Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Today We Remember the Early Martyrs of Rome


(Click on the picture to enlarge it)

James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon and Jude; Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian; Ignatius, Alexander, Marcellinus, Peter, Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia, Anastasia. We remember these name and honor them every time the priest prays the Roman Canon, also known as the Eucharistic Prayer I.

Who were these people? They are the "top of the iceberg," so-to-speak, the few names handed down to us from the many Christians who were martyred in Rome during three centuries of persecution. We remember them particularly today. They gave their lives so that today we could believe freely.

This is a more comprehensive listing, spanning various centuries of martyrs connected to Rome - hat tip to OrthodoxEngland.org, hence the "Eastern-Orthodox-centric" streak of the commentary and its penchant to highlight martyrs of Greek origin. But this is the best list I've come across. Just keep in mind that despite the counterclaims, Orthodoxy is Catholic and Catholicism, as we have received it today, is Orthodox, critics notwithstanding:
Clement Nov 23 (In the East Jan 4, Apr 22, Sept 10 and Nov 25) + c 101. One of the Seventy Apostles, he was the third Pope of Rome. Consecrated by the Apostle Peter, he is mentioned in Philippians 4,3 and wrote a letter to the Church of Corinth which still exists. He is venerated as a martyr and he is remembered in Rome by the church of San Clemente, which may have been built on the site of his home.

Evaristus Oct 26 + c 105. The fourth Pope of Rome and a martyr.

Zachary May 26 + c 106. By tradition the second Bishop of Vienne in France, martyred under Trajan.

Ignatius of Antioch Oct 17 + c 107. Called 'the God-bearer'. Bishop of Antioch for forty years, he was taken to Rome by order of Trajan and was thrown to the wild beasts in the amphitheatre. On his way to Rome he wrote seven letters which survive. His relics are in St Peter's in Rome.

Rufus and Zosimus Dec 18 + c 107. Citizens of Philippi brought to Rome with St Ignatius of Antioch and thrown to the beasts in the Roman amphitheatre two days before the latter's martyrdom.

Zosimus June 19 + 110. A martyr in Spoleto in Umbria in Italy under Trajan.

Antiochus Dec 13 + c 110. A martyr on Sulci, a small island near Sardinia, under the Emperor Hadrian. The island is now also known as Isola di Sant'Antioco.

Publius Jan 21 + c 112. Tradition identifies this saint with Publius, 'chief man of the island of Malta', who befriended St Paul after his shipwreck (Acts 28,7). He became the first Bishop of Malta and later Bishop of Athens, being martyred under Trajan.

Alexander, Eventius and Theodulus May 3 + c 113. Three martyrs buried on the Via Nomentana in Rome.

Alexander I May 3 (In the East March 16) c 115. The fifth Pope of Rome from c 107 to c 115.

Latinus of Brescia March 24 + 115. Flavius Latinus succeeded St Viator as the third Bishop of Brescia in Italy (84-115). He suffered imprisonment and torture with other Christians.

Rome (Martyrs of) Apr 10 + c 115. A number of criminals baptised by Pope Alexander during his imprisonment. They were taken to Ostia near Rome and put on board a boat which was then scuttled.

Quirinus March 30 + c 117. The jailer of Pope Alexander I, by whom he was converted with his daughter St Balbina. Shortly afterwards he was martyred in Rome under Hadrian.

Sulpicius and Servilian Apr 20 + c 117. Martyrs in Rome who were beheaded under Trajan.

Maurus, Pantaleimon and Sergius July 27 + c 117? Three martyrs venerated in Bisceglia on the Adriatic in Italy. Maurus is said to have been born in Bethlehem, sent by the Apostle Peter to be the first Bishop of Bisceglia. They were martyred under Trajan,

Terentian Sept 1 + 118. Bishop of Todi in Umbria in Italy. He was racked, had his tongue cut out and finally was beheaded under Hadrian.

Eustace, Theopistes, Agapitus and Theopistus Sept 20 + 118. Eustace was an officer, Theopistes, his wife, and Agapitus and Theopistus, their two sons, were martyred in Rome under Hadrian. Eustace owed his conversion to a vision of a stag with a cross between its antlers, seen by him while hunting.

Secundus March 29 + 119. A noble from Asti in Piedmont in Italy and an officer in the imperial army. He was beheaded in Asti under Hadrian.

Serapia July 29 + 119. A slave of Syrian descent who was beheaded in Rome under Hadrian.

Zoticus, Irenaeus, Hyacinth, Amantius and Companions Feb 10 + 120. A group of ten soldiers martyred in Rome and buried on the Via Lavicana.

Marcian March 6 + 120. By tradition he was a disciple of St Barnabas and the first Bishop of Tortona in Piedmont in Italy, where he was martyred under Hadrian after an episcopate of forty-five years.

Theodora Apr 1 + c 120? The sister of St Hermes (Aug 28) whom she helped in prison and under torture. She was herself martyred some months later. Brother and sister were buried side by side.

Getulius, Caerealis, Amantius and Primitivus June 10 + c 120. By tradition Getulius was the husband of St Symphorosa. He, his brother Amantius, and the two officers sent to capture him and converted by him, were clubbed to death in Tivoli in Italy under Hadrian.

Hermes and Companions Aug 28 + c 120. Martyrs in Rome under the judge Aurelian.

Philetus, Lydia, Macedo, Theoprepius (Theoprepides), Amphilochius and Cronidas March 27 + c 121. Martyrs in Illyria under Hadrian. Philetus was a senator, Lydia his wife, Macedo and Theoprepius their sons, Amphilochius a captain, and Cronidas a notary.

Sixtus I (Xystus) Apr 3 + c 125. Pope of Rome from 117 to c 125, sometimes referred to as a martyr.

Marcian of Ravenna May 22 + c 127. Fourth Bishop of Ravenna in Italy, where he is known as San Mariano.

Calocerus Feb 11 + c 130. A disciple of St Apollinaris, whom he succeeded as Bishop of Ravenna in Italy.

Balbina March 31 + c 130. By tradition the daughter of Quirinus the martyr, she was baptised by Pope Alexander and lived as a virgin in Rome. She was buried on the Appian Way near her father. Later her relics were enshrined in the church dedicated to her on the Aventine.

Justa, Justina and Henedina May 14 + c 130. Saints venerated in Sardinia where they were martyred under Hadrian (117-138), either in Cagliari or else in Sassari.

Gabinus and Crispulus May 30 + c 130. The Protomartyrs of Sardinia. They suffered in Torres where they had preached the Gospel under Hadrian.

Crescentian May 31 + c 130. A martyr in Sassari in Sardinia, at the same time as Sts Gabinus and Crispulus under the Emperor Hadrian.

Auspicius July 8 + c 130. By tradition the fourth Bishop of Trier in Germany and successor of St Maternus (c 130).

Juvenal of Benevento May 7 + c 132. A saint of Narni in Italy. His shrine is in Benevento.

Martin of Vienne July 1 + c 132. Third Bishop of Vienne in France.

Telesphorus Jan 5 (In the East Feb 22) + c 136. A Greek who was Pope of Rome for ten years and was martyred under Hadrian.

Faith, Hope and Charity Aug 1 (In the East Sept 17) c 137. The three girls, aged respectively twelve, ten and nine years, daughters of St Sophia who were martyred in Rome under Hadrian.

Castritian Dec 1 + 137. The predecessor of St Calimerius as Bishop of Milan. He was bishop for forty-two years.

Oliva March 5 + 138. Martyred, perhaps in Brescia in the north of Italy, under the Emperor Hadrian.

Corebus Apr 18 c 117-138. A prefect of Messina in Sicily, converted to Christ by St Eleutherius and martyred under the Emperor Hadrian.

Eleutherius and Anthia Apr 18 + 117-138. Eleutherius, Bishop of Illyria, his mother Anthia and eleven others were martyred in Illyria under Hadrian.

Peregrinus May 16 + c 138 (?) Bishop of Terni in Umbria in Italy and founder of its Cathedral.

Hyginus Jan 11 + c 140. Pope of Rome from c 138 to 140, he may also have been a martyr.

Seven Brothers July 10 (In the East Jan 25) + c 150. Seven early martyrs in Rome who became brothers through sharing martyrdom. Their names are: Januarius, Felix and Philip, scourged to death; Sylvanus, thrown over a precipice; Alexander, Vitalis and Martial, beheaded. They suffered in Rome under Antoninus Pius.

Julian of Sora Jan 27 + c 150. Born in Dalmatia, he was arrested, tortured and beheaded in Sora in Campania in Italy under Antoninus Pius (138-161).

Mark and Timothy March 24 + c 150. Two martyrs in Rome.

Alexander July 10 + c 150. An early martyr in Rome.

Novatus June 20 + c 151. Son of Pudens, senator of Rome, and brother of Sts Praxedes and Pudentiana.

Pius I July 11 + c 155. Pope from c 142 to c 155. He may have been a brother of Hermas, the writer of the work called The Shepherd. If so, Pius, like his brother, was born a slave. He opposed the Gnostics, notably the Gnostic Marcion. He may have been martyred.

Simitrius and Companions May 26 + c 159. A group of twenty-three martyrs in Rome, arrested while praying in the church of St Praxedes and beheaded without trial.

Pastor July 26 + c 160. A priest in Rome and by tradition the brother of Pope Pius I.

Justin the Philosopher or Justin Martyr June 1 c 100-165. Born in Nablus in Palestine of pagan parents, when he was about thirty he was converted by reading the Scriptures and witnessing the heroism of the martyrs. His Apologies for the Christian Religion and Dialogue with the Jew Trypho are among the most edifying of second-century writings. He was beheaded in Rome with other Christians.

