“The reign of God has really begun; but we know now who God is.”

“Mother,” said the girl, “let me tell you again. Do you not understand that all which Jesus Christ promised has come true, though in another way? The reign of God has really begun; but we know now who God is. You said just now you wanted the Forgiveness of Sins; well, you have that; we all have it, because there is no such thing as sin. There is only Crime. And, then Communion. You used to believe that that made you a partaker of God; well, we are all partakers of God, because we are human beings.” – Lord of the World, Benson, R.H. (1907).

It will be but a footnote that the Court which delivered today’s decision concerning marriage also, in previous generations, declared that no Black person, whether slave or free, could ever be a citizen of the United States (Dred Scott), or that “separate but equal” discrimination was constitutional (Plessy v. Ferguson). We Catholics know that Roe v. Wade and its progeny also belongs in this category, while others view the Right to Abortion as part of the New Enlightenment.

14765607092_f6e3d419d2_oInasmuch as prior times were capable of bringing about flawed determinations of law, the cultural and social apex from which we now perch has deigned in its benevolence to deliver the Infallible. Humanity, we are told, is finally in its Wisdom.

Today’s decision will be lauded by the mainstream and the fliers of flags of rainbow-colored irony. Brilliantly uncatechized turncoat “catholics,” inhaling the same vapors and bedazzled by their millstones, will blush with embarrassment over the welcome given them. Meanwhile, the Faithful will be treated like the must caught in the wine press.  The Church will speak of the rights and dignity of children, only to be pilloried with memes about pedophilia and hypocrisy.

Truly, as far as social secular order is concerned, there is no longer sin, only crime. And there is no longer morality, only legality. What follows is yet to be seen, although there is prophecy, and precedent. Rome fell when, for all its decadence and hedonism, it did not attempt to redefine the nature of marriage.

We have been outflanked. What could not be foreseen until a short while ago is demonstrable proof for the overwhelming Force at work. Benson saw only euthanasia but not abortion, and he left marriage and stable natural families intact at the End. Arguably it was assumed that these institutions were so sacrosanct that they required no active defense.

But now that such assumption is erased from the page, there is no need for further pretension. A crowd of voices demands a quickening of the movement to appease the craven. All need for patience is mooted. The careful gradualism that delivered us here has finally served its purpose:

These Justices [delivering the Majority Opinion of the Court] know that limiting marriage to one man and one woman is contrary to reason; they know that an institution as old as government itself, and accepted by every nation in history until 15 years ago, cannot possibly be supported by anything other than ignorance or bigotry. And they are willing to say that any citizen who does not agree with that, who adheres to what was, until 15 years ago, the unanimous judgment of all generations and all societies, stands against the Constitution. – Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), Scalia, J., dissenting.

Benson puts the meaning of this in perspective:

“Therefore, this new decree was as logical as [the antichrist] Himself — it was a judicial act on the part of an united world against a tiny majority that threatened the principle of life and faith: and it was to be carried out with supreme mercy; there was no revenge or passion or partisan spirit in it from the beginning to end; no more than a man is revengeful or passionate when he amputates a diseased limb…”

God help us, and dear friends, He will. He is doing so at this very moment, but we are called to be Faithful even if our suffering is in sight. As Benson would say, the time for self-regarding is passed. What will come at last to each of us who hold sight of God and His Commandments is “…that superb tranquility, possible only when the senses are physically awake, with which God, perhaps once in a lifetime, rewards the aspiring trustful soul — that point of complete rest in the heart of the Fount of all existence with which one day He will reward eternally the spirits of His children.”

FullSizeRender 18As for intercession, let’s remember that St. Thomas More was martyred for his solidarity with us in this very same fight. It is our privilege to don this hair shirt with him. He continues to pray for us in Heaven and that God’s will be done. Let us follow his example, and pray as he did, pro rege, or rather pro res publica, even when king and country turn from the Truth. After all, we are all — in some fashion — converts, and no matter what “law” is enacted, Holy Church teaches that we are always free to choose the good.

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Pray for Marriage

Today, April 28, our U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument concerning the question of whether state laws that define marriage as between one man and one woman are constitutional. It seems, as expected, that Court-watchers believe that the swing vote will once again fall to Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Justice Ginsburg had previously shown her hand in an interview earlier this year, essentially expressing a belief that America is “ready” for same-sex marriage. And Justices Sotomayor and Kagan appear in favor of it as well.

As you go about your day, and in the two months or so that it will take for the Court to issue its decision on this highly important case, please pray for the Justices, and Justice.

Same-sex marriage does considerable injustice: to the persons who enter into such relationships, to the people who “support” and “affirm” them, to surrounding families and relatives who experience its consequences, to the social fabric of our communities, and particularly to children who will suffer if such “rights” are recognized.

However, even if the Supreme Court determines that there are no compelling reasons for preserving the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman, it does not mean that the battle is over, or that Truth has been defeated. The Supreme Court does not possess the authority to redefine marriage. That it would do so will have grave implications for the Rule of Law.

In Evangelium Vitae, St. Pope John Paul II cites to Aquinas on the question of the natural law and its relationship to the civil law: “human law is law inasmuch as it is in conformity with right reason and thus derives from the eternal law. But when a law is contrary to reason, it is called an unjust law; but in this case it ceases to be a law and becomes instead an act of violence”. And again: “Every law made by man can be called a law insofar as it derives from the natural law. But if it is somehow opposed to the natural law, then it is not really a law but rather a corruption of the law“. (para. 72).

As with abortion, civil law will again oppose natural law, leading to further corruption. We should be prepared for this, as we will remain subject to Caesar going forward.

Also recall that while this “culture war” has certainly spun into overdrive in the past decade, the efforts to redefine marriage are, in fact, centuries old. Nearly five hundred years ago, an English sovereign known as Henry VIII wished to establish a Tudor Dynasty that would outlive his reign, and to secure it he knew that he needed a male heir. Yet, his lawful wife, a princess of Spain, did not conceive and carry a male heir to term.

Thus, Henry decided that he would divorce his Queen and marry Anne Boleyn. To do this, the King tore Christendom asunder. The Pope, despite the efforts of Cardinal Wolsey, refused to grant an annulment. So Henry declared himself head of the Church of England, confiscated the Church’s property in his realm (making himself the richest King in the history of England, and perhaps all of Europe), and required every English subject to sign an oath affirming his headship of the Church in England and the queenship of Anne Boleyn.

14765606292_c54b6081d2_oScores of (Catholic) bishops, and hundreds, if not thousands of priests, all signed the oath and assented to the break with Rome. Their assent, however, was certainly under duress, since refusal to take the oath meant permanent residency in the Tower of London, the stripping of all titles, privileges and property, and ultimately, execution. They were cowards, but they kept their heads.

Only a handful of Catholic martyrs, including Bishop John Fisher and Sir Thomas More, refused to assent to Henry’s break with Rome, and for their steadfast loyalty they earned a swift death.

Also recall that for nearly a century, our laws in this country have favored the option of “no-fault” divorce, which permits civil dissolution of marriage absent cause. Husband and wife have been citing “irreconcilable differences” for some time now, which has harshly abused God’s intention for marriage. We’ve grown rather ambivalent about the bonds that God has joined together, that no man should put asunder.

And finally, we’ve also observed cultural shifts within the same last century that have adopted favorable attitudes regarding the use of artificial contraception and abortion. Many of our own Catholic brothers and sisters, and a much wider array of Protestant Christians and secular folks, have in their own marriages willingly traded the procreative aspect of marriage, and the call from God to remain open to the gift of children, in exchange for sex as recreational activity.

This too, has compounded our divorce rates, reduced the numbers of individuals who consider sexual activity to be something that belongs within marriage, and led to the further objectification of women.

In all, even without a new pronouncement from the Supreme Court, marriage “isn’t what it used to be”, or rather, for much of the world it is not what God intends. Inasmuch as we Catholics would see God’s laws reflected in our civil codes, we cannot be especially surprised at the so-called (civil) institution of marriage devolving to the point that it is so dissolute that it is virtually unrecognizable.

What remains to be gained from civil marriage is a package of legal entitlements, to which gay couples believe they should also be permitted to access, and for many, it is hard to disagree.

We shouldn’t blame them. What occurred prior to same-sex marriage to undermine the institution of marriage may well have had diabolical origins, but it was hardly the suggestion that two people of the same sex should be able to “marry” — however diabolical such a suggestion may be — that brought us to this point.

Now, more than ever, faithful Catholics are presented an opportunity to truly live their faith, stick out their own necks, and witness to the reality that marriage (as God intends) is a lifelong sacramental union of one man and woman, consisting of unitive and procreative aspects.

Catholics everywhere must joyfully proclaim the reality that strong marriages are established by God not just for husband and wife and their children, but as the foundational building block of society, the strength of which brings us closer to establishing the Kingdom and promoting the dignity of every person. We must articulate the Truth of marriage with the example of our living, and along the way we will show the world what it has abandoned.

HHS Contraceptive Mandate: Amazed and Thankful!

Huzzah for separation of powers! It could have been 4-5, but today the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, 5-4, in favor of Hobby Lobby and the companion parties, establishing a precedent for religious liberty and deconstructing key elements of the HHS Contraceptive Mandate. A win:

Because RFRA applies in these cases, we must next ask whether the HHS contraceptive mandate “substantially burden[s]” the exercise of religion. 42 U. S. C. §2000bb–1(a). We have little trouble concluding that it does.

                           ***************

Arrogating the authority to provide a binding national answer to this religious and philosophical question, HHS and the principal dissent in effect tell the plaintiffs that their beliefs are flawed.

The Republic is not completely dead. It still raises its head and issues a roar from time to time. The entire decision is available here.

Still Waiting on the Other Shoe…..

…..But things are significantly more hopeful at the close of this week. In case you haven’t been paying attention, June 30 will be the close of the 2013 session of the United States Supreme Court. This blog was inaugurated last year with an entry concerning the Hollingsworth and Windsor cases, two decisions which by all accounts were poorly reasoned and continue to shake the foundations of our society.

I like to think that the best case scenario for the Court is that the Justices are capable of looking past ideologies. Don’t discount this. How’s Congress doing with that? Or the President?

I think that even Sotomayor and Kagan, can, possibly, be convinced by convincing argument. I suspect that, behind closed doors, books and articles are sometimes exchanged. Old cases are dusted off. Ideas are shared. Among nine undeniably brilliant individuals, perhaps reason still holds sway.

The most recent “big ticket” decisions might be an “exhibit” to this belief. This week we’ve seen unanimous decisions: no illegal search and seizure of cell phones if you get arrested; law enforcement needs a warrant. The Senate is in recess when it says it’s in recess. And setting up “buffer zones” around abortuaries is a violation of the First Amendment.

On Monday, we will see whether reason prevails again on the question of religious liberty and the HHS Contraceptive Mandate. This is the big one of the year, in my opinion. Pray extra hard on this one, because despite some renewed hope, I don’t think we’re going to see a unanimous opinion, and I think it could easily be 5-4 (or [shudder], 6-3) against. I’d love to be wrong.

Some Spin on the HHS Contraceptive Mandate Cases

Today the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument on the HHS Contraceptive Mandate. The Washington Post reports that the Court was “divided” but “seemed inclined” to sustain religious liberty over employer-funded birth control. It also reports that Justice Anthony Kennedy is widely perceived as the “swing vote” between the “conservatives” and “progressives” on the Court, and the hinge as to which way the decision will go.

It’s hopeful that the justices didn’t come out during oral argument and start dancing all over religious liberty. But don’t assume that the reporting means anything for the outcome.

If you recall, two years ago the Court heard arguments on the “Individual Mandate” question for the ACA, which was essentially whether an individual can be required at law to purchase something, in this case health insurance, or else pay a penalty, or tax, for failing to do so. Distinctions abounded for how the individual mandate differed from — for example — a state government that requires automobile operators to maintain minimum liability coverage.

Speculators who heard oral argument in that case suggested that based upon the questions from the bench, the Court would likely decide to overrule the mandate. Speculators also suggested — parroting what everyone says about the makeup of the Court — that Justice Kennedy was the lynchpin then too. Instead, Chief Justice Roberts voted against the other “conservatives” on the Court and authored the majority opinion.

So, don’t assume that probing questions from the bench somehow means that a favorable decision is forthcoming. Instead, continue to pray for all of the justices, that they make a decision guided by the principles of the Constitution, and a well-formed conscience.

Praying for Religious Liberty and Planning a MEGABREW

I was thinking a bit about a fitting way to remember that this week our Supreme Court hears oral arguments concerning the ACA HHS Contraceptive Mandate and the need for us all to pray for a just outcome. No state can justly compel a citizen to violate his or her deeply held religious convictions.

So, naturally, with such an auspicious and solemn occasion, the mind naturally finds itself resting upon the brewing of beer. Specifically, a “MEGABREW” of “Religious Liberty Ale” for Religious Liberty.

IMG_0622What exactly is a MEGABREW, you ask? Well, I don’t quite know yet. I just made it up. What I have in mind is this: I have equipment which normally allows me to brew 10-gallon batches of beer. I can also have at least five or six 5-gallon batches (up to thirty gallons) in primary fermentation at one time. So, I plan to brew two 12.5 gallon batches of Religious Liberty Ale in a single day, which will yield 25 gallons of finished beer, using my four 8-gallon primary fermenters.

It will be a long day, but symbolically if each 5-gallon batch of Religious Liberty Ale stands in for one Justice of the Court (for whom we should be praying), then five 5-gallon batches constitutes the necessary voting majority for the Court. I’ll also ask for St. Thomas More’s intercession over the whole project and assign another patron saint to each 5-gallon batch.

Unfortunately, due to my schedule, the earliest day for MEGABREW will be Thursday, and I’m likely to brew on Friday, but I think we’re close enough that all the praying will have purchase.

Religious Liberty is On The Docket TODAY

Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 11.49.18 AMToday the United States Supreme Court (beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern) will hear oral arguments in the two consolidated ACA HHS Contraception Mandate cases, Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood v. Sebelius. This would be a good occasion to set aside some time for prayer, if possible.

Contrary to the poorly-executed arguments proposed by some (who have their own schismatic, secular, or personal opposition to 2,000 years of Christian Tradition), this is not a corporation vs. individual or the imposition of one employer’s beliefs at the expense of hosts of employees who are purportedly victims of such beliefs. That is, quite simply, absurd. But it is consistent with a political theme that government (as the largest, most powerful and unstoppable of all corporations) is somehow not a corporation that imposes its will on all of society while every other corporation (you know, the ones that actually produce things and earn profits) is an evil enemy of the public.

And, even more egregious is the suggestion that access to taxpayer-funded artificial birth control somehow constitutes a civil right, or by withholding the “taxpayer-funded” element you also entirely withhold the “access” element.

But these things are nuances far too abstract for blind ideology.

Add a twist of irony to it all because “advocates” for such nonsense frequently have absolutely zero “skin in the game” and yet manage to think it appropriate that they should shill for the mandate alongside groups that do have an interest (in profiting from the whole thing) like Planned Parenthood and those who’d rather not have to pay for their own birth control. Such groups and individuals wouldn’t mind if you were forced to become complicit, because, it becomes more difficult for you not to be complicit in the other things that matter a great deal to them.

This isn’t about access or making artificial birth control affordable; birth control is readily accessible and affordable to everyone, including underage minors. Rather, this is about forcing all of society to become complicit in immoral practices that are objectionable to millions of American citizens.

In other words, pray, pray, pray.