Category Archives: Theology of the Body

Sexual orientation & gender identity: what does the science say?

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“Washington D.C., Aug 27, 2016 / 07:09 am (CNA/EWTN News).- For most young people who experience feelings of gender dysphoria, the experience is in fact temporary, and a non-heterosexual orientation is not as fixed as sometimes claimed, a new overview of the relevant research says.

“Only a minority of children who experience cross-gender identification will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood,” said the report, published in The New Atlantis Journal.

As many as 80 percent of men who reported same-sex attraction as adolescents no longer do so as adults. There were “similar but less striking” results for women. The idea of innate sexual orientation is “not supported by scientific evidence,” the report said.

Titled “Sexuality and Gender: Findings from the Biological, Psychological, and Social Sciences,” the report reviews various research studies to examine claims about sexuality and gender.

It was authored by Dr. Lawrence S. Mayer, Ph.D., a biostatistician and epidemiologist now a scholar in residence at Johns Hopkins University; and by Dr. Paul R. McHugh, M.D., a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University.
The report considers various claims like the basis and permanence of gender identity and sexual orientation.

It found there is a lack of scientific evidence for claims that gender identity is an innate property “independent of biological sex.” Scientific evidence also does not support claims that a person might be “a man trapped in a woman’s body.”

Gender identity problems can arise for someone with Intersex conditions, where a person has ambiguous biological sex due to genetic abnormalities.

However, brain structure comparison of transgender and non-transgender individuals show only “weak correlations” between brain structure and cross-gender identification. These correlations are not evidence that this identity has a basis in the biology of the brain.

Similarly, sexual orientation’s neurological basis can be overstated. Against the “born that way” claim, the report authors write: “While there is evidence that biological factors such as genes and hormones are associated with sexual behaviors and attractions, there are no compelling causal biological explanations for human sexual orientation.”

The report also considered sexuality, mental health, and social factors.

Non-heterosexuals are two to three times as likely to have experienced childhood sexual abuse.

The authors weighed the evidence that non-heterosexual attractions, desires and behaviors may increase the risk of suffering sex abuse, or that sexual abuse may cause non-heterosexual attractions, desires and behaviors. They said that more research is needed before claiming a link between sex abuse and non-heterosexual attractions.

Non-heterosexuals do face elevated risk of adverse health and mental health outcomes. They are estimated to have a 1.5 times higher risk of anxiety and substance abuse than the heterosexual population. They face double the risk of depression and 2.5 times higher risk of suicide.

The transgender population, recently estimated to make up 0.6 percent of the total population, suffers a lifetime suicide attempt rate of 41 percent, compared to 5 percent of the overall population.
There is “limited, inconsistent and incomplete” evidence that social stressors like discrimination and stigma “contribute to the elevated risk of poor mental health outcomes for non-heterosexual and transgender populations.”

The report said clinicians and policymakers should not assume that models focused on social stressors offer a complete explanation for these health differences.

“Just as it does a disservice to non-heterosexual subpopulations to ignore or downplay the statistically higher risks of negative mental health outcomes they face, so it does them a disservice to misattribute the causes of these elevated risks, or to ignore other potential factors that may be at work.”

Adults who undergo sex reassignment surgeries continue to show a high risk in mental health, being about 5 times more likely to attempt suicide and 19 times more likely to die by suicide compared to a control group.

Regarding therapies for children that delay puberty or modify sex characteristics of adolescents, there is “little scientific evidence” for their therapeutic value, the report said.

At the same time, “some children may have improved psychological well-being if they are encouraged and supported in their cross-gender identification.”

“There is no evidence that all children who express gender-atypical thoughts or behavior should be encouraged to become transgender,” the report added.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Death

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Make us know the shortness of our life in order that we may gain wisdom of heart. –Ps 90:12

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-by Br Joseph Graziano, OP

“To behold death is profound for the living.

We live comfortably forgetful of our mortality, busying ourselves with the delights and sorrows of the world, blissfully ignoring the fact of death.

But death will not be forgotten. Unannounced, death rudely rears its head in our lives: a family member dies, or we witness a car accident, or we are simply deluged by the constant stream of ghastly shootings in our country. We want to block these out, to condemn violence, medicate sickness, and numb ourselves to reality. After all, “human kind cannot bear very much reality” (Eliot, Little Gidding). Yet being forced to witness others’ death makes us realize that we too are only here a while. Eventually, we come face to face with our own mortality.

We were not made for death, for “God did not make death, nor does He rejoice in the destruction of the living. For He fashioned all things that they might have being” (Wis 1:13-14). Jesus makes clear that God wills life, not death, saying “I came that you might have life, and have it to the fullest” (Jn 10:10). If God wills our life, why do we have to die? Why must we say goodbye to friends and family, torn from the times we spend with them: the sunset’s glow, a fire-lit room, a jovial feast.

Though we may “know” that death is not the end, it is the only end that we can see. Whatever lies after it is hidden behind the veil.
If the death that we witness is the death of a loved one, the effect is even more profound. Not only do we have to face the jarring truth of our mortality, but we must also deal with the terrible emptiness of the hole which our dear one has left behind. If the process of dying is long, there is added anguish of being incapable of being truly with our loved one in their final throes; death is a solitary affair, no matter how many are standing around the bed.

