Awhile back, The Wall Street Journal ran a fascinating and deeply saddening article exploring the reasons behind the Kennedy Family’s staunch pro-abortion position.
Believe it or not, Ted Kennedy used to be pro-life.
So how did he and all the other prominent Kennedys swing so far in the wrong direction? For that matter, what about some of the other Catholic pro-abortion zealots in (or recently in) high public office, such as Nancy Pelosi, Mario Cuomo, and Tom Daschle? What happened to them?
(NB: I originally posted this blog entry on January 2, 2009. Given all the chattering right now from Catholics who feel they can vote for pro-abortion candidates with impunity and without compromising their Catholic identity (and without committing sin), I post it again because of its pertinence to the late Ted Kennedy’s life and legacy, such as it was.)
This article alleges that it was was an intentional, systematic, concerted effort on the part of a group of dissenting Catholic theologians (including Fr. Richard McCormick, Fr. Charles Curran, Fr. Joseph Fuchs, Fr. Robert Drinan, and Fr. John Courtney Murray), who spent a good deal of of time with the Kennedys in the mid 1960s employing bogus moral theology arguments to convince them they could “accept and promote abortion with a clear conscience.” Once this was accomplished, these same Judas priests undertook to literally coach the Kennedy’s on what to say and how to vote in favor of abortion in their public lives.
Given the Kennedys’ enormous influence over American politics, it’s diabolically logical for those dissenting Catholic theologians to have targeted this renowned and respected Catholic family for “conversion.” They were in the perfect position to persuade other Catholics, and even many Protestants, that it’s okay to be pro-abortion.
And this strategy worked so well that, today, it is virtually impossible to find a Catholic politician holding national public office who is pro-life. Thanks to these dissenters and those Catholics they duped, “Catholic” is synonymous with “pro-abortion” in politics.
Read here how this hideous transformation was accomplished:
Ms. [Caroline] Kennedy’s commitment to abortion rights is shared by other prominent family members, including Kerry Kennedy Cuomo and Maryland’s former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. Some may recall the 2000 Democratic Convention when Caroline and her uncle, Sen. Ted Kennedy, addressed the convention to reassure all those gathered that the Democratic Party would continue to provide women with the right to choose abortion — even into the ninth month. At that convention, the party’s nominee, Al Gore, formerly a pro-life advocate, pledged his opposition to parental notification and embraced partial-birth abortion. Several of those in attendance, including former President Bill Clinton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, had been pro-life at one time. But by 2000 nearly every delegate in the convention hall was on the pro-choice side — and those who weren’t simply kept quiet about it.
Caroline Kennedy knows that any Kennedy desiring higher office in the Democratic Party must now carry the torch of abortion rights throughout any race. But this was not always the case. Despite Ms. Kennedy’s description of Barack Obama, in a New York Times op-ed, as a “man like my father,” there is no evidence that JFK was pro-choice like Mr. Obama. Abortion-rights issues were in the fledgling stage at the state level in New York and California in the early 1960s. They were not a national concern.
Even Ted Kennedy, who gets a 100% pro-choice rating from the abortion-rights group Naral, was at one time pro-life. In fact, in 1971, a full year after New York had legalized abortion, the Massachusetts senator was still championing the rights of the unborn. In a letter to a constituent dated Aug. 3, 1971, he wrote: “When history looks back to this era it should recognize this generation as one which cared about human beings enough to halt the practice of war, to provide a decent living for every family, and to fulfill its responsibility to its children from the very moment of conception.”
But that all changed in the early ’70s, when Democratic politicians first figured out that the powerful abortion lobby could fill their campaign coffers (and attract new liberal voters). Politicians also began to realize that, despite the Catholic Church’s
teachings to the contrary, its bishops and priests had ended their public role of responding negatively to those who promoted a pro-choice agenda.
In some cases, church leaders actually started providing “cover” for Catholic pro-choice politicians who wanted to vote in favor of abortion rights. At a meeting at the Kennedy compound in Hyannisport, Mass., on a hot summer day in 1964, the Kennedy family and its advisers and allies were coached by leading theologians and Catholic college professors on how to accept and promote abortion with a “clear conscience.”
The former Jesuit priest Albert Jonsen, emeritus professor of ethics at the University of Washington, recalls the meeting in his book “The Birth of Bioethics” (Oxford, 2003). He writes about how he joined with the Rev. Joseph Fuchs, a Catholic moral theologian; the Rev. Robert Drinan, then dean of Boston College Law School; and three academic theologians, the Revs. Giles Milhaven, Richard McCormick and Charles Curran, to enable the Kennedy family to redefine support for abortion.
Mr. Jonsen writes that the Hyannisport colloquium was influenced by the position of another Jesuit, the Rev. John Courtney Murray, a position that “distinguished between the moral aspects of an issue and the feasibility of enacting legislation about that issue.” It was the consensus at the Hyannisport conclave that Catholic politicians “might tolerate legislation that would permit abortion under certain circumstances if political efforts to repress this moral error led to greater perils to social peace and order.”
Father Milhaven later recalled the Hyannisport meeting during a 1984 breakfast briefing of Catholics for a Free Choice: “The theologians worked for a day and a half among ourselves at a nearby hotel. In the evening we answered questions from the Kennedys and the Shrivers. Though the theologians disagreed on many a point, they all concurred on certain basics . . . and that was that a Catholic politician could in good conscience vote in favor of abortion.”
But can they now? There are signs today that some of the bishops are beginning to confront the Catholic politicians who consistently vote in favor of legislation to support abortion. Charles J. Chaput, the archbishop of Denver, has been on the front lines in encouraging Catholics to live their faith without compromise in the public square. Most recently in his book “Render Unto Caesar,” Archbishop Chaput has reminded Catholic politicians of their obligation to protect life.
The archbishop is not alone. The agenda at November’s assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops included a public discussion of abortion and politics. The bishops’ final statement focused on concern about the possible passage of the “Freedom of Choice Act,” and referred to it as “an evil law that would further divide our country.” The bishops referenced their 2007 document, “Faithful Citizenship,” which maintains that the right to life is the foundation of every other human right. In it, they promised to “persist in the duty to counsel, in the hope that the scandal of their [Catholic congregants’] cooperating in evil can be resolved by the proper formation of their consciences.”
You’re invited! Join me on a grace-filled Catholic pilgrimage to the historic California Missions, this October 2-9. We’ll journey in the footsteps of Saint Junipero Serra. Most Rev. James Wall, Bishop of Gallup, NM, will be our chaplain for this trip, and I’ll be giving special presentations on the life of Saint Junipero, the history of the California Missions, and the miraculous apparition of Our Lady of Guadelupe.
Come and enjoy a peaceful, relaxing, thoroughly Catholic, educational, and spiritually energizing exploration of the very foundations of the our Faith in Old California.
Travel Package includes:
† Pilgrimage Chaplain with Daily Mass and Devotions offered along the pilgrimage route
† Roundtrip Airfare from most Major USA cities (incl. airport taxes, subject to change)
† Hotel accommodations 4 star for 7 nights (such as the Hampton Inn by Hilton or similar)
† Breakfast & dinner daily – 16 meals † Professional English Speaking Tour Escort & local Guides
† Daily sightseeing as per itinerary † Deluxe motor coach transportation
† Entrance fees per itinerary † Service charges, gratuities, and luggage handling
Fictitious Garage Band Names from the “Patrick Madrid Show”
5 Dudes and a Chicken
The Kentucky Clerks
The Gender Binary
Artificial Vomiting Machine
Full Blown Trolls
Battle of the Buns
Sausage Biscuit Rage Incident
The Meat Bees
The Swedish Toddlers
Sandwiches of Shame
The Metallic Cage Fighters
Monkey Head Transplants
Puppets of the Patriarchy
Bobo Doll Experiment
Blame the Robot (album cover)
Nacho Thief (Nacho Thieves)
Ultra Cool Dwarfs
Ethical Permission Slip (Album Cover)
(Originally posted in early 2011)
A claim made in this article doesn’t surprise me a bit:
“A survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that Facebook is cited as evidence in 66 percent of divorces in the United States. Also, more than 80 percent of divorce lawyers reported they “have seen an increase in the number of cases using social networking evidence” during the past few years.”
In fact, this may even understate the extent to which Facebook, like other useful and entertaining new-media communication platforms, is contributing to marital infidelity and other marriage problems.
Rather than restate what these articles say about what happens when married men and women develop private (or, worse yet, clandestine) online relationships with members of the opposite sex, I’ll just offer three common-sense suggestions that seem to me to be a set of bare-minimum rules of prudence for those who (like I) use Facebook regularly and who don’t want it to cause problems for their marriage.
It doesn’t take a genius to see that Facebook can be a great thing when used wisely, or a stick of dynamite when used foolishly.
Rule 1: Your Facebook should be a completely open book for your husband or wife.
You need to “password-protect” your marriage. No joke. This means that your husband or wife should be able to log onto your Facebook account at a moment’s notice, any time of the day or night, especially when you are not there. Aside from, perhaps, planning a surprise party for your husband, if you are keeping anything “secret” from him in terms of your online interactions with other men, you are heading down a slippery slope.
How to avoid it? Simple: He should know your password and, of course, if he has a Facebook account, you should know his.
This rule isn’t intended to foster “snooping” or paranoia, but it will help you ensure transparency and honesty with your husband or wife when it comes to your dealings with others online.
Guys, knowing that your wife can at any time read anything you write on your Facebook page will have a very clarifying effect on what you write. In other words, abiding by this rule will help you avoid situations in which you might be tempted to say something you wouldn’t want your wife to see.
One solution (aside from cancelling your Facebook page altogether) is to simply share one Facebook page between the two of you. Doing this can help fire-proof your marriage against an unscrupulous old flame.
Rule 2: Don’t flirt on Facebook.
Not even a little bit. Not even in jest. What you think of as harmless could actually be a stumbling block of temptation to someone else. We all know what it’s like when something we’ve written in an e-mail, something intended to be completely innocuous and friendly, is misconstrued by the recipient as snarky or mean.
Correcting negative miss-impressions resulting from misunderstood text can be tricky. Just imagine how much more difficult it can be to fix a problem caused be someone who thinks you’re flirting with her, especially if she is receptive to it and starts reciprocating.
And ladies, my hunch is that this is even more true in reverse. Your intentions may be entirely innocent, but under the
rightwrong circumstances, a man could easily misconstrue your witty repartée in a way you didn’t intend it. Don’t be brusque, of course, but do be circumspect in what you say.
We all have to remember that Big Things start out small. When it comes to temptations to flirt on Facebook, the safest course by far is simply to refuse to let the small things get started in the first place.
Rule 3: Don’t waste time on Facebook.
This doesn’t mean don’t use Facebook, but definitely don’t waste time on it. And as someone who uses Facebook, I know this is easier said than done. Most of us in the modern digital age know from experience the temptation to fritter away valuable time online.
Facebook can be a huge and even dangerous time-drain. Why dangerous? Because if you aren’t careful, wandering aimlessly from page to page, profile to profile, picture to picture, can quickly lead down the path of undue curiosity that can just as quickly lead to lustful thoughts, which can, if you’re not careful and willing to discipline yourself, lead to worse things.
The old adage is certainly true: “Idleness is the devil’s workshop.” Or, as the famous wit wit Samuel Johnson once wrote: “If you are idle, be not solitary; if you are solitary be not idle.”
To elaborate on this growing problem of Facebook-caused marriage troubles, here’s a sample from the first article. It’s well worth reading, sharing with your spouse, and then implementing rules like the ones above in order to help yourself avoid potentially disastrous problems.
If you’re single, Facebook and other social networking sites can help you meet that special someone. However, for those in even the healthiest of marriages, improper use can quickly devolve into a marital disaster.
A recent survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that Facebook is cited in one in five divorces in the United States. Also, more than 80 percent of divorce lawyers reported a rising number of people are using social media to engage in extramarital affairs.
“We’re coming across it more and more,” said licensed clinical psychologist Steven Kimmons, Ph.D., of Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ill. “One spouse connects online with someone they knew from high school.
The person is emotionally available and they start communicating through Facebook. Within a short amount of time, the sharing of personal stories can lead to a deepened sense of intimacy, which in turn can point the couple in the direction of physical contact.”
Though already-strained marriages are most vulnerable, a couple doesn’t have to be experiencing marital difficulties in order for an online relationship to blossom from mere talk into a full-fledged affair, Kimmons said. In most instances, people enter into online relationships with the most innocent of intentions.
“I don’t think these people typically set out to have affairs,” said Kimmons, whose practice includes couples therapy and marriage counseling. “A lot of it is curiosity. They see an old friend or someone they dated and decide to say ‘hello’ and catch up on where that person is and how they’re doing.”
It all boils down to the amount of contact two people in any type of relationships –including online – have with each other, Kimmons said. The more contact they have, the more likely they are to begin developing feelings for each other.
“If I’m talking to one person five times a week versus another person one time a week, you don’t need a fancy psychological study to conclude that I’m more likely to fall in love with the person I talk to five times a week because I have more contact with that person,” Kimmons said. . . . (continue reading)
The Crusades = Jihad? Nice try, but no dice.
Maybe you saw or heard about that notorious National Prayer Breakfast speech in which Mr. Obama attempted to equate the Catholic Crusades with violent, murderous Muslim jihad (watch video specifically at 2:00 mark). Well, nothing could be further from the truth. He said,
“And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”
Maybe you aren’t sure how to explain why there really is no moral equivalence — ZERO — between the Crusades and violent jihad. #fact
Well, this powerful 5-minute info-graphic video does it better than anything I’ve seen yet.
Please watch this video, have your children watch it, and share it far and wide on your social media sites. It’s that important. We need to set the record straight for the sake of truth.
Also, I explained in greater detail what the Crusades actually were (and what they weren’t) on my radio show this morning (February 6, 2015).
Over the last 25 years or so, I’ve noticed with bemusement an unfortunate trend in the United States in which an increasing number of lay people arrogate to themselves the title of “spiritual director.” I regard this as unfortunate because, except in certain rare exceptions, lay people are simply not qualified or competent to serve as spiritual directors.
Even lay people who have some formal training in theology do not, by virtue of that fact, have the requisite qualities necessary to be spiritual directors.
I’ve seen some real messes result from lay people attempting to give spiritual direction to others. For example, Regnum Christi (RC), the lay movement associated with the embattled Legionaries of Christ religious order of men, had for years appointed numerous goodhearted, sincere, and wholly unqualified RC lay women to be “spiritual directors” for other RC lay women in the absence of a priest. As you might imagine, problems and misunderstandings ensued. Eventually, at least here in the U.S., the Legionaries and RC leaders abandoned the moniker “spiritual director” in favor of the less dubious “spiritual guide.”
My guess is that virtually all lay people who style themselves as spiritual directors (including those who are regarded as such by others, even by some deacons and priests), are really just confusing spiritual direction with counseling. That such a benign confusion is prevalent these days shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, upwards of three generations of Catholics nowadays are, by and large, woefully under-catechized in the doctrinal and spiritual teachings of the Catholic Faith.
This is not to say that those goodhearted and sincere lay men and lay women who present themselves as spiritual directors are necessarily themselves woefully under-catechized (although some may very well be), but their laudable service to others, insofar as they seek to offer helpful advice of a spiritual nature, does not make them spiritual directors in the classical Catholic sense of the term.
Don’t get me wrong. By all means, Catholic lay people should strive to offer good counsel and spiritual advice when the need and opportunity arises. Counseling can be done informally or formally, such as in the case of a man or woman who is properly trained in the art of counseling (for example, having earned a master’s degree in that field). But counselling and spiritual direction are not the same thing. It’s proper and good for lay people to engage in the former though, in my view, not the in latter.
Now, since I am confident that my remarks here will elicit some push back from those who are convinced spiritual direction is indeed suitable for lay people, I’d like to advert to the wise and erudite advice on this question from the late Father Jordan Aumann, O.P. (1916-2007), who wrote Spiritual Theology, a masterful explanation of the ways and means of the spiritual life, including what to look for in a spiritual director. While he doesn’t come right out and declare that spiritual direction is not a suitable domain for lay people (except, as I’ve said, under certain, rare circumstances), I think you’ll see that the cumulative force of his explanation militates inexorably toward that conclusion.
PERHAPS NO WRITER HAS OUTLINED with such clarity and precision the technical qualities of a good spiritual director as have St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. She states that a good spiritual director should be learned, prudent, and experienced. St. John of the Cross also maintains that a director should be learned, prudent, and experienced, and he places great emphasis on experience.
Learning. The learning of a spiritual director should be extensive. In addition to having a profound knowledge of dogmatic theology, without which he would be exposed to error in regard to matters of faith, and of moral theology, without which he could not even fulfill the office of confessor, the spiritual director should have a thorough knowledge of ascetical and mystical theology. He should know, for example, the theological doctrine concerning Christian perfection, especially regarding such questions as the essence of perfection, the obligation to strive for perfection, the obstacles to perfection, the types of purgation, and the means of positive growth in virtue. He should have a detailed knowledge of the grades of prayer, the trials God usually sends to souls as they advance from the lower to the higher degrees of prayer, and the illusions and assaults of the devil that souls may encounter.
He also needs to be well versed in psychology so that he will have an understanding of various temperaments and characters, the influences to which the human personality is subjected, and the function of the emotions in the life of the individual. He should also know at least the basic principles of abnormal psychology and psychiatry so that he will be able to recognize mental unbalance and nervous or emotional disorders.
A priest should realize that, if he is not competent to direct a particular soul, he should advise the individual to go to someone who possesses the necessary knowledge. A priest incurs a grave responsibility before God if he attempts to direct a soul when he lacks sufficient knowledge. In recent times, with the wider dissemination of knowledge of mental illness, the priest must especially be warned that, as regards the field of psychiatry and the therapeutic methods proper to that branch of medicine, he is a mere “layman” and is incompetent to treat mental sickness. If he suspects that a penitent is suffering from a mental illness, he should direct that individual to a professional psychiatrist, just as readily as he would expect a psychiatrist to refer spiritual problems to a clergyman.
Prudence. This is one of the most important qualities for a spiritual director. It comprises three basic factors: prudence in judgment, clarity in counseling, and firmness in exacting obedience.
If a spiritual director lacks prudence, he is usually lacking several other virtues as well. Prudence enables an individual to do the right thing under given circumstances. Spiritual direction is not concerned with the general doctrine of spiritual theology, nor with theoretical situations that one may imagine, but with the individual soul placed in concrete circumstances at a given moment or in a given phase of spiritual growth.
The director is not called upon to make decisions regarding general doctrine; most people could find such answers in any standard manual of spiritual theology. The director’s role is precisely to recognize the particular circumstances of a given situation and to give the advice needed at that moment. In order that the advice be prudent, a spiritual director must have the empathy by which he is able to place himself in the given circumstances and must have the patience to listen attentively. Of the various factors that militate against prudence, the following are especially common: lack of knowledge of the various states of the ascetical and mystical life, lack of understanding of human psychology, prejudice in regard to particular states of life or particular exercises of piety, lack of humility, excessive eagerness to make a judgment.
The second characteristic of prudence in the spiritual director is clarity in the advice given to the one directed and in the norms of conduct prescribed. In order that he may be clear in his direction, he must. possess clarity in his own mind. In speaking to the soul he is directing, he should avoid any vague or indecisive language, but should always express himself in concrete and definite terms. He should resolve problems with a yes or a no and, if necessary, he should take the time for further deliberation before making his decision. If a soul perceives that the director is not sure of himself, it will lose confidence in him, and his direction will lose all its efficacy.
Moreover, the director should always be sincere and frank, without any partiality or selfish motives. It would be a serious fault if a director were to avoid offending the person directed lest that person should go to some other priest for direction. Those priests who place great importance in attracting and retaining a large number of followers are, by that very fact, disposing themselves to failure as spiritual directors. The director should never forget that he acts in the name of the Holy Spirit in directing souls, and that he must endeavor to treat those souls with kindness and- understanding, but with firmness and utter frankness.
The director must also take care that he does not become the one who is directed. Some persons are extremely competent in’ getting their own way in everything, and even the director is in danger of falling under their power. For that reason, once the director is certain of his decision and the course that should be followed; he should state his mind with unyielding firmness. The individual must be convinced that there are only two alternatives: to obey or to find another director.
But the director should not forget that he should never demand of a soul anything that is incompatible with its state of life or vocation, its strength, or present condition. He should realize that there are some things that can be demanded of advanced souls but could never be required of beginners; that some things would be perfectly fitting in dealing with a priest or religious but not with a lay person. Excessive rigor does nothing but frighten souls and may cause them to abandon the road to perfection. There is, therefore, a world of difference between firmness in demanding obedience and an excessive rigidity that discourages the soul of the penitent.
Experience. This is one of the most precious qualities of a good spiritual director. Even if he is less perfect in knowledge and somewhat deficient in prudence, experience can make up for these deficiencies. This does not mean that the experience of the director must necessarily flow from his own spiritual life, for he may obtain the benefits of experience from his observation and direction of others.
As regards the personal experience of the director, if it is a question of the guidance of the average Christian, he needs little more than the experience any priest can obtain from the faithful fulfillment of his duties in the sacred ministry. If it is a question of advanced souls who have already entered the mystical stages of the spiritual life, it is desirable that the priest himself have some experience of those higher stages. If he lacks this, a delicate sense of prudence, coupled with competent knowledge of the mystical states, will suffice in the majority of cases.
But personal experience alone is not sufficient to make a spiritual director as competent as he ought to be. There are many different paths by which the Holy Spirit can lead souls to the summit of sanctity. It would be a serious mistake for a director to attempt to lead all souls along the same path and to impose on them his own personal experiences, however beneficial they may have been for himself. The spiritual director should never forget that he is merely an instrument in the hands of the Holy Spirit and that his work must be entirely subjected to the Holy Spirit. If, through a lack of understanding of the variety of divine gifts and the multiplicity of roads to perfection, he were to force all souls to travel by the same road, he would become a veritable obstacle to the workings of grace in the soul.
Moral Qualities of a Spiritual Director . . . (continue reading)
Here are the musical pieces by Karl Jenkins that I’ve been playing on my Morning Show today. Something truly great to enjoy as you proceed through the sacred Triduum on the way to Resurrection Sunday.
Over the last couple of months, more or less out of the blue, many people began contacting me to ask what I think of a gentleman named Charlie Johnston, a Catholic who’s made some startling predictions about dire events in the near future. Is he authentic? they asked. What do you think of his predictions? etc. Some express skepticism, some seem gripped by fear and anxiety, and still others seem calm and convinced.
A few days ago, I was able to spend about half an hour on my radio show chatting with Charlie. He strikes me as down to earth, low-key, congenial, credible, and sincere. As you’ll hear in our on-air discussion (see link below), he says he has received countless instructions and warnings about the future from a holy angel.
