Kenneth D. Whitehead

It’s time to get “obsessed” about opposing today’s moral evils

Kenneth D. Whitehead
By Kenneth Whitehead
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November 13, 2013 (crisismagazine.com) –A recent Quinnipiac poll found that some 53 percent of Catholics who attend Mass weekly, and some 65 percent of those who attend Mass less frequently, would favor a law legalizing so-called same-sex “marriage” in spite of the Church’s clear teaching that any true marriage must always and necessarily be between a man and a woman. The same poll cited almost identical percentages, 52 and 66 percent respectively, favoring the ordination of women, even though Blessed Pope John Paul II foreclosed that option in his 1994 Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, which confirmed that the Church’s teaching forbidding female ordination was “definitive,” and was “to be held by all the faithful.”

The Catholic League’s Bill Donohue questioned the honesty of this poll, primarily because among those who attend Mass less frequently than weekly, it did not distinguish those who no longer attend Mass at all, and hence could no more represent “Catholic” opinion than, in Donohue’s comparison, a teetotaler could be considered a drinker. Bill Donohue has a PhD in sociology and understands polling; he pointed out that “every poll ever taken” verifies that Catholics are more likely to agree with the Church’s teaching in the degree that they actually practice their religion and attend Mass faithfully.

So we can perhaps question whether these startlingly elevated figures in favor of gay marriage reflect valid Catholic opinion. Nevertheless, there does seem to be a considerable gap today between what the Church teaches and what some Catholics apparently believe and follow. We know from other sources, anecdotal as well as statistical, that there is a divergence, sometimes wide, between what the Church teaches, and what many self-identifying Catholics are prepared to accept and affirm today. The really disturbing number of Catholics whom other polls show rejecting the Church’s teaching against contraception, for example—many of whom evidently resort to the use of it as well—represents a notable case in point. Open dissent from the Church’s teaching on birth control has been a regrettable feature of the Church’s life for nearly a half century now; and since this dissent has rarely been corrected by Church authority, but rather has been typically passed over as if it didn’t really exist, the same attitude of dissent has sometimes extended to the denial of other doctrines—which Church authority has again usually not gotten around to correcting.

There is, for example, the now quite notorious phenomenon of the pro-abortion politicians or public figures who readily and cheerfully identify themselves as Catholic while blandly declining to admit that their public support for such contemporary moral evils as legalized abortion, government-subsidized family planning, or gay marriage could in any way be in conflict with the Catholicism they claim to profess. Today we have before us practically an entire generation of “Catholics” who apparently think that no moral teaching in particular any longer attaches to the profession of the Catholic faith. They feel able to espouse and promote virtually any or all contemporary moral aberrations and evils as if this had no bearing whatsoever on the authenticity of their profession of Catholicism.

In recent years, for example, the two Catholic lay people in immediate succession of the U.S. presidency, Vice President Joseph Biden and former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, could regularly be counted on to go along with practically every new manifestation of the culture of death being adopted by the government—as if such an attitude somehow came right out of the old Baltimore Catechism. Vice President Biden once even threatened mayhem with his Rosary towards anybody questioning his Catholicism.

Similarly, Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy, who with his majority opinion recently opened the door to the recognition of same-sex unions legalized as marriages by various states, betrayed not the slightest hint of concern that his position might represent any kind of contradiction with his baptismal faith. Then there are the cases of New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo, and Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley, both of whom are frequently mentioned as possible 2016 candidates for national office, even while both of them pointedly and proudly promote grave moral evils as public policy. The same supposedly amoral attitude can unhappily be predicated of scores of contemporary Catholics, who evidently sincerely do believe that being a Catholic no longer entails the acceptance of Catholic moral teaching; somehow that teaching is no longer supposed to apply today.

In this atmosphere, what Pope Francis said in his recent interview published in various Jesuit publication thus really does not apply to the real situation which confronts the Church in today’s decadent society and culture. The pope’s remarks inspired worldwide sensational media reports claiming that he thought that Catholics and the Church were currently “obsessed” with combating the contemporary evils of abortion, contraception, and gay marriage; and the idea was that Catholics should soft-pedal these “obsessions.” What the pope actually said—in the context of discussing how the faith should be proclaimed to the world today—is that “we cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage, and the use of contraceptive methods” (emphasis added). That is certainly true enough in the context of evangelization.

But what quickly got lost in the controversy stirred up by the pope’s statement was the truth about the extent to which Catholics and the Church were in fact insisting “only” on these issues in today’s typical public discourse. Certainly the Church does oppose abortion, gay marriage, and contraception—they are objectively evil. But they are most distinctly not “only” what the Church mainly “insists” on today. The “obsession” concerning them, in fact, seems to be rather one belonging not to the Church but rather to today’s secular media people themselves, who almost never fail to raise these same issues whenever they are reporting on practically anything concerning the Church. Apparently they can neither understand nor abide that the Church should actually continue to condemn what the world has instead decided to condone and even to celebrate; and so the media reports were almost bound to treat any mention of these issues at all by Pope Francis in the way that they did treat them. Clearly, for them the retrograde Church has simply got to reconcile herself and come to terms with the modern world!

In his interview the pope himself, however, went on immediately to confirm that the teaching of the Church on the contemporary moral evils he made reference to “is clear, and I am a son of the Church.” He accepts and affirms these teachings. How this added up to the conclusion that he somehow thought that the Church should no longer be so “obsessed” with them was never very clear in the various media reports.

The fact of the matter, of course, is that neither Catholics nor the Church are “obsessed” with these issues in the way that the typical media reports asserted. The grave evil of abortion, certainly, has rightly been opposed by the Church from the time that it got legalized. The American Catholic bishops have regularly issued statements opposing it and have also, admirably, sponsored and promoted events and activities opposed to it; but none of this has ever been a first priority for them; nor has it in any way been an “obsession” of theirs; they have mainly just lent their support to a pro-life movement that grew up and got organized quite independently of them.

And as for contraception, it represents a different case entirely. Far from being “obsessed” with fighting it, Catholics and the Church have rather been largely passive and accepting of it in American society, even if at least some Catholics never resorted to using it. Beginning back in the 1960s, the U.S. government has supported Planned Parenthood and similar organizations with literally millions of taxpayer dollars with no discernible public opposition from Catholics, certainly none from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). During those same years you had to be a Catholic of a certain age ever to have heard a sermon directed against contraception. Virtually any mention of it at all similarly disappeared from confessionals, classrooms, marriage counseling, textbooks, and most Catholic newspapers and periodicals. It was not until 2009 that the USCCB finally got around to issuing a pastoral letter morally condemning contraception by name, thereby reminding everybody that this had been the official teaching of the Church all along.

Only now, with the current U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate requiring virtually everybody and most institutions to purchase and carry health insurance providing gratis contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs have Catholics and the Church been obliged to stand up and fight against contraception. Fortunately, the Catholic bishops and a strong segment of the Catholic people apparently do understand that we do have to fight this government requirement, which obliges us to violate Catholic teaching with a positive act (of payment). It is no longer abstract or theoretical: we have to fight. But in no way is it any “obsession.”

Similarly with same-sex unions legally declared to be marriages, Catholics are strictly obliged to oppose these aberrations, if only because of the penalties progressively being attached to any unwillingness to accept the gross falsehood that these homosexual unions are marriages. At least one Catholic adoption agency has already had to close down rather than accept that children must obligatorily be placed in same-sex households. Caterers, photographers, florists, and such are similarly and more and more being required by law to service these same-sex “weddings,” and this type of abuse will no doubt continue unless today’s increasing recognition of same-sex unions as marriages is effectively stopped.

Thus, as the Quinnipiac poll suggests—even if we do not have to agree uncritically with its very high figure of 53 percent of Mass-going Catholics accepting of gay marriage—not only are most Catholics not “obsessed” with fighting gay marriage; a significant number of them apparently approve of these ersatz liaisons. At the very least it seems plain that many Catholics are prepared to go along with today’s decadent culture in this and in a number of other ways.

What this points to is a deficiency in the Catholic body which has long been evident. Nor is it with regard only to gay marriage (or ordination) that many Catholics today no longer accept and follow what the Church teaches. So-called “cafeteria Catholicism” appears rather to be an established way of life for many Catholics. Pace Pope Francis, the moral teachings of the Church are evidently not “well known”—or at any rate, that Catholics are supposed to believe and follow them does not seem to be universally operative today. Ironically, these Church teachings do seem to be very well known—and bitterly resented—by the media people rushing to exploit the words of Pope Francis. But it is only within the Catholic body itself that they seem to be unknown, or at any rate too often unheeded.

Thus, the task of the Church today in the era of the New Evangelization entails considerably more than just proclaiming to the world the positive truths of the love of Jesus, as Pope Francis has so eloquently proposed. The task of the Church today must also include a revitalized catechesis of her own faithful in her authentic teachings; and this catechesis must not only include treatment of what and why the Church teaches what she teaches in the moral area; it must include and insist on the truth that profession of the Catholic faith requires that those who profess it must accept and follow what the Church teaches.

Far from being “obsessed” with a few moral teachings to the detriment of the whole faith, then, as the sensational media reports on the interview of Pope Francis had it, the Church must imperatively fight those very same evils of “abortion, gay marriage, and contraceptive methods” while not insisting “only” on them!

Kenneth D. Whitehead is a former career diplomat who served in Rome and the Middle East and as the chief of the Arabic Service of the Voice of America. For eight years he served as executive vice president of Catholics United for the Faith. He also served as a United States Assistant Secretary of Education during the Reagan Administration. He is the author of The Renewed Church: The Second Vatican Council’s Enduring Teaching about the Church (Sapientia Press, 2009) and, most recently, Affirming Religious Freedom: How Vatican Council II Developed the Church’s Teaching to Meet Today’s Needs (St. Paul’s, 2010).

Re-published with permission from Crisis Magazine in which this article was first published.

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Julie Ralph

My 7-year-old son found porn on his iPod, even with a filter

Julie Ralph
By Julie Ralph

A few weeks ago an article went viral on my Facebook feed entitled “The Day My 10-Year-Old Discovered Hardcore Porn on his iPhone.”  As one Mom after another shared and commented about how frightening and horrible it was and wondered what do we do to prevent it, I commented on several of those shares (perhaps a little smugly and proudly) that WE had installed an excellent filtering program on all of our devices that even filters YouTube.  I most likely left the impression that WE have no worries in this house, that our kids can watch their iPods and kindles, even those annoying Minecraft how to videos on YouTube, and WE don’t have to worry about them seeing filth. 

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, WRONG.

I could have entitled this blog post “The Day My 7-Year-Old Discovered Porn on His iPod” but it might look like I’m trying to one-up that other Mom.  Which I’m not.  Because, trust me, this is one Mom competition I’d rather lose. 

This is no longer a battle friends, it’s an all-out war.  It’s a war we’re fighting for the minds and futures of our children.

So YES we have this supposedly great and awesome filter on all of our devices and we pay about $70 a year for it.   Look, I’ve been on my computer trying to shop for a swimsuit at Lands End and the filter blocked me.  Annoying, yes.  But assuring.  I remember thinking wow….if I can’t even get on here and see the tummy-sucking-miracle-fat-hiding-mawmaw-swimsuits, my boys will NEVER be able to discover Victoria or her Secret.   And I’ve been on YouTube trying to see how to quickly defrost CHICKEN breasts, and it blocked several videos AND ads that probably had nothing to do with fowl or a thawing method.  Again I remember thinking, good.  This is really good.  Nothing to worry about.

Then last night happened.

My youngest son was visibly shaken as he was getting ready for bed.  I knew something was wrong when I saw he was wearing his flannel pajamas with the mountain bears printed all over them on one of the hottest August nights this month.   He seemed almost disoriented and I asked him if he was sick as he was trying to quickly crawl into bed and pull the covers over his head.   He then reached over to the bedside table, grabbed his little iPod, and tossed it to me saying he doesn’t deserve it anymore because he is bad.  “I’m bad, so bad….I saw bad things.”  My heart started racing and I felt like I had been punched in the gut.  Because I knew where this was going.  Very calmly and quietly I assured him he was not bad and there was nothing in the world he could ever tell me that would make me think he was bad.  “What did you see, sweetheart?” I asked.  After about ten minutes of me coaxing it out of him, with a wobbly still-tiny-smidge-of-baby-left voice he told me he was searching for a word he had heard and he spelled it for me.  T-t-i-s.  (I quickly unscrambled and knew what he meant).  He went on to tell me he searched for this on YouTube (the app is not even on his iPod….he must go through the “filter” app to access it!).   He told me he saw pictures and videos.

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My stomach turned.  I ran through all the “How To” files I’d stored away in my mind.  You know those files….situations you’ve thought about as a Mom and how you’d handle…you file them away for another day.  Usually one you hope will never come.   Turns out I didn’t have a file for this.  Because I honestly thought we had done everything on the front end to keep it from happening. 

I ran my fingers through his hair and pulled him close and started talking to him from my broken heart.  I asked him if he knew what that word meant before he searched for it.  He said no.  I told him it is a very crude and ugly word for something that is not crude and ugly.  I told him what the proper word is and I asked him if he knew why God made them like that on women?  He said no.  I told him it was the miraculous and wonderful way that God made women able to feed their babies.  I told him how every woman who has those is made to feed a baby, and those women in those pictures and videos are either already someone’s Mommy or they will be one day.  And what God meant for a beautiful purpose is twisted and made into something very wrong and ugly by those pictures and videos.

Don’t trust some computer geek working for a software company to care a flip for or protect your kids.

We continued to talk and then we prayed together and I left him to sleep as I walked back to my room for a sleepless night.  I cried for the ugly, messed up, twisted, and sick world out there that I can’t protect my children from.  I cried for what he had seen that I couldn’t un-see for him.  I cried because I had abdicated MY parenting duties to some stupid computer software that I thought would protect my children.  I cried because I can never get back that bit of innocence he lost way, way too early.  I cried as I went onto YouTube, put in that same search and saw just the thumbnails of what he had to have seen.  I just can’t bring myself to actually click on the videos.  I cried because, when I went in to check on him later, he was curled up with Big Bear in one arm and his little blue and white checked blanket in the other.  He’s still a baby. 

I’m mad now.  And I really hope my anger continues to burn because I need it to fuel my diligence.   I need my guard to be up and to stay up.  This is no longer a battle friends, it’s an all-out war.  It’s a war we’re fighting for the minds and futures of our children.  I know there are those who would say I’m being overly dramatic, that I can’t put my children in a bubble, blah blah blah.  I don’t care.  I will do whatever it takes to protect my children until their minds, bodies and emotions are better prepared to grasp, filter, and sort through the warped and ugly parts of our world that are pulling on them.  I will continue to pull back and hold on for dear life.   Don’t do as I did, friends.  Don’t trust some computer geek working for a software company to care a flip for or protect your kids.  Do as I am doing now.  Uninstall any and all browsers or video apps on your kids’ personal devices and set the restrictions where they can’t install apps anymore without asking you first.   Have one central computer in a public area of your home that they may use, with permission, and still with filter software installed.  But remember that’s not the first line of defense in this war.

You are.

Julie Ralph blogs at Mommy, Esquire, where this piece was originally published.

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Sen. Ted Cruz's wife douses him with water as part of the Ice Bucket challenge for ALS research. Youtube
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Sen. Ted Cruz: Do the ALS challenge, donate to pro-life institute

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By Dustin Siggins

One of the nation's most prominent senators is doing the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge -- but encouraging donations to a pro-life ALS research institute.

In the last month, the ALS Ice Bucket challenge, sponsored by the ALS Association, has raised tens of millions of dollars for research for the disease, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. However, in mid-August pro-life leaders raised awareness that the Association supports embryonic stem-cell research.

Embryonic stem-cell research includes the destruction of a human embryo, and is thus condemned by pro-life advocates as an abortion. The Association has said it currently has one project that uses embryonic stem cells, funded by an outside donor.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Cruz -- who took the challenge last week -- said that he and his wife "are proud to personally support the John Paul II Medical Research Institute the Home of Give Cures (http://jp2mri.org), which conducts groundbreaking research into curing this terrible disease, without using embryonic stem cells."

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"The JPII Institute respects human life, and is working to improve the lives of all of us," said Cruz. 

The ALS Association has said donors may specify their dollars not be used to fund embryonic stem-cell research. However, critics note that donated funds are fungible, meaning they potentially free up funds the Association can then direct to illicit research.

At least two Catholic dioceses have encouraged Ice Bucket Challenge participants to donate to the JPII Medical Institute.

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7989 West Virginia Drive, Dallas, where Planned Parenthood is working on secretly opening up a new abortion facility. Google Streetview
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Pro-abortion study: Texas will be down to eight abortion clinics by fall

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By Dustin Siggins

A study by a pro-abortion research group shows that Texas will be down from 41 abortion clinics in July 2013 to eight by this fall.

In July, the Texas Policy Evaluation Project found that six abortion clinics matched the standards required in HB2, which was signed into law 13 months ago. Those standards include requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of clinics at which they work, a standard already in place, and a requirement that all abortion clinics must upgrade their facilities to the same standards as ambulatory surgery centers.

The study estimates that a total of eight clinics will be able to meet the ambulatory standards, including one that will open in the fall. The standards take effect on September 1. According to the study, this means there will be one abortion clinic for every one million Texans who could become pregnant. An infographic from the study shows that the existing clinics will be located on the eastern half of the state, largely near metropolitan areas.

The study's results, published in the peer-reviewed journal Contraception, have abortion supporters outraged. Andrea Grimes of RH Reality Check writes, "No legal abortion facilities will operate south or west of San Antonio," and that five of the clinics will be operated by Planned Parenthood.

However, the closure of so many clinics is good news to pro-life activists like Karen Garnett, who heads the Catholic Pro-Life Committee in the Diocese of Dallas.

"The closing of abortion facilities in Texas the last few years has been the result of the owners of the facilities themselves not being willing or able to comply with the higher standards of medical safety" required by the Texas legislature, Garnett told LifeSiteNews. "Pro-life activists and leaders in Dallas (and Texas) have been working vigilantly with the members of the Texas legislature the last few years to pass these sensible laws.  There is much to be said for the power of prayer, particularly through the powerful 40 Days for Life campaign and prayer vigils."

While abortion supporters claim Texas is abandoning pregnant women, Garnett said the Catholic Pro-Life Committee in Dallas has "helped more than 7,500 mothers choose life outside the abortion facilities," but "we don't stop there."

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"Our Project Gabriel Ministry takes the next step. For those mothers needing and desiring spiritual, emotional and material help, we offer Gabriel Angels, who are paired with them in a one-on-one mentoring and support relationship. We also have a Gabriel Resource Coordinator on staff to help them with practical needs as their situations stabilize." Life skills classes, adoption counseling, and partnerships with pregnancy centers are also part of the Diocese's work to help pregnant mothers.

Jor-El Godsey of Heartbeat International said that there are 326 pregnancy help organizations across the state, which outnumber abortion clinics by approximately 40 to 1. He estimated that approximately 120,000 pregnant women have come to care centers in 2014.

The Texas Policy Evaluation Project, which is funded by an anonymous donor, is a five-year effort to "analyze the impact of the measures affecting reproductive health passed by the 82nd and 83rd Texas Legislatures." The project's partners include the University of Texas at Austin’s Population Research Center, the pro-abortion Ibis Reproductive Health, and the University of Alabama-Birmingham. One of the project's investigators is Daniel Grossman, whose biography says that "his current research at Ibis includes both clinical and social science studies aimed at improving access to contraception and safe abortion."

The project has also published reports titled "The Public Health Threat of Anti-Abortion Legislation," and "Finding the Twitter Users that Stood With Wendy." The latter examined social media support for gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, who briefly became a national figure for her support of late-term abortions in 2013.

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