Ptolemy and Lucius Oct 19 + c 165. Martyrs in Rome under Antoninus Pius. Ptolemy was put to death for instructing a woman in the Orthodox Faith. One Lucius and an unnamed man protested against the injustice of the sentence and were also martyred. Their story was written down by St Justin Martyr, their contemporary.

Anicetus Apr 17 + 166. A Syrian by descent, he was Bishop of Rome from about 152 till 166. During this period St Polycarp of Smyrna visited Rome to settle with him the question of the date of Easter. Anicetus took a firm stand against the Gnostics and may have been martyred.

Daniel Jan 3 + 168. A deacon who helped St Prosdocimus, the first Bishop of Padua in Italy. He was martyred in 168.

Pontian Jan 19 + 169. A martyr in Spoleto in Italy under Marcus Aurelius.

Constantius and Companions Jan 29 + 170. Constantius, first Bishop of Perugia in Italy, was martyred with numerous members of his flock under Marcus Aurelius.

Severinus, Exuperius and Felician Nov 19 + 170. Martyrs in Vienne in France under Marcus Aurelius.

Sophia Sept 30 (In the East Sept 17) + c 173. The mother of the virgin-martyrs Faith, Hope and Charity who were martyred in Rome under Hadrian. Three days later, while praying at their tomb, Sophia also reposed, martyred in her soul.

Soter Apr 22 + c 174. Like most Orthodox in Rome at this time, he was a Greek. He became Pope and corresponded with the Church of Corinth and traditionally he is regarded as a martyr.

Concordius Jan 1 + 175. A subdeacon martyred in Spoleto in central Italy under Marcus Aurelius.

Probus Nov 10 + c 175. Born in Rome, he became the sixth Bishop of Ravenna in Italy. His relics are venerated in the Cathedral in Ravenna.

Photinus (or Pothinus), Sanctius (Sanctus), Vetius, Epagathus, Maturus, Ponticus, Biblis (Biblides), Attalus, Alexander, Blandina and Companions June 2 + 177. Martyrs in Lyons in France under Marcus Aurelius. The details of their martyrdom are given in a letter written by the Churches of Vienne and Lyons to those in Asia. The writer may have been St Irenaeus. The martyrs were attacked by a pagan mob and later tried and condemned for their faith. Photinus, their leader, bishop of the city, an old man aged ninety, reposed in his dungeon. The others were thrown to the wild beasts in the amphitheatre at the public games.

Paschasia Jan 9 + c 178 (?) A virgin martyr venerated from ancient times in Dijon in France.

Epipodius and Alexander Apr 22 + 178. Two young friends and citizens of Lyons in France, martyred under Marcus Aurelius. St Epipodius was beheaded. St Alexander is also commemorated on April 24.

Alexander and Companions Apr 24 + 178. A Greek by birth and the friend and companion of St Epipodius of Lyons in France. He was arrested and martyred with thirty-four others.

Marcellus Sept 4 + c 178. A priest in Lyons in France who escaped from prison but was arrested again. He was buried up to his waist on the banks of the Saône, where he survived for three days before he died.

Valerian Sept 15 + 178. A companion of St Photinus (Pothinus) of Lyons in France. He succeeded in escaping from prison and reappeared at Tournus near Autun, where he again preached to the people. He was captured a second time and beheaded.

Leucius of Brindisi Jan 11 + c 180. Venerated as the first Bishop of Brindisi in Italy where he had come as a missionary from Alexandria.

Hegesippus Apr 7 + c 180. A Jew born in Jerusalem, he spent twenty years of his life in Rome. He is considered to be the father of Church History but only a few chapters of his work remain.

Namphamon and Companions July 4 + c? 180. Of Carthaginian descent, he was martyred with several compatriots at Madaura in Numidia in North Africa and called 'the Archmartyr'.

Scillitan Martyrs July 17 + 180. Twelve martyrs, seven men and five women, who suffered at Scillium in North Africa under Septimius Severus. Their names are: Speratus, Narzales, Cythinus, Veturius, Felix, Acyllinus, Laetantius, Januaria, Generosa, Vestina, Donata and Secunda. The official Acts of these martyrs still exist.

Herculanus Sept 5 + ? c 180. A martyr in Porto near Rome, probably under Marcus Aurelius.

Antoninus Aug 22 + 186. A converted executioner in Rome.

Eleutherius May 26 + 189. A Greek who became a deacon in Rome and succeeded St Soterius as Pope in 175.

Apollonius the Apologist Apr 18 + c 190. A Roman senator, denounced as a Christian by one of his own slaves and condemned to be beheaded. His eloquent defence of Orthodoxy, delivered before the Senate at his trial is a priceless document of the Faith.

Dathus (Datus) July 3 + 190. Bishop of Ravenna in Italy. His election was due to the miraculous appearance of a dove hovering over his head.

Pantaenus July 7 + c 190. Born in Sicily, Pantaenus became the head of the Orthodox School in Alexandria.

Calimerius July 31 + c 190. A Greek who became Bishop of Milan in Italy. He is the Apostle of the Po Valley. He was martyred under Commodus by being thrown into a well. He is buried under the altar of his church in Milan.

Faustus Aug 7 + c 190. A soldier martyred in Milan in Italy under Commodus.

Julius Aug 19 + c 190. An early martyr in Rome.

Eusebius, Pontian, Vincent and Peregrinus Aug 25 + 192? Martyrs in Rome.

Dionysius May 8 + c 193. The successor of St Justus as Bishop of Vienne in the Dauphiné in France.

Victor I July 28 + 198. Born in North Africa, he was Pope of Rome for ten years (189-198).

Irenaeus of Lyons June 28 c 130-200. Born in Asia Minor, he was a disciple of St Polycarp, who was a disciple of the Apostle John the Divine. He went to France and became Bishop of Lyons (c 177), where he was later martyred. His writings against Gnosticism are a witness to Apostolic Tradition.

Symphorian Aug 22 + c 200. A member of a senatorial family in Autun in France, he was martyred under Marcus Aurelius for refusing to sacrifice to a pagan goddess.

Rufus of Avignon Nov 12 + c 200. Venerated as the first Bishop of Avignon in France.

Lucius Dec 3 ? + c 200. A noble in Britain. According to tradition, he asked that missionaries be sent to Britain and they founded the dioceses of London and Llandaff.

Liberius Dec 30 + c 200. Bishop of Ravenna in Italy, venerated as one of the founders of that diocese.

Elvan and Mydwyn Jan 1 2nd cent. By tradition they were two Britons sent to ask for missionaries for Britain.

Patiens Jan 8 2nd cent. Venerated as the fourth Bishop and patron-saint of Metz in France.

Paul, Gerontius, Januarius, Saturninus, Successus, Julius, Catus, Pia and Germana Jan 19 2nd cent. (?) Martyrs in Numidia in North Africa.

Modestus Feb 12 2nd century? Modestus was martyred in Carthage in North Africa and venerated as the patron-saint of Cartagena in Spain.

Eleuchadius Feb 14 2nd cent. A Greek, he was converted by St Apollinaris of Ravenna in Italy and succeeded St Adheritus as third Bishop of that city.

Faustinus and Jovita Feb 15 2nd cent. Two brothers, belonging to the nobility of Brescia in Italy, zealous preachers of Orthodoxy, they were beheaded in their native city under Hadrian.

Felix of Metz Feb 21 2nd cent. The third Bishop of Metz in France for over forty years.

Alexander and Theodore March 17 2nd century? Early martyrs in Rome.

Flavia Domitilla, Euphrosyna and Theodora May 12 2nd cent. Flavia Domitilla was a great-niece of the Emperors Domitian and Titus and St Flavius Clemens. She became Orthodox. On refusing to marry a pagan she was exiled from Rome and martyred with her foster sisters, Euphrosyna and Theodora, in Terracina in Italy.

Pudentiana (or Potentiana) May 19 2nd cent. A holy virgin in Rome, daughter of the senator St Pudens. By tradition she died at the age of sixteen.

Baudelius May 20 2nd (or 3rd) cent. Born in Orleans in France, he was married and worked zealously for Orthodoxy. He was martyred in Nîmes. Veneration for him spread throughout France and the north of Spain and some four hundred churches were dedicated to him.

Dyfan (Deruvianus, Damian) May 26 2nd cent. By tradition an early missionary in Britain. His church in Merthyr Dyfan shows the popular tradition that he ended his days as a martyr.

Fugatius and Damian May 26 ? 2nd cent. By tradition they were missionaries sent to Britain from Rome.

Cominus June 3 2nd century. A companion of St Photinus (Pothinus) and martyr in Lyons in France.

Gervase and Protase June 19 ? 2nd cent. In 386, during the episcopate of St Ambrose, the relics of Sts Gervase and Protase, the protomartyrs of the city, were discovered in Milan in Italy.

Praxedes July 21 2nd cent. The daughter of the Roman senator Pudens and sister of St Pudentiana. One of the ancient churches in Rome is dedicated to her.

Peregrinus July 28 2nd cent. (?) A priest near Lyons in France at the time of St Irenaeus and during the persecution under Severus. He lived as a hermit on an island in the River Saône.

Maximus of Padua Aug 2 2nd cent. Successor of St Prosdocimus as Bishop of Padua in Italy.

Florus, Laurus, Proculus and Maximus Aug 18 2nd cent. The former were twin brothers and stonemasons in Illyria. Proculus and Maximus were their employers. They handed over a temple on which they had been working to Christian worship and as a punishment were drowned in a well.

