Monday, December 24, 2012

And the Word Was Made Flesh...

...and dwelt among us,
(and we saw his glory,
the glory as it were of the only begotten of the Father,)
full of grace and truth. 
--St. John 1:14

Wishing you and yours a blessed and joyful Christmas season.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Quote of the Day

The question is: Is the humanity of our time still waiting for a Savior? One has the feeling that many consider God as foreign to their own interests. Apparently, they do not need him. They live as though he did not exist and, worse still, as though he were an "obstacle" to remove in order to fulfill themselves. Even among believers--we are sure of it--some let themselves be attracted by enticing dreams and distracted by misleading doctrines that suggest deceptive shortcuts to happiness. Yet, despite its contradictions, worries and tragedies, and perhaps precisely because of them, humanity today seeks a path of renewal, of salvation; it seeks a Savior and awaits, sometimes unconsciously, the coming of the Savior who renews the world and our life, the coming of Christ, the one true Redeemer of man and of the whole of man.
--Pope Benedict XVI

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Thought for the Day

Enmity with God is the source of all that poisons man; overcoming this enmity is the basic condition for peace in the world. Only the man who is reconciled with God can also be reconciled and in harmony with himself, and only the man who is reconciled with God and with himself can establish peace around him and throughout the world.

--Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, p. 85.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Quote of the Day #2

With the recent murder at a school in Connecticut, I felt that the following passage from Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI would be very pertinent. This passage is set within the context of the Holy Father's brilliant and penetrating analysis of the hidden meaning of the Beatitudes and of the interconnections between them, which is one of the great highlights of the book. Here the Pope is discussing the second Beatitude, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" (Mt. 5:4):

The sufferer is not truly comforted, his tears are not completely wiped away, until he and the powerless of this world are no longer threatened by murderous violence; comfort is not brought to completion until even past sufferings never previously understood are lifted up into the light of God and given the meaning of reconciliation by his goodness; true comfort only appears when the "last enemy," death (cf. 1 Cor. 15:26), and all its accomplices have been stripped of their power. Christ's words about comforting thus help us to understand what he means by "Kingdom of God" (of the heavens), while "Kingdom of God" gives us in turn an idea of what consolation the Lord holds in store for all those who mourn and suffer in this world.

--Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth (New York: Doubleday, 2007), p. 88

Quote of the Day

But they that hope in the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall take wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
--Isaiah 40:31 (Douay-Rheims Version)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Thought for the Day

Hope is a state of mind, not of the world. Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good.
--Vaclav Havel

Monday, December 10, 2012

Election 2012: What Happened?

by Justin Soutar

December 10, 2012

Like many other Americans, I was taken by surprise and deeply disappointed when Barack Obama was re-elected President of the United States. For several months prior to the election, I had been seriously expecting Republican challenger Mitt Romney to unseat President Obama. I envisioned the latter as the Jimmy Carter of 2012, a sitting duck just waiting to be blown out of the water by the Ronald Reagan of 2012. And I wasn’t the only one: other, more seasoned political observers than I such as noted libertarian Wayne Allyn Root were also predicting a landslide Romney victory, and for the same reasons I was. We noted that Barack Obama has presided over the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, and history shows that no incumbent president wins re-election amidst an economic crisis (take Herbert Hoover, for example). Furthermore, President Obama has utterly failed to deliver on his 2008 campaign promise to help the average struggling American in these difficult economic times. Rather, under his administration the middle class has continued shrinking; unemployment rates have been double to triple what they were during the Bush administration; the gap between rich and poor has grown to unseemly proportions; and the number of Americans in poverty has climbed from 12 to 14 percent.

Meanwhile, President Obama’s rampant fiscal irresponsibility, with massive spending contributing to an out-of-control national debt, has contributed further to his negative image in the minds of many Americans. In 2010 he and his Democratic cohorts in the U.S. House and Senate forced on our country the infamous $1.2 trillion health care reform law known as Obamacare, the most expensive and controversial reform legislation in American history, which sent President Obama’s approval ratings plunging into the 40s and resulted in a spectacular Tea Party victory in the 2010 midterm elections in which Republicans regained control of the House of Representatives, increased their strength in the Senate, and swept governorships across the nation.

The Tea Party movement succeeded in focusing public attention on President Obama as the most radically pro-abortion president in American history at a time when a majority of Americans identified themselves as pro-life; it also raised the suspicions that Obamacare would mandate “abortion coverage” and fail to sufficiently protect the conscience rights of health care workers, employers and insurance carriers who refused to be involved in abortion or contraception. In January of 2012, our worst fears were realized with the advent of the HHS mandate, which forces all businesses and charitable organizations that serve the general public to cover or dole out immoral “preventive services for women” in violation of the First Amendment. At the time, I felt that this flagrant attack on the religious liberties and conscience rights of the American people would seal Obama’s fate as a one-term president and carry the Tea Party to a Republican landslide in November of 2012. Judging by its remarkable performance in 2010 and the outrageous behavior of the Obama administration since then, I reasonably expected the Republican Party to take full control of Washington in this election. That didn’t happen. Why not?

A combination of related factors are to blame for the results of this election. The most significant (and unfortunate) factor is that the Catholic vote went the wrong way: by a margin of 50 to 48 percent—the same margin as the general electorate—Catholic voters chose four more years of President Obama in open violation of clear and consistent teaching from their own bishops against voting for a pro-abortion candidate. It would appear that half of Catholic voters don’t even listen to their Church leaders or practice their faith in the voting booth when it comes to the extremely serious matter of the murder of millions upon millions of the innocent unborn. Shame on those so-called “Catholics” who voted for Obama. They will have a lot to answer for come Judgment Day. The bishops have been very clear that the right to life of the innocent unborn human being is the most fundamental voting issue at stake in our country today and that voting for a pro-abortion candidate is a gravely immoral act that makes one complicit in the evil of abortion. For the second presidential election in a row, the better part of the Catholic electorate has ignored the voice of its religious leaders and deliberately chosen to collaborate with Barack Obama’s radically pro-abortion agenda.

What’s even more unfathomable is that Catholics voted to re-elect an administration that has declared open war on their Church and the Constitution by passing a law that forces Catholic institutions to provide contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs in violation of Catholic moral teaching and the First Amendment. As with the issue of abortion, our Catholic bishops have spoken out clearly, forcefully and consistently on the issue of religious liberty, but it appears that many Catholics have been listening more to the propaganda dished out by the Obama administration than to the message of their own Church hierarchy. A poll taken in mid-2012 showed that a majority of Catholics—mainly those who don’t fulfill their obligation to attend Sunday Mass each week—were actually oblivious to the clash between the Obama administration and the Catholic Church over the HHS mandate, and had heard little or nothing about the bishops’ nationwide religious liberty campaign. Even if these non-churchgoing Catholics knew about this particular issue, polls suggest that they probably would not be too concerned about it because for years these same Catholics have been using artificial contraception in violation of Church teaching. A profound crisis of faith has infected the American Catholic Church, and it is now showing up in the direction our nation is moving. As the great Catholic preacher Father John Corapi used to remind us, immorality is un-American and a threat to national security. The only thing worse than immorality is when a Catholic supports or participates in it. Catholics must stop betraying their religion and indulging in such scandalous behavior. They need to get their act together and start forming their consciences properly and start voting their faith in unison—not only for the salvation of their own souls, but for the wellbeing of their Church and the good of their country. Catholics who don’t want to vote pro-life or stop using artificial contraception should either repent and change their ways or leave the Church and quit pretending to be Catholic.

On a related note, I think it was smart of the devil to take Father Corapi out of action well ahead of this presidential election. His defection to the Evil One has been a tremendous loss for the Church in America and for our country in general. As a popular and effective Catholic preacher who reached millions through the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), he would have been at his best during the 2012 presidential campaign season, loudly decrying the HHS contraceptive and abortifacient mandate and the direct attack on the Catholic Church which it represents, and rallying the Catholic faithful to defend the rights to life and religious liberty on which their nation was founded. He would have considerably amplified the voice of the bishops on the fundamental issues of abortion and religious liberty and made more Catholics fully aware of the choice they were facing in this election. Had he remained faithful to God and to his calling, I think the election result would have been quite different.

I can also point an accusing finger at myself in one respect. As a Catholic author, I could have—and should have—written more about abortion, religious liberty, and President Obama’s radically secularist agenda in order to help shape public opinion in the months prior to the election. I was busy working on a book and other projects, but I should have made more time to write about these current issues of such momentous importance to our Church and our nation.

