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.”

The Amazon Synod and Myth of Pre-Christian Peace

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

“These liberation theologians are promoting the idea that the Indians who still live in a primitive way are very happy, living in paradise,” said Macuxi tribal chief Jonas Marcolino Macuxí, referring to bishops at the Pan-Amazon Synod, a conference held in Rome in October of 2019. “But that’s not true.”

He’s right. The myth that pre-Christian tribes were peace-lovers was alive and well at the synod, as the assembly of bishops there discussed how best to evangelize the indigenous peoples of the Amazon rainforest, in addition to “let ourselves be evangelized by them” in the words of Pope Francis.

The pope wants the Catholic Church to listen to and learn from those peoples, who live in “harmony with oneself, with nature, with human beings and with the supreme being,” as quoted in the Instrumentum Laboris or working document of the synod.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) would be proud. He imagined people living in a state of nature untouched by Western civilization to be ensconced in an idyllic world of peace, kindness and benevolence. “Nothing could be more gentle than man in his primitive state,” he proclaimed.

That starkly contrasted with Rousseau’s intellectual arch-rival Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), who held that life in a state of nature involved endless war and “continual fear of danger and violent death”, famously writing of primeval man’s existence being “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”

Neither philosopher had ever observed man in a state of nature. Their ideas were speculative. Who turned out to be right?

We have had hints during the synod. At a press briefing a reporter brought up the subject of infanticide among certain Amazonian tribes. Peruvian Cardinal Pedro Ricardo Barreto Jimeno, S.J. expressed skepticism that it is carried out. But fellow press briefer Victoria Lucia Tauli-Corpuz, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, acknowledged the practice.

At a counter-synod held by critics of the event, tribal chief Marcolino Macuxí confirmed infanticide among some tribes. “Those things were ending; but now, with the idea that you have to go back to primitivism, they remain,” he told the National Catholic Register. By “primitivism” he means the idealization of the pre-modern way of life of the Amazon tribes; i.e. the “noble savage” myth. “We are not living in paradise. It’s a very hard life; people have insects all over their feet, bats in their homes.”

It sounds an awful lot like Thomas Hobbes was on to something.

Napoleon Chagnon lived five years with peoples of the Yanomamö tribe in the Amazon rainforest, which previously were practically untouched by Western civilization. He and other anthropologists in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s who studied such hunter-gatherer societies exploded the myth that they were peace-loving peoples.

War, violence, and oppression of women reigned supreme among Amazonian tribespeople prior to Western contact, as was the case with most indigenous peoples worldwide – as detailed by such authors as Chagnon, Jared Diamond, Lawrence Keeley, and Sabine Kuegler.

While there no doubt were exceptions, war with neighboring villages or tribes was unceasing. Rarely could one live in peace and security. Raids, massacres, and the slaughtering of prisoners, women and children were commonplace.

The abduction of women from neighboring villages was a leading cause of wars, due in part to the effects of polygamy which resulted in many mateless men. Wife-beating was the norm for captured and non-captured women alike.

It was only thanks to Western influence and the spread of Christianity that inter- and intra-tribal aggression finally lessened. Sabine Kuegler, who spent 10 years of her childhood living with her Christian missionary family in Papua New Guinea during the 1980s, in Child of the Jungle tells a gripping account of how Christian values finally tamed the warring tribesmen.

Their pagan beliefs and practices often fostered violence. Shamanism is the predominant belief system of pre-Christian tribal societies, in which malevolent and benevolent spirits reign, and in which sicknesses and deaths are often thought to be caused by spells cast by enemies.

Retribution would be exacted upon those thought responsible for conjuring up the evil spirits. As Chagnon writes in Noble Savages: My Life Among Two Dangerous Tribes – the Yanomamö and the Anthropologists, “The Yanomamö sometimes decide that death was caused by witchcraft – an enemy in a distant village sent the snake, and therefore this enemy is now a legitimate target for a revenge killing.”

Shamanism contradicts Christianity in myriad ways. It often involves multiples gods. It involves worship of created things as opposed to the Creator. It entails persons known as shamans who claim to visit supernatural realms, as well as summon souls of the dead.

Alarmingly, what appeared to be shamanistic practices were on full display at the synod during the infamous tree-planting ceremony in the Vatican gardens, in which an indigenous woman – possibly a shaman – conducted rituals and offered prayers to what seemed to be a pagan deity. Even more alarming was that the pope was in attendance. But until we know more, let us give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he was unaware of what was to unfold. After all, he abandoned his prepared remarks and prayed an Our Father instead.

The Instrumentum trumpets that “it is desirable to deepen existing Amazonian Indian theology”. We need to “take into account the original myths, traditions, symbols, knowledge, rites and celebrations….” in order to have a “Church with an indigenous and Amazonian face.”

Not explained is exactly how the belief systems are to be taken into account. The question of religious syncretism – the merging of beliefs – came up during a synod press conference. The Vatican reported that Bishop Adriano Ciocca Vasino said “to see what coincides with the Gospel”. Let us hope that means forcefully rejecting what does not coincide.

Another bishop candidly acknowledged violent practices. Wilmar Santin, bishop of Itaituba in Pará, Brazil, at another synod press briefing spoke extensively of infanticide and the former warlike practices of the Munduruku tribe.

Moreover the Instrumentum mentions “seeing with a critical conscience a series of behaviors and realities of the indigenous peoples that go against the Gospel,” but does not elaborate apart from brief mentions of family violence and subjugation of women.

Meanwhile, it is ironic that many within the Church push the romantic vision of primitive cultures. Such a way of life actually was Hobbesian. Real progress would come from spreading the true Gospel, free of any bundling with shamanism.

The Covington Catholic Boys Should Forgive the Washington Post

490 300x300 - The Covington Catholic Boys Should Forgive the Washington PostThe Catholic Church teaches about several sins that fall under the Eighth Commandment – thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. Those since include rash judgement, calumny, and slander. They were on full display with the Covington Catholic incident, in which boys from Covington Catholic High School were falsely accused in the traditional media and on social media of racial harassment against a native American, following the March for Life in Washington, D.C. The boys were pilloried in the media and criticized even by their own bishop, based on a short video clip that did not reflect the full story. That was the sin of rash judgement. Slander and calumny against the boys also ran rampant. Upon examination of more video footage, it turns out that the native American instigated the incident by wading into the crowd of boys, and that they boys were innocent of any racial harassment.

Subsequent to that, the family of the principal Catholic boy in the story, Nick Sandmann, brought a $250 million defamation lawsuit against one of the parties who practiced rash judgement, the Washington Post.

First of all, their chance of success in winning the lawsuit is very low. Rarely do defamation lawsuits against newspaper publishers ever succeed.

But separate from that, it is easy to fall victim to the sin of rash judgement, and one hopes that the following does not constitute rash judgement:

Does it not appear that the Sandmann family is succumbing to the sin of unforgiveness?

The Sandmanns should publicly and prominently forgive the Washington Post for their rash judgement.Perhaps some facts are missing that would make this lawsuit “legitimate” in the eyes of God. But from the information at hand, the Sandmanns don’t seem to be abiding by the teachings of the Catholic Faith, even though presumably they are Catholic. The lawsuit embodies vengeance; an eye-for-an-eye. Jesus explicitly rejected that, and instead urged us to turn the other cheek.

As indicated in the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, God is merciful and forgiving – but only if we are merciful and forgiving towards others. That parable is immediately preceded by the famous dialogue in which Peter asks Jesus how many times we should forgive another person. “As many as seven times?,” Peter asks. “No, Jesus replied. “Seventy times seven times.”

So to be in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Faith, it seems that rather than suing the Washington Post, the Sandmanns should publicly and prominently forgive the Washington Post for their rash judgement. That would convey to the world a powerful lesson about forgiveness.

Nick Sandmann in his interview with NBC said that his Catholic school does not tolerate racism. The school evidently teaches that racism is a grave sin, and rightly so. Does the school not teach that unforgiveness is a grave sin as well?

But again, in order to not fall victim to the sin of rash judgement, we’ll hold off on judging until all of the facts are in.



America Dystopia

America dystopia for pinterest 231x300 - America DystopiaImagine a relatively clean, orderly and educated society where people go about their lives working, studying, and playing, and who on the whole are generally polite to each other. But the society has a dark secret: some 2,500 murders are carried out each and every day. These aren’t gangland-style murders on the street involving guns and knives. These are systematic murders of children, taking place in mild-mannered neighborhoods, in what are called “clinics” staffed by doctors and nurses wearing green gowns and rubber gloves.

Because they take place in these nondescript “clinics” involving doctors and nurses, and because they have been legalized, people don’t think much of those murders. They’re shocked of course by the illegal murders of adults and young people on the streets, but the murders of tiny children that take place in the “clinics” don’t bother them much. It is a medical setting, after all.

The vast majority of the tiny children who are murdered were healthy. Some of them had physical defects, and therefore were eliminated. After all, the authorities don’t want lots of unhealthy babies introduced and thus negatively impact the fairly clean, orderly and prosperous society.

This society resembles the dystopian novel and movie The Giver, in which undesired or defective infants are legally and systematically put to death in clean, antiseptic medical procedure rooms by medical professionals. In The Giver a syringe is gently placed into the baby’s head, the baby dies, and the body is placed into a chute. (Disturbing scene from the movie here.) No one protests or thinks much of it – after all, everything takes place in a medical facility. And the authorities don’t want to do anything that could negatively impact the clean and orderly society depicted in The Giver.

This society resembles the dystopian novel and movie The Giver, in which undesired or defective infants are legally and systematically put to death by medical professionals.

Meanwhile, in the aforementioned society, the babies are put to death in a different manner. They don’t involve gentle syringes to the head. Instead, they are bloody and violent deaths by dismemberment. The doctor grabs the baby’s leg and tears it off, then the baby’s arm and tears it off, then its other leg and tears it off, and so on. To see a disturbing animation of this procedure, click here.

For adults, death by dismemberment would be the cruelest and most excruciating form of death. That’s why it’s outlawed for the rest of society. But for some reason, it isn’t outlawed for the babies.

In addition to death by dismemberment, the babies are often put to death through the use of chemical agents, causing the baby to be chemically burned alive from the inside out, taking more than an hour to die. For the rest of society, death by chemical agents is one of the most excruciating forms of death. That’s why chemical warfare was outlawed in World War II. But for some reason, it isn’t outlawed for the babies.

scene from The Giver 150x150 - America Dystopia

Scene from The Giver. (Walden Media, 2014)

So this society is actually much more dystopian than the dystopian society depicted in The Giver. At least in the latter, the babies died presumably almost painless deaths. Not so in the society of which we speak. They die the cruelest and most barbaric deaths. But they all take place in “clinics”, out of sight to the rest of society.

In this society roughly 20,000 murders take place on the streets each year, often via guns. People are up in arms about those murders, especially when the murders take the form of massacres. But the number of those types of murders pale in comparison to the number of murders that take place in the dystopian “clinics” using forceps or saline solutions as weapons: roughly 900,000 of them per year. That’s 2,500 per day. It’s the leading cause of death – even more than heart disease.

In this society, most of the legalized murders of the babies take place while they’re still in the mother’s womb. Now there’s a push to legalize the murder of babies up to the point of delivery, and even after delivery – i.e. straight-up infanticide, as takes place in The Giver. Several states in this society already permit the murder up to the point of delivery.

The governor of one of the states of this society even discussed permitting murder after delivery. A professor at one of this society’s prestigious universities, who in true dystopian form describes himself as a bioethicist, champions the killing of born babies up to a month old. So do researchers who published a paper on this subject in a prestigious academic journal. And numerous college students support the killing of born babies. This society is moving closer and closer toward the systematic slaughter depicted in The Giver – but it all would take place in “clinics”, which seem so kind and gentle.

Brave New World, 1984, Animal Farm, The Giver … they all depict dystopian societies. With the systematic but out-of-sight killing of thousands of babies going on every day in the nondescript “clinics” probably not far from where you live, America has become a real-life dystopian society – playing out right before your very eyes.

%d bloggers like this: