Friday, May 18, 2012

Acting as if God Matters, Arson, and Forgiveness

Catholic bishops in America are at it again, saying that evil is not nice: and that we shouldn't do it. I posted about what the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops sent to Washington earlier this week:
I think you'll find my summary outline a bit easier to skim through, but I recommend reading the full text of the USCCB's comments. They're online:
The bad news is that America's leader is trying to establish a system where he decides how American citizens are allowed to practice their faith. Credit where credit is due: the Obama administration seems willing to let religious people pray inside church doors. But unless something is done, acting as if God matters will be illegal: or ruinously expensive.

The good news is that there's an election coming in November.
  1. Forced Out: ObamaCare Hits Franciscan University, Steubenville
  2. HHS Mandate, Six Reasons Why It's a Bad Idea
  3. Conscience, Religion: Not on the Canadian Government's 'Approved' List
  4. House Repairs: Arson and Forgiveness at Saint John Vianney Parish

1. Forced Out: ObamaCare Hits Franciscan University, Steubenville

"Catholic university drops student health insurance, cites ObamaCare"
FoxNews.com (May 16, 2012)

"A Catholic university in Ohio said Tuesday it is being forced to end a student health insurance program over the Obama administration's contraception mandate and costs associated with other provisions of the health care overhaul.

"Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, said it has so far excluded contraceptive services and products from its health insurance policy for students and will not participate in a plan that 'requires us to violate the consistent teachings of the Catholic Church on the sacredness of human life.'

"In its decision to drop coverage, the school cited the contraception mandate, but also a requirement that the maximum coverage amount be increased to $100,000 for policyholders -- claiming that would have made premiums skyrocket. A university official told Fox News Radio the students' basic $600 policy was going to double in cost in the fall and triple next year and that the school's insurance provider said the increases were the result of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

" 'This is putting people in a position where they are having to choose between their faith and their morality, and now an unjust cost,' said Mike Hernon, the school's vice president of advancement. 'These sorts of regulations from the government are forcing our hand in a way that's really wrong.'..."
The FoxNews article focused on Franciscan University's issues with (artificial) contraception. Thats accurate, as far as it goes: but there's more to "ObamaCare."

Regional Culture, Church Teaching, Women, and Murder

It's quite legal, in today's America, to kill someone: provided that the victim is under an arbitrary age, and a few other conditions apply.

Americans call it "abortion," or "the right to choose," and it's a convenient way to deal with women who get pregnant under awkward circumstances. I'm an American, but I'm also a practicing Catholic: so I see "the right to choose" as culturally-sanctioned murder.

In many cases, I think that mothers who have their babies killed are under pressure to 'correct' a 'problem.' The boyfriends, husbands, parents, professors, or employers who apply pressure? I don't think that's right. Matthew 7:1-5 applies, and I've been over that before. (May 4, 2012)

Catholic Counter-Culture, Women, and a Radical Idea

As a practicing Catholic in America, I'm part of a counter-culture. My beliefs about killing people before birth, or sabotaging an organ system, are counter-cultural: but they're not unreasonable, given our assumptions.

For one thing, I have to believe that women are 'real' people: who are just as important as I am. I'm not allowed to see a woman as a thing that's supposed to satisfy my wishes. I realize that this sounds radical, and I've been over it before:
American culture has come a long way in the last half-century, in terms of recognizing women as people. I remember the 'good old days' when "she's as smart as a man" was supposed to be a compliment.

But the idea that a woman should provide sexual gratification to a man without regard to her personal worth? That idea hasn't quite caught on.

Sex, Logic, and Grudging Agreement

Please bear with me: this relates to contraceptives, abortion, and the recent HHS mandate.

I wasn't Catholic when I met my wife. At the time, I thought not using artificial contraceptives was a silly idea. My wife didn't.

I knew that my wife-to-be was about as level-headed a person as I'd ever met, so her insistence on following Church teachings about contraception was - puzzling. I decided that she probably hadn't analyzed what the Church said, so I read Humanae Vitae (English translation), cover-to-cover.

I'd expected to find holes in the document's logic I could drive a semi through.

I found none.

So I read Humanae Vitae again. Carefully. Studied it.

I realized that I had options. I could give up some assumptions about God, causality, and the nature of reality: or I could accept the Church's logic.

