Monday, September 29, 2014

A Bishop Shows How an Abusive Priest Should Be Handled

Anthony B. Taylor,
bishop of Little Rock, AR

For some reason I take a lot of things personally.

For instance, the Sex Scandal in the Catholic Church.

I love the Catholic Church, which is the Body of Christ, and which I have paid dearly in many ways to enter and to try to conform myself to.  So when bishops behave badly by enabling those who prey upon children to do so, I get very upset.  These are men who are the successors to the apostles, "other Christs" among us - and yet they typically behave in ways that make you wonder if they worship Christ or Satan.  And I can only echo Boys' Town founder Fr. Flanagan, "I wonder what God's judgment will be with reference to those who hold the deposit of faith and who fail in their God-given stewardship of little children."

And lately I've been on a bit of a roller coaster.  It appeared that Pope Francis had made a big statement by sacking Bishop Livieres, who not only enabled a priest accused of both sex abuse and embezzlement by giving him access to children and money, but who made this priest (a priest called "dangerous" by other bishops) his vicar general.

But then, quickly, the Vatican claimed that Livieres was not removed because of his role in the Sex Scandal.

Or did they?  Commonweal points out that the situation is more complex than that, and that the reporting of the Vatican's denial was a bit confused.  Livieres' handling of the priest in question was certainly the catalyst that led to his removal, even though it might not have been the sole reason.

Even more hopeful is the Vatican's investigation of Kansas City Bishop Finn, whose shameful role in the Fr. Shawn Ratigan case has been defended in a knee jerk manner by right wing Catholics who can't see that Finn's doctrinal orthodoxy carries no weight if he is cavalier about the safety of children and if he wastes millions of dollars in diocesan money defending himself against a misdemeanor charge that he was rightfully convicted of.

But regardless of what went on with Livieres, and what might go on with Finn, at least there's one bishop who gets it. Little Rock bishop Anthony B. Taylor shows us how it should be done - and how, if bishops had been handling these cases this way for years, the faith of Catholics and the safety of innocent children would not be at risk.

Bishops, take note!  This is how it should be done ...


Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered the following homily about Father James Melnick at St. John Church in Russellville, St. Augustine Church in Dardanelle and St. Andrew Church in Danville on Sept. 27-28, 2014.
In the Gospel for Monday of this week Jesus said: "There is nothing hidden that will not be known and come to light. Take care then how you hear. To anyone who has, more will be given, and from one who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away." (Luke 8:17-18)
The most difficult thing I ever have to do as bishop is come to a parish to inform the parishioners that I have received credible allegations of misconduct against their priest so serious as to require his removal from ministry. Last weekend we received credible allegations of sexual misconduct against Father Melnick and were able to act quickly enough to prevent him from celebrating his last Mass in Danville last Sunday.
Later that day we were able to interview some of his victims and verify multiple acts of sexual misconduct with multiple adult victims during the period of less than a year. Since there were multiple victims, we seem to be dealing with predatory behavior, not romance.
Later Father Melnick admitted that this is true. So please do not blame his victims. They are victims. And moreover, they reported violations of the sacrament of Reconciliation so serious as to require his permanent removal from ministry: absolution of persons with whom he had previously committed sins against the sixth commandment — and thus incurring grave canonical penalties that can only be lifted by the Holy See.
I know that his misconduct has harmed some of you directly and if you have been a victim of his misdeeds or know someone who has been harmed by him here or elsewhere, I ask that you contact the diocese to report the incident for your own good and for the good of the Church. I would also like to offer you the assistance of the Church in securing help if you could benefit from speaking with a psychologist or counselor to deal with what you have experienced.
I sincerely regret the harm you have suffered and in the name of the Church I apologize to you for what Father Melnick has done. Given what was shared with you today and what Father Melnick has admitted to doing, the Church would never allow a priest in a situation like this to ever to function as a priest again. Please pray for him. He needs your prayers, probably more than any of us even realizes.
And please pray especially for his victims, for their healing and for their inner peace. Also, don't let this shake your faith. Remember, your faith is not in any priest, or for that matter in any bishop or pope. It is in Jesus and in him alone. Also know that the sacraments you have received from Father Melnick remain valid, so despite his misdeeds, all your baptisms, weddings and so on are valid, so don't worry about that.
I am shocked by all of this, as I am sure you are too — and especially those of you who were unaware of Father Melnick's immoral and sacrilegious activities. For that reason, I am sending you one of the finest young priests in our diocese to replace him: Father Mauricio Carrasco. He will be just exactly the right person you need to lead you through this difficult time. The plan is for him to live in Russellville with Father Chuma and to begin service here next weekend.
Also please pray for the Church. It is quite understandable that this might get a great deal of negative attention in the media because, after all, this is a very bad situation — the worst I have ever faced and probably the worst your parish has ever faced too. But please know that I am with you and we will get through this together.
As for Father Melnick, while today's Responsorial Psalm rejoices that God is a merciful God, our First Reading reminds us that even so, evil deeds lead to very burdensome consequences — such as, in the case of Father Melnick, removal from ministry. But that doesn't change the fact that we still pray for the perpetrator's ultimate salvation. So keep him in your prayers. And above all, pray for his victims — they are our first priority and our first concern.
And again, if you or someone you know has been a victim of misconduct by Father Melnick or any other priest or representative of the Church, I ask that you contact the diocese to report the incident for your own good and for the good of the Church.

Indeed, our faith should not be placed in mere men - and we should not take things like this personally.  But we are to be, to one another, lights in the darkness.  The bishops in Minnesota, by comparison, knew of at least one priest who abused boys in the confessional - desecrating the sacrament and desecrating the boys - and did nothing to prevent it: which is simply spreading the darkness, not the light.

Something like this, then, is good to see.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Founder of Boys' Town Speaks Prophesy

Fr. Flanagan decided to return to the land of his birth in 1946 to visit his family, and also to visit the “so-called training schools" run by the Christian Brothers to see if they were "a success or failure.”
The success of the film "Boys Town," meant Fr. Flanagan was treated like a celebrity on his arrival. His visit was noted by the The Irish Independent, which said that Fr. Flanagan had succeeded “against overwhelming odds,” spurred on by the “simple slogan that 'There is no such thing as a bad boy.'”
But Fr. Flanagan was unhappy with what he found in Ireland. He was dismayed at the state of Ireland's reform schools and blasted them as “a scandal, un-Christlike, and wrong.” And he said the Christian Brothers, founded by Edmund Rice, had lost its way.
... When he arrived back in America Fr. Flanagan said: "What you need over there is to have someone shake you loose from your smugness and satisfaction and set an example by punishing those who are guilty of cruelty, ignorance and neglect of their duties in high places . . . I wonder what God's judgment will be with reference to those who hold the deposit of faith and who fail in their God-given stewardship of little children." 

- from Irish Central

The Vatican to Catholics: Don't Get Your Hopes Up

Bishop Livieres, looking like a kindly Lex Luthor.
Below is the press release from SNAP on the Bishop Livieres issue.  
It had appeared as if Livieres had been the first and only bishop removed from office since the Sex Scandal broke over ten years ago.  And even though his case was particularly egregious - making an accused child molester his vicar general, even after being warned by other bishops that the man was a danger to others, and then lashing out against the Vatican publicly - still this appeared to be good news.  It appeared as if Pope Francis was setting the bar very low, but at least he was setting the bar.  After all, if you won't sack a bishop for making an accused child molester and scam artist his vicar general and allowing him continued access to boys, then how serious are you about reforming the very worst element in the Church?
And indeed for the first time since the crisis, the Vatican seemed to be getting serious about the problem, forcing into "house arrest" an archbishop and former Vatican envoy who is reported to have been molesting boys in the Dominican Republic and who was discovered to have over 100,000 pornographic images of children on his computer.
But now the Vatican makes it a point to slap some cold water in our faces.  
Bishop Livieres has NOT been removed for enabling and promoting an accused child molester and scam artist, but for other reasons that apparently the Vatican regards as none of our business, allowing Livieres to spread the story that it's all a right vs. left power struggle.
This is disheartening.  I had written last week that the forces of corruption can only oppose the Spirit of God with an "arm of flesh", and that remains true.  But this same Spirit of God seems quite emphatic here.  We are not to put our hopes in mere men - including our popes and bishops.  Indeed, it seems, we are not even to trust them.
For immediate release: Sunday, Sept. 28
Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790,
Vatican officials now deny that a controversial bishop in Paraguay was ousted because he hired and promoted a credibly accused abusive cleric who faced allegations of sexual misdeeds in Argentina, Minnesota and Pennsylvania. (He is Fr. Carlos Urruigoity.)
That's basically what we said several days ago:
So many people so desperately want to believe that Francis is really addressing the church's continuing abuse and cover up crisis that they interpret his words about the scandal in the most favorable light possible and then allow themselves to feel comfortable and complacent instead of skeptical and vigilant. It's a real shame.
We endanger kids and insult victims when we leap to the most rosy conclusions possible about Catholic officials and their handling of this on-going crisis. Let's give the benefit of the doubt to innocent kids, wounded victims and betrayed Catholics, not to one more popular and powerful Catholic official.
Even now, after decades of horrific disclosures about the complicity of the church hierarchy in child sex crimes, many of us find it hard to accept that a seemingly wonderful priest can molest kids or that a seemingly wonderful bishop can protect predators. And we evidently find it hard to accept that a seemingly wonderful pontiff can continue doing very little to reverse centuries of recklessness, deceit and secrecy with clergy sex crimes and cover ups.

Friday, September 26, 2014

How to Have an Argument

Season Seven of G. K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense continues on EWTN this week with the episode "How to Have an Argument".

Starring Dale AhlquistChuck Chalberg, and (sometimes) me, this series is a fantastic way to get to know the greatest writer of the 20th century, G. K. Chesterton.

Episodes air in the U.S. on Sundays at 9:00 pm Eastern Time (8:00 pm Central), and on Wednesdays at 2:00 pm Eastern Time (1:00 pm Central).

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Pope Francis Does the Right Thing

The Buenos Aires Herald reports ...

Pope sacks Paraguayan bishop accused of protecting abuser priest

Pope Francis has dismissed a conservative Paraguayan bishop who was accused of protecting a priest suspected of sexually abusing young people in the United States, the Vatican said today.

The Argentinian-born pontiff has vowed zero tolerance against Roman Catholic clerics who sexually abuse minors after a series of scandals hit the Church in a number of countries around the world over many years. Last May, Francis called such abuse an "ugly crime" and likened it to "a Satanic mass".

A statement said the pope had removed Bishop Rogelio Ricardo Livieres Plano from his post as head of the diocese of Ciudad del Este and named another bishop to run it as an administrator for the time being.

The pope's sacking of the bishop came after a Vatican investigation of the bishop, the diocese and its seminaries, said the statement, which gave no details.

Vatican sources said the bishop had refused to resign following the investigation of the accusations and reports of irregularities in his diocese.

According to reports in Catholic media while the Vatican investigation was in progress, Livieres Plano had promoted a priest in his diocese who had been accused of sexual abuse while serving in the United States.

A US bishop had told Paraguayan Church officials that the priest, an Argentinian national who had been promoted to a senior position in the Paraguayan diocese by Livieres Plano, was a "serious threat to young people", according to the reports.

Livieres Plano had defended both himself and the priest, saying the charges against them were unfounded.

The dismissed bishop, a member of the conservative Roman Catholic group Opus Dei, had also become a polarising figure in the Paraguayan Church and often clashed with more progressive clerics.

The Vatican said Pope Francis had taken the "onerous decision" to remove Livieres Plano after careful examination of the results of the Vatican investigation. He has previously said bishops who covered up abuse would be held accountable.

The dismissal of Paraguayan bishop came two days after the pope approved the arrest in the Vatican of a former archbishop accused of paying for sex with children while he was a papal ambassador in the Dominican Republic.

This is huge.  The priest in question, Fr. Urrutigoity, if reports about him are true, is one of the most dangerous men in the Church, and something seemed to be rotten indeed in Ciudad del Este.

I'm wondering if Opus Dei (itself a compromised organization) will have the chutzpah to try to spin this in Bishop Livieres' favor.   Will the right wing of the Church and the Rad Trads paint this as the persecution of a conservative bishop by a liberal pope?  Will blowhard Bill Donohue, who is paid an obscene salary to lie about disgraced "conservative" heroes like Bishop Finn and Maciel, jump to Livieres' defense?  Or will people realize that this is not only the right move by Pope Francis, but a brave and bold one?

It's sad that these days simply doing the right thing in the Church appears brave and bold.  But until enablers and liars in the episcopacy are sacked, the Scandal will continue.

This much at least we know.  Livieres himself will go on the attack, as he did after the Vatican suspended ordinations in his diocese.  And the money and power behind Urrutigoity will rally to defend him or at least to hide him for the time being.

But at least, every once in a while, someone in the Church does the right thing.  This time it was the Pope.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Everything We Need for our own Salvation We Have Already

Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.” (John 21:21-22)

"You follow me" - well, if you have been following me these past few weeks, you'll know that I've been writing about the difficulties of coming to terms with Reality, with things as they are.

And, in honesty, things as they are can be pretty bleak.

And I don't mean things in the world.  I mean things in the Church.  In my 14 years as a Catholic, the main lesson I've learned is that Catholics are just like everybody else - only worse.  Somehow I got it into my head that I could find solace in the Church, when instead I've found frustration, duplicity, abuse, betrayal - in short, I've found the cross.

But that's not entirely true.  My Chestertonian friends are solid friends, great blessings, and the Chesterton Conferences are what the true Church should be, are what the true Church is.  Also, I know a number of people who are on their way to becoming saints.  And the Church is still filled with the Presence of God in many ways.

But look at the downside.

What if the Synod on the Family cuts corners regarding divorced and remarried Catholics, allowing them to receive communion?  The Church has no power to alter its doctrine, but it can alter its discipline, and there's no reason to think that worthy reception of the Eucharist will suddenly be protected, or that the integrity of marriage will suddenly be emphasized.  Bishops are required by canon law to deny communion to unrepentant public sinners, such as Catholic politicians who support abortion, but bishops care more about pleasing men than pleasing Christ, so they refuse to follow canon law, in the same way that they refuse to protect the integrity of the liturgy, Catholic teaching or the safety of children.

What difference, then, will the Synod on the Family make?  The Church teaches by the authority of the Holy Spirit, but its bishops govern by the strength of their character, and the laity live by the strength of theirs, and (though it stings to admit it) the vast majority of bishops and lay Catholics are just like everyone else, only worse.  Solace does not come from the scoundrels in the Church - by which I mean our bishops, our cardinals, and our next door neighbors.

But there is only one answer to this horrible hurt.  "What is that to you?  You follow Me."

Everything we need for our salvation we have already, and God's Providence is not related to how great things are.

I see more of the ideal and Holy Church than most of you.  I see it at EWTN when I'm down there.  I see it every year at the American Chesterton Society annual conference.  I see it in my actors, many of whom have converted and who are better Catholics than I am.

But even when I don't see it - even when Cardinal Dolan insults our intelligence and turns his back on Christ, even when my Devout Catholic friends show themselves to be cowardly and deceptive, even when my own greed and lust lay siege to the new heart God has given me, there is still solace, great solace - not merely in the many good Catholics who are among us, but in this stark truth: what other people do is beyond our control.

What can we control?  "You follow Me."

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

How I Found Religion - or - How Religion Found Me

Rod Dreher is asking for readers to submit stories on "How I Found Religion".  Since today happens to be an anniversary date for me in that regard, I posted the following ...

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    At the age of nine I saw Madeline Murray O’Hair, the famous atheist, on TV. She made perfect sense to me. I became an atheist from that point on, and was an adamant one, back in the day when this was not the fad that it is today. I stood out in my small town Missouri high school in the 1970′s, where everybody else was “Christian”, or claimed to be.
    But it was my experiences on stage as an actor that began to change me. I found that no matter what I did in preparing for a role – no matter how well I knew my lines, my blocking, or how intensely I researched my character – my performance would be lifeless, lacking a certain spark, a gift of spontaneity that was not of my making. All I could do was prepare for the performance and then invite the “spirit” in. In fact, I had to lose my control and abandon my preparation in the moment of performance or else things would seem contrived and stilted.
    This was tangible evidence of something beyond my own control, something quite real but spiritual. I thought of it as the “life force” as George Bernard Shaw called it. So for about fifteen years after these experiences on stage, I considered myself “spiritual but not religious”. I read the entire collected works of C. G. Jung (Freud’s disciple) and was rather awash in a Gnostic New Age worldview.
    But then something happened. I was physically assaulted by a guy I was working for (I tell the whole story here), and the pain and confusion that sprang from that – plus the free time that I suddenly had on my hands – led me to start reading books from the library.
    I stumbled upon C. S. Lewis, who was the first Christian I had encountered who made a clear and rational defense of the Faith, and who was a tremendously talented writer to boot. Lewis kept mentioning this guy G. K. Chesterton, whom I began to read. Chesterton kept mentioning his friend Hillaire Belloc – and once you follow that chain: Lewis to Chesterton to Belloc, the only thing left to do is to pick up a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and pray.
    And in fact it was 17 years ago today – Sept. 23, 1997 – that I said my first prayer since before the age of 9, a prayer that was answered in an immediate and stunning way … but sometimes these things are too personal to describe. I’ve told the story more than once on EWTN’s “The Journey Home”, and the only thing I can add is the grace of God is utterly fantastic.

So I leave that as a kind of teaser, but this image from the internet is as close as I've come to illustrating that night 17 years ago visually.

The Grunky Book Club Podcast: The Poetry of G. K. Chesterton

Click here to listen!

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Arm of Flesh vs. the Body of Christ

Sennacherib and the Assyrian army besiege Jerusalem, 701 BC.

The are times when the darkness rises like a flood, threatening to engulf us all.  Bad bishops and bad lay Catholics and the badness in our hearts are all quite real and undeniable, at least if we wish to jettison the Unreality we cling to and face the situation squarely.

But as situations go, the one in 701 BC was also rather bleak.  King Sennacherib and his Assyrian armies stood before Jerusalem, ready to attack it.  The people, terrified, looked to Hezekiah, the King of the Jews, to encourage them.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him, for there are more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” (2 Chron. 32:7-8

Most of us arm ourselves with the flesh, not with the armor of God (Eph. 6:10-18).  And the works of the flesh are these ...

Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal. 5:19-21)

Before us we see this played out.  The horde at the gates are armed with these weapons only, even if some of them are dressed in bishops' mitres, even if some of them pray daily devotions and pride themselves in their righteousness.  And some of the Assyrians look an awful lot like us in our more selfish moments.

