David Ancell's Virtual Home

Will Religious Freedom Create Corporate Anarchy?

  /   Tuesday, July 01, 2014   /   Comments(0)

It’s all over the news now. It’s on the Internet, so it must be true. Pfizer, Wal-Mart, and Apple are raising religious objections to paying taxes (warning: link contains vitriol). GM now has religious objections to paying employees, so they are going to stop. Rite Aid has religious objections to laws requiring a prescription in order to dispense medication, so now everyone can go there and get the “good stuff” any time. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that Hobby Lobby can’t be forced to provide insurance coverage for abortifacients contraceptives, they can all get away with this stuff, right? If not, maybe they could at least become Jehovah’s Witnesses and stop covering blood transfusions or something like that.

That’s what you might be led to believe if you listen to all the nonsense that is out there in the media about this, including the dissent from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Ginsburg wrote that the ruling was of “startling breadth” and would allow corporations to opt out of almost any law to which they raised a religious objection. Well, now, according to her, corporations that don’t want to follow the law now need only make up a religion and decide that following the law will be against their beliefs. Surely they will get away with it even if there is zero evidence of any such beliefs (or any beliefs at all) predating this ruling.

Well, actually, the more “startling breadth” is really in Ginsburg’s dissent. Indeed, I’ve read similar stuff from some columnist who spouted out that he was “in favor of religious freedom” as long as they “obey the law.”  If so, this logic could be applied against any challenge to any law based on religious freedom. They seem to forget that we have a Constitution that dictates that certain laws can’t be made in this country. This is the issue that was at stake. Does the Department of Health and Human Services have the right to issue this mandate? If a law can’t be challenged because it’s an unnecessary infringement on one’s Constitutional rights, then the Constitution isn’t worth squat. Further, if protecting a company’s rights has broad implications, then so does not doing so. Are we going to give the government the power to require companies to pay for cosmetic surgery, tanning sessions, or Botox to remove wrinkles?

A compelling interest must exist in order to limit religious Freedom, and it has to be done in the least restrictive manner necessary. Sadly, the issue of a compelling interest was basically sidestepped even in the majority ruling. You could find compelling reasons to require coverage of vaccinations, blood transfusions, and psychiatry, but contraception is not essential health care despite what the left wants it to be. It is a lifestyle choice. The “need” for it can be eliminated by simple self control.

It also defies logic to say that for-profit businesses do not have rights. Businesses in this country tend to be owned by human beings. If a business doesn’t exist to serve customers and make a living for its owners, all of whom happen to be people, then why does it exist? No business is an impersonal entity, even though some corporations may seem that way. Owners have rights, too.

Are we to say that, the moment you are out in society to make a living, you have to leave your very mission and purpose in life behind? Can someone not start a business to further his/her mission and make a living doing it? This would basically reduces one’s faith to a random, arbitrary thought or personality quirk that has no place in the “real” world. It would be fine to have those beliefs, as long as you don’t actually take them seriously when running a business. I’m always amazed at how people who accuse others of blindly following a religion will blindly assume that religious beliefs are all arbitrary and cannot be substantiated.

The way some of those protest signs read (eg “Keep my boss out of my bedroom.”), you’d be forgiven for thinking that his case was about whether your boss could search your house for condoms and packs of Ortho Tri-Cyclen. It isn’t. It’s about whether your boss can be forced to pay for your contraception (or at least the premiums to cover it). Your boss shouldn’t be able to control what you do outside of work that closely. However, not being required to pay for something does not give that person control over someone’s life. No one is trampling any rights here, as though there were a right to contraception. The mandate to cover contraception was going to do little more than ensure that only people without morals (or at least without any that they take seriously) can run a business. We have seen enough problems in our nation without barring people of real faith from leadership in the business world.

Category: Catholic, Response

Where Are We?

  /   Thursday, June 19, 2014   /   Comments(0)

A couple of weeks ago, my family and I were on vacation visiting family.  As we always like to do when we visit this city, we took a walk through the attractive/upscale shopping and dining area.  It’s just a beautiful place to take a walk.  This time, I noticed something I didn’t remember seeing before.

Down one street I found the Seventh Church of Christ, Scientist.  Across the street from there was a Unity Temple.  The Christian Scientists were a sect founded by a woman named Mary Baker Eddy based on some supposed insight on healing.  They are the ones who don’t believe in the use of medicine.  The Unity Temple is some kind of church that seeks a “unity” and “peace and harmony” that doesn’t appear to be based on anything but just letting people believe whatever they believe.  Their web site, which I won’t link to here, has as a principle that we create our life experience through our own thoughts.

