Category Archives: Pro-Life

America Will Reject Abortion When America Sees Abortion

The title for this post is taken from Fr. Frank Pavone, the Founder and President of Priests for Life, who famously said, “America will not reject abortion until America sees abortion.” I just made it a positive, “America will reject abortion when America sees abortion.” And I have always believed this to be true. I know many will not agree with me on this point, but I also believe people who favor abortion need to see abortion in all of its gory reality in order for this viewing of abortion to have its full effect. I believe tens of millions would change their view from pro-abortion to pro-life in a matter of the minutes it would take to see, via video, the reality of what abortion truly is.

Below, find proof positive that Fr. Frank (and I, I might add) is right! Watch how multiple people’s minds are changed by viewing what are rather mild examples of videos exposing the brutality of abortion. Watch this:

And this was after viewing these videos that are, again, relatively mild in presentation:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRDnVSMr5j0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jgw4X7Dw_3k

There are much more graphic videos than these available that I believe would be even more effective. But the main point of this post remains: America would reject abortion if America were to actually come to know what abortion is through seeing what abortion actually is with its own collective eyes.

One Way, But Not the Only Way

The viewing of the graphic and brutal reality of what abortion is is not the only way to change minds and hearts; though, as I said, I believe it is a very effective way. We can also persuade people, as I can tell you I have over the years, by simply laying out the truth of what abortion truly is. We all need to be evangelists for life if we are Catholic. In fact, we all need to be evangelists for life if we are simply men and women of good will. Opposition to the killing of innocent pre-born children is not a Catholic-only club!

But there is a third way of accomplishing the task as well. And the Knights of Columbus have teamed up with COLFS (Culture of Life Family Services) to bring to the fore what I believe to be another extremely effective tool in educating the masses who live in ignorance as to the truth about abortion. It comes in the form of multiple mobile ultrasound units that can be taken anywhere in the U.S. to give women in crisis pregnancies the opportunity to see their own babies in the womb in order to aid them in making the right choice to bring their unborn children to full term.

I recently spoke at a fundraiser for this group and it was truly one of the great honors of my entire career as an apologist. Check out the website here and see how you can get involved in this most worthy endeavor to create a true culture of life.

And if you would like to educate yourself as to the issues involved on an intellectual level, click here. 

The Church and Capital Punishment

Years ago, my wife and I were at a fundraiser for a candidate who was then running for President of the United States, and I struck up a conversation with a Catholic attorney who does great work for various pro-life causes. I’ll call him John. The conversation had hardly turned from small talk about family and children to pro-life matters when John made the claim, “Anyone who is pro-death penalty cannot make the claim to being pro-life because the two positions are oxymoronic.”

“Oh, boy!” I thought, “Here we go!”

I pointed out to John what too many Catholics simply do not know: The death penalty has always been, and always will be, upheld as a legitimate and potentially just punishment in Catholic Tradition as well as in Scripture.

This teaching cannot change.

Genesis 9:6 says, for example, “He who sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God created man in his own image.”

The Catchism of the Council of Trent teaches under the heading of “The Fifth Commandment:”

Another kind of lawful slaying belongs to the civil authorities, to whom is entrusted power of life and death, by the legal and judicious exercise of which they punish the guilty and protect the innocent. The just use of this power, far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to this Commandment which prohibits murder. The end of the Commandment is the preservation and security of human life. Now the punishments inflicted by the civil authority, which is the legitimate avenger of crime, naturally tend to this end, since they give security to life by repressing outrage and violence. Hence these words of David: “In the morning I put to death all the wicked of the land, that I might cut off all the workers of iniquity from the city of the Lord.”

And CCC 2267 declares:

Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm – without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.”

This latter statement in quotes, “… rare, if not practically non-existent,” is taken from Pope St. John Paul II’s Encyclical Letter, Evangelium Vitae, paragraph 56. This statement, along with the USCCB’s thought-provoking document on capital punishment of 1980, where the bishops declared their belief that the death penalty ought not to be carried out in the United States in our time, were the documents John used to say a person is not truly pro-life if he is, at the same time, pro-death penalty.

I respectfully disagreeed.

A Matter of Prudence

I pointed out to John that the Church, Pope St. John Paul II, and the American bishops, and now we can add Pope Francis as well, are not making dogmatic statements on the matter of the death penalty; rather, they are making prudential judgments. There is a significant difference between the two.

Catholics are free to debate the issue of when the death penalty should or should not be employed. In fact, then Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, when he was Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, declared, in a document called, “Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion: General Principles,” 3:

Not all moral issues have the same weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father (John Paul II) on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.

So again, the key here, as I said to my friend John, is to understand that capital punishment and the death penalty are not “non-negotiable” matters as abortion and euthanasia are. And we could speak of other “non-negotiables” as well.

Thus, a Catholic who supports the use of the death penalty against those convicted of capital crimes in modern times while opposing the murder of innocents does not somehow forfeit his “pro-life” position.

Conclusion

After what ended up being a very congenial discussion, it struck me how important it is that we never present the question of capital punishment as if there is a moral equivalency between it and, say, abortion, or any of the other “non-negotiables” in our moral theology. Capital punishment can be carried out justly against a murderer who has been justly convicted. Abortion, however, is always and in every situation grave sin and can never be justified in any sense.

The problems with presenting capital punishment as if it is a “non-negotiable” are manifold:

1. It sets up contradictions between Scripture and the teaching of the Church. This can never be.

2. It presents contradictions between Magisterial statements of the Church. This causes confusion among the faithful and can lead to skepticism toward other teachings of the Church.

3. It presents contradictions to those seeking full communion with the Catholic Church that may prevent them from further consideration of the legitimate claims of the Catholic Church.

If you enjoyed this, click here to go deeper in the discussion.

Is a Fetus a Person From the Moment of Conception?

It is hard to believe it has been 42 years (coming up on 43 years in just a month and a half) since the legalization of the murder in the womb popularly known as “abortion.” As we remember the legally drollish but culturally devastating decisions of the Supreme Court of “Roe” and “Doe” on Jan. 22, and as we approach yet another crucial election cycle in the life of our nation, hopefully, all of us will become reinvigorated in the on-going battle to save the lives of our weakest and most vulnerable brothers and sisters in what was once the sanctuary of a mother’s womb. Now, it has become a more dangerous place to be than Iraq or Afghanistan.

One way we can become more effective as we present our case for life, I believe, is to be unified in our message. “And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle” (I Cor. 14:8)?

Some will say I am being persnickety when I say this, but I cringe every time I hear a well-meaning Catholic say, “We really don’t know when ‘ensoulment’ takes place after the fertilization of the human ovum.” I even heard one well-known Catholic defender of life argue that killing a newly fertilized ovum that has not received “his” (yes, he used “his”) soul yet would be even more serious than killing a post-”ensouled” human because the pre-”ensouled” little human would have been robbed of the possibility of eternal life because “he” wouldn’t have a soul yet.

I said it to myself then, and I’ll say it now. Huh?

The real point of emphasis here is for us to remember that this kind of confusion can be used by the forces promoting death to continue the confusion. “See? Even Catholics do not know when a fetus is truly a person.”

Even though this is an obvious red herring argument, I believe that the antidote is a clear presentation of the truth as presented by none other than Horton the elephant. “A person is a person, no matter how small.” Yes, from the moment of conception.

Does anybody agree with me that it is time to put these lame “ensoulment” arguments to rest? Forever?

Now, I should say here that it is true, the Church has not yet infallibly spoken on the matter of “ensoulment” at the moment of fertilization. But that does not mean Catholics are free to speculate either. The Church does teach, at the very least at the level of the Ordinary Magisterium, that “ensoulment” occurs at the moment of conception. There is no human being without a human soul. And there is no human soul joined to a body that is not a human person.

The Catholic Truth

The CCC gives an excellent and succinct synopsis of what we mean by the human soul in CCC 362-368. But here I am going to give an even more fundamental and philosophical definition. In general, whether it applies to humans or any living thing, philosophers define the soul as “the unifying and vivifying principle in all living things.” St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that animals and plants have souls as well. The soul is that unifying and vivifying principle that accounts for what philosphers call the “immanent action” of all living things. The word “immanent” comes from two Latin words that mean “to remain” and “in.” “Immanent action” means the multiple parts that comprise a living being are able to act “from within” in a unified way for the good of the whole being. The soul is what accounts for this unified action that is essential for there to be life.

Thus, as the instruction from the Sacred Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, Donum Vitae (I., 1), which I will quote in a moment, makes very clear, at the moment of conception, or the moment of a human being’s existence at conception, he possesses and is a body/soul composite and should, therefore, be treated as a human person. Of course this is true because without a soul you don’t have a human being. And, according to the infallible teaching of the Council of Vienne of 1312 (Decrees, 1), it is the soul that is the “form of the body,” or that which makes the body a living human body and along with the body makes the person a living human person. From the moment of conception, then, there exists a human person with all of the essential rights—especially the right to life, I might add—that are afforded to all human persons. In fact, Pope John Paul II, in his Encyclical Letter, Evangelium Vitae (para. 60), says very clearly:

Some people try to justify abortion by claiming that the result of conception, at least up to a certain number of days, cannot yet be considered a personal human life. But in fact, “from the time that the ovum is fertilized, a life is begun which is neither that of the father nor the mother; it is rather the life of a new human being with his own growth. It would never be made human if it were not human already. This has always been clear, and … modern genetic science offers clear confirmation…”

More recently, in what is considered to be a follow-up to the Instruction of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Donum vitae – promulgated of Feb. 22, 1987 – we have Dignitas Personae – On Certain Bioethical Questions – promulgated Sept. 8, 2008. In this document the Church made an even clearer statement with regard to the personhood of an embryo from the moment of conception. It begins by quoting Donum vitae, using it as its foundational principle and then it makes the conclusion that from the moment of conception the embryo possesses “the dignity of a person.” That means it’s a person folks! This is not just to say the embryo should be treated like a person, or even that the embryo is merely a human being; rather, it is a person. I will begin in section 4:

It is important to recall the fundamental ethical criterion expressed in the Instruction Donum vitae in order to evaluate all moral questions which relate to procedures involving the human embryo: “[quoting Donum vitae I, 1] Thus the fruit of human generation, from the first moment of its existence, that is to say, from the moment the zygote has formed, demands the unconditional respect that is morally due to the human being in his bodily and spiritual totality. The human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception; and therefore from the same moment his rights as a person must be recognized, among which in the first place is the inviolable right of every innocent human being to life.” 5. This ethical principle, which reason is capable of recognizing as true and in conformity with the natural law, should be the basis for all legislation in this area. In fact, it presupposes a truth of an ontological character-, as Donum vitae demonstrated from solid scientific evidence, regarding the continuity in development of a human being. If Donum vitae… did not define the embryo as a person, it nonetheless did indicate that there is an intrinsic connection between the ontological dimension and the specific value of every human life. Although the presence of the spiritual soul cannot be observed experimentally, the conclusions of science regarding the human embryo give [quoting Donum vitae I, 1 again] “a valuable indication for discerning by the use of reason a personal presence at the moment of the first appearance of human life: how could a human individual not be a human person?” (Now the document makes a new and more definite conclusion, when it says) Indeed, the reality of the human being for the entire span of life, both before and after birth, does not allow us to posit either a change in nature or a gradation in moral value, since it possesses full anthropological and ethical status. The human embryo has, therefore, from the very beginning, the dignity proper to a person.

This is crucial for all mankind to understand, not just those of us in the battle for life. The very principle that makes us alive at conception, the human soul, is what makes us a unified and vivified life-form. And it is what makes us, along with the body it vivifies, a human person. At the end of life, this unifying and vivifying principle is separated from the body of any living thing resulting in death. But among living creatures, only man possesses a “rational” or “spiritual” soul that is by that very fact, naturally immortal, as I pointed out in a previous post.

What Do We Conclude?

The reason why it drives me crazy when I hear well-meaning and Catholic pro-lifers say one could “kill” a “pre-ensouled human,” depriving “him” of the possibility of eternal life, is that scenario is impossible from a Catholic perspective. If there is a truly “human” life to be “killed,” there is a hylomorphic, or “body/soul” composite, human person that will be killed.

1. There can be no “pre-ensouled” human being. You don’t have a human body, a human being, or a human person without a soul. If he’s alive and human, “he” is a human being and a human person. As Pope St. John Paul II said, “It would never be made human if it were not human already. This has always been clear, and … modern genetic science offers clear confirmation…” (EV, 60)

2. From the moment there is human life, then, at the moment of conception, there is a human soul, a human being, and a human person.

3. Though the Church has not stated infallibly the newly fertilzed ovum “is a human person,” the Church has stated it must be “respected and treated as a person,” it “demands the unconditional respect that is morally due to the human being in his bodily and spiritual totality,” and it possesses “the dignity of a person.”

4. Not only is the necessary conclusion to all of this that the human being that comes into being at the moment of conception is a human person, but this is the teaching of the Church. The idea of a “pre-ensouled” human at the moment of conception “becoming” a human person at some later time is contrary to Catholic teaching.

In the final analysis, I guess Horton really does have it right: “A person is a person, no matter how small.”

If you enjoyed this and would like to go deeper, click here.

Answers For Life

If you want a video that says it all about life in a succinct way, and in a format you can easily send to anyone no matter which side of the pro-life fence they may be standing, you have to check this out:

Here is the long version:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8wURL0rVLbY

Here is the short version:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jRM6ytOA_U

 

 

The Evil that is Planned Parenthood

Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse… it did. In an earlier blog post, I told you about how Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical services, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, casually speaks of how she and other “doctors” have been carefully murdering babies in the womb, protecting certain desired body parts, so that they can be sold as if they were pieces of chicken. And she was caught red-handed talking about it… on video. To say this is disgusting and an outrage is an understatement. In fact, there is hardly a way to overstate the gravity of what we are talking about here.

Turns out, there are a dozen or so more of these videos, one of which I will post for you here. But I warn you: you are about to view graphic pictures of murdered babies and a level of callousness from the monsters, I mean doctors, who kill them on a daily basis, that you simply will not believe.

The truth is: our culture has fallen so far due to the proliferation of sin that the media hardly bats an eye at these monstrosities, and our President (Obama) and justice system are so steeped in the fog of sin that there is little to no response.

What is amazing to me is how the lapdog media–lapdog to Planned Parenthood and the entire industry of death so often sold under the guise of “women’s health providers”–is shown in the clip interviewing Cecile Richards, the President of Planned Parenthood, denying what we see with our own eyes. Unbelievable! This time, it’s Melissa Farrell, Director of Research for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, not only admitting in word of the routine sale of body parts at Planned Parenthood, but giving us a gruesome tour…

Well, you watch if you haven’t yet, but again, be warned. This is extremely graphic.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=egGUEvY7CEg

The real question is: how long are we going to stand for this? Tens of millions of our brothers and sisters–real human beings–have been ripped apart in the sanctuary of their mother’s wombs since 1973, where murder was legalized in this country. And now, these innocent human beings’ body parts are up for sale? You watch the video and then you tell me what we should do.

As for me, I am going to begin by speaking out in every way I can. I am going to use every platform I possess to speak for these little ones who are being abused and murdered every single day across this country. And now, Planned Parenthood is saying to us these little babies are no different than a blob of tissue that can be bought and sold with impunity.

God help us!

As I said in my previous post on this topic, if you want to equip yourself with knowledge to combat this culture of death in which we live, click here. And remember: “greater is he that is in us, than he that is in the world” (I John 4:4). And, “This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith” (I John 5:4).

We can, we must, and we will stop this unthinkable evil, with God’s help!

Death With Dignity?

As I said in a previous post, assisted suicide has become just one more manifestation of “the culture of death” that has infected our culture in the West, and in particular, the United States of America. Instead of standing with and beside our friends and loved ones who suffer with terminal illnesses, our society now encourages “death with dignity,” another in a long line of euphemisms cloaking the taking of innocent human life.

Sometimes, standing with our suffering and dying brothers and sisters means lifting them up and helping them to see their own dignity in the midst of a culture that tells them their life is no longer worth living. It means holding their hands, loving them, praying with them, crying with them, or just being with them until the Lord sees fit to take them home.

If you haven’t read it, I would encourage you to read what I had to say about this and other related issues here:

http://timstaples.com/wordpress/wp-admin/post.php?post=480&action=edit

But even more importantly, I would like you to hear this message from “Liz,” who says it much more powerfully than I ever could:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nf_rb2qkbE

Happy New Year! And may God help us to love, protect, and help others to appreciate each and every innocent human life from conception until natural death!

And if you want to dive deeper into this topic and other related topics, click here.

Politics and Religion Pt. 6 – “Religious Liberty”

Free will is at the very core of the message of the entire Bible. In my book, Behold Your Mother – A Biblical and Historical Defense of the Marian Doctrines, in the chapter (12) entitled, “Other Redeemers? Understanding God’s Plan of Salvation,” which is a lead-in to chapter 13, “Mary’s Saving Office,” I explain:

Catholics believe man was constituted by God as naturally and essentially free, and that this freedom is not destroyed when a man comes to God through Christ. We say that grace never destroys nature; rather, it heals and perfects it. And this freedom is precisely what we see in Scripture. From God’s commandment to Adam in Genesis 2:17 not to eat “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” lest he die, to God’s word to Israel in Deuteronomy 30:19 to choose between life and death, to our Lord telling us in Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him,” the Bible is clear: Man is free either to accept or reject God’s call to follow him…

Our Lord himself removed all doubt concerning man’s freedom when he revealed that as God from all eternity he willed to gather “Jerusalem” as his own, but they refused him:

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often I would have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not (Matt. 23:37)!

Freedom vs. Coercion

It is because of the centrality of freedom in matters religious that coercion (excepting where free commitments have been made and duties assumed) has always been condemned by the Church. In fact, the infamous forced baptisms of some Jews in the Middle Ages were not only condemned by the Church, but led the Church to consider in a deeper way the absolute necessity of intention on the part of adult converts to be baptized. What constitutes “intention” was debated, but the necessity of intention in adults was clarified as being essential Catholic teaching. As St. Thomas Aquinas stated it in The Summa Theologiae, Pt. 3, Q. 68, Art. 7, Reply to Obj. 2:

If an adult lack the intention of receiving the sacrament, he must be re-baptized.

Today, the Code of Canon Law, Can. 865 §1, decrees:

For an adult to be baptized, the person must have manifested the intention to receive baptism, have been instructed sufficiently about the truths of the faith and Christian obligations, and have been tested in the Christian life through the catechumenate. The adult is also to be urged to have sorrow for personal sins.

What’s Love Got to do with it?

CCC 1861 sums up the importance of freedom when it declares: “Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself.”

It doesn’t get any more important than love. And yet, without freedom, the Catholic Church teaches, there simply is no love at all.

I like to think of this truth by way of the analogy of marriage. If a man has a gun to an unwilling woman’s head on their wedding day, would that be love? I think not! Why? Because the freedom that is the foundation of love is lacking.

Thus, free will is not just an abstract concept for Catholics. Free will is sacred. And because it is sacred, this is precisely why the Obama administration’s attempt to force Catholic Christians (or any person of good will) to act contrary not only to their divinely revealed Faith, but to basic points of the Natural Law, like, “Thou shalt not kill,” is so egregious. The idea that Catholics are being forced to pay for reprehensible things like contraception, sterilization, and even abortion, is outrageous.

Thus, “Religious Liberty” is our sixth “non-negotiable” when it comes to a truly Catholic perspective on religion and politics. All of us must rally to the cause. And that means first we must resist in every lawful way we can the intrusion upon religious liberty we see coming from Washington, D.C. This, along with the violation of the other “non-negotiables” we have discussed, is leading the United States of America toward the abyss at an ever-increasing pace.

Secondly, it means all of us must vote for candidates who will protect religious liberty. It seems unbelievable that we even have to say this in a country that at least used to understand religious liberty to be central to who we are as a people. But given the last two presidential elections, it obviously must be stated again, and again, and again.

Vatican II was Prophetic

Anyone who knows me, knows I am a huge fan of the documents of Vatican II. All 16 of them. In Dignitatis Humanae (the Declaration on Religious Freedom) 2, we find one among many profound and truly prophetic declarations from the Council:

This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.

The council further declares that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person as this dignity is known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself.(2) This right of the human person to religious freedom is to be recognized in the constitutional law  whereby society is governed and thus it is to become a civil right.

It is in accordance with their dignity as persons-that is, beings endowed  with reason and free will and therefore privileged to bear personal responsibility-that all men should be at once impelled by nature and also bound  by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are  also bound to adhere to the truth, once it is known, and to order their whole lives in accord with the demands of truth. However, men cannot discharge these obligations in a manner in keeping with their own nature unless they enjoy  immunity from external coercion as well as psychological freedom. Therefore the right to religious freedom has its foundation not in the subjective disposition of the person, but in his very nature. In consequence, the right to this immunity continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it and the exercise of this right is not to  be impeded, provided that just public order be observed.

How prophetic indeed in view of what is happening around the world with Christians being persecuted as never before. How prophetic in view of what the Obama administration is doing to Christians–most especially Catholic Christians–even as we speak, with the infamous HHS Mandate.

A Catholic Contradiction?

I must pause here a moment and note the objection some make to the above-cited declaration from DH 2 (that’s what you get when you read an apologists’ blog!).  The claim is made that this and other similar statements from the Council contradict earlier Magisterial teachings of the Church that condemn “religious freedom,” and so, must be considered heretical.

And one can certainly see how a surface reading of Magisterial statements like this one from Pope Gregory XVI could be so construed:

This shameful font of indifferentism gives rise to that absurd and erroneous proposition which claims that liberty of conscience must be maintained for everyone. It spreads ruin in sacred and civil affairs, though some repeat over and over again with the greatest impudence that some advantage accrues to religion from it. “But the death of the soul is worse than freedom of error,” as Augustine was wont to say. When all restraints are removed by which men are kept on the narrow path of truth, their nature, which is already inclined to evil, propels them to ruin. Then truly “the bottomless pit” is open from which John saw smoke ascending which obscured the sun, and out of which locusts flew forth to devastate the earth. Thence comes transformation of minds, corruption of youths, contempt of sacred things and holy laws–in other words, a pestilence more deadly to the state than any other. Experience shows, even from earliest times, that cities renowned for wealth, dominion, and glory perished as a result of this single evil, namely immoderate freedom of opinion, license of free speech, and desire for novelty (Pope Gregory XVI, Encyclical Letter, Mirari Vos, 14, Aug. 15, 1832).

Pope Leo XIII, in his Encyclical Letter, Libertas, 42, June 20, 1888, is also used to this end:

From what has been said it follows that it is quite unlawful to demand, to defend, or to grant unconditional freedom of thought, of speech, or writing, or of worship, as if these were so many rights given by nature to man. For, if nature had really granted them, it  would be lawful to refuse obedience to God, and there would be no restraint on  human liberty. It likewise follows that freedom in these things may be tolerated wherever there is just cause, but only with such moderation as will prevent its degenerating into license and excess. And, where such liberties are in use, men should employ them in doing good, and should estimate them as the Church does; for liberty is to be regarded as legitimate in so far only as it affords greater facility for doing good, but no farther.

Two points in Response

1. These declarations of the Holy See condemn absolute religious freedom without the constraints of Natural Law and Church authority. This is essentially different from what DH is speaking about. Notice, DH 2 includes key phrases like, ”within due limits,” and “provided that just public order be observed,” to emphasize limitations on religious liberty. There is not even a hint of its approval of what Pope Leo XIII called “unconditional freedom…”

2. The Council Fathers were careful to define what the Church means by “religious freedom” in the context of DH.

This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power

By “religious freedom,” the Council meant men “are to be immune from coercion.” This is absolutely consonant with Catholic teaching.

And notice as well the Council spoke of the evil of coercion by human power. This in no way means man is not bound by God’s law, or by divine authority. That was not even a consideration here.

And this is not to say God, or any divine authority, coerces either when it comes to man responding to God’s gracious invitation to come to him. God has given man freedom to either choose him or reject him. But it is to emphasize the context of DH. The fathers of the Council were responding to the problem of earthly despots or any political authority that would attempt to coerce with regard to matters religious.

Did Vatican II Condemn the Idea of “Catholic Nations?”

The claim is made also made that this alleged “unconditional freedom” taught by Vatican II ipso facto rejects the idea of a truly Catholic nation giving preferential treatment to the true Faith. This would be in stark contrast to the Magisterial teaching of Pope Leo XIII, for example, in his Encyclical Letter, Immortale Dei, 34, of Nov. 1, 1885:

Thus, Gregory XVI in his Encyclical Letter Mirari Vos, dated August 15, 1832, inveighed with weighty words against the sophisms which even at his time were being publicly  inculcated-namely, that no preference should be shown for any particular form of worship; that it is right for individuals to form their own personal judgments about religion; that each man’s conscience is his sole and all-sufficing guide; and that it is lawful for every man to publish his own views, whatever they may be, and even to conspire against the State. On the  question of the separation of Church and State the same Pontiff writes as  follows: “Nor can We hope for happier results either for religion or for  the civil government from the wishes of those who desire that the Church be  separated from the State, and the concord between the secular and ecclesiastical authority be dissolved. It is clear that these men, who yearn for a shameless liberty, live in dread of an agreement which has always been fraught with good, and advantageous alike to sacred and civil interests.”