Moving on to another factor that influenced the election, it seems that Americans in general actually like President Obama and are not as dissatisfied with his performance as we imagined, judging by fairly steady approval ratings of around 50 percent over the last four years. Despite his radically secularist agenda and grossly irresponsible behavior, President Obama manages to convey a respectable image of a president who is doing his best in spite of everything. With the mainstream media firmly on his side, the propaganda power and communication skills of the Obama administration have proven effective. People believe what President Obama tells them on TV, whether it is true or not, because they like him personally. As the old saying goes, “If you tell a lie long enough, people will believe it.” So when Obama and Biden kept lying that the HHS mandate does not force religious institutions to violate their moral convictions or that Obamacare does not really raise taxes by a trillion dollars, people started to believe those lies because they liked and trusted their elected officials who were telling them.

Another factor in this election that we just hinted at was the incumbent advantage. When people like and trust their familiar elected officials, they tend to re-elect them, which is what they did last month. When a new and unfamiliar candidate breaks onto the scene, be it Bob Dole in 1996 or John Kerry in 2004 or Mitt Romney in 2012, people are a bit suspicious. They know that they like and trust their current president, but they’re not sure about this challenger guy who claims he can do a better job. Why elect a new president when you’re happy with the one you have now? Furthermore, Barack Obama significantly augmented his incumbent advantage by spending a record-breaking one billion dollars on advertising for his reelection campaign. Romney spent nearly as much on advertising but Obama had the incumbent advantage.

Another factor in the election outcome was that the economy is not as bad as we sometimes make it out to be. We need to keep things in perspective. Even with the serious economic issues noted above as well as underemployment and the precipitous drop in median household income over the last four years, the average American in 2012 is still much wealthier than the average American during the 1930s, and 8 to 12 percent unemployment pales in comparison to the 30 percent unemployment that America suffered during the Great Depression. Nine out of ten Americans currently have a job; furthermore, most Americans eat three meals a day, have plenty of clothes to wear, live in heated and air conditioned homes with running hot water and electricity, and have a washer and dryer, a dishwasher, a TV (with Obama on it), a stereo, a computer, an Internet connection, a cell phone, and a car or two in the garage. Life is pretty good for most of us, and when we’re comfortable, we don’t want change. As Thomas Jefferson famously wrote in the Declaration of Independence, “mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable.” Most Americans apparently feel that the current economic crisis is not insufferable, so they have opted to maintain the status quo. The American middle class is “doing fine,” says President Obama on the TV tube, and many people seem to agree.

Part of what did in Mitt Romney was his campaign strategy of focusing mainly on the economy. This was the same strategy employed by John McCain in 2008 and it didn’t work for him either. Romney’s plan to foster job creation and economic growth through free enterprise and opportunity instead of big-government bailouts, taxation and redistribution certainly did resonate with and appeal to many people. However, Romney failed to take into account the relatively contented nature of the American middle class or the fact that the economy was not a serious enough issue in enough people’s minds to sufficiently motivate them to replace President Obama. I think Romney should have focused primarily on the great moral issues of our time such as abortion, religious liberty, traditional marriage, and the radical secularist takeover of our country. His stances on these fundamental issues were clearly distinguished from those of Obama, but as a presidential candidate he should have articulated them more clearly and communicated them more effectively. Taking a strong stance on these moral issues and speaking out strongly about them makes good sense even from the strictly political point of view. Most Americans are pro-life, religious, Christian, and see marriage exclusively as the union of a man and a woman. Focusing on the right to life of the unborn helped sweep the Tea Party to victory in 2010. Despite raising much less money than Romney, Rick Santorum did well in the Republican presidential primary contest because he passionately defended the rights of the unborn while Romney was passionately defending his business career.

Americans know instinctively that abortion is morally wrong. It has been a uniformly negative experience for all those involved in it. It has hurt the lives of tens of millions of women, many of whom are now fervent pro-life advocates. The pro-life movement in America is now very strong and continues to grow stronger. Abortion rates are down to what they were in the 1970s and continue to decline while voters continue to enact additional state restrictions on abortion. Romney should have taken advantage of all these facts and tapped into the enormous reserve of political capital hidden in the pro-life movement and built his campaign on that, even more than President George W. Bush did. He should have spoken passionately about the horror and magnitude of the abortion holocaust, in which more than 55 million innocent Americans have been legally slaughtered over the past forty years since Roe v. Wade. He should have reminded Americans incessantly of Barack Obama’s criminal record on abortion as an Illinois state senator, as a U.S. senator and as president, and drawn attention to the unholy alliance between Planned Parenthood and the Obama administration. He should have reminded people of the draconian Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) that President Obama promised to sign upon taking office in 2009; FOCA would have done away with all state restrictions on abortion and compelled all physicians to perform abortions (among other things), and it was only defeated by a massive outcry from the American people. He could have also fostered discussion on the broader negative impact of abortion on American society and the economy, from single-parent families and low marriage rates among young people to economic stagnation, and how things might be different if those 55 million Americans murdered in their mother’s wombs were alive today. And he should have billed himself unapologetically as the pro-life candidate for president who would work aggressively to end the scourge of legalized abortion in America forever. To his credit, Romney did pledge to defund Planned Parenthood and declared his support for overturning Roe v. Wade—two things President Bush never ventured. But had Romney given the right to life of the innocent human being in the womb the center of attention it deserves as the most important issue facing America today, I think he would have won the election.

But perhaps this was not to be expected of Mitt Romney, a wealthy businessman and politician from Massachusetts with a somewhat weak record on the crucial moral and social issues. Here we come to another reason why President Obama was re-elected: his challenger was a somewhat liberal candidate from the American political establishment who failed to present a credible conservative alternative to Barack Obama. People didn’t trust Romney and weren’t quite sure about him because of his mixed record. Had the Republicans nominated a strong candidate like Rick Santorum with impeccable conservative credentials, he would have soundly defeated Barack Obama—no question about it.

Romney was not a genuine Tea Party candidate, although we wishfully tried to make him so and although he tried to be so for us. He might have partially defunded Planned Parenthood, repealed the HHS mandate, got the economy going again, and done a few other good things for our country. However, he would not have significantly changed the dynamics of the deeply entrenched and deeply corrupt Washington political establishment, comprised of movers and shakers from Planned Parenthood and homosexual rights activists to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and insurance industries to the big multinational corporations that run Wall Street.

That establishment—allied with the mainstream media—is what promoted Romney’s candidacy and defeated the attempts of genuine conservative candidates like Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum to win the Republican presidential nomination. Such candidates, although more favored by the American people, would have upset the D.C. status quo too much. Romney bagged the Republican nomination, not because he was the most qualified candidate for president, but because he spent the most money on advertising and because he was the least threatening candidate to the Washington establishment. Romney tried to solve his conservative problem while remaining friendly with the establishment by picking a true conservative running mate. But that strategy of compromise didn’t work for him, just as it didn’t work for John McCain. Romney was Obama’s saving grace—the opposition candidate whose nomination would help assure his own re-election. Deep down this past summer, I suspected that the establishment wanted Romney nominated, and that his nomination would probably lead to a close presidential contest in which Obama would just squeak by. But I refused to listen to my hunch because I was strongly biased against Obama and willfully blind to the realities of the American political landscape as suggested by the polling data.

Ultimately, the reality of the 2012 election came down to three things: communication, compromise, and corruption. President Obama won re-election because he is a great communicator and because he’s in bed with corrupt special interests in Washington. Romney lost the election because he failed to communicate himself as well as Obama did, but he won the Republican nomination over his conservative rivals because the corrupt establishment helped him to do so. And the Tea Party movement compromised its core values and became complicit in the very corruption it decries by abandoning true conservative presidential contenders and surrendering to Romney as the only alternative to Obama.

Communication problems and Washington corruption also conspired to prevent the Tea Party from taking over the federal government in this election. The party allowed the economy to distract it from vigorously defending the right to life, traditional marriage and our nation’s fundamental Christian identity and from effectively communicating to the American people the outrage of the Obama administration’s assault on religious liberty and the First Amendment represented by the HHS mandate.

Our nation’s Founding Fathers, especially George Washington, warned that a national political party system would become a tool of corrupt special interests. Unfortunately, that is exactly what has happened. We now have corrupt private interests ruling our country through the Senate and the White House for their own private benefit instead of honest public servants who govern responsibly for the sake of the common good. The Tea Party movement came into existence precisely as a result of this situation, but it must become much stronger and more courageous if it is to achieve its goal of restoring honest and responsible government to both houses of Congress and the White House.

The corrupt Washington establishment will certainly continue doing all in its power to keep the Tea Party from gaining full control of the federal government because this would spell its own death sentence. However, the 2010 elections demonstrated that this corruption is not an insuperable obstacle to a robust popular movement whose leaders communicate effectively on the moral issues affecting our country. The Tea Party can still achieve its goal—but its future depends on whether or not it learns from the mistakes it made in 2012. If it hopes to bounce back from this defeat to victory in future elections, the Tea Party must do the following:

1. It must give pride of place to the all-important moral issues by which our nation stands or falls—especially abortion, religious liberty, marriage, and radical secularism—and it must articulate and communicate its positions on them clearly, consistently, passionately, and effectively.

2. It must remain committed to its goals of ending legalized abortion, repealing the HHS mandate and all of Obamacare, protecting traditional marriage and the nuclear family, restoring our nation’s fundamental Christian identity, and returning honest and responsible leadership to the legislative and executive branches of the federal government.

3. It must remain committed to the traditional Republican ethos of limited government, low taxes, a balanced budget, a strong national defense, and promoting a favorable climate for small businesses.

4. It must remain seriously committed to the long-term goals of abolishing the Federal Reserve, the IRS and income taxes, and restoring the value of our currency through a return to the gold standard on which our nation thrived for more than 150 years.

5. It must return to the “city on a hill” concept of the Pilgrims and Founding Fathers, i.e., to spreading freedom and democracy by the power of our example at home rather than by the force of arms abroad. In line with this principle, it must reject costly foreign wars of national liberation (e.g. Afghanistan) and aggressive “preemptive” wars to eliminate nonexistent WMD programs (e.g. Iraq and Iran)—both of which are driven by corrupt special interests—and commit to bringing all of our troops home and keeping them home to defend our coastlines and borders.

6. It must remain faithful to the above stated core principles—above all to the moral ones in items 1 and 2—and firmly resist the temptation to compromise any of them for short-term political gain. This means it must not back establishment candidates or proposals that are at odds with any of its core principles. This also means that it must clearly distinguish itself from the corrupt Republican/Democratic political establishment currently in control of Washington.

This election has certainly taught us some painful lessons: Moral issues go in first place. Communication is critical. Corruption controls Washington. Compromise is the short road to ruin. And wishful thinking is no substitute for reality. We’d do well to keep these lessons in mind when the next election seasons roll around in 2014 and 2016.



Copyright © 2012 Justin D. Soutar. All rights reserved.

Thought for the Day

"Obedience is not an act of coercion, it is letting go, surrendering oneself to the ocean of the goodness of God."
 —Pope Benedict XVI


Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Annunciation

Here's a little poem I wrote recently called "The Annunciation." I thought it'd be appropriate for today's feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary since we had the gospel reading at Mass about the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38).

The Annunciation
by Justin Soutar
12/2/12


A messenger was sent from God
To a humble girl of Nazareth,
A virgin pure and undefiled,
A maiden meek and mild.

“Hail, full of grace!” the angel said.
“The Lord is with you. Blest are you!”
She found herself disturbed by this
And wondered what it meant.

“Fear not, Mary,” said Gabriel,
“For the Lord God is pleased with you.
You will conceive and bear a child
Who will be God’s Son too.”

“How shall this happen,” Mary asked,
“Since I do not know man?”
“By the Holy Spirit’s pow’r
This will be done,” he said.

“And furthermore, Elizabeth,
Your relative, is now with child
Far past the age of childbirth,
For God can do all things.”

Then Mary meekly bowed her head:
“I am the servant of the Lord.
May it be now done to me
According to your word,” she said.

Then the Eternal Word of God
Took flesh in gentle Mary’s womb;
The world would never be the same
Once our Lord Jesus came.


Copyright © 2012 Justin D. Soutar. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Quote of the Day

The Sermon on the Mount is not a social program per se, to be sure. But it is only when the great inspiration it gives us vitally influences our thought and our action, only when faith generates the strength of renunciation and responsibility for our neighbor and for the whole of society--only then can social justice grow, too. And the Church as a whole must never forget that she has to remain recognizably the community of God's poor. Just as the Old Testament opened itself through God's poor to renewal in the New Covenant, so too any renewal of the Church can be set in motion only through those who keep alive in themselves the same resolute humility, the same goodness that is always ready to serve.

--Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth (New York: Doubleday, 2007), p. 77

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Quote of the Day

In our age, although it has a wealth of human, scientific and technological resources, many have lost the sense of faith and lead a life distant from Christ and his gospel. Blessed Duns Scotus presents himself to us with his sharp mind and extraordinary ability to penetrate the mystery of God. He also demonstrates the presuasive power of his holiness which for the church and the whole of humanity makes him a teacher of thought and life. Pope Paul VI said that his doctrine "can yield shining arms for combating and chasing away the dark clouds of atheism which casts its shadow upon our era." It energetically builds up the church, sustaining her in her urgent mission of the new evangelization of the peoples of the earth....

Blessed Duns Scotus is an example of fidelity to the revealed truth, of effective priestly ministry, of serious dialogue in search for unity....John Gerson said that throughout his life Duns Scotus was always motivated "not by the contentious singularity of winning, but by the humility of reaching an accord."

May his spirit and memory enlighten with the very light of Christ the trials and hopes of our society.

--Blessed John Paul II

Monday, December 3, 2012

Supreme Betrayal: What the ObamaCare Ruling Means for America

by Justin Soutar

December 3, 2012

On June 28, 2012, in a 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Obamacare in its entirety. In doing so, the Court allowed an unjust and unconstitutional law to stand, joined the Obama administration in attacking our religious liberties and rights of conscience, and betrayed the American people.

This wasn’t the first time our Supreme Court made a bad decision. In Dred Scott v. Sanford, the Court ruled that slaves were not persons with rights but rather property with no rights. In Plessy v. Ferguson, the Court upheld unjust state segregation laws. More recently, in Roe v. Wade, the Court ruled that women have a “right” to kill their unborn children, resulting in a staggering 55 million innocent Americans being legally deprived of their First Amendment rights to life and liberty over the past forty years.

In each of these three cases, the Supreme Court used a certain rationale based on the Constitution to justify its faulty decision. When we read the written majority opinions in which these rulings were handed down, we’re impressed by their formal tone and struck by how dispassionate, logical, wise, and constitutionally sound they seem to be. Yet however well written and fair to read, these apparently brilliant opinions are all infected with the destructive germ of an erroneous conclusion resulting from one or more incorrect premises.

It’s the same story with National Federation of Independent Business et al v. Sebelius et al. The massive Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA)—passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in 2010—contains provisions that clearly violate our Constitutionally guaranteed rights to religious freedom as individuals, as religious institutions, and as businesses. In these provisions, the Act authorizes the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to require employers to include contraception, sterilization and abortifacients in health insurance plans for their employees, even if they object to providing such coverage—and even if their employees object to receiving it—on moral or religious grounds. Furthermore, the Act imposes heavy fines on those individuals and entities who refuse to comply with the HHS mandate. This unprecedented mandate is in clear conflict with the First Amendment to our Constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion and prohibits Congress from making any law that would interfere with the free exercise of religion. Recognizing this, the National Federation of Independent Business along with twenty-six state governments and a host of private religious and educational institutions rightly filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration in the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the HHS mandate. In this case, the minimum duty of the High Court was perfectly clear: to strike down those provisions of the PPACA authorizing the HHS mandate.

Yet after reviewing the Act, the Supreme Court somehow decided that everything within it, including the coercive mandate, is, in fact, “constitutional.” How did it come to this outlandish conclusion? Several erroneous premises were involved. The Commerce Clause of our Constitution, which gives Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce as well as to lay and collect taxes, served as the principal basis of the Court’s flawed ruling. In a nutshell, Chief Justice Roberts argued that the entire PPACA falls within Congressional authority to regulate commerce, and that the fines it imposes on those who refuse to comply with the HHS mandate are a legitimate exercise of Congressional taxing power. As for the mandate itself, the Court made the eye-popping discovery that it does not really violate the First Amendment because it is not really “coercive”: employees and health providers who object to it have a choice between acting against their consciences and paying the fines. The latter two premises are closely related, so we will discuss them together below.

Let’s take the Court’s first premise first: that the whole Affordable Care Act is a legitimate example of Congressional authority to regulate interstate commerce. A casual browse through the Act is sufficient to expose the phoniness of this argument. Its ten Titles, hundreds of sections, 900 pages, and $1,200,000,000,000 (1.2 trillion dollar) price tag speak of much more than just a few new regulations for the American healthcare industry. The PPACA represents nothing less than a wholesale takeover and transformation of our healthcare system by the federal government. The Act creates 159 new federal offices, essentially doubling the size of the Washington bureaucracy. It combines federal and state governments, health insurance carriers, pharmaceutical industries, healthcare providers and facilities, private charitable organizations, and individual American citizens into a single, seamless, all-encompassing national healthcare system funded by our tax dollars. Through the Act, our government now defines what “acceptable” healthcare coverage is and levies substantial new tax fines on individuals, employers and insurance carriers who fail to purchase or provide “acceptable” health insurance as dictated by the Act (in addition to the aforementioned fines for violating the HHS mandate). To say that the PPACA falls entirely within legitimate Congressional authority to regulate commerce is pure sophistry and insulting to the intelligence of the American people.

