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Sunday, October 17, 2010

"Experience is a hard teacher..."

..."She gives the test first, and the lessons afterwards".

Whoever coined this profound statement must have been sitting in on yesterday's Legislative Session on the Manhattan Declaration here in Phoenix.  From the Mass to the final words spoken prophetically by Princeton Professor Robert George one could feel the gravity of every anti-life/anti marriage initiative that has taken place since President Barack Obama took the oath of office.  Our culture faces a momentous challenge and just like Abraham Lincoln stated in his famous Gettysburg Address, we too, "are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war." This war, seems to be over the very institutions that this great country was founded".

All politics is local.
Arriving on the campus of the Phoenix Diocese, attendees on their way to the 8am Mass at St. Mary's Basilica were confronted by 100 or so protestors representing No Longer Silent, a group of christian clerics who are at odds with the Church's teaching on homosexuality and marriage. They claim that "Conservative political and Christian rhetoric condemning homosexuals has monopolized public perception of the stance of religious persons on this issue and further state that the Manhattan Declaration declares war on LGBT and women's rights.” 

Circus Maximus
To emphasize their position of tolerance, they shouted at attendees to "not believe the lies in the Manhattan Declaration" and carried signs that purported the church's intolerance and exclusion of LGBT people. They trespassed onto the diocesan property and impeded the attendees while cabling the gates of the diocese and locking arms to prevent entrance to the building courtyard.  Thankfully, the local police were able to peacefully lead the protestors away from the venue and remove the cable to allow the morning to continue. 

And continue it did.
How does one effectively synthesize the words of Bishop Olmsted, Ron Johnson, Mike Phelan, Alan Sears, Marjorie Dannensfelder and Robert George?  I don't know, but I'm going to try...

Our Bishop expanded on the Gospel passage about "not worrying about how or what our defense might be" but relying upon the Holy Spirit who will teach us what we need to do and say; to have faith and not be afraid.  He reminded us that Jesus did not  reprimand His followers with admonitions of "Oh, ye of little love or Oh, ye of little hope".  Rather, he admonished them for their lack of faith.  In our age, we, too, are challenged by the words of our Lord to have faith.  Without faith, we can have neither love nor hope.  However from the foundational virtue of faith, both hope and love flow.  The faith of our founders was tested and purified. It brought forth the great fruit of a free nation united in faith in God and embracing institutions which would solidify it for future generations: marriage and family. It is now our turn to to be tested and strengthened as gold in a furnace.  We are not to be afraid; rather, we are to be people of strong faith to carry out the work that others began. 

Ron Johnson, executive director of the Arizona Catholic Conference, said the goal of the seminar was “to encourage people of faith to be well versed about our core values and to emphasize collaboration with other Christians, especially in the public square.”  He reminded us of the sad reality that 45% of Catholics do not believe that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist - an astonishing statistic indeed.  He elaborated on the Pope's remarks that an alarming number of the faithful are becoming increasingly marginalized in society. Ron exhorted all Christians to embrace, learn and live their faith as this is an inherent act of protecting our religious freedoms that are under deliberate and vicious attack. 

Mike Phelan, Phoenix Diocesan Director of Marriage and Respect Life, elaborated on the efforts of the Covenant of Love Project and the freshly revised policies governing marriage preparation. The enhanced policy emphasizes that couples must receive “personal preparation for marriage, which disposes the spouses to the holiness and duties of their new state.” the new diocesan policy, instituted on January 1 of this year highlighted the teachings of John Paul IIs Theology of the Body, Natural Family planning and an expanded 9 month curriculum for engaged couples.  Impressive early statistics affirm the NFP method as an effective way for Catholics to plan the size and spacing of their families. NFP couples are experiencing a near 50% drop in divorce rates while they learn to trust their spouse, their design and their Designer. 

Alan Sears, President of Alliance Defense Fund, reminded us that the definition of marriage between one man and one woman is non-negotiable.  Marriage either means this or it means nothing at all. Alan and his team of top attorneys are on the front lines every day facing challenge after challenge to those who would sooner redefine marriage into nonexistence. I was surprised to learn that in the average state, roughly 1,100 laws are directly impacted by our current definition of marriage; this is not to mention our country's influence on other nations. One can but imagine the legal, moral, social and psychological pandora's box this will open if we consider the end game of marriage for any and all. Polygamy and polyamory are just the beginnings. Commenting on Vermont's Civil Union law, Alan compared this to feeding a hungry tiger for breakfast and negotiating with him about whether or not he'll eat you for dinner.  We simply must not be naive enough to believe that this is just about wanting gay marriage.  Those who wish to redefine marriage desire that marriage should not exist. For this, we are all called to stand and act. 

Marjorie Dannesfelder, President of the Susan B. Anthony List:  "There is a dearth of special needs children in our society".  I have never heard this statement before and it deserves our attention.  What we don't have a shortage of are an increasing number of triple and quadruple baby strollers in town.  Have you noticed this?  Multiple births are on the uptick but down's babies are scarce. This is a bad sign. From the right to life comes every and all other rights. What kind of society have we become when it becomes okay to destroy the most vulnerable among us?  Marjorie reminded us of the words of the late anti-Nazi activist Deitrich Bonhoeffer, "Silence in the face of evil is evil itself".  She challenged us to be modern day Bonhoeffers and stand up to evil in our midst. She also reminded us that on November 2 we shall not forget those who sold out to evil and acted in poor conscience against those who trusted them (see Stupak is as Stupak does). 

Have you ever researched the ethics codes that govern the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecologists? Robbie George has. And just like me, he can't get over the reference of the word "healthcare" as it relates to abortion. Robert George, Princeton Professor, philosopher and co-author/signer of Manhattan Declaration was on hand to discuss a recent ethics refutation that he debated with ACOG on limitations that they wanted to place on doctor's rights to conscientiously refuse to perform abortions.  Yes, that's right, they said "limitations".  The ethics doctors wish to stifle the consciences of pro-life doctors who, in their estimation would be complicit in committing grievous sin by destroying the life of another human being. The ethics docs want this right limited. Actually, they want the pro-life docs to go away, plain and simple. (Sort of how Obamacare was voted into office by executive order rather than by legitimate political process).  Dr. George emphasized the point that doctors are to be about the business of science, not about the business of moral philosophy.  How in the world have we arrived at the notion that pregnancy is somehow a state of disease?  Dis-ease, yes, for some, but disease?? George advanced the notion that a sort of "professional cleansing" not unlike ethnic cleansing may be the next chapter in the Obamacare lexicon if we close our eyes to the opinions and matters of these ethics boards.  For it is not a matter of if a morality will be advanced into our legal and ethical codes - clearly morality has already been inserted there. Rather, it will be a matter over whose morality will be advanced. 

As he neared his conclusion, George reemphasized the license with with this current president has acted in the realm of so-called reproductive freedoms...remember the first things that the president did after he took office?  He abrogated the conscience protections that George W. Bush had so strenuously fought for.  This current president has NEVER supported any restrictions on abortion and he has referred to the bearing of children in one famous lecture as a punishment.

Human life is sacred.  It is best protected by God and God gave that privilege to men and women under the bonds of holy matrimony.  Want to fight poverty? Build healthy marriages. Want to build a culture of life?  Stop killing the preborn. Want to make a difference? Go read the Manhattan Declaration and sign it.  Want your voice to be heard?  Vote on Nov 2.

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.  (Gettysburg Address)

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