I was unwilling to assume that, for example, reality isn't real. So I was forced to admit, grudgingly, that I was wrong: and the Church was right.

After a few more experiences like that, I acknowledged that converting to Catholicism was my only reasonable option: and that's another topic.

Counter-Cultural Ideas, Human Sexuality, and a 140-to-1 Compression Ratio

Artificial contraceptives are widely accepted in America, and I remember how easy it was to believe 'what everybody knows.' I tried reducing the nearly 7,000 words of Humanae Vitae to its essentials. I think I've got the gist of it, but remember: I'm "some guy with a blog."

Basically, the Catholic Church says that women are people, that human sexuality in the context of a marriage is a good idea: and that it's okay to have babies.

Another point, as I recall, is that marriage is supposed to involve sharing. When folks who are married refuse to share life - that messes up the marital bond. I realize how radically counter-cultural that is.

Remember: I took just over 50 words to describe almost 7,000. With a 140-to-1 compression ratio, something's going to get lost.

2. HHS Mandate, Six Reasons Why It's a Bad Idea

"USCCB Submits Comments on Proposed HHS Rulemaking, Urges Re-Opening of Final Rule Defining Mandate, Exemption"
News release, USCCB (May 15, 2012)

"...'We believe that this mandate is unjust and unlawful - it is bad health policy, and because it entails an element of government coercion against conscience, it creates a religious freedom problem,' wrote Anthony Picarello, USCCB associate general secretary and general counsel, and Michael Moses, associate general counsel. 'These moral and legal problems are compounded by an extremely narrow exemption that intrusively and unlawfully carves up the religious community into those that are deemed "religious enough" for an exemption, and those that are not.'

"The comments were submitted in response to an HHS Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on preventive services...."
The USCCB news release discusses six reasons why the HHS mandate is a bad idea. Here's a quick outline:
  1. The Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) does not change the fact that contraceptive services are included in the list of mandated preventive services
    • This has remained unchanged from an earlier regulation announced in August 2011
  2. The ANPRM does not change the administration's criteria for defining 'religious employers' exempted from the mandate
    • Criteria for exemption from the HHS rule include
      • Employers primarily hire and serve only members of their own religion
  3. Many stakeholders in the health insurance process - religious and secular insurers with a conscientious objection to the mandate are completely ineligible for the exemption
    • The administration has invited public comment on some further 'accommodation' for certain non-exempt religious organizations
      • But secular stakeholders will receive no such accommodation
        • "We believe that the contraceptive mandate violates the religious and conscience rights of these stakeholders as well and is unlawful."
    • "Conscientiously-objecting non-exempt religious organizations will still be required to provide plans that serve as a conduit for contraceptives and sterilization procedures to their own employees, and their premiums will help pay for those items."
      • The administration has invited comment on different approaches for how to deal with a self-insured employer
        • But "none of them will solve the problems that the mandate creates for non-exempt religious organizations with a conscientious objection to contraceptive coverage."
    • The ANPRM raises new questions such as whether
      • Employers must be independently exempt for their employees to participate in an exempt plan
      • Religious objection to some, but not all, contraceptives should be accommodated
      • A past practice of mistakenly or unknowingly covering contraceptives should disqualify one from accommodation
    I posted a longer version of that outline on Wednesday, along with the full text of the USCCB's news release:

    3. Conscience, Religion: Not on the Canadian Government's 'Approved' List

    "Canadians' religious freedom in danger, bishops warn"
    Benjamin Mann, CNA/EWTN News (May 14, 2012)

    "Freedom of religion and conscience are in danger of disappearing from Canadian society, the country's bishops warned on May 14.

    " 'In the past decade in Canada there have been several situations that raise the question whether our right to freedom of conscience and religion is everywhere respected,' the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops observed in Monday's pastoral letter.

    " 'At times,' the bishops observed, 'believers are being legally compelled to exercise their profession without reference to their religious or moral convictions, and even in opposition to them.' They pointed to the dangers of 'radical secularism' and an 'aggressive' relativism that opposes all claims of truth.

    "The Canadian bishops also highlighted the anti-religious nature of some 'anti-discrimination' laws, as well as the tendency of advocacy groups to use provincial Human Rights Tribunals to promote a radical agenda and block believers from speaking and acting freely...."
    I see this as a sort of good news/bad news situation.

