Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Think for yourself!

“Take the risk of thinking for yourself , much more happiness , truth, beauty, and wisdom will come to you that way ..” Christopher Hitchens

I do not understand why people today (worldwide) allow celebrities to dictate or even influence what they should believe, do, eat, wear and even who they should vote for. 

It was obvious the influence celebrities TRIED to have on the 2016 elections in the United States.  A lot of people allowed celebrities to influence their vote.  If you are a celebrity in the Philippines it is almost a guarantee you can win any political position you seek.  Your fame will outweigh your  need for the right qualifications nearly every time.

If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask a celebrity, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly their opinions on life, and they are more than happy to give it to you freely.  I say this sarcastically.

I know I may seem a bit weird or a lot weird to some, but what celebrities think or say have never made me feel happy, content, hopeful, encouraged, or confident.  No I do not know the name of the MOVIE STAR in the latest movies I have seen and do not care to know.  All I care is did I like the movie or not. 

I do not care what these people think, none of whom I know personally, and all of whom live in a world that is so far out of my reach that we have remarkably little in common. If I and one of their domestic staff met in church or any public place I  would have more in common with their staff member than I would the celebrity.

The same is true of CELEBRITY preachers today.  I am not impressed or focusing  on the prophets and teachers and evangelists that millions of Christians come to follow, and worship, as being wiser, more righteous, and blessed than the rest of us.  I have actually have had people tell me, “They’re rich and well-known so that must be a sure sign of God’s favor.”  No, they just  have a charismatic personality and would be good at selling anything and they would make good con artist.  It could have come from the devil or God.  I have always believed this, but recently when Bishop Jake of Potter House in Dallas, Texas said in an interview that “SELLING Jesus is not all that difficult because it is a GOOD PRODUCT and when presented correctly it will SELL ITSELF.”  I take that to mean hurting and desperate people will fall for a line of hope every time if you are charismatic and have sales abilities.

When the Great Christians Leaders give their opinions on homosexuality, people listen, nod their heads, and say, “Prophet Pulpit said it, so it must be right.” When they promote boycotting a store, the believers do it because their Prophet Pulpit is always right.  After all who am I to question Prophet's? When sensible preachers meet with ecumenical leaders to share in a prayer service, some Christians wring their hands, wondering, “Why do they  do this? Pastor Pulpit said it was wrong. Do they not know that Catholics and Evangelical Protestants differ on fundamental issues? and that Jewish people and Christians differ on a REALLY major issue?

The followers of celebrity Christians do not have enough faith in God or confidence in himself to seek wisdom, considering themselves spiritually unqualified to process the tough issues facing people who live in the world today, after all that is what they have been told from the pulpit by these celebrity preachers.  They think if they do not listen to the celebrity preachers and priest they only have mass-media to give them direction in the 21st century.   What about the HOLY SPIRIT, PRAYER, the brain God gave them and their own personal experiences.

God did not call us to be robots of celebrities.   The world is filled, and has always been filled, and will always be filled with difficult issues — difficult because they involve people — and no smart little saying on television, Tweet, or email from any CELEBRITY is going to solve the world’s problems and we certainly should not allow them to think for us.  Some allow others to think for them because they are lazy and it is the easy way to avoid responsibilities.  Simply put not everyone wants to be wise. We actually have to work at becoming wise.

People need wisdom, and wisdom — unlike money, power, celebrity status, and fame is not out of reach of ordinary people. Wisdom is available for the asking, if we only would ask.  You do not have to be a genius to have wisdom.  I know lots of people with extremely high I.Q.’s that lack in wisdom (common sense) and others with little to no formal education that are VERY wise.  Wisdom and understanding are not something you purchase with tuition and class fees, it is a daily, lifelong process of growth.

I have a friend that constantly puts himself down because he looks for the possible negatives in relationships, decisions in general and especially business deals.  I think that is wise.  It means to me he is dealing with reality.  It does not mean he is ignoring the positives, it is only means he is trying to prepare or prevent the negatives.  Being a “happy go lucky” person is not wisdom.  Wisdom means being able to bear the good and the bad in mind simultaneously.

Proverbs 3:13 says, "Happy is the man (or woman) who finds wisdom and the man (or woman) who gets understanding." Proverbs 24:13–14 says, "My son (daughter), eat honey, for it is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste. Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off." Proverbs 16:16, "To get wisdom is better than gold; to get understanding is to be chosen over silver." It is a matter of life and death.  The ultimate, eternal happiness that all people long for will only be found by those who first "get wisdom."

