Updated: March For Life

Come one, come all! SFA Right To Life is getting ready to organize SFA’s participation in the 2013 March For Life.

When: Thursday, November 29, 2012
Time: 7:00 PM
Where: SFA Youth Room
Who: You and a friend.

Our goal is to quadruple direct and indirect participation from last year.

What CAN you do?

Power Is Perfected In Weakness

Catholic social teaching is imbued with an optimism about the our ability to effectively manipulate our world. Guadium Et Spes reflects that joyful hope: we as the People of God working together with God can eliminate structures of sin and bring about a just society. We just need to work hard, seek God’s grace, and all will be well. In many ways, this seems similar to the heady optimism of (at least in the United States) the Camelot generation.

The sociological premise of this approach is that unjust “power structures” exist. An article about individual spirituality put it well:

The optimism and hope of the Fathers of Vatican II that “changes in the economic, political, and social arrangements in our society” can eliminate “poverty and [bring] an end to these injustices” seems to suffer from an internal contradiction. The people who either intentionally or passively adopted the unjust structures which plague society did so because they thought those structures were just, promoted human dignity, and advanced the common good as they saw it. Their understanding, though, was spiritually deficient. Indeed, it is possible to tinker endlessly and get nowhere like some bizarre version of the movie Groundhog Day: we simply trade one oppressive structure for another, trapped in injustice, while congratulating ourselves about our progress. Can we escape?

We can. Escape, though, requires us to recognize the nature of the trap. The trap is that we fight power with power. We fight the assertion of others – that we deem unjust – with the assertion of ourselves – that we deem just. As we seek to be strong, we accept and reinforce the fundamental social injustice: that it is just for the strong to dominate the weak, especially when we are the strong. We tell ourselves that it is all to the good because our intentions and our ends are good. We tell ourselves that this is all OK as we agonize in face of human misery – that of the people who need help and our own need to help them. We also remind ourselves that the weak we are dominating we’re unjust so in some sense they deserve to have our preferences – just as they ate – imposed on them.

Is there a way out? There is. It is hard. It is agonizingly slow. It demands supernatural faith. It demands that rather meeting power with power, we meet power with weakness. It is the way of the Cross.

The Passion was principally a supernatural drama. We can see the root of it in the temptation of Christ in the desert. There, Satan made it easy for Christ to give in. Satan said, in essence, if you acknowledge my power over this world, I will make you King and you can do all the good you want. We know, of course, that this is a trap if for no other reason than the being that was offering the deal. Christ says no. He – the Almighty Master of the Universe – chooses the path of an itinerant preacher, traveling from place to place, proclaiming the Good News and waiting for people to voluntarily accept it. He – the Omnipotent One – chose weakness over power. He refused to play Satan’s game.

But Satan entered into Judas. Satan, through Judas, tried to force Jesus’ hand. “If I force Jesus into a direct, palpable choice between life itself and exercising His power selfishly,” Satan thought, “Christ will surely choose power….giving the lie to all He taught.” The pain of Gethsemene was thus more than fear of physical suffering; it was a battle within Christ Himself about whether to exercise power or to exercise weakness. Christ chose weakness.

Satan’s fury exploded. The physical violence of the Passion that is so shocking is simply the concrete form of Satan’s last desperate attempt to goad Christ into self-assertion. Even at the end, Christ turned away from resentment, refusing to condemn those who had been the instruments of Satan’s plan – “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Satan must have known that he had been defeated. Christ had refused to play Satan’s game. Christ showed us that Satan had no power of his own; his only power came from our choice to give Satan that power. When we fight power with power, we invigorate the very structures of sin that so challenge us, so outrage us, so compel us to act. If power is made perfect in weakness, then weakness in imitation of Christ is the path to true social justice.

If this is correct, we need a new approach for the praxis of Catholic Social Teaching. Later posts will attempt, while remaing firmly within the current teaching of the Church, to sketch a way forward that is grounded on weakness, but is not indifferent to the misery we see all around us.

What Is Justice?

The Holy Father recently offered an short, precise explanation of what “justice” means in Catholic thinking:

Justice is not a mere human convention. When, in the name of supposed justice, the criteria of utility, profit, and material possession come to dominate, the value and dignity of human beings can be trampled underfoot. Justice is a virtue which guides the human will, prompting us to give others what is due to them by reason of their existence and their actions.

See Catholic Culture.org for the whole article.  Three points jump out at me.  First, “justice” is part of objective truth (“not . . a human convention”).  Second, this explanation allows room for values such as “utility, profit, and material possession” to enter into the analysis so long as they do not dominate.  Finally, justice takes into account others’ “actions.”  These points provide a solid foundation for analyzing our actions and our response to proposals seeking our support in the name of justice.

General Thanksgiving by the President of the United States of America — A Proclamation

His Excellency G. Washington issued the following Proclamation in the city of New York past October 3rd:

WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour; and Whereas both Houfes of Congress have, by their joint committee, requefted me “to recommend to the people of the United States a DAY OF PUBLICK THANSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to eftablifh a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

NOW THEREFORE, I do recommend and affign THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the people of thefe States to the fervice of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our fincere and humble thanksfor His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the fignal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpofitions of His providence in the courfe and conclufion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have fince enjoyed;– for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to eftablish Conftitutions of government for our fafety and happinefs, and particularly the national one now lately instituted;– for the civil and religious liberty with which we are bleffed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffufing useful knowledge;– and, in general, for all the great and various favours which He has been pleafed to confer upon us.

And also, that we may then unite in moft humbly offering our prayers and fupplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and befeech Him to pardon our national and other tranfgreffions;– to enable us all, whether in publick or private ftations, to perform our feveral and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a bleffing to all the people by conftantly being a Government of wife, juft, and conftitutional laws, difcreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all fovereigns and nations (especially fuch as have shewn kindnefs unto us); and to blefs them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increafe of fcience among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind fuch a degree of temporal profperity as he alone knows to be beft.

GIVEN under my hand, at the city of New-York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand feven hundred and eighty-nine.

SOURCE

(signed) G. Washington

More Contraception Means Fewer Abortions. NOT. – UPDATED

Update.

We are often told by men who “take no account of God” that our religion, especially its moral teachings are a bunch of irrational mumbo-jumbo.  In response, the Church makes the claim that because we receive the moral law from our Creator, they are the set of rules most conducive to human happiness.  Once you think about it, this seems rather obvious.   Why is it, then, that no matter how scientific and objective the findings are, the so-called denizens of reason never quite can admit that moral law as taught by the Catholic Church leads to healthy, happy human beings in this world, not to mention the next?  Here is a perfect example.  In Humnae Vitae, Pope Paul VI warned us about the likely effects of artificial contraception.  Well, he was right.  I doubt, however, that that will change anyone’s mind.  Too bad.

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This is to pass along an article by Kirsten Powers (read it all) about whether increased availability and use of contraception means fewer abortions.  The answer, based on Planned Parenthood’s statistics, is “no.”

Without question, there is a lot of logic to the idea that more contraception means fewer abortions.  But the facts are different:

  • a 2009 study by the journal Contraception found, in a 10-year study of women in Spain, that as overall contraceptive use increased from around 49 percent to 80 percent, the elective abortion rate more than doubled.

It is interesting and paradoxical that the large increase in elective abortions was associated with (a) a remarkable increase in the number of women who used contraceptive methods (30%) and (b) improvements in the education level during both the study periods. Because the percentage of users of ineffective contraceptive methods, such as withdrawal and spermicidal creams, was similar in 1997 compared to 2007 (2.8% and 2.9%, respectively), it cannot be accounted for the increased rate of elective abortions. The total number of women of childbearing age not using any contraceptive method decreased from a total of 2,056,454(17.3%) in 1997 to 1,280,058 (8.2%) in 2007. Therefore, during the study period, we observed a 37.7% reduction in the number of women at risk of unintended pregnancy and a twofold increase in the number of elective abortions.