Pope Pius IX, in his Encyclical Letter, Quanta Cura, 3, Dec. 8, 1864, joins the chorus in condemning the notion:

that a right resides in the citizens to an absolute liberty, which should be restrained by no authority whether ecclesiastical or civil, whereby they may be able openly and publicly to manifest and declare any of their ideas whatever, either by word of mouth, by the press, or in any other way.

Of course, Vatican II’s Dignitatis Humanae, in no way advocates for this condemned notion of “absolute liberty.” So once again, the attack leveled at Vatican II is without merit. DH, or Vatican II in general for that matter, never says states have no right to establish themselves as truly Christian nations, or to grant a privileged status to God’s true Church on earth. The “rights” DH are concerned with are rooted in a freedom from coercion that is in complete harmony with a Catholic understanding of the moral law that has been taught all the way back to our Lord and Master himself as stated above.

Dignitatis Humanae is Prophetic

DH is indeed prophetic in that it approaches the topic of liberty from a different vantage point than the above-mentioned Pontiffs. The earlier Popes were arguing from the perspective of trying to either preserve or restore the idea of a “Christendom,” or, at least, Christian nations that preserve the Faith and the moral law as properly understood by the Church as part of their respective Constitutions. And, of course, this is praiseworthy.

Vatican II comes from the perspective of the historical dissolution of Christendom. By 1960, Christian kings, or even Christian states, had become a distant memory — the stuff of history books. And today, we find ourselves, as Catholic Christians, far from ruling Catholic countries. According to an Amnesty International report in 2001, Christians are being persecuted in an unprecedented 149 nations of the world. And that number is probably even greater today.

Though the persecution in the early 1960′s was not what it is today, it was certainly on the rise with communism spreading around the globe. It was truly prophetic, facing the coming reality that we today are facing in an unprecedented way, when the Church at Vatican II asserted the Fundamental right of man to be free from the tyranny of coercion in his attempt to worship the true God as He revealed that worship to be offered in Jesus Christ and his One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. And, in the process of asserting this perennial and unchangeable truth, the Church also heralded its veracity not just for Catholics, but the entire world. The freedom from coercion in religious matters, “within due limits,” as the Council made clear, is not a Catholic only club. This is a truth rooted in “the laws of nature, and of nature’s God.”

Final Thought

When we consider the magnitude of the issues involved when we speak the words, ”religious freedom,” the words of the Council become all the more crucial for us to take to heart both today, and as we move forward toward darkening clouds on the horizon.

As we come to the close of 2014, I must say it has been absolutely unbelievable to me to watch our country’s leaders, in a nation once founded on the principle of freedom of religion, turn their legislative guns on the Church in ways unthinkable just 25 years ago. This administration, in particular, the Obama administration, has done more to take away our rights than perhaps any other in our history. And yet, so-called “Catholics” basically put him in office in both of his elections.

Of course, as Pope St. John Paul the Great famously stated in his Apostolic Exhortation, Christifidelis Laici, 38:

Above all, the common outcry, which is  justly made on behalf of human rights-for example, the right to health, to home,  to work, to family, to culture- is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other  personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.

When the United States of America has legalized murder in the womb, is it really a surprise when it starts taking away basic rights to freedom from coercion in religious matters?

I suppose not.

Over these last six blog posts, we have spoken quite directly about abortion, Euthanasia, Embryonic Stem-cell research, cloning, homosexual “marriage,” and more, all of which are being practiced or experimented with all over the United States and around the world.

But even this is not really surprising. Once you reject the creator as our nation has over these last several decades there is no where else to go but toward the chaos of lawlessness and ultimate despair.

But what is most surprising is the level of ignorance among Catholics as to just what is happening right before our very eyes. What is most unsettling is the fact that Catholics (and Christians in general, I might add) have not represented the answer to the masses in need of the balm of Gilead. We have been a major part of the problem.

May God help us as a Catholic people to, “Awake O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light” (Eph. 5:14). We still have a real principle of redress in this country of ours. We can still vote. We can still get involved politically. And more importantly, we can still participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This is the most powerful weapon for our spiritual warfare. There is nothing close.

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Politics and Religion Pt. 2 – The Question of Voting

There are many matters involving both faith and morals where there is room for legitimate differences of opinion among Catholics. As an apologist, I often get this question, especially during election cycles: “What about the death penalty? What about War? Shouldn’t Catholics be against War? What about the right to health and education?” In fact, whenever these issues come up in dialogue it always reminds me of an encounter I had some years ago.

