Monday, January 30, 2012

To our Protestant friends: Fight with us!

The lovely and courageous Rebecca, at Shoved to Them, wrote a post that I am compelled to reprint. We need our Protestant brethren to become fellow warriors as we push back against the federal government's attempt to quash our basic religious liberties. Hard to believe it's come to this in our own beloved America, and yet here we are.

A Call to Arms, My Brothers!

Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak out because I was Protestant.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.  
-- Martin Niemöller

This past week, the Department of Health and Human Services under the Obama Administration violated the First Amendment's Religion Clause by preventing Catholics in the United States from freely practicing our religion. To a practicing Catholic, our faith is more than the church service we attend on Sunday mornings or the ashes we wear at the beginning of every Lent. Our faith is the governing force by which we live our lives.

With its Contraception/Sterilization Mandate, the Obama Administration has taken direct aim at the Catholic Church through our foundational beliefs in the value of every human life and in the supremacy of God over us, which are the driving forces behind our stance on these controversial issues. The administration's demand that Catholics provide access to medical procedures and pharmaceuticals which we hold to be intrinsically evil, and certainly against the very roots of the faith we profess, is an affront to every American.

This unconstitutional mandate has left American Catholics in the position of choosing between obedience to God and obedience to the State.

How have we arrived at a place where United States citizens are confronting the dilemma of choosing between their faith and being American? This is the country raised on the tales of the Pilgrims' flight from England in order to escape religious persecution. The American colonies were begun with the ideal that all men had a right to practice their faiths according to the actual tenets of those religions and not according the whims and permissions of the government. We were revolutionary in the concept that our inalienable rights were derived from our Creator and not from the largesse of a sovereign or legislature.

President Obama has, through his Department of Health and Human Services, turned his back on almost 400 years of American history. With this one Mandate, he has trampled upon the intentions of our Founders who so fervently believed in the rights of people to worship (or not worship) and to believe (or not believe) as they saw fit that it is the first right enshrined in the Bill of Rights:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof

I have heard many people say "I do not agree with the Catholic Church's stance on contraception." No one is asking for you to do so. It is sufficient enough that we believe it.

Those who would frame this as a debate on reproductive rights are being misled or are attempting to mislead. This attack by the Obama Administration is not about sexual rights. It is about our religious freedom and the very Liberty which every American considers his/her birthright. With this decision, the United States Government has granted itself authority and jurisdiction over every church, synagogue, mosque and cathedral and allowed itself the power to enforce its own secular worldview upon all believers.

It is in light of this that we call upon you, our brother Americans, to stand with us against this unjust and breathtaking power grab. Do not be deceived into thinking that it ends with us or with this ruling. The very Right of Religious Freedom is at stake.


What can you do to help?  Contact your Senators and Representatives and tell them that government oppression is intolerable [reference the HHS contraceptive mandate and ask them to support the Freedom of Conscience Act]. Call the US Department of Health and Human Services and tell them that their power grab will not succeed. Call the White House and remind them that the United States threw out one tyrant with King George and we won't hesitate to do it again!

Click the Facebook "F" or the Twitter "T" below to spread the word! Thank you and God bless! 

Thank you, Rebecca! It's time for all Christians, all people of faith, and anyone who loves the Constitution to come together at this moment in history.

You can sign a petition directly to the White House, here. Spread the word! Protestants, please alert your pastors about this disheartening move by President Obama.

And for additional inspiration, don't miss Bad Catholic's passionate response to Obama's unconstitutional power grab, here.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

I am so over Mike Clancy and the Arizona Republic

Mike Clancy's latest piece for the Arizona Republic is painful to read (as usual), partly because of its falsehoods and distortions about the Catholic Church and Bishop Thomas Olmsted, but also because it's embarrassing for Clancy. His facts are so consistently wrong and his bias so obvious that it actually makes me cringe.

Now, of course I don't expect our local paper to fawn over the bishop or whitewash the Church, but is fact-checking and fairness too much to ask?

You can read the entire article, here, if you have the time and the stomach for it.* But as I did last time, allow me to comment on a couple of glaring snippets. Clancy says of the Catholic Church:
The church has taught that birth control is 'intrinsically wrong' since 1968, around the time the pill came into widespread use.
The statement is shocking.

It is absolutely no secret and easily ascertained that the Church has taught the intrinsic evil of contraception not merely for the past four decades, no, but since the establishment of the Church approximately 2,000 years ago

Not once (meaning "never") has the Church taught anything different.

Clancy is alluding to Pope Paul VI's 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, which simply reiterated, against the backdrop of the sexual revolution, the unbroken, unchanging teaching of the Church since her inception. 

How can a veteran religion reporter exhibit such a weak grasp of basic Church doctrine, the Church he's been covering for years and years? It's also troubling that he doesn't seem to have adequate knowledge of modern cultural history, either. For not only has the Catholic Church always taught that contraception is "intrinsically wrong", but until the 1930s, every Protestant denomination taught the sinfulness of contraception as well. When a committee of Anglicans was the first to abandon Christian principles on this well-established point of the moral law, even the secular world was shocked, as an editorial in the Washington Post makes clear:

Carried to its logical conclusion, the [Anglican] committee's report, if carried into effect, would sound the death-knell of marriage as a holy institution by establishing degrading practices which would encourage indiscriminate immorality. The suggestion that the use of legalized contraceptives would be "careful and restrained" is preposterous. -- March 22, 1931 edition.

Call me crazy, but I think a reporter should know this stuff if he's going to be reporting on this stuff.

And later in the piece, Clancy repeats something he said in another article (that I also I critiqued), which continues to baffle me (emphasis mine):
….Olmsted ousted the hospital [St. Joseph's] from the Catholic family after a dispute about a medical procedure that Olmsted considered an abortion.
In the last article, he chose the words "...a lifesaving medical procedure that the bishop deemed an abortion…"

"Considered"? "Deemed"?


If it was not an abortion, what was it? What was this mystery medical procedure? To this day, Clancy has never actually named it. What was it? How does one train for it? What special tools are used? If it was not an abortion, then how could this mystery medical procedure result in an automatic excommunication? Why would the bishop pretend an abortion took place if it didn't? So many unanswered questions.

Including why the Arizona Republic allows this type of reporting to stand.

In the meantime, here is the full text of Bishop Olmsted's letter, in which he tells his flock: 

"We cannot – we will not – comply with this unjust law."

Oh, how I love our shepherd! He is a gentle, humble soul, but he has courage in abundance! A true disciple of Christ!

And for those still needing the basic facts about the HHS contraceptive mandate at the heart of this fight, go here to get informed:

The battle for basic religious liberty has come to our doorstep, folks.

*Be warned that the comments following the article are vile and bigoted. If such comments were directed at Jews or Muslims, the Republic would never let them stand.

(UPDATE: Be sure to read JoAnna's excellent comment, below!)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Quick Takes: Things that entertain (and boggle the mind)

1) Stop everything you are doing. You have to read the following article. No, seriously, you do. You don't have to read it right now, but click it open and then keep it at the bottom of your screen, or minimize it, or whatever, until you have a quiet few moments later to read it all. Jen Fulwiler (yes, the hostess of Quick Takes and the most insightful atheist-turned-Catholic that I know) has really nailed the problem. What problem? The problem! The reason why we Catholics and the purveyors of human abortion cannot even speak the same language. It's as if we live in two different realities, and this is why:

Oh, all right, here's a sneak peek, from somewhere in the middle:

All my life, the message I had heard loud and clear was that sex was for pleasure and bonding, that its potential for creating life was purely tangential…. This mind-set became the foundation of my views on abortion…. I thought of unplanned pregnancies as akin to being struck by lightning while walking down the street—something totally unpredictable and undeserved that happened to people living normal lives. 
My pro-choice views (and I imagine those of many others) were motivated by loving concern: I just did not want women to have to suffer, to have to devalue themselves by dealing with unwanted pregnancies. Since it was an inherent part of my worldview that everyone except people with “hang-ups” eventually has sex, and that sex is, under normal circumstances, only about the relationship between the two people involved, I was lured into one of the oldest, biggest, most tempting lies in human history….
And… you'll just have to read the article to find out what that lie is. :)

2) I do love a great quote from a brilliant mind, to be read slowly:
We live in a culture where our marketers and entertainment media compulsively mislead us about the sustainability of youth; the indignity of old age; the avoidance of suffering; the denial of death; the nature of real beauty; the impermanence of every human love; the oppressiveness of children and family; the silliness of virtue; and the cynicism of religious faith. It’s a culture of fantasy, selfishness, sexual confusion and illness that we’ve brought upon ourselves. And we’ve done it by misusing the freedom that other — and greater — generations than our own worked for, bled for and bequeathed to our safe-keeping. 
-- Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia from “A Thread for Weaving Joy” 
(Archbishop Chaput makes me swoon!)

3) And now, how 'bout a quote from a not-so-great mind? I have to reprint for you all one of the dumbest things ever said to me. It came during one of my myriad time-sucking facebook debates, from a young male atheist who thinks I'm stupid:

"I don't care if god is real... I care about whether there is evidence of his existence. If there is not, then it makes absolutely no difference if he's real or not." [emphasis mine]

Now, how can I argue with something like that?

4) The annual March for Life and the annual media blackout that accompanies it was actually pretty fun this year! If you read Bad Catholic's smackdown, you can't help but smile:

Also, I was originally going to link to the positively reedonkulous "coverage" of the March from CBS news, but they had so many negative comments about their bogus slide show (with ZERO shots of the hundreds of thousands of pro-life marchers, but numerous shots of the same eleven pro-"choice" folks) that they had to go in and add actual photos of the March itself!

When you look at the CBS slide show, note that the first six photos there now were not there a few hours earlier, nor was the last photo. And even though CBS was shamed into adding those seven photos of the pro-life marchers, the bias still jumps right out: The pro-life side and the pro-"choice" side each gets seven photos? A sea of young, vibrant marchers as far as the eye can see, from all over the nation, hundreds of thousands strong…. versus a handful of protesters that no one even noticed (save the liberal press)? Methinks they missed the story even on their second try!

It is so laughable, and very entertaining, but the big question still remains: Why would anyone trust the MSM these days?

5a) Planned Parenthood, keeping it classy, as usual! Check this out:

Ah, those crazy kids! What crude and degenerate thing will they think of next to corrupt our culture? 

(Be sure to read the comments! Some creative pro-lifers thought of their own ad slogans for PP's new campaign.)

5b) It's all over the news that "abortion is safer than giving birth", but of course that's another pro-"choice" obfuscation. Let's look at the facts and see through the spin:

Word to the wise: Those who make their living killing human beings do not always live by an honor code of truth-telling.

6) Okay, this is serious! I need you all to tell me if you know of any good, eligible Catholic young men who are looking for a bride. There just don't seem to be as many good men out there as there are young women who are looking for them! Please, email me (look under my picture) if you know of any decent, faithful, emotionally stable men between the ages of about 24 and 34. I've got women who want to meet them!

7) Still don't have much to update on my sister's condition, other than one amazing turn of events which has lifted a 10-ton weight off our shoulders: Her first diagnosis of advanced pancreatic cancer was wrong. I cannot begin to describe the emotions that come from believing your only sibling has four months to live, then having the imminent death sentence rescinded. She still has a long road to diagnosis and treatment, so please keep those prayers coming. She has been most grateful for them, as have I!

Thanks, Jen, for hosting!


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

As far as the eye can see

A beautiful sight:
Marching for the missing 1/3 of their generation, lost to abortion.

