Apostasy Caused the Sexual Abuse Scandal

Goodbye Good Men 202x300 - Apostasy Caused the Sexual Abuse Scandal(This article previously was published in OnePeterFive.)

The horrifying news from France last fall that some 3,000 priests sexually abused 330,000 children over 70 years points to another scandal within the Church: too many priests who have little fear of God and scant regard for core Catholic teachings.

The perpetrators’ behavior is not typical of those who believe in the Catholic doctrines of hell, purgatory, and justice. Many of them may not believe in God at all (or may not have believed, in the case of the deceased). Other deviant priests and bishops likely adopted the New Age concept of God being some kind of impersonal life-force. Still others no doubt consider God as being all love and mercy and no justice, in which everyone goes to heaven regardless of what wrongs they do.

The sexual abuse scandal is part and parcel of the corruption of Catholic seminaries that took place in the 1970s and especially 1980s as described in Michael S. Rose’s Goodbye! Good Men. He focuses on American seminaries, but undoubtedly the same thing was happening in France and elsewhere in the world.

The good men he refers to were orthodox-minded seminarians who only wanted to embrace and deepen their knowledge of age-old Catholic concepts. Shockingly and ironically, in many cases they were dismissed from seminaries, or were forced to keep their orthodoxy under wraps. They were considered “rigid and uncharitable homophobes.”

While not the case at all seminaries, in many of them homosexual activity and pornography flourished – and official Church teachings as laid out in the Catechism of the Catholic Church were scorned by many professors, seminary deans, and vocations directors. In fact, it could be argued that those places were positively anti-Catholic.

At one seminary, “’a large number of students had been convinced by some liberal teachers that sexual promiscuity with the same sex was not a violation of celibacy,’ an outrageous distortion of Catholic teaching.”

As Rose tells it, it wasn’t uncommon throughout seminaries that non-marital sex was considered fine, homosexual acts normal, and contraception morally acceptable. Celibacy was discouraged. Other anti-Catholic viewpoints among professors included: the Bible isn’t to be taken seriously, all religions are equal in the eyes of God, the Pope isn’t infallible, the Real Presence is a myth, Jesus isn’t divine, and his miracles were fabrications. One formation program even pushed Gnostic and New Age practices such as crystals, tarot cards, and Ouija boards.

Seminarians lost their faith, as did priests of that era, many of whom abandoned their vocations. Many faithless men continued in the priesthood. In an interview with LifeSite’s Jonathan Van Maren, Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts professor and Crisis contributing editor Anthony Esolen spoke of priests who lost almost all of their faith and who are in a state of apostasy. “And they’re still priests – that’s the job they were trained for, they don’t know how to do anything else. And they infest the churches.”

Without faith in God, especially in a God of justice, people are more prone to doing bad things. With scant regard for the teachings of the Gospels or for the moral precepts of the Catholic faith, some priests may have been in a constant state of mortal sin (absent confession) either from engaging in illicit practices themselves or by signaling to others that it’s fine to do so.

“The notion that God is watching you even when others are not is probably the most powerful civilizing force in all of human history,” writes author and commentator Jonah Goldberg. In the Catholic tradition, not only God is watching your every move, but so are angels and devils, the latter all-too eager to testify against you on your judgement day. But a sexually abusing priest of weak faith is devoid of any perception that God or any other supernatural entity is watching him. Or he has a New Age notion of God. Or he thinks God is only love and mercy and that there’s no hell. In accordance with authentic Catholic teachings, God is certainly full of love and mercy but He’s a God of justice as well.

To test whether people change their behavior if they think supernatural entities are watching them, some years ago while at the University of Arkansas, professor Jesse Bering and colleagues conducted an experiment in which they had undergraduates take a test on which it was easy to cheat. A portion of them were told the ghost of a (fictitious) dead graduate student recently had been seen in the testing room. Sure enough, that group as a whole cheated a lot less than the control group.

Pedophile priests, many of whom scorn authentic Catholic teaching, likely think no one is watching them whether natural or supernatural entities. By contrast, those who fully believe in Catholic doctrines think God always is watching. “God knows what you did. God is going to punish you for it. And that’s an incredibly powerful deterrent,” the University of Edinburgh’s Dominic Johnson told National Public Radio. “Everywhere you look around the world, you find examples of people altering their behavior because of concerns for supernatural consequences of their actions. They don’t do things that they consider bad because they think they’ll be punished for it.”

