“If you disagree with me you’re hate-filled!” – the new American mantra

If you’ve been following my blog and the articles on the Journal News regarding my May 19th post about transgenderism and the “bathroom wars” you will notice that the responses were all over the place.  Here’s my reaction to what people wrote.

First of all, I am disappointed that so many people resorted merely to name-calling rather than offering evidence to support their opposing view. I am especially amazed by the number of people who used hate-filled language to call me hate-filled. Sadly, it seems to have become a common reaction to call anyone who disagrees with you “hate-filled.” Whatever happened to respectfully disagreeing? I a26eb437e7180c8268f569f77f2395fcwill not respond specifically to any such accusations other than to tell the person to reread my article. There was nothing hate-filled in it and I made no derogatory comments about transgender individuals. I have a good friend who is currently addressing this issue with his daughter and I am well aware that the issue is painful and complex. I merely offered an alternative approach that I still support as being more compassionate in the long run, one which was stated by Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitiae. I was also well aware that some people would find offense in my chicken analogy, and I prefaced my argument by stating I intended no insult to anyone. I like to argue by analogy. So if you were offended by the chicken analogy, let’s use a human one: suppose a 16-year-old feels he identifies more as a 21-year-old? Should he now be allowed to purchase alcohol? Or suppose a man in his forties feels more like a senior citizen? Will we allow him senior citizen discounts at stores and the right to collect Social Security? The point is simple: basing rights merely on people’s feelings does no good for anyone. Only addressing reality truly helps them.

One of the few writers who offered any concrete information was published in The Journal News on June 5th. (read letter here) Jeffrey Hoffman introduced into the discussion the topic of intersex genetic karyrotypes. His point was that gender identity is far more complex than what genitals one carries. I researched his assertion and found his summary erroneous. Allow me to quote an article on the website of the Intersex Society of North America (ISNA):

“ISNA is working to create a world free of shame, secrecy, and unwanted sexual surgeries for children born with anatomy that someone decided is not standard male or female. This is different from, for example, having a feeling that your identity is different from most women (or men). (Emphasis mine.) People with intersex conditions generally don’t have to search for evidence that they are intersexed; the evidence is in their own bodies. For instance, women who do not have ovaries, men who don’t have testes, women who have no clitoris or inner labia, people who remember multiple genital surgeries during childhood and scars in their genital area and abdomen, people who have ambiguous genitalia….

Many people confuse transgender and transsexual people with people with intersex conditions because they see two groups of people who would like to choose their own gender identity and sometimes those choices require hormonal treatments and/or surgery. These are similarities… {but} In spite of these similarities, these two groups should not be and cannot be thought of as one. The truth is that the vast majority of people with intersex conditions identify as male or female rather than transgender or transsexual. Thus, where all people who identify as transgender or transsexual experience problems with their gender identity, only a small portion of intersex people experience these problems.

It’s also important to understand the differences between these two groups because in spite of some similarities they face many different struggles, including different forms of discrimination. The differences between transgender and transsexual and intersex have been understood by lawmakers in countries such as Australia where lawmakers have publicly acknowledged that people with intersex conditiospeaking the truth inspirational quotens have distinct needs from people who identify as transgender or transsexual.”

The cases of gender dysphoria being addressed in the “bathrooms war” have nothing to do, with the intersexual condition. The decision by Target and other companies and President Obama’s order that school students be allowed to use whatever bathroom they “feel the identify with” falls prey to the very confusion the ISNA discusses. The issue here is gender dysphoria, not intersex genetic karyrotypes, and the two must not be confused.

I am grateful that for the most part Mr. Hoffman avoided insults, although not completely. Where, for example, in my argument did I at any time claim that transgender Catholics cannot have great contributions to make and cannot have positive influences on others? That was purely an injection on his part. His suggestion that the Church and her priests “embrace the Imago Dei in all its splendid biological variation and to bless the gender-variant Christian” is a misuse of the concept. Embracing the Imago Dei (image of God) means to accept that the Lord is trying to restore to us the holiness of the His image in which we were created but which was damaged by Original Sin. Thus to ignore the perfect image God intended the transgender person to have and merely allow them to embrace the fallen image as if it is okay in itself is to deny them the call to holiness and is therefore an injustice. This must not be misconstrued as judgment of them nor of rejection of their intrinsic human value. We embrace every person as they are, but at the same time we challenge them to strive to live the perfect image of what God created them to be. When speaking of gender dysphoria, I assert it is certainly more difficult but far better to help the person identify with the gender they in fact are rather than encouraging them to pretend to be the gender they are not. In the long run, this is the only truly compassionate solution.