I’ve only recently become aware of Charlie and his message, and though I’ve read several of his blog posts and watched a video of an informal presentation he gave recently to a small group of Catholics in which he elaborates on his predictions, but I haven’t met him in person and, therefore, can only draw conclusions from what I’ve read and heard thus far. This is why I asked him to discuss things further on my radio show. I wanted to know more and, to the extent possible, see more clearly into his message of a coming global “storm” of strife and upheaval with which God will chastise and purify mankind.
I’ll be candid. Whenever someone pops up claiming to be a “seer” or to have “visions” or receive “locutions,” my default reaction has always been (and remains) one of firm skepticism. Self-proclaimed seers and loctutionists abound, and my practice has been simply to pay them no attention. There have been countless false prophets (see Matthew 24:24), but there are also authentic prophets, which is why I also believe that careful, prayerful discernment is always required whenever the possibility arises that a given message may be authentic.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)
If someone indeed is blessed by God with supernatural interventions, that fact will become evident in due time in his/her life and in the messages themselves, just as a false prophet will be found out in due time for the same reasons (see Deuteronomy 18:20-22). More importantly, the truth will eventually become evident through the Spirit-guided discernment of Holy Mother Church.
As the Rabbi Gamaliel declared of the nascent Catholic Church in the book of Acts 5:38-39:
[I]f this plan or this undertaking is of men, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!
In Charlie Johnston’s case, I remain open and willing to hear more. Only God knows. I do not trust in my own meager powers of discernment.
So, anyway, here’s my interview with Charlie.
“As soon as worldly people see that you wish to follow a devout life they aim a thousand darts of mockery and even detraction at you. The most malicious of them will slander your conversion as hypocrisy, bigotry, and trickery. . . .
“Philothea, all this is mere foolish, empty babbling. These people aren’t interested in your health or welfare. ‘If you were of the world, the world would love what is its own but because you are not of the world, therefore the world hates you,; says the Savior. We have seen gentlemen and ladies spend the whole night, even many nights one after another, playing chess or cards. Is there any concentration more absurd, gloomy, or depressing than this last? Yet worldly people don’t say a word and the players’ friends don’t bother their heads about it.
“If we spend an hour in meditation or get up a little earlier than usual in the morning to prepare for Holy Communion, everyone runs for a doctor to cure us of hypochondria and jaundice. People can pass thirty nights in dancing and no one complains about it, but if they watch through a single Christmas night they cough and claim their stomach is upset the next morning. Does anyone fail to see that the world is an unjust judge, gracious and well disposed to its own children but harsh and rigorous towards the children of God?
“We can never please the world unless we lose ourselves together with it. It is so demanding that it can’t be satisfied. “John came neither eating nor drinking,” says the Savior, and you say, “He has a devil.” “The Son of man came eating and drinking” and you say that he is “a Samaritan.”
“It is true, Philothea, that if we are ready to laugh, play cards, or dance with the world in order to please it, it will be scandalized at us, and if we don’t, it will accuse us of hypocrisy or melancholy. If we dress well, it will attribute it to some plan we have, and if we neglect our dress, it will accuse of us of being cheap and stingy. Good humor will be called frivolity and mortification sullenness. Thus the world looks at us with an evil eye and we can never please it. It exaggerates our imperfections and claims they are sins, turns our venial sins into mortal sins and changes our sins of weakness into sins of malice.
“‘Charity is kind,’ says Saint Paul, but the world on the contrary is evil. “Charity thinks no evil,” but the world always thinks evil and when it can’t condemn our acts it will condemn our intentions. Whether the sheep have horns or not and whether they are white or black, the wolf doesn’t hesitate to eat them if he can.
“Whatever we do, the world will wage war on us. If we stay a long time in the confessional, it will wonder how we can have so much to say; if we stay only a short time, it will say we haven’t told everything. It will watch all our actions and at a single little angry word it will protest that we can’t get along with anyone. To take care of our own interests will look like avarice, while meekness will look like folly. As for the children of the world, their anger is called being blunt, their avarice economy, their intimate conversations lawful discussions. Spiders always spoil the good work of the bees.
“Let us give up this blind world, Philothea. Let it cry out at us as long as it pleases, like a cat that cries out to frighten birds in the daytime. Let us be firm in our purposes and unswerving in our resolutions. Perseverance will prove whether we have sincerely sacrificed ourselves to God and dedicated ourselves to a devout life. Comets and planets seem to have just about the same light, but comets are merely fiery masses that pass by and after a while disappear, while planets remain perpetually bright. So also hypocrisy and true virtue have a close resemblance in outward appearance but they can be easily distinguished from one another.
“Hypocrisy cannot last long but is quickly dissipated like rising smoke, whereas true virtue is always firm and constant. It is no little assistance for a sure start in devotion if we first suffer criticism and calumny because of it. In this way we escape the danger of pride and vanity, which are comparable to the Egyptian midwives whom a cruel Pharaoh had ordered to kill the Israelites’ male children on the very day of their birth. We are crucified to the world and the world must be crucified to us. The world holds us to be fools; let us hold it to be mad.”
— — Saint Frances de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life
The Real (and Imaginary) Pagan Roots of Halloween
By Brian Saint-Paul
THE FIRST THING I NOTICED ABOUT JAY was that he was dressed like a woman. I also saw he was wearing combat boots and carrying a bag full of candy. But then I went back to that part about him being dressed like a woman.
Jay had always been a curious fellow. Like the time he lost his pet tarantula, sending the neighborhood kids into an arachnophobia that would last for generations. But Jay had outdone himself this time, standing at our door, dressed in what appeared to be an army nurse’s uniform, and slathered in enough makeup to make Tammy Faye Bakker wince.
Being a sensitive 9-year-old, I tried mightily to stifle my laughter (key word: tried), as I handed him a Snickers bar. Nevertheless, Jay was unfazed, marching off satisfied into the night, his candy bag a little bit fuller.
For many of us, Halloween is an anomaly: a celebration without a discernible purpose. Other holidays make sense. Labor Day offers some respite for workers, Veterans’ Day honors those who fought for their land, Presidents’ Day recalls those who have led our nation. Yet Halloween seems to do nothing more than guarantee a steady clientele for children’s dentists and give folks like Jay an outlet for exotic behavior.
