A Priest’s Thoughts on Cyberbullying

This subtitle is The 7 Hidden Dangers of Smartphones for Teens.  The first of these seven is indeed cyberbullying.  Simply read the first one if you were lured-in by the title of this blog post. 

Recently, I was at a large family’s home. The kids were all out back blowing bubbles. The older kids, being about 10 years old, twirled foot-long wands out of their dish soap to create bubbles about six inches in diameter. The youngest brother who was playing bubbles with them was only five years old. He simply couldn’t help himself from popping his older sisters’ bubbles.  I told him: “Just make your own.” He looked at me with a smile of pure-gold and said, “Yes, sir.” He then tried so hard for the next five minutes to obey me and his sisters’ pleas for longer bubble-longevity. He cranked out a few smaller bubbles.  Still, he ended up running back to pop their bigger bubbles. He simply couldn’t help himself! His sisters and I were laughing at how he tried but failed.

The above bubble-story is true, but it could also be an analogy for something more serious that is happening to teens everywhere: To tell a teenager to avoid bad things and bad people on a smartphone is akin to telling a five year old not to pop giant bubbles. They just can’t do it. Many good parents have handed over a smartphone to their kids, covering their tracks with overly-moralized instructions. The weak ones are addicted by the end of the day. The strong ones are exhausted by the end of the day. I have worked with many families that range from non-Catholic to devout Catholic. Yet almost all these parents make same mistake: Parents give their teen (or worse, a child) a smartphone by explaining internet safety. It’s a nice start, but it fails to understand that the real dangers lurk not in who your kids’ search for, but who is searching for your kids.

1) Cyberbullying. Growing up, I weighed 2/3 of what my friends weighed, so I got bullied occasionally on the playground. But I always had a way out. Cyberbullying targets do not have a way out. Cyberbullying is making fun of someone on social media. It is particularly harmful because of the backdrop of loneliness and isolation in families today. Global broadcasting against them on social media makes teens feel like the whole world is against them. This is obviously devastating to their social lives and psyches. Many teens are targeted for cyberbullying, but one that I will always remember is Kiana. Kiana was a cheerleader in my home state of Colorado. She was bullied online by “friends” who were jealous of her. They repeatedly made fun of her weight and told her to hang herself. Eventually, she obeyed their instructions and she hung herself. Her Dad found her barely alive. She was airlifted from the southern suburbs to Denver Children’s Hospital. She survived, but with severe brain damage, secondary to lack of oxygen before her father found her. This is her today:

Someone snapped that picture of us all, about two years after the tragedy. Kiana was not raised Catholic, but we still met later through mutual friends. I never expected to use the above picture for a blog post, but her mother gave me permission to write about this when I told her my concern about teens and technology. After coming out of the hospital, Kiana and her family got a Colorado law passed against cyberbullying. Subsequently, Kiana has told her story to Denver News stations.  Thus, this blog is not revealing anything private.

Of course, the reason we are all smiling in that picture is because Kiana is alive, and because she is a beautiful child of God. Her parents are wonderful and loving people. We all wish she had never been cyberbullied, but the whole family is attempting to overcome the tragedy in making a conscious efforts to live as the phrase says: “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”

I never asked her parents if the cyberbullying happened on a smartphone or a desktop, and that is irrelevant to this post. In fact, I am not judging parents as wonderful as the parents of Kiana. I am simply writing this so that my readers might know that even the best kids from the best families get cyberbullied. Kiana was a cheerleader in a nice suburb of Denver and yet probably no one knew she was getting cyberbullied. Readers might protest: “But my kids have never told me anything like that.” Exactly. They don’t tell anyone, for they are embarrassed to share. And then they hurt themselves. I recently asked a friend who works at a pediatric ICU if he has seen anything like teen suicides. He told me he had seen innumerable teen suicide attempts, some as young as 8 years old, sometimes by hanging. Of course, Satan is behind this hatred of our children. But on a natural level, I think that a lot has changed in America since I left Emergency Medical Services in 2004. In those days, I was only seeing adult suicides, never child suicides.

But nowadays, the loneliness and isolation of social media locks kids into a world that they cannot escape from. Since they can not escape from the virtual world without escaping from the real world, they do just that: They escape from the real world by committing suicide. Few of the parents of these suicides thought that their kids had a problem. Even the best kids in the world tend to hide their deepest feelings of inadequacy from their parents. Sometimes, kids simply believe that their parents are too busy. Or, sometimes parents see a little depression but remove themselves from the parent-role under the false pretext of inadequacy themselves. Maybe parents are afraid that they don’t have answers as brilliant as Dr. Phil. But the key to success is not having great answers. Simply “good” answers will do. In fact, the key to success is even more simple: Turn off the phones and turn your families on. Just be there for your kids. Just listen to them, even if you have lame answers. That’s all your kids are looking for, anyway. You can’t do that if you’re all looking at your own private device.  Get rid of the smartphones if you want to avoid cyberbullying.

2) Pornography  According to Covenant Eyes,  90% of boys and 60 percent of girls are exposed to Internet porn by age 18.  According to InternetSafety101, searches for “teen porn” tripled to 500,000 a day (!) from 2005 to 2013. A single site released their 2015 statistics, which state that a total of 4.3 billion hours of porn was watched there in 2015. Do you realize the difference between a million and a billion? It would take you about a week to count to a million.  It would take you over 30 years to count to one billion!   Now, 4.3 billion hours of porn were watched at one porn site in 2015.  There are only 7 billion people on this planet. That means that on average, every human being on this planet spent 40 minutes of his year on that single porn site. Of course, not everyone is looking at pornography, but a disproportionate number of those people using porn are teenagers. From great families. It’s so simple: If you give your kids a black-porn machine to keep in their pocket and bed, they will use it. If they don’t search for porn, porn will find them. I don’t know why this happens to teens and even children more than adults, but they are so susceptible to getting found by bad websites. Why gamble with your kids’ souls? That is exactly what you are doing if you give them a smartphone. (If you or someone you love is addicted to porn, scroll to the bottom of my blog post here to read some heavy-duty advice on to come off porn quickly and effectively.)

3) Sexting: Something “good kids” would never do, or maybe just sometimes: This is another term I did not learn until I was a priest, but this is when boyfriends and girlfriends text semi-nude or full-nude pictures to each other. Sometimes it’s just a body part. Besides being a mortal sin, here’s another reason to avoid it: Even the images that self-destruct after being sent can be saved by the recipient if he knows how to do a “screen save.” Another teen can save those forever, or embarrass the sender by putting it on the internet. Many boyfriends have embarrassed their ex-girlfriends this way, leading to more suicides of these poor girls (and sometimes boys.) Again, I promise you that your kids are not “too good” to get into this stuff. Some flip phones don’t have the ability to send pictures, so go for a flip-phone instead. (Funny we all grew up without flip-phones and even went to universities without them.)

4) Trafficking and kidnapping is a real danger to even the best kids on social media. Traffickers find kids, especially girls, through social media. See HERE and HERE and HERE to see how and why. Although social media can lead to outright kidnapping in other countries, the means in the United States are more subtle: Most traffickers in the United States lure in lonely girls through what those in the rescue movement call “Loverboy syndrome.” For example, a 24 year old male acts like he is the only one who understands a lonely 14 year old girl. She falls in love with him. He brings her to a hotel where her life is history. Other kids are trapped by traffickers through a job application or modeling job that they do not tell their parents about. Others teens find a “sugar daddy” to pay online for something they need, but the transaction must be done in person. Of course, the child is kidnapped at that first meeting.  This doesn’t just happen to “those types of families.”

“But my kid would never…” There are thousands of child sex-slaves in the United States. None of those kids had planned sex-slavery as a life. I once asked the FBI director of child cyber crimes in Chicago what it felt like to put away a criminal into prison. I thought he would give a tough guy answer to me about “throwing away the key.” Instead, he simple said: “It’s like taking a spoonful of water out of Lake Michigan.” In other words, he meant that there is an endless list of men abusing children, and one criminal behind bars makes almost no difference. But you can make a difference by not letting your kids on social media until they are 18.

5) Multi-tasking on devices destroys brain-matter. The University of Tokyo reports that “higher media multi-tasking activity is associated with smaller gray-matter density in the anterior cingulate cortex.”  Another study at the University of London “found that participants who multitasked during cognitive tasks experienced IQ score declines that were similar to what they’d expect if they had smoked marijuana.” (emphasis mine)  Larry Kim at the Observer notes that “a study from the University of Sussex ran MRI scans on the brains of individuals who spent time on multiple devices at once (texting while watching TV, for example). The MRI scans showed that subjects who multitasked more often had less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex. That’s the area responsible for empathy and emotional control.”

It’s a good thing that none of your teens text while watching TV! Otherwise we might start to see a nation of kids with a lower IQ and lower empathy.  Marijuana and smartphones will lead the next generation of teens to create a world that looks like Idiocracy or any of the other dystopian films that are turning out to be strangely prophetic in a secular sort of way.

6) Smartphone Isolation and Self-Injury. As mentioned above, using multiple devices may reduce “emotional control.”  Usually self-injury means cutting oneself, but there are other forms, including burning. I have discovered in my priesthood that it is usually not suicidal.  At least 7% of University students do some form of self-injury according to the National Institute of Health study here.  But I have also read on self-injury websites that up to 25% of all University women in the United States do some form of self-injury.   I think it is closer to the latter.  Of course, I would never blog about anything confessional, but I can share a conversation that I had with a teenage boy when I was running a youth group from when I was a seminarian (before I was a priest.) I asked this 12 or 13 year old boy why he cut his arms up. I will never forget his answer. He said: “Because I can’t talk to anyone about anything.”

Indeed, his cut arms were pressure-release valves for his interior frustration of having no one to talk to. No friends. No parents who cared. It’s like the Goo-Goo Dolls line, “You bleed just to know you’re alive.”   If the anterior cingulate cortex of the brain is harmed by devices’ overuse and  that is the area responsible for empathy and emotional control, then the conclusion is obvious:  Isolated children with smartphones will not be able to control their emotions.  But they can control a knife on their arms.  Again, this is not suicidal.  It is an exterior manifestation of interior frustration that could sometimes (but not always) be alleviated by putting down the video games and getting outside to just play.  At the very least, turn off the phones and turn on life. That is the only answer.

7) You don’t need a smartphone and neither do your kids.  Remember Pascal’s wager on the existence of God? If God exists and you believe, you get heaven. If not, you get hell. If God doesn’t exist and you believe, you lose a little fun on earth. If not, you only gain a little fun on earth. Apply a wager like that to your kid having a smartphone: If you give your kid a smartphone and she fails at temptation, she is addicted or stalked or cyberbullied. If she navigates temptation well with her smartphone, she is exhausted at the end of the day (but still dumber) and slightly more popular with the social status of having an iPhone.

However, If you don’t give your kid a smartphone and she protests, then she is correct about some increasing mild social pressure to have a smartphone or inability to complete a certain internet homework assignments on the go (yeah right.)  If you refrain from smartphones in your family and she turns out psychologically and spiritually balanced, it means (from the six things I listed above) that she endured mild social ostracizing (for not having a smartphone) all for the sake of being:  Not cyberbullied, not addicted to pornography, not sexting boys you never met, not getting trafficked into sex-slavery, and…she lives with a lesser chance of cutting her arms.

Is the wager worth it?  Why bring your kids into the near-occasion of sin, and then tell them to avoid sin?

As I finished this article, I thought of renaming it “Why no one needs a smartphone.” We adults also need to ask if our soul in heaven is worth constant connectivity on earth. In 2003, I had one of the first phones with email and internet. The next year was my first year in seminary, so we had to give up all technology. In 2005, I got a simple flip phone, which I used all through the next five years. In fact, I used a flip phone for the first five years of my priesthood. I have been a priest seven years. The past two years I got a smartphone only for my blogging, videos and podcasts. My point is this: If I can go as an active priest until I am 36 with a flip phone, and still be available for emergencies, then most people don’t need a smartphone. In fact, I look forward to the day that I get rid of mine all together.