The type of God one believes in can make a big difference as well. While it isn’t popular these days to paint God as being judgmental and punitive, that perception of God elicits better behavior. In another experiment, Azim Shariff and Ara Norenzayan of the universities of Oregon and British Columbia, respectively, administered a math test to several dozen undergraduate test subjects, who afterward were asked about their views of God. Atheists and agnostics cheated significantly more than those who considered God to be punishing and justice-minded. As for believers in an exclusively loving and forgiving God? They cheated as much as the atheists and agnostics. “How much you believe in God matters less than what kind of God you believe in,” wrote the researchers.

Lacking a belief in God and/or a belief in authentic Catholic doctrines of a loving, merciful, and justice-minded God, there’s much less incentive to stay on the straight and narrow. It’s what led to the priestly sexual abuse scandal in France, the U.S., and elsewhere.

Fortunately, today the seminaries by and large are in much better shape. The vast majority of the sexual abuse took place in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s in the U.S. and France – although from reading today’s news, one wouldn’t realize that since media outlets wish to push the narrative that the situation is still as bad as ever. And thank God that compared with older generations of priests, the younger generation of priests tend to be more religiously orthodox. They’re more cognizant that God is keeping close tabs on them. That’s a strong deterrent against sexual immorality and abuse.

Godly Guardrails Keep Kids on the Academic Track

GGG book cover 197x300 - Godly Guardrails Keep Kids on the Academic Track(This article previously was published on the Institute for Family Studies website.)

It is commonly thought that devoutly religious people are less educated. If that were the case in decades past, it is not so anymore, and certainly not among the younger generation. Very religious youth are more likely to get better grades than non- and moderately-religious youth, and they graduate from college to a greater extent. Those are the findings of Tulane University professor Ilana M. Horwitz in her book God, Grades, and Graduation: Religion’s Surprising Impact on Academic Success (Oxford University Press, 2022).

Religion is usually associated with improving one’s prospects in the afterlife. But literally thousands of studies in recent decades confirm how powerful religion can be in improving prospects in this life, mainly in the areas of mental and physical health. God, Grades, and Graduation is a valuable addition to the literature, adroitly explaining how religion can improve educational outcomes. A dry read it is not: Horwitz supplements her extensive findings with scores of personal stories of adolescents. In fact, I found myself reading excerpts from those stories to my own teens, in the hope of inspiring them.

Horwitz focuses on Christian students, mainly because in the Christian-majority United States, they constitute the vast majority of study subjects. And she has no Christian axe to grind; currently Assistant Professor and the Fields-Rayant Chair in Contemporary Jewish Life at Tulane, she is “fairly agnostic about God.” She comes from an academic background of studying educational outcomes based on race, class, and gender. But about a decade ago while a graduate student at Stanford, she could not help but notice how many of her neighbors centered their lives around church and faith, and wondered if that shaped their children’s educational trajectory. She searched for studies on this but came up empty. So she started doing studies of her own.

Drawing from sources that include the National Study of Youth and Religion, the National Student Clearinghouse, and more than 200 interviews, among her findings is that devoutly religious high school students are about 10 percent more likely to earn A’s than other students, “which is statistically quite substantial,” she notes. They are about 40 percent more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree. And they are not few in number; Horwitz estimates that about one in four students in American schools are “abiders” as she calls them – i.e. religiously devout, who orient their everyday lives around their faith.

The grades and graduation rates of abiders versus nonabiders (i.e., non- or moderately religious adolescents) vary depending on race, gender, and socioeconomic status. The gap is particularly pronounced among working- and middle-class white males, who are prone to engage in risky behaviors that derail them from academic achievement. But for a subset, “godly guardrails” keep them on track, she explains.

John was a case in point. Among kids like him whose parents are high-school graduates, only about 15 percent end up getting a college degree. Too many things knock such kids off the road to higher education, such as school suspensions, substance abuse, and a home environment where literacy and learning are not prioritized. But John was religiously devout. His grades weren’t the best, but he did not drink, use drugs, party, or even use profanity. He obeyed his parents and teachers and exercised self-discipline—qualities that helped him go on to higher education.