A brief glance into the history of the celebration, however, raises a troubling question. Many Christians, when confronted with the pagan background of Halloween, wonder if it’s the kind of thing in which they should be getting involved. Unfortunately, it doesn’t help that Christian bookstores (usually Fundamentalist) are full of inaccurate, sensationalistic accounts of the origins of the celebration.
Jack Chick, author of numerous anti-Catholic tracts, and hysterical Fundamentalist par excellence, gives his version of Halloween’s history in his tract, The Trick:
“[Halloween] came from an ancient Druid custom set up for human sacrifices on Halloween night. Druids offered children in sacrifices. They believed that only ‘the fruit of the body’ offered to Satan was for the ‘sin of the soul.’ The trick or treat custom was created by the Druids. “When they went to a home and demanded a child or virgin for sacrifice, the victim was the Druids’ treat. In exchange, they would leave a jack-o’-lantern with a lighted candle made of human fat to prevent those inside from being killed by demons in the night. When some unfortunate couldn’t meet the demands of the Druids, then it was time for the trick. A symbolic hex was drawn on the front door. That night Satan or his demons would kill someone in that house.”
There are about as many errors here as there are vowels. First, human sacrifice, despite the shrill claims of some, was rare if not nonexistent in Druid practice, and played no part in the Halloween tradition (Encyclopedia of Religion, ed. Mircea Eliade, “Druids”). This goes for the candles “made of human fat,” as well.
Second, the Druids didn’t worship Satan. Theirs was a nature religion centered around the seasons, similar to modern day Wicca. Satan is a figure in Christianity, not paganism.
Third, the popular use of jack-o’-lanterns had absolutely nothing to do with the human sacrifice exchange program that Chick describes here.
So, with the fantasy aside, what’s the real history of the celebration? Halloween comes from the pagan feast of Samhain. From the evening of October 31 to the end of November 1, the ancient Celts would celebrate the beginning of winter and the conclusion of the harvest. During this time, it was believed, the curtain between the living and the dead was temporarily lifted, and the spirits of the past would roam the countryside, getting into mischief (Halloween and Other Festivals of Death and Life, Jack Santino, University of Tennessee, 1994, XV). These supernatural creatures could be placated with edible treats or frightened off with bonfires and carved turnips. All the while, the people paid homage to Samhain, the god of the dead.
As time passed, the feast lost its religious significance and became the secular holiday we have today. It’s true, some of the old vestiges remain. Kids dress up like ghosts, goblins and Power Rangers, and go out looking for candy. The carved turnips have become pumpkins, and the bobbing for apples, an ancient method of divination, has become a popular party game. Nevertheless, October 31 is no longer widely held to be a day of religious observance.
So, how did the feast of Samhain become Halloween?
For hundreds of years, Christianity was persecuted by the pagan officials of the Roman Empire. Catholics were routinely rounded up and killed or tortured for the Faith. Over time, the persecutions ended and Christianity was recognized as a legal religion with the Edict of Milan in 313. A few years later, Catholics actually gained the upper hand, becoming the official state religion near the end of the fourth century.
With this new situation, the Catholic Church sought to demonstrate in a dramatic way the victory of Christ over the false gods of paganism. The old shrines were emptied of their statues of pagan deities, replaced with symbols of Christian worship. The temples became churches and the practices of the former religion either discontinued or Christianized. Finally, the holidays and feasts celebrating pagan gods were replaced with days recognizing the victory of the True God. One well-known example of this is Christmas, where the feast of the sun god on December 25 was replaced with a celebration of God the Son.
It’s difficult for us nowadays to appreciate the powerful statement this Christian-ization process communicated. Imagine if, in the most frigid days of the Cold War, the United States had been invaded and defeated by the Soviet Union. Destroying the Statue of Liberty certainly would’ve been a blow to the American people, but the Soviets had a still more dramatic action available: they could bedeck the statue in the red and yellow of the Soviet flag, replacing American symbolism with that of the USSR. What stronger way to demonstrate the victory of one system over the other? Such was the case with the Church’s conversion of pagan shrines, temples and holidays.
And so it was with Samhain. As Christianity spread throughout the British Isles, it encountered this strange celebration of the dead. Following in the tradition up to that point, the Church chose to replace it with a Catholic holiday.
So, by the ninth century, All Saints Day had become a feast-day to be celebrated by the entire Church. Instead of honoring the dead spirits of pagandom, All Saints Day was a time to remember the faithful Christian departed of past ages. In fact, according to Pope Urban VI, the day was intended to make up for any deficiencies in the celebrations of the various saints’ feast days throughout the year (Catholic Encyclopedia, “All Saints Day”).
The night before All Saints was known as All Hallows Evening, which became shortened to Hallowe’en. While Christians took part in the festivities of the evening before, the primary focus of the celebration was November 1, the feast of the saints. In this way, the pagan core of Samhain was stripped from the event, and replaced with solid Christian practice.
The conversion of pagan holidays is actually quite biblical. The Jews, under the direction of God, appropriated numerous pagan feasts: feasts of the New Year, combined with the harvest (Numbers 29:1-6; Leviticus 23:23-25), the feasts of the New Moon (1 Kings 20:4-29; Numbers 28:11-15; Nehemiah 10:33-34), grain and fruit harvest feasts (Deuteronomy 16:9-12; Exodus 23:14-16, 34:22) and the rite of new branches (Nehemiah 8:14-15). The people of God have often planned their Jewish and Christian celebrations to coincide with pagan feast days. Obviously, as the verses mentioned above indicate, God didn’t think this was corrupting true worship, or giving into paganism. So the Christian who takes part in Halloween and All Saints Day is just following in the footsteps of God-approved practice. No problem there.
