Monday, January 31, 2011

Deliver Us From Evil

I still have a hard time grasping why bad things happen to good people.  It seems every week now--sometimes multiple times per week--I receive a prayer request from our parish men's group and other sources requesting prayers for various intentions, many of them illnesses.  Only a few weeks ago a young boy, 13, the son of one of the men's friends, contracted a rare blood infection and was gone in a matter of days.   Only a few days latter, we were asked for prayers for a family whose wife and mother, 38, had recently passed away after a brief battle with cancer, leaving a husband and young children behind.  In my mind and in my heart of hearts, I know that the suffering and death that we encounter in this life is only the natural (or supernatural) consequence of our original sin.

Even worse are the encounters with rampant, destructive, predatory evil the likes of which we have seen so graphically in the terrorist attacks, mass shootings, and other acts of violence that seem almost commonplace and expected on the daily news.  Add on top of it a general sentiment of skepticism at best--and outright hatred at worse--of Catholics who strive day in and day out to live to live the Truth of the Gospel and to carry it to all they meet, and very quickly a thought and an image begin to emerge.  The thought is that, "something is wrong.  It shouldn't be this way," and the image of a city under siege from all sides, yet continuing to rise from the ashes and carry the light of the Gospel to those with eyes to see and ears to hear.

Most of all, I cannot conceive how so many are able to convince themselves that the taking of innocent human life, before birth and in the intended safety of their mother's womb, is anything but the most evil and barbaric act of our time.

As I listened again to Peter Kreeft's talk (now a book), "How to Win the Culture War," and in picking up Pope Benedict XVI's Jesus of Nazareth for the fourth time (that's four times trying to finish, not four times through), I was reminded this week of a stark reality that is so easy to forget:  We are behind enemy lines, operating like guerillas in enemy territory.  This world is possessed, quite literally, by the prince of lies and darkness and his forces, whose primary aim is to rob us of our relationship with Christ and his unbounded, redeeming love and, in doing so, to destroy our souls.

The topic of the reality and ugliness of evil and sin is not something that is popular or "nice" to talk about in our society, where sinful, destructive--in short, evil--behavior is blamed on any number of external and psychological factors.  In Jesus of Nazareth, in reflecting on the mission of the Twelve "to preach and have authority to cast out demons" (Mk 3:14f; Mt 10:1), the Holy Father speaks to the necessity of the second part of their mission that we so often today "find surprising, or even disturbing."  Quoting Heinrich Schlier, he reminds us who our true enemies are:

"The enemies are not this or that person, not even myself.  They are not flesh and blood...The conflict goes deeper.  It is a fight against a host of opponents that never stop coming; they cannot really be pinned down and have no proper name, only collective denominations.  They also start out with superior advantage over man, and that is because of their superior position, their position 'in the heavens' of existence...These enemies are, finally, all full of essential, deadly malice" (Brief an die Epheser, p. 291). 
Who could fail to see here a description of our world as well, in which the Christian is threatened by an anonymous atmosphere, by something "in the air" that wants to make the faith seem ludicrous and absurd to him?  And who could fail to see the poisoning of the spiritual climate all over the world that threatens the dignity of man, indeed his very existence?

As Christians, we are called to step each day onto a deadly battlefield, with the "whole armor of God" to stand "against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph 6:10-12).  Armed with faith, and the assurance of victory that is given to us in the Resurrection and the Eucharist, let us march bravely into this fight, to rescue the countless souls who may be waiting for us to be their first taste of his love, and of his victory that has already been won.

Holy Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle...

St. Joseph and Holy Mary, terror of demons, PRAY FOR US.

Our Father...deliver us from evil.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Moment In Time

Ron DiCanni's depiction of the Resurrection as the central event of salvation history, indeed of all of human history--surrounded by the "cloud of witnesses" from the Old and New Testaments--is incredible. His Resurrection mural will be displayed in the Museum of Biblical Art in Dallas.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Faith and Firearms, Part 2: Legitimate Authority

Part 1 of this series ended with section 2265 of the Catechism:

2265  Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others.  The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm.  For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.

So, anyone who holds legitimate authority has "not only a right, but a grave duty" to protect the lives of those they are responsible for.  So, what does "those who legitimately hold authority" mean?  Does that mean ourselves?  Local law enforcement (police)?  The government?  Well, according to the natural law, yes, yes, and yes.

Authority and responsibility go hand-in-hand.  The most basic unit of the "civil community" is the family and, until recently, it has been broadly accepted across demographics, cultures, and faith traditions that the husband and father, as the head of the household (in case anyone has any questions about what this means from the Christian perspective, see Ephesians 5:25), holds the responsibility to serve, provide for and protect the family.  This is certainly not to say that the wife/mother and children are not capable of defending the family, but the primary responsibility--the responsibility to lay down his life--falls squarely on the shoulders of the father.  If we accept that the father holds the ultimate responsibility within the family--that God has entrusted them to his care--then he (and certainly the wife and mother, if he is not present) has a right and a "grave duty" to repel aggressors against it, using arms if necessary.

A common retort is, "Those rules don't apply anymore.  We have enough police now that are only a 911 call away."

Well, true, the police will usually come if you call 911, but (depending on the city) the average time for responding to a priority 1 call (a life-threatening situation) is 7-10 minutes.  According to the Justice Department's 2005 Report of Criminal Victimization in the United States, in 71.1% of violent crimes, it took law enforcement more than 5 minutes to respond. Smaller, local departments may be able to respond more quickly, but even as we saw in the case of the 2009 Fort Hood shooting, where Sgt Kimberly Munley arrived on scene within a matter of minutes to heroically stop Nadal Hassan, his damage--13 dead and 38 others wounded--had already been done.  As the saying goes, "the police are only minutes away when seconds count."  This is certainly not meant to be a ding on police officers who put their lives on the line day in and day out, only an acknowledgement of the reality that they cannot be everywhere and at all times.  As a note, according to 2007 U.S. Justice Department Statistics, there are 463,000 sworn officers in the various jurisdictions within the U.S. Assuming three 8-hour shifts per day, that leaves 154,000 officers on duty for a national population of 300 million.  In other words, there is approximately one officer on duty for every 2,000 citizens.  It may feel like they're going to be there right away, until you're the one that needs them there right away.

There is more to it than just the time aspect.  The Supreme Court has ruled consistently (over ten separate times, in fact, including 1981's Warren vs. District of Columbia, 1989's DeShaney v. Winnebago County, and most recently in 2005 Castle Rock v. Gonzalezthat, despite the common motto, "to protect and serve," police do not have a sworn obligation to protect individuals.  If they did, citizens would have legal--and possibly criminal--recourse against police for not saving the lives that depended on their action.  Their primary and only constitutional responsibility is to enforce the law and, by doing so, to maintain the order of society at large.  More often than not, that means prioritizing their limited resources and apprehending those suspected of violent crime after the fact so that the can be brought to trial.  Individual incidents of violent crime--particularly crime against law-abiding citizens--generally cannot be dealt with beforehand by police because before the crime has taken crime has taken place.

So, the police cannot respond instantaneously to protect us, and cannot respond to a crime until its commission has begun to unfold.  In that gap until they can, and in as much as we can anticipate potential crimes through awareness of our surroundings and circumstances, the legitimate authority for defense defaults to the individuals who are present.  In a situation where the threat is against the family, that responsibility falls primarily on the father.

Again, as I stressed in Part 1, the decision to keep and bear arms in the form of firearms--as is our Constitutionally-protected right--is a very personal one.  But should the worst happen, I for one want to be prepared to respond to any predator who threatens the life of physical well-being of my family with whatever amount of force is necessary to stop them.  If I can help it, and cannot convince them that harming my family is not in their best interest, I would prefer to keep that fight beyond arms' reach, and firearms are the logical tools that allow me to do that.

Look for next week's return from the practical to the philosophical, as I'll explore in more depth the doctrine of double effect.


Friday, January 21, 2011

A Day of Prayer and Penance

Please see the request below from Father Pavone and the Priests for Life, to join in a day of prayer and penance for the events taking place this weekend in San Francisco (Saturday) and Washington D.C. (Monday).  Please join in prayer, and consider offering a fast, for an end to the scourge of our time.


Pray to End Abortion
January 20, 2011

The Catholic bishops of the United States have designated January 22 as a special day of prayer and penance in reparation for the massive killing that has resulted from the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision (handed down January 22, 1973) which permitted abortion throughout pregnancy.

Prayer is the foundation of all we do in the pro-life movement, and Priests for Life invites you to join tens of thousands of others who are offering, each day, a prayer of commitment to build a culture of life. We urge you to pray, throughout the year, the daily prayer to end abortion.  You can find the prayer at and at the end of this email.

We ask not only individuals to commit to saying this prayer but entire congregations in churches of all denominations.  The pro-life movement is ecumenical and consists of men and women of every religious persuasion.  We also encourage families and schools to say this prayer together.

In addition, please join our Pray to End Abortion cause on Facebook  There are already over 72, 000 people signed on to this cause.  Let’s get that number into the millions!

Please spread the word about the daily prayer to end abortion to your email lists, from your websites, from your social networking accounts and in any way possible.

This weekend and early next week will hold many pro-life events from Coast to Coast. for more information. I hope to see you in the next few days!

God bless you,


Fr. Frank Pavone
National Director, Priests for Life
Prayer to End Abortion
Lord God, I thank you today for the gift of my life,
And for the lives of all my brothers and sisters.
I know there is nothing that destroys more life than abortion,
Yet I rejoice that you have conquered death
by the Resurrection of Your Son.
I am ready to do my part in ending abortion.
Today I commit myself
Never to be silent,
Never to be passive,
Never to be forgetful of the unborn.
I commit myself to be active in the pro-life movement,
And never to stop defending life
Until all my brothers and sisters are protected,
And our nation once again becomes
A nation with liberty and justice
Not just for some, but for all,
Through Christ our Lord. Amen!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Honoring Dr. King

Today we as a nation take a day off to honor one of the greatest figures of the 20th Century.  As I reflected on in the post below from this time last year, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s vision of "liberty and justice for all" was so very fruitful in the time and circumstances of our nation's civil rights struggle because of his courage and commitment in the face of evil and hatred.  But his commitment extended even further beyond that; he recognized and preached the timeless message of Christian truth, charity, and justice that remains true "from everlasting to everlasting." 

Today we find ourselves in the midst of an ardent fight whose consequences transcend even the fight for justice and equal treatment of the civil rights movement.  In the 38 years since Roe vs. Wade was passed, over 50 million babies, unable to speak for themselves, have been denied the most basic right of all: the right to live.  As Dr. Alveda King has chronicled on her blog, the fight to end abortion is THE civil rights issue of our time.  Until it is won, we cannot hope to resolve the fight for any other right.  Let us pray to our Lord that he may grant us the grace to fight with the courage and strength that Dr. King lived, until the fight is won.

I thought it would be appropriate to start this blog with a few thoughts on the great American whose birthday and memory we celebrated this past week. Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have been 82 years old this year. Every third Monday in January we take a day off to honor his memory and the momentous advances that he spearheaded as the leader of the Civil Rights movement. Yet somehow, even as we celebrate his life and accomplishments, I cannot help but think that in the years and decades since his untimely death, we may have lost some perspective of the enormity of his dream and the courageous purpose for which he lived.

In his 1963 Letter from a Birmingham Jail, King addressed his fellow clergymen in hopes that he could stir them out of their “sit-and-wait” approach to dealing with the injustice of segregation. As he said in the opening paragraphs of his letter, “this ‘wait’ has almost always meant ‘never’,” and “justice too long delayed is justice denied.” It later becomes evident in his monumental letter—as in his speeches and other works—that his concept of justice expanded far beyond the civil rights movement (although he saw it as his particular battle in the greater war for true justice and peace). He realized that there was a larger fight, a fight that continues with earnest into our day and time, and that each of us, if we are to truly keep his memory alive, has a responsibility to pick and carry on. It is a fight to keep the natural law, justice, and a God-centered understanding of humanity in its rightful place.

Dr. King frequently referenced theologians and philosophers like St. Thomas Aquinas in reflecting on the nature of the relationship between God’s law and human law: “A just law is a human law that is rooted in eternal law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality.” (Note: by personality here, Dr. King referred to what we today would understand as personhood or humanity) He went on to quote the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, that segregation “substitutes an ‘I it’ relationship for an ‘I thou’ relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things.” With the segregation chapter of American history behind us, how much more today do we see the same reduction of our fellow human beings to the status of things, from the holocaust of abortion to the simple manner and respect with which we treat those around us?

Dr King went on to make a comment that exposed the depth of his commitment to justice everywhere, and that should strike us to our very core today:

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’ and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did was ‘illegal.’ It was ‘illegal’ to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at that time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to my Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s antireligious laws.

As we see so many efforts in our culture today to marginalize—and even criminalize—the practice and profession of the traditions of our Judeo-Christian faith tradition and the system of just laws that were founded upon it, we cannot afford to lose the perspective of Dr. King. If we allow his memory and what he stood for to be hijacked or watered down by carelessly lobbing empty and dehumanizing accusations, or if we merely pay selfish lip service to the courageous commitment to justice that he was murdered for, then we ultimately fail both in honoring him and in carrying out the same task that is now entrusted to us.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Faith and Firearms, Part 1

It's the new year, I'm back into the blog world after deciding to take a break from grad school, and I'm going to start 2011's posting off with a bang...literally.   This is the first in a series of posts (however many it takes) to discuss two things that, until a couple of years ago, I never saw as being related: faith and firearms.  I've focused until now on the spiritual battle that we are called to engage in, but the reality is that we are not only spiritual beings.  God has put us, body and soul, to live and work in a physical world.  As we saw with the tragic shootings in Arizona last week, and that we hear about all too frequently these days, evil is very real and very much at work within that world.  It manifests itself in the hearts and the physical actions of men, often with devastating effects.  Where it is within our ability and responsibility, we have a duty to prevent those acts, and where we cannot prevent them, to repel them with force.

Since my wife and I began dating over five years ago (man, how time flies), and in particular during our engagement, I had to think long and hard about one of the grave responsibilities that would soon fall upon my shoulders as the head of the household: the physical protection of my family.  That has been brought into even sharper focus now being a father, and was finally stirred to the point where I knew I needed to put something down in writing when I listened to an episode of one of my favorite independent living podcasts, Off the Grid News, entitled, Does God's law require us to own a gun?

In response to the title's immediate question, are we morally obligated to own a firearm?,  I would argue that no, there is no direct moral imperative to own or train to use any type of weapon. It is a personal choice.  But before we can discuss that specific choice, another, deeper question has to be considered: How far does my duty as a husband and father to protect my family extend?  If it came to a point or situation where there was no other option to protect their lives (or my own) from the malicious intentions of a ne'er-do-well, would I be able to do what was necessary to stop them, even if stopping them requires lethal force?  Where is the line between relying exclusively on God's providence for protection, and recognizing that He has put resources at my disposal to carry out this particular responsibility, as far as it is within my capacity to do so?  I don't relish even having to think about the potential of malicious harm coming to my family, but the reality is that it happens every day, hundreds if not thousands of times per day, to people who never thought that it would happen to them.  Although statistically unlikely, it is very real, and has very real and grave consequences.

So, we are led into the deeper philosophical discussion of legitimate defense.  The Catechism addresses directly in Part Three, Article 5: The Fifth Commandment (2264-2265):

2264  Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality.  Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one's own right to life.  Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow: 
If a man in self defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful...Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one's own life than another's. (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II, 64,7)

 2265  Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others.  The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm.  For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.

I quickly came to the conclusion that: (1) I am responsible for the lives of my family, both physical and spiritual, as far they are within the authority and ability that God has given me to serve them and protect them; and (2) I therefore have a grave duty to be working constantly toward ensuring the defense of both.

As the last sentence of 2265 alludes to, there are divisions of legitimate authority, beginning with the family and extending into the community and society at large, and so there are divisions (or layers) of responsibility for providing legitimate defense.  More on that in the next post, Faith and Firearms Part 2: Legitimate Authority.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Novena for Reparation for Roe vs. Wade

Before my blogging gets back into full swing, a quick but important plug for Priests for Life.

Please join Father Pavone and the the Priests for Life for a Novena for reparation from January 14-22, as we lead up to the 38th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade.  If ever there were a reason that so many (accurately) perceive that our society is in such a sad state of moral decline, it might begin with the fact that we have literally turned a blind eye to the slaughter of 50+ million of our own children in what should be the safest environment for a new child to live and grow, and before they had a chance to take their first breath.  In a country of just over 300 million that would be closer to 350 million if those children had had a chance to live and to grow, that is approximately 1/7 of our potential population.  The socio-economic impact of their absence is devastating by itself, but is far exceeded by the fact that the lie of "safe and legal abortion" has turned 50+ million parents into murderers.  May God have mercy on their souls and on the souls of those who are active or complicit, and for those of us who have failed to raise our voices loud and clear in justifiable anger.

Please visit the web site and join in the prayer for the nine days leading up to the anniversary, and the March for Life on January 24, 2011:

Prayer for Reparation
God and Father of Life,
You have created every human person,
And have opened the way for each to have eternal life. 

We live in the shadow of death.
Tens of millions of your children have been killed
because of the Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion. 

Father, have mercy on us.
Heal our land
And accept our offering of prayer and penance.
In your love for us,
Turn back the scourge of abortion.

May each of us exult in hearts full of hope
And hands full of mercy
And work together to build a culture of life. 

We pray through Christ our Lord. Amen.