Category Archives: Catholic

So the sky didn’t fall when we repealed the 8th.

A recent documentary commented that the sky didn’t fall when a majority voted to repeal the 8th.

I was fascinated that such a comment was even included.

A car window sticker from the failed campaign to save the 8th Amendment

I have no doubt that we’ll pay a heavy price for abortion procured as a human right. It is more offence added to offence that God already carries. How much offence would you carry before turning? Why are you like that? I put it to you that you’re reflecting eternity. God is profoundly gracious but anyone who thinks that there’ll be no cost – that we’re freeloading – is delusional. We do not live in a meaningless universe.

Even mercy costs. Just try hugging the person who has hurt you. Recently I listened intently to a man sharing on live radio how he was struggling with the release from prison of the person who’d taken the life of his daughter. The man’s struggle illustrates the cost of mercy and is a reflection of the eternal, the sometimes crucifying cost.

The God-given answer to all that offends God – and the universe itself – is a single word; repent. Make mercy a little less crucifying!

The matter is much more nuanced than a distant God giving the order that the sky should fall. It doesn’t work like that.

Besides, if we could connect cause and effect as easily as the comment suggests – we repealed today and the next day, or some days later, the sky fell – we’d be devoid of free will and belief would be inevitable.

Christianity, like God, is incarnational. We are the weeds and wheat or the barren tree that’s cut down, or spared. The teaching of Jesus always becomes our flesh, it becomes our lived experience.

The best illustration of how the sky actually falls is found in the message of Fatima. Our Lady told the 3 children that if people did not stop offending God another war – a more terrible war, World War II – would break out.

It’s a classic example of how God works; three children who couldn’t read or write rather than the best minds of the time know where the world is heading!

There are roughly 20 years between the events at Fatima and the start of World War II. That’s 20 years for humanity to change – to repent – to heed the message of Fatima and prevent World War II, to prevent the “sky falling” so to speak. I suspect that with each passing year it became a little more difficult to turn back, a little more unlikely.

Fatima teaches us that we decide – the people decide – if there’s war or peace and it is determined by our relationship with the divine.

Fatima teaches us that the “sky falling” is generational, it unfolds gradually over decades, and perhaps longer, incrementally, just as World War II was many decades in the making and dragged several generations into its horror.

Fatima teaches us that the “sky falls” through human agents and activity, through cultural, socio-economic and political developments just as Hitler and World War II developed within the cultural, socio-economic and political situation in Germany and Europe at the time.

Fatima teaches us that the “sky falls” from within human history, that it falls as a result of the somewhat mysterious work of the power of sin, befriended and endorsed within the body of humanity; it teaches us that this unchecked sin, enfleshed in our history, was the real driving force behind Hitler’s rise to power and World War II.

Above all else, Fatima teaches us that offending God without turning back, without repentance, always creates hell, both in time and in eternity.

Ultimately Fatima teaches us that the sky does indeed fall.

Death is not always the best possible outcome – but for those who die in God it doesn’t get any better!

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time Mk 5:21-24,35-43

I couldn’t help but notice that they laughed at Jesus.

That hasn’t changed, they laugh at us too because we have faith. We’re ridiculed often.

And when Jesus had made his point no doubt they said, “she wasn’t really dead, we made a mistake!”

These things don’t change.

In last Sunday’s Gospel the disciples fear death by drowning Mk 4:35-41

So Jesus calms the storm, the disciples fear of death disappears to be replaced by “even the wind and the sea obey him”

They’re awestruck – their focus changes from the fear of death to his power over the the storm, over wind and rain…

So what happens next? Where does Jesus lead them?

To the encounter recorded in this Sunday’s Gospel… where Jesus leads his disciples back to confront death in the death of a little girl 👧

The loss of someone close to us always plunges us into grief, dark and heavy grief, horrible.

But who told us that death is the worse possible scenario for the deceased?

Jesus doesn’t fear death, he doesn’t consider it as the worse possible event – in last Sunday’s Gospel he’s asleep, in this Sunday’s Gospel he demonstrates his absolute authority even over death – on the contrary he fears sin, he fears offending his Father. According to Jesus there’s something much worse than death – offending God unto hell.

But for those who die in Christ death is the best possible scenario and anyone who dies in Christ is consumed by love; of which even the greatest human love is a dim – very dim – reflection. They have only one all consuming desire; to stay with God, and the desire to return is non-existent. They’re being totally consumed by loving fulfillment.

The best contemporary example I can give is Mirjana’s experience of Our Lady in Medugorje. It is important to grasp that when Mirjana sees Our Lady it’s not just a visionary experience, rather, Our Lady brings Heaven with her – after all she is of Heaven – and Mirjana is caught up in Heaven. The consequences are illuminating; Mirjana has only one desire, to stay with Our Lady which means to go with Our Lady (death). Mirjana says that when she’s with Our Lady not even the love she has for her daughters would bring her back, and when the experience ends Mirjana collapses into a deep darkness. It takes her weeks to recover… and she really struggles to go back to ordinary life, to ordinary love, to love that’s a very dim reflection of divine love.

It’s all consuming nature is like having a son or daughter in love with someone of whom you do not approve – try getting your point of view through to him or her! It’s all-consuming.

On the other hand those who do not die in Christ long to come back and un-do and re-do so much. This desire at that level, a burning desire incapable of being fulfilled, is more than enough punishment!

The future of the church and the world is hidden in plain sight – in the life and teaching of Jesus

Firstly, I want you to understand that the decline of the church is itself an example of Jesus own teaching, eg, Matt 5:13, “…if salt becomes tasteless, what can make it salty again? It is good for nothing, and can only be thrown out to be trampled underfoot by men.”

This is what has happened to the Catholic Church in our time. The fall of the Catholic Church in Ireland is this teaching of Jesus – and many similar teachings – made flesh in our time. This is intended to teach us, all of us, people inside and outside the church about the consequences of ignoring the teaching of Jesus.

I want you to grasp this – the teaching of Jesus is always made flesh, it becomes our lived experience.

This is not just true in the church but also in the world; any decline in the human-divine relationship – unchecked – will always result in a time of decline which in turn leads to a time of suffering for humanity through real historical events. This is the reason Jesus begins his ministry; repent! For example, according to the message of Fatima, World War II was one such event. Bear in mind the message of Fatima was saying this twenty years before the actual event. In our time Medugorje is flagging similar warnings concerning our future.

Secondly, I want you to understand that there will also be gracious acts of God that will reverse the decline.

I don’t know how far the decline will go before this begins to happen. For example, I do not know how many parishes will close, how many congregations will die out before it happens. But when it does happen, it’ll be dramatic and rapid, in a matter of days… quite suddenly there’ll be queues for Baptism and Confession.

At this point – on this July day 2021 – the Divine correction of the church is well advanced but the correction of the world is only in its very early stages. The church first because in the mind of God the church – the gathering of his disciples – should be the yeast in the dough that is the world, but when the yeast is off, well, then it has to be fixed – and fixed first. Then the dough. Again, the teaching of Jesus is being made flesh, it is becoming our lived experience.

It’s easy to understand Pope Francis emphasis on mercy.

 

Monday, Fifth Week of Lent.

John 8:11 The adulterous woman.

woman-caught-in-adulteryPonder the effect Jesus words and actions had on this woman “caught in the very act of committing adultery…”

She’ll love him, madly. She’ll be crazy about him and dare anybody say a bad word about him in her presence, she’ll defend him, fight for him, tell others about him, speak so positively about him that it’ll be infectious. She’ll give everything for him!

This is what makes a disciple, this concrete experience of the love but particularly the mercy of Jesus Christ.

Now, let’s consider the opposite: What would Jesus have effected in this woman if he’d joined in condemning her?

See the difference?

It’s easy to understand Pope Francis emphasis on mercy, isn’t it?

Hey Stephen Fry! I’ll stick with hanging on to Jesus Christ.

Second Sunday of Lent, Year B, Mark 9:2-10, The Transfiguration.

Abraham is prepared to give his own child (First Reading Genesis 22:1-2, 9-13, 15-18). It’s one of the most savage scenes in the bible. The only redeeming factor being that it’s a test and God is not going to allow it to happen.

Stephen Fry tells Gay Byrne what he thinks of God!

Stephen Fry tells Gay Byrne what he thinks of God!

But for some parents, tragically, it’s happened, not that they were given a choice, rather it was forced on them, and is being forced on them, day after day, as they struggle to reach some kind of acceptance.

From the First Reading we move to the figure of Jesus, taking Peter, James and John with him, climbing a high mountain where they could be alone.

The revelation that occurs on the mountain will not be given to the other nine. Jesus takes Peter, James and John – not the others. We need to accept that God doesn’t give the same spiritual experiences to us all – for whatever reason.

Neither is the revelation given to the crowds taking an interest in Jesus of Nazareth. The vast majority among the crowds are not so much interested in discipleship – in giving up their lives for Christ – as in being cured of some difficulty so that they can get on with their lives.

Revelation always happens when we withdraw from the world, it happens away from the crowd. The world listens to talk, debate, voice after voice, but the follower of Christ listens to a single voice that’s heard only in silence.

Revelation happens when we’re in the company of Jesus. In the company of Jesus the disciples glimpse something much greater, something much more beautiful than ordinary experience.

Revelation happens after the effort of climbing the mountain. Climbing a mountain is always symbolic of the journey to God which brings “heightened consciousness” and “heightened awareness” (Fr. Robert Barron) and unrestricted vision.

Climbing a mountain is a difficult task, full of danger. Some of us will crawl on our hands and knees as we near the top, breathless, exhausted, perhaps bruised, cut and bleeding because we’ve fallen on the way up, because the ascent has been brutal and it’s taken a toll. Some of us may conclude that the ascent is too high a price, not worth it, because we can’t see beyond the immediacy of the suffering involved. There’s nothing like suffering to restrict our vision. Think Stephen Fry!

It requires self-sacrifice to climb the mountain of life and reach our true destination. It’ll cost us. On the way there may be unthinkable losses. Such is life anyway. But the teaching of Christ leaves no room for doubt – I’m worth the loss of everything! The spiritual experience is far more beautiful than anything in ordinary everyday experience.

Revelation doesn’t happen antiseptically, in a make believe world, it happens in this world, this real world, with Christ.

