Is Anybody There?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says Yahweh Sabaoth" Zach 4:6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Dio di Signore, nella Sua volontà è nostra pace!" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ben Franklin 1759

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Where's the Cross?

A couple of days ago I was reading a reflection by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen that really struck me.
He was talking about the Loggia of Raphael at the Vatican. He mentioned that the paintings were made at the time of the Reformation. It was a period when the Church was in decline. He made an interesting point that seems just as appropriate today as it was 30+ years ago.
When you look at the art you will notice "There is no Crucifixion. No Cross. You will always know the dark days of the Church when there is a walking away from the Cross of Christ."
I think that this provides us with an excellent guide to where the Church is in decline v where it is growing. As you look at where the Cross of Jesus is rejected, things are in decline. But where Jesus' cross is lifted up, there is growth.
In another reflection Archbishop Sheen explains why he wears the silver Pectoral Cross he did. He talks about going into a New York Jewelry store where the Jewish owner tells him about a convent where the members got rid of the silver crucifixes they wore. They sisters said they were doing so because the cross seperated them from the world. I am willing to bet that order is 1 of those in major decline these days.
It seems to me that they missed the point in getting rid of their crucifixes, that the Cross is ment to seperate us from the world. Jesus told us to be in the world but not of it. St. Paul reminded us that to the world the Cross is a scandal. (Just a reminder, in this use of the term world, Jesus was talking about a system that rejected God & His will.)
They symbolicly refused to carry their cross by getting rid of their crucifixes. They said they would rather be of the world, rather that a sign of contradiction to that world.
Ultimately, each of us has to decide where we stand. Are we willing to take up our cross & by doing so proclaim Christ & Him Crucified? Or are we more concerned with being a part of the world?
The world wants us to be quiet about sin. the world wants us to accept lifestyles that are contrary to the Word of God. The world wants us to approve of abortion, euthenasia & all the other things on the agenda of the "culture of death". It wants us to deny Jesus by denying the Cross.
Jesus wants us to proclaim God's love & mercy. We start by our own repenting of sin. Then by calling the world to repentance by calling sin sin. Then by calling people to repent & receive God's mercy. But this forgiveness is only possible with the Cross of Christ being lifted high.
Are we going to be more concerned about what the world says now or what Jesus will say on the day of Judgement?
Where is the Cross in your life?


What We Can Learn From Nineveh

Father William Kuchinsky
25 January 2009
Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church
Romney, West Virginia.
Jonah began his journey through the city, and had gone but a single day's walk announcing, "Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed . . ."
What should I say? What would you like me to say?
Would you like me to say that God is unaware and unconcerned that a president would sign an executive order so that, with the stroke of a pen, taxpayer money now will be used to kill babies in the womb; and your money and mine is now to be used to promote the evil of abortion throughout the world? Do you want me to tell you that the Word of God does not say the shedding of innocent blood cries out to Heaven for vengeance? It does. I cannot change that. I cannot withhold His warning.
The president promised to do this and yet many voted for him. Would you be more comfortable if I said such people are not at all complicit in the evil that has already been advanced?When the good Lord was leading me into the priesthood, I understood something that struck me with fear. The more I immersed myself in God's Holy Word the more knowledge I gained: His word was demanding. The closer I drew to Him, the more responsible I had to be: Because in coming to know more fully His just commands, His loving teaching, the more responsible I was to conform myself to Him. Each step forward meant I could not turn back. I felt the demands, I knew I was a sinner, I knew well the discipleship was a challenge and a burden—although a sweet one.
Archbishop Chaput said, "Most of us treat the Church the same way we treat our flesh-and-blood mothers . . . we don't want her advice, especially when it interferes with our comfort." I knew that if I were called to be a priest, I would have to preach the Word that had "convicted" me and in its loving challenge engaged me in the struggle to do God's will: it was at times "uncomfortable." It was a fearful thing to struggle with the realization that I was now called to proclaim a message to others, which would make them "uncomfortable." I knew very early on, almost as if by instinct, that to be a priest would mean to be crucified with Christ.
In reality, all of us, by virtue of our baptism, share in the "common priesthood of believers." Each of us are to be "crucified to ourselves" and to the world. Each of us, as proper to our common priesthood, offers prayers and sacrifices. Many of us have perhaps come to realize that Our Blessed Lord was telling the truth when He said we would be persecuted. ["The servant is not greater than his Master. If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also"]
I long ago decided, in view of struggles I had in accepting what the Lord seemed to be calling me to, that if I became a religious priest (I'm a secular priest, not a part of a religious order) I would take the name of "Israel" – "one who wrestles with God." But, standing here, I am glad to say that in my wrestling matches with the Almighty that it is good He always wins.
So now, after resisting the Lord, I have been "spit out" here in Romney as Jonah was from the belly of the whale. Don't get me wrong: I like it here, I love you, you are good people.
But, what would you like me to say to those young men and women (maybe even older men and women) who exercise particular actions that are only proper to marriage? That it is okay? Should I comfort them by saying "God understands?" Yes, He understands. He understands our weakness.
He knows the power of that drive within us and how emotions can come to cloud reason; and that after the fall of man we now are faced with disordered passions which can cause us to act in a manner not in keeping with our dignity as human beings: and all the more so in our dignity as Christians.
Last week we heard from the Letter to the Corinthians: "But the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord: and the Lord for the body. Now God hath raised up the Lord and will raise us up also by his power. Know you not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them the members of a harlot? God forbid! Or know you not that he who is joined to a harlot is made one body? For they shall be, saith he, two in one flesh. But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit. Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doth is without the body: but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body."
Would you like to hear from me that God's Holy and inerrant Word no longer applies? Should I tell you that St. Paul was just an old fuddy-duddy who didn't really understand human nature? Would you like to hear me argue that we've come a long way since then and that the Church is just locked into an outmoded and archaic morality?
I cannot do so.
And then there are those who, contrary to the teaching of Christ, decide to move in with each other and "play house." When they come to know the heartbreak and tears that will likely arrive: am I to console them that there is nothing to learn from the pain of a broken heart and that the tears are just some strange thing that happens and are not because of the wound of their sins? Sin equals tears.
I cannot judge (so as to condemn) those who fornicate: but we can judge the behavior to be sinful. Only God knows the heart: but there is a Heaven and there is a hell. The Good Lord wants us to go to Heaven: that is why He teaches us what we in our passions might not see: It is not "okay" to have sex outside of marriage.
Now the homosexual agenda is being advanced from the highest office in our land. Even before the day of the presidential inauguration ended, the White House's policies were posted on their web site showing it will continued to be advanced, even accelerated. Just as was promised us in the campaign.
We can love the homosexual. We can hug a daughter or son afflicted with this disorder, we can walk hand and hand with them along the way. We can comfort them as they lay dying from AIDS when family, "lovers," and friends have deserted them . . . I worked with such dying, and I know that pretty much the only love shown them was by the strangers attending them in their hour of need.
But we cannot approve of their behavior. We cannot as a nation, condone so-called "homosexual marriage" or "unions." We cannot call "blessed" what God has pronounced an abomination. What is the fruit of such so-called "love"? Where is the natural "complementarity" that exists between a woman and a man? We cannot allow them to visit our homes to spend the night under our roof as we would a husband and wife. We cannot do so any more than a mother and father would allow a daughter's boyfriend to spend the night with her at home in the same room. It is not love to encourage or lead others to believe that sinful acts are permissible or acceptable.
Would you like me to say that unnatural sex acts do not "cry to Heaven for vengeance?" They do. The Bible clearly states this, the catechetical tradition of the Church retains the teaching . . . I cannot suspend the natural law or change God's Word anymore than I can change the laws of gravity.
When I was growing up, it was a general rule that when my brother and I heard Mrs. Deal whistle down the street for her sons to come home in the evening we were to go home also, or that certainly when the street lamps came on we were to be in the house under threat of spending the night on the front porch. My folks would ask where I was going, who I was playing with. Would you like me to say that it is okay for you as a mother and father to allow your young sons and daughters unfettered access to the internet, with all the dangers and smut that lurks there? Should I tell you it is a good thing that you have cable television to "baby sit" the kids while they sit hour after hour taking in the slim oozing out of the screen? Or, that it is okay they remain in front of that "tabernacle" of glass and plastic devoted to viewing as if in worship – while they are never encouraged to sit before Lord of love who remains unvisited, un-thought of, unloved, in the tabernacles of Catholic Churches throughout the world?
I know some parents might not know what their children are exposed to. It is hard to believe how bad things have gotten, so please take an objective look (you may well be horrified). Please check it out, just like my mom and dad would ask where I was going and would "keep tabs" on whom I hung out with. Don't let your children hang out with an evil gang: with a media which seeks to "own" them.
Would you like me not to remind you of the words of Our Lord Jesus who said: "Whoever leads one of these little ones astray, it would be better if he had a millstone tied around his neck and be cast into the sea?" These children have been entrusted to you by God. He desires that you help Him bring them to that true home in Heaven He has prepared for us.
"I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out." [1 Corinthians 7:29]
Would you be more comfortable if I mentioned nothing of married couples using artificial contraception? Should I proclaim it "wise" for any of us mere mortals to tinker with a force that lies at the heart of the marital relationship? One that contains within it the same power that has called whole universes into existence. Would you be at ease if it weren't pointed out, among other things, that the use of such things can more deeply wound the fallen tendency in the man in such a way that he comes to view his wife as little more than an object of gratification? Should I point out that by rejecting natural family planning, a husband can lose that discipline that could help him to more and more view his wife as an equal partner and one who possesses an inherent dignity, which is to be always honored and reverenced? Would it be a welcomed message that you are reminded that the good Lord is not indifferent to the tears and utter brokenness of the children who find themselves victims of a marriage that lies tattered because the spouses failed to listen to their good mother, the Church?
Jesus proclaimed, "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel." Am I to tell you "don't worry, be happy?" Would it be helpful to you if I were to say "not to worry" – it might be another 2,000 years until we are all called to account for what we have done and what we have failed to do? I cannot do that. We need to change, we need to repent. "The Kingdom of God is at hand."
I am a sinner. I continue to struggle to conform my mind and my heart to Jesus, and to the teaching of His Church. I have enough to be concerned about in facing the judgment of the Lord. I might fail in many things, but I cannot fail in my duty to proclaim the fullness of the Gospel from this pulpit.
Would you be more at ease if I were to say that it is all right for a person who is conscious of committing a serious sin to dare come to this altar to receive the Lord in Holy Communion? Here, at this altar the Lord comes to us, the Lord before whom the angels and saints bow down with awe in worship singing, "Holy, Holy, Holy!" While the devil and the demons shudder and flee in horror...
Would you like me to tell you that it is acceptable for even good Catholics who are not in serious sin and are free to receive the body and blood of Christ to not try to summon with all the powers of their minds and hearts the reality that it is Jesus we approach here. We are weak, the good Lord knows this, but I cannot tell you that it is a good thing that we allow ourselves to receive Him mindlessly without even trying to muster within our hearts at least a "thank you" for the bread from Heaven that has been given to us.
Are we to give up the fight for our souls even as it seems we may have already surrendered our beloved land? I don't think so. Please God, that will never happen!
" . . . when the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth. When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, He repented of the evil that He had threatened to do to them; He did not carry it out."
What should I say? What would you like me to say? Need I say anything more?

A Blessed Lent

Fr. John Corapi SOLT
Yesterday I saw something that struck me as out of place, or, perhaps, just the normal secular distortion of religion—imagine that! It was a passing note on a news broadcast, I believe, noting that “the somber and dark period of Lent has now begun.” I think they may have been comparing it to the mayhem and general debauchery that often takes place in certain places prior to Lent at Mardi Gras.
My dear friends, Lent is not a “somber and dark period.” I think at times, even among Catholics and other Christians, that notion has drifted about. Lent is the most hope-filled time we have, culminating in the blaze of glory that is Easter. It is the period of preparation for the Lord’s Paschal sacrifice. It is a time for penance and prayer, alms giving, and other works of virtue and charity. Most of all, it is a time to recall God’s infinite love and mercy for us, manifested in the life, mission, death, and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We recall, at all times, but especially during the holy season of Lent, that “even if our sins be as scarlet, they can be made whiter than snow, washed by the Blood of the Lamb.” Perhaps some of the folks that think Lent is a “somber and dark period,” also think that the sacrament of Penance or Confession is also somehow in the same category. How wrong they are. The great sacrament of Reconciliation is a sense perceptible manifestation of God’s love and mercy that effects (causes to happen) what it signifies. It takes away the guilt of sin. It reconciles the sinner (that’s every one of us) to God. It unburdens the heart, mind, and soul. In short, it is a cause for the greatest joy! Lent is filled with the Light Who is Christ.

40 Days of Prayer Keeps on Saving Lives

More good news from the Spring 40 Days for Life.
From the DAY 4 post on the blog:

I’m encouraged by the prayer team in Iowa, who spoke to a troubled woman outside a Planned Parenthood abortion center. The young woman was pregnant with twins, and she had arrived for her abortion.
But apparently, she only had enough to pay for aborting one baby but not two. Planned Parenthood wanted more money.
After she spoke with counselors outside the clinic, this mother of twins decided to keep her babies. Praise God!
& while it hasn't been confirmed, the Ottawa campiagn reports that they may have saved 4 lives:
Vigil participant, Doris G., wrote on the 40 Days for Life blog that on Day 1, a couple went into the abortion facility. But before they did so Doris was able to give them a pamphlet and exchange a few words with them. The couple went up into the centre while looking through the literature, but then came out a half hour later, despite the fact that women who have an abortion are usually in the centre for several hours.
"We can't be sure if the life of a child was saved, but I was greatly encouraged," said Doris. Three other similar incidents occurred, that Doris says cannot be definitely confirmed, but which indicate turnarounds. (
4 Lives Possibly Saved in Only Two Days at 40 Days for Life Vigil in Ottawa)
Either way they are having an effect. People are being witnessed to, seeds are being planted & someday they may bear fruit. Even with those who reject the attempts of those praying & witnessing as happenned at a Florida site:
At an abortion facility in Florida, a woman and her daughter got out of their truck. It was a chilly morning, and not many people were present outside.
But one man saw that these two were headed for the door, and he feared the daughter was arriving for an abortion.
He identified himself as the pastor of a Baptist church in town, offered to put them in touch with a pro-life pregnancy center, and tried to hand them some literature. The older woman looked at the pastor and said, “I don’t want your information. We’re Catholic.” The women then walked past him and into the clinic.
The others standing vigil were stunned and felt a sense of failure. But in time, they realized that by faithfully answering God’s call to stand and pray, they may have provided the only display of love that this child ever knew here on earth.
(DAY 4: Is anything happening?)
As a Catholic, I am saddened by the fact that the woman claimed to be Catholic yet still was taking her daughter into the clinic. I don't know if the woman merely hardened her own heart & was using her alledged Catholicism as an excuse or if her conscience was misinformed by people claiming to teach Catholic doctrine who told her an abortion is OK. Either way, a seed was planted. The 40 Days participants were faithful. & that will bear fruit.


How Are You Doing So Far This Lent?

Dear Spirit and Life Readers,
The Scriptures and our Church both tell us that Lent is not a season for timid creatures. If in Lent we were to simply jump through the hoops of fasting and abstinence on the days prescribed, we would be rightly accused of a sort of spiritual minimalism. But God is not served by minimalists—He wants tested saints of faith to be channels of His Life to the world! That is what Lent calls us to be.
How will we embrace God’s Life so deeply this season? The answer is simple. By first jettisoning the baggage we have accumulated in our lives over the past year. I am talking here about interior personal baggage that we have picked up at the cheap convenience stores of human frailty and about which we let ourselves off the hook continuously: pettiness, every sort of self-indulgence, backbiting, selfish attitudes, worldliness, gossip and the like. Withdrawing permission for anti-Christian behaviors at the core of our beings and ridding ourselves of these faults and imperfections is the first order of business for Lent. It is the basic Gospel call to conversion of heart, and there is no growth in the spiritual life if we do not repent of the things that keep us far away from God. Will we accept the challenge of removing the blockages to God’s grace this Lent?
If so, this interior purification is just the first step to embracing His Life. The Church gives us three more: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. They seem so commonplace, yet these practices can create a consuming fire within us, transforming us into spiritually strong men and women of Christ. These practices are not spiritual drudgery; they are spiritual life! We don’t put on our calendars that we have to “embrace life today”! We only have to live life each day, and in the same way, Lent asks us to consciously live those things which are channels of spiritual life for us.
Make prayer a passion, not a duty. Ask God for the grace to understand the true nature of prayer which is the very soul of our spiritual lives. If we don’t pray, we suffocate spiritually. We wouldn’t allow that to happen to our physical bodies, yet through negligence and any number of excuses we drop prayer off our list of priorities and end up spiritually suffocating our souls. There is no time like the present to commit ourselves to a strong prayer life. The interior benefits are truly life-giving.
Fasting makes us spiritual men and women in a way that few other practices can because fasting is a voluntary renunciation of desires of the flesh. No truly spiritual person can live without this practice. So here is a simple Lenten challenge—skip a meal. I guarantee that you will not die! Quite the contrary—you will find yourself filled with divine light in the depth of your being and a vibrancy of life like you have never felt before. Really try it.
Finally, make sure you go above and beyond the call of duty to help your neighbor. Almsgiving, namely, the voluntary deprivation of personal resources for the sake of another, is inconvenient, and sometimes radically so. No matter. Do it anyway and trust God to send it back to you many-fold. When even the smallest deeds of kindness and generosity are done with a completely childlike heart that expects nothing in return, the actual return is a full measure of God’s grace and blessing. I would rather have that than all the money in the world.
Be faithful to Lent. It is a deep training program in life, divine Life that is. Let’s not lose the opportunity to become deeply spiritual men and women this Lent, and God will then make us a channel of His Life to others.
Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer

I Guess Human Rights Apply Only To Those Who Support Abortion

Here is a statement put out Friday (26 February 2009) by Fr. Thomas Euteneuer of Human Life International about Obama's latest anti-life move. What really gets me is how Obama & the Dems in Congress couch their actions in the name of human rights, while putting in effect policies that are on a scale of being as repressive to those who oppose abortion as anything Stalin or Hitler did to those who disagreed with them. What next? Gulags, prison camps, reeducation centers for Pro-lifers? Don't laugh, I am very serious. This is exactly the road we are heading down.
We must keep praying. This is a battle of cosmic proportions that we are in. I have posted before about the demonic side to this battle & will continue to do so. We must know our enemy. We must use spiritual weapons God has provided. & we must do so with the realization that in the end, Jesus will be victorious. His death on the Cross & Resurrection have ensured that no matter how dark things seem now, the victory IS ours. Not because God is on our side, but because we are on God's side in this battle. (For more on the backstory of Fr. Euteneuer's statement, follow the links at the end of this post.)
HLI President slams Obama’s and Congress’ “anti-life one-upmanship”

FRONT ROYAL, VA — Father Thomas J. Euteneuer, president of Human Life International (HLI), today lambasted President Barack Obama for his decision to reverse the Bush administration’s action guaranteeing freedom of conscience for medical providers, as well as the members of Congress who voted to restore funding to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
“Any pretense of ‘moderation’ on life issues was long ago dispensed with,” said Fr. Euteneuer. “But with the rescinding of the Mexico City Policy, the appointment of dozens of radical anti-life cabinet members and staff, the enormous increase in funding for contraception and irresponsible sex advocacy, and now these grave insults to human life and dignity… one shudders to think what could be next.”
“It’s as if the president and Congress are trying to outdo each other for the dishonor of who can forward the most extreme anti-life agenda,” said Father Euteneuer.
On Wednesday, Congress approved the restoration of funding to the UNFPA as part of a $410 billion Omnibus spending bill approved by the House of Representatives on Wednesday. Funding for the UNFPA was eliminated under President George W. Bush after it became known that UNFPA supported the enforcement of China’s one-child policy, which often includes forced abortion and sterilization. The 1998 report (Clowes, B., “Why the United States Should Not Resume UNFPA Funding”, 1999, PRI) which brought this to light was authored by HLI’s director of research and training, Brian Clowes, PhD.
“What advocate of human rights thinks coerced abortion and sterilization is a good idea? Yet everyone knows that the UNFPA has been shown to support this policy in China and has refused to distance itself from the practice,” said Fr. Euteneuer.
“Like everyone who believes in human dignity, I am tired of these cowards in Congress trying to sneak these destructive, anti-life measures into bills that are supposed to be helping our country emerge from this recession,” said Fr. Euteneuer. “And I’m tired of President Obama’s ‘Choice for me, but not for thee’ hypocrisy. His audacity is not of hope, but of the destruction of freedom and human life!”
For more details about this latest anti-life move by Obama: Obama to Revoke Bush Abortion Rule Protecting Conscience Rights

Friday, February 27, 2009

Fr. Pavone: Who is the Lazarus at My Door?

Day 3 Scripture Reflection from 40 Days for Life Spring 2009 Campaign
There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.
So he called to him, “Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.”
But Abraham replied, “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.
“And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.”
Luke 16:19-31
REFLECTION by Fr. Frank Pavone, Priests for Life
The rich man did not go to hell because he was rich. He went to hell because he ignored the other man. He thought that because Lazarus had less, that he was worth less.
He failed to recognize that Lazarus was his brother. Lazarus was waiting at the door of the rich man for scraps of food; the Lazarus of our day, the unborn child, is waiting at the door of the womb for birth itself.
God does not only prohibit aborting the unborn; he prohibits ignoring them.
Father, I thank you for the life that I possess, and for the birth that you granted me. I hear the cries of the Lazarus of our day; I see them sitting at the door.
Grant that I may never ignore them, and that through this 40 Days for Life campaign, I may stir many others to pay attention to them as well. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.
May God’s people understand that the Lazarus of the 21st Century is the unborn child, and respond accordingly.

Lives Are Already Being Saved

The Spring 2008 40 Days for Life is off & running. & already saving lives.

Here is the good news from New Jesey that was shared on their blog:
Two women were praying at a 40 Days for Life vigil in New Jersey — for one of them, it was the first time ever. As they were praying, they saw a woman who had just come out of the clinic and was standing near the door. When the women who were praying asked if she would take a flyer, she had a simple response: “I didn’t do it! I changed my mind.”
& THIS IS ONLY THE START!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A Cardinal & 2 Archishops That Could Learn A Lesson from Bishop Martino

I share the following press release from the Cardinal Newman Society about what has happened at 3 different Jesuit colleges. As an historic reminder, the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) was founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola to support the Pope & uphold the teachings of the Catholic Church, not undermine them.

As Lent Begins, 3 Prominent Catholic
Universities Celebrate Sex, Pornography

Manassas, Va. – As Christians worldwide kneel in prayer to begin the holy season of Lent, students at three Jesuit Catholic universities are busy celebrating extramarital sex, homosexuality, cross-dressing and pornography.

Not only did Lent begin yesterday with Ash Wednesday, but this week (February 22-28) is also designated “National Catholic Colleges Week” by the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities as a time to celebrate Catholic higher education.

“These obscene abuses of Catholic values come just as Christians begin a holy season of penance, fasting and almsgiving,” said Patrick J. Reilly, President of The Cardinal Newman Society. “Faithful Catholics have good reason to be outraged and heartbroken at what is happening at Georgetown, Loyola Chicago and Seattle University, three historic, Jesuit institutions:

GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: From February 23 to 28, Georgetown University is hosting “Sex Positive Week,” sponsored by feminist and homosexual student clubs.

On Monday, the event “Sex Positive…What’s That?” featured a speaker from Black Rose, an organization “which provides a forum for the many different expressions of power in love and play. This can include dominance & submission, bondage & discipline, fetishism, cross-dressing, to name a few.”

Yesterday’s talk, on Ash Wednesday, “Torn About Porn?” was advertised to include “discussion about arguably alternative forms of pornography that are not supposed to be exploitative, but rather radical and empowering.”

On Saturday, February 28, pornographic film director Tristan Taormino will speak on “Relationships Beyond Monogamy”—one day after speaking in downtown Washington, D.C., about “Anal Pleasure 101”. She will discuss her book Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships with Jenny Block, author of Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage. Taormino is also the author of True Lust: Adventures in Sex, Porn and Perversion.

LOYOLA UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO: On Tuesday, the Student Diversity and Cultural Affairs Office of Loyola University Chicago presented the film Brother to Brother about a homosexual African-American who is transported in time to cavort with the allegedly homosexual writer Langston Hughes.

The film is part of a semester-long “Color of Queer Film Series” sponsored by the university. Upcoming films include Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros about a 12 year-old boy who falls in love with a male police officer, and I Exist: Voices from the Lesbian and Gay Middle Eastern Community in the U.S.

