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Human Life is Sacred and Inviolable: Reflections to Guide Us as We March and Work for Life

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Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB
CEO, Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation

On April 11, 2014, Pope Francis addressed the Italian Pro-Life movement with these provocative words:

“We know that human life is sacred and inviolable. Every civil right rests on the recognition of the first and fundamental right, that of life, which is not subordinate to any condition, be it quantitative, economic or, least of all, ideological. “Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills…. Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a ‘throw away’ culture which is now spreading” (Evangelii Gaudium #53). And in this way life, too, ends up being thrown away. One of the gravest risks our epoch faces, amid the opportunities offered by a market equipped with every technological innovation, is the divorce between economics and morality, the basic ethical norms of human nature are increasingly neglected. It is therefore necessary to express the strongest possible opposition to every direct attack on life, especially against the innocent and defenseless, and the unborn in a mother’s womb is the example of innocence par excellence. Let us remember the words of the Second Vatican Council: “Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes” (Gaudium et Spe #51).”

Today we are living in the midst of a culture that denies solidarity and takes the form of a veritable “culture of death”. This culture is actively fostered by powerful cultural, economic and political currents that encourage an idea of society exclusively concerned with efficiency. It is a war of the powerful against the weak. There is no room in the world for anyone who, like the unborn or the dying, is a weak element in the social structure or anyone who appears completely at the mercy of others and radically dependent on them and can only communicate through the silent language of profound sharing of affection. Abortion is the most serious wound inflicted not only on individuals and their families who should provide the sanctuary for life, but inflicted as well on society and its culture, by the very people who ought to be society’s promoters and defenders. How can we forget Pope Benedict XVI’s words at the opening ceremony of World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, Australia, on July 17, 2008:

“And so we are led to reflect on what place the poor and the elderly, immigrants and the voiceless, have in our societies. How can it be that domestic violence torments so many mothers and children? How can it be that the most wondrous and sacred human space – the womb – has become a place of unutterable violence?”

Nor can we forget what Pope Francis wrote in his Apostolic Exhoration Evangelii Gaudium (#214):

“It is not “progressive” to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life. On the other hand, it is also true that we have done little to adequately accompany women in very difficult situations, where abortion appears as a quick solution to their profound anguish, especially when the life developing within them is the result of rape or a situation of extreme poverty. Who can remain unmoved before such painful situations?”

The Catholic Church’s Consistent Ethic of Life

The Roman Catholic Church holds a consistent ethic of life. The Church offers a teaching on the inviolability, the sacredness and dignity of the human person. However, opposition to abortion and euthanasia does not excuse indifference to those who suffer from poverty, violence and injustice. Whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or willful self-destruction, whatever violates the dignity of the human person such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself, whatever insults human dignity such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children, disgraceful working conditions where people are treated as instruments of gain rather than as free and responsible persons – all of these things and more poison human society.

In economically developed countries, legislation contrary to life is very widespread, and it has already shaped moral attitudes and praxis, contributing to the spread of an anti-birth mentality; frequent attempts are made to export this mentality to other states as if it were a form of cultural progress.

“Openness to life is at the centre of true development,” wrote Pope Benedict in his encyclical Caritas in Veritate. When a society moves toward the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man’s true good. If personal and social sensitivity toward the acceptance of a new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away.” The Holy Father sums up the current global economic crisis in a remarkable way with these words: “Human costs always include economic costs, and economic dysfunctions always involve human costs.”

The burning issues of the promotion of human life, from conception to natural death, must be high on the agenda of every human being on every side of the political spectrum. They are not only the concern of the far right of the political spectrum. Many people, blinded by their own zeal and goodness, have ended up defeating the very cause for which we must all defend with every ounce of energy in our flesh and bones.

The market push towards euthanasia

If we look carefully at the great dramas of the last century, we see that as free markets toppled Communism, exaggerated consumerism and materialism infiltrated our societies and cultures. Aging populations, especially in the west, and resulting smaller workforces are now creating a market push towards euthanasia. As St. John Paul II wrote: “a right to die will inevitably give way to the duty to die.”

Most people who think that euthanasia and assisted suicide should be legal are not thinking the whole issue through. They are thinking about personal autonomy and choice. They think about what it would be like to suddenly become incapacitated and consider such a life as undignified or worthless. Perhaps they consider severely disabled people as having no quality of life. Our dignity and quality of life don’t come from what we can or cannot do. Dignity and quality of life are not matters of efficiency, proficiency and productivity. They come from a deeper place – from who we are and how we relate to each other. True compassion leads to sharing another’s pain, not killing the person whose suffering we cannot bear.

In his most recent Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis writes (#48):

“The elderly who are vulnerable and dependent are at times unfairly exploited simply for economic advantage. Many families show us that it is possible to approach the last stages of life by emphasizing the importance of a person’s sense of fulfilment and participation in the Lord’s paschal mystery. A great number of elderly people are cared for in Church institutions, where, materially and spiritually, they can live in a peaceful, family atmosphere. Euthanasia and assisted suicide are serious threats to families worldwide; in many countries, they have been legalized. The Church, while firmly opposing these practices, feels the need to assist families who take care of their elderly and infirm members”.

What is wrong with abortion, euthanasia, embryo selection, and embryonic research is not the motives of those who carry them out. So often, those motives are, on the surface, compassionate: to protect a child from being unwanted, to end pain and suffering, to help a child with a life-threatening disease. But in all these cases, the terrible truth is that it is the strong who decide the fate of the weak; human beings therefore become instruments in the hands of other human beings.

Being pro-life is one of the deepest expressions of our baptism: we stand up as sons and daughters of the light, clothed in humility and charity, filled with conviction, speaking the truth to power with firmness, conviction and determination, and never losing joy and hope. Being Pro-Life is not an activity for a political party or a particular side of the spectrum. It is an obligation for everyone: left, right and centre! If we are Pro-Life, we must engage the culture around us, and not curse it. We must see others as Jesus does, and we must love them to life, even those who are opposed to us. To March for Life in Ottawa, Washington and in many other cities of the world means that we stand up for all human life, and we do not have a myopic view of the cause of life. Let us strive for a consistent ethic of human life, from womb to tomb. Being pro-life in this day and age is truly prophetic, and it will bring about authentic development and enduring peace in our world.

Read more: Taking the Gospel of Life to the Streets in Ottawa and Many Other Cities 

CCCB brief on Bill C-14 (“medical assistance in dying”) to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights

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As clearly stated in its previous statements on this issue, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops absolutely and categorically disagrees with any attempt at justifying or supporting a “right” to assisted suicide or euthanasia. This is based on the unchanging teaching of our Church, derived from the teaching of Christ himself, that these practices are always inherently wrong (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 2276-79; St. John Paul II,Evangelium Vitae n. 66). For this reason, Bill C-14, which legalizes the killing of certain categories of persons, is a fundamentally unjust law. From the Catholic perspective, no amendments could legitimate the inherent evil in the premises behind the proposed legislation.

While the legislation is itself intrinsically and gravely immoral for the reasons stated above, there are particular characteristics of the current draft of Bill C-14 which make it even more damaging and dangerous to Canadian society. For example, it contains no protections for health care workers who refuse to cooperate in so-called “medical assistance in dying” or to give an effective referral, nor to institutions that refuse to provide the service for religious or conscientious reasons. Leaving such protections to provincial legislators or professional organizations (such as provincial colleges of physicians, pharmacists, or nurses) would result in a chaotic situation with conflicting rules between provinces and would effectively prompt the resignation or removal of many health care professionals. It could also potentially force the closure of hospitals operated under religious auspices, most of which are Catholic. These institutions employ thousands of physicians and tens of thousands of staff. At a time when our health care system requires more resources, not less, the federal government should not allow lower jurisdictions to drive conscientious health care practitioners from their professions.

It is also regrettable that Bill C-14 fails in what appears to be an attempt to limit the potential harm caused by legalizing assisted suicide, as in the criterion enunciated in section 241.2(d) (that a person’s “natural death has become reasonably foreseeable”). Every person who has reflected on their own mortal existence knows that their own natural death is not only reasonably foreseeable, but indeed inevitable. This “safeguard” will protect no one.

The teaching of the Catholic Church and the stance of the Catholic Bishops of Canada affirm the sacredness and dignity of human life. Suicide and euthanasia are contrary to the most profound natural inclination of each human being to live and preserve life. Furthermore, they contradict the fundamental responsibility that human beings have to protect one another and to enhance the quality of health and social care which every human life deserves, from conception to natural death.

Bill C-14, no matter how it may be amended, is an affront to human dignity, an erosion of human solidarity, and a danger to all vulnerable persons – particularly the aged, disabled, infirm and sick who so often find themselves isolated and marginalized. Moreover, it is a violation of the sacrosanct duty of healthcare providers to heal, and the responsibility of legislators and citizens to assure and provide protection for all, especially those persons most at risk. The passage of Bill C-14, occasioned by the seriously flawed Carter decision, will have devastating effects on the social fabric of our country that cannot be predicted today.


The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops is the national assembly of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Catholic Bishops. As its principal pastors who officially speak on behalf of the Church in Canada, the Bishops are the spiritual leaders and teachers of more than thirteen million Canadian Catholics. Forty-six per cent of Canadians are baptized Catholics.

Photo: Diocese of Hamilton

Deacon-structing: The Voice of Christ

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A reflection for the 6th Sunday in Easter, Year C. The readings are Acts 15:1-2, 22-29; Revelation 21:10-14; 22-23 and John 14:23-29.

Whoever loves me will keep my word and my Father will love them and we will come to them and make our home with them… (Jn 14:23) Let’s get this straight: If you love me; you will keep my word. That’s a no-brainer! If you love someone you care about what they think, what they say and what they want. If you love them, you do what they ask you to do. And for Christians who love Jesus, we want to keep his word.

Two weeks ago the readings at Mass told us about the Good Shepherd who says that His sheep know His voice. But Jesus’ voice is but one voice among many: The voice of pleasure and the voice of power; the voices of pride and despair, of fear and doubt. How do we know the voice of Christ? We listen. That’s it. We have to make quiet time for listening so we can tune in to the voice of Jesus. If our prayer time is consumed with speaking: Thanksgiving prayers and petition prayers and asking for forgiveness and offering praise – all the while listening to praise and worship music – then it’s a bit one-sided. We have to be quiet; silent, so we can listen. We need to start this today. Set aside quiet time each day. Be silent and listen. And when you do, how do you know you’re listening to the voice of Jesus so that you can keep his word? How do we discern His voice among all the voices in the world? And how do we recognize his voice when it’s about something that Jesus didn’t speak about? It’s easy to keep His word when it’s about something that Jesus spoke about, but how do we keep His word about stuff that Jesus never spoke about?

Let me make a proposal: The voice of Jesus is the voice of the Church. Or rather, the voice of the Church is the voice of Jesus. Jesus gives His voice to the Church. He gives His voice to the apostles; He gives them His authority and that’s the way it’s been from the beginning of Christianity.