However, the most serious error in the Court’s decision lies in the two related premises that the fines for noncompliance with the HHS mandate are a legitimate exercise of Congressional taxing power, and that the PPACA does not really force employees to violate their religious liberties or conscience rights because they can simply choose to pay the fines if they object to obeying the law. To say that an employer has a choice between obeying the law or paying huge fines is akin to saying that a driver has a choice between obeying the motor vehicle laws or paying traffic fines. The idea that the person in either situation is really free to choose between two equally legitimate options is ludicrous. A fine is not simply a viable alternative to observance of a law; it is meant to ensure compliance with the law and to deter and punish noncompliance. We are only really free to choose to do what is right. If a law is just, the only right choice is to obey it. Under the new healthcare law, however, employers who refuse to furnish their employees with contraceptives, sterilizations and abortifacients for moral or religious reasons—as millions of employers all across America have been doing for decades—will suddenly find themselves forced to either a) obey the law and violate their consciences, b) break the law and pay steep fines, or c) go out of business. Those are not free choices; they are choices forced by the new law, which is an unjust law. Sorry Supreme Court, but this is blatant coercion in violation of the First Amendment. No one should be punished under U.S. law for refusing to violate their religious beliefs and moral convictions.

The PPACA is a huge windfall for the declining abortion industry, drug companies, the medical establishment, and the insurance sector. By ruling in favor of ObamaCare, the Supreme Court caved in to pressure from the Obama administration and from the handful of powerful corporate interests backing it, unjustly sacrificing our God-given, Constitutionally protected religious liberties and conscience rights on the altar of those private interests. The High Court abandoned its solemn duty to interpret the law in light of the Constitution and failed to exercise its proper oversight role with respect to the other two branches of government. Furthermore, the Court showed contempt and disregard for the will of the American people by upholding a piece of legislation that a large majority of citizens have consistently opposed from its inception. The infamous ruling clearly demonstrated that a few powerful corporate interests are now largely in control of our federal government and our court system. I can’t help but think of the following Scripture passage from the Book of Wisdom, chapter 6, verses 2 through 5:

Hear therefore, ye kings, and understand: learn, ye that are judges of the ends of the earth.

Give ear, you that rule the people, and that please yourselves in multitudes of nations:

For power is given you by the Lord, and strength by the Most High, who will examine your works, and search out your thoughts:

Because being ministers of his kingdom, you have not judged rightly, nor kept the law of justice, nor walked according to the will of God.


Copyright © 2012 Justin D. Soutar. All rights reserved.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Quote of the Day

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved...Thus faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.

--Romans 10:9-10, 17

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Catholic Biblical Fundamentalism v. the Church's Teaching on Creation

Well over a year ago, in a tweet on my Twitter page, I praised Father Victor Warkulwiz's book The Doctrines of Genesis 1-11 as an "excellent book" and "highly recommended." Today, after having done a bit more research on what the Catholic Church actually teaches about the creation of the world, I am forced in good conscience to retract those compliments and warn other Catholics about the dangers that Catholic biblical fundamentalism presents to a proper understanding of Catholic creation doctrine. During my first few months of studying this book beginning in September 2010, I thought it was an excellent work entirely faithful to the Church's Magisterium, and as such I was willing to heartily endorse it. However, a year later and halfway into the book, my initial impression had begun to change significantly. I was starting to find myself in disagreement with some of the things Fr. Warkulwiz was saying and having some misgivings about the book. The claim I found most disturbing of all--and which is really fundamental to the thesis of the whole book--is that, for a Catholic, the only reasonable interpretation of the Hebrew word yom in Genesis chapter 1 (which means "day") is a strict literal interpretation. This bothered me so much that I wrote the following essay about it, which I sent to Fr. Warkulwiz:

The Meaning of Yom in Traditional Catholic Creation Theology
by Justin Soutar
September 14, 2011

In his well-researched book, The Doctrines of Genesis 1-11: A Compendium and Defense of Traditional Catholic Theology on Origins, Father Victor P. Warkulwiz, M.S.S. strives to faithfully transmit the essentials of Catholic creation doctrine as drawn from Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and Magisterial teaching; he also delves into the theological exploration of this doctrine by the Fathers and Doctors of the Church over the centuries. Father Warkulwiz presents this doctrine and theology in the form of sixteen theses drawn from the first eleven chapters of Genesis, which he interprets literally, and he assembles an impressive array of theological, philosophical and scientific arguments to defend them.

Although I have been enjoying my study of Father Warkulwiz’s scholarly work, there is one part of it that really bothers me. It’s where he insists that the Hebrew word yom (“day”) in Genesis 1 can only be reasonably interpreted to mean a literal natural day, in opposition to two of the greatest Doctors of the Church, Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas, who preferred a symbolic interpretation of yom. Father Warkulwiz takes this position in support of his sixth thesis, “God created the world in six natural days,” and defends it on the following grounds: 1) The word yom is never used in Sacred Scripture for a period of time of a definite length other than a natural day. 2) A literal interpretation of yom in Genesis 1 is in accordance with the hermeneutical principle of Pope Leo XIII, originally formulated by Saint Augustine, that Scripture must be understood in its literal and obvious sense except where reason or necessity force us to do otherwise. 3) Nearly all of the Church Fathers and Doctors held a literal interpretation of yom in Genesis 1. 4) The creation day is the prototype of the natural day, which sets the rhythm for our lives and life in general. 5) The natural sciences are unable to confirm or refute the idea that God created the world in six literal natural days.

The key point here is whether the interpretation of yom is a matter of doctrine or of theological opinion. A reliable test to distinguish between the two is this: 1) If the Church Fathers and Doctors are in perfectly unanimous agreement on a certain point, it is a doctrine of the faith. 2) If they are not in unanimous agreement on a certain point, it is a matter of theological opinion. Most, but not all, of the Church Fathers and Doctors believed in a literal six-day creation. The outstanding exceptions were Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas, who held that God created the world instantaneously and that the six days of Genesis 1 are symbolic. So the idea that God created the world in six natural days is a traditional, widely held, non-binding theological opinion within Catholicism, not a compulsory doctrine of the faith.

Father Warkulwiz concludes that “it is not reasonable to take the word yom in Genesis 1 to mean other than a literal natural day.” (p. 171) But Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas took it to mean other than that, and their reasons for doing so seemed quite reasonable to them. Augustine interpreted the word “day” in Genesis chapter 1 as referring to the creation of light and of the angels. The following quotation from his commentary on Genesis 1 appears in Father Warkulwiz’s book:

The obvious conclusion is that if the angels are among the works of God of those days, they are that light which received the name of “day.” And the unity of that day is underlined by its not being called “the first day,” but “one day.” Thus the second day, and the third, and the rest are not different days; the same “one day” was repeated to complete the number six or seven, to represent the seven stages of knowledge [in the minds of the angels], the six stages comprehending the created works, and the seventh stage embracing God’s rest….Thus, the angels, illuminated by that light by which they were created, themselves became light and are called “day” by participation in the changeless light and day, which is the Word of God, through whom they themselves and all other things were made.
(p. 166)
And Saint Thomas sided with Saint Augustine:

…Ambrose and other saints hold that there was an order of time by which things were distinguished. This opinion is indeed more generally held, and seems to accord better with the apparent literal sense (of Scripture). Still, the previous theory (that of Augustine) is the more reasonable, and ensures a better defense of Holy Scripture against the derision of unbelievers. To this, insists Augustine, must the fullest heed be given: “the Scriptures are so to be explained that they will not incur the ridicule of unbelievers”; and his theory is the one that appeals to me.

(p. 167, footnote [bold added])

Aquinas not only did not interpret the word yom in Genesis 1 literally, he actually commended Augustine’s symbolic interpretation as being more reasonable! And he did this with full awareness that he was swimming against the tide of most of the Church Fathers and Doctors before him, who held a different and more literal view of this same Scripture passage. Augustine, moreover, who first laid down the general rule of sticking to the literal sense of Scripture, himself did not apply it to the word yom in Genesis chapter 1. Father Warkulwiz appears to have taken Saint Augustine’s principle out of context in order to justify a strict literal interpretation of yom that the saint himself opposed.

Unfortunately, the logical breakdown doesn’t end there. Father Warkulwiz goes so far as to state unequivocally in the preamble to his sixth thesis that “there is no justification for a Catholic to deny that God created the world in six natural days.” (p. 164) This is insulting to the intelligence of the reader as well as to the two great saints and Doctors quoted above. Is Father Warkulwiz implying that two of the most renowned minds in Church history had no justification for their positions?

The Church, the ultimate authority for teaching the truth and interpreting Sacred Scripture, has not formally defined the meaning of yom in Genesis 1; rather, she has opened it to discussion. In 1909, the Pontifical Biblical Commission issued a statement (which is still in force) authorizing Catholic biblical interpreters to freely discuss the question of whether the word yom in Genesis 1 means strictly “a literal natural day” or less strictly “a certain space of time.” Yet while admitting in his book that the Church has permitted discussion of the meaning of yom in Genesis chapter 1 (and that Augustine and Aquinas held symbolic interpretations of it), Father Warkulwiz effectively negates this permission by arguing that the hermeneutical principle of Pope Leo XIII forbids a less strict interpretation of yom. This raises the question of the proper application of that principle. How is one to decide which passages of Sacred Scripture must be interpreted in the literal and obvious sense; which must be understood symbolically; and which may be interpreted either way? The answer is that no individual Catholic has the authority to make such decisions on his or her own. Only the Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, can infallibly guide the interpretation of Scripture by the faithful.

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 337, we are told: “Scripture presents the work of the Creator symbolically as a succession of six days of divine ‘work,’ concluded by the ‘rest’ of the seventh day.” As Father Warkulwiz correctly points out (p. 164), this does not mean that the six days and the work of the six days weren’t real. However, in this passage the Church is clearly and officially teaching a symbolic interpretation of Genesis 1 that in no way denies the literal and historical truth of that Scriptural text—that God, at the beginning of time, created the world and everything in it. Father Warkulwiz opines that the Church “could someday declare that yom in Genesis 1 means a literal day because that interpretation has strong support in Scriptural exegesis and in Tradition.” (p. 189) But the Church cannot make a doctrinal declaration that contradicts the teaching of her own Catechism. The Catechism is a “statement of the Church’s faith and of catholic doctrine” (Pope John Paul II, Fidei Depositum, § 3), not a handbook of theological opinion. As “a sure norm for teaching the faith” (Ibid), it is free from error in matters of faith and morals.

For the benefit of his Catholic readers, out of respect for the Church and her Doctors, and for the sake of logical consistency, I hope that in a future edition of his book Father Warkulwiz will concede the validity and reasonableness of less than strictly literal interpretations of yom in Genesis chapter 1. It is not reasonable to oblige Catholics to accept a particular theological opinion, whatever merits it may possess. Maintaining the proper distinction between binding Church doctrine and matters of non-binding theological opinion is essential to an accurate and fair presentation of traditional Catholic creation doctrine and theology.


Copyright © 2011 by Justin D. Soutar.

Fr. Warkulwiz did send me a written response, which I reprint below for the sake of fairness and out of respect for a Catholic priest:

Reply to J. Soutar on the Meaning of Yom in Genesis One

Mr. Soutar seems to be saying that since St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas felt free to deny the interpretation of yom in Genesis One as a literal natural day, we are free today to interpret yom in any symbolic way that we please. That is simply not so. First of all, Augustine and Aquinas held that everything in the universe was created at once. That is not the interpretation pressed on us today. Today we are told that yom means an immensely long undefined period of time because the universe as we see it today was not created that way but slowly evolved from an amorphous state over billions of years. St. Augustine and St. Thomas would have certainly found that interpretation outrageous. Augustine castigated those who stretched the length of the history of the world beyond its biblical limits.

Second, we do not necessarily have the same freedom of interpretation today that Augustine and Aquinas had. Influenced by the false science of his day, St. Thomas also denied the Immaculate Conception. The Church eventually declared that such denial is not merely unreasonable and unjustifiable but heretical. That is not an insult to St. Thomas. It is a development of doctrine. I am saying that the issue of the meaning of yom has reached the point in development that no one can provide a theological, philosophical or scientific reason good enough to justify denying its literal interpretation as a natural day. One must have a very good reason, not just an opinion, for denying that God created the world in six natural days because the literal interpretation is the one favored by the Church in light of the hermeneutical principle of Leo XIII. The 1909 decree of the Pontifical Biblical Commission did not nullify that principle but presumes it. The Catechism of the Catholic Church in saying that the six days are symbolic is not affirming that a purely symbolic meaning (as opposed to a symbolic meaning superimposed on the literal meaning) is permissible because the Catechism must be read in the light of Catholic Tradition, which was formally elucidated by Leo XIII. I did not say that such denial is heretical but that it is unreasonable and unjustifiable. But it is possible that some time in the future if the Church may formally affirm the literal interpretation of yom as she did the Immaculate Conception. Its denial would then be heretical. This issue is immensely important because denial of the six natural days of creation lends support to the atheistically-inspired notion of universal evolution; which has poisoned the faith of many Catholics, leading them eventually to declare that there are errors in genuine passages of Sacred Scripture.

Rev. Victor P. Warkulwiz, M.S.S.
October 2011

I think my original argument stands. Note that I was NOT saying that Catholics are free to interpret yom any way they want to but that they should interpret it as the Church does--and the Church, in her own official Catechism, has unambiguously sided with the symbolic interpretation of yom. The Church will never formally affirm the literal interpretation of yom as binding doctrine of the faith because it isn't. The Immaculate Conception, on the other hand, is a binding doctrine of the faith, so comparing it to the meaning of yom is comparing apples to oranges. Fr. Warkulwiz claims that "the Catechism must be read in the light of Catholic Tradition," but the Catechism itself does not say this. The Catechism itself is a synthesis of 2,000 years of Catholic tradition; it contains exactly what the Church teaches and has always taught, and as an authoritative text of the Magisterium it can stand on its own.

The actual content of the Church's creation doctrine is pretty basic and succinct. The Church teaches that "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Gen. 1:1); that God created "all things visible and invisible," including the universe, angels, and human beings; and that He brought them into existence ex nihilo (out of nothing). That is the literal and historical truth about creation that the Church has always upheld and will always uphold. However, the Church leaves open the question of how God accomplished his work of creation. He could have done it instanteously, or in six literal days, or in six thousand years, or in six million, or even in six billion years. After all, He is God. He is all-powerful. The point is that He did it. That is our faith. How He did it is a mystery. We don't know for sure how he did it because we weren't there. Only God was there. The divinely inspired Genesis creation account is not meant to give us scientific data or to satisfy our curiosity about how it happened, but to teach us the essential truth that God created the world. It's not the business of the Church or of science to explain how God created the world. That is purely a matter for philosophical speculation, theological opinion, and personal preference. I personally happen to be a young-earth creationist who favors the literal six-day creation scenario. Many Catholic leaders today happen to be theistic evolutionists who believe that God carried out His creative work through gradual evolutionary processes over an immensely long period of time. Both positions are ultimately opinions, neither of which affects the basic principle of our faith that God created the world and holds it continuously in existence.

Many atheists today use the theory of evolution as scientific support for their absurd idea of the universe having come into existence without a Creator. But the theory of evolution no more proves their atheism than young-earth creationism proves my faith in God the Creator. How the world came into existence is irrelevant to the central issue here. The crux of the matter is: Do we believe in an all-powerful God who created the world, or do we not? That is the important question facing us, the crucial choice we must make.

It's not the theory of evolution that threatens the faith of individual Catholics. It's the godless, radically secular social and political ideology of evolutionism that does that. As Cardinal Christoph Schonborn (a leading theistic evolutionist) has pointed out, the problem is not Darwin, but Darwinism. Darwin chose to believe in the Creator of the world. The Darwinists, by contrast, have chosen to reject faith in God the Creator.

Catholic biblical fundamentalists and traditionalists like Fr. Warkulwiz are certainly well-intentioned and sincere. They are passionately devoted to Catholic doctrine and anxious to carefully preserve and vigorously defend that doctrine, and their writings have a certain appeal to those of like mind. The problem is, they have a flawed understanding of some of the teachings of the Church and they look to their own flawed understanding, rather than to the Magisterium (the Pope and the bishops in union with him), as the ultimate authority on what the Church teaches. Deep down they don't really trust that the Holy Spirit is continuing to protect the modern Church from teaching error in the post-Vatican II era, and they see themselves as the few faithful guardians of true Catholic doctrine. The danger of Catholic biblical fundamentalism as exemplified by a book like The Doctrines of Genesis 1-11 is that ordinary lay Catholics in union with Rome will become subtly and unconsciously infected by the traditionalist mentality and begin to distrust the Magisterium, listening more to what the traditionalists are saying than to what the Church is saying. By devouring traditionalist literature and neglecting official magisterial texts like the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a person's Catholic faith can become seriously distorted and he or she may end up breaking off from full communion with the Catholic Church due to refusal to accept certain binding Church teachings (such as that the Holy Spirit protects the Church from teaching error).

Due to the immense importance of us Catholics being properly formed in our faith, I would strongly discourage reading Fr. Warkulwiz's book. Instead I would like to recommend Chance or Purpose? Creation, Evolution, and a Rational Faith by Cardinal Schonborn. Another great read is The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief by Dr. Francis Collins, a convert to Christianity and world-renowned DNA expert who was appointed a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Quote of the Day

"O my God, Trinity whom I adore...grant my soul peace; make it your heaven, your beloved dwelling, and the place of your rest. May I never abandon you there, but may I be there, whole and entire, completely vigilant in my faith, entirely adoring, and wholly given over to your creative action."
--Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity

Monday, November 26, 2012

Sentinels of the Shenandoah

I was inspired to write this little poem one winter morning a  few years ago by the beauty of the fog-shrouded, tree-clad mountain slopes of western Virginia, where I came to live in 2008.

Sentinels of the Shenandoah
by Justin Soutar -- 11/26/2012

The world is gray and white
   On a soundless winter morning.
Wrapped in mist and shrouded in fog,
   The mighty ranks of trees
Stand guard over the valley
   From their mountainside post.
Dimly, I can see them
   All crowded together,
The great white pines and cedars,
   Spruce and hemlock,
Oak, maple and hickory,
   Walnut and hornbeam,
Towering into the gloom
   Like hundreds of church steeples;
Ever so still and silent,
   Their presence never failing.


Copyright © 2012 Justin D. Soutar. All rights reserved.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Quote of the Day

What does it mean, then, to be a Christian? It means to continue to receive and accept the witness of the apostles, the eyewitnesses of our salvation. It means to believe in Christ with the same faith that was born in them from the works and the words of the risen Lord.

This is what the Apostle John writes: "The way we can be sure of our knowledge of him is to keep his commandments. The man who claims, 'I know him,' without keeping his commandments, is a liar; in such a one there is no truth. But whoever keeps his word, truly has the love of God been made perfect in him" (1 Jn. 2:3-5).

The apostle is speaking of a living faith. Faith is living when it bears the fruit of good works. These are the works of love. Faith is alive through God's love in us. Love is expressed in the observance of the commandments. There can be no contradictions between the knowledge of "I know him" and the actions of one who confesses Christ. Only he who completes his faith with good works remains in the truth.

--Blessed John Paul II

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Perhaps more than any other national holiday, Thanksgiving demonstrates America's fundamental identity as a Christian nation, a nation "under God." The Pilgrims who celebrated the first Thanksgiving in October of 1620 were deeply religious Christians who had sailed to this land primarily in order to worship God freely without government interference. They thanked God for the blessings of liberty as well as for the blessing of an abundant harvest that he bestowed upon them. Four centuries later, the Thanksgiving tradition that they started continues up to this day. More than two hundred years after that first Thanksgiving celebration, during a time of great national crisis, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln officially instituted Thanksgiving as an annual national holiday set on the fourth Thursday of November.

Today our nation is again in crisis as our federal government, led by President Barack Obama and his cohorts in the U.S. Senate, is now attacking the very foundation of religious liberty on which America was built by legislating immorality and attempting to reshape our country into a radically secularist nation without God. Thus our country's fundamental identity risks being lost. We must heed the warnings of our Founding Fathers that without the indispensable supports of religion and morality, our liberty will soon collapse. Faith in God and the observance of his Law is the foundation of our religious freedom as well as of all our other freedoms.

We should also gratefully recall the sacrifices of those who fought and gave their lives to defend the rights to life and religious freedom that we enjoy today. Their faith and courage should inspire us to continue praying and working for the end of legalized abortion, the repeal of the HHS mandate, and the defeat of radical secularism, so that this great nation will once again be "one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Thought for the Day

If yesterday's Scripture quote was directed at our government leaders, today's should jar the rest of us out of our comfortable complacency:

"But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"

--St. Luke 18:8

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thought for the Day

As I present today's little reflection from the word of God, I am thinking particularly of President Obama and the five Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of Obamacare.

Hear therefore, ye kings, and understand: learn, ye that are judges of the ends of the earth.

Give ear, you that rule the people, and that please yourselves in multitudes of nations:

For power is given you by the Lord, and strength by the Most High, who will examine your works, and search out your thoughts:

Because being ministers of his kingdom, you have not judged rightly, nor kept the law of justice, nor walked according to the will of God.

Horribly and speedily will he appear to you: for a most severe judgment shall be for them that bear rule.

--Wisdom 6:2-6 (Douay-Rheims Version)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thought for the Day

And the apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith." The Lord replied, "If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you."

--St. Luke 17:5-6

Friday, November 9, 2012

Quote of the Day

When reading a little inspirational book called Reasons for Hope, I recently came across an excellent quote for the Year of Faith from our late great hero in the faith, Blessed John Paul II. When reading it, keep in mind that Pope Benedict XVI calls the Year of Faith "a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Savior of the World." This beautiful quote concisely summarizes what the Year of Faith is all about:

The proclamation of the word of God has Christian conversion as its aim: a complete and sincere adherence to Christ and his gospel through faith. Conversion is a gift of God, a work of the Blessed Trinity. It is the Spirit who opens people's hearts so that they can believe in Christ and "confess him" (see 1 Cor. 12:3); of those who draw near to him through faith Jesus says: "No one can come to me unlesss the Father who sent me draws him" (Jn. 6:44).

From the outset, conversion is expressed in faith which is total and radical, and which neither limits nor hinders God's gift. At the same time, it gives rise to a dynamic and lifelong process which demands a continual turning away from "life according to the flesh" to "life according to the Spirit" (see Rom. 8:3-5). Conversion means accepting, by a personal decision, the saving sovereignty of Christ and becoming his disciple.

--Blessed John Paul II

Another Four Years of the Obama Nightmare

Sadly, President Obama--the most radically secularist and pro-abortion president in American history who has dared to attack our fundamental religious liberties and conscience rights with the monstrosity known as Obamacare while utterly neglecting to help the average American deal with the worst recession in 80 years--has managed to pull re-election out of the hat with 50 percent of the American popular vote to 48 percent for Romney.

This isn't just a defeat for Mitt Romney--it's a defeat for the innocent unborn, a defeat for religious liberty, a defeat for traditional marriage, a defeat for our economy and jobs, a defeat for responsible limited government and lower taxes, a defeat for our Constitution, and a defeat for the Christian moral and ethical values that made America great.

Our nation is in big trouble. God help us.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Tomorrow is Election Day



This is a pivotal election in American history. The right to life of the innocent unborn, our religious liberties and conscience rights, traditional marriage, our economy, and the future of our country are on the line. We can't just sit idly by and watch our nation go to the dogs. Edmund Burke once said, "All that is needed for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." In our case, all that is needed for the triumph of evil is that good people fail to exercise their right to vote.


As Catholics and as American citizens, it's our duty to God, our neighbor and our country to vote for candidates who stand for what we believe in.

Let's do it.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Quote of the Day

"In giving us his Son, his only and definitive Word, God spoke everything to us at once in this sole Word, and he has no more to say."
--St. John of the Cross

Friday, November 2, 2012

Thought for the Day

If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him.
--Romans 6:8-9

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Quote of the Day

"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because I see everything by it."

- C.S. Lewis

Snow in October? AGAIN?

Yep. Here we are--it's the end of October, and the snowflakes are blowing and falling as I write this. It's a strange phenomenon, but it's real. This is the second year in a row that we've had snow in late October. This is an unusual occurrence, even here in the mountains of western Virginia. Last year we had about half an inch of accumulation, enough to cover everything; this year we have just a trace of accumulation (so far--we might get more tonight, they say). We haven't even had our first hard frost yet. Must be global warming. (Just kidding.)

Seriously, I think this odd weather has something to do with Solar Cycle 24. If you're not familiar with this, Google it and read a little about it. The Sun has a complex 11-year sunspot cycle, and there is clear scientific evidence--enough to make a convincing theory--that this cycle somehow profoundly affects Earth's weather. Sunspots are magnetically charged regions of the sun's surface from which loops of plasma originate. They're cooler than the surrounding surface areas and have a brownish look to them. They always occur in pairs due to the laws of magnetic polarity, and they can be anywhere from one to three times the size of Earth. Scientific observations show that when there are fewer sunspots, Earth gets colder; when there are more, Earth gets warmer. Scientists don't understand the mechanism by which changes in magnetic solar activity produce climate changes on Earth, but there is clearly a link between the two. I intend to research this topic further and eventually present my findings in a research paper.

Anyway, the current sunspot cycle is rather atypical compared to previous cycles. If you look at a graph or diagram showing the sunspot cycles over the last 100 or so years, you'll notice that the cycles in the early and mid-twentieth century were pretty well defined, with the number of sunspots tending to rise and fall pretty evenly over the course of an 11-year cycle. However, in more recent cycles--those in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century--the sunspot patterns have been getting noticeably more irregular and chaotic. In the current cycle so far--the 24th since scientists have been keeping track--the number of sunspots looks more like a roller coaster than a smooth up-and-down curve. I think this has something to do with our irregular weather patterns and, more broadly, with climate change. I suspect that our weather is changing because the Sun is changing. It's not as stable and unchanging as we often perceive it. Some people may not like to hear this idea, but it may be true just the same. I'm not denying that human activity plays a role in climate change, but I'm convinced that that's only part of the story. The Sun is the primary engine that drives Earth's weather, and it is unquestionably the single most powerful influence on our weather and climate--overwhelmingly more powerful than any other influences.