Wise people do not let others do their thinking and make their decision.  They listen to all advice and then seek guidance from the Holy Spirit and make their own decision.  

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Religious Highs Do Not Last

 I have never been impressed with services that end with an offer Altar Call, especially when these Altar Calls allow a person to claim membership in a church or guarantee salvations.  It takes more than a few words offered at the time of an emotional high to receive true salvation.  Spiritual highs and the emotions that come with them always soon fade because of our sin nature - PRIDE.

There can often be many factors that drive these emotional spiritual highs.  Sometimes, it’s simply the highly emotional atmosphere of the service, the moving music that’s played, the camaraderie and fellowship with fellow attendees, the prospect of being free from the negative effects of our sin. 

But you don’t have to be a Christian to love any of these things. At one point in His ministry, Jesus himself rebuked a large crowd of His own followers because they were “fired up” for reasons that had nothing to do with seeing His beauty or His glory — they just enjoyed seeing Jesus miracles.  John 6:25–27 (ESV) 25 "When they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food…”

If there is to be any lasting effect from these events and experiences, it must include seeing and savoring Jesus Christ. Anything of true, durable worth from these experiences comes from seeing God clearly as He really is. This can come from sermons, or discussions, or singing in worship, or late night conversations, prayers, and devotions.  When we truly see the light of the glory of Christ clearly, the things of this world seem dim and worthless by comparison.

A house does not fall if its foundation is firm.  Matthew 7:25 (ESV)
25 "And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock." A tree does not wither when its roots are deep enough to reach water. Psalm 1:1–3 (ESV) 1 “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. 3 He is …”  So, when the house of our spiritual life and our war against sin comes crumbling down or withers, we should ask ourselves, “Why?”

If our sight of God and our worship is dependent on the church facility, or the high-energy sermons, or the packed crowd, or the worship band, our spiritual lives will fall apart again when these things are taken away. The house falls because the foundation is destroyed or weak.

Jesus warns of those who receive the word of God with gladness, but then fall away because they have no root.  Mark 4:16–17 (ESV) 16 “And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. 17 And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall …”  This is the danger that we face. After hearing the word with gladness, how do we go on to produce the fruit of righteousness?  Mark 4:20 (ESV) 20 “But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” How do we cultivate joy in Christ at home, away from the spiritual crutches of an emotional service? The first step is to prepare for war.

Striving to rejoice in the glory of God is an act of rebellion against Satan’s dominion over this world, 1 John 5:9 (ESV) 9 “If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that He has come concerning His Son”. And rebellion against our very own fallen flesh. Romans 3:11 (ESV)11 “ one understands; no one seeks for God.”  We are saved through God’s grace not by anything we do.  Paul likens us to soldiers in a war, where we are at risk of entangling ourselves in civilian pursuits. 2 Timothy 2:4 (ESV) 4 “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.”  Therefore, we must put off the false security of an emotionally charged decision, made at the last service  and realize that there is a war being waged over our souls.  If you believe the fight is over when you accept Christ as your Savior you are terribly wrong the fight has just begun.

As John Owen writes, “Be killing sin or sin will be killing you.” Allowing ourselves to be lulled into idleness and complacency, because of our confidence in a “rededication,” is like stripping ourselves of our armor mid-battle. 

The war in the mind is fought by seeing and rejoicing in the truth. It is fought by putting our mind to the task of knowing the Lord more fully. Our desire is to know Him and the power of His resurrection so that we may take up our own cross and follow Him.  Philippians 3:10 (ESV)10 “...that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, …”

God has given ways to provide this grace for us: we sing together (Ephesians 5:19), we come together regularly to worship Jesus and to hear His word preached (2 Timothy 4:2; Hebrews 10:25), we enjoy the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23–26), we pray (Acts 2:42). 

There are more steps we may take to see more of Jesus. It may mean turning off the television if it clogs our spiritual vision. It may mean taking time to read theology. It may begin with taking time to listen to sermons that further our understanding of the Word or taking time to read books that increase our sight of God and taking time to worship and pray and to meditate on the person of Christ.  We must do whatever it takes if we want to see Jesus more clearly.  A few words uttered after an emotional service is not enough.