From that location, I decided to search for the nearest Catholic Church.  This would be a place that could really use a place to encounter our Lord in the Holy Eucharist.  To my dismay, I found that the nearest Catholic Church was the Cathedral four miles away.  It’s not too far, but it’s not too close either.  So, I had to ask, where are we?

Why aren’t we there?  It just reminded me more that we need to be where the people are, trying in whatever way we can to bring people to an encounter with Our Lord.  If someone doesn’t help feed the hungry, they will seek whatever food they can find.  Sadly, that food will never satisfy like the fullness of truth.  Just imagine if there were a church or chapel there where people could stop and pray in the presence of the Eucharist.  Maybe they could go to Confession and be reconciled with God.  We could even leave some materials where interested people could discover the Catholic faith.

One place where evangelization is badly needed is simply among where ordinary activity of people takes place.  We should be there, not to try to shove something down their throats, but to engage them, inform them, and ultimately challenge them to explore the truth.  If other groups are there, why aren’t we?

Category: Catholic, Response

How Can a Good God Permit Evil?

  /   Saturday, May 11, 2013   /   Comments(0)

In my last post, I wrote about why I was going to raise my children to know God. However, there is one thing that deserves special attention, especially in the light of the recent shooting at the school in Newtown, Connecticut and the Boston Marathon bombing. The author to whom I was responding stated that God does not protect the innocent, and this was a reason why she didn’t believe in him. Back when the Newtown school shooting was news, I saw some Facebook postings about how the existence of such an evil was the “most deadly argument” against the existence of God. While there is no way I can make definitive statement on why God allowed any specific thing to happen, I can offer some reflections that I hope will be helpful.

First, let’s keep in mind that God created the world and everything in it. In other words, God made all of those scientific laws that it has taken man thousands of years to discover. What does this mean? It means that God is far, far, more intelligent than we are. He is infinite. We are finite. This also means that God can and will do or allow things that we won’t be able to understand. We need to be careful not to make the mistake of not believing just because our human minds cannot understand something.

Now, the world God chose to create is a real world. We are not puppets in the divine puppet show. We have the real ability to choose, and the choices have real consequences. Ultimately, God gives us the ability to choose to love him or reject him, and he will allow us to get what we choose. If we choose the good, the true, and the beautiful, we will possess it forever in his presence in Heaven. If we choose something less, then we end up separated from him in Hell. God’s judgment is nothing other than the choice we made in this life. This applies to other choices as well. If a husband and wife do not cooperate in helping him bring new life into being, it won’t happen. If we don’t do our job at work, either it won’t be done, or someone else will have to do it. The work God gave us to do in this world is real, and we have the freedom to choose to do it or not. This is also how we have the capacity to really love. We could only have this if we had the ability to choose not to do so.

God’s gift of free will does also mean that our choices can affect others. Let me explain that I firmly believe that God is infinite goodness. He never does evil, but he does allow it. He allows it only to because he can bring some greater good out of it. How can that be? Well, God’s perspective is eternity. He is looking for what can bring about our eternal salvation in the end. In the end, his justice will win. In the end, good will win because God, who is infinitely good, will win.

Let me give an example, but, before I do, let me qualify this by saying that this is only speculation. We cannot know for sure in this life what God has brought out of any event unless he definitively reveals it to us. In 2007, I was in a serious car wreck that could have killed me. The other driver (who slid across the median of an interstate in front of me) was killed. A priest whom I knew told me that it was possible that he was allowed to die because, if he died now, he would go to Heaven. God may have known that, if he had lived on, he would have rejected God and gone to Hell. Remember, we don’t know this for sure, but it is a possibility. Of course, there’s the humbling possibility for me that I might not have made it to Heaven if I had died then. God may have spared me only because I wasn’t ready for Heaven. It’s equally possible that God left me on this earth for some other mission. After all, the circumstances of that wreck also led to my vocation of marriage and family. So, does this mean that God caused the wreck that I was in? No, but he did allow it to happen. Then, he took it and brought good out of it.

We have to remember that this world is passing away and that our true home is with God in Heaven. God’s ultimate desire is for us all to get there. There is no suffering in this life that can be greater than the joy we will experience of seeing him face to face in Heaven.

Category: Catholic, Response, Spirituality

Why I Will Raise My Son (and any other children we have) With God

  /   Friday, April 19, 2013   /   Comment(1)

A mother of two teenagers posted this article on CNN on why she wants to raise her children without God. I read some time ago and felt that God was asking me to respond. Yeah, I’m really late with this one, but here we go. In a nutshell, this is why my wife and I will raise our son, and any future children, to know God.