Having worked this Summer with families at hospice care, I have had the singular experience of being with them as they see this empty hole gape open before them, as their loved ones slip past the veil. What can I say? How can I help them? Though it is surely true that their loved one must trust in the mercy of God, I cannot assure them salvation (Ed. as Catholics, we do not know, no one can say, the Church does not guarantee, it is His decision, alone.  Praise Him.  We trust in His promises.  However, we do believe the saints are in Heaven, hence the request for miracles for beatification as proof), and even if I could, how can my little words even begin to blunt the pain of so great a wound, the loss of an irreplaceable image of God in their lives?

All we can offer is a reminder that we have hope. It does not seem like much, but true theological hope is strong indeed. In Josef Pieper’s words, “hope is the confidently patient expectation of eternal beatitude in a contemplative and comprehensive sharing of the triune life of God; hope expects from God’s hand the eternal life that is God Himself. (On Hope, 30)

Neither presuming that this eternal life is ours, nor despairing any chance of receiving it one day, we can cling to an assurance that Jesus Christ trampled death: “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Cor 15:55). We know that “the outcome of this death [now is] life in God in place of our life of sin and misery” (Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity, Letter, “The Greatness of our Vocation”).

Christ has made death the path to life: not just life, but Life in perfect union with Him in the inner Life of the Divine Trinity for those who believe. And no matter the pain death causes us, we can place all our hope in Him.”

Love & much joyful, healthful Life,
Matthew

A Universal Church has universal opinions….shocker!!!!

A 3d graphic of the words in the question What Do You Think? This could be used to encourage people to participate in a survey or poll and ask their opinion or

Some people are surprised, or scandalized, or relieved, or whatever, to learn Catholics have differing opinions from each other, ALL THE TIME!!!  Some of this results from inadequate, eighth grade level catechesis, at best, and even then of questionable quality, but exactly how many sublime and nuanced truths as contained in philosophy and theology can you really communicate to college students, let alone eighth graders?

My humble opinion is, with the elevated level of education on the part of the laity, the Church has relied too long on its old, old model of the ignorant and illiterate peasant farmer or such, Catholic, Catholic ghetto, immigrant getting off boat, train, etc., and making a bee-line for the rectory where the good Father, the only literate Catholic within miles, will secure housing, food, employment, etc. for said peasant.  See where priests get there historical power, besides the obvious?  Not a healthy, mature, relevant, sustaining, Christian, 21st century, empowered (and, I hate that word, as used in “corporate”) model, but, still.  We’re still using that ancient model.  The world HAS changed, and so have most Catholics; maybe not clergy, sharing power is a BITCH, like surrendering one’s divinity to become mortal, or even going to the Cross, out of love, but they are dependent on their bishop for everything, ok.  And, a bishop is dependent on Rome to even be called Catholic.

Granted, not every Catholic wishes to enter into post-graduate theological catechesis, or the relevant discussion therein implied.  However, this is where REAL answers begin to emerge.  Sorry, not sorry.

Some may be scandalized to realize Catholics are not a monolithic thought block.  We’re not.  Once formally declared as teaching of the Church, however, things become more linear, they do, or they should. This is pretty much where Luther, and other Reformation leaders, fell off the boat. Obedience is a virtue. No matter how right I think I am, I will NOT disobey Holy Mother Church. She is my mother, after all. Lord, have mercy on my soul. Please!!!!

However, anyhoo, even with THAT, Catholics would have raging differences of opinions on EVERYTHING.  It’s very Catholic.  As I have mentioned MANY times and places, asking questions, and I know I have a problem with asking questions and with the truth, I like them both TOO MUCH!  But, asking questions is VERY Catholic!!  Deo gratias!!

Trigger warning!!!  🙂  Let’s have an example!!!!  Yeah!!!

Q.  Do homosexual unions have moral value?  (No ez ones in my class!!  They’re boring, anyway. 🙂 )

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-by Matthew Cullinan Hoffman

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-Cardinal Marx

“According to Cardinal Reinhard Marx, homosexual relationships have “worth,” a worth that must be recognized by the Catholic Church.

“We have to respect the decisions of people,” Marx told the media last week in Dublin after delivering a speech at Trinity College, according to a recent report in the Irish Times.

“We have to respect the decisions of people. We have to respect also, as I said in the first synod on the family, some were shocked but I think it’s normal, you cannot say that a relationship between a man and a man and they are faithful [that] that is nothing, that has no worth,” he said.

Consequently, according to Marx, the Church owes homosexuals an apology for its historical treatment of homosexuals. “As Church and society, we have to say ‘Sorry, Sorry,’” Marx said. He added that the Church should support “regulating” homosexual partnerships. “We as church cannot be against it.”

Marx’s statements seem to fly in the face of repeated affirmations by some of the Catholic Church’s most authoritative documents, including the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which calls homosexual sexual acts “acts of grave depravity” which are “intrinsically disordered,” and “can never be approved.” They also contradict the Vatican’s 2003 instruction on homosexual unions, which forbids support for legal recognition for homosexual unions of any kind.

St. Peter Damian, a cardinal who wrote the most extensive treatment of the issue of homosexual unions in the Church’s history, also had a very different understanding of the value of homosexual relations from that of Cardinal Marx.

According to Damian’s work on the subject, the Book of Gomorrah, written in the 11th century in response to a plague of homosexual vice among priests and clergy, homosexual unions are in no way beneficial to their participants; to the contrary, they are utterly destructive to them, spiritually, psychologically and even physically, throwing them into an emotional and spiritual confusion that makes them subject to demonic manipulation.

Damian writes that “this vice, which surpasses the savagery of all other vices, is to be compared to no other. For this vice is the death of bodies, the destruction of souls, pollutes the flesh, extinguishes the light of the intellect, expels the Holy Spirit from the temple of the human heart, introduces the diabolical inciter of lust, throws into confusion, and removes the truth completely from the deceived mind.”

Damian recognizes that the logic of homosexual vice leads to ever-more degrading and self-destructive acts, a reality confirmed by those who have come out of the gay lifestyle. The homosexual relationship “violates sobriety, kills modesty, slays chastity,” writes Damian. “It butchers virginity with the sword of a most filthy contagion. It befouls everything, it stains everything, it pollutes everything, and for itself it permits nothing pure, nothing foreign to filth, nothing clean.”

The homosexual relationship removes “the armaments of the virtues, and to strike them down, exposes them to the darts of every vice,” Damian writes, adding that it “removes the foundation of faith, enervates the strength of hope, breaks the tie of charity, destroys justice, undermines fortitude, banishes temperance, and blunts the sharpness of prudence. And what more shall I say? Since indeed it expels every cornerstone of the virtues from the court of the human heart, it also, as if the bolts of the doors have been removed, introduces every barbarity of the vices.”

Damian notes that individuals who involve themselves in homosexual relationships suffer from anxiety and other psychological disturbances, a fact that has been repeatedly confirmed by numerous peer-reviewed medical studies in recent decades.

Of those who participate in such relationships, Damian writes: “His flesh burns with the fury of lust, his frigid mind trembles with the rancor of suspicion, and chaos now rages hellishly in the heart of the unhappy man while he is vexed by as many worries as he is tortured, as it were, by the torments of punishment. Indeed, once this most poisonous snake has sunk its teeth into an unhappy soul, sense is immediately taken away, memory is removed, the sharpness of mind is obscured; it becomes forgetful of God, it forgets even itself.”

In some ways Damian seems to foresee the behavior of the modern homosexual movement. Using a metaphor that seems particularly appropriate, Damian refers to the homosexual lifestyle as “the queen of the sodomites,” who enslaves and degrades her victims, taking away their peace and instilling in them a frenetic obsession with pleasure. He also notes that those who involve themselves in such behavior feel compelled to draw others into the same wretchedness, by becoming homosexual “militants.”

“This most pestilent queen of the sodomites renders him who is submissive to the laws of her tyranny indecent to men and hateful to God,” Damian writes.

“In order to sow impious wars against God, she requires a militancy of the most wretched spirit,” he continues. “She separates the unhappy soul from the fellowship of the angels, removing it from its nobility to place it under the yoke of her own domination. She strips her soldiers of the armaments of the virtues, and to strike them down, exposes them to the darts of every vice. . . . She gnaws the conscience like worms, burns the flesh like a fire, and pants with desire for pleasure. But in contrast she fears to be exposed, to come out in public, to be known by others.”

In contrast to Cardinal Marx and other Catholic prelates who have recently advocated affirming homosexual relationships or tolerating them, Peter Damian writes that we must avoid the “cruel mercy” of staying silent in the face of evil, and even warns that we become the “murderer of another’s soul” if we do not speak against the immorality of their behavior.

“Who am I to watch such a noxious crime spreading among those in holy orders and keeping silent, to dare to await the accounting of divine punishment as the murderer of another’s soul, and to begin to be made a debtor of that guilt of which I had been by no means the author?” writes Damian, adding later, “For how am I loving my neighbor as myself, if I negligently allow the wound, by which I do not doubt him to be dying a cruel death, to fester in his soul? Seeing therefore the spiritual wounds, should I neglect to cure them by the surgery of words?”

St. Peter Damian’s words were well-received by Pope St. Leo IX, who said “everything that this little book contains has been pleasing to our judgment, being as opposed to diabolical fire as is water.” Today, however, Damian’s warnings are increasingly ignored by European and American prelates in favor of an indifferent and even benign understanding of the sin of sodomy.”

Love,
Matthew

Sex as Summum Bonum?

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“To think sex is repulsive is a failure of true chastity and a moral defect.” ( S.T., II, II, 142) -St Thomas Aquinas, OP

Is sex the “greatest good”?  Certainly, it is a great good.  WOOT!!  WOOT!!  Ask any healthy adult person!!  Amen.  And, a gift from God!!!  But, heresy, I know, is it the GREATEST good, the Summum Bonum?  Our bodies may tell us “HELL, YEAH!!!”  Any flavah!!!  Any kind!!  Sky’s the limit!!  It’s ALL for US, baby!!!  The kinkier the bettah!!!  The weirder the bettah!!!  Marquis de Sade, eat your….whatevah, OUT!!!!  ALL 4 US!!!  HAhahahahahaha!

It has a purpose?  A reason?  Not just fun?  It’s supposed to be used for something?  Crazy talk.  Crazy.  There’s a plan?  An intention?  A reason?  WutchU talkin’ ’bout, Willis?  WutchU talkin’ ‘BOUT?????