On the mountain top revelation happens – the earthly human Jesus is transfigured, significantly Mark makes the point of telling us that “his clothes became dazzlingly white, whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them.” It was a glimpse of the other world; “dazzingly white” – transcendent illumination! People long dead, Moses and Elijah could be seen again. Peter wanted to stay. That’s us! That’s what we’ve done with Lourdes. We build tents (hotels). We crave this beauty. This is what we’re all looking for if we could only dare to believe, if we could only get past human suffering.

We might think that for Peter, James and John, the memory of this event would be enough to carry them through the passion and death of Jesus. But it wasn’t – at least initially – and that’s significant. In the immediacy of Jesus suffering and death even this memory fades, at least for a time. That’s how it is for us too, that’s how it is for Stephen Fry.

There is no way around or past human suffering. There’s only a way through it – by hanging on to Jesus Christ come what may!

Satan is forced out of hiding by spiritual growth! Fourth Sunday, Year B.

The struggle between Pio and Satan became more difficult when Pio freed the souls possessed by the Devil. Pio recounts being physically beaten! Father Tarcisio of Cervinara said, "More than once, before leaving the body of a possessed, the Devil has shouted, "Padre Pio, you give us more trouble than St. Michael"; also, "Father Pio don't steal the bodies from us and we won't bother you."

The struggle between Pio and Satan became more difficult when Pio freed the souls possessed by the Devil. Pio recounts being physically beaten! Father Tarcisio of Cervinara said, “More than once, before leaving the body of a possessed, the Devil has shouted, “Padre Pio, you give us more trouble than St. Michael”; also, “Father Pio don’t steal the bodies from us and we won’t bother you.”

This weekend we begin the Confirmation ‘Spirit’ Programme. We’re beginning with the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The purpose of the gifts is to make us holy, like God. They’re the means by which God draws us into his own life, the Divine life.

Some of us will know them, particularly those of us of a certain age – we were taught them ‘by heart’ as we used to say. My mother can still list them – at 83 years. We’ll look at just two, briefly, the first two, Wisdom and Understanding.

Wisdom; what’s that? Firstly, it’s a gift of the Holy Spirit. Therefore it does not belong naturally to human nature. It’s a gift given by the Holy Spirit and when we receive it, we know (instinctive-like) that it’s in the spiritual life and not in everything from health to wealth that we find lasting security. Those who don’t have the gift will naturally look for their security in everything from health to wealth.

Understanding; what’s that? When we receive the gift of understanding we penetrate the truths of our faith. As we receive it we move from faith into certainty. Those who do not have the gift are always unsure, they always lack conviction.

Now, the thing about the Gifts of the Spirit is that they can be difficult to understand. If you go looking for an explanation you’ll find multiple explanations, nearly all different, or at least they appear to be different.

Here’s the reason. The gifts come from the Holy Spirit. Therefore they’re supernatural. They’re not naturally part of human nature. We’ve almost lost this sense. This is the root of the difficulty with explanations. The gifts are known only by experience and cannot be really known outside the spiritual life and spiritual growth. So our understanding of the gifts tends to reflect the point where we stand on the scale of spiritual growth. That’s the reason we get so many different explanations.

Overall, in my lifetime, there’s been a tendency to reduce the gifts to the purely natural. I think this reflects the decline of Catholicism generally.

"The devil can confuse the most brilliant mind." Padre Pio

“The devil can confuse the most brilliant mind.” Padre Pio

Now, similarly – and this is the point I want to make about today‘s Gospel (Mark 12:21-28) – spiritual evil, both satan and unclean (evil) spirits, cannot be understood outside the spiritual life and spiritual growth.

The essence of the spiritual life is the death of self. This is the reason true religion will never be popular. The death of self is the last thing we want to hear and we ‘naturally’ fight it all the way, sometimes spending a fortune trying to avoid it! As John the Baptist said; “I must decrease and he must increase” (John 3:30). Here’s the point: Only when we’ve spiritually advanced to the point where we’ve truly died to self and started living for God alone, only then will we come face to face with spiritual evil. Only then will satan and the unclean spirits manifest themselves directly to us and become a part of our experience. It is spiritual maturity – a full complement of the gifts of the Holy Spirit – that forces satan out of the shadows, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Holy One of God.” Satan was always there, hidden, unseen, but now holiness forces him out. If only Jesus could get the same recognition from us!

So, we’ve looked briefly at both ‘extremes’ if you like, the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit on the one hand, and satan and the unclean spirits on the other, and we’ve seen that our understanding and knowledge of both is determined by where we stand on the scale of spiritual development.

Children’s rights are paramount – why not in same sex marriage?

"Every child has the right to a mother and a father and, as much as possible, the State should vindicate that right. That is a much more important right than that of two men or two women having a family" Minister Leo Varadkar, Dail Eireann,  27 January 2010.
“Every child has the right to a mother and a father and, as much as possible, the State should vindicate that right. That is a much more important right than that of two men or two women having a family” Minister Leo Varadkar, Dail Eireann, 27 January 2010.

The question of same sex marriage can be very personal and highly emotive. Indeed we all probably know same sex couples, perhaps family members and friends. When I think about this issue I think of a very close homosexual friend of mine and I’m always terrified of hurting him. The explosive word in this debate is ‘homophobia’ and while phobia is generally associated with fear, in the context of homophobia it’s more often associated with hate and violence and therefore lends itself to being used disingenuously to close down debate. It happens. Nonetheless we need to acknowledge that homophobia exists and that homophobes need to get over themselves! Every human being – without qualification – should be treated with “respect, compassion and sensitivity.” However, for the vast majority of people this is a matter of conscience – on both sides.

"It is unhelpful in the extreme to cite Church teaching on homosexuality. Some of us are not aligned with any particular Church and the specifics of faith based objections to homosexuality tend to muddy the waters with regard to the debate about redefining marriage. All arguments against redefining marriage have got to come from a place that finds a universal and empathic source. That source being genuine concern for the public policy and societal changes that will follow when a child centred, social institution is altered in a way that will lead to severing of natural ties and obscuring kinship bonds." Kate Bopp. Kate says that her own value system is based in agnosticism.

“It is unhelpful in the extreme to cite Church teaching on homosexuality. Some of us are not aligned with any particular Church and the specifics of faith based objections to homosexuality tend to muddy the waters with regard to the debate about redefining marriage. All arguments against redefining marriage have got to come from a place that finds a universal and empathetic source. That source being genuine concern for the public policy and societal changes that will follow when a child centred, social institution is altered in a way that will lead to severing of natural ties and obscuring kinship bonds.” Kate Bopp. Kate says that her own value system is based in agnosticism.

We’ll begin by exploring marriage as most of us have known it, but although this is clearly a Catholic blog we’ll work independently of all religious argument. It’s something of a surprise to most people to discover that Catholicism argues in the first instance from nature and reason, and only then appeals to revelation. So there will be no religious arguments. We’ll then move on to ask an important question; what’s our understanding of marriage? If we can answer this question I think we’ll go a good way to understanding why some people are for and some people are against the equality of same sex marriage. So we’ll try to tease out our understanding of marriage by considering the characteristics of marriage. This seems to be a reasonable way to proceed.

Traditionally a man and a woman met, they married and then started a family. Nowadays a man and a woman meet, they’ll often have a child or two and some years later they might marry. Now I’ve simplified it somewhat but I’m sure you can see that essentially we’ve reversed things, turned things upside down and inside out!

Now, the thing about traditional marriage – and this might surprise you; it was pure genius. At some point in history, probably to do with the influence of the Judeo-Christian religion – but as we’ll see this influence is itself based on something a priori – marriage brought together some important details about human life, and it brought them together in the interests of the common good. This bringing together in love and the common good is the essence of marriage. The details are just there, staring at us. The most obvious detail is that the human being comes in two different shapes, male and female, and yet the shapes fit together – the sheer brilliance of nature – and when they fit together one of them will occasionally come away carrying a new and unique human life, another human person whom she’s able to nurture and feed – he cannot do this in the same way. It assumed into itself the fact that one shape can never do some things while the other can, but that both shapes working together can often do everything, that the shapes are very different but nonetheless absolutely complementary. It brought into itself the realization that this shape thing wasn’t just physical but went much deeper, that it’s also psychological – men are from Mars, women are from Venus – a woman isn’t a man and a man isn’t a woman, a father isn’t a mother and a mother isn’t a father yet each complements the other.

The ideas here flow from Rabbi Sacks presentation to the Humanum colloquium on complementarity held in the Vatican in November 2014. Here's a link to the full speech: http://cvcomment.org/2014/11/18/in-full-the-lord-sacks-speech-that-brought-the-vatican-conference-to-its-feet/

The ideas here flow from Rabbi Sacks presentation to the Humanum colloquium on complementarity held in the Vatican in November 2014. Here’s a link to the full speech: http://cvcomment.org/2014/11/18/in-full-the-lord-sacks-speech-that-brought-the-vatican-conference-to-its-feet/

It brought into itself an important truth about human life; no other species requires the best part of twenty years to grow up, to reach maturity (some of us never quite get there!) – a fragile task fraught with dangers – and traditional marriage saw much wisdom and indeed nature’s hand in making child-rearing a shared responsibility, ideally the shared responsibility of the child’s biological father and mother who provided the child with the secure home of their married love, “’til death do us part.” Most importantly traditional marriage incorporated and made tangible the belief that children should never be deprived of the unique and important roles of a mother and a father, never, ever, where possible. It brought together all these strands of human experience and more, physical attraction, sexual attraction, companionship, friendship and much more, and brought it all together into a unified whole – marriage; it was pure genius.

Pure genius or otherwise the belief that the traditional family is the ideal place to rear children, while never unproven empirically, and not likely to ever be unproven, has been slowly eroded culturally. In effect what we once brought together in marriage we’re now pulling apart; sex from marriage, sex from love, sex from babies (conception), sex from male and female complementarity, love from commitment, children from biological fathers and mothers. It’s not so much that we’re turning marriage upside down and inside out, rather, as Rabbi Sacks suggests, we’re pulling it apart. The reason we’ve developed in this manner is that we now have a greater emphasis on me and my personal satisfaction, so that everything is expected to serve me, including marriage. This emphasis expresses itself concretely as ‘choice’ – the freedom to choose. While choice is undoubtedly a good thing, we need to remember that a choice, indeed every choice, is only as good as the process used to make it.

