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(Fr. Michael P. Orsi) — Stories about Jesus healing the sick are some of the most beloved passages in the Bible. We enjoy reading about the effects of these wondrous acts — people who’ve been physically restored leaping for joy, the lame tossing away their crutches, the blind amazed at being able to see, and all the rest.

Of course, we know that Jesus intended such marvels as more than mere physical cures. They were signs of his true Godly nature and power. They attested to the divine authority that underlay his teaching. They were also portents of the Church he would leave to carry on ministry in his name.

Believers have always involved themselves in tending the sick. This has been seen as an obligation for followers of Christ. And so today, hospitals established by the Catholic Church and other Christian denominations are essential to healthcare throughout the world.

A critical factor in good health is prevention — maintaining good living patterns, and avoiding substances and practices that can weaken us and make us susceptible to deterioration and illness.

The ethical imperative of healthcare includes alerting people to health threats, and taking steps to keep hazards from accumulating. Thus the Church is called to help people maintain their physical and mental wellbeing, just as much as their moral and spiritual soundness. Not to do so would mean not being faithful to the Lord.

There are certain areas in which we clearly have not succeeded. One is the legalization, and consequent proliferation, of marijuana. Pot shops abound across the country. Cannabis, weed, hemp, reefer, Mary Jane — call it what you will — is now a huge, legal, and well funded industry.

A recent call by the President for releasing those still incarcerated for marijuana use sparked a 30-percent rise in stock prices of corporations involved in the trade.

Marijuana is big business.

Despite such broad acceptance, the reality is that marijuana is a dangerous drug. It decreases the ability to control emotions, leading to improper and anti-social behavior. It’s a recognized cause of crime and violence, as well as of auto accidents and other mishaps.

It’s also self-destructive. Marijuana users commit suicide at three times the rate of the general population. And marijuana is commonly acknowledged as a “gateway drug,” leading to use of other, more potent and addictive substances.

None of this should come as a surprise. The harmful effects of marijuana have long been known. But people of faith have not mounted an argument for suppressing it that is strong enough to counter the allure of relaxation or pleasure or release from life’s cares that are touted by those who advocate it — or those who cite the tax revenues to be gained through its sale.

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Another area of failure is transgenderism. Abuse of hormones and alteration of bodies in the vain effort by people to change sex have become an epidemic.

This trend has been building for a long time, but it’s accelerated in recent years. The number of so-called sex-reassignment surgeries jumped 150 percent from 2016 to 2017. And the rate has increased rapidly since then. Some 17,000 were performed this past year.

These procedures, undergone mostly by young people, are irreversible. Sadly, most individuals who have them regret the decision to do so. Many can’t live with the consequences and take their own lives — which is ironic, since suicide prevention is one of the justifications given for sex reassignment.

Perhaps the most tragic aspect is that most children and teenagers who experience gender confusion (termed “dysphoria”) work through the problem and learn to live acceptably in their sex by the time they reach maturity.

Transgenderism is a symptom of mental and emotional conflicts that need to be addressed before they prompt radical, self-destructive actions. But as with marijuana, we have failed to counter the strong economic incentives behind this movement. There’s big money in hormone therapies and sex-reassignment surgery.

Add to that the ideological insanity that’s promoting this nonsense even in our schools, and in spite of parents’ objections (often without their knowledge), and we’re witnessing a health crisis of monumental proportions.

People are not being helped by these barbaric procedures. Bodies are being mutilated. Families are being destroyed. Souls are being lost.

The Church — which is to say we believers who are the Church — must speak out against such plagues as marijuana and transgenderism. We certainly can’t depend on government to do it. The madness surrounding our health officials’ handling of COVID demonstrated their inability to discern appropriate preventive measures.

And now they’re issuing dire warnings about a monkeypox pandemic. Have they told us that the primary way monkeypox is transmitted is through homosexual contact?

Don’t hold your breath until they do.

A society that can no longer acknowledge truth has reached the end. It’s up to us to speak the truth — and thus to engage in real preventive medicine — before it’s too late.

In this way we can be faithful to the Lord, and call on the healing power of God.

This essay is based on a homily delivered by Fr. Orsi (above).  A priest of the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, Rev. Michael P. Orsi currently serves as parochial vicar at St. Agnes Parish in Naples, Florida. He is host of “Action for Life TV,” a weekly cable television series devoted to pro-life issues, and his writings appear in numerous publications and online journals. His TV show episodes can be viewed online here.