I spent last Saturday with hundreds of other Catholics at the Ave-Maria Communications’ sponsored conference “Catholic Witness in a Nation Divided.” As I finished taking all my notes after the day-long conference of impressive speakers at Ypsilanti’s Eastern Michigan University, I left with a lot to think about and reflect upon. I certainly was not comforted, and I realize we have much to do. It will take a great deal of hard work for the Church to reintroduce the person of Jesus Christ into our culture and country. None of the conference speakers had easy answers. I have compiled a list of their comments, with suggested websites and links, for you to consider and bring to prayer.
The conference opened with the following music video from Big and Rich, “That’s Why I Pray”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjJyZfDCa88
Keynote speaker Deal Hudson opened the conference, and following are some of his remarks, quoted or paraphrased:
- He agreed with Bishop Boyea of Lansing, Michigan, who opened the conference and called those attending to take what the bishop called the Way of Love as they go forth.
- In this post election time, the divide is very wide in our country, and the Catholic Church no longer has the clout it once had to bridge these differences and shape the culture.
- It took generations to get here, and it will take generations to change.
- Ask yourself three questions:
-Do you consider yourself a “better” Catholic that most other Catholics? (The Pharisees considered themselves better Jews than most Jews, and Jesus was pretty hard on them.)
-Should your Catholic witness be defined by drawing a line in the sand? Separating the chaff from the wheat?
-How will your answers change anything you do or say as a witness to the truth of the Catholic faith?
- Humility is pressed upon us because of our sins. What do we communicate to the world by how we present ourselves? Do we appear prideful?
- Too much politics can lead us away from the Gospel. Politicians don’t say I’m a sinner (which is what people can relate to.) They say vote for me because I’m a good Christian!
- Politics is about following laws, but the Gospel tells us to reach out to those who have failed and feel condemned by the law.
- We must speak to a broader audience of people and not just the “better” Catholics -- cast our net into the deep.
Kevin Appleby, who works on Immigration Policy for the USCCB, gave the audience much to consider about the people we consider immigrants in our country today.
- Many people ignore the issues that don’t affect them. But we need to support immigration reform because it does affect us.
- Following this election, there may be a major debate in Congress this year and a bill proposed to fix the US immigration system.
- Remember, Jesus was a migrant and a refugee. “I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.” (Matthew 25:35)
- In our Church, immigrants are us. The Church has grown through immigration. The majority of those coming into our country – 60-70 percent – are Catholic.
- The Church must bring civility to the debate. We are a global institution. We see this from all angles. The solution is regional and global. Countries have to work together to solve this issue. We are obligated to be involved in the debate. We have the ability to reach out to both sides of the aisle.
- The immigrant goes to the parish door for acceptance and support.
- Ultimately, it is a humanitarian issue. They are human beings, and the policies we make will impact these people. We must make people realize they are human beings with rights and dignity.
- In Mexico, the implied position is Go North, and send us back the money. Should people be compelled to come here to support their family, to be open to human trafficking?
- Why are people immigrating? Our trade policies are pushing them to come here. Migrants don’t do this lightly. Can we find a way they can stay home and still support their families?
- We cannot exploit human beings. We cannot accept their sweat and not offer them protection.
- Immigration is a life issue. Suffering and death exist under the current system. Many people are only trying to support their families. It is a matter of life and death for many. We are called to defend life.
- We need a path to citizenship for the 11 million in this country. We need to keep families together. We should champion family reunification.
- The Church is not saying there should be no penalties for breaking the law. Pay a fine, pay back taxes, learn English, go to the back of the line. This is not amnesty. This will help our security, if all come and register and play by the rules. Then the criminals are the ones left to deal with.
- We also don’t want to make them legal but not citizens and create a permanent under-class.
- Bishop’s site: www.justiceforimmigrants.org
Fr. Robert Sirico of the Acton Institute added to the discussion on immigration.
- The principal of subsidiarity applies here. Local levels should help first, and then up the ladder.
- Immigrants create jobs. They start businesses more than the native born people. They are naturally entrepreneurial. They are ambitious just to come here and looking for opportunities. They have potential. We should embrace this.
Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life got a standing ovation before he even started speaking.
- Praise the Lord! The Lord of life gathers us here!
- We speak the truth in love. Those who are against us are still our brothers and sisters.
- Pro-life witness is the easiest witness in the Church. This is the most simple of all. The Right to life – there is nothing more basic, fundamental and absolute.
- We will not succeed in valuing the poor and the immigrant if we do not value the child.
- We will never have peace if we do not have peace between mother and child.
- Every other right depends on the right to life. There can be no social justice efforts that are outside the abortion issue. We must support what other Social Justice people do. We are not saying their issues do not matter. But the heart and the soul of every issue is the right to life. Advocacy for life reinforces advocacy in all other arenas.
- We must be absolutely confident about the message and of victory. We will end abortion in our country! It is on its way out.
- In many ways we are the closest to victory, but still far from it.
- This issue is also the most controversial. There is a battlefront. Marriage and religious freedom are related and fundamental here.
- We need grace and the power of the sacraments. We need to live virtue. We witness first of all to Jesus Christ.
- No election can change what abortion really is. It is the dismemberment and decapitation of a human being. It offends the conscience. We must expose the works of darkness.
- Victory is within our reach. The key is that the other side has no room for argument here. Their only argument is that we SHUT UP!
- The week of Jan. 18-25 is the Prayer for Christian Unity week. On Jan. 25 is the March for Life. The morning of this event there will be an ecumenical prayer service at Constitutional Hall with Fr. Frank as the homilist. Expected attendance is 3,700. The same day in Rome the Pope is holding an international interdenominational service for the Year of Faith.
- A new website is launching on January 22, 2013 – www.exposeabortion.org.
- Another new website is www.recallabortion.org.
- Go to www.RoevWade40.com for an upcoming webcast with Fr. Frank.
Dr. Monica Miller of Citizens for a Prolife Society was part of the prolife panel discussion.
- She touted her new book, Abandoned, which she said “rips the veneer of normalcy off our culture on this issue….our lives must be radically disturbed by this.”
- There is something perverse and counter-intuitive about a mother destroying her own child.
Also on the prolife panel was syndicated Catholic talk show host Teresa Tomeo.
- I am a feminist, and abortion and birth control are two of the most sexist things in our culture because it puts all the responsibility on the woman, and the man has even less responsibility than ever.
- Women do not understand what it means to be a life-bearer, physically and spiritually.
- The real war on women is abortion and contraception and sex outside marriage. As women, we bear the brunt of the suffering on this.
- Become Media Savvy. This is the real problem in the church. We have to use the media and use it well.
Tom Loewe, development director for Ave Maria Communications, made some interesting observations about the media in our country.
- The media is controlling the message, and what is their message? They disagree with us and are hostile to us. They skew the message. We allow them to define us. This plays a large part in why we are in the fix we are in today.
- Truth is not defined by the media, or from consensus, or from what is fashionable. The truth is radically different – it is a person – Jesus Christ.
Prof. Gerard Bradley from the University of Notre Dame Law School discussed the future of our Church and the precarious state of religious freedom in the United States.
- At this time in history when we are supposedly more liberal, tolerant, pluralistic, and respecting of human rights, we are aiming to make martyrs of Catholic institutions.
- Ours used to be a society that cherished religious freedom. The HHS mandate would not have been possible 30-40 years ago.
- It is my belief that things will not go well for us over the next five years. Some will be put out of business.
- He sees the demise of many of our large scale institutions.
- “Same-sex” marriage is around the corner. We have a ticking time bomb for any institution that will not recognize such marriage.
- Our future may be off the grid. The ministries of the future will be virtual and floating, able to operate in a hostile environment.
- We will run by volunteers, staffed by people who are doing what they do to serve Jesus.
- We will be serving the people who cannot pay us. We will reach out in the areas of utmost need in our culture, where the perils to Catholic life are great and grave.
- We must create new vehicles to deliver pastoral care and provide information.
- All men are bound to seek the truth in matters of religion and enhance the truth they come to know and hold it fast.
- Religion is all about what is truth, what is reality. Religion is not the rules of the club. Religion is about how things really and truly are. An individual quest for identity to be authentic.
- We need to find a way to teach our adult children about discern the number of children they have and should have, and how to integrate their responsibilities with the responsibilities in marriage.
- Reparation therapy for those with same-sex attraction is being outlawed. We need to find a way to produce good Catholic counselors.
Panelist Richard Thompson of the St. Thomas More Law Center disagreed with some of Prof. Bradley’s conclusions.
- If the Catholic Church will just get behind these issues and speak from the pulpit, we can change the future. Look, we have 700 plus people here on a Saturday afternoon!
William May, Founder and President of Catholics for the Common Good, rounded out the keynote addresses for the day discussing redefinition efforts on the institution of marriage.
- Children have a stake in marriage. We need to start looking at marriage through a child’s eyes. “Father, you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to the childlike.” (Luke 10:21)
- We need to be in solidarity with the victims! Donum Vitae states the child has a right to be brought up in a marriage with his parents.
- Family is the first societal building block. As family goes, so goes society. As society goes, so goes the human person.
- We are in a culture without truth, that falls prey to its feelings. We need to rediscover how to learn the truth and express it in a different way. We need to learn how to speak the language of the culture.
- No-fault divorce made marriage based on the happiness of the man and woman. Sex is now separated from procreation. Parenthood is a lifestyle choice. Cohabitation is up. Forty-one percent of children are now born from unwed mothers.
- Marriage is seen as just the public recognition of a relationship between committed couples.
- Kids today think it is a good thing to have a variety of families.
- In reality, marriage (by free choice) unites a man and woman with each other and any children born from their union.
- We all have a desire to know our parents, to know where we come from.
- Marriage recognizes reality in God’s plan. Parents choose to make each other irreplaceable. And this prepares them to accept a child as a gift.
- Stop using the term “same-sex marriage.” It is a lie. They are trying to redefine marriage to accommodate same-sex relationships.
- They are really looking at eliminating the only institution that unites man and woman and the children of their union.
- It has nothing to do with homosexuality. Marriage is a Public Policy Issue and homosexuality is a Pastoral Issue.
Catholic therapist Gregory Popcak was on the Marriage panel.
- The more we produce things that are “marriage-like,” the more people resent the harder option. This dilutes all the benefits of marriage.
- If there are two products and one is cheaper, and we are told they are the same (even if it not true) we will buy the cheaper product.
David Grobbel, associate director of Marriage, Family and Prolife for the Archdiocese of Detroit, gave a sobering statistic from his experience in pre-marital counseling.
- He estimates about 85 percent of couples in pre-marriage counseling are disconnected from the idea that marriage is a sacrament.
- He recommends checking out and downloading the USCCB website information on marriage.
St. Joseph, patron of the Church and Head of the Holy Family, and Mary, Our Mother and Queen of the Family, pray for us. We need all the help we can get.