The clearer our vision of a holy God is, the more it drives us to our knees by the sight of our own sin. The clearer our vision of our sin becomes, the deeper is our sight of God’s mercy and grace through Christ. The deeper we understand His mercy and grace, the more we are amazed by the beauty of this God, the Creator of the universe. For “what is man that you are mindful of Him, and the son of man that you care for Him?” (Psalm 8:4).

As we are amazed by the beauty of God, the more willing we become to take up our cross and lose everything to be with Him (Mark 8:34; Philippians 3:8) — "...troubles and suffering cannot pull us away from the priceless treasure we’ve found", (Matthew 13:44–46; Mark 4:17). Therefore, let us “Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness” and press onward to see and to know him in the full array of his majestic beauty. (Psalm 96:9; Hosea 6:3). 

IN CLOSING REMEMBER -If you ever have felt so good about your faith that you think nothing could go wrong?  That was your first mistake!   When we get too comfortable. We are most vulnerable to compromise.  There’s nothing wrong with “mountaintop experiences.” Jesus and His friends had them. But if we’re not careful, we may begin depending on that good feeling to get us through the day rather than our relationship with God.  if we become to dependent on that fuzzy feeling, what do you think will happen when that feeling goes away? 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

I am embarrassed to be have been part of clergy in the Catholic Church

Here we go again, “sex orgies, prostitution and porn videos shake Catholic Church in Italy.”

Accusations of priests involved in sex orgies, porn videos and prostitution have gone public in several parishes in Italy, sending shock waves all the way to the Vatican and challenging the high standards that Pope Francis has demanded of clergy.  Do the clergy even care what the Pope says anymore?

In Naples a priest was suspended from the parish of Santa Maria degli Angeli over claims he held gay orgies and used internet sites to recruit potential partners whom he paid for sex.

The allegations concerning the Rev. Mario D’Orlando were brought to the attention of the diocese when an anonymous letter was sent to a Naples bishop. D’Orlando denied the charges when he was summoned by the city’s archbishop, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, but is now facing a formal inquiry conducted by local church officials. He has been removed from his position while the investigation is underway.

In Padua, a 48-year-old priest, the Rev. Andrea Contin, is facing defrocking as well as judicial proceedings amid accusations he had up to 30 lovers, some of whom he took to a swingers’ resort in France.

Contin was removed from his parish of San Lazzaro after three women came forward with complaints against him last December. Bishop Claudio Cipolla of Padua cut short a visit to Latin America to deal with the scandal.

Bishop Claudio Cipolla of Padua said, “This is unacceptable behavior for a priest, a Christian and even for a man.”  OH REALLY!

One woman, who claims to have been Contin’s lover for more than three years, claimed the priest carried sex toys and bondage equipment, prostituted his lovers on wife-swapping websites and also invited other priests from the area to sex parties.  Is this a scandal or a CRIME?

Pope Francis had telephoned him personally at the end of January to offer his support and urge him to stay “strong.”  Why would the pope do that if he really took sex abuse seriously?  Did he contact the abused in the case and tell them to stay strong and prosecute the creep and offer his support?

The pope says he has taken a tough line on ethical behavior in the church, but he  also recognizes the reality of human imperfection and personal flaws.  The has spoken out many times against “temptation,” and last week he told a gathering of clergy at the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome that faith could not progress without the challenge of temptation.  It sounds to me like the pope makes a lot of excuses for the clergy.

Alberto Melloni,  a professor of church history at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, said there is nothing unusual about scandals in the priesthood. IT SHOULD BE!    More excuses.  He went on to say, “There is no sin that a cleric doesn’t commit. Scandals to me seem quite normal, “That is the problem the hierarchy of the Catholic Church really believes it is normal.”

in the Italian diocese of Albenga-Imperia in late 2014, clerics posted nude photos of themselves on gay websites, sexually harassed the faithful and stole church funds.  I guess that is normal to!

The pope says, “He distinguishes between sinfulness and corruption and was intent on “rooting out” corruption inside the church.”  I guess that means he is more concerned with clergy stealing church funds than sex abuse.  I see them both as crimes against humanity.

“The problem is when priests turn their backs on the people, lead hidden lives and end up justifying their conduct. That’s corruption.”  I am glad he explained the difference.  It seems to me the hierarchy of the church do all they can to excuse or justify clergy abuse so why shouldn’t the clergy.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Philippine National Bank

I have had several accounts at Philippine National Bank since 2005.  I actually opened one of the accounts before I ever came to the Philippines in Houston, Texas

The service is not the best, but I have not changed because I know I could get a worse bank.  My major problem has been with wire transfers from my trust fund in the States.

