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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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signs the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
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Indiana faces backlash as it becomes 20th state to protect religious liberty

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By Ben Johnson

INDIANAPOLIS, IN, March 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – On Thursday, Indiana became the 20th state to prevent the government from forcing people of faith to violate their religious beliefs in business or the public square.

Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 101) into law, saying the freedom of religion is a preeminent American value.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion, but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action,” Pence said.

Gov. Pence, a possible dark horse candidate for president in 2016, cited court cases brought by religious organizations and employers, including Catholic universities, against the HHS mandate. “One need look no further than the recent litigation concerning the Affordable Care Act. A private business and our own University of Notre Dame had to file lawsuits challenging provisions that required them to offer insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.”

The new law could also prevent Christian business owners from being compelled to bake a cake or take photographs of a same-sex "marriage" ceremony, if doing so violates their faith. In recent years, business owners have seen an increased level of prosecution for denying such services, despite their religious and moral beliefs.

The state's pro-life organization applauded Pence for his stance. "Indiana's pro-life community is grateful to Gov. Mike Pence for signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law,” said Indiana Right to Life's president and CEO Mike Fichter. “This bill will give pro-lifers a necessary legal recourse if they are pressured to support abortion against their deeply-held religious beliefs.”

“RFRA is an important bill to protect the religious freedom of Hoosiers who believe the right to life comes from God, not government,” he said.

The state RFRA is based on the federal bill introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The Supreme Court cited the federal law when it ruled that Hobby Lobby had the right to refuse to fund abortion-inducing drugs, if doing so violated its owners' sincerely held religious beliefs.

In signing the measure – similar to the one Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed – Pence and the state of Indiana have faced a torrent of venom from opponents of the bill, who claim it grants a “right to discriminate” and raises the spectre of segregation.

"They've basically said, as long as your religion tells you to, it's OK to discriminate against people," said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, a national homosexual pressure group.

The Disciples of Christ, a liberal Protestant denomination based in the state capital, has said it will move its 2017 annual convention if the RFRA became state law. The NCAA warned the bill's adoption “might affect future events” in the Hoosier state.

Pence denied such concerns, saying, "This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way I would've vetoed it."

The bill's supporters say that, under the Obama administration, it is Christians who are most likely to suffer discrimination.

"Originally RFRA laws were intended to protect small religious groups from undue burdens on practicing their faith in public life,” said Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. “It was not imagined there would come a day when laws might seek to jail or financially destroy nuns, rabbis or Christian camp counselors who prefer to abstain from the next wave of sexual and gender experimentation. And there's always a next wave.”

The bill's supporters note that it does not end the government's right to coerce people of faith into violating their conscience in every situation. However, it requires that doing so has to serve a compelling government interest and the government must use the least restrictive means possible. “There will be times when a state or federal government can show it has a compelling reason for burdening religious expression – to ensure public safety, for instance,” said Sarah Torre, an expert at the Heritage Foundation. “But Religious Freedom Restoration Acts set a high bar for the government to meet in order to restrict religious freedom.”

Restricting the ability of government to interfere in people's private decisions, especially their religious decisions, is the very purpose of the Constitution, its supporters say.

"Religious freedom is the cornerstone of all liberty for all people,” Tooley said. “Deny or reduce it, and there are no ultimate limits on the state's power to coerce."

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Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting.
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Porn is transforming our men from protectors into predators. Fight back.

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By Jonathon van Maren

Since I’ve gotten involved in anti-pornography work, I’ve met countless men who struggle, fight, or have beaten pornography. Each person seems to deal with the guilt and shame that accompanies porn use in a different way—some deny that it’s “all that bad,” others pretend that they could “stop whenever they want,” many insist that “everyone is doing it,” and most, when pressed, admit to a deep sense of self-loathing.

One worry surfaces often in conversation: What do my past or current struggles with pornography say about me as a man? Can I ever move past this and have a meaningful and fulfilling relationship?

I want to address this question just briefly, since I’ve encountered it so many times.

First, however, I’ve written before how I at times dislike the language of “struggling” with pornography or pornography “addiction,” not because they aren’t accurate but because too often they are used as an excuse rather than an explanation. It is true, many do in fact “struggle” with what can legitimately be considered an addiction, but when this language is used to describe an interminable battle with no end (and I’ve met dozens of men for whom this is the case), then I prefer we use terminology like “fighting my porn habit.” A semantic debate, certainly, but one I think is important. We need to stop struggling with porn and start fighting it.

Secondly, pornography does do devastating things to one’s sense of masculinity. We know this. Pornography enslaves men by the millions, perverting their role as protector and defender of the more vulnerable and turning them into sexual cannibals, consuming those they see on-screen to satisfy their sexual appetites.

What often starts as mere curiosity or an accidental encounter can turn into something that invades the mind and twists even the most basic attractions. I’ve met porn users who can’t believe the types of things they want to watch. They haven’t simply been using porn. Porn has actively reshaped them into something they don’t recognize and don’t like. 

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Porn is this generation’s great assault on masculinity and the role of men in society. It is essential that we win this battle for the sake of society’s survival. Contrary to what the gender-bending and family-morphing progressive elites claim, good husbands and good fathers and good church leaders are necessary for a healthy society. But pornography is destroying marriages, creating distant and disconnected fathers, and, metaphoricaclly castrating men, hindering their ability and desire to make a positive difference in the society around us.

So, with this sobering set of facts in mind let’s return to the question: what do pornography struggles, past and present, say about a man?

The proper way to respond is with everything that is good about masculinity. We have to fight pornography as men have fought countless evils throughout the ages. We need to fight pornography to protect women, and wives, and children, and our society at large. This is how pornography threatens society, by castrating men, and turning them from protectors into predators. Rooting out the evil in our own lives allows us to better fulfill the role we are called to perform in the lives of others. Battling our own demons enables us to battle the wider cultural demons. Every day without porn is another bit of virtue built. Virtue is not something you’re born with. Virtues are habits that you build. And one day without porn is the first step towards the virtue of being porn-free.

Many men ask me if men who have had past porn addictions are cut out for being in a relationship or working in the pro-life movement or in other areas where we are called to protect and defend the weak and vulnerable. And the answer to that is an unequivocal yes. Our society needs men who know what it means to fight battles and win. Our society needs men who can say that they fought porn and they beat porn, because their families and their friends were too important to risk. Our society needs men who rose to the challenge that the evils of their generation threw at them, and became better men as the result. And our society needs men who can help their friends and their sons and those around them fight the plague of pornography and free themselves from it, too—and who can understand better and offer encouragement more relevant than someone who has fought and been freed themselves?

So the answer to men is yes. Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting. Lend them support and encouragement. We cannot change the fact that porn has left an enormous path of destruction in its wake. But we can change the fact that too many people aren’t fighting it. We can change our own involvement. And we can rise to the challenge and face this threat to masculinity with all that is good about masculinity.

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Red Alert!

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By John-Henry Westen

I don’t like having to do this, but we have always found it best to be totally upfront with our readers: our Spring fundraising campaign is now worrying us! 

You see, with just 6 days remaining, we have only raised 30% of our goal, with $125,000 still left to raise. That is a long ways to go yet.

We have no choice but to reach our minimum goal of $175,000 if we are going to be able to continue serving the 5+ million readers who rely on us every month for investigative and groundbreaking news reports on life, faith and family issues.

Every year, LifeSite readership continues to grow by leaps and bounds. This year, we are again experiencing record-breaking interest, with over 6 million people visiting our website last month alone!

This unprecedented growth in turn creates its own demand for increased staff and resources, as we struggle to serve these millions of new readers.

And especially keep this in mind. As many more people read LifeSite, our mission of bringing about cultural change gets boosted. Our ultimate goal has always been to educate and activate the public to take well-informed, needed actions.

Another upside to our huge growth in readers is that it should be that much easier to reach our goal. To put it simply: if each person who read this one email donated whatever they could (even just $10) we would easily surpass our goal! 

Today, I hope you will join the many heroes who keep this ship afloat, and enable us to proclaim the truth through our reporting to tens of millions of people every year!

Your donations to LifeSite cause major things to happen! We see that every day and it is very exciting. Please join with us in making a cultural impact with a donation of ANY AMOUNT right now. 

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