Friday, January 29, 2016

Quote of the Day

“God does not remain silent before the suffering and cries of His children, nor does He remain silent before injustice and persecution: He rather intervenes and gives, by His mercy, rescue and salvation. God uses patience with the sinner to induce him to conversion, and he searches for the lost sheep, for ‘[God] will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth' (1 Tim 2:4).”

--Pope Francis

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Quote of the Day

"For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control."

--2 Timothy 1:7

Thursday, January 21, 2016

T-Minus 365 Days and Counting

Just under one year from today, President Barack Hussein Obama will finally be compelled by law to leave office once and for all. I will freely confess that I can hardly wait for the remainder of his awful presidency to be done and over with. It has been a living nightmare for our country that seems to drag on and on without end. At the First Family's official departure from the White House on January 20, 2017, the curtain will fall on what historians may rightly judge to be the most financially corrupt, economically disastrous, fiscally irresponsible, politically correct, morally hypocritical, ethically bankrupt, and radically secularist administration in American history to date.

Elected in 2008 as a Washington outsider on a platform of hope and change, our first African-American chief executive quickly became part of the corrupt D.C. establishment, revealing his true colors as a radically secularist career politician determined to "fundamentally transform" the United States of America in accord with his socialist philosophy. In March of 2010, callously brushing aside the opposition of two-thirds of the American people, he applied his signature to the appallingly misnamed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, informally known as ObamaCare--a massive piece of pork-barrel legislation for Planned Parenthood and the big pharmaceutical and insurance companies disguised as healthcare reform that has doubled the size of the federal government, repealed the longstanding Hyde Amendment ban on federal taxpayer funding of abortion, raised taxes, hurt our struggling economy, widened the gap between rich and poor, sent our national debt skyrocketing to unheard-of levels, and trampled on our Constitutional rights. Not surprisingly, millions of angry American voters reacted by joining the Tea Party movement, electing a new Republican majority to the House of Representatives and choosing new Republican governors later that year. Undeterred, President Obama continued moving forward with his radical agenda, refusing to substantially alter ObamaCare, explicitly denying our traditional identity as a Christian nation, openly declaring his support for legal recognition of homosexual relationships as "marriages," and using the FBI, the Justice Department, and the IRS to spy on and harass political dissidents.

In January of 2012, as it had illegitimately empowered itself to do through the PPACA, the Obama administration issued its infamous HHS mandate that required anti-life abortifacients and contraceptives to be included as healthcare necessities in virtually all healthcare plans, regardless of moral or religious objections to the distribution of such items. Although I and many other observers felt certain that such an egregious and unprecedented attack on natural law, religious liberty, and the rights of the unborn was political suicide for the administration, we apparently underestimated the depth and breadth of public outrage over this issue, as well as the ability of our government and the mainstream media to effectively communicate their inaccurate spin on the whole matter. Thanks to a combination of the administration's deceitful rhetoric, an insufficiently conservative Republican establishment challenger named Mitt Romney, and widespread voter fraud in more than 250 counties in twenty-seven states across the nation, President Obama unfortunately managed to snag a second term.

Two years later, as the PPACA began to take effect, the stark realities of ObamaCare--higher costs, fewer choices, more taxes, tax penalties, and lack of health insurance for low-income individuals--finally began hitting home for millions of Americans, reinvigorating the Tea Party movement and precipitating another, more dramatic Republican landslide in the 2014 elections. Pledging to repeal ObamaCare and reduce the national debt in line with voter demands, Republicans gained control of the Senate and expanded their strength in the House. Unfortunately, corrupt establishment leadership in both Houses guaranteed continued compliance with the Obama agenda, including further taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood and ObamaCare as well as for unconstitutional amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants through executive fiat, all of which continued to inflate our national debt even further. Growing pressure from frustrated Americans finally secured the resignation of John Boehner as House Speaker this past autumn.

If the Bush administration was foolishly misguided when it came to Middle Eastern foreign policy, the Obama administration's shocking policy in this area has for the most part been a study in criminal irresponsibility and utter madness. While President Bush illegally and unwisely invaded Iraq and deposed a secular Arab regime, destabilizing the region and leaving a yawning power vacuum for Islamic fundamentalists to fill, President Obama has helped to fill that vacuum by arming, funding, and training the ISIS terrorist guerrillas who now control large portions of Syria and Iraq in an attempt to bring down the only other secular regime in the region, that of Bashar al-Assad. Thanks to this unbelievably immoral and recklessly dangerous policy, hundreds of churches and several mosques, many of them centuries old, have been destroyed; thousands of Christians have been abducted, cruelly tortured and killed; millions of Muslim and Christian refugees have been forced to flee their homelands; and the world is a more dangerous place. For what he has done, President Obama should be arrested, tried by the International Criminal Court, and sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity.

I do support and approve of the administration's nuclear agreement with Iran, since that country is not the hostile power it is often inaccurately portrayed. Iran has clearly demonstrated by its actions in recent years that it has no intention of developing nuclear weapons. When it comes to the normalization of relations with Cuba, I believe the administration did the right thing for the wrong reason. While President Obama clearly hoped that this rapprochement would allow more Communist influence from Cuba to spill over into the United States, clearly it is having the opposite effect as the winds of freedom are now blowing more abundantly into Cuba, which will help to further undermine the Communist regime there.