The reason why I want our kids to know God can be summed up very succinctly – because he exists and is deserving of all of our love. As philosopher Peter Kreeft has said, “There is only one reason to believe anything – because it is true.” I’ve never understood why some atheists call themselves “freethinkers.” When I hear that old “think for yourself” line, it seems to me that the person is saying that “It doesn’t matter if what you think about is true or not as long as you came up with it yourself.” As for me, give me the truth.

The mother who wrote the article calls God an “inconsistent and illogical legend.” Well, imagine if I told you that this article was the result of a power surge at the data center where my site was hosted. No one would take me seriously. However, some people will take seriously anyone who thinks that the universe, with all its order and complexity, was the result of random explosions and chemical reactions. One might argue that the randomness took place over billions of years, but even then, there are way too many “chance” events that needed to happen for the universe to be a random series of events.

Even if one won’t be easily convinced that there is a God, one might consider that there is really nothing to gain by not believing. This is also known as Pascal’s Wager. If I die believing in God when he doesn’t exist, I’m never going to know. If I die refusing to accept a God who does exist, I’ve got major problems. Atheism is simply a losing proposition. Knowing God allows us to know that we are here for a purpose, and that we have hope that we are not just here for a while, for no reason, only to cease to exist.

Now, the mother I’m responding to has also made some arguments from the problem of evil (and why the innocent suffer). I’ll address those in another post.

Category: Catholic, Response

Hey, Why Are They Bothering Us

  /   Friday, July 06, 2012   /   Comments(0)

Whenever we hear of a bishop or pastor in the Church taking action on some doctrinal or liturgical problem, it’s not uncommon to hear someone say “why are they bothering with x when we have clergy who are abusing minors?” I’ve seen such comments attached to anything from a bishop who is addressing abnormalities in the way Mass is celebrated in some parishes to, most recently, the Vatican call for reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. With this comes the charge that the Church is more concerned about something the author wrongly believes to be trivial than about the clergy abusing young children. At best, such comments are lacking in perspective.

I do remember the scandal becoming big news in 2002. About three years prior, I was just beginning to really learn the Catholic faith. One of the things that became clear to me with the scandal was that sexual abuse committed by clergy, while indeed a serious problem, was only one aspect of a larger problem in the Church. Simply put, there was a scarcity of enforcement of almost anything. Sometimes, we just saw more norms issued when norms were being violated. For example, on the liturgy, we’ve seen Inaestimabile Donum, Redemptionis Sacramentum, and numerous other clarifications written.

The American bishops did meet and propose norms for taking care of sexual abuse by clergy, some of which were ratified by the Vatican as particular law in the US. Even before then, in 2001, Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) took on the investigation in his own office of clergy sex abuse cases (Congregation of the Doctorine of the Faith). It might be worth knowing that many of the bishops in office at the time are no longer in office today. They have been replaced by Pope Benedict XVI appointees.

Fortunately, we are seeing more bishops who are not afraid to preach the Gospel and even take action. This may take the form of anything from calling out names to actual disciplinary removal from a position. We’ve recently seen the USCCB committee on doctrine issue a statement on Sr. Elizabeth Johnson’s theology text that contains much false teaching. Archbishop Naumann has asked Kathleen Sebelius not to present herself for Communion. Bishop Braxton of Belleville, IL, has accepted the retirement of a priest who refused to say Mass according to the rubrics. Pope Benedict has even gone so far as to remove Bishop William Morris from the Diocese of Toowoomba for spreading false teaching (and later, he removed others). Of course, we are also seeing both an apostolic visitation of the women’s religious orders in this country, as well as the Vatican-ordered reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious.

The sex abuse scandal is a very serious problem that is not to be taken lightly in any way. While one can argue that more needs to be done, it is being addressed. It would be just as wrong for a bishop to address doctrinal or liturgical issues while ignoring sexual abuse by clergy as it would be to promote social justice issues while being silent on abortion or even pro-abortion.  Expecting the bishops not to handle other problems because of the scandal would be like asking a school to stop worrying about what the students are being taught because they found out that some of the teachers are criminals.  The Church still needs to carry on her true mission.  Fortunately, we have bishops who realize the full problem and aim to resolve it.

Category: Catholic, Response

Loss of Religious Freedom: Yes, It Can Happen

  /   Wednesday, June 13, 2012   /   Comments(0)

By now, readers of this blog are probably familiar with the new Health and Human Services Mandate that requires almost every employer to provide free contraception and abortifacients with their health insurance plans.  Our opponents have painted this as a women’s rights issue despite the fact that any objective through process would show that contraception is not a necessity for anyone.  The Church is even portrayed as trying to force people to give up contraception when, in fact, this is really about the government forcing the Church to pay for it.

