Posted by: frroberts | October 20, 2016

STD rates hit record high

Cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis reached records levels in 2015 among young Americans, according the federal health officials. Highest rates are among gay and bisexual men. Among the causes are budget cuts in STD clinics and dating apps.

According to the new report in 2015, there were more than 1.5 million chlamydia cases reported, nearly 400,000 cases of gonorrhea, and nearly 24,000 cases of syphilis. In just a year since 2014, chlamydia cases grew by 5.9 percent, gonorrhea by 12.8 percent and syphilis great by 19 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a national study.

“We have reached a decisive moment for the nation,” Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the CDC’s center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention said in a release. “STD rates are rising, and many of the country’s systems for preventing STDs have eroded. We must mobilize, rebuild and expand services – or the human economic burden will continue to grow.”

The 2015 data should American 15 to 24 years old accounted for nearly two-thirds of chlamydia diagnoses, and half of the gonorrhea cases. Gay and bisexual men accounted for the majority of gonorrhea cases, and 82 percent of syphilis cases. The health agency also said antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea may be higher among men who had sex with men.

The high rates of gonorrhea among men, the CDC thinks might be attributed to the advent of HIV treatment. Some may have stopped using condoms so consistently because they are no longer afraid of a deadly infection.

“But, unfortunately, HIV treatment has no impact on prevention of (other) STDs,” Dr. Gail Bolan, Director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention said, according to NBC.

Posted by: frroberts | October 19, 2016

Spirituality Reading List

Angelli, The Excellences of the Congregation of the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri.

Laird, Into the Silent Land.

Tugwell, Ways of Imperfection.

Pitre, Jesus the Bridegroom.

Corbon, The Wellspring of Worship.

Dubay, Happy are You Poor.

A wonderfully challenging book on every Christian’s call to imitate the poverty of Jesus Christ.  The message of the book is not easy, even for those who are deeply committed to their faith.

Nouwen, Life of the Beloved.

What is the essence of the Christian Gospel?  This question should be an easy one, but anyone who has attempted to explain the faith to a non-believer lacking a real acquaintance with Christianity usually discovers the biggest problem in explaining Christianity is where to start.  In our own spiritual lives, we often find that establishing a foundation for our spirituality is similarly difficult.  In this highly readable book Henri Nouwen attempts to provide a positive catechism for a modern agnostic skeptic.  In doing so, he reminds we who believe in Christ that the essence of the message of Jesus is love and grace.  Sadly, we often forget these two when we try to live our religion and replace them with a judgmental moralism.

Sheen, The Life of Christ.

Halik, Night of the Confessor: Christian Faith in an Age of Uncertainty.

Keating, Addiction and Divine Therapy.

We live in an age of material prosperity and spiritual poverty.  Our temptation is to try to fill the God-sized whole in our hearts with material things.  At first, our attempts seem to work.  But with each successive attempt to find our ultimate happiness in something other than God, we find less and less of it.  The spiritual desperation that ensues often leads us to fill ourselves up with more and more of the created thing, even to the point of developing a mental obsession with it.  By this point, we are addicts.

This book details how to find freedom from our addictions and true happiness in living in God’s plan for our lives.

Bouyer, Introduction to the Spiritual Life.

Posted by: frroberts | October 19, 2016

Martyrdom of Saint Luis Sanchez (graphic)

Posted by: frroberts | October 19, 2016

Bishop Barron on atheism

Posted by: frroberts | October 18, 2016

Stump the priest

In the comment section for this post, please leave your questions.  I will answer them in due course.

Posted by: frroberts | October 17, 2016

Latest Film Project from Bishop Barron

Posted by: frroberts | October 15, 2016

How to beat the devil

Posted by: frroberts | October 13, 2016

How to share the faith

I got an interesting question recently about how to share faith with those who are not practicing Christians.  After getting some background about the particular individual in question, the following observations came up.

Rational argument, while helpful, usually does not lead to people changing their minds.  Christianity takes as a given that all of us struggle to resolve at least four questions:

Why is there evil in the world?

What will happen after I die?

Am I loved?

How do I receive forgiveness for my sins?

Some spiritualities that take their inspiration from the East claim to evade the questions of death and evil through positing dualism and the transmigration of souls.  There are those who dismiss the idea of sin as a relic of a previous state in the evolution of human consciousness.  My own experience is that the question ”am I loved?” might provide more traction for those who want to experience the unconditional love that God alone is capable of giving.

For those who are not interested in answers to any of these questions, we Christians really have nothing to share on the level of argument.  Chances are at least one of these resonates; we would do well to focus on common ground.  Of course, it is always helpful to be able to correct misconceptions about what Christianity is and is not for those whose ideas are fragmentary and sometimes even inaccurate.