Thankfully, some of the worst effects of the Obama administration's immorality, injustice, irresponsibility, arrogance, dishonesty, and corruption have been mitigated through various channels. Due to overwhelming public pressure, the terrible Freedom of Choice Act, which would have demolished all state restrictions on abortion and which President Obama had pledged to sign, never made it to his desk. New gun control and Internet tax legislation have failed to pass Congress. Numerous court challenges to ObamaCare have been successful, resulting in temporary injunctions from the HHS mandate for various religious institutions that have rightly refused to comply with it. And two or three federal court rulings have struck down parts of the PPACA as unconstitutional.

All the same, however, this administration has been nearly a total disaster for our country, and I am now counting the days until we can bid farewell and good riddance to Comrade Obama and his disturbing presidency will finally blast off into the history books. In the meantime, I will continue praying for his conversion and begging God, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to send us a good and wise, humble and honest, devoutly Christian president who will repair some of the damage this one has done, who will heal and unite our land, and who will return our country to greatness in the early twenty-first century on the rock-solid foundation of our traditional Judeo-Christian religious and moral principles.

Go Ben Carson!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Quote of the Day

“Cowardice asks the question - is it safe? Expediency asks the question - is it politic? Vanity asks the question - is it popular? But conscience asks the question - is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right.”

--Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929--1968)

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Signs of Hope: A Transcendent Perspective

A blessed and happy New Year to all of my readers, Catholic and otherwise! As we leave the Year of Our Lord 2015 behind and embark on A.D. 2016, it's a good time to step back a bit from the daily frenzy and turmoil of national news and world events as brought to us 24/7 by the radically secularist mainstream media machine and put these temporary passing things within a broader historical context, as well as to view them from the transcendent perspective of God and eternity.

While it's undeniably true that we live in an era of great turmoil and confusion, injustice and deception, materialism and hedonism, violence and conflict, destruction and upheaval in which many bad things are happening that seem to portend a dark future for our planet and its inhabitants, we must keep in mind that there are also many good things happening that represent signs of hope for a brighter future--seemingly insignificant things that are often hidden and go unnoticed by the proud and the great, the rich and the powerful of our time, things that are either minimized or entirely overlooked by the worldly mainstream media, just as the birth of Jesus Christ to a humble Jewish girl in a Bethlehem cave-stable more than two thousand years ago escaped the attention of the elite rulers of ancient Rome. In the six thousand years of recorded human history to date, we have been through many dark periods when hope for the future seemed faint, yet with the help of God, our loving Creator and merciful Redeemer, we survived those dark periods and emerged from them into the light of justice and peace, development and achievement.

Indeed, it is very often when things are darkest that the seeds of a brilliant future are quietly being sowed and their growth carefully nurtured, just as the Benedictine monks of the Dark Ages in their scattered monasteries sowed the seeds of learning and culture that triumphantly burst into full flower during the Middle Ages. No matter what dreadful and evil things may happen on this earth due to the sin and wickedness of fallen humanity, Almighty God is still the sovereign Lord of the world and its history, and nothing bad happens unless He allows it to happen as a mysterious part of the unfolding of His plan for the universe. In His masterful divine wisdom, which is far above our limited human thinking and reasoning, He knows how to bring good even out of evil, and His Spirit is constantly working in the hearts of countless men and women of good will to inspire a remarkable diversity of good works and initiatives, all of which contribute harmoniously to the renewal of this planet of ours, the jewel and masterpiece of His planetary creation. If you want proof that this is happening all over the world right now, just step outside the box artificially created by the mainstream media and start looking around carefully for yourself. You'll discover signs of hope everywhere, even in the most unlikely of places.

We also know that, whenever the end of this passing world comes, Jesus Christ our Lord will return to earth as the glorious Just Judge of all humanity to raise the bodies of the dead and pronounce final judgment on all of human history. Those who have died or met Christ in friendship with God will be rewarded with eternal life in the unimaginably magnificent City of God in Heaven, while evildoers who died or met Christ without repenting will be punished with eternal death in the unimaginably horrific dungeon of the damned in Hell. Every single human being who ever lived will ultimately find a permanent and irrevocable home in one of those two places based on the choices freely made in his or her life and the state of his or her soul at the moment of death or the moment of Christ's return. Thus it behooves us to spend our short earthly lives well, preparing as best we can for admission to Heaven in the next life by doing God's Will and striving to grow in union with Him here and now.

It would be well for us to keep these truths in mind as we continue to be bombarded by the deafening clamor of the incessant drumbeat of bad news churned out by the radically secularist mainstream media outlets. It's not a matter of burying our heads in the sand like ostriches and pretending that nothing bad is happening, or of attempting to insulate ourselves completely from the suffering and misery of our innocent brothers and sisters in the human family. Rather, it's a matter of viewing things from the correct perspective, the perspective of the Almighty and Eternal God who holds the universe in His hands and providentially guides the course of world history, the One in whom we can safely place our full trust, our Creator and Redeemer and Sanctifier with whom we are meant to share perfect happiness for all eternity in the world to come.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Epiphany Reflection

Adoration of the Magi, Fra Angelico & Filippo Lippi (15th century)