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Animals crave sex, food, warmth, comfort, security, safety, etc., ALL the “creature comforts”.  Of course, silly.  Wait…what?  Why are you asking such a ridiculous question, Matt?  Matt, you pull out some doozers, but this is a DOOSIE!!!!  Matt!!!  How DARE you question the ULTIMATE TRUTH!!!  This is what we LIVE for, Matt!!!  Take the keyboard AWAY from that man!!!  He really has LOST IT NOW!!!

But, even accepting the theory of evolution, or its future cousins, plainly, faith and reason, fides et ratio, is sex the GREATEST good?

“So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.”  -Gen 1:27

The Catholic Church is often maligned as HATING SEX!!!!!  I can assure you, NOTHING could be farther from the truth.  I come out of Moral Theology seminars at the St John Bosco Conference at Steubenville University shouting to every young person I meet, “The Catholic Church wants YOU to have AWESOME SEX!!!!”  It does!!!  It truly does.

But, (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?), it does NOT want you to be merely an animal.  You, as a human being, are MADE in the IMAGE & LIKENESS of G O D, H I M S E L F!!!!!!!  WOW!!!  WTF???? = Well, that’s fantastic!!!!  Wdtm??? = What does that mean???  Ah, the rub.  Now we’re getting somewhere, aren’t we?  Or, maybe you ARE just an animal???  I guess that’s up to you, but, last I heard, notwithstanding the cuteness of “all good doggies go to heaven”, a gentle answer for a child bereft of their favorite pet, not too many mentions of animals in Heaven??  🙁

So, if you DON’T want to go to Heaven, then go ahead, be an animal.  It’s NOT ALL GOOD.  🙁  But, if you DO want to go to Heaven, then, maybe, just maybe, that “IMAGE & LIKENESS” stuff has implications??  No matter HOW MUCH you gotta scratch that itch?  Maybe??

Can’t we just say “Thanks, God.  We’re outta here!!!” with that image & likeness stuff??  Can’t we?   Well,…no.  Darn!  You mean that stuff has implications?  Consequences?  Responsibilities?  Entanglements?  Requirements?  Such a great gift?  Really?  Really.

Summum bonum (Latin for the highest good) is an expression used in philosophy, to describe the ultimate importance, the singular and most ultimate end which human beings ought to pursue. The summum bonum is generally thought of as being an end in itself, and at the same time containing all other goods. In Christian philosophy, the highest good is usually defined as the life of the righteous, the life led in Communion with God and according to God’s precepts.

Saint Augustine states, clearly, God is the Summum Bonum in De natura boni (On the Nature of Good, written circa 399). Augustine denies the positive existence of absolute evil, describing a world with God as the supreme good at the center, and defining different grades of evil as different stages of remoteness from that center.

Experience soon teaches that all desires cannot be satisfied, that they are conflicting, and that some goods must be foregone in order to secure others. Hence the necessity of weighing the relative value of goods, of classifying them, and of ascertaining which of them must be procured at the loss of others. The result is the division of goods into two great classes, the physical and the moral, happiness and virtue. Within either class it is comparatively easy to determine the relation of particular good things to one another, but it has proved far more difficult to fix the relative excellence of the two classes of virtue and happiness.

The only moral sexual act is natural marital relations open to life. But even if a married couple were to video tape their sexual acts for their own use, without distribution to third parties, such creation and use of pornographic material would not be moral. The marital act is inherently intimate and private, and should not be recorded for any purpose. The material itself is also morally disordered when the contents contain explicit depictions of unnatural sexual acts, or explicit depictions of any type of perverse sexuality. Such acts are inherently gravely contrary to God’s plan for sexuality in human life.”

http://www.catholicplanet.com/ebooks/the-immorality-of.pdf

“c) Marital chastity subordinates sexual pleasure to communion. The pleasurable sensations of sexual activity culminating in orgasm are in themselves a private and incommunicable experience.  Hence, to focus attention on this experience and strive to intensify it as much as possible tends to make the other person into a means, a “sex object.” So, the Church teaches that spouses should pursue sexual gratification only in subordination to marital love.168 Marital chastity, by making the marital good itself central, makes it possible for the experience of loving cooperation in one-flesh communion to predominate and enjoyable sensations to take their proper, subordinate place in marital intercourse. Thus subordinated, erotic pleasure no matter how intense, is morally good (see S.t., 2–2, q. 153, a. 2, ad 2).

The point is clarified by John Paul II’s teaching that a man can commit adultery in his heart by looking lustfully at his own wife. He does not mean spouses may not look at each other with erotic desire or with the intention of arousing desire in themselves and each other. To look lustfully instead means to reduce “the riches of the perennial call to the communion of persons, the riches of the deep attractiveness of masculinity and femininity, to mere satisfaction of the sexual ‘need’ of the body.” The person looked at in this way is made into a sex object. Hence: “Man can commit this adultery ‘in the heart’ also with regard to his own wife, if he treats her only as an object to satisfy instinct.” And a woman likewise can commit this adultery toward her own husband.169

d) If reason calls for abstinence, intercourse cannot express love. Even when it is not appropriate to engage in marital intercourse, people often are tempted and constrained to do so by sexual excitement and desire. Of itself, however, sexual drive does not express love; it is no more communicative than any other biological drive.

