Tag Archives: abortion

God’s Will

12 Jan
Will

William (“Will”) Kurczak

This beautiful story was submitted by Christie Kurczak of Fort Leavenworth.

We had not planned on any new pregnancies after our fourth daughter was born because of complications that I had during her delivery, but God had other plans for us.

In December 2013, just after my husband left for a deployment (we’re a military family), I discovered that I was pregnant with our fifth child. It was a very scary pregnancy from the beginning, with my husband Steve being in the Middle East, and I was having some complications. I continually prayed to God for His Will.

This surely wasn’t my plan. Things didn’t feel “right” from the start. I was struggling to keep up with the four girls by myself. I didn’t know what else to do, but place my trust in Him. I didn’t know where to begin in my prayer . . . For the baby’s health? For my health? For both? It somehow seemed easier to just pray “thy will be done” and “please take care of my girls and husband along the way.”

In March 2014, I was 19 weeks along in the pregnancy when my water broke. I rushed to the hospital and learned that I could expect to lose the baby within a week. The baby was too young to survive outside the womb. There was nothing they could do. I was told that within the next few days one of two things would happen: Either I would go into labor and the baby would deliver, or because of the lack of the amniotic sack I would acquire an infection that would take the lives of both the baby and me. If the second possibility occurred, they would be forced to deliver the baby right away to save me, and the baby would be too young to survive.

My husband returned to the States on emergency leave, and I was sent home from the hospital with strict instructions to return at any sign of labor or infection. And we waited.

At this time I was introduced to St. Gianna Molla. I learned about this modern-day saint’s courage, her faith, and the miracle that confirmed the cause for her canonization.

The miracle involved a mother whose water had broken, and whose doctors were encouraging an abortion. This too was an option that was presented to me when my water broke. We lived in Washington State then, and abortions are legal there up to 24 weeks gestation. (Of course the doctors learned very quickly from me that in no way was that an option.) We began to pray to St. Gianna for her intercession, for God’s will to unfold, and for peace in our hearts with whatever was to come. We had no idea just what was in store.

I was on bedrest at our home for two weeks before I began to have some light bleeding and went to the hospital. I was admitted right away and told that I would remain “in house” as we waited for the baby to come. I was 21 weeks along now, and still being told that the baby wouldn’t have a chance at survival. If we happened to make it to 24 weeks, then NICU would become involved in our care, and they would do what they could. But I was told many times, “You’ll never make it that far.”

Upon admission to the hospital, and further examination, our road became more complicated. The doctors discovered that not only was there no longer sufficient amniotic fluid for the baby to develop necessary lung strength, but the placenta supporting the pregnancy was growing out of control. It had attached itself not only into the lining of the uterus, but had embedded into the uterine wall and muscle, and they suspected that it had grown through the uterine wall and into my abdominal cavity.

Now not only was our baby at risk, but my life was in danger as well. As the placenta grows, it is looking for a blood source to support the baby, and it will attach to whatever it finds. Usually the placenta is delivered shortly after the birth of the baby. But if it has attached to other internal organs, it will not release and will just continue to bleed. In a matter of minutes the mother can hemorrhage and lose her life. This became our predicament. The longer I could manage to hold onto the pregnancy, the better our baby’s chance of survival. But the further the pregnancy went, the greater the chance that my “rogue” placenta was taking over my abdominal cavity and I could bleed out during delivery before the doctors could do anything about it.

So we sat. We waited. We prayed. I continued to pray for God’s Will for our family and for our sweet baby. We had been told we were having another girl, and we had named the child Mary Louise Gianna for our Holy Mother, for St. Louise de Marillac (I loved the name Louise and her feast day of March 15 also happened to be the day my water broke), and of course for St. Gianna, who had quickly become so special to us. Time marched on.

I sat in that hospital room for eight more weeks. It was a miracle, really. There was no medical explanation as to why one of those initial two scenarios had not played out. Everyone was baffled and on edge. Steve began to refer to me as the little IED (improvised explosive device) in room 305 ready to “explode.” The medical staff suspected that when the time finally came to deliver, I might massively hemorrhage before they could get me safely to an operating room.

