Sunday, October 30, 2016

Joseph Sciambra is one of my heroes. Please, get to know him.

I have a few heroes in contemporary America, folks who are not afraid of speaking and living Christ's Truth, in season and out, no matter the cost, no matter the derision they face, and when there is no (worldly) personal gain. These heroes speak that Truth in love. They don't seek to hurt souls, ever, but only to help them attain Heaven.

Joseph Sciambra is one of those personal heroes (though he barely knows me and likely does not know how highly I regard him).

Day in and day out, Joseph works to reach those caught up in pornography and homosexuality, as he himself was for many, many years. He was not only an active homosexual in the San Francisco area (Castro district), but he was also an amateur gay porn star who fell into the occult as well.

When I first heard/read about Joseph, I admit my initial reaction was admiring but dismissive. His story was so "over-the-top," so extreme. A gay porn actor in San Francisco? A man caught up in perversion, sexual violence, and even Satanic influence? I believed it all of course (I am not naive to what Satan can do to a soul, and how easy it is to spiral downward into boundless depravity), but I didn't think someone like Joseph could be relatable to others.

But I friended him on Facebook, and I kept reading his posts and watching his videos. I began to look at his blog. This was not a man who dwelled on the sickness and evil that permeated his own life for so many years, but rather a man actively ministering to those still caught up in darkness.

Joseph not only talks the talk, but he walks the walk by meeting with and talking to the men at the gay street fairs and "pride" events in California, often to his own detriment. He still suffers many health effects from his years in the brutality of the gay/porn lifestyle, and he is weary, both in body and soul. He cannot get volunteers to go with him to these gatherings anymore. Some will go once, but not again -- it's simply too overwhelming. There are many of us who pray for him now, but almost no one who will accompany him into the heart of it all.

And yet he never stops reaching out and truly loving those who are so lost, those who are in the place where he used to be. He is right there, ministering to the walking wounded, i.e., the gay men (and women) who need the light of Christ so desperately:

Joseph is doing all of this while at the same time trying to alert the Church in America that her outreach to the gay community is largely ineffective, counterproductive, and even harmful: The "gay ministries" in too many dioceses seem to affirm the "gay" rather than point toward repentance, redemption, renewal, and the joy of salvation found in obedience and surrender to Christ Jesus.

So much of what he says, and warns, falls on deaf ears.

Joseph does not get asked to speak at Catholic conferences, he does not get asked to advise those in gay ministries (even though he has so much wisdom and experience!), he does not get profiled or consulted by the major Catholic news outlets. It's baffling and confounding. The more I get to know him, the more I scratch my head at how this gem of the Church can be consistently ignored.

Some might argue that his story and all he encounters now is too gritty, too explicit, too graphic. The details of his life in gay porn and the gay community are dark and ugly, yes, even to the point of physical revulsion for those who are exposed to it. And yet... we know that when the subject is abortion, for example, we Catholics do not shy away from the ugly truth of it. The wonderful Abby Johnson speaks all over the nation at diocesan events, even though the details of abortion are gruesome, violent, bloody, deadly, heartbreaking. That she and others speak, and are welcome to speak, is as it should be! It is right and just that the evil of abortion is exposed.

Why, then, are the rules different when the sin is homosexual activity? Why do we not wish to see, and why do we even sugarcoat (or celebrate) this particular sin?

If you follow Joseph (and I encourage it), you will see that he gets frustrated and disheartened. He is often burnt out. And yet, somehow he keeps going. I'm not going to lie -- I worry about him and so do many others. He needs massive prayer coverage (his ministry is incredibly dangerous, spiritually), and he needs friendship and physical support as well. He carries a heavy burden that most of us cannot imagine.

For months, I'd wanted to read his full story, which is laid out in his book, Swallowed By Satan: How Our Lord Jesus Christ Saved Me From Pornography, Homosexuality, and the Occult, and this past month I finally did. I highly recommend it, not for its literary perfection (it really deserves a professional editor and publisher) but for its content, insights, wisdom, truth. His is a powerful, tragic, and ultimately hopeful journey, one that every Catholic, especially every Catholic parent, should understand -- especially in this age of pornography. But be warned: It is not for the faint of heart, and not for overly sensitive souls. 

Joseph is two years younger than I, and I found myself nodding along with his description of his Catholic upbringing and the poor catechesis that our entire generation received in the '70s and '80s. Some of his words were eerily similar to my own story, and culturally I knew exactly what he was talking about at all times. We both went off the rails, morally, and so when he spoke of his own dark years, I recalled where I was at the same time, my sins just manifested a bit differently.

His book is available on his website (click here), or you can get the Kindle edition (click here).

And now I want to lay out where Joseph's true courage comes in, a courage that is only possible when one's soul is full of the grace of Christ and when one is willing to take whatever consequences may come.

As I said above, we have a big problem with "gay ministry" in the Church today.

Joseph unceasingly calls out the scandals in our Catholic parishes. Scandals that harm the very souls he is trying to help save and that are not, for whatever reason, addressed and corrected. Just a few examples:

In the Diocese of San Jose, there is a longtime LGBT ministry leader, Young Adult ministry leader, Mass Coordinator, Eucharistic Minister, and Lector who is "married" to his same-sex partner.

In the Archdiocese of San Francisco, there is the longstanding, ongoing, and truly inexplicable scandal in practice and leadership positions at Most Holy Redeemer parish, including with the Parish Manager (if you scroll down, be prepared to be heartsick at what you see). In another parish, the bulletin directs parishioners to a retreat led by an outspoken pro-gay "rights" activist priest. And honestly, I don't have words for the fact that the man in this article is a candidate for Deacon (Holy Orders!) in the diocese. How can this be? I feel sick to my stomach when I consider it.

In the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, there are leaders, including speakers at the 2016 and 2017 Catechetical Congresses, who celebrate "gay" and confuse the faithful about grave sin. There are even altars draped in "rainbow pride" colors. A mother whom I know personally pours out her heart about what she encountered when trying to find help and support for her lesbian daughter. Joseph is one of the only people who would hear of her heartbreak and would tell her story.

There is never a time when the "gay pride rainbow" is appropriate on the altar of God.
(St. Matthew's Catholic Church in Long Beach, CA)

In the Archdiocese of New York, one parish's official LGBT outreach recently celebrated the Supreme Court's gay "marriage" ruling; this Facebook page of St. Francis of Assisi LGBT outreach is full of "love is love" and rainbows, including "Pre-Pride (event) Mass" and a link to a hospital that does transgender surgery.

St. Francis of Assisi parish, New York City

Parishes in Boston, New York, Hartford, Atlanta, Sacramento, Chicago and elsewhere confuse the faithful and contradict the teaching of the Church on homosexuality and the seriousness of sexual sin, which has eternal consequences. Christ came and suffered and died to save us from grave sin; how can Catholics downplay or celebrate sin? How can those who celebrate gay "marriage" be in leadership positions in our dioceses, especially in ministry to those with same-sex attraction? It is unconscionable.

Joseph is also one of the few people (and the only one I've heard lately) who is being honest about the health risks and high rates of sexually transmitted diseases inherent in gay sex acts right now in 2016. He is one of the few people who explains the real reason that gay men leave the Catholic Church (and it's not because the Church is harsh and mean).

I have so much more to say about Joseph Sciambra and his ministry, but I hope that I have given you a glimpse into the heart and mission of this wonderful man. Please, stand with him. Please, support him. Men with his strength and courage are few and far between, and while it's a lonely place to be, let's make it a little less lonely.

Friend him on Facebook. Buy his book. Read his blog. Pray for him.

God bless you, Joseph!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Notice: I'm giving up matchmaking!

Yep, it's true! I'm quitting my little hobby of many years. My yenta days (outside of family) are over.

Golde and Yenta, Fiddler on the Roof, United Artists

I'm a tiny bit sad about that, since I still get messages almost weekly asking for help in finding a good Catholic spouse, either for the inquirer or a loved one. I started a Catholic matchmaking yahoo email group (for like-minded Catholic moms) over a decade ago, and then a few years ago I started a private matchmaking blog that continued until recently. I even tried to get a couple of Catholic matchmaking Facebook groups off the ground.

But there is just not enough fruit to keep it up anymore, and very few people actually follow my advice anyway, which has been the deciding factor for me. There is so little time in life, and we all have to decide where to direct our energy most productively.

So, I'm going to throw out some (usually-rejected) advice here, and folks can decide whether or not that advice is worth implementing.

First, in my experience, the vast majority of people actively looking for a Catholic spouse are women in their late twenties to late thirties, well-educated, and situated in good careers. Very few men come on my radar screen, and very few solid Catholic men (meaning, faithful to Church teaching and with jobs and appropriate social skills) are still single past their mid-twenties. Most of those men are marrying young (a good thing!), but that leaves a problem for the ladies: There is a vast pool of lovely, accomplished, faithful Catholic women seeking, and not a very big pool of good men to complement that search.

And yes, that is depressing!