Flocellus Sept 17 2nd cent. A youth martyred in Autun in France under the Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180). After being tortured, he was flung half-dead to the wild beasts in the amphitheatre.

Alexander Sept 21 2nd cent. A bishop in the neighbourhood of Rome. His miracles attracted the attention of the people and he was arrested and martyred on the Claudian Way, some twenty miles from Rome. His relics were enshrined in Rome.

Andochius, Thyrsus and Felix Sept 24 2nd cent. Andochius, a priest, and Thyrsus, a deacon in Smyrna, were sent to what is now France by St Polycarp. They settled in Autun where they converted their host, a rich merchant, by name Felix. All three were martyred and were venerated throughout Gaul.

Herculanus Sept 25 2nd cent. A soldier martyred in Rome.

Adhentus (Abderitus, Adery) Sept 27 + 2nd cent. A Greek by birth, he succeeded St Apollinaris as Bishop of Ravenna in Italy. His relics are enshrined in the basilica of Classe near Ravenna.

Paternus Sept 28 2nd cent. Born in Bilbao in Spain, he was one of the earliest Bishops of Auch in France.

Benignus Nov 1 2nd cent. A martyr venerated in Dijon in France from early times, over whose tomb the Cathedral of St Benignus was built.

Agrippinus (Arpinus) Nov 9 2nd or 3rd cent. Bishop of Naples in Italy, where he has been greatly venerated from time immemorial. His relics are enshrined under the altar of the Cathedral of Naples with Sts Eutychius and Acutius, companions of St Januarius.

Veneranda Nov 14 2nd cent. An early martyr in France.

Fidentius Nov 16 2nd cent. An early saint in Padua in Italy.

Cecilia Nov 22 2nd-3rd cent. One of the most famous virgin-martyrs of Rome. Having suffered for Christ, she was buried in the cemetery of St Callistus. Her relics are beneath the altar of the basilica of St Cecilia in Trastevere. She is the patron-saint of musicians.

Monday, June 29, 2009

PBS Religion and Ethics Weekly Broadcast on Thomas Merton

 

Thomas Merton

Folks, PBS’ Religion and Ethics Weekly recently dedicated one of their shows to the late American Trappist monk Thomas Merton which I think you should all watch. You may click on the picture above to access the site or click here. As soon as PBS releases the video to YouTube, I will embed the video here. They also have other great content on Merton which you may access here:

As well as some other related materials:

Check it out! And let me know what you think, good, bad, or indifferent about Father M. Louis “Thomas” Merton, who I consider one of my spiritual preceptors, warts and all.

Whitewash in Progress on Neda's Murder by Iranian Authorities

"Reelected" Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about to blame the West.

Folks, according to CNN:
TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday called the death of Neda Agha-Soltan "suspicious" and urged the country's authorities to identify those responsible for it, Iran's semi-official Fars news agency reported Monday.

The 26-year-old's death has come to symbolize Iranian resistance to the government's official election results since it was captured on amateur video. Within hours of its being posted online June 20, she had become the iconic victim of the Iranian government crackdown.

But Iran has been pushing back against eyewitness reports that she was shot by pro-government Basij militiamen perched on a rooftop near a demonstration.

Ahmadinejad told the head of Iran's judiciary, Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi, to probe the incident and make the results of his investigations public, Fars reported Monday, nine days after Agha-Soltan was killed. See gallery of Neda and the affect of her life »

"The massive propaganda of the foreign media, as well as other evidence, proves the interference of the enemies of the Iranian nation who want to take political advantage and darken the pure face of the Islamic republic," he said in a letter to Shahroudi, according to the news agency.

The letter comes a day after Iran's government-backed Press TV said Agha-Soltan did not die the way the opposition claims.
Commentary. Stung by the fallout on Neda's murder in and outside Iran, "reelected" Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is launching an all-out information campaign aimed at shifting the blame. Their foregone conclusion? Unspecified Western intelligence agencies are to blame, perhaps the CIA, most likely MI6.

Scapegoating is in full swing in Iran. In the meantime, Neda is dead and the authorities would not even allow their own people to mourn her according to their own religious rites - or rather, they will as soon as the regime blames her death on the West. Watch out for that too.

In the meantime, remember Neda.

Today we observe the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul

Today's my name day!

From today's Office of Readings, from a sermon of St Augustine

The martyrs had seen what they proclaimed

This day has been consecrated for us by the martyrdom of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul. It is not some obscure martyrs we are talking about. Their sound has gone out into all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world. These martyrs had seen what they proclaimed, they pursued justice by confessing the truth, by dying for the truth.

The blessed Peter, the first of the Apostles, the ardent lover of Christ, who was found worthy to hear, And I say to you, that you are Peter. He himself, you see, had just said, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Christ said to him, And I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church. Upon this rock I will build the faith you have just confessed. Upon your words, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God, I will build my Church; because you are Peter. Peter comes from petra, meaning a rock. Peter, “Rocky”, from “rock”; not “rock” from “Rocky”. Peter comes from the word for a rock in exactly the same way as the name Christian comes from Christ.

Before his passion the Lord Jesus, as you know, chose those disciples of his whom he called apostles. Among these it was only Peter who almost everywhere was given the privilege of representing the whole Church. It was in the person of the whole Church, which he alone represented, that he was privileged to hear, To you will I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven. After all, it is not just one man that received these keys, but the Church in its unity. So this is the reason for Peter’s acknowledged pre-eminence, that he stood for the Church’s universality and unity, when he was told, To you I am entrusting, what has in fact been entrusted to all. To show you that it is the Church which has received the keys of the kingdom of heaven, listen to what the Lord says in another place to all his apostles: Receive the Holy Spirit; and immediately afterwards, Whose sins you forgive, they will be forgiven them; whose sins you retain, they will be retained.

Quite rightly, too, did the Lord after his resurrection entrust his sheep to Peter to be fed. It is not, you see, that he alone among the disciples was fit to feed the Lord’s sheep; but when Christ speaks to one man, unity is being commended to us. And he first speaks to Peter, because Peter is the first among the apostles. Do not be sad, Apostle. Answer once, answer again, answer a third time. Let confession conquer three times with love, because self-assurance was conquered three times by fear. What you had bound three times must be loosed three times. Loose through love what you had bound through fear. And for all that, the Lord once, and again, and a third time, entrusted his sheep to Peter.

There is one day for the passion of two apostles. But these two also were as one; although they suffered on different days, they were as one. Peter went first, Paul followed. We are celebrating a feast day, consecrated for us by the blood of the apostles. Let us love their faith, their lives, their labours, their sufferings, their confession of faith, their preaching.

- Source: Universalis.com

Middle-Eastern readers studying Church's position on Human Sexuality and Same-Sex Marriage

Folks, I don't normally report on what my readers are reading on Vivificat! but I've found this intriguing. It started last week, when Vivificat's stat counter started recording numerous visits from IP's located in Egypt. It started with visits on the site in English and then visits through the Google Arabic translator to the post on Human Sexuality, Marriage, and Same-Sex Unions (See the Arabic rendition here. I don't like because it messes up the template, otherwise cool. Not that I can read any of it!). Then I started receiving visits from IPs in Jordan, Morocco, and Dubai on the same post. I wonder if my Egyptian brethren hyperlinked to the post or if there's a geographically-wide research project on the subject in the Middle East. The referrals, however, appear to come from Google searches and independent from each other.

What's going on? Can I help you all with more information? Anyway, welcome, and salaam aleikum.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

“When tenderness is detached from the source of tenderness, its logical outcome is terror.”

A quote from Flannery O’Connor:

Flannery O'Connor One of the tendencies of our age is to use the suffering of children to discredit the goodness of God, and once you have discredited His goodness, you are done with Him. The Aylmers whom Hawthorne saw as a menace have multiplied. Busy cutting down human imperfection, they are making headway also on the raw material of the good. Ivan Karamozov cannot believe, as long as one child is in torment; Camus' hero cannot accept the divinity of Christ, because of the massacre of the innocents. In this popular pity, we mark our gain in sensibility and our loss in vision. If other ages felt less, they saw more, even though they saw with the blind, prophetical, unsentimental eye of acceptance, which is to say faith. In the absence of this faith now, we govern by tenderness. It is a tenderness which, long since cut off from the person of Christ, is wrapped in theory. When tenderness is detached from the source of tenderness, its logical outcome is terror. It ends in forced-labor camps and in the fumes of the gas chamber.

Today, instead of “tenderness",” we would say “sentimentality” or in their co-opted, perverted meanings so much in vogue, “tolerance,” and “compassion.” Flannery was truly ahead of her time.

- Hat tip to “TS” of If Flannery Had A Blog...

He was right then, now, and for all time

Pope Benedict XVI Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be "tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine", seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires.

We, however, have a different goal: the Son of God, the true man. He is the measure of true humanism. An "adult" faith is not a faith that follows the trends of fashion and the latest novelty; a mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ. It is this friendship that opens us up to all that is good and gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false, and deceit from truth.

We must develop this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith. And it is this faith - only faith - that creates unity and is fulfilled in love.

Source: Homily of His Eminence Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Dean of the College of Cardinals, during the Mass Pro-eligendo Romano Pontifice, 18 April 2005

Friday, June 26, 2009

Iranian ambassador now suggests CIA killed Neda

Oh yeah, this, according to CNN:
The United States may have been behind the killing of Neda Agha-Soltan, the 26-year-old Iranian woman whose fatal videotaped shooting Saturday made her a symbol of opposition to the June 12 presidential election results, the country's ambassador to Mexico said Thursday.

"This death of Neda is very suspicious," Ambassador Mohammad Hassan Ghadiri said. "My question is, how is it that this Miss Neda is shot from behind, got shot in front of several cameras, and is shot in an area where no significant demonstration was behind held?"

He suggested that the CIA or another intelligence service may have been responsible.

"Well, if the CIA wants to kill some people and attribute that to the government elements, then choosing women is an appropriate choice, because the death of a woman draws more sympathy," Ghadiri said.
Commentary. We need to understand where Ghadiri is coming from: a paranoid political culture obsessed with victimhood, blaming others, and saving the regime's honor by whatever subterfuge possible. The tragic fact is that his vile attempt at blame-shifting will resonate with many not only in the Middle East, but also throughout Latin America. Besides, if CIA operatives are roaming Iran in search of targets for assassination, heads must roll among the Revolutionary Guards and other Iranian secret services for their sloppy internal security. Where's Ghadiri's demand to hold accountable Iranian security for this "CIA" murder? Nowhere, because it is not true.

What a crock. Ghadiri does not tell the truth.

Catholics withstand pain and suffering better than non-believers

Scientific research suggests why.

Farrah Fawcett - Photo courtesy of blog.nj.com/Folks, the recent death of actress Farrah Fawcett - who died reconciled with Christ and the Catholic Church, having received Last Rites - as well as the deaths of Pope John Paul the the Great, Mother Teresa, and numerous others, got me thinking along the lines of suffering and pain. Namely, what is it that we Catholics possess that allow us to perceive pain and suffering under a much better and salutary light than non-Catholics, particularly unbelievers? Of course, the continuum of a prayerful outlook, examples of redemptive suffering freely accepted by Our Lord, His Mother, and all His saintly followers along with supporting imagery goes without saying. In case you didn't know, there's scientific research the hypothesis that Catholics are better at handling pain and suffering than non-Catholics and atheists.

According to Catarina Amorim, writing for the Portuguese site Ciência Hoje: Jornal de Ciência, Tecnologia e Empreendedorismo, the research, published in the journal Pain¹ last year, revealed for the first time that religion-associated pain resistance is linked to the activation of the brain right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC), an area associated with both cognitive down-regulation of pain and reassessment of the emotional meaning of an experience – for example by giving a neutral or even positive meaning to a noxious experience, and so making it much easier to cope with. The research contributes for a better understanding of pain coping mechanisms, and, consequently, can put us closer to new and better therapies for pain, but also might help to comprehend how cultural influences, such as religion, can affect the development and use of the different parts of the brain. And it does give an extra meaning to the saying “faith helps through life’s pains”.

Amorim states that it is known that the brain can control the way we feel about pain – the more we fear it, for example, the more unbearable it does seem - or even our unconscious perception of it as shown by the often very high pain threshold of chronic patients. To understand how this is achieved is of major importance if we consider the devastating effects of chronic pain, not only to patients’ quality of life, but also as an economic burden to society. In an attempt to find the link between brain and pain control, Katja Wiech, Miguel Farias, Irene Tracey and colleagues from the departments of Anaesthetics, Clinical Neurology, Theology, Ethics and Philosophy at the University of Oxford and the Psychology and Religion Research Group at the University of Cambridge decided to look into a widely reported but poorly understood phenomenon - alterations of pain perception observed during intense religious experiences.

Amorim reported that researchers used 12 practicing Catholics and 12 non-religious voluntaries, submitting both groups to an electrical shock, during which they were shown either a religious or a non-religious image, and while registering their brain activity. After this the subjects were asked to record the intensity of the pain felt during the pulse, as well as their like/dislike for each of the images. The pictures chosen – a painting of the Virgin Mary called ‘‘Vergine annunciate” by Sassoferrato and ‘‘Lady with an Ermine” by Leonardo da Vinci as the non-religious control – were aesthetically very similar.

Interestingly, according to Amorim, it was found that the religious group reported much less pain if watching the Virgin Mary during the electrical stimulus, despite the fact that both groups had, previously, been shown to have similar pain sensitivity. When commenting on the images, the Catholic subjects, as expected, expressed a higher liking for the Virgin Mary, while the non-religious group preferred the da Vinci’s print and even had negative feelings towards the Virgin. These observations support the idea that the changes in pain perception were linked to the religious content of the Virgin image, and not the result of a preference towards an image, since the non-religious group had no pain scores’ changes while watching its preferred da Vinci’s image.

Further supporting the hypothesis, when the voluntaries’ brains were analysed during the experiment by functional MRI – which registers blood oxygen variations in the central nervous system, with the areas of high activity showing high(er) levels of oxygen –, it revealed high activation of the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex in the religious voluntaries, again, in the presence of the Virgin. The atheist/agnostic group, on the other hand, showed no changes in that area at any moment. All individuals showed activation of the striatum, an area linked to pain perception.

VLPFC activation is known to be linked to reassessment of the emotional evaluation of experiences, so in this case, the researchers propose that the religious state, induced during the experiment with Catholics and the Virgin image, leads to a reassessment of the pain, giving it new more positive meaning and, in this way, diminishing its association with suffering. This is supported, not only by the fact that none of the non-religious subjects registered changes in the pain scoring, but also by the religious content comments of the Catholic group when describing their feelings in front of the image of the Virgin Mary: “… feeling calmed down and peaceful”, ‘‘…taken care of”, “…felt compassion and support”.

In conclusion, to Wiech, Farias and colleagues, and as consequence of an intense devout state induced by observing the religious image, the pain of the Catholics seems to be no longer associated with suffering but, instead, perfectly bearable and, in other more extreme cases probably even seen as a blessing, like the Saint Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) seems to say in a letter to her daughter:

“Very pleasing to Me, dearest daughter, is the willing desire to bear every pain and fatigue, even unto death, for the salvation of souls, for the more the soul endures, the more she shows that she loves Me; loving Me she comes to know more of My truth…”

Wiech, Farias and colleagues’ work reveals, for the first time, the neurological basis behind altered pain sensitivity during intense religious experiences. Although their hypothesis of pain reassessment meaning during religious experiences needs further investigation to be confirmed, these results are undoubtedly an important first step towards a better understanding of the neural mechanisms associated with pain control and, as such, in the direction of better pain coping treatments. And these can include, not only drugs targeting activation of brain areas associated with pain resistance, but even cognitive therapies based on the induction of similar emotional states to those produced by religion.

Read it all here.

Reflection. My question to you is this: don't you want this grace, to be able to accept pain and suffering as a token of God's love for you? And I don't mean don't take your medicines, or don't go to the doctor, or don't have necessary surgeries. That's not what I am suggesting. We do have responsibilities toward our health and bodies. What I am saying is that you - we - should accept the suffering that surrounds all treatments and accept it because pain and suffering will not go entirely away, even when treated. Pain and suffering become places of encounter with God in Christ.

It is high time that we accept the realities of pain and suffering. We should rejoice in them, as with them we "complete what is lacking in the passion of Christ" (2 Cor 12:9). If you consider the suffering of Christ, his Mother, Pope John Paul, and Mother Teresa as something too lofty and too far removed from our hundrum experience, then look at Farrah. She also showed us how to meet suffering and pain courageously and with faith.

Iranian regime happy and optimistic today...

Folks, the double passing of Farrah Fawcett and of the redoubtable Michael Jackson has been welcomed by the Iranian regime today as "Providential," according to highly-placed sources in the Iranian government who spoke anonymously because they were too gleeful to identify themselves. Knowing that the American public has the attention span of a two-year old, the Iranian leadership are breathing a sigh of relief as Americans shift their attention to the poignant end of one of Charlie's Angels and reminisce about the controversial, tragic life of "the King of Pop." Yesterday I witnessed how Twitter flooded with commentary about these glamorous lives as the plight of the Iranian people quickly receded to the background and saw the chatter swiftly change channels. It's really a sad commentary on American culture. With the eyes of the world turned away, the Iranian regime will now hold their own wild party.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Milingo "ordains" another bishop

Folks, remember Emmanuel Milingo? Back in late 2006 and early 2007 I detailed the activities of the excommunicated Zambian archbishop who earlier in the decade had begun behaving erratically and who had been kept in check by the cheer personality of the late Pope John Paul the Great. Milingo later married in the Unification "Church" by self-declared Messiah Sun Myung Moon himself and, under his guidance, opened up a self-proclaimed ministry to attract all laicized Catholic priests in the world.

Well, according to Catholic Culture, Milingo yesterday ordained the former priest Daniel Kasomo as a bishop of his “Married Priests Now” movement in a ceremony in Kenya. Bishop Martin Kivuva of Machakos suspended Father Kasomo after he admitted he had fathered children, which Milingo then saw as a recruitment opportunity.

Friends, Milingo's not your ordinary schism. His ties to the Unification "Church" has placed his sacramental powers at the disposal of what amounts to a Pagan cult. Sensing the danger, the Holy See does not recognize the validity of the episcopal orders simulated by Milingo which is to say that none of the men he has "ordained" bishops is truly a bishop at all. What we see is his movement is not even a Christian sect, but a card that the Unification "Church" wants to play against the Catholic Church and bring her, if they could, to deny Jesus Christ and acknowledge Sun Myung Moon as "the Lord of the Second Coming."

Caveat emptor. If you are a priest or former priest who has been targeted by Milingo to join his outfit, don't. If you join, you are literally playing with fire and endangering the Sacred Mysteries by literally handing them over to profane hands. Don't be deceived. Stay away from Emmanuel Milingo.

Read also:

Neda "shot by mistake" according to Iranian official press

Folks, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency as quoted by CNN, that the shooting of 26-year-old Neda Agha-Soltan, whose death, captured on video, has become emblematic of the crackdown on protesters, might have been a "mistake."
The report said the investigation into the death of Agha-Soltan is continuing, "but according to the evidence so far, it could be said that she was killed by mistake. The marksmen had mistaken her for the sister of one of the Monafeghin who had been executed in the Province of Mazandaran some time ago." Monafeghin refers to the People's Mujahedin Organization of Iran, which promotes a Marxist government for Iran and has waged a campaign against the fundamentalist Islamic Tehran government -- including bombings that killed politicians, judges and cabinet members.
These "exculpatory" remarks tell more for what they omit than for what they say and what they say is than in Iran exists a government-sanctioned campaign of targeted assassinations aimed at close relatives of those the state considers "terrorists."

"Ooops, sorry, wrong target" is not an excuse. Neda was killed because she was a target of opportunity and her death was meant to be a warning to others. Her murder was meant to convey that the Iranian regime will not tolerate dissent, however peaceful, and would kill whomever they pleased to prove their point.

Then again, we should not be surprised by this turn of events. Iran's is not a true democracy; the legitimacy of its institutions does not derive from the will of the people but from the whims of its ruling elite. If the legitimacy of the "Islamic Republic of Iran" was dubious before, perhaps now it has now become obvious that it lacks all legitimacy whatsoever. It's a dictatorship, plain and simple, not a monolothic, Stalinist one a la North Korea, but authoritarian and powerl enough to destroy all opposition and perpetuate itself in power.

According to the UN, "human rights entail both rights and obligations. States assume obligations and duties under international law to respect, to protect and to fulfil human rights. The obligation to respect means that States must refrain from interfering with or curtailing the enjoyment of human rights. The obligation to protect requires States to protect individuals and groups against human rights abuses. The obligation to fulfil means that States must take positive action to facilitate the enjoyment of basic human rights. At the individual level, while we are entitled our human rights, we should also respect the human rights of others." As Neda's murder clearly demonstrate, Iran is in clear abeyance of its human rights obligations and responsibilities. The regime's well-oiled propaganda machine is working overtime lately, but let us not be deceived.

Remember Neda.

Pro-abortionists have a new ally

There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white. - Richard Nixon, caught on newly released Oval Office tapes, reacting to the 1973 Roe v. Wade verdict (Source).

Commentary. So, Tricky Dick favored abortion in the case of biracial pregnancies, an argument of "convenience" well within the scope of women to make according to radical feminists. It's ironic that they and Nixon had at least one thing in common. I wonder where would Obama be if his mom had followed that common sensical "wisdom."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Archbishop of San Juan, Puerto Rico addresses the USCCB

Folks, this according to the USCCB Office of Media Relations:
Archbishop Roberto González Nieves of San Juan, Puerto RicoSAN ANTONIO—Archbishop Roberto González Nieves of San Juan, Puerto Rico, addressed the U.S. bishops on the implications of a “Continental Mission” to reignite Catholic identity and missionary zeal throughout the American continent, as urged by the Latin American bishops.

He addressed the full body of bishops June 17, at the General Assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in San Antonio. The day before, he led a workshop on the same topic accompanied by U.S. bishops who participated in the Fifth General Conference of Bishops of Latin America in Aparecida, Brazil, May 13-31, 2007.

That meeting gathered bishops from more than 20 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean as well as the United States. Participants analyzed the pastoral life of their regions and identified positive and negative aspects of their social, cultural, economic, political, pastoral realities. They identified common problems and considered common solutions and guidelines for pastoral action.

Archbishop González said that the late Pope John Paul II “correctly identified the need to evangelize Catholics anew in the ‘continent of hope’” if they were to be true witnesses to their faith. Archbishop González said the Continental Mission is directed to baptized Catholics because “we are losing our sense of being light and salt.”

He summarized key points from the Aparecida meeting, whose theme was “The Life of Christ in disciple-missionaries.” Latin American Bishops seek to “revitalize the life of the baptized so that they may deepen, remain and grow as disciple-missionaries of Jesus Christ,” he said. The commitment of all Christians, laity and clergy alike, to this identity will transform “the Church into a missionary community,” he said.

Archbishop Gonzalez said that in the Aparecida document the Latin American bishops vowed to re-assert their presence and closeness to their peoples and recommit themselves to “continuing formation of our disciple-missionaries, as well as to be more attentive to the individual stages of their formation.” The bishops declared the whole Church to be in a state of “permanent mission” and said that “in the vigor of the Holy Spirit they “convoke all their brothers and sisters to engage with enthusiasm and in a spirit of unity in the Continental Mission.”

Archbishop González also explained that in these historic events— there have been only five such meetings before in the history of the Church in Latin America—the “process is more important than the document.” To prepare for these general episcopal assemblies, there is extensive consultation. It begins locally with both laity and clergy invited to suggest which pastoral concerns the bishop should bring to the assembly. In his diocese alone, he said, “50,000 people responded to the questionnaires,” about half with their own suggestions. He estimated that throughout Latin America, “millions of people participated in the process.” This methodology is consistent with an ecclesiology of communion that places a premium on the participation of the community of faith.

U.S. Bishops are not officially part of CELAM, but were invited to speak and given one vote representing the USCCB. The delegation was led by Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane, Washington, and included Bishop Ricardo Ramírez of Las Cruces, New Mexico, Bishop Plácido Rodríguez of Lubbock, Texas, and Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, California. Speaking for the U.S. bishops, Bishop Ramírez said their contribution was to bring to the agenda the topics of international migration and the need for greater collaboration among bishops’ conferences of the Americas North and South.

At both presentations in San Antonio, U.S. bishops cited the need to study how Aparecida’s proposals can be interwoven with the U.S. Bishops’ five pastoral priorities. Some said that the call for a “permanent state of mission” would benefit the Church in United States. A few shared that they are already applying, or planning to apply, the Aparecida principles in their own dioceses. Msgr. Carlos Quintana Puente, director of the USCCB’s Collection for the Church in Latin America, reported on several follow-up activities in Latin America funded from the U.S. bishops collection.

Archbishop José Gomez of San Antonio, chair of the USCCB’s committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church, offered the help of the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity to those who seek to learn more about Aparecida and the call to a Continental Mission.

Archbishop González is a native of New Jersey and was ordained a bishop in 1988. He has served as Auxiliary Bishop of Boston, Bishop of Corpus Christi, Texas, and since 1999 Archbishop of San Juan.
Commentary. Without wanting to make any political commentary, the attendance of Archbishop González to the USCCB summer meeting is a testimonial of the issues that Puerto Rico - a US territory - has in common with the Mainland and the role that Puerto Rican Catholics can play to bridge the North and South.

"Pontifex," a title of old Roman pagan origin, is now commonly applied to Latin-rite bishops. The word means "bridge-builder." It has been emptied of much of its pagan meaning - as back then it was understood as a title for priests who built "bridges" between the gods and men - having acreeted a uniquely Christian meaning: bishops now are called to build bridges between the children of men. I am proud that Archbishop González is playing exactly this role to build bridges of understanding between our peoples.

Collection of Online Writings On Monasticism, Contemplative Prayer, and the Christian Life

Originally compiled by Fr. David Bird, of MONKS AND MERMAIDS (A Benedictine Blog).

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Pope John Paul the Great on Contemplation

Closeness to Christ in silence and contemplation does not distance us from our contemporaries but, on the contrary, makes us attentive and open to human joy and distress and broadens our heart on a global scale. (Source)

Remember Neda

Neda Soltan - Youtube/Foxnews

I never had the pleasure of meeting this young woman. I can't speak about her beauty, intelligence, sense justice, about those who loved her or those she loved. Others can do that better than I can and must.

Neda is an unlikely icon for womanhood, or at least for conventional Western feminists. She probably held relatively traditional views on the role of women and society and maybe her hopes regarding liberty and emancipation were modest. But living under a regime where dissent is ruthlessly repressed and alternate views of the future of a nation are violently shoved aside, she stood up as a beacon of hope. She dared to speak out.

Her voice was weak to begin with and that's why a cowardly assassin found it rather easy to dispose of her voice and her life as something to be sacrificed on the altar "for the good of the many."

I am familiar with the assassin's mindset. It's the same mindset that once pulled the plug on Terri Schiavo and that currently glorifies abortion as a "blessing". It's the same mindset that feeds the machinery of war and hatred throughout the world and fuels the Culture of Death.

Expediency killed Neda and now those responsible for her death want us to forget her death, they want to "Tiananmen" her. They want us to send her lovely pictures, the video of her last, gasping moments, and her words down Orwell's memory hole."

Our reply to the tyrants should be simple: we will not submit. We will not forget Neda, we will not set aside the Nedas of the world because their memories stir our cogwebby consciences.

Remember Neda.

STRATFOR: Security at Places of Worship: More Than a Matter of Faith

Folks, the times, “they are a’changing.” The dawn of the “physical security consciousness” has taken place across churches, ecclesial communities, and denominations across the USA. The phenomenon is no longer limited to how the Swiss Guard or different national security services are to protect the Holy Father as he moves around St. Peter’s Square or foreign cities; nor is it longer a matter how many bodyguards any given “super-church” pastor will have. We’re talking about increasing our awareness of the unprecedented wave of crime against people, places of worship, sacred symbols, and church property that is taking place right here in the USA. This is why this rather unexpected analysis of this situation by STRATFOR, entitled Security at Places of Worship: More Than a Matter of Faith by Scott Stewart and Fred Burton is so timely and compelling. Here’s an excerpt:

In recent months, several high-profile incidents have raised awareness of the threat posed by individuals and small groups operating under the principles of leaderless resistance. These incidents have included lone wolf attacks against a doctor who performed abortions in Kansas, an armed forces recruitment center in Arkansas and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Additionally, a grassroots jihadist cell was arrested for attempting to bomb Jewish targets in the Bronx and planning to shoot down a military aircraft at an Air National Guard base in Newburgh, N.Y.

In addition to pointing out the threat posed by grassroots cells and lone wolf operatives, another common factor in all of these incidents is the threat of violence to houses of worship. The cell arrested in New York left what they thought to be active improvised explosive devices outside the Riverdale Temple and the Riverdale Jewish Community Center. Dr. George Tiller was shot and killed in the lobby of the Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita. Although Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad conducted his attack against a Little Rock recruiting center, he had conducted preoperational surveillance and research on targets that included Jewish organizations and a Baptist church in places as far away as Atlanta and Philadelphia. And while James von Brunn attacked the Holocaust Museum, he had a list of other potential targets in his vehicle that included the National Cathedral.

In light of this common thread, it might be instructive to take a more detailed look at the issue of providing security for places of worship.

Awareness: The First Step

Until there is awareness of the threat, little can be done to counter it. In many parts of the world, such as Iraq, India and Pakistan, attacks against places of worship occur fairly frequently. It is not difficult for religious leaders and members of their congregations in such places to be acutely aware of the dangers facing them and to have measures already in place to deal with those perils. This is not always the case in the United States, however, where many people tend to have an “it can’t happen here” mindset, believing that violence in or directed against places of worship is something that happens only to other people elsewhere.

This mindset is particularly pervasive among predominantly white American Protestant and Roman Catholic congregations. Jews, Mormons, Muslims and black Christians, and others who have been targeted by violence in the past, tend to be far more aware of the threat and are far more likely to have security plans and measures in place to counter it. The Jewish community has very well-developed and professional organizations such as the Secure Community Network (SCN) and the Anti-Defamation League that are dedicated to monitoring threats and providing education about the threats and advice regarding security. The Council on American-Islamic Relations has taken on a similar role for the Muslim community and has produced a “Muslim community safety kit” for local mosques. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) also has a very organized and well-connected security department that provides information and security advice and assistance to LDS congregations worldwide.

There are no functional equivalents to the SCN or the LDS security department in the larger Catholic, evangelical Protestant and mainline Protestant communities, though there are some organizations such as the recently established Christian Security Network that have been attempting to fill the void…

Please, continue reading here.

I also accessed the Christian Security Network (CSN) website mentioned above and find it to be a good attempt to raise awareness, even though the CSN appears to be still “Protestant-centric” in its approach, but this is understandable given the Protestant preference for “voluntary” organization and church-polity. Nevertheless, they do document cases of crimes against Catholic churches but I am willing to bet that the tools provided by the CSN are unknown and vastly underutilized by potential Catholic users. I am convinced that it should be the responsibility of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights to coordinate the collection of information regarding crimes against individuals and church property and to raise our awareness of the different threats we face in light of rising fanatical secularism, “lone-wolf activism,” and the like.

The worst instances of crimes against church “property” in a Catholic context is the targeting of the tabernacles storing consecrated host, or the stealing of the Eucharist as its being handed out during Holy Communion in order to intimidate, silence, and offend Catholic Christians by desecrating our central Sacrament. This is an act we find very easy to “satanize” because it is satanic.

The point is, it is high time we adopt a common “security posture.” As the STRATFOR article points out, just having cameras everywhere and better locks and keys is not enough. “Situational awareness” is needed. Let us read this fine article and start thinking along the lines sketched therein. It is a sad commentary on the times that we have to think more systematically in terms of “security” when it comes to the defense of our parishioners and the diverse spiritual and material resources the Lord has given us in stewardship, but necessary in light of the spirit of the age.

Monday, June 22, 2009

USCCB Clarifies Key Points From Reflections On Covenant And Mission Statement (2002)

Folks, this according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:
WASHINGTON—A statement clarifying two points of Catholic teaching relative to the Jewish community was released June 18, at the spring meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). A Note on Ambiguities Contained in Covenant and Mission was jointly issued by the Committee on Doctrine and Pastoral Practice and the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. The statement can be found at http://www.usccb.org/bishops/covenant09.pdf.

“Our most important concern here is a pastoral one,” said Archbishop Wilton Gregory, chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. “The 2002 document, Covenant and Mission, raised many questions among Catholics in the United States about how the Church relates to the Jewish community. Today’s statement helps to answer these questions clearly.”Bishop William Lori, chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine and
Pastoral Practice, stated that there were two key points at issue.

“The USCCB reaffirms what the Holy See has stated repeatedly: that while the Catholic Church does not proselytize the Jewish people, neither does she fail to witness to them her faith in Christ, nor to welcome them to share in that same faith whenever appropriate.” Bishop Lori said. He added that current debates over the question of how Catholics understand the covenant with Moses in relation to Christ were equally important. The covenant with Moses, that continues to be adhered to by Jews today, is fulfilled, Christians believe, in Jesus.

“As followers of Jesus, we see his covenant as fulfilling God’s plan for the salvation of all peoples, both now and at the end of time,” Bishop Lori said.

Archbishop Gregory commended the on-going work of scholars and pastors in Catholic-Jewish dialogue. “Pope John Paul II once referred to Jews as ‘our elder brothers and sisters in faith’”, he said. “By continuing our study together, we hope to deepen our understanding of Jesus and our relationship with each other in God’s redemption of the world.”

Commentary. In other words: we Catholics will not mount any organized missionary effort at proselytizing our Jewish brethren. But, we are not going to close the door to any Jewish person interested in completing his Jewish faith in Jesus as Messiah in the Catholic Church. Our is an "open door policy" to any one wishing to gain eternal life in Jesus Christ Our Lord.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

“Discovering the Fatherhood of God in a Gender-Neutral Society”

Folks, good article in Ignatius Insight written by Mary Anastasia entitled Discovering the Fatherhood of God in a Gender-Neutral Society. Here’s an excerpt:

The first point to be examined in this review of the problem is one which impacts all the other points. This is the assault on "manliness" in our society today. A very wise man once said, "There is no one so narrow as an open-minded liberal." This statement is illustrated by the rabid way in which the "doctrine" known as "political correctness" is wielded by that small but violently vocal segment of society, the radical feminists. While claiming to champion "equality" between males and females, they have really brought about the emasculation of language and induced a "hunted quarry syndrome" among men today. Those qualities of maleness which once defined the role of the man in the fabric of society have been vilified into grounds for prosecution: the strength which makes him the protector suddenly becomes "animalistic aggression"; the logic and lucidity which give him the ability to provide for his family suddenly become "paternalistic oppression"; the love which moves him to desire children is criticized as "patriarchal enslavement." A generation of men has learned to suppress its instinctive chivalry for fear of fiery retribution. Masculine forms of language have become the dirtiest of swear words and masculinity in men (but not in women) a punishable offense. In short, the essential dignity of being created "male" through the deliberate act of the Creator has been shredded at the altar of misguided "equality."

This emasculated mind-set leads to tangible situations in which the concept of fatherhood is darkened beyond recognition. Webster defines "father" as both a noun and as a verb. As a noun, "father" is listed as "a male parent," while in its verb form it means "to act or serve as a father." In today's society, we very often see the noun function without the verb function: biological fathering is not followed by the continuing presence and nurturing of the male parent…

An excellent piece. Read it all here.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Iranian Tyrants Past and Present: Similarities and Differences

 

3Stooges

From left to right: Reza Shah Pahlavi, deposed Shah of Iran; Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. What do these men have in common? They’ve all been oppressors of the Iranian people, distorters of their innermost convictions, and destroyers of their dreams. In what do they differ? The last two have managed to do it without either direct or indirect US support. In their neck of the woods that’s considered an accomplishment.

I support the aspirations of the Iranian people and their right, if they so choose it, to change their form of government. I support their right of peaceful assembly, expression, and to freely receive information. I support the rights of all Iranians and people everywhere to have a voice in their government, to be taken seriously as mature political actors, and to help shape the destiny of their homelands.

These rights are now being denied in Iran and in many places around the world. And the Iranians are not alone. Disturbing trends aimed at reducing the sphere of freedom may be observed also in the West.

Let us pray for the people of Iran and for all peoples in the world who hunger and thirst for righteousness and justice, may they all be satisfied.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Today's the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

What the Heart of Jesus Teaches Us
He showed them his hands, and his side.
St. John 20: 20

Videte manus et pedes...; et ostendit eis latus. See and read in this book of life what I have done for you, says our Lord, look at the many lessons I have taught you. See My Feet, My Hands, and My Side. Behold this open book of My Wounds, this book of the new Testament. My fives Wounds are like the five books of Moses. You read therein what I have done for you, and what you should do for Me in return.

It is not enough, dear Brothers, to read these touching words of our Lord, we should carefully consider what is written in His five Wounds. The Wound of the Side, that is to say, the Wound of the Heart, teaches us how great is the tender love of Jesus Christ. This love has imparted unspeakable radiancy and incomparable sweetness to all that He has said and done and suffered for us. The love of Jesus is very fervent and very deep. It is poured out on all men, even on those who are ungrateful and are His enemies; and this love has chosen the Wound of the Sacred Heart for its dwelling. No one was able to take away our Lord's life, but love conquered Him and constrained Him to deliver Himself up to death for us. Yet even death could not make His love to cease. Why indeed was His Heart opened with a spear after death, if not to point out to us this love, which determined Him to endure so many pains and such deep suffering for our sake?

And after His Resurrection, did Jesus say to His Apostles: Go and avenge Me? No, He said: Go ye, preach to every creature, and to those that believe, baptize. Baptize them with the Water which issued from My Side, which flowed from My Heart! Therefore, dear Brothers, when your mind is filled with dangerous thoughts and evil inclinations, when you sigh under the weight of trouble, sadness and affliction, take refuge in the Wounds of Jesus, above all in that which opens to you the door of His Heart. Hide yourself in His Heart, cast yourself into It, cling to It; and the remembrance of so much loving kindness will make you forget your sorrows and your sufferings. If you would prove the efficacy of the divine remedy which I recommend, try for yourselves, and you will not regret it.

Lanspergius
Carthusian of Cologne.
Born in 1489, died in 1539.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Mass is a Banquet

“I am the bread of life,” says the Lord. The symbol for essential food is bread. Christ in the Eucharist offers Himself to us as spiritual food for eternal life, therefore, the Mass is considered a banquet. We know that Our Lord said His first Mass at the Last Supper.

The altar, in spite of its ornaments, is fundamentally a table. As at a banquet, tablecloths, bread, water, wine, a cup, a golden plate, candles and flowers are placed on it. The priest and the faithful know and feel that they are invited to eat flesh which is true food and they are invited to drink blood which is an authentic drink.

At a banquet, logically, you eat, participate and have communion. The table is the place par excellence where family or friends gather. When we want to establish a relationship with someone… when we want to be more closely united to our friends….. when we want to celebrate a wedding… when we want to demonstrate agreement… we eat together.

Also at Mass, the Father of the family, our Heavenly Father, gathers all of his children. He reminds them that they have a common Father who loves them, and that in spite of their weaknesses and sinfulness, they continue being His children and will forever be His children. He tells them that they can spend the entire week working… exhausting themselves… spending themselves… but He waits for them everyday to comfort them and to make them new men and women… He wants to place in their hearts all the love they need to love others.

Because we are so poor, we have so little love. To love our spouse properly… to love our children… to love our relatives… to love our friends…..to love them as they expect us to, we need nothing other than God Himself… we need His love in our hearts so that we can fulfill all the love which is asked of us.
For that, the Father invites us to sit at His table. He makes Himself visible to us in the bread. He gives us His bread – which is His own Son. He does this in that gesture in which a father or a mother make themselves known and beloved by their children thanks to those delicious family meals.

Now, what will we think of the one who refuses to come, the one who is bored at the home of his/her Father and looks for excuses for not sharing with Him? What do we think of the one who accepts His invitation but refuses to eat at the table? Unfortunately, there are many who agree to come, but refuse to eat. Perhaps they do not feel like it; this bread says nothing to them; they do not trust this food; throughout the meal, they will remain seated before their empty plate.

How a good housewife trembles with such guests! It is enough to make the other guests also lose their appetite. What a sad and lamentable meal would that be where many of the guests would refuse to associate with the others…..would refuse to communicate in the joy and the friendship of the rest! Who of us would tolerate such poorly educated persons? Who would dare to celebrate a feast in such circumstances?

In the beginning, the Mass was an authentic banquet, fraternal and loving, where Christ spoke at length with His disciples. There, Christ offered them the best He had: His own flesh which would nourish us, His own blood so we could obtain the transfusion of His life.

The apostles all communicated together. What joy, what fervor they all felt after their first communion! Upon leaving Mass, when will we feel so happy…..so renewed…..so fraternal…..so generous…..that we may be aware that only God has been able to change us to this extreme…..that God Himself has been present among us and has manifested Himself to us…..that we have seen the Father and have participated at His own table?

Questions for reflection
1. Do I participate joyfully at the banquet?
2. Do I consider going to Mass
on a weekday?
3. Do I go to communion at Mass?

The Gospel and Human Rights – Complete Series

Folks, I should’ve done this a while back. I want to list all 7 parts of this series on Human Rights and the Gospel in one post to ease navigation and searching. Just click on each link to access each individual post.

  1. The Gospel and Human Rights - What is a "right"?
  2. The Meaning of "Gospel Rights"
  3. Deriving all other Human Rights from Gospel Rights
  4. The Post-Modernists and their "rights"
  5. The Gospel: Subversive to Post-Modern Culture
  6. Post-Modern Rights vs. Gospel Rights: Critical Judgment
  7. The Gospel and Human Rights: The Road Ahead

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ex-atheist A.N. Wilson sees the light, returns to Christianity

Folks, in case you didn't know already, famed atheist A.N. Wilson is now Catholic a Christian. Having come to his senses, he came home to the Catholic Anglican Church last Easter. In his own words:
"My own return to faith has surprised no one more than myself. Why did I return to it? Partially, perhaps it is no more than the confidence I have gained with age.

"Rather than being cowed by them [the anti-religious smart-set], I relish the notion that, by asserting a belief in the risen Christ, I am defying all the liberal clever-clogs on the block: cutting-edge novelists such as Martin Amis; foul-mouthed, self-satisfied TV presenters such as Jonathan Ross and Jo Brand; and the smug, tieless architects of so much television output.

"But there is more to it than that. My belief has come about in large measure because of the lives and examples of people I have known -- not the famous, not saints, but friends and relations who have lived, and faced death, in the light of the Resurrection story, or in the quiet acceptance that they have a future after they die.

"The Easter story answers their questions about the spiritual aspects of humanity. It changes people's lives because it helps us understand that we, like Jesus, are born as spiritual beings.

"Every inner prompting of conscience, every glimmering sense of beauty, every response we make to music, every experience we have of love -- whether of physical love, sexual love, family love or the love of friends -- and every experience of bereavement, reminds us of this fact about ourselves."
Read a full retrospective written by Dr. Benjamin Wiker at the Catholic Education Resource Center and at To The Source.

The Ministry of Intercessory Prayer

Folks, it occurs to me that as men and women of prayer we should intensify our ministry of intercession for others. I've personally benefitted from the prayers offered in the IFSB group, particularly from those offered for the health of my wife who underwent a serious operation last November. (Since then, she has been recovering nicely, thank you).

Maybe some of you may consider becoming part of the Ohio Spiritual Warfare Center's (OSWC) Prayer Team. The service is completely confidential both ways: you don't know who you are praying with except in the most general terms, and you don't know who you are praying for except for a vague name left on the following form:

http://www.oswc.org/PrayerRequest/PrayerRequest.asp

In doesn't matter really who knows who, because what's important is that the Lord knows all.

Anyway, the experience has had a salutary effect on my own spiritual life for it has made me feel part of the larger Communion of Saints. It has also sensitized me to the diverse needs of others and also taught me how to pray and ask for others in the event that the stated intention is too superficial, or represents a one-sided view of what amounts to be a confused crisis of relationships. Then I pray that the Lord grants that person the grace he or she needs the most at that moment.

Some requests are really poignant and others very difficult to contemplate. The number of people who report being affected by some sort of preternatural malignant oppression is rather large, but that might be a consequence of the nature of the www.oswc.org website.

My main "method" of intercession is to include the petititions in my daily prayer rule of the Liturgy of the Hours. For the really needy I may pray a rosary or a Chaplet of the Divine Mercy.

If you want to become part of this worthy ministry, take a look at the OSWC information page at:

http://www.oswc.org/PrayerTeam/

For those of you who spend considerable time praying before the Blessed Sacrament, this might be a wonderful opportunity to pray for others. And while you are at it, please pray for our priests!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Let's not forget that repression also occurs in the West

Civil and religious freedoms under attack

News Analysis

Folks, of course most of us are aware from CNN and other media of the crisis in Iran provoked by the alleged rigging of the electoral process by the mullah-backed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his ruling party. Not that I am surprised, for Iran has lacked a system truly representative of the will of its people for a long time. In undemocratic regimes like Iran, Cuba, North Korea, and China for example, elections only take place to legitimize and perpetuate the all-powerful regime. All other uses of the ballot-box is deemed illegitimate, “counterrevolutionary” and therefore criminal, an offense against the best interest of the people and the nation.

But we close our eyes before the threat to democracy and freedom of speech, religion, and association that a coordinated campaign against the Church and individual Catholics face in the UK, Canada, and the US. The abuse of the legal system to repress and stifle opposition to questionable public policy is not, as we shall see, a unique defect of countries like Iran and Venezuela, but also an increasing bane within so-called liberal democracies.

Iran

One of the most disturbing emblems of these regimes is the use of codified law to criminalize dissent and contrary opinions. In Iran, uncontrolled police brutality is the norm. No one is held accountable for police abuses. Ahmadinejad compared the violent suppression to handing out “a traffic ticket.” It reveals a leader indifferent to the plight of his people and uninterested to hear what they have to say in matters of national import. As long as Ahmadinejad shows the proper respect to the mullahs he feels that his position is unassailable. He’s right of course. In Iran, public institutions exist to serve the continued existence of the regime, not to undermine it.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “no one knows exactly how much electoral fraud took place. The entire process was tightly controlled by the Ministry of Interior under Sadeq Mahsouli, a general of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards and a senior aide to Mr. Ahmadinejad. There was no independent election commission, no secret balloting, no observers to supervise the counting of the votes, and no mechanism for verification. It is impossible to know how many people voted and for whom.” Like I’ve said, the process exists only to guarantee the continued existence of the regime and its policies.

The same Wall Street Journal piece also indicates that “… Mr. Ahmadinejad has already served notice that he intends to pursue his radical policies with even greater vigor. At yesterday's rally, he promised to pass a law enabling him to bring "the godfathers of corruption" to justice. His entourage insists that former Presidents Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammed Khatami, and former parliament Speaker Nateq Nouri, all midranking mullahs, may be among the first to fall in a massive purge of the ruling elite.”

This pattern of co-opting the lawmaking process in the service of repression is nothing new in human history, where it has been a constant at least since the time of Nebuchadnezzar, through Nero, through the French Revolution down to our own day. Nor is this pattern of oppression restricted to Iran.

Venezuela

The first foreign leader to phone to congratulate the re-elected Iranian leader was Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez, whose "brotherly message" received headline treatment from the state-controlled media in Tehran, according to the Wall Street Journal. Hugo Chávez has ended the independence of both the Venezuelan parliament and its judiciary, highly politicizing them and turning them into mere rubber stamps of his own will. Chávez has been building a biased system of legality that enables him to pursue his political enemies under cover of law and stamping out corruption. Last April, Chávez appointed an ally to run the newly formed Capital District, removing the most populous borough in Caracas from the jurisdiction of opposition mayor Antonio Ledezma, who won election in November. Manuel Rosales, an opposition leader and former mayor of Maracaibo, Venezuela’s second-biggest city, fled to Peru in April and sought political asylum. He faced corruption charges in Venezuela that he said were politically motivated, according to Bloomberg.com.

The Chavista intolerance to dissenting opinions extends to what remains of the independent news media in the country. Broadcast regulators employed by the Chavista regime are investigating the all-news channel Globovisión, Venezuela's only remaining opposition television station on the open airwaves for inciting "panic and anxiety" during a minor earthquake when it criticized the government for slow response. "We've been subject to dozens of investigations, but this one is undoubtedly the most absurd," said station director Alberto Federico Ravell, a bespectacled, tough-talking man who relishes poking fun at the president, according to the Associated Press.

The vulgar rhetoric that the Chavista regime aims against the Catholic Church in Venezuela knows no limits. Spokesmen from the regime are known for routinely couching their criticism of the Church in religious terms to score points for their so-called “Bolivarian Revolution.” The Catholic News Agency reports that Tareck El Aissami, Venezuela’s Interior Minister, responded to the address by Archbishop Ubaldo Santana to Pope Benedict XVI during the Venezuelan bishops’’ recent ad limina visit, by accusing the bishops of becoming a “political party” that incites hatred. During the bishops’ visit to Rome, Archbishop Santana delivered an evaluation of the current situation in Venezuela and told the Holy Father that the political agenda of Hugo Chavez has caused “a growing political polarization has increased violence, insecurity and hatred, seriously jeopardizing peaceful democratic coexistence.” “If anyone has spread hatred in Venezuela,” El Assami stated, “it has been the bishops’ conference.’ “The only thing to say in response to the bishops’ sad depiction is, may God forgive them, they don’t know what they are saying,” he accused.

It’s also happening in the so-called “free world”

Nor are these attempts to stifle freedom by color of law, particularly religious freedom, are limited to illiberal, populists and “revolutionary” regimes such as Ahmadinejad’s and Chavez’s, but there is a disturbingly increasing trend in this regard in the so-called democratic countries, for example:

  • In the United Kingdom, Catholic bishops have voiced “significant concerns” about a proposed Equality Bill, saying it treats the rights of religious believers as secondary and could force Catholic schools and care homes to remove crucifixes and holy pictures if someone finds them “offensive.” It has also been suggested the bill could force churches to hire youth ministers who do not support Christian ethics. The bill, supported by Equality Minister Harriet Harman, penalizes “harassment.” The newspaper The Catholic Herald says this is defined as “unwanted conduct ... with the purpose or effect of violating a person's dignity, or of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading or offensive environment.” This latest attempt at denying the Catholic Church freedom of action in accordance to her doctrines and beliefs comes at the heels of the recent decision of the UK’s Charity Tribunal that the Catholic Care adoption agency of the Diocese of Leeds could not continue as an adoption agency unless it assessed same-sex couples as potential adopters and foster parents. In fact, barrister Neil Addison, Director of the Thomas More Legal Centre, argues very persuasively in favor of the notion that religious freedom is under attack in Britain. The birthplace of the modern liberal state may well become its first resting place.
  • In Canada, provincial and federal-level “human right commissions” and “tribunals” have been persecuting Christians quite a bit lately, fueled by complaints from homosexual activists against Christian publications and other forms of Christian expression which the activists see as “hateful.” Blogger Kathy Shaidle and Pete Vere document this slide into tyranny in their aptly-named book, The Tyranny of Nice. According to Mark Steyn, who wrote the introduction to this book, “Canada, one of the oldest continuous constitutional democracies on the planet, is no longer a free society… [In] its determination to enforce a dubious government-mandated ‘niceness’, key elements of the Canadian state have taken a jackhammer to the cornerstone of a free society: freedom of expression, freedom of ideas, freedom of belief, freedom to engage in the whole messy rough’n'tumble of vigorous debate that distinguishes open societies from lesser, stunted, insecure ones. In Canada, in the cause of promoting a bunch of pseudo-’human rights’, a huge federal and provincial bureaucracy has declared war on real human rights — not least the presumption of innocence, the right to a free and fair trial, and the other pillars of our legal system.”

In the meantime, here in the USA

The trend to limit religious free speech and freedom of conscience on the basis of existing jurisprudence or potential legislation is increasing here in the US. For example, in Connecticut, the Catholic Church is fighting an action by the Office of State Ethics, which alleges that the diocese acted as “a lobbying organization in March when it rented buses to transport people to a rally in Hartford — the state capital — to protest a bill that would have granted more power to parishioners regarding church finances. Officials also are investigating whether the church acted as a lobbying organization on its Web site when it urged parishioners to contact lawmakers about the bill, which eventually was withdrawn amid public outcry, and about a another bill to legalize same-sex marriage, which was signed into law in April,” according to Fox News. Through this action, Connecticut clearly aims to intimidate Catholics into silence whenever legislation impacting on issues of internal church governance or of other social consequence is discussed in any public forum.

Or consider the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) which would eliminate every restriction on abortion nationwide. FOCA would elevate abortion to a fundamental right and nullify more than 550 federal and state laws. FOCA aims to end all debate regarding the abortion issue, once and for all.

Dissent from the pro-abortion orthodoxy that a FOCA regime would establish could be construed as legal grounds for more intrusive government surveillance of pro-Life groups. This is not farfetched, since a recent report published by the US Department of Homeland Security, entitled, Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment, defined that “rightwing extremism in the United States… may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion…” without further elaboration, placing pro-Life advocates, racist hate-mongers, and antigovernment militia members on the same threat continuum .

The legal recognition of same-sex unions as “marriage” also poses a significant danger to freedoms of conscience and religious exercise in our nation. The National Organization for Marriage explains it well: those who would dare question the “right” for same-sex marriage on substantive or practical grounds will be treated like bigots and racists. Religious groups like Catholic Charities or the Salvation Army may lose their tax exemptions, or be denied the use of parks and other public facilities, unless they endorse gay marriage. Public schools will teach young children that two men being intimate are just the same as a husband and wife, even when it comes to raising kids. When the idea that children need moms and dads get legally stigmatized as bigotry, the job of parents and faith communities trying to transmit a marriage culture to their kids is going to get a lot harder.

(Events like the recent firing of Miss California USA, Carrie Prejean, prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that an all-out effort is afoot to publicly vilify anyone daring to question openly the politically-correct dogma of gay marriage. Miss Prejean’s firing warns those that do not spout the current wisdom shall not expect to become a member of our cultural elite. And I do not believe, btw, the pageant director’s denials that she wasn’t fired due to her stance against same-sex marriage. He in fact “regretted firing her only because he felt it played into the hands of Prejean and Christians who have supported her” according to the Examiner.com. Nice. That belies the denial, thanks).

Where are we heading?

We started examining the situation in Iran, and then moved on to Venezuela, to the UK, Canada, and finally here to the USA. It should make us cringe that we can speak of all these countries in the same breath as places where legalisms are being enacted in order to close the public arena and other spaces of public expression to those whom the elites and the government may label as “undesirables.” But that’s exactly what is happening.

As far as our religious freedoms are concerned, we’re heading to more repression and to further encroachment of our freedoms of association, conscience, expression, and assembly. The goal of radical secularizers in the UK, Canada, the US and elsewhere is, to quote Bishop Fred Henry of Calgary, “to divorce political questions like abortion from moral claims and religion; to control school curricula so that a secular ideology can be promoted; and to portray Christianity not only as wrong but evil.”

Folks, we have to awake and stand up in the defense of our most cherished freedoms. It is our right, even our duty, to bring our values to bear in our national conversation and to effect policy accordingly. No one can licitly deny us those rights. As we cast our just aspersions upon the Iranian and Chavista regimes, we should become acutely aware of the emergence of a very similar state of affairs in our respective countries.

The same phenomenon of repression is taking place here under a different guise, but it is the same phenomenon: liberties are trampled, legitimacy is denied to differing viewpoints, and punitive measures are applied to those who dare question the ruling secular orthodoxies.

These unfair government interventions in the UK, Canada, and the USA reflect both in word and in action the same attitudes their proponents like to denounce in the Catholic Church, particularly during the so-called “dark ages.” The post-modern attitudes of secularists, “pro-choicers” and same-sex marriage advocates are no different from those who gave brought us the Inquisitions and the auto-da-fe. They also don’t differ much from those held by the Iranian mullahs and Hugo Chávez. Only their orthodoxies differ.

We Catholics have long outgrown the belief that we should co-opt the state to force people into Catholicism, as if Catholicism was just another human ideology of social organization and not the Gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed for our salvation. We have atoned a lot for this sin, particularly since the Reformation. However, the current social and ruling elites in our countries haven’t learned that lesson yet as they are hell-bent on a dangerous path that will take us all toward tyranny.