A few objections are often raised at this point. A claim is sometimes made that Halloween is the most important day of the “Satanic calendar,” and that Christian participation is tantamount to taking part in the Devil’s high holy day. In fact, Jack Chick, in another one of his tract masterpieces, Boo!, says, “to Satanists and witches, Halloween is no joke. It’s their most solemn ceremony of the year.”
Bob (1951-2003) and Gretchen (1953-2014) Passantino, Evangelical Christians and experts on Satanism, reject this argument, pointing out that the Satanist’s own birthday is, to him, the most un/holy day of the year (“What About Halloween?” a paper produced by their ministry, Answers in Action).
Next, we’ll hear that Halloween so trivializes evil, demons and the devil, that they are reduced to mere fairy tales — imaginary beings used to frighten and titillate children. While the danger of this is certainly present, it nevertheless can be remedied by a good Catholic upbringing. We ignore the real existence of Satan at our own peril, for he “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). The reality of evil forces should be foundational in the catechesis of every Christian. We can hardly blame Halloween if it isn’t.
Far from being a threat to the Christian faith, Halloween actually provides an excellent opportunity for witnessing to it. On what other day is one’s attire the subject of so much attention? Imagine a group of kids going out not as Barney or some sports hero, but as their favorite characters from the Bible or Church history. An army of Davids, St. Marys and St. Josephs can make an awfully big impression at a costume party. Another possible avenue for evangelization is at the doorstep itself. Try handing out a good Catholic tract along with the candy (just don’t forget the candy part, or there might be rioting). As Catholics, we are called to use every opportunity to share the Gospel, “in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2).
In the end, the issue of whether or not to let one’s kids participate in Halloween comes down to personal discretion. The celebration in itself is fairly harmless: kids go out (under supervision, hopefully) dressed up as their favorite superhero/monster/politician and gather candy. Obviously, things can get out of hand. If a child wants to go trick-or-treating dressed as the Antichrist, it’s probably time to draw the line. This is where the parents’ guidance is essential. Nevertheless, whatever meaning Samhain used to hold as a pagan observance, it has no longer. Time has turned October 31 into a secular event, and Christians can take part with a clear conscience.
But we’re not done yet. Our brief look into the history of Halloween has uncovered some interesting dirt on the methods of some anti-Catholics. Numerous enemies of the Church charge that the Catholic Faith as a whole has been corrupted by paganism. Loraine Boettner, author of the odiously inaccurate Roman Catholicism, writes:
“After Constantine’s decree making Christianity the preferred religion, the Greek-Roman pagan religions with their male gods and female goddesses exerted an increasingly stronger influence upon the church . . . Many of the people who came into the church had no clear distinction in their minds between the Christian practices and those that had been practiced in their heathen religions. Statues of pagan gods and heroes found a place in the church, and were gradually replaced by statues of saints. The people were allowed to bring into the church those things from their old religions that could be reconciled with the type of Christianity then developing” (Roman Catholicism, Grand Rapids: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1964, p. 136).
Fundamentalists, Jehovah’s Witnesses and others argue similarly today in trying to demonstrate the alleged pagan corruption of Catholicism. In looking at the methods by which they reach their conclusions, three prominent errors are found again and again:
1. Their scholarship is often poor, making their conclusions largely or even completely inaccurate.
2. They assume that if a Catholic doctrine or practice is similar to a pagan one, the Catholic Church must have taken it from paganism.
3. They neglect the fact that some pagan practices (like Halloween) can be Christianized and used in the service of the Cross.
Let’s look at examples of each error.
Fundamentalists like Jack Chick aren’t exactly known for their academic excellence. Too often, they begin with a conclusion and then go looking for historical or Biblical confirmation. We saw an excellent example of this earlier with Chick’s history of Halloween. Critics of the Church will often misrepresent Her beliefs in order to show a connection between Catholicism and paganism.
Alexander Hislop, author of The Two Babylons: The Papal Worship Proved to be the Worship of Nimrod and His Wife (Loizeaux Brothers, 1959), does this very thing with the Catholic understanding of justification. In order to link the Catholic Gospel with that of paganism, he wrongly claims Catholicism teaches one is justified by works in the chapter entitled, “Justification by Works”). Not content to merely misrepresent Catholic belief, he also lapses into some rather amusing blunders:
“Will any one after this say that the Roman Catholic Church must still be called Christian, because it holds the doctrine of the Trinity? So did the Pagan Babylonians, so did the Egyptians, so do the Hindoos [sic] at this hour, in the very same sense in which Rome does” (Ibid, 90).
Anyone with even a light familiarity with the pagan triads Hislop alludes to knows that they consisted of three different gods, not one God in three persons. The various pagan religions held a position very similar to modern day Mormonism, that there are three primary gods, distinct from one another in being, but joined in purpose. This is a form of polytheism, a view the Catholic Church has always condemned. Hislop’s statement that pagans held to the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity is laughable. This claim would, incidentally, also condemn as pagan the Trinitarian doctrine of Evangelical Christians and the mainline Protestant churches. Oops.
One error that occurs over and over again is the faulty assumption that a similarity between Catholic and pagan practices implies a connection between the two. Ralph Woodrow’s book, Babylon Mystery Religion, is full of such “parallels,” one of which links the roundness of the Eucharistic host to the roundness of the sun, which pagan Mithraists worshipped. Add to this the apparent sun beams shooting out of some monstrances and you have a fine example of Catholics inadvertently worshipping the sun god. (Babylon Mystery Religion: Ancient and Modern, Ralph Woodrow Evangelistic Association, Inc., 1966, p. 121).
(Note: Interestingly enough, Woodrow has recently come out with a new book, The Babylon Connection, wherein he recants much of his former material, showing the inaccuracies in the first book. For this, he should be given much credit.)
This method of finding parallels, if followed consistently, ends up coming back to haunt those who use it.