Thanks, St. Blogustine, for showcasing this and other great shots of the throngs! Hundreds of thousands of mostly young people braved the rain and cold to attend the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. this year.

And on the West Coast, some 50,000 brave souls took up the cause of life in what has become one of the centers of the Culture of Death, San Francisco. Check out those amazing photos, here.

Of course, there were all the local marches and gatherings across the nation as well, including the 700 or so who marched in my own city.

The pro-abortion mainstream media almost never report on the marches, or if they do, report only lies… er, inaccuracies. But we know the truth, don't we, friends? We know that the pro-life movement is young and vibrant and peaceful and joyful! Very different from the opposition, who seem to thrive on shocking vulgarity and nastiness. 

Of course, none of these marches can bring back the 50+ million innocent lives taken by abortion since 1973, but they certainly prove that we pro-lifers are here to stay. In fact, the movement keeps growing and growing and growing, looking younger and more radiant every year.

Life will always trump death.

Deo gratias!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Over 50 million "choices"?

Roe v. Wade, January 22, 1973: The birth of "choice"

Doesn't "choice" sound so appealing, so pleasant, so desirable? I think so. Personally, I love to choose. After all, I chose where I went to college, I chose my spouse, my wardrobe, the names for our children, and even the drapes in my home (well, with Danya's help!). Choice is super-cool! Good golly, who doesn't love choice? Heck, everyone loves choice!

Well, except the "choice" to shred little babies in their mothers' wombs. In that case, we all understand that "choice" is merely a euphemism, no?

Here's the definition of euphemism, from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary:
The substitution of an agreeable or inoffensive expression for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant. 
See, they substitute "choice" (agreeable, inoffensive) for "willful, direct killing of unborn human children" (offensive, unpleasant).

Get how that works? Isn't that something?

Jill Stanek has encouraged pro-life bloggers to call out abortion advocates on their pretty little euphemism of "choice".

So I turn to pro-"choicers" who have embraced the soothing euphemism: What do you mean by "choice"? You demand a "woman's right to choose", but why don't you finish the sentence? A woman's right to choose… what?

What do you mean by "choice"?

*Heartbreaking testimony about "choice", here, from my friend Karen Williams.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Not quite a Quick Takes


1) First, I can't thank you all enough for the kind words, support, and especially prayers for my sister and our whole family. Currently, she has a team of doctors working to find out exactly what we are dealing with. I can't say much more because so much is still unknown, but the word "bizarre" doesn't begin to cover the last eight days. Please keep praying.

2) So glad to see that Catholics have been responding to the popular but deeply flawed video, "Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus". My personal favorite response, by a rapping priest:

And if you want to go further, check out Fr. Barron's response:

The funny thing in all of this is that the "hate religion" guy subscribes to sola scriptura (the idea that the Bible is a Christian's only authority), but yet he does not grasp the fact that the very New Testament he quotes is a product of the Catholic religion! He would not have the Bible in his hands if the Church had not written, preserved, copied, canonized, protected and preached that Bible for 20 centuries. Ah, the irony.

3) I just saw this, and now I'm fuming:

Seriously, my head is going to explode. Does the Obama Administration think us Catholics fools? Maybe we are if we don't bombard him with emails and phone calls and lawsuits. I want to fight. Here is part of the response from Archbishop Dolan and the U.S. Bishops:
In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences. To force American citizens to choose between violating their consciences and forgoing their healthcare is literally unconscionable.It is as much an attack on access to health care as on religious freedom. Historically this represents a challenge and a compromise of our religious liberty.
What kind of man did we elect to the presidency of the United States?! Obama must be defeated in November.

4) Turns out I am a homeschooling mom again (schooling only one this time around). So many myths about homeschooling, and this hilarious young man's video about those myths deserves a wide audience! Too funny! I want to shake his mama's hand:

(Gosh, maybe I shouldn't have said I was homeschooling. The Obama administration might soon declare it illegal and come after me. I'm only half joking.)

Have a great weekend!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Life is precious

Thank you, Danya, for saying what I couldn't.

Prayers for my sister Pauline are much appreciated.

"For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience." -- Romans 8:24-25 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Parenting: What I've done right!


Now that my parenting faults, flaws and deficiencies are out there for all to see, first going international* and then becoming legendary, I thought I'd switch it up a bit and tell you what I think I've done right as a parent.

Yes, this will be much more fun!

So, after mulling over my 20+ years of parenting and asking my older kids for their thoughts, I have come up with my three indispensable keys to effective parenting:

  • Moral formation is the top priority.
  • What I teach must make sense. 
  • Nothing is off limits for discussion.

Let's take them one at a time:

Moral formation is the top priority

When I say "top priority", I mean that with every fiber of my being, and my kids know this. It really doesn't matter what else I do as a parent, because if I fail in the kids' moral formation, I not only fail them, but I also fail society and God. Fail at virtue training = fail as mother.

I have a suspicion that the average American parent no longer places "moral formation" at the tippy-top of the priority list. Seems to me that "academic/career/financial success" or "popularity" have taken the lead. Or a general philosophy of "Whatever makes my child happy!"

Oy, vey.

If we don't raise our children to be moral first and foremost, then we miss the point of parenthood entirely. We have enough financially successful, popular and "happy" degenerates out in the world already. What we can never have enough of is saints.

Now, it goes without saying that a child can be properly formed and still go off the rails, as there is that pesky little thing called "free will". But woe to me if my child crashes into the ditch because I never placed and secured the rails in the first place.

I can't stress enough and I even risk redundancy here: Nothing supersedes moral formation as our top parental priority! Got it? Good. That brings us to:

Our beliefs and principles need to make logical sense

Please understand this! We live in an age of non-stop information. Not knowledge, not wisdom, just information. All of these conflicting bits of info are competing with us for the souls of our children. If we don't explain to our children why our Catholic Faith is logical, coherent, cohesive, consistent and beautiful, they will have no reason to stick with it when the rest of the world says it's stupid, superstitious, oppressive and irrelevant.

Young people really do want to transcend the noise and chaos and sin and find the straight path. They really do want their world to make sense, and our job is to show them that it does.

To that end, here's what we must never say to our inquisitive children:

"I have no idea why the Church is against [fill in the blank], or why we believe [fill in the blank]. You just need to follow the rules!"

No, no, no, no! What we say instead is, "Well, honey, I am not sure exactly why the Church teaches that, but I am going to find out and get right back to you. The Church always has a good answer."

(That's when you email me and I hook you up with some nice resources or a killer Bubble post, heh, heh, heh.)

Here's something else (worse!) that we must never say to our kids:

"Look, the Church teaches a lot of outdated stuff that no one really believes, including me, but we're Catholic and that's where we're staying."

Um, yeah… try that with teens and they'll be going. Right out of the Church. That kind of attitude lacks integrity and is nonsensical, and our confused kids will soon be seeking truth elsewhere. Can we blame them? Of course not! So, we must learn our faith well, live it without exception or apology, and pass it along simply and clearly. It's a beautiful thing to lay out the tapestry of truth before a child and hear him say, "That makes sense."

Which leads us to:

Nothing is off limits for discussion

And I do mean nothing. Sex, drugs, death, hell, crime, whatever. Age appropriate, of course, but nothing is forbidden.

My kids know that whatever they ask me will be answered. I am approachable, and I want them coming to me before they even think about going to anyone else about these matters.

Just two days ago, for example, my middle-schooler came to me with a one-two punch of shocking questions regarding things he had heard, things I could never repeat here. My face stayed relaxed, I met his gaze, and I calmly gave him the explanations and information he needed.

I worry when I hear even conscientious, devout Catholic parents say that they avoid such discussions, or don't have them at all. They tell me they don't know what to say. I say, too bad. You have to do it. That's your job. They are your children, and you need to take them seriously, look them in the eye, and tell them the truth. They want to hear it from you, and they will absorb your wisdom on these matters. Don't let them down.

When my middle-schooler and I finished our talk, he left the conversation relieved and satisfied, and so did I. The straight talk we had was informed by our Faith, which [refer to second bullet point] made sense to him. And the discussion was a catalyst for [refer to first bullet point] deeper moral formation.

See how seamlessly that all works? Man, I love our Faith!

So, there you have it. I still cannot cook, sew, or throw a party. But I can form, teach and talk till the cows come home. My kids may not have clean sheets, but they know the value of a clean soul! ;)

*That's Portuguese, not Spanish!


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Just Curious: Are you a child of divorce?

Growing up in the 1970s, I attended a public elementary school. All the kids in my class during those years had married parents, with the exception of one girl who lived with her very young mom and her grandma. She didn't speak of a father at all, except to tell us (once) that he was dead. (I am certain now that she had simply been born out of wedlock -- though I wonder if even she knew that at the time.) But other than that, all the kids lived with their married moms and dads.

We live in a different culture now.

My middle school and high school children attend a public charter school where the parents are generally well-educated and involved. Yet, divorce is commonplace. My sixth grader came home early in the school year and told me, "So many of the kids in my class have parents who are divorced! They talk a lot about how they have to switch houses during the week." I asked him how they felt about that, and he said that they seemed sad, except for the extra toys they got. My son seemed sad, too.

It hit me how much has changed in just three decades.

So, I am just curious: Are you from a divorced home? And if so, how did it affect you? Do you view marriage differently now, and how does the experience you lived through shape your own marriage?


Thursday, January 5, 2012

My blogging crisis

I cannot tell a lie.

I have been avoiding you.

It's really not you, though. It's me.

I am in a bit of a slump if you can't tell. I have a million half-written blog posts waiting to be finished up, polished up, and published. I have a zillion more ideas just floating around in my brain. No lack of passion here, I promise. I have in no way lost my zeal.

But for some reason, I am not in the mood to actually write this stuff down.

I think one reason is what I'll term "secular burn-out". Engaging secularism on a regular basis is draining. It can enervate and exhaust even a deeply fortified, prayerful soul (which I am not). I have often grown weary, even disheartened. Not in the sense that I doubt the truth, goodness, and beauty of the Faith, because I am more convinced than ever that Jesus Christ is the only Way, the only Truth, and the only Life.

Without the grace of Christ, the human condition is dark and cold and without hope.

I have seen this in the combox debates. Even the obvious, even things we never used to fight about as a culture, are no longer common ground starting points.

Lately, I wake up with the feeling that I don't want to start something, because I'm peaceful and joyful and I don't want to go there today.

I don't want to hear more of what I've heard.

For example:

I've had real people, thoughtful people, tell me that they cannot for the life of them see a difference between men and women.

I've had a real person, a thoughtful person, tell me that mothers and fathers are simply "interchangeable" in the life of a child.

I've had real people, thoughtful people, tell me that acts of sodomy and masturbation are beautiful, healthy and good, and no different from the sexual union between husband and wife.

I've had a real person, a thoughtful person, tell me that she couldn't say whether or not the little girl in this casket deserved love or was a piece of trash to be discarded with yesterday's coffee grounds.  

I've had real people, thoughtful people, tell me that it would be clearly the moral choice to torture and kill a six-year-old girl in order to spare the lives of fifty people. 

These and countless other discussions have left me with an unsettled, almost eerie feeling that I cannot quite describe. But it looms. And it insinuates. And it disquiets. 

Incessant engagement with secularism tends to take the mind away from the higher things -- lighter, lovelier, worthier, holier, more beautiful and transcendent things upon which the mind should be focused:
[W]hatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  -- Philippians 4:8
And yet, Christians cannot retreat from the conversation that is so desperately needed, now more than ever.

I'm trying to find that line. I want to do this right.

I'm pretty sure the answer is prayer.

Thanks for hanging in there with me.