These days, the ideals of public schools and of religious institutions may seem worlds apart, but one thing they have in common is an emphasis on maintaining social order. A “hidden curriculum” in school is the “three Rs”—rules, routines, and regulations. A central principle of Christianity, writes Horwitz, is a commitment to authority, as well as delaying gratification and following norms and rules. Such habits are highly valued in the public school system. Devoutly religious persons tend to score higher on conscientiousness, which entails being self-disciplined and organized. Cooperation and agreeableness–connoting being considerate, kind, and sympathetic–are factors that tend to boost religious students’ school success as well. These personality traits translate into refraining from skipping class or school, taking more advanced courses, completing homework and curricula, having more academically-oriented friends, and having fewer behavioral problems.

There is something of a paradox in her findings: abiders who come from upper-middle-class and affluent families, especially females, tend to choose less-selective colleges even though they could get into more selective ones. The result can be lower lifetime earnings. Why do they “undermatch”? Reasons given in interviews include a desire to: stay local to be closer to family; attend conservative Christian colleges to stay closer to their faith; live at home rather than on campus in order to avoid an intense party scene; and to avoid spending too much time with people who have different morals. These students are not necessarily eager to climb social class ladders, preferring a God and family-centered life, observes Horwitz.

They may take a financial hit. But attesting to the adage that money does not buy happiness, it is their overall wellness that counts. “The pattern was clear,” writes the author. “Abiders are significantly less likely to experience emotional, cognitive, or physical despair. They feel less anxious, healthier, and more optimistic about life. Without a doubt, their deep relationship with God helps them overcome several challenges they bump up against. Abiders are simply more resilient. This is driven by their involvement in a religious social community but also their steadfast belief in God.”

In her concluding chapter is a call to action: admissions counselors of selective colleges and universities should seek out religiously devout applicants, not only to boost and maintain the number of top-quality students but also to promote intellectual diversity. There should be an “openness by college admissions counselors to view religious and ideological diversity as valuable when admitting applicants.”

That recommendation is a breath of fresh air in a world where devout Christians on campus often feel they are under siege. Unfortunately, powerful factors are working against increased ideological diversity, not only coming from professors and administrators who are disproportionately atheist, agnostic, or even outright anti-Christian, but also from prospective religious students themselves, many of whom are highly reluctant to step into such an environment. So in addition to Horwitz’s recommendation to make greater efforts to attract abiders, selective colleges and universities should make similar efforts to recruit religiously devout faculty and administrators—and not just Muslims but also Christians and Orthodox Jews.

Speaking of Muslims and Orthodox Jews, Horwitz does not address the extent to which adolescents of those faiths improve their grades and graduation rates, perhaps because survey data is lacking. She does indicate that unlike certain abiders, Jewish adolescents are eager to attend selective colleges, but here she does not differentiate between Orthodox and non-Orthodox.

In any event, it is quite ironic that religious belief and practice are declining while the research on its mental and physical health benefits keeps piling up. With Horwitz’s book, add educational benefits to the mix. By raising a child to be a good worshipper, parents are likely to enjoy the added benefit of raising a good student.

Adam and Eve’s Existence Is Not Incompatible with Science

Adam Eve 300x200 - Adam and Eve's Existence Is Not Incompatible with Science

Many people think that Adam and Eve are mythological figures, being under the impression that evidence of humans going back hundreds of thousands or even millions of years rules out the possibility of the first humans being created some 6,000 years ago. But in fact, the paleontological record does not rule out Adam and Eve.

Two new books, one by Joshua Swamidass and another by William Lane Craig, maintain that Adam and Eve are compatible with the scientific evidence and with evolution.

I haven’t read either one yet, but their theses are quite plausible.

In the beginning, there were animals and humans. Adam and Eve may have appeared on the scene much later. What was unique about Adam and Eve is that they likely were the first humans endowed with souls.

Their offspring, such as Cain, Abel, and Seth, had souls. They (apart from Abel) in turn may have mated with non-ensouled humans, and the new offspring would have had souls. The process would continue so that eventually all humans had souls.

Adam and Eve are also compatible with the findings of paleoanthropologists of a class of Homo Sapien known as anatomically modern humans (AMH). These may have evolved from a human subspecies such as Homo Erectus. As described by Ronald L. Conte in Adam and Eve versus Evolution, AMH physically were like us but, like animals, lacked the ability to reason abstractly, lacked free will, and lacked souls.

Paleoanthropologists have estimated that behaviorally modern humans (BMH) – i.e. us – came on the scene around 50,000 years ago, displacing AMH. Unlike their predecessors, BMH are able to reason abstractly, have free will, and have souls. This is consistent with Adam and Eve and the Bible.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say Adam and Eve existed 6,000 years ago – that’s only an estimate from genealogies. Twenty-one generations from Adam to Abraham are named, but that may omit many, many generations. And who knows – maybe at some future date paleoanthropologists will revise their estimates of the origins of BMH to a much more recent date.

So with a little analytical thinking, examination of recent scientific discoveries, and an open mind, Adam and Eve skeptics may come around to allow for the possibility of that famous pair after all.


On Campus, Secularism Breeds Suicide

4203539 300x300 - On Campus, Secularism Breeds Suicide(This previously was published in American Thinker.)

It’s no coincidence that mental illness among America’s younger generation is at all-time highs, while their religious practice is at all-time lows.

In October 2021, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill cancelled classes for a day for its 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students, who were urged to consider it a “wellness day” in the wake of two on-campus suicides and an attempted suicide.

Colleges and universities are in the midst of a full-blown mental health crisis.  UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said as much during his announcement.

In a 2019 survey, an unbelievable 45 percent of undergraduate and graduate students “felt so depressed that it was difficult to function” at least once during the previous 12 months, according to the American College Health Association.  Sixty-six percent of students “felt overwhelming anxiety” and 43 percent “felt overwhelming anger.” More than one in ten students – 13 percent – seriously considered suicide.

All of those numbers were up substantially from several years earlier.  And post-Covid, the situation is even worse.  In a Jed Foundation survey, 63 percent of students said their mental health has declined since the start of the pandemic.

Pandemic-induced social isolation, of course, has contributed to the rise in depression and anxiety.  On college campuses, another factor has got to be intense academic demands, negatively impacting sleep time.  The proliferation of electronic communications, which discourage face-to-face interaction, also harms wellness.

But a prominent factor is the decline in religious practice.  From 2009 through 2019, religiously unaffiliated young people skyrocketed from 27 percent of that population to 40 percent, according to Pew Research.

Tyler VanderWeele is with the departments of epidemiology and biostatistics at the Harvard T.H.  Chan School of Public Health.  In 2016, he along with Harvard colleagues Shanshan Li and Ichiro Kawachi juxtaposed Center for Disease Control statistics depicting a sharp rise in suicides during the preceding decade and a half, and Gallup polling data showing a sharp decline in weekly church attendance.  The scholars extrapolated that nearly 40 percent of the increase in the suicide rate stems from the drop-off in religious attendance.

It’s ironic that among organizations, publications, and counseling centers that cater to suicidal students, there’s nary a mention of church.  That’s unfortunate, because literally thousands of peer-reviewed studies have determined that regularly going to church, synagogue, mosque, or temple improves mental and/or physical health.  In fact, one of the pioneers in this field, Baylor’s Jeff Levin, started conducting these studies at UNC-Chapel Hill back in the late 1980s.  If only UNC’s mental health counselors would refer to their own university’s ground-breaking research.

Another pioneer in the field, Harold Koenig of Duke, conducted a systematic review of 141 studies on the relationship between religion and suicide; 106 of them concluded religious practice is associated with fewer suicides or suicide attempts, less suicide ideation, and/or negative attitudes towards suicide.

And it’s weekly attendance that’s key; most studies have found that private religious activity without churchgoing isn’t associated with better mental health.  Why? The scholars say it’s the communal, face-to-face interaction that does much to enhance wellness.  Other explanations include having a keen sense of meaning and purpose thanks to one’s faith, and putting others before self such as through church-sponsored voluntary and charitable activities.

Those going to church at least two-dozen times a year are less than half as likely to take their own lives than those going less often, according to George Mason University’s Evan Kleinman and Brown University’s Richard Liu.  They write, “Frequent attendance at religious services may be an indicator of consistent exposure to others who provide social support.…The current findings are consistent with (Thomas) Joiner’s interpersonal theory of suicide, which posits that having a sense of belonging is negatively associated with suicidal desire.”

Francie Hart Broghammer is the chief psychiatry resident at UC Irvine Medical Center.  She writes that religion can instill meaning and purpose, and give meaning to suffering.  “I have seen this first-hand, time and time again,” she recounted, “with many of my patients reporting they would have attempted suicide long ago if they did not have faith, which provided them with hope in otherwise hopeless circumstances.”

College is where you go to gain the world and lose your soul.  Professors push their anti-religion ideology upon impressionable young minds.  To atheists, we’re just bodies and no soul.  As the prominent atheist Richard Dawkins bleakly remarked, “You are for nothing.  You are here to propagate your selfish genes.  There is no higher purpose in life.” Or as another observer put it, we’re nothing more than “the forward edge of the sludge of evolution.” With that in mind, why go on living?

College students are taking that to heart – by permanently halting the beat of their own.

Two Takeaways from a Medical Miracle

Jesus restoring life 239x300 - Two Takeaways from a Medical MiracleWhat happens when prayer-induced miracles happen in one of the most atheistic countries in the world? For witnesses of the miracle, there’s astonishment and bewilderment – hopefully enough of it to prompt a hard look at returning to faith.

The setting: Amsterdam University Medical Center, the Netherlands. The incident: a 50-year-old patient with advanced-stage, rapidly progressive Parkinson’s disease with major debilitating symptoms. She couldn’t form facial expressions, had difficulty swallowing, salivated profusely and uncontrollably, had a hard time concentrating, and was physically unable to converse.

Despite her severe condition or perhaps because of it, she apparently attended a Christian conference, in which others prayed for her. The result? She was completely healed. “She regained all of her capacities at work, as well as in daily life,” states the summary of the scientific study of this incident.

“This remarkable healing and its context astonished the patient, her family, and her doctors,” wrote the medical assessment team. It must have gone against everything they had ever learned about vis-a-vis this illness, and shattered their assumptions. “The clinical course was extraordinary, contradicting data from imaging studies, as well as the common understanding of this disease.” They described her recovery as “remarkable.”

Seems believers still can be found in the Netherlands after all. The patient said she had always “lived with God.” Still, she “had given up hope.” But those at the Christian conference sure hadn’t. After their admirable efforts, she said that “life was given back to her.”

The same investigative team described three cases of other apparent medical miracles in which the patients regained their hearing “immediately after Christian prayer.”

The lesson: when things look bleak, pray – and enlist the prayers of others. No guarantees, of course. Medical miracles or “spontaneous remissions” are quite rare. But there’s a larger lesson here: those undergoing spontaneous remissions are living proof of the supernatural at work, which should convince even the most hardened skeptics of the reality of God.


Treat Drug and Alcohol Abuse with Church

Road to recovery 300x175 - Treat Drug and Alcohol Abuse with ChurchTwo recent studies confirm what many previous studies have found: praying in the pews helps reduce alcohol and drug abuse.

Researchers from Columbia University and other academic institutions analyzed the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions-III, covering more than 36,000 people. Included in the survey were questions about drug and alcohol use, as well as how often one attends religious services. Those attending at least once a week were anywhere from 40 percent to 70 percent less likely to abuse alcohol, marijuana, and/or tobacco. Apparently the preferred terminology these days are “alcohol use disorder”, “cannabis use disorder”, and “tobacco use disorder.” And unfortunately, these use disorders likely will only get worse. “Given the decline in religious belief and practice in the U.S.,” states Crossroads (the newsletter of the Duke University Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health), “this may have public health implications for the future prevalence of SUDs (substance use disorders) and their consequences in this country.” Doctors and other treatment professionals should be open to the faith factor. The investigators of the study write that their results “may inform religious leaders and clinicians about the value of utilizing religious social support structures in the prevention and treatment of substance use and SUD.”

Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, an academic researcher compared the effectiveness of a faith-based substance abuse treatment program versus a secular treatment program. In the faith-based program, the participant “confesses his or her sins and accepts Jesus Christ as a personal savior and then commits to the Christian faith through the process of sanctification by connecting with God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit.” Sure enough, six months after the programs wrapped up, participants in the God-centered one had better outcomes overall. The investigator’s comments echoed those of the Columbia study: “Service practitioners and researchers should note the importance of dynamic and developing nature of religiosity in relation to the maintenance of abstinence after treatment is completed.” Good advice indeed.

Covid Pain and Suffering Boosted Faith

covid and faith 300x200 - Covid Pain and Suffering Boosted Faith

So many people deny the existence of God because they think a loving God would never allow pain and suffering in the world. First of all, physical pain serves a medically beneficial need. Without it, your health would go to pot. Think of the times you twisted your ankle, cut your finger, or fractured your arm. You experienced pain. Would you have preferred that there was no pain? Were that the case, you wouldn’t have kept your weight off your ankle or put a Band-Aid on your finger, and may not have even noticed the fracture. That would have been bad for your injuries. The pain incentivized you to treat them. Pain is simply a means of communication – your body’s way of telling you something is wrong and needs to be fixed. God set it up that way on purpose. He’s not a cruel God for doing so. It’s for your own good.

God also allows pain because it prompts people to turn toward Him. Most of those rejecting God because of all the pain and suffering in the world probably haven’t experienced much of that pain and suffering themselves. Maybe if they dug a little deeper they would find that in many if not most cases, the actual victims turn toward God as a result of their misfortune. That’s one reason why God allows bad things to happen.

September 11, 2001 was a prime example. Churches were filled to capacity after those terrorist attacks. Another example is Covid. A Pew poll showed that a quarter of Americans’ faith grew stronger during the pandemic. It weakened among only 2 percent of them. The same thing happened elsewhere. In Poland, one-fifth of survey respondents said they prayed and worshiped more often compared to before the pandemic. And among those who previously practiced their faith several times a week, 61 percent did so even more during Covid. Crossroads, the newsletter of the Duke University Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health, commented that this “does help to support the claim that religiosity increases during times of stress.”

In atheists’ and agnostics’ worldview, shouldn’t the Covid pandemic have resulted in less faith and prayer, based on the erroneous reasoning that its hardships should prompt a person to conclude there must be no God? They’d best revise their thinking.


He Who Attacks the Old Testament Attacks Judaism

jewish man dressed ritual clothing torah bar mitzvah 300x186 - He Who Attacks the Old Testament Attacks Judaism

Many criticize Christianity because of the harsh laws of the Old Testament, specifically the 613 laws of Moses found in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. For example, there’s the precept to stone adulterers to death, as well as laws about slavery.

That’s ironic, because Christians are not bound by those laws, which are part of the Old Covenant. Christians are bound by the New Covenant, ushered in by Jesus Christ. To be sure, Christians are bound by the Ten Commandments found in the Old Testament, but the Ten Commandments are derived from natural law – i.e. moral precepts that can be derived from reason. Many of the Mosaic laws of the Old Covenant are meant for the day-to-day minutia of the ancient Jews.

The issue stems from judging the Mosaic Law and the God of the Old Testament by twenty-first century standards, rather than by the standards of the ancient Near East. Compared with the abominable laws, codes, and customs of the surrounding cultures, the Mosaic Law was a vast improvement in human rights. Again, not by our standards, but certainly by theirs. This is thoroughly explained in books such as Is God a Moral Monster by Paul Copan and Hard Sayings by Trent Horn.

With Jesus Christ the harsh laws of the Old Testament (but not so harsh by ancient Near East standards) were relaxed or thrown out. Recall the story of Jesus and the adulteress. And it is because of Christianity that slavery was eventually abolished – the first abolitionists were Christians. That was based on Jesus Christ’s exaltation of the poor and downtrodden, his urging to always help them, and that they are made in the image and likeness of God. Jesus’ mission was not to immediately overthrow the political and economic order of the Roman empire, which was based on slavery. That came later.

When people criticize Christianity based on Mosaic Law, they are actually criticizing Judaism. But modern Jews do not abide by all of those precepts. That’s particularly the case with Reform Judaism, less so with Conservative Judaism, and less so with Orthodox Judaism. To my understanding, the Talmud indicates to what extent to abide by those laws.

In the past, to their enduring shame, even those who called themselves Christians attacked the Jewish faith because of the harsh Mosaic laws. Today it isn’t Christians doing so, but atheists such as Richard Dawkins – although he doesn’t attack the Jewish faith directly. Recently Lord Jonathan Sacks passed away, the former chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth. Sacks accused Dawkins of attacking Jewish scripture without considering the context of ancient Judaism and without considering how modern Jews interpret the scripture. Dawkins, like many others, takes Old Testament scripture in too literal a manner, without depth or understanding of the historical backdrop. As reported in a recent Wall Street Journal article about the passing of Sacks, he applied to Dawkins the aphorism, “On the surface he’s profound, but deep down he’s superficial”.

Complicity in the Colossal Sin of Genocide

(A previous version of this article appeared in Crisis magazine.)

Abortion is an intrinsic moral evil. It involves carrying out or arranging to carry out the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. An intrinsic evil is an action that is always gravely sinful regardless of the circumstances. There are no exceptions, no grey areas.

The U.S. federal government is guilty of and complicit in intrinsic evil because it permits abortion. With some 62 million people killed by abortion since it was legalized, not only is the government complicit in an intrinsic evil, it is complicit in genocide – which the American Heritage dictionary defines as “the systematic killing of substantial numbers of people on the basis of ethnicity, religion, political opinion, social status, or other particularity.” In this case the particularity is the preborn.

To be sure, that does not mean federal employees and U.S. taxpayers are complicit, unless they support it and enable it.

Then who is complicit? They include the original seven Supreme Court justices who voted to legalize abortion in 1973. Presidents who appointed Supreme Court justices they knew to be in favor of keeping abortion legal were complicit in intrinsic evil, as were those newly appointed justices. Senators who voted to approve them also were complicit.

Members of the populace who vote for pro-abortion politicians are complicit in the intrinsic evil of legalized abortion, and therefore commit sin. This is particularly the case when they vote for politicians who want to enshrine abortion into federal law through an act of Congress, as well as enact taxpayer-funding of abortion. Direct funding of abortion would make the U.S. government not just the enabler of genocide as it is now, but also a principal executioner. It essentially would subcontract out the killing.

For Catholics, voting for a pro-abortion candidate could rise to the level of mortal sin, provided the three conditions of mortal sin are met: grave matter, full knowledge, and deliberate consent. To be mortal, the Catholic voter has to be aware that abortion is a mortal sin, that his or her vote is helping to enable its continued legalization, and perhaps that he or she is not being misled by “seamless garment”-type ideas (see below). While voting for abortion is not on the same level of procuring an abortion, it is including oneself in a large group of voters who enable this national sin. Responsibility for the ongoing genocide ultimately rests with those U.S. voters who put the pro-aborts in power.

One may object that, though a vote for a pro-abort is a vote for the intrinsic evil of abortion, it is not sinful because it is a vote against other types of intrinsic evils.

What would constitute those other intrinsic evils? The death penalty? Allowance of the death penalty does not involve the deliberate killing of innocent human beings. The government assumes that the person being put to death is guilty of a heinous crime. He is a threat to society because of the possibility he could escape from prison or be released from prison by an unscrupulous judge. The death penalty also is a deterrent to would-be criminals. It is plausible that very occasionally, someone thought to be guilty but who is actually innocent mistakenly could be put to death. But this is not an intrinsic evil because unlike abortion, the executioners are not intending to kill an innocent person. Moreover, abortion involves the killing of some 850,000 innocent children per year. Under the death penalty, only about a two-dozen people are executed per year in the U.S.

What about when the U.S. wages war? This does not fall into the category of abortion because innocents are not deliberately targeted. Though many innocent people died as a result of U.S. actions during its many wars, the vast majority of them were not deliberately targeted – with the exception of the bombing of German and Japanese cities during World War II. The policymakers who approved the wars considered themselves to be engaging in self-defense – or the defense of other populations – against an aggressor. They may have sinned, for example through failure to think through certain consequences of their actions, but they did not sin on the scale of legalized abortion, which entails the deliberate killing of innocents.

If a presidential candidate vowed to wage an unjust war for the purposes of raw power, territorial expansion and genocide, as the National Socialists and Communists did, then it could be justifiable to vote for an opposing pro-abortion candidate. But this is not the situation in the United States. (Moreover it would be the National Socialists or Communists who would champion abortion.)

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in the document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” states, “There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position even on policies promoting an intrinsically evil act may reasonably decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.” This should close the door on the option of voting for a pro-abort. At no time in contemporary U.S. history has there been a public policy concern that even comes close to being as morally grave as the genocide of babies.

To be sure, the U.S. government enables other actions that the Catholic Church considers to be intrinsic evils: euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, and same-sex unions. They are all championed by the pro-abortion party.

Many subscribe to the “seamless garment” theory, promoted by certain bishops, which considers abortion to be just one of a number of issues such as poverty, unemployment, substandard health care, immigration problems, environmental degradation, and climate change. But none of these separate issues are intrinsic moral evils – they do not involve the deliberate killing of innocent human beings. Most if not all politicians and other policymakers are well-intentioned in wanting to address those issues. They may have vastly different policy prescriptions, but they do not intend to kill anyone. Voting for or against politicians based on one or more of those separate issues likely is not sinful either way. It is only sinful to vote for a politician who champions perpetuating a government-sponsored intrinsic evil such as abortion.

Voting for a pro-abortion candidate is not only sinful, but mortally sinful assuming the above-mentioned conditions are met. It is sinning against God, and against millions of babies who are denied a life.

When Churches Close, Hold Mass Outdoors, As During the Spanish Flu Pandemic

outdoor Catholic mass 300x200 - When Churches Close, Hold Mass Outdoors, As During the Spanish Flu Pandemic

Photo by Chikondi Gunde from Pexels

During the past several years, I recall reading pronouncements by Catholic mystics who said it was important to celebrate Holy Mass and receive Holy Communion as often as possible, because there would come a time when churches will be closed and we will be unable to celebrate Mass or receive Holy Communion. At the time I was skeptical, thinking something like could only occur in some sort of anti-religious police state, which was practically unthinkable in America.

But now – in March 2020 – they have closed the churches, canceling the Holy Mass and Holy Communion. Little did I realize that it would be prompted by concerns over a virus.

This is most unfortunate, because as St. Padre Pio said, “It is easier for the earth to exist without the sun than without the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.”

As far as reception of the Holy Eucharist, even a secular newspaper, The Washington Times, ran an article that stated, “It would be, as a matter of faith, impossible for the virus to spread through the bread and wine.”

If they do not allow indoor Mass, bishops must permit outdoor celebration of the Mass.

During the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, when local authorities closed church buildings and other venues, Catholic churches still celebrated mass outdoors. This is documented in a paper on the pandemic in Maine. Following are excerpts:

Saturday, October 5th

By Order of the Board of Health
Thomas Tetreau, MD, Health Officer

All the churches will be closed tomorrow, the masses at the Catholic churches will be held in the open air.  This is the first time this has happened in Maine.

On Saturday morning the Lewiston Board of Health, followed by a conference with Mayor Lemaire in his office, decided it would make no effort to prohibit outdoor masses tomorrow by parishioners of the Catholic churches.

Monday, October 14

Local Lewiston and Auburn physicians are working practically day and night, while the number of people needing their attention steadily grows larger.  Not only are the doctors overworked, but it is impossible to find help for affected homes where it is needed.  Whole families are ill with the disease, with no one to care for them. 

All of the Catholic churches of Lewiston held indoor services yesterday, disregarding the closing order of the board of health.

Out of door services were held by the Catholic church in Auburn, in compliance with a request of the Auburn Board of Health. 

Monday, October 21

In accordance with an order issued by the Board of Health and approved by Associate Supreme Court Justice Scott Wilson, all of the churches in Lewiston remained closed Sunday on account of the epidemic of influenza.  Out of door masses were held by the Catholic churches.  A week ago all Catholic churches in Lewiston held indoor services, disregarding the health board’s order.

As one priest recently declared, “Will I close this church, will I lock these doors? So long as it is in my power, we will not. They’ll have to step over my cold dead coronavirus corpse and pry the keys of the church out of my cold dead fingers before I will willingly lock these doors…And if in fact we should be forced to shut out of obedience, we’ll find a way and a place.”

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