Thursday, April 23, 2015

Can You Force People to Sin?

Written by John Horvat II

Those who want to opt out of serving at same-sex “marriage” functions often claim a right to religious liberty. Some say it is a matter of following one’s beliefs and conscience. Still others believe it involves freedom of speech and opinions.

Such claims, while valid, are doomed to fail, because the center of the debate is no longer in the realm of upholding civil liberties. Rather, it has touched upon the sensitive issue of morality and sin.
Of course, progressives will deny this since they have adroitly framed religious liberty laws as “license to discriminate” legislation. However, by railroading laws into the books that compel people to participate in acts they consider sinful, activists will actually be establishing “command to sin” laws for the first time in American history.

If this happens, it will be a major step in the breaking of the American consensus that has long been the framework by which Americans agreed to get along and enjoy their freedoms while maintaining order.

There has always been tension between freedom and order inside this consensus. However, what lessened the tension was the fact that the American consensus was historically a Christian one with moral rules loosely based on the Ten Commandments, which served as a glue to keep society together and a platform for a prosperous republic. Most Americans, whether believers or not, always respected religion as a source of stability and order inside this consensus.

All that changed in the whirlwind of the sixties when moral certainties were reduced to a mishmash of vague ideas, beliefs and opinions. Moral restraints were overturned and questioned. In such a relativistic framework, liberals have sought to deem all beliefs and opinions equal. No one belief has a superior claim to rights over another. In a climate of unrestraint, everyone is encouraged to “do their own thing” as long as they do not hurt the other.

In such a regime, however, some beliefs prove more equal than others. All it takes is an offended person to arise and claim to be hurt by the other, and the majority (usually Christian) is soon compelled to change its beliefs. Moreover, the State has often intervened and taken measures contrary to the beliefs of others, especially in the field of sexual morality, as might be seen in the case of abortion and recent “marriage” laws.

The resulting Culture War in America has largely been fought on the battlefield of morals and sin by those who protest the slide toward disorder. It is a curious battle since liberals are careful to avoid the mention of sin. They have an advantage if they can reduce sin to a mere opinion among many, and God to a vague belief.

If Christians are to win, they must affirm categorically that sin is not a mere opinion. Sin is an act that not only offends God, but one that causes disorder in society. The reason why sin offends God is because it violates His universal moral law that applies to everyone. Indeed, it is so much a part of human nature that Saint Paul says this law is written on every heart (Cf. Rom. 2:15). Sin must be opposed because it is an irrational act not in accord with reason informed by the Divine law.

This God-given moral code is what maintains order in society. It is the foundation of all law including the American Constitution. Through this natural moral law, everyone knows that lying, stealing and killing are wrong. They also know that no one can be forced to sin.

That is what makes the present phase of the Culture War so alarming. It is no longer a matter of not sinning – not committing abortion, for example. Rather, recent mandates and laws are perilously close to forcing Christians to actually sin by assenting to or facilitating sinful relationships or acts. Such measures put at stake a person’s eternal salvation … and all society.

When the glue that keeps American society together no longer holds, the social order will shatter into a thousand pieces. When the moral law is absent, big government easily establishes itself as a secular tribunal to dictate to Christians what acts are “sinful” and which are not. From there, it is only a small step to suppress religion itself.

That is why it is important to continue the fight for America’s return to order.

Can You Force People to Sin?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Sunday Is a Day of Rest Isn't It?

Written by John Horvat II
There is the mistaken impression that for a modern economy to work efficiently, everything must be 24/7. Missing a beat is considered fatal to good business and economic productivity. All must be frenzied and hurried if one is to compete in today’s globalized economy.
This is not some wistful desire for simpler times of the past. Stopping can be done today and a good example is found in Germany. They call it “sonntagsruhe” which in German means “Sunday rest.” Germany, the world’s fourth largest economic power, stops on Sunday.Such assumptions go against the necessities of human nature. People are not machines. They need to stop and rest. If society is to return to some kind of order, people must be convinced that things can stop. Things should stop. Things must stop.
It should be emphasized that stopping on Sunday is not optional in Germany: one must stop on Sunday. The “sonntagsruhe” is not just casually staying away from work. Rather, the long-established custom keeps most shops closed and noise levels down. Even lawnmowers and leaf blowers must fall silent so that all might enjoy their rest. Loud music is restricted.  Heavy trucks are banned from the highways to prevent unnecessary noise – and give truckers a much needed break. The system is set up so that one has to stop and get some rest after an uber-efficient workweek.
The hard-working Germans on their part enjoy the weekly respite. It provides an opportunity for them to concentrate on unwinding, indulge in neighborly considerations or enjoy a good stein of beer. During their Sunday rest, Germans take to the outdoors, visit family and friends or (unfortunately, less frequently) attend church.

So enshrined is the national appetite for Sunday rest that repeated efforts by retailers and businesses to loosen the rules have ended up in failure. Some German states allow occasional Sunday openings for special shopping events and seasons, but most commercial Sunday activity is restricted by law… but also by choice, since the Sunday rest appears to enjoy widespread popular support. Such stopping has not jeopardized the national economy as Germany is the enviable economic powerhouse of Europe.
Of course, America is not Germany. While it can be admitted that most people still have Sunday off, it has become much more a day of shopping and activity than of rest or spiritual edification. Indeed, it was not too long ago that America had its own “Sunday rest.” Things simply shut down so people could be with their families. A few essential services stayed open, as they should. Back then, the seventh day was generally dedicated to God and those relationships that really matter.
The key to some kind of return to order is not to legislate some kind of “sonntagsruhe” upon the American populace. Rather it consists of understanding what happened that changed mentalities so drastically and then questioning the prevailing attitude.
Over the last decades, what went wrong was that a great agitation entered into the national psyche whereby people became impatient with anything that might impede their own gratification—sexual or otherwise. This led to the acceleration of the frenetic intemperance of modern times where everyone must have everything instantly—even on Sunday. In his book, 24/7, author Jonathan Crary calls it “the absoluteness of availability, and hence the ceaselessness of needs and their incitement.”
The result is an anything-anywhere-anytime economy where all can be had at the click of a mouse or the swipe of a card. It is a frustratingly frantic system, in which people forever want more, yet never feel fulfilled. Indeed, all might be had in such a world, but much has been lost.
What must be questioned is if this world where people are always connected to frenzy is desirable. Tethered as they are to their electronic devices, people no longer free themselves from the stressful demands of daily life that follow them everywhere. They no longer have or take the time to consider what Notre Dame Professor Brad Gregory calls those important “Life Questions” where the meaning and purpose of life are considered in silence and peace.
This same connected world keeps individuals disconnected from the necessary links to family, community and faith that keep a society in balance and support individuals in their journey through life. It favors a collection of extreme individualists who are terrifyingly alone together. It is no wonder that there is so much anxiety in modern society.
What needs to be done is to challenge the myths that say things cannot stop and a return to order is not possible. Things can stop and it is time to have the courage to challenge the frenzy. Indeed, today’s stressful 24/7 world is in dire need of a Sunday rest.
As seen on

Monday, April 13, 2015

As An Entire Country Closes Its Churches, One Cardinal Mentions Why?

In the Netherlands a cardinal prepares his Catholics for the inevitable:
During Lent, Catholics in the Netherlands are getting accustomed to the vision of a future without churches. In this year’s Message for Lent, the President of the Episcopate of the Netherlands Willem Cardinal Eijk, announced that he will take on one of the most painful problems of the local Catholic community,i.e. the necessity to close the vast majority of churches in the country, in the near future. As a result of mistakes made by the local Church after the Council and the actual abandonment of evangelization, there has been a dramatic reduction in the number of faithful in in recent decades.
In all fairness Cardinal Eijk may not mean exactly what he seems to be saying here, but one couldn't think of a more exact description of the problem, not just in the local Church, but the entire Church itself.

Card. Eijk stressed, that he never takes an initiative in this regard alone. For the “deconsecration” of a sanctuary, it is the parish council that writes a simple request stating that only a few faithful attend a church and therefore the parish does not have the necessary funds for its maintnance. The Utrecht ordinary stressed that the decision to deconsecrate is always taken with a heavy heart.

Card. Eijk therefore understands the bitterness of the faithful who find that their village or district will no longer have a church. He however cautions that this should not cultivate these sorts of negative feelings, because they can lead to permanent bitterness. It is important, however, to be open to God and to other Catholics, and with them deepen their faith through prayer, the Word of God and catechesis. Although church buildings might disappear, our faith and the will to be the Church does not disappear from our villages and districts – Cardinal Eijk writes in his message for Lent.