For as dark as the invading darkness seems, its weapons are not of the Spirit.  Narcissistic bishops, craven and cowardly cardinals, neurotic and fearful devout lay folk - all of them - all of us - conspire against the New Jerusalem as Sennacherib conspired against the old one.  But there is nothing to pit against light but darkness: and darkness cannot do what light does: dispel the gloom.

And so, when things seem very dark and dreary and when the wolf is at the door - worse than that, when the men are at the gates, whose hearts are hungering for slaughter and for spoil, when those people or things other than God that we have put our trust in (such as priests, bishops, fellow Christian friends, our own talents, resources or efforts) - when those we have banked on have all betrayed us, when the City of God seems about to fall (traitors within cooperating with barbarians without) remember - the enemy's only weapons are the sins we cherish (the pitiful works of the flesh), his only strategy is life without light, his only hope is to sling his miserable lies against the Truth.

Fr. Angelo Mary Geiger, who (along with his order) been besieged in a number of ways over the past few months and years, rises to a level of poetic insight into the simple worldly fear that is at the heart of the civil war within the Church and within our souls.  He speaks of "conspiracy theory", but substitute almost any phrase for "conspiracy theory" and you can explain the dynamics of panic and despair.  You may replace his phrase "Conspiracy theory" below with "addiction" or "heterodoxy" or "judgmentalism" or "arrogance" or "narcissism", etc., and it would ring just as true ...

Conspiracy theory is willfulness bubbling up from wanton fear.
There is only one solution to conspiracy theory, just as there is one, and only one, solution to scruples: breaking the will, not satisfying the intellect.  In the Church that means supernatural obedience.
Fear of the Church is a horrible thing.  There are plenty of things to be afraid of.  But this is why we have hope in Christ through His visible Church.  That is why Christ said He who hears you hears me.  Man is not in charge.  Christ is in charge.  Either one believes in the providence of God or one does not.  There is no place in conspiracy theory for the providence of God.
I am not saying that everything is great in the Church.  It is not.  But if one thinks that the providence of God is somehow related to how great things are, he is making the same mistake common among so many in the Old Covenant, namely, that God is present only when it seems that way.

Stare out at the armies of Assyria besieging Jerusalem and ask yourself, "Is God present?"  It certainly doesn't seem that way.  But put aside the "willfulness" that bubbles up from "wanton fear" and trust in God's Providence - which is (contrary to what we expect) not related to "how great things are".

For that which besieges us is armed only with arms of flesh and with the works of the flesh.  But we are the Body of Christ, which includes the Arm (and the army) of God.

Fr. Angelo quotes from Chesterton's Ballad of the White Horse.  I will counter with another quotation from that great poem, and I send it out to you, my readers, especially to those of you who feel overwhelmed and desperate in the face of some sort of rising darkness in your life.  We cannot peer through the darkness, but that's what Faith is all about.  For God is present and Christ is in charge - even in our darkest hours, and even in His Church, which we sinners keep besieging.

Chesterton puts these words into the mouth of the Mother of God ...

"The men of the East may spell the stars,
          And times and triumphs mark,
          But the men signed of the cross of Christ
          Go gaily in the dark.

          "The men of the East may search the scrolls
          For sure fates and fame,
          But the men that drink the blood of God
          Go singing to their shame."

Recent Photos

Since just the thought of taking more pictures of the Cakeway to the West cakes fills me with an uncontrollable rage, I've decided to post a few other pictures instead.

The Missouri River near St. Charles, MO.  From a recent hike.
My temporary dye job and comb-over does the trick!  This is for a character I play, but I'm trying to get my wife Karen to let me do this all the time.  She adamantly refuses.  She probably suspects that this look will help me pick up chicks.

Octagonal one-room schoolhouse, Watkins Mill State Park, Lawson, MO

Interior of the octagonal school house, which features an octagonal skylight.  I doubt that the skylight is original to the structure, which was built in the 1870s.

Actress Maria in front of the Hall of Waters, Excelsior Springs, MO.

Interior of the Hall of Waters.  The light fixtures are original to the building, c. 1936.

About to enter as Professor Henry Higgins, My Fair Murder, Terre Beau Winery, Dover, MO.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Shop of Ghosts

Season Seven of G. K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense continues on EWTN this week with the episode "The Shop of Ghosts".

Starring Dale AhlquistChuck Chalberg, and (sometimes) me, this series is a fantastic way to get to know the greatest writer of the 20th century, G. K. Chesterton.

Episodes air in the U.S. on Sundays at 9:00 pm Eastern Time (8:00 pm Central), and on Wednesdays at 2:00 pm Eastern Time (1:00 pm Central).

Life as a Great Parade

My fear is that my posts about Cardinal Dolan will be taken in the worst possible way.  And I don't mean that certain super-Catholics will be offended that I have the temerity to criticize a "Prince of the Church".

I mean that people will simply assume that I hate gays, or that I'm obsessed with shaming homosexuals, or that I think Dolan is making a horrible mistake by serving as grand marshal of the New York St. Patrick's Day Parade.  In fact, I think a good case could be made for Dolan sticking by his guns and leading the parade; but the case he made is not it.  The reasons Dolan gave for his decision simply insult our intelligence and tell us more about Dolan's vanity, imperiousness and contempt for his critics -which was wrapped in a faux folksy "aw shucks" bonhommie - than anything else.  But my point is not gay bashing or even bishop bashing.  My point is that to parade under a banner identifying your sin is to endorse that sin, and it is to demand public endorsement of your sin. 

But being misunderstood worries me because I've known openly gay men and women all of my life.  You can't make a living in show business and not work closely along side them.  And while their sins are no source of pride (despite what they sometimes rather defensively assert), these folk are like all the rest of humanity: loving, trustworthy, compassionate, petty, untrustworthy, cold-hearted - in other words, a mixture of things both divinely good and abysmally bad, like all of us.

They are part of the Vast Parade, the ongoing line of cheaters, swindlers, lovers and saints who pass by as the band plays, who pass by along that Main Street that stretches from cradle to grave.

Anthony Esolen has a brilliant essay in Crisis in which he looks at what it means to march in a parade - in fact to march in the great Parade of Life (thanks to reader Chrisitan Le Blanc for pointing this article out to me).

I am imagining a parade down Main Street of Anyville.

