Feast of the Most Holy Trinity

The Feast of the Most Holy Trinity was celebrated this year on May 26.  It is closely related to the Feast of Pentecost which was celebrated the previous Sunday because it is through the continuing work of the Holy Spirit that our belief about this great mystery of the inner life of the Godhead has been sustained and clarified.

One of the great functions, so to speak, of the times of the Old Covenant was to build a People of God who were firmly and irrevocably committed to the belief that there is only One God, the God who had revealed himself to them starting with Abraham.  It was not easy, and the many woes of the Old Testament times illustrate the tendency of the descendents of Abraham to become part of the pagan cultures surrounding them with their gods for this and for that.  It seems to me that the great story of the Maccabees is that they were finally willing to suffer and die for their belief in the One God.

Now the stage was set for the One God to reveal the inner life of the Godhead, that in the One God there are three Divine Persons named Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The revelation was gradual.  With the benefit of hindsight, we can see an allusion to the Holy Trinity in the visit of God to Abraham who “lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men stood in front of him” (Gn 18:2).  At the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus, he is baptized by John.  As soon as Jesus came up from the water “the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, ‘This is my believed Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt 3:16-17).  In the Transfiguration, the voice from the cloud repeats this message and adds “Listen to him” (Mt 17:5).  The gospel of Matthew concludes with the Great Commission that includes the clearest statement of Trinitarian life of the One Godhead.  “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” (Mt 28:19).

These revelations did not answer all the future specific questions that would arise, for example, about the relationship of Jesus and the Triune God.  Jesus had taught us the Sacred Reality, but he knew full well that questions would arise.  What should we believe about the nature of Jesus himself?  Some would affirm that he is true God and true man, but others would deny it.  How can we know for certain what is true?

It is highly significant that the Gospel reading for Trinity Sunday comes from the Last Supper words of Jesus.  “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.  But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth” (Jn 16:12-13).

The bottom line is this.  We can know with the certainty of faith that what the Church teaches about God is true because we believe that Jesus keeps his Last Supper promises.  And as to why we should believe Jesus, his words are confirmed by his resurrection from the dead.  As  St. Paul wrote, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” 1 Cor 15:14.

Thanks be to God for the life and teaching, the passion and death, and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.  Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit as it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever.  Amen.

Melinda Gates on birth control and saving babies

Billionaires get attention especially when they do something they claim is for the good of the little people.  Thus Melinda Gates got a one-third page story in the first section of the Wall Street Journal for May 11-12, 2013 (Travels Changed Gates’s view on Global Birth Control).  According to the story, Mrs. Gates heard complaints from women in sub-Sahara Africa and South Asia that because of a short supply they were frequently not able to get the Depo-Provera “shot” they had previously received.  So last summer the Gates Foundation co-hosted a conference that raised pledges of $2.6 billion “to bring voluntary family planning services to 120 million more women in the world’s poorest countries by 2020.”  What a horrible and counter-productive waste of money!

To reach their goal, the Gates Foundation and several public and private partners have cut a deal with Bayer and Merck to reduce the price of their long-lasting implants by roughly one-half to $8.50 per unit.  “Janelle” is the successor to Norplant and can be used for 3 to 5 years, and Merck’s Implanon can be used for 3 to 4 years.  The list of side effects is long, but third-world women who use these hormonal birth control agents will most likely not have a local doctor who can help them, and how much it will cost to remove the implants is unknown.  The Big Pharma houses will most likely not have to deal with class-action lawsuits from third-world women who believe they were inadequately warned about possible side effects—as they have in the States.

Mrs. Gates is also interested in reducing child infant mortality, and she recommends “Kangaroo” mother care.  This involves holding the infant closely with lots of skin-to-skin contact to maintain the infant’s body heat, and that’s all very well and good.  But, as my wife has pointed out in her letter to the WSJ, the primary benefit of kangaroo care is that it promotes ecological breastfeeding if the mothers and their coaches allow it.  Allow???  Yes–allow!  Although we might think that in third-world and supposedly nature-oriented cultures mothers would automatically breastfeed as soon as the baby is born, that is unfortunately far from being the case.  Here’s a quotation from Sheila’s letter:

“While the baby-warming effects of kangaroo care are important, the most important thing that can be done to save babies is immediate and prolonged breastfeeding.  A study by Save the Children (2013) shows that 830,000 babies’ lives would be saved if breastfed within the first hour and that such first-hour breastfed babies were about three times more likely to survive than babies breastfed just one day later.”

Just imagine for a few moments how much the health and lives of babies and their mothers would be improved if every third-world baby were blessed with ecological breastfeeding.  Not only would there be a natural spacing of babies about two and sometimes three years apart without any contraception or even systematic NFP, but they would also be saved from the bad effects of the hormonal contraceptives.

So, pray for the conversion of Melinda and Bill Gates, and please pray for our NFP apostolate whose advocacy of ecological breastfeeding is unique in the field of natural family planning.

John F. Kippley, President, NFP International, www.NFPandmore.org

Is Jason Collins a Good Man?

That question was the headline on Paul Daugherty’s article in the Sports section of the Cincinnati Enquirer Monday, May 6.  Normally Daugherty illustrates the Irish gift of gab, but usually he does not venture into moral theology.  In this case, he was in way over his head.

First, Daugherty’s question invites the reader to judge Mr. Collins, the basketball player who recently declared that he is “gay.”  There two different judgments.  The first has to do with behaviors, and those who believe in the God of Revelation are called to believe that God has already passed judgment on certain behaviors.  Those judgments are found in the Ten Commandments, in other parts of Sacred Scripture, and in the teaching Tradition of the Catholic Church.  The common understanding is that “gay” means more than having a same-sex attraction.  If “gay” means that a person is doing sodomy, the revealed biblical judgment is clear: the behavior is thoroughly condemned by God.

The second judgment has to do with the personal guilt or merit of the person doing any particular act.  Here we have the admonition of Jesus, “Judge not lest you be judged (Mt 7:1).”  That applies to people doing objectively good works and also to those who are doing objectively evil works.  One person might be doing good works strictly for show; another person doing evil works might be so consumed by an evil culture that he or she is almost incapable of knowing what is objectively right and wrong.  Only God can judge the guilt or merit of any particular person.

Collins says, “Maybe they’ll talk about my character and what kind of person I am.”  It’s hard to imagine someone saying that unless they think others will think he is a “good person.”  Sorry, but that sounds too much like the accounts of criminals who tell the judge, “I’m really a good person.”

Daugherty comforts himself and Collins by finding satisfaction in the declining sexual morality of our day.  Regarding sodomy, “It’s becoming less a moral issue and more one of civil rights.  That’s good, because civil rights can be legislated.  Morality bends.  Hopefully, we all recognize goodness when we see it.”

That’s precisely what the same-sex marriage battle is all about.  According to Scripture and Tradition, sodomy is a moral evil.  According to some unbelievers, we should regard it as good.  The goodness I see in this battle is the moral effort being made by those who have a same-sex attraction but recognize it as a disorder and are being chaste.  I see goodness in the effort of the Courage Movement to help these men.  I see goodness in the efforts of all those who are working to maintain the biblical and previously universal human standard that marriage can occur only between heterosexual men and women.

I feel sorry for Jason Collins and sympathize with his situation, but he is not helped by those who tell him that sodomy is now okay.  They should instead help him to find the help he needs.

It needs to be said that this battle was implicitly predicted more than 80 years ago when Anglican bishops were debating marital contraception.  The conservatives warned that the acceptance of marital contraception would lead to the acceptance of sodomy, but the majority nevertheless proceeded to accept marital contraception.   The rest is history.  For more on this see John F. Kippley,  “Sexual Revolution: Part One.”

