Category Archives: Morality

Rhode Island Bishop: Legal Pot Leads to “Land of Oblivion”

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While Buddhists may aspire to oblivion/Nirvana, Catholics do/should not. There is a difference. Interestingly, Rhode Island was founded as a colony for religious freedom.

-by Matt O’Brien, AP, R.I. — May 10, 2016, 6:38 PM ET

“Rhode Island’s Roman Catholic bishop said he wants to smell holy incense, not cannabis, in Providence’s cathedral and warned state lawmakers against transporting young people to “the land of oblivion” by legalizing marijuana.

Bishop Thomas Tobin shared his opinions in an essay titled “Nope to Dope.” The essay was published on a diocesan website Tuesday, just hours before a hearing on a bill to legalize pot.

Tobin said he’s heard about “zombie-like” people who are “completely stoned” filling public places in Colorado, where marijuana is legal. He said young people already addicted to electronic devices and “attached to their virtual umbilical cords” would become more detached from society if the drug were legal. He said he was disturbed by a recent report of a woman smoking pot in the back of a cathedral during a morning service.

Tobin said his viewpoints are purely theoretical and objective because he’s never smoked pot despite coming of age in the “moral wilderness” of the 1960s.

“In opening the door to drug use even a little bit, we have so much to lose and absolutely nothing to gain,” he wrote.

Polls have found Rhode Island to be the nation’s most Catholic state, leading some marijuana legalization advocates to worry about Tobin’s entrance into the debate.

“I don’t think it’s a deal breaker,” said Jared Moffat, director of legalization advocacy group Regulate Rhode Island. “We’ve seen the legislature go against Bishop Tobin’s social views and his social conservatism before on issues like marriage equality. It’s certainly not an insurmountable obstacle.”

One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio, said Tuesday “there’s more questions than answers at this point” about the marijuana legislation but not because of Tobin’s essay.

The Senate Judiciary Committee began hearing testimony on the bill Tuesday evening. Ruggerio said it’s unlikely for the bill to pass before the Rhode Island General Assembly adjourns sometime next month. Other New England states also are considering bills to legalize marijuana, and Massachusetts and Maine could put ballot questions before voters in November.

“The bishop makes some very valid points,” Ruggerio said. “We have to vet it very carefully, study the issue, and study how it’s happened in other states.”

Nope to Dope

-by His Excellency, Most Rev. Thomas J. Tobin, Bishop of Providence

“The legal status of marijuana: approve for medical use, decriminalize or completely legalize? That’s the question being debated across the country right now, including here in Rhode Island.

Presently in Rhode Island the use of marijuana for medical purposes is permitted. A bill before the General Assembly would legalize the possession, use and sale of recreational marijuana for those 21 and older. Smoking marijuana in public would still be prohibited.

The issue is important; it has medical, economic, sociological, and moral consequences. And apparently it’s a very touchy subject for lawmakers too. According to a recent article in the Providence Journal, only 20 of the 113 lawmakers surveyed would even indicate their position on this “political hot potato.”

The Catholic Church has a position about the morality of recreational drug use, but before we look at that, let me mention a couple of preliminary points.

First, I should emphasize that my observations here are from a purely theoretical, objective viewpoint. Although I came of age in the moral wilderness of the 1960s, when just about everything was on the table, I’ve never smoked marijuana – or anything else for that matter. For me, “Puff the Magic Dragon” was a song about childhood, nothing more!

Second, a case can be made that the moderate use of marijuana by a responsible adult in a controlled setting is not always immoral. It’s very similar to the moderate use of alcohol some theologians will argue. Their approach is that the use of pot is not intrinsically evil; its morality is based on whether or not it’s abused, and whether or not it leads to other harmful consequences.

The nuances of moral theology aside, the teaching of the Church on the recreational use of drugs is pretty clear.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “The use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life. Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense.” (#2291) Note, there is no exception for marijuana mentioned here.

Pope Francis has addressed the issue: “Let me state in the clearest terms possible. Drug addiction is an evil, and with evil there can be no yielding or compromise. Attempts, however limited, to legalize so-called ‘recreational drugs,’ are not only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint, but they fail to produce the desired effects. Here I would reaffirm what I have stated on other occasions: No to every type of drug use.”

Beyond the moral dimensions of the issue, there are a number of practical and societal concerns to be considered.

The first is the numbing effect that widespread marijuana use can have on a community. I recently had a conversation with a prominent businessman who just returned from Colorado where the use of marijuana is legal and widespread. He said that the local scene is disturbing. Some public places he visited were filled with zombie-like individuals, completely stoned. Adding to the problem is the fact that marijuana is available in a variety of seemingly benign forms: candy, cookies, brownies, and mints, for example. From his experience the legalization of marijuana has had noticeable destructive consequences, at least in one place.

With so many of our citizens, especially the younger ones, already immune to reality with their addiction to electronics – hoodies on, heads down, ear buds in, and attached to their virtual umbilical cords – do we want to provide another means of escape for our kids, transporting them even further into the land of oblivion?

We just had an incident in Providence that exemplifies the concern: an individual was found smoking pot . . . in the back of our Cathedral . . . during the 10:00 Mass. She was quickly removed and the local police called. Really, if I’m going to smell anything in our Cathedral I want it to be holy incense, not cannabis.

Sometime ago I was in a meeting with a leading law-enforcement official who described the increasing incidence of marijuana use among young adults, a problem his officers found especially in arrests for impaired and dangerous driving. Marijuana was becoming an equal concern to alcohol abuse he said, though both are far too common and of grave concern.

Additionally, the health problems related to marijuana have been extensively studied and publicized. They include damage to the brain, heart and lungs, an increase of testicular cancer in young males, concerns during pregnancy, and a variety of psychiatric disorders as well.

We’re all aware of and concerned about drug abuse in the local community, especially the tragedies resulting from the opioid epidemic. A report from a special Task Force documented the serious problems: “Addiction and overdose are claiming lives, destroying families, and undermining the quality of life across Rhode Island. In 2014, 239 people in our state lost their lives to overdose, more than the number of homicides, motor vehicle accidents, and suicides combined . . . In 2013 Rhode Island had the highest rate of illicit drug use in the nation.”

The shocking numbers illustrate the extent of the problem. So, the question is: Do we want to add another drug to this lethal landscape that results in death, destruction, and societal decay?

In light of all these concerns, I urge our state leaders to say no to the legalization of marijuana in Rhode Island. In opening the door to drug use even a little bit, we have so much to lose and absolutely nothing to gain. And, frankly, with all the social dysfunction we’re already dealing with in the state, we don’t need any more problems.””

Love,
Matthew

Cannabis Myths Exposed

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-by Edward Ronkowski

“I retired after three decades as a prosecutor. While in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, I drafted a training manual called Narcotics Law which was later used in the office as a manual for Assistant States Attorneys for over a decade and years after I retired. After I retired I have defended people accused of violating the Cannabis Control Act. Knowing how the system really works, I can dispel several cannabis myths. It’s like Ronald Reagan said, “It isn’t so much that liberals are ignorant. It’s just that they know so many things that aren’t so.”

Myth Number 1: Jail time

First time Cannabis users don’t go to jail or prison. Defense attorneys game the system to keep clients from being sentenced to jail or prison. It almost always takes at least five arrests for cannabis violations before jail or prison time is considered. In Cook County they have what is called Drug School. First offenders are allowed to go to classes and if they attend, the case is dropped without a conviction. Defense attorneys say their clients like Drug School because it exposes the dealers who were caught on a mere possession charge to new customers. You can only get Drug School once.

Second misdemeanor cannabis offenders are allowed to get Court Supervision for a year or two. At the end of the Supervision, the court enters a finding of not guilty.

A third arrest for a cannabis violation usually ends up in 710 Probation which is for first time offenders and is expungable.

A fourth arrest can ends up in a Treatment Alternatives to Street Crime (TASC) probation if the defendant claims he has a substance abuse problem. TASC dispositions are also expungable. Now cannabis arrestees can ask for “Second Chance Probation” instead of TASC Probation. At the end of Second Chance Probation the defendant gets discharged.

A fifth arrest ends up in in straight probation with no jail time because the offender is “clean” with no prior convictions. Occasional errors of omission on rap sheets and criminal histories allow defendants to get these programs more than once. So only after the fifth arrest will judges start giving out jail or prison because probation did not work. With a docket of murderers and other violent criminals, judges give away the store rather than be bothered by such relatively innocuous violators. When a defendant is at the end of his rope with these programs the defense attorney will try to win a motion to suppress, win a bench trial, or win jury trial to avoid real jail or prison time.

Every year the Illinois Department of Corrections releases an Annual Report showing what percent of the prison population is in for what type of crimes. The latest report is for 2014 and it shows that 1.4% of Illinois’ prison population is in prison for violations of the Cannabis Control Act. None of these are mere users. This 1.4% are the dealers doing time, most on plea bargained reduced charges, where the seizures are measured in pounds or tons.

Myth Number 2: Cannabis is Harmless

The last 20 years of research reveals “what isn’t so.”

Marijuana use has become increasingly prevalent over the years, and the review of marijuana studies summarizes what researchers have learned about the drug’s effects on human health and general well-being over the past two decades. One such peer reviewed academic study was done by Wayne Hall, a professor and director of the Center for Youth Substance Abuse Research at the University of Queensland in Australia. Professor Hall examined scientific evidence on marijuana’s health effects between 1993 and 2013. He found that adolescents who use cannabis regularly are about twice as likely as their nonuser peers to drop out of school, as well as experience cognitive impairment and psychoses as adults. Moreover, studies have also linked regular cannabis use in adolescence with the use of other illicit drugs

Researchers in the studies debated whether regular marijuana use might actually lead to the use of other drugs. Professor Hall pointed to longer-term studies and studies of twins in which one used marijuana and the other did not as particularly strong evidence that regular cannabis use may lead to the use of other illicit drugs

The risk of a person suffering a fatal overdose from marijuana is “extremely small,” and there are no reports of fatal overdoses in the scientific literature, according to the review. However, there have been case reports of deaths from heart problems in seemingly otherwise healthy young men after they smoked marijuana, the report said. Professor Hall said, “The perception that cannabis is a safe drug is a mistaken reaction to a past history of exaggeration of its health risks.”

Marijuana use carries some of the same risks as alcohol use, such as an increased risk of accidents, dependence and psychosis, he said. It’s likely that middle-age people who smoke marijuana regularly are at an increased risk of experiencing a heart attack, according to the report. However, the drug’s “effects on respiratory function and respiratory cancer remain unclear, because most cannabis smokers have smoked or still smoke tobacco,” Professor Hall wrote in the review.

Regular cannabis users also double their risk of experiencing psychotic symptoms and disorders such as disordered thinking, hallucinations and delusions — from about seven in 1,000 cases among nonusers to 14 in 1,000 among regular marijuana users, the review said. And, in a study of more than 50,000 young men in Sweden, those who had used marijuana 10 or more times by age 18 were about two times more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia within the next 15 years than those who had not used the drug.

Critics argue that other variables besides marijuana use may be at work in the increased risk of mental health problems, and that it’s possible that people with mental health problems are more likely to use marijuana to begin with, Hall wrote in the review. However, other studies have since attempted to sort out the findings, he wrote, citing a 27-year follow-up of the Swedish cohort, in which researchers found “a dose–response relationship between frequency of cannabis use at age 18 and risk of schizophrenia during the whole follow-up period.” In the same study, the investigators estimated that 13 percent of schizophrenia cases diagnosed in the study “could be averted if all cannabis use had been prevented in the cohort,” Professor Hall reported.

As for the effects of cannabis use in pregnant women, the drug may slightly reduce the birth weight of the baby, according to the review.

The effects of euphoria that cannabis users seek from the drug come primarily from its psychoactive ingredient, called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC, Hall wrote in the review. During the past 30 years, the THC content of marijuana in the United States has jumped from less than 2 percent in 1980 to 8.5 percent in 2006. The THC content of the drug has also likely increased in other developed countries, Hall wrote in the report.

Some argue that there would be no increase in harm, if users adjusted their doses of the drug and used less of the more potent cannabis products to get the same psychological effects they seek, Professor Hall said. However, “the limited evidence suggests that users do not completely adjust dose for potency, and so probably get larger doses of THC than used to be the case,” Hall said.

Studies on the use of alcohol — and, to a lesser extent, other drugs such as opioids — have also shown that more potent forms of these substances increase users’ level of intoxication, as well as their risk of accidents and developing dependence, he added. People who drive under the influence of marijuana double their risk of being in a car crash, and about one in 10 daily marijuana users becomes dependent on the drug, according to a new review.

With cannabis use not deterred by law enforcement efforts as currently practiced, the deleterious effects of cannabis use, especially on our youth will increase over time.”

I’ve never seen pot users get smarter. That’s all I’m saying.

Love,
Matthew

What is chastity?

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Celibacy, or abstinence, is the absence of sexual activity.  It is as viable and valuable a means of practicing chastity as faithfulness is in marriage.  Chastity is the presence of and active practice of this virtue and self-discipline, enabled ONLY by HIS GRACE!!!  Praise Him, Church!!!  Praise Him.  Pray for chastity.  Pray for it.  Ask Him for His Grace, and He will say “YES!!!  I AM WHO AM do will it!!”

Trust Him!!!  Trust Him, ALL the days of your life.  In this, and EVERYTHING else.  Never take your thoughts, your mind, from Him.  Your will be done, Lord.  Your will, not mine.  

Chastity, the fruit of His Grace, is the taking of full, adult responsibility for the AWESOME powers of creation of life adults possess.  Chastity is a virtue to be practiced by the married and the unmarried.  Chastity is NOT deprivation, rather, it is adult responsibility, wisdom, and the rejection of abuse of self and others, the misuse of self and others, and the rejection of denigration, humiliation of self and others.  

It is peace, in His will.  ALL are called to chastity, in their given state of life.  If you give yourself over to the fire of your passions, and they ARE a fire which feeds on itself and deceives, ye will reap what ye sow!  You will.  This is not merely a Christian understanding, either.  This is a universal truth.  Gal 6:7-9

Once freed from death by Christ, DO NOT again, become a slave of the devil by your own abasement!!!!

“Christian, remember your dignity!!!”Pope St Gregory the Great

-from the Catechism of the Catholic Church

2337 Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being. Sexuality, in which man’s belonging to the bodily and biological world is expressed, becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman.

The virtue of chastity therefore involves the integrity of the person and the integrality of the gift.

The integrity of the person

2338 The chaste person maintains the integrity of the powers of life and love placed in him. This integrity ensures the unity of the person; it is opposed to any behavior that would impair it. It tolerates neither a double life nor duplicity in speech.125

2339 Chastity includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom. The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy.126 “Man’s dignity therefore requires him to act out of conscious and free choice, as moved and drawn in a personal way from within, and not by blind impulses in himself or by mere external constraint. Man gains such dignity when, ridding himself of all slavery to the passions, he presses forward to his goal by freely choosing what is good and, by his diligence and skill, effectively secures for himself the means suited to this end.”127

2340 Whoever wants to remain faithful to his baptismal promises and resist temptations will want to adopt the means for doing so: self-knowledge, practice of an ascesis adapted to the situations that confront him, obedience to God’s commandments, exercise of the moral virtues, and fidelity to prayer. “Indeed it is through chastity that we are gathered together and led back to the unity from which we were fragmented into multiplicity.”128

2341 The virtue of chastity comes under the cardinal virtue of temperance, which seeks to permeate the passions and appetites of the senses with reason.

2342 Self-mastery is a long and exacting work. One can never consider it acquired once and for all. It presupposes renewed effort at all stages of life.129 The effort required can be more intense in certain periods, such as when the personality is being formed during childhood and adolescence.

2343 Chastity has laws of growth which progress through stages marked by imperfection and too often by sin. “Man . . . day by day builds himself up through his many free decisions; and so he knows, loves, and accomplishes moral good by stages of growth.”130

2344 Chastity represents an eminently personal task; it also involves a cultural effort, for there is “an interdependence between personal betterment and the improvement of society.”131 Chastity presupposes respect for the rights of the person, in particular the right to receive information and an education that respect the moral and spiritual dimensions of human life.

2345 Chastity is a moral virtue. It is also a gift from God, a grace, a fruit of spiritual effort.132 The Holy Spirit enables one whom the water of Baptism has regenerated to imitate the purity of Christ.133

The integrality of the gift of self

2346 Charity is the form of all the virtues. Under its influence, chastity appears as a school of the gift of the person. Self-mastery is ordered to the gift of self. Chastity leads him who practices it to become a witness to his neighbor of God’s fidelity and loving kindness.

2347 The virtue of chastity blossoms in friendship. It shows the disciple how to follow and imitate Him Who has chosen us as His friends,134 Who has given Himself totally to us and allows us to participate in His divine estate. Chastity is a promise of immortality.

Chastity is expressed notably in friendship with one’s neighbor. Whether it develops between persons of the same or opposite sex, friendship represents a great good for all. It leads to spiritual communion.

Love,
Matthew

Chastity vs. fornication 2 – “It doesn’t make sense!”

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Catholicism defines “love” as the willingness to suffer for the beloved, if unavoidable, or for the greater good of the beloved, like the salvation of their soul.  Sound like ANYONE you “know”?  Now, where HAVE I heard that kind of talk before???  Think, think, think.  Nope.  Nothin’.  Typical, for me.  Crazy talk.  Crazy like…God? 🙁  :/ )

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-by Emily Stimpson, Sunday, Apr 10, 2016 8:22 AM

“My fiancé, Chris, and I are not living together. And it doesn’t make sense.

More accurately, it doesn’t make sense to the world. Currently, we pay my mortgage, his rent, two utility bills and a food bill consisting mainly of restaurant tabs. Moreover, we live 45 minutes apart. Most nights, one of us spends 90 minutes in the car. And on the nights we don’t, we miss each other terribly.

Combine those sacrifices with the ever-mounting cost of our upcoming wedding, and it’s understandable why most people look aghast when they discover we’re not cohabiting.

Today, two-thirds of all couples live together before marriage, including at least half the couples marrying in the Catholic Church. Most of those couples cohabit for the same reasons that not cohabiting feels like such a sacrifice to Chris and me. They want to be together. They need to save money. And there’s no social pressure to do otherwise. So why wait? From a practical perspective, it seems logical.

Decades of research contradicts that logic: Couples who live together before marriage run a substantially higher risk of marital unhappiness, domestic violence and divorce. But when you’re in love, it’s easy to ignore research. Sociological evidence can’t compete with desire … and wedding-strained pocketbooks.

For those reasons and more, Chris and I understand why so many couples cohabit. We sympathize with them. But we still choose to sleep apart. And that choice only makes perfect sense in light of our faith.

The New Testament doesn’t leave any wiggle room regarding how God feels about sex outside of marriage, biblically known as “fornication.” Jesus explicitly condemns it in three Gospels (Matthew 15:19; Mark 7:21; John 8:41). St. Paul does the same in three Epistles (Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5).

Moreover, unlike some biblical prohibitions, which the Church deems more reflective of ancient Near-Eastern culture than God’s unchanging law (i.e. the injunction on women cutting their hair), the Christian prohibition against premarital relations hasn’t changed (and won’t change) (Catechism, 2350).

And yes, premarital relations and cohabitation aren’t the same. Some couples, more virtuous than us, might manage to live together chastely. The Church considers the possibility of that so remote, however, that she frowns on even the attempt (Catechism, 2391).

It’s also a question of public witness. The world mocks the Catholic understanding of sexuality, denying the mere possibility of loving both chastely and joyfully. Publicly cohabiting, even if privately abstaining, is, at best, a compromised witness. It shows the world what it already believes and hides what it claims impossible.

Regardless, Chris and I live separately (and chastely), because we trust Jesus and his Church. We believe that Jesus is Who He says He is — the Son of God — and the Church is who she says she is: His Bride, divinely appointed to transmit, guard and interpret God’s word.