No the Faith won't disappear.  They just won't need very many Churches to hold it.

One would imagine that someone must have had this result in mind back in the 1960's.  Was everyone misguided hierarch behind it just in the grip of some fantasy?
Read more at The Stumbling Block

Friday, April 10, 2015

We Have Lost the Notion of Wisdom -

We Have Lost the Notion of Wisdom
If there is something lacking in modern society, it is wisdom, which can be defined as knowing the highest cause of things.

German philosopher Josef Pieper takes this definition one step further by declaring: “‘To know the highest cause,’ then, does not mean to know the cause of some particular thing, but to know the cause of everything and of all things: it means to know the ‘whither’ and the ‘whence,’ the origin and the end, the plan and the structure, the frame work and the meaning of reality.”1

He has a point. We live in a hyper-specialized world where everyone knows more and more about less and less. That is why the specialist is not necessarily a wise man; he often lacks a vision of the whole. We have lost the notion of that whole framework of a Christian order that explains the meaning of life together in society. We no longer follow that order of the universe that serves as the map to get us to our final goal of salvation which is why we are here in the first place.

1 Josef Pieper, Leisure: The Basis of Culture, (New York: The New American Library, 1963), p. 110.

We Have Lost the Notion of Wisdom -

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Story of the Prayer 'Regina Coeli'

A Prayer for Easter

From Holy Saturday to Pentecost we sing or recite one of the Church’s most joyful anthems, the Regina Coeli (O, Queen of Heaven), customarily said in place of the Angelus at twelve noon.

According to the Golden Legend, a thirteenth century work on the lives of the Saints, Pope St. Gregory the Great in the 6th century was leading a procession asking for relief from a pestilence afflicting the population of Rome.  Being carried in the procession was an icon of the Blessed Virgin reputedly painted by St. Luke.  Suddenly, the air was filled with a heavenly perfume dispelling the pestilence.  Looking up, St. Gregory beheld angels singing: “O, Queen of Heaven rejoice, Alleluia! For He whom you deserved to bear, Alleluia! Has risen as He said, Alleluia! " To which the holy Pope added: “O, pray to God for us, Alleluia!”
At the same time, the holy pontiff saw the angel of death sheathing his sword atop the Hill of Hadrian, today the Castle of Sant’Angelo.

Since then this story has been associated with the origins of the Regina Coeli.

The idea is to rejoice with Our Blessed Lady that her Son, after a grueling passion and frightful death, is alive again.  While the prayer of the Angelus celebrates Jesus’ Incarnation, the Regina Coeli celebrates His Resurrection and “congratulates” the Mother on her Son’s victory over sin and death.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

And He Stole Heaven

He hung on a cross that day, writhing in pain and discomfort, the infamous highwayman.

On his left hung another man, covered in the matted blood of his wounds. Yet, with the exception of a few intermittent words, there was no sound from him.

As time passed, the thief became more and more engrossed in the silent crucified beside him, and less and less in his own plight.St Dismas Picture

Indeed life is ironic, mused Dismas, this man who had lived in the open, and was acclaimed as a healer and even as a king, now hung beside him who had spent his life lurking and hiding.

And now they were lifted up, both on a high parallel. He could see the roof tops of the city, he could see the highways he had stalked, and he could see the way they had walked. Now he looked down on those gathered around this place of execution, the Roman soldiers, the Pharisees, the curious, the friends of the man beside him…and a young man supporting a lady directly beneath them...

And then he knew her; that upturned face, that maidenly majesty now wracked by sorrow, her tear-filled eyes fastened on the man on his left–Yes, he knew that face.

As the wheels of time rolled back in his mind,  his heart gave a jolt as he remembered that blessed day in the desert, decades ago, when a young family making its way to Egypt, sought refuge for the night in his family’s hovel. The man was strong and kind, the woman was the fairest his child’s eyes had seen, and she carried a golden haired babe, as if nothing in the universe was more precious.

He remembered the lady’s gaze on him, her beautiful eyes full of concern for the leprous sores on his young body. Then she and his mother talked. And next, he was being bathed in the same water the lady had just washed her infant son.

And then the sores were gone.  His mother wept for joy, and kissed the lady’s hands, and the baby’s feet. And even his robber-father was moved, and offered the strong man and his family the best in the house.

Now, in one revealing flash, he knew the identity of the wounded man on his left.  He looked again at the lady, and her eyes, those same sweet eyes of old, were on him once more.
He felt his heart quiver, as the power of gratitude filled his being and softened his criminal soul.  And then came tears, rivers of tears.  When he could speak, he turned to the left,

“Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”

And the Lord turned his face to him, His divine eyes on him, and he heard the most beautiful voice he had ever heard, a voice at once full of pain and full of strength, full of sweetness and full of majesty, a judge’s voice, and a father’s voice,

“Amen, amen I say to you, today you shall be with me in paradise.”

By Andrea F. Phillips
Based on: A Legend of St. Dismas and Other Poems,
Copyright by P. J. Kenedy and Sons. 1927, p. 18.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Flying with the Hacker

Computer Hacker

Internet security has left me with many concerns, especially as I meet more and more people who have had their accounts hacked or vital information stolen. Despite all the security measures companies may take to keep bad people honest, the sad fact is there are plenty of people out there who break into these systems and make our lives miserable.

The typical response of the industry is to heap on ever more complex security and firewalls. However, I believe that the best firewalls are the moral firewalls inside souls that recognize the distinctions between good and evil and lead us to act accordingly. When those moral walls go down, there really are no possible means to keep everything secure.

My security concerns were only confirmed during a recent plane trip. As I made my way down the aisle to my seat in the aircraft, I saw a young, bearded, twenty-something man next to my seat. I noticed his bubbly temperament, which almost guaranteed an in-flight conversation. I also noted that he was incredibly adept at manipulating his iPhone.

True to my expectation, we soon engaged in a conversation after takeoff. I introduced myself as a writer and he promptly identified himself as a hacker.

A hacker? Yes, but, of course, he was a “good” hacker that works on the other side of the hacking equation. He is paid by companies to hack into their systems to verify their security measures.

The hacker was an amiable fellow, but he was all nervousness as he constantly fidgeted with his devices. He spoke incredibly fast as it seemed his mind was working much faster than his ability to speak. It was as if he were all impulse. Over the course of our conversation, he explained his hacker’s creed to me — a philosophy of life apparently shared by many fellow hackers on both sides of the equation.

Hackers, he explained, question everything, doubt everything and are irreverent to all that is sacred. They trust no one and decide everything by their own standards. They live life intensely, as if that is all there is and hence do not acknowledge any religious considerations. They accept only those limits needed to survive in a frenzied world and are constantly pushing the envelope.

Such a creed only facilitates the task of hacking, since it creates in the person an obsessive desire to break down barriers and challenge all structures. When I asked the hacker what kind of systems he hacked, he replied not without a little pride that he had entered all sorts of systems almost with impunity. He entered one banking system and removed $100,000 and reconciled the ledger without the bank noticing. He even hacked a railroad transport system and commandeered a freight train from his laptop. Hackers, he claimed, could bring the whole system down if they so wished.

I then asked him why, if it could be done, the hackers did not take the system down. He replied that hackers fear severe legal penalties, especially in the post-9/11 world. He also claimed the best hackers (like him) are very well paid by the business establishment.

However, I found these answers a bit unconvincing since they do not include terrorists, anarchists, and enemies who are constantly probing our systems and making our world a dangerous place.

The better answer came when I asked why he, in particular, did not so bring the whole system down, since the hackers’ creed pretty much allows and even encourages such behavior. And then a moral firewall kicked in. Although he found it hard to define right and wrong, he said he felt it would be wrong to do something of this nature.

Such moral firewalls, weak though they may be in the souls of postmodern men, are still our best and only defense against chaos. Just as no police force in the world can prevent a whole population intent upon stealing, so also no security system can stop a network of unscrupulous hackers determined to create cyber chaos. Moral restraint on the part of most people keeps society in order. Remnants of such restraint hold back even the hackers from bringing on Armageddon.

I was struck how the hackers’ creed was consistent with the frenetic intemperance of our culture which likewise accepts no restraint and breaks down barriers. Not only our computer systems are at risk, but all modern-day systems — whether financial, infrastructural or educational — are vulnerable when moral restraint is gone. The more complex and interconnected our systems become, the greater the risks when they fail.

When we hack down the moral firewalls that restrain us, we also take down the supporting pillars that prevent society’s collapse. That is why a return to order is only possible when the moral issues are debated. If everyone adopts the hackers’ creed, society will be like a commandeered train heading toward the cliff.

As seen on