"Here it is the important point that the Magi, who stand for mysticism and philosophy, are truly conceived as seeking something new and even as finding something unexpected. That tense sense of crisis which still tingles in the Christmas story and even in every Christmas celebration, accentuates the idea of a search and a discovery. The discovery is, in this case, truly a scientific discovery. For the other mystical figures in the miracle play; for the angel and the mother, the shepherds and the soldiers of Herod, there may be aspects both simpler and more supernatural, more elemental or more emotional. But the Wise Men must be seeking wisdom; and for them there must be a light also in the intellect. And this is the light; that the Catholic creed is catholic and that nothing else is Catholic. The philosophy of the Church is universal...It is the realisation of this truth that gives its traditional majesty and mystery to the figures of the Three Kings; the discovery that religion is broader than philosophy and that this is the broadest of religions, contained within this narrow space. The Magicians were gazing at the strange pentacle with the human triangle reversed; and they have never come to the end of their calculations about it. For it is the paradox of that group in the cave, that while our emotions about it are of childish simplicity, our thoughts about it can branch with a never-ending complexity. And we can never reach the end even of our own ideas about the child who was a father and the mother who was a child."

--G. K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man, 1925 (Ignatius Press, 2008, pp. 178-179)

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Why Is EWTN Boycotting Ben Carson?

by Justin Soutar

(NOTE: This article was originally published by Catholic Online Dec. 28, 2015 at )

Like tens of millions of Catholics and others throughout the United States and hundreds of millions of people around the world, I am immensely grateful to God for the priceless gift of the Eternal Word Television Network. From the day of its founding by a Poor Clare nun named Mother Mary Angelica in a Birmingham, Alabama garage some thirty-five years ago, this great tool of catechesis, inspiration, and evangelization has been faithfully proclaiming the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church both “in season and out of season,” strengthening and assisting those of us who are “inside the fold” while attractively presenting the beauty of our faith to those outside the Church, leading to many conversions to Catholicism. As someone who has been watching EWTN since 1993, I have been delighted to observe the steady growth of this Catholic cable and satellite network in national and global reach, professionalism, and the quality and variety of programming offered. Since its initial foray into shortwave and AM/FM radio back in the nineties, the advent of twenty-first century media technology has further extended the network’s reach to the Internet, satellite radio, mobile devices, and social media. Along the way, EWTN has acquired a new studio along with its own publishing house which offers our nation’s leading Catholic newspaper, the National Catholic Register, in both print and digital format together with an array of high-quality Catholic books. All of these providential developments have transformed the network from a small amateur TV station of humble origin into the world’s foremost Catholic media apostolate, which is now reaching well over one billion people across the globe.

Thanks to the ongoing prayers and sacrifices of Mother Angelica and her Poor Clare nuns as well as to the spiritual and financial support of its ever broader base of viewers, EWTN has continued to remain remarkably faithful to its mission, in general doing a fantastic job of nourishing and spreading the Catholic faith. Because of that, I have rarely felt the need to question or criticize a policy decision of the network’s leadership during my twenty-two years of watching EWTN. At the present moment, however, I do feel that it is important to raise a question and offer a little dose of healthy criticism regarding one aspect of the network’s programming and publishing that has been bothering me for some time. We are commanded to speak the truth in love, so that is what I will attempt to do here.

My current bone to pick with EWTN has to do with the network’s news programming and publishing—and specifically with its overall coverage of the 2016 presidential election campaign—in light of its mission to faithfully proclaim the truth of the Gospel. I have no objection whatsoever to the network offering extensive and in-depth coverage of this election campaign from a faithful Catholic perspective, as it has been doing over the past year on TV and radio programs such as The World Over Live, EWTN News Nightly and Candidate Conversations, as well as through the National Catholic Register. My problem lies with the fact that this coverage has been noticeably slanted—that is to say, unfairly biased—in favor of certain Republican candidates and against others, under the influence of the godless, radically secularist, worldly, dishonest, immoral, corrupt, and money-driven mainstream media establishment whose values are diametrically opposed to those of the network itself.

As a civil nonprofit corporation run chiefly by lay Catholics, EWTN has long prided itself, and rightly so, on its independence from official Church institutions as well as from corporate entities of both a religious and secular nature, which has allowed it to strike its own path and pursue its mission without unwelcome interference. Unfortunately, when it comes to covering American politics and world news, in recent years the network has gradually but perceptibly drifted from its core mission to be an independent voice of truth, and it is now almost slavishly following the lead of the worldly mainstream media both in the stories it is choosing to break and discuss and in the presidential candidates on whom it is focusing. Whereas EWTN News was once accustomed to offering a fresh and balanced perspective on well-known current events and highlighting important stories neglected by the mainstream media, the network’s journalism division is now largely caught up in the Beltway news cycle, airing and discussing much the same headlines and focusing on the same presidential candidates as Fox News, CNN, the New York Times, Politico, and all the other D.C. establishment media outlets. This is quite a sea change from ten years ago, when Raymond Arroyo and other Catholic journalists at the network were known for their refreshingly independent and investigative approach, often digging up interesting stories off the beaten path, occasionally presenting a different angle on well-known stories, and not infrequently interviewing news makers who were being unfairly attacked by the mainstream media--or who might otherwise never appear on television, radio or in print.

A paradigm shift has clearly occurred within the journalism department at EWTN. Prior to this shift, the network was focused on the objective truth of what is happening in the world today, and its priorities were to seek out and discover that truth and share it with viewers as an independent source of faithful Catholic news and commentary. Now the focus is on what is happening in the world as seen through the dirty and short-sighted lenses of the worldly and highly subjective mainstream media, and the priority seems to be to highlight and discuss whatever the mainstream media is highlighting and discussing at the moment. While EWTN News was once prized for original Catholic news and analysis you couldn’t get anywhere else, now its programming is often almost a lock-step imitation of secular mainstream media news broadcasts—secular news with Catholic overtones, if you will. Although faithful Catholic perspectives are still routinely offered on current events, the global Catholic network’s overall news agenda is now largely dictated by the mainstream media. It’s like an orchestra whose members have remained the same, but they now have a different conductor and are playing different music.

This shift seems to have begun back in 2008 when the TV studio for the network’s flagship news magazine, The World Over Live, was permanently relocated from Birmingham to Washington, D.C. Whereas prior to this big move, the weekly news program was produced in a small, devoutly Catholic media enclave on the outskirts of a large city in central Alabama, now it comes to us from Capitol Hill, where the idols of money and power generally hold sway and where the alluring yet toxic influence of the mainstream media is difficult to resist. Over time, this significant change of environment has led, regrettably yet predictably, to a noticeable change in both the content and tone of the EWTN News programming. Without constant vigilance and the help of God’s wisdom and grace, how could any good Catholic journalist who lives and breathes this radically secular environment not find himself being gradually influenced by it as time passes? It will increasingly reshape his ways of thinking and acting, until eventually he is hardly distinguishable from his worldly peers.

Yes, it must be acknowledged that a certain degree of worldliness has crept into the journalism department at EWTN. This is clearly evident from just a cursory glance at its coverage of the 2016 presidential election cycle thus far, which—with the notable exception of Raymond Arroyo’s brief interview with Senator Rand Paul, a true statesman of character and principle—has generally mimicked the mainstream media coverage. This coverage has been unfairly skewed in favor of wealthy Republican candidates such as billionaire real estate magnate Donald Trump, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, with insufficient attention given to the moral character, voting records, and issue positions of these candidates—the things that really matter to faithful Catholics looking to cast their vote responsibly in next year’s elections. Trump, a longtime Democrat and a good friend of Hillary Clinton, has donated money to Planned Parenthood, supports ObamaCare, and earned much of his fortune by forcing other companies into bankruptcy. That EWTN’s news director would unhesitatingly embrace him as a good candidate and give him so much positive attention on a faithful Catholic TV network this past summer was an example of irresponsible journalism that betrayed a serious lack of wisdom and discernment.

Meanwhile, just about every other leading and longshot Republican presidential candidate has been interviewed or discussed at some length on one or more EWTN news programs during this past year, indicating that some degree of fairness and balance does still prevail within that realm. However, there is one leading Republican candidate who, for no good reason, has been glaringly conspicuous by his near-total absence from the network’s news programming and publishing. Perhaps there is no better way to highlight the problem under discussion here than to pose the following simple question: Why is EWTN boycotting Ben Carson?

Now, it’s true that the term “boycott” usually refers to a consciously activist, deliberate and explicit decision to exclude a certain person, product, or service from one’s support or patronage because he, she or it in some way violates the principles held by the one engaged in the boycott. I am not aware of any conscious or explicit decision on the part of EWTN executives to ban Dr. Carson from the network airwaves or press; nor am I aware of anything in Carson’s character, achievements, or issue positions that would warrant such a boycott by a faithful Catholic media powerhouse. Yet the fact remains—having grown painfully obvious over the past few months—that, aside from occasionally mentioning him briefly in passing on a few programs and in one or two news articles, EWTN News has been avoiding Carson like the plague, neglecting to interview or discuss him and in general refusing to have anything to do with him. There seems to be an implicit, unspoken decision by the network’s journalism staff to simply ignore Ben Carson. And the answer to the simple question posed by this article is unfortunately also quite simple: EWTN is boycotting Dr. Carson because the corrupt and worldly mainstream media—from which the network’s journalism department now takes its cues—is deathly afraid of this particular presidential candidate and hates him with a passionate vengeance.

This, of course, leads to another question: Why does the Washington, D.C. media establishment so deeply fear and loathe Ben Carson? And the answer to this is that the Beltway media elite correctly perceives that Dr. Carson’s candidacy poses a major threat to everything it stands for. And what exactly does this radically secularist mainstream media empire stand for? Moral relativism, religious syncretism, unbridled materialism and hedonism, abortion on demand, continued funding for Planned Parenthood, the retention of ObamaCare and the unjust HHS mandate, unlimited government growth, higher taxes, endless national debt accumulation, the destruction of the nuclear family through sexual immorality and deviant lifestyles, the radical homosexual agenda, the continued stranglehold of powerful special interest groups on our national politics and economy, the recension of our Constitutionally guaranteed rights and liberties, and the thorough de-Christianization of our country.

By contrast, Ben Carson is a devout Christian who stands for moral absolutes, hard work and sacrifice, the right to life of the innocent unborn and an end to legalized abortion, the repeal of ObamaCare and the HHS mandate, smaller government, lower taxes, a balanced budget, traditional marriage and family values, personal responsibility, and a return to strict Constitutional government. However, Dr. Carson’s values alone cannot adequately explain the malicious ferocity of the mainstream media’s coordinated vitriolic assault on him or why he is perceived as being such a formidable threat to the establishment. Other Republican and Tea Party presidential candidates claim to stand for these things as well, yet they are not being half so viciously attacked by the mainstream media. Why is Ben Carson being treated differently?

The answer is that he is different from the other Republican presidential candidates in key respects—and these differences may collectively afford him a decisive advantage over his rivals when it comes to winning both the Republican nomination and the presidency. Among the unique characteristics that set Dr. Carson apart from the rest of the field:

1. He is a citizen statesman running for president by popular demand for the good of our country, not a career politician seeking high office for his own benefit.

2. He is a devout Christian man who reads the Bible daily and puts his faith into practice, not a Christian in name only.

3. He is a trustworthy and courageous man of impeccable character and principle who always strives to do what is right, or what he thinks is right, in any given situation regardless of public opinion or other external pressures.

4. He is a clear and independent common-sense thinker whose issue positions are not predetermined by partisan rhetoric.

5. He is a great communicator, blessed with a unique ability to discuss and explain complex issues and topics in simple terms that anyone can understand.

6. He has a clear vision for America’s future based on a return to sound Constitutional government and the wisdom of our nation’s Founders.

7. He is a splendid example of the American dream and a role model for American youth, having risen from childhood poverty to become one of the world’s greatest neurosurgeons.

8. As a philanthropist, he has made a significant contribution to improving America’s education system through the Carson Scholars Fund.

9. He is the most highly decorated American civilian among all the presidential candidates and the only one to have received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

10. He has built up, and continues to steadily build up, a massive following among the American people, having already sold far more books, recruited far more campaign volunteers, and received far more individual donations than Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, or any other presidential candidate.

Those running the mainstream media establishment are all too happy to promote politically correct presidential candidates like Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump who are in line with their own radically secularist philosophy and values. But the mere thought of a principled citizen statesman like Dr. Carson even approaching the White House is enough to send them into panic. The fact of the matter is that, despite his lack of political correctness, Ben Carson stands a significant chance of being nominated and elected President of the United States. The media elite is clearly aware of this, which explains their vicious and despicable attempt to destroy Carson’s candidacy. They desperately wish that he would just go away.

But the biggest reason of all for the mainstream media’s fear and hatred of Ben Carson is this: polls consistently indicate that he is the only Republican presidential candidate who can decisively defeat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 general election. Another unique characteristic of Dr. Carson as a presidential candidate is that, as an African-American who is deeply respected among his own people, he is the only Republican candidate who can realistically win a significant percentage of the black vote. If he were to win only 17 percent of the black vote in the general election, he would defeat Hillary Clinton and win the presidency. Furthermore, despite the mainstream media’s all-out effort to destroy his candidacy, polls reveal that Ben Carson has now gained the support of about 20 percent of African-American voters—and that percentage is likely to grow in the near future. In other words, Dr. Carson is the only Republican presidential candidate who can put an end to Hillary Clinton’s hope of finally becoming president herself. And therefore, Ben Carson is the only Republican who can realistically win the White House in 2016.

As the Second Vatican Council reminded the Church, those who are in charge of the communications media bear a serious responsibility to transmit the truth and to help shape public opinion in accordance with what is objectively true and good and right. When it comes to the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign, the truth is that Ben Carson is the only viable alternative to Hillary Clinton as America’s next president. Therefore, EWTN should be taking advantage of its unique position as an independent and massively influential bully pulpit to help promote Dr. Carson’s candidacy among its U.S. viewers, listeners and readers and to galvanize millions of faithful American Catholics in support of his presidential campaign. I am not asking the network or its journalists to explicitly endorse Ben Carson for president (although that might not be such a bad idea); I only ask that they candidly recognize his providentially unique qualifications to lead our nation in light of the basic realities of the current presidential landscape and give him the fair share of attention he deserves.

EWTN’s beautiful and appropriate motto is “Sharing the Splendor of Truth,” and the network continues to do just that in admirable fashion as far as Catholic doctrine, liturgy, the sacraments, morality, prayer and spirituality are concerned. But when it comes to the Catholic media apostolate’s news coverage of the critically important 2016 presidential election season, the truth is not served by sweeping the best and most promising candidate in the race under the rug. It seems clearly apparent that Ben Carson has received so little attention on EWTN thus far because he has been so perniciously attacked, maligned, and belittled by the morally toxic Washington mainstream media establishment. That’s a shame. A faithful Catholic television network should not be permitting the lies and deceptions of worldly mainstream media outlets to influence the decisions of its own journalism department. On the contrary, EWTN should do whatever is necessary to reclaim and preserve its original identity as an independent voice of truth and reason, clarity and common sense in a world ever more filled with lies, irrationality, ambiguity and craziness. Instead of allowing itself to be dragged along by the Beltway media machine, EWTN News should be setting its own agenda based on its own values and striving to influence political discussions and events in a wholly different direction.

The unjustified and irrational EWTN media blackout of Ben Carson must end. The network can, and should, utilize its tremendous influence to support and further advance the presidential candidacy of Dr. Carson with the true good of our country in mind. As Catholics vote, so goes our nation. If we can get a majority of American Catholic voters firmly committed to Ben Carson, we can elect a new president who shares our Christian faith and moral values and prevent another radically secularist, scandal-ridden career politician from succeeding Barack Obama. That is a goal worth achieving, but it may be very difficult to achieve it without the vital support and assistance of the Eternal Word Television Network.

Copyright © 2015 Justin D. Soutar. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Quote of the Day

"Our heart was already joyful in awaiting this moment; now that joy abounds and overflows, for the promise has been at last fulfilled. Joy and gladness are a sure sign that the message contained in the mystery of this night is truly from God. There is no room for doubt; let us leave that to the skeptics who, by looking to reason alone, never find the truth. There is no room for the indifference which reigns in the hearts of those unable to love for fear of losing something. All sadness has been banished, for the Child Jesus brings true comfort to every heart."

--Pope Francis

Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas Reflection

"This act of redemption marked the high point of the history of man within God's loving plan. God entered the history of humanity and, as a man, became an actor in that history, one of the thousands of millions of human beings but at the same time Unique! Through the Incarnation God gave human life the dimension that he intended man to have from his first beginning; he has granted that dimension definitively--in the way that is peculiar to him alone, in keeping with his eternal love and mercy, with the full freedom of God--and he has granted it also with the bounty that enables us, in considering the original sin and the whole history of the sins of humanity, and in considering the errors of the human intellect, will and heart, to repeat with amazement the words of the Sacred Liturgy: 'O happy fault...which gained us so great a Redeemer!'"

--Saint John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis (1979), no. 1.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Advent Reflection

“'The Lord is near,' says the apostle Paul, and nothing should make us anguished. The greatest mercy lies in his being in our midst, in our being in his presence and company. He walks with us, he shows us the path of love, lifts us up in our falls, holds us to our labors, accompanies us in all circumstances of our existence. He opens our eyes to see ourselves and the world's miseries, but also fills us with hope. 'The peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.' (Phil 4:4-7). This is the source of our life made peaceful and happy; nothing can steal this peace and joy, despite the sufferings and trials of life. Let us cultivate this experience of mercy, peace and hope during Advent, through which we are making our way in light of the Jubilee year. Announcing the Good News to the poor, as John the Baptist, performing works of mercy, is a good way to look for the coming of Jesus at Christmas."

--Pope Francis

Friday, December 11, 2015

Quote of the Day

"It is becoming more and more the trend today to separate this festival from Christianity and to reject its Christian beginnings, like a rocket that thrusts the first stage away from itself when it reaches altitude. In America, in the process of commercialization and the pursuit of sentimentality, the display windows of large shops, which in former years were decorated with crèches at Christmas time, are now equipped with mythological representations, with deer and stags or Santa Clauses, whereby what is truly mythical is set side-by-side with what is Christian. Of course a lingering echo still remains of what touched people when they learned that God became a man. But this is an attempt to keep what is beautiful and touching and to get away from anything in it that makes demands upon us."

--Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI), God and the World (Ignatius Press, 2000), p. 217

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Reflection for the Immaculate Conception

"The attitude of Mary of Nazareth shows us that being comes before doing, and we must leave it to God to truly become as He wants us to be. It is He who does so many marvels in us. Mary is receptive, but not passive. Just as, at a physical level, She receives the power of the Holy Spirit but then gives flesh and blood to the Son of God that is forming in Her, She also receives the grace and corresponds to it with faith, on a spiritual level. For this reason, St. Augustine says that the Virgin 'conceived first in the heart before the womb' (Discorsi, 215,4). Faith was conceived first, then the Lord!

"This mystery of the acceptance of grace, who in Mary by a unique privilege, was without the obstacle of sin, is a chance for everyone. St. Paul, in fact, opens his Letter to the Ephesians with these words of praise: 'Blessed be God, Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the Heavens in Christ' (1:3). As Mary was greeted by St. Elizabeth as 'blessed among women' (Luke 1:42), so have we always been "blessed", that is loved, and therefore 'chosen first from the creation of the world to be holy and immaculate' (Eph. 1:4).

"Mary was preserved, while we were saved thanks to Baptism and the faith. All however, be it Her and us, through Jesus Christ, 'for the praise of the glory of his grace' (v.6), that grace from which the Immaculate was filled in its fullness."

--Pope Francis

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Quote of the Day

"It is not the actual physical exertion that counts towards a man's progress, or the nature of the task, but the spirit of faith with which it is undertaken."

--Saint Francis Xavier

Friday, November 27, 2015

Quote of the Day

"Globalization is a phenomenon that challenges us, especially in one of its principal manifestations which is emigration. It is one of the 'signs' of this time that we live in and that brings us back to the words of Jesus, 'Why do you not know how to interpret the present time?' (Luke 12:57). Despite the large influx of migrants present in all continents and in almost all countries, migration is still seen as an emergency, or as a circumstantial and sporadic fact, while instead it has now become a hallmark of our society and a challenge.

"It is a phenomenon that carries with it great promise and many challenges. Many people forced to emigrate suffer, and often, die tragically; many of their rights are violated, they are obliged to separate from their families and, unfortunately, continue to be the subject of racist and xenophobic attitudes.

"Faced with this situation, I repeat what I have affirmed in this year’s Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees: 'A change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone, moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization – all typical of a throwaway culture – towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world.'"

--Pope Francis

Monday, November 23, 2015

Our Shepherd Among Us: Reminiscences and Reflections (Part Three)

by Justin Soutar

After making the short flight from New York to Philadelphia on Saturday morning, September 26, Pope Francis found himself standing in front of historic Independence Hall that afternoon, where he delivered an important address on the topic of religious liberty to the substantial crowd gathered on the Mall. While following his prepared text, the Holy Father also inserted a number of impromptu remarks to help flesh out his thoughts. He began by observing that the truths enshrined in our Declaration of Independence--that all men and women are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, and that governments exist to protect and defend those rights—“must constantly be reaffirmed, re-appropriated and defended.” The pontiff then highlighted a key aspect of religious liberty. "Religious freedom certainly means the right to worship God, individually and in community, as our consciences dictate,” Francis acknowledged. “But religious liberty, by its nature, transcends places of worship and the private sphere of individuals and families.” Then the pope underlined what he had just read by adding off-the-cuff: “Because the religious reality, the religious dimension, is not a subculture. It is part of the culture of any people and any nation.”

As American Catholics and Christians whose religious freedom is increasingly threatened by the tyranny of radical secularism, these were important words for us to hear. We needed to be reminded that the Christian religion is inextricably woven into the fabric of our national culture, and that we should take pride in this fact rather than allowing militant secularists to intimidate us into being ashamed of it. “In a world where various forms of modern tyranny seek to suppress religious freedom, or try to reduce it to a subculture without right to a voice in the public square, or to use religion as a pretext for hatred and brutality,” Francis proclaimed, “it is imperative that the followers of the various religions join their voices in calling for peace, tolerance and respect for the dignity and rights of others.”

That evening at the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Pope Francis participated in the Festival of Families, a spectacularly beautiful celebration of Catholic family life that marked the ceremonial climax of the World Meeting of Families. Here he laid aside his prepared text for the occasion, choosing instead to speak off the cuff about the beauty of family life to his on-site audience of about one million people from all over the world. Thanking the assembled families for their testimonies and their presence, the Holy Father assured them “that it is worthwhile to live as a family, that a society grows strong, grows in goodness, grows in beauty and truly grows if it is built on the foundation of the family.” He reminded them that when God sent His Son into the world to redeem fallen humanity, he came to live among us in a family through the loving obedience of Mary and Joseph.

“God always knocks at the door of hearts,” Francis said. “He likes to do this. It comes from His heart. But, do you know what He likes best? To knock on the doors of families and find families that are united, to find families that love each other, to find the families that bring up their children and educate them and help them to keep going forward and that create a society of goodness, of truth, and of beauty.” As usual when discussing this subject, the pope did not gloss over the difficulties of family life: “In families, we argue; in families, sometimes the plates fly; in families, the children give us headaches. And I’m not even going to mention the mother-in-law. But in families, there is always, always, the cross. Always…But, in families as well, after the cross, there is the resurrection. Because the Son of God opened for us this path.” Francis concluded his remarks to the tens of thousands of families present by reminding them to take special care of their children and their grandparents--whom he referred to respectively as the “strength” and the “memory” of a family--as “a sign of love that promises the future.”

“All of Us Need to Be Cleansed”

Around 11 AM on Sunday morning, September 27, after meeting with bishops, priests and seminarians at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Pope Francis went to visit more than one hundred male and female inmates at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia. This was one of the most memorable parts of our Holy Father’s visit to the United States because it gave such vividly personal expression to the theme of divine mercy that has defined his pontificate from the very beginning. The pope sat in a large wooden chair that had been handcrafted for the occasion by a team of male prisoners skilled in carpentry work. His address to the inmates was strikingly heartfelt and poignant, full of Christ-like compassion and encouragement for these men and women who had committed various crimes in the past. Francis acknowledged that their period of incarceration was “a painful time” not only for them but for their families and society, and then warned that a family or society "which cannot share or take seriously the pain of its children, and views that pain as something normal or to be expected, is a society ‘condemned’ to remain a hostage to itself, prey to the very things which cause that pain.”

The Holy Father himself was offering a different example that morning, an example of compassion and solidarity, by personally identifying with these wounded children of God who had been relegated to the outskirts of society and who are often forgotten and marginalized by their free brothers and sisters. “I am here as a pastor, but above all as a brother, to share your situation and to make it my own,” the pope told the inmates. Recalling the Gospel scene in which Jesus washes his disciples’ feet, Francis reflected that life is a journey along different roads that leave their mark on us. “Life means ‘getting our feet dirty’ from the dust-filled roads of life and history,” he said. “All of us need to be cleansed, to be washed.”

“We know in faith that Jesus seeks us out,” the Holy Father continued. “He wants to heal our wounds, to soothe our feet which hurt from travelling alone, to wash each of us clean of the dust from our journey. He doesn’t ask us where we have been, he doesn’t question us about what we have done. Rather, he tells us: ‘Unless I wash your feet, you have no share with me’ (John 13:8)…Jesus comes to meet us, so that he can restore our dignity as children of God. He wants to help us to set out again, to resume our journey, to recover our hope, to restore our faith and trust.” These encouraging words revealed the pastoral heart of Pope Francis—a compassionate and charitable heart that reaches out to everyone regardless of their background or their situation, offering hope for redemption through a personal encounter with Christ. The pope then criticized prison systems that carelessly neglect to heal the wounds of their inmates or to offer them hope for a better life. “It is painful when we see prison systems which are not concerned to care for wounds, to soothe pain, to offer new possibilities,” he said. “It is painful when we see people who think that only others need to be cleansed, purified, and do not recognize that their weariness, pain and wounds are also the weariness, pain and wounds of society.”