Lately, I’ve seen posts on the web, including a cartoon, mocking the idea that our religious freedom is under attack.  One post mentioned a congregation whose church was burned down in another country.  Another cartoon depicted Jesus mocking us by saying that he needed to visit a minister in another country who is in jail and/or is being executed for preaching the Gospel.

Those extremes do seem unlikely in the US . . . at least for now.  However, has anyone figured out the implications if this mandate is not overturned?  No Catholic institution that is truly Catholic will pay for contraception.  It’s not only an act that is sinful under all circumstances, but it’s grave matter (meaning it’s a mortal sin if done knowingly and willingly).  No doubt these organizations will all face fines, and you can imagine the financial impact this will have on organizations that do charitable work, publish Catholic books, or take the Gospel to the airwaves (e.g. EWTN).

Some may have to close down, leaving one less voice to teach the Catholic faith.  Others may refuse the pay the fine and face jail time or other penalties.  The question arises as to how much we will condone before we realize that our government has gone too far.  By then, a lot of damage will have been done.  We really need to take this seriously now.  Don’t let those people who are mocking us stop you.  We do have genuine cause to be concerned here at home.

Category: Catholic, Response

The Needed Evangilzation

  /   Monday, June 04, 2012   /   Comments(0)

I read with interest this article contrasting the “old” evangelization with the “new” evangelization of today. I’m pretty certain that the author, Joe Tremblay, isn’t referring to the new evangelization called for by Blessed Pope John Paul II. Rather, I think he is referring to the type of “evangelization” that can best be described in the Newsboys’ song Not Ashamed where we are “shrugging off sin / apologizing like we’re spreading some kind of disease.” Unfortunately, this is what takes place in many parishes.

This problem of evangelization he describes explains exactly why we need the late pontiff’s new evangelization. Many who have heard the Gospel, even some who regularly attend Mass, have lost the sense of its ultimate purpose – eternal life. The sense of sin is usually also lost. Some people in this boat may even believe that we really can’t know anything about God. Unfortunately, they seem to think they know that we can’t know anything and rarely bother to find out if God can be known.

I’ve experienced what Mr. Tremblay says about many church organizations having become mere social services. I volunteered one day at one Catholic organization’s shelter that made us sign a paper that we wouldn’t try to convert anyone. There’s a newspaper columnist whom I have seen regularly praising “religious” organizations who provide service to the poor but don’t try to preach. At a meeting of one charitable organization at a former parish, someone told us who we need to help people but should never expect their lifestyles to conform to “our way of thinking.”

I think the reason why we might not see some orthodox Catholics incorporate charity into their programs is that they orthodox are reacting against those who are trying to turn the Church into a social service organization. The unfortunate effect of this is that it is hard to find a group that can integrate the preaching of the Gospel with service to the poor. As Mr. Tremblay suggests, people in the Church are often doing one or the other.

So, this brings me back to the need for the evangelization of the baptized. I remember speaking out in an RCIA class when I was coming into the Church. I couldn’t understand why there were people who didn’t take God seriously because it was God we were talking about. We need to restore a true sense of God and the fact that what we do on this earth has implications for eternity. With this sense restored, we need to talk about what we shall do and how we shall live. This seems to be a major theme of the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, and it’s a badly needed message.

Category: Catholic, Response

Does Being Against Contraception Make Us Space Aliens?

  /   Wednesday, February 15, 2012   /   Comments(0)

A secular reporter was interviewing someone at a World Youth Day who loved Blessed John Paul II. The argument she made with the interviewee was ” . . . but he’s against birth control devices.”  Indeed, if you say that you are against contraception, there are plenty of people who will look at you as if you had said that eating whole wheat bread will cause spontaneous combustion.

Contraception has very widespread acceptance in our society.  Now, we even have government leaders who are telling us that it is part of the basic healthcare needs of women.  Somehow, it’s just so vital that women have “access” to contraception that every employer needs to provide insurance that covers it with no cost.

Does that make it right?  There are plenty of people who will tell you that the Church should “get with the times.”  Well, who or what are “the times,” and why should we listen to them?  I don’t know about you, but I’d rather listen to God.  Some people will accuse Catholics like me of blindly following church authority.  In doing so, they are really insulting people like me who took the time to study and work hard for what I know.  These same people will blindly follow “the times” without really being able to define exactly what it is they are following.