“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out.”—Mt 5:29. This is not to be taken literally, except for the fact that sin functions like addiction, and addiction can only be broken by a self-discipline so serious that it often feels like a violence to the soul. “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.”—Mt 11:12. Like any act of violent warfare, one can never negotiate with a terrorist, and this is true in spiritual warfare too. It might lead to many fights in the house to rid the family of smartphones, but addicted kids are crying out for discipline and boundaries, even if his or her initial response speaks to the contrary. Even if it leads to temporary arguments on homework assignments that can only be completed with a smart phone (yeah right) I still would hold on to this: No education or social status is worth your kids’ souls, bodies, or mental health.

In fact, if that smartphone causes you adults to sin, remember that no psuedo-availability to your job could possibly be worth the loss of your own soul. “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.”

Age of Angels

Padre Pio said that the 21st century would be the “age of the angels.” I am going to give five reasons why I believe this to be true. The first is based on demons. The other four on the angels.

1) There are more demons on earth now than there were 500 years ago. I know this sounds crazy.  On 5 May 1995, a mother and dentist named Gloria Polo was struck by lightning in Bogotá, Columbia. She was with her cousin who was killed instantaneously. She was brought to the trauma center. Her medical records later showed that the IUD torched her whole reproductive system. The lightning also burned most of her body and she was sent into cardiac arrest at the hosptial. As she faced God, her sentence was hell. Although she thought of herself as a decent Catholic, Christ showed her that she had greviously broken all ten commandments. God gave her life back and she has told her story to millions of people. (Miraculously, she has since had more children with her husband.) Her account has the approbation of the South American bishops. The private revelation of her particular judgment before God is found here. Gloria Polo was able to see why there are more demons on earth now than ever before, as found in this excerpt from her near-death experience:

The devil, with his malefic strategy, has brought humanity to the point of killing their own children. Now I understand the reason why I lived in continual bitterness, depression, always ill tempered, ill-mannered, with ugly ways of doing things, with a bad face, frustrated with everything and with everyone. Of course! I had transformed myself, without knowing it, into a machine to kill babies [her IUD] and for this reason I was sinking ever more into the abyss. Abortion is the worst of all the sins because to kill the children still in the womb of the mother, to kill a little innocent and defenseless creature, is to give power to Satan. The devil commands from the depths of the abyss, because we are scattering innocent blood! A baby is like an innocent lamb and without stain… And Who is the Lamb without stain? It is Jesus! In that moment, the baby is the image and likeness of Jesus! The fact that it might be the mother herself to kill her own child, determines a profound bond with the darkness, permitting that more devils from hell might come out to destroy and strangle humanity. It is as if one might open the sealsSeals that God has put to impede evil to come out, but that, for every abortion, it opens… And so horrible larvae come out, so that there are more and more devils… They come out to chase and persecute humanity, and then make us slaves of the flesh, of sin, of all the bad things that we see, and we will see always more. It is as if we might give the key of hell to the devils, to let them escape. And so escape more devils, of prostitution, of sexual aberrations, of Satanism, of atheism, of suicide, of indifference… Of all the evils that we see around us. And the world is getting worse every day… Think how many babies are killed every day: it is all a triumph of the evil one! That you might know that for the price of this innocent blood, the number of devils outside of hell grows; they circulate freely in our midst! Let us take shelter! … We sin without even realizing it! And our life transforms itself into an inferno, with problems of every type, with sicknesses, with so many evils that afflict us; all of this is the pure and simple action of the devil in our life. But it is we, we alone, that open the gates of evil, with our sin, and we permit him to freely circulate in our life. It is not only with abortion that we sin! … But it is among the worst sins. And then we have the nerve to blame God for so much misery, so much disgrace, so much sicknesses and so much suffering!

God showed Gloria Polo in this approved private revelation that abortion is the reason why the demons of other sins are allowed to escape hell. Seals were placed by God’s mercy, but God in His justice (as a punishment to abortion) has decreed that the seals were to be loosened.  These seals were meant to protect us from more demons roaming the earth.  These include demons “of prostitution, of sexual aberrations, of Satanism, of atheism, of suicide, of indifference.” But it is primarily due to the sin of abortion that these other demons are permitted to “come out to chase and persecute humanity.” Do we need more proof of this? Look, first-world parents are mutilating 10 year old children under the pretext of gender-compassion. Not even demon-worshipping pagan cultures have mutiliated their own children into sterility. How could anyone argue that the new army of demons on the earth must be those of child-sacrifice based in abortion?

2) We can imitate the Purity of the Angels
Abortion is the rotten fruit of impurity, and to battle this, we need the purity of the angels. Thankfully, the United States is chaulked full of youth conferences and young adult conferences that put an emphasis on purity more than anywhere else I have seen in the world. But few speakers at our Youth Conferences will ever point out that the Church holds that celibacy is still a higher way of life than married life. For celibates to denigrate marriage has been condemned as a heresy. But equally condemned as a heresy is to put marriage above celibacy. In fact, the Church still teaches it is the more perfect way-of-life. This comes straight from the theology of Jesus Christ as found in Luke’s Gospel that you will rarely hear quoted by an American chastity speaker:

And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.—Jesus Christ in St. Luke 20:34-36

Notice that Jesus says that in “that age,” those who are actually saved will be “equal to the angels” for they will “neither marry nor are given in marriage.” Unlike the angels, we will have bodies in heaven. But there will be no more sexual reproduction in heaven. Some are called to skip the try-outs and go straight to the ultimate goal. Although marriage and the creation of new children is a beautiful calling on earth, everyone who is saved will become celibate in heaven. Men joke that “in that case, it wouldn’t be heaven,” but this reveals how few Christians have ever had an experience of the power and love of God. Yes, we will have physical bodies in heaven, but we will be as chaste and glorious as the angels in heaven. Although married people are not called to celibacy [normally], married couples are indeed called to chastity since “nothing unclean will enter heaven.”—Apocalypse 21:27. In heaven, our nature will be human, not angelic, but we will be as pure of heart and mind and body as angels are pure in their spiritual existence. Are you ready for this state of union with the Trinity?

St. Aloysius Gonzaga was called by the Roman Breviary “an angel in the flesh” while already on earth. This is not conflating a human nature for an angelic nature in some type of Cartesian dualism. It is simply saying that St. Aloysius had reached the state on earth where Christ Himself urged many believers to enter.  This is where celibates “cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.” St. Thomas Aquinas says one in three Catholic children are probably called to celibacy.  It’s a hard call to answer, when so many religious orders have been tanked by the hierarchy or racked with internal sexual and doctrinal scandals. This is why I believe that single-celibate is the most under-rated of all vocations. Many in the early Church answered this beautiful calling to celibacy without a fancy habit or a big religious motherhouse.

3) We can learn humility by contemplating the Angels
We should have unspeakable and unspoken humility before God in the Blessed Sacrament, for even the angels must “cover their faces” (Isaiah 6) while praising Him. Angels were made as an intermediary between God and man. I am amazed at how many young Catholics tell me about their prayer as if they were in a state of perpetually-banal private-revelations: “So, I was like, ‘What’s up God?’ And God was all, ‘Come on dude!’” Besides the fact that God did not call you “dude,” consider this: Not even Mary and Joseph got to talk straight to God at the beginning of the Gospels. Let it sink in. Even the Immaculate Conception herself, at the greatest time of prayer in all of human history up to that point (the Annunciation and Incarnation) had to speak to an angel before Mary herself was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. Also, St. Joseph in Matthew 2 is told where to go for the safety of the Holy Family. But it is not God who speaks to St. Joseph (doctrinally the second greatest saint ever.) Still, God sends an angel to be the intermediary of St. Joseph’s conversation.

Even St. John spent three years on earth with God-the-Son. Yet even after that he was tempted to worship an angel, so glorious was this spiritual being: “And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true words of God.’ Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, ‘You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.'”—Apocalypse 19:9-10. If an angel came to your neighborhood in the middle of the night, your front porch would light up like it there was daytime sunlight: “After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was made bright with his glory.”—Apocalype 18:1. The earth is lit up by one single angel! How much greater must God Himself be? I’m not saying that a relationship with angels should replace a personal relationship with God or even talking to Jesus as your best friend. Of course, we should. But let’s try to have a little respect for the hierarchy of creation here. I guarantee you that God did not say to you “Come on, dude!” Your imagination did.

Another way to grow in humility before the angels is to consider the fact that your guardian angel has never sinned. Never. Ever. Think about that. Why did God send a sinless being to serve a sinful being? Your guardian angel has never spoken bad of another angel, yet we gossip behind the backs of our enemies and friends and families. How this must embarrass our guardian angels (Matthew 18:10.) We can learn from the total holiness of the angels that we don’t have “try out a little sin” in order to evangelize people away from bigger sins. Angels are fully alive in God without ever having had to try “a little sin.” We should not commit a single venial sin, even if we were mistaken into thinking it would save a whole continent of gentiles.

4) We have Our Mother as Queen of all Angels
God gave Mary the ability to direct the angels on earth to help us. She was assigned an astonishing army herself, assigned by God before Mary ever existed. In fact, the supreme privilege of protecting Mary was assigned in heaven immediately following the ejection of the demons who had rebelled:

The other ten seraphim, which complete the number of seventy, were likewise chosen from the more distinguished leaders of those who in their opposition to the dragon had manifested a greater reverence for the Divinity and humanity of the Word and for his most holy Mother; for all this was determined during that brief conflict of the holy angels. It was one of the principal distinctions merited by them at the time that they were to be selected as guardians of their Queen and Lady. Altogether a thousand angels were chosen from the Seraphim and the lower orders of angels, and thus that City of God [Mary] was superabundantly fortified against the infernal hosts.—Mystical City of God, Ven. Mary de Agreda, Book one, chapter 14, #205.

Yes, this papal-approved private-revelation is saying that Mary has thousands of guardian angels, including 1,000 from the highest order (the Seraphim.)  She also had thousands of guardian angels from the lower choir of angels.

Why is this more important now than in the middle ages? Remember that Mary appeared at Fatima with promises of peace before a century of wars and genocides. In fact, it was during her July apparition (100 years to the month of this blog post publication) that Mary said the following to the children at Fatima, on 13 July 1917: “The good will be martyred…Various nations will be annihilated …Suddenly the horizon will darken… Later, a brilliant ray of light and hope will arise…In the end My Immaculate Heart will triumph.”

Now we wait to see what it really means to say that Mary’s “Immaculate Heart will triumph.” Will this be an era of peace? Will this be Christ’s coming in glory?  I do not know, but here is what St. Louis De Montfort prophesied would happen with Marian devotion before the end of the world:

Mary hardly appeared at all in the first coming of Jesus Christ, in order that men, as yet but little instructed and enlightened on the Person of her Son, should not remove themselves from Him in attaching themselves too strongly…to her….This is so true that St. Denis the Areopagite tells us in his writings that when he saw our Blessed Lady, he would have taken her for a Divinity, because of her secret graces and incomparable beauty, had not the faith in which he was well established taught him the contrary. But in the second coming of Jesus Christ, Mary has to be made known and revealed by the Holy Spirit in order that, through her, Jesus Christ may be known, loved and served.1

Because Mary is both the Queen of Angels and Our Mother, the conclusion is obvious:  Our Mother will send as as many angels as we ask in faith, especially in this time of diabolical disorientation. 

5) We should learn the names of the nine choirs of angels.
St. Bonaventure lamented the laxity of 13th century Catholic Europe where not even priests could name the nine choirs of angels. Did you catch that? He was disappointed that priests then could not name the 9 choirs of angels. Nowadays, I bet I know few priests who could name the ten commandments. No exagerration. The Vatican has condemned the practice of naming your guardian angel or divining his name. To name your guardian angel is wrong because it inverts the hierarchy of creation. That is, only the higher gets to name the lower, like God naming Jacob “Israel” (Gen 32:28.) Divining the name of your guardian angel is equally condemned by the Church because it is dangerous. What if you thought you “heard” the name of your angel and it was actually a demon transmitting his name? Would you talk to that demon your whole life?

The saints did not take the lazy way out. They simply memorized the names of the nine choirs of angels (something that will only take you 15 minutes, really.)2

Even the greatest saints knew that they needed the help of the nine choirs of angels. St. Francis Xavier is my favorite saint outside the first century.  He travelled three-fourths the circumference of the earth on 16th century boats to evangelize the nations. During the worst storm he had seen on any ocean, he called on the nine choirs of angels. Xavier lived to write a letter regarding this trip from Indonesia to India in December 1547:

On that voyage from Malacca to India we underwent manifold perils from a great storm which lasted three days and nights. I never experienced a worse storm at sea. The people aboard wept and wailed for their own deaths while still alive, and mighty were the vows they made never to put to sea again, should God deliver them. We jettisoned all the cargo we could to save our lives. While the tempest was at its height, I commended myself to God our Lord, taking for my first intercessors on earth all those belonging to the Company of Jesus, and the friends of the Company, blessed of God. With that great help, I gave myself completely to the loving prayers of the Spouse of Jesus Christ, Holy Mother Church, who, still on earth, is unceasingly heard in Heaven. Nor did I neglect to have recourse to all saints in the glory of Paradise, beginning with those who here below were with the holy Company of Jesus, especially the blessed soul of Father Favre. I could never convey to you the consolation I received from thus commending myself to God our Lord through the intercession of my brethren of the Society, living and dead. While the danger lasted, I also put myself in the hands of the angels, praying to them choir by choir, and under the protection of the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, virgins—all the saints in Heaven—and to strengthen my hope of obtaining pardon for my infinite number of sins, I took for my protectress the glorious Virgin, Our Lady, because in Heaven everything she asks of God our Lord is granted. Finally, I put all my trust in the infinite merits of the Passion and death of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Lord. With all this protection and help about me, I think I felt happier in the thick of the storm than afterwards when delivered from it. That a grandissimo pecador should have shed tears of joy and consolation in so great an extremity seems to me, when I think of it, matter for the deepest self-abasement. So, I begged our Lord during the storm that, if I came out of it alive, it might only be to endure others as bad or worse for His greater service.—St. Francis Xavier by Fr. James Brodrick SJ, page 301-302.

We are surrounded by billions of demons, but most importantly, let us remember that for all the demons on earth, all the angels around us outnumber the demons by a ratio of two to one! (See Apocalypse 12:4.)


Finally, one reason that we may be in the age of the angels is that we have more resources on the angels than any group of Catholics in History.  Here are a few:

  1. My buddies from seminary at Catholic Stuff You Should Know did a profound and funny podcast on Celibacy.  You will hear why this state of life is more about union with God than making time to serve lay people.
  2. The exorcist Fr. Ripperger’s most visited talk on YouTube is Guardian Angels.
  3. Dr. Mark Miravalle has an excellent talk on the nine choirs of angels.  Unfortunately, it costs a few bucks on mp3 or CD.
  4. St. Francis Xavier’s prayer to his guardian angel is here for you to copy and paste:

I beg thee, Blessed Angel, to whose providence I am entrusted to be always at hand to help me. Present my petitions to the merciful ears of God our Lord that of His clemency and by thy prayers He may pardon my sins of the past, give me to know truly and repent heartily of my present sins, and counsel and warm me that I may shun sins in the future. Through thee may He give me grace to do good and persevere to the end. Drive away from me by the power of Almighty God every temptation of the Devil, and that which my own deeds, mixed as they always are with some evil, merit not, do thou obtain for me by thy prayers before our Lord. And if at times thou seest me straying from the paths of goodness to follow the errors of sin, procure that I may turn again speedily to my Savior in the way of justice. When though beholdest me in tribulation and anguish, obtain for me help from God by thy sweet advocacy. I beg thee never to forsake me, but ever to shield, help and defend me from all troubling and assaults of the demons, watching over me day and night, at all hours and moments. And when this life draws to a close, do not permit the demons to frighten me, and let me not fall into despair. Leave me not, my Guardian, until thou hast conducted me into the blessed vision of God, in the glory of which I with thee and God’s Blessed Mother Mary and all the saints may rejoice for ever. Amen.—St. Francis Xavier, page 316


See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.—St. Matthew 18:10

 


  1. St. Louis De Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, “The Necessity of the Blessed Virgin and of Devotion to Her,” part 4, article 3.

  2. 9 choirs of angels:
    Angels
    Archangels
    Principalities
    Powers
    Virtues
    Dominations
    Thrones
    Cherubim
    Seraphim

The Image of God in the Human Face

St. Louis De Montfort teaches that Lucifer and all the angels were given a preview that one day, a creature would contain more glory than the angels. That creature is the Blessed Virgin Mary. So infuriated was Satan that a creature would be higher than him, that Lucifer (now Satan) led a third of the angels to rebel against God. St. Michael ejected the rebel spirits to the earth. So, eons later, Satan went to pursue Mary and her child: “And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child.”—Apocalypse 12:13

Both before and after Satan’s failure at spiritually overcoming the woman and the child, he decided to turn against the image and likeness of God on earth—man and woman. Like Mary, we are each born with God’s image upon our souls. Unlike Mary, we are born without God’s likeness, due to original sin. However, baptism restores God’s likeness in us, bringing us to be children of God in both His image and likeness. This spiritual reality is so Trinitarian that St. Francis of Assisi used to genuflect before newly-baptized babies. The soul reflects God, even in a Triune nature (intellect, memory and will.) Physically, however, there is something in the human face that also reflects the glory of God:

This is a child born to a couple that I married in my University ministry.  He was made in God’s image and likeness, but his likeness was remade the day of his baptism because this was lost after this most-important event of creation:  “And God made man, according to the image of God he made him, male and female he made them.”—Genesis 1:27. The word in the Greek Septuagint (Septuagint being the Old Testament translation from Hebrew to Greek done by 70 elders) uses the words according to the image of God as three words even more power-packed and short in the Greek, κατ᾿ εἰκόνα Θεοῦ. When εἰκόνα is written in Latin letters it becomes eikona, where we get the word “icon.” Man and woman are icons of God. Satan hates a face like that.

Suffering under Nazi Germany, an Austrian couple, Erik and Christiane Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, wrote a book called Moscow 1979. In it, a bishop in Russia talks to a dead body, but that dead body becomes possessed by Satan. Satan explains through that body his actual tactic for reaching humanity in 20th century:

I am not mean! I’m only radical. ‘Radical’ – that is to say ‘from the roots.’ And sex is the root of all life. Nothing pleases me more than to turn the natural instinct for creation of new bodies and souls into the vilest filth. I hate those human beings who are allowed to take part in God’s creation. At least it is some consolation for me if human beings play tricks on God …if experimental biology is victorious over the curse of Eve, cheating women out of the joy of suffering for the sake of a new being. I don’t want the Creation! And if I’m not able to exterminate it, at least I can twist it, smear it, distort it!

 

Images deleted at the behest of a good friend.  They were pretty scary.

 

I’m not using this picture for shock-value. But I have to be very honest: I used to see people in circles like this as the enemy of the Catholic Church. Oh sure, I admitted that God loved them, but I saw them as the enemy in a culture war. Now, as things get so twisted, I see they are deceived. I don’t mean that in a self-righteous way. Flannery O’Connor would call me out for being sweet enough to give you a toothache in this next sentence, but honestly here it is: I only feel sadness to the point of literal tears at these two men. I am brought to tears that fallen angels have deceived us underdog humans to this point.  How prophetic that in 1940 those Austrians saw that “experimental biology” would be the goal of Satan in communism and secularism: “And if I’m not able to exterminate it, at least I can twist it, smear it, distort it!”

I sense only mercy in my heart when I see people in the above picture so distorted, so horribly deceived by Satan. No, beauty is not in the eyes of the beholder.  There is objectivity to beauty, as there is truth.  And what I see is boys-become-semi-men who were so abused (not necessarily sexually, but in some way abused) finishing the job of twisting what the Ugly One had begun against them.  Yet, they don’t know to whom they belong as hostages. Or maybe they do, since they have horns!   But still they are hostages, and honestly: I love them. I love them as a spiritual father and as a priest. I believe what Jesus told St. Faustina: The greater the sinner, the greater he has a right to my mercy.

Friends back home often say I have become “extreme” in my Catholic doctrine.   Therefore, some might think the above paragraph is a feigned but warm attempt to offset my current trajectory. But now I’m going to tell you a tough story why I won’t back down on doctrine. A young woman from an Eastern-block country recently wrote me about her conversion from atheism to Catholicism. She told me how many tears she has wept for what Communism did to not only her country, but what Communism has done to her new-found Catholic Church. One particularly sad story was the story of an 18 year old homosexual man in the rural area of her country.  When he failed at chastity, the rural priests helped him back up, and again when needed.  He was succeeding, albeit with difficulty.  Then, he moved to a large city in “middle-Europe” as she calls it.  There, in that large city, he found a Catholic priest with very different advice than he had ever heard: The priest told him that he could continue his homosexual behavior, as long as it is done “in good faith.”

Now the young man has AIDS. He no longer goes to Church and lives with his boyfriend.

Jesus is infinite Truth and Jesus is infinite Mercy, so please, you priests who are telling gay men and women that they don’t have to live chastity: You are killing people. Not just spiritually as we “trads” say, but now we have proof you are killing people physically. The outcome of your trashing of Catholic teaching is not only hell (which I can’t prove outside of Divine Revelation) but AIDS (which the above story proves.) When we distort Christian doctrine, we distort peoples’ souls and bodies.  Jesus and the Catholic Church have the best plan for every person on the planet, so please stop discriminating and show some compassion for the image and likeness of God that He died to restore. Jesus was disfigured on the cross so that none of the above disfigurement would ever have to happen.  Thus, we priests have no right to sacrifice our children on the altar of popularity. They are God’s children, made in His image and likeness.

10 Years After Summorum Pontificum

Ten years ago this week, Pope Benedict XVi issued an apostolic letter called Summorum Pontificum that decreed that all Roman Catholic priests could offer “the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite,” also known as “the Traditional Latin Mass” that preceded Vatican II.  In fact, Pope John Paul II had encouraged bishops to allow their priests to do this, but Pope Benedict went a step further in saying that priests did not need permission from their bishop to do the old Mass in private.  Restrictions were to be loosened for this Mass offered in public, too.  The Roman Catholic priest was also given permission to give the old absolution in Latin for penitents, extreme unction for the dying and early-Church blessings for anyone who asked.  The priest can now live on the old calendar for both the Mass and the Roman Breviary (a system of 150 Psalms a week slightly changed from the 6th century onwards.)

It is very interesting that Summorum Pontificum was issued on 7/7/7, or in European dating, 7/7/7. Three is the superlative in Biblical terms for anything in heaven or on earth, so three sevens means “covenant to the utmost.” Interestingly enough, we have seven sacraments. But this number goes even deeper into tradition: In Hebrew, to “seven” someone is to covenant them, to enter into a life-for-a-life relationship. This is done by “cutting a covenant” as the Hebrew for “covenant” takes the verb “to cut.” For example, God first “cut a covenant” with Abraham by cutting apart two animals and two birds (Gen 15) and passing through them. He would turn this violence on Himself 2000 years later on the Cross and in the Holy Mass, for “the priest sunders with unbloody cut the body and blood of the Lord, using his voice as a sword.”—St. Gregory Nazienzen. This is not Calvinism or even the Father turning against the Son. It is the Divine Word as God offering his sacred humanity in body and in blood through the pain and love of the cross to each one of us. Some priests before Vatican II used to go off to Mass saying that they were going to do “holy violence to God.” Why? Because Jesus gives His body and blood to us from the most unkind cuts of Calvary, perpetuated in the Mass. Was it any accident that the most ancient form of the Roman Mass was re-opened (albeit never fully abrogated) on the 7th day of the 7th month of 2007? God establishes a worldwide covenant with His people.

Strangely, Pope Benedict never offered the extraordinary form in public.  On the other hand, Pope Benedict XVI called the ordinary form “a banal, on-the-spot-fabrication.” How then, did he expect the old rites and new rites to be streamlined together in a single parish?  Pope Benedict proposed “the hermeneutic of continuity.”  The hermeneutic of continuity holds that there is to be no rupture in liturgy (or doctrine) before the Council or after the Council.  I believe that this was the number one goal of his papacy and Summorum Pontificum.  Has it worked?

At least one bishop this year has repealed Summorum Pontficum by stating that “Masses are not to be celebrated using the Extraordinary Form without my permission” as seen in this article.  The new Mass is rarely permitted by bishops to be celebrated according to even post-Vatican-II rules.  If you think this is an exaggeration, consider the 2004 document signed by Pope John Paul II and written by Cardinal Arinze, titled Redemptionis Sacramentum.   In this document, it is clear that the new Mass can be done ad orientem (facing the altar.)  Latin is permitted (yes, in the Mass of Vatican II) and pastors were encouraged to effect an enormous reduction of Extraordinary “Ministers” of Holy Communion.  Pastors were permitted to eradicate reception of Holy Communion in the hand. Free-floating chalices were to be retracted anytime the Most Precious Blood of Jesus could be spilled. All of this is in Redemptionis Sacramentum, an official post-Vatican II document giving guidelines for the Mass of Paul VI.

But ad orientem worship was prohibited this past year as a clamp-down against Cardinal Sarah’s call for ad orientem Novus Ordo Masses (an echo of his African predecessor, Cardinal Arinze who wrote RS.)  The few priests who try to do the new Mass according to its own rules are sent to the boondocks of their diocese.  Priests who preach the truth of the Gospel are more and more frequently going into exile like  this courageous priest from San Diego.

On this one point I agree with the theology of Bergoglio more than the theology of Ratzinger: There is no hermeneutic of continuity after Vatican II. The former has not said so specifically, but that is clearly his message in every conference, every week.  Ratizinger’s envisioned “hermeneutic of continuity” was that the traditional doctrine, life and liturgy of Catholics would eventually make peace with, say, the progressive Cardinals of Northern Europe. Benedict tried to win them to his mild form of orthodoxy.  How did they respond?  They did something so mysterious that Dutch radio reported “that Ratzinger resigned because of” Cardinal Danneels and his friends. Benedict apparently denies this: 1  However, he looks strangely tired in every picture I see of him.  Is he just old?  Perhaps, but he actually looks disoriented, which I think is suspicious.  Before he gave up the battle, his eyes seemed to say:  “I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war.”—Psalm 119/120.

I believe that the primary driver for the spiritual attack against Pope Benedict was indeed his decree of Summorum Pontificum.  Why?  Neither Pope Benedict nor his earthly enemies know this, but demons know that Summorum Pontificum is the priest’s main link back to a Mass that the Council of Trent calls “Apostolic.” This would mean that Benedict somewhat-naively re-released the single greatest weapon of spiritual warfare for the good guys.   2

Even if I am wrong about my above speculations, most people agree that the days of feigned peace between traditional liturgy and wacky doctrines are long gone.  Many men in power are now promoting a Hegelian dialectic where the “spirit” changes with human authority. The new Mass is no longer controlled through the lens of Church History, but through a nominalism condemned in Pope Benedict’s 2006 Regensburg address against Islam.  Nominalism means authority can function in a manner willy-nilly:  For example, the Vatican may or may not be currently in the works of fabricating an “Ecumenical Rite of Mass” for joint worship with Protestants. Or, consider how random it is that priests in Rome are being admonished to abandon daily Mass in favor of group concelebration.

Nominalism is the name of the game in the implementation of the new Mass.  But is it only the implementation?  Archbishop Bugnini said that he wrote the new Mass so that every parish be different in its celebration from the neighboring parish.  See how wave-after-wave of semi-conservative young priests coming through the rank and file of America’s seminaries (with the promethean task of “doing the new Mass the right way”) always end up subsumed into the squishy pastoral-goo of parish life that has bled between 15 million and 20 million Catholics in the West following Vatican II.  Sheep without shepherds.  Soft-will-to power attracts few manly men to worship.   (But go see a Traditional Latin Mass parish and you will find at least one military family, if not many.)

The few young priests who shield their conscience in choosing the 1962 sacraments (as allowed by Summorum Pontificum) face a harsher punishment:  Just two weeks ago, a bishop asked his own priest (who I know very well!) to leave the priesthood and be “laicized.”  Look:  Bishops don’t even ask priests caught in homosexual relationships to be “laicized.”  This is additional proof that there is something more than natural attack (read: preternatural attack) coming against Summorum Pontificium and the 1962 sacraments.

CS Lewis once wrote, “We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”  The combination of Summorum Pontificum and the sad state of Rome-today ironically work towards the same goal:  Priests will have to choose either a Mass that was designed with ambiguity (and is thus susceptible to a Hegelian dialectic of theology and Nietzsche’s will-to-power under the prelate-flavor of the day…) or choose a Mass that goes back to the fourth century, nearly unchanged, nearly unchange-able.  Yes, it is becoming clear that the new Mass will never follow the rules of Redemptionis Sacramentum in even putatively-conservative dioceses of the world (except maybe Lincoln and Arlington?)  In any case, it seems that Summorum Pontificum is currently the West’s only spelunking rope in a dark cave back to the light of what the Council of Trent calls “an Apostolic Mass.”

Summorum Pontificum colliding with the current circus maximus of Rome actually creates a fork in the road where there is no more grey zone, no more sitting on the fence.  Finally, America’s smiley seminarians will have to man-up and choose either the living tradition of Divine Revelation or an ecumenical concelebration ad absurdum.   The latter is possible, considering that progressive prelates are tolerant of everything except the hermeneutic of continuity.  If I am right on this, then this means that Summorum Pontificum is currently the only road back to tradition.  It is a road fraught with thorns and priestly betrayal. Such is the glory of the cross.


  1. “There is absolutely no doubt regarding the validity of my resignation from the Petrine ministry,”—Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, expressed in a letter to the Italian website Vatican Insider.  

  2.  The so-called “extraordinary form” of the Mass was ordinary in the early Church, for the Notre Dame publication The Liturgy Revived:  A Doctrinal Commentary on the Conciliar Constitution on the Liturgy, shows that although this Mass was first in Greek, the translation of the Roman Canon was done carefully over 120 years, culminating sometime between 350 and 382 with the current Roman Canon. (Notice how long a liturgical translation should take:  Over 100 years!)  The Roman Canon was used, not the prayer of St. Hippolytus which was injected into the new Eucharistic Prayer II in the 1960s.  In fact, the prayer of St. Hippolytus was simply a personal prayer, not a liturgical one.  Why we were taught that this was an ancient liturgy in seminary is beyond me.  The truth is that Hippolytus’ prayer was probably injected into the puny Eucharistic Prayer II in an Italian coffeeshop in one night following Vatican II.  This is no substitute for the Roman Canon, because what is known by the past two Popes as “the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite” was known as “ordinary” for about 250+ Popes.  How is this an unruptured hermeneutic of continuity?  Unless, of course, Pope Benedict meant it as a theological sleight of hand in favor of the Traditional Latin Mass, since the Mass is by its very nature “extraordinary”!  But I highly doubt it.

The Over-Intellectualization of the Catholic Faith

I have only been a priest for seven years. About halfway through that period, I switched from the Novus Ordo to the Traditional Latin Mass and sacraments. It was also during this time that I stopped saying a line that I was famous for in seminary: “We do not have a crisis of sacraments. We have a crisis of catechesis.” I used to say this because I knew how many people received Holy Communion in this country without knowing Who they were receiving. In fact, I put my money where my mouth was:  As a young priest, I taught a Eucharistic class just off-campus of Colorado State University, a school with 33,000 students. I called my class “Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist” after this excellent book by Dr. Brandt Pitre. Most weeks I had about 50 CSU students attending that class. Their hunger and faithfulness was my proof that “we do not have a crisis of sacraments but a crisis of catechesis.” And the students responded with fervor and a greater Eucharistic love.

Programs like Catholic Formed now flood the American parishes of younger priests and more orthodox older pastors. Formed is a new video program of catechesis designed to invite the ordinary Sunday Catholic into a deeper formation of video catechesis. These movies include good information on the sacraments, moral teaching, salvation history and Catholic Church history. Formed features the common lineup of orthodox lay Catholic celebrities who have gained their fame in apologetics and chastity topics. They really do a good job at tackling our current crisis of catechesis. But do we really have a crisis of catechesis instead of the sacraments as I had said for most of my priesthood?

Since switching to the Traditional Latin Mass, I have seen that most of our modern catechetical methods are geared exclusively towards the intellect. For example, the average rich, suburban American parish now has a small handful of devoted Catholics who would not have believed in the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist had they not read a Scott Hahn book. And God bless Scott Hahn for his great intellectual work.

But notice that in the previous paragraph I purposely used the word “rich, suburban parish.” By and large, these are the decent parishes which (thankfully!) have moved past the 1970s catechesis of exclusively-social-justice materials.  Formed and That Man is You and Scott Hahn “book clubs” are all great for budding intellectuals who don’t have to work 80 hours a week on a Louisiana oil barge. But what happens to the run-of-the-mill poor Catholic? How does the blue collar worker (who might be too busy to read a book by Tim Staples) receive catechesis on the sacraments?

The answer is that for thousands of years, the catechesis happened by kneeling at Holy Mass.  I do not mean that Mass is enough to catechize ourselves.  I mean that the serious Catholic learned and prayed during the week as best he could.  Then on Sunday, everything he learned or offered was forged in a mysterious and powerful ritual that incorporated all his senses, his intellect, his will. He would have have to kneel for most of the Mass. There was no question in his mind that he had to be “set apart” in baptism and grace to do something as strange as receive Holy Communion, even in poor mission countries of the illiterate.  He might wonder:  Why did he have to kneel at an altar rail? He stuck his tongue out while the priest blessed him with the Son of God. If not a sign of the majesty of God…if not a sign of the chasm between Creator and creature…this ritual was simply too weird for a non-Catholic to approach the ancient ritual! In other words, the Traditional Latin Mass engenders catechesis because it engenders automatic reverence and intimacy (or total rejection if one finds it “weird.”) The average illiterate Catholic learned that Jesus was truly present by simply attending Mass. He did not need a book tailored to a bourgeois intellectual group to tell us the Mass is still “valid” even if it doesn’t appear to be so:


It would take a PhD from the University of Dallas to accurately explain how this this is the sacrifice of Calvary.

On the other hand, an exhausted marine is easily forced to his knees with his head down at the Traditional Latin Mass in Saipan during the Pacific Theatre of World War II:

My sister and her husband are raising their children in a Byzantine Rite of the Catholic Church. My niece began prostrating at the age of 18 months at the right time of the Divine Liturgy. She had learned by a full-body experience that she is not God. She learns to adore God and to prostrate before him even before she learns the term “transubstantiation” (a term she may never learn in the East.) But she already knows that her Mom is not allowed to hand out the Holy Eucharist in that Divine Liturgy.  There is an iconostasis separating everyone from the Holy of Holies, the Eucharist.  That teaches a lot.

For nearly 2,000 years, the ancient liturgies of both East and West had catechesis built-in in a way that was not hyper-intellectualized. Catholicism needs to be accessible to the illiterate (as much as to the Christendom College grad student.) The above picture of the soldiers kneeling for the Traditional Latin Mass is the perfect example of this. Catechesis was a full-body experience of the majesty of God. For centuries, Catholic learning was done in all five senses: The sight of the priest facing God, the smells of the incense, the sounds of angelic Gregorian chant. Yes, all of these can be done in the Novus Ordo, but it is not just the externals of the Mass.  Rather, I am talking about the substance of tradition that was passed on within every sacrament, and substituted only 50 years ago. For example, when I used to do the new anointing of the sick, I put a little oil put on the head and then I moved on to the next hospital room. Now, in extreme unction, I anoint the mouth, the nose, the ears, the eyes, the feet, the hands and the forehead. It’s not my personal catechesis of the sacrament. It is required in the rite, probably anointing all those body parts since the time that St. James wrote about it in the Bible.

Everything in these sacraments (which can be traced back to the 6th century at the latest) taught man and woman that there exists a chasm between Creator and creature. The illiterate Catholic learned about the majesty of God and the evil of his own sin by simply hearing that he had to have his sins forgiven, those he had committed with his eyes, ears, hands, even nose, as the old rite extreme unction strangely says. (What sins can be committed by smell!?)  And yet, it is not strange. It is beautiful, for the ancient prayers for the commendation of the dying call more frequently on God’s mercy than anything I have seen in the new anointing books.

Yes, the rich Catholics of America now have a library of books by Steubenville grads. And I like these books. But they are all a replacement of what Catholicism taught by it’s very nature: A full-bodied, full-person experience of the majesty of God. The intellectual side was not as emphasized. The reason the Novus Ordo rites invite an over-intellectualization of the Catholic faith is first of all because the author of these rites, Archbishop Bugnini, actually consulted with five or six Protestants to write it. (Remember, faith for Protestants is a Credal and emotional act, where for Catholics, the Faith is best summarized in the book of Romans as “the obedience of faith.”) But because the new rites do not carry much physical actions, the lacunae must be filled by lay apologists. God bless them, but they should know that their jobs are concessionary existences for what we priests and the ancient rites used to carry in our very being.

Maybe the best would be to keep producing the Steubenville books but return to all the 1962 sacraments.  That way, the new presentation practiced by the Church Fathers could be forged in the very sacraments of the Church Fathers (erroneously named the “Tridentine Mass,” since the Traditional Latin Mass was nearly-fully crystallized between 350 AD and 380 AD.)  By contrast, the changes of the past 50 years to the liturgy present us some sad challenges, especially since we live in a era that has little time for intellectual or aesthetical learning on the mysteries of God:

The challenge becomes more difficult because one of the peculiarities of the old rite is that it makes itself accessible only slowly—unless the uninitiated newcomer to this ancient pattern of worship is a religious genius. One has never ‘learned everything there is to learn’ about the Roman Rite, because in its very origin and essence this enduring and truly extraordinary form is hermetic, presupposing arcane discipline and rigorous initiation…The great damage caused by the liturgical revolution after Vatican II consists above all in the way in which the Church lost the conviction with which all Catholics—illiterate goatherds, maids and laborers, Descartes and Pascal—naturally took part in the Church’s sacred worship. Up until then, the rite was among the riches of the poor, who, through it, entered into a world that was otherwise closed to them. They experienced in the old Mass the life to come as well as life in the present, an experience of which only artists and mystics are otherwise capable.”—Martin Mosebach, Return to Form, Crisis Magazine.

I experienced what Mosebach writes about during my mission trips to poor nations around the world. During my second trip to India, I lived with some lay American missionaries in Kolkata. One night, a mix of Americans and Indians were having a conversation about the Catholic Church. A 45 year old Indian was very thankful that Vatican II opened to Indians a deeper understanding of the Mass, now that they understood the language of the service. When posed with the question “Why do you go to Holy Mass?” he and I both agreed that most young Catholics from both the United States and India would say “To receive Jesus in the Eucharist.” We were both content that this is a better answer than the 1970s answer: “I go to Mass because of the community.”

However, I then reminded my new Indian friend about the history of Indian Catholicism. I reminded him about the missions of St. Francis Xavier and I said: “Any of your ancestors evangelized by St. Francis Xavier would have described the Mass with one word that your friends and my missionary friends would not use: Sacrifice. An illiterate 16th century Indian farmer or a little girl in Chicago in the 1940s Catholic school system would give the same description: ‘The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.’ Why wouldn’t your friends or my missionary friends in the United States use that word ’sacrifice’?”  I suspect that the absence of this term (even among relatively-orthdox young Catholics) is because the New Mass no longer looks like a Jewish priest at a Jewish sacrifice. It no longer feels like that. That is why people think they have to receive Holy Communion at Mass, no matter what, even if they’re in mortal sin.  The True Presence is all they have.

I don’t mean to downplay the beauty of the answer, “The True Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.” But the liturgical reality of “sacrifice” is still of supreme importance to the most proletariat of Sunday-Mass goers. Current liturgical theology maintains that the Eucharist is confected by the priest, but rarely is it mentioned by even orthodox CCD teachers that this happens within the very sacrifice of Calvary re-presented. Never have I heard it mentioned from a “JPII-generation Catholic” or even a professor at my seminary what constitutes the nature of the sacrifice of the Mass:  The separation of the body and blood of Jesus, under the species of the double consecration of bread and wine.  In fact, one “very conservative” nun who taught us sacramental theology mocked this theology as merely devotional.  She did not want to hear me point out that this was what was taught by everyone from St. Gregory Nazienzen to the Council of Trent to Archbishop Fulton Sheen.

Even if you don’t remember the above reasons for why the Mass is a sacrifice, remember this: Sacrifice is key to explaining the Mass. You can’t just say “Jesus is really present in the Eucharist.” Why? Because the presence of God without sacrifice is Protestantism. The Franciscan University grads will talk all day about the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but rarely will they speak of the sacrifice of the Mass. Perhaps that is why their divorce rate is the nearly the same as they rest of the nation: They want presence without sacrifice. 1

Our Faith is founded on the Holy Sacrifice of Calvary, which is the same as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. For somewhere between 1500 years and 2000 years, Western Rites Catholics were always seen kneeling for about 75% of the duration of the Mass. All this kneeling taught something important to their children, children who could be found worshipping on their knees throughout the old Roman Empires, in Los Angeles in 1925 or off a river in Goa in 1540. Yes, children would have knelt before a sacrifice of Calvary that took place at the hands of St. Francis Xavier who baptized hundreds of thousands with those very same hands.  They knew Who was in his hands was somehow even greater than the saint, for the saint himself would kneel before the King of Kings (even if a Jesuit comrade to follow him would not kneel before the Eucharist five hundred years later.)

The conversation with that 45 year old Indian man continued in some different directions that night. About 20 minutes after the above conversation, he started explaining to me how important religion is in India. He said whenever there is a religious event, dizzying myriads of worshippers show up: Be it Hindu, be it Muslim, Be it Sikh, Be it Christian, there are hundreds of thousands or even millions of people who come to worship in pilgrimage. He told me about how 100,000 Catholics will frequently show up at a devotional event that has only one altar. Thus, the 8am Mass (on that single altar) will be in Tamil for 10,000 Catholics. The 9am Mass will be in Bengali for another 10,000 pilgrims. The 10am Mass will be in Hindi and the noon Mass will be in English. The 45 year old Indian had just forgotten about our mild debate on Vatican II just 20 minutes earlier, but I wanted to gently bring him back to that discussion on Vatican II. So, I broached the subject lightly by asking him: “And what did all Indian Catholics do before Vatican II?” The good Indian man hung his head a little. He quietly replied: “We all worshipped together.”


  1. I brought this well-repeated but undocumented statistic of FUS divorce to a friend who used to work for the development department of Franciscan University of Steubenville. I immediately believed he would balk at it, but to my surprise, he admitted it was true. To this day, I do not have statistics to back this up. However, several reputable sources have told me that this is true. This means that the national divorce rate is about 50%. The national Catholic divorce rate is about 50%. The divorce rate for FUS would therefore also be about 50%. However, this was told to me about 10 years ago, so I hope things have changed. I imagine that the rate has lessened, since most FUS grads are at least intellectually (there’s that word again!) against contraception.  But for Catholics who live a life without contraception, the divorce rate is 3% in all studies averaged.  That 3% is the average of numerous studies that are all statistically significant, including large populations sampled.

The Link Between Abortion and Trafficking

It is often believed that those who spend their time fighting abortion are of a different ilk than those who fight child sex-slavery. Indeed, all those seeking justice usually have time for only one area of total-expertise, but my blog today will attempt to show that both child-sex slavery and abortion feed each other in a vicious cycle. We must become abolitionists for both of these attacks on children. Indeed, besides the obvious link that slavery and abortion both harm innocent children, there are several important reasons why sex-slavery will continue to grow within the abortion and contraception empire.

1) The disproportionate number of unborn girls killed in China has driven young Chinese men to Vietnam and Cambodia in order to kidnap children as “brides.”
China had a one child policy from 1979 to 2013. This changed to a two-child policy in 2013. However, because a family could only have one child, they heavily favored a male child. Thus, Chinese girls were aborted in the millions. Some of these abortions were elective. Other times these were governmentally-forced abortions, even to the extent that China had “abortion vans” that travelled and forced abortions upon young Moms. The effect of this one-child policy has led to an aging population as the BBC reported on here. The effects of gender selection are also far-reaching. By 2020, China will have an astronomical 30 million more men than women. Who will these men marry? The men of China now pay for kidnapped children in Southeast Asia. (The term “child-bride” is a an inaccurate term, considering that coyotes simply kidnap child sex-slaves for a single “owner.”) Thousands of Hmong girls have been kidnapped from Vietnam for Chinese men who have no one to marry, as seen in this article by Business Insider, appropriately titled Chinese men buying brides from Vietnam is getting out of control.  Put all this together and the conclusion is obvious: Abortion has played a significant role in the child-sex slavery of Asia today.

2) Planned Parenthood keeps American pimps in business.
Today, there are at least 27 million slaves in the world. At least 2 million of these are child sex-slaves (more than 2 million, if we consider how many abused work sex “on the side” of their forced manual labor.) The United States government reports that there are 100,000 child-sex slaves here in the United States alone. (One should never use the term “child prostitute,” since a child never chooses prostitution, for only emotional brainwashing and drugs lead these children to this forced sex-slavery.) The FBI has rescued children as young as 6 years old from child sex-slavery. 95% of the child sex-slaves in the United States are girls, and most of them are between the age of 13 and 18. Of course, these are child-bearing years for most of these girls. But if a pimp is to allow 20 johns (trafficking term for rapist) a day to enter a 15 year old child sex-slave, he most certainly does not want her to get pregnant. The answer is clearly contraception and abortion for the numerous children that he “owns.”

However, these pimps do not want to get caught, so Planned Parenthood has proven to be their aid in providing contraception and abortion to their sex-slaves, without the involvement of law enforcement. In this video, Live Action conducted a sting-operation in 2011 against Planned Parenthood in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. A fake pimp tells Planned Parenthood manager Amy Woodruff, “We’re involved in sex work…some of them are like fifteen, fourteen, and some of ‘em don’t speak any English.” Amy Woodruff then helps the fake pimp to keep the girls in slavery. She even gives him advice on what kinky acts the children can do for sex after the children are subjected to abortion. “Waist up,” Woodruff says with a smile. This is not an isolated incident. Planned Parenthood frequently covers for adults raping children. In this similar sting-operation video, the sexual abuse of a 13 year old proved to be no problem for Indianapolis Planned Parenthood.  Law enforcement is never contacted to help a 13 year old who was raped.  Money remains the bottom line for Planned Parenthood.

The abortion agency goes deeper into the world of child sex-slavery than most of us pro-lifers might expect. Roughly two-thirds of those rescued from sex-slavery say that their forced abortions came not from a back-alley abortion chop-shop, but rather from an official abortion center. In this sickening report, one young survivor said, “I got pregnant six times and had six abortions during this time. Several of them were from a doctor who was a client- he did them back door- I came in the back door after hours and paid them off the books. This kept my name off any records…At least one of my abortions was from Planned Parenthood because they didn’t ask any questions.” Notice that the abortion doctor raped a child and then killed his own child when she got pregnant by him.

3) Contraception is the bond that keeps teenage sex-slaves under control, not free to control their own bodies.
A Guttmacher report shows that “54 percent of women who have abortions had used a contraceptive method…during the month they became pregnant.” This means that contraceptives do not prevent abortion, but rather promote abortion. Besides the fact that the Pill or injections function as an abortifacient nearly 500 million times a year worldwide, the Pill and barrier methods also prove to be false-saftey nets against surgical abortions for both girls and women. What does this mean for the trafficking world? This means that contraception and abortion go hand-in-hand for traffickers who are trying to control their teenage girls’ active reproductive systems. The reasoning is obvious: Traffickers must stop pregnancy at all costs. A child born to one of his slaves will greatly reduce his income. Thus, conception and birth must be stopped at all costs for the pimps who make hundreds of thousands a year on their child sex-slaves, even here in the United States. Indeed, contraception and abortion are the primary bonds against the girls (combined with the brainwashing and drugs to get them in the underground market in the first place.)

The ILO reports that Human trafficking earns profits of roughly $150 billion a year for traffickers. This includes $99 billion from commercial sexual exploitation. Mafia members have switched from selling drugs to selling girls. Why? Cocaine can be used only once, but a girl can be used over 20,000 times. Thus, child sex-slavery is extremely profitable, as long as the girls don’t get pregnant.  And if they do get pregnant, Planned Parenthood will abort the baby with no questions asked.  That way, the children return to their abusive owners (who pay for the abortions) as soon as possible.

In 2011, the FBI did a raid on a brothel in New Jersey. They suspected that there were Mexican prostitutes being run out of the home. What they found was rather a home for child sex-slavery. This became the well known story of “The Girls Next Store.” The FBI website reports:

“The article ‘The Girls Next Door’ describes a conventional midcentury home in Plainfield, New Jersey, that sat in a nice middle-class neighborhood. Unbeknownst to the neighbors, the house was part of a network of stash houses in the New York area where underage girls and young women from dozens of countries were trafficked and held captive. Acting on a tip, police raided the house in February 2002, expecting to find an underground brothel. Instead, they found four girls between the ages of 14 and 17, all Mexican nationals without documentation. However, they were not prostitutes; they were sex slaves. These girls did not work for profit or a paycheck. They were captives to the traffickers and keepers who controlled their every move. The police found a squalid, land-based equivalent of a 19th-century slave ship. They encountered rancid, doorless bathrooms; bare, putrid mattresses; and a stash of penicillin, ‘morning after’ pills, and an antiulcer medication that can induce abortion. The girls were pale, exhausted, and malnourished.”

Notice who wanted the easy access to morning-after pills and abortion-inducing drugs. It was not the teenage Mexican girls. It was their captors who wanted easy access to contraceptives and abortifacients. Of course, these were not for the physical health of the young girls, but to keep them enslaved as long as possible. Thus, contraception is like chemical handcuffs that the pimps put on barely-fertile girls, even here in the United States. Remember also from number two above that many abortion centers will provide contraception and abortion for these for girls being raped without any involvement of law enforcement. Thus, even the FBI report makes it clear that abortion and child-sex slavery fit together like a hand in a glove.

We must get over the Pretty Woman glamour of prostitution that we saw in that movie with Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. In that imaginary world of prostitution of the 1980s, an adult woman uses contraception for her health. The reality is much more grim. First, the normal oral contraceptive kills embryos at the rate of millions a year.  Secondly, the Pill frequently causes pulmonary embolisms in women, as seen in this study by the British Medical Journal. Thirdly, most girls enter slave work during their teenage years, usually against their will.    This means that contraception rarely comes with their own consent. Globally, contraception is truly the friend of traffickers.  The New York Times even did an article titled To Maintain Supply of Sex Slaves, ISIS Pushes Birth Control.

4) Once a society allows children to be abused in the uterus, they will be abused as toddlers and teens.
When the topic of child sexual abuse comes up in conversation, many Americans will bring up the Catholic Church priest scandals. The 2% of priests who did such actions did irreparable harm, so I will never make any excuse for those priests who destroyed families and probably forfeitted their own souls if they die without repentance. However, the Catholic Church has always said that such behavior is a mortal sin, and it is categorized as a sin that cries out to God for vengeance. So, we need not worry about the articulated faith and morals of the Catholic Church on this. But we should worry about the teaching of the academy on these things.  Consider that the American Psychiatric Association has recently (but somewhat quietly) condoned pedophilia by declaring that It’s Normal to be Aroused by Children.

One of my heroes in the anti-slavery movement is an Italian priest named Fr. Cesare Lodeserto. In Italy, countless women and girls from Albania and Nigeria have been trafficked into the sex-slave world. Fr. Lodeserto has not only rescued numerous Albanian women, but he has a safe house until they can return to work a normal job in the world. This safe-house has heavy steel gates at the entrance, replete with armed police patrol behind its high wire fence. Due to his rescue of valuable “property,” the mafia even kidnapped Fr. Lodeserto and threatened his life, as seen here. But Fr. Lodeserto continues in his life saving work of women.

When a trafficked woman gives birth to a baby, she is rarely free to leave the sex-trade business. In fact, the mafia who does the trafficking will often take the baby and harvest it for organs. A 22 year old Romanian prostitute who gave birth to baby. The baby was taken by her pimp and killed. She never saw her baby again. She said, “I think that my babies were taken for their organs or to be sold. I don’t know for sure.” See the BBC article here with her and Fr. Lodeserto.

Why do the pimps take these babies? In that same article, Fr. Lodeserto explains that the babies are kidnapped to kill and then sell their organs, especially their kidneys and livers to the international transplant industry. Secondly, he points to the illegal adoption agency, which has also become a very profitable business.

What does this have to do with abortion? You see, once a child is a commodity in the uterus, a toddler or teen will soon lose value in society, especially if the young person be a female. We should not be shocked that a world that accepts abortion will kidnap the babies of sex-slaves and kill them for their organs.  Just click on the BBC article above if you think this is an exaggeration.

The rate of gender-selection in favor of boys in India is upwards of 99%. During the National Prayer Breakfast in February 1997, Mother Teresa said the following in the presence of President Bill Clinton and Hilary Clinton: “What is taking place in America is a war against the child. And if we accept that the mother can kill her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another.” I add: When a life can be extinguished by the push of a vacuum button, then what is to stop a nation from pushing a similar button to nuke another country? Indeed, the ending of abortion is our only hope for the safety of children worldwide. We are now seeing that we are willing to kill and abuse toddlers and little girls, and I believe this is because we have devalued pre-born life.

What can we do to rescue and protect children?

You can donate to your favorite a pro-life organization that either does sidewalk counseling, free ultrasound services, work for unwed pregnant mothers or support families who have adopted children originally slated for abortion. As most people have their favorite pro-life organization, I will not suggest any here.

However, to rescue those involved in sex-slavery, I will suggest a new Catholic home is opening near San Diego. Children of the Immaculate Heart is to be a refuge for teenage girls who were sex-slaves. The Children of the Immaculate Heart will take care of the girls’ physical needs and psychological needs following unspeakable trauma. It will also be also offer very orthodox Catholic teaching for any girls who are open to it. I’d encourage you to support this exciting new venture.

Most importantly, fast and pray for the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart, the only thing that will end abortion and child sex-slavery. The Holy Mass and the Rosary are our best weapons. Please make a concrete resolution with me to pray these daily for the end of everything you just read.

 

Why you should stop confessing pornography

Really, a better title of this article is “Why to stop confessing pornography badly.” Or: “Why confession without amendment will still lead to the loss of your soul.” People do not realize the danger in confessing pornography without a firm resolution of amendment to totally change their life.  That is the purpose of this blog post.

Going to confession within a week (before or after) of Divine Mercy Sunday totally relieves the soul of not only the eternal effects of sin (hell) but also the temporal effects of sin (purgatory.) Jesus said to St. Faustina, “The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. Everything that exists has come forth from the very depths of My most tender mercy. Every soul in its relation to Me will contemplate My love and mercy throughout eternity. The Feast of Mercy emerged from My very depths of tenderness. It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy.”—Diary 699

However, one of the requirements for a good confession is “firm resolution of amendment.” Firm resolution of amendment means that you will try to avoid the sin that you just confessed. I’m going to give you five reasons to never fall into pornography again.  I write this for men, but some women mind find a loving challenge in my words, too:

1) Confession cleanses the soul but not the memory. Pornography and masturbation are both mortal sins, even when committed exclusively of the other. In fact, lustful thoughts without pornography can be mortal, for Jesus said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”—Matthew 5:27. Now add to this the fact that pornography is biochemically burned at each use into the memory section of the brain.  Now add into this mix the fact that the Church teaches that confession generally relieves the eternal effects of sin (the soul) but rarely the consequences of the sin (the memory.) Now add into this mix the fact that demonologists and exorcists teach that demons have access to the memory (but demons do not have access to the substance of the soul where the Blessed Trinity resides in someone in sanctifying grace.) Combine all of the above facts of human biology and Church doctrine and this is the stunning outcome: Demons have some access to your memory of past pornography even when you are in sanctifying grace!  Do you see why this addiction must be stopped as soon as possible?  Accessing those memories (on your own, or with some infernal help) can be a slick road to a mental fall as you picture all the filthy things of your past.   St. Francis De Sales teaches that thoughts become mortal sin when “you with full deliberation resolve to take pleasure in such delight.”  Do you see why your brain can not take one more insult of filth? You don’t know when the tipping point will be, so do not presume upon confession. Confession will not cleanse your memory, but you can start doing that by making a firm resolution of amendment to never see pornography again. This will be necessary for a clean mind.

2) Pornography releases real-live demons into your home. Consider the quote of Jesus above where he says that simply looking upon a woman with lust is “adultery.” Now consider the fact that exorcists say that there are actually specific demons of adultery. Demons can probably not commit lust (since they have no physical body) but there are demons on specific missions of lust against us humans. Thus, binding yourself to a woman you see in pornography invites those demons into your home. I am not an exorcist, but I do minor-exorcisms in deliverance ministry that has taken me even to India. When I work with young fathers who have addictions and fetishes, I often notice that their children have very strange screaming patterns that almost sound diabolical.  I am not saying those kids are possessed, but there are some signs of diabolical obsession in these families where the dad struggles with porn.  In any case, I am totally convinced that young fathers who use pornography are bringing demons into their home. How sad that these are the very men who want to protect their family and provide for their home.   The end of this article will include new weapons for them to beat this silent killer of family life.   As I was writing this article tonight, I texted an exorcist friend on this topic and he wrote me:    “All exorcists are consistent on this point: The continuous and unrepentant commission of mortal sins constitutes an increasing danger of demonic obsession (in a body) or infestation (in a place)… The more frequent the consent, the more open the invitation to these demons. The regular habit of viewing porn allows the entry of those unclean spirits into one’s life and home.”

3) Looking at pornography grows the child sex-slavery business even when you’re looking at adults. Here’s why:
The same men often run both industries. Huffington Post quotes “Fight the New Drug” in saying that “when these customers show up [to use prostitutes] many come ready with porn images in hand to show the women they’re exploiting—many of which are human trafficking victims controlled by pimps—what they’ll be forced to do…According to FTND CEO Clay Olsen, ‘porn fuels the demand for the sex trade’ in a way often not seen by those who view porn. ‘Traffickers have learned to package their product in a way that disguises the fact that the “performers” are forced to participate,’ said Olsen.” Thus, we must ask the question: Who are these human trafficking victims? In 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) funded a study that looked at sex trafficking of minors in the U.S.  The victims in this study reported a median age of 15 years old, though some think it may be closer to 13 and others 19.

Think of your fifteen year old daughter being kidnapped and used for movies over the next ten years the next time you think that pornography is “harmless.”

4) “Normal” pornography use fosters a desire for child-porn or violence. There’s actually a science behind this. Dopamine and norepinephrine are powerful pleasure chemicals released in the brain during orgasm. But unlike normal married sex, the immediate and ubiquitous access to pornography allows those chemicals to be released so frequently that an up-regulation of the biochemical receptors happens. That means that when more receptors are made (to “catch” the more frequent floods of bio-chemicals that come at orgasm) more chemicals are similarly required to even reach simple orgasm. The outcome of this up regulation on a biochemical level has  one of two earthy outcomes:
A) Total loss of sex drive. Even my most unfavorite magazine, Time Magazine, had this article to show that millions of young men have lost any desire to have sex with real women because of how often they masturbate to fake women.

or

B) More and more kinky porn. As I wrote, the up-regulation of receptors requires a greater flood of biochemicals to reach orgasm, and the only way to release more chemicals is to get into more shocking and kinky material. Many men get bored with “ordinary” pornography and they slowly wade into the world of child-pornography or violence. This begins with BDSM (Bondage, Domination, Sado-Maschism) but it often ends in acting out real violence, often against children. Many serial killers did not think that “innocent” pornography would ever lead them to killing, but many of them admit that the strange attraction to the next higher-high of human interaction and degradation all began with the self-abuse of simple pornography. Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy both say that pornography was their launching point into their serial killing. I have included in this footnote the quotes from fourteen serial killers on how they got their start in pornography: 1

 

5) St. Thomas Aquinas taught that masturbation is worse than pre-marital sex: “And therefore simple fornication, which is committed without injury to another person, is the least kind of lust.”—Summa Theologica II.II.154.12. St. Thomas is basically saying that although both are mortal sins, masturbation is actually worse than the old fashioned consensual sex behind the barn of two young lovers. Why? Because masturbation is a direct offense against nature and the Creator who gives us the option for life. At least fornication is still open to life. (St. Thomas Aquinas never fathomed that there could be a Pill to kill 500 million tiny individuals every year.) But barring the topic of contraception and abortion, we can say this confidently: Masturbation does more harm to your soul than simply having pre-marital sex. (But abortion is worse than both, and most people who have pre-marital sex are mildly open to abortion.  Even without abortion or contraception, God obviously does not want us to do either fornication or masturbation.)  This is also why oral sex is worse than normal intercourse.  I wish every Catholic high school student in this country could read this single part of my blog post.  Many Catholic young adults believe they can receive Holy Communion on that same filthy mouth that did that sick sin as long as they didn’t do the one natural sin of fornication that at least reflects the marital act!

As a subset of number five, I think I should mention that I believe that masturbation is a homosexual act. Many men might think they feel manly by looking at pictures of women and masturbating. But the reality of it is: It’s a man’s hand that is leading a man to ejaculate. I might take some angry comments or emails for this one, but it has to be said: Masturbation may be one reason why so many straight men become gay. Barring the debate on whether one is “born gay,” I think we all know people who thought they were straight for a long time… and then decided they were gay. I very much believe this may be due to a man masturbating himself, since, at the end of the day, it is a homosexual act: A man is doing it to a man or a woman is doing it to a woman. This is probably tied to the above where St. Thomas Aquinas believes masturbation is worse than normal fornication.

So, really this blog post should be this excessively verbose title: Why-you-should-stop-confessing-pornography-and-start-doing-something-to-end-pornography-in-your-life-so-that-you-can-begin-to-actually-make-a-good-confession-again.  None of this is for shock value.  If you don’t like to read about these things from a priest, well, I don’t really like to blog about them.  But not many other people are saying them, and I want to help people in this silent addiction.

Now for the good news…

If you find yourself in a cycle of pornography/masturbation and then confession every week, do not lose hope. I am proud of you for getting back up and going to confession. As Scott Hahn says, “The one thing greater than my ability to sin is my heavenly Father’s ability to forgive me.” “It does not matter how many times you fall, only how many times you get back up.”—St. Therese.

The blood of Jesus that covers us in confession is a totally free gift of grace, but for salvation to be realized, we must cooperate. If you keep falling into the cycle of pornography/masturbation and then confession every week, it is not God’s grace that is missing in your life! It is your cooperation. And because “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness” we need thermobaric weapons, not just the pellet guns of three Hail Marys a day for purity.

If you have an addiction to pornography or some other fettish, confess your sins regularly, but I do not think that you will ultimately beat it until you choose one of these spiritual thermobaric weapons:

1) 15-20 decades of the Rosary a day.

or

2) Fast on bread and water every Wednesday and Friday until you are two months clear of all pornography use (and consider the continuation of the practice to clear your memory of past insults of self-abuse.)

or

3) Join RECLAIM SEXUAL HEALTH . It is a couple hundred dollars, but many men who could never beat pornography and masturbation even after fasting have found help here. It is a system based on non-condemnation. It is a system based on getting the man to understand the pathophysiology of addiction, especially the chemical addiction of pornography. Finally, each man at the Reclaim Program gets his own personal coach on the phone who comes with total anonymity and secrecy. (In other words, he won’t call your home phone to have your wife find that you have a private coach to get you off pornography!)  Reclaim is supported by many American bishops as the best way for men to get off pornography.

Nothing could be greater than the grace imparted to us on Divine Mercy Sunday, but for salvation to be realized, we must cooperate. And if you’re serious about beating the destructive, diabolical sin of pornography, please consider one of the three above “thermobaric” spiritual weapons. If you don’t do it for you, then do it for your family.  Their spiritual environment hangs in the balance on your decision to take these things seriously or lightly.


    • Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer of Wisconsin, speaking of his routine before hunting for a victim said, “Just…using pictures of past victims…the pornography videos, the magazines…” Jeffrey Dahmer killed 17 boys and men.
    • Ted Bundy, convicted rapist and mutilation murderer of Washington, said that hard-core pornography had a “crystallizing effect” on his violent tendencies and his acting out during the 1970s.
    • Arthur Gary Bishop from Utah, executed for raping and murdering five boys in the 1980s, said pornography’s “effect on me was devastating.”
    • Andrei Chikatilo, a Russian serial killer, murdered at least 53 women and children. “…with pictures of naked women in his prison cell, he blamed pornography as the cause of this troubles.”
    • Wisconsin resident Ed Gein, the first serial killer, aka The Butcher of Plainfield, and inspiration for movies such as Psycho, Maniac, and The Silence of the Lambs “accumulated a library of anatomy books, porn magazines, horror and adventure novel…” in the 1950s.
    • John Wayne Gacy‘s wife filed for divorce in 1976 because “Gacy’s moods had become erratic, and [she] had found Gacy’s pornographic magazine collection which was all centered around young boys.” Gacy killed at least 33 young men and boys in Chicago, Illinois.
    • The nickname BTK (bind, torture, kill) was given to Dennis Rader, a Kansas native, who killed 10 people. “He kept meticulous records of his fantasies and crimes in what he called his ‘mother lode’ collection of pornography.”
    • David Berkowitz killed over a dozen people in New York. He joined a cult and was introduced to “drug use, sadistic pornography and violent crime.” The cult also created and distributed child pornography.
    • Richard Ramirez was exposed to explicit pictures of his cousin “raping Vietnamese women and severing the heads of Vietcong soldiers.” He in turn killed at least 13 people in California.
    • Edmund Kemper, a California serial killer and necrophile known as the Co-ed Killer, used pornography and detective magazines for erotic stimulation; he picked up women who were hitch-hiking, then killed, and raped them post-mortem.
    • Ottis Toole from Florida became obsessed with gay pornography. He “committed his first murder at the age of 14.” During his killing spree, accompanied by Henry Lee Lucas, he killed 108 people.
    • The Grim Sleeper, Lonnie Franklin Jr., “had a penchant for prostitutes and pornography.” A resident of LA, he would pick up prostitutes, take pornographic pictures of his victims, then strangle them to death. His killing spree included 11 murders.
    • In the 2013 murder case of Tia Sharp, a 12-year-old girl from the UK, the judge declared to murderer Stuart Hazell, “the records of your internet searching on your mobile phone make abundantly clear that you were looking out for pornographic pictures of pre-teen girls.”
    • In 2013, on the day Mark Bridger, a UK native,abducted April Jones, he “viewed online photographs of a young girl and a pornographic cartoon depicting…rape.”—https://www.netnanny.com/blog/what-serial-killers-and-murderers-think-about-pornography/  

5 Things You Might Not Know About St. Joseph

I’m going to write on five surprising things of St. Joseph in celebration of his feast day today.

1) St. Joseph was probably born without original sin. I know this one sounds heretical, but follow me here. A nun in Ohio received private revelations from Mary and Joseph in 1956, all of which were approved by Cardinal Burke in his letter to the USCCB in 1997. These apparitions are known as “Our Lady of America.” St. Joseph said the following about himself in this apparition: “It is true, my daughter, that immediately after my conception I was, through the future merits of Jesus and because of my exceptional role of future Virgin-Father, cleansed from the stain of original sin. I was, from that moment, confirmed in grace and never had the slightest stain on my soul. This is my unique privilege among men. My pure heart also was from the first moment of existence inflamed with love for God.” Mary was conceived without original sin. Joseph was conceived with original sin. However, if this apparition is true (and I believe it is) then immediately after his conception, Joseph was cleansed by God via the merits of Jesus on the cross applied retroactively. Thus, Jesus is still the Divine Savior of His foster-father, Joseph. Many ancient saints, popes, doctors and theologians of the Church have firmly believed that St. Joseph never committed an actual sin—neither mortal, nor even venial. This theological assertion does not empty the cross of its power, but rather reveals the omnipotence of God to apply the merits of the Redemption as He sees fit, even outside of time. Again, Jesus still saved Joseph from sin. (But this one probably deflates the old joke of Joseph getting blamed for everything in the breakfast-nook by the rest of the Holy Family.)

2) St. Joseph, betrothed to Mary, was a young-virgin himself. Although not defined, this is the teaching of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. Combine this with the dogma of Mary’s perpetual virginity, and the outcome is that St. Joseph is still a virgin in heaven. This sheds light on the hidden life of Nazareth, namely, that it took great virtue—not old age—to live in celibacy with the most beautiful woman ever created. This also means that Jesus was the only child that Joseph ever raised. Imagine this father teaching his son the Hebrew Scriptures late at night in his workshop. The angels themselves could not have made greater praise than these deep but tender, joyful whispers of the Psalms coming from a carpenter’s workshop day and night. (For Scriptural clarity on the identity of the mother of those relatives of Jesus always debated to be either His “brothers” versus His “cousins,” you can decide for yourself by reading Matt 27:55-56. It’s the entire Scriptural key to Mary’s Perpetual Virginity.)

3) St. Joseph was probably taken body-and-soul into heaven at his death. Have you ever seen a first class relic of St. Joseph? Me neither. St. Francis De Sales, a doctor of the Church, considers it definite that St. Joseph was taken body-and-soul into heaven at his death. Many such saints look to Gen 50:25 as a prophesy. Common sense dictates: Would God let his own foster father rot in the ground until His second coming? Indeed, we know that although Mary’s Assumption was unique, Mary was not the only one taken body-and-soul into heaven for a preemptive resurrection of the body. (See Gen 5:24, 2 Kings2:11 and Matt 27:53.) That St. Joseph should be among this small party of bodies in heaven is easy to believe when you consider that St. Joseph has been defined doctrinally by the magisterium as the second greatest saint. (See the writings by Pope Leo XIII.) I would have thought that the runner up to Mary would have gone to, say, St. Paul or St. Catherine of Siena. Nope. St. Joseph is the second greatest saint, even higher than the angels in glory. A simple carpenter! In fact, St. Teresa of Ávila says of St. Joseph: “I do not remember that I have ever asked anything of him which he has failed to grant.” Remember this when you pray for—and with—the dying. Since St. Joseph died with Jesus and Mary at his side, he is considered the patron of a good death. My experience is that his intercession is almost immediate.

4) St. Joseph is the head of the Holy Family. This seems obvious, but think about it: St. Joseph is #3 in holiness in his family, but he is #1 in the authority of his family.  Right here we have the whole Catholic answer to the issue of women’s ordination, the role of the father as the spiritual leader of the family and even the necessity of complementary roles played by two different genders in the family. Why? Because the Holy Family reveals to post-moderns that roles themselves do not imply superiority; roles prove natural law. (Natural Law is the universal law of family and morality already stamped into the heart of human beings found in any culture.) One day, we Americans may learn that the equality of dignity enjoyed by man and woman is not the same as a bland, interchangeable sameness of family members. How boring. Rather, real roles provide beauty when they are lived without chauvinism or manipulation. Mary was holier than Joseph, but that didn’t stop her from being obedient to him. In fact, Jesus—the Divine Word of the Universe—was obedient to both of them (Luke 2:51.) So, what was Joseph’s role, anyway? That of every man: To protect, guard, provide, teach, guide and love. When a woman lets a man do this, it’s not conveying inferiority. It’s letting him live the fullness of his own masculine love for his family.

5) St. Joseph is the Return of the King. If you look at St. Joseph’s genealogy in the Gospel of St. Matthew, you will see that Joseph had to be the hidden king of Israel by being a direct descendent of King David. Why didn’t anyone know it? Because David’s royalty had to go underground to give way to a corrupt Hebrew theocracy in cahoots with Greek invaders. (For more, see the Old Testament’s 1 and 2 Maccabees, aka the Jewish Braveheart…Yes, some poor Protestans took out the most exciting book in the Bible because Luther didn’t like the Purgatory reference in 2 Macc 12:39-42.) Anyway, follow closely for one more minute: St. Joseph was “King of Israel.” This is proved right there in Matt 1:6-16. He is in the direct bloodline of King David! Read it if you think that that is a title that belongs only to Jesus. In fact, Jesus being the supposed-son of the king may have been a cruel but prophetic twist on the head-placard written by Pontius Pilate at Jesus’ crucifixion: HIC EST IESUS, REX IUDAEORUM—Matt 27:37. Of course, Jesus goes beyond Joseph as the prophesied everlasting King of Israel (2 Sam 7:12-13) since Jesus is God. If you’ve read any Scott Hahn, you know that the queen of a Jewish king was not his wife, but rather His mother (1 Kings 2:19.) Thus, if Jesus is king, then the queen of Israel is clearly Mary. Put it all together and this means: For different reasons, Mary and Joseph are both hidden royalty! The royal duty of Joseph was to guard and protect his queen, Mary. But it doesn’t end there. His duty of guarding this queen was the cameo of his longer vocation to protect the Catholic Church by his intercession in heaven. Is this a pious but random connection? No. The Church’s theology is that Mary lived as the exemplar (supreme goal and example) of the Church. This means that everything St. Joseph did once for her on earth, he would do now for the Church from his spot in heaven. Now it is easy to understand why St. Joseph’s current role is to guard and protect the Church in her pilgrim state of danger here on earth. He is summoned to protect her from both theological error and real demons. We need to call on him now more than ever in this time of nearly unprecedented confusion within the Church and diabolical attack within the family (the domestic Church.) “St. Joseph, terror of demons” is ready to help us pray and act and teach as men.

Lastly…I’ve traveled to missions and parishes on five continents during the past three years and I would argue that it is mostly in Western nations where people consider religion to be a “woman thing.” Not so in the Middle East, in India, in Africa. God is for both genders. Consider the witness of the 21 Egyptian Christian martyrs whose heads were sawed off with knives last month while they were still alive. (This is not “beheading” as the media erroneously calls it. “Beheading” was something merciful that Herod did to John the Baptist.) Did you know that these 21 were not ultra-religious Copts hand-picked by ISIS for torture? They were ordinary Christian men. Did you know every one of them was given the chance to verbally deny Jesus and then accept Islam? These normal fathers and husbands submitted to a gory death on the shores of Libya instead of denying our dear Savior, Jesus Christ. Beshir Kamel, a brother of two of the martyrs, later said that his brothers and friends were “a badge of honor to Christianity…ISIS gave us more than we asked when they didn’t edit out the part where they declared their faith and called upon Jesus Christ. ISIS helped us strengthen our faith.” Yes, this was the year 2015. Perhaps it is no coincidence that both Josephs of the Bible have blessed the sands of Egypt by their courageous and manly witness when compromise could have “saved” them. St. Joseph, genetically so close to these modern heroes and martyrs of Libya/Egypt, pray for similar men to be raised up in the Church of the Americas.

—I originally wrote this article for Those Catholic Men.

40 Martyrs of Sebaste

Today is the Memorial of the 40 Roman Soldiers who banded together in modern day Armenia, refusing to renounce Christ.  St. Basil writes of their glorious and manly martyrdom:

These holy martyrs suffered at Sebaste, in the Lesser Armenia, under the Emperor Licinius, in 320. They were of different countries, but enrolled in the same troop; all in the flower of their age, comely, brave, and robust, and were become considerable for their services. St. Gregory of Nyssa and Procopius say they were of the Thundering Legion, so famous under Marcus Aurelius for the miraculous rain and victory obtained by their prayers. This was the twelfth legion, and then quartered in Armenia. Lysias was duke or general of the forces, and Agricola the governor of the province. The latter having signified to the army the orders of the emperor Licinius for all to sacrifice [to false gods], these forty went boldly up to him, and said they were Christians, and that no torments should make them ever abandon their holy religion. The judge first endeavoured to gain them by mild usage; as by representing to them the dishonour that would attend their refusal to do what was required, and by making them large promises of preferment and high favour with the emperor in case of compliance. Finding these methods of gentleness ineffectual, he had recourse to threats, and these the most terrifying, if they continued disobedient to the emperor’s order, but all in vain. To his promises they answered that he could give them nothing equal to what he would deprive them of; and to his threats, that his power only extended over their bodies which they had learned to despise when their souls were at stake. The governor, finding them all resolute, caused them to be torn with whips, and their sides to be rent with iron hooks; after which they were loaded with chains, and committed to jail.

After some days, Lysias, their general, coming from Caesarea to Sebaste, they were re-examined, and no less generously rejected the large promises made them than they despised the torments they were threatened with. The governor, highly offended at their courage, and that liberty of speech with which they accosted him, devised an extraordinary kind of death, which, being slow and severe, he hoped would shake their constancy. The cold in Armenia is very sharp, especially in March, and towards the end of winter, when the wind is north, as it then was, it being also at that time a severe frost. Under the walls of the town stood a pond, which was frozen so hard that it would bear walking upon with safety. The judge ordered the saints to be exposed quite naked on the ice; and in order to tempt them the more powerfully to renounce their faith, a warm bath was prepared at a small distance from the frozen pond, for any of this company to go to who were disposed to purchase their temporal ease and safety on that condition.

The martyrs, on hearing their sentence, ran joyfully to the place, and without waiting to be stripped, undressed themselves, encouraging one another in the same manner as is usual among soldiers in military expeditions attended with hardships and dangers, saying that one bad night would purchase them a happy eternity. They also made this their joint prayer: “Lord, we are forty who are engaged in this combat; grant that we may be forty crowned, and that not one be wanting to this sacred number.” The guards in the mean time ceased not to persuade them to sacrifice [to false gods], that by so doing they might be allowed to pass to the warm bath. But though it is not easy to form a just idea of the bitter pain they must have undergone, of the whole number only one had the misfortune to be overcome; who, losing courage, went off from the pond to seek the relief in readiness for such as were disposed to renounce their faith; but as the devil usually deceives his adorers, the apostate no sooner entered the warm water but he expired. This misfortune afflicted the martyrs; but they were quickly comforted by seeing his place and their number miraculously filled up. A sentinel was warming himself near the bath, having been posted there to observe if any of the martyrs were inclined to submit. While he was attending, he had a vision of blessed spirits descending from heaven on the martyrs, and distributing, as from their king, rich presents and precious garments; St. Ephrem adds crowns to all these generous soldiers, one only excepted, who was their faint-hearted companion already mentioned. The guard, being struck with the celestial vision and the apostate’s desertion, was converted upon it; and by a particular motion of the Holy Ghost, threw off his clothes, and placed himself in his stead amongst the thirty-nine martyrs. Thus God heard their request, though in another manner than they imagined: “Which ought to make us adore the impenetrable secrets of his mercy and justice,” says St. Ephrem, “in this instance, no less than in the reprobation of Judas and the election of St. Matthias.”

In the morning the judge ordered both those that were dead with the cold, and those that were still alive, to be laid on carriages, and cast into a fire. When the rest were thrown into a waggon to be carried to the pile, the youngest of them (whom the acts call Melito) was found alive; and the executioners, hoping he would change his resolution when he came to himself, left him behind. His mother, a woman of mean condition, and a widow, but rich in faith and worthy to have a son a martyr, observing this false compassion, reproached the executioners; and when she came up to her son, whom she found quite frozen, not able to stir, and scarce breathing, he looked on her with languishing eyes, and made a little sign with his weak hand to comfort her. She exhorted him to persevere to the end, and, fortified by the Holy Ghost, took him up, and put him with her own hands into the waggon with the rest of the martyrs, not only without shedding a tear, but with a countenance full of joy, saying courageously: “Go, go, son, proceed to the end of this happy journey with thy companions, that thou mayest not be the last of them that shall present themselves before God.” Nothing can be more inflamed or more [moving] than the discourse which St. Ephrem puts into her mouth, by which he expresses her contempt of life and all earthly things, and her ardent love and desire of eternal life. This holy father earnestly entreats her to conjure this whole troop of martyrs to join in imploring the divine mercy in favour of his sinful soul. Their bodies were burned, and their ashes thrown into the river; but the Christians secretly carried off or purchased part of them with money. Some of these precious relics were kept in Caesarea, and St. Basil says of them: “Like bulwarks, they are our protection against the inroads of enemies.”

How God Loved Your Soul Before It Existed

Last night, a spiritual directee in Europe emailed me a quick question on Scripture and philosophy.  I typed out a medium-length answer, but it hit me that this might actually help my other readers to understand God’s love in a new way.   I normally don’t publicize emails to me, but she gave me permission and I changed her name.  The above picture is Aristotle, and you’ll see how he fits into the answer.


Happy Sunday, Fr Dave!

I have questions.

Souls don’t exist before our bodies, right? At conception, is when God first creates the soul and joins it to the body. Right?
That’s when we first ‘began’ but the soul has no end.

I don’t fully understand this though, because how then could Jeremiah 1:5 fit in with this? “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you” is that saying He knew who he would eventually be or who he was before he was born? Was this like and isolated event because God planned for him to be a prophet? I mean, obviously God is omnipotente, so he knows everything anyway.

I guess I bring up that verse is because I see it often used in the pro-life movement.

AAAAAHHH this is confusing!!
I’m not sure how to clearly articulate myself here, hopefully it makes sense.

-E


Emily,

Yes, that is such an amazing question with an amazing answer.

In seminary, we study philosophy before theology, so let’s start with Aristotle (who lived long before Christ.) He taught that everything has four causes and that these are not mutually exclusive. They are, and they will be applied to a table on this website I copied them from (in italics):

Material
Let’s start with the material cause. According to our famous Greek philosopher, the material cause is the actual physical properties or makeup of a thing that is. It’s the stuff we can see, touch, taste, and so on. Using my table, the wood is the material cause of the table. The table is made of wood, and therefore, the wood is the material cause. It’s a rather simple one to grasp.

Formal
Next is the formal cause. Stated a bit academically, the formal cause is the structure or design of a being. In layman’s terms, we can call it the blueprints, or the plan. The formal cause is what makes it one thing rather than another.

Going back to my table, we already know its material cause is wood. That’s what it’s made of. However, the original carpenter could have chosen to make the very same wood into a chair, but he didn’t. Instead, his plan, or design, called for putting the wood together as a table. According to Aristotle, our carpenter’s design is the formal cause.

Efficient
Aristotle’s next cause is known as the efficient cause. Stated very simply, this is the thing or agent which actually brings something about. It’s not what it’s made of or the plan for how to make it. It’s the actual force that brings something into being. Again using our table, Aristotle would tell us the carpenter is the efficient cause. It’s his swinging of a hammer and sawing that actually brought the table into being.

Final
Our last cause is aptly named the final cause. Being a bit more abstract, the final cause is the ultimate purpose for being. Turning one last time to my table, its final cause is to give me and my family something to eat on, to do homework on, and play cards around, making it a very, very special family heirloom. It has been fulfilling this final cause since even before I was born!

Back to Padre now, writing. So, basically, you yourself have four causes, which can also mean end or telos or that which draws you to your final state of Emilyness.

Applied: Your material cause is your parents’ sexual union. Your efficient cause is God making your soul. Your final cause is union with God in heaven. What is your formal cause? Well, like the author said above, your formal cause is the blueprint. The blueprint for Emily existed as old as God is, which is eternity. Why? Because God does not exist in time. That means that, although you are not eternal, the plan for you is eternal! How astonishing is that! The blueprint for Emily (your formal cause) was in the mind of God for all eternity. (Mind does not mean a physical cerebrum, of course.) Anyway, the fact that God knew that He would make you trillions of years before (before can’t even be used in an appraisal of eternity technically!) the earth existed is enough to bring a man or woman to tears of thanksgiving for God’s precise love for each soul. So, neither you nor Jeremiah existed before your conception, but when God says “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you,” (Jer 1:5) it means that God already knew you in His eternity, even though you had not existed yet. He dreamed about the perfect Emily before you existed. What proof is that of His intimate and particular and unrepeatable love for you!

AMDG,
Padre