For example, among some of the ancient pagan tribes of the middle east, there was a fascinating ceremony performed by the nomads. They would slaughter a lamb and smear its blood on their tent posts, so that those who slept inside would be protected from the destroying angel who came in the night (A Feast in Honor of Yahweh, Fides Publishers, Inc., 1965, p. 37).
Sound familiar? Of course, this ceremony bears a remarkable resemblance to that of Passover, where the blood of the pure lamb would be poured onto the door posts of the Jewish homes, so the angel of death would pass over onto the homes of the Egyptians (Exodus 12:1-13). According to the methodology of our Fundamentalist friends, this must mean the ancient Jews stole their Passover ceremony from the pagans. If Passover is corrupted by its apparent pagan origins, then down comes the whole notion of Jesus as the perfect Passover sacrifice. You see where faulty methodology takes us?
But there’s more. The famous comparative religionist, Sir James George Frazer, in his classic work, The Golden Bough, found some interesting similarities between Christianity and paganism. Apparently, numerous pagan religions have a god who dies and is resurrected. One notable example is the Egyptian god, Osiris, who is murdered, buried and resurrected from the dead (The New Golden Bough: A New Abridgment of the Classic Work, Sir James George Frazer, Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1961, pp. 183-185). Does this mean the Christian Faith derived its belief in the death and resurrection of its God from the pagan religions of Egypt? Of course not. Despite what some anti-Catholics would tell us, just because two beliefs are similar doesn’t mean there is any relationship between the two.
Another excellent example of this is the symbol of the swastika (also known as the gammadion). This symbol has been found to exist in the ancient cultures of India, Denmark, Greece, Belgium, Tibet, Gaul, Macedonia and just about anywhere else where people had hands with which to write. However, in each place, the symbol was understood differently. The meaning behind the swastika of the Third Reich is vastly different than that understood in ancient Tibet. Just because these cultures share the same symbol doesn’t mean they’re interrelated. Nazi Germany had very little to do with ancient India. We cannot, then, assume that just because Catholicism shares some symbol or practice with paganism, that the thing necessarily has a pagan beginning.
Still, while it’s true that some Catholic practices do have pagan precursors (we’ve already seen how the early believers Christianized the pagan holidays and temples, just as the Jews did in the Old Testament), this was born out of Christian victory over paganism, not compromise with it.
Additionally, there are other Biblical precedents for God endorsing the use of some pagan practices. Among the Jewish people, we see the casting of lots (1 Chronicles 25:8; 1 Samuel 14:40-45; Nehemiah 10:34) and the offering of water libations (1 Kings 18:33-36), both prominent in the paganism of the time (Maertens, 28, 72-74). If indeed God frowned upon any practice that was pagan in origin, He wouldn’t have prescribed them for His people. But, as the Bible proves, He did prescribe them.
For Christians, paganism is a dirty word, and it should be. Any religion that denies the One True God in favor of idols, nature-worship, or self-worship is a religion to be avoided. But this is all the more reason to bring paganism to the foot of the Cross. Jesus has won the victory over the false gods of this world, and so their practices and traditions should be brought into service for Him. Those who disagree do so in the face of the Scriptural and historical evidence. It’s time to let God use whatever means He wishes to further His own glory. Our God is sovereign, and He can do whatever He wants.
[N.B.: This article originally appeared in the Sept./Oct. 1998 edition of Envoy Magazine and is reposted here with permission of the editor of Envoy, who happens to be me.]
I must begin by telling you that I do not like to preach on Reformation Sunday. Actually I have to put it more strongly than that. I do not like Reformation Sunday, period. I do not understand why it is part of the church year.Reformation Sunday does not name a happy event for the Church Catholic; on the contrary, it names failure. Of course, the church rightly names failure, or at least horror, as part of our church year. We do, after all, go through crucifixion as part of Holy Week. Certainly if the Reformation is to be narrated rightly, it is to be narrated as part of those dark days.Reformation names the disunity in which we currently stand. We who remain in the Protestant tradition want to say that Reformation was a success. But when we make Reformation a success, it only ends up killing us. After all, the very name ‘Protestantism’ is meant to denote a reform movement of protest within the Church Catholic.When Protestantism becomes an end in itself, which it certainly has through the mainstream denominations in America, it becomes anathema.If we no longer have broken hearts at the church’s division, then we cannot help but unfaithfully celebrate Reformation Sunday.For example, note what the Reformation has done for our reading texts like that which we hear from Luke this morning. We Protestants automatically assume that the Pharisees are the Catholics. They are the self-righteous people who have made Christianity a form of legalistic religion, thereby destroying the free grace of the Gospel. We Protestants are the tax collectors, knowing that we are sinners and that our lives depend upon God’s free grace. And therefore we are better than the Catholics because we know they are sinners. What an odd irony that the Reformation made such
readings possible.As Protestants we now take pride in the acknowledgment of our sinfulness in order to distinguish ourselves from Catholics who allegedly believe in works-righteousness.Unfortunately, the Catholics are right. Christian salvation consists in works. To be saved is to be made holy. To be saved requires our being made part of a people separated from the world so that we can be united in spite of — or perhaps better, because of — the world’s fragmentation and divisions. Unity, after all, is what God has given us through Christ’s death and resurrection. For in that death and resurrection we have been made part of God’s salvation for the world so that the world may know it has been freed from the powers that would compel us to kill one another in the name of false loyalties. All that is about the works necessary to save us.For example, I often point out that at least Catholics have the magisterial office of the Bishop of Rome to remind them that disunity is a sin. You should not overlook the significance that in several important documents of late, John Paul II has confessed the Catholic sin for the Reformation. Where are the Protestants capable of doing likewise? We Protestants feel no sin for the disunity of the Reformation. We would not know how to confess our sin for the continuing disunity of the Reformation. We would not know how to do that because we have no experience of unity.The magisterial office — we Protestants often forget — is not a matter of constraining or limiting diversity in the name of unity. The office of the Bishop of Rome is to ensure that when Christians move . . . (continue reading)