessed uncanny (sometimes spooky) ability to see through every gossamer excuse we might conjure.
Schools were in cahoots with parents and reinforced parental authority with strict codes of behavior. Glib alibis did not excuse errant or unprepared youngsters from stern measures by unsmiling teachers. If a youngster crossed the line, discipline was swift, and parents went along. No arguments. No recourse. Guilty by being a kid.
In my school, our no-nonsense Nuns (trusty rulers in hand) grilled us in math and history, religion and literature, geography and spelling, and subjected us to daily tests to assure studious attention. When necessary, they used those trusty rulers (a whack across the knuckles did wonders to bring us back to reality).
Nature’s Wise Pattern
Today, modern research attests that growth and development are constants in the arc of human life. From the instant of conception, change is steady (except in sexual identity, which is instantly assigned by Nature, for a lifetime, to every cell). Throughout life, we require nourishment for body and soul. This includes healthy family influences and proper formation in intellectual, cultural and moral principles, essential for individual and cultural stability.
Our powers of reason, logic and critical thinking must be carefully shepherded, our moral sensibilities aligned with civic virtue and religious expectations - if, that is, we are to live a principled life.
- As our mental, moral and emotional skills unfold, our educated conscience should also develop.
- An educated conscience provides us with moral facts and prudent judgments which bridge the gap between divine mandates and secular life.
- Moral balance is achieved through the integration of revealed religious principles into the daily activities of individuals and of the culture.
- Our well-formed, educated conscience is the key to the transcendence for which we are born . . . and the accountability which a moral society demands of its citizens.
Every rightly-formed conscience (personal and societal) follows objective moral standards, not subjective feelings nor sexual urges nor recalcitrant whims. Without objective standards, chaos ensues.
The Common Good
In my early years, we gradually realized that beneath the easily-ruffled feathers of adults, they actually valued us children. Adults were actually guiding us, buffering us from corrupting influences such as the soul-curdling crudity of pornography, the seductive delusions of reckless sex, the risks of “recreational” drugs and the harm in shattered family life and morally-empty education.
We realized that adults valued our innocence and delighted in our achievements. They smiled at our eager naivete and showed genuine interest in our budding abilities to learn, to think and to make sound judgments with logical precision and moral acuity.
By word and example, adults revealed to us the necessity of the Common Good and our role as citizens in State and Church.
The need for courtesy and civility became evident. We learned to respect moral boundaries as the bases of civilized community. And we learned to curb our wayward impulses, channel hasty immaturity, calm our emotions and exercise self-restraint.
Religious Principles Were Once Central
History taught us that America is rooted in Judeo-Christian Scripture, Revelation and Tradition, not in enslavement or oppression. In fact, our Christian origins are the source of our historic freedoms and abiding values in our culture.
Unfortunately, the Christian message rankles some people, who deny God’s primacy as Creator, and wish ruin upon our nation.
They attack Christian tradition (and Christians) as “judgmental” and “prejudicial.” They enthrone extreme individualism, polarizing self-righteousness, rambunctious narcissism and petulant claims of oppression. With reckless accusations, these self-declared victims work for a mean-spirited society in which each person is cast darkly adrift from our Redeemer. Their rebellious actions erode the very foundations of our culture. What inspires such dreary rebellion?
Willful ignorance, moral instability and today’s popular but inane mystique of victimhood come immediately to mind. Two additional factors must also be mentioned.
- Some aggressively over-eager apologists have introduced excessive rigidity into Christian Ideals, distorting the message with grim, heavy-handed terms long on threat and short on compassion.
- Worst of all, Christian Ideals have been scandalously violated by some who profess to be Christians - even by ministers of the Gospel.
But let us be clear: these violations of Christian standards result from calculated disobedience or importunate weaknesses of the violators, not from the principles of the Christian Ideal.
The truth is that the infusion of Christian values into our secular culture elevated America to the Grand Ideals of Christian life, encapsulated in the Law of Love.
Christian principles teach respect for Nature, divine and human laws, justice, traditional family and the dignity of every person, including the unborn. Christian fidelity demands truth, decency, empathy, self-sacrifice and restraint for the Common Good.
Christian principles are often stated in uncompromising terms. “Should” and “ought” are part of the Judeo-Christian vocabulary. This befits humanity’s frequent rejection of Creation’s limits (in which we only participate). But there is much more to the Christian Ideal than “shoulds” ad “oughts.”
Long ago, we learned the Christian Ideal is summarized in the Law of Love. This is the heart of Christian Faith – and, for that matter, it’s also the core of adult maturity, which always involves sacrifice for others.
To love maturely requires humility, discipline, self-restraint and obedience to God’s Laws, which lead to Wisdom and prudent self-knowledge. But Wisdom, prudence and self-control are difficult to find in human affairs . . . are they not?
The Wisest Path
At first, we youngsters were confused by adults because of their unwavering standards and unyielding attitudes. Eventually, we understood their goal was to illuminate the path of civic virtue and religious fidelity, infused with Christian Ideals and regard for law.
We youngsters came to see the wisdom of staying on the moral path, not acting out or sullying our own reputations, not reveling in wrongdoing or listening to those who would lead us astray. We learned to honor the Judeo-Christian norms upon which our families, our society, our government, our schools, our entire culture was - and is - built.
We knew this was the wisest path for us children - and for adults, too. It was the only sensible path if our culture were to maintain responsible behavior, integrity, justice, accountability and respect for others.
Lessons Well Learned
In my youthful days, reputations mattered. The worst that could be said about a youngster was that he was “untrustworthy,” or he had “to be watched,” or he lacked moral gumption, or he had no regard for truth, self-restraint, kindness and a forthright heart.