Because people are willing to follow “the times,” it never occurs to them that there might really be something wrong with the use of contraception.  They just assume that we Catholics who believe the Church are hopelessly stuck in the past. Most such people have never bothered to read Humanae Vitae.  They may not even know it exists.  The Theology of the Body may also be unknown to them.

Not only is the Church’s teaching regarding contraception true, it is also a positive good.  There are plenty of people out there who have heard the message presented as the good that it is and wondered “Why haven’t I heard this before?”  Indeed, this time in which our government wants to trample on us and our religious freedom may well be something that God is using as our penance for our long time failure to spread the message.  That failure is a failure on the part of both our clergy and laity.

The new Obama Administration mandate that requires all employers to provide contraceptive coverage at no cost is a great evil.  This is true whether it’s the employer or the insurance company who has to provide.  After all, where is the insurance company getting its money?  The problem with the mandate goes beyond the Church and organizations run by the Church.  It means that a Catholic like me can’t start his own business without being told that I have to pay for birth control for everyone.  It also means that we will all pay higher premiums.

However, God permits evil to bring about a greater good.  During the past few weeks, I’ve seen bishops whom I’ve never known to be great defenders of the Faith come out of the woodwork to speak against this evil.  The issue is now getting more attention than I’ve ever seen it get.

Now is the perfect time to educate people, especially Catholics who for some reason don’t know or don’t accept the Church’s teaching.  Let’s get out our materials and brush up so we can explain it.  This would also be a great time for parishes who haven’t already done so to have a study session on Humanae Vitae, Theology of the Body, or some other resource.  The mandate must be fought and ultimately overturned, but please don’t stop there.  This is the perfect opportunity to tell the world about the true meaning of human sexuality.

Category: Catholic, Morality, Response

Komen Foundation Fail

  /   Friday, February 03, 2012   /   Comments(0)

I saw a number of people on Facebook who were excited to hear that the Susan G. Komen Foundation had stopped funding Planned Parenthood. As much as I was all ready to send them an e-mail thanking them for doing this, something told me that I should approach with caution. I have a tendency to be pretty slow to react, and it comes in handy at times.

Surely enough, we now have this statement from the Foundation. They decided to “amend their criteria” to support organizations under investigation if the investigation is “political” and is not “conclusive.” So, I guess PP’s willingness to violate mandatory reporting for statutory rape doesn’t constitute a criminal act under Komen’s criteria. It must be just politics driving those investigations.

Under this “revision,” Planned Parenthood keeps its existing grants and may apply for new ones. While writing about how they don’t want their mission “marred by politics,” it is hard for me to interpret their statement as anything but either 1) bowing to political pressure from pro-aborts OR 2) ultimately wanting to maintain their ties with Planned Parenthood. For those who might think Komen hasn’t really reversed their earlier decision, note that Planned Parenthood is declaring victory on their web site.

Perhaps some people reading this wonder why I would be concerned as long as the money granted is being used for mammograms or other screenings. The answer is that money given for breast screenings means that more money from their general fund can then be used for their immoral activities like abortion and contraception. No matter what other services they provide, the fact remains that they are a MAJOR provider of abortions in this country. While breast cancer does kill many women, abortion is a directly intended killing of millions of unborn children.

So, as much as I’d like to support breast cancer research, I cannot and will not do it by supporting an organization that is helping to fund an organization such as Planned Parenthood. The great evil of abortion far outweighs any good that PP could possibly be doing. I will not take any chance on donating money to them.

Category: Catholic, Morality, Response

Take a Stand

  /   Wednesday, February 01, 2012   /   Comments(0)

I would urge anyone who values freedom of religion in this country, especially Catholics, to please take a moment to sign this petition to the President.  We need 25,000 signatures by February 27, 2012 to get an official response.  The US Department of Health and Human Services, in an unprecedented attack on religious freedom in the United States, has issued a mandate that all employer health insurance plans provide coverage for contraception and abortifacients.

In short, this means that nearly all Catholic employers, whether they are agencies of the Church or businesses owned by devout Catholics, will be required to pay for people’s mortal sin.  At best, the Obama administration is attacking freedom or religion.  At worst, the administration wants to stop the Church from providing health care and other social services or even wants to destroy the Church.  We cannot stand by and let this happen.

This is not about “the Church getting into people’s bedrooms.”  If people employed by the Church choose to use contraception, we aren’t performing bed checks.  God himself will do that, and those people will have to answer for having abused the gift by which God gave us to help him in bringing new life into the world.  This is simply about not requiring the people of this world who are standing with Christ on this not to have to pay the bill for people to sin.

Category: Catholic, Response

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