Outward behavior can express what is in one’s mind and heart only insofar as it is, not the result of a biological drive, but a free self-communication. Thus, if an uncontrollable nervous condition causes a man from time to time to blurt out “Omaha, Omaha!” everyone soon realizes that his “Omaha, Omaha!” is meaningless.

If his wife wants his agreement about anything important, she asks him to put it in writing. Likewise, to be expressive, sexual activity must be free, and to convey genuine love, it must tend to common benefit; unless freely chosen for the sake of common benefit, marital intercourse cannot express and nurture unselfish love.170

It follows that to be able to give oneself in marital intercourse so that the act means something, one needs self-control sufficient to be able to choose not to engage in intercourse when reason, considering all the relevant goods, calls for abstinence. At such times, love is expressed and fostered not by intercourse but by mutual support in abstaining cheerfully.

Consequently, marital love requires a husband and a wife to develop marital chastity, that is, to subordinate genital arousal and satisfaction to the reasonable claims of all the aspects of their common good as a married couple. By enabling the couple both to come together when appropriate and to abstain when appropriate, marital chastity empowers them to engage in sexual acts which truly embody love, rather than merely manifest an urge for inwardly focused, selfish self-satisfaction.171

http://www.twotlj.org/G-2-9-E.html

Use is the opposite of love.  How’s that for romantic?  Not bad, huh?  🙂

Love,
Matthew

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

St Thomas Aquinas’ 5 Remedies for sadness

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I suffer from clinical depression.  I was diagnosed in 1994; meds, therapy, the whole nine yards.  So sadness to me is not unfamiliar or infrequent.  It is a cursed associate:  soul & body, body & soul.

In Roman Catholicism, the theology of the body is based on the belief that the human body has its origin in God. It will be, like the body of Jesus, Resurrected, transformed and taken into heavenly glory.

“Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity” (GS 14 § 1). The doctrine of the faith affirms that the spiritual and immortal soul is created immediately by God.”  -CCC 382

On certain days we have all been sad, days when we have been unable to overcome an inner torpor or depression that weighs down on us and makes it difficult to interact with others. Is there a trick for overcoming sorrow and recovering our smile? St. Thomas Aquinas suggests five remedies against sadness that have proven surprisingly effective (Summa Theologiae, I–II, q. 38).

The first remedy is granting ourselves something we like. It’s as though the famous theologian had already intuited seven centuries ago that “chocolate is an antidepressant.” (YEAH!! 🙂 )This might seem a bit materialistic, but no one would deny that a tough day can end well with a good beer (DOUBLE YEAH!!!). It’s hard to refute this by citing the Gospel, since our Lord took part joyfully in banquets and feasts, and both before and after his Resurrection enjoyed the noble and good things in life. One of the Psalms even says that wine gladdens the human heart (although the Bible also clearly condemns getting drunk).

The second remedy is weeping. St. Thomas says “a hurtful thing hurts yet more if we keep it shut up, because the soul is more intent on it: whereas if it be allowed to escape, the soul’s intention is dispersed as it were on outward things, so that the inward sorrow is lessened” (I-II q. 38 a. 2). Our melancholy gets worse if we have no way to give vent to our sorrow. Weeping is the soul’s way to release a sorrow that can become paralyzing. Jesus too wept. And Pope Francis said that “certain truths in life can only be seen with eyes cleansed by tears. I invite each of you to ask yourself: Have I learned how to cry?”

The third remedy is sharing our sorrow with a friend. I recall here the friend of Renzo in Manzoni’s great novel The Betrothed. Finding himself alone in his deserted home ravaged by the plague and mourning his family’s horrible fate, he tells Renzo: “What has happened is horrible, something that I never thought I would live to see; it’s enough to take away a person’s joy for the rest of his life. But speaking about these things with a friend is a great help.” This is something we have to experience in order to understand it. When we are sad, we tend to see everything in tints of gray. A very effective antidote is opening our heart to a friend. Sometimes a brief message or phone call is enough for our outlook to once again be filled with light.

The fourth remedy against sadness is contemplating the truth. Contemplating the “fulgor veritatis” St. Augustine speaks of, the splendor of truth in nature or a work of art or music, can be an effective balm against sadness. A literary critic, a few days after the death of a dear friend, was scheduled to speak at a conference about the topic of adventure in the works of Tolkien. He began by saying: “Speaking about beautiful things to people interested in them is for me a real consolation …” Amen.

The fifth remedy suggested by St. Thomas is perhaps something we wouldn’t expect from a medieval thinker. The theologian says that a wonderful remedy against sadness is bathing and sleeping. Amen. It’s a deeply Christian viewpoint that in order to alleviate a spiritual malady one will sometimes have to resort to a bodily remedy. Ever since God became Man, and therefore took on a body, the separation between matter and spirit has been overcome in this world of ours.

A widespread error is that Christianity is based on the opposition between soul and body (a deadly heresy, actually…), with the latter being seen as a burden or obstacle for the spiritual life. But the right view of Christian humanism is that the human person (both body and soul) is completely “spiritualized” by seeking union with God.

No one thinks it strange to seek out a physician who cares for the body as a guide for a spiritual illness,” says St. Thomas More. “The body and soul are so closely united that together they form a single person, and hence a malady of one can sometimes be a malady of both. Therefore, I would advise everyone, when confronted with a physical illness, to first go to confession, and seek out a good spiritual doctor for the health of their soul. Likewise for some sicknesses of the soul, besides going to the spiritual physician, one should also go to a physician who cares for the body.”