Lying or cruelty, cheating or stealing, fudging truth or weaseling out of our responsibilities were character flaws, soon known in the community. Thus, we learned early that a person’s reputation is built on truth-telling, accepting responsibilities, honoring the limits of law and Nature, and respecting others.
Facing reality and earning trust were jewels in childhood’s crown … BUT “reality” in those days included 1) secular culture’s rules and 2) the moral mandates of religious faith.
American history taught us that the ideals of the secular and the sacred were mutually beneficial and mutually essential.
- We learned that our Constitution favored religious faith.
- In fact, from America’s founding, the secular and the sacred (Church and State) were meant to complement each other.
- Rightly understood, the so-called “wall of separation” between Church and State (Jefferson’s private phrase) had many open doors and windows.
- Neither Church nor State sought to invalidate the value of both to the Common Good, as our founding documents convincingly demonstrate.
- If you doubt this, I refer you to Benjamin Morris’ massive volume, “The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States.”
In fact, Christian belief focuses on transforming individuals into religiously conscientious persons and citizens concerned with the Common Good of our neighbor, whom we are commanded by God to love as we love our selves, as the Law of Love dictates.
Clearly, then, the Common Good is based on Christian Idealism, which stresses the good of our neighbor (even across the world).
Love of neighbor is the basis of the Common Good. It is now a cultural ethic, a civic virtue, enshrined in our Constitution and in countless laws.
Our nation has benefitted incalculably by the integration of Christian values into our culture - and so has the free world.
Abuses of freedom are well-known in our history, but Christian Ideals remain the foundation of our culture. Human error has not (at least not yet) canceled the ideals which inspired this nation.
Freedom Rightly Held
What’s more, in my youthful days, every rational citizen knew our many “freedoms” (Constitutional and religious) meant “freedom for” the individual, not “freedom from” religious expression or from the revealed mandates of our Creator.
Even as children, we understood the exercise of “freedom” must be limited and monitored because of our wounded human condition. We knew that the “tug” of evil was rooted in human weakness and in the seductive façade which sin often adapts.
Moreover, we knew everybody was vulnerable to that “tug” of evil, not just “the bad guys.” We knew some people would distort and gravely abuse the meaning and purpose of American “freedom” into reckless license to do anything they wanted to do.
We knew sin and excessive pride are constant dangers for each of us, hovering over human affairs. As Solzhenitsyn says, “…the line between good and evil runs through every human heart...”
Consequently, we saw in others – and in ourselves – that universal “tug” toward selfishness and greed, lust and avarice, sloth and vanity, all the dodges and conceits which the Christian Ideal warns us about, which lead to major abuses of “freedom.”
There’s Always A Choice
We learned the potential to choose evil is within us. But we also learned that the power to choose goodness and virtue is within us, too. We always have a choice.
We also learned (sometimes the hard way) that the individual is simply not sufficient by her/himself.
The persistent ubiquity of our “tug” toward sin and evil is why objective, God-given standards (not subjective, personal, morally-adrift standards of today) are essential for the Common Good and for individual transcendence.
This also explained why a morally principled, rightly educated conscience (not just “feelings” or self-righteous palaver) is crucial for individuals and for our culture.
And (especially these days) this explains why Revelation, i.e., God’s loving intervention in our lives, makes complete sense, and why an educated conscience is a must, if we are to survive.
We finally understood that our “freedoms,” both sacred and secular, do have limits - divine and human limits.
We realized “freedom” must be regulated by law - divine and human law.
We saw that every “freedom” must be earned by accepting responsibility for the consequences of our actions.
We learned the first requirement for the exercise of “freedom” is self-restraint. This takes will power, determination and humility, insight and sacrifice, traits for which our culture seems ill-inclined.
A Worrisome Issue
Mention of sin and self-restraint, of sacrifice and the Common Good has disappeared from our common language. Our culture now defines “freedoms” and “rights” merely as personal feelings, as release from “oppressive” mandates, such as the Ten Commandments or the Christian virtues. As a result:
- The dignity of human persons (even babies unborn) is obliterated by countless Federal and State laws.
- Every woman now has the “right” to kill her child, unborn or being-born.
- The number of aborted persons is now into the dozens of millions annually. (One wonders: what part of the Law of Love celebrates abortion?)
- In my youth (as I say above), children were treasures, not parasites or disposable clumps of invasive tissue. Today, children are condemned by Federal, State and local governments.
- We no longer honor the traditional man-woman marriage and family, Nature’s foundation for stable communities.
- In my youth, it was unthinkable that “Mother” and “Father” would be stricken from public record by government.
- It was unimaginable that schools would preach anti-history and undermine God-given parental authority in their children’s lives.
- In my youth, a claim to be of the other sex (or any of the varieties now available) was absurd.
- Inquiries about “preferred pronouns?”
- Surgery for children seeking sex-changes?
As we jettison our culture’s values, and as we abandon the Law of Love and erase Christian influence, who (including us elders) is safe anymore?
But enough. You recognize differences between then and now.
I said at the outset that I do not wish to sound as a grumpy elder, but my memories do reveal that the truths of Nature and the role of God in our lives are deeply threatened.
Accordingly, I am drawn to the psalms of David who sought God in the midst of travail. God said, “When you call upon Me, I am with you.”
I believe God when He says, “I am with you.” I do believe Him. Evil and sin exist but, given the abundance of evidence about God’s presence in us and in His Universe, I do believe Him.
Despite our nation’s travail, I do believe. How could I not?