I am what I am, and nothing can change that!

Everybody wants to show compassion, especially to people who are emotionally hurting. Most people, however, know that misplaced compassion is even more harmful than lack of compassion, and sometimes we have to look very carefully at exactly what we’re doing when we decide to address someone’s needs. Let’s consider the following example:

Suppose I were to come to believe one day that I feel more like a chicken than a human being and I publicly announced to the world that from now on I want to be considered a chicken. What do you think most people would say? They may feel terrible for my plight and may see the anguish I am going through, but they would clearly realize that, irrespective of the cause, something has gone wrong in my thought process and my feelings to make me believe I am a chicken. They would undoubtedly say I need some sort of help. I am not a chicken, and they need to get me to accept the truth that I have deceived myself. Of course there would be some people who, in compassion for me and in fear of being accused of discrimination against those with different feelings, would go along with me and would tell me that it’s okay for me to be a chicken if I want to be, and they might even build me a chicken coop to live in. They would publicly defend my “right” to live as I wish and would brand anyone who doesn’t allow me to live out my fantasy as “chicken-phobes”. Someone may even find a doctor who is willing to give me avian hormone shots to help me grow feathers and others may teach me how to cluck properly, but is any of this really doing me any good? As much as I may think I’m a chicken, I’m never going to lay an egg! In fact I am not a chicken: I am a man, and the only thing that will truly help me in the long run is to get me the help I need to accept that I am a human being and address whatever the cause is that’s made me think that I am a chicken. Anything to the contrary would be a misplaced compassion, which is far more harmful than lack of compassion.

It may seem a bizarre stretch from this story, and I apologize if anyone is offended by the analogy for I assure you no offense is intended, but I find our modern society guilty of making the very same mistake when it comes to “transgender” individuals. Now please don’t get me wrong, I understand that there are great pains involved by someone in such a situation. I have a good friend of mine whose daughter is going through this at this very moment, and I know the pain both the child and the parents are experiencing. But are we actually helping anyone who thinks they’re a different gender by going along with the charade? We can certainly empathize with their struggle, and we may think we’re helping a girl who think she’s really a boy or vice-versa by telling her she can dress as a man and use the men’s room (even the Obama administration is now encouraging schools all over the country to allow young people to use the bathroom of their choice rather than their natural gender), but the girl is not a boy; she is a girl. We are male or female down to every gene in our body and dressing up in other clothes, even having surgeriesMale and female he created them to alter the appearance is only doing that: altering the appearance. It’s like putting on a costume, but it does not change reality. I know that we want to understand and help people, but are we in the long run helping people by encouraging them to deceive themselves? It would be far better if we were to help the person accept the reality of their gender and work with them in living as that gender, not encouraging them to delude themselves into thinking they are something which in fact they are not. And especially when we are talking about teenagers, who have their whole lives ahead of them, would it not be far better in the long run for us to help them live with the gender they are rather than encouraging them to live their whole lives pretending to be something they are not? Encouraging someone to be “transgender” is the easy way to convince ourselves we’re helping them, but it is not the right way in the long run.

Consider this real instance: I know of a young woman who is living as a man and dating another woman. Does the other woman know that this “man” she is dating is really another woman? If she does, then she’s a woman dating a woman pretending to be a man. Am I the only one who sees something unhealthy in this whole bizarre scenario? Is encouraging this altered reality really in either of their best interests in the long run? And if she doesn’t know “he’s” really a woman, imagine how hurt and angry she will be when eventually she finds out! Is that fair to the other woman? I find that indefensibly cruel.

I do not want to mislead anyone into thinking I am naïve about the real pain experienced by people and families in these situations, and I’m not for a moment pretending that I can offer a simple solution, but I know what the solution is not: it is of absolutely no help to encourage people to live a lie. This massive social embrace of “transgenderism” is, quite frankly, political correctness run amok. We’re so afraid of being accused of lacking compassion or of discriminating that we don’t tell people the truth for fear of hurting them, so instead, we encourage a farce. As a society we have overdosed on looking for simple solutions to complicated problems, and so we blindly embrace anything that offers a quick answer. But there are no simple solutions; if there were, they would not be complicated problems. When matters are complicated, you can be sure that the solution will be difficult. My question is, what’s the next lie we are going to embrace?
It’s time we start facing the hard reality that encouraging people to identify themselves as “transgender” is convenient and accommodating in the short run, but in the long run it only makes things worse. Counseling and true compassion – not misplaced compassion – that lovingly helps the person live with their God-given gender (or nature-given if you don’t believe in God) is the only hope for true peace of mind for the “transgender” individual. Anything else is nothing more than a real life application of the Emperor’s New Clothes.

 

I don’t believe everything the Church teaches. Am I a hypocrite?

christian or hypocriteSomeone recently told me that he was having a discussion with a few people who were very much trying to follow the Lord, but they felt like fake Catholics because they don’t agree with the Church on some of the “hot button” topics today, and they wanted to know if that means they’re not good Catholics and are instead hypocrites. It’s an excellent question and I was very glad that these young people were considering it. There may be many others reading this who have the same feeling. Should you be considered a fake Catholic or a hypocrite if you don’t follow everything the Church teaches? My answer is, “not necessarily.” There is more information that needs to be looked at before anyone could judge himself and accuse himself of being fake or a hypocrite.

First of all, what does it mean to be a hypocrite? Hypocrites are not people who don’t understand or who don’t agree: hypocrites are people who claim they are doing God’s will and yet turn around and end up doing precisely the opposite of what God wants. I will give you an example of where I have found hypocrisy recently in some people in the church: Usually on my blog and in other places I find myself battling the liberal people who want the Church to change her teachings, but recently I have found myself in a strong battle against people on the extreme right who are condemning Pope Francis. I found myself in a conversation on a rather reactionary conservative site that is accusing Pope Francis of abandoning the faith in his new apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. They seem to have ignored all of the strong things the Pope said about the value of a traditional marriage and the things for families to do in order to keep their marriage strong and have focused their attention on a footnote in one comment about Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. In the exhortation the Pope clearly reiterated the Church’s teaching that divorced and remarried Catholics who have done so without an annulment are in an irregular situation and cannot licitly present themselves to receive Holy Communion. In a footnote to that the Pope mentions that under certain circumstances some people may be able to be admitted to Communion. That has always been the teaching of the Church. For example, couples who are invalidly married but willing to live as brother and sister-meaning they refrain from any sexual activity-may present themselves for Holy Communion after confession provided no scandal to the faithful exists. Unfortunately, these reactionary people read only the footnote and seemed to be convinced beforehand that Pope Francis, by not just bashing people over the head as sinners, is somehow altering the Faith and has changed the Church’s teaching on the matter. I put a comment on a question board on this site asking people, “please someone showed me the quote where Pope Francis changed the Church’s teaching on Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics?” The reactions I got back from that were vile and obscene! While some very politely accused me of living in a naïvely Pollyanna world where I did not want to see the “serious danger of the Pope’s new teaching,” others told me I was doing the devil’s work and they were praying for my soul because I was in danger of being condemned for all eternity simply because I did not condemn Pope Francis! Another one said he would listen to tradition and not “the evil teachings of this evil Pope”. When I asked him where he found the justification to judge the Pope, he said to me “God has given me the right to judge the Pope!” Mamma Mia! That sounds like Martin Luther all over to me! That’s precisely what the Protestant reformers had said: they felt that the Pope had broken from Tradition and they had a God-given duty to correct the Pope and even broke away to “reform” the Church into what they thought it was supposed to be! I wrote a note to the editor of that website saying that I would no longer participate on the site because of the self-righteous and sanctimonious statements of some of the readers that they are attracting. I told him they are attracting people who believe they speak for God and when even the Pope says something they don’t like they believe the Pope is wrong and they are right; in other words, their minds and their thoughts are the ultimate judge of truth, and in their self-righteousness they have repeated exactly what the Pharisees did in condemning Jesus. The Pharisees were convinced they were defending God and attacking an evil person when they sent Jesus to his death, and I told the editor I would have no part of such an attitude! That to me is hypocrisy; the “I-am-right-and-anyone-who-disagrees-with-me-is-a-condemned-sinner” attitude.

As for others who don’t believe they agree with the Church, we must remember that Jesus during his lifetime made some very provocative statements and he challenged people. Lots of things that he said went against the grain. Sometimes people rejected him without hearing him through and understanding why he taught what he did, and so they ended up not following Jesus and not experiencing the salvation he could offer them. That is a mistake. Take for example the situation when Jesus gave the Great Discourse on the Bread of Life, telling everyone they had to eat his flesh and drink his blood in order to have eternal life (cf John 6). For Jews that was a horror! Contact with human blood made you unclean, and so it violated everything they believed in. In addition, Jesus did not tell them he was going to turn bread and wine into his body and blood, and so they must have thought he was talking about cannibalism. St. John tells us that after this many of Jesus’ followers abandoned him and would no longer be his disciples. He turned to the apostles and asked them if they too wanted to leave him, and Peter replies, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Peter didn’t understand any more than the others did, but he was so convinced in whom Jesus was that he accepted something that made no sense to him simply because Jesus said it and he knew Jesus could not be wrong. What Peter said is what Jesus was looking for: trust in him completely, so that even things that did not make sense to us we would accept because Jesus said it and then look for the answer and the explanation as to why Jesus said what he did. The apostles found that; those who left him did not.

So to people who accuse themselves of being fake Catholics because they reject the Church’s teaching on any number of issues, I ask them to ask themselves this: have you carefully looked at why the Church teaches what she does on this particular issue? Many times we reject something without understanding why it’s taught in the first place. Remember that we, thanks to Original Sin, are rewired in a faulty way whereby what is God’s will and what advances us on the spiritual journey to salvation is not natural to us. Because of that, our natural inclination is not to embrace the things that lead us to heaven but what makes us happy here on earth. Sometimes meeting a need here on earth would compromise our call to salvation. But we don’t see that, especially when to follow the Lord’s teaching would be to cause us inconvenience or even suffering here and now, and we end up rejecting the teaching because we only want convenience now and don’t see the high price we have to pay for that convenience.

So have we thought everything through and gotten complete and sufficient information to know that something that would satisfy our desire now will compromise our call to salvation, and then chosen to reject the teaching? If so, then I would say we are not authentic Catholics. But for most people we simply have our own opinions that have come from the world around us which we have openly accepted without even thinking through, and ended up rejecting the Church’s teaching without really thinking it through. So I’m not saying for a moment that it’s okay for someone to reject the Church’s teaching! At the same time, however, I don’t think it’s fair for anyone to accuse either himself or another of being a hypocrite or a fake Catholic simply because he has not completely come to understand why the Church teaches something it does. So before you condemn yourself, do research and find out why the Church teaches what she does on certain issues. If you are of honest faith and a desire to follow Jesus, chances are when you do, you will find yourself understanding the teaching better and perhaps even accepting it. Only if someone has completely understood the teaching and chosen to reject it should he say that he is not a faithful Catholic.

Are you a True Penitent or a Pharisee?

I’d like to share some thoughts I have about our Lenten penitential practices. First of all, there is a common misunderstanding going on for many years now that penance is only for Lent. This is not true at all. There are other penitential days of the year, such as All Souls’ Day, January 22nd in reparation for the sin of legal abortion in the United States, and every Friday of the year! THE CHURCH NEVER REMOVED THE OBLIGATION TO PERFORM PENANCE ON ALL FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR!!! What happened was that, for several understandable reasons, the Church allowed people to replace abstinence from meat on Fridays outside of Lent with another form of penance without having to call their pastor and ask for his permission. But somehow that got commonly interpreted as “Friday penance is optional” or “You don’t have to do penance on Friday.” The only change was that, outside of Lent, while abstinence from meat is still the preferred form of penance, individuals are free to replace abstinence with another form of penance, but not to eliminate penance altogether! Not doing something penitential every Friday is something that should be brought to confession. During Lent, we are obliged to observe that Friday penance by abstaining from meat.

“Okay, so I’m good to go in that department; I never eat meat on Fridays!” Great! But now let’s take it one step further: what is the purpose for abstaining from meat? It is so that we do penance. Since we all like meat, we give it up as a sacrifice. Lots of people, however, don’t eat meat but instead go out to a seafood restaurant and have lobster. I don’t know about you, butlobster I’ll give up a hamburger for a lobster any day! While technically we obeyed the letter of the law: “lobster is not meat, so I did not eat meat on Friday,” neither did we do any penance. We obeyed the letter of the law but ignored the reason for the law. Now imagine you’re eating a succulent lobster dinner and say to the waiter, “This glaze on the lobster is delicious! What’s in it?” and he tells you, “Oh, the cook uses several herbs and a chicken bouillon base!” You gasp, “Oh, no! I ate chicken on Friday! I’ve sinned!” To be honest, the chicken bouillon in the glaze that you didn’t even know was there is not nearly as sinful as skirting the obligation to do penance by eating a lobster. Or imagine you decide to have a lasagna dinner but make sure it’s cheese lasagna instead of meat lasagna. Well, again, the letter of the law is fulfilled, but where is the penance? Pasta fazoolSo instead, I recommend having something you don’t like as much. I remember my mother making lentil soup, pasta e fagioli (a.k.a. pasta fazool!), buttered noodles & fish cakes, or other items that made us look forward to having our meat again. So let’s all try to observe the true meaning of going meatless – to do penance – and avoid succumbing to the temptation to get around the requirement by having delicious meatless meals. After all, that’s what Jesus blasted the Pharisees for doing and called them hypocrites. Let’s be sincere and keep our Friday meals simple.

Is there any hope for the world?

Someone recently asked me a question that I found to be quite profound: “Father, do you think there is any hope for the world?” (This question actually came from a young man who came with his fiancée to make arrangements for their marriage.) I was floored by such a deep question at a wedding interview. I told him, “Well, any hope we have can only be found in Christ. It won’t come from Washington!” In the midst of a presidential election year, we will continue to hear many promises from all the candidates for President until Election Day. We will listen, and we will ultimately Earth-clip-art-8each vote for the person we feel offers the most hope for America. But you know what will happen? No one we elect will deliver 100% of what he or she promises. We know all too well that much of the time candidates say what they know we want to hear in order to get our vote. At other times they promise things that they firmly believe they will be able to provide, yet once they get into office and face the reality of the situation, they realize they can’t fulfill the promise, and sometimes they even espouse the very opposite position to what they promised. Rarely do they actually make good on their promises. I don’t mean this as a blanket condemnation of all politicians but as an observation of fact: it is very hard for even the most honest politicians to keep the promises they make. That is because we are all fallen individuals and do not have all knowledge of reality. Only one person does – Jesus – and yet too often we listen to everyone but Jesus. For some reason that we’re hard pressed to explain, we dismiss the Gospel of Jesus as too “pie-in-the-sky” and unrealistic but we listen with devotion to politicians. We tend to see the Gospel as something that would be nice in a perfect world but which is not practical here and now. Dismissing the Gospel because the world is not perfect is like being lost and having a GPS but not using it because you’re lost! Does that make any sense? The Gospel is precisely the way to make the world the place we long for it to be. So why don’t we listen to Jesus. There is a plethora of reasons people will offer, but underneath them all is one common denominator: we are not in love with Jesus. We don’t trust him because we don’t really know him. We believe in him, but without falling in love with him, we don’t make him the foundation of our lives. I am convinced that we will only know true peace when we come to love Jesus with all our hearts and make him the center of our life. We cannot make the world love Jesus overnight, but we can learn to love him ourselves and change our own lives to have the meaning and purpose for which we always yearn.

Here at St. Ann’s we are introducing a new program entitled “Christlife.” it is a seven-week retreat series that will take place on Thursday evenings from 7:00 PM -9:30 PM in Fr. discovering-christAnthony Hall. Our first session entitled “Discovering Christ” will talk about precisely these things. We will not dwell on specific beliefs nor enter into catechetics or any hard sell of Jesus. Instead, we will talk about what life is all about and why we need a Savior, specifically Jesus. You will be fed a great meal and then we will have discussion about life and the role Jesus should play in it. Our team has people of every age from 15 through elderly adults, both male and female. If you live near Yonkers, come to Christlife! It may change your life! If you don’t live in our area, look for Christlife where you live. Catholic parishes are offering it all over the country. Make a commitment that will pay off for the rest of your life and into eternity! Come to know Jesus, and you will come to know yourself!

I’ve had it!!! This means WAR!!!!

I’ve decided it’s time to wage war! Against whom, you ask? Against those inconsiderate people who chew very potent smelly gum in close spaces.

Have you ever been stuck next to someone on a plane who is chewing one of those horribly overly-scented mint gums that makes you want to puke? That happened to me recently. On top of this, she kept snapping it and exposing it on her tongue for everyone to see. Yesterday I was in a restaurant and the person at the next table was chewing a foul-smelling gum that clashed with the beautiful aroma of my dinner. Imagine! It was so powerful that I could smell it at the next table!! (I can only imagine what it did to her food!!!) You come across such obnoxious smells in elevators, subways, in doctor’s offices, in fact, it seems everywhere. I have no desire to become the gum-gestapo, but if I end up getting sick and spewing my breakfast all over them, I’m going to tell them it’s their own fault! I hope they like the smell of my breakfast a few hours later!

I know people have a right to chew gum, but I wish they’d be a little more considerate of those around them who may not appreciate being hit by a hurricane of stinky gum odor.

 

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I’ve also never understood how women especially find snapping gum and swirling it on their exposed tongue to be glamorous. I don’t think I’ve never heard a man declare he was so turned on by the smell of a woman’s gum, or by the way she could snap it at such a high frequency pitch or manipulate it with her tongue. Reality check ladies! Chewing gum is NOT glamorous!!!

Please chew responsibly!