We’ve been eroding the significance of marriage for most of my lifetime, pulling it apart, so it seems only logical that at some point we’d start pushing it this way and that way, adding additional parts, omitting other parts, putting parts together, according to choice, choice that’s guided by nothing more than love, romance, and equality. It’s not surprising then that we’re now pushing marriage to include equally two men or two women. Soon we’ll start pushing it in other directions. Why not? If marriage means nothing more than love, a little romance, and equality, then a bisexual person who loves a man and a woman at the same time has a right to marry both. Why not one man and two women or vice versa? If marriage understood as love, romance and equality, and nothing more, doesn’t amount to a redefinition of marriage, then what in the world will?

Pope Benedict described as "profoundly moving" Rabbi Gilles Bernheim's essay “Gay Marriage, Parenthood and Adoption: What We Often Forget To Say” but later Rabbi Bernheim was discovered to have 'borrowed' some of the material for his essay and had to resign his position as the Chief Rabbi of France. The essay explored the ideas I've touched on here.

Pope Benedict described as “profoundly moving” Rabbi Gilles Bernheim’s essay “Gay Marriage, Parenthood and Adoption: What We Often Forget To Say” but later Rabbi Bernheim was discovered to have ‘borrowed’ some of the material for his essay and had to resign his position as the Chief Rabbi of France. The essay explored the ideas I’ve touched on here.

While many proponents of same sex marriage view it as a unique issue, a simple matter of equality, for many others it’s part of much bigger development, that of gender ideology. Gender ideology means that I choose whether I want to be male or female, and I can change at any future point if I so choose. There are no givens anymore. Male and female are not given by nature; they’re choices. It’s as if the human being has detached from nature, at least in his or her mind, as though the human species is no longer an integral part of nature but stands outside it. This is all the more remarkable in light of ecology, as if the human species alone stands beyond all ecological concern. Can we really do this? I expect Pope Francis will have something to say about this in his next encyclical.

It’s quite possible that ultimately this unraveling of traditional marriage might bring us, not just to something like the perceived paradise of marriage equality, but to the complete removal of marriage and traditional values from society. A long shot, perhaps. Still, I’m sure we have takers for it? At any rate, I suspect we’re not redefining marriage because the family has changed – nobody denies that – we’re attempting to redefine marriage because we no longer understand the meaning of marriage in the first place.

We move on now to explore the meaning of marriage. It’s this, our understanding of the meaning of marriage, that’ll determine how we vote in the referendum. It’s here that we find the fault line.

The obvious characteristic of marriage is love. We all agree on this much; marriage is about love. We might qualify it by saying “’til death do us part, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health.” For some people that’s all there is – the question is answered. Marriage is about love, and this referendum is about the equal right of same sex couples to marriage, nothing more and nothing less, so there’s no basis to oppose the equality of same sex marriage. People shouldn’t be denied a shot at happiness. Many people hold this view in sincerity and we need to respect such people. Other people hold – sincerely too, I might add, and they should also be respected – that there are other equally and indeed more important characteristics of marriage. They believe that marriage is about much more than two walking and talking Hallmark cards!

IMG_1805At this point I want to introduce what I think will be quite a surprise. I bet you associate the Church almost exclusively with a religious view of marriage. Here’s the surprise; the Church believes that the primary characteristic of marriage is not found in religion, or in the State, but in nature. Marriage is first and foremost natural and it’s natural long before it’s civil or religious. This is the common ground between religious people and atheists on marriage. So the idea that this debate is about a religious understanding of marriage versus a civil understanding of marriage is something of a red herring. So, for the Church and for many atheists the primary characteristic of marriage is; it’s natural.

Some will include same sex couples in this understanding of marriage simply because same-sex attraction occurs in humans (and elsewhere as far as I know) and is therefore natural, but others believe that ‘natural’ here means more than mere attraction and includes the potential to reproduce and therefore must include male and female complementarity. We don’t see this easily because the modern mind has separated sex and conception. Generally our generation is doing this – pulling things apart. If we ask the question ‘what is sex for?’ it’ll help us to see this point more clearly. Imagine an alien arriving from outer space. He’s no knowledge of the human species. It wouldn’t take our space friend long to figure out what sex is for; “it’s how the human race reproduces itself” he’d say, but it requires male and female. Thus many people consider the complementarity of male and female and the unique potential of a man and a woman precisely as male and female to bring forth new human life to be essential and natural characteristics of marriage.

"But if a child has no such right [to a mother and a father], then where in the world does the right of two men or two women to have a child come from?" David Quinn, Irish Independent, 19 January 2014

“But if a child has no such right [to a mother and a father], then where in the world does the right of two men or two women to have a child come from?” David Quinn, Irish Independent, 19 January 2014

The final characteristic of marriage is the most decisive for many people. People believe in the importance of a father and a mother in a child’s life. They believe these are unique roles. Think about the biological ties at the heart of the mother-baby relationship, think of a mother breast-feeding her baby; truly unique. No less unique, yet different and complementary, is the father-baby relationship. Such important roles should never be excluded from marriage where possible. In fact, children have a right to a mother and a father, and indeed, every child has a mother and a father, even if one is absent, even if both are absent. But if a child doesn’t have a right to a mother and a father then where does the right of a same sex couple to have a child come from? Therefore, many people believe that the important and unique role of a mother and a father for children and for society is an essential and natural characteristic of marriage. To reduce the belief that every child has a right to a father and mother to an allegation of ‘homophobia’ is disingenuous to say the least.