Love, and always praying for your well being. Give Praise to our Creator Who wonderfully made us!!!
Matthew

“Conscience is a window to Truth.” – Rev. Wojciech Giertych, OP, Theologian for the Papal Household

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ROME, November 4, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Conscience is a window to truth, according to the pope’s theologian. And an act of conscience is an act of reason, not something to be confused with feelings.

Father Wojciech Giertych, Theologian for the Papal Household, aka Master of the Sacred Palace, sat down with LifeSiteNews during the final week of the Vatican’s Synod on the Family to discuss some of the issues considered during the international gathering of bishops called to address challenges to the family.

Father Giertych did not take part in the synod, and he was therefore not privy to any of the closed discussion occurring there, nor was he able to speak to specific synod developments.

However, the one on-call theologian for the pope, Father Giertych is a valuable resource on the Church’s teaching. And he was able to offer clarity on some of the moral areas discussed so widely at the synod.

Given the underlying question of conscience during the synod gathering, LifeSiteNews asked Father Giertych about the prevalent indifference to sin in society and its implications. He concurred that there is an absence of a sense of sin today in many parts of the world, with the effects carrying over into real consequences for people’s lives.

“If the perception of moral truth is unclear, then people are lost,” Father Giertych said. “People aren’t quite sure what is right and what is wrong.”

Following this, conscience is now often cited to allow permission for people to act on their impulses and desires, without regard for sin or consequence.

Specific to the synod, a term that received attention was “inviolability of conscience,” which seeks to establish an individual’s personal conscience as paramount, without necessarily first defining conscience.

Father Giertych told LifeSiteNews that we have to be careful in what we mean by the term “conscience.”

“Conscience is the act of practical reason,” he stated.

“Many people identify conscience with feelings,” said Father Giertych. “Feelings are secondary; conscience is a window to truth. … The conscience has to be formed to see the truth.”

We should not identify our conscience with our feelings, he continued. Rather, we have to go to the truth of the matter. And application of conscience is not an arbitrary thing.

“The idea of a subjective conscience, that I invent my moral principles as I go along – this is absurd. This is absolutely wrong.”
“You have to perceive the truth of the matter,” stated Father Giertych, “by reason.” This means taking all factors involved into account.

There are three specific criteria that determine an individual’s perception of the truth related to an act of conscience, Father Giertych told LifeSiteNews. These are the intention, the object of the act, and the circumstances. “If one is missing, then the whole act is inappropriate.”

The truth of an act of conscience can vary according those criteria.

One example he explained was the question of whether a doctor should amputate a patient’s limb. This is an extremely serious thing, and it would not be appropriate to take the limb in a medical setting where it could be saved. However, it is another matter entirely if leaving the limb will kill the patient.

Father Giertych clarified that while the conditions that establish the criteria surrounding an act of conscience can vary, the definition of conscience and its application do not.

“The idea of a subjective conscience, that I invent my moral principles as I go along – this is absurd. This is absolutely wrong,” he told LifeSiteNews.

The concept of conscience permeated much of the synod discussions, as it directly relates to the moral issues debated there.

Among the most hotly disputed matters was that of Holy Communion for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.

Father Giertych revisited for LifeSiteNews the fundamental question of who should present him- or herself for the Eucharist.

“Every individual before he receives Holy Communion has to see that he receives the Communion worthily, believing this is the body and blood the soul and the divinity of Jesus Christ given under the species of bread and wine,” he said, “and that the individual is in a state of grace. That means that individual is not aware of having committed mortal sin.”

When someone is in a state of grave sin, Father Giertych said, he must be absolved of his sin before presenting himself for Communion.

“If that is the case, then it’s required to go to Confession and be absolved of the sin,” he stated.

A perfect conversion is necessary for worthiness to receive Communion, the papal theologian continued, and that means a conversion toward God and an aversion to sin.

The same can be said of any temptation, Father Giertych explained, as it is in the case of Catholics living objectively in a situation that is contrary to the moral truth.

No one is owed Communion; rather, it is a gift from the Lord to be given proper regard and handling.

“The graces of God we receive as a gift from God,” said Father Giertych, “and so we have to persist in an attitude of gratitude. … Whereas if we approach the gifts of God with our list of demands, it destroys the purity of our relationship with God. So any sort of sense of entitlement is incorrect. It’s inappropriate.”

“The teaching of St. Paul is clear,” the theologian explained: “we have to be worthy to receive the Eucharist, we cannot receive it unworthily, and affirmation of sin makes a person unworthy.”

When asked about the idea often expressed that Communion is not a prize for the perfect, but medicine for the sick, Father Giertych clarified that this does not negate the elements necessary to be worthy of receiving Communion.

“The sacraments are a nourishment,” he said, “but they’re nourishment that has to be received in truth, and in the pure relationship of gratitude towards God, and in the recognition of the light that God has given us.”

“The graces of God we receive as a gift from God, and so we have to persist in an attitude of gratitude.”

Father Giertych pointed out that the Commandments and moral teaching transmitted in the Church are also a gift, and that one must accept all of the gifts God gives to properly accept any.

“We receive Jesus not only on the sacraments, but also in the teaching that accompanies the sacraments,” he said.

And Father Giertych dismisses the idea of a supermarket approach, saying, “You enter the supermarket: ‘I want this, no, I don’t want that. … But in our relationship with God, we cannot impose upon God our own list of demands. ‘I want these graces, I don’t want those other graces…’ If we are pure in our relationship to God, we accept them all.”

To the argument that the Church must adapt Her teaching to align with society’s standards today, Father Giertych counters that today is not at all different from any other time in that no justification exists to allow the Church’s principles to be compromised.

It’s not a novelty that times change and the Church would face new challenges, he told LifeSiteNews.

The Church had to invent certain practical ways to help people to live the fullness of the Gospel in the past, he said, but the fullness of the Gospel has not changed.

“Human nature, the sacraments, divine grace, what we receive from Christ and the identity of the Church, the mission of the Church has not changed. [T]he principles have not changed; human nature has not changed. And the guidance that God gave us ultimately in the Word made flesh, in Christ, that does not change.”

Regarding the concept discussed during the synod of Church decentralization, Father Giertych was quick to correct a misconception that the Vatican controls everything. He said the term decentralization refers to government.

He also clarified that the Church has always defended the concept of subsidiarity – the idea that it’s always best to handle things on the local level whenever possible.

“The local bishop should address his individual diocese’s problems by applying the Gospel, Church teaching, and tradition.”
But the idea that any doctrinal matters could be managed at the diocesan level is wrong, he said, as it is not the local bishop’s place to do so.

Individual bishops must handle issues in their respective dioceses, but only within the confines of upholding Church teaching. A bishop cannot decide doctrinal issues because he hasn’t the authority, as the Church’s teaching comes from the Church and therefore cannot be changed.

“The local bishop should address his individual diocese’s problems,” said Father Giertych, “by applying the Gospel, Church teaching, and tradition.”

Love,
Matthew

MEN!! YOU ARE GOING TO DIE!!! be a Dad.

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This may sound strange, I understand.  But, for some reason, my ENTIRE LIFE, I have been asking myself the question every moment of every day, since I can remember, back into the single digits, “Am I ready?”  I don’t know why I have asked myself this question.  Even if it’s all not true, that is the definition of faith, it helped me lead a better life.

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-by Rev Larry Richards

YOU ARE GOING TO DIE!

It doesn’t matter how rich we are, or how popular we are, or how powerful we are: we are all going to “kick the bucket” one day. Isn’t that a nice thought?

What we have to do is take some time to sit and meditate about taking our last breath. What do you want your wife to say about you? What do you want your kids to say about you? Once you’ve decided, “Okay, when I am taking my last breath this is what I want”, you can start living your life with your end goal in mind. You will start living in such a way that when the day of your death happens, the people who know you will say what you want them to say.

Death is the ultimate thing that takes control out of our hands. Even if we commit suicide, we cannot control what happens after we die. Not one of us had control over our own birth and not one of us has control of what happens after we die.

I have been to a lot of deathbeds throughout my priesthood, so I know what it is going to be like when you are dying. While you are lying there, the thing that is going to be most important to you is your relationships—the people that you loved and the people that in return loved you.

Then why don’t we live every day with that in mind? Make the decision to never let your wife or your kids go to bed or walk out the door without telling them first that you love them—life is just too short! It will change your family. It will change the world.

You should underline John 15:12 in your Bible, where Jesus commands us, “Love one another as I have loved you.” This is not an option. He also said, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you” (Jn 15:9). Jesus told the people He loved that He loved them.

Why is it that men do not do that? Men are embarrassed. They are afraid. It makes them vulnerable. They think to be a man, you don’t go around telling the people you love that you love them; but Jesus told twelve men that He loved them. Then He told us to love others in the same way.

Let me give you a hint: you will never in your life regret that you told your wife and your kids and the people you love that you love them—never. You won’t be lying on your deathbed one day saying, “I can’t believe that I daily told my loved ones that I loved them. What is the matter with me?”

Now, how do you fall in love with someone? You know that you did not get to know your future wife by meeting her once and giving her forty five minutes to an hour once a week. You spent time with her. You got to know her. The same is true with our relationship with God. It might take you months—it might take you years—but you have to do it. You have to keep spending time with God until the answer to the question of whether or not you know God is unequivocally yes.

We need to know who our true Father is. There’s only one Father for everybody: God the Father! That guy you call your dad, he’s the instrument of fatherhood, but he’s not your true Father.

When we talk about our fathers—whether we had a good father, a bad father, a close and supportive father, or a distant and unsupportive father whom we did not know at all—it doesn’t matter as much because the reality is, we all have the same Father in heaven. It’s that Father Who will bring healing to us.

Husbands are called to love God primarily through their wives. Your wife is the sacrament of Christ to you. You are the sacrament of Christ to your wife. When she looks at you, she is supposed to see Jesus Christ. That is why Ephesians 5:22–24 is such a wonderful passage. It says, “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the Church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands.” Many of us remember the translation that said that wives were to be “submissive to their husbands”. The problem is that many men just stop with their wives being “submissive”. The men love that part, which is why so many women go crazy.