It would be far better, however, for us to give good example with our lives to the answers we believe in to these four questions.  My own experience is that walking the walk is far more difficult than talking the talk.

The strongest argument for the truth of the Catholic faith is the life of a holy person.  If we have a particular intention, we would do very well to fast and pray for that person as well.  Since both of these practices are part of trying to live a holy life, they would already be regular parts of our lives as Christians.

Posted by: frroberts | October 10, 2016

The Plasticity of Human Sexuality

After Margaret Meade any responsible person who reads a study about life in the bush with a healthy dose of suspicion.  That said, when the results of a study of “primitive peoples” undermine the conventional wisdom of military-industrial complex of the dictatorship of relativism in academe today, one cannot help but think that there might be something of substance.  Such was my response when I ran into this article on the Atlantic’s website, “Where Masturbation and  Homosexuality do not exist.”  It is definitely worth a read.

In my years at Harvard, I was always fascinated by the deconstructionists who argued that the idea of gender and sexuality was a social construct imposed on us by the powerful who then proceed to impose their own version of gender and sexuality by using the power of their endowed university chairs.  We owe a real debt of gratitude to the post-modernists.  They have revealed to us that there is no such thing as unbiased objectivity.  We find the next step that many post-moderns take to be disingenuous, however:  Since there is no such thing as objectivity, it is beyond discussion that everything is relative.

The original sin for this worldview is the imposition of any kind of social orthodoxy save their own.  As my one of my relatives once told me, “The only thing I can’t stand is intolerant people!”  Indeed.  The one dogma is that there shall be no dogma.  And all those who dissent from this creed shall be branded heretics and silenced by the inquisitors of tolerance.

The developed, post-Christian West stands on the verge of the public normalization of sexuality that is conceptually decoupled from procreation.  We should not be surprised that this movement corresponds to soaring rates of single motherhood, child poverty, human trafficking and “sex tourism.”   We are told to have faith.  More contraceptives and government regulation will fix the problem.  If only we have more comprehensive government-sponsored sexual education in public schools and free contraceptives, all will be well in the garden.  We can’t help but smile.  Are these not the same urban public schools that graduate students from high school who can barely read their diplomas?   Are these not the same urban  public schools that the wealthy post-modern liberal elites avoid using for their own children at all costs?

Progress in questions of gender and sexuality does not consist in a mechanistic rolling back of social taboos.  Evolution might be an historic, biological reality, but Darwin’s science gives us precious little insight into what is a just social order on questions of justice and sexuality.

Given that human sexuality is not determined but plastic, we would do well to have an open, honest debate about the common good as regards gender and sexuality rather than sliding into far-reaching social transformation by the diktat of those in the entertainment, journalism and academia (the distinction between these has become increasingly difficult to delineate, both on the right and left, in recent decades).  The following might be good starting points:

There is an undeniable link between sexual intimacy and procreation for the vast majority of the population; sexuality is inherently social.  

The protection of the rights of children should be a primary consideration in any debate regarding gender and sexuality.  

Rights of adults always come with social responsibilities;  this is particularly true as regards gender and sexuality.

Public recognition of private intimate relationships between consenting adults must be balanced against the forgoing three points.  

Posted by: frroberts | October 5, 2016

How to Read the Bible

When I began studying my Christian faith seriously when I was an undergraduate at Harvard I had the good fortune of taking Professor Peter Gomes’ course, “The Interpretation of the Christian Bible.”  In discussing the problems that come with reading the Bible, he quoted a Catholic writer from before Vatican II who said that Bible reading is not  necessarily a good thing for everyone because the Bible is a “dumb and difficult book”– in the sense that it does not have much to say about some very important contemporary issues and what it does have to say about anything is not always easy to interpret.

Even Henry VIII and Martin Luther were at times distressed with the results when Bible reading became a privileged spiritual practice in their respective countries.  What came afterwards sometimes bore little resemblance to Christianity, even in the eyes of these first Protestants.

The Bible is a complex library of documents written over hundreds, if not thousands of years, in three different languages (Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek) set in a variety of different cultures (Egypt, Babylon, the Roman Empire, the Kingdom of Israel, the Hellenistic Empire, etc.).  It contains songs, poems, historical sagas, court histories, letters, biographies, prophecies, law, instructions for worship, apocalyptic literature and even some sermons.

It is not a book that one can just pick up and read from cover to cover expecting to make any kind of sense of it.

Every day people try to do this very thing with the Bible.  They attempt the impossible and the results are predictable.

Atheists and semi-believers read the Bible without a historical sense and see the god described in the Bible, or at least in parts of it, as wicked and evil, especially the god described in the Old Testament.  Atheists use the Bible to discredit religion. Semi-believers engage in a type of dualism that rejects anything they do not like as being the god of the Old Testament who is obsessed with rules and judgment.  In place of this dark god, semi-believers embrace what they do like as coming from the new god that Jesus came to reveal who accepts us no matter what we do and does not care about our morality, especially sexual morality.