SEATTLE UNIVERSITY: This week is “Transgender Awareness Week” at Seattle University, including a session on allegedly transgender Bible heroes and heroines and “Criss-Cross Day,” where students are encouraged to “come dressed for the day in your best gender-bending outfit.” The events are sponsored by the university’s Office of Multicultural Affairs and the student Trans and Allies Club.

“That Catholic universities would permit these events on their campuses at any time of the year is unthinkable, but to do so during the holy season of Lent is unconscionable,” said Reilly.

“The saddest part of this story is that there is no indication that these universities are ashamed or embarrassed by what is taking place on their Catholic campuses. Parents and potential students might begin to wonder how these universities can in good conscience consider themselves Catholic when they allow such perverse distortions of Catholic values to take place.”
For the record: Georgetown University is in the Archdiocese of Washington DC under Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl. Loyola University is located in the Archdiocese of Chicago under Francis Cardinal George, OMI. Finally, Seattle University is in the Archdiocese of Seattle under Archbishop Alexander J. Brunett. So far none of them have issued a statement about what has happened on the respective campuses in their archdioceses.

A Bishop That Won't Let Up

In the rare case where you see a Bishop criticize a speaker at a "Catholic" college in his diocese, that is it. Nothing more, even if the college follows through with the speaker & is unapoligetic about it.
A couple of weeks ago, Bishop Joseph Martino of the Diocese of Scranton issued a statement that condemned Misericordia University for scheduling a lecture by gay rights advocate Keith Boykin on 17 February. He said in it that he wanted the Catholics in his diocese to "know of his absolute disapproval of Misericordia University's hosting Mr. Boykin".
Misericordia went right ahead with allowing Boykin to speak. & issued a statement that said the college "is committed deeply to its Catholic mission". & Now, Bishop Matrino is firing back at Misericordia. On Tuesday, February 24, Bishop Martino issued a public statement calling on Misericordia to provide evidence of its fidelity to Catholic teaching. Martino insisted that the university “convey to its alumni, and in fact to all the faithful of the Diocese of Scranton, its efforts to teach Catholic morality regarding sexuality and homosexuality” by “naming courses, content and even catalog numbers.”
The ball is now in Misericordia's court. It will be interesting to see how it responds. Given what I see in their catalog, they will be hard pressed to provide much evidence backing up their claim.
For instance, I am sure they will put forward this class: 116M American Catholicism (3 credits). But, if you read the description of the class, it sounds like it is doing more to undermine Church teaching that uphold it (emphasis mine) "Explores ways in which Americans and American institutions shaped United States Catholic identity and how Catholics contributed, in turn, to the intellectual, political, cultural, and social life of the nation. Particular attention will be given to the influence of Catholic social teaching on American life and to the theological and cultural pluralism which continues to inspire and challenge American Catholic identity. Spring "
Or how about this 1? 113M Theology of the Church (3 credits) "Presents students with the historical, cultural, and theological contexts for understanding the nature and mission of Christian ecclesial communities. Special attention will be given to the Roman Catholic Church from the Reformation to Vatican II and to the recent ecumenical developments. Fall " It sounds more like it is trying to teach what it thinks the Church sould be rather than what it is.
Then there is this: 107G Women and Spirituality (3 credits) "Feminist consciousness and theory will provide the context for this course as it explores biblical texts, and the life and writings of medieval women including Hildegard of Bingen, Julian of Norwich, and Teresa of Avila. The course will examine the rich and varied expressions of spirituality found in the traditions of African and Native American women healers, their understanding of art as a sacred process, and their reverence for the body and the earth. Fall/Spring" You can bet this class pushes for women's ordination. & is very much New Age in its orientation.
I suspect that the good Bishop will be looking for a lot more solid evidence of authentic Catholic teaching than this.
In addition, Bishop Martino has called for the college to discontinue its Diversity Institute, which co-sponsored Mr. Boykin's appearance. "The Bishop's rationale is that students should learn respect for all races and cultures, but that viewpoints that are in direct opposition to Catholic teaching should not be presented under the guise of 'diversity.' Doing so within a formal structure sanctioned by the institution gives the impression that these viewpoints are acceptable, or that all morality is relative."
The diocesan statement also said: "Bishop Martino said that students attending a Catholic institution should have a clear understanding that while all persons should be treated with dignity, homosexual activity is not condoned by the Church and should never be construed as acceptable behavior."
Update added at 1:34 AM on 27 February 2009
Just came across the news that Bishop Martino is not only keeping after Misreicordia, he is keeping up the heat under Sen. Bob Casey as well. After Casey's vote to uphold Obama's overturn of the Mexico City Policy, Bishop Martino sent him a letter calling him to task. He told Casey: “Your failure to reverse this vote will regrettably mean that you persist formally in cooperating with the evil brought about by this hideous and unnecessary policy.” (emphasis mine)
Now in an 2nd letter to Sen. Casey he is telling Casey to stop misrepresening that vote on his website. (My interpretation, he is basicly accusing Casey of bearing false witness.) You can read the entire letter by following the link to the diocesan website. But here are some pertanent quotes:
"It is a matter of deep concern that your recent vote against the Mexico City Policy is continually misrepresented by your staff as a pro-life vote intended to promote “contraception and other family planning that avoid unintended pregnancies”."
"The Mexico City Policy is, first and foremost, about abortion, not about family planning."
"Finally, it is never permissible to use immoral means such as artificial contraception to achieve a good end, namely, the reduction of unplanned pregnancies. In fact, the mistaken view that artificial contraception may be used to regulate population growth and the size of families has led to countless evils in America and abroad, including the attitude that having and raising children is a burden to be avoided."
"My letter of January 30 urging you to rescind your vote on the Mexico City Policy was in no way mistaken regarding the nature and the effect of President Obama’s order to rescind America’s long-standing policy to avoid using U.S. tax dollars to support organizations that promote abortion abroad. It is imperative that this fact be made known to the public.
It is also imperative that there be utter clarity when it comes to the teaching of the Church on matters that pertain to the taking of innocent life and the special responsibilities that fall to you, Senator, as a lawmaker to oppose abortion and other clear evils."
In addition the diocesan chancellor James B. Earley has issued another document, OFFICIAL NOTICE: Worthiness to Receive Holy CommunionFebruary 26, 2009. In addition to quoting from the 2004 letter of the then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Papa Benedetto) to the Bishops of the United States. (The 1 that was never read in its entirety at the time, remember?), the notice ends with the following:
"Therefore, His Excellency, the Most Reverend Joseph F. Martino, Bishop of Scranton, reminds all ministers of Holy Communion, ordinary and extraordinary, that:
1. To administer the Sacred Body and Blood of the Lord is a serious duty which they have received from the Church, and no one having accepted this responsibility has the right to ignore the Church’s law in this regard;
2.Those whose unworthiness to receive Holy Communion is known publicly to the Church must be refused Holy Communion in order to prevent sacrilege and to prevent the Catholic in question from committing further grave sin through unworthy reception.
It sounds to me like Bishop Martino is putting the onus on Sen. Casey to do what is right. Change your vote, change your website. If you don't, then don't receive Communion. I suspect that if Sen. Casey doesn't do the right thing, Bishop Martino will then have no choice but to publicly ban him from Communion.
I know there is a lot to clean up in Scranton. & Bishop Martino is doing his best. But a part of me keeps thinking he is headed for a larger diocese. St. Louis is still open. Maybe there? Remember, if that does happen, you read it here 1st.

