Emmitsburg Council of Churches

On Marriage, Lent, the Bible and "Why Catholics Do that"

Father John J. Lombardi

Christ made the disciples "His witnesses and gave them understanding of the Faith and the Grace of speech"

Unabashedly and realistically, President Bush said last week: "If we are to prevent the meaning of marriage from being changed forever, our nation must enact a constitutional amendment to protect marriage in America."

Last week he declared:

  1. the sanctity of marriage;
  2. the chaos of moral affairs in America today, via events in San Francisco and Massachusetts; and therefore
  3. proposed an amendment to the Constitution to define and defend marriage.

In essence, "push Bush" and, somewhat like Lent, he said we should amend our lives and the U.S. Constitution. He was alarmed by recent precipitating, amorally-avalanching events, and so should we! Where are the prophets when you need them -the Isaiah's, Jonah's and Jeremiah's-- to needle and awaken us.? Our country is being de-moralized by special interest groups who are formenting change in conniving ways (promoting homosexualism, sodomy, alternative models of family and marriage ). Don't you find it ironic, even Orwellian (progressivism as a form of fascism) that a judge is denigrated and deposed in Alabama for displaying the Ten Commandments, and yet a mayor in San Francisco, outrightly disobeying the law there, hands out so-called "marriage licenses" to homosexuals persons--and a party ensues? Forewarning: just like the Alabama incident was a benchmark of disrespect for natural law and God's law, so are recent San Francisco and Massachusetts events a benchmark for the demise of marriage, family, human sexuality in the U.S.

However, this past Friday the New York Times reported that many state legislators, energized by the "Bush initiative," are proposing measures to ban "gay marriage". Vatican II taught usthat: "At all times the Church carries the responsibility of reading the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel… Traditional institutions, laws and modes of thought and emotion do not always appear to be in harmony with today's world. This has given rise to a serious disruption of patterns and even of norms of behavior" ("Church in the Modern World," # 6,7). We need prophets like Jeremiah to remind us of the Lord's counsels: "Listen to My Voice; then I will be your God and you shall be my people. Walk in the ways that I command you, so that you may prosper" (7:23).

This issue of "same-sex unions" is a systemic problem and we didn't just "happen upon it" passively; it was an insidious process of ammoralization. "Show me," you say? Consider the past forty years (not to mention the effects of Original Sin for a couple thousand): the "sexual revolution" which blurred sexual lines and activities, ill-based sexual education which deny chastity and thereby promote fornication; abortion, contraception and the culture of death (manipulating sexual reproduction and activities by ungodly means); relativism which extends nihilism (in this case, that there is no one truth or "fixed sexuality"); the individual-rights movements (which negates the common good); de-fanging of sexual taboos like "fornication" and "adultery" ("The Scarlet Letter" is now passé, etc); changes in religion and the authority of the Bible and God's revelation (a "that was then, this is now" mentality-- i.e., de-humanizing teachings about sexuality and chastity, and homosexuality). In other words, " it all adds up." However, here, it is all now crashing down.

However, we are called, like St Paul to sense the Lord standing by us, and hearing Him say: "Take courage. For just as you have borne me witness to my cause in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness in Rome" (Acts 23:11). The U.S. can be "our Rome" today.

One more point: President Bush said activist judges are "creating laws," and: "If judges insist on forcing their arbitrary will upon the people, the only alternative left to the people would be the constitutional process". Activist judges means those who read too much personal bias into law, who create laws "out of thin air," who are influenced by various activists and movments. Progressivists are finessing the issue in terms of "oppression against a class of people," "equal rights for all" and "ending discrimination" and so forth. This is "Orwell-revisited": control language, control the power… What are the errors?:

  1. Rights denied: this so-called "right" of two sexes joining in marriage is not in our Constitution and certainly not in the Bible-though some are trying to convince us of this. Example: A grown man's and a little girl's misperceived "rights" are not denied when the law forbids them marriage, and they claim discrimination and demand a change of law by handing out "passes" to begin false marriages. So here, too, homosexualism is creating and forcing a "false oppression". Likewise, one person doesn't have the right to enslave or torture another person, and thereby create a "right" where this is not recognized, precisely because, in fact, it is in our nature not to enslave and torture others (this is called "natural law"). Persons with homosexuality already have the same rights you and I have. Homsexualism (an illicit movement and lifestyle, contrasted with authentic individual homosexuals seeking reconciliation and legitimate life and Faith), attempts to create a new definition of marriage so it can seek power and recognition; denigrate and re-define true marriage and the family (however subtly, this movement will try to convince you); and change God's institutions and laws, along with civil ones.
  2. Civil rights analogies: homosexualism-the-movment, and even some politicians say-black persons gained civil rights, and so should homosexual persons thru unions. Obviously: this is more "big government" (which progrsessivism promotes) and, ironically, it is legislating morality (which is a phrase they dislike). The false analogy between civil rights and illegitimate homsexualism is cunning and calumnious. They will gather power from civil rights people and yet denigrates them: there's a basic difference between slavery issues and sodomy . Thirty-five states have passed laws forbidding same sex unions. Is this a civil rights denial?
  3. Egalitairansm: this means a forced, falsified equality-like trying to make a girl and a boy "equal" in biology, sexuality and so forth (God made them different, male and female, "-cf. Gn ch. 2). Homsoexualism wants to spread this philosophical error. We Americans need to understand we are all equal under God but with different abilities, strengths and weaknesses. We cannot force one's "equality" upon another, or "usurp equality" from others. Now, about 77 percent of Californians oppose civil unions and a small minority there is creating chaos. Likewise, about 50 per cent were against partial birth abortion and yet this was signed into law.

Think: if the Mayor of Frisco began handing out machine guns to children, people would be in arms (no pun intended). There's not only a physical danger, there's also a spiritual danger (just as in homsoexualism). If someone encouraged slavery, people would revolt; if a politician handed out cigarettes to children, people would vigorously protest. But, since the issue is homosexuality and many progressivist establishments are for this, then there is no revolt.

Let's look at some spiritual solutions:

Pope John Paul II said, "It is not enough to discover Christ--you must bring him to others! The world today is one great mission land, even in countries of longstanding Christian tradition."

Constitutional amendment-yes. However: government can't solve everything . Every person, priest and preacher need do his or her "job": be holy, defend the faith and pass on the values and virtues of our Religion as if no one else is gonna' do it-there are no guarantees now. Some of our civil and religious leaders have failed-now you must respond to defend the family and marriage-by your witness, by your compassionate and challenging actions, by your knowledge of the Faith, the Bible and yes, "The Catechism".

Some civil and religious leaders-- have failed in alarming and spiritually arming us, because of being anesthetized to the culture and the corruption surrounding them; and being co-opted by the power and seduction of it all, have been won over by many false ideologies. (For instance: Catholic Fidel Castro used to be an altar boy and is now still dictator. Besieged Pres. Jean Baptise Aristide of Haiti is a priest-and is now perilously surviving a rebellion: there are no guarantees).

Prophets: Regarding marriage, human sexuality and the response to homsexualism, we need prophetic voices who blend compassion (for those involved) with challenge, to falsifying, seductive ideologies. Look: at work or home (or even church!) you don't have to dress in sack-cloth and ashes (cf. Jonah 3:5,6) or always look glum. What you can do is plant seeds of truth, always speak respectfully about marriage, family life and homosexual persons, no matter what, and thereby defend the Catholic Church and her "authentic teachings", and yes, you can support an amendment to the Constitution-you can do all this, in whatever ways God allows or calls you. You cannot be silent! The prophets of Israel all shouted that they should not live like pagans or slaves to the world. The story of Lazarus and the Rich Man is instructive (Lk. 16:20). The "rich man" in the story, is depicted in a hellish place because of a sin of omission-he simply neglected to "do good". Don't neglect your duty .

Write letters of support to the President and encourage legislators to promote authentic marriage and family life. Remember to cry loud and prophetically: St John did-"A Voice of one crying in the wilderness-make straight the ways of the Lord" (Lk. 3:5). Some are responding-spiritually and "secularly". The movement against "same-sex unions" is diverse and not what the media negatively caricaturizes it as. Friday, The New York Times reported: "Proponents of banning gay marriage contend that the Maryland fight shows the bipartisan, multi-cultural nature of their movement: one of the most outspoken proponents of a constitutional amendment is a black Baptist minister from Baltimore who is a democrat state delegate.. 'The overwhelming majority of people don't agree with gay marriage,' said the delegate, Emmett C. Burns." Support your legislators!

Pray and Fast: It's Lent, after all, so why not?! Offer up sacrifices to solidify yourself in the spiritual life and, like the Lord Himself, make yourself strong for the battle

Support Catholic and Christian Couples and Families: Visit and pray with them, encourage them, help them thru works of mercy- even if you're divorced you can support God, family and Church!