I was giving a parish mission and it was going quite well. One afternoon, I was at lunch with the pastor of the parish and we began to talk about the then up-coming elections. When I voiced my strong concern that Catholics only vote for pro-life and pro-family candidates, Father responded: “Tim, I don’t think this is as black and white as you say it is.” When he said this, I must say I was shocked! He brought up the very issues I mentioned above. “What about the death penalty, war, healthcare, education, etc.” I attempted to explain that there are certain issues that are non-negotiable that Catholics are not at liberty to debate. Abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, cloning, and so-called homosexual “marriage” are intrinsic evils that must be opposed by all Catholics at the polls (religious liberty was not in play politically back then as it is now).

When Father attempted to use the war in Iraq, the death penalty and other lesser issues to justify voting for pro-abortion and pro-homosexual “marriage” candidates, I attempted to reason with him. I explained:

1. For Catholics, our “just war doctrine” is found in paragraph 2309 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. And notice, the Church does not say “just war theory.” It says, “just war doctrine.” The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan can be debated among Catholics as to whether or not they were just in our given situation. But the fact that war can be justified in certain situations is Catholic doctrine. The Catholic Church is NOT pacifist! In other words, war is not intrinsically unjust. As Ecclesiastes 3:8 says: “There is a time for war and a time for peace.” Therefore, it is not one of the “non-negotiables” or “intrinsically unjust law[s]” that Catholics are bound to oppose.

2. Similarly, the death penalty has always been upheld as a legitimate and potentially just punishment in Catholic Tradition as well as in Scripture. Genesis 9:6 says, “He who sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God created man in his own image.” In CCC 2267, the Magisterium of the Church tells us the Church has always held to the legitimacy of recourse to the death penalty, and that has not changed, though, according to the Catechism, examples today of the necessity of using it are, “rare, if not practically non-existent.” Now, this latter statement in the Catechism that actually quotes Pope John Paul II’s Encyclical Letter, “Evangelium Vitae,” paragraph 56, is not making a dogmatic statement; rather, it is a matter of prudential judgment. Catholics are free to debate the issue of when the death penalty should or should not be employed. In fact, then Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, when he was Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said, in a document called, “Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion: General Principles, 3:”

Not all moral issues have the same weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father (John Paul II) on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.

So again, the key here, I said to Father, is to understand that capital punishment and the death penalty are not “non-negotiable” matters. They must not be considered as one of the “non-negotiables” for Catholics.

3. When it comes to education and healthcare, the Church does speak of these as being “rights,” among others, for example, in the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World—Gaudium et Spes 26—as well as in Pope John Paul II’s 1988 Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici, 38.

I know this upsets some conservatives when I use this language. But they are rights nonetheless. However, because they are “rights” does not mean they must be free, folks! Nor does it mean they have to be or even should be provided by the government. This is a matter of debate, at the very least. In fact, the principle of subsidiarity and the Church’s condemnation of socialism must be taken into account here, but that is matter for another blog post.

But in order to bring clarity to this matter, think about this: I have a right to food and drink, but that does not mean under ordinary circumstances I can just plunder grocery stores at will and expect everyone else to pay for it! In other words, just how these “rights” to education and healthcare are to be protected and realized in the lives of people is a matter of debate. I always say to Catholic folks who believe healthcare should be provided for free by the government because health care is a “right,” are they willing to make Catholic education free across the board as well? After all, education is listed as a “right” by the same documents that list “healthcare” as a right.  Would our bishops be ready to pay for every Catholic who wills it to go to Notre Dame, or any other Catholic university? I think not!

The bottom line here is this: All of the rights the Church lists as such is not the question. The real debate is over the best way these rights can be protected and promulgated. And this is a matter of legitimate debate. And thus, these too — the right to healthcare and education — are not “non-negotiables.”

Unfortunately, I must say that my arguments didn’t seem to be getting anywhere until I had had about enough. My response became perhaps a bit too impassioned, but I remember saying to the good Padre, “You have the liberty of saying these issues are not black and white because they are not coming to cut your head off. But I guarantee you, Father, if the candidate you are voting for were to say—’On the day I am elected, my first order of business is that I am going over to Father Smith’s house and I am going to cut his head off’—I bet you would vote for the other guy! The fact is, they are coming to cut off the heads of millions more little pre-born babies in the sanctuary of their mother’s wombs, if we do not stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves, and vote accordingly!”

Father’s response was: “You make a good point, Tim.”

But this is not about “making a good point,” is it? This, my friends, is literally a matter of life and death.

THE BOTTOM LINE

And I suppose this is the real heart of the matter. It seems to me that one of the most important messages we can send to Catholics today, is that when we speak of these five “Non-Negotiables,” (six now with the advent of the Obama Administrations assault on religious liberty) we are speaking about human lives and human souls being on the line. It seems too many Catholics have too often grown cold and indifferent with regard to what it is we are talking about when we talk about voting and when we talk about the “non-negotiables” that should inform the decision-making process of all Catholics.  When we are talking about the non-negotiables, the old saying applies, “But other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?”