For instance on March 1, 2017 my transfer was made just as it has been done every month since January 2005.  For nine days I fought with PNB Customer Relations in Manila.  The only response was your bank in the States is lying they have not transferred the funds.

This morning I got the confirmation from the U.S. bank proving the money had been wired and I immediately sent it to PNB.  A MIRACLE, within 15 minutes after they received the proof that they were the ones that made the mistake (as they had done on five other occasions) they credited my account the funds.

I have never received and apology!

On one occasion they did admit they had credited the funds to someone else's account and they would have to find whose account the money was in before they could credit me.  I never understood why I had to wait since they made the mistake.  It was obvious they did not put it in any of my three accounts.

Another occasion I did not get my Social Security check that normally is credit on the third until the 15th.  The lady in The Davao Branch told me it was because I now had over $50,000 in assets and the U.S. government does not allow anyone on Social Security to have more than $50,000 in assets.  I told her she did not know what she was talking about and of course she got mad.  I told her if I have more than $50,000 in one foreign bank the bank has to report it to the U.S. Treasury.  If she would look she could see that is why I never keep more than $40,000 in PNB or BDO or Maybank or Peoples Bank.  She rudely told me I needed to talk to my Embassy because she knew she was right and she guaranteed I would not get another check until I got rid of assets.

The Embassy found out that the Social Security Department made a mistake and listed me as DEAD.  I got the past due check immediately and the next months check and every check since on time.

I have my caregiver on one PNB account since I am now homebound due to health issues.  A transfer had come to that account for over five years in my name.  They held the transfer and finally after my attorney in the States got involved they said it was because the wire transfer had to be in my name and his name.  Never was before!  I did have my attorney make that change and I have not experiences any other problems.

ALL EXPATS - check out all the banks in the Philippines before you settle on one.  All my U.S. accounts and Social Security is setup for the PNB accounts or I would change immediately.  I wonder if they delay crediting money transfer so they can use our money for free for a few days.

I have savings at BDO and Maybank and have never had any problems and their people are always courteous.  It seem at PNB it is the managers that are horses behinds.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Catholic clergy sex abuse is a CRIME not a scandal!

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley vowed Thursday to make sure clergy sexual abuse victims have a voice on a Vatican panel addressing the crisis that rocked the Catholic Church, and he expressed frustration with resistance to change in some corners of the church.

His promise came a day after the lone clergy sexual abuse survivor serving on that papal commission resigned in frustration with what she described as “shameful” Vatican foot-dragging.

“The voice of survivors is very important I think, and we have to consider what is the best way to ensure that” they’re included, said O’Malley, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Boston.

O’Malley said he shared some of the concerns about Vatican stonewalling expressed by Marie Collins, a clergy abuse survivor from Ireland who on Ash Wednesday resigned in frustration from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, drawing world attention. O’Malley is chairman of the commission.  The departure of Collins has been viewed as devastating for the church by many around the world – me included.

She has remained a respected voice in the survivor community and the lay community in general for years. After resigning, she agreed to continue helping the commission educate bishops and priest about safeguarding children, BUT will that and do they listen?

I believe the cardinals on the commission would like to appoint a few more survivors of clergy abuse to the commission and they think that will satisfy the public.  I do not think it will satisfy those that want the issue FIXED.  The problems Marie Collins brought up over the years MUST be addressed and no longer swept under the rug.

A second survivor on the commission, Peter Saunders, was ordered to take a leave of absence last year after he clashed with other members. Prelates on the commission said he was revealing too much, too soon too the public. 

The main objection the commission had to Marie Collins was she wanted a tribunal setup that would hold BISHOPS responsible for protecting children from child abuse. Why shouldn’t BISHOPS be held accountable for what their employees do on the job?

The issue is crucial for the church: Bishops’ shielding of abusive priests led to the world clergy abuse crisis, and yet, more than 15 years after the crisis emerged, the Vatican has yet to show the world that it has a strong system for holding bishops accountable.

After the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith complained at setting up the tribunal, Pope Francis dropped the idea and instead issued a letter explaining how existing church laws (that have not worked in the past) should be applied to hold bishops accountable for failing to protect children.

Pope Francis is making changes, and a time of change is always difficult. There are people that are resisting those changes in the Vatican and some BISHOPS around the world who would like to keep the authority they have always enjoyed.  No one easily gives up power.