Skeptics read the Bible thinking that it is an ancient history or science textbook and point out the obvious problems they see.  Ignorant Christians perceive such observations as an affront to the Good Book and rush in to defend the honor of God and concoct all sorts of wacky theories like Verbal Inspiration, Biblical Fundamentalism and Young Earth Creationism, which tend to make belief more rather than less difficult for most Christians.

Some Scripture scholars claim that large portions of the Gospels are merely stories made up by the early Church that have little if anything to do with the historical Jesus.  Creating a Jesus in our own image seems to be easier, at least in the short run, than going through the painful process of being formed into the image of Jesus that the Gospels give us, which has something that is distasteful for every one of us.

This technique is also a great way to break new ground in scholarly debates.  Unfortunately, it tends to unsettle the faith of the simple believers and some priests, especially if the priests in question talk about such high-level scholarship from the pulpit.

Even among the conventional Christians (i.e. Protestants) in the United States who look to the Bible as the primary norm for the Christian faith, there are problems.  Despite being able to agree on the fact the Bible is the Word of God, these same Christians cannot agree on what it means.  Doctrinal and disciplinary issues lead to divisions among Christians.  Thus,we have thousands of different Christian denominations in the United States, which is in manifest contradiction to Christ’s express will that all His followers be one (Jn. 17:21).

Atheist readings of Scripture use the Bible to prove that God does not or should not exist.  Dualists are semi-believers who see two gods in the Bible, the evil Old Testament god and the good God that Jesus reveals in parts of the New Testament.

Both atheism and dualism struggle with divine commands to do things that we would today regard as immoral.  Take for example the words of the psalmist

O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy [shall he be], that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us.

Happy [shall he be], that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones. (Ps. 137:8-9)

Even the context of the entire Psalm, these verses are difficult to swallow.  Could God really inspire words that praise the murder of pagan babies?

The atheist would say in response to these verses, “You see, the god of the Bible is a monster and is to blame for genocide and violence.  We should do everything we can to stamp out religion, especially Christianity, because the world will be a much better place without it.”   Such atheists forget to mention that the most brutal practitioners of genocide in the 20th century West were those who had rejected Christianity of their youth, Hitler and Stalin.  Neither can we blame Mao and Pol Pot on the Bible.

Still, many of Christians feel like it would better if these verses were not in the Bible. Perhaps there was some this sentiment behind the actions of those in charge of the revision of the Breviary after Vatican II when they cut these offensive verses out of the monthly recitation of Psalm 137.  We are not surprised that some look at these verses and others like them and see evidence that there are two different gods being described in the Bible.  Nor are these two verses the only such instance in the Good Book.

The Fathers of the Church, especially Ambrose and Augustine, are fond of trying to settle this problematic by appealing to Saint Paul’s phrase, “the letter kills, the spirit gives life.”  There is a dialectic tension of promise and fulfillment between the Old and New Covenants  inherent in Christianity.  The Old Testament foreshadows the New.  We should not be surprised by the darkness cast by this shadow on some parts of the Old Testament. For Christians, such passages point toward the need for a more definitive revelation in the future.  They cry out for fulfillment in Jesus Christ

The Old Testament is a record of God’s project of choosing a people in order to bring them progressively more deeply into the truth.  As such, there will be some passages in it that do not accord to New Testament moral standards.  A good teacher of novice musicians aims at improvement rather than perfection.

It would be a mistake to regard commands to practice genocide, holy war and capital punishment as unmitigated negatives.  These commands prefigure in a dark way what Jesus will say later in the Sermon on the Mount, “If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.”  For a follower of Jesus, there can be no compromise with personal sin; occasions of sin should be uprooted mercilessly.

At times, the imperative to root out sin in our own lives might seem as senseless as the command to destroy the children of one’s enemies by dashing their brains out on rocks.  But we must smash the skulls of those little sinful habits of ours no matter how distasteful or irrational it seems to us.  For we, like Israelites of old,  are far too inclined to seek a modus vivendi with sin in our lives.

Posted by: frroberts | October 5, 2016

What I am reading now

Newman, Mary: The Virgin Mary in the Life and Writings of John Henry Newman.

Cole, The Hidden Enemies of the Priesthood.

Angelli, The Excellences of the Congregation of the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri.


Posted by: frroberts | October 4, 2016

Cause for Canonization of Fr. Hamel opened

.- The French diocese of Rouen has officially begun an inquiry into the beatification of French priest Jacques Hamel, killed by Islamic extremists earlier this summer, after receiving a note from Pope Francis waiving the traditional five-year waiting period.