To the Heart of the Matter

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that it is “morally obligatory” for we who live in free societies with various representative forms of governments to vote in CCC 2240. And when it comes to laws in favor of homosexual so-called “marriage,” euthanasia, abortion, cloning or fetal stem cell research, and the assault on religious liberty, Pope St. John Paul II, in Evangelium Vitae, 73.1-73.2, has declared that each and every one of us has a “grave and clear obligation to oppose [these laws] by conscientious objection.” In fact, St. John Paul the Great also said, “In the case of an intrinsically unjust law…it is never licit to obey it, or to ‘take part in a propaganda campaign in favor of such a law or vote for it.’” And notice here that even though the Pope was referencing abortion in particular, he does not limit himself to abortion. He teaches us the same applies to any intrinsically unjust law. We as Catholics need to understand that we are speaking of a “grave obligation” here! And we need to understand the seriousness of this matter more so than most because we are the ones who believe that what we do in grave matters will effect where we spend eternity!

According to our Holy Father Pope St. John Paul II, we have a “grave obligation” not to vote for any of these “non-negotiables.” Now, some may say at this point: “I’m not voting for abortion, I am only voting for a candidate who votes for it!” Sorry, folks, you’re not off the hook so easy. Because we live in a representative form of democracy, we are voting for abortion indirectly if we vote for politicians who are pro-abortion. This is out of the question for Catholics!

Is There a Loophole Here?

But what about this statement from then Cardinal Ratzinger’s 2004 letter that we quoted before, “Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion: General Principles,” paragraph 6:

A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favor of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.

The key here is “proportionate reasons.” There are two issues we need to address here: First, in the case of voting for a pro-abortion candidate, one can only do so if, as Pope St. John Paul II said in Evangelium Vitae 73, you have a case analogous to this:

An elected official whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality.

In the same way, if a Catholic voter finds himself in a situation where both candidates are pro-abortion, a Catholic may vote for the candidate that will best limit the harm being done to the innocent, or if you have a case where both candidates are so pro-death that the Catholic cannot bring himself to vote for either candidate, he can choose not to vote at all. That is a legitimate option.

In the case of voting for the candidate who “limits the harm done” more so than the other, this is not a vote for abortion, even though the candidate one votes for may be pro-abortion; In this case one is voting for the good of limiting the amount of harm being done in the best way available. As an example, let’s say you are faced with both candidates in an election being pro-abortion, but one candidate is in favor of limiting late-term abortions and the other is not. Obviously, curtailing late-term abortions would necessarily save innocent human life. That’s a good thing and certainly worth voting for.

Now, in the case of voting for a pro-abortion candidate when there is a pro-life candidate available, that is where the “proportionate reasons” of which Cardinal Ratzinger wrote would come in. That means voting for a pro-abortion candidate even though there is a pro-life candidate available because of other positions held by the pro-life candidate that are proportionally more grave than abortion. And this is a possibility. However, we should note here that there simply is no case today, at least not in the United States, where one could reasonably do so because there is nothing else in play politically in this country that would be proportionate to the horror of abortion.

Is there an example where there would be “proportionate reasons” to vote for a pro-abortion candidate over a pro-life candidate? Yes! If, for example, we had an Osama Bin Laden-like character running for office against a pro-abortion candidate from one of our two parties here in the United States.

Now by an “Osama Bin Laden-like character,” I mean he would be against abortion while simultaneously being in favor of the genocide of whole peoples and religions (like all Jews and Christians!). One could safely say this would be a case where there would be proportionate reason to vote for a pro-abortion candidate, assuming of course that the other candidate is against this genocide. Why? Well, with abortion, as horrid as it is, we are talking about the murder of ca. 1.2-1.5 million innocent human beings per year in the United States alone. In this scenario we’d be talking about slaughtering 100’s of millions of people! But other than that scenario, or one similar, there is simply no proportionate reason I can envision where one could reasonably vote for a pro-abortion candidate over a pro-life candidate.

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An Amazing Apostolic Work – Not Mine!

Those of you who have been reading this blog since its inception, you know we are the new kids on the block. We just launched this blog back in July, 2013.

To get things started, I have been focusing on some basic, biblical apologetics, which should not be much of a surprise to those who know me. That represents a good chunk of what I do as Director of Apologetics and Evangelization at Catholic Answers here in San Diego, CA.

And BTW, stay tuned because we really haven’t even scratched the scratch on the surface compared to what we have planned for the coming months and years when it comes to biblical apologetics.

But you should also know that we plan much more than just this. We are going to tackle scientific matters as they relate to our Catholic Faith, philosophy, theology, history, and this is not to mention the more “fun stuff,” like movies, sports, popular culture, not so popular culture, politics, news, and more.

Now to the real reason for this post. There is another thing that we have not done to date on this blog, and that’s the promotion of other people, apostolates, etc. There are many reasons why we haven’t done this yet, one of which is we wanted more than three people reading the blog before we do it, but I would like to point you in the direction of an amazing work that is being done by Mr. Chris Stefanick of RealLifeCatholic.com

Chris has a truly extraordinary gift when it comes to reaching young people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and in particular, with the message that every human being that has ever been conceived is infinitely loved by an infinitely loving God.

But let me shut up now and you go to:

If you don’t know about Chris yet, you should. But check out this video and more at his website and I think you will know precisely what I mean.