Pope Francis says a lot about the sexual abuse scandal, but then Francis recently reduced punishments for a handful of priests found guilty of abusing children, he sentencing them to a lifetime of prayer and penance instead of defrocking them.  These men need to be defrocked and THROWN out of the church!  There is a disconnect between Pope Francis words and his actions.

Francis’s decision is said to reflect a debate within the Vatican whether it is preferable to expel abusive priests entirely “and then there is no possibility of monitoring his activity or having any kind of control over his behavior,” or keeping them within the fold, and under the watchful eyes of the church, but permanently bar them from ministry.  The church has not done a satisfactory job of monitoring them in the past or watching them.  Most of the abuse takes place on church property.  The church should let the civil authorities take care of them and the police and public monitor them in the neighborhoods they choose to live in as other sex abuse CRIMINALS are.  Why do these criminals deserve special treatment?

The Catholic hierarchy still doesn’t get child abuse.  They continue to describe the cover-up as a scandal. This use of language means that they see sexual abuse as a moral issue and not a crime.  In the same manner Obama refuse to say EXTREME ISLAMIC MUSLIM TERRORIST.  You cannot address a problem until you correctly name it.  Sexual assaults on children are criminal acts and need to be addressed as CRIMES.  Some priest abused children because they could not because they could not control themselves. 

The hierarchy does not understand the effect of sexual abuse on children.  They believe children are young and will get over it.  THAT IS NOT TRUE!  For God sake what part of RAPE do they not understand?  I was appalled after one investigation in 1975 when cardinal Brady said he thought the boys enjoyed what happen to them.  I was likewise appalled when the hierarchy made the victims swear to secrecy if they wanted the church to settle with them monetarily.  They did nothing but help the CRIMINALS.

There are laws in some places (like England and Ireland) that go back as far as 1861 that protect children from child abuse and the church chose to ignore those laws.  The Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1935 also covered sexual abuse. “Any person who unlawfully and carnally knows any girl/boy under the age of 15 shall be guilty of a felony and shall be liable on conviction thereof to penal servitude for life.”  These Acts were updated and strengthened by the Criminal Law (Rape) Amendment Act 1990. The new Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill provided greater protection for children when it was finally enacted.  It is obvious England and Ireland take child abuse more seriously than the United States.

It is time to debunk some of the myths surrounding sexual abuse in the church and the world and view it as a heinous crime, not a behavioral problem that needs treatment.  Sexual abuse is still happening and children need the law on their side.

The Catholic Church in Ireland has been “almost fatally destroyed” by the clerical child sexual abuse scandal, according to a former Provincial of the Jesuit Order in Ireland.  WHAT ABOUT THE VICTIMS?

SIDE NOTE THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN DISHONEST HIERARCHY OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH VIOLATES THE LAW TO PROTECT CRIMINAL PRIEST.   A Minnesota diocese filed for bankruptcy protection on Friday, the 14th nationwide and third in the state to do so in the face of mounting claims of sexual abuse by clergy.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Catholic Church has not done enough to address the child abuse issue.

My church hierarchy(Catholic) still has not learned a lesson!

Irish abuse survivor Marie Collins has accused the Vatican bureaucracy of “shameful” resistance to fighting clerical sex abuse in the Catholic Church as she quit a key panel set up by Pope Francis.

In a major setback for the pope, Collins announced that she had resigned from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors established by the pontiff in 2013 to counter abuse in the church. 

She said the pope’s decision to create the commission was a “sincere move” but there had been “constant setbacks” from officials within the Vatican.

“There are people in the Vatican who do not want to change or understand the need to change,” Collins said in a telephone interview from Dublin.
“I find it shameful,” Collins said. “The work we want to do is to make children and young adults now and in the future safer in the church environment from the horror of abuse.”

Collins was raped at age 13 by a hospital chaplain in Ireland  She was the only active abuse survivor on the Vatican panel since British survivor Peter Saunders was sidelined last year for his outspoken criticism. Saunders has not resigned or been formally dismissed.

The Catholic church is still telling newly appointed bishops that it is “not necessarily” their duty to report accusations of clerical child abuse and that only victims or their families should make the decision to report abuse to police.