    First, the bad news: Canada's establishment, the folks who run the government and important institutions, don't like religion. Or at least they don't like it when people act as if their faith matters. Since Canada's establishment can impose their preferences on everybody else, that's a problem for folks who have a functioning conscience.

    Now, the good news: bishops in Canada are acting like bishops. They've noticed that something's not right in their territory, and are saying 'this isn't right.'

    Something like that's been happening on my side of the border, too. Since I'm one of 'those people' who think that what God says matters, I'm pleased with what the bishops have been doing.

    About "what God says:" It's not the 'agree with me or be damned' attitude I'm drearily familiar with. The idea is for me to conform to God's will, not claim that 'God agrees with me.' And that's yet another topic.

    4. House Repairs: Arson and Forgiveness at Saint John Vianney Parish

    "One year after fire, Calif. parish continues to rebuild"
    Robert Dellinger, The Tidings, via CNA (Catholic News Agency) (May 12, 2012)

    "year ago, Msgr. Tim Nichols, recovering in a wheelchair from a fall and serious knee injury, addressed still shell-shocked St. John Vianney parishioners - many of whom had watched their contemporary California mission-style church destroyed in an arson-set conflagration less than 24 hours earlier - at the Palm Sunday vigil Mass celebrated in the parish hall....

    "...during his homily at the April 15 vigil Mass in the same parish hall, associate pastor Father Ricardo Viveros recalled how he woke up at 12:01 a.m. early Saturday on April 16, 2011, to the sound of shattering glass. At first he thought it was somebody breaking into the rectory. But as he started to stand, he sensed a big orange globe behind him. And as he turned around, looking out his second-story bedroom window, he saw that the whole church was engulfed in flames...."
    I don't particularly like being jerked awake under any circumstances. Awakened by breaking glass at midnight, and seeing your church go up in flames? I wouldn't like that at all.

    A Brightly-Burning Church

    The priest described seeing the brightly burning church as "one of the holiest experiences that I've gone through." Why?!
    "...'And many of you have asked me: "Father Ricky, how was that experience for you?" ' he said. 'I have to tell you that I wasn't scared, I wasn't worried. It was one of the holiest experiences that I've gone through. And the reason why was I often asked myself, "Why am I back at St. John Vianney? God, what's going on?"...' "

    " 'You know, I was assigned here, after a year when I was a seminarian here. And it all made sense at that moment for me on my spiritual journey.'(The Tidings, via CNA)
    When I read phrases like 'spiritual journey,' I'm strongly inclined to picture someone with a vague, spaced-out smile. But that's me: I spent my teens in the '60s, and that's another topic.

    Back to Father Viveros, and a spiritual journey that's best done while stone-cold sober:
    "...He noted that 'we've all been "doubting Thomases" during the past year,' frustrated that the walls of the burnt-out church are still standing and that insurance claims haven't been settled. Some, he said, might have even started doubting that God has any plans for St. John Vianney Parish.

    " 'God's plan is so much bigger than a church building,' Father Viveros stressed. 'God's plan for all of us was to be transformed. We the Church are being called to transform ourselves every day. And this past year, I've been so touched to see how many of you have stepped up, have gotten involved in ministry. You have formed new friendships. And the fact that you have chosen to stay during this difficult time shows your love of Christ and for this community....
    (The Tidings, via CNA)

    Arson: Feelings, Forgiveness, and a Question

    Folks in St. John Vianney Parish haven't spent the last year being 'spiritual,' with vacant smiles and no perceptibly distress. Cramming the parish activities of 5,500 families into the small spaces left by the fire has been difficult. So has been dealing with the emotional fallout. Bad enough that the church burned: but knowing that someone deliberately set the fire? That hurts:
    "...'I've seen the burnt-out church for a year, and even now sometimes when I go inside I get very emotional,' said Msgr. Nichols. 'The walls are still standing and it looks like Berlin 1945...."
    (The Tidings, via CNA)
    José Pena, the Spanish choir director at St. John Vianney, has been in the parish for three decades. He "can't even remember all his family's events that have taken place in St. John Vianney Church." Including the most recent: his mother's funeral Mass.