Rouen’s Archbishop Dominique Lebrun made the announcement after celebrating a Mass Oct. 2 to re-open the church of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, where Fr. Hamel was killed by supporters of the Islamic State while saying Mass in July

Rouen’s Archbishop Dominique Lebrun made the announcement after celebrating a Mass Oct. 2 to re-open the church of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, where Fr. Hamel was killed by supporters of the Islamic State while saying Mass in July.


Posted by: frroberts | October 3, 2016

The day in 1993 that changed the Catholic Church in the USA

Original source

In a lengthy, off-the-cuff speech in Georgia, Pope Francis said the world today is at war with marriage and urged couples to fight against modern threats to the sacrament, such as gender theory.

Speaking to Irina, a Georgian wife and mother who gave her testimony in front of Pope Francis and hundreds of priests, seminarians and religious Oct. 1, the Pope said, “You mentioned a great enemy of marriage today: gender theory.”

“Today the whole world is at war trying to destroy marriage,” he said, noting that this war isn’t being fought with arms, “but with ideas.”

There are “certain ideologies that destroy marriage,” he said. “So we need to defend ourselves from ideological colonization.”

“Matrimony is the most beautiful thing God created,” he said, explaining that since man and woman have been created in God’s image, “it is when the two become one that his image is reflected.”

“I understood the line when you spoke about the difficulties that come in the family, the temptations, so we resolve things on the road of divorce,” he said, explaining that when a divorce happens, “two people pay.”

“God pays, because God is the one who made them one, and when they divorce, they dirty what God has made,” he adding, also noting that the children also pay the price of the separation.

“You don’t know how much children suffer when they see parents fight and separate,” the Pope said, explaining that while certain “complex situations” exist, “you must do everything to save a marriage.”

Posted by: frroberts | October 1, 2016

An examination of Conscience

The First Commandment: I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other Gods before me.

Participating in the occult (fortune-tellers, palm readers, etc.), failing to give 10% of one’s income to the poor and the Church when not in a state extreme financial distress, leaving the Catholic Church for another faith because of personal preferences.

The Second Commandment: You shall not take the name of the Lord in vain

Using God’s name as curse.  Appealing to religious motivation in order to defend something that is not clearly God’s will.  Using the holy name of God or one of His titles in a light way.  Speaking with profane and vulgar language.  Receiving Holy Communion or another sacrament in a state of mortal sin.

The Third Commandment: Keep holy the Lord’s Day

Missing Mass on a Sunday or Holy day without a very serious reason (like illness).  Doing unnecessary servile work on Sunday.  Spending Sunday (apart from Mass) exclusively focusing on sports and entertainment rather than prayer and religious reading.  Neglecting daily prayers and continuing education in the faith.  Leaving Mass early/deliberately arriving late.

The Fourth Commandment: Honor your father and mother

(For a minor) Disobeying one’s parents in a serious matter.  Neglecting the emotional and financial support of one’s parents in old age.  Disobeying legitimate Church authority.  Willfully rejecting an article of the divine and Catholic faith.  Disrespecting one’s parents.  Speaking badly of priests and consecrated persons.  Breaking traffic laws and other non-criminal and criminal laws that are not contrary to reason.

The Fifth Commandment: You shall not murder

Deliberately taking or assisting in taking an innocent human life (including abortion).  Using the morning after pill. Consuming alcohol to the point of the loss of the use of reason. Taking illegal drugs.  Driving recklessly or under the influence.  Driving distractedly or over the speed limit.  Having unhealthy eating/drinking/smoking habits.   *Striking without provocation or bullying (consult a priest about the seriousness of these sins).

The Sixth Commandment: You shall not commit impure actions

Having intercourse outside of marriage.  Committing impure actions with oneself.  *Practicing contraception or interruption.   Engaging in impure actions with others.  

The Seventh Commandment: You shall not steal

Cheating on one’s taxes.  Stealing another’s possessions (when the quantity is significant).  Defrauding one’s employer or business associates.  (If an employer) Failing to pay a just wage.

The Eighth Commandment: You shall not bear false witness

Lying about another so as to do serious damage his reputation. “White” lies.  Giving false evidence under oath.  Exposing the faults of others to those who cannot correct them in an attempt to do harm to their reputations. Failing to maintain a confidence in a serious matter.

The Ninth Commandment: You shall not covet your neighbor’s spouse

Viewing or reading pornography.  Consenting fully and freely to unchaste thoughts.  Deliberately dressing in such a way as to incite lust in others.  Engaging in conversations calculated t0 incite lust.

*The Tenth Commandment: You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods:

Withholding forgiveness, wishing one’s neighbor ill, choosing to be saddened by another’s good fortune.  Acting in a violent or angry way toward others.  Seeking revenge.

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