Mission To Magadan - Feb 2009 Update

The other day I got the Mission to Magadan Jan/Feb 2009 Newsletter from the Archdiocese of Anchorage. The Mission is in Magadan, Russia. The Archbishop of Anchorage, in service to the Russian Bishop in Irkutsk, oversees and financially supports the Catholic missionary work of the Church of the Nativity there. Magadan was the site of 1 of the Soviet era prison camps..
The newsletter this month had 1 of those good news stories you love to read. For those who are not familiar with Soviet policy, abortion was a common form of birth control, and encouraged by the state. 1 of the main thrusts of the Mission is to provide Pro-Life alternatives. & God is blessing their efforts.
They are seeing a growing number of women chosing to keep their babies rather than abort them. That means that Nativity Inn, their Pro-Life progam, is in need of more support than ever. In addition to long & short term shelter, the Inn helps with food, clothing, medicine, and whatever was needed. It also provides a monthly Mother’s support group. The women receive counseling, skills & training to enable them to care for their children.
They have also opened a 2nd location in Ola is a small town 35 kilometers from Magadan, on the coast and the Ola River. There they currently have 2 young mothers & their children.
Unfortunately, like many parts of the world, the economic crisis is affecting them. THEY NEED OUR HELP NOW MORE THAN EVER.
Lent has just gotten underway. The Catholic Church puts extra emphasis on the Biblical teaching of giving alms at this time. Here is an excellent opportunity to do so. Magadan Mission shows that Pro-Life is much more than just stopping abortion. It is about caring for the whole person, spiritual as well as physical. While it's Nativity Inn project is its most visble, they do much more there.
Another new program that has been started at Magadan works at strengthening the vocation of marriage. Under the protection of the Holy Family, the program stives to teach the importance of marriage as a sacrament. It also helps couples to strengthen their communication with each other. It helps them to learn ways to resolve conflicts.
As I said, Magadan offers an excellent opportunity to practice the giving of alms.
Financial gifts can be given in 2 ways. You can mail a check to the Archdiocese of Anchorage or donate on the Archdiocese's website. Checks must be sent there as any mailed to Magadan in Russia cannot be cashed over there.
Mail checks (made out to Magadan Mission) to:
Mission to Magadan
225 Cordova Street
Anchorage AK 99501-2409
or you can give online at Magadan Russian Mission.
If you want to give specific support to Nativity Inn, there is a group in St. Loius set up to help with that work. Follow the link for more info.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Planned Parenthood IS Sick!

CAUTION: This is very UnPC & will definitely offend those who support abortion. It is called satire.

Here are the links he refered to:


Oakland, CA: What 1st Amendment?

For those who have been following my coverage of Linda Gibbons persecution up in Canada & say it can't happen here. Your wrong. It can. & it is.
On Thursday 19 February 2009 Rev. Walter Hoye of Berkeley, CA was sentenced by Judge Hing of the Alameda Superior Court jail to 30 days in county jail and fined $1,130.00 & was ordered to stay away from the clinic. He can do community service in place of the jail time. His crime: alledgedly unlawfully approaching a person entering an abortion facility in Oakland. The Oakland law prohibits anyone from approaching within eight feet of women entering an abortion facility, without their consent. (Note, not 8 feet from the center, 8 feet from the person.)
At the trial in January clinic workers claimed that Hoye intimidated them and several incoming abortion-seeking mothers. According to clinic director Jackie Barbic, Hoye approached within a few feet of several patients, including one who put up her hands in front of her face to ward off Rev. Hoye. Barbic went on to say that she went outside with a measuring tape to Hoye what 8 feet looks like, at which point Hoye walked towards her, while she backed away saying, "Stay away from me! Back down! Back away!" with her hands held up to protect herself. During her testimony, her voice choked with emotion as she described how fearful and intimidated she was.
1 problem, that isn't what happenned. A friend of Rev. Hoye had been videotaping from across the street on both the days on which he was accused of violating the law. & that tape showed a whole different scenario. It showed Ms. Barbic approaching Rev. Hoye and pointing a tape measure at him - and Rev. Hoye not moving an inch. When questioned about that she said that it was a 3rd episode that occured later that morning that she was talking about. Guess what? Again, the tape showed something different. & while the harrassment charges were dropped, despite the video evidence, jury nevertheless rendered a guilty verdict on the two "unlawful approach" charges.
The Life Legal Defense Fund (LLDF), the legal group representing the pastor, plans on appealing the conviction, as well as challenging the constitutionality of the ordinance.
On the other hand, the escorts who accompany the women to the clinic proudly testified that they routinely block Hoye to prevent women from seeing his sign using a sheet of blank poster board as well as shouting loudly to prevent dialogue with patients. The escorts are the ones who are harrassing, & he is charged. This is typical of the pro-abortion lies. As I have personally seen, they attack us, then accuse us of violence etc.
I also suspect that none of the clinic workers will be charged with perjury either. (See below for why)
FYI the sign reads: "Jesus loves you and your baby, let us help you"
Here is some video of the harrassment by the clinic workers of Rev. Hoye:
Here are some interesting facts from the LLDF web page about the trial:
1. One escort claimed she felt intimidated when she saw Ms. Barbic approach Mr. Hoye with the tape measure and tell him to back off, and “Walter didn’t move. He just stood there.” In this escort’s mind, the law required Rev. Hoye to back away from the clinic director, and the fact that he didn’t do so was perceived by her as very intimidating. Or so she testified. Upon cross-examination, it was revealed that she had never mentioned this alleged intimidation to the police or the district attorney until after the district attorney had already filed the charges against Rev. Hoye for allegedly intimidating her. In other words, the district attorney first filed the charges naming her as a victim, and then went desperately searching for evidence to back it up. (You see why I don't expect perjury charges against the witnesses. But if I was the LLDF I would be looking into seeing if there is enough evidence to bring the DA up on charges.)
2. In another case, one of the “victims” claimed that she felt “creepy” when Mr. Hoye spoke to her, warning her not to trip on the curb, after she moved in front of him to cover up his sign. Both her testimony and the video confirmed that she repeatedly walked up to Rev. Hoye and took up a position either directly in front of him or slightly to the side, holding a blank sign in front of Rev. Hoye’s sign. As he moved up and down the sidewalk, so did she. When asked why, if she felt intimidated, she didn’t move away, she replied that it was more important that she remain in front of him “to prevent women from seeing what is on his sign.”
Rev. Walter Hoye the founder of the Issues4Life Foundation.

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Susan B. Anthony & the Right to Life

by Marjorie Dannenfelser
America’s greatest feminist, Susan B. Anthony, was born 189 years ago last week. And even though she died long before women were granted the right to vote through passage of the 19th Amendment, she provided posterity with a timeless prism through which we can see and understand rights movements in general and the current moment in particular.
If Anthony were alive today, she might predict a sea-change in the public’s view of abortion. The reason? The overreach on the abortion issue that is characterizing the Obama administration.
Successful human and civil rights movements share at least one thing in common: someone on the other side overreached. Some individual or institution took a step in the wrong direction that public opinion could not sustain. This is true for the abolitionist and women's suffrage movements. And it appears that it will soon be true for the pro-life movement.
It is one thing to take a "pro-choice" position on an issue, allowing others to engage in activity even if one is personally opposed. It is quite another to be forced to facilitate activity one opposes in conscience. Actions such as those can galvanize public opinion and result in the changes the public – not the activists – really want.
For Susan B. Anthony's best known cause, the cause of women's suffrage, that moment came long after she died. Public outrage over the jailing and violent treatment of suffragists in Alice Paul's National Women's Party inspired President Woodrow Wilson's linchpin support for women's suffrage. In an incident dubbed the "Night of Terror," thirty-three women were viciously beaten while in jail at Occoquan, Virginia. When the women went on a hunger strike to draw attention to the violence, they were brutally force-fed.
Americans everywhere were made complicit in the abuse. The nation objected to its institutions and tax dollars being used to fight the suffrage movement in such a violent way. This event galvanized public sympathy and helped assemble votes for passage of the 19th Amendment.
Similarly, Congress' passage of The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 made northerners complicit in the institution of slavery and had the effect of strengthening and animating the abolitionist movement at a crucial point in its struggle. Under this law, Congress required law enforcement officials to return runaway slaves to their masters. The outrage of citizens opposed to slavery who were nevertheless required to return human "property" to slave owners made slavery visible. Those who considered themselves "pro-choice" or moderate on the question of abolition were forced to take sides one way or the other. This turned up the heat of the debate and helped lead to the war that would end slavery in America.
President Obama may very well be supplying an "overreach" moment for the right to life movement by attempting to require taxpayers to fully fund abortions in federal programs and the domestic and international abortion industries themselves. This "abortion industry bailout" during a time of acute economic crisis is a dramatic overreach that far outstrips citizens' public opinion.
By far his least popular move as President (so far) was in overturning of the Mexico City Policy which prevented federal funding of offshore abortions. This move opens the door to funding of abortion providers abroad as well as the promotion of liberal abortion in nations that object to the practice. This decision was opposed by 58 percent of Americans according to a Gallup Poll taken February 1, 2009.
The abortion industry's funding demands from the Obama Administration include $1 billion in taxpayer funds for international abortion groups and a 133 percent increase in funding for the Title X clinic program - a slush fund for domestic abortion providers. Obama is expected to advance the extreme abortion bailout agenda by overturning every restriction of federal funding of abortion through the Medicaid program, in the military, in federal prisons, in the Peace Corps, and for research involving the destruction of human embryos.
Support for public funding of abortion is the position of only a minuscule minority. Those who oppose abortion feel righteous outrage about being forced to fund it. Those who see themselves as "pro-choice" largely reject forcing objectors to fund the practice -- or they personally oppose it and so also oppose funding it.
President Obama promised to forge "common ground" on an issue that has divided the nation since every protection for unborn children was wiped off the books with the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions in 1973. Unfortunately, forcing taxpayers to fund the destruction of innocent lives is far, far away from any turf that could be labeled common ground.
The more Americans know of this proposed change in law, the more they will be forced to take sides, that is, in effect to join the pro-life movement. That is the definition of a political tipping point. Every step President Obama takes to advance the abortion bailout agenda puts our nation one step closer to confronting the tragic reality of abortion in America. Obama's overreach gives pro-life human rights advocates in the mold of Susan B. Anthony reason to hope. A turning point for protecting the unborn could well be on the horizon.
Marjorie Dannenfelser is President of the Susan B. Anthony List , a nationwide network of Americans, over 152,000 residing in all 50 states, dedicated to mobilizing, advancing, and representing pro-life women in politics.

Something for Those Who Don't Think What We Are Battling Is Demonic

"The lunatic is on the grass."

It was an hour before midnight. Ten-year-old James was in his bedroom, alone, when he was suddenly gripped by terror. A Pink Floyd song rang out through the empty room. The radio turned on by itself.

"The lunatic is on the grass. The lunatic is in the hall."

James lay paralyzed, locked in that helpless state that is itself as terrifying as whatever causes it. He wanted to move or cry out but couldn't. So he just listened.

"The lunatic is in my head. There's someone in my head, but it's not me."

This was James's first direct experience with evil, but it wouldn't be his last. "That would become something that would be common," he remembers. "I'd have a feeling of something scary being present. Then something weird would happen."

First the presence, then the strange thing. It would recur that way throughout his life. This is the first phase of demonic activity, the devil's first tentative steps into a life. For all the victims of demonic activity I spoke with, this sort of thing is common. And like James, they all wished to remain anonymous.

One victim felt the evil presence as a physical weight; another saw a grotesque person. One saw nothing -- literally -- in one part of a room, "like a pitch-black sheet had been pulled down."
Another victim -- a well-known Catholic leader respected for his pragmatism -- said, "My most frequent encounters involve black shadows and figures that I see out of the corner of my eye…. I'll see something in my peripheral vision. It's almost always in motion. When I turn my head, the figure will melt quickly into a fluid-like shadow and then flow away through the edges of the room or along the ceiling. I see these things frequently, almost every day." His encounters are cinematically frightening, involving infestations of crows, carpets of spiders, cats gathering to stare at him from his front porch, objects flying through rooms in his house, and inhuman figures standing in darkened hallways.

The evil presence manifests itself through senses other than sight, as well. "I occasionally hear things, voices sounding far away and choppy," one victim said. "I sometimes get overwhelmed with a sulfury smell," described another.

A friend of one of the victims listed these manifestations: "He'd get an oppressive feeling. Sometimes he'd see a grotesque, impish figure, a short, really nasty-looking demon. When he described it to Rome's exorcist, Father Gabriel Amorth, he said, 'Oh, that guy.' Other times, he'd just hear screaming. Deafening noise. I don't know what you'd want to call it. The wailing of the damned."

But there was one phenomenon that all the victims have experienced: "I could feel something there, looking at me."

James felt that presence again on a visit home from college. He was awakened at 1:30 a.m. with the feeling that someone was approaching the front door. He went downstairs, and soon one of his sisters walked in, drunk. He talked to her in the living room, warning her about drinking too much.

That's when the presence came. Then the strange thing.

The phone rang, and he picked it up. A female voice said, "Don't even try to talk to her. Just leave her alone."

He hung up and talked to his sister anyway. But, before long, the presence returned.

"I knew the phone was going to ring," he said. He reached for it. "Then it rang."

It was the same voice, but distorted, "like she had marbles in her mouth." Emphatically, the voice commanded, "I told you not to talk to her!"

He cut his lecture short.

James's parents consulted the Jesuit Rev. John Hardon about his case.

"He told me that there are three orders of reality," said James, whose family confirms the account (Father Hardon died nine years ago). "There is the divine existence. Just below that is the preternatural world, the world of spirits, angels good or bad. Then there's the natural world, where we live. But human beings also participate in the preternatural."

Father Hardon told him that some people are more attuned to the preternatural world. "They kind of sense things better," James said. "Things like what I just explained to you." Things like demons.

He Wants to Be With You Forever

When I agreed to do a story about demonic activity, possession, and exorcism for Crisis, I thought it would be fun -- a spooky thrill. I'd write the article, warn about being too preoccupied with the subject matter, and be done. Instead, I got sleepless nights, horrifying conversations with those who have been involved in exorcisms, and a new point of view on the demonic world.

Skeptics have fought a losing battle against belief in the devil for years. "What are the Church's greatest needs at the present time?" Pope Paul VI asked in November 1972. "Don't be surprised at Our answer and don't write it off as simplistic or even superstitious: One of the Church's greatest needs is to be defended against the evil we call the Devil."

There's an age-old battle between philosophers and poets about the nature of evil. The pope sided with the poets. "Evil is not merely an absence of something but an active force, a living, spiritual being that is perverted and that perverts others. It is a terrible reality, mysterious and frightening."

The Vatican has issued updated norms of exorcism as recently as 1999.

Demons are an inescapable part of the Old Testament. They are even named there: Lucifer in Isaiah, Asmodeus in Tobit, Satan in Job. And the New Testament can almost sound like the story of Christ the Exorcist, come to earth to end the reign of that strongman, Beelzebub. In St. John's words, "The reason the son of man appeared was to destroy the works of the devil."

Some manner of belief in demons is part of every religion in every age, and the diabolical world haunts moderns with no religion, too. Most horror movies work by suggesting that there's another layer to the world -- one we don't often see -- that is filled with darkness. Puncture it a little, and chaos pours out.

Some of the stories I'll tell involve contorted bodies, glowing eyes, levitation, and other Hollywood aspects of demonic activity. But I decided to focus on James's story, which is terrifying in a more typical way. It's filled with ambiguity, punctuated occasionally by bursts of darkness. And it has left him spiritually weary. Because the truth is, the victims of demonic activity don't live in carnival haunted houses. They exist at the edges of a malaise. They're anxious or depressed, disoriented in their spiritual lives or slowly losing their minds -- always wondering if the thoughts filling their heads are really their own.

"I don't experience them as clever 'fallen' angels," said one of the victims I spoke with. "I'm not sure I sense a great deal of intelligence there, at all. It's like they're working on some kind of animal instinct."

Catholic writer Mark Shea has pointed out that the devil, in rejecting the ultimate good that is God, rejected secondary goods, like intelligence, as well. But that doesn't mean he isn't clever -- the late exorcist Malachi Martin once said that the one thing an exorcist must never do is try to reason with the devil. But as a conversationalist, he's probably not like the demons in the Screwtape Letters. He's more like the captured alien in Independence Day: a highly developed insect who answers the president's careful negotiations by saying, simply, "Die."

So why dwell on the diabolical world at all? Paul VI explained, "This matter of the Devil and of the influence he can exert on individuals as well as on communities, entire societies or events, is a very important chapter of Catholic doctrine which should be studied again, although it is given little attention today."

In three different ways, I found that to be true.

First, the stories I collected add up to a giant neon sign saying "Stay away from witchcraft" and other occult practices. When I asked exorcists if witchcraft is a gateway to more serious demonic activity, they were incredulous. Gateway? It's directly dealing with the demonic! Nearly everyone they treat has been exposed in some way to Ouija boards, spells, hexes, "white magic," or tarot cards -- the stuff your local chain bookstore fills its shelves with because it sells so well.

Second, even if you're never tempted by witchcraft, recalling the nature of the demonic world can be a moral "Scared Straight" lesson. Try this: The next time you face a temptation, remind yourself that you're cooperating with the malevolent will of a highly developed insect that hates you yet wants to be with you forever. You'll find your old reliable sins lose a little of their allure.

And third, I found that these aren't simply horror stories. Horror stories work by attacking hope. But we aren't helpless when we face the devil. "The power of Satan is, nonetheless, not infinite," says the Catechism of the Catholic Church. "He is only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is pure spirit, but still a creature."

Modern-day saints like Blessed Mother Teresa fought the devil and won. The devil tried to possess Mother Teresa when she was sick in the hospital, Father Amorth told the National Catholic Register. An Indian exorcist kept him at bay.

We can take comfort in the fact that God never allows more for a soul than it can handle and that it's only after we invite demons in that they cause us serious problems.

Or when we leave ourselves wide open to them by spending time with witches, like James did. Because if the first phase of demonic activity -- the presence of evil -- comes at the devil's initiative, the second phase comes at our own.

There are two common ways the devil enters a person, one exorcist told me. "The basic one is through sin. The person turns away from God and commits sin frequently. The devil finds a willing victim. He finds a friend. Conversely, there's the person who is good, and the devil goes after him. The devil tries to wear the person down."

'He's Ready to Meet You Now'

"This is not a pleasant story," James began.

He was 20, at home near St. Louis on winter break from college, when he had a frustrating experience at a meeting of a Catholic community (in charity, we'll keep its name out of it; it's not a well-known group). He felt out of place and unfulfilled at the meeting, so he left early to go to his friend Vanessa Jabali's house and take her out to a movie. But when James arrived, he found her mother had other plans.

James had known Vanessa since the fifth grade. The Jabalis were an all-female household -- Mrs. Jabali and three daughters -- who seemed wealthy even though the father was absent. If you asked their religion, the Jabalis would tell you that they study their ancestry and then would refer to the "Yahwist" accounts in the Old Testament, the stories of animal sacrifice and scapegoats.

Mrs. Jabali told James to wait while she made cookies. Vanessa's sister, Isabel, joined them. "She spent 20 minutes preparing them, but they were not warm," James said. He ate them, though no one else did.

"She started talking to me about Moses and how he was a woman, and how Moses had horns like in the sculpture, and all kinds of really weird stuff," James said. At one point, Mrs. Jabali put both of her hands in front of her face, palms out, not touching, and said, "All of the sudden you open your eyes and you see what's going on." She waved them apart.

"I was sort of entranced," James said. To this day he doesn't know if the cookies were drugged. "She keeps talking this stuff, and I'm getting confused and disoriented."

Vanessa planned to drive James to the movie. But they did not go to the movie.

"We went to a house," James said. As he sat in the strange building with Vanessa, he felt a strong presence of evil. Soon Mrs. Jabali and Isabel arrived, and James was in the same company he had been in before, only ten miles away, in an unfamiliar house.

Mrs. Jabali turned to James and said, "He's ready to meet you downstairs if you want." She didn't explain who "he" was. James tried to pray, but couldn't. His mind was distracted. But he said there was no way he was going downstairs.

They sat longer, making small talk. Mrs. Jabali looked at ease. But she would occasionally repeat her invitation, more insistently.

"He's ready to meet you downstairs if you want, James."

"Finally, after about five more invitations to go downstairs and meet 'him,' we left that place and went to a movie," James said. But he doesn't remember the movie at all… except for one part, "where they cut a goat's neck and started dancing around it."

At the end, he stumbled into the car. "Did you like the part about the goat?" asked Vanessa, laughing. Then she said, "We're going back to that house."

That was too much for James. "I had an inspiration to order her, not ask her, but tell her, 'Vanessa, take me home.'"

"No," she said.

"Vanessa, take me home," James repeated.

Vanessa turned to her sister and, as if James wasn't even there, asked, "Well, what do I do now?"

"You have to do whatever he says," Isabel said.

"Well, what do you do when this happens with Joel?" Vanessa asked, referring to her sister's husband.

"I just beat him with a bat," Isabel said. They sounded utterly serious, as if they were trying to scare James.

Vanessa took him home. But the strangest part of the night was still ahead for James.

'Forget God'

As soon as he got home, he decided to drive back to the religious community where he had started out, on the other side of St. Louis. "It was late at night," his sister, Caroline, told me. "He said goodbye, and it was the sort of goodbye that seemed to mean, 'Goodbye forever.'"

James was barely in a condition to drive. "I don't know if I was drugged or cursed," he said. "Cars were whizzing by me. I was just trying to drive straight. By the time I got there, I was really scared."

He woke the priest and laypeople who lived at the community and told them, "I think God wants me to live here." The priest explained that people don't receive vocations out of fear and left to get some clothes for James to change into: He had wet his pants.

James sat staring at a crucifix on the wall, getting more and more agitated. Finally, he shouted, "Forget God!" and ran out into the hall. He pushed past three men and headed toward the chapel.

There, several men of the religious house witnessed James stand on a pew and do a back-flip. They yelled for others to help them, and then called the police. James made a dash toward the sanctuary, breaking the chapel's Epiphany statues on the way. The men intervened.

"I went after the tabernacle," James told me. "I wanted inside it. I just wanted to get to Jesus in the Eucharist."

He never did. Six men held him down. He broke free from them. They held him again. Soon, a police van arrived. James was put in a straitjacket and thrown into the darkness of the vehicle."In the paddy wagon, I was certain I had died and gone to hell. That was the deepest, worst psychological thing I'd ever experienced. It was so heinous and evil," he said.

"But I could still hope. And I could pray." His Catholic education told him that would be impossible if he were really in hell.

The next thing he remembers is the psychiatric ward, sitting in front of a blue light. "They put some drug in me and said I'd be asleep within ten seconds. I spent that night in a rubber room. I didn't sleep at all." Usually in such a case, a patient will spend months in the hospital. But a Catholic doctor interviewed him and gave him a clean bill of mental health -- a diagnosis that Father Hardon would soon affirm. James was in the hospital for only a week.


I shared these and other details of James's case with Rev. Herman Jayachandra. Father Jayachandra, 59, is pastor of St. Martin de Porres parish in Boulder, Colorado. A priest and exorcist from India, Father Jayachandra is quick to point out that he is not the official exorcist of the Archdiocese of Denver, but that he only helps victims of diabolic activity with the knowledge of the archdiocese or at its request. The archdiocese vouched for him as a priest in good standing.

Diabolic activity generally falls into one of four categories, he told me. The mildest forms are infestation (as in haunted houses) and obsession (when a person is harassed by the devil either by intense temptations or in a particular area of a person's life). Oppression -- an external attack by evil spirits on a person -- is worse. "The spirit could cause discouragement or weariness," said Father Jayachandra, "or it can put up external shows to frighten the person, such as shaking a person's bed during his sleep at night."

The rarest and most serious form is possession. "Partial possession means in a certain part of the body," he said. "Full possession means the devil takes control over the consciousness of the person. It uses the mouth of the person to speak. It uses the hands and legs of the person to do violence. It uses the mouth of the person to abuse and blaspheme."

There are three kinds of exorcisms. First, there's the liturgical exorcism that is incorporated in every baptismal ceremony. Second, there is so-called private exorcism, or simple exorcism. It can be performed by any of the faithful and can be as simple as the words, "Be gone, Satan." The third kind of exorcism is the solemn, "public," or formal exorcism. This ritual is only carried out with the specific authorization of a bishop. It's a serious matter, but it's a sacramental, not a sacrament. That means its effect is not infallible, and it may have to be repeated more than once.

One internationally known exorcist spoke with me but asked that his name not be used. His is a scary line of work. He told me he does a lot of research before suggesting a formal exorcism. "If the psychiatrists and the medical doctor have all said the same thing and given the person a clean bill of health," the priest said, "I will do what's called a provocation. I'll provoke the devil into manifesting himself, if he's there."

He has a few chosen methods of provocation.

"Most commonly, I'll put the Blessed Sacrament in a pix," he said. "When I go into the room to see the person, unbeknownst to them, I will carry the Blessed Sacrament. If the person is possessed, they know right away that I have it. They'll say, 'No, no! Go away! I can't go near you! He won't let me! He won't let me!' Or, with a prayer, we'll sprinkle holy water. The person will react and say, 'Stop that! Stop that! It burns! It burns! Don't do that! Don't do that!'"

James was never possessed. After all, he went toward the tabernacle, not away from it. He was probably oppressed by a demon, Father Jayachandra said, and it was likely caused by witchcraft. James's case reminded him of one exorcism he performed on an intermittently possessed person.

"It became very violent at a certain point. The possessed person jumped into the sanctuary and pushed down the statue of the Blessed Mother," he said. "I ended up putting iron grills around all the other statues."