After finishing his address, Pope Francis took time to greet most of the seated inmates individually. In a particularly poignant moment, he warmly embraced a male inmate who stood up to greet him, drawing a smattering of applause from the others. As the pontiff made his rounds and then bade the prisoners farewell, I was a bit disappointed that the commentary of Raymond Arroyo, Fr. Gerald Murray and Robert Royal on EWTN was mainly confined to the awful crimes these people had committed, the duty of those responsible for the common good to protect society from unjust aggressors, and the moral licitness of the death penalty as just punishment for murder. While everything they said may have been true, their rather clinical and juridical attitude towards this deeply moving, authentically Christian personal encounter of Pope Francis with the least of Christ’s brethren seemed to evince just a bit of the rigorist tendency, persistently decried by Francis, of those who are so caught up in their knowledge of Church doctrine and legal matters that they cannot see the person in front of them. By zeroing in on the justice aspect, on doctrinal and criminal details, Arroyo and his fellow guests essentially missed the point of what the pope had just said and what he was now doing right in front of their eyes on the TV screen—performing two works of mercy, visiting prisoners and comforting the sorrowful. As Mother Teresa would remind us, these people sitting behind bars are Christ in his distressing disguise, and whatever we do for them we do for Christ himself (Mt. 25:34). “’I was…in prison and you visited me’” (Mt. 25:35, 36).

Furthermore, the EWTN commentators neglected to affirm that these incarcerated men and women, like themselves, were made in the image and likeness of God and that they retained their innate human dignity regardless of what they had done that had necessarily led to their confinement within these walls. Nor did they hint at the corruption and related issues affecting the current US criminal justice system, including the urgent need for prison reform and the sad reality that some of those incarcerated and executed each year are actually innocent of the crimes of which they have been convicted. Finally, mention could have been made of the fact that human justice is never perfect and that everything will be satisfactorily sorted out for all parties only by Christ Himself at the Last Judgment, where each of us Christians will be judged based not on our knowledge of the faith, but on how well we have put that faith into practice. May our prejudices not hinder us from following Pope Francis’ Christ-like example in this regard and encouraging others to do the same.

Faith and Love in the Family

That Sunday afternoon, under mostly cloudy skies, the Argentinian pontiff celebrated the much-anticipated Closing Mass for the World Meeting of Families at the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, another spectacular event which drew nearly 900,000 participants according to the official host, Archbishop Charles Chaput. In an apparent oversight, the pope’s homily was delivered in Spanish without translation of any kind, and I felt sorry for the English-speaking majority of the vast congregation present who essentially missed it. The Mass readings for that Sunday focused on how the Holy Spirit can act outside the visible confines of the Church or the community and how we should recognize and affirm such divine activity even when it is manifested in unlikely places. In his homily, Francis alerted his hearers to “the temptation to be scandalized by the freedom of God, who sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous alike (Mt. 5:45), bypassing bureaucracy, officialdom and inner circles”; such a temptation, he warned, “threatens the authenticity of faith. Hence it must be vigorously rejected.” Explaining why Jesus’ condemnation of scandal was so harsh, the Holy Father added: “For Jesus, the truly ‘intolerable’ scandal consists in everything that breaks down and destroys our trust in the working of the Spirit!”

Turning to the subject of faith, Pope Francis next spoke of the importance of “little gestures” of tenderness and affection that are learned in the family, such as a warm meal or a hug or a blessing. “Love is shown by little things, by attention to small daily signs which make us feel at home,” he said. “Faith grows when it is lived and shaped by love.” Francis urged us to be open to these “little miracles of love,” these “prophetic gestures” that point the way to God’s unbounded love. He then asked whether we are living this way in our families and societies. The pope exclaimed, “Would that all of us could be open to miracles of love for the sake of our own family and all the families of the world, and thus overcome the scandal of a narrow, petty love, closed in on itself, impatient of others!” Here he inserted an off-the-cuff remark, asking us family members whether we yell at each other or speak with love and tenderness.

In keeping with his theme of care for creation, Francis also asked what kind of world we are leaving to our children. “Our common house can no longer tolerate sterile divisions,” he proclaimed. “The urgent challenge of protecting our home includes the effort to bring the entire human family together in the pursuit of a sustainable and integral development.” Affirming marriage as “the covenant of man and woman, which generates life and reveals God,” the Holy Father concluded by praying that God may “grant to all of us, as the Lord’s disciples, the grace to be worthy of this purity of heart which is not scandalized by the Gospel!” At the end of the Mass, Francis thanked the assembled worshipers in English for their witness of family life and, as always, reminded them to pray for him.

A Stunning Success

Pope Francis clearly scored a massive hit with American Catholics and the general public during his unforgettable visit to our country late last month. Perhaps more strikingly than any other foreign voyage he has yet undertaken, the pope’s whirlwind tour of America showcased the genius of Francis at its classic best. In both word and deed, our Holy Father proclaimed the truths we needed to hear with clarity and conviction, yet in an attractive way, while consistently manifesting an accurate understanding and sincere appreciation for our unique history and cultural heritage. He knew his audience more intuitively and was better prepared to visit the United States than most of us expected. In short, Francis surprised us once again with a brilliant performance—although it wasn’t surprising to see an increase in the respect and esteem of American Catholics and the general public for our beloved Shepherd in Christ following his brief but intense sojourn among us. Although decades will be required to fully assess the impact of this latest papal visit on the American Catholic Church and on our country in general, as well as to place it within an accurate historical perspective, we can safely conclude for the moment that Pope Francis’ Pastoral Visit to the United States was a stunning success, and that we will continue to reap its fruit for years to come.

Copyright © 2015 Justin D. Soutar. All rights reserved.