Persons who are homosexual: not all such persons are part of an antagonist movement. Listen to, and, where possible, guide and relate to them as a brother or sister. There are Christian groups which help those in this challenge (contact: Courage, Exodus International. And see what " The Catechism of the Catholic Church" teaches on homosexuality-there are many misunderstandings-at paragraphs #2357ff ).

Encouraging Priests-preachers: this is vital-We need to read and hear about this from the pulpit and computer-pen, about authentic Church and biblical teaching, about how important this issue is, how to respond and bring both

Pope John Paul wrote in "Familiaris Consortio-The Family in the Modern World:" "The future of humanity passes by way of the family. It is indispensable and urgent that every person of good will should endeavor to save and foster the values and requirements of the family…Loving the family means identifying the dangers and the evils that menace it, in order to overcome them" (#86).

Without a constitutional amendment we will spiral into more chaos-that is, without your response.

Catholics and all Christians need do two things: be compassionate and challenging…How will you respond?

Why Do Catholics Do that?...Especially in Lent

Many people, including some Catholics, do not understand that many of our customs and traditions spring from the Bible. For instance, Lent itself (which means spring) is derived from the forty years the Israelites were in the desert, and the forty days of Jesus in the desert. So we, too, prepare for the celebration of Jesus saving us from sin (otherwise we will get sluggish, lax: this is our needed Spring Training"!) Also, look at the Grotto's beautiful tabernacle in the Glass Chapel and think of the iconic angels (cherubim) guarding the Ark of the Covenant (Ex 25:18) which carried the Ten Commandments. But: our tabernacle carries the Lord Himself! Our holy water reminds us of being baptized (which from Greek, baptzein, means immersion), John the Baptist in Jordon : when dipping hands in and making sign of Cross we remind ourselves who we are. Some other Catholic practices to cosnider-esp. for Lent-to Spring, include:

  • Stations of the Cross: Way of the Cross is way to follow Jesus, immerse yourself in His Passion. They were "designed" for pilgrims who could not go to the Holy Land; so they are a democratized spirituality for all. Get a copy of the Fourteen Stations . Pray them and love the Savior!

    We meditate upon these to imprint them and their lessons within our Souls: How much God loved us (He picked up the Cross, fell, died); His death for our sins (Station Twelve) ; His solidarity with us in suffering; His desire for our holiness/saintliness (Simon carrying Cross for Jesus-# ); the sadness of life (closing of the tomb) Try to prayerfully walk or meditate upon these every Friday (and then: not just in Lent, but all year around. This will be a great advance in holiness!).
  • Mass: This is a re-presentation of Calvary and the Last Supper, not separate from these events (we don't re-sacrifice Jesus; neither is a re-enactment of His life).
  • Lady mentioned how she loved how a new, young priest held, in extended fashion, the Holy Eucharist for all to see after the consecration. She said she could make an act of contrition-and hopes he will continue, despite offsetting complaints. "Behold the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world…"
  • Confession: see James 5:16-Confess your sins to one another" and Jn 21, and Mt 16:18. Clean your soul frequently!
  • Pray: Catholics believe in all kinds of prayer, and (hopefully) make a special effort to pray in Lent. After all, Jesus said: "Come away by ourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile" (Mk. 6:31) Recently I went to a families house for Mardi Gras Dinner. Scumptuous! After that the family asked if I'd like to pray the Rosary: with a bunch of children! Well, during the Rosary, there was beautiful silence blended with some wrestling kids, a crying baby, a boy who stubbed his toe and so forth. The parents persevered, better yet, they heroically prayed and led the children (and this priest) in prayer. Are you being heroic in your prayer?
  • Almsgiving-A lady one time heard a homily on spiritual poverty (St Luke describes inner giving and freedom- II Cor 8: 2: "The abundance of their joy and their profound poverty overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part" ). .After this she wanted to help the Church and also to become free(er)-so she gave a diamond ring to the preacher. He checked it out: it was appraised at about $10,000.Are you being generous…to be freed?

Briefly Noted

Priesthood and abuse: The recent John Jay Study of the clerical abuse issues was issued on Friday. It was shocking (four percent of priests from the 1950's onward were found to be abusers), alarming (80 per cent homosexual situations), and sad (those called to heal and reconcile are shown to be so wounded and sick themselves). Hopefully these facts will help victims heal and our Church heal, too, and confront the deeper issues underlying them, mentioned above.

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi