Saturday, March 2, 2024


Imagine a bunch of premies, in a hospital, asleep in their bassinets. The hospital has assured the parents that these children are watched and monitored, and they are securely locked in the nursery. Yet, that was not so. There is no guard, no monitoring, and the door is left unlocked. A mentally unstable patient comes in the room, removes five of them, and drops them on the floor, killing them.

What should happen to those responsible for the children? I think we can all agree that they should lose their jobs, face penalties, and possibly go to jail for their gross negligence with children left in their care, and the facility responsible should be sued out of existence.

This is basically what happened at an IVF clinic in Alabama. The clinic had told the parents their children would be guarded and monitored until they were ready to implant them. Instead the room was left unguarded and the door to the adjoining hospital unlocked. A mentally unstable patient came in, removed five children and dropped them on the floor killing them.

The "pro-choice" media is dancing on the graves of these children, blaming Pro-lifers for the "ban of IVF" in Alabama, proving that they really don't care about women and children. And Democrats immediately crafted legislation (more likely brought it out of the drawer where it had been waiting) to exempt the industry from all liability, and even expanding that to cover the creation of extra embryos for medical experiments without the consent of the parents.

Leaving aside the ethics and morality of buying and selling human beings, this really bothers me. You can say "oh, they're not children, they're embryos." But to the parents, these are their children, whom they spent years trying to have. Perhaps the only children they will ever have in their lives. Their hopes for a future family are gone, smashed on the floor, because of negligence and lies, and the media and politicians only care about how they can use this to make more money.


Sunday, February 11, 2024

The Leper

In today’s first reading we hear about the Mosaic laws concerning Leprosy. Leprosy, or Hanson’s disease, as it is called today, was serious business in the ancient world. There was no cure, and so the person with leprosy would spend the few years they had left gradually watching their body deteriorate, and pieces of themselves dying and coming off. Skin, fingers, toes, hands, feet, until they were left a helpless wreck, in constant pain, having to live alone until they were too weak to live.

Leprosy is a perfect analogy for sin. Without a “cure” the sinner gradually becomes a slave to sin. It takes over his life, until pieces of his life are lost, and eventually the sinner becomes too weak and in constant pain from his sin. The penalty for sin, like leprosy, is isolation and death. Now, you may think that there are people who are happy in their sin, but that is part of the problem. Ironically one of the penalties of sin is it feels good, and we take that immediate but shallow pleasure over the true joy of a relationship with God. And over time we lose that relationship to the extent that we no longer desire it, and are lost in habitual sin.

And consider what happens to the leper. He comes to Jesus, admitting his disease, and Jesus heals him, just as He heals us from our sins. After the healing, notice that Jesus can no longer enter the cities, but has to remain out in the wilderness. He is taking on the punishment that the leper “deserved” – namely he cannot go into cities. This all points to the way Jesus took our sins and suffered the punishment we deserved, death on the cross. What seems on the surface to be a simple story about a leper actually has a deeper meaning as well, about the love of God for each of us, and how He is willing to take our punishment so that we may live.

Lastly, consider how the leper approaches Jesus. He doesn’t try to hide his leprosy or impose upon Jesus. He humbly kneels, and doesn’t even presume to try to make Jesus heal him, he just trusts in Jesus and says “if you wish, you can make me clean.” Too often we ask God to do something for us, but we don’t actually trust that God can do it. So we pray over and over, “Lord heal this” or “Lord change that.” But if the Lord actually healed or changed what we ask, we would be surprised that it happened, and maybe even attribute the event to something else – “oh that chemo worked,” or “they changed their mind about it.”

We ask but don’t expect to be answered. On the contrary, the leper believes that Jesus can heal him, but does not presume to ask. What a great faith he has! May we all strive to be more like the leper. Acknowledge what we need, have faith that God will do what’s best, and leave it in His hands, knowing that He loves us and will take care of us. Or as Padre Pio so succinctly put it “Pray, Hope and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.”

Saturday, August 26, 2023

GOP Primary - what they all got wrong

There's an old story about AT&T (or at least as I heard it), that if they bought Kentucky Fried Chicken they would rebrand it as "Hot Dead Birds." I disagree - I think they would have rebranded it as "Meal 5520." Either way, you get the idea.

Since the Dobbs decision overturned Roe v. Wade, Republicans have treated abortion as a "losing" topic. It seems every time they bring it up poll numbers drop. Meanwhile, Biden and the Democrats are thriving on the "restoration of abortion rights" propaganda. In the media, pro-lifers are called "extremists" and the technique seems to resonate with voters.

At the GOP presidential candidate debate the other night, abortion and "pro-life" was a significant part of the discussion. All of the candidates professed to be pro-life, but some apologetically, and all of them proposed national bans at 15 weeks, except for Burgum, who thinks it is a "states only" issue, and Ramaswamy, who always manages to not commit to any concrete solution, and never gets called on it.

Several candidates pointed out that there is broad, bi-partisan support for a 15 week ban, and Nikki Haley shot them down saying that there weren't 60 senators who would vote for it. That's not helpful, Nikki.

Just like the "Hot Dead Birds" brand, Republicans never seem to find a way to make their message appealing.

On the other hand, she did call out Democrats for pushing abortion up until birth, and that's where the Republicans need to go, IMHO. Point out at every opportunity that the Democrats want abortion until birth, and they don't want parental notification. Parental notification is a hot button topic. Parents everywhere want to know what their kids are doing, and abortion without parental notification chiefly benefits sex traffickers who can get easy abortions for their underage victims. And just about everybody recognizes that a baby is a baby at a certain point in a pregnancy.

What I found most disappointing is every candidate used the phrase "pro-life" without ever saying what they meant by it. The only one who said why he was pro-life was Pence, who said basically "because Bible." Again, not helpful. Those who hold his view of the Bible are already in his camp, and those who don't will see it as another reason not to be pro-life.

Nope, none of them gave any coherent explanation as to what their views actually are or why they hold them. So I will say what I wished they would say.

I understand that not all of America is on the same page when it comes to abortion, but here is how I see it. Our founding documents tell us that we are all created equal and that we all have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Over the years Democrats have always failed to recognize the rights of some. At first it was primarily slaves, then immigrants, now it is the unborn, the disabled and elderly.

Science tells us unequivocally that unborn babies are human beings, as are disabled people and seniors. On what grounds do we justify killing some human beings, simply because they are inconvenient? That's why I'm pro-life and why I believe that government at all levels must protect life at all ages.

Monday, July 4, 2022

Gun Control is a Sin (Part II)

In Part I I laid out a brief definition of Justice, and spoke of the two false assumptions used to justify gun controls. I left off with:

And so, even if gun control worked so well that it magically removed all the guns, it would be an injustice against the innocent, and against the physically weaker, or poorer members of society. The strong would prey on the weak with impunity.

But some gun control advocates will say, they don't want to get rid of all guns, just keep guns out of the hands of "bad" people. Let's talk about that. Who are the "bad" people? Apparently they think it is the gun owner, since that's who the law targets. Why do they claim gun owners are bad? Because they own guns. And we're right back to the false notion that guns have no legitimate use.

Conversely, who are the "good" people? Usually mentioned are the government or agents of the government. It is stunningly ignorant to think that a government worker is more moral than the average person. In the last century governments have killed more civilians than any mass murderer could dream of - some 262 million people.

One thing that stuck in my mind, that I learned from a course in the legal use of deadly force. Why do police carry guns? To protect themselves from danger of death or serious bodily harm. They don't carry them to "shoot bad guys" or to "save civilians." In fact, the criteria for a "good" police shoot is the same as that for any citizen defending themselves (at least in theory, we'll get into why they get a pass in another blog post).

And then there's the other class of "good guys" that gun control proponents don't mention: the rich. Of course, the right can have private body guards, and so can you. Wait, you're too poor? Then you don't deserve protection from criminals. Is there anything more unjust? Should we not, as a society, have laws that are preferential to the poor and underserved rather than the rich elites?

Thomas Jefferson is often quoted with the following, which was actually him quoting Cesare Beccaria (“On Crimes and Punishments”):

The laws of [false utility] are those which forbid to wear arms, disarming those only who are not disposed to commit the crime which the laws mean to prevent. Can it be supposed, that those who have the courage to violate the most sacred laws of humanity, and the most important of the code, will respect the less considerable and arbitrary injunctions, the violation of which is so easy, and of so little comparative importance? Does not the execution of this law deprive the subject of that personal liberty, so dear to mankind and to the wise legislator?

The point is a valid one. Gun control laws will be obeyed by good citizens, but ignored by those wishing to commit crimes. And so such laws disproportionately disarm the law abiding citizen rather than the criminal.

One of the dirty little secrets of gun control is that after such laws are enacted there is an increase in violent crimes. gun control advocates like to point out the difference in criminal statistics between the US and other countries, but they don't look at what happened in those countries when the gun laws were enacted. Nor do they look at the types of crimes. In the US the vast number of robberies are conducted when the home is empty. In the UK, most home robberies occur when the family is home (58%), and can be forced to hand over hidden valuables. This is because the criminal in the US fears the homeowner, whereas in the UK the homeowner is helpless, and a source to be intimidated and or beaten.

Likewise sexual assault and rape. In the UK there are 618,000 sexual assaults or rapes each year. In the US, that number is 735,000 sexual assaults or rapes. Sounds similar until you realize that the population of the UK is around 68 million and the US has 330 million people. So the rate in the UK is over 4 times that of the US.

Then there's the fact that in the US guns are not used in over 91% of violent crimes. So even if we were to disarm all criminals, it would result in a tiny drop in crime (assuming those who would have used a gun don't just use a different weapon). There are much more effective ways to reduce crime than gun control, such as strict enforcement of existing laws, abandoning so-called "bail reform", three strikes laws, etc.

I've rambled a little, but the key points are that:

  • Gun control harms the victim more than the criminal.
  • Gun control hurts the poor more than the rich.
  • Gun control hurt minorities more than whites.
  • Gun control increases crime.
  • Even if it were "perfect" it would not reduce crime significantly.

For these reasons, gun control is a sin against Justice. In future posts, we'll be looking at the racist roots of gun control, and specific gum laws which gravely unjust in other ways. Stay tuned...

Gun Control is a Sin

This is part I of a longer discussion.

Over the course of the last few weeks I've received several notices from the USCCB urging me to support the Democrats' gun control bill. Considering that gun control is a matter of prudential judgement (meaning Catholics in good standing can come to vastly different conclusions), rather than a matter like abortion, which is an inherent evil, and considering how many more statements on gun control I received than on abortion, it got me to thinking and researching the matter more deeply.

I have come to the conclusion that, rather than being a matter of prudential judgement, gun control is actually a sin against Justice. It is also opposed to the pro-life cause. Not only should the bishops not be urging their flocks to support it, they should be advocating the opposite. Let me explain.

What is Justice? Justice is one of the four cardinal virtues, Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance. We don't often hear of the other three, but there is a lot of talk (mostly complaining about a lack of) justice. Justice is the principle by which we give to each person what is due him.

A St. Pope John Paul II said:

Christ left us the commandment to love our neighbour. In this commandment, everything that concerns justice is also contained. There can be no love without justice. Love “surpasses” justice, but at the same time it finds its verification in justice. Even a father and a mother, loving their own child, must be just in his regard. If justice is uncertain, love, too, runs a risk.

To be just means giving each one what is due to him. This concerns temporal goods, of a material nature. The best example here can be remuneration for work or the so-called right to the fruits of one’s own work or of one’s own land. But to man is due also his good name, respect, consideration, the reputation he has deserved. The more we know a man, the more his personality, his character, his intellect and his heart are revealed to us. And the more we realize—and we must realize!—with what criterion to “measure him” and what it means to be just towards him.

It is necessary, therefore, to deepen our knowledge of justice continually. It is not a theoretical science. It is virtue, it is [a]capacity of the human spirit, of the human will and also of the heart. It is also necessary to pray in order to be just and to know how to be just.

We cannot forget Our Lord’s words: “The measure you give will be the measure you get” (Mt 7:2).

To see why gun control is inherently unjust, first let's talk about what guns are (at least of the purpose of this discussion). Firearms (aka guns) fall into a broader class which we call weapons. A weapon is something which can be used to inflict damage. A weapon can be used for evil (to attack) or good (to discourage an attack, or defend against attack). Therefore weapons are morally neutral (excluding for the moment weapons which have no legitimate defensive use).

The most basic weapon is the human body. Humans instinctively use their hands, feet, knees, etc. to attack or defend. The basic premise is that you put energy into your fist (for example) and that energy is transferred to the object it strikes, causing pain and damage to that object.

The human body has very little range, and so other weapons were designed to increase that range. Contact weapons like knives, swords, clubs, and projectile weapons like rocks, knives, spears, arrows and firearms. A firearm, in principle, is basically rock throwing, only the rock is small and it is thrown very fast.