What I always say first to these incredible women: "Have you tried Catholic Match or Ave Maria Singles?" Often the answer is no, as they "don't want to do the online dating thing". Immediately I lament, because one must go where the Catholic men are to find Catholic men, and if they aren't finding them in their parishes (and they obviously are not), there is little chance that they will find a faithful Catholic man at the grocery store or in the corporate world.

God is not going to drop a husband into your lap from the heavens, ladies. You worked very hard getting that college degree (and then that master's degree), so you need to work just as diligently at your own vocation, which is much more important than your job or career in the long run.

Sometimes the women will tell me that they are already on Catholic Match or Ave Maria Singles, but that they have had no luck or have gone inactive. Some thoughts:

1) Yes, there are a lot of men on those sites who are not going to be good husband material, and some are downright awful (one of my first blog posts ever was about the pitfalls of Catholic Match), but it only takes one good guy out of thousands. You are looking for one, that is all. Keep going.

2) You may be way too picky. Life is not a Nicholas Sparks novel, and you are not likely to find an Eduardo Verástegui. If a man is decent, faithful, has good hygiene, and has the means to provide for his family, he is a catch, ladies! If you find that he is "not your type" after the first view of his profile, maybe give him a chance anyway. (I will be writing my next book about Catholic dating and marriage, and I will include the stories of how two of my own children married spouses who were "not their type" at first glance; praise God they persevered!)

3) If you insist on principle that the man must be the initiator while you passively wait for him to make the first contact, well, you may be waiting alone all of your life. I'm just being honest. If you want to find a husband, initiate the first conversation! I am so glad my daughter-in-law did that with my son. And I am glad I was the one who actively pursued my own dear husband so many years ago. :)

4) If you limit yourself to men in your geographical area, eschewing long-distance relationships, then you will indeed be limiting yourself. All three of my married children, and even Dean and I, had long-distance relationships while dating. Not one of us lived in the same state, much less the same city, when we met and dated the other.

Bottom line, marriage is not something magical like fairy dust or wishing on a star that just happens to you like a dream. Like holiness in general, it requires hard work, both before and after the vows.

I have a lot more to say on the matter, as you can imagine, and I will! But one last thought for this short blog post: Pray while you work. The 54-day Novena for finding a spouse is an amazing grace-filled prayer that can make your work of finding a spouse fruitful! Be open, be courageous, be prayerful!

Anyway, it's been fun playing yenta for so long, and I have loved getting to know so many wonderful folks through the process! Go out and promote marriage and family, my friends, as it's the only way to reverse the corrosive effects of the culture. The Church, as always, has the answer! We just need to stop standing in her way.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Hillary's campaign manager works for "revolution" to undermine Catholic teaching

We've already considered this, this, this, and all of this, which should be enough to make practicing Catholics fly away from Hillary and the Democrats or, better yet, fight their ascent with all we can muster.

But today we see a leaked email from John Podesta, the chairman of Hillary's current campaign for president, discussing how he set up groups to stir up "revolution" against Catholicism:

You should not be shocked, as this has been going on for a very long time. Really think about that last paragraph.

His bio from Wikipedia: "Podesta previously served as Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton and Counselor to President Barack Obama. He is the former president and now Chair and Counselor of the Center for American Progress (CAP), a liberal think tank in Washington, D.C., and is also a Visiting Professor of Law at the Georgetown University Law Center." <---------- Catholic institution, as you know. 


I'm sure there is and will be a lot more to come (the Democrats have been doing this for a long time), but here's another email leaked yesterday, from a Democratic operative to John Podesta, regarding Catholics:

We should take that second-to-last paragraph as a badge of honor, by the way. (And I believe "SC" means "Supreme Court.")

For those Catholics who still feel inclined to vote for Hillary, you might want to rethink your support for a candidate, a campaign, and an entire political party that directly, gleefully targets your own Mother

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Read it and weep

The article below is something that must be read. The first half is for the Democrats and the "progressive," secular left. The next part is for the establishment Republican right. The conclusion states, quite rightly, "You reap what you sow."

This is how we got here. Every Democrat who believes in "fluid" morality, and who defended Bill Clinton's right to his "private sexual life," and every Republican who said social/religious/moral issues should be off the table for the GOP -- you are responsible for this. Own it. The rest of us are doing our best with what you've handed us. 

Will I still be voting for the Republican candidate (who as of today still appears to be Trump)? Yes I will, because my aim, as always, is to at least slow down the enshrinement of sexual sin and degradation into law -- an enshrinement which is integral to the Democrats' philosophy and vision.

I don't like the headline (because some of us Americans have been condemning both Democrats AND establishment Republicans), but trust me, it's worth it to read and see how exactly how we got here. We have no one to blame but ourselves for these two candidates:

Note: If anyone claims I am endorsing, condoning, or excusing Donald Trump's vile words and behavior over the years, then you don't know me. So shush. And if you are pearl clutching because you simply never knew before yesterday that Trump was a lech and a cad, then you also need to shush, because you are lying. We all knew it, including you. 

Now, get to mass and pray. Get on your knees and pray. 

We have a lot to atone for as a nation. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Why Trump will get my vote

Well here it is. The post that many people have asked me for. I'm sure I'll take a beating from some, but the stakes are too high for me to care much about that.

The necessary caveats to begin this post:

-- Trump is not a stellar man. He is not a man of virtue. He is a blowhard and a jerk. I am not defending Trump as some sort of saint or model of goodness.

-- I voted for Marco Rubio in the primaries. I would have been fine with most of the other candidates as well, and would have voted for them over Trump. The primaries are where we must fight hard for the purest, best candidates. But now the primaries are over, and we are discussing the general election, where it is a truth that either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will be our next president (believe me, I understand the consternation).

-- I personally do not ever vote for non-viable third party candidates in the general election. I work with what we have on hand. If I wanted to vote for someone who cannot win, I would vote for my husband. Or my mom. Or my friend Danya. I would vote for myself, even, since I agree with everything I believe in, ha ha. As it stands, I want to do more than simply make a statement, so I look at the viable candidates in any election and vote for one of them -- the one who will do the least damage to my Church and my family and my country -- because we are going to get stuck with one of them, for sure.

-- You, dear reader, are not obligated to vote for Trump. <--------- Did you see that? Because if I get comments saying, "But, Leila, Catholics are not obligated to vote for Trump!" I am going to refer you back to this bullet point. Please respect the fact that I have made this very clear, with a little red highlight and all. There is no mandate that you vote for Donald Trump. Do whatever your well-formed conscience tells you with regard to voting.

-- Having agreed that you are not morally bound to vote for Trump, I don't see any possible moral way that a Catholic can give one's vote to Hillary Clinton. None. Maybe some of you can see a way. I cannot. However, going along with my third bullet point, I will say that if it were Hillary running against someone like Hitler, I would vote for Hillary in that case. But we don't have a situation like that. (And if you believe Trump is a Hitler-figure, then we have nothing more to talk about.)

Now that I am done with the caveats, here is why Donald Trump will get my vote:

For me it's very simple. I vote policy. This is politics. Hillary's policy positions are diametrically opposed to all I hold dear and believe. Trump's are much more in line with my own. Read his policy position statements, read the Republican Party Platform and compare it to the Democrat Party Platform, listen to Mike Pence, his vice presidential pick.

Whether or not Trump is personally pro-life, he is at least not anywhere near the slobbering, slavish love of abortion that characterizes Hillary and her party. Not even close. And while politicians greatly tend to flip-flop and gravitate toward whatever position is politically expedient, I'd rather vote for the guy who is flip-flopping and gravitating in the right direction!

Trump is not determined to take away religious freedom and conscience rights of Catholics. Note well the brand new parts of the Democratic Platform, and see the rapid progression of Hillary's party in actively working to erode religious liberties and conscience rights. All her people will stand firmly for this inverted, perverted view of "religious freedom" that means Catholic teaching is bigoted discrimination that will not be tolerated. Trump's people do not and will not uniformly and aggressively stand for those things.

A huge question for me is, "How can I preserve my religious liberties just a little bit longer?" <------Please re-read that question. This is vitally important to me, and it should be to every Catholic. Even Pope Benedict warned the US bishops of the "grave threats" to religious liberty in America*, and the same US bishops went so far as to establish an annual Fortnight For Freedom to address the ongoing and growing crisis. This threat to Catholics began and continues under Democratic rule. When it comes to retaining our liberties, Christians have more of a shot with Trump than with Hillary. Never in my lifetime could I have imagined a sitting president going to court against the Little Sisters of the Poor, for example. These are the Democrats, the "progressives," Obama and Hillary's people who did this, not Trump's party.

Of course there is the issue of the judges the next president will appoint -- including, we tend to forget, all federal judges, hundreds of them, not just those on the Supreme Court. These judges will be ruling our lives, promoting abortion and LGBTQ "rights," and limiting our religious liberties for decades to come, long after Hillary is out.

I often think of the Cabinet, which includes the the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs, and the Attorney General. Think about the power of these Cabinet heads! And every last one of them will be of Hillary's mind -- pro-abortion, pro-gay "rights," and against conscience rights of Catholics. Trump's Cabinet heads would not be 100% left-wing "progressives," not even close. The Vice President is a member of the Cabinet, and under Trump, that would be pro-life, pro-marriage, pro-family, pro-faith Mike Pence. To think that the rest would be secular "progressives" is just irrational.

And goodness, the military! Under Obama it is being slowly wrecked, being turned into an LGBTQ social experiment now, and getting so much worse with every new "progressive" directive, which are coming faster these days.

Trump wants smaller central government (unlike Hillary), which means less government interference in the lives of regular Americans. In other words, Trump and his people are more in line with the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, which is a subject Catholics don't tend to know about, but should.

Also, unlike fiscally irresponsible Democrats who promise "free" stuff to everyone and higher taxes, I personally believe in lowering taxes across the board, which Trump has promised. A tax cut will specifically help Middle America, which has been so damaged by, among other things, the Obamacare nightmare.

So for me, this vote is a no-brainer. I'm not the least bit troubled about my vote for Trump considering that the alternative is Hillary, the Democrats, and all her people. Personally, my conscience would haunt me if I did not do everything to defeat Hillary. The secular "progressives" are systematic and they are determined. If we let them in to rule us for four or eight more years, they will become even more emboldened, and nothing will stop them.

Some people, even people of goodwill, think that Trump is just as bad as Hillary. I cannot fathom it, how anyone could think that a Trump administration and the people he would put in place could promulgate even half as much evil as Hillary and her people would. The damage to this country and to Catholics would be unprecedented. So for me personally, it is my moral obligation of conscience to vote for her opponent, so as to mitigate the evil she and her appointees and staff will accomplish.

There is much talk about Trump being an ass, a jerk, a horrible man. He is a blustering blowhard, as I've mentioned many times. So were many of our presidents. So are many of our relatives (if you are Mediterranean like me!), and that doesn't reflexively mean they are politically wrong or evil. Some of the blowhards in my life are near and dear to me, and they would never "blow up the world" because of that temperament. I'd vote for a blusterer long before I would vote for a (publicly) calm but sinister person.

I have actually never seen a Catholic voter guide discussing whether or not a candidate is a jerk. Instead, Catholic voter guides talk about policy. The most important policies concern intrinsic evils like abortion, euthanasia, the rights of parents to be the primary educators of their children, conscience rights, and protecting natural marriage, i.e., all the things that Democrats are on the wrong side of. Apart from the intrinsic evils (the "non-negotiables"), the rest of the policy issues (immigration, education, welfare programs, healthcare, etc.) are issues of prudential judgment, meaning, Catholics are free to disagree with how best they should be handled. See the video below for more information on that.

Honestly, if using a slur or a bad word is enough to disqualify a presidential candidate, then Catholics pretty much can't vote for anyone, ever. I believe a lot of this anti-Trump over-the-top rhetoric is a way to keep Catholics out of the public square. After all, this is politics, where corruption and sleaze is the norm. If we may only vote for near-saints, then we lose our place at the table, our way to shape policy that affects us. It's the attitude that kept a decent man like Romney out of the presidency -- good Catholics wouldn't vote for him! -- and kept Obama and his terrible, anti-Catholic policies in. This is politics and not theology, friends, and we are not canonizing a saint here.

Some assume that I have angst having to vote for a deeply flawed candidate. Nope, none at all. The different between Trump and Hillary is just that stark. For those who do have angst in casting a vote for Trump, I remember well the words of a holy Opus Dei priest who told me years ago that once you make a decision (that is within the moral law), stop worrying about it. So in this case, I would advise people to make the decision, vote and move on.

One last thought: If I can't convince you to vote for Trump in order to mitigate the evil that Hillary and the Democrats will surely bring to us, perhaps Fr. John Lankeit from the Diocese of Phoenix can at the very least show you why you may never, ever vote for Hillary Clinton and put the Democratic Party in charge. It's a spiritual warning that we would all do well to heed, including those Catholics who are actually encouraging votes for Hillary as a better alternative to Trump:

That needs to go viral, don't you think?

Okay, I'm happy to discuss in the comments, as usual. Please just have patience and mercy, as my son and his wife are visiting from out of town, and I am soaking up every minute I can with them. 

Above all, please pray for our nation, because we are in dire straits. As Catholics, we'll take whatever suffering comes, of course, but let us not enable and assist those who actively oppose us. We are an Easter people, not a suicide people, after all! 


*The words of Pope Benedict to the American bishops, four years ago this month:

It is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life. Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion. Many of you have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. Others have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience. [Again, this was all about Obama and the Democrats. No one else is doing this. Hillary is quite set to double-down on the "progress."]

** Update: Trump addresses Catholic concerns, here.