See what’s happening in the Book of Acts (15:1—29): The disciples are doing what Jesus asked them to do: They are keeping His word. They are going to the ends of the earth making disciples. And Paul and Barnabas are disciple-making machines. And most of their converts are gentiles: People of non-Jewish background. But what happens? They’re in Antioch and to Antioch comes a group of Jewish-Christians (converts from Judaism; called the Judaizers) and they tell the gentile-Christians that in order for them to be Christian, they have to follow the Law of Moses: All the Jewish Levitical laws. Remember that the Jewish people had strict laws about what they could eat and not eat, about washing, about rituals and sacrifice and other things. And the main issue was the issue of circumcision. These Judaizers said that in order to be saved you had to be circumcised. But they had a “not small dissent or debate” with Paul and Barnabas. That means they had a big dissent and debate with Paul and Barnabas. They duked it out because Paul and Barnabas are pretty sure that this teaching is wrong. But is it up to Paul and Barnabas to make this decision? No. They are not the Church leadership. They are important but they are not the Church leadership. So they take the matter to Jerusalem to the Church leadership, the Apostles. And we have the first Church council. We call it the Council of Jerusalem. And ever since then, when the Church encounters a matter that needs to be defined or clarified, they gather as a council in order to define doctrine or teaching. We’ve heard of the Council of Trent and the Council of Chalcedon and the two Vatican Councils. Well, in the Book of Acts we have the first council in Jerusalem. They had a problem that had to be solved; a teaching that had to be defined. And it’s something that Jesus never spoke about: Circumcision. Jesus never spoke about what Gentiles should or shouldn’t do if they became Christians. So the Apostles and Church leaders gather and make a decision. And we know that they decide that you do not have to be Jewish, in order to be a Christian.

How do they decide? With the Holy Spirit. The letter they send back to Antioch says, “For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and us…” (Acts 15:28) It doesn’t say they decided under the guidance of the Holy Spirit or that the Holy Spirit inspired them to decide. No. They decided together with the Holy Spirit. And that’s the way the Church has been since then. Together with the Holy Spirit, doctrine can be defined because the Church speaks with the authority and the voice of Jesus.

Look at the Gospel (John 14:23-29): Jesus says to the Apostles: “The Father will send you the Holy Spirit in my name and He will teach you everything and will remind you of everything that I have spoken.” What does that mean? It means that of the things Jesus spoke about, the Spirit will remind us; but of the things Jesus didn’t speak about, the Spirit will teach us. So we are guaranteed that the Church leadership will always, together with the Holy Spirit, speak with the authority and voice of Christ, whenever they speak as a whole. Jesus does not give His Spirit to 12 individual people; He gives His Spirit to them as Church and so it’s not whatever an individual Bishop says, but when the Bishops and the Holy Father speak as the College of Bishops or in the context of a Ecumenical Council.

I believe that this happens whenever the Holy Father, together with the College of Bishops speak as a whole. In the last couple of years we’ve all heard of Synods of Bishops. This is another occasion when Bishops come together with the Holy Father and they look at a situation that may need to be defined. Out of the Synod comes an Apostolic Exhortation (the latest one, Amoris Laetitia, the Joy of Love, on the challenges faced by the family). With an Exhortation the Holy Father gives some pastoral advice to the people. This is exactly what the Apostles did at that first council. Interesting that some translations refer to the letter from the Council of Jerusalem as an exhortation; The Apostles exhort the people in Antioch.) We have to trust that to this day, the Bishops who are the successors of the Apostles, together with the successor of Peter, still make decisions together with the Holy Spirit.

Church leadership is important and it’s always been this way. The Book of Revelation (21:10-23) presents us with a beautiful and immense city: The New Jerusalem. And many scholars agree that when the Book of Revelation speaks of the New Jerusalem it refers to the Church. See what this city looks like: It has a wall with 12 gates and over each gate are written the names of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. That’s where we came from. That’s our heritage; the old Jerusalem, the first Covenant. But there are 12 foundations and over each foundation are written the names of the 12 apostles. Jesus said to Peter, you are a rock and on this rock I will build my Church. (Mt 16:18) The foundation of the Church is the 12 apostles and it’s always been that way. That foundation continues today with the successors of the Apostles, the Bishops and our Holy Father, Pope Francis.

So, if we want to love Jesus and keep his word we have to listen to the Church. If we do we will keep His word and the Father will come to us and the Father, Son and Spirit will come to us and make their home with us. (Jn 14:23)

Not entirely unrelated, I want to ask you your opinion on the words “doctrine” and “dogma”. What do they mean? When the Holy Father speaks together with the Bishops and the Holy Spirit to define a particular Church teaching, is that dogma or doctrine? Write to me and tell me what you think. I would say that “doctrine” cannot change because it is absolute; it deals with faith or morals. Perhaps I should be using the word “dogma” to mean that. Not sure. What do you think? I’ll explain better next week.

Photo Credit: Bishops and cardinals attend a session of the Synod of Bishops on the family at the Vatican Oct. 24. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)


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Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching: pedro@saltandlighttv.org

Homily of Pope Francis at Mass for the Jubilee of Young People

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On Sunday, April 24, 2016, Pope Francis celebrated Mass for the Jubilee of Young People. Read below for the full text of his Homily:

St. Peter’s Square – Sunday April 24, 2016

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”

 Dear young friends, what an enormous responsibility the Lord gives us today! He tells us that the world will recognize the disciples of Jesus by the way they love one another. Love, in other words, is the Christian’s identity card, the only valid “document” identifying us as Christians. It is the only valid document. If this card expires and is not constantly renewed, we stop being witnesses of the Master. So I ask you: Do you wish to say yes to Jesus’ invitation to be his disciples? Do you wish to be his faithful friends? The true friends of Jesus stand out essentially by the genuine love; not some “pie in the sky” love; no, it is a genuine love that shines forth in their way of life. Love is always shown in real actions. Those who are not real and genuine and who speak of love are like characters is a soap opera, some fake love story. Do you want to experience his love? Do you want this love: yes or no? Let us learn from him, for his words are aschool of life, a school where we learn to love. This is a task which we must engage in every day: to learn how to love.