A document that spells out how senior clergy members ought to deal with allegations of abuse, which was recently released by the Vatican, emphasized  bishops’ must be aware of local laws, but bishops’ only duty is to address such allegations internally

“According to the state of civil laws of each country where reporting is obligatory, it is not necessarily the duty of the bishop to report suspects to authorities, the police or state prosecutors the moment they are made aware of crimes or sinful deeds,” the training document states.  The training document also says little about preventing the problem in the future and it also downplay the seriousness of the Catholic church’s legacy of systemic child abuse, which some victims’ right groups say continues to be a problem today.

While acknowledging that “the church has been particularly affected by sexual crimes committed against children”, the training guide emphasizes statistics that show the vast majority of sexual assaults against children are committed within the family and by friends and neighbors, not other authority figures.  Why is this fact important to this commission or Catholics.  If one child is abused by a Catholic church official that is one too many and should be taken seriously by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.  It seems to me they are more concerned that the sins of the church went public than the damage it did to children and families.
Pope Francis has called for the church to exhibit “zero tolerance” of sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable adults by clergy and that “everything possible must be done to rid the church of the scourge of the sexual abuse”.  It seems many in the hierarchy do not feel the same as the Pope.

SNAP, a US-based advocacy group for abuse victims that has been very critical of Pope Francis on the issue said, “It’s infuriating, and dangerous, that so many believe the myth that bishops are changing how they deal with abuse and that so little attention is paid when evidence to the contrary”.

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, appointed by Pope Francis, played no role in the training program, even though it is Pope Francis Commission that is  supposed to be developing “best practices” to prevent and deal with clerical abuse.

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (who should be the ones dealing with child abuse in the church) said their position is reporting abuse to civil authorities was a “moral obligation, whether the civil law requires it or not”. The official said the commission would be involved in future training efforts.

Keep in mind the abuse Pontifical Commission (the Popes Commission) forced one of two abuse survivors who had personally been appointed by Pope Francis to leave the committee following a vote of no confidence stating he released to much information to the public.  The other abuse victim on the commission has now resigned as of last week.

The Catholic sex abuse stories have been in the news now for 32 years.  The National Catholic Reporter, an independent Catholic publication, broke the first story 32 years ago.  It remains a story because even if the ones abused by clergy and bishops and cardinals have supportive family and friends, a financial cushion and plenty of time in therapy — all big “ifs” — they never entirely leave it behind.  They never completely heal.

It remains a story because many that have been abuse by clergy find salvation in telling their stories. This is not simply catharsis. They want to be assured that their abusers are known to the world and can never hurt another child. They want to know if their abusers had other victims. They want other victims to know that they were not alone, and that it was not their fault. They want to put their trauma to some use. Only then can they rest.  

Unfortunately many in the Catholic Church, officials and lay people, would like for them to just fade away so they can put these horrible acts (which still continue) behind them.  That is what made the problem worse in the first place lay people in the Catholic Church turned a blind eye to the problem and allowed it to go on for centuries.

The clergy abuse story remains a story because abuse victims often wait years before they are ready to speak. They are too ashamed, or confused, or afraid of not being believed. But eventually they tell someone, and once they start speaking, some cannot stop. That’s why the sexual abuse story has emerged so slowly, over years, in waves. Abuse victims are like combat veterans: The war is long over, but the coping is not. Years after the Vietnam War ended, people are still writing memoirs and making movies, still processing what happened.

Of course, child sexual abuse is an issue everywhere, not just in the Catholic Church.  It takes place in every denomination and even in independent churches.  It takes place in it in schools, scouting organizations, camps, United Nations missions and every public and private organization that involve children.  It happens so often it is hard to keep track: Protestant, Jewish, Hindu, Jehovah’s Witnesses and the most bizarre story of all — an international Christian cult called the Children of God.  But the scandal in the Catholic Church has proved far more extensive. 

You may ask why is it so extensive in the Catholic Church well one reason is the sheer number of Catholics— Catholics make up about a quarter of the American population and are the largest single religious denomination. The Catholic Church is also a hierarchical organization that keeps extensive records, so abuse usually leaves a paper trail.  Another factor, too, is the exalted position of priests, acting “in persona Christi” — in the person of Christ.  And then there is the church’s requirement of celibacy for priests. While many live by and value it, for others it has led to covert sexual relationships with adults, double lives and deep secrets.

Some also theorize that the all-male priesthood is a factor. While it’s quite possible that having women in the clergy would have instilled more accountability and sensitivity, child sexual abuse also happens in faiths with married clergy. It also happens in families.

American Bishops are not abiding by the reforms they agreed to in 2002, in response to the eruption of cases set off by the scandal in Boston. The American bishops agreed to report allegations to the authorities and to remove all credibly accused priests from ministry. They agreed to establish prevention programs in parishes and schools, teach children and adults about warning signs, and conduct background checks on employees.

As a retired priest I and many like me are stewing that colleagues who have failed to protect children make us all look bad — but then news is never about the planes that land safely.

In closing states should drop the statute of limitations for filing criminal charges in all child abuse cases, and extend the statute for filing civil cases to age 60.  Leaders of any organization that know of child abuse within their organization and do not report it immediately should be charged criminally and face a minimum of five years in prison.  

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

What do you believe and why?

What are some of your most deeply held beliefs or convictions? Why do you believe them? For most of us, our parents played a key role in shaping our beliefs.  Many of our beliefs have been shaped by personal experiences, teachers, peers, society, ministers and traditions.  They are not our original beliefs, but someone else’s.

What we believe matters.   What we believe can lead us down a path that leads to good or bad, success or failure, safety or danger, happiness or sadness, humility or pride and even love or hate.   One set of convictions or beliefs shapes those  that belong to the Ku Klux Klan or The Black Panthers or ISIS and another set of beliefs shapes those that belong to charitable organizations, support groups, community service that benefits all, etc.  What we believe really does matter.

From the earliest times Christians made attempts to summarize their essential beliefs the Apostle’s Creed is an example of that.  I know of no church organization that does not have a statement of beliefs and I know of no fraternal organization that does not have a statement of beliefs.  Beliefs matter!  They define our values, morals and relationships.  They shape our goals, ambitions, hopes, and dreams.  It is important we know what we believe in and be able to defends those beliefs.

Unfortunately we can be so rigid in our beliefs and convictions that we cannot listen to those with different beliefs or convictions.  This is especially true in the religious world.  Regardless of what we believe about God, humanity or our world, we will lack certainty and that lack of certainty should lead us to humility in our convictions and in our interactions with those who disagree with us.  How can anyone prove beyond a shadow of doubt  what they believe is absolute truth and that there is no other way?

I learned long ago that what I believed was sometimes flawed and not only hurt me it hurt others.  This is not going to set well with many, but there was a time that I believed if you did not accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior you COULD NOT go to heaven.   Pastor Joel Olsten is criticized by many in the religious community because he will not state point blank that your destiny is hell if you do not accept Jesus Christ.  I am not God and God has inspired men in scripture to write, “My ways or not your ways”, I am not to judge, but leave that to Him, that He can do anything He pleases and does not need our permission. 

I once believe that abortion was an unforgivable sin.  I once believed people that divorced and remarried without jumping through the church's legal loops to get an annulment could not partake of the sacraments.  I once believed if you were not baptized you could not go to heaven and that babies who died before being baptized were in LIMBO.  I once believed in purgatory.  I once believed priest had a special power to represent God when it came to forgiving yours sins.  I once believed we needed to sacrifice Christ over and over again at every mass as if the one sacrifice on the cross was not enough.  I now do not believe any of those things.  Not only did I sincerely believe those things I taught them to others.  I believed them because that is what my parents believed and my church believed.  I did not know any different and did not think I had the right to question them.

What we believe has a significant impact on our lives.  Our beliefs influence who we marry , the career we choose, the way we see right and wrong, how we see our parent and our children, what we do with our time and money, and how we face adversity.  Those beliefs lead us to say no to many things we may have said yes to and yes to things we might otherwise have said no to.

“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.”  I believe Christians must believe there is a God, a Supreme Being, that created the universe.  How God created it may be open for debate, but it is essential that a Christian believe that God did create all things.  I believe Christians must perceive God not simply as a force of nature, but as an entity, a Being, that is both intelligent and powerful.

Men like Isaac Newton, Blaise Pascal, and Galileo, who, despite the church’s blunder in criticizing their conclusions, continued to maintain their faith in God.  I do think science and faith are compatible.  I also believe these men were far more intelligent than me.  There are some scientist that do not believe in God, but there is just as many that do.

 Jesus Christ is our defining story.  Jesus demonstrates who God is, what God is like, and what God’s will is for our lives. His life and ministry, His death and resurrection shape how we see ourselves and how we see the world.  Jesus Christ provides us with a different perspective on life.  Christians believe we were born with purpose, our lives have meaning and when our mortal body is finished, we’ve only just begun to live. 