Dr. Joanna Rose was conceived through sperm donation and campaigns for the rights of children to be raised by their genetic parents if possible. Click the link below to hear her debate Finbar Murray who was raised by his biological mother and her lesbian partner and believes he's suffered no loss. http://www.rte.ie/radio/utils/radioplayer/rteradioweb.html#!rii=9%3A20717697%3A0%3A%3A

Dr. Joanna Rose was conceived through sperm donation and campaigns for the rights of children to be raised by their genetic parents if possible. Click the link below to hear her debate Finbar Murray who was raised by his biological mother and her lesbian partner and believes he’s suffered no loss.
http://www.rte.ie/radio/utils/radioplayer/rteradioweb.html#!rii=9%3A20717697%3A0%3A%3A

Marriage then is not just about a couple. It never was, and it never will be. More importantly, it’s about children. I once heard a man say to his daughter about his wife’s violent death; “she was just my wife, but she was your mother.” He said it quite naturally as though everybody knows the truth of his statement. The equality of same sex marriage will mean that preference cannot be given to an opposite sex couple – a father and a mother – in the adoption process. Same sex couples will be equally entitled to a child. In effect, the State will deny some children a father and a mother. Indeed, some children will be conceived in such a way that they’ll be deliberately prevented from knowing their genetic mother or father. Of course, it’s much too early to establish the effects, if any, on children reared in same sex marriage environments. It’ll take at least one generation, possibly two, to get an accurate measure. Yet we’re constantly reminded of the importance of gender balance in business, in Dail Eireann, in just about everything, yet it’s irrelevant in the life of a child? Somebody explain that. Two men or two women starting a family will require legislation to support surrogacy, sperm and egg donation, and adoption too, and whether it comes before, with, or after the referendum is irrelevant. It’s clear that marriage is not just about love, not even in the case of same sex marriage. Besides, if marriage is not about children and their welfare there’s no reason for the State to be involved at all. Why bring the State into bedrooms? Marriage is at the very least equally about children, and children deserve the best, and for many people marriage is society’s effort to offer the best; a mother and a father and the security of their married love.

Brendan O'Neill, atheist, editor of the on-line magazine 'Spiked' has expressed opposition to same sex marriage and in particular to the manner of the campaign to legalize gay marriage. Writing about the departure of Brendan Eich as CEO of Mozilla, O'Neill says Eich was "hounded out" because he opposed same sex marriage and refused to "genuflect at the altar of gay marriage" O'Neill says that "whatever form it has taken, coercion has been the order of the day in every campaign to legalize gay marriage, meaning Eich’s fate wasn’t some abnormality - it was part of a pretty scary ‘new normal’, of a sweeping culture of intolerance that has been fostered by the political set pushing gay marriage."

Brendan O’Neill, atheist, editor of the on-line magazine ‘Spiked’ has expressed opposition to same sex marriage and in particular to the manner of the campaign to legalize gay marriage. Writing about the departure of Brendan Eich as CEO of Mozilla, O’Neill says Eich was “hounded out” because he opposed same sex marriage and refused to “genuflect at the altar of gay marriage” O’Neill says that “whatever form it has taken, coercion has been the order of the day in every campaign to legalize gay marriage, meaning Eich’s fate wasn’t some abnormality – it was part of a pretty scary ‘new normal’, of a sweeping culture of intolerance that has been fostered by the political set pushing gay marriage.” Strong words!

While some will argue that same sex marriage is not changing the Constitution but merely adding to it – I do wonder though how a dictionary might have defined the family in 1937 – nonetheless it will have far reaching consequences. The agents of the State will have no choice but to accept the State’s understanding of marriage or risk sanction. Teachers will be obliged by the State to teach the equality of same sex marriage to very young children, sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly, and sometimes it’ll be contrary to the wishes of parents. Therefore the consequences of same sex marriage will see the growing arm of the State reach right into the family unit. In effect, the State will seize from mothers and fathers a little more control of the family.

In summary, reasonable opposition to the equality of same sex marriage, as opposed to homophobic opposition, is based on the belief that the family is the foundation of society and that the ideal or normative place for a child to be conceived, born, and reared, is within the married love (’til death do us part) of its biological parents manifesting female and male complementarity and embodying the important and unique roles, for children and for society, of mother and father, and for these reasons opposite sex marriage is deserving of unique protection and promotion by the State.

"It is a grave injustice if the State ignores the uniqueness of the role of husbands and wives, the importance of mothers and fathers in our society. Without protection and support for the unique place of marriage in society, the State could, in effect, deprive children of the right to a mother and a father." Here's a link to the full document http://www.catholicbishops.ie/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Meaning-of-Marriage-Web-English.pdf

“It is a grave injustice if the State ignores the uniqueness of the role of husbands and wives, the importance of mothers and fathers in our society. Without protection and support for the unique place of marriage in society, the State could, in effect, deprive children of the right to a mother and a father.” Here’s a link to the full document http://www.catholicbishops.ie/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Meaning-of-Marriage-Web-English.pdf

In conclusion therefore it seems that it’s our understanding of the meaning of marriage that determines our position on the question of the equality of same sex marriage. The question then that each one of us must answer, in conscience, and vote accordingly is: What’s your understanding of marriage? Is it about an adult’s right to a shot at happiness, the right of two men or two women to have a family, or is it about something much greater – not excluding a shot at happiness – but extending to children’s rights to a father and a mother and the security of their married love. Why should a child be deprived of the natural right to his or her mother because an adult man doesn’t want to act against his nature? Surely the rights of children trump the right of an individual or a couple to a shot at happiness or to a family? Surely the rights of children should be enshrined in our understanding of marriage and protected? Surely the rights of children are not just paramount but normative and therefore deserving of a uniquely protected relationship – one man and one woman marriage?

Je suis Charlie – and a little prudence will go a long way!

The Charlie Hebdo attack was truly outrageous. Terrorists responded to pencils with assault rifles.Charlie Hebdo Image of Pope

Obviously Charlie Hebdo made good money by mocking just about everything. But do we need to mock anyone or anyone’s beliefs? I don’t think so. I understand the need to challenge people, not least militant Islam, but people can be challenged without resorting to insult and mockery. There are better ways – but they probably wouldn’t sell very many magazines! Don’t get me wrong, I believe in free speech but it belongs to us all, not just to members of the National Union of Journalists! As a recent blog post put it: Je suis Charlie, and I would like to proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, marriage can only occur between one man and one woman, and that abortion is murder. Or am I allowed to say that?” (Faith in our Families blog http://faithinourfamilies.com/2015/01/08/charlie-hedbro-you-are-not-allowed-to-say-that/)

It strikes me that there’s a level of foolhardiness in the media’s response to the Charlie Hebdo attack. While we’re resolute in upholding the right to free speech its application is at times a little thoughtlessly bold.

Je suis Charlie ImageIt’s something I learned while working in the prison system. Prison officers don’t insult prisoners, or at least some prisoners. They’re careful how they speak to some prisoners. But they should really claim their right to free speech, shouldn’t they? I mean they should be entitled to strut through the prison saying what they like when they like, shouldn’t they? But they don’t. Nothing would strike the average prison officer as more stupid! Prison officers appreciate that some of the prisoners are very dangerous so they don’t put their personal safety at risk by strutting about saying what they like when they like. More importantly, it’s not just about an individual officers safety, it’s about the safety of others. They refuse to put the safety of their colleagues at risk. It’s common sense, we’d call it simple cop-on!

Similarly, I’ve heard members of An Garda Siochana (Ireland’s Police Service) say that they’d prefer not to work with a particular garda because he or she would get you in trouble. The scene goes something like this: gardai arrive at an incident that’s under control. The situation is calm, but suddenly our garda friend opens his mouth, he’s got a right to free speech, right? He says all the ‘wrong’ things according to prudence, and suddenly a calm situation is turned into a flash-point. Our garda friend has managed to put his own safety at risk and that of his colleagues and possibly members of the public too.

Free speech might get you far but common sense – in this case a prudent evaluation of your opponent – will get you much further, not to mention saving innocent lives too!

Second Sunday of Christmas, (B), God lives on the edge.

Before we leave Christmas behind I want to look again at the context in which God became flesh because we can pull some interesting details from it.

Let us always remember that in the Church, in the spiritual life, we must always be deceived into focusing on the shadows, on the darkness rather than the light.

Let us always remember that in the Church, in the spiritual life, we must always be deceived into focusing on the shadows, on the darkness rather than the light.

The first detail I’d like you to see is that when God became flesh he was really pushing the boundaries of our freedom. The incarnation sits on the very edge of human freedom. If God did anything more we’d have no choice but to believe… and instantly our freedom is gone.

So the whole belief thing and the Church – remember that Christ and the Church are inseparable – is a personal choice. Yes, absolutely, but in acknowledging that it’s a personal choice, we must also acknowledge that God has done everything possible to swing our choice in his direction while leaving us just enough freedom to be able to reject him. This is a very thin line – maxed out very deliberately by God.

I’d also like you to notice the role of the political leaders – Caesar Augustus, Herod and the various layers of Government and leadership – in the arrival of the Christ-child (Cf Luke). They had absolutely nothing to do with it! In fact, they provided nothing more than the historical backdrop, nothing more than a way to put a date on the events. They were by-passed – as Mary marvelled in her Magnificat; “he has pulled down princes from their thrones…” How? He just by-passed them making them largely irrelevant and went to the lowly stable where only the lowly, and those who make themselves lowly can recognize him. This hasn’t changed.

But later they did try to get in on the act, to thwart it, Herod particularly. So his eventual involvement is one of opposition. This is most interesting because this hasn’t changed either – politics is still largely opposing the influence of the incarnation, non-violently of course, and ironically it does so on the pretext of choice!

Slaughter of the Innocents, Leon Cogniet

Slaughter of the Innocents, Leon Cogniet

The next detail I’d like you to see is the proximity of really dark evil to the unfolding of God’s plans. As the Christ-child arrived into the world Herod’s power was threatened. Initially he played politics with the wise men, trying to trick them into telling him where he could find the child Jesus so that he could eliminate him, but when politics fails he unleashes a terrible evil ordering the death of every new born male child. What I want you to see is the proximity of the darkest evil to the unfolding of God’s plan in the world – this is the price of human freedom – and it hasn’t changed either. Wherever God’s plan is unfolding you will have evil too, and the greater the plan, the greater the evil, but only for a time. Always remember that spiritually we must be deceived into focusing on the shadows, on the darkness rather than the light. It happens all the time – right now in the Church it is happening; has happened.

The final detail I’d like you to see is how the unfolding of God’s plan is always tottering on the brink. God’s plan is dependent on Mary’s ‘yes’, on a solitary woman’s ‘yes’, on a ‘yes’ that asks this woman to let go of all her plans and stare, and step, into an abyss (from a human point of view). It’s dependent on Joseph accepting Mary’s version of events. It’s dependent on Joseph’s dream, on the wise men’s dream. What I want you to see is the thin line, again this thin line. God’s will always looks like it’s about to flop, from beginning to end, from incarnation to resurrection and into the future.

Doesn’t it look like that right now?

But it’ll never fail… never.

Christmas: God is with us, and God has a face, a personable identity

Tonight God crosses the desert we heard about during Advent, he crosses the valleys, the hills, the mountains, the cliffs. Tonight God is with us – and he wants to stay with us, with you.

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“In the mystery of the Incarnation there is also an aspect that is connected to human freedom. God has pitched his tent among us and we must hasten to receive the grace that he offers us” Pope Francis, January 05, 2014

He is with us in the real world, as Pope Francis says; “in this real world.” He doesn’t come to an idyllic world as if this (pointing to the crib) is just sentiment but nothing to do with the real world.

How real do you want it?

There’s the awkwardness of Mary’s pregnancy albeit by Gods direct intervention but who’ll believe that? I’m pregnant Joseph and you’re not the father! Thank you God, you really dropped me in it three!

There’s Joseph’s inevitable confusion, his uncertainty, his pride – think of a man’s pride in this situation, Joseph’s decision to leave Mary. Thank you God, you really dropped me in it there! See how close God’s will is to the edge, always tottering on the brink! God’s will always looks like it can’t possibly succeed.

There’s the long and difficult journey to Bethlehem for a heavily pregnant mother, a distance of 100 or more kilometres, on arrival there’s no suitable accommodation. Thank you God, you really dropped me in it there! Here we find the story of this child’s future life in summary; “foxes have holes but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head”… to this day. How have you changed that?

There’s the joy and the supernatural wonder of this night – the lowliness of the shepherds recognizing the Christ-child; haughtiness would never have been able to recognise the Christ-child – followed by the terror of the flight into Egypt to escape Herod’s slaughter of every new born male child. What’s it like for a father or a mother lying awake under a night sky knowing that at any moment a soldier full of murderous intent might find them? Thank you God, you really dropped me in it there! Tonight “there will be people from Nigeria to Iraq who take their life into their hands by going to midnight Mass.” (Fraser Nelson)

Not to an idyllic world but to this world, cruel, violent, craving power, divided but also good. God is with us in this world and because of this night (day) God has a face, a personable identity.

My second point tonight:

Many – far too many Catholics, possibly a majority – do not have a strong sense that God is with us even though he’s done this (pointing to the crib). Why?

This is an excellent book, written by Fr. Chris Hayden. It's one of the books I'm recommending for the average lay wo/man in 2015. It's available from Veritas here http://www.veritasbooksonline.com/i-believe-line-by-line-through-the-creed.html or from Amazon here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Believe-Line-Through-Creed/dp/1847305687/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1420366606&sr=8-1&keywords=Christopher+Hayden

This is an excellent book, written by Fr. Chris Hayden. It’s one of the books I’m recommending for the average lay wo/man in 2015. It’s available from Veritas here http://www.veritasbooksonline.com/i-believe-line-by-line-through-the-creed.html or from Amazon here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Believe-Line-Through-Creed/dp/1847305687/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1420366606&sr=8-1&keywords=Christopher+Hayden

A poor family are taking the boat to the US. They can afford to bring nothing more than bread and cheese for the journey and a little savings. About 3 days into the journey one of the children complains: Daddy, I can’t eat any more cheese, if I eat any more cheese I think I’m going to die. So the father gives the child a small coin from the family savings telling the child to go and buy an ice cream. About an hour later the child returns, excited, and tells the father: Daddy, I’ve had three ice creams and a dinner. Here’s your coin back, the food is included in the price of the tickets! (Peter Kreeft)

Many of us have tried to live on the spiritual equivalent of a diet of “cheese sandwiches” (Fr. Chris Hayden) not realizing that there’s so much more on offer.

This is the single biggest problem in the Church.

It’s the real reason – the reason behind all the other reasons – why people leave the Church. Think about it; how long will any of us last on a diet of cheese sandwiches? How long before you’re fed up? How long before you’ll walk away?

There’s a lunacy to all this that’s seldom named, but we’ll name it tonight; God has come bounding across the desert, the valleys, the mountains, the great divide between God and man – God is with us – and we’re bored, fed up, we think that this child will somehow place limits on us, somehow diminish our freedom, or we think that it’s not about us – you – that he’s not looking for you? Ah, come on!

To all of you making your annual visit I ask you to stare hard at this child and ask yourself why he came? And if you want it, if you’ve got the desire, I think Fr. Byrne and I can lead you to much more than cheese sandwiches. As Dell-boy would say; we guarantee you a full steak meal!

Tonight, and during the Christmas season I invite you to look again, visit the crib, take a good hard look and ask; why? Then ask yourself; what’s it got to do with me? I doubt he intended you to exclude yourself. Certainly not. As Pope Francis says, he intended us to use our freedom to “hasten to receive the grace that he offers us.”