The thing that makes a firearm different from rock throwing, and fundamentally different from all the other weapons mentioned, is that its effectiveness to attack or defend does not depend on the strength of the user. And that fact is what makes them unique in the sense of Justice, and the reason why gun control is the goal of despots everywhere. As the old adage goes "God made men, Sam Colt made them equal."

Gun control advocates base their arguments on two principles, both of which are false. The first is that the world would be safer and more peaceful without guns. Anyone who has studied history can tell you that the world was objectively more violent and dangerous before the invention of guns. Modern liberals like to think that somehow people today are "more evolved" than those of a few hundred years ago, but even modern history shows that when one group of people has power over another the result is never good. Consider the Armenian Genocide Stalin's Russia, the the Holocaust, the Rwandan Genocide and abortion.The defenseless are still being killed in great numbers.

The second false principle is that guns have no good use. Again even a brief look at history shows that to be false. Guns have been used to defend against aggressors since they were invented. In the US today, guns are used between 1 million and 3 million times a year to defend against criminals. Those numbers are based on a 2012 report, ordered by president Obama, so you know they are not biased in favor of firearm owners.

To quote civil rights activist Carol Ruth Silver, "Access to firearms gives women, for the first time in history, the capacity to live independently and apart from men in safety and freedom." Consider the case of a 120 pound woman and her 240 pound would-be male attacker. Or an elderly or disabled person. Access to firearms makes them the equal of that attacker. And usually that is enough to dissuade the attacker. In fact, 95% of the time when a firearm is "used" to defend against an attacker, no shot is fired. The mere display of a firearm causes the criminal to rethink whether he wants to go up against even odds of being hurt or killed.

And so, even if gun control worked so well that it magically removed all the guns, it would be an injustice against the innocent, and against the physically weaker, or poorer members of society. The strong would prey on the weak with impunity.

More in Part II...

Thursday, October 28, 2021

What is the Unpardonable Sin?

By AlexanderRahm - Own work, CC BY 3.0
There are a few passages of scripture that I cannot fathom. That's OK, in most cases, as I don't feel that I am capable of understanding everything about God. But there are several in this category I would really like to understand, because they may be relevant to my salvation or that of others.

Matthew 12:31-32 is one such passage. It reads:

Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
I recently listened to an episode of "The Road to Emmaus" podcast with Scott Hahn where that was the topic of discussion. It left me with more questions than answers.

Here's what's conventionally said about the unpardonable sin. The context of the two verses above is that Jesus has cured a demoniac and the Pharisees claim Jesus has done so by beelzebul (the devil) rather than by God's power. Jesus rebukes them, then offers those two verses. The footnote in my Bible says "To attribute to the devil the works of the Holy Spirit seems to imply a hardness of heart that precludes repentance."

Somehow this is often equated to the sin of despair (denial that one's sins can be forgiven) or the sin of presumption (the belief that I do not need repentance for the forgiveness of my sins). I'm not sure I follow the leap from attributing the work of the Holy Spirit to the devil to believing that  my sins are forgiven (or not), but there it is.

1864 "Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven." There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept his mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit. Such hardness of heart can lead to final impenitence and eternal loss.
Aquinas describes three different interpretations of the blasphemy agains the Holy Spirit (see highlighted text below):

For the earlier doctors, viz. Athanasius (Super Matth. xii, 32), Hilary (Can. xii in Matth.), Ambrose (Super Luc. xii, 10), Jerome (Super Matth. xii), and Chrysostom (Hom. xli in Matth.), say that the sin against the Holy Ghost is literally to utter a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, whether by Holy Spirit we understand the essential name applicable to the whole Trinity, each Person of which is a Spirit and is holy, or the personal name of one of the Persons of the Trinity, in which sense blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is distinct from the blasphemy against the Son of Man (Matthew 12:32), for Christ did certain things in respect of His human nature, by eating, drinking, and such like actions, while He did others in respect of His Godhead, by casting out devils, raising the dead, and the like: which things He did both by the power of His own Godhead and by the operation of the Holy Ghost, of Whom He was full, according to his human nature. Now the Jews began by speaking blasphemy against the Son of Man, when they said (Matthew 11:19) that He was "a glutton . . . a wine drinker," and a "friend of publicans": but afterwards they blasphemed against the Holy Ghost, when they ascribed to the prince of devils those works which Christ did by the power of His own Divine Nature and by the operation of the Holy Ghost.

Augustine, however (De Verb. Dom., Serm. lxxi), says that blasphemy or the sin against the Holy Ghost, is final impenitence when, namely, a man perseveres in mortal sin until death, and that it is not confined to utterance by word of mouth, but extends to words in thought and deed, not to one word only, but to many. Now this word, in this sense, is said to be uttered against the Holy Ghost, because it is contrary to the remission of sins, which is the work of the Holy Ghost, Who is the charity both of the Father and of the Son. Nor did Our Lord say this to the Jews, as though they had sinned against the Holy Ghost, since they were not yet guilty of final impenitence, but He warned them, lest by similar utterances they should come to sin against the Holy Ghost: and it is in this sense that we are to understand Mark 3:29-30, where after Our Lord had said: "But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost," etc. the Evangelist adds, "because they said: He hath an unclean spirit."

But others understand it differently, and say that the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, is a sin committed against that good which is appropriated to the Holy Ghost: because goodness is appropriated to the Holy Ghost, just a power is appropriated to the Father, and wisdom to the Son. Hence they say that when a man sins through weakness, it is a sin "against the Father"; that when he sins through ignorance, it is a sin "against the Son"; and that when he sins through certain malice, i.e. through the very choosing of evil, as explained above (I-II:78:1I-II:78:3), it is a sin "against the Holy Ghost."

But here's my basic problem with all the interpretations above. If you say that this sin is only unpardonable because it is not repented of, then it is no different from any other mortal sin, and yet we don't call every mortal sin unpardonable. Blasphemy agains the Holy Spirit then, is not unpardonable.

Want an example? The mission of the Apostles and the formation of the Church is a work of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul considers this an abomination against the Jewish faith - something of the devil, and so he persecutes the Christians. Yet Paul repents and his sin is (presumably - ha ha) pardoned.

Furthermore Jesus says that whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven. Well, isn't that what the Pharisees did? They said Jesus was in league with beelzebul, they didn't directly mention the Holy Spirit (nor did Paul for that matter).

For that matter it would seem that saying a word against the Son of man will be forgiven if the person repents, just like any other sin. And one could say that claiming Jesus is in league with the devil seems to imply a hardness of heart that precludes repentance of that. And indeed we see that many of the Pharisees (as far as we know) did not repent of their words against Jesus.

St. Augustine (one of my personal faves) has an interpretation that at least is consistent logically, but I don't see how it follows form the text. That is, final impenitence is not mentioned, and indeed if the sin is impenitence then it is not a "sin" per se, but impenitence of sin, that precludes forgiveness. The text seems to imply there is a sin which precludes later forgiveness, not a state you are in later that precludes forgiveness from any sin. I guess one could interpret the text as meaning "whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit until death" but that's not what the text says.

And so the whole thing remains a mystery to me. The common interpretation does not make sense to me because the same logic applies to every other mortal sin, including blasphemy against Jesus, which Jesus explicitly says is not this sin.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Don't. Stop Believing

Every mass, and indeed every time we pray the rosary we recite the Creed. The word comes from Credo, Latin for "I believe" since Catholics have no imagination and name prayers and documents after the first words (e.g. the "Our Father" or "Glory Be"). The text of the prayer is as follows:
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; He descended into hell; on the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from there He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen
Here's my problem with that (you knew I'd complain about something). Immediately after praying this we go out into the world and make statements like "Trump is the best (or worst) president EVAH!" We say "masks don't (or do) work!" We say "Climate change is a hoax (or the most important problem of our day)!"

The thing is all of those statements are things we believe, but we don't say "I believe" these things, we state them as matters of fact, because we are so convinced of them that in our minds they surpass belief, and anyone who doesn't see this in the same light is clearly WRONG!

So why is our expression of beliefs on politics, or science, so strong compared to our belief in God? You could say that it's just the way people express themselves today, and that's a fair point, but as we speak so we think (or vice versa). In my reckoning, if our belief in God is absolute (and it should be, as God is evident from reason alone), why not express it that way?
God, the Father Almighty, is the Creator of heaven and earth, and Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; He descended into hell; on the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from there He will come to judge the living and the dead. The Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting are all true. Amen