Richard Dawkins (who I believe to be evil) once wrote, “We are survival machines—robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes.” But faith in Jesus says that we were made for more than this.  In fact, the pain and brokenness in our world are largely the result of our living as “robot vehicles” blindly focused on serving the self.  Jesus calls us to be authentically human, to love, give, serve, and rise above our selfish genes.  As we do so we not only make the world a more just and compassionate place; we find joy in the process.  I pity Richard Dawkins and I am willing to show him mercy because of his broken body that may influence his beliefs.  Regardless of what Richard Dawkins says about Jesus Christ or what anyone else may say I know Jesus of Nazareth has been the dominant figure in the history of Western culture for over 2000 years and I doubt that Richard Dawkins will be.   

When God sought to communicate His love for us, he sent Jesus. It was in His Son that God’s message came to us and became our defining story. Through Jesus, God was saying: You matter to me and I love you.  In Jesus, God showed that He cares about those who are lost and those who are made to feel unimportant.  He showed us compassion for the sick.  He showed us how to love, to forgive, to give, to serve.  In Jesus’ death on the cross God showed us the depth of His love and the price of grace. And in Jesus’ resurrection, God defeated our evil, hate, sin, and death! 

My church has put so much emphasis on Mother Mary that our people know little about the Holy Spirit.  Many Christians in our church haven’t been taught about the Spirit, nor encouraged to seek the Spirit’s work in their lives. As a result, their spiritual lives are a bit anemic and they are trying to live the Christian life on their own power and wisdom.  That is impossible!

What are the voices you listen to, and what are the powers that shape your life?  I find there are voices in my own life that would lead me to give in to hate, indifference, desire, pride, infidelity, selfishness, or greed. But when we listen to the voice of the Spirit and open ourselves to the Spirit’s active work in our lives, we find that we are led to a very different place and to become very different people.

The Spirit convicts us and quickens our conscience when we’re doing wrong. The Spirit, through persistent nudges, urges us to act selflessly in our care for others. The Spirit makes us long to be more than we are at the present and to become more like the people God intended us to be.  in Galatians 5:22-23: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”  The Holy Spirit gives us these gifts and no where in the Bible does it say Mother Mary does. 

How different is this fruit than the fruit of our own hearts, and the culture around us.

The “Holy” and catholic (universal/unity) church.”  When many people view the church today, it looks neither holy nor catholic. It seems filled with hypocrites and judgmental people; in fact, this is one reason why many have turned away from “organized religion” and why so many young adults today say that they are “spiritual but not religious.”  Interestingly, these same young people have great admiration for Jesus, but far less admiration for His people, the church. They see neither holiness nor catholicity (unity) when they look at the most vocal Christians and the most outspoken churches today. 

The word holy in the biblical context means belonging to God, or “sacred to” God or “set apart for” God. You’ve likely heard it said that the church is not a country club for perfect people, but instead a hospital for broken and sinful people who are slowly being made well. We need to make sure the non-churched understand that we know that and stop pretending we are bunch of perfect people.  The church does not belong to us it belongs to God.  The next time you try and tell someone they are sitting in your seat at church remember that. The church is holy when we love Christ and seeks to be faithful to Him.  The church is holy when we are not attacking one another for interpreting a scripture differently. 

Christ tried to forestall the divisions among His followers by telling His disciples not to judge one another, and to love one another and forgive one another. Nevertheless, the church divided and continues to divide to this day.   Our belief in the holy, catholic church (universal/unity) is an ecumenical belief that all who call upon the name of Christ and seek to follow Him as Savior and Lord are, despite their denominational or nondenominational names, part of one universal church.  The Roman Catholic Church is a part of that one universal church, and so is the Eastern Orthodox Church, as well as the Lutherans, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Baptists, Pentecostals, Methodists, nondenominational churches, and all the rest.  What right do you have to say Catholics are not CHRISTIANS?  Does it make you feel more important than Catholics, more loved by God?  PRIDE!

I still believe in the importance of the church, but unfortunately at the moment I find that I cannot attend and that certainly has affected my life in a negative way.  I pray one day before I die I will be able to find a church that I can return to and feel at home.  I have not stopped looking.  People need to be able to express differences of opinion within the church and be respected and loved.  I knew that once in a church in Galveston, Texas and I will never forget it.