So don't get worked up about climate change. It's basically a natural phenomenon triggered by solar change, with artificial CO2 emissions being only a minor contributing factor. And we shouldn't worry about the Sun changing either. God is in charge of the Sun and the Earth and everything in the universe. He created the universe and holds it in the palm of His hand. He loves us and we should trust in Him. And He wants us to continue exploring the amazing complexity and mystery of his awesome creation.

The peak of Solar Cycle 24 comes next year, so we can expect plenty more weird weather along with spectacular auroras, powerful solar flares and things like that. Hang on tight and enjoy the ride!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Disappearing Bees: The Wireless Culprit

On September 18, 2011, Italy’s largest agricultural cooperative donated eight beehives containing 500,000 honeybees to Pope Benedict XVI. Given in honor of the Italian Catholic Church’s Day for the Protection of Creation, the bees from Coldiretti currently reside on the pontifical farm at Castel Gandolfo. Farmers around the world are concerned about the honeybee, whose global population has declined sharply and mysteriously in the last ten or so years. As Coldiretti president Sergio Marini observed, bees "play a vital role in the planet's ecosystem and their disappearance would have disastrous consequences for health and the environment; a third of human food production depends on crops pollinated by insects, 80 percent of which are bees." In recent years, beekeepers across North America and Europe have reported devastating losses of anywhere from 25 to 100 percent of their colonies.

The official term for this massive worldwide disappearance of honeybees is Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). It’s a bizarre and unprecedented phenomenon characterized by worker bees deserting their hives nearly en masse, leaving only the queen and her capped brood behind. Without its worker bees and their vital honey production, a bee colony cannot survive. Scientists all over the world are researching a variety of potential causes of CCD including pests (such as the Varroa mite), disease, viruses, pesticides, genetically modified crops, stress, poor nutrition, and climate change. However, none of these factors can adequately explain the unique characteristics of CCD, such as its rapid spread and simultaneous appearance on multiple continents. Attacks by pesticides, viruses or parasites would result in piles of dead bees in the hives, whereas the hives are simply left vacant in the case of CCD. Climate change has been much too gradual to account for the disorder, and harsh winters can explain only part of the bee die-off. The other possible causes (GM crops, stress, poor nutrition) are not factors in every area affected by CCD.

In fact, two pioneering research scientists—Dr. George Carlo and Milt Bowling—may have already identified the main cause of CCD. Dr. Carlo is an award-winning American public health expert who ran the wireless industry’s six-year, $28.5 million study on the health effects of cellular phones back in the 1990s. Milt Bowling of Canada has been involved with the cell phone safety issue since 1997 and has been working with Dr. Carlo on the issue since 2005. According to these two researchers, the culprit in the world’s current honeybee decline is the enormous and continuing proliferation of information-carrying radio waves (ICRW) in the global environment due to the massive 21st-century shift to wireless technology. As a result of their research carried out both independently and in concert, Dr. Carlo and Bowling are convinced that man-made wireless signals—particularly from cell phones and their transmitters—interfere with the bees’ natural navigation and communication capabilities.

A honeybee’s navigational system is comprised of small magnetite crystals in its abdomen, which allow it to tune like a radio into the earth’s electromagnetic field. When a worker bee leaves the hive to gather pollen, it senses this field and uses it to calculate its position relative to the hive much as a GPS system works. This enables it to return to the colony with its precious load, even from more than a mile away. But various independent studies show that the bees lose this crucial ability to navigate when artificial electromagnetic fields are introduced into their environment.

In one study conducted in 2006 at Landau University in Germany, two beehives were exposed to radiation from a cordless phone and two were left unexposed. Twenty-five bees were then taken from each hive and released about 2500 feet away. Within 32 minutes, 16 bees returned to one of the unexposed hives and 17 to the other, while only six bees returned to one of the exposed hives after 38 minutes and none at all made it back to the other. Moreover, after nine days the bees in the exposed hives had constructed 21 percent fewer cells in the hive frame than the bees in the unexposed hives.

Another study was carried out in 2009 by Dr. Daniel Favre, a retired biologist of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland. He placed mobile phone handsets near beehives, activated them for specific periods of time, and analyzed the bees’ resulting behavior. Favre found that activation of the phones triggered the worker piping signal, which is a sign of distress, and that the colony’s activities did not return to normal until some time after the phone activation had ceased.

In a third study conducted in 2010, researchers at Panjab University in Chandigarh, India fitted cell phones to a beehive and activated them twice a day for 15 minutes each. Within three months, honey production had ceased, the queen laid half as many eggs, and the hive population had fallen significantly.

While this research provides strong support for a link between wireless transmissions and CCD, a definitive study is still needed to conclusively prove the theory (and convince skeptics). Dr. Carlo and Bowling have designed a comprehensive research program to do just that, but it remains on hold due to lack of funding from North American and European governments. Furthermore, the highly successful mobile phone industry is in denial that the widespread global use of their product could be placing bees at risk—even though the spread pattern of CCD is remarkably consistent with trends in cell phone use during the last ten years.

Meanwhile, the number of honeybees worldwide continues to decline drastically, presenting an urgent environmental challenge. As Marini noted above, honeybees are one of the major insect pollinators essential to human food production, so their disappearance would be a disaster for the world’s food supply. Without pollination by bees, many fruits, vegetables, nuts and herbs simply could not be produced.

What can—and should—we do about this? If information-carrying radio waves are indeed disrupting honeybee colonies around the globe, the obvious solution would be a planet-wide reduction in wireless transmissions, particularly from mobile phones and their supporting infrastructure. By virtue of their sheer numbers (well over five billion worldwide), cell phones generate far more ICRW than all other wireless sources put together. Thus, cutting back global cell phone transmissions along with careful regulation of other wireless technology would allow the world’s honeybee population to stabilize and begin recovering. Individuals, communities, governments and non-government organizations should work together to address this issue and take up the challenge of saving the bees before it’s too late. The future of life on earth depends on it.


Copyright © 2012 Justin D. Soutar. All rights reserved.


REFERENCES

1. “Benedict XVI Receives Half Million Bees,” ZENIT, Sep. 21, 2011. Oct. 24, 2011

2. “Pope: Christians Should Unite to Care for Creation, Poor,” Worldwatch Institute. Oct. 28, 2011

3. Milt Bowling, “Bees and the Future of Food,” Health Action Magazine, Fall 2007. Oct. 21, 2011


4. Ibid; Milt Bowling, “Where are the Birds and Bees?”, Health Action, 2007. Oct. 21, 2011

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid. (Original source: Hermann Stever et al, “Verhaltensanderung der Honigbiene Apis mellifera unter elektromagnetischer Exposition” [Electromagnetic Radiation: Influences on Honeybees (Apis mellifera)], University of Landau, Feb. 2006. Nov. 7, 2011 <http://agbi.uni-landau.de/material_download/elmagexp_bienen_06.pdf>)

7. Daniel Favre, “Mobile phone-induced honeybee worker piping,” Kokopelli Association,
April 13, 2011. Oct. 21, 2011 http://www.kokopelli.asso.fr/documentation/favre.pdf

8. Sasha Herriman, “Study links bee decline to cell phones,” CNN World, June 30, 2010. Oct. 24, 2011

9. Wikipedia contributors, “List of countries by number of cell phones in use,” Wikipedia, Oct. 21, 2011. Oct. 24, 2011

Friday, September 7, 2012

Christmas with Mother Teresa: A True Story

Imagine working eighteen hours a day, every day for several months straight. Imagine baking, packing, shipping, unloading, and distributing two million loaves of bread a day. Imagine feeding, clothing and sheltering millions of homeless and needy visitors from another country. Imagine doing all this with Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta—and then spending your Christmas with her through an unforeseen twist of circumstances.

These are the actual experiences of a man whom I know personally. As an overseas Program Director for Catholic Relief Services (CRS), this man spent nine years in India working closely with Blessed Mother Teresa. In 1971, with her assistance, he organized and directed a tremendous humanitarian relief program for millions of East Pakistani refugees. Then, at the climax of this great effort, he and Mother Teresa unexpectedly shared a providentially arranged Christmas with a very special visitor: a well-known American Catholic archbishop whose cause for sainthood is now underway.

A few years ago, I was blessed with the incredible opportunity to interview this living witness of Mother Teresa’s sanctity and hear his own firsthand account of the amazing events in which he was involved—a true story never before told. I found it to be a dramatic, inspiring and deeply moving account of great human tragedy and suffering illuminated and uplifted by the gentle touch of Christ’s redeeming love.

Catholic Relief Services spent tens of millions of dollars to bring the East Pakistani refugees necessary food, water, clothing, soap, shelter, and medical aid, but Mother Teresa gave them what no money could buy—Christian love and compassion. “She was truly a mother to everybody, and of course the people responded to that,” the former CRS Program Director tells me in one of our interviews. He also recalls how the refugees in each camp would eagerly await Mother Teresa’s arrival regardless of the time of day or night. Whenever he and she arrived at a camp, the refugees would courteously welcome them according to Bengali custom by placing garlands of flowers on their shoulders and offering them food and drink. “Especially when it’s Mother Teresa because she was the big honored guest, so just by association I would get my share too,” chuckles the Director.

However, his fondest memory of the relief program is his unique Christmas spent with Mother Teresa and her famous visitor from the United States. “Mother Teresa had a wonderful opportunity that day to demonstrate to everybody just how a saint would operate on Christmas Day,” he remarks, “because I’m sure that she would have had a totally different type of a Christmas Day herself.”

More than forty years after it happened, this powerful true story will finally be told to the world as it was told to this author in a new book currently being written. The book, entitled My Christmas with Mother Teresa, will tell you who that surprise Christmas visitor was, why he came to visit Mother Teresa and the refugees, and how the CRS Program Director was personally affected by spending Christmas with two such holy individuals. (The identity of this now retired Program Director will be revealed in the published book.)

The book will also delve into the historical background of the East Pakistani refugee crisis to answer common questions such as: What prompted ten million East Pakistani refugees to flee into India in a single year? How did India and the world respond to the massive refugee crisis? How did the crisis end? What happened to the refugees after the crisis?

Additionally, My Christmas with Mother Teresa will feature a variety of colorful, entertaining, inspiring, and amazing personal anecdotes and experiences of the CRS Program Director culled from memories of his nine years’ life and work in India and his personal friendship with the “Saint of Calcutta.”

Information about the book’s publisher, release date, and availability will be posted on my Twitter page at http://twitter.com/justinsoutar as well as right here on my blog.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Let's Keep Our Arms Up

Our first Mass reading today from the Second Book of Kings (Fourth Book of Kings in the Douay-Rheims Bible) offers several parallels to our own time. Ezekiah was King of Judah during a time when that kingdom was in decline. For many years now, the people of Israel had been unfaithful to the covenant God had made with their fathers, living in sin and worshiping idols. In punishment for this, God had permitted their once-great kingdom to be divided into two separate kingdoms (Israel and Judah) both governed by a succession of more or less wicked and mediocre kings. Ezekiah, however, was a good king who was pleasing to God—in fact, one of the best since David (cf. 2 Kings 18:3). He had made serious and partially successful efforts to restore true worship of God and to convert the people of Judah back to holy lives in fidelity to the Mosaic law.

In today’s reading, Sennacherib, the powerful pagan king of the Assyrians, is preparing to march on the Holy City of Jerusalem with a strong army and destroy the Temple. He had sent a blasphemous messenger to Jerusalem who proudly boasted that the all-mighty Sennacherib would decimate the city and that the God of the Hebrews could not possibly prevent this (see 2 Kings 18:17ff). This wicked messenger employed psychological warfare, yelling to the Jerusalemites that they should cease their useless prayers for deliverance and instead surrender to the King of the Assyrians who was going to conquer them anyway.

Ezekiah was horrified and deeply saddened by such blasphemy, and he refused to be swayed by it. He humbled himself, rending his garments and putting on sackcloth, and he prayed fervently to God that Jerusalem would be delivered from the hands of the King of the Assyrians. The prophet Isaiah then came to him and told him that God had heard his prayer and would deliver Jerusalem. He did so in spectacular fashion: as the army of Sennacherib camped around the city the night before the planned siege, an angel of God killed 185,000 of the Assyrian troops. The next morning, Sennacherib left for home without so much as touching Jerusalem.

This story has several lessons to teach us today. Like the ancient kingdom of Judah, America today is a once-great empire in decline. For decades we Americans in general and Catholics in particular have been unfaithful to God in our private and public lives, killing millions of our own children through legalized abortion, using contraception in violation of Church teaching, growing weak in religious belief and lax in the practice of our faith, voting for “Catholic” representatives who support abortion and homosexual “marriage,” and worshipping a variety of idols—politics, sports, sex, power, pleasure, money, fame, possessions, etc. And now, in punishment for all this evil, God is allowing a wicked, radically secularist, anti-religious federal government to force employers to provide immoral services—contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients—to their employees in the name of “health care”. Perhaps this is what we justly deserve.

However, God in His Infinite Mercy is always willing to hear the prayers of those who humble themselves and sincerely repent—even in a time of general crisis and decline. Many Americans have now turned away from these evils and are living lives pleasing to God. Like Ezekiah, they are aghast at the horrible sacrilege a powerful leader is attempting to perpetrate in their land. Like Sennacherib, who attempted to desecrate Israel’s most hallowed sanctuary, the Holy Place of the Temple, President Obama and his cohorts are attempting to violate our most cherished liberties—freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, enshrined in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

Note that when threatened with destruction, Ezekiah did not take up arms for military defense. Rather, he lifted his arms in confident prayer to the all-powerful God. There may come a time to take up arms in defense of our most cherished freedoms, but now is not the time for that. This is fundamentally a spiritual battle we are now fighting here in the United States, not just a political or legal battle, and thus it requires spiritual weapons. This is a war between good and evil. Those on the side of evil trust in the power of the Obama administration, the media, and their wealthy lobbyist backers. Those on the side of good must place their entire trust in God—which means praying and fasting for the restoration of religious liberty. That’s what this Fortnight for Freedom is all about. If we humble ourselves and turn to God in earnest, fervent prayer as King Ezekiah did, he will certainly hear our prayers and deliver us from the evil now threatening our nation. If we keep our arms raised in prayer to God as Moses did (cf. Exodus 17:10-13), we will ultimately be victorious—no matter how long and difficult the struggle may be.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Fortnight for Freedom Has Begun!

In response to current grave threats to religious liberty in America, especially that presented by the Obama administration's unjust contraceptive mandate, our Catholic bishops have declared a Fortnight for Freedom--a national two-week period of prayer, fasting, education, and advocacy in support of religious freedom. It began yesterday, June 21, and will run through July 4, our great national holiday of Independence Day. The event officially began last night at 7 PM Eastern Time with an Opening Mass celebrated at the National Shrine of the Assumption in Baltimore, Maryland, and it will officially end with a Closing Mass celebrated July 4 at 12:10 PM ET at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. The latter event will be televised nationally on EWTN. You can find out more about this special event by clicking here and scrolling down to where it says "A Fortnight for Freedom"; the bishops have more good info and resources here as well as at Fortnight4Freedom.org. You can participate in the special activities your local parish is offering, which will vary from parish to parish. You can also sign up to participate in the Virtual Vigil for Religious Liberty that the Catholic Advocate is offering. EWTN is airing special programming throughout this time and has set up a new website devoted entirely to religious liberty, so be sure to check those out as well.

As a younger American Catholic, it's refreshing to see the excellent leadership our bishops are showing on this issue. They have courageously risen up and are standing united to meet this challenge, sounding the alarm and speaking the truth as befits successors of the Apostles and patriotic citizens. They deserve our wholehearted support and thanks, and let's remember to keep them in our prayers too. Their example should encourage us to fulfill our own duties as lay Catholics and citizens to be present and active in the public square in defending the religious freedom and conscience rights of all Americans. In this battle for religious freedom, prayer is our most important weapon, but political activism is essential as well. As Catholics we must pray, and as citizens we must act. Prayer and action have to go together if this effort is to be successful.

I find it significant that the U.S. Supreme Court will be issuing a landmark decision on religious liberty right in the middle of the Fortnight for Freedom. I think Divine Providence has a hand in this. As our justices decide the constitutionality of the sweeping new healthcare legislation underpinning HHS mandate, millions of Catholics across our nation will be praying and fasting for the protection of religious liberty. Prayer and fasting are powerful spiritual weapons that can change the course of history, especially when they are taken advantage of en masse as is happening right now. Let's continue to pray that the Holy Spirit will grant wisdom to our judges and inspire them to make the right decision on the mandate, i.e., to uphold our Constitution and protect our First Amendment right to freedom of religion.

With firm trust in Divine Providence and under the reassuring protection of our Immaculate Mother Mary, Patroness of the United States, let us join together in prayer, fasting, and political action for the restoration and protection of the religious liberty on which America was founded. And let's bear in mind that no matter what happens, we win in the end through the power of Christ's Cross and Resurrection.

I'll close with two religious liberty quotes from America's Founding Fathers. The first is from James Madison, often called the “father” of the U.S. Constitution: "There is not a shadow of right in the general government to intermeddle with religion. Its least interference with it would be a most flagrant usurpation. I can appeal to my uniform conduct on this subject, that I have warmly supported religious freedom.” The second is from Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence: “No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority.”

Let freedom ring!