    José Pena has forgiven the offense against his parish, his neighbors, and himself. But - I'll let him do the talking:
    "...'It's something that you don't reconcile why - Why somebody would want to do something of that magnitude that affects so many people?' he wondered aloud. 'It's forgiven, but hard to understand why....
    (The Tidings, via CNA)
    I've put a longer excerpt at the end of this post.1

    I don't know what goes on inside the minds of other folks, so I can't know why someone would decide to torch a church. My guess is that there's hate involved.

    More posts about forcing Catholics to violate our conscience:
    The Department of Health and Human Services vs. Conscience

    Related posts:
    Background:

    1 Longer excerpt from the St. John Vianney arson article:
    "One year after fire, Calif. parish continues to rebuild"
    Robert Dellinger, The Tidings, via CNA (Catholic News Agency) (May 12, 2012)

    "year ago, Msgr. Tim Nichols, recovering in a wheelchair from a fall and serious knee injury, addressed still shell-shocked St. John Vianney parishioners — many of whom had watched their contemporary California mission-style church destroyed in an arson-set conflagration less than 24 hours earlier — at the Palm Sunday vigil Mass celebrated in the parish hall....

    "...during his homily at the April 15 vigil Mass in the same parish hall, associate pastor Father Ricardo Viveros recalled how he woke up at 12:01 a.m. early Saturday on April 16, 2011, to the sound of shattering glass. At first he thought it was somebody breaking into the rectory. But as he started to stand, he sensed a big orange globe behind him. And as he turned around, looking out his second-story bedroom window, he saw that the whole church was engulfed in flames.

    " 'And many of you have asked me: "Father Ricky, how was that experience for you?" ' he said. 'I have to tell you that I wasn't scared, I wasn't worried. It was one of the holiest experiences that I've gone through. And the reason why was I often asked myself, "Why am I back at St. John Vianney? God, what's going on?"

    " 'You know, I was assigned here, after a year when I was a seminarian here. And it all made sense at that moment for me on my spiritual journey.'

    "He noted that 'we've all been "doubting Thomases" during the past year,' frustrated that the walls of the burnt-out church are still standing and that insurance claims haven't been settled. Some, he said, might have even started doubting that God has any plans for St. John Vianney Parish.

    " 'God's plan is so much bigger than a church building,' Father Viveros stressed. 'God's plan for all of us was to be transformed. We the Church are being called to transform ourselves every day. And this past year, I've been so touched to see how many of you have stepped up, have gotten involved in ministry. You have formed new friendships. And the fact that you have chosen to stay during this difficult time shows your love of Christ and for this community.

    " 'So our year of grieving and mourning is over,' he declared with a half-smile. 'Jesus is saying that part is behind us. We can no longer go to the tomb and look for what we were. Jesus is saying the church is alive and well today. So, starting this evening, I will no longer allow any grumbling about our fire.'

    "And when the congregants stopped laughing...

    "...All of this, of course, has taken its toll on the parish priests - Msgr. Nichols, Father Viveros, Missionary of the Holy Spirit Father Ricardo de Alba and Father Mike Sezzi, in residence at St. John Vianney.

    " 'I've seen the burnt-out church for a year, and even now sometimes when I go inside I get very emotional,' said Msgr. Nichols. 'The walls are still standing and it looks like Berlin 1945 - pretty much like it was after the fire and the original clean up. And from the priests' standpoint, it's been extremely difficult to try to do ministry cramming everything into small spaces. We're a very busy parish with 5,500 families. So it's been very challenging.'

    "But after a moment, his tone changed...

    "...As the Spanish choir director, he's had to make major adjustments because of the arson fire, such as having the choir on the stage behind the altar in the O'Callaghan Center. Personally, he's also struggled.

    " 'It's something that you don't reconcile why - Why somebody would want to do something of that magnitude that affects so many people?' he wondered aloud. 'It's forgiven, but hard to understand why. And it's already one year, and we still have the carcass of the old church there facing us every day, every morning. When you come to church, it's the first thing you look at. So you say, "When?" '...

    "...Posted with permission from The Tidings, Southern California's Catholic weekly newspaper. "

    2 comments:

    Brigid said...

    Missing an end quote: "I'm "some guy with a blog."

    The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

    Brian Gill said...

    Brigid,

    Fixed, and thanks!

    Like it? Pin it, Plus it, - - -

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    Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

    Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

    What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

    From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

    I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

    For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

    Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

    Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.