Moral Degeneracy and National Survival

“Democracy May Have Had Its Day” was the headline article on the Wall Street Journal “Opinion” page for April 27-28.  The half-page article reported that 80-year-old Professor Donald Kagan will give his farewell lecture at Yale, Thursday, May 2.  The expectation is that he will be throwing his final darts from that podium at modern education that he thinks is failing to educate students in history, philosophy and the grounding of Western civilization.  When he views the threats coming from Asia and Iran and sees no leadership willing to be serious in addressing them, he says, “When you allow yourself to think of it, you don’t know whether you are going to laugh or cry.”  I would suggest that the sexual immorality that is just taken for granted at Yale might be an even greater threat to the survival of the Western civilization that this classics scholar seeks to defend.

The top story on CBS news Monday evening, April 29, was that an NBA veteran has come out as openly gay.  In his article posted Monday at the Sports Illustrated website, Jason Collins wrote: “I’m a 34-year-old NBA center.  I’m black.  And I’m gay.”  Not surprisingly, he drew support from President Obama, former President Clinton, the NBA, and other athletes such as Billie Jean King who was outed in the 1980s.

Is the United States of America in decline?  Many think so.  Is it probable that if things continue the way they have been going for the last 100 years, the social and political landscape of this country will be catastrophically different?  And if so, what will happen to our great-grandchildren and their successors?  Most of us have been told that the Roman Empire that controlled the then-known world decayed from within and was thus destroyed, but few of us have read Roman authors about the extent of the moral decay.

Anne Barbeau Gardiner, writing in the April issue of the New Oxford Review, offers some insights on ancient Rome.  The poet Juvenal, writing at the start of the second century A.D., inveighs against the moral corruption of his day and “exposed the rampant lust of Roman women and showed that this vice was undermining the native culture and aborting a large part of the next generation of Romans.”  Ms. Gardiner continues: “He starts off (in Satire VI) by saying that, long ago, when human beings lived in caves, there was ‘that thing called chastity on earth.’  The world was fresh and young and women, ‘rough as their savage lords who ranged the wood,’ nursed their robust children at their breasts.”  Even recently, Roman women were “poor and therefore chaste.”  But then they became wealthy, and lust became the new normal.

Ms. Gardiner summarizes her review:  “In sum, ‘Satire VI’ shows that where lust is widespread, especially among women, it leads to cultural insanity, the loss of future generations, and the end of a civilization…[The pagan Juvenal’s] satire plainly reveals the vices that were already causing Rome’s decline at the start of the second century.  Does it offer a lesson for us in the here and now?”  My thanks to Ms. Gardiner and the staff at New Oxford Review.  This is not the sort of thing you will read in the daily papers, even those with national readerships.

When Jesus was questioned about divorce and remarriage, He replied that from the beginning “God made them male and female…”  (Mark 10:6)  What appears at first to be simply an obvious statement is actually more profound than I had ever realized, for it responds also to the most basic question about same-sex relationships.  In God’s plan, man and woman are called to marry each other, have children, and stay married until death separates them.  The simple and yet profound reply to those who approve of sodomy in itself and also sodomy under the label of marriage is that God has a plan for love, marriage and sexuality, and same-sex practices contradict that plan and are therefore wrong.  We don’t need reams of sociological data to prove the evil effects of the social acceptance of sodomy although that will be forthcoming in the future.  It is enough to know that Jesus has already provided the answer.

I feel sorry for those with same-sex attractions and I admire those who also remain chaste despite loneliness.  According to those who work with these folks, their loneliness is worse than that of heterosexuals because it’s not something they can talk about with just anybody.  Sympathy, however, does not mean saying that sodomy is now okay.  What it does mean is that these people need Christian help.  The “Courage” movement started by Fr. John Harvey in New York some years ago is precisely what’s needed—a chastity-supporting environment in which men with same-sex attractions can talk about their problems in a non-threatening and spiritually supporting environment.  May the Courage movement continue to grow and help these men.