I make this very explicit when I am preaching at a marriage ceremony. I start with the bride and I say, “Sweetheart, you read the Bible every day, don’t you?” At first I usually get a “Yes, Father”, and then I say kiddingly, “If you lie to a priest, you know, you go to hell.” Then she will usually quickly say, “Okay, no, Father.” Then I continue, “Well, there is a verse in Ephesians that says, ‘Wives, be submissive to your husbands, as to the Lord.’ ” And then I ask, “Do you think it means what it says?” And I always get an emphatic “No, Father!” Then I literally jump up and down and scream, “Yes, it means what it says!” When I say this, all the feminists in the crowd become very upset and say things like, “This is another reason I hate the Catholic Church.” And the bride thinks, “Why did we ever get this priest to marry us?” I love this!

Then, as anyone who knows me knows, I am an equal opportunity offender, so I turn to the groom, who usually likes all of this. Now it is time for the other shoe to fall. I then ask the groom, “You read the Bible every day, right?” He always responds, “No, Father.” Then I ask, “Well, do you know what it says in Ephesians after ‘Wives, be submissive to your husbands’?” The groom always shakes his head and says, “No.” Then I continue, “It says, ‘Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her.’ ” Then I ask, “Do you know what that means?” I then continue kiddingly, “Your life is over!” Then I tell them that every day they need to be more concerned about each other than they are about themselves! That is what marriage is about!

So you need to start to do at least one unselfish act for your wife every day. Surprise her. When was the last time you treated her the same way you did when you were still trying to get her to marry you?

Next, let us focus on your children, which I think is easier because they are a part of you. Do we allow our children to be themselves? Some people think that the best father you can be is a strong disciplinarian. Absolutely, I agree. But just as much as you discipline your children, you must also build them up.

Sometimes we are just harsh and we think this is what God wants, but that isn’t the way God is. God loves us. He gives away His life for us. And then He always tells us He loves us. Correct?

One of the roles that men have, given to them by God (see Gen 3:16; 1 Cor 11:3; Eph 5:23), is to be the spiritual leaders of their families. Now this is where I have called men “spiritual wimps” for many years. Many men have let their wives be the spiritual leaders of their families, but this is not the way God created it to be. Now this does not mean that you are the master of your wife and family; it means, like Jesus Christ, you are the servant leader of your family.

First off, this means that you lead by example. You must be a man of prayer. For it is only as a son who listens to his heavenly Father that you can bring the will of the Father to your family. You cannot be a good and true leader unless you are a true and good follower. You must daily spend committed time in prayer with God, then lead your family in prayer. Do you have daily committed time with your family in prayer? And no, grace before meals is not enough!

You need to be the spiritual leader by being a man of sacrifice. You exist to give your life away for others, like Jesus did. That means you give your life for your family first and foremost.

My good friend Danny Abramowicz loves to tell men at men’s conferences: “Men, your kids will always love their mother, but they want to become just like you!” If we are not holy ourselves, then our families will not be holy. It is that simple. God is going to speak to men, women, and children, but He is speaking especially to men to help us be His very image.

You are the sacrament of Fatherhood to your children just like St. Joseph was the sacrament of Fatherhood to Jesus. Just as God used St. Joseph to form Jesus Christ in His humanity, so too does He want to use you to form your children. So I would encourage you before you read any further to stop and ask St. Joseph for his intercession for you so you can grow in holiness.

The Lord God of the universe is calling all of us to be great men, men that are examples of Him and who use Him as our example. We are called to become another Christ in this world. Our goal is to bring others to Him.

Do it and you will live forever.”

Love,
Matthew

Men are rediscovering the importance of the spiritual life. And Father Larry Richards is helping them do it. While some writers apply a one-size-fits-all approach to the Christian life, Father Richards draws on his many years of ministry and his own experience as a man to inspire other men as men.

In Be a Man!, he recounts his struggles to learn true manhood, as well as the inspiring stories of others he has served in his decades as a priest. He tells men how to focus on the right goal, how to live as a beloved son of God, of the need to acknowledge one’s faults and to live according to the Holy Spirit, to be a man of true love and of wisdom, to appreciate properly the differences between men and women, to pursue holiness, and to make a difference in the world. Not preachy but direct, Father Richards challenges men to be strong, without putting on a mask of false strength or machismo. He calls men to admit their weaknesses and limitations, while urging them to find strength in faith and genuine love to overcome their sins and faults.

Although a celibate priest, he minces no words when it comes to the place of sexuality–for the unmarried man as well as for the married man. He shows that true manliness is not opposed to love but thrives on it. Father Richards stresses that a relationship with Christ reveals the meaning of a man’s life and his identity as a man. He inspires men to become the true heroes they long to be–men of authentic courage, compassion and integrity. This is a highly readable book for men by a man who knows how to talk to men about the things that matter most.

“Father Larry talks straight to men in his own manly style. He pulls no spiritual punches–I don’t think he knows how to! He pokes, pushes, sometimes verbally slaps men into being God’s men, all with an obvious love for them and faith in their ability to persevere to heaven.” — Dr. Ray Guarendi, radio host and author

“Be a Man is a must-read for all men who are serious about strengthening their relationship with God. This exceptional book speaks clearly and directly, challenging men to live their faith with courage and conviction. Be a Man is a spiritual wake-up call that offers a refreshingly honest presentation of what it means to be a man of God. With a unique blend of humor, passion, and frankness that has become his trademark style, Fr. Larry Richards explores how a Christ-centered male spirituality fosters growth in holiness, and inspires men to become loving servants of their wives, families, and the Church.” — Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, Aurem Cordis apostolate