Accordingly, we take the Church’s prohibitions against premarital relations and cohabitation as seriously as we take her prohibitions against lying and cheating. God is God. We are not. If He says something is sinful and a danger to our souls, then it is. It’s not up to us to pick and choose which of His teachings to accept. That’s not what faithful disciples do.

This can sound like blind obedience. But only when seen from the outside. Like stained glass, which looks dull from one side but brilliant from another, our decision to trust Christ and his Church with our relationship has been a decision illuminated by beauty, grace and reason.

The Church’s teachings on marital love, described so powerfully in St. John Paul II’s theology of the body, help us see love-making as a precious gift from God and a sacred renewal of the marriage covenant, meant to bring new life into the world and draw husband and wife closer together.

We’ve not yet entered into that covenant, so its joys aren’t ours to claim.

We’ve also learned to see living under one roof and sharing one bed as an embodied sign of Christian marriage. For Christian spouses, dwelling together isn’t about sleeping arrangements. It’s about what we are — one flesh — because of what we vow on our wedding day: to give ourselves totally and completely to one another for the sake of our salvation.  (Ed. – The living in and through one’s vocation, one’s state in life, is the vehicle through which we realize our salvation in Catholic theology.)

We haven’t yet made that vow, so its blessings aren’t ours to enjoy.

We do get to enjoy some blessings now.

There is the blessing that comes from a deep friendship, rooted in a shared love of Christ and a mutual desire to sacrifice for the other’s good. (Ed.  don’t know about you, but Paris Hilton and I think that’s romantically HAWT!!!  !!!En fuego!!!!  !!!!Muy caliente!!! 🙂 !!!Ay carumba!!!  Very Catholic, very.)  There is the blessing of learning how to love in non-sexual ways, preventing sex from becoming a substitute for affection and communication. And there is the blessing of never feeling used or worrying that we’re marrying out of convenience or guilt.

There’s also the blessing of anticipation, of mounting desire and tension that will only be answered on our wedding day. (Ed.  !!! Aye, aye, aye!!!  !!!Agua, por favor!!!!)  We’re looking forward to so much more than a big party on July 1.

Most of all, though, there’s the blessing of knowing that we’re walking the path Jesus asks us to walk, trusting that, through obedience, we’ll reap unknown graces and be spared unknown crosses. In trust, there is peace.  (Amen!!!  Sistah!!!)

Yes, that peace comes at a cost. It requires sacrifice. But we’re betting on God — laying odds on the rightness of His wisdom, not the world’s ways or our desires.  (Good bet!!!  I LIKE IT!!!  May the odds & Jesus, be evah in your favah!!! -St Katniss Everdeen, pray for us!!!  Mea culpa.  [courtsy])

And, fortunately, if we stumble we know we can start over with a good confession.  (Mine ALWAYS begin “Bless me, Father, how much time DO you have? 🙂 Should we order in?  I have an app for that!)

That’s true for all couples. It’s never too late to trust Jesus and His Church in your relationship. (Ya know, I KNEW I liked that Guy!!!)  It’s never too late to move in with a friend or onto a couch. It’s never too late to love your future spouse as Jesus asks you to love, sacrificially and purely. Lastly, it’s never too late to witness to the world that there is a better way: the way of life-giving love.

Pray for engaged couples; so few even know that way exists. And pray for Chris and for me, so we can continue to walk it.”

(Count on it, Emily & Chris.  It’s already in the bank.  Emily Stimpson writes from Steubenville, Ohio.

Easter Joy!
Matthew

Chastity vs fornication

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-former militant atheist, Rosalie Contrite, now a contrite Catholic

“Of course, I was told to wait for marriage and I considered it, at first. People in my life were telling me to wait. The reality remains that undetectably and over time, the culture, my friends and even, the adults that I knew, did not really expect me to wait. The movies I saw didn’t show waiting, and many of the people in my life as caregivers or relatives had or were co-habitating.

I had babysitters in my life who told me how I could get contraception, secretly. I had friends tell me about how they got free birth control from Planned Parenthood. The pills they gave me never warned me about the pain that they would cause. I knew that the prevailing wisdom was to wait, but that was it. No one ever told me why. Without the why, the what is useless.

Of course, today I know the why. I can tell you with 100% certainty, if I had known the why, I would have waited. No question. This is the pain that I live with, and the choice that lead me to great dysfunction in my life, for a time. I would have waited had I known. I wish people had believed in me. I wish I had known WHY waiting is wonderful.

As a young adult, after I had already given away what rightfully belonged to my husband, my mind was always pondering, “What can I do next to keep him interested? What level of depravity can I jump to so that I will seem alluring and captivating?”

I often wore next to nothing. I was so numb and dead inside from making myself vulnerable and being left by people who said they loved me. Immodest dress ensured constant attention. I didn’t care where it came from, so long as it came. The stress of constantly needing to be exciting because that’s what Cosmo says, was so demeaning and depressing long-term.

I had to become very masculine in my behavior because I had no excuse for not wanting to be together, when I was on contraception. Some freedom….

The culture told me that there was something fundamentally wrong with my natural, healthy body. I was broken, and I needed to be fixed with contraception. If I didn’t think so, I was at best naive, and at worst, reckless and irresponsible. What no one ever told me was what sex was supposed to be. No one ever told me it was the physical renewal of marital vows, which would only be a lie, if I were not married.

No one told me the emotional connection that would be formed as the result of a powerful chemical, oxytocin, released in the body during these encounters. This chemical has been shown to cause women to overlook the bad in their partners – even abusers. It’s the same hormone that is released when women nurse their newborn babies, to help them only see the wonderful in the baby during those first trying weeks. That is the kind of power you fight against when you misuse the greatest gift given to mankind. No one told me that. Yes, I should have waited for marriage. Why? No one told me. No one had answers.

These answers, I would blessedly find later in life.

There is so much comfort and safety knowing that you aren’t being compared to anyone else in your martial relationship. That is what you can have if you wait. Your spouse won’t have to imagine you embracing another in a way only meant for them, if you wait. Anyone worth being with, in this way, is someone who will wait with you.”

Love,
Matthew

“…and lead us not into temptation”?

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-“Last Judgment”, fresco, 1535-1541, 45′ 0″ x 40′ 0″, Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel, (please click on the image for more detail)

Why would God LEAD us into temptation?  Would He?  Rather, this petition is asking for strength to face God’s judgment of the world at the end of time.

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-by Joel Schorn

“You can find the short answer in the New Testament Letter of James: “No one experiencing temptation should say, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God is not subject to temptation to evil, and He Himself tempts no one” (1:13). Don’t try to shift responsibility, James is saying; God does not tempt, and God cannot lead people into evil. But that answer only produces another question: So why ask for something that’s not only contrary to what Christians believe about God but also impossible?

Of course believers make this odd petition so often because it is part of that most famous of prayers, the Lord’s Prayer. Different versions of the prayer appear in Matthew 6 as part of the Sermon on the Mount and in Luke 11 as Jesus’ example of how the disciples are to pray. This context—along with the fact that by the prayer’s opening address “Our Father [abba],” Jesus invited the disciples into his own special relationship with God—makes the prayer and its words important.

“Lead us not into temptation” comes in the second set of the prayer’s petitions. The first set asks for the complete coming of the reign of God on earth, when the divine name will be known by the whole world and all will follow the divine will just as it is already obeyed in heaven. The second addresses the needs of the community of disciples: asking for a day’s sustenance, realizing one’s own forgiveness lies in forgiving others, and—here it is—asking for help in facing “temptation.” But that’s the word the liturgy uses; the Bible passage says “do not subject us to the final test,” or, in another translation, “do not bring us to the time of trial.”

The final test, the time of trial: This petition is asking for strength to face God’s judgment of the world at the end of time. Like the whole prayer, though, it has a present-time dimension as well. Just as to ask for the coming of God’s kingdom is to hasten its arrival now, to pray for courage at the end of the world is to ask for it in this moment.

Admittedly “lead us not into temptation” is a strange way to put it, but the phrase acknowledges that tests and trials of faith which call for strength—and that is what God provides. And it gets better: God offers deliverance and rescue from evil as well, as the closing words of the Lord’s Prayer say.

So there is hope. “God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength,” St. Paul wrote in his First Letter to the Corinthians, “but with the trial He will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it” (10:13).”

Love, and praying for God’s strength for you and yours. Please pray for me and mine, too.
Matthew

Love vs kindness

scandal-of-the-cross

msgr_charles_pope
-by Msgr Charles Pope

“Kindness is a very great thing and has an important place in our relationships. Kindness is evidenced by goodness and charitable behavior, a pleasantness, tenderness and concern for others. According to Aristotle, kindness is an emotion manifesting itself by the desire to help somebody in need, without expecting anything in return. Peter Kreeft defines kindness as “sympathy, with the desire to relieve another’s suffering.” [Envoy Magazine, Vol 9.3, p. 20]

However, as Kreeft himself notes, it is a very great mistake to equate kindness with love. Kindness is an aspect of love, but it is necessarily distinct from love. For is sometimes happens that love, which wills what is best for the other, may deem it best not to remove all suffering. A father, in fact may impose punishment on a child out of love. Kindness generally seeks to alleviate suffering and negativity. Love understands that suffering often has a salvific role. My parents disciplined me out of love. Had they been merely kind to me, I would likely have been spoiled, undisciplined and ill-equipped for life.

Paradoxically the more we love the more we will often see mere kindness diminish. Consider how kind we can be to strangers. We may sometimes give money to strangers with little questions asked. But if a son or daughter asks for money we may often want to know why and, even if we give it, we will frequently lecture them about being more responsible with their money. The interaction may be less kind, but it may also be more loving for it seeks to end the problem rather than merely relieve the symptom of the problem.

The good eclipses the best – And herein lies the danger of reducing love to kindness. In simply seeking to alleviate the suffering of the moment or to give people what they want, many deeper issues go unresolved and worsen. Welfare has created a slavish dependence for many in our culture. And it is not just the poor in our cities. There is corporate welfare, and many other subsidies and entitlements that too many can no longer go without. Rather than addressing the root causes of poverty, dependence or poor economic conditions and bad business models, kindness interrupts love’s deeper role and treats only the suffering of the moment. In this sense the merely good (kindness) replaces the truly best (Love). True love gives what is best, not merely what is immediately preferred.

Further, many false expectations are centered in the exaltation of kindness over love. Generally this is manifest in the fact that suffering of any kind is seen as obnoxious and even the cause for legal action. It has also led to our demands for comfort to go on steroids. Demand for euthanasia flow from this sort of thinking as well.

A final and very terrible effect often flows from mistaking mere kindness for love is that it disposes many towards atheism. Here I simply want to quote Peter Kreeft because he says it so well:

It is painfully obvious that God is not mere kindness, for He does not remove all suffering, though He has the power to do so. Indeed, this very fact — that the God Who is Omnipotent and can, at any instant, miraculously erase all suffering from the world, deliberately chooses not to do so — is the commonest argument that unbelievers use against Him. The number one argument for atheism stems from the confusion between love and kindness. [Peter Kreeft, Envoy Magazine, Vol 9.3, p. 20]

Kindness is a very great attribute and it surely has its place. But we must carefully distinguish it from love. Exalting kindness over love amounts to a denial of the wisdom of the Cross. Kindness focuses on comfort and alleviating suffering and this is a very great thing. But love is greater thing for it wills what is best, not what is merely desired.”

Love,
Matthew

Holiness is more than being nice

holiness_thorns

msgr_charles_pope
-by Msgr. Charles Pope

“We live in a time that has tended to reduce holiness to merely being nice and agreeable. In this manner of thinking holiness tends to be variously thought of as: getting along well with everyone, being kind, agreeable, helpful, likable, generous, pleasant, mild mannered, amiable, good humored, middle of the road, even tempered, placid, benevolent, friendly, forbearing, tolerant, thoughtful, and the like. It can all be summed up by saying that “so-and-so” is “basically a nice person.” And thus the goal seems more to be nice than holy.

If you think this isn’t so, listen to how people talk at funerals. “Wow, Joe was a great guy!….We’re all gonna miss his jokes….Joe liked everybody! Joe would do anything for you!” Now all this is fine. But did Joe pray? Did Joe raise his kids in the fear of the Lord? Did Joe set a moral example that summoned others to holiness? Maybe he did but people don’t usually talk about that at the wake service. All that seems to matter is that Joe was a “great guy.” But the goal in life is not just to be a great guy, it is to be holy.

Now, none of the qualities listed above the previous paragraphs are wrong or bad. But the problem is that we have largely reduced holiness to these sorts of qualities, to being “basically a nice person.” Oh sure, holy people will be known to pray and that sort of stuff but God forbid that some one might exhibit righteous anger or rebuke sin. No, that wouldn’t be nice at all! It’s wrong to upset people isn’t it? And thus we tend to limit what holiness should be like.

But true holiness, while it does not seek a fight, does not easily fit into this world’s schemes and categories. It tends to run against the grain and upset the status quo. Jesus could surely be kind, merciful and forgiving. But he was also holy. And true holiness does not compromise the truth, does not go along to get along. It does not remain silent just so everyone can be happy and unoffended. Jesus did not end up on the Cross because he was “basically a nice person.” He spoke the truth in love. He prophetically denounced hypocrisy, duplicity, sin and injustice. It is true He also blessed children and repentant sinners found refuge in Him and a strong advocate. But Jesus was no fool, and He didn’t just go around slapping every one’s back and being nice. Jesus was holy. And holiness is hot to the touch. It is not easily endured by the tepid and worldly minded. They killed Him for it.

Too many Christians have substituted niceness for holiness and hence endure almost no hostility from the world. Too many Christians think that getting along and being popular is their main task. Having enemies is somehow “unchristian.” Never mind that Jesus told us to love our enemies (which presupposes we have some). No, having enemies is surely a sign that we are not getting along with people and that is not very nice (err….”holy”).

Now this attitude is deadly to living a prophetic Christian witness. Of course the word “witness” is Biblically tied to the word “martyr.” Martyrs do not end up dead by being nice. They usually end up dead or at least persecuted by running afoul of the world’s norms and priorities. And when told to be nice and go along to get along, they declined and continued as an irritant to a world that demands compromise with evil, approval of sin, and silence about faith. But this is our call, not to be nice, to be holy. Holy means “set apart,” “distinct from what is around it.”

There is a place for niceness and ordinary human kindness. But the point is that holiness cannot be reduced to this. There are times where holiness demands that we speak out strongly and unambiguously. True holiness will lead us increasingly to live in a way that others will often find an irritant. Perhaps our radical simplicity and generosity will prick their conscience. Perhaps our deep devotion to God will cause them to feel uneasy. Perhaps our moral positions will offend their politics or worldly ethics. Our mentioning of a day of judgment that looms may incite their anger. And so forth…. We do not seek conflict, but conflict finds us. The world demands that we back down and be nice, that we get along better.

Holiness is not of this world. True holiness brings an increasingly radical transformation that makes the recipient seem to be a foreigner in this world who speaks with a strange accent and has foreign ways. He does not fit into simple political distinctions, does not conform to worldly categories. True holiness ignites a fire in the recipient and fire changes everything it touches. In the end no one remains neutral to a truly holy person. Either they complain of the heat or draw warmth, but no one is neutral.