Before all else, love is beautiful, it is the path to happiness. But it is not an easy path. It is demanding and it requires effort. Think, for example, of when we receive a gift. It makes us happy, but receiving a gift means that someone generous has invested time and effort; by their gift they also give us a bit of themselves, a sacrifice they have made. Think too of the gift that your parents and group leaders have given you in allowing you to come to Rome for this Jubilee day dedicated to you. They planned, organized, and prepared everything for you, and this made them happy, even if it meant that they had to give up a trip for themselves. This is putting love into action. To love means to give, not only something material, but also something of one’s self: one’s own time, one’s friendship, one’s own abilities.

Look to the Lord, who is never outdone in generosity. We receive so many gifts from him, and every day we should thank him… Let me ask you something. Do you thank the Lord every day? Even if we forget to do so, he never forgets, each day, to give us some special gift. It is not something material and tangible that we can use, but something even greater, a life-long gift. What does the Lord give to us? He offers us his faithful friendship, which he will never take back. The Lord is a friend forever. Even if you disappoint him and walk away from him, Jesus continues to want the best for you and to remain close to you; he believes in you even more than you believe in yourself. This is an example of genuine love that Jesus teaches to us. This is very important! Because the biggest threat to growing up well comes from thinking that no one cares about us – and that is always a sadness – from feeling that we are all alone. The Lord, on the other hand, is always with you and he is happy to be with you. As he did with his first disciples, he looks you in the eye and he calls you to follow him, to “put out into the deep” and to “cast your nets wide” trusting in his words and using your talents in life, in union with him, without fear. Jesus is waiting patiently for you. He awaits your response. He is waiting for you to say “yes”.

Dear young friends, at this stage in your lives you have a growing desire to demonstrate and receive affection. The Lord, if you let him teach you, will show you how to make tenderness and affection even more beautiful. He will guide your hearts to “love without being possessive”, to love others without trying to own them but letting them be free. Because love is free! There is no true love that is not free! The freedom that the Lord gives to us is his love for us. He is always close to each one of us. There is always a temptation to let our affections be tainted by an instinctive desire to “have to have” what we find pleasing; this is selfishness. Our consumerist culture reinforces this tendency. Yet when we hold on too tightly to something, it fades, it dies, and then we feel confused, empty inside. The Lord, if you listen to his voice, will reveal to you the secret of love. It is caring for others, respecting them, protecting them and waiting for them. This is putting tenderness and love into action.

At this point in life you feel also a great longing for freedom. Many people will say to you that freedom means doing whatever you want. But here you have to be able to say no. If you do not know how to say “no”, you are not free. The person who is free is he or she who is able to say “yes” and who knows how to say “no”. Freedom is not the ability simply to do what I want. This makes us self-centred and aloof, and it prevents us from being open and sincere friends; it is not true to say “it is good enough if it serves me”. No, this is not true. Instead, freedom is the gift of being able to choose the good: this is true freedom. The free person is the one who chooses what is good, what is pleasing to God, even if it requires effort, even if it is not easy. I believe that you young men and women are not afraid to make the effort, that you are indeed courageous! Only by courageous and firm decisions do we realize our greatest dreams, the dreams which it is worth spending our entire lives to pursue. Courageous and noble choices. Do not be content with mediocrity, with “simply going with the flow”, with being comfortable and laid back. Don’t believe those who would distract you from the real treasure, which you are, by telling you that life is beautiful only if you have many possessions. Be sceptical about people who want to make you believe that you are only important if you act tough like the heroes in films or if you wear the latest fashions. Your happiness has no price. It cannot be bought: it is not an app that you can download on your phones nor will the latest update bring you freedom and grandeur in love. True freedom is something else altogether.

That is because love is a free gift which calls for an open heart; love is a responsibility, but a noble responsibility which is life-long; it is a daily task for those who can achieve great dreams! Woe to your people who do not know how to dream, who do not dare to dream! If a person of your age is not able to dream, if they have already gone into retirement… this is not good.Love is nurtured by trust, respect and forgiveness. Love does not happen because we talk about it, but when we live it: it is not a sweet poem to study and memorize, but is a life choice to put into practice! How can we grow in love? The secret, once again, is the Lord: Jesus gives us himself in the Mass, he offers us forgives and peace in Confession. There we learn to receive his love, to make it ours and to give it to the world. And when loving seems hard, when it is difficult to say no to something wrong, look up at Jesus on the cross, embrace the cross and don’t ever let go of his hand. He will point you ever higher, and pick you up whenever you fall. Throughout life we will fall many times, because we are sinners, we are weak. But there is always the hand of God who picks us up, who raises us up. Jesus wants us to be up on our feet! Think of the beautiful word Jesus said to the paralytic: “Arise!”. God has created us to be on our feet. There is a lovely song that mountain climbers sing as they climb. It goes like this: “In climbing, the important thing is not to not fall, but to not remain fallen!. To have the courage to pick oneself up, to allow oneself to be raised up by Jesus. And his hand is often given through the hand of a friend, through the hand of one’s parents, through the hand of those who accompany us throughout life. Jesus himself is present in them. So arise! God wants us up on our feet, ever on our feet!

I know that you are capable of acts of great friendship and goodness. With these you are called to build the future, together with others and for others, but never againstanyone! One never builds “against”; this is called “destruction”. You will do amazing things if you prepare well, starting now, by living your youth and all its gifts to the fullest and without fear of hard work. Be like sporting champions, who attain high goals by quiet daily effort and practice. Let your daily programme be the works of mercy. Enthusiastically practice them, so as to be champions in life, champions in love! In this way you will be recognized as disciples of Jesus. In this way, you will have the identification card of the Christian. And I promise you: your joy will be complete.