Interestingly, the study’s authors found this to be ‘paradoxical.’  Yet, this is precisely what Pope Paul VI predicted in Humanae Vitae.  But this is not all:

  • “In the U.S., the story isn’t much different. A January 2011 fact sheet by the pro-abortion rights Guttmacher Institute listed all the reasons that women who have had an abortion give for their unexpected pregnancy, and not one of them is lack of access to contraception. In fact, 54 percent of women who had abortions had used a contraceptive method, if incorrectly, in the month they got pregnant. For the 46 percent who had not used contraception, 33 percent had perceived themselves to be at low risk for pregnancy; 32 percent had had concerns about contraceptive methods; 26 percent had had unexpected sex, and 1 percent had been forced to have sex. Not one fraction of 1 percent said they got pregnant because they lacked access to contraception. Some described having unexpected sex, but all that can be said about them is that they are irresponsible, not that they felt they lacked access to contraception.”

Again, the information points to the prescience of Paul VI.  The Holy Father’s 1968 prediction and the findings of the Spanish study are eerily similar.  First, Paul VI:

Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

Now the Spanish study:

The findings of this study show an increase in the contraceptive use and utilization of abortion. There are several reasons for this apparent disparity. One is the increase in notifications to the register, thanks to the improvement in its coverage and to the transformation of clandestine abortions and abortions performed abroad into recorded ones. Another is the change in juveniles’ sexual behavior patterns. Youngsters declare engaging in coital sex more frequently and more precociously and not always doing it in safe conditions from the perspective of both unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. Gender inequalities in what concerns sexual and reproductive health, especially in lower socioeconomic layers, seem to be present. Girls are still experiencing pressure to engage in precocious and coital sex, present limited capacity to negotiate use of condoms or withdrawal, and must assume responsibility for and possible consequences of emergency contraception and sometimes elective abortion. On the other hand, availability of emergency contraception could help reduce the adhesion of effective contraceptive methods or to consider the emergency contraceptive pill as an effective method to prevent pregnancy.

So more contraception means more “coital activity” which means more ‘unwanted’ pregnancies which means more abortions.   Pretty obvious, once you think about it.

Updated:

Kirsten Powers posted this retraction of her piece:

Author’s Note: I made a serious error in reporting this column that undermines the conclusion I drew. I compared statistics on contraceptive use from a January 2011 Guttmacher Institute fact sheet to a year 2000 study on the same issue.  However, I did not realize that the 2011 fact sheet derived its statistics from the year 2000 numbers, so my argument was not supported by the data. I am deeply sorry for the error, which invalidates my piece.

Ms. Powers did, in fact, make this error and it was noted as this post was being written.  This post makes no reference to the erroneous assertion that there has been no change over time.  Ms. Powers overstates her error, though.  The Spanish study and common sense are unaffected even if her subsidiary argument that the rates stayed the same.

Botswana: God’s Love At The Center Of Life

Several months ago, I saw a documentary about the Church in Sudan.  It was filmed in 2001 or so, at the height of the violence and civil disorder that affected that country.  What moved me the most was not so much the poverty or any material issue.  It was, instead, the images of a Mass. Although the liturgy was definitely culturally African, it was also definitely and joyously Catholic.  That planted the seed of a true solidarity.  Since then, I’ve looked for a way to help that respects that solidarity.  A focus on material need divided; a focus on our joint membership in the Body of Christ united.  Recently, I found an organization that embodies that principle:  Aid To The Church In Need (an international charity). Whether it is repairing a convent or providing catechetical materials or supporting Catholics and other Christians who cling to their faith in the face of violent persecution, Aid To The Church In Need is there.

Over time, this blog will share stories of the Church In Need.  The stories, though, do not focus on what people lack because one cannot build a relationship based on nothing.  Instead, the stories focus on what we have and therefore share — Christ’s love as His sons and daughters.  These stories will, we hope, forge a new sense of solidarity and inspire action to build greater unity with all people.

Without further ado, we begin with an interview with Bishop Valentine Tsamma Seane, Bishop of GaboroneBotswana.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Botswana – God’s Love is the center of my life

Thursday, May 26, 2011

An interview with Bishop Valentine Tsamma Seane Bishop of Gaborone
Valentine Tsamma Seane was born on 2nd November of 1966 in Lobatse, Gaborone. On February 5th, 2009, Pope Benedict appointed him as the new Bishop of Gaborone.

Bishop Valentine Tsamma SeaneBotswana is one of Africa’s most stable countries and it has the longest continuous multiparty democracy. It is also a large producer of diamonds. What is the situation of Christianity in Botswana?

Botswana is known to be a Christian country. Statistically the Catholic Church accounts for 5 – 6% and other Christian Churches: Protestants, Pentecostals, Spirituals and other independent churches represent about 67%. So you can see it is a Christian country.

So the Catholic Church is a minority church?

Yes in that sense, but if you take the churches individually like Anglican Church, or the Lutheran Church, the Catholic Church is the largest single denomination. If you group the other Christian Churches together then they make up a larger part of the population.

How did Protestants come to outnumber Catholics?

The Protestants were the first ones to enter as missionaries and for many years they convinced the tribal chiefs not to allow the Catholic Church to enter the country. The Catholic Church was allowed to mission only in 1928. By then the Protestant churches were already well established.

You are a new bishop and one of the first things you wrote was: “I’m a Valentine with a big heart.”. Why?

I love working with people and, I suppose, because of my openness and passion for working and serving people. I also discovered that my personality and my heart contribute to that expression: self-giving to others, serving the Church of Christ.

What is your other name?

I’m also known as Vala, which is short for Valentine. Many people also know me by Tsamma, which means a staff or walking stick. My grandfather gave this name to me because I used to walk with him and he said that I am his staff. The name stuck with me.

Why did you become a priest?

I originally wanted to become a lawyer and when a priest came to my parish to preach I thought that I could also serve the people as a priest. I went to the Seminary and I continued to be fulfilled and I discovered that it was my vocation, to serve the people of God as a priest.

The priestly vocation is not easy. You have to live a celibate life?

Yes it is very challenging and it is a gift from God. It is not just an individual decision and individual capability. One spends eight years in the seminary and the spiritual life is very important and this is what helps us in this journey, a journey of service. It is difficult and it is not easy and it demands self-giving all the time.

Upon your ordination all the important people of Botswana were present. Why was this such an event?

You have to remember that many people, including Catholics, have never witnessed an ordination. My predecessor was a bishop for 27 years, so most people were not there. There were 15,000 people at the city hall including visitors from the neighboring countries like South Africa – I worked as a priest in Pretoria. Bishops from Botswana and South Africa came as well as many stars, business people and government members. So it was a national event.

It rained during your ordination. It was seen as a special sign. Why is this?

Botswana is very arid, so rain is very precious to us. Even our money is called pula (rain). Rain brings life. As rain is very rare, whenever it rains it is precious and it is seen as a blessing. Even in my family during special occasions, when it rains, it is seen as a blessing. On that day it started as a sunny day. There were no clouds present but towards the end it rained and it was seen as a blessing, a special occasion. God was happy. The ancestors were happy, everybody was happy.

You also wrote that you have experienced God’s love. How have you experienced His love?

I have experienced it all my life. We grew up well. We are five siblings: two brothers and three sisters. I have experienced the invisible hand of God all my life from childhood, in high school and throughout the various changes during my growth. As you mentioned, I was ordained a priest when I was 27 years old and people were wondering about my age. It happened again when I was ordained bishop. When I was ordained bishop there were only 10 bishops younger than me in the whole world. In our conference I am the youngest bishop. So I still experience today the love of God and this helps me to go on in the service of His church.

What have you chosen as a motto?

Deus Caritas Est – God is love. I read the encyclical of the Pope, but it just came to me; the love of God is that around which my life centers. The invisible hand of God, that love is what is guiding me. So I keep on appreciating and thanking God for that. I found that it is precious and it helps me to strive to do my work.

You have received so much. What is the first thing you wish to give to your diocese?

I want to encourage local vocations to the priesthood and religious life. I want the indigenous people to be able to discern and respond to God’s call so that the church can be in the hands of the local people who understand the culture of the people. So far it is very promising because there are 16 young men in the major seminary, so the future is promising. I have already ordained three priests as the new bishop. The other thing is the promotion of a self propagating and self reliant church.

What does this mean?

It means that people should be ready to participate in the building of the church – financially and otherwise. Despite being poor, they can give in some other ways: their time, their skills and resources for the benefit of the church because people know that for a time they were receiving and now it is time to give. When I see the church as self-sustaining and self-propagating, then I will be happy.

AIDS is also a problem. What is your answer to this scourge?

Botswana was fortunate that when AIDS was discovered the government stood out and spoke aloud: we have this problem. They wanted the world to know and in that way Botswana received assistance. The government also budgeted and provided free medication as well as AIDS education from primary through to university. Those with the disease received anti-viral ARVS and these were distributed in all the hospitals for free for those people in need. It is good because these people were accepted and the state accepted that it was a problem and the government was able to allocate resources towards that.

However, it is in the educational aspect where we differ. The government, for instance, promotes condoms; condom-sense instead of common sense. The church talks about common sense because the church understands that as human beings we are intellectual beings with the ability to control ourselves and we can do that if we are educated. We stress more the “Education for Life” program.

While the government is doing its best to help people with medication, it [the government] says that this has to be an attack on all fronts including of course the distribution of condoms, which is not for us to promote. The church promotes “Education for Life”. The government and the NGO’s missed the point in the beginning. Only now are they turning around and slowly seeing the wisdom of the church because of the problem of multi-partners. They are seeing the problem and are addressing the issue through education.

By multiple partners, do you mean polygamy?

No, polygamy is not a common practice in Botswana. It is in the culture but it is not a common practice. The issue is multiple partners before marriage or even after and not multiple wives. This is what has contributed to the problem. We hope that the church’s message will be heard and will help the country make the right choices for the good of the country.

Are the young people willing to listen to this message of the church?

Yes, the young people are. It is a question of forming the conscience of people and ultimately the choice belongs to them, but they can only activate their knowledge if they are informed. So what we do is give people knowledge and information, and then they are left to make their choice because the conscience is the “highest court of appeal”. Ultimately their conscious will have to choose: we choose what culture says, we choose what the state is promoting, we choose what the church says.

The government is seeing the wisdom of the church with regards to the issue of AIDS?

Yes, slowly, slowly they are seeing it. You cannot think that by distributing prophylactics to people that you can say that you are doing something. If people are conditioned they become totally dependent and then they lose their ability to contain themselves and you end up behaving on your impulses, feelings and senses and forgetting that you have the ability to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and forgetting that you are a responsible person.

How is the relationship between Church and government especially now that you are the bishop? 

Fortunately the government of Botswana has a history of having good relations with the church because the church, when it began in 1928, the government at that time was incapable of building schools and clinics and the missionaries were able to do so. That partnership has always been there. That is why there is this understanding that the church is there also to help the human person not only spiritually, but also as a whole.

What is your hope for the future of the Catholic Church in Botswana?

My hope is that the Church will continue to grow in Botswana; in vocations to the priesthood and religious life, in self sustainability and to see more Catholic families, more people marrying in church, strengthening the foundations of family life. All this will add to make our nation a better nation and a better country for all.

 

Spread The Word! Little Sisters of the Poor Coming To St. Francis!

From this week’s  Bulletin:

The Little Sisters of the Poor will be coming to our paris next weekend to request our assistance with their mission of caring for the elderly poor.  The Sisters will be at the doors of the Church after each Mass to accept voluntary gifts of support.  Thank you for your kindness to them.