James was exorcised, too. Many years after the incident with the Jabalis, and after other episodes, James's brother brought him to a priest who performed a simple exorcism on him. Without ever mentioning the devil, or using the word "exorcism," the priest asked James questions, gave him some tests, and then, almost as if it were an afterthought, said some prayers over him, including prayers in Latin. Father Amorth pointed out that since an exorcist doesn't want to encourage dark thoughts in a subject, he'll often perform his work in an almost casual way that won't alarm the victim.

I also talked to Andrew Walther, who has brought two different people for treatment to Father Amorth, author of An Exorcist Tells His Story. He told me about one of them, whom we'll call Leonard. Father Amorth thought Leonard's case was brought on by a witch's hex, too. Walther knew Leonard as one of the many college students abroad that he was working with. But Leonard started reporting strange incidents.

"He told me he was having a nightmare, and when he awoke he was completely unable to move, because there was a demon sitting on top of him, with glowing eyes."

Leonard prayed, and the demon went away. But eventually, it returned. Leonard called it "an aggressive, depressing presence."

Walther brought him to Father Amorth, and with Walther present, the exorcist performed a solemn exorcism.

"Father Amorth removed a bottle of holy water, a St. Benedict cross, a vessel of oil, and a stole from his briefcase, then, touching Leonard with the stole, he began to pray in Latin." The prayers included the litany of the saints. At one point, the exorcist demanded that the demon reveal itself. The rite lasted about ten minutes, and Leonard felt greatly relieved afterwards.

"Father Amorth told Leonard he wasn't possessed, but that he might be afflicted by a weak hex and that he should come back the next month," Walther said. "He wanted to know if there was witchcraft in the family. He said not to be distracted by the devil's harassment, but to pray before the Holy Eucharist -- especially if he could find it exposed -- to pray the rosary, and to go to Mass and confession often."

According to exorcists, possession often happens through some form of witchcraft. In India, Father Jayachandra said, "I had many cases of witches casting spells and hexes over people. People became obsessed, and some became possessed."

He was eager to point out that witches have no real power over the devil, though. "The devil, after using a witch to the best interest of both, eventually will kill her indirectly," he said, driving her mad so she'll die quickly in an accident or slowly from not being able to care for herself.

Rev. Charles Carpenter, 58, a priest in Alamos, Mexico, told me he used to be very skeptical about claims of demonic activity. But 25 years in Mexico changed his mind.

"People frequently consult what are called 'adivinos,' and 'brujos.' At first, I gave very little credence to the power of these persons," he said. "But then, over the years, I saw the effects in certain persons who consulted them."

'Am I Crazy?'

Shaking beds, shrieks from the underworld, glowing eyes. Exorcists have seen it all. But they haven't seen it often.

Usually, they encounter patients like James. Harassment and oppression are the most common form of demonic activity and, in a way, the most frightening. The devil doesn't enter at some definitive point in time and then make a clean departure.

He hangs around, untiringly, for months -- or years.

After James's back-flip incident, his sister, Caroline, was working as a dispatcher for a security company, sitting up late by a phone that never rang… except when James was talking to her on one line. Then, she got interrupted frequently by calls on the security line, strange calls -- adults laughing like children, nonsense words in weird voices, or ominous noises that are hard to describe.

Father Jayachandra told me of victims he treated who answered the telephone to hear, "I am with you." Or, in a deep, odd voice: "I'm going to help you."

"Perhaps the devil uses a human person under its control" to make the calls, he said.

Demons hound the victim, never letting him rest. Never letting him forget. James (and a witness I spoke with) described how, months after his incident, a grotesque person, a homeless woman with blank eyes, approached him.

"I have a message for you," she said ominously, then relieved herself, making a puddle under her dress. James took it as his tormenter reminding him of what he did that horrifying night.

His life is filled with such stories. They are frightening but nonetheless leave a doubt: They could be explained without any reference to the demonic world. Is he hexed, or is he paranoid? Is he being harassed by demons, or is he losing his mind?

He's not sure. That's the kind of triumph the devil usually claims: not destruction, but the misery of self-doubt.

Mental illness is not diabolical activity. Yet there is a relationship between the two, Father Jayachandra said.

"Smaller psychological problems, if not taken care of, can cause mental illness," he said. "But in my experience, demons could aggravate somebody's psychological problems to cause mental illness." And vice versa. "Mental illness, in my experience, leaves someone more likely to be oppressed, though not necessarily possessed."

Each of the victims I spoke with said the same thing: "I thought I was crazy." And in each of the cases -- I admit -- I wondered the same thing. All the same, one exorcist told me, "I've never found a person who needed an exorcism in a psychiatric hospital."

James's sister Caroline wanted to be sure I pointed out that most people who know James see nothing at all wrong with him. But James suffers greatly, she told me. "There are times when he's very angry at God for letting this sort of thing happen to him," she said. "He's wanted to be a priest but figures there's no way."

James's case shows the devil's true nature. Satan is an oppressive, energy-draining weight on the spirits of those afflicted by him. He isn't into artful repartee, he doesn't play the fiddle, and he can't make you a rock star. He won't keep his promises. And he hates you beyond imagination.

How to defend against him? "Grace is the decisive defense," Paul VI said.

Perhaps the best approach is the one James's brother Glen takes. He allowed James to take shelter one night at his house. All the doors were locked, then appeared to unlock on their own. Didn't that scare you?, I asked him.

"I never had any fear," Glen told me. "I know that, basically, as long as you're in a state of grace, God's going to give you anything you need to get by."

Tom Hoopes is the executive editor of the National Catholic Register and editorial director of Faith & Family. This article originally appeared in the November 2003 issue of Crisis Magazine.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

An Awards Ceremony I Hope I Never See

The 2009 Apostasy Awards

"Good evening, everybody, and welcome back to the Spirit of Vatican II Academy Awards ceremony, live from the basement of the Unitarian Universalist Worship Center. I'm Joan Chittister." (audience applauds)
"And I'm Ray Bourgeois." (audience applauds, along with the screams and ululations of a large number of middle-aged women).
"Gee, Ray, sounds like your fan club is still going strong there!"
"Can you blame them?" (flashes smile, women swoon) "Well, Joan, it sure has been an exciting evening. Compelling liturgical dance numbers, synchronized reiki, a moving tribute to Marty Haugen, a surprise appearance by Bishop Tom Gumbleton..."
"...I'll say that was a surprise. I thought he had died! Just kidding, Tom!"
(audience laughs, Gumbleton smiles and wags a finger at Joan)
"And on top of all that, a Lifetime Achievement Award to Richard McBrien for his work in the media. It's been quite an evening."
"It sure has, Ray. And you know what? It's not over yet. We've one award left to hand out, and it's the biggie. The 2008 Sophia V2 Spirit Award for Political Influence And Impact."
(audience applauds)
"That's right, Joan, and here to present the Sophia V2 Spirit Award is last year's winner, Rev Tom Reese."
(Tom Reese strides to the podium)
"Good evening, everyone. It's my honor and privilege to announce the nominees for this year's Sophia V2 Spirit Award for Political Influence and Impact. The nominees are..."
(lights dim, projector lights up, and a picture of Nancy Pelosi from her Meet the Press appearance appears on the screen)
"...Nancy Pelosi, ardent Catholic and Speaker of the House of Representatives..."
(audience applauds, as image of Joe Biden appears on screen)
"...Joe Biden, Vice-President of the United States..."
(audience applauds as image of Doug Kmiec appears on screen)
"...and Doug Kmiec, Catholic advisor to President Obama and Catholic legal expert."
(audience applauds; Reese pulls out envelope as drum rolls commences)
"And the winner of the Sophia V2 Spirit Award goes to.....DOUG KMIEC!!!"
(audience applauds as Kmiec stands and makes his way to the stage)
"No surprise there, Joan. Some claim he was solely responsible for convincing 56% of voting Catholics to pull the lever for Obama, and he continues to stand firm for social justice issues to this day."
"I agree, Ray. He's the best friend progressive Catholics could wish for. He's still going strong, and it wouldn't surprise me one bit if he snags this award at next year's ceremony."
"And it's too bad he can't give his acceptance speech. We've run out of time as we promised the Unitarians we'd be out of here by 9 so that they can hold their weekly GLBT outreach meeting."
"Thanks for watching! For Joan Chittister, I'm Ray Bourgeois. Keep the spirit alive!" Headlines

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