Pray for Ireland

Pray for Ireland, which will have a referendum on abortion on May 25, 2018.

It is inconceivable that Catholic Ireland could possibly have come to this point, but the fractures in the faith were clearly revealed when the Irish legalized gay so-called marriage in 2015, making Ireland the first country in the world to do so by popular vote.  Clerical sex scandals have continued to disgrace the Irish Church and eliminate the voice of the faith in public discussions of morality.  It is all evidence of the tireless dedication of evil to its own cause, but also, of the failure of the Church to teach the faith clearly and thoroughly and to defend it courageously.

How easy it is to mislead an ignorant people – ignorant of the Catholic faith they profess.

Pray, pray, pray for Ireland.

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Abortion and Excommunication

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During the recently concluded Year of Mercy, Pope Francis granted to all priests the ability to relieve the excommunication attached to the sin of abortion.  Previously, in some countries, only a bishop could relieve this penalty, and until it was lifted, sacramental absolution could not be granted to the person guilty of abortion.  In an Apostolic Letter entitled Misericordia et Misera (Mercy with Misery) issued on November 20, 2016, the pope has extended this ability to all priests beyond the Year of Mercy, until further notice.  The relevant statements are found in paragraph #12:

“Given this need, lest any obstacle arise between the request for reconciliation and God’s forgiveness, I henceforth grant to all priests, in virtue of their ministry, the faculty to absolve those who have committed the sin of procured abortion. The provision I had made in this regard, limited to the duration of the Extraordinary Holy Year, is hereby extended, notwithstanding anything to the contrary. I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life. In the same way, however, I can and must state that there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with the Father. May every priest, therefore, be a guide, support and comfort to penitents on this journey of special reconciliation.”

Recently, an Italian senator named Monica Cirinna, known for her pro-abortion and pro-homosexual activism, caused a bit of a stir by implying that Pope Francis was gradually liberalizing the Church’s position on abortion.  She claimed, “I am sure that he is going in the right direction.”  Strangely, Cirrano has additionally interpreted the pope’s recent statements to support her desire to punish medical personnel who refuse to perform abortions on moral grounds.  This is such a stretch as to be absurd, and it is an obvious attack especially on committed Catholics.

Pope Francis, although he does not speak against the sin of abortion as forcefully and frequently as many of us would like, nevertheless has plainly restated Catholic teaching on the subject.  As he asserts in the above document, “I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life.”  In addition, abortion continues to carry the penalty of automatic excommunication.  This has in no way changed, except that the penalty may now be removed in the sacrament of penance by ordinary priests.

To grant all priests the right to give full and effective sacramental absolution to those guilty of abortion is not to belittle the gravity of the sin, nor to cheapen mercy, but only to emphasize the need for God’s forgiveness following such a grave act.  After all, the person confessing such a sin clearly recognizes its gravity and is repentant of it.  This is the very person that the Church wishes, not to push away, but to receive into her arms in order to strengthen through God’s mercy and restore in God’s grace.  Such is the purpose of the Church’s ministry of reconciliation, and the pope wishes only to make it more effective for those who prudently turn to it.

In spite of the warped interpretations and intentions of some, there is no change whatsoever in the Church’s moral teaching on abortion, nor can there be.  For it is a matter, not of the traditions of men, but of divine law.  The Fifth Commandment, “You shall not kill,” means, “You may not murder an innocent person.”  No human being possesses the authority to change this law, for it is founded, not on merely human authority, but on divine authority.  As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches,

“Since the first century, the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion.  This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable.  Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law” (#2271).

Yes, circumstances can some times mitigate the guilt of those involved in an abortion.  Conditions such as ignorance or extreme threats from others can reduce the mortal guilt of a person involved in this particular, or in any other, gravely immoral act.  This is just standard Catholic moral teaching.  But the objective act of deliberately killing a pre-born child always remains gravely immoral, and it continues to carry the penalty of automatic excommunication.  Circumstances cannot make morally right that which God has declared to be morally wrong.

 

The Birth of Christianity

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Authentic Christianity is inextricably pro-life.  This pro-life ethic is not merely a conviction, precept, or tradition.  At the very heart of the Christian religion is the birth of a Baby.  I’m reminded of this truth every late Advent as I set up our outdoor crèche.

Old Testament prophecy repeatedly spoke of a mother and her Infant.  Every Jew anticipated the appearance of the one and the delivery of the Other.  When this Babe was finally born, pagans from the East travelled to an unfamiliar land to offer worship and gifts to the Child.  King Herod – that precursor of modern infanticide – sought to kill Him.  Angels sang in praise of this Infant in a manger, while shepherds left their flocks to offer their own humble homage.  The world – the entire universe – would never be the same, due to this Son born of a Virgin Mother.

At the Annunciation – which pinpointed the exact “fullness of time” in salvation history – the angel Gabriel declared to Mary from Nazareth that she would conceive the Messiah.  At the same time, she was told that her kinswoman, Elizabeth, had also conceived a child in her relative old age, and was already six months pregnant.  Immediately, Mary set off from Nazareth to visit Elizabeth in the hills of Judea to assist Elizabeth with the pregnancy.  The journey would have taken about four days.

When Mary reached the house of Elizabeth and her husband, Zechariah, she greeted them perhaps from the doorway, as we might give a shout at a friend’s door to see if anyone is home.  Elizabeth heard the greeting, and when she came to Mary, she said, “Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb!  And how have I deserved that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For behold, the moment that the sound of thy greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leapt for joy.”

Elizabeth was pregnant with John the Baptist, who was six months old at the time.  And yet, she referred to him as, “the babe in my womb.”  No, not as the “pregnancy matter” or “fetal tissue,” but as the “babe.”  For six months, this pre-born future little prophet had fully been a human being in his mother’s womb, not a mass of cells lodged in the wall of a uterus.  Elizabeth, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Lk. 1:41), rightly affirmed this, calling her pre-born child, not a biological lump, but a person.

Notice how Elizabeth addressed Mary:  “And how have I deserved that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”  It was not that Mary one day would be a mother, after the birth of her Son.  No, by virtue of the child she presently carried in her womb, Mary was already a mother.  She, too, was carrying, not a “clump of cells,” but a human being, a Person.  And how old was this Child at this point?  He was all of five days old.

Again, authentic Christianity is inextricably pro-life.  It holds with the certainty of divine revelation that every human being, from the first instant of conception to the last second of life in this world (and beyond), possesses a supreme value and dignity, and all the rights that belong to a human person.   No mental or physical condition, no defect or disorder, no injury or illness, no stage of development or deterioration, can possibly decrease the humanity of a human person, whether young or old.  One cannot be or become more or less human, for every human being is by nature and design fully, equally, and eternally human.  Thus, nothing could be more contrary to the Christian religion than abortion and the morally perverse reasonings that are used to defend it; and no person could be more conflicted than a “pro-choice” Christian.  Such an individual is a contradiction in terms.  For to kill a baby is to identify, not with Mary and Joseph, but with Herod the madman.  And it is to come as close as one can to murdering God Himself; for every human being,  and every infant, therefore, is made in the divine image and likeness.

Is it any wonder that our atheistic blood-drenched culture should increasingly forbid on public property that supreme symbol of the sanctity of human life – the crèche?  In a morbid way, this only makes sense.  For the repudiation of the sanctity of human life requires the repudiation of Christ and Christianity.

Thousands of years of history and prophecy, and countless Jewish and Gentile hearts, looked to a hay-filled manger in a cave or stable just outside of Bethlehem.  Here, all angelic and human hopes were fulfilled when the God of the universe was born a Child to a Virgin Mother.