It’s the typical American parade. Some people are tootling on flutes, braying out almost-G on the trumpet, or banging the big bass drum. A group of high school girls in short skirts dance and twirl their batons. Old men with bellies stuffed into their faded Army uniforms march along with rifles slung over their shoulders. The gladhanding mayor comes waving in a limousine, a smile frozen on his face as people cheer or hoot. Fire engines one two three and four roar down the road with siren and horn. Middle-aged ladies from the middle-aged lady association come bearing friendly banners, smiling to the children in the crowds. A troop of boy scouts, a troop of girl scouts, a clown with big floppy feet, random boys running into and out of the festivities, somebody hawking cotton candy, parents along the sidewalks carrying small children on their shoulders; everything and everyone you expect.

In the parade are liars, cheats, gossips, Sabbath-breakers, and people who drink too much. In the parade are adulterers, a thief or two, a pleasant civic-minded taker of bribes, a man who beats his wife, and a wife who beats her husband. In the parade are people hooked on porn, and at least one woman who has produced some of it herself. In the parade are parents who have hurt their children and children who have hurt their parents. In the parade are fornicators, and some who have snuffed in the womb the natural result of their fornication. In the parade is a doctor who let an elderly patient die of an overdose of morphine because her relatives wanted it. In the parade are the angry, the false-hearted, the covetous, the slothful, the vain, the blasphemous, the licentious, the ambitious, the perverse, the cruel, the petty, the lukewarm, and the obscene.

In the parade are human beings. In the parade are sinners. We are in the parade and we are lining the streets to watch the parade.

In the town next to mine when I was a boy, the Italian immigrants had brought over from Gubbio a great festive parade, the Race of the Saints. Three teams of men, carrying seven-hundred-pound statues of Saint George, Saint Anthony, and Saint Ubaldo, Gubbio’s patron, would race up and down the hilly streets, to the cheers of most of their four thousand townsmen. Sin was carrying sanctity; sinners bent their backs and strained their legs to give honor to the saints.

That is why we have a parade. We who are not always honorable show our appreciation for honor.  We who are not always holy show our reverence for holiness. We who are small pay our respects to what is great. We who have received great benefits show some modest gratitude for those who have conferred them upon us.

Now let us suppose that the Royal Order of Wife-Beaters wants to add their float to the parade, with a jaunty young lady bending over to invite the man with the big paddle. Let us suppose that the Fornicators for Freedom want to march, dancing to “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights.” Let us suppose that a group calling itself Porn Again Christians wants to strut, with bikini underwear and thongs. Let us suppose that the Rumor Rustlers want to march, advertising their raison d’etre, to ferret out other people’s ugly secrets and to spread them abroad in gleeful caricatures.

We can imagine other groups too: The Ponzi Perps, The Brothers of Brawling, The Sharks of the Payday Loan, The Morphine Mavens, The Salacious Sluts, The Kiddie Korruptors, The Ku Klux Klan, The New Nazis, The Legal Thieves, The Sowers of Discord, The Peddlers of Public Office, The Gladhearted Gluttons, The Bloodsucking Leeches, The Refusers to Lift a Finger, and so forth.

Now suppose that the parade were ostensibly held to celebrate the feast day of a saint, and that a leader of the saint’s faith were to occupy the seat of honor. That would not be a case of sin carrying sanctity. It would be a case of sin marching right over the backside and the head of sanctity. Saint Patrick, according to legend, cast all the serpents out of Ireland. The new Patrick is more “inclusive.” He welcomes the serpents back in.

I deal with this a while back in my post on other forms of public celebrations of sin ...

Several new sites will be on display here in my home town of St. Louis, and the tour buses will be busy incorporating the new stops for eager vacationers.

  • One is a statue of Henry Flurg, proudly on display in the public square in the heart of downtown.  Henry was a middle-aged St. Louisan who spent most of his time masturbating.  He had no social life and contributed nothing to society, but, "He led the way in something we should all be ashamed of," noted Earl Glurp, President of the Pride for Self-Indulgence, which was awarded a Federal Grant to fund the statue.

  • Shirleen Smink worked for the Department of Motor Vehicles and made customers' lives miserable.  She saw to it that some folks stood in line for several hours before being told in a rude and dismissive way that they didn't have the right paperwork.  In her personal life, she was selfish and nasty to her closest friends.  She has been honored with a plaque on St. Louis' Walk of Fame.

  • Thad Schlub managed to father three children whose mothers he abandoned, in spite of the fact that he did literally nothing but play video games, collect disability, and smoke an "unbelievable" amount of "weed" while listening to loud and annoying music.  Four local streets and a fountain will be named after him.

We are all sinners and we march in the Great Parade while other sinners cheer and catch the candy we throw at them.

But we do not demand that they cheer for our sins.  And the garbage Cardinal Dolan is throwing at us sure the heck ain't candy.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Ardor and Love

Well, the Cardinal Dolan posts have gotten lots of views and lots of comments (especially on Facebook and via email), but let me try to get back to something a bit more helpful to all of us.

If you're anything like me, the ardor of your faith waxes and wanes.  Sometimes you feel more serious about God, sometimes less.

But here's something that occurred to me last night.  In my moments where I'm really stirred up, where I really can pray and pray quite honestly, "I love you, Jesus.  I will do anything for You.  Forgive my many sins and backslidings, and use me in any way You wish.  I want to give my all to You, like St. Paul the Apostle, like the Prophets, like those who have been on fire for Your love," - in those moments when I see the core of the meaning of life, and I know (as we all do, though sometimes it slips out of focus) that the meaning of life is giving ourselves entirely in a gift of love, then perhaps I can add a little prayer, "P.S., remind me of this the next time I'm tempted to sin.  Remind me of how true and genuine my love for You is.  Remind me of my ardor."

Now this takes some chutzpah.  After all, our love has to be strong and our ardor has to be genuine if we are to be reminded of it.

But I suspect that each of us, miserable and selfish souls that we all are, have someplace in us where we love with a great fervor, a shocking purity, an uncompromised devotion.  If we do, it is God's grace, the seed of eternal life in us, the key to the Kingdom.  If we do, though it be hidden and buried (sometimes deliberately buried out of cowardice and out of disdain for the suffering we know letting it out will bring) - if we have this, it is God's presence stirring and growing within us as it stirred and grew within Mary when she said Yes to the angel those many years ago.

To Clarify - on Cardinal Dolan, Gays and Personal Dispositions

I've been hearing from a lot of folks via Facebook and email on my recent posts on Cardinal Dolan and the St. Patrick's Day Parade issue.  Let me clarify a few things ...