Every Life Matters

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Canada is facing the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia and for many people, Catholics especially, this raises very serious concerns: About our respect for the principle of the sanctity of human life; what will this mean for the protection of our vulnerable people? How will this affect our healthcare professionals who may be forced to participate in these practices against their conscience? We need to discuss all of this and that is why Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton has invited all of us to join him for the series that he’s titled Every Life Matters.

The series included a series of five conversations with Archbishop Smith and several other legal and medical professionals, as well as parents and people suffering from disabilities. These took place all over the Archdiocese of Edmonton and were streamed live on the Internet.

Every Life Matters will begin airing on S+L TV Saturdays and Wednesdays, starting this Saturday, at 9pm ET / 7pm MT.

1. What’s it all About? Airs Saturday, April 23 – 9pm ET / 7pm MT (Repeats: Sunday, April 24  – 1 am ET / Saturday, April 23 – 11 pm MT)

With special guests Kate Faught, a lawyer specializing in estate litigation, and Dr. Anna Voeuk, a physician specializing in palliative care.

2. What’s Wrong with Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia? Airs Wednesday, April 27 – 9pm ET / 7pm MT (Repeats: Thursday, April 28 – 1 am PT / Wednesday, April 27 – 11 pm MT)

With special guests Lisa Daniels, a young mother who tells her own personal story of finding meaning, purpose and happiness in life despite suffering debilitating pain; and Dr. Anna Voeuk, a palliative care physician who speaks about the need for improved access to palliative care for all Canadians. Archbishop Smith explains and illustrates Church teaching around suicide and euthanasia.

3. It’s My Body, My Choice – Airs Saturday, April 30 – 9pm ET / 7pm MT (Repeats: Sunday, May 1 – 1 am PT / Saturday, April 30 – 11 pm MT)

With special guests Father Eamonn McNerney, a hospital chaplain who shares his personal experience with a family whose loved one requested euthanasia, and Dr. Robert Hauptman, a specialist in pain management who maintains that with modern medical care, no patient should have to suffer intolerable pain. Archbishop Smith explains and illustrates Church teaching around freedom, choice, and personal autonomy — concepts that are often used to justify assisted suicide and euthanasia.

4. I Don’t Want to Suffer – Airs Wednesday, May 4 – 9pm ET / 7pm MT (Repeats: Thursday, May 5 – 1 am PT / Wednesday, May 4 – 11 pm MT)

With special guests Jeri and Chuck Marple, who tell us how their disabled daughter Mary has been a blessing in their lives, and Dr. Anna Voeuk, a palliative care physician speaks on caring for the caregivers and families of those with severe illness or disability, or nearing end of life. Archbishop Smith teaches on the Christian understanding of the mystery of suffering.

5. What Must We Do? Airs Saturday, May 7 – 9pm ET / 7pm MT (Repeats: Sunday, May 8 – 11 pm ET / Saturday, May 7 – 11 pm MT)

With special guests Mark Pickup, who tells of a very dark time when he came close to losing the will to live, and Dr. Anna Voeuk, who asks us all to defend doctors, nurses and pharmacists who refuse to participate in assisted suicide or euthanasia. Archbishop Smith offers four concrete ways we as Catholics can defend human life against such attacks.

And once again, let me invite you to watch our award-winning documentary, Turning the Tide, which deals with all these issues and questions related to the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide. With its study guide, this 28-minute film is perfect for classroom or a parish or home study.

 

The Bare Facts and Bare Feet of the Last Supper

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Biblical and Pastoral Reflection on Feet Washing on Holy Thursday
By Father Thomas Rosica, CSB
CEO, Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation
English language attaché, Holy See Press Office

Both the Jewish and Christian traditions view eating and feasting as more than simply an opportunity to refuel the body, enjoy certain delicacies, or celebrate a particular occasion. Eating and feasting became for both traditions, encounters with transcendent realities and even union with the divine. In the New Testament, so much of Jesus’ own ministry took place during meals at table.

Jesus attends many meals throughout the four Gospels: with Levi and his business colleagues, with Simon the Pharisee, with Lazarus and his sisters in Bethany, with Zacchaeus and the crowd in Jericho, with outcasts and centurions, with crowds on Galilean hillsides, and with disciples in their homes. It is ultimately during the final meal that Jesus leaves us with his most precious gift in the Eucharist. The Scripture readings for Holy Thursday root us deeply in our Jewish past: celebrating the Passover with the Jewish people, receiving from St. Paul that which was handed on to him, namely the Eucharistic banquet, and looking at Jesus squarely in the face as he kneels before us to wash our feet in humble service. Instead of presenting to us one of the synoptic Gospel stories of the “institution” of the Eucharist, the Church offers us John’s account of the disturbing posture of the Master kneeling before his friends to wash their feet in a gesture of humility and service.

As Jesus wraps a towel around his waist, takes a pitcher of water, stoops down and begins washing the feet of his disciples, he teaches his friends that liberation and new life are won not in presiding over multitudes from royal thrones nor by the quantity of bloody sacrifices offered on temple altars but by walking with the lowly and poor and serving them as a foot washer along the journey. It is as though the whole history of salvation ends tonight just as it begins — with bare feet and the voice of God speaking to us through his own flesh and blood: “As I have done for you, so you must also do.” The washing of the feet is integral to the Last Supper. It is the evangelist John’s way of saying to Christ’s followers throughout the ages: “You must remember his sacrifice in the Mass, but you must also remember his admonition to go out and serve the world.”

At the Last Supper, Jesus teaches us that true authority in the Church comes from being a servant, from laying down our lives for our friends. His life is a feast for the poor and for sinners. It must be the same for those who receive the Lord’s body and blood. From the Eucharist must flow a certain style of communitarian life, a genuine care for our neighbors, and for strangers.

Three years ago on Holy Thursday evening, Pope Francis washed the feet of 12 young people at a Roman Juvenile Detention Center, including young women, and two Muslims. That Pope Francis washed the feet of young men and women in a detention centre in Rome on his first Holy Thursday, and has continued that gesture over the past Holy Thursdays in a centre for the elderly and infirm and then a maximum security facility in Rome, should call our minds and hearts to the simple and spontaneous gesture of love, affection, forgiveness and mercy that have been the hallmarks of the Bishop of Rome since his election in March 2013. Just as Jesus gave an example to his disciples in the humble gesture of foot washing, so too the Vicar of Christ offers us an example that we might learn from it and imitate this gesture.

Pope Francis’ simple gesture of washing the feet speaks for itself. He has taught the world profound messages over the past three years of his Petrine ministry to the world.  He has brought many to Jesus Christ through the simplicity of his messages and gestures. He shows us how to put the Eucharist into practice in our daily lives.

Perspectives Weekly: What Makes Marriages Invalid?

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What is an annulment? Why is it not the same as divorce? Join Deacon Pedro again this Friday as he explores the beautiful teachings of the Catholic Church with regards to Marriage. This week, he speaks with Canon Lawyer, Fr. Alex Laschuk, of the Marriage Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Toronto about annulments and they outline the various impediments to a valid Marriage. Fr. Laschuk also explains what can be done about these impediments and why many should consider exploring whether a previous marriage is invalid.

Perspectives Weekly: What Makes Marriages Invalid?, this Friday, March 18 at 7pm and 11pm ET (5pm and 8pm PT) with repeats on Sunday, March 20.

Deacon-structing: Reconciliation part 3

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So far, in part 1 and part 2  we’ve looked at sin and why we need the Sacrament of Reconciliation. There are two Sacraments that can be received every day: The Eucharist and Reconciliation. The Church doesn’t say we have to go to Confession all the time but the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that, “after having attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful is bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year.” (CCC#1456)

It also says that “anyone who is aware of having committed a mortal sin must not receive Holy Communion, even if he experiences deep contrition, without having first received sacramental absolution, unless he has a grave reason for receiving Communion and there is no possibility of going to confession.” (CCC#1457) Children who are about to receive their First Communion must go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation beforehand.

Even if you are not in a state of mortal sin, the Catechism #1458 says that even though it’s not necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is strongly recommended:  “Indeed the regular confession of our venial sins helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit. By receiving more frequently through this sacrament the gift of the Father’s mercy, we are spurred to be merciful as he is merciful. (CCC#1459)

When I was growing up, we didn’t call it “reconciliation”; we used to say that we had to go to “confession.” It is called the Sacrament of Confession because we confess our sins to a priest and that is an essential element of this Sacrament.

“Confession” is probably the most common name for the Sacrament, but it also has other names. It is called the Sacrament of forgiveness, since by the priest’s sacramental absolution God grants the penitent “pardon and peace.”

It is also called the Sacrament of Conversion. This is because it makes sacramentally present Jesus’ call to conversion, the first step in returning to God. (CCC#1423)

Nowadays it is most commonly called the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This is “because it imparts to the sinner the life of God who reconciles. He who lives by God’s merciful love is ready to respond to the Lord’s call: Go; first be reconciled to your brother.”  (CCC#1424) It is through this Sacrament that we are reconciled back to God and with the Church; we are restored back into Communion.

Jesus always preached a message of mercy and forgiveness. Consistently he forgave peoples sins. “Go and sin no more” he told the woman caught in adultery. He said to Peter that we had to forgive seven-times-seventy. But perhaps the most memorable lesson on forgiveness comes through the story of the prodigal son. (Luke 15: 18-19)

Prodigal is a word that means “wasteful” or “extravagantly wasteful”. Most of you are familiar with this story of a boy who betrayed his father and his people. He wasted all his inheritance and ended up sleeping and eating with pigs – not the most clean of animals as far as Jews were concerned. Still he “came to his senses” and went back to his father and said, “I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father, instead of being angry, welcomed him and had a party for him. He explains it to the older son: “We had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” (Luke 15: 32) This is what happens at Reconciliation: we come back to life in Communion with God, the Father.

Remember that in every Sacrament we receive God’s Grace. In Reconciliation…

  • Our sins are forgiven
  • We are reconciled with God
  • We are restored to God’s Grace
  • We are joined with god in intimate friendship
  • We are reconciled with the Church

In Reconciliation we are truly changed – that’s the “metaphysical occurrence” that takes place: our sins are wiped clean; clean slate.

I have always been intrigued by God’s statement that “if you eat from the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil, you will surely die.” (Genesis 2:17) When I first paid attention to that passage I thought it meant that they would die immediately, but it’s clear that Adam and Even did not die immediately after eating from the Tree.

What God meant was that they would be subject to death. If they didn’t eat from the Tree they would live forever. If they did, they would die. That did happen. Sin means that we are subject to death. When sin entered the world, so did death – that is why “death is the wages of sin” (Romans 6:23). When God says, “don’t” it doesn’t mean “don’t have fun”. Rather it means, “don’t hurt yourself”. It means “I don’t want you to die.” Sin means that we will die; and I’m not talking about physical death. This death is eternal. The Sacrament of Reconciliation restores us to the capacity for Life; a Life with God.

This weekend we hear a beautiful and moving story of the woman caught in adultery. (John 8:1-11)

Has no one condemned you?”
She replied, “No one, sir.”
Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.
Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”

In “saving” her, not only is the woman healed but she is also restored into the community. She is brought back into Communion. That is what happens with the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

To summarise: Sin separates us from God and the Church and reconciliation brings us back into Communion with God and the Church. And to be truly reconciled, one has to be truly repentant. A sign of that repentance is that we do a penance to help repair the hurt we may have caused, which is why if someone is not repentant, the priest cannot absolve them of the sin. What’s important here is not just that we confess, but that we are truly sorry for our sin, that we repair the damage done and that we promise to try to be better.

That’s what that little prayer, The Act of Contrition is all about. There are different versions. Here’s one I learned when I was preparing for my First Communion:

Oh my Jesus. I am sorry that I have sinned. Please forgive me. I know you love me; I want to love you and be good to everyone. Help me to make up for my sins. I will try to be better from now on.

As an adult, working at a Vacation Bible School, I learned a very similar one:

I’m sorry for doing wrong. Please forgive me all my sins. I know you love me very much. Help me love you in return and care for others as you do.

Which one do you know? Remember to pray it often and make a point of going to Confession and celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation this Lenten Season.

Next time I’d like to begin deacon-structing what some people call doctrine, others call dogma, but I will call Truth. What are your thoughts about that? How would you define doctrine or dogma? Write to me: pedro@saltandlighttv.org


Photo Credit: CNS


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Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:pedro@saltandlighttv.org

Deacon-structing Reconciliation Part 2

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Last week, we began by looking at sin and the difference between venial and mortal sin. Even though we’ve all been cleansed from Original Sin at Baptism, we are all still wounded by Original Sin. Because of this, we still suffer the effects of Original Sin, which is why we have a tendency to sin. This tendency is called Concupiscence.

If you remember your grade 8 Catechism (and what I’ve written here before about Sacraments, a “Sacrament is a visible sign instituted by Christ, of an invisible Grace.” A Sacrament is an action of God and, at the same time, it is our response to that action – in a way, our response, also brings about God’s action. And so a Sacrament symbolises or points to (like a road sign points to a destination) a Grace, but at the same time, it is the very Grace it points to. Every Sacrament gives us God’s Grace, that is, the very Life of God. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation we receive the Graces that slowly bring the disorder of concupiscence into proper order.

Let’s look at what happens at Reconciliation, but first, let’s be clear that all Sacraments are instituted by Christ: After Jesus rose from the dead, the Gospel of John tells us that he appeared to the apostles. “Jesus stood among them…  and he said, ‘peace be with you. As the father sent me, so I send you.’ Then he breathed on them the Holy Spirit and said, ‘receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them, if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’” (John 20:19-23) This is when Jesus gave the Apostles, the power to forgive sins. The Apostles in turn passed it on to their disciples and so on until this day.

Receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation is very simple. There are 4 elements that have to be present for the Sacrament to be valid:

  1. Contrition
  2. Confession
  3. Satisfaction
  4. God’s action through the intervention of the Church

Contrition means that you have to be truly sorry for the sins you’ve committed. You have to have a genuine desire to be better and to not commit the same sin again (even though, for most of us, it’s always the same sins that we commit over and over again – more on that later). This means that if you’ve committed a crime, like murder, you have to be willing to turn yourself in to the police.

Confession: We have to confess the sin specifically. It’s not enough to say that you are sorry for ‘stuff’ you did. You actually have to name the sins. This also helps us name the behaviour with the hopes of putting an end to it. More on this later as well, but we have to confess out loud, in person, to a priest.

Satisfaction means that you are willing to do something (although not perfect satisfaction) to repair the damage or harm done. If you stole something, you have to return it. If you hurt someone, you should apologize. If you committed a crime, like murder (as stated above), you have to turn yourself in to the police. For most of us, satisfaction is done symbolically in the form of penance. We know that praying Psalm 51 or doing a Decade of the Rosary is not going to repair the damage done, but in God’s perfection, our actions (if we are truly repentant) will suffice. Of course, if you need to apologize to someone, or return what you stole, just reciting a Decade of the Rosary won’t be enough.

Lastly, the action of God needs to take place. We must remember that it is not the priest that is forgiving the sins, but God. It is the priest, “in the person of Christ” who forgives sins. This is why the priest doesn’t say, “Jesus absolves you of your sin,” but rather, “I absolve you…” These are the words of Christ.

Remember that every Sacrament has a “matter” and “form”. Matter is the physical matter that is necessary for the Sacrament to take place. In the case of Reconciliation the matter are the sins confessed. The form are the words that are used. In Reconciliation, it’s the words of absolution.

The Catechism says:

“The formula of absolution used in the Latin Church expresses the essential elements of this sacrament: the Father of mercies is the source of all forgiveness. He effects the reconciliation of sinners through the Passover of his Son and the gift of his Spirit, through the prayer and ministry of the Church:

God, the Father of mercies, through the death and the resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (CCC#1449)

Those are the words that a priest must say in order for the Sacrament to be valid. He can’t say, “Jesus loves you and he forgives your sins” or anything like that. He has to say, “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” otherwise the Sacrament is not valid. If you do not hear the priest say those words, you should respectfully ask him to please say them.

We must also remember that because it is the action of God, everything about the Sacrament is made perfect. So, if you forgot a particular sin (not “forgetting” it on purpose), if doesn’t matter, all your sins are forgiven. If you forget to do your penance (again, not “forgetting” on purpose), it doesn’t matter, satisfaction or reparation is still achieved. God perfects in the Sacrament what is lacking because of our imperfection.

The Catechism also says that:

“Those who approach the Sacrament of penance obtain pardon from God’s mercy for the offense committed against him, and are, at the same time, reconciled with the Church which they have wounded by their sins and which by charity, by example, and by prayer labors for their conversion.” CCC#1422

One of the main objections people have to “confession” is the part that requires us to confess to a priest. You have to wonder why 1 John 5:16-17 says that there “is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray.” Does he mean that there is some sin (mortal) that cannot be forgiven with just prayer? Can he be implying what Christians at the time already knew (and practiced), that some sin needs to be confessed to a priest out loud?

We must remember that just because we are confessing to a priest doesn’t mean that we are not confessing to God. And think of this: If you confess to God in the privacy of your room, do you think that God will forgive you? Do you think it’s different if you go to Confession? I would like to think that God will forgive us if we are truly repentant and want to be better; especially if we’ve made reparation for our sin. But do you know for sure? That’s what a Sacrament does: It gives us the guarantee that something is actually taking place. We actually hear the words, “I absolve you from your sins.” It’s nice to hear it. That’s why it’s a “visible sign”.

Plus, it’s true that when we sin, we are not only sinning against another human being (or against ourselves); we are sinning against God and against the Body of Christ, which is the Church. If we believe that, we must believe that we must confess to the Church. It used to be that people would have to stand in front of the whole community and confess their sins (some monasteries still have this practice). At least we now do it in privacy, just to the priest (who promptly forgets what you’ve told him). (Not to mention the therapeutic value of confession. Some people pay thousands of dollars to speak to a therapist, and they have no problem confessing to that person. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is free!)

Plus, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation we get the benefit of the Grace of God that comes with the Sacrament, and our sins are forgiven. No therapist can do that!


Photo credit: CNS


PedroHeadShot

Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:pedro@saltandlighttv.org

Deacon-structing Reconciliation Part 1

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I love it when we hear something we’ve heard many time as if it was the first time. Last year, I heard something that I had never heard before: “If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly.” (1 John 5:16-17) For those of us who learned the difference between venial and mortal sins, does this reading ring any bells?

Of course, it’s the Year of Mercy and so I’ve been thinking about mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation, so I thought it would be good to review reconciliation, the Sacrament. What do you remember about the Sacrament of Confession?

Let’s begin with that indelible mark or seal that we receive at Baptism (Read more about this here.) This seal is permanent and we are cleansed from Original Sin.

But, if we are sealed permanently and cleansed from Original Sin, why then, do we continue sinning?

I think the most basic way to understand sin is as anything that gets in the way between me and God. But I like to think of sin as “falling short”. In fact, one of the Greek words used to mean sin, “hamartia” literally means “to miss the mark,” as in archery: to miss the target. When it comes to sin, this means that I am missing the mark, or falling short of who I am supposed to be. And because of that, I can’t be in full communion with God.

I love this analogy that we used in our Catechetical series for youth, In Your Faith: Imagine that you just bought a new robot that will clean your house. Imagine that you spent a lot of money on it and you’re really excited about it. You spend the time putting it together and it’s perfect, except it won’t go backwards. Are you disappointed? Are you a bit upset? Does it “fall short” of your expectations for it? Do you want to send it back to the store?

It’s the same thing with sin. Except that with us, God won’t send us back to the store simply because we fall short of his design for us. He wants us to keep trying and keep striving for holiness.

But not all sin is the same; thus the passage from the first letter of St. John that I mentioned above. The Catholic Church calls some sin “venial sin” (that is not deadly, or doesn’t lead to death, to use St. John’s language) and other sin “mortal sin” (that is deadly).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that venial sin offends and wounds charity, whereas mortal sin destroys it (CCC#1855). It goes on to say:

“Mortal sin, by attacking the vital principle within us – that is, charity – necessitates a new initiative of God’s mercy and a conversion of heart which is normally accomplished within the setting of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.” (CCC#1856)

For a sin to be mortal, three conditions have to be met:

The object of the sin has to grave matter
It has to be committed with full knowledge
It has to be committed with deliberate consent. (CCC#1857)

Venial sin, on the other hand, occurs when the matter is not grave, and/or when the above is committed without full knowledge or understanding and not deliberately or without complete consent (CCC#1862).

The Catechism continues:

“Deliberate and un-repented venial sin disposes us little by little to commit mortal sin. However venial sin does not break the covenant with God. With God’s grace it is humanly reparable. “Venial sin does not deprive the sinner of sanctifying grace, friendship with God, charity, and consequently eternal happiness.” (CCC#1863)

I guess that’s why St. John tells his readers that some sin (venial) can be repaired through prayer. But he is clear to state that not all sin can be repaired with just prayer. He means “mortal sin”, sin that is deadly or leads to death.

Another way to see it is this: Think of an “offense” you may have done against a friend. Let’s say you missed an appointment. Perhaps all you need to do to “repair” the “damage” is send her a quick text or maybe make a phone call. But, after missing three appointments with the same friend (or maybe a more serious offense), a text message won’t be enough to repair the damage. A phone call may not do it either. You may have to reconcile face-to-face.

Venial sin is that which can be repaired with a quick text message. Mortal sin, on the other hand, has to be repaired face-to-face.

Let’s now get back to where we began: If we are cleansed from sin at baptism, why do we continue sinning?

The answer is simple: Because our human nature remains wounded after baptism. Even though Original Sin is removed, the effects of sin are not. This is why we have a tendency to sin. The Church calls this “tendency to sin,” concupiscence.

Let’s use another analogy: Imagine tasting chocolate for the first time and you like it, so you want more. It’s the same with sin: Because we already tasted sin, we want more.

In order to fix these disordered appetites, we need Grace and that’s why we need the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Come back next week so we can see exactly how the Sacrament of Reconciliation works.


CNS photo/Kacper Pempel , Reuters


PedroHeadShot

Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:pedro@saltandlighttv.org