The goal was trying to wait as long as possible, to give “Mary Louise” the best chance, while at the same time balancing a decision to schedule delivery so that a C-section could be performed in as controlled an environment as possible–that is what would give me the best chance at survival.  After 10 weeks of waiting, and watching, and praying, and missing so many things that were happening in my daughters’ lives outside those hospital walls, at 29 weeks gestation, the time came.

My body went into labor once earlier that week and we were able to slow it. But on May 21st, it became obvious that the time had come to deliver. A scheduled C-section was planned for the next morning in a nice controlled environment (as the docs had wished). But yet again, God’s plans were different. At around 5:00 p.m., labor became almost unbearable, and as the doctors decided to examine me one final time before going home to get a good night’s rest for the surgery the next morning, they found that the cord had prolapsed, and the baby was getting ready to deliver right there. Game on, as they say, and I was rushed to the OR.

I woke up about six hours later in ICU to my husband and my mom telling me how well I had done, and that I was going to be okay. I had received a massive blood transfusion (6 units of red blood cells and 8 units of plasma), but the doctors were able to stabilize me. Unfortunately, the only way to remove the placenta and stop the bleeding was to perform a complete hysterectomy. We knew this was a possibility, but I’d hoped that once they got in there, maybe things wouldn’t be as bad as they had feared.  As it turned out, the placenta had grown through the uterus and was touching the bladder, but had not done any other damage to my internal organs, praise God.

My only concern at this point was the baby, of course. I kept asking how she was, and at first Steve would say nothing about her, so I began to fear that the worst had happened. Though we had held onto hope through all of this that the baby would survive, without amniotic fluid for so long, the chances where very high that her lungs would be severely underdeveloped, and that she wouldn’t have a fighting chance. I knew this, but how I had wanted to be able to see her before she was gone.

Finally Steve blurted out, “The baby is fighting. The baby is really sick, but is fighting.” Then he hesitated a bit and said, “But . . . it’s a boy!” A BOY!!!

I could hardly believe it. God is full of surprises, isn’t He?! Steve shared that he’d had an emergency Baptism performed because things were not looking good . . . especially in those first hours. While I was sad to have not been able to witness my son’s Baptism, I was relieved at the same time. Steve knew how important that would be to me if something had happened and he hadn’t made it through that first night.

Steve named our son William James Robert after my dad, his own middle name, and his grandfather. We’d never discussed boys’ names with any seriousness because we never thought we’d have a son. We called him Will, as often as we called him William. Steve couldn’t have chosen a better name for him. He had a will like no other. His will to live had proven doctors wrong since that moment at19 weeks gestation when my water broke, and the fight he showed from the moment he was born was incredibly inspiring.

We had good moments of hope and improvement with Will, and moments of despair as he would take a turn for the worse. We sat vigil at his bedside for the better part of just over two weeks. There were laughter and tears. All of Will’s sisters got to come and visit and meet him. They read books and sang songs to him. They told him about God and about their friends. He knew only love.

On one particularly difficult afternoon, as I sat next to his isolette in the NICU, I continued to pray that same prayer I had spoken countless times since first learning of my pregnancy. “I don’t understand your ways, Lord. And I don’t know where we are going from here. But I trust in you. I’m praying for Your Will, Lord . . .” And in that moment it hit me like a ton of bricks and took my breath away. All that time I had been praying for God’s Will. God’s WILL!

As I had prayed for God’s plans to unfold in our lives, in the same way I had been praying for my son by name. His mercies never end!  Our son was God’s Will long before he was ours, but I have been forever blessed and changed that I am able to be his momma, though I had him but a short time here on this Earth.

For 18 days our son fought for his life before his body became so tired and worn that he could fight no more. In the early hours of the morning on June 8th, Pentecost Sunday, Will went to be with our Lord.  (That also happens to be the feast day of St. William of York.)  William’s life in this world was brief, but he touched more lives, and accomplished more for the Kingdom of God in that time than many adults could ever dream of. His story brought awareness to the sanctity of life at all stages to people, and in a place where it is sadly undervalued. He inspired people to return to the Lord, or to a new, deeper faith through the miracles that God worked throughout his short life. Will’s story continues to spread a message of hope and faith and trust in the Lord that is far-reaching, as those who were closest to us and forever changed by him have gone on to touch and bless others.

We had to leave Washington only six short weeks after Will’s funeral because of a planned military move. It was extremely difficult to leave that place where we have all of our memories with him, and to leave all of the people who supported, cared for, and loved us throughout that time in our lives–not to mention to come to a place where only one or two people knew anything about him or the trauma we had all been through.

It has only been 18 months since Will left this world, and it is still very fresh and raw at times. I try my best to trust the Holy Spirit as He moves and to share little tidbits when He prompts, to show restraint with sharing sometimes when He’s asking me to, and to be completely open and vulnerable when the Spirit moves me to as well, though sometimes it is harder than others.

Right now I am filled with gratitude at being given a chance to share my son and his story again.  I find peace in knowing that Will fulfilled God’s purpose for him in this world. And I believe with my whole heart that the ripple of love and trust that flows from his story will roll on forever. When I make it to heaven someday (God willing), I can’t wait to put my arms around my sweet William once again. And when I meet the Lord face to face, my question to him will not be “Why did that have to happen?” but rather I will say, “Please show me. Show me all of the good and wonderful things that came from our William’s short life.” I know that it will be far-reaching, and I can’t wait for this heavenly reunion. Until then, I hang on to that trust in our awesome, merciful God.

IMG_8555 (2)This is a photo of Christie Kurczak’s daughters taken at a garden dedication this past summer. With the help of the Knights of Columbus, the family planted a garden bed at the chapel on post dedicated to “Unborn babies with a Will to Live, and the Little Ones Already in Heaven.” It is their hope and prayer that it will be a place of healing for others who have lost children to miscarriage, stillbirth, or early infant loss, as well as a place to pray for those children at risk of abortion.  

Aging Gracefully

28 Oct

holding hand of elderly personAs I turn 55 this month, I’m looking forward to all the senior discounts, especially now that my kids have outgrown the children’s menu. It also gives me an opportunity to reflect on aging.

When my family moved to Ohio in 1993, we invited my mother Eileen (“Mom”) to come live with us. While still capable of living on her own, Mom was beginning to feel the effects of age and heart problems, and it was increasingly burdensome for her to maintain her condominium. Plus, we considered “Grandma” part of our family, and valued her time with us. So we warmly welcomed her–and her cats!–into our home.

In December 1998, Mom was hospitalized with pneumonia. Complications ensued after Christmas. She developed a serious infection and became septic. She went into respiratory arrest and was placed on a ventilator and ultimately a feeding tube was inserted. She spent the entire month of January in intensive care, and the doctors were not at all optimistic about her recovery. So many machines, so little change in Mom’s condition. I had to consent to a dizzying array of procedures and tests on her behalf. But mostly, we were praying and waiting.

In February, Mom’s condition had improved enough for her to be moved out of intensive care. Even then, her doctors gave us little hope of her ever being able to come home, and had recommended various institutions where we could put her. After all, she needed so much personal care, and she’d likely be tube-fed for the rest of her life. We pleaded, cajoled, and argued with the doctors to let her come home. On Holy Saturday, a couple hours before the Easter Vigil, our request was granted.

At home, Mom’s condition steadily improved. We gradually were able to return the various hospital apparatus the state and local agencies provided us. We even weaned her from her feeding tube. But more than all the milestones and improvements Mom made, what stuck with me most was the doctor’s comment at one of her post-hospitalization visits. He admitted that he underestimated the ability of our family to care for Mom, and, in fact, that we were able to do more for her than he could.

We moved to Olathe in 2007, and Mom was still with us. In 2008, her conditioned worsened, and we were so grateful to have the Villa St. Francis nearby to care for her during her final months. She passed away in February 2009.

I really don’t see our family’s approach to caring for Mom as being particularly heroic. Having multiple generations under one roof can be very stressful at times, and we didn’t always show one another the love and respect Our Lord expects of us. Yet with God’s grace we made the effort, firmly believing that this is how Our Lord wants us to grow in holiness.

I come from a very large family, from which I learned the value of extended family. And while my Mom, a convert to the Catholic Church, never talked too much about her faith, she did manifest it to me when I was a child as she daily cared for my handicapped grandmother. Given this background, it always seemed “natural” to have Mom live with us.

However, I’m fully aware that in welcoming Mom into our household — despite her infirmity — we were making a distinctively countercultural choice. Our society often tells us that the older generation is just as inconvenient and annoying as children. Openness to the elderly can be just as politically incorrect as openness to new life.

We saw in the 20th century how Planned Parenthood and the little-known, radical views of its founder, Margaret Sanger, incrementally thrusted its contraceptive anti-natalist, racist, and eugenic agenda on the world. The result has been that conduct once considered unspeakably evil–the killing of unborn or even partially born children–is not only accepted, but enshrined as an inalienable right. Some of us, however, may not be aware that a similar effort is well under way to legitimize the killing of our elderly and ill citizens.

In 1938, President of the Euthanasia Society of America (ESA) Dr. Foster Kennedy announced his organization’s support of legislation to legalize the killing of “defective” or “incurable” human beings–with or without their consent. Back then, such legislation was utterly intolerable to the vast majority of our citizens, so the ESA and other pro-euthanasia organizations eventually took a more strategic, incremental approach, employing deceptive language such as “death with dignity” and building upon the utilitarianism (“quality of life”) and radical autonomy (“right to choose”) mantras championed by secular society and sadly, the U.S. Supreme Court.

Many now see euthanasia as a topic of political discussion, not an abomination.

With advancing age the elderly develop an acute awareness of their own mortality, often accompanied by pain and loneliness. Yet, through faith and the supernatural virtue of hope, Christians understand the twilight of life as a passage from the fragile and uncertain joy of this world to the fullness of joy which the Lord holds in store for His faithful servants: “Enter into the joy of your master” (Mt. 25:21).

St. John Paul II wrote that honoring older people involves welcoming them, helping them, and affirming their gifts. He stressed that “the most natural place to spend one’s old age continues to be the environment in which one feels most ‘at home,’ among family members, acquaintances, and friends.”

The Holy Father by no means denigrated but rather praised “homes for the elderly,” especially those run by religious communities and volunteer groups that are committed to the care of the aged. What is most important, especially as America increasingly becomes a graying country, is to counter the culture of death by promoting a widespread attitude of acceptance and appreciation of the elderly, particularly within the family, so that people may grow old with dignity.

Leon Suprenant is the pastoral associate for administration in the Office of the Permanent Diaconate. For more information on the diaconate, visit www.archkck.org/deacons. This article, in abridged form, appeared in the October 24, 2014 edition of The Leaven.

The Cry of the Poor

23 Jan

pope francis 6As mentioned in our last installment of our series on Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium, or “EG”), the Holy Father believes that the inclusion of the poor in society is an urgent issue for the Church today. He therefore devotes an entire section of this document (EG 186-216) to this most significant topic.

Pope Francis begins by pointing to our faith in Jesus Christ, who was always close to the poor and outcast, as the basis for our concern for the most forgotten members of society (EG 186). He also quotes several Scripture passages that impel the people of God to hear the cry of the poor in our midst (EG 187). He emphasizes that compassion for the poor is not the concern of only a few, but rather flows from the grace working through the entire body of believers, leading us to think in terms of the good of others and the good of the wider community (EG 188).

What the Pope is calling for is an authentic solidarity that is not only open to the renewal of social structures, but even more to the renewal of our convictions and attitudes (EG 189). He speaks with particular force and urgency regarding the cry of entire peoples: “the mere fact that some people are born in places with fewer resources or less development does not justify the fact that they are living with less dignity” (EG 190). And the goal is not merely “dignified sustenance” for all, but their welfare and prosperity, which includes education, access to healthcare and, above all, employment (EG 192).

We hear the cry of the poor when we are moved by the suffering of others. This must elicit mercy from us (EG 193). “Blessed are the merciful, because they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7). One concrete, biblical expression of mercy toward the poor is almsgiving (cf. Tobit 12:9; Sirach 3:30).

Pope Francis stresses that the Gospel is simple and clear when it comes to our responsibility to be just and merciful to the poor (EG 194). Doctrinal orthodoxy is of no avail if we don’t take to heart this teaching.

For St. Paul, the key criterion of a Christian’s authenticity is whether he remembers the poor (EG 195; cf. Galatians 2:10). The Pope challenges us to “remember” and not allow ourselves to become distracted by the consumerism that surrounds us (EG 196).

God has demonstrated a special love for the poor throughout salvation history, culminating in the coming of the Savior’s embrace of poverty (EG 197). The Church’s tradition bears witness to the fact that the “option for the poor” holds a place of primacy in the exercise of Christian charity. For that reason, the Pope declares “I want a Church which is poor and for the poor” (EG 198). In saying that, the Holy Father is not calling for mere activism, but for loving attentiveness and identification with the poor. When we don’t welcome the poor, the proclamation of the Gospel loses its compelling resonance (EG 199). The Pope also emphasizes that the preferential option for the poor includes spiritual care, which sometimes is lacking (EG 200), and that no one is exempt from the concern for social justice (EG 201).

Pope Francis then discusses the economy and the just distribution of resources. He calls inequality the root of society’s problems. While welfare programs provide temporary solutions, we must address the sources of inequality (EG 202). Clearly economic policies must be based on the dignity of the human person and the pursuit of the common good. We cannot be indifferent toward these concerns, nor can we exploit them through recourse to empty rhetoric (EG 203).

Gone are the days in which we can trust in the “invisible hand of the market” (EG 204). Rather, we must be intentional when it comes to bringing about necessary reform. Therefore, the Pope prays that Lord will grant us politicans who realize that charity is not only inter-personal, but also the principle that must govern our life in society (EG 205). He stresses the value of governments working together, as economic decisions in one part of the world have repercussions elsewhere (EG 206).

Pope Francis here returns to the Church community, and says that the Church has to do its part in reaching out to the poor in action, and not through “unproductive meetings and empty talk” (EG 207). The Holy Father uses strong language through must of the exhortation, which he acknowledges in EG 208, but he affirms his affection for all and his desire for the good of all apart from any personal or political interest.

In the last part of this section, Pope Francis says that since Jesus the Evangelizer identified with the vulnerable, so too must we in our apostolic outreach (EG 209). He then refers to several classes of people who are particularly vulnerable in our present-day circumstance. He mentions the homeless, addicts, refugees, the elderly, and many others. He mentions the particular challenge posed by migrants, noting that he is “the pastor of a Church without frontiers” (EG 210).

The Holy Father expresses particular love and concern for unborn children (EG 211). He says that “it is not ‘progressive’ to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life” (EG 212). In a very pastoral manner, he also affirms that the Church must do more to accompany women in difficult situations, such that abortion does not appear to be the best or only solution in those circumstances.

He concludes by affirming our role as stewards over all of creation (EG 215), and in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi calls us to watch over and protect the fragile world in which we live, as well as its inhabitants (EG 216).

A Message to College Students

21 Jan

March for LifeYou are survivors. Millions–and I mean millions–of your peers have been legally slaughtered, the victims of the deadly culture war in which we find ourselves.

At the time of Moses and Israel’s slavery in Egypt, and at the time of Jesus and the Holy Innocents, evil forces resorted to the killing of the young in a futile attempt to thwart God’s saving plan for all of humanity.

But that was then and this is now. This is our time. Even more, it is your time. Our God must have big plans for you. Modern-day popes have described these plans as entailing a “new springtime of faith,” the fruit of a massive “new evangelization” aimed at bringing all men and women to Jesus Christ. This effort, already taking shape throughout the world, has raised Satan’s ire to such a degree that he’s resorting to the same tactics he used in Egypt and in Bethlehem, and once again, they’re not going to work. God’s saving plan will not be frustrated, though it will be opposed, and there will likely be casualties.

I wish that your generation could sit back and comfortably live the good life in Tolkien’s Shire. But I have news for you. We’re at war. Your freedom–not simply political and material but even more your religious and spiritual freedom–is something you’re going to have to claim and fight for, or you may as well start waving your white flag. Don’t let the fact that you can’t see the Enemy fool you. Don’t let the fact that many of your friends are oblivious to this epic conflict discourage you. You have some idea as to what we’re up against. Take up the weapons of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, and gird yourself for battle.

To my way of thinking, Satan is attacking your generation largely through his propagation of a secular worldview. What is this worldview saying to you?

Well, the world is telling you that you are disposable. Face it, you’re junk. Aside from your potential classmates and leaders who were legally killed in the womb, the rest of you are valued only for what you do or contribute, and not for who you are. We want only the “perfect kids” who look like Barbie dolls or who have LeBron James’ muscles or Albert Einstein’s intelligence. You’re animals who can’t be expected to exercise self-control, so we cross our fingers and hope you’re “safe.” You’re machines with interchangeable parts that you can cut off, mutilate, adorn, or surgically alter at your whim. When you’re an old dog or your machine-like body gives out, don’t expect us to give you anything but a lethal injection.

I could go on, but the point is that our society doesn’t think much of you. Whether you know it or not, you’re under siege.

But there’s another worldview. It’s the perennial Christian worldview, but it has been articulated with particular poignancy and urgency by the Church since the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).

The Church’s message is that you’re masterpieces. You have the spark of the divine in you. You have God-given dignity, which entails both rights and responsibilities. You have been entrusted with dominion over our world. You have been called to a sublime vocation in Christ as God’s own children by adoption. Making the Lord’s words his own, the Pope calls you to cast out into the deep, to step out bravely in faith. He exhorts you not to be afraid. He beckons you to befriend the poor and the marginalized. He tells you that giving your life to Christ is not only radical, but eminently practical if you want life in abundance.

This courageous message of hope, echoed by the last three popes, explains the Church’s appeal to today’s youth, as evidenced by the massive turn out each year at the March for Life in Washington and local events throughout the country. If you subscribe to the world’s view, you are headed toward ruin. But it is not too late for you. Turn back to the Lord now, with all your heart!

And if you already accept the pope’s worldview, that’s great, but not enough. Now is not the time for armchair Christians. Live your Christian convictions with integrity and zeal, knowing that the Lord calls all of us to lead lives worthy of our calling. Life is not only worth living, but it’s worth living well. May God bless you and strengthen for the great work He sets before you!

I originally published this article ten years ago. Three of my daughters–who were 11, 9, and 6 when I wrote the article–are in Washington right now for the March for Life. Please remember them and all our young pilgrims from across the country in your prayers!

Pope Francis’ Intentions for January

3 Jan

ecumenism2Following are the Intentions of our Holy Father Pope Francis for the month of January, courtesy of the Apostleship of Prayer:

  • Economic Development.   That all may promote authentic economic development that respects the  dignity of all peoples.
  • Christian Unity.   That Christians of diverse denominations may walk toward the unity  desired by Christ.

January is always a good month to pray for Christian unity, given the fact that Christian Unity Week is usually observed toward the end of the month.  January is also a good month to pray for the end of legalized abortion in this country and for a renewed respect for all human life, in observance of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade on January 22, 2014. For more information on that, check out the March for Life site.

My Journey from Pro-Choice to Pro-Life

29 Aug

CuomoWhen I returned to the Church in 1984, it wasn’t as though a decade of unchecked sinful habits and behaviors fell by the wayside.

The mighty struggle to replace vice with virtue continues to this day. After all, “denying myself” and “turning the other cheek” don’t come naturally.

I also had to convert on intellectual matters. I was fresh out of law school and something of a constitutional law scholar, having sharpened my legal teeth on Roe v. Wade jurisprudence. That year, New York Governor Mario Cuomo, the poster child of “I’m personally opposed, but” politics, captured my imagination with a stirring keynote address at the Democratic National Convention.

So, when I first came back to the Church, I brought my pro-choice ideology with me.

Of course, I was “personally opposed”–so much so that, even then, I would have gladly adopted a child rather than see him or her aborted.

But I wasn’t where I needed to be in terms of fully accepting the Church’s coherent pro-life ethic. It took a year of prayer, study, and conversations with friends before I realized that I needed to repent and do penance for my dissident views.

Recent Popes have emphasized that the current age is characterized not by a “crisis of charity,” but even more by a “crisis of faith.” That’s why Pope Benedict called an entire “Year of Faith.” We never hear about sins against faith, but if indeed we’re living through such a crisis, it stands to reason that sins against faith happen–and happen frequently.

When it comes to sins against charity, we’re usually able to come up with an excuse (e.g., “I was just letting off steam,” “My boss is a jerk,” “He shouldn’t have criticized my work,” “I didn’t think she’d take it personally”). At the end of the day, though, I think we all admit to sinning fairly regularly against charity. We realize that we hurt somebody, and so we try to reconcile as best we can with God and neighbor. Surely there are plenty of sins against charity to go around these days, and we do well to use a “charity scorecard” when examining our consciences.

On the other hand, sins against faith are seemingly “victimless” sins. Not only that, it takes a rare humility today to admit that we’re wrong about anything. And when it comes to religious convictions–true, false, or just plain weird–our society takes a “to each his own” approach.

Thus, in many Catholic circles today, rejection of Church teaching brings into play many fancy concepts, such as diversity, tolerance, plurality, lived experience, and primacy of “conscience.” But no mention of sin.

In its treatment of the First Commandment, the Catechism of the Catholic Church devotes three paragraphs (No. 2087-89) to sins against faith. The catechism says the First Commandment “requires us to nourish and protect our faith with prudence and vigilance, and to reject everything that is opposed to it.” I suspect all of us can do a better job of nourishing and protecting our faith.

The Catechism also identifies several sins against faith, including voluntary doubt, incredulity, heresy, apostasy, and schism. None of these sins is a four-letter word, but they may as well be, given the deliberate avoidance of these terms today.

Scripture frequently speaks of the necessity of faith for salvation. Indeed, without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).

Faith entails the acceptance of all that Our Lord has revealed through his Church, based on His own authority as the Son of God. Mere agreement is not the same as faith, because then we’re putting Christ’s teachings through an approval process, rejecting anything that seems unacceptable to us.

But even acceptance of the person and teachings of Jesus Christ isn’t enough. We need to do what the Lord says (Luke 6:46). We must bear witness to our faith in our daily lives:

“So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33; see Catechism, no. 1816).

When we cultivate doubt or dissent, the result is spiritual blindness. Our choices are no longer guided by objective standards of moral conduct, and the Word of God ceases to be a light for our path.

We cannot be indifferent to the personal dimension of the “crisis of faith” in our midst, perhaps writing off those who seem to be set in their dissident ways. Yet, reaching out to those who struggle with sins against faith is a vitally important task–indeed, a spiritual work of mercy.

I’m very grateful that some people, whose charity was surpassed only by their patience, called me to conversion on the abortion issue.

Catechesis on the Fifth Commandment

27 Nov

This week we come to what at first blush seems to be the most straightforward of commandments:

You shall not kill.

As a child preparing for Confession I would routinely pass over the Fifth Commandment. After all, I hadn’t killed anybody that month! I was completely missing the spirit of the commandment, and in fact I was–and still am–frequently guilty of injuring others in thought, word, and deed. I failed to see that just as the positive antidote to sexual sins is chastity, the positive antidote to sins of anger, strife, and violence is kindness–loving others as myself.

In our sexually permissive society, it is critically important to reaffirm–clearly, firmly, and sensitively–the implications of the Sixth Commandment (“you shall not commit adultery”). Yet sometimes we may act as though Moses put an asterisk next to the Sixth Commandment, as though that’s the only commandment we really need to be concerned about. The truth is that we also live in an increasingly violent world. This has everything to do with the Fifth Commandment.

For most of us, the Fifth Commandment comes into play when we become angry or frustrated, or perhaps when we’re thinking too much of ourselves and not enough of our neighbor. Our Lord gives this beautiful application of this commandment in the Sermon on the Mount:

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna. Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Mt. 5:21-24).

To live this commandment, we should proactively practice acts of kindness (random or otherwise!), and reactively practice acts of reconciliation (sometimes a not-so-simple “I’m sorry” will work wonders!) when we cause friction with our neighbor. Continue reading