Holiness is a lot more than being nice.”

Love,
Matthew

Be a Man!!! Live the Life of Virtue/the Virtuous Life

vices expelled from the garden of virtue
-Andrea Mantegna (Isola di Carturo, circa 1431 – Mantua, 1506)
Minerva Expelling the Vices from the Garden of Virtue, circa 1500-1502, oil on canvas; H. 1.59 m; W. 1.92 m, Paris, Musée du Louvre, dép. des Peintures, inv. 371 (please click on the image for greater detail)
catholic_gentleman
sam_guzman_wife
-by Sam Guzman, “The Catholic Gentleman”

“Virtue isn’t often associated with manliness these days. In fact, the exact opposite is true—many believe you aren’t a real man unless you are a “bad boy” or a rebel. But this wasn’t always the case. In fact, the word “virtue: comes from the Latin word vir, meaning man. Virtue literally means manliness. In ancient times, philosophers like Aristotle encouraged men to cultivate virtue to reach their full potential.

What is Virtue?

It is hard to live a virtuous life if we don’t first know what virtue it is. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines virtue in the following way:

“A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions.” -CCC 1803

In other words, virtue is the habit of choosing what is good and right, despite our own inclinations.

Getting still more specific, the Catholic Church teaches that we should cultivate seven different virtues—four cardinal (or natural) virtues and three theological (or supernatural) virtues. The cardinal virtues are prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice, and the theological virtues are faith, hope, and charity. I’ll save the definition of these virtues for another post.

Why Does Virtue Matter?

For the Catholic man, virtue isn’t an option. We have to cultivate virtue, both natural and supernatural, if we want to live a holy life and get to heaven. But why?

Virtue is essential because we all are filled with disordered passions. Anger, gluttony, lust, laziness, envy, pride, and greed—these sins are churning about in our souls constantly due to our fallen nature. If we don’t tame them, they will kill us spiritually. That’s why the Church calls them the seven deadly sins. Virtue helps us to tame these passions and overcome them, building the foundation for a holy life.

St. Paul talks about this very fact in his letter to the Romans. He says,

“For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.”
Romans 8:13

In other words, if you are living a supernaturally virtuous life, empowered by grace, you are on the road to heaven. If you aren’t, however, and your life is characterized by the seven deadly sins, you are probably on the road to hell.

This may sound harsh, but it is true. Virtue is that important.

Choose the Virtuous Life

Many men coast through life without a thought to where they are going. They don’t really worry about things like temperance, prudence, or fortitude—let alone faith, hope or charity. But no one gets to heaven on cruise control. If you’ve been living aimlessly, decide today to pursue virtue with all your heart. Ask the Holy Spirit for the graces you need to be a virtuous man.”

Love, & please pray for me to always be a Catholic GENTLE-MAN!!, a man who practices Virtue,
Matthew

The Necessary Spiritual Battle

never_sinning

The Christian soul, when created, is not yet not perfected.  The soul, like the body, requires maturity and maturation.  The carnal desires and pleasures of the body are good, in that God created them, too.  Our free will and its responsibility to choose wisely, in a holy way, according to His will, are corrupted by our fall from grace in God.  So, humans may take the good nature of the carnal desires and pervert them by attempting to derive pleasure from disordered ends; not the birth of children, not the love of spouse.  We can never perfect ourselves by our own efforts; we only make progress by His Grace. As Pope Benedict reflected:  “Holiness does not consist in not making mistakes or never sinning.  Holiness grows with the capacity for conversion, repentance, willingness to begin again, and above all with the capacity for reconciliation and forgiveness.”

Why would God allow such a thing?  We know that God gifts us with free will, praise Him!!!, and even allows disordered choices by the very definition of the name “free” in the gift.  But, we also know that God, when he allows disorder, has, in His infinite Wisdom, a great good in mind.  God is so omnipotent and omniscient, He brings good out of our disordered choosing.  The good, may I propose, that he brings out of disordered choosing from carnal desire is the denial of the lie that in the pleasure which results from acting on carnal desire, that all our fulfillment lies therein; not in God, but in orgasm, or sensation.  The average practitioner of this lie realizes that no matter how much dissolution they give themselves over to, there is always something missing.  Something, at first, without reflection, difficult to identify, troubling.  This void, this ache, is our union with the Infinite, for which we were made.  The pleasure is a shadow, a reflection, a hollow specter of that fulfillment in God, yet to be attained by the soul, but hinted at in our mortal experience, beautifully.  This is what St Augustine speaks of when he cries out:  “Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you!”

The Spiritual Battle is necessary, as necessary as physical struggle and work for the body, to strengthen, to grow, to discipline, to more perfect, the soul.  See, God does bring good from evil.  He truly does.  Praise Him!!!!!!  We must caution against, however, the misinterpretation that sin and struggle are a good in themselves.  They are not.  They are evil and the result of evil.  Occasions, or near occasions, of sin must be avoided at all opportunities, with our cooperation, certainly, but aided infinitely and only by His grace; our true hope.

Love,
Matthew