  • I think it's well within the cardinal's prerogative to decide if he should or should not serve as Grand Master of a parade that includes GAY PRIDE banners and groups.  It's a matter of prudence, not doctrine.  Indeed, I think a very good case could be made for him to stick with leading the parade.  These reasons include the fact that he doesn't decide who's in and who's out, the fact that his presence can stir up debate (as it has), the fact that there are plenty of other sinners marching in the parade who don't have their own banners devoted to their particular sins, etc.  But the reason Cardinal Dolan gave, that to parade one's inclination to sin is not to endorse that sin, is either disingenuous or stupid.  As I pointed out, if I were to march under the banner IRISH ADULTERERS, I would be advocating not only my predilection toward that particular sin, but also my pride in it and my flaunting of it.  To march under a GAY PRIDE banner (in a public square, in front of God and children and everybody) is to endorse gay sex.  Period.  Everybody but a bishop is able to see that.

  • Gays can certainly be loving people - perhaps far more loving than I am, and far more loving than most of my friends.  But they are loving in spite of their sins, not because of them.  Anal intercourse (for instance - whether between heterosexuals or homosexuals) can never, by its nature, be a proper or true expression of love, for love is always self-sacrificing and creative, making new life.  Buggery, by contrast, is self-indulgent and sterile.  The Church teaches that any sexual activity outside of the marital act (sex between a married man and woman) which is not open to emotional union and to the creation of new life (babies and families) is sinful and selfish.  This is a hard teaching.  But it's the teaching of Christ.  If it's not, then the Catholic Church is not what she claims to be.  And it's the Law of Love.  And we know in our hearts that it's true.

  • Some of my younger friends tell me that being "gay" does not necessarily mean being sexually active with others of your own gender; it is just a disposition, an orientation, a general inclination, and that it's part of a bigger picture.  I frankly admit this.  Indeed, a disposition toward homosexual behavior might be part of a general sensitivity or might often be aligned with a specific talent or two - this is something psychologists can study.  But we all deal with this: our dispositions are mixed blessings, and everything we're disposed to needs to be either mortified or perfected by God's grace.  And if it's true that "gay" men are prone to artistic sensitivity (to use a stereotype), this does not mean that it's therefore a good thing to turn your "sexual identity" into a banner to march under, simply because your disordered sexual disposition happens to include aspects of your personality that dispose you toward other things that are not disordered.  But these things do, indeed, seem to come in clusters.  I know many men who are disposed toward adultery (you might say that's their "sexual identity"), and who also happen to be very effective at sales.  It's part of the same package - great salesman, wandering eye.  Since their disordered appetite toward sex is part of a larger disposition that includes valuable talents and abilities in other directions, does that mean they should be proud of the fact that they don't want to keep their penises in their pants?  Our characters are gifts from God, and they are all mixed bags.  "Gays" have nothing on "straights" in that regard.

  • "Gays" should not be persecuted or discriminated against, any more than any other sinners.  Some of them deal with grave and burdensome struggles to be chaste, or even to be happy.  This is why Dolan's flippant, folksy, casual and condescending attitude toward this really rankles me; he is being particularly dismissive of men and women who struggle with same sex attraction and who make great sacrifices day in and day out to be virtuous.  

  • "Why are you Catholics so focused on gay sex?  Let it go!" I've been hearing.  Glad to.  But we're not the ones with an agenda here.  This is the first time the St. Patrick's Day Parade has been hijacked by this issue, as far as I know, and it's not because of the obsessive compulsive Catholic Church.

When the Leading Cardinal in America is Simply a Careerist

For those of you who haven't been following, let me summarize in brief.  Cardinal Dolan has given what I consider to be a poorly reasoned, condescending and annoyingly folksy rationalization of his decision to serve as Grand Marshal of New York's St. Patrick's Day parade, which will now show the children along the route a group of "gay Irish" marching under a banner identifying themselves as such.  Dolan rightly points out that we condemn the sin, not the sinner - and of course gays have been marching in parades for centuries (though not parading about as gays).  He wrongly points out that if a man or a woman marches under a Gay Pride banner, it's merely a way of indicating his or her sexual identity, and is in no way an endorsement of the sins that such a sexual identity seeks out.

I countered with an Open Letter to Cardinal Dolan in which I asked to march under the banner of IRISH ADULTERERS.  I point out that, even though the sin of adultery is condemned, and even though I have not given in to consummating fully the temptations of adultery, I still consider this my sexual identity and the Church should not judge me for that, and certainly by marching under a banner in which I identify myself as having an inclination to adultery, I'm not endorsing adultery.  Heavens no!  I'm simply Proud of my inclination.  I simply identify with my temptations.  I could have said more.  I could have suggested groups marching under such banners as GREEDY IRISH EMPLOYERS, or LAZY SLOTHFUL IRISH DRUNKS, or IRISH CHILD MOLESTERS.  I mean, we can't judge a child molester's soul, only his sins - although if Dolan is affirming anything in this scandal, it's that we are defined by our sins.  

So that's our story so far.  And the general take on this situation is that Cardinal Dolan is a naive fool.

Today, however, Kevin Tierney comments on the Dolan Situation at Red Cardigan's blog (my emphasis)...

Maybe we have to consider the unpleasant possibility that His Eminence knows exactly what he is doing, he is not the fool, and that these are conscious choices.
Too many events have happened in Dolan's history to suggest naivete or [foolishness]. There's something else at work here.
No, it's not him being a heretic, modernist, or whatever you want to say. Plain and simple, Dolan is a careerist. All of his controversial decisions from the Sheen dustup, to his role in the abuse scandals, to Holy Innocents, to now the parade have been about what's best for the bottom line ... his bottom line. What advances his profile is what is best for business.

This is one of those theories that fits all the facts - which means it's probably true.

Of course, I must insert a caveat: to acknowledge the truth of a person's character is not to judge that person's soul or his relationship with God.  That's not our business, and we are not to do that.  But to trust a man like Timothy Dolan, to hope from him adherence to Catholic principles, especially when the pressure's on or the chips are down, to expect him even to teach or to administer with any conformity to Christ, after he's shown us again and again what he's made of, is to be a dupe.

But why is it so hard for us to admit this?

We know how all of the original apostles failed in their loyalty to Christ.  We know of the lack of sanctity in various bishops throughout history, and how many, then and now, are simply scoundrels.  We know, if we haven't shut our senses to it, that most bishops aren't even Christian enough to protect Catholic teaching, the Holy Mass, or the safety and innocence of children in their own dioceses.  We know they lie.  We know they are often narcissists filled with grandiose self-importance.

By the same token, we know that the Church tells us to expect this.  We know that the Church tells us that the Holy Spirit protects the Magisterium from teaching error on matters of Faith and Morals, but gives them free reign - without protecting them from error - to be a witness in other ways either to their love for God or to their love for their own sorry selves.  God has never prevented any of us from sinning, and the grace conferred by the sacrament of Holy Orders can be tarnished and peed on like the grace the rest of us are given to follow Christ every waking moment of the day.

But bother us it does.  And this is hard to admit or to comprehend.  The leading prelate in America - the most public bishop of the Catholic Church in the United States, who is a cardinal and who should be, by virtue of his position, a role model - is a careerist who is more interested in pleasing men than in pleasing God.  See Gal. 1:10, where St. Paul says - emphatically and with emotion - that to do this is to cease to be a "servant of Christ".

So he's a careerist.  There are worse things that can be said of a man.  There are worse things people could say about me.  There are worse things I could say about you.

But this is a tragedy all the same.  It's not even a tragedy, for a tragedy (in the literary sense) requires nobility of character and high aspirations gone wrong.  This, then, is not tragic.  It's pathetic.

I wrote yesterday of our unwillingness to face the facts, to see plainly the darkness in our own hearts or in the hearts of people in whom we've placed our hopes, people in whom we have a vested interest.  Of course, there's an opposite danger, which is rank cynicism, and which is giving yourself over to the demagoguery of Catholics-with-a-schtick like Michael Voris, who make a career of bishop bashing and playing to the most brutal element in our souls.

But if we are anything, we Christians, we are men of truth.  And the truth will set us free, even the ugly truth.  And having the leading cardinal in America be a careerist who sells out his fidelity to Christ any chance he gets is certainly an ugly truth.

I am told that in Roman days, the laity would turn their back on prelates like Dolan in public, refusing to look them in the eyes.

That would be the worst thing you could do to a careerist - and also the most charitable.  Such a move might even prod him to repent.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dialogue with Spam

Blogger filters out a ton of spam comments from my comboxes.

Here's a fun one that invites a dialogue ...

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Dear Cardinal Dolan: I'm an IRISH ADULTERER and I'm Proud of It!

Dear Cardinal Dolan,

A friend on Facebook suggests I write to you.  Of course I've not only written to you in the past, I've even written short speeches for you, which (as far as I know) you haven't used.

And I'll keep this brief, too.

You claim that if a person marches behind a "gay banner" in a public parade, he's simply self-identifying as having same-sex attraction, which is something the Church does not judge.  We're concerned with actions, not inclinations.  Marching behind a banner that advertises your sexual orientation is not only fine, it's something that has elicited a "bravo" from you in the past.  After all, nothing trumps the great and wonderful truth of sexual identity, right?  And being tempted to commit sodomy is no big deal - though the Church teaches that if I willingly give in to it, I could go to hell.  In fact, that temptation defines who I am, correct?  And I should be proud of that; in fact I should parade that in public - in front of little kids and everything.  I mean, this is what your recent defense is saying, in effect.

But, your excellency, what if there were a group in the St. Patrick's parade that marched under the banner IRISH ADULTERERS?  As we know, adultery is common and many adulterers have marched in many parades in the past, though covertly, as have many "gays".  Now, I'm Irish-American and, while I don't have an inclination to members of my own sex, I am quite strongly attracted to women who are not my wife.

This being my "inclination", could I walk under the IRISH ADULTERERS banner?  After all, I'm not (as I write this) actively committing adultery, even adultery of the heart.  But, boy, I sure the heck am tempted to.  In fact, even though I have not had sexual intercourse with a woman other than my wife since I've been married, I consider IRISH ADULTERER to be a pretty accurate description of my identity - of who I am, way down deep.

So I could walk under an IRISH ADULTERERS banner and this would be fine, correct?  It would give no mixed messages about Church teaching or my own assent to it, right?

And my wife should not be upset with me, either - correct?

I'm just following your own logic, your grace.  Tell me, please, if I'm at all wrong.

Yours in Christ,


Cardinal Dolan's Astonishing Naivete

In a stunning display of naivete, Cardinal Dolan, who presides over a Church that in modern times has gone queer over banners at Mass, is utterly clueless about the meaning of queer banners in a public secular parade.

But that's not my point.  We know our bishops are either clueless or cowardly or complicit in all kinds of garbage.  So this is to be expected: that Cardinal Dolan does not even see that the promotion of "gay identity" is promotion of a "gay agenda".  Any idiot knows that.  This has not been an argument against "gays" marching in the St. Patrick's Day parade, as they have done covertly for years.  It's not an argument about the question of loving the sinner but hating the sin.  It's an argument about civic life in the public square and the forced celebration of sin, which is what the gay pride banners are pushing, as anybody but a bishop can easily understand.

But my point is not that.  My point is this.  What really gets on my nerves is how he opens his vacuous and rather condescending defense ...

I haven’t been in this much hot water since I made the comment, right after I arrived as your archbishop five-and-a-half years ago, that Stan Musial—my boyhood hero of my hometown St. Louis Cardinals—was a much better ballplayer than Joe DiMaggio!
Now I’m getting as much fiery mail and public criticism over my decision to accept the honor of Grand Marshal of this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. According to the critics, I should have refused, due to the Parade Committee’s decision to allow a group of self-identified Gays of Irish ancestry to march in the parade with their own banner.
As with Stan Musial, I’ll stand by my decision.

As I said to a group of friends on Facebook (excuse my expletive) ...

I hate that kind of "suburban parish make light of the situation" bull crap. This is not about baseball, your grace. Don't try to get everybody chuckling when you've made this problem by ignoring a very serious issue - the sin of sodomy is serious, the turmoil in the souls of "gay" men trying to live chastely is serious, the witness you're giving by either marching or not marching in the parade is serious. Cut the banal bullshit.

But, alas.  Such is the level of ecclesiastical administration these days.



If you think about it, Cardinal Dolan is probably neither naive nor foolish.  He's just a politician, doing what politicians do, cowering and caving in to pressure.  He simply adds to that the annoying clerical dose of condescension and moral superiority.  But at least some of our bishops have risen above mere politics.  St. Paul, for instance.  "Am I trying to please men or God? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." (Gal. 1:10)


I follow this up with An Open Letter to Cardinal Dolan as well as a post that's bound to bother some people.  And one that goes into more detail on the theology and psychology of this issue.  And one about what it means to march under a banner in a parade. Crazy times where to defend the normal requires a dash of foolhardiness and heroic virtue.

"See No Evil" is Spiritual Blindness

I wrote this to some readers the other day ...

I'm beginning to suspect that when we catch wind of something wrong in the lives of our friends or associates, it's quite likely far worse than we suspect. People soft pedal their sins all the time, even to themselves. In our lack of faith and naivete, we say, "Oh, these priests wouldn't be child molesters," when in fact they may be evil to the core. They may not be, but it is only our fear and squeamishness that keeps us from seeing what may be the truth. It is only our lack of trust in God that prevents us from confronting the enormity of the darkness in our own lives and in the lives of others.

In other words, since we don't trust God to redeem and rescue us, even from the thickest of muck and mire, we put on our rose colored glasses and pretend that everything's OK.  But sometimes things are so much more sordid and corrupt than we can imagine, and sometimes hell is hotter than we think.

The following examples illustrate this.  These are all people I've known, though I've changed the names to conceal their identities.

  • All the kids in junior high and high school made fun of Frank for being "gay".  He was a friend of mine, and I knew he was effeminate, but after we graduated, he finally admitted the truth.  Not only was he "gay", he had been having anonymous sex with men through the "glory hole" in the men's room stall at the truck stop, ever since he had gotten a job there as a bus boy at the age of 14.  Dozens of times a day for many years.

  • I knew Steve and I knew that he had a shady past.  I did some internet research and found out that he had been sent to prison for molesting a child - molesting her for a ten year period.  Putting some pieces of the puzzle together, I learned that this child was his own daughter.  He abused her every other weekend, which is when he had occasional custody of her, per the terms of his divorce.  She later, quite naturally, tried to kill herself.

  • Cindy really wanted to impress me with how smart and successful she was.  She told me she had a roommate, but it was another girl.  I later learned that not only was it a guy (her live-in boyfriend), it was a guy who would verbally degrade her in front of his family, a guy who cheated on her, a guy who had psychological problems.  Cindy herself hinted at her own checkered past, and even admitted that it included some sad periods of drug use and extreme sexual promiscuity and perversion.  But it slowly began to dawn on me that it was far worse than what she admitted to and far worse I could possibly imagine - and that so much of who she was was a dark and dreadful secret that she was ashamed to reveal to anyone.

  • Sally was going to marry Dave no matter what.  We all knew that Dave could not function well socially among others, but we later learned that Sally married Dave despite knowing that while they were dating he had been sexually involved with her own brother.  His penchant for gay porn and everything that goes along with that (which is also beyond the imagination of most of us) was something she apparently thought she could reform in him.

  • Gary's wife told him she didn't love him.  He didn't believe this.  He sacrificed everything for her, worked tirelessly to make the marriage work, did everything he could to salvage it.  After all, that can't be true, can it?  When she says she doesn't love him, she couldn't mean it, could she?  She eventually left him and filed for divorce.

  • Watch any episode of American Greed.  "Bill is a good man who is helping people like me make money!  He is a respected member of our community!  Sure, sometimes I don't immediately get the checks from my accounts when I request them, and the rate of return on my investment with Bill is too good to be true, but he can't simply be taking our life savings, our retirement money, and spending it on himself, could he???"

Yes, people are often far better than we give them credit for being, and goodness is more substantial than evil.  

But we don't want to follow Christ into hell - even our own personal man-made hells - because it's far more horrible than we could ever imagine it to be.  And this is one of the prime reasons Catholics aren't angrier about the Sex Abuse Scandal and aren't demanding accountability from their bishops.

It's just far more ugly and sinister than we can possibly imagine.

The Law of Love

This is what the Law is all about, right???

I am always surprised at how most people, and probably most Christians, think of God's Commandments and of all morality as arbitrary.  This is why they think "gay marriage" can exist.  We moderns think all law is man made, all rules and regulations are simply pulled out of our hats, and subject to the whims of culture and passing fancy.  That the Moral Law is like the law of gravity - something inherent in nature, something discovered and not invented - is beyond the ken of most folk walking among us.  In their eyes, law, like the rules of baseball, is simply conventional - something we concoct and then agree on as a group that allows us to play the game, whatever that game might be.

But the distinction between the Designated Hitter rule, which is not inherent to the nature of the game, and therefore can be changed and adapted as circumstances warrant, and the rules of marriage, which are inherent to the nature of love and human happiness - and which are also (rather obviously) built in to the nature of biology - is beyond even 90% of the people sitting in the pews around you on Sunday.

And even more astonishing to most folks: the Law of God is not meant to snuff out life and love, to restrict our hearts, but to liberate them, to cultivate the fires of life and love.

In Jacob's Ladder by Peter Kreeft, there's a scene where we pick up a dialogue between two women who are talking about the relation of Law to Love.  The first speaker is a Catholic who knows her stuff, the second is a secularist who believes only in positive law and not in natural law (in other words, she believes that all laws are simply invented, not discovered), but who, during the course of this discussion, has come to recognize certain principles of the Moral Law as given, intrinsic, natural.  The Catholic leads her even further ...

Indeed, the relation of the New Covenant to the Old is simple.  Jesus comes to fulfill the Law, not to abolish it, because the whole point of the Law (including the Ten Commandments, and all of the minor transitory regulations followed by the Jews) was love.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Mat. 22:36-40)

Or, as St. Paul says ...

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. (Rom. 13:8

How different would we be as Christians if we simply kept it in our minds that every single thing God reveals to us and asks us to do - everything - is about changing us into people who love, who love really, truthfully, loyally.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor. 13:13)

 In other words, right-wing Catholics:

  • Love does not torture
  • Love does not lie
  • Love does not idolize money or power, placing them above our neighbors in need

And left-wing Catholics:

And Devout Catholics:

  • Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18)
  • Love does not play it safe, but takes risks (Mat. 25:14-30)
  • Love is deeply invested: it is "jealous" and a consuming fire (Deut. 4:24)

We are called not merely to obey the Law